by the late
Theodosia A. Viscountess Powerscourt.
edited by the Rev. Robert Daly, A.M.
Rector of Powerscourt, in the Diocese of Dublin
London: Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly.
William Curry, Jun. and Co. Dublin.
Dublin: Printed by John S. Folds, 5, Bachelor's Walk
In offering the following Volume to the public, it is, perhaps, necessary that I should prefix a few words, to state what the reader is to expect, and what he is not to expect, in these Letters and Papers. He is not to expect anything in the character of religious gossip; any anecdotes of, or remarks concerning, living persons, with whom the writer had intercourse. Those who had the privilege of receiving Letters from the late Lady Powerscourt, know well that she delighted to dwell on much higher subjects than the actions, or opinions, of her fellowmen. If every thing she ever wrote was submitted to the public eye, it would be, perhaps, a subject of surprise to some, how very little was said about other persons in her extended correspondence. But, in the following selections, I have studiously omitted every thing in the least degree personal. Those, therefore, that shall take up this Volume with the hope of reading Lady Powerscourt's opinions of this person or that person of this or the other movement, in or out of the Church, will be disappointed. I trust that these pages will furnish no food that would gratify such appetites. Had the correspondence, from which it has been my part to make selections, afforded such materials, I should never have been the instrument of making them public. But that eminent disciple of our blessed Lord, whose Letters are now printed, with a hope and prayer that they may tend to the edification of the Church, lived in a higher atmosphere; inhaled herself, and breathed forth, a purer air. She, of all the Christians I have been privileged to know, came nearest to that which she has, in such strong uncommon terms, stated to be her idea of a Christian: "Not one who looks up from earth to heaven, but one who looks down from heaven on earth". She appears to have ascended a high and holy eminence, and from thence to have looked down upon those earthly scenes, with which too many are entirely engrossed, living up to that high spiritual requirement of the Apostle, "Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Those who take up this Volume may expect to find the language of a heart thus lifted up above the world, the free and unrestrained breathing of a soul whose "conversation was in heaven;" who was "raised up, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
The only thing which induces me to publish the following Letters and Papers, is the conviction that they express the sentiments, and experience, and heaven taught spirituality, of one who had made more rapid advances in the divine life, than is ordinarily found in the Church below. I thought that this candle, which the Lord had lighted, should not be hid under a bushel, but put on a candlestick, that it might give light to all that are in the house. There will be found original and strong thoughts, clothed in original and strong language: indeed the strength of the language may sometimes startle some of those who read these Letters, and may be such, that had the writer revised them for publication, she might have, perhaps, somewhat softened her expressions; but, as Editor, I did not think myself authorised, even if I had felt disposed, to do so. In truth, (whether erroneously or not,) I like those strong expressions: I would not wish to alter one of them: they bring back to my recollection, the image of the strongest mind that I ever met in any woman: they help to remind me of that which was her peculiar characteristic, uncommon masculine strength, combined with the extremest feminine gentleness: they help me to apprehend the power with which she realized those important subjects about which she wrote; and I am not without hope that, through the blessing of God, they may be made instrumental to convey the same reality to others.
Whilst I believe that all intelligent readers may derive benefit and edification from these pages, I conceive they may be especially profitable and comfortable to mourners; to those "who are afflicted or distressed in mind, body, or estate." Lady Powerscourt was one acquainted with grief. She had had severe and heavy trials; and she was thus, in a peculiar way, fitted to sympathise with all tried Christians. She was enabled "to comfort those who were in any trouble, with the comforts wherewith she herself had been comforted of God." When she knew of any of her friends being in trial, she seems to have felt herself especially drawn to write to them a "word in season". Therefore many of the Letters in the collection are addressed to mourners, and will, I trust, be found comforting and strengthening to those who are in similar circumstances.
There is one subject which occupied much of Lady Powerscourt's attention, which does not appear in the following pages, as prominent as many of her religious friends might have expected, and that is, the subject of prophecy. She was known to have very deeply considered it, to have conversed with those persons who were most remarkable for their study of it, and to have consulted the books which have been written on it; and, above all, to have read the Scriptures with much deep attention to the subject and yet, very little on prophecy appears in her correspondence. Lest any persons should think that, in making the selection, I have thrown aside Letters on the subject, I think it right to state that I have been myself surprised to find how little, upon this interesting subject, has been left among her papers. I had expected to have found much clear statement of the result of her deep consideration of prophecy; and though she should have stated that which did not agree with my views, I should have published her's, and allowed those interested in the subject to exercise their judgment thereon. I should certainly not do what some persons, whom I esteem, have done, — publish the sentiments of another, though at the time considering them erroneous, on the fundamental principles of the Gospel but I would publish the sentiments of another on the future prospects of the Church, though in those sentiments, I thought the writer was mistaken; because I consider the first subject to be vital, and that error on it is essentially dangerous. I do not so think of the other subject. I consider the whole Church of Christ to be much in the dark with regard to prophecy, and more or less in error concerning it; and that the best way to correct the error, and attain more light, is to encourage free discussion upon it. In order to reach the end, it is essential not to mistake as to the way. It is not equally essential to form correct anticipations, as to what shall be found at the end. Those who are on the way shall reach the end, and then all their mistakes concerning it shall be corrected.
I feel myself called upon to return my thanks to the correspondents of Lady Powerscourt, for the kindness and confidence with which they have entrusted me with her valuable Letters. They will see, I trust, that I have not violated their confidence. I have selected according to my best judgment; I have altered nothing, and corrected little, except when necessary to make the sense clear, which will often be indispensable in publishing from an uncorrected manuscript. I have been obliged to omit some very beautiful letters, on account of the recurrence of the same sentiments and expressions in other Letters. It appears to have been frequently the case, that some scriptural subject, with a suitable train of thought, was very deeply impressed upon Lady Powerscourt's mind; and she recurred to that subject and train of thought, in writing to her different friends, at the same time, in different places. I have generally omitted the Letters in which the sameness of thought was observable; but I have sometimes admitted a repetition, where I must otherwise have rejected a Letter, in other respects valuable, or have made omissions which might have rendered the sense less clear. I hope her correspondents will excuse me for the omissions, and the readers for the repetitions they may observe.
As my object is simply to present to the Church the sentiments of the writer, which appear to me to be likely to promote edification, I have omitted even the names of the persons to whom the Letters were addressed; and I have abstained from prefixing to this Volume any thing in the way of a memorial of the departed writer. It would be impossible to write any biographical sketch of her that is gone, without stating particulars as to those that remain, which might give them a publicity which would be distressing to their feelings. I send, then, the Letters before the public, without any recommendation except their own intrinsic worth. I publish them, not because they were written by my dear departed friend, but because, in my judgment, (not unprejudiced, I admit,) they appear to be in themselves such as ought to see the light.
I have added, at the end, a few Papers, which seem to have been her private exercises on scriptural subjects. They will show how deeply she considered, and how powerfully she reasoned, upon the word of God. It may, indeed, be said of her, that her "delight was in the law of the Lord, and in his law did she meditate day and night."
It only remains that I should commend this Volume to the blessing of Him, "without whom nothing is strong — nothing is holy". He was pleased to make the writer of these Letters a very signal monument of His grace. She bore witness to His grace in her life, and by her life; and I pray, that He may vouchsafe to allow her, "though dead, yet to speak," to the edification of His people, and to the glory of His holy name.
Powerscourt Glebe, April, 1838.
I am glad to hear you have a good opinion of … I almost envy any one a strong feeling of sin, but I am sure our wise and tender Father knows best how to measure that out to us, in proportion as He sees us able to bear it; though it seems sad not to grieve at offending such a Lord. It gives me much pleasure to hope there are … in this house seeking him, whom, I trust, I at least desire to be dearer to me than all the world. It is cheering to see even a Christian's face. I do not expect to go to … either Wednesday or Thursday; but perhaps the less of these enjoyments we have, the more shall we long for an eternity of them, when all foolish worldly gossip, which weighs us down now, will be over for ever.
Yours, most sincerely,
T. A. HOWARD.
Dear Mr … , I return the sermon with many thanks; I am greatly obliged to you for it, and particularly for your kindness in saying I am heartily welcome to it. I trust the Lord may bring me, and all dear to me, to the blessed state which the sermon describes that of a Christian to be. I must also thank you for your little prayer at the end of your note, you have not one in your parish who needs it more. You say you hope I sometimes offer one for you; it would be strange if it was only sometimes, but if you knew what my prayers are, you would beg to be left out. Indeed I am not satisfied on that head; for some weeks I have not been able to pray at all, and seldom to read (I mean in private), and it is more wretched than I can say. Perhaps if you are not engaged, you will be kind enough to send me a few lines to say, if you ever knew this to be the case with any of whom you had hopes, and what you think is the cause of it, for I suppose it must be my own fault. I sometimes fear the Lord's Spirit will not strive with me any longer. I hope you will excuse my troubling you about myself; but there is no peace, while the Lord hides from us the light of his countenance. It will be a happy time, when we shall have done with this body of sin.
Yours, most sincerely,
T . A. HOWARD.
… I have just been reading two such sweet verses, 12th and 13th of Col. 1, and almost fearing such great things cannot be intended for such a log; however, the thought of being a partaker of that inheritance is sometimes very sweet, and I believe I may as well enjoy the thoughts of it here, even if I never do arrive at it …
London, April 9th, 1823.
My dear … , I hope you will not think my long silence a mark of ingratitude for your goodness in writing to me so long and kind a letter, but between … illness and … I have had but little time to myself, and that little I know you would rather I should give to the Bible, than to you. Besides, I wished to be able to tell you that … was quite well, which I think I can say, thank God, now. His illness has been a very trying one, and more tedious, from its having been so much on his nerves. But the Lord has only brought us in view of great misery, that we may feel more dependant on him, and the more watchful to be ready for every thing. I wish I could say this was the effect it has had on me, or that anything ever moved this cold stony heart. Indeed I have long been in despair about that, and often wished to speak to you on the subject; so much so, that I had resolved to visit you the morning before we left Powerscourt, but thinking that perhaps you would consider me troublesome and very full of self … , and as you proposed writing, I determined I would postpone asking your advice, till I had the pleasure of hearing from you, and I think you deserve a scolding from me, for you must have remarked how much I had fallen away from the Lord, for I did not try to hide it, and you know you should have spoken to me about it. But it is only wonderful that I am not more unhappy; for I do not think I have any feeling of any sort on the subject remaining, or hardly any care whether I have part or lot in the matter. I have not felt particular harm from moving about, for I could not be worse, than I was before leaving Ireland. I had nothing to lose. I often fear my name has been blotted out from the book of life, and that the Lord is weary of entreating me to accept all the blessings of the Gospel. I know you will set about comforting me, but it is not that I want; what I feel is an apathy, and indifference, whether one of the promises belongs to me or not. Oh, If you knew the difference of my feelings from this time last year, you would think the same as I do … I was so happy in him then, that I thought I could never be moved — the Lord, of his goodness, had made my hill so strong. I remember telling … that, let events turn out as they might, my happiness was ensured; even if shut up for life in a dungeon, I could be nothing but happy, with the prospect of being one with my Saviour. But He hid his face from me, and I have been troubled. I find I can do without anything but Him; but having once tasted his love, everything else has lost its sweetness. I feel now that I care for nothing: not for the things of another world, and I am sure, not for the things of this. Instead of running to my Bible, as a hungry man to his food, I read it as a task. Prayer is no more my sweetest pleasure, but a duty which I feel glad to have over; and when I go to it, I have nothing to say to my Lord. The contemplation of Heaven used to be so sweet, it made everything earthly appear as nothing. Now I do not feel it would give me the least pleasure, to hear that I was to be there tomorrow. Oh, if you knew how unmoved my heart is at all the wonderful means of grace I enjoy, one beautiful sermon after another. I feel none of the delight I once used at seeing a Christian walk into the room. Instead of loving to hear them talk of the Saviour, I am at a loss for something to say; indifferent, totally so, about the souls of others … I am in an awful state. I could tell you a great deal more, but it would be only tormenting you. I tell you this much, not expecting you to understand my case, for I do not suppose there ever was such another, but that you may not think me interested in all those things, for which I feel 60 little. I know you can do nothing for me, but this I hope you will do — strive hard for me, strive hard for me in your prayers: I owe you more than I can say, humanly speaking, and I would not write to you this way did I not feel you are the only person who feels for my soul, as I feel for it myself, for we have both to give an account of it. This I can say, you are pure from my blood. Oh! may I still be your joy and crown of rejoicing in the last day; and may all your instructions not cast me deeper into hell. At other times I think I used to look at religion too much as a pleasure, and that having lost her with whom I used to enjoy this pleasure, it has lost much of its delight … How very full of self you will think me, but I want your advice, and your constant earnest prayers, I was sorry to hear you had such a bad cold. I hope you have recovered your voice for this week, and that you have not given up your trip to London. We have been so much shut up by Lord P.'s illness, that I have not been able to hear many good preachers on week days, but hear Mr … regularly on Sunday. Last Sunday I went to Mr. Howell's church, whom I liked very much, though his style is rather odd. He says very strong things, lowering the creature, and exalting the Saviour …
Forgive this long letter, and believe me,
Very affectionately and gratefully,
T. A. Powerscourt.
Dear Mr … , I should have answered your kind letter before this, had I anything to tell you that could have given you any gratification. But alas! I have been as desolate within as without. My earthly husband hid from me, my heavenly one I cannot find; and Satan hard at work tempting me to say what is this black thing I have done, which makes my Father so angry with me. But oh my dear Lord, let him not rule within: quench his fiery darts: show me that I deserve far worse, even all the wrath of an offended God. But Jesus has "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." These trials are only blessings to fill up that which is behind of his afflictions. I am also tempted to think, that I cannot be his, for I feel none of that comfort his children always feel, and I used to find in the hour of trial … Jonah doest thou well to be angry? I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned grievously against him. Oh dear Mr … , you do not know, what it is to lose one so dear, so very dear; I can only compare it to the tearing asunder all the strings of the heart. Then such a gloomy prospect here the rest of one's life. After watching him day and night with so much anxiety, anticipating the joy of being allowed again to be with him; all at once so unexpectedly to have my hopes dashed from me, was what I did not think for some days, I could have borne, because I forgot that as my day so should my strength be. In any other loss I have had, I never could pray for the bodily life of my friend, but in this to which no other loss can be compared, night and day, I could not help entreating the Lord to spare me the heavy blow. I really did think he meant to answer me, and hoped against hope, till the last breath left that dear body … But I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that in very faithfulness thou hast afflicted me — I must wait to know and see why it is, till I know as I am known. That it is unspeakable love, I have no doubt, because he who has sent it is no new friend, but a tried and precious one; and when it is good for me He will allow me to see that this God is Love. But oh I tremble when I look at my rebellion, and ingratitude, throughout it all. I have had much to show me myself this last year — to dig up the mud hid under the smooth surface. How it will astonish you — astonish angels, when the book of my sins is opened, except they are so blotted out with blood as to make them illegible.
I do not suppose there could be a stronger lesson of the vanity of every thing earthly than to look at me last year and this. The prospects of happiness I seemed to set out with! And now where are they? A living monument that man in his best estate is altogether vanity — and see how my heart, without my knowing it, was on earth. I could not have thought one who professes to believe in the joys of heaven, and had tasted the realization of them by faith, could so mourn, as one without hope, could so willingly call him back again. But I shall say no more, for these complaints only grieve my God, and annoy you. But, indeed, I am at times greatly oppressed, and feel this evening as if there were a parcel of devils within tearing me different ways, and refusing me any rest. I beseech you pray for me, and write to me,
Your unalterably affectionate
And grateful friend,
T. A. Powerscourt.
February 18, 1824.
… How I shall long to join you all above. I fear I need patience, and find it hard to reconcile my mind to the possibility of my living three times as long as I have lived yet. When I look back upon a few months, and remember the happiness I used to feel when I expected my dearest love and … , to spend the evening at … and to have a little reading, I can hardly persuade myself that I am the same person. Two now in possession of what they then, blessed be God, enjoyed by faith, and I left alone. — But I forgot — r determined never to murmur again. It needs a great stretch of faith sometimes, when the enemy comes in like a flood, to believe that God is as much at peace with me through Christ, as with those already above; that Abraham now in glory is not safer than I am. Is that presumption, do you think? What a precious name, a strong tower, into which if we run, we shall be safe. Were I left to myself I should run from it. I would not trust myself to his word, but seek to save myself from danger. But almighty love arrests me, pulls me in; and then rewards me for coming. How much in those words, "are safe," to think we are safe from every thing! No evil shall ever touch us, evil at the end, or evil on the way. All paved with love; "all things shall work together for good." I have got the promise of all others I want — "let thy widows trust in me." I once wished there was a richer, sweeter promise to widows, but I believe it requires to be brought into different circumstances, in order to feel the force of different promises. For the Lord knew that none so suited widows, as these few words. In looking round the wide world, so filled with wickedness, and seeing one has to pass through it alone, one would fear every step one took so unprotected and forlorn, only for this promise. With this "when I am weak, then I am strong." It is not like him to invite us to trust in him, and then let any evil come nigh us. If his everlasting arms are underneath, I "shall dwell in safety alone." Let there be rebellions, revolutions, persecutions, earthquakes, anything, every thing, "let thy widows trust in me," should be enough. I know my tabernacle shall be in peace. Sweet to think that the eye of the Lord is upon us, to deliver our soul from death. It seems to me, as a nurse keeps her eye upon her child lest it should destroy itself, or as a keeper keeps his eye upon his poor lunatic, "the Lord is thy keeper." Then unbelief jumps up and says, how do you know all this is for you? Then I do not know what to say, but "my Master told me so." His Spirit witnesses with my spirit. He has given me the earnest of the spirit. To those who believe he is precious, and I think he is precious to me — "a bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me." Oh that I could keep close to him; I want to be fixed on the rock. My grief is, that the waves of sin and the-world give me so many shoves off it. Will not you pray for me, for I greatly need it; and will you not write to me, and exhort me with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord; and tell me if you think me presumptuous, or going wrong in any way. That old serpent is so cunning. Will you forgive me for speaking so much of myself, but speaking of what He can do for me, magnifies the power of his grace, more than if I was to speak of it with regard to any one else upon earth.
Yours with Christian affection,
T. A. Powerscourt.
… All creation seems to be travailing to bring forth some mighty event, and poor Ireland is coming up in remembrance before God. Oh what are we, to be able to look any thing, every thing in the face, and know assuredly without a peradventure, that all is, shall, and must, work together, for our everlasting good; that had we sense, it is just what we should order for ourselves, to have fresh comfort in every fresh putting forth of his omnipotence, for this God is our God. Though even the earth should be shook to its very centre, though we might feel outwardly the curse of sin, yet no evil henceforth for ever can befall us, we shall only behold, and see from out of the cleft of the immoveable rock. From thence we may boldly challenge distress, persecution, etc. etc. our dwelling is the Most High. We may be thrown like a shuttlecock, from self to Satan, and back from Satan to self, till weary of both; but neither sin, self, or Satan, shall or can ever reach our lives, for they are hid with Christ. Because he lives we shall live also. What a happy confidence in such a world, to be able to look up, and say, my Lord and my God, and to know also the Captain of our salvation as our bosom friend. Whilst engaged in calling in his people from North, South, East and West, he does not forget those already within the fold, but comes and whispers them in the still small voice of his word; tells me, I shall never be forgotten, let his works be ever so stupendous; tells me, he cannot live in glory, and leave me behind; that the angel can no more swear, that time shall be no more, till the last of his elect shall be sealed on their foreheads, than his truth can fail. I think there is a danger in these times of the feelings being so kept alive by excitement, as to lead us to forget, that as we have received Christ, so we ought to walk in him, built up as well as rooted; stablished in the faith … ; so eager for the battle as to forget our armour. I trust you remember us, that you are often present with us in spirit, and pray without ceasing that we may stand complete in all the works of God, that he may set us as lights on a hill, by the splendour of our walk, illuminating many from the kingdom of darkness unto the kingdom of God's dear Son; that we may walk worthy of our high calling in all lowliness; that we may see in a degree with the eye of God, that we may live but for one end, that we may occupy till he come, reaching forward towards the prize, running the race set before us, looking unto Jesus; that we may have nothing to do with any pursuit or happiness ending in time; neither entangled with the cares, nor intoxicated by the fascinations of the world; and that every action of our lives may declare plainly, that our kingdom is not of this world. Pray that for us, and I will pray, that the answer may rebound into your soul …
With sincere Christian affection,
T. A. Powerscourt.
I have to thank you for your other kind long letter. There is a certain drawing out of heart towards those who care enough for us, as to point out in what way we may be grieving our Lord. Your accusations, I fear, are quite just, and I hope I may have your prayers, that I may be enabled to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. I think it is in the Lord, we are told to rejoice, a joy which can be felt while sorrowing, a good cheer in tribulation. I sometimes sit in astonishment why my cup should run over with this blessing, and I have more when the heart is brought low to receive it, than when it is (which is often the case) intoxicated. own I feel sometimes cast down and desolate, but not unhappy. I have had a deep, a very deep wound; the trial has been very severe; but how should I have known him as a brother born for adversity, without it. How should I prize him as my strength, if I am not sometimes left to feel my perfect weakness. The heart is too selfish not to drop a tear sometimes, but I hope no longer a rebellious one. The wound is closed, but very little bursts it open. The marble must be allowed to melt a little, but only enough to send to that good physician, who maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole. I understand these lines,
"Cry and groan beneath afflictions,
Yet to dread the thoughts of ease."
However, if it is more to his glory, that I should take pleasure in the many blessings left in this world, dreary as it may seem through the glass of affliction, "behold I am here Lord," if to be kept low — even so. May I only be able to lay this soul as helpless on the great "I AM." And I can assure you, however appearances may contradict it, I have much joy and peace in believing, find life a flux and reflux of love; Jesus is precious to me. I find his banner of love extended over Edinburgh; his promises here also, are as honey dropping from the comb. There is not one on earth I desire but him; he is all my hope and all my salvation; and I can go on with confidence, knowing he can never deny himself or say "I never knew you," for he testifies not only that he knows me, but that he loves me, by enabling me to say, "thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."
Sometimes we appear such insignificant grasshoppers that it is hard to conceive that he can think of us and our foolish concerns; at other times one feels of such immense importance, that one wonders that Christians can live like other people, such as when we read of the burst of joy from the heavenly host, and find this the sign that their Lord whom they adore has become a despised babe, and all, because peace is brought to earth, and good will to man. Peace seems just what we want here, purchased by his blood, left as his legacy. What simplicity there seemed to be in his words after his resurrection. He seemed to enjoy the travail of his soul, when distributing his peace. May he impart largely of it to your soul, and while recommending the inexpressible treasure of his word to others, may you be enabled yourself to feed on it, by faith with thanksgiving. May he empty of his fulness into all our bosoms, and enable us by using, to show we value the privilege of drawing near to him, to tell him of fear the world cannot allay, of wants the world cannot satisfy, of blessings the world knows nothing of.
… Is your happy soul still lifted up? able in His light to walk through darkness? I know the dreary waste that lies before you. How his dear, dear company is missed — how tasteless and insipid every thing appears — how you want that affection which entered into every trifle which concerned you — how you want an adviser, a protector, such a companion — one to weep when you weep — to rejoice when you rejoice. I know well what it is to lie down at night and say, where is he? — to awake in the morning and find him gone — to hear the hour strike day after day, at which you once expected his daily return home to his too happy fire-side — and find nothing but a remembrance that embitters all the future here. Oh my poor, poor … if I cannot feel for you who can? — who so often partook of your happiness? — sweet precious time I have been allowed to enjoy with you both, but past. However, it is well that you have another to feel for you. If I know the meaning of the word sorrow, I also know of a joy a stranger intermeddleth not with. How tenderly our compassionate Lord speaks of the widow! as a parent who feels the punishment more than the chastened child. He seems intent to fill up every gap love has been forced to make; one of His errands from heaven was to bind up the broken-hearted. He has an answer for every complaint you may ever be tempted to make. Do you say you have none now to follow, to walk with, to lean on? He will follow you and invite you to come up from the wilderness leaning on him as your beloved. Is it that you want one to be interested in all your concerns? Cast all your cares upon him, for he careth for you — a protector? Let thy widows trust in me — an adviser? Wonderful Counsellor! Companion? I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you; I will never leave you, nor forsake you; I have not called you servants but friends; behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him, and sup with him, and he with me. — One to weep with you? In all their affliction he was afflicted; Jesus wept. When you lie down — safe under the shadow of his wings, under the banner of His love. When you awake — still about your path and about your bed. It is worth being afflicted to become intimately acquainted, and to learn to make use of, the Chief of ten thousand — the altogether lovely — the brother born for adversity — the friend that sticketh closer than a brother — the friend of sinners. Pray write often to your poor sister; tell me every thing that interests you; do not let the children forget me …
My dear Mr … , Though he was a shining light by whom God was glorified, yet, I think, in him more than in others the power of God was manifested in the inner man; the mind that was in Christ was stamped on him; every disposition led captive to Jesus. But it required to live with him, and see him in every turn of life, to know how beautifully the Spirit was moulding him into the image of his Master. It appears to me, there were four graces peculiarly striking in his character, some of which you have mentioned.
First, his entire forgetfulness of self in every thing, (this was very remarkable), accompanied with a watchful attention to the wishes of others, a tenderness to their feelings, a fitting of himself into their prejudices, and, as far as he could, entering into their pursuits, so as by any means to win some.
Second, most striking trait, which I believe you have mentioned, but which those who knew him but little did not perceive, was a loathing of himself, as if he really felt sin a burden; but, at the same time, the most happy and simple confidence of his safety in Christ. It often reminded me of Isaiah 59. 19. He seemed to feel the evil heart as a flood which would overwhelm him, was not the soul continually directed to Christ crucified as to its resting place.
Third, is what you have already expressed much better than I can; such a thirst for truth upon every subject as enabled him to lay aside prejudice, and every impediment in the way, and made it visible that to reach and receive it was his object.
Fourth, we may say, the cause of his being so unlike his natural man, was his mind being kept in a continual turning to Christ, as the element in which he delighted. He was alive to spiritual subjects, should they be brought forward at any moment. Though zealously engaged in controversy with the enemies of truth; though enjoying with gratitude his social happiness; though necessarily occupied in much and different business, he was enabled to live alone, and seemed to have learned the difficult lesson of using the world without abusing it; like the needle, which may be turned from the pole by superior force, but when let loose, returns to its proper position; so with him, when the pressure of business was taken off his mind returned to his rest in God.
I fear, were I to say all I thought of him, I should draw a perfect character, for love covered all faults; and after all, the various graces of the Spirit were so blended, it is difficult to say which was most predominant. It might truly be said of him, that he adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things. It is difficult, when speaking of a character so beloved, to exalt the Saviour, not the creature, to leave an impression that sin was all he could call his own; all that was lovely, the comeliness which Christ put on him.
This is a long note, but you know it is the property of women to multiply words, and express little …
T. A. Powerscourt.
… I think dear … death was made a great blessing, which I fear has only taught me one painful lesson, that a blessing does not necessarily follow an affliction. I need not repeat, (for the Lord has already proclaimed it so loudly by sending affliction line upon line, affliction precept upon precept,) that no one needs trial more, no one needs so much of the Bible as I do, and on none do both tell so little. It requires all the energy of God to bend my will to his; and while it may be sometimes hard to be content with outward providences, it is still more hard to feel resigned to be what one is, not to wish for another's spirit, another's disposition; to be resigned to lie as a bit of clay in his hands without dictating the best way of being formed into a vessel fit for the master's use; satisfied with good as well as evil, knowing that what he has undertaken he is able to perform; hard to feel resigned to dishonour him, whom we adore, all our lives; to love His presence above every thing else put together, and yet, continually, by our own folly and neglect, lose it for trifles which we most despise; very hard to be resigned to oneself; to be ever worshipping, and placing, this Dagon in the temple of our beloved, and to be haunted by it wherever we go. I do think one chief part of our happiness hereafter will consist, in our having done with wretched self, God being all in all …
… Altered as that spot has been these last two years, I expect to find it still more so on our return. I did value more than I can utter that dear dear saint's visits; the prospect of them cheered the time of his absence; and even all unpleasantness was removed from all secular affairs by the interest and part he always took in my concerns. However, there is always but to the Christian. But now I hope to be cheered, in expecting the coming of the "altogether lovely," to be upheld by the interest, and part, he takes in all that concerns me. And if I know myself, my ambition is to live simply to His glory; to be a burning and a shining light, only that the splendour of my walk may bring glory to His name, to glorify him in spirit as well as body, which are altogether His, paid for by him. Soon we shall see him really ours; soon shall we join the company of the just made perfect, know, and perhaps be able to tell them, how every rough blast of human woe has hastened on our little bark to shore. In the mean time, may our Lord's blessing and presence, so interwoven with our comforts, rest upon you and …
I am always a great egotist in my letters to you, because I fancy you feel an interest, at least, in the spiritual feelings of all your flock. Pray, write soon, and do not think, while you are writing, that you are losing time. I hope your throat is better. You have not the privilege of being afflicted for yourself alone, but for our consolation and salvation. My love to all who care about me.
Believe me my dear Mr …
Yours, with true affection,
T. A. Powerscourt.
Powerscourt, 1st February, 1826.
My dearest … , So I must write and receive no answer; that is very hard indeed; if I thought, or could think, it could possibly give one moment's comfort to an afflicted saint, I should be more than resigned; how sweet it would be to be a cup of consolation in the temple of our God. Well! if I have not that privilege, I hope to be a vessel of mercy through eternity. Yes, the poor sinner would not, if he could, be saved any way but as he is. Our proud nature at first rebels against being objects of pity, we should prefer having salvation as those who had no need, rich and increased with goods; but when forced to throw down our arms of rebellion, and come as beggars, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, then we feel it is such a blessedness to be objects of pity to a God full of compassion, that we glory in our infirmities, because they bring us in contact with Him for every thing, food, clothing, etc. The greater our necessities the more we have to do with Him. How well you must know Him! How often he has strengthened you upon the bed of languishing! How he has made all your bed in your sickness! How often he has enabled you to carry your weak soul in the arms of faith, and lay it down on this resting place; His precious word, a bed of consolation stuffed with sweet and precious promises. I think the believer even while in the furnace, at the moment of experiencing that his trials are not joyous but grievous, feels so convinced He is doing all things well, that he would not have it otherwise, had he his choice; and such a desire has the new man to be made partaker of his holiness, to enjoy the peaceable fruits of righteousness, which these exercises produce, that he turns, and kisses the rod, saying Amen, deal with me as with a child. The poor world may have a reprieve here from suffering, but the child of God may not, would not if he might. Happy confidence, He will not lay on us one unneedful stroke, for as a father pitieth his children, etc. Happy confidence, he will not keep back one needful stroke, for he scourgeth them whom he loves, that he may receive them, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Is it not strange that the moment he is acting most the part of a parent, is just the moment we are most apt to forget we are his children; he tells us, we forget the exhortation that speaks to us as unto sons. It is pleasant, as he takes these precious relationships on himself, to take his at his word, and plead them before him; sweet to look up and say, Abba, Father; to leave all temporal concerns in his hands, because "our heavenly father knows we have need of them;" reminding him it is a father's part to provide for the want of his little ones. When we come to make known our spiritual wants, to remind him it is a father's feeling, to be willing to give all within his means; and, even, when we sin against him, depart, backslide, return base ingratitude for love, out of this depth, to whom shall we naturally look, but to our parent? As the prodigal, when confessing he was not worthy to be called his child, begins his sentence with "father." No, nothing can change this relationship. "Though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not, thou, O! Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting." He will spare as a man spares his own son that serveth him; even though forced to speak against his dear son, his pleasant child, He earnestly remembered him still — his bowels were troubled for him; he could not help having mercy; and he will lead us also; cause us to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein we shall not stumble — for he is a father to Israel; he will put on us the best robe in his wardrobe — the righteousness of Christ; he will give his greatest gift as a token of his love — his holy Spirit; he will cause us to be shod with the gospel of peace; when tempted to doubt his faithfulness, he points to David's feeling when crying out, O! Absalom my son, my son, would to God I had died in thy place; and appeals to our hearts, if David could have afflicted Absalom willingly; he points to what his servant Moses has left on record is to be expected from that parent, (Num. 11. 12.) that he should carry his sucking child in his bosom, and reminds us, by taking that relationship on him self, he has bound himself thus to act, and he will carry us in his bosom to the land of promise, and we shall not halt till He is wearied, nor fall till He stumbles; none shall pluck us out of his hands, till the arm of Omnipotence fails from weakness; no lion shall overtake, no enemy overcome, while the -everlasting arms are underneath, and the banner or love above. This is your portion and mine, dear fellow pilgrim. "Lord what is man that thou shouldst magnify him, that thou shouldst set thine heart upon him — that thou shouldst visit him every morning, and try him every moment;" and this to such as we, who require a fresh exercise of mercy every moment to keep us out of hell; yet, even here, to know while feeling a weight of sin pointing to the very heavens, that there is a heap of mercy reaching into the heavens, "built up for ever;" that neither past sin shall condemn, for his mercy is from everlasting; neither shall future, because his mercy is to everlasting, they have all been laid on him — carried off into the land of forgetfulness, never to be laid on us again, until east meets with west. Under the old dispensation, remembrance was made of sin every year, because, and to show, that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin; but now, the very declaration so often repeated, that sin shall be remembered no more, proves the blood of Christ sufficient to cleanse from ALL sin. May we every day dive deeper into this unfathomable love, every day increase in the knowledge of this love that passeth knowledge, till filled with the fulness of God, moulded into the mind that was in Christ Jesus; and when he shall open his casket and display his treasures, may we, and all dear Christian friends, whom I long to see again in the flesh, be found among those who spake often one to another of his dear name, who thought upon it.
If such the views which grace unfolds,
Weak as it is below,
What rapture must the Church above
In Jesus' presence know!
when time shall be no more — the bustle past. By the by, what insignificant names our God uses when speaking of this life: — grass, flower, dust, wind, shadow, a leaf going to and fro a weaver's shuttle; … Scatter my good wishes around, particularly to …
Believe me dear …
Very affectionately yours,
T. A. Powerscourt.
12th May 1826, Antrim Castle.
My dear friend — I put off writing till I should arrive at Powerscourt, expecting then to get a frank as my letters are not worth postage, but I can refrain no longer, thanking you and your dear sisters for your very great kindness to my children, etc. It was doubly gratifying, because any kindness shown to me, must be for my Master's sake. How manifestly His only aim is our happiness — witness, "this is my commandment, that ye love one another." We may well, then, trust it in his hands, who spared not His own Son. May we not lie like the helpless sheep on the shepherd's shoulder, content for him to carry through prosperity as well as adversity; through life, as well as death? Not only is our path already marked out by infinite wisdom and love, but has been trodden by the man of sorrow; be it ever so rugged, we still have the sweet comfort of tracing in it the footsteps of the Captain of our Salvation; every need-be pang, then, is but an echo from the inner sanctuary — "If ye suffer with Him ye shall be glorified together;" and as he entered the everlasting gates, triumphantly crying, "He is near that justifieth me, who shall contend with me?" So may his poor weak followers walk, saying, "who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" No one I think, who reads the Bible, can hesitate whether or not, it was written by one who knowing every distress, into which every believer from the beginning to the end would ever be brought, could provide a word in season for each, or whether or not, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in that man, who, inviting all who labour and are heavy laden to come to him, could promise rest to their souls. And do we not need every consolation laid up, word upon word, promise upon promise. In order that our comfort may abound, He has so graciously left us dependant one upon another, and provided so many relations calculated to support on our way to him, and, yet, as if to show they all concentrated in one, he takes to himself the name of each. I love to think of him as a Father, for it is written, "What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not." And the heart feels assured that his tenderness will neither spare too much, nor will our rebellion prompt him to say, "Let it alone." While the compassion manifested in the very chastisement proves, as words cannot, that he does not afflict willingly, but as a father pitieth his children so he pities us; yet, to think with all this, that I should ever murmur! I who may well say, his love to me is a wonder to myself; and this too, while having tasted of his trial, I can, in a degree, sympathise with him, for I do think, he is never more wounded in the house of his friends than when they murmur. Nothing seems so to overcome his forbearance with the Israelites. O! then, dear … may we be able to say under every circumstance to the full extent of the words, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want," resigned to live, or resigned to die, resigned to prosperity, or resigned to adversity, only, "Father glorify thy name."
To live is Christ! am I resigned to live
When Christ is with me, holds me by the hand,
Follows my footsteps, watches by my bed,
Bids the warm tear of grateful exultation,
Washing the stain the tear of sorrow leaves,
And makes some evil seem so like to good
I scarce can call it by another name.
I hope I am resigned the harder task to bear-
The plague of a rebellious heart,
To bear to wrong the Being I adore,
To love Him and yet forget Him, to desire
His Presence, more than all the things of earth,
And yet neglect and lose it for their sakes,
To seek for holiness and find but sin,
To war against myself and long to be-
Yet feel I am not-what my Maker is.
To die is gain! am I resigned to die?
IT IS NOT SO; that cannot be the word,
That speaks the Christian's feelings when she hears
The distant sound of her Redeemer's foot
Hasting to fetch her to her Father's throne;
When the first beam from heaven's unclosing gate
Falls on her path, to light her to her home,
And angel's voices vibrate on her ear
Preparing songs to greet her welcome there.
Could you see the heart turned inside out as God sees, you would join in exclaiming unworthy, unworthy; may it be written as of Ephraim of old, "his iniquity is bound up, his sin is hid." I trust my visit to Edinburgh has given me a spur in hasting unto the coming of our Lord. I do not feel friendship the same as I once did. I used to feel my pleasures here were increased. Now I feel my tale is told, and ties of friendship are drawing towards an hereafter, while we are only left in Satan's kingdom, for the Lord to finish his work in us and by us. For this end it seems to me, we should watch, the old serpent's aim to resist, and Christ's to further; the aim of the former seems to he to drive closer and closer to self, and even when his hopes are frustrated of getting the believer to fall down and worship this idol, he strives with it to muddle his comfort. Does not the aim of our dear Lord seem to be to give strong consolation to those who have fled for refuge to the hope set before them? Let us then further this end, not only by opening our mouths wide for ourselves, but by declaring on the house-top what is whispered in our ear in the closet, and by testifying to our poor fellow pilgrims, that in our experience we have found, "faithful is he that hath promised."
Some of my friends accuse me of writing very uncomfortable letters; but I say, if you want to hear of me, you will find my future life folded up in that verse, "all shall work together for good," and only let me speak of my beloved. But this I must say, although I have quarrelled with evidences, one is now staring me in the face, in the love I feel towards you, dear … it is such as a stranger intermeddleth not with.
Yours, dear friend, with cordial affection,
T. A. P.
Glenart, October 1827.
My very dear sister in the Lord — Is it not true that we are very often a wonder to ourselves, think of my having a friend in the world. that I believe would not think a letter from me troublesome, yet that I can be one or two months, only intending to write, even though by doing so I might hope for a letter in return! I trust you open that door for many, into which if any enter, they are saved. I hope you are able to go in and out yourself, finding rich pasture. O! that our hearts were always bubbling up, boiling with this matter, like wine which hath no vent, ready to burst its bottles, constrained to speak about our King. O! that He so dwelt in our hearts by faith, that out of their abundance, our speech might be as spikenard sending forth its pleasant smell, ointment pouring forth his name, that this good treasure, this mine of wealth might be continually emptying itself in consolations into our own bosoms, and enriching all around. But who is this King! that we should leave all other subjects to speak of him? the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in our battles, the Lord of Hosts, the King of glory. — My Lord, who sits at the Lord's right hand, till every evil in my heart shall become his footstool. — The King, who in spite of the heathen raging, the kings of the earth standing up, the rulers taking counsel against him, shall be set on the holy hill of Sion. — A King who has come to his people in a chariot paved with love. — A King with many crowns, the most radiant, the most becoming of which, is the one he received in the day of his espousals, Cant. 3.2. — A King whose greatest glory is his bride, that he has overcome and new created the sinner, betrothed and united himself to such for ever. — A king who in the day of the gladness of his heart shall stretch forth his hand to you and me, and say in presence of men, angels and devils, "come ye blessed of my Father," etc. — A king who has himself prepared the kingdom, who by the love tokens he distils on us day after day, viz. by his dispensations, and his consolations, proves he has considered our frame, knows what will satisfy, even to enter into the joy of our Lord, who having prepared a kingdom that will satisfy!!! is now preparing us for it. — A king who has enriched his church by his poverty, nourished it by his riches; in a word, Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Say, dear friend, have we not volumes to unfold respecting this king; why then so often do we spend our time, while in company with our fathers' children, talking on subjects we despise and consider trifles; is it not because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks? Alas! how grievously have I to accuse myself on this point; m nothing do I feel so dependant, and when I do speak, how many double triple motives; how often seeking self instead of Jesus, proved by silence before those who dislike it; how often ashamed of him, how often irritated when opposed; how often playing with the subject; how little feeling what I speak; how humbling; how astonished you would be, did you know me; all the love of angels and saints put together, could not have patience with me… He alone could silent stand, and wait to show his love. Surely it is no hard demand is required only to be loving subjects, and how gracious where he demands this; He does not call on us to love an unknown friend, but with his own pencil has drawn for us the object to be loved. Two questions are natural when called to give our affections. 1st. What sort of person is he? 2nd. What is his mind towards me? Let us hear what answer God has given. What sort of person? "chiefest among ten thousand," "fairer than the children of men," "altogether lovely," "as the apple tree among the trees of the wood," not only "the first born of every creature" but "the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person," even God himself, who made and upholds all things in heaven and earth. What does Peter say, when he was the witness of his majesty? What does John, when he saw him standing in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks? Every knee bows to his name, every tongue shall confess him Lord, for He is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, this is our King. But what is his mind towards us? "full of grace and truth;" out of his fulness ever emptying grace upon grace. His words to us are powerful, to overcome by love, a sharp two edged sword, yet as the sound of many waters, "most sweet" , as lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh; "never man spake as he spake," gave his enemies testimony; for they "wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." This is your beloved, and friend, as well as king, who has grace poured into his lips on purpose to speak a word in season to the weary; blessed weariness which brings a word from him; sweet to have our beloved, our king; comfortable to be able to say, my Jesus reigns; with what confidence we may lay ourselves back in his arms, and say "undertake for me;" blessed to be one with him whom God has blessed for ever; blessed to have our salvation and his glory bound up in the same bundle. Blessed to know he has gone through every class in our wilderness-school. Are you satisfied with this King? for he is your King for ever and ever, may our repose in him answer the question. Are you contented to have him, and leaving all others to cleave only to him? for this beloved is yours, and you are his; may the devotedness of our affections, lives, and words, answer, "Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." And O may we be kept from acting as one who is ashamed of his choice.
"Rather may this our glory be,
That Saviour not ashamed of me."
My eyes are not at all better, though at times more comfortable; the last fortnight I have suffered much with them, and a lump has appeared upon the good eye, but I trust it may go away again without making me quite blind; at all events I have a light that shines in darkness, that nothing can take from me; in his light shall I see light, even see him who is invisible.
Believe me, my very dear friend, now and ever your warmly affectionate sister in everlasting bonds,
T. A. P.
Powerscourt, 26th July, 1828.
My very dear friend — I do not know where you are, but I think you must imagine, I have bade an eternal farewell to everything below, so long have I been answering your letters; but there is one you may write to, who will be sure to answer immediately. Our life should be, I conceive, a continual interchange of care for peace. I saw some of your friends in London; we hoped to see … but it seems to have been a false report that she was coming to London. Oh! reality, reality, how immense all before us, yet how we shrink from apprehended evil, though we know Him too well to take one single want out of his hand. His will, nothing but his will … We have a wonderful advertisement of a physician, from the Spirit of truth, "who healeth all thy diseases;" we who know something of the plague of a human heart, can understand in a measure how great the undertaking. He says himself "come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He must have foreseen every weight his people ever should be burdened with, when he undertakes to give rest to all, and truly he does, for he himself carried all our sicknesses. Can he heal hearts wounded with guilt and care? wounded with rebellious murmuring at his dispensations, and coveting what he has withheld, delighting in broken cisterns, as though they were the fountain of living waters? Can he heal hearts of wandering and distracted maniacs; maniacs ever engaged in taking poison? Can He heal the bruises of our falls, the dislocations of our backslidings, wounds corrupt through foolishness? It is written, "who healeth all thy diseases;" it made little difference in the days of his flesh, what the disease was, that was brought to him, palsied, maimed, blind, deaf, possessed, dying, dead. Then let us come in the simplicity of sickness, in the helplessness of want; to trust is to be healed, to touch the hem of his garment is to be whole; but let us keep touching him, for virtue is ever coming from him; he waits to apply all the virtues of heaven's dispensary to our case whatever it be; he is master of that disease, we have all his promise, all his skill, all his power, all his love; his skill is infinite, his compassion boundless; though ascended to heaven, he has left his heart on earth; he gives US all his attention, as if there was none else to think of on earth. He requires but one thing, to take all he has prescribed, BITTER as well as SWEET. Dear … let us put a blank into his hand for time, and for every thing, confident that with him he has freely given us all things. Is there one thing we would keep back? Let that be just the thing to commit with most anxiety; we need the substance of things hoped for, to be put in the scale of judgment and conscience, against the things of time; then as surely as substance outweighs shadow, so surely must we judge of things accurately, till all our sorrows shall be left behind; and from the Jerusalem above, we shall be able to trace his hand leading us by ways we knew not, to the manifesting and magnifying of his faithfulness and grace. Then shall we see how contemptible were all our fears, when omniscience which foresaw, omnipresence that prevented, and omnipotence that laughed them to scorn, were on our side. Let us get well acquainted with our physician; let us take lodgings in his neighbourhood; let us see him every day; let us hide nothing, but open to him our whole case, and say as David when under his care, "let me hear what God the Lord will say to me;" and let us venture on his testimony, who declares him to be our peace, for "he forgiveth all our sins, and healeth all our diseases." Mr. Howels said one day, speaking of this beloved physician, where was Jesus educated? where did he graduate? He was educated in the Lazar-house of human suffering, and he took his degree in the infirmary of the human heart — whenever he visits a patient He says, this sickness is not unto death; He is not only the physician, but he is also the medicine of the soul. History tells us of a queen who, when her husband was wounded by a poisoned arrow, extracted the venom with her own lips, at the risk of her life. Our physician has done more — He has extracted the poison of sin, which the bite of the serpent infused into our constitution, at the expense of his life. He has carried all his human sympathies into heaven, and He never ceases to exercise them; we can sometimes look back upon a scene of suffering, or of trial which was exquisitely painful at the time, but there was no diminution of sympathy in the breast of our physician. The trial was appointed or permitted in Love; and we shall soon see that it formed part of a merciful design which was superintended and tempered by the physician himself. Dear … how well you know him, since he is just suited to our need. Have we not cause to glory in our need then? nor can I wish anything for you, but that you should be exactly in the state this letter shall find you, for "he performeth that which is appointed" for you. He who appointed life and glory to be the end, has also appointed this condition, that affliction, for the way. He has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He may have the pre-eminence in all things; therefore "He makes all things work together for our good, for He is of one mind, and who shall turn him? What his soul desires, that He does, therefore we know we shall be like him when He shall appear. If you are in darkness, light is sown for you; you are still on the way to perfection, learning not to make idols of your feelings, treading in his steps, who was made perfect by suffering, and who never travelled with such velocity to perfection, as when He cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." I long to hear from you again; tell me what you think of dear …
Believe me, my very dear friend,
Truly affectionately yours,
T. A. P.
My dear Mrs … , I have many apologies to make for having so long neglected answering your inquiries, but thought should I defer it until my arrival here, I might be able to have a comfortable few moments' intercourse with you on paper; not but that I might at … but those who are cumbered about much serving, or fancy they have much to serve in, are especially cumbered when leaving home for a few days. Blessed to have our thoughts and joys not only "packed up," but gone before. Well to have all our riches in moveable goods, that like the present Jews, we may be ready to be off to Jerusalem at a moment's warning. I cannot answer your question till I talk to you a little about our dear, dear, friend. Stop! are we sure He is our friend? yes, for he is the friend of sinners. His name is the refuge of the oppressed — the helper of the needy, no particular need specified, for be it what it may, He has a help, even himself. In the world, tribulation, (oh how deep a word,) in me, peace. No oppression too trifling, no need too great, He who is our refuge, knows our frame; He knows the disorder of every little nerve, can cause even a voice or a step to be an oppression — so foolish the oppression, as hardly to allow it to ourselves, yet may we run from it, and hide ourselves in him, a refuge even from ourselves. What can be our need when our help is the God of Jacob, a covenant God, who keepeth truth for ever; when our hope is in him who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them? How beautiful the 146th Psalm, where we see, His greatness consists in being just fitted for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the bowed down, the stranger, the fatherless, yes, and the widow. You ask me if I have read Romaine on Canticles? No, never! but the Spirit has, I think, expounded to me some of the verses when doing his office as Comforter, and I sometimes think none can so enter into the emphasis of feeling expressed in that book, as the widow, for none so know the preciousness of any blessing, as those who have lost it — how much more that blessing, without which even paradise was not complete; and if when all was peace, and joy, and love, man needed one to bear his part in bliss, Oh! how much more when care and sorrow fill our hearts with anguish and our eyes with tears. Who can so value that everlasting is, and am, as one who is every turn forced to remember, my beloved was mine, and I was his; yet happy helplessness, blessed difficulties, which bring to our assistance such a helper. There is hardly, I believe, a name implying poverty and want in the creature, and strength for this poverty in himself, that he does not take — father, brother, friend, prophet, priest, king, physician, help, health, refiner, light, life, counsellor, guide, anchor, sanctuary, all in all, our portion for ever — but the most wonderful endearing and sufficient, is this, the husband of his church, or rather the bridegroom, (his name in this sacred song) for the marriage supper of the Lamb is not yet come, the bride not being yet ready. Speaking lately to … of those verses you mention, this verse seemed to me particularly sweet. "Who, is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?" True, the church is in the wilderness, but it is only for an appointed time; her place has been prepared of her God; she is fed, she is not forgotten, she is on her way up, and she has a strong support. (Rev. 12. 6.) Her very situation makes her feel protection, support, and consolation needful, but it is in order that she may trust for all in her beloved, and in doing so, find perfect peace; for "in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;" her very helplessness forces her to prove his faithfulness, power, and tender watchfulness. The stronger she leans, the more she knows of Him in whom she has believed, and if her sense of infirmities had not obliged her to have recourse to foreign strength, never could she have learned to say, "most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me". "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in necessities, etc., for when I am weak, then am I strong." But while every thing around is saying, "arise, this is not thy rest," how marvellous that we need afflictive line upon line, precept upon precept, to remind us we are in the wilderness, so heavily we go to reach eternal joys. Oh, how dull we are in learning difficult dependant lessons! how many rebukes, chastisements, reproachful looks, we learn from our patient Master, before we can be persuaded to accept of happiness in leaning on him! Surely, the malignity of sin is no where so visible as in the bosom of the child of God. Satan sins not in spite of light, love, and knowledge — redeeming love. It is truly humbling, that nothing less than God can make us understand what is plain, desire what is good, avoid what is evil; how much more so is it, that at the very moment our judgment tells us, there is but one path of pleasantness and peace, at the moment conscience is convincing us how grievous and bitter a thing it is to depart from our God, when past experience with an enlightened understanding unite in exclaiming, "To whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life; even at that very moment, nothing less than an Almighty spirit can make us will, not to forsake the fountain of living water which we have tasted, and to hew out with labour, to our misery, cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water. Oh! let us beware of our first neglect of our Lord. Our beloved can bear any thing better than neglect. Let us with John, lean on the bosom of Jesus; there learn love, as he learned it. Thus shall the mind be in us that was in Christ; for love is the fulfilling of the law. I did hear something lately unbecoming a Christian, of … and in dwelling on it, I hope to benefit myself; for it is a point, alas, I particularly fail in, as, no doubt, you have observed. I mean, speaking severely of God's children, forgetting that he that toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye; that words aimed at them, pierce him; that all is laid at the charge of that cause for which we profess to live, and to be willing to die. I think we should be very sure of an action, before we speak of it, which we do not consider commendable, and not then unless for good …
October 23, 1827.
… Often, often has Satan stopped my way, not only by the idea that those I spoke to might think I practised what I said, but because I found hid in some chamber of imagery a desire that they should think so; but at last I found out the idea came out of Satan's opiate box. Some lessons we do not learn till after long experience, such as these: — First, we are not to do evil that good may come. Second, when sin lies heavy on our conscience, we are to force ourselves into the presence of God — not skulk from him, etc. Third, we are not to flee from Satan, but resist, in order that he may flee from us; blessed to be under the Lord's teaching, to be trained up by him in the way we should go, to have Jesus representing God to us, representing us to God, to have Jesus interceding for the sinner with God, to have the Spirit interceding for God with the sinner. Blest to be rising in his school, though every class presents a more difficult lesson. Blessed to have a waste heart, to feel it a wilderness, a desert fitted to receive and rejoice in such promises as this, (true with regard to us though stolen from Jews,) "The Lord shall comfort thee; he shall comfort all thy waste places; he will make thy wilderness like Eden, thy desert as the garden of the Lord," "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody." …
May 30, 1828.
… In what a ruinous heap is all God's work, once declared to be very good; from the top, to the bottom of creation, from the lion, to the spider, each carrying on the history of Cain and Abel; man most like Satan of all, for instance, slaves. And shall it be always so? Shall this be Messiah's conquest? that his saints are to take flight and leave his handy work to be destroyed? What a triumph to Satan to sweep away in his destruction that lovely work of six days, on which Jehovah looked with delight, over which "Wisdom" rejoiced and delighted — the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy! No! let creation groan and wait a little longer for the redemption of the body; for then shall the purchased possession be redeemed, then shall be the restitution of all things. Then shall the sons of God, whose sonship is now questioned, be declared to be the sons of God with power, by the resurrection of the dead even as their elder brother before them. Now, their life is hid with Christ in God; but when he shall appear, they shall appear with him and like him in glory — our life shall be manifested. "Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, and God, even our God, shall bless Israel, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God!" Mark the adoptions spoken of in Scripture: — National, which, though it does not secure salvation, brings into particular relationship and consequently, subjects to greater judgments. Personal adopt-ion, which does secure it, that spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father, and if children, heirs, etc. And third, manifested adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body, (Rom. 8.) But I had better stop, as there is neither beginning nor end to the subject. I will only add, "Time is short;" other nations may have other opportunities; but Ireland, having received national adoption now, now is the time to cry aloud, "come out of her (Babylon,) come out of her, come out of her, my people," and may the testimony be borne of us which was said of a great sinner greatly pardoned, "She hath done what she could." It is said, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are sons of God;" then, since we are sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, we are led by the Spirit. What a gift is this Spirit! The Comforter, which shall abide with us for ever. Not only shall He teach us things freely given us of God, but He shall seal us his — an earnest of our inheritance — will not suffer sin to have dominion over us; shall dwell in us as a well of water springing up into everlasting life — upwards, in love, joy, peace; overflowing, scattering round, in long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance; what better confidence can we have that we are his, than having been delivered from the spirit of bondage, and given the spirit of adoption; his Father our Father; his God our God — doubly dear? And though He leads us in the midst of the paths of judgment, yet, while teaching us to profit, He shall prove to us, He is leading to the land of uprightness in the right way. And after all, the sum of happiness we find, even in the new Jerusalem, is this, "I will be his God and He shall be my son." Let us, dear friend, among those we live, every day, hour, moment, walk as children of light. Oh, what difficult preaching is this! Let us drink in largely every morning of the unction of the Spirit, which the busy bee (not the wasp) knows how to sip from the garden of the Lord; that through the day we may breathe out the atmosphere of heaven all around; we have a right to wear a sweeter smile than even angels wore; and since suffering displays the riches of our inheritance, may we not bless him, if our lot should be among the exercised in soul …
25th May, 1828.
… There is only one enemy we cannot escape, though our whole lives should be a running from it — monster self: I am quite weary of this heart — Satan's workshop — always going on hammer, hammer, hammer, stealing every grace given, to manufacture into some adornment for the idol self. It reminds me of Newton's description of an oratorio. Oh! what will it be to have an innocent satisfaction in ourselves! Yet, let us not shrink from, but penetrate every nook and corner of our hearts with the eye of Jesus, while, at the same time, we view him, let us learn the meaning of words out of God's spelling-book; we so blunder over our lessons, taking sorrow for joy, joy for sorrow, happiness for misery, misery for happiness, expecting beauty and perfection, where He has left us only for discipline — we hardly get above ground. It is under-ground-work here, our roots taking a firm grasp of the rock of ages, in order to our springing up and flourishing in the courts of the house of our God. I think the most humbling description of human nature is being "haters of God;" and his word says, If haters of God — lovers of death — we hate excellence, because, it is excellence, and we hate him in his creatures, be they ever so accommodating or prudent." They hated him, for what cause? Because He delivered them who were his enemies; because he went about doing good; because He offered life to whoever would; and, how careful his apostle Paul was, that when hated, it should be without cause. Freely He received, freely gave. How desirable, could the world have no just point on which to fix their enmity against Christ in us; if we so unfolded the mind that was in Christ, as, at least, to do the part of the law, bring them in guilty; if we were fleshly tables, living epistles. What a proof of the divinity of Christ, that he gives testimony of himself being the Son of God, for surely, He was a righteous man; none but himself could have gone through life, pursued by every different class, trying each to catch him in something; yet, all forced to confess at the end, they could find no fault in him. And have we not miracles, also, to confirm the witness? You and I now speaking with delight about our once hated Lord! — greater miracle than, "Lazarus come forth!" I have also been thinking what a proof' of the divinity of Scripture it is, that we find an answer provided for every error, a consolation for every wound, especially in the book of Psalms, that gospel in prophecy; it seems to me as if God had provided a text for every experience his church ever should want, took them, and as it were, shook them together in a bag, and left them there to be drawn out, that each might fit himself; for instance, that verse so consoling to so many: (Ps. 27. 10,) "When father and mother forsake me, then the Lord taketh me up;" coming in unconnected with any thing before or after. I have much more to say, but as I dare not wait any longer, I must conclude; I shall tell you all by and by — a joyful wondrous story, such as angels love to hear — as beautiful a similarity, yet diversity, in the spirits, as in the bodies of each — all singing the same song, yet, each having a page of his own, to fill up the volume of faithfulness. My answer to your question about prayer will be found in the following texts: (John, 14. 13. Matt. 28. 18. 2 Cor. 12. 8, with the 9th verse,) "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son." "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee." I give you two questions in return. How shall the Christian get the little good from another Christian, that is in him, without imbibing of the much evil? And how far should the Christian fit himself into the prejudices of the ungodly, without letting them lose sight of his being one of a separate and peculiar people? …
… I was truly rejoiced to hear of the Lord's goodness to you. I cannot only thank him for displaying himself faithful, but, that it has been shown in faithfulness to you. You say nothing of your little gift from the Lord. Those two texts go well together: "She remembers no more her anguish for joy," etc. and, "forget not all his benefits." It is written of all creation, that it is travailing in pain, and soon shall it be said of it, "She remembers no more the anguish for joy, that a man is born into the world." His dealings here are but displays of his riches of glory on his vessels of mercy, afore prepared for glory. Let us be on our guard against this snare of Satan's, seeking to know more than others, but may every truth, as revealed, sink deep! The grace I have been praying for of late has been patience, for I think it a grace much wanting in the church, for its want can be as much from indifference, as from too ardent a longing for the appearance of Christ — patience expressing repressed longing. It seems to me to be a grace made up of two — hope and experience — realizing hope, repressed by experience of wilderness love. It was worth parting with, all for, and truly, it marks how unworthy present suffering is to be compared with future glory; when even it is light compared to the heaven it yields here; (yes, I can even say so now, though brought through a furnace, in the flames of which it would be impossible to feel it, even the furnace of another's affliction; and that another — the beloved of my heart.) It is comparatively easy to believe, that it is worth parting with all, to have the soul translated from darkness into light; but, faith often fails in making us feel that it is worth parting with all for the loosing of bonds, with which, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we are too often, though children yet, bound; and why is this? Because of the selfishness of our religion. It consists in high ideas of our own safety, instead of God's glory; and never can we run in the ways of his commandments until our hearts have been set at liberty. What a promise we are given with which to face the world: "All things shall work together for our good" — a promise not to be trampled under foot. Many things in themselves would be evil, but, I think, his watchfulness is seen, in so making his providences to meet, as to burst in blessings on our head, and like his other works, one means works many ends; one providence does not bring one blessing, but a string — tribulation, patience; patience, experience; experience, hope, etc. Yes, and so exactly does it fit the case of the believer, that one trial shall as much suit the particular need of all concerned, as if sent alone for each. Oh! the Christian is a wonderful creature — impossible to sink him! The deeper he is plunged, the higher he rises. Do pray for me, that I may be given the grace of patience. How often the apostle Paul makes mention of this grace! In praying for the church, it was, that they should be directed "into the love of God and the patient waiting for Christ." In giving thanks, it was for their "patience of hope," as well as "work of faith" and "labour of love;" while he speaks of it as the fruit of their being strengthened with all might by his Spirit. If the furnace of affliction so made the first believers need exhortation to patience, how much more should the church now need it, when she is thrown into the furnace of prosperity. It strikes me, it is often before sending tribulation, that a spirit of search into prophecy is poured out, that the church may not only be found on the tip-toe of expectation, when the arm of the Lord shall be stretched out, as if no strange thing had happened to her, but also, in the attitude of hope; it being, when we hope for that we see not, we can most patiently wait; and in this the mercy of the Lord, I think, is often manifested to individuals, as well as to his body the church. Before sending a trial, He makes the need of it to be so felt, that the believer even desires, what, at the time, is most grievous and dreaded — so much is desire of conformity to the Lord and his inward presence above every other desire. Let us not, then, forget to take for our helmet the hope of salvation; we need it, though children of light we need to be driven to the light; so heavily do we go to reach eternal joys, so continually are we manifesting our molish natures, preferring to grub into our own hearts, and hide ourselves in the dark, instead of running in his steps, who was also sustained in his race by patient hope; "For the joy set before him." We learn the secret of being able to run, in the kind exhortation to lay aside every weight on him who is at our right hand, that having our eyes lifted up from every thing that can distract, our feet disentangled from all that besets, our eyes may be steadily fixed, while running through the vista of time, on the light at the end — every care giving us a shove, till our whole weight is proving the immutability of our firm anchor. The poor world thinks we are imposing much on ourselves in giving up the pleasures of sin. But, oh! how easy the Christian finds this in comparison to walking on the good of life, counting it dross, that the affections may more tightly grasp Him, who alone can satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry soul with goodness … You may well say she writes seldom, but when she does, she sends a volume. Well, I will leave you with this precious text, Ye are not your own; we have no right to ourselves! He is the best judge how we can best serve him to his advantage; our highest excellency is subserviency to him; our highest pleasure, serving him, though, in so doing, we are wasting ourselves …
Dec. 28, 1828
… I think there is much spoken of, in Scripture, of God's riches, as if too much for God to contain within himself; comprised in him it cannot be witnessed; therefore has He set us apart, has "before ordained us," from the beginning chosen us, "prepared us," "even us," as vessels of mercy, in which to show forth the riches of his grace, in the riches of his mercy now, and the riches of his glory hereafter. Sweet thought! our being now vessels of mercy, (because of the great love wherewith He loved us,) evidences that He has set us apart, to display in us the riches of his glory! by nature fitted to destruction, vessels of wrath, but having emptied all this on the head of our Jesus, He has now put Jesus at the bottom of the vessel, therefore, we run over with loving kindness and tender mercies. How the thought, that this is God's end should keep from doubts; the more He gives, the more grace now abounds over sin; the more shall be seen his riches in glory! has He not abounded towards us? predestinated — accepted — called — justified — in him glorified — sins all forgiven — quickened — strengthened — begotten again to a lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away — made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light — our portion, Christ within us — all things working for good — our enemies defied by omnipotence — our shield interposing himself between the redeemed soul and the destroyer — (Exodus 12. 23.) The Lord will pass over the door, and Jehovah the deliverer, will not suffer Jehovah the destroyer to come into your houses to destroy you. Leaping forward to deliver, "as the mother birds hovering over their young, so shall Jehovah, God of Hosts, protect Jerusalem, protecting and delivering; leaping forward and rescuing her" (Louth's translation of Isaiah, 31 . 5 . ) — spreading over his cherubic wings, or wings of covenant love, a fourfold presence of the most excellent animals, (Ezek. 10.) — the ox, first of tame beasts; man, first of creation; the lion, first of wild beasts, and the eagle, first of birds, uniting in one body and spreading their wings, on both sides. This is expressly said to be a representation of the God of Israel. They guided the wheels of providence by infinite wisdom; for their whole body, their backs, their heads, their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about; this, says the prophet, is the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar. Of this vision we have a description in the 1st chapter, and He there calls it the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. The ox is considered as an emblem of the Father, the lion and man, which are always united, (Ezek. 1. 10.) of the Son, taking our nature into personal union with the divine, and the eagle of the Spirit, expanding his influence in all the work of God. This was the mystic figure placed in the holy of holies above the ark. There they all looked down with delight on the memorial of a dying rising Saviour's work, when the priest ministered there on the day of atonement. Thus we see the design of the term, "dwell under the wings of the cherubim," was but another expression for abiding under the care of a reconciled God and Father, in Christ Jesus, where is perfect safety and heavenly bliss, (Dr. Goode,) propped up with sweet and precious promises, fulfilling all the good pleasure of his will, and the work of grace with power; that we may be vessels fitted for the master's use; why? "That in ages to come, He may show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us," "when He shall come to be glorified in his saints," He glorified in us, we glorified in him. And what means this word glory? It quite puts me out of breath, the thought of all that is before us. Wonderful creatures! brittle earthen-ware, yet not broken by all the knocks of tribulation flesh is heir to, in present things, or things to come; though not hidden up, but held out in the midst, to the inspection of men, angels and devils, to the praise of the glory of his grace, for held by his almighty power; and surely it shall not a little add to the glory of his abundant mercy, and the display of the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, that He shall thus hold his vessels of mercy without fainting or being discouraged, until He ushers them into his presence more than conquerors! Which vessel should you like to be? gold, silver, wood, or earth? I think the worse the material, the more the ability of the workman is seen in forming it for the king's use.
I had a new thought on the book of Job, which book I have been hobbling through in the morning to the family, but did not get my thought, till the last chapter. Though I have not been able to find any commentator agree, I cannot help thinking it was intended to shadow forth the Jewish people. The adventures of one individual are not intended to occupy all ages; so loving a spouse as the church could not be satisfied in continually conversing with her beloved, concerning the adventures and sentiments of a stranger, when she has such an overflowing fulness to express in her own feelings, and in her admiration of her beloved. Nor was it like David, to call on all generations to tune their instruments, only to sing of him. It seems to me the Lord often brought his Prophet into circumstances which should explain the dark sentences he caused them to utter, yet was this explanation but a dark veil, through which it was difficult to perceive the mysteries within; but we having the gospel lamp, may penetrate the darkest recesses of his providence and grace, and find our Immanuel behind each; and surely that wisdom must be divine, which as in the book of Psalms, and Job, is so fruitful in language, as at one and the same time, to express the situations and feelings of the writer, the situations and feelings of the Lord, and the situation and feelings of his church, and each individual believer, to the end of time. But I think Elihu fixes the book of Job, as referring to the Jews. By the way, to be a prophet was no light matter; yet did they consider it worth going through all for. And I hope your dear husband, in counting the cost, thinks it worth learning the consolations of scripture by experience, that others may find it good, if he should be afflicted; for in this view, it is no light matter to be a minister of the consolations of the gospel, for I believe the Lord still explains the meaning of words by his providences; and a greater than all, thought it not too much to be tempted in all points, that He might be suited to his people in the midnight of adversity, as well as the noon-day of prosperity. But to return to Job — do you not think the amount of Job's restoration to happiness, strikingly coincides with the promises respecting that church. What have Christians ever been casting against that afflicted church, but just what Job's friends brought against him? that they are cast off for ever, because of their sins. What has been and is the Jews warm contention? Job's to his friends; that they are not such sinners, not so rejected; man's taunts have been in vain to humble them; they manfully contend that they are not in punishment for their sins; servant upon servant was sent to them; at last God sent his only begotten Son, but still they would not be humbled; they rejected all admonitions, and so they shall, till God appear to take his cause into his own hands; then humiliation will be their first movement towards Him, "they shall look on him, they have pierced, and mourn." Then shall they say, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, therefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." Then, shall be manifest that God's thoughts towards them, have been "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give them an expected end;" and "they shall call on him, and go and pray unto him, and He will hearken," then shall be seen "the end of the Lord, that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy." My reasons for thinking Elihu means Christ are these: — 1st. Because the meaning of the word Elihu, is "God is he." 2ndly. He says, he stands in God's place as a day's-man. 3rdly. When God commands Job, in chap. 42. 8, to pray for his friends, that they may be accepted, Elihu is not mentioned, as if he needed it not. Now if you think it worth while, look for these references — God is against those who contend with Job, Zeph. 2. 8-11; Isa. 51. 22, 23. — 8th v. Job a blessing to his enemies, Zech. 8. 13; Ezek. 34. 26; Isa. 66. 21; he did speak right in that he was not cast off. — 9th v. Job is accepted, Jer. 30. 17, 18,19, 20; Ezek. 20. 40-42. Isa. 65. 18, 19. — 11. v. Job is enriched by his friends, who come to him, now that he is restored to prosperity, Isa. 60. 1, and 10, 12, 13. He had double for the blessing of the Lord, that it is which makes rich, Isa. 40; Mal. 3. 10, 12. Isa. 60. — 14 v. everlasting joy shall be on their head . — 15th verse, he gave his children an inheritance, Psalm 45. 10. Is there not something remarkable in the name of Job's daughters, Jemima, the day; Kezia, pleasant cassia or fine spices; Kerenhappuch, beauty; in that day emphatically called, the day of the Lord, shall he come down into his garden of spices, his presence shall cause his spikenard to send forth the smell thereof, Cant. 1. 12. Then shall he indeed say to the daughter of Jerusalem, "thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee." — 16th verse, when Job was restored, he lived to be a great age, Isa. 65. 2O. — 17 verse, we find the blessing coming upon Job, that Eliphaz said belonged to the afflicted righteous, chap. 5 from 17th verse to end. Tell me if you agree. Perhaps you will say, you have filled your letter with what is not applicable to me. "Truth Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master's table." Oh how many crumbs of comfort thus prepared, and spread out for the children, may we dogs pick up, and nourish ourselves with. But I must think of finishing; I hope the length of this letter will satisfy, if not weary. It would be sweet to me, to be a stream of comfort, making up the Lord's desire, that your peace should be as a river, emptying itself into the ocean of his glory! surely were we permitted to be a rivulet of consolation, to any afflicted child of God, and one drop in the ocean of his glory, we should not have lived in vain. It is very sad about your schools, very trying, but it is well to have our trial, God's cause. Look at Isa. 40. 28-31, and the connection between the possessions of Jehovah, and those offered to the acceptance of his waiting children. How kind, he gives us a way to express our affection to him! "if you love me, keep my commandments;" for love is restless till it communicates what it feels to its object. May your faith have such substance, as that you could take the promises in your finger, and handle them, (as an old woman described Mr … words to me, the other day,) may He often look forth at the window, showing himself to you through the lattice, (glimpses of Him in those providences, most calculated to exclude him,) ..… may you daily more see that there is enough in Jesus to meet all your wants, be what they may; while feeling there are hidden depths within of iniquity, may you know and remember there are depths in Jesus' love, your eye has never yet seen, your ear has never yet heard, your heart never even conceived of: but God sees it! In short, may the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, and make you abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Your sincerely affectionate friend, bound up in the same bundle of life …
Please tell … that the little book he left me to read, smells of Satan's dispensary.
Dec. 18, 1828.
My dear Mr … , I enclose you what I promised, but I have since thought it was very conceited of me to offer to send you what I remembered. I send you a sermon remembered by another lady, who does not murder them quite so much. There are some sweet consolatory ideas in it.
When God takes up the lesson and the rod, how differently he teaches from man. Truths which we have been accustomed to repeat, and feel In some degree, with what force they come home, when taught by experience. When I look back upon this time last year, how weighty are those words, "all is vanity," not merely an expression. In drinking of the bitter cup, called "LIGHT AFFLICTION, one feels with a weight no tongue can express — what must be the miseries of hell, when this is but a spark from it; what must be the evil of sin; the emptiness of this masquerade of a world; the sufferings of Christ; the happiness of heaven; God's hatred of sin; his love to the sinner! May he grind them more and more into my heart, so that I may never again be entangled or intoxicated with these baubles; but may he clasp me so close to himself, that there may be no room, for a cloud to pass between me and the light of his precious countenance! Pray let us soon hear from you; for I sometimes fear lest the Lord should remove from us our candlestick, not because we do not prize it enough, but for valuing the stick too much. May he teach us, without that the difficult lesson, that "Christ is all." I will fill up the rest of the paper with a short extract from a letter which I received from Mr. Howels, which I think you will like.
Your sincere and grateful friend,
T. A. Powerscourt.
After speaking on the Lord's prayer, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, he adds: "One idea more before I conclude — you and I are immediately interested in the prayer of Jesus, ' Father, forgive them.' In answer to that prayer, a gracious Providence once watched over us while sinning, ignorant and thoughtless of what we were doing. In answer to this prayer, we were delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. And did he feel so intensely, and pray so earnestly, in the midst of his own better sufferings, for his enemies and murderers, and will he forget his friends now, he is seated on a throne of bliss, in the zenith of his glory? Infinite eternal impossibility!! We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. His intercession comprizes all the love of his Deity, all the worth of his atonement, all the love and sympathy of his humanity, perpetually sounding ill God the father's ears, ' Father, forgive them.'"
My dear Mr …, Many thanks for your very welcome letter; we all rejoice to hear such good accounts of your throat. I fear Irish air is the cause of all the throat complaints … is now attacked with it, and ordered to England for his health. To him, as well as to you, it is the greatest trial could be sent; but the Lord generally sends a trial where it will be felt. I believe our usefulness does not depend upon pursuing a line marked out by ourselves, but in giving him just what he has need of from us; — in patience, as well as in faith, followers of those who inherit the promises. I rejoice to hear so good an account of … she must be a nice Christian from your description. Of course, you heard of poor …'s end. … says their only comfort is, that he died in such an enlightened state; but though there was graciously a straw to lay hold on, I trust that none dear to me may ever be taken, without more undoubted evidence. Oh! that it was to be a warning to all sportsmen.
I suppose you will see and hear dear Mr. Howels and … You will find them full of the times, and horror of emancipation. Such great things are spoken on one hand of the evil, and on the other hand of the good of these conversions of opinion, that either one side must misunderstand Scripture, or the other be wonderfully blind. May we not, by taking the beast unto our bosom, thrust out God; and blasphemy being found on our forehead, have to take our lot with Babylon? It is lamentable that there seems to be no Christian voice raised up in the midst of so much infidelity. Every principle of error seems to have its representative in a professed Christian senate, while Christianity is the only mute, and apparently indifferent, spectator. The way that Mr. Irving's, and Mr. Howels' petitions, are ridiculed, shows that the Word is still foolishness to the Greek. Nevertheless, it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." "For God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; yea, things that are despised hath God chosen." But I am forgetting that it is one of the signs of the times, that ignorant people, such as I am, set themselves up to judge upon such matters. It is the privilege of women, to have nothing to do with politics, but to stand and admire man's ignorance, and God's facility in bringing about his purposes. The question with us seems to be, How shall we, in serving our generation before we fall asleep, testify against the crying evils of the church, as well as the world? Since He must at all times, have some to bear him faithful witness, how shall we be among this privileged set? Since He has shown his love in trusting his cause to ours, lent us volumes of his library for the perusal of the world, surely it is an interesting question, How shall we be faithful to our trust? I hope you have been considering this point, that we may have a little pillar of truth raised up in this valley with "love," inscribed upon it. This reiterated command, "love," so trampled under foot, seems to express every thing demanded of the church; to exhibit it in the greater union of the body — in more diffusing around the heavenly atmosphere, in more demonstrating it in action. With good intentions, many are ignorant. We forget the assembling of ourselves together, and need to be exhorted to love and good works, and so much the more as we see the day approaching. Faithful parochial ministers content themselves with the work of an evangelist, neglecting their most difficult duties. To preach the gospel, is necessary for all; but surely there is strong meat, and there are precepts, which suit not the world. The strong meat of experience, being exposed to ridicule, prevents its benefit, by stirring up jealousy. The precepts either must open to the world the wounds of the church, or the probe not be deep enough to benefit the believer. You must watch, warn, exhort, prove from Scripture, errors in spirit, errors in life; and, though last not least, we must make each others wants and sorrows, as well as the church's, our own: so that the answer to each should multiply the thanksgivings of all, and redound to the glory of God. Surely, we should not find so many Christians of the world, if one half of the Bible was not necessarily left out of the pulpits. I believe the fault lies more with the church than with professors, that Christianity is so much more profession than confession. We strive to live our doctrines, instead of confounding the world by the contradiction of our walk and our belief. It seems to me this is the fault of the Walkerites. As the world cannot explain the seeming contradiction of doctrine and precept in the Word, neither should it be able to do so in the believer. While trampling works under foot, should we not live as though to be saved by works — boasting in our liberty, yet under law to Christ? We wear Christ too like a loose garment, to be put on and taken off as convenience offers — denying him, by not confessing him; not as lights, which hypocrites fear to approach, lest their deeds should be reproved. I hope you are lifting up your voice against these things in … for religion and the world are comfortably walking arm and arm there. Perilous times, when Christians have time to play with idols; have time to feast the world; to nestle themselves as the world; to go rounds of formality; have time to pick faults in their neighbours, their brethren; have time to amuse themselves in religious dissipation; have time to talk to be admired; to listen to contradictory opinions, each proved from Scripture; while the misgiving of our own opinions, through a perceptible mixture of error and prejudice, keeps us picking our steps through slippery paths, instead of running in the way of God's commandments. Certainly, times of persecution, are times of prosperity to the church; — Satan is not asleep — and is more to be dreaded when undermining by expediency than when openly destroying; deceiving, if it were possible, the very elect. Times of persecution will only admit of drawing up every faculty of the soul to one point. How splendid the grace of patient waiting in persecuted Christians! If times of trouble are about to come, how friendly to make us feel our need, that when they shall come we may not be staggered. Love almost calls for it, in the painful suspicion of disfiguring His cause whom we do love. Faith cannot live settled: she must hold her life in her hand; must point to Jesus, and lead the way; be in the attitude of patient waiting; must be a bird of passage, refusing to build her nest in so cold a clime. In these days of deception, may the Lord sift, thrash every principle, rummage our hearts, and lead in the way everlasting. May our souls be enabled, in looking to his second appearing, to bound forward; and may we be given, in deed and truth, a "Love," which shall engulf pride, and haughtiness in ourselves, and all disagreeableness in others-this God-like grace.
Dear Mr … has been all but taken from us. I did not in the least expect his recovery. May we bear the rod and be enabled to read this providence! It is, I think, one of the beauties of God's works, that while we labour to effect one end by many means, He with the utmost facility effects many ends by one means. This is striking in his providences. When he sends an affliction, it is so exactly suited to the case of all concerned, as to seem purposely sent for each; and when he shakes his rod over his children, surely it means a gracious call. We tremble when we enter into the cloud often; but there comes a voice from the cloud saying, this is my beloved Son, hear him; — and what can Jesus' word declare but, see how I love? Do pray that this visitation may be attended with good to those near him. Nothing can withstand his power. No heart is too hard for him. This is our comfort for ourselves, "He is greater than our hearts;" and his love is as great as his power, without measure and without end.
The District Society goes on flourishingly. All satisfied in hearing you are to be the treasurer, for they know you. Great lesson for us, let us be satisfied in deposing body, soul, and spirit, in the hands of Him, who has undertaken to lose nothing the Father has given him to keep, but to raise it up at the last day. Surely he will return all, with a rich premium. Let us not dishonour him, by questioning what He is doing with our deposits, for we know the man …
Yours, with true affection,
T. A. Powerscourt.
My dear Mr … , Though I hope to see you in a few days, I must write a line, just to assure you, it has been neither want of gratitude, affection, or value for your letters, which prevented my not placing you in my debt long since; for there are few things would give me greater pleasure than seeing a letter brought in directed by you. We are now some miles nearer home than when we parted. It cannot have been for nothing our Father has been separated from us for these months. He has been proving and trying us in some way to do us good at our latter-end, and surely, we have been proving and trying Him. I have met with much Christian love, for Christ's sake. I have seen in different Christians different beautiful features, to make me desire to see every feature united in the great Original. I have heard deep, high, sweet, experimental truths from dear Mr. Howels. I have heard some future prospects from … and have had humiliating lessons in others, how even the most spiritual need the everlasting, quickening, and almighty energy of the Eternal Spirit, to preserve perpetually from earthly idolatry; while in myself, dependant weakness has now feelingly convinced me, that in my preservation, a miracle is momentarily witnessing, I am a child of God. And shall not Jesus himself very soon show me how this and that, and that and this, like a Mosaic, have been needed to form us into the image of our God? I now hope to return to occupy till my Lord shall come, or send for me. I feel very pleasant that I have done with life, have learned to read through the glow spread all over it "all is vanity" — to feel the buzz about, as the buzzing of flies about a dead corpse. My tale being told already, I would not be as my poor sister here … beginning life under the delusion, that happiness is to be found in it; yet, it is vain to say, till God teaches that every dream of happiness below the sun is but a picture, painted and varnished by Satan, involving in it his original lie: "God's word is not truth." In giving us himself, I believe, He has given us all God can give, and surely it is the triumph of faith, while feeling we have not what we think we need, still to rest confident, that with him, He has given us all good things … Oh! what a thing it is, dear Mr … , even for this life, to have a hope full of immortality. — How sweet for you to have been made the communication of this bud of happiness to one destined to tribulation — the unfolding of which has been so unspeakably sweet and sustaining! Though still bound with the bondage of corruption, what a thing to be prisoners of hope! — of a hope that will never make ashamed, for happy is the man whose hope the Lord is! for his eye is upon them that hope in his mercy, and even in DEATH he shall have hope. How Scripture always pushes us forward for happiness! In defence, our helmet is to be hope; our attitude, waiting for his appearing; our happiness, rejoicing in hope; all seems expressed in one verse, "We know not what we shall be — we shall see Him — we shall be like Him." May we be enabled to keep our eyes steadily on things invisible; may every care give us a shove, till our whole weight is cast upon our immutably fixed anchor! I desire to be as a meteor passing through time, not left a moment longer than the Lord has need of me. The world thinks the Christian is imposing much upon himself, in giving up the pleasures of sin; but how easy the Christian finds this in comparison to walking on the good of life, counting it dross, that his affections may more tightly grasp Him, who alone can satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry soul with gladness. — Whatever the name, the character, the relationship, He vouchsafes to take, He excels in that point all others: — "Fairer than the children of men." Is He a father who cannot refuse his child's petition? — "How much more will your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask Him." Is His tenderness compared to a mother? "She may forget, yet will not I forget thee." A brother? — "One that sticketh closer." A friend? — One whose friendship passes the power of expression, for the utmost bound was passed while yet enemies. A husband? — One that can say, even after we have "gone after many lovers," yet return again to me. A prophet? — One that "spoke as never man spake," "was in the counsel of the Father from eternity." A priest? — One that has sat down on the right hand of Omnipotence — "continueth for ever" — "hath an unchangeable priesthood" — "able to save to the uttermost" — "ever lives to make intercession" — one, and the only one who becomes us; for He excels all priests, in that He is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, higher than the heavens." Is He a king? — "King of kings, and Lord of lords!" A shepherd? — "The good Shepherd." A light? — "The light of the world" — "The Sun of Righteousness!" Food? — "The bread from heaven that gives eternal life." Water? — "The fountain- of living waters, of which if man drink, he shall never thirst again." A tree? — "As the apple tree among the woods." If in heaven? — "Who in heaven can be compared to the Lord?" If on earth? — "Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?" Then, what is He to the church? — As the bridegroom in comparison of all others, and not only does He excel, but in her estimation, He must increase while all others decrease, for "He that cometh from heaven is above all" — "This God is our God for ever and ever." May He, dear Mr … fill you more and more, with joy and peace in believing, and may you abound in lively hope, through life, and in death! This is, believe me, a very sincere prayer, and one often put up for you,
By yours very affectionately,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
And, no doubt, you will find by and by, that the means used for communicating to you some of the graces of the Spirit you possess, has been these prayers.
15th February, 1829.
My beloved friend, I have long been wishing and intending to write to you since I heard of your overturn, but as Mr. G … told me you were almost well, still I wanted to be able to sit down and write a long letter. I wish you to tell me the particulars, that I may join in praise. I have so much felt, and do feel, the great privilege you allow me in remembering me in your dear little meetings, it is the sweetest blessing you could give me. Oh! do not pray for my body, but that I may not misrepresent His truth in my life. Well, that little fall was yours, among the inventory of His laid-up gifts. What we want is, to be taught to make use of the promises. Too apt to be satisfied with enjoying his word in reading and meditating on it, then to go our way and forget it till the next stated time returns; it is then, well to get scratches from little briars and brambles on the way, to be sent for healing to "it is written," — to be made feed on the promises all the way; thus to have our appetite whetted, that He may fill the hungry soul with goodness. It is not His will we should merely draw upon our bank of consolation for large sums which we think it worth drawing for, but to return again, and again, for every shilling, for ever sixpence of comfort; for, sweet thought, we cannot trouble him. How much is implied in that short sentence, "I shall not want." Why? because He wanted all. I shall fear no evil in walking through the dark valley on account of his presence, because He cried out, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? We shall triumph in confidence in the midst of our enemies, because He was reproached and despised of the people, "a worm and no man;" and I know (not hope) I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, because He has said, thou hast heard me. Sweet to know the whole flock are under the same guidance, that in experience of His watchful tenderness, we may be able to say of others under every circumstance, they shall not want — the 22nd Psalm, the ground of the confidence expressed in the 23rd. How safely we may leave ourselves in such loving hands. He is our treasure; let us deposit with him, body, soul, and spirit, for we know him. He has promised to lose nothing which the Father has given into his hands, but to raise it up at the last day. Let us not seem to suspect, by questioning what He is doing with our deposit, but rest satisfied it shall be restored abundantly enriched, on the morning of the resurrection. Then shall we not refuse to be found among the oppressed and despised, who have followed him through evil report, as well as good, since the path of sorrow, and that path alone, leads to the land where sorrow is unknown! I have been thinking lately of angels. What a subject of humiliation they should be to the believer: alike in one thing — both hearken to the voice of his word; unlike in state, unlike in service. The believer nearer, dearer, his "bride;" where sin aboundeth grace having much more abounded. Yet, how much more ready they are in their service: their beauty seems reflected on earth in their deep humility; witness their joy at the raising of sinners to a superiority to themselves. How different the Jew at the reception of the Gentile! How different the Gentile at the promised glory of the Jew! How different from the elder brother at the return of the prodigal! Hear their thunder clap of hallelujahs: "Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace towards men." In what haste would the twelve legions have descended to the aid of the Lord, had He, in his agonies, demanded their service; but preferring the sympathy of his children, He looked for pity from them, but there was no man; for comforters, but there were none — they were heavy with sleep. Were angels now told, "inasmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye do it to me," would they move so heavily to feed him when hungry, to give him drink when thirsty, to take him in when a stranger, to visit him when sick and in prison? Above all, were they sent with glad tidings of great joy? No, they would fly as Gabriel to Daniel, as the angel to take a cake to Elijah. At the beginning of thy supplication the commandment came forth, and "I am come" — the commandment given at the beginning; He came before the end! But there is one office they cannot render the church; they are unfit for comforters; having known no sorrow, they cannot sympathize. This is our privilege; the most honourable service in the temple below; we are cups of consolation in his hands, who emphatically came to bind up the broken hearted. No vessels but vessels of mercy can contain this cordial; and as every blade of grass shines with the splendour of a little diamond globe, when the sun arises after a night of dew, far surpassing the grass at noon day; so shall the tears of this night of time, throw a lustre over the believer, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in the morning of the resurrection — far surpassing those "who excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His words." They know the bliss of power — we the happiness of weakness; — what it is to lay the hands of weakness on I am; to glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on us, to carry the helpless soul in the arms of faith, to rest on sweet and precious promises. I have heard it told through one who was present at the shipwreck of the Kent, as a remarkable circumstance, that every mother in their imminent peril, as if by instinct, turned to her youngest child and clasped it in her arms. So does the Lord to the helpless believer. Will any say, that those children, who exulting in strength were left to themselves, were more safe than the helpless infant whose life depended on the parent's life?
Maternal love alone
Preserves them first and last;
Their parents' arms, and not their own,
Were those that held them fast.
Blessed be God, he loves not according to our desert, but according to our necessity. Blessed be God, it is not written, his blood can cleanse from all the evil we see, but what He sees … Many chambers within are unopened yet to us; we see but through the crevice; yet his blood gets entrance, and drowns all. May we be given grace, dear sister, in the Lord, to leave him the steering of our little bark; to trust Him with every wind that seems against us; to go straight as an arrow on our way, believing He will not leave us to ourselves. May He keep us from weakening the hands of others by our example. Though deserving, He should plead against us with His great power, may He put strength into us, and enable us to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. — Crucifixion cannot but be painful; but whether crucifixion or amputation, under any circumstances, be appointed to us, may He make most legible in our lives, "Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." Let not us alone be silent in praise, when our theme is so great — that when John was given to hear the hallelujahs of such as were living continually in his presence, witnessing unceasingly the unbounded wonders of his perfections whose name is Love, all was swallowed up in this one song — redeeming love. And shall redeemed sinners be silent? All his works praise in obeying — go, and they go — come, and they come. To the sea He says, go so far, there let thy proud waves be stayed; foaming mountains high, there it stops. The firmament showeth His handy work. We can best glorify Him in trusting Him. Let us venture, then, to be confident. Goodness and mercy shall follow us, like as the river from the rock followed the Israelites all through the wilderness. Whatever is sent it is goodness and mercy; and this goodness and mercy but the earnest of future joy, the embryo of our future inheritance — an enjoyment by faith of promises there to be fulfilled. We are children of promise — heirs of all the promises. Children of light, waiting for the morning! My dear … may your light shine more and more to the perfect day. Affectionate love to your dear sisters, and all who love me in the Lord. Pray write very soon, and believe in the sincerity of
Your very affectionate sister in hope,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
Dublin, 17th April, 1829.
… Indeed my very dear friend, had I for a moment an idea you could have been so ill, I should not have waited for an answer to my letter, could I also have conceived mine of any possible comfort. I can only say, I can sink into the very dust, that my Lord should make use in any way of so vile, so wretched an hypocrite. He has indeed shown you great and sore trouble, yet in the midst of the trouble, how loving to allow you to testify that his comforts have refreshed your soul: surely we are left without excuse in our unbelief; yet whenever He leads us to the brink of the waters of tribulation, we tremble and shrink as much from entering, as though the waters had not before parted, and become a wall of support and consolation on either side. How blessed to be under a dispensation of mercy which God has as it were set apart for mercy. We find out our hankering after self-righteousness, from our fresh astonishment every day in being treated so differently from what we expect and feel to deserve. How often arc we dictating by our fears to the Lord, but He is better to us than all our fears, in the midst of judgment remembering mercy. "Hear ye the rod and him that appointed it;" often He seems to shake the rod over his children, but is unable, if we may so speak, to inflict the blow. May we go softly all our days, seeing our comforts are held by so slender a thread; may it teach us to rejoice with trembling. David was greatly distressed, but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God; so arc we often distressed with outward things, and ever have cause from inward things. Such sunk hearts, so weighed down to earth, after all they have learned of earth, all they have learned of Jesus; often it seems as if we had all to learn over again. "So foolish and ignorant are we, even as beasts before him" — yet let us encourage ourselves in the Lord our God; encourage ourselves in his character; encourage ourselves in his compassion; he will not shut up his tender mercies in anger, but will shut us up in his tender mercies, for his compassions fail not. Let us say of them: this is my hiding place, here will I nestle from sins, temptations, falls, and ingratitudes. — Feeling his tenderness to be that of a jealous God, we are too apt to go to him, as to a tender jealous friend, keeping back what is likely to grieve love. — But no! Our Jesus is not like an earthly friend even in this, there is no loosening his love by suspicion. He knows all our baseness, yet loves unto the end! therefore let us go tell him all; even those feelings we would hide from ourselves, let us drag out before him, and pour out our complaints of ourselves into the bosom of our master. Often we find ourselves shrinking and crying out at the very thought, that in very faithfulness he will afflict, at the very moment we are saying, soberly and steadily,
"Less than thyself will not suffice,
My comfort to restore;
More than thyself I cannot crave,
And thou canst give no more."
Strange mixtures we are! We may confess all, for he is our hiding place, who can sympathize with the shrinking of the flesh from the Father's will, without laying it to want of love; for he has said, "Father save me from this hour."
We may trust his compassions. We may throw ourselves into his lap saying, "undertake for me." "Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great." The same God now, as had an eye to the sparing of even the cattle, in withholding judgment from Nineveh. — Sweet to have our will sunk into his, who is so slow to anger, so ready to forgive, that when his prophets lost all patience with the people, so as to make intercession against them, yet even then, could he not be got to cast off this people whom he foreknew, for his great name sake, because he had made them his people, neither will he now. — He has engaged for that. — May he grant that our joy in restored blessings, may be abundant in Christ Jesus. May our love be as greedy of love as his is; may he be our end in joy, our end in sorrow; may we be able to say, "To live is Christ"; may he not suffer us to abuse his wonderful mercies; but may sin and weakness have the effect of driving us to Him, without which, the expenditure of every twig in his rod would be of no avail. — O let us not be as his people of old, after every mercy stiffening our necks, hardening our hearts, casting his law behind our backs, and provoking him more and more: but let our conversation be as becomes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, standing fast in one spirit, striving together with his people for the faith of the Gospel. I can say of myself in utmost weakness, the spirit is willing that He should answer this prayer, and not spare the rod because of our crying; but may He pity, for the flesh is very, very weak. Behold here I am, let him do what seems to him good. — I desire to say this in spirit, as well as with the mouth; in feeling, as well as judgment: Lord make me desire to be able to say it. Let us thus, dear friend, encourage ourselves in the Lord our God, not terrified by our adversaries, but praising him. He gives us, not only to believe, but to suffer for him, and with him; and for his rich answers to prayer, for making known such a Lord to encourage ourselves in, may we so loudly shout hallelujah from the hiding place of his compassions, as shall make the vaults of Satan's kingdom ring with the name of Jesus. Farewell my beloved sister in the Lord …
… Very affectionately Yours,
"And there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered into the cloud; but there came a voice out of the cloud, THIS IS my beloved Son — HEAR HIM".
Paris, 26th April, 1830.
… Ever since I heard of your illness, and the Lord's mercy in sustaining and restoring, I have been intending to write to bless the Lord with my very dear sister, and ask for some words to strengthen my faith, in detail of your cup having run over in the hour of need. Is it not, indeed, the bleating of Messiah's sheep "I shall not want?" "shall not want," because the Lord is our shepherd; "shall not want," because our shepherd is the Lord! Our shepherd, the all-sufficient! nothing can unite itself to him, nothing mingle with him; nothing add to his satisfying nature; nothing diminish from his fulness. There is a peace and fulness of expression in this little sentence, known only to the sheep. The remainder of the Psalm is a drawing out of this, "I shall not want." In the unfolding we find repose, refreshment, restoring mercies, guidance, peace in death, triumph, an overflowing of blessings — future confidence, eternal security in life or death, spiritual or temporal, prosperity or adversity — Time or eternity. May we not boldly say, "The Lord is my shepherd;" for we stand on the sure foundation of the 22nd Psalm. How can we want when united to him! we have a right to use all his riches. — Our wealth is his riches and glory. — With him nothing can be withheld. Eternal life is ours, with the promise all shall be added; all He knows we want. Our shepherd has learnt the wants of his sheep by experience, for He was himself "led as a sheep to the slaughter." — Does not this expression, dictated by the spirit, imply a promise, and a full promise, when connected with his own words, I know my sheep: by what painful discipline He was instructed in this knowledge, subjected himself to the wants of every sheep, every lamb of his fold, that he might be able to be touched with a feeling of their infirmities. The timid sheep has nothing to fear; fear not want, fear not affliction, fear not pain; "fear not," according to your want shall be your supply — "The Lord is my portion," saith my soul, therefore will I trust in Him; does the silly sheep cry to be kept from want? it may well be answered, ye know not what ye ask; it knows not of what it would rob itself in receiving the supply provided for that particular want. In the midst of danger, we have no cause of alarm, we have been taken hold of by Omnipotent love, "shall never perish." "It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." All to be expected of a shepherd, shall be found in one, who so loved us, as to lay down his life for us. Dear sister, have you a want, keep it not, carry it to Him, it shall be on the mercy-seat to be considered; in due time shall be written on it, "to be provided for." Have you a want for any dear to you? He has promised you shall not want; if your demand is not exactly answered, you shall receive something better; it shall be satisfied. His fulness is as much at our disposal, as if in our own hands. He keeps it in himself, that every blessing may be richly doubled. Moses said to the children of Israel in the wilderness, "the Lord thy God knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness those forty years. The Lord thy God hath been with thee, thou hast asked nothing.'' Our wants are fathomless! our help infinite! none but God can tell the uttermost a God can do. Oh let us, who are the sheep of his pasture, give him thanks, and show forth HIS praises by venturing on this confidence. There is no want to his flock; the young lion may lack and suffer hunger, but the good shepherd's helpless, foolish sheep, shall not want any good thing. He is our shield against every foe, he is our guide in every danger, no good thing can he withhold — Grace now! glory hereafter! But it is you must tell me these truths, for you bring them fresh from the furnace. How blessed when he takes his bit of clay, and forms it into a vessel fit for the master's use, especially if he choose for us to be a vessel of consolation to his little ones. We like the office, but we do not wish the forming: for we can only comfort with the comfort wherewith we have been comforted. Oh! what a blessing, we are not left to ourselves, that when we drag the skein of our life into the most desperate tangles, mercy will sit down patiently to unravel … What a blessing to be allowed to fall in every possible way, that self-opinion may come tumbling down, and that we may learn to leave our righteousness behind, and come to Jesus in our sins, instead of leaving our sins behind, to come in our righteousness; and how blessed we are, not allowed to appear to others what we really are, full of pride, vanity, selfishness, selfseeking. Oh! what motive within motive, deceits, hypocrisies, lying in our very representations of Christ! we desire all should read, I am comely. Is it so with you?
Powerscourt, October, 1828.
My dear friend — The church's husband hath not where to lay his head; the wife always takes the place of her husband. If such is the character of Christ's church, can that system be right, which expressly encourages the opposite practice? Lord instruct me, I am a fool. As to this trade, and that trade, being supported, let the dead take care of the dead; our business in life is not to keep the world a going, but to manifest the christian's glorious hope. Each book treats of its own subject, and is not to be blamed for not instructing in all. We are living epistles, but from God's library, to teach a particular subject; and oh! what a glorious subject! we have nothing to do with the world; we cannot live too differently. Your sister says, this is Satan's kingdom; surely then we are not needed to uphold his system. Poor … is in grief about her sister, left in India a widow; but how kind of Him to afflict us to try our faith; we talk of the promises, but how different to make use of them! how difficult to take Him at his word without an evidence; how merciful to be so let into the secrets of his love, that he does not suffer us to walk smoothly down the stream of time, but sends large and rough billows to dash us on the promises; sweetens our bitterness, and embitters our sweets. This should be the christian's elevation, to walk on the promises. The more we are forced to prove them, the more highly favoured, because our ideas of things are not according to this world. It is a great thing really to trust Him through thick and thin, believe our sorrow is our joy, our misery our happiness. He deprives us of provision for earthly affection, that these affections going in search of their object, may take a grand grasp of Him, the archetype, the fountain of every excellency; all love in comparison is but the rivulet to the ocean, one limited to the nutshell of a human heart; the other immense, as the infinite mind of Jehovah. Let us then use our privilege, dear friend, and launch our souls upon the promises of Him, who means what He says. With affectionate love to your dear sister
Believe me very affectionately yours,
T. A. P.
Brussels, Dec. 15, 1829.
We have been here six weeks and have had no improvement in any art but patience; worth coming all this way to learn that; thus the Lord lays His plans for us, calls us sometimes into the wilderness to speak comfortably, admits this world to be tribulation, does not make light of it, tells us not to expect any thing else in it, but gives two famous recipes for patience under it, "rejoicing in hope," "instant in prayer." I trust my faithful heavenly friend has been pointing out to me of my faults. The instrument with which He probes the wound, is so oiled with love, it heals in wounding. I have been thinking, my dear sister, time is so short, it would be better could we throw all our powers into straining every nerve for His glory, in the situation in which He has placed us, instead of losing time in doubting whether we are in the right situation. These doubts prevent the gratitude He expects; for there is a right side in every thing; there must be, because it is His will that "in every thing we should give thanks." There is a blessing, I am persuaded, in every snare, could we cherish and make use of the blessing, and roll the snare on him. May He put a new song in my mouth, even thanksgiving to our God. Tell me what you have been thinking of? and what state religion is in where you are? This town is in a sad state, wholly given to idolatry, because Roman Catholic; three English churches, but no gospel. The French Walloon minister we hear is very good, but the town is full of English who could not understand him. All I can find we are sent here for, is to pray for them, and that is not little; a day spent in prayer is a truly profitable day, its usefulness ceases not with the day. Let us then be Phebe's, seek to carry cups of consolation to the church; she carried a large cup to Rome. If we ask any thing according to His will, we may believe we have the answer. It is His declared will — He wills not the death of any, but that all should be saved. We have not because we ask not. Do we indeed believe He is soon coming? Would it be found out by a beholder? Are we so fitted into those precepts which, put together like a mosaic, make up the image of Christ, as to force lookers on to say, "I would see Jesus?" He does not mistake either what is for our good or for His glory. I have discovered He has locked up my happiness in the concave of His shield, to shelter it from being subject to the influence of any creature. Why should those mourn at anything here, who are reconciled to the Judge of all the earth? who have access to Him at all times, and friendly intercourse with Him; whose hope is founded on His love, and look forward to seeing Him, as a long tried friend; whose very tribulations are turned into blessings, and not only so, but also have God for their God, who understands to bless them according to His name — God? All belonging to Him is ours; as that dear letter said. I have had great delight in the remembrance of that letter, I have searched into Scripture on the subject and have been refreshed; if you have heard from her on communion with the Father, or the Spirit, will you not send me the letter? I shall return it quite safe, His power is ours — none shall pluck us out of his hands. His wisdom — for all things shall work together for our good. His holiness — for sin shall not have dominion over us. His justice — for He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. His faithfulness — because it secures the fulfilment of all his promises. His eternity — "because He lives we shall live also," so shall we be for ever with the Lord, "my Lord and my God." Every sin should increase our trust — seeing it proves to us in the most convincing manner, that He is absolutely necessary. Weakness is ours — since it forces us to live by faith on one mighty to save. The drying up of earthly streams makes us cleave to Him who is all in all, prevails on us to find happiness in His fulness. Every thing around rings in the ear, go to Jesus. It is an unspeakable blessing in such a world to be able to see anything coming straight from Him without any second cause between; it would keep us very patient thus to possess the soul; we know He has a design in all He does; the more grievous the dispensation, the more certainty of its need; what He does, we know not now, but shall know hereafter. His purposes are ripening fast, unfolding every hour. Even in the consequences of sin, as in David's case, it is not said the child fell sick, but the Lord struck the child, and it was very sick. The child of the man after God's own heart! he prayed, he entreated, yet was refused; yet he says, "call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." "Yes, he shall deliver in his own way; and whatever be the way, in that thing we shall glorify him!" "I wound and I heal." The hand pierced for us, alone can wound tenderly, alone can heal perfectly. It is almost worth having a wound, to prove how tenderly He heals. Has he not taught us much this last year? Oh! how he spares, when we deserve punishment. How gently he deals; shakes his rod over us, to bring us to our senses. Often the very dart he uses to inflict a wound, in order to pour himself into it, is the very sin He desires us to hate; while his still small voice whispers, return unto me for I am full of compassion, slow to anger, and repent me of the evil, which seems to threaten. I have learnt that I am a learner, because a fool — must sit to receive, instead of give, comfort; learnt utter dependance for every comfort for myself; for every thought! have no stock to use; learnt more of "any thing with thy smile, any thing but thy frown;" learnt vanity of resolutions, which cries out beware; learnt insincerity of motives, much more, how many ends he gains by one means.
Let us, dear Mrs … occupy diligently till He comes, in the situation He has placed us in. Though we give our bodies to be burned, though we give all our goods to feed the poor, though we speak on these subjects as angels having all knowledge, in these all shall we utterly be condemned, without "give me thine heart." Happy consolation! He will never be weary of our complaints! He loves us when we weep, as well as when we smile. He loved Mary's tears — they spoke volumes to him. Soon shall these trifles be thrown away as children's toys. God looks upon our follies, as a wise man upon his infant, with loving pity. Soon our tale shall be finished, and the history of our lives put by in the library of God, as an old volume of his faithfulness. Soon we shall see him face to face, know as we are known. Soon prophecy shall be all fulfilled! "Every plant which my heavenly father hath not planted," shall be rooted up; but the little grain of love, scattered by his own hand, in our hearts, shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God, for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Soon, soon; why tarry thy chariot wheels, why so long transplanting from thy nursery, into the paradise above? …
My dear Mr … , Many thanks for your very welcome letter, though it does give so sad an account of that blessed town. The Sun of Righteousness did shine on me so splendidly, when there, I can never think of it but as a green pasture. Good shall come out of this seeming evil, to the church. Oh! that we loved her, as the Wise and All-powerful loves, and we never should suspect what He is at in his permission of evil. How beautiful the machinery of grace! How one part acts with another! How glorious will be the discovery at the end!
While man uses so many means for one end, God brings about so many ends by one means. One, that having made prayer the channel of conveying his blessings, that in blessing, He may bless many — strengthen faith — awaken gratitude, and bring glory to his name as a hearer and answerer of prayer. Expect to find my soul being saved has been in answer to some prayer, in some part of the world. It can be said of bountifulness in prayer, as well as alms, "the administration of this service, not only supplieth the wants of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God." Then let us thus return them liberally. It would be very sweet, could we see every thing in the light of Christ, with reference to him — that as Joseph and Benjamin were dear above all the children of Jacob, because children of Rachel, so the church might be dear to us above all that is called dear, because dear to Christ. That peace should be precious to us, not so much because happiness in itself, as because it breathes "by my bruise ye arc healed." This I should think would be one good in the study of prophecy. To see every thing with reference to Christ, instead of seeing Christ with reference to ourselves. If dwelling on a crucified Saviour is valuable to the soul, in lifting us out of self; surely, dwelling on a glorified Saviour must be doubly so, in giving a far greater lift. A suffering Jesus, though full of consolation, reflects back on our wilderness troubles, and under-curse state; a glorified Jesus, darts us forward to the time when all tears shall be past for ever, in his glory and our own. The most wonderful thing to me in this town is one, I fear too stale to you for me to indulge myself in dwelling on — namely, that I am of God, while most of those around are in the arms of the wicked one. — Wonderful to receive this message, morning after morning, "thy sins, which are many, are forgiven!" — Wonderful to have so patient a Teacher! — Wonderful, a day is coming when I shall be satisfied with myself; without pride! But passing wonderful, that "He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself!" etc. Mr. Howels had this text last Sunday. He remarked from it that the desires of God's children, when good for them, will surely be answered. Job said, "Oh! that my words were written, graven in the rock;" but he had above his desire, more than he asked or thought. Had that been granted, all the elements would have waged war against and erased it. But the Rock of Ages descended; had it engraven in his bosom, which nothing shall ever efface, but it shall be read by all, time without end. He said, "Redeemer" and kinsman were the same; spoke of him as kinsman in avenging the death of his brother, on his murderers — He pursued, and overtook the enemy on Calvary; also as raising up seed to his brother, in uniting himself to humanity, which before had none. A rose never so sweet as when bruised and squeezed. When the rose of Sharon was bruised, and trampled on, the fragrance filled every breath of heaven. — When Christ came, the bosom of Deity was opened for our perusal. Either Christ is God, or the worst in hell — reprobation the child, not the parent of sin. In marriage, the maiden name is annihilated — the church's maiden name, not blotted out, but annihilated — no longer known by it; so any believer who has but one grain of grace, has no right to be called ungodly; henceforth his name is "the Lord our Righteousness." He introduces schism into our corruptions, and thus makes them destroy themselves, and each other; and out of each fall rises a grace, as the phœnix out of its own ashes. The woman clothed in the sun — the believer clothed in his God for ever. He, a shield, interposes himself between us and every enemy. What can penetrate infinity and eternity? By and bye, we shall see all the evil from which we have been shielded. How often, that we do not know, have we been carried past them, as children over whose eyes you put your hand while carrying them across, that they may not see the danger. The poor are shielded from riches — the rich from poverty …
Yours most affectionately,
T. A. Powerscourt.
My dear … , I am glad to hear you are in our neighbourhood, though grieved for the cause. But why?
Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials brings me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Then let us enjoy our wilderness blessings: — here, ruffled peace. Future joy, and joy yet future, we shall have eternity for. Only for a few moments joy in sorrow; calm in a storm. Then I will rather wish you joy, that by the pressure of his dear hand, He thus keeps up in your mind — "Behold! how I love you." How needed it must be, when compassion wounds, when love chastens. The Lord "has need" now, not of your strength, but of your weakness. What a day is before us! when we shall be able to adore his faithfulness without the teaching of it by a crossed will, and disappointed prospects; when we shall be able to know the sweetness of confidence, without trust; humility, without pride to humble; the fulness of his presence, without a waste heart; the sympathy of our Comforter, without sorrow; the gentleness of our physician, without pain; the tenderness of our nurse, without sickness; yes, and even the abounding of grace, without sin.
"For ease should I praise! but if only for this,
I should leave half untold the donation of bliss;
I praise thee, I bless thee, my King and my God,
For the good and the evil thy hand hath bestow'd."
I write to let you know that (as your mouth is shut, and perhaps you would like to indulge your ear,) Mr … will lecture at two o'clock this day.
Yours, dear Mr … very sincerely,
For the truth's sake,
T. A. Powerscourt
Powerscourt, 11th February, 1829.
My dear friend, I have been much arrested of late by Acts 5. 12 - 14. Just what believers should be among men. The question is not, shall we put out this or that person from our society; but shall we not so live, so speak, that no man who was not in reality durst join himself to us? Oh! what perilous times these for the church. We see the merciful wisdom in the necessity of persecution and tribulation, to keep the church in the world. She is in prosperity, when in persecution. Satan is not asleep; is more to be dreaded when undermining by expediency, than when openly destroying; deceiving, if it were possible, the very elect; leading them to do his works with plausible motives, and in spite of most sincere hearts; wishing to correct a false idea prevalent in the world — namely, that all religion consisted in living differently from others. The church has now ended in living in strict conformity to the world; so that, in preventing the mistake, she has become unfaithful to her trust, by misrepresenting Christianity, and presenting a false likeness of her Lord; reconciling, indeed, the world, in a great measure, to that which, if faithfully represented, it never could be reconciled to; therefore testifying against herself in the very reconciliation. Is not this the cause why Christianity is so much more profession than confession? … Though scattered abroad, we are not scattered abroad preaching the Gospel; we have sallied forth into the world, walked among its children, stood, and at length sat down amongst them, stretched out our hands to the world, and, consequently, it has stretched out its hand to us; and now we are walking comfortably arm in arm. Did we not meet them in luxuries, they would not meet us. Did our conversation and deportment testify against them, they would soon bid farewell to us. Perilous times when Christians have time to play with idols … A dear friend says, "The church is become so satisfied with her widowhood as to cease to look out for her Lord." Such are we. Times of persecution will only admit of drawing up every faculty of the soul to one point. How splendid the grace of patient waiting in Rutherford, and other persecuted believers. Love almost calls for troublous times, in the faithful suspicion of disfiguring HIS cause whom WE DO LOVE. The more rejoicing there is in the Lord, the more the idea grieves. How often we feel this in individual cases, in the toleration of one's family; how less burdensome often their rejection would be, though they are still so dear. That this is the evil state of things, is evident to all. It is little use mourning over it; but the question with us is, how shall we in serving our generation before we fall on sleep, testify against these evils? For since he must have some in every time to bear Him faithful witness, how shall we be among this privileged set? Since he has shown his affection in trusting our love, (by lending us volumes of his library for the perusal of the world,) surely, it is a most interesting question, how shall we be faithful to our charge? Is not the answer briefly expressed in his own reiterated command, so trampled under foot — Love; to exhibit it in the greater union of the body; in more diffusing around this spirit, this heavenly atmosphere; in more demonstrating it in action. How He entreats, as to this grace; upon what a basis He grounds the entreaty — if ye love; how unlimited He leaves it — "as I have loved you." Self-denying love — "though rich, for our sakes became poor," etc. Devoted love — "gave himself for us" — "kindly affectionate" — "courteous" — "having compassion one of another" — "weeping with those that weep, rejoicing with those that rejoice" — "if one member suffer, let all suffer" — "not minding our own things, but every man the things of another" — "walk in love, as Christ loved you" — the same love will be well pleasing, a sweet incense — "condescending to those of low estate" — "consider one another, to provoke to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching;" showing meekness, gentleness, faithfulness, forbearance, long-suffering. It appears to me, if each body of Christians were to aim more at this, in action, word, and spirit, in each separate place, the world would be more convinced by this oneness, than by using methods of expediency to be of use to them; such as religious parties, etc. Hypocrites would be more ashamed of putting on Christ as a garment of fame; while believers would be fitted into him more closely, as a garment bound round with the bond of perfectness — the badge of discipleship.
It seems to me faithful parochial ministers now content themselves with the work of an evangelist, neglecting the most difficult part of their office — heart searching work … The minister should watch over, warn, exhort, point out from Scripture errors in spirit, and errors in life, and, though last not least, the body should make each others circumstances, as well as the church's interests, more its own; so that the faithfulness shown to each individual would multiply the thanksgivings of many, and redound to the glory of God. It would be sweet to have this pillar of truth, with love inscribed on it, erected in different parts of the country, in the parish of every faithful minister. I would especially enforce on myself, that outward demonstrations of love are far easier than the spirit — our real want is more of the spirit; without this, all endeavours to love, to show humility, spirituality, would be a mimicking Christ, a carcass without a soul. Nothing seems so likely to place in a state of expectation and looseness to the world, as keeping the eye on his second coming. It enables the soul to bound forward, as the struggle which Satan has made to maintain erroneous views on this subject is sufficient proof. I would also enforce on myself, that to give money is the least gift we have to give in token of love. Love, while producing self-denial, also produces generosity in every way in which we can possibly show kindness. Love is not always counting its pence. Then, dear friend, let us behold, as in a glass, every day more of the glory of God, till we are changed into his image. Let us get heat, by living near the furnace of love. May he mellow our hearts into his own spirit! May the fountain poured in overflow to all around! Have we not been loved? Do we not love? Are we not in the light? Are we not the subjects of his petition, "that they may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee?" Perhaps my poverty in this grace, makes me feel the need of it so much in the church. May my want lead to more earnest prayer, to be enabled to "love unfeignedly with pure hearts fervently," "in deed, and in truth," "as ourselves;" not love proceeding from duty, but love that shall produce duty; "as brethren," to those we live with, as well as those we occasionally meet! Is not this godlike grace endeared by being his command, his last, shall I say only command, given when his own feelings and agonies were forgotten in anxiety to comfort his sorrowing disciples? Is it not the embryo of his future kingdom? Alas! my leanness, my leanness! Yet I often think we do not enough wonder at the grace already bestowed. There is so much evil within, we fear to look in even at his grace, and we see it so mixed up in others often, we cannot separate it from the creature; but yet a little, and all his handywork in us shall be shown to his praise and his glory. Every receiver of a cup of cold water shall stand up to witness to it; we shall not recognise ourselves, (Matt. 25. 37.) Till that day I put by my hallelujahs, except for this, that there shall be a day in which I shall be able to praise him. I expect in that day to have much, oh, how much! of his faithfulness to tell you — a joyful, wondrous story, as wonderful to myself, as it shall be wonderful to you. I have thus poured out to you my sentiments, not only to have your opinion, if all this is a fancy of my brain, but if not, for you to try and induce the ministers with whom you have influence, to set an example to others in these perilous days. Pray write soon, and exhort me in that in which you see me most wanting.
Yours, in the sincerity of Christian affection,
T. A. P.
Powerscourt, 7th April, 1829.
My dear friend — Tell … with my love, that the people imagine a vain thing, and the rulers, in taking counsel against the Lord; for He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, and shall deride them by setting his King upon his holy hill of Zion. Nothing shall retard his approach and glory. Each event shall as surely hasten it, as days, and months, and years, bring on eternity.
I hope you sometimes think of me when you go in before the Lord. Oh! you have much to ask for me; and how blessed would be my necessities to you, could they keep you but a moment longer in communion with the Friend of Sinners! Thus might our infirmities, as well as our graces, be made blessings to our friends.
Yours, my dear friend, in Him who is our all in all,
T. A. P.
Powerscourt, 24th July, 1829.
My dear friends must think me dead and buried; yet you see I am revived. I long to hear from you again; what a sad spirit seems to be exhibited in many parts of … ! such a spirit, so much seen in the writings of those who stand up for our glorious prospects, seems to do more against the good at which they aim than all their writings can do for it, at least on this side the water.
Is not the old covenant completely abolished, instead of remaining to be executed? Will you tell me if you think this conclusion just, which I have come to on the subject? Covenant just means God's plans fixed in eternity, being unfolded in the promises, and confirmed by sacrifices. God's great purpose from eternity was, that an inheritance should be possessed by Abraham and his seed, in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. A promise to this end was given in Eden, renewed to Abraham, then to David. The whole arrangement of the Jewish ceremony called the old covenant, or arrangement, were the same promises handed down by types, instead of word; the confirmation of these promises was Christ's sacrifice, of which the smoking furnace and burning lamp were types, like as were the sacrifices. An ordinance of confirmation, relating to the same promises, is still kept up in the Lord's supper; which, while reminding in His sacrifice of the security of God's promise, by repeating as often as we partake of it, "until my coming again," still carries us on to his appearing a second time, without sin unto salvation, when shall be the execution, and full operation of this everlasting, ever new, covenant! I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, etc. I will sprinkle clean water upon them, (Exodus, 36. 23.) I do not see any difference between covenant and testament; for a will is simply the promise of a free gift, with the promise well secured. The will may be made and secured many years before it is executed. Will you take the trouble of pulling this to pieces? I was going to say much more, but have not time. — May He who hath mercy on you, lead you by springs of water — may He guide you wherever you go this summer — may He lead, He who leadeth Joseph like a flock, He who leads the blind by a way they know not, He who will not overdrive his flock, but gently lead the heavy laden — may He go with you and before you. You cannot go from his presence, whatever labyrinth you may get entangled in; He shall so shine forth as to make it a plain path. In the multitude of strange notions that surround, He shall lead you in his truth; in the multitude of sins, He shall lead you in paths of righteousness; in the midst of mortality, He shall lead you in the way everlasting, ever leading to the Rock that is higher than you.
I leave you in His safe keeping, and remain, though a silent, yet a very sincere and hearty friend,
T. A. P.
Brussels, 2nd March, 1830.
My very dear friend — How is your sister? had no idea she was so ill. How much you must both have suffered! I put off every post writing, hoping to give you an answer about … but I cannot wait longer, for I really wish to hear you are both delivered from your troubles. What a comfort to remember there is a great meaning in glorifying God, and that He does use his creatures for that end! There was a great meaning in all your dear sister suffered, and all you suffered in her; to be purified in the furnace of another's sufferings is difficult, it shall be found to his glory at his coming! The world thinks us insignificant creatures; but, oh! how important all we do, all we say. Nothing is trifling. We are a spectacle to the invisible world, &c; the subjects of competition between powers of light, and powers of darkness — pillars on which Christ's kingdom is sustained in Satan's world, temples of promise, therefore houses of prayer, habitations of the spirit. When we pray to be spared a trial, it may well be answered, "ye know not what ye ask," — we know not of what supplies we should thus deprive ourselves. Yes, we are a people to be wondered at. How extraordinary that we should be marked ones, and that all should be forced to see that our kingdom is not from hence, and that our hope is laid up in heaven!
That is very superficial which is only learnt by rote, we must come into the school of experience in order to learn by heart. Alas! what idolatry, what mockery, what mummery around me. May He quickly come, and set all things in order, for this confusion is the earnest of hell!
Tell your dear sister, with my sincere sympathy and affectionate love, I remember her to the All-sufficient. Pray write soon to your very affectionate friend,
T. A. P.
Paris, May, 1830.
My very dear friend — Truly I feel for your fresh trial, one peculiarly trying to you: how graciously He has taught you to bend under it! One sermon from himself is worth a thousand from any man. Never so sweet is it to be raised up, as when He has cast down. Are we not given to drink largely of refreshment, and consolation from the Comforter even in the desert, to lie down in our field of promise. "When he giveth quietness, who then shall give trouble?" Enemies may surround, but our Shepherd is near; enemies may be in ambush, but the shepherd is on the watch. But could we only recount our repose and refreshment — should we not leave half untold the donation of bliss? Is it not blessed to be able to sing of judgment as well as mercy? Surely it is among our chiefest blessings that it has never yet been said of us, "let them alone." Israel was blessed, while God brought down their heart through heaviness, for they cried unto the Lord in their trouble. Israel was blessed, while they slew them: then they sought him, and remembered God was their rock, and the high God their Redeemer. The sorest word ever spoken to them, I think, was "why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more." But though silly sheep still, though still straying, counting the cost, we can say, "seek thy servant." Cannot we testify that love has rebuked, and chastened again and again, when we have turned aside? Has he not been unwearied in preserving our faith? Though Satan has been permitted to sift, his grain of wheat has not fallen to the ground; though cast into the furnace, the refiner has sat over his treasure, because to him the trial was precious. When sin has separated between Him and us, where idols have scattered our thoughts here and there, has He not been bent on restoring? has he not yearned over his Ephraim? Sometimes He almost breaks the heart with such a look as He gave Peter; sometimes he overcomes by passing by iniquities; sometimes by feeding with the rod and judgments. But of this we may rest assured, blessed thought! He will restore, till we can say in the spirit of him who was dumb before the shearers, "any thing with, thy smile," any thing but thy frown? I think at other times the soul feels so conscious of ingratitude and baseness, that its own convictions suppose displeasure in the Friend of Sinners, which needs a strong expression to prove it otherwise. At such times it is not sufficient to know He is a friend, we need a smile to infuse confidence. The conscious prodigal expects a rod, his father runs, "falls on his neck and kisses him." We cannot long read the volume of his providence, it appears to me, without experiencing this dealing; for He delights to expose the soul's proneness to expect dealing according to desert, by sparing when we deserve punishment, and in the midst of judgment remembering mercy. Alas! how slow we are in learning not to turn from, but flee to Jesus in our extremities, as our hiding place and guide. Satan's constant aim I think seems to be, to lead from the simplicity which is in Christ — Christ's to restore us to it, and lead us in it. I believe we are only wise in giving ourselves up to his guidance, and in following whithersoever He leads. Followers of a crucified One, we must expect a thorny, though a trodden path; but He will not leave till He has satisfied, yea, satiated the hungry soul with goodness. His glory is bound up in us! his name is in us! I suppose you have seen … since his return, who has told you all about this place. Infidelity is horrible in the world, more boldly confessed I should think than formerly. Much good here, and nice preaching; simple, joyful, marrow of the Gospel, though not much deep experience. We need to have the enemy met in the avenues within, and overcome with a text. This is where Mr. Howels excels. Tell me some things he has said of late in his sermons.
Yours in truth and faithfulness,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
Paris, June 8, 1830
My dear friend — I should be pained, indeed, if you were to consider I have not often, often, thought of, and deeply felt with you in your last most trying, most peculiarly afflictive visitation. I have remembered you, where alone I could be useful; and I doubt not, you have received some sweet drops of cordial from His faithful messenger. I trust now, as of old, you can say, "It has been good." You have had an experience of his tenderness, which you would not be without, and we know little of. He allots you the most favoured place in his church on earth, to glorify Him in the fires. Behold, how He loves! What a reality ill the promises when learnt in the furnace! What pains He takes in your education! How bright He means you to shine! My dear friend, I have also most gratefully to thank you for the trouble you took for me in the long instructive and interesting letter you last wrote. I have, also, considered your fresh trial, and seen the hand of the Lord in it. Oh! is it not well for us that the cup of consolation is not in our hands? There is One who holds it, yes, holds it for you; and though he mingles the bitter ingredient of sickness and trial, yet, there are drops from the fountain of everlasting love mingled to sweeten the draught; and it has been sweet; yes, I know it has, and wait to hear it from your own mouth in a very few days, if the Lord conduct us in safety. My God does all things well. We cannot see it, we cannot feel it, but He has said, therefore, in spite of sense, faith shall see and faith shall feel, "He does all things well." "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons." Mr. Howels says, A father's heart is not wholly seen till it descends in tears on the rod of chastisement — he knows where to chasten, where the heart feels the rod. Sometimes he sends a rod which is light to ourselves, while a whip of scorpions to others. He also knows when to strike; takes the best opportunity of correcting us the best way; often takes to the edge of a precipice to show us the abyss down which he could dash our hearts till they might shiver to pieces at the bottom; and this, perhaps, when we are complaining of something else, some providence or dispensation. He just shows what he is able to do, to humble and chasten at the moment we require. He cannot mistake as to the matter, manner, time, or place; all selected by infinite wisdom. Oh! "He doeth all things well." Infinite love is in the arrangement. There is the love, pity, vigilance, tenderness, anxiety, sympathy, caution; the whole head, the whole eye, the whole heart of a Father at work. None but a Father can tell the feelings of a father, when, indeed, He chastens, not for the indulgence of his own temper, but for the good of the child He loves. And who can tell what the refinement, exaltation, perfection of paternal feeling is in the bosom of him, who so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son? That Father who spared him not, but gave him up for us — How shall He not with him give all things? How unsearchable must be the love of God to his poor sinful worms where the paternal feelings for Jesus, as to the infliction of sufferings, were (if it be not presumptuous to say) sacrificed to save his people from suffering? Oh! when we so much need the rod, shall we faint under or despise it? May it be sweet to us in the apprehension of faith, however bitter in the feeling of sense. Till I have the pleasure and profit of seeing you and your dear sister, please Providence, believe in the sincere affection and sympathy of a true friend in Christ,
T. A. P.
"Now I beseech you for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me, in your prayers to God for me, that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you."
Powerscourt, 21st August, 1830.
My dear friend — I was most truly grieved not to find you in London when I passed through. I counted that I should have had four days of your society, and could not help dropping a few tears of disappointment on receiving your note. I wonder if we shall ever meet again. Mrs … is dying. Her's is a happy lot; but, that of her devoted husband, experience tells me, will be a long, long, black and sad one; but in His light, no doubt, we shall walk through darkness. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me. It is well to have reality brought before us, to be forced even for others to seek out the promises. We discover ourselves so secure, ingenuity and unbelief cannot find a hole for doubt to creep in. He has provided for every case, and thus proved ours has been foreseen. I love to take the promises out of Christ, to see them lodged in his experience for our use; to remember He earned the fulness treasured up in him — his unsearchable riches. I believe his sympathy to be quite beyond any thing that has ever entered into our hearts. He had a power of receiving his people's feelings into his own bosom, so as to wipe, as it were, their very tears. This sensibility united with his purity, brought forth a remorse, a stinging of conscience more piercing than that of David when he said, "I have sinned." More bitter than that of Peter, when "he went out and wept bitterly." It is an argument with some, that as He could not feel remorse for sin, it is vain to seek to prove that He was in all points tempted like as we are. I believe He could with truth say, "Thou knowest my foolishness, my sins are not hid from thee." I believe in Peter's denial; He felt his ingratitude as a man, and the abhorrence of his sin as God, which wrought within him so grievous a wound. He could well say, "My wounds stink, and are corrupt through my foolishness." Likewise, in his tears over Jerusalem, there was a remorse as to his own, who should crucify Him, as well as compassion for those who should remain in impenitent unbelief, which enabled him also to say, "mine iniquities are gone over my head as a heavy burden; they are too heavy for me." How mysterious his sufferings. They appear more so every day, especially when we remember, that there is a depth of truth in every word He uttered, as expressed in the Psalms.
Thank your dear sister for her letter. You cannot think how much I enjoy both your letters. They are streams from the Fountain of consolation helping to make up my river of peace, consequently drops in the ocean of his glory. How blessed, that when He says it is his will, that his people should have strong consolation, He has ordained it should be communicated through his members!
I want very much to know how far I am to take the promise, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." I find it quite a common idea, that when I ask for bread, I may be given a stone; for fish, I may be given a serpent; that his "liberally" means to let me run into all sorts of error. His "not upbraiding," to deliver me up to the guidance of Satan. At least, I think, it is the same thing to say, I am not to consider what I learn in the study of Scripture, with prayer, the teaching of God.
Believe me, dear Friend,
Faithfully and affectionately yours,
T. A. P.
… It is said when He comes, shall He find faith in the earth? but while taking shame on this ground to ourselves, in having so badly used the talent entrusted to us, let us rejoice that the church is not invisible to her Lord. If it is true of Jews still beloved for the Father's sake, how much more may we say, still beloved for the Son's sake; still is He the head and husband of his church, the Saviour of the body; still does He love her, for whom He gave himself; still does He sanctify and cleanse her; still does He look forward to presenting her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish; still does He love her as himself; still nourish and cherish her as members of his body, his flesh, his bones; still does he cleave to his wife, for they two are one spirit. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. As individuals, we are sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty — as a body, the church, — His celestial bride, (see Rev. 21. 9.) "This," says the apostle, "is a great mystery!" all said of the terrestrial bride, glorified Jerusalem, is true of her spiritually, "Jerusalem from above." Though no individual, or body of individuals, is infallible, yet does infallibility dwell in her, inasmuch as all possessed of His mind, possess an infallible teacher; though no individual or body of individuals is omnipotent, yet does omnipotence dwell in her, inasmuch as a God of power inhabits his people; therefore the gates of hell shall not prevail. What a mysterious subject is Jesus' knowledge as man, an interesting subject! I dare say I before wrote to you on the subject. There is a knowledge which He possesses from everlasting to everlasting, which has been ever perfect admitting of no increase, by which His scrutinizing eye flies through earth and hell, penetrating the bosoms of the lost; but His knowledge as man in which He grew as He grew in years, by which He "knows his sheep," implies love. Love brought Him into our school, led Him through every class in that school. Love educated Him into the knowledge of death and the grave. — With this love, He embraced the individual temptations of all his family, so as to be able to say to all, "Come unto me, and ye shall find rest." This knowledge includes sympathy, for He remembers every lesson learned under the rod — without this knowledge, He could not hold the reins of government, nor present millions every moment to his Father. — By this knowledge, He pursues the lost with mercies, till they cast themselves into the pit of destruction. — By this knowledge, He is familiarly acquainted with all our necessities, and has experienced how we stand in need of his covenant in all its fulness, and all its perfections every moment, all his grace, all his love, all his truth, all his justice. We experience his knowledge, in the aptness by which He applies all He can confer, to our multiplied intricate cases, making us at the same time capable of receiving all He has to give. Sometimes we are reminded of his knowledge, in his noticing our sins, either by throwing into our faces the sparks of hell, as when He looked at Peter, or sometimes by tenderly kissing them away, as when three times asking, "Lovest thou me?" — But He learnt in order to communicate! We may hunger and thirst, for we shall at length be capacitated to receive all the treasures of wisdom, a knowledge hid in Him for us! Angels have no such capacity — "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that," etc. etc. We desire the knowledge of our master, yet refuse the same discipline, but we are learners — we are not ambitious enough. He expects us to learn with the celerity of instinct. — Let His discipline teach us what now to expect — to be giants in knowledge. Jesus was once an infant; He attained his size, because He eat his food, "grew in wisdom." There is something sweet in spelling out of a book, the leaves of which were cut by Him! In his school we must learn most painful lessons of dependance — sometimes be almost flayed alive to keep us from worshipping ourselves. In his school (I mean the one in which He was educated) we shall learn in every difficulty to turn to the Father, as an infant in its mother's arms, at the approach of danger hides itself in the bosom of its best friend, and is happy. In his school, we shall get knowledge to learn to live, to learn to ward off ALL the fiery darts of the wicked with the shield of faith, to learn to walk on the waters in the trials of life, to walk on burning coals in its prosperity, to learn to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, for his rod and his staff comfort. From the meekness and lowly heart of our teacher we shall learn the docility of learners, the bleating of Messiah's sheep, "I shall not want." How the Lord labours to get us to believe that as He is, so are we! Was not the glorified body of Jesus standing at the right hand of God in the light of the highest, when the apostle declared, "Our vile bodies shall be fashioned like to His?" see Rev. 1. 16; Matt. 17. 2; then Matt. 13. 43. See Him as he is, and be like Him! John 14. 3-6. "enter into joy of Lord," John 17. 22; Rev 3. end — "so shall we be ever with the Lord," never tainted with sin, never clouded with sorrow, where death shall have no name, and falsehood be unknown. We shall not long have to write or speak, our eyes will be occupied fully — our ears in ever new delight: God alone will be able to satisfy glorified ears.
Your very attached Friend,
T. A. P.
Pray write soon, and empty out the full of your heart, the evils, the good, and the affections. How I love those dear creatures you are with! I hope your time may be as agreeable as mine with them.
17th July, 1831.
My very dear Sister in a happy family. — We wait with much anxiety to hear from you respecting your husband. We have heard he was very ill. May you have fresh mercies to recount of our faithful God. Oh! how dependant we are on Him! how many vulnerable points! poor triflers that we are! how soon He can bring us into reality and make us real! I trust you may not have had cause to blame me, etc. etc. Whatever is, whatever has been, whatever shall be to you, is well. May you have faith to see it, in all the wanderings you may yet have before you, in this vain, this dark howling wilderness; and when we cannot unriddle, may we learn to trust.
Yours faithfully, and with much sincere affection,
T. A. P.
You have no doubt heard of the death of our dear … after five days illness; typhus fever, so short a time did he enjoy what he was so happy in being spared! Vanity of vanities! His poor wife is every day expecting her confinement, but altogether satisfied with her Father's determination concerning her; love sent it, not only love for time, but for eternity. Can love injure? Yes, in time, for a benefit through eternity. How true, "life is but a vapour." Every thing which tends to aggravate a trial seems more loudly to speak the amazing love which sends it — deep love — when he smites it is to wound, to cause pain, not for His pleasure, but for our profit. It is "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." They on whom the Lord most bestows trouble here, will shine most brightly in the kingdom — polished stones fit for the royal diadem; — tribulation of every kind — not merely persecution for the Lord's sake, but tribulation; and who partook of all so much as the King of glory? The troubles incident to humanity, Jesus made his own, all were appropriated by Him, found in the cup He drank of, and were the essence of the baptism which he was baptised with — to which cup and baptism we are invited. This love threatened to send her last year into the upper chambers of our Father's house, and has actually called him; and if the Lord comes not, though she will not see Him with these eyes till then, she will soon also leave these vaults, and ascend to the house top. What an advantage he has over us I Another sheaf housed, another witness added to the cloud around. It was in ministering to the bodily wants of the poor he took his fever. How full of wonder all His church will be, when at the last the manifold wisdom of God shall be exhibited in the individual and collective salvation and glory of his people.
Most decidedly your, loved in the Lord and in the flesh,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
My dear Mr … , How does your throat get on? I fear not better. This is just what we need — these little changes — to be taught to make use of the promises. Too apt to be satisfied with enjoying His word, while reading and meditating on it, then go away and forget it till the next stated time returns; therefore, it is well to be scratched on the way with little briers, that we may be sent for healing to "It is written," to be made to feed on promises all the way; He creates an appetite for this divine food, then fills the hungry soul with good things — sweet to have a care that we may cast it on Him. I believe it is not his will, we should merely draw upon our bank of consolation, large sums we think worth drawing for, but He wills we should return, again and again, for every shilling and six pence. We cannot trouble Him, and surely, never does he deal more tenderly, than when expecting us to trust, in things about which, He has made no agreement, for no greater proof is there of affection than to confide in love … We know the Lord! therefore can leave ourselves to Him without asking for an explanation till the day of hallelujah. This much we are sure of, every cup our Father puts into the hands of his children must be a cup of blessing, because more or less, the communion of the blood of Christ, it infuses health before we drink, therefore given with Him, every curse is turned into a blessing, every blessing kept from being a curse. I cannot pity you in being shut up, for you have so large, so beautiful a field of meditation to walk in — Christ crucified — Christ applied — Christ glorified! He hath done great things for us! Great things are spoken of us! Oh, may we be enabled to keep his end in view simply as our end; namely, his glory. For so admirably has He interwoven his glory and our happiness, that while our happiness constitutes his glory, his glory constitutes our happiness; and never shall we know what true satisfaction is, till we cease to fight to be gods, and take our place as nothing, till self is lost in the "all in all" of God … Excuse this long letter, but I was reading, that it is our Father's will his children should have strong consolation, and I thought it would be a nice thing to be a rivulet of comfort, helping to make up your peace as a river, and thus be also a drop in the ocean of His glory …
Yours very truly,
T. A. Powerscourt.
My dear Mr … , I heard yesterday you were not well. I hope it is nothing more than cold, and that you have not laid in your hoarseness for the winter, not only for our sakes, but it must be a trial to the friend of the Bridegroom, to be unable to nourish and comfort his friend's bride, especially, when, in entrusting him with so precious a charge, during his absence, He has manifested such a confiding affection, "lovest thou me? Feed my sheep." Well, you have one more difficult task, than, either defending, or supporting her — that is, comforting her. She so often asks, "Watchman, what of the night? Why tarry the wheels of his chariot?" She so often complains "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." She so often needs to be reminded, that He has indeed left this message with you for her, that "the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee," — "I will never leave thee," and to be urged — "Though He tarry, wait for Him, for He will come, and not tarry." May you be much cheered in contemplating the day of the Bridegroom's return, when you shall restore your precious charge, when your joy shall be fulfilled, in hearing His voice, and receiving "Well done, good and faithful servant," etc. How I should like to be a minister …
T. A. P.
March 3rd, 1831.
My dear Mr … , I have been dwelling a good deal lately on the sweetest of all subjects — our union with Jesus. It is a holy and mysterious subject, but since our teacher is one who searcheth the deep things of God, is it not our privilege to venture under his guidance into all revealed, even into the most High; to walk about and consider this our habitation, and call all within, our own. Whatever declares the identification of Jesus with us, also witnesses to our identification with him. He was educated and disciplined in every thing. He was taught by the Spirit; led the path of faith, not only for our sakes, but our inheritance. We have an interest in his person, as well as in his office and character. We must live in God, inhale his breath, for like the sun, we can only know him by his own influences proceeding from himself. How holy would be our walk! how much of the atmosphere of heaven we should diffuse around, if we always came forth into the world, from the secret place of the most high, as our abiding place. What a field of delight this opens to us in the anticipation of our own loveliness, full of grace and truth, like Jesus! heirs of all the wealth of him who is God — precious in itself, doubly precious from being his. But not only future delights, but present privileges; for united to him, though a beggar in rags, yet in graces is not the believer this moment, our dear Brother in embryo? I speak not of Jesus our Lord, as God over all — the "I am," or "my fellow," neither as "the Word," who was "in the beginning with God," "by whom all things were made;" who came out from the Father, to testify what he had seen and heard. But the union which, as Jesus of Nazareth, He possessed when anointed with the Holy Ghost, and with power. He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed, because God was with him, which is expressed (it seems to me) in, "we are one," "the Father in me, and I in him." It having pleased the Father, all fulness should dwell in him, even all the "fulness of the Godhead bodily," which oneness He declares, we shall know at that day. This union, whatever it is, is ours. "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." He that keeps his commandments — whosoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God — he that dwells in love — he that loves his brother, God dwells in him, and he in God — "We will come and make our abode with him," "Christ in you," and in "that day," this oneness shall also be known, for "ye shall know in that day, that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you!!!" From this union seems to flow every other blessing. Being members of his body, of his flesh, and his bones — "joined to the Lord," therefore "one spirit," the same things which are true in God, are also true in us, who are Christ's. Oh, what a world of glory is opened to us in these words, "my beloved is mine, and I am his!" Nothing can separate us from Jesus. Nothing extracts Jesus from the cup presented. Laden with him every event must be full of love, though perhaps blessings in disguise. He gives to drink of his own cup of blessedness, and glory. The grain of wheat having fallen into the earth, taken root in the depths of hell, we have sprung up in him. If exposed to the same blasts, we also enjoy the same refreshing dews, the same enlivening sun. Possessed of his nature we shrink, as the sensitive plant, from the touch of sin, but with him shooting up into the very heavens, we drop into the Father's hand, the tender grapes of his choice vine. "All our fresh springs," are in him.
Your description of all the dear Christians at … is lamentable; sad, very sad, the members should be so unlike the head; and this alas! is too true of us all. The transcript of the Spirit, though executed with exquisite nicety, is scarcely perceptible through the thick veil of flesh that covers it. It seems no longer true, "no man ever hated his own flesh." Whether we look at the want of his power in his church, or of the fruit of his Spirit in his members, still are we inclined to ask, has the Spirit of the Lord fainted? Is He exhausted? where is he? Query, is not this quarrelling among the children of God, the natural result of want of communion? The religion of Jesus especially enforces and cultivates union. Satan's wiles seem set at the dispersion of the members. So that now the principle is almost denied, and Christianity merely a business between God and the soul — and where it is sought, it is usually only union of sects — must not then, the graces which are the fruit of love, want cultivation? "suffereth long, is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, etc." In this how entirely Satan has succeeded in the Roman Catholic religion. Each has his own prayer to say, they do not seem to know there is such a thing as united prayer. I heard a minister say the other day, he thought his business was to convert souls. From scripture it seems to me, a minister's chief business commences instead of finishes, when a soul is brought to life, and for this how much more is needful, than the public congregations. However for such dead souls, is not storm better than stagnation? I am sure the evil is not in differences of opinion, for this is the necessary result of increase of light, but our evil is more, that we cannot allow another to see things differently from us. But we are in a warfare, and though not receiving wounds from the flesh in the shape of persecution, we must be receiving them from some quarter. The flesh still wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, because still contrary one to the other, and if in the spirit, we must feel it so, from wounds without or wounds within. Most painful, if from the flesh of a beloved brother or sister. But does not this even turn to us for a testimony? and does it not give opportunity of showing, that the flesh is subdued, by loving, and persevering to love through all? If in every rub, our concern is for his glory having suffered, surely we shall then strive to disappoint Satan in our brother. All would be much easier to endure, if instead of taking it as from this sister, or that brother, we could take it as from our common enemy, the flesh. Wounds, one from the other, seem more now, our appointed trial of faith than open persecution, and had we not this, we might forget we were in a conflict, and put off our armour, therefore in these wounds let us not wonder, as though "some strange thing happened, but rejoice in being by any means partakers of his sufferings", for if this whole dispensation is not the day of the church's; fasting, a day of temptation, and suffering, how could the promises of being partakers in the glory of a suffering Saviour be ours? To suffer with him and to be glorified with him, seem closely connected. There is something sweet, in being pruned by a wounded hand, and oh! when we feel the drowsiness of our affections, our proneness to depart from him, and to be satisfied at a distance, have we not cause to be over head and ears in love with trials? that He should be so jealous of our friendship now, to force true happiness upon us, in spite of ourselves, to drive us to his strength, to live upon his promises, and lay our head upon his breast — He is not satisfied his tried children should be common Christians — He considers us — and if He says, "prove me my child," it is that He may introduce us into the innermost chambers of his faithfulness. No doubt in a short time, we shall know much of this, but persecution is the Christian's halo, and trial his triumph. He is called to glorify the Lord in the fires. It is a noble thing to be accounted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's sake. What soldier would flinch from the combat, when his captain is gone before him in the forefront of the battle? What soldier of Christ is he, who having the assurance of victory, and honour, accounts it a privilege to be out of the field? Are we not called to suffering? are we not chosen as witnesses to his resurrection, in being above, far beyond its sting? Let us expect a succession of trial, and suffering — to have just to post fast, from trouble to trouble. In our God, we are able. As the spirit of prayer strives to be heard, and the spirit of thanksgiving breaks forth into singing, so does the spirit of martyrdom delight in the sphere of action. We are superior to the power of death. Death, in his own domain shall acknowledge us risen. We have overcome the grave, and are set down with Christ our Lord, in the glory of the Highest. How jealous we should be, to show forth his active, as well as passive graces, while left in an enemy's ground! There is nothing else to live for. I feel that a desire to have been more spent, and to have suffered more for my beloved Master, in this theatre of his humiliation, is the only thing, could make me hesitate, in my longing desire to be with Him, who is, and has been, so abundantly with me. But we are such creatures, God cannot accomplish his will, or allow us our heart's desire, without severe discipline. Every day afresh, He has to pursue us out of self. The old man must be kept low, emptied out, to enable us to be filled, with the fulness of God. Oh! to bid an eternal adieu to self; as a tormentor! Oh, to be able to be nothing! This is my idea of the height of glory. We are everlastingly grappling at his honour. In the secret, lower chambers of the heart, we devise means to rob him of this, his due — then we know not how to wear it. The robe of glory was never made to fit us. We carry it with the most absurd awkwardness. Thinking ourselves something, we become perfectly ridiculous. In these fearful days, I should fear much for myself, were I not able to take a full, strong grasp of his promise, "If any man lack wisdom," etc. I cannot think when I ask bread, He would give me a stone. Did I not think my teacher as faithful as He is infallible, there is no book, I should so fear to handle as the book of God. Left in any degree to ourselves, it would be as the plunging into a sea of errors. Such is the poison of the human mind, it requires all the wisdom, and energy of omnipotence to prevent our salvation becoming our destruction. May we be in earnest, may we live while we live — may we know more of that love, which will take a brother's failings to a throne of grace, while throwing over them a cloak of charity — which will fix on his grace in a brother, and render thanks for it — which will be faithful in reproof, as well as jealous in defence. May the beam be more and more extracted from our own eyes, that we may see fewer motes in our brother's. I do not know what to say for writing so long a letter.
Faithfully and affectionately yours,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
My dear Mr … , I have a feeling about me, that I have left something undone; and the only thing I can think of is, that I have been so long from home, and have not written to you. I suppose you have all been going on as usual, at least Mr … from whom I heard lately, does not say any thing to the contrary. We hope to be home the beginning of next week. I am sure you were much shocked at the death of dear Mr … It was a striking lesson to the whole parish, so soon after rejoicing with him. It is a loud voice to us, "up and be doing." The time is short, and very uncertain. He is safely, and very unexpectedly, housed in the Lord's barn. There was much that was lovely in his character; a laying aside of self, and his own pleasures, and pursuits, to be of use, and comfort to others, was especially striking. As doing this from duty is rather irksome to those to whom the attention is shown, therefore, I think, to seek to have formed in us the mind which was in Christ, is better than to seek to imitate him. Does it not seem that the world is breaking up? Does not Satan seem to be arranging his forces, so as to be ready for the battle of Armageddon? How we should be bespeaking strength for the day of trial. I cannot help thinking we also shall have trial, though not to partake in the despair and desolation of the last end. Does it not seem that the end brought about by the man of sin — the last Pharaoh — Dragon incarnate, will be the demonstration of our patience, and the faithfulness of Him who will keep us from falling? Are we not told under the 5th seal, that martyrdom shall continue until the hour of God's vengeance? More martyrs, therefore, are to be slain; for the blood of God's servants is not yet avenged — judgment must begin at the house of God. Matt. 24. 22, says, that unequalled tribulation shall be shortened for the elect's sake, while every declaration of Christ's being come, is a falsehood. It seems to me that the verses 15 and 28 of Luke 24. prove the destruction of Jerusalem not to be the entire fulfilment of this prophecy. Mark, in chap. 13. seems to says, that it is, after the Gospel has been preached in all nations, brother shall betray brother, etc. It is said of this time, "Here is the patience of the saints." Blessed then the dead, that die in the Lord; oh what a time! shall we see it? Surely we need to count the cost, to put on the whole armour of God, that we may enter boldly into the battle, since our enduring will be for our Captain's honour, and to the proof of his power. It seems the church must walk in the footsteps of her Lord. It will be terrible to be betrayed by one's own child, by one's familiar friend — to see the name of Jesus almost eradicated — the worship of a devil set up — we ourselves assaulted with Satan's most cunning, because last, snares; and if to pass through his experience, to drink indeed of his cup, and be baptized indeed with his baptism; our hearts may be poured out like water, we may sink in deep mire, and our Father's face be hidden; for unless these days be shortened, no flesh could be saved, but for the elect's sake these days shall be shortened, for then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. The Lord tells us to watch and pray, that we may be accounted worthy to escape, what is coming on the earth, etc. It cannot mean a prayer to die, for there is a great promise to them who endure to the end, those who overcome. Does there not seem to be two distinct destructions spoken of, Babylon, and the Beast? But how blessed to be among those whose sufferings will be full of hope! Does it not seem from the types, that His people are to be delivered not from, but out of affliction. He knows how to deliver us out of temptation. We are witnesses of His resurrection. He was only the first fruits. We are superior to all the power of the enemy. He died through weakness, but was raised in power. To this power we are united. What a triumph over death it will be, in his own domain (when as it were, death shall be let loose on earth,) the gathering up of his saints! What a thunderclap of hallelujah, when all the prayers of all saints for our poor world, long, long laid up, shall all be answered in one event!! …
… Ever most affectionately yours,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
Dear Mr … , I write to accuse you of want of love; — our Master's badge of discipleship, who is love. — His last and dying command. — No doubt you will agree with me that all the Gospel, as well as law, is contained in that word love. How much we need to be led into the height, depth, length, and breadth of his own word. Is it not poverty of love makes us crave the spirit, and forget the practice? is it not the same poverty enforces the practice, neglectful of the spirit? Oh! that all the church would unite, in each putting, at least, one stitch in that rent mantle, with which the apostle enjoins us to cover a multitude of sins. — Oh that we could more decidedly pluck out the beam from our own eye, that the mote in our brother's might appear less! Oh that we more honoured the spirit, in giving credit to the principles of those who love the Lord in sincerity, and by our faithfulness more drew upon those principles. It seems to me the nature of love is twofold. — First, it is given to excuse, instead of accuse. Second, it is equally jealous in covering and detecting evil — covering it from others — detecting it to the individual concerned. Pardon me for saying, it seems to me you have failed towards me in both these points — Christian love, where God's glory is the simple motive, no doubt would lead us to consider others, both in feeling ourselves bound to give thanks, and to glory in what God has done for them, and also in carrying the blind, maimed, halt and infirm, in the arms of faith, to place them at the feet of Jesus. My accusation is, I have heard from two or three quarters that you have brought me forward as an example of inconsistency in having … Is that all you saw inconsistent!!! I do not write to justify myself. I can "lift up my face unto God;" neither do I profess to act for man's judgment. But was it consistent, was it Christian love to condemn, unheard, not to point out by word or letter this evil in your sight? Was it being jealous over God's glory, to be so little jealous over my walk? Alas! how little sympathy of conscience, how little help we meet in our most difficult paths! nevertheless, though overlooked at the time, since pointed out, I confess the appearance inconsistent. Do not, dear … think me offended; I am not in the least so, but should be glad you were to continue using my example if it can be of use; but my motive in writing is to prove to you by this your failure, how much we need mercy one from the other, as to our consistency, and how ill we can sustain judgment. If not falling on one side, we are on the other. A deep sense of "Behold, I am vile," will settle us in our right place, as respects God, others, and ourselves; truly we are given to totter in our own conceits, as a stick balanced on a man's finger falls either to this side or that, we are ever going, going, but blessed be God, never quite gone, because the finger is Omnipotence. Let us pray that in striving to represent, we do not altogether misrepresent, the lowly walk to which our high vocation calls us.
Yours, dear …
With sincerity, etc. etc.
T. A. P.
Powerscourt, February 18, 1831.
My dear friend — I was indeed surprised to hear of … How little similitude exists between the members and the Head; and this, alas! is too true of us all. The transcript of the spirit, though executed with exquisite nicety, is scarcely perceptible through the thick veil of flesh which covers it. It seems no longer true — "No man ever hated his own flesh." Whether we look at the want of power in the church, or of the fruit of the Spirit in the members, still are we inclined to ask, has the Spirit of the Lord fainted? Is He exhausted? Where is He? "Now when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not, until I have shown thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come." But we are in a warfare; this is the battle hill; and though not receiving wounds from the flesh, in the shape of persecution, we must be receiving them from some quarter. The flesh still wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and if in the spirit, we must feel it so from wounds without, or wounds within. Most painful, if from the flesh of a beloved brother, or sister. But does not even this turn to us for a testimony? And does it not give opportunity of showing, that the flesh is subdued by loving, and persevering to love through all? Wounds one from the other, seem now more our appointed trial of faith than open persecution; and had we not these, we might forget we were in a conflict, and put off our armour. Therefore, let us not wonder at these fiery darts, as though some strange thing happened to us, but open our bosoms to receive of his suffering, and rejoice in being counted worthy of being partakers of them by any means; for if this whole dispensation were not the day of the church's fasting, the day of his temptation and suffering, how could the promise of being partakers in the glory of a suffering Saviour be ours? To suffer with him and to be glorified with him, how closely connected! Dear friends, take this as from the Lord, even as you do. He is pruning with a wounded hand; and, oh! when we feel the drowsiness of our affections, our proneness to depart from him, to be satisfied at a distance, have we not cause to be "over head and ears in love" with trial, that He should be jealous for our friendship now; so force true happiness upon us in spite of ourselves, so drive us to his strength, to live upon his promises, and lean our heads upon his breast? He is not satisfied that we should be common Christians. Oh! bless him and kiss the rod. He is considering you. Let us leave ourselves to him. If He says, prove me, my child, it is that He may introduce you into the inner chambers of his faithfulness. If he places you in difficulties and perplexities, it is that He himself may expound his promise in your experience: "I am your shield, your exceeding great reward."
"Venture on Him, venture wholly.
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good."
We are all too apt to feel that had we some other race to run than the one set before us, we could go lightly, and run swiftly. Now I feel impeded by the weight of being called queen of a castle; and imagine, could I lay it aside and have nothing, then I might run with more patience after the Crucified. I am inclined to say, in your race you have no misgivings of conscience; you feel assured that you are just as He has placed you! Thus He sets a race before each, and gives a sufficient remedy for all, "looking unto Jesus." But I know the sorrows of your mind, and pray that balm may be poured into the opened wound. May your spirit be kept above with Jesus, and the spirits of the just! Look forward. That new song requires our parts to complete the harmony. He could not be satisfied with the travail of his soul, until he had worked out our salvation. Oh! mysterious Jesus, teach us thy works and plans. Let our hearts pant after thee as the harts after water. Create a thirst which nothing shall satisfy but the fountain of eternal love. See the velocity with which the needle flies to the magnet when it gets within distance; so shall we hasten to our magnet, our Beloved, as we approach him. Then, to be delivered from the noisome pestilence within, to rise from among the pots, and to be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, will draw forth such hallelujahs! May He make us what He would have us to be; give singleness in the eye, and fidelity in the conscience! I hope you or … will soon be able to write, and tell us how you have decided.
Believe me, yours very affectionately,
T. A. P
Powerscourt, 14th May, 1831.
My dear friend — I have wondered at all you have told me. Oh! all the foundations are out of course! What disorder, what confusion on all sides! what sin, what misery! Nehemiah would not accept the service of the Lord's enemies in building the temple. Does not the world stand to the believer in the same place, as the Gentile to the Jew? Are we to permit them to have common cause with us in his work? Are we so to declare that the Lord's servants are not sufficient for his work? Surely they would be, if as devoted as Satan's servants. Are we to cringe to the world for its influence, its wealth, its labour? The world is not less dangerous now; not less an enemy to truth, than when Christ prayed his people should be kept from its evil. False friends arc the worst of all enemies; wolves in sheep's clothing. But where is the world? If all are Christians, there is no world. What a state of disorder and confusion we have got into! All our precepts necessarily thrown overboard. We are enjoined to closest union with Christians; distinct separation from the world. We cannot exercise the latter with those we professedly acknowledge brethren; we cannot exercise the former with those with whom we have no sympathy; all being shut up to profession. None profess, while in conduct we give every day a lie to our profession, in judging those who profess to profess. The church and the world are like tumbled drawers. May the great Head of the church, the King of the universe, quickly come and put all in order! What a glorious destiny awaits us! how the dwelling on it should humble us! "When Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hand, and that He was come from God and-went to God, He laid aside his garment, took a towel, girded himself, and began to wash his disciples' feet." Pray let me hear what you do. It is refreshing to hear now and then of his faithfulness in guiding you continually. It is well to trace his footsteps through the dark and hidden providences with which we are exercised. Depend upon it, He is leading by a right way to the city of habitation. Though the path may not be clear, his faithfulness is — "I know in whom I have believed." Oh! the peace of being brought in sincerity and truth, to lie back in his arms, saying, "undertake for me."
With true affection,
Yours in our real hope,
T. A. P.
Powerscourt, 2nd September, 1832.
My dear friend — It is long, very long since I have heard from you. I hope you will not therefore refuse to write to me a very long letter, and tell me all your present sentiments and experience, and what the Lord has been instructing you in the last year. I know it is goodness and mercy which have followed, but it strengthens faith to hear the hows, and the whens. As for me, to all appearances, I have been going on in a quiet sameness, yet never, I believe, has the Lord been more dealing with me, exposing me to myself, and bringing me low, than during the last year. I have learnt some very bitter lessons, because I am a great dunce. I should be glad to know what you think concerning reigning with Christ. Do you think it is for all, or only for martyrs? I have been thinking a good deal on the subject of late. It seems to me that the reason why it belongs to this dispensation to reign with Him, is because this is the dispensation of martyrdom; the fast days of his church, because of the absence of her bridegroom. Rest at any time seems a mere accident. "Sheep appointed to the slaughter;" "the offscouring of all things;" "bearing about the body of the Lord Jesus;" "always delivered unto death," — this is the character of these promised days of tribulation. It is still his hour of temptation. Acts, 1. 4, 5. Luke, 22. 28. When God would heat his furnace to the height for an example of faith to the end of time, what did he prepare? Not suffering of the body, but the furnace of affliction, "thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest." It does not seem to me to signify so much what the trial is, as the coming out of it, saying, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." I conceive we are all given opportunity of this martyrdom. It seems distinguished from the suffering which we have in common with the world, in that it is a suffering for principle, a trial of faith, a voluntary preference of suffering in the flesh, to denying Christ in any wise. It is a denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, a cutting off a right hand, a plucking out a right eye, rather than offend. Oh! how many secret martyrdoms are thus endured unknown to man, but precious to God! Now, I do believe, never was there a time that this doctrine (the connexion between reigning and suffering) would bear less to be overlooked, or required more to be brought forward; for truly, there is such a thin,, as refusing martyrdom, even as much as if we were to turn from the stake. I speak from experience. The Lord wants proofs, not words. After Peter, much distressed, answered, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;" Jesus answered, "prove it." I believe there is such a thing as even the believer's being so allured, so led captive by things of sense, as for even the mighty argument to be overpowered, "If ye love me keep my commandments," — and that many Christians under the conviction that their souls cannot be lost, live in the indulgence of unlawful gratifications, rather than go through the torture of the whole heart being drawn and quartered. But, surely, if the millennial reign of Christ be a particular reward to Him for his sufferings, as "Son of man," "Son of David," distinct from the everlasting glory, those only who have partaken with Him, shall reign with Him. Do tell me what you think of this; for it seems to me that though there are now many saved Christians, there are but few reigning ones, — "rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy," — "if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you," — "if we die with Him we shall live with Him," — "if we suffer, we shall reign with Him," — "we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye also suffer," — "to them that overcome" are the royal promises given, "to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father". "I will give him THE MORNING STAR." "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown," — "I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name," — "him will I grant to sit with me, on MY THRONE," etc. And "if children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we maybe also glorified together," — "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comfortable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of or from the dead." — "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might be partakers of a better resurrection." When asked by the mother of Zebedee's children, for the highest places for her sons, when they should come into his kingdom, He answers, "Ye know not what ye ask; are you able to drink of my cup, and be baptized with my baptism?" Therefore the disciples rejoiced, that "they were counted worthy to suffer," — "that they were given not only to believe, but to suffer." Do not think from this that I would make light of the all-prevailing principle of Love, and wish to go back to rewards; no. Get the heart, and you have got the man. Love makes drudgery divine. Love cannot help itself, it outruns and leaves law far behind. The question is not what must I do, but what may I do? In grieving its object, love grieves itself. This is the secret spring of the believer's actions, which makes him often pass in the world as an enthusiast. Love will stop at nothing; it takes up its cross and travels after its object over every mountain and hill of difficulty. It was this strengthened Mary, when the soldiers quaked with fear; it was this kept her hovering round the sepulchre, when all the disciples went to their own homes. Love desires all to be partakers of its own bliss; it overleaps human opinion; it runs on with an unceasing cry, "what shall I render for such benefits?" "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." But I mean that all arguments the Lord has used are needful, so dead often is even love, in sleep from continued lullabies of the flesh, and opiates from the devil. What poor empty creatures we are! I am quite out of conceit with myself; such tossings to and fro, such ebbs and flowings, sometimes lifted up to heaven, sometimes sunk into the depths; the soul fainting within because of trouble. Satan is so watchful and well experienced when and where to assault the soul with most effect. He delights to get a soul into heaviness through manifold temptations; and it is not always easy to find patience in the assurance that for these there is a needs be; and though we know each tossing draws us nearer the land of our inheritance, sometimes faith fails when "for many days neither sun nor stars appear, and no small tempest lies upon us," yet how often are these things for the purpose of lightening the ship, or perhaps for the trial of our faith, or for exposure of our little faith. But though the end be useful, the exercise is not less painful; and it is humbling, (therefore it is good), it is humbling, to have the question put home, where is now your faith? Nevertheless, how often in these things our gratitude is called forth, to him whose love and faithfulness have not failed, when our faith and hope have failed, that, though forced to acknowledge "my foot slipped," we can also add, "thy mercy, O Lord, held me up." The gold of the sanctuary must be tried before accepted; and it is thrown into the fire, not because it is of no value, but because it is so precious. What a sad state poor Ireland is in! But we are above every thing of Satan's working. From the secret place of the Most High we can look down and smile; our enemies are all conquered by that spirit in Christ's humanity which dwells in us: so we are more than conquerors. With love …
Believe me, dear friend,
T. A. P.
My precious friend — What excuse can I make to myself for my long silence? I should like much to hear from you all that is in your mind … told me you wanted my thoughts on the … tongues. What are my thoughts? Are they the Lord's thoughts? Come, and see. As to these dear creatures, I say not a word; I dare not; but if in any thing I be otherwise minded from his truth, God will reveal even this to me. Yes, let us not be more unbelieving as to that promise than any other; He has undertaken to lead. Let us but keep the eye of faith on His eye. It still appears to me, that we should not expect gifts now. One difficulty with me was Eph. 4. 13; but when I compare it with 1 Cor. 12. 28 verse, I find all miraculous gifts excluded, in the one to continue, while mentioned in the church then at Corinth. It may be objected, He would not give such minute directions concerning what was to cease, yet He does on other subjects; for example, about meat offered to idols. Another difficulty with me was 1 Cor. 13. 10; that which is perfect not being come; that which is in part must continue. But I observe, that tongues are left out, when explaining what was in part (9th verse.) Again, Mark 16. 17. If you turn to I Cor. 15. we find He was seen of five hundred brethren, then of all the apostles. It seems, when He appeared to the twelve was the time which is mentioned in Mark, after which He ascended; and when He appeared to the multitude, was the time mentioned in Matthew, where no mention is made of the miraculous signs. See Luke also, and Acts. He was with the eleven when He ascended. If this is so, may not the miraculous gifts have been given on the introduction of the new dispensation, even as Moses was given power at the introduction of the former, to show it was from God; as our blessed Lord said, in healing the man sick of the palsy, "that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, arise, take up thy bed and walk," etc. It is not said that more than the apostles received the gift on the day of Pentecost; and does not Paul say, "the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience in signs and wonders and mighty deeds?" He does not mention that these are the signs of ministers, 2 Cor. 6. etc. May it not have been poured out on the apostle to communicate by the laying on his hands? I see but one instance without the laying on of hands, and that is the case of Cornelius, "as on us at the beginning," as a sign from God, and of his having called the Gentiles. Also Paul tells the church of Rome, he desired to go to them to impart to them some spiritual gift, that their faith being strengthened by this, his might be by theirs. Also, see Rom. 15. 18, 19. I do not think history would be satisfactory; we may judge even from the variety of opinions, and different views of things now. But good historians, who have studied with that view, say there is nothing satisfactory. Ireneus says in his days there were miracles, but he only says so from the authority of another, not from having seen them himself. Have you read … ? What do you think of his views? His books on Second Advent and Revelations? Tell me, especially, what you think about all not reigning with Christ? You know there is so much to say to you, there is no use in saying any thing. What do you think of the world? "These things must first come to pass, but the end is not yet." "See that ye be not troubled."
I sometimes long so much to hear from you, but cannot get leisure to sit down to write you a long letter, without neglecting something that seems at the moment quite necessary. We estimate, I believe, very badly, what is, or is not, for God's glory. I, every day, see more and more how His glory is only to be found in simply obedience. When we settle our own plans, we go too much on current opinions; and thus often deprive ourselves of much blessedness, both in our own experience, and the good done. So it was with Peter, when he said "thou shalt not wash my feet." He intended well, was full of love and zeal, and surely the answer given him well suits us. Though we may not see his end, let us simply obey, and what we know not now, we shall hereafter, when the Master Builder has brought forth the head-stone with shoutings, "grace, grace." Soldiers do not question, why this, or why that? The general has the place and end before him: the soldier has only to stand when desired, and go when commanded; let each take his own way, and all is confusion. Oh! how sadly ignorant we are of His will and mind, because so sadly ignorant of Scripture! we work, work, work, all in the dark, till night breaks in upon us, and we find we have been spending our strength for nought. In these times we need to be imbued with truth, instinctively to recoil from error and embrace truth. Either light is so bursting in, or else darkness so thickens, or perhaps both, that there is no time to take this, and take that, to examine; we arc through ignorance at our wits' end, "tossed about with every wind of doctrine." "Teach us." Then give us courage to act, not only in opposition to the opinions of the world, but with all humility, in opposition to the opinions of Christians. You ask me what I have learnt lately. That none but God could know and endure me; that the discovery of me will make even devils stand aghast! it is quite true. He has been leading me in ways I knew not, though I might have known them; and though I am altogether weary of myself, He has not fainted, nor is He discouraged yet. The hottest of all furnaces in which He tries faith, is that heated with our own sins. Oh! what sweet truths He often whispers to His saints from behind clouds! till sometimes they almost dread the thought of ease — yet the ear of faith is too often stunned by the roaring of the thunder, while under the cloud, hears not, till the small voice follows. The path of each is just the kindest and best, that Love and wisdom could devise when sitting in counsel upon it before the world was! He makes our wants occasions by which to enrich us. He seldom calls His child to descend into trial, but we find He has been in it beforehand, therein depositing unsearchable consolations, and we come up enriched, invigorated and purified. May it be so, dear friend, in your experience. He is saying in each providence, "drink, oh! drink abundantly, oh! beloved!"
Yours in much attachment,
T. A. Powerscourt.
Are not the Roman Catholics going on in a very strange way? Prepare us for whatever thou art preparing for us! When in Dublin I went to see for the last time, dear … his end expressed the same as his life — I have proved, and "I know in whom I have believed." Remember me cordially to your dear husband.
… I have laid your verse before Mr … and Mr … for what am I to answer it? This is Mr … 's answer (Matthew 5. 19.) "The most desirable thing would be first to discover a fixed determinate meaning of the phrase," the kingdom of heaven," but I fear this is not easy. The two ways of explaining it are: First, as the Christian religion itself, or the spiritual and invisible power by which it is maintained in the heart. Secondly, as a kingdom yet to be set up in the literal acceptation of the word, of glory and power; and now I quite incline myself to the latter signification, and that any other use of it is only this transferred, as we know is commonly done with terms that are of wide and extensive signification. A great part of Christ's office consisted in his introducing a new religion, which religion it was necessary for all to adopt and profess, who looked for entrance into his destined kingdom. There may be some difficulty in interpreting all the particular passages in which the phrase occurs upon this principle, and the passage before us may be an instance of this. But, nevertheless, I conceive that it would be established by any patient examination of the Scriptures on the subject. It may also be difficult to determine, when it is used in its proper, and when in its transferred signification. I will therefore give an interpretation which will meet both. First, he who falls into such misconstruction of Christ's doctrine, as to esteem lightly himself, or to teach others lightly to esteem the precepts of God in the smallest particular, shall have the lowest rank of felicity in Christ's kingdom. Secondly, if it refers to the religion, then I think it means that all they of the kingdom of heaven (whose characteristic it is to cleave fast to the pure law of God without men's glosses) shall have such a teacher in no estimation, shall not seek or follow him. In which sense you see I take the kingdom of heaven, to mean those who have had their heart's eye purified to discern the real nature of the kingdom which is to be set up. I cannot offer you any thing better than this; but one thing is plain, and herein may we be exercising ourselves day and night, to hate every crooked way, and to esteem all his precepts concerning every thing to be right."- So much for Mr … now for Mr … 's "kingdom of heaven in this passage, and every other, means the visible church, that is, all baptized persons!" Now I have filled almost all my paper, and left little to tell you how goodness and mercy have been following me. I feel a great desire to send you a full account of my dear … : because you ask me, if we had answers to prayer, and because it would express to you, that I believe you are interested in what concerns me. I will write out extracts of some letters for you. When you read them, you will not be surprised that this unexpected, miraculous, satisfactory conversion, and answer to my many prayers, should have filled my heart with joy unspeakable, almost to the exclusion of every other feeling. How could I do any thing else but rejoice when I realized the welcome, he was receiving, when ushered into the midst of the heavenly host, at the very moment they were rejoicing with Jesus, that he, who had been dead, was alive for evermore! I seemed also to hear the music and dancing as he drew near the house. And every step in the affliction was so thoughtful! so very faithful! such distinct answers to prayer! such an evident struggle with Satan for that dear prodigal! but the accuser was disappointed; the body was delivered to him, that the spirit might be saved. His light afflictions worked for him a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. He dealt with him as with Job, diligently covered his poor body with sores, but could not touch his life, till from his Lazarus-body angels carried his spirit into the bosom of the covenant! The good Shepherd laid him on his shoulder, after seeking him out! then causing him to know his voice, he carried him off triumphantly to heaven! We never were so near. Formerly there was a great gulf between. Now we are united in one; a little thin veil of flesh between, which just prevents us hearing, and seeing, one another; but very soon and very easily will it be torn asunder. And can we not wait, dear friend, for that day, since we know in whom we have believed, and are persuaded He is able to keep all we have committed to Him, not to be lost, but to be restored, richly restored, in that day? He is sleeping in Jesus, I dwelling in Jesus; he tasting rivers of pleasure, the streams whereof make me glad. We never understood each other before. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." He is removed from our family, but received into the family of God, into Jesus "of whom the whole family of heaven and earth is named," — and dirty and soiled as the prodigal was found, "by riotous living," yet is Jesus not ashamed to call him brother, for He has had part with the children, that He might taste death for every man. "He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, being all of one." How refreshing, in the middle of the 5th chapter of Luke, in the middle of so many proofs of his godhead, to find Him withdrawing into the wilderness to pray: he needed to receive, and what an argument against what Satan often puts before us, that because we are engaged about some useful business, some charitable work, we may put off prayer: this is our weakness. I fear you are very unhappy about … to be separated from him when ill — how painful! but remember how precious is his body to the Lord; it has been purchased as well as the soul — not his own, not yours, but the property of Jesus. Oh! we have not entered at all yet into the fulness and freeness of His love. Each day teaches that we knew nothing of it the day before, and when we shall come really to behold it, we shall find we knew nothing at all. We come to him with so much suspicion, so much as if He were loath to give, so much as if he were looking for some excuse to get out of His promises. We have no idea of His longings to bless. How He only wants some excuse — how he is the first mover in every mercy. "In ages to come shall appear the exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." Pray on, trust on, very dear sister! Blessed to know the character of Him with whom we have to do. Pitiful, tender, full of compassion, waiting to be gracious, keeping mercy, plenteous redemption. It is enough if there be willingness in us for anything which is of the Father; his very office proclaims "I will." Now let us rise, trust Him for more and more, glorify Him; thus expect largely, He is willing!!! It is not Jesus in humiliation, but Jesus in glory, beseeches us to receive all fulness treasured up in him for us. All we see and admire in him, not a cry we send up to him, but is a prayer from him to us to receive what we ask him to give. There is no sound but comfort in the voice of Jesus. No sovereign act comes spontaneously from Him yet but is mercy, though it may involve judgment to some. He was bent on mercy to Israel when Pharaoh crossed his way; yet how he strove with Pharaoh; how often Pharaoh hardened his own heart, before God did so finally and judicially; yet even then was it but to carry on his designs and determinations of mercy! How a message was sent to him first, then three plagues before they touched him materially, and every plague calculated to bring him to repentance. Lay your dear … on the lap of prayer, and all is well — see all His providences in the light of the rays which shine from the new Jerusalem, then we see them in their true colour. "Father of lights, in whom is no variableness;" this is his disposition. An act of love may be very kind, but there is no security for the future; but when the disposition is love, unchanging love, all must be loving, because he is love; all must be wise because he is wisdom … Powers are at work, let us nestle into the bosom of a Father! Ireland may have to be put into a strait waistcoat; the church may go mad; but Jehovah is always in His right mind, always knows what he is about. May He, my dear friend, lock you up in the concave of his shield.
Most affectionately yours,
Theodosia A. Powerscourt.
My dear Mr … , I sit down to write to you, not with the hopes of suggesting any comfort, for I know by experience that it is He alone who maketh sore, who can bind up; He alone who wounds, whose hands can make whole. But I cannot help telling you how deeply I feel for you, and … Few have had more cause to weep for themselves; therefore few ought to be able to weep so sincerely with others, or to tell them of that comfort, whereby they have been comforted of the Lord. Oh, indeed at such moments, this world is a sad, sad, blank. All seems mysterious, confused — desponding. The devil suggests questions and rebellious feelings, which at other times, we should shudder at the very idea of; and we almost say "I do well to be angry." Is this your case, dear Mr … ? or can you, through the cloud, so perceive the smile, not only of peace, but of affectionate tender love, in the countenance of that Father who holds the rod, as to be constrained to run into those very arms which chastise. Oh, how blessed you are if enabled to take this comfort and are spared the agonies, I was permitted to feel for a while, when with all the promises I could feel no comfort in believing them to be all mine; but found I could not grasp at them in my own strength, but needed the support of the same spirit as sustained Christ on Calvary. Never, but for the books of Job and Jonah, could I have believed that my tender Father could stand by, see it all, and yet wait to be gracious to such a wretch. But "faithful is he who hath promised:" — "He will not leave you comfortless." It is in faithfulness He has afflicted you. Because you are his son He deals with you as He has dealt with his Son. Even if shut out from sensible communion with Him, so was he, whose only support was, that He could still say, "my God." No affliction at the time seems to be joyous; but wait on the Lord, He will comfort your heart. I know He will. That Comforter, who made up for his bodily presence, is still all-sufficient to make up for your dear child's. If we could but see one glimpse of his love in these afflictive dispensations, if we knew now, as we shall know hereafter, we should indeed say, "Our Jesus has done all things well." No metal on earth is of sufficient value to show how precious to Him is the trial of your faith, as it shall be to his honour and glory, at the great day. Oh! what a great need-be there must have been for this blow, when He could so chastise his beloved ones. Not one pang could be spared; for he sits Himself as a refiner over his fire to temper the heat, and he feels every anguish with you; not like the pity of a friend who never knew what sorrow was, but the sympathy of Him who was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," who experienced all we can possibly feel, that he might be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and succour us when tempted.
Ah, what lessons our dear Lord is now teaching you, lessons which angels can never learn, teaching by heart, which was perhaps only known before by rote. When He takes up the lesson we find none can teach like a parent. How differently we read "all is vanity," — "oh, that I had wings like a dove." How it shows us what must be the odiousness of sin, and the greatness of the Saviour's love to the sinner: … What hell must be, when this one spark from it is sufficient to make us rejoice for ever in having escaped it. How unspeakable and incomprehensible must be the weight of glory, when the Holy Spirit can call these light afflictions in comparison, not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. And does it not also teach us to sympathize with our dear Lord, in his sufferings, when we cannot even taste his bitter cup, without foreign strength; while Father, Son, and Holy Ghost seem united in comforting us: — cordials at hand for every woe, in the exceeding great and precious promises wherewith they comfort us. He could say, I looked for some to have pity upon me, but there was none; for comforters, but found none. Alas! I believe there is even in the mind of the believer, something which disposes him to turn to things of time and sense, though his judgment is convinced of their insufficiency to make him happy. One thing after another must be cut off, which binds us to earth, and it may be, the strings of our heart almost broken by the operation, but the Lord is determined to separate us from sin. I do believe He has purchased these afflictions for us, as well as every thing else. Blessed be his name, it is part of his covenant to visit us with the rod, little as we may be worthy of it! May we be enabled to wait for the issue. He says, with power, "give me thine heart." How shall I give up any part of it?
"He breaks our schemes of worldly joy,
That we may seek our all in Him."
And can we quarrel with him for so loving us? He who could say for us, "Reproach hath broken my heart, I am full of heaviness, my tears have been my meat day and night." Oh! that I could say any thing that could be of any comfort; but all I can do is, to try and tell you what He has been to me in my troubles. He seems (if I may so speak) to have watched every opportunity in which I should be most likely to feel my loss, as if it were to fill up the gap with his precious presence. Have I in the rebellion of my heart said, I have no companion, I am left quite alone? He has spoken to me so sweetly in his word, that in spite of myself, I have been forced to say, He is enough. Have I said, I have none to open my mind to? He has led me to, "then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, here am I." — Have I said, I have lost the kernel of all my earthly joys, I have lost my husband? He has led me to, "Thou shalt call me Ishi, and shall call me no more Baali." — Have I said, I am left an unprotected creature in the midst of a wicked world? He has led me to, "Let thy widows trust in me." — Or, a foolish creature with no adviser? He has led me to, "His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor!" "I will guide thee with mine eye." — Or has it been, I have no prop to lean upon going through this dark howling wilderness? He has shown me where the church is represented "coming up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved." And He is the same now, and I doubt not, but He is saying to you, why weepest thou? why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten children? I believe it to be his love expressed in a peculiar manner. Peace unspeakable can be enjoyed in the midst of tribulation; the soul is able to realize the joy hereafter, and pant for it, as at no other time; and he is made more acquainted with himself and his Saviour, which I believe is the only real happiness after all.
Then to draw the veil and look at her as she is; your prayers fully answered: Are you regretting that she is not left to know more of the woes of this unhappy world? Was it not for the Lord that you were bringing her up? was it not your first desire for her, that she should be found in his narrow way: and what is that? "Much tribulation." How far she has left you behind: perfect in the praise you are only learning to lisp. A child's death seems to be the triumph of redemption: — left on Satan's kingdom for a short time as if to laugh at his power. He did not think it too much to give his Son to be made miserable for you: will not you give him your child to be made unspeakably happy? You would not wish her back only that she might speak to you, and you to her. Could you form an idea of the reception she met with when ushered into the presence of her Saviour and her God? could you see the wisdom and love which fixed the period of her existence here, you not only would not part with one pang, but would delight in the dispensation. By faith you are enabled to say, "ALL IS WELL"; and if a voice could reach you from the everlasting, would it not re-echo back, "ALL IS WELL"? No longer any distress; not one distracting thought, but peace reigning for ever — love the everlasting theme; — love to Jesus, who is very near also her weeping friends; who walks with you in the furnace; who puts under you his everlasting arms, and, in a few short years, will bring you to meet her, know her, and be happy with her for ever; "so shall ye be ever with the Lord."
I fear I have been tormenting you sadly; pray pardon me; and do not answer me if painful to you. Pray give my love to dear … Tell her how sincerely I feel with you both; but she has still a husband, and you a wife. Oh! value that treasure while you have it. Do not say you are bereaved, while you have one to live for, to mourn with you, and to whose sorrows you may add by over much grief. May you be long, long spared that unparalleled blessing! May Jesus now lift up on you his countenance, that in his light you may walk through darkness! May sad remembrance not draw your spirit down to earth! May faith pierce the cloud of sorrow, and keep your happy soul above, rejoicing in that bliss which will soon be yours! A little while, and you will behold Jesus, and find him really yours for ever; a little while, and you shall join the just above; a little while, and you shall see how this rough blast of human woe has hastened your little bark to shore. May you know more and more of the value of the balm of Gilead, more than you ever did before, and be able to say,
What thou canst, without thee I am poor;
With thee rich, take what thou wilt!
Yours, dear Mr …
With Christian affection and sympathy,
T. A. Powerscourt.
This came, though veiled in darkness from above,
A dispensation of eternal Love.
He who perceived the dangerous control,
The heart-twined spell, was gaining on thy soul;
Snatch'd from thine arms the dangerous decoy,
To give the brighter hope, and purer joy.
Oh! see how soon the flowers of life decay,
How soon terrestrial pleasures fade away!
This star of comfort, for a moment given,
Just rose on earth, then set to rise in heaven.
Turn back thine eye along the path of life,
View thine own grief, and weariness, and strife;
And say, if that which tempts thee to repine
Be not a happier lot by far than thine.
If death in infancy had laid thee low,
Thou hadst escaped from pain, and sin, and woe.
The years thy soul the path of sorrow trod,
Had all been spent in converse with thy God
And thou hadst shone in yonder cloudless sphere
A seraph there, and not a pilgrim here.
Oh! it is sweet to die, to part from earth, —
And win all heaven, for things of little worth.
Then, sure, thou wouldst not, though thou couldst, awake
The little slumb'rer, for its mother's sake.
No ill can reach it now, it rests above,
Safe in the bosom of celestial love.
Its short, but yet tempestuous way is o'er,
And tears shall trickle down its cheeks no more.
If bitter thoughts and tears in heaven could be,
It is thine infant that should weep for thee!
Brussels, June 1st, 1830.
… May the Lord's blessing be on this step! and though the path to glory must still be a path of tribulation, yet much may be done to aggravate, much to alleviate, in this tender tie. — But the Lord only knows what is before us all. — Happy to know He is our Shepherd, therefore, happen what may, we may boldly say, I shall not want. — And what an immensity is contained in that short text! — The greater our necessities, the more his all-sufficiency gains utterance, so as to force us to glory in our necessities. I hope you will write very soon, and tell us every particular about your dear sister. I trust you may be able to say she is better. — Yet, is there any thing in this world you would offer her in exchange, for what you desire to keep her from. Oh no! there is but one concern, are we really on our way to Him? When the curtain shall drop on the dearest friends, forced at length to give up their hold, shall it, indeed, be, "I fear not, because Thou art with me." Though the subject does not seem very appropriate to matrimony, yet, as in the midst of life we are in death, it would be well for us all, at all times, to strive to keep in view this end of our existence, this solemn thought, we have to die. It would be well to try to realise how we shall feel, standing alone with Jesus in that untried, unknown somewhere. There is nothing ugly in death to the believer. I have been lately called in expectation to face him. There is an honesty in his countenance, which while terrifying the ungodly infuses such a holy confidence into the child of God, that he will conduct in safety to Jesus. We are left to the single thought of how we shall meet him. Had we no other motive, what a powerful one is this to cultivate an intimacy with him now, to prove Him; to make Him our secret keeper, our bosom friend; that when we meet, it may be meeting one "whom, not having seen, we have loved!" And having proved His faithfulness all along the paths of righteousness, we may not feel a suspicion of His deserting in the last step of faith. To the believer it cannot be a dark valley; for there is no need of sun or moon where the Lamb is the light thereof, and His rainbow is thrown over it. Oh, what rich feasts "the dogs" may gather from the crumbs which fall from the children's table! — I mean how richly we may partake of promises addressed to the Jews — see Isaiah 43. He has redeemed us, he has called us by name — He has not spared his only Son for us, we are His; so precious in His sight, therefore honourable; and he loves us, has CREATED us for His glory, therefore to us also He says, "fear not;" again, "fear not, for I am with, thee." What shall we be called to this year? to pass through the water, to wet our feet with the uncomfortable cares, perplexities, disappointments of this life: fear not Israel! Prince with God! I am with thee, the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel (thy property,) thy Saviour — what have we then to fear? Only remember all through the year, "I am with you" …
Brussels, Feb. 23, 1830.
… Blessed portion her's! The crown without the cross! Oh, does it not make us love that Saviour who extracted all the bitter, and left her only a cup of love? Dear … you do not, you cannot wish she had staid in such a world (that you might look at her, and talk to her,) where pure happiness is only to be found in the ocean of tribulation, through which you now all wade — "She came to show how sweet a flower in Paradise would blow." — Now she is safely locked up in the casket of her God, to he brought forth when he shall open his jewels. Ah! I have not lived in this world many more years than she has; and I can tell you God meant what he said, when He gave one promise for this world — "Much tribulation." There is a depth of meaning when "The Truth" speaks, which we must learn by deep experience — the meaning of words is only taught in the school of affliction. We think it worth travelling the path of sorrow only for the earnest of what remains for her: the earnest alone is far, far beyond all your fondest desires could have heaped upon her. Treasure up these choice moments, when enlightened by the furnace. The vanity is made legible, which the finger of God has imprinted on all below. How near it brings another world, that one of ourselves, brought up with you, exchanging with you every desire and interest, should now be there. The object is only removed from earth to heaven round which your affections were entwined, that your hearts may be drawn up, instead of downwards. Yes! we need these realities to make us real. We are believers in profession; we are atheists in lives. We must live for eternity, we must be what we seem to be! While our Bridegroom tarries, we either slumber in stupidity, or dream in sleep the greatest nonsense possible, even of earthly happiness; while our very disappointment in not finding it, testifies to our unbelief. We need continually to be thus roused, that casting off our works of darkness we may at the Bridegroom's call, be found clothed in light.
"We've no abiding city here,
Then let us live as pilgrims do;
Let not this world our rest appear,
But let us haste from all below."
One has said, "they pass best over the world who trip over it quickly, for it is but a bog. If we stop, we sink." …
Dear, dear Mr … He has indeed suffered much. Ah! but he is now privileged in being called before he leaves Satan's kingdom to exhibit in living words, before those to whom he has long recommended his Lord, that there is in him a spring of consolation, the world knows nothing of? It was seeing this in his mother that first arrested the great Cecil in his career of infidelity. Lying one night in bed, he was contemplating the case of his mother. "I see (said he within himself ) two unquestionable facts. First, my mother is greatly afflicted, in circumstances, body, and mind; and yet I see she cheerfully bears up under all, by the support she derives from constantly retiring to her closet and her Bible. Secondly, that she has a secret spring of comfort, of which I know nothing; while I who give an unbounded loose to my appetites, and seek pleasure by every means, seldom or never find it. If, however, there is any such secret in religion, why may not I attain it, as well as my mother? I will immediately seek it of God." He instantly rose, and began to pray. May he be given faith, to glorify his faithful God in the fires. May not his excess of grief bring up a false report of Him, who has answered so tenderly his many years' prayers, and even given him to hear it from her own mouth, — yet a little, and he shall see how blessed she is! How preferable to have her safely locked up in a bosom of love, he has proved, he can trust, before him, to leaving her in a world of woe and temptation after him. It is no light thing to profess love to a "jealous God," — It shall be tried, because much more precious than gold that perisheth. He vouchsafes to tell us the trial shall be found to His praise, honour and glory, at his appearing; needful to Him; needful to us! Sometimes it is purified in the bleeding of another's heart. We can talk, we can suffer, we can do, we can die; but one thing, says Christ, thou lackest — prove me paramount to your dearest idol. — How you must miss her in every turn, in every thing you do — but the end of all things is at hand! Let faith take her stand on Mount Zion, and look on present things with a retrospective view. — A hill looks different from the top and bottom. — Do not look at the way — you know Him who has engaged to carry you through; you shall go from strength to strength. — The furnace shall be heated, proportioned to your faith; but He is the refiner, who swept the house, sought out and rejoiced over his bit of gold; you shall not be lost, for His name is in you. He sends you word, "Behold I come quickly." Let hope spread out the wing of contemplation, fly over all between, anticipate your meeting with your betrothed husband, and your re-union with the family of God! so that joy and sorrow may be alike swallowed up in the rejoicing of hope. — No regret in that wedding — nothing but joy. Oh! when He sets about blessing, He shall satisfy, for He blesses like a God — you shall be satisfied with him: He shall be satisfied with you, for the day of the gladness of his heart was the day of his espousal to his church. (Can. 3. 2.) — You shall enter into the joy of your Lord, satisfied with the way you have been brought — satisfied with the provision of your Father's house — satisfied with his likeness in yourself. Shall not the first words this family shall express one to the other be, "Was it not worth all." — "It was a true report." — "The half was not told." He has said all possible to raise our expectation to the highest. — Surely it is not like him to put us off with a trifle. "Oh, how great is the goodness thou hast laid up, etc." Our universal song, "Worthy the Lamb" — our particular song, "Our Jesus hath done all things well." Is this indeed ours, and will you lament? — is this your dear sister's, and will you repine? Oh no! let the rest of your life be one expression of gratitude for his having snatched one so loved from the very jaw of the lion — for having translated her from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's own Son — for having chosen her in him before the foundation of the world — for having written her name in the Book of Life — for having dissipated every doubt of her peace in Jesus — for having so gently carried his lamb- in his bosom — for having followed her with goodness and mercy through the valley, till safely housed in her Father's home. Whether we sleep or wake, we live together with Him; we lie upon the same bosom, and you shall find it filled with love. When experiencing his sweetness, let it remind you what He must be to her; let every tear whisper "Faithful is He who promised." Look at your dear father's sorrow and remember, He who holds the rod has said, "As a father pitieth his children, so He pitieth you." Time is so short, see how short, do not spend the little moment in only lamentation: you are called to glorify your God in a manner you shall not be able to do, all through eternity. The morning cometh! do not sleep as do others! Be a light, by holding forth the Word of Truth; let it be legible in you, "Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth." I do not attempt to express what I feel for dear … and all; that would be poor comfort; but I have reminded One of you all, who needs no reminding; who is peculiarly with you at this moment — a present help in time of trouble. He draws near in his own time, with consolation which He alone can give. "In your afflictions He is afflicted" — enter into this truth, till it shall spread abroad in your heart a peace passing understanding …
Bushy, October 1835.
… I trust this may be a fresh link to heaven, being received from heaven; if not, it will not be his fault, for he intends blessing, full blessing in all his gifts. Any thing let down in the white sheet to us, cleansed of God, a resurrection gift, is no more common or unclean, if we have grace to receive it from heaven instead of earth. How happy is Jesus, rejoicing in the joy of his people; He learnt to weep with those that weep; that He might be able fully to rejoice with those that rejoice. So should we, his people. If we had more of church feeling, less of individual feeling, the joy of each would make us more happy than the one rejoicing. How happy must we then be! and Jesus loves to see us happy. He sorrowed, that we might rejoice; it is the best recompense we can give Him, for what could He have done more for us than he did? He came, that we might have life! He spoke, that our joy might be full! We are not united to a broken heart, but to a heart which has been broken, full of the tenderest sympathies; but every sympathy filled with life. He stood as the recipient of death — He learned the word thoroughly, and now must have all the glory. Every thing may be to us the communion of the body of Christ, on which we may feed by faith with thanksgiving. May you find it so in your dear little one! To every thing there was a meat offering, to be ate by the holy priest in the holy place, because most holy; to them belonged every dedicated thing. It is a difficult lesson to learn, but a great one to have learnt — that the fear is, not our loving earthly objects too much, but of loving them wrongly; that God's object is not to destroy the affections, but to direct them, as Mr … remarked. The poisoned pottage is a description of the natural heart of man: the moment the prophet poured in the meal, it is, "pour forth, there is no harm in the pot." The moment the relation between the heart of God and man is perfected, the moment the handful of meal is thrown into the heart of the saint, the command of God is to pour forth all these relations. There is a master principle put into these relations which governs them; there is not less power in them, but a new will in them; our affections ascend through the heart of Jesus; the heart of Jesus is a filial heart, and when our affections are lodged in this heart, they become filial also; there is but one will, all one. I think I have remarked that in entering on a Christian life we think much of how we believe, how we do, how we suffer, but we take love as an easy enjoyment. Now it seems to me, however difficult to believe, to labour, or to suffer, nothing is so difficult as to learn to love. Nothing so dangerous as to love wrongly. Nothing will through our course give us so much suffering, because it is heaven, which knows no law, but the spirit of God let loose on earth. It is life in close contact with death. Dear … open wide your hearts to this fresh stream from heaven, keep it pure, that there may be a continual reflection of love, to the gladdening the heart of him, who was joyless, the man of sorrows, that you might receive your little one, and love him without fear … today while it is called today labour, exhort one another, be up and doing — tomorrow we shall see him! and all his saints with him. No yesterday, but the cross of Jesus; no tomorrow but glory; no today but Christ, the day of Salvation! To me to live is Christ, may it be so with us all. I believe I desire nothing else but to be used as He will for his glory. I know that I desire to desire nothing else; but oh our will, our will so often pretends to be his, there is so much to learn in that verse, applied to ourselves "when thou wast young", when first setting out "we gird ourselves, and walk where we will", we are long before we learn to stretch forth our hands, (so expressive of leaving ourselves to another, ) and let him gird us, and carry us where we would not …
July 16th, 1833.
My dear Mr … , Oh, what a relief! when He will appear on the heavenly hill! to set all in order! with the same delight and readiness, as hitherto He has shown in his work of redemption. Love still moves quickly towards its object; runs while yet a great way off; hastens to heal the backslider; to receive graciously, to love freely! with every temptation, makes a way to escape; while yet praying, hears; is a very present help in trouble; hides but for a little moment; longs after us, (Phil. 1. 8.) With the same alacrity He is coming; not a moment will He delay beyond the appointed time! If love could say of suffering, "It is my meat, and drink," for the joy set before him, what a joy He will have in coming to receive his own "to himself, that where He is, there may they be also." No sooner shall the strong voice, and mighty cry be heard, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen," than shall follow another cry from heaven — "come out of her my people." He waits for the last signal, when, immediately after the tribulation, shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; when the last elect shall have been born into the world, and fitted for glory, He will be found ready; and as though too impatient to wait till earth is prepared for his reception, we shall be "caught up to meet him in the air." He remembers He has jewels in Babylon; He will gather them for his crown when about to visit the earth as King. He will come — He will not tarry — to welcome his bride; for his last message to her, which she treasures, and ever carries in her bosom, was, "behold, I come quickly!" "Make haste then my Beloved, and be thou like unto a roe, and to a young hart, upon the mountains of Spices." Prophecy alone can keep us in impatient patience, even in the spirit of Lot. Indifference to the evil was not ready — his children had to be dragged out, and he waiting for them. A mixture in the evil is not ready — some of his children were left behind. A heart in the evil is not ready — his wife looked behind. It must be a spirit vexed with surrounding ungodliness. May we be among the sighers and criers, not among such as love to have it so. The more God has lost his witness in the world, through his people's unfaithfulness, the more, surely, we should labour individually, to let his truth shine out in us. May He, in order to this, take care of his little precious seed, sown in the barren soil of our hearts, all nigh choked! May He descend into this, his conservatory, and in the stillness and seclusion of it, with all his own tenderness and skill, root up every weed, and dress about his lovely exotics, which He brought from heaven to earth, even all the graces of his Spirit. May He cause them quickly to burst forth in splendid bloom, and rich verdure, to bless and praise him. Dear Mr … do not cease to pray for the most needy of the Lord's saints. I have written too much about myself. It is doing to you, as I should like to be done by. Please write without delay …
Very affectionately, yours,
T. A. P.
Lough Bray, November 26, 1833.
… You see, much loved brother in the Lord, what an unconquerable correspondent I am; but you know we shall very soon meet, never to part again. This is our privileged time of labour, and only what may be considered in that light is our lawful occupation; but this is among the labours of love, at least should be, for I think we should have a conscience neither to speak in vain, nor write in vain. I wish you were, indeed, coming over to us. Much as I have written to you, I do not feel to know much of your internal man, either your outward or inward exercises. Do write me a history of your life from the beginning to your present trials, and joys, and blessings from without. Then write and tell me all your inward experiences from the beginning, and whether now you are a happy believer; if you have unclouded faith and realizing hope; whether the joy of the Lord is your strength. And do not leave out little things, because, it is such things show me your confidence in my interest in and affection for you. I feel it is for this reason, that the Lord loves us to take our little things to him. I like to be told all that concerns, even down to the kitchen maid, and stable boy; for what are we here but to suffer one with another, even now in a sense to judge the world, or to be the communicator of blessings to the world from above. Will Jesus strengthen? It is mostly through a saint. — Will He comfort? It is through a saint. — Will He sympathize? Again it will be usually through a saint. We are losers, when in our pride we refuse to be dependant one upon another. Dependance is the Christian's proper position, therefore, for his happiness; and it was, no doubt, a new pleasure Jesus learnt, as a creature, both dependance on the Father, so beautifully shown throughout, and dependance on his creatures. They ministered to him, He looked for pity from them, (the most humiliating thing we can receive). Oh! if we lived as members of Christ, and members one of another, each saint would discover a prop in his fellow saint. Such seemed his intention in a church. — His wisdom saw that our necessities so required, and, therefore, provided — his thoughts towards us being mercy and love; but we marred his intention; nevertheless, is it not beautiful to see, even in our wants, how well He understands us; it brings the conviction, that when He shall set about satisfying, how well He will understand it. "When I awake in his likeness, I shall be satisfied." No, nothing else will ever do. We have by faith seen the glory of our risen Lord. Nothing can satisfy us but resurrection. To the end, we go on in some shape believing Satan's lie, that we can find good here in its present state — but the thing is impossible. It must be but repeated lessons of disappointment, because Satan has defaced our God from his creation, therefore in it destroyed our enjoyment. Nothing but resurrection is worthy the gift of a God, or worthy for us to receive — being risen, united with Jesus in his resurrection. The best testimony we can give Satan that the whole is ours by right and title, is to receive no part from him. To refuse to have any thing to say to it, till we receive it redeemed from its lawful King, who has paid the redemption price. The things of the world and the things of the kingdom must be for ever and absolutely distinct. One from beneath, the other from above; one of Satan, the god of this world, the other of the Father, the reward he has prepared for his Son, proportioned to his sense of merit, in the work of his Son, risen Lord of a risen creation. For a little moment, even while merged in the curse, his works now appear often lovely, but quickly are we reminded that Satan rules. Our proper position is, therefore, as those that wait till the manifestation of the sons of God, when creation shall put on its beautiful garments, its resurrection robes, its robes of glory, to welcome its King of kings. Well for us, as little as possible to know any thing after the flesh; for this world's strength is defiance of omnipotence — its wealth, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life: — its wisdom, rejection of Him who was the whole wisdom of God: — its affections, friendship with the world which is enmity with God: — its glory, having succeeded in turning out of it the Prince of life. Life rejected, life turned out, — its glory! it is nothing but a sepulchre, death, and all comprehended in that awful word; a beautiful ruin that attracts the eye, but when we look in, — the sepulchre of Jesus. — But our hope!!! had any of the princes of this world known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; destruction and death have only heard the fame thereof with their ears. Blessed thought! There is nothing which belongs more to the resurrection, than hope; therefore, Satan so fights against the second advent. "Begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is in the power of this hope, which is the power of the resurrection, that we can alone mount up with wings as eagles, be dissociated from all around, and stand aloof from all below. I think this truth also, brings strongly to the mind now, that every good gift is from above, and comes down to us from the Father of lights, it is "wisdom from above" — new will, new affections, new taste, new understanding, not the old sanctified. May we, dear brother and friend, have power to digest these truths, so that health and strength may be by them diffused through our spiritual system — may we be as the living among the dead, maintaining his right and his cause in the hour of his rejection … I am writing, as you see, not from Powerscourt, but from Lough Bray, a little fishing cottage over a lake embraced in high mountains, of majestic, threatening appearance, seeming to defy the approach of any evil to the children of the Most High. The invisible things of God, even his eternal power and God-head, are clearly seen from the creation. To us it has a voice, i.e. "it is all yours," all this majesty and greatness; for, as the mountains stand about the lake, even so mercy embraceth us on every side. It is a lone spot, three miles from Powerscourt, up the Glenchree mountains, where I used to visit the Roman Catholics; our nearest neighbour is the priest. People who judge only by sense, say, we shall be shut up by snow and starved, not able to get help in illness, — that we shall die of cold, inflammations, etc. — be murdered by the Roman Catholics, — but I have an answer for all, "Let thy widows trust in me … When Jesus saw the multitude following Him, he turned and said," He that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple." Yes, the true disciples must take the shame of the many professors. We know our hearts to be separated from these trifles; therefore we think the outward expression of it of little moment; but did we declare plainly that our kingdom is not from hence, that we seek a city, so many whose hearts are not separated, would at least count the cost. "They seek to carpet the way to heaven." It is therefore I have taken a cottage in the neighbourhood, to make the principle more clear. But it is all His doing; I held back as long as I could; I said, impossible; but He pushed me to it, shut me up to it, then made darkness light before me, crooked things straight, and do you think He will fail me? "They shall receive a hundred fold more in this life, and in the world to come."
It is a foolish thing to resist conscience, better to do an hundred other foolish things, for they at least express our sincere desire to the Lord to follow Him, at any cost; and he that does his will shall know of his doctrine, while the resisting of conscience, brings us to a stand still.
My dear brother in the Lord, — Which is most wonderful, for a moving mass of sin to be accounted holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, or for one who knew no sin, to be treated as a mass of sin? Is it really so? Has the offended really endured the infliction of the law for the offender? Has the infinite space between God and the sinner been filled by himself? Has He really taken bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, to enable Him to stand in the gap? and not only so, but does he now put himself into the attitude of a beggar to implore sinners to be reconciled to Him? Can earth show a more wonderful a more stupendous mystery? Yes. The sinner refusing to be reconciled!! Hear, oh heavens! and give ear, oh earth! and learn the manifold wisdom of God, in his tender compassion. Yet what an unspeakable blessing, that all doubt of willingness lies on our side. No danger of his pleading with his great power against any who come, be they ever so far off. Though Ethiopia but stretch forth her hand, still He will in no wise cast out. Though we go, have gone, and do go, to the furthest boundary of sin, sorrow, remorse, anguish of spirit, hardness of heart, unbelief, ingratitude, backsliding, still it is written, "He is able to save to the — uttermost — uttermost — ALL that come unto God by him." Yes, we are precious to him; He has valued us at the price of his own precious blood. We carry about in our body as a casket, a pearl of great price to Jesus, one of the pearls belonging to his crown of glory. Let us treasure it, let us not trifle with it, let us not cast that to swine, which is to be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, to make up a royal diadem in the hand of our God. Yet among all the wonderful truths which are almost too good to be believed, the one we first mentioned seems to me the most so. — That inasmuch as our surety has been treated as we deserve, so are we altogether as our surety deserves; that as God loves Christ, so he loves us; that in the court of justice we are one and the same, we shall be argued about, as though we had done and suffered all He has. Do we ask, how much are we one with the second Adam? just as much as we are one with the first. Let us allow ourselves the full strength of this belief, so that every recollection we are forced to of our oneness with the first Adam, may remind how closely we are united to the second. It is no more with us, is God angry with me? But is He angry with his Son? Not, — shall he condemn me? But shall he condemn my surety? Not, — shall any abomination, and ingratitude pluck me out of his hand? but shall it pluck Jesus? Surely that robe is sufficient to hide us altogether, which was made to his dimensions. How out of character for the believer to take delight or interest in that to which we are dead, "how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" "reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ;" and being "risen with Christ, let us seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth." The bustle of life should be no more to us than the buzzing of flies round a corpse. Since the Father reckons us one with his Son in his death, let us reckon ourselves one with him in our life; one in what he loves, what he desires, what he abhors. In return for a love many waters cannot quench, all He asks, is "love." Oh! may we ever remember that though we give all our substance, time, talent, any thing, and yet keep our hearts for idols, it will be utterly condemned. Now it is time to thank you for your three welcome letters. It is pleasant to write to one who proves he values a letter. I suppose Mr … told you he left us at P … at least if you touched on so insignificant a subject: and gave you a lesson that while man proposes, God executes; that while the lot is thrown into the lap, the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord. Sweet to lie passive in his hands, and know no will but his. We are now settled at … ready to receive you when you come. I wish we were able to offer you a bed, but the only house we could get, is a little nut-shell, a nice little baby-house, very clean and new. You will have to come side-ways through the hall, and up the stairs. The three drawing-rooms would all go into the one in … the fog of London is as stupefying, as the wind of Edinburgh is bracing. If you do not make haste, I shall be in a stupefaction before you come.
My purpose is to hear Mr. Howels, Sunday morning and evening, and Mr. Wilkinson, Tuesday morning.
London, May 8th, 1833.
… I am now going to allow myself the pleasure of writing to you, dear and kind friend in Jesus. We do not communicate much on the way; we shall have more to tell at the end — a joyful wondrous story, such as angels love to hear. — Then shall all our trials of faith be to His honour and glory! What intense interest, therefore, must be each trial of faith to the invisible world. Many are our expressions of love to our God, and most valuable to him are those expressions; but He is a jealous God, words are not sufficient. Again and again, the anxious enquiry comes, "lovest thou me more than these?" Till tried, we know not how little faith we have. Faith must be put in the scales with something very near our hearts — yes, with what is nearest, for it still must be "more than these." The furnace must be heated in proportion to the increase of our faith. Is it, because God willingly afflicts? No, but the trial of faith strengthens; faith consumes its dross. The trial is precious to God — more precious than gold, because it shall endure. It is his riches, his treasure, precious to him is it to have proof from his child — "Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." Is not every painful providence a messenger direct from the throne to our hearts — a ministering spirit sent forth to the heirs of salvation? It brings this message — now I will put home the question in a way that shall be felt. Are we ready to say, I could have borne any thing but this? Then let us remember the greatest compliment God can pay us, is to heat the furnace to the utmost. He is, in fact, then saying, "great is thy faith." Little furnaces are for little faith; and is not trial valuable, even to earthly affection? Do we not seize every opportunity to give proof to expressions of love? Oh! let us count the cost when we say, we believe. It is a word of deep meaning in the dictionary of God. Paul's belief was ready to do, but what was the answer, "Thou shall see what great things thou shall suffer for my name sake." It has been so from the beginning. We would not be without that trial of which all the church have been partakers. We would not that He should be so indifferent to our love, as never to question us about it, or desire an evidence of it. Does He not ponder each? He takes all into consideration. What would be felt in one, would not in another. Nevertheless, while it must be felt, He pledges his faithfulness, that with each temptation He will make a way of escape, that we may be able to bear it. He will never try us above what we are able to bear. Though it may seem that we are shut up on every side, He knows how to deliver! What a trial to Isaiah, when sent to tell the people of Israel, that their hearts should be made fat, their ears heavy, and their eyes shut, lest they should be converted and healed! What a trial to Abraham to go out of his country and from his kindred, and come into a strange land, not knowing whither He went! What a trial to Noah, to be mocked and regarded as a fool while building the ark, according to the command of the Lord! How Isaac's faith was proved in Jacob; how Jacob's was in Joseph; how Moses' was in choosing rather to suffer affliction, esteeming the reproach of Christ great riches. What a trial to forsake Egypt under the wrath of the king! When we seek to place ourselves in the condition of each of these sufferers, and consider every accompanying feeling, how it makes our trials say to us, "Oh! ye of little faith!" Gideon! Barak! Samson! Jephtha! David! Samuel! — Yet out of weakness were they made strong! Words quickly said, but what suffering! — in "mockings, scourgings, bonds, stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, wandered about in sheep's skins and goat's skins, destitute, afflicted, tormented!'' Truly, "of whom the world was not worthy." Oh! what meagre Christians! Should we draw back if such were our prospects? May He not say, where is your faith? Let us love the prospect, clasp it to our bosom, as a token of his love. When standing as we expect, among the great multitude escaped out of great tribulation, would we be found alone without this family particularity? Does it not distinctly pronounce that name which includes all blessedness — "my Son." When Abraham shall tell of his Isaac; Isaac, of his Jacob; Jacob, of his Joseph; David, of his Absalom; Jeremiah, of his dungeon; Peter, of his stripes; John, of his banishment; Paul, of his perils, wearinesses, watchings, hunger; his thorn in the flesh; his buffetings of Satan: shall we be content to have nothing to bring forward to his praise, honour, and glory? for it shall not be forgotten, God is not unrighteous to forget our love for him. Hezekiah was left of God to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. — God let the nations loose against Israel to prove them. — He allowed false prophets among them to prove them. — He sent them manna to prove them — brought them to the waters of Marah to prove them. — He led them forty years in the wilderness to prove them — to know what was in their heart; for while "the fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, it is the Lord that trieth the hearts." And "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." Let us then, dear brother, welcome every trial. In them we shall prove our God. How full of compassion his approaches at such seasons! He comes with all the tenderness of one who knew that he was about to wound a heart he loved. Have you ever marked his gentleness when bringing a painful message? How He usually calls by name, Abraham, Abraham — Moses, Moses. He tells us why I have called you by name, because you arc mine. His own sheep "He calls by name." As many as He loves he rebukes, but He would have us understand it to be a rebuke of love. Now we arc "a spectacle to angels and devils;" let us not bring up a false report of our God. — Let it be seen that "tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, experience hope;" yea, that we can "glory in tribulation," for "we know the end of the Lord, very pitiful, and of tender mercy" — let us trust him without an explanation. When let behind the scenes in the case of Job, how we feel a desire that Satan should be disappointed. — Then let us glorify the Lord in the fires. — Satan will be as disappointed in us, for Job was not a whit more beloved. Let Jesus' "strength be made perfect in weakness," it is the glory of this dispensation. Abraham's faith has been to God's glory; the will was accepted as the deed. Heb. 11. 17; James 2. 21. We may rest assured, that the day is coming when the bitterest dealings shall be to us the sweetest. Every trial of faith in Hebrews 11. was some affliction. Let us accept tribulation as the boon we are most unworthy of. If we were without tribulation, of which all are partakers, then were we not children. Rather let us bless him — Oh, let us bless him, that He has not pronounced that which would be indeed the desert of our rebellious hearts. — "Let them alone." But why do I write so to you. I hope you are in no trouble. — What is it? for I asked the Lord to let me write that, which would be just what you needed: and I have written this. — Ah! if you need it not now, you have needed it, and you will, if you stay long in this world of sin.
I have been looking at Abraham's trial of faith; it must be to us important to dwell on, as it is proposed as the pattern of faith to the end of time. — If to be the pattern, God must have sought for the most trying proof; and in it, does not God seem to say, behold my love: for God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, etc. How touchingly this same trial is described in Judges 11. 30, etc. How we read, "in this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world:" have we not in this a proof, that the sacrifice of God in slaying his Son, (to speak after the manner of men,) was the utmost pang the Divine mind could devise; for it was the one chosen as a pattern of faith to the end of time. God would thus, it seems, sustain us in all our minor trials, by an apprehension of his own love embodied in that of Abraham, by setting him up before us as the Father of the faithful, and pattern of faith. He would check our doubts, of his willingness with his only Son to give all things, seeing that in Abraham not sparing his beloved Isaac, He asked no more: while he would also draw out our love and gratitude, that our requirement is not our first-born, for our transgression; that having been done for us at an expense of love set forth in Abraham, we have only, to "LOVE MERCY, and to walk humbly with our God!"
The fire was in the father's hand, and also the knife, when to Calvary they went both together. The transaction was all between these stupendous acts fulfilling, while foolish man gazed on with unmeaning gaze. Blessed to have such a wise, as well as loving God to undertake for us. Let us lay aside every weight, asking no questions, looking at no consequences; let not unbelief say, how shall I stand the trying day! but let us "run with patience the race SET before us, looking unto Jesus." It may be a difficult race; let us be bent on it; if faint, yet pursuing; let us lay aside, cast on His omnipotent shoulder, every hindrance, that might impede our progress, or make our bold resolute willingness falter. We often forget that it is the race of faith we are running. We ought to appear deranged to the by-stander, for to the mere looker-on, the cross is "foolishness." Every weight of sense must be put out of the way; I believe that holy bold resolution in this, will do much in keeping us steady. Often we see nets spread before us in our path, and though it is written, "in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird," yet so does man excel in folly even the beasts of the field, and birds of the air, so infatuated, that we run into our favourite snares with our eyes open, though perhaps determining not to be held, but to struggle out of them; present weakness not being sufficient to correct confidence in future strength; till our feet are entangled, our race impeded, and we discover too late, that the God of strength has refused to accompany us into the snare, has been left behind, and we stand alone against the enemy. Oh! that we were wise. Oh! that we had grace to be resolute to turn aside from pits, into which our weakness has fallen again and again, and our faith has well-nigh been drowned. — The wise man speaking of temptation, (which is true of all temptation,) says, "avoid it, pass it not by, turn from it and pass away," how wise not to parley with the old serpent, for his arguments are most ingenious; to resist, or else flee from him. May we examine ourselves in this. May we see to it, that nothing impedes our race, weakens our faith, or prevents our obedience. We have before us the majesty of that love which set its face stedfastly to go to Jerusalem, in perfect acquiescence to the will of the Father. Let us be honest with ourselves and in earnest with God. Let us treasure no Babylonish garment however goodly. Let us sanctify ourselves, for if there be an accursed thing hid in our hearts, we shall not be able to stand in the day of trial; we lose much time in our progress by needing such repeated lessons on each truth. When we should have been wise, we are still found fools. He has said, whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, he cannot be my disciple. We are following a crucified one!
We remain here till the end of May — further I see not. Oh! for simplicity in discovering His will, and submissiveness in following. This is a lesson some are long in learning, I have been all my life talking of it, but always following my own will except his was mine …
Lough Bray, September, 1834.
My beloved friend. — It has not been indeed because of the want of a heart to write, that I have not done so long since — but my father, at whose bidding I desire to move, did not say go, till this moment, and you know you would not hear from me but as his scribe. God grant me thy words, and thy thoughts, that this may be to us both, an ordinance of thine own! I have with gratitude heard good accounts of your dear … from different quarters, which I shall rejoice to have confirmed by your own hand. You know one of the explanations of his OWN name is, "keeping mercy." -
"Thou alone couldst silent stand,
And wait to show thy love."
I so feel for our young people now. I feel more for my … than your … It was wisely ordered that through persecution and tribulation we should enter the kingdom. They have the misfortune of seeing Christianity in their parents and friends, which causes them to set out with a low standard. Oh! I feel this; how different our conversation, from what we would that they should consider the Christian's calling! so that the very respect and esteem, it is desirable that they should entertain for us, is against their whole future life; and inasmuch as it is below, and different from, the way in which we set out, so in proportion will their Christianity in some years be below ours. This, with many other things, shows me that even in this relationship we must be resigned to decrease, and let the Lord be all! We often think it is for their good, and the Lord's glory, that we desire to be identified in their minds with the gospel, but our very disappointment when we fail, proves it to be secretly a desire of obtaining for ourselves that worship which is its due and effect. I desire to be willing they should be able to discover both grace, and nature, in me, that my inconsistency may not detract from its glory; and I desire also to be able, now that they have come to full reason, and the Lord has taken them up, I trust, to let go my dominion and too great anxiety over them, and so prove that not for myself, but for Him, I have watched over them. How difficult it is, dear friend, to be only for Him in this world, especially in our service towards them we call our own. We are ready to be interested even for the Lord's work, because the bit he has given us, instead of, because His. Still self, self — we need a heart large enough to embrace the universe, yet contracted enough to lend all its energies and sympathies to each case, "diligently to follow every good work," elastic hearts! … I believe you expected I was to have more leisure up here, than at … quite the contrary, I never had so little leisure or time for communion, in my life! not because of the change of place, but more from the loss of … besides, new situations bring new duties and new trials.
"Joy to find in every station
Something still to do or bear."
Yet never once have I regretted the step I took, but find new, unlooked-for mercies every turn. In my former situation were large trials to meet, large temptations, needing large supplies of grace, opportunities to draw these supplies; my work, when coming down from Him, more spiritual and direct, more out of the reach of the little foxes that spoil the vines, less intercourse, except spiritual, with others. I feel that formerly there was in me but an outline of the image of Christ, now He would fill it up with the graces of the Spirit; He would, but I find when he demands their use, I have none of them. Blessed be his name for bringing me into circumstances to draw them out! He saw I desired to come down, and he will do it; his own work shall be to humble — we need no more time for communion than He allows, he can be learnt in the most servile works, and the most common providences, as much as in the word, if we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to understand, which is also needed for the word. Oh! it is not the word, but his blessing, which is the guide and teacher of the heart, and happiness comes not from our measure of knowledge, but from our measure of subjection — to live in his presence "in the heavenlies," is one lesson, but to find his presence in every duty, to live on Him in them, is a further lesson; we are apt to look with panting heart for the time of communion, as if our retired time was the time of communion, but to walk with God is to dwell in communion, to have the soul stayed on Him. I have also been learning that it is an abiding sense of weakness which is our safeguard, not strength even from above; and many a tumble we shall have, before we have an abiding sense of weakness, and yet we need the Spirit of power to meet the fiery darts of the wicked one, a shield from which they will rebound. The Lord will be prevailed with, but it must be through wrestling; poor Jacob, his trials began from the moment he received the blessing. I am indeed the most inexcusable of all creatures, if I am not thankful and contented, as you would say, could you see … so much for self. Am I ever to see you here? The 25th of this month our time is up here; I have not yet ascertained whether it be the Lord's will for us to continue yet some months; if He has nothing for us to do, I pray not; though it is just beginning to be very lovely. The questions you asked me, I take for granted you have long since answered to yourself. You have, no doubt, heard of dear … happy removal — she sleeps in Jesus, and though he suffers severely, was able to give her up with outstretched arms. I hope you enjoy more every day, even as I trust I do, the promises handed down to us, through the experience of Christ in the psalms, He seems to lay open his heart filled with our necessities, that out of his experience, we may draw of his fulness. Our promises having lighted upon his head, they descend to the skirts of his garments, we have thus not only the word, but the example of his faithfulness in our own every case, whatever it may be; and this seems the great argument used by our Lord throughout them, as his voice in the church, — "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but I HAVE OVERCOME"; for example, in the 3rd Psalm, the believer cries, "how are they increased that trouble me?" And Jesus answers; "I cried, and he heard me out of his holy hill." Again, he says, "ten thousand of the people, have set themselves against me round about;" Jesus says, "arise, save, for thou hast smitten mine enemies," etc. Again, the body lies down to rest; Jesus says, "Fear not, I awaked, for the Lord sustained me." In a word, "now is Christ risen and become the first fruits of them that sleep." How precious among all the hallelujahs of heaven, that our cry is heard out of his holy hill; yes, even our sigh! There seemed in Him on earth, such a wonderful mixture of condescending humility, and divine authority, one can hardly comprehend what it was about Him, which made all the people walk quietly out of the temple, to their own great loss, — and yet did not prevent the blind and lame coming to Him, at the very same time into the temple, as if there was an attraction towards Him to want and necessity, and a repulse to Pharisaic hypocrisy — as if the one felt a right to Him and to the temple. What was it made them submit to his thus with authority calling the temple "my house?" Could they not all have risen against this one poor man? What made all the city moved, was it so wonderful for a poor man to ride in on a borrowed ass, without even a saddle? Yet, not more striking was the display then of the wisdom of this world, contrasted with the wisdom from above. The chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did, and heard the miraculous hosannas of the children, and were sore displeased; while the babes and sucklings acknowledged in spite of them all, the great mystery of godliness. Dear Friend, I sometimes tremble at the resemblance between the Church now and then. The mass holding evangelical doctrines are so like the Pharisees! The knowledge of Scripture so much like their wisdom, sore displeased if any thing is believed beyond the beaten track, or not received through the set teachers. Would that my knowledge was not like theirs, a searching of the understanding; I desire the wisdom of babes and sucklings which can only be a communication of the Spirit. How little by searching we can find out God! His work is on the spirit, not on the head. When he brings down, when he brings us to dependance and quiet waiting on him, then He will teach us himself. He upbraideth not. The only time we read of his upbraiding ("oh fools! and slow of heart to believe.") we immediately read, He himself began from the beginning to the end of Scripture to expound to them all concerning himself, and never fainted nor was weary till their eyes were opened. Blessed stupidity that brings us his wisdom. It must be in due time, He will impart; we are too impatient. He brought his Son, will He not bring us each truth as we can bear it? What a cluster of graces James shows us to be contained in that one word, wisdom. Yet all in him, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom for us. Not only will he not upbraid, but he invites us to receive, in commanding us to ask, and that we may not doubt his willingness, we are reminded that in him who so loved us, there is no variableness neither shadow of turning. Let us ask, without doubting, and we have; for this wisdom, in him for us, is full of mercy and without partiality. It can only be received through faith, and acts by faith. I believe it is quite different to have faith for the whole, and to have daily faith in our every day little walk; yet I believe we need even for this latter, only a single eye, and to be little in our own eyes. Much wisdom we now need in these difficult times. Christ says, "as the Father hath sent me into the world, even so have I sent you." Oh! that we could so be in this dirty world! our clean spirits not even spotted by it! did He not stand in it only for the purpose of blessing, intent on finishing the work GIVEN HIM to do? This was his meat and drink, because his Father's work, but dispatching it with all expedition in order to be off again to the Father, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father." The work dear, because the Father's, therefore not dearer than the Father's presence. To do our business (works of faith, labours of love, patience of hope) as one in a shower of rain. Our risen hands must not touch any thing below, accursed in Satan . All is ours: yet touch not, taste not, handle not, till made fit to be presented by the Father to his risen ascended Son; till the purchased possession is redeemed, faith must act as to the things of this world, as Cecil expected from his child when he threw her toys into the fire. It is not our dispensation to sanctify evil, but forsake it; to set forth our portion to be in the heavenlies, in the midst of the earthly; the apostle tells us to know our calling; alas! we have fallen beneath it …
Powerscourt, 18th May, 1834.
My dear friend — I think I have seen more clearly this last week than before, the Davidical reign, which is to precede the Solomon one. I think the descent from the heavens, the gathering up of the saints, and the return of the Jews, will synchronize, and that there will be a great sifting in the land, before Israel is visited in the wilderness, and afterwards brought back. Do you see whether the ten tribes shall be gathered together first, and restored together, or whether they shall come from different parts in different ways? It is evident, as seems to me, that they will be found idolaters. I agree with you, so far, that our Lord's conduct before Caiaphas, showed he did not literally mean to offer him the other cheek, but I think it did show that we are to bear injustice, and not exercise power in our defence. Oh! look at him — "then they did spit in his face and buffetted him, and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, prophesy," etc. How they "laid to his charge things which he knew not." Yet, what do we hear of Him who could have called for legions of angels? "Jesus held his peace." I quite agree with you, that martyrdom is not always outward suffering; or always from or through man. I believe all are given opportunity of martyrdom, because, this is the dispensation of martyrdom; but I do not think all suffering is included. It seems to me, that in martyrdom, there must be, necessarily, a choice — a good way without suffering, a better way with suffering. I believe it can be refused, and that they will be sufferers who do refuse. To what you say about the Psalms I can heartily say, "truth." It is the book, of all others, we could not do without. It testifies to the heart that it is of God. There we find, the master of the feast has kept the good wine to the last. There, before the chosen depositories of his sighs, the man of sorrows spreads his consolations, saying, drink, yea, drink abundantly, oh beloved. How often in the Psalms the Father's dealings with Him, are his ground of consolation as to his church. May we not so consider him, when ready to faint in our minds?
Affectionately yours, dear friend,
T. A. P.
November 18, 1834.
My dear Mr …, I trust your throat is improving, and that it is not a crop of care laid in for the winter. What various ways He has of educating us, to enable us to bear the weight of glory He has laid up for us. One part of the explanation He gives of his own incomprehensible name is, "keeping mercy." Blessed assurance! we shall never be tempted above that we are able to bear. I have been looking at this, in the case of Abraham. Had the Lord been a moment sooner in his command to stay the trial, Abraham would not have been entitled to all the blessed results of "Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." Had He been a moment later, Isaac was gone. The sitting of the Refiner over his furnace is so precious. He did not seem to be heeding Abraham, when for so many days they went both together to the mountain — when he allowed the altar to be built — the wood laid — Isaac bound; yet, his compassions only waited for the very nick of time to manifest themselves. The same with poor Hagar, though her sin brought her to her extremity. She had sown to the wind, why not let her reap the whirlwind? She sowed upon a bed of flint, she had only to expect to reap a crop of troubles. But, no; she was friendless, comfortless — it was enough — He could not forsake the poor destitute. He went out to look for her. He found her in the wilderness. He comforted her with kindness, because the Lord had heard her affliction. There is something so tender in — "The angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, what aileth thee, Hagar? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad." This was enough; "He hath heard." — Is it not so with us, often surrounded by providences, which seem ready to overwhelm, and crush our faith altogether, so that we know not how to overcome? Like as thrown adrift upon a stormy sea, surrounded by storms, and shoals, and rocks, through which we cannot steer, and we feel totally unable to escape; yet, our little bark is carried safely along; we cannot tell how, except that, the fact that it is so, is proof enough to the heart, that there is, and must be at the helm, an almighty, though unseen, hand; — which conviction throws us to cling afresh with every wave, to this sure hold, and thus we expect to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. David had fainted but for this; not till at their wits end, they cried unto the Lord, and He heard. So shall it be with all our trials and temptations; like Abraham's knife, they are messengers from the throne to the heirs of promise. Let us welcome them. Let us love the cross. It is a faithful friend, so far, but no further, though as near consumed as Isaac — the knife stretched out. When the carpet shall be turned, at which He works, we would not have been without the bitterest trials; the more bitter the more certain of its blessings, because we know his heart is toward his little ones. And what a reproach to us is that word to Abraham. Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son,"(as it were,) I can trust thee for all — I can enter into the richest friendship. — The friend of God. — I can confide in thee. — I can unbosom myself unto thee, — "Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." And is it wonderful He should afterwards expect us to trust, that He will, "with him," give all things, when He has not spared his Son, his only Son, but gave him for us? Dear Mr … pardon my thus indulging myself in writing to you. You know I could not send the paper empty. It may not be just now applicable to you; yet, can it ever be inapplicable to hear from experience, "Faithful is He who hath promised, who also will do it." And truly, I can set to my seal, that He speaks truth when He promises it shall be through much tribulation we shall enter the kingdom; — that I have found extremity to be His opportunity; that He knows our souls in adversity; that He is a present help in times of trouble; it is then, when the soul is outcast, and there is none to feel, none to help, or deliver, then it is Jesus draws nigh, spreads out his arms of consolation, and embraces the believer on every side. Yet a little — his messengers shall have finished their work; faith have been made perfect, and at his presence and bidding, sorrow and sighing shall flee away. "Make haste my Beloved." "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick." Absence is absence, and we can never be at rest till we are united to him for ever. It is not enough that we are now secure of him, and that He does love, and will love us to the end. We know it. We value his love-tokens, we have our confidence fixed not in them, but in himself — his trustful character. Nevertheless, we cannot do without Him. It is His presence we want; — not only by faith, but in his arms, to say, "My Beloved is mine and I am his."
Very affectionately yours, in His love and truth,
T. A. Powerscourt.
… I was distressed to read yours in such low spirits, and to find even in outward things you are not as comfortable as we wish: yet, dear … you have every thing. I know you are so convinced of this, you would not alter the smallest circumstance, nor put one ingredient into your cup if you could. And have you not a right to be satisfied, when you POSSESS GOD? Oh! how well for him to deprive our earthly affections of all nourishment, that they in vain going in search of their object, may take a grand grasp of Him, who alone can fill every nook and corner of the heart.
" … Ah, how base was I
To quit the pillow of eternal peace,
And seek repose among the thorns of time."
See how he yearns over your heart as a jealous God. He says, how can I give it up? my temple where I delighted to dwell and show forth my glory — my portion. He seems sometimes to plead thus, "I set my love upon thee when thou wast in thy blood, and I followed thee to do thee good; I delivered thee out of the mouth of the lion; I have put thee among the children; I have betrothed thee to my Son; made thee joint heir with him; have given thee all my promises; have enabled thee to rejoice in them; have watched thine extremities as my opportunities; have delighted over thee to do thee good; have been a present help in time of trouble; have made all thy bed in thy sickness; when cast down I have whispered, I am thy great salvation;" when desponding, have whispered, "I am Jesus;" when inclined to say, how shall I stand the trying day? "I have answered, thou shalt see that as thy day, thy strength SHALL be"; and if that had been too little, "I would, moreover, have given thee such and such things." Judge, I pray you, what could I have done more than I have done. Hast thou not felt satisfied, when from the bottom of the heart, thou hast been able to say, "There is not one on earth I desire but thee? Yet, alas! now all this availeth me nothing — so long as one wish lies ungratified." Is this the answer of faith, to Him who spared not his only Son, but gave him up for you? Is it not unkind? does it not grieve him? He has a human heart — witness his feeling Peter's unkindness. It was sharper than any nail, any thorn, when at the very moment of receiving sentence of death, he heard the crow of the cock. Let us not force him to give the reproachful look which cost Peter so many tears. Much we need faith to be tried — for, humbling though it is, yet even the believer finds it very difficult to conceive, that God speaks truth. Though the promises are ours, our portion in which we do delight; yet how difficult to make use of a promise, to see such a substance in "things hoped for," as to esteem afflictions with the people of God greater riches than any, or all the treasures of Egypt. We often find out how little we believe his word concerning futurity, in our little faith in his word as to present vanity; how little we believe things that are not, to be what they are, by discovering how much we believe things that are, to be what they are not. But He is teaching us the meaning of words, sweetening our bitternesses, embittering our sweets, that we may understand present happiness to be present unhappiness; and present unhappiness to be present happiness; as Pollock says,
"Attempt! how monstrous! how surely vain
With things of earthly sort — with aught but God,
To satisfy and fill the immortal soul.
Attempt! — vain inconceivably! attempt
To satisfy the ocean with a drop:
To marry immortality to death;
And with the unsubstantial shade of time,
To fill the embrace of all eternity!"
Then let us thank him for cutting one string after another, which binds our balloon of faith to earth; that being let loose, it may be wafted above every mountain of vanity into the regions of reality. Now, dearest … remember your high calling; you are not intended for such beggarly elements as the bliss of this world. He does not think that worth offering you, which he throws to the world. Let not an heiress of a throne in the new Jerusalem, waste one sigh on not being allowed to nestle in Satan's kingdom. Let us pursue intently the business for which we are left here, that we may hasten to be gone. We are living epistles, lent to the world from God's library, to teach a particular subject — to manifest the Christian's glorious hope. Satan grins with delight in getting your pages so blotted over with sorrow that works death, as to render this glorious truth illegible. We have so few years, perhaps days to stay; and surely, if we shall have one regret on the borders of that inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that passeth, not away, (where friends shall meet to part no more,) it will be, that every moment of our short existence has not been gathering glory to Him, during the only space through eternity, in which the church shall be privileged to preach to principalities and powers in heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God; on this (to angels) wonderful text, "Cast down, but not destroyed, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, poor, yet making many rich, having nothing, yet possessing all things." — Blessed be his name for so letting us into the secrets of his love — secrets He never whispered to angels: though I sometimes think some of these volumes of faithfulness (believers' lives) are so tragical, that when read aloud hereafter, even the angels must drop a tear. — Yet, "hallelujah!" Oh, sing it loud, greatly beloved; for behold how He loves you! not even with the common love to his children; he has not suffered you to walk smoothly down the stream of time; but by large and rough billows has dashed you on the promises. — This is the Christian's elevated station, to walk on the promises, leaning through thick and thin on this sustaining staff, — "I know the Lord;" every blessing is preserved from being a curse, by having this label "with Him." Every curse with the same label becomes a true blessing. And shall he not "with Him give us all things?" Sweet to have a care by the casting of which on him, we may prove, He cares for us. Sweet to have something dear, by the giving up of which we may give Abraham's proof, we care for Him. Let us then be Nazarites indeed, separated from the dead, not touching that which might lead to evil; a burnt offering; all the baubles and idols of time, cast into the furnace, on which we offer up body, soul, and spirit. I shall end with an extract of an exhortation of dear Mr … in a sermon preached here. "We have found a pearl of great price, for which we may well sell all. If we would know the full happiness that belongs to them that are in Christ, we must present ourselves without compromise, take up our cross, and follow Christ, deny ourselves and follow Him whithersoever He goeth, actuated by a real and scriptural conviction on our conscience, that we are in the right way; we should boldly and manfully follow God our Saviour, and then when our affections arc solely surrendered to the Author of our being, we shall receive a rich and abundant recompense, being filled with all the fulness of God. Oh! my believing friends, that our hearts were more open to the immensity of the privileges, to which the great Head of the church has called us. Oh! that we could feel more, what is the nature of that high and heavenly vocation wherewith we are called, that we knew more the full meaning of being his peculiar people, his chosen generation. The Christian church is the moral representation of God, in this dark and benighted world; it is called to manifest the divine glory in the face of Christ; it should be practically embodied in their spirit, and in their life, that the world may take knowledge of them, that they have been with Jesus; and beholding the practical influence of the Gospel on them, may see there is something real and substantial in the religion of Christ's everlasting kingdom. We are called the sons and daughters of the Most High; would to God, we all felt by our own personal experience, — how impossible it is to know the extent of this immeasurable blessing. Then we should be able gladly to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, for his sake. May God show us the vanity of every object the world holds dear, and may He tear away the veil, with which the god of this world clothes these objects to hide their nakedness, that we may see the world as it is. May the light of eternal glory throw a rich flood of knowledge over our understandings, that his glory may fill the largest capacities of our soul, that we may prove Him under every circumstance, to be the pearl of great price." …
January 28th, 1835.
Poor dear … , how much you must have gone through! yet, has it not endeared Jesus; made you feel more the value of "my beloved is mine," and "I am his," and "who shall separate me from this love?" No, I do not think any expectation of future good satisfies for the denial of a present desire. I believe it will be only subjection, and the resignation of the will, that can bring peace; and it does bring peace to the humbled under the mighty hand of Him who, we feel certain, "careth for us." No position of the mind is so blessed, or so happy to ourselves, as, "I behaved and quieted myself as a child weaned from its mother." "My soul is as a weaned child." Therefore is the arm of the Lord's discipline to subdue us; and blessed be God, "He is able to subdue ALL things to himself." The surrender of the spirit after a struggle, brings more real happiness, than would the possession of the good, struggled for; but it needs many a struggle, and many a victory. I believe the only thing is to resign ourselves immediately to God, and give ourselves to him to crucify our affections, and desires.
Dear Sister, I believe the life of faith is a thing very few of us attain to, we have much rejoicing in our security, because of the election, and promised preservation of a crucified Saviour; — we have bright anticipations of his coming again with his saints, but we have a gap between; even the whole of this dispensation; — Jesus, and the resurrection; — The risen, everlasting, more abundant life we receive because of union with him; — his death and resurrection; — the spirit of God within us, constituting us sons of God; — one with our elder Brother in all his sufferings and privileges; — we know I think little of this; at least I know little of this, in its death and in its life; — the continual crucifixion and death of the flesh, because we are dead; — the letting the Spirit work, whose work is to subdue, in order to his life being manifested in us; — in order to his graces being able to flourish within. — Oh! it is a resurrection life we possess, and therefore must possess it through death, and if we would know the heavenly nature of this life, we must die, die, die. It is immortality; — it is spiritual; — it is heaven; "the kingdom of heaven," the Lord calls it; there must be a complete separation from mortality, from flesh, from earth. And only in proportion to death, will be the enjoyment of life. — What attainments we might be given! How we might be blessed! What blessings we might be made, if we had but courage to yield ourselves as victims to the Spirit of God. If we would deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the man of sorrows, the solitary Jesus. We should never regret it; holy and salutary exercises! a bringing down to our proper position; not only not expecting any thing from beneath, but refusing it: not satisfied with the good part, but choosing the better, because we know the times, that "the night is far spent and the day at hand," therefore let us not be making provision for the flesh and its enjoyments, but putting on our armour of light, preparing for the battle. Let us so show our feeling for the church of Jesus, as to seek to present in our lives that which it most needs. Let us show plainly we seek a kingdom, that our kingdom is not from hence. Let us show plainly that we are one with the Lord from heaven; that we wait for Him, who has delivered us from the wrath to come; that we have crucified the flesh with its affections. Let us deliver ourselves to death, that the life of Jesus may be more manifested in his body, the church; if we love his appearing, our solicitude must be about his church, not about ourselves. We shall grieve most, that our sin is a blot in his church. We shall feel the sins of the body, as our own; for we are members one of another. Oh may he give us this, to see such a substance in things hoped for, as to make every thing else appear in its naked nothingness, and so be satisfied to wait to receive all good "with Jesus." If we are waiting for him, we are also waiting for his saints, for they shall come with him. It is enough of argument for the Apostle, quite conclusive, — Jesus is to come, therefore those who sleep in him, must come with him. As if a thought of separation between Christ and its members could not be. Do not think, love, that I have learned this lesson. No, but I am seeking to lay myself low, to be crucified. May we be counted worthy of this experience, for "if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live," and perhaps after being conformable to his death, and knowing the power of the resurrection, even the power of an endless life, we may be admitted to taste of fellowship in his suffering. Amen, amen. What more can I desire for you dear … than discipline and sufferings in his hands? and surely you shall have with it "I will not leave you comfortless." …
April 5th, 1832.
My dearest … , I hope you do not think, because silent, I have forgotten you and dear … I have, indeed, been intending to write ever since I left you, but am so terrible a procrastinator, that before the pen got on the paper, I had lost your direction, you having moved to some new place. But I have not been unmindful of you in your many trials. Poor … so many trials coming upon her at once. I trust she has been upheld, and that her health has not suffered materially; yet, the Lord has mingled much mercy in the cup. What a faithful God! What a hearer of prayer! What confidence it gives for the future! Though we may have many to plead with him for, yet, not too many for his grace, for "He is rich in mercy to all that call upon him." We never hear of his refusing to heal the body of any one taken to him in faith; and why? that "we might know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins," (Luke, 5. 24.) … Where is Lady … Poor thing, what an upset for her in one moment! Yet, dear … we need all the discipline our tender Father sends. How patient He is in sending so many chastisements, that our perverseness has not long since wearied Him out; that we have not forced him yet to say, "Let them alone." I believe there is nothing we are so undeserving of as affliction; yet, still He sends afflictive line upon line, afflictive precept upon precept, and each so exactly suited to the particular character and particular feelings of each individual. It is very touching to read Israel's wilderness mercies, and wilderness perverseness, with application to ourselves. It helps to bring us to believe his simple declaration, in spite of appearances, that "all things work together for good." How little it could have appeared so, when He turned the hearts of their enemies to hate his people, and to deal subtlely with his servants. He brings us out into the open wilderness, that He may have opportunity of manifesting this love, in spreading over us his protecting power, and fitting himself into our every want. He never calls us to descend into any trial, but we find He has been in it before us; that He has therein deposited his unsearchable wealth, so we come up enriched. How often "waters gush out of rocks" to us. We meet his consolations where least we expect, even where it seems impossible; and in the many dry places which we meet in our march to the city above, He makes waters run, even to give drink to His people, His chosen. "This rock was Christ." And why all this? Because He remembers his promise to Jesus, our surety; and because He would purify to himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Yes, the whole course of nature shall be changed before He can fail in the least promise to the most insignificant child. What a mercy that we have a God of truth to deal with! without exaggerations, with equivocation! that we have only to cling to his naked promise, and to glorify him simply in obeying him …
… How pleasant it is to live for an end, and for an end so worthy of our life! that "whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; so that living or dying, we are the Lord's." And in the mean time, what great lessons He is teaching us, even the knowledge of himself; and He is disciplining us not only for our place in the church below, but for the place in the kingdom, for which He designs us in futurity. When the mother of Zebedee's children asked him for the place, on his right hand and left, in his kingdom, He answers, "are ye able to drink of my cup and to be baptized with my baptism?" as much as to say, "The path of sorrow, and that path alone, leads to the land where sorrow is unknown." We have taken up our cross to follow the crucified One. We are to count the cost. To expect any thing else is unbelief. We have been signed with the sign of the cross, as a token that we are to fight under his banner. Our capacity of enjoyment, because the proper condition of a creature, consists not in liberty, but in learning dependance and submission. If we knew it, it is happiness we are called to, in being required to be dependant one upon another. It will be so hereafter. We are called to nothing but what would be happiness, could we submit to it. Pride is our misery, our greatest enemy. Blessed be his name! He promises to resist it. Dependance and submission seemed a new happiness obtained by our blessed Master as a man. Not only did He submit to his Father, but see how He leaned on his brethren. "He looked for some to have pity upon him." "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" "He came to his own, and his own received him not." "I am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop." "I looked on the right hand, and there was none; and on the left no man cared for me." "Refuge failed me; then said I unto the Lord, thou art my refuge and my portion." Having to rule and reign with Christ, we must come to the same school to learn to govern. He was educated in our necessities. Whence comes all the sympathy we experience day by day, but because He suffered, being tempted? Oh! yes, let us have patience. — "Let patience have her perfect work, wanting nothing;" for "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." … I do not know if you will care for this, but I think you ought to care for all that concerns the glory of our beloved Lord. We need large hearts, not only large enough to hold your small house, or your parish even, but to hold not only the universe, but all the kingdom of heaven — to hold God, and with him all dear to him. What a largeness! all dear to Him, who so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, etc.! Do you ever pray for me? I pray for you. It is so pleasant, and so profitable to talk to the Lord about our friends — we send them sweet messages of love, by a faithful messenger. We do not know its sweetness till we try it. It is time well spent, to talk to him of them, to talk to them of him. We deprive ourselves of much real happiness by not living in heaven. Believers should be but as variegated lamps, hung out to lighten the feet of passengers from the kingdom of darkness. Our kingdom is not from hence. We should be looking at earth as from heaven, instead of looking at heaven from earth; as though present things were already past, and future things already present; and so they soon will be, for "the fashion of this world passeth away." …
… I should like much to know what you now think of all things around us. The worldliness of the church has been carried to such an extent, it seems to me that there is no alternative, that we must choose either to belong altogether to the heavenly, or altogether to the earthly kingdom. The serving two masters makes our path an unhappy one; the limit becomes uncertain, and different in the minds of each, as to our permitted path on either side, and we who believe become responsible for the much profession, and more hypocrisy which exists. Could we stand on more holy ground, there would be less ambition to be found on it. There is much, seemingly, to be said for the things of this world being sanctified to heavenly uses; yet I cannot help feeling more and more assured every day, (though my foolish thoughts are little worth,) that a divorce must take place, that God and the world cannot be joined — that it behoves us to make plain that we are the risen ones, by our portion not being in any degree from hence; — that we are not struggling upwards through mire and dirt, but we are as let down from heaven; we take our stand in the kingdom of heaven, looking from above at earth, not from earth at heaven. And the less the body of' Christ is such, the more jealous should we be to attain it individually; because the wheat is mixed with the tares, therefore should we be the more desirous, that a distinction should be seen for the glory of his beloved name. I have been thinking of late, that one evil effect of our little apprehension of our present life being a risen life, united to the Lord from heaven, is a forgetfulness that the constant enjoyment and power of that life, will be in proportion to the mortifying and death of the natural life. I do not know if you will think me wrong, but it seems to me to be a mistake I have been under, with many believers, and therefore, why I have attained so little, that I have expected death would be in proportion to life, instead of life in proportion to death. The work of the Spirit after entering his temple is to subdue, in order to the flourishing of his grace within; that our part, instead of rising up against things which seem contrary to us, is to let him work, and to join with him against the evils which most easily beset us. So our very evils become nails in the hand of the Spirit by which to crucify the flesh. For though, like Adam and Eve, we are ever ready to accuse circumstances or natural dispositions, yet is the failure all our unbelief. We must be conformable to his death, before we know the power of "his resurrection, and only in proportion to our mortifying the deeds of the body through the spirit," can we live. The path of humiliation is a happy experience; and He is able to subdue all things to Himself, blessed be his name! and every conquest in us, is a witness to Satan that he is overcome, and shortly shall be trodden underfoot. Pardon me for trespassing so long on your time, but I feel you are peculiarly loved of the Father, and I could not forbear.
May the voice of the loving, longing, heavenly dove, calling for her mate, be alone heard from our consecrated hearts! May the Holy Spirit so perpetually sound there the name of Jesus, that it may be as ointment poured forth over every intention, word and action!
Believe me with affection yours,
In the hope of the kingdom,
T A Powerscourt.
… I hope you are learning how to love. It is difficult to do, and difficult to suffer, but there is nothing so difficult as to love as a Christian. In proportion as a thing is good used rightly, so in proportion is it evil, abused. Eve was Adam's acme of blessing; therefore, abused, she became his greatest curse. May your husband and child not be resting places for your heart, but channels to and from God! then will they be blessings indeed, far more assimilating to Christ than having the heart pent up into itself. How like Christ we should be, if we would learn diligently in all our lesson-books, instead of being such dunces! …
O, my poor dear, dear … , Indeed, I do feel for you. Such short-lived happiness! Oh! what a weight of glory must there be, if these afflictions are not "worthy to be compared" to it! May He give you out of the depth to say, it is all love! To believe it to be so, is very hard: — "blasted my gourd, and laid it low." This is the way I answer prayer for faith and grace. It is good to learn the meaning of words out of Christ's lesson book. He learned it by the things which He suffered. Oh, dear sister, we are God's treasure! We often said all is vanity; often, that this is not our home. No, no; we belong to God, and are only here to be fashioned for him. He will not have us mistake it. He is a jealous God. His is not foolish tenderness. Oh, no, blessed be his name! He loves too much to spare one necessary pain. He loves too much to give one unnecessary one. He as a refiner sits over his furnace. Wait, and you shall see that this is just the thing in life you would not be without. And he is not lost, he is only gone before. Heirs together of the grace of life. Blessed word! and without you, he cannot be made perfect, the Scripture says. He therefore will wait for you on the bosom of Jesus. Surely you would not have him rather with you, only that you might speak to him, and hear him speak to you. You are together, inasmuch as you are dwelling in Jesus, the same life in both, the pulse of which beats in the heart of Jesus. You have communion, for his thoughts are all about Jesus. When Moses and Elias appeared, they were speaking about Jesus. Much loved sister, you are about to enter into realities of consolation you have never imagined to be in God. I seem to see you stepping down into a deep through which I have been wading; and it is saying, very, very little, to say I feel for you; I pity you; I almost tremble for you, but that is not all; I can tell you I would not exchange what I have experienced of Jesus there, though it was the survivor died. I would die a thousand deaths, rather than not have gone through all. I would not part with one pang, though still often smarting under it. I mean to say, dear … that seeing things in the light of eternity, you have not only reason to bless God for him, for his certain, undoubted happiness, but to bless him for what he is about to teach you, through long days, and longer nights, of sorrow — lessons for eternity, which none but God can teach; only to be learned in this world; joy in sorrow; a calm in the midst of a storm.
May the God of peace be with you! He will — I know he will. He will not suffer you to be tried above what you are able to bear. — To be confined after he is gone! Oh, how wonderful that grace which is able to sustain! "Let thy widows trust in me."
I took this verse; I set my seal to it. He has never failed them that trust in him. Pardon so much. You will, perhaps, not be able to read it: but I felt unable to keep back, as though Jesus entitled me to enter the house of mourning.
Your very affectionate and afflicted sister,
T. A. Powerscourt.
5, Stephen's Green, February, 1835.
The religion of Jesus is a life of humiliation. It will not do to play with it for our own name and praise. If we surrender ourselves to his holy guidance, it will, it must be, a life of severe discipline. We have, blessed be God! one fixed desire which He has placed in our hearts, and he is faithful in working towards that, though it be by the upsetting and opposing of our will and affections: it is a deep work, a work in earnest. Have we counted the cost? Let us not be willing to lose any part of our reward by our fooleries here — let it be a full reward. You know, love, we are dead with him, and are risen with him, therefore our life is no longer from beneath, but from above. — The life we have, is that spirit he obtained for us in His resurrection, when He became a quickening spirit, the second Adam; being united to him in his resurrection as well as death, we partake of his new, his more abundant life … If we set ourselves in truth against our own evils, really opposing them guilelessly with God, we shall have a world of watchful occupation within, as the Spirit's servants. What havoc even of our amiabilities, what self-renunciation, and all this is necessary to a life of love: earthly affections concentrate the heart after all upon one self: charity is a dissemination of the affections through the body, the church: … Why do we live in this poor, dying way? Why so much in the flesh, when we are citizens of the heavenly city? We forget how completely heaven and earth are separate; therefore what suffering there must be in the dissociation! because we live too low in spirit, we neglect to live lower in flesh. "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life shall find it." — It will be present reward. Do, dearest, raise the church of Jesus where you are by so loving Christ; show there that it is not talk, or even basking in the promises, but "if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me;" so shall we be able in love to serve one another, to lay down our lives for the brethren. Do you see any marks of our dear Lord's near approach on the continent? Surely, there is a little noise about Jerusalem to be heard. I see every thing here declaring it — all minds seem driven to one point — prayer, which must precede his arrival. No refuge for Christians in the midst of conflicting opinions, but prayer; no place of safety for them to meet, but on their knees; no ground where they can extend the hand of fellowship to another brother, but prayer. Yes, we are on our way to our Isaac. — Many a jolt the camels give us, but our guide goes before, saying to all opposition, "hinder me not till I get to my master." Flesh would say, "let me a little longer enjoy this loved association to earth:" "no, hinder me not," says our faithful guide, the servant of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Let our willing hearts answer, "I will go," leave all now known; and at the report of the messenger, leave all to be his for ever:
"Brushing with hasty steps the dew away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn."
May this be our hearts! May we when we go forth into the world estimate every thing according to the measure of the weights we use, when in our closets we "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of his glory." …
… How could you say that you feared to express your kind sympathy? I feel most grateful to you. She is, indeed, no common loss; but we shall see her again! We wait not alone for Jesus; we also wait for all his saints with him. If we can wait for him we may well wait patiently for them. We shall see them first, though we expect him so very soon. And the next time we meet, we shall be both on our way to see Jesus at last. And He … Was He not the object of our fondest desire, about whom only we met to take sweet counsel, though dear, very dear to one another? She was humble — He has, therefore, given her more grace, for it is far better "to depart and be with Christ." Truly, she possessed all here, that was calculated to draw her down, as though she possessed nothing.
The moment Jesus shall come to awake out of sleep that dear body, now lying as a seed in his garden, of which He keeps the key, she will rise up quickly a glorious body to his delight and glory. "Earth shall cast forth its dead, and they who dwell in dust shall awake and sing" — whilst even the tears of this night of sorrow shall sparkle in the light of his glory, as the dew of herbs. Oh! dear brother, what a hope is the resurrection! What a rich grape for Jesus to have left, and for us to possess in the midst of death, is HOPE! its energy is marvellous, reaching forth to that within the vail, to a risen Jesus, to a life beyond the reach of death. Death is no where so ashamed, as in the dying chamber of a believer. — There the victory is felt. Weakness, mortality, corruption, all proclaim, "as she has borne the image of the earthly, so shall she bear the image of the heavenly." Yes, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. And we who remain unto the coming of the Lord, we are not less blessed, for we may still a little longer suffer with Jesus. We may still hasten his coming, for He waits. Faith viewing things in this light, sees a thousand years as one day. Today, then, let us be diligent, that tomorrow we may be found of him in peace, waiting. For, doubtless, He shall come again, bringing his sheaves with him! …
My very dear Mr … , I fear I shall not be able to go to you this time; and as I have to leave next Monday, I do not like to propose your coming here, though I should be so very glad to see you. You said you had something to tell me I ought to know; what was it? I should like much to hear something about yourselves. I am taking pleasure in the thought that the Lord does not need a courageous heart; but expects our heart to be ever failing, that He may glorify himself in such! Flesh and heart failing is just what He wants, for it is in weakness his strength is made perfect. May we but give him all! The whole. of this dispensation is contained in that little word, ALL. His all is himself, heaven, and earth! Our all, two mites. Dear Mr … is it not strange that I am still here, and she taken? It makes me feel gone too. We were sisters all our lives. Somehow I feel like something that should not be here; yet, I am nearer to her, and more in communion. than when on earth; for do not we dwell within the vail? then there were two bodies to hinder, now only one. I am living where she is — in abiding at home, I am with her; before we had to leave our home, to speak of it on earth. How kind of the Lord to have let us look at one of his exotics, that we may follow after! It is a great secret the apostle teaches us, when he tells us, He forgot the things behind. To rest in the things behind is to sit down in Satan's enchanted bowers, in the flesh. There was no resting place provided in Christ's race — pressing forward, pressing forward, "faint, yet pursuing." Very dear friend, this presses on my spirit to be in earnest, as we never were before; our time is very short; let us not lose it in looking back, time enough for that hereafter. It is such a calling we are called to, how diligent we should be! We live in very peculiar days, in which Jesus is much dishonoured by his own children, because neither cold nor hot. We are afraid of being desperate Christians. Oh! let us be desperate. The church needs extremity; a great tug out of the world; to be in earnest as in the days of Ezra. We have talked long enough now about, how much?. He has had long patience. Now is our opportunity, or never; the time past of our life will suffice to have lived according to the course of this world, or in seeking to sanctify the world; now let us testify against it, that it is evil …
Cecil Street, Limerick.
Beloved friend, — What am I, or what that I can say, that you should think of me at such a time, to ask me to write? I wish I could know how you found … for I know not whether you will be even able to read this when you receive it. What a journey you must have had, yet from … letter I trust the worst was over. May it be blessed to … and may God's faithfulness be shown out to his praise and glory! Your last letter distressed me much, and I was longing to write ever since. Only I had so many that should come first, that I lost all courage. Very sure I am, God was not that hard God, Satan was suggesting to you; and sure I am that He is always more ready to receive you, than you to go to Him. But I know how we can be so unkind and ungrateful, because such had been exactly my own experience, before the time I received your letter. Oh! I believe, the church must go through the hour and power of darkness. Blessed those who are counted worthy to bear the burden and heat of the day, who can endure! We see the agonies of temptation in our beloved Master, and how earnestly He did beseech his church, (or its representatives,) to watch and pray against their hour of temptation; not only watch but pray, not only pray but watch; not by running into temptation, knowing the spirit was willing; but that ye enter not into temptation, because the flesh is weak. Have you dwelt much on the wonder of being friends to Jesus, and the condition of friendship? "If ye do whatsoever I command you," in that readiness of obedience as to be prepared for the discovery of any thing in the opening out of his mind; then He will keep nothing back in faithfulness. He has received nothing for Himself alone, all fulness is treasured up in Him for His church. Why do we not know more of his mind? Because not obedient to the light already given. Why not more manifesting Himself to us? Because we are not obedient. Why not dwelling more fully in us? Because not obedient. These all following obedience, while friendship finds it as impossible to refuse, as love to receive payment. Therefore, whatever his friends ask, they shall receive; and why not, when He first gave Himself?
My dear Mr … , (JND) I cannot let your kind note go without my thanks, and acknowledgments, though seeing you, or hearing from you, always makes me sad for the remainder of the day. Not that we are separated for ever; — oh! no — I shall yet be a very great joy to you, and I joy to believe it. In the day of his appearing, I may have many masters, but can have but one Father. It is sweet to think of the nearness and inseparable union of believers. Being each united to Jesus, they must be to one another; and all Satan can do, he cannot separate them. The life which runs in them is the same, the pulse of which beats in the breast of Jesus — crumbs of the same loaf. As long as the question is, who can separate from the love of Jesus? it is, who can separate from one another? In waiting for Him, we wait for his saints; for they shall come with Him, and the Lord's supper is his yea and amen, to these blessed, blessed promises. We are not sailing into port, alas! as one family, embarked in one vessel; yet we are all united as shipwrecked together, and though one may be on one board, and another on another, yet we are all making to, and shall surely arrive on the same shore — not seeking our own safety by sinking our neighbour's board, but helping one another with all the energies of love …
Believe me, dear Mr … the most affectionate, and most grateful friend you have in the world after all.
T. A. P.
June 21. 1836.
My dear Mr … , Truly, it is a great reality to be a Christian! He knew little what he was saying, who proposed to follow our beloved Master whithersoever he should go. Well might Jesus urge it upon him- to count the cost of his "whithersoever;" but it was not this world and himself, but Himself in exchange for all that could be desired here below — not only its superfluities, but its necessities; not only its necessities, but its dearest affections. Blessed, if while holding these subjectively, He stands out disunited from every thing else, the supreme of our hearts. If God fills our embrace, every thing else is lost — swallowed up in Him. How little we have the mind of Jesus, about his Father's glory; we let his cause wait our convenience. All went to their own homes, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. We are called in wonderful days, therefore is ours a responsible calling. In days when the Lord's people are attempting, what the Lord could not do, to bring the world with them, by walking arm-in-arm with it, He calls upon his true-hearted ones, for courage to give a tug upon the other side. We need to be reminded that our calling is heavenly; that we are from above: that henceforth we are to know nothing after the flesh, because all things are become new; that we are to have as little to do with those who crucified the Lord, as those who are alive from the dead, for our habitation is within the vail; our life is hid with Christ in God. In times past, we lived according to the course of this world; in times past, we fulfilled the desires of our mind. But now we are quickened, raised up — citizens of heaven, and to walk worthy of this calling in all lowliness. How sad to love Him, and yet love him so little! It seems an insult to that love which gave ALL for us, to say we love, and yet stop to calculate about giving all to Him, when our all is but two mites; His all, heaven, earth, eternity, himself. Better not to love at all; better to be cold than lukewarm. We may well be sick with him, in hearing the precious promises delighted in, only as allowing in unfaithfulness. We have not even honourable feelings about his having trusted his whole cause, his Father's glory, to our faithfulness, having so unguardedly, so unconditionally, thrown himself upon our love! May it not be so with us, but may we be able to endure hardness in this hour of his necessity! May we go very softly, and be kept from entangling ourselves with the things of this world, that we may please him who called us to be soldiers …
Very affectionately and gratefully yours, always,
T. A . P
My very dear brother — I thank the Lord for allowing me, this morning, the sweet employment of writing to you. You know my time is not my own, having been bought with a price to be my Master's servant; and a blessed service it is — perfect liberty. But you know a servant's time is not his own; they must go where he calls, and do as he bids. This has been the cause of my long silence; for, indeed, I have had it in my heart to write to you, night as well as day, especially when you gave me some hints of not feeling for you. I am sure, I do not feel as I ought to feel for any of the saints, because of selfishness; yet I trust I do feel with you, and wait to see the loving tenderness of the Lord. In this I find a difference between Christ's sympathy and his people. They, when they want to be dissociated from all below, seek to harden themselves against the feelings and sympathy of human nature. He left open all the feelings and sympathies of human nature, received pain, laid bare his breast, while passing on before the sheep, that the bleeding of his wounds might serve as balm for the wounded brother; yet was he dissociated from all below. What account from your dear son? Mrs … told me he was better. It was pleasant to see her; it brought me back to Scotland — her dear Scotch voice. I wonder you never come over to see me, the passage is so easy — my English friends repeatedly come over, but you know the Scotch had always all head, and no heart. But, no! this is not the time for enjoyment — I forgot — I should be sorry, very sorry, were you to come, having nothing to do, but to see me — sorry that money and time should, in one sense, be wasted on me, though in another sense, if for my benefit, it would not be wasted. I believe the whole life of a Christian, Christianity, the life of heaven on earth, is love — the love to serve one another. It is a most interesting life when really entered into — it is incompatible with the sustaining of rank and station; it must be down, down, for it exalts the treasure, not the grace. Jesus did not hand down his blessing, but became poor, that he might, through his poverty, make us rich. It must be service, watchful, diligent, alive to the wants of others; its spirit is surrender — surrender of every good; our comforts. Like our Master, we must gird ourselves and stoop down, if privileged, to wash the saints' feet, if allowed to communicate not only temporal, but as our great Priest, (who is now seeing us) dispensing life-giving, spiritual refreshment. This was a glory he obtained, and never will part with — to be our servant. He loves it: even when coming again, he is represented as making his people sit down and coming forth to serve. What poor, wretched servants we are, forgetting continually we are not our own; squandering his goods! Surely were we the masters, such servants should long since have been packed off. Pretending that our time and all are his, and yet engaging also with the enemy.
"All that I am, all that I have,
Shall be for ever thine;
Whate'er thy wisdom bids me give,
My cheerful hands resign.
Yea, tho' I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call;
I love my Lord with such a love,
That I would give him all."
It is a strange, treacherous domination of the god of this world, to be able to have the Lord's servants sent below for his work only, and that the wages he allows them is the gilded dust and baubles of the world, (which they know to be only death.) We must have a different kind of Christianity, dear brother, in these days of profession; not satisfied with the excellent way, but following the more excellent. That there is so much profession without confession, must be laid at our door; for we have not given them to see outwardly, what we do believe inwardly. We have thought it enough that the heart should be right, therefore our representation of truth has contradicted the declaration of our blessed Lord, "these things ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone." Our blessed Lord did not come to judge: nothing but gracious words proceeded out of his mouth, but the light in Him convicted each conscience. How beautifully is this evidenced in the 8th of John! After the grace of 7th chapter, 37th verse, — the acknowledgment in the 46th verse of the same chapter; — the mercy shown in the beginning of the 8th, — all seemed to produce nothing but conviction; — then, as if explaining it all, he declares 12th chapter, 8th verse, "for the poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always." It either acts repulsively, or draws us, as we see in the woman of Samaria; now she tried at first to turn it off to idle questions, till she surrendered her heart to be searched by the light. I only mean to say, ye are now the children of light, walk as children of light: light maketh manifest; all things reproved are made manifest by light, but it must be pure, heavenly light, which has no fellowship with darkness, but a continual reproving of it. This is our calling, my dear brother; our prospects are bright: seeing you look for such things be diligent, and so much more as you see the day approaching.
10th November, 1836.
… I comfort myself, that the first stone of Babel destroyed itself by its confusion. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church — He will work, and who shall let him. It is his glory "out of the bitter to bring forth sweetness." And by the very confusion, He will bring forth order. What was the order doing which did prevail? only building Babylon. If the faithful are ever found in the position of the wise virgins, trimming their lamps, expecting their Lord, there must be a separation from those who are only discerning that they have no oil. If saints are ever thrown out from the mass of professors, the church must be as a basket turned topsy-turvy, and that is confusion. Iniquity abounding, causing the love of many to wax cold, is surely one of the signs of the times of the end. May we be found faithful!
There is much, moreover, in the church's confusion to call out our gratitude, I think. Is it not, in a measure, the consequence of increased light, of the quantity of neglected evil which the light meets in the heart, because of the quantity of neglected truth? We setting ourselves up as judges of God; saying, this truth is profitable; that, of no moment; whereas, all truth must be necessary, if given — it may not be necessary for justification, but necessary to transforming us into that mind of Jesus into which we are predestinated, that He may be "the first-born among many brethren." We like to repose in the promises of safety so freely bestowed, and so that I am happy, I have communion with God, I have peace, I escape sin by getting to heaven at last — all is well. What is the glory to me separate from I, myself I? surely my salvation is his glory — Is it not so, dear brother? Then if another comes forward, leaving that behind, (perhaps too much,) and speaks of His glory as to be attained in the day of His coming, or His glory as witnessed by his body, the Church, now in the midst of Satan's kingdom; or if His glory be desired in more conformity to his image, in more simple and entire obedience to his commands, there is an immediate jealousy, as if the Cross was forgotten. Too long has the Cross been made the end, instead of the foundation of our cause — because we are saved, we are to go on; not, because we are saved, to sit down and rest. This seems to me the chief cause of all the want of love among the dear children of the same family. It is not that they do not love; they do love. My heart tells me they do love all — it is the more they love the less they are loved, because the Spirit dwelling in them is love — it is not that love is less than formerly, but love is more tried than formerly, and evils, which we thought we had not before, having been found by the entrance of the light of truth, we find ourselves full of envies, jealousies, suspicions, and we find that while thinking we were only seeking Jesus, we have been living and seeking self — Oh! how I have lived to prove this — and sometimes think, dear brother, we may never meet again, or perhaps even you may put me down among the dangerous ones. But is it not most precious in the midst of all to know that our Beloved is the beloved of the Father, is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother? — There our hearts meet in Jesus — the only resting place; mine Elect in whom my soul delighteth. He loves us, in connection with him He loves. He loves Him, in connection with us. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again." — The fulness which fills God, the perfection which satisfied God, may well fill and satisfy us — He can supply every need, and every out-going of the poor heart — His children need not be pent up, and withered in self; the heart finds its out-goings in the Beloved. He is one we never shall be ashamed of loving. — There are two things necessary for happiness — perfect satisfaction in the one loved, and perfect confidence in his perfect satisfaction in us, with a love which will secure a continuance in the same, without fear of any new discovery turning aside — these we have to perfection in Jesus, and only in Jesus — The more we know him, the more we must be satisfied with him, and go to him with confidence for counsel, depending on his wisdom, in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom; and the more we know him, the more we feel able to take to him every little trifle, because sure of his interest in us; the only one who can give all his heart to each. This is our Beloved — this is our friend; and, blessed be his name, he is a tried and faithful one, not only in loving to the end, but in holding us by his mighty power in tender jealousy as His, to the end — when he causes us to set out in security, desiring to be His only, He is prepared for us to be often led to deal very treacherously, he is prepared for us to be often seduced by Satan's lie, that there is good in every thing forbidden; though most base in us to be deceived, because if we would but abide in his heart, read circumstances by his love, in place of his love by circumstances, it would be enough to assure us a thing was evil, that it was not given. Yes, He is prepared for the foolishness of our poor earthly hearts, and He stands in the majesty of his own perfection, long and often, and patiently, answering Satan's objections and seductions with — "Mary hath chosen that better part which shall not be taken from her." Had He left us to ourselves, how often would a deceived heart have turned us aside. How often should we have put evil for good, and bitter for sweet. — Our flesh makes great cries, but with long suffering patience. He, as one who hears not, puts all these prayers aside, and keeps in steady faithfulness to our original desire, the uncalculating surrender of our first love, because he stands in a sense of his own superiority over all, in the confidence of being able to satisfy the desire of every living thing. — Oh, it is a precious thing in this tempestuous world to wrap ourselves up in a sense of His unchangeable love, His inexhaustible grace, — to be able to meet every event with, "I know and believe the love He has to me," and so credit the apostle's assurance, "all things are for your sakes;" — deeply sensible of our undeservingness, as chief of sinners, receiving all as grace, returning him all glory. Is it not his nature to bless? Has he not in Jesus's human heart formed for himself, as it were, a recipient for the fulness of love — His love. — If he has placed us in the one whom he delights to bless, is it not that precious ointment may descend ever to the beloved. May we then cleave to the beloved of the Father, and get grace for grace! May we be resigned to our portion — "all spiritual blessings in Christ." What a proof in Balaam, that all must be grace from beginning to end? while the future glory of God's people, and the future destruction of the nations of the world, even both were full in view; his heart was so cleaving to the dust, that the former was nothing to him, while he was refused rewarding the latter. Surely then, if chosen, it is grace; if chastened, it is grace; if humbled, it is grace; if not revolting, it is grace …
If you want rest, die with Him.
If joy, ascend with Him.
If you want to suffer with him, descend again with him into the church — it will break your heart in pieces for you. — We wait for a glorious time! It is a testimony to the indwelling of God's Spirit, this unsatisfied longing for the very order and beauty which he has appointed. It is a continual witness to the heart, both that nothing here can satisfy, and also that He knows our wants, and is able to satisfy. May He now give an earnest in causing to descend his shechina of glory — his new Jerusalem (as it were) in all its harmony, and order into the … He that follows me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life How pleasant to feel to be getting into the taste of Christ, and an increasing distaste to the wisdom of this world, and to be able to covet and admire the simplicity of foolishness! — Oh, that we could lose our reputation for every thing, and be the offscouring of the church, as well as the world! then we should be safe — any thing to get hid out of this world's cruel kindness. — When I see how saints are spoiled, oh! I tremble, and wish I could hide myself from even the love of Christians … Let us keep our eye on the Lord; while gazing on him we are changed. — Many snares we have in church and world, but there is one remedy, "Looking unto Jesus," this lets out self, and lets in God. May we more and more know that we are really nothing, and so live in Christ, as to live above every thing else! Be patient, the day draweth nigh when Jesus in his beauty shall be manifested, when he shall unfold it to us, and we in it all; when he shall delight and present all the members of his body, one and the other, and will joy to see them rejoice together. The Lord keep you in patient continuance of well-doing! Surely, if we desire to be shining lights, we must be first burning, and we shall neither be burning nor shining, unless sometimes snuffed. There was a golden snuffers provided in the temple. — Is not gold the emblem of Divinity? May my God make me willing to be nothing, expecting to be the refuse and offscouring of all things! — May he shelter our feelings, and shelter our affections! they are too keen for such a world; they need to be sheathed in himself, embosomed in him, till the time when they shall be able to expand to the creature, without idolatry, without a wound, without a sorrow.
Be not weary of afflicting — snuff the candle, if needful — only let it be with thy golden snuffers. Lord, come down into thy chambers in this heart! Is it not thy habitation through the Spirit? purify then for thyself — clean it out, fumigate it. May the incense of thy sacrifice ascend, as a sweet odour, taking away a contaminating influence, which without this is ever ascending. "The throat is an open sepulchre!" … Furnish it with all fit for the Master's use, that it may be a castle worthy of thyself. — Give me faith, give me the wings of faith, to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and leave my body and all my entanglements with thee. On earth we can get rid of cares by leaving them, when we leave them in hands we can trust. — Though we see it not, goodness and mercy are folded up in the darkest events, which by and by we shall see in his light. May we walk as citizens of the land of uprightness, sit upon the throne of his approbation — keep human opinion as footstool! Shall we fear to step down into the depths of faithfulness? Shall we even desire to walk through waters only to the ankles? Can we doubt that according to our day He has strength laid up? Has he not promised, "from strength to strength?" — When we pray, if possible, let this cup pass from me — may not He answer, ye know not what ye ask? — we know not what we should be depriving ourselves of — Let us wait and show forth in a body of humiliation, graces which we cannot in a body of glory. Do we speak without meaning, when we say that we desire to live to His glory? He desires not empty expressions. — Do we really desire but one thing, His glory?
Bushy, Enniskerry, December 5th, 1836.
Dear … , … I fear you think me very ungrateful for so long neglecting to answer your kind letter — a word of exhortation from you always does me good; and, indeed, we need every help to keep these heavy souls on their way. — It is a great gift to be able to speak a word in season — "How good it is!" Solomon says, "As apples of gold in pictures of silver." Jesus learnt it. I believe it is by little things, the children are fed; He gives us our meat in due season. In this way I have often found letters special and precious means of grace, and I believe they would be more so, and no loss of time, did we more write in faith, and more live each day upon what may be prepared for us by the Spirit of God. When present with a person, we may try to make a thing applicable, or be tempted to do so — when absent, if their case is met, it seems more that the Lord has considered the case, and sends his message through his scribe, while it cheers the heart of the writer in passing. There is truly in the ways of God with his own children, and when the Spirit finds a Mount of Olives in our hearts, to pour forth his intercessions in, we must be let into many also of his secret dealings with the family of heaven. It was not, I trust, because I have not thought of you, or spoken about you to the Lord, that I have not written; above all, I have asked him, if in any thing you are ignorant of yourself, to search you out with his candle of truth, and discover it to you in his own tenderness — but who am I to speak of others? TRULY, of sinners I am chief; I am persuaded there will be no specimen brought forward of his tried patience with any member in his blessed family, so bright, as his long suffering forbearance with me; thus shall I also be to the praise of the glory of his grace.
I do not know whether you have been in … or … I long to hear of one, and love to hear of the other. — No doubt you have found blessing, wherever you are, and humbling; for that seems his business with us in which we give him no help. — What insignificant creatures we are, and how ridiculous we look when we clothe ourselves in robes of glory! They were never made to fit us; we cannot fill them; and yet, how self works through every thing! Often a little thing discovers this to us, how we have been speaking for, and seeking self, while apparently and intentionally we have been even jealous for Jesus. I feel that the children of God have very much, indeed, to detect this in themselves. If it is really our dear Lord we are seeking, we shall be willing for him to be glorified, in ourselves being hated, as well as loved — willing to be misinterpreted, and misunderstood — willing to be the dark back ground, in the image we present, if it throws out more his light as the object on which the eye may rest. How often we think in our communion with others, we are rejoicing in their response of love to Jesus, when some hint against ourselves will turn the current, and so expose to our hearts, our self-idolatry. I am not certain that this has ever been your experience, but I am sometimes quite disgusted with myself, to find I can steal his gifts and graces, to deck up this household God; seeking also to sustain a good opinion of myself, while verily knowing neither good nor evil. We ourselves are witnesses how difficult it is for us to let Him rule and guide his church, in finding how difficult to let Him rule ourselves — against palpable evil we co-operate with him, but in seeming good we are often seeking different ends, and working different ways; so when we get a view of how each member is striving against the Spirit, it leaves little surprise that the church is found in opposition, treasuring a quantity of things He can have no communion with, so quenching his willing gracious light; her confession of weakness is only in words, for her only true confession would be delivering herself up to him, to will and to do in her of his good pleasure, even all the good pleasure of his will. I believe if He ever blesses us as a whole, it must be by first humbling us to submit to be blessed at any cost, and to let the Spirit take his own place, casting down every high imagination, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ …
I do not feel to have any particular call to any place, except an anxious desire in all places to be preserved by his grace from hindering his work. — He can use me any where for the saints in prayer. "Mary, who bestowed much labour on us," I covet. Have you been led much into Scripture of late? much into the holy of holies? … Is it not most precious, in the midst of all, to know that our Beloved is a friend, who sticketh closer than a brother — that he is the beloved of the Father — the father's meeting place with our hearts, His only resting place in all he has created, and we in him our only resting place, and He in him — that He loved us for his sake, and loves him because he laid down his life for us. The fulness which fills God, the perfection which satisfies God, may well fill and satisfy us. He is a supply to every need, and every out-going of the poor heart. — He is one we shall never be ashamed of loving, one we shall never be disappointed in loving; no fear of any new discovery turning him aside; his interest extends to every little trifle, while his counsel is, all the treasures of wisdom. He is prepared for us often to deal very treacherously, and to be often deceived by Satan's lie, that there is good in forbidden fruit; yes, he is prepared for all our foolishness. — He turns to Peter and says, "Lovest thou me? feed them." He turns to the Father and says, "Lovest thou me? bless them." Oh, it is precious in this tempestuous world, to wrap ourselves up in a sense of his unchangeable love, his inexhaustible grace, and be able to meet every event with, "I know and believe the love he has to me," — and that "all things are for my sake." May we have grace to cleave to Jesus, and be resigned to have for our portion "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Balaam's heart was still on the earth while looking at its destruction, and God's glory — All is grace from first to last. — What an honour to be counted worthy to stand in the crisis! — the honour to which all Scripture from the beginning has been looking; — the winding up of time. — Let us bear in our bodies the last blows of the flesh, — let us manifest in our mortal bodies that Jesus is alive, — let us be willing to endure all things for the elect's sake, — let us put by our play-things, because the world is in flames. — Why creep about in this deadening atmosphere of falsehood, instead of ever abiding in the region of truth and reality? Why are not our visits to earth only as messengers of mercy to dress the wounds of the Church — to glorify Him by finishing the work he has given us to do? sent of Jesus, even as he was sent of the Father. And while seeking to be worthy of the name put upon her, may she remember that it is not of herself the bride is to speak, but her object, her subject, her delight, her hope, her only resting place is her Beloved — the bridegroom of her heart.
There are two things to be remarked in this most touching portion of Scripture. 1st. God's motive for, and manner of thus trying Abraham. 2dly. The way in which Abraham receives it. Many were Abraham's expressions of love to his God; and most valuable were those expressions. But God is a jealous God; words are not sufficient. Faith must be put to the trial. Again, and again, the question will be put: "lovest thou me more than these?" Till tried we know not how little faith we have. Faith must be put in the scales with something very near our hearts; — yes, with what is nearest; for it still must be, "more than these." The furnace must be heated in proportion to the increase of our faith. Is it because God willingly afflicts? no; but the trial of faith strengthens faith, consumes its dross. This trial is precious to God, more precious than gold; it is his riches, his treasure; and precious to him is it to have proof from his child, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou seest that I love thee." We know not the intense interest which every trial of faith produces in the invisible world; or how these light afflictions are not merely now precious, but shall be to his honour and glory at the day of his appearing. Abraham was the father of the faithful. There must be an exhibition of faith worthy his name, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe; if only to part with something of no value, of little worth, what thanks? could not even the heathen so? Remember this in every providence, every trying providence. It does not speak God's love changed, but it is a messenger direct from the throne to your heart, a ministering spirit sent forth to the heirs of salvation — it brings the message, I will put you to the test now, I will put home the question in a way that shall be felt. Arc you ready to say, I could have borne any thing but this? then remember the greatest approbation God can give us, is to heat the furnace to the utmost. He is in fact saying, "great is thy faith," little furnaces are for little faith; and is it not valuable even to earthly affection, do we not seize every opportunity of giving proof to expressions of love? Think how dear must Isaac have been to Abraham; God gave him this son, after an hundred years' desire. In his death all God's promises and blessing, not only to himself; but to the world, must be entombed. He had been accustomed to look upon Isaac as his peculiar treasure; not only a beloved son, but a token of good from his covenant God. When we hear that it was "very grievous" to Abraham to cast out Ishmael, how much more to slay Isaac; yet after he has long enjoyed him, just come to an age when even in natural providence a common bereavement of him would have been most grievous, God determined to put his faith to the test, and prove whether still it would not stagger, but being rich give Him glory; how often we think we value the gift only for the sake of the giver, till God exposes us to ourselves, by demanding his gift. Oh! let us count the cost when we say we believe, it is a word of deep meaning in the dictionary of God. Paul's belief was ready to do, but what was the answer, "Thou shalt see what great things thou shalt suffer for my name sake." It has been so from the beginning; you would not be without that trial of which all the church have been partakers, you would not that He should be so indifferent to your love, as never to question you about it, or desire an evidence of it. How full of compassion His approach to Abraham! He comes with all the tenderness of one who knew he was about to wound a heart he loved; and is it not so with us? Have we ever marked his steps, his gentleness when bringing a painful message? It is to be marked by every attentive observer of his providences. "Abraham," I have somewhat to say unto thee, "I have called thee by name;" why? because thou art mine; He, as it were, beckoned him into the wilderness saying, "come, let us reason together," that in the end he might speak comfortably.
Verse 1. Every thing to aggravate, to draw out Abraham's feelings in the wording of this command, nothing to be discovered after, all laid out before him; Son, only son, thy son Isaac, the son of thy love, the son of promise: when promising him he said, ch. 17-19, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac, and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him."
Verse 3. "Early," no hesitation — no time lost in murmuring — simple immediate obedience is faith — no questions; he obeyed because commanded. Prompt obedience is expected, "I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments." In Abraham's faith, we see nothing is too difficult for love — we also perceive there is a love that excelleth the closest, most endeared tie, love that constraineth, not that which goes to the task, as though saying I do it because I must. Flesh murmurs; self-will repines; self-indulgence rebels; but faith looks up for the promised strength, and by it conquers — stops the mouth with a hush, "be still, and know that I am God." Let us look at Abraham saddling his ass, rising early, walking three days with his knife in his hand, taking his last look at his Isaac, and learn to count it all Joy, should we also be deemed worthy to attain to such grace, even though it be through fiery trial. The cross is the only way to the crown; if for a proof, if for benefit, it must touch something most valued; withered must be every gourd, torn away every prop, every thing of which we would say "This same shall comfort me."
Verses 5, 6. When going up with Abraham and trying to realize his feeling at this moment, let us not forget that we are told it is a figure. The love of the Father is the origin of all the work of Christ; this is kept before us in this figure, the love of the Son is often erroneously considered as pacifying the wrath of the Father. The Father laid it on him, and because it was laid on him by the Father, because it was the Father's will, it was his meat and drink to suffer it, until finished. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." It pleased the Lord to bruise him; and Abraham was to be a pattern of faith to the end of time, therefore must the most trying proof be sought for, and in it God seems to say, behold my love, for God "so loved the world," etc. — the same trial is touchingly described, (Judges 11-30. etc.) Now we read (1 John 4, 9, 10,) — "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his Son into the world that we might live through him," etc. Here we have proof that the sacrifice of God in giving his Son, (to speak after the manner of men,) was the utmost pang the Divine mind could devise, for it was the one chosen as a pattern of faith to the end of time. God would thus, it seems, sustain us in all our minor trials, by an apprehension of his own love, embodied in that of Abraham: by setting him up before us, as the father of the faithful and pattern of faith. He would check our doubts of his willingness, with his only Son, to give all things: seeing that in Abraham's not sparing his Isaac, He asked no more; while he would also draw out our love and gratitude, that our requirement is not our first born for our transgression; that having been done for us at an expense of love set forth in Abraham, we have only to "love mercy and to walk humbly with our God." The fire was in the Father's hand, and also the knife, when to Calvary they went both together. The transaction was all between them. Stupendous acts were being fulfilled while foolish man gazed on with unmeaning gaze, but was as little admitted into the secret wonders of the transaction as the young men who remained with the ass were with Abraham and Isaac's; and in all they saw must it have been as contradictory to mercy, as opposed to common sense. Abraham laid aside every weight, asked no questions, looked not at consequences, said not, how shall I stand the trial? but "ran with patience the race set before him, looking unto Jesus," It was a difficult race — but he was bent on it. if faint, yet pursuing, and any hindrance that might impede his progress, and make his bold, resolute willingness falter, he laid aside.
He was running the race of faith. To a bystander he might have appeared very unfeeling; nay, he must have appeared deranged. What a lesson not to judge by the understanding! The cross is to the mere looker-on "foolishness." We have also in Isaac a view of the majesty of that Love which set its face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, that rebuked Peter with "Thou art an offence unto me," because he would dissuade him from it; neither moved by contradictions, ingratitude, or feeling, we see perfect acquiescence in the will of his Father. It was the vengeance of God which sore afflicted his righteous soul, he endured the malignity of man with pitying love. In this figure, therefore, let us see Jesus bearing his cross, and going forth to Golgotha.
Verse 7. Here we have the property of a child. In one point, there is a resemblance between a servant and a child. It is the part of both to obey, not to consult, plan, argue, or direct; but in this there is a difference, — it is a child's privilege to ask the parent's reason, still remembering it is the parent's privilege to refuse to give it, without the child's obligation to obey being altered. In this simple address, "my father," all confidence is expressed. Abraham's silence thus interrupted, must have ploughed up every parental feeling within. Abraham seemed not to have courage to tell him.
Verse 8. Much seems contained in the answer, probably more than Abraham was aware of; observe "will provide himself" — here is our blessed security, that He did provide it for himself: therefore is he called the Lamb of God; though he cried to him, God spared him not, but laid him on the altar with his own hand, and sacrificed him; why? that we might live. The language of flesh would have been, but what becomes of his promises? If Isaac is taken, where is the promise that in his seed should all the earth be blessed? The language of faith is, God can provide himself a lamb. Trust him to accomplish his own promises, only obey. Sense is ever questioning, oh! but if so, and so, this and that will happen, which God cannot mean. Faith answers, what He has promised he is able to perform. This command of God could not have been more confounding, more opposite to all Abraham could have expected from the promise; this is faith. To act when all is clear to our senses, is sense, not faith; to act upon God's word, is faith; we do not enough consider this in our daily walk, and difficulties. It is not our part to seek to bring about God's prophecies or promises, we understand not the ways of the Lord. He brings about his own purposes, in the most contradictory ways. It is our prudence to leave the management to Him, who sees the end from the beginning. Let us not mar his work, but submit; we may, being sons, ask to understand our Father's will, never is it our place to think for Him. Did he fail? Did he not provide a Lamb without blemish or spot, fore-ordained before the foundation of the world? "In due time Christ died," etc. As the Lamb of God, does he appear in the midst of the throne, while the 10,000 times 10,000, ever put their seal to this word, crying out, "worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing." As I before said, we have in this transaction the Father's love, and the Son's love in the work of redemption, even as both are set forth in the 53d of Isaiah, end of 4th and 6th verses. Of the Son, it is said, in the 7th, 9th, and 12th v. in conformity with what we hear Him saying, John, 10. 18. "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." He humbled himself, he suffered himself to be bound, though they had no power over him; like Samson, he could have burst their bonds, yet he was bound, led away, delivered to Pontius Pilate, the governor. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, (Phil. 2. 8.) Because this commandment he received of the Father.
Verses 9 and 10. Abraham built the altar, Abraham laid the wood in order, Abraham bound Isaac, his son; Abraham laid him on the altar, on the wood, and Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. Abraham's faith by this was justified; when he took the knife and stretched forth his hand, the deed was done! He was not one who only says he has faith. See James 2. 21.
Man's extremity is God's opportunity; — he knows our souls in adversity, is a present help in time of trouble; when there is none to hear, none to succour, Jesus then draws near, spreads out his arms of consolation, and embraces the believer on every side. Example, John 9. 34, 35. Also Hagar, Gen. 16. 5, etc.; 21. 9, etc. and though her affliction was the effect of her own sin, she sowed to the wind, and it was just she should reap the whirlwind; she sowed upon a bed of flint, and had no right to expect to reap but a crop of cares, yet the Lord meets her with a promise; and oh! how all-powerful to heal is a promise when spoken home by Him who has been instructed to speak a word in season to the weary! So it was with Abraham, he sees himself surrounded by a Providence ready to overwhelm and crush his faith; he knows not how it can be overcome; but he knew his God, and that God was not unmindful of Abraham; he was so intent upon him that he was ready at the very nick of time; his compassions waited to manifest themselves while seeming to have no regard. The three long days Abraham was walking up the mount, though he seemed left alone to his griefs and perplexities, yet the eyes of the Lord were upon the righteous, and by works Abraham's faith was made perfect. This trial was but a messenger to the heir of promise at God's command it came — at God's command it departed; and though the knife was stretched out, yet at his presence and bidding, sorrow and sighing fled away. We have a strong lesson in this, what real good and real evil mean, the very same act may be one moment evil, and the next good.
Verse 14. Meaning the Lord will see to it — in this mount, or in the extremity, the Lord will see to it. Or, perhaps, the very name of the mount was to be a continual remembrance, that God would provide for himself a lamb for a burnt offering. See examples of extremities, 2 Cor. 1. 8, 10; Dan. 3. 17; Ps. 22. 4.5. This is comforting for others, as well as ourselves. It was customary to call names in remembrance of help received in time of need. Gen. 16. 13, 14. — Thou God seest me — Beer-lahai-roi. Ex. 17. 15. — When the Lord helped against Amalek — The Lord my banner — Jehovah-Nissi. 1 Sam. 7. 12. — When the Lord helped against the Philistines — Eben-ezer — the stone of help. We think it strange to see the man of God setting value on worldly honour and riches, because God says they are evil; but it is less surprising to find the man of God sinking under trial, when God says it is good? If we believe, should we not hail it, should we not clasp it to our bosom, as a token of his love? When standing as we expect among the great multitude escaped out of great tribulation, would we be found the only one without this family particularity? When standing at the close of life, and taking a retrospect in his light, will not trial be that in which we shall with most distinct emphasis be able to distinguish that name in which all blessedness is included — my son? Heb. 12. 7. Let us accept tribulation as the boon we are most unworthy of. "If ye were without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then are ye not sons." Rather let us bless him. Oh! bless Him that he has not given that which would be indeed the desert of our rebellious hearts, i.e. "Let them alone." For us to be able to run the race of faith, every weight of sin, like Abraham's, must be put out of the way — laid aside. Holy, bold resolution, in this will do much in keeping us steady in our race. Often we see nets spread before us in our path, though it is written, — "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird;" yet so does man excel in folly, even the beasts of the field, and birds of the air, that we run into our favourite snares with our eyes open, though, perhaps, determining not to be held, but to struggle out of them; present weakness not being sufficient to correct confidence in future strength, till our feet are entangled, our race impeded, and we discover too late that the God of strength has refused to accompany us into the snare, has been left behind, and we stand alone against the enemy. Oh that we were wise! oh that we had grace to be resolute! wise to turn aside from pits, into which our weakness has fallen again and again, and our faith well nigh been lost. The wise man speaking of temptation, says, "Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away" — parley not with the old serpent, for his arguments are most ingenious; resist, or else flee from him. Hearken not to the voice of this charmer, charm he never so wisely; let us examine ourselves in this, see to it that nothing impede our race, weaken our faith, or prevent our obedience. Let us be honest with ourselves, and in earnest with God. Let us treasure no Babylonish garment, however goodly; let us sanctify ourselves, for if there be an accursed thing hid in our hearts, we shall not be able to stand in the day of trial; we lose much time in our progress, by needing such repeated lessons in each truth; when we should have been wise, we are still fools. We also learn in this Scripture how little life there is in faith, till that faith is called into action; though faith may be absolute, and love ardent, yet how many tests it needs, before we really love what we believe. God requires many proofs of love before He will confide in us as friends; it was so with Abraham; but when he, indeed, found he would not withold his son, his only son, He calls him the friend of God; then upon the soul thus brought under his will, He rises with healing in his wings, enters into the richest friendship, unbosoms himself, says, "I am thy shield, thy exceeding great reward;" while all the efforts by which faith has been made perfect, what have they been? Just so many opportunities of blessedness, whatever the travail. It must have been so to Abraham. In him we have verified, that no temptation shall take the servant of the Lord, above that he is able to bear; but with every temptation shall be a way of escape, that he may be able to bear it. He knows exactly the moment to help; His time may be a protracted time, it may be three such days; circumstances may be aggravated to the utmost, for he is a surgeon that will not lightly heal over a wound, but must get to the core; therefore is the knife so often used, after knife. He does not the work by halves, his work is perfect; his child may be tempted to think himself a mark for his arrow, one may so swiftly follow the other, so nigh to overwhelm. We may be ready to cry out, "Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?" but, Deut. 32. 36, "the Lord shall judge his people and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone." This is His way, has been His way, and will yet be His way, because "His compassions fail not." He visits, He brings low, only because needful, to enable us to receive the happiness he has provided; so has been his way with his people Israel, among whom his providential dealings have been chiefly exhibited, Micah 4. 10. Let us then in this portion, as well as every other of God's word, "Behold the Lamb of God." And may the Father of Glory give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of himself! Let us look unto Jesus: he has taken the curse and wrath out of our sufferings, even though called to pass through a burning fiery furnace. Is it not Almighty love which calls to it? not to hurt, but to try; to give happy proof of the soundness of that faith which is his own gift. He would have us know that faith, trusting in His tried word, is invincible. He would bring us to the experience of the Psalmist — "Thy word is tried to the uttermost, and thy servant loveth it." In Abraham, God's word was tried: the trial proved its truth, and increased his confidence in its truth, and so confirms ours also in beholding, "He that believeth shall never be confounded." May we grow daily in this faith of our father Abraham, and so prove ourselves Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise, having "put on Christ, in whom is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus."
A well-known writer has said concerning David, the inspired writer of the Psalms, "his place in the church was to hand down an organ, to express the feelings of every individual of God's people, through time; therefore was his education and discipline suited to this end. He was prepared of God for the work he accomplished, and thus it was that one man brought forth that vast variety of experience, in which every soul rejoices to find itself reflected. John the Baptist, being to be used for rough work, was trained in the rough desert. Paul, being to be used for contention and learned work, was trained at Gamaliel's feet. Daniel, being to be used for judgment and revelation, was trained in the wisdom of the East. Joseph, being to be used as a providence to Egypt and his father's house, was trained in the hardest school of Providence; and every one in God's church has been disciplined by God's providence, as well as furnished in nature, for that particular work for which the Spirit of God designed him. Therefore had David that brilliant galaxy of natural gifts, that rich and varied education, to fit him for his high office. His harp was full strung, and every angel of joy and sorrow swept over the chords as he passed; but the melody always breathed of heaven, and such oceans of affection lay within his breast, as could not always slumber in their calmness. For the hearts of an hundred men strove and struggled together within the narrow continent of his single heart. We would especially mention those called Penitential Psalms, for they discover the soul's deepest hell of agony; and though by no means defending his backsliding, even out of his evil much good has been made to arise. Had he not passed through every valley of humiliation, and stumbled upon the dark mountains, we should not have a language for the soul of the penitent, or an expression for the dark troubles, which compass the soul which fears to be deserted of its God. Let us remember the part he had to act was a difficult one. The shepherd, the hero, the friend, the outcast, the monarch, the poet, the prophet, the regenerator of the Church, and the man — the man, who played not into these parts by turns, but was the original of them all; and let us remember that until an individual, however pure, honest and honourable he may have thought himself, and been thought by others, discovers himself to be utterly fallen, defiled and sinful in the sight of God, a worm of the earth, and his soul cleaving to the dust, and bearing about with it a body of sin and death; and until for expression of his utter worthlessness, he seeks those Psalms in which David describes the abasement of his soul, — yes, and can make them his own, that man knows nothing of spiritual life; for the heart must break up, be contrite and broken, to be the abode of the High and Holy One, who inhabiteth eternity."
But in all the Psalmist's discipline, we find not the experience here expressed. The words, as in the other Penitential Psalms, leave David behind, and carry on the mind to David's antitype. There is a loving confusion between David and Messiah in this book: and with the head all the members are closely united, — they cannot be separated. The believer cannot sing His praises or triumph, but he must take himself in as a part, and be embraced in his glory.
Let us drink deep into this book, and we shall find ourselves linked to the spiritual David by a thousand tender ties; for every line breathes of Messiah, and every sentiment leads to him. In c very thought he has a share — "Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending, first and last" of the soul's delight. Were it not for the Book of Psalms, we should know little of the mental sufferings of our blessed Lord; for except when wrung from him on the cross, and in the garden of Gethsemane, when, looking for some to have pity, he cried out, "my soul is exceeding sorrowful;" and it was with expressive silence he went through all, as a lamb taken to the slaughter, or as a sheep dumb before the shearers. We might have supposed, that being God, he could not feel as man; but it is in the Psalms we peculiarly discover this incomprehensible truth. — He was as perfect God as perfect man; as perfect man as perfect God. It was this marvellous combination of majesty and weakness which the prophets enquired and searched diligently into, not being able to comprehend beforehand the "sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow." He made himself dependant on God and dependant on man; yet infinite power was displayed in the sufferings of Christ, in sustaining his humanity. Jesus is essentially the Son of God, not officially so, — officially he is a servant. The worship of Messiah is a personified perfection of Deity. The Saviour was a volunteer in all his sufferings and temptations. Did man put himself into temptation, it would be a sin. The Saviour, in becoming our security, took upon himself all the consequences of our sin: sin separates the creature and Creator; sin disposes man to hate and fight against his God. Sin makes the creature the enemy of the Creator. O ye who trifle on the precipice of destruction, this truth will be experienced in all its energy and bitterness in hell! devils tormenting the lost, the lost tormenting each other. The bosom of the Saviour is now open — flee, flee, flee from the wrath to come.
There was a remarkable similitude, and yet a striking contrast between the first and second Adam. Adam was type of Christ; as Lord of all, he was monarch of the earth; in consequence of transgression he forfeited all, hence the cause of the Saviour's life being a life of suffering and shame. He was treated as we deserved, therefore denied a cup of cold water when he cried, I thirst. The contrast is also striking between the first and second Adam. The first, in Eden, with nothing to want, became a prey to all. The second, in the midst of want, triumphed over all. He gave his enemies every advantage that he might trample them under foot; he fasted forty days and forty nights, it is emphatically added, afterwards he hungered. Who can calculate the sufferings implied in these words? Read the siege of Jerusalem; read of mothers eating their own children. What must have been their sufferings, before a mother could kill her child, then eat it? This was his at the moment the Devil said, "If thou be the Son of God," etc. Our poor finite understandings can have but faint ideas of the only suffering on earth which could satisfy for sin; but hereafter, perhaps, he will himself explain it to His children. This we know, never was there such a sufferer either in kind or degree. The holiness of his nature aggravated it to the highest pitch; hell, which is separation from the Source of happiness, was raging in his holy bosom the moment he uttered these mysterious words, 1st verse. His sufferings at that moment exceeded that of the lost, they are separate from One they hate; He from One still loved. This is not complaint, but the expression of love seeking its object. There was no complaint at the insults or malice of devils or men, but love must everlastingly travel after its beloved. Here is the law honoured in its curse; all our enemies tried him to the uttermost; every thing the arch enemy of God and man could do to fill his holy soul with horror was done, v. 14, 15, 16, and all these the effect of our sin. His love was put to the severest tests, yet in proportion as the necessity of his people expressed itself in ingratitude, weakness, and enmity, so in proportion his love seemed to gain utterance; it was entirely unconnected with any thing in man. He chose not His people for anything in them; so nothing he discovered could turn him from his purposes of mercy. It was only "if be possible," let this cup pass from me — extreme love, and extreme misery met in this expression; the same love which brought him down, carried him through his path of sorrow; his whole life was an emptying of this principle from furnace into furnace — yet "having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end," not because ignorant of what was in them, not because the remembrance had been blotted out, but at the very moment when his disciples forsook, denied, betrayed Him, in the midst of this he laid down his life, "loved us and gave himself for us." We have an High Priest who knows well how to enter into the feelings of the tried, even the inmost recesses of the bosom, and administers most effectual relief. Jesus learned God to perfection — Jesus learned man to perfection. Every avenue of attack is opened to him; how to meet his people's enemies in them, and how to overcome — Jesus learned sympathy to perfection. He threw his heart from the zenith of glory into the bosom of his people, and is able to be touched with a feeling of their infirmities. He estimates all their sufferings by his own, so as not to lay on them one unnecessary feather.
In the 17th verse, we find how keenly he felt the conduct of the bystanders. The simple remark made by the evangelist is, these things the soldiers did; while all the complaint we hear from him is "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" and if the conduct of the soldiers, how much more that of his disciples, pained him. In psalm 69, we read, "reproach hath broken my heart. I looked for some to have pity on me, and there were none; for comforters, and I found none." Instead of complaint, we hear from him the only excuse he could offer, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Were it not for the psalms, we should know nothing of this — when tracing his conduct to his disciples at the end, we hardly need to be told by the apostle, that having been tempted in all points, He was full of compassion; — we cannot but be struck with the delicacy with which he seemed to touch every feeling which might be excited to pain — how sensitively he felt all their infirmities and weakness — how exquisitely and continually alive to all the amiable, though too often painful, feelings of the human heart; how patient with their prejudices; how he seemed to shrink from wounding them, as if in so doing he must wound himself — when broken hearted with his enemies, he turned to his friends — what condescension, how entirely human! he placed himself in a situation to be ministered to by his own creatures, and sought for comforters among poor weak sinful men! He remembers we are dust — he only asked for pity — only to watch — they could not; well might he say with surprise, "could not ye watch one hour?" Had it been the world, it would have been different, but ye, my disciples, my friends, whom I have been watching over continually — only one hour! Oh, how little can we do for our Lord; and when we attempt, how different to what he does for us! Alas! human nature is still like itself, drowsy and sleepy about its best interests; but blessed be God! he is, and only is still like himself — while they slept, he was awake, not only awake, but in agony for their souls; — yes, we have a living Head to direct us, filled with all the wisdom of God — we have a human heart to sympathise, filled with all the compassions of Jesus. In casting the soul on One mighty to save, we have the consolation of reposing on a bosom which having sighed for itself, is full of tenderness for us, for "though a son, yet learned he obedience by the things he had suffered." It is on the cross of Christ we see reality in God's hatred of sin, and his love to the sinner. We hear of this stupendous mystery, God manifest in the flesh, too much as a tale that is told — we set about seeking an interest in it too much like a child's play, but we cannot dwell long in Gethsemane, or on Calvary, without feeling, there is a reality in sin, a reality in justice, a reality in purity, a reality in love. This is the central point round which perfection rallies, and from which perfection emanates — never are we in so right a mind, as when faith is meditating on the Redeemer's humiliation; or hope contemplating the Redeemer's glory. Let me ask, do we really believe all this, that Christ trod our earth, really suffered, exhausted the cup of wrath, drained it to the dregs, bore all the misery which is the essence of the curse, was besieged by sorrow, was in an agony, his heart broken, his spirit distracted, and oppressed? and why? For the joy set before him of bringing many sons to glory. This was the prospect which brightened his dark and dreary path of humiliation. Some mourn, needing a friend into whose bosom they can pour their sorrows. Here is Jesus: mourner in Zion, he learned your sorrows on Mount Calvary — now his business is, "showing mercy." Perhaps some will say, but I have brought myself into such difficulties by sin, you can have nothing for me. Yes, I have, Messiah is alive! The man of sorrows holds the rein of government, He says, "little children, sin not; but if any man sin," etc. Truth never drives to despair, but like a skilful general surrounds the enemy. The command is sin not; but must the believer be overcome if he does fall? no, the Spirit points to Jesus.
In the 21st verse of this psalm, it is testified thou hast heard me, and verse 24, and the concluding part goes on to show the happy results of these sufferings, the restoration of Israel and conversion of the whole world to God. Verse 27, "To him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father." But the 22nd verse seems a peculiarly interesting one. It is that voice, which at the beginning said, "Let there be light and there was light." It is that voice, which once shook the earth, and yet once more will shake both earth and heaven. It is that voice which in agony exclaimed, "My God, my God!" — which "in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save him from death." "Thou hast heard me," exclaims the Great Shepherd of the sheep, when, by the God of peace, the pacified Divinity, brought again from the dead; and now in the celestial temple, in the height of Mount Sion above, he proclaims with a voice powerful as that of many waters, yet sweeter than all the music of angels or redeemed harps, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." How he shall declare his Father's name to his brethren of the church triumphant; — how in the midst of them he shall lead the hymn of thanksgiving, we cannot tell; but this we know, the whole of his mediatorial administration is a declaration of his Father's name to his brethren on earth, and a hymn of praise to him as the God of salvation. Is he not daily, hourly, continually in "the word of the truth of the Gospel," in the ordinances of his appointment, in the efficacious operations of his Spirit, proclaiming the name of his Father more plainly than it was before proclaimed? "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty," — has yet set forth his Son a propitiation through faith in his blood; — the Just and the Saviour, Just and justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. Does he not in these inspired Psalms which refer to the exercise of Messiah the conqueror, even in the church below, everlastingly sing the praises of him who has given him the victory? and does it not well become us his brethren, to listen with attention and faith to the declaration which he makes of the name of his Father and our Father, his God and our God, and to join with him in his eucharistic song? This is the exercise of heaven, and were we more habitually engaged in it, it would convert earth into the porch of paradise. It is a touching remark of the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in reference to the subject we have been adverting to, "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." These words are a very striking, though indirect proof of the Divine dignity of our Lord and Saviour. For a mere man, a partaker of human nature in its present corrupted state, to be ashamed to call his fellow man brother, however dignified might be the station he occupied, would be intolerable haughtiness. — But it is a condescension in Him to call us brethren. Well might he be backward to own such a relation to us — a perfectly holy man, as he was, might be ashamed to call guilty, depraved men, brethren. People are commonly shy in acknowledging their relationship to those, who have incurred the displeasure of government, lest they should be involved in difficulties and disgrace. But though He knew full well that the acknowledgment of such a relation to us, traitors, should involve him in a serious responsibility, that he would be laid hold of as the "goel," the kinsman, redeemer, yet he is not ashamed to call us brethren. Persons possessed of high honours, or looking forward to them, are often ashamed to acknowledge connexion with the poor and mean; but He, the destined Lord of the universe, hesitates not to say to us, "I ascend to my Father and your Father." But it is the Divinity of his person which chiefly magnifies his condescension in calling us brethren. That the only begotten of God, that God over all, blessed for ever, should not be ashamed to call us dust and ashes, sinful dust and ashes, "brethren," is a mystery of condescension which eternity itself will but imperfectly disclose to the enlarged minds of the spirits of the just made perfect — and yet there is a sense in which we may safely say he has no reason to be ashamed, when he calls us brethren; in Heb. 11. it is said, God is not ashamed to be called his people's God, seeing he has prepared for them a city. — These words seem to imply, that if God had not prepared for his people a portion, worthy of himself, suitable to his infinite greatness and benignity, he would have been ashamed to have called himself his people's God. But the portion he has provided is altogether worthy of him, and therefore he is not ashamed to be called their God. There are persons who behave so unkindly to those related to them, they should be ashamed every time their relationship is mentioned. It is not so with our elder brother — He has acted the part of a kind brother: He humbled himself to the condition of his brethren, and will never rest till he raises them to a place with him on his throne. Surely we, whom he calls brethren, should not be ashamed to call him brother; if he is not ashamed of his relationship to us, we should not be ashamed of our relationship to Him; and yet, how often do we think and feel, and act as if ashamed of him. — In one point of view we may well be ashamed, for our conduct has often been any thing but brotherly to him — our behaviour to him has often been what no mere human fraternal affection would have tolerated; yet we can do nothing which can so offend as to distrust his love. — When we have acted a part unworthy our relation, let us not turn away from him, for to whom can we go but to him: let us look to Jesus, and we shall see in his countenance what Peter saw, deep disapprobation, but tender pity, unutterable love, something that says, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend, return to me, for I have redeemed thee;" and in spirit we shall rush into his arms, and weep in his bosom.
This Psalm, like most other promises and prophecies in the Old Testament, is to be applied literally to the Jewish people, still "beloved for their Father's sake," and spiritually, to the Christian church. On examination we shall find Christ was also the Shepherd of the Old Testament; and it is in this character they wait for him, though they know it not. For proof of this a few texts will suffice, Jer. 23. 3, 4; Ezek. 34. 23, 24. Micah. 5. 2. This is yet to be fulfilled by him, born in Bethlehem Ephratah, when the chief Shepherd shall appear; therefore is the cry of Israel. Psalm 80. 1. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that feedest Jacob like a flock; thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth." "They shall lie down in green pastures," Isaiah, 49. 9, etc. also Jer. 31. 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 32. 36, 43. Observe how sovereignly he comes down with his mercies, not because of deservings, but necessities. This shall be for his name's sake, that it may not be polluted among the heathen, his name is in them. See Ezek. 20. 14, 22, 44, fulfilling the 3rd verse. Hosea 14. to end, Micah. 7. 8, 9. Take it literally, it is applied to the Jews, v. 18, 19. When the Shepherd shall shine forth, (Psalm 80.) then shall they feast in the midst of their enemies. Isaiah 25. 6, 8. But as applied spiritually to the believer, there is a peace and fulness of expression in this little sentence understood only by him. The whole remainder of the psalm is but a drawing out of this "I shall not want." In the unfolding we find, 1st, repose and refreshment. 2nd, restoring mercies and guidance. 3rd, peace in death. 4th, triumph and overflowing blessings. 5th, future confidence and eternal security either in life or death, spiritually or temporally, in prosperity or adversity, in time or eternity; for standing on the sure foundation of the former psalm, the suffering, resurrection, and promise of Christ, the believer can boldly say, "The Lord is my Shepherd." The believer shall not want, because his shepherd is the Lord. The believer shall not want, because the Lord is his Shepherd. His Shepherd is the All-sufficient, nothing can unite itself to Him, nothing mingle with Him — nothing add to His satisfying nature — nothing diminish from His fulness. His treasury of gifts has been dearly purchased when he has paid the uttermost farthing. When justice, who held the key of mercy, said enough; when by the blood of the covenant, the Father became debtor to his Son, the Father presented to him His church. Like the good shepherd he went forth into the regions of darkness to search his sheep, and seek them out; found her in the depth of hell, yet loved her there as he never loved before; (for his love gains utterance from his people's wants,) she, and only she, rose with him. The shepherd brought his sheep on his shoulder through the grave and gate of death triumphantly exclaiming, "O grave, where is thy victory?" The grain of wheat fallen into the ground died and brought forth-much fruit. The rolling away the stone from the door of the sepulchre was, as it were, the signal of the load of sin being rolled away which kept shut in his treasury of gifts. Neither is he ever weary of the wants of' his little flock; for each gift, each supply, is a declaration of the Father's satisfaction in the soul's travail of his beloved Son. Being united to him, quickened with him, his church cannot want, she has a right to use all his riches, her wealth is his riches in glory. With Him nothing can be withheld; eternal life is hers with the promise that all things shall be added, all He knows she wants. The Shepherd has learnt the wants of his sheep by experience, for He was himself led as a sheep to the slaughter. This expression being dictated by the Spirit, implies a promise, it is a full promise, when connected with his own words, I know my sheep. He was disciplined by most painful lessons into this knowledge; He subjugated himself to the wants of every sheep, every lamb of his fold, that he might be able to be touched with a feeling of their infirmities; therefore is the bleating of Messiah's sheep, I shall not want. Timid sheep, fear not want, fear not affliction, fear not pain, "fear not;" according to your want shall be your supply. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I trust in him. When the silly sheep cries to be kept from want, it may well be answered, ye know not what ye ask; it knows not of what it would rob itself, in the supply provided for that particular want. His flock in the midst of danger have no cause to fear. They have been taken hold of by Omnipotent love. My sheep, says Christ, "shall never perish," etc. "It is the Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom." All to be expected of a shepherd, shall be found in this Shepherd, who so loved as to lay down his life for his sheep. Have you a want, keep it not, carry it to him — it shall lie on the mercy-seat to be considered; in due time shall be written on it, "To be provided for." Have you a want for any dear to you, He has promised, you "shall not want." If your demand is not exactly answered, you shall receive something better — your demand shall be satisfied; his fulness is as much at your disposal as if in your own hands; He keeps it in himself, that every blessing may be received richly doubled — Moses said to the children of Israel in the wilderness, "The Lord thy God knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness these forty years, the Lord thy God hath been with thee, thou hast lacked nothing" — your wants are fathomless, but your help infinite, "None but God can tell the uttermost a God can do;" you who are the sheep of his pasture, give him thanks and show forth his praise, by venturing on this confidence; there is no want to his flock — "The young lion may lack and suffer hunger," but the good Shepherd's helpless foolish sheep shall not want any good thing. He is their shield against every foe, He is their guide in every danger, no good thing can be withheld — grace now, glory hereafter. But let us proceed to see how the Spirit unfolds these words; how his sheep shall go from strength to strength, till they appear before God in Zion. In the 2nd verse we find they possess food, drink, repose, and refreshment. What is the pasture of the soul, is it not the bread of life? we see here the pasture is the sheep's repose — Christ is the soul's rest, He is a field of promise; therefore, as expressed in the Canticles, this bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloes, cinnamon; waters of refreshment flow in this pasture, even the "pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb;" "the streams whereof make glad the city of God." There shall be in you, says Christ, "a well of water springing up into everlasting life." This, adds the apostle, "spake He of the Spirit, which those who believe in him should receive." Sheep lying in a green pasture, on a hot summer's day, near a clear flowing stream, is ever a refreshing sight. The believer who rests in Christ shall drink largely waters, and refreshment, and consolation from the Comforter, even in the desert. There is a sweet quietness expressed in this verse, Christ's flock shall not eat in haste, as if in dread of the devourer — "He that believeth," the Scripture says, "shall not make haste." "When He giveth quietness, who then shall give trouble?" enemies may surround, but the Shepherd is near; enemies may be in ambushment, but the Shepherd is on the watch. — It is He makes lie down, it is He leads by still waters. But were his sheep only to recount the repose and refreshment, they would leave half untold their donation of bliss. No, the believer can sing of judgment as well as mercy, verse 3 — for He reckons it among his chiefest blessings, that it has to him never yet been said, let him alone. There was hope for Israel, while God "brought down their heart through heaviness," for "then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble." There was hope while He smote, for then they sought him, and remembered "that God was their rock, and the High God their Redeemer." But the sorest word ever sent to Israel was, "Why should ye be stricken any more, ye will revolt more and more?" Christ's sheep, still silly sheep, left to themselves will still stray; but from afar they cry, whatsoever the cost, seek thy servant, for I forget thee not. — Believer, has He not restored your soul again and again? When you have turned aside, has not love rebuked and chastened? Has He not been unwearied in preserving your faith? — Though Satan has been permitted to sift, has his grain of wheat fallen to the ground? — Though cast into the furnace, has not the Refiner sat over his treasure? — When sin separates between you and him, when idols scatter your thoughts here and there, is He not bent on restoring? Does He not yearn over his Ephraim? Sometimes He almost breaks the heart with a look, as He gave Peter; sometimes He overcomes by passing by iniquities; sometimes by feeding with the rod and judgments. Rest assured He will restore, till his sheep, in the spirit of him who was dumb before his shearers, can say, "Any thing with thy smile, any thing but thy frown." …
But, alas! how slow are his sheep to learn in their extremities not to turn from, but to flee to him, to hide them, and to be led in the way of righteousness. — "Cause me," says the Psalmist, "to know the way wherein I should walk; teach me to do thy will; lead me into the land of uprightness." Christ says, "I am the way." The apostle says, "As ye have received Christ, so walk ye in him." It is Satan's constant aim to lead from the simplicity which is in Christ. — It is the Shepherd's to restore, to lead in that path, blessed thought! The Shepherd leads, though often by paths we know not, till he brings into the path of righteousness, for he has trod the path of faith before us. The good shepherd, as the gospel of John says, goes before his sheep, meets the enemy first; they follow in his footsteps, therefore must they expect a thorny, though a trodden path; but their Shepherd is with them — His presence makes darkness light; crooked things straight. — The silly sheep are only wise in giving themselves up to his guidance, and in following whithersoever he leads. He will cause to walk in a straight way wherein none shall stumble to hurt, for he rejoices over his people to do them good. If they fall He lifts them up; if they sit in darkness, it is enough, He is near; He pleads their cause; He executes judgment for them; He will bring them forth to the light, and they shall behold his righteousness. What they know not now, they shall know hereafter; all their sin shall be cast into the sea, as a great stone to be found no more. He delighteth in mercy, and will not leave till he has satisfied, yea, satiated the hungry soul with goodness. His glory is bound up in their bundle of life "His name is in it." For thy name's sake, says David, lead me and guide me. — Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name. Deliver us, purge away our sins, for thy name's sake. Therefore is the way of righteousness in the midst of the paths of judgment.
But more — plenty, security and triumph are also expressed in the 5th verse. Anointed is frequently read "making fat," as the original word in this place may be translated; and is so in the margin, implying cheerfulness, strength or gladness. It is also used as well-looking, prosperity, Psalm 22. 29, a sign of health and peace of mind, so as to cause to flourish: this is expressed in feeding among enemies. This spiritual feast cheers, gladdens, makes the heart run over with joy, makes the soul flourish The anointing of God is poured over, shed abroad in the heart, is an unction which enriches. This is the oil which ran down Aaron's beard, and makes glad the countenance. What is it which thus enriches and fattens the soul? Feasting, drinking abundantly of the cup prepared of the Lord. David says in another psalm, "The Lord is the portion of my cup," therefore it is this cup which runs over with blessings, Christ being the portion. We find in it many precious ingredients. — His life — "Because I live, ye shall live also." His love — "As the Father loveth me, so have I loved you". His friendship — "I have called you friends." His wisdom — "Made to us wisdom." His righteousness — "Made to us righteousness." His fulness — "All that I have is thine." His sorrows — "If the world hate me, they will also hate you." His strength — "My strength is perfect in weakness." His peace — "My peace I leave with you." His joy — "These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain with you, and your joy might be full." This is the present portion presented in the believer's cup of blessedness; one only ingredient is kept back. — Absolute rest. "That if love draw not, restlessness may toss into his breast." Having a life which none can touch, his sheep feed in the midst of enemies, "go in and out, and find pasture." The believer's security in the midst of enemies is no presumption, for it rests not with himself, but in the covenant-engagements of the Trinity; we have this forcibly demonstrated, John, 6. 37-40. It is well to study these four verses; they combine all doctrine; election; — the willingness and irresistible power of the Son, in saving all those elected of the Father — calling; — perseverance through faith; called and preserved, in order to be raised at the last day. All this, through grace, not merit, and to the end of glorifying God-man. The Father gives a people to be saved, wills it. The Son comes down from heaven for the express purpose of accomplishing this will; promises, and his word is truth, in no wise to cast out any, to lose nothing committed to him, to raise up all such at the last day, "and I will raise him up at the last day." The Spirit prepares these vessels of mercy for this end — and how? By bringing them to Christ; taking of the things of Christ, and showing them unto them, so that their eyes being opened to his loveliness, they embrace, and are persuaded of the truth as it is in Jesus, and in the midst of the world, flesh, and devil, the Spirit preserves through this belief. The Father gives his elect to the Son to save; the Son gives this his "Father's gift" to the Spirit to educate, by leading back to Christ; he glorifies not himself. Christ keeps, by casting them in supplication on the Father; "Father keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me." Each person in the Godhead thus becomes debtor to the other, in consummating the bliss of God's chosen people. We must follow the believer into all the intricacies of his experience, before we can understand the full meaning of the word no wise, how impossible to weary or tire out his love by all our backsliding and ingratitude; "no wise" and "uttermost" are two words the believer takes his life to learn; not one has ever outstretched his uttermost, or wearied out his no wise. The examples of his word, as well as truth of his oath establish this, notwithstanding appearances and feelings; the soul of the believer is never even retarded in its progress; every event, and every state, as surely forwards its course, as years, months, and days, bring on eternity. Remember it is the Father's will, not against his will, that his people should be saved; so undeniably his will, that when nothing else would do, it pleased the Lord to bruise his own Son, and put him to grief, that his soul making an offering for sin, the pleasure of the Lord might prosper in his hand. In these four verses we also find the mark of his sheep, the only mark required: "All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." No ifs, no buts, no ands, no peradventures. The covenant is "ordered in all things and sure," for the glory of the Eternal has interwoven itself into the safety of his elect people. Thus, in the midst of enemies may his people triumph, "man's extremity is God's opportunity", — the greater our want, the deeper we shall drink into this cup of consolation, for you "shall not want." He laid up help for each, therefore he can say to every sheep ye "shall not want." There is not only enough, but overflowing. Enemies that surround wonder! To them it is a secret, often they wish to worry the Lord's little flock, but every attempt is baffled — they cannot find out the believer's peace — some strive with cutting words as with a sword to wound — but he hides in his pavilion from the strife of tongues — words aimed at him, pass him by, reach the upper sky, pierce the Shepherd, who receives each into his bosom, to be answered for. "Saul, Saul," cried Jesus from heaven, "why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest." "He that toucheth thee, toucheth the apple of mine eye." Lions roar around, wolves prowl about — but his sheep feast quietly, are strengthened and refreshed with the cup of salvation; their joy, no man taketh from them; their cup runneth over; because supplied from on high, from him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, while he cries, drink, yea, drink abundantly, oh beloved. This blessed flock have not only present happiness, but the experience of present promises gives security for future ones — "I am come," says the good Shepherd, "that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" — joy in sorrow is their present promised lot, therefore is the sustaining joy of hope a pledge of the satisfying fulness of sight. The Lord's supper when rightly observed is a feast in the midst of enemies, so it was to the disciples in the midst of persecution. It expressed in action every doctrine of the gospel, and believed, brings corresponding joy. I would also observe from this verse, security is the open door to every blessing. If not secure, in the midst of enemies, we can neither be refreshed, invigorated, or nourished by our feast — constant terror will cause leanness of spirit — faith void of security, (if such can be called faith) opens but a crevice of the door — life may be communicated through this open crevice, but security of faith, or faith stripped of self-righteousness, throws it open, so that his gifts rush to overflowing into the believer's soul.
Verse 4. — The shadow of death seems to express that the gloomy darkness of hell overcasts it. Job, speaking of the grave, calls it "the land of darkness and the shadow of death — a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadows of death without any order, where the light is as darkness." Luke, speaking of spiritual darkness, represents it as sitting in the shadow of death. We have each to face death. There is an honesty in that monster's countenance, which makes him the king of terrors to the ungodly, but infuses a holy confidence into the believer, and leaves in him such assurance of being safely delivered up, that his thoughts arc released from contemplating death, to the joyful anticipation of meeting his Beloved. Do you ever realize what will be your feelings in passing through that vail which separates from the unknown: when the curtain shall have dropped on all below, and all around is reality? Much is contained in these words, Thou art with me. This is the rainbow of light thrown across the valley, for there is no need of sun or moon, where covenant love illumines; but we must find His presence superior to any joy here, if we wish to find it superior to any terror there. Like Enoch, we must walk with God here, if we desire Him to walk with us there. We must find him all, in the midst of all, if we would find him sufficient, when possessed of nothing. We are in a world in which we know not what a day may bring forth; we may have to pass through rivers of tears, furnaces of temptation, or it may be only waters of perplexity and cares. Be it what it may, he says to the children, "Fear not, I am with thee: when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, thy Saviour." True, this promise is given to the Jews, but the dogs may eat of the crumbs that fall from the table; for he has redeemed us, he has called us by name, we arc his. Not Ethiopia, not Egypt, but his own Son has he given; he has created his people for his glory. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble," says David, "thou wilt revive me, thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me." God is in the generation of the righteous. The Lord said to Jeremiah, "Be not afraid, but speak; hold not thy peace, for I am with thee." So said he, on leaving his apostles, "I am with you always, even to the end." His name is "Emmanuel, God with us." Do you know the sweetness, the security, the strength, of "Thou art with me?" When anticipating the solemn hour of death, when the soul is ready to halt and ask, how shall it then be? can you turn in soul-affection to your God and say, "There's nothing in death to harm me, while thy love is left to me?" Can you say, "O death, where is thy sting?" It is said, when a bee has left its sting in any one, it has no more power to hurt: death has left its sting in the humanity of Christ, and has no more power to harm his child. Christ's victory over the grave is his people's. "At that moment I am with you," whispers Christ, "the same arm you have proved strong and faithful all the way up through the wilderness, which has never failed, though you have been often forced to lean on it all your weakness." "On this arm," answers the believer, "I feel at home, with soul confidence, I repose on my Beloved, for he has supported through so many difficulties, from the contemplation of which I shuddered. He has carried over so many depths, that I know his arm to be an arm of love." How can that be dark, in which God's child is to have the accomplishment of the longing desire of his life; how can it be dark, to come in contact with the light of life? It is His rod, His staff, therefore they comfort. Prove him — prove him now, believer; it is your privilege to do so. It will be precious to him to support your weakness; prove that when weak, then are you strong; that you may be secure, His strength shall be perfected in your perfect weakness. Omnipotent love must fail before one of His sheep can perish; for, says Christ, "none shall pluck my sheep out of my hand," "I and my Father are one;" therefore we may boldly say, "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
But in the last verse, is put forth another effort of faith, not only in death, but through life: surely, says the believer, "goodness and mercy shall follow," even as water from the smitten rock followed Israel all through the wilderness. There is no promise of being delivered from this or that terrible event; but still into every want, every sin, goodness and mercy shall follow. When he falls, it shall be but into the arms of mercy. "I shall not greatly fall," says the Psalmist, "for the Lord upholdeth with his hands, mercy embraceth on every side." However afflicted, the child of God can say, goodness and mercy have pursued, goodness and mercy sought me out — goodness and mercy afflicted — goodness and mercy sustained — goodness and mercy shall follow into my Father's house . Here is the climax of it all, to "dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Christ has said, "in my Father's house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you." The beauty and accommodation of that house shall be according to His means, His taste, our necessities. When we are about to visit a person's house, our expectations correspond with our knowledge of the proprietor; when we receive a friend to our house, it is customary to give ourselves to please them, our aim is their profit and pleasure, all the pleasure our house affords is brought forth for that end. So in our Father's house, we shall have intercourse with the owner, may I say, He will give himself to our happiness. Oh! what powers are in Him when he sets about blessing; when his aim is to bless, he blesses like a God; all that his house affords shall be brought forth, while the mind of the Great Original, as an unfathomable mine of wealth, shall be an ever-constant, ever-new delight. There is a vast difference in his visits to us here, and our being received into his habitation to go no more out. "In his presence is fulness of joy, at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore." This is what we cannot conceive; while in the flesh, joy destroys itself, immediately intoxicates; so frothy is the mind, it could not bear much even of spiritual joy. "The breath of heaven might swell the sails to inflation, and endanger the vessel, did not our Captain add the ballast of trials to steady her, and cause her to go on her way softly and with security." But when we shall behold his face in righteousness, when we shall wake up after his likeness, we shall be satisfied. Oh! what a burst of truth shall then rush upon the mind, when we shall be like our elder Brother, full of grace and truth; even in the believer, now falsehood is interwoven; never till then, shall the creature find in the creature a rose without a thorn. When the door shuts in the children with their Father, the enemy in vain shall knock; sighing even shall flee away. What a thought for his children! We shall be really there! as certainly as that now we are sitting here, we shall "sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God." What manner of persons ought we to be? Shall we all meet in our Father's house? before we again meet, we may have all experienced what it is to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Shall we all be able to say, goodness and mercy followed? What a thing to be able to face such a world, with "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me," etc. even till mortality is swallowed up of life.
If often, often, while girded with sackcloth, mourning has been turned into dancing, what shall it be when the mourner in Zion shall put off sackcloth, and shall be girded with gladness? Do you desire a map of the way to your Father's house? Take this little psalm; He presents you with this picture of the good Shepherd with his sheep. Faith believes all to be goodness and mercy, when we cannot see — "we walk by faith, not by sight."