[To the Rev. R. M.] Stoke Newington, 20 September 1841.
My dear Friend,
I know your wish for me to write, and your own disinclination to do so; but how shall I find a subject suitable unless I see by your letters where you are?
Your letter to me from Brighton alarmed me, nor can I think the light beginning of that could be accompanied with a deep sense of your danger. The work of God is yet what I fear is secret to you. God says, "It is a terrible thing that I will do" [Ex. xxxiv. 10]; this work brings men down very low and teaches them to cry mightily to the Lord for mercy, as poor lost undone sinners, and all former profession sinks into worse than nothing. It was a comeliness that delighted us, but now this comeliness in the light of the Spirit is sad corruption, and we find no anchor hold, but go about mourning; and all refuge fails, and friends stand aloof. If you had a little more of this trouble it would bring forth a purer religion. For want of this many a gilded and fair profession or shell is held for years; but when the rains descend, then it appears on what this profession is built. I have witnessed much of this sort, and it is most awful. They know everything but the secret of the Lord, and therefore are not sharers in his covenant, and are left at last without the hope that the afflicted find in their extremity. My profession began with affliction, was carried on in the furnace, sustained by the word of the Lord, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;" and I believe it will end in a good hope.
In your other letter there appears something more lively and spiritual; but you that have been so long in a profession, and have been accustomed to teach others, cannot perceive where you have missed the mark. Nothing is so deadening and confusing as being in the practice of teaching what we have established in our minds as truths, and yet are not so. How hard to relinquish such habits even after the conviction of their unsoundness; and how little is laid to heart the real mischief of teaching others such false ways I say these are bewildering circumstances, and we wish as it were to jump over these things, and are apt to think we shall not find their binding effect. Not so. Sin is exceeding sinful, and God is infinitely holy; this we must be instructed to feel, and we shall never be so instructed, but by the convictions of the Spirit upon our consciences of the evil of our heart and ways; and this is not done in a day. We shall find, if we are rightly taught, that this effectual work is slow, though progressive and sure; and brings us down to very low places. We in vain suppose that coming out of a false profession, and being brought right by the power of God, is an easy work or quickly accomplished. O no! this pulling down means more than you are yet aware; and though your last letter encouraged me to hope, I yet feel much more must be manifest before you yourself are satisfied that the Lord Jesus Christ is your Friend.
If what I have written sharpens the iron, thank God. I am sure it had need to be sharpened; for you may change from one profession to ten thousand others, and yet if your heart be not broken under a sense of sin, and healed in the blood of sprinkling, there can be no foundation to hope that any change yet has been right. May the Lord deeply affect your heart to consider well upon what foundation you stand. It is for you and me to be at a point in this.
Pray give my kind regards to your brother; I hope his soul prospers. We that are old know our time is very short; you that are young cannot tell how soon your decrepid frames may bow; so that it becomes us all to make our calling and election sure.
From your faithful and affectionate friend, J. B.