[To C. G.] London, 17 October 1842.
My dear Friend,
I was sincerely glad to see your letter, but you overlooked the subject of mine, which was written under many alarming fears respecting myself, how I should finish my course. But that Friend you speak of, who came to you at midnight, also brought to me some of that bread of eternal life which was, and is still, my comfort and nourishment. Your religion and mine would indeed be at a very low ebb if we attained to nothing to urge us to seek his face. I find that if nothing else is sent for that purpose, the Lord is pleased by many ways to raise an alarm ("at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh"), and this teaches me to cry until I find his merciful presence some way encouraging me to hope; and I am assured if I seek for that wisdom which you speak of, as for silver, and search for it as for hid treasures, then shall I "understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." But the watching and waiting enters more deeply into our life, walk, and conversation, than we are at first sight aware. For how long do we go unwatchful, when beclouded, not examining the cause of it, nor considering in what manner the Lord is showing his displeasure! On this account we are often ready to conclude (when the alarm is given) that the Lord is now intending to bring us to nothing, and utterly to crush our profession. If we had been watching and waiting, we should understand the Lord's tender care in checking and stopping a fruitless profession, and teaching us the necessity of spiritual communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and our interest in this marvellous and inestimable treasure. [Luke xi. 5-13, and Matt. xxv. 1-13.]
If our hearts are set upon these things, we may be assured that the enemy will oppose, alarm, and terrify by all means, and none more frightful than inserting into the mind blasphemous thoughts and sights which no human soul can invent, and then accusing the poor soul of the things which are altogether of his own hatching. Such an one cannot be persuaded but that it is the sin of his nature, and that he shall be brought to destruction for it, except by the almighty power of God, who in due time shows him whence these terrifying things arise, and that Jesus Christ himself' was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Here an objection will be raised, that Christ's temptations were not like ours; but I would ask the meaning of' these words - "Tempted in all points like as we are" (though he was without sin); and again - "In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them who are tempted." I know all this is suffered to bring us to understand our weakness, and the desperate state that sin has brought us to. All glorying is set aside here, all self is put to the blush, and we begin to feel what it is to be lost. One ray of light sets the Saviour in a most sweet and precious view, and we cry out, "How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!" [Zech. ix. 17.] These are the things that give savour to the salt, life in our profession, and teach us to write vanity on all created comforts.
I was truly glad to hear that Mrs. Morris felt the sound of alarm in her conscience on the doctor's sentence; tell her to ponder well that though it was but the doctor's sentence, no doubt the voice of God was in it; and I trust the Lord said in her heart, "Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest." She has had repeated admonitions in the long illness of her husband, but now again must be taken in hand: the Lord makes no mistakes. Did she ever read or understand this - "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force?" A light profession brings nothing in: branches in the Vine must be fruitful, or cut off. A knowledge of doctrine, or even an approval of true religion, is not vital godliness. The furnace brings to light who are who; and those who cannot receive hard sayings, nor bear to be told, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to life," will soon find an easier broader way which will end in despair: but if; where many are offended, such a thought as this arises - "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life," then I say, these workings in the mind show that we are led of the Spirit, will stand the fire, and come forth as gold. I exceedingly desire that she may attain to all this, and have such bright evidences as shall comfort her in a dying hour. I hope also that her husband does not forget the fearful apprehension of danger he felt when in the hottest of his trial, and that there can be no relief but in Jesus Christ.
How awful do I see the general profession of your parish; they are all swallowed up with free will. I find no religion but in the furnace: it is almost entirely set aside by the professing world, where is little else but vain and frothy joy, which blows away with all sorts of errors, and when most needed is utterly extinguished. If my health and life be spared, and the Lord permit another visit amongst you, I fear the way will be pointed out narrower than many will like: but the will of the Lord be done.
Those hopeless feelings you mention spring out of a backsliding heart; the straightness lies there, not in the Lord. We grow faint and weary in our minds for want of communication with the tried people of God, and the preaching of the word. It pleases God to suffer us to degenerate into these states, that we may be deeply convinced how barren and unfruitful we are without the daily renewals that the Lord speaks of in his word.
Yours &c. J. B.