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[Benjamin Franklin] B[utler] to Harriet Allen, 9 July [1817]

My own Dear Harriet, 

I have no doubt that you are ready to give me a severe scolding for my long silence, and I am almost willing to confess that I deserve it. Business must be my apology, & if possible, my excuse. I reached Albany on Saturday about 11 almost exhausted by the fatigue of travelling in a bad conveyance under a hot Sun. On Monday I intended to write you but I found as I generally do after an absence for any time from the office, so much to attend to before my departure for Troy, that I could not spare a moment for you. It was peculiarly fortunate for my concerns that I returned on Saturday, for some business came in rather unexpectedly which occupied the whole of Monday. Yesterday I came here, and till this moment have been overwhelmed with vexatious & laborious duties. I regret most sincerely that I ever consented to come, and I believe I was only induced to accept the appointment by my vanity & a desire of figuring off before the citizens of Troy. But I shall be pretty well punished, for I shall have a great deal of hard work to do, and gain but little credit, by my displays. Oh Harriet what a corrupt & abandoned world do we belong to. It is only by examining the annals of criminal history & by investigating the conduct of those who render themselves obnoxious to the laws of their country, that one becomes aware of the awful depravity of man. I am here as a public prosecutor. I have as yet tried no one, but I have listened to the exposure of crime till my heart has become sickened & disgusted. And yet how little remorse, abhorrence & disgust do I feel for my own crimes. I am only dealing with offences committed against the peace of society, & the persons or the property of individuals, but how much more aggravated are those which are committed against the majesty of Heaven, & which unexpiated must consign us to regions of misery forever. My dear Harriet, I am solemnly impressed with the truth of the observations you made to me in your billet on Saturday. I have as yet obtained no interest in Christ, and the convictions which I experienced must be seriously attended to, or they will soon be forgotten. I feel myself yet under the wrath of God, and yet under condemnation. On Sunday I heard two very fine sermons from Mr. Chester, which strengthened & consoled me, though they served more & more to convince me of the enormity of my sins & the wickedness of my heart. Sometimes I think it impossible for me ever to procure a glimmering of that light which beams from the "reconciled countenance" of a forgiving God, or to obtain relief from "the body of" that sin by which I am weighed down to the dust. Yet the promises of scripture & the experience of the Saints, convinces me of the goodness & the mercy of God, and animates & supports me in the darkest moments. I know that if I only go to him, with penitence & humility, confessing my sins with sincere contrition, and desiring to give myself up entirely to him, to live for his glory & to "spend & be spent" in his service, that he will have mercy & will strengthen me to the task. But I fear that as yet I have not gone to him in this way, that I do not feel the penitence I should feel for my sins, that I am not humbled in the dust before him, that I have too much self dependence, too much pride, too much love of the world, and am altogether too much subjected to the dominion of Satan. I know indeed that it is so. I do not love God as I wish to, I pray constantly for a "pure heart & a clean spirit" within me, but it is yet the seat of every species of corruption, I desire to forget the world & to live only for him, and still I am so wedded to the world that I never can lose sight of it. Oh who shall "deliver me, wretched man that I am from the body of his death" from the "sins that so easily beset me." I hope that you are fervent & diligent in prayer, that you have continued to read the word of life, & so unite in the devotions of Mr. S. & I fondly hope too that these means of grace have been <blessed> to your ^the^ establishment of your faith & the comfort & edification of your soul. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties you have met with, for remember, that they are always to continue. The life of a Christian is a perpetual warfare, an unending conflict with the world, his evil passions & the powers of Hell, and he can neither expect nor hope for happiness in this world. When I feel most discouraged I reflect on the lifes of the prophets and saints of old and on the experience of every sincere worshipper of Christ, and from the difficulties they experienced & the sins by which they at all times felt themselves burdened, I derive this consolation, that I am not the only person who has wished to give himself up to the love & service of God, and felt himself overpowered and restrained by the multitude of his iniquities & the indifference & depravity of his heart. And though sometimes like Paul you may be caught up to the Heaven & enjoy much of the presence & favour of God, yet those blessed moments can seldom be enjoyed in this life, and we must expect to suffer ^tribulation^ here that we obtain the greater blessings hereafter. If you do not feel the same encouragement & the same peace of mind that some of your acquaintances experience, you must not from that alone distrust the sincerity of your convictions. Nor permit yourself to despair, continue to pray with earnestness & to hope in the mercy of God. We are both in the same condition, poor miserable & helpless sinners, we have the same Saviour to go to, the same Hell to shun, the same Heaven to obtain, oh may we then persevere, may we never look back, may ^we^ strive diligently, & may our hearts be reformed & changed by the influence of the spirit, and our sins pardoned & blotted out by the grace & through the merits of our Redeemer.

In haste 

Yours

B. 

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Source: N New York State Library
Collection: Benjamin Franklin Butler Papers (N)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)