Murfreesborough, Tenn., March 1, 1841.
DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD: – Another year is gone! is merged into the past – its time, opportunities, and privileges can never be recalled; but it has made and left impressions on the hearts of saints, not soon, if ever to be forgotten. It will long be remembered as a part of the period of this great darkness, which has, does and will I fear long continue yet to afflict Zion.
Methinks I hear some sad lone sentinel on a remote part of Zion’s wall, cry out, watchman, what of the night? in hope of receiving some better tidings than he dares proclaim. But what do I hear from each respondent? just such gloomy tidings, I presume, as every spiritual watchman from Michigan to Florida, and from Missouri to Maryland, would be constrained to utter. From this point we are compelled to say, The night is dark,cold, long, and the hour unknown: Zion is greatly afflicted, and her enemies exalted. La. ii. 17. But hark! What do I hear? “We are rich, (Rev. iii. 17) increased in goods, in numbers, in literary and new religious institutions, and worldly respectability, and our light has come.” This must come from MYSTIC BABYLON, or from a spy. These strange words cannot pass one of Zion’s sorrowing sentinels. It is the enemies’ vain boast. 1 Sam. ii. 9.
But, dear brother, to write less figuratively; I must say, I have for some time past wished to let you know through this medium, that these sad things have not impaired my confidence in the blessed truths of the gospel. Although darkness and affliction prevail in Zion to an alarming extent, yet she still presents glorious and enduring charms to my poor heart; and let the gospel be as unpopular as it may, it contains things I cannot get along without. Come tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, height, or depth, life or death, sooner than a loss of those things. Rather let me feed on the crumbs that fall from the childrens’ table, than to perish amidst the dainties of Babylon.
There is another gospel that gives case, respectability, lucrative offices, begets numbers, and boasts of great things; but how poor and insignificant are such things, compared with the spiritual blessings, which the gospel of the Son of God presents to my imploring soul – such as Christ in the eternal purpose, will, mercy and love of the Father; and Him crucified; and the gift of the Holy Spirit, with His merciful supplies in the beginning and performing the work of regeneration and preservation.
How contemptible are the things of another gospel which is not another, but which our enemies in their blindness boast of! How very thankful should the saints of the present day be, that they have been enabled to see something else in the gospel besides carnal things, such as another gospel seems to its blind devotees!
Although we have much, very much to deplore, which has of late befallen Zion; yet, my dear brethren, we have a great deal to be very thankful for, and to rejoice at. Although darkness and affliction and sore chastisement obtain throughout Zion at this time, yet it is not that darkness which our enemies call light; and if we be but few in number – what of that? a tried few give greater security than a host of untried ones; and better for coldness to prevail in Zion, than a zeal not according to knowledge. Better to be persecuted for the truth’s sake, than to be cherished by the world for the sake of error. ?Sooner let us feed on the PLANT OF RENOWN, although much trodden under foot, than on earth’s richest gifts – much sooner let us put on sackcloth and mourn in the dust, than wear purple and fine linen, and rejoice in darkness.
It is true, these are trying, sifting times, and I am persuaded unless we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to feel, we shall be led astray. As many of us as feel in some degree assured that the Lord has in his great mercy, given unto us to know and understand to some extent the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, should cultivate an acquaintance through the different channels of correspondence now open to us. Through these channels a rich repast may be forwarded to those who can use meat; and the sincere milk of the word may be held forth to the babe in Christ. And O ye shepherds of Israel! might not some light in this way be communicated to those who linger on the dark mountains: might not the torn receive an unction, and the wearied strength, and those that have been driven away a kind message. With the Lord’s blessing all this may be done. Then, brethren, let us proceed to the work – a work far more glorious, and more in character with our calling, than any vain attempts to expound inexplicable things. The very attempt of which breeds confusion, disturbance and distress in Zion. Eze. xxx.
I feel persuaded, whether the saints of this day cultivate an acquaintance as suggested or not, circumstances are now transpiring, which will cause them to be more generally known to each other than at any former period in the U. S. since the revolution. But, I find I am entering upon a subject too great for the present communication; and must abandon it, in order to say a few things about the church here and ourself, which we should not do, but for some misrepresentations which have been published; and which some of our brethren may have seen. For their satisfaction I will briefly detail a few facts. Since our church was constituted, (about five years ago,) we have more than doubled our number, which is now about fifty, have had regularly monthly preaching, except twice when I was four hundred miles absent. I preach to four churches regularly, and scarcely ever fail, except when providentially hindered, which is but seldom. I have other occasional appointments which I fill; and make two or three tours a year through several of the adjoining counties. I am not chargeable to any of the brethren or churches I preach to.
My apology for these statements will be received by my brethren I trust.
I will close, by subscribing myself,
Your unworthy servant in tribulation,
JOHN M. WATSON.
Signs of the Times.
Volume 9, No. 9.
May 1, 1841