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The following letter was written by the Rev. John Wilcox, on being informed by Mr. Bridgman of the interesting circumstance.
Epsom, Oct. 3, 1809. My dear young friend in Christ,
The first moments of leisure are now come, and I cheerfully devote them to hold converse with you about the most important of all concerns, those of the immortal, never-dying soul. The account you are enabled to give me of God's gracious dealing with you demands my gratitude, and excites my thankfulness; that I, a poor, unworthy minister of Jesus, who do not deserve to be named in the ministry, should have been in the smallest degree instrumental in your conversion, is an additional cause of praise. It cannot but be highly gratifying to me to perceive that your views of the economy of redemption are clear and scriptural, and, I trust, I may confidently say, you have had a better teacher than man. Yes, my dear friend, the Lord appears to have done great things for you already, whereof 1 rejoice, and he will do yet abundantly more, even till his grace has matured you for endless glory. Nor is it a matter of small comfort to me to observe how entirely you ascribe the praise to that Being to whom alone it belongs. I am a great debtor to divine love and mercy, like yourself.
1, like you and all mankind, by nature, knew not God, but was called in his time out of darkness into the marvellous light of his glorious gospel, and commanded to go forth from among my relatives and connections, reproached and persecuted, they of mine own house being my greatest foes, to a distant part of the kingdom, there to teach and to preach Christ crucified. In a mysterious manner I have been brought to London, against my prayers and contrary to my wishes ; but when I hear of such effects being produced by one who has nothing but plainness of speech and integrity of design to recommend him, I take encouragement that I am brought hither for some good purpose. Although your communication cannot but strengthen me, receiving the account of your conversion as I do, to be a voice from Heaven, saying “Go on;" yet I have much additional cause of thankfulness, that I am not puffed up with pride; through great grace, I am enabled to give the honor to whom alone it is due, and join you in ascriptions of lively praise to the God of all power. It should seem from your description, that you were very far gone in the paths of infidelity. I congratulate you, my dear fellow-sinner, that the Lord hath put a bridle in your mouth, and a hook in your nose.
This brings to my memory a circumstance which once took place in my native county. Two gentlemen (my acquaintances) were benighted on their return home; their path led down a prodigiously high
hill; the night was dark as pitch, a calm and still atmosphere, when on a sudden a flash of lightning shewed them that had they taken one step more,-for they were on the verge of the rock,—they must have been dashed in pieces. Now is not this something like your case spiritually? You were going on satisfied with your path, you had got to the brink of the pit, infidelity had led you on in its darkness to the precipice; one step more, and you might have perished eternally: then, in that critical moment, the light of the Holy Spirit flashed on your mind, and you were enabled to see and avoid your danger;-Hallelujah! to him that hath loved you, and snatched you as a brand from the burning. You request my advice as to the future. This may be comprised in a few words: make the law and the gospel your constant subject of reading; never go into the world without previous prayer, for he who does is like a sailor putting to sea without his compass; never retire to bed without a a grateful acknowledgment of God's goodness through the day; these are well known duties, but too frequently neglected, even by professing Christians. Be not high-minded, but fear; fear lest you should be betrayed iuto lukewarmness or false security.
One said, “Thou hast made my mountain so strong, that I shall never be moved,"yet he fell. To guard against backsliding into the world,"remember Lot's wife ; "to preserve you from falling, call to mind the sin and contrition of Peter, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” To encourage you under persecution, frequently think on those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. When you are tempted, look up to Jesus who was tempted in all points, like as we are; and he has directed us to the use of the same weapons, to resist the devil and his wiles--—"It is written.":
When you are in darkness, and have no light, for you must not expect uninterrupted sunshine, then lean on Jesus Christ, have faith on him, and you will go on conquerir.g through his grace, which is sufficient for you, and shall be given in every time of need. Finally, be unwearied in waiting on the Lord, in public and private; let Joshua's resolution be yours ; let your light shine forth ; never be ashamed of your master, but let your actions, like a livery, proclaim whose service you are employed in, and try on all suitable occasions to win souls,
Remember me in your approaches to a throne of mercy, and believe me, my dear fellow-debtor to unmerited love,
Your servant in Christ Jesus,
Mr. Bridgman became afterwards, not only an eminent christian, but an efficient minister of the Gospel. In 1814 he went to Oxford,
and was ordained in 1821. The following letter written by him at that period contains a graphic and interesting description of his early labours. It was written to another clergyman from his first cure in the Forest of Dean :
Near Trinity Church,
April 18, 1821.
An opportunity presenting itself, I embrace it with pleasure, to let you know of my welfare. You have heard, I presume, that I had commenced my ministry, and that, blessed be God, under favorable auspices; I have a pleasant and healthy country, a large commodious church, a crowded and attentive congregation, and several instances of success, and the presence and blessing of God, in my own soul, and on my labours; for all these good things I wish not to be proud, but desire to be thankful. From the first I took my Bible, and my Bible only, into the pulpit, although I was strongly recommended by several to take large notes; and so kind was my Master, whom I wished to serve better by this practice, that I did not hesitate in my whole sermon, nor did my memory fail me; and instead of being daunted at the appearance of a large assembly, I was encouraged the more to declare to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have the cross erected on several prominent parts of the church.-God forbid that the pulpit should be the only place where it is not raised. I seldom preach the terrors of the Lord; or if I do, in each sermon, it is but briefly. I find that a warm and faithful representation of a Saviour's love and pity to poor sinners will much sooner humble them, and it makes me weep tears of joy to behold as I do, every Sunday, the big tear rolling down, or wiped from off the cheek, whilst I am telling them of the tender love and mercy of the great Redeemer ; nor, so far as I can discern, are their affections merely excited by a pathetic recital, to which I make no pretension; but the plain tale of Christ crucified for poor lost sinners reaches their hearts, and tears of gratitude and love testify they not only hear attentively, but believe; and not only . believe, but feel deeply interested in a truth so momentous. Hence I am determined, God being my helper, to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Salvation by Him was my first, and I wish it to be my perpetual, theme.
I began my first sermon with a verse of Dr. Watts, “Salvation! oh! the joyful sound," and it proved so to some on that occasion. My first text was, “Unto you is the word of this salvation sent.” After
the exordium, I shewed–First, their need of salvation ; secondly, the nature of it; thirdly, the author of it: and, lastly, addressed the penitent and the returning prodigal, the confirmed Christian, the aged and the young, and to each I said, as a messenger from God, and as his ambassador,“ To you is the word of this salvation sent;" but to you, careless sinner, I have no pleasing message. Turn ye from your evil ways, humble yourselves before the Almighty, and seek for pardon through the blood of his Son, and then it will be my pleasing province to say, “to you also is the word of this salvation sent."
This is a very brief and imperfect epitome of my first sermon. It was delivered in weakness, and though not with much, with some trembling; but the power and blessing of my Master accompanied it, and some of the people were turned to the Lord. I attend the Sabbathschool about an hour before each service, alternately morning and afternoon.
Last Sunday evening I was not field-preaching, but I was garden and road-side preaching; three rooms opening to each other were crammed, and as the window was opened near where I stood, the people in the garden, fronting the house, could hear me; and how it did delight me to see them stand with open ears and mouths, and I trust hearts too, to receive the engrafted word, which is able to save their souls. It was grateful to my feelings, yet required great grace to keep me humble, to be met on the road a mile before I reached the place, and an hour before service, by several wishing to be further instructed in the things belonging to their eternal peace; and, on my return, although, being heated by the crowd and the exertion, I stayed some time, yet several waited to tell me, in their plain way, that they began to see the necessity and loveliness of religion. Oh! that these assurances of usefulness may not be as the early cloud and the morning dew, but may they be strong and abiding. We have four, and next week shall have five, evening lectures, besides one at the church, which Mr. B. and myself alternately take. We also meet the children of the Forest school, and of Hope Mansel, two evenings in the week ; and from ten till four every day, Saturday excepted, I pay pastoral visits to the sick, the aged, and infirm, who from distance cannot attend the public means; and we call on others who will not, but whom by persuasion we hope to allure, The only time I can depend on for study is an hour after tea—which, as it is late, is our last meal--and before breakfast ; however, I thank God that hitherto I have always been prepared with more than I have had time to say in it. A text strikes my mind with some force,- I write down two or three main divisions, and then preach it over in the forest; for, though the popu
lation is large, they lie scattered in small hamlets at a considerable distance from each other.
Thus, my dear friend, I have at length attained the highest summit of my earthly wishes; namely, a constant habitation in the house of the Lord. I may well say, with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work,” and I feel-oh! that I may always feel—my need of great grace to do it rightly ; I exceedingly require it at this time. The people are affectionately devoted to a faithful ministry, and some of them have expressed themselves in such a way, that I have felt it my duty to say, “Do not, I beseech you, speak well of your minister to his face ;" "pray for him, but do not praise him.”
I was taught, the day after my ordination, that popularity would be dangerous to me. A fellow-candidate went with me to the top of Gloucester Cathedral—it is very lofty--and whilst he could stand firm without holding, and could even put his head between the balustrades, I was so dizzy that if I had not held by an iron, I must have fallen. "Oh! Lord !” I cried, “make me and keep me humble," for
“ He that is down needs fear no fall
He that is low, no pride ;
Have God to be his guide.”
We have very respectable society-respectable because truly devoted to God, as well as in comfortable circumstances. Though a stranger, I have met with the greatest cordiality and kindness, and judge that I have every reason to be truly thankful to God for sending me here. The fields are white to harvest, and if I work whilst it is called to-day, many may be gathered into the Heavenly Garner. In attaining the end, I shall suffer pain, but with divine assistance, shall count it, in this work, sweet to live and sweet to die. I pay particular attention to the young, and personally, and at suitable length, address them from the pulpit, for it must be acknowledged that by far the greater part of sermons are not adapted to the capacity of young persons, and besides, through the craft of Satan, young people imagine that sermons, as well as religion in general, belong to their parents, and to older people, and so arise a listlessness and indifference, and inattention to the subject, even if they could comprehend it, when attended to; but if they are personally addressed with a “Now, my dear children, I have something to say to you,” they open their eyes and listen, wondering what the preacher has to say to them; they hear,"faith comes by hearing," and since I have been here, I have found that to speak to the children is a very likely method to interest the parents; they are