Letter XI

From A Collection of Letters by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769)



Beloved brother in the grace of Jesus,


     I have lately been favored with your welcome letter by our dear friends, with whom I intend to forward the present, and feel in my mind an entire accordance with the remarks you make.

     It is true, that frequently, one cannot contemplate the conduct and practices of awakened individuals, and the commotion they create, without a holy apprehension and concern. Yet we ought not hastily to reject and disapprove of it altogether; because there are many, who seem to stand in need of guidance and support, by reason of the miserable incapacity of the wandering and disturbed mind, to perceive and distinguish the inward attraction and operation of divine grace. It would be well if such characters would not always continue in the same round of observances: but hasten with diligence to their aim, and wisely order and moderate everything else to the mark of substantial holiness, in inward communion with Christ, in order that they might not always remain at a distance, and expend their weak, yet noble powers of grace, in things which are unprofitable.     

     That which guides the seeking mind directly to the mortification of the creature, sensuality, and self; that which nourishes, invigorates, and collects the heart, and fills it with love and reverence to the omnipresent majesty of the God of love, and in the degree in which it may contribute towards these ends, is worthy of all acceptation, however worthless and external, the thing may be in itself. Did we but wish to know the tree by its fruits, we should soon be able to distinguish, whether, and how far, many of the practices and commotions of the religious world serve to promote or obstruct the kingdom of Christ.

     An unenlightened, inexperienced eye can scarcely believe how great the incapacity of a child of Adam is, for substantial intercourse and fellowship with its God and origin, and how low, and with what long-suffering, this eternal Good must condescend to us, and lead us like children, in order that we may be gradually divested of all alloy, and be brought near to, and made meet for him.  He overlooks a thousand follies, leads the sincere intention through everything, and knows how to separate everything in due time. If we have in part experienced this in ourselves, we shall conduct ourselves modestly with respect to others; regard the good intention and motive, and gladly direct them to the desired aim.

     It is not without the divine permission, direction, and cooperation, that an awakening rumor arises, first in one country, period, and people, and then in another; is felt for a while, and excites many to that which is good. This does not, however, take place, without the intermixture of much of what is human, sectarian, and imperfect, amongst the greater part, both of the instruments and those that are awakened: yet still, long-suffering love descends, and blesses the well-meant, imperfect work.  In short, the net is cast into the sea, and a multitude are taken. After some time, it gradually subsides, and appears to diminish. Many, who, devoid of a thorough change, were only pressed in, as it were, turn back again to the world. Those who are sincere perceive, more and more clearly, the imperfection of their former works. The net is torn asunder, and each one goes his way. Is it not the intention of Wisdom by this, to afford more liberty to the upright, to excite them to a more profound attention and to allure them deeper into themselves, which thus they may hear, in the center of their souls, its soothing voice, which could not be so well listened to, during the previous commotion?

     It is thus that divine Wisdom orders and separates everything with precision, both generally and particularly, in due time. That which previously served to awaken and edify, and was relished, afterwards, frequently, will not produce its former effect; so that even ability and inclination are often wonderfully withdrawn; for the principles of grace sinking deeper, no longer manifest themselves in the region of the senses, but in the silent center and sanctuary of the soul, where they seek room. The time of true separation is then certainly arrived, in which we no longer live to ourselves, nor engage in any outward and self-chosen undertakings; but in the exercise of the most heartfelt and sincere humility and abstraction, let the Lord work in us, and expect from grace alone, that which we cannot give ourselves; because there is really nothing that justifies or satisfies, but what God himself imparts and works, unmingled in the center of the soul, where the everlasting love of God, in the gracious name of Jesus Immanuel, is so close at hand and open to us, poor sinners : into this we plunge ourselves, and live to his free grace. To him be glory, for ever and ever!