London, 24 April 1841.
Dear Mr. M.
It appears to me that there has been a long quarrel and contention between God and your brother's conscience; and that he cannot persuade the Lord to give place, no, not for one moment; nor to withdraw his hand one inch. Such is the obstinacy of the human heart that it would die in the contest rather than give up. What are the weapons with which such contend and fight? Feigned humility, dissembled love, false confidence, pride and presumption in ten thousand shapes, all centering in one charge which the Saviour makes [John ix. 41], "Now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." There it will remain to all eternity, unpurged and unwashed, unless the sovereign mercy of God break the neck of ignorance, and open the blind eyes to see the awful place that we are in. If you say, I wish I could see how this may be done, I reply "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;" and perhaps in this especial case he has a double object in view; one, to bring a trial upon you; and the other, to manifest the riches and power of his sovereign grace.
For many years I was suffered to eat my own bread, and wear my own apparel, and call Jesus mine; but the Lord contended with me by various disappointments and cross providences, which brought me to an extremity; nor was it till this took place, that the BRANCH OF THE LORD was to me beautiful and glorious. What made him so beautiful and glorious then? It was because he washed away my filth and purged the blood of my enmity, "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." Then upon all this glorious work he put a defence. [See Isaiah iv. 1-5.] The grace of humility, repentance unto life, godly sorrow, and all the graces of the Spirit, defend from the spirit of the world, conceit of wisdom, and all those foolish and lofty imaginations, which are no better than a bubble in the air, bringing in nothing but the sorrow of the world and death filled with the conceit of life.
O what a wonderful mercy it is to have such a friend as this, who will not suffer us to go headlong to destruction! How long I seemed to be in this dangerous place! I now look back with horror, for I was as one of two grinding at the mill, of two in a bed of security, and knew it not; and my fellows and companions are still left in the ruins of the fall, and the vain and fair beginnings of their free-will profession have issued in all manner of errors and immorality, the end of which I know to be death eternal.
Who knows but that in the secret purpose of God your brother may be thus taken in hand, and in all directions clean wiped out, "as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down" [2 Kings xxi. 13]; and that this may be the preparation of the heart, the Lord himself turning out the buyers and sellers in his heart with the cords of affliction, and making room for himself?
These are times for great sobriety, while the especial hand of God is upon us or close round about us. You and I may say, How shall we escape all the threatened dangers? I can only reply in the words of the prophet, "It shall come to pass." That is all the Lord will explain, "It shall come to pass;" and that is enough for you and me. There shall be "a place of refuge, and a covert from storm and rain." [Isaiah iv. 3-6.] Have we not always found it so in the time of extremity? "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us," while many have stumbled and fallen, and have been broken and snared and taken. Isaiah seems to show us the way he escaped, when he says, "I will wait upon the Lord who hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him;" according to that sweet invitation, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." And the Saviour takes especial notice of this look, saying, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any-thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
When the disciples were alarmed at the tempestuous sea, the Saviour appeared near at hand, and they were soon at the end of their difficulties; this was the issue of their long and toilsome looking, seeking, fearing, trembling; and it shows that he hears the cry of the poor, and will not despise their prayer.
May the Lord manifest himself abundantly to you, that you may be able to open your mouth wide, that it may be filled; and that you may see the wisdom of God displayed in all the various dispensations you are brought into, and may understand that they have all one end, namely, the glory of God and the salvation of your soul.
Yours, &c. J. B.