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BIBLE LABOURS IN THE CRIMEA.
The letter given below was addressed to the secretary of the American Bible Society, and contains a deeply interesting record of the perseverance and the success of Mr Righter in his efforts to secure the distribution of the Bible in the allied armies of England and France.
“CAMP BEFORE SEBASTOPOL, Dec. 26, 1854. “MY DEAR BROTHER, -As I found that all the avenues for Bible distribution among the soldiers and sailors at Constantinople were occupied by the agency of the British and Foreign Bible Society, I decided, with the advice and approbation of our good friends, to make a visit to the camp at Sebastopol, for the purpose of ascertaining the demand there, and making arrangements for the supply. Accordingly I was kindly presented with an order from Admiral Boxer for a passage on board an English transport ship to the Crimea. It was a lovely afternoon as we sailed from the Golden Horn through the Bosphorus out to the Black Sea, and thence two days upon its stormy waters to Balaklava, the fine little harbour for English shipping and stores for the army of the East. I took a hundred Bibles and Testaments with me, and on my arrival was received by Mr Matheson, agent of the
Soldier's Friend Society, who gave me a cordial welcome, and remarked that my visit there at the present time was most providential, and I could have brought nothing more acceptable than Bibles. He said, however, there was great opposition on the part of the chief chaplain to any religious effort in behalf of the soldiers. He himself had been forbidden the camp by this authority, and whatever he was able to accomplish must be done in the most clandestine manner possible. And as I accompanied him in his benevolent work, I soon found it was but too true. He seemed afraid to let it be known that he had tracts or religious books. He kept them concealed under his coat and in his pockets, and as he met the soldiers singly or in little companies off duty, he would secretly slip a tract or religious book into their hands for them to carry to their tents and read. Yet I was glad to notice how thankfully all received them at his hands. “Don't you see,' said he, 'how guarded I must be not to attract attention from the officers or chaplains in my work, or I would be immediately expelled from the field; yet I am daily distributing my hundreds of tracts, and they are doing their good work in the army and navy.' I asked if it were not possible for me to obtain permission from the officers for the distribution of the Bible among the troops. There is not
. the least possibility of it,' said he. “I would not advise you to call upon them for that purpose, it will only excite their opposition.'
“I then called upon Rev. Mr Hayward, the chaplain of the royal forces at Balaklava. He received me very kindly, and said that Bibles were much needed by the soldiers, but to how great an extent he knew not. He had received a small supply from England, and had only given them
sparingly, and thought many more might be wanted. I found him to be a man of excellent Christian spirit, denying himself the ordinary comforts and enjoyments of life, and labouring night and day for the spiritual welfare of the suffering and dying soldiers. And it was delightful to see how kindly these rough soldiers received his visits, and listened to the words of love and Christian admonition he addressed them. He seemed fully imbued with the spirit of our Saviour, 'who went about doing good.' Yet when I proposed, in accompanying him on his visit, to give a few a Bibles and Testaments to those who desired them, he replied at once, 'It is contrary to general orders, and I would not dare give my consent.' I then asked if it were not possible to obtain such authority from the commander-in-chief. He said, 'You may make the effort, but I am quite sure you will not succeed. I should be right glad if it were so.' Notwithstanding, I set out next morning early for head-quarters at the camp, four miles distant, putting a few Testaments in my pocket for distribution by the way. As we were trudging along through the mud half-knee deep (it is impossible to conceive the state of the roads which the heavy rains and artillery waggons have made), I saw the wife of a soldier, in the midst of the din and confusion of the scene, stopping to rest by the wayside, and her interesting countenance attracted my attention. I stepped forward, spoke a pleasant word to her, and asked her if she had a Bible or Testament in her tent. “Oh, no,' said she, we have just come from Varna, and if you could give me one I should be very thankful;' and an old soldier coming up, said, 'If you could give me one, too, sir, I would think very much of it. I belong to Captain Fraser's battery, and we have
no Bibles there. So I gave them each one, and went on my way rejoicing. In two hours we reached the headquarters of Lord Raglan. Here I called upon General Estcourt, his principal secretary, and stated the object of my visit, in the name of the American Bible Society, to obtain permission to supply the soldiers of the army with Bibles and Testaments. He received me very kindly, and said he would at once present the subject to Lord Raglan, who would undoubtedly grant my request.
“I then proceeded to 'head-quarters' of the French General, Canrobert, for a like purpose in reference to the French troops, stating that the Emperor had given such permission for the camp at Boulogne; and in France Bibles were stamped for general circulation by authority of government. His aide-de-camp kindly offered to take the matter in charge, and send me the General's answer next morning. Subsequently I called upon Lord Raglan in person. He gave me a very gracious reception, and invited me to dine with him on the morrow, when he would have a written communication prepared. Accordingly, the next day I had the pleasure of dining with his lordship and staff, and of receiving from his secretary the following letter:
“CAMP BEFORE SEBASTOPOL, Dec. 28, 1854. “SIR, I have this afternoon seen Lord Raglan, and have communicated to him the desire of the American Bible Society, and the purpose of your visit to Balaklava at this time. I am directed by his lordship to express the thanks which are due from the army to the American Bible Society for their benevolent intentions, and to say that his lordship can have no objection to the distribution
of Bibles to the soldiers of this army ; quite the contrary; but he thinks it desirable that it should be intrusted to the chaplains of the army attached to the different divisions, or at any rate that it may be done in concert with them, so that they may be made acquainted with all that is done.
“ If it should happen that the society should wish to send a gentleman of their body to watch the distribution of their bounty, I must request that he will first call on me, bringing with him the authority of the society for acting in their behalf.--I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant,
“J. BUCKNALL ESTCOURT, A. J. “The Rev. C. N. Righter.'
“The society understand, I hope, that the distribution of Bibles cannot be allowed to entail any sort of ministration to the soldiers. I have to add, that I received yesterday evening a note from Major Clairmont, attached to the head-quarters of the French army, and he begs me to say that your views in respect to the French army would be contrary to their rules, and therefore that the General Canrobert must decline to give his sanction to your request.
“His lordship likewise remarked he was very happy such a benevolent work was designed on the part of the American Bible Society, and hoped it would still further have an influence to promote good feeling and Christian fellowship between England and America. Whereupon I took my leave, thanking his lordship cordially for his kind expressions and entertainment. I then proceeded at once with the letter in hand (having War,' and ' On Her