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MEMOIR OF JOHN LIDGETT, ESQ.,
LATE OF LONDON AND TUNBRIDGE-WELLS:
BY HIS SON, J. J, LIDGETT, B.A. The memoir of a departed believer is of benefit to survivers, in proportion as it serves to illustrate the dealings of Divine providence and grace; thus encouraging others, who, contending with like difficulties, and beset by the same temptations, are bent upon reaching the same glorious goal. While no two lives are precisely similar,—and some men, in the course they have to take, may be placed in relations so novel, that it is not easy to find another in circumstances at all parallel, -Set, beyond doubt, the same general principles are involved in all these varieties of experience. The probation of life is one and the same; esemplified under similar conditions of trial, toil, and danger; and leading in every case to the most tremendous issues.
The subject of this sketch belonged, during a large portion of his life, to a class of men whose vocation exposes them to dangers on shore; even more formidable than those they encounter by means of the elements at sea. It is as sad as it is true, that the brave defenders of our country's rights, and the carriers of its merchandise on the great highway of commerce, have been, to a very serious extent, neglected by the community at large. Naturally open and confiding, the sailor gives other men credit for a like simplicity of character. From early and happy associations on shore, recalled the more impressively by his comparative isolation during much of his subsequent time, he willingly commits himself to those who show bim the semblance of kindness. How miserably misplaced is his trust, in a large majority of cases, is well known to those who are actually engaged in the holy work of rescuing him from danger, and helping him in his distress. Allowing liberty to the subjects of a free pation, it yet remains a fair question, whether some protection, beyond any which at present exists, may not be extended to the bold and guileless men who are ever ready to meet their country's foes in open fight, while they are little prepared to resist the insidious attacks of seeming friends. The poet has loved to sing of the romance of the sea; and the patriot has felt his blood stirred as he thought of
“ The flag that braved, a thousand years,
The battle and the breeze." Bat the Christian legislator has been slow to guard from the deceiver, and from the spoiler, that nautical class without whom the music of
VOL. X. --FIFTII SERIES.
the poet and the boast of the patriot would have been taken away. The church itself bas failed, by apathy, and by a dread of real or apparent difficulties, to extend that helping hand which the urgency of the case demanded.
During the great French war, when the gaols were sometimes emptied to recruit the navy, and the press-gang carried on its operations, the evil influences in seaport towns were very great, and little was done anywhere for the moral or spiritual improvement of the men.
It is, however, a great happiness to know that Christians of all denominations are at length beginning to recognise their responsibility in this particular sphere of labour ; and that schemes of usefulness are now formed, which, when fully developed, will greatly alter the present aspect of things. Already, indeed, the efforts put forth of late years by a few earnest men have been attended with gratifying success; and encouraging prospects open in the future. Considerations of this kind naturally arise, and claim to be entertained, in connexion with the record of one who spent many years on the sea.
John LIDGETT was born in the town of Hull, a few days before the close of the last century. His father, a pilot on the Humber, was taken from him when the cliild was only six years old ; and one of his earliest recollections was that of seeing his parent's remains lowered into the grave. By this premature loss, the mother was left, with very slender. resources, to bring up a family of ten children. Few, perhaps, can have commenced life in more trying circumstances; and the forlorn widow must bave bad many an anxious thought about the training of so large a family. Rightly estimating her responsibilities, however, she made it her first duty to impart to her children a sound moral and religious education. She impressed upon them the prime necessity of discharging their duty to God, in whatever station of life they might be placed ; and frequently told them she did not care how poor they were, if they only loved God. To wholesome precepts like these, coming from such a quarter, much importance is to be attached : for, according to the evidence of numberless facts, the formation of future character greatly depends on the tone, teaching, and character of a mother.
As may be supposed, the schooling which John received was barely sufficient to fit him for his calling, on which he entered at the early age of thirteen. During the second year of his apprenticeship, the vessel in which he sailed was wrecked on the coast of Norway ; but the lives of all were mercifully preserved. Active and assiduous in the discharge of his duties, he rose, step by step, until at eighteen he was advanced to the rank of chief mate. Up to this time, his state of feeling does not appear to have been marked by any special religious impressions ; though the lessons he bad learnt from his devout mother, and, above all, the restraining grace of God, preserved him from open and flagrant sin. At the age of twenty he attracted the notice of an earnest classleader, Mr. Charles Post, whose vocation it was to attend to one of the bridges of Hull. Mr. Lidgett had occasion frequently to cross that bridge, and was tbus brought into contact with the bridge-master. An humble and devoted servant of Christ was he,--one who had a peculiar
power of gaining the attention and friendship of young men. His genuine and cheerful earnestness, maintained through a long course of years, was crowned with success; and very many are they who owe their salvation to the blessing of God on the straightforward faithfuldess of this happy Christian man. Such was, indeed, the engrossing object of his life. “In season, out of season,” he laboured that he might win some. His zeal was, nevertheless, most beautifully combined with a suavity of disposition, which gave to his appeals a double power. He acted upon the injunction which calls us to serve and worship the Lord “in the beauty of holiness." He was, moreover, so pointed, that Mr. Lidgett (according to his own oft-repeated testimony) would have gone a mile round, rather than encounter the pious bridge-master. At all events, Mr. Post did not lose sight of him ; but at length induced him to come to his house once a-week, until the sailing of his vessel. There he met a number of young men about his own age, who were wont to spend an hour or more in religious conversation. On returning from the next voyage, he found that most of his companions had ceased from attendance. For this reason, he wished to excuse himself also; but bis friend, anticipating bis reluctance, proposed that he should join a class at the chapel.
To this proposal he assented; and at the first meeting the Rev. John Størry was present, to renew the quarterly tickets. The young seaman listened attentively, while others were narrating their experience; but, as his tarn was drawing near, and be feared the inquiry about to be made, his heart failed him, and he suddenly withdrew. His faithful counsellor followed him instantly, and, after a short remonstrance, succeeded in bringing him back. This was a crisis in his life. From that night his connexion with the Methodist Society was uninterrupted. Notwithstanding great advantage derived from the friendship of a man 80 zealous, and so well “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven,” a considerable time elapsed before Mr. Lidgett realized a personal interest in the atonement of Christ. This spiritual trial was very severe ; and he would, in all likelihood, have left the Society, but for the continuous and wakeful solicitude of his friend. Deliverance came at last. Once decided, his course was ever onward. Having "put his hand to the plough,” he never “looked back.”
During the voyage after his conversion, a strange incident took place. One night, while keeping his watch on deck, he was startled by a shriek from the master's cabin. He went below, and, finding the captain asleep, quickly aroused him. “Thank you, John,” said the captain, once and again : “I thought I was in hell.” The recollection of this agony alarm filled the minds of both, for a long time, with horror. It seemed like a glimpse into the abode of lost spirits. The wearing process of time effaced the impression from the mind of him for whose special monition it had been given ; but it was otherwise with the subject of our record. In due course the vessel returned to Hull, and the sequel is not a little remarkable. She was on the point of sailing again, when Mr. Post came on board, and strongly urged his friend to leave that ship. This step Mr. Lidgett's sense of honour would not allow him
to take; but repeated and urgent solicitations at last constrained him to ask permission. This was immediately given, and the vessel proceeded to sea without him. Strange to relate, that ship was never heard of again! The kind urgency of Mr. Post, and the mysterious intervention of Providence, cemented more firmly a mutual friendship.
At twenty-three Mr. Lidgett was advanced to the command of a new ship. At once he used the influence this position gave him, for the moral and spiritual benefit of those committed to his care. He engaged in devotions every day with his crew, and maintained a reverent observ. ance of the Lord's day, himself conducting Divine service. On these occasions he generally read Mr. Wesley's Sermons; and the presence of the great Master was frequently with these simple mariners, to awaken and to bless, as, on the mighty deep, they raised their songs of praise, and offered their humble prayers, to heaven. In foreign ports, from Lord's day to Lord's day, he hoisted the Bethel flag, which serves to invite seamen from other ships to worship, and at the same time plainly indicates the Christian profession of the commander. Forty years ago, few indeed were those who took this decided stand : it frequently happened, that in a large fleet of ships not one flag of the kind was to be seen.
To this practice, however, my father strictly adhered, during the remainder of his sea life. His vessel was now regularly established in the St. Petersburg trade; and, on many occasions, the late Rev. Richard Knill, of blessed memory, conducted service on board. When the help of this excellent minister could not be secured, my father had to lead the worship himself,—which was to him a heavy cross. Power from on high was nevertheless given, and he had the satisfaction of knowing that much good was done. He sought to honour God, and God honoured him.
In the early part of 1828 Mr. Lidgett married.—During the autumn of the same year, in a tremendous gale, he suffered shipwreck. His favourite Park,” together with a large number of other vessels, went ashore at a place named Kunda, about one hundred and twenty miles from St. Petersburg. The entire crews of several perished ; a Russian ship-of-war lost forty-eight men; and the coast for miles was strewn with dead bodies, and fragments of wreck. By the mercy of God, Mr. Lidgett and his crew got safe to land. Until passage to England could be procured, they were hospitably entertained at the house of a nobleman, who showed them much kindness. The wise of this warm-hearted Russian personally ministered to their wants, (as well as to those of the crews of other vessels, which had been lost in this tempest,) furnishing them with clothing and medicines. In a letter written a few days after landing, Mr. Lidgett thus describes the peril and the deliverance : “ We knew that, if it continued to blow, our vessel must soon become a wreck; and there was no chance of our escape from the jaws of death. We then betook ourselves to earnest prayer. I found it did not require the ability of a Watson to preach the Gospel at this time. I warned all around of our approaching danger, and entreated them to seek the Lord with full purpose of heart. I showed them that they must expect salvation now, just now. I read the third chapter of St.