MUCH HONORED AND DEAREST IN MY LORD, Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. My soul longeth exceedingly to hear how matters go betwixt you and Christ; and whether or not there be any work of Christ in that parish, that will bide the trial of fire and water. Let me be weighed of my Lord in a just balance, if your souls lie not weighty upon me. Ye go to bed and ye rise with me: thoughts of your soul, my dearest in our Lord, depart not from me in my sleep. Ye have a great part of my tears, sighs, supplications, and prayers. Oh, if I could buy your soul's salvation with any suffering whatsoever, and that ye and I might meet with joy up in the rainbow, when we shall stand before our Judge!
Sir, show the people this; for when I write to you, I think I write to you all, old and young. Fulfill my joy and seek the Lord. Sure I am, that once I discovered my lovely, royal princely Lord Jesus to you all. Woe, woe shall be your part of it for evermore, if the Gospel be not the savor of life to you. Believe me, I find heaven a city hard to be won.
I know your accounts are many, and will take telling and laying, and reckoning betwixt you and your Lord. Fit your accounts, and order them. Lose not the last play, whatever ye do, for in that play with death your precious soul is the prize: for the Lord's sake spill not the play, and lose not such a treasure. Ye know that, out of love which I had to your soul, and out of desire which I had to make an honest account of you, I testified my displeasure and disliking of your ways very often, both in private and public. I am not now a witness of your doings, but your Judge is always your witness. I beseech you by the mercies of God, by the salvation of your soul, after the sight of this letter to take a new course with your ways and now, in the end of your day, make sure of heaven. I never knew so well what sin was as since I came to Aberdeen, howbeit I was preaching of it to you. To feel the smoke of hell's fire in the throat for half an hour; to stand beside a river of fire and brimstone broader than the earth; and to think to be bound hand and foot, and casten into the midst of it quick, and then to have God locking the prison door, never to be opened to all eternity! O how it will shake a conscience that has any life in it!
Look up to Him and love Him. O, love and live! It were life to me if you would read this letter to the people and if they did profit by it. My dearest in the Lord, stand fast in Christ, keep the faith, contend for Christ. Wrestle for Him and take men's feud for God's favor; there is no comparison betwixt them. O that the Lord would fulfill my joy and keep the young bride that is at Anwoth to Christ!
Now, worthy Sir, now my dear people, my joy and my crown in the Lord, let Him be your fear. Seek the Lord, and His face: save your souls. Doves! flee to Christ's windows. Pray for me, and praise for me. The blessing of my God, the prayers and blessing of a poor prisoner, and your lawful pastor, be upon you.
Your lawful and loving pastor.
ABERDEEN, June 16, 1637
XXXVII. To EARLSTON, the younger
See also Letter LVI.
MUCH HONORED AND WELL BELOVED IN THE LORD, Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. Your letters give a dash to my laziness in writing.
I must first tell you, that there is not such a glassy, icy, and slippery piece of way betwixt you and heaven, as Youth; and I have experience to say with me here, and to seal what I assert. The old ashes of the sins of my youth are new fire of sorrow to me. I have seen the devil, as it were, dead and buried, and yet rise again, and be a worse devil than ever he was: therefore, my brother, beware of a green young devil, that has never been buried. Yet I must tell you, that the whole saints now triumphant in heaven, and standing before the throne, are nothing but a pack of redeemed sinners.
I shall be loath to put you off your fears, and your sense of deadness: I wish it were more. There be some wounds of that nature, that their bleeding should not be soon stopped. Ye must take a house beside the Physician. It will be a miracle if ye be the first sick man whom He put away uncured, and worse than He found you. Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out' (John 6.37). Take ye that. It cannot be presumption to take that as your own, when you find that your wounds stound you. He that can tell his tale and send such a letter to heaven as he has sent to Aberdeen, it is very like he will come speed with Christ. It bodeth God's mercy to complain heartily for sin.
Now for myself; alas! I am not the man I go for in this nation: men have not just weights to weigh me in. Oh, but I am a silly, feckless body, and overgrown with weeds; corruption is rank and fat in me. Oh, if I were answerable to this holy cause, and to that honorable Prince's love for whom I now suffer! If Christ should refer the matter to me (in His presence I speak it), I might think shame to vote my own salvation. I think Christ might say, Thinkest thou not shame to claim heaven, who does so little for it?' I am very often so, that I know not whether I sink or swim in the water.
Grace be with you,
ABERDEEN, June 16, 1637
XXXVIII. To MR WILLIAM DALGLEISH
REVEREND AND WELL-BELOVED BROTHER, Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you. I have heard somewhat of your trials in Galloway. My witness is above, my dearest brother, that ye have added much joy to me in my bonds, when I hear that ye grow in the grace and zeal of God for your Master. Our ministry, whether by preaching or suffering, will cast a smell through the world both of heaven and hell (II Cor. 2.15, 16). I persuade you, my dear brother, that there is nothing out of heaven, next to Christ, dearer to me than my ministry.
And, let me speak to you now, how kind a fellow prisoner is Christ to me! Believe me, this kind of cross (that would not go by my door, but would needs visit me) is still the longer the more welcome to me. It is true, my silent Sabbaths have been, and still are, as glassy ice, whereon my faith can scarce hold its feet, and I am often blown on my back, and off my feet, with a storm of doubting; yet truly, my bonds all this time cast a mighty and rank smell of high and deep love in Christ. I cannot, indeed, see through my cross to the far end; yet I believe I am in Christ's books, and in His decree (not yet unfolded to me), a man triumphing, dancing, and singing, on the other side of the Red Sea, and laughing and praising the Lamb, over beyond time, sorrow, deprivation, prelates' indignation, losses, want of friends, and death.
Woe is me, my dear brother, that I say often, I am but dry bones, which my Lord will not bring out of the grave again'; and that my faithless fears say, Oh, I am a dry tree, that can bear no fruit: I am a useless body, who can beget no children to the Lord in His house!' Hopes of deliverance look cold and uncertain and afar off, as if I had done with it. If my sufferings could do beholders good and edify His kirk and proclaim the incomparable worth of Christ's love to the world, then would my soul be overjoyed and my sad heart be cheered and calmed!
Dear brother, I cannot tell what is become of my labours among that people! If all that my Lord builded by me be casten down, and the bottom be fallen out of the profession at that parish, and none stand by Christ, whose love I once preached as clearly and plainly as I could (though far below its worth and excellence) to that people; if so, how can I bear it! And if another make a foul harvest, where I have made a painful and honest sowing, it will not soon digest with me. But I know that His ways pass finding out. Yet my witness, both within me and above me, knoweth. And my pained breast upon the Lord's Day at night, my desire to have had Christ awful, and amiable, and sweet to that people, is now my joy. It was my desire and aim to make Christ and them one; and, if I see my hopes die in the bud, see they bloom a little, and come to no fruit, I die with grief.
But, my dear brother, go on in the strength of His rich grace, whom ye serve. Stand fast for Christ. Deliver the Gospel off your hand, and your ministry to your Master with a clean and undefiled conscience. Let us make our part of it good, that it may be able to abide the fire, when hay and stubble shall be burned to ashes. Nothing, nothing, I say, nothing, but sound sanctification can abide the Lord's fan.
Now, remember my love to all my friends, and to my parishioners, as if I named each one of them particularly. I recommend you, and God's people, committed by Christ to your trust, to the rich grace of our all-sufflcient Lord. Remember my bonds. Praise my Lord, who beareth me up in my sufferings. As you find occasion, according to the wisdom given you, show our acquaintance what the Lord has done for my soul. This I seek not, verily, to hunt my own praise, but that my dearest Master may be magnified.
ABERDEEN, June 17, 1637
XXXIX. To MARION MCNAUGHT
DEARLY BELOVED IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. Few know the heart of a stranger and prisoner. I am in the hands of mine enemies. I would that honest and lawful means were essayed for bringing me home to my charge, now when Mr A. R. and Mr H. R. are restored. It concerneth you of Galloway most, to use supplications and addresses for this purpose, and try if by fair means I can be brought back again. As for liberty, without I be restored to my flock, it is little to me; for my silence is my greatest prison. However it be, I wait for the Lord; I hope not to rot in my sufferings: Lord, give me submission to wait on. My heart is sad that my days flee away, and I do no service to my Lord in His house, now when His harvest and the souls of perishing people require it. But His ways are not like my ways, neither can I find Him out. Oh that He would shine upon my darkness, and bring forth my morning light from under the thick cloud that men have spread over me!
But that day that my mouth was most unjustly and cruelly closed, the bloom fell off my branches and my joy did cast the flower. O that I might preach His beauty and glory as once I did, and my branches be watered with the dew of God, and my joy in His work grow green again and bud and send out a flower! O, that I may wait for Him till the morning of this benighted kirk break out! This poor, afflicted kirk had a fair morning, but her night came upon her before her noonday, and she was like a traveler forced to take house in the morning of his journey. And now her adversaries are the chief men in the land; her ways mourn; her gates languish; her children sigh for bread. O, that my Lord would bring me again amongst you with abundance of the Gospel of Christ.
Remember my love in the Lord to your husband; God make him faithful to Christ! And my blessing to your three children. Faint not in prayer for this kirk. Desire my people not to receive a stranger and intruder upon my ministry. Let me stand in that right and station that my Lord Jesus gave me. Grace, grace, be with you.
XL. To ROBERT STEWART, on his decision for Christ
MY VERY DEAR BROTHER, -- You are heartily welcome to my world of suffering, and heartily welcome to my father's house; God give you much joy of your new Master. If I have been in the house before you, I were not faithful to give the house an ill name, or to speak evil of the Lord of the family: I rather wish God's Holy Spirit (O Lord, breathe upon me with that Spirit!) to tell you the fashions of the house (Ezek. 43.11). One thing I can say, by on-waiting, ye will grow a great man with the Lord of the house. Hang on, till ye get some good from Christ. Take ease yourself, and let Him bear all; lay all your weights and your loads, by faith, on Christ; He can, He will bear you. I rejoice that He has come, and has chosen you in the furnace; it was even there where He and ye set tryst. He keepeth the good old fashion with you that was in Hosea's days (Hos. 2.14). Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her to the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her.' There was no talking to her heart while she was in the fair flourishing city, and at ease, but out in the cold, hungry, waste wilderness, He allureth her; He whispered news into her ear there, and said, Thou art Mine'. What would ye think of such a bode? Ye may soon do worse than say, Lord, hold all; Lord Jesus, a bargain be it, it shall not go back on my side'.
Ye have gotten a great advantage in the way of heaven, that ye have started to the gate in the morning. Like a fool, as I was, I suffered my sun to be high in the heaven, and near afternoon, before I ever took the gate by the end. I pray you now keep the advantage ye have. My heart, be not lazy; set quickly up the bras on hands and feet, as if the last pickle of sand were running out of your glass, and death were coming to turn the glass. And be very careful to take heed to your feet, in that slippery and dangerous way of youth that ye are walking in. Dry timber will soon take fire. Be covetous and greedy of the grace of God, and beware that it be not a holiness which cometh only from the cross; for too many are that way disposed. When He slew them, then they sought Him, and they returned and inquired early after God.' Nevertheless, they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues' (Ps. 78.34, 36). It is part of our hypocrisy, to give God fair, white words when He has us in His grips (if I may speak so), and to flatter Him till He win to the fair fields again. Try well green godliness, and examine what it is that ye love in Christ. If ye love but Christ's sunny side, and would have only summer weather and a land-gate, not a sea-way to heaven, your profession will play you a slip, and the winter-well will go dry again in summer.
Make no sport nor bairn's play of Christ; but labour for a sound and lively sight of sin, that ye may judge yourself an undone man, a damned slave of hell and of sin, one dying in your own blood, except Christ come and rue upon you, and take you up. And, therefore, make sure and fast work of conversion. Cast the earth deep; and down, down with the old work, the building of confusion, that was there before; and let Christ lay new work, and make a new creation within you. Look if Christ's rain goes down to the root of your withered plants, and if His love wound your heart whill it bleed with sorrow for sin, and if ye can pant and fall aswoon, and be like to die for that lovely one, Jesus. I know that Christ will not be hid where He is; grace will ever speak for itself, and be fruitful in well-doing. The sanctified cross is a fruitful tree, it bringeth forth many apples.
If I should tell you by some weak experience, what I have found in Christ, ye or others could hardly believe me. I thought not the hundredth part of Christ long since, that I do now, though, alas! my thoughts are still infinitely below His worth. And for Christ's cross, especially the garland and flower of all crosses, to suffer for His name, I esteem it more than I can write or speak to you. And I write it under mine own hand to you, that it is one of the steps of the ladder up to our country; and Christ (whoever be one) is still at the heavy end of this black tree, and so it is but as a feather to me. I need not run at leisure, because of a burden on my back; my back never bare the like of it; the more heavily crossed for Christ, the soul is still the lighter for the journey.
Now, would to God that all cold-blooded, faint-hearted soldiers of Christ, would look again to Jesus, and to his love; and when they look, I would have them to look again and again, and fill themselves with beholding Christ's beauty: and, I dare say, then He would be highly esteemed of many. It is my daily growing sorrow, that He does so great things for my soul, and He never yet got any thing of me worth speaking of. Sir, I charge you, help me to praise Him. If men could do no more, I would have them to wonder -- if we cannot be filled with Christ's love, we may be filled with wondering. To Him and His rich grace I recommend you. I pray you, pray for me, and forget not to praise.