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do return, check them still with the holy Psalmist's words, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? &c. If you can thoroughly sink yourself down, through your own nothingness, into Him who is all, and, entirely renouncing your own will, embrace that blest and holy will in all things, there, I am sure, you shall find that rest, which all your own distempers, and all the powers of darkness, shall not be able to bereave you of. I incline not to multiply words; and, indeed, other advice than this I have none to give you. The Lord of peace, by the sprinkling of the blood of his Son Jesus, and the sweet breathings of the great Comforter, his own Holy Spirit, give you peace in himself. Amen.
MADAM, Though I have not the honour to be acquainted with your Ladyship, yet a friend of yours has acquainted me with your condition, though I confess the unfittest of all men to minister any thing of spiritual relief to any person, either by prayer or advice to you; but he could have imparted such a thing to none of greater secrecy, and withal of greater sympathy and tender compassion towards such as are exercised with those kind of conflicts; as, having been formerly acquainted with the like myself, all sorts of sceptical and doubtful thoughts, touching those great points, having not only past through my head, but some of them have for some time sat more fast and painfully upon my mind; but, in the name of the Lord, they were at length quite dispelled and scattered. And, oh! that I could love and bless Him, who is my deliverer and strength, my rock and fortress, where I have now found safety from these incursions; and I am very confident you shall very shortly find the same; only wait patiently on the Lord, and hope in him, for you shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance; and it is that alone that can enlighten you, and clear your mind of all those fogs and mists that now possess it,
and calm the storms that are raised within it. You do well to read good books that are proper
your help, but rather the shortest and plainest, than the more tedious and voluminous, that sometimes entangle a perplexed mind yet more, by grasping many more questions, and answers, and arguments, than is needful: But, above all, still cleave to the incomparable spring of light and divine comfort, the Holy Scriptures, even in despite of all doubts concerning them; and when you find your thoughts in disorder, and at a loss, entertain no dispute with them, by any means, at that time, but rather divert from them to short prayer, or to other thoughts, and sometimes to well chosen company, or the best you can have where you are; and at some other time, when you find yourself in a calmer and serener temper, and upon the vantage ground of a little more confidence in God, then you may resume your reasons against unbelief, yet so as to beware of casting yourself into new disturbance; for when your mind is in a sober temper, there is nothing so suitable to its strongest reason, nothing so wise and noble, as religion; and believe it is so rational, that, as now I am framed, I am afraid that my belief proceeds too much from reason, and is not so divine and spiritual as I would have it; only when I find (as in some measure through the grace of God I do) that it hath some real virtue and influence upon my affections and track of life, I hope there is somewhat of a higher tincture in it; but, in point of reason, I am well assured, that all that I have heard from the wittiest atheists and libertines in the world, is nothing but bold revery and madness, and their whole discourse a heap of folly and ridiculous nonsense: for, what probable account can they give of the wonderful frame of the visible world, without the supposition of an eternal and infinite power, and wisdom and goodness, that formed it and themselves, and all things in it? And what can they think of the many thousands of martyrs in the first age of Christianity, that endured not
simple death, but all the inventions of the most exquisite tortures, for their belief of that most holy faith; which, if the miracles that confirmed it had not persuaded them to, they themselves had been thought the most prodigious miracles of madness in all the world? It is not want of reason on the side of religion that makes fools disbelieve it, but the interest of their brutish lusts and dissolute lives makes them wish it were not true; and there is the vast difference betwixt you and them; they would gladly believe less than they do, and you would also gladly believe more than they do: They are sometimes pained and tormented with apprehensions, that the doctrine of religion is or may be true; and you are perplexed with suggestions to doubt of it, which are to you as unwilling and unwelcome, as these apprehensions of its truth are to them. Believe it, Madam, these different thoughts of yours are not yours, but his that inserts them, and throws them, as fiery darts, into your mind; and they shall assuredly be laid to his charge, and not to yours. Think you, that infinite goodness is ready to take advantage of his poor creatures, and to reject and condeinn those, that, against all the assaults made
upon them, desire to keep their heart for him, and to acknowledge him, and to love him, and live to him. He made us, and knows our mould, and, as a father, pities his children, and pities them that fear him; for he is their father, and the tenderest and kindest of all fathers; and, as a father pities his child when it is sick, and in the rage and revery of a fever, though it even utter reproachful words against him- . self, shall not our dearest Father both forgive and pity those thoughts in any child of his, that arise not from any wilful hatred of him, bụt are kindled in hell within them? And no temptation hath befallen
in this, but that which has been incident to men, and to the best of men; and their heavenly Father hath not only forgiven them, but in due time hath given them an happy issue out of them, and so he will assuredly do to you; in the mean
time, when these assaults come thickest and violentest upon you, throw yourself down at his footstool, and say, “O! God, Father of mercies, save me from this hell within me. I acknowledge, I adore, I bless thee, whose throne is in heaven, with thy blessed Son and crucified Jesus, and thy Holy Spirit, and also, though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee: But I cannot think thou canst hate and reject a poor soul that desires to love thee, and cleave to thee, so long as I can hold by the skirts of thy garment, until thou violently shake me off, which I am confident thou would not do, because thou art love and goodness itself, and thy mercies endure for ever.” Thus,
Thus, or in what other frame your soul shall be carried to vent itself into his bosom, be assured, your words, yea, your silent sighs and breathings, shall not be lost, but shall have a most powerful voice, and ascend into his ear, and shall return to you with messages of peace and love, in due time, and, in the mean time, with secret supports, that you faint not, nor sink in these deeps that threaten to swallow you up.
But I have wearied you, instead of refreshing you. I will add no more, but that the poor prayers of one of the unworthiest caitiffs in the world, such as they be, shall not be wanting on your behalf, and he begs a share in yours; for neither you nor any in the world, needs that charity more than he does. Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
LETTER to the Heritors of the Parish of
Worthy Gentlemen and Friends, Being informed that it is my duty to present a person fit for the charge of the ministry now vacant with
you, I have thought of one, whose integrity and piety I am so fully persuaded of, that I dare confidently recommend him to you as one who, if
the hand. of God. do bind that work
him amongst you, is likely, through the blessing of the same hand, to be very serviceable to the building up of your souls heavenwards, but is as far from suffer. ing himself to be obtruded, as I am for obtruding any upon you: so that unless you invite him to preach, and after hearing of him, declare your consent and desire towards his embracing of the call, you may be secure from the trouble of hearing any further concerning him, either from himself or me; and if you please to let me know your mind, your reasonable satisfaction shall be to my utmost power endeavoured by,
Your affectionate Friend,
The person's name is Mr. James Aird; he was minister at Ingram in Northumberland, and is lately removed from thence, and is now at Edinburgh. If you write to him, direct it to be delivered to Hugh Paterson, writer in Edinburgh, near the Cross, on the north side of the street.
This, if you please, may be communicated to such of the inhabitants of the parish as you shall think fit.
This and the two following Letters were wrote to the
Rev. Mr. James Aird, Minister at Torry.
Dear Friend, I did receive your letter, which I would have known to be yours, though it had no other sign but the piety and affectionate kindness expressed in it.
I will offer you no apology (nor I hope I need not) for not writing since that; yea, I will confess, that if the surprising and unexpected occasion of the bearer had not drawn it from me, I should hardly for along time to come have done what I am now doing; and yet still love you, more than they do.one an