[To S. M. B.] Matlock, 23 July 1843.
My dear young Friend,
I was very glad and much surprised to see a letter from you. Those that are brought up in the strict profession of religion (though a wrong one) have a ready notion of many things, and it is often more difficult to deal with such than with those who have been altogether in the world. You have a very clear discovery of your own condition both as to the danger and the means of recovery. The way that these things are really brought right is by the furnace of affliction. The Lord says "the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." You have many fears lest the work upon your heart should not prove a right one; this fire will prove it. If it be "wood, hay, stubble," or any such thing, it will presently be burnt up, and leave the soul in some way short of what will prove its salvation. The light which discovers your danger, so that you cry mightily to God for help, and brings in a sweet hope of relief, is no doubt the light of life; but the hour of temptation comes and cuts off this hope and removes it like a tree, and then you begin to fear you were mistaken, and that the Lord never as yet did anything for you, and that you are altogether in your sins. This is the way the true child of God is exercised; and his misery is such, through the quickening power of the Spirit, that he cannot help renewing the attack, and ceases not until the Lord again gives him fresh hope, and brings in a clear view of all that is past; and presently this too is gone as the last, and leaves him once more to bemoan his presumption (as he thinks it to be). But the intercession of Christ is still in being, and works secretly in his heart, to look once more (as Jonah did) toward God's holy temple, and this ONCE MORE again revives the hope; and thus, as wave succeeds wave, so does the Lord renew his visits to the poor seeking sinking sinner. I find it so to the present day. To none but the destitute will the Lord appear; and to be brought to that point is no small thing. It will make us truly in earnest, and put an end to all half and quarter seekings. When the Publican was brought to this, he presently uttered a short cry - "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and when Peter began to sink, Christ alone could do him any service. The vanities of youth, with all the fair prospects he might have, seemed to him but small when he was sinking in the unfathomable waters. So with us - when we have no way of escape, and no hope of help, and all seems against us in heaven and earth, then to call and find the Lord regards our cry - this is indeed marvellous, and will bring us clean out of all hindrances of flesh and spirit, and draw us very near to Jesus Christ, the fountain of life.
It is a mercy to find the kind hand of God in his providence in our favour; and if it humble us and make us still more dependent on him, then we are sure the blessing of God comes with it, and have great cause for an abundance of gratitude. I sincerely hope this and every spiritual blessing may attend you and your brothers.
Yours faithfully, J. B.