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CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS, No. 1.
MARINER'S CHURCH, PORTLAND, MAINE. Written for the Monthly Repository and Library of Entertaining Knowledge.
The above view of the Mariner's Church in Portland is remarkable only as it is a monument of Christian benevolence. It is not long since, seamen were regarded as travellers upon the 'mountain wave,' having no more connexion with the land than the fish which swim the sea. When they died on their long voyages they were committed to the wide grave over which no monument stands, and where neither cypress or willow waves in seeming sorrow. When they died on shore, it was often in foreign ports where the rites of burial under the forms of christian churches might not be obtained. Seamen once were a neglected, disfranchised class of men. By their sacrifices of health and life, the riches of all nations were laid at the feet of our citizens, and the commodities of distant climes brought into our dwellings, and yet the question of their temporal or spiritual interests was never thought of or discussed. It is but lately that christian benevolence has honored itself by regarding the moral condition of those who
toil upon another element than that upon which they were born. The deep: wild waste of waters has now become a field of prayer. Humanity and piety, like twin sisters, stand upon the shore to give the sailor an affectionate farewell as he leaves his native strandand there they remain to greet him on his return. He now leaves his family, if he have one, under the shadow of the Bethel flag. They are safe under the protecting wing of gospel ordinances, and are imbued with the heavenly influences that wait on the ministrations of mercy. As for himself, let storm or calm convulse or smooth the bosom of the ocean, his mind turns to the last impressive services of religion.in the Bethel church; -he remembers the fervent prayer of the holy man who invoked Him who holds the reins of the strong tempest to spare his ship upon her perilous path, and to grant salvation to those frail beings, between whom and the dark retreats at the bottom of the sea, a plank only intervenes.
The liabilities to sudden death at sea from shipwreck, from sickness or from accident, render it a most imperative duty for christians to aid seamen in their great work of preparation for an instant exchange of worlds. Sailors often speak of the comfortless and solemn sensations they experience whenever they are called to com mit the lifeless body of a comrade to his ocean grave. It is a dreary work to wrap and lower into the waves a man who left port with as high hopes of return as any of them. 'Alas! nor wife nor children more shall he behold'—and, alas! in too many cases, there is little hope that the voyager, who sails no more on an earthly sea, shall hoist the sails of immortality on a sea of bliss.
The Mariner's Church in Portland, stands at the head of Commercial and Long wharves; it covers 82 feet on Fore-street, and extends down Long-wharf, 70 feet. The basements are rented at about $3000. The Chapel is 40 feet by 65, besides which there are a School room, a Library room, two rooms for the Marine Society, and a room for a high Nautical School.
The erection of this Bethel Church, formed an era in the history of American benevolence towards seamen. It was like the solution of a problem, and hundrede
awoke, as from a dream, to act nobly for those who do business upon the great waters. At the present time, there is no community of christians in the world, more alive to the immortal interests of sailors than the American church. May this holy ardor not only continue but increase to a flood of benevolence that shall encircle the sea and its thousands of harbors, and follow the sails that whiten the lakes and the broad rivers with the sound of a free salvation.
THE FUNERAL AT SEA. "No flowers can ever bloom upon his grave~no tear of affection fall upon the briny surge which rolls over him.”
It was a morning at sea. The sun had risen in glory and was pouring his beams, a shower of golden light, in richness over the boundless expanse of waters. Not a cloud was visible, the winds were hushed; and the surface of the ocean was unbroken by a ripple. A solilary ship was the only object in all the magnificent scene which spoke the existence of man. Her sails were hanging sluggishly from the yards. The light motionless flag, suspended at half mast
, seemed to portend that misfortune, perhaps death, had been there. And such was indeed the case-Among the party who composed her passengers on leaving port was one whose health had been declining in the coolness of our northern winter, and who, as the last hope of regaining it, had determined to visit the sunny vine hills of France! and inbale the pure air of Italy. His friends, as they bade him adieu, believed it was the last farewell, and he bimself, as his native shores faded from his sight, felt the dark dreary consciousness come over him that he was going to die among strangers. He was young: and before disease had fastened itself upon him, had moved the beloved and admired of all. He could ill bear the thought of dying, for his hopes were high and animating-just such as an ardent, inexperienced mind delights to indulge; and he had looked forward with inpatience to the time when he should become an actor in the busy world. He had talents and education atted for any employment, and his friends confidently anticipa
ted the period when he should share in the councils of his country, or stand pre-eininently distinguished at the bar. He had ties too of a different nature, which had given a fairy charm to existence, and bound him still closer to life-ties which were too fondly cherished Intertwined, as they were with the very fibres of his heart—to be severed by any thing save death. No wonder that he felt it hard to die! But the victims which the grave selects, are not always those whom we value most lightly, nor who most readily sink into its shadows. How often is youth cut down when just opening into manhood, and glorying in all its bright anticipations? Such was the case with the one before us. Consumption had been silently but gradually performing its task, and the unnatural flush upon his cheek, and his glazing eye told but too faithfully that he was rapidly passing to another world. He died at last—and his death was calm and peaceful as the sleep of an infant folded in its mother's arms. And now his manly body lay stretched on the deck about to be committed to the world of waters—a feeble thing—but oh! the hope and happiness of how many hearts may go with it to old ocean's silent chasms! The ship's company were collected and stood around, gazing upon the cold, placid countenance which they were about to consign with all its beauty to the deep. No word was uttered, but memory recalled the gentle voice and sweet smile of the deceased, and fancy pictured the sorrow which his death would cast over the circle he had left. An appropriate prayer, and a few remarks suggested by the occasion were the only religious ceremonies performed; then the body was lifted carefully, as if it could know, in its unconsciousness that tears were in the eyes of the strangers, and tenderness in their bosoms. Then a single heavy plunge broke strangely the wide stillness of the ocean, and sent the long and circling ripples over its glassy breast. We gazed with strained eyes after he slowly sinking corpse, till it grew dim and vaguely shaped in the deep green water, and then gradually disappeared. A gloomy silence succeeded. The deso .ation of a desert pervaded the ship.
CABINET OF NATURE. IMMENSB QUANTITY OF MATTER IN THE UNIVERSE; Or, Nlustrations of the Omnipotence of the Deity.
(Continued from page 43.) If we extend our views from the solar system to the starry heavens, we have to penetrate, in our imagination, a space which the swiftest ball that was ever projected, though in perpetual motion, would not traverse in ten hundred thousand years. In those trackless regions of immensity, we behold an assemblage of resplendent globes, similar to the sun in size, and in glory, and doubtless, accompanied with a retinue of worlds, revolving like our own around their attractive influence. The immense distance at which the nearest stars are known to be placed, proves, that they are bodies of a prodigious size, not inferior to our own sun, and that they shine, not by reflected rays, but by their own native light. But bodies encircled with such refulgent splendor, would be of little use in the economy of Jehovah's empire, unless surrounding worlds were cheered by their benign influence, and enlightened by their beams, Every star is, therefore, with good reason, concluded to be a sun, no less spacious than ours, surrounded by a host of planetary globes, which revolve around it as a centre, and derive from it light, and heat, and comfort. Nearly a thousand of these luminaries may be seen in a clear winter night, by the naked eye; so that a mass of matter equal to a thousand solar systems, or to thirteen hundred and twenty millions of globes of the size of the earth, may be perceived by every common observer, in the canopy of heaven. But all the celestial orbs which are perceived by the unassisted sight, do not form the eighty thousandth part of those which may be descried by the help of optical instruments. The telescope has enabled us to descry, in certain spaces of the heavens, thousands of stars where the naked eye could scarcely discern twenty. The late celebrated astronomer, Dr. Herschel, has informed us, that, in the most crowded parts of the Milky-way, when exploring that region with his best glasses, he has had fields of view