Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the satisfaction of seeing all erected and free of debt. In addition to his ordinary labours he frequently preached in the Market Place, and sometimes followed up his efforts in the church by delivering an address on the Sunday evenings in the open-air. This is a course that is fraught with great danger to the speaker. Generally in summer weather there is not much risk in having a service in the openair instead of indoors ; but there is great risk to the health in conducting one in the open-air, immediately following the indoor service. The heated state of the body renders it peculiarly liable to take cold, whilst its exhausted condition consequent upon the previous expenditure of vital energy makes it incapable of resisting attacks which arise from the changes in the atmosphere. Our brother was intensely anxious to do good, and adopted this plan, in conjunction with others, of preaching outside after the churches had closed, with the hope of reaching some who otherwise would never hear the Word at all.

As Mr. Walker had been brought up in total abstinence principles, he deemed it to be his duty to identify himself with the Temperance party in Aluwick and give his influence to the movement. He became one of its vice-presidents, and was instrumental in establishing a Band of Hope in the town, and subsequently one in connection with his Sunday school. A gentleman residing there testifies that our late brother “was the means of rescuing many from the drunkard's path, in restoring some who had fallen, and in pointing some to the Lamb of God, his temperance labours resulting in spiritual good to many."

His appointment to Alnwick was very congenial to his nature. The friends were kind and thoughtful, and ever ready to second his efforts. The lady whom he had married some years previously to his going there, and who now mourns his loss, cheerfully devoted her time and influence to the interests of the Church. The word he preached was attended with power, God blessed his labours, souls were saved, and Zion was strengthened. His influence was felt in the town, and by neighbouring churches and ministers he was held in high esteem. It may not be out of place to introduce here a quotation from a letter written by the Rev. D. Donaldson, Presbyterian minister, who has long had a charge in Alnwick. He says, “In common with all parties I had formed a high opinion of Mr. Walker, of his abilities and usefulness in the Church, and I saw with much and cordial satisfaction the promise given by him of growing service and power. While warmly attached to his own communion, he was always ready to help in our meetings, his heart was in every movement going on amongst us for the good of others, and his

labours were abundant. Indeed, I thought, and often said to him, that he was not sufficiently careful of himself, especially during the latter part of his ministry when his health was beginning to fail. Latterly he seemed to be anxious to do all his strength would permit, under the secret consciousness that his time of work here for the great Master's sake was not likely to be long."

During the third year of his appointment to Alnwick indications of failing health, referred to in the above letter, presented themselves. His voice, formerly strong and clear, became weak and hoarse, and his ordinary labours distressed him. Medical advice was sought, and short seasons of rest with change of scene were tried with some advantage, so that he was able at the Conference of 1874 to accept a fourth year's appointment to Alnwick, where the continuance of his labours was strongly desired. The fall of the year found him again in declining health, old symptoms appearing in aggravated forms. The last time the writer saw Mr. Walker, who had been to him for many years as a brother well beloved, Mr. Walker called on him to arrange to be liberated from some deputational work to which he had been appointed by the Missionary Committee. He felt himself inadequate to undertake the duties, though he did not regard his indisposition so serious as it ultimately proved. Later on in the year he became increasingly weak, complained of a pain in his side, was troubled with a cough, while his voice became more husky and unnatura! Various medical men were consulted, and their opinions were the reverse of discouraging so far as they expressed them.

For some time Mr. Walker had cherished an opinion that a voyage to a warm climate, or a residence in a country where the atmosphere is warmer and drier than ours, would conduce to his restoration. He fully believed that he was only suffering from some temporary debility, which under favourable conditions would pass away, and that in the course of a few months, or at the most a couple of years, he would be so restored that he would be able to fulfil all the duties of his office. As he got worse, however, he appears to have become doubtful whether even a change of climate would be of much service to him. An opportunity presented itself to him, through the kindness of some Alnwick shipowners, of visiting Queensland, West Australia, without expense save in the outfit for such a long voyage, and after much thought and prayer it was decided that he should go. Near the end of March the writer received the following letter from him :

“ ALNWICK, March 26th, 1874. “MY DEAR BROTHER,—You will be surprised to hear that (D.V.) I will sail from Liverpool in about three weeks' time, on a

vice, and read is until Sundav rather

voyage to Brisbane, in Queensland. I am no better, but rather worse. I have not preached at all for five weeks until Sunday night, and then a friend opened the service, and read the lesson for me. I have a distressing cough that prevents me sleeping, and I have lost much of the little strength I had. I believe this sea voyage to be my only chance for life, and it has come to me suddenly, and certainly the hand of the Lord is in it. . . . . My poor wife is not going with me, but at any rate she has a great dread of the sea. She is much better than she has been, and is wonderfully contented and hopeful. I feel it much on her account, that she should be left alone and be so long without hearing from me. But she fully believes the whole arrangements are of the Lord, and this tranquilises her. My mother, too, is very, very feeble.

“I should so much have liked to see you all before I go away, for I sometimes think I have let the thing go too far, and that I may not live to come back. However, there is a way to heaven from the sea, or Australia, or China, as well as from here ; and if, in the providence of God, we are not permitted to resume our intercourse on earth, we can resume it in heaven. Still, I am hopeful about the effect of the voyage and change of climate ; and it may be I may return so stout that my own friends won't know me. With kindest regards to self and Mrs. C.,-I remain yours affectionately, R. WALKER.”

Mr. Walker did not start so early as he had anticipated, as the vessel did not sail till June. In the beginning of that month he visited his parents at Newcastle to bid them farewell. As may be supposed the interview was very painful, as he was in such a weak condition and greatly troubled with his cough. On the 25th of May be took his final departure from Alnwick, not without receiving from his temperance and Christian friends useful testimonies of the loving esteem in which they held him ; while, with some, fears were mingled with their sorrow that they should see his face no more. As there was the probability of the voyage being prolonged by the vessel sailing from Australia to China, a considerable supply of necessaries and some luxuries were required. The loving devotion of his wife supplied him with all that was thought would prove useful to him on the voyage and contribute to his comfort. On Wednesday, the 3rd of June, he sailed from Liverpool, followed by the good wishes and prayers of his late charge, and the anxious sympathies of his many friends.

A voyage at sea, especially if it is likely to extend over many months, becomes monotonous. The earlier portion, however, after the inconveniences of sea-sickness are got over, is always interesting to a landsman from the novelties of his position. Mr. Walker derived

much gratification froin the new objects and scenes which from time to time presented themselves to his notice.

In consequence of a leak in the tank in which was stored the fresh water for the voyage, the vessel was obliged to call at Madeira for another supply. This circumstance gave him the opportunity of despatching a long letter home, in which he says: “It has been a most interesting voyage, so far ; and the fact that I spend nearly all my time on deck, drinking in health through all the pores, enables me to see all that there is to be seen. In addition to the glorious beauty of the sea (utterly unlike anything we see on our coast), with its myriad varieties and developments of loveliness--now calm, now rippled, now rolling in mighty mountains of water, and sparkling and dancing as in mad joy in the sunshin-eI have seen a shark and a whale close to the ship, scores of turtles, a very large fish which, like the shark, followed us for miles, &c., &c.” What, however, was of more interest to Mrs. Walker and his friends was the intimation that he was wonderfully better both in body and mind. He says: “ The sense of prostration is entirely gone, and but for a sense of fatigue if I walk much, I should say nothing is the matter with me.” His appetite was excellent, his sleep was sound, and the emaciated form with which he had left England was actually assuming a fleshy and healthy appearance. The change must have been great, and well adapted to inspire the strongest confidence that he would regain his health. When he landed at Madeira to spend a short time, the British Consul remarked to him, “Well, do you know, I was struck when you came up with your remarkably healthy appearance. You look exceedingly well. Were it not for your voice, I should regard you as a specimen of robust health.” Mr. Walker's improved condition had led him to think of doing something for the sailors. He had cultivated their acquaintance, and had induced them to sing some of the popular hymns of the day, and he cherished the hope that shortly he would be able to preach to them the Word of Life.

After a brief stay at this attractive island, the vessel about the end of June resumed her voyage to Brisbane. The latter part of the voyage presented a contrast to the beginning. There were fearful storms, and the inconveniences incident to such-cabin filled with water, beds and bedding saturated, difficulties in cooking, and on three occasions hurricanes, which left them with slight hope of the barque weathering their fury. Another young man, a son of one of the owners, also in 'search of health, rapidly got worse, and did not live to reach the land. Ultimately, on the 9th of October, the vessel arrived at its destination, and cast anchor in Brisbane roads. But instead of Mr. Walker landing in restored or even improved health he was very much worse. He had lost nearly two stone weight since leaving England, whilst his strength was so much diminished that he could scarcely walk the length of the poop. Though an absolute stranger and in a far-off land, God raised him up friends. A Mr. and Mrs. Fulwood, who formerly were connected with our Alnwick Church, and who had been written to by one of their old friends asking them to show kindness to the minister from Alnwick, on learning of the arrival of the vessel, at once sought Mr. Walker out, and took him to their beautiful house. Writing home, he says, “I thank God every morning and every evening that He raised up such friends as Mr. and Mrs. Fulwood when, shattered and broken down with cruel stormy weather, I landed a stranger in a strange land. Surely the blessing of Him who said, 'I was a stranger and ye took Me in, &c. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me'will rest upon them in richest fulness. I never heard of such kindness as they have shown me.” Other Christian people connected with the Free Methodists and Wesleyans were not slow in manifesting their Christian regard, and contributing in every possible way to his comfort and happiness. It is pleasant to read of love so Christ-like and kindness so disinterested to one who was unknown to them, save as an afflicted brother in Christ, who, far from home and kindred, had appeared in their midst, in the vain search of health, and who in weakness, and loneliness, and disappointment needed their sympathy and their care.

Having sought medical advice, and baving received an unfavourable opinion, but one, however, which accorded with his own experience, he determined not to voyage further with the vessel in which he had come out, and which was going on to China, but take the · earliest mail steamer for England. There had been some improvement in his condition after he landed at Brisbane, but it had been only slight, and it was not lasting. Thus far his voyage had been undertaken in vain. His cherished hopes were unfulfilled. All the sacrifices he had made and all that had been made on his behalf were fruitless, and now there were fears in his mind that he would never see the land of his birth, or wife, or parents, or friends again. In his extremity he realised the faithfulness and loving-kindness of his heavenly Father, and was able to maintain a steady faith in Him who is always near to bless and comfort His suffering children. In a letter to Mr. Drysdale, of Alnwick, he expressed his fears about reaching his earthly home, but expressed his conviction that from the sea he could find the way to the heavenly one. To another friend he wrote, “I would like to see my dear wife, and mother, and friends.

« AnteriorContinuar »