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Written by W.M. Mitchell   



DEAR BRO. RESPESS: I herewith send for publication an excellent letter from our dear brother Eld. J. E. W. Henderson, which will doubtless be of interest to all readers of the MESSENGER, as it presents in plainness and simplicity the realities of this mortal life, both retrospective and prospective; and then, also, it presents to us that blessed hope in Jesus of that life which is eternal.

It is well for all Christians at times to call to remembrance the former days of their pilgrimage and think of all the way which the Lord their God hath led them these many years, while in this wilderness of sin, that they might land safely at last in a city of habitation whose maker and builder is God.

The letter of Eld. Henderson was received and read by me at a time well calculated to call to remembrance the former days of my childhood and youth, and though I had no particular religious training, according to what is generally now considered as the standard method, yet I had serious thoughts and enquiries about God continually impressed upon my childish mind as far back as I can remember anything. When I saw the clouds move, the lightning flash, and heard the loud peals of roaring thunder from above, I often wanted to know who caused all this to take place. I was told by my precious mother it was God, and though we could not see Him we were seen by Him all the time. And now when “I remember the wormwood and the gall” that I have been made to drink, in much of my history, and still see that I have been sustained by the good hand of God till I am far advanced in my 73d year, my soul is humbled within me and I yet have hope that I shall praise Him through life, in death, and forever in the eternal world.

The 4th Sunday in this month, (June 1891), I preached my 48th anniversary service- at Mt. Olive, where I am a member and pastor, and with which church I preached my first sermon on the 4th Sunday in June 1843. My father, mother, sisters and brothers in the flesh were then present, together with several brethren and sisters in Christ, besides nearly the entire neighborhood, old and young, to hear the youthful man and still more youthful member, as I had not then been a church member quite eleven months. But now most of them are gone to their long home, and I have, for many years, had neither father, mother, sister or brother in the flesh left me.

I was one of the six members in the constitution of the church at Mt. Olive in February, 1843. During that month I had got badly hurt at a “log rolling,” as the country was new and much hard work had to be done. I was hurt internally in my left breast just above my heart, and from this hurt I have never recovered till this day, nor have I been able to do a good day’s work since, though I was raised to work. When I preached my first sermon, besides the mental strain, the pain of body was beyond all description, having a bandage around my chest which I continued to wear for near four years, during which time my left arm perished away considerably less than the other. From this time my general health declined and soon a complication of afflictions were upon me, so that from extreme sufferings I have passed many nights both at home and abroad without sleep, and many other nights could only sleep a little as I was sitting up on the bed.

Now, when I look back upon all these things of the past and see, and feel, and know that the Lord has been with me even in the furnace, I am astonished at my distrust and weakness of faith by which I am so often subjected to the rebuke which Jesus gave his disciples when he said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

There is one peculiarity in the history of my life to which I often call attention of my family and special friends, and that is that I never had before me what I considered a reasonably bright prospect of success in any worldly business but what that prospect has been blasted with defeat, and I have been turned some other way, that I would not have chosen but from force of providential circumstances. And in more than one instance I have found that these very defeats in my worldly prospects and hopes have been great blessings, for they have brought me into such straits and driven me to my “wit’s end” that I have been from necessity cast upon the Lord, and sustained with food and raiment in such way that I have been bound .to ascribe even my temporal support and success to the Lord.

Why is it that Christians will worry so much in thinking what they shall eat and wear when Jesus has commanded them to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” and then promised that “all these things will be added unto them.” I did not think of writing in this manner when I commenced, but I submit it for publication in connection with Eld. Henderson’s letter.

Opelika, Ala, July 1, 1891

The Letter

ELDER W. M MITCHELL, Venerable Brother in the Lord:

Although feeble and debilitated I have an impression to write something, I scarcely know what, for the circumstances surrounding me to-day are of a peculiar and strangely impressive character. I am exactly fifty-two years and five months old this day, much younger than yourself, truly, yet I am an old man according to the average life of the present age and generation; having passed the meridian of mortal life I am a subject of steady decline and mortal decay. Youthful hope and ambition are no longer the ruling element of my feeble mind, but these are absorbed by the more sober reflections and sadder experiences of real life—mortal life—a life that is fraught with trials, afflictions and disappointments My thoughts range backward—backward to my vigorous manhood when nerve and muscle were adequate to the toils and turmoils of which I have experienced a very large share. Backward I roam to the days of hopeful youth, when, although not entirely free from harrassing cares, I had power to dismiss them for a space and engage in the follies and deceitful pleasures incident to premature age. And backward still to my childhood, and oh! how the world seems changed. But the tide of time by its steady motion has wafted me on to the present point, and I find myself, as it were, on a rude raft borne on the bosom of a turbulent stream, bearing me down its rapid current toward some unknown, farther on destination The question is, where shall I land? I fain would halt and rest, but in vain I endeavor to cast my anchor, (hope), if indeed I am supplied with one; for in a moment I am entangled with the thorns and briars that fringe the banks of this narrow channel. But something whispers half consoling, this rough voyage will end; but how and when? Is this the way to the ocean of God’s eternal rest, and are these storms and billows employed as necessary agents to prepare us for the haven of ever-lasting peace? Faith and hope must answer these anxious inquiries.

At a glance the time seems short since I was a youth. Strong and hopeful, with pleasing fancies of better days to come; yet our second son is thirty-two years old to-day, and we are celebrating his birthday by a family reunion. All our surviving posterity are present, consisting of nine children and seven grandchildren, while our deceased consists of one child and five grand-children Four of our children, three sons and a daughter, have professed a hope in Christ and become members with us of the Primitive Baptist Church. Our trust for the salvation of the rest of our children, as also that of ourselves, is the promise of God that “the promise is unto us and our children. (all that shall succeed us in the faith of Jesus Christ,) and all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Thus my mind ranges from childhood down to the present time, and flashes forward to what I hope for and desire, a family reunion on the bright celestial shore; and when my mind is directed to this subject, and my thoughts are in this channel, I begin to lose sight of this terrestrial landscape, and my soul sometimes seems to sip a little foretaste of the joy and blessedness of the sweet bye and bye. Yea, when our thoughts are of the Lord how precious they are! When our very thoughts are influenced and directed by the Spirit of the Lord they reach the depths beneath and soar to the heights above, and up there, bless the Lord! not down here, the anchor, hope, rests in the rock of eternal ages, sure and steadfast as the throne of God, the giver.

So, dear brother, you see that it is good for us to have on minds forced out by these adverse circumstances to explore the dark regions in which we must so transiently sojourn, for although so dismal at times that every ray of light seems to be shut out and every avenue of comfort and encouragement seems closed around us, it is but reasonable that we should look up by faith to some friendly star to guide and save us from despair. And although it is so often the last resort, we are enabled to lift on languid eyes to Heaven, and behold, the twinkling orb, the wanderer’s beacon light, smiles sweetly and soothingly down upon us and faith lifts its voice in David’s song while the night wears slowly on, “O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.” It comes to pass—the day dawns— dark ness recedes before “the Sun of righteousness” when He “arises with healing in His wings” Yours in hope,

New Providence, Ala., June 23, 1891

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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.