THE CURACY AT ALFINGTON. 1853-1855.
Preparation for ordination had become Patteson's immediate object. As has been already said, his work was marked out. There was a hamlet of the parish of Ottery St. Mary, at a considerable distance from the church and town, and named Alfington.
Some time previously, the family of Sir John Kennaway had provided the place with a school, which afterwards passed into the hands of Mr. Justice Coleridge, who, in 1849, there built the small church of St. James, with parsonage, school, and house, on a rising ground overlooking the valley of Honiton, almost immediately opposite to Feniton; and, at the same time, took on himself the expenses of the curacy and school, for the vicar of the parish, the Rev. Dr. Cornish, formerly master of Ottery School.
The first curate of Alfington was Judge Coleridge's son Henry, the well-known author of the beautiful Life of St. Francis Xavier. On his leaving our communion, it was his father's wish that Coleridge Patteson should take the cure; and, until his ordination, it was committed temporarily to other hands, in especial to the Rev. Henry Gardiner, who was much beloved there. In the spring of 1853, he had a long and dangerous illness, when Coley came to nurse him, and became so much attached to him, that his influence and unconscious training became of great importance. The church was served by such clerical friends as could give their assistance on Sunday, and the pastoral care, attention to the school, cottage visiting, &c., became the employment of the candidate for Holy Orders, who thus began his work under the direction of his disabled friend.
A letter to his sister shows how he plunged into the drudgery of the parish, doing that which always cost him most, namely, administering rebukes; so that it was no wonder that he wrote with a sort of elation at having lashed himself up to the point of giving a thorough warning:--
'Feniton: July 19, 1853.
'My dearest Fan,--I am going to Thorverton to-day to stay till Thursday. Gardiner came downstairs on Sunday, and again yesterday, and is making very rapid strides towards perfect recovery. He even went out yesterday for a few minutes. So I don't mind leaving him in the least; and indeed he is going to Sidmouth himself, probably at the end of the week. I have seen him every day without one exception, and have learnt a very great deal from him. He has studied very closely school work, condition of the labourer, boys' homes, best method of dispensing charity, &c., and on all these points his advice has been really invaluable. I feel now that I am quite to all intents working the district. People ask me about their children coming to school. I know almost all the people in the village, and a good many out of it, and begin to understand, in a very small way, what a clergyman's life is. A mixture of sorrow and pleasure indeed! There are many very sad cases of hypocrisy, filthiness, and wickedness (as I suppose there are in every district); and yesterday I had a very hard-working and in one case most painful day.
'Some people had asked me to take their boy, three years and a half old, to school--a wretched pair, with a little savage for a son. I said I would speak to Miss Wilkins, and put plainly before her the character of parents and child. However, she wished to have him, and I knew it was so far well to get the boy away from home. But such a scene ensued! The boy was really like a little savage; kicked, dashed his head against the wall, and at length, with his nose bleeding violently, exhausted with his violence, fell asleep. Next day, he is so bad, he is sent home; when the mother drives him back to school, cursing and swearing, telling Miss Wilkins she may kill him if she pleases! Unluckily, I was not in school.
'Yesterday he was in school and more quiet, but did not kneel down at prayers, and seemed like a little beast beginning to be tamed. So, after school, I called him to me, and putting him before my knees asked him some questions very kindly: "Did he know who God was? Had he never been taught to kneel down and say his prayers? Of course he had not, but it gave me the proper opportunity of speaking to his parents. So having now considered the matter for two or three days previously, having ascertained all the facts about the people, after an hour among some others in the village, I went right into their cottage, and luckily found father and mother and grandmother at home, besides one or two more (who are lodgers) in a room adjoining, with the door open. "I am come to talk to you about William," I began, whereupon I saw the woman turn quite red. However, I spoke for about ten minutes slowly and very quietly, without any appearance (as I believe) of anger or passion at all, but yet speaking my mind quite plainly. "I had no idea any child could be so neglected. Did they suppose the school was a place where any parent might send a child merely to get it out of the way (of course they do, you know, most of them)? Was it possible that a child could be made good as if by magic there, when it learns nothing but wicked words at home? Do you think you can or ought to get rid of the duties you owe your child? Do you suppose that God will not require from you an account of the way you have behaved towards him, you who have never taught him to know who God is, what God is, what is prayer, what is the church, who have taught that little mouth, which God created for praise and blessings, to curse and blaspheme? I know that many children do and say wicked things, but it is in most cases owing to the neglect of their parents, who do not speak kindly to their children, and do what they can to keep them out of temptation, but this is a different case. Your boy is not fit to come into the company of little Christians! Awful as it is to think of, he is already, at his early age, the very dread of the parents who live near you."
'They had not a word to say, not a syllable beyond the objection which I had already met, that other children were bad too. I did not say what I might have said with truth, because it is only from Gardiner's report, not from my own knowledge--viz., that neither father nor mother ever come to church, and that their house is the centre of evil to the young people of the village.
'"Now," I said, in conclusion, "I fully meant to send back your boy, and tell you I would examine him six months hence, to see if he was fit to be brought into the school, but as I do trust he may behave better, and that this may be the means of recovering him from this sad state, I shall take him still, unless he behaves again very badly. But remember this--this is the turning point in the boy's life, and all, humanly speaking, depends on the example you set him. What an awful thing it would be, if it pleased God to take him away from you now, and a fit of measles, scarlatina, or any such illness, may do it any day! Remember that you are responsible to a very great extent for your child; that unless it sees you watchful over your thoughts, words, and actions; unless it sees you regular and devout in prayer at home (I don't believe they ever think of such a thing-- God forgive me, if I am wrong); unless it sees you habitually in your place in God's house, you are not doing your duty to yourselves or your child, you are not laying up any hope or comfort whatever for the day of your sickness and death. Now I hope you clearly understand me. I have spoken plainly--exactly what I think, and what I mean to act upon. You know now the sort of person you have to deal with. Good morning,"--and thereupon I marched out, amazed at my own pluck, and heartily glad that I had said what I wished, and felt I ought to say.
'But I need hardly tell you that this left me in a state of no slight excitement, and that I should be much comforted by hearing what you and Father and Joan think of my behaviour.
'Meanwhile, there are some very nice people; I dearly love some of the boys and girls; and I do pray that this plan of a boys' home may save some from contamination. I, seated with Sanders last night, found him and his wife very hearty about it. I have only mentioned it to three people, but I rather wish it to be talked about a little now, that they may be curious, &c., to know exactly what I mean to do. The two cottages, with plenty of room for the Fley's family and eight boys, with half an acre of garden at £11. 5s. the year. I shall of course begin with only one or two boys--the thing may not answer at all; but everyone, Gardiner, several farmers, and two or three others, quite poor, in different places, all say it must work well, with God's blessing. I do not really wish to be scheming away, working a favourite hobby, &c., but I do believe this to be absolutely essential. The profligacy and impurity of the poor is beyond all belief. Every mother of a family answers (I mean every honest respectable mother of a family): "Oh sir, God will bless such a work, and it is for want of this that so much misery and wretchedness abound." I believe that for a year or so it will exhaust most of my money, but then it is one of the best uses to which I can apply it; for my theory is, that help and assistance is wanted in this way, and I would wish to make most of these things self-supporting. Half an acre more of garden, thoroughly well worked, will yield an astonishing return, and I look to Mary as a person of really economical habits. It is a great relief to have poured all this out. It is no easy task that I am preparing for myself. I know that I fully expect to be very much disappointed, but I am determined to try it. I am determined to try and make the people see that I am not going to give way to everybody that asks; but that I am going to set on foot and help on all useful industrial schemes of every kind, for people of every age. I am hard at work, studying spade husbandry, inspectors' reports of industrial schools, &c. I am glad you are all so happy. I am so busy. Best love to all.
'J. C. P.'
Coley was thus already serving a vigorous apprenticeship in pastoral work, while preparing himself for receiving deacon's orders. It was a trying time both to his family and himself, for, as before said, his standard was very high, and his own strong habit of self- contemplation made his dissatisfaction with himself manifest in his manner to those nearest to him. He was always gentle and unselfish; not showing temper, but unhappiness.
Here are letters showing a good deal of his state of mind: the first only dated 'Saturday evening,' but evidently written about this time, in reply to the cautions with which his sister had replied to the above letter of eager plans of improvement.
'My dearest Fan,--Your letter has just reached me from Honiton, and I have read it with very great interest. I liked it better on a second perusal of it, which showed in itself that I wanted it, for it is quite true that I require to be reminded of the only true principle upon which one ought to work; and I allow quite willingly that I trace interested motives--e.g., love of self-approval or applause in actions where such feelings ought least of all to enter. I certainly did feel pleased with myself for speaking plainly to those people, and I often find myself indulging the notion that I am going to be a very hard-working clergyman, with a remedy for all the evils of the age, &c. If I was to hunt about for an excuse, I might perhaps find one, by saying that I am in that state of mind which attends always, I suppose, the anticipation of any great crisis in a person's life; sometimes hard work and hard thought, sometimes (though alas! very seldom) a real sense of the very awful responsibility of ministering in the Church, sometimes a less natural urging of the mind to contemplate and realise this responsibility. I was for some time reading Wilberforce's new book, and this involved an examination of the question in other writers; but lately I have laid all controversial works aside almost entirely, and have been reading Pearson, Bull, and the Apostolical Fathers, Clement and Ignatius. I shall probably read Justin Martyr's Apologies, and some treatises of Tertullian before next month is over. I have read some part already. There is such a very strong practical element in these very early writings that they ought to soothe and calm the mind; but I cannot honestly conceal the fact that the theological interest for the most part outweighs the practical teaching.
'My light reading is of a new and very amusing and interesting character--viz., books on school economy, management of school farms, allotments, the modern dairy, spade husbandry, agricultural chemistry. K, W, F, C, and G, and I have great talks; and as they all agree with me, I think them capital judges.
'I don't think at all that my present state of mind is quite natural. You quite repeat my own words when you say it is transitory. A calm undisturbed spirit of prayer and peace and contentment is a great gift of God, and to be waited for with patience. The motto of "The Christian Year" is very beautiful. I sent the roses on Tuesday. My best love to dear Father and Joan.
'Ever your loving Brother,
'J. C. P.'
These words 'love of self-approval' perfectly analysed that snare of Coley's early life, against which he so endeavoured to guard--not self-conceit, but love of self-approval.
So the Easter week drew on, and during it he writes to his cousin:--
'Friday, Wallis Lodgings, Exeter: September, 1853.
'My dear Sophy,--We have had a good examination, I think; perhaps rather harder than I expected. Woolecombe and Chancellor Harrington spoke to me this morning, thanking me for my papers, and telling me to read the Gospel at the Ordination.
'I did feel very nervous last Sunday and Monday, and the Ember Prayer in the morning (when I was at Ottery) fairly upset me, but I don't think anybody saw it; now, I am thankful to say, I am very well, and feel thoroughly happy. I shall be nervous, no doubt, on Sunday, and especially at reading the Gospel, but not I think so nervous as to break down or do anything foolish; so when you know I am reading--for you won't hear me, if you are in the stalls, don't distress yourself about me.
'I can't tell what it was that upset me so on Sunday and Monday-- thinking of dear Mamma and how she had wished for this, the overwhelming kindness of everybody about me, dear Father's simple words of very affectionate comfort and advice.
'But I walked into Exeter, and on the way got quite calm, and so I have been ever since. It is not strange that the realising the near approach of what I have for years wished for, and looked forward to, should at times come upon me with such force that I seem scarcely master of myself; but it is only excitement of feeling, and ought, I know, to be repressed, not for a moment to be entertained as a test of one's religious state, being by no means a desirable thing. I am very glad the examination is over. I did not worry myself about it, but it was rather hard work, and now I have my time to myself for quiet thought and meditation.
'Ever, dear Sophy, your affectionate Cousin,
'J. C. PATTESON.'
The next evening he writes:--
'Saturday, 5.45 P.M.
'My dearest Father,--I must write my last letter as a layman to you. I can't tell you the hundredth part of the thoughts that have been passing through my mind this week. There has been no return of the excitement that I experienced last Sunday and Monday, and I have been very happy and well.
'To-day my eyes are not comfortable, from I know not what cause, but as all the work for them is over, it does not matter so much. I am glad to have had a quiet time for reflection. Indeed, I do not enough realise my great unworthiness and sinfulness, and the awful nature of the work I am undertaking. I pray God very earnestly for the great grace of humility, which I so sadly need: and for a spirit of earnest prayer, that I may be preserved from putting trust in myself, and may know and forget myself in my office and work. I never could be fit for such work, I know that, and yet I am very thankful that the time for it has come. I do not feel excited, yet I am somewhat nervous because it requires an effort to meditate steadily. I have thought so much of my early life, of dearest Mamma. What a snare it seems, so full of transitory earthly plans and pursuits; such a want of earnestness of purpose and steady performance of duty! God grant my life as a clergyman may be more innocent to myself, and more useful to others! Tell dear Joan the gown came this morning. My kind love to her, Fan, and Jem.
'Ever, my dearest Father,
'Your affectionate and dutiful Son,
'J. C. PATTESON.'
On the ensuing day, Sunday, September 14, 1853, John Coleridge Patteson received the Diaconate at the hands of the venerable Bishop Phillpotts, in Exeter Cathedral. His being selected to read the Gospel was the proof of his superiority in the examination--no wonder, considering the two additional years that he had spent in preparation, and the deep study and searchings of heart of the last few months.
He was established in a small house at Alfington--the usual habitation of the Curate. And of his first sermon there, his uncle, Sir John Coleridge, gives the following touching description from his diary:--
'October 23, 1853.--Yesterday morning Arthur and I went to Alfington Church, to be present at Coley's first sermon. I don't know when I have been so much delighted and affected. His manner of saying the prayers was exceedingly good: his voice very sweet and musical; without seeming loud, it was fully audible, and gave assurance of more power if needed: his manner quite unaffected, but sweet and devout. His sermon was a very sound and good one, beautifully delivered; perhaps in the early parts, from the very sweetness of his voice, and the very rapid delivery of his words, a little more variety of intonation would have helped in conveying his meaning more distinctly to those who formed the bulk of his congregation. But when he came to personal parts this was not needed. He made a kind allusion to me, very affecting to me; and when I was in this mood, and he came to the personal parts, touching himself and his new congregation, what he knew he ought to be to them and to do for them, what they should do for themselves, and earnestly besought their prayers, I was completely overcome, and weeping profusely.
Fanny Patteson and Arthur Coleridge were sitting with the Judge, and were equally overcome. When the service was over, and the congregation dispersed, Coley joined these three in the porch, holding out his hands, taking theirs and shedding tears, and they with him--tears of warm emotion too deep for words. He was evidently surprised at the effect produced. In fact, on looking at the sermon, it does not seem to have been in itself remarkable, but as his cousin Arthur says: 'I suppose the deep spirituality of the man, and the love we bore him for years, touched the emotional part of us.' The text was significant: 'We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake' (2 Cor. iv. 5).
The services that the newly-ordained Deacon undertook were the ordinary Sunday ones, and Wednesday and Friday Matins and Litany, Saints'-day prayers and lecture, and an Advent and Lent Evensong and lecture on Wednesdays and Fridays. These last had that great popularity which attends late services. Dr. Cornish used to come on one Sunday in the month to celebrate the Holy Communion (which is given weekly in the mother Church); and when Mr. Grardiner was able to be at Sidmouth, recovering from his illness, he used to come over on the second Sunday in the month for the same purpose; and the next Lent, the Matins were daily, and followed by a lecture.
At this time Patteson's constitutional shrinking from general society was in full force, and he also had that dislike to 'speaking to' people in the way of censure, which so often goes with tender and refined natures, however strong; so that if his housekeeper needed a reproof, he would make his sister administer it, and creep out of reach himself; but this was one of the deficiencies with which he was struggling all his life, and fortunately it is a fact that the most effective lectures usually come from those to whom they cost the most.
This was the hardest part of his ministry. Where kindness and attention were needed, nothing could be more spontaneous, sweet, or winning than his ways. One of his parishioners, a farmer's daughter, writes:--
'Our personal knowledge of him began some months before his Ordination, owing, I suppose, to Mr. Gardiner's severe illness; and as he was very much respected, Mr. Patteson's attentions won from the first our admiration and gratitude, which went on and on until it deepened into that love which I do not think could have been surpassed by the Galatians for their beloved St. Paul, which he records in his Epistle to them (chap. iv. 15). All were waiting for him at his Ordination, and a happy delusion seemed to have come over the minds of most, if not all, that he was as completely ours as if he had been ordained expressly for us.'
It was not his own feeling, for he knew that when his apprenticeship should be past, the place was too small, and the work too easy, for a man in full force and vigour, though for the sake of his father he was glad to accept it for the present, to train himself in the work, and to have full time for study; but he at that time looked to remaining in England during his father's lifetime, and perhaps transferring himself to Manchester, Liverpool, London, or some large city, where there was need of mission work among the neglected.
His father was on the City of London Charter Commission, and was in London from November to February, the daughters joining him there, but there was no lack of friends around Alfington. Indeed it was in the midst of an absolute clan of Coleridges, and in Buckerell parish, at Deerpark, that great old soldier, Lord Seaton, was spending the few years that passed between his Commissioner-ship in the Ionian Isles and his Commandership in Ireland.
He was connected with the Coleridges through the Yonge family, and the young people were all on familiar cousinly terms. Coley was much liked by him; and often joined in the rides through the lanes and to the hills with him and his daughters, when there were many conversations of much interest, as there could not fail to be with a man who had never held a government without doing his utmost to promote God's work in the Church and for education; who had, moreover, strong opinions derived from experience of the Red Indians in Upper Canada--namely, that to reclaim the young, and educate them was the only hope of making Christianity take root in any fresh nation.
It was at Deerpark, at a dinner in the late autumn of this year 1853, that I saw Coley Patteson for the second and last time. I had seen him before in a visit of three days that I made at Feniton with my parents in the September of 1844, when he was an Eton boy, full of high spirits and merriment. I remember then, on the Sunday, that he and I accompanied our two fathers on a walk to the afternoon service at Ottery, and that on the way he began to show something of his inner self, and talked of his mother and her pleasure in Feniton; but it began to rain, and I stayed for the night at Heaths Court, so that our acquaintance ceased for that time. It was not a formal party at Deerpark, and the evening was chiefly spent in playing at games, thread paper verses and the like, in which Coley took his part with spirit. If I had guessed what he was to be, I should have observed him more; but though, in after years, our intercourse in letters makes us feel intimate with one another, these two brief meetings comprise the whole of my personal acquaintance with one in whom I then only saw a young clergyman with his heart in his work.
Perhaps this is the best place to mention his personal appearance, as the portrait at the beginning of this volume was taken not more than a year later.
He was tall and of a large powerful frame, broad in the chest and shoulders, and with small neat hands and feet, with more of sheer muscular strength and power of endurance than of healthiness, so that though seldom breaking down and capable of undergoing a great deal of fatigue and exertion, he was often slightly ailing, and was very sensitive to cold. His complexion was very dark, and there was a strongly marked line between the cheeks and mouth, the corners of which drooped when at rest, so that it was a countenance peculiarly difficult to photograph successfully. The most striking feature was his eyes, which were of a very dark clear blue, full of an unusually deep earnest, and so to speak, inward, yet far away expression. His smile was remarkably bright, sweet and affectionate, like a gleam of sunshine, and was one element of his great attractiveness. So was his voice, which had the rich full sweetness inherited from his mother's family, and which always excited a winning influence over the hearers. Thus, though not a handsome man, he was more than commonly engaging, exciting the warmest affection in all who were concerned with him, and giving in return an immense amount of interest and sympathy, which only became intensified to old friends while it expanded towards new ones. Here is a letter to his father, undated, but written not long after his settling down at Alfington. After expressing his regret that his voice had been inaudible to his sister Joanna at a Friday evening service, he proceeds:--
'I did not speak very loud, because I don't think I could do so and at the same time keep my mind at work and thoughts collected. Anything which is so unnatural and unusual as to make me conscious of myself in a peculiar manner would prevent, I fear, my getting on with my oration at all.
'I am glad you think I could not have acted otherwise with E---. I quite expect ere long to find something going on which may call for my interference, and I specially guarded myself on this point. It is distinctly understood that I shall speak to him quite plainly whenever and wherever I think it necessary to do so. I do not suppose it very likely that he can go on long without my being forced to take some step; but I really feel so very unequal to expressing a decided opinion upon the great question of Bible readers, that I am certainly glad I have not taken up a hostile position hastily. As a matter of fact, he reads in very few cottages in my district; tracts he distributes almost everywhere.
'Now I see of course the distinction between a man making it his business to read the Bible and neighbours dropping in occasionally to read a chapter to one who is unable to read, but where you are distinctly told that the wish is most decidedly to support the clergyman, and answers not unsatisfactory are given upon main points, what difference remains between the two cases I have put that can furnish matter for fair argument, with a man from education, &c., disposed to take a different view of the whole question? Add to this, that I cannot appeal to the universal practice of the clergy. "Why," might it be said, "do you, as a clergyman find a difficulty where Mr. H. finds none? You are, after all, acting on your own private opinion, though you lay claim to authority for it." I cannot successfully appeal to the distinctive teaching of our Church, clear and manifest as it is, for the very words I think conclusive contain no such evidence for him, and so on ad infinitum. Besides, to speak quite what I feel at present, though only so perhaps because my view is necessarily unformed, the natural order of things in such a district as this seems to be: gain the affections of the people by gentleness and showing real interest in their welfare, spiritual and temporal; show them in the Bible such teaching as the Church considers necessary (but not as yet upon the authority of the Church, or at least not so expressed to them); lead them gradually to the acknowledgment of such truths as these: that Christ did found a society called the Church, and appoint to certain persons whom he sent the Ministry of reconciliation; that if we have no guide but mere opinion, there will be thousands of conflicting opinions in the world even among good men, whereas Truth can be but one, and that practically this is found to be so; that it is no argument to say, that the Spirit so operated as to enlighten the reason of each individual to this extent, viz., that it may compose a Creed for him or herself; that the Spirit acts now in the ordinary, though not less real and heavenly manner; and that the infinite divisions among sectaries proves the fact to be as I state it.
'Thus I imagine the want of that external and visible Church will be felt as necessary to fix the Creeds pasa katadike.
'But to reverse this process, to cram positive teaching down their throats upon the authority of the Church before they know what the Church is, or feel the need of any power outside (so to speak) their own minds to guide them, does seem to me in a place like this (humanly speaking) suicidal. I cannot, of course, tell how much preparatory teaching they have received, but I must judge from what I see and hear, and deal accordingly in each cottage. Some few there are to whom I can speak, as to Church people in the real sense of the word, but these are as two or three in a hundred.
'One line to say whether you think me right or wrong, would be a great comfort to me. I feel no tendency to latitudinarianism, but only to see much good in systems unrecognised by your very highflyers. I believe that the Church teaching is represented in an unfavourable, often offensive, light to many of our poor, because they hear words and see things which find no response in their hearts; because they are told, ordered almost, to believe things the propriety of believing which they do not recognise; because the existence of wants is implied when they have never been felt, and a system for supplying them introduced which finds no room in the understanding or affections of the patient.
'But you know, dear Father, what I mean, without more dusky attempts at explaining myself.
'Do not many High Churchmen want a little more "experimental religion" in Bishop Jebb's sense of the terms: not a religion of the feelings, but a religion brought home to the heart, and truly felt so as to prohibit any systematic criticism of the feelings?
'I am late this week with my sermons, I have not begun either of them, and may have one to-morrow evening if my voice will do its part. I write very long washy concerns, and find it difficult to do otherwise, for it is a good pull upon me week after week, and latterly I have not been able to read very much. I shall look out two or three that I think fair specimens, and ask you by-and-by to run your eye over them, that you may point out the defects.
'My ignorance of the Bible astonishes me, though not so much as it ought to do. I purpose, D.V., to commence a thorough study of the original texts. I must try to become something of a scholar, at all events, to make any progress in the work. I sometimes hope that, in spite of my many backslidings and broken resolutions, some move is taking place within, where most it is wanted; but I live here so quietly, that I have little (comparatively) food for some special faults. Good-bye, my dear Father,
'Your affectionate and dutiful Son,
'J. C. P.'
'Some move taking place within!' It is impossible not to pause and observe how as Confirmation and Communion had almost palpably strengthened the boy's struggles with his inherent faults, so the grace conferred with the Deacon's orders is now felt to be lifting him higher, and enabling him to see further than he has yet seen.
Sermons were, however, never Patteson's forte. Though his pen flowed so freely in letters, and he could pour out his heart extemporaneously with great depth, fervour and simplicity, his sermons were laboured and metaphysical, as if he had taken too much pains with them as it were, and he could not speak to the abstract, as he could to the individual, or when he saw the effect of his words. It was perhaps owing to the defective system which threw two sermons a week upon a young deacon at a time when his mind was working through such an experimental course of study and thought. Yet his people, who had learnt to believe in little but preaching, would not have come to prayers alone; and the extemporary addresses, in which he would probably have been much more successful, would have seemed to him at his age and at that period--twenty years back--too presumptuous to be attempted, at any rate till he had better learnt his ground. How his system would have succeeded, we cannot tell. The nature of the peasantry of the county he had to deal with is, to be quick-witted, argumentative, and ready of retort; open to religious impressions, but with much of self-opinion and conceit, and not much reverence, and often less conscientious in matters of honesty and morality than denser rustics of less apparent piety. The Church had for a long-period been at a peculiarly low ebb in the county, and there is not a neighbourhood which has not traditions of incredibly ignorant, careless and underbred--if not dissipated-- clergy; and though there were grand exceptions, they were only respected as men; faith in the whole system, as a system, was destroyed. Bishop Phillpotts, coming down on such elements as these, was, in spite of his soundness of faith and grand trenchant force of character, better as a warrior than as a shepherd, and the controversial and political sides of his character, though invaluable to the Church, did not recommend him to the affections of the people of his diocese, who could not understand the points of the debate, and wanted the direct evidence of spirituality which they could appreciate.
The cholera of 1832 had been especially terrible in the unwholesome precincts of the Devonshire seaports, and the effect was a great craving for religion. The Church was in no condition to avail herself of it; in fact, she would have viewed it with distrust as excitement. Primitive Methodism and Plymouth Brethrenism supplied the void, gave opportunities of prayer, and gratified the quickened longing for devotion; and therewith arose that association of the Church with deadness and of Dissent with life, which infected even the most carefully tended villages, and with which Patteson was doing his best to contend at Alfington. The stage of gaining the people's affection and confidence, and of quickening their religious life, he had attained; and the further work of teaching them that the Church alone gives security of saving union with Christ, was yet to come when his inward call led him elsewhere.
On the 12th of December he says:--
'Yesterday was a very happy day; Gardiner came to help me and he administered the Holy Communion to twenty-seven or twenty-eight of my own people. This is nearly double the average before I came, and two regular attendants are prevented by sickness from being at Church. I trust I have not urged the necessity of communicating unwisely upon them. I preach on it once a month, as you know, and in almost every sermon allude to it, and where occasion offers, speak about it to individuals at home; but I try to put before them the great awfulness of it as well as the danger of neglecting it, and I warn them against coming without feeling really satisfied from what I read to them, and they read in the Bible concerning it. Six came yesterday for the first time.... Old William (seventy-five years of age), who has never been a communicant, volunteered on Thursday to come, if I thought it right. He is, and always has been (I am told), a thoroughly respectable, sober, industrious man, regular at Church once a day; and I went to his cottage with a ticket in my pocket to urge him to consider the danger of going on as if content with what he did and without striving to press onwards, &c. But, after a long conversation on other matters, he said; "I should like, Sir, to come to the Sacrament, if you have no objection;" and very happy and thankful I felt, for I had prayed very earnestly that this old man might be led thither by God's grace, and now it was done without any urging on my part, beyond what he heard in Church and what I had said to his daughter about him.'
The next of his letters is occupied with the pecuniary affairs of his lodging house for farm boys, and the obtaining of ground where they might grow vegetables for their own use.
In February his family returned home, and his sister Fanny thus speaks of him to a friend:--
'He does not look well; and at first we were quite uneasy, for his eyes were heavy and puffed, but he is much better, and confesses that dinners and evenings here do him good, though he quite denies the starving, and Mrs. Knowles also. She says he gets over anxious in mind, and was completely chilled the week he sat in the hall. No doubt his house is still both cold and damp, and the Church the same, and therefore the labour of reading and preaching is very great. We are by degrees interesting him in our winter life, having heard all his performances and plans; and he is very glad to have us back, though much too busy to have missed us when we were away. Now he has daily morning service, with a lecture; and if it lasts, the impression he has made is really extraordinary. We may well pray that he should not be vain of his works. There are men whose whole lives seem changed, if I am to believe what I hear.'
Such was the young Deacon's early success. With an affectionate brother close at hand, and friends within easy reach, his Fellowship preserving his connection with Oxford, his father's and brother's profession with London, in fact, all England could offer; and he would easily have it in his power to take fresh holidays on the Continent and enjoy those delights of scenery, architecture, art and music, which he loved with an appreciation and enthusiasm that could easily have become an absorbing passion. Who could have a smoother, easier, pleasanter career open to him than the Rev. John Coleridge Patteson at six and twenty?
Yet even then, the wish breathed to his mother, at fourteen, that he might devote himself to the cause of the heathen, lay deep in his heart; although for the present, he was, as it were, waiting to see what God would have him do, whether his duty to his father required him to remain at hand, or whether he might be called to minister in some great English manufacturing town.
Early in 1854, it became known that the Bishop of New Zealand and Mrs. Selwyn were about to spend a year in England. Coley's aspirations to mission work were renewed. The thoughts excited by the sermons he had heard at Eton twelve years previously grew in force. He remembered his mother's promise of her blessing, and seriously considered of offering himself to assist in the work in the Southern Hemisphere. He discussed the matter seriously with his friend, Mr. Gardiner, who was strongly of opinion that the scheme ought not to be entertained during his father's lifetime. He acquiesced; but if his heart and mind were convinced, his soul and spirit were not, and the yearnings for the forefront of the battle were not quenched, though there was no slackening of zeal over the present little flock, to make them suspect that he had a thought beyond.
Old ties of friendship already mentioned made the Bishop and Mrs. Selwyn promise to spend a few days at Feniton; and on the 19th of August the New Zealand guests arrived at Feniton. After joining in the family welcome, Coley went apart, and gave way to a great burst of tears, due, perhaps, not so mueh to disappointed ardour, as to the fervent emotion excited by the actual presence of a hero of the Church Militant, who had so long been the object of deep silent enthusiasm. The next morning, Coley walked from Alfington to breakfast at home, and afterwards went into the garden with the Bishop, who led him to talk freely of his present work in all its details. By-and-by the question arose, Did it satisfy him?
Yes, the being near his father satisfied him that it was right for the present, but at some future time, he hoped to do more, go perhaps to some great manufacturing town, or, as he could not help going on to say, what he should like would be to go out as a missionary, only the thought of his father withheld him.
'But,' replied the Bishop, 'if you think about doing a thing of that sort, it should not be put off till you are getting on in life. It should be done with your full strength and vigour.'
Then followed an endeavour on both sides to ascertain whether the inclination was a real earnest desire, or only fancy for the romance of mission work. The test might be whether he were willing to go wherever he might be sent, or only where he was most interested. Coley replied, that he was willing to work anywhere, adding that his sister Fanny could testify whether his desire were a real one of long standing or the mere outcome of a fit of enthusiasm.
Therewith they separated, and Coley, going straight to Fanny, told her what had passed: 'I could not help it,' he said:--'I told the Bishop of my wish.'
'You ought to put it to my father, that he may decide it,' she answered; 'he is so great a man that he ought not to be deprived of the crown of the sacrifice if he be willing to make it.'
So Coley repaired to his father, and confessed his long cherished wish, and how it had come forth to the Bishop. Sir John was manifestly startled; but at once said: 'You have done quite right to speak to me, and not to wait. It is my first impulse to say No, but that would be very selfish.'
Coley explained that he was 'driven to speak;' he declared himself not dissatisfied with his present position, nor he hoped, impatient. If his staying at home were decided upon, he would cheerfully work on there without disappointment or imagining his wishes thwarted. He would leave the decision entirely in the hands of his father and the Bishop.
Luncheon brought the whole family together; and Sir John, making room for his younger daughter beside him, said, 'Fan, did you know this about Coley?'
She answered that she had some idea, but no more could pass till the meal was ended; when her father went into another room, and she followed him. The great grief broke out in the exclamation: 'I can't let him go;' but even as the words were uttered, they were caught back, as it were, with--'God forbid I should stop him.'
The subject could not be pursued, for the Bishop was public property among the friends and neighbours, and the rest of the day was bestowed upon them. He preached on the Sunday at Alfington, where the people thronged to hear him, little thinking of the consequences of his visit.
Not till afterwards were the Bishop and the father alone together, when Sir John brought the subject forward. The Bishop has since said that what struck him most was the calm balancing of arguments, like a true Christian Judge. Sir John spoke of the great comfort he had in this son, cut off as he was by his infirmity from so much of society, and enjoying the young man's coming in to talk about his work. He dwelt on all with entire absence of excitement, and added: 'But there, what right have I to stand in his way? How do I know that I may live another year?'
And as the conversation ended, 'Mind!' he said; 'I give him wholly, not with any thought of seeing him again. I will not have him thinking he must come home again to see me.'
That resolution was the cause of much peace of mind to both father and son. After family prayers that Sunday night, when all the rest had gone upstairs, the Bishop detained the young man, and told him the result of the conversation, then added: 'Now, my dear Coley, having ascertained your own state of mind and having spoken at length to your father and your family, I can no longer hesitate, as far as you recognise any power to call on my part, to invite you most distinctly to the work.'
The reply was full acceptance.
Then taking his hand, the Bishop said, 'God bless you, my dear Coley! It is a great comfort to me to have you for a friend and companion.'
Such was the outward and such the inward vocation to the Deacon now within a month of the Priesthood. Was it not an evident call from Him by whom the whole Church is governed and sanctified? And surely the noble old man, who forced himself not to withhold 'his son, his firstborn son,' received his crown from Him who said: 'With blessing I will bless thee.'
And he wrote to his brother:--
'My dear old Jem,--I have news for you of an unexpected and startling kind; about myself: and I am afraid that it will cause you some pain to hear what I am to tell you. You must know that for years I have felt a strong leaning toward missionary work, and though my proceedings at Alfington and even the fact of going thither might seem to militate against such a notion, yet the feeling has been continually present to me, and constantly exercising an increasing influence over me. I trust I have not taken an enthusiastic or romantic view of things; my own firm hope and trust is that I have decided upon calm deliberate conviction, and it is some proof of this, that Fanny and Joan have already guessed my state of mind, and months ago anticipated what has now taken place.... And so, dear Jem, you must help them all to bear what will of course be a great trial. This is my trial also; for it is hard to bear the thought that I may be giving unnecessary pain and causing distress without really having considered sufficiently the whole matter. But then I think God does not call now by an open vision; this thought has been for years working in my mind: it was His providence that brought me into contact with the Bishop in times past, and has led me to speak now. I cannot doubt this. I feel sure that if I was alone in the world I should go; the only question that remains is, "am I bound to stay for my dear Father's sake, or for the sake of you all?" and this has been answered for me by Father and the Bishop. And now, my dear Jem, think well over my character, sift it thoroughly, and try to see what there is which may have induced me to act wrongly in a matter of so much consequence. This is the kindest thing you can do; for we ought to take every precaution not to make a mistake before it is too late. Speak out quite plainly; do tell me distinctly as far as you can see them my prevailing faults, what they were in boyhood at Eton, and at College. It may help me to contemplate more clearly and truly the prospect before me. We shall have many opportunities, I trust, of discussing all this by-and-by. I shall tell Uncle John, because some arrangements must be made about Alfington as soon as may be. My tutor knows something about it already; it will soon be known to more. But do not suppose that I imagine myself better qualified for this work than hundreds of others more earnest, and infinitely more unselfish, and practically good; but I have received an invitation to a peculiar work, which is not offered to many others. We must all look onwards: we must try to think of this world as but a short moment in our existence; our real life and home is beyond the grave. On September 24th I hope to be ordained Priest; think of me and pray for me, my dear old fellow, that God will give me more of your own unselfishness and care and interest for others, and teach me to act not according to my own will and pleasure, but solely with a view to His honour and glory. God bless you, my dear old Jem, my dear, dear brother.
'Your most loving brother,
'J. C. P.
From that moment the matter was treated as fixed; and only three days later, the intention was announced to the relations at Thorverton.
This is the letter to the little fatherless cousin, Paulina Martyn, who had always been devoted to Coley, and whom he loved with a triple portion of the affection children always gained from him. She was only eight years old, but had the precocity of solitary children much attended to by their elders:--
'Feniton: August 24, 1854.
'My darling Pena,--I am going to tell you a secret, and I am afraid it is one which will make you feel very sorry for a little while. Do you remember my talking to you one day after breakfast rather gravely, and telling you afterwards it was my first sermon to you? Well, my darling, I was trying to hint to you that you must not expect to go on very long in this world without troubles and trials, and that the use of them is to make us think more about God and about Heaven, and to remember that our real and unchangeable happiness is not to be found in this world, but in the next. It was rather strange for me to say all this to a bright happy good child like you, and I told you that you ought to be bright and happy, and to thank God for making you so. It is never right for us to try to make ourselves sad and grieve. Good people and good children are cheerful and happy, although they may have plenty of trials and troubles. You see how quietly and patiently Mamma and Grandpapa and Grandmamma take all their trouble about dear Aunty; that is a good lesson for us all. And now, my darling, I will tell you my secret. I am going to sail at Christmas, if I live so long, a great way from England, right to the other end of the world, with the good Bishop of New Zealand. I dare say you know where to find it on the globe. Clergymen are wanted out there to make known the Word of God to the poor ignorant people, and for many reasons it is thought right that I should go. So after Christmas you will not see me again for a very long time, perhaps never in this world; but I shall write to you very often, and send you ferns and seeds, and tell you about the Norfolk Island pines, and you must write to me, and tell me all about yourself, and always think of me, and pray for me, as one who loves you dearly with all his heart, and will never cease to pray God that the purity and innocence of your childhood may accompany you all through your life and make you a blessing (as you are now, my darling) to your dear mother and all who know you.
'Ever your most affectionate,
'J. C. PATTESON.'
To the child's mother the words are:--
'I pray God that I may have chosen aright, and that if I have acted from sudden impulse too much, from love of display, or from desire to raise some interest about myself, or from any other selfish and unholy motive, it may be mercifully forgiven.
'Now, at all events, I must pray that with a single honest desire for God's glory, I may look straight onwards towards the mark. I must forget what is behind, I must not lose time in analysing my state of mind to see how, during years past, this wish has worked itself out. I trust the wish is from God, and now I must forget myself, and think only of the work whereunto I am called. But it is hard to flesh and blood to think of the pain I am causing my dear dear Father, and the pain I am causing to others outside my own circle here. But they are all satisfied that I am doing what is right, and it would surprise you, although you know them so well, to hear the calmness with which we talk about outfits.'
A heavy grief was even now on the family. The beloved, 'Uncle Frank,' so often affectionately mentioned, had been failing for some time. He had taken a journey abroad, with one of his daughters, in hopes of refreshment and invigoration, but the fatigue and excitement were more than he could bear; he returned home, and took to his bed. He suffered no pain, and was in a heavenly state of mind indeed, a most blessed death-bed, most suggestive of comfort and peace to all who survive as a most evident proof of what the close of life may be, if only 'that life is spent faithfully in doing our duty to God'--as Patteson wrote to his old friend, Miss Neill.
'And now one word about myself, which at such a time I should not obtrude upon you, but that the visit of the Bishop of New Zealand made it necessary for me to speak.
'I am going with him to work, if all is well, at the Antipodes, believing that the growing desire for missionary work, which for years has been striving within me, ought no longer to be resisted, and trusting that I am not mistaken in supposing that this is the line of duty that God has marked out for me.
'You may be sure that all this is done with the full consent and approbation of my dear Father. He and the Bishop had a great deal of conversation about it, and I left it entirely for them to determine. That it will be a great trial to us all at Christmas when we sail, I cannot conceal from myself; it is so great a separation that I cannot expect ever to see my dear Father, perhaps not any of those I love best, again in this world. But if you all know that I am doing, or trying to do, what is right, you will all be happy about me; and what has just been taking place at the Manor House teaches us to look, on a little to a blessed meeting in a better place soon. It is from no dissatisfaction at my present position, that I am induced to take this step. I have been very happy at Alfington; and I hope to be ordained Priest, on the 24th of September, with a calm mind. I trust I am not following any sudden hasty impulse, but obeying a real call to a real work, and (in the midst of much self-seeking and other alloy) not wholly without a sincere desire to labour for the honour and glory of God.'
With this purpose full in view, Coleridge Patteson received Ordination as a Priest in the ensuing Ember Week, again at the hands of Bishop Phillpotts, in Exeter Cathedral; where a beautiful marble pulpit is to commemorate the fact.
The wrench from home and friends could not but be terrible. The sisters, indeed, were so far prepared that they had been aware from the first of his wish and his mother's reception of it, and when they told their Father, he was pleased and comforted; for truly he was upheld by the strength of willing sacrifice. Those were likewise sustained who felt the spirit of missionary enterprise and sympathy, which was at that time so strongly infused into the Church; but the shock was severe to many, and especially to the brother who had been devoted to Coley from their earliest infancy, and among his relations the grief was great.
As to the district of Alfington, the distress was extreme. The people had viewed Mr. Patteson as their exclusive property, and could not forgive the Bishop of New Zealand for, as they imagined, tempting him away. 'Ah! Sir,' was the schoolmistress's answer to some warm words from Mr. Justice Coleridge in praise of Bishop Selwyn, 'he may be--no doubt he is--a very good man. I only wish he had kept his hands off Alfington.' 'It would not be easy,' says the parishioner from whom I have already quoted, 'to describe the intense sorrow in view of separation. Mr. Patteson did all he could to assure us that it was his own will and act, consequent upon the conviction that it was God's will that he should go, and to exonerate the Bishop, but for some time he was regarded as the immediate cause of our loss; and he never knew half the hard things said of him by the same people who, when they heard he was coming, and would preach on the Sunday, did their utmost to make themselves and their children look their very best.'
Indeed, the affectionate writer seems to have shared the poor people's feeling that they had thus festally received a sort of traitor with designs upon their pastor. She goes on to tell of his ministrations to her mother, whose death-bed was the first he attended as a Priest.
It would be impossible for me to say all he was to her. Not long before her death, when he had just left the room, she said, 'I have not felt any pain or weakness whilst Mr. Patteson has been here.' I was not always present during his visits to her, and I think their closer communings were only known to Him above, but their effects were discernible in that deep confidence in him on her part, and that lasting impression on him, for you will remember, in his letter last April, he goes back in memory to that time, and calls it--'a solemn scene in my early ministry.' Solemn, indeed, it was to us all that last night of her life upon earth. He was with her from about the middle of the day on Monday until about four o'clock on Tuesday morning; when, after commending her soul to God, he closed her eyes with his own hands, and taking out his watch, told us the hour and moment of her departure. He then went home and apprised Miss Wilkins of her death in these words: 'My soul fleeth unto the LORD before the morning watch, I say before the morning watch,' and at the earliest dawn of day, the villagers were made aware that she had passed away by the tolling bell, and tolled by him. This was not the only death during his ministry among us; but it was the first occasion where he gave the Communion of the Sick, also when he read the Burial Service. Cases of rejoicing with those that rejoiced as well as of weeping with those that wept, the child and the aged seemed alike to appreciate his goodness. In him were combined those qualities which could inspire with deep reverence and entire confidence. Many, many are or will be the stars in the crown of his rejoicing, and some owe to him under God, their deeper work of grace in the heart and their quickening in the divine life.'
A remarkable testimony is this to the impression remaining after the lapse of sixteen years from a ministry extending over no more than seventeen months. 'Our Mr. Patteson' the people called him to the last.
Yet, in the face of all this grief, the parting till death, the work broken off, the life cut short midway, the profusion of needs at home for able ministers, is it to be regretted that Coleridge Patteson devoted himself to the more remote fields abroad? I think we shall find that his judgment was right. Alfington might love him dearly, but the numbers were too small to afford full scope for his powers, and he would have experienced the trials of cramped and unemployed energies had he remained there beyond his apprenticeship. Nor were his gifts, so far as can be judged, exactly those most requisite for work in large towns. He could deal with individuals better than with masses, and his metaphysical mind, coupled with the curious difficulty he had in writing to an unrealised public, either in sermons or reports, might have rendered him less effective than men of less ability. He avoided, moreover, the temptations, pain, and sting of the intellectual warfare within the bosom of the Church, and served her cause more effectually on her borders than he could in her home turmoils. His great and peculiar gifts of languages, seconded by his capacity for navigation, enabled him to be the builder up of the Melanesian Church in so remarkable a manner that one can hardly suppose but that he was marked out for it, and these endowments would have found no scope in an ordinary career. Above all, no man can safely refuse the call to obey the higher leadings of grace. If he deny them, he will probably fall below that which he was before, and lose 'even that which he seemeth to have.'
A few days later, he wrote to his cousin Arthur Coleridge an expression of his feelings regarding the step he had taken in the midst of the pain it was costing to others:--
'Feniton: November 11, 9 A.M.
'My dear Arthur,--Your letter was very acceptable because I am, I confess, in that state of mind occasionally when the assurance of my being right, coming from another, tends to strengthen my own conviction.
'I do not really doubt as I believe; and yet, knowing my want of consideration for others, and many other thoughts which naturally prevent my exercising a clear sound judgment on a matter affecting myself, I sometimes (when I have had a conversation, it throws me back upon analysing my own conduct) feel inclined to go over the whole process again, and that is somewhat trying.
'On the other hand, I am almost strangely free from excitement. I live on exactly as I did before: and even when alone with Father, talk just as I used to talk, have nothing more to tell him, not knowing how to make a better use of these last quiet evenings.
'By-and-by I shall wish I had done otherwise, perhaps, but I do not know now, that I have anything specially requiring our consideration: we talk about family matters, the movements in the theological and political world, &c., very little about ourselves.
'One of all others I delight to think of for the music's sake, and far more for the glorious thought that it conveys. "Then shall the righteous," not indeed that I dare apply it to myself (as you know), but it helps one on, teaches what we may be, what our two dear parents are, and somehow the intervening, space becomes smaller as the eye is fixed steadily on the glory beyond.
'God bless you, my dear fellow.
'Ever your affectionate
'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 never saw a hand set on the plough stead with more firmness, yet entire modesty, or with an eye and heart less turned backwards on the world behind. I know you do not in any way repine at what you have allowed him to do; and I feel sure that ere long you will see cause to bless God not only for having given you such a son, but also for having put it into his heart so to devote himself to that particular work in the Great Vineyard.'
About 5 P.M. the 'Duke of Portland' swung round with the tide, strangers were ordered on shore, Coleridge and James Patteson said their last farewells, and while the younger brother went home by the night-train to carry the final greetings to his father and sisters, the ship weighed anchor and the voyage was begun.