14 August 1818: A Letter from Gaspe

This letter from a Methodist preacher in Canada is taken from the Magasin Méthodiste of 1818. This French-language publication, intended primarily for Channel Island consumption, was produced at the instigation and probably the expense of the indefatigable Methodist pioneer, Jean de Queteville. The Priaulx Library may be unique in holding a complete run of the magazine, which contains original articles in French and translations of contributions from the English monthly, Methodist Magazine.

Taken from a letter written by N. Lenfestey, Preacher at Gaspé, 14 August 1818.

Dear brothers, family, and friends in Guernsey; blessed be the Lord, we are in good health; we have all we need, and when it comes to work, our hands are full, man, woman, and children. Our boats have had good fishing; we can say that God blesses our undertakings.

As for the spiritual, we are not seeing a great amount of fruit from our labours, but are waiting in God’s good time, and for the right season. We can rejoice in that our small Society has grown a little. We were here a year with no apparent alteration in the spiritual; but, thanks be to God, we are witnessing a little this summer. While the Word of God had not entered men’s hearts, everything was quiet; but once some people were convinced of the sin in their souls, hatred and contempt became our lot; persecution came from all sides. People told all sorts of lies about us. One of our workers told me one day that he had never heard more bad things said about any man as he had about me; but, says he, I know perfectly well that it is because of religion. Well then, I replied, that is the Lord’s promise; he also suffered hatred and contempt, and all those who follow him in the truth will also be persecuted.

I went on a short trip last winter, and I met an old Guernseyman, two miles from here, who asked me into his house; as he is a man who often reads his Liturgy, I began a discussion with him about the Scriptures, trying to get him to feel the need for renewal; but he found it totally incomprehensible. The following Sunday, in one of my addresses, talking about the state of ignorance in which all men by nature are, even those who read the Word of God, I said that I had met an old man during the week who could not understand anything about New Birth; he was not present at the meeting, but they made sure he heard about what I had preached, even though I had not mentioned his name. One morning he turned up at our house, angry as a bull, and made awful threats, and told me he would kill me if I preached about him again. Another man threatened that he would break our necks if I preached about him. One Sunday I preached about the promise that the Lord makes to those who are calumnied, for his sake, and for the sake of his Gospel, and how they should rejoice because of it; which I did to support the persecuted and to make others understand that they are wrong to reproach us; I remarked that people were saying plenty of untrue things about us. The man who had threatened us was not present, but his friends told him. He came and said to me that I had preached about him. I replied that I had preached the Gospel, and that I should therefore be preaching the promises and threats of the Lord; that this was my duty, and I should hope not to flatter anyone.

I have gone through a lot this summer, seeing how the people here profane Sunday, and all the work they do on that day, which is quite unnecessary. I have often preached against this, showing them the awful judgments of God on those who disdain him; people who profane the day of rest, and who violate his laws. I can truly say that the Lord has given me powerful support. This profanation hurts those amongst us who have even a spark of life in their soul. The reason I am giving you some indication of our present state is to urge you to praise the Lord, and to offer your ardent prayers to the throne of grace for us, so that the God of all the earth sustains us in our battles.....I bless the Lord—firstly for those of my family that he has visited with his grace and favoured with his love: our three daughters are in Class. Thomas Kinsela, of the Câtel, is here too; he has felt the weight of his sins, and God now gives him the grace to rejoice in His peace. Thomas Cloph’s [Clough's?] wife, and Nicolas de la Rue have joined us too. Our friend Rachel de Garis is a mainstay in the Lord’s battle.

It is a cause for joy and thanks to God to learn from this letter that our brother Lenfestey, a local preacher, who felt himself called by the Lord to go to Gaspé, primarily to preach the Gospel, is so much accompanied by his blessing and favoured by his aid that he has already brought six souls back from their wanderings; that there are nine in Christian society, and that the Gospel of salvation is revealed in this desert, by a true disciple who, with his little flock, gaily bears his cross. Let us pray, my brothers, let us pray to the Eternal, that his persecutors be converted, and all those amongst whom he lives.