Melville B. Cox was the first missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Africa. He labored in Liberia but a short time, and died.
It was he who, just before his death uttered those words, that have often been reiterated, for the purpose of stimulating the endeavors of the missionary cause, as follows:
“Let a thousand fall before Africa be given up!”
His memoir was prepared by his brother, and published by the Methodist Book Concern. In it is a letter, which will fully explain itself, and at the same time show why we have given it a place in these pages. It is as follows:
“NEW YORK, July 25, 1835.
“My Dear Sir: There is one circumstance in the life of the late Mr. Cox, which, at least to some of his Christian friends, may claim a degree more of attention than he has given to it, and which it is probably out of your own power to give, without some additional facts in the case. If I recollect rightly, he has merely recorded the fact, and that rather incidentally. A relation of the circumstances is the more important, as without the detail, the fact may become a subject of ridicule by the semi-infidel, hut with this detail may afford him a suggestion, the truth of which he cannot so easily gain say. I am aware, too, that the occurrence may he passed over, as have been thousands of others of a similar, and even of a more striking character, without acknowledging any supernatural agency; but it must be on the ground of admitting greater mysteries in the explanation than would be found in frankly confessing even the agency of the Deity.
“The following are the facts they occurred when Mr. Cox was about twenty years of age. At the time of this singular incident, his brother James, who, it will be seen, was concerned in the affair, was at sea, being master of the brig, ‘Charles Faucet,’ which was then on her passage to New Orleans. This young gentleman, although well fitted for his business in every other respect, and irreproachable in his conduct among men, was destitute of religion.
“From the hour that James sailed for New Orleans, Melville, with another brother of his, and who was alike partner in his ‘precious faith,’ made the absent brother a constant subject of prayer. Such, indeed, were their feelings for James, and so absorbing to them was be great question of his soul’s salvation, that it became, for a few weeks, with them, their first and last thought for the day.
“One evening, just as the sun had fallen, the two brothers, as they were sometimes wont- to do, visited the edge of the woods, back of the village, where they then resided, and there knelt down to pray. The first object of interest before them was their absent brother, whose image came up to their view with more than ordinary distinctness, and who, it seemed to them, was not only far away on the sea, tossed upon its waves as the spirit of the storm might drive him, but ‘without hope, without God in the world,’ and liable to fall into the gulf of woe.
As they prayed, their own spirits seemed in agony for James ; and they poured out their feelings in alternate offerings, with a depth of sympathy, of religious fervor, of faith in God, never before experienced by them for him. It was given to them to wrestle with God in prayer, and to importune as for their own souls.
And thus they did, unconscious of the nightly dews that were falling upon them, until the conflict seemed past, and the blessing they sought gained. They both rose from prayer, and without exchanging a word upon the subject of their feelings, went to their different homes for the night.
“The next morning, the brothers met; but the feelings of the past night were yet too vivid to be dissipated. Said Melville to the younger ‘What did you think of our feelings last night?’ ‘I think,’ said the younger brother, ‘James has experienced religion.’ ‘ Well, I think,’ said Melville, ‘THAT HE IS DEAD and I have put it down in my diary, and you will see if it is not true.’
A few weeks passed away, and tidings came that James was dead. He died within a few days’ sail of the Belize, in the evening, and, as the brothers supposed, by a comparison of the letter they received with Melville’s diary, on the same hour in which they were engaged in prayer for his soul.
“The above letter contained no reference to his religious feelings, so that the correctness of the younger brother’s impressions was yet to be determined. - On the return of the brig, however, it was ascertained by conversation with the mate, that the feelings of both were equally true.
It appeared from the mate’s testimony, and other circumstances, that immediately after his sailing, James became serious, abandoned profaneness, to which he had been accustomed for years, and forbade the indulgence of this profitless and degrading crime on board his vessel; and this seriousness continued to the hour of his death. He communicated his thoughts, however, to no one, excepting to his friends, upon paper, which they received after his death. Yet it does not appear from any of these circumstances, that he found peace to his mind, unless it were in his last hour.
“On the morning of the day on which he died, he said to his mate," he thought he should die that day;’ and, accordingly, made what arrangements he could for such an event. He gave some directions about the vessel, and requested a lock of hair to be cut from his head; which, with a ring that he took from his finger, was handed to his friends. He then gave himself up to his fate.
In the evening, the mate went below; and seeing quite a change had taken place in his appearance, and that death was rapidly approaching, he took his hand, and thus addressed him: ‘Captain Cox, you are a very sick man.’ ‘Yes, I know it,’ was calmly, though feebly articulated. ‘You are dying,’ continued the mate. ‘Yes, I know it," he again whispered. ‘And you are willing?’ ‘Yes, blessed‘ and burst into a flood of tears, and expired.
“To the Christian, I have nothing to say on the above circumstance. To him all is clear as the light of day. But to the infidel, I may propose one question.
How was it possible that the event of James’ death, and the change which he evidently experienced in his feelings -- call it by what name you please, and the consolation of which no one would take from the dying-how is it possible that the event should be so strongly impressed upon the minds of these two brothers, when he to whom they related was thousands of miles distant; and how could it occur, too, on the very hour when the events were taking place?
“Affectionately yours, F.”
Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893
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