Cricklewood, Sept. 4, 1800.
LAST night I came home weary, and almost melted with the heat of a crowded audience; and this morning I found my kind friend and affectionate brother's sympathetic epistle, for which I thank him. It has long been my lot to be standard-bearer where Satan's seat is, and where the devil keeps his court; and it is no strange thing for a standard-bearer to faint.. Near thirty years ago the devil advised me to conceal my religion, build a clay cottage at the corner of a large common, go to day labour, and never more associate with the world; insinuating that, if I persisted in preaching, he would pursue me with unremitted violence; which soon after begun, and has never yet ceased. My venerable and most pious godfather has cleaved to, Le with full purpose of heart, and I question if he has ever lost sight of me in any one sermon preached by him during the last twenty-six years. And I firmly believe that he has been forced to tell a thousand lies in the name of God, only to blacken my character, and to render my labours useless. But what honour can redound to God, or what good can accrue to the souls of men, by such ministrations, is more than I can make out; and therefore must conclude, with David, "Let him curse, for God hath bidden him." And I find it hard work to believe that God has led my soul through the confines of hell, and then set me down on mount Zion, in the open visions of God, and given me a sight of the King in his beauty, for no other purpose than to furnish impostors in the pulpit with reproach, and fools with sport.
I seldom walk the streets without overtaking some who in general appear dead or flat till they perceive me, which is sure to change the scene, as they then point, grin, laugh, and entertain themselves at the sight of the ass. I know that there will be an end to these things, and that my expectation will not be cut off; but while it lasts I must agree with the poor asses of old: "And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Mal. iii. 15. To see the proud the most happy, the workers of wickedness the most promoted, and such as tempt God continually delivered from trouble, is a lesson not to be learned at the school of reason, nor by adhering to the law in the members. Sometimes I cannot help smiling to see the devil's grin in their faces; sometimes I wonder at their enmity and contempt of the Almighty; and at other times I comfort myself at the thoughts of the great day, when it will be seen, and must be acknowledged, who is the fool. But, after all, these cruel mockings and vile insults are not joyous: the contempt of the proud, and the scorning of them that are at ease, are harder burdens to the mind than violence is to the body. Sometimes I have been much indulged with access, freedom, boldness, and strong confidence of being heard and answered; when my heart has glowed with love, my soul melted, and such movings on my soul as if heaven itself was in motion for me. But still I am in possession of, and encompassed with, every natural or sinful infirmity. I suppose you have seen my reply to Onesimus, against his 'eternal faith and hope. Last Tuesday evening hand-bills were distributed at Monkwell Street Meeting doors, beginning thus - "Faith and hope in heaven, and the divinity of Christ defended against Mr. Huntington's Answer to Onesimus; by J. B. E." You see the cunning of the devil, to represent me as an Arian. However, I am at a point about the subject, and have no doubt of winning the field; and I know that my warfare is short, according to the age of man: and sure I am that I shall never wish my days lengthened, or one past hour repeated; for I neither lend nor receive upon usury, yet every one curses me. I was born as a man of strife and contention to all the earth; and, as the devil never faints, so his children never tire. I get old and feeble, but my enemies are strong and lively; and under this long continued warfare my rebellion adds to the affliction. I have no timidity or fears about courts of law, or imprisonment in jail for life; these things fret me not. But to see the smiles of Providence that attend the enemies, the rebels, and the liars; and the frowns, trials, and keen sensations, that attend the other side of the question; is what flesh and blood never can acquiesce in, or submit to.
I long to see you; but L. is not come, and I am afraid to ask B. again so soon. God bless thee.
W. H. S. S.