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LETTER to the Synod of DUNBLANE)
Reverend Brethren, Glasgow, April 6. 1671. The superadded burden that I have here sits fo hard upon me, that I cannot escape from under it, to be with you at this time; but my heart and defires shall be with you, for a blessing from above upon your meeting. I have nothing to recommend to you, but (if you please) to take a review of things formerly agreed upon; and such as you judge most useful, to renew the appointment of putting them in practice; and to add whatsoever further shall occur to your thoughts, that may promote the happy difcharge of your ministry, and the good of your peoples souls. I know I need not remind you, for I am confident you daily think of it, that the great principle of fidelity and diligence, and good success, in that great work, is love; and the great spring of love to souls, is love to Him that bought them. He knew it well himself; and gave us to know it, when he said, Simon, lovest thou me ? Feed my Sheep, feed my lambs. Deep impression of his blessed name upon our hearts, will not fail to produce lively expression of it, not only in our words and discourses in private and public, but will make the whole tract of our lives to be a true copy and transcript of his holy life : And, if there'be within us any sparks of that divine love, you know the best way, not only to preserve them, but to excite them, and blow them up into a flame, is by the breath of prayer. Oh prayer! the converse of the soul with God, the breath of God in man returning to its original, frequent and fervent prayer, the better half of our whole work, and that which makes the other half lively and effectual ; as that holy company tells us, when designing deacons to serve the tables, they add, But we will give 'ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the
word. And is it not, brethren, our unspeakable advantage, beyond all the gainful and honourable employments of the world, that the whole work of our particular calling is a kind of living in heaven, and besides its tendency to the saving of the souls of others, is all along so proper and adapted to the purifying and saving of our own? But you will poffibly fay, what does he himself that speaks these things unto us? Alas! I am ashamed to tell you. All I dare say is this, I think I see the beauty of holiness, and am enamoured with it, though I attain it not; and how little foever I attain, would rather live and die in the pursuit of it, than in the pursuit, yea, or in the poffeffion and enjoyment, though unpursued, of all the advantages that this world affords. And I trust, dear Brethren, you are of the same opinion, and have the same desire and design, and follow it both more diligently, and with better fuccess. But I will stop here, left I should forget myself, and possibly run on till I have wearied you, if I have not done that already; and yet if it be so, I will hope for easy pardon at your hands, as of a fault I have not been accustomed heretofore, nor am likely hereafter often to commit. To the all-powerful grace of our great Lord and Mafter, I recommend you and your flocks, and your whole work amongst them; and do earnestly entreat your prayers for Your unworthieft, but most affectionate,
Brother and Servant,
Written by Bishop LEIGHTON on different
Occasions: the first, taken from an Authentic Copy; the reft, from the Author's Originals. [Edit. 1748.]
LETTER to the Synod of GLASGOW, convened
Reverend Brethren, Ir is neither a matter of much importance, nor can I yet give you a particular and satisfying account of the reasons of my absence from your meeting, which I trust, with the help of a little time, will clear itself: But I can assure you, I am present with you in my most affectionate wishes of the gracidus presence of that Holy Spirit amongst you, and within you all, who alone can make this and all your meetings, and the whole work of your ministry, happy and successful, to the good of fouls, and His glo. ry that bought them with his own blood. And I doubt not, that your own great desire, each for yourfelf, and all for one another, is the same ; and that your daily and great employment is, by inceffant and fervent prayer, to draw down from above large supplies and increases of that blessed Spirit, which our Lord
and Master hath assured us that our heavenly Father will not fail to give to them that ask it. And how extreme a negligence and folly were it to want so rich a gift for want of asking, especially in those devoted to fo high and holy a service, that requires so great degrees of that spirit of holiness and divine love to purify their minds, and to raise them above their senses and this prefent world! Oh! my dear Brethren, what are we doing, that suffer our fouls to creep and grovel on this earth, and do so little aspire to the heavenly life of Christians, and more eminently of the messengers and ministers of God, as stars, yea, as angels, which he hath made Spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire ! Oh! where are souls to be found amongst us, that represent their own original, that are poffefled with pure and sublime apprehensions of God, the Father of spirits, and are often raised to the astonishing contemplation of his eternal and blessed being, and his infinite holiness, and greatness, and goodness; and are accordingly burnt up with ardent love! And where that holy fire is wanting, there can be no facrifice, whatsoever qur invention, or utterance, or gifts may be, and how blameless soever the externals of our life may be, and even our hearts free from gross pollutions; for it is scarce to be suspected, that any of us will suffer any of those strange, yea, infernal fires of ambition, or avarice, or malice, or impure lufts and fenfualities, to burn within us, which would render us priests of idols, of airy nothings, and of dunghil gods, yea, of the very god of this world, the prince of darkness. Let men judge us, and revile us as they please, that imports nothing at all; but God forbid any thing should possess our hearts but He that loved us, and gave himself for us; for we know we cannot be vesels of honour meet for the Master's use, unless we purge ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, and empty our hearts of all things belide him, and even of ourfelves and our own will, and have no
more any desires nor delights, but his will alone, and his glory, who is our peace, and our life, and our all. And, truly, I think it were our best and wisest reflection, upon the many difficulties and discouragements without us, to be driven by them to live more within; as they observe of the bees, that when it is foul weather abroad, they are busy in their hives. If the power of external discipline be enervated in our hands, yet, who can hinder us to try, and judge, and censure ourselves ; and to purge the inner temples, our own hearts, with the more severity and exactness? And if we be dashed and bespattered with reproaches abroad, to study to be the cleaner at home: And the less we find of meekness and charity in the world about us, to preserve so much the more of that sweet temper within our own hearts; blefing them that curse us, and praying for them that persecute us ; so shall we most effectually prove ourselves to be the children of our heavenly Fatber, even to their conviction, that will scarce allow us, in any sense, to be called his servants.
As for the confusions and contentions that ftill abound and increase in this Church, and threaten to undo it, I think our wisdom shall be, to cease from man, and look for no help till we look more upwards, and dispute and discourse less, and fast and pray more; and so draw down our relief from the God of order and peace, who made the heavens and the earth.
Concerning myself, I have nothing to say, but humbly to entreat you to pass by the many failings and weaknesses you may have perceived in me during my abode amongst you; and if in any thing I have injured or offended you, or any of you, in the management of my public charge, or in private converse, I do sincerely beg your pardon : Though, I confess, I cannot make any requittal in that kind; for I do not know of any thing towards me, from any of you, that needs a pardon in the leaft; having generally