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supported, in secret I most sensibly feel my own vileness and weakness; but through all the Lord is gracious,
I am, &c.
Jan. 10, 1775.
THERE is hardly any thing in which the Lord permits me to meet with more disappointment, than in the advantage I am ready to promise myself from creature converse. When I expect to meet any of my christian friends, my thoughts usually travel much faster than my body. I anticipate the hour of meeting, and my imagination is warmed with expectation of what I shall say and what I shall hear: and sometimes I have had seasons for which I ought to be more thankful than I am. It is pleasant indeed when the Lord favours us with a happy hour, and is pleased to cause our hearts to burn within us while we are speaking of his goodness. But often it is far otherwise with me; I carry with me a dissipation of spirit, and find that I can neither impart nor receive. Something from within or from without crosses my schemes; and when I retire, I seem to have gained nothing but a fresh conviction, that we can neither help nor be helped, unless the Lord himself is pleased to help us. With his presence in our hearts, we might be comfortable and happy if shut up in one of the cells of Newgate; without it, the most select company, the most desireable opportunities, prove but clouds without water.
I have sometimes thought of asking you,
whether you find that difference between being abroad and at home that I do? But I take it for granted that you do not; your connections and intimacies are, I believe, chiefly with those who are highly favoured of the Lord, and if you can break through or be upon your guard against the inconveniences which attend frequent changes and much company, you must be very happy in them. But, I believe, considering my weakness, the Lord has chosen wisely and well for me, in placing me in a state of retirement, and not putting it in my power, were it ever so much my inclination, to be often abroad. As I stir so seldom, I believe when I do, it is not upon the whole to my disadvantage; for I meet with more or less upon which my reflections afterwards may, by his blessing, be useful to me, though at the time my visits most frequently convince me how little wisdom or skill I have in improving time and opportunities. But were I to live in London, I know not what might be the consequence. Indeed, I need not puzzle myself about it, as my call does not lie there; but I pity and pray for those who do live there, and I admire such of them as, in those circumstances which appear so formidable to me, are enabled to walk simply, humbly, and closely with the Lord. They remind me of Daniel, unhurt in the midst of lions, or of the bush which Moses saw, surrounded with flames, yet not consumed, because the Lord was there. Some such I do know, and I hope you are one of the number.
This is certain, that if the light of God's countenance, and communion with him in love, afford the greatest happiness we are capable of, then whatever tends to indispose us for this pursuit, or to draw a veil between him and our souls, must be our great loss. If we walk with him, it
must be in the path of duty, which lies plain before us when our eye is single, and we are waiting with attention upon his word, Spirit, and providence. Now, wherever the path of duty leads we are safe; and it often does lead and place us in such circumstances as no, other consideration would make us choose. We were not designed to be mere recluses, but have all a part to act in life. Now, ifI find myself in the midst of things disagreeable enough in themselves to the spiritual life; yet if, when the question occurs, "What dost thou here ?" my heart can answer,
I am here by the will of God; I believe it to be, all things considered, my duty to be here at this time rather than elsewhere:" If, I say, I am tolerably satisfied of this, then I would not burden and grieve myself about what I cannot avoid or alter, but endeavour to take all such things up with cheerfulness, as a part of my daily cross; since I am called, not only to do the will of God, but to suffer it: but if I am doing my own will rather than his, then I have reason to fear, lest I should meet with either a snare or a sting at every step. May the Lord Jesus be with you! I am, &c.
April 13, 1776.
I AM rather of the latest to present my congratulations to you and Mr. on your marriage, but I have not been unmindful of you. My heart has repeatedly wished you all that my pen can express, that the new relation in which the providence of God has placed you, may be blessed to
you in every respect, may afford you much temporal comfort, promote your spiritual progress, and enlarge your sphere of usefulness in the world and in the church.
By this time I suppose visits and ceremonies are pretty well over, and you are beginning to be settled in your new situation. What an important period is a wedding-day! What an entire change of circumstances does it produce! What an influence it has upon every day of future life! How many cares, inquietudes, and trials, does it expose us to, which we might otherwise have avoided! But they who love the Lord, and are guided by his word and providence, have nothing to fear; for in every state, relation, and circumstance in life, he will be with them, and will surely do them good. His grace, which is needful in a single, is sufficient for a married life. I sincerely wish Mr. and you much happiness together; that you may be mutually helps meet, and assist each other in walking as fellow heirs of the hope of eternal life. Your cares and trials, I know, must be increased; may your comforts be increased proportionally ! They will be so, if you are enabled heartily and simply to intreat the Lord to keep your heart fixed near to himself. All the temporal blessings and accommodations he provides to sweeten life, and make our passage through this wilderness more agreeable, will fail and disappoint us, and produce us more thorns than roses, unless we can keep sight of his hand in bestowing them, and hold and use the gifts in some due subserviency to what we owe to the giver. But, alas! we are poor creatures, prone to wander, prone to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns, and think of building taber nacles, and taking our rest in this polluted world. Hence the Lord often sees it necessary, in mercy to his children, to embitter their sweets, to break
their cisterns, send a worm to their gourds, and draw a dark cloud over their pleasing prospects. His word tells us, that all here is vanity, comparedwith the light of his countenance; and if we cannot or will not believe it upon the authority of his word, we must learn it by experience. May he enable you to settle it in your hearts, that creaturecomforts are precarious, insufficient, and ensnaring; that all good comes from his hand, and that nothing can do us good, but so far as he is pleased to make it the instrument of communicating, as a stream, that goodness which is in him as a fountain. Even the bread which we eat, without the influence of his promise and blessing, would no more support us than a stone; but his blessing makes every thing good, gives a tenfold value to our comforts, and greatly diminishes the weight of every cross.
The ring upon your finger is of some value as gold, but this is not much; what makes it chiefly valuable to you is, that you consider it as a pledge and token of the relation you bear to him who gave it you. I know no fitter emblem of the light in which we should consider all those good things which the Lord gives us richly to enjoy. When every thing we receive from him is received and prized as a fruit and pledge of his covenant-love, then his bounties, instead of being set up as rivals and idols to draw our hearts from him, awaken us to fresh exercise of gratitude, and furnish us with fresh motives of cheerful obedience every hour.
Time is short, and we live in a dark and cloudy day. When iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold and we have reason to fear the Lord's hand is lifted up in displeasure at our provocátions. May he help us to set loose to all below, and to be found watching unto prayer, for grace to keep our garments undefiled, and to be faith