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“ Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further,” can limit and moderate that gloom which sometimes distresses you. He knows why he permits you to be thus exercised. I cannot assign the reasons, but I am sure they are worthy of his wisdom and love, and that you will hereafter see and
say, He has done all things well. If I was as wise as your philosopher, I might say a great deal about a melancholy complexion; but I love not to puzzle myself with second causes, while the first cause is at hand, which sufficiently accounts for every phenomenon in a. believer's experience. Your constitution, your situation, your temper, your distemper, all that is either comfortable or painful in your lot, is of his appointment. The hairs of your head are all numbered: the same power which produced the planet Jupiter is necessary to the production of a single hair, nor can one of them fall to the ground without his notice, any more than the stars can fall from their orbits. In providence, no less than in creation, he is Maximus in minimis. Therefore fear not; only believe. Our sea may sometimes be stormy, but we have an infallible Pilot, and shall infallibly gain our port.
I am, &c,
LETTER X. My dear Friend,
Feb. 23, 1779. On Saturday, and not before, I heard you had been ill. Had the news reached me sooner, I should have sent you a line sooner.
I hope you will be able to inform me that you are now better, and that the Lord continues to do you good by every dispensation he allots you. Healing and wounding are equally from his hand, and equally tokens of his love and care over us.
I have but In this way
little affliction in my own person, but I have been oftened chastened of late by proxy. The Lord, for his people's sake, is still pleased to give me health and strength for public service: but, when I need the 'rod, he lays it upon Mrs. ****. I have felt much without being disabled or laid aside. - But he has heard prayer for her likewise, and for more than a fortnight past she has been comfortably well. I lay at least one half of her sickness to my own account. She suffers for me, and I through her. It is, indeed, touching me in a tender part. Perhaps if I could be more wise, watchful, and humble, it might contribute more to the re-establishment of her health than all the medicine she takes.
I somehow neglected to confer with you about the business of the fast day. The last of my three sermons, when I had, as I expected, the largest congregation, was a sort of historical discourse, from Deut. xxxii. 15; in which, running over the leading national events from the time of Wickliff, I endeavoured to trace the steps and turns by which the Lord has made us a fat and thriving people, and in the event blessed us, beyond his favourite Jeshurun of old, with civil and religious liberty, peace, honour, and prosperity, and Gospel privileges. How fat we were when the war terminated in the year 1763, and how we have kicked and forsaken the Rock of our salvation of late years! Then followed a sketch of our present state and spirit as a people, both in a religious and political view. I started at the picture while I drew it, though it was a very inadequate representation. We seemed willing to afflict our souls for one day, as Dr. Louth reads, Isa. lviii. 5. But the next day things returned into their former channel: the fast and the occasion seemed pre
sently forgotten, except by a few simple souls, who are despised and hated by the rest for their preciseness, because they think sin ought to be lamented every day in the year.
Who would envy Cassandra her gift of prophecy upon the terms she had it; that her declarations, however true, should meet with no belief or regard ? It is the lot of Gospel ministers, with respect to the bulk of their hearers. Bút blessed be the grace which makes a few exceptions! Here and there, one will hear, believe, and be saved. Every one of these is worth a world; and our success with a few should console us for all our trials.
Come and see us as soon as you can, only not to-morrow, for I am then to go to T****. My Lord, the Great Shepherd, has one sheep there, related to the fold under my care.
I can seldom see her, and she is very ill. I expect she will be soon removed to the pasture above. Our love to Mrs. B****
Believe me yours, &c.
LETTER XI. My dear Friend,
April 23, 1779. May I not style myself a friend, when I remember you after the interval of several weeks since I saw you, and through a distance of three-score miles ? But the truth is, you have been neither absent nor distant from my heart a day. Your idea has travelled with me; you are a kind of familiar, very often before the eye of my mind. This, I hope, may be admitted as a proof of friendship.
I know the Lord loves you, and you know it likewise: every affliction affords you a fresh proof of it. How wise his management in our trials! How wisely adjusted in season, weight, continu
ance, to answer his gracious purposes in sending them! How unspeakably better to be at his disposal than at your own! So you say; so you think; so you find. You trust in him, and shall not be disappointed. Help me with your prayers, that I may trust him too, and be at length enabled to say without reserve, “What thou wilt, when thou wilt, how thou wilt.” I had rather speak these three sentences from my heart, in my mother-tongue, than be master of all the languages in Europe.
I am yours, &c.
LETTER XII. My dear Friend,
Aug. 19, 1779. Among the rest of temporal mercies, I would be thankful for pen, ink, and paper, and the convenience of the post, by which means we can waft a thought to a friend when we cannot get at him. My will has been good to see you; but you must accept the will for the deed. The Lord has not permitted me.
I have been troubled of late with the rheumatism in my left arm.
left arm. Mine is a sinful, vile body, and it is a mercy that any part of it is free from pain. It is virtually the seat and subject of all diseases; but the Lord holds them, like wild beasts in a chain, under a strong restraint. Was that restraint taken off, they would rush upon their prey from every quarter, and seize upon every limb, member, joint, and nerve, at once. Yet, though I am a sinner, and though my whole texture is so frail and exposed, I have enjoyed for a number of years an almost perfect exemption both from pain and sickness. This is wonderful indeed, even in my own eyes.
But my soul is far from being in a healthy state. There I have laboured, and still labour, under a complication of diseases; and, but for the care and skill of an infallible Physician, I must have died the death long ago. At this
At this very moment my soul is feverish, dropsical, paralytic. I feel a loss of appetite, a disinclination both to food and to medicine : so that I am alive by miracle : yet I trust I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. When I faint he revives me again. I am sure he is able, and I trust he has promised to heal me: but how inveterate must my disease be, that is not yet subdued, even under his management !
Well, my friend, there is a land where the inhabitants shall no more say, “I am sick.” Then my eyes will not be dim, nor my ear heavy, nor my heart hard.
One sight of Jesus as he is,
Will strike all sin for ever dead. Blessed be his name for this glorious hope! May it cheer us under all our present uneasy feelings, and reconcile us to every cross.
The way must be right, however rough, that leads to such a glorious end.'
O for more of that gracious influence, which in a moment can make the wilderness-soul rejoice and blossom like the rose! I want something which neither critics nor commentators can help me to. The Scripture itself, whether I read it in Hebrew, Greek, French, or English, is a sealed book in all languages, unless the Spirit of the Lord is present to expound and apply. Pray for me. No prayer seems more suitable to me than that of the Psalmist: “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name.'
I am, &c.