LETTER VIII - TO THE SPARROW ALONE.
Dear Friend in the Lord,
I am contriving to put thee to a little more expense; and, if I continue at this rate, I shall make you as poor as myself. Except the old H_____ is a little more prolific than in the last year, twins will never do; but, as money is no part of your God, I shall venture.
After my friends had been once or twice to see the house they informed me of it, and advised me to go and see it; which I did: but the concern appeared so weighty, that I set myself against it to the utmost, remembering my former affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall; nor was there one in all my family that approved of it but Dame, the distance appeared so far from town. However, my friends mightily pressed me to it; and as the time drew nigh when the lease was to be sold, they determined to attend the sale. I prayed day and night that they might not succeed in buying it, and charged them to bid no higher than thirty pounds; but they resolved among themselves to bid to seventy pounds. It was put up at five pounds, and there was not one bidder till one of my friends bid the five pounds, and it was knocked down to him. At this time I had another dream. I dreamed I was in a large room, and the room was full of serpents, and the bodies of the serpents were divided at the middle, and so each of them had two necks and two heads; and many of them crawled furiously up to me open-mouthed, but not one of them bit me; nor was I at all terrified at them. I awaked, and behold it was a dream. But, when I came to see the person that I had to deal with, the dream came fresh into my mind. I saw the serpent; and I had no doubt but that there were more heads than one; yea, many in union with him. There are serpents, and a generation of vipers; and Christ says they are of their father. And never, in this world, did I see so great a likeness of him.
The things on the premises were to be taken by an appraisement; the good man was to choose one, and I the other. I had, in my own mind, fixed upon one much in practice; and, had I made choice of him, I should have added a third head to the crooked fraternity. But this was not to be; my God will have a hand in all my affairs; and I was directed by him to inquire after another of great note, and who stands very high and honourable in his profession. And this gentleman was well acquainted with the reptile that I had to deal with. The gentleman that he employed went through his work first, and the person who was for me soon went after him; and, when they met upon the business, they could not agree together so as to settle the affairs. During which time my kind friend with two heads very politely offered me possession of the premises, and urged the necessity of it, as the second crop of grass was fit to cut, which I well knew, and took it very kindly of him from one of his heads; but I could not take my eye from the other, being not ignorant of Satan's devices; and, suspecting that I must be brought to submit to any terms after I had taken possession, I therefore declined it till the matters could be properly adjusted. The principal matter in debate was respecting a small quantity of manure, worth about six pounds, and which, according to the tenor of the lease, should have been laid on the land before that period. My appraiser would not allow me to pay for that, and at last he carried his point; and, striking the dung and other matters off from the inventory, they both agreed, and for the stock and fixtures I paid three hundred and seventy pounds; and then took possession with all the formalities and punctilios of human laws, my attorney and friends being present with me.
And now I must beg my dearly beloved friend's pardon for digressing a little from my intended subject, in order to pursue this wriggling family a little farther, and to convince thee that what God shewed me in vision he afterwards shewed me in reality; or, to speak more plainly, I really saw with my bodily eyes those very creatures creeping upon the earth which at first appeared only in imagination; for I had not been long in possession of my new habitation before I received a squib, or rather a cracker, for there were many folds and doubles in its meaning. It came from an honest lawyer. The contents were, "That he was absent from town at the settling of our affairs; that the notion of not paying for the dung was a false one; and that, if he had been at the meeting, his client should have been paid. And, further, he wished to know what I thought of the matter." This opened the monstrous mystery of two heads a little more plainly.
A secret something within told me to take no notice of this. I shewed the letter to Father Green; and Mrs. Green said she knew the honest lawyer well, and spoke very highly of his wisdom in his profession, telling me that her former husband, who died a member with us, had lent a person twenty pounds; and, as the borrower proved a villain, her husband employed this honest attorney to recover the money; but he never recovered one farthing of it, only brought in a bill of twenty pounds more for his trying, or not trying, to get it. And surely, if the unjust steward in the gospel, for reducing the debts of his 1ord's debtors to nearly half the amount, be commended because he had done wisely, this good man has a right to the same honour; for he just doubled the debt, and got the same sum of his client for himself that the debtor had cheated him of before. But to return. The silent contempt that I poured upon this three-and-fourpenny squib brought another scrap of the same price," desiring to know where my attorney lived, that, as I chose to remain silent and come to no terms, he might debate the matter with him," &c. I took the wise man's counsel; I still held my peace, that I might be esteemed a man of understanding; for "he that openeth wide his lips (in such cases) shall have destruction," Prov. xiii. 3. Soon after I was served with a something, I know not what, as it was a text that I had never handled; but I remember one of the heads of the subject was "forty pounds for dung." After some little trouble of collecting witnesses and some few materials together, it came into Westminster Hall. My antagonist seemed quite in his element. Courts of law were his sunny banks, where he folded himself in many a coil, and raised his crest to such a height, that he was heard by my friends to say that he knew law enough for twenty men. I would to God that he had been taught I, few lessons from the old lawgiver of the Jews. Moses would have made him talk less and do more. However, these laws are still to be learnt, and must be learnt, sooner or later, by all the offspring of Adam, at the last and grand assize.
When the matter came into court his counsellor began to open his mouth, and to go on with the business, till the venerable judge stopped him, telling him he need not proceed, for he had no foundation to go upon, and shewed his reasons for it; and added, "You must nonsuit him." Here it ended for the present; but soon after I heard that he had obtained a something, but I know not what, from the twelve judges. It was to try this matter over again, and to collect more forces for the trial. All this time I kept my eye upon my dream. I saw the creatures, and their mouths open; and I know that the scriptures say of the king of Babylon, "Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?" Hab. ii, 7. And this is what I wanted to know, whether God would suffer these to bite as well as vex, and at last to make a booty of me. In my dream they did not.
After a time this trial came on again, and then a young man stepped forth, and swore and said, that the two appraisers could not, and did not, settle the matter, but it was left to be settled between me and my antagonist. This was another of the crooked ones. At which time the counsel for me gave the young man the inventory, and asked him who wrote that on the back of it? He replied, after some time, that he himself did. And the words were "This is to certify, that no one thing crossed out in this inventory is to be paid for." Signed by himself. The venerable lord cried out, "Villany indeed!" Here it ended, with all cost and suit on his shoulders who wore the two heads. And I was informed that it cost the crooked one two hundred and seventy pounds. And all this time I was not once bitten. God speaks once, yea twice, in dreams, in visions, by his judgments, by his providence, by his Son, by his Spirit, and sometimes by his servants; but, let him speak however he may, I set to my seal that God is true.
Having given my dearly beloved an account how the wonderful Counsellor brought his poor client through all the wisdom and hissing of this venemous brood, I must conclude this long scrawl, only adding, that your's came safe to hand. Am sorry to hear of the late eclipse; but he did so in the eastern countries as well as in ours, and in the days of old as well as now; and so you read, "He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it," Job, xxvi. 9. But, when the sun breaks out again, thou wilt shine brighter, and see better than ever. The path of the just shines more and more to perfect day. Seek him, with all thy soul, in the broad ways and in the narrow paths, as the spouse did. He would often withdraw himself when upon earth, and sometimes stay behind, and send the disciples off in a boat alone; sometimes he went into a mountain by himself, and sometimes into a house, and would have no man know it; but the scriptures say, "He could not be hid;" for God the Father is determined to reveal him, let him go wherever he will. After him, follow him, call, knock, beg, importune, never give it up; for, as God liveth, this is he whom Moses and the prophets did write of. Heaven itself is in him; therefore find him again, and pursue till you do, if you die in the pursuit. God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost, all the angels in heaven, and all the saints upon earth, are on your side while yon are seeking him; and, as for me, my dearly beloved, the language of my heart and soul, and every prayer of mine, is and shall be,
Good success in the name of the Lord.
W. H. S.S.