[To Mrs. J. H.] London, October 1810,
My dear Friend,
I know of no means of showing my sincere sense of your kindness to me and my daughters, but in telling you all my heart respecting the way the Lord has led me.
When I first perceived myself under conviction of my sin, and the danger to which I was exposed of dying without hope, I felt a sort of necessity to mingle amongst professors, but I had no discriminating knowledge of characters. I therefore was sorely en-tangled by the general religious professors of that day, all of them seeking to set me down short of the truth; some indeed seeming to come very near to it, but all agreeing in warning me away from such as preached or experienced the real truth. These, they told me, were dangerous characters, and I, for a while, believed them; but my soul-trouble greatly increasing, none of these light professors could understand me, nor could their preachers ever enter into my troubled heart; they only told me to believe in Jesus, and I should find him very merciful, and there they left me, and passed by on the other side. Thus I found the spirit of all who knew not the real thing, was alike, although differing in shades respecting the mode of expressing themselves; nor was it until the Lord enlightened me, that I could understand what any distinction meant. The Lord put me into many trials, and my troubles made these professors look very shy upon me. I became so sorrowful under the heavy hand of God, that I was not a welcome visitor amongst the whole-hearted; and one friend (so called) after another dropped off, until I seemed desolate indeed and was made to sit alone. All this was a sore grief to me; I considered it a black mark of God's anger, and often feared lest I should be found wanting at last when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. But the Lord being infinitely gracious caused all these things to work for good, and by them he taught me to cry for mercy. I believe that I was suffered to pass through this discipline to humble my pride, and to cure me of independence of God; to pull to pieces my wisdom, and to show me that Christ is only the essential wisdom.
I have been exceedingly grieved at the number and variety of preachers which the poor and afflicted people of God amongst you have been tormented with; also at the want of discrimination you all have manifested in the choice of them. I would have you seriously lay to heart what the wise man says,"When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, CONSIDER DILIGENTLY what is before thee; and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite." This is strong language, and denotes the awful danger of a general profession. It is added, "Be not desirous of his dainties," (such as the truth in the letter, but no word of exhortation; the head stored, but the heart unbroken); "for they are deceitful meat." If something in your heart replies, I need not fear this, then I say, "Cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?" for in the hour of trial these empty vanities "make themselves wings and fly away." The character of these numerous teachers is further described in their saving, "Eat and drink," but their hearts are set upon their covetousness, which is here called "an evil eye" [Prov. xxiii. 1-8].
In another place the wise man says, "Bow down thine ear and hear the words of the wise." Remember there will be no hearing without the bowing down, which is to set forth the sweet grace of humility. This counteracts self-conceit, or any notion that we may have power to hear or judge in such divine matters. But when the Lord thus bows us down, he says, "Apply thine heart to MY KNOWLEDGE;" and glad enough we are to hear anything about the knowledge of salvation by Jesus Christ in this cast-down condition. This will be "a pleasant thing" to thee, and THE LORD'S WORDS shall "be fitted in thy lips" [Prov. xxii. 17-21].
I fear you will not have the courage to believe me, yet I would caution you to attend to that very secret teaching, in which I trust the Lord has instructed you. Do not brow-beat that, lest the Lord should withdraw his kind admonitions, and leave you to your own understanding. Hart says truly
Be much in prayer and reading the word, if you value the clear truth; and, remember, "the diligent soul shall be made fat." "We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" therefore come boldly unto a throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in this time of need. "The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way." The humbled soul, that is secretly desirous of being taught, will have no ear but for the word of God. "What man is he that feareth the Lord? HIM SHALL HE TEACH IN THE WAY THAT HE SHALL CHOOSE."
If I had not a persuasion that the Lord had begun the effectual work of grace on your heart, I should not have written thus. I fear you are not sufficiently aware of the danger of "enticing words," and many like things, which are hinted at in the word of God as being the cause of darkness and confusion of mind, and of much disquietude. If it should please the Lord to work this peculiar fear and watchfulness in your heart, it will he a great mercy and a matter of rejoicing to me.
Yours sincerely, J. B.