LETTER VII - TO THE SPARROW ALONE.
Dearly beloved in the Lord Jesus,
AFTER some persons, who had done me much wrong, were returning, and offering to assist, I had another dream, or rather the old dream exhibited over again. I dreamed that I was in the same piece of ground that I was in before: I was standing in the middle of the garden, where it was well planted, and in a very flourishing state, while the outsides all round were covered with heaps of rubbish, in which the large black toads were hid; to clear away that rubbish, and carry it forth without the walls, and to kill the toads, was the work then in hand. And it was made out to me, that those who grieved for the afflictions of Joseph, and bemoaned his son Ephraim, to them God would restore comfort and that those who were glad at Zion's calamities must be left to the punishment of the Lord: "He that receiveth you receiveth me," Says Christ, "and he that despiseth you despiseth me." We therefore united as one man, and separated the despisers from the receivers; the living stones they cleaved together, and the rubbish we conveyed without the pale. To accomplish this work was Absalom suffered to rise up against David in Jerusalem, and for the same cause were the false apostles permitted to enter the church of Corinth.
During this time it was the work of Samson to make sport for the Philistines: I was long the principal subject of a Sunday's newspaper; and, for some years, was I baited weekly or monthly by a club of spouters, who hired the Westminster Forum for that purpose; and, if I have been rightly informed, the chief men of the club, assisted by a few hand-bills, have cleared thirty pounds on an evening, by a crowded mob paying sixpence per head for the entertainment; thus, one way or other, have I kept fools alive in their continual sport for upwards of seven years together, besides bringing bread to their cupboard; many of whom would, no doubt, have suffered want, had not the grace of God raised me up to lend them this assistance, which they had never gratitude enough to acknowledge.
Nor are these ungrateful ones the only set of men who are indebted to me: many of our young spurious missionaries, who spring up in a night and wither in a day, when they have come to town to preach, have been sadly at a loss at times to fill up thirty or forty minutes, when a few throws at me have made matters hang together; and this must pass for a watering time. But to return.
While numbers were rejoicing at the thinness of the congregation, and at the apparent diminution of my income, God moved the hearts of my friends to contribute among themselves to clear off the debt of the chapel: they gave me near four hundred pounds, and in a little time after a person left me two hundred more by will. This at once cleared the whole debt, and left me something in hand. It is a bad wind that blows good to none. By this fanning wind God not only purged the floor, but my debt also; for many of the Lord's people, who stood for some time amazed at the strange flame, and as it were halting between two opinions, were brought to a conclusion, by seeing how soon the candle of the wicked went out; it was quenched at once, and we heard no more of it, and then the affections of the people came back to me: which put me in Paul's path of experience, when he said, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last your care for me hath flourished again," (Phil. iv. 10); for they even spoke to the gentleman to whom I sold my books, and he sold them back to them, and contributed handsomely himself; they not only subscribed to buy the books, but raised a fired to reprint some that were out of print. God hath given us all things in Christ: "For your shame you shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be unto them," Isa. lxi. 7. I had long entreated the Lord to remove this lead from my shoulders; and "by terrible things in righteousness did the God of my salvation answer me; who is the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea, Psalm, lxv. 5.
But the good hand of my God stopped not here. I had told the whole company that rose up against me, and that publicly in the chapel, that, so far from their being able to pull me down, they must not wonder to see me in my coach when old age came on me; nor was the hand of God withdrawn till this came to pass. Upon the house I then lived in, and on the garden, I had not expended less than three hundred pounds; my lease was only for the term of seven years; but, as I gave the landlord all the rent he asked, and paid it punctually every quarter, I had no doubt but he was contented with his tenant; yea, so much so, that he wished me to get a tenant that I liked to occupy the other house which adjoined to mine; and, moreover, told a friend who paid him my rent, that I might prolong my lease whenever I would, so that I thought myself secure enough. But this is not the first time that I have trusted in man, in whom there is no help. It fell out that one night, while I was at Bolney in Sussex, I had a dream: I dreamed that I was standing in my yard at the back side of my house, and all on a sudden I saw my house fall to the ground: it fell with the front downwards, and in my dream I saw it when it was down, and I stood neither alarmed nor concerned about it; and soon I awoke, and behold it was a dream. And, as I seemed so composed about the fall of it, I thought that neither me nor my family would be hurt by this fall, whatever it meant. The next morning, at breakfast, I told the gentleman's family, at whose house I was, the dream; but we could make nothing of it. When I returned home, my dame informed me that my landlord had been to inquire after me; and in a day or two he came again to inform me that he was going to sell his houses. I desired him to bring a builder, and I would get another, and they two should value the house; to this he agreed. But, instead of two builders meeting, he brought up an auctioneer, who set the price of my house at nine hundred pounds; whereas, not many years before, both of them were sold for four hundred pounds, and at that time they were let for twenty pounds a year each. The auction came on, and they were sold; and, if I remember right, my house fetched six hundred guineas, and the other four hundred and fifty pounds; my improvements made that difference. My lease being nearly out, I had another habitation to seek, and went two days, but in vain, as I wanted some rural and retired spot. A few friends, seeing the lease of my present residence advertised to be sold, went (unknown to me) to see it, and much approved of it.
But my pen must stop; I have again exceeded the bounds of a letter. Dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved; so prays
Your affectionate friend,