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Franklin County, Maine, Feb.18, 1850.

BROTHER BEEBE: - Within a few months past I have visited North Berwick, Whitefield; and other places, and have experienced some agreeable seasons among the brethren. I have been at Jay a few weeks, but expect soon to leave for Richmond, Maine, the place of my permanent residence.

While Zion’s pilgrims are passing through a land of drought, of darkness, and of the shadow of death, they occasionally experience a refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and are made to sing as in former days, when they were delivered out of the house of bondage. They find the valley of trouble to be a door of hope, and they sing as in the days of their youth, the time of their espousals. The presence of Christ allays their fears, and calms the tumult of their mind, but when his presence is withdrawn, all is wild, dark, and stormy. The temptations, afflictions, and chilling sensations of mind they experience lead them to appreciate the goodness and mercy of God in their deliverance and salvation.

Time is rolling on and carrying all human expectations into oblivion. The sun will shine as bright over our graves, as it now does about our paths. Many of our relations, friends and acquaintance are encircled in the cold arms of death, and soon we shall be with them, and all recollection of us will be lost in following years. Thousands are annually conveyed to the silent grave, and their love, and their hatred have perished, and the remembrance of them is soon gone. “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast; for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” Eccl. 3:19,20.

Man is a mystery to himself, and he cannot comprehend his own existence by the strictest disquisition. The highest attainment of human or theological knowledge, the most profound research into the labyrinth of mysteries, aside from revelation, is foolishness when compared with the wisdom of God. The uncreated, self-existent, and eternal Jehovah is the only being that knows everything, and that comprehends all things, in the visible and invisible world, in time and in eternity. His ways are in the great deep, and his footsteps are not known. The clouds are his chariot, and he rides upon the stormy sea. The heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool, which he has made by the word of his power. He inhabiteth eternity, and dwells in the light and holy place and “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isa. 57:15. O for a shelter under his wing, and a repose in the bosom of his love, to sing his praise, and bless his holy name, free from sin and sorrow.

I have had some meditation of late on the following text of scripture, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, after I have preached the gospel to others, I should be a castaway.” I Cor. 9:27. In the context, the apostle is speaking of the christian race, and christian warfare, and of his course therein. He was sensible that unless the Lord worked in him mightily by his Holy Spirit, both to will, and to do, he should not be able to run the race set before him, or to fight in the war in which he had enlisted, therefore he was constrained to trust alone in God for strength to keep under his body, and to bring in into subjection. Doubtless he had reference to the same body when he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” Rom. 7:24. To keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, I conclude, is the same as mortifying the deeds of his body through the Spirit, so as not to let sin reign in his mortal body to obey it in the lusts thereof. He endeavored to maintain his reputation as a christian, a minister, and an apostle, by observing proper rules of decorum at all times, for as he was a man of like passions with others, he was careful lest that by any means, such as drunkenness, dishonesty, or any other gross violation of virtuous principles, he should be a cast-away to the church of God, after he had preached the gospel unto them. Some suppose that the apostle had reference to falling from grace, and being eternally lost by the expression cast-away, but it is evident from the context, that he had exclusive reference to his outward christian course. He had a special regard for the honor of the visible church of Christ, both in his own conduct, and in the conduct of his brethren. He often warned, reproved, and admonished them. He says in his letter to the churches of Galatia, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Gal. 5:16,17. And in another epistle he uses the following emphatic language, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world,” &c. Rom. 12:1,2.

While I was a member of a New School Baptist church I experienced the following severe temptation. I had been in a tried and desponding state of mind for some time, when this expression of the Psalmist, “and let his prayer become sin” {Psa. 109:7,} was applied to me. It was spoken prophetically in reference to some person, perhaps Judas. I could not rid myself of the impression; it followed me by day, and by night, until my hopes were consumed, and I was driven quite to despair. I thought I was a Judas, and a reprobate, and must soon experience my just reward. I dared not attempt to pray in secret, or before any person, for it was heaven-daring blasphemy in my opinion. The heaven above appeared like brass, and the earth like iron under my feet, and I concluded I was a vessel of wrath, reserved against the day of wrath, and perdition of ungodly men. The opposition of depraved human nature, and complicated temptations from the infernal regions, led me to reply against the Almighty, and to kick against the purpose of Jehovah. I was sunk into the lowest hell, in the abyss of misery and woe. I could express at times in the bitterness of my soul some of the language of Job and Jeremiah. It was the only comfort and support I had in those days. The lamentations of Jeremiah in a peculiar manner served as an antidote to the misery that prevailed in my soul. Thus I passed on for several weeks with sudden changes of mind, but no promise of deliverance; the temptation having the ascending power over me, until the Lord was pleased to appear for my salvation at a meeting in the following manner. In actual distress and anguish of soul, I made an attempt to pray. While at prayer, not expecting deliverance, this scripture entered my mind affording relief and comfort, “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” Psa. 11:3. I arose from my knees in as calm and serene a state of mind, I think, as I ever experienced. The dark frightful clouds, the heavy winds, the surging billows, the dreadful thunder, and vivid lightning had ceased, and my soul was at rest in the bosom of the blessed Redeemer. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psa. 116:12,13.

While I was nominally connected with the New School Baptists, I was practically a partaker of their sins, and all my endeavors to reform the church of which I was a member, emanated from an incorrect view of the course I ought to take. I was so foolish as to think I could do more good to remain with them than I could to leave them. And the pride of my nature, and the love of popularity was so prominent, that to leave them, and join the Old School Baptists was revolting to my feelings. Had the Old School Baptists been more numerous, and more popular, it would not have been so much of a trial, but as it was, my feelings recoiled. Hence the Lord sent sorrow into my soul, and suffered Satan to sift me as wheat, until my expectations were cut off, and my hopes were prostrated in the dust. “When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth; surely every man is vanity.” Psa. 39:11. But, thanks be to his holy name, I was brought through the fiery ordeal by his supporting hand, and escaped like Job with the skin of my teeth.

Since I became connected with the Old School Baptists, I have had no misgivings as to the course I have taken in that respect. My mind is at rest as far as former troubles are concerned, and I hesitate not to affirm that my hope and confidence in God has been renewed, and increased ever since I united with them. If I am not egregiously deceived, I choose rather to suffer affliction with the poor despised Old School Baptists than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. With them I wish to live, and with them I wish to die.

But I am still by nature a poor sinner, a worm and no man, and if ever saved at last it will be by grace. In thought, word, and deed, I am like water flowing from a fountain, so that I cannot do the things I would. I sometimes wonder that I am spared on this terraqueous globe. But it is of the Lord’s mercies I am not consumed, because his compassions fail not. I forbear writing any more in reference to myself, as I am not satisfied that it is an evidence of a humble spirit. Pride will assume the appearance of humility, and a man may speak of his faults from a spirit of vain ambition, and self-justification. Somewhere I have read that “true humility does not consist in telling our faults, but in bearing to be told of them.” Such a sentiment is admirable whether it is applicable to me or not.

I close, by wishing you grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.

Affectionately yours,
Joseph L. Purington.