A Letter To A Brother In Christ – September 20th, 1832
September 20th, 1832
My dear brother,
Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied unto you abundantly through Christ Jesus our Lord. I rejoice to hear that you are counted worthy to suffer in some degree in the cause of Christ. It is a circumstance that so seldom occurs, that I have stronger reasons to believe that you are a partaker of the grace of God. The general religion of the present day is attended with so little power that even thousands who profess to love Christ, can scarcely give a single instance of suffering, either from the fiery darts of the wicked one, or the hatred and malice of a wicked world. Your trials, persecutions, and sufferings on account of your religion are too small to cause even a murmur at present, but they may increase and abound before long. Satan and his allies care about nothing but the power; for where that is, the man must act, and ‘faithfulness and decision’ will surely meet with ‘frowns and opposition’. If you have all manner of evil said of you falsely, and lose your employment, and see poverty staring you in your face—if you at the same time have a conscience void of offence towards God and man, you will indeed be favored of the Lord. It seems to me not very likely that you are to be honored in this way at present. You have too little grace; the image of Christ is not sufficiently impressed upon your heart, and you know at present too little of the operations of the Spirit upon your soul.
But the Lord is a sovereign, and can magnify His power in your weakness. If you have lost your employment and worldly advantages through your boldness in Christ’s cause, you are pronounced blessed. It is a gift and much to be prized, for it is given to you not only to believe, but to suffer for His sake. Paul prayed to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; and offences must come, but woe to them by whom they come. Paul says, “To them it is an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God,” for “on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.” You have Christ and all the blessed promises on your side; but for them there is nothing but woes and judgments.
I believe that no sins are so quickly and so severely punished as those which are committed against the Lord’s own family. It would be better for them “to have a millstone tied round their necks and to be cast into the middle of the sea;” and God says, “Whoever touches you, touches the apple of My eye” (Zech. 2:8).
I hope that you will be kept from having unkind and uncharitable feelings against those who may attempt to injure you. They are fulfilling God’s word as well as yourself. Nature is the same; consequently, let the power of the gospel be manifested, enmity will be quickly displayed. I hope that the Lord may honor you as he did good Nehemiah, by putting it into your heart to seek the good of God’s dear children in Oakham, and you will find, as Nehemiah did, Sanballats and Tobiahs, who will be exceedingly grieved, who will mock and despise you (Neh. 2:10, 19, 20). But as your day is so your strength will be. If you have deep trials, losses, and sufferings, you will have the consolations and the sweet promises applied; and when you read the latter part of Hebrews 11, you will scarcely be able to see how you are to suffer in any measure as they did, under present circumstances. God will take care of His own family. Yes, he will cut off hundreds of ‘rich Nabals’ rather than one of His own shall not have that which is good.
I am not afraid so much of your suffering in temporals as being puffed up with pride that you are counted worthy to suffer. The devil works with deep-laid schemes. He knows that your heart is not set upon the gratification of the flesh, and upon making large provision for your children, in order that they may fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
I rejoice that you are not in a dead calm at Oakham. If Satan roars, it is a sign that his kingdom is in danger, and we shall never see love and union among Christians until there is power enough in religion to excite persecution; through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. It is an alarming truth for many professors. They may indeed cry, “Surely we are in By-path Meadow, very easy and comfortable.” While in such a way, they have no need of that sweet promise being applied—”Your shoes shall be iron and brass.”
Since I wrote to you I have received a letter from J. He offends many by his decision and self-denial. He has furnished his house poorly, which has very much offended his friends, though they are evangelical people. He has plain tables and no carpets, and that way of living is not very satisfactory to ‘flesh-pleasing Christians’. He is not a legalist; he is taught self-denial, and when a man can act a little like Paul, he can preach with authority.
Religion suits people in general as long as it brings no cross, but when their Isaacs are to be sacrificed, they seem determined to wait until they can find an easier way to heaven. The Lord must lead us and teach us by His blessed Spirit how to act. I hope that a spirit of grace and supplication will be poured down upon you, so that your cry may reach the ears of the Lord Almighty, and if He sends you one of His servants, He will fit him for the work. If a minister preaches with power, he will give offence; and if his eyes are enabled to discern the formality and hypocrisy of professors, he will have a host of ‘merely religious’ people crying out against him; but wisdom is justified of her children. You will be able to see more of the great lack of spirituality in the professing world. It must be ‘heart work’ to give offence, and that is the only work the world will oppose, and Satan will attempt to destroy.
How few ‘sensible sinners’ can you find! How few have ever been led deeply into a knowledge of their own evil hearts! How few know anything of being justified by the righteousness of Christ! How few have been stripped of their own filthy rags, and made willing to accept the righteousness of Christ! You must find yourself very ignorant when you meet with a person who can fully enter into a work of grace upon the heart. I have no doubt you are tried in your mind whether the work is really begun by God; and the more the Lord teaches you, the greater fool you will become in your own opinion.
Religion is a personal thing. Do you believe on the Son of God? There are glorious mansions for God’s dear children, but they must be made fit for them. Many are desirous to have Paul’s faith and joys, but they do not want his poverty, affliction, and extreme sufferings and trials. ‘Creature comforts’ and ‘spiritual consolations’ very seldom go together; nor do the friendship of the world and the favor of God. When you lose the friendship of the world, and are losing a large part of your income, your own heart, as well as wife, children, and friends, will cry out as Peter did, “Spare yourself!” May you answer in the words of Christ, if it be really for the Lord’s cause. You are to be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. You are on a hill. May the Lord hold you up and preserve you, and may you by continuance in well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
I am very glad that you bear a testimony against the false prophets by testifying that you cannot hear them. If you come out from among them and be separate, you will be much hated. Husband was very pleased with your letter. I slept there last night, and met Philpot. He has been very much scolded by an evangelical, and chiefly because he defends me.
Yours most affectionately in Christ,