Beloved brother, in the grace of Jesus,
Both your letters, of the 25th of January, and the 22nd of May, have come to hand. My ardent attachment to a hidden life with Christ in God produces in me a continual disinclination to enlarge my circle of acquaintances and correspondence; but the Lord often orders it contrary to my inclination, and I cannot and will not resist his hand in anything.
I now feel myself at liberty, dear brother, with simplicity to assure you of my cordial affection, and that I often greet you in the spirit of the love of Jesus, and that I have been gratified and refreshed by your letters. I rejoice that God has granted you a relish for retirement and the life within, to which he is drawing you. It is a great, arid at the same time an unmerited favor, to be called to this precious life, which must be met, on our parts, by great faithfulness. God invites us to his lovely fellowship; he purposes preparing our spirits for his habitation and temple, and in this inward sanctuary, we shall see the beauty of the Lord. O what a mercy! If then, the overflowings of the love of God towards our unworthy souls are so exceedingly abundant, we ought also, beloved brother, to be very liberal, and not withhold ourselves, in any respect, from this eternal Good, which seeks to have us solely and wholly for itself. To be entirely God’s, is the true secret of the inward or mystic life, of which, people form such strange and frightful ideas. There is nothing more simple, safe, pleasant, and influential, than this life of the heart, which is not the result of reading, or mental exertion, but is thoroughly known and experienced by dying to the creature, and love to the Creator; it is consequently more the work of the Spirit of Jesus in us, than our own work. Being attentive to the operation and at tractive influence of his Spirit, and satisfying and following it, makes us inwardly secluded and spiritually-minded. This Spirit of love, when duly attended to, imparts to the soul the same mind, which was in Christ Jesus, and forms it according to his image, almost as imperceptibly as an infant is formed in the womb. He leads it more and more profoundly into an abandonment of all created things, and of itself also, and into an unreserved resignation to God. He does not require this with legal severity, but leads the obedient soul into it, and gives her a supernatural central inclination, which makes her willing in spite of self, and causes her to follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth.
The more sincere and serene our inward devotion is, and the more we feel at ease in it, the better and purer is our walk. The particular exercise of inward prayer, or retiring within, serves principally to make us, in childlike simplicity, attentive to the delicate guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to give him the complete ascendency over us. Forms, and the efforts of self, are here of no use, they are only a hindrance; we must lie as poor shapeless clay in the potter’s hand. The hand of divine love then forms us after its own fashion; it leads us into an artless simplicity and lovely lowliness; it makes us meek and resigned, teaches us to desist from all our own intentions, and make God our only aim; it places us in a thorough abstraction from self-seeking; God alone, becoming the sole and complete treasure of the soul, and glorifying himself in her at his pleasure.
Let this then be in future our whole concern, my dear brother, blindly and nakedly to follow him, who hath called us with an holy calling. I am confident that this is the way in which God wishes us to seek him, and learn to serve him in spirit and in truth, although I myself am wretched enough. The true inward life is nothing new or peculiar; it is the ancient and true worship, the Christian life, in its beauty and proper form. Those who truly live retired within form no particular sect; if everyone followed the life and doctrine of Jesus, under the guidance of his Spirit, all would be doubtless thus inward, and the world would be full of mystic Christians.*
I know not why I write thus, seeing that you, my dear brother, have already obtained from the Lord, sufficient certainty on this subject. Let us therefore only abide with the Lord, and commit ourselves to him more sincerely: for he is very gracious, even in the trials of those that love him; he is eternally all-sufficient for our spirits. If the Lord has deigned, in any measure, to bless my imperfect letters to your soul, to God alone be all the praise, who giveth food to the hungry, even as though he were to make stones into bread.
If it be the Lord’s will that we should see each other again, it will afford me pleasure; if not, we will part in the heart of Jesus, and salute, embrace, and bless each other there, in the name of him that hath loved us. Present me as an offering to his lovely Majesty, according to the grace, which he shall bestow. This I do likewise, with all my heart. May Jesus bless you, my dear brother, and form you after his own heart, in which we continue united, though absent in body. I remain, through the grace of God,
Your very affectionate brother.
* Whatever is wrought by the Spirit of God, is a mystery to the carnal mind, and hence the men of the world, and those who are only partially enlightened call those mystics, who have attained to a greater degree of divine light and knowledge than themselves.