[His Marriage Years of Temporal Prosperity - Afflictions that Followed. 1810-1828.]
SOME little time after this, I was made very earnest in prayer upon the occasion of my proposed marriage; for having suffered so much in my late trial I was sorely afraid of proceeding in any thing without the especial approbation of God. I think in many different ways I found the Lord's approval of my measures. And here I must acknowledge that instead of lightness and vanity on my wedding day, I found the secret sweet and comforting presence of the Lord, which caused a measure of holy awe to rest upon my spirit. This beginning has produced may secret appeals to the Lord which he has been pleased to own. We have had many afflictions, and many difficulties, but the Lord has been with us in them all, and has never left us to this day.
After my sore trial it pleased God to restore my health, and to prosper the work of my hands for some years; but that evil nature, that proud heart of mine, still needed further humbling; and mercy the Lord would withhold for my much crying.
I have often found that various afflictions meet together, and so (about the year 1823) in addition to some grievous calamities which befell us (as the loss of part of our income) I was severely attacked by the jaundice, and the lowness of spirits which this sickness left continued for nearly five years. This exercise was truly humbling through the fear of death, also the suspicions of many of those around me, lest my religion was wrong, for they could not believe that the children of God were ever so deeply tried. In consequence of these suspicions I met with much unkindness. But as on former occasions so now, I continued to cry to the Lord, that could never give up. Having tasted of the new wine of the kingdom, I desired no other, and therefore nothing could make me cease to pray. I was one night sorely cast down, more than usual - I wept bitterly before the Lord, and the words which he spoke to Hezekiah came with great power to me, and removed all my burdens for the time - "I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears" [Isa. xxxviii. 5]. How I rejoiced at these tidings, to think of God's goodness and condescension in hearing my weal and feeble petitions! But I soon sank again, and was ready to give up all for lost. I had many days of sorrow and sad unbelieving fears which brought on great despondency; but the Lord's eye was upon me, and he sent these words with such understanding and power to my heart, that I saw clearly why I could not be lost and how the Lord would save me - "The rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew" - all this I felt, and this I perceived was the hour of trial for me, and the powers of darkness were against me; but when I came to the words - "it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock" - then I found Christ the Rock of Ages my eternal safety. This made me rest in hope for a season; but weakness and depression still continuing, it was often suggested to me by the devil and my unbelieving heart together, You will soon sink without hope, and die in despair. But the Lord would no have it so. I remember one day, fearing, and yet against hope believing in hope, these words greatly surprised me, for I felt the Lord sent them to raise me a poor beggar from the dung-hill "Well done, good and faithful servant." I could not receive them at first, saying, Lord, I have never been faithful! But the Lord sent along with them such healing power and efficacy, that could not nor did I wish any longer to doubt, for the sweetness am strength they afforded was beyond my power of expression. These seasons were very refreshing, though very short.
My health still continued impaired. Wherever I went, every thing seemed covered with sackcloth; all was melancholy, so that I trembled at the prospect and near approach of death. One day in particular, though I tried as much as possible to hide my feelings I was noticed by some friends who endeavoured to comfort me, but it was not in the power of man to relieve me; the pride of my heart wanted bringing down, and the Lord was determined to do it. As I returned home, on that very day, through Kensington Gardens, in a private part I cried with all my heart to the Lord to have mercy upon me, and if consistent with his will to remove this sad melancholy from my spirit; and the Lord condescended to hear me, and told me that I should have no more of it. I knew the voice, and I believed that I should find relief. As I went along I had almost forgotten what I had felt in prayer, till I arrived in town, and then I said, I am not so low as I was, I feel cheerful, quite different to what I have felt for months; how is it? Something within me seemed to reply, Did you not pray that this melancholy might be removed, and did not the Lord tell you it was gone? And then it was added, You will have no more of this; it is gone for ever. Now I began to wonder, and had hard work to believe it without fear or suspicion; but I found it a truth; and blessed be God, for I know he hears and answers prayer.
It was not long before I was tried again as it respected my hope and comfort in the Lord, though not in the least with my former melancholy. I sank into many misgivings respecting the salvation of my soul, and could not at such times keep off the fear of death, it seemed so near, and I so unfit. One night I thought the Lord was gone for ever, and I fell into great distress, and continued to sink so low, that again several of my friends began to fear lest the work on my heart might not be genuine. But just as I was retiring to bed, the Lord came with these words - "Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance when it was weary" [Psalm 9]. This brought a healing power not only to my mind, but to my weary body also; I wanted no sleep, but found the sweet presence of the Lord afforded all the rest I needed, and I sang his praises for his marvellous deliverance. At another time, while bemoaning myself under many fearful apprehensions of danger, these words were attended with such glory and power to my soul, as to remove all fear and torment - "O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord " [Dent. xxxiii. 23.] What shall I say to these things? I can only say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
After the period above mentioned, it pleased God to restore me to health and prosperity; and by his various dealings with me he caused me to know more and more that the Lord rules in heaven above and on the earth beneath. But yet I perceive that so powerful is the corrupt body of sin within, that nothing but repeated furnace-work can keep us in a low place with "our mouth in the dust," solely and entirely dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another trial was now become needful, and the Lord gave me intimations of its approach. His mercies are new every morning, and his faithfulness never fails in the time of extremity. These words- followed me for six months, sometimes comforting me, and sometimes filling me with great fear - "I will shew thee how great things thou must suffer for my Name's sake " [from Acts ix. 16]. The trial was very severe, and followed the warning in about three months. I seemed quite broken down in despondency; and not to name the nature of it, let it suffice that nothing but the Word of God could reach my case. I have been in agony and prayer for two hours and a half, and could not let the Lord go without a blessing, and I must say that though I was continually sinking in spirit, he as often lifted me up and set my feet upon the rock. I think I had more establishing, views of God's love and mercy to me in Christ Jesus in this affliction, than I ever knew before. His word was most precious to me, and though from home, and having no means of hearing the outward preaching of it, yet these sharp exercises kept my soul alive to God, for I could not abide without his sweet presence comforting me.
During this affliction I was often residing at the seats of my employers, or travelling with them, and sometimes with all my endeavours I could not so hide the conflicts of my mind, but that they perceived something was the matter. I earnestly entreated the Lord to give me wisdom and discretion, and power to fulfil my engagements with them, in which I was sometimes all the day travelling with several families, and obliged to attend to them all at once. I have often stolen a few moments to pray and cry for help and mercy, and I have had the sweetest tokens of the Lord's favour that can be known. Once under an oak I poured out my heart to the Lord, entreating his pity, praying in the anguish of my soul, and I never before felt anything so tenderly and gently spoken to my heart, as these words were at that time (the manner of it was so tender) - I am touched with the feeling of all thine infirmities, and I know how to succour. However enthusiastic this may appear to some, yet I know this was real communion with God; it was, as the apostle expresses it "having our conversation in heaven." The Lord was graciously pleased often to renew his love-tokens in this time of my extremity, and my soul was filled with love, patience, resignation, and self-abasement.
I gave satisfaction to my employers, and in due time returned home; and then I saw that the Lord had many lessons to teach me; especially not to be entangled by the spirit of the world in my business; also self-abasement, and a conscious feeling of my perilous, yea, lost condition by nature, as well as the rich remedy which he has provided in Christ Jesus.
This humbling dispensation left a deep impression on my heart of God's terrible majesty. I have been made to perceive something of his holiness, and also to feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and by the means of all this spiritual teaching my proud heart has been brought down, so that I have been made to understand that the lowest place is the best and safest, and that it is better to have it said to me, "Friend, come up higher," than " Give this man place," and to be obliged with shame to take the lowest room. " Better is it to be of an humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud." These last must be speechless " when the King comes in to see the guests;" the former must and will sing the high praises of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for so wonderful a redemption of such abject sinners.