[To the Rev. B. G.] Pulverbach, 18 May 1844.
My dear Friend,
How often have I thought, and written too, of that terrible teaching which I find in my sleepless hours at night. Dreadful as it is, I find it, through the mercy of the Lord, the safeguard of my soul. Then it is the Holy Spirit discovers my unholiness, and there seems not a word or thought that has passed in the day but the Lord lays it open before me. I know of nothing more horrid and more fallacious than to call this heavenly teaching a temptation, which I have often heard people do till their hearts have grown hard, and as dark as midnight. What a mercy it is to have power to fall under the light which makes these discoveries, and to judge ourselves, and not extenuate our guilt! O how soberly have I been led to watch a tender regard to these secret admonitions; what peace has been the consequence of due attention, and what dangers and difficulties have I escaped!
I can well remember the time when I used to think these convictions were so many tokens of false religion, showing that I was never changed in heart; but by the mercy of God I now perceive that they are among the many means by which the Lord shows his tender care and watchfulness over his own, teaching them "as dear children" not to fashion themselves after the world, or worldly professors. It has been through these severe seasons I have been taught most earnestly to pray that I may not be led into temptation, but be delivered from evil; for these secret alarming discoveries have made me consider the rise and progress of sin and bondage, that the beginning is often very small, but the end immensely great. Not fearing the small beginning, we get sorely entangled before we are aware. It is our mercy to consider that as the Lord says "he declareth unto man what is his thought" [Amos iv. 13], he will sorely make us know the thoughts and intents of our hearts, that they are very evil, even the mainspring of all evil.
I must acknowledge that the heavy hand of God has struck terror into my heart, but somehow it is mingled with such mercy, that I feel no desire for it to be removed. It makes me startle at every approach of evil, and fills my soul with such awe as I cannot express; it makes me seek what I cannot find, and that is to put my mouth in the dust, lower than I can describe. But what shall I say? In this place, which nobody in the world envies, I have found a heaven upon earth, and have blessed and praised the Lord a thousand times for his righteous wisdom in leading me through the valley of humiliation with such safety and comfort. Jesus Christ is a tried Friend, "that sticketh closer than a brother," and may well be said to love "at all times," yea even in the time of adversity, when all men forsake us. Therefore I can well recommend him under all the difficulties and perplexities that may overtake you. Only be honest to your convictions, and do not extenuate your guilt, nor stand out in defending yourself, which is a most dangerous thing, because there is no promise but to such as are mourning under the weight of their guilt.
How is the contrary seen in Pharaoh, when he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" I answer, Look who he is when Pharaoh's chariots stick fast in the middle of the sea. We do well to stoop in time. How the Lord in mercy has led my soul in secret to pray, O Lord, show me how to humble myself under thy mighty hand, and how often the Lord has softened my spirit like wax in this prayer, and all contention has ceased, and his sweet power has carried me through all my trouble.
I have always felt that sanctified troubles are never what worldly professors think them to be. O no; an afflicted soul, as Hart says of a sinner, is a sacred thing; "the Holy Ghost has made him so;" and the Saviour tells us that in all our afflictions he is afflicted, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, in order that we may come with holy boldness to a throne of grace, and find help in all times of extremity, as I have done.
Yours &c. J. B.