London, 11 November 1840.
Dear Mrs. F.,
There is great difficulty in discerning between the natural light of such as hear the truth and the first dawnings of spiritual light and life. Some are constitutionally what we call very sentimental, easily moved to hope or fear; and so soft and naturally tender are such, that they are easily persuaded that all this is religion, and are set down in a self-complacent and self-righteous spirit, exceedingly delighted with themselves. Who so good as they? This sort of religion gives way in the time of sharp trial, and leaves the poor creature discontented, and finally in despair.
When you were taken ill on that bridge near Tewin, and carried into a neighbour's house, did not the Lord then sit on the throne of your conscience, and was not the truth of your condition brought to light? This should never be forgotten. What the Lord then discovered to you was beyond nature. You fell under the conviction, and stood as a guilty criminal before him. You could not set aside that true indictment, and all things round about you were set in their proper colours; and you then weighed them in the balance of the Sanctuary, and found them lighter than vanity compared with the salvation of your soul. This work is compared to fine gold, which the heavenly Refiner puts into the furnace, so as to have for himself a vessel meet for his own use. I think I hear you say that you almost forget all that. Then "How is the gold become dim? How is the most fine gold changed?" Have not the things of time and sense so swallowed up the attention, that this secret work has been too much set aside for the present?
Not cherishing divine awe upon the spirit when God speaks is very often the cause of much darkness and confusion; and then the bustle of this world drowns that still small voice, which often whispers to the wary soul, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." For want of due reverence and attention to the secret teaching of the Spirit, we are apt to grow listless, and soon get at a distance, and know not the voice of the Beloved, who is continually knocking at the door of our hearts for entrance. That knocking is the conviction of the Spirit, but for want of watchfulness, we (like the world) feel cast down, and are unhappy, and scarcely know why; and then, instead of deeply entering into the matter, and searching the very foundation with that prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts," we seek for some little family concern to amuse, and make us forget what should never, NEVER be set aside, but fully inquired into, as something lame that must be healed.
In dealing thus faithfully with our consciences, we shall soon come to a right understanding as to the nature of our convictions. The Spirit will help our infirmities, and a sensible awe will be found upon our heart, and light to discover that the Lord is with us, instructing us in this secret hidden wisdom, which the vulture's keen eye can never discover. But an inattentive and untender walk, after having received the light of life, will be greatly resented; and if we dare to act contrary to that heavenly gift, we shall have to rue it, and perhaps cry many a day before the Lord will be pleased to restore us. The untenderness may have no reference to our outward walk; God looks at the heart. Men generally judge after the sight of the eyes, and therefore judge wrongly. Outward appearances may continue very smooth, and no change be apparent to the common observer, while the heart may be greatly removed from the first look that the Lord gave us.
Call to mind what the Apostle sets forth as a proof of the genuineness of the conviction - "What carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! " It will always be the genuine effect of the convictions of the Spirit to bring us out of the spirit of the world, and not to let us sit down short of Christ's promised rest.
Thus I have endeavoured, by the help of God, to show you the way the Lord has led me. I have also intermingled some very necessary cautions, because I know that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, even in the way of fatherly chastisement, which I, to my shame, have called for so much; and I hope it also is that I may, as long as I live, warn incautious professors. We can scarcely sufficiently lay to heart this plain Scripture; it ought to be graven on the posts of our doors - "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Gal. vi. 7]; and we easily get an understanding by the light of the ministry what our hearts are set upon. I now desire most exceedingly that in all your fears you may make a friend of the Saviour. You will find him a sure foundation. I have never been deceived nor forsaken. The Lord knows my manifold difficulties, and it is one of the greatest mercies of my life that in these I am led to go to him. He never forsakes me. He pleads my cause; he clears my way; he comforts me with a sweet hope. All that know his precious Name will put their trust in him.
Your sincere and faithful friend, J. B.