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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 20/144 -
'J. C. P.'
The Mission party intended to sail immediately after Christmas in the 'Southern Cross,' the schooner which was being built at Blackwall for voyages among the Melanesian isles. In expectation of this, Patteson went up to London in the beginning of December, when the admirable crayon likeness was taken by Mr. Richmond, an engraving from which is here given. He then took his last leave of his uncle, and of the cousins who had been so dear to him ever since the old days of daily meeting in childhood; and Miss Neill, then a permanent invalid, notes down: 'On December 13, I had the happiness of receiving the Holy Communion from dear Coley Patteson, and the following morning I parted from him, as I fear, for ever. God bless and prosper him, and guard him in all the dangers he will encounter!' He wrote thus soon after his return:--
'Feniton: December 22, 1854.
'My dear Miss Neill,--I began a note to you a day or two ago, but I could not go on with it, for I have had so very much to do in church and out of it, parochializing, writing sermons, &c. It makes some little difference in point of time whether I am living here or at Alfington, and so the walking about from one house to another is not so convenient for writing letters as for thinking over sermons.
'I need not tell you what a real happiness and comfort it is to me to have been with you again and to have talked so long with you, and most of all to have received the Communion with you. It is a blessed thought that no interval of space or time can interrupt that Communion of the Spirit, and that we are one in Him, though working in different corners of the Lord's field.
'I want to look you out a little book or two; and Fanny has told you that if ever my picture is photographed, I have particularly desired them to send you a copy with my love. Your cross I have now round my neck, and I shall always wear it; it will hang there with a locket containing locks of hair of my dear Father and Mother, the girls, and Jem.
'You will be glad to hear that they all seem cheerful and hearty. Fan is not well, but I do not see that she is depressed or unhappy. In fact, the terrible events of the war prove a lesson to all, and they feel, I suppose, that it might be far worse, and that so long as I am doing my duty, there is no cause for sorrow.
'Still there will be seasons of loneliness and sadness, and it seems to me as if it always was so in the case of all the people of whom we read in the Bible. Our Lord distinctly taught His disciples to expect it to be so, and even experienced this sorrow of heart Himself, filling up the full measure of His cup of bitterness. So I don't learn that I ought exactly to wish it to be otherwise, so much is said in the Bible about being made partaker of His, sufferings, only I pray that it may please God to bear me up in the midst of it. I must repeat that your example is constantly before me, as a witness to the power that God gives of enduring pain and sickness. It is indeed, and great comfort it gives me. He is not indeed keeping you still in the world without giving you a work to do, and enabling you from your bed of sickness to influence strongly a circle of friends.
'God bless you for all your kindness to me, and watchfulness over me as a child, for your daily thought of me and prayers for me, and may He grant that I may wear your precious gift not only on but in my heart.
'Always your very affectionate
'J. C. PATTESON.
'P.S.--I do not expect to sail for three weeks; this morning I had a line about the ship, and they say that she cannot be ready for a fortnight.'
On Christmas-day, he was presented with a Bible subscribed for by the whole Alfington population. Here is a sentence from his letter of acknowledgment:--
'If these poor needy souls can, from love to a fellow creature whom they have known but a few months, deny themselves their very crumb of bread to show their affection, what should be our conduct to Him from whom we have received all things, and to whom we owe our life, strength, and all that we possess?'
The farewell service was said by one of these poor old people to be like a great funeral. Sexagesima Sunday was Sir John's sixty-sixth birthday, and it was spent in expectation that it would be the last of the whole party at home, for on the Monday Sir John was obliged to go to London for a meeting of the Judicial Committee. The two notes his son wrote during his absence are, perhaps to prove good spirits, full of the delights of skating, which were afforded by the exceptionally severe frost of February 1855, which came opportunely to regale with this favourite pastime one who would never tread on solid ice again. He wrote with zest of the large merry party of cousins skating together, of the dismay of the old housekeeper when he skimmed her in a chair over the ice, sighing out, in her terror, 'My dear man, don't ye go so fast,' with all manner of endearing expressions--of the little boys to whom he threw nuts to be scrambled for, and of his own plunge through the thinner ice, when, regardless of drenched garments, he went on with the sport to the last, and came home with clothes frozen as stiff as a board.
He was not gone when his father and brother came home on the twenty- sixth, prepared to go with him to Southampton.
The note to his cousin Arthur written at this time thus ends: 'We worked together once at Dresden. Whatever we have acquired in the way of accomplishments, languages, love of art and music, everything brings us into contact with somebody, and gives us the power of influencing them for good, and all to the glory of God.'
Many were touched when, on the first Sunday in Lent, as Sir John Patteson was wont to assist in Church by reading the Lessons, it fell to him to pronounce the blessing of God upon the patriarch for his willing surrender of his son.
After all, the 'Southern Cross' was detected in leaking again, and as she was so small that the Mission party would have been most inconveniently crowded for so long a voyage, the Bishop was at length persuaded to relinquish his intention of sailing in her, and passages were taken for himself, Mrs. Selwyn, Mr. Patteson, and another clergyman, in the 'Duke of Portland,' which did not sail till the end of March, when Patteson was to meet her at Gravesend.
Thus he did not depart till the 25th. 'I leave home this morning I may say, for it has struck midnight,' he wrote to Miss Neill. 'I bear with me to the world's end your cross, and the memory of one who is bearing with great and long-tried patience the cross that God has laid upon her.'
He chose to walk to the coach that would take him to join the railway at Cullompton. The last kisses were exchanged at the door, and the sisters watched him out of sight, then saw that their father was not standing with them. They consulted for a moment, and then one of them silently looked into his sitting room, and saw him with his little Bible, and their hearts were comforted concerning him. After that family prayers were never read without a clause for Missionaries, 'especially the absent member of this family.'
He went up to his brother's chambers in London, whence a note was sent home the next day to his father:--
'I write one line to-night to tell you that I am, thank God, calm and even cheerful. I stayed a few minutes in the churchyard after I left you, picked a few primrose buds from dear mamma's grave, and then walked on.
'At intervals I felt a return of strong violent emotion, but I soon became calm; I read most of the way up, and felt surprised that I could master my own feelings so much.
'How much I owe to the cheerful calm composure which you all showed this morning! I know it must have cost you all a great effort. It spared me a great one.'
On the 27th the brothers went on board the 'Duke of Portland,' and surveyed the cabins, looking in at the wild scene of confusion sure to be presented by an emigrant ship on the last day in harbour. A long letter, with a minute description of the ship and the arrangements ends with: 'I have every blessing and comfort. Not one is wanting. I am not in any excitement, I think, certainly I do not believe myself to be in such a state as to involve a reaction of feeling. Of course if I am seedy at sea for a few days I shall feel low-spirited also most likely, and miss you all more in consequence. But that does not go below the surface. Beneath is calm tranquil peace of mind.'
On the 28th the two brothers joined the large number of friends who went down with the Mission party, among them Mr. Edward Coleridge.
Parting notes were written from on board to all the most beloved; to little Paulina, of bright hopes, to Miss Neill of her cross; to Arthur the German greeting, 'Lebe wohl, doch nicht auf Ewigkeit,'--to Mr. Justice Coleridge:--
'March 28, 1855.
'My dear Uncle,--One line more to thank you for all your love and to pray for the blessing of God upon you and yours now and for ever.
'We sail to-day. Such letters from home, full of calm, patient, cheerful resignation to his will. Wonderfully has God supported us through this trial. My kind love to Arthur. Always, my dear Uncle, Your affectionate, grateful Nephew,
'JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON.'
Perhaps the frame of mind in which Coley left England can best be gathered from the following extract from a letter to his father from his uncle Edward:--
'While on board I had a good deal of quiet talk with him, and was fully confirmed by his manner and words, of that which I did not doubt before, that the surrender of self, which he has made, has been put into his heart by God's Holy Spirit, and that all his impulses for good are based on the firm foundation of trust in God, and a due appreciation of his mortal, as well as professional condition. I
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