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whom you loved, because he first loved you, be suddenly seized and carried away by a perunitted it, not to gratily Satan, but for gipsy. Poor thing! how terrified, how disyour benefit-to humble and prove you, to tressed must it be! Methinks I hear its show you what is in your heart, and to do cries. The sight and violence of the stranyou good in the issue. These things for the ger, the recollection of its dear parents, the present are not joyous but grievous; yet, in loss of its pleasing home, the dread and unthe end, they yield the peaceable fruits of certainty of what is yet to befal it. Is it not righteousness. In the mean time his eve a wonder that it does not die in agonies? is upon you: he has appointed bounds both But see, help is at hand! the gipsy is pure to the degree and duration of the trial; sued, and the child recovered. Now, my and he does and will afford you such sup- dear madam, permit me to ask you, if this ports, that you shall not be tried beyond were your child, how would you receive it? what you are able to bear. I doubt not Perhaps, when the first transports of your but your conflicts and sorrows, will, in due joy for its safety would permit you, you time, terminate in praise and victory, and might gently chide it for leaving your door. be sanctified to your fuller establishment in But would you disinherit it? Would you the truth.
disown it? Would you deliver it up again I greatly rejoice in the Lord's goodness to the gipsy with your own hands, because to your dying parent. How wisely timed, it had suffered a violence which it could not and how exactly suited, was that affecting withstand, which it abhorred and to which dispensation, to break the force of those sug- its will never consented? And yet what is gestions with which the enemy was aiming the tenderness of a mother, of ten thousand to overwhelm your spirit! He could not mothers, to that which our compassionate stand against such an illustrious demonstra- Saviour bears to every poor soul that has tive attestation, that the doctrines you had been enabled to flee to him for salvation ! embraced were not cunningly devised fables. Let us be far from charging that to him, of He could proceed no farther in that way; which we think we are utterly incapable but he is fruitful in resources. His next ourselves. Take courage, madam; resist attempt, of course, was to fix guilt upon your the devil and he will flee from you. If he conscience, as if you had yourself formed were to tempt you to any thing criminal, and willingly entertained those thoughts, you would start at the thought, and renounce which, indeed, you suffered with extreme it with abhorrence. Do the same when he reluctance and pain. Here likewise I find tempts you to question the Lord's compashe succeeded for a time; but he who broke sion and goodness. But there he imposes the former snare, will deliver you from this upon us with a show of humility, and perlikewise.
suades us that we do well to oppose our un. The dark and dishonourable thoughts of worthiness as a sufficient exception to the God, which I hinted at as belonging to a many express promises of the word. It is natural state, are very different from the said, the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all thoughts of your heart concerning him. You sin : that all manner of sin shall be forgiven do not conceive of him as a hard master, or for his sake; that whosoever cometh to him think you could be more happy in the breach he will in no wise cast him out; and that he than in the observance of his precepts. You is able to save to the uttermost. Beliere do not prefer the world to his favour, or think his word, and Satan shall be found a liar. you can please him, and make amends for If the child had deliberately gone away your sins, by an obedience of your own. with the gipsy, had preferred that wretched These, and such as these are the thoughts way of life, and had refused to return, of the natural heart,—the very reverse of though frequently and tenderly invited yours. One thought, however, I confess home; perhaps a parent's love might, in you have indulged, which is no less disho- time, be too weak to plead for the pardon of nourable to the Lord than uncomfortable to such continued obstinacy. But, indeed, in yourself. You say, “I dare not believe that this manner we have all dealt with the God will not impute to me as sin, the ad- Lord; and yet, whenever we are willing to mission of thoughts which my soul ever ab- return, he is willing to receive us with open horred, and to which my will never consent- arms, and without an upbraiding word, Luke ed.” Nay, you fear lest they should not only xv. 20. 22. Though our sins have been be imputed, but unpardonable. But how can deep-dyed like scarlet and crimson, enor. this be possible! Indeed, I will not call it mous as mountains, and countless as the your thought, it is your temptation. You tell sands, the sum total is only this, Sin has me you have children. Then you will easily abounded: but where sin has abounded, feel a plain illustration, which just now oc- grace has much more abounded. After all, curs to me. Let me suppose a case which has I know the Lord keeps the key of comfort sometimes happened; a child, three or four in his own hands, yet he has commanded us years of age we will say, while playing incau- to attempt comforting one another. I should tiously at a little distance from home, should rejoice to be his instrument of administering
comfort to you. I shall hope to hear from though their reign and dominion is at an end, you soon; and that you will then be able they are not slain or eradicated; their etrects to inform me he has restored to you the will be felt more or less sensibly, as the Lord joys of his salvation. But if not, yet wait is pleased more or less to afford or abate his for him, and you shall not wait in vain.--I gracious influence. When they are kept am, &c.
down, we are no better in ourselves, for they are not kept down by us; but we are very prone to think better of ourselves at
such a time, and therefore, he is pleased to LETTEK III.
permit us at seasons to feel a difference, that
we may never forget how weak and how vile
June - 1777. we are. We cannot absolutely conquer these MY DEAR MADAM,— Temptations may be evils, but it becomes us to be humbled for compared to the wind, which, when it has them; and we are to fight, and strive, and ceased raging from one point, after a short pray against them. Our great duty is to be calm, frouently renews its violence from at his footstool, and to cry to him who has another quarter. The Lord silenced Satan's promised to perform all things for us. Why former assaults against you, but he is per. are we called soldiers, but because we are mitted to try you again in another way. "Be called to a warfare? And how could we of good courage, madam, wait upon the Lord fight, if there were no enemies to resist ! and the present storm shall likewise subside The Lord's soldiers are not merely for show, in good time. You have an infallible pilot, to make an empty parade in a uniform, and and are embarked in a bottom against which to brandish their arms when none but friends the winds and waves cannot prevail. You and spectators are around them. No, we may be tossed about, and think yourself in must stand upon the field of battle; we must apparent jeopardy ; but sink you shall not, face the fiery darts; we must wrestle (which except the promises and faithfulness of God is the closest and most arduous kind of fightcan tail. Upon an attentive consideration of ing) with our foes: nor can we well expect your complaint, it seems to me to amount wholly to escape wounds; but the leaves of only to this, that though the Lord has done the tree of life are provided for our healing. great things for you, he has not yet brought The Captain of our salvation is at hand, and you to a state of independence on hiinsell, leads us on with an assurance, which might nor released you from that impossibility make even a coward bold,—that in the end which all his people feel, of doing any thing we shall be more than conquerors through without him. And is this indeed a matter him who has loved us. of complaint? Is it not every way better, I am ready to think, that some of the senmore for his glory, and more suited to keep timents in your leiters are not properly us mindful of our obligations to him, and in yours, such as you yourself have derived from the event, more for our safety, that we should the scriptures, but rather borrowed from aube reduced to a happy necessity of receiving thors or preachers, whose judgment your hudaily out of his fulness (as the Israelites re- mility has led you to prefer to your own. At ceived the manna,) than to be set up with least, I am sure the scriptures do not authorsomething of a stock of wisdom, power, and ise the conclusion which distresses you, that goodness of our own? Adam was thus fur- if you were a child of God, you should not nished at the beginning with strength to stand; feel such changes and oppositions. Were I yet, mutability being essential to a creature, to define a christian, or rather to describe him he quickly fell and lost all. We, who are at large, I know no text I would choose by nature sinners, are not left to so hazard- sooner, as a ground for the subject, than Gal. ous an experiment. He has himself engaged v. 17. A christian has noble aims, which to keep us, and treasured up all fulness of distinguish him from the bulk of mankind. grace for our support in a Ilead who cannot His leading principles, motives, and desires, lail. Our gracious Saviour will communi- are all supernatural and divine. Could he cate all needful supplies to his members, yet do as he would, there is not a spirit before in such a manner, that they shall feel their the throne should excel him in holiness, love, peed and weakness, and have nothing to and obedience. He would tread in the very boast of from first to last, but his wisdom, footsteps of his Saviour, fill up every moment compassion, and care. We are in no worse in his service, and employ every breath in circumstances than the apostle Paul, who his praise. This he would do, but alas! he though eminent and exemplary in the chris- cannot. Against this desire of the spirit, tian life, found and freely confessed, that he there is a contrary desire and working of a had no sufficiency in himself to think a good corrupt nature, which meets him at every thought. Nor did he wish it otherwise; he turn. He has a beautiful copy set before even gloried in his infirmities, that the power him; he is enamoured with it; and though of Christ might rest upon him. Unbelief, he does not expect to equal it, he writes and a thousand evils, are still in our hearts; carefully after it, and longs to attain to the
nearest possible imitation. But indwelling have made, persons of this habit seem to live sin and Satan continually jog his hand, and more upon the confines of the invisible world, spoil his strokes. You cannot, madam, form if I may so speak, and to be more su
susceptive à right judgment of yourself, except you of impressions from it, than others. That make due allowance for those things which complaint, which, for want of a better name, are not peculiar to yourself, but common to we call lowness of spirits, inay probably afall who have spiritual perception, and are in- ford the enemy some peculiar advantages and deed the inseparable appendages of this mortal occasions of distressing you. The mind then state. If it were not so, why should the perceives objects as through a tinctured me. most spiritual and gracious people be so dium, which gives then a dark and discouready to confess themselves vile and worth- raging appearance; and I believe Satan has less? One eminent branch of our holiness, more influence and address than we are is a sense of shame and humiliation for those aware of in managing the glass. And when evils which are only known to ourselves, and this is not the case at all times, it may be so to him who searches our hearts, joined with occasionally, from sickness, or other circuman acquiescence in Jesus, who is appointed stances. You tell me that you have lately of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, been ill, which, together with your present and redemption. I will venture to assure situation, and the prospect of your approach. you, that though you will possess a more sta- ing hour, may probably have such an effect ble peace, in proportion as the Lord enables as I have hinted. You may be charging you to live more simply upon the blood, yourself with guilt, for what springs from righteousness, and grace of the Mediator, you indisposition, in which you are merely paswill never grow into a better opinion of sive, and which inay be no more properly yourself than you have at present. The sinful than the head-ach, or any of the nearer you are brought to him, the quicker thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to. sense you will have of your continual need | The enemy can take no advantage but what of him, and thereby your admiration of his the Lord permits him; and he will permit power, love, and compassion, will increase him none but what he designs to over-rule likewise from year to year.
for your greater advantage in the end. He I would observe farther, that our spiritual delights in your prosperity; and you should exercises are not a little influenced by our not be in heaviness for an hour, were there constitutional temperament. As you are only not a need-be for it. Notwithstanding your an ideal correspondent, I can but conjecture fears, I have a good hope, that he who you about you upon this head. If your frame is say has helped you in six troubles, will apdelicate, and your nervous system very sen- pear for you in the seventh; that you will sible and tender, I should probably ascribe not die, but live, and declare the works of some of your apprehensions to this cause. It the Lord, and come forth to testify to his is an abstruse subject, and I will not enter praise, that he has turned your mourning into it; but, according to the observations Il into joy.-I am, &c.
TO MISS F
than life, while yet it is in the power of a
mere trifle to turn us aside. The Lord per
October 3, 1778. mits us to feel our weakness, that we may DEAR MADAM,—You would have me tell be sensible of it; for though we are ready, you what are the best means to be used by a in words, to confess that we are weak, we young person, to prevent the world, with all do not so properly know it, till that secret, its opening and ensnaring scenes, from draw- though unallowed dependence we have upon ing the heart aside from God. It is an im- some strength in ourselves, is brought to the portant question ; but I apprehend your own trial, and fails us. To be humble, and like heart will tell you, that you are already pos- a little child, afraid of taking a step alone, sessed of all the information concerning it and so conscious of snares and dangers around which you can well expect from me. I
us, as to cry to him continually to hold us could only attempt to answer it from the Bi- up, that we may be safe, is the sure, the inble, which lies open to you likewise. If fallible, the only secret of walking closely your heart is like mine, it must confess, that with him. when it turns aside from God, it is seldom But how shall we attain this humble frame through ignorance of the proper means or of spirit? It must be, as I said, from real motives which should have kept us near him, and sensible conviction of our weakness and but rather from an evil principle within, vileness, which we cannot learn (at least I which prevails against our better judgment, have not been able to learn it) merely from and renders us unfaithful to light already books or preachers. The providence of God received.
concurs with his Holy Spirit in his merciful I could offer you rules, cautions, and ad- design of making us acquainted with ourvices in abundance; for I find it compara- selves. It is indeed a great mercy to be tively easy to preach to others. But if you preserved from such declensions as might should farther ask me, How you shall effec- fall under the notice of our fellow-creatures; tually reduce them to practice? I feel that but when they can observe nothing of conseI am so deficient, and so much at a loss in quence to object to us, things may be far this matter myself, that I know not well from right with us in the sight of him who what to say to you. Yet something must be judges not only actions, but the thoughts and said.
first motions of the heart. And indeed, In the first place, then, I would observe, could we for a season so cleave to God, as that though it be our bounden duty, and the to find little or nothing in ourselves to be highest privilege we can propose to ourselves, ashamed of, we are such poor creatures, that to have our hearts kept close to the Lord; we should presently grow vain and self-suffiyet we must not expect it absolutely or per- cient, and expose ourselves to the greatest fectly, much less all at once; we shall keep danger of falling. close to him, in proportion as we are solidly There however, means to be observed convinced of the infinite disparity between on our part; and though you know them, I him and the things which would presume to will repeat the principal, because you desire stand in competition with him, and the folly, me. The first is Prayer; and here, above as well as ingratitude, of departing from him. all things, we should pray for humility. It But these points are only to be learned by may be called both the guard of all other experience, and by smarting under a series graces, and the soil in which they grow. of painful disappointments in our expecta- The second, Attention to the scriptures. tions from creatures. Our judgments may Your question is directly answered in Psalm be quickly satisfied, that his favour is better cxix. 9. The precepts are our rule and de20
light, the promises our strength and encou- / was not by counting their wounds, but by ragement: the good recorded of the saints beholding the brazen serpent, the Lord's inis proposed for our encouragement; their stituted means of cure, that the Israelites miscarriages are as land-marks set up to were healed. That was an emblem for our warn us of the rocks and shoals which lie instruction. One great cause of our frein the way of our passage. The study of quent conflicts is, that we have a secret de the whole scheme of gospel-salvation, re- sire to be rich, and it is the Lord's design to specting the person, life, doctrine, death and make us poor; we want to gain an ability of glory of our Redeemer, is appointed to form doing something; and he suits his dispensaour souls to a spiritual and divine taste; and tions, to convince us that we can do nothing: 80 far as this prevails and grows in us, the we want a stock in ourselves, and he would trifles that would draw us from the Lord will have us absolutely dependent upon him. So lose their influence, and appear, divested of far as we are content to be weak, that his the glare with which they strike the senses, power may be magnified in us, so far we mere vanity and nothing. The third grand shall make our enemies know that we are means is, Consideration or Recollection; a strong, though we ourselves shall never be careful regard to those temptations and directly sensible that we are so; only by snares, to which, from our tempers, situa- comparing what we are with the opposition tions, or connections, we are more immedi- we stand against, we may come to a comfortately exposed, and by which we have been able conclusion, that the Lord worketh formerly hindered. "It may be well in the mightily in us, Psal. xli. 11. morning, ere we leave our chambers, to fore If our views are simple, and our desires cast, as far as we are able, the probable cir- towards the Lord, it may be of use to concumstances of the day before us. Yet the sider some of your faults and mine, not as observance of this as well as of every rule the faults of you and me in particular, but as that can be offered, may dwindle into a mere the fault of that depraved nature which is form. However, I trust the Lord, who has common with us to all the Lord's people, and given you a desire to live to him, will be which made Paul groan as feelingly and as your guard and teacher. There is none heartily as we can do. But this considerateacheth like him.-I am, &c.
tion, though true and seriptural, can only be safely applied when the mind is sincerely and in good earnest devoted to the Lord.
There are too many unsound and half proLETTER II.
fessors, who eagerly catch at it as an ex
cuse for those evils they are unwilling to
March — 1779. part with. But I trust I may safely recomDEAR MADAM, -Our experiences pretty mend it to you. This evil nature, this inmuch tally; they may be drawn out into dwelling sin, is a living principle, an active, sheets and quires, but the sum total may be powerful eause; and a cause that is active comprised in a short sentence, “Our life is will necessarily produce an effect. Sin is a warfare.” For our encouragement, the the same thing in believers as in the unregeapostle calls it a good warfare. We are en- nerate: they have indeed a contrary princigaged in a good cause, fight under a good ple of grace, which counteracts and resists Captain, the victory is sure beforehand, and it, which can prevent its outbreakings, but the prize is a crown, a crown of life. Such will not suppress its risings. As grace reconsiderations might make even a coward sists sin, so sin resists grace, Gal. v. 17. The bold. But then we must be content to fight; proper tendency of each is mutually weakand considering the nature, number, situa-ened on both sides; and, between the two, tion, and subtilty of our enemies, we may the poor believer, however blameless and expect sometimes to receive a wound; but exemplary in the sight of men, appears in there is a medicinal tree, the leaves of which his own view the most inconsistent characare always at hand to heal us. We cannot ter under the sun. He can hardly think it be too attentive to the evil which is always is so with others; and, judging of them by working in us, or to the stratagems which what he sees, and of himself by what he feels, are employed against us; yet our attention in lowliness of heart he esteems others better should not be wholly confined to these things. than himself. This proves him to be right, We are to look upwards likewise to him, for it is the will of God concerning him, Phil. who is our head, our life, our strength. One ii. 3. This is the warfare. But it shall not glance of Jesus will convey more effectual always be so Grace shall prevail. The assistance than poring upon our own hearts evil nature is already enervated, and ere for a month. The one is to be done; but the long it will die the death. Jesus will make other should upon no account be omitted. It us more than conquerors.--I am, &c.