LETTER X - TO THE SPARROW ALONE.
Dearly beloved of God,
IF thou art not weary of my reciting the few details which a treacherous memory may refund, I shall yet add affliction to your bonds, or burden your mind and memory with a few more of the kind interferences of Divine Providence, which, to such an one as Nabal the Carmelite, would appear a mere tale of a tub, and serve only for ridicule, sport, and laughter; but to such an one as the poor widow of Sidon, who was gathering two sticks to bake a cake of the last handful of meal, that she and her son might have one morsel more before they died; to such souls, in such circumstances, how sweet are the tidings of the unerring, uncontrollable, all-sufficient, and overruling providence of the Lord God of Israel! "Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink;" and off she goes; but he stops her: "Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die." But the prophet said unto her, "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after that make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." And she, and the prophet, and her whole house, lived upon that spring for a whole year, l Kings, 17th chapter. Faith went to the poor woman's heart with the Lord's promise, and she believed the word of the Lord by his prophet, and ventured to make him the first cake, before she cooked for herself or her son. And I have no doubt but this poor enthusiastical woman was well supplied only by her faith in the providence of God, while many thousands, flint would have laughed at her folly, perished for want while they trusted in their own wisdom. And so it will be in the day of judgment; God will take the wise in their own craftiness, and, by the foolishness of preaching, save all that believe in Jesus. This is his own promise; and he will fulfil it.
But to return. The bills for haymaking, making some alterations, and fitting up fire-grates, &c., had once more brought the gout into my pocket, which is what I call one of my often infirmities; and at this juncture a friend called, on me, and gave me fifty pounds; and a few days after another gentleman gave me fifty pounds more; and, as a cow or two was wanting, these were now procured; and other demands upon me were answered.
A gentleman in the country brought me a goose and a gander; and another in the city sent me some Guinea fowls; a lady from Richmond brought me some turkeys; and some friends from Welwyn, in Hertfordshire, brought me two hives of bees, and some white barn fowls; at which time a gentleman in the country sent me ten ewes, and a gentleman in town sent me six ewe lambs. "The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it."
At this time I wanted to part with my old cart-hole, he being in colour a brown muzzle, but the coach-horses were dapple greys; and thinking these worked rather too hard, I wished for one to match them, that we might occasionally change them, that so one or other of them might alternately rest. I therefore sent my foreman, my steward, my bailiff, my butcher, and my coachman (for he is Jack of all these trades), to a gentleman farmer who dealt in horses, and who often keeps a fancy team of spotted ones, only for the sake of serving any gentleman who may take a fancy to any of them. He took one of our horses over with him for the farmer to see, who informed him that his fancy-team was sold off, but that he expected forty horses in a few days from the north country, and if any one of them would match that which he brought, he would let him know by sending a line. About a fortnight after this, on a Saturday night, my foreman dreamed that he was looking at a grey horse, which he much admired, but found some fault with the shape of his neck. He awoke, and it was a dream. But, upon falling to sleep the second time, he dreamt the same dream again; but still, as before, was displeased with the creature's neck. He awaited up, and spoke of the dream; and the same day, at the chapel, a letter came from the gentleman applied to, which he had sent by the hand of a friend, informing him that he had got a horse which he thought would suit me. I sent him over, he saw him, and he was the same horse he saw in his dream, and his neck the worst part about him; but he approved of him, and came and told me that the gentleman would bring him into the Borough any day that I would appoint, that I might see him: the price was thirty-two guineas. But the dream was quite enough for me; I made up the money, and sent for the horse. He was very young, but the most docile creature I ever saw. And soon after this the gentleman who gave me the money for the pair of horses before mentioned, saw a horse in the country that he thought would match mine, and gave thirty two guineas for him, and brought him up to me as a present, and took my old brown-muzzled horse away from me. I then turned my little mare, which was getting old, off to breeding, and she is now the dam of a most beautiful colt. A friend of mine in the country took her, and still keeps her. And my fore horses, being all of a colour, they do to work in the cart, in the coach, or in the saddle; and, upon certain occasions, to make up two good cart teams.
About this time my old tabernacle got into a very low condition, which continued for many months, and which cost me no small sum for doctoring. However, this was of great use to me, for I had too much delighted myself in the living creatures with which I was surrounded on every side. Solomon, when he had finished all his works, went about to cause his heart to despair of all that he had taken in hand to do. And my poor lingering state attracted my thoughts and affections to solace themselves in the better part, and in the more enduring substance. And although I often viewed my base original, and my former poor, beggarly life (beggarly life I call it, for having been once sick in the lower part of Essex, upon my recovery I begged my way all through that county to London); therefore I had a large field for my mind to reflect and meditate on, and no one thing about me but a body of sin, but what a gracious God and father in Christ had given me. I often looked back, with many tears, at the undeserved and unexpected mercy of my God, and with the joys of a good hope, through grace, that I should one day see him whom my soul loves. And with much delight did my soul exult in my bountiful benefactor; and not without a lasting sense of his undeserved love to me, from which alone all real gratitude of heart flows; for all which I am deeply indebted to his free and superabounding grace. This frame of mind, and my bodily infirmities, kept my temporal prosperity in its proper place, as a nice handmaid, under God, to assist my faith, but not to become a snare; and it likewise kept my mind heavenly, and rather assisted me for the pulpit than otherwise; for the more we see his goodness the more boldly we proclaim it: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
At this time I wanted to inclose a bit of waste ground, to lay it into my garden, to make it more retired; and two gentlemen timber-merchants in Aldersgate-street, sent me up all the timber and boards that I wanted, and have found me in all the timber that has been required for repairs or alterations ever since, without either bills or demands. But God blessed the work of their hands abundantly.
When I had completed this job, a gentleman, who is a seedsman in Fleet-street, came to see my premises, and found much fault at my having so little fruit, and so few fruit-trees, and pressed me to give him an order. I mentioned a few different sorts, but he went on till there was no end; and wrote a letter to a noted nurseryman, ordering the different kinds, and told him they must be of the prime sorts, as they were for a person who was a judge of trees and of fruit; and that they were to be directed, "For the Doctor; to be left with Mr. Baker, No. 226, Oxford-street" Accordingly they were drawn and sent; and the nurseryman wrote a letter to my friend, informing him that he had executed his orders; and let the Doctor be as good a judge as he might, he would be bold to affirm, that his trees would bear fruit that should exceed in flavour all the pills that ever that Doctor had made up. But my friend denied it, and thought that he had gathered better fruit from the Doctor's ministry than the Doctor would ever gather from his trees; and which I believe to be true. The order sent was three hundred gooseberry and currant plants, various sorts of raspberry and strawberries, with fourscore capital standard trees; all of which were immediately planted, and are now in a very flourishing state, nor do I believe that above two or three of them died. This gentleman has supplied me with seeds and plants ever since I have had a garden; and always solicits my custom, and inquires after my orders, though he has never received one farthing for them; nor does he ever intend it.
About this time a fine cow was sent me, but I do not knob from whom she came. A gentleman in the Borough sent me an excellent cloth to cover a load of hay (in wet weather) going, to market Another gentleman sent me a cloth to cover a rick of hay while it is in building, with ropes and putties all complete. The wise man's proverb Says," A faithful man shall abound with blessing;" the latter is true in me, but I will not claim the former; for I am by no means full of faith, but often shut up, and sadly foiled with unbelief. I speak this to my own shame, not in mock modesty, nor in feigned humility, for God knows it is truth.
It now fell out that I was earnestly invited to go a journey into the North to preach; but, having the gout in my pocket, I was obliged to postpone it till I was loosed from this infirmity; and when the cure came the cold winterly weather was come on. However, I sent to my friends of whom I had my coach, and begged the loan of a chariot These friends supply me gratis with a chariot or chaise, or any light carriage that I may want whenever I ask. They sent the chariot, and off I went, with about eleven pounds in my pocket, which small sum I knew would require more frugality than I am master of to go so long a journey. However, I set off in style with this small capital; and, having been long expected by some of the Lord's tried ones, and they having now despaired of my coming, except one or two, upon whose minds it was impressed that I should come, just before my letter of information reached them; which delay sharpened their appetites. One poor soul had her work sweetly revived; another young woman, who had been long in chains, came forth to the light, and shewed herself; and, had my hand been as open as their hearts, they had sent me home with thirty guineas in my pocket; but I returned some of it back again, knowing it is more blessed to give than to receive. God threw my heart quite open when he first revealed his dear Son in me; and the transforming views that I have at times been favoured with since, has kept it open to this day; so that I keep Clearmarket all the year round; as it comes in, so it goes out; so that neither my heart nor my pocket are standing pools, but springing wells; and not a few mumping professors and lazy hypocrites have made an easy prey of me, the devil artfully instructing his fraternity to fish after the tender feelings of those whose hearts have been made soft by heavenly discipline. But of late I have found myself better armed against these drone-bees than formerly. When my bounty goes into the family of God I fret not; but it hurts my consequence to be duped by the devil in a serpent, or a wolf in a sheep's skin. Beloved, farewell. Excuse the length of the scrawl; matters have flowed in apace, and you see how my pen has run on. If my continually coming doth not weary thee, in a few days you may look out again; till then, peace and truth be with thee. So prays
Yours in him,