South Africa, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand

July 30th, 1890

On board the "Garth Castle"

My Beloved Angee,

You will have received my letters from Lisbon and Madeira and will now begin the next for posting on our arrival in Cape Town. The voyage continues to be a very pleasant one – I think one of the happiest I have ever had. Some days a little stormy but on the whole the weather has been fine. We passed very near the Canary Islands and the peaks of Teneriffe looked very imposing with its sharply pointed top towering about twelve thousand feet high. Cape Verd was passed about ten in the evening so that we could only see the lights which were about fifteen miles from us yesterday we turned towards them as you will see from the map and are now making a straight course to Cape Town along the vast coasts of Africa. It is difficult to imagine the vastness of this country – only fancy the Congo is navigable for seven (?) thousand miles[1] – a greater distance than the whole voyage from Portsmouth to the Cape.

Our morning family meeting in the second saloon continues well attended and is very interesting. Last evening (Sunday) the second saloon was filled and the Lord helped me to speak of His love. Many came down from first class – three Germans with whom I am sitting at the table also came, one is the chief sculptor in Berlin and his wife is a granddaughter of the great composer Mendleson [sic] and seems much interested, the other a merchant residing at Berlin who also spoke very nicely afterward and said he heard every word distinctly and understood the sense.

The Captain is a very dear man and loves the Lord Jesus – he has been very kind and we generally meet for a conversation over the things of God on the deck every morning soon after six. He is delighted to find so many Christians on board. He requested the bursar to write a notice about the preaching and post it up in each saloon. I never saw such a nice spirit on board a ship from end to end – first, second and third classes here together under the sound of the glad tidings last night and those who remained on deck sat around the skylight under which I stood and as I looked up I saw the row of heads all around it. The dear missionaries seemed greatly refreshed. One of the passengers spoke to me about the third officer with whom she had had some conversation and found he was a Christian, so when passing him in the afternoon I stopped him and said I was thankful to hear that he was of the Royal Family and had a nice conversation with him. Having a little leisure time he asked me to come to his cabin for a little reading which I did and we then bowed the knee together in prayer – he appeared very simple and knew nothing of him, but after our reading and prayer together he said he supposed I was with brethren and we then discovered that both of us were of one company – he is called Leach[?] and breaks bread at Lark Street when in London. Some years ago a vessel on which he was mate came to Appledore and during her stay there he came up to Barnstaple to the breaking of bread and dined with Charlie. I remember to have heard of this at the time, so it was very interesting now to meet in this singular way. He knows little or nothing of all the strife and confusion Mr Raven's doctrine has brought in – he knew there was something agitating the meeting at Park Street, but thought it was something about eternal punishment. His duties of course keep him away from much intercourse with others, but I was glad to find the breathings of his soul going out to God Whose love in the gift of His only Begotten Son was known and grasped, so that we could together feed upon the good.

At sea, August 4th

Our voyage has continued to be a very happy one and for many of us is within a few days of the close. It is nothing new for the passengers of a ship to become very friendly with each other and this trip will be no exception. There is however the general friendliness and the special, both good, but the latter brings hearts a little closer to each other and it is a comfort to have found a few with whom it has been a very real pleasure to sit together around the word in each other's cabins. We go with the morning meeting but two of the missionaries belonging to the Church Missionary Society have been a little afraid of me since finding out I was a P.B. [Plymouth Brethren] at one of the meetings. The truth of the gracious purpose and counsel of God in Ephesians 1 was thoroughly refused by one who assumed great sins of severance and on another occasion he rejected a few simple thoughts I expressed as to Cain and Abel and their offerings, insisting that the sacrifices were both intrinsically good but that Cain's was offered in a wrong spirit. The testimony of the Holy Ghost in Hebrews, by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous God testifying of his gifts and &c, appeared to be reasoned away and he clung to the thought of having a righteousness of his own good works and not in connection with a sacrifice. During the contention however I trust the truth was made plain to some who were present. It is very sorrowful to find so many Christians not discerning the difference between Judaism and Christianity – law and grace – and not only clinging to the law seeking to make it a righteousness but teaching others to do the same. Well it is only grace that has made us to differ and one feels the need of great grace to move amidst the ruin looking to God Who alone can open eyes to approve things that are excellent. Some of the Quakers are very nice and there is more of the truth in them. I think the most Christlike of all the missionaries on board are the Norwegians. Their mission in Madagascar has it appears recently gone among those who have never before heard of the True God and they have under daily instruction some thirty thousand girls and boys. It is really beautiful to see some of them who are going out for the first time, plodding away with the language for many hours a day – men and women, most of whom speak a little English and they are well pleased to have a little conversation about the things of God. I dare say Arundel told you of my meeting Mrs Carter of the Royal Hotel Falmouth on board the steamer at Dartmouth also sister a Mrs Gerry of Penzance well known to me who were seeing an elder sister off, a widow called Pasere[?] who with her son the Captain of a mine in South Africa are going to the Cape. They are both believers.

They have lived in Australia for many years and I never saw more devotedness between a mother and son than exists between these two. The son has been greatly blessed in his soul during the voyage and we have spent much time together over the word and in prayer. There is another gentleman on board called Ramsay a Scotchman residing at Kimberley with whom I have become very friendly. He too is a very bright Christian and knows some brethren at Montrose and one of his friends there is a very intimate acquaintance of Mr Stones of whom he has frequently heard him speak. A few days ago a Dutch merchant residing in the Transvaal looked over my samples and has promised me an order through his London agents on arrival at Cape Town – this is a cheer to do a little business too in the midst of all the other pleasures.

Cape Town, August 11th

We dropped anchor in the Bay on Thursday evening soon after sunset and at 8 the next morning our ship was alongside the wharf in one of the docks and the faces all around us were a curious mixture of nationalities of all colours. The voyage was certainly one of the most pleasant I have ever had and I am encouraged to believe from various testimonies that many have received blessing for time and eternity who heard the gospel. We had not much difficulty in getting through the customs and soon after 10 we were in our quarters at one of the chief hotels. There is the usual rough colonial character about the place, but the town is much larger than I expected to find and is all laid out after the manner of the American cities – the streets at right angles. I first called upon a brother called Scott, keeping the Tract Depot – and gave him my letters of introduction from Mr McAdam, Mr Shapland and Mr Pollock and had a kindly meeting. Before however Mr Scott came into his shop I observed on entering a young man outside the counter reading a paper who looked at me as I walked in. He followed me up through the shop and asked if my name was Mr Petter and I found it was one of the Hoopers of St Agnes who was very glad to see me. You may remember when we were last at St Agnes together we stopped our carriage outside a field where this young man was working and he was at the preaching the previous night and was struck with something said about Zacchaeus – he is now saved – there are four brothers of them here and I had tea with them yesterday at the house at which they are lodging. While I was at Mr Scott's two other leading brothers dropped in and by one I was soon questioned about troubles at home. They seemed nice men and I felt drawn to them. They knew nothing of Mr Raven's doctrines, but had heard from Captain Bagshaw and Dr Glenny who were now in Australia that there was nothing wrong in it and they all felt great confidence in their judgement. I was advised to call upon a Mr Elliott the general manager of the Cape Government Railways who is the leading brother here and I did so in the afternoon. He is very highly esteemed throughout the whole colony as a very godly and upright man and his appearance conveys this impression. He gave me what I felt a very cool reception and began at once about Mr Raven's matter. Mr Elliott has a son studying medicine in London and in fellowship he is also very intimate with Mr Oliphant and Mr Cross. The son has therefore kept his father well posted up to date with all that has taken place. All the bitterness and unkind things that have been said especially about Mr Lowe, Mr Humphrey and Pinkerton have thus been echoed through this young man to his father and all the screening and sympathy they have had for Mr Raven also, so that you may judge the state of Mr Elliott's mind about the whole question. I explained to him exactly the position we had taken at Ilfracombe. Of Mr Raven's strange doctrine he knew nothing nor had he read Mr Lowe's examination of it nor any others who had felt that the teaching was contrary to the Word of God – he too had heard from Captain Bagshaw and Dr Glenney in whom he had the fullest confidence. I stated a few points of Mr R's teaching that had created difficulty in my own mind. He could see that as far as Mr Elliott was concerned he was quite prepared to have refused me fellowship at the Lord's Table. The next day Saturday I called on all the merchants and was encouraged in hoping for some good results in the business. In the afternoon one of the brothers that I had seen the previous day asked me to come to his house and we then talked over the matters more fully and at his request I gave him Mr Lowe's and Mr Humphrey's pamphlets. Subsequently we had a nice talk together around the foot of the Table Mountain which I much enjoyed.

The same evening at 8 the brothers came together for their usual prayer meeting which I enjoyed the tone of being simple and fervent. At the close (9pm) Mr Elliott who resides at Wynburg about 12 miles from Cape Town came in – this was his custom it appears when anything special required conversation One of the brothers handed him my letters which he read – also reading a part of one of his son's letters in which a very unworthy reference was made to dear Mr McAdam seeking to weaken his testimony because he too cannot receive Mr Raven's teaching. A brother said "but Captain Bagshaw has always spoken in the highest way of Mr McAdam" – another brother said the question for us can we receive Mr McAdam's letter commending our brother – another said I will put it the other way "can we refuse it?" – Mr Elliott felt he wanted to keep the meeting clear of any complication to which another replied saying that if we refused this letter we should at once commit ourselves and adopt Mr Raven's teaching of which we here know nothing. Mr Elliott had spoken very unkindly to me on Friday and I told him how I felt it and now I had something to say to him which I did in very plain words too and told him I thought he had acted unworthily in seeking to put me outside for a conscientious difficulty Mr Raven's teaching had created in my mind as well as many others – that he had received all the bitterness of Mr Oliphant's mind against Mr Lowe and others who had exposed its unscriptural character and had never read his paper. In the end every brother in the meeting was happy in giving me the right hand of fellowship and one of them asked Mr Elliott why he could not. This he did afterward and invited me over to his house – I then walked about half a mile to the station with him and he returned to Wynburg, where there is a small meeting too.

Yesterday Lord's day Mr McAdam's letter was read and I broke bread and through the Lord's mercy I greatly enjoyed the meeting and was happy in my soul in the little part I took in it. All appear to have enjoyed the time. Before leaving the room some sister in the meeting said that Mr McAdam and the company at St Leonard's had gone out of fellowship – this intelligence she had received by the last mail. If it is true I had not heard of it when I left England. I knew the meeting was not likely to receive Mr Raven's doctrines. Mr Elliott came over from Wynburg and took the gospel in the evening which I much enjoyed and I told him after the meeting the gospel he had preached was the gospel I had through grace believed and did not intend to surrender for another. There was not a trace of the new thing in it. A few of the brothers are accustomed to preach in the open air on Lord's day evenings and they asked me to accompany them and we had a good time together.

August 12th

I had some encouragement in the business yesterday – two merchants came and looked at my samples and will order. I have to keep on calling and calling – many have said that it will be impossible to do any business because of the preference shewn for H&P's[?] goods. My confidence however is in God and I know He can help me and will do so. Last night was the regular prayer meeting and I felt was a very happy one – the Lord knew how my poor heart needed encouragement and he gave it very distinctly – the brethren were very kind and prayed very heartily for me, thanking God too for His goodness and mercy in bringing me out safely. They have asked me to address the saints on Friday which D.V. I am free to do – we had a very wet day yesterday and the mud about the streets is very bad. The Dutch being numerous here control in a great measure the local government and they do not care for paved streets and even pavements like the English – the consequence is that you find perhaps 10 or 20 yards of even pavement, then several steps landing you on another level, so it is up and down in all soils if shapes[?]. The shops look thoroughly English most of them, only all of a very rough order. Staples are very dear – a Malay woman dressed in all the colours of the rainbow has just brought back my washing – the charge was 11/3 = 3 dozen and 9 pieces at 3/- a dozen, but she was liberal and gave me back the 3. Poor Lazarus says everything very dear – cost double – but he is getting on all right and continues to be a great comfort to me.

A few days before our arrival here one of the oldest Banks in the colony suspended payment. It is an unlimited liability like the late West of England Bank[2] and the failure will cause widespread distress and ruin to many.

The weather here is very much like it was at home requiring the same warm clothing, but it will get warmer as the Summer advances. Trust you are keeping well and that Emma and the dear children are enjoying the change at Ilfracombe. Give father's kind love to them all, dear Arundel and Harry and all the dear little ones and all dear friends both at Ilfracombe and Barnstaple – and now to you my dearly beloved wife, God in His mercy bless you and multiply His gracious consolations to your dear heart. With much love believe me.

Your very affectionate Husband.


[1] The Congo River is only 2,920 miles long in total, so Edward Petter's unnamed source is incorrect on this point.

[2] Probably the The West of England and South Wales District Banking Company that suspended payments in 1878 - see further here.

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