Walnut Street Prison
July 10, 1775
My dear brother Thomas,
I have received your letters and have allowed myself brief interludes of weeping and rejoicing. I cannot express my gratitude to you, my brother, for having gathered my Martha, Sarah, and baby Phinney into your own home. They would certainly have starved as outcasts otherwise. The knowledge that they are safe in the loving arms of your family has helped me endure the sweltering heat of this prison by day and the freezing loneliness at night.
I know you must think your brother a madman to have gotten thrown into prison. Since I stood among the throngs, listening to Whitefield, whom I was certain spoke directly to me, my heart has not ceased to burn within me. Every nerve in my body vibrated at the news that Christís sacrifice tore the veil in two; that I could be reborn and walk with Him in a personal way. How could I not stand in the streets and preach? I am still somewhat in shock that the church fathers would have me thrown into prison for preaching this personal Christ, even as George Whitefield orates to thousands in this same city. Do they not see the outbreak of this message across our nation? Why do they ignore the truth and continue to try and put this glorious possibility under the feet of tradition? It is beyond me. Why would a man want to crawl when he could fly?
There are many reasons to be encouraged. The honorable Benjamin Franklin seems to be a great admirer of Whitefield. Though he has not converted, he prints every word the good minister says.Franklinís papers are so widely read that the message of salvation through Christ as a personal Savior is searing the hearts of many. This freedom in Christ seems to be awakening a deep hunger in America. This era of embracing personal religious freedom is fueling the debate for our freedom as a nation. The fire is unquenchable and inevitable.
Do not think me judgmental of you, my excellent brother, who is a faithful churchgoer, a moral man and generous. You must hear and understand your individual status before God. Have you not read Edwardís sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God? It is too dangerous for you to come here, but I implore you to attend a Whitefield gathering. No one will bother you there. You will see the power of the Holy Spirit. You will see rich and poor, black and white, men and women worshiping together.
I do not ask you to send me anything as my conditions are better than you might imagine. I have further angered the judge and church leaders because so many of the prisoners have converted to Christ. The guards moved me from a very large room full of the most heinous criminals to a tiny cell of my own. Droves of people gather outside my cell window each night to hear me preach. They gather even as I write. The people slip me pen, ink, and paper and promise to mail my letters. They pass me little bits of comfort in the way of food and newspapers. I will undoubtedly be flogged again, but I cannot help myself. The judge has decreed that I will live here until I rot, but I believe that the truth will set me free. Dear brother, I am free already. Indeed, my heart soars to new heights each day as I revel in the forgiveness of my sins, and the unfathomable knowledge that Christ loves Phineas Jones.
Please assure my little family that I will return to them when God wills. I miss them terribly. Your virtuous wife will find my Martha to be a worthy helper in your household. Iím afraid that Sarah would rather read than learn housework, but I am not disappointed. It distresses me to hear that little Phinney cries himself to sleep and calls for me. He is accustomed to our family reading of the scriptures and the singing of Psalms each night. How I would love to gather them into my arms. I express my gratitude and love to you Thomas and pray for you daily.
Your loving brother,
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