[To M. G.] London, 12 October 1840.
My dear Friend,
I have been thinking of poor Mr. Morris. The Lord's ways are in the deep and his footsteps are not to be traced. It is a great mercy he has so much sensibility in his affliction. That secret fear of death which works in his mind is no small token of a sense of the need of a remedy to counteract it; nor do I wonder he should often retire from a busy world and company of all sorts, and sit solitary, while God's hand is upon him. I would advise him by all means to cherish these things, and to be much engaged in the word of God, for he knows not but that the Lord may surprise him by a kind word, and by that means raise his drooping spirits.
All are born in sin, and all must perish if the Lord do not quicken them to feel their danger and to cry for mercy. This he does by various means. When we are brought very low with apprehensions of God's wrath, and there is but one step between us and death, it becomes a fearful dispensation, and turns all our comeliness into corruption, and all our worldly speculations into less than vanity. Oh! what secret mourning, what secret sighing it excites, and what a cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy! And though we do not all at once sensibly attain to mercy, yet there is a something that holds our souls in life; and we feel by that something, which as yet we do not understand, that we are encouraged to give the Lord no rest; for we perceive salvation is to be found nowhere else but in Jesus Christ. When once this is established in the heart, there is an unceasing look to him alone; and when these looks and cries at times grow feeble, the Lord causes a fear to spring up in the conscience which gives a fresh energy, and something like this is groaned out of the heart, when no eye sees us - Lord have mercy on me, and do not let me die till I know more about thee. We do not know that these are the groanings of the Spirit helping our infirmities; but by and by we perceive encouragement to spring up, and Christ becomes our salvation, and the only object of our desires.
Thus the Lord instructs his people by slow degrees. Sanctified humbling dispensations are very fruitful, and the tree often grows downward at the root when there may he but little appearance to the natural sight. We all require much to humble us; and who knows hut this dispensation may eventually have much instruction in it for Mrs. Morris also? She has had a good deal of light, and now the time is come when the Lord is bidding her to take the lowest place, and is in every way showing both him and her what helpless hopeless sinners they are. They must not be surprised if their troubles are heavy and very tedious to flesh and blood. The Lord will turn this old man of ours to destruction before he bids us to return and live [Psa. xc. 3]. It is only by sharp furnace-work that the Lord turns to us a pure language, and makes us sober minded [Zeph. iii. 8, 9]. This is not done in an hour, or by one short affliction, and then nothing but joy. It is through much tribulation we enter the kingdom. This work makes and keeps us more dependent on the Lord in our walk, and less conceited of anything we possess.
I cannot help observing, whenever the Lord graciously visits my soul, what humbling effects it produces; how simple and like a little child it makes me; how passive and patient in the furnace; how willing to wait the Lord's time; and how ready to believe that the trial is the best thing that could befal me to bring about my spiritual prosperity and clearer discoveries of the love of Christ. This is the way we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
When first enlightened with the light of life we are very apt to call the marks and tokens of God's work begun upon us, black marks of his final displeasure; whereas the truth is, as I said at the beginning, and will again add, God's displeasure is shown against the sin of our nature, and that makes us to feel bitterly the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and in some measure his holiness. These things meeting in our conscience, and pondered, have a very cutting effect; and, if they work aright, will cut us out and off from the spirit of the world, and from that half-profession which is so general. Perhaps Mr. Morris has been entangled here. An old and empty profession will stick to us as close as our skin; and nothing but the rod of correction will drive it away. The Lord appears to be at this work in earnest with them both; and if it really prove so, I am sure they will declare all their troubles to be the best things that could have happened. I say they will acknowledge this, living or dying. May the Lord in great mercy encourage them to press on; for none ever sought his face in vain. I shall be very happy to hear my words are come true, and that they both may yet see the glory of God in the salvation of their souls.
Cease not, my dear friend, to pray for the welfare of Zion, for in the peace thereof you shall have peace. Slack not your hands on any feeling of the approach of victory. Victory and safety are of the Lord. Grieve him not by remissness, lest he withdraw, and leave you to another campaign.
Yours affectionately, J. B.