"They helped every one his neighbour, and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage" (margin, be strong). Miss Macpherson writes in February this year, the eighth anniversary: --
"As a band, we need to 'be strong' for any emergency. At this season we are surrounded by hundreds of men out of employment, and in want of food, who say now to us -- 'We have listened to your Gospel; we are in want; show us thy faith by thy works.' This we are endeavouring to do by providing for them suppers of soup and bread twice a week. The other evening a crowd had gathered outside the door at the specified hour, when only 150 could be admitted. Did we but know the gnawings of real hunger we should not wonder that the unsuccessful applicants attempted to burst in; and one poor man falling in the crush, broke his arm.
"We need your prayers while dealing with this class for another month. Strong hearts quail at the sight of these hopeless looking men. Our evening-school three times a week, taught by ladies, we find to be the most successful plan of dealing with them. The being called by their own names, man by man, wakes up an interest, and causes the public-house life to go into the shade.
"The friends of the match box-makers (our oldest love in this vineyard) will rejoice to hear that we gathered 300 of them straight from their boxes to a New Year's tea, when a kind friend helped to make the evening a pleasant one by exhibiting dissolving views. After this the gifts of clothing, &c., with which we had been supplied by many contributors, were distributed among them.
"Last week we had a very happy evening with our Christian band, many of whom were the matchbox-makers of former days, now grown, into young women, and fellow-workers for Christ in their own homes, and in the courts and alleys where they dwell. Deeply interesting were their testimonies of answers to prayer, the power of the Word, and delivering grace in time of trial in the factories where they labour. Dear helpers by prayer, you now behold what great things the Lord hath wrought for us in giving us this band of young women to go forth on the Sunday afternoons in couples with their tracts, and reach many whom perhaps we might not find. Some of these are also teachers in our Sunday-school, sympathising with us in our East-end trials, teaching to others what they have learned of Jesus through their own experience of His great love.
"The 'elder girls' of the East-end are a continual heavy burden on our heart; much thought and care are being bestowed in devising and perfecting plans for winning their young lives to the Saviour, and fitting them for honourable service for God and man. This great preventive work among those young bread-winners can only be successfully accomplished by those who, through studying their habits, temptations, and surroundings, by constant loving contact with them, and by special training, are able to win their confidence and affection."
In this year a new and most important work was begun, one which has eminently received the blessing of "Him who is the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of those who are afar off upon the sea."
Miss Child, one like-minded with Miss Macpherson inter zeal for souls, and her longing to save them from the curse of drink; had been residing in the Home of Industry, and visiting public-houses in Ratcliff Highway. To those who have never seen the open parade of sin in that part, (long notorious for every, evil), it is hard to describe the scene, where even in broad daylight the unhappy captives of Satan seem to glory in their shame. Miss Child's heart yearned over the sailors who crowd the public-houses, escaped from the perils of the sea only to fall into worse dangers. She longed for some means of helping them. Miss Macpherson appealed to him whose burning words in the City of London Theatre in 1861 had so stirred her own heart Mr. Reginald Radcliffe had lately opened a Strangers' Rest in Liverpool, and only longed to see the same established in every port in the world. In answer to the call, he came up to London and addressed Christian workers assembled at the Home of Industry, stirring them up to undertake a new form of attack on the strongholds of the enemy. Mr. James E. Matheson took the deepest interest in this work, and a house was secured in Ratcliff Highway, the appearance of which was made to contrast very strongly with all around. Gospel texts in many languages appeared in all the windows, and invitations to sailors to enter and write their letters, materials provided free of cost. This work needed many helpers. Preachers were required for the different nationalities. Such were found, and willing listeners, so that soon a larger house was necessary. Notwithstanding the many calls on her time and strength, Miss Macpherson was frequently to be found here, delighting in seeking to save among a class hitherto difficult to reach. Many other sisters in the Lord were, called on to help -- some to play the harmoniums provided in each room, and lead the singing in varied languages -- others in writing letters for those who could not use a pen themselves, and whose hearts were softened by kindness shown in this way -- others in filling, bags with books and tracts. The blessing which has followed these cannot be reckoned; none can tell what these silent messengers, so often despised on shore, have been to sailors when read far away from home and friends. Many of these bags have been made by Christian invalids, and are followed by their prayers that the contents may ever be blessed.
As yet, however, nothing had been done for the women in Katcliff Highway, and Miss Macpherson, when visiting that neighbourhood where Satan reigns so openly, longed to save some of her poor lost sisters. On one occasion a young woman said most piteously to her: "Why don't you speak to us as you do to the sailors, and we would be converted and be happy too?" This led to the first decided effort being made, and the following year a small mission room for their use alone was opened. Tea-meetings and Gospel addresses-were given here. Miss Macpherson's long-tried helper, Miss May, added this work to her many other burdens for the Lord, and other kind friends joined her in visiting and seeking out the lost.
Although, in Miss May's words, "humanly speaking all things were against us," -- for in this neighbourhood the wages of iniquity are high, yet encouragement was met with, and it was felt that the mission room was not sufficient, but some shelter must be taken wherein to receive' poor applicants until they could be removed to a safer locality. A tiny three-roomed house was secured and opened with, much prayer, and has fulfilled the promise of the name given to it, "The Bridge of Hope." The Lord blessed Miss Macpherson in the choice of a helper, Miss Underdown, the brave pioneer who volunteered to remain here alone, ready to welcome the poor wanderer at any hour of the day or night. She is now working among sailors at Cape Town; but the Lord has proved in this instance, as in many others, that when His summons to a distant land is obeyed, the work at home will not be suffered to languish. Another devoted sister in the Lord, Miss Steer, has given up home ties and home comforts, counting it all joy to rescue those most deeply sunk in guilt and misery. The work has doubled and trebled in importance, more than a hundred having been drawn out of this whirlpool of sin and infamy, and brought under the sound of the Gospel within the walls of the larger Refuge, since opened for them. More than once we have had to praise God for the help given by Christian sailors; their watchful eyes have noticed in the "Highway" some who were evidently strangers to the haunts of vice, and have brought them here for safety, and even borne part of the expense of their journey homewards. The house originally taken for the Strangers' Rest having been found inadequate for the accommodation of the crowds who frequented it, a larger house was taken, but it was felt that after the many hallowed associations of the first house opened, where Miss Macpherson and Miss Child had often rejoiced with the angels of God over repenting sinners, it was impossible to relinquish it for ordinary uses, -- it might be in that neighbourhood for some direct work of Satan. To Miss Macpherson's great joy her faithful, co-worker, Miss Child, determined on opening it as a Temperance Coffee House, or "Welcome Home" for the sailors, and thenceforth made this place her abode, and the work of God has never ceased.
In the spring of this year Miss Macpherson had contemplated starting with a party for Canada, but as the time drew near she was so much worn out by the continued strain of "holding the fort" at Spitalfields for the last two years, that some of her friends almost feared she would be unable to take the charge. She would not suffer her bodily weakness to hinder her, and on May the 8th started on her twenty-first voyage in the "Sardinian," accompanied by her brother-in-law, Mr. Merry, with a party of fifty children, and two young men who had gone out with her in 1870, and had returned to see their friends, and were on their way back with her to the land of their adoption. So many thousand miles had been traversed by land and sea, and hitherto thanksgivings had gone up for preservation from even alarm of danger. Now a deeper thanksgiving was to be called forth, for the Lord's preserving care in a scene which brought all face to face with eternity. On the Monday before she left Miss Macpherson remarked to some friends, "The Word is full of Deliverance, both individual deliverance and otherwise," little dreaming how soon she would be called to realise this truth.
The following letter, which appeared in the "Times," tells of the strength given in time of need: --
"May 14, 1878.
"Captain Grills, of the Liverpool Mercantile Marine Service Association, going to Derry upon a pleasure trip, was upon the bridge of the 'Sardinian' when the accident occurred, and speaks in high terms of the discipline of officers and crew under the trying circumstances. He says: -- 'I was on the bridge with Captain Dutton, looking for the approach of the tender, when in a moment an explosion occurred down in the fore-hold, where a quantity of coal was stored, and blew into the air thousands of fragments of wood. Immediately afterwards people came shrieking up the companion ways, many, of them cut, bruised, and blackened. The scene was indescribable. A great deal of confusion was caused by the separation of children from parents and husbands from wives. One poor woman begged me to go and find her baby, which was torn from her arms. The Captain, on hearing the explosion and seeing the smoke, sprang from the bridge, ordered the hose to be instantly applied, and by dint of extraordinary exertions on the part of himself, the officers, and crew, succeeded in saving several people who were in the midst of the debris. The hold was flooded with water from the hose, but the smoke continued to pour out in dense volumes, and ultimately they had to abandon all hope of saving the ship except by opening the sluices and letting the water in. Before doing this the vessel was taken into five fathoms of water, so that when she settled down her decks would be above water, and she might the more easily be pumped out and raised. While these orders were being executed, the whole of the saloon passengers, assisted by many of the crew, were engaged in transferring the emigrants to the mail tender which had just come alongside. About 300 or 400 soon crowded her decks, and she landed them at Moville pier, after which she returned for orders. Subsequently the second tender took off most of the saloon passengers, many wounded, and a large quantity of baggage. The boats were lowered in order to save the baggage. The mail tender returned and took the rest of the people, and I went with them, and we reached Derry about nine o'clock that night. I cannot refrain from referring to the heroic conduct of one lady, [Footnote: Miss Catherine Ellis of Tryon House] a saloon passenger, who, while partially dressed, rescued a baby that was fearfully burnt, at considerable risk to herself; the mother had proceeded to Derry, thinking she had lost her child for ever. The promptitude and energy displayed by Captain Button was in every way admirable, and his orders were executed with great decision. Miss Macpherson and her little band of Canadian emigrants showed no small amount of true fortitude and heroism. Most of the children behaved nobly under the trying circumstances, and exhibited much of the fruit of their careful training. They kept repeating to one another many of the sayings they had heard from Miss Macpherson about being patient, and brave, and good; I visited the infirmary before leaving on Saturday, and spoke to each of the nine patients, who are all suffering seriously, but I am hopeful of the recovery of some.'"
Miss Macpherson's own account follows: --
"Since we parted from you and those beloved Christian friends at St. Pancras last Wednesday, we seem to have lived years, and learnt more of the reality of the delivering power of our loving Father than in all our lives before.
"Wondrous to relate, and as marvellous as the deliverance of the three children from the fiery furnace, is the fact that all our precious little ones are in safety, and now gone to a place of worship.
"Behold the loving-kindness of our God! Had the explosion taken place a little while later, our vessel would have been on her way instead of standing still waiting off Moville for the mails.
"Most of the children" were on deck, basking in the lovely sunshine of that afternoon. We were all busy finishing our letters, and I intended to write one more, and then go and spend an hour in the children's steerage, when presently there was a terrible sound, as of a cannon, followed by a deathly stillness for two minutes; I rushed on deck and beheld a man jet black with soot, his halt burnt off, issuing from a gangway near; then one of my own boys came, exclaiming, 'Oh, Miss! I prayed to Jesus, and He saved me.' Then the deck became a fearful scene of confusion, poor foreigners weeping, and oh! the mutilated men and women, ghastly with fright, some of their faces entirely skinned.
"My first care was for the little ones. They clustered round me, as the two young men, (former boys of 1870, who had been home to see their friends), gathered them out of the crowd. Mr. Merry gave me the list, and they dried their tears, and answered to their names when called. We soon found all accounted for, and were hushed with praise Picture us all standing near the wheelhouse, awaiting orders, or to see, it might be flames, or another explosion of a still more serious character.
"Oh! could every Sunday school teacher in the land realise my feelings at that moment, they would never rest until every child in their class was' washed in the Blood of the Lamb. I saw nothing but imperfection in all my work, and want of burning reality for souls.
"The scene of the disaster was very near to the children's sleeping berths; a very few yards off two women sat upon a box together, one was blown up into the air, the other driven she knew not whither; but late that night I came across her seeking a bed in Moville, and she told me that in those first terrible moments every sin she had ever committed came before, her, and the one most awful was her having rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, what our God can do in tire twinkling of an eye! by unbalancing a little breath of His own created air, then the stoutest-hearted sinners quail"
Another witness wrote: --
"It is terrible to have been in the midst of such a calamity! and the sight of the poor, blackened, and scorched faces of the sufferers I shall never forget. There was such a nice, family on board; the father, mother, and four children. The mother was blown up; her body was found yesterday, scarcely recognisable, but the husband had to go and identify it. Poor man! he was here, and in such an agony of distress. The last order I heard the Captain give, was thundered out, 'Send all the women and children up from below,' and Miss Macpherson came herself, and dragged me up. Captain Button says there have been the most wonderful providences.
"It was wonderful how calm every one seemed at the time of that terrible crash. There was no panic, but the peculiar wailing of the poor Sardinians rings in my ears still, and the groans of those sufferers. Silence must be cast over the scenes of that sad day.
"If I thought of anything at the time of the accident, it was of Miss Macpherson's Bible, and I know her thought was for me and the children. It was most sweet at the time to see the way people thought of others more than of themselves; there were many little acts of kindness done then which will never be forgotten.
"Miss Macpherson said to me as we were starting on Thursday, 'I think this is going to be a most unusual voyage. I have never had such sweet dismissals before.'
"I did so feel as I stood round those poor sufferers. Why was I spared? All in the same ship, all exposed to the same peril, and yet we are untouched, and what are we better than they? We can only bow low before our, loving Father with 'What can I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?'.. I managed to get to the infirmary, where I paid a very interesting visit.... The third officer is so terribly hurt, quite unrecognisable."
On her return from Derry, whither she had hastened to give help to the sufferers, Mrs. Merry gave a thrilling account of how the waters had not been suffered to pass over them, nor the flame permitted to kindle upon them; and told how nobly that brave seaman and man of God, Captain Dutton, had acted; how he had instantly summoned all hands to his help in seeing to the safety of the children, so that in less than three minutes by the watch, after the shock, the whole of the forty little tones were around Miss Macpherson, having no more hurt upon them (with one exception) than a little singed hair and a few blisters.
Not only were their lives spared -- they were not even called upon to "take joyfully the spoiling if their goods," for not one box or parcel either of clothing or gospel, tracts and books was lost or injured. The "Peruvian" was sent from Liverpool to take, the place of the "Sardinian," and the rest of the voyage was accomplished in safety.
When nearing Cape Race Miss Macpherson writes: --
"Many a touching scene have we witnessed. A company of between twenty and thirty Swiss Christians, with their evangelist, guided by a lady, to form a little colony in Canada, when passing through Liverpool, had spent all their evenings at the 'Sailors Rest,' so we, being I one in the eternal bond, sang together the same hymns, though in different languages, the first evening we sailed out. To see them drying their Bibles and hymn-books, all the covers gone, oh! it made me weep. How very precious those mutilated books were to them now! One dear German Christian showed me his Bible, and I was told the two front blotted pages were written by a dying mother's hand. Another young German, when he found his Bible was safe, forgot all else, and danced about with the most touching joy, but then he knew not where to put his treasure for safety and to get it pressed. Although I understood not his language, and no one was at hand to interpret, I put out my hand to help him; he took one long look into my face, and with a smile gave me his precious book. Five days after we met again, and he held out his hands, exclaiming 'Bibel!'
"You heard how very promptly the Deny Christians acted for the poor emigrants. Every minister intimated the need in his church, and the response was made before nine o'clock on the Monday morning. Cartloads of clothing were sent in and distributed among, the emigrants, so that as far as covering for the present goes, all have been liberally helped to go on their way.
"Sunday. -- A day of lovely sunshine, all on deck enjoying the warmth. The foreigners quietly reading their mutilated books; but -- oh, how sad to see! -- with the English emigrants it is beer -- beer -- beer -- taking with them to the new land habits that will tell ill for them wherever they go.
"The children and I spent the morning singing together, and thanking our God for all His wondrous love. Often during the-past week I felt like breaking down, and letting the pent-up tears flow; but while Bob (eleven years old) prayed, I could hold out no longer, and the strong sailors leaning over the mid hatchway joined me too, as the dear lad asked God, for Jesus' sake, to care for the blind mother he had left in the workhouse, and that his runaway brother might be brought to Jesus; that his brother with the bad leg might be found of the Lord; that his sister in service might please her master and mistress; and that he himself might follow Jesus, and be a good boy, and obedient to those placed over him."
The following is dated from Galt: --
"Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." (Ps. lxiii.7).
"MY DEAR FELLOW-HELPERS, -- On arriving at this sweet spot our journeyings ended for the present. You can well imagine the complete enjoyment of repose as with my family I wander round the Cottage Home when school hours are over. During a week in which I had been separated from them, they had made the acquaintance of horses, cows, ducks, hens, sheep, &c. -- all so new to our poor London children. They never tire of inviting me to come and see our this and that, or some new-found pleasure. How quickly this country life develops character, touching chords which are left unawakened in many a nature! It is such a contrast to the artificial tastes and habits of city life, which arouse passions not easily kept in subjection.
"Mrs. Merry will be glad to know that I am delighted with all in and around the Home. The new wing, with its lavatory and simple arrangements for the health and comfort of the children, would, we believe, be highly approved of by the relatives of our departed friends, Miss Wilson and Mr. Marshall, who so kindly left us the means to make this addition. One of our former' boys works on the farm; his life was consecrated nearly two years ago for China. He is a manly, consistent young Christian, and tells me it was an address given here by George W. Clarke (the first of our missionary sons from Spitalfields), before he went out to China, that gave him the first burning longings to become a missionary. It is my duty to see that a suitable education be given him to strengthen these desires; therefore when field-work is over, we have hours for study, Mr. Merry teaching in the morning, and I in the evening.
"The last mail from China brings a letter from G. W. Clarke, in which he writes: -- "The Lord has blessed me with good health, whilst many of our brethren engaged in the hard work of pioneering are in some way feeling the strain upon their strength." I am very thankful for the roughing I had in Canada, and for whatever trials I have had in China, which have enabled me in any way to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
"We need much prayer for this branch of the work, that it may be the natural outcome of family life, and grow gradually as our heavenly Father leads.
"Several of the elder boys are at the Home now from different causes; their work on the farm pays for their board, and they again come under blessed Gospel influence, while we watch and pray for" their conversion. The dear sisters who work out the details value an interest in your prayers, as they so realise 'from day to day the need of patience.' All your desires that I should rest are being fulfilled. If you could but see me sitting on a bank with three or four little heads leaning on my lap, the others buzzing round, bringing flowers and weaving wreaths for our hats! Then a hand opens to show 'such a dear' young frog! Another brings an endless variety of caterpillars, &c. Then there come shrieks of delight from a group of boys who have almost caught a squirrel A rowing boat glides down the river, and the children strike up an impromptu strain -- 'Row, brothers, row!'
"A little fellow has a burden on his mind, ending with, 'Could I not stop here always?' Alas! he had to be told 'impossible,' for there were many more poor boys far away in London, crying to be loved, and he would soon find a 'pa and ma' to love him. How this thirst for sympathy grows in these tiny hearts! May more dear mission-workers have anointed eyes, to seek out the orphans in the dens of our great city. May more jewelled fingers yield their offerings, ere the opportunity be past, for rescuing immortal souls that may become witnesses of Jesus Christ, and shine for ever and ever in His crown.
"Too many seek to square the cases up to their rules, but the opposite I believe is more according to God's mind. Oh, if every town in Old England would arise and build its own Orphan Home! Surely the Church of Christ in every denomination can unite in love over the children. Witness the burst of love in a few hours after the ministers of every sect in Deny told the need of the emigrants, and the children cast naked upon their shores! They gave until the receivers said, 'It is enough!'
"In this quiet resting-place, I have time to listen to the Master's own voice, and hear Him say, 'Go forward!' This is the twenty-first voyage -- the majority! I would celebrate it by desiring still greater things for God's glory, devising, yet leaving the direction to the Lord. Already it has proved a time of trial and rich blessing. My heart is with you all in, your joyous privileges of making known a Saviour's love. My spirit flits to the needy children. A thousand board schools will never supply the loving, tender care we women can give to the fatherless and motherless, or sow the seed and lead the precious little souls to Jesus. Therefore follow me in these enlarged desires the Lord hath given, and oh! keep your eyes and ears open to the cry of the children. Hot summer days will lessen some of the Refuge work, but I follow you to Bird Fair, Ratcliff Highway, and many a court around. Don't forget that terrible corner by the lamp-post in the next street.
"Then for your own souls I send this word -- 'They thirsted not when He led them through the deserts. He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them.' As to your work, Do it. Should He be pleased to remove any of us, to stir our nest, or lay sickness upon us, shall we not hear Him say, 'Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with mine own?' Beloved friends, 'Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.' -- Yours affectionately,
The work had now so increased, that it was thought well to divide the three Canadian Homes. Hiss Macpherson found the Gait Home sufficient for the needs of the children transferred from the Home of Industry. Miss Bilbrough retained possession of the Marchmont Home, now devoted exclusively to children from Scotland; and the Knowlton Home, in the province of Quebec, was placed under the management of Mrs. Birt for the reception of little emigrants from Liverpool.
It was at the workers' meeting in August that Miss Macpherson was welcomed home; and Miss Ellis of Tryon House said she had been in Canada with Miss Macpherson, and the thought most on her mind in recollection of the scene on the "Sardinian" was "given back." As delivered from death, they had returned, each to their loved spheres of work, and felt increasingly how consecrated such lives should be, and for what great blessing they might look out.
As one quite unconnected with the work, Miss Ellis said she must remark how much she had been struck with the arrangements of the Gait Home -- the children were thoroughly well fed and well cared for (not like little princes though, nor above their station), and not an unnecessary shilling was expended.