London, 14 February 1841.
Dear W. B.,
I have been greatly exercised and much cast down of late. God only knows why you are continually, with some others, on my mind and in my prayers. I do not know when I have felt such floods of sorrow and fear. Under these feelings the Lord led me to these words for my morning's reading yesterday - "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away." This greatly encouraged me; and in my meditation these words came with sweetness - "I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, . . . for he disappointeth the devices of the crafty, . . . but he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth." [Job. v. 8-16.] Psalm cvii. was also very encouraging to me; these words - "He setteth the poor on high from affliction; the righteous shall see it and rejoice," came with such unspeakable and personal application as to comfort me exceedingly with a sweet sense of the Lord's love, tenderness, and care; and the last verse crowned the whole, and showed me the unspeakable love of Christ to his afflicted people, and to me as one of them. While pondering over this heavenly gale of Christ's everlasting love, which brought me so clean out of my sorrows, these words were gently whispered in my heart - Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow? In them I heard the voice of my Beloved, to quell my grief, and to make me lay to heart that my sin had caused his sorrow; and that I had need to abase myself, and look only at his sovereign mercy, which had visited me in such a low condition. It wrought contrition and godly sorrow, with an inexpressible tenderness towards him, while I was led, like Job, to abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
I know not when I had so sweet a token; but my changes are very many. Things arose from all quarters, which caused the clouds to gather and threaten another storm; but when evening came, I was led, I think by the Lord, to these words for this morning's reading - "The hand of the Lord was with him" [Luke i. 66]. I first saw Samuel, when young; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. I then thought of David when first presented to Saul; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. The history of Joseph also shows the overruling power of God; and Jacob, though turned out of doors, yet protected and preserved, returns home greatly increased after twenty years absence. Naomi said she must no more be so called, but Mara, because the Lord had dealt bitterly with her; but read to the end, and you will see how the hand of the Lord is towards his people.
I found Psalm lxxxix. a sweet key to my text - "Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face." The hand of the Lord is seen in giving knowledge of salvation by the remission of sin. We can scarcely feel it possible that this happy day should ever arrive; but the hand of the Lord brings it about, and shows us that it is not by our might or power, but by the Spirit, that this work is wrought in the heart, and that this precious gift is only bestowed upon them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; that such poor creatures as you and I may have peace.
Whatever you may think, I am sure I have felt this day that there is no sinner so great as myself; and by the deep self-abasement I found at the sight, I believe it was the Spirit of God that showed me this. When I had finished my reading, I went to my friend Mr. Maddy, and told him of my cast down condition and the sorrow under which I laboured; he endeavoured to cheer me, and said, This sorrow is for something good. I was obliged to go out on business, and when I entered Portman Square, I said very mournfully, Lord, is it true what my friend said? Is this thy work that I feel? Art thou humbling me? All this was very sorrowfully spoken, and I added, Are all the good things thou hast promised me to go for nothing? I felt as if it could scarcely be so, though fears were ready to admit the thought; but just then these words were whispered, "He will exalt thee in due time;" and with them I found the sweetest return of Christ's lovingkindness that I can express. It melted me into tears of contrition and gratitude, and made me feel more abject in myself, and more safe in the eternal love of Father, Son, and Spirit, than it is possible for me to describe. My thoughts of praise and adoration went as quick as lightning to acknowledge the infinite condescension of the Lord in regarding the low estate of his servant, and showing me that in the world I shall have tribulation, but in him shall always find a Friend.
This is the Friend I want strongly to recommend to you. I know your fears, and I am sure they will be multiplied, and that you will have some bitter throes of conscience, when hell and death approach. I find them overwhelming; but the hand of the Lord will be with you to sustain you and make known to you that "he hath raised up a horn of salvation for us," by which he will push aside all his enemies and ours; and will make manifest that, however secret or small the beginning may be, yet by this power and this hand, he will bring forth the top stone with shouting. You will naturally say, Why do you tell all this to me? Because I have been so continually mindful of you in my prayers, and think I have found such tokens of good as will accompany your salvation.
Your affectionate friend, J. B.