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Westminster, 5th Mo. 26, 1766. My dear Friend,
With regard to that part of thy last letter which respects thy external situation and circumstances, I have little to reply, because I have no doubt but in those things all will be well. A due attention to the established maxims of frugality and industry, through the blessing of Providence, will hardly fail of procuring all that can be thought necessary by those who, like good old Jacob, can be content with food to eat and raiment to put on. To the other part, which I count the best, in which I am more nearly concerned, and much more interested, I thought I should have answered more particularly ; but I find myself rather mistaken, for truly I feel very little to say; and to force myself, like Saul, and offer unrequested, would at best prove but an unprofitable folly.
Are not men, the best of men, to be compared with reeds shaken with the wind, and clouds which cannot fill themselves? who of themselves can do nothing for themselves, much less for others. But He, to whom the work of man's salvation belongeth, hath both wisdom and power to carry it on, and will carry it on unto the end,
wherever it is begun, if we are but enough resigned, and interrupt it not. But various are the courses of His operation, and various the dispensations of His gracious providence, and oftentimes inscrutable to us. David experienced many conditions, between the sheep-fold and the throne; and was ready to cry out, when tottering on the verge of despondency, "I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul:" but David's God, the God who chose him from amongst his brethren, and called him to execute all His will, though He suffered him to be tried, yea, and often distressed too, yet He never did forsake him; but in His own good time, which ever is the best time, established him on the throne of Israel, and gave him rest from all his enemies. A word to the wise may suffice, and I would not darken counsel by multiplying words without knowledge.
My dear Friend,
This week, as I looked over the contents of thy letter to me, I felt a sensible sympathy and affection, which engaged me to propose addressing to thee a few lines; but truly, now I consider on what occasion, and to whom I am writing, I am almost persuaded that my
labour might be spared, being assured thou art not destitute of a Comforter and Counsellor, that never faileth. What then remaineth, but that I may, pursuant to the example of the apostle, endeavour to stir up the pure mind, by putting thee in remembrance of those things which inevitably bow the heart to the dispensations of Heaven, and inspire the mind with the language of holy Job, “The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord;” and as Eli hath expressed it, “ It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good?”
Sensibly, my friend, hast thou put the interrogation, why should we murmur? Surely it is our business to be resigned; we ought, indeed, humbly to acquiesce, entirely to concede, aye, and wait to say amen, to every dispensation of the Divine Providence towards us, both in our temporal and spiritual affairs; and by this Christian conduct through the various vicissitudes of life, every dispensation would be sanctified unto us. Why then should we murmur? who shall say unto God, what dost thou? Are not His judgments unsearchable, and His ways past finding out? How do we know for what good cause Infinite Wisdom might see meet to select and separate, to take from the earth and receive into heaven, to involve in sorrow for a moment, or crown with everlasting joy, whom, when, and where, and how He pleases?
This we know, (and I think there is a great deal of comfort in it,) that whatsoever our most gracious Father does, is indubitably right; and know, dear friend, that “ all things work together for good to them that love God.” Let us then, I pray thee, in every probation, in every trial and trouble, that Infinite Wisdom may see meet should attend us in our probationary progress through this vale of tears, where truly we have no continuing city; let us, pursuant to the example of the holy Jesus, submit ourselves to the will of God, saying, “ if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.”
I might add much, but rather choose to conclude, which I will do by earnestly recommending thee for comfort and counsel, where I infallibly know both are for ever to be received, even to Him who is called the Comforter, the everlasting Counsellor, in whom is all safety and everlasting consolation.
I am, dear friend, with the sincerest affection and esteem, thine, &c.
Manchester, 1st Mo. 13, 1768. Dear Friend,
The last letter I had from thee is with the rest of my things at London; the contents and sentiments I retain, which I thought both sorrowful and very Christian. Indeed, dear friend, it certainly becomes us, (I have often thought so,) as we can do nothing of ourselves, to rest entirely resigned to the will of God, not only in the dispensations of His providence in things without us, but also in the deep proving baptisms of the mind and spirit within us.
Our blessed Lord, in all these things, hath left us an example in suffering and doing, and in humility and obedience unto death; it is He, who is the Truth itself, who hath told us, that “ Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life, for my sake, shall find it” unto life eternal. No man,” saith He, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God;" neither is there a possibility of our serving two masters: we cannot be heirs of two kingdoms, nor at once dedicate ourselves to God and to the world. The Lord will not accept a partial offering. “ Choose you this day,” said Joshua to