[To the Rev, W. Maddy ] Leominster, 6 July 1841.
My dear Friend,
I have, by the blessing of God, of late years considered much the causes of spiritual decay and the continual darkness that overtakes us; and I cannot but believe it is for want of a true reverence for the word of God. We seem to receive the doctrines therein contained, and to pay some regard to the promises the Lord makes to his afflicted people; and perhaps you will say, What more need we? Carefully read the Epistles, and you will find the Apostles always follow up their doctrine with counsel, and show the necessity of the fruits and effects of the divine work upon the heart being openly manifested. Where this is not regarded, there will be much darkness and distance from God. If I pay not due reverence to such a word as this - "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" [Rom. xii. 21], I shall fall into bondage, and find my prayer shut out. It will prove a hindrance to my approaches to God, for "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" [Psalm lxvi. 18].
I was much struck this morning in reading 1 Thess. v., "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness; therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober." The Apostle gives this reason - "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ; " and then adds, "We beseech you brethren," and again, "We exhort you, . . . Quench not the Spirit." As though he said, If you attend not to the word of exhortation, you will find no end of misery and the sensible lack of the Lord's presence; you will have no communion with the Lord Jesus Christ; no communion with his people; no blessing of God upon the works of your hands.
How difficult it is to come to the Apostle's words, "Being reviled we bless" [1 Cor. iv. 12]; yet I am firmly persuaded if we can find grace and humility so to walk, we shall have abundant peace and composure of mind. I have been in the midst of contention and war, and there have had no end of support in finding these words applied to me - "Say not in thine heart, I will recompense evil; but wait thou on the Lord, and he shall save thee." O how true and faithful is the Lord to his word I am sure we may wholly confide in him. When all friends fail, and all refuge too, he will delight in and honour them that hope in his mercy. Joseph had but a poor prospect of retrieving his character; he little thought that the prison was the way to he lord of all Egypt. But before honour there must be humility; or we should all prove like a ship without ballast.
It is marvellous how earnestly Paul, in that same Epistle to the Thessalonians, prays that spiritual unity may subsist and manifest itself, to the end that our hearts may be stablished unblameable in holiness before God. This can be no other way than by the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin, and by which alone we walk with God in peace and equity. It is not in vain that it is said - "Let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment " [Eccl. ix. 8]. A profession without this is like salt that has lost its savour, and in time of affliction it leaves the soul to despair of all things, which I dread exceedingly in these my latter days.
I cannot express my anxiety here that my employers should be satisfied with what it pleases God to enable me to accomplish; otherwise I suspect that something in me causes the Lord to withdraw his favour from me. I little thought of ever being so far from home again, but I trust the Lord will preserve me, and enable me to finish this my last engagement; which often brings to my mind the first, forty-one years since. I must acknowledge the goodness and mercy and faithfulness of God which have followed me all my days, and I am quite sure that he who walks uprightly shall want no good thing. May every blessing attend you.
I remain your affectionate friend, J. B.