A review by J C Philpot of ~
Life and Letters of the Late James Bourne.
- (August, 1861.)
Complaints have been made in every age by the real saints and servants of God of the low state of religion in their day. Not to mention such names as Augustine and Bernard, even in those days which are usually and justly considered signal epochs of vital godliness, such as the time of the Reformation and that of the English Commonwealth, Luther and Knox, Owen and Bunyan loudly lamented the prevailing errors, the general lukewarmness, the abounding evils, and the reigning pride and worldliness of the great bulk of professors in their day as presenting a striking contrast with the precepts of the New Testament and with those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. That in every wheat field there should be tares, on every barn-floor chaff, in every mine useless ore as well as precious metal, need not astonish us, as such is the character of the present dispensation. A Saul among the prophets, a Judas among the disciples, a Simon Magus among the baptized, need not then surprise us; but when there are more Sauls than Samuels, more Judases than Johns, and more Simon Maguses than Stephens, then may we well cry out, "The good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men." Persons ignorant of the power of God in their own bosoms, knowing little or nothing of vital godliness for themselves, and, with all their loud and long profession, still wrapped up in the face of the covering cast over all people and the vail spread over all nations - the vail of ignorance and unbelief over the heart, (2 Cor. 3:15,) naturally consider all such complaints as captious, and to spring rather from the dark and gloomy views of the complainers than to have any solid foundation in truth. If I have never seen a diamond, is it wonderful that I cannot distinguish between a gem from the mines of Golconda and a Bristol stone or Birmingham paste? If I have never seen light in God's light, never felt life in God's life, never tasted and handled the word of his grace, never known the beauty and blessedness, the grace and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, need it be a matter of surprise that I should call evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter? Now this is just what they do who, like the idols of old, "have mouths but they speak not," that, is, words of truth and righteousness; "eyes, but they see not light in God's light; ears, but they hear not" the pure sound of gospel grace nor the voice of the heavenly Shepherd; "noses, but they smell not" the savour of his good ointments; "hands, but they handle not" the word of life; "feet, but they walk not" in the strait and narrow way; "neither speak they through their throat" what they have felt with divine power in the heart. No wonder, then, that they resist any such unwelcome truth as that they are labouring in the fire for very vanity. "Look," they say, "at the rapid increase of churches and chapels all over the land; see the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised by the different religious societies, and view the efforts made in every direction to advance the interests of true religion by Sunday and ragged schools and by the wide diffusion of Bibles and tracts in every land and almost in every language under heaven. Will you tacitly ignore or wilfully shut your eyes against such decided marks of a widely-spread interest in true religion, or what is worse, will you deny all such efforts to be good because not in precise harmony with your own narrow views?" We freely admit that much has been done and much is still doing to elevate the rude masses into something like religion and morality; and as the Bible cannot be spread or read without some effect on men's consciences, much of this outside work may assume the shape of such a system of truth, doctrinal and practical, as is revealed in the inspired page. This is what the word of truth calls "the form," or outside shape, "of godliness." But this is just what the Jew had from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which the Apostle calls "the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law." (Rom. 2:20.) But this very Jew, when boasting of the law, through breaking it was dishonouring God. (Rom. 2:23.) So under the New Testament, wherein there is a clearer revelation, men may have a form of godliness whilst they deny the power thereof. To quicken the dead, to deliver the blind from the power of darkness, and to translate the vassals of sin and Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son, is so purely and peculiarly the work of sovereign grace that we must not confound these miracles of mercy and love with the weak and puny efforts of an arm of flesh. So far as they humanize, civilize, and improve the rude and rough masses towards which they are directed, let such efforts be recognized as truly praiseworthy. But let them not usurp the throne of sovereign grace, as if they wielded the sceptre of the Prince of peace, or burn incense with strange fire as if they were offering spiritual sacrifices. Reformation is not regeneration; and men may be civilized and humanized, receive a large measure of divine truth into their minds, live to a good extent under its influence, and, as far as outward appearance goes, be made truly religious without ever being washed, sanctified, or justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.
But let us now dig down into a deeper stratum than the mere superficial soil, which everywhere meets our eye - that thick evangelical crust under which so much self-delusion lies hid. Look at those churches, for instance, which profess a purer faith and a sounder creed than that motley mixture of semi-Calvinism or decided Arminianism which marks the general profession of the day. Take a glance at the letter churches and the letter ministers who, like Paul's Jew, "make their boast of God" as if they were in full and firm possession of his truth; and view their features as reflected in those sermons, pamphlets, or periodicals which may well be supposed not only adequately to represent them, but to set them off in the most glowing colours and the most favourable light. Stripped of all that false glare of vain confidence and boasting assurance, how naked and bare they stand before a discerning eye! Weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, how light is all their religion; and in what a striking contrast does their poverty stand with their pretensions! Judged by their own standards, or by the glowing panegyrics bestowed upon them in their periodicals, or upon each other at their anniversary meetings, their tea-parties, and their speechifyings, the ministers are burning and shining lights, almost rivalling Paul in grace and gifts, and Apollos in knowledge and eloquence; and their churches are lengthening their cords and strengthening their stakes as if, like the primitive churches, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, they were daily multiplied. Whether all this flattery, (let it arise from the fumes of incense burnt by their own hands or by others for them,) springs from ignorance of the nature and power of vital godliness, from blindness to the real state of things, or from a wretched carnal desire to please, so that what is given in paper of praise may be returned in bullion of profit, matters little. Deception is deception, whether the deceit is known or unknown to the deceived. Consumptive patients flatter themselves with returning health, and relatives adopt the same pleasing delusion when the hollow cough tells a different tale to the physician's ear, and the hectic flush presents a different aspect to his penetrating eye. In such a case it really matters little as regards the present state and the final issue, whether the patient deceives himself, or quacks, with their balsams, eager for pelf, aveil themselves of his self-flattery to pour into his ear a congratulatory strain, and into his stomach a heating if not a healing drug. Disease advances in spite of all such deception, and the pale corpse soon betrays the falsehood of deceiver and deceived. There are consumptive churches as well as consumptive patients, and quacks in the pulpit as well as in the advertising columns of a newspaper; but the more sure the end the worse the flattery, the more subtle the deception the more awful the issue. A tree is to be known by its fruit; and if this test be applied to the letter churches and the letter ministers, we shall not form any very high idea of their being trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. The late controversy, if it has done nothing else, has brought to light an amazing amount of error hitherto covered up both by ministers and members; and were these churches laid bare to the eyes of men as they stand before him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, we firmly believe that evil would be found as predominant as error. A decent vail of morality may indeed cover them, for that the world demands too stringently for its voice to be wholly unheeded. But pride, worldliness, and covetousness may reign rampant where grosser sins are not committed or kept close from observation.
When wearied and sickened with the general aspect of what is called the religious world, and with men who either are drunk with the spirit of error or hold the truth in unrighteousness, how refreshing it is to meet with a true-hearted, well taught, simple, and savoury child of God. As we converse with such, and mark their godly fear, their tenderness of conscience, their humility, their brokenness and contrition of spirit, their spirituality of mind, their faith strong yet not presumptuous, their hope clear but not self-confident, their love sincere yet not vain-glorious, - what reality seems stamped upon their religion, and what a marked contrast is thus afforded between such and that numerous class to whom we have already alluded, and to too many of whom, it is to be feared, the words apply, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." The contrast which we have thus drawn between professor and possessor is never more striking than when we meet with books written under the influence of the dissimilar spirits which characterise the one and the other. Disguise it how they may, wrap it up how they will, the ill-savour of a carnal spirit manifests itself to a spiritual nose, as no amount of pastiles or aromatic vinegar can conquer the sickening odour of the chamber of death. But "spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes, with all the chief spices," naturally, necessarily give out a sweet odour at once recognised as peculiar and genuine. As with men, so with books, there is the ointment of the apothecary full of dead flies, and there is the ointment of the right hand which betrayeth itself.
It is some time since we met with a book of greater weight and power than the volume the title of which we have given at the head of the present article. The singularly happy death of Mr. Bourne, it will perhaps be remembered, on a previous occasion, found a place in our pages; and as was his death, such, for the most part, was his life. Though the Lord does sometimes almost work miracles on a death-bed, as, for instance, when he fills with all joy and peace in believing some poor desponding child of his long held in doubt and fear, yet, as a general rule, it is true as regards sinner and saint, that as men live so they die. Those who are blessed with much godly fear, and walk in the light of God's countenance, usually die in sweet peace; and if there be no remarkable triumph, no being carried to heaven as in a chariot of fire, they find the everlasting arms underneath to support them as they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. And those who have through much tribulation entered here below the kingdom of grace usually enter with corresponding consolation into the kingdom of glory. Mr. Bourne was singularly favoured during a long life to walk much in the fear of God, and to enjoy much of the light of his countenance and the manifestation of his love. We have the advantage, in his case, of an account drawn up by himself of the early dealings of God with him in providence and in grace, from which we shall make some extracts, as showing, far better than we can do, the way in which he was led of the Lord both in providence and grace. His autobiography thus commences:
"It is my desire in much humility to give some account of the teaching of the Spirit of God upon my heart.
"I was born (in 1773) at a village called Dalby, near Spilsby, in Lincolnshire. My father was a country gentleman of considerable landed property. My mother's name was Fowler, of Boothby Hall, in the same neighbourhood. She died when I was but eighteen months old; and whilst almost an infant I was sent daily to a school kept by a poor woman who had been servant in the family, and was often through neglect left there for days together. At the age of four and a half I was sent to Louth Grammar School.
"My father's second marriage turned his affections from me until his death, which was very wounding to me. He died when I was fifteen, leaving the paternal estate to his eldest son, and a small legacy to the rest of his children by his first wife, of whom I was the youngest. The surviving son by the second wife inherited his mother's property. Thus were two of the family rendered independent, and placed in a very different situation from the rest.
"At school it was easily seen that I was neglected at home, and therefore the same liberty was taken by the master. I was continually punished, disgraced, and disheartened, and never allowed to rise in the school. I must acknowledge that my natural disposition was volatile, and that I was a boy that had no mind for study; nor did the master attempt to correct this deficiency, but was always jeering and setting me at nought; so that at last I entreated my friends to go to another school in the same town. Here I made more progress in one year than in all the time before, greatly to the surprise of my new master, and regained my lost character, and was fitted by this short attention to my education to enter upon anything that might be eligible for me to pursue in life.
"In the same town I had a brother articled to a solicitor, who during my absence in the holidays had joined himself to the Methodists. On my return he said much on the new profession of religion he had engaged in, and I was not long listening before I went with him to hear, and soon became his constant companion. I remember the first text I heard was 2 Kings 4:26: 'Is it well with thyself? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child?' The last sentence lighted upon me. I replied in my heart, It is not well with the child - meaning myself. This I could not easily shake off; and from the impression it made on me, together with my brother's conversation, I became a professor of religion. Being a school-boy at a public school, I was presently noticed by all parties; flattered and admired by the poor professors, laughed at by others, and scorned by my schoolfellows, who used to set themselves in such places and positions in the chapel as to make me if possible ashamed of myself and of the despicable cause I had espoused. In a few weeks I was solicited to join the society, the nature of which I neither understood nor laid to heart. Being made tender through fear I only thought I must do as I was bid. So on the next public meeting my brother and myself appeared in full congregation to give some account of the work of God upon our souls, of which, as yet, I had no comprehension; yet, after a few broken accents, we were admitted.
"All this time I had to endure much reproach in the boarding-house from those around me, but this text continually followed me: 'Whoso is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.' (Luke 9:26.) This kept me patient and willing to bear, though I had no spiritual view or knowledge of Christ as my Saviour.
"I was told to pray to obtain the justification of my soul, as they called it; and after some weeks I found a great flow of comfort that I understood not, which they told me was the first blessing, and it produced something that looked like fruit. I remember that in consequence of the unkind treatment I received from the mistress of the boarding-house, I had imbibed a great secret hatred to her; but after this change I told my brother that now I could love her dearly; he said that was right, and was a proof that the work was genuine."
The impressions thus made in his mind were instrumental in keeping him from much evil, if they did not lead him forward into the knowledge of the truth; yet there was a strange inconsistency, as is often the case at first, between his convictions and his practice:
"After various unsuccessful attempts to engage in some line of business, I at last settled in Manchester. Here I addicted myself to visiting and public amusements, and by this means soon lost sight of my profession of religion, endeavouring to drive all care and despondency from my mind. Yet the Lord did not give me over to a reprobate mind. I could not quite forget the little understanding I had of divine things, and there were many vices I dared not enter into as others did. Thus the Lord kept still alive in my conscience that spark which he had put there, though balls, card-parties, and the like occupied nearly the whole of my time, till my little patrimony began to sink, and conscience began to awaken at the same time, and to bring on terrible fears.
"I remember one Sunday being invited by six or seven persons to take a ride. This I shall not forget while I live. My friends were altogether of the world, but I had not totally forgotten the restraint I formerly felt, yet I ventured. The heavens seemed to me covered with sackcloth. I felt as if hell were already begun. We at length arrived at the river Mersey, which we must ford. Here I faltered, not daring at first to cross, but said nothing. I let four or five pass and then spurred on my horse, but exceedingly feared I should perish in the river. I could not for one moment raise my drooping spirits, but my heart kept saying, 'Is this the way to spend your Sundays? Will this bring a blessing?' I could not answer, I felt so ashamed, only that if I should be spared to get safe home I would never do the like again. The company was vain and thoughtless; but as for me, though I knew not the Lord, his terrors made me greatly afraid. I shall never forget the black cloud that was upon my heart, as an evident mark of the wrath of God for my sin."
Though sprung from a good and opulent family, yet, as being a younger son, his patrimony was but small; and at this period his mind became much exercised about his future provision in life. He thus narrates a remarkable answer to prayer, whereby the Lord opened for him a way not only for present but future maintenance:
"After I left Manchester I had the offer of a commission in the army, which I accepted, because anything seemed better than an idle life. I also entered at St. John's College, Cambridge; but everything combined with my unsettled state of mind to stop all purposes but that to which the Lord soon led me. I wandered about not knowing what next to do, nor how I should be eventually provided for; and what was worse, full of sorrow and guilt, I knew not how to call upon the Lord. For about two years I was thus tossed, being unsettled in my mind and unprovided for; and finding my finances very small I often feared I should come to utter disgrace and ruin.
"One day I was so cast and so ill-treated by some with whom I had resided a few weeks that I felt myself filled with the utmost despondency, and completely overwhelmed with grief. I went to my bed-room and fastened the door, and then fell on my knees, and with all my heart and soul cried to the Lord as nearly as I can remember in these words: 'O Lord, what shall I do to maintain myself? I cannot endure this miserable way of living!' No sooner were these words out of my mouth than it was impressed on my mind, 'You must draw.' I was quite surprised; and though as yet I knew not the Lord, yet I considered this a plain direction from him, and I at once gave up all other plans and began to occupy myself in the art of drawing, which has afforded me a liberal supply for many years, and enabled me to bring up a large family respectably.
"I immediately went to a kind and wealthy relation, who gave me time and opportunity to practise drawing, until, by a singular circumstance, I had the opportunity of a journey to London, and with my little store of knowledge in the arts I called on an old school-fellow and told him very frankly my history. He was immediately interested for me, and said if I would settle in London he would introduce me to the Countess of Sutherland and Lord Spencer, who was then Lord of the Admiralty. My heart throbbed, knowing my deficiency, yet it seemed an opening I dared not set aside; but how I should stand my ground I knew not, neither did I know the Lord.
"I had five guineas left, with which I took lodgings, and found immediate employment in those families. I had many anxieties and fears, and laboured hard to make myself equal to my engagements."
But we now come to a more clear and decided work of grace on his soul, which he narrates in his simple, truthful, yet striking and most interesting way:
"One night as I returned to my lodgings my landlord said to me, 'As you are so fond of hearing preachers, I wonder you do not go and hear Mr. Huntington.' I replied, 'I never thought of him. I go chiefly to church and have not heard much about him; but I will go in a few days to hear him.' I remember the first time I heard him, I thought him the most agreeable preacher I had ever heard, and was not in the least tired [tried?]. I continued for two years to frequent his chapel together with the Established Church. I now grew very anxious and much in earnest respecting the salvation of my soul, but had no understanding what spiritual life meant, or what secret communion with God was. I used to pray, as I thought, but never waited for any answer; I supposed that I should get that in heaven, not now; and though I found nothing in my heart to forbid the spirit of the world, or anything that was not openly flagitious, yet I believed without doubt that all was right within.
"About this time I met with Mr. Huntington's book, 'The Barber,' which I was told was very scurrilous; but I ventured to read it alone, and the Lord was pleased by this book to discover the nature of my profession, that it was altogether vain, and would by no means stand when the rain began to beat and the winds to blow, but would certainly fall, because founded on the sand. This, by the power of God, swept away every refuge of lies I had been hid under, and left me without a hope, and yet not without a cry. This led me to hear more attentively the author of the book. It made religion of importance to me, and I could no longer be a trifling professor, for I was in earnest to seek salvation, but found I had lost my way. It was by very slow degrees that I could at all understand the word, though so faithfully preached; yet now and then I had a little hope that the Lord would not utterly cast me off, especially once from these words: 'The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.' (Hab. 2:3.) This made me patiently wait and look out for a further and clearer token than I had ever yet found of my interest in Christ. I could give very little account all this time of the gospel, only I felt I was a lost sinner, and the minister told me how such were to be saved; and the Lord made me very much in earnest to seek in the way I was directed by the word.
"My business was subjected to many changes, but upon the whole very prosperous; and lest this should share too great a portion of my heart the Lord was pleased to lay upon me a long and grievous affliction. This was the cause of many sighs and bitter groans, which were every now and then accompanied by some encouraging hope. While I write this I feel a measure of sweetness at the recollection of the kind help often afforded me in my extremity, and which has been continued up to the present day.
"My custom was to spend my summers in the country with families of rank, in the way of business. And as the time drew near for my leaving town I began to feel many fears, for I had laboured long in darkness, and had not as yet attained to a comfortable knowledge of God's favour toward me in Christ Jesus; and I felt afraid lest, being deprived of the public worship, and also debarred from spiritual intercourse with the people of God, I should defer that which my heart was now set upon - for I understood in some measure by the ministry that I must come to a knowledge of Christ by the remission of sins. Under these apprehensions I was engaged to go into the country with a young gentleman of the Temple, and thinking all hopes of finding the happiness I sought were about to be far removed, I laid it greatly to heart. After performing our journey we parted, and I went to the house of a friend, where I found the family were absent from home, but had requested me to stay as long as I liked. I went to bed fatigued and full of fears; but when I awoke in the morning I felt something that I did not quite understand. I was particularly cheerful; all the darkness in which I had so long been involved was gone. Something seemed to say, You had better get up. So I arose; and the happiness increased. I found the burden of all my sins, which had so sore oppressed me, was gone, and I could do nothing but bless and praise God's holy name. I had never heard any one speak of this happiness, but I felt it was what the minister had set forth by the word as the revelation of Jesus Christ to the soul; and I knew now that I was a sinner saved by grace, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One eternal God, was my Friend. I could now only tell of my joy, as before I could only tell of my misery. I knew the voice, according to that scripture: 'Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak; behold it is I.' (Isa. 52:6.) I was now as sure of eternal life as of my existence, nor had I the shadow of a fear about it. The Sun of righteousness had risen with healing in his wings, and my soul could do nothing but rejoice. These things confirmed the many seasons in which I had found a distant hope, and though after this I had many changes, yet did it effectually show me that the Lord had given me spiritual life."
Hitherto Mr. Bourne knew little of the plague of the heart, or of the furnace of affliction; but he was to learn that it is through much tribulation that the saints enter the kingdom. As is often the case, his trouble arose from a most unexpected and proportionally painful quarter:
"I had two friends about my own age, with whom I had often taken sweet counsel, and whom I had often freely reproved for what I saw inconsistent in their conduct. One night, in the middle of private prayer in my own room, and not thinking of my friends, I was stopped with these words, which seemed spoken in my heart: 'Suppose you were called upon to give up your friends?' alluding to the above two. I was greatly surprised, and replied, I could not do that; but I felt seriously disposed to recall my words, and said, 'O Lord, if thou enable me, I can give them up.' Upon which these words followed: 'You will be called to give them up for ever.' This startled me, and I was filled with fear, but could not tell what it meant. All this passed from my mind until on the following Sunday we met as usual, but to my great surprise they told me they could no longer associate with me, and therefore begged me to leave them. I was much cast down, and went home very sad and solitary, for the cause of their behaviour at this time never once entered my mind; (I was afterwards informed that it was my absolutely setting my face against the intended marriage of one of them with a worldly woman, I believing that he was a child of God;) but I concluded, as David did when Shimei cursed him, that the Lord had bidden them; so I feared they had discovered I was a hypocrite, and that I was unworthy of the notice of any of God's people. I sank in spirit, 'like lead in the mighty waters.' I think I never cried to the Lord in such agony of spirit before. I seemed on the brink of despair, and could think of nothing but a person I had heard of who had died in despair. The people of God, as I believed, having judged me altogether wrong, I thought it was needless for me to eat or to drink for nothing but hell. Yet, under all these feelings, I never gave up crying to God. My two friends went to Mr. Huntington, and gave such an account of me as to cause him to direct his utmost severity against me from the pulpit, which made all who knew me by sight to avoid me. My health became impaired; I could not properly attend to business, and mine appeared altogether a lost case. One morning I was brought to such an extremity of despair as to fear I should die in it and be for ever lost. I said in secret, 'If nothing appears in my behalf before 7 o'clock this evening I am gone for ever.' I well remember the evening. While I was in bitter cries before the Lord, lying on the floor in a state of utter hopelessness as to my own feelings, these words were gently whispered in my heart, 'Thou shalt return in the power of the Spirit.' I said, 'Lord, what does this mean?' and it was repeated again and again seven times, and at last broke my heart to pieces and set my soul free from the misery and bondage under which I had laboured so long. Now I knew by the power of the word that the Lord Jesus Christ was my Saviour, and my comfort was great and inexpressibly sweet, so that I could not describe it. The Lord was now with me, though my friends had forsaken me. I went to public worship, and the minister preached from these words: 'Show me a token for good, that they which hate me may see it and be ashamed; because thou, Lord, hast holpen me and comforted me.' (Ps. 86:17.) The whole discourse was so sweetly applied to my heart, and so suitable to my case, that though I believed it was intended to favour them that had taken part against me, yet I do not know that I ever before had heard with such sweetness and power."
* * * * *
"Every now and then something would occur to open the deep wound which this dispensation had made in my soul; and as often did the Lord pour in the oil and the wine. Those who took part against me drew over many to their side, and I became of small estimation. I used to be pointed out as the apostate; and many would cross the street rather than meet me.
"I now believe that God's purpose in all this was to humble me, and to separate me from false professors. It was not long before Mr. Huntington died, and on his death the people were scattered to all winds, and many of those whom I had formerly associated with separated from the truth; and some have since died, leaving no testimony of salvation. But by this affliction the Lord in mercy answered me 'by terrible things in righteousness,' and kept me from embracing errors, and humbled me in the dust before him as an abject sinner, feeling the utmost need of a Saviour; and I cannot describe how precious his love was to me.
"During this sore trial I was visited in my sickness by a medical man who attended the same ministry, and he kindly sent a friend to see me. This friend was Mr. Burrell, and his conversation with me then formed the beginning of that bond of unity of spirit which I believe will continue to all eternity."
But there was much mercy mingled with this most painful trial. The Lord had a special purpose to accomplish in Mr. Bourne's case, and to teach him with a high hand the deep mysteries of the kingdom, and thus separate him more fully and effectually from all false profession. With all our love and esteem for Mr. Huntington, we fear that it is true that in his latter days many got about him with flatteries, and were received if not into his heart yet into his notice, who had but little claim to his friendship on the ground of spirituality. He had been so long despised by professor and profane, so long a servant of servants, that his friends in the early period of his ministry had no drawing to him but that of the power felt under his word. But as time rolled on, his gifts, his knowledge and remarkable memory of the Scriptures, his apt and witty sayings, his liberality, the influence which he wielded as a writer and preacher, and his personal qualities and generous hospitality drew round him hearers who would have scorned the Coalheaver at Thames Ditton; and as some of them were opulent as well as liberal, and were unbounded admirers of his preaching, it is not to be wondered at, that they became personal acquaintances or friends. It was from some of these last that Mr. Bourne suffered, and all the more so in that they succeeded in prejudicing Mr. Huntington against him. It is good for us to have every false prop removed, that we may lean wholly on the arm of the Lord; and however painful it may be to be wounded in the house of our friends, and receive the heaviest blows from those whom we must needs esteem and love, yet it is a path which the Lord often leads his people into. Mr. Burrell, Mr. Huntington's son-in-law, and under whose ministry Mr. Bourne afterwards sat, fully entered into his case, and wrote to him the following letter, with which we shall, for the present, close our article:
"Dear Friend in the Lord, - 'Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word. Your brethren that hated you, and cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.' (Isa. 66:5.) This has been fulfilled in your heart's experience. The more I dive into this matter, the more I am convinced that the hand of God is in it; and instead of being ashamed of your acquaintance I think myself highly honoured of the Lord to be made an instrument of some good towards you. I perceive that the Lord has given me a right view of your state and case; and I have no doubt but he will bring you out with a high hand.
"I am glad to find that you cleave close to your best Friend, and that he also cleaves close to you. Continue still daily to make your calling and election more sure; and every fresh manifestation of our ever-blessed Friend to your soul will surely effect this, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. He will bring us to hope in his mercy; and to believe his love toward us, and to lay fast hold of his strength by faith, though the minister, with all the deacons and elders, and all the saints, should set themselves against us. I know that reproach will break the heart, but our good Father will heal it. 'No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.' When heaven and earth set themselves against Hezekiah, the good Spirit secretly made him turn towards the wall and pray, and he obtained a glorious victory. Your case is somewhat similar to Heman's, for God has put your acquaintance into darkness, and they stand aloof from your sore, because they do not understand your case. But woe be to them that are at ease in Zion, and to them also that are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. I hope the Lord will still continue to wean you from man. Remember that the most upright among them is like a thorn; (Mic. 7:4;) but our good and gracious God has said he will never leave us nor forsake us, and that he will put his fear into our hearts, and we shall never depart from him.
"God is doing a great work in your soul, and is about leading you in a plain way, where there is no stumbling. Your being able in the strength of the Lord to stand against friends as well as foes, will greatly redound to the glory of God's grace, and you will perceive that the faith of God's elect, the rich gift of God, is not to be daunted by either men or devils. It is, as Hart beautifully describes it,
'A principle active and young,
That lives under pressure and load.'
"I am, yours in the Lord,
" Joseph Francis Burrell."
(Concluded, October, 1861.)
When the outward and visible church of Christ has become deeply sunk into a carnal, lifeless profession, the Lord has generally been pleased to raise up a testimony against a state of things so evil in his eyes, so contrary to his revealed will and word. Is she not a city set on a hill? Shall she then sink into a valley amidst mist and fog? or if she retain her seat of eminence, shall she become so beclouded with smoke that she is no longer seen from afar, and the Lord not testify against her? But as he invariably works by instruments, and "surely will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets," he qualifies and commissions his own ministering messengers, into whose heart and mouth he puts his word, to sound an alarm in his holy mountain, that his own people may be aroused out of their sleep, and that those who will not hear may be left without excuse. There cannot be a more striking instance of this general truth than the case of the prophet Jeremiah. It is scarcely possible to read his prophecies with an enlightened eye without seeing into what a state of dead, and we may add, wicked profession the people of God in external covenant were sunk in Judah and Jerusalem, just previous to the Babylonish captivity. Sin ran down the streets of Jerusalem like water, for "as a fountain casteth forth her waters, so she cast out her wickedness." (Jer. 6:7.) So rife was falsehood that, "from the prophet even unto the priest, every one dealt falsely;" so rank was open sin that they "assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses;" and so prevalent was idolatry, even in the midst of the holy city, that "the children gathered the wood, and the fathers kindled the fire, and the women kneaded the dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven." (Jer. 5:7; 7:18; 8:10.) And yet in the midst and in the very face of all their crying sins and aggravated iniquities there was an amount of profession and a height of confidence springing out of it which seem to strike us with amazement at their blindness and obstinacy. Because, as the descendants of Abraham, they were the people of God by external covenant; because their fathers had seen his miracles and eaten manna in the wilderness; because there were priests and prophets among them; and because the temple reared its stately front in their midst, they viewed themselves as a holy nation and thus privileged to commit sin with impunity. How sharply does the Lord reprove this awful state of profession where he says, "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?" (Jer. 7:9, 10.) But, so confident were they of the favour of the Lord that even when, by the mouth of his true prophets, he denounced his judgments against them, they would not believe his words, but said, "It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine." (Jer. 5:12.)
But who encouraged them in this deceptive confidence? The very persons who, as professed servants of God, should have testified against it, - the prophets and the priests. What a state of things is opened up in the following verses: "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jer. 5:30, 31.) To whom should the people look for instruction but to the prophets who professed to speak in the name of the Lord as inspired by his Spirit, and to the priests whose lips should keep knowledge, and at whose mouth they should seek the law? for they were the messengers of the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 2:7.) Was it not, then, "a wonderful and horrible thing" that these very prophets should prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and that the people, instead of detecting their hypocrisy and hating their deceit, should love to have it so, that they might be more comfortably deceived and enjoy their sins with greater quietude of conscience? To testify, then, against this deceitful profession, to warn the elect remnant against being entangled in it, and to leave the rebellious and the unbelieving without excuse, the Lord raised up the prophet Jeremiah, put his words in his mouth, and set him over the nations and over the kingdoms, "to root out, to pull down, to destroy, and to throw down" all dead profession, as well as "to build and to plant" the truth of God in contrite spirits and believing hearts.
It is not however our present intention to dwell upon the character of Jeremiah and the circumstances under which he prophesied in the name of the Lord in those evil times in which his lot was cast, our object being rather to name him as an instance of one raised up by the Lord as a witness against the dead, wicked profession of his day than to draw out the distinguishing features of his personal experience or prophetical ministry.*
* If any one had sufficient depth of experience and discernment of character, as well as a fair historical knowledge of the times, and a spiritual gift to set the whole forth in a truly experimental way, a most instructive work, we believe, might be written upon the prophet Jeremiah. There are ample materials, were the necessary grace and ability communicated from above.
But the question may naturally arise in the mind of our readers, "What connection have these remarks with the Life and Letters of Mr. Bourne, which you are professedly reviewing?" The connection in our mind, though not at present apparent to our readers, is this. Mr. Bourne, among his other gifts and graces, was especially led to see and testify against the dead profession of the day. It is true that his voice did not reach far, for not being in any prominent position he was but little known to the church of God, but his testimony was not less clear and pointed wherever it came; and as the dead which Samson slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life, so may it be with Mr. Bourne, and may his letters, as now made public, do more execution than when they first dropped from his pen. He had a very clear and penetrating view of the professing church. Nor was this insight into her real state a matter with him of cold, dry speculation, a mere sagacious, intuitive view of her sickly condition, as a skilful physician, himself untouched by disease, reads in his patient's countenance the nature and degree of his malady. We continually see what a deep insight many sharp-witted men have into the motives of human conduct, and how keenly and cuttingly by word or pen they can lay bare the thoughts and actions of their fellow men. How truthfully and yet how ruthlessly will they tear off the cloaks and wrappers under which poor human nature vainly seeks to hide its deformity, and with what eager delight will they expose to public view its hideous wens and sores. But these very men, whilst in the language of most withering scorn they are expressing their detestation of the shams of this hollow world, are its veriest slaves. So a man may see and denounce the state of the professing church from a mere natural keenness of perception and a moral honesty of purpose, and yet himself be a slave to sin or under the dominion of pride and self-righteousness. But it was not so with Mr. Bourne. His was a spiritual not a natural discernment, and intimately connected with his own experience of the weight and power of eternal realities. To a degree far beyond most whose experience has come before us was his mind deeply and continually exercised about his own state before God; for not only in his earliest but in his latest days he trembled at the deceitfullness of his own heart and feared the soundness of his own profession. Seeing, then, and feeling that it was only by "terrible things in righteousness" that he himself was first broken asunder and shaken to pieces, (Job 16:12,) and afterwards kept alive unto God, (Isa. 38:16,) it gave him a deep spiritual insight into the dead profession of the day; and as the Letters before us were the outpouring of his heart to his correspondents, as he believed so he spoke, and could not but warn and admonish them of what had been laid so powerfully on his own conscience lest they should be entangled in this snare of the fowler. Issuing therefore, out of these deep exercises of mind, there is in most of his letters some direct or indirect testimony borne against the form of godliness without the power; and as he himself, like the weeping prophet, could, amidst all his sorrows, often say, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart," he became in his sphere a Jeremiah who "took forth the precious from the vile," and so far as his utterance reached was thereby to his various correspondents "as God's mouth." (Jer. 15:19.) It is evident from various passages in these Letters that a remarkable power attended his testimony, and as he much intermingled admonitions and warnings against deceptive profession with encouraging declarations where he saw the fear of God at work, there runs through the whole of his correspondence a vein of the deepest solemnity and yet of the soundest gospel truth. Testimony, we know, may be direct or indirect; and sometimes the latter is much stronger than the former in the same way and for the same reason that silence is often more expressive than speech, and a godly life a louder witness against the inconsistent conduct of loose professors than scolding reproofs. Thus even when he does not positively testify against a graceless profession in so many direct words, yet there runs through the whole of his correspondence a tenderness of spirit, a holy circumspectness, a godly awe and trembling reverence of the word of truth, a desire to know the will of the Lord and do it, a bending of his ear and heart to the voice of reproof, and a walking before God in the light of his countenance, all of which speak as plainly against the light, easy, loose, slip-shod profession of the day as if he testified against it in the most thrilling words of burning denunciation.
In resuming, then, the subject of his Life and Letters, we shall take the opportunity of bringing before our readers what we consider their leading points and distinguishing features, those we mean which give value and weight to the book; and to confirm our words by the most convincing testimony we shall furnish some rather copious extracts from the Letters, which we believe will not only prove the truth of our assertions, but speak for themselves in language far stronger than our own.
1. The first feature which we shall name as especially prominent is that to which we have already adverted - his keen insight into the profession of the day, and his earnest testimony against it. He thus writes:
"My dear Friend, - Of all states of men in this life there is none like that of a professor of religion who is destitute of the vital power. The prophet Ezekiel gives a fearful account of such, written in a book full of 'lamentations, mourning, and woe.' He calls them 'impudent children and stiff-hearted,' and 'a rebellious house.' (Ezek. 2:3, 10.) These are they who are ever learning, and never attaining; who tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, but omit the weightier matters of the law.
"How often have I had a dread upon my spirit lest this should be my case! Darkness, dryness, and barrenness have come upon me, and my backsliding heart has driven me further and further into the wilderness, and seemingly nothing is left but a little glimmering light in some measure to discover the condition to which my sin has brought me. How this has fretted me and made my temper sour, adding sin to sin, until a fearful apprehension springs up that surely this is not the spot of God's children, but a mark of the 'perverse and crooked generation.' (Deut. 32:5.) I bring every one into bondage, therefore cannot belong to the true church. Such as these become the secret meditations of my heart night and day, until the misery grows too great for me to bear with, and some affliction or cross is laid upon me, to rouse me from this wretched state. Here I feel my sin, that it is exceeding sinful in the sight of God; nor do I ever find comfort until I am made to repent in dust and ashes, and to loathe myself before the Lord with my mouth in the dust. Here the Lord shows me the difference between real love and dissembled love, feigned faith and living faith, a good hope and the hope of the hypocrite; and here the 'gates of righteousness' are opened, and I go into them and praise the Lord. (Ps. 118:19.) Here, too, I have had a sweet view of God's love in Christ Jesus, manifested to us in the way of communion with him. 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way?' And though this talking may be, and sometimes is, in finding many faults and giving some correction and much admonition and counsel, yet if we have the witness of the Spirit that he is teaching us by all these means, we cannot but cry, 'Thou art my God, and I will praise thee.'"
How clearly we see from the above extract, the foundation of his deep insight into the state of the professing church. Like the "living creatures" spoken of in Revelation (4:8) he was "full of eyes within;"* and as these inward eyes viewed with fear and trembling the "darkness, dryness, and deadness" which had come over the secret chambers, they were thereby as if anointed with fresh eye-salve to see the state of the church without as a counterpart of what was thus discerned within.
* These "living creatures," as the word "beasts" should have been rendered, in harmony with Ezek. 1:5, are doubtless emblems of the ministers of the gospel, who are (or should be) bold as lions, labourious as oxen, feeling as men, and soaring above earth as eagles.
In a letter to an intimate friend he thus writes on the same subject:
"My dear Friend, - In your letter you hint at what I scarcely dare to write - the almost universal departing from the hidden power of the truth, and instead of that professing to rest upon the written word. I am grieved when I hear professors ignorantly going out against what they call 'frames and feelings,' a cant phrase to mock at communion with the Lord. These hate what you and I value, and what we feel to be the wisdom of God and the power of God brought into the heart of a poor cast-down sinner. I am sure we must be unfit company for unbroken hearts; they consider us narrow-minded.
"In Habakkuk it is said that 'God measured the earth, and drove asunder the nations.' He makes a clear distinction between the old man and the new; Christ and Belial are two nations, and they will never agree; but these professors in our days are never made to tremble in themselves, that they 'might rest in the day of trouble.' You and I, by the grace of God, know that Christ is the only rest; all other rest is too short; but they who find the true rest are said to be 'joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.' This suffering comes in various shapes, as it pleases God to dispense it; but always to humble us in the dust before him, and to make him more precious to us in all things.
"When I was lately cast down, and lost all hope of recovery, I yet cried, sinking as I felt myself to be. Then it was the Lord came and told me, 'Thou art greatly beloved;' (Dan. 9:23;) and he bears testimony to the truth of this while I write it. But in a day or two it became beclouded, and last week I sank in spirit greatly, and grieved sorely for the loss. I said, 'Lord, I was once, some years ago, in a heavy and deep trouble, and all forsook me; but thou didst say, 'Thou shalt return in the power of the Spirit.' While thus bemoaning my loss, the Lord gently whispered, 'And thou shalt return in the power of the Spirit again.' This quite removed all my fears, and fully satisfied me of the Lord's returning to me."
2. This last extract brings to light another marked feature of Mr. Bourne's spiritual character, to which we have also previously alluded, that his testimony against the empty profession of the day arose out of deep exercises of soul. His view of the state of the professing church, and his witness against it, did not spring from a soured mind or a bitter and bigoted spirit, nor was it the overflowing of a proud, self-righteous heart, but arose from his own soul being deeply and continually exercised about the reality of his own profession. His religion was one of sighs and tears, prayers and supplications, of deep humblings of soul before God and of penitent confession of sin. It having cost him so much soul travail and deep and protracted labour of heart to make his own calling and election sure, his eyes could not but be opened to see the shallowness of most persons' religion, on what insufficient evidences they rested the weight of their souls for eternity, what hardened assurance and vain confidence possessed their minds, and, to use his own expression, how many "come up to the strait gate who never enter in by it." Now this is a point which few can see, and indeed none see it but those whose minds are well exercised in the things of God. Men cannot, or will not see the ground of the testimony which gracious men bear against the state of the professing church. They ascribe it continually to a sour temper, a narrow mind, a bad spirit, a proud, bigoted, bitter disposition. What invectives, for instance, do such continually pour forth upon our devoted head, because we cannot but bear a faithful testimony against the errors and evils of the present day. How they ascribe all that we write upon this subject to a bad spirit, and will not give us the slightest credit for any spiritual motive or even honesty of purpose; but whilst they can administer and receive, with ill-disguised satisfaction, large closes of the grossest flattery; they resent the least suspicion of their religion as if it were a personal and unpardonable insult.
Though he had known the Lord for nearly 50 years, yet these exercises of mind never ceased down to his death-bed, when he received such abundant consolation as to make his departure one of triumphant joy. He thus writes within less than a year of his death:
"Dear H. P., - I wonder how you are. I am greatly troubled and cast down, because I cannot find, as I often have found, the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. My soul is most grievously borne down, and there seems no way out. It is now Wednesday, and in this condition I must appear. O that I could find the Lord! I know and hear what others say, but I am shut out. This produces much alarm at the brink of eternity. I see nothing but shortcomings in all things, and I cannot at this time feel, 'In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.' These are gloomy days, and there are but very few to whom I can even hint at them. I grieve for those who can sit down short of clear work. What can they do when the trial comes on, which is to try every man's work? I call to mind many peculiar seasons of wonderful mercy, but I am made to know, 'Thou hidest thy face and I am troubled.' My present circumstances open my eyes to the cases of many here, and I feel in a measure the meaning of the Saviour's words, 'The rain descended, and the floods came, and the wind blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.' I trust I am founded upon that Rock; but I am made to feel myself greatly ashamed in everything. Your very affectionate Friend,
"Sutton Coldfield, July 6th, 1853. J. B."
3. Mr. Bourne's deep reverence for the word of truth is another marked feature of his spiritual character. When sunk into deep distress the Lord had, at different times, spoken with power to his heart in various portions of his holy word. This setting home of the word upon his heart with power not only afforded him present deliverance and comfort, but raised up in his soul a holy reverence and tender regard to the Scripture, whereby it became "a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path." It was for many years, his daily study and continual meditation, and from it, as from a rich treasure-house, he from time to time drew, under the teaching and testimony of the blessed Spirit, not only instruction and consolation, but counsel in his most trying difficulties, cautions amidst innumerable snares and temptations laid for his feet, and frequently severe rebukes and reproofs when in any way he had become entangled in a worldly or carnal spirit. The power of the word upon his heart is very sweetly and experimentally expressed by him in the following extract:
"My dear Friend, - I have been very anxious to have some especial token of the Lord's approbation and blessing on my journey and employment here. In reading Psalm 36, I was surprised to find my spirit soften, and the Lord draw near, and when I came to these words, 'He abhorreth not evil,' I paused, and presently a great sweetness came into my heart, my soul was filled with self-abasement, and I felt the witness of the Spirit that God had made me to abhor evil, and that that was the cause of my present manifold fears. This power continued, and the following words suited my feelings: 'Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds; thy righteousness is like the great mountains, thy judgments are a great deep; O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.' I cannot express my feelings, and how I desired to acknowledge with all my heart the goodness and faithfulness of God to me. This left a very great awe upon my spirit, which led me to consider what the Saviour says, 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,' which we are sure to fall into if we are led into temptation.
"Afterwards I opened the Bible upon these words in Deut. 7: 'Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God.' O what an awe attended the reading and what fear lest I should grieve the Spirit of God, and yet with it a beautiful sense of the mercy and favour of God in Christ Jesus. I felt a sweet acquiescence in what the Lord there shows us, namely, that he did not set his love upon anything in us, for we are but the essence of sin, and when I came to these words, 'But because the Lord loved you,' they filled me with unutterable astonishment and praise. O what holy awe and fear I felt all this time, and grief at myself for what I am, have been, and shall be! I was led to be very earnest in prayer that the Lord would preserve my spirit and keep alive his fear in my heart, and continue to give me that holy light and sweet unction in reading his word, for there it is he reveals himself in justice and righteousness, and judgment and mercy. Then it continues, 'because he would keep the oath which he had sworn?hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of bondmen,' that is, from the bondage of sin unto the glorious liberty of the gospel. I felt a sweet caution upon my spirit, attended with much savour as I continued reading, 'If ye hearken to these judgments, and keep them, and do them, the Lord thy God?will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee;' and so on to the end of that chapter. All this has been an inexpressible comfort to me, yet leaves a very great awe upon my spirit, and causes many prayers that I may not lose the sweet power I find in reading the word."
There is deep truth in the following extract:
"My dear Friend, - I have, by the blessing of God, of late years, considered much the causes of spiritual decay and the continual darkness that overtakes us; and I cannot but believe that it is for want of a true reverence for the word of God. We seem to receive the doctrines therein contained, and to pay some regard to the promises the Lord makes to his afflicted people; and perhaps you will say, 'What more need we?' Carefully read the epistles, and you will find the apostles always follow up their doctrine with counsel, and show the necessity of the fruits and effects of the divine work upon the heart being openly manifested. Where this is not regarded, there will be much darkness and distance from God. If I pay not reverence to such a word as this, 'Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,' (Rom. 12:21) I shall fall into bondage, and find my prayer shut out. It will prove a hindrance to my approaches to God, for 'if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.' (Ps. 66:18.)
"I was much struck this morning in reading 1 Thess. 5: 'Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day; we are not of the night nor of darkness; therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but watch and be sober.' The Apostle gives this reason, 'God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ;' and then adds, 'We beseech you, brethren;' and again, 'We exhort you, quench not the Spirit;' as though he said, 'If you attend not to the word of exhortation, you will find no end of misery and the sensible lack of the Lord's presence; you will have no communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, no communion with his people, no blessing of God upon the work of your hands."
4. Another striking feature in Mr. Bourne's spiritual character was the deep searchings of his heart under the light, life, and power of the blessed Spirit. The Lord had made his heart honest, his conscience tender, and his spirit contrite; and as he was led through much tribulation into the kingdom of heaven, he was ever pondering the path of his feet, and examining the dealings of God with his soul, whether to chastise and bring down or to comfort and raise up. His whole heart and soul were in the things of God; and though, like others, he had his seasons of coldness and darkness, yet, for the most part, he was kept in a remarkable manner alive unto God, and was enabled to walk much in holy fellowship and communion with him. But as he knew and deeply felt that this walking with God could not be maintained if idols were allowed in the bosom, he was made jealous over himself with godly jealousy, and was ever bringing his heart to the light that it might be searched and tried as in the sight of God. The last two verses of Ps. 139 beautifully express his experience: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." We feel the chief difficulty to be what to extract from his weighty and powerful letters, as open them where we may, we find still the choicest matter in them. But take the following as a single specimen of the way in which the Lord made and kept his heart honest by dealing powerfully with his conscience:
"My dear Friend, - I scarcely know how to write to you, I find so many fears and difficulties in the way. I am made very anxious to look for such clear and bright evidences as shall comfort my heart in a dying hour. My sin has spoiled every resting-place in this world; and I desire to 'bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.' When that daily cross which the Lord speaks of lies heavy and sharp upon the shoulders, it is apt to drink up the spirits; but if it be sanctified, the soul borne down by it will cry; and so I find it. This is one of God's mercies bestowed upon me; and as lately as yesterday I went sorely burdened to chapel, and there told the Lord my troubles and poured out my heart before him; and though I felt no hope, and was far enough from expectation of help, the Lord broke in upon my spirit, and comforted me with many sweet assurances of his favour; and a part of one of Hart's hymns confirmed it:
'Those feeble desires, those wishes so weak,
'Tis Jesus inspires and bids you still seek.
His Spirit will cherish the life he first gave;
You never shall perish if Jesus can save.'
"My heart was drawn out to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I found a full confidence in his almighty power. The sweetness in my heart satisfied me that he had manifested that power, assuring me of my eternal salvation in him. This mighty encouragement enabled me to spread all my family afflictions before him, and I was greatly relieved in committing my cares and fears to him as a most kind and faithful Friend.
"I shall never be able to tell how my profession is tried. I am sure if it were not of God I must have sunk into despair long since. What awe this brings upon my mind, and how cautious it makes me in the family, when no eye is upon me but the Lord's! How I fear the entanglements of this life in all directions, even in my own house. All improper movements here are apt to eat up our spiritual increase; and to damp our secret approaches to the Lord; and then our emptiness brings us to the place where Adam was when God found him hidden and naked, and sets us sewing a foolish fig-leaf righteousness, either empty words, or pious looks, or feigned humility, all which are an abomination to the Lord; and we are sent empty away, with hearts full of rebellion because nobody will receive our religion. All this is gained, together with mighty confusion and guilt, by departing from the simplicity of the truth. O may the Lord deliver us from these dreadful places, and cause us never to rest until we find such visits from him as are mentioned in this letter.
"London, Nov., 1843. Yours, &c. J. B."
5. It would be supposed by some of our ever-confident professors that Mr. Bourne was held in much darkness and bondage of mind, and that he knew little of the true liberty of the gospel. On the contrary, however, he knew and enjoyed much of that holy freedom wherewith the truth makes the soul blessedly free. (John 8:32.) But his liberty was not like theirs - a vain confidence built on the bare letter of truth, without any personal application of the truth to their heart. This he justly viewed and deeply dreaded as a delusion of Satan, and warns his correspondents again and again that they might not be entangled in it. He had seen and felt the effects of it in his own spirit in bringing darkness and death with it. In an exposition of Jer. 12:8, 9 he thus testifies against it:
"Then verse 8 - 'Mine heritage is to me as a lion in the forest, it crieth out against me; therefore have I hated it.' They have lost a tender conscience, and presumptuous claims upon God are made, and unpurged guilt is passed by and forgotten, humility is laid aside and some word or other taken out of scripture to vindicate a declining cause, or perhaps such a saying as this in a fleshly manner applied, 'Once in Christ, always in Christ.' This is the bold lion that God hates, because there is no brokenness of spirit. Such will roar out, 'I cannot help my sins; faith is the gift of God, I cannot quicken myself.' Thus they cry out against God; and though the Lord says that he hates them, yet they, as bold as a lion will, call themselves the beloved of God."
We should be glad if our limits allowed us to point out other striking features of the work before us; but we have already exceeded our wonted space. Indeed, we have been as if insensibly drawn on to do so, as it is a long time since we met with a book so full of deep and rich experience and at the same time so sound in doctrine and so replete with all holy precept and godly practice. It is, indeed, a mirror of the Lord's gracious dealings with one of his most favoured sons and servants, and as such not only very instructive on many peculiar parts of Christian experience, but peculiarly edifying and profitable as bringing us into those blessed paths of prayer, meditation, and searchings of heart wherein and whereby fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ is obtained and maintained. The only objection is its size and price (9s.) - not indeed the one too large or the other too high for its weighty contents, but rendering it almost inaccessible to the poor of the flock. We think we cannot better close our Review than by giving the two following letters, which throw a great light on some of those peculiar dealings of God with his people which are alike by many who call themselves masters in Israel both misunderstood and misrepresented:
"Dear W. B., - I have been greatly exercised and much cast down of late. God only knows why you are continually, with some others, on my mind and in my prayers. I do not know when I have felt such floods of sorrow and fear. Under these feelings the Lord led me to these words for my morning's reading yesterday, 'He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away.' This greatly encouraged me, and in my meditation these words came with sweetness, 'I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause,?for he disappointeth the devices of the crafty, but he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.' (Job 5:8-16.) Ps. 107 was also very encouraging to me; these words, 'He setteth the poor on high from affliction; the righteous shall see it and rejoice,' came with such unspeakable and personal application as to comfort me exceedingly with a sweet sense of the Lord's love, tenderness, and care; and the last verse crowned the whole, and showed me the unspeakable love of Christ to his afflicted people, and to me as one of them. While pondering over this heavenly gale of Christ's everlasting love, which brought me so clean out of my sorrows, these words were gently whispered in my heart, 'Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?' In them I heard the voice of my Beloved to quell my grief and to make me lay to heart that my sin had caused his sorrow; and that I had need to abase myself, and look only at his sovereign mercy which had visited me in such a low condition. It wrought contrition and godly sorrow, with an inexpressible tenderness toward him, while I was led, like Job, to abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. I know not when I had so sweet a token; but my changes are very many. Things arose from all quarters, which caused the clouds to gather and threaten another storm; but when evening came I was led, I think by the Lord, to these words for this morning's reading, 'The hand of the Lord was with him.' (Luke 1:66.) I first saw Samuel, when young; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. I then thought of David, when first presented to Saul; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. The history of Joseph also shows the overruling power of God; and Jacob, though turned out of doors, yet protected and preserved, returns home greatly increased after twenty years' absence. Naomi said she must no more be so called, but Mara, because the Lord had dealt bitterly with her; but read to the end, and you will see how the hand of the Lord is toward his people.
"I found Ps. 89 a sweet key to my text, 'Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is thy hand and high is thy right hand. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face.' The hand of the Lord is seen in giving knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. We can scarcely feel it possible that this happy day should ever arrive; but the hand of the Lord brings it about, and shows us that it is not by our might or power, but by the Spirit, that this work is wrought in the heart, and that this precious gift is only bestowed upon them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; that such poor creatures as you and I may have peace.
"Whatever you may think, I am sure I felt this day that there is no sinner so great as myself; and by the deep self-abasement I found at the sight, I believe it was the Spirit of God that showed me this. When I had finished my reading, I went to my friend Mr. Maddy, and told him of my cast-down condition and the sorrow under which I laboured; he endeavoured to cheer me, and said, 'This sorrow is for something good.' I was obliged to go out on business, and when I entered Portman Square, I said, very mournfully, 'Lord, is it true what my friend said? Is this thy work that I feel? Art thou humbling me?' All this was very sorrowfully spoken, and I added, 'Are all the good things thou hast promised me to go for nothing?' I felt as if it could scarcely be so, though fears were ready to admit the thought; but just then these words were whispered, 'He will exalt thee in due time,' and with them I found the sweetest return of Christ's loving-kindness that I can express. It melted me into tears of contrition and gratitude, and made me feel more abject in myself and more safe in the eternal love of Father, Son, and Spirit than it is possible to describe. My thoughts of praise and adoration went as quick as lightning to acknowledge the infinite condescension of the Lord in regarding the low estate of his servant, and showing me that in the world I shall have tribulation, but in him shall always find a Friend.
"This is the Friend I want strongly to recommend to you. I know your fears, and I am sure they will be multiplied, and that you will have some bitter throes of conscience when hell and death approach. I find them overwhelming; but the hand of the Lord will be with you to sustain you and make known to you that 'he hath raised up a horn of salvation for us,' by which he will push aside all his enemies and ours; and will make manifest that, however secret or small the beginning may be, yet by this power and this hand he will bring forth the top stone with shouting. You will naturally say, 'Why do you tell all this to me?' Because I have been so continually mindful of you in my prayers, and think I have found such tokens of good as will accompany your salvation. Your affectionate Friend,
"London, Feb. 14th, 1842. J. B."
"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 watchfullness 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 4:13,) 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 stop 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 a 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."
"Pulverbach, May 18th, 1844.