THE following fragmentary account of my course through life I desire to pen to the glory of my Lord and Saviour, of whose loving patience and condescension to me through the whole of my life I might write very much, for His grace has been boundless. An apoplectic seizure on the morning of the first day of this year warns me more seriously than anything I have hitherto experienced, that my last hour is drawing near, and may come very suddenly. How wonderful it will be when this life is past, fully to understand all the wise leadings of the Lord, concerning many of which I have now to say, "I know in part."
I was born in New Laitzen in Livonia, on the 10th of March, 1807, my parents being engaged in the diaspora service of the Brethren's Church, in which they continued active for forty years. They had a family of seven children, of whom, however, more than four were never together, although none died before attaining the age of thirty years. My eldest brother departed this life in the West Indies, my youngest in Livonia, the former 49, the latter 31 years of age, without ever having met in their life-time. Our house was called "Birchwood", and was a retired spot in which we had scarcely any intercourse with neighbours. During the absence of my parents on their frequent journeys to visit their scattered flock, an aunt took charge of us, whose kind care I regret to think we rewarded with too little affection. My first impressions of an omnipresent God, and a Saviour, who loves children, I trace distinctly to the Bible stories which my mother told us, and which fixed themselves indelibly on my memory, so that all subsequent indifference and light-mindedness could never efface them. The family devotions conducted by my father were also not without effect on my mind, but the services in the chapel, (which was four or five miles distant, so that I could rarely get there), were quite thrown away upon me, as I was so filled with fear at the presence of so many strange persons, that I could not pay attention to what was said. I was a happy, cheerful child, greatly given to creating castles in the air, a tendency which has not quite left me even in advanced years. Connected with this there was a strong inclination to light- mindedness, and who can tell how sadly this might have led me astray, had not my heavenly Father graciously provided a corrective in a somewhat anxious, timid disposition, and an occasional love of solitude. Self-will too was sometimes a source of trouble to me, and I well remember my dear mother once leaving me after an exhibition of naughty stubbornness, and going to a distant part of the house, where after a long search, I found her on her knees, weeping. I thought at once she was shedding tears on my account, and went away unobserved, my self-will broken, and crying bitterly for my sin. If my mother had kept a diary, that day's page would have contained a record of an immediate answer to prayer. /476/
The war of 1812 left us undisturbed; once only did the sound of a soldiers' song reach our secluded dwelling; but we did what we could to prepare lint for use in the Russian hospitals, earnestly hoping that Napoleon and his Frenchmen might never derive any benefit from our not very successful labours.In the year 1813 my parents took me to school in Germany. Our company on the journey numbered eleven persons, some other children having joined us, and we travelled the whole way in two vechiles. The great numbers of soldiers on the march along the main-road induced us to take the less frequented ones, which were often in wretched condition, so that we were six weeks in reaching Nisky in Lusatia, where I at once entered the school.My lessons cost me a good deal of trouble, but I was generally satisfied with just so much application as sufficed to keep me free from punishment, deluding myself with the idea that my learning was more for the teacher's satisfaction than my own eventual and lasting benefit. I retain a grateful and affectionate recollection of almost all my teachers, some of whom had the gift of inspiring us with a love of study; but I found it impossible in later years of my school-life to make up for the short-comings of the former period. Of spiritual life I cannot record an increase during those years, but the early impressions were continually freshened and renewed, especially on the festivals, which were rarely devoid of real blessing for my soul.In 1820 I was at my own wish bound apprentice to a caarpenter, little thinking how I was therewith taking the best course towards the fulfilment of what had often been my heart's wish, namely, one day to become a missionary to the heathen. My health being far from good, I found the labour and discipline hard, so that my difficulties often drove me to seek the Lord in earnest prayer, and I now see that it was a good school for me, especially as kindly and encouraging words were not wanting on the part of those, who were my superiors.
Two years afterwards I was confirmed, and have ever afterwards been thankful for the store of Scripture-texts I then acquired, and for all the religious instruction I received. My heart was touched, but I was as yet far from thoroughly knowing either my own worthlessness, or my Saviour's sufficiency. In the same year I was able to be present at the Jubilee of the Congregation at Herrnhut, and was deeply impressed with the Lord's marvellous goodness to our little Church, and the privilege I enjoyed of being a member of this section of the Christian Church.In 1826, my brother was called to the service of the mission in the West Indies, and the thought arose in my mind, but only to be dismissed at once, whether I should ever share in this work. My time was very fully occupied, yet had I at that time looked forward to a future service in the Missions, I think I should have found means of improving myself in various ways, and I have often regretted the lost hours which might have been usefully devoted to preparation for work in the Lord's vineyard. Two years later I had the inexpressible pleasure of welcoming my dear parents again, after a separation of fourteen years, and of enjoying their society for a few weeks. Soon /477/ after their return to Livonia I went to reside at Herrnhut, and here for the first time since my earliest years I had the pleasure of associating with a near relative, my sister, who had been brought to Germany with me, but had always resided at a different place.I had the oversight of the youths, and found the duties of the office pleasant, and profitable to myself, in as far as they brought me into more frequent and close connection with the Labourer of our choir, Br. Nielsen, whose counsel in spiritual things I found most useful. He had more than once asked me if I had any wish to serve our Saviour in any portion of His vineyard, but thinking of many things that I would do to render myself more worthy of the calling, and not remembering that the Lord can fit His weakest servants for the work to which He appoints them, I generally replied, that I must first be greatly changed, before I could become a missionary.About Christmas, 1830, after spending an evening in earnest confidential conversation with Br. Nielsen, I was startled by his handing me a letter in the name of the Unity's Elders' Conference, in which he said I should find a call to service in the Missions. Taking the letter with trembling hands, I could scarcely read it for the streaming tears that gushed forth. It contained a call to the service of the Mission in Labrador, a field in which I had taken a great interest from my childhood, and especially during the few weeks previous to this time, having been much struck with the intelligence that a new station was to be commenced to the north of Okak. The difficulties connected with building operations of any kind in such a country as Labrador occupied my thoughts very much, but it had never entered my mind that I might be called upon to cope with them. These thoughts occurred to me again, as I read the letter of the Unity's Elders' Conference, but the calling of a Missionary seemed so high and so sacred, that I hesitated to take upon myself the weighty resonsibility. Numerous considerations seemed to urge me to decline the call, but I felt I could not do so without some clear intimation from the Lord to this effect. I spent a sleepless night in earnest prayer for His guidance, and on opening my Bible the next morning my eyes rested first of all on the following text: "My sons, be not now negligent, for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that ye should minister unto Him, and burn incense." 2 Chron.xxix. 11. The last doubt disappeared, and in cheerful confidence that our Saviour would be with me and supply all my need, I accepted the appointment.Although well assured that the high and holy calling of a Missionary could not in itself make me better than I was, and that I should take all my faults and failings with me to Labrador, still I could not quite get rid of the thought, that when once out in the mission-field the prevailing mighty missionary-spirit would have a wonderful effect in casting out the old leaven, and thoroughly renewing me in the inner man. Experience taught me that I was mistaken, and that in forming such hopes and anticipations I had been expecting too much from men, and too little from the Lord. The close connection of several families living under one roof and having a common housekeeping had many advantages, and was attended with /478/ blessing, but it afforded many a proof, that servants of the Lord, though regenerate and sanctified by grace, are still not pure and sinless. Though my parents never expected to see me again on earth, they cheerfully gave their sanction to my appointment, and I left Herrnhut in April, 1831. The separation from beloved relatives and friends, to whom I had become warmly attached, was even more painful than I had anticipated, and I felt with shame that I was still far from being ready and willing, cheerfully to give up all for the Lord's sake. But our Saviour was very gracious, and cheered and comforted me in a wonderful manner, while I tasted the bitterness of parting from what my heart closely clung to.In ten days I reached Altona, and crossed thence by steamer to London, where I spent three busy weeks. A second ship laden with building materials for Hebron accompanied the Harmony this year, and both ships got under weigh on the 21st of May, our company of Missionaries numbering seven persons, quite as many as could at all be accommodated in the limited room of the vessel. She was the second ship called the Harmony, and this was her last voyage to Labrador, her successor being already in course of erection at Yarmouth, where we remained for a few days, before proceeding to the Orkney Islands. The wind was unfavourable, and three long weeks elapsed before we reached Stromness, and enjoyed in the view of the bleak rocky islands a foretaste of the scenery in the midst of which our future home was to be. Here we spent four days very pleasantly, meeting with a hearty welcome on all hands; the captain and crew were all natives of these islands, and seemed to have much pleasure in introducing us to their homes and families. We were thankful to become acquainted with some sincere followers of our Saviour. The journey was continued under unfavourable circumstances, the wind being frequently contrary, and the weather very cold. On the 13th of July, drawing near to the coast of Labrador, we encountered banks of dense fog and indications of the approach of ice-fields, which obliged us to lay to. When the fog broke and dispersed, we had the most magnificent view of fields and mountains of ice of every possible size and form, glittering in the sun with dazzling brightness and great variety of colour, slowly moving with a mighty murmuring sound on a sea as smooth as glass,-a splendid picture of destruction on the most grandest scale. Fog soon closed us in again, and for a fortnight, we were unable to make any progress, during which time we had only once an opportunity of getting a view of the land, which appeared quite near at hand. On the 28th of July, a favourable wind sprung up and dispersed the fog, and we soon made for the land with all sails set. Before night Hebron Bay was reached, near one of the most wild and rugged spots on the coast, where the mountains rise to an elevation of 4000 to 5000 feet. Close to the beach was a little patch of green, on which we soon discovered the temporary mission-house, with the smoke curling out of the chimney, the whole scene in the bright sunshine making a far more favourable impression on me than I had expected. Our second ship had come in contact with an ice-field, which had /479/broken a considerable hole into her side just on the water-line, and in spite of all the exertions of the crew at the pumps, she was evidently sinking. If this had happened a few hours earlier, she would have been lost with all her valuable cargo; with our assistance she could now be brought to the place of anchorage and there repaired. The next day the Harmony left to continue her voyage down the coast, and I set to work in my new calling with this striking text for the day: "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God," (Luke ix.62); an earnest warning indeed to put my whole heart in the work to which I was called. Besides plenty of occupation as carpenter at the new station, which consisted only of a house with bare walls, I had to apply myself to the task of learning the language, on which I had hitherto very foolishly scarcely bestowed a thought, imagining that it would be time enough for this, when Labrador was reached. First, there was a tolerably bulky dictionary to be copied, and as much as possible of it committed to memory; then a grammar to be mastered in the same manner, both of them proving but poor helps in learning a difficult language, even with the aid of Br. Kruth, who had been out in Labrador for a year already before my arrival. In spite of perservering study after many a hard day's work I found my progress very slow, and felt discouraged. It would have been better to converse more with the Eskimoes, but during the first year my daily work made it impossible for me to have much intercourse with them. At the beginning of my second year, however, I was able to deliver my first address to the natives, and was truly thankful to the Lord for His aid and assistance. Subsequently I was much troubled with the prospect of having no materials for the many addresses which I should have to deliver, if my stay in Labrador should be lengthy, but I always found my fears groundless, and God's Word a rich fountain of precious truths, which was ever opened up to me, when I needed it. Often, when preparing a discourse, I have been astonished at discovering new depths in God's precious Word, and have been richly blessed in my own heart, though frequently deeply humiliated. The expense of building the station at Hebron was so heavy, that it seemed at one time, as if it would be too much for the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen to bear, and I felt sorely troubled at the pecuniary difficulties of the Society until in 1836 more favourable tidings reached us. In the following year the church at Hebron opened with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. I felt very thankful for the privilege which I had enjoyed of taking a large share in the labour connected with the erection of this station, in the coldest and most dreary and desolate spot of all those which our missionaries occupy. During the years of my stay here, the Lord's great faithfulness to me continued unchanged, and I experienced the truth of His word in Rev.iii.19: "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." The late Br. Stobwasser writing of his experience as missionary in the West Indies, says, that "it often seemed as though he had been sent there, not so much for the sake of the negroes as for his own, that he might be made thoroughly acquainted with his own evil heart;" and I may truly say the same /480/of myself, but the result in my case has not been what it should have been, for where the Lord bestows knowledge there should be more fruit forthcoming to His honour than any I could point to. In the year 1839 I was called to pay a visit in Europe, and leaving Labrador on the 22nd of September, reached London in 22 days, after a very short and pleasant passage. I cannot describe the delightful impression which the beautiful well-cultivated English coast, and the mild climate even at that advanced time of year made upon me, after the dreary wilds and the cold climate of Labrador, to which I had become accustomed. After a stay of some days here, I continued my journey to Herrnhut, where I arrived on the 17th of December after many long delays in consequence of the illness of my fellow-travellers. The love and kindness which I was here permitted to enjoy in rich measure deeply touched my heart.In the depth of a severe Russian winter I paid a visit to my dear parents in Livonia, which was a most unexpected pleasure to me. Returning thence in March 1840, I was married to Sr. Sophia Sparmeier, the daughter of a Missionary in the West Indies, who has for 24 years proved a most valuable helpmate and co-labourer in the Lord's work. In a few days we proceeded to London, and after a long voyage across the ocean landed at Hopedale, the most southerly of our mission stations on the coast of Labrador, whence we soon reached Hebron. Here we remained upwards of a year, during which time our Saviour tried us with a variety of painful experiences, which proved a salutary school for us. Here our first child was born, and departed again from this world after a short life of only seven weeks.In the year 1842 we were called to Okak, and travelled thither by sledge on the 1st of April, the thermometer indicating a cold of 55 degrees. The weather was favourable, the road in good condition, so that our dogs brought us along at a rapid pace, and we accomplished the distance of 75 miles in 14 hours. Here we were soon quite at home with our Brethren and Sisters, and continued to live in harmony during the eight years of our residence here. The one great difficulty which had been a strong objection to my acceptance of the appointment was, that the duty of attending to the store and the barter-trade, would devolve upon me, and I had no inclination whatever for occupation of this kind. Feeling, however, that this less pleasant mode of working was needful and most useful to the missionary cause in this country, the main expenses of the mission being defrayed by the profits of the barter-trade, not to mention many important benefits accruing to the natives from it, I entered cheerfully on the duties of the post, seeking for the Lord's guidance and assistance. In this position our Saviour revealed to me in a special manner and degree his wondrous patience with me, and this taught me to be patient and forbearing with others. I had an admirable opportunity of becoming well acquainted with the Eskimoes, and especially with the unfavourable features of their character, which few Arctic travellers will have failed to notice. They are generally far from trustworthy and upright, and ingratitude of the worst kind is very commonly met even on the part of those whom you have treated /481/ with every kindness in time of need, such being often ready to repay you with hard words and most unfriendly behaviour. How often should I have become full of bitter feelings towards such persons, had not our Saviour constantly reminded me of my own sinful conduct, a continuous chain of unfaithfulness, halfheartedness and ingratitude, compared with which the sin of my fellow-men seemed insignificant. The result was, that I learnt to love these poor people more heartily than before, and to sympathize with them, especially during the seasons of famine, which occurred in those years. In the year 1850 I was appointed to the post of superintendent of the Labrador Mission, and went to reside at Nain. The weight of responsibility devolving upon me made me shrink from accepting the position at first, but the Lord taught me to say: "Thy will be done!" and gave me grace to look to Him as a child for the supply of gifts which was requisite for the efficient fulfilment of my new engagements. Here too our Saviour had much to teach me, and it was often a painful thing to learn lessons of humility and patience. It was a particularly trying experience to see occasionally a whole family withdraw from connection with us, for that was equivalent to cutting themselves off from all the means of grace, and running into the worst temptations to gross sins; I knew that the Good Shepherd could follow his straying sheep in the wilderness, but the thought that those who had charge of the flock could not be free from blame with reference to their leaving us was saddening and humiliating. These wanderers with few exceptions returned to the mission station, and in many instances it was to be observed that their absence had taught them the value of their privileges here. The Apostle Paul's words to the elders at Ephesus: "Remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears," (Acts xx. 31) often occured to my mind with overwhelming power, and with an example of such unwearied faithfulness before me, and the rememberance of my own shortcomings, I could only say; "Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant." Times of difficulty as to externals occurred during our stay at Nain, seasons when famine or epidemic disease made its appearance, and proved fatal to many in our little community. In the year 1853 a trial of a peculiar and painful character affected us and most of the other missionary families on the coast; this was the failure of the Harmony to reach any of the stations except Hopedale. The long and anxious suspense, until we heard that the dear little vessel was not lost, was more trying than the absence of various desirable articles of consumption, which we were obliged to do without for that year; but we had abundant reason to praise the Lord for the provision He made for us in our time of need. In the year 1858, the state of my health rendering a visit to Europe very desirable, we left Hebron on the 25th of September, taking charge of five children, who were being sent home for their education. The return-journey of the Harmony is generally considerably shorter than the voyage out, owing to the north-west winds, which often blow steadily in autumn; it seldom lasts more than three or four weeks. Our voyage lasted no less than 71 days, and was a /482/ time of much care and anxiety. Storm after storm, threatening destruction to the little vessel and doing much damage, drove us back from the Irish coast as often as we approached it, and for more than four weeks before we landed, the supply of provisions began seriously to fail. On the voyage out it seems that the captain had granted the crew a considerable degree of license, and they had disposed of the provisions in a careless manner, and now many articles were quite exhausted, and the crew grumbled at having nothing more than ship's biscuits and tea to live on. With the greatest economy we managed to make a few articles brought with us from Labrador go a long way for the dear children, but when these were finished we were all reduced to the same fare as the sailors. My wife and myself suffered considerably from the privation, and the anxiety on behalf of the children, but they remained bright and cheerful, and often turned our weeping into rejoicing. At length a favourable wind was granted, and we reached London on the 5th of December, where we received a mighty and abiding impression of the multitude of Christian friends, whose loving interest and earnest prayers accompany our Labrador ship out and home.After a pleasant and refreshing visit among our friends we returned to Labrador in the following year, prepared to spend the rest of our lives in the solitude of that dreary land in the midst of the work to which we had become very much attached. We had a long voyage, and just entered Hopedale Bay in time to escape the drift ice, on which the day after our arrival covered the sea as far as the eye could reach, filling every bay and inlet, so that there was for some days no possibility of proceeding. Subsequently my strength of mind and body again failed considerably, and I am thankful to our Saviour that He has sent me serious warnings of the near approach of my end, to loosen my hold on what is of the earth, and make me better fitted for the enjoyment of heaven. Looking back on my life, I see innumerable shortcomings, and instances of unfaithfulness, and feel that I have indeed been an unprofitable servant. But I bless God for the lively assurance that my Saviour has pardoned all my sins. May He maintain this happy assurance even unto the end. Into His hands I commend my spirit, and to the care of the ever faithful and merciful Saviour I commit all those who are near and dear to me. [After taking great interest in the establishment of the new station at Zoar, assisting with his advice in the difficult matter of selecting a suitable locality in Takpangayok Bay, our late brother found himself gradually becoming unable to fulfil the duties of his position, and resigned his office in the spring of the year 1867. For the last time before leaving the field of labour, in which he had spent 36 years of his life, he addressed the Eskimo congregations at Okak and Hebron, but his strength was almost exhausted when the Harmony reached London on the 16th of September, after a return voyage of unprecedented rapidity. He then became rapidly weaker, and departed this life. on the morning of the 18th, having reached the age of 60 years and five months.]