Memoir of the Rev. George Smith



by his Son, William Bramwell Smith.

(The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, January 1833)

My father laboured in the Isle of Portland, and in various parts of Dorsetshire, for the space of two years and a half, viz., from November, 1791, until the latter end of April, 1794. He was then summoned to another part of the Lord's vineyard. I shall give the account in his own words:--

"Some of the men who had heard us preach in Poole, and afterwards sailed to Newfoundland, spoke of our proceedings with approbation to Mr. Stretton, a gentleman of Harbour-de-Grace, who wrote to Mr. Brackenbury a pressing letter, to come over, or send them a Preacher, as soon as possible. Mr. Brackenbury communicated the letter to me; and as I found a strong desire to go, which Dr. Coke, to whom Mr. Brackenbury also imparted the letter soon afterwards in London, powerfully enforced, I went out in one of the merchant ships which sailed from Poole in the spring; and Mr. Kemp, the owner, kindly gave me a passage. We sailed, with several others, on May 1st, 1794; and soon joined the great /8/ fleet, which we fell in with below the Needles: but before we sailed several friends came down in boats to the vessel, lying without the bar; when, after prayer, and preaching with much liberty from 2 Corinthians xiii. 11, 'Finally, brethren, farewell,' &c., we took an affectionate leave of each other."

For two or three weeks the ship in which my father sailed kept in sight of the fleet; and during the whole of that time the weather was remarkably fine. No sooner had this fleet left them, than another hove in sight, which they at first judged to be an enemy. But great was their joy on finding that it was an English squadron, commanded by Lord Howe; which obtained a signal victory over the French fleet on the 1st of June following. Before they reached the place of their destination they were overtaken by a heavy storm, and were at last compelled, so great was its force, to lash the helm to the side of the ship, and let her drive before the wind. About midnight a tremendous sea broke over them, pouring furiously into the cabin; and they were ready to think that they were all going down. My father states that his mind was kept in peace, and quite resigned to the Lord's will. He prayed with those of the crew that were below, who seemed alarmed for their safety.

On the next day the storm abated; and very shortly afterwards they arrived at the desired haven. Several persons came out a little way to salute them, and to inquire particularly about the expected Preacher. My father consented to his praying morning and evening on the passage. On the Lord's day he preached, and once or twice during the week. His time, he observes, was chiefly spent in reading the Scriptures. My father mentions of two persons who had preached the Gospel in Newfoundland before his arrival. One of them was a Minister in the Methodist Connexion; but at this period he had "desisted from travelling." A pious Dissenting Minister, the Rev. Mr. Jones, was settled at St. John's; and with him my father afterwards became very intimate.

My father entered on his new field of service under very discouraging circumstances; but these he has not detailed in his own account. His labours were not confined to one or two places. He went into several small coves on the coast where there were a few settlers, and preached the word to them with success. In these places he continued about a year and a half. He then went northward, as far as Green's Pond. There, as well as at Trinity-Bay and Bonavista, he formed small societies. His manner of living was generally hard, and he had no prospect of supplies from England. "To remedy this inconvenience," he observes, "as well as to have it in my power to relieve the necessities of the poor, which were very urgent in the cold season, I resolved to return to England, to obtain ordination from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the President of the Society for propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts; being recommended by the friends at Bonavista, who, with the Magistrate at the head of them, had signed their names to a certificate of my good /9/ behaviour; and who entreated the Archbishop to ordain me Pastor to that Church. The annual stipend was £70; from which, as well as from my letters of ordination, I expected (if the Lord should please to favour my design) to derive singular advantages, not for my own sake, but the cause of Christ, and the precious souls for whose sakes I went thither. But as another party at Bonavista were jealous of my returning to that place, vested with any authority to suppress their unholy proceedings, they drew up a counter-petition, signed by many hands, many of them professed Papists, to prevent my ordination. It had been presented to his Grace when I applied to him; and it served as a sufficient reason to deny my request; though Mr. Wilberforce had kindly interposed, writing both to him and the Bishop of London on the subject. I had cause to see and adore the hand of God in overruling the affair, to my present disappointment indeed, but assuredly to my greater usefulness in his vineyard: as it is probable that, had I succeeded, I should have been confined the residue of my days to a comparatively small scene of action."

My father was exposed to a severe storm on his return to England. He and his companions seem to have been in most imminent danger, but were preserved from death by the Ruler of the winds and waves. After visiting his friends at Poole, he proceeded to Loughborough, to see his honoured friend Mr. Brackenbury. Previous to this period Mr. Brackenbury had given up the societies formed by them in Dorsetshire, to the Itinerant Preachers. From Loughborough my father went to London, where he remained three months, labouring successfully as a Preacher under the direction of the Rev. Adam Clarke. He afterwards supplied the place of a Preacher in the Portsmouth Circuit, till the ensuing Conference. Here, too, he laboured with great zeal and diligence, preaching frequently in the open air to very numerous congregations; and thereby drawing many persons to the chapel, where he preached immediately afterwards. In this place he passed through very severe and trying exercises of mind, which he does not particularize: he acknowledges, however, the great goodness of God, in not permitting him to be quite overwhelmed by them.

At the following Conference Mr. W. Thoresby was appointed to Newfoundland. He earnestly entreated that my father might accompany him; and, as this request was approved by the brethren, he consented. They sailed from Poole, and arrived at the place of their destination, after a pleasant voyage. My father's box, which was sent after him, and which contained clothes and books of considerable value, fell into the hands of the French, the vessel in which it was sent being captured by them. He and his fellow-labourer were kindly received by the friends at Carbonear. He thankfully acknowledges the favours he received from them and others, who both on this and on his former visit "used hospitality without grudging." Mr. Thoresby remained in Conception-Bay, whilst my father took an early opportunity of going northward. "I sailed from St. John's," he writes, "in a boat, in the month of Novem /10/ ber; and as we were out on the open sea, with wet and stormy weather whole nights, and had no bed or covering, and no food but dried fish, I took a very violent cold: the sailors also, who were tired of the voyage, thought good to put in at Bonavista, for which I was very glad. I was no sooner on shore, than I found myself obliged to take to my bed, in a poor tilt belonging to two poor men, where I lay about a month, seldom rising to have my bed made; and where I must have left the earthly tabernacle, had it not been for the care of the Magistrate and the Apothecary, who both kindly and liberally ministered to my necessities. The latter gentleman, Mr. Mayne, sent me some bottles of port wine when I began to recover, which was a great means, under God, of recruiting my strength." I then began to teach the children to read, who were altogether destitute of any helps of that kind; and many of them in rags, without shoes or stockings. As I tenderly commiserated their forlorn condition, I sold some of my books in exchange for clothing; which, with what I begged from others for the purpose, served to relieve their present wants."

In the month of March, my father, in company with three other persons, passed through the woods from Bonavista to Trinity. They reached it on the second day, having spent the night in a tilt, constructed by some Irishmen that were engaged in catching seals. Here my father remained a week or ten days, preaching the word, and collecting the little scattered flock which he had formerly been instrumental in gathering. He and his part returned by the same route; but on the second day a heavy storm of snow came on, so that, in pursuing their journey through the woods, they quite missed their way. Whilst thus bewildered, they discerned the track of a band of wolves, which did not fail to heighten their uneasiness. With very great difficulty they retraced their steps to the tilt which they had left. On the next day they set out again, and arrived safely at Bonavista. At this place my father stayed until the month of May following. The cause which hastened his departure for England, was the state of destitution into which he was brought, through not receiving supplies from England. He had written to acquaint Dr. Clarke of his situation; but the letter never came to hand; so that when the vessels returned in the spring he was left without any resources. Indeed he was obliged, on his departure, to leave his books, and some of his clothes, in a friend's hands, wherewith to discharge the debts he had been compelled to contract.

The following extract will suitably close the account of his labours in Newfoundland:--"I would observe, to the praise of the God of my life and of all my mercies, that, in the discharge of my ministerial duties, I found the same gracious assistance and divine animation which I had experienced on my former visit to that poor, and in some sense not-desired land. I had reason to believe that through the blessing of God several souls were converted at Bonavista; and the children whom I taught gratuitously, appeared to be very hopeful. Their parents /11/ endeavoured to requite my kindness by bringing rafts of wood, which they cut and squared on the other side of the cove, on slids over the ice, with the intention of erecting a chapel in the spring, if I had received, as I expected, remittances from England.

"I cannot omit to mention the kindness which I received from Mr. Anderson, (a merchant at Harbour-de-Grace, who gave me two guineas towards defraying the expense of my return to England,) and John Goss, Esq., who franked my passage to Lisbon. The voyage to that port was very pleasant, especially up to Tagus, it being the time of harvest.

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