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LETTER XX.-TO A FRIEND.
Guestingthorpe, November 8th, 1822.
After all, how short an acquaintance can we have with another in this life! and under what disadvantageous circumstances, too; continually separated; when we meet, having some trouble or other to speak of; encumbered with frailty; the best subjects of conversation and desire as yet but imperfectly known, and, alas! how much neglected, and too faintly appreciated! But what shall friendship be in heaven! It shall last for ever; and that between spirits made perfect; having no troubles to communicate, no sorrow to sympathize in, no frailties to overlook or forgive. And what subjects for delightful intercourse,-a God no longer at a distance, no longer imperfectly known; all his dealings with us in this little life fully understood, with the acknowledgement, not of faith, but of sight and certainty, that not one good word hath failed, &c.;-and, in prospect, the eternal continuance of glory. That our friendship may be renewed, rendered perfect, consummated, and perpetuated in heaven, is my constant prayer!
LETTER XXI.-TO ANOTHER FRIEND.
I pray for you, that your faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, God. Remember that the
but in the power of
great Head of the
Church himself appealed to Scripture (John v. 39): remember the approved example of the Bereans remember St. John's exhortation, to try the spirits; that is, to use our own individual judgments, enlightened by Scripture, on any pretensions to inspiration or infallibility. Remember St. Paul's Anathema, Maran-atha, and his wishing every one to be satisfied in his own mind: remember the doctors who made the commandments of none effect; and who worshipped God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Search the Scriptures for the plain practical meaning; that which bears on your own practice, and feelings, and interests; that which lets you into your own duties, and your privileges. Dwell very much on the latter, if-as I trust is certainly the case with you-you find, on a careful scrutiny of your heart, that the believing these privileges to be yours would have, not a licentious, but a sanctifying effect upon you. Desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby. Ah! that we should leave such mines so little searched! What can be so dishonourable to God?-We several times were inquiring what faith, saving faith, is. This is the illustration I purpose to use to-morrow. Christ was on earth, healing all manner of diseases: some, no doubt, despised the whole account; they had not faith: some again, who had no bodily disease, no doubt believed in this his power; and some who did not, might think and say they did. Suppose one such had a disease, and did not know it; his belief in the power of Christ would evi
dently do him no good; for not knowing his disease, he would not go to touch the hem of his garment. But suppose he could find out the disease, do you not think that then his faith would seem all at once to grow weaker?-that a thousand doubts, which he never entertained, so long as he was only thinking of others, would spring up, directly he began to find himself in want of healing? Mine is such a peculiar case, such an inveterate malady, so particularly loathsome; nay, I am lame, the very infirmity that keeps me from going to Him, and getting him to heal me,—if He be able. My dear M., I fear our objections as to ourselves, always end in something like this last clause; and that there is, at bottom, some unbelief respecting the Lord Jesus Himself.
LETTER XXII.- TO THE SAME.
We are truly sorry to learn from Dr. G. the very poor state of your health. It pleases a gracious God, who we surely know does not willingly afflict, nevertheless to try you very sharply with bodily pain and affliction. What can I say? If I say that earthly afflictions at the longest must be short, and then for God's afflicted children there is a bright eternity beyond, I shall say what is true, but what, I know, cannot generally be felt, when pain makes even one day appear long, and wearisome nights succeed. But remember the Apostle's words, These
light afflictions, which are but for a moment. Remember that those, who are now inheriting the promises, have all had to exercise faith and patience, though not all in the same degree that you are called to. Remember how full of compassion was our Lord when on earth, weeping with his friends, and healing, out of love and pity, all manner of sickness and disease; that He is our sympathising brother still, and does most surely pity all the sufferings of every one of his people. I say, remember these things; I mean, put aside as far you can, the world and the body, and lose yourself in 'these divine meditations. Alas, how easy to give advice; how difficult, how impossible of ourselves to do the thing! But this is the means of comfort; pray to God to enable you to use the means, and to make them effectual.
I am going, if it please God, on Sunday to expound in the church here, John xi. How much of the sweetest consolation is there in that chapter! The message of the sisters, He, or she, whom thou lovest is sick; our Lord's remark, This sickness is not unto death; not, in any of his own, unto eternal death; but for the glory of God, that the Son of God should be glorified thereby. And should we not willingly bear all that, whereby our dear Lord may be glorified?-The account of death, our friend Lazarus sleepeth: look at a poor sick child, that with difficulty you have got to sleep, the effects of which sleep you are anticipating in renewed strength, and restored health and spirits; and then look at the body of
the sleeping believer, and anticipate its awaking in the morning of the resurrection in health and strength, in incorruption, glory, and power;that declaration of our Lord's, the very substance of the Gospel, I am the resurrection, from all kinds of death, the death of sin, the death of despair, natural death,-and the life;-the weeping of our Lord, and the remark of the Jews, Behold, how he loved him! And how has He loved us!
LETTER XXIII.- -TO THE SAME.
I grieve for your continued darkness of mind, and earnestly pray that the Lord would lift up upon you the light of his countenance. I am glad that you have been able to partake of the most comfortable sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, and earnestly recommend you never to lose an opportunity of this kind. I ask you but one question;-not what your sins have been, or what your temptations and infirmities are; but, are you now coming to Christ? Could you go to Him, if he were bodily present on earth, praying him to make you whole, to relieve you from all sin, and from every thing displeasing to Himself, to make you like Himself, to grant you the enjoyment of Himself? What would be his gracious answer?-for none but a gracious answer could proceed out of those lips, into which all grace was poured. Perhaps this; "Go, bear all that I have appointed thee to bear; go,