« PreviousContinue »
Having written these few hints in a degree of simplicity, in which I feel the covering of peace, I sincerely recommend them to your serious consideration; and beseech you not to stifle conviction, nor slay the Witness in yourselves, by which all the hidden things of darkness would be brought to light, and the line of judgment drawn upon transgression; for by judgment iniquity is purged; that so you might be brought into a life, truly serious, by the fear of the Lord, to partake of the fellowship of the living body, whose fellowship is with the Holy Head, Christ Jesus. That God Himself may continue and sanctify His mercies towards you, and delight to do you good, is the desire Himself hath raised at this time in my heart for you, from your well-wishing friend,
To RICHARD SHACKLETON.
Manchester, 5th Mo. 24, 1784. My dear Friend,
Under the united influence of gratitude and friendship, I now intend, though late, to make some reply to the last two letters I received from thee: and truly I can say, the whole of them are acceptable to me; the sentiments every-where just, thy hints of counsel to me seasonable and wholesome; the account of thy own state acceptable and instructive.
Thou tellest me, that, when thou wast last in England, thou wast both at our Monthly and Quarterly Meeting, but didst not see me; and then wisely remarkest upon it, that circumstances might attend to prevent, which thou wast not acquainted with. It is true, my dear friend; but all things are known to Him who numbers the hairs of our head; and I entirely acquiesce with thee, that to stand approved by Him, is the great object at which we should all aim. These are so much my sentiments, that I hardly know how to go about to excuse myself to any mortal. Sometimes, indeed, I look forwards, with some degree of hope, towards times of greater enlargement; and I believe that, if this be consistent with the Divine allotment, it will sure enough come to pass in His own time. There is little need, in these days of lukewarmness and declension, to discourage any from going about from place to place, and attending distant meetings, under a profession of supporting the cause of truth and righteousness : yet really, when I consider the conduct of some amongst us, who have travelled much on earth, and yet have made but very little progress towards the heavenly country; who have been very frequent in the attendance of meetings, both at home and at a distance, and yet have made no
proportionable acquisition of the graces and virtues of the heavenly life; a jealousy and fear attends my mind, lest many, who move about amongst us, do it not upon the right Foundation. In this remark I have not the least view of the ministry, nor of my friend Richard Shackleton.
I remember observing, in a former letter, that you have been much favoured in Ireland with ministerial labour; this has been the case since, still more abundantly. I cannot help looking upon it as a spiritual phenomenon that merits awful attention.
I know it will afford my dear friend some satisfaction to hear, that a few weeks back, in company with my much esteemed friends, Martha Routh, and Sarah Reynolds of Warrington, I paid a religious visit to the families of friends in three meetings belonging our Monthly Meeting, which service, I may thankfully acknowledge, was graciously owned, from place to place, by the blessed Master, to my humbling admiration. I
suppose you have got, before this time, my brother Thomas Cash, and also Isaac Gray. I hope their service will be acceptable; they have a "good report of all men, and of the Truth itself.”
“In the salutation of unfeigned love, which I feel far oftener than I write, I remain thy truly affectionate friend,
I think I may in sincerity appeal to Him, who knows the hearts of all men, that a concern is often with me, that I might be preserved from intruding myself into the concerns of my brethren, or ever coming under the character of “ busy-body in other men's matters.” Nevertheless, apprehending myself at times engaged by the best Authority, to communicate to others what appears to me to be the mind of Christ, a concern is likewise raised on this hand in my heart, that I might obtain mercy to be found faithful. It is from this motive only, that I am at this time engaged to hint a little, as I may be enabled, what hath been presented before my own mind, as I was sitting alone in my chamber this evening, my mind being turned to consider or look towards the state of your family.
And first, I was led a little to consider the weaknesses and infirmities, which are too frequently observed to attend, whilst clothed with flesh, the most devoted followers of the Holy Jesus; when the holy watch is not maintained, when the holy influence is withdrawn, they then become weak, and are like other men. Thus, they who are dedicated to the service of the ministry, and bear as in their foreheads the inscription of holiness, having to conflict with all the struggles of the private soldier, may sometimes manifest weaknesses inconsistent with the dignity of the holy office; and he, who yet remains to be the accuser of the brethren, will not fail, where he can, under any disguise, gain admittance, exceedingly to expose and magnify these; and would lead, by little and little, to despise the Lord's anointed, to " speak evil of dignities,” and lightly to esteem the sacrifices which the Lord hath commanded to be offered in the holy place.
It is not in my heart to justify, to excuse, or extenuate, the failings and imperfections of the foremost rank in the Lamb's army.
I know it deeply behoves them, above all others, to walk circumspectly, to make straight steps to their feet, to be examples to the flock; and I am verily persuaded there are none feel more deeply for their offences, none more deeply bowed under the humiliating sensibility of their own unworthiness, none more frequently covered with blushing and confusion of face than these. I do not want to excuse or explain away their failings; but I want to impress a proper regard to the dignity of the holy office; I want to revive that ancient precept, “ Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” God forbid, said David, that I should put forth my hand against the Lord's