A Letter To A Brother In Christ – January 15th, 1833
January 15th, 1833
My dear Brother,
Through persuasion and entreaty, I remained one week longer at Brighton than I expected to do. But the Lord was pleased to bless the word to my soul, and to the souls of others, so I felt constrained to remain. In passing through London, I preached twice, and the latter time was for the benefit of the Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society. I preached in Abrahams’ Chapel, Regent Street, City Road, London. I had several ministers and deacons for hearers, and the old Hebrews came out of their holes, to spy out the barrenness of the land. I believe there were many of God’s children among my hearers. The Lord was with us, I trust, and enabled me to be faithful according to my light; so that I kept a good conscience.
On my return, I found a letter inviting me to preach an anniversary sermon on Good Friday, in a large chapel in London; but I declined, as I am not very anxious to preach anywhere, and especially on such occasions.
I was pleased with your last letter, and I trust that the Lord is leading you on to know Him. He has brought you out of the ‘profane world’ for some time, and now He seems to be bringing you out of the ‘professing world’. You seem to know better what religion is not, rather than what is. The Lord seems to have taught you your ignorance and insufficiency, and has made you know that there is a power attending vital godliness, and without that power man must perish. Your soul cannot feed under any ministry where the power of the gospel is not; consequently, knowing your darkness, and your fallen state by nature, and that the form of godliness, without the power, is but a shadow; you know that all around you are in the same state by nature, so you cannot have communion with any who are “wise in their own conceit,” and who imagine they can do something towards their own salvation. The Lord, in mercy, seems to keep your conscience honest, and constrains you to speak what you feel and believe; therefore you cannot escape the cross, and must surely give offence. You see in what state the professors are, which they cannot; and this true light, as far as it goes, will be a testimony and witness for the Lord. I am glad to find that you are not ashamed to confess your ignorance, foolishness, and inability. This is humbling to pride, but pride must have a fall. “Before honor is humility,” and “God gives grace to the humble, but the proud He knows afar off.”
You seem to be learning something of the various changes in your own soul. You learn by experience that you have no desire for hearing, reading, and talking about the best things, but as the Lord gives it. This will lead you to wait and pray; and the various trials and difficulties that you meet with will necessarily work for the good of your soul. I do not wish to flatter and deceive you, though I would not quench the smoking flax. You have not at present had any sweet revelation of Christ to your soul; but you have desired it. You have not seen God’s glory in the face of Christ; but a little hope has sprung in your soul that God is doing something for you, and that He will perfect His own work. It is a great mercy to have the day-star arising in your heart, and the day dawning, and you may have many difficulties before you behold Christ in His glorious manifestation.
I feel assured that you want to hear ministers who can trace the footsteps of the flock, who can describe the path that you are traveling in, and who can take up the stumbling-blocks out of your way. You want them to tell you what you have felt and experienced, and what you have not; and when they speak of repentance and faith, you want them to tell you what they mean, both in their power and in their effects, so that you may know whether you are a partaker or not. You want to have the gospel trumpet blown with a distinct sound, so that you may clearly distinguish the note; and it must be a life-giving sound, or you will not be satisfied. If there be nothing but a confusion of sounds, you will have cause to murmur. You will leave such preaching without profit, and more confused than when you went, and you will come home without the knowledge of the way you are traveling in; for such ministers do not divide the word rightly, nor their hearers; consequently, the characters of the regenerate and unregenerate not being set forth, how can a seeking soul find solid comfort? First he is comforted, and then cast down; at one time encouraged by the minister setting forth salvation as all of God, and then distressed with a conditional salvation at the end. If ministers do not preach the finished work of Christ, and hold out the breasts of consolation to the sucklings and weaklings, the name of Christ will not be as ointment poured forth, nor will the Spirit of truth bear testimony to such preaching. I believe, from what you have said to me, that you would rather read a chapter in the Bible and sing a hymn at home, than go after such ministers, “For a stranger they will not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.”
Whoever will be a disciple of Christ must take up his cross and follow Him, through evil report as well as good report; and if your religion is not tried, and does not bring you into crosses and losses, it is not worth much. But what you have felt and handled you can boldly testify of; and when you tell the professors, from what you have experienced, that you would not rest upon their hope for salvation for a thousand worlds, they will be confused and very angry. But the truth commends itself to the conscience. You can tell them, if you do not know Christ, Christ must be known, or there will be no salvation. It is the power of godliness that will bring the cross, and it will, blessed be God’s holy name, enable us also to bear it. The light which God has given you to discern the low state of the Church, and the emptiness and vanity of the mere profession of the day, will cause you to be a troubler in your neighborhood to a certain extent. But, “as your days, so shall your strength be.”
There must be a cross before the crown of glory; and this cross you will not escape, if you are a true son of God. But if it be for righteousness’ sake, happy are you, for “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolations abound by Christ.” Chastenings, troubles, and afflictions will lead you to pray, and God will deliver you, and you shall glorify Him. You will strive, perhaps, to reconcile the two kingdoms, and with your family you will be powerfully tempted to endeavor to reconcile the friendship of the world with the favor of God. But the Lord will take care to lead His people by a right way to the city of habitation, and that way is sure to be rough, and thorny, and well hedged up, so that you may cry to God for help, that He may deliver, and you may bless and praise Him for His mercy and goodness.
If the Lord wills, after I have been a few weeks at home with my people, I will pay you a visit. But have you a quickened people that are really hungering for the bread of life, and is there a probability that a minister would come and preach to you?
I shall be very glad to hear from you soon, and I am anxious to know how God’s children are treated and cast out by the ‘Ishmaelites’. You will not suffer much persecution, because you have so little grace. When the Lord has taught you more of the fullness of Christ, and your hearts are established with grace, then you will be more faithful, and more peculiar as God’s children. For “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Mr. Cole, of Highbury Park, who has left the Church of England, preached for me on Sunday last. He is a well-taught man in his own soul, and can well describe the operations of the Spirit upon the heart. He keeps a school, and speaks without getting gain from his ministry. He has published a little book called “The Substance of Four Sermons on Regeneration.” I wish you would read it. It is a great subject to write upon, but I consider that he has handled it in a masterly way. I am going to hear him speak this evening at Oxford. He is a great friend of Mr. Chamberlain.
“Sell that you have, and give to the poor” is a harder lesson to learn than election; but the time may come when great sacrifices must be made for Christ’s sake. Money-matters will try professors. May the Lord give us very liberal hearts, and more erase “Spare yourself,” so deeply written in them. I believe your religion has induced you to be more liberal and kind to the poor; and, when that is seen, it commends itself to the consciences of those who are without. If we have less money, and at the same time less wants, we are better off; and “people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Tim. 6:9-10. All things below are uncertain. “”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
In the best bonds,