[To Mr. T. S.] Pulverbach, 19 June 1844.
My dear Friend,
I think I am made to understand in some small measure what the Saviour meant when he said to those two disciples, "Ye shall indeed drink of my cup;" for after the sweetest acknowledgments from the Lord of his tender favour and care, I have very quickly been surprised with a most awful view of the sin of my nature, so that I have been made to offer up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save me from death. It will never be in my power to describe the dreadful feelings of these times; not a secret thought, however plausibly covered, but is then fairly laid open with its true meaning and intent; and in God's light, how deep the hypocrisy of the heart is found! No quibbles will stand there. O how this excites me to cry, and how I can enter into the prayer of the Publican, of the Jailor, and of Peter on the sea! What a keen and watchful eye has been given to see what the Lord will say or do, and whether I can find any ground to hope! Willingly have I put sackcloth upon my loins and ropes upon my head, with a "peradventure he will save thy life" [1 Kings xx. 31]; and if such words as these have come from him - "A brother is born for adversity," then I have taken some courage and wept out my sorrows and fears. O how I have looked at those words of the Lord Jesus Christ - "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
"If such a weight, to every soul,
O what a deadly blow these discoveries give to a legal spirit! How beautiful they make the free and sovereign grace of God, Father, Son, and Spirit! I sometimes say, Is this real? Will it stand the hour of trial? and then the enemy whispers, No, to be sure it will not; you will be as badly off as ever presently, and worse than ever in the hour of death. Here I perceive the dreadful conflict. I dare not give up, but every fresh fear and threatening of danger, I carry to the Lord; nor can I rest with merely praying, but, like Jacob, I cannot let the Lord go until he is pleased to decide the point; and surely he has never failed me, but has always sooner or later assured me that his promise shall be fulfilled in me, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
This was the case while I was dressing this morning. Full of fears and doubts whether all was quite right, I was confessing and deploring my sin, and without any particular words, the Lord came and melted my heart with a sweet sense of his favour and care; not only to comfort my own heart, but also to give me courage, and an insight into his word for the poor hungering people here, whom he will not send empty away.
The Lord can come and go at his pleasure, but he is pleased not so to deal with us. Before he comes we are suffered to fall into terrible places, to learn our weakness and utter dependence upon him; and then, when he comes, his visit is highly prized. So also he never goes but it is at a season when our hearts, like the eyes of a fool, are at the ends of the earth; and this makes us the more to hate our folly, and to learn with shame to entreat him to return again. The Lord makes these changes a means of teaching us many humbling lessons with which a smoother path is unacquainted. Bishop Cowper wisely remarks, "Let us be warned in the least threatening of spiritual desertion to lay hold of the Lord by prayer, lest for fault of seeking we close up the Lord's hands, which are full of blessings ready to be bestowed upon us." Thus when we pass through the waters, the Lord is with us, though we cannot fully discern him; for though greatly alarmed, spiritual life is maintained, and many of the sweet graces of the Spirit appear; if not joy, yet meekness, patience, long-suffering, watchfulness, and sobriety of mind.
Yours &c. J. B.