Chesire, Oct. 25, 1831.
MY GOOD OLD FRIEND: – Your friendly letter of the 30th of August came save to hand in due time. While the young are looking forward in hopes of brighter scenes, the old are retrospecting past events; your letter reminds me of days and circumstances long past. The last time I saw you, was at Waterlick, April 1790. At your meeting-house I preached from a text that has been of use to me until this moment; it was “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The confession is yet true with me, and the prayer of it has been answered until now. I have been travelling and preaching from that date until the present, through infirmity of flesh and heaviness of spirit; but, have never risen to that sublime state of wisdom and zeal, which I anticipated at my beginnings. I have had my summers and winters, praises and reproaches, prosperity and adversity; and, having attained the help of God, I remain until this time enjoying good health. My heaviest trials have been of that character, that a communication of them to others, (if indeed that could have been done,) would only have added to their weight, so that the darkest part of the way I have had to walk alone.
I have seen a number of religious revivals within the limits of my ministration, and at this present time there is a shower falling in these parts. I have lately baptized forty, and others stand waiting. How it may appear to the solemn line of spectators, on the banks of the water, to see an old man, whose locks have been frosted with seventy-seven winters, baptizing without any inconvenience, I cannot say; to himself there is a solemn pleasure. I never baptized more than twenty-four persons at one time, and abundance of times no more than one; and, as I have baptized one thousand five hundred and twelve in all, I judge that I have been in the water for baptism more times than any man in the United States.
The excitement of Campbellism and anti-masonry, does not rage in this section of the country, but the missionary principle has strong advocates and bold opponents; whether one will completely triumph over the other, or whether there will be a settled division, I cannot determine. Without any aid from missionary boards or funds, I have followed the missionary work fifty-seven years; in which time I have travelled a distance that would girdle the globe four times, and still have health and spirit to persevere.
In many revivals of religion that I have seen, something singular (in extraneous forms) has always been seen, so that no two of them have been alike; nor is to be wondered at, when we consider the infinite means in Jehovah, and the constant changes in the fashions of the world. Taking my own judgment for a standard, some revivals are much more pure than others. The present excitement among us has many muddy appendages; such exertions are made by many, to unite the exertions of natural powers with the energies of grace, as are not common. When souls boast alone in the Lord, the humble hear thereof and are glad; but, when they are in the Lord, the humble hear thereof and are glad; but, when they are taught to boast of any thing else, the humble are sad. I confess that I have not acquired the art of welding cold iron and hot together. But we should always make allowances for the difference that exists between the wisdom and truth of God, and the weakness and corruptions of men.
He who is so fearful of gathering chaff that he will not reap, will certainly fail in gathering wheat.
You inform me that all the old preachers are dead, or past labor, and that a new set have risen up in their stead. It is to be hoped that the young will improve upon the old, by shunning their defects and imitating their virtues. Preachers should always be little enough for the meek and lowly Jesus, who made himself of no reputation. A great preacher of the gospel of humiliation and self-abasement, is a monstrous character. Be ye not called Rabbi – be servant of all – be thou an example to believers – let nothing be done through strife and vain-glory, etc.; are admonitions that I daily need, and perhaps my young brethren may need the same.
The invitations which you gave me to come and visit Virginia, is full of Christian politeness. The kind reception and good success I have had among the people of Virginia, has endeared the very name to me; nor have I known a minute for forty years, that my attachment to the place and people has been chilled. My age forbids me to comply with your request, by my will says, “go,” and which will finally prevail will be decided in the course of next summer. The wife of my youth is yet living; we have lived together in connubial relation fifty-five years. We have nine children, seven of whom have made a profession of religion.
I try to preach about four times a week in average. My health and strength will admit of travelling twelve miles, and preaching every day. In this course of life I have been announcing Christianity for more than fifty-seven years, having more reverence for that preaching which shows how the Lord draws sinners, than I have for that which shows sinners how to rive the Lord.
The salutation of John in my own hand,
THOMAS BUCK, Esq., Frederic Co., Virginia
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 616 – 617