From A Collection of Letters by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769)
Very dear and much esteemed sister in the grace of God;
Both your letters have arrived safe. From their contents, have learnt and considered, with much compassion, your afflicted and tempted state, and have spread your case before the Lord. He, the Lord, can help you; you must not expect assistance from yourself, nor from any other creature, nor from any particular object, but from him alone. I confess, your trials are severe and painful; but preserve your courage, cast not away your confidence. These things must be; but the end will be peace.
I am not at all surprised, that you think your dearest friends have not a sufficient insight into your state; because your heart does not, or cannot think, respecting the Lord himself, (who is, nevertheless, love alone,) that he regards and acts towards you with so much love and mercy as he does. The black veil of unbelief, which at present covers your eyes, is the only cause, why you imagine God and your friends to be otherwise than what they are, God has no pleasure whatever in our pain; but he is often compelled to make us smart, in order to deliver us from our inward depravity. The evil there is in us, is the fuel to this flame. Submit therefore to God’s gracious arrangements, and all will be well. I particularly request you will observe, that by “Evil,” I do not so much understand the deed, as the principle from whence all evil deeds proceed. Methinks you do not sufficiently perceive where the evil lies, that causes all your pain. You have certainly done wrong, dear sister, in giving up your house, and hiring another, which is perhaps not more suitable for you, without sufficient reason, and what is still more, without the advice of good friends: but that you should deduce from this mistake, such inferences as you do, as though you had now sinned against the Spirit of God, and hardened yourself against the Lord: that he will now punish you with death, and that you will eternally perish; and that you allow yourself to be brought by this, into such a state of confusion, distress, and despair, is evidently a device of the adversary, who makes use of the principle of evil within you, (and from which the Lord will deliver you,) that he may cast you into this temptation. If you have failed in this matter, (which is the case,) confess it frankly before God and your friends, entreat forgiveness, and do not make a bad use of your fault or sin, but a good one. When children break anything, or are disobedient, they are punished for it, but are not expelled the house; and by promise of amendment, and childlike humiliation, the matter is settled. See Micah 7: 8; 1 John 2:1. Do but go forwards again with courage, and make a good use of your fall. This good use consists, not only in going more prudently to work another time, but chiefly in letting yourself be led, after the commission of a fault, to the discovery and sincere confession of the evil principle within. This would be such a benefit to you, as would recompense your stumbling tenfold: and the Lord has this in view, and expects it from you, it being his intention to lead you into such a discovery and confession.
Learn from hence, that your happiness or unhappiness does not depend upon the house, but upon the state of your mind. When it is well within, all is well. You must have too good an opinion of yourself, (do not be surprised at my expressing myself thus,) or you would not allow this affair to distress you so much. Is it possible that the very sight of your wound or sin makes you faint? Do you not believe, that you have other, and greater sins than this? Those who are really poor sinners, are deeply humbled at the sight of their sins, but not so much disturbed and utterly cast down. As long as we are not sincerely humble, we resist God, and he resists us, (1 Pet. 5:5) and it is this, which is so hard to bear. Consent sincerely to your nothingness and misery; and submit to be, and to be found such as you are: the Lord is then with you, and will break your fetters.
Your ideas of the riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus are certainly too mean and contracted. Think of what I have said above, respecting disobedient children. If anyone, who had offended you, were to entreat your forgiveness with tears, would you not forgive him? And shall the mercy and goodness of God be exceeded by that of a sinful man; or is it merely for those, who have deserved it by their faithfulness and their virtues? By no means! Even our very faithfulness and virtues, to be good for anything, must be expected and received from the mercy and goodness of God. O may the Lord enable us worthily to appreciate the blood of the Son of God, of the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world! Repenting sinners ought to cast themselves, with all their sins, into this abyss of mercy, and all their sins shall be consumed, like a straw in the burning furnace! This is the comfortable assurance and promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and also to cleanse us from all iniquity.” (1 John 1:9)
You have too much improper love for and confidence in yourself. And too little love and confidence towards God. Is not that improper? You think and care a great deal too much about your body, its health, and life, just as if it belonged to you, or as if life and health depended upon your care, although we know not what is best for us. And you care in the same manner about your soul, and hold it as fast as though you were your own preserver and savior. Are not both your body and soul the Lord’s? Have you not committed them to him, when you first found that you were in a lost condition? And are you not willing, this moment, to renew the surrender? Do so, therefore, beloved sister, in fervent sincerity, and do it as often as self-love seeks to plunge you into anxious care regarding yourself. Commit unto God your body, health, and life, your soul, your time, and your eternity, leaving hold of, and losing yourself in his faithful hands; you are then in safety, and beyond the reach of all tormenting sorrow! O my dear sister, do not think that God does not love you infinitely more than you love yourself, and that he will not take care of you, receive you, preserve and protect you, infinitely better than you are able to do! Yes, he will do so, if you only resign and commit yourself to him in this manner, and this also he will work in you.
You follow too much your own opinions, and too little the opinions and counsel of the children of God, your good friends. Have you not then reason to believe, that your light is still small; and that particularly at present, you are in confusion, darkness, and temptation, and consequently not in a condition to judge of yourself and of your present circumstances? Would it not therefore be more proper, and more pleasing to God, if you did not build upon the dangerous practice of opening upon and appropriating to yourself a passage of scripture, or upon your own mutable, passing, and disturbed thoughts, but that in an artless and childlike manner, you believed what others, who assuredly know .you better than you know yourself, judge of your state and advise you ? how soothing and salutary would you find such a childlike submission ! and when, as regards your house or habitation, you submitted your own will and judgment entirely to that of another! How salutary it would be for you, were you in secret to say unto God, “O Lord, I have brought myself into this dilemma by following myself; have pity upon me, a poor ignorant child, and lead me aright; and because I am unable, in my present dark and confused state, to distinguish or to choose what is pleasing unto thee, and will not follow myself any longer, I will commit the matter to some particular individual. Do thou therefore instruct that person how to advise me, and then, whatever advice I receive, I will believingly accept as the expression of thine adorable will, submit to it gladly, and regard the result, whatever it may be, as good and proceeding from thee, with the help of that assistance, which I look for from thee!”
See, my dear sister, this is the brotherly advice I give you, for I know no better. If you follow it, I am persuaded you will reap benefit from it, and find peace for your soul. I repeat it once more: it is not the houses; inwardly wrong, all wrong; inwardly well, all well, everything and everywhere well. It is alike to the Lord where we live, but not how we live. A royal palace is too narrow for him that lives to himself and a little cottage is large and beautiful to him that lives to the Lord. I pray God, from my inmost soul, that he may guide and bless and that he may make you acquainted with himself, in order that you may love him, and unreservedly commit yourself to him! Amen.
I salute you with fraternal affection, and remain through grace, etc. etc.