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Wisdom, and that it will turn to thy unspeakable advantage, and, in the end, be sanctified to thy everlasting salvation.
To RICHARD SHACKLETON.
Manchester, 1st Mo. 11, 1782.
My dear Friend,
Thy letters we received duly, though we have not answered them so. I was anxious to hear of thine and the young man's safe arrival at your respective habitations, and was pleased to read the account of it in thy first letter. I was much pleased with it, as it seemed to me replete with sentiments and monitions, not only truly Christian, but very seasonable. It is cause of thankfulness to some of us, to hear that we have so much place in thy affectionate remembrance; and truly thou art frequently remembered by us, I almost think with as much affection and regard as thou canst wish.
Ever since thou left us, I have purposed to write to thee; but a sort of procrastination, somewhat natural to me, and not the least of my weaknesses, has hitherto prevented: yet I think I know so much of the nature of religious, I had almost said divine friendship, as to allow me to say, that it can be effectually supported without exterior correspondence, (though this I much approve in its place.) The nature, the ground, and support of this friendship, are most excellently described in a few words by the beloved disciple: “ If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” As this is experienced in any good degree, what a unity is felt with all the living, what sympathy, what harmony, what salutations of love unfeigned ; not only to particulars, but also to the whole family and heritage of God! We
may esteem, value, and regard one another as men, according to the opinion we conceive of each other's excellence, as I do thee for brightness, wit, and learning; but attractive as these are, had I beheld in my dear friend no higher excellences than these, I should hardly have wished, if it had been in my power, to have cultivated an acquaintance with thee. No; it is the virtues of a hidden life, and the knowledge of one another therein, that cement the brotherhood, and unite the living members of the body, not only to the Holy Head, but unto one another; and here, and only here, the most excellent parts become truly amiable, under the sanctifying operation of that Power, which takes them out of the service of the natural man, and consecrates
them to the glory and honour of Him alone, who is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift, and who alone can sanctify it.
In writing to thee, who knowest and carest for the churches, the state of things here presents itself, but alas! what can I say; I fear the case is too general, both church and state inclusive, “ Without are fightings, and within are fears;" “ abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death." Yet there are, I trust, both here and in most other meetings, yea, and amongst those also who are not of this fold, those whose concern it is to watch and keep their garments, that so they may not be found naked; although these are deeply and frequently baptized, not only in the cloud and in the sea, and for the dead, but into a deep feeling of that prevailing famine, not of bread, but of the refreshing, powerful, life-giving word of God. Oh! how necessary, and how much to be desired, in such a situation of things as this, is total, perfect resignation; and, if happily we might attain unto it, total, perfect dedication; that so we might stand upright in our various lots, subjected to the teaching of Divine Wisdom; and seeking to the Strong for strength, that we might be enabled to bear the burdens and discharge the duties He might permit or appoint unto us; and then all would be well, and we should be secure in His protection, how deep soever He might be
pleased to lead, into the fellowship of His sufferings, such as are made willing to be conformable unto His death.
Great are the commotions that are in the world, great in the earth is the distress of nations, and great is the perplexity of many exercised minds, who are, at seasons, tossed as with a tempest, and not comforted. “ Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure," and this seal for ever will remain upon it, “ The Lord knoweth them that are His ;” and these he will preserve, who, like righteous Noah, are concerned to enter into the ark of His holy covenant; they shall be therein preserved safe, for a remnant of a holy seed, though it may be as on the waters, whilst the deluge of His wrath is poured forth on a backsliding generation.
I have written these things in the liberty and simplicity in which they have been presented to my own mind. I know thou art wise, not only to admit of this freedom, but, if it can be, to gather any little hint that may be profitable, even from the meanest instrument.
Our friend Sarah Taylor, who writes to thee under this cover, will give thee the best account of those circumstances thou inquirest after, relating to our worthy friend Joseph Harwood. She remembers to have heard him relate them, which I do not; any additions to, or improvements of, those fragments I put together, would be highly pleasing to me. To preserve the memorial of the righteous, seems an act of justice due to the living and to the dead; and particularly due in gratitude to Him, who hath been their Rock and their Strength, and by whose power and goodness they have been led and supported, through many tribulations, into His glorious kingdom.
I shall just say, before I conclude, that I wish for thee as for myself, an increase of every virtue; and that we may experience, as an addition to all other blessings, the blessing of a thankful, deeply thankful, and truly devoted heart.
I feel in measure the good-will which truth inspires extend to thy family, in which I salute them, and wish the virtues and riches of it evermore to rest upon them; that therein they may become fruitful to His praise, who hath called them to glory and virtue :-particularly I wish this for thy son; may he, like good old Jacob, be concerned to seek, and favoured to experience, the Divine blessing to prevail above the blessings “of his progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills,” to rest upon him and on his seed for ever.
I need not tell thee, that to hear from thee at convenient seasons, will not only be expected and acceptable, but acknowledged as a favour, by thy sincerely affectionate friend,