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    Chapter 15

    Conviction of Sin — Funeral at Sea — Covenant with God — A Dream — Arrival at Pernambuco — Landing a North American Lady — Wine at a Dinner Party — Sell my Cargo — Another Voyage — Religious Views — Whaling — Brazilian Flour — Arrive at St. Catherine’s — Also Paraiba — Sell my Cargo — Third Voyage — Confidence Rewarded.

    THE lines mentioned in the last chapter did arrest my attention. I read them again and again. My interest for reading novels and romances ceased from that hour. Among the many books, I selected “Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” This and the Bible now interested me more than all other books.LELJB 186.1

    Christopher Christopherson, of Norway, one of my crew, was taken down sick soon after our departure from Cape Henry. Nothing in our medicine chest availed to relieve him. His case appeared more and more doubtful. The first verse of “The Hour of Death,” particularly the fourth line, was almost continually in my mind:—LELJB 186.2

    “Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O Death!”LELJB 186.3

    I longed to be a Christian; but the pride of my heart and the vain allurements of the wicked world still held me with a mighty grasp. I suffered intensely in my mind before I decided to pray. It seemed as though I had delayed this work too long. I was also afraid that my officers and men would learn that I was under conviction. Furthermore, I had no secret place to pray. When I looked back on some of the incidents in my past life, how God had interposed his arm to save me, when death was staring me in the face again and again, and how soon I had forgotten all his mercies, I felt that I must yield. Finally I decided to try the strength of prayer, and confess all my sins. I opened the “run scuttle” under the dining table, where I prepared a place so that I might be out of the sight of my officers, if they should have occasion to enter the cabin during my prayer season. The first time I bowed the knee here in prayer, it seemed to me that the hair on my head was standing out straight, for presuming to open my mouth in prayer to the great and holy God. But I determined to persevere until I found pardon and peace for my troubled mind. I had no Christian friend at hand to tell me how, or how long, I must be convicted before conversion. But I remembered when I was a lad, during the great reformation of 1807, in New Bedford and Fairhaven, of hearing the converts, when relating their experience, say that they had been sorrowing for sin two and three weeks, when the Lord spoke peace to their minds. It seemed to me that my case would be something similar.LELJB 186.4

    A fortnight passed, and no light beamed on my mind. One week more, and still my mind was like the troubled sea. About this time I was walking the deck in the night, and was strongly tempted to jump overboard and put an end to myself. I thought this was a temptation of the devil, and immediately left the deck, and did not allow myself to go out of my cabin again until the morning.LELJB 187.1

    Christopher was very sick, and failing. It occurred to me that if he should die, I should be doubly earnest about my salvation. I now removed him into the cabin, and placed him in a berth next my own, where I could give him more attention, and charged the officers as they waited upon him during their night watch to call me if they saw any change in him. I awoke in the morning soon after daylight. My first thought was, How is Christopher? I reached over his berth and placed my hand on his forehead; it felt cold. He was dead. I called the officer of the morning watch, “Why, Mr. Haffards!” said I, “Christopher is dead! Why did you fail to call me?” Said Mr. H., “I was down to him about half an hour ago, and gave him his medicine, and saw no alteration then.” Poor C. was now laid out on the quarter-deck, and finally sewed up in a hammock with a heavy bag of sand at his feet. After we had settled on the time to bury him, I was most seriously troubled in relation to my duty. I felt that I was a sinner in the sight of God, and dare not attempt to pray in public. And yet I could not consent to plunge the poor fellow into the ocean without some religious ceremony over him. While I was resolving in my mind what I should do, the steward asked me if I would not like to have a Church of England Prayer Book. “Yes,” said I, “have you got one?” “Yes, sir.” “Bring it to me, will you?”LELJB 187.2

    It was just the book I wanted, for when I was in the British service I had heard the ship’s clerk read prayers out of such a book when our sailors were buried. But this was the first burial at sea that occurred under my command.LELJB 188.1

    I opened the book and found a suitable prayer for the occasion. A plank was prepared, with one end over the side of the vessel, on which his body was laid, with his feet toward the sea, so that by raising the other end of the plank, the body would slide into the ocean feet foremost. All but the helmsman stood around poor Christopher, to take their final leave of him, and commit his body to the deep as soon as the order should be given. The idea of attempting to perform religious service over the dead while in an unconverted state troubled me much. I had requested the chief mate to call me when he had made the preparation, and retired below. When the officer reported all ready, I came up trembling, with the book open in my hand. The crew respectfully uncovered their heads. As I began to read, my voice faltered, and I was so unmanned I found it difficult to read distinctly. I felt, indeed, that I was a sinner before God. When I finished the last sentence, I waved my hand to tip the plank, and turned for the cabin. As I passed down the gangway, I heard poor Christopher plunge into the sea. I passed down into my praying place and vented my feelings in prayer for the forgiveness of all my sins, and those of the poor fellow who was sinking lower and lower beneath the rolling waves.LELJB 188.2

    This was the 30th of September, twenty-six days from the capes of Virginia. From thence I felt a sinking into the will of God, resolving henceforward to renounce the unfruitful works of the enemy, and seek carefully for eternal life. I believe now that all my sins were forgiven about that time. Then I also made the following covenant with God, which I found in “Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul“:—LELJB 189.1

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