May the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, reign in our souls, through the influences of the Holy Spirit! Amen.
The love, with which the Lord has graciously united us together in him, and which can therefore neither be strengthened nor weakened by bodily presence or absence, constrains me to salute you externally by the present letter. The providence of God be sincerely thanked, which hath caused us to meet in this foreign land, so that we have found reason to rejoice together in the grace of God, as it has been experienced in our souls, and to praise his loving-kindness for it. Yea, let our inmost souls exalt his name, that he has, in some degree, given us to know the lamentable bondage of our immortal spirits under the dominion of darkness, whilst driven about by the enemy of souls, by means of every vain affection, thought, and desire; having awakened our consciences, which were slumbering in sin, so that, by his grace, we have sought to escape from the depth of our perdition, and to satisfy the demands of conscience.
But alas! We have to complain, as our consciences will doubtless testify, how often we have failed in this respect. And even when we had done that, which the conviction of our consciences demanded, with what slothfulness, unwillingness, and constraint was it performed! And when at length it was accomplished, with how many failings, and with what a mixture of selfishness was it blemished; so that after all, our consciences could not be satisfied with it! And with what ease and subtlety did we ascribe it to ourselves, as if we were anything! And how often, on the other hand, was the freedom of access to a throne of grace impeded by occasional faults! And because we possessed so little of that faith, which is of the operation of the Spirit of God, how imperfectly did we impress upon our minds the grace and merits of Jesus Christ as an atonement with the Father! It is true; our inmost souls would gladly have withdrawn themselves from the service of vanity and the passions, in order to give themselves up again to their rightful Lord, with a voluntary heart, to serve him and please him perfectly, but to this, the requisite power and strength was wanting. For methinks the case is the same with the conscience, as I believe I have somewhere read of the law, that it gives us to know our wretchedness, and tells us its requirements, the accomplishment of which it causes us to long for and to strive after, by every means in our power; but gives us no sufficient strength to fulfill them, so that we often exclaim in this condition, with Paul, (Rom. 8) “O wretched man, who will deliver me,”Amen.
Now it appears to me, my dear brother, that the faithful Captain of our salvation brings us into these straits, in order that we may despair of our own most imperfect righteousness, and lose all courage to attempt, by our own ability and efforts, to escape from our sins and our misery, and that no flesh may glory in the presence of God, but that unto him alone may be all the glory; and that after having previously sufficiently exerted all our strength, and wearied ourselves, and become quite faint, as it were, by our own attempts after holiness and righteousness, we may come, as weary and heavy-laden, to Jesus in the center of our souls, where, according to his promise, (John 14: 21) he will appear; and that we approach to him in the exercise of unremitting faith and love towards him, urgently seeking, and in persevering patience expecting him, like the Old Testament saints, who looked for his coming, and sighed, saying, “that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down,” “that salvation were come out of Zion!” until he reveal himself in us, erect his habitation within us, and renovate us : and until we are inwardly clothed upon with him. He then himself fulfills in us all the righteousness of the law: (Rom. 8) and he in us, and we in him, obey his commandments with pleasure and delight, which then appear no longer difficult, no longer imperfect, but perfect and blameless. We then no longer begin to exercise first one virtue and then another; for every virtue then will naturally, essentially, incessantly, and freely proceed from the new man, Christ Jesus, who is born in us by regeneration, and the divine love, which is by this means imparted to us. We shall then see ourselves delivered at once from the slavery of the affections, thoughts, and lusts, and from the tormenting accusations of conscience, and hear in our souls, in their stead, the charming voice of the grace of the gospel. Now as God himself, by the sending of his Son, works in us that, which it was impossible for the law to perform, and would be to all eternity impossible for us to accomplish by our own endeavors, we may from hence draw the inference ourselves, that Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; and that faith does not make void the law, but establishes it; (Rom. 3) and we shall then, from vital experience, learn to ascribe our justification to the free grace and mercy of the God of love, and to faith in Jesus Christ, by virtue of which, we can then overcome the world, and derive from the strength of Jesus support and refreshment, who is then made of God unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
Let us therefore, my beloved brother, not grow weary in chastely keeping our hearts, minds, and thoughts as much as possible from every other object, in order that by longing for him, in sincere faith and filial love, we may induce him to manifest himself within us, and habitually and patiently expect his coming, that he may himself undertake the work, and enable us to serve him, willingly, joyfully, and perfectly, to all well-pleasing, in his more immediate presence, and in the light of his countenance; when he himself leads us forth from the darkness of the terrors of the law, and when, as little children, we are nourished by him, in delightful serenity, with the milk of his grace and love, and find rest for our souls; (Matt 11) and thus the triune God possess his kingdom within us, in which he is without ceasing worshipped, honored, and glorified in spirit and in truth. Therefore do not let us suffer our courage to fail. It is a small thing with him, to cause us to find that in our souls in one moment, without trouble, which we may have sought for years, externally, with much labor. May the God of love, whose delights are with the children of men, assist us to attain this blissful state! Amen.
I have written thus, dear brother, in simplicity, in the presence of God, as it came into my mind: not as though you did not know these things, but that we might rejoice together in hope of all the good things, which are given us in Christ. The Lord gives us the vital and essential experience of them in our souls, even should the knowledge of them be forgotten! I cordially salute all the dear brethren, with whom, through the providence of God, I was at that time acquainted, particularly N***, and all others who seek the Lord, whose names have escaped me. I commend myself to your prayers, and remain,
Your loving brother in Jesus.