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A RECORD OF
MISS ANNIE MACPHERSON'S WORK
AT THE HOME OF INDUSTRY, SPITALFIELDS, LONDON, AND IN CANADA.
CLARA M. S. LOWE
"Peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee."
—1 CHRON. xii. 18.
Prayer of Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel—Residence in Cambridgeshire— Visit to London in 1861, and first attendance at Barnet Conferences— Visit of Rev. W. and Mrs. Pennefather—East of London, 1861—Left Cambridgeshire, 1865—Work in Bedford Institute—1866: Voyage to New York and return, 1867—First girl rescued—Matchbox-makers—First boy rescued—Revival Refuge open for boys and girls—1868: Home of Industry secured—1869: Opened.
Emigration of families—A visitor's impressions—The great life-work —Emigration of the young, begun 1870—First party of boys to Canada with Miss Macpherson and Miss Bilbrough—Their reception—Mr. Merry takes oat second party out boys—Miss Macpherson returns to England and takes out a party of girls—Canadian welcome and happy homes— Canadian pastor's story.
Workers' meetings at Home of Industry—Training Home at Hampton opened—Personal experiences—Welcome in Western Canada—Help for a Glasgow Home—Scottish Ferryman—"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings"
The need of a Home further West—Burning of the Marchmont Home—Home restored by Canadian gifts—Miss Macpherson and Miss Reavell arrive in Canada—First visit to Knowlton in the East—Belleville Home restored by Canadian friends—Help for the Galt Home—Miss Macpherson returns to England—Miss Reavell remains at Galt
Letter from Rev. A. M. W. Christopher—Letter from Gulf of St. Lawrence—Mrs. Birt's sheltering Home, Liverpool—Letter to Mrs. Merry—Letter from Canada—Miss Macpherson's return to England— Letter of cheer for Dr. Barnardo—Removal to Hackney Home
Mrs. Way's sewing-class for Jewesses—Bible Flower Mission—George Clarke—Incidents in Home work—The Lord's Day—Diary at sea—Letters of cheer from Canada
"They helped every one his neighbour"—Miss Child, a fellow labourer —The work in Ratcliff Highway—Strangers' Rest for Sailors—"Welcome Home"—"Bridge of Hope"—Miss Macpherson's twenty-first voyage to Canada—Explosion on board the "Sardinian"—Child-life in the Galt Home—The Galt Home now devoted to children from London, Knowlton to those from Liverpool, and Marchmont to Scottish Emigrants
Experiences among Indians—Picnic in the Bush—Distribution Of Testaments—"Till He Come"—"A Home and a hearty Welcome"
Questions and Answers—Sorrowful cases—Testimonies from those who have visited Canada—Stewardship
THE REV. JOHN MACPHERSON,
Author of "The Life of Duncan Mathieson."
From East London to West Canada is a change pleasing to imagine. From dusky lane and fetid alley to open, bright Canadian fields is, in the very thought, refreshing. A child is snatched from pinching hunger, fluttering rags, and all the squalor of gutter life; from a creeping existence in the noisome pool of slum society is lifted up into some taste for decency and cleanliness; from being trained in the school whose first and last lesson is to fear neither God nor man, is taught the beginnings of Christian faith and duty, and by a strong effort of love and patience is borne away to the free, spacious regions of the western hemisphere, of which it may be said, as of the King's feast, "yet there is room," and where even a hapless waif may get a chance and a choice both for this world and the world that is to come. This is a picture on which a kind heart loves to rest. But who shall make the picture real?
Go and first catch your little Arab, if you can. I say, if you can; for he is too old to be caught by chaff, and you shall need as much guile as any fowler ever did. Then with patient hands bestow on his body its first baptism of clean water, a task often unspeakably shocking; reduce to fit size and shape a cast-off suit humbly begged for the occasion, and give him his first experience of decent clothing. Thereafter, proceed to the work, sometimes the most trying ever undertaken, of taming this singularly acute, desperately sly, and often ferociously savage little Englishman, training him to be what he is not, or harder task still, to be not what he is. Having, by dint of much pains and many prayers, obtained, as you hope, some beginnings of victory over the most wayward of wills, and the most unaccountably strange of mixed natures, with its intellectual sharpness and moral bluntness, its precocious knowingness and stereotyped childishness, its quickness to learn and slowness to unlearn, prepare for the next stage of your enterprise. Lay out your scheme of emigration, get the money where you can, that is to say, call it flown from heaven and wile it out of earthly pockets, anticipate all possible emergencies and wants by land and sea, finish for the time the much epistolary correspondence to which this same fragment of humanity has given rise, tempt the deep with your restless charge, bear the discomforts of the stormiest of seas, and inwardly groan at the signs of other and worse tempests ready ever to burst forth in the Atlantic of that young sinner's future course; and when after many weeks of anxious thought, fatiguing travel, and laborious inquiry you find a home for the child, fold your hands, give thanks and say, "What an adventure! What a toil! But now at length it is finished!" And yet perhaps it is not half finished.
Multiply all this thought and feeling, all this labour and prayer a thousandfold; and imagine the work of a woman as tenderly attached to home and its peaceful ways as any one of her sisters in the three kingdoms, who has made some twenty-eight voyages across the Atlantic "all for love and nothing for reward;" has, by miracles of prayerful toil and self-denying kindness, rescued from a worse than Egyptian bondage over three thousand waifs and strays, borne them in her strong arms to the other side of the world, and planted them in a good land; meanwhile, in the intervals of travel, facing the perils and storms of the troubled sea of East London society at its very worst, and from a myriad wrecks of manhood and womanhood, snatching the stragglers not yet past all hope, and, in a holy enthusiasm of love, parting with not a little of her own life in order that those dead might live.
The outer part of the story alone can be told: the inner part only God and the patient toiler on this field can know. Yet the inner work is by far the greater. The thought, the cares, the fears, the prayers, the tears, the anguish, the heart-breaking disappointments, and the fiery ordeals of spirit by which alone the motive is kept pure and the flame of a true zeal is fed,—in short, all the lavish expenditure of soul that cannot be spoken, or written, or known, until the Omniscient Recorder, who forgets nothing and repays even the good purpose of the heart, will reveal it at the final award, is by far the most important service as it is ever the most toilsome and painful.
In the work of the kingdom of God on earth the true worker is in point of importance first. Apart from the wise, holy, beneficent soul, even the truth of the Gospel is but a dead letter. It is in the intelligence, loveliness, magnanimity and sweetness of a human spirit, touched finely by His own grace, that the Holy Ghost finds His chief instrumentality. Preparation for a good work is usually begun in early life, and the worker, whose story is to fill the following pages, unconsciously learnt her first lessons for this service in her father's house. There was, indeed, seemingly little to be learned of any rare sort in the quiet village of Campsie, where life passed as peacefully as the clouds sailing along the peaceful heavens. Almost the only break in the even tenor of those days was an occasional sojourn in the house of her uncle, the Rev. Dr. Edwards, a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, where that venerable soldier of the cross still lingers, as if halfway betwixt the Church militant and the Church triumphant But whether in the father's house or in the uncle's manse, kind and truthful speech was the coin current, a good example the domestic stock-in-trade, and an interchange of cheerful, loving service the main business. It was a quiet school, whose very hum was peaceful; and yet the schooling was thorough; things strong often grow as quietly as things feeble. The oak rises as silently in the forest as the lily in the garden. Strong characters, too, under any conditions of life, school themselves much more than they are schooled. Active, inquisitive, resolute, and possessing a fair share of the national perfervidum ingenium, not without some tincture of those elements of the Scottish character known as the "canny" and the "dour," our worker early developed that robust vigour of mind and body which has so long stood the wear and tear of severely trying work.
One passage of significance in the family history deserves notice, especially as suggesting a peculiar feature in her early training and supplying a link in the chain of providential events. In work among the young her father was an enthusiast. With a heart bigger than her own family circle, her mother took in two orphans to foster and rear. Thus in the work of caring for the outcast and the forlorn Annie Macpherson was "to the manner born." Inheriting her father's enthusiasm and her mother's sympathetic nature, the quick-witted, warm-hearted girl would not fail to note the equal footing enjoyed by the stranger children, and would know the reason why: the much tact employed to keep the new and difficult relations sweet would engage her attention; and the exceeding tenderness with which the motherless little ones were treated, would be a very practical Gospel to our young scholar in Christian philanthropy. Were matters sometimes strained? did little jars arise and a shadow now and then gather on the faces of the strangers because their own mother was not? The wise foster-mother would set all right again by some merry quip, some gleesome turn, some one of those playful gleams of humour which furnish a key to the secret of successful work among the young. To be a mother to those orphans, to make life in its duties and joys, as far as possible, the same to them as if they had not lost their own mother, ay, and to teach them to gather the brightest roses from the thorniest bushes, was at once a good work in itself, and a model for one who was destined to similar service, only on an immensely wider scale and on a tenfold more difficult field. The sisterly fostering of the orphans was a providential training for her future life-work. To learn to love and to serve over and above the claims of mere natural affection, could not fail to enlarge the heart and awaken the sympathies of a quick, susceptible child. Little did her mother know what she was doing when she took the orphans to her bosom. She only thought to make a warm home and a bright future for the hapless pair; but in effect she was preparing a warm home and a bright future for thousands of the poorest children on God's earth.
But there was something better in store. Girlish days swept by much as usual—the rapid growth of warm thought and feeling making each revolving year a continuous springtide, an opening summer. At nineteen, Annie Macpherson looked out on a world that always promises more to youthful eyes than it ever fulfils. Eager hope was drawing much on a future whose furthest horizon was Time. Suddenly a shadow fell. A word spoken by a friend was the vehicle of a divine message. A more distant and awful horizon arose to view: Time with its hopes and joys, like a thin mist in early morning, vanished in the light of eternity; and quickly from that young heart, pierced with a new sorrow, went up the prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
How little the world understands that same old prayer. Yonder afar off stands a man who, having trafficked in all iniquity, having matured in wickedness, and perfected himself in the fine art of dodging truth and conscience, is at length found out in the thicket of his own vices by a bull's eye that glares on him like hell. Well it befits such an one, even the world admits, to smite upon his breast and cry for mercy. But for a girl in her teens, an innocent, merry-hearted, pure-minded young thing, to raise a cry for mercy like a very publican or a prodigal, is confounding to the world's sense of propriety and measure in things; and hence that world is angry, and in effect repudiates the need of so much mercy, of so much abasement and urgency in a case like this. The root and rise of this cry for mercy the natural man does not understand; but that soul knows it right well, where the lightnings of Omniscient Holiness have gleamed and the shadows of God's anger have fallen.
The cry was heard. Light arose on that troubled soul, the Saviour appeared and drew the sinking one out of the waters. Even where there is little to be changed outwardly, conversion is always followed by remarkable effects; the light of the morning is like a new creation on the cultivated field as well as on the barren moor. Our young convert saw everything in a new light. She understood now, as she had not before, why her mother, stealing precious hours from sleep, wearied her fingers and weakened her eyes with the self-imposed task of providing for the necessities of children not her own. If a ruling motive is one of the greatest things in the secret of a human life, the grandest of all forces on earth is the love of Christ. This she felt, and it was to her a divine revelation. From the feeble starlight of natural sympathies she had passed into the clear day of Christian affections, and she now knew the secret joy and power of self-sacrifice. A hundred lessons and practical illustrations given her by both her parents were suddenly lighted up with a new meaning, and clothed with a beauty she had not heretofore seen, and a power she had not hitherto felt. All she had learned before of truth, and prudence, and kindness, she learned over again, and learned with the quickness characteristic of the young convert. Very soon her whole treasury of knowledge and feeling, of experience and character, was laid with youthful jubilance on the altar of the Lord. From that hour she began to work for Christ with an intensity of enthusiasm that ever since has known no abatement.
Prayer of Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel—Residence in Cambridgeshire— Visit to London in 1861, and first attendance at Barnet Conferences— Visit of Rev. W. and Mrs. Pennefather—East of London, 1861—Left Cambridgeshire, 1865—Work in Bedford Institute—1866: Voyage to New York and return, 1867—First girl rescued—Matchbox makers—First boy rescued—Revival Refuge open for boys and girls—1868: Home of Industry secured—1869: Opened.
The winter of 1860-61 is a time to be had much in remembrance before the Lord. It was then that the East of London, with all its sins and sorrows, was laid as a heavy, burden on the heart of His faithful and beloved servant Reginald Radcliffe.
Before the commencement of his labours, a few Christian friends met for prayer at the invitation of the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel. The East of London, and its "stunning-tide of human care and crime," was not the only thought of that revered man of God. His faith looked forward to greater things, and one well-remembered petition was, that blessing through the work then to be begun in that deeply degraded and neglected region, might not be stayed there, but might flow from thence to far-off lands. One then present, the Dowager Lady Rowley, was not long permitted to sow precious seed with her own hand, but was instrumental in the fulfilment of this petition, as it was through her leading that Miss Macpherson's voice was first heard in the East of London.
At that time Miss Macpherson was residing in the neighbourhood of Cambridge with her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Merry, and, was already a worker in the Lord's vineyard.
She thus writes of the year 1861:—
"It was a turning point in my life. I made a pilgrimage to London to attend the preaching of Reginald Radcliffe in the City of London Theatre, Shoreditch. There I met Dr. Elwin. On the following evening, at the Young Men's Christian Association, Great Marlborough Street, he introduced me to Lady Rowley, Mr. Morgan, and many other Christian friends. Through them I was led to attend the next Barnet Conference, where I learned what it was to wait for the coming of the Lord."
With this bright and blessed hope she returned to work with a strength and power before unknown. Many souls had already been awakened, but the full tide of blessing had not yet come. In the villages around her hundreds of labourers were employed in digging for coprolites, a fossil which, when ground, is useful as manure. Among these men were many of the wildest wanderers, and Miss Macpherson's heart was deeply stirred for their spiritual welfare, and her time and strength were given to reach them by every means in her power. She had established evening schools, lending libraries and coffee-sheds, and of these and further efforts she wrote:—
"Second to the preaching of the gospel, we lay every laudable snare to induce men to learn to read and write. In doing this, spare time is occupied to the best account, and the enemy is foiled in some of his thousand-and-one ways of ensnaring the toil-worn navvy at the close of day.
"The more our little band goes forward, the more we feel that drink, in all its forms and foolish customs, must be resisted,—first, by the powerful influence of a felt example; and secondly, by gently and kindly instructing the minds of those amongst whom we labour as to its hurtful snares. We are accused by some of putting this subject before the blessed gospel. God forbid! But when we look on every reclaimed one and know that this was his besetting sin, we regard the giving it up as the rolling away of the stone before the Saviour's voice, 'Come forth,' can be obeyed.
"These first endeavours to spread the gospel story in a more enlarged way were made in villages where the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon had laboured when not yet twenty years of age, and where souls had been blessed through the youthful preacher. Some of these converts became my helpers, and are co-workers to this day.
"It was in 1863 that I first became an almoner for others, whilst filled with a desire to build a missionhall among the coprolite diggers in Cambridgeshire.
"The friends attending the Barnet Conference heard of my wish and shared my burden."
The following letter to Dr. Elwin shows the sympathy that he felt in her work:—
"My DEAR FRIEND,—Thanking you for your daily remembrance of my continual wants in this the Lord's work among these poor migratory coprolite diggers, I must say it was indeed refreshing to think that this little hidden vineyard was laid on your heart to present to the Lord at the Bristol Conference. The answer has come, and now it is my blessed privilege to ask you to rejoice and praise our loving Father for another six souls born anew. Yes, dear brother, they are those I have laid before you again and again to plead for, that the dead form of godliness might be broken down. Though diggers, they are residents in a neighbouring village, and have attended my ploughmen's Bible-class for some years. From the mouths of many witnesses, in a series of outdoor gatherings every Lord's day evening in the past summer, they have heard, on their own village green, a present, free, and full salvation.
"Is it not kind of the Master to employ us feeble women in His service, by allowing us to use our quiet influence for Him, and to do many little things, such as inviting wanderers to listen, providing hymns and seats, also refreshment for those sent to deliver the King's message? And oh! it is indeed a hallowed privilege to be a 'Hur,' to hold up the hands of the speaker, and watch the index of the soul as the message of love or of warning falls; to slip in and out of the group, and meet the trembling soul with a blessed promise, or grasp the hand with Christian sympathy. Then for us women such service affords opportunity of giving the little leaflet or book, such as the case requires, and following it up in the home with Bible in hand.
"The Lord was very good in sending me helpers, i.e., brothers, to speak during all those summer Lord's-Day evenings. On one occasion I was left alone, and yet not alone. At another time my faith was tried. No one had come to speak. The people had gathered. I opened my Testament on the passage, 'Come and see' (John iv.) If the Samaritan woman was led so boldly to say to wicked men, 'Come and see,' surely my Lord knew my burden, and my need for a brother to speak to that village gathering. We sang a hymn. I was led to pray. On arising from the grass, a young man came round the corner and said, 'Miss, the Lord has laid it on my heart to come here and preach to-night. Can I be of any service?' He took for his text, 'Yet there is room.'
"I know you like to trace the links in the chain of blessing, so I will enter a little into detail. One village displayed the most perfect outward form of all that is considered correct as to the using of means. There were clubs, saving of money, young men well dressed and regular at their place of worship, four nights a week at their evening school; but oh! my friend, not one soul of them with a warm heart towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They read and answered my questions on Scripture better, and sought after the library books with more interest, than any in the other villages; but it was all head-work, no heart; all intellect, no love. On Christmas Day six of these joined our coprolite party to tea, and from eight to ten solemn prayer seemed laid on every heart for them; and again the following evening nineteen young men met to pray still for this village. Last evening eighteen Christians of various denominations met in a cottage at this said village. There was no formal address, but after earnest prayer, one of the brethren felt this passage laid solemnly on his heart, 'To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.' Then some converted stone-diggers pleaded for a blessing. The answer of four years' prayers came, and the feeble infant wail was heard from one after another amid weeping and sobbing. Surely the angelic host had songs of praise while, in that holy stillness, these young men had a sight of themselves. Oh, pray on that our faith waver not, for we believe we shall see still greater things.
"You remember the village where you preached upon 'Jesus passing by.' There is now a band of more than a dozen praying young men meeting constantly in their little outhouse.
"The more we go forward in this labour of love the more evident it is that the cursed drink is our great difficulty. This stone must be rolled away. Another evening home for these men is a stern necessity, and must be provided; a place which they may call their own. Each building would cost 30 pounds. The men would furnish it cheerfully and support it nobly. Two such buildings have been erected, are now in operation, and answer beyond my most sanguine expectations. Morning, noon, and evening, groups of men, while at their hasty meals, are willing to listen to the Holy Scriptures or whatever else may be brought before them."
"The memory of the just is blessed." It is sweet to recall any incident in the life of him who will ever live in the hearts of many. Miss Macpherson thus records the day of blessing:—
"It was at a meeting in July 1864, at Mildmay Park, that it was laid on my heart to gather together, before the harvest-time, the stone-diggers, villagers, and their friends, and to invite the Rev. W. and Mrs. Pennefather to see face to face the hundreds of souls for whom they had wrestled with God. Early in the afternoon of the day appointed, streams of poor men and women came, having walked distances of from two to ten miles to be with us. Conveyances brought earnest lively Christians from Cambridge, and, including the stone-diggers, there were representatives from more than thirty towns and villages. On the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather, great was our joy; and who of you cannot imagine our beloved friend in the midst of this multitude, of warm hearts, as with tears in his eyes he exclaimed, 'This is another conference'? Gatherings on the grass were formed as tables were insufficient, and our dear friend went in and out among them, every feature showing forth the love with which God had filled his heart. His loving eye alone discovered poor Tom, lately out of the workhouse, standing trembling, and afraid to approach the party; behind the tent tears of joy streamed after he had secured, amid the rush for tea, a supply for the wants of this poor Tom. A lovely sunset was shedding its radiance over the humble gathering, when Mr. Pennefather rose and spoke to them of 'the coming glory,' first reading Luke ix. 25-35; and knowing that many before him would as Christians be called upon to endure ridicule from ungodly companions, he pointed out to them that in all the Gospels which speak of the Transfiguration, the event is preceded by an account of the Christian's path of self-denial. After an earnest address to the unsaved, this delightful gathering was closed by his telling them that a little offering had been made at Mildmay Park, and that, by the help of that money would now be presented to each man and woman, (stone-diggers and boys included), a pocket Testament, to be used in the intervals of harvest toil.
"Many are their struggles in resisting bad companionship and drink, in trying to improve in reading, in seeking to clothe themselves, to help their parents, to work for Jesus with little light, and less time, and few talents. Oh, how much do they glorify God compared with some in other circumstances, who have been surrounded by heaven-breathing associations all their days! Well, indeed, can we understand that verse, 'The first shall be last, and the last first.'"
Scenes of a different character must now be described.
Sad and deeply humiliating as the sights and sounds of the East End of London still are, none who now visit the vast region lying eastward of St. Paul's can realise the sense of desolation that overpowered one's spirit when beholding it at the time Mr. Radcliffe began his services in 1860-1861. At that time the condition of the millions who existed there was ignored by those dwelling in more favoured regions. No railways had been as yet constructed by which visitors could come from the north and west. The space now occupied by the great railway stations in Broad Street and Liverpool Street was then crowded with unwholesome dwellings, well remembered for deaths in every house. No centres of usefulness where Christian workers could meet for prayer or counsel then existed. The Bedford Institute had not then been built, and no Temperance Coffee-Palace had even been heard of.
The power of the Lord had been very present to wound and to heal in the City of London Theatre and at other services held by Mr. Radcliffe, and the young women who had been blessed were invited to meet for a week-evening Bible-reading and prayer-meeting, and for this purpose Lady Rowley rented a room in Wellclose Square. In this meeting, and in Lady Rowley's mothers' meeting in Worship Street, Miss Macpherson began the ministry of love which has extended so widely. She afterwards visited the homes of the poor, and the toil and suffering she witnessed, especially in those where matchbox-making was the means of livelihood, lay heavy on her heart. With her feelings of pity were always quickly followed by practical effort. In the midst of the winter's distress, one of the most cheering gifts received was from her praying band of coprolite diggers. After a watchnight service, they had spent the first moments of the consecrated new year in making a gathering from their hard-earned wages. Miss Macpherson had placed the East of London foremost in the list of subjects to be remembered at their prayer-union every Lord's Day. Little did the praying band think that in fulfilling this petition, the Lord would take their beloved leader from among them.
It was in 1865 that Miss Macpherson was guided of the Lord to leave scenes endeared to her by many hallowed associations, and to encounter the trials and seek the blessings of Christian work in the East of London. Her first efforts were in answer to an invitation from the Society of Friends to hold classes for young men, both on the Lord's Day and on week evenings, at the Bedford Institute, a building lately erected by that Society, and which stood out conspicuously as a monument of Christian love. On the week evenings, instruction in reading and writing was the inducement held out to attend. The first fruits may be seen in G. C., once a violent opposer, afterwards a valuable helper in Canada, and now a preacher of the Gospel in China. The work at the Bedford attracted so much interest, that many helpers were drawn to it from other parts. The Sunday Bible-classes became an object of remarkable interest. Perhaps such an assemblage has seldom been seen. Many tables were filled in one hall with men, in another with women, many of whom were very aged, all with large-print Bibles before them, and each table headed by some earnest teacher, all at the close being gathered together for the final address.
Other Gospel meetings were also held at the Bedford, but Miss Macpherson's labours could not be confined to this spot. In several little rooms poor Christian women were gathered for prayer, and depots for tracts were established, and Scripture texts placed in the windows, in streets which were never so lighted before. But these and all other efforts for the poor East End were interrupted in the autumn of 1866. She felt the Lord called her to accompany her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Merry, with their young family across the Atlantic. Mr. Merry's object was to settle his four sons in the Western States of America. The voyage proved most perilous and stormy. On arrival in New York, Mr. Merry's health entirely broke down, and the medical opinion given was that nothing would restore him but return to his native land. In March 1867 they were welcomed back with exceeding joy. How mysterious did this trial appear! Why were those who had sought the Lord's counsel so earnestly, permitted to undertake a voyage apparently so useless, and accompanied by so much anxiety and suffering? How little could any one then conjecture that the Lord was thus training His children for the great life-work before them! Not for the welfare of their own family were Mr. and Mrs. Merry to be permitted to settle in those broad western lands; but many voyages were to follow, and they, and subsequently their children also, were to be fellow-helpers in the glorious work of finding homes on earth, and training for a heavenly Home, thousands of children who would have been otherwise homeless and uncared for. "What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." Blessed hereafter! when we shall see all the way the Lord our God has led us; not a smooth way, not an easy way. "The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way;" "but the Lord led them by the right way."
With her usual energy, Miss Macpherson again entered on her God-given work among the poor of the East End, and at once resolved to do all in her power to help the destitute children with whom she came in daily contact.
In the very month of her return, the first girl was rescued and received into her own Home, then at Canonbury. Her story was thus written at the time:—"E. C., aged sixteen, was sent to my lodgings to know if I could provide a home for her. In August 1866 the father of this poor girl had bidden her farewell as she was leaving home on an excursion with the Sunday-school to which she belonged. On her return, cholera had numbered him among the dead. The mother threw herself into the canal, and, though restored, was lying helpless in a workhouse. E. C., who had before been learning dressmaking, was tossed about from one poor place of service to another—her clothes all pawned, or in tatters—till her last resting-place was on the flags. Then she applied at the Rev. W. Pennefather's soup-kitchen in Bethnal Green, and slept in the room at that time rented above it. The two following days were occupied in vain endeavours to procure admittance into one of the existing Homes for girls, the third, in preparing clothing for her, while, at the same time, no way appeared open for her to be received anywhere. When her clothing was ready, our first visit was to a sufferer paralysed and convulsed in every limb, at times compelled to be fastened to his bed,—one whose garret reminded one of the dream of Jacob; for answers to prayer were so direct, it seemed as though heavenly visitants were ever ascending and descending. He prayed, and while he was yet speaking, the Lord sent His 'answering messenger.' Miss Macpherson had felt it laid on her that day to come to the East End to my help, though knowing nothing whatever of the present need. When poor E. C. returned from the baths and washhouses in her clean clothing, (having sold her former rags for twopence-halfpenny), she was met by the loving offer of a home. She seemed afraid to believe it, and followed, as if in a dream, the friend so mercifully raised up for her. She was afterwards placed in service with a Christian friend, and her two little brothers were among the first inmates of the Revival Refuge."
Most mercifully for the poor little matchbox-makers was Miss Macpherson's return ordered at this time. Much sympathy had been awakened concerning them, and much help had been sent for their benefit from the kind readers of the "Christian" paper. They numbered many hundreds, and Miss Macpherson undertook care and responsibility concerning them, for which the strength and powers of an older labourer were totally unfit. In this, and countless other instances, Miss Macpherson has proved herself ever ready to "fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. vi. 2). The case of these infant toilers had rested on her heart from the first moment she had been made acquainted with their sufferings. The first sight of them is thus described by her own pen:—
"In a narrow lane, having followed high up a tottering spiral staircase till we reached the attic, the first group of tiny, palefaced matchbox-makers was met with. They were hired by the woman who rented the room. The children received just three farthings for making a gross of boxes; the wood and paper were furnished to the woman, but she had to provide paste and the firing to dry the work. She received twopence-halfpenny per gross. Every possible spot, on the bed, under the bed, was strewn with the drying boxes. A loaf of bread and a knife stood on the table, ready for these little ones to be supplied with a slice in exchange of their hard-earned farthings.
"This touching scene, which my pen fails to picture, gave me a lasting impression of childhood's sorrows. Never a moment for school or play, but ceaseless toil from light till dark."
Miss Macpherson's first attempt for their benefit was to open evening schools, the inducement to attend which was the gift of sadly needed clothing. These schools were opened in various localities, the chief gathering being held in a house kindly provided for us by Charles Dobbin, Esq., still one of our unwearied benefactors.
Not only reading, but the art of mending their tattered garments was a new thing to them, and their outward condition was such, that when for the first time a country excursion was planned for them, it was with the greatest difficulty they were made fit to appear.
Whilst making every exertion to raise the matchbox-makers from their hitherto almost helpless state, her heart yearned over their brothers. A tea-meeting was given for boys by the veteran labourer George Holland, at the close of which one lad was noticed so much to be pitied, that it was felt, if nothing could be done for the others, he at least must be saved.
Money was not plentiful, the need of the East End was then comparatively little known, but a young believer, the son of that honoured servant of the Lord, W. Greene of Minorca, had just set apart a portion of his salary to help some poor, London boy, and the letter telling this was on its way from the Mediterranean when this lad's history became known. Thus he was educated, and eventually raised to a position in which he became a helper of others.
Many other homeless boys were found among that evening's guests, and Miss Macpherson felt it was impossible permanently to raise their condition without receiving them into a Home, where they could be taught and trained to regular work. The Lord gave the desire, and through the active sympathy of E. C. Morgan, the editor of the "Christian," the means were provided. A house was found at Hackney, and named the Revival Refuge, where thirty boys could be at once received. A few weeks afterwards, looking at these bright, intelligent young faces, it was difficult to believe in the dark surroundings of their earlier years. So great was the encouragement in caring for them, spiritually as well as physically, that Miss Macpherson could not rest without enlarging the work, and a dilapidated dwelling at the back of Shoreditch Church "was fitted up to receive thirty more boys."
In the house first mentioned, besides the matchbox-makers' evening schools, mothers' meetings and a sewing class for widows were conducted by Mrs. Merry, and the upper storey was devoted to the shelter of destitute little girls. But in these, as in all Miss Macpherson's undertakings, the Lord blessed her so greatly that more accommodation was required for the constantly increasing numbers.
The needed building was provided in a way that could have been little conjectured, but the Lord had gone before. Along the great thoroughfare leading from the Docks to the Great Eastern Railway, lofty warehouses had taken the place of many unclean, tottering dwellings formerly seen there. During the fearful visitation of cholera in 1866 one of these had been secured as a hospital by Miss Sellon's Sisters of Mercy, and water and gas had been laid-on on every floor, and every arrangement made for convenience and cleanliness. When the desolating scourge was withdrawn the house was closed, and many predicted that it would never be used again. In the following year Mr. Holland suggested how well it would be to secure it for a Refuge. The doors had been closed twelve months when Mr. and Mrs. Merry and three other friends entered the long-deserted dwelling, and joined in prayer that where death had been seen in all its terrors, there souls might be born to God, and that the voice of praise and prayer might be heard within those walls which had once resounded with the groans of the dying. Then the doors were locked, and for twelve months more remained as before. Then they were again opened, and on a gloomy winter's evening, with one candle the vast unlighted dwelling was again entered. The little company included R. C. Morgan, Charles Dobbin, and Henry Blair, of the Madras Civil Service, whose interest in the work now begun, only ended with his death. Through the kindness of these friends the building was secured, and the rent promised, but then a new difficulty arose. It had been hoped that Mr. Holland, who had first suggested the effort to secure the building, would have been willing to undertake the charge, but the work at George Yard was too dear to be given up. And now, who would bear this burden? It could hardly be believed that any woman would undertake the responsibility, for women had not then been called forward in this country so prominently as they now are. Here may be seen something of the Lord's purpose in having permitted Miss Macpherson's voyage to New York. In that city she had seen the faith and courage the Lord had given to women to "attempt great things" for Him, and the day is well remembered when many prayers were answered that she would accept the post. It is a post far advanced into the enemy's territory, for the adjoining streets are known as the "Thieves' Quarter." Three thousand, it is supposed, have their headquarters here. In the square mile in the midst of which the Refuge, (now called "Home of Industry"), is situated, 120,000 of our poorest population are to be found. From the first Mr. and Mrs. Merry gave themselves as willing and invaluable helpers to the enormous work connected with the undertaking. It appeared great from the beginning, but little could any one have imagined how it would go on spreading and increasing. It is difficult, or it may be impossible, to name any form of distress or any class which has not been here relieved and blessed. Every hour of the day, and even far on into the night, the voice of praise and prayer has been heard in some part of the building. Even in the vaults beneath the pavement was a little sanctuary made. Under the very stones, before trodden by them as homeless wanderers, some have joined in asking the Lord's blessing on those who had rescued them.
In February, 1869, the Lord granted us the desire of our hearts, and the Home of Industry was opened with praise and prayer. "The Lord had done great things for us," but far more than any heart then, conceived were the blessings yet in store.
On February 22, Miss Macpherson wrote as follows in the "Christian":—
"BELOVED HELPERS,—To-night how your hearts would have rejoiced to have seen me and my happy hundreds of little toiling children in our new schoolroom in the Refuge. How varied their feelings! One whispered, 'It was here my mother died of the cholera.' Another, 'Oh! I was once in this ward before, so ill of black cholera.' Dear children! our prayer was that it might still be a house of mercy to many a sin-wearied soul. We have never had such a large schoolroom before, nor the advantage of desks. Their joy knew no bounds when told to invite their mothers to come one afternoon in the week to help me to sew and to earn sixpence, my object being twofold,—to secure an opportunity of telling them the gospel, and to endeavour to help them in the management of their homes and little ones."
The following will show something of the trials attending "holding the fort" in such a spot:—
"Last night I felt it right to sleep at the Refuge for once, so as to be able to enter into all its needs. No words can describe the sounds in the streets surrounding it throughout the night;—yells of women, cries of 'Murder!' then of 'Police!'—with the rushing to and fro of wild, drunken men and women into the street adjoining the building, whence more criminals come than from any other street in London. At three o'clock the heavy rumble of market-waggons commenced, and then the rush of the fire-brigade. Thus much by way of asking special prayer for those whom God has made willing to live in the midst of such surroundings. On the other side of the building is an empty space, known as 'Rag Fair,' filled in the morning with a horde of the poorest women selling the veriest old rubbish. We are thankful to have among these a faithful Christian woman, who, though a seller of rags, is able to testify of the great love of the Lord Jesus."
Emigration of families—A visitor's impressions—The great life-work —Emigration of the young, begun 1870—First party of boys to Canada with Miss Macpherson and Miss Bilbrough—Their reception—Mr. Merry takes second party of boys—Miss Macpherson returns to England and takes out a party of girls—Canadian welcome and happy homes— Canadian pastor's story.
Emigration had now for some time been in view as the only means of relieving the chronic poverty of the East of London, and in April 1869 a circular to this effect was issued by Miss Macpherson and Miss Ellen Logan. Fifty families were selected as being suitable for such help, and these were gathered together at a farewell tea-meeting before leaving for Canada, all expressing deep thankfulness for the opening given to them. The preparations for the voyage of these fathers, mothers, and little ones required much thought and labour, both for their temporal and spiritual welfare, but from the very beginning of the work, sisters in Christ came from a distance, giving hours or days as a labour of love, and besides personal help on the spot, many busy fingers were at work in their own homes. The first party was followed by others, all involving much care and labour. Before the close of the year very encouraging accounts were received from many of the travellers, and the contrast was great between their condition in the new country and that which might here have been their lot. Whilst this important work was being carried on, evening reading and sewing classes for the little matchbox-makers, and mothers' meetings, were continued without intermission, together with the teaching and training of boys begun at the first Homes; and on the Lord's Day, besides the very large gathering of matchbox-makers, every effort was made to bring all around under the sound of the gospel. A stranger thus describes his impressions after a visit to the Home of Industry, November, 1869:—
"'The mighty cry of anguish' that has gone up for so long from the East of London has, thank God, touched many a heart, and led some to carry God's answering messages in person to the suffering poor, and others to help in the lesser service of gifts.
"Determined to see how the matter stood as regards one portion of that great mass of misery, I gave myself up to the skilful guidance of one whose whole life is spent in the service of God and His poor.
"Leaving the rail, we proceeded to visit the sick-bed of one of the voluntary workers in the Refuge. We found him recovering from a severe attack of enteric fever complicated with pneumonia of the right lung. A fine, handsome young man, once the leader of the singing in a philharmonic club, now the devoted servant of God, his whole anxiety seemed to be as to when he could return to his work. During our visit, it was most touching to see the tenderness and anxious care of his companion, a young man called Fred, a labourer in the large wine vaults at the docks, who, though smelling of wine, and his clothes saturated with the fumes of spirits, was a staunch teetotaller; and judging from the intelligent way in which he answered our questions, would be a valuable witness before any commission of inquiry into the practices which wine-sellers term 'mixing,' but which he vulgarly called 'adulteration.' Every night during the many weeks of illness Fred had paid his friend a visit, and watched over him with all the love of a Jonathan to a David.
"We now pressed him into our service to conduct us through some of the many licensed lodging-houses and thieves' kitchens, which abound in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields.
"On our way we met two little girls, matchbox-makers. The outline of their lives was given in a few moments. The father, a drunkard, had absconded six years ago, leaving his wife and six children to struggle with awful poverty as best they might, having previously so beaten and kicked his wife about the face, that she had become almost blind. 'Where's father now?' 'In the workhouse, stoneblind.'
"In a room with a roaring fire were seated some thirty men and a few women with infants. The landlord's reception was anything but gracious. In answer to our 'Good evening,' he growled out, 'We don't want talk; those men want bread.' And hungry enough many seemed. So while one was sent for a supply of bread, which was received with unmistakable gladness, and devoured greedily, we spoke to them of that living bread which came down from heaven. All were interested, and one young man seemed to wince and to be ill at ease when the love of God was spoken of. I could not but feel that conscience was at work, perhaps memory carrying back his mind to a godly mother, who once had spoken the same loving words, but had gone to her rest in tears.
"We then entered a licensed lodging-house accommodating 350. This was a sad sight, because three-fourths of the men were unemployed poor, chiefly dock-labourers, willing and glad to work, if work could be got. On many a face there were stamped hopelessness and apathy. Two poor fellows were sipping a cup of tea, without milk or sugar, given to them by a poor man, but they had not a morsel of bread; and this was their breakfast,—a late one truly, for it was ten at night. Out all day in search of work, their last coppers were paid for the night's lodging, and a cup of poor tea was their only meal. It made one's spirit groan to think of the misery that sin and selfishness had wrought for these poor fellows.
"In the next house the inmates were mostly thieves. But here is one poor fellow, a workman, but with no work; he has been out in the streets three nights, and now one of his companions pleads with us for three-pence to procure him a night's rest. We peeped into several other such dwellings, but the same story was repeated in each. In all we were struck with the kind reception we met with, evidently due in part to the presence of our companion, who, although a lady, feels called of God to labour among these dens of misery, where there is so much to do and so few to do it, and to the fact that we lent a kindly ear to their tale of distress, and did what lay in our power to relieve the immediate pressure of the very destitute. But, above all, we were thankful to meet with such a spirit of hearing, and a ready attention when Jesus was lifted up as the Saviour of sinners.
"We now entered a court to visit a poor woman whose husband had died suddenly the week before. It was between nine and ten, and we found the widow had been washing, the clothes hanging from lines in the room. Her two children, aged nine and eleven, were busily employed in matchbox-making.
"The rapidity and neatness of these little human machines were truly most remarkable; the number of boxes made in a day, from half-past six in the morning to ten at night, was something fabulous. The floor of the room was covered with boxes; they earned a shilling each a day; often days passed when they were unable to get work to do. Poor children! thin and wan-looking, life seemed a terribly serious thing to them, their days spent in incessant toil when work was plentiful, their nights—well, they had a bedstead with a bundle of dirty rags for a bed, but not a stitch of bedclothes; the clothes the children wore were their only covering at night.
"In another court we found a silk-weaver hard at work,—from eight in the morning to eleven at night. This man, a Christian, had formerly been a weaver of velvet, but finding that a living could not in any way be made out of it, in an evil hour he was tempted to go into a skittle-alley as a helper. Here, though receiving good wages, he found he could not be happy,—could not 'abide with God;' so he gave it up, and now he is earning barely tenpence a day; but hard as his lot is, he is happy in the consciousness of doing right, and still manages to spare a little time to take his reading-lesson from the Bible, and to tend a flowering-plant, his only companion, which representative of the vegetable world seems to have nearly as hard a struggle to live as its master.
"Our next visit was to a poor old woman between sixty and seventy years of age, surrounded with every discomfort, and troubled with constant cough and weakness. Apparently she had only a few days to live, but she was able to rejoice in Jesus as her Saviour, whose presence even then made all things bright.
"The next visit was to a poor dying girl; in a room so small that there was only a margin of about three feet round two sides of the bed for standing ground, the floor covered with rags, (her mother being a rag-mender), lay one, who, though poor and miserable, was yet an heir of glory, and was upheld in all her wretchedness by Him who was sent to be 'the Comforter.' We thanked God for these two bright spots, where divine light and love were seen and felt.
"At the Home of Industry we had been invited to take tea with two hundred and fifty destitute widows. The testimony of one of these, a clean, tidy old woman, was very precious. She had once been in affluent circumstances and drove her carriage; her fortune lost in one day, she was now reduced to poverty, but, 'Sir,' she said, 'I would not go back to it all and be as I then was; no, not for all the world.' Possessing Christ as her own, she felt she had the riches of God, and knew that there was an inheritance reserved for her in heaven, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away."
The great lifework of Miss Macpherson and her devoted family may be said to have begun this year. The need of emigration may be expressed in her own words:—
"Boys came to us for shelter instead of going to empty barrels, railway arches, and stairways. We found they were grateful for all that was done for them. The simple gospel lesson was our lever to lift them into new thoughts and desires. The sharp dividing knife of the Word of God would discover the thief and liar, and rouse the conscience to confession more than anything beside. But our walls had limits, and our failures in finding employment for many away from their old haunts became a great difficulty, and the God-opened way of emigration to Canada was pressed upon us."
"Thy God hath commanded thy strength." To the astonishment of many, Miss Macpherson expressed her determination to pioneer the first band, and He Who of old sent forth His disciples two and two, was mindful of the present need, and so strengthened the heart of a young sister (already deeply interested in the work, and singularly gifted in many ways) to lay all at the feet of her Master, and to offer to share whatever toils and trials might be in the way. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." It was a new way, an "untrodden way."
We have now been for many years so accustomed to hear of the kind welcome given in Canada, and the prosperity of the young emigrants, that we cannot realise the faith and courage required by Miss Macpherson, and her co-worker, Miss Bilbrough. Many misgivings arose in the hearts of some at the thought of these two sisters in the Lord arriving uninvited in a new land where neither owned a friend, and, greatest of all, fears were entertained that those who had known the wild roaming life of city Arabs might defy the control and authority of the leaders. But how vain were all these fears! Wisdom had been asked of the Lord in every step of the way, and He had given "liberally," according to His gracious word. How blessedly was the title of Counsellor as well as Leader and Commander of His people then fulfilled! The following description of the departure of the first party was written at the time:—
"Our souls are in God's mighty hand, We're precious in His sight."
These words, sweet and true at all times, surely never sounded sweeter than when sung by the band of young emigrants gathered for the last time within the walls of the Refuge, which to many of them is hallowed as no other spot on earth can ever be. How precious in His sight, none can tell but He who watched over those young wanderers, and surrounded them with the loving care and prayers which still follow them to a distant land.
The beloved helpers at a distance, who have toiled, and collected, and borne to a throne of grace the burdens of their beloved sister in the Lord, Miss Macpherson, will like to know every detail, even to the outward appearance of those once ragged, shoeless wanderers. Now they stood in ranks ready to depart, dressed in rough blue jackets, corduroy suits, and strong boots, all made within the Refuge, the work of their own hands. All alike had scarlet comforters and Glengarry caps; a canvas bag across their shoulders contained a change of linen for the voyage, towels, tin can, bowl and mug, knife, fork, and spoon; and one kind friend, the last day before starting, brought them a present of a hundred strong pocket-knives. A Bible, a "Pilgrim's Progress," and a little case of stationery, were provided for each, and while they stood thus indoors, singing their last farewell, a dense crowd filled the street without, having waited for hours in the pouring rain. It was with difficulty the police could keep struck with the sight of the boys, all remarking that they had never seen more intelligent countenances, and one observed, after hearing something of their history, "This is real religion."
Liverpool was reached at 4 A.M., and all went at once on board the "Peruvian." Then came a trial of patience,—they had to wait some hours for breakfast,—but restraining grace was so manifest throughout, that one's heart was continually lifted up in praise and thanksgiving for this mercy as well as for countless others, and most especially for the loving-kindness of the Lord in strengthening and supporting His beloved servants at the time of parting.
From want of space, it appeared impossible, (as far as could be judged from the first day's experience), to gather all the boys together, but even amid the difficulties attending first going on board, Miss Macpherson succeeded in holding a little service with a portion of them. Some of the passengers and crew gathered round; all were remembered in her supplications, and a deep solemnity rested on all. Then she called on those boys who knew what it was to draw near with assurance to the throne of grace to ask for blessing, and, with her undaunted energy, exhorted them not to be afraid to speak for Jesus. Prayer was followed by the oft-repeated hymn,—
"There is a better world, they say, Oh, so bright!"
The tender brought on board a band of Christian friends, who once more thronged around her, till the parting signal was given, and then the last sounds heard on leaving were, "Yes, we part, but not for ever," and "Shall we gather at the river?"
The following note of cheer quickly arrived, to the joy of many anxious hearts and the praise of a prayer-hearing God:—
"On Board the 'Peruvian,' off the Coast of Ireland, May 13, 1870.
"MY DEAR SISTERS,—Fearing lest in your anxiety for us you may have imagined a rough night for the first, I send a few lines to assure you that all is love, even to the smallest details. Each rolling wave reminds me of that word in the Epistle of James, 'Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.' Many a faithful prayer has ascended for a prosperous voyage; prosperity of soul is often realised by being kept in the lowest place, and when my boys told me how ill some of them had been in the night, and how they had, notwithstanding, held little prayer-meetings, crying to Jesus in the midst of what to them seemed a storm, I rejoiced. Thus trial sends us to Jesus, the Captain of our salvation.
"With the exception of two, all are on deck now, as bright as larks; they have carried up poor Jack Frost, and Franks, the runner. It is most touching to see them wrap them up in their rugs. Michael Finn, the Shoreditch shoeblack, was up all night caring for the sick boys; he carries them up the ladder on his back. Poor Mike! he and I have exchanged nods at the Eastern Counties Railway corner these five years; it is a great joy to give him such a chance in life. Oh, to win his soul to look to Jesus for everlasting life!"
The following extract will tell the answer to the many prayers by which Miss Macpherson was upheld, and how assuredly it was the Lord who had guided her way across the pathless deep:—
"Mr. Stafford, the agent at Quebec, would willingly have kept the hundred boys there, but we only left him eleven, and brought the rest on to Montreal; and there too they were anxious to keep them, and said if it were made known, in three days we should not have one remaining. As it was, we left twenty-three, and all in excellent situations. Some of the best were picked out, numbers of them as house-servants. Then we left eight at Belleville, half way between Montreal and Toronto." These boys were left in charge of Mr. Leslie Thom, who had acted as schoolmaster at the Home of Industry, and whose help was invaluable on arrival in the new country.
Miss Macpherson's youngest sister, Mrs. Birt, thus writes concerning the departure of the second family, so readily sent out in answer to the invitations of dear friends in Canada:—
"I am sure our dear friends will feel exceedingly pleased and gratified to hear that the departure of our second band of boys for Canada this year, under the care of Mr. Merry, took place on the 21st of July, leaving our hearts filled to overflowing with thankfulness and praise for the very marked way in which the Lord has led us on step by step.
"Little did we think, a month ago, that it would be possible in so short a time to select, teach, and outfit seventy boys, and to soften their manners, even if we had the necessary money for their expenses. But the Lord has most wonderfully brought it all about in His own way. The money was sent, boys anxiously in search of employment came beseeching help, the needful work for their outfits was accomplished in far less than the usual time by faithful widows, who sewed away as diligently as though each had been making garments for her own son. An active, earnest, clever teacher was also provided by the Lord, to give to these rescued ones that punctual and diligent, daily attention that seemed to us so important. Even the postponement of their sailing from the 14th inst. to the 21st inst. was overruled for good; Mr. Merry was enabled to become more personally acquainted with each, and we know that 'the good seed of the Word' was sown in many hearts, we trust to bear fruit. On reaching the ship, we were told that our band would have the benefit of a place set apart for themselves, whereas, had they sailed the previous week, they would have been crowded up with other emigrants. After three days' rest we return, the Lord willing, to the Refuge, to select and prepare a band of young girls. Our sister Miss Macpherson writes to us that she has been besought most earnestly by the Canadian ladies to send them out some little English maids; and that they promise to watch over them and care for them as if they were their own."
After the arrival of Mr. Merry in Canada with the second party of boys, Miss Macpherson returned to England and wrote as follows:—
"My BELOVED FELLOW-LABOURERS,—You will be surprised to hear that, after a pleasant voyage, with renewed health, I am again in my privileged place of service in the East of London. My song of praise is very full. The Council of the county of Hastings has given me a house capable of holding 200, free of all expenses, situated in the town of Belleville, Ontario, leaving the management in my hands, entirely untrammelled by conditions. Thus a work of faith is now commenced on Canadian shores, where our little street wanderers can at once be sent and trained under our own schoolmaster, Mr. Leslie Thom. My friend Miss Bilbrough, assisted by the Christian ladies of the town, has undertaken to furnish this Distributing Home in readiness for Mr. Merry's arrival. There all will undergo a training, and will be kept till suitable situations are appointed for them."
After remaining a short time in England, Miss Macpherson, accompanied by her sister, Mrs. Birt, returned to Canada with the third party of young emigrants, numbering over a hundred.
The following is an extract from Mrs. Birt's first letter after their arrival:—
"In my memory are associated two scenes connected with the pretty park in which the Distributing Home is situated, scenes that can never be forgotten; first, the long procession of the tired and weary little travellers, wending their way up the carriage-drive, the clear, starlit sky overhead, and the quiet, bright full moon shining down on their upturned faces, as they stood in front of their new home, and sang so earnestly—
'Praise God, from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him, all creatures here below;'
and secondly, on awaking the next morning and looking out, the sight of the whole party scampering about the park, just like so many little wild animals let loose from a cage, rushing about under every tree, as if trying whether their freedom was real. I had to call my sister to look at them; and in mind we carried them back to London at six o'clock in the morning, and felt it was indeed good for them to be thus in Canada. How longingly we wished we could fill the Distributing Home with just such a number every month of the year, for certain it is we could find places and homes for them all."
A little later Miss Macpherson wrote:—
"Yesterday afternoon Miss Bilbrough drove us out into the cleared backwoods to visit some of our children. The country was charming; woods and green valleys, with every now and then rich orchards laden with rosy apples; the long Concession roads, forming at times magnificent avenues, in which here and there a maple, which had caught a cold blast, prematurely showed the lovely autumnal tints so peculiar in richness to this country.
"Everywhere we called the warmest hospitality was shown us, very like the 'furthy auld kintra folk' of Scotia in days lang syne.
"Our first recognition was a boy named Ambrose, of the second detachment; he was busy in the farmyard, but soon, with a bright face, came to the side of our vehicle, telling us he was so happy and well; indeed, it required no words to assure us of this. Our next call was to one of the first settlers of fifty-eight years ago, still living in the house he had at first erected. His dear wife, on hearing of the arrival of the little English orphan children, could not sleep all night, but had her horses put into the team, and drove in to Belleville, and for the Lord's sake, who had been so good to her and hers, took away two, one for herself and one for her married daughter, whose home had never rung with the voice of a little prattler. It was great joy to see that they loved and cared for these little waifs as though they were their very own; my heart alone knowing whence they had been taken, and their little memories still keen as to the awful contrast of former want and this present abundance of food, fruit, and kindness.
"With this dear, pious couple, we drank tea. Such a spread at this meal is never beheld in the old country. Around my cup of tea were seven different kinds of choice dainties at the same time. This is their way, and it is done with few words but warm welcome. The homespun, well-worn coat and well-patched shoes of our aged host were all forgotten when listening to his intelligent remarks on men and things; and though seventy-eight years of age, every faculty of head and heart seemed to keep pace with the times. He was a Wesleyan Methodist, and with pleasure told us of the erection of their new Zion, whose glistening tinned spire we could see rising among the woods at no great distance."
Miss Bilbrough wrote at this time:—
"Miss Macpherson has been able to spend during this summer much of her time in visiting among the different farms where our children are located, within some twenty or forty miles of Belleville in the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward. She would start some sunshiny morning on a week's tour, dining with one farmer, having tea at another's, and passing the night at some special friend's, Charlie, the mission horse, receiving the best of fare; while next day the farmer harnesses his horse and takes her round to the neighbouring farms where the little English emigrants have found a resting-place; and oh! the joy of these children to see again the well-remembered face, and hear the cheery voice of her who had first seen and relieved their misery in the old country, and now bringing fresh cheer and comfort in the new! With what haste the table is spread and soon loaded with substantial food, and afterwards what opportunities arise for a few words of counsel! Some verses are read from the Word of God, and then kneeling down, we and the new friends would commit the child to the care of Him who has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'
"Here, too, the numerous tracts and books brought from England, 'God's Way of Peace,' 'The Blood of Jesus,' 'British Workman,' 'Band of Hope,' and 'The Christian,' often containing a letter from Miss Macpherson, are eagerly sought after and read; and when passing along the road, Charlie seems now instinctively to stop when meeting some pedestrian, that out of our well-filled handbags may be given some tract or book."
The following is a record of days of travel in the backwoods:—
"MARCHMONT, BELLEVILLE, October.
"My friend Miss Bilbrough and I started, after an early dinner, from Marchmont, having declined the kind offer of a friend's conveyance, preferring to go by the usual stage-waggon, as our object was to study the country people, and know those with whom our little ones mingle. In so doing we increase our opportunities of distributing books and tracts,—a new thing in these outlying districts. We ask prayer for a blessing on these, and for every dear boy and girl who has been under our care, that the Holy Spirit may bring to each mind the remembrance of the truth in Jesus, which has been set before them. Our faith is from time to time strengthened by seeing one after another joining the Lord's people.
"The novelty of our position was increased when the driver and our fellow-passengers, seven in number, discovered that we were the friends of the orphan children. Their politeness was touching. We had to take the best seat, the curtains were drawn down to shelter us from the wind, and the driver strove to interest us by telling us histories of such of our boys as he knew at different points of his journey.
"For miles the country seemed well cleared, except where portions of forest were left to supply wood for the years to come. The cedar-rail fence and 'Concession roads' marked all into well-defined portions. On these roads the homesteads are built in every variety of style, from the log-hut built of cedar-trees laid one upon the other, cemented together, and roofed with bark, to the stone and brick edifice, with barns and stables, and other surroundings, like unto one of our own old country farmhouses.
"Our fellow-travellers were farmers, returning from Toronto Fair. They seemed amused and willing to listen to our conversation with the driver, and received our books most politely.
"The 'lumbering district' stretched away northwards, some seventy-five miles from where the giants of the forest had been felled. The recollections of our fellow-passengers were interesting as to the few years ago, when the very country we were passing through was a dense mass of similar unhewn timber. Now on every side there were homesteads telling of plenty, and enlivened by rosy, healthy little ones. Who will question the desirability of thus peopling our Father's glorious landscapes, and gathering up our poor perishing children from our overcrowded dens and alleys, where they are dying by thousands yearly for want of pure air and sunshine, many becoming criminals ere they scarce leave their mother's knee?
"The past encourages us to hope that He will not permit us to go before Him, and will both send sufficient strength for the day, and sufficient means for the support of all He would have us rescue from misery, by bringing them under the influences of a pious home, placing them in Sabbath schools, and above all, gathering them beneath the sheltering wing of the loving Shepherd.
"We arrive at length at Roslin, and soon find the pretty house of our friend Dr. H—-, where we are warmly greeted for the Master's sake, and ere long introduced to the only little baby prattler, its mother, and her widowed sister. They had lived in the city, had visited the old country, were friends of Mr. Gosse, and readers of 'The Christian.' Hence we soon found that though in a Canadian backwood settlement, we had tastes and topics in common, and one longing especially united us—the burden of precious souls to be won for Him we all loved.
"Through a chain of circumstances, Dr. B—- had obtained one of our boys, who had been engaged in a similar capacity in a suburb of London, but had lost his situation, and become an orphaned wanderer in our great city. His knowledge of dispensing was a recommendation for his appointment to another doctor; and, to my great joy, hitherto he had conducted himself so well, that in all the neighbourhood around other boys were so much in demand, that we now have no less than forty children in that district among the farmers.
"My friend, ever a true helper as secretary, remembered that a small boy named Smith, who had left a mother sorely fretting after him, lived near, and proposed to go and get a report of him at once. The Doctor's conveyance soon was at the door, and in less than an hour my friend returned with a bright account of the comfortable home and the happiness of its young inmate.
"The short hours after tea swiftly passed in conversing over the basket of books and tracts, many of these the gathered-up stores of my friends, which when read had been sent to the Refuge, and were now being spread freely in Canadian homes. We also talked over the principle which we were endeavouring to work out with these friendless children, namely, that as the Lord Jesus had given Himself to save us, so we ought to reach out the hand of love, and endeavour to snatch others from lives of misery and want. If we cannot open our own doors to the lost and wayward; ought we not to help in finding out those who can, that the lost and wandering lambs outside in the wilderness might be gathered beneath a sheltering wing inside some happy fold?
"Dr. H—- and his intelligent wife and sister held a long conversation with us on the method best suited for those whom we are seeking to benefit—whether to educate them for a series of years in our institutions in the old country, or to afford them only a temporary residence with us, where their character, temper, and talents could be studied for a few months with a view to determine what family they would suit best. Our experience with the three hundred children now placed out and watched over by our co-labourers in Canada brought us to the latter conclusion, and the testimony of others in Germany was to the same effect.
"Pastor Zeller, who himself founded an orphan asylum at Beuggen, had long before strongly advocated the placing of bereaved children in Christian families as the very best method of training them. Commenting on this, M. de Liefde observes—'An establishment which contains from fifty to seventy children (and this surely is only a small one), however well managed, cannot help being unnatural in many respects. Nature seldom puts more than twelve children together in one house; quite enough for a man and his wife to control, if due attention be given to the formation of the different characters and the development of the various talents. The training of a band of children beyond that number cannot help assuming the character of wholesale education. The larger the number, the greater the resemblance of the establishment to a barrack; it becomes a depot of ready-made young citizens, got up for social life at a fixed price, and within a fixed period of time. No wonder that they often turn out unfit for practical realities, and uncured of inveterate defects.' The noble Immanuel Wichern felt this objection so forcibly, that his famous 'Rauhe Haus' institution is like a village of families, each homestead with its house-father and house-mother, and its twelve boys or girls, as the case may be. He considered that he could not otherwise do justice to those whom God had committed to his care than by bringing the principles of family life to bear upon each individual.
"In the course of conversation we asked, how it was that so far from the city they had heard of our having boys to dispose of, and it was pleasant to hear that the weekly 'Christian' was the link that led them to depute a relative to watch for our passing through Montreal. Family worship closed this day of sweet service.
"The next morning our kind host studied the various Concessions in which our children had been located, and soon the 'democrat' (a peculiar carriage suited for this country) was brought to the door, and the doctor, and his sister accompanied us for the day's drive.
"The day was balmy, like one of our bright June days, and beeches and maples, firs and cedars, were beautiful to behold in their autumn loveliness.
"Our first call was at Mr. V—-'s. He was a widower, and, finding his home lonely, had sought at Marchmont for a little one to love and cheer him. He had taken the twin-like brothers, Freddy and Tommy, whose sweet little faces bore some resemblance to his own. We found the children at school, looking hearty and happy in the playground as we passed the schoolhouse. Mr. V—- was from home, but his mother, a pious woman, received us most kindly, and spoke affectionately of the children. She took us to see her lovely flowerbeds of annuals, all laid out with taste in front of the wooden house, and tended by her own hands when house-work was over. My heart longed for the joy of telling the happiness of these children to the aged pious grandmother pining away in want and sickness, and forsaken by her own son, the father of these boys.
"Passing onwards, we drove past a rosy-cheeked little fellow climbing a bank. A month in the fresh air had so changed him from the delicate, pale, thin boy, that we looked again ere we recognised Alfred Bonkin. His widowed mother will sing for joy to hear of his being thus educated, clothed, and fed, and growing up to an honest life.
"Alfred was 'fixed up' (to use a Canadian term) with two others of our children in a family settlement. One was a grown-up lad, employed in farm work, and the other a little matchbox-maker. The venerable couple who had adopted them had won our hearts when calling upon us at the Home. They were both over eighty years of age, had thirty grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and yet room to love our little ones, and not miss the 'bite and the sup.' It was washing-day; but the old lady left her tub 'right away,' and hoped we would not be 'scared,', by her being in a bustle, but just 'take off,' and she would soon spread the table? We spoke of our long round of calls, and with difficulty we got away, not before we had been laden with a basket of the finest apples we had ever seen, and had promised to come and pay a long visit next time. From all we witnessed, we could not but rejoice in the way God had opened homes and Christ-loving hearts to receive our perishing little ones."
"Peace and plenty smiled on every hand. Tears came as a relief when fondling little Annie Parker took my hand, saying, 'Tome and see my father's new house!' The memory came back of Mr. Morgan, Mr. Holland, and a few friends meeting with me in John Street to form a 'Little Girls' Home.' Two years have now passed since Annie and her whole family were carried to the Fever Hospital. Both the parents died; the four girls took a room, and lived by matchbox-making. Annie and Maggie were the youngest, starved and ragged beyond description. Since that time they have both been cared for, have learnt their letters, and can now read and write. Surely the most inveterate opponents to emigration could not but approve of and seek a blessing on such a change. Where in all England could we have found, in a few weeks, hearts and homes for forty adoptions? These families are thrifty and homely—spinning, weaving, knitting, knowing what small means with a blessing can do, and are the very people to train up our children for a common-sense battle with the difficulties of life."
"We were interested in observing the forethought displayed in laying up stores for the winter; apple being peeled, quartered, strung upon strings, and dried either in the sun, or over the kitchen stove; pumpkins cut into parings and dried, &c."
"All that remained at this late season (October) in the fields was the buckwheat. When this is cut and placed in stacks, its red roots are exposed, affording a pleasant contrast to the dark green of the up-springing fall-wheat. More immediately around the houses, lay the immense yellow pumpkins, still attached to their dying stems."
The time for Miss Macpherson's return to England now drew near, and with a heart filled with thankfulness for the mercies they had already experienced Miss Bilbrough offered to remain at Marchmont, to brave alone the first Canadian winter, and with Mr. Thom's help to watch over any case of difficulty that might arise among those who had come out; for as yet the work was an experiment.
A CANADIAN PASTOR'S STORY.
"Annie and Maggie, the children before mentioned, were taken out to Canada by Miss Macpherson, and were at first unavoidably placed in families residing at some distance from each other. The younger one was brought back to the Marchmont Home on account of a peculiar lisp, which her master's children were acquiring from her. Almost immediately another farmer called for a girl to assist his wife in the care of her little ones. He saw little Maggie, cared nothing for her lisp, and would have her away with him. On taking down his address, it was found that he lived on the farm next to that where the elder, sister was placed. It was near the end of the week, and on the next Sabbath morning an unexpected meeting occurred, feelingly described in the following verses. The incident was related to Miss Macpherson by the pastor himself."