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The Honest Waterman or History of Thomas Mann Compiled by Joseph Butterworth

Joseph Butterworth




  GENTLEMAN in London who was Treasurer of a religious society, was called upon one day by a waterman of respectable appearance, whose business was to pay into the treasury of the institution a legacy of fifty pounds. The legacy had been left by his uncle, the late THOMAS MANN, of St. Catharines by the Tower, London. The circumstances and the interview deeply affected the mind of the gentleman, and gave rise to the following conversation.

Learning that the uncle was also a waterman, the gentleman asked, “Was he a lighterman?—did he keep barges?”

“No, sir, he was only a scullerman; he had nothing but a small boat for taking passengers, laboring with his own hands.”

“But how could a scullerman save so much money as to leave fifty pounds in charity?”

“He was very industrious, sir, and very frugal; he has left a great many legacies to religious and benevolent societies, besides money to his relations.”

“Was he, then, a miser?”

“O no, sir; the very opposite of that; he was a very generous man.”

“How then could he acquire so much property?”

“Why, sir, he was a very early riser, for one thing, and would often do nearly a day’s work before other people were up in the morning; and then he was so honest, in never asking more than his fare, and so civil, and his boat and his person always so clean, and neat, and comfortable, that I suppose he had generally more fares than other watermen. His character was so well known on the river, that he was commonly called ‘THE HONEST WATERMAN.’ ”

“What legacies has he left besides this?” said the gentleman.

“I can hardly remember them all. There is a hundred pounds to the Bible Society, another hundred to the Church Missionary Society; another hundred, I believe, to the Bethel Union; another to the Spitalfields Benevolent Society. I do not remember them all, but there are nine of a hundred pounds to nine different societies. There is a legacy to the Charity-school in which he was brought up; there is also a hundred pounds to his brother-in-law, who married his sister; there are other legacies to his relations and friends; and he has left me the remainder.”

“How much did he die worth?”

“Between two and three thousand pounds.”

“Was your uncle a married man?”

“No, sir; but he supported his mother and sisters, after his father’s death, till they died.”

“You said he was a generous man: how could he be generous, besides supporting his mother and sisters, and yet save so much money?”

“Sir, his industry and frugality were so remarkable, that he always had wherewith to help a poor man. If any waterman happened to lose his boat, my uncle was always the first to relieve him; and he used, on Sundays, to take a quantity of silver to give to poor persons whom he might see at church, or in the street, who appeared in distress, and proper objects of relief. I know he put a sovereign in the plate at the last charity-sermon which he attended.”

“How old was he?”

“He was seventy-five when he died.”

“What kind of a man was he in his person?”

“He was particularly neat. On a Sunday he appeared somewhat like a Quaker, for he latterly wore a broad-brimmed hat, and a light wig, with a sort of double curl.”

“Was he at all singular in his manners?”

“Not at all; he had nothing eccentric about him: he was a fine, open-hearted man as ever you saw. He was a very sensible man, too, and a good scholar, considering he was brought up in a charity-school.”

“Was he a pious man?”

“He was indeed, sir; and he died, as he lived, like a Christian. I have written down a great many of his excellent sayings while he was ill; he had a great deal of the Scriptures by heart. O sir, he was very happy! he said such things as would have delighted you. I am sure it would have done you good to have seen him, and heard him talk.”

“Well,” said the gentleman, “you should write down all you can remember and collect respecting so excellent a man.”

Such was literally the information of this deserving nephew, concerning his worthy uncle. The gentleman to whom it was thus, apparently by accident, communicated, struck by a recital at once so simple and so extraordinary, immediately committed what he had heard to writing. He subsequently made diligent inquiry among those who had known “The Honest Waterman” during his life. Their testimony was uniform. Such a character, so extensively useful, yet so little known, had never before met his observation.

He was born in the precinct of St. Catharine, by the Tower of London, June 4, 1747. In the Tower-Ward Charity-school he learned to write a good hand, and made some progress in arithmetic. He was accustomed frequently to express his sense of these advantages, and his gratitude for a benefit then much less common than at present, and without which he must have remained uninstructed. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a waterman on the Thames, with whom he served the usual term of seven years. During that early period, his attachment was marked to his mother and sisters, his principal recreation being the enjoyment of their society: to the latest period of his life, he never spoke of the former but as his “dear mother.”

When he had served five years of his apprenticeship, it pleased God to deprive him of his father, and thus to bring into active exertion that warmth of affection, and excellence of principle, which might otherwise have remained concealed. The death of his father was sudden. He was drowned in the Thames, while engaged in the duties of his calling. Many plans were immediately devised by Thomas for the support of his mother and sisters: he at first thought of obtaining from his master a release from the remainder of his apprenticeship, but this he was not able to accomplish. A circumstance, apparently trifling, but in its results evidently providential, led to one of his sisters procuring a supply of needle-work: the rest joined their efforts to hers, and by their skill and industry, they supported themselves, for some years, with credit. Thomas used to sit with them during the evening, and cheer their labors by his company, at the conclusion of his own.

Young Mann had been led to expect that, at the conclusion of his apprenticeship, he should be presented by his master with the boat in which he had been accustomed to ply: he was not only disappointed in this hope, but further chagrined by his master’s selling the boat without apprising him of any such intention. He was, therefore, obliged to begin the world with a few pence which his mistress gave him, his only boon at the expiration of seven years’ diligent service. He was of a spirit not to be discouraged by difficulties; and, with an ardor never diminished during a long life, he entered his calling on his own account, at first borrowing a boat from any friend who had the kindness and ability to lend him one. His persevering industry, and a little assistance from one of his sisters, at length enabled him to purchase a new wherry[1] for twelve pounds.

There was a peculiarity in the manner in which our Waterman performed his labor. He was what is called a “Hard-rowed Sculler;” and was generally admitted to be the hardest working man on the river. Not only in his youth, but when far advanced in years, it was commonly his custom to row as if matched against time, endeavoring to pass every boat ahead of him, and to keep completely ahead of those astern, even if they had the advantage of a pair of oars. His second boat carried about thirty hundred weight, for the greater convenience of conveying stores for the navy, yet he never shrunk from contending with boats much more lightly laden than his own. He made a point, however, of not rowing for a wager, and was never known to lay a bet of any kind. It was his practice not to wait for the turn of the tide; but, wherever his business took him, to return immediately to his usual plying-place, Iron Gate Stairs, by the Tower. After rowing twenty or thirty miles, he would row up to the stairs in the lively, spirited manner in which he set out.

As an instance of his power of body, and also of his attachment to home, it may be mentioned, that he one day rowed a party to Twickenham, and brought them back to Brentford, where he landed them about eleven o’clock at night; instead of passing the night there, he pursued his way to London, which he did not reach till one in the morning. He was prepared to recommence his labor as usual at six o’clock, remarking to his nephew, who accompanied him, how much benefit they had derived from a few hours’ rest at home.

He was almost always fully employed, and many were disappointed at not being able to procure his boat; but, as he never asked more than the regular fare, he had not any extraordinary means of increasing his property. So strict were his ideas of the principles of justice, that he frequently refused or returned money when it exceeded the amount due to him, and was intended by the donors to show how much they had been pleased by his unusual intelligence and attention. Bystanders would sometimes smile, and say, “See, if I had been offered money, whether I should have refused it.” Once, when inquisitively questioned as to his property, which, in order to discover the exact amount, the inquirer rated too highly, Mann replied, “How can I be worth so much? I never got an easy shilling in my life.”

He was frequently the first at his post in the morning, and gained much of his earnings before other watermen were out of their beds. He thought hard labor never injured any one. With the exception of some bilious complaints, and occasional headaches, he enjoyed uninterrupted health; nor was he confined to his bed during his whole life, till his first and last illness. His food was simple and frugal, and he seldom drank any thing but water to allay his thirst. During the summer he allowed himself cooling fruits; and when suffering much, found tea a most refreshing beverage, and would take it in large quantities. He used malt liquor with his dinner only; nor could he be prevailed upon to share any of those indulgences which his constant labor would have rendered very allowable. To his temperance, to his industry, and to the subjugation of temper which he had attained, there is no doubt he owed, under Providence, that robust health and extraordinary strength for which, to his last years, he was remarkable; as well as that competency which enabled him not only to “provide things honest in the sight of all men,” but to abound in acts of benevolence.

His charity was so universal, so constantly and daily practiced, that the detail of it would be as monotonous as it was unceasing: a few anecdotes only will be related, and a few of the methods detailed, by which, with all humility, he “let his light shine before men,” and by which those who come after may be led to “glorify his Father which is in heaven.”

He gave liberally after charity-sermons, and always lamented seeing persons pass the plate without contributing. “They love a cheap Gospel,” he would say. He had not courage to enter a place of worship at which he was unaccustomed to attend, unless the sermon was to be followed by a collection, “and then,” said he, “I can enter boldly.” Between the hours of service, he would often walk up and down the streets, instead of going home; and if he saw persons who seemed to suffer silent distress, he would accost them in a kind manner, inquire into their circumstances, and administer relief where it seemed to be required. For this purpose he always put a quantity of silver into his pockets on Sabbath morning. He used to say that it was a man’s duty, when he possessed enough to supply his own wants, to continue the exercise of his calling for the benefit of others.

One Sabbath he observed a poor man, much dejected, looking carefully on the ground as he walked. At length he found the leg bone of a fowl or turkey, which he picked up eagerly, and was proceeding to scrape it with a small knife, when perceiving himself watched, he became much confused, and went on so rapidly, that the waterman lost him, but contrived, by going round a street, to meet him again. Addressing him kindly, “My friend,” said he, “that’s poor cheer—you seem to be in great distress;” and proceeded to inquire the cause. It was a poor mechanic, out of employ, to whom he spoke, and finding the case a deserving one, he instantly gave him all the money he had in his pockets. He often mentioned this circumstance as having greatly affected him.

He frequently purchased boats, or parted with his own, when half worn out, for poor watermen with families, sometimes receiving payment from them by installments, according to their ability. He never prosecuted for the recovery of a debt, or received interest upon any sum borrowed of him by friends for their accommodation.

Noticing a person, by whom he was one day employed, in great apparent dejection of spirits, he inquired the cause, and was told that it was occasioned by the want of a sum of money of the utmost importance to him. He immediately advanced it, to be gradually repaid; and he said that had the sum been twice the amount mentioned, he must have done the same, so deeply was his mind affected by the uneasiness he had witnessed.

A poor man one day crossed the river from Iron Gate Stairs to Horslydown. Returning soon after to the person who had rowed him over, he asked if he had left any thing in the boat. Being answered in the negative, he was much dismayed, burst into tears, and said he had lost two pounds, which he missed on landing; that his wife and family were in want of the money, and he knew not what they would do without it. He then proceeded disconsolately over Little Tower-hill. Thomas Mann was at the plying-place, and, having heard his tale, was seen to follow, overtake, and give him something; but the value of the gift was never known, excepting to himself and the poor man whom it relieved.

Equally frequent were the cases in which he relieved the aged and infirm, by little weekly stipends, as a method of adding to their comforts; the occasionally distressed, by sums of money proportioned to the emergency of their circumstances; those who were out of work, by employing them, and paying them for what he gave them to do. In this manner he furnished a poor man, who asked alms at his door, with a quantity of religious Tracts, one of which he was to present at every house in the neighborhood, and then remunerated him for his trouble. Sometimes his stock of matches, bought of the poor, would so accumulate that he would furnish the baskets of other necessitous persons from his store. He was once seen going up to a poor boy, who sat by the side of Tower-hill, and after wiping his naked feet with a handkerchief, putting on them a new pair of shoes and stockings, which he had provided for the purpose. Many whom he assisted with articles to sell in the street, were so struck with his generosity, as to declare they could not trouble him any more; some, for whom he had procured employment, would wait on him to return thanks for the comfortable circumstances in which they found themselves placed.

He was in the habit of giving half a crown at a time to poor, industrious men, remarking, that it was to get them something to eat for the morrow. This he often did on Saturday night. According as God had prospered him, he was able to distribute; and the gift was calculated to remind poor persons of the approaching Sabbath, and lead them to prepare for it.

When the minister and overseers went round the precinct to collect money for occasional charitable purposes, he was always grieved if they passed his door without calling for his aid. The last time they called, which was when making subscriptions for the distressed Irish, he contributed a sovereign.

He was fond of children; his behavior towards them was kind and endearing, and he would often purchase cakes of the poor people whom he saw in the streets, in order to distribute among the little ones around. On finally retiring from labor, he laid in a stock of various sorts of clothing, blankets, etc.; and it formed a part of his employment, during that time which had previously been devoted to the duties of his calling, to select from his repository the proper articles for such as were in need.

He contributed statedly and regularly to many of the religious and benevolent institutions. On those occasions, when asked his address, it was his custom generally to say no more than “The Tower.” Secrecy was, probably, his motive for not becoming nominally an annual subscriber to any public charity. His nephew happening once to observe, in the Sailor’s Magazine, mention of a donation of five pounds from “An Aged Waterman,” said to his uncle, “I suppose you were meant.” “There are many aged watermen besides myself,” said the old man coolly. The donation was to the Bethel Union, for promoting religion and morality among seamen.

He has been heard to say that his first impression of the importance of religion was occasioned by the death of his father. He then began to pray frequently, and to form many resolutions as to his future conduct; at the same time endeavoring to act conscientiously, and attending regularly on the performance of religious duties. He appears to have had an idea of his own ability to commend himself to God, independently of divine influence;  

and a considerable tendency towards self-righteousness seems at this time to have existed in his mind. Through divine grace, by searching the Scriptures, examining his own heart, and attending the means of grace, he was led to feel that he was by nature a sinful and polluted creature, totally unable to save himself, and destitute of any spiritual strength. Thus humbled, under a sense of his sins, and feeling that all his own services, prayers, and resolutions, were in themselves insufficient, he was led by faith to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul. He beheld the justice and mercy of God uniting to secure, by the atonement of Christ, the divine glory, and the salvation of all that come unto him and believe on him. He felt his need of a divine Savior, and that Jesus Christ was his only and all-sufficient Redeemer; and while the death and intercession of Christ were the foundation of his faith, he felt it his duty and his delight to live unto Him who died for him, and who was his gracious Advocate above. Hence, he lived a life of faith on the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him. Hence, he was constrained by the love of Christ to walk in his ways, to obey his commands, and to live to his glory. And you too, reader, must seek the salvation of your soul through faith in the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world; for there is none other name given among men whereby you can be saved. And if this faith be in you, as it was in Thomas Mann, it will work by love, and lead you to adorn the doctrine of God your Savior in all things.

His observance of the Sabbath was unvaried; and on hearing of the profanation of this holy day by some persons with whom he was acquainted, he remarked, “They do not know the value of the Sabbath.” He was accustomed, on that day, to take a lighter dinner than usual, in order to avoid drowsiness at church, to which the cessation of his customary labor might otherwise have made him liable. His conduct in the house of God evinced the sincerity of his devotion, and was observed as a lesson by some who noticed it, but who never, till inquiry elicited the knowledge after his death, learned to whom they had been indebted for so striking an example.

He set great value on the Scriptures, and had many parts of them in his memory. No day passed without his reading them, generally very early in the morning, in winter by candlelight; and at night, after the labors of the day were ended. He used to commence, and read regularly through his Bible, a practice he had heard recommended from the pulpit, by Mr. Newton, under whose ministry he sat for some time previous to Mr. Newton’s death.

He was a man of prayer; his devotion was regular and fervent, though modest and retiring. On one occasion, when, after being restored from circumstances of apparently imminent danger, his nephew brought him some food, he burst out into a strain of gratitude highly spiritual and excellent.

He did not rest his hopes on his own virtuous conduct, or his devoted attention to religious services, public and private: these he esteemed his duty and his delight, but he did not make them substitutes for a Savior, or the ground of his hopes before God. No; he felt that his best services needed cleansing in the blood of Christ, and that salvation must be through his grace alone. Hence, to humble self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, was his constant desire, while he united in the language and feelings of the apostle, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14. And if you, reader, admire, and would succeed in imitating the conduct of Thomas Mann, you must not fail to receive these divine truths with your whole heart, because they are the secret springs and motives to all that is truly excellent and well-pleasing in the sight of God.

Such was the religion of the Honest Waterman; arising from divine influences governing his thoughts, words, and actions—influencing alike his daily walk and conversation, and the conduct he pursued in any emergency. It was this indwelling principle which induced the open cheerfulness, the constant equanimity, the unvaried tranquility for which he was remarkable; causing his peace to flow as a river, and rendering his life so serene as to leave little of variety in its progress.

After his retirement from labor, he appeared to lay himself out entirely for the glory of God and the good of his fellow-creatures; his acts of benevolence were continual, but as private as he could possibly make them; and he manifested a peculiar dislike to flattery, whenever it was mingled with expressions of gratitude for the benefits he conferred.

Although adopting a mode of life so different from that to which he had been accustomed, time never appeared to hang heavy on his hands; he was not gloomy or fretful: the Bible was his constant companion, and when not engaged in reading or meditating on its contents, he scorned to eat the bread of idleness. Accordingly, besides the distribution of clothing and money to the poor, which occupied him during some parts of the week, as well as on the Sabbath, he found various ways of employing himself, sometimes using edge-tools, and making boxes, stools, etc.

In the spring of 1822, the house in which he was born, and had resided during his whole life, with the exception of his seven years’ apprenticeship, was, with several others in the neighborhood, pulled down. He purchased a quantity of the old materials, and watchful for an employment which, while it amused himself, might benefit others, he sawed the wood and put it up into bundles, which he sold to the poor around him at a price much below its value.

It was pleasant to see the old waterman, when he had left off labor, on a fine, sunshiny day, sitting on a bench, at his former plying-place, conversing with his old friends, and with the younger ones who had succeeded him. Hither he frequently repaired. He always seemed happy and agreeable; but his mind was sometimes much pained at the oaths and offensive language which too often met his ears. Perhaps some of those who thus grieved him, have since seen the error of their ways, and mourned that they should have wounded the Christian spirit of so good a man, and still more, that they should have broken the express command of a holy God. Perhaps some of them may see in these pages the record of their fault, and, struck for the first time with a sense of its enormity, may determine to renounce the sinful practice. If so, though it is too late for Thomas Mann to rejoice on earth at being the means of their reformation, yet “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.”

Sometimes the old man would take a boat and row himself about the river for exercise; or, if not equal to so much exertion, he would employ another waterman to row him: occasionally he would go in a boat in quest of coal for his own use, or to bestow gratuitously on his poor neighbors. These gifts were always made with much method, and with due attention to the various wants of those for whom they were intended.

On Sabbath, October 6th, he was not well enough to go to church in the morning, but he went in the afternoon and in the evening. In returning home, which he reached with difficulty, owing to an affection of his breath, he was seized with so much debility as to be obliged to ask the assistance of an arm from more than one person; and he fell down once on his way. During the following week he seemed to recover; but on the week succeeding, being worse, he consented to have medical advice. On the 17th of October he kept his bed during the day, for the first time since his childhood. He now desired his nephew to write, from his dictation, the manner in which he would have his property disposed of, mentioning his anxious wish to “send forth evangelical missionaries.” The various objects to which he was desirous of contributing, were then taken down in writing, and the sums affixed to each according to his direction: on their being read over to him, he often said, “That is not enough;” and this was repeated so many times, that he afterwards found diminution necessary, when his will came to be regularly made. “These are blessed institutions,” said he, referring to the societies to which he made bequests.

Being afterwards in violent pain, he requested his nephew to procure some one to pray with him, and a pious neighbor was sent for. On his arrival, he asked what should be the subject of his petitions. “My dismissal from the body,” said the sufferer. His friend expostulated with him, questioning the propriety of such a prayer, and adding, in the language of St. Paul, “Perhaps your abiding in the flesh is more needful for us.” Mann replied, that the apostle was a great and holy man, and could not be compared to himself. “Of what use,” he continued, “can I be to myself or others? I am now only a burden.” His friend reasoned with him on the subject, and pointed out the duty of God’s people in suffering, as well as in doing his will. No expression of impatience was afterwards heard. When questioned by this visitor as to the state of his mind, he replied, in the words of the apostle, “I find a law in my members warring against the law of my mind. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”[2] He then added, of his own accord, “None but Jesus, none but Jesus; my reliance is on Christ alone, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Many of his sayings, sometimes longing for stronger confidence in the Savior, always expressive of ardent love to him, and an eager desire for his appearing, were recorded by his nephew. Scripture now seemed quite familiar to him, and his quotations from its pages were very frequent. Once he exclaimed, “O, that blessed book! O, that men would take it for their guide!” Sometimes he was enabled to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Happening to say that he felt no pain, his nephew remarked, “That is a mercy.” “Yes,” said he, “I am made up of mercies, and that through no merit of my own.” Being asked to take some wine, he said, “I have got the wine of the New Jerusalem—the wine of the consolation of Christ—I, a poor, guilty, depraved creature—nothing but Christ and his salvation.”

In the midst of acute pain he exclaimed, “Lord, thy sufferings were great when thou criedst, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’[3] and in the agony of the garden, when thou saidst, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’ ”[4] In similar circumstances he said, “Thou knowest I have cried heartily in thy house for ‘deliverance in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment;’ O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the great incomprehensible Jehovah, help my feeble frame! I am very weak; but no—no wrath. O, it was a joyful sound of the angelic host. ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ Joy, joy, joy, in the presence of the angels.”

Being desired to keep himself warm and comfortable, he said, “My comfort is in death, when I shall join the heavenly throng,


‘Then will I sing more sweet, more loud,

And Christ shall be my song.’ ”[5]


Many were the hymns and texts of Scripture which, in the intervals of pain, he quoted: unconnected as they were, they showed where his thoughts were fixed, and what was the prevailing tenor of his mind.

To a little girl who came to make inquiries, in the hope of seeing him, he said, “The fear of God is the guard of youth; O give yourself up to him without reserve.”

Though variously exercised, sometimes depressed by a deep sense of unworthiness, and by a natural dread of pain and of death, his mind appears to have been still fixed on spiritual things, and his whole conversation was either drawn from the oracles of truth, or related to his own religious feelings: Short petitions for the spread of the Gospel, for the good of others, for his own pardon and acceptance with God, were frequently uttered. They were occasionally indistinct, but always scriptural. “I can say the Lord’s prayer from my heart,” he once exclaimed; “Lord, let my will be dissolved in thine. I know that Jesus Christ has lived and died for me, and purchased my pardon with his most precious blood.” At another time, “I desire to be where Mr. Newton wished to be—at the foot of the thief on the cross.” “The best of doings is worth nothing.” “My object has been to hate sin, and flee from it. I have hated it with a perfect hatred.” “I can say, with pious Job, ‘Thy hand is heavy upon me, but thy comforts delight my soul.’ ”

Being told that one of the pocket-books for 1823 contained a portrait of the Rev. Thomas Scott, he mentioned the last time he had heard him preach; and then spoke of the late Rev. Mr. Foster, adding, “They are now before the throne—O, that I was with them!”

He continued expressing himself in a similar manner, till he was reduced so low as to be unable to speak, and only capable of making signs. After remaining a short time in a state of extreme debility, he suddenly appeared to revive, recovered strength sufficient to take some nourishment, and was spared several weeks afterwards. One day, while still very weak, his nephew, sitting by his bedside, begun humming the hundredth psalm, when the old man joined him, and recollected some verses which the nephew had forgotten. Afterwards he began, and they sung together that beautiful hymn of Dr. Watts:


“When I survey the wondrous cross

     On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

     And pour contempt on all my pride.”[6]


This was the only time at which he was ever heard to sing, unless when joining in public worship.

Soon afterwards, one morning, when left alone, he was heard to fall. His nephew instantly repaired to him, and found that he had fallen on his side from his knees, through weakness. On being raised, he again requested to be left, in order to continue the private worship in which he was engaged.

Some hopes were now entertained of his recovery, pain having left him, and debility being his only remaining complaint. But his constitution had sustained a shock so severe that the prospect was speedily relinquished. He was, however, again able to go down stairs; and, though extremely apprehensive of proving troublesome, he was at length prevailed on to allow himself to be removed to his nephew's house. There it was his custom to retire early to rest; but if, in order to lengthen his repose, his affectionate relative did not appear to assist him to rise in the morning so soon as he wished, he would exert his remaining strength, and dress himself unaided. It was in vain to mention the debilitated state of his frame as a reason for self-indulgence; he seemed to think time as valuable, and as necessary to be fully occupied as ever. His usual equanimity of temper continued manifest; thankfulness was expressed for every trifling service he received; and he always aimed to give as little trouble, and cause as little inconvenience in the family as possible.

This interval of convalescence appears to have been very mercifully appointed. During his first severe illness, his apprehension of continued bodily suffering seemed to exceed that which he was actually enduring; and great anxiety for a speedy dismissal from the body was evidenced. The sweet submission, holy composure, and perfect acquiescence in the will of God, which marked his whole behavior subsequently to the last attack, showed that the season which had elapsed, of suspended suffering, and of comparative ease—during which, though his debilitated frame rendered him quite aware of approaching dissolution, yet the cessation of actual pain enabled his vigorous mind fully to contemplate his situation on the verge of eternity—was used to the utmost advantage, in acquiring, from the treasures of the Scripture with which his memory was stored, and those which renewed prayer and meditation opened to his experience, that heavenly tranquility which led the Psalmist to exclaim, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”[7]

He was one day much delighted at hearing an account of the conversion of the Islanders in the South Seas, exclaiming, “Now, is not that pleasing?” and on information being communicated from another part of the world, in which the efforts for the spread of Christianity had been less successful, he said, emphatically, “If a man is dead in sin, nothing will awake him but the almighty power of Jehovah.”

Speaking of himself one morning, in a cheerful manner, he applied to his own history two lines of Bunyan, which were certainly never more strikingly exemplified.


“There was a man, whom some accounted mad,

The more he gave away, the more he had.”


“I am sure,” said he, “I have found it so.”

One night, after being assisted to bed, his nephew saying, “Good night, God bless you!” and observing the old man to reply only “Good night!” he asked the reason, and was answered, that as those words were generally spoken in a sense quite unmeaning, if not profane, he never used them.

On the 8th of December, symptoms appeared which indicated approaching dissolution. The kindly feelings of his heart were still vigorous. Some one present blamed his nephew for betraying his grief. “You do not know,” said the old man, “what a strong affection there is between him and me.” “You are not afraid of death,” said the nephew. “O no,” be exclaimed, repeating the words, “I am not afraid of death.” His nephew calling him his only friend, he said, “Make God your friend.”

The following Monday, as he was sitting by the fire, he was seized with violent pain, and was overheard by those near him in earnest prayer. The severity of his sufferings extorted from him a groan: he afterwards observed, “Many Christians bear their pain without a sigh or groan. How they do it, I don't know; I am sure I do not cry out willfully or wantonly; my pain forces it from me.” He then said, “Lord, accept me in and for the sake of the adorable Redeemer!” On something being mentioned concerning God's time, he said, “Happy time!” This was a day of continued suffering; and after retiring to rest, he was overheard importuning his heavenly Father to pity and release him.

The next morning he rose without assistance, but in a short time returned to his bed. He did not then appear in much pain, but seemed reluctant to converse, and said he needed rest. In the course of the day, seeing his nephew with a book in his hand, he said, “Read your Bible and pray for the light of God's Spirit upon it.” Afterwards, being asked if he was happy, and if he relied on the great work wrought out on Calvary, he replied, “Nowhere else; God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ.” One present, in allusion to the “Pilgrim's Progress,” said, “Poor Christian had Hopeful to hold up his head while passing through the river; and you have a good hope.” “Yes,” said he, “the love of God is shed abroad in my heart.”[8] Afterwards he added, “My strength is perfect weakness. Finish thy work, Lord, and let me join thy heavenly host, to sing thy praise for ever and ever.”

It was difficult to suppose his end so near as it proved. He seemed like a person taking comfortable repose after a long and fatiguing journey. In fact, his soul was already entering, into that rest which remaineth for the people of God. Being asked if his mind continued happy, he said, “Yes;” and to the question whether he suffered much pain, he replied, “No.” This was his last word. He fell into a peaceful slumber, which lasted two hours without any appearance of restlessness, and then calmly yielded up his soul into the hands of his faithful Creator and merciful Redeemer.

Thus died Thomas Mann, on Wednesday, December 11, 1822, aged 75 years. He left one hundred pounds sterling three per cent. annuities, to each of the following institutions: namely, the Bible Society; the Church, London, Baptist, and Home Missionary Societies; the Religious Tract Society; the Irish Evangelical Society; the Spitalfields Benevolent Society; and the London Female Penitentiary; also fifty pounds, in money, to the Tower-Ward Charity-school; the Wesleyan Missionary Society; the Lying-in Society, Knight Ryder-street; the Charity-school, St. Catharine, Tower; and the Bethel Union.


NOTE. This strictly authentic narrative was originally published in a more extended form, by the Religious Tract Society in London, one of the institutions to which the Waterman bequeathed 100 pounds at his death.


[1]Wherry—a light boat.

[2]Romans 7:24—O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

[3]Matthew 27:46—And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

[4]Matthew 26:38—Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

[5]John Cennick, “Thou Dear Redeemer, Dying Lamb.”

[6]Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

[7]Psalm 37:37—Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

[8]Romans 5:5—And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

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