A Letter To A Brother In Christ – November 13th, 1839
November 13th, 1839
My dear Brother,
Since I wrote to friend P., I have not suffered from any further attacks; and, through mercy, I may say that I have but little pain, and take my walks as usual. I find the exertion of preaching earnestly, a little trying; so I still continue to speak but once on a Lord’s day.
J. Kay was absent nearly ten weeks, and I spent the time very quietly, and, I trust, not altogether unprofitably; for I was favored with an inclination to read the word of God. I find it good to lead a retired life, even if it is not pleasant to the flesh.
How we find that there are two principles within us continually at war, and how they ever wrestle for mastery! But whatever suits and pleases the flesh will surely make the soul lean, and bring on deadness and barrenness. The more we taste of the pleasures of sin, the more we get blinded and intoxicated by them, and the more anxious to enjoy them in this time-state, whether we go to heaven or not. Right hands and right eyes are dear to us, and self-denial is a continual cross. When we are tried, tempted, and harassed, we want ease and comfort. Yet we daily learn that without ballast we should not sail in any way safely on the seas of temptation. We need chastisements, rods, and crosses, to bring us to a throne of grace; and we need a daily sense of our vileness and our sins to constrain us to fly to the only true refuge for poor helpless sinners, who is a Friend in need and a Brother born for adversity.
But I find that my unbelief would strike at the root of all my hopes, so that I scarcely know what to make of my religion, and think it will be a wonderful mercy if I ever enter into that rest which remains for the people of God. Very often, through the various exercises of my soul, my religion is obliged to go into a very small compass, and I am compelled to confess to my hearers what straits I get into. But the more confounded I become in my soul-exercises, the better they seem to bear with me, and to hear me, and tell me they find that my sickness is made profitable to them. And yet I am often tried what right I have to be in a pulpit.
The more, however, I am tried about my own evidences, the more I am tried about the evidences of other people, and the more convinced I am that very many are deceived who are calling themselves ‘experimental Calvinists’. Sin, in one way or other, reigns and rules in the heart, and is but little opposed, except, at times, by a little honesty of conscience. Grace will reign in the called elect, although sin may break out and struggle for victory, and make the poor sinner feel that he is a hell-deserving wretch; and, at times, the tempted saint feels the vilest and unworthiest of all around him.
I imagine that the poor old people never liked your soup better than they do this year, as provisions are so scanty. “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9. What you give to the poor you cannot spend upon your lusts; and although flesh cleaves very fast to the ‘thick clay’, in your right mind you will never be sorry that you have refreshed the affections of the poor. What you give to the poor you lend to the Lord; and if that be not a good investment, there never was a good one. But I dare say you find that you have a vile, sinful, wretched mind, craving after other sorts of investments. It is well if you feel it and groan on account of it. If none are to go to heaven but those who are free from covetousness, few indeed will be saved. Nevertheless, it stands among the black marks of the dead in sin. What a hard sin it is to pray against with the heart, while there are a dozen speculating plans in the head!
It is a mercy to be made sensible of our besetting sins and lusts, that we may feel our need of the atoning blood of Christ, and to be fully satisfied that if we depend upon anything short of the blood and righteousness of Christ we must perish eternally, for all other hopes are cut off. Such a sense of sin and vileness cuts up Arminianism by the roots, and prepares us to hear the gospel, and to know that it brings glad tidings to poor, lost, and helpless sinners.
Yours very affectionately,