Page images
PDF
EPUB

drawn up by that honoured minister of Christ, we now present to our readers, assured that it will be read with much interest by all the friends of seamen and the British and Foreign Sailors' Society :

THE FIRST BETHEL FLAG.

[ocr errors]

“In our Magazine for July last, a communication was published, entitled “ The Strange Flag;'_giving some account of the hoisting of the First Bethel Flag on board an American Ship. Since that was published, we have received a communication from the Rev. Mr. Allan, who was alluded to, with a particular account of the whole affair. It will be read with deep interest, containing, as it does, the testimony of the principal actor in the scene.

To the Editor of the Sailor's Magazine. “ Sir,- It has occurred to me that probably the readers of your interesting periodical would have no objection to see some account of the First Bethel Flag ever brought to the United States. It happened to be my lot to be the bearer of this interesting signal; and never did a young midshipman return home with an enemy's flag more delighted than I was with the Bethel Flag. In the winter of 1820 and 1821, I had occasion to visit England, and spent about three months in London. Among all the interesting wonders of that metropolis of the world, nothing so much engaged my attention, and fastened on my feelings, as the interesting work of religion going on among seamen. I had the pleasure of preaching to them frequently, both at the Floating Chapel, and at other places on the river Thames. Never did I preach to an audience who seemed more deeply interested; to see tears of holy joy streaming down the cheeks of the weatherbeaten sailor, was a sight I had not anticipated.

“ The Floating Chapel where I preached most frequently, was an old sixty-four gun frigate. It formed quite a spacious room, capable of seating seven hundred persons. It was painted, and had a handsome pulpit, gallery, and clock. The after-part was partitioned off for a vestry. It was quite comfortable, and well lighted. There were large doors made fore and aft, with platforms before them on the outside, for the purpose of stepping on out of the boats, in which the audience were conveyed from various points on the river. This vessel was moored out in the middle of the river off the London Dock.

“ I had heard frequently of sailors' prayer-meetings, and was much struck with the interesting change which this pleasing circumstance indicated; but when I came actually to witness them, I was much more struck. I now felt the half had not been told.' There seemed to be a fervour and simplicity in their devotions which I had rarely seen. The fact, that some present at these meetings had just escaped the perils of the deep after a long voyage ; that others present were just about to embark, to be deprived certainly for many months of their sanctuary privileges, served to give an interest not often felt in prayer-meetings held on shore.

During my stay in London, the Executive Committee of the British and Foreign Seamen's Friend Society, determined to send out to this country a Bethel Union Flag, and desired me to be the bearer of it. At a meeting held at the Free Mason's Hall, by the friends of seamen, I publicly pledged myself to hoist the Bethel Flag. Among other distinguished personages who attended this meeting was the venerable Wilberforce ; he was then bending under the weight of years, but manifested great vigour of mind, and the purest feelings of benevolence. He advocated in a very plain but forcible manner, the claims which seamen had upon the Christian community; spoke with regret of his want of zeal in the cause, lamenting that he had not engaged in it at an earlier period.

On the 22d of February, 1821, Mr. Philips, a devoted friend to seamen, and one of the leading members of the British Seamen's Friend Society, sent to my lodgings the promised Bethel Union Flag. On Friday, the 2d of March, I sailed from Liverpool for New York, in the packet ship James Monroe, commanded by Captain Rogers, On the 11th day of March, 1821, the second Sabbath after leaving Liverpool, having previously obtained permission of the captain, I hoisted the flag with my own hands, agreeably to a pledge given to the meeting at the Free Mason's Hall, referred to above. It was a most lovely day - not a cloud was to be seen.

We had now fairly cleared the coast of Ireland, about which, and in the channel, we had been contending with head winds. We were now enabled to keep our course under an easy press of sail. Early in the morning, the captain furnished me a hand to rig the flag; the man had never seen a flag of this description before, and very naturally asked me

what nation it belonged to ? I told him it was for all nations, explaining to him the object of the invention. He listened with great interest. The necessary prepara tions being made for hoisting, I took hold of the halyard and run up the Bethel Union Flag with peculiar pleasure. As it floated gaily over the stern of our gallant vessel, I gazed on it with delight. Never had I seen a flag possessing in my view so much interest. Indeed it was an object of pleasing contemplation by all on board. There was something in the device so beautifully appropriate, it could not fail to excite some interest in the bosom of all who beheld it. After this it was regularly hoisted on every Sabbath, at which time we uniformly had public worship. I preached in the morning, and distributed tracts in the afternoon. These were received by the sailors with thankfulness. It was pleasing to see them sitting about the forecastle quietly reading. I found on inquiry, that some of the crew were in possession of Bibles, which had been given them by the American Bible Society Agreeably to a suggestion of the captain, we intended entering the harbour of New York with the Bethel Flag flying at the mast-head, but in this were disappointed, as we came in during a snow-storm, with our top-gallant masts down, snugly stowed away on deck. We landed on the 17th day of April, and found the whole city covered with snow. On the next day, I handed over the Bethel Union Flag to the Rev. Ward Stafford, at that time engaged in preaching to sailors in New York.

“Respectfully yours,

“ Joun ALLAN. “ Huntsville, Ala. 20th June, 1835.

N. B. The flag thus presented by Mr. Allan to Mr. Stafford, was first displayed at the Mariner's Church in New York, in June following. The following note from a manuscript journal of the late Captain Christopher Prince, records the fact :

Sunday, June 3d, 1821. The Bethel Flag is to be hoisted at the Mariner's Church to day. This flag was made in England, and sent on to us as a present, showing their approbation of the interest we have taken in the salvation of mariners ; inviting us to persevere unto the end, and that they would, unite with us in this glorious

Mr. Ballintine, a Baptist minister, performed the services. His text was first Timothy, c. i, v. 15. • This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.'

cause.

THE YOUNG SAILOR AND HIS LITTLE BOOK. Preaching the gospel is the grand instrument ordained by infinite wisdom for the regeneration of a ruined world; and to this end thousands, from age to age, have found it the mighty means of the Holy Spirit. But who can preach the gospel to sailors ? Port-missionaries and Bethel ministers may do this while they are on shore, or within reach of these servants of Christ; yet for months, and sometimes for years, seamen have no opportunity of hearing the glad tidings of salvation from the living voice of the preacher ! How then can they be benefited in the ways of God except by means of choice religious books? Assured of the benefits which many have derived by this means of promulgating the gospel, the British and Foreign Sailors' Society has on loan, in Libraries to ships, and in single books to individual seamen, not less than 6,000 volumes !

Who can estimate the amount of good which will result from their use under the blessing of God!

Probably the following testimony of a Missionary will reach the heart, and plead more powerfully with those able to aid the Society, than any the most cogent arguments addressed even to the understandings of Chris

tians :

“ While I was a missionary in Asia, I wrote a number of Advices to the children of the Sabbath school, Old Aberdeen, Scotland, of which I had been a teacher, before I went as Missionary. The Sabbath School Union thought it their duty to print these advices in the form of a reward book, for the benefit of the youth of the schools at large. The day after 1 returned from Asia, aud had reached again the parental dwelling, I was invited to attend the funeral of a pious old lady with whom I was well acquainted before I went abroad, While the company was assembling in the house of the dead, a young and ruddy sailor came in and sat down by my side. He appeared absorbed in thought, and altogether different from most sailors I had

From his jacket pocket I observed a small book ready to drop out. I told him of it. He thanked metook it out and said, “Sir, that book has been the means of saving my precious soul ; and that sainted aunt (point

seen.

[ocr errors]

ing to the corpse) was she that gave it me.' (The tear trickled down his face). 'O sir, if you do not know nor love the Lord Jesus Christ, do let me lend it you.

It has been a blessing to my soul, and I hope to many others to whom I have read it and lent it; do, sir, accept of a reading of it, it may do you good for ever. I took the book into my hand, and found it was my own Advices to the children of the Old Aberdeen Sabbath School. I returned it, saying I had already seen it. As soon as we had moved off to the grave, I went up to the sailor, and taking him by the arm, said, ' Friend,

excuse my

freedom. I hope I too love Jesus Christ, and should be much pleased to hear a little of your history, before and since you have experienced the change of which you have spoken to me. Sir,' said he, I am son of Mr. James M- -e, brother of the departed saint we are now following to the grave. I had a most pious education and example set before me, sir, — was the child of many prayers by more pious relations than father or mother, and perhaps by none of them more than she we are carrying to the tomb. I hated religion, sir, I became the prodigal of my father's family—and when very young, I ran off to sea - was gone on a voyage twelve months to the East Indies, during which no one at home knew where I was, or whether I was dead or alive. On the ship's return, I was entreated by all to abandon the sea, and remain at home — but no, I went again, not because I overmuch liked a sea-faring life, but I had pleasure in its wicked

Thus I came and went for some years, during which I was growing more wicked, careless, and hardened. Two

years ago
I returned from a voyage,

and

my poor departed aunt desired to see me.

For this purpose she often came to father's, and I as often shunned her, as one would do an enemy. Finding she could not get at me, she left with mother a pressing invitation for me to come and take tea with her, and spend an afternoon at her house before I left for my next voyage, which was to be a long one. I respected her, but I despised and feared her invitation, well knowing for what intent she desired to see me. I resolved with myself not to go, but somehow mother prevailed upon me, and I went. She was kind, yea fond, and made a thousand pretty things of me for coming to see her — but she was serious and solemn, and earnest in her addresses to me, and which were many and pointed. I longed for the hours to flee away. This

ness.

« PreviousContinue »