A Letter To A Brother In Christ – August 4th, 1837
August 4th, 1837
My dear Brother,
“Like people, like priest.” Every one wants to be encouraged either in a false or true religion. Some like to be built up in empty notions, and others to have their hearts well searched, and their thoughts tried, that they may have the testimony in their conscience that they are true men of God; but the halt, and the lame, and afflicted will meet with the only true encouragement. The great question is, Are we in the right way? Is life communicated to our souls? What is all our preaching, reading, praying, and professing, if we have not the root of the matter in us? I believe every true-born soul will find that he will be tried, as long as he is in this tabernacle of sinful dust, whether he can be right, with so much pride, lust, and worldliness, etc. Satan, the world, and the flesh make such inroads upon his soul, at times, as to make him say that he feels destitute of every mark of a gracious character.
O! how dreary is the prospect of eternity when we long after nothing but what the world affords—when we have a heart ready for everything but prayer, self-denial, and what is God-glorifying! I used to find and think religion very different. And if I had not had the experience of some who seem always inclined to God and goodness, I would stumble when I considered their state, and should say, “Surely the Lord is with them alone”; but having had my religion sifted in sharp trials of mind, and heart-stirring seasons, I am confident that no religion is rightly measured if the opposition to it is not gauged also; that is, we are not to consider what wonderful conquests the new man has gained, if we do not hear a clear account of the power, might, and strength of his enemies in the old man. We must learn our religion in warfare, temptations, and fiery trials, which will surely attend every quickened soul. There must be a reality in a man’s religion.
Where there is life, there will be fearing and sinning, loving and hating, falling and confessing, doubting and hoping, mourning and rejoicing, and various ups and downs, ins and outs, in a very mysterious manner wrought in the soul. I meet with but little vital godliness. Very few seem to have any powerful operations of grace upon the heart; and those few who can speak of the Lord’s dealings seem very much like professors, with a name to live. The Lord evidently does not bestow much of His heavenly blessings on elect souls here below, so that they are reminded that they are to have only a pledge in this life. All things are very puzzling, and no one more than myself to myself; for I am a mystery indeed. I feel sensible, at times, of the Lord’s goodness and mercy, that I am what I am; that I have any hope, faith, and love is a mercy indeed. And I am sure that the Lord must keep and preserve every tempted sinner; for all who know their inbred corruptions will acknowledge that the Lord is very merciful, in that He has not cut them off as vile cumberers of the ground.
As long as we live in this world we shall find that our hearts again and again cleave to the dust. All things here, however, are very uncertain and unsatisfactory. It is a great mercy when we can use the world as strangers and pilgrims. I am continually finding myself very dead and cold in spiritual things; but, through mercy, I continue. But, to my encouragement, I hear that the Lord blesses His word by me, and still gives me seals to my ministry. I am so hated, despised, and cursed that the Lord does favor me for their reproaches and curses; but it is a bad sign when a minister has the smiles of worldly professors.
I hope that grace is manifested in you and the Oakham friends, to draw down reproach and contempt. I hope, also, that the Lord has blessed your wife in all her exercises of mind.
How much we need wisdom to guide and direct us in all things!
Yours most affectionately and sincerely,