Feb. 25, 1809.
To my daughter Sarah, greeting.
YOUR kind epistles came to hand, and they are most truly welcome to me. But this cold and wet winter has turned all my flying pains into chronic; and old age helps to fix and confirm them. This, however, is no more than the outward man, which must decay, because the leprosy is deep in the walls. It has been scraped and plastered, and the priest has looked at it again and again; but the fretting leprosy still remains, and therefore it must and shall come down; Levit. xiii. But the tenant within is not in the same predicament. There is in that better part an immortal treasure, that shall live and abide for evermore. All that are born again have this treasure in their earthen vessel: and I have for some years past employed my mind and thoughts upon this incorruptible seed, which will and shall remain when time itself is dead.
The word of our God shall stand for ever; it is never to depart from Christ, nor from his seed, according to the tenor of the covenant. "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven," Psalm cxix. 8, 9.
The quickening influence of God's Spirit is life eternal: by this death, in all the branches of his empire, is abolished, and we see and know that life and immortality are brought to light. God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living;" and he styles himself the God of their salvation, and claims them for his own, which are the offspring, or "issues from death," Psalm lxviii. 20.
The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him; and this mercy, when exercised in our regeneration and renovation, is productive of many good fruits in us, and of many by us towards others, which are a comfort both to ourselves and to them; and all these claim the Almighty for their God and their sire.; for he is "the father of all mercies, and the God of all comfort," 2 Cor. i. 3.
The morning star, which arises in our hearts, is a sure prelude to the Sun of Righteousness; is an immortal beam, and will shine more and more unto the perfect day, being a ray of divine glory. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of God is risen upon thee," saith the prophet; "and the Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory." These, Sarah, are the children of light; and all their good and perfect gifts are from above, and come down from the father of these children, called lights, "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Furthermore, the least grace, or the most minute fruit of the Holy Spirit of God, is incorporeal, immortal, and incorruptible; even though it be no more than the meek and quiet influence which the Holy Ghost produces ,in the humble and contrite soul; and even these are ascribed to the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not incorruptible, "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price," 1 Peter iii. 4. Now, if the meekness and quietude of the Holy Spirit, with which he adorns the penitent soul, be incorruptible, and in the sight of God of great price, what must faith be, which receives the Spirit, obtains promises, attends prayer, gives glory to God, and overcomes the world? Why, it is a seed of God, it is born of him; is in alliance with him, receives all help from him, and gives all glory to him; and is the leading, warring, and all-conquering grace, that leads on all the other train of competitors to the holy war; so says holy writ - "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," 1 John v. 4. Now this grace of faith, which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," will not continue beyond the grave in its labour, toil, or exercises; in its attention on prayer, mixing with the word, quenching the darts of the devil, and fighting with the world; yet it will remain as an eye; for even in this world faith is a seeing him that is invisible, a viewing the promise at a distance; and we walk by it, and not by sight. Yet all this is but a looking through a glass darkly, and must give place when we 'see face to face. Moreover, there is a spark of divine life in every grace; hence called "the grace of life;" and an inactive faith is by James called a "faith without works," which he declares to be dead. �And the Lord himself affirms that all who believe in him have everlasting life, and shall not come again into condemnation; with which the Common Prayer Book agrees in its Catechism; calling it "a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ."
All these, my dear Sarah, are most undoubtedly the seeds of incorruption, which must live and abide for ever, seeing 'that sin, death, and corruption, can work no change in them, have no dominion over them, nor any influence upon them. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit;" John iii. 6.
Love also is among this list of incorruptible seeds, from which neither our sins nor Satan, life nor death, things present, nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any thing else, can ever separate our souls. Love is of God, and is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. It is sovereign and free; unmerited, unalterable, and everlasting; 'and is the seed of our divine Father, which is lodged in the soul through Christ. It is that charity which abideth for ever, and is the crowning work of the Holy Spirit; for we are to be holy and without blame before God in love, Eph. i. 4. Again, on this subject of the incorruptible seed: Hope.. A living hope is one of the fruits to which the regenerate soul is begotten when born anew by the Spirit, as appears from holy writ; "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively, hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead," 1 Peter i. 3. This is a good hope through grace; has life and activity in it; and is lively in its nature, in its exercises, and in its influences and operations, being called an helmet, to screen the judgment from errors; an anchor that counteracts despair; entering within the vail of Christ's flesh, and centering in God through him; and is a looking out, a longing for, an expectation of, and a dealer in, things invisible, things good, things future, things much needed, things promised, and things sure and certain; and is a grace that is daily employed in waiting the returns of prayer, the income of promised mercies, and of all promised deliverances.
Joy is also an incorruptible seed, being a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and a grace from his fulness; "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." This is the grace that is to be; our chief furniture when prayers and tears, trials, and troubles, the work of faith, and expectations of hope, are to be no more; then praise and rejoicing, shouting and singing, triumphing and exulting, loving and adoring, seeing and admiring, embracing and enjoying, will be all in all; hence the promise, "the ransomed of the Lord shall return with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads," Isaiah xxxv. 10. And, if it be everlasting joy, it must be an incorruptible seed, being a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and that lamp which never goes out, but will burn at the midnight cry, when the bridegroom comes, and will be the nuptial flame that will never expire.
Peace is another member of the new man, a ruling grace in the Saviour's principality; and of which little ruler he is the prince, being called the Prince of Peace; and it is peculiar to the royal city of Salem; "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces; for my friends and companions sake will I now say, Peace be within thee." Upon the sons of peace this divine blessing comes, and upon them it shall for ever rest, Luke x. 6.
Filial and reverential Fear also, which has the goodness of the Lord, and not his wrath for its object, Hosea iii. 5. This grace is peculiar to sons, and not to servants; and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; hence he styles himself, "the Spirit of the fear of the Lord." This little sweet one is the beginning of wisdom; and often dwells richly in those who can discern little else in themselves, and who exercise it all the day long, when they can exercise neither faith nor hope. Yet even this God acknowledges as his; "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me," Jeremiah xxxii. 40. Yea, God claims this as his own; "The fear of the Lord is his treasure," Isaiah xxxiii. 6.
Rest is another fruit of the Holy Spirit, being the satisfaction and contentment of the mind when stayed on the finished salvation of Christ; and springing from a full persuasion of interest in it; "We that believe do enter into rest."
Delight is an incorruptible treasure, being the secret pleasure and comfort that the soul finds and enjoys in the love, the good will, and the gracious indulgences of God; heavenly-mindedness and sweet meditation often waft the soul into it. "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul," Psalm xciv. 19. Again, "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart," Psalm xxxvii. 4. And again, "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Now, as the object of our delight is God, and comfort and peace are the ground of our inward delight, this noble and enriching glee of the soul will rise higher in the next world than it has ever done in this, and therefore it must be incorruptible, because it never fades away.
The wedding garment, which faith now puts on, is incorruptible and eternal, and must be found, put on, and worn on the wedding day, when the marriage of the Lamb shall come. This robe must adorn the spouse, and grace the nuptial solemnity, for it is in this that "the righteous shall shine forth as the sun, in the glory of their Father's kingdom, for ever and ever."
I have now shewn you something of the incorruptible seed which is hid in the heaven-born soul. And where this treasure is not, all profession is nothing more than the adorning of corrupt nature, or metamorphosing the old man of sin; but this transformation differs much from the Holy Spirit and his divine grace. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; corruption doth not inherit incorruption." The body, as well as the soul, must pass through the laver of regeneration, and there must be a latter as well as a former rain. Soul and body must both be quickened; the soul in time, the body at the end of time. "Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth; thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side," Psal. lxxi. 20. The same Spirit that quickens the dead soul shall also quicken our mortal bodies, (Rom. viii. 11), and purge them from all their corruption, dishonour, weakness, mortality, spots, stains, and wrinkles. Our vile bodies must be changed, and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ, Phil. iii. 21.
Thus, Sarah, you see a little of the Spirit's work, who takes up his eternal abode in the chosen of God: and, as the Spirit of life and comfort abides with them for ever, and will reinstamp the image of Christ upon our whole man, and fill the treasures of grace with eternal glory; then joy shall be 'full, and love full, and knowledge full, and every craving appetite will be full; so that they shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more, nor sorrow any more, nor cry any more. I might have sent you a few scraps of comfort, which by God's blessing might have been a refreshing morsel; but this will bear reading again, if you examine and compare notes properly.
I am very rheumatic, and my hand shakes, therefore must conclude, wishing you much of His presence.
W. H. S. S.