Page images

and do we, can wc, think much to bear with in the study of them. These are the peculiar each other for his sake? Have we all a full characteristics of a disciple of Jesus; they remission of ten thousand talents, which we are the richest part of the enjoyments of owed him, and were utterly unable to pay, heaven; and so far as they are received into and do we wrangle amongst ourselves for a the heart, they bring down heaven upon few pence? God forbid !

earth; and they are more inseparably conIf you should be numbered among the re- nected between themselves than some of us gular Independents, I advise you not to of- are aware of. The longer I live, the more fend any of them by unnecessary singulari- I see of the vanity and the sinfulness of our ties. I wish you not to part with any truth, unchristian disputes; they eat up the very or with any thing really expedient; but if vitals of religion. Í grieve to think how the omitting any thing of an indifferent na- often I have lost my time and my temper ture will obviate prejudices, and increase a that way, in presuming to regulate the vinemutual confidence, why should not so easy yards of others, when I have neglected my a sacrifice be made? `Above all, my dear own; when the beam in my own eye has so friend, let us keep close to the Lord in a way contracted my sight, that I could discern noof prayer: he giveth wisdom that is profita- thing but the mote in my neighbour's. I ble to direct; he is the Wonderful Coun- am now desirous to choose a better part. sellor; there is no teacher like him. Why Could I speak the publican's word with a do the living seek to the dead? Why do we proper feeling, I wish not for the tongue of weary our friends and ourselves in running men or angels to fight about notions or sentiup and down, and turning over books for ad- ments. I allow that every branch of gospelvice! If we shut our eyes upon the world truth is precious, that errors are abounding, and worldly things, and raise our thoughts and that it is our duty to bear an honest tesupwards in humility and silence, should we timony to what the Lord has enabled us to not often hear the secret voice of the Spirit find comfort in, and to instruct with meekof God whispering to our hearts, and pointing ness such as are willing to be instructed ; out to us the way of truth and peace! Have but I cannot see it my duty, nay, I believe we not often gone astray, and hurt either it would be my sin, to attempt to beat my ourselves or our brethren, for want of attend- notions into other people's heads. Too often ing to this divine instruction ? Ilave we not | I have attempted it in time past; but now I sometimes mocked God, by pretending to ask | judge, that both my zeal and my weapons direction from him, when we had fixed our were carnal. When our dear Lord questioned determination beforehand! It is a great Peter, after his fall and recovery, he said blessing to know that we are sincere; and not, Art thou wise, learned, and eloquent? next to this, to be convinced of our insin- Nay, he said not, Art thou clear, and sound, cerity, and to pray against it.—I am, &c. and orthodox? But this only, “Lovest thou

me?" An answer to this was sufficient then; why not now? Any other answer, we may

believe, would have been insufficient then. If LETTER III.

Peter had made the most pompous confession

of his faith and sentiments, still the first November 21, 1757. question would have recurred, “ Lovest thou Dear Sir,—Can you forgive so negligent me?" This is a scripture precedent. Happy a correspondent? I am indeed ashamed; but the preacher, whoever he be, my heart and (if that is any good excuse) I use you no my prayers are with him, who can honestly worse than my other friends. Whenever I and steadily appropriate Peter's answer. write, I am obliged to begin with an apology; Such a man I say, I am ready to hear, though for, what with business and the incidental he should be as much mistaken in some duties of every day, my time is always mort- points as Peter afterwards appears to have gaged before it comes into my hands, especi- been in others. What a pity is it, that ally as I have so little skill in redeeming and christians in succeeding ages should think improving it. I long to hear from you, and the constraining force of the love of Christ I long to see you; and indeed, from the terms too weak, and suppose the end better anof yours, I expected you here before this; swered by forms, subscriptions, and questions which has been partly a cause of my delay. of their own devising! I cannot acquit even I have mislaid your letter, and cannot re- those churches who judge themselves nearmember the particulars; in general, I re-est the primitive rule in this respect: alas! member you were well, and going on com- will-worship and presumption may creep into fortably in your work; which was matter of the best external forms. But the misforjoy to me; and my poor prayers are for you, tune both in churches and private christians that the Lord may own and prosper you more is, that we are too prone rather to compare and more. The two great points we are ourselves with others, than to judge by the called to pursue in this sinful divided world, scriptures; and while each can see that they are peace and holiness; I hope you are much give not into the errors and mistakes of the



opposite party, both are ready to conclude stream raises carth to heaven, and brings that they are right: and thus it happens, that down heaven upon earth. Nor is it a founan attachment to a supposed gospel-order tain only; it is a universal blessing, and as will recommend a màn sooner and farther to sumes a variety of shapes to suit itself to our some churches, than an eminency of gospel- wants. It is a sun, a shield, a garment, a practice. I hope you will beware of such a shade, a banner, a refuge: it is bread, the spirit, whenever you publicly assume the In- true bread, the very staff of life: it is life itdependent character; this, like a worm at self, immortal, eternal life! the root, has nipt the graces, and hindered the usefulness of many a valuable man; and

The cross of Jesus Christ my Lord,

Is food and med'eine, shield and sword. those who change sides and opinions are the most liable to it. For the pride of our heart Take that for your motto; wear it in your insensibly prompts us to cast about far and heart; keep it in your eye: have it often in near for arguments to justify our own beha- your mouth till you can find something better. viour, and makes us too ready to hold the The cross of Christ is the tree of life and opinions we have taken up to the very ex- the tree of knowledge combined. Blessed be treme, that those amongst whom we are God, there is neither prohibition nor flaming newly come may not suspect our sincerity. sword to keep us back; but it stands like a In a word, let us endeavour to keep close to tree by the highway-side, which affords its God, to be much in prayer, to watch care- shade to every passenger without distinction. fully over our hearts, and leave the busy Watch and pray. We live in a sifting time; warm spirits to make the best of their work. error gains ground every day. May the name The secret of the Lord is with them that and love of our Saviour Jesus keep us and all fear him, and that wait on him continually; his people. Either write or come very soon to these he will show his covenant, not no-to-Yours, &c. tionally, but experimentally. A few minutes of the Spirit's teaching will furnish us with more real useful knowledge, than toiling through whole folios of commentators and

LETTER V. expositors. They are useful in their places, and are not to be undervalued by those who can

November 15, 1760. perhaps in general do better without them; DEAR SIR,— If your visit should be delayed, but it will be our wisdom to deal less with let me have a letter. I want either good the streams, and be more close in applying news or good advice; to hear that your soul to the fountain head. The scripture itself

, prospers, or to receive something that may and the Spirit of God, are the best and the quicken my own. The apostle says, “ Ye only sufficient expositors of scripture. What- know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ :" ever men have valuable in their writings, alas! we know how to say something about they got it from hence; and the way is as it, but how faint and feeble are our real peropen to us as to any of them. There is no- ceptions of it! Our love to him is the proof thing required but a teachable humble spirit; and measure of what we know of his love to and learning, as it is commonly called, is not us. Surely then we are mere children in necessary in order to this. I commend you this kind of knowledge, and every other kind to the grace of God, and remain-Yours, &c. is vain. What should we think of a man

who should neglect his business, family, and all the comforts of life, that he might study

the Chinese language; though he knows beLETTER IV.

forehand he should never be able to attain

it, nur ever find occasion or opportunity to

Jan. 10, 1760. use it? The pursuit of every branch of DEAR SIR, I have procured Cennick's knowledge that is not closely connected sermons; they are, in my judgment, sound with the one thing needful, is no less ridiand sweet. ( that you and I had a double culous. portion of that spirit and unction which is in You know something of our friend Mrs. them. Come, let us not despair; the foun- B-She has been more than a month tain is as full and as free as ever;-precious confined to her bed, and I believe her next fountain, ever flowing with blood and water, remove will be to her coffin. The Lord has milk and wine. This is the stream that done great things for her. Though she has heals the wounded, refreshes the weary, sa- been a serious exemplary person all her life, tisfies the hungry, strengthens the weak, and when the prospect of death presented, she beconfirms the strong; it opens the eyes of the gan to cry out earnestly, “What shall I do blind, softens the heart of stone, teaches the to be saved ?" But her solicitude is at an end; dumb to sing, and enables the lame and she has seen the salvation of God, and now for paralytic to walk, to leap, to run, to fly, to the most part rejoices in something more than mount up with cagles' wings: a taste of this I hope. This you will account good news, I

am sure. Let it be your encouragement and feeling in their distresses. For the like mine, The Lord's arm is not shortened, nor reason, he appoints bis ministers to be sorely is his presence removed; he is near us still, exercised both from without and within, that though we perceive him not. May he guide they may sympathize with their flock, and you with his eye in all your public and pri- know in their own hearts the deceitfulness vate concerns, and may he in particular bless of sin, the infirmities of the flesh, and the our communications to our mutual advantage. way in which the Lord supports and bears I am, &c.

with all that trust him. Therefore be not discouraged; usefulness and trials, comforts and crosses, strength and exercise, go to

gether. But remember he has said, "I will LETTER VI.

never leave thee nor forsake thee; be thou

faithful unto death, and I will give thee a

July 29, 1761. crown of life.” When you get to heaven, DEAR sir,—Are the quarrels made up? you will not complain of the way by which Tell those who know what communion with the Lord brought you. Farewell. Pray for Jesus is worth, that they will never be able us.-Yours, &c. to maintain it, if they give way to the workings of pride, jealousy, and anger. This will provoke the Lord to leave them dry, to command the clouds of his grace that they rain no

LETTER VII. rain upon them. These things are sure signs of a low frame, and a sure way to keep it so.

Dec. 14, 1761. Could they be prevailed upon, from a sense DEAR SIR, -I pray the Lord to accompany of the pardoning love of God to their own you; but cannot help fearing you go on too souls, to forgive each other, as the Lord for- fast. If you have not (as I am sure you gives us, freely, fully, without condition and ought not) made an absolute promise, but without reserve, they would find this like only conditional, you need not be so solicitbreaking down a stone wall, which has hither- ous; depend upon it, when the Lord is pleasto shut up their prayers from the Lord's ears, ed to remove you, he will send one to supply and shut out his blessing from filling their your place. I am grieved that your mind is hearts. Tell them, I hope to hear that all so set upon a step, which, I fear, will occaanimosities, little and big, are buried by mu- sion many inconveniences to a people who tual consent, in the Redeemer's grave. Alas! have deserved your best regard. Others the people of God have enemies enough: may speak you fairer, but none wishes you Why, then, will they weaken their own better than myself; therefore I hope you alhands? Why will they help their enemies low me to speak my mind plainly, and be to pull down the Lord's work? Why will lieve that it is no pleasure to me to oppose they grieve those that wish them well, cause your inclinations. As to your saying they the weak to stumble, the wicked to rejoice, will take no denial, it has no weight with and bring a reproach upon their holy profes- me. Had they asked what you were exsion? Indeed, this is no light matter; I ceedingly averse to, you would soon have exwish it may not lead them to something pressed yourself so as to convince them it worse; I wish they may be wise in time, was to no purpose to urge you ; but they lest Satan gains further advantage over saw something in your manner or language them, and draw them to something that shall that encouraged them; they saw the propomake them (as David did) roar under the sal was agreeable to you, that you were not pains of broken bones. But I must break at all unwilling to exchange your old friends off. May God give you wisdom, faithful- for new ones; and this is the reason they ness, and patience. Take care that you do would take no denial. If you should live to not catch an angry spirit yourself, while you see those who are most forward in pressing aim to suppress it in others; this will spoil you become the first to discourage you, you all, and you will exhort, advise, and weep in will think seriously of my words. vain. May you rather be an example and pat If I thought my advice would prevail, it tern to the flock; and in this view, be not sur- should be this: call the people together, and prised if you yourself meet some hard usage; | desire them, if possible, to forget you ever inrather rejoice that you will thereby have tended to depart from thern: and promise not an opportunity to exernplify your own rules, to think of a renoval, till the Lord shall make and to convince your people, that what you your way so clear, that even they shall have recommend to them you do not speak by nothing reasonable to object against it. You rote, but from the experience of your heart. may keep your word with your other friends One end why our Lord was tempted, was too; for when a proper person shall offer, as for the encouragement of his poor followers, likely to please and satisfy the people as yourthat they might know him to be a High- self, I will give my hearty consent to your Priest suited to them, having had a fellow- removal,


Consider what it is you would have in your | afresh to his remembrance, and his heart office, but maintenance, acceptance, and suc- trembled within him, when he heard his

Have you not these where you are? brother was coming with armed men to meet Are you sure of having them where you are him. And thus i have found it in my own going? Are you sure the Spirit of God experience; things which I had forgotten a (without which you will do nothing) will be long while have been brought to my mind with you there, as he has been with you by providential dispensations which I little hitherto? Perhaps, if you act in your own expected; but the first rise of which I have spirit you may find as great a change as been able to trace far back, and forced to Samson. I am ready to weep when I think confess, that the Lord is indeed He that judg. what difficulties were surmounted to accom-eth the heart and trieth the reins. I hint plish your ordination; and now, when the this for your caution; you know best upon people thought themselves fixed, that you what grounds you have proceeded; but if should so soon disappoint them.-Yours, &c. (though I do not affirm it, I hope other

wise,) I say, if you have acted too much in your own spirit, been too hasty and precipi

tate; if you have not been sufficiently tender LETTER VIII.

of your people, nor thoughtful of the conse

quences which your departure will probably February 15, 1762. involve thein in; if you were impatient unDEAR SIR,—I have been often thinking of der the Lord's hand, and, instead of waiting su since your removal, and was glad to re- his time and way of removing the trials and ceive your letter to-day. I hope you will difficulties you found, you have ventured still go on to find more and more encourage- upon an attempt to free and mend yourself; inent to believe, that the Lord has disposed I say, if any of these things have mixed with and led you to the step you have taken. For your determinations, something will fall out though I wrote with the greatest plainness to show you your fault: either you will not and earnestness, and would, if in my power, find the success you hope for, or friends will have prevented it while under deliberation, grow cold, or enemies and difficulties you yet, now it is done and past recall, I would dream not of, will present themselves; or rather help than dishearten you. Indeed, I your own mind will alter, so as what seems cannot say that my view of the affair is yet now most pleasant will afford you little pleaaltered. The best way not to be cast down sure. Yet, though I write thus, I do not hereafter, is not to be too sanguine at first. mean, as I said before, to discourage you, You know there is something pleasing in but that you may be forewarned, humble, and novelty; as yet you are new to them, and watchful. If you should at any time have a they to you: I pray God, that you may find different view of things, you may take comas cordial a regard from them as at present, fort from the instances I have mentioned. when you have been with them as many The trials of David and Jacob were sharp, years as in the place you came from. And but they were short; and they proved to their if you have grace to be watchful and prayer-advantage, put them upon acts of humiliation ful, all will be well; for we serve a gracious and prayer, and ended in a double blessing. Master, who knows how to overrule even Nothing can harm us that quickens our earour mistakes to his glory and our own advan- nestness and frequency in applying to a tage. Yet I observe, that when we do wrong, throne of grace: only trust the Lord, and sooner or later we smart for our indiscretion, keep close to him, and all that befalls you perhaps many years afterwards. After we shall be for good. Temptations end in vichave seen and confessed our fault, and re- tory; troubles prove an increase of consolaceived repeated proofs of pardoning love, as tion; yea, our very falls and failings tend to to the guilt, yet chastisement, to remind us increase our spiritual wisdom, to give us a more sensibly of our having done amiss, will greater knowledge of Satan's devices, and generally find us out. So it was with David make us more babitually upon our guard in the matter of Uriah ; the Lord put away against them. Happy case of the believer his sin, healed his broken bones, and restored in Jesus! when bitten by the fiery serpent unto him the light of his countenance; yet he needs not go far for a remedy; he has only many troubles, in consequence of this affair, to look to a bleeding Saviour, and be healed. followed one upon another, till at length I think one great advantage that attends a (many years afterwards) he was driven from removal into a new place is, that it gives an Jerusalem by his own son. So it was with easy opportunity of forming a new plan, and Jacob: he dealt deceitfully with his brother breaking off any little habits which we have Esau ; notwithstanding this the Lord ap- found inconvenient, and yet, perhaps, could peared to him and blessed him, gave him not so readily lay aside, where our customs comfortable promises, and revealed himself and acquaintance had been long formed. I to him from time to time; yet after an inter- earnestly recommend to you to reflect, if val of twenty years, his fault was brought you cannot recollect some things which you

have hitherto omitted, which may properly | draw down a divine blessing upon all our be now taken up; some things formerly al- concerns, compose differences, and enkindle lowed, which may now with ease and con- (at least to maintain) the flame of divine love venience be laid aside. I only give the hint amongst brethren. But I need not tell you in general; for I have nothing in particular the advantages; you know them; I only to charge you with. I recommend to you to would exhort you, and the rather as I tind be very choice of your time, especially the in my own case the principal cause of my fore part of the day. Let your morning leanness and unfruitfulness is owing to an hours be devoted to prayer, reading, and unaccountable backwardness to pray. I can study; and suffer not the importunity of write, or read, or converse, or hear, with a friends to rob you of the hours before noon, ready will; but prayer is more spiritual and without a just necessity: and if you accustom inward than any of these, and the more spiyourself to rise early in the morning, you ritual any duty is, the more my carnal heart will find a great advantage. Be careful to is apt to start from it. May the Lord pour avoid losing your thoughts, whether in books forth his precious spirit of prayer and supor otherwise, upon any subject which are plication in both our hearts ! not of a direct subserviency to your great de I am not well pleased with the account you sign, till towards dinner-time. The after- give of so many dry bones. It increases my noon is not so favourable to study: this is a wonder, that you could so readily exchange proper time for paying and receiving visits, so much plump flesh and blood as you had conversing among your friends, or unbending about you for a parcel of skeletons. I wish with a book of instructive entertainment, they may not haunt you and disturb your such as history, &c. which may increase peace. I wish these same dry bones do not your general knowledge, without a great prove thorns in your sides and in your eyes. confinement of your attention; but let the You say, now you have to pray, and promorning hours be sacred. I think you would phecy, and wait for the four winds to come likewise find advantage in using your pen and put life into these bones. God grant more. Write short notes upon the scriptures that your prayers may be answered; but if I you read, or transcribe the labours of others; knew a man who possessed a field in a toleramake extracts from your favourite authors, ble soil, which had afforded him some inespecially those who, besides a fund of spirit- crease every year, and if this man, after have ual and evangelical matter, have a happy ing bestowed seven years' labour in cultitalent of expressing their thoughts in a clear vating, weeding, manuring, fencing, &c., just and lively, or pathetic manner. You would when he has brought his ground (in his find a continued exercise in this way would neighbour's judgment) into good order, and be greatly useful to form your own style, might reasonably hope for larger crops than and help your delivery and memory; you he had ever yet seen, should suddenly forego would become insensibly master of their all his advantages, leave his good seed for thoughts, and find it more easy to express the birds to eat, pull up the young fences yourself justly and clearly: what we read we which cost him so much pains to plant, and easily lose, but what we commit to paper is all this for the sake of making a new er. not so soon forgot. Especially remember periment upon the top of a mountain; though (what you well know, but we cannot too I might heartily wish him great success I often remind each other,) that frequent secret could not honestly give bim great encourageprayer is the life of all we do. If any man ment. You have parted with that for a lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall trifle which in my eyes seems an inestimable be given; but all our diligence will fail, if jewel, I mean the hearts and affections of an we are remiss in this particular. I am glad enlightened people. This appears to me one it is not thought necessary for you to go to of the greatest honours and greatest pleaLondon on this occasion. I hope you will sures a faithful minister can possess, and not think it necessary upon any other ac- which many faithful and eminent ministers count. Rather keep close to the work you have never been able to obtain. This gave have undertaken, and endeavour to avoid any you a vast advantage; your gift was more thing that looks like ostentation, or a desire acceptable there than that of any other perto be taken notice of. You see I advise you son, and more than you will probably tind with the freedom of a friend who loves you, elsewhere. For I cannot make a comparison and longs to see your work and your soul between the hasty approbation of a few, prosper.

whose eyes are but beginning to open, and You will, I doubt not, endeavour to pro- their affections and passions warm, so that mote the practice of frequent prayer in the they must, if possible, have the man that first houses that receive you. I look upon prayer- catches their attention: I say, I cannot think meetings as the most profitable exercises this worthy to be compared to the regard (excepting the public preaching) in which of a people who understood the gospel, were christians can engage: they have a direct able to judge of men and doctrines, and had tendency to kill a worldly, trilling spirit, to trial of you for so many years. It is, weed,

« PreviousContinue »