CHAPTER III. Voyage to Singapore

Sails from Boston July’2, 1834 – Her companions – Missionaries to Burmah – Scenes on the voyage – Employments – Religious exercises – Hopeful conversions on board – Magellanic clouds – Arrival at Amherst, in Burmah – Three days at Maulmain – Native funeral – Arrival at Penang – And at Singapore Jan. 18, 1835

Where tropic suns for ever burn,
Far over land and wave,
The child whom thou hast loved would make
Her hearthstone and her grave.

With the true spirit of a Christian heroine, whose heart is warm with the love of the Saviour, and glows with the benevolent desire of elevating the heathen from their wretchedness and degradation, Mrs. Bradley saw the shores of her native land recede and fade away, not without a struggle, but almost without a tear. The gallant ship which bore this precious freight to Asiatic shores, bore also a company of Baptist missionaries destined to Burmah.

July 3, 1834, off the highlands of Cape Cod, Mrs. Bradley wrote; “I am really at sea. Yesterday we left Boston. We went to the vessel at half-past seven in the morning. At nine, religious exercises were attended; the hymn, ‘Go, ye heralds of salvation,’ was sung, and a prayer was offered by Dr. Sharp; another hymn, and the benediction by Dr. Wisner followed, after which our friends left the ship. While the vessel was loosened from the wharf, and the sails made ready, some one on shore commenced singing, ‘From Greenland’s icy mountains.’ After this was finished, those on board sung, ‘Yes, my native land, I love thee.’ Soon we pushed off, and the multitude on shore became a motley mass of human beings; then the spires and building of the city disappeared in the distance. Some wrote to send back by the pilot; but I had said farewell to all, and would choose to say no more. Our company consists of the Rev. Mesers. Wades, Howard, Vinton, Comstock, Dean, and their wives; Mr Osgood, printer, and wife; Miss Gardner of the burman mission; the Burman and Karen teachers, Miss White, Dr. Bradley, and myself.

July 6, Sabbath. “I have read of Sabbaths at sea, but now I have spent one upon the great and wide ocean. I have enjoyed both social and private devotions. Had worship on deck at ten, A.M.; sermon by Mr. Wade; text Psa. 145:18. The officers were all present; and about half the crew, dressed in their clean suits. There was something exceedingly interesting in worshipping thus, in a little bark upheld by the great waters, under the broad canopy of heaven, while the gentle breeze idly played among the almost useless sails, the inmates of the coop sounded their familiar barnyard notes, and a sheep straying from its enclosure licked up a portion of the briny wave which washed over the deck in the morning. Novel as was the scene, I enjoyed these Sabbath privileges much more that those I have recently had in my dear native land.

July 8. “The ocean has assumed the appearance I had always imagined, a dark blue, with white-capped waves. Today I have seen the force of the expression ‘silvery wave;’ for the sun being in a suitable direction, the ocean had much the appearance of mercury. My dear husband has just called me to see the sun set in the ocean. It was of a bright red color, and above it, extending half around the horizon, was a regular battlement of black clouds. It was topped with scarlet, the reflection of the rays upon the clouds; and the whole exhibited an appearance that I have never seen but in painting.

July 12. “This is my birthday. Twenty-three years of my life have passed away; the last has been an eventful period. I have left my father’s house and my country, and am now on my way to a heathen land. I have certainly great reason to praise God for all his mercies to me the past year; especially that he has given me a husband who bears his image.

July 17. “While sewing, endeavored to commit to memory some of the Psalms. How much of the sacred word I might have treasured up in my mind, had I rightly improved my time. May the Lord graciously aid me in spending the remainder of my life in active service for him.

July 18. “Wrote to my dear brother, P.W—-. I feel that all my intercourse with my friends at home being by letter, is rendered seldom in its bearings. After tea, Mrs. Wade came to my room, and we had a delightful season of prayer; then I walked on deck with her, enjoying the benefit of her conversation. This is the birthday of my dear companion; he has completed thirty years of his pilgrimage. Will another thirty years find him on earth? The Lord only knows, but it is probable that long before that time we shall both be slumbering in the grave. While we live may we be eminently useful in his services.

July 23. “A sunset at sea far surpasses any thing we see on land. In this I think we may discern the kind car of our heavenly Father. During the day we see naught but the wide expanse of water reflecting the rays of the sun with such brilliancy that it is often painful to look upon. But as the sun sinks in the west, his lustre is so much dimmed that we can gaze upon his disc with a unwavering eye. As his enlarged red face sinks into the wave, the clouds reflect his rays in the brightest red, orange or purple. When he is entirely gone, we gaze upon these rich clouds as they seem to float in a sea of fire, and fancy them cities with their tall spires, strongly fortified castles, hills crowned with forests, rocks and islands rising from the sea of liquid fire, horses and chariots driving at a fearful rate, and even some of our fellow-men seem to be walking in those airy regions. But as we gaze at these striking resemblances they vanish away, reminding us that they are ‘a vapor.’ There is no permanent good, save that which is drawn from the wells of salvation.

July 24. “The first thing I heard this morning, was the report that four vessels were within sight. I went upon deck and looked for the vessels before I had looked ‘unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith.’ Only one of the vessels was in sight from the deck, the rest were seen from the masts. I cast my eye to the mainmast, and saw Dr. Bradley up in the maintop cross-trees, ninety feet above the deck, looking at the ships. During the day, they have all been in sight; three of them crossed our tract; their apparent course was from the West Indies to England. The other holds her course directly ahead of us. The officers seem to be looking out for pirates, putting their guns and other arms in order. But none of these thing should move us, neither should we count our lives dear unto us, but pray especially that we may glorify our God should we be called to face the danger.

July 27. “Sabbath. Dr. Bradley and myself agreed to keep this day as one of fasting and prayer. Just before the morning service, a proposition was made that each family should retire separately and pray for a blessing upon the labors of the day. It was a solemn season. I felt as if I could pour out my heart in prayer for His blessing upon the speaker and hearers. Rev. G.S. Comstock preached from the words, “Lord save us, we perish.’ It was a most solemn discourse.

July 31. “A cool and delightful day, with a strong breeze, though not fair. Have consecrated this day to fasting and prayer, but it has not seemed to be a good day for my soul. How can I say this? I doubt not but it has been best for me that the Lord should hide his face, and leave me to see the desperate hardness of my heart.

August 1. “Slept late this morning, but had a sweet season in prayer. Enjoyed reading the words of our Saviour as to taking no thought what we shall eat and drink. Oh, it is sweet to receive every thing from the hand of my heavenly Father. I would feel that all comes from him that every blessing has been bought with the Saviour’s blood.

August 12. “While Dr. Bradley was praying tonight he thanked the Lord that he had ever known him, and I immediately thought of the time when I madly wished I had been born in a heathen land, that my doom might not be aggravated by knowing my duty and doing it not.

Sept. 9. “The Spirit of the Lord seems evidently striving with the impenitent who are shut up with us in this little floating world.

Sept. 12. “I have indeed had a blessing from God tonight. As I knelt before him, I felt guilty that I had so often approached him without obtaining a blessing. I cried with some brokenness of heart, Lord, pardon me that I have obtained no answer to prayer today. This was accompanied with the feeling, ‘I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.’ It is long since I have so sensibly felt the presence of my Saviour. I knew not how to leave the spot. Let not the unmerited favor thou hast conferred upon me lift me up, but keep me at thy feet, blessed Saviour.

Sept. 14. “While engaged in prayer in my own room, I pleaded earnestly for some token of my adoption, and was heard. I would here record it, as a witness against myself when ready to leave the throne of grace without a blessing. Yes, my heart was softened during the morning: then I said to myself, why not seek and obtain another blessing? I asked the Lord to give me a sense of the state of the impenitent. Expecting this to be answered only through means, I studied the word of God upon this subject.

Sept. 19. “I am grateful to God that he permits me to enjoy so many days of comfortable health. Though there have been many when I could not study at all, yet I have been able to keep up with my friends in their reviewing the Chinese radicals. Yesterday’s lesson commenced where I left off when I pretended to study them before; how I shall succeed now in keeping pace with them remains to be proved. But do I keep pace with them in my spiritual race? I fear not.

Sept. 22. “Have I not glorious things to record that God has done for us? Truly, I have. Last evening Mr. Ray, the first mate, who had for a week been cherishing the hope that his heart was renewed by grace, rose and gave his testimony in favor of religion, and the certainty that those who seek the salvation of their souls will find it. When about to break up, we were electrified by one of the sailors rising and confessing his sinfulness of life. He concluded by saying, ‘I am not ashamed before God and his children to say, that I will serve him the rest of my life.’ The captain, who had been very solemn during the meeting, at this incident seemed entirely overcome. He has now been sitting in our cabin for half an hour. I do believe that his soul will be given to Christ. Others have labored, and I am determined to enter into their labors.

Sept. 25. “Our captain rose much agitated this evening, and said, ‘I feel that it is time for me to serve the Lord, Jesus helping me.’ One sailor prayed most fervently for himself and others; another requested prayers for himself.

Oct. 20. “Yesterday I rose weak and sick; still I determined to attend meeting, and at the appointed hour took my place among the people of God. Sister White entreated me to return to my room; my judgment told me to do so, but my will was to remain. However, Miss White provailed, though I could not refrain from shedding tears as I climbed into my birth. I found it good to be brought to lay my will at the feet of the blessed Saviour.

Oct. 23. “Many impenitent sinners present at this evening’s meeting, and Christians exhibited unusual earnestness. May the Lord carry on his work.

Oct. 27. “In the evening my husband requested me to go on deck to see the Magellanic clouds. These are two permanent light clouds, supposed to be stars like the galaxy of the northern hemisphere. This is the first time that I have gazed upon that part of the canopy of heaven stretched over the southern Hemisphere. My attention was particularly attracted by three stars arranged in a semicircle, but so distant that their light was indistinct. Two beautiful planets were shining upon us with uncommon lustre. ‘The heavens are the work of thy hands.’

Oct. 28. “I have yielded to my easily besetting sin, namely, a desire to interest others in conversation with no reference to the glory of God.

Nov. 10. “Wind light and contrary. As I was writing upon deck, between the hours of ten and eleven A.M., a very small bird flew across the deck, and after hovering about the vessel, the weary little landsman alighted upon it. During the afternoon it diverted us much by hopping about the spars, boat, etc., and flying away, but 11ke Noah’s dove returning quickly to the ark. O that my heart were ever inclined to return as quickly as Jesus in its frequent wanderings.

Nov. 20. “Rose early this morning, and spent the time before breakfast in reading and prayer. After breakfast, Mrs. Wade called me to her room and presented me with a beautiful dress. I feel almost overwhelmed with the kindness of these friends to us. It is my dear husband’s attention to them in sickness that has procured so many marks of friendship. How little did I think, when spreading my case before the Lord last night, that he would thus answer me. ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’

Nov. 26. “Violent rain this mornings this is very unusual here at this season of the year. From my own observations, I should never suspect that these uncomfortably warm days were the last of November.

Dec. 1. Making our way towards the coast of Tavoy, which we could see all the afternoon. We came within four miles of the island called South Moscus. This is a mountainous isle, chiefly covered with trees, but in some places we could distinguish the naked rook. Oh, it is delightful to see land so distinctly again. If some of its productions could be obtained for our sick people, I should be very glad.

Dec. 6. “We are actually off Amherst, Burmah, this morning, and after firing for a pilot, one has come on board. Everything has been in confusion since. I do not wish to go to Maulmain today, for I fear that not only the missionaries there but ourselves will have no Sabbath tomorrow. This afternoon we have been permitted to set our feet on heathen shores, and have seen the pagodas of Amherst, four in number, and the images of Gaudama, where men fall down and worship stocks, stones, and the workmanship of their own hands.

Their first walk on heathen ground was in visiting a hallowed spot, the grave of the first Mrs. Judson and her little Maria, near Amherst. The whole mission company wentthither at the hour of evening twilight, led by Mrs. Wade. Thought was too big for utterance. They leaned for a few moments in silence over the railing which encloses the grave; then each plucked a twig from the hopia-tree which marks the spot, and departed.

Dec. 8. “This afternoon was spent in preparations for going to Maulmain. At one o’clock I found myself in a Burman boat, five feet by forty, in company with Mrs. Wade, Miss White, and Dr. Bradley. The evening was very fine, and we spent it in the open part of the boat singing the praises of God and talking of his perfections. It was a good season to our souls. After preparing our couch for the night, we commended ourselves to God, and all but Mrs. Wade lay down to rest for we did not believe that the Burmans would bring us to Maulmain ‘in time for great folks to go to bed,’ as they said. However, to our great astonishment, we found ourselves at the place at ten o’clock. Dr.Bradley and myself were kindly invited to the house of Mr. Bennett, and at twelve went to rest in missionary style, one on a stuffed settee and the other on a grass mattress on the floor.”

Here they beheld the horrid and distorted features of heatheniam, and the degradation and wretchedness it produces, aggravated by an arbitrary and oppressive government. Here they saw chambers of imagery looking to the north and the south, to the east and the west, and in those chambers, not man made in the image of God, but gods fashioned somewhat in the likeness of men, though far less comely in shape and proportions. Here stood Gaudama with fingers of equal length, and toes presenting the same deformity; and here they saw multitudes of unhappy children, whose necks, arms, and ankles were loaded with ornaments, and yet who were destitute of almost every thing essential to decency and comfort.

After visiting a pagoda at Maulmain, she says, “The whole number of idols upon this high place exceeds six hundred. I felt, while upon this hill, as I was treading in Satan’s empire, and could not divest myself of an unconquerable dread.”

During the three days they spent at Maulmain, the newly arrived missionaries enjoyed the society of that veteran in the cause of missions, Dr. Jutson; and derived from his experience many lessons of practical wisdom. In a letter relating to this period, Mrs. Bradley writes, “On the ninth we had the privilege of dining at Dr. Judson’s. It is almost superfluous to say that we had an interesting and highly profitable visit. Just imagine Dr. Bradley and myself sitting as learners at the at the feet of this pioneer in the work of missions, this eminently devoted disciple of our Lord and Master. Oh, I wish you could have seen His tall and slender frame, his mild blue eye kindling with animation when he spoke, have heard the low, pleasant tones of his voice, and remembered that for nearly two years that frame had worn the Burman fetters, that that eye had wept a wife and three children laid in the grave, that that gentle voice had for nearly twenty years proclaimed the news of pardon to Satan’s willing captives.

“About six o’clock we went to the native chapel, where Dr. Judson meets thirty or forty native Christians for worship every evening. The church in this place contains about eighty members. What is laid down as Burmah on our maps contains about four hundred native Christians. Mr. Simmons conducted us back to Mr. Bennett’s. On the way, our attention was arrested by the sound of music. Following the sound we were led into a 11ttle lane, where were a dozen persons feasting in front of a native house. This showed that there was a funeral there. The front was open, and on an elevated platform in the back part lay the corpse of a Burman woman, the wife of a Chinaman. The front was occupied with musicians, beating and seating music out of their instruments. We were allowed to ascend the platform. Above the corpse was a white canopy, ornamented with gilt leaves: at its head stood the image of Gaudama; around sat the relatives and perhaps hired mourners, weeping and wailing for the dead. I gazed upon this corpse with emotions far different from any I have ever before experienced. The body lay before me, but the spirit, instead of suffering transmigration, as these deluded people suppose, had gone to the God who gave it. Pray, that the scene I then witnessed may not be lost upon me. How I wish, as I see these natives, that I could tell them of Jesus; but I must study long and arduously before that time shall arrive.”

We must not linger here, but proceed with our voyagers next to the island of Penang.

Dec. 13. “Left Mrs. Bennett’s immediately after breakfast, for the mission compound. At one o’clock we bade our dear friends farewell, and soon found ourselves in a large Burman boat, ready to descend the Salven. Nothing of note occurred till we found that our men were anchoring for the night. Upon learning this, we spread our mattresses upon the bamboos, and lay down to sleep. I know not how long we slept but we were aroused by the natives awakening each other and rinding their mouths, the only neat custom they have, I believe. By the combined efforts of wind, tide, and oars, we were brought to our ship at 3 o’clock, A.M., and gladly reposed in our berths the rest of the night. We have every reason to bless God for permission to visit his servants at Maulmain, for causing them to receive us with open arms, and for all the instruction which they have given us.

Dec, 22. We are still pursuing our course towards Penang. It is a most important inquiry whether we are travelling onward towards heavens. Have felt quite well today.

Penang, Jan. 1, 1835. “Every thing on board was in confusion this morning, and had a tendency to dissipate from our minds those thoughts which would have been suitable for the day. Anchored at Penang about twelve. Tyerman speaks of Penang’s bearing much of the English air, as it truly does. Before we anchored, the Rev. Mr. Dyer of the London Missionary Society came on board, bringing a letter of introduction from Rev. Ira Tracy to Miss White—-to whom Mr. Tracy was engaged before leaving the United States, Miss White having been detained by sickness. This letter was a cordial to our hearts, as it assured us that Mr. Tracy was well, and at Singapore on the twelfth. Mr. Dyer invited us all ashore, assuring us that every arrangement was made for our accommodation in the families of Rev. Mr. Beighton, his associate missionary, and of Captain Gottlieb, superintendent of the convicts and of the arsenal, a pious man. Immediately after breakfast we went on shore, landing at the arsenal, and were met by a servant with a palanquin carriage, draw by a pony the size of a large colt. A ride for a few minutes brought us to Captain Gottliebts door. Here we dined; then took an airing in the palanquin with Mrs. Gottlieb. The roads are perfectly level, and composed of beach sand. A servant takes the pony by his bridle or mane, and they trot off together at the rate of six miles an hour. An hour’s work causes both men and beast to sweat profusely, though the vehicles are light. I can hardly tell what I saw during this ride, I was so delighted with every thing. The bamboo hedges attracted my attention, by trimming they are kept so level, that they look as if you might take the arm of your friend, and have a fine walk on the top.

Jan 3. “Saw the clove and nutmeg trees. Their leaves have a strong flavor of their respective spices. The nutmeg grows in a shell resembling a pear in shape and appearance; which bursts when ripe, and displays the mace which is of a bright red at that period, and the nutmeg which is black.

Jan 5. “This is the day that Christians spend in fasting and prayer for the conversion of the world. We cannot so spend its but I would pray much for the prosperity of Zion. Dined at Mr. R—-‘s. It is the first dinner party I have ever attended, and the last I wish to attend. Have offended two of the company by declining to take wine with them.

Jan. 9. “Ship Cashmere. Though very faint this morning, yet I have had strength given me to make preparations for going on shore. Jan. 10. “Saturday evening. At dark we were forty-five miles from Singapore. If the Lord sees fit, I should choose not to reach that place until Monday. My home has so long been in the Cashmere, that I cannot but feel some regrets at leaving her that we may have a quiet Sabbath.

Jan. 20. “We anchored off Singapore on the Sabbath. Before evening Mr. Tracy, and much to our surprise Rev. Peter Parker came aboard, and Miss White went ashore with them. Monday morning was deligently employed in making preparations for going ashore, and at 10 o’clock, P.M., ourselves with our goods and chattels were on our way to land. We went immediately to the house of Mr. Balistier, the American consul, where we were most kindly entertained until Thursday. Our long voyage to Singapore is ended—-we have traversed two broad oceans, and arrived in safety. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.'”

Reproduced from: A Sketch of The Life and Character of Mrs. Emelie Royce Bradley, Ten Years a Missionary in Siam by Nancy Royce c.1865. Please notify of any transcription inaccuracies to DigitalBangkokRecorder