This letter was written by Deborah Robbins Dickinson of Amherst, Massachusetts (1815-1876). She was the daughter of Hon. John Dickinson and Rebecca Ellis.
Deborah married Rev. Samuel Harris (1814-1899) in 1839. Samuel was the son of Josiah and Lucy (Talbot) Harris. He graduated from Bowdoin Colllege in 1833, and the Theological School at Amherst in 1838, before serving in the pulpit and eventually becoming a professor in the Yale Theological School at New Haven.
Deborah wrote the letter to her aunt, Deborah (Ellis) Robbins (1787-1860), the wife of Walter Robbins (1785-1870) of East Machias, Maine. It is a sympathy letter designed to console her aunt and uncle upon the death of the their eldest child, 10 year-old Amy Robbins (1829-1838).
A brother, John Griffin Dickinson (1813-1848), is mentioned.
Addressed to Mrs. Deborah Robbins, East Machias, Maine
January 3, 1839
My dear Aunt,
Human consolation can avail but little in attempting to soothe the sorrow of a heart afflicted as deeply as yours has been, yet the sympathy of friends is always desirable, whether it be joy or sorrow that calls it forth, and I can assure you that you have my heartfelt sympathy in the loss you have recently sustained. A loss indeed to all our family it is, to be bereft of dear Amy, but her death, from the nature of the case, must have been felt so much more keenly by yourself & Uncle, that i have almost forgotten my private grief in the contemplation of yours. But it becomes us not to dwell on the dark side of the picture. How great the privilege to be allowed to think that what is our loss is gain to her, whose removal from among us, we are called to lament. Let us then turn our thoughts to that world of which we believe she is now an inhabitant. Could we but gain one glimpse of its glories & her happiness, we should feel that we are called to rejoice rather than weep for her, & our only wish would be to be prepared to go to her. And could her voice now reach us from the eternal world, no doubt she would exhort us to work out our salvation rather than consume our precious time in unavailable grief. That you, my dear Aunt, may immediately secure an interest in the Savior, & thus be able to apply to yourself the consolations of religion is my sincere wish, & no doubt it is yours also. You must now feel the need of some source of consolation above what this world can afford, and where will you find it but in God? He alone can fill the void in your heart & be an unfailing portion. He constantly desires happiness of his creatures & all his dealings with them are in mercy; yea, when he doth afflict, it is not willingly, but for the good of the children of men. How has he manifested his love for them in giving his Son to die for them & how does he continually manifest it, by forbearing with sinners who reject his offers of mercy & set at nought the blood of the Lamb! How great the guilt of rejecting such a Savior as is provided for us & do you not, dear Aunt, feel that your past life must appear very useful in the sight of a holy God, if you have never made this Savior your friend; but have resisted all those gracious influences of the Spirit which would lead you to him? If an earthly friend had died to save your life, would you not feel under obligation to love him, but CHrist has died to save your soul which is of more value than a whole world. How have you treated him? I trust you are not indifferent to this subject, but are seeking in earnest the salvation of your soul. You cannot expect religion will come to you without any effort on your part. Christ says, Seek & ye shall find me, & every moment that you delay coming to him, you are incurring guilt & hazarding the interests of your soul. Will you not them come now — guilty, sinful as you are, & throw yourself at the foot of the cross, saying from the heart, “Here Lord, I give myself away. ‘Tis all that I can do?”
It is a solemn thought that though afflictions are designed for our good, yet if we do not use them aright, they will serve to harden us in sin. This makes me particularly solicitous for you now, that you may give your heart to God while his hand is heavy upon you. Then your present light affliction, which seemeth not joyous but grievous, will work out for you a far more exceeding & eternal weight of glory.” and you will have in Christ a friend that will never leave nor forsake you. How good is God that he has spared your life & continued so your time & opportunity for repentance. He has removed from you your beloved child, but he has designs of mercy in this & would have you give to him the homage of your heart.
I know from experience the void that is made in the family circle by the death of a beloved member, & the agony of feeling which will sometimes come upon you, & if it were in my power I would gladly do something to lessen your grief. But vain is the help of man. God is your only refuge. Go to him with all your burthen of sin & sorrow, & humbly implore him to have mercy upon you. He will not cast you off, & with him is infinite fulness to supply all your wants.
Pa informed you that he thought of going to East Machias with Elisa. He has not mentioned it lately & I think it very uncertain whether he goes this winter. John seems better than he did in the fall, & has not caused us any trouble by going from home for several weeks.
Mr. White was in Maine the last time we heard from him. He has received a call to settle in Chesterfield (N. H.) but we do not know whether he will accept. Mother’s health has been comfortably good this winter. Grandpa has left Aunt Amy’s & gone to William’s to live.
If you or Uncle feel like writing any time, we shall be very happy to receive a letter.
Your affectionate niece, — D. R. Dickinson