[To M. C.] London, 21 February 1843.
My dear Friend,
I do not know how you have gone on since I left Pulverbach, but this I know, that a path of tribulation is appointed for all God's people; and that we may not be disheartened, the Lord has told us he will not leave us comfortless, but will come to our relief again and again. This way is so appointed in infinite wisdom to keep us from the spirit of the world, which carries thousands in a vain profession of religion headlong to destruction. I would fain hope your religion is not of this sort, but of that which will abide the fiery trial, and so prove it to be the work of the Spirit of God.
I often wonder whether any of those who were strangers to me received the word preached as the word of God, and by the power of it have been brought to seek the Lord more earnestly now I am gone, so as to show it was indeed the word of God, and not merely what they heard from me. In the parable of the sower you must remember that some of the seed sprung up very quickly, and as quickly perished, to show that where the word of God makes but a slight impression, it is soon wiped away by slight temptation. The Saviour does not tell us these things to discourage us, but to forewarn us not to be too much surprised when those about us, who have made a fair show of religion, for want of that first work which you have often heard me describe, wither before the fruit be ripe, and so manifest themselves to be fruitless branches, which men abounding in all manner of errors gather into their company, and all of them are consumed together.
That first work which I allude to is God's bringing us out of the world, by temptations, signs, wonders, war, and by a mighty hand, and stretched out arm, and by great terrors, and by his making us to hear his voice, and causing us to tremble at the sight and discovery of our lost condition. The Spirit of God uses these means to teach us the unspeakable value of the dying love of the Saviour to such sinners as we are found to be; and where this love is applied to the guilty conscience, it removes all that superabundance of the love of the world and ifs vanities, and gives new desires, even for communion with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Father of all mercies. The Spirit of God also works a secret desire that all this may be kept alive in the midst of the death that is round about us; and that when spiritual decay comes on, we may manifest that the Lord is still with us by a secret mourning and crying after him to restore our souls, not resting till he appears again. This sort of religion has life in it, will support us in all our afflictions, and comfort us in the hour of death.
Yours &c. J. B.