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The Years 1880 and 1881 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   
The Gospel Messenger-January 1881

It is probable dear reader when your eyes shall fall upon these lines, that the year 1880 will have passed away, and the new-year have been ushered in. It is certain we have lived through the year that’s passed, but whether we shall live through the one now dawning upon us, is very uncertain indeed. Nor does it matter whether we be old or young, it is still uncertain; true there are less chances, so to speak, for the old than the young, but neither, have any certain hold upon time, whether young, strong, useful, happy and prosperous, or old, feeble, useless and wretched: death is no respecter of such conditions, but scythe-like, cuts down in its swath the full corn in the ear with the empty stalk and thistle; the tares and the wheat fall alike before the remorseless blade of death. So the last vestige of humanity shall be reaped at last. Death is our certain end. 

With some of us, the past year has been fruitful of trials, losses and sorrows; and it has perhaps been more or less so with all the children of God in the flesh; those only of them perhaps have escaped wholly, who have gone to their long home, and “been clothed upon with their house which is from heaven.” Nor may we expect the present year to differ materially from the years gone by. We shall have tribulation. Be our earthly or spiritual condition as it may; though like Esther we be in high position, in either respect, be even in the king’s palace, we shall not there escape more than all the Jews, more than the poorest of the captivity. Though we may not hunger and be straitened for bread to eat, as some may be, yet in some way, we shall have its equivalent. The Lord will teach us and impress it upon our minds that we shall have tribulation as long as we live in the flesh, and thus arm us to endure it with patience; thus he checks our worldly ardor that we may be sober and temper ate in all things, natural and spiritual, setting our affections on heavenly things, and laboring for that meat that endureth unto everlasting life. There are trials and sorrows of the past year that we would not have had if our wills had been consulted. With the writer it has been to some extent as it was with Jehosaphat, when the Moabite and Edomites combined against him to drive him from the promises God had given him; so there has been a combination against us, of natural and spiritual trials invading the very land itself in armed force, a force against which we had no might nor power. The providential night had set in; “the sun knoweth his going down; thou makest darkness and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.” Psa. 104. It is night when these wild beasts, these unclean, fierce, unholy passions and earthly desires seem to creep out of our hearts and our iniquities prevail against us, and we cry out for a token of good, and are shown our iniquities; and not until the sun ariseth do these beasts gather themselves together and lay them down in their dens, Psa. 104, and man goeth forth unto his work until the evening. And natural trials in the loss of children; the snapping the heart strings, when a manly son, robust in physical and mental strength and beauty, full of great promises, falls after weeks of intense struggle before the scyth of death, as if but the veriest tare of the field. Then we look up and we look down and stare with blank eyes into the insoluble mystery with our hands pressed upon our lips lest there escape an imprecation against heaven. 

The old year has passed away, but its memories remain with us, whether of good or evil; we are thus so linked with it that it shall, never wholly escape us; and are thus ever admonished that our peace requires a profitable use of the present; to do what our hands find to do with our might; to work while it is day for the night cometh. Our brethren that have died during the past year and yeas yet live in our memories, and we look forward to the reunion that shall be eternal. Our children that have died live also; we see them as they played at our feet, leaned upon our bosom and lay in our arms; see the smile upon their faces, the tear upon their cheeks, and alas! the bitterest sight of all, see them wrapped in the mantle of death. I see even as I write, my father and my mother, and the noble son who but recently died, the fifth boy now beckoning me and his poor mother away. But they are now all with the past; and we shall not see them this year as they were, nor as they are, unless we too shall meet them in a glorified humanity. So we shall go on, and like Jacob, wrestle all the night whether it be one year or a hundred, till the dawn breaketh and the shadows of time flee away, and in the light of eternity and face to face, we shall see him as he is, and know him as we are known. Then there shall be no more years, and no more night and tribulation and sorrow. 

Bro. Durand asks if our son who recently died was the one named after him. No, dear brother; it was our oldest son, James Nathan Respess. He died on the morning of the 9 of December 1880, after an illness of 49 days, with Typhoid fever He was in his 25th year and expected to have married in February next. He was a noble specimen of physical manhood, weighing one hundred and sixty-five pounds. He was educated at the University of Georgia and expected to have made the law his profession, but at my request, turned his attention to farming. His mother was with him night and day, during his sickness, 20 miles from home. We have, thank God, some reason to believe he was saved. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul and all that is within me, bless and praise his holy name.

He was born the 19th of February, 1856, died 9 of December, 1880. 


A leaf has been torn from the book,
A link been detached from the chain,
A joy beam removed from the heart,
Where hope may never bloom again.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.