Ellis was an Irish Presbyterian serving as a captain in the Scottish army.
WORTHY AND MUCH HONOURED IN OUR LORD, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you.
1. I am glad of our more than paper acquaintance. Seeing we have one Father, it reckoneth the less, though we never see one another's face. I profess myself most unworthy to follow the camp of such a worthy and renowned Captain as Christ.
2. As for our lovely and beloved church in Ireland, my heart bleedeth for her desolation; but I believe that our Lord is only lopping the vine-trees, but not intending to cut them down, or root them out. It is but folly to measure the Gospel by summer or winter weather: the summer-sun of the saints shineth not on them in this life. How should we have complained, if the Lord had turned the same providence that we now stomach at upside down, and had ordered matters thus, that first the saints should have enjoyed heaven, glory, and ease, and then Methuselah's days of sorrow and daily miseries? We would think a short heaven no heaven. Certainly His ways pass finding out.
3. Ye complain of the evil of heart-atheism: but it is to a greater atheist than any man can be, that ye write of that. Oh, light findeth not that reverence and fear which a plant of God's setting should find in our soul! How do we by nature, as others, detain and hold captive the truth of God in unrighteousness, and so make God's light a bound prisoner? Certainly there cometh great mist and clouds from the lower part of our souls, our earthly affections, to the higher part, which is our conscience, either natural or renewed: as smoke in a lower house breaketh up, and defileth the house above. If we had more practice of obedience, we should have more sound light. I think, lay aside all other guiltiness, that this one, the violence done to God's candle in our soul, were a sufficient ditty against us. There is no helping of this but by striving to stand in awe of God's light. I see there is a necessity that we protest against the doings of the Old Man, and raise up a party against our worst half, to accuse, condemn, sentence, and with sorrow bemoan, the dominion of sin's kingdom; and withal make law, in the New Covenant, against our guiltiness. For Christ once condemned sin in the flesh, and we are to condemn it over again. And if there had not been such a thing as the grace of Jesus, I should have long since given up with heaven, and with the expectation to see God. But grace, grace, free grace, the merits of Christ for nothing, white and fair, and large Saviour-mercy, have been, and must be, the rock that we drowned souls must swim to. New washing, renewed application of purchased redemption, by that sacred blood that sealeth the free Covenant, is a thing of daily and hourly use to a poor sinner. And even when we have won the castle, then must we eternally sing, Worthy, worthy is the Lamb, who has saved us, and washed us in His own blood.'
ABERDEEN, Sept. 7, 1637
LII. To MR MATTHEW MOWAT, minister of Kilmarnock
Mowat was one of seven leading ministers in the west of Scotland whom Parliament after the Restoration brought before them to demand their agreement to the establishment of episcopacy, thinking their agreement would influence others. On their refusal they were imprisoned.
REVEREND AND DEAR BROTHER, -- I am refreshed with your letters. I would take all well at my Lord's hands that He has done, if I knew that I could do my Lord any service in my suffering; suppose my Lord would make a stop-hole of me, to fill a hole in the wall of His house, or a pinning in Zion's new work. For any place of trust in my Lord's house, as steward, or chamberlain, or the like, surely I think myself (my very dear brother, I speak not by any proud figure or traps) unworthy of it; nay, I am not worthy to stand behind the door. When I hear that the men of God are at work, and speaking in the name of our Lord Jesus, I think myself but an outcast, or outlaw, chased from the city to lie on the hills, and live amongst the rocks and out-fields. Oh that I might but stand in Christ's out-house, or hold a candle in any low vault of His house! But I know this is but the vapors that arise out of a quarrelous and unbelieving heart to darken the wisdom of God; and your fault is just mine, that I cannot believe my Lord's bare and naked word. I must either have an apple to play me with, and shake hands with Christ, and have seal, caution, and witness to His word, or else I count myself loose; howbeit, I have the word and faith of a King! Oh, I am made of unbelief, and cannot swim but where my feet may touch the ground!
But surely, brother, ye shall have my advice (howbeit, alas! I cannot follow it myself, not to contend with the honest and faithful Lord of the house; for, go He or come He, He is aye gracious in His departure. There are grace, and mercy, and loving-kindness upon Christ's back parts; and when He goes away, the proportion of His face, the image of that fair Sun that stayeth in eyes, senses, and heart, after He is gone, leaveth a mass of love behind it in the heart. The sound of His knock at the door of His Beloved, after He is gone and passed, leaveth a share of joy and sorrow both. So we have something to feed upon till He return: and He is more loved in His departure, and after He is gone, than before, as the day in the declining of the sun, and towards the evening, is often most desired.
And as for Christ's cross, I never received evil of it, but what was of mine own making: when I miscooked Christ's physic, no marvel that it hurt me. For since it was on Christ's back, it has always a sweet smell, and these 1600 years it keepeth the smell of Christ.
I believe that our Lord once again will water with His dew the withered hill of Mount Zion in Scotland. Remember our Covenant.
Your excuse for advice to me is needless. Alas! Many sit beside light, as sick folk beside meat, and cannot make use of it. Grace be with you.
Your brother in Christ.
ABERDEEN, Sept. 7, 1637
LIII. To JAMES BAUTIE, theological student
LOVING BROTHER, -- I received your letter and render you thanks for the same; but I have not time to answer all the heads of it, as the bearer can inform you.
It is a sweet law of the New Covenant and a privilege of the new burgh that citizens pay according to their means. For the New Covenant saith not, So much obedience by ounce weights and no less, under the pain of damnation.' Christ taketh as poor men may give. Where there is a mean portion He is content with the less, if there be sincerity; broken sums, and little, feckless obedience will be pardoned, and hold the foot with Him. Know ye not that our kindly Lord retaineth His good old heart yet? He breaketh not a bruised reed, nor quencheth the smoking flax; if the wind but blow, He holdeth His hand about it till it rise to a flame. The law cometh on with three O-yeses, with all the heart; with all the soul, and with all the strength'; and where would poor folks, like you and me, furnish all these sums? It feareth me (nay, it is most certain) that, if the payment were to come out of our purse, when we should put our hand into our bag, we should bring out the wind, or worse. But the New Covenant seeketh not heapmete, nor stented obedience, as the condition of it, because forgiveness has always place. Hence I draw this conclusion: that to think matters betwixt Christ and us go back for want of heaped measure, is a piece of old Adam's pride, who would either be at legal payment, or nothing. We would still have God in our common, and buy His kindness with our merits.
No marvel, then, of whisperings, Whether you be in the covenant or not? For pride maketh loose work of the covenant of grace, and will not let Christ be full bargain maker. To speak to you particularly and shortly: All the truly regenerated cannot determinately tell you the measure of their dejections; because Christ beginneth young with many, and stealth into their heart, see they wit of themselves, and becometh homely with them, with little din or noise. I grant that many are blinded, in rejoicing in a good-cheap conversion, that never cost them a sick night. But for that; I would say, if other marks be found that Christ is indeed come in, never make plea with him because he will not answer, Lord Jesus, how camest Thou in? Whether in at door or window?' Make Him welcome, since He is come. The wind bloweth where it listeth'; all the world's wisdom cannot perfectly render a reason why the wind should be a month in the east, six weeks possibly in the west, and the space only of an afternoon in the south or north. You will not find out all the steps of Christ's way with a soul, do what ye can.
You object, the truly regenerate should love God for Himself; and ye fear that you love Him more for His benefits (as incitements and motives to love Him) than for Himself. I answer, To love God for Himself, as the last end; and also for His benefits, as incitements and motives to love Him, may very well stand together; as a son loveth his mother, because she is his mother, howbeit she be poor: and he loveth her for an apple also. You will not say, I hope, that benefits are the only reason and ground of your love: it seems there is a better foundation for it.
Comparing the state of one truly regenerate, whose heart is a temple of the Holy Ghost, and yours, which is full of uncleanness and corruption, ye stand dumb and discouraged, and dare not sometimes call Christ heartsomely your own. I answer: 1. The best regenerate have their defilements that will clog behind them all their days; and, wash as they will, there will be filth in their bosom. But let not this put you from the well. I answer: 2. Albeit there may be some squint look to an idol, yet love in its own measure may be found. For glory must purify and perfect our love, it never will till then be absolutely pure. Yet if the idol reign, and have the whole of the heart, and the keys of the house, and Christ only be made an underling to run errands, all is not right; therefore, examine well.
The assurance of Jesus' love, ye say, would be the most comfortable news that ever ye heard. Oh, that ye knew and felt it, as I have done! I wish you a share of my feast; sweet, sweet has it been to me. If my Lord had not given me this love, I should have fallen through the causeway of Aberdeen ere now! But for you, hang on, your feast is not far off; ye shall be filled ere ye go. There is as much in our Lord's pantry as will satisfy all His bairns, and as much wine in His cellar as will quench all their thirst. Hunger on, for there is meat in hunger for Christ. Never go from Him, but fash Him (who yet is pleased with the importunity of hungry souls) with a dish-full of hungry desire till He fill you.
Ye crave my mind, whether sound comfort may be found in prayer, when conviction of a known idol is present. I answer: An idol, as an idol, cannot stand with sound comforts; for that comfort that is gotten at Dagon's feet is a cheat or blaflume. Yet sound comfort, and conviction of an eye to an idol, may as well dwell together as tears and joy. But let this do you no ill; I speak it for your encouragement, that ye may make the best of our joys as ye can, albeit you find them mixed with motes.
Brother, excuse my brevity, for time straiteneth me, that I get not my mind said in these things, but must refer that to a new occasion, if God offer it. Brother, pray for me. Grace be with you.
LIV. To MR ROBERT BLAIR
REVEREND AND DEAR BROTHER, -- The reason ye give for not writing to me affecteth me much, and giveth me a dash, when such an one as ye conceive an opinion of me, or of anything in me. The truth is, when I come home to myself, oh, what penury do I find, and how feckless is my supposed stock, and how little have I! He to whom I am as crystal, and who seeth through me, and perceiveth the least mote that is in me, knoweth that I speak of what I think and am convinced of: but men cast me through a gross and wide sieve. My very dear brother, the room of the least of all saints is too great for the like of me. But lest this should seem art to fetch home reputation, I speak no more of it. It is my worth to be Christ's ransomed sinner and sick one. His relation to me is, that I am sick, and He is the Physician of whom I stand in need. Alas! How often play I fast and loose with Christ! He bindeth, I loose; He buildeth, I cast down; He trimmeth up a salvation for me, and I mar it; I cast out with Christ, and He agreeth with me again, twenty times a-day; I forfeit my kingdom and heritage, I lose what I had; but Christ is at my back, and following on, to stoop and take up what falleth from me. For my faith and reputation with Christ is, that I am a creature that God will not put any trust into. I was, and am, bewildered with temptations, and wanted a guide to heaven. Oh what have I to say of that excellent, surpassing, and supereminent thing, they call, The Grace of God, the way of free redemption in Christ! And when poor, poor I, dead in law, was sold, fettered, and imprisoned in justice's closet-ward, which is hell and damnation; when I, a wretched one, lighted upon noble Jesus, eternally kind Jesus, tender-hearted Jesus (nay, when He lighted upon me first, and knew me), I found that He scorned to take a price, or anything like hire, of angels, or seraphim, or any of his creatures. And, therefore, I would praise Him for this, that the whole army of the redeemed ones sit rent-free in heaven. Our holding is better than blench: we are all freeholders. And seeing that our eternal feu-duty is but thanks, oh woeful me! That I have but spilled thanks, lame, and broken, and miscarried praises, to give Him.
My dear brother, I shall think it comfort, if ye speak my name to our Well-beloved. Wherever ye are, I am mindful of you. Oh that the Lord would yet make the light of the moon in Scotland as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold brighter. For myself, as yet I have received no answer whither to go. I wait on. Oh that Jesus had my love! Let matters frame as they list, I have some more to do with Christ; yet I would fain we were nearer.
Now the great Shepherd of the sheep, the very God of peace, establish and confirm you till the day of His coming.
ABERDEEN, Sept. 9, 1637
LV. To ROBERT LENNOX OF DISDOVE, near Gatehouse
WORTHY AND DEAR BROTHER, -- I forget you not in my bonds. I know that you are looking to Christ; and I beseech you to follow your look. I can say more of Christ now by experience (though He be infinitely above and beyond all that can be said of Him), than when I saw you. I am drowned over head and ears in His love. Sell, sell, sell all things for Christ.
Sir, make sure work of your salvation: build not upon sand; lay the foundation upon the rock of Zion. Strive to be dead to this world, and to your will and lusts; let Christ have a commanding power and a king's throne in you. Walk with Christ, howbeit the world should take the hide off your face: I promise you that Christ will win the field. Your pastors cause you to err. Except you see Christ's word, go not one foot with them. Countenance not the reading of that Romish service-book. Keep your garments clean, as ye would walk with the Lamb clothed in white. Learn to discern the Bridegroom's tongue, and to give yourself to prayer and reading. Ye were often a hearer of me. I would put my heart's blood on the doctrine which I taught, as the only way to salvation: go not from it, my dear brother. What I write to you, I write to your wife also. Mind heaven and Christ, and keep the spunk of the love of Christ which you have gotten. Christ will blow on it if ye entertain it; and your end shall be peace. There is a fire in our Zion. I assure you, howbeit we be nicknamed Puritans, that all the powers of the world shall not prevail against us. Remember, though a sinful man write it to you, that those people shall be in Scotland as a green olive-tree, and a field blessed of the Lord; and that it shall be proclaimed, Up, up with Christ, and down, down with all contrary powers.'
Sir, pray for me (I name you to the Lord), for further evil is determined against me.