« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
One cold, windy November night, a stage waggon heavily laden stopped at a small way-side inn on the road between London and Plymouth, and after a time the waggoner proceeded on his way, leaving behind one of the passengers, a young man habited as a sailor, but who, from a crape worn round his hat, and a sad expression of countenance, seemed recently to have lost some near and dear relation. He asked in a respectful manner to speak to the landlady; and Mrs. Jones, a fine over-dressed personage, asked him, in no very kind or gentle manner, what he wanted ? The
fellow said he wished to sleep in some shed or barn for one night; he had a few pence for a supper, but all his ship money was spent during the illness of his old parents, both lately dead, and the journey in the waggon had consumed his last few shillings ; his period for joining his ship being too near to allow of his having time for walking the whole way. Mrs. Jones rudely told Frank Wilton he was imposing on her, and said if he stayed there she would send a constable after him. With a deep sigh Frank shouldered his bundle and was leaving the house, when a little girl, servant in the inn, noticed how pale and sad he was as the gas-light shone brightly on the passage. She touched his arm; “Master,” she said, “I am only a workhouse girl, or I would help you with money; I dearly love sailors, for my father was a sailor. Go back a little way on the road, and ask old Widow Martin for a lodging to-night; she lives in the first house you come to, and she has a shed, where her husband used to keep a donkey cart, I am sure she will let you sleep there."
Frank heartily thanked the child, and soon was at the cottage.
His first gentle tap was unheard; but he knocked again, and the widow, soon understanding his request, made him welcome to a straw bed in the shed, and begged him to partake with her of her frugal supper. After their meal she asked Frank to take her Bible and read to her. It was Matt. xxv., and the sailor said, “ This, Mrs. Martin, is the book which teaches you to feed the hungry and take in the stranger. If more people would follow this chapter, the world would be different. I am sorry to say that I never learned much of the Bible; and when I came home, a short time since, my poor mother was dying, and my father never left his bed after her death ; the same fever ended them both. My poor old father, he tried to take in all the clergyman told him, but, as he said, “ A dying bed is a poor place in which to prepare for eternity, when all the former life has passed in sin;' so I learned little from him. I hope to get a bible from the chaplain when I get afloat, and study it for myself.”
“I will give you my Bible," said the widow; “I have a larger one for myself; and now you must go to bed, as you have to be up early, but first let us pray that God will send His Holy Spirit into your heart, to teach you to trust in His Son's redeeming blood; and that you may be kept from all evil from this time forth and for evermore.”
That night Mrs. Martin prayed, in the quiet of her own little room, for God's blessing on the poor traveller thus brought beneath her roof, that he might be led to believe in Christ, and trust Him for his soul's salvation. Since her husband's death, Mrs. Martin had been very poor ; but though her little store had been reduced considerably by Frank's meal, still she gave “not grudgingly." No; she was “a cheerful giver;" and as she watched Frank enjoy some hot cocoa the next morning, she thought how much more blessed it was “to give" than “to receive," and she remembered the cheering words of her Saviour, “Forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Frank set off so clean and neatly brushed that he looked much altered from what he had been the previous night. Mrs. Martin could only bestow a shilling on Frank to help him on his way. A shilling is a very small sum, no doubt, to most of my readers, but let us reflect on the comfort it may often give to those who suffer from real poverty, and be careful that we do not waste, in foolish self-indulgence, the good things God has bestowed on us.
Frank wrote a few grateful lines to his kind friend just before the vessel sailed, and for a time she often thought of him; but years rolled on, and she never fancied she should have any further intelligence respecting one in whom she had been much interested.
The Royal Charlotte (Frank's ship) was sailing to India with troops to recruit the forces stationed at Madras, and in spite of strict rules much that was wrong often passed in the way of idle and profane conversation. The first leisure hour Frank took out of his sea-chest Mrs. Martin's Bible; it was Sunday, so he would be quiet for some time. Out of the Bible dropped a bit of paper with these words :—“My dear Frank, never take this blessed book without praying that God's Holy Spirit will teach you its true meaning. Pray that you may find a blessing, and that the Scripture may make you wise unto salvation.' As Frank day after day went on with his reading, he was led to see that all his past life had been, though outwardly pure to his fellow-men, yet full of sin in the
sin-hating God. Frank possessed a warm, kind heart; he carefully discharged his daily duties, and was a general favourite. He formerly had prided himself on these qualities, but now he saw himself a sinful creature, needing the precious blood of a crucified Redeemer to cleanse his heart. The struggle was long: at first he felt that if the Bible was true, he was lost, for he vainly tried to live up to its holy precepts, and he fancied his temper and thoughts were never so difficult to control as now that he wished to be a true child of God. He often asked himself, “ What is faith in Christ? How am I to know when I have it? and while in this state of anxiety he happened to meet, in a little book belonging to a comrade, an answer, * to this inquiry so simply explained, that it deeply impressed him. “ You ask what it is to have faith in Jesus? I will try to explain this by the following anecdote :-One night the family of Mr. H. were awaked from deep sleep by the fearful cry of Fire ! fire! and Mr. H- had but just time to carry out his wife and two children before part of the roof fell in. To deep feelings of gratitude quickly succeeded a paroxysm of parental anguish: his boy, his little Charlie, who slept in a distant part of the house, was left behind. Mr. H rushed to the garden just below Charlie's window; it was open, and there stood the child screaming to his father to save him. The flaming house made Charlie plainly visible, but the garden was dark, and he could not see his father, but only hear his voice crying, "I am here, my boy; I will save you if
do what I tell you. Lay hold of the window-sill and fall into my arms; I am just below, and quite strong enough to save you.'' Charlie hesitated, yet he well knew his father had never deceived him; he felt the increasing smoke and heat, but still he was afraid. • Papa ! I cannot see you, I shall miss you and be killed on the pavement. Let go, my boy, I tell you I can see you, and there is no danger; now let go. Charlie thought that he would have faith in one who was strong enough and willing to save him.
I am coming, papa ;' and he unclasped his fingers from the window, and in a moment was in his father's arms, weeping tears of love and gratitude at this escape from fearful danger. Thus we see that Charlie's faith in his father saved him. And so it is with the sinner; we feel our danger, and that we have but one way of escape from it. We cannot see Jesus, but we hear his voice in the Bible; we know He has said and He will do it;' we feel He is there waiting to save us; we doubt no more ; we fear no more ; we cast ourselves into the arms of His mercy, and are safe and able to rejoice, for ó underneath us are the * Abridged from “ The Way to Jesus."
everlasting arms.'" Frank prayed that he might thus realize this faith in Christ, and feel from the heart that all his sins were washed
away in the atoning blood of the Redeemer. Towards the end of the voyage a violent storm came on; one of the masts was struck by lightning; more than one man was washed overboard and drowned, while Frank received a severe injury by the falling of a spar. During the storm Frank heard some of the sailors praying, and heard them promise to live better lives if they ever came to land; and as he lay in his hammock, he prayed that these resolutions might not pass away as a “morning cloud or the early dew," but that God's Holy Spirit would bring these promises to their memories, and enable them to perform the vows made in the midst of trouble.
Our limits will not permit a detailed account of Frank's adventures during the next few years.
He was often in dangers and distress, but he felt happy for the most part; and his leisure hours were spent in reading.
A sad trial now awaited him; his old captain died, and his successor, Captain L-, had a great contempt for “Methodism," as he called religion, and from the first treated Frank with harshness. A few months passed. At this time a mutiny broke out in the vessel, and as Frank refused to make one of the mutineers, he was, together with the hated Captain L-, some of the junior officers, and a few men, put on board the pinnace with a small stock of provisions. While the vessel remained in possession of the men, Captain L- had drank so that he was unable to take the command of the pinnace; and Frank, who was appointed steersman, obeyed the wishes of their little party, and tried to reach a small island, seen at a distance. This he effected with some trouble, and they contrived a tent, and lighted a watch-fire to guard them from wild animals. One of the persons was a rich Bombay merchant, who promised great things to Frank if he could manage to steer into some port from whence he (the merchant) could again sail to his place of destination; but the weather was not settled enough to permit of the execution of this plan. All that day, and the next, one or other of the anxious group kept watch on a neighbouring rock, in hopes of seeing some vessel near the island; and at night they slept and watched by turns. Captain — had been astonished that Frank had not been one of the mutineers, and, full of remorse at his past unkindness, treated him with great civility. One night, when Frank was seated beside the watch-fire, he started up, for a loud cry of pain proceeded from the tent, and he entered just in time to kill a small snake that had bitten the captain on the arm. Fever, attended with great
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON, ;
prostration of strength, rapidly came on; his mind began to wander, and he was evidently in a state of great danger. Early in the morning the joyful cry was heard of “Sail ahoy !" and that joyful cry gave to the little party of anxious persons a fresh hope of safety and release from their distressing situation. The signals were evidently perceived, for a boat full of men soon appeared ; and on their arrival at the island, Mr. Arnmore, the Bombay merchant, explained all the circumstances of their case, and arranged his plan for proceeding in the vessel to its destination.
All this time Frank sat by the unconscious Captain Lthe bitten arm lay motionless and discoloured, and rapidly approaching death was plainly delineated on his face. He fancied he was left-left to die alone; and could not understand Frank's promise not to leave him, even to insure his own safety. Frank knew what this promise involved; but he felt he was in the path of duty not to abandon the dying man.
It was possible that Captain L_ might linger till the next day, and the vessel might sail without Frank; but he prayed that God would give him strength to go through this trying hour. He thought of the words of Christ, “ Love your enemies; be kind to them that persecute you;" and when he remembered Captain —'s cruelty for long months, he deemed himself privileged in thus being permitted to wait upon and care for his enemy.
Thus some hours passed : the kind Mr. Arnmore went in the boat to the vessel, to offer a sum of money if they would wait for Frank; but the officer said, “It is not needed, sir; my men say the miserable man cannot last many hours, and he would have a hard heart to abandon that good fellow. God knows there is not so much humanity in the world, that we can afford to leave one who thus practises it towards another who has so cruelly treated him. God spare us all from such a fearful state of mind at our dying hour! I am a rough sailor, sir; but I never stand near a death-bed without thinking that something calls to me, * Prepare in life to meet thy death!'”
Some of the ship's crew had been sent over the island to procure fruit and fresh water ; and about this time Captain 1- opened his eyes, glazed and filmy with approaching death. “Frank, you are very good to your bitterest enemy. Oh, I used to hate the name of religion ; but now death is near me,-oh, whither am I going !” Again and again did Frank tell him of Christ, “the sinner's friend,” but he hardly seemed to hear. Suddenly he said, “ Pray for me! pray!” These words were his last; a few heavy sighs were breathed,