Read CHAPTER VI - LEAVING THE NAVY of From Lower Deck to Pulpit , free online book, by Henry Cowling, on

Nearly three weeks had passed oh, what an anxious time it was! Was there another sorrow in store for me? God forbid. Well, one day at noon, just as I had reached the ship in the staff gig, to which boat I belonged, the quartermaster rushed to the gangway and shouted “Cowling, you are wanted on the quarterdeck immediately.” I lost no time in getting there. In another minute I stood face to face with the captain, who informed me that the Admiralty had granted my discharge. “Right-about-turn! Quick march,” was the order of the master-at-arms, but, believe me, it was more of a run than a march. My messmates were forehead awaiting the result, and as I approached them a dozen voices shouted “How goes it?” “All’s well,” I replied. “You are fortunate,” said they. Dinner was now piped, but I wanted none my desire was to get on terra firma as speedily as possible. I pulled my bag from the rack, turned it upside down on the deck, distributing all the clothes contained therein, to the value of fifteen pounds. Then I wished my messmates ‘good-bye’ and went ashore in a gig, feeling like a bird released from a cage. Thus ended my naval career, extending to a period of seven years and nine days. I keep in my study an envelope containing my discharge paper and the receipt for same, which cost eighteen pounds. In reading it, as I sometimes do, my thoughts are carried backward to the day of liberation.

My messmates had decided to present me with a beautiful Bible, which I never received, for this reason. Scarcely a week had passed from the day I stepped on shore a free man, when an order was sent from headquarters for a large draft of seamen to be sent to different parts of the world. Nearly all my former mates were numbered amongst the draft. Consequently they were scattered far apart, and no steps could be taken to carry out their intention. The kind feeling which prompted it I appreciate and accept, as showing what they would have done had the opportunity been forthcoming.

Even in the weeding out of the ‘Cambridge’ this large company of men, I observe God’s providence at work in my own life, for doubtless I should have been included in the draft, having been in harbour three years, which is considered a long stay. My discharge was granted me in the nick of time. “He doeth all things well.”

I found employment on shore in Plymouth as a contractor’s clerk, and devoted more time to religious studies, for I now felt that as the greatest obstacle in my path had been removed, God would surely open my way to enter His service. He did. By the recommendation of my pastor I was admitted into Cliff College, Derbyshire, completing my training in London.

Though for six years I had nearly become a Baptist, that is, a Congregationalist, I now stepped over the line, having studied the New Testament with an unbiassed mind, to get at the real truth of Scriptural baptism. Being convinced that immersion was the Scriptural mode, I forthwith became baptised in Bow Street Baptist Church, London.

Shortly afterwards, I was invited to the pastorate of a Baptist Church in New Whittington, Derbyshire, where I laboured for a brief period, and at which place I first met the young lady who is now my wife. In the autumn of 1899 I accepted the call to my present pastorate, that of the Ashwater district of Baptist Churches. Understanding that under the new regulations existing which precludes Cliff College students from being recognised as fully accredited ministers, I set to work to overcome the difficulty by passing the two Baptist Union examinations.

Such, then, in brief are a few outstanding incidents of my life, and such is the road I have travelled to enter the ministry a hard road and painful, bedewed with tears, and strewed with withered leaves of disappointment and weary watchings, but I am bound to confess that it was the path marked out for me. No better training was ever afforded any minister, and to-day I can thank God for it all. What is the great truth which my career teaches me? This: that “God is in the heart of things, and all is well.” That He is in every human life, directing, controlling, and superintending it. That nothing happens by chance, and that it is He alone who can transform the wilderness of blighted hope into a paradise of joy; can convert the vale of tears into the sunny path that leads upward to His throne He alone who can chase away the darkness of night and bring in the sunshine of morning. Unto His name be all the glory!

I cannot but hope that should any darkened life read this little sketch, that such an one may be inspired and comforted by so doing, believing that He who gently cleared my way, granting me the fulfilment of my heart’s desire, will in like manner repeat His loving-kindness in that one’s life.

“Lead, kindly light, . . . .

. . . . .

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.”