To J. JENKINS.
MY son! God be gracious to thee, my son. But how is it that thou hast broken forth? I was going to say, this breach be upon thee. How is it that thou hast so soon changed thy language? The tongue of the stammerer begins to speak plainly. Thy 'ifs and buts' will shortly get out of fashion, and come into disuse and contempt. Faith begins to talk, and she will soon begin to triumph. I have for some time perceived her; but unbelief is such a railing adversary, and draws such wretched and hasty conclusions, that poor faith can scarce put in a word. The prisoner will soon go forth, and he that sits in darkness will soon shew himself; and when this Hebrew comes out of his hole we shall have a pure language.
The good work is not only begun, but it is going on apace. The word shall grow and prevail, and grace shall reign; but thou must not wonder if it should come to pass, that at the very place of the breaking forth of children thou shouldest find thyself once and again thrown back into all thy former hard labour: nor must thou conclude it is an abortive birth on this account; it is intended to make us deeply sensible of our affliction and our misery, the wormwood and the gall, that our souls may have them long in remembrance, and be humbled in us.
But thou art still in bondage: be it so. Blessed is the man whom God chasteneth, and teacheth him out of his law, that he may give him rest from the day of trouble. When thou hast fulfilled thy daily task under that schoolmaster, and been Well exercised with the burden of guilt and the yoke of thine own transgressions, thou wilt highly prize thy enlargement, and know the worth of the great deliverer. It is for the want of a little of this school-learning that we have so many mongrel preachers: they have claimed their degrees at Zion without learning one lesson at Sinai; but all they have got of Christ is the word, not the power; and all that Christ has got of them is the tongue, not the heart.
But you are ready to give all up, and to say you will neither preach nor wait any longer. This is coming to a point indeed: however, the religion that comes by grace differs much from that you had formerly, that profession you took up of your own accord; and you might have laid it down again, without either danger or difficulty, if you had thought proper. But you are now in the hand of God; and his will, not thy own, must and shall be thy only rule. 'I will' and 'they shall' is the language of the new covenant from first to last; and to this thou must submit, whether thou choosest or refusest. To talk of waiting no longer upon him, who has so long waited to be gracious to thee, deserves no milder rebuke than that of "Get thee behind me, Satan." That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he," Eccl. vi. 10. It is a fool's lips that enter into contention, and his back calleth for strokes; and these strokes must come on till we can say "Thy will be done." And then, and not till then, will the Lord commit to your trust the word of reconciliation, and take thee sensibly into friendship.
The language of unbelief is just like what is vulgarly called Irish bulls: it is nothing but self-contradictions. The man that uses this tongue of the crafty never confesses what he really believes, nor speaks what he really thinks; so that the words of his mouth are diametrically opposite to the meditations of his heart: this Cretian is always a liar, an evil beast, and a slow belly; and this witness is true.
But the captive exile hastens that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit; and I am afraid of his coming forth too soon, lest, like the grass upon the house top, he wither before he be grown up, and appear among those thin ears blasted with the east wind, wherewith the mower filleth not his hand, nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom. "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sin ?" I, say a living man; one whom God has quickened when dead in trespasses and sins; a man that has life, and feels the terrors of the Lord, the bondage of the law, and the plague of his own heart; who feels a mighty famine in the land, and has an appetite for the bread of life, and a thirst for the living God; who feels divine motions towards the Almighty, the comfortable rise of a good hope, the conflicts of faith, and who is indulged with an expectation that shall never be cut off?
A good minister of Jesus Christ, above all men, must be refined in the furnace of affliction, and be trained and disciplined in the school of correction. It is needless that persons ordained for this good work should be made to feel all that, as instruments, they are intended to discover, and taste and feed upon that food which they are to set before the household of faith. They that are to be God's mouth to a people must be taught of God themselves. How wilt thou be able to describe those convictions which are common to nature, from those given by the Spirit of God, unless thy own convictions terminate in sound conversion ? None but a penitent sinner can describe real repentance; and they must be made sorry after a godly sort who describe godly sorrow. A soul dead in trespasses and sins cannot preach the quickening operations of God; nor can an unpardoned man preach the forgiveness of sins. He must be born again who describes a spiritual birth, and he must be justified who is a preacher of righteousness. A rebel to God cannot be an ambassador of peace, nor is an enemy a proper person to be entrusted with the word of reconciliation.
A choice experience of these things upon thine own soul will, under God, make thee an able minister of the New Testament; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed; a pastor in the pulpit, an interpreter to Zion's inquirers, and a valuable physician by a sick bed. But he that is destitute of these things is an empty sound in a pulpit, a dry breast to the babe in grace, a dumb dog in spiritual company, a blind guide to the inquiring soul, and a physician of no value to a wounded spirit. But I am persuaded better things, yea the best things, of thee, my son, and things that accompany salvation: for I am fully persuaded that the good work is begun in thee, and that it will be carried on, till thou art thoroughly furnished for every good word and work. So I write, and so you believe.
Ever yours, in faithfulness and truth,