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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. July 15, 1839)
SEVILLE, PLAZUELA DE LA PILA SECA, No.7,
28 June 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I received your letter of the 22nd May, and likewise Mr. Jackson's of the 5th June, containing the conclusion of the [Annual] Report, which you were so kind as to send me. I wish in the first place to say a few words, which some passages in your communication suggest. Think not I pray you that any observation of yours respecting style, or any peculiarities of expression which I am in the habit of exhibiting in my correspondence, can possibly awaken in me any feeling but that of gratitude, knowing so well as I do the person who offers them, and the motives by which he is influenced. I have reflected on those passages which you were pleased to point out as objectionable, and have nothing to reply further than that I have erred, that I am sorry, and will endeavour to mend, and that moreover I have already prayed for assistance so to do. Allow me however to offer a word not in excuse but in explanation of the expression 'wonderful good fortune' which appeared in a former letter of mine. It is clearly objectionable, and, as you very properly observe, savours of pagan times. But I am sorry to say that I am much in the habit of repeating other people's sayings without weighing their propriety. The saying was not mine: but I heard it in conversation and thoughtlessly repeated it. A few miles from Seville I was telling the courier of the many perilous journeys which I had accomplished in Spain in safety, and for which I thanked the Lord. His reply was: 'La mucha suerte de Usted tambien nos ha acompanado en este viage.'

Your reply to the Trinitarian Society, for I suppose that it was written by you, afforded me the highest satisfaction. I admired its tone and spirit, and said at the time that a more convincing piece of reasoning had never been penned on any subject. The case of Luther and the early Reformers, who were converted from the errors of Popery by the perusal of the Vulgate, the book of the Popish Church, is certainly exceedingly strong; as it at once does away with any argument which may be raised against the propriety of circulating versions made from it. Perhaps it would have been as well to add that the Lollards' Bible, the book which converted England, was a literal translation from the Vulgate and not from the original tongues, which, as is well knows, Wickliffe did not understand. Those who decry the Vulgate should please to remember that, though adopted by the Popish Church, its foundation was laid before Popery existed, and that before criticising a book it is desirable to have read it. There are faults in the Vulgate, indeed far too many; but I believe them to be more the result of infirmity than malice, all the heavy and strong texts most dangerous to the Papal system appearing in it uncurtailed and unmodified. No people dread the Vulgate more than the Papists themselves, which they know to be a terrible two-edged sword which will cut off their hands if they handle it.

I now beg leave to send you an extract of a letter which I received yesterday morning from Madrid. It is from my landlady, who is my agent there, and I consider it to be my duty to communicate it to the Society, as I consider that it speaks volumes as to the state of affairs in the capital and the spirit of enquiry abroad; at the same time I presume not to offer any comment upon it. The rest of the letter treats of indifferent matters.

'The binder has brought me eight Bibles, which he has contrived to make up out of the sheets gnawn by the rats, and which would have been necessary even had they amounted to eight thousand (y era necesario se puvieran vuelto 8000), {422a} because the people are innumerable who come to seek more. Don Santiago has been here with some friends, who insisted upon having a part of them. The Aragonese gentleman has likewise been, he who came before your departure and bespoke twenty-four. He now wants twenty-five. I begged them to take Testaments, but they would not.' {422b}

We go on selling Testaments at Seville in a quiet satisfactory manner. We have just commenced offering the book to the poor. That most remarkable individual, Johannes Chrysostom, the Greek bricklayer, being the agent whom we employ. I confess that we might sell more than we at present do, were we to press the matter; but we are cautious, and moreover our stock of Testaments is waning apace. Two or three ladies of my acquaintance occasionally dispose of some amongst their friends, but they say that they experience some difficulty, the cry for Bibles being great. Dionysius also tells me that for every Testament which he sells he could dispose of with ease fifty Bibles. Within a few weeks I propose to cross the water to Ceuta and Tangiers with part of the books at present in embargo at San Lucar. I shall take the liberty of giving you a full and minute description of the state of those places, the first of which has, I believe, never been visited by any one bearing the Gospel. When I consider the immensity of what remains to be done, even in this inconsiderable portion of the globe, before wretched mortals can be brought to any sense of their lost and fallen state, I invariably lose all hope of anything efficient being accomplished by human means, unless it shall please the Almighty to make of straws and rushes weapons capable of cleaving the adamantine armour of superstition and unbelief.

It is eight o'clock at night, and Johannes Chrysostom has I just arrived from his labour. I have not spoken to him; but I hear him below in the courtyard detailing to Antonio the progress he has made in the last two days. He speaks barbarous Greek, plentifully interlarded with Spanish words; but I gather from his discourse that he has already sold twelve Testaments among his fellow-labourers. I hear copper coin falling on the stones and Antonio, who is not of a very Christian temper, reproving him for not having brought the proceeds of the sale in silver. He now asks for fifteen [Testaments] more, as he says the demand is becoming great, and that he shall have no difficulty in disposing of them in the course of the morrow whilst pursuing his occupations. Antonio goes to fetch them, and he now stands alone by the little marble fountain, singing a wild song, which I believe to be a hymn of his beloved Greek Church. Behold one of the helpers which the Lord has sent me in my Gospel labours on the shores of the Guadalquivir.

Should you wish to transmit to me any part of the Report, I should conceive that you had best direct it to the care of Mr. Brackenbury at Cadiz, on whom I propose to call on my way to Ceuta, etc. As for Cadiz itself, I have no intention of attempting to do any thing there, at least for the present. After a great deal of gloomy and unsettled weather the genuine Andalusian summer has come upon us at last. The brilliancy of the sun and the azure of the heavens are perfectly indescribable. The people here complain sadly of the heat, but as for myself, I luxuriate in it, like the butterflies which hover about the macetas, or flowerpots, in the court. Hoping that you will present my remembrances to Mrs. Brandram, and likewise to all other dear friends, I remain Revd. and dear Sir, yours truly,

GEORGE BORROW.

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