[To the Rev. B. G.] London, 13 November 1843.
My dear Friend,
I know of nothing more comforting in the time of affliction than to be acquainted with our own condition as fearing God. If our faith can realise our interest in Christ, this will uphold us in our affliction, even when sensible enjoyment is at a low ebb.
We are called kings and priests unto God, and have in our measure the charge of the sanctuary, to see that the vessels are kept full and the lights burning. The heart of a regenerate man is called the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the person himself a priest consecrated to God to keep it diligently, to have the light and power of spiritual knowledge within him, and to nourish this spiritual light and power by drawing continually fresh supplies from Jesus Christ.
For a man to be a real partaker of this divine power, and for the heart to be the habitation of light, the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost must take place. This must be bestowed upon us before we can set forth the true love of God to sinners with any real efficacy. "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light;" that is, enlightened by the Spirit of God into the mysteries of the new birth, and the liberty that is in Christ Jesus. This is the chief point of divine and spiritual wisdom, not in the head, but graven on the heart in a rich experience.
It is to this that God has called us; and anything short of this, in the present dreadful day of departing from the truth, will dwindle into a form, with some show of outward goodness; but the new birth will be passed over as a needless matter, where there is so much show of divinity, as well as of goodness and of wealth. Such professors will find agreement with those that do not enforce, nor are able distinctly to set forth, the leading doctrines of the Gospel; and in that agreement the fair show in the flesh will be concluded to be all that the Scriptures set forth as necessary to be attained to. This sort of profession, which comes within a hair's breadth of the truth, does not quickly show its deviation, but in the course of a few years it may be seen that the power is wanting.
The true Gospel gives the light of life, and this will shine in setting forth the new birth, or in showing the broken-hearted sinner, from a heartfelt experience, the saving comfort of Christ's love, and that he saves to the uttermost, because he has saved me. The effectual work of salvation is called daylight, in contradistinction to the night of darkness in which the world of professors lie. But what is this daylight to one shut up in darkness? How can one born blind judge of light, and set it forth before others as glorious? When a poor soul has witnessed the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in his beams, then such a one can distinctly show the manner of it, and the surprise he found in emerging from the dark night in which he lay. He can tell much of the glory, beauty, and efficacy of the light, and the warmth and comforting power of it. It is amazing to perceive the power of this change; how it brings a disrelish upon the spirit for all created vanities, and so humbles the soul that all vain confidence, dignity, and glorying is laid aside, and nothing left but to speak of the glory of this spiritual and heavenly kingdom of Christ, and to talk of his power.
Many things entangle the soul and keep it from this divine liberty, but if we belong to the Lord he will enable us to leave these nets and to follow him. All that is agreeable to the flesh, whether in repute or any other fancied way, must be dropped; and he that knows anything of the rebellion of his own heart will acknowledge that this is no small thing. To forsake ALL is very extensive, but it is the only way by which we can let our light shine so as to glorify not ourselves, but God the Author of it. But there is something that will sustain us, when the flattering breath of a few vain friends ceases, who withdraw their interest because of the truth that we set forth and walk in. If all be foregone because Christ is magnified, we shall find a better and more durable portion. It will not shut out the presence of the Lord from us, though it may bring us into disesteem among men. The riches of divine mercy will maintain our lot, when all things else are very dark; and the bowels of compassion of our faithful High Priest make so sweetly manifest his love to us, and with his love, give such a heavenly light, as to discover to us that we are taught of God, sanctified by the Spirit, and called a holy people, and are made to hold the riches of this grace in the highest esteem.
Such will be the true effect of obtaining mercy. If a smoother way is preferred, Archbishop Leighton says it is "because we wallow in some puddle with an outward carriage of somewhat smoothness, which ardently seeks after applause while the heart is frozen to God." This bosom idol, however well it may be hidden, eats up all increase; and whatever the beloved sin may be, it is evident that it is held to the shutting out of the manifestation of the love of God. This is called spiritual darkness, and a terrible place it is to be found in, let our outward prosperity and comforts be ever so high. Nothing can be more fearful than to be shut out of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
It is a marvellous thing to be brought to receive dishonour and distress, and to acknowledge God is righteous in suffering it. Praise and honour most fearfully endanger a man; this I know by sad experience. When Daniel was enabled by the grace of God to debase himself, presently an angel was sent to tell him how greatly he was beloved. As this self-abasement and humiliation clearly manifests itself to be of God and brings us near to him, so does pride remove us far from God and from all secret intercourse or communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. This nearness gives us an entrance into the kingdom of righteousness, of which kingdom we must make full proof that we are citizens by the application of Christ's righteousness. Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, for in them is full freedom from all condemnation; and this makes all our strength and faculties subject to God and to his service, and with Paul we are enabled to say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
Alas, what sorrow and fear is felt at the discovery of all shortcomings in these points! But beware of natural affection, lest our passions being moved we be led to mend that in the flesh, which the Lord alone can remedy. Hence come false Christs and fleshly confidences, which entangle all but such as the Lord has in his eternal purpose ordained to eternal life.
The fearfulness and trembling that has taken hold upon me for the most part of these last three or four years, has made me to feel the deep necessity of a clear work, because I know every man's work shall be tried, of what sort it is; and as I have witnessed many in a fair profession to end in nothing better than hay or stubble, I am led exceedingly to fear; and I am sure if the Lord had not been on my side, I should have utterly failed. It has been altogether the Lord's sweet and comfortable presence, in a clear sense of his pardoning love, that has been my support, and the life of my soul. This is the cause why I am so strenuous in setting forth the certainty of a path of tribulation. All must pass through this storm, but all will not stand it; and I am anxious to know that I may abide it and those that are dear to me. I fear many in your little community stop short of what would be for their comfort in a dying hour. I am sure they had need to know that except they be born again they cannot see nor enter Christ's spiritual kingdom, nor even know what it means.
I sincerely desire my love to all who are looking for redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ, for such shall never be disappointed world without end.
From your affectionate friend, J. B.