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(text) The Negro Servant
(title page) Annals of the Poor, Containing the Dairyman's Daughter, (with considerable additions) The Negro Servant, and The Young Cottager.
(spine) Annals of the Poor.
Legh Richmond, A. M.
Whiting and Tiffany
Call number C-8 R532A (Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University Libraries)
The electronic edition has been transcribed from pages 137-187 of "Annals of the Poor. Containing The Dairyman's Daughter, (with considerable additions) The Negro Servant, and The young Cottager."
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The electronic edition has been transcribed from pages 137-187 of "Annals of the Poor. Containing The Dairyman's Daughter, (with considerable additions) The Negro Servant, and The young Cottager."
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
Thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor ...Psl. 68, v.10
"The day spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."--Luke, i. 78, 79.
If a map of the world, instead of being coloured, as is usual, with many gay and brilliant tints in order to distinguish its various continents, kingdoms, and islands, from each other, were to be painted with darker or brighter hues, corresponding with the spiritual character of the inhabitants, what a gloomy aspect would be presented to the eye of the Christian geographer by the greater portion of the habitable glove!--How dark would be the shade thus cast over the larger districts of the vast continents of Asia and America! and what a mass of gloom would characterize the African quarter of the world!
Here and there a bright spot would mark the residence of a few missionary labourers devoting themselves to God, and scattering the rays of Christian light among the surrounding heathen; but over the greater part "the blackest of darkness" would emblematically describe the iron
reign of Mahometan superstition and Pagan idolatry.
The Christian prays that God would "have respect unto the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." He hopes to see the nations "open their eyes, and turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith."
The curse originally pronounced on the descendents of Ham, has, in a variety of respects, both temporal and spiritual, been awfully fulfilled: "A servant of servants shall he be." Slavery, as well of mind as body, has been continued amongst the Africans through their generations, in a manner which at once proves the truth of the divine prediction, and yet calls aloud for the ardent prayers and active exertions of Christians in their behalf. The time will come when the heathen shall be proved to have been given to Christ "for an inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for his possessions." The degraded Hottentot and the poor benighted Negro will look down from the ends of the earth unto Jesus and be saved. "Money shall go to and fro, and knowledge shall thereby
be increased." The Redeemer "shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied," in beholding the gathering together, not only of the outcasts of Israel, that are ready to perish; but of churches and people from all the tongues, and kindreds, and nations of the earth. In the day of his appearing, the sons of Africa will vie with their brethren of the North, and the West, and the East, in resounding the praises of God their Saviour, from one end of the earth to the other.
In the meantime, we rejoice in every occasional instance of the love and power of God in effecting the conversation of some, who appear as the first fruits of that harvest which shall hereafter so fruitfully grow up, to the honour of Christ and the blessedness of his redeemed people.
The following narrative of real facts may, perhaps, illustrate the importance of the foregoing remarks.
During a residence of some years continuance, in the neighbourhood of the sea, an Officer in the navy called upon me, and stated, that he had just taken a lodging in the parish for his wife and children; and had a Negro, who had been three years in his service. "The lad is a deserving fellow," said the Officer, "and he has a great desire
to be baptized; I have promised him to ask you to do it if you have not any objections."
"Does he know any thing," I replied, "of the principles of the Christian religion?"
"O yes, I am sure he does," answered the Captain; "for he talks a deal about it in the kitchen, and often gets laughed at for his pains; but he takes it all very patiently."
"Does he behave well as your servant?"
"Yes, that he does: he is as honest and civil a fellow as ever came aboard a ship, or lived in a house."
"Was he always so well behaved?"
"No," said the Officer; "when I first had him, he was often very unruly and deceitful; but for the last two years he has been quite like another creature."
"Well, sir, I shall be very glad to see him, and think it probable I shall wish to go through a course of instruction and examination; during which I shall be able to form a judgment how far it will be right to admit him to the sacrament of baptism. Can he read?"
"Yes," replied his master; "he has been taking great pains to learn to read for some time
speaks English better than many of his countrymen, but you will find it a little broken. When will it be convenient that I should send him over to you?"
"To-morrow afternoon, Sir, if you please."
"He shall come to you about four o'clock, and you shall see what you can make of him."
With this promise he took his leave. I felt glad of an opportunity of instructing a native of that land whose wrongs and injuries had often caused me to sigh and mourn: the more so, when I reflected who had been the aggressors.
At the appointed hour, my negro disciple arrived. He was a very young looking man, with a sensible, lively, and pleasing countenance.
I desired him to sit down, and said, "your master informs me that you wish to have some conversation with me respecting Christian baptism."
"Yes, Sir, me very much wish to be a Christian," said he.
"Why do you wish so?"
"Because me know that Christian go to heaven when he die."
"How long have you had that wish?" I said.
"Ever since me hear one goot minister preach
"Where were you born?"
"In Africa. Me was very little boy when me was made slave by de white men."
"How was that?"
"Me left father and mother one day at home to go get shells by de sea-shore, and as I was stooping down to gather dem up, some white sailors came out of a boat and took me away. Me never see father nor mother again."
"And what became of you then?"
"Me was put into ship, and brought to Jamaica, and sold to a master, who kept me in his house to serve him some years; when, about three years ago, Captain----, my master dat spoke to you, brought me to be his servant on board his ship. And he be goot master; he gave me my liberty, and made me free, and me live with him ever since."
"And what thoughts had you about your soul all that time before you went to America?" I asked him.
"Me no care for my soul at all before den. No man teach me one word about my soul."
"Well, now tell me farther about what happened to you in America. How came you there?"
"My master take me dere in his ship, and he
stop dere one month, and den me hear de goot minister."
"And what did that minister say?"
"He said, me was great sinner."
"What, did he speak to you in particular?"
"Yes, me tink so; for dere was great many to hear him, but he tell dem all about me."
"What did he say?"
"He say about all de tings dat were in my heart."
"My sin, my ignorance, my know noting, my believe noting. De goot minister made me see dat me tink noting goot, nor do noting goot."
"And what else did he tell you?"
"He sometimes look me in de face and say, dat Jesus Christ came to die for sinners, poor black sinners, as well as white sinners. Me tought dis was very goot, very goot indeed, to do so for wicked sinner."
"And what made you think this was all spoken to you in particular?"
"Because me sure no such wicked sinner as me in all de place. De goot minister must know me was dere."
"And what did you think of yourself while he preached about Jesus Christ?"
"Sir, me was very much afraid, when he said de wicked must be turned into hell-fire, For me felt dat me was very wicked sinner, and dat make me cry. And he talk much about de love of Christ to sinners, and dat make me cry more. And me tought me must love Jesus Christ: but me not know how, and dat make me cry again."
"Did you hear more sermons than one during that month?"
"Yes, Sir; massa gave me leave to go free times, and all de times me wanted to love Jesus more, and do what Jesus said; but my heart seem sometime hard, like a stone."
"Have you ever heard any preaching since that time?"
"Never, till me hear sermon at dis church last Sunday, and den me long to be baptized in Jesus' name; for me had no Christian friends to baptize me when little child."
"And what have been your thoughts all the time since you first heard these sermons in America? did you tell anybody then what you felt?"
"No, me speak to nobody but to God den. De goot minister say, dat God hear de cry of de poor; so me cry to God, and he hear me. And me often
tink about Jesus Christ, and wish to be like him."
"Can you read?"
"Who taught you to read?"
"God teach me to read."
"What do you mean by saying so?"
"God give me desire to read, and dat make reading easy. Massa give me Bible, and one sailor show me de letters; and so me learned to read by myself, with God's goot help."
"And what do you read in the Bible?"
"O! me read all about Jesus Christ, and how he loved sinners; and wicked men killed him, and he died, and came again from the grave, and all dis for negro. And it sometime make me cry, to tink dat Christ love so poor negro."
"And what do the people say about your reading and praying, and attention to the things of God?"
"Some wicked people dat do not love Jesus Christ, call me great fool, and negro dog, and black hypocrite. And dat make me sometime feel angry: but den me remember Christian must not be angry for dat. Jesus Christ was called ugly black names, and he was quiet as a lamb; and den me remember Jesus Christ, and me say noting again to dem."
I was much delighted with the simplicity and
apparent sincerity of this poor Negro; and wished
to ascertain what measure of light and feeling he
possessed on a few leading points. St. Paul's summary
Now abideth faith, hope, charity; these three: but
the greatest of these is charity. (I Cor. xiii. 13.)
occurring to me, I said, "Tell me what is faith? what is your own faith? what do you believe about Jesus Christ, and your own soul?"
* Now abideth faith, hope, charity; these three: but the greatest of these is charity. (I Cor. xiii. 13.)
"Me believe," said he, "dat Jesus Christ came into de world to save sinners; and dough me be chief of sinners, yet Jesus will save me, dough me be only poor black Negro."
"What is your hope? What do you hope for, both as to his life and that which is to come?"
"Me hope Christ Jesus will take goot care of me, and keep me from sin and harm, while me live here; and me hope, when me come to die, to go and live with him always, and never die again."
"What are your thoughts about Christian love or charity? I mean, whom and what do you most love?"
"Me love God de Fader, because he was so goot to send his Son. Me love Jesus Christ, because he love me. Me love all men, black men
and white men too; for God made dem all. Me love goot Christian people, because Jesus love dem, and dey love Jesus."
Such was my first conversation with this young disciple; I rejoiced in the prospect of receiving him into the church, agreeably to his desire. I wished, however, to converse somewhat father, and inquire more minutely into his conduct; and promised to ride over, and see him in a few days at his master's lodgings.
When he was gone, I thought within myself,
"God hath indeed redeemed souls by the blood
of his Son, out of every kindred and tongue, and
people and nation." If many of them for a season
are devoted to earthly slavery,*
* This circumstance took place before the abolition of the British slave-trade.
through the cruel advice of man; yet, blessed be God, some amongst them are, through divine grace, called to the glorious liberty of the children of God; and so are redeemed from the slavery of him who takes so many captive at his will.
It is happy thought, that "Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth, O sing praises unto the Lord."
WHEN we endeavor to estimate the worth of an immortal soul, we are utterly lost in the attempt. The act of spiritual computation is not governed by the same principles and rules which guide our speculations concerning earthly objects. The value of gold, silver, merchandise, food, raiment, lands, and houses, is easily regulated by custom, convenience, or necessity. Even the more capricious and imaginary worth of a picture, medal, or statue, may be reduced to something of systematic rule. Crowns and sceptres have had their adjudged valuation, and kingdoms have been bought and sold for sums of money. But who can affix the adequate price to a human soul? "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
The principles of ordinary arithmetic all fail here; and we are constrained to say, that He alone who paid the ransom for sinners, and made the souls of men his "purchased possessions," can comprehend and solve the arduous question. They are indeed "bought with a price:" but are "not
redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." We shall only ascertain the value of a soul, when we shall be fully able to estimate the worth of a Saviour.
Too often have we been obliged to hear what is the price which sordid unfeeling avarice has affixed to the body of a poor negro slave; let us now attempt, while we pursue the foregoing narrative, to mediate on the value which infinite Mercy has attached to his soul.
Not many days after the first interview with my negro disciple, I went from home with the design of visiting and conversing with him again at his master's house, which was situated in a part of the parish near four miles distant from my own. The ride which I took lay over a lofty down, which commands a prospect of scenery seldom exceeded in beauty and magnificence. It gave birth to silent but instinctive contemplation.
In rising upwards by the road which winds round from the foot of the hill to its summit, I was struck with the gradual unfolding or prospect, which meets the eye at different stages of the ascent. At every step of the traveller's progress, a
new and expanding range of lovely objects claims his attention. The effect which on this delightful eminence is singularly produced by the successive development of near and distant beauty, is at length crowned by the perfect circle of fine landscape and sea-view which the high ground at the top of the hill exhibits.
The down itself was covered with sheep, grazing on its wholesome and plentiful pasture. Here and there a shepherd's boy kept his appointed station, and watched over the flock committed to his care. I viewed it as an emblem of my own situation and employment. Adjoining the hill lay an extensive parish, wherein many souls were given me to watch over, and render an account of, at the day of the great Shepherd's appearing. The pastoral scene before me seemed to be a living parable, illustrative of my own spiritual charge. I felt a prayerful wish, that the good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, might enable me to be faithful to my trust.
It occurred to me, about the same time, that my young African friend was a sheep of another more distant fold, which Christ will yet bring to hear his voice. For there shall be one fold and one Shepherd, and all nations shall be brought to
knowledge that he alone "restoreth our souls, and leadeth us into the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
On the left hand of the hill, as I advanced eastward, and immediately under its declivity, extended a beautiful tract of land intersected by a large arm of the sea, which (as the tide was fast flowing in) formed a broad lake or haven of three miles in length. Woods, villages, cottages, and churches, surrounded it in most pleasing variety of prospect. Beyond this lay a large fleet of ships of war, and not far from it another of merchantmen, both safe at anchor, and covering a tract of the sea of several miles in extent. Beyond this again, I saw the fortifications, dock-yards, and extensive public edifices of a large seaport town. The sun shone upon the windows of the buildings, and the flags of the ships, with great brightness, and added much to the splendour of the view.
I thought of the concerns of empires, the plans of statesmen, the fate of nations, and the horrors of war. Happy will be that day, when He shall make wars to cease unto the end of the earth, and peace to be established on its borders!
In the mean time, thankfulness is due for those vessels and instruments of defence, which, under
the guidance of God, preserve our country from the hand of the enemy and the fury of the destroyer. What, thought I, do we not owe to the exertions of the numerous crews on board those ships, who leave their homes to fight their country's battles, and maintain its cause, while we sit every man under his vine and fig tree, tasting the sweets of a tranquillity unknown to most other nations in these days of conflict and bloodshed!
On my right hand, to the south and south-east, the unbounded ocean displayed its mighty waves. It was covered with vessels of every size, sailing in all directions: some outward bound to the most distant parts of the world; others, after a long voyage, returning home, laden with the produce of remote climes: some going forth in search of the enemy; others sailing back to port after the hard-fought engagement, and bearing the trophies of victory in the prizes which accompanied them home.
At the south-west of the spot on which I was riding, extended a beautiful semicircular bay, of about nine or ten miles in circumference, limited by high cliffs of white, red, and brown coloured earths. Beyond this lay a range of hills, whose tops are often buried in cloudy mists, but which
then appeared clear and distinct. This chain of hills, meeting with another from the north, bounds a large fruitful vale, whose fields, now ripe for harvest, proclaimed the goodness of God in the rich provision which he makes for the sons of men. It is he who "prepares the corn; he crowns the year with his goodness, and his paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn: they shout for joy, they also sing."
----"The roving sight
Pursues its pleasing course o'er neighbouring hills,
Of many a different form and different hue;
Bright with the rip'ning corn, or green with grass,
Or dark with clover's purple bloom."
As I looked upon the numerous ships moving before me, I remembered the woods of the Psalmist: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters: these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the
depths; their soul is melted because of the trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad, because they be quiet: so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. O! that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." (Ps. cvii.)
The Negro Servant then occurred to my mind. Perhaps, thought I, some of these ships are bound to Africa, in quest of that most infamous object of merchandise, a cargo of black slaves. Inhuman traffic for a nation that bears the name of Christian! Perhaps these very waves, which are now dashing on the rocks at the foot of this hill, have, on the shores of Africa, borne witness to the horrors of forced separation between wives and husbands, parents and children, torn asunder by merciless men, whose heart have been hardened against the common feeling of humanity by long custom in this cruel trade. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." When shall the endeavours of that truly Christian friend of the
oppressed negro be crowned with success, in the abolition of this wicked and disgraceful traffic?*
* The day has arrived, when the persevering efforts of Mr. Wilberforce, to accomplish this happy purpose, have been fully answered. The slave trade is abolished. The church of God rejoices at this triumph of the cause of Christ over the powers of darkness.
As I pursued the meditations which this magnificent and varied scenery excited in my mind, I approached the edge of a tremendous perpendicular cliff, with which the down terminates; I dismounted from my house, and tied it to a bush. The breaking of the waves against the foot of the cliff at so great a distance beneath me, produced an incessant and pleasing murmur. The sea-gulls were flying between the top of the cliff where I stood, and the rocks below, attending upon their nests, built in the holes of the cliff. The whole scene, in every direction, was grand and impressive: it was suitable to devotion. The Creator appeared in the works of his creation, and called upon the creature to honour and adore.
To the believer, this exercise is doubly delightful. He possesses a right to the enjoyment of nature and Providence, as well as to the privileges of grace. His title-deed runs thus: "All things
are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
"He looks abroad into the varied field
Of nature, and though poor perhaps, compar'd
With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
His are the mountains, and the valleys his,
And the resplendent waters: his t'enjoy
With a propriety that none can feel,
But who, with filial confidence inspir'd,
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say--'My Father made them all.'
Are they not his by a peculiar right,
And by an emphasis of int'rest his,
Whose eye they fill with tears of holy joy,
Whose heart with praises, and whose exalted mind
With worthy thoughts of that unwearied love
That plann'd, and built, and still upholds a world
So cloth'd with beauty for rebellious man?"
I cast my eye downwards a little to the left towards a small cove, the shore of which consists of fine hard sand. It is surrounded by fragments of rock, chalk-cliffs, and steep banks of broken earth. Shut out from human intercourse and dwellings,
it seems formed for retirement and contemplation. On one of these rocks I unexpectedly observed a man sitting with a book, which he was reading. The place was near three hundred feet perpendicularly below me; but I soon discovered by his dress, and by the black colour of his features, contrasted with the white rocks beside him, that it was no other than my negro disciple; with, as I doubted not, a Bible in his hand. I rejoice at this unlooked-for opportunity of meeting him in so solitary and interesting a situation. I descended a steep bank, winding by a kind of rude staircase, formed by fishermen and shepherds' boys in the side of the cliff, down to the shore.
He was intent on his book, and did not perceive me till I approached very near to him.
"William, is that you?"
"Ah! Massa, me very glad to see you. How come Massa into dis place? Me tought nobody here, but only God and me."
"I was coming to your master's house to see you, and rode round by this way for the sake of the prospect. I often come here in fine weather, to look at the sea and the shipping. Is that your Bible?"
In the course of conversation, he sometimes addressed
me with the word "Massa," for "Master," according
to the well-known habit of the negro slaves in the
West-Indies; and sometimes, "Sir," as he was taught
since his arrival in England; but the former word seemed
to be most familiar to him.
dis my dear goot Bible."
* In the course of conversation, he sometimes addressed me with the word "Massa," for "Master," according to the well-known habit of the negro slaves in the West-Indies; and sometimes, "Sir," as he was taught since his arrival in England; but the former word seemed to be most familiar to him.
"I am glad," said I, "to see you so well employed. It is a good sign, William."
"Yes, Massa, a sign dat Good is goot to me; but me never goot to God."
"Me never tank him enough: me never pray to him enough: me never remember enough, who give me all dese goot tings. Massa, me afraid my heart is very bat. Me wish me was like you."
"Like me, William? Why, you are like me, a poor helpless sinner, that must, as well as yourself, perish in his sins, unless God, of his infinite mercy and grace, pluck him as a brand from the burning, and make him an instance of distinguishing love and favour. There is no difference; we have both come short of the glory of God: all have sinned."
"No, me not like you, Massa: me tink nobody like me, nobody feel such a heart as me."
"Yes, William, your feelings, I am persuaded, are like those of every truly convinced soul, who sees the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the greatness of the price which Christ Jesus paid for the sinner's ransom. You can say in the words of the hymn,
'I the chief of sinners am,
'But Jesus died for me'."
"O yes, Sir, me believe that Jesus die for poor negro. What would become of poor wicked negro, if Christ no die for him? But he die for de chief of sinners, and dat make my heart sometime quite glad."
"What part of the Bible were you reading, William?"
"Me read how de man upon de cross spoke to Christ, and Christ spoke to him. Now dat man's prayer just do for me: 'Lord, remember me.' Lord, remember poor negro sinner: dis is my prayer every morning, and sometime at nigh too; when we cannot tink of many words, den me say de same again, Lord, remember poor negro sinner."
"And be assured, William, the Lord hears that
prayer. He pardoned and accepted the thief upon the cross, and he will not reject you; he will in no wise cast out any that come to him."
"No, Sir, I believe it; but dere is so much sin
in my heart, it makes me afraid and sorry. Massa,
do you see dese limpets,*
* A kind of shell-fish, which abound in the place
where we were, and which stick to the rocks with
exceedingly great force.
how fast dey stick to de rocks here? Just so, sin stick fast to my heart."
* A kind of shell-fish, which abound in the place where we were, and which stick to the rocks with exceedingly great force.
"It may be so, William: but take another comparison: do you cleave to Jesus Christ by faith in his death and righteousness, as those limpets cleave to the rock, and neither seas nor storms shall separate you from his love."
"Dat is just what me want."
"Tell me, William, is not that very sin which you speak of, a burden to you? You do not love it; you would be glad to obtain strength against it, and to be freed from it; would you not?"
"O yes; me give all dis world, if me had it, to be without sin."
"Come then, and welcome, to Jesus Christ, my brother; his blood cleanseth from all sin. He gave himself as a ransom for sinners. 'He hath
borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.' 'Come, freely come to Jesus, the Saviour of sinners."
"Yes, Massa," said the poor fellow, weeping, "me will come: but me come very slow; very slow, Massa: me want to run, me want to fly. Jesus is very goot to poor Negro, to send you to tell him all dis."
"But this is not the first time you have heard these truths?"
"No, Sir, dey have been comfort to my soul many times since me hear goot minister preach in America, as me tell you last week at your house."
"Well, now I hope, William, that since God has been so graciously pleased to open your eyes, and affect your mind with such a great sense of his goodness, in giving his Son to die for your sake; I hope that you do your endeavour to keep his commandments; I hope you strive to behave well to your master and mistress, and fellow-servants. He that is a Christian inwardly, will be a
Christian outwardly; he that truly and savingly believes in Christ, will show his faith by his works, as the apostle says. Is it not so, William?"
"Yes, Sir, me want to do so. Me want to be faithful. Me sorry to tink how bat servant me was before de goot tings of Jesus Christ come to my heart. Me wish to do well to my Massa, when he see me and when he not see me; for me know God always see me. Me know, dat if me sin against mine own Massa, me sin against God, and God be very angry with me. Beside, how can me love Christ, if me do not what Christ tell me? Me love my fellow-servants, dough, as I tell you before, dey do not much love me, and I pray God to bless dem. And when dey say bat tings, and try to make me angry, den me tink, if Jesus Christ were in poor Negro's place, he would not revile and answer again with bat words and temper, but he say little, and pray much. And so den me say noting at all, but pray God to forgive dem."
The more I conversed with this African convert, the more satisfactory were the evidences of his mind being spiritually enlightened, and his heart effectually wrought upon by the grace of God.
The circumstances of the place in which we met together, contributed much to the interesting effect which the conversation produced on my mind. The little cove or bay was beautiful in the extreme. The air was calm and serene. The sun shone, but we were sheltered from its rays by the cliffs. One of these was stupendously lofty and large. It was white as snow: its summit hung directly over our heads. The sea-fowl were flying around it. Its whiteness was occasionally chequered with dark green masses of samphire, which grew there. On the other side, and behind us, was a more gradual declivity of many-coloured earths, interspersed with green patches of grass and bushes, and little streams of water trickling down the bank, and mingling with the sea at the bottom. At our feet the waves were advancing over shelves of rocks covered with a great variety of sea-weeds, which swam in little fragments and displayed much beauty and elegance of form as they were successively thrown upon the sand.
Ships of war and commerce were seen at different distances. Fisherman were plying their trade in boats nearer to the shore. The noise of the flowing tide, combined with the voices of the sea-gulls over our heads, and now and then a distant
guns fired from the ships as they passed along, added much to the peculiar sensations to which the scene gave birth. Occasionally the striking of oars upon the waves, accompanied by the boatman's song, met the ear. The sheep aloft upon the down sometimes mingled their bleatings with the other sounds. Thus all nature seemed to unite in impressing an attentive observer's heart with affecting thoughts.
I remained for a considerable time in conversation with the Negro, finding that his master was gone from home for the day, and had given him liberty for some hours. I spoke to him on the nature, duty, and privilege of Christian baptism; pointed out to him, from a prayer-book which I had with me, the clear and scriptural principles of our own church upon that head, and found that he was very desirous of conforming to them. He appeared to me to be well qualified for receiving that sacramental pledge of his Redeemer's love; and I rejoiced in the prospect of beholding him no longer a "stranger and foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God."
"God," said I to him, "has promised 'to sprinkle many nations,' not only with the waters of baptism,
but also with the dews of his heavenly grace. He says, he will not only 'pour water on him that is thirsty,' but 'I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessings upon thine offspring.'"
"Yes, Massa," said he, "he can make me to be clean in heart, and of a right spirit; he can purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: he can wash me, and I shall be whiter dan snow."
"May God give you these blessings, and confirm you in every good gift!"
I was much pleased with the affectionate manner in which he spoke of his parents, from whom he had been stolen in his childhood; and his wishes that God might direct them by some means to the knowledge of a Saviour.
"Who knows," I said, "but some of these ships may be carrying a missionary to the country where they live, to declare the good news of salvation to your countrymen, and to your own dear parents in particular, if they are yet alive?"
"O! my dear fader and moder: my dear gracious Saviour," exclaimed he, leaping from the ground as he spoke, "if dou wilt but save deir souls, and tell dem what dou hast done for sinners--but--"
He stopped, and seemed much affected, "My
friend," said I, "I will now pray with you for your own soul, and for those of your parents also."
"Do, Massa, dat is very goot and kind; do pray for poor negro souls here and every where."
This was a new and solemn "house of prayer." The sea-sand was our floor, the heavens were our roof: the cliffs, the rocks, the hills, and the waves, formed the walls of our chamber. It was not indeed a "place where prayer was wont to be made;" but for this once it became a hallowed spot; it will, by me, ever be remembered as such. The presence of God was there.--I prayed.--The Negro wept.--His heart was full. I felt with him, and could not but weep likewise.
The last day will show whether our tears were not the tears of sincerity and Christian love.
It was time for my return; I leaned upon his arm as we ascended the step cliff in my way back to my house, which I had left at the top of the hill. Humility and thankfulness were marked in his countenance. I leaned upon his arm with the feelings of a brother. It was a relationship I was happy to own.--I took him by the hand at parting, appointed one more interview previous
to the day of baptizing him, and bid him farewell for the present.
"God bless you, my dear massa."
"And you, my fellow Christian, for ever and ever."
The interesting and affecting conversation which I had with the Negro servant, produced a sensation not easy to be expressed. As I returned home, I was led into meditation on the singular clearness and beauty of those evidence of faith and conversion of heart to God, which I had just seen and heard. How plainly, I thought, it appears, that salvation is "freely by grace through faith; and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." What but the Holy Spirit, who is the author and giver of the life of grace, could have wrought such a change from the once dark, perverse, and ignorant heathen, to this now convinced, enlightened, humble, and believing Christian? How manifestly is the uncontrolled sovereignty of the divine will exercised in the calling and translating of sinners from darkness to light! what a lesson may the nominal Christian of a civilized country sometimes learn from the simple, sincere religion of a converted heathen!
I afterwards made particular inquiry into this
young man's domestic and general deportment. Every thing I heard was satisfactory; nor could I entertain a doubt respecting the consistency of his conduct and character. I had some further conversations with him, in the course of which I pursued such a plan of scriptural instruction and examination, as I conceived to be the most suitable to this progressive state of mind. He improved much in reading, carried his Bible constantly with him, and took every opportunity, which his duty to his master's service would allow, for perusing it. I have frequently had occasion to observe, that amongst the truly religious poor, who have not had the advantage of being taught to read in early youth, a concern about the soul, and a desire to know the word of God, have proved effectual motives for their learning to read with great ease and advantage to themselves and others. It was strikingly so in the present case.
I had, for a considerable time, been accustomed to meet some well-disposed persons once a week, in a cottage at no great distance from the house where he lived, for the purpose of religious conversation and ministerial instruction. Having found these occasions remarkably useful and interesting, I thought it would be very desirable to take
the Negro there, in order that they might all become witnesses to the simplicity and sincerity of real Christianity, as exhibited in the character of this promising young convert. I hoped it might prove an eminent mean of grace to excite and quicken the spirit of prayer and praise amongst some of my parishioners, over whose spiritual progress I was anxiously watching.
I accordingly obtained his master's leave that he should attend me to one of my cottage assemblies. His master, who was thoroughly convinced of the extraordinary change in conduct and disposition which religion had produced in his servant, was pleased with my attention to him, and always spoke well of his behaviour.
I set out on the day appointed for the interview. The cottage at which we usually assembled was near four miles distant from my own residence: the road lay along the foot of the hill mentioned in my last account of the Negro, from the summit of which so luxuriant a prospect was seen. On my right hand the steep acclivity of the hill intercepted all prospect, except that of numerous sheep feeding on its rich and plentiful produce. Here and there the nearly perpendicular side of a chalk-pit varied the surface of the hill,
contrasting a dazzling white to the sober green of the surrounding bank.
On the left hand, at the distance of near half a mile, the tide flowed from the sea into a lake or haven of considerable length and breadth. At one end of it, several fishing and pilot vessels lay at anchor: at the other appeared the parish church amongst the adjoining woods and fields. The bells were ringing; a gently swelling sound was brought along the surface of the water, and an echo returned from a prominent part of the hill, beneath which I was riding. The whole scene was delightful.
I passed some rural and beautifully situated cottages, which seemed to be formed as fit residences for peace and tranquillity; each was surrounded by a garden, and each had a little orchard or field adjacent, while the husbandman's cow enjoyed her own pasture, and at the same time prepared rich provision for her owner's family. Such was the wise and considerate allotment which the landlords and farmers had here made for the labouring poor. The wholesome vegetable, the medicinal herb, and the sweet-scented flower, intermingled as they grew round these little dwellings; and reminded me, as I looked upon
them, a comfortable lot is that of the industrious poor, whose heart have learned the lesson of gratitude, in the school of heavenly wisdom! For them, as mercifully as for their richest neighbour, the sun shines, the rain descends, the earth brings forth her increase, the flower blossoms, the birds sing; their wants are few, and contentment makes them less. How great the blessing of being poor in this world, but rich in faith, and a chosen inheritance in a better!
I knew that this was the character of some, whose humble, but neat and cleanly cottages I passed. A few such features in a prospect render it most lovely. Peace be to their memory, both as pilgrims and strangers here; and as ransomed souls, whom I hope to meet in glory hereafter!
The house to which I was travelling was situated at the corner of an oak wood, which screened it both from the burning heat of summer suns, and the heavy blasts of winter south-west storms. As I approached it, I saw my friend the Negro sitting under a tree, and waiting my arrival. He held in his hand a little tract which I had given him: his Bible lay on the ground. He rose with much cheerfulness, saying, "Ah! Massa, me very glad to see you: me tink you long time coming."
"William, I hope you are well. I am going to take you with me to a few of my friends, who, I trust, are truly sincere in their religious pursuits. We meet every Wednesday evening for conversation about the things that belong to our everlasting peace, and I am sure you will be a welcome visitor."
"Massa, me not goot enough to be with such goot people. Me great sinner. Dey be goot Christian."
"If you were to ask them, William, they would each tell you they were worse than others. Many of them were once, and that not very long ago, living in an openly sinful manner, ignorant of God, and the enemies of Jesus Christ by thought and deed. But divine grace stopped them in their wicked course, and subdued their hearts to the love and obedience of him and his Gospel. You will only meet a company of poor fellow-sinners, who love to speak and sing the praises of redeeming love: and I am sure, William, that is a song in which you will be willing to join them."
"O! yes, Sir dat song just do for poor Negro."
By this time we had arrived at the cottage garden gate. Several well-known faces appeared in and near the house, and the smile of affection
welcomed us as we entered. It was known that the Negro was to visit the little company this evening, and satisfaction beamed in every countenance as I took him by the hand and introduced him among them, saying, "I have brought a brother from Africa to see you, my friends. Bid him welcome in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
"Sir," said an humble and pious labourer, whose heart and tongue always overflowed with Christian kindness, "we are at all times glad to see our minister, but especially so to-day, with such a companion as you have brought with you. We have heard how merciful the Lord has been to him. Give me your hand, good friend (turning to the Negro). God be with you here and every where: and blessed be his holy name for calling sinners, as I hope he has done you and me, to love and serve him for his mercy's sake."
Each one greeted him as he came into the house, and addressed him in very kind and impressive language.
"Massa," said he, "me not know what to say to all dese goot friends: me tink dis look a little like heaven upon earth."
He then, with tears in his eyes, which almost, before he spoke, brought responsive drops into
those of many present, said, "Goot friends and bredren in Christ Jesus, God bless you all, and bring you to heaven at de last."
It was my stated custom, when I met to converse with those cottagers, to begin with prayer, and reading some portion of the scriptures.
When this was ended, I told the people present, that the providence of God had placed this young man for a time under my ministry; and believing him to be very sincere in his religious profession, I had resolved on baptizing him agreeably to his own wishes. I added, that I had now brought him with me to join in Christian conversation with us; for, as in old times, they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, in testimony that they thought upon his name, (Mal. iii. 16.) so I hoped we were fulfilling a Christian and brotherly duty in thus assembling for mutual edification.
Addressing myself to the Negro, I said, "William, tell me who made you?"
"God, de goot Fader."
"Who redeemed you?"
"Jesus, his dear son, who died for me."
"Who sanctified you?"
"De Holy Ghost, who teach me to know de goot Fader, and his dear Son Jesus."
"What was your state by nature?"
"Me wicked sinner, me know noting but sin, me do noting but sin, my soul more black dan my body."
"Has any change taken place in you since then?"
"Me hope so, Massa, but me sometime afraid no."
"If you are changed, who changed you?"
"God de goot Fader; Jesus his dear Son; and God de holy spirit."
"How was any change brought about in you?"
"God make me a slave, when me was young little boy."
"How, William, would you say, God made you a slave?"
"No, Massa, no: me mean, God let me be made slave by white men, to do me goot."
"How to do you good?"
"He take me from de land of darkness, and bring me to de land of light."
"Which do you call the land of light; the West India Islands?"
"No, Massa, dey be de land of providence, but America be de land of light to me, for dere me first hear goot minister preach. And now dis
place where I am now, is de land of more light for here you teach me more and more and more how goot Jesus to sinners."
"What does the blood of Christ do?"
"It cleanse from all sins: and so me hope from my sin."
"Are then all men cleansed from sin by his blood?"
"O no, Massa."
"Who are cleansed and saved?"
"Dose dat have faith in him."
"Can you prove that out of the Bible?"
"Yes, Sir: 'He dat believeth on de Son, hath everlasting life; and he dat believeth not de Son, shall not see life, but de wrath of God abideth on him." (John, iii. 36.)
"What is it to have faith?"
"Me suppose dat it is to tink much about Jesus Christ, to love him much, to believe all he says to be true, to pray to him very much; and when me feel very weak and very sinful, to tink dat he is very strong and very goot, and all dat for my sake."
"And have you such a faith as you describe?
"O Massa! me tink sometime me have no faith at all."
"Why so, William?"
"When we want to tink about Jesus Christ, my mind run about after oder tings: when me want to love him, my heart seem quite cold; when me want to believe all to be true what he says to sinners, me den tink it is not true for me: when me want to pray, de devil put bat, very bat toughts into me, and me never tank Christ enough. Now all dis make me sometime afraid I have no faith."
I observed a very earnest glow of attention and fellow-feeling in some countenances present, as he spoke these words. I then said,
"I think, William, I can prove that you have faith, notwithstanding your fears to the contrary. Answer me a few more questions.
"Did you begin to think yourself a great sinner, and to feel the want of a Saviour, of your own self, and by your own thought and doing?"
"O! no; it came to me, when me tink noting about it, and seek noting about it."
"Who sent the good minister in America to awaken your soul by his preaching?"
"God, very certainly."
"Who then began the work of serious thought in your mind?"
"De goot God; me could not do it of myself me sure of dat."
"Do you not think that Jesus Christ and his salvation is the one thing most needful and most desirable?"
"O! yes, me quite sure of dat."
"Do you not believe that he is able to save you?"
"Yes, he is able to save to de uttermost."
"Do you think he is not willing to save you?
"Me dare not say dat. He so goot, so merciful, so kind, to say, he will in no wise cast out any dat come to him."
"Do you wish, and desire, and strive to keep his commandments?"
"Yes, Massa, because me love him, and dat make me want to do as he say."
"Are you willing to suffer for his sake, if God should call you to do so?"
"Me do tink me could die for de love of him: he not tink it too much to die for wicked sinner; why should wicked sinner tink it much to die for. so goot and righteous a Saviour?"
"I think and hope I may say to you, William, thy faith hath made thee whole."
Thus ended my examination for the present.
The other friends who were in the house listened with the most affectionate anxiety to all that passed. One of them observed, not without evident emotion,
"I see, Sir, that though some men are white and some are black, true Christianity is all of one colour. My own heart has gone with this good man every word he has spoken."
"And so has mine" gently re-echoed from every part of the room.
After some time had passed in more general conversation on the subject of the Negro's history, I said, "Let us now praise God for the rich and unspeakable gift of his grace, and sing the hymn of 'redeeming love':"
Now begin the heavenly theme
Sing aloud in Jesu's name, &c.
which was accordingly done. Whatever might be the merit of their natural voices, it was evident there was spiritual melody in all their hearts.
The Negro was not much used to our way of singing, yet joined with great earnestness and affection, that showed how truly he felt what he uttered. When the fifth verse ended,
Nothing brought him from above,
Nothing but redeeming love;
he repeated the words, almost unconscious where he was,
"No, noting, noting but redeeming love, bring him down to poor William, noting but redeeming love."
The following verses were added, and sung by way of conclusion:--
* Song of Solomon, i. 5.
See, a stranger comes to view;
Though he's black,* he's comely too;
Comes to join the choirs above,
Singing of redeeming love.
* Song of Solomon, i. 5.
Welcome, Negro, welcome here,
Banish doubt, and banish fear;
You, who Christ's salvation prove,
Praise and bless redeeming love.
I concluded with some remarks on the nature of salvation by grace, exhorting all present to press forward in the heavenly journey. It was an evening, the circumstance of which, had they never been recorded on earth, were yet doubtless registered in the book of remembrance above.
I then fixed the day for the baptism of the Negro, and so took leave of my little affectionate circle.
The moon shone bright as I returned home, and was beautifully reflected from the waters of the lake: harmony and repose characterized the scene. I had just been uniting in the praises of the God of grace and providence; and now the God of nature demanded a fresh tribute of thanksgiving for the beauties and comforts of creation: as David sang, "When I consider thy heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?"
In a few days the Negro was baptized; and not long after he went on a voyage with his master.
Since that time I have not been able to bear any tidings of him: whether he yet wander as a pilgrim in this lower world, or whether he has joined the heavenly choir in the song of "redeeming love" in glory, I know not. This I do know, he was a monument to the Lord's praise. He bore the impression of the Saviour's image on his heart, and exhibited the marks of divine grace in his life
and conversation, with singular simplicity and unfeigned sincerity.Give to God the glory.
My interviews with the Negro suggested the following lines, which are here subjoined, under the title of
Jesus, who mak'st the meanest soul
An object of thy care,
Attend to what my heart would speak--
Hear a poor Negro's prayer.
For thou, when bleeding on the cross,
My sins and griefs didst bear;
Wherefore, my Lord, thou'lt not refuse
To hear the Negro's prayer.
I am a helpless Negro boy,
That wander'd on the shore:
Thieves took me from my parents' arms--
They saw their child no more.
And yet the lot which seem'd so hard,
God's faithfulness did prove;
For I was carried far from home
To learn a Saviour's love.
Poor and despised though I was,
Thine arm, O God! was nigh;
And when thy mercy first I knew,
Sure none so glad as I.
In ign'rance long my soul and dwelt,
A rebel bold I'd been:
But thy kindness, O my God!
Sav'd me from all my sin.
Mine was a wretched state, expos'd
To men and angels' view;
A slave to man, a slave to sin,
A slave to Satan too.
But if thy Son hath made me free,
Then am I free indeed;
From powers of darkness, sin, and hell,
Thy love my soul has freed.
Lord, send thy Word to that far land,
Where none but Negroes live:
Teach them the way, the truth, the life,
Which thou alone canst give.
O! that my father, mother dear,
Might there thy mercy see;
Tell them what Christ has done for them,
What Christ has done for me.
Whose God is like the Christian God?
Who can with him compare?
He hath compassion on my soul,
And hears a Negro's prayer.
Lord Jesus, thou hast shed thy blood
For thousands such as me;
Though some despise poor Negro slave,
I'm not depis'd by thee.
This is my heart's first wish below,
To prove thy constant care:
Keep me from sin and danger, Lord,
And hear a Negro's prayer.
In heaven the land of glory lies:
If I should enter there,
I'll tell the saints and angels too,
Thou heard'st a Negro's prayer.