« VorigeDoorgaan »
admiration of every sincere Christian, established at a very great expense, is neglected and falling to decay ; and while, it is said, the people are anxiously desiring a supply of the Old Testament in their native tongue, they are denied this privilege. Seeing things are thus managed, may I not add the language of the Most High, through one of his prophets, • Shall I not visit for these things !”
A full opportunity having now been afforded me to relieve my mind of all that I apprehended was required of me to express to the emperor in the line of religious duty, a pause took place ; feeling myself constrained to kneel down in supplication, the emperor went on his knees by my side: after rising from our knees, and sitting awhile quietly together, the time for my departure being come, I rose to go, and after holding each other most affectionately by the hand, he saluted me, and we took a heart-tendering farewell.
Being conveyed back to my lodgings, and taking my seat in my apartment, it was with great difficulty I could refrain from proclaiming aloud my feelings of gratitude to Almighty God. For a while, I felt like one lost in admiration ; but afterwards, the retrospect of what had fallen from my lips caused me to tremble; but in due time, Divine goodness in mercy condescended to pour into my heart and mind such a portion of the wine of consolation, as he best knew I'was able to bear; for I soon became sensible a care was now as necessary on my part, that I might be enabled to withstand the wiles of Satan, as ever it was when my mind was under exercise for the service, which I had been thus mercifully enabled to accomplish. My bonds being now so loosened, I felt nearly ready to take my departure.
First-day, I walked out to meeting ; my mind felt so lightened, that I seemed scarcely to feel the ground I passed over; being ready to conclude those I met, who had before noticed my countenance, must see relief now imprinted on it. My friends participated with me in my feelings, when I informed them how mercifully I had been cared for, and helped through this second visit.
Second-day, I walked to a merchant in the city, to fix for making a visit on the morrow to the prisons ; on my way home I had a very severe fall on the ice which I had to pass over, which shook my whole frame to that degree, that I feared for a time I should be disabled from enduring the journey before me.
Third-day, accompanied by my kind friend, I visited the two prisons for men : the practice of reading the scriptures daily to the prisoners is still kept up. On its being announced the reading was about to commence, it was gratifying to observe the readiness with which the prisoners assembled, and the quiet and order they manifested: they generally appeared clean in their persons, and their apartments were in as good condition as the nature of such
places will allow of. We next visited the prison for females: here also the prisoners were clean and well clothed, their countenances secm to indicate, that they were well cared for. Here reading commenced, which was also conducted in a solid, agreeable manner; the men and women prisoners are generally employed.
From the female prison, we returned to one of the men's prisons: on our arrival, we found fifteen convicts in an outer room, attended by a file of soldiers, preparing to walk to Siberia, a journey that takes them one year to accomplish, at the rate of fifteen miles a-day, as I was informed: some of them had irons on their legs, which they were to travel with, and which, I was told, weighed fourteen pounds ; formerly the felters worn by such prisoners weighed forty pounds, but the present humane emperor had not passed over these abodes of misery, in his endeavours towards relieving suffering humanity, for he reduced the weight of their fetters to what they now are. The prisoners were busily engaged in stripping off their own apparel, and clothing themselves with coarse warm garments of every description necessary for the journey : their countenances appeared various,—some very hardened and inattentive to their situation ; others appeared sorrowful, and as if human nature would yield up life, before they reached the end of their journey. The distressed state of mind a young man manifested, who I was told was one of the poor nobles, made such an impression on my mind, that some days elapsed before I wholly forgot him; he was loaded with irons, which he was to travel in to the end of his journey, if he ever reached it, his eyes so red and inflamed with weeping, that it was truly distressing to look at him; at times he appeared like onc frantic, repeatedly exclaiming, in thc Russian language, “Can nothing be done for me?” I understood the greatest cause of his distress was, his having to leave behind him his aged mother, who was waiting to witness his departure. I was informed his offence was, he had been an officer in the army, and had struck his superior officer, for which he was sentenced to Siberia, to work in the mines for the remainder of his life. My friend had furnished himself with a Testament for each of the prisoners, who generally received it as if they considered it a treasure, putting it up carefully in a handkerchief; the young officer in particular was at a loss sufficiently to manifest his gratitude for this gift and companion in his miserable allotment; he went down on his hands and knees to kiss the feet of his donor: the scene altogether was distressing. Before we quitted, I found I must venture to express a few sentences to them: how far my friend's timidity suffered him to give the whole or not, I found I must leave, and be satisfied that I was strengthened to do my part. We passed the
aged mother of the officer in the passage: the sight of her occasioned me an aching heart.
Fifth-day, I walked to meeting, and arranged matters for our departure-a subject that was pleasant to us both to attend to. А young man, a Russian, who was to be placed under our care, and who was going to England for education, made the fourth in our carriage, so that we had it wholly to ourselves. I had made memorandums of my visit to the emperor, but in such a way as if they concerned a private individual ; which, with a few other memorandums I had of late ventured to make, I had sewed up in the lining of my fur-coat, to bring along with me; but on further considering this matter I thought, should I be searched at Riga, as I was given to expect would be the case, (being still eyed, as I believed, by the police as a suspicious character,) the very concealment in this way of these memorandums might bring me into difficulty. I therefore put all my papers and such of my letters as I had not destroyed, into the hands of George Edmondson, to bring to England with him; as he was coming by vessel, no difficulty would occur.
Second-day, Occupied with callers, packing, attending to my passport, and making purchases for my journey. This preparing to see my native land, my dear wife and children, felt consoling; and especially so, having, as I was led to believe, an evidence the time for making such preparation was fully come.
Third-day, I paid a visit to the Prince Alexander Galitzin. During this parting interview, I endeavoured faithfully to lay before him the state in which I found the Bible institution, and the cause of its being now at a stand-still: we parted under feelings of sincere regard as brethren, however differing in name and external performances as to religion, yet, I trust, earnestly desirous, that in our daily intercourse amongst men, we might each be giving proof, that our chief care was to be found fulfilling the Divine command to Abraham of old, 6 Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” This visit closed my services in this city.
I rode out to my kind friend Daniel Wheeler's, in hopes of taking a quiet farewell of his family; but I had not been long there, before I was followed by two of my countrymen; I soon left the house to avoid interrogations, but which might have drawn from me that which was best should not become a subject of general knowledge: my visits to the emperor had been kept secret as much as possible, for as they took place after dark, I proceeded unobserved.
Fourth-day, 9th of 2nd mo. I was thankful that the time for my release was come; for I can truly say, after the first week I became a resident in the city, I never retired to my bed with any degree of certainty, that Í might be permitted to enjoy it quietly until day-light in the morning. This morning my friend
Daniel Wheeler, the young Russian, the Englishman and myself, left Petersburgh by sledge for Riga: this journey of about four hundred English miles, we performed in four days and nights' constant travelling, except when we halted to change horses and take refreshment. Our journey was impeded when within five miles of Riga, by coming to a part where the wind had blown away the snow, and left the ground quite bare; and as our sledge would not travel on the bare ground, we were set fast for several hours. Our vehicle was like two bodies of a singlehorse chaise, placed back to back on the sledge; the aprons and curtains were in a very tattered condition, so that the wind forced its way into our carriage, and when near morning, the air was cold to an extreme ; on this occasion our patience was tried, for the drivers were not able, with all their shouting and beating of the poor horses, to get them to move along. Discouraging as our prospect was, and suffering as I did from the cold, fatigue, and want of nourishment, the assurance was renewed, if my feet remained sure on the narrow path round the mountain, rough and rugged as at times I should find it to be, it would lead me safe to my native home; I therefore endeavoured to do my best to keep quiet, and cast all my care on that merciful Creator, who cares for the very sparrows. After we had procured an additional horse we proceeded, and at length reached our hotel at Riga, wanting food, rest and refreshment for the weary body.
Pleasant as our arrival was this morning, as to the flesh, yet my secret exercises were increased, from my having been informed of the probability of my luggage and person being searched by order of the governor, who, it was stated, was a rigid bigot. I had not to my knowledge any thing about my person or in my luggage, (except a large volume of the New Testament, given me by the emperor, with his own signature in it,) which I could conceive might subject me to difficulty ; yet should such a search take place, the fear of consequences, and of undue advantages being taken of any default, of which, as a stranger, I was ignorant, operated upon my susceptible mind.
Second-day morning, after a comfortable breakfast, we left our hotel, and crossed the river Dwina , on the other side of which we were informed, a coach would be waiting to convey us forward; but to my great disappointment, our conveyance was a German waggon, fixed on the axletrees: the curtains of this waggon were so tattered and worn, that it was ill calculated to defend us against the intense frosty night-air; but I found, if we went forward, we must submit to the inconvenience: at the end of our first stage, we entered Courland, when the face of the country began to improve. On our arrival at Mitau, we took a fresh carriage, but in no respects more commodious than the former.
We had not left Mitau an English mile, before we found we had committed ourselves to a very drunken driver, and a superintendant not much better : whilst we were being driven over a bad piece of road at a very furious rate, we lost our linchpin, `and the hind wheel came off; we could not prevail on our driver or conductor to turn back and provide us with another carriage; we were therefore obliged to submit and proceed, yet not without serious apprehensions of danger on our part, from the wheel coming off again, having only a piece of wood out of the hedge to keep it in its place; but we were favoured to reach our next station, without further accident, where we changed our driver, and had our carriage-wheels properly repaired. We felt thankful in being put under the care of a sober driver: during this stage we reached the banks of a river, over which, with our heavy waggon, four horses, eight persons, and our luggage, we were to cross on the ice; the prospect of which was trying ; but as it would not do for me to quit the waggon, I besought the Lord to give me strength to acquit myself properly on this trying occasion, and he failed not to confirm me in the assurance, that he still continues to give power to the faint; and to such as feel they have no might of their own, and steadily look to him for help in the needful time, he condescends to give strength. Gratitude filled my heart, when our carriage was safe on land again.
After travelling through a very fatiguing night, my dear companion Daniel Wheeler, roused me towards day-break, by informing me we were making our way towards another river, which soon appeared in view ; the state of the ice on which we had to cross, appeared truly terrific; in many places a separation had taken place, and from its rotten state the water was flowing over it. At first I drew back ; to travel upon it appeared more than my feeble frame and agitated nerves knew how to bear; and yet, if my companions did so, it would not do for me to remain behind. Divine mercy, however, in this time of sore trial, graciously enabled me to cast all my care on Him, and brought before the view of my mind, the manner in which I had been hitherto watched over; thus was I enabled to take fresh courage, and cheerfully concluded to keep with my companions. The driver and superintendent, after consulting together for some time, concluded it would be safest to take off the horses and turn them loose, to make their own way across, and for us to keep the track which the horses took, and by the help of some men, by tying a rope to the pole of the waggon, and keeping at a distance from it, draw it over. Our trials I was led to consider, great as they were, might have been greater had it occurred in the dead of the night. Observing a glimmering light on the other side of the river, which we supposed to be the post-house, we made up to it, truly thankful when we reached the house. The first object presented to our view, was a woman far advanced