March 10, 1803.
I RECEIVED my dear brother's puzzling epistle, in which I find some things that seem to entangle and stagger him, the which must not be viewed by the eye of reason, nor can they be made out, cast up, or made straight, by human judgment. God's word, and his providential dealings with others, are the only line, reed, rule, and plummet, to which these crooked things must be laid; he lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; his word is precept upon precept, line upon line, to try his own work by, as the Spirit's work always lies straight with God's word. Spiritual things must be compared with spiritual words. Soul troubles are intended to make discoveries, and to bring iniquity to light; not that God may see and know it, but that we may. If bodily afflictions be added to soul trials, this, with respect to us, brings the evil day near: the former gives us an appetite, the latter adds to the edge, and makes it keen, and us earnest. Convictions plow up the ground, and discover the soil; bodily afflictions help to parch the dry ground; the least encouragement, by power, by hope, or by expectation, is receiving the seed, attended with some sensible refreshings, called watering, which breaks the clods and moistens the soil. But unexpected calamities, and repeated frowns and rebukes, upon the back of this, harrow the seed in, and give it deepness of earth; so that what operated. on the mind and will now affects the heart and conscience.
God's testimony of Job is, that he was perfect in Christ, upright in love, and equalled by none in all the east; yet upon this came all the train of afflictions. He is so concerned for God's honour, and his family's welfare, that he sanctifies all his children every morning by ten burnt offerings, and continues at this till a wind from the wilderness smites the house, and kills them all at their elder brother's entertainment. And yet all ends in such a deliverance from spiritual captivity, and in such a view of Immanuel, as is hardly' to be found in the Old Testament. God tells Moses that he had looked upon the afflictions of Israel; that he had a respect unto them; had heard their groans, and was come to deliver them: yet after this comes the double exactions of bricks: the taskmasters' scourges, and gathering of stubble instead of straw. God was with Hezekiah in all he put his hand to; yet afterwards he was left, that he might know all that was in his own heart. Peter makes a short, but noble confession of Christ, and is pronounced blessed, and a man taught of God, and obtains a promise of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; yet soon after came Satan, the sieve, the awful denial, the oaths and the curses. And, were I to relate to my friend all the losses and crosses, the troubles and trials, with which my faith has had to encounter during this last winter, he would see that all the frowns fall not to his own share, but some on the back of
His affectionately in the furnace,
W. H. S. S.