Fort Raillee Fla Giving up commission for ministry


Date Written

Sept. 29, 1837

John Rogers Vinton was 36 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Mary Atwell Vinton, was 64 when it was received.

John Rogers Vinton died 9 years, 5 months, 22 days after writing this.
It was written 186 years, 2 months, 9 days ago.
It was a Friday.

Fort Raillee
29 Sept 1837

My dearest Mother,

I was half disappointed not to receive a letter from you by the last mail, even if you had not written more than two lines—for I felt as if I needed the aid of my Mother’s opinion as to the course I have proposed to pursue after venturing on so momentous a step as resigning my commission. Your word of counsel or your mite of encouragement would have relieved my heart of some weight while it was yet irresolute & disturbed with doubt. Perhaps you think I am old enough to decide for myself on all matters so exclusively dependent on my own feelings & resources—and in ordinary cases so I might—but on this peculiar subject of adopting a vocation which none but the most worthy and unexceptionable should ever pressure to follow—I have felt more than ordinary diffidence in my own qualifications—and still more of the opinion which my friends might entertain of my motives & the chance of my success. This latter consideration, the opinion of others,--ought not, you may say, to influence my determination if my conscience plainly & honestly dictates the choice,--but we are all fallible & liable to self deception. Even the voice of conscience is not always free from the bias derived from extrinsic influences,--and [?] alarming it with a little of the fear of worldly consciousness, its self scrutiny might be more rigorous than if the integrity of my motives had never been impugned. At any rate, a communion of thought with one so singly & affectionately devoted to my temporal & eternal interests as a good mother must be, cannot but conduce to some happy conclusions and therefore do I now open my heart thus to you.

My dearest parent
You advise my leaving the army; --My wife desires it also and I am perfectly convinced that I ought to do so if possible. But then to do what? To go into merchandise? I have neither aptitude nor desire for it. To study the law? I dislike the practice of the law; it involves one in all the intricacies of human obliquity, associates him with bad men & bad principles,--it calls upon him to make the worse appear the better cause—it is worldly & prone in the bias of its propensities—and with these aversions, my success may be more than problematical.—What then,--resort to agriculture? This wd compost better with my views & principles of moral action, but I [?] feel conscious of “hiding my light under a bushel”,--of wasting in the retirement of the country, intellectual powers that might be useful in society. I should never feel satisfied with cultivating food for the body;--I should be ever longing to leave my God & my fellow creatures by bringing forth fruits of moral and intellectual culture;--and these earn, not the ephemeral products of a season applicable only to present contingencies, but the enduring harvest of deep moral thoughts, applicable of man’s permanent welfare and promotive of interests that cease not with the present life. These have been my views & feelings for many years past, but I could only express them vaguely because I never could see a way how they may be developed & concentrated so as to effect any practical result. I have often imagined that the ministry offered a sphere exactly suited to this frame of mind but I have as often dismissed the idea, from a sense of my little unworthiness, an awful apprehension that “bade me [?] beware” how I should presume to approach the holy theme; and had no change of heart & of faith been vouch safed me, no consideration would tempt me now to entertain a thought so aspiring. But God in his sovereign grace has not permitted me to view the matter differently. He has, for two years past, applied such various but concurring means for my conversion, and at length crowned them with the inestimable gift of his holy spirit, that I would no longer withhold myself from His public service from any conscientious scruples of incompatibility. My only fears now are on the question of my physical ability and the propriety of the step in the eyes of my friends. You will think these to be very small considerations, and so indeed they are, but still they are worthy of mention. As for my health, it was never better, but I have sometimes thought that public speaking would prostrate it. This however could only be determined only by experiment. If any of my acquaintances should be so illiberal as to suspect me of joining the ministry from interested motives,--as many will—I can clearly satisfy myself by the acquittal of my conscience, and do something to satisfy them by shaming the sacrifice I make lucrative & comfortable office, & respectable [?] [?] a place coveted by thousands & thousands of the first young men in the country,--a place not to be obtained but by great good fortune in the first instance and many long years of arduous service afterwards. This surrender is no trifle. A Lt. Commission is a property for life to the possessor and has a prerogative & potentiality in regard to progressive [?] & emolument, but it is forever forfeited if ever abandoned. In this view of the case I trust even the most captious ought to acquit me of sinister designs. They may say I consult my preferences,--and so I do. I quit the army because it is uncongenial to me and seek that calling which is congenial. Where is the [?] in this? I feel an ardent desire to [?] my Maker, to do His will,-to live for Him, and am willing to abide by all the sacrifices (so called by worldings) which are suppose to be required of the [?] of the [?]. I acknowledge indeed with the deepest humility that I come far, very far, short of that fitness which God requires of his faithful servants but I believe he will visit me with the help of his Divine grace through the might of Jesus his blessed son, that I may “grow in grace” and finally reach the mark of His high calling. He has promised this to those who will come with true faith to drink of the waters of life, and I hope it is not an unpardonable presumption in me to rely on his promise in my own case. It is a blessed hope! Now surprisingly blessed! O’ my dear Mother all the world together, and one a thousand times richer than it is could not tempt me to relinquish one job or title of the joy I feel in this glorious pledge of my salvation. Truth has burst upon on me like a new sun flaming from the sky. The beautiful harmony of the gospel was all set forth in characters of light. Reason put by her captious cavils and cause in with joy to yield herself to the all powerful arguments of the Cross—The heart assumed the surprise the empire and conscience proclaimed the truth from the oracle that the Holy Spirit had enshrined there. That third & most conclusive point [?] of Xy, the experimental proof was now attained,--and its effects were upon me, as they have been described by others—a deeper sense of my own sinfulness but still [?] hope (through Xt) of pardon and acceptance. A keener conviction of my impotency to do God any [?] service , but a feeling more than evil prevalent of a desire & bestow myself to the task; this “Xn Paradox”, as it has been called, I experienced--and thanks be to my adorable Saviour, I have not fallen off but increased ease since in my devotion to the sacred cause. My opportunities here for study & meditation have been as favorable as [?] he desired, and although I have been put off, in my intended visit to you all at home, I have nevertheless lost no time nor means, I hope, in pursuing the great object before me. In this last, as indeed every communication of my life for several years past I perceive a remarkable adaptation of means to ends—that is a remarkable dispensation of God’s blessed providence in guiding and sustaining me in my progress towards the end [?] in view. At no time previously to this could I have left the army. But for the Florida War perhaps I never should have been impelled to Dade—but for the peculiar arrangements of things contingent upon it, perhaps I might not have been brought to my present spiritual frame of mind;--all things seem to have conspired to one object, that of my conversion & perhaps (pray God it may do) my instrumentality is converting others, to the great truths of the Gospel.

Lina I wrote to dear Sueretia, last week, I have had a renewed promise from Gen’l Jessup of going to the north, but not until some of the offes. not absent, shall have arrived,--say the latter part of Oct. He asks why not resign now? Because a month or two will make little difference to my interests at home, but much to my deputation here. My services are just now really required, as is seen by the Gen’l.’s reluctance to let me go and if I should break away in spite of this, to gratify only ourselves at the expense of the pub. Interests. I fear the act would not be approved by those who judge of it after I had gone. I have been in the service many years and would not wish now to leave it with any remaining misimpressions on the minds of offes. or Govt unfavorable to my good name. I shall endeavor to quit Florida by the 25th Oct. if possible, and sometime in Nov. shall hope to see you all my dear ones. I hope you have raised plenty of potatoes this year and are otherwise prepared for a hearty addition to your Mess. Alex advises me to study at La Plaisance, so hawk says, --I have not yet rec’d Alex’s letter. If such a cause is practicable, I should prefer it, because first I am too old to become a fellow Juvenile of the Seminary. 2nd I can be with my family, to aid in the education of my children, 3rd I desire to do all I can by my presence & conversation, to soothe the declining years of the best of Mothers. These all are accessory considerations which if they harmonize with the chief object, may fairly be allowed their due might. Frank’s desire for me to go to [?] is forwarded on his conviction perhaps that there is more to be learned there—But I must postpone this to the other considerations & try to make up for it by harder study. Does it not seem to you that these are proper views of the case? Dear La Plaisance how hallowed will be the place! More remarkable have [?] the fruits of its “moral atmosphere”. Time was when I could not live there six months together—but now I should have an object sufficient to fill all my mind and satisfy all my longings. O’had I the wings of a dove I could fly there now but it is best to mature everything & wait patiently for the fulness of time. But one sad reflection comes to dampen my feelings as I think on the delights of Pomfret—among other joys I have always included that of walking up to dear Maines and have an old fashion chat with him as was my won’t—But all this is now part forever! The beautiful [?] will pass into the hands of strangers. Frances and her sweet little ones will all have gone,--I don’t like to dwell on it!

If I could northward I shall of course go to Frank in N. York and there learn what you wish me to bring. You are Sucr. In the way of household matters. Say a [?] of beef, another of Buchwheat, another of crackers perhaps, etc., etc. Pray send your directions and I will attend them. I should require a room for a “study” all by myself, and with a fireplace in it,--or else to get a stove from N. York—How is the matter of help?—Cannot Frank find somebody in N. York?—But perhaps Jane is growing stronger.

I have reserved a small space for my dear children here.—I hope they are all as good as grandma could desire—always polite and attentive to her and always kind & pleasant to each other. Kiss them for their dear father & say how ardently he wishes to come home to see them. Love to Eleanor& all friends__& may God bless & keep you all in his everlasting arms, pray for yr. [?].

John R.

Scans of Letter