Cricklewood, March 3, 1804.
I RECEIVED yours, and am glad that you met with any encouragement from the word when in town. You most certainly have compassed mount Sinai many days, and are inured to legal bondage; though God gets but little glory from his children while they lie in irons; because such sons differ nothing from servants, though they be lords of all, their spirit being in a base, low, depressed state; which are the fruits and effects of God's anger, not of his love and good-will in Christ Jesus. There is in us poor, fallen, depraved creatures, a self-righteous spirit; we are born in it and with it; and it may be seen even in children. This spirit is kept working and fermenting in us by pride, with which Satan leavens this leaven of the Pharisees. This is one of the principal high things which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And this spirit we are fond of, because it affords ground. for boasting. Nor is this boasting excluded by the law; for, though the law works wrath in us, discovers sin, and ministers death and condemnation, yet doth it not humble us; self pity and hard thoughts of God; pride and consequence, with enmity against the Almighty, being all the fruits which will ever discover themselves in that soul wherin self-righteousness and the wrath of a broken law work. In the law the wrath of God, his justice, holiness, and terrible majesty, appear: but in Christ Jesus the love, mercy, pity, compassion, together with the glory and beauty of God, are seen.
The dreadful displeasure of God in a broken law, is intended to shake, alarm, and unsettle the soul from its legal bottom; but it is when God builds up Zion that he appears in his glory; and it is charity that edifieth, or builds us up, not wrath. It is charity, or love, and nothing else, that raiseth up the edifice of sovereign mercy; "I have said that mercy shall be built up for ever." And it is love that raiseth up the fabric of mercy.
Beware of hugging your chains, and of supposing that there is any merit in being laid by the heels, or that there is any thing pleasing to God in our sore backs. God is not charmed with our groans, mournings, and complaints: love, faith, hope, humility, meekness, praise, thanksgiving, pious sorrow, submission, and repentance, flowing from a sense of pardoning love, are the choicest fruits in the gardens of grace, or the most valuable revenues of God's empire, with which he is well pleased. - And we derive these from the Mediator's fulness by the Holy Spirit; and under the Spirit's influence and operations are these spices made to flow out.
James, look a little more off from, and out of self. Pore and ponder no longer over the old sore: it is not fretting at the disease, but hoping in the Physician, that raises the heart of the patient. God has made his dear Son to be to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption; and we are complete in him, and in him without fault before the throne. Look a little more to Jesus, and see what that will do; we are changed into his image, from glory to glory, by looking, and not by shaking our fetters, or grinding in the prison.
Many thanks. But to write a sermon I want new eyes, and a new set of muscles. Grace, mercy and peace be with thee. So prays thy friend and servant in Christ Jesus,
W. H. S. S.