Cricklewood House, Edgeware Road, London.
BELOVED OF GOD,
I HAD no more doubt, from the first letter I saw from thee, of the work, the strange work, in thee being the work of God, than I had of my own existence. When we are dead to God, and alive to self and the world, sin is dead and we are securely dreaming of a God all mercy, and of meriting his favour, the great reward, by dead works; for our works can rise no higher than the workfolks. We are dead, and our works dead also. The evil day is put far from us; and, Satan searing the conscience, the sting of guilt is not felt. Thus we are alive without the law: but all this time sin lies at the door: and, as soon as God sends his law home to the heart, attended with its binding, condemning, sin-discovering, accusing, and wrath-revealing power, then all our guilt and filth, that before lay at the door, rolls into the mind and conscience; the burden is felt with all its weight, and guilt with its awful sting. The eye of justice, by the lamp of the law, presents our sins to view, and the quickening Spirit of God makes us feel their venom.
This, my dear friend, is God's first soul-humbling lesson: "I search the heart, and try the reins: I make a man know what are his thoughts: I will set your sins in order before you," &c. And "blessed is the man whom thou chasteneth, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law, that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, till the pit be digged up for the wicked. "Every one thus taught of the Father, saith the Saviour, cometh unto me, and he that cometh I will in no wise cast out. "Under this lesson thou now art; thy way is hedged in and hedged up with thorns; and here God will keep thee until thy strength, thy wisdom, thy righteousness, the brilliancy of all thy faculties, thy memory, and thine abilities, both natural and acquired, are all gone. And he will make thee as much a fool and an idiot in the things of this world as thou art in the things of God; and then thou wilt stand idle in the market-place, for no man will hire thee:---not the worldling, for thou canst not make sport; nor those of natural religion, because thou canst not act the hypocrite, nor wear the mask. These are the persons that the great householder hires into the vineyard; and glad enough they are to go, though but for one penny a day.
Such a sinner as above described is a lost one; not only at a loss about the things of God, but lost and absent in himself; lost to this world, to all worldly societies, and (in his own apprehensions) to all eternity, having the snares of death and the pains of hell upon him; and this is what the Saviour means by a lost sheep. The Holy Spirit, in his work on the soul, is the best teacher, the best' guide, the best interpreter, and the best commentator. We cannot love him while he reflects his anger from a fiery law. An earthly judge is a terror to an evil doer; no criminal can love him. But ere long God will shine in the face of Christ, when thou wilt have the light of his countenance lifted up upon thee, and then shalt thou shine forth, and thy health shall spring forth speedily; yea, thou shalt be as the morning.
My dear Master will make several slow advances, momentary and transient visits, to thee previous to the day of espousals. He will appear on the mountains, and many obstacles will lower their towering heads. Then he will shew himself though the lattice, which will make some slits and crevices through the old vail that is upon thy heart; but it will not destroy the face of that covering, nor wholly swallow up death in victory. Then he will stand behind the wall, and the old strong holds will begin to shake; prejudice, enmity, hardness, infidelity, and despondency, will scarcely hold together. But 0! when once he puts his hands in by the hole, and rends the caul of thine heart, then unbelief flies back, faith goes in, and love, sorrow, and evangelical repentance, will flow out; for thy bowels will be moved for him more than ever Joseph's were over Benjamin, or the real mother over the son that Solomon ordered to be cut in two. And this will be thy blessed and happy case and state not many days hence: nor shall my words fall to the ground; for "God will confirm the word of his servants, and perform the counsel of his messengers." Nor shall one soul, that God by his law hath wounded, ever seek his face in vain. His delay and longsuffering are salvation. He delays, that our case may become desperate and incurable; that his wisdom, skill, power, and goodness, may be seen; that our deep need may be felt; and that a lasting impression may be left on the soul, and the greater glory redound to his dear and matchless name. Every respite, every breathing time, every ray, every glimpse, every view, every revival, every sweet thought, every dissolving sensation (call them Gad, for there is a whole troop behind, and the banner of love with them) will be highly prized. Wonder not at the mystery.-Our carnal minds are enmity, and do oppose the Lord even in his work on our own souls; but this shall not counteract God's designs of grace: and thou wilt ever find that, when thou art the most afraid, ashamed, and abashed, the furthest of all from God, and the last that can expect to be regarded, thou wilt even then feel the greatest freedom and nearest access. - Christ's merits, not our own, procure access to the Father.
Legal pride, my daughter, always works with legal bondage: the law, in all its operations, never excludes boasting. Thou mayest not only find thine heart drawn to seek applause, but thou wilt find the time when thou wilt be proud of thy sufferings. It is pardoning love that works humility, and not sin-reviving wrath. And this, my girl, shews us the need of purging, fanning, and winnowing. But when Jesus comes, his work is all before him, and his reward is with him: healing and health are the -work of -his hands, and every grace is the reward that he brings. It is no difficulty to me to make thee out. I see clearly enough where thou art. - God is teaching, wounding, and condemning thee by the law, that he may lead thee to his dear Son, to receive at his foot the word of life; and to be healed, justified, and saved by him; and thou art at this time learning the last lesson at that school. The work is nearly finished, and salvation is at the door: hope and expectation are now in thy heart, and thou wouldest not part with thy present chastisements of God for all the world, nor wouldest thou change states with the most carnally secure, nor with the brightest hypocrite that shines in Zion; for, though he fills thy mouth with gravel, and gives thee gall to drink, yet to the hungry soul these bitter things are sweet; for the quickened soul had rather have them than be given up to its own heart's lust, or be left at ease in Zion.
Having no friend at hand to copy this, it comes pure from the coal-barge, and I suppose will puzzle thee as bad as thy scribble puzzles me. God bless thee. My kind love to Miss H.
Yours in the best of bonds,
W. H. S.S.