1886-87 - USA, Canada, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Egypt


September 10th, 1886

On board the "Servia"[1]

I thought I would make the attempt to write you this morning as the outward circumstances are now somewhat favourable for the task and I know how glad you will be to get a line from me. My note from Queenstown will no doubt have been received. We had a splendid start from there about 1.15 on Sunday last and the scenery along the Irish coast was very fine, the beautiful clear weather throwing up all the grandeur of the coastline. An awning was hoisted over the saloon deck which was soon crowded with chairs, so that it was a matter of difficulty to worm your way through them. There was every appearance of fine weather which has maintained up to late in the evening when the taking in of the awning gave some indication that our pathway across the ocean would probably lie through waves and storms.

On Monday our breeze was stiffening and the waves beginning to mount. The scene was changed, smiling faces were few, sober and serious countenances many. By Wednesday our breeze had increased to a gale such as I had had no previous experience of and it was certainly a magnificent sight. Our splendid ship ploughed her way through the mountains of sea in grand style not taking in near the water the Etruria did and that in much less sea. Of course our speed is not so great as that ship and that accounts for it I suppose. It was a very sensible relief to our nerves on Wednesday night when the gale subsided and the sea had gone down, giving prospect of sufficient quietness to hope for a little sleep, which I for one was very thankful to get. Yesterday, Thursday, we were going through fog all the day and about 4 in the afternoon there was a thrill of excitement through the ship caused by the sudden stopping and reversing of the engines. A large Norwegian vessel was close to us and crossed our bow, so near that we could have thrown a stone on board her. If our steamer had struck the ship it must have cut her clean in two.

The loss of the Oregon[2] has I think quickened the crews of the Cunard boats and others too perhaps as in this instance, the moment the vessel loomed up through the fog, our ship was not only brought up, but backing astern at speed. It called for the thanksgiving from my heart to God for the great mercy that had preserved the precious souls on board from instant destruction. We got through the fog during the night and seem to have got into another world this morning - a nice cool breeze from the north - clear and bright weather and sea smooth and as a consequence decks once more crowded - we are now passed the banks of Newfoundland and have been in the midst of the fishing vessels this morning and whalers. We are about 950 miles from New York and it is said we are likely to arrive at that port on Monday morning sometime, should we get landed by mid-day my cable to you, sent about that time would reach you probably just as you are having your breakfast. Well so much for the voyage and now I will tell you of other matters. My state room companion Mr. Fowler is a great traveller - he is very much like Martyn in physique, but is a thorough going man of the world - he is a good deal mixed up with gold and silver mints in various parts of the world – he has spent years in India indeed in every quarter of the globe - does not know much of Cornwall, his only experience there being marking out the line for the Railway from Hayle to St. Ives - the Cornish are too wide awake he says - a job there would not be worth more than £20, whereas for a professional visit to India or South America where he is now bound would be worth £500. I have had to touch matters relating to eternity tenderly until we are drawn a little nearer to each other, but he sees my Bible and other books about our room and in the mornings I bow my knee as usual before he gets up - I get my bath at 6.15 am and clear out of our room about 7, so that we give each other plenty of room for dressing - I retire about 9.30, he about 11. He came into the state room yesterday evening as I was looking over the photos of my dearly beloved ones which I am very glad you reminded me of before leaving - as he seemed disposed for a chat I handed them one by one to him - he greatly admired them all remarking on each one - he thought dear little Olive in her Mamas lap very much like Grandpa - Harry in both the photos was wonderfully like me he thought - Arundel whose head he much admired was like his mother - you were a sweet woman also Emma.

Have met with a few of the Lord's people but not many - there are two dear young men in the next state room to ours - one of them an insurance agent in New York I have had some nice fellowship with – his companion has been unwell and keeping his berth for some days. I saw him lying on the couch yesterday morning as I came out of our room and went in and offered him a few little books which he received thankfully - I said perhaps you know the taste of this kind of food my friend to which he replied, I do; I am a Clergyman - Presbyterian living in America - I spent an hour or more with him over the truth in which he owned he was much interested, having heard thoughts he had never heard before in his life. During our conversation he would often challenge me for the authority of a statement from the scripture. It was the simple truth as to the Church called out in this dispensation that so struck him - to his mind it was all church from beginning to end. His friend with him, is a sort of steward of the congregation over which this young minister presides and has brought him over to England for a trip and speaks very highly of him as a godly young man - he seems to me another such a spirit as Mr. Cheynes - I feel very much drawn to him - he is called Gregory.

Have given away a lot of little books; some I notice who have taken them now give me the cold shoulder and pass by. Through grace we understand what this means both to us and to God and only calls out thankfulness to Him for the sovereign mercy and goodness that has wrought in this the day of salvation, a work in our souls that gives us to find our present joy in bowing the knee to Him as it will be our eternal happiness and delight to see in Him and His precious blood a full revelation of all that God is, as Light and Love. Mr. Fowler passed me just now and said someone had called and left a card at our state room - it is that of Mr. Beeman, a friend of Mr. Stones and I have had a nice time with him and his lady since - they appear very simple and bright Christians, in the Church of England I think - the lady is an American formerly residing at Philadelphia and has kindly given me some very useful information as to a few large grocers there. Mr. Fowler came and sat down by my chair again just now and seemed disposed to talk a little about "religious subjects" as he calls it. He gave me his thoughts about the whole question and is an advanced Darwinian. I did not interrupt him while he was stating his views and when he had finished I said a little as to the goodness of God which he was disposed to call into question - I handed him my testament to read, a portion he was quoting wrongly and our conversation which was carried on at a good pitch of voice soon began to attract others. Two ladies sitting close to me seemed very much interested and after Mr. F. had retired for it was getting rather close for him, one of these ladies turned to me and said Mr. F. did not appear open to receive the truth - I explained to her that we were occupying the same stateroom and that I had been looking to the Lord for an opportunity of having a word with him and was very thankful to have had it - soon after one of them commenced reading a paper which I noticed was a copy of our foreign letters - I said to her that the paper was familiar to me and then discovered that they were both in fellowship - was it not good of the Lord thus to bring us together - no doubt I shall know a little more of them as we voyage on.

Sept. 11, 1886

There are three sisters in fellowship on board the steamer - two residing at St. Louis in America who have been over for a visit and a sister from London (at Mr. Brookes meeting who has recently been with us) on a visit to friends in America - we are very thankful for the mercy yesterday that brought us together in such a singular way. We have had a nice time together over the word - one of the sisters residing at St. Louis an elderly lady is very intelligent in the truth - the other lady is her sister also residing at St. Louis. They have given me an invitation to visit them which I shall hope to do please God when in that part.

My cabin companion and I came to close quarters last night - I could only keep to the word with him, which he preferred to disregard and smiled rather reproachfully and quoted a scripture from time to time in answer to his wretched reasonings. He was awake this morning on my return from the bath and spoke occasionally while I was dressing - I think he must have felt it when my knee was bowed in prayer to that blessed God who had revealed Himself in His own dear son - known indeed now as the living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I met him after breakfast on deck and he said mind, don't misunderstand me, I respect true religion and wish there were more of it in the world then quoting a saying of some great one that "bad faith was better than none at all" - I told him that faith had an object and if that object was good, any measure of faith however small had to do with that object - if on the other hand the object was a bad one, faith in it was bad too because faith could never draw good from that which was bad - in Christianity God was revealed in His son and He the Lord Jesus Christ being perfect in every way and thing, great faith or little, strong faith or weak had to do with Him - our conversation ended in his going away in a towering rage, but he soon returned again with  a smile - I had put a question to him yesterday which he would like to answer - I had asked him how long his mind had held these views he now propounded - he said not always - when young he was brought up very rigidly in the Church of England but during his travels abroad all his thoughts were changed after reading a work on geology and astronomy - somehow I feel very much interested in him, though well knowing that no power but Gods can deliver him from the Christ dishonouring and soul destroying influence under which he has fallen - a captive indeed of Satan's. What a contrast to turn to a soul who through grace has bound to the truth and received it in the love for salvation. It does call out deep thankfulness from my heart to God - that God who is rich in mercy and great in love, for the grace that has wrought in our souls to receive His dear son - for it is only God who makes us to differ and we have nothing that we have not believed.

Mr & Mrs Beeman are very dear people, we spent a long time with each other yesterday, and God willing we are hoping  to get together tomorrow for some reading.

Lord's day morning 1 pm

We are drawing near the end of our voyage amid some of the brightest air of the purest and freshest and sea like a sea of glass - we came through a good deal of fog in the night and early this morning but that like the waves and storms are all behind us now and so far as we may judge we shall run into New York with very fine weather. The Lord has opened many doors for the truth and to relate it all would be tedious I am afraid. This morning at 10.30 the 3 sisters and myself and another lady, a friend of one of the sisters, met with Mr. & Mrs. Beeman in their state room for reading and prayer and we had a very refreshing time over Romans 8. We propose continuing it at 3 this afternoon. The Captain (McKay) gave me permission last night to preach the gospel in the steerage this evening, or  if I prefer - upon the deck and I am looking to God for blessing with the preaching - we are about 900 souls on board with the crew, a great number is it not. I have greatly enjoyed the voyage and except the first day or two when I had a little headache, have felt very well. I trust it may be seen in that day, soon to come, that some blessing was found by many precious souls on board the Servia, that all redound to the glory of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. My letter will soon be closed now, I shall be able to write a little more on arrival in New York - am afraid whether you will be able to read it, as the situation of the steamer makes it rather difficult to write.

New York Monday Sept. 13

We reached this place about 7 am and soon got clear of the customs and fixed at the Windsor Hotel The Lord gave me a good time on the gospel on the deck last night and although many Irish were there, we had no disturbance - the people soon crowded around, when I gave out the hymn, "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds" - preached about 20 minutes from that word in Isaiah - "a Just God and a saviour etc.". It was a very impressive scene altogether and many Christians came up to speak to me afterwards. Have been making several calls here today and hope to book some orders tomorrow. I sent a cablegram to Petter Bros. This morning saying all well and giving the name of the Town "Halifax" for you to write me, which I expect you will have done long before you get this. Called on the leading brother here this afternoon and had a nice chat with  And now my beloved Angee l must close this letter with much love to you all believe me.

Being very affectionate Husband

I will send this under cover unsealed to Arundel who will know where to forward it.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Servia

[2] The Oregon was a Blue Riband transatlantic steamer which struck a schooner and foundered 18 miles off Long Island New York on March 14th 1886. For further details see http://www.ecophotoexplorers.com/oregon.asp & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Oregon_(1883)

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