Rev. Robert Edminson, Cambridge, to Jane Attwater Blatch, Bratton, [Thursday], 4 June 1840.
My venerable and highly respected Friend,
The endeared union is at length dissolved! Your beloved Husband is gone the Way of all the Earth – he has left you behind – you no longer behold him in the hand of land of the living – but you sorrow not for him as one without Hope. You will see him again – will meet to part no more – your Sorrow will be turned into Joy – He was found where I wish to be in my living Days, in my dying Hours, “looking for the Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal Life.” – His Faith had wrought, his Love laboured, his Hope patiently endured stedfast to the End. He stayed himself upon his God – built his Expectations on the Rock of Ages – knew in whom he had believed – was persuaded that he was able to keep that which he had deposited with him – and his End was peace. How enviable such a Departure. “Let me die the Death of the Righteous, and let my last End be like his.”
I was prepared for the Intelligence. When I took my leave of him last summer, it was the final Farewel. I did not expect to see him again. I have lost a Friend – one of the kindest Friends I ever knew – whose Memory I shall cherish while Life lasts – and the Sense of whose great Kindness I shall retain to my dying Day.
You behold a Father’s Hand in all the Circumstances attending the Removal of your beloved partner. He had been mercifully preparing you for the Stroke. His gracious Providence directed the whole Scene of afflictions thro’ which he was called to pass; & a tender Hand gently loosened the Pins of the frail Tenement till the emancipated Spirit took its Flight to the Regions of Life and Immortality, where in the Presence of God & of the Lamb, it awaits the Resurrection of the Just, when the Bodies of our Humiliation shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious Body by the Energy by which he is able to subdue all Things to himself. – Yes, the Character of our divine Lord is the Spring of Consolation under the Afflictions & Bereavements of Life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” It is our unspeakable Comfort that the Saviour has risen from the Dead, and become the first Fruits of them who sleep. He is the first born from the Dead of all the redeemed Family – and in this Character he bears a Relation to his People even when in the Grave and is engaged to watch over their mortal Bodies, and to raise them up at the last Day.[vii] Death is so far from dissevering the Relation which Subsists between him and his Brethren, that their very Death, their very Dust, is dear to him. His Resurrection is both the Pledge and Pattern of that of his Redeemed – and to us who sojourn in this Valley of Tears, in Heaviness through manifold Trials, our compassionate Redeemer from his Throne of Glory in the Heavens addresses us in Language of Affection and Consolation, saying, “Fear not; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One: I was dead, & behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the Keys of the invisible World and of Death.” – Let us frequently call to mind the delightful Assurance given by the Saviour to his sorrowing Disciples: “I am going home; I ascend to my Father & your Father; to my God and your God; I go to prepare Room for you, and will return to receive you to myself, that where I am ye may be also.” So shall we be for ever with the Lord: let us therefore comfort each other with these words. Tho’ we are at a Distance from our Father’s House, we are not the less the Children of his Family. We are, indeed, in a foreign Land; yet, as the Veil of the Sanctuary is now removed, we, by Faith, see its Glory, and listen to its Songs. The Mercy-Seat is no longer concealed, and the administrations of our great High Priest are disclosed to our View. This is admirably calculated to engage our Hearts, and warm our Affections. Well may our Spirits be elevated on the Death of our Brethren in Christ, when, as they are removed from us, we, by Faith, see them joining this glorious Assembly sweet, in such Circumstances, are the gracious Declarations of our blessed Redeemer “I will not leave you comfortless; I will see you again peace, I leave with you; let not your Heart be troubled.” – Delightful is the encouraging Admonition of his inspired Apostle to indulge the Hope of meeting our departed Christian Friends in the World of Light and Love, because “as Jesus died and rose again, so all who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” – How soothing to the Mind in Affliction!
In thus expressing myself, my beloved Friend, I only aim at stirring up your pure Mind by Way of Remembrance. You are persuaded that our great and gracious Redeemer has all Power committed to Him in Heaven & on Earth – that the Wheels of Providence are directed by him, that he is guiding every Event in infinite Wisdom; and is making all his Visitations work together for Good. Think of the Rainbow that is around the Throne, and reflect on this Token of the perpetuity of the Covenant of Peace. He who hath ratified this Covenant with his own Blood lives to accomplish its exceedingly great and precious promises. He will give you Strength equal to your Day, and preserve you to his heavenly Kingdom – where your every Tear shall be wiped away, and Death, the last of all our Foes, be swallowed up in Victory.
Think of the Favour and Privilege you so long enjoyed in Union with the dear departed. Let every pleasing Recollection, every Sentiment of Esteem, & every Feeling of Affection, which you fondly and warmly cherish, and every Hope & holy Anticipation in which you indulge, unite in leading you to that Saviour whose Grace made your Husband what he was, that you may resemble his Excellence, and participate in his Joys. In all your mournful yet pleasant Musings on his Character, seek that, while you the more feel your Loss, you may find in the Work and Excellencies of the Redeemer all that can sanctify and satisfy the Soul. In the Enjoyment of Fellowship with heaven you will have a delightful prelibation of that Rest which remaineth for the People of God. – Meanwhile let us cultivate a Spirit of holy Devotion. Dwell on the Words of eternal Life, as the Source of that ineffable Consolation which rouses the Mind above our present Trials, and yields unutterable Bliss in the Prospect of beholding the Glory of the Lord, and participating in his hallowed Joys. He can impart such Views of the heavenly State, as the seat of all that is delightful and glorious, the Abode of the God and Father of the redeemed Family, and of him who loved us and gave himself for us, as shall fill us with Joy and Peace in believing that we may abound in Hope thro’ the Power of the Holy Spirit, and rejoice with a Joy that is unspeakeable and full of Glory. – Thus in the multitude of your Thoughts within you may the Consolations of the Gospel delight your Soul – may you be strengthened with all Might by the Spirit in the inward Man – cherish peaceful Resignation – maintain a placid, unrepining, even a cheerful submission to the Divine Will – and thus adorn the Gospel, glorify our heavenly Father, and your Soul be filled with all the Fulness of God – completely satisfied – having your Fruit unto Holiness, and the End everlasting Life.
You have not been a single Day absent from my Mind since I heard of your Loss. You have a Share in my poor Prayers at the Divine Throne. We may never meet again in this dying World; but there is a World in which there will be no more Death – let us keep that Heaven view– and may we be growing more meet for an abundant Admission into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Your sympathizing and affectionate Friend,
P.S. I should esteem it a Favour and an Honour could you send me some Lines, by our young Friend, M.r Whitaker,[xvii] to inform me how you are supported under this solemn Providence. It would do me good – Remember me as however you have an Audience with the King of Kings. Grace, Mercy, and Peace be with you. Amen, and Amen.
Text: Reeves Collection, Box 19/3/c/ii, Bodleian. Address: Mrs Blatch | Bratton | Wilts. | Obliged by Mr Whitaker; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 8, pp. 199-202. No postmark. Robert Edminson, after his departure from Bratton, eventually settled at Cambridge, living there at the same time that George Whitaker was in attendance at Cambridge and during the latter tenure as vicar at nearby Oakington. Edminson appears frequently in the diaries that follow. Most of the materials that now belong to the Attwater Papers, Saffery/Whitaker Papers, and the Reeves Collection, both at the Angus and the Bodleian Libraries, would pass to Thomas and Sophia Williams Whitaker and other members of the Whitaker family who would occupy the family home in Bratton (‘Yew Trees’), where Marjorie Reeves would eventually discover them.