Institutions like these must depend principally on public and voluntary support. There is much need for them in all our principal sea-ports; for who require them more than the men who are perpetually exposed to the double shipwreck of body and soul? The members of these and similar institutions are instrumental in preserving some from ruin—in restoring others to character and employment, to usefulness, to self-estimation, and to religious feeling; and in making both our merchant and naval service an example to the world of subordination and patient endurance.
The promoters of these institutions are not satisfied with providing a remedy for the evil which exists, but they do much to prevent the ills of irreligion and immorality, by supplying seamen with instructive and devotional books, and by employing agents to go among them and to tell them where the offices of religion are performed. The countenance which admirals and captains, prelates and lords of the Admiralty, have given to them, are the best warrant for their necessity and usefulness. A short notice of ‘The Swan’ and its Tender, will not be thought out of place in this volume.
‘The Swan’ is a large cutter of about 140 tons. On her bows she bears an inscription which describes her as ‘The Thames Church.’ She conveys a clergyman and a floating sanctuary from one pool in the river to another, to carry the Word of God to those who do not seek for it themselves. Hers is a missionary voyage. She is freighted with Bibles and Testaments and Prayer-books, and religious tracts. She runs alongside colliers, outward-bound vessels, and emigrant ships especially, that the services, the consolation, and the instruction of the Church may be offered as a parting gift to those, who are taking a last leave of their native shores, and are saying farewell to weeping friends and kindred.
There is also a Tender, called ‘The Little Thames Church,’ which sails lower down the river, as occasion may require, fraught on the same holy errand. One extract from the last Report of the ’Thames Church Mission Society,’ which is patronized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of London and Winchester, will suffice to explain the nature of her mission.