[To Mr. Nunn.] Pulverbach, May 1844.
My dear Friend,
I have reason every day more and more to bless God for the afflictions which he in rich mercy has hitherto led me through. I am persuaded that by them he has instructed me in many things; especially by that dreadful fear of being utterly crushed which has often brought me very low and filled my soul with such shame that I could not look anybody in the face. Oh, the discoveries of my sin! How near they brought me to despair! What awe this brought into my soul, and how it taught me still to be very little in my own eyes and to put my mouth in the dust, "if so be there might be hope!" I have often and for a long time together stood trembling, not knowing which way the scale would turn, and here to my surprise, the Lord has made himself known to me in an unspeakable manner with some such words as these, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
I cannot but look back to the last three, four, or five years, with much gratitude to the ever blessed Father, Son, and Spirit, and see most clearly that the infinite and eternal God has been graciously teaching me; and as Bunyan says, "I never knew what it was for God to stand by me at all turns, at every offer of Satan to afflict me, as I have found since I came in hither; for as fears have presented themselves, so have supports and encouragements." If the houses and streets could speak they would testify of my despairing feelings, and so would my restless nights; but O the tenderness this wrought, the watchfulness of my spirit, the manner in which my ears were opened to the ministry, and the cutting convictions and reproofs that by the mercy of God were made to enter! I did indeed find in these things the way of life. A cry has been put into my heart, and I now know, what I never before understood, that this cry is the groaning of the Spirit helping my infirmities, and making intercession for a miserable sinner. While I have been hearing our minister telling us of the anguish of his soul, I have been greatly surprised at the joy and comfort I have found, and have been very thankful to have a seat in a private corner where none could observe my tears of joy; and it has filled me with an ardent desire that the Lord would also be with me in my own house. O how many cries and tears I have in secret put up, trembling under the weight of his judgments! How have I warned and cautioned those whom God has given to me in charge! and I must acknowledge his unspeakable mercy in putting an awe upon their minds, so that I have had a lively feeling of the Lord being amongst us; and this I hope still continues, and makes us all more or less to tremble, not knowing what a day may bring forth.
Adversity, I have observed in myself and in others, is an occasion that is generally taken advantage of. When it pleases God to bring us down, then men think it right to ride over our heads, both publicly and privately. This is for a trial; and I believe that the Lord has sanctified it to my soul, and has often kept me from answering a word, for when the true grace of humility is in exercise, it will with love bear all things.
I have been led to watch the fruits of these various trials, and I perceive by the mercy of God they are many. First, a sweet contentment with the dealings of God, counteracting the fiery darts of anger against those friends and relations that do not even inquire into my manifold fears and afflictions. Secondly, a great increase of understanding in the Scriptures, concerning both the judgment and the mercy of God, and an honest desire to fall into his hands. Thirdly, an assurance, both by the Word, and by the testimony of the most Holy Spirit, of the honesty of my desires to render to the Lord the gift he has in a measure given me, as a helper, to set forth the power, efficacy, and riches of his grace to poor helpless sinners, sorely benighted and hoodwinked by false teachers. And now, lastly (what I am most unwilling to declare), the ten thousand blessings of many poor creatures that have received the word with power. I myself know not how to believe their report, and yet I cannot altogether reject their testimony. I endeavour to declare to them nothing but the afflictions which the Lord has sanctified to me, and the manner in which he has been pleased to appear for me, and to show that God is no respecter of persons, but that all who are enabled to seek him in their trouble with all their heart will find him.
It is a source of humbling to me to see the place so crowded, even by strangers that none of us know; and the extreme stillness is wonderful. My heart both trembles and rejoices; and sometimes I scarcely know how to proceed from the sweet sense of the Lord's presence, and the great fear I feel lest I should grieve the most Holy Spirit of God, so that my soul should be covered with a cloud, and lose the perception of his presence amongst us.
On our last Wednesday evening I was led to speak from these words, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." I told the people that it was because the power of the devil is so great, and his wiles so many, that nothing less than the almighty power of God, Father Son and Spirit, can keep us. Therefore the Apostle tells us to "put on the WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD," not a part, and repeats it again, that we "may be able to withstand in the evil day." Without this armour we shall fail in the day of temptation. Our loins must be "girt about with TRUTH." Truth I endeavoured to show in the highest sense is Christ himself. Errors in doctrine or principle always lead to errors in practice; and nothing can preserve us from these, but Christ "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." We must also have on "the breastplate of righteousness," which is the spotless righteousness of Christ, imputed to us by faith, which arms against every charge from the enemy or from the law. The feet too must be "shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace;" for the way is rough and hard and strewed with many thorns, and nothing will keep us from halting, except these shoes of iron and brass, denoting that divine counsel and strength which the Spirit communicates to the labouring soul, and which has been so often attended with these words to me - "As thy days thy strength shall be." But above all "the SHIELD OF FAITH " must be taken, to defend that withering faith which seems at times to be no faith at all, for the attacks of the enemy are so subtle and unwearied that he ceases not until he persuades us that we have neither faith nor hope; but the Lord takes a sweet advantage of his wiles, and teaches us by them to cry to the LORD OUR SHIELD; and then we begin to perceive the riches of his grace, and how it quenches or quiets this dreadful and most powerful enemy. [Eph. vi. 10-17.]
I had some sweet power on my heart in speaking, yet immediately afterwards the arch-enemy disputed the whole till I lost my armour, and thought that like a fool I should end my days in sorrow in this desolate corner; but after some hours, these sweet words were presented to me - "HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST;" which brought me to the sweetest contrition; and I began to consider, Who can harm us, and what good thing can we want, if heirs of God with Christ? Here I found the whole armour of God put on by the most Holy Spirit, and myself completely defended from the fiery darts of the enemy; the helmet of salvation was upon my head, and I who but a few moments before held down my head with fear and shame, was enabled to lift it up with hope and joy; and the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word, was put into my hand, to cut my way through all my enemies.
Your affectionate friend in the Lord, J. B.