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formerly; and I was pleased with the acceptance you found at S
i which I hope will be an earnest of greater things. I think affairs in general, with respect to this land, have a dark appearance; but it is comfortable to observe, that, amidst the aboundings of iniquity, the Lord is spreading his Gospel; and that, though many oppose, yet in most places whither the word is sent, great numbers seem disposed to hear. I am going (if the Lord please) into Leicestershire on Friday. This was lately such a dark place as you describe your country to be, and much of it is so still; but the Lord has visited three of the principal towns with Gospellight. I have a desire of visiting these brethren in the vineyard, to bear my poor testimony to the truths they preach, and to catch, if I may, a little fire and fervour among them. I do not often go abroad; but I have found a little excursion now and then (when the way is made plain) has its advantages, to quicken the spirits, and enlarge the sphere of observation. On these accounts, the recollection of my N
N-journey gives me pleasure to this day; and very glad should I be to repeat it; but the distance is so great, that I consider it rather as desirable than practicable.
My experiences vary as well as yours: but possibly your sensations, both of the sweet and of the bitter, may be stronger than mine. The enemy assaults me more by sap than storm; and I am ready to think I suffer more by languor than some of my friends do by the sharper conflicts to which they are called. So likewise in these seasons, which comparatively I call my best hours, my sensible comforts are far from lively. But I am in general enabled to hold fast my confidence, and to venture myself upon the power, faithfulness, and compassion of that adorable Saviour, to whom my soul
has been directed and encouraged to flee for refuge. I am a poor, changeable, inconsistent creature; but he deals graciously with me; he does not leave me wholly to myself; but I have such daily proofs of the malignity and efficacy of the sin that dwelleth in me, as ought to cover me with shame and confusion of face, and make me thankful if I am permitted to rank with the meanest of those who sit at his feet. That I was ever called to the knowledge of his salvation, was a singular instance of his sovereign grace; and that I am still preserved in the way, in defiance of all that has arisen from within and from without to turn me aside, must be wholly ascribed to the same sovereignty: and if, as I trust, he shall be pleased to make me a conqueror at last, I shall have peculiar reason to say, Not unto me, not unto me, but unto thy name, O Lord, be the glory and the praise !
How oft have sin and Satan strove
The Lord leads me in the course of my preaching to insist much on a life of communion with himself, and of the great design of the Gospel to render us conformable to him in love; and as, by his mercy, nothing appears in my outward conduct remarkably to contradict what I say, many who only can judge by what they see, suppose I live a very happy life. But, alas ! if they knew what
my heart, how dull my spirit is in secret, and how little I am myself affected by the glorious truths I propose to others, they would form a different judgement. Could I be myself what I recommend to them, I should be happy indeed. Pray for me, my dear friend, that now the Lord is bringing forward the
pleasing spring, he may favour me with a spring season in my soul; for indeed I mourn under a long winter.
I am, &c.
My Dear Friend,
April 16, 1772. I HOPE the Lord has contracted my desires and aims almost to the one point of study, the knowledge of his truth. All other acquisitions are transient, and comparatively vain. And yet, alas! I am a slow scholar: nor can I see in what respect I get forward, unless that every day I am more confirmed in the conviction of
my own emptiness and inability to all spiritual good. And as, notwithstanding this, I am still enabled to stand my ground, I would hope, since no effect can be without an adequate cause, that I have made some advance, though in a manner imperceptible to myself, towards a more simple dependence upon Jesus as my all in all. It is given me to thirst and to taste, if it is not given me to drink abundantly; and I would be thankful for the desire. I see and
I see and approve the wisdom, grace, suitableness, and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation; and since it is for sinners, and I am a sinner, and the promises are open,
I do not hesitate to call it mine. I am a weary, laden soul; Jesus has invited me to come, and has enabled me to put my trust in him. I seldom have an uneasy doubt, at least not of any continuance, respecting my pardon, acceptance, and interest in all the blessings of the New Testament. And amidst a thousand infirmities and evils under which I groan, I have the testimony of my conscience when under the trial of his
word, that my desire is sincerely towards him, that I choose no other portion, that I allowedly serve no other master. When I told our friend
lately to this purpose, he wondered, and asked, “How is it possible “ that if you can say these things you should not be
always rejoicing?” Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom which is worth more than a thousand worlds : but so it is, I can only speak for myself, though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel, they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy. In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected, but even then it appears to me rather as a part of the gift intrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation which is properly my own. For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me. Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! and if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure word of God as my refuge, how hard should I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter! What I call my good times are, when I can find my
attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about, which indeed is not always nor frequently imy case in prayer, and still seldomer in reading the Scripture. My judgement embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them; but in the performance I too often find them tasks, feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and am glad when they are finished. Owhat a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead
me !) What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salyation is wholly of grace! Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again, that he ever liveth to make intercession, and is able to save to the uttermost. But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of his people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and want of spirituality which I feel, this makes me mourn. However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort; they are not inseparable, and perhaps whef together, the degree of the one is not often the just measure of the other. But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of his countenance, yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which he has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun.
I am, &c.