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wanted; but it went out of my thoughts, nor did it recur all day Saturday, though I had purposed to preach from it. I laboured all day with another text, but with little success, and went to bed at night, as dark, peevish, fretful, rebellious, and miserable as a mortal could be, and continued all night so in my sleep; but after I got up in the morning, and sat down in my study, the passage came all at once to my mind, with such sweet light and power, that I cried out, Draw me, and I will run after thee. I had matter enough to preach that day, and I believe I never preached so before. Thus I am, but I cannot understand this work. Sometimes the beloved Friend seems to be coming, but it is but just a distant sight, and he is soon gone again; and when I get to the old hole, it appears, I think, clear to me that all is nothing, nothing but legal pain, legal comfort, and legal hope. What! to be always cutting, tearing, rooting, rebuking, and reproving sin! this is beggarly work, and I am really tired of it; to be always at the dung-gate, and to have nothing to eat or drink, is poor encouragement.
God bless thee.
DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST Jesus,
I have been out for five weeks running, visiting the brethren in the little adjacent towns, to see how they do; and I find that they which have followed the Lord are all alive to this day. I have got a cold upon me, which I am very subject to, either in my heart or in my head; the former is by far the worst, as nothing but a fresh sense of divine love will ever remove it. This last burden bowed me a little for about a fortnight; I felt the weight, and I was sure that that burden would shortly go from me, or I should go from it; which, were it not for two entanglements that hung fast by my skirts, and brought me into a strait, I should not have hesitated one moment about that end of the balance which proves all flesh to be vanity. But heavy as it was, fervent and unremitted prayer made it vanish in an hour, and it returned no more; since which day I have gone upright. I call this the burden of the word of the Lord, because it is a strict adherence to that which brought it on; and as God knew this, he suffered me to cast it upon him, and he sustained me; he
interwove his compassion with my tender feelings for his honour, and mingled his resentment and threatenings with my indignation at his enemies; he let me know that I, and my cause too, were his own, and that he would plead it, and avenge himself of those hypocrites: and on whomsoever those threatenings of the Lord fall, they will grind that enemy to powder; I may not see it, but others shall, and confess that there is a God that judgeth in the earth.
I have not the least doubt but the hand of God is in all this; for, shall there be evil in the city, especially in the city of our solemnities, and the Lord hath not done it? My antagonist is the devil himself in the heart and mouth of a damnable impostor, and to try such, and prove them liars, is one branch of the ministerial work, and a work which is highly commended by Christ himself; this I know, but it is grievous to flesh and blood; however, self must be denied daily by those that would follow the Lamb through evil report and good report.
The pool of Bethesda has five porches: the first is God's irrevocable decree; the second, is the bowels of his eternal love; the third, is the covenant head in which they were chosen; the fourth, is the promises of God in which they are all included; and the fifth, is the guardianship of divine Providence, by which they are all preserved in Christ Jesus till called. These five porches at the door of the house of mercy screen the elect from the inclemency of the weather, and from the winds of destructive error; “All that came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them:” in these porches they are secured from the floods of temptation, from the rain, hail, and winds of desolating judgments; from all the storms and tempests of mount Sinai; and from the destruction of sin, the sentence of damnation, and the wrath to come.
In these porches lay a great many sick and impotent folk, even to this day, which want a cure, and wait for the angel of the covenant to come down and move the waters. By waters is meant not the love of God, for that is a river, not a pool, a river that makes glad the city of our God; nor doth it mean the Spirit or grace of God, for these are called springs of living water, not pools; much less can it mean God, who is a fountain of living waters; nor Christ, who is a well of salvation, for who can trouble these? The church, indeed, is called a pool; “The parched ground shall become a pool,” Isaiah xxxv. 7. “I will make the wilderness a pool of water,” &c. Isa. xli. 18. The church often wants stirring up, especially when, like the pool, she settles too much on her old earthly sediment; a little stirring troubles the people, which are often in scripture called waters, and then fresh life and vigour, zeal and fervour, are felt; prayer goes up, and life and light come down, and the power, which at such a time attends the word, often heals the soul of
whatever disease it hath: three poor invalids have been healed since the last descent of the angel; and how inany more have experienced the same efficacy I cannot tell, for they are not found to return to give glory to God, save these strangers; these are sent away in peace, and certain I am that their faith has made them whole. I hear the noisy and predominant clamours of unbelief, in this thine epistle, which is loud enough to drown every other voice. Unbelief is, I know, an eternal bar, even in the mind of Satan himself, which confines every thought of that wicked spirit which may at any time break loose in vain search. after a door of hope; and, at certain seasons, when he is allowed to have access to my soul (strange as it may seem), I can even feel my own spirit influenced, confined, and shut up at times in unbelief, and attended with every rebellious, desperate, envious, and malignant thought, that rankles in the very devil himself.
Dated from Mizpeh, the watch-tower, near to Galeed, bound to Mahanaim; where I hope to meet with the Lord's host, and to reject all the assistance of Esau, and all his company. Ever thine.
W. H. S. S.