|CHAPTER XIX. -- BROOKLYN--CALL TO GO TO ENGLAND--BALTIMORE--VOYAGE OVER.|
I was in Brooklyn holding meetings at Fleet Street Church, Rev. J.I Simmons, pastor. Then at Mr. Beecher's Mission, "Mayflower." We had a good work, and also at the other mission, uptown. Friday afternoon the ladies' meeting in the lecture room of Plymouth. There were several splendid ladies there in those days, and are yet, no doubt.
These Friday afternoon meetings were the regular ladies' consecration meetings, and on Saturday afternoon we had young people's and children's meeting in the same room, and I believe a number of the dear young people and children gave their hearts to the Lord. I needed rest very much. I had been going on without a break all summer and all winter. I was dreadfully worn and tired, and as soon as I got through had purposed going to Ocean Grove to rest a little. Dear old Brother Tompkins, of Tompkins Cove, N.Y., had given me the use of a room at their little cottage, where I could go and stay as long as I chose. How good of the Lord to thus provide for me! How well I remember those dear friends, though they have long since gone to their reward.
Everything in the way of comfort and convenience was left for me to use, so I was anxious to get off. Rev. Lindsey J. Parker was then pastor of old Sands Street Methodist Church. He came after me to come to Sands Street for ten days. I was stopping with a family next door to Plymouth Church, whose name I can't remember, but I know he was a Baptist brother, strong in the faith, and he doctored me well on baptism. My! how many books he gave me to read! I am not half through yet; don't know as I ever will be. He was very kind, though, and so was his family.
Well, I tried my best to beg off from Mr. Parker--I told him how tired I was, and how much I needed rest. I told him I would give him the whole month of September if he would let me off.
No, he said, his official board told him he must have me come, if but for a week, and I told him I would let him know the next week. I prayed earnestly that the Lord would give me strength and help me through that week, and it was wonderful how He did help me as I have often asked Him before. So on Monday morning I went to see if I could prevail on Dr. Parker to let me have the rest, but no word I could say moved him from what he had said first.
Just when we were busy talking the bell rang, and Dr. Parker was called away. Then a Miss Price, a friend of Mrs. Parker's, was there visiting. She was an English lady; had been in this country about four years, and was expecting to go home in April. She was very pleasant, and I began telling her and Mrs. Parker how I was trying to beg the Doctor to let me off for a rest. So finally Miss Price said, "Well, you do need rest; you had better come and go with me to England next month; it would be just the thing for you. The great Paris Exposition is going on, and I would take you, and we would have a real nice time, and I know the trip would do you good."
"Yes," I said, "that would be nice."
"Well," she said, "pray about it; I believe the Lord would have you go."
Just then Mr. Parker came in again. No more was said about England. He fixed on the day I was to come to Sands Street. I closed my last meeting at the "Mayflower" on Saturday night. There was a blessed work done, the result of which eternity alone will tell.
On Sunday afternoon was our first meeting at Sands Street. The old church was crowded. Our first meeting was for the young people and children, and I began by asking the older people, strangers and all, here and there, all over the house, upstairs and down, as I would call them out, "Brother, how old were you when you gave your heart to the Lord?" Then I would ask a sister.
There were some real gem testimonies to the grace of God, and this encouraged and helped the young people very much, so when I began our altar service it was not long till the altar was crowded, and many of the dear young people and children professed to have
At the close of this meeting Miss Price came up to me and spoke to me, and said, "Did you pray about what I told you?"
I didn't recognize her at first, and I said, "About what?"
"Don't you know Miss Price, that spoke to you on Monday about going to England?"
"Oh, yes, I do remember you now."
"Well, did you pray about it?"
"No," I said. "I did not."
"Well," she said, "you must; I believe the Lord would have you go."
So that night when I went home and got ready for bed, the thought came to me, "You know that lady told you to pray about going to England." I said, "Yes, that is so."
I thought a moment and said to myself:
"Go to England! Amanda Smith, the colored washwoman, go to England! No, I am not going to pray a bit; I have to ask the Lord for so many things that I really need, that I am not going to bother Him with what I don't need--to go to England. It does well enough for swell people to go, not for me."
So, after I had this little talk all to myself, I said my prayers and went to bed. On Tuesday afternoon I was invited to tea to Brother Parker's. There were several others, also. Dr. Parker's brother, a young man, had just come from the old country. The Doctor was well pleased to receive him safe, so we were having a pleasant chat at the tea table. The young man was telling of his pleasant voyage across the sea. The young man was telling of his pleasant voyage across the sea. Then Dr. Parker told what a grand time he had when he came. He said the sea was beautiful and calm as a mill pond. He told how they had danced--the passengers I think he referred to; as he was a Methodist preacher, I don't suppose he indulged in dancing.
I listened attentively to all, for I never knew the sea was calm. My idea of the great sea was that it was always rough and tossing. I know I used to sing that good old hymn:--
"Like the rough sea that cannot rest."
So that was my best idea of the grand old ocean. I have learned a great deal about it since then.
Miss Price sat opposite at the table, and as she had crossed several times herself, she said, "There, Mrs. Smith, you see what a pleasant time we could have on board the steamer."
"Yes, but it costs money to go to England, and none but swell folks can go."
"You need not trouble about that," she said, "if you say you will go, I will see to that part."
That was a new version of it, so that night when I went home, I knelt down and said, "Lord, if Thou dost want me to go to England, make it very clear and help me. I don't know what I would do there, I don't know anybody, but if Thou dost want me, Lord, I leave it all to Thee," and somehow--I can't explain it--but God made it so clear, and put it in my conscience so real and deep, that I could no more doubt that He wanted me to go to England, than I could doubt my own existence. I can't explain it, only I knew it, and I don't understand it now, but as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts.
When I was through at Sands Street, and was about to start to Ocean Grove, Miss Price said:
"Now, Mrs. Smith, I am going to Philadelphia to see a friend married, and I will be back such a day, and you can write me."
I went down to the grove, and I was so glad to get there and have a little quiet and rest. I swept and dusted my room and opened the windows, and it was very pleasant. It was the first of April, and, as I thought it over, "Oh," I said, "after all, I think I can get more rest here than I can by going to England."
Then as I looked out from my window and saw the great ocean, and heard the great waves roll in, I trembled. It came to me, "You need a good rest. Then there is Mazie, you can't leave her here alone."
"Yes," I said, "that is so, I guess I won't go." So I did my washing and ironing and began my little sewing, mending and darning, and getting my clothes in order, and resting a little, for I took my time and didn't hurry, and so I went on for several days.
Then a letter came from Miss Price, saying, "Let me know by return mail if you will go with me to England. If you will go, all right, if not, I will join a party of ladies who are going."
A deep conviction came over me that I must go, but I said I had not rested half enough, and I didn't sleep well at night, I went
I sat down to answer the letter, and there was such a deep dread came over me as though I ought not to tell her I would not go, I could hardly write my letter.
"Oh," I said, "what is the matter with me?" A whisper came to me:
"Don't write her, no."
"But I can't go, I must write." So on I went, and I never wrote a letter with such a dread on me before in my life. I finished it, and took it to the postoffice and threw it into the letter box, and was so glad to get it out of my hand. Now, I said, I am free, and it seemed I was lightened for a little while, no sad feeling in my heart, no burden, everything gone.
"Oh," I said, "how much trouble that letter has given me, that is it."
I made several calls before I went home, as I had been away for three months. Everywhere I called, the friends were glad to see me, and said, "Amanda Smith, tell us all about where you have been and about the work," and I had much to tell of what God had wrought. Then, to sing and pray.
I did not go home till half past six, so I felt all that sadness is gone, I will have a nice tea and go to bed early.
I had been in the house about half an hour, I suppose, and my tea was about ready, and, all of a sudden, as when a gas jet is turned off, an avalanche of darkness seemed to come over me like the horror of darkness that came over Abraham. My heart sank, and great dread took possession of me. Every bit of desire for my supper left me, and I wanted nothing.
"O, Lord," I said, "what is the matter with me? Do help me." Then I said, "I don't mean to sleep to-night till I know what ails me." So I locked the doors and fastened the shutters and turned down my lamp very low, and got on my knees, and I said, "Now, Lord, I don't know the cause of this darkness, and I must know before I sleep, I am in for it all night, and I must know what the matter is."
I wept bitterly, and prayed. Then I thought it may be I have grieved the Spirit in some way, in what I said, when I called. Then I went, in my thoughts, to each place, and went through all
"You are going about telling people to trust the Lord in the dark, to trust Him when they can't see Him."
"Yes, Lord, I have done so."
"Well, you tell other people to do what you are not willing to do yourself."
"O, Lord," I said, "that is mean, and by Thy grace I will not tell anybody to do what I am not willing to do myself. Now, Lord, what is it?" And clear and distinct came these words, "Your are afraid to trust the Lord and go to England, you are afraid of the ocean."
My! it took my breath, but I said, "Lord, that is the truth, the real truth." Of course it was.
In a moment, in panorama form, God's goodness seemed to pass before me, and His faithfulness in leading me and providing for me in every way, and answering my prayer a thousand times, and now, to think I should be afraid to trust Him and go to England. Oh, such a sense of shame as filled me. I prostrated myself on the floor again, I felt I could never look up again in His dear face and pray. I never can describe the awful sense of shame that seemed to fill me, and I cried out, "Lord, forgive me, for Jesus' sake, and give me another chance, and I will go to England."
Then I thought, "If I write and tell Miss Price that I will go, she is a stranger, and she may think I am fickle-minded and she won't know how to depend on me, but if the Lord will give me another chance, I will go alone. I pledge Thee Lord, you may trust me, I will obey."
"What about your child?"
Then I saw myself on the steamer in a big storm, and the ship wrecked; it was so real, I heard the timbers crack, heard the thunders roll, saw the lightning, saw and heard the people screaming. Oh, it was awful. Then a telegram came to say the ship was lost.
Then I thought if she should get sick--well, the quickest word I could get would be by telegram, and if I should get to England, and they should send a telegram that she was sick, I knew what that would mean, it would mean she was dead. Oh, how I felt!
Then I thought if all over, and said to myself, "What if she were to be sick and die, and I could not be with her to do for her while she was sick, and pray and help her. If she were dead there would be no use of my coming home, for she would be buried before I could get to her, and then there would be no need of my coming." I saw it all, and I said, "Lord, help me, I will obey Thee."
All of my sisters and brothers that were then living, came before me, one by one, six in number, and I saw each sink and die, and I went to the funeral of each of them, there on my knees, as real as ever I went to a funeral in my life, and I said, "Lord, help me."
"But," I said, "to stay here and disobey God--I can't afford to take the consequence, I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed." Then this hymn came:--
"Lord, obediently I'll go,
Gladly leaving all below,
Only Thou my leader be,
And I still will follow Thee."
Then there came such a flood of light and sweet peace that filled me with joy and gladness, and I sang and praised the Lord, for I felt He had dealt bountifully with me in great mercy.
In the course of a week or so I went to see Miss Price off. She sailed by one of the beautiful ships of the White Star Line. It was like a floating palace. I had never seen anything like it on water; it was magnificent. I thought what a mistake I have made. "Oh, Lord, you may trust me, I will go alone if you will give me another chance." So I went home.
A week or two later I had a letter from Mrs. Mary C. Johnson, saying, "Mr. Johnson and I expect to sail for England such a day in May, and would be glad to take you under our wing."
"Well," I thought, "this is very nice. Mrs. Johnson is such a nice lady, and she and Mr. Johnson have always been so kind to me, and I don't know of anyone I would rather go with than with them."
From the date of the letter I saw it would only give me a little over a week to get ready and I could not do it; then I got down on my knees and spread the letter on a chair and said, "Lord, Thou knowest I will be true and go alone, but I can't get ready and go with Mrs. Johnson, though I would so like to do so. I want to go to Baltimore and see Mazie, and tell her about it;" and then I prayed the Lord to quiet her and prepare her so she could not feel she could not let me go, and He did it, praise His name!
I wanted to go and see my brother that I had not seen in thirty years: he was my oldest brother, living in York, Pennsylvania; and a younger brother I had seen a few months before; he lived in Tonawanda, but my brother William Tolbert I had not seen in thirty years; so I said it is all right. I will write and tell Mrs. Johnson to write me when she gets to England and tell me how things look.
Some time before, I was in Boston at Mr. Moody's meeting; it was the last week of his meetings. There Mrs. Johnson told me that she had a deep conviction that the Lord had a work for me in Great Britain, but I gave no thought to it, so that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were off in a few weeks. As soon as she got to England she wrote me and told me of the Keswick Convention, which answers to one of our holiness camp meetings in this country, but there the phraseology is changed a little, and they call it a convention for the deepening of spiritual life. This meeting was begun by that good man, R. P. Smith, years ago, and they are held every year. God certainly blest him in starting this convention, if nothing else was accomplished.
Numerous other meetings all over the United Kingdom have been productive of marvelous good, the record of which is in eternity, only.
A sad night for me. I think if Satan ever did have anything to do with mosquitoes he certainly had that night. Sunday was another hot day; the heat was something fearful. I walked to and from church, about five miles' distance, I think, but it seemed much longer because of the intense heat.
"Well," I said, "I will not go out this evening." So I went up
"Oh, dear, I can't stand it." So up I got. I said, "It is too far to go down to Bethel Chuch to-night, I will go into this white Methodist Church."
I was so wearied, I said, "Lord, do help me." When I went downstairs my aunt said to me, "Where are you going?"
"I thought you said you were not going out again."
"Yes, but I am going into this white Methodist Church, on Exeter street."
She was surprised.
"We never go to the white people's church here. I would laugh if they put you out."
"Well," I said, "they will have it to do to-night for I am going."
I was glad she did not want to go, for her skin was very thin, and I thought if there was any unpleasantness I could bear it better than she could; so out I went, a half an hour before the time. The church was beautiful; the lights were burning dimly and it was so cool and quiet. The sexton was very pleasant and spoke to me, but did not tell me to go into the gallery--the custom used to be where colored people went to church they went into the gallery--so, as he said nothing, I walked in and went three or four pews from the door.
"If they put me out," I said, "I will have a good strut, and everybody can see me."
Well, in the quiet I began to think and pray. Somehow, I felt the Lord had sent me there to teach me some lesson, and I said, "Lord, what is it that Thou wantest me to learn, for surely Thou dost mean something by all this?" So there I sat, praying earnestly.
By and by, the people began to gather, then two very nicely dressed ladies walked in and stood at my pew. I turned and looked them squarely in the face so they could see I was of the royal black, but they looked pleasant, so I arose and they passed in. There were plenty of vacant pews on the opposite side and further
After a while the minister came in, the lights were turned up. Oh, how pretty it was, and the minister passed up into the pulpit and prayed, then announced the hymn. They sang, then a very earnest prayer, and all the usual preliminaries. All this time I prayed the Lord to teach me the lesson He wanted me to learn. When the minister arose and announced his text, he said: "My text will be found in Philippians 4:19, 'My God shall supply all of your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus;'" and the Spirit said to me clearly, "That is the lesson for you," and the emphasis seemed to be on the need, "My God shall supply all your need," and I saw it, what it all meant.
After I went home from church, in Baltimore, my aunt said to me, "Well, how did you make out?"
"The Lord has taught me the lesson He wanted I should learn," I replied. "I am so glad I went."
When I saw how near I came to breaking my covenant with God, I was alarmed; I slept very little that night.
Next morning I was up betimes and was off to the train. They said it was the nine-thirty that left Baltimore. They said it was the lightning express; its destination was York, Pennsylvania. It made but two stops, at Wilmington, Philadelphia, and York. I felt I never wanted to go in that train again. Oh, it was so swift, as I looked out of the window it seemed to me the trees and posts would cut my eyes out, the speed was something fearful. I held on to myself, and said, "Lord, if Thou wilt help me I will never disobey again."
I got to York, spent the night with my brother, next day held a meeting at one o'clock in the Methodist Church, and left at half-past two for Philadelphia, got home--went out and bought my trunk and packed it, and at seven P. M. I locked my door and dropped my key in the letter box and started for Horton street to my friend's, Mrs. Kenney. I met Mrs. B. and told her I was going to England to be gone three months, and I wanted her to look after my house till I came back.
"All right," she said.
I bade her good-bye, and so passed on. The next morning, Wednesday, at eight o'clock, I went on board the steamer "Ohio," Captain Morris in command. He was a perfect gentleman and
There were quite a number of aristocratic passengers, and I, being a colored woman and alone, there was quite a little inquiry who I was, what I was going to England for, etc. I must say I did feel some what embarrassed. Several of the passengers asked me if I had ever been in England.
"No," I said.
"Are you going on business?"
"No, not special."
"Do you expect friends to meet you?"
Then such a critical smile and remark. They would go away and would talk it over with two or more others and pass comments, and after a while another would come and put the same question in another form.
"You are going to Paris, I suppose?"
"No, I don't expect to go to Paris."
"I suppose you are going to join the Jubilee Singers. No doubt, you find this an expensive passage, Mrs. Smith?"
"Yes, seventy dollars was what I paid for my passage."
"You have friends that will meet you in England?"
"Well, no, I don't know that anyone will meet me."
Then I would tell them of my friend, Mrs. Mary C. Johnson, and Miss Price, and how it all came about, and they would seem to be so astonished to think I would be such a fool as to go to England on such a testimony. An old Quaker gentleman was the only one that really seemed to know about the leading of the Spirit, and he spoke for me on one or two occasions. Some of the ladies remarked that I should have gone steerage, and it would not have cost me so much.
They didn't know but I was a suspicious being of some kind, so this worried me a little, and one day I went into my cabin and got down on my knees, and said, "Now, Lord, these people ask me so many questions. If I tell them that Thou hast sent me to England, they don't understand it; and now, Lord, don't let them ask me any more questions. Stop them; take the curiosity out of them; make them let me alone, for Jesus' sake. Amen."
I got up and went on deck, and not a soul from that hour asked me any more questions, not one the whole voyage. "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it."
"Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care,
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer." Amen.
We were all pretty sick the first two days. The third day one of the waiters, a very nice, kind lad, helped me on deck. When the captain saw me he came to me, and said, "How are you, Mrs. Smith?"
"I am feeling better, captain, thank you."
Then he took a seat by me, and said, "Mrs. Smith, have you had proper treatment?"
"Yes, captain, thank you."
He said, "If you have any unpleasantness from any one on this ship, I want you to report to me."
"I thank you, sir, I will do so."
But I had no complaint to make. The stewardess was very kind, which any one could not help appreciating when traveling on shipboard. She would bring my lunch or meals up on deck, just as she did the others, and I had many pleasant talks with her.
The first Sunday we were out nearly all the passengers were laid up by seasickness. Out of the twenty or more lady passengers, I think there was not one up on deck till late in the afternoon, but the following Sunday we were all well and up and out.
The Quaker gentleman and his son were the only two that really seemed to take much to me, outside the curious questions that were asked. Then the gentleman and lady that sat next me at the table--they were from Philadelphia,--were both very agreeable and made it very pleasant for me, and this I appreciated very much.
The Quaker gentleman and his son were very much interested in me when they learned I was, as the Friends say, "a preacher woman." The old gentleman told me much about the usages among the Society of Friends. He said the Friends had always stood clear on the part of female preaching, and he said he was very proud of them. I had never met him before, and he did not know that colored women ever worked in that sphere. He encouraged me, and told me to go forward. Then he spoke to the captain about holding services.
There were five doctors on board, and no preacher among them. Most of the passengers were Episcopalians and Presbyterians,
The captain came to me himself and said he would be very glad if I would take the service. He would have the saloon arranged. I told him I would do so if he thought it would be best. He assured me that it would be all right, so everything was arranged. First bell was rung; it did seem real churchified! How the smiles and whispers went around among the passengers, "The colored woman is going to preach" All were invited down into the saloon, then the second bell was rung. Many of the second cabin and some of the steerage passengers came in. Those from the steerage were most of them Romanists, but all behaved reverently except one or two poor, ignorant persons.
The Episcopal prayer and hymn books were placed all around the long tables, and I did not know a bit how to proceed with that service, so I turned to my Quaker friend, for he and his son stood by me ready to assist in anything but to sing or pray, and he spoke to the captain, who said I should go on in my own way. So I gave out a hymn that was familiar, and they all joined as I started the tune. If I had dared to ask some one to pray I would, but if I had it would only have been an embarrassment to any one but an old time Methodist, so I looked to God for strength and prayed myself, then I sang from the Winnowed Hymns that beautiful song, "Jesus of Nazareth Passeth By."
The Lord blest the singing and it captured their attention, and before I got through I saw a number of them were touched, but how I prayed that morning for Divine help, and it surely came.
I opened my Bible at the 14th chapter of John, and said, "I will not preach, but I want to talk a little from this dear old chapter," so I talked on for over half an hour with perfect liberty and freedom. Then I prayed, and as I spoke to the Lord the several passengers came before me, those that were sick, and friends left behind, the captain and officers that had been so kind, and so on, as the Spirit prompted the prayer, so I prayed. When I got through we sang the Doxology.
Oh, how it changed the spirit of the passengers. Ladies and gentlemen that had not even said good morning to me before, came to me and thanked me for what I said, and especially for the prayer. They shook hands and were so interested, and said, "Lord bless you."
There was a great swell doctor who belonged to the United States Navy--he and his wife and two children. His wife and children were very nice, but from the remarks of some of the passengers he seemed to act as though he thought the passengers on that steamer ought to feel they were highly honored that so great a passenger as he, doctor in the United States Navy, was aboard that ship.
The two little girls were sweet little things, aged, I should think, about nine and six years; they seemed to take quite a fancy to me. They had no nurse with them, so I would amuse them, and we had a pleasant time, but whenever the doctor was around he would call them away. He would seem to feel so uncomfortable that they should be so stupid as to notice a black woman. I used to smile as I would see his maneuvers.
When I got to Liverpool I knew nothing about the Custom House. All the ladies had gentlemen to look after their baggage, and as there is alwas a commotion when we get in, so I said, "Lord, I have no one to look after my baggage or do anything for me, now help me and keep me quiet, and just help me through with everything."
The good doctor seemed to take special pains to hinder me. He had a good deal of baggage to be examined, I had but one trunk, he had three officers. I waited; then I saw a chance, and I just spoke to one of the men, and pointed out my trunk; just then the good doctor stepped right in front of me, clapped the man on the arm, took him away so roughly, so I waited till all were pretty well through. The doctor got in his cab and was off. Then the man turned to me and said, "Madame, this is your trunk?"
"Yes, sir," I said.
"I suppose you have no tobacco nor cigars, nor books?"
"No, no," was my reply.
"Well, all right, where do you want to go?"
"Lime Street Station, sir."
He whistled for a cab, I locked my trunk, and a moment more I was off.
My cab overtook and passed the good doctor. As I passed I looked out and waved my hand with a polite bow and rolled by, leaving the doctor behind, and instead of smiling like a good fellow and bidding me God speed, he simply frowned and seemed to bite his lip. I have never seen him since, poor fellow!