Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library
MISSIONARY TO JAMAICA.
Edited by "A. H."
[By A. H.]
The subject of our memoir, Mr. Thomas Porteous Callender, was born at Edinburgh on the 30th June 1823. His father was a surgeon in the East India Company's service, and returned to England, after a residence of some years abroad, in impaired health. He was afflicted with pulmonary complaint, and, as might have been expected, a change to the cold and variable climate of his native country only accelerated the disease. He died in Leith, leaving Thomas, his only child an orphan, for he had lost his mother at a much earlier period. In consequence of consumption having manifested itself in the case of both his parents, it was feared that the germs of the same dangerous and insidious malady were in his own frame by inheritance, and that sooner or later they would develop themselves and these fears were but too surely realised. He was from infancy brought up in the house of his paternal grandfather, merchant in Leith, by whom he was loved and cherished with paternal affection. It may be added that the affection was reciprocated, and the grandson regarded his aged relative, to the latest hour of his life, with a feeling in which reverence and love were beautifully blended. His education was received in the public seminaries of Leith and Edinburgh, and at both he made considerable progress.
It had been his intention to apply himself to mercantile pursuits, but his resolution changed, and, after long and serious reflection, he resolved to devote himself to the work of the ministry. One powerful inducement with him to take this step was the clearly expressed hope and wish of both his parents-a wish expressed on the bed of death-that to this sacred calling he should apply himself. . . .
Probably, even at that early age, it was the labour of the missionary after which he aspired. We may add, that the step was taken with the hearty approbation of his relatives in Leith. It was shortly before this period that serious impressions of religion first exhibited themselves, and they were aided and strengthened by the christian counsel of many friends in Leith. He accordingly attended classes at the University of Edinburgh, and after the usual routine there, distinguishing himself by talents of a superior order, his studies were transferred to the Divinity Hall of the United Secession Church. At this period he joined the communion of the church in connection with the United Secession congregation of North Leith, under the pastoral charge of the Reverend Dr. Harper, and continued a consistent and useful member till the state of his health rendered his removal necessary to a milder climate. During his studies his activity and zeal shewed themselves by his labours among the lower classes of the population in Leith, the share he took in conducting Sabbath Schools, christian instruction societies, &c. These labours were very beneficial to himself as well as others ; disagreeable as some of them were, they only confirmed hint in the resolution he had, not rashly, but deliberately taken, to devote himself to the cause of his Master.
About the end of 1844, Mr. Callender proceeded to the Continent, with the double intention of profiting by an attendance on the lectures at some of the German Universities, and of recreating himself by a tour over some of the most interesting portions of Europe. But what might have been gained in one way was more than lost in another. While residing in Berlin, during a winter of extraordinary severity, the disease which ultimately carried him off first took possession of his frame. He himself dated the origin of consumption from the time of his exposure to the weather in the Prussian capital. Leaving it in the spring, he proceeded through Saxony and Bavaria, visiting Leipsic, Halle, Augsburg, Ratisbon, &c., and thence by way of the Tyrol to Italy. Here he visited Venice, Bologna, Florence, and other towns, and travelled on to Naples by Civita Vecchia. After a short stay in Naples, he, went to Rome, remained there a considerable time, and returned through Northern Italy to Geneva, and thence to England. His studies at the Divinity Hall were finished in the autumn of 1845, but about that time the state of his health, which became more and more delicate, rendered it necessary that he should pass the winter in the south of England, and, acting under medical advice, he went to Devonshire.
At Torquay he remained during the winter of 1845-6, condemned, much against his will, to "laborious idleness," as much exertion and exposure to the weather were alike forbidden. . . .
Partially recruited in health, he, in the spring of 1846, proceeded to London, where he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery in connection with the United Secession Church. After a short residence here, it became evident that his health was not materially improved, and a consultation with eminent physicians in the metropolis confirmed the fears of his friends, by shewing that both. lungs were to some extent diseased ; and he was told by the same high authority, that a removal to a warm climate would be necessary to prolong his life. Still, however, by great care, his malady might have been partially checked; but, unwilling to believe that his illness was serious, and buoyed up by a sanguine and elastic temperament, too frequent a concomitant of this treacherous disease, he neglected some precautions, which, under God, might have effected great good. A portion of the summer of that year he spent at Rothesay, and, on his return to Leith, preached his first sermon in public, producing a most favourable impression. . . .
The exertion, however, brought matters to a crisis, and, on the ground, not of precaution, but of absolute necessity, his medical adviser recommended his immediate departure for the West Indies. In October of that year then, he sailed from the Clyde for Jamaica, followed by the ardent prayers and affectionate wishes of many. The voyage was on the whole tedious and stormy, and we cannot do better than give his own sketch of it as taken from a letter written on shipboard, and from the journal he kept regularly.
The following are extracts from the Journal already named:
"Friday Evening, Oct. 30. 1846.
The last farewell has been uttered to nearest and dearest earthly friends, and now I am fairly embarked for a voyage, the result of which is unknown save to him to whom all things are known, and to whom as all-wise and good I would desire to commit the keeping of my ways. May he be my God and guide.
"Sabbath, 1st Nov. 1846
Still off Greenock, detained by contrary winds; at the request of the passengers conducted worship on board. There were present the whole ship's crew and six fellow- passengers, two of whom were young men in ill health. In glancing at their wasted frames and noting their short cough and laboured breathing, what cause for gratitude. should I feel for my partial recovery and freedom from pain. Goodness and mercy have followed me all my days.
"Tuesday, 10th. Nov.
Passed by Lochs Swilly and Foyle about noon; visited in fancy the family group on the banks of the Foyle, and breathed for them the desire-- a desire they could not hear--that the angel of that Lord who can hear even the prayer unuttered and unexpressed, might encamp about them and preserve them from all ill. Witnessed off Innerstrahall about the most magnificent sea-sunset I ever saw, with two or three vessels hovering between the sun and us, and lending an additional charm to the scene. Passed Tory Point about eight o'clock, P.M., likely the last visible spot of the British isles. Farewell, then, land of my birth and home of my friends, and now let me strive to make this my motto and my joy, --'Ubi Christus ibi Patria,'-- 'Where Christ is there is home.'
Nothing today but pitch and toss; head-wind, and heavy sea and swell; sickness in the case of several of the passengers, and scalded fingers and knees to those of us unlucky enough to be ready for eating and drinking. Don't feel very well today ; annoyed a little with my side, but unfortunately not sick or even squeamish. Books are our only resource, or, on the whole, our least unwieldy companions. Nothing occurring to interest such a landsman as myself save the foolishness and helplessness of a poor sparrow driven off from the land last night; it has taken shelter with us and now it must go with us or die.
" 13th. Nov.
The scene today is really awful; one comfort is .' Our Father is at the helm,' and at his throne of grace I know I am not forgotten by many a christian brother and dear relative. Several spars have floated past, perhaps all that remains of some ships in which breathed many such as I. They may have been called to their account while we remain to sing of mercy and judgment.
'Twas tonight the sea was shipped already referred to ; the scene from the deck shortly before was terrifically sublime; not only was every billow tipped with spray, but you would think that the whole ocean's surface had been streaked with white; the light lashing spray from the tops of the waves filled the air, the black lowering clouds hurried o'er the foremast, as if commissioned to execute some speedy vengeance, now and then giving opening for some sudden stream of reddened radiance from the setting sun, to reveal more fully the general gloom, and render yet darker the prevailing darkness. The only time it was that I could say I saw the surging ocean, when it merited the epithet it often gets, 'angry;'-- wrath indeed seemed to be the pervading spirit of the hour. Never were David's words in the 29th Psalm so forcibly illustrated to my mind. As if the sublimity of the scene were not at its climax, when the rays of the sun ceased to cast an awful redness on the sea and sky, the thunder and lightning assumed its place, and with their added roar and flashing gleam seemed to say to us, as our spirits quailed before it, 'Be still and know that I am God.'
[Taken from a letter written on board:]
"Ship Catherine, Sabbath Morning, Quarter past 10. 22d Nov. 1846
We are laying nearly becalmed, with nature still smiling above and around us. In thought I have been travelling far enough, and seated myself with you in one of the pews of North Leith. 'Tis with you quarter past 11, and in all probability you are now joining with saints in the lower sanctuary, aye, and in the upper one too, in singing your opening anthem of praise to the God of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. .. .This is now my fourth Sabbath on board, and I sincerely desire that some stray word dropped in our morning and evening service as well as our Sabbath ones, may be used by the Spirit as an arrow of conviction to some that hear me.
In regard to our voyage, you will see that we are about 300 miles west, and 100 south of Cape Finisterre, opposite Oporto, today. The weather since we left Lamlash has been exceedingly variable, and, till yesterday, squally and stormy. More than once have we had to sing aloud of merciful preservation and great kindness. I'll send a note of jottings of a journal when I reach Jamaica. Meanwhile, accept this general statement. We caught it pretty sharply in crossing the Bay of Biscay. I have suffered no relapse in point of health, another cause of gratitude. . . ."
[Taken from a letter written on board:]
"29th Nov., Sabbath Evening, off Madeira.
Our little morning and evening coterie for divine worship is exceedingly interesting, and I hope that under the blessing of the great head of the Church good may result from them. We have had worship regularly with the exception of twice, whatever the state of the weather and sea. Sometimes it was no easy matter to preserve presence of mind and composure of spirit; for instance, when the ship gave some heavy plunge or sudden lurch. Our Sabbath services have been to me specially interesting from the spirit and interest manifested throughout. It has illustrated forcibly for me the truth, that wherever the Christian happens to be, there has his Master work for him to do if he only look for it.
"In point of health, I am happy to say that I feel no worse than when I left Leith, notwithstanding all our exposure to storm, and cold, and damp. Today we have again been called on to mark the goodness of God in mercifully preserving us. We have had a severe thunder storm right over-head; you would have thought that the whole vessel reeled under the shock when the clap was heard. The lightning was really blinding, and one poor fellow in the rigging had his arm struck powerless and would have soon dropped had not some of the men gone to his assistance. The rain seemed to be pouring on the decks not in drops but in bucketfuls. To-night the wind has changed in our favour, and there is some hope of our moving along with some more speed. We are only a day or two off the parallels of the trade winds."
[Extracts from the journal already named:]
"30th. Nov. 1846
Since then, up till yesterday, we have had little wind and delightful weather. Now we are hurrying along at the rate of seven miles an hour. We have scarcely seen a single vessel since we came out, and none have we seen homeward bound. I expect, however, to send this on shore at Antigua, along with one of our passengers who leaves us there. After that we have ten days or a fortnight's further sail ere we reach Jamaica. In point of health I have managed pretty well to avoid catching cold, and perhaps, now that we are in a warmer climate, under the blessing of him by whose kindness I have so far recovered, I may recover.
"Lat. 27o 54" N.; Long. 21o 30" W. 2d Dec. 1846.
We are now going pleasantly along with a tradewind, though, since I penned the lines above, we have not been without scenes of suffering and sadness. One of our passengers and one of the crew have been seriously ill, and I never recollect standing beside any who appeared to be so near their end. Twice or thrice during last night, was I sent for by the passenger, a young man, to aid him, amid his spasms, and to attempt to allay with scripture truth the mental agitation of his mind, under which he was at the same time labouring. We had all indeed cause for sadness of heart; for at midday, yesterday, one poor sailor boy fell from the rigging,, and ere any thing could be done for his assistance he disappeared, and however un willing, we were forced to leave him to perish. He was the only earthly stay of a poor woman, and she was a widow. At evening sacrifice I could not refrain from noticing this solemn admonition of God's providence, and attempting to bring it to bear on all present. I seldom recollect being placed in a more trying and solemnly responsible position. The event itself had, at the time touched the hearts of all, and not to men tion that part of the company who were, in a measure, strangers to such trials, even the checks of the oldest, weatherbeaten and browned though they were, were moistened with tears that would not be restrained. The telltale tear shewed a kindred feeling on those greyheaded seamen, to that expressed by the smothered sobs of their fellows younger in years and in experi ence. I chose for a text those words 'Man too knoweth not his time,' and attempted to urge the neces sity of instant preparation, seeing that that time was uncertain, viz. of death". . .
By A. H.
The spirit which animated Mr. Callender and by which he was led to seek work in every situation, and change of circumstances, may be distinctly Noted from these passages, and the ardour of his disposition, unsubdued by illness, is visible throughout. If such was his conduct on board ship, and such his zeal in the service of his Redeemer, it was not to be expected that a change to dry land and to a delightful and cheering climate, would either alter the one or damp the other. The voyage had undoubtedly done him much good; he felt nerved and braced by it, and, had he acted with similar care for the future, he might have retained his vigour for years. But restored health was to him a renewed call to labour. Circumstances also occurred to open up to him early opportunities of usefulness; and trusting, no doubt, to the genial influence of a warmer climate, he was not slow to embrace them. It was in January 1847 that he arrived in Jamaica, and his conduct soon shewed that a change had in some degree passed over his mind, that he had less of self than ever, and more of abandonment, as it were, to the biddings of Him whose he was, and whom he served.
So far there is little in his case to distinguish it from many others of daily occurrence. That a young man, amiable, talented, and enthusiastic, (for it is generally the gifted who fall first beneath the destroyer) should leave home, country, friends, and seek to arrest the progress of disease, and prolong existence, by breathing the air of a warmer clime, is a spectacle of melancholy frequency. In most instances the victims of this insidious malady sink into the tomb unnoticed, and are soon forgotten. It is impossible to tell what treasures of heart and of intellect have been thus lost to the world; what lofty aims and noble aspirations have been thus quenched in silence; what virtues, worthy of a better sphere, condemned to premature extinction in this! It is mournful to tell,
"Of morning's bright resolves the vanished glory, Hope's honey left within the withering bell,
And flowers of promise dead that might have bloomed so well."
In one essential particular Mr. Callender differed from most invalids who go abroad to recover health. Had he, after landing in Jamaica, avoided annoyance, anxiety, and labour, physical as well as mental, the probability is, that his life would have been prolonged for years. But the course he pursued was the reverse of this. Where others would have rested, he worked-- earnestly and devotedly he toiled: where others would have thought of the salvation of their own lives, he could think of nothing but the salvation of souls perishing for lack of knowledge. It was this which impelled him, regardless of self, to devote himself to the work of his master, which sustained his spirit amid discouragements and disappointments, and cheered his heart when despondency brooded over it like a cloud. Consequently, from the moment he landed in Jamaica, he was actively engaged, preaching, visiting, instructing, with the ardour and diligence of a man in the prime of health.
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