« IndietroContinua »
other spot was accessible to Protestant missions. It was the Gibraltar of the South Pacific, and it was of no small consequence to our mariners to people with friendly occupants the Straits of Magellan and the coasts in the rear of Cape Horn. Above all, it was the only avenue attainable to the vast tribes of the interior--the tenants of the Andes, and the fierce nomads of the Pampas; and as Popery had closed the main gates against the gospel, it was of paramount urgency to seize and keep open this postern.
The representations of this heroic evangelist again produced their impression, and his own selfdevotion was more affecting than any argument. He put his life into the venture; others gave their money; one lady contributed a thousand pounds; a new committee was constructed; meetings were held; circulars were issued. Two launches, twenty-six feet long, were built, the one as a floating mission-house, the other as a storeship and magazine, with two small boats as tenders. An advertisement was inserted in the religious newspapers inviting catechists to join the expedition; and for the manning of the boats, a few suitable seamen were selected.*
* A full account of these proceedings will be found in the “Narrative of Missionary Effort in South America,” by the Rev. George Pakenham Despard, B.A. For many interesting details the editor is also indebted to an obliging communication from Archibald Tucker Ritchie, Esq., of Liverpool, Mr Pakenham's able and ardent predecessor in the Secretariat of the Patagonian Missionary Society.
It was to this advertisement that the eye of Mr Williams was providentially directed, and he answered it in the following letter addressed to Captain Gardiner :
“ BURSLEM, May 17, 1850. “SIR,—Having observed in the Watchman of the current week an advertisement for a lay missionary to Tierra del Fuego, I beg leave to request farther particulars in reference to the mission, and to be furnished with specific information as to the qualifications required in the individual presenting himself.
“ The advertisement has struck me as presenting a singular opportunity of realising hopes which have been long indulged,—namely, of devoting my whole life and services to the cause of God. Were I to engage in such a duty, it would not be because of any necessity to seek a livelihood, as I am already provided with a profession, and in the enjoyment of an income therefrom adequate to my necessities and wishes. Indeed, if I sought for an engagement in connexion with such an arduous enterprise, I should do it with a full consciousness of its requiring a sacrifice of all worldly and temporal good, sincerely reckoning all such loss to be gain, and, I hope, ready also to put even life in jeopardy that I might serve Christ, and be in his hand an instrument, however humble, to advance his dominion.
“ I will just state a few particulars concerning myself :
“I am, I humbly trust, a converted man, having received the grace of God which bringeth salvation, little more than three years,-previous to which I had been a sceptic and deist.
“ I belong to the Wesleyan Methodist communion, and am a local preacher and class leader. From the time of my conversion, and with an ardent desire to promulgate the truths which so deeply affected my own heart, I have been acting on the principle of a home missionary, convening the poor together, and exhorting them to receive Christ; and God has acknowledged and blessed my labors to the conversion of some, if not many, souls.
“My profession is that of surgeon, which I have been practising in this town with, I believe, credit, and the esteem of my fellow-townsmen. I am single, and just arrived at my thirty-third year.
I may add that I have been in practice on my own account for nearly five years.”
This letter was favorably received. The committee satisfied itself as to Mr Williams's personal worth and general qualifications; and, having passed satisfactorily an examination in theology, he was appointed, along with Mr Maidment, a catechist in the Fuegian Mission.
In taking this step, Mr Williams relinquished a good income, and postponed for a long period some cherished prospects. Nor was it a slight trial to his tender and affectionate spirit to part with so many loved friends and relatives. But happily, after his services were accepted, so short a period elapsed till he found himself on ship-board, that there was no time for protracted partings or sorrowful musings. Before he could dispose of his practice, or go to bid farewell to some of his nearest kindred, the time of embarkation had arrived, and it required his best speed to reach Liverpool before the sailing of the Ocean Queen.