A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen

At Home, Feb. 8, 1828.

MY GOOD SISTER: – It has been fourteen years since I saw you, but the distance of space and length of time have in no degree chilled my Christian regard and friendship towards you and others in Virginia.

Was I at your house in Caroline, or you here at my mansion, we should be full of chat, in telling each other what events had passed for the last fourteen years, but that is not the case; to supply the lack of which, I shall with my pen give you a condensed history of myself, and what has passed before me. Excepting a few months cessation from preaching occasioned by a broken leg, I have been unweariedly trying to preach Jesus, but have never yet risen to that state of holy zeal and evangelical knowledge, that I have been longing after; but such as I had I have been giving unto the people. There have been a number of revivals of religion within the circle of my ministration, which have both flattered my pride and humbled my soul. The season past has been one of the happy parts of my life. Such have rarely seen (never exceeded) in my life. The number I have baptized in this rich harvest is one hundred and six, and I yet find no more inconvenience in baptizing than I did when I was but thirty-six years old; nor can I discover any diminution in the congregation that attend my ministry. I have had a number of attacks, like one I had in Goochland, but I have been holden up with a little help, and refreshed in my bondage until now, faint yet pursuing. I have eighty-two descendants living. A few of my grand children have died at their respective homes; but I have never had a death at my house. Of Abraham it is said, “I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.”

I have been trying to get ready to die. I have written a short history of the events of my life, and although it contains the best part of my life, yet when I look over the manuscript, it is but a ragged thing. I have also got the likeness of my person taken, as large as life from the waist up, and others say it is a good portrait; but it looks like a crabbed image full of juices, so that boasting is every way excluded. My pecuniary concerns I have settled, so that my executor may have nothing to do, and likewise made my will, which is but a light affair. So far I am ready to die; but internal readiness is another thing. I have as strong attachments to life as I had in the year 1777, when at your father’s house with brother Young. I cannot select the time when, nor the disease by which I should choose to die. When I reflect on my past life, a thousand things occur that were criminal or very imprudent. I had no fruit in those things of which I am now ashamed, so that if Christianity was not a religion for sinners, to meet their wants and relieve their woes, I should have no hope.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Were I sure that I had acted only for Christ, my soul would make her boast in God; but there is so much corruption in me, that the most that I can hope is, that there has been some good thing in me, amidst so many bad ones. There is a solemn day approaching, where pleading that we have eaten and drunken in the presence of Christ, prophesied, cast out devils, and done many wonderful works in his name, will not avail, and if we add to these pleas, that we have given our bodies to be burned, and our goods to feed the poor, yet without charity (the unction from the Holy one – the waters that spring up to eternal life) we shall be disesteemed. While writing on this solemn subject, I feel like dropping my pen and crying to God, with all the powers of my soul, that he would make me right, make me faithful unto death, assist me to fight the good fight, finish my course, keep the faith, and receive the crown.

Internal religion is always the same, and always will be, but the external modes of it, change like the fashions of dress. So many religious novelties, have lately sprung up, that I have often exclaimed, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” But this alarm has been quieted by, “What is that to thee? follow thou me.” In all the revivals that have been where I have administered, the work has operated as it did in Virginia from the year 1784 until 1789.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

From creation to the flood was 1656 years, in which term we may have safely calculated that many millions of people lived; and yet no more than twenty-seven personal names are found in antediluvian history. There are a number of names so incorporated into the history, precepts, and promises of the scriptures, that they must necessarily be perpetuated as long as the Bible exists. But there have been many seven thousands that never bowed to Baal, whose names are buried to oblivion. Much has been done and much is doing by men to immortalize their names; but if my name is written in Heaven, in the Lamb’s book of life, not to be blotted out, if I have a room in God’s house, among the living in Jerusalem, I shall be made for eternity. It is not likely a century hence there will be many, if any one, who will ever have known or heard any thing of John Leland.

This give me no uneasiness. But I have a strong solicitude that I may live and die in a manner that will give my friends in general, and those whom I have baptized in particular, no painful sensations, to think that they have placed confidence in an unfaithful man who did not hold out to the end.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I am very much checked in writing, fearing you are dead; but like Columbus in a sea storm, I will throw this overboard, in hopes that if you are dead, some of your friends will find it.

You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand, and being such a one as John the aged, I hope you will pardon my egotism (the hobby of old men) and all other defects, and believe it is indicted in the spirit of friendship.

JOHN LELAND
Letter to Mrs. Amey Peatross.

The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 527 – 529