[To the Rev, B. G.] The Grove, Pulverbach, 1 January 1843.
My dear Friend,
I feel myself much affected with what you say respecting our friends the --s; their condition begins to wear a very serious aspect. I have seldom seen the Lord send afflictions single-handed where he has purposes of carrying on a work of grace. It is easy for us to seek to raise ourselves, and to make many (what we call very necessary) movements to promote our well-doing in this life, and we are not aware there is but one way - "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" - let your spirits sink some degrees lower. The Lord never takes a severe advantage of such steps, but in many ways exalts those who take them. Coming down is hard work, but the Lord requires it. I have shed many tears in this dark valley, which amounted to nothing but self-pity; yet, afterwards the Spirit has enlightened me to understand that before spiritual and divine honour there must be humility, and this can only be brought about by humbling circumstances: Here we begin to learn that God takes notice of none but these humble ones, and to gain a little encouragement; for we perceive something of his design, namely, that he is working for our good. We gain clearer views of the manner of his dealing with his afflicted people, in giving them many sweet tokens of his favour; and we begin to find there are more comforts in the low place than we expected, and this works patience; pride is cut down, and neither thought needful nor allowed, but feared; and our ears are opened to "hear the rod, and who hath appointed it" [Mic. vi. 9]. Boston says - "Affliction calls men clown from their heights, and plucks away their gay feathers wherein they prided themselves, and rubs off their paint and varnish; whereby they appear more in their native deformity."
I had occasion to speak to-day upon these words - "When the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp" [Gen. xv. 12-17]. I could not help calling to mind the terrible afflictions the Lord had brought me safely through, in consequence of which the lamp of my profession had many bright shining evidences of the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the things which make the lamp to burn bright. I was led to show that the smoking furnace denotes the various and heavy troubles that the people of God are called to endure, and the darkness and confusion that often attends the entrance into them. I told the people they all knew in their country what a literal furnace meant, for they could see for miles on a dark night the fire and smoke that issued from them; and that I had known many such spiritual furnaces, and had feared they would never end, and I never find any way of escape. I have said with Asaph, "How long, Lord? Wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?" But there has always been some relief when it came to this, for then the Lord has come with some encouragement, and I have been enabled to acknowledge my need of these afflictions; both to bring down my proud heart, and to make fresh and further discoveries of his everlasting love and mercy to me. Sukey was greatly comforted with what I said on this subject; she said her heart was quite full.
Yours &c. J. B.