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TO RICHARD REYNOLDS.
MANCHESTER, 8th Mo. 1, 1811.
My dear Friend,
It was very pleasant to me to receive a letter from thee, and such a letter in thy 76th year. I, who am seven years younger, feel the effects of old age both in mind and body; but let us not accuse ourselves, or listen to the accuser of the brethren, because our faculties and powers are on the decline. Meekness, humility, and patience, are a cure for all sores: our strength and powers are equal to all we have to do, or to all that is required of us. It is our departure from humble submission, and wanting to feel more of the fervour of devotion, not willing to live by faith, and possess our souls in patience, that is a fruitful source of much unprofitable anxiety. How much of this appears in the few diaries we have pub→ lished; and, I am persuaded, in the experience of many pious people, who suffer greatly, because they are unskilfully taught to believe, that if it were not owing to some omission of duty, they would more frequently, perhaps always, (particularly in meetings,) be favoured with these sensible feelings and enjoyments of heavenly goodness. Many, many, I believe, put on a much more painful pilgrimage, and experience many doubts
and tossings, which would certainly be avoided by a wise attention to that holy precept, "in your patience possess ye your souls." To how many religious people might it be said by the blessed Master, as formerly to Peter, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" though it is by no means in our power to put ourselves into possession of those Divine consolations, that sometimes, in unmerited mercy, are vouchsafed. I wish to be thankful, truly thankful, to be favoured to feel no condemnation.
There is, I think, a great deal of comfortable instruction and truth in the remark, that "the Christian's crown in this life is hid under the cross, that we cannot see it," and doubtless laid up safely there for us, when our warfare is accomplished. What cause have I to be thankful for this, and a thousand other mercies; but to feel suitably thankful for favours, or compunction for our infirmities, is not at our command. How earnestly do I sometimes desire a more fervent, sensible feeling of gratitude for favours I have not deserved, and repentance for all I have done amiss; but, as I have said before, perhaps we may be too solicitous for these sensible fervours of devotion. My mind hath often been stayed and comforted, in recollecting these observations of an experienced Christian; "Do not look for or expect the same degrees of sensible fervour; the matter lies not there; nature will have its
share; but the ups and downs of that are to be overlooked. Whilst your will-spirit is good and set right, the changes of creaturely fervour lessen not your union with God."
Farewell, my dear friend; may the Divine blessing comfort and support our declining years, and enable us to finish the little work that may remain for us to do; that finally we may be found worthy to enter into the joy of our Lord.
To RICHARD REYNOLDS.
MANCHESTER, 4th Mo. 30, 1812.
My dear Friend,
Yesterday, I received thy very acceptable letter. Our correspondence has now continued twenty-five years; and, as I believe it commenced under the auspicious influence of our blessed Master, so I humbly hope, it has been in some degree fruitful to His praise. I am glad to hear thy health is restored; mine, through great mercy, does not much decline, though I can feel every year that I grow older. I have been little from home all the winter, and for long it hath been very cold weather, the east wind almost continually blowing. Reading, retirement, calling sometimes to
see a friend, and attending meetings, and meeting matters, with a little walk every day, is the manner in which my time is mostly spent. I expect that, whilst thou art able, thy time will be more usefully employed; but truly, at our time of life, I think we should endeavour to cast off every burden, and to break every yoke, that we might, without distraction, "press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
With regard to myself, if I am poor, it is in the best things, which has been my experience in an unusual degree of late, and with which I hope I am learning to be content. Respecting the things of this life, I can thankfully say, with good old Jacob, "God hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough." Both in the commercial and political hemisphere, accumulated clouds of darkness have long been gathering; what may be the result, is yet awfully uncertain; neither does there appear much to rejoice in, even in our little Society.
I know how to make allowance for old age, and for inaptitude at writing. I stand in need of these allowances more than thou dost; and yet I will hope thou wilt not only remember, but, at some time, write a line or two to thy sincerely affectionate friend,
To RICHARD REYNOLDS.
Manchester, 12th Mo. 12, 1812.
My dear Friend,
When I was last with thee, thou expressedst a wish to hear from me sometimes. I do not frequently feel much qualification for writing, for I also am a poor man, and no stranger to trials of faith and patience. And although I know thou hast excellences which I do not possess, and advantages in which I have little share, yet, I am persuaded, thou art not unfrequently "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." But is this not a common case? I believe it is much more so than we are aware of. Alas! how often do we see sincere Christians ready to complain; often is their faith deeply tried, and their hope nearly dried up; often ready to call every thing in question, and "go mourning all the day long." But is there not a cause? "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Our native maladies must be eradicated, and the dangers and temptations of our various situations guarded and provided against. It is not unreasonable to suppose, that a greater degree of humility may be necessary for those, whose gifts and stations strongly dispose to self-exaltation, than for others, whose condition is in all respects very humiliating.