I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.
This text refers to a Richard Cecil who appears to be a very popular and successful evangelical Anglican clergyman in England in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. If so, his mother was the sister to a Mr Benjamin Grosvenor, author of The Mourner published in 1765. Certainly the tone of the message would support this. Thomas Williams was perhaps this man who shared a business with his brother selling books and maps from a highly respected business in The Strand.
The Design of Affliction.
MANY years ago, a pious and devoted clergyman entered the shop of a prosperous London bookseller, with whom he was on terms of intimate and Christian friendship. He inquired for his friend, and when told that he was at home, but particularly engaged, sent a messenger to him to the effect that he wished for an interview with him, if but for a few minutes. This message being delivered, the clergyman was invited to walk up stairs into the bookseller’s sitting-room. He entered the room, and found his friend sitting by his child’s cot. The child was dying, but with affection strong in death, it had clasped its father’s hand, and was holding it with a convulsive grasp.
” You are a father,” said the afflicted parent, ” or I should not have allowed you to witness such a scene.”
” Thank God, thank God,” fervently exclaimed the minister, as he instinctively comprehended at a glance the situation of his friend, “thank God. He has not forgotten you ! I have been much troubled on your account, my dear sir. I have thought much about you lately. I have been much afraid for you. Things have gone so well with you for so long a time, you have been so prosperous, that I have been almost afraid that God had forgotten you. But I said to myself, surely, God will not forsake such a man as this ; will not suffer him to go on so long in prosperity without some check, some reverse ! And I see he has not. No ; God has not forgotten you.”
These were the sentiments of Richard Cecil, on the design of affliction ; and his friend, Thomas Williams, thankfully and joyfully responded to them. Within three weeks of his death he related the incident as it is related here, and the feeling of his heart was, ” He hath done all things well.”