Page images





For JANUARY, 1837.



AND FOREIGN SAILORS' SOCIETY. VENERABLE Samuel, in reviewing the dispensations of God's providence towards the people of Israel, especially under his own administration, exclaimed on a memorable

Hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” and erected his expressive “ EBENEZER.” Thus may the Editor of the Pilot do this day, following the example of the pious prophet of God. On a review of the past year, there appears much which demands the loudest expressions of heartfelt gratitude to the gracious Author of all mercies on behalf of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society. Its “cords have been lengthened, and its stakes strengthened" during the past year, in the increase of its agency in promoting the welfare of seamen.

Divine Providence having mercifully brought us to the commencement of a new year, although we "know not what shall be on the morrow,” nothing is more natural to the spirit of a Christian, or more congenial with humble dependence on God, than contemplation of the future. What, therefore, we inquire, are the prospects of the Society for the new year ?

Speaking generally, those prospects are most propitious, arising in part from present circumstances, which ought not to be forgotten in the estimate. Unanimity, harmony, and love reign among the Committee—the same spirit prevails among the Port of London Agents of the Societyand the reports of the Provincial Agents are satisfactory and truly encouraging. Those agencies have been strength



ened and increased during the year; and, as auxiliary to the Society, new Sailors’ Chapels have been erected and dedicated to God at Appledore and Belfast. Foreign Agents to the Society have sent encouraging reports of their labours, and an increase has been made in this department of the Society's operations. New Auxiliaries have been formed in the past year; many new patrons of the Society have arisen; and, though the Committee have not been able to accomplish all their hearts could desire, they have abundant reasons, on closing this year's progress, to thank God and take courage," depending for the future on the grace of his Holy Spirit.

Confidence in God, and hope in his people, while contemplating the future, influence the Directors of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society. They rejoice, therefore, in the prospects before them, that they shall be enabled to prosecute their labours under the special blessing of God.

1. They hope to continue their present operations.These have now arisen to a considerable magnitude in the vast port of London, and in various provincial ports, besides the floating agencies, by Bethel Captains," and numerous Foreign agents; they must, therefore, require a liberal pecuniary supply from the Christian public in Britain.

2. They hope to excite more general regard to the spiritual welfare of Sailors.- Reading, reflecting, and intelligent, as increasing multitudes are in our enlightened country, the number, character, services, dangers, and religious disadvantages of seamen are comparatively little known among even the well-informed circles of Great Britain. Sailors being scarcely seen, by thousands even in sea-ports, at least so as for their circumstances to be known, their spiritual necessities escape the observation or knowledge of many benevolent persons, who would experience the most refined delight in aiding the Committee, were they acquainted with the operations of the Society. No small object will be gained by awaking the public mind to the claims of the sailors, and exciting the sympathies of Christians in favour of their evangelization; and this they hope to effect, in part, at least, by the publication of the “ Prize Essay,” which the Committee rejoice to make known that they have obtained from the eminently gifted " Author of Mammon,"

3. The Committee hope to increase their Agency.Numerous as are the Society's Agents, London, with its

two thousand ships and twenty thousand sailors constantly in its vast port, would well admit of an increase of agency, that every seaman visiting this immense centre of the globe, might be taught the way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ.

Many of our provincial ports also, not the least in Ireland, are soliciting their aid to an extent beyond what their means will allow them to supply. During the year upon which providence has allowed us to enter, it is confidently hoped that the Christian public will enable the Committee to comply with some, at least, of those solicitations--not only by granting additional aid to the friends of sailors in our maritime towns- but more efficient and permanent assistance to those in foreign countries, visited by thousands of sailors from Britain and America.

4. The Committee hope to build a new Sailors' Chapel. --This the Society greatly need, and unceasing solicitude to accomplish it is cherished by the Directors. While they rejoice in the measure of success with which God has crowned their labours at the present chapel, they have never regarded it as more than a temporary convenience, occupied until a site could be judiciously fixed upon for the erection of a “ BETHEL" for seamen, altogether worthy of the Society and of the port of London. While, however, uncertainty prevails in relation to the establishment of the “ Thames Haven Improvements," and the projected “ Collier Docks," with the removal of a large portion of the ships from their present stations in the river Thames, the Committee cannot see their path of duty clear in this particular business; yet they trust to be enabled to fulfil their cherished wishes, in this respect, during the year. In the mean time, they intend to alter and improve the present building, so as to render it more commodious, respectable, and convenient for sailors, as the “ House of God.”

5. The Committee hope to form a closer union with all the local “ Bethel Societies” and “ Seamen's Friend Societies" in the United Kingdom, for the purpose of giving a more systematic and vigorous impulse to their worthy labours among our mariners.

6. They hope also to co-operate more efficiently with the American Seamen's Friend Society. “ Great Britain and America united for the conversion of the world,” is the maxim of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society :

B 2

and while its Directors are seeking these and other noble objects, especially to evangelize sailors, they earnestly entreat the prayers of the whole church of God.



The British and Foreign Sailors' Society. was originally instituted in the year 1818, as the “Port of London Society." It was designed to promote the Christian instruction of the thousands of neglected merchant seamen of Great Britain, especially those visiting the port of London ; but the claims of seamen in provincial ports, and the moral condition of foreign seamen, presented themselves in such a variety of forms, that the founders of the Society were induced to contemplate the salvation of sailors throughout the world : hence the present title of the Institution, which must commend itself to the patronage of all true Christians. The Directors, therefore, confidently hope, that the following statement of their present labours will assure the religious public, that, as far as their very limited funds have permitted, they have prosecuted their great work, and that many will be induced to aid them by liberal contributions to carry forward their design to its fullest extent.

The British and Foreign Sailors' Society employs eleven acceptable Agents, to proclaim the Gospel to seamen in the port of London. These hold eighteen meetings every week on shipboard for this purpose ; and divine services are provided also at their chapels on shore. The vast shipping in the river Thames, and in the East and West India, the London and St. Katherine's Docks, are constantly visited by the Society's Agents; the sailors are furnished with religious and temperance tracts, and the ships are supplied with Bibles, religious books, and loan libraries. Their agents preach in the English, Welsh, and German languages.

In connection with the sailors' chapel, the Society has day schools for sailors' children, containing 190 boys and 100 girls, many of whom are orphans-hundreds of applicants are rejected for want of room. There is also a Sabbath school, containing two hundred children, and

the vestry is constantly open to navigation and Bible classes. It is an interesting fact, that, in the course of the past year, the chapel has been attended by thirty thousand persons, fifteen thousand of whom were seamen.

Provincial ports are also regarded by the Society; and its Directors employ ministers to preach the Gospel to seamen in North Shields, South Shields, in the Scilly Isles, in Dublin, Belfast, and Newry; and they have granted libraries to assist local auxiliaries in Deal, Ramsgate, Margate, Yarmouth, Leeds, Gorlestone, Clovelly, Scilly, &c., for the benefit of seamen ; besides efficiently aiding in the supply of 620 libraries, which contain 52,000 volumes, for the seamen of the Coast Guard stations around England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

The Society's foreign operations are carried on by agents and friends at Memel in Prussia, Hamburgh, Honfleur, Jamaica, Berbice, Honduras, New South Wales, in Tahiti, and the Navigators' Islands in the South Seas ; in these and other places, forty of their Bethel Flags are flying, as the well-known signal to invite sailors to the house and worship of God. Besides these labours, the Society has about 300 Loan Ship Libraries of choice religious books, for the use of seamen in vessels sailing to all parts of the world; and a library of about 3,500 suitable volumes in constant use by sailors employed in the coasting trade and those on shore.

During the past year the Society circulated, by its various Agents, 226 Bibles and Testaments, 4,000 volumes of bound books, 20,000 pamphlets, and 100,000 religious tracts in the English, Welch, Irish, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Modern Greek, and other languages, to promote the improvement of seamen.

While, however, the Directors refer to these facts with gratitude to God, they survey the immense maritime population with a measure of despondency, exclaiming, “What are these amongst so many ?” for, exclusive of foreign seamen, of whom at least fifty thousand annually enter our ports, the aggregate of British merchant seamen, including the pilots, lightermen, boatmen, and fishermen, around our own coasts, amounts to at least two hundred and fifty thousand souls ! not including their families ! But for the Christian instruction of these multitudes, very little has yet been done; except by the British and Foreign

« PreviousContinue »