Rev. J. R. Graves,
Dear Brother! I am much pleased with your Publication movement in Tennessee, my native State. I was born in Sumner county, about 40 or 50 miles above Nashville. Joined a church near Shelbyville, where I perceive your labors were lately crowned by a gracious revival: Commenced preaching in that vicinity, and was ordained in that place on the 27th of April, 1827, (if my memory serves me). But my eye is attracted to the picture of your press before me - "Light, more Light!" Well, I have a little more of my own history to communicate, also, why I love the light that the press exhibits. I hope you will publish it, for I wish to tell every body what the Lord has done for my soul.
I passed through Nashville on the 2d of November, 1831, (my mother was with me,) while under extreme mental suffering; had nearly despaired of the mercy of God; had resolved never to commune at the Lord's table, nor to preach again (unless relieved) which I then expected not in time nor eternity!! But thank God, the next day as I was going on my journey towards Shelbyville, walking along the road, (my mother following and my horse behind me,) reading a little tract published by the American Tract Society, entitled - "The two ends and the two ways." - I was delivered from so great a death! Hell would have been terrible to me after so much light! - Why, you don't hold to falling from grace? No! I would rather believe that ten men were deceived about having saving grace, than that one sheep should perish - because Jesus says, - "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." In that tract I read these words of the Holy Scripture - "The blood of Jesus Christ his son, cleanseth us from all sin." It thrilled my soul with gladness, with pardon, cleansing and peace! - And truly I went on my way rejoicing! And though I trust the work of grace had been begun before, yet I began to live anew, as a brand plucked from eternal burning! And make new inquires - how can I exert my feeble abilities in returns of gratitude for what God has done for my soul? Of course, among the first and one of the most obvious ways of doing good, was to circulate tracts, in honor of this messenger of peace. And therefore, I resolved to do so as long as I live. I have endeavored to fulfil this resolution thus far according to my humble abilities, and the means at my command. Were 1 there, I should be one of your right hand men in your publication career and circulating work! - But it was the word of God itself, that was the main instrument, to which I was chiefly indebted, - "The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it." Psalm: 68: 11. The tract was only one of the publishers, therefore, while I honored the tract, I was not to forget the word of God, hence I formed as strong a resolution to circulate it; and esteem it even a more binding duty. While tracts form a limpid stream that water many a thirsty spot; the word of God - the Scripture, is the fountain itself from which all may drink a full supply!
But again, I thought it was a shame to receive so great a blessing at the hand of the Lord, and not make it known; not tell what the Lord had done for my soul! And to tell it to an individual or two, I did not think sufficient, I wanted to tell it to the whole world, that every body might hope in his mercy! I can hardly think of it now without" weeping for joy! What should I be now, had it not been for the blood of Christ, and the grace, the mercy of God? So I wrote a short narrative of the whole matter from first to last, and published it in "the Christian Index," then published in Philadelphia. I also offered $50 as a premium on the best tract that should be presented on the text - "The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin." I put the matter into the hands of the "American Tract Society," because I was reading one of their tracts when restored. They published my proposition, and sought for a tract, once and again, two or three times; and more than fifty tracts I suppose, first and last, were presented for the prize; but the committee appointed to examine them, thought none worthy of the subject, and consequently awarded the premium to none! And the American Tract Society after making several attempts, with my consent; ultimately reported no tract, and returned the matter to be disposed of by myself! As I was coming away the brethren of the Baptist Tract Society, at Philadelphia, suggested whether it would not be as well lo renew the effort under their management? And so I did, and increased the premium to $100, for the best tract that should be presented. Several were presented, six I believe, two of which were selected and the premium divided. (The $100 have long since been paid.) One of which in particular, written by Rev. W. T. Brantly, D.D., to which my narrative is prefixed. I esteem an exceeding good tract! I have been considering for some time how I should manage to circulate this tract and I feel a considerable partiality, also, for the one entitled - "The two ends and the two ways!" I have just discovered that your $10,000 plan is the very thing! You say - "Each subscriber of $100 paying ten dollars each year, will receive the first year 720 pages; second year 1440 pages; the third year 2160 pages; fourth year 2880 pages; seventh year 5040 pages; the tenth year and each year afterwards 7200 pages. Not a dollar of this fund can ever be expended - until the end of laws and time." This is excellent! I have long wanted to be doing something while living for the glory of God; and afterwards, to continue to do something among men until Jesus comes again, as a special memorial of his blood that cleansed me from all sin! And now, the Lord willing, under your Society's arrangement and with their leave, I will do it as my last effort to do good in 1848. - it lacks but a quarter of 1[?] o'clock at night, when the new year will commence!! So put me down as a subscriber to your $100 plan, or 10,000 plan. And I will send you $20,00 of it now, as I see the payment to have commenced last May. This will pay for last May and next May, 1848, '49. But I suppose you all are as in other Societies, one to give a little direction about the matter. Then here it follows: 1. I wish you, with the consent of those two Societies, the American Tract Society," and the "American Baptist Publication Society," to publish the two tracts referred to, together, affixing "the two ends and the two ways," to "the troubled conscience and peace speaking blood of Christ," - (part 1. By W. T. Brantly, No. 152,) and let them be thus published as one tract forever. Let the whole amount to which I am entitled annually, according to the above proposition, be published in this tract forever, - I mean "until the end of laws and time." 2. Please send me fifty copies annually, (without fail or forgetting) to Canton, as long as I live; and then continue to send them to the Southern Baptist Mission at Canton, earnestly requesting the missionaries to circulate them among the citizens and sailors (without fail or neglect.) - These have helped me several thousand dollars towards procuring my premises and chapel, and I desire to do something for them in return, that will be beneficial and lasting as the favor they have done me, and the cause of my master!
The residue of the tracts to which I am entitled and ever shall be, according to the proposition, I will and bequeath to be circulated freely without fee or reward - in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, in all of which I have resided, and in any other part of the U. States to which the managers of the Society may choose to send them, allowing and requesting them to select the agents annually, who shall for me and in my stead circulate the same! And may the Lord bless the Tracts, causing them to encourage the mentally afflicted, and convict sinners, pointing them to the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, whose blood cleanseth from all sin."
Yours in the gospel of peace.
I. J. ROBERTS
[From Tennesse Baptist, June 7, 1849, p. 2, CD edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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