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GRAHAM'S TOWN DISTRICT.—Extract of a Letter from the Rev. J. M. Dwane, dated Port Elizabeth, February 5th, 1877.—AT the Native District Meeting held at Peddie, just before I came here, I remember that the Chairman of the District told me that Port Elizabeth would try both my health and ability, and I have found what he said to be true; but thanks be to God for the sufficiency of His grace for all our needs. In this town we have people of different nations and languages, mostly young men who come almost from every country in large numbers to work in the town and on the railway works. This is the busiest town I have seen yet. I don't know if you noticed when you were here, how small Kafir huts are; but I know that you saw plenty of them when you went into Kafirland. They are small round little things built in the shape of an ant-hill. The location is so full of people that there are often about twenty men in a hut. But the more enlightened natives, especially Christians, have square houses, two or three rooms each. I am very glad for this, for I do really think that these miserable huts are not only mothers of disease, not only obstacles to civilization, but they are stumbling-blocks to Christianity. There is a terrible amount of immorality going on here, especially among the lower classes of people, not fit for any human being to describe. Many prodigals who have disobediently left their homes, and Gospel-hardened sinners from Mission Stations in different parts of this Colony, and large masses of heathens, some of whom have never heard the Gospel, are here lamentably drowned in wickedness. O that God would pity these wretched creatures ere they die; that He would cause His "breath to come from the four winds, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live!" The Christians of the different Churches of Christ in this town are quite enough to convert the whole of its inhabitants, if they were only properly employed in the soul-saving.
I must tell you something about our Church. In doing this I shall confine myself to the Native Circuit, which is now entirely separate from the English. We give glory to God for the wonderful way in which He has prospered this Church both spiritually and financially. We have one hundred and twenty members in full, and fifty-nine on trial, fifteen Leaders and ten Local Preachers. In these numbers I do not include those converted lately since the end of December. Our services are very largely attended. On Sundays many people are obliged to go away for want of room in our chapel. Class-meetings are regularly attended, and threepence a week, and two shillings or two shillings and sixpence a quarter, given by each member. They will not be confined to one penny a week, and one shilling a quarter.
The subject of holiness has been prominently put before the members, and many are, I believe, striving after it. In meeting Classes for tickets I have been much pleased with experiences of the members and felt blessed in my own soul. Our last Lovefeast and Watchnight service were times of much spiritual blessing; our hearts were warmed by the presence of the Lord. Conversions have taken place nearly every Sunday evening during the past year at the rate of from one to ten an evening. The number of members on trial would have been large if our Church was not subject to constant changes. We had a glorious day yesterday. I preached in the morning, and held a Prayer-meeting with the Local Preachers at one o'clock, and arranged for a three o'clock revival meeting. Before the revival meeting commenced, I went to some houses, as I usually do, inviting them to the meeting; and we opened it at half past two and continued it until half past three. Several Local Preachers gave some very earnest addresses, and with good results. I find that if a Minister wants to do much good he must work together with Local Preachers and members; they must take some part in these revival meetings. I spoke from Ecclesiastes xii. 1, mainly to young men. After the service we went into my study and had a very good Prayer-meeting with penitents.
A very heavy shower of rain began before the evening service, and the people came in the wet, and we had a good congregation considering the bad weather; but the chapel leaked so much, and the floor was so wet that, for a time, I hardly knew what to do with the people. However, I preached and held a Prayer-meeting. There were eleven seekers, and most of them found peace with God.
One day, a young man came into my study and I noticed that he was in great distress. After we had greeted each other, he said to me, "I do not know you, Sir, and you do not know me, but I want to speak to you, for I am in a great trouble; I want you to help me. I have walked many miles purposely to see you. Last night as I was walking in front of my master's oxen, my numerous sins were set before me and made me tremble. I could not lead the oxen any longer on account of the weight of my guilt. I went to my master in the waggon and told him how badly I felt in my heart; but he tried to keep me quiet, thinking that I was wrong in my head. I told him that there was nothing the matter with my head, that the thing is in my heart. I grew worse and he did not know what to do with me. I asked him to allow me to come here, to which he consented; and now, Sir, I am here, what can I do?" He burst into tears, as I pointed him to "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." He went back to his master rejoicing and praising God.
The work of God is prospering in this Circuit, and signs and wonders are wrought in the name of His Holy Child, Jesus. We have not many out-preaching places, but those we have are regularly visited on Sundays, for services. I have paid several visits to Sand Flats, but I do not see how these visits can be kept up, as they incur heavy expenses upon the Circuit. I keep Theological Class on Tuesday evenings for Local Preachers. I hope it will help to fit them for the great work of winning souls to Christ. We are suffering from the want of a larger place of worship; our present chapel gets crammed on Sundays. The people even sit on the windows and in the pulpit. Of course, many who cannot bear the suffocating state of the room go away. We want about £500 to repair and enlarge it. It would be better to have a new building altogether, but this we are unable to do. Our people have promised over £100. This is as much as can be expected from them, as they are most of them strangers from other Circuits, where they are expected to help in such purposes as this. Besides, they have just built a native Mission house at the cost of £380, towards which sum the Missionary Society gave £25.
I want to relate something here about one of our members,—a girl called Margaret, who died some time ago. It was not long after she was converted that her aunt began to persecute her. She first objected to her going to Class and said it was all nonsense. Margaret told her aunt that she could not give up her Class, and that she would rather die than give up Christ. One day she went to Class as usual, and when she returned home her aunt took a stick and beat her muhc, threatening that if she went to Class again, she would receive severer punishments. Margaret said, "You may do any thing you like, but you cannot keep me away from Christ." This persecution went on for a time until God interfered and laid her aunt on a bed of sickness. I visited her many times during her illness. At first she was disagreeable, but I kept on talking and praying with her until the light shone into her dark heart, and God graciously pardoned her many sins. She called Margaret and asked her to forgive her for her bad conduct. Poor Margaret was only too glad to do this. Soon after this the aunt died. Some months after her death Margaret also died. But hers was a remarkable death. She was well and strong, and none thought that she was going to die. One day she went to her Class-meeting, and she spoke words which surprised her Leader and the members of that Class. She said to them, "I have come to say farewell to you, my Leader, and to you, all my friends who are members of this Class. I am going away and shall come here no more." After saying this she fell on her knees and offered such a prayer that moved every heart in the room. She never went to Class after this, because it was only a few days after the Class-meeting above referred to, that she got her last illness. Her mother is an unconverted woman, and a Kafir beer maker, and her house was a small, dirty, smoky hut. In visiting Margaret I used to be very much pained in my heart to see how miserably situated she was in that but, which was always full of drunkards, who did not care what noise they made. Poor Margaret bore her trials very patiently through, and turned that wretched hut into a little paradise. I shall never forget the times I spent with her during her illness, until the very day that she died. She used to get up early in the morning and pray, when all the people in the hut were still asleep, when no drunkards would disturb her.
One day I asked how she was, and she replied, "I am sick and shall soon die, but I am not afraid, for I am going to be with Jesus. I told my Leader and the members of my Class that I was going away, but they did not seem to have fully understood what I meant." She expressed her desire to be baptized, and I accordingly went to my Superintendent, the Rev. R. Lamploagh, who willingly came and baptized her in the name of the Holy Trinity. There were not many present when this service was performed, only four,—Margaret, Mr. Lamplough, myself and another. We all said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here." We realized the fulfilment of Christ's words, "Where two or three are met together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." We sang some hymns for her, in which she heartily joined. Some were of her choice. She asked us to continue praying and singing. Her soul was filled with unspeakable joy and full of glory. The day she died, I went to see her, as she wanted to see me the day before, but could not on account of my having been away from home. I found that she was now too weak, and no one thought she would speak: but, however, when she knew that I was in the room, she struggled to speak, and called me to kneel down by her side, and said, "Pray, my Minister, pray: I want to go to Jesus. O, come, Jesus, come, come," etc. Soon after this she fell asleep in Jesus. Her words affected the people. I remember a very wicked man, who is known in most of the colonial towns as a notorious sinner, came to me and said, "I wish I could die like Margaret;" and I told him to live like her, if he wants to die like her. Her death was really wonderful, and made a great blessing to the people of this town.
Digital Publication Details
Title: “South Africa”
Subtitle(s): “Graham's Town District.—extract of a Letter From the Rev. J. M. Dwane, Dated Port Elizabeth, February 5th, 1877”
Creator(s): J.M. Dwane
Publication date: (1877) 2022
Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE
Critical encoding: Trevor Bleick, Kenneth C. Crowell, Kasey Peters, Adrian S. Wisnicki
One More Voice identifier: liv_025241
Cite (Chicago Author-Date): J.M. Dwane. (1877) 2022. “South Africa.” Edited by Trevor Bleick, Kenneth C. Crowell, and Kasey Peters. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-soas/liv_025241_HTML.html.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
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