DEARLY-BELOVED IN THE LORD, -- I long exceedingly to hear of the case of your soul, which has a large share both of my prayers and careful thoughts. Sir, remember that a precious treasure and prize is upon this short play that ye are now upon. Even the eternity of well or wo to your soul standeth upon the little point of your well or ill-employed short and swift-posting sand glass. Seek the Lord while He may be found; the Lord waiteth upon you.
And sinning against light will put out your candle, and stupefy your conscience, and bring upon it more coverings and skin, and less feeling and sense of guiltiness; and when that is done, the devil is like a mad horse that has broken his bridle and runneth away with his rider whither he listeth. Learn to know that which the apostle knew, the deceitfulness of sin. Strive to make prayer and reading and holy company and holy conference your delight; and when delight cometh in, ye shall by little and little smell the sweetness of Christ, till at length your soul be over head and ears in Christ's sweetness. Then shall ye be taken up to the top of the mountain with the Lord, to know the ravishments of spiritual love, and the glory and excellency of a seen, revealed, felt, and embraced Christ: and then ye shall not be able to loose yourself off Christ, and to bind your soul to old lovers. Then, and never till then, are all the paces, motions, balkings, and wheels of your soul in a right tune, and in a spiritual temper.
But if this world and its lusts be your delight, I know not what Christ can make of you; ye cannot be metal to be a vessel of glory and mercy. As the Lord liveth, thousand thousands are beguiled with security, because God and wrath and judgment are not terrible to them. Stand in awe of God and of the warnings of a checking and rebuking conscience. Make others to see Christ in you, moving, doing, speaking and thinking. Your actions will smell of Him if He be in you. There is an instinct in the new-born babes of Christ, like the instinct of nature that leads birds to build their nests, and bring forth their young, and love such and such places, as woods, forests, and wildernesses, better than other places. The instinct of nature maketh a man love his mother-country above all countries; the instinct of renewed nature, and supernatural grace, will lead you to such and such works, as to love your country above, to sigh to be clothed with your house not made with hands, and to call your borrowed prison here below a borrowed prison, and to look upon it servant-like and pilgrim-like. And the pilgrim's eye and look is a disdainfullike, discontented cast of his eye, his heart crying after his eye, Fy, fy, this is not like my country.'
I recommend to you the mending of a hole, and reforming of a failing, one or other, every week; and put off a sin, or a piece of it, as anger, wrath, lust, intemperance, every day, that ye may more easily master the remnant of your corruption. God has given you a wife; love her, and let her breasts satisfy you; and, for the Lord's sake, drink no waters but out of your own cistern. Strange wells are poison. Strive to learn some new way against your corruption from the man of God, Mr W. D. [William Dalgleish], or other servants of God. Sleep not sound, till ye find yourself in that case that ye dare look death in the face, and durst hazard your soul upon eternity. I am sure that many ells and inches of the short thread of your life are by-hand since I saw you; and that thread has an end; and ye have no hands to cast a knot, and add one day, or a finger-breadth, to the end of it. When hearing, and seeing, and the outer walls of the clay house shall fall down, and life shall render the besieged castle of clay to death and judgment, and ye find your time worn ebb, and run out, what thoughts will you then have of idol-pleasures, that possibly are now sweet? What bud or hide would you then give for the Lord's favor? And what a price would you then give for pardon? It were not amiss to think, What if I were to receive a doom, and to enter into a furnace of fire and brimstone? What if it come to this, that I shall have no portion but utter darkness? And what if I be brought to this, to be banished from the presence of God, and to be given over to God's sergeants, the devil and the power of the second death?' Put your soul, by supposition, in such a case, and consider what horror would take hold of you, and what ye would then esteem of pleasing yourself in the course of sin. Oh, dear Sir, for the Lord's sake awake to live righteously, and love your poor soul! And after ye have seen this my letter, say with yourself, The Lord will seek an account of this warning which I have received.'
Lodge Christ in your family. Receive no stranger hireling as your pastor. I bless your children. Grace be with you.
XLVII. To WILLIAM GORDON
DEAR BROTHER, -- Ye complain that ye want a mark of the sound work of grace and love in your soul. For answer, consider for your satisfaction (till God send more) I John 3.14. And as for your complaint of deadnes.~ and doubting. Christ will, I hope, take your deadness and you together. They are bodies full of holes, running boils, and broken bones which need mending, that Christ the Physician taketh up: whole vessels are not for the Mediator Christ's art. Publicans, sinners, whores, harlots, are ready market-wares for Christ. The only thing that will bring sinners within a cast of Christ's drawing arm is that which ye write of, some feeling of death and sin. That bringeth forth complaints; and, therefore, out of sense complain more, and be more acquaint with all the cramps, stitches, and soulswoonings that trouble you. The more pain, and the more night-watching, and the more fevers, the better. A soul bleeding to death, till Christ were sent for, and cried for in all haste, to come and stem the blood, and close up the hole in the wound with His own heart and balm, were a very good disease, when many are dying of a whole heart. We have all too little of hell-pain and terrors that way; nay, God send me such a hell as Christ has promised to make a heaven of. Alas! I am not come that far on the way, as to say in sad earnest, Lord Jesus, great and sovereign Physician, here is a pained patient for Thee.' But the thing that we mistake is the want of victory. We hold that to be the mark of one that has no grace. Nay, say I, the want of fighting were a mark of no grace; but I shall not say the want of victory is such a mark. If my fire and the devil's water make crackling like thunder in the air, I am the less feared; for where there is fire, it is Christ's part, which I lay and bind upon Him, to keep in the coal, and to pray the Father that my faith fail not, if I in the meantime be wrestling, and doing, and fighting, and mourning.
Pray for me, that the Lord would give me house-room again, to hold a candle to this dark world. -- Grace, grace be with you.
XLVIII. To LADY KENMURE
MY VERY NOBLE AND DEAR LADY, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. -- The Lord has brought me safely to Aberdeen: I have gotten lodging in the hearts of all I meet with. No face that has not smiled upon me; only the indwellers of this town are dry, cold, and general. They consist of Papists, and men of Gallio's metal, firm in no religion; and it is counted no wisdom here to countenance a confined and silenced prisoner. But the shame of Christ's cross shall not be my shame.
Madam, your Ladyship knoweth what Christ has done to have all your love; and that He alloweth not His level upon your dear child. Keep good quarters with Christ in your love. I verily think that Christ has said, I must needs-force have Jean Campbell for Myself'; and He has laid many oars in the water, to fish and hunt home-over your heart to heaven. Let Him have His prey, He will think you well won, when He has gotten you. It is good to have recourse often, and to have the door open, to our stronghold. For the sword of the Lord, the sword of the Lord is for Scotland! And yet two or three berries shall be left in the top of the olive-tree.
If a word can do my brother good in his distress, I know your Ladyship will be willing and ready to speak it, and more also. Now the only wise God, and your only, only One, He who dwelt in the Bush, be with you. I write many kisses and many blessings in Christ to your dear child: the blessings of his father's God, the blessings due to the fatherless and the widow, be yours and his.
XLIX. To MRS STUART, wife of the Provost of Aye
(See Letter XXIX)
MISTRESS, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. -- I am sorry that ye take it so hardly that I have not written to you.
I am judged to be that which I am not. I fear that if I were put into the fire, I should melt away, and fall down in shreds of painted nature; for truly I have little stuff at home that is worth the eye of God's servants. If there be anything of Christ's in me (as I dare not deny some of His work), it is but a spunk of borrowed fire, that can scarce warm myself, and has little heat for standers-by. I would fain have that which ye and others believe I have; but ye are only witnesses to my outer side, and to some words on paper. Oh that He would give me more than paper-grace or tongue-grace! But if I have any love to Him, Christ has both love to me, and wit to guide His love. And I see that the best thing I have has as much dross beside it as might curse me and it both; and, if it were for no more, we have need of a Savior to pardon the very faults, and diseases, and weakness of the new man, and to take away (to say so) our godly sins, or the sins of our sanctification, and the dross and scum of spiritual love.
I would have you and myself helping Christ mystical to weep for His wife. And oh that we could mourn for Christ buried in Scotland, and for His two slain witnesses, killed because they prophesied! If we could so importune and solicit God, our buried Lord and His two buried witnesses should rise again. Earth and clay and stone will not bear down Christ and the Gospel in Scotland. I know not if I shall see the second temple and the glory of it; but the Lord has deceived me if it be not to be reared up again. I would wish to give Christ His welcome Home again. My blessing, my joy, my glory and love be on the Home-comer.
I know that your heart and Christ are married together; it were not good to make a divorce. Rue not of that meeting and marriage with such a Husband. Pray for me, His prisoner. Grace, grace be with you.
L. To MR JAMES FLEMING
Fleming was minister of a parish in East Lothian. He was strongly opposed to the attempts of James and Charles I to impose prelacy and the Prayer Book on Scotland. His first wife, Martha, was the eldest daughter of John Knox.
REVEREND AND WELL-BELOVED IN OUR LORD, -- Grace, mercy, and peace to you. I received your letter which has refreshed me in my bonds. I cannot but testify unto you, my dear brother, what sweetness I find in our Master's cross; but alas, what can I either do or suffer for Him? I am not able, by tongue, pen, or sufferings, to provoke many to fall in love with Him: but He knoweth, whom I love to serve in the Spirit, what I would do and suffer by His own strength, so being that I might make my Lord Jesus lovely and sweet to many thousands in this land. I think it amongst God's wonders, that He will take any praise or glory, or any testimony to His honorable cause, from such a forlorn sinner as I am. But when Christ worketh, He needeth not ask the question, by whom He will be glorious. I know (seeing His glory at the beginning did shine out of poor nothing, to set up such a fair house for men and angels, and so many glorious creatures, to proclaim His goodness, power, and wisdom) that, if I were burnt to ashes, out of the smoke and powder of my dissolved body He could raise glory to Himself. But, alas! Few know the guiltiness that is on my part: it is a wonder, that this good cause has not been marred and spilled in my foul hands. But I rejoice in this, that my sweet Lord Jesus has found something ado, even a ready market for His free grace and incomparable and matchless mercy, in my wants. Only my loathsome wretchedness and my wants have qualified me for Christ, and the riches of His glorious grace. Few know the unseen and private reckonings betwixt Christ and me; yet His love, His boundless love would not bide away, nor stay at home with Himself.
How joyful is my heart, that ye write that ye are desirous to join with me in praising; for it is a charity to help a devour to pay his debts. But when all have helped me, my name shall stand in His account-book under ten thousand thousands of sums unpaid. But it easeth my heart that His dear servants will but speak of my debts to such a sweet Creditor. I desire that He may lay me in His own balance and weigh me, if I would not fain have a feast of His boundless love made to my own soul, and to many others. One thing I know, that we shall not at all be able to come near His Excellency, with eye, heart, or tongue; for He is above all created thoughts. All nations before Him are as nothing, and less than nothing: He sitteth in the circuit of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth are as grasshoppers before Him. Oh that men would praise Him!
Ye complain of your private case. Alas! I am not the man to speak to such an one as ye are. Any sweet presence which I have had in this town, is, I know, for this cause, that I might express and make it known to others. But I never find myself nearer Christ, that royal and princely One, than after a great weight and sense of deadness and gracelessness. I think that the sense of our wants, when withal we have a restlessness and a sort of spiritual impatience under them and can make a din, because we want Him whom our soul loveth, is that which maketh an open door to Christ. And when we think we are going backward, because we feel deadness, we are going forward; for the more sense, the more life; and no sense argueth no life.
And for your complaints of your ministry, I now think all I do too little. Plainness, freedom, watchfulness, fidelity, shall swell upon you, in exceeding large comforts, in your sufferings. The feeding of Christ's lambs in private visits lions and catechizing, in painful preaching, and fair, honest, and free warning of the flock, is a sufferer's garland. Oh, ten thousand times blessed are they who are honored of Christ to be faithful and painful in wooing a bride to Christ! My dear brother, I know that ye think more on this than I can write; and I rejoice that your purpose is, in the Lord's strength, to back your wronged Master; and to come out and call yourself Christ's man when so many are now denying Him.
Help me with your prayers; and desire, from me, other brethren to take courage for their Master.