Sept. 28, 1801.
I WAS not a little pleased yesterday, to see your Ladyship encompassed with infirmities: and why do you wonder at this, seeing "the whole need not the physician, but them that are sick?" None of us love physic: saline and bitter draughts are not sweet, but they are salutary. "Have salt it yourselves," says the Saviour, "and be at peace one with another." The heart must know its own bitterness, or it will never relish or prize those joys that a stranger intermeddleth not with. Bitter draughts strengthen the stomach, promote appetite, and help digestion. Hence the ancient order given for eating the passover; "Ye shall eat it in haste, and with bitter herbs shall ye eat it." All the Saviour's garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia., two of which out of the three are bitter; and with myrrh and aloes was the Saviour's body anointed. Ezekiel eats the roll, and John the little book; and they both found the contents to be sweet as honey, but afterwards their bellies were bitter. Sweet is the word of God; but, when it discovers the corruptions of the heart, and gives rebukes for what is amiss, the heart knows its own bitterness. However, the bad humours must be discovered by the word, and then be purged off, as often as bad frames come on, that more fruit may be produced. Besides, this furnace and purging work make the stomach nice; so that it cannot feed upon, and swallow down, every Arminian scrap that is held forth with a wimpering cry, and a call to sinners to come to Christ. Nothing but his flesh in sacrifice, which is meat indeed, and his blood, which is drink indeed, will satisfy or entertain the soul that knows its own sore, and hungers for the bread of life.
My Lady Mary will understand me better by and by, when she has had a little more of this sort of physic, which is so good for her health; for "by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." So God revives us, and makes us to live. Seeing you so low is the cause of my sending these few scattered and undigested fragments, knowing that "to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet;" yea, God's rods, reproofs, and rebukes, are better than carnal ease.
Farewell! be of good cheer; Christ will return with double love, and make it all up, and then he will be more sweet than ever. So I believe, and so you expect. My love to the noble one. Excuse haste.