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As a correspondent, my dear friend, I am somewhat like a house that fetches his work, I can only move by fits and staits. Sometimes I have a heart to will, but no time; and again, pieuty of time, but no heart. When the matter contained in a letter is pressed, squeezed, and forced, it is but poor dry fare; but when it runs and flows freely, the pen moves with pleasure, and a little moisture attends it. Various are the changes and different operations of the Spirit upon an awakened sinner. Darkness, deadness, and confusion, will more or less attend him, till the book of God becomes a puzzle, and the sinner himself a riddle; but this serves to stain the pride of his glory, it proves his wisdom to be folly, and his knowledge to be consummate ignorance: hence the paradox, “If any man will be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise.” God, saith the prophet, goes forth with whirlwinds of the south; which he did when a mighty wind shook the house where the apostles were
assembled, and they were filled with the Holy
Ghost; they then went forth and wrought, and the Lord worked with them, confirming their word with signs. This wind does all the execution on the hearts of poor sinners to this day,
“The voice said, Cry. What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of God bloweth upon it.” Under this operation all our glorying in our own strength, valour, wisdom, knowledge, pleasure, carnal delights, withers: we cannot flourish, thrive, grow, or appear alive to any of these things; convictions, guilt, shame, fear, torment, and a dread of damnation, make us sick of such entertainments. When sin was dead, and we alive without the law, these things were our glory; but now sin is revived, and we are dead, and cannot feed upon foolishness, nor fill our belly with the east wind any longer.
Prophesy, son of man, to the wind, that the wind may blow upon these dry bones, that they may live, Ezek. xxxvii. 9. This gale makes us feel ourselves sick, sore, tender, poor, and needy; we hunger, thirst, long, desire, crave, cry, confess, pray, seek, search, watch, hope, expect, and catch at every thing heard, seen, felt, or found, that will give us the least encouragement. But unbelief, hardness of heart, rebellion, enmity, Satan's assaults, fear and torment, shame and confusion, all militate against the poor soul in this labour and travail.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” When this mystical birth is to be produced, the clouds of divine displeasure begin to disperse, the dismal gloom, terrors, and horrors, begin to subside, the old veil of darkness, blindness, confusion, and ignorance, disappear; the storms of Sinai cease to roll, and divine vengeance ceases to lower, the dark regions of the shadow of death vanish and appear more remote, the gates of hell closed, the darts of Satan are more broken, blunt, and less piercing; our thoughts all assemble and hover over Jesus, the heart enlarges, hope rises, faith moves towards him and embraces him, when love by the Spirit flows in, when fear and torment flee out. “So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Now faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, gentleness, goodness, temperance, all shew themselves as so many jewels to deck the soul, which, with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, together with the best robe, makes the poor sinner a perfection of beauty; but after a few months of this feasting and banquetting comes the furnace to try every grace, and especially that of faith. Here Christ withdraws, heaven frowns, Providence runs counter to the promise; corruptions move, Satan comes, fear rises, prayer flags, the breasts of consolation dry up, and the sanctuary yields no refreshing; jealousy, suspicions, and evil surmisings, begin to work, fretfulness, peevishness, murmurings, and complainings are both felt and feared; we struggle, seek, knock,
Call, watch, feel, hunt, look, and long, but nothing comes. Then we begin to seek for a morsel of the old fare, and the devil then shews us all the kingdoms of the world, and the glories of them; lust, beauty, pleasure, profit, mirth, and the delights of the sons of men, such as musical instruments, and that of all sorts: and now we call the proud happy, and the service of God wearisome; when another unexpected gale arises.
"Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits." The first motion is attended with some terrors, fear, and trembling; this drives us with some fervour and earnestness to God in prayer: the heart soon relents, melts, and moves, with love toward him: the work is revived; his faithfulness appears; truth, kindness, and love, seem firm, immutable, and everlasting; himself shines more sweetly and precious, his work appears more plain, faith more strong, hope abounds, and love is more abundant. Now let my beloved come, and eat his pleasant fruits; let him regale himself with the exercise of that grace which he hath planted in my soul. It was this heavenly wind which shook all corruption, sin, and mortality out of the body of Elijah; "He went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Watch the motions and operations of these cooling and comforting breezes; for it is under their operations that faith and affections, desires and prayers, will flow out. Whether our old friend is on Windmill Hill, or in Ninfield Stocks, I know not; but I reckon he is in the latter. Pray tender my kind respects to your father and mother, and, should the Lord permit, I hope to see them as soon as the weather will admit, such an Hebrew as I am, to come forth out of my hole: as yet I must abide, as a bottle in the smoke. Pray, my dear friend, take heed not to give offence to my true yoke-fellow, my companion in travail, who is so profitable both to thee and to me, I mean conscience; for his praise is in all the churches; he is next to the Spirit, the third in office from the King of kings; a magistrate that will ever punish an evil doer, but will ever praise them that do well. The Lord be with thee, bless thee, and keep thee, is the prayer of,