[To B. B.] London, 20 February 1843.
My dear Friend,
I have often thought of the sharp exercises which you have been called upon to endure, yet you can now see how marvellously the eye of God was upon you to preserve you from ruin. This consideration should be to you a continual source of admiration and praise; preserved until called, and now brought sensibly to feel the mercy of God to you in Christ Jesus. I would by no means dishearten you, but I would remind you that this world is full of thieves and robbers, and that they generally come in the night of affliction. The Saviour gives us a particular caution, that as we know not what hour the thief will come, we should watch, and by confession and prayer, not suffer our souls to be robbed. We are continually backsliding in some way or other, and then is the time for the enemy to make his advances. He is watching while we are straying from the good Shepherd, and then robs us of our most valuable jewels, faith and hope, and puts in their place presumption and natural affection, and these soon bring on despondency and unbelief; and when once we are made prisoners in Doubting castle, we find it no easy matter to get out, for this thief that has robbed us turns accuser, and tells us of our shameful ways in departing from the Lord; and we find plenty within to prove the truth of the charge, and to make us fear, either that the Lord will never forgive us, or that he never did anything for us. When we are thus down, and the Lord is pleased to leave us thus forlorn to learn a little more of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, then the grand adversary comes with all his might, and brings on a most terrible fear of death in the very place where we can least bear it. The thoughts of being brought to the bar of God with all this terrible burden upon us, drink up our spirits, and under this heavy load we are bowed down very low. It pleases God to sanctify these troubles to his elect, so that by his management they are to us as ballast to a ship. They have a tendency to humble and steady the soul, and cure us of that levity and vanity which is so much seen in a light profession. When we have had many sights of God's infinite holiness and his unsearchable judgments, we cannot but tremble even while we rejoice. There is much said in the word of God about standing in awe, and having the Lord in reverence. Of late years I have, by the mercy of God, been led to read the Bible more carefully than formerly; in consequence of which I am made to walk in greater fear, not slavish but filial fear, exceedingly anxious not to quench the Spirit, nor to grieve him.
The enemy will take every advantage to work the fear of death in the heart of God's elect, and by it draw them to dishonour, in the furnace of affliction, him who has made so many mighty promises to help the helpless and to stand by the friendless. A general idea that God will be with us, and that the fear of death will not touch us, will avail nothing when it comes to the point. Such untried confidence will fall like the house upon the sands. When I have found myself overwhelmed with that fear, I have cried to the Lord, and unceasingly besought him to remove it and give me some hope; and to my surprise, he has removed it, and given me a sweet hope that he will be with me in that tremendous hour. Such promises, founded on God's word and brought into the heart by the Spirit of God, are sure to stand; nevertheless we are continually losing sight of them in fresh fears, and find we can only go again the same way to work, that our tokens may be renewed. While the sweet love of God rules in the heart, all fear and torment is cast out; but the Lord tells us the days of darkness shall be many. Therefore he also further warns us, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise" [Prov. vi. 6-8]. I sincerely hope this will be your way, and that in every trial you may come off more than conqueror through Jesus Christ.
Tell your fellow-servant to give the Lord no rest till she finds clear evidences of the Lord's mercy and favour towards her; and both of you remember you are called to endure hardness as good soldiers, and that there must be no turning back in the day of battle.
Yours &c. J. B.