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April 18, 1776. ARE you sick, or lame of your right hand, or are you busy in preparing a folio for the press, that I hear nothing from you? You see by the excuses I would contrive I am not willing to suppose you have forgotten me, but that your silence is rather owing to a cannot than a will not.
I hope your soul prospers.. I do not ask you if you are always filled with sensible comfort: but do you find your spirit, more bowed down to the feet and will of Jesus, so as to be willing to serve him for the sake of serving him, and to follow him, as we say, through thick and thin; to be willing to be any thing or nothing, so that he may be glorified? I could give you plenty of good advice upon this head; but I am ashamed to do it, because I so poorly follow it myself. I want to live with him by the day, to do all for him, to receive all from him, to possess all in him, to live all to him, to make him my hiding-place and my resting-place. I want to deliver up that rebel self to him in chains; but the rogue, like Proteus, puts on so many forms, that he slips through my fingers: but I think I know what I would do if I could fairly catch him.
My soul is like a besieged city: a legion of enemies without the gates, and a nest of restless traitors within, that hold a correspondence with them without; so that I am deceived and counteracted continually. It is a mercy that I have not been surprised and overwhelmed long ago: without help from on high it would soon be over with me. How often have I been forced to cry
out, O God, the Heathen are got into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled, and defaced all thy work! Indeed it is a miracle that I still hold
I trust, however, I shall be supported to the end, and that my Lord will at length raise the siege, and cause me to shout deliverance and victory.
Pray for me, that my walls may be strengthened and wounds healed. We are all pretty well as to the outward man, and join in love to all friends.
I am, &c.
July 6, 1776. I WAS abroad when your letter came, but employ the first post to thank you for your confidence. My prayers (when I can pray) you may be sure of; as to advice, I see not that the case requires much. Only be a quiet child, and lie patiently at the Lord's feet. He is the best friend and manager in these matters, for he has a key to open every heart
I should not have taken Mr. Z****'s letter for a denial, as it seems you did. Considering the years
of the parties, and other circumstances, a prudent parent could hardly say more, if he were inclined to favour your views. To me you seem to be in a tolerable fair way; but I know in affairs of this kind Mr. Self does not like suspense, but would willingly come to the point at once; but Mr. Faith (when he gets liberty to hold up his head) will own, that, in order to make our temporal mercies wear well, and to give us a clearer sense of the hand that bestows them, a waiting and a praying time are very seasonable. Worldly people expect their schemes to run upon all-fours, as we say, and the objects of their wishes to drop into their mouths without difficulty; and if they succeed, they of course burn incense to their own drag, and say, This was my doing : but believers meet with rubs and disappointments, which convince them, that if they obtain any thing, it is the Lord must do it for them. For this reason I observe, that he usually brings a death upon our prospects, even when it is his purpose to give us success in the issue. Thus we become more assured that we did not act in our own spirits, and have a more satisfactory view that his providence has been concerned in filling up the rivers and removing the mountains that were in our way. Then when he has given us our desire, how pleasant is it to look at it and say, This I got, not by my own sword, and my own bow, but I wrestled for it in
I waited for it in faith, I put it into the Lord's hand, and from his hand I received it.
You have met with the story of one of our kings (if I mistake not) who wanted to send a nobleman abroad as his ambassador, and he desired to be excused on account of some affairs which required his presence at home : the king answered, “ Do you take care of my “ business, and I will take care of yours.” I would have you think the Lord says thus to you. You were sent into the world for a nobler end than to be pinned to a girl's apron-string; and yet if the Lord sees it not good for you to be alone, he will provide you a helpmate. I say, if he sees the marriage state best for you, he has the proper person already in his eye, and though she were in Peru or Nova-Zembla, he knows how to bring you together. In the mean time, go thou and
preach the Gospel. Watch in all things; endure afflictions; do the work of an Evangelist; make full proof of your ministry: and when other thoughts rise in your mind (for you have no door to shut them quite out), run with them to the throne of grace, and commit them to the Lord. Satan will perhaps try to force them upon you unseasonably and inordinately; but if he sees they drive you to prayer, he will probably desist, rather than be the occasion of doing you so much good. Believe likewise, that as the Lord has the appointment of the person, so he fixes the time. His time is like the time of the tide; all the art and power of man can neither hasten nor retard it a moment: it must be waited for; nothing can be done without it, and when it comes, nothing can resist it. It is unbelief that talks of delays: faith knows that properly, there can be no such thing. The only reason why the Lord seems to delay what he afterwards grants is, that the best hour is not yet come. I know you have been enabled to commit and resign your all to his disposal. You did well. May he help you to stand to the surrender. Sometimes he will put us to the trial, whether we mean what we say. He takes his course in a way we did not expect; and then, alas ! how often does the trial put us to shame. Presently there is an outcry raised in the soul against his management; this is
unnecessary, the other has spoiled the whole plan; in short, all these things are against us.
And then we go into the pulpit, and gravely tell the people how wise and how good he is; and preach submission to his will, not only as a duty, but a privilege! Alas, how deceitful is the heart! Yet since it is and will be so, it is necessary we should know it by experience. We have reason, however, to say, He is good and wise; for he bears with
our perverseness, and in the event shows us that if he had listened to our murmurings, and taken the methods we would have prescribed to hiin, we should have been ruined indeed, and that he has been all the while doing us good in spite of ourselves.
If I judge right, you will find your way providentially opened more and more; and yet it is possible, that when you begin to think yourself sure, something may happen to put you in a panic again. But a believer, like a sailor, is not to be surprised if the wind changes, but to learn the art of suiting himself to all winds for the time; and though many a poor sailor is shipwrecked, the poor believer shall gain his port. O it is good sailing with an infallible Pilot at the helm, who has the wind and weather at his command !
I have been much abroad, which of course puts things at sixes and sevens at home. If I did not love you well, I could not have spared so much of the only day I have had to myself for this fortnight past. But I was willing you should know that I think of you and feel for you, if I cannot help you.
I have read Mr. ****'s book. Some things I think strongly argued; in some he has laid himself open to a blow, and I doubt not but he will have it. I expect answers, replies, rejoinders, &c. &c. and say with Leah, Gad, a troop cometh. How the wolf will grin to see the sheep and the shepherds biting and worrying one another! And well he may.
He knows that contentions are a surer way to weaken the spirit of love, and stop the progress of the Gospel, than his old stale method of fire and sword. Well, I trust we shall be of one heart and one mind when we get to heaven at least.
Let who will fight, I trust neither water nor fire shall