A Letter To A Sister In The Lord – January 30th, 1843
January 30th, 1843
My dear Sister,
I was glad to hear that you are about to follow the Lord Jesus Christ through the ordinance of believer’s baptism. May your soul be much blessed in it. Many find it only a shell; but I believe some are so favored as to find a kernel within the shell, in the Lord’s presence being manifested on the occasion. Whoever may slight and despite it, we have on record how blessedly the Trinity bore testimony to it, when Jesus Christ was baptized (Matt. 3:16, 17). “Whoever shall do the will of God, shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” I dare say you are anxious to know the proceedings here yesterday respecting it. There was a very large concourse of people both times, and many children of God scattered through this neighborhood were gathered together, distant and near. There were many from mere curiosity, and many could not get even standing room, particularly in the afternoon. I went through a regular service, and then baptized seven women and five men, and after the afternoon service I baptized six women and five men. It seems a great number to be baptized in one day by a minister called so narrow-minded.
This, however, is the first time of baptizing with us, and it is nearly fourteen years since I came into this neighborhood, and more than eleven years since I left the Church of England. In the morning I felt rather shut up in speaking, but in the afternoon I was blessed with a little power and liberty, and I trust and believe that the Lord was with us, and several, I understand, found it good to be there. What a different feeling I had in going down from the pulpit to baptize those of whom I had a good hope that they were partakers of grace, according to the mode so clearly stated in the word of God, from what I used to experience when I had to descend from the pulpit in the Church of England to ‘sprinkle infants’, and to give a flat contradiction to what I stated in the pulpit respecting regeneration, at the same time encouraging the blind and ignorant ‘godfathers’ and ‘godmothers’ in their sin and mocking of God, who came forward so boldly and carelessly to make such dreadful vows and promises! I am satisfied many things may be bought too dear—even gold; but one thing cannot—which is a good conscience.
I have now something to relate, in which, I trust, you and the other friends at Oakham will feel interested, and will be glad to hear; and may the Lord make it a blessing, and may He have all the praise! It is a new strain for me to begin with—”My heart is inditing a good matter; I speak of the things which I have made touching the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”
After talking over the proceedings of the day with four friends, I retired (on Lord’s day evening) to bed in a comfortable state of mind, feeling thankful that the Lord had brought me through a trying day, concerning which I had been much exercised, and trusting the Lord had blessed the word to some that day through such a worm as I felt myself to be, as well as owning His own ordinance, to which we had been attending. When I knelt down to offer up a few words by the bedside, I felt my soul drawn out to God, and humbled low before Him with a sense of my sins; but as soon as I was in bed I began to feel a melting of heart, and a sweet sense of God’s love to my soul, which immediately made my tears flow; and the Lord sweetly began to apply precious promises to my soul with unction and power, and to such an extent as I have never been blessed with before. In fact I have never experienced any such blessed manifestation and sweet deliverance, though I have been blessed at different times that I can mention; but they were far short of this sweet blessing to my soul; and the savor of it sweetly abides with me still, but I am afraid of losing it, or of being robbed of it.
When the promises began to flow into my soul, these words came with as great power, and as often as any—”Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is as the dew of herbs;” and again and again—”I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins—return unto Me; for I have redeemed you!” “I will honor those who honor Me.” “He who has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves Me—and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” I did sweetly experience this manifestation of love to my soul; and I said to the blessed Lord, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for His mouth is most sweet.” The promises flowed into my soul, and my tears flowed so fast that I soon began to water my couch with tears of joy, and not of sorrow.
I lay until between twelve and one o’clock in this blessed state, and then fell asleep, for about two hours, and awoke in a delightful frame, the Lord blessing my soul again, until I had to restrain myself from crying aloud. I did not go to sleep again, but lay awake, blessing and praising God for His goodness and mercy to my soul, with debasing views of myself, and with exalted views of the blessed Jesus, having communion and fellowship with Him in His agony and sufferings. But during my soul-enjoyment I kept saying at times, “Is it real, Lord? Is it real, Lord?” I wanted to know whether it was real. I asked myself whether I was willing to die, and I felt I was; and if it were the Lord’s will, I was willing to die, without telling anyone of His great goodness to my soul; for the Lord’s will was my will. I asked myself whether I would rather have a large bag of gold, or this blessing—and I felt a large bag of gold was no more to me than a large bag of pebbles, compared to the Lord’s rich blessing. These words came to my mind sweetly again and again—
“Now will I tell to sinners round
What a dear Saviour I have found.”
And Deer’s hymn, “Blessed Spirit of truth, eternal God,” was sweet to my soul.
I went up and told J. K. early in the morning, and could not refrain from crying, and could scarcely shave myself through shedding tears so fast. I shed more tears last night than I have shed for years, for my tears do not flow so easily as many people’s do. These words came with power—”Sing, O you heavens; for the Lord has done it,” and also—”Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” This has been to my soul “a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined;” for “the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie—though it tarry wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
You, as well as others, know I have had to wait, and have been much tried, because the Lord has not blessed me more with His presence and manifestations of His love, though He has given me a ‘few sips’ by the way, both in preaching and at a throne of grace, and in times of need and temptation. But I have known to my sorrow what it is to sit in the dust, almost without hope whether the Lord would ever put a new song in my mouth. These words were brought again and again—”Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits—who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies!”
I have gone on in the ministry ready to halt, with sorrow before me, with my soul much discouraged because of the way; and had not the Lord given me seals to my ministry and testimonies now and then to my soul, surely I would have fainted by the way. If the blessing had come twelve hours sooner, someone else must have preached and baptized, for I could have done neither, through blessing, praising, and crying for joy. Very many of my hearers would have said, it was not enthusiasm in the bud, but in the flower, for they are strangers to such feelings. “The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy.”
And how clearly did I see David’s wisdom in saying, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.” David well knew, that if they did not know a “secret” in religion, they would not be able to understand a work of grace upon the soul. I have been long kept upon short commons, and I have had great murmurings and rebellion respecting it, and now the Lord is pleased to lead my soul into green pastures; but how long I am to be favored, I know not, but this I know, I feel grateful for what the Lord has granted me, and I love Him, and can bless His holy name. “O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
I have been led to know my vileness, and to feel much of the depravity of my heart, so as to be sensibly a poor, lost, ruined sinner. Sometimes I have envied the brute creation, and at times I have thought God would strike me dead, being sensible of so much sin in my heart. I felt sure I had but little grace, if I had any at all; and my mind has been much tried respecting the formation of a church here, seeing it a grievous thing that the ordinances of God’s house should be slighted and neglected year after year by those who, I believe, were the proper people to attend to them. I could, therefore, see the need of church order and government much better than I could see in any way ‘my fitness’ to be a pastor. So I was in great straits, and looked forward to the ordinance next Lord’s day with much exercise and trial of mind, having to administer it in my darkness of soul, and knowing also that there is such a thing as eating and drinking unworthily, and that such “eat and drink damnation (or condemnation) to themselves, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
On Friday evening I was with two friends who were speaking of the Lord’s manifestations to their souls; but I was silent, and could say nothing, and felt as if I could not possibly stand in the position I was placed in, being so dark, shut up, and tried.
On Saturday, too, I felt much darkness and trial of mind, but I little thought that God’s great goodness and mercy were so soon to be manifested to my soul. I have had ‘sips’, but now my ‘cup is full’, and even runs over. In the days of adversity I have considered how the scene would end, but now in the day of prosperity my soul is joyful. “I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large room.” “The blessing of the Lord, it makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”
The Lord continues to bless my soul with His love, and Christ is precious; and I am sure the Lord’s spiritual blessings to my soul do not lead to worldliness and licentiousness—but to deadness to the world and to separation in spirit from it. Real faith works by love, and Christ is truly precious, and there is no true victory over the world but through this blessed experience, known and felt in the soul. And love to Jesus is accompanied with love to the brethren, and with earnest and sincere prayers for the children of God. “They shall prosper, who love Zion.” Before this blessing I looked forward to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper as a man would who had a great payment to make, and had nothing with which to pay; he wishes that there was no such engagement, or that the time was rather distant; and now I can look upon it as the man would upon the payment, if any one had given him all, or more than all the money.
Tuesday Morning.—The Lord’s goodness still follows me, but this night was not like the previous; that will be a night to be much remembered by me. I have had these words brought to my mind very sweetly, “You are fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into your lips, therefore God has blessed you forever.”
I never went out of doors yesterday, but J. K. was among the friends, and I am glad to say that he brought in good tidings, for he had heard that the ordinance of baptism was much blessed on Lord’s day; and I hope the Lord’s blessing may specially rest upon the friends at Oakham on the 19th. What a little cross it is to bear, for those who have any sense of the crosses, sufferings, and afflictions and agonies that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was harmless, had to endure for the vilest and basest sinners! I believe many are not tried so much about ‘the cross’ of it, as they are about their fitness to be baptized. It has been a profitable time for the Lord’s people here during the formation of the Church, through having to give in their experience, and the hearing of the experience of others has revived their souls.
Give my love to all inquiring friends, and I believe some will be glad to hear that the Lord has visited my soul with blessed promises and testimonies of His love.