London, 28 March 1843.
Dear Mrs. Rayment,
Do you think when David said [Psa. lx], "O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased," that this happened before he had tasted of the goodness and mercy of God? O no! Only in the Psalm before he says, "I will sing of thy power; I will sing aloud of thy mercy;" and this is to teach us that the Lord's people are subject to many changes, though he declares HE changes not. If you read the last verse of Matthew iii., it is said, "Lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and in the first verse of the next chapter it is said, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Again we read Peter, James, and John were taken up into the mountain, and had a wonderful display of the glory of Christ, and something of a sight of heaven and the glorified saints; yet after this they had many changes, and some dreadful ones overtook Peter, so that he even denied knowing anything about the Lord. I am sure I have had many sweet seasons wherein the Lord has drawn very nigh to me, and for the time I have felt as if I could never lose sight of these sweet assurances of eternal life; yet I have afterwards been filled with ten thousand fears lest I should have mistaken the way altogether; but every fresh visit and every return of his favour has, without fail, restored to me a clear understanding of all the way the Lord has led me from the beginning.
We should soon grow independent of God if we were not often brought into these low places as one amongst us says, In prosperity we are somebody, but when affliction comes we are nobody; and it is God's design we should be nobody in our own estimation. I have no doubt you have quite worn out all the light and comfort you found in your late visitation, and have been unwilling to part with it; perhaps you have often spoken of it with a heart as dry as a potsherd, seeking to feed upon your comforts instead of Christ. These presently become dry breasts, and leave us to mourn over our sad condition, and we begin to perceive that the Comforter who should relieve our souls has departed. This brings us upon our knees, like Daniel; and here the Spirit, though not now a comforter, does not altogether depart, but reproves us "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;" and many secret backslidings are brought to light; much pride discovered, which the Lord will not suffer; and thus once more we are put into the furnace, to teach us to come down a few staves lower, and to take the lowest room. Jeremiah tells us why the showers have been withholden [Jer. iii. 1-3], and the Spirit bears a secret testimony in our consciences to the truth of the charge; and if we can honestly agree to this, we shall find in confession and prayer that the Lord is a shelter and refuge from every storm. This appears to me a turning point. It is in a humble acknowledgment of the truth of God's charges, and in stooping under them, that a way of escape presently appears.
I believe it will not be long before you get out of your fears and darkness; and when you do, then remember not only me, but poor Hastings, your son-in-law. Give him to understand that the strong hand of God is upon him, and that it will be his mercy not to get out of his hand without obtaining some sense of God's mercy to his soul. Tell him to ponder well the death of poor and how doleful such an end is without having Christ for a friend, or knowing anything of the way the Lord saves sinners. I think it has pleased God to show him how frail he is, and that neither business nor health is at his own disposal; and when these discoveries are made, they are to teach us to be often in secret seeking the Lord, both in prayer, and in diligently reading his word. The Lord has been long visiting every part of your family, and it will be a great mercy to you all if you understand his voice. It is a day in which he speaks by alarming dispensations: let not the day pass without many cries. That the Lord may comfort all your hearts, is the sincere desire of
Your faithful friend, J. B.