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Letter VII

LETTER VII. Dear Sir,

/*T"V H E sliip I was now on board, as a passenger, was on a trading voyage for gold, ivory, dyers-wood, and bees-wax. It requires much longer time to collect a cargo of this sort, than of (laves. The Captain began his trade at Gambia, had' been already four or five months in Africa, and continued there a year, or thereabouts, after I was with him; in which time we ranged the whole coast, as far as Cape Lcpez, which lies about a degree lbuth of the Equinoctial, and more than a thousand miles farther from England, than the place where I embarked. I have little to offer worthy your notice, in the course of this tedious voyage. I had no H 2 business business to employ my thoughts, but sometimes amused myself with matbematks: excepting this, my whole life, when awake, was a course of most horrid impiety and profaneness. I know not, that I have ever since met so daring. a blasphemer: not content with common oaths and imprecations, I daily invented newones; so that I was often seriously reproved by the Captain, who was himself a very passionate man, and not at all circumspect in his expressions. From the relation I, at times, made him of my past adventures, and what he saw of my conduct, and especially towards the close of the voyage, when we met with many disasters, he would often tell me, that, to his great grief, he had a Jonah on board.; that a curse attended me wherever I went\ and that all the. troubles he met with in the voyage, were owing to his having taken roe into the vessel. I shall i -omit

omit any further particulars, and, after mentioning an instance or two 06 the Lord's mercy to me, while I "was thus defying his power and patience, I shall proceed to something more worthy your perusal.

Although I lived long in the excess of almost every other extravagance, I never was fond of drinking ; and my father has often been heard to say» that while! avoided drunkenness, he should, still entertain hopes of my recovery. But sometimes I would promote a drinking-bout, for a frolic sake, as I termed it; for though I did not love the liquor, I was sold to do iniquity, and delighteehn mischief. The last abominable frolic of this fort I engaged in, was in the river Galon; the proposal and expence were my own. Four or five of us one evening fat down upon deck, to fee who could hold out longest in drinking geneva and rum alH 3 ternately:

ternately: a large sea-shell supplied the place of a glass. I was very unfit for a challenge of this sort for my head was always incapable of bearing much strong drink. However* I began, and proposed the first toast, which, I well remember, was some imprecation against the person who should start first.—This proved to be myself—My bsain. was soon fired—I arose, and danced about the deck like a madman; and, while I was-thus diverting my companions, my hat went overboard. By the light of the moon I saw the ship's. boat, and eagerly threw myself over the side to get into her,. that I might recover my hat. My sight, in that circumstance,. deceived me -r for the boat was not within my reach, as I thought, but perhaps twenty feet from the ship's side. I was, however, half over-board, and should, in one moment, more. have plunged myself into the water, when

somesomebody catched hold of my cloaths behind, and pulled me back. This was an amazing escape; for I could not swim, if I had been sober; the tide ran very strong; my companions were too much intoxicated to save me: and the rest of the ship's company were asleep. So near I was, to appearance, of perishing in that dreadful condition, and sinking into eternity under the weight of my own curse.

Another time, at Cape Lopez, some of us had been in the woods, and mot a luffahy. or wild cow: we brought a part of it on board,, and. carefully. marked the place (as I thought) where we left the remainder. In. the evening we.returned to fetch it, but we iet.out^too late. I undertook to be their. guide, but night coming on before. we. could reach the place, we lost our way,—Sometimes we were in swamps, up to the middle in water, and when we recovered dry land, we H 4 could could not tell whether we were walking towards the ship, or wandering farther from her-.—Every step increased our-uncertainty.—The night grew darker, and we were entangled in inextricable woods, where perhaps the foot of man had never trod before. That part of the country is intirely abandoned to wild beasts, with which it prodigiously abounds. We were indeed in a terrible cafe, having neither light, food, or arms, and expecting a tyger to rush from behind every tree. The stars were clouded, and we had no compass, to form a judgment which way we were going. Had things continued thus, we had probably perished; but it pleased God, no beast came near us; and, after some hours perplexity, the moon arose, and pointed out the eastern quarter. It appeared then, as we had expected, that instead of drawing nearer to the sea-fide, we had been penetrating into the country;

but -but, by the guidance of the moon, we at length came to the water-side, a considerable distance from the ship. We got safe on board, without any other inconvenience than what we suffered from fear and fatigue.

Those, and many other deliverances, Were all, at that time, entirely lost upon me. The admonitions -of conscience, which, from successive repulses, had grown weaker and weaker, at length entirely ceased; and, for a space of many months, if not for some years,' I cannot recollect, that I had a single check of that sort. At times I have been visited with sickness, and have believed myself near to death; but I had not the least concern about the consequences. In a word, I seemed to have every mark of final impenitence and rejection; neither judgments nor mercies made the least impression on me.

At

At length, our business finished, we left Gape Lopez, and, . after a few days stay at the island of Amabona, to lay in provisions,- we. sailed homewards, about the beginning of January 1748. From Armalona to England, without touching at any intermediate port,. is a . very long navigation, perhaps: more than seven thousand miles, if we inciude the- circuits necessary to be made on. account of the tradewinds. We sailed-first westward,. till near the coast of Brazil, then northward, to- the banks of Newfoundland, with the usual variations of wind and weather, and without meeting any thing extraordinary. On these banks. we stopped. half a day to fish. for cpd; this was then chiefly for diversion; we had provisions . enough, and little expected those fish (as it afterwards proved) would be all we should have to subsist on. We left the banks March 1, with a hard gale of wind;

westerly,. westerly, which pushed us fast homewards; I should here observe, that with the length of this voyage, in a. hot climate, the vessel was greatly out of repair,- and. very unfit to support stormy weather: the. sails and cordage were likewise very. much worn out, and many such circumstances concurred', to render what followed more dangerous. I think it was on the ninth of March, the day before our catastrophe* that I felt a thought pass-. through my mind,. which t had long been a stranger to. Among the few books we. had on board,. one was Stanhope's Thomas a Kemr pis :. I carelessly took it up, as I had often done before, to pass- away the time; but. I had still read it. with' the same inT difference, as if it was entirely a romance, However,. while I was reading this time, an involuntary suggestion arose. in my mind, What if these things mould be true? I could not bear the force of the inference,

as-.

as it related to myself, and therefore shut the book presently. My conscience witnessed against me once more, and I concluded, that, true or false, I must abide the consequences of my own choice. I put an abrupt end to these reflections, by joining in with some vain conversation or other that came in my way.

But now the Lord's time was come, and the conviction, I was so unwilling; to receive, was deeply impressed upon me, by an awful dispensation. I went to bed that night in my usual security and indifference, but was awaked from a sound sleep by the force of a violent sea, which broke on board us. So much of it came down below, as filled the cabin I day in with water. This alarm was followed by a cry from the deck, that the ship was going down, or sinking. As soon as I could recover myself, I essayed to go upon deck,. but was met upon the ladder by the Cap

tain, who desired me to bring a knife with me. While I returned for the knife, another person went up in my room, who was instantly warned overboard. We had no leisure to lament him, nor did we expect to survive him long for we soon found the ship was filling with water very fast. The-sea had torn away the upper timbers, on one side, and made a mere wreck in a few minutes. I shall not affect to describe this disaster in the marine dialect, which would be understood by few; and, therefore, I can give you but a very inadequate idea of it. Taken in all circumstances, -it was astonishing, and almost miraculous, that any of us survived to relate the-story. We had immediate recourse to the pumps, but the water increased against our efforts: some of us were set to bailing in another part of the vessel, that is, to lade it out with buckets andjpails. We had but eleven or twelve

people people to sustain this service; and notwithstanding all we could do, she was full, or very near it; and then, with a common cargo, Ihe must have funk of course *. but we had a great quantity of bees-wax and y/ood on board, which were specifically lighter than the water; and as it pleased God, that we received this shock in the very crisis of the gale, towards morning we were enabled to employ some means for our safety, which succeeded beyond hope. In about an hour's time, the day began to break, and the wind abated. We expended most of our cloaths and bedding to stop the leaks, (though the weather was exceeding cold, especially to us, who had so lately left a hot climate), over these we nailed pieces of boards, and at last perceived the water abate. At the beginning of this hurry, I was little affected; I pumped hard, and endeavoured to animate myself and my companions: panions: I told one of them, that in a few days this distress would serve us to talk of over a glass of wine: but he, being a less hardened sinner than myself, rer plied withtears, *' No, it is too late now." About nine o'clock, being almost spent with cold and labour, I went to speak with the Captain, who -was busied elsewhere, and just as I was returning from him, I said, almost without any meaning, '** If this will net do, the Lord have mercy '** upon us." This, (though spoken with little reflection) was the first desire I had breathed for mercy for the space of many years. I was instantly struck with my -own words, and as Jehu said once, What hast thou to do with peace? so it directly -occurred, What mercy can there be for me? I was obliged to return to the pump, and .there I continued till noon, almost every iparling wave breaking over my head; .but we made ourselves fast with ropes,

.that that we might not be washed away. Indeed, I expected, that every time the vessel descended in the sea, she would rise no more -, and though I dreaded death now, and my heart foreboded the worst, if the scriptures, which I had long since opposed, were indeed true; yet still I was but. half convinced, and remained for a space of time in a sullen frame, a mixture of despair and impatience. I thought, if the Christian religion was true, I could not be forgiven ; and was therefore expecting,' and almost, at times, wishing to know the worst of it.

I am, Sir,

Yours.

January 19, 1763.

LETTER