This letter was written by Rev. Charles Witmer who was serving (1846-1850) as minister of the St. John’s Lutheran church in Abbotstown, Pennsylvania. Witmer was an 1841 graduate of Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg. The school catalogue gives his hometown as Worthington, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.
Charles Witmer may have been the same Charles Wirt Witmer who was the son of George Enterline Witmore (1798-1876) and Catharine Wirt (1800-1886) of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.
Addressed to Mr. Jacob Roses, Jr., Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
November 8th 1847
Mr. Jacob Roses,
Dear Friend. The apology I have to make for not writing to you sooner is mainly my neglect of that watchword of the wise, that banner of the prudent, today, the golden banner wherewith so match results. Our cares are all today; our joys are all today; and in one word our life is today. Today the busy bee flies forth to fill her forming comb, not waiting for tomorrow. They toil for rest tomorrow. But man is apt to defer the tasks of duty & loves ease today. all of us are anxious to enjoy our hopes for today, & defer our fears for tomorrow. Such has been my lot. When reminded of my promises, I fondly dreamed of tomorrow, little thinking that that tomorrow should be so distant.
When I left you, I had no thought of leaving the city as soon as I did. My intention was to visit some more of the remarkable places in and around the city, to call to see you & spend several days with my friend Mr. Cornell ¹ in Lower Marien. But my hopes were soon gone, when I was called home the same week I left you. Since then, I have been away from my charge for several weeks on a visit to my parents & relatives residing in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, & the rest of the time I have been busily engaged in holding communion seasons, and after all, when a time arrived I could have written, & ought to have done so, there was a disposition of deferring it for tomorrow.
It affords me pleasure to call to mind the pleasant time we had at Germantown. I don’t know of a meeting of Synod since I have been in connection with it, which seemed to pass off so pleasantly, laying aside even the jovial address of Mr. Weiser with his large-hearted folks, which seemed to have created more talk than anything of the kind among the people generally. The kindness of the people will no doubt be long remembered. And had it been possible, we should have wished a longer enjoyment of their hospitalities.
But life has been compared to a strange avenue of trees, & flowers lightsome at the commencement, but darkness to its end. It begins as a little path, edged wit the gayest flowers, but very soon thistles spring in the way and vipers hide among the grass. Soon the road becomes rough with rocks, steep hills, and precipices are in the way. The sun is hot and foliage no longer adorns the trees, and the cold & damp air of autumn heralds the approach of night. “Guardian angels weep that selfishness & sorrow should destroy it, for many live only to breathe & labour.” Death, the lawgiver that never alters, leads his millions captive. A husbandman always reaping, out of season, as a season with the sickle in his hand, to some full of hope, & others full of dread. Of dread, for all have sinned. Of hope for one hath saved. Lo, the believer. The dread is drowned in joy; the hope is filled with immortality. Were it not for this, who would endure the double stroke! Though thorns are strewn in the way, there is hope of seeing them at times turn to beds of roses. We have some reason to be encouraged for there is one who has directed us to ask for good, & hope it, for the good of his provision is ours; to ask for good and have it. Yea, though disappointment should have chilled the heart, He would see us happy. But Alas! how slow to hope for joy! & cease to anticipate misfortune!
How pleasant to commune as friends. With them “condense uponeth the lips, indulgence beameth from the eyes to lead them to think in each other’s hearing.” I am aware that selfishness has adopted it as its motto, to call strange faces friends. Many say they are friends & are not. Certain it is that those hours spent in cementing affection are not lost, for a fried is above gold in value, though many unsusceptible of friendship’s feelings would protest. With such, selfishness has warped the soul. And equally certain is it that those who merit esteem need never lack a friend. “For as thostle down flieth abroad, and casteth its anchor in the soil, so philanthropy yearneth for a heart where it may take root & blossom.” There are few of whom charity hath hoped well, & yet such there are that live for each other. To them the world is a drear & barren scene, save in each other’s communion. Absence with them only strengthens friendship, for their first & last recollections are kindly.
The remnant of my sheet bids me close. How is your father? Communicate to him my cordial prayer for his temporal & spiritual welfare. Remember me also to your sister & the Misses Ammerman & be assured that I shall be rejoiced to hear soon of them & you.
Mr. R., write soon & write much for I am generally more anxious to read long letters than write them. Although this is somewhat of a digression from this rule. Yours &c. — Charles Witmer
¹ Rev. Nathan H. Cornell, of Ghent, New York, graduated in the 1841 Class of Pennsylvania College with Charles Witmer. In the fall of 1844, he accepted the pastorate at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lower Merien, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.