W-MCP5-6.257 TO ISAAC MCQUESTEN from Goodwin Gibson [friend]
Oct 24 1871
To: Isaac Baldwin McQuesten c/o W. Proudfoot, Hamilton, Ontario
From: Montreal, Quebec
My Dear Ike,
I got your last letter all right and was highly pleased with the contents. I wish you joy, old boy, with all my heart. May the days of Isaac and his beloved Rebekah1 be long and happy on the Earth! For me however, though a sender of pink-coloured missives mapped around sun-resemblances of me, manly, beautiful as to my limbs and shaggy beard--for me, I say, no maiden loads the air with balmy sighs or amorous vows. What then? Have I not male friends--many and valiant all of them, but especially thou, O Isaac, son of Calvin, he's a man, obstinate, surly and a raiser of false hopes with regard to Pears, which never, indeed, shall I bury my milk white teeth in, but then murky Hades and the stomachs of Hamiltonians contain xxxxxxxxx! I should have been a Prima Donna.
A truce to this nonsense. I have something more important to write to you about--something which I have been intending to write to you about for a good many days now, but have not found time for. I told you, I think, in a former letter, that my old prejudices against entering the ministry had to a great extent vanished, and that I was considering more seriously than before the question of Religion. You may wonder what it was that led me to view these matters in a more Earnest way than ever before, and now know of no answer but this. It was the merciful providence of God in showing me those truths of which you know, and thus waking me from the selfish dream of years, and enabling me to judge more clearly concerning the importance of things temporal as compared to the things Eternal. I can not tell when I first became conscious of the change that was working in me but this, I am sure of that the occasion of it was my trouble and anxiety which I had in no small measure, I can assure you, about that High School business. I felt as if I had never known before what real trouble was.
The nights of the 8th September when I first had to own to myself that I must give up, and of the 12th when I mustered up my courage to tell John, were the darkest that I had ever known, that I may ever know. I don't know whether you can at all enter into my feelings in the circumstances but I assure you that I felt something very like despair and that I who entertained the notion of leaving Canada by stealth and letting the school matter arrange itself. I thank God that I did no such foolish thing, but took the only course worthy of a man--told John all about it and faced the thing out. It was hard to do, and the whole thing was hard to bear at the time, but I have been repaid a thousand fold for anything that I have suffered or that I may have lost.
I hope Isaac, that I would by no means confidently assert, that I have gained some faith in Christ some love towards him and some desire to live for his service. Shadows of unbelief cast by those accursed books which I have read still trouble my mind, but this I think I can say with truth. I look upon faith in Christ as the one bright spot in this strange dark world, and upon His service as the one thing worth living for. The Bible has been to me the most interesting of all books, and I look with amazement on the blindness and selfishness of my whole past life which have kept me from seeing its beauties, and caused me to place my highest good in pleasures and ambitions, always earthly and often positively sinful. Still, very much is dark and doubtful to me, but I trust that I have some faint light and I do pray earnestly that I may obtain more. As to my walk in life, I have chosen that. It is my final resolution, if God should spare me and enable me to feel justified in so doing to devote my life to the foreign mission work, in China or some other heathen country, and I can say in all sincerity, Isaac, I pray that it may be my happy lot to live and die as an "ambassador for Christ."
Now Isaac! I know that you at least will not laugh at me, as having become a fanatic or a Methodist or a canter or ranter or anything of that sort. And I hope that you will receive what I say in the spirit in which it is meant, when I express the hope that you have already made some peace with God through Christ, and that if you have not yet done so, you will lose not a moment in striving to "make your calling and election sure," and this, not only for the sake of your safety but also for the sake of your happiness. Even with my poor, wavering, imperfect faith, if faith it be, I can assure you in all honesty that I enjoy a happiness I never knew before, and never former any idea of.
One great reason why I have not written before is that my time is so much taken up just now. I teach all the morning or nearly so, the afternoon I take up with lectures and exercise, and nearly every evening is lost in some way or the other, so that I have very little time for writing or anything else.
John has, as you may well believe, been a most useful and sympathizing counselor in all the inward and outward changes that have been going on in myself and my circumstances during the last few weeks. It is a grand thing to have a brother such he is. He fully approves of my desire to go into the mission work. I hope you won't speak of it at all in Hamilton, as I would not wish to spread it about, though several persons know of it in Montreal.
I was glad to hear that your father was gaining again. I hope the improvement continues. I saw the account of the games in the "globe" the other day. How it brought back old times! Your criticism on Husby is I think exceedingly just. Now Ike, I must dry up for bedtime fast approaches. Goodnight to you old boy, from your affectionate friend
1 The writer is referring to the engagement of Isaac McQuesten and Mary Baker. The reference to Isaac and Rebekah is an Old Testament allusion. See W-MCP5-6.256 for some details of the engagement, which had been broken for a year.