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and is pleased to cause our hearts to burn would make us choose. We were not dewithin us while we are speaking of his good- signed to be mere recluses, but have all a ness.
But often it is far otherwise with me: part to act in life. Now, if I find myself in I carry with me a dissipation of spirit, and the midst of things disagreeable enough in find that I can neither impart nor receive. themselves to the spiritual life, yet—if, when Something from within or from without the question occurs, What dost thou here? crosses my schemes; and when I retire I my heart can answer, I am here by the will seem to have gained nothing but a fresh of God,—I believe it to be, all things consiconviction, that we can neither help nor be dered, my duty to be here at this time rather helped, unless the Lord himself is pleased to than elsewhere. If, I say, I am tolerably help us. With his presence in our hearts, satisfied of this, then I would not burden and we might be comfortable and happy though grieve myself about what I cannot avoid or shut up in one of the cells of Newgate: with. alter, but endeavour to take all such things out it, the most select company, the most up with cheerfulness, as a part of my daily desirable opportunities, prove but clouds cross; since I am called, not only to do the without water.
will of God, but to suffer for it; but if I am I have sometimes thought of asking you, doing my own will rather than his, then I whether you find that difference between be- have reason to fear, lest I should meet with ing abroad and at home that I do? But I either a snare or a sting at every step. May take it for granted that you do not: your the Lord Jesus be with you.—I am, &c. connexions and intimacies are, I believe, chiefly with those who are highly favoured of the Lord, and if you can break through or be upon your guard against the inconve
LETTER V. niencies which attend frequent changes and much company, you must be very happy in
April 13, 1776. them. But, I believe, considering my weak DEAR MADAM,-I am rather of the latest ness, the Lord has chosen wisely and well to present my congratulations to you and for me, in placing me in a state of retire- Mr. on your marriage, but I have not ment, and not putting it in my power, were been unmindful of you. My heart has reit ever so much my inclination, to be often peatedly wished you all that my pen can exabroad. As I stir so seldom, I believe, when press, that the new relation in which the I do, it is not upon the whole to my disad- providence of God has placed you may be vantage; for I meet with more or less upon blessed to you in every respect, may afford which my reflections afterwards may, by his you much temporal comfort, promote your blessing, be useful to me, though at the time spiritual progress, and enlarge your sphere my visits most frequently convince me, how of usefulness in the world and in the church. little wisdom or skill I have in improving By this time I suppose visits and ceremo time and opportunities. But were I to live nies are pretty well over, and you are bein London, I know not what might be the ginning to be settled in your new situation. consequence. Indeed, I need not puzzle my- What an important period is a wedding-day! self about it, as my call does not lie there; What an entire change of circumstances but I pity and pray for those who do live does it produce! What an intluence it has there, and I admire such of them as, in upon every day of future life! How many those circumstances which appear so formi- cares, inquietudes, and trials, does it expose dable to me, are enabled to walk simply, us to, which we might otherwise have avoidhumbly, and closely with the Lord. They ed! But they who love the Lord, and are remind me of Daniel, unhurt in the midst guided by his word and providence, have noof lions, or of the bush which Moses saw thing to fear; for in every state, relation, surrounded with flames, yet not consumed, and circumstance in life, he will be with because the Lord was there. Some such I do them, and will surely do them good. His know, and I hope you are one of the number. grace, which is needful in a single, is suffi
This is certain, that if the light of God's cient for a married life. I sincerely wish countenance, and communion with him in Mr. and you much happiness together; love, afford the greatest happiness we are that you may be mutually helps meet, and capable of, then whatever tends to indispose assist each other in walking as fellow-heirs us for this pursuit, or to draw a vail between of the hope of eternal life. Your cares and him and our souls, must be our great loss. trials, I know, must be increased; may your If we walk with him, it must be in the path comforts be increased proportionally! They of duty, which lies plain before us when our will be so, if you are enabled heartily and eye is single, and we are waiting with atten- simply to entreat the Lord to keep your tion upon his word, Spirit, and providence. heart fixed near to himself. All the tempo Now, wherever the path of duty leads we are ral blessings and accomodations he prosafe; and it often does lead and place us in vides to sweeten life, and make our passage such circumstances as no other consideration through this wilderness more agreeable, will
fail and disappoint us, and produce us more it as a pledge and token of the relation you :horns than roses, unless we can keep sight bear to him who gave it you. I know no of his hand in bestowing them, and hold and fitter emblem of the light in which we should use the gifts in some due subserviency to consider all those good things which the Lord what we owe to the giver. But alas! we gives us richly to enjoy. When every thing are poor creatures, prone to wander, prone we receive from him is received and prized to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns, as a fruit and a pledge of his covenant-love, and think of building tabernacles, and taking then his bounties, instead of being set up as our rest in this polluted world. Hence the rivals, and idols to draw our hearts from him, Lord often sees it necessary, in mercy to his awaken us to fresh exercises of gratitude, children, to embitter their sweets, to break and furnish us with fresh motives of cheerful their cisterns, to send a worm to their gourds, obedience every hour. and to draw a dark cloud over their most Time is short, and we live in a dark and pleasing prospects. His word tells us, that cloudy day. When iniquity abounds, the love all here is vanity, compared with the light of many waxes cold; and we have reason to of his countenance; and if we cannot, or fear the Lord's hand is lifted up in displeawill not, believe it upon the authority of his sure at our provocations. May he help us to word, we must learn it by experience. May sit loose to all below, to watch unto prayer he enable you to settle it in your hearts, that for grace to keep our garments clean, and to creature-comforts are precarious, insufficient, be faithful witnesses for him in our several and ensnaring; that all good comes from his places! O, it is my desire for myself and hand, and that nothing can do us good, but for all my dear friends, that whilst too many so far as he is pleased to make it the instru- seem content with a half profession, a name ment of communicating, as a stream, that to live, an outward attachment to ordinances, goodness which is in him as a fountain. and sentiments, and parties, we may be amEven the bread which we eat, without the bitious to experience what the glorious gosinfluence of his promise and blessing, would pel is capable of effecting, both as to sanctino more support us than a stone; but his fication and consolation, in this state of blessing makes every thing good, gives a infirmity; that we may have our loins girdtenfold value to our comforts, and greatly di- ed, and our lamps burning, and by our simminishes the weight of every cross.
plicity and spirituality constrain those who The ring upon your finger is of some value know us to acknowledge that we have been as gold, but this is not much; what makes with Jesus, have sat at his feet, and drank it chiefly valuable to you is, that you consider of his Spirit.—I am, &c.
TO MRS. H
affliction to taste, that we might pledge him,
and remember how he loved us, and how Long and often have I thought of writing much more he endured for us than he will to you ; now the time is come. May the Lord ever call us to endure for him. Again, how help me to send a word in season! I know could we, without sufferings, manifest the not how it may be with you, but he does, and nature and truth of gospel-grace? What to him I look to direct my thoughts accord- place should we then have for patience, subingly. I suppose you are still in the school mission, meekness, forbearance, and a readiof the cross, learning the happy art of extract- ness to forgive, if we had nothing to try ns ing real good out of seeminy evil, and to grow either from the hand of the Lord, or from the tall by stooping. The flesh is a sad unto- hand of men. A christian without trials ward dunce in this school ; but grace makes would be like a mill without wind or water; the spirit willing to learn by suffering; yea it the contrivance and design of the wheel-work cares not what it endures, so sin may be mor- within side would be unnoticed and untified, and a conformity to the image of Jesus known, without something to put it in mobe increased. Surely when we see the most tion from without. Nor would our graces and the best of the Lord's children so otten in grow, unless they were called out to exerheaviness, and when we consider how much cise: the difficulties we meet with not only he loves them, and what he has done and prove but strengthen the graces of the Spirit. prepared for them, we may take it for granted If a person was always to sit still, without that there is a need-be for their sufferings. making use of legs or arms, he would probaFor it would be easy to his power, and not a bly wholly lose the power of moving his thousandth part of what his love intends to do limbs at last; but by walking and working he for them, should he make their whole life here, becomes strong and active. So, in a long from the hour of their conversion to their death, course of ease, the powers of the new man a continued course of satisfaction and com- would certainly languish: the soul would fort, without any thing to distress them from grow soft, indolent, cowardly, and taint; and within or without. But were it so, should we therefore the Lord appoints his children such not miss many advantages? In the first place, dispensations as make them strive, and strug. we should not then be very conformable to gle, and pant. They must press through a our Head, nor be able to say, As he was, so crowd, swim against a stream, endure hardare we in this world. Methinks a believer ships, run, wrestle, and fight; and thus their would be ashamed to be so utterly unlike his strength grows in the using. Lord. What! the master always a man of By these things, likewise, they are made sorrows and acquainted with grief, and the more willing to leave the present world, to servant always happy and full of comfort! which we are prone to cleave too closely in Jesus despised, reproached, neglected, op- our hearts when our path is very smooth. posed, and betrayed, and his people admired Had Israel enjoyed their former peace and and caressed; he living in the want of all prosperity in Egypt, when Moses came to things, and they filled with abundance; he invite them to Canaan, I think they would sweating blood for anguish, and they stran- hardly have listened to him. But the Lord gers to distress: how unsuitable would these suffered them to be brought into great trouthings be! how much better to be called to the ble and bondage, and then the news of deiihonour of filling up the measure of his suffer- verance was more welcome; yet still they ings ! A cup was put into his hand on our were but half willing, and they carried a lorr account, and his love engaged him to drink to the flesh-pots of Egypt with them into the it for us. The wrath which it contained he wilderness. We are like them: though we drank wholly himself, but he left us a little say this world is vain and sinfu) we are too
fond of it; and though we hope for true hap- should you doubt their being fulfilled ? If you piness only in heaven, we are often well con- say you do not question their truth, or that ient to stay longer here. But the Lord sends they are accomplished to many, but that you afflictions one after another to quicken our can hardly believe they belong to you; desires, and to convince us that this cannot I would ask, what evidence you would rebe our rest. Sometimes, if you drive a bird quire ? A voice or an angel from heaven you from one branch of a tree, he will hop to an- do not expect. Consider, if many of the other a little higher, and from thence to a promises are not expressly directed to those third; but if you continue to disturb him, he to whom they belong. When you read will at last take wing and fly quite away. your name on the superscription of this 'Thus we, when forced from one creature- letter, you make no scruple to open it: why, comfort, perch upon another, and so on; then, do you hesitate at embracing the prob'it the Lord mercifully follows us with trials, mises of the gospel, where you read that they and will not let us rest upon any. By de- are addressed to those who mourn, who hungrees our desires take a nobler flight, and ger and thirst after righteousness, who are can be satisfied with nothing short of him- poor in spirit, &c. and cannot but be sensible self; and we say, To depart and be with Jesus that a gracious God has begun to work these is best of all.
dispositions in your heart? If you say, that I trust you find the name and grace of though you do at times mourn, hunger, &c. Jesus more and more precious to you; his you are afraid you do it not enough, or not promises more sweet, and your hope in them aright; consider, that this sort of reasoning more abiding ; your sense of your own weak- is very far from the spirit and language of ness and unworthiness daily increasing; and the gospel ; for it is grounded on a secret sup: your persuasion of his all-sufficiency to guide, position, that in the forgiveness of sin God support, and comfort you, more confirmed. has a respect to something more than the You owe your growth in these respects in a atonement and mediation of Jesus ; namely, great measure to his blessing upon those af- to some previous good qualifications in a sinflictions which he has prepared for you, and ner's heart, which are to share with the blood sanctified to you. May you praise him for of Christ in the honour of salvation. The all that is past, and trust him for all that is to enemy deceives us in this matter the more come.-I am, &c.
easily, because a propensity to the covenant of works is a part of our natural depravity. Depend upon it, you will never have a suit
able and sufficient sense of the evil of sin, LETTER II.
and of your share in it, so long as you have
any sin remaining in you. We must see Though I have the pleasure of hearing of Jesus as he is, before our apprehensions of you, and sending a remembrance from time any spiritual truth will be complete. But to time, I am willing, by this opportunity, to if we know that we must perish without direct a few lines to you, as a more express Christ, and that he is able to save to the uttestimony of my sincere regard.
termost, we know enough to warrant us to I think your experience is generally of the cast our souls upon him, and we dishonour fearful, doubting cast. Such souls, however, him by fearing that when we do so he will the Lord has given particular charge to his disappoint our hope. But if you are still ministers to comfort. He knows our infirm- perplexed about the high points of election, ities, and what temptations mean, and as a &c. I would advise you to leave the disposal good shepherd he expresses a peculiar care of others to the great Judge; and as to yourand tenderness for the weak of the flock, self, I think I need not say much to persuade Isaiah xl. 4. But how must I attempt your you, that if ever you are saved at all, it must comfort ? Surely not by strengthening a mis- be in a way of free and absolute grace. Leave take to which we are all too liable, by lead- disputes to others; wait upon the Lord, and ing you to look into your own heart for he will teach you all things, in such degree (what you will never find there) something and time as he sees best. Perhaps you have in yourself whereon to ground your hopes, if suffered for taking things too much upon trust not wholly, yet at least in part. Rather let from men. Cease from man, whose breath is me endeavour to lead you out of yourself; in his nostrils. One is your master, even let me invite you to look unto Jesus. Should Christ. Study and pray over the Bible; and we look for light in our own eyes, or in the you may take it as a sure rule, that whatever sun? Is it indwelling sin distresses you? sentiment makes any part of the word of God
Then I can tell you (though you know it) unwelcome to you, is justly to be suspected. that Jesus died for sin and sinners. I can Aim at a cheerful spirit.
The more you tell you, that his blood and righteousness are trust God, the better you will serve him. of infinite value; that his arm is almighty, While you indulge unbelief and suspicion, and his compassions infinite; yea, you your- you weaken your own hands, and discourage self read his promises every day, and why others. Be thankful for what he has shown
you, and wait upon him for more; you shall | heart, the name of Jesus is precious to you; find he has not said, “Seek ye my face in and this is a sure token of salvation, and that vain.” I heartily commend you to his grace of God. You could not have loved him if he and care, and am, &c.
had not 'loved you first. He spoke to you, and said, “Seek my face," before your heart
cried to him “Thy face, O Lord, will I seek" LETTER III.
But you complain, " Alas! I love him so
little.” That very complaint proves that you At length, and without farther apology for love him a great deal, for if you loved him my silence, I sit down to ask you, how you but a little you would think you loved him fare? Afflictions I hear have been your lot; enough. A mother loves her child a great and if I had not heard so, I should have taken deal, yet does not complain for not loving it it for granted, for I believe the Lord loves more, nay, perhaps, she hardly thinks it you, and as many as he loves he chastens. I possible. But such an infinite object is Jesus, I think you can say afflictions have been good that they who love him better than parents for you, and I doubt not but you have found or child, or any earthly relation or comfort, strength according to your day; so that will still think they hardly love him at all, though you may have been sharply tried, you because they see such a vast disproportion have not been overpowered. For the Lord between the utmost they can give him and has engaged his faithfulness for this to all his what in himself he deserves from them. But ch ren, that he will support them in all their I can give you good advice and good news: trials, so that the fire shall not consume them love him as well as you can now, and ere nor the floods drown them, 1 Cor. x. 13; Isa. long you shall love him better. 0, when you xlii. 2.
see him as he is, then I am sure you will If you can say thus much, cannot you go a love him indeed! If you want to love him little further, and add, in the apostle's words, better now while you are here, I believe I can “None of these things move me, neither tell you the secret how this is to be attained: count I my life dear. I rather glory in my trust him. The more you trust him the better infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest you will love him. If you ask farther, How upon me; yea, doubtless, I count all things shall I do to trust him? I answer, Try him. loss and of no regard, for the excellency of The more you make trial of him, the more the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for your trust in him will be strengthened. when I am weak, then am I strong.” Me- Venture upon his promises; carry them to thinks I hear you say, “God, who comforteth him, and see if he will not be as good as his those who are cast down, has comforted my word. But, alas! Satan and unbelief work soul; and as my troubles have abounded, my the contrary way. We are unwilling to try consolations in Christ have abounded also. him, and therefore unable to trust him; and He has delivered, he does deliver, and in him what wonder, then, that our love is faint, for I trust that he will yet deliver me." Surely who can love at uncertainties? you can set your seal to these words. The If you are in some measure thankful for Lord help you, then, to live more and more what you have received, and hungering and a life of faith, to feed upon the promises, and thirsting for more, you are in the frame ! to rejoice in the assurance that all things are would wish for myself, and I desire to praise yours, and shall surely work for your good. the Lord on your behalf. Pray for us. We
If I guess right at what passes in your | join in love to you.I am, &c.