Leominster, 21 July 1841.
My dear W. B.,
It gave me great pleasure to see your letter, but I felt more than what is so called in the meditation of its contents, especially where you write and complain of the continual sense of spiritual death and darkness, from which you can by no means deliver yourself. Consider, "the dead know not anything." Why so anxious to prevail with the Lord, if in some measure your case is not like many described in the word of God? For instance, "How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever?" "O remember not against me former iniquities." "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; preserve thou those that are appointed to die." [Psalm lxxix. 5-11.] Now do consider whether your case can be worse than this. David in Psalm xviii. says, "The sorrows of death compassed me;" "the sorrows of hell compassed me about." God's rebukes made fearful discoveries, and if you observe, the language is very strong; "The foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils." Is your case worse than this? But even here the Psalmist says, "He sent from above, he took me, and drew me out of many waters; HE delivered me from my strong enemy," and then adds, "For all his judgments were before me." It was because these were laid to heart and he was made to tremble at them; and thus he sums it up, "Thou wilt save the afflicted people, but wilt bring down high looks." And I am sure it is in and through these various dark and dismal dispensations that the Lord (as this Psalm shows) lights our spiritual candle, and enlightens our darkness; and here he girds us with strength by various little helps, and lifts and glimpses of hope. Here also THE SHIELD is discovered to be closer to us than we imagined, so that the fiery darts of the enemy do not make so desperate an inroad upon us. It is by the help of this Shield that our enemies are pursued, overtaken, and finally destroyed. "Therefore (says the Psalmist) will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord."
None of these Bible saints obtained their comforts but through that path of tribulation in which you now are. Their lost hopes and reckless fears were precisely the same as yours and mine; and whether we utter a noise or only sigh, yet we are made to understand the Lord looks at the heart; and though that be full of deceit, yet if he make us tremble at the sight, this is the token that he is bringing us down from our heights by hard labour, as is said of the redeemed of the Lord [Psalm cvii.], till they fall down and find none to help; there the Spirit helps their infirmities, and teaches them to cry to the Lord in their trouble, and then "HE SAVED THEM OUT OF THEIR DISTRESSES."
The hope you describe is most assuredly of the Lord, and the next time you have the sweet power upon your heart (however small) tell the Lord that you believe it is from him to encourage your drooping spirit, and that you desire to acknowledge this precious gift as an infinite mercy; and see now if the Lord does not encourage this hope with a further increase of it. He delights in all such as hope in his mercy.
I was contemplating your case since your last letter and in earnest prayer for your spiritual enlargement, and while I was thus occupied, the Lord broke in upon my heart with such an abundance of his mercy and love as greatly enlarged my heart, and encouraged my hope for you; and I felt quite sure the Lord would do you good, and that this affliction should be for the glory of God. Only remember, "let patience have her perfect work;" but never let the word patience make you indifferent, for spiritual patience is a very active fruit of the Spirit of God.
Yours &c. J. B.