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London. If you have not seen it, I will venture to recommend it, (though I am not fond of recommending books ;) I think it will please you.
I suppose you have read Augustine's Confessions. In that book I think there is a lively description of the workings of the heart, and of the Lord's methods in drawing him to himself. It has given me satisfaction to meet with experiences very much like my own, in a book written so long ago. But nature and grace
have been the same in every age.
I make no apology for the miscellaneous manner of my letters. I sit down to give you my thoughts as they arise, without reserve, and without study. I beg a remembrance in your prayers. I am, very respectfully,
Reverend and dear Sir,
Your most affectionate and obliged servant.
MY DEAR SIR,
February 11, 1769.
THOUGH, by the Lord's mercy, I have not, since the years of my miserable bondage in Africa, been much subject to a depression of spirits, I know how to sympathize with you under your present complaints; but while I am sorry for your trials, I rejoice much more to observe the spirit of submission and dependence with which you are favoured under them. Whatever may be the immediate causes of your troubles, they are all under the direction of a gracious hand, and each, in their place, co-operating to a gracious end. 1 think the frame of your spirit is a sure evidence that God is with you in your trouble; and, I trust, in due time, he will fulfil the other part of his promise, to comfort and deliver you, because he has given you to know his name; Psalm xci. 14, 15. It will be always a pleasure to me when a letter comes with your superscription; but while writing is so painful to you, I shall be willing (since you are pleased to receive mine so favourably) to send you two or three for one, rather than expect a punctual return of answers, till your health and spirits shall enable you to gratify me without inconvenience to yourself. Your saying that" if I have never been in the like circumstances, it is impossible for me to conceive the uncomfortableness of them," reminds me of one admirable peculiarity of the Gospel, which seems a fit topic for a paragraph in a letter to you at this time. I mean the encouragement it affords us to apply to our great High Priest, from the especial consideration of his having
felt the same sorrows which we also feel. Though he is now exalted above all our conceptions and praises, is supremely happy in himself, and the fountain of happiness to all his redeemed; yet he is still such an one as can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities; Heb. iv. 15, 16. He has not only a divine knowledge, but an experimental perception of our afflictions: Isa. Ixiii. 9. And as Dr. Watts well expresses the thought—
Touch'd with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
You complain of a dejection of spirits, which I apprehend nearly expresses the sense of adnuove, Mark, xiv. 33, which is one out of many of those emphatical words the evangelists use to give some apprehension of that depression, agony, and consternation of spirit which filled the soul of Jesus when he entered upon the great work of atoning for our sins. All that he endured from the hands of wicked men are probably very light, in comparison of what he began to suffer in the garden, when he was exposed to the fierce conflicts of the powers of darkness, and when the arrows of the Almighty drank up his spirits, and it pleased the Father to bruise him; Zech. xiii. 7. How different the cup he drank himself, from that which he puts into our hands! His was unmixed wrath and anguish; but all our afflictions are tempered and sweetened with many mercies. Yet we suffer, at the worst, unspeakably less than we deserve; but he had done nothing amiss.
Now let our pains be all forgot,
Our hearts no more repine;
Our sufferings are not worth a thought,
But what I chiefly intend is, that having suffered for us, he knows how to pity and how to relieve us, by an experimental sense of the sorrow which once filled his own soul, (yea, all his life long he was acquainted with grief,) even as we, (if it be lawful to compare great things with small,) are prompted to pity and to help those who are afflicted in the same way as ourselves. May he be pleased, by the power of his Holy Spirit, to reveal, with increasing guidance and power in your soul, this mystery of redeeming love. Here is the source of consolation, that Jesus died for us, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. The knowledge of his cross, like the wood which Moses cast into the spring, Exod. xv. 25, sweetens the bitter waters of afflictions,
and sanctifies every dispensation of providence, so as to render it a means of grace. A comfortable hope of our acceptance and reconciliation in him, is, I apprehend, that " preparation of the Gospel of peace," which, for its continual use and application, the apostle compares to shoes, which, whoever wears, shall walk safely and surely through the thorny and rugged paths of our present pilgrimage, Ephes. vi. 15. Deut. xxxiii, 25. Though there may be many tribulations, yet since there can be no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; since in the path of sufferings we may see his footsteps before us; since it is the established law of the kingdom, Acts, xiv. 22; since the time is short, and the hour coming apace when all tears shall be wiped from our eyes, and his grace engaged to be sufficient for us in the interim; why may we not say, with the apostle, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear, so that I may finish my course with joy?" There is no proportionate ground for comparison between the sufferings of the present life and the glory which shall be revealed in us; Rom. viii. 18. So the apostle thought; and no man seems to have been better qualified to decide upon the point; for on the one hand his outward life was full of what the world calls misery, 1 Cor. iv. 10-14. 2 Cor. vi. 4-10. and xi. 23-28. And on the other hand, he had been caught up into the third heavens, and had seen and heard more than he could disclose in mortal language.
I shall be glad when you are able to inform me that your health and spirits are better, which I shall pray and wait for. The Lord has an appointed time for auswering the prayers of his people. While his hour is not yet come, we can do nothing but look and wait at his mercy-seat. But though he seems to tarry, he will not delay beyond the fittest season. Though he cause grief, he will have compassion. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. In the mean time, I commend you to those most gracious and comfortable promises, Isa. xli. 10, and xliii. 2, which, I trust, will be your present support, and the subject of your future praises.
I am, respectfully, dear Sir,
Your obedient and affectionate servant.
March 21, 1769.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,
In my last I engaged to write again before long, though I
should not have one of yours to answer.
And I hope soon after
you receive this, your leisure and spirit will permit you to write, at least a few lines, to inform us of your welfare. My anxiety on your account would be greater, but that I know you are in the hands of him who does all things well, and conducts his most afflictive dispensations, to those who fear him, with wisdom and mercy. As I am not fit to choose for myself, so neither for my friends. The Lord knows what is best for us all; when there is an especial need-be for our being in heaviness; how to support us in the furnace; and at what season, and in what manner, deliverance will best comport with his glory and our good: the two great ends which he has in view, and which are inseparably connected together. He knows our frame and whereof we are made; his pity exceeds that of the most tender parent and though he cause grief, he will have compassion. The afflictions which at present are not joyous, but grievous, shall, when we have been duly exercised by them, yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. I trust the Lord gives you a measure of patience and submission to his holy will; if so, every thing shall be we!! and when he has fully tried you, you shall come forth as gold. The thoughts of what we have deserved at his hands, and what Jesus suffered for our sakes, when applied by his Holy Spirit, have a sovereign efficacy to compose our minds, and enable us to say, Not my will, but thine be done. How unspeakably better is it to be chastened of the Lord now, than to be left to ourselves for a season, and at last condemned with the world.
The path of affliction is sanctified by the promise of God, and by the consideration of our Lord Jesus, who walked in it himself, that we might not think much to tread in his steps. Yea, it has been a beaten path in all ages; for the innumerable multitudes of the redeemed who are now before the throne, entered the kingdom by no other way. Let us not, then, be weary and faint in our minds, but cheerfully consent to be followers of them who, through faith and patience, are now inheriting the promises. If after much tribulation, we are accounted worthy to stand accepted before the Lord in his glory, we shall not then think much of the difficulties we met in our passage. Then sorrow and sighing shall cease for ever, and songs of triumph and everlasting joy shall take place. O happy, transporting moment, when the Lord God himself shall wipe all tears from our eyes.
Till then, may the prospect of this glory which shall be revealed, cheer and comfort our hearts! Hitherto the Lord has helped us. He has delivered us in six troubles, and we may trust him in the seventh. Yea, if he was pleased to deliver us when we thought little of him, much more may we assure ourselves of his help, now that he has taught us to come to his throne of
grace, and given us encouragement to come with boldness, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help at the time of need.
The news-papers (which in this retired place are the chief sources of our intelligence) give us but a dark view of what is ¿passing abroad. A spirit of discord is spreading in the nation, and we have hints and items respecting ecclesiastical matters, which I hope are premature and without sufficient ground. But, whatever storms may arise, there is an infallible and Almighty Pilot, who will be a sun and a shield to those who love him. I endeavour to answer all fears respecting political matters with the sure declarations of the word of God. Such as Psalm xcix. 1, and xxix. 10, 11, Isa. viii. 12-14, and li. 12, 13, John iii. 35, &c. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords: King of the church, and King in the nations; who doth his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. Therefore, by faith in him, we may adopt the triumphant language of the ii. xxvii. xlvi. and cxviii. Psalms, for the Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble, and knoweth how to deliver them that trust in him.
Oh, Sir, what a light does the Gospel of Christ throw upon the world when our eyes are open to receive it! Without it, all would be uncertainty and perplexity; but the knowledge of his person, blood, and righteousness; of the love he bears us, the care he exercises over us, and the blessings he had prepared for us-this knowledge gives peace and stability to the soul, in the midst of all changes and confusions. And were it not for the remaining power of unbelief in our heart, which fights against our faith, and damps the force of divine truth, we should begin our heaven even while we are upon earth. We need to adopt the apostle's prayer, and to say, "Lord increase our faith.'
Believe me to be, with great respect,
Your most obedient and affectionate servant.
June 12, 1770.
VERY DEAR SIR,
I MAKE haste to answer your obliging favour of the 31st; the contents gave me much pleasure. I am glad to find that, though you have your share of trials in different ways, the Lord is pleased to support you under them, and do you good by them. So I trust you shall find it to the end. That valuable promise,