PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 27, 1859.
My Friend: You will let me call you so? I want to write you a few words of loving sympathy, though my heart is heavy with grief and sorrow, and the fast-falling tears will scarcely permit me to. Sometimes, when about my work, or in the quiet twilight hour, as I sit and think of you, I see only the glorious cause in which you have toiled and suffered; I remember your heroic self-sacrifices, your noble generosity, your unwavering, unhesitating devotion to the right, and I say to myself: "Ah! it is a fitting close to such a life; it is well he should die a martyr's death; that he should seal his testimony with his blood; that he should obey the apostolic injunction, and 'give his life for the brethren.'" To-day, I have been thinking of you constantly, and with the thought there has been singing through my brain the verse of a hymn learned long ago:
"On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
Thou canst sinile at all thy foes."
"Ah!" I say to myself, "that is true, but it does not contain all; for he weeps and prays for his persecutors." Sometimes, when I have thought of the down-trodden and the oppressed, I have repeated sadly to myself the plaint which seems as if written expressly for them : "Behold, is it nothing to you all, ye that pass by, that I sit alone and weep?" Yes, it was something to one brave, true, manly heart, something which caused him to toil and suffer, and at last lay down his life in their cause. And then, all of these high, brave thoughts fade out, and I think of you sick and suffering, bound and in prison; I think of the scoffs and jeers, the crown of thorns, the bloody sweat, the cross, the agony; I think of the widowed and heart-broken wife, the outlawed, manly sons, alas! alas! the fatherless ones, and my heart swells almost to bursting with its grief. I have gone about for weeks with a soul heavy and sick with sorrow: O, my God! how can I say, "Thy will be done"? I have one earnest, longing wish; that is, to be with you once, if only for a little while—to look at you with my tear-dimmed eyes — to kneel by your side, feel your hand laid in blessing on my head, and then go forth to battle for the right with all the power that is in me. I should carry about that blessing with me forever; for it would be that of one already standing in the light of the Eternal Glory. But this may not be. In its place there is one favor I would ask of you. It is, that you would write me a few words, if only to say, "Be strong;" which would be a strong and sure support to me, which should be with me always, and which I would have them lay upon my pulseless heart at last. Is it asking too much of you? Can you spare me so much of your precious time? And now, my friend, I must say - Farewell. O, how can I? how can I? It comes from a grief-torn and bleeding heart. I have but one consolation that the Heavenly Father, in his infinite mercy, and the Lord Jesus Christ, in tenderest compassion, with his own wounds bleeding afresh, are ever near you to comfort and to bless. And now, at last — Farewell!
A. E. D.
To one very near his rest and reward—John Brown
* A woman from Philadelphia.
SOURCE: James Redpath, Editor, Echoes of Harper’s Ferry, p. 420-1