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- God's Answers - 6/28 -
The great lifework of Miss Macpherson and her devoted family may be said to have begun this year. The need of emigration may be expressed in her own words:--
"Boys came to us for shelter instead of going to empty barrels, railway arches, and stairways. We found they were grateful for all that was done for them. The simple gospel lesson was our lever to lift them into new thoughts and desires. The sharp dividing knife of the Word of God would discover the thief and liar, and rouse the conscience to confession more than anything beside. But our walls had limits, and our failures in finding employment for many away from their old haunts became a great difficulty, and the God-opened way of emigration to Canada was pressed upon us."
"Thy God hath commanded thy strength." To the astonishment of many, Miss Macpherson expressed her determination to pioneer the first band, and He Who of old sent forth His disciples two and two, was mindful of the present need, and so strengthened the heart of a young sister (already deeply interested in the work, and singularly gifted in many ways) to lay all at the feet of her Master, and to offer to share whatever toils and trials might be in the way. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." It was a new way, an "untrodden way."
We have now been for many years so accustomed to hear of the kind welcome given in Canada, and the prosperity of the young emigrants, that we cannot realise the faith and courage required by Miss Macpherson, and her co-worker, Miss Bilbrough. Many misgivings arose in the hearts of some at the thought of these two sisters in the Lord arriving uninvited in a new land where neither owned a friend, and, greatest of all, fears were entertained that those who had known the wild roaming life of city Arabs might defy the control and authority of the leaders. But how vain were all these fears! Wisdom had been asked of the Lord in every step of the way, and He had given "liberally," according to His gracious word. How blessedly was the title of Counsellor as well as Leader and Commander of His people then fulfilled! The following description of the departure of the first party was written at the time:--
"Our souls are in God's mighty hand, We're precious in His sight."
These words, sweet and true at all times, surely never sounded sweeter than when sung by the band of young emigrants gathered for the last time within the walls of the Refuge, which to many of them is hallowed as no other spot on earth can ever be. _How_ precious in His sight, none can tell but He who watched over those young wanderers, and surrounded them with the loving care and prayers which still follow them to a distant land.
The beloved helpers at a distance, who have toiled, and collected, and borne to a throne of grace the burdens of their beloved sister in the Lord, Miss Macpherson, will like to know every detail, even to the outward appearance of those once ragged, shoeless wanderers. Now they stood in ranks ready to depart, dressed in rough blue jackets, corduroy suits, and strong boots, all made within the Refuge, the work of their own hands. All alike had scarlet comforters and Glengarry caps; a canvas bag across their shoulders contained a change of linen for the voyage, towels, tin can, bowl and mug, knife, fork, and spoon; and one kind friend, the last day before starting, brought them a present of a hundred strong pocket-knives. A Bible, a "Pilgrim's Progress," and a little case of stationery, were provided for each, and while they stood thus indoors, singing their last farewell, a dense crowd filled the street without, having waited for hours in the pouring rain. It was with difficulty the police could keep struck with the sight of the boys, all remarking that they had never seen more intelligent countenances, and one observed, after hearing something of their history, "This is real religion."
Liverpool was reached at 4 A.M., and all went at once on board the "Peruvian." Then came a trial of patience,--they had to wait some hours for breakfast,--but restraining grace was so manifest throughout, that one's heart was continually lifted up in praise and thanksgiving for this mercy as well as for countless others, and most especially for the loving-kindness of the Lord in strengthening and supporting His beloved servants at the time of parting.
From want of space, it appeared impossible, (as far as could be judged from the first day's experience), to gather all the boys together, but even amid the difficulties attending first going on board, Miss Macpherson succeeded in holding a little service with a portion of them. Some of the passengers and crew gathered round; all were remembered in her supplications, and a deep solemnity rested on all. Then she called on those boys who knew what it was to draw near with assurance to the throne of grace to ask for blessing, and, with her undaunted energy, exhorted them not to be afraid to speak for Jesus. Prayer was followed by the oft-repeated hymn,--
"There is a better world, they say, Oh, so bright!"
The tender brought on board a band of Christian friends, who once more thronged around her, till the parting signal was given, and then the last sounds heard on leaving were, "Yes, we part, but not for ever," and "Shall we gather at the river?"
The following note of cheer quickly arrived, to the joy of many anxious hearts and the praise of a prayer-hearing God:--
"On Board the 'Peruvian,' off the Coast of Ireland, May 13, 1870.
"MY DEAR SISTERS,--Fearing lest in your anxiety for us you may have imagined a rough night for the first, I send a few lines to assure you that all is love, even to the smallest details. Each rolling wave reminds me of that word in the Epistle of James, 'Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.' Many a faithful prayer has ascended for a prosperous voyage; prosperity of soul is often realised by being kept in the lowest place, and when my boys told me how ill some of them had been in the night, and how they had, notwithstanding, held little prayer-meetings, crying to Jesus in the midst of what to them seemed a storm, I rejoiced. Thus trial sends us to Jesus, the Captain of our salvation.
"With the exception of two, all are on deck now, as bright as larks; they have carried up poor Jack Frost, and Franks, the runner. It is most touching to see them wrap them up in their rugs. Michael Finn, the Shoreditch shoeblack, was up all night caring for the sick boys; he carries them up the ladder on his back. Poor Mike! he and I have exchanged nods at the Eastern Counties Railway corner these five years; it is a great joy to give him such a chance in life. Oh, to win his soul to look to Jesus for everlasting life!"
The following extract will tell the answer to the many prayers by which Miss Macpherson was upheld, and how assuredly it was the Lord who had guided her way across the pathless deep:--
"Mr. Stafford, the agent at Quebec, would willingly have kept the hundred boys there, but we only left him eleven, and brought the rest on to Montreal; and there too they were anxious to keep them, and said if it were made known, in three days we should not have one remaining. As it was, we left twenty-three, and all in excellent situations. Some of the best were picked out, numbers of them as house-servants. Then we left eight at Belleville, half way between Montreal and Toronto." These boys were left in charge of Mr. Leslie Thom, who had acted as schoolmaster at the Home of Industry, and whose help was invaluable on arrival in the new country.
Miss Macpherson's youngest sister, Mrs. Birt, thus writes concerning the departure of the second family, so readily sent out in answer to the invitations of dear friends in Canada:--
"I am sure our dear friends will feel exceedingly pleased and gratified to hear that the departure of our second band of boys for Canada this year, under the care of Mr. Merry, took place on the 21st of July, leaving our hearts filled to overflowing with thankfulness and praise for the very marked way in which the Lord has led us on step by step.
"Little did we think, a month ago, that it would be possible in so short a time to select, teach, and outfit seventy boys, and to soften their manners, even if we had the necessary money for their expenses. But the Lord has most wonderfully brought it all about in His own way. The money was sent, boys anxiously in search of employment came beseeching help, the needful work for their outfits was accomplished in far less than the usual time by faithful widows, who sewed away as diligently as though each had been making garments for her own son. An active, earnest, clever teacher was also provided by the Lord, to give to these rescued ones that punctual and diligent, daily attention that seemed to us so important. Even the postponement of their sailing from the 14th inst. to the 21st inst. was overruled for good; Mr. Merry was enabled to become more personally acquainted with each, and we know that 'the good seed of the Word' was sown in many hearts, we trust to bear fruit. On reaching the ship, we were told that our band would have the benefit of a place set apart for themselves, whereas, had they sailed the previous week, they would have been crowded up with other emigrants. After three days' rest we return, the Lord willing, to the Refuge, to select and prepare a band of young girls. Our sister Miss Macpherson writes to us that she has been besought most earnestly by the Canadian ladies to send them out some little English maids; and that they promise to watch over them and care for them as if they were their own."
After the arrival of Mr. Merry in Canada with the second party of boys, Miss Macpherson returned to England and wrote as follows:--
"My BELOVED FELLOW-LABOURERS,--You will be surprised to hear that, after a pleasant voyage, with renewed health, I am again in my privileged place of service in the East of London. My song of praise is very full. The Council of the county of Hastings has given me a house capable of holding 200, free of all expenses, situated in the town of Belleville, Ontario, leaving the management in my hands, entirely untrammelled by conditions. Thus a work of faith is now commenced on Canadian shores, where our little street wanderers can at once be sent and trained under our own schoolmaster, Mr. Leslie Thom. My friend Miss Bilbrough, assisted by the Christian ladies of the town, has undertaken to furnish this Distributing Home in readiness for Mr. Merry's arrival. There all will undergo a training, and will be kept till suitable situations are appointed for them."
After remaining a short time in England, Miss Macpherson, accompanied by her sister, Mrs. Birt, returned to Canada with the third party of young emigrants, numbering over a hundred.
The following is an extract from Mrs. Birt's first letter after their arrival:--
"In my memory are associated two scenes connected with the pretty park in which the Distributing Home is situated, scenes that can never be forgotten; first, the long procession of the tired and weary
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