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IN the Tenth Month, 1722, Richard Claridge received a letter from a woman Friend, the wife of an intimate acquaintance of his, she being at that time under much dissatisfaction of mind, and in a sort of despairing condition, which she expressed in the following words,
"The Lord has been wonderfully merciful to me formerly, in many respects; but I have been very careless, and have not kept my promise, though I have kept the outside of profession. I desire thee to wait upon the Lord, to know whether he will have mercy on me; and whether thou canst find an openness in thy heart to pray for me; for thou art a man I have had a great love for, and therefore desire a few lines from thee; for I do not desire to see the face of any honest Friend, for I am an afflicted, disconsolate poor woman, not worthy that any honest Friend should come under my roof, but desire their prayers, if God hath not shut up their hearts towards me, who am thy afflicted and distressed,—I wish I could say, Friend,
"12th of the Tenth Mo. 1722."
To the letter of this poor disconsolate Friend, he returned an answer, which being one of the last pieces we find written by him, we have thought meet to insert, being as follows.
Dearly beloved Friend,
"Though my answer to thy letter of the Twelfth of the last Month hath been delayed, yet I have not been unmindful of thee and thy afflicted state, but have had both much upon my spirit ever since. And having waited with my mind retired unto the Lord, that I might know something of his good pleasure concerning thee, and be enabled to write a word in season to thee, in this thy sorrowful distressed condition; he hath been graciously pleased to irradiate mine understanding in some measure
with his divine light, and in part to open counsel to my soul, in reference to thee and thy present disconsolate state.
"Letter. The Lord has been wonderfully merciful to me formerly in many respects; but I have been careless, and have not kept my promise, though I have kept the outside of profession.'
"Answer. This is not the language of a formal or pharisaical professor, who pleaseth himself with outside shows and appearances of being religious, while his heart is corrupt, and his mind rotten and abominable in the sight of the most holy God: but it is the confession of a soul whom the Lord, in his love, hath visited by his light, grace, and Holy Spirit, as I am persuaded he hath visited thee, and touched thy heart with a real sense of thy former negligence and unfaithfulness, and consequently of thy lost and undone condition, without a Saviour. Now all this is, as I am made sensible, in love to thy immortal soul, that thou mayst look by an eye of unfeigned faith unto Jesus, the author and finisher of it, and the giver of that godly sorrow, which works repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of. I am satisfied, that the Lord is at work in thy soul, for its redemption from sin and death, who said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,' Matt. xi. 28. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life,' John, xiv. 6. Again, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.' John, v. 24. O! be not faithless, but believe that Jesus Christ is come to deliver thee, and will in his own appointed time deliver thee out of thy many trials and tribulations, as thou abidest in faith and patience, kissing the rod, and bearing the indignation of the Lord, because thou hast sinned against him, for he is worthy to be waited upon and submitted unto. He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. Though it may be with thee now as the time of Jacob's trouble, yet thou shalt be saved out of it. See Jer. xxx. 7. O! be still, and know that it is God, even thy God, that hath cast thee into the furnace of affliction, in order to bring thee forth as gold, after he hath purged away thy dross, and taken away thy tin, by the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning.
"The times and seasons of the Lord's delivering of his people, are in his own hands, and when the set time for their deli
verance is fully come, he will appear and bring salvation with
"Letter. "I desire thee to wait upon the Lord, to know, whether he will have mercy on me, and whether thou canst find an openness in thy heart to pray for me.'
"Answer. I have observed, in the course of my own experience, that when the Lord hath inspired my heart with good meditations, Satan hath been sometimes nigh to suggest either vain or sinful thoughts; but as I have been assisted by the grace of God, to keep my mind stayed upon him, and to wait and cry for his appearance, in the manifestation of his light and Spirit, I have found him nearer to help me, than the enemy to hurt me, and I have come to see the counter-workings of Satan defeated, and to witness the snare broken, which he laid to entrap my soul. And thus I take it to have been with thee; the Lord is pleased graciously to show thee, wherein thou hast failed and fallen short, and to remind thee of his former mercies to thy soul when thou wast in distress; and now Satan labours to possess thee with fears, doubts, and questionings, concerning the lovingkindness of God to thy soul, as though he had withdrawn his mercy from thee, and would be no more entreated. But, my dear Friend, I have waited upon the Lord on thy behalf, and am persuaded, that this is one of Satan's wiles; and that the Lord will yet extend his mercy to thee, as he hath done to his afflicted servants in all ages, upon their returning to him through faith in Christ, and repentance from dead works to serve the living God. I also find an openness in my heart, not only to sympathize with thee, but also to put up my fervent supplications to the Lord for thee, that thou mayst obtain mercy at his bountiful hands, and find grace to help thee in this thy time of need. And I believe he will answer my cries for the sake of his beloved Son Christ Jesus, in whom alone is my trust, and will again cause his face to shine upon thee. For, as the Psalmist testifieth, ‘His anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' Psal. xxx. 5. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever,' Psalm ciii. 8, 9. And the prophet Isaiah exhorteth, saying, 'Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.' Isai. lv. 6. Adding, for the encouragement of poor sinners, to forsake their evil ways, and re
turn to him; 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.' ver. 7.
"Letter. "Thou art a man I have had a great love for, and therefore desire a few lines from thee; for I do not desire to see the face of any honest Friend; for I am an afflicted, disconsolate, poor woman, not worthy that any honest Friend should come under my roof; but desire their prayers for me, if God hath not shut up their hearts towards me.'
"Answer. I do believe thou hadst, and yet hast a great love for me; and I can truly say, I had the like for thee, and now also have for the truth's sake, which I was persuaded dwelt in thee, and am persuaded now dwelleth in thee, and shall be with thee for ever see the second epistle of John, ver. 2. But the reason thou givest for thy desiring a few lines from me, and not a personal visit, is somewhat strange; for thou sayst, 'I do not desire to see the face of any honest Friend;' and thy allegation for that is still more strange; for thou addest, 'I am an afflicted, disconsolate, poor woman, not worthy that any honest Friend should come under my roof?' For the greater thy afflictions, the more need, in my judgment, thou hast of an honest Friend, to visit, advise, and comfort thee.
"The face of an honest Friend, endued with divine wisdom, to speak a word in season, is through the blessing of God, very refreshing. Heavenly conversation, proceeding from an inward sensation of the life and grace of God in the soul, is often blest with comfortable effects in the disconsolate person, whose heart is warmed, affections enlivened, faith strengthened, and judgment better informed in sundry particulars; whereas refusing to see the face of an honest Friend, the benefit of his personal conversation is prevented; and by being too much alone, the secluse party often becomes very dull, heavy, and melancholic, and lies open to various assaults and impressions of Satan. Solomon saith, Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.' Prov. xxvii. 9. 'Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.' ver. 17.
"Job was greatly concerned for the absence of his friends, and thus bemoans his case, saying, 'He,' (that is, the Lord,) 'hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily
estranged from me.' Job, xix. 13. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.' ver. 14. All my inward friends abhorred me, and they whom I loved are turned against me.' ver. 19. So Heman complains, 'Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.' Psalm 1xxxviii. 18. So David laments his being deserted by his friends. I was a reproach--especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel,' Psalm xxxi. 11, 12. Again, 'My lovers and friends stand aloof from my sore, and my kinsmen stand afar off,' Psalm xxxviii. 11. Now, by these instances thou mayst see how it was with these good men, under their great afflictions and trials; they complained of the distance or absence of their friends; but thou desirest not to see the faces of thine. But this aversion of thine is wrong, and thou wantest to be rectified in thy judgment, about the present dealings of the Almighty with thee.
"Solitude in a proper time and season, is an excellent thing: but in a time of such deep exercises and plungings, as thine are, it will be convenient for thee to admit the conversation of some faithful friend or friends, who have passed through the fires and the waters, and felt Satan's buffetings, and known the Lord's preservations in the mount of straits: so that they could set up their Ebenezers, and say by living experience, 'Hitherto the Lord hath helped us."
"I am persuaded, the Lord is visiting thee in his kindness, and chastening thee in his love, though he is pleased to shake his rod over thee, as it were, in an angry manner: yea, he is nigh thee in his tender mercy, though he may seem, as to thy own present feeling, to hide his face from thee.
Keep therefore close to him, in faith, hope, love, patience, and resignation, and say with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,' Job, xiii. 15; and as David said upon another occasion, 'Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him,' 2 Sam. xv. 26.
"What, if thine own trembling and timorous mind, through Satan's false suggestions, who is sometimes permitted sorely to tempt the dear servants of God, do move thee to say, as Zion did of old, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me?' Isaiah, xlix. 14. Mark, I beseech thee, the answer of the Lord to Zion, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that