A Letter To A Friend – July 23rd, 1858
My dear friend,
I fear that you will almost think that I have forgotten you by not writing before; but you know how much I am usually engaged in writing until I have got the month’s Standard off my hands. I take then the opportunity of a few days’ quiet and rest down here in this retired spot, to send you a few lines to encourage you, I hope, to look unto and trust in the Lord above. I was reading this morning, at our family prayer, Psalm 51, and was struck with a few things in it, which seem so suitable to the needs and feelings of every sensible sinner; for it is not necessary to have committed David’s sin to have a measure of David’s repentance and confessions, and of David’s desires, breathings, and supplications. “Have mercy upon me, O God”, he says, “according to Your loving-kindness.” To ask God to have mercy upon us is one of the first cries that a convinced sinner puts up to God. It was so with the tax-collector in the temple—and where it is sincere, God will certainly hear it “according to His loving-kindness”, for He is full of love and kindness to poor mourning sinners.
How also he begs of the Lord to “blot out his transgressions according unto the multitude of His tender mercies.” As our sins in thought, word, and deed are a countless multitude, of which every one deserves hell, we need “the multitude of His most tender mercies” to blot them out. We may see the stars in the sky, the sands on the sea-shore, the drops of dew on the grass, the waves rolling in upon the beach; but both our sins and God’s tender mercies exceed them all. How He showed these tender mercies in giving His dear Son to suffer, bleed, and die for miserable sinners — and how we need all these tender mercies to pity and pardon us and our transgressions. And how earnestly David begged, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” It is only the washing of God Himself that can wash us clean. If we could shed an ocean of tears, it would not wash away one sin — but the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. In order to make us feel this, the Lord shows us and makes us feel the guilt and burden of sin, and that we can do nothing to put it away. Pardon must be His own free gift, and that every sensible sinner is made to feel. But David says—”I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.” It is good to confess our sins, for there is a sweet and precious promise that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
You may find it very difficult in your weak state of body to be able to kneel for any length at a time. But the Lord who searches the hearts knows all the real desire of the soul, and can and does listen to a sigh, a desire, a breath of supplication within. He knows our state both of body and soul, and is not a hard taskmaster to require what we cannot give, or lay upon us more than we can bear; but can and does give all that He desires from us. But very often He delays to appear, that He may teach us thereby we have no claim upon Him, and that anything granted is of His pure compassion and grace.
I hope you may be able to say — “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” You might have had everything that the carnal heart desires, and only been hardened thereby unto worldliness and ungodliness. But to be brought down in body and soul, to be weaned and separated from an ungodly world by affliction sanctified and made spiritually profitable; to be brought to feel your need of Christ, and that without an interest in His precious blood your soul must be forever lost — how much better it is really and truly to be laid upon a bed of affliction, with a hope in God’s mercy, than to be left to your own carnality and thoughtlessness. Affliction of any kind is very hard to bear, and especially so when we begin to murmur and fret under the weight of the cross; but as I used to tell you when I sat by your bedside, when the Lord afflicts it is in good earnest; He means to make us feel it. Strong measures are required to bring us down, and affliction would not be affliction unless it were full of grief and sorrow. But when affliction makes us seek the Lord, with a deep feeling in the soul that none but Himself can save or bless, and we are enabled to look up unto Him with sincerity and earnestness, that He would manifest his love and mercy to our heart, He will appear sooner or later.
I do hope that the Lord in His own time and way will give you a blessed manifestation of His pardoning love, and fill your soul with sweet peace, so that, compared with it, all affliction will be found light indeed.
We called upon Dr. C. the other day at the hospital, and were with him for nearly an hour. He spoke of you with much interest and affection, and expressed the strongest faith about you that the Lord had begun His gracious work in your heart. You appear to have been laid upon his mind in a remarkable way, so that he feels quite a spiritual union with you. We hope to see him again before we leave town.
I think you would be pleased to see our congregations at Gower Street so large and so attentive. I hope it may please the Lord to bless the word to many poor souls who come to hear from various parts in town and country. The world may despise the Gospel and the people of God; but they are dear to the Lord, and He will one day make it manifest that they are His, when He comes to make up His jewels. May you and I, and those whom we love, be found among their number. Our united love to yourself, R., and the children.
Yours most affectionately,
J. C. P.