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    Church Service On Board A King’s Ship

    As a general thing, a chaplain was allowed for every large ship. When the weather was pleasant, the quarter-deck was fitted with awnings, flags, benches, etc., for meeting. At 11 A. M., came the order from the officer of the deck, “Strike six bells there!” “Yes, sir.” “Boatswain’s mate!” “Sir.” “Call all hands to church! Hurry them up there!” These mates were required to carry a piece of rope in their pocket with which to start the sailors. Immediately their stentorian voices were heard sounding on the other decks, “Away up to church there-every soul of you-and take your prayer-books with you!” If any one felt disinclined to such a mode of worship, and attempted to evade the loud call to church, then look out for the men with the rope! When I was asked, “Of what religion are you?” I replied, “A Presbyterian.” But I was now given to understand that there was no religious toleration on board the king’s war ships. “Only one denomination here-away with you to church!” The officers, before taking their seats, unbuckled their swords and dirks, and piled them on the head of the capstan in the midst of the worshiping assembly, all ready to grasp them in a moment, if necessary, before the hour’s service should close. When the benediction was pronounced, the officers clinched their side arms, and buckled them on for active service. The quarter-deck was immediately cleared, and the floating bethel again became the same old weekly war ship for six days and twenty-three hours more.LELJB 43.1

    Respecting the church service, the chaplain, or in his absence, the captain, reads from the prayer-book, and the officers and sailors respond. And when he read about the law of God, the loud response would fill the quarter-deck, “O Lord, incline our hearts to keep thy law.” Poor, wicked, deluded souls! how little their hearts were inclined to keep the holy law of God, when almost every other hour of the week their tongues were employed in blaspheming his holy name; and at the same time learning and practicing the best manner of shooting, slaying, and sinking to the bottom of the ocean all who refused to surrender and become their prisoners, or who dared to array themselves in opposition to a proclamation of war issued by their good old Christian king.LELJB 44.1

    King George III. not only assumed the right to impress American seamen to man his war ships and fight his unjust battles, but he also required them to attend his church, and learn to respond to his preachers. And whenever the band of musicians on shipboard commenced with “God save the king!” they, with all his loyal subjects, were also required to take off their hats in obeisance to his royal authority.LELJB 44.2

    At that time I felt a wicked spirit toward those who deprived me of my liberty, and held me in this state of oppression, and required me in their way to serve God, and honor their king. But I thank God, who teaches us to forgive and love our enemies, that through his rich mercy, in Jesus Christ, I have since found forgiveness of my sins; that all such feelings are subdued, and my only wish is, that I could teach them the way of life and salvation.LELJB 45.1

    The winter rendezvous of the Mediterranean British squadron was in the Isle of Minorca, harbor of Port Mahon. Sailing, after the middle of the seventh month, is dangerous. See St. Paul’s testimony, Acts 27:9, 10.LELJB 45.2

    While endeavoring to escape the vigilance of our pursuers, after we stepped out of the Spaniard’s market boat, as before narrated, away beyond the city, at the base of a rocky mountain, we discovered a wooden door, which we opened; and away in the distance it appeared quite light. We ventured on through this subterranean passage till we came to a large open space, where the light was shining down through a small hole wrought from the top of the mountain down through the dome. This subterranean passage continued on in a winding direction, which we attempted to explore as far as we dared to for the want of light to return to the center. On both sides of this main road we discovered similar passages all beyond our exploration. Afterward we were told that this mountain had been excavated in past ages for the purpose of sheltering a besieged army. In the center, or light place, was a large house chiseled out of a rock, with doorway and window frames, designed undoubtedly for the officers of the besieged, and rallying place of the army.LELJB 45.3

    After a close survey of this wonderful place, we became satisfied that we had now found a secure retreat from our pursuers, where we could breathe and talk aloud without fear of being heard, or seized by any of the subjects of King George III. But alas! our joy soon vanished when we thought again that there was nothing for us to eat.LELJB 46.1

    When we ventured to a farm-house to seek for bread, the people eyed us with suspicion, and fearing they would seize us, and hand us over to our pursuers, we avoided them, until we became satisfied that it was in vain to attempt an escape from this place, and so we returned to the ship. The stone of this mountain is a kind of sandstone, much harder than chalk, called “holy-stone,” which is abundant on the island, and made use of by the British squadron to scour or holy-stone the decks with every morning to make them white and clean.LELJB 46.2

    In the mild seasons, the sailors’ uniform was white duck frocks and trowsers, and straw hats. The discipline was to muster all hands at nine o’clock in the morning, and if our dress was reported soiled or unclean, then all such were doomed to have their names put on the “black list,” and required to do all kinds of scouring brass, iron, and filthy work, in addition to their stated duty, depriving them of their allotted time for rest and sleep in their morning watch below. There was no punishment more dreaded and disgraceful than this, to which we were daily liable.LELJB 46.3

    If sufficient changes of dress had been allowed us, and sufficient time to wash and dry the same, it would have been a great pleasure, and also a benefit to us, to have appeared daily with unsoiled white dresses on, notwithstanding the dirty work we had to perform. I do not remember of ever being allowed more than three suits at one time to make changes, and then we had only one day in the week to cleanse them; viz., about two hours before daylight once a week, all hands (about seven hundred) were called on the upper decks to wash and scrub clothes. Not more than three-quarters of these could be accommodated to do this work for themselves at a time; but no matter, when daylight came, at the expiration of the two hours we were ordered to hang all washed clothes on the clothes-lines immediately. Some would say, “I have not been able to get water nor a place to wash mine yet.” “I can’t help that! clear out your clothes, and begin to holy-stone and wash the decks.” Orders were most strict, that whoever should be found drying his clothes at any other but this time in the wash day, should be punished.LELJB 47.1

    To avoid detection and punishment, I have scrubbed my trowsers early in the morning, and put them on and dried them. Not liking this method, I ventured at one time to hang up my wet trowsers in a concealed place behind the maintop sail; but the sail was ordered to be furled in a hurry, and the lieutenant discovered them. The maintop men (about fifty) were immediately ordered from their dinner hour to appear on the quarter-deck. “All here, sir,” said the under-officer that mustered us. “Very well, whose trowsers are these found hanging in the maintop?” I stepped forward from the ranks and said, “They are mine, sir.” “Yours, are they? you ___ ___!” and when he had finished cursing me, he asked me how they came there. “I hung them there to dry, sir.” “You ___ ___, see how I will hang you, directly. Go down to your dinner, the rest of you,” said he, “and call the chief boatswain’s mate up here.” Up he came in great haste from his dinner. “Have you got a rope’s end in your pocket?” He began to feel, and said, “No, sir.” “Then away down below directly and get one, and give that fellow there one of the ___ floggings he ever had.” “Yes, sir, bear a hand.”LELJB 47.2

    Thus far I had escaped all his threats of punishment, from my first introduction into the ship. I had often applied for more clothes to enable me to muster with a clean dress, but had been refused. I expected now, according to his threats, that he would wreak his vengeance on me by having the flesh cut off my back for attempting to have a clean dress, when he knew I could not have it without venturing some way as I had done.LELJB 48.1

    While thoughts of the injustice of this matter were rapidly passing through my mind, he cried out, “Where is that fellow with the rope? why don’t he hurry up here?” At this instant he was heard rushing up from below. The lieutenant stopped short and turned to me, saying, “If you don’t want one of the ___ floggings you ever had, do you run.” I looked at him to see if he was in earnest. The under-officer, who seemed to feel the injustice of my case, repeated, “Run!” The lieutenant cried to the man with the rope, “Give it to him!” “Aye, aye, sir.” I bounded forward, and by the time he reached the head of the ship, I was over the bow, getting a position to receive him near down by the water, on the ship’s bobstays. He saw at a glance it would require his utmost skill to perform his pleasing task there. He therefore commanded me to come up to him. “No,” said I, “if you want me, come here.”LELJB 48.2

    In this position, the devil, the enemy of all righteousness, tempted me to seek a summary redress of my grievances; viz., if he followed me and persisted in inflicting on me the threatened punishment, to grasp him and plunge into the water. Of the many that stood above looking on, none spoke to me, that I remember, but my pursuer. To the best of my memory, I remained in this position more than an hour. To the wonder of myself and others, the lieutenant issued no orders respecting me, neither questioned me afterward, only the next morning I learned that I was numbered with the black-list men for about six months. Thanks to the Father of all mercies for delivering me from premeditated destruction by his overruling providence in that trying hour.LELJB 49.1

    Ships belonging to the blockading squadron in the Mediterranean Sea were generally relieved and returned to England at the expiration of three years; then the sailors were paid their wages, and twenty-four hours’ liberty given them to spend their money on shore. As the Rodney was now on her third year out, my strong hope of freedom from the British yoke would often cheer me while looking forward to that one day’s liberty, in the which I was resolving to put forth every energy of my being to gain my freedom. About this time the fleet encountered a most dreadful storm in the Gulf of Lyons. For awhile it was doubted whether any of us would ever see the rising of another sun. Those huge ships would rise like mountains on the top of the coming sea, and suddenly tumble again in the trough of the same, with such a dreadful crash that it seemed almost impossible they could ever rise again. They became unmanageable, and the mariners were at their wits’ end. See the psalmist’s description, Psalm 107:23-30.LELJB 49.2

    On our arrival at Port Mahon, in the island of Minorca, ten ships were reported much damaged. The Rodney was so badly damaged that the commander was ordered to get her ready to proceed to England. Joyful sound to us all! “Homeward bound! Twenty-four hours’ liberty!” was the joyous sound. All hearts were glad. One evening after dark, just before the Rodney’s departure for England, some fifty of us were called out by name and ordered to get our baggage ready and get into the boats. “What’s the matter? Where are we going?” “On board the Swiftshore, 74.” “What, that ship that has just arrived for a three years’ station?” “Yes.” A sad disappointment, indeed; but what was still worse, I began to learn that I was doomed to drag out a miserable existence in the British navy. Once more I was among strangers, but well known as one who had attempted to escape from the service of King George III.LELJB 50.1

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