I, John, who am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, have lately received a book and a letter from an old friend, whom I have not seen for more than forty years, which gives me great satisfaction.
You inform me of your age, your labors, your success, the state of your family at large, and that your wife; Betsey, my old friend, is yet living. God bless her precious soul, and the body attached to it. It brings fresh to my mind the winter of 1779 and '80, which was the coldest winter that America has ever known; and yet, to me, it was the warmest that ever I knew. At several other periods of my life, I have had more success than I had at that time, but never had the spirit of prayer and travail for souls, to an equal degree. It was then your dear partner fell in love with the blessed Jesus, and was baptized; not to gain admission into the kingdom, which is righteousness and peace, but to prove her love and obedience to him who had delivered her from the power of darkness, and translated her into the kingdom.
Your travels have been great, your success encouraging. “They that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars forever and ever.” When the ministers of Jesus shall be called to give an account of their stewardship, if, like their masters, they can each say, “behold I, and the children which God bath given me - here, Lord, are the proofs of my ministry - the seals of my faithfulness - the souls thou hast given me.” It will be a crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord. But, notwithstanding success is very desirable, yet the promise is made to the faithful. Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was very unsuccessful; all his hearers but seven were destroyed; but, as he was faithful, he obtained the promise, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Whenever I had evidence that God had blessed my imperfect labors for the salvation of sinners, it has given me much more joy than the favors of the rich, or the applauses of the great. * * * *
I have been reading the writing which came to Jehoram from Elijah, ii. Chron. 21, 12. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, did not reign, until after Elijah was translated; but, as he carried his hands and feet with him, it is possible he might have written in the other world; granting this, how could he leave sent his letter down to Jehoram? It is true, that after this, he descended to the holy mount, and was one of the six who formed an assembly far more pompous and astonishing, than the millions of Xerxes; but, in this case, it is hard to believe that Elijah came post from heaven, and dropped the writing into the letter-box of Jehoram. Divines think the letter was prophetically written by Elijah, before his translation, and left in the hands of Elisha, to be delivered to Jehoram at a given time. This might have been the case, for Josiah and Cyrus were prophesied of by name, and the work they should do, described, long before they were born; and yet, when we read this writing, it will preponderate in the mind, that the writing was posterior to the crimes. Why may we not conclude that Ezra, or some transcriber, put the name of Elijah, where it should have been Elisha? Admit this, and all is easy.
This same Jehoram died at the age of forty years, (see the twentieth verse of the same chapter,) and Ahaziah, his youngest son, succeeded him, being forty-two years old; two years older than his father, and yet his youngest son. In 2 Kings, viii. 26, this same Ahaziah, is said to have been twenty-two years old when he began to reign. Dr. Gill owns there is an error here, not in the translation, but in the Hebrew. As I am not skilled in Bible mending, I shall here observe, that, considering the many transcriptions and translations the Bible has passed through, it is more to be wondered at, that there are no more errors ill it, than that there are so many. A great part of the Bible carries such evidence with it that it is of divine origin, that when I read it, I feel, if possible, more than certain, that it is the book of God; and, like its author, incomprehensible. How dim the golden verses of Pythagoras, and the morals of Seneca appear, when the true light shines from the Holy Scriptures. Let all the legislators, philosophers, wise men and wits, that are now living, combine together to form a code of laws, and place it beside Romans xiii., 9, 26, (which can be distinctly read in a minute and a half, containing hardly two hundred words,) and it will sink into insignificance and folly.
The books and letters which you yourself, Mr. Chambers, and Mr. Norwood have had the goodness to send rne, give me to understand that there is a strife among you, about the ancient order of things, and the old Bap fist way, which has split some of the churches, and excited the minds of many. In these northern climes, the strife is between the ancient order of free and accepted masons, and the seceding masons, which has also split many churches, run down many ministers, and become a question at the polls of elections. But, in the section of country where I live and preach, neither of the excitements prevail. The lot assigned me, seems to be, to watch and check clerical hierarchy, which assumes as many shades as a chameleon, sometimes requesting the civil law to support it; and, when that fails, denouncing the vengeance of God against all who will not support their dogmas. If this does not frighten the people into their service, good words and fair speeches are resorted to, in order to deceive the hearts of the simple; and all advisable arts are practiced to make a gain of the populace, gain them to their party to make it strong, and gain their money to support them in ease and splendor.
A new order of things has taken place in the religious department, since I began to preach. Then, when I went to meeting, I expected to hear the preacher set forth the ruin and recovery of man, and labor with heavenly zeal to turn many unto righteousness. His eyes, his voice, and all his prayers, and deportment, gave evidence that his soul travailed in birth for the salvation of his hearers. But now, when I go to meeting, I hear high encomiums on Sunday-schools, tract societies, Bible societies, missionary societies, anti-mason societies, etc., with a strong appeal to the people to aid with their money those institutions which are to introduce the millennium; assuring the people that “every cent may save a soul.” I do not wish to be the bigoted old man, who always finds fault with new customs, though ever so great improvements; but, when I see the same measures pursued that were in the third century, I am afraid the same effects will follow.
I have had my day, and it is nearly over. On a serious reflection, I cannot much condemn myself; that I have not devoted as much of my time in my ministerial labors, as human and civil duties admitted; but, have much cause of self-condemnation when I reflect on the languor of soul, and indifference of spirit that have beset me when preaching eternal realities. It is a wonder that ever a holy God should have crowned my imperfect labors with any success; and yet, amidst all, I have great joy to think that I have not altogether “run in vain, nor labored in vain.” I have followed travelling, preaching, and baptizing, ever since I saw you last, as much as sickness and family cares would admit, and hate not varied materially in any thing; and now, even while I am writing, the old gray headed sinner has to pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Every child has left me; myself and wife keep house alone. We have neither Cuticle nor Phillis to help or plague us. My wife is seventeen years old, and has this season done the housework, and from six cows has made eighteen hundred pounds of cheese, and two hundred and fifty Founds of butter. She and myself entertain a great regard for yourself and lady.
Rev. John Taylor, who lives, or ought to live, in the town of Regeneration, Grace-street, Penitent alley, a the sign of the cross, and next to glory.
Elder John Leland
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Originally published 1845
Pages 600 - 602