Beloved friend and brother,
I have for some time delayed replying to your agreeable letter of the 21st of March, because it is not without reason, that I am afraid of entering upon a more extended correspondence; being besides this, already much engaged, and experiencing at the same time, more and more, that the true and inward Christian life, to which I find myself called by divine mercy, demands a strict attention to what passes within, if we wish, in this mortal state, to get near the end of our calling: which is a real fellowship and union with God in the spirit.
Our Lord Jesus was silent, and kept himself concealed for thirty years, in order that by his example, he might inspire us with a fondness for a truly retired life, and scarcely did he spend four years in a public manner. I often think, if we that are awakened, would endure only four years of probation, in silent mortification and prayer, before we shewed ourselves publicly, our subsequent activity would be a little purer, and less injurious to the kingdom of God, both externally and internally. This is a secret, but common temptation of the enemy, and a subtle device of the flesh, by which the tempter seeks to allure us from the only thing needful, and to weaken our strength, by the multiplicity of the objects in which we engage; but the flesh and its progeny, which finds a life of mortification too strait for it, and too disagreeable, may breathe very easily, and even maintain itself, in every outward spiritual and apparently profitable exercise; whilst in the mean time, the mystery of iniquity at the bottom, remains unperceived and unmortified.
Let us therefore, my dear friend, for the love and honor of God, close the eyes of our minds against minor ways and minor works, in order that we may attend solely, in a meek and quiet spirit, to our holy vocation, which has been so graciously made known to us, and will be still further revealed in our hearts. It is in the heart, and not in the head, that the attracting and collecting love will cause itself to be felt, more and more efficaciously; whose salutary doctrines of the profoundest renunciation of all things, of self-denial, and self-contempt, of attachment to his cross, and of abiding in him with the spirit of children, ought never to seem old to us, and be of greater value to us, than all the ancient and modern sophistry of both orthodox and separatists, put together.
O my God! how much there is to be done, suffered, and experienced inwardly in following thee, and in communion with thee! How is it possible, that we can let anything external decoy us out of ourselves, and that our attention can be occupied with trifles, whilst within, we might see and experience that which is truth and reality! Enable us thoroughly to forsake ourselves and all created things, and fix our affections again upon thee, who art the supreme Good, and the fullness of love! Amen.
My dear friend will not take amiss, the little that has thus flowed without reflection from my pen. Your own experience will teach you all these things in a superior manner: but Christian affection would not permit me to let your letter remain entirely unanswered, and I hope likewise, that our acquaintance in the Lord will not be without a blessing. God be praised for all the mercy he has shown to you, my dear brother! Let us love him; for he hath first loved us!