DEAR BROTHER, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied upon you. -- I bless our rich and only wise Lord, who careth so for His new creation that He is going over it again, and trying every piece in you, and blowing away the motes of His new work in you. Alas! I am not so fit a physician as your disease requireth. Sweet, sweet, lovely Jesus be your physician, where His under-chirurgeons cannot do anything for putting in order the wheels, paces, and goings of a marred soul. I have little time; but yet the Lord has made me so to concern myself in your condition, that I dare not be altogether silent.
First: ye doubt, from II Cor. 13.5, whether ye be in Christ or not? And so, whether you are a reprobate or not? I answer two things to the doubt. -- I. Ye owe charity to all men, but most of all to lovely and loving Jesus, and some also to your self; especially to your renewed self, because your new self is not yours, but another Lord's, even the work of His own Spirit. Therefore, to slander His work is to wrong Himself. Love thinketh no evil: if ye love grace, think not ill of grace in yourself. The great Advocate pleadeth hard for you; be upon the Advocate's side, O poor feared client of Christ! He pleadeth for you, whereof your letter (though too, too full of jealousy) is a proof. For, if ye were not His, your thoughts (which, I hope, are but the suggestions of His Spirit, that only bringeth the matter into debate to make it sure to you) would not be such nor so serious as these, Am I His?' or Whose am I?' 2. Dare ye forswear your Owner and say in cold blood, I am not His'? What nature or corruption saith at starts in you, I regard not. Your thoughts of yourself, when sin and guiltiness round you in the ear, and when you have a sight of your deserving, are Apocrypha and not Scripture, I hope. I charge you by the mercies of God, be not that cruel to grace and the new birth as to cast water on your own coal by misbelief.
Secondly: Ye say, that ye know not what to do. Your Head once said the same word, or not far from it. Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say?' (John 12.27). And faith answered Christ's What shall I say?' with these words: O tempted Savior, askest Thou, "What shall I say?" Say, "Pray, Father, save Me from this hour."' What course can ye take but pray and frist Christ His own comforts? Oh,' say ye, I cannot pray'? Answer -- Honest sighing is faith breathing and whispering him in the ear. The life is not out of faith where there is sighing, looking up with the eyes, and breathing toward God. But what shall I do in spiritual exercises?' ye say. Answer -- I. In my weak judgment, ye should first say, I would glorify God in believing David's salvation, and the Bride's marriage with the Lamb, and love the church's slain Husband, although I cannot for the present believe mine own salvation.' 2. Say I will not pass from my claim: suppose Christ should pass from His claim to me, I shall not go back upon my side. Howbeit my love to Him be not worth a drink of water, yet Christ shall have it, such as it is.' 3. Say, I shall rather spill twenty prayers, than not pray at all. Let my broken words go up to heaven: when they come up into the Great Angel's golden censer, that compassionate Advocate will put together my broken prayers, and perfume them.' Words are but the accidental of prayer.
Oh,' say ye, I am slain with hardness of heart, and troubled with confused and melancholious thoughts.' Answer -- My dear brother, what would you conclude thence? Down in Christ's hospital, where sick and distempered souls are under cure, it is not worth a straw. Give Christ time to end His work in your heart. I charge you to make psalms of Christ's praises for His begun work of grace. Make Christ your music and your song; for complaining and feeling of want does often swallow up your praises. Borrow joy and comfort from the Comforter. Bid the Spirit do His office in you; and remember that faith is one thing and the feeling and notice of faith another.
But alas! dear brother, it is easy for me to speak words and syllables of peace. There is but one Creator, ye know. Oh that ye may get a letter of peace sent to you from heaven!
Pray for me, and for grace to be faithful, and for gifts to be able, with tongue and pen, to glorify God. I forget you not.
ST ANDREWS, Jan. 8, 1640
LXII. To LADY BOYD
MADAM, -- I received your Ladyship's letter; but because I was still going through the country for the affairs of the church, I had no time an answer it.
I had never more cause to fear than I have now, when my Lord has restored me to my second created heaven on earth, and has turned my apprehended fears into joys, and great deliverance to His church, whereof I have my share and part. Alas! that weeping prayers, answered and sent back from heaven with joy, should not have laughing praises! Oh that this land would repent, and lay burdens of praises upon the top of the fair Mount Zion! Madam, except this land be humbled, a Reformation is rather my wonder than belief, at this time. But surely it must be a wonder, and what is done already is a wonder.
Your Ladyship is blessed with children who are honored to build up Christ's waste places again. I believe that your Ladyship will think them well bestowed on that work, and that Zion's beauty is your joy. This is a mark and evidence from heaven, which helpeth weak ones to hold their grip, when other marks fail them.
I hope that your Ladyship is at a good understanding with Christ, and that, as becometh a Christian, ye take Him up aright: for many mistake and misshape Christ in His comings and goings. Your wants and falls proclaim that ye have nothing of your own but what ye borrow; nay, yourself is not your own, but Christ has given Himself to you. Put Christ to the bank, and heaven shall be your interest and income. Love Him, for ye cannot over-love Him. Take up your house in Christ. Let Him dwell in you, and abide in Him; and then ye may look out of Christ, and laugh at the clay-heavens that the sons of men are seeking after on this side of the water. Christ mindeth to make your losses grace's great advantage. If I had known long since, as I do now (though still, alas! I am ignorant) what was in Christ, I would not have been so late in starting to the gate to seek Him. Oh what can I do or say to Him who has made the North render me back again! But when my faith was asleep, Christ was awake; and now, when I am awake, I say He did all things well. O infinite wisdom! O incomparable loving-kindneses! Alas, that the heart I have is so little and worthless for such a Lord as Christ is!
I put all the favors which ye have bestowed on my brother upon Christ's score; in whose books are many such counts, and who will requite them. I wish you to be builder more and more upon the stone laid in Zion, and then ye shall be the more fit to have a hand in rebuilding our Lord's fallen tabernacle in this land; in which ye shall find great peace when ye come to grips with death, the king of terrors.
The God of peace be with your Ladyship, and keep you blameless till the day of our Lord Jesus.
LXIII. To LADY FINGASK
MADAM, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. -- Though not acquainted, yet, at the desire of a Christian, I make bold to write a line or two unto you, by way of counsel, howbeit I be most unfit for that.
I hear, and I bless the Father of lights for it, that ye have a spirit set to seek God, and that the posture of your heart is to look heavenward, which is a work and cast of the Mediator Christ's right hand, who putteth on the heart a new frame. For the which I would have your Ladyship to see a tie and bond of obedience laid upon you, that all may be done, not so much from obligation of law, as from the tie of free love; that the law of ransom-paying by Christ may be the chief ground of all our obedience, seeing that ye are not under the law, but under grace. Withal, know that unbelief is a spiritual sin, and so not seen by nature's light; and that all which conscience saith is not Scripture. Suppose that your heart bear witness against you for sins done long ago: yet, because many have pardon with God that have not peace with themselves, ye are to stand and fall by Christ's esteem and verdict of you, and not by that which your heart saith.
Let faith hing by this small thread, that He loved you before He laid the corner-stone of the world, and therefore He cannot change His mind; because He is God and resteth in His love. Neither is sin in you a good reason wherefore ye should doubt of Him, or think, because sin has put you in the courtesy and reverence of justice, that therefore He is wrath with you: neither is it presumption in you to lay the burden of your salvation on One mighty to save, so being that ye lay aside all confidence in yourself, your worth and righteousness. True faith is humble, and seeth no way to escape but only in Christ. And I believe that ye have put an esteem and high price upon Christ: and they cannot but believe and so be saved, who love Christ and to whom He is precious. And it were not like God, if ye should choose Him as your liking and He not choose you again. Nay, He has prevented you in that, for ye have not chosen Him, but He has chosen you.
And the more your Ladyship drink of this love, there is the more room, and the greater delight and desire for this love. Be homely, and hunger for a feast and fill of His love; for that is the borders and march of heaven. Nothing has a nearer resemblance to the color and hue and lustre of heaven than Christ loved. Remember what He is. When twenty thousand millions of heaven's lovers have worn their hearts threadbare of love, all is nothing, yea, less than nothing, to His matchless worth and excellency. Oh so broad and so deep as the sea of His desirable loveliness is! Glorified spirits, triumphing angels, the crowned and exalted lovers of heaven, stand without His loveliness and cannot put a circle on it.
Alas! what do I? I but spill and lose words in speaking highly of Him who will bide and be above the music and songs of heaven, and never be enough praised by us all; to whose boundless and bottomless love I recommend your Ladyship.
ST ANDREWS, March 27, 1640
LXIV. To MR DAVID DICKSON, on the death of his son
REVEREND AND DEAR BROTHER, -- Ye look like the house whereof ye are a branch: the cross is a part of the life rent that lieth to all the sons of the house. I desire to suffer with you, if I could take a lift of your house-trial off you; but ye have preached it ere I knew anything of God. Your Lord may gather His roses, and shake His apples, at what season of the year He pleaseth. Each husbandman cannot make harvest when he pleaseth, as He can do. Ye are taught to know and adore His sovereignty, which He exerciseth over you, which yet is lustred with mercy. The child has but changed a bed in the garden, and is planted up higher, nearer the sun, where he shall thrive better than in this outfield muir-ground. Ye must think your Lord would not want him one hour longer; and since the date of your loan of him was expired (as it is, if ye read the lease), let Him have His own with gain, as good reason were. I read on it an exaltation and a richer measure of grace, as the sweet fruit of your cross; and I am bold to say, that that college where your Master has set you now shall find it.
Dearest brother, go on and faint not. Something of yours is in heaven, beside the flesh of your exalted Savior; and ye go on after your own. Time's thread is shorter by one inch than it was. An oath is sworn and past the seals, whether afflictions will or not, ye must grow and live and triumph and reign and be more than a conqueror. For your Captain who leadeth you on, is more than conqueror, and He maketh you partaker of His conquest and victory. Did not love to you compel me, I would not fetch water to the well, and speak to one who knoweth better than I can do what God is doing with him.
Remember my love to your wife, to Mr John and all friends there. Let us be helped by your prayers, for I cease not to make mention of you to the Lord, as I can.
ST ANDREW, May 28, 1640
LXV. To LADY BOYD, on the loss of several friends
MADAM, -- Impute it not to a disrespective forgetfulness of your Ladyship, who ministered to me in my bonds, that I write not to you. I wish that I could speak or write what might do good to your Ladyship; especially now when I think we cannot but have deep thoughts of the deep and bottomless ways of our Lord, in taking away, with a sudden and wonderful stroke, your brethren and friends. Ye may know, that all who die for sin die not in sin; and that none can teach the Almighty knowledge.' No man can say What does Thou?' It is true that your brethren saw not many summers; but adore and fear the sovereignty of the great Potter, who maketh and marreth His clay-vessels when and how it pleaseth Him.
The under-garden is absolutely His own, and all that growth in it. His absolute liberty is law-abiding. The flowers are His own. If some be but summer apples, He may pluck them down before others. Oh what wisdom is it to believe, and not to dispute; to subject the thoughts to His court, and not to repine at any act of His justice? He has done it: all flesh be silent! It is impossible to be submissive and religiously patient, if ye stay your thoughts down among the confused rollings and wheels of second causes; as, Oh the place!' Oh the time!' Oh if this had been, this had not followed!' Oh the linking of this accident with this time and place! Look up to the master motion and the first wheel. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!' His providence halteth not, but goeth with even and equal legs. Yet are they not the greatest sinners upon whom the tower of Siloam fell. Was not time's lease expired? and the sand of heaven's sand-glass, set by our Lord, run out?
And who can tell what thoughts of love and peace our Lord has to your children? I trust He will make them famous in executing the written judgments upon the enemies of the Lord, and that they shall bear stones upon their shoulders for building that fair city that is called The Lord is there' (Ezek. 48.35). Therefore, Madam, let the Lord make out of your father's house any work, even of judgment, that He pleaseth. What is wrath to others is mercy to you and your house. It is faith's work to claim and challenge loving-kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God. Do that for the Lord which ye will do for time: time will calm your heart at that which God has done, and let our Lord have it now. What love ye did bear to friends now dead, seeing they stand now in no need of it, let it fall as just legacy to Christ.
And, since ye will not alter upon Him who will not change upon you, I durst, in my weakness, think myself no spiritual seer if I should not prophesy that daylight is near, when such a morning-darkness is upon you; and that this trial of your Christian mind towards Him (whom you dare not leave, howbeit He should slay you) shall close with a doubled mercy. It is time for faith to hold fast as much of Christ as ever ye had, and to make the grip stronger, and to cleave closer to Him, seeing Christ loveth to be believed in and trusted to. The glory of laying strength upon one that is mighty to save is more than we can think. That piece of service, believing in a smiting Redeemer, is a precious part of obedience. Oh what glory to Him to lay over the burden of our heaven upon Him that purchased for us an eternal kingdom! O blessed soul, who can adore and kiss His lovely free grace!