Page images

Therefore, it is in

my heart to say, however deeply thou mayst be tried, still look to Him, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities," on whom all sure and sufficient help is laid; “ who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Let this be thy continual care, to have thy whole dependence on Him, who hath laid down His life for thy redemption, and who, blessed be His name, hath by His ale lurements brought thee into the wilderness, that He might speak to thy heart, as He hath done to many of us, in mercy that can never be sufficiently adored, whose souls, in very early age, He has ravished, as with one of His looks, with one chain of His neck; therefore have some of us been made willing to forsake all and follow Him, whom our souls loved, “because He first loved us." As thy expectation is from Him alone, I feel án assurance that He will have thee in His keeping, that the “ bruised reed He will not break, and the smoaking flax He will not quench, till He send forth judgment

unto victory;" but that He will sanctify every dispensation to thee, and thee unto Himself, and so fully accomplish in thee all His pleasure; which is the present prayer of thy sincerely affectionate friend,


Letter XXVI.


Manchester, 1st Mo. 15, 1791. My dear Friend,

There is, I believe, an obligation to duty, above the fear of punishment or expectation of reward ; and because I wish thee the most perfect state, I wish thee this experience ;-a state wherein all selfishness, both in spiritual and temporal things, is lost or swallowed up by divine, universal, disinterested love, as a drop of water in the ocean. And though I do most assuredly believe, that virtue is its own reward, that a cup of cold water, given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall not go without a reward;

yet I have often thought it a subject worthy the consideration of those who are stewards, and desire to be faithful, that this is neither the time nor place of rewards or punishments, though perhaps the earnest of both is frequently felt.

I åpprehend that many, even of the wise in heart, have been ready to stumble here, thinking that their faithfulness and piety should have engaged the Divine interposition, to exempt them from the sufferings of this present life; so thought (it is likely) Brutus, who, when overcome by Antony, in a cause wherein he thought virtue had engaged him, is said, with his latest breath, to have expressed this desponding exclamation, “Oh virtue! I have followed thee as a substantial good, but I find thee only an empty name.” How much of this appears in the book of Job, whose trials were as singular and great as his conduct had been upright and approved ! and David tells us, “ that his steps had well nigh slipped, because he envied the prosperity of the wicked;" when he saw how they flourished, like a green bay-tree, and contemplated the se

vere trials that were permitted or appointed unto him, he was ready to conclude he had washed his hands in innocency for nought. Nay, time would fail to recount the sufferings, the trials, and probations that have attended the peculiar heritage of God in all generations; their great privilege, it is plain, hath ever been, Divine support and preservation under trials, and not an exemption from them. How great and various were the troubles and trials that attended the good old patriarchs, and how singular and proving those that were experienced by the man after God's own heart, whose son even conspired to take away his life ; but He, who is a God keeping covenant and mercy, vouch-. safed His protection and sure support, and was to him, in all his troubles, a rock, a refuge, and a sure hiding-place.

Whilst I am writing, I wish for thee, my dear friend, beyond all that can be expressed, that this may be thy happy experience, if trials of any sort be permitted to attend thee for though I know not how applicable, or otherwise, any thing of this sort may be to thy present state, yet this I know, that there

[ocr errors]

is no combination of outward circumstances can exempt us from trouble, though we tread upon the high places of the earth, and dip our feet in oil; but in the most proving situations, though some encouragement, instruction, and consolation may be derived from considering what hath been the lot, and what the support, of many elder brethren in the family, who, through many tribulations, have entered the kingdom, yet the most sovereign help and comfort is obtained by looking unto Jesus, who was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," whose “ visage was so marred, more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men;" who, being “ touched with the feeling of our infirmi. ties," and having been tempted, knows how to succour those who are tempted.

Let us, then, my dear friend, in our varied allotments, lay asside every weight and burden, and “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

« PreviousContinue »