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p260 [F G Brown(e?)] MY DEAR BROTHER, — I have reserved my answer, which I could not send at once, till I arrived here, as I thought you would be interested as to the Lord's work and the state of things. After leaving Ireland, which I should not have left, so full was the work on my hands, I went to the south of France, to spend a fortnight with the brethren labouring there, our 'Guelph' meeting. Besides the brethren of the locality and neighbourhood, there were seventy one, a few of them young brethren interested in, though not occupied as yet in, the work; the rest, labouring brethren from a large circuit round. We had, I trust, a very profitable fortnight, and the happiest spirit reigned amongst the brethren. We read Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Timothy, Daniel, and the first chapter of John. In the evening, lectures, as there was a great desire to hear in the place; and we had crowded meetings, I trust with blessing and testimony to those around. At Nîmes, a large town, where I thought perhaps from circumstances I might not even have gone, great numbers had to go away. One thing that has brought many to hear is the open infidelity of Protestant clergy, so that while endless questions are raised in the people's minds, serious persons are driven to have truth elsewhere.

But what a change since I was there some twenty-five years ago, just picking up here and there a soul, with a little company in a room to hear, and they uncertain. Where we had the meeting — a large village — there was no meeting, and one or two Christians at most, who have never come, save just to hear. Still I have felt there has not been the power there ought among brethren. Free churches, so called, have been formed, and though unequivocally formed of those who had not courage to break with the world, yet I feel there ought to be power with brethren to gather such, or at least, leave their consciences self-judged. It is poor work to form them on their own ground of semi-worldliness; and that is what the Free church does, but it is an evil, because it quiets their consciences. In these quarters they only subsist in imitating brethren; have the Lord's supper every Lord's day; different brethren break the bread, and there is liberty of ministry. Otherwise they could not subsist; too much light has spread, but all this is hollow work. But I think it is humbling for brethren to have it by them, for I cannot but feel that more spiritual power would have put them in their place. Their minister, for they have one, though he disdains his place as chosen pastor, said honestly before us all (he came several days to the meeting), that he had learned almost everything from brethren, but then such always spoil it: he taught the Lord's coming, but made a strange mess of it — none of them in the church's place; they never can: however, my intercourse with him was fraternal and happy so far. I spoke three times at Nîmes on the Lord's coming, and there was the greatest and increasing attention. I was afterwards at Marseilles and Cannes, the Lord helping and blessing. The brethren in general are getting on happily all round those parts, and in two places, where they had been in a low state, the Lord has put to His hand in blessing. Still in one corner there is need of rousing and an efficient workman. But religiously the whole state of the country is changed: there are fifty Christians for one when I first came, and therewith the National body publicly infidel; so that not merely Christians are at their wits' end, but the government have taken up the question on some petition to the Senate. The Roman Catholics say openly the Protestants are destroying themselves. The doctrine of the Lord's coming has spread everywhere astonishingly: all are aware of that; and the feeling that we are in the last days.

Here God is working evidently, but things are in more confusion than anywhere. An American Christian who, I know not how, supported several labourers, is, I hear, giving the Italians up as hopeless. He wanted to found churches, and they dread the clergy. Then you have the old Vaudois, English committees, the agents of Bethesda, the Wesleyans, all seeking to subvert Popery, and gain proselytes, meddling in the work; but with that not a few devoted men labouring with and for souls; and souls, thank God, won, for He is above all. The Italians who do their own work are after all chiefly followed. One of our brethren, an Italian, is settled here, and there is a little gathering. I came to see them, and have intercourse with some labourers interested in the truth, and who have received the Lord's coming, as indeed a good many of them have. We are to have another Swiss meeting of brethren at Geneva; one or two of them purpose coming there. I cannot speak Italian, so my work is a patient and quiet one, not public, I mean as to preaching; but I understand it, and they understand French, and so we get on — occasionally for a few an interpreter, in the brother with whom I am, and I trust the Lord is with me. It is only a visit. I have not forgotten America: the Lord willing, I shall be there this summer. I admire the Lord's goodness in helping me on even here, when I knew not the language. …

Ever beloved brother, affectionately yours.

Milan, April 5th, 1874.