Paddington, July 12, 1798.
I WAS in the country when thy last epistle came, or thou wouldest have heard from me before this time. You inform me that I have quite mistaken your case. This to me is nothing new; hundreds before you have told me the same, and that I was altogether ignorant of their perils, and wholly deceived by them, for they were reprobates and hypocrites: but they do not tell me so now, but otherwise. One of old said, "All men are liars." This Ire said in his haste; for, though in one sense it is true, yet lying is not the trade of God's servants; nor did I mistake your case, and that your own conscience knows; for sure I am that, if the power of God did not uphold thee, if his Spirit's might did not support and fortify thee, and if there were not hope and expectation at the bottom, thou couldest not stand one hour but must be drowned in despair, driven to madness, or sink into the bottomless pit, in an instant; for no one in such circumstances could stand one minute alone, much less write such a letter as yours. In my trouble, so far was I from being able to write, that I did not know my own master when he came to me, nor one word that he .said, and that for months together. Thou are not so deep in the horrible pit as I was by a thou sand fathoms, and thou art in God's strong hand, or thou must have been in hell long ago. "God instructed me." saith the prophet, "with a strong hand." And again; "Now, when they fall, they shall be holpen with a little help."
The characters and cases of persons for whom Christ was anointed, appointed, and to whom he was sent, are all pointed out in the word of God: and those who reap no benefit by his death are described also; as, for instance, the self-righteous; "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The insensibly secure and whole hearted" The whole need not the physician, but they that are sick. "The wise, the prudent also "Wo unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight;" from these the mysteries of God are hid, and Christ thanks his Father for it. Those who trust in and boast of the light of nature; "If ye were blind ye should not have sin; but since ye say, we see, your sin remaineth." Those who vainly dream that they are right, and their state good, though never changed in heart; "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." And to the lost sheep among the Gentiles; "I have other sheep which are not of this fold, and them I must bring, and they shall hear my voice."
Those also that are alive under the law, while sin is dead in them; not those, but the self-condemned "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. And they that say, "Stand by, I am holier than thou." Those that sanctify and purify themselves shall go to confusion together; the Strong man also; "I will feed the fat and the strong with judgment." The mere formalist comes in among them; these make many long prayers, but feel no need of the Spirit's aid; "all they do is to be seen of men; verity they have their reward." Those that never at any time transgress the commandment; to these he gives not the robe, the rings, nor the shoes; nor to any others that hate Zion, and remain strangers to their own hearts.
Now let us see to whom Christ's commission reaches, and to whom he is sent; for he must do the will of him that sent him, and be faithful to him that appointed him, that he may be the faithful and true witness. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning; he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." "I am come that my sheep might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Now the dead, that shall hear his voice and live, are persons condemned at the bar of equity, at the court of judicature, and in the spiritual court of heaven.; for he is condemned by his own conscience, cursed as a transgressor by the law, and damned as an unbeliever, by the gospel. And this was my case; I was without life, without motion towards God, or any affection for him; and here I was when he justified me. And none but such souls as these ever hunger and thirst after righteousness; and blessed are such, for they shall be filled; for he shall feed his flock like a shepherd, &c. Again; "He hath sent me to preach good tidings to the meek," to such as through grief, anguish, trouble and distress, are so abashed, dismayed, and dejected, that they cannot bear a hard or harsh word, their spirit being sunk so low through continual sorrow of heart and grief of mind.
He hath sent me "to bind up the broken hearted." They are broken by the cutting convictions of God and conscience, the terrors of the law, the buffettings and accusations of Satan and the reproaches of those who are at ease.
He hath sent me "to open the prison to them that are bound." They are shut up under law terrors, in unbelief, and in the strong-hold of Satan; barred in by infidelity, carnal enmity, and hardness of heart, and bound; their guilt is bound to their conscience, and the yoke of besetting sins to their neck; they are in bondage in their own souls, in bondage to wrath, to the meditation of terror, fear, torment, destruction, and to the fear of death. Now he is sent to open the prison to such souls as these; and their enlargement and sensible deliverance are as sure as their sensibility of their bonds and of their confinement.
He hath sent me "to set at liberty those that are bruised," made sore, tender, and chafed in their minds, by the frowns of God, cutting reflections on past follies, meditations on future judgments, and tormenting anxieties, crosses, and disappointments; life hanging in perpetual doubt, and God appearing to pay no regard to their sighs and groans; unto these he is sent to proclaim liberty.
lie hath sent me to comfort all that mourn on account of their sin, their rebellion, the enmity of their minds, and the hardness of their hearts; who mourn after Christ, and after an angry God; who mourn over the fallen race, the careless state of sinners, at the carnal insults that God receives from them, and at the dangerous state of thousands who are insensibly hovering over the brink of hell. He is to set a mark upon all these, Ezek. ix. 4; and he is to comfort and protect them.
Moreover, he is to appoint and "give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The "oil of joy" is the comfort of love, beauty is the grace of God, and the light of his countenance lifted up, under which we rise and shine forth as the morning. Ashes are sin, self-abasement, and self-abhorrence on account of it. The "garment of praise" is the righteousness of Christ, the best robe, that justifies us freely from all things; and "the spirit of heaviness" is the wrath of God, called a spirit of bondage to fear; and is attended with the burden of guilt, the burden of the law's demands, and the burden of its killing sentence, which sinks the soul into the horrible pit and miry deep.
Moreover, he is to give "light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death. "This" shadow "is the old vail upon the heart that keeps us in darkness, the god of this world having blinded our eyes; and it is called death's shadow, because it is an emblem. of hell, and the pains of hell are felt under it; such as guilt, fear, wrath, torment, Satan's darts, and a sensible separation from God. Now the Sun of righteousness shall shine upon these, to open their blind eyes, and make them look out of obscurity and out of darkness.
But again, "He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young," Isai. xl. 11."Lambs" are souls with budding hopes, distant views of better days, and feeble and imperceptible expectations; who are quickened to feel, alarmed to fear, and enlightened, but it is only to see their danger. Ewes 'great with young are those quickened by the word, who travail hard for deliverance, but doubts and. fears counteract the work, and incline to despondency or despair. By carrying them in his arms is meant protecting them by his power, although they are not delivered. Carrying them in his bosom denotes their nearness to his heart, and the certainty of his love to them; for the bosom always signifies lovingkindness, corn- -passion and pity, or tender regard.
Once more, "The prey shall be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive shall be delivered." "The prey" is a sinner in the jaws and under the power of Satan, sin, and death;, and one who is a voluntary and willing slave to. his orders and commands, and led captive by him at his will. The stronger than the strong man armed is to come upon him, bind him, cast him out, and divide his spoil.
But, to proceed still further. "The bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory." "The bruised reed is a smitten and wounded soul, who can make no melody in the ears of God, but a mere jargon of confusion and inconsistencies, a jumble of complaints, desires, groans, petitions, murmurings, discontents; and, in short, a medley of every thing but peace, truth, and harmony. "The smoking flax" is holy longings, pious breathings, earnest desires, and fervent anxieties of the soul, without any wisdom, knowledge, or understanding; all of which are love in the smoke, but not in the flame, till joy comes to fan it up.
Again: The hills are to melt, and the mountains to flow down at his presence. By "the hills" we are to understand hard hearts, which are to be taken away, and. hearts of flesh to be given: and by "mountains," difficulties which lie in our way; such as a broken law, the sword of justice, a sight of sin, and the power of Satan.
Come, my daughter, be of good cheer; God is making thee a fit object for the cordial reception and. sweet embraces of his dear Son, who receives all those that labour and are heavy laden. And forget not that it is the foolish things of this world, the weak thing, and base things, and things that are despised, that God hath chosen. My kind respects to Mr. and Miss H. I shall follow this with my poor prayers, and may the Lord hear, answer, accept, and bless thee!
Ever thine in Christ,
W. H. S. S.