April 15, 1805.
Beloved in the Lord, grace and peace be with thee through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I MUST confess that since I saw you last you have been much on my mind, as you appeared to me to be much worn down, greatly altered, and in constitution nearly as old as myself, though in years much younger. God grant, my dear and kind friend, that our last works may be more than the first; that, instead of leaving our first love, we may be enabled to follow after charity; and to hug, embrace, acknowledge, and cherish every ray, every spark, and every live coal that comes from the altar of burnt offering. "Covet earnestly the best gifts," says God. Life and love are the marrow, and fat of our pass-over. A feast of fat things is promised to us, and wines on the lees well refined. Nothing, Joseph, cheers the soul like these things; set thy heart upon them, and follow hard after them by constant prayer, watching and observing the work of grace within, and the work of Providence without. Reading also lays in a stock to feed the busy mind, which will and must be employed; and for every favour or token for good furnish the thank offering. You know not how well pleasing these are to God, when they come from the heart, and pass through the hands of a Mediator.
The incense under the law was composed of different aromatic spices. "A pure incense (says God) shall be offered to my name among the Gentiles;" meaning prayer, and other spiritual sacrifices. And I believe that the spiritual meaning and gospel sense of those spices are these seven. First, the grace of life quickens us, that we may feel our wants, and approach God with an appetite. 2. The grace of light discovers to us, as Paul says, "the things that are freely given us of God." 3. The grace of faith enable us to call upon God in confidence. 4. The grace of hope expects an answer. 5. The grace of submission leaves it to the will of God to grant or withhold, as seems best to him. 6. The grace of patience waits his leisure, while, 7. The grace of love is the coal from the altar, that sets all the others to burning, or to smoking at least. If the fire burns, it is a burnt offering with the fat; but, if it only smoke, it is fervent desire, but not joy; and even this encourages hope, for "the bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory, and the isles shall wait for his law." "With all thine offerings thou shall offer salt," says God. Let your words be seasoned with salt, that they may minister grace to the hearers," says Paul. "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another," says Christ, "for every sacrifice shall be seasoned with salt." This is the salt of the covenant of our God, which is not to be lacking in our offerings: and these are the spices of which the pure and holy incense is composed. The altar is the Godhead of Christ, which sanctifies the gift; the human nature the sacrifice. Immanuel, God with us in both natures, is the priest, and the Spirit of all grace furnishes the household with incense; so that "upon the tabernacle there is a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night, for upon all the glory shall be a defence." God bless thee!