Jane Attwater

Letter to the Young People of the Particular Baptist Church in Brown Street, Salisbury, [Monday], 20 July 1777.


   As through the Indulgent Goodness of our Great preserver & bountiful Benefactor We my Dear Young Friends are spared to see that part of the year return in which we were I trust Enabled & Influenced by the Good Spirit of God to yield a willing Obedience to the Command of our Glorious Leader & to be found in ye discharge of what we thought an Incumbent Duty because Instituted & practiced by Him whom we profess to serve & Love.

     Permit me who am Situated so as not to have ye priviledge to personally converse with you to adress you in this Manner with Friendship with Freedom with Sincerity on this Aniversary – to call upon my own soul with yours to bless & praise the God of all our Mercies who each of us may say has hitherto helped us – You my fellow travellers & your Unworthy Friend entered Externally on the Christian Race almost together – how far then are we arived? I would ask my own soul what improvement have I made? Time with unremitting Dilligence runs its hasty Course – another short period is elapsed & “every beating pulse I tell Leaves one the number Less” Life is hastening to an End & the Night swiftly approaches in which none can work the present now is all I dare to Claim is all in which I can do anything for him who is every moment showering unmerited Blessings on me or in which I can be of any use to my fellow mortals – Catch then the Golden minutes e’er they fly – Learn well to Live & be prepar’d to die but alas I have too much reason to say O my leaness my Leaness I have too much reason to Lament my many omissions & comissions, my numerous misemprovment of those blessings I have enjoy’d – I have great reason to Lament the hardness of my Heart my Stupidity under a sense of my sinfulness my Little Love to Jesus my only Hope of Salvation my proness to Vanity & folly & for that the powers & faculties of the Soul are not in a better Subjection of my Maker – I find my heart indeed is deceitful & infested with numerous Corruptions  Satan the busy Adversary is ever ready with his suggestions to molest my peace – & the world with its various temptations constantly presents themselves to view these three are powerful Enemies & I sometimes find them too mighty but blessed be Sovereign Mercy that has said “My Grace is Sufficient for thee” what reason have we seeing we have so many Enemies to encounter with to remember our Lords Exhortation “Watch & pray” to be ever on our Guard abroad & at home & in our most retired moments & what a privilege is it that we are not only permited but invited to come to God & to make known our Supplications to him – Yes Blessed be God for that there is a Throne of Mercy Erected whereunto you & I may approach & plead for strength & power (in & through our great high priest) to Conflict with all our foes & may we find that promise verified to us “I will never Leave thee nor forsake thee” if God be for us we need not fear any that are against us Even the < > principalities & strong powers to combat with for our God is Omnipotent Almighty in power to defend Omniscient to see our Danger before we can for ourselves & omnipresent ever ready to Assist the humble suppliant whose Heart whose hope is Staid on him  & are we not told yt like as a father pitieth his Children so ye Lord pitieth ym yt fear him – Are we such as Love & fear God? have we ye spirit of Adoption whereby we may say Abba father? If after an impartial examination we can humbly Claim such a Connection then rejoice my Friends in ye filial Tenderness with wch he views you & O that Divine grace & Strength may be given us to be ever Studious to be found obeying his Righteous Commands knowing that his yoke is easy & his Burthen Light surely the ways of Religion are ways of pleasantness & all her paths are peace happy those & happy these alone who are inabled to persue ye straight path wch Leads to permanent to perfect Felicity. –

    Our duty & our Happiness is so Connected that we cannot rightly persue one & not ye other in every thing that concerns us as to ye particular & more general dispensations of omnipotent wisdom how plainly does Infinite Love & mercy appear: – Thro’ every vicissitude of Life even prosperous or adverse if we are of the happy number of those which are indeed ye people of God we shall see yt every thing shall work together for our Good – “what I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter” & how often do we see convincing proofs of our Ignorance & shortsightedness how desired then is an intire dependance on & Resignation to the Will of our heavenly father in all things acquiescing with his wise disposals & cheerfully saying thy will be done ’tis a great blessing indeed to be truly submissive to him who made us & who had an undoubted right to do with us & ours as he pleases agreeable to a remark wch was that we should never look forward with too great an anxiety about future Events but our Solicitude should be that whatever dispensation of providence we are or might be exercised with that we might be prepared for such & that they might be sanctified by the God of Providence – when I take a Retrospective view of even but the past year tho short ye period yet how many has been the blessings we have enjoy’d for myself I can say so my personal & relative mercies has been numerous tho I mean of a providential nature wch may be deem’d but the Inferior Blessings when Compard to those of Grace but happy for us wn those nether springs lead us to ye fountain fm whence they flow – when nature & Life seem’d almost exhausted and a death like paleness coverd my cheek & ye weight of a Grasshopper might comparatively have been Esteem’d a burden so extreemly weak was I bro’t by ye Measels yet then my Almighty preserver spared my Life. O yt I could say that Life was wholly devoted to him who spared it Health & Strength has again renewed its pristine vigour & with those valueable Blessings may Gratitude & Glad Obedience to my Gracious God be paid by me ye most Unworthiest.  What various calls have I to call on my soul & on all that is within me to my bounteous Benefactor. What shall I render unto ye Lord for all his Benefits who has crowned my Life with Lovingkindess & with tender mercies. A thankful heart is all I can return this Gift alas how poor –

   We have been each of us favored with repeated privileges of hearing ye blessed Gospel administered by our good & truely valuable pastor whose life may & services may God long continue & bless unto us & make him the humble Instrument of turning many from sin unto God his Ministry with that of others which we have set under is a priviledge for wch we know we must give an account – I would ask my own heart have I recd ye grace of ye means as well as enjoy’d ye means of Grace? Have I been lead to a clearer view of my own Natural depravity of ye evil the detestable nature of Sin – do I see more of my need of Jesus as my Righteousness & strength am I enabled to mourn over my sins & corruptions with unfeigned Repentance do I view Christ as ye only the alsufficient & as the most suitable Saviour have I an appropriating Faith in him? Is my Faith in him unwaffering of ye kind wch is the alone gift of God? has a consideration of what He has done & suffered & the feeble hope with which I am sometimes inspired (tho’ most unworthy of it) that it might be for me does this draw forth my Soul in Love & Glad obedience to my once suffering but now risen & exalted Lord is my Humility increased in proportion to my consciousness of my own sinfulness & nothingness is pride that odious & unreasonable vice if not intirely distroy’d yet in a great measure rooted out of my heart intirely as to its reigning power. O that I was wholly divested of this Evil seeing it is productive of ye most dangerous Effects Humility that amiable Grace may it ever reign in my heart in its true Beauty & be productive of those good fruits wch that desireable grace bears & without wch & grace we cannot possess anything that constitutes ye Christian in its utmost extent Humility must accompany our repentance our Faith our Love & our Obedience it is most Evident therefore how needful is it to be dilligent in our search to see wither we are blest with this amiable virtue. In reality pride wears various forms & creeps into our Approbation under ye most specious names the various counterfeits this grace has is a proof of its value for was it not so truely valueable it would not have so many claims said to it.—May I then be ever diligent & impartial in my Examineing ye inmost recesses of my soul & do thou O thou searcher of hearts implant this with every amiable Grace in the heart that I trust sincerely desires to be made a fit residence for such a Glorious Guest to make this dwelling place. –

     When I take a view of ye awful distance there is between an infinitely holy God whose Glorious Attributes are above a mortals comprehension perfectly to seek – & myself a poor sinful atom of Creation do I then abhor myself in dust & ashes & acknowledge I am vile & with deep contrition of heart say God be merciful to me a sinner or does Self Righteousness creep in & say with ye boasting pharisee tho’ not in words yet in heart God I thank thee yt I am not as others &c – I wish to abhor Righteous self as much as sinful self yet I am not totally free from placeing too much confidence on what is at best but a broaken reed I want to be weaned more from ye world – more from self & every thing short of Christ yt he may be all in all that I may count all things nothing in competition with him – my heart knows of myself I can do nothing on the Rock of Ages wd I wish to repose all my trust & Confidence.—Am I truely meek in spirit such as tremble at ye word of God? Am I more & more convincd of ye vanity & folly of too great a conformity to those things wch the thoughtless Citizens of Earth place their delight & pleasure in? do I see more of ye Inconsistency of Conforming too much to their modes & forms? ’tis suitable & truely Characteristick for those who call the world their home & earthly pleasure their persuits & terene happiness their ultimate end – to be diligent in procuring those baubles wch for a while may quiet the roving minds for a little time amuse & please their vain Immaginations but shall an heir of Bliss & Immortality a Candidate for Eternity who professes to be seeking for & traveling towards the heavenly Canaan & to have there in view those riches & honors wch are durable & most excellent in their nature shall Push turn aside from ye path of duty in persuit of toys & triffles Light as Air & Indulge their forcing the straight path wch leads to the Glorious inheritance or at least by being too conversant with these temptations the travelers mind will be so much bewildered yt till he does forsake ym he will find it very Intricate to judge whither he is in ye right path or not – no rather may we view every such tinsel short lived unsatisfying pleasure with a becoming Indifferency & contempt & seek for those ornaments of a meek & humble spirit adorn’d with true piety not as for our acceptance with God but with our fellow Creatures – Am I truely anxious for all my fellow creatures & is sin ye procuring Cause of all those Commotions wch sadden ye hearts of ye most considerate ye Object of my Sorrow & hatred? Am I solicitous for ye peace & welfare of Sion? & yt her Borders might be greatly enlarged & yt ye antichristian powers might be destroyd that ye kingdom of grace might be advanced my self & others brot into & kept in it & that the Kingdom of Glory might be hastened? Am I earnest in my desires that a Blessing from on high might descend in a peculiar manner on those who preach our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity Endeavoring to promote his Interest & ye good of Immortal Souls are there things not only uttered in word but seriously laid to heart & do I wn I repeat such requests pray in prayer or is it only a formal Lip Service such things, & many more, I know ye Christian ought to observe but with shame & confusion I must Lay my hand on my heart & say thou Lord seest me & knoweth my deficiency in duties of every kind I must add with knowledge that I have done those things wch I ought not to have done & left undone those things wch I ought to have done my weakness my imperfection daily appears & I have every need to apply to the fountain for sanctifying & strengthening Grace – think O my Soul how swiftly that day approaches when our Lord shall come to judge ye world when every secret of ye heart shall be disclosed & we shall know as we are known deliver me O my God from all self deception as well as from deceiving others may it never be my dreadful & irremidable Lot to be found destitute of ye wedding garment what unspeakable terror & astonishment would such an awful deception afford may the great discloser of every event fit us in Time for Eternity & whatever means he sees fit to use land us safe at last – may I be fervent in Spirit serving my lord from whom I wish to receive yjoyful Invitation  Come ye Blessed of my father. But alas wn I consider my unworthyness my Indifferency to the most important Business of my Life my negligence in doing anything for God & my unstable adherence to his divine commands so as to reduce a consent in to practice when I consider the importance the necessity of attending with all diligence to the Business of my Immortal soul I am ready to fear that what was said to ye Laodicean Church of old may be justly applied to me – may God deliver me from such a state & never suffer me to view my only important Business with Indifference – I have great reason to say Open thou mine eyes O lord that I may behold wonderous things out of thy Law & out of thy Gospel – My Ignorance is great & great is ye work I have to do may I press forward with unremitting dilligence Looking unto Jesus ye author & finisher of Faith who for ye joy yt was set before him endured ye cross despised ye shame & is now set down at ye right hand of God making Intercession may I have yt appropriating Faith to say for me – as we advance in ye Journey of Life may we advance in every Christian virtue Grow in Grace & in ye knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ – how desireable is a true knowledge of our own heart & of him whom to know is Life Eternal ye one tends to promote deep humility & ye other to raise & Inspire our devotion & Love to ye Glorious object of our Religious worship – may yt peace wch passeth all understanding possess your hearts, may our little hill of Zion in a peculiar manner be ye favorite of God – as chearing showers may grace descend on every Faithful heart. Be Christian Unity ever our happy & desireable Blessing for a house divided against itself cannot stand & if we love not those whom we have seen & who we view as fellow heirs of bliss & immortality how can we love Christ whom we have not seen certainly our Love to his members must be an Evidence of our Love to him as ye Apostle says by this we know that you are passed from death unto Life because ye love ye Brethren are we favoured by God who giveth Liberally & upbraideth not & to whom we must apply as he alone can bestow it for this blessing are we favord I say with an Impartial view of ourselves yn shall we be lead to Esteem each one better yn ourselves & be ever ready to esteem ourselves ye Chief of sinners & ye Least of Saints.

    I wish you my Dear young Friends, every Blessing that you may be favord with every support necessary to enable you to walk worthy ye character as Christians you sustain that you might be ever watchful against every assault of our Common Enemy who is like a roaring Lion still ready to devour – May you be kept by ye mighty power of God through Faith unto salvation be established settled & strengthened in ye Faith of Jesus that we might be all fellow Citizens of ye Saints & houshold of God be built on ye foundation the tried sure foundation of ye apostles & prophets Jesus Christ himself “being ye Chief Cornerstone in whom all ye building fitly framed together groweth into an holy temple in ye Lord in whom may we also be builded together for an habitation of God thro’ ye Spirit may we go on fm one degree of grace to another till we shall at last arrive safe in ye church triumphant above &c there presented “by our only advocate Christ Jesus to our heavenly Father without spot or wrinkle being cloathed with his spotless robe of righteousness” O blissful state when every Imperfection shall be ever banished & we shall be admitted into ye regions of never ending felicity how should my hope of such a compleate happiness invigorate ye soul to run ye path of duty & raise the heart above the trifles of this Life of vicissitude to love & adore him who has purchased this Glorious hope for all who shall obtain a completion of their wishes – may each of us my Friends be fitted in this present state of Existence for that blest abode & be inabled to walk as heirs of that Glorious Inheritance & after a useful & progressive Life be recd into ye joy of our Lord – These Blessings I earnestly desire for you & may your wishes for me who am most unworthy be that I may join your happy Society in that Blest world where joys unmingled last where Grace shall be exchanged for Glory & where a full Fruition shall banish hope.  – 

     Excuse my prolixity my subject has been pleasing & good but my weakness manifestly appears in prosecuting it throughout forgive my faults be ever ready to give me your Friendly admonitions & reproofs wn you see occasion wch no partiality must prevent & I wish always to receive ye same with Humility Love & Gratitude & thro’ every vicissitude of Life to approve myself

   Your affecte & sincere Friend & humble follower of our Blessed Lord

                                             J. A.

Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, I.A.7; the letter was placed at the end of her diary for 1777, but dated from her entry on 27 July.