To Mr. and Mrs. W.
MY DEAR FRIENDS IN THE LORD JESUS).
Grace, mercy, and peace be with you. I received your kind letter, and am glad to hear that you are emboldened and encouraged to make use of the poor saint's Bank of Faith, and to look to God as the God of providence. Your Bible abounds with bank notes, if you have but the hand of faith to take them, the spirit of supplication to plead them, and wisdom to copy after the many precedents which God has set before you.
Some tell us that God has nothing to do with the belly, only with the heart; that we are to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things are to be added unto us; and that this addition is to cut off all prayer for daily food, for we have no warrant to pray for temporal things. This is the doctrine of those who have more gods than one; but what are you and I to do, who have but one God? When God sent Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt, he told him that his name was I AM THAT I AM. At first sight this might appear nothing but a blank; but Moses soon found the validity of it, for when he came to make use of it, it always turned up a prim turn it which way he would. Moses wanted a deliverer in Egypt, and God was that; and he wanted mercy and judgment, goodness and severity, at the Red Sea, and God was that. When they came to Marah, they wanted either a providence or a miracle, and the answer of God was, I AM THAT, THAT I AM. They wanted a guide by day, and a guard by night, and God was both. In their wars with Amalek, Cog, and Sihon, they wanted a captain, and God was that. In their hunger they wanted bread, in their thirst they wanted drink, and in their lust they wanted flesh; and they had them.
It is true, they did not presume to pray to the Almighty for these things, but they tempted him; they rebelled, and murmured, and called his omnipotence in question about them: " Can God furnish a table in the wilderness, can he provide flesh for his people?" And I think this sounds worse than humble prayer, and calls loudly for a patient, long-suffering, merciful, sin-pardoning God; and he was all that. And this Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
Go you, and do as you are bid: in all things and at all times, with supplication, thanksgiving, and prayer, let your requests be made known unto God; and that God, who ordered the ravens to feed Elijah twice a day, and afterwards commanded a widow to sustain him, and who wrought a daily miracle for twelve months together to do it, will also feed you, O ye of little faith.
"Give me neither poverty nor riches," says one, "but feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full and deny thee, or lest I be poor and steal;" "And, having food and raiment, let us be therewith content," for we have a covenant God that careth for us.
You have the whole account of the covenant of grace by Ezekiel; and the last branch of this new covenant secures temporal things, and in the sacred pages runs thus: "I will also save you from all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn and wine, and will increase it, and will lay no famine upon you. But thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them," Ezek. xxxvi. 29, 37. Hence it is plain that those, who tell us that Christ grants no warrant to pray for temporal things, speak a vision out of their own hearts, and go by their own purse, instead of God's promises; and make the covenant head to contradict the covenant maker, instead of coming into the world to do the will of him that sent him.
The poor little book that you speak of, as well as myself, goes through evil report and good report. Some curse it, and others bless it; some laugh at it, and others weep over it; some believe it is true, and others declare it is a lie; some ridicule it, and others are encouraged by it; some vilify me for sending it out, and others thank God that ever it was written. No man can serve these two masters. The book never was intended for the worldly wise, for he sacrifices to his own net; nor was it intended for the miser, for, with him, one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, for he has goods laid up for many years. Nor will it suit the self-dependent professor: a bank of faith will never be used by an unfaithful man; he is better acquainted with the English funds than with an overruling providence.
The book was designed for poor believes, who are heirs of promise, of the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; and who are called a poor and an afflicted people, who shall trust in the name of the Lord; whom God loves too well to trust them with a stock in hand, lest, like the prodigal, they become independent of him, and get far from him by riotous living.
True faith will view the world and the fullness thereof in the hand of Christ, for he is heir of all things. The gold, and the silver, the corn, the wine, the oil, the wool, and the flax, are his; and so are the fowls of the mountains, the beasts of the forest, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. These things are often thrown in great abundance to those who are to have their portion in this life; to such it is given to gather together and to heap up, but not an heart given to do good therewith. But, " The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just." " He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor," Prov. xxviii. 8.
The miser is often afraid to make his will, lest death ensue; and death often ensues a neglect of it, and so he dies without it; by which means Providence holds back his hands, that he cannot perform his enterprise: this is a repetition of the ancient question, " Whose shall these things be which thou hast provided ?" Let the true Christian's situation be what it may in this life, sure I am it is best for him; and, was he to choose for himself, he would never mend the matter, or add a cubit to his own stature. Sleep is sweeter with a hungry belly than with a full one. It is better to be poor and liberal, than to be rich and covetous. A saint with an empty stomach is often wakeful, active, lively, and can feed sweetly under a sermon; when a full belly lulls the hearer to sleep. A pampered appetite is the same to the soul as a restive horse is to his rider; it carries him whither it will. I know not which is worse, a keen appetite and no food, or plenty of food and no appetite. I have experienced both.
The Lord hath chosen our inheritance for us; and what little of this world's good falls to our share, he will keep it in his own hands, and make the morrow take thought for the things of itself. We are to be diligent in business and fervent in spirit, and the prayer of faith will fetch in every supply that is needful for us; for our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of these things. The Egyptians carried all their complaints to Joseph, and Israel in the wilderness carried theirs to Moses; but we must look to Jesus, and we shall see all his goodness pass before us: faith will watch his hand, and gratitude acknowledge his mercies. "He that will observe these things, even he shall understand the Iovingkindness of the Lord."
Yours, in the faith of the gospel,