OCCASION OF A COLLECTION IN AID OF THE FUNDS
Rector of said Church.
Published by request of the Managers of the Society,
AND FOR SALE
AT SAMUEL YOUNG'S THEOLOGICAL BOOK STORE,
NO. 27, NORTH CHARLES STREET.
Baltimore, 20th Feb. 1826
AT a meeting of the Managers of "The Seamen's Union Bethel Society," it was Resolved, That the thanks of this Board be presented to the Rev. Mr. Henshaw for the able, appropriate, and eloquent discourse delivered by him last evening in behalf of the Society; and that he be respectfully requested to furnish a copy of the same for publication.
In conveying the above, permit me to add the assurance of my individual satisfaction and regard.
I am, dear Sir,
Your ob't servant,
ORSON KELLOGG, Secretary.
Baltimore, Feb. 22, 1826.
I have received your note containing a resolution of the Managers of "The Seamen's Union Bethel Society" expressing their thanks for the Sermon preached by me on the last Sunday evening, and requesting a copy for publication. Although the discourse was hastily composed, and solely with a view to delivery from the pulpit, yet if the Managers are of opinion that its publication would promote the interests of the excellent institution entrusted to their direction, I cannot refuse to comply with their request.
J. P. K. HENSHAW.
IN the commencement of this chapter, the Church is represented as a solitary woman, forsaken and neglected; shrouded in gloom, and mourning over her desolate and afflicted condition. She weeps over decayed altars, broken arches and tottering columns; she sighs in bitterness and agony, because few come to her solemn feasts;--because her children have abandoned her;--and there is none to comfort and nourish her among all the sons whom she has brought up. But, in the midst of these disconsolate thoughts and gloomy prospects,--a cheering influence from Heaven falls upon her, like the breaking of the sun-beams through the dark and portentous cloud--and she is roused up from her abject and desponding posture by the animating call "arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." [* 1 Verse] O! How bright and glorious is the change which is then represented as having taken place in the condition and circumstances of Zion! Instead of being destitute of friends and [3/4] supporters, whole nations and communities of men, are attracted by her splendour, and "fly to her as the clouds and the doves to their windows." Governors and people--monarchs and their subjects--prostrate themselves before her with the lowliest reverence, and are emulous of the honour of being employed in her service. "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and Kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about and see, all they gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see and flow together, and thine heart shall fear and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee." [* 3, 4, and 5 verses] In subsequent verses, we are told--that monarchs and people, of distant nations, laden with the productions and wealth of their respective countries, would come to build up the walls and adorn the palaces of Zion, and consecrate their treasures to the advancement of her prosperity. And finally, it is declared that the descendants of the oppressors and persecutors of the Church, shall acknowledge her excellence, and bow to her dominion. "The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee, shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy one of Israel--whereas thou hast been forsaken, and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will [4/5] make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations." [* 14 and 15 verses].
It is natural to inquire, when that great and glorious change in the state and prospects of the church of God, which the Prophet has described in such glowing terms and sublime imagery in this chapter, will take place? It is manifest that the enlargement of the church after the first rising of the Sun of righteousness upon our world, under the ministry of the Apostles, was at best but a partial and imperfect fulfilment of the predictions now before us. We look for a day of brighter light and more extensive triumphs. I incline to the opinion, that the grand subject of this chapter is, the conversion and restoration of the Jews, and the wonderful, unparalleled effects which that event will produce upon the Gentile world.--"For if the casting away of them, was the reconciling of the world--what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" [* Rom. xi. 15]
Most commentators agree with the learned Bishop Lowth, in referring the prophecy to that full spread of the Gospel which will take place towards the close of the present dispensation--in that "latter day of glory," when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Christian believer! are not thy hopes strong and elevated? Does not thy heart beat with rapture at the sound of those prophetic declarations which assure thee of the full triumphs of the Gospel? Is not the petition "thy kingdom come!" a most engaging and [5/6] interesting portion of thy daily prayers? Thou art in these respects, but a partaker of "the communion of saints;" for the same may be said of the hopes and the hearts and the prayers, of all the real children of God, in different regions of the globe. What is the meaning of that mighty impulse which has been given to the benevolence of the Church? Why are the soldiers of the cross buckling on their armour--uniting heart and hand, and coming up to the help of the Lord--to the help of the Lord against the mighty? Are not the preparations making for that great battle which is to decide the contest between holiness and sin--Heaven and Hell--which is to establish the supremacy of the Church and effect the redemption of the world? May we not behold in the Bible, Missionary, Sunday School, and Tract Societies-- many clouds of mercy, fraught with Heaven's richest blessings for our parched and barren earth, and ready to pour down upon it showers of grace--the cleansing and refreshing streams of salvation? And if we cast our eyes across the vast expanse of waters, may we not behold a small cloud in the distant horizon, rising as from the bosom of the ocean, which, though in appearance no larger than a "man's hand," is destined to increase and spread till it shall equal the others in the extent of its influence, and the value of the benefits it will impart?
Your attention has often been directed to those prophecies which speak of the conversion of the nations of the Earth; but perhaps you have overlooked those which give the assurance, that "the abundance of the Sea" [6/7] also shall be converted to God. Amidst all the Christian sympathy that has been awakened in behalf of blinded Jews and idolatrous Gentiles, it is matter of astonishment that so little has been felt for a distinct and peculiar class of our fellow men, whose case is perhaps equally pitiable, and more interesting, than that of either of the former. I mean the Seamen, of whose cause I am to be the humble advocate on this occasion--and happy shall I be, if any thing that may be suggested, will excite your benevolence and zeal in behalf of two millions of our fellow voyagers to eternity, "whose march is on the mountain wave, whose home is on the deep"--and who, till within a few years, might say, with distressing emphasis, "no man careth for our souls."
"The abundance of the Sea shall be converted unto thee."
I propose, in this discourse, to consider, 1st. The claims which Seamen have upon the benevolence of the Christian public. 2dly. The means which should be used for their improvement; and 3dly. The encouragements to zeal and perseverance in the use of those means.
1. In presenting the claims of Seamen on the benevolent exertions of Christians, I might begin by reminding you, that they are immortal beings, like ourselves--possessed of deathless souls, which will exist for ever in a state of inconceivable bliss, or unutterable wo. That they are destined to the same bar of judgment with the rest of mankind--must be tried by the same rule--and be sentenced by the lips of the common Judge, to Heaven or Hell, according to the characters [7/8] they have formed on earth, and the deeds done in the body. I might remind you that they are "by nature the children of wrath, even as others"--that unless they are enlightened by a knowledge of the Gospel, united by faith to Jesus Christ, and born again of the Holy Ghost--they must pass from the scenes of present existence, to the anguish of a ruined and undone eternity. But this is not enough--it would be but a representation of their claim in common with the rest of our fallen race. They are not only involved in the general charge of having "sinned, and come short of the glory of God"--but, in the estimation of their fellow men at least, their sinfulness is of a peculiarly deep and aggravated character. They are proverbially profligate and vicious. In the exercise of that severity of judgment which leads us to attach the faults of a majority to the whole fraternity, our idea of the Sailor's character, includes in it a recklessness of religion and debasement of morals. We consider him as corrupt in himself, and a source of corruption to others. When we conceive of Seamen as on shore, our imagination pictures them as the actors in low scenes of dissipation--the tenants of the loathsome abodes of riot and pollution--the companions of the most degraded of their own sex, and the most infamous of the other. Now, without stopping to inquire whether this representation be exaggerated--I would barely mention the well known fact, that, the proverbial wickedness of Seamen, is one of the most commonly urged and popular objections to efforts for their reformation. It is often said, they are too careless and abandoned to be reclaimed. [8/9] This objection may have weight with those who believe that their reformation depends upon human ingenuity and power;--but how quickly does it vanish and disappear, before that precious declaration of Gospel truth, "salvation is of God!" Cannot the blood of Jesus Christ cleanse from all sin? Cannot the mighty power of the Holy Ghost subdue the most rebellious will, and sanctify the most polluted heart? The objection which the world offers, therefore, proves an incentive and encouragement to the mind of the christian. As well might it be said that we should bestow no alms, and make no efforts to relieve the sufferings of a fellow creature, because he is excessively poor--as that we should make no attempts to save him, because he is excessively sinful. The more sinful they are, the more tender should be our compassion, and the more earnest and unwearied our efforts to bring them to repentance. Did not our Lord Jesus Christ come into the world to seek and to save those who were lost? Is not His grace most strikingly magnified and displayed in the conversion of the most vile and guilty of our race? Are we not imitating him, when we attempt to reclaim and recover "the outcasts"--and may we not derive encouragement from his memorable declaration to the proud and self-righteous Pharisees--"publicans and harlots shall enter into the Kingdom of God before you?"
2. I urge the claims of Seamen to Christian charity, not merely on the ground of their sinfulness,--but also by the consideration, that their moral interests have been peculiarly and shamefully neglected.
 The very nature of their occupation cuts them off from the ordinary means of grace and religious improvement, during a great portion of their lives. It is estimated that Seamen are on shore not more than one-fourth of their time--consequently, the remainder is spent upon the bosom of the deep. They are, during three-fourths of their time, separated from home and kindred--from all that is improving and refining in domestic life--and, what is more lamentable, from all the public and social means of grace. To them no holy Sabbath marks the revolution of the week, by its welcome offer of repose for the body, and instruction for the soul. They are never called to bend the knee in common prayer to our common Father in Heaven, nor to unite their voices in the social hymn of praise. No ambassador of peace proclaims in their ears, the joyful tidings of redeeming love. No sacramental table, with its holy and inviting symbols, is spread before them--to remind them of the pains and agonies of Him who was crucified for their sins, and of the rich spiritual feast which He has provided for their souls. They may, indeed, "see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep"--they may behold the Heavens he has made, the moon and the stars which he has ordained--they may hear his threatenings in the tempest and the thunder, and perceive his mercy in their deliverance from perils;--and if possessed of the volume of his Word, they may cast their eye over its sacred pages:--but, alas! if their minds are not stored with religious sentiments, and they have not the eye of faith,--all will be but a wide and unmeaning blank, that [10/11] will impart no instruction, and excite no proper feelings, in their hearts:--"they regard not the works of the Lord, nor consider the operations of his hands." If we find that, on land, where the means of grace abound,--where men have "line upon line and precept upon precept--here a little and there a little"--so few are truly devoted to God and active in religion--it would be like looking for impossibilities, and supposing Seamen to be more than human, to expect that their minds would be stored with Christian knowledge--and their actions governed by Christian precepts, under the circumstances of destitution in which they are placed.
Might we not reasonably presume, that the case of men thus excluded, by their occupation, during three-fourths of their time, from the privileges of the gospel ministry, and the most valuable means of grace;--would awaken feelings of the most tender compassion in the minds of all who know the value of the human soul--the imminent danger to which it is exposed on the one hand, and the eternal joys to which it is invited on the other? Should we not naturally be led to expect, that all whose hearts burn with love to Christ, and benevolence to mankind, would be anxious to bring every means of grace to bear with peculiar intensity and force upon these neglected fellow creatures, during the brief portion of time that they can be subjected to their influence? But, alas! how different is the fact? Till within these few years past, an entire indifference and apathy on this subject prevailed. The poor Seamen arrived on our shores--and, so far from being surrounded [11/12] by the agents of benevolence and friends of religion who desire to promote their temporal and eternal welfare;--they were seized by harpies--dragged to the haunts of dissipation and vice--and like the poor man who fell among thieves, "stripped, wounded, and left half dead,"--and the friends of humanity and religion, as if utterly forgetful of their duties, like the Priest and Levite in the parable, left them to the mercy of their tormentors and "passed by on the other side!" [* St. Luke x. 30-37] Can we wonder then at the low state of religion and morals among Seamen--when no man cared for their souls? When no counsellors appeared to instruct them in the knowledge of God--and no kind friends took them by the hand to lead them in the way of life?--Must not a part of the guilt be laid at our doors? Have they not a strong claim to our compassion and benevolence,--grounded upon our former insensibility to their misery, and neglect of their true interests? Is it not time that we began in earnest to play the part of the good Samaritan?
3. I urge the claims of Seamen to the benevolent regard of the Christian public, on the score of gratitude. They have formed a very false and defective estimate of the Seaman's character, who consider it as made up of vices and deformities--unrelieved by any amiable and virtuous traits.--There is a bright and lovely side to his character.--If the Sailor is proverbially thoughtless and dissipated,--he is as proverbially, frank, and generous, and brave. Some of the most noble and disinterested acts of humanity and generosity [12/13] that adorn the annals of our race, have been performed by men of this profession. However much we may be disposed to lament their carelessness of their own interests,--and their vicious and immoral lives as a body, yet their utility to the public, cannot be questioned, and all must acknowledge that they contribute their full share to the glory and prosperity of our common country. To the valorous deeds of our brave tars upon their own element, are we more indebted than to any other cause, for the brightness of our country's fame.--They have poured the thunder of the nation's vengeance upon the nation's foes. They have borne the flag in triumph over the mighty deep.--They have taught even the bold and haughty Lion to crouch beneath the glance of our Eagle's eye, when bearing in her talons the arrows of war, and surrounded with stars of glory!
I speak not one word in justification of war,--but only wish to shew you that the Seamen have some qualities that are noble and of high estimation amongst mankind. What Christian man does not long for the time, when there shall be no farther displays of naval skill, and martial valour--when the brave and generous spirits of whom I am speaking, baptised with the spirit of the gospel, will carry the news of salvation with them in all their voyages--and go as swift messengers to corrupt and idolatrous nations, bearing the joyful tidings of peace with God and good will to all mankind!
To the Seamen we are indebted for many of our comforts and almost all our luxuries. They commit [13/14] themselves to the perils of the deep,--brave the storm and the tempest, and visit foreign climes,--for the purpose of supplying delicacies for our tables, ornaments for our persons, books for our libraries, and decorations for our dwellings.--When feasting upon imported luxuries--when clothed in purple or fine linen--when admiring your splendid and finely wrought articles of furniture, or enriching your minds with the treasures of foreign genius and science--think of the claims of the poor sailor, by whose toil and exposure, these things have been procured for you.--Let the merchant, especially, reflect upon the heavy debt of gratitude he owes. When counting the wealth in his coffers, when surveying his store houses filled with the valuable productions of other countries--when living in ease, affluence and splendour:--let him call to mind, that, under a gracious Providence, he is chiefly indebted for all his possessions and comforts, to the sweat and toil of the hardy Seamen, who have submitted to a temporary banishment from their native land with all its privileges and comforts--from Sabbaths, and sanctuaries and home;--and let him ask, what return he can make for the labours and sacrifices to which they have submitted in his service? Ah! where is our boasted patriotism if we make no acknowledgments to those who have been the supporters and defenders of our country's rights and liberties? Where are our principles of justice and honour--if we offer no return of benefits to those who have so largely contributed to our prosperity and wealth? Have we even the virtue of [14/15] the degraded and vicious publicans, if we do not good to those who have done good to us?
That the Seamen have strong and peculiar claims upon our benevolent consideration, has now, I trust, been clearly evinced. Their claims rest, not merely upon the general grounds of charity, but are founded in justice and equity. It becomes then an important inquiry, how can we meet those claims? If they have administered to us in temporal things,--what better return can we make than by administering to them in spiritual things? How can we more effectually discharge our debt--than by labouring to elevate their characters,--to purify their principles,--and to lead them to a knowledge of that blessed religion which will comfort them under the heavy trials incident to their vocation in life--support them in the hour of death--and prepare them for exalted and perfect happiness in the ages of eternity to come?
Every pious and benevolent mind will surely desire the moral and religious improvement of Seamen--and I proceed as was proposed--
II. To point out some of the means which must be used for the attainment of that end--When I speak of the spiritual interests of Seamen as the paramount object to which the efforts of their friends should be directed,--it is by no means my intention to exclude or discourage, a suitable attention to their temporal interests.--In both points of view--i. e. in relation to the world that now is, as well as that which is to come, they are proper objects of sympathy and compassion. We rejoice that efforts are to be made, by means of [15/16] register offices--the selection of respectable and regular boarding houses,--and the institution of savings banks--to preserve their moral characters, by guarding them against the influence of those diabolical tempters in human shape, who are ever ready to allure them into their earthly hells--and to preserve their little savings which they have dearly earned, from the grasp of rapine and extortion.--But their religious improvement is the great object:--if they are soundly converted, they will be truly moral;--if they become possessed of the "true riches" they will not prodigally waste the earthly mammon;--habits of economy and frugality will, as a matter of course, follow in the train of genuine piety--Be it our aim then, to make them partakers of that "godliness which hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come." [* 1 Tim. iv. 8.]
2. The same means of grace that serve as channels through which light and consolation are poured into the souls of other men, must be extended to our seafaring brethren, if we hope to see them made partakers of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.--They must have the Word of life, and other books of religious instruction, put into their hands.--And if any of them have not education enough to profit by the gift, Sunday Schools should be instituted especially for their benefit, in which they should be taught to read for themselves the wonderful works of God.--Not a ship should sail from a Christian port without a supply of Bibles and Religious Tracts. In the hours of loneliness and [16/17] weariness incident to a voyage, the most negligent and hardened, might be led to take up a Tract and read it, from motives of curiosity or amusement--or for want of other employment. And that Tract, before contemned and ridiculed, might be the instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit, of arresting the attention of the sinner--of opening his mind to perceive the realities of an eternal world--and leading him as a trembling penitent to the foot of the Cross.--There are times in every Seaman's life--when, by the force of outward circumstances, he must be led to reflect on God, the soul and eternity. "Those men that go down to the Sea in ships and occupy their business in the great waters, see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep." [* Psalm 107. xxiii and xxiv verses.] When looking abroad upon the wide and boundless expanse of the ocean--or gazing at the spangled firmament;--when the surrounding calm at once invites and compels to reflection--what rays of light and lessons of wisdom would the volume of revelation shed upon the otherwise blank and unintelligible book of nature? How would the perusal of his Bible, under circumstances like these, inspire the Sailor's mind with lofty conceptions of the character of Him who formed all the wonders upon which his eye had gazed;--and cause his heart to bow with reverence and devotion before that Almighty being "who spread out the Heavens as a curtain--and laid the foundations of the earth--whose paths are in the mighty waters, and whose footsteps are not known?"
And when the calm has passed away--when the [17/18] hemisphere is black with clouds--when the tempest rages with all its fury--and the agitated sea tosses her waves on high!--when the guilty mariner, hears in every blast the threatenings of an angry judge, and in the horror of anticipated death asks, "what must I do to be saved? how can I be prepared to meet my God?"--O where can he find a solution of his doubts and an answer to his inquiries, but in the Bible? That blessed volume tells him of one who "delivereth from the wrath to come"--directs him to "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he shall be saved!"--Those to whom the Bible is precious--who have made it the man of their counsel--who have an experimental knowledge of its saving truths;--may be calm and collected, even amidst the terrors of such a scene.--They know in whom they have believed, and have cast their anchor of hope within the veil, fast by the throne of God. And therefore, while all is noisy and tempestuous without--all is peaceful and tranquil within--and amidst the rattling of the shrouds--the creaking of the masts and the howling of the storm--they can lift up their mild and submissive eyes to the heavens, and perhaps with tremulous but yet joyful voice, sing,
"The God that rules on high
And thunders when he please,
That rides upon the stormy sky
And manages the seas;
This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love,
He shall send down his heavenly powers
To carry us above,"
 Many are the authentic instances on record, in which, when afar off upon the bosom of the ocean, the Bible or the Tract, has proved to guilty and perishing Mariners, the power of God unto salvation. [* In confirmation of this assertion the reader is referred to the interesting facts drawn from authentic sources, in the appendix to this discourse.]
3. But after all, the great work of promoting the religious improvement of Seamen, is, under God, dependent for success, upon the efforts that are made on their behalf during the small portion of time that they spend on shore.--They must be brought under the moralizing and sanctifying influence of the social means of grace. Christian friends, who are interested for their welfare and desirous of their salvation, must take them by the hand and say "come, go with us and we will do you good." By persuasion and entreaty, they must be led to places where "prayer is wont to be made:"--they must be encouraged to bear their part in exercises of devotion; and be brought under the sound of that Gospel, which the Lord eminently owns and blesses, as his appointed means of leading sinners to repentance, and saving souls from death.
But here, my brethren, there is an obstacle which must be encountered and overcome.--This class of our fellow citizens labour under all the disadvantages of the Indian Caste. They have their own peculiarities of dress and manners, and I may almost say, of language. They are clannish, and love to associate together:--and their own pride or shame, and the prejudices of others, exclude them almost entirely from our common sanctuaries.--They must therefore, have their own Church in every port to which they may [19/20] freely resort without fear of mortification or neglect. This desirable object has been effected in most of our large commercial cities--and we shall despair of seeing the good work which has been commenced here, successfully prosecuted,--till among the adornments of this city of our habitation, we behold a Mariner's Church --a monument of the gratitude and piety of our citizens,--and an earnest of their affectionate desire to warn the poor Seamen against the rocks and quicksands to which they are exposed in performing the voyage of life--and to guide them safely in their course to the haven of eternal bliss.
III. I have occupied so much of your time in considering the claims of Seamen to the benevolence and compassion of the Christian public, and in pointing out the means which must be used for their religious improvement, that I can take but a very brief and cursory view of the encouragements to zeal and perseverance in this good cause.
1. Abundant encouragement is afforded in the general promises of Scripture. Has the Lord taught us, that admonition, exhortation and prayer,--the reading and preaching of his word and other means of grace, are the instruments which he will bless to the conversion of men? Seamen are not excluded from the merciful provision--and we are as much encouraged to employ these instruments for their benefit, as for that of any other class of sinners.--Is it written, that, in the last days "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord?"--it is also written "The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee."--Are we told that "all shall know the Lord from the least to [20/21] the greatest?"--we are certain that Seamen are included in the general promise--and we are perhaps justified in supposing that they have a primary and peculiar interest in it;--as it is easy to conceive, that their conversion would have an important influence in advancing the cause of the Gospel, and promoting the conversion of the Heathen nations whom they might visit. As Missionaries have often remarked that the ungodliness and immorality of Sailors from Christian countries, impede their usefulness, and furnish the Heathen with arguments against the Gospel--so, on the supposition that they were pious,--their humble, holy and benevolent lives, would aid the work of the embassadors of the cross:--wherever they went, they would be "the Epistles of Christ known and read of all men--written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God." [* 2 Cor. iii. 2-3]--The purity and usefulness of their lives would be a striking and powerful recommendation of the Gospel to all unbelievers among whom they sojourned. And as our Saviour at the commencement of his public work, travelled along the shores of Tiberias, and called sea-faring men from their ships and their fishing nets, to be witnesses of his truth and ministers of his religion:--Who can tell but He may in the last days choose men of the same avocations, to be his witnesses in distant countries, and "make them fishers of men?" [* "The Church of England" according to the statement presented in the Fifth Annual report of the British and Foreign Bethel Society--"has about twenty eminently pious Naval officers who have recently advanced to HER HOLY AND VALUED MINISTRY. Various other religious persuasions have reaped largely from this ample field where the harvest is so great."]
 O joyful and blessed day! when every Seaman who lands upon a Pagan shore, will be a man of faith and prayer and love;--will feel compassion for those who are perishing for lack of knowledge, tell them the wonderful story of redeeming grace, and labour to turn them from dumb idols to the service of the living God!
2. Great encouragement may be derived from the past history and the present prospects of the Seamen's cause. The commencement of this work of faith and labour of love bears the recent date of 1817, when a number of pious Seamen at Rotherithe or Redriff, about a mile and a half east of London, associated and agreed upon holding meetings on board of vessels, and adopted a flag made of blue bunting, having on it the representation of a dove, to be hoisted at mast head as a signal for worship, which is called the "Bethel Flag."--"Behold how great a flame a little fire kindleth!" Little did those few praying Seamen suppose, that they were commencing a system of operations that would soon extend its benefits to every section of the globe. They would have been derided and hooted at as madmen, had they ventured to predict that in the short period of five or six years, the Bethel Flag would be seen unfurled and floating upon the breeze as the signal of Heaven's proffered blessings to mariners, in every important harbour in the world, whether Christian--Mohammedan or Pagan! Yet this hath God wrought!
"Since 1817, upwards of seventy Seamen's friends and Bethel Union Societies-thirty-three Marine Bible Societies, and fifteen Churches and floating Chapels, [22/23] have been erected for the benefit of the two millions of Seamen who are said to be employed in different parts of the globe. Three vessels are now fitted up on the river Thames, for purposes connected with the operations of the Society. At Leith (the port of Edinburgh) the extensive and munificent operations of the Society have produced astonishing results. Floating Chapels, Seamen's Libraries, prayer meetings--moral boarding houses, savings banks--register offices, &c. have been in successful operation for several years. In Liverpool there are upwards of three hundred reputable boarding houses under the auspices of the British Society, which are provided with suitable libraries. A school of one hundred and eighty sea boys is instructed under the immediate care of the Society, besides one for the benefit of adults." [* See Mariner's Magazine Vol. 1, No. 34, p. 270.]--Such are the encouraging accounts from abroad:--nor is the prospect less flattering in our own country. It is estimated that one hundred thousand Seamen are employed by the commerce of the United States--and our Christian population are gradually providing the means for their religious instruction and improvement. Already, four of our cities have manifested their zeal and benevolence by the erection of Mariners' Churches. Seamen's Bethel Societies are established in the different ports, to provide for the wants of their respective districts--and lately, a National institution devoted to the general cause, has arisen to adorn and bless our beloved country. [* "The American Seamen's Friend Society," of which the Hon. SMITH THOMPSON, late Secretary of the Navy, is President.]
 And now brethren, what shall we say to these things? Has this deep interest on the behalf of Seamen been excited--have these great preparations been made, in vain? Will you tell me that the means of grace which prove mighty through God to the conversion of others, will have no effect upon them? The voice of experience and of fact is against you. Never have I addressed more orderly, attentive and interesting congregations, than on the few occasions, when I have proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ, on the crowded ship deck, or in the sail loft. All ministers who have made the experiment, unite in testifying that Seamen are as attentive to their ministrations, as susceptible of serious impressions, as ready to profit by the Gospel--as any other class of hearers whatever--Already, according to the estimates which have been made, it is believed that more than TEN THOUSAND Seamen have been hopefully converted to God in England alone! [* Since this Sermon was preached, the author has met with the following article, which swells the number of converted Seamen in England, to a greater amount. "It is stated that there are fifteen hundred vessels, averaging ten men each, engaged in the British coal trade, making in all fifteen thousand souls. It has been ascertained that one third of this number have, by the use of means, during the last eight years, become reformed and praying men. This statement is well authenticated. So glorious a fact as this requires no comment. It has been repeatedly stated that more than this number of Seamen have been hopefully reformed during the like period in London." It will be perceived therefore that the above estimate of TEN THOUSAND is very small, as it is exclusive of the good effects that have been produced in some of the most important ports of Great Britain. Thanks be to God that many of the Seamen of our own country, have also been made partakers of his saving grace. We are informed, says the Editor of the Mariner's Magazine, that among the Seamen employed in the Codfishery, a most happy change has been effected within a few years. The proportion of praying souls among them, it is said, is equal to that among the same number of Farmers in any favoured section of Connecticut. Truly the Lord is about to do great things among Seamen: verily "the abundance of the Sea shall be converted unto him."]
 And if this be a fair specimen of what has been effected in other countries, we may challenge the history of all Missionary institutions in the world, to shew a success equally encouraging and glorious. What cannot the Gospel and the God of the Gospel, effect? The hand of God is in this cause--and his favour towards it has been eminently displayed. A revolution is taking place in the moral and religious character of Seamen, which will exert a powerful influence upon the religious welfare of mankind at large. "The abundance of the Sea shall be converted unto God." The time, we trust, is not far distant, when the praises of the Redeemer shall arise from every ship that sails the ocean--the dwellers upon the rocks, and the inhabitants of the isles, shall catch the joyful sound:--it shall spread from Island to Island--from Continent to Continent--from Sea to Sea--till the rapturous hosanna has made the circuit of the globe--and all the inhabitants of the earth shall unite in the loud acclaim "HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNETH! THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD HAVE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD AND HIS CHRIST, AND HE SHALL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER."
To bear a humble part in the accomplishment of this great work, is the object of the institution which now casts itself upon your charity.
"The Seamen's Union Bethel Society of Baltimore" was organised in the Summer of 1823. It is Catholic [25/26] in its character--being composed of the members of different orthodox denominations of Christians--all of which are entitled to an equal representation in its board of directors. In addition to the duties of public worship on the Sabbath--performed in a Sail loft on Fell's Point--and in a large room at the head of the Basin--and meetings on Tuesday Evenings--the zealous and devoted Missionary employed by the Society, visits the Seamen at their boarding houses, and the sick at the Hospital.--Respectable persons residing on the Point, bear testimony to the good effects of the institution, and that a very considerable change in the general deportment of Seamen has taken place within a few years. Captains and Mates of vessels also declare, that they have much less trouble with their men than formerly. "We must hope," says the Missionary, "from the attention they pay when at meeting, the letters occasionally received from them, the increasing disposition among them to read the Scriptures, Religious Tracts, &c. when they have leisure at sea, that our "labour is not in vain in the Lord."
"It is believed by those best informed on the subject, that about three-fourths of the Seamen in port attend upon religious exercises under the Bethel Flag--and that if a house of worship was built--a stated congregation of about three hundred besides Seamen, would soon be collected. The Seamen frequently inquire with much apparent interest, when they are to have a Church."
This valuable Society has suffered greatly from the fickleness of patronage, which cramps and paralizes [26/27] too many of our charitable institutions. It began with a list of twenty-five life subscribers--and three hundred subscribers of one dollar a year; already its funds are exhausted--and it appears from the statement of the Treasurer, that at the close of the third year from its establishment, there will be a deficiency of nearly three hundred dollars!
Short and simple are the annals of this Society. We were present at its birth:--we have seen it struggling for a few years against many discouragements, to maintain a feeble existence:--and it is for you to say, whether we shall perform the mournful office of attending its funeral and writing its epitaph. And what would that epitaph be? Here lies a once noble and promising child of benevolence--which was cruelly strangled in its infancy by the hand of avarice.
Tell me, PATRIOTS,--MEN--CHRISTIANS! shall this epitaph be written? Every virtuous bosom, every generous hand, will refuse to bear any part in recording such an imperishable memorial of the fickleness and selfishness of Baltimore.--I hope it was but the suggestion of unbelief.--I trust, your contributions this night, will afford such an earnest of the Christian liberality of this great city, as will enable me to say, 1 know it was but the suggestion of unbelief.
Are you patriots? shew that you have generous feelings towards those to whom under God, we are more indebted than to any other class of men, for the glory and prosperity of our beloved country. Are you Merchants? Remember that it is essential to your [27/28] reputation that you pay your debts, and you are heavily indebted to the Seamen.
Are you men of compassion? Here are objects of distress who may well awaken your sympathy and call forth your benevolent gifts. Are you Christians, rescued from the sad shipwreck of the fall and lodged in the ark of safety? O! will you not feel for the miseries of those who are still buffeting the waves and exposed to the fury of the storm?--Who are these, that stretch their hands above the billows imploring relief? they are our brethren--just about to be dashed in pieces upon the rocks of death! Hark!--what voice is that, which rising above the noise of the tempest, breaks upon our ears? 'Tis the cry of souls sinking beneath the billows of wrath! Listen to that cry!
"SAVE, OR WE PERISH. O! SAVE, OR WE PERISH!!"
Facts illustrative of the good effects resulting from the distribution of the BIBLE among Seamen.
"As the agent of the New-York Marine Bible Society was, not long since, passing by a ship returned from a recent voyage to the Baltic sea, he was accosted by the captain, who gave a history of the Bibles furnished at the commencement of the voyage. All on board, but the second mate, were then exceedingly profane. Before they arrived at Petersburg he did not hear a profane word spoken on board; a visible reformation continued during their stay in port and on the passage home. When entering the port of New-York the crew came all aft, and begged to be shipped for another voyage. When they were paid off, they purchased all the Bibles on board.
On going along side a fishing vessel lately, and hailing her, one of the crew came upon deck, out of the cabin, without his hat, with the Bible I supplied to the vessel, in his hand. It appeared that many of the crew could not read, and that it was the practice of those who could to read to those who could not, especially on the Sabbath day; in this manner they were employed when the agent went alongside.
"I am persuaded that the Bibles distributed amongst seamen by your Society have been the means of doing vast good to that class of the community," said the mate of a certain vessel. "I never expected to live to witness such an astonishing alteration in their external behaviour. We carry twenty-two hands, and here you will never hear an oath, or see a man overcome by an immoderate use of liquor."
 The mate of the Maria-Louisa lately said to a member, "Let our cargo be what it may, our Bibles are the best and greatest treasure we have on board; it is the chart of all charts to us poor sailors. What a great thing is it that such an institution as yours was ever thought of."
A respectable pilot, of this port, says that he knows at least an hundred seamen who have been hopefully converted from the error of their ways by means of Bibles, Tracts, and other gratuitous means of grace, within a year or two. Many instances have fallen under our observation where seamen on arriving in port, and receiving their pay, have voluntarily called to pay for Bibles long before furnished them gratuitously. Captains of vessels who made no pretensions to piety themselves, have told us that they have become satisfied that it is good policy as a matter of discipline, to distribute religious books among seamen. "I will buy one of your Bibles," said one, "for example's sake, and to encourage the Society; for I have witnessed much good to result from the reading of the Scriptures supplied by your institution--it is one of the grandest ever formed for bettering the condition of sailors."
At a meeting of a Bible Society in the north of England, one of the most active agents, who was present, when he had moved the first resolution, said, "I shall not call on any individual to second it, but, seeing that I am surrounded by so many sailors, I shall leave it to one of them to come forward." There was a death-like silence of some moments. At length a sailor, with a great deal of confidence, and in a harsh tone of voice, said--"Sir, there is not an individual present who has a greater reason to second your resolution than the person who now addresses you. Before I had arrived at 20 years of age, in every species of vice and immorality I led the van. Our ship was ordered to the Coast of Guinea; a violent storm came on, the vivid lightning flashed around, at last it struck my eyes; from that time to the present I have not beheld the light of day; but, Sir, though I was deprived of sight, I was not deprived of sin; I was very [30/31] fond of having books read to me, but, alas! only bad books. At length a Scotchman came to my house, and said, I know you are fond of hearing books read; will you hear me read: I said I had no objection; he read the book to me--I felt interested, and at the end of his reading I said tell me what book you have read. Never mind, said he, I will come again and read more; and he came again, and again, and again. At last the tears gushed out from my blind eyes, and I earnestly exclaimed, O, Sir, what book is this? This book is the Bible. From that time, though blind, I see I can discern the way of salvation by the crucified Saviour: from that time to this I have been enabled to follow my Lord and Saviour; and I come forward to second this resolution, knowing the advantages of circulating the sacred volume." Subsequent to this, he obtained a few shillings per week, which he divided in various proportions to different religious Societies; and gave six-pence a week to a little boy to read to him the sacred scriptures, and to lead him about from house to house, and from cellar to cellar, to tell sailors what God had done for his soul.
"No class of men receive Tracts with more gratitude, or read them with greater pleasure than seamen. Of all the means that have been used for their salvation, none have been more abundantly blessed than the distribution of religious Tracts. Sailors receive them with a very peculiar expression of gratification; and that they are attentively read, we have the most abundant testimony. We have had frequent occasion to record instances of the surprising effects which they have produced among them, and continue to receive most cheering evidences of their utility. A pious sea-captain, in a recent letter to a friend who had furnished his vessel with Tracts, gives the following delightful account of them:--I have no swearing on board my vessel. The men are much pleased with the Tracts, and when they have collected a few at the prayer-meetings, from voyage to voyage, they sew them together. I often walk forward, and look down the forecastle, to see how they are employed, and frequently observe [31/32] one of them reading the Tracts to the others. Sometimes there is a little controversy between them about something in the Tract, and when they have not agreed, they have referred to the BIBLE; and thus, like the noble Bereans, searched the scriptures to know whether these things were so."
"Some of the most pleasing testimonies of the reformation of sailors, generally, and of individuals particularly, have been given to the writer, by several captains of vessels, who have expressed their pleasure and surprise in witnessing the pleasing change. One captain remarked, "I have been in the merchant service more than forty years; I can recollect but a few years ago there was no such thing as walking along the streets in our ports without witnessing continual rows and quarrellings between sailors, watermen, and others. Why, I tell you what, Sir, the Bethel flag has done more for seamen, to make them steer steady when they get on shore, than all the most frightful storms at sea." Another captain said, "Sir, I never saw such a change among our seamen in my life; I have been in the sea service from a boy, which is more than thirty-seven years. I have been too well acquainted with the life of a seaman not to know its sins and follies, and all the vices of a sailor: (alas, for me, I hope God will forgive me ) I have been chiefly in the foreign trade the last eight years, till lately I am engaged more in the home trade. I never saw such a change in sailors in my life: it is true there are some as fond of rows or a spree as ever, but I am sure when I saw so many good, steady, praying seamen, whom our lads called "Bethel-men," I told my ship's company it was time for us to "join the fleet," and become "Bethel-men" too; and I bless God that I have not hoisted the Bethel flag on board our ship in vain; for the Bethel men are the best men after all." Similar testimony has been borne to the reformation of individuals who were once notorious for vice and prodigality; but now, through grace, have become eminent for piety, zeal and religion."