Anne Andrews, Isleworth, to Maria Grace Andrews, Salisbury, [Saturday], 19 December 1795.
I had waited with no small degree of impatience for a letter from my dr Grace till the arrival of our last, not only on account of the pleasure your affectionate epistles afford me, but partly from a desire of obtaining relief from some anxious fears which had intruded on my Mind respecting your health &c: they had indeed no just foundation but were merely the offspring of a sickly fancy this however did not prevent their being exceedingly troublesome & nothing less than positive refutation would satisfy them.
That you enjoy a good measure of health and spirits is matter of joy & I trust of real thankfulness also to me I long to hear as much, and much more of your Soul prosperity, not from any doubts with whh I am exercised respecting it, or any fears of your safety in the hand of your gracious & covenant-keeping God, but from a desire of participation in your joys: be assured I frequently revolve in my Mind your Situation not only as to temporal but spiritual things with the tenderest solicitude & earnestly desire the fulfilment of my expectations in the pleasing issue of your various trials both in a way of Grace & Providence: yes, my dr Sister I wait in the most comfortable assurance of hearing you declare that they were all laid on you in very faithfulness & join in the language of the church when she says “O Lord tho’ thou wast angry with me, yet thine anger is turned away and thou dost comfort me” – You mourn the absence of God but your condition is not singular how many instances do we see of this in the experience of the royal Psalmist &c how affecting his complaints on these occasions what does Isaiah say “verily thou art a God that hidest thy self O God of Israel the Saviour” – and the Lord testifying of himself – “In a little wrath I hid my Face from thee for a moment but (animating declaration!) with everlasting mercies will I comfort thee” – but I would wish to think this reasoning altogether unnecessary with you, from the experience you have had of the gracious design and end of these painful exercises of your faith –
Perhaps from the language I have been using you will suppose that I am very comfortable in the frame of my own mind, but indeed this is far from being the case: my conflicts at present are not merely of an outward kind, tho’ these have been somewhat severe since I wrote last; but from some of the most distressing the Lord has delivered me and that in such a way as to shew me my own utter weakness and insufficiency & convince me more than ever of the truth of that declaration without me you can do nothing – oh! how then were the riches of divine Grace magnified in my view & how willing did I feel to lie in the dust and say “behold I am vile” – I could like to relate the particulars if it were only to excite your gratitude on my behalf but time forbids – I said my conflicts were not of an external nature only & it is a truth but too painfully certain; sometimes the very foundation of my hope is shaken; at others I seem wholly destitute of spiritual perception & enveloped in impenetrable darkness – When the importance of eternal things, the glory of God the excellencies of the redeemer are present to the mental sight temptation loses its force & affliction its pressure, but when these are obscured what a sad reverse do we experience the Soul has then nothing left to support it but a remaining sense of Duty and that fear whh is so necessary in the absence of love but this is very hard work – There are Seasons when the only comfort I can find is in a determination not to let go my hold of that eternal life whh is in Xst Jesus, but to cast myself on & leave myself entirely in the hands of God with an “If I perish, I perish” & that to when I might with propriety adopt the language of Job 23 Ch. 8. 9 verses Behold I go forward & he is not there and backward but I perceive him not, &c: – however I trust by the event it will appear that He knoweth the way I take & (that) when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold –
I have not seen Mrs Ford more than this fortnight I sent her your enclosed, have no doubt of her desire to be affectionately remember’d she intended writing before the arrival of your last – & shall therefore most probably enclose a letter of you in my next packet, which I hope to send early in the next year – remember I shall expect to hear from you before then – I long to thank dear Mr & Mrs Saffery and Hannah for their affecte Epistles do tell them how I love them for you know almost as well as myself, I cannot express the sense I have of my dear Pastor’s kindness in complying with my wishes – & I am persuaded if he knew how much his letter was a word in Season both as to counsel & encouragement he would not regret the time bestow’d in writing.
You ask my advice about Mrs Houghton – you could scarcely have ask’d anything more difficult in my own & your present circumstances. I could wish to take all that anxiety off your Mind by administering myself to her necessities but tho’ comparatively in the midst of plenty such is the peculiarity of my situation it has been hitherto impracticable. As to the Gown if you propose sendg it it had better be in your next parcel to me that I may forward it (in the mean time I wd advise you to write to Mrs Scott and mention your intention of sendg to Mrs H in a short time) & if there are any additions whh I can make that will be serviceable to her I shall do it with alacrity – Our dr friend speaks of her in the most pleasing terms of approbation – I have no hopes of seeing them till after Xmas, if then –
Suitable regards to Mr & Mrs H—g – I have taken a Servant as a housemaid to wait at Table & work at her needle whose Father lives at Brentford & is a Baptist –
Remember me kindly to Miss Attwater whose recovery has I hope by this time agreeably disappointed your fears respects to Mrs A– Love to dr Friends at S– Mr & Mrs Marsh, Smith, Penny, Roberts, &c –
I must leave you that the Lord may abundantly bless you that he may grant you life and favour & that his visitations may preserve your Spirit is the sincere & earnest prayer of Your ever affecte Friend & Sister
I shall expect a letter by Post as it will not be expedient for you to send another Packet till you have recd mine
Text: Reeves Collection, Box 14.1.(f.), Bodleian Library, Oxford. Address: Miss Andrews | Mr Harding’s | Exeter Street | Sarum. Postmark: 19 December 1795; for a fully annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, gen. ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 6, pp. 111-13. The "Miss Attwater" is one of the three daughters (all of whom never married) of Gay Thomas Attwater of Nunton, Jane Attwater Blatch’s brother: Sarah Attwater (1765-1830), Maria (1783-1840), an Anna (1784-1825).