Dearly beloved parents (all three), brothers and sisters, relations and friends,
I am now at Ballitore, twenty-eight Irish miles from Dublin, and I suppose undoubtedly entered five days into the smallpox; the eruption began yesterday, and is very greatly increased today. I am very agreeably attended by physicians and the kindest of friends. I believe this is, on several accounts, one of the most favorable situations for having this disorder, in the nation, but my physicians are apprehensive that it will not prove the most favorable kind, nor perhaps of the most unfavorable. My distress of body, through extreme difficulty of breathing, &c., has, for a short space of time, been almost equal to anything I can suppose human nature capable of, but (it is now half-past nine at night) this has been a very comfortable day; and just now, and for several hours past, I have been almost as easy as at any time in my life; I think certainly never more so in mind. I feel no kind of alarm; but the issue is certainly very doubtful. I feel easiest to address you in this manner, principally that you may know that my mind enjoys a fullness of that which removes beyond the reach of all sorrow, but I have some other matters also to mention. I made my will very directly after the decease of my much beloved wife; it is now easy to my mind, and I desire it may be faithfully executed. I have steadily desired my dear father Anthony would lend what advisory aid he well can, in regard to the government of my dear children, both in temporals and spirituals. They are placed so that I have been pretty easy, but I could wish them to get a little more learning than some of them are at present in the way of; and although I do not wish much of the world's polish, yet it is at this awful moment my desire, that they may not be brought up with much rusticity; for this, I believe, has not very often contributed either to civil or religious usefulness.
There is scarce anything that makes longer life desirable, but to finish the field of religious labor, which I had hitherto mostly thought was not yet done, especially with regard to digesting my Journal and some other writings. Indeed, it has often felt as if I should probably die in debt to the world, if I did not even make some considerable additions upon some subjects that may have been thought a little peculiar to myself, but which, I still believe, are as strictly in the very life and essence of the gospel, as I believe any truth whatever; there is not the least scruple in my mind about them. I trust I as firmly believe in the divinity of Christ, as any man living; but I have no more belief that there are two divinities, than two Gods. It is altogether clear to my mind, that that one divinity actually became the seed of the woman, and bruised the serpent's head, as early as any man ever witnessed redemption from sin, and is one in the head and all the members, he being like us in all things, except sin. My only hope of eternal salvation is on this ground; nor do I believe there has ever been any other possible way of salvation but that of a real conception and birth of the divinity in man.
It is not now a time to enlarge; there are several sketches of this doctrine in my Journal, and several other very unfinished little essays. On the ocean I wrote over about a quire of paper, which I believe is now in my trunk, at John Elliott's, which I was ever a good deal doubtful whether some parts of it, not particularly upon these points, were not more in a way of abstruse reasoning, than might be best for a Friend to publish. Be that as it may, I am very apprehensive, that most of my writings are far from properly digested, and some of them, I believe, might be a good deal better guarded. Our views of things do not usually open all at once; it is so in the individual, it is so in the world. Things have hitherto been gradually evolving, and it may be consistent with Infinite Wisdom, that such a progression should always continue. At the present day, things are considerably ripening, and I have not the least doubt, that, before a great while, a highway will be opened through kingdoms and nations, where darkness has long reigned, for the publication of the everlasting gospel, in its true life and authority; and as what is revealed in the ear, is in due time to be declared on the housetop, I have little or no doubt, that the true doctrine of Christ will be much better understood than has hitherto been generally the case. I may possibly be restored to contribute my small mite toward it. In this and all things else, I am not sensible of any wish, but that the divine will may be done. I think some parts of my Journal abound too much with a repetition of similar exercises, services, trials, and favors, when on religious visits. In this respect I have steadily had an intention of making very considerable abridgments; several other things also, in the Journal, require a very careful review. I have no wish any thing of mine should appear in print, but from a probability of usefulness. I have thought a considerable part of the Journal might be, in some degree, useful to some minds; but I submit all to the careful inspection, correction, and determination of my friends.
It is almost marvelous how my strength of body and mind holds out to address you in this manner. I may now just mention, that nothing will be knowingly neglected, for my comfort of body or mind, that my physicians or friends can afford; and greater cheerfulness, and even pleasure, in doing all they can, I have not met with among my nearest relations. I pray the Lord, in the riches of his grace, to reward them with flowings of his love. I suppose my love was never in a state of greater enlargement, or less tinctured with selfishness, to all my relations and friends, the world over. My desires for my children's substantial growth in the truth, and strict adherence to all its discoveries, to the close of their days, is by far the principal wish I have for them. Out of the enjoyment of a good degree of this precious inheritance, I know of nothing in this world worth living for. Ye that know it, suffer nothing, I most cordially beseech you, ever to divert your minds from an increasing and fervent pursuit after the fullness of it, even unto the measure of the stature and fullness of Christ. I once more and perhaps for the last time, express my living desires, that my own dear father, (if living) may know much more of an advancement into, and progress in this divine life, before he goes hence to be seen of men no more. It is now eleven, I want rest; whether I shall be able to add further is to me at present unknown; and however it may be, in the fullness and almost unlimited flowings of true gospel love, I am, and trust shall ever remain, in best affection, your sincere relation and friend.
15th of the month, half past 2, afternoon.
The disorder is pretty strongly making its progress; I can scarce get any sleep; my strength fails a little, but I admire at its holding out so well. The pock on the face is, if not quite, very nearly confluent; the face considerably swelled; on the body it is pretty distinct. The physicians speak very encouragingly, I believe in my absence as well as my presence; but were it not that little or no sense seems given me as to the issue, one way or the other, I believe from the symptoms as they are, and from my knowledge of my own constitution, and the very different climate from America, I should pretty strongly look out for dissolution, although my spirits are under little or no depression at all. Perhaps I never saw a time before, when all things not criminal, were so nearly alike to me, in point of any disturbance to the mind. I do not know but that, when awake and capable of contemplation, I nearly rejoice and give thanks in all. When I verge a little towards sleep I am all afloat, from the state of my nerves, and, from the extreme irritation, forced almost immediately, and with very unpleasant sensations, from beginning repose; but through all the soul seems deeply anchored in God. Many and painful have been the probationary exercises of this life to me. Ah! were there probability of strength, how I could enlarge, for my heart seems melted within me, in retrospective view; but all the former conflicts, however grievous in their time, are lighter now than vanity, except as they are clearly seen to have contributed largely to the sanctification of the soul; as they are remembered with awfulness and gratitude before him who has not been wanting, to preserve through them all; and as they seem likely to introduce, either very shortly, or before a very long time, to an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Some have anxiously wished to have their time to live over again; but though some of my early foibles and after deviations, might possibly, on a second trial, be escaped, yet I know not but there is quite as much reason to think a second might fall very short of the first, as in any degree to exceed it. However, I have no kind of self-complacency on account of any good works properly mine. My own works I have long seen the necessity to cease from, and trust, through the grace of God, by which I am what I am, I have been enabled, in some precious degree, to do so. It is the Lord who worketh my works in me, and, magnified be his name forever, he has often worked in me mightily, to my own humbling admiration, and, I trust, at times, to the thankful acknowledgment of many others; and as certainly as he liveth, he would work mightily in many thousands, if they would but let him arise over all in them. Indeed he worketh in all as far as they give way to his arising. This doctrine is to me as clear and certain at this moment as ever it has been, and I have often been constrained to proclaim it to the nations, sometimes with almost invincible authority, and sometimes under a great deal of weakness and obstruction. The last has tended much to keep the creature rightly dependent and humble, and through every dispensation the Leader of Israel has seen best what was best for me.
I may be easiest to mention my choice, that neither of my sons should be encouraged to become a physician, however it may be thought proper to dispose of my books, &c. I believe a little general knowledge of medicine, in possession of most modest and sensible men, who would carefully avoid going out of their depth, and meddling in dangerous cases, might prove very useful to others; but alas! it is too frequently the case, that the most ignorant smatterers in it are the most confident, and the most desperately venturous. I do not say this, from the least scruple, but that my dear boys might be initiated to a very sufficient insight, both into the theory and practice; though I believe settling the theory, with any tolerable certainty, at least in many parts of the business, ever has, perhaps ever will, greatly baffle the sagacity of mortals. The same perhaps may be said in religion: whilst the vital and practical parts are, to the rightly opened and attentive mind, sufficiently accessible. I believe God will, in many other things beside pure spirituals, greatly evince that even his foolishness (understand the expression aright) is infinitely wiser than the wisdom of man; going on still confounding the wisdom of the wise and bringing to nought the understanding of the prudent.
Let my children be engaged in some innocent employments, as much as well may be out of the way of a great deal of temptation, and if I had need to add it, out of the way of very great accumulation; and yet, through industry and perseverance, moderately productive. My very soul abhors the idea that a Christian can ever be at liberty, whilst under the influence of heavenly good, to seek, or even desire much wealth, though this disposition, in direct opposition to the life and doctrines of Christ, has gone far towards the destruction of true spiritual religion, I believe in almost every religious society in the world. Alas! if there is any such thing as the abomination of desolation, it is mournfully seen standing in ours, in almost every part of the countries, where it ought not.
I think I have rather overdone my strength; you may think me very imprudent, but it may ease my own mind; and I am, as before, yours, &c.