Journals of James Mathers | State Library of New South Wales

Journals of James Mathers, Sydney City Missionary

The Sydney City Mission issued missionary James Mathers with two diaries to be used in alternate months. At the end of each month he submitted one  to the Mission Secretary and used the other to record his activities.  The sixteen volumes of journals cover the period from 1897 to 1911. They describe Mathers' daily work among the poor of the Rocks area. One volume contains notes about the free breakfasts organised by Mathers, 1903-1904, and lists of donations, 1908.

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Selections from Journal of Mr James Mathers missionary for The Rocks District, July 1897-January 1899 Manuscript MLMSS 7260



[page 1]


Mr. James Mathers

Missionary for Millers Point District

Address Annandale

1. "Write the journal of your daily proceedings with strictest accuracy as to facts and circumstances and submit it once a week to the Superintendent of the district for his inspection."
2. As you are all supplied with two journals, to be used every alternate month, continue the account of any important case on to the next and refer to the journal of the previous month.
3. You will please commence and close with the first and last days of each month, and return the journal, with your Report, to the Secretary on the first day of the month.
4. "Let all things be done decently and in order."

[page 2]
Monday 19th July 1897

Saturday the 17th July 1897, I received a letter from the Rev Mr Moore informing me of my appointment to the City Mission, & to commence work on Monday morning the 19th. Being a Stranger in a strange land, I felt somewhat dull, but the kind words of encouragement which Mr. Moore addressed to me through this letter, gave me new life & energy, & fitted me for the service of the Master. At the Rev Mr Moore’s request Mr Bowmaker accompanied me over the district, & took me through the homes of many bright christains who have been in the district since Mr Bowmaker left it. Mr Bowmaker left no stone unturned in showing me through every corner of the district, & at the same time, instructing me in all the duties relating to mission work. A great many people were blest during the labours of Mr Bowmaker in the district, & were glad to see his face again.

We visited a poor woman, Mrs Layton, who earns her bread washing & mangling. We had a good word, & engaged in prayer, She was very thankful for our visit & word on encouragement, & told us to be sure & come back soon.

We visited many more families during the fore part of the day & read & prayed with them. We got a good reception from them all. In the afternoon we visited Mrs Spears meeting. Mr Bowmaker introduced me to her, then she introduced me to the people. I spoke a short word to them & we engaged in prayer. We had a very nice meeting & the mothers all seemed to be happy, & expressed a strong desire for the meetings to continue.

[page 3]
Tuesday 20th July 1897

Mr Bowmaker, on the above date, accompanied me to a new part of the district, & as on the day previous, we visited a good many families, & read & prayed with them. The people were very glad to see us, & as Mr Bowmaker introduced me to them, they all without acception expressed their sincere desire for my success in the district.

We visited Mrs Gordon, this dear woman was just after suffering from a severe attack of rheumatic fever, this was a most distressing case, & one which demanded our deepest sympathy, as her husband was also ill. We in the first place, dealt with her about her soul. She was very anxious to know the truth, & to have that blest assurance of a present Salvation, which is essential to peace & happiness. Feelings were her great obstacle, & we pointed out to her that feelings was a rotten plank which Satan put in the path of every poor sinner & which could never bear them. We told her that it was faith, & not feelings. After Mr Bowmaker presented the truth in various ways to her mind, she at last put her trust in Jesus, & rejoiced with us in a Knowledge of sins forgiven. I can assure you that we did feel happy at this dear woman’s decision. I have alway found that if Christ is kept well to the front, He is sure to gain His way to the hearts of people. It was so in the case of this poor woman. Praise Him. We visited Mr Hayes who was lying very ill with Piles. We spoke the word to him, & prayed, & he expressed his thankfulness to us for our visit. He was trusting in Jesus, & as we stood by the beside of this dear man speaking the word to him we realized the fulfilment of that Scripture, "watering others they themselves were watered".

[page 4]
Wednesday 21st July 1897.

Mr Bowmaker, having other duties to perform, I entered the district myself. I cannot express my feelings as I thought of the strange place & a strange people, but looking up to God, the thought flashed into my mind; human nature is the same in Sydney as it is in Glasgow, & so is God. So I made a start determined to take every door. I commenced in Beddington St, & the first house I visited I met with red hot opposition. A Woman met me at the door, & refused to give me admission to house upon the grounds of her unbelief in such mission work. She said all those who done mission work should have the means within themselves, & do the work gratis. I played the softy & allowed her to run out her tether, I said, my dear Sister, are you aware that God has not been pleased to fit every man for an important work like this, but just let us look at the matter in this way. There is a man who loves the work of the Lord, & who has the interests of his fellow men at heart, he may be a butcher, a baker, or the Governor, if you like, & he says I have not the fortitude to do such a work as that, neither do I feel it to be my calling, but I am willing along with others, like minded to myself, to contribute towards the support of those whom God has been pleased to call into His service. He may be a poor cobbler, or a chimney sweep, like Peter of old, whom He called from the herring boat, & with the herring scales sticking to his coat he went out to carry the message to the people. These are the lines upon which the City Mission run. The Missonaries are sent to do a class of work which the Parsons of the district cannot over
take & thus help on the good work. I then asked her, will you let your friend in to pray with you? & she said come away, I went in

[page 5]
Wed. 21st continued

in to the house, & as I went in I found other three young women & I got to my knees in the middle of the floor, & after engaging in Prayer, I had a good word with them. We were all good friends before we parted, & they kindly invited me back again. This nerved me for the service of the day, & took all the starch completely out of me.

I next visited Mrs Williams. This woman is a R.C. but she gave a grand receiption, & as I read the word & prayed with her, she listened earnestly & drank it in. She said I am a R.C. I told her as an Agent of the City Mission, my duty & privilege was to offer Christ to every Person irrespective to either creed or sect, salvation to be obtained through the blood alone. I then asked her, as she grasped me by the hand, if she by faith would accept Jesus as her own personal Saviour, & she said at once I will. I then engaged in prayer with her, & she thanked me very kindly for my visit, & asked me back again. This greatly helped me in the good work, to get such a blessed receiption from a poor R.C.

Mrs Touglin. I visited this woman, & I found her suffering from rose in the face, & Lumbago in the back. She is a christain & as I read & prayed with her the tears came to her eyes, & she said, you might kindly come & see me soon again. She said, I do like to see you coming to see me Oh; how I am suffering, she said. I felt much of the presence of God in this house.

Mrs. Gordon No.22. This was one of the most interesting cases I met with during the day. When I entered the house I made known to her my mission & asked her if she was trusting in Jesus for Salvation,

[page 6]
Wed. 21st continued

& she said no. I then told her she had got to realize two things, first her lost condition by nature, & in order to bring this truth home to her heart I brough before her God’s looking glass, Rom 3 where she saw a true photo of herself, & after pointing her to the facts contained in the ch. she exclaimed I see I am lost, I said praise God you are half saved. The seeking Saviour soon finds the seeking sinner. I then took her to that big fat text John 3 & 16 that has been blessed to the Salvation of so many souls, & after reading various portions of scriptures of a similar nature to her, with tears in her eyes, she grasped me by the hand, & as she held my hand I engaged in prayer with her & just as I finished praying, she cryed I will trust Him. Oh; what a joy it brought to my heart.

2.30p.m. I attended a Missionary prayer meeting held in the Office of Y.M.C.A. It was indeed a time of refreshing from the Masters presence, as every heart, unitedly, was uplifted in Prayer to God on behalf of the City Mission work in the town. Such a meeting as this is very profitable to the workers, & brings about a unity that nothing else could do.

[page 7]

This morning I visited Chinaman’s dens & thank God for the welcome I got. I went into one & there were 5 females & several males, & I took out my bible & I had a splendid meeting. While the meeting was going on 2 policemen came in & I can assure you I did feel at home. I preached the gospel to them, & they listened with dee p interest to the Word.

When I was passing that way in the Afternoon, they brought me in to the house & introduced me to some of the old Chinamen who I did not see, but who were listning to the Word from another room, when I was in before.

Sabb 7th. After Church service I visited a number of families & read the Word of God to them & dealt with them about their Souls.

[page 8]

Monday 8th 11 Harrington St.

Little Today I visited Mrs. L. the woman refered to in my report of Friday 5th & whose son was drowned on Sat 30th Oct.

I dealt with her for nearly 1 hour, reading the Word of God to her, & showing to her from the Word what God meant to teach by the Solemn lesson, & thank God she give her heart to Jesus.

Tuesday 9th A Public Holiday.

Wednesday 10th I had a good time this forenoon, as I had a good opportunity of dealing with quite a number of men at the St. Corners, & on the streets.

2.30 I attended our usual Prayer Meeting. It was a most lively meeting. I never felt more of the Presence & power of God in any of the previous meetings.

May Thu 12th continued

Drink was the poor man’s failing, I brought him face to face with the word of God, & from the 3 Rom showed him his lost condition. He at once acknowledged his lost condition, & express his desire to get saved.

He went to his knees with me, & accepted Jesus as his saviour. I got him to sign the pledge, & in the evening he turned up to the meeting.

Mrs Morris I called on Mrs. M. 36 Cumberland St. her husband had met with
W M a severe accident and is unable for work. She has 5 of a family. She professed Christ, she had no food in the house, I give her a line for 2/6 worth of provision, which gladdened the woman’s heart.

Evangelistic Meeting
Tonight we had a good open air,& notwithstanding the inclemency the weather there were over 40 adults present, & the Ladies took up the meeting. At the close a man came up to the table crying & went to this knees and said oh; my heart is like to break. He signed the Pledge.

[page 10]

Fri 13th. Today I made special visits in various places in my districts, as I wanted to deal with particular cases.

Among those whom I visited was an opium den. At my dinner hour I visited this place as it was the most suitable time to find them all in. I entered this place by a back court, & found in the bottom flat a woman with a cigarette in her mouth making the dinner & a Chinaman with her.

Chinaman’s opium den
I went up stairs to the middle flat & went into a dark room where I found 1 European & 1 Chinaman smoking opium, lying on one bed, Also 2 women smoking cigarettes. I dealt with them on the opium question, & preached the gospel & they did listen attentively. They were smoking so vicious that I began to feel sick, & I sang "What a friend we have in Jesus" & engaged in prayer & left. I cannot doubt the power & willingness to save the vilest sinners.

[page 11]
Thur 29th Tonight We had a good open air & also a good indoor meeting, we could hardly get the meeting closed for the number of lively testemonies given by a number of ladiee, some from Balmain & others from Leichhardt & some from the Rocks,
Thank God for the blessed spirit manifested among Gods people.

Meeting in Chinaman Opium den

Fri 30th Today I had a splendid meeting in Chinamen Opium den. 6 of those poor Young Women listened to me attentively as I preached the Word of God to them.
I shall never forget the alarming testimony that a well dressed young woman give in the presence of her companions.
She said as follows. 12 months ago I was a virtuous young woman, I left Newzeland & came to Sydney, & I curse the day I came into this city, Not long after my arrival I was decoyed by a yound woman to what she called her mothers house,  & in my symplicity I went to what she told me was her mother’s house, I had no more conciousness of my position

[page 12]
The story of a poor girl

until I awoke in the morning & found myself in a brothal. I knew I was drugged & destroyed. If God were to take my breath away, I tell the truth.

I tried to retrace my steps & those who saw me coming out of that place mocked me, & I went back to the sin. Sir, if you want to get the whole truth of my sad case go & consult with the Constable McN. who will tell you all about it. I know this policeman well, & I mean to see him about the case.

November 1898

Tue 1st. Received a telegram from my bro, at Newcastle, of the death of his child & requested me to attend funeral on Tuesday evening 4.30p.m. I wrote Rev. Mr Moore making him acquent with the circumstances of the case.

Wed 2nd Left Newcastle 9.8 A.M. Arrived in Sydney 12.50P.M.

[page 13]
R.C. Wed 30th
This forenoon I visited Mrs. T. 15 Harts Building. I had a most blessed time in this house, the Woman was glad to see me & said she was a R.C. but 12 months ago she used to confessed to the Priest, but God had opened her eyes to see that no one but Jesus could forgive sins.

She said I am not clear on the question of my sins forgiven. I brought the truth before her in various ways, & she went to her knees she professed having given her heart to Jesus, & said I am saved, & see it now.

January 1899

Sabb 1st

Sowing class & mother’s meeting
Sabb open air meeting

After Church service I went into my district & conducted an open air meeting at the foot of Globe St. During the meeting a man stepped into the ring & testified as follows. Many years ago I lived at Pyrmont with my wife & family. I was a Christian & being a ship owner I went to the Old Country, & led a life of sin & after returning home, I found to my surprise my wife dead & my family broken up & scattered. I came to this meeting a few Sabb nights ago, and was led to give my heart to Jesus & now thank God I am happy.

Thank God for the blessed results at this open air meeting.
Tues 3rd Today at 3 oclock we started our sowing class in the Rev. Dill Mackye’s church. We had a large attendance, considering the holidays. I do believe we will have a good work here.

[page 14]
1898 January 1899

Wed 4th Today I attended our Missionary prayer Meeting. We had a soul reviving time. In the evening I attended a meeting in Y.M.C.A. under the auspecas of the "Evangelical Alliance". It was a very homely warm meeting.

Thur 5th. This evening we had a good open air & the hall was packed to the door & one of the liveliest meetings we have ever had. We had all classes & their attention to the Gospel was most astonishing. Numbers of ladies & gentlemen gave short addresses. This meeting was a surprise to us all. Praise God its just like Him.

Church of England – Parkes

Fri. 6th. Today I called on & visited 21 families in my district. I visited Mrs P. Cumberland St. This woman about 6 months ago signed the pledge & kept it since . I found her husband in the house, & I had a good opportunity of dealing with him about his soul & altho he came to no definite decision, he was impressed. They had no tea or sugar they told me, & I give them ½ lb of tea for which they thanked me.