[To a Friend.] Pulverbach, 5 May 1844.
My dear Friend,
The Lord Jesus Christ has lately enlisted you afresh under his banner, and given you a large bounty; and he, being so graciously liberal and bountiful, tells you to be a good soldier, and as such to learn to endure hardness. If you are led as I am, you will find the battle to wax very hot; and there will be no kindness shown to us by the Captain of our salvation but our great adversary will seek to dispute us out of it. I know nothing more difficult than to turn a deaf ear to this subtle enemy, and to have our ears open to the command of our divine Leader. If we rejoice in the sweet power of the love of God, that enemy rests not till he persuades us that it is presumption. If we are heavily laden with guilt and misery, he tells us we shall never find favour now, after such mercies received, and such ingratitude shown. But with it all, he never could persuade me from crying to the Lord. I have often wondered at this, and have perceived it was the way which the Lord would take to restore me.
I find here, that as soon as I attain to any comfort, the enemy unceasingly attacks me till he has robbed me of it, and then says, What encouragement can you give to the people, who cannot hold fast your hope when you get it? What will you say to them? I assure you I have nothing to say of myself, only that I am perfect weakness, and that there is no help for me, nor for any one else, but in Jesus Christ; and I tell them that they, as well as I, when covered with a cloud, will find a hard conflict before they get out, and that a light vain professor will lie quiet in danger, completely insensible, and have no sense of the displeasure of God.
Thousands of such professors perish with their heads full of religion. Some of them I have met with here, and they are so good, so pious, they tell me they are not afraid of death, though they know nothing of Christ experimentally. They pray, and feel moved in prayer, but none of them can clearly tell me what the Lord Jesus Christ says to their prayers. Their sole dependence is on their reading and praying, and as they say being very good. You and I know, by the mercy of God, that the first discovery by the Spirit is the sin of our nature; and such a fountain of evil is stirred up, that the sight (as Hart says) tempts us to despair; nor can we believe that this is divine life, though nothing else could discover our wretchedness. O the unbounded mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he has not only discovered this to us, but has also many times applied to our wounded consciences the marvellous power and efficacy of his precious blood, so that we have been both wounded and healed.
I trust that the ten thousand wounds which sin has made, and which have as often by the mercy of God been healed, have given us a measure of watchfulness, and have left some increase of tenderness, so that the things by which we have formerly fallen are shunned with confession and prayer as bitter enemies. It is in these very things that if we watch we shall find the infinite condescension of the most Holy Spirit, helping our infirmities, teaching us to fight, and making us "more than conquerors through him that loved us." A few fresh instances of these sweet helps give courage to a soldier of Jesus Christ; we risk everything for such a Captain, assured that he will lead us on to conquest, and never leave us nor forsake us, though for our trial and humbling he may often hide himself for a season.
There are many sorts here, and I find some few true yoke-fellows. The Ranters almost overrun the country and are desperate opposers of the truth, and the Baptists and Independents seem in doctrine very little removed from them. All seem to agree to sit down in something very short of even the letter of the Word, and to be bitter enemies to the power. You and I cannot be too thankful for a faithful ministry. Here all are alike, both minister and people, and it is truly awful to hear of their errors.
Yours &c. J. B.