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Permit me to express some degree of jealousy, lest, instead of this esteem, regard, and double honour, there is a murmuring, unthankful, gainsaying spirit, which is for condemnation; for, whilst I was musing on these things, the exceedingly unhappy case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, was brought into and affected my mind; and the language of their complaint was brought to my remembrance: “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift you up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” Thus, through the seduction of him who “blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart,” they murmured against the meekest of all men, and the friend of God. Ah! poor return this, for all that good and deliverance which he, as an instrument had wrought for them, in bringing them out of Egypt, in bearing them in his bosom, and so frequently and availingly interceding for them with the Almighty. " But the Lord pleaded for him against these men, and destroyed them by a remarkable destruction. I mention this instance as it simply arose, without any charge or application, leaving that to the Divine Witness in your bosoms, to which I recommend every one of you, in order that you may be enabled to reap the caution and benefit intended by these broken hints, and remain, with suitable affection and regard, your friend,
Manchester, 10th Mo. 26, 1786. My dear Friend,
I am obliged to thee for the particular account of the state of the church in though, alas ! It is a very poor one; and I am afraid such is the case too generally amongst us eyery-where. Why it is so, the cause is as obvious às are the effects ;-the people have forsaken the Lord, and gone after other gods; and therefore it is that the Lord's heritage is become desolate, and “ the daughter of Sion covered with a cloud.” Yet, however discouraging the present situation of things may appear; however affecting the prevailing desolations, so that the standard bearers may be ready to faint, and, like poor Elijah, may be ready to think and conclude that they only are left, and their lives also are in danger, I do believe there is not only left a
seven thousand” amongst us, " all the knees” of whom “ have not bowed to Baal, and
every mouth" of whom “ hath not kissed him," but I do believe the Lord, in unfailing mercy, is bringing His work again upon the wheel, and that he will yet more and more effectually revive it, as “in the midst of the years." So that I
would not have us to be discouraged ; I believe the Lord would not have us to be discouraged, neither grow weary, nor faint in our minds; but rather, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees confirmed, for the Lord is remembering Sion; He will rebuild her waste places, so that she shall yet become the “perfection of beauty, and the joy of the whole earth.” “Therefore rejoicè ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her ; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her, that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolation ; that ye may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.”
The cause is not ours; « if thou dost well, shall thou not be accepted ?" Let others do what they will; let them choose and worship what gods they please, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord :" let us thus consider and resolve. What! though many are offended in Christ, and draw back from following Him, shall we also go away? God forbid this should ever be the case with any who have known Him, and that with Him are the rewards of eternal life.
Oh that we might be encouraged to persevere in faithfulness, under every permitted dispensation, whether to ourselves or to the church of Christ! Leaving the effects and consequences of things to Him, who hath the control of times and seasons, let us be resigned to our various allotments, and not murmur at the cup which the Father hath given us. Remember, we are but servants and stewards; that it will be enough for us, if we be found faithful. What! though that part of the vineyard be unpleasant to labour in ; though there be not many mighty works to be done, because of unbelief; though the fields should not be white unto harvest, but rather the fallow ground want ploughing up, that the thorns and briers may be consumed ; nay, though none should believe our report, and “though Israel be not gathered," those who have been careful to abide in their lot, who have been attentive to the voice of the true Shepherd, and given the people warning from Him, “shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and their God shall be their strength.” I wish thee to let
see this; I may acknowledge he has been much in my view whilst I have been writing ; for, though he is personally a stranger to me, yet my heart hath been filled with earnest prayer for his preservation in the right way of the Lord ; that “neither things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth,” may ever be able to beguile him of his reward, or frustrate, in any measure, the gracious intentions of the Almighty concerning him.
I wish for thee, my dear friend, careful, reverent attention, and humble obedience to every
manifestation of duty; and that hereby thou mayst increase in true riches. I am thy affectionate friend,
To RICHARD REYNOLDS.
7th Mo. 8, 1787. My dear Friend,
I think I do, as seldom as any man who wishes well to the cause of religion and virtue, recommend it by books, though I do believe, if people would read such as deserve reading, as thou sayst with a desire to profit, they would always reap some benefit. My reading now, not only from necessity but judgement, is pretty much confined. With respect to all the forbidden productions of the tree of knowledge, I have seen a beauty and safety in that state of mind expressed by the psalmist, and earnestly have I desired to dwell in it: "Lord, I do not exercise myself in things too high for me; my soul is even as a weaned child.” The Scriptures without, and the law written in the heart, are the most profitable of all books, and in meditating on the Divine precepts written there, with a desire to obey, the most blessed knowledge is obtained.