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MEMOIR OF THE REV. GEORGE HARDING DECKER,
NATIVE MINISTER, SIERRA LEONE :
BY THE REV. JOSEPH MAY.
GEORGE HARDING DECKER was born at Gloucester, in the mountaindistrict of the colony of Sierra-Leone, in October, 1819. His parents had four sons and one daughter ; of whom George was the eldest, and the most obedient and affectionate. On the 14th of November, 1819, he was baptized by the Rev. Henry During, of the Church Missionary Society. From a child he was fond of books; and, being sent to school early in life, he was soon able to read. In order to furtber his instruction, he was placed under the care of the Rev. John Raban, then the Principal of the Fourah-Bay Institution : but, unfortunately, he had soon to return home in consequence of a wound received from the sting of a snake, which came across the road as he was passing along with his master to Regent.
In 1831, when he was about twelve years of age, his parents removed from Gloucester to Freetown, and put him to a school under the care of the late Mr. Fox. Here his regular attendance and good behaviour were specially remarked by the Rev. David F. Morgan, Colonial Chaplain; who would have taken the boy to England, had not the parents objected.
In the year 1836 George for the first time attended the WesleyanMethodist chapel at Bathurst-street. The Preacher'a whole discourse on that occasion seemed to be directed to him. His conscience was aroused, bis heart was touched; and for many days he could relish nothing, but continually groaned for redemption ; till, one Sunday, at a lovefeast, the Lord in mercy spoke peace to his troubled soul. His state of mind is forcibly described by himself, as follows :
"In the latter part of the year 1836 the Spirit of God began to strive with me. My mind was continually troubled about death and the judgment. One Sunday night I went to a Methodist chapel, where the Minister preached on Matthew xxv. 46 : “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.' O, what a scene opened to my mind! I thought that the subject was for me alone. It appeared to me as if I then stood before the Judge. I wept bitterly : but, when service was over, I returned again into sin and folly. When alone I was serious ; but, as soon as I met with
VOL. IV.--FIFTII SERIES.
my careless companions, I joined them, and went on as before. But still conscience gave me no rest. The Spirit of God was continually striving with me, and would not give me up. Just at this time, I was invited to a lovefeast. The day before this I [had] made up my mind, that I would not take off the clothes I then had on, till God had blessed my soul. I knew it was a disgrace for me to go dirty on Sunday; and the thought struck me, Is it pot a disgrace for me to go on in sin, and die in the same? No one knows, but those who have been under deep conviction of sin can tell, how my soul felt, and how miserable I was. On Sunday I ate potbing until I went to the lovefeast. There, while others were rejoicing, I was mourning and weeping, till I cried out, “ Lord, save me.' I knelt down and prayed. I thought of Christ, [as] being willing and able to save me ; and I said, O Lord ! I can believe; I will believe ; I do believe.' Wonder and doubt filled my mind; but I made another effort, and found my doubt and fear give way. I felt that God had for Christ's sake pardoned all my sins.”
Previously to this, George, together with his young friend and companion, James Matthewson, joined Thomas Babington's class ; which means of grace he highly valued to the end of his life. His Leader took great interest in his spiritual welfare. The change, and the fruits of the grace of God in him, were soon manifest, and attracted the potice of the Missionaries, who requested him to join the weekly Bible-class which met on Thursdays at the Mission-house. Though he was an apprentice to a shipwright, and had not much time at command, yet, being fond of reading, he immediately complied with this request, and continued to attend as his master would allow him. Having made some improvement by attending the Bible-class, he was taken in 1837 as second Assistant-Teacher of the Bathurst. street day-school. In 1838 he was received on the Local Preachers' Plan, as an Exhorter. This, he said, was a great work, for which he felt his insufficiency. “ It is indeed a great work,” said the Missionary. “It is the work of a great God, whose power is great, and whose wisdom is unsearchable. But He has said, My grace is sufficient for thee.'» With this encouragement, George began at opce to exhort his fellow-creatures to believe the Gospel. Soon after, he was sent to Wellington, to take charge of the school ; and there he was appointed a Class-Leader. Before he left Freetown for Wellington he married Miss Mary Creighton, who survives him. Two of his boys died in childhood : four sons and two daughters are still living.
In 1839 the Rev. Thomas Dove, (then General Superintendent of the Missions in Sierra-Leone,) and the Rev. Henry Badger, visited York, the Banana Islands, and other places in the District; and saw the ignorant and deplorable state of the people who lived as sheep without a shepherd. They preached to the people in the marketplace, and the word spoken was like rain to a thirsty land. They returned home resolved at once to add York to the number of the Society's stations, and to bave a Minister and School teacher placed there to instruct the people in the way of salvation. Mr. Badger
offered to go among them, and Mr. Decker cheerfully accompanied him to York as a teacher. Here, as a schoolmaster, Class-Leader, and Local Preacher, he laboured for ten years with great success, though he had many trials and much opposition of various kind. He was ever ready to co-operate with his Superintendent, and with every Missionary stationed at York, to pull down the strongholds of Satan; and he laboured diligently to convince the people of their sins, warning them to flee from the wrath to come.
In 1842 Mr. Badger left York for England, when Mr. Decker was left as the chief agent of the Society till the arrival of another Missionary. Shortly after this an American Missionary, the Rev. Mr. Raymond, arrived at York, with some Mendians; and during 1843 he resided there, whilst making preparations for the establishment of a Mission among the natives of Kaw Mendi, in Sherbro'. At York Mr. Raymond willingly took part in preaching the Gospel, and in other labours. He was a man of great zeal and courage, and of a self-denying spirit. He rendered valuable services to the Society, and was very useful to the natives, whom he visited from house to house, assisting them to work, giving them advice, and settling their disputes. To arrest the progress of a prevailing vice, he established a Temperance Society, which did much good, and is spoken of to this day.
In the Sierra-Leone “ Watchman” newspaper, of July, 1843, we find the following well-merited record :-"The Mendi Mission is now under the care of the Rev. William Raymond, who is indefatigable in his labours of love to the African race. The Mendians are now working a large farm, which is in a high state of cultivation. The inhabitants of York are copying the example; and we trust that the people of the surrounding villages, who are watching the progress, will acquire from them new ideas. It is fully expected that Mr. Raymond will establish a Mission among the Sherbros after the present rains."
In reference to the benefit personally received from the instructions of Mr. Raymond, Mr. Decker thus speaks: “In the year 1838 I was called to the responsible work of leading a class, and preaching the Gospel. I went on sinning and repenting, and did not know there was any greater blessing for me, till it pleased the Lord to send Mr. Raymond to York. He has now been with us between eleven and twelve months, daily teacbing and preaching. He said to us, “ There is something yet for you to learn in the Gospel. You have just begun to be Christians ; you are only babes in Christ.”..... This blessed man, the friend of the Africans, would not give us up, but daily prayed for us; as did also his wife. They bore us up in the arms of faith, continually instructing us, and praying and weeping over us. They did not pray in vain. • The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.' God answered their prayers.
I began to seek for a deeper work of grace in my soul, and God in some degree blessed me. Too well satisfied with this, I stopped short of the fulness; till it pleased God to give this great blessing to a fellow-Leader. When I heard his experience, I felt there was