My earliest remembrance of my dear father is connected with our home in Herbert Place, Dublin. Our family consisted of himself, my mother, brother, and great aunt, Alice Dyer, who lived with us.
Long before I can remember, he had retired from his profession as a barrister, and had given himself entirely to the ministry of God’s word, in the meetings of the Brethren.
Before giving my recollections of him, I should like to mention a few things about his early life, gathered from his own lips, or told me by others, and also to quote from some of his early letters which have come into my possession.
He was born in Frederick Street, Dublin, on July 19th, 1795; but the chief home of his early years was “North Lodge,” a country house about ten miles out of town. He was the eldest of my grandfather’s children, and had two brothers and one sister. Between him and his brother George, who was a little younger, there was the tenderest affection.
The following little incident, related by my uncle in his autobiography,1 shews what his feeling towards his brother was. After mentioning his strong attachment to him he writes:
“I well remember when I was about three years old, conceiving this very strongly. Johnny had been naughty, and was sharply reproved for being so, whereas I was praised for being good. Instead of being flattered by this comparison, I burst out crying, and passionately exclaimed, ‘I won’t be good if Johnny isn’t good!’ A closer bond than that of nature, I trust afterwards linked us together.”
When they were about seven and eight years of age, they were sent to school at Taunton, and while there spent their holidays at the home of their grandmother—“Whyte’s Cottage,” Sampford-Arundel, Somerset— and this place was loved by them almost as a second home. There they had not only pleasant holidays, but also the wise training and heavenly example of “Aunt Roberts.”2
One day during my dear father’s last illness, when we were sitting together, without anything apparently leading to it, the image of “Whyte’s “and the ground around it seemed to rise before him, and he described so distinctly the little “goyle”3 at the bottom of the orchard, that when I was there a few years after, it was easy to recognise the scene his memory had retained.
Sampford-Arundel was a meeting-place for different members of the family; and there was frequently one there from London, whose influence for good was ever felt by my father and uncle; this was their cousin, Mr. Richard Baron Bellett. They felt great affection for him, and used to recall with pleasure the delight with which he dwelt on the words of Holy Scripture. He was some years older than they were, but felt much interest in them, and not only imbued their minds with his own reverence for sacred things, but, with his refined and cultivated tastes, led them to appreciate all that was pure and good.
He afterwards settled in Sampford, and took the greatest interest in the poor people, entering into their joys and sorrows, and ministering to their wants. My father used to say that he reminded him of the poet Cowper, so identified was he with the life of the village.
After being at school for some time the brothers were separated, my father being removed to Exeter; and here I again quote from my uncle’s Memoir:
“John, whose talents began to develope themselves, was sent to the Grammar School at Exeter, to he under the care of Dr. Lempriere. I was very proud of him, for his abilities and diligence were making him a good scholar, and he was much in esteem with his master. He was making great advance in scholarship, always taking the lead of his friend, W. Follett, who afterwards became one of the most eminent lawyers of the day, and Attorney-General under Sir Robert Peel’s Government.”
My uncle also writes, referring to school days at Taunton:
“They” (their school-fellows) “were delighted with John’s singing. I can recollect even now the surprise and delight I felt in hearing him; for, as in early childhood, anything which seemed to distinguish him, or do him honour, brought joy to me.”
After a few years the brothers entered Trinity College, Dublin, and my uncle writes:
“John thought he might venture on the entrance examination without much, preparation, and he passed. I rejoiced indeed. The first examination after this, he carried off the classical prize, which was considered a great honour, for, having entered late in the year, he was thrown among the Sizars, who being generally the best scholars, to carry away an honour from them was quite a feather in his cap. He obtained in the January following a prize for general answering. After this he did nothing to distinguish himself. What the reason of it was I do not exactly know. It is likely that the strong religious feelings which he afterwards, through God’s mercy, so deeply imbibed, may not only have made him indifferent to honours of this sort, but have caused him to look upon them as unlawful.
“For the first two years in which we were in college we were frequently at parties. I remember well the disappointment I used to feel, on coming home from lecture at college, at not finding on our table an invitation to a dinner, or to a ball, but the invitations were very frequent. Dear John was an acceptable guest at most places, he was so agreeable, and his power of conversation very great.”
The next few paragraphs, also taken from the Memoir, and connected with some remembered words of his own, indicate that it was soon after this time that my father’s mind (as well as his dear brother’s) underwent a change.
Some friendships formed at this time were specially helpful to both.
My uncle writes:
“I became acquainted with. John Darley, and to our acquaintance with his family which soon after ensued, my dear brother and I felt that we owed very much.
“Mrs. Darley was a truly devout woman; the religion of Christ was evidently the uppermost thing in her thoughts, and she often made it the subject of her conversation. She was anxious, I have no doubt, to impress our minds with the same truths which were so precious to her; nor did she wholly fail. She certainly made us think more of our Lord Jesus Christ than we had been wont to do, and of the necessity of seeking salvation through Him rather than by our own works.”
A little further on he speaks of another friend:
“In 1817 Mr. Kearney was appointed to the living of Kilgobbin” (the parish in which ‘North Lodge’ was situated), “one of the most remarkable men I ever knew— remarkable for the saintliness of his character and the amount of heavenly wisdom with which he was endued. He was thoroughly unworldly—not a tinge of the world seemed to soil him, nor a desire for the honour which cometh from men to affect him. Mrs. Kearney was one almost as remarkable as himself, though not in the same way, of a very warm and affectionate nature, full of zeal for the honour of Christ and of loving interest in the souls for whom He died. Two persons of such excellence, the one glowing with the fervour of charity, the other endued with the wisdom which is from above, pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, to a greater degree than I ever witnessed in anyone, could not but have their influence on others, and through the grace and goodness of God, that influence was felt in our family.”
The words of my dear father, to which I have referred, were said to me one day when he took me to see the old home. We were in the garden at “North Lodge”; and he told me to look up at one particular window, and said that one day while studying in that room the words came into his mind — “What will be the end of it all?” This thought kept repeating itself; and that, he believed, was the beginning of new life to his soul.
My grandfather was at first much displeased by the seriousness produced, or deepened, in all his children by Mr. Kearney’s teaching. His displeasure was patiently borne, while the truths they had received were unflinchingly held. Nor was this without its reward in later years, for after his father’s death, my uncle wrote as follows:
“I was called up to Dublin by the alarming illness of my dear father, then ninety-one years old; and I found him declining fast. His mind, however, appeared as clear and strong as ever. His spiritual state during his last illness, affords delightful evidence how graciously God had dealt with his soul, bringing him to a thankful acknowledgment of truths which he once had too lightly esteemed, and to a firm belief in that Saviour, whom at one time he had well-nigh rejected.”
After his college course was finished my father went to London, to prosecute his studies for the law, which he had chosen as his profession.
Though I have no clue wherewith to trace the working of his mind during the interval that had elapsed between this time and the day when the thought of eternity first pressed itself upon him, the following letter written to his dear brother from London, (which was lovingly preserved for sixty years), will shew something of what he was in heart and mind at the age of twenty-seven.
One can, I think, feel in reading it, his fresh delight in the things of God, as well as the purity, and humility, and singleness of purpose which breathe throughout it. Before many years had passed, his mind had changed on some important subjects referred to; but the one object of his heart from first to last was the same—the love and presence of his Lord.
The letter is a long one, written on old-fashioned letter paper:
“My Dearest George,—I have been expecting a letter from you almost every day since I heard that you had left Dublin for Magherahamlet.4
“While I am writing, I am quite ignorant of the fate of your examination, and even the manner in which you have been spending your time with Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, who, I understand, were so kind as to insist on your remaining with them till the bishop held his ordination. Of all these circumstances I shall be glad to hear, and of everything connected with you, my dear brother. My poor acquaintance and fellow-student, Harvey, whom you have heard me mention, was visited about a fortnight since with a paralytic stroke, while at dinner. We met together the evening before, and he as little anticipated the affliction then as I did, but I continue in the full enjoyment of my mind and body, and he has been suddenly deprived of both. My dearest George, every day shews me how much I have received at God’s hands, and how I have in my reach all the means of living to Him and His service, and therefore all the means of happiness—the use of reason to contemplate Him, a tongue to praise Him and tell of His wonders, hands and feet to do Him active homage—the blessed word of His grace to give me a knowledge of His holy will, and the free use of the ordinances and privileges of His Church.
“I hope that my heart, though dull indeed to learn the saving, blessed truth, is knowing more and more of the fulness that there is in our God for all our desires, and the utter poverty in everything beside Him.
“I have been studying with much attention the life of Henry Martyn, a book which I found was not to be read merely to know the circumstances, but that there was a treasure in it which would not be found unsought. It at first gave me some mournful impressions of the nature of Christianity, it taught me to regard it as a most severe process, by which the mind was to undergo some important revolution, but of the happy effects of which it was allowed to taste but very rarely.
“The first part of his life in almost every page exhibits some strong marks of great despondency, and I can assure you I had for some time occasionally haunting me, a most gloomy picture of the religion of our blessed Lord.
“You will remember that his sensibilities were most acute; his attachment to his friends and family very great indeed, so that he must have experienced the propriety of those strong images—cutting off a right arm, plucking out a right eye— and it was the bringing my mind more directly to contemplate this, and to see it put in practice, which so pressed upon me. But when I brought him onward as a minister and a missionary, and beheld his fervent spirit in active service of his Lord, and at the same time his humbled, broken frame of mind, when secretly with his Lord, I feel at this time, my clear George, that I have reason to rejoice at having read it, and trust it may shew me many things we cannot learn too well. If heaven is won by works, where Martyn is I never can go; but as all my unworthiness is not too great for the cleansing of a Saviour’s free love and mercy, may I prize such a Saviour with new delight and gratitude.
“I confess, my dear brother, that my mind has been brought, I trust, more and more to see that without the Cross I must perish, for I am at best an unprofitable servant.
“O may our gracious Lord keep us both ever in a broken, humbled spirit; from the dust in His presence looking up and beholding the Cross, and the ever-blessed words, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’ This is the posture for us, and I believe it to be the directest way to attain, even in this life, the peace that passeth understanding. The more of this broken spirit we attain to, the more will be our thirsting for sanctification, and looking to the Cross is the great transforming process.
“I find it safe to have heaven occasionally brought secretly to my mind, and so do you, I know, my dear George; and when we go out into the world, let the Cross be before us that on it we may crucify the world to us, and ourselves to the world.
“But O, while I am writing, I feel how little right I have to talk of the mysteries of the Saviour’s kingdom, for my heart testifies against me, that I have not made Him my all in all; that I am still deriving much of my present and of my anticipated enjoyments from the world, and as dear Mr. Kearney observed, ‘if we prized sanctification as much as we say we do, we would willingly suffer any privations or sorrows by which we might attain, it’; but such privations and sorrows if they were to visit me, I fear they would leave me but a portion of that happiness which I feel, and which I was in hopes was connected with my interest in a Saviour’s love.
“You know that I get but little spiritual conversation in London, but I have not fully acquainted you with the delightful and decided change that has passed in our cousin Charlotte’s mind, so that, at Chigwell, with her I enjoy the happiness of seeing the workings of a renewed soul thirsting after the riches that never fade away. She is a humble, spiritual Christian, and with her and Mr. and Mrs. West, I sometimes have cause to remember our dear circle at Kilgobbin.
“But I must tell you that Charlotte has certainly in heart become a Dissenter, though I know very well that Mr. West5 has made it no object with him, and I believe, never in the least said anything to influence her, but can it be wondered at when all the spiritual consolation she receives is from members of Mr. West’s congregation, having continually before her the worldly life and worldly conversation of their own parish clergyman.
“If she had been of your parish, my dearest George, I think it would not have been so, but being as it is, you cannot wonder at her, or be less disposed to love her as a sister in Christ Jesus.
“I have lately heard two delightful sermons from Mr. Simeon, for the Jews, and indeed, he convicted me of having impiously and inhumanly disregarded them. He shewed from Scripture that God appeared to have always sympathised with the sufferings of Jerusalem, even while denouncing vengeance against their sins, which is particularly exhibited in our Lord’s lamentation over her while predicting her ruin.
“What little love have I to my fellow creatures! O if there were not a Saviour, I must perish with the most ungodly.
“I have not much news for you. I have commenced an attendance in the King’s Bench, where I mean to go while I remain here. I see the public men of the day—Brougham, Denman, &c.—and hear some interesting trials, which familiarise me with practice, and give me a view of that course of life which at present appears will he mine.
“I like my studies very well, and fear not the many temptations which will surround me, if the Lord keep my spirit in a praying frame and enable me, as Martyn says, to sit loose to all my engagements, so that I should be ready to depart at a moment’s warning.
“I saw our City address go up to the King, who, I understand, gave them a most affable and flattering reception, and promised the Lord Mayor that he hoped soon to see their City.
“Just as I reached this point I received your most welcome letter. May God bless you, my dear, dear George. I need not tell you to be honest in declaring all the counsel of God.
“With the greatest sincerity I can say, O that I were like you. But, whether Calvinist or not, give Christ the glory, and fear neither those who would excommunicate you for not holding high Calvinism, nor those who would shun you as a saint for professing even the doctrine of the new birth.
“If on my face, for Thy dear name,
Shame and reproaches be,
All hail reproach and welcome shame,
If Thou remember me.”
“On Sunday, being at Chigwell, I stayed in Mr. West’s chapel while the Sacrament was administering, as a visitor, which they allow to any one.
“He spoke as to his friends and brethren on the Saviour’s love, and alluded to the transports which the Israelites must have felt when the rock yielded them water in the wilderness.
“May the Lord bless and keep you, and enable you to feel that you are His minister.
“Ever your most affectionate brother,
“J. G. B.”
The next letter, to his friend Mr. Eeynolds,6 though without date, must have been written about the same time:
“My Dear Friend,—I could wish that, on my return for the summer vacation, I had the prospect of taking some drives with you and our most valued friend Mrs. Reynolds, but it is our wisdom and our happiness to look upward, rather than either forward, or backward.
“Milton speaks of the ‘Solemn troops and sweet society’ in heaven. The language and sentiment are beautiful; but, my dear friend, it will be more than even Milton’s rich genius could compass, to speak adequately of that blessed communion and intercourse which the redeemed of the Lamb enjoy before the throne. The poor, if ‘rich in faith,’ know something of it, much more than the wisest in the wisdom of this world. May God cause you, and me, and those dear to us, so to live that we may attain it in its fulness of joy!”
Soon after the date of these letters my father returned to Dublin to begin his work as a barrister; and a year or two after he was married to my dear mother, Mary, the fourth daughter of Admiral Drury. Their early married life was clouded by the death of four little ones, to one of whom my father refers in a letter to his cousin Richard:—
“My dear Cousin,—We have just closed a week of almost uninterrupted grief. Poor Mary, you will not be surprised to hear, has felt much more deeply our bitter loss than she did the first day or two; last week she remembered our darling boy in his sickness, but she is now remembering him while he was in health, and all his endearing little ways.
“He is missed at almost every turn, and truly do I see the propriety of those words speaking of Rachel’s sorrow for her children—‘because they are not.’
“But sure I am that a day will come that shall prove not only the wisdom, but the infinite grace and goodness of all God’s dealings, and equally sure that I see the necessity of His chastening, and I trust I pray in sincerity that it may accomplish its good purpose in both of us. Surely Cowper’s words may be used—
“‘Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.’
“Our dear child, no doubt, has joined this sweet and noble song, and shall we regret it? Shall we lament that his poor lispings in our ears have been changed for hallelujahs in our Lord’s?—indeed a naughty world he has left, as a friend said to me the other day, ‘He just looked on it, and seeing that it was so naughty, left it.’
“Like dear children, may we all follow him—may the oldest among us, and the wisest among us, become as little children.
“Farewell, my dear cousin, much love to all around you.”
In the next letter my father refers to his two other boys, “little Richard and Johnny”—the first, delicate almost from his birth, was taken from him when about three years old. “Johnny,” who was about a year older, lived to the age of nineteen, to be the occasion of calling forth his father’s tenderest sympathy during months of suffering, and also his wondering and adoring thankfulness for the grace given to this dear son. His letters at the end will shew this fully.
“My dearest George,—Our dear James7 has been with us since Friday evening, but indeed not to find dear sister by his side is a great miss to us all.
“Perhaps you remember Henry Martyn’s reflection in a moment of disappointment:—‘Who is it that makes friends, and sleep, and food pleasant to me? Cannot He also make solitude, and hunger, and weariness so many ministering angels to help me on my way?’
“It is so indeed. He can make the wilderness blossom as the rose, or turn the fruitful field into barrenness. He can give songs in the night, or turn the morning into the shadow of death, and we are called upon to be learning more and more that without Himself nothing is day, and with Him nothing is night. The good Lord give us all this blessed experience of Himself continually.
“‘It won’t do,’ says dear Rutherford, ‘to be living amid the rumbling of the wheels of second causes, saying, “if it had not been for this circumstance,” or “if this had not happened”; we must get out of the hearing of that jarring and din of confused noises, and run up at once to God with “It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good,” before the soul will find her rest.’
“This is beautiful, I can admire it; would that I could do more. May you abundantly prove it to be true, to your great and endless comfort.
“Last week our dear little Richard had a pretty violent attack, but now, thank God, though a good deal weakened necessarily, we consider the complaint subdued. Johnny is very well.
“Farewell, my very dear George; the Lord be with you, is the affectionate prayer of my poor heart.
“Ever your loving brother,
“J. G. B.”
The following letter was written when my uncle was in some anxiety and trouble:
“My dearest George,—We know not what is good for us, but this we know, that, if not thwarted by our own wilfulness, all things will work together for good in the Lord’s hands, for good in conforming us to the image of His dear Son, and in that image imparting to us a share in all the glory which has been provided for Him, and which is to be revealed in His day.
“’Till that day may you be enabled to dwell under His shadow, and prove the sufficient virtue of that abiding-place even in the heaviest, dreariest tempest: the present is one indeed to put it to the proof, and all I know is, that were it my case, I should not come through it without leaving me to see much of my weakness, which might well confound me.
“But let us trust, ‘and not be afraid.’ We are to hope that we shall be found able to do all things—Christ strengthening us—His strength being fitted to our day.
“I know a lady—whose husband, from bad conduct, is obliged to hide himself—I believe with eleven children, all but two apparently destitute, after living in comfort, and disease lately discovered to be working in her, drawing on certain death, it may be after years of suffering. But yet, with all these things against her, I learn that she was never in the enjoyment of such peace in God. She has found sweet sympathy in her Christian friends, and abundance in her blessed Saviour.
“It is well to mention such cases to the praise of Him, who sticketh closer than a brother, and who in spirit is as near to us now as He will be in manifested glory hereafter.”
The next two letters are addressed to my father’s very dear and only sister.
“My dearest Bessy,—How is dear James? I often think of you both; and the bustle, and the ‘noisy folly’ that surround one in a city like this, hurry me in imagination, and memory too, to the stillness of Culmstock,8 but, dearest sister, the poetry of the shade is not the religion of faith, and when spirit, soul, and body are accounted not our own, but the Saviour’s, in virtue of the purchase of His blessed sufferings, occasions for serving Him may be presented to us everywhere, and it is our duty to enter upon those occasions in humbleness, and faith, and love.
“‘What is that in thine hand?’ says the Lord to Moses, and that which was in his hand, and which he had not to go far to look for, was to be employed as the instrument of his ministry.”
The second letter refers to the illness of Aunt Roberts:—
“It is very comforting to know of our dear aunt. My love to her, and kiss her, and remind her while you do so of the last verse of the 2nd Psalm—‘Kiss the Son’—and may she and you, dearest sister, and all of us, enter more into the enjoyment of that full and free love of the Saviour, which that gracious invitation proposes to us.
“How plainly do we see the hand of a tender Father in that stroke which laid her on a bed of pain, and her outward man perishing, but for the renewal and strengthening of the inner.
“Our blessed Lord says, ‘Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.; There is much now in the power of temptation, in sorrow of various kinds, in the witnessing of sin all around one, to cause the head to droop, and the heart to wither a hit, hut once lifted up at the day of redemption it is lifted up for ever.
“How happy that our dear brothers9 separated from us, find Bandon is more palatable to them. They meet with much friendship and affection, but I hope, and believe, that their work itself, so truly blessed and great as it is, will be found sufficient to give the scene of it no common interest in their esteem.
“It is written, ‘How beautiful upon the mountains.’ Bleak, untamed mountains might seem beautiful when they become the scene of the labours of the gospel.
“I feel so satisfied that, through His free and full love to you, God will so order all your ways for good, that I cannot exactly say that I should feel unqualifiedly sorry at any of His dispensations towards you, but I do trust, in His disposal of you, He may see fit to keep you, dear, in good health, that you may wait on those around you and minister to God in your place without interruption.
“How does generation succeed generation, and how quickly does the place that now knows us know us no more! Our life is a hand-breadth, the journey of a day, but the end is the presence of God.
“I think my gracious Lord has given me sweeter thoughts of death for a few months past than ever I had; it has appeared to me better to depart than formerly, and though I feel how weak my faith is to reach forth and take eternal joys, yet I have had some few earnests, that as I approach the confines of the two countries, my God will strengthen me and give me grace to sing the conqueror’s song over death and the grave.
“Surely we both entirely say that all our hope is exactly that which the dying thief had—the grace of the Saviour. I know no other. Let us serve and wait for years; still the beginning of my confidence must continue with me to the end, that the Lord has freely forgiven me all trespass, and loved me with an unchanging love.
“Everything that helps us to see the glory of the Lord reflected in the pages of His Holy Word is so much pure gold, and better than thousands of silver.
“Cleave close to the Word, dearest Bessy. Is it not the way to cleave close to God? May the remembrance of it become increasingly precious to you. If you love it as well as I love you, you will often think of it with ever new delight.”
Some of the following extracts are from letters to the Rev. J. Richey:—
“My dearest James,—I enclose a short answer to dear W.’s note which you sent me, and which was very beautiful indeed; truly and simply, I am sure, speaking the desires of his heart which appear all directed to the dear things of our Lord’s Kingdom.
“May you and dearest Bessy have much cause to rejoice in the work of your hands. I think of you all pretty often, and if you be bringing forth a hundred fold, while I yield twenty, I shall rejoice with you for the abundant grace bestowed upon you, and that God is glorified thereby.
“Give my love to our dear aunt. Tell her I only trust that the same rod and staff may be supporting us all when we are summoned to follow her, and that we may find the valley, as Henry10 says ‘valleys generally are’ a fruitful place.
“We desire again to hear of dear Baby. I fear that she must be an object of some painful solicitude to you and dearest sister, but you will both learn, I am sure, by the effectual teaching of God Himself, to repose your little darling in the arms of the Lord. The sufferings of an infant deeply present the sinfulness of sin to us. “We are ready to say, ‘What hath sin wrought?’ but you remember those comforting and, I believe, sound words, ‘They die, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died.’
“You remember, dear James, how Milner tells of some African Christians who, on leaving their native town in time of persecution, went out singing, ‘Such honour have all His saints’—I would that this mantle may fall on us both.
“I often think of dear Culmstock. May the presence of our good God be much there.
“Dear Mother is, assuredly, we trust, more and more under the holy power of the Spirit of God. May His kingdom be the portion of us all!”
In the following letters my father speaks of the illness and death of my grandmother (Mrs. Drury), and of a little daughter who lived but a short time, also of the death of little Richard.
“Dear Baby gives us hopes and fears at times. In complexion, as well as features, she has become to my eye so like Johnny,11 that she brings his last month very forcibly to my mind. The Lord restore her if it be His will, but we are all very doubtful if she will ever number up twelve months.
“She is a sweet, engaging little pet to us all, but God may see that the world would prove too strong for her; and, to see her not triumphing over it, would truly be the saddest sight of all.
“Our dear Mrs. Drury is much, much worse; there is a near connection, I feel more and more, between ours and the eternal world. May her spirit soon rejoice with the blessed angels. I shall miss her very, very much.”
A few clays later:
“My prayer for her has been gradually turned into praise, and the subject of my praise was that God has so visited her with His peace and strength, for she was entirely composed and never happier in all her life, though she was sensible that a few days must dismiss her hence—not one murmur from the beginning. But yesterday morning she appeared somewhat relieved.
“My dear, dear M. has been a good deal tried, but she is docile under God’s hand, I surely believe, and longs to know Him more and more.
“You do not mention dear Aunt Roberts, for your letter was all affectionate interest about us.
“How comfortable to know that that which distinguishes heaven is not intellectual power, or high and honourable attainments of any kind which our hearts naturally admire —but love—let us then live in love. ‘He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.’ Have we not some understanding of this? It is hard to delineate, but it may be proved in the soul.”
“Our darling Mrs. Drury died this morning after twelve hours of laborious breathing, but without one painful struggle. The happy circumstances of her illness, the truly happy temper of her soul generally, almost entirely from first to last, greatly help to comfort us. Her death came as the most sudden surprise after her revival.
“Farewell, my Own dear sister.”
“My dearest Bessy,—Dear Mother has told you of our sorrow, which has come in a moment most unlooked for, for Mr. Crampton told us, thirteen days before dear little Richard died, that he might outlive his disease. But he has followed his dear, kind grandpapa very speedily, and though he was a most delightful child to us, yet we see much mercy in his being freed from possibly long suffering. I feel, however, that it helps to show me that I have less reason to have my hold on this world.
“He has been a most precious little son to me.”
I think it must have been about this time that my father withdrew from the Communion of the Church of England. His friend Mr. Darby’s12 name first occurs in the following letter:
“January 31, 1827.
“My dearest George,—At times it is only the assurance that God is with you that makes me feel at all happy in our separation.13 If we lived merely for this world, it would be better that we should be together even on bread and water, but we must not undertake to fix the bounds of our habitation. Circumstances will, please God, occasionally unite us.
“I hope on Friday to see John Darby. You will be grieved to hear that he has been laid up for nearly two months from a hurt in his knee. His poor people at Calary miss him sadly.”
My father used to say, “If I deserve any credit it is that I early discerned what there was in John Darby!”
The next few lines refer to the last illness of Cousin Richard:
“My dearest Sister,—I reached this yesterday, and found our beloved cousin much as I had expected. I should judge the time of his continuance among us is at present uncertain. I have had very delightful communications from him; he speaks in such a way as carries its own witness with it, that the Lord, the Spirit, has made Jesus very precious to him, and given him full peace through His blood.
“Indeed, dear, dear sister, it is a matter of thankfulness to find him thus kept. He seems to be detained here by no recollections or desires whatever. I feel that we are losing a most pleasant and beloved friend.”
To Mr. Reynolds:
“My dear Friend,—Many persons are confidently anticipating sorrowful times for our land. The condition of the public mind here they think to be very alarming. I would that I felt myself more in an Abraham state, looking for a city that hath ‘foundations.’ You know none of the present kingdoms of the earth have foundations, they are all either shaken, or to be shaken. (Hebrews 12:27, 28.)
“In the first chapter of Ephesians the apostle says that we receive spiritual blessings in Christ, (v. 3.) He then enumerates these blessings (vv. 4-14), and they are election, adoption, acceptance in the Beloved, forgiveness, knowledge of God’s purposes, inheritance in Christ, earnest of inheritance. It is instructive to consider the meaning of these blessings in detail, for each has its peculiar value for the Church.
“How good it is to study the word of God with care, and how worthy it is of this study!
“Give our love to Mrs. Reynolds. Tell her the prophets are still much in my thoughts, as we used to talk of them together.”
To the same:
“My dear Friend,—I was sorry to learn from your few kind lines that your general health was not better; it may be that the change from Fulham to higher ground may serve both you and Mrs. Reynolds, and I shall rejoice to hear that it does, if it be God’s will concerning you, but I rather trust that He may dispose you both to leave your times in His hands, and go on to understand more and more fully that love of His which passeth knowledge.
“Indeed I regret that you did not see dear John Parnell15 before his leaving this country. He and the godly company with whom he purposes to labour left our port for Bordeaux on Saturday. They went off accompanied by the regrets and blessings of many of the Lord’s people, who loved them much for His sake.
“It is better to rejoice that our names are ‘written in heaven’ than to be able to report that ‘devils are subject unto us.’ Graciousness of mind is better than endowments.”
This is the last of the very early letters.
1 See Memoir of Rev. G. Bellett, by his daughter.
2 This is the title of a short memoir of her written by one of her great nieces.
3 The Somersetshire name for a small stream between high banks.
4 My uncle had been ordained to the curacy of this parish, in the north of Ireland.
5 He was a Congregational minister.
6 Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds had made acquaintance with my grandfather some years before, when they were visiting in Ireland, and were ever after the loved and valued friends of the whole family.
7 His much-loved brother-in-law, Rev. J. Richey.
8 At that time my aunt’s home, in Somersetshire.
9 Both my uncles were curates at Bandon, in the south of Ireland. I shall often have occasion to speak of my uncle George; but my father’s youngest brother lived only a few years after this. I never knew him, but heard him spoken of as one who loved his Lord most devotedly, and lived a saintly life; yet he suffered from great spiritual depression.
10 Matthew Henry, the Commentator.
11 His first little son.
12 It is perhaps needless for me to say that Mr. Darby was one of my father’s dearest friends. They had been contemporaries at College, and afterwards they were almost entirely of one mind on the subjects most prized by both. I never knew the time when Mr. Darby was not a visitor in our house—sometimes for weeks together; and well do I remember the rapt attention with which his preaching was listened to by my father, and the pleasure with which he would afterwards tell Mr. Darby how it had delighted him.
13 My uncle was still at Bandon.
14 Cousin Richard’s home, near Sampford.
15 He went with Mr. Groves and others on the mission to Bagdad.