A Minister's Note to His Wife: Benjamin M. Smith

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Benjamin Mosby Smith had reached the beginning of his seventh decade of his life. But his health was poor. His thoughts turned to his wife, Mary Moore Morrison Smith, to whom he had become engaged while on a picnic under the Natural Bridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and to whom he had been married in 1838. The note he wrote her is recorded by his grandson and biographer, Francis R. Flournoy, in Benjamin Mosby Smith, 1811-1893, pp. 118-119.

In July, 1871, Dr. Smith wrote what he called a “Memorandum for My Dear Wife,” which reads as follows.

I am now sixty. My health is not good. I cannot expect in the course of nature to last long. I wish to put on record for a few things.

1 — I desire you to submit with Christian temper to God’s ordering if I am taken from you. Remember your blessings. Be thankful for all of them connected with our union. Do not mourn over those things which have given us trouble. Thank God He has by His restraining grace withheld from us more sorrow than has befallen us.

2 — I do not derive any comfort in view of death, from looking at myself or the recollection of any thing in me heretofore. In a far more literal sense than many use the phrase, “I am a sinner.” My only proper epitaph is “A Sinner.” If of God’s mercy may be added “saved by Grace,” it will be a most remarkable trophy of that Grace. I have been a communicant in the church for forty years and “My leanness, my leanness!” has ever been my lament.

While there is nothing in myself to encourage me, I can truly say I have for several years felt more and more my need of a Saviour — a complete, sole Saviour and I can and do now and then, find comfort in a simple resting on an all sufficient sacrifice, an all teaching Prophet, and an all interceding and ever prevalent mediator and an almighty King. This is all my Hope. I say not there is comfort in the past nor do I rest on my resolutions or endeavours for the future but my sole rest is in Christ’s finished work and in His daily hourly supply of grace. I have no raptures nor deep mournings or repentings on which to rest and would not rest on them if I had. Christ is all. If He rejects, I am rejected — if He accepts all is well. His infinite love encourages my trust while my infinite demerit discourages me and I fall back on a simple implicit unqualified trust. In that I daily seek to live and trust to die…

“The meek will He guide in the judgment, the meek will He teach his way.” “Trust in the Lord and do good.” “Blessed are all they who put their trust in the King in Zion.” May the God of the widow and the fatherless be the God of those I love, for whom I have laboured and to whom my heart will ever turn with ineffable fondness…

The apprehension of his approaching end, however, proved groundless. His health improved, and his busy, useful life was prolonged until his eighty-second year.

The mortal remains of both husband and wife today reside in the Union Theological Seminary Cemetery at Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, where they await the glorious return of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This little note provides a snapshot of the faith, hope and charity (love) of a man towards his wife that may be an encouragement to husbands and wives today. Flournoy’s biography of B.M. Smith is a valuable read about the life of this Southern Presbyterian worthy and one can purchase a copy through our secondary sources bookstore page here.