Henry County, Ind., July, 1855.
ESTEEMED BROTHER BEEBE: - Such have been my engagements since my return home from the northeast, that I have not had time to comply with the solicitations of brethren who requested me frequently during my peregrinations amongst them to write immediately on my return home, through the SIGNS or otherwise. I will briefly state, that after parting with you in Dundas, we took the cars in Hamilton, Canada, on Monday morning, June 11th, dined in London, supped on board the steamer while crossing the Detroit River from Windsor to Detroit, and on the same evening, at the latter place, went aboard the splendid steamer "Ocean," and sailing during the night, and until about seven o'clock the next morning, we landed at Cleveland, Ohio, and took breakfast there; after which, taking the morning train, we dined in Columbus, then proceeded on to Xenia, where I parted with brother and sister Dudley, taking the first train to Dayton, then by the way of Richmond and Newcastle, I arrived and took supper at home on the same evening, the 12th, finding all well. Not having heard from my family during my absence, I was made to reflect upon the benign goodness of him whose providential care had preserved me and mine, and to conclude that I had an additional testimony that, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion fails not."
For months previous to my going to and returning from the east, I concluded that the words of Jeremiah were to me particularly appropriate, "He hath set me in dark places." Lam. iii. 6. Nor did it appear to me that the brethren and churches where I labored were in a different condition; but that with but very few exceptions the language of the same prophet, book, chapter and 44th verse was applicable to them, viz: "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through." But again, since my return home, I think we have had an evidence of the truth of the 31st and 32nd verses of the same book and chapter: "For the Lord will not cast off forever. But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." A few days after my return home the meeting of the church at Honey Creek came on. There for years past desolation, and torpidity seemed to predominate. It had appeared more like a "lodge in a garden of cucumbers," or "a besieged city," than a place of rejoicing and comfort for the Lord's careworn children.
But on repairing to the place, and before entering the door of the meeting-house, the increased assemblage and the harmonious melody that echoed from the walls and saluted my ears, seemed to tell me, in language not to be misunderstood, that the Lord was there. And really, I think he was there according to his promise, "to bless them." On that occasion five were added to the church; one by letter, one by relation, who had been decoyed off among Arminians, where she could not live, and consequently had wandered for years in solitude, and three by experience and baptism. The next week came our meeting at home; and although we had no addition to the church, I think I had not seen manifested a more feeling sense of a refreshing season from the presence of the Lord since we have been a church. There was on that occasion Elder McCormic, from the more northern part of our association, with us, who informed me that deep and increasing interest is exhibited in that section of country, with largely increased congregations of attentive hearers. A few days after our meeting I set out to the western part of our association, (Lebanon) and was absent ten days. Here again from his bounteous fullness the good Shepherd of Israel was pleased to pour down upon his thirsty garden the streams of consolation which, teeming from his celestial plentitude, his beatific presence, caused "the parched ground to become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." On Sunday I had the gratification again of baptizing two of his dear children, while joy and gladness abounded on the bank of the stream amongst the numerous multitude assembled there. Although our meetings during the laboring days of the week came in the midst of wheat harvest, they were well attended with attentive hearers.
If I am not mistaken, it has been clearly portrayed to me since my return home,
"The Lord can clear the darkest skies,
Can give us day for night,
Make floods of sacred sorrows rise,
To rivers of delight."
During the meeting, another one of the lambs returned to the fold, who had been led off by the Anti-Union Baptists.
On last Saturday and Sunday we had another sweet meeting at Honey Creek. Four of the precious lambs of the Redeemer came forward on Saturday, and related to the church what the Lord had done for them, whom I baptized on Sunday. How long the Lord in his tender mercy may continue to shed upon us his radiant beams of divine light, and cause to run down our street the healing streams of consolation, or how soon again we may be immersed in the gloomy shades of sable darkness, or overwhelmed in the dreary billows of tribulation, no mortal tongue can predict. One thing I know full well, which is that we might as well command the sun to rise at midnight or go down at noon, with a hope of success, as to command one beam of that light, unless the Lord is pleased graciously to emit it, or obscure it when it pleases him to "shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." How thoroughly am I convinced from time to time that those blessings do not flow to me, an unworthy, helpless and dependent sinner, in consequence of any labors that I have performed or can perform, any privations that I have suffered, or any oblations that I have offered; but because "he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy," "because his compassion fails not."
How obdurate the heart that feels no stirring emotion of gratitude for blessings so unparalleled, so undeserved, and yet how oft I feel that heart to be mine! How unthankful the tongue that is so slow to respond to the ceaseless beneficent kindness of the Lord; and yet, too, that tongue is mine. O that the Lord would rouse up our sleeping faculties, and under a deep sensibility of our continual obligations to him, enable us with David to exclaim, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies."
Before concluding my remarks, I wish to say to the numerous brethren and sisters with whom I became acquainted in passing through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Canada, that my mind often recurs with pleasing memory to the pleasant interviews we had together, the reciprocity of fellowship that appeared to pervade our circles and associations, and the very kind attention received while with them. I remember, too, with fond recollection, the apparent firmness of the dear saints with whom I became acquainted in the opulent cities of Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. How commendable to behold, amid the haughty strides of priestly arrogance, the gaudy show, the worldly magnificence, the trappings, tapestry and delectable things, with which the Mother of Harlots and her Protestant Daughters have endeavored to decorate and emblazen a worldly religion, the Pharisaic zeal, the legions of priest-made proselytes, with all their tirade of abuse, contumely, persecution and misrepresentation; "a remnant according to the election of grace," unmoved by any or all of these things; firmly established upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, whose refuge is the eternal God, with his everlasting arms beneath them, receiving at the same time from the glorious Sun of Righteousness the lucid streams of immortal light, the brilliancy of which is sufficient to dash into the shades forever all the pomposity and ostentatious glare of a time-serving religion! And while the giddy professors, the pitiful dupes, the fashionable will-worshipers of the present day are building their Babel towers with the vain hope of reaching heaven thereby, that "chosen generation" is trusting in the efficacious blood and righteousness of a gracious Redeemer. While those bag-ridden minions are sacrificing their perishing toys, that the moth and rust will soon consume, to a priestly hierarchy, the love-smitten children of a beneficent Father are offering up the oblations of thanksgiving and praise through an all-sufficient Mediator for reigning grace that saves, preserves and sustains them. O! What a contrast between the two companies.
While one is reveling in transitory toys,
The other is feasting upon eternal joys.
The one will pass away like the feeble flickerings of the dying taper, or the faint glimmering of the momentary glow-worm, when all will be shrouded in a mantle of darkness, desolation, privation and woe; while the other, durable, as the throne of God, will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and beam forever in the brilliancy of eternal day, where the ever rising tide that flows from the fountain of grace shall supply every need and banish every fear. When upon the pinions of faith that is based upon the immutable promises of him who cannot lie, for its warrant, we can soar beyond the murky vista of our future pilgrimage, and view the exuberant plenitude of immortal bliss that awaits us, and when from the life-sustaining streams of the river that gladdens the city of God we can enjoy a foretaste of its soul-stirring ecstasy, our darkness is turned into day, our mournings into joy, and our murmurings into melodious songs of praises. Then, too, our doubts are dispersed, our fears banished, our hopes revived, and we can sing with the poet,
"If while on earth it is so sweet,
To sit and sing at Jesus' feet,
What will it be to wear a crown,
And sit with Jesus on the throne?"
Yours in the unity of the faith of the gospel. Farewell.
J. F. JOHNSON.