NOTHING happens without the Lord, not even the fall to earth of one sparrow. This gives to God His proper place in all things occurrent and happening; not only is He, in being, before all, but in all that occurs His hand is the most important feature in the case. Satan could not act against Job or Paul without divine permission; and whatever Satan might mean in the one case or the other, God meant blessing, pure blessing, for His servants, and that eternal blessing. I hear you are depressed -- it matters little what men call it -- to me, as having one infinitesimal of faith, it is "of God" and for the blessing of yourself and husband. That it is, though coming through the body and mind, yet "of God" I doubt not; for that is one way in which He works, in breaking our plans of earthly joy, to make us seek our all in Him. (You know the Olney hymn, "I asked the Lord that I might grow.") The extent to which we are dependent upon circumstances, around and within ourselves, we little know till we get stripped of them, and among them perhaps of the feeling of joy which we mistook for faith. Faith is taking God at His word, saying, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." The effect of this is triumph, often with joy, but when of the purer and deeper kind, without joy, and we have then sometimes to give the lie to our own inward feelings, as much as to the thoughts of others all around us. 1 Peter gives us a case of it, so does 2 Cor. 12.
Happy feelings are all very well; but happiness down here is not the happiness which we are promised, and weeds oft grow with joy, which weeds, and the selfish root out of which they spring, get killed by nipping frost, and the trial of our faith, which is much more precious than the trial of gold that perisheth. Heaven is open upon us, even the very true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man; and there He sits who is our anchor and forerunner fixed within the veil. Nail in a sure place, and worthy to be trusted to and stayed upon by us down here, be it storm, or cloud, or what not, that may roll over us. It is a duty (in the new nature) for us to accredit Christ and His great salvation. (See "Peace, and how to get it." Present Testimony, new series, part i.) If you saw the inward state of other Christians you would see how they are, as without spring or sentient power, as you are yourself; but God is faithful, and Christ is enough for us all -- all our nothingness notwithstanding. I pray for you; for I would have you consciously and intelligently wholly the Lord's, and the Lord's by faith and the Spirit. . . . All is vanity down here, and will be till He comes, from before the face of whom all sorrow, sin, and sickness shall flee away for ever. G.V.W.
September 4th, 1867.
GRACE, mercy, and peace, beloved brother and sister, be to you and to all the children of God who are scattered abroad in this dark world. They are outshining from God's blessed presence in the face of Jesus, Lord of all; they are down-shining through the Holy Ghost according to all the divine and eternal fulness in which they are natural to God, the God of all grace, who is rich in mercy, and is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. May you drink them in according to their essential fulness, and ever drink into them deeper and deeper; for in our day we want stirring up, that we may apprehend and possess now our present portion, which is not one of human sympathies and limited pitifulnesses, but of joy, and peace, and devotedness.
My wife and daughter joined me last week at Quebec, and from that we came on hither. They both would greet you lovingly; the former has been ill in London, and it was supposed that a sea voyage and entire change of air might restore her. She is in the Lord's hands. He gave her to me, and He can keep her my companion down here. I look up to Him, to Him alone; He is able and He is willing to show His power and His grace I am sure.
Ever affectionately, with love to all saints, G.V.W.
Montreal, via 3, Howley Place, Harrow Road, London, W, September 5th, 1867.
MY DEAR MISS -, -- My wife, daughter, and maid left Liverpool on the 15th August, and arrived at Quebec on the 27th. Mercy marked their passage through the great deep. My wife had been ill, and wished to come; and the friends whom she consulted, as Dr. Mackern and Dr. Wilkie, thought that the entire change and colder air might very likely be a benefit. I only advised them to consult the Lord, and do nothing for which they were not quite competent; and they came. I met them at Quebec, to which town their passages were taken, and obtained leave for them to come on in the same boat to Montreal, where we arrived on this day week, the 29th. Her weakness is great, and the exhaustion great; but she is in the Lord's hands, and I, and she, we are both sure He will do all things well. To restore from beyond the grave is to Him easy; to turn back the downward course is to Him a pleasure, who is the resurrection and the life. Her enjoyment of the pure air, and her comfort in having come forth under the Lord's banner, are both of them great. This, and the way that she finds the value of her daughter in her illness, are mercies. I might be jealous to see how little consequence I seem to be of! "No one can do anything like Theodora" is her feeling. But for this I bless God unfeignedly; for I do not think a better nurse could well be found, or a more attentive one by day and by night than her own child. Our maid is a good girl too, and she is fond of her and her quiet way, so that is a mercy. And our friends the B-s have housed us in airy and very quiet rooms outside of the town. I am sure you will feel glad to hear these particulars. My wife had your note of the 16th August, but is too feeble to read or to reply to it, so she has commissioned me to do so in her stead. The work is steady in these parts -- Canada. It is more opening than opened in the United States. though there is a beginning in New York and in Boston, and up and down the country -- here two, there three; in that point one, -- in this four -- but enquiry is going on, and in the week I spent in Boston I found many anxious to hear, and still more feeling they could not go on with the old things which have not Christ and His Spirit in them. I am going on with Present Testimony now, and have just sent off a batch. You saw vol. i. of new series doubtless. . . . My wife's kindest love, to you.
Most affectionately in the Lord. G.V.W.
September 14th, 1867.
MY DEAR SISTERS IN CHRIST, -- The Lord has asked for and taken (and would I say Him, Nay?) my sister and companion.
She gently departed at 10.10 p.m. on Thursday, 12th September, 1867, in perfect peace -- the peace of God Himself.
I cannot write more just now, save that "it is well," all of it, so well that none but He could say how well.*
Yours and ours around you,
Most truly in Christ, G.V.W.
Dear -- and -- will pray that Christ may be magnified in me, in this I am sure, and so will ours at -.
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER IN THE LORD, -- I and my daughter, and a sister in the Lord who travels with us, came on here from New York on the 12th of December I had paid a seven weeks' visit there, and after our brother J. N. D. came, and had stayed three weeks with us in our lodging, I thought it well to come on hither so as to make the most of what little we may have to use in His service.
The dear M-'s were well; for him, well; she as usual. I speak of the body. The Lord seems to be "lessoning" him (as the poor people in England say), and I think if he could but make up his mind to leave himself as a dead man in the hands of the Lord, and to look up more simply and entirely to the Lord in heaven, he would be more steadily in peace and joy, and perhaps his body be less in his way. I know how the doctor thinks bad things about said body, but doctors know very little about how far the Lord may out of weakness make strong, or how He may make His strength perfect in weakness.
Your sympathy and your wife's to me, beloved brother, was gracious and of the Lord. But I have felt from the first, as to my companion leaving me at Montreal (to me so unlooked-for a close of fellowship in labour and toil), "Thou didst it," and I have added from the first, "Therefore I am dumb." Probably I have been put through deeper exercises in some things than others, and can walk quietly therefore when I have learnt my lesson, as others who have not learnt it could not. And what really is there to make lengthened residence here on earth desirable to a child of God? Cross, conflict, watching, fighting, are the present experiences of each one who is a soldier of Christ down here; armour never off in war time, and in an enemy's land. And patient as she was, she felt the incessancy of the pilgrim journey, and the weariness of her own weak self too; but rest and presence with the Lord were near. Had they been offered to her she would have hesitated to take them for my sake. Had I been consulted, I could not have answered more wisely than, "Thou, Lord, shalt answer for me." He did not consult me, but took her and left me, and in so doing made an appeal to me -- Would I bow to Him? would I rejoice in her gain? The lonely path I am in He looks down upon me in, and reminds me of the glory to come, and of being for ever with the Lord. Surely "our Jesus hath done all things well," and all the weaknesses which this trial exposes me to feel and to realize have their answer in Himself, a very present answer. And if humiliation and conscious weakness be mine, and a needs-be to repress the expression of affections to others, which her presence enabled me safely to do, the life He has given me He can guide skilfully with His own hand, and keep me to His praise and glory. The being poured from vessel to vessel, if not pleasant, is good for our souls, and hinders formality and sleepiness.
I have been brought into contact of war with annihilationists, etc., of this land, and am trying my hand at a poor man's view of the case. The path is plain to a wayfaring man, but the wickedness of the heretic and his dishonesty makes the difficulty. Still, if the Lord will condescend to give me a wayfaring man's view of the great white throne, I think it may help some of His own children. To pull to pieces the tracts which uphold the heresy were easy enough, I think; for they are all the expression of the busy diligence of man's mind, trying to make God to be what will suit better an unrepentant sinner than will the God of Scripture.
Universalism is another form of evil here; so is spiritualism, which (dropping the Bible) makes man's thoughts to be all from God, vile and filthy as the results are of this system in every vile license to the flesh.
How blessed it is to remember the changelessness of Him who is the eternal Lover of our souls! And oh, what a love He has shown and does show to each of us! We need not wait for the glory to come if we really have been walking in the light, as He is in the light, to set to our seal that God is love, as Christ our portion, and we His, are thought of by us.
Our kindest salutation to one and all of ours. God's best blessing be upon and with you. G.V.W.
Toronto, Ontario, October 1st, 1867.
MY DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD, -- I fear I shall not see the dear M-s this autumn, unless the Lord has some way for me to walk in that I know not. But in truth I felt that the Lord meant you to be there just now, and not me. I came hither last week, looking towards Milwaukie and the West. I have been arrested in passage by an attack of sickness, and I have to pause; but He layeth down and He lifteth up, and He can renew strength and send forward if He will.
I find Him very good, and that nothing but the perception of His love as a present portion suffices, in this dry and dreary land, to give freshness to my heart and mind and life. Oh that men would cleave closer to Him -- more in the secret of His love!
My kindest salutation in Christ to all that are His around you, and most especially to our brother and sister
Ever yours, dear brother, and waiting for Him, for whom you wait, G.V.W.
November 27th, 1867.
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD, -- Everything is under His hand, who is the Saviour God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and not only so, but everything is in truth so with regard to us His children, above, below, before, behind, around, within us, His work all for our good, our real good, not for our pleasure now, but for our eternal good. We may (and we are called to it) know and find rest in this; yea, by faith in His word about it, may sing our songs amid all the breakage and the wrecking that shatters the earthly tabernacle and rolls the waves of death all around us. But, 2 Cor. 1, God is the God of resurrection for us in the wilderness, as in 2 Cor. 12 He had taught Paul in connection with his catching up into the third heavens, how it is "a hard saying" this to nature, but to the spiritual man it is blessed to see, writhe nature as it may, that all is under His hand and guidance.
Yours of the 7th is to hand. It awakens in me stronger hopes as to -. If God blesses -- the sentence of death must roll in first, and the deeper the wave the higher the blessing afterwards. God is not debtor to us to do, to give anything; but when we have prayed, and attributed our prayers to His gift, faith looks up freely and hopes. Assure our beloved sister of my sympathy and thought about her. It is a little thing when Christ and His sympathy and thought are pledged to us; but the littleness of a fellowmember sometimes helps another fellow-member to apprehend the greatness of what is true in the Head. I may not write more, as calls press and post goes. Your writing was no intrusion upon privacy, any more than the pitcher let down into the well would be. If Christ has opened a well in any of us, and if He has given rivers of living water to flow forth, these things are not private. They are, first of all, Christ's for His joy; secondly, the individual's; but thirdly, the portion common to all who can use them. What poor things we are, trickle the water as it may through the stony rock, to be fellow-helpers of one another's strength, and joy, and peace in the Lord.
Ever in the Lord yours, G.V.W.
March 12th, 1868.
MY DEAR MISS -, -- Welcome but not unexpected was the good news of -'s being better in the body. I trust the Lord will use her illness to her own soul, and to that of each to whom she is dear, in making us all feel that the body we are now in, each of us, must be changed ere we can have the joy of the taste abidingly of the Lord's presence and love.
It is not only the world around which says, "This is not your rest;" but the bodies we are in say the same thing. A rough muddy road is one thing to make you wish to be by your fireside in a wintry day's walk, but a peg or a nail up through the boot sole will be a strong confirmation of the same.
Love to her, and to each, and to all, G.V.W.
November 11th, 1868.
An old uncle bids you God-speed, and commends you both to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Night is nearly over, so mind you walk worthily of the day. If I and -- return ere daybreak I shall hope to come and see you. G.V.W.
P.S. -- You may tell -- from me that she has not yet got to the bottom, but when she does she will find the Lord there. G.V.W.
November 25th, 1868.
MY DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD, -- . . . . He knows and does all after His mind whose love, wisdom, and grace we could not better if we would. Thank God, I would not try to do so. Though the old nature in me would think of self, God has put it away in Christ, according to Romans 6, and looks upon it as crucified, dead and buried together with Christ; and I would do so too -- though I find that power for the new nature is needed if I am to do so constantly and steadily, not by fits and starts only, but so as to be able to say, "To me to live is Christ," as well as "to die is gain." Motives flowing from Christ, energy of Christ, Christ is the only object; and all three involved in, "To me to live is Christ."
We left Southampton November 17th, 1868; the four months in England gave time now to see the advance of His own work there, in the testimony; and Scotland is now open so that none can shut. We had five Guelph meetings, one at Dublin, and (after that) in York, Stratford-on-Avon, Taunton, Edinburgh, and London, which also gave occasion for seeing the brotherhood.
What a contrast now everywhere to what it was in 1827, when I began to work and had to pray and wait, take a step, and be content to stand and let Satan try to undermine it, and let men break themselves against it! But God is God in every day, and there is no work worth much but what is in Him and under His Spirit. Paul's work in starting the ball, Luther's, etc., in bringing out the sacred Scriptures again, and this in the closing days, each has its own place, but all under God's hand. And oh! for more Nazariteship, practically and individually, is what we groan for; for unless the vessel be gladly set apart or clean for the Lord -- the power of the Spirit, what would it be? I have seen many a foul gun burst because it was foul, and so far as I can see for no other cause whatsoever. The testimony too, as a place, tries ourselves, if it also tries others that hear it; too much sail will upset the ballastless boat. Well, God is able to deliver us, not only from the world and Satan practically, but from our own selves also, otherwise what and where would be His great salvation?
My mind oft thinks of you, and of sorrows which must have passed through your soul in connection with the failure to walk in the Spirit, and so getting into the flesh, of some in England dear to you. But it was mercy which would not let David, or Jonah, or Peter, walk in a vain show; but when they were loosely girded let them show themselves as they were. God would rather have His own name openly dishonoured among men by a servant's walk than cover over a false appearance in the servant. He is the God of reality. A pretty specimen of a note for you, like a blind reader, at the post-office, to try and decipher. Well, it will tell that the Lord makes me think of you. Love to all the Lord's.
February 2nd, 1869.
IN my wanderings you have had a place in my heart and mind before the Lord. Rest in Christ, as of sinners the chief (and I cannot put you lower down than that), is what I have craved for you -- that you should cease from yourself and find your all in Christ as Saviour of lost ones. I know how the duties of a new life and new relationships press upon the soul, and how they increase sensibly the felt need of rest in Christ, and in the weakness which is ours seem to render us unable to do anything to help ourselves. But after all we must get down to what is said in Romans 5: 6, 8, 10, as to ourselves and God, too, When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
We are pretty well, and nearing three months' duration of absence from London. We expect to go Barbados-wards in about ten days, and thence on to Jamaica, if the Lord will, en route to Great Britain.
The range of thermometer here has been from 85* down to 72, but more generally from 85* to 75*. The rainy season ne se fait pas cet hiver, and drought is imminent. We little know in England the value of fresh water, or how costly a gift a cup of cold water oft is here. A friend at whose house I am has given some touching pictures of this; but water is not as yet failed, though government has to fetch it down from up the river, and then send it up the rail, where it fetches now about a penny a gallon of our money. My kind love to all of ours around you. G.V.W.
Friday, May 23rd, 1869.
MY DEAR -, -- I postpone writing about the state of things here until I may have had the fullest opportunity which so short a visit can give of seeing. But the Lord's great grace to us-ward should be named, and along with the mention of that our own pitiful weakness. If one could but be nothing, He might use us more. The carpenter can use his saw, or file, or hammer, without fear of its boasting of the work being its own. If God used His children without a good deal of discipline to them accompanying, they would be spoilt, and boast in what was wrought as being theirs and not His. He loves us too much for that. Whom He loves He chastens, and well does He know what in each of us are the tender parts which being touched we feel most.
But it is all that we may be partakers of His holiness, and become fitted to walk with Him while we are still down here in the wilderness; and a broken and contrite heart He will not despise. You and your wife are both in His hand, and while to you the seeing her suffering is a strong and a searching medicine, it is one as full of love to you, and of grace toward His children around you, as it is of love and favour to herself. I look, up for her thus: first, that she may glorify God while in the furnace, and that Christ may be magnified, made to lookers-on to appear bigger than they thought Him, in her body, whether it be by life or by death. But then I look up for myself and us: that she may be restored to us, and that we may not have sorrow upon sorrow. He is pitiful to His children, and I am sure He knows how deeply sorrow would be ours if she were taken now to enter into her joyful rest. His will be done, come what may; and nothing is without Him. As the First and the Last, He is Master of the ground long before we were in being: yet I do hope in Him for her restoration, and for our consolation as well as yours therein.
Most affectionately yours, G.V.W.
MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER IN THE LORD, -- I am in debt to you a letter. Look at the passages in Song of Solomon, at which I was looking this morning (a) Cant. 2: 16: "My Beloved in mine, and I am His." It is like the burst of feeling of a young believer, rejoicing in his newly-acquired relationship to Christ. I love Him, and we understand one another; since I have chosen Him, He is mine, and I am His. (b) Cant. 6: 3: "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine" -- a more sobered expression, for she had learnt a good bit more of what a poor thing she was, how fickle her will, how unworthy her grasp to be thought much of; but, just what she was, He had not turned away from her. She was His, and she loved Him. He was her Beloved, and if she was His, then He was hers too. It is a much more sober statement, with much less of feeling and experience, but more depth of faith, and more perception of the real rights of things. But there is yet a more sober statement of the same import a little further on (c), Cant. 7: 10, 11: "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is toward me;" and this is much nearer the rights of the case, "I pertain to Him whom I love, and His desire is toward me." The why and the wherefore of His desire being towards her, she states not.
The Song of Songs is about persons of glory on earth, not in heaven, and so, not Christ the Head of the body, the Bridegroom of a heavenly bride, but the Lord, as root and offspring of David, and the land Beulah married to Jehovah, is in question in the Song. The Church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. But the why and the wherefore we know; the promises had been made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to these the servants of the Lord, the Messiah, would be faithful. I do not remember any passage about Old Testament blessing in which "counsel" is named as at the root; but there are many in which "covenant" and "promise" unconditionally are named. The naming of the counsels from before the foundation of the world, in God's own eternity, came out as one of the secret things reserved for the manifestation of what belongs to an earth-rejected Messiah when returned to heaven. I could wish we saw more now of the spiritual sense of personal relationship to the Lord which is found in His beloved in the Song. "Are my sins forgiven me?" is the language of piety now, and how few rise above that into the enjoyed relationship, into the known association with the Lord.
The work proceeds here, but it is very slowly moving. This does not trouble me, if what is wrought stands firm. Naturally one looks for it to be shown in a land like this, where the wildest notions upon every subject of religion are abroad. Yet God is God, and He has not forgotten His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, nor will He forget to gather a people out to wait for Him, and to say, "Come, Lord Jesus." I am reduced down to that as the basis of all my hope; or, if you please, have had to ascend right up to that, as the basis of faith, of hope, and of love and charity too.
God the destroyer of the works of Satan (see John's epistle) was my main stay this last winter, amid much weakness and feebleness and infirmity, and it is a blade we can use, sharp as it is; for He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is in relationship known and owned by Him in grace to us-ward His children.
I felt deeply your disappointment this winter in no visitor, after expectation had been awakened. And I longed to come, but no steam-boat running, and my shattered state of body, and a hindrance, too, in the Lord's providence, made me feel that, however unwillingly I must give up the thought. But He is a great giver, and if He hides His hand from giving today, tomorrow He oft gives twofold. My daughter unites in Christian love to your wife and all saints.
Grace, mercy, and peace abound toward you, according to the fulness of God, the Father's love in Christ Jesus. G.V.W.
P.S. -- Yours to hand. I look up for Mrs. -. Kindest love to her, and I may say to all.
I knew -- would be scourged for not leaving all with the Lord. To stop one's own energy is most difficult of all. "If I could but find something to do" is oft our feeling. To leave all with God is another thing altogether.
June 1st, 1869.
I FIND the secret of all peaceful rest in God in Rom. 3 to Rom. 8: 10, which contains God's judgment upon me as a creature before its Creator, and the provision which, for His own name's sake, He has made to enable a ruined creature, lost and undone in itself, to find and to be able to boast in its having rest in Him.
True, there is a painful lesson to be learnt and appropriated too; viz., that "I am a poor sinner and nothing at all," and that to want to be something in myself, or somebody, is all vanity. Jesus Christ, of God's providing for the sinner, alone can give rest to a sinner, or be his rest of heart and mind and soul; and true too it is that until we get to the end of self, and give it up as irremediably bad (so bad that even God Himself can bring no goodness out of it, but has to produce a new creature), we shall still be looking for goodness in self. G.V.W.
June 8th, 1869.
MY DEAR MISS -, -- . . ., Your note of 3rd June tells of your own, and the saints at -- experiences of the Lord's goodness. Heartily do I praise Him, and if He has put me into the hearts of His saints, because I am in His own heart, I suppose, well, I bow to Him for that too. He is always Himself. It seems strange to be in London and England again, but He does as He wills, and I suppose He will give me, when the first pressure is a little over, some time for seeing friends.
Kindest salutations to each and all, From yours and theirs, G.V.W.
August 3rd, 1869.
MY DEAR -, -- I quite counted that some of those who came during the winter season would drop off when the waters of testimony got again into their wonted channels. This is always the case; but not with all who come, for some do remain and get blessing after the torrents have subsided. Besides this, there is the putting the testimony off a private on to a public one, and that abides. And so does the confirmation of old truth which new visitors give to the old company. But I am quite satisfied to leave all in the Lord's hands. And the confirmation, as I suppose, which our visits gave to your labours which had preceded them, I look to as a happy mark of the Lord's exceeding grace and love.
As to myself, about whom you so kindly and frequently ask, weariness of body was mine on arriving in England, and I judge that the Lord's hand was in it, too, for my good. But a quiet month's rest and prayer -- only going out on Sundays and occasionally on week days -- was blessed to the putting of me into my usual quota of strength -- never very great. Mr. D- looked ten years younger than when he went out, and has been taking full trial of it, in rounds of work fitter for a man of fifty than one who is nearing seventy. But, though looking tired and worn, he seemed not much the worse for his work. He is now preparing to start for the Continent.
I think ours from Barbados, in Demerara, should be content to wait on the Lord until He, in answer to their prayers, pours in more power on the assembly. Of course in returning to England I find some things altered, and can see some things perhaps, after eight months' absence, which I could not before. I do not hide either declension from what was good, or falls into what is evil, from me; but how to meet and help up and onward the feeble knees, etc., as Heb. 12: 12, 13, is the difficulty; so I find it, and that not only here, but, as you can imagine, in Barbados and in Demerara. The eye that is most anointed will not be the first to see failure in others, and the soul that knows most of walking under the yoke with the Master (Matt. 11) will not be the first to undertake the putting right, according to its own mind, of what halts and limps in others.
As to the work at -, I am thankful -- is there. The temptations are less than they were near London; and perhaps more of the grating of the earth against the ploughshare, so far good. But the way that he ignores the fact that he is at work on other men's foundations, and the very low line of truth which he is upon, gives me, on the other side, certain feelings of anxieties. Still the Lord is over all, and above all, and our extremity is oft God's opportunity. I fear for the souls of some who are in work, that they are risking lasting damage to themselves, while the work they are doing may all have its place as work. Indeed, to say the truth, I often think that we sin against souls when we lend encouragement for them to go on working obviously beyond the measure of the Spirit's power with them. . . .
I am sure we have not too many labourers nowadays; but this, while it should lead to encouragement of every labourer, however lame a one, ought also to lead to fears as to those who may be spoiled if allowed to run too quickly.
Most affectionately, G.V.W.
York, November 6th, 1869.
MY DEAR BROTHER -, -- My heart has kept saying, amid the clamorous calls of many engagements to do this and that, to go here and there, "B.-" and "Mrs. -" and "Brethren in Barbados." Well: perhaps if it came through my heart and its affections, the voice came from higher up, even from One whose eye sees as well one side of the earth as the other, and both at the same moment, I write from York on my way from Edinburgh (where they have had their yearly meeting) to Manchester, where a quarterly meeting is to be, God willing, next week.
At the former, as for Scotland, and the North of Ireland, we had a fair opportunity of seeing how the door is opening, if gradually, yet gradually opening. Four years ago, save at the four places where was breaking of bread, none knew, and few cared about, the knowledge of forgiveness of sins. Last year at Edinburgh there may have been saints from fourteen, as this year from twenty-four places, where there is now breaking of bread, and if eighty last year, attendants from all parts, one hundred and sixty this; and a growing sense outside of us of the need of this doctrine of the knowledge of forgiveness of sins as lying very near the basis of all blessing, if not even inseparable from it, -- and in a sense preceding it. Until sin be forgiven the soul cannot look up to God, nor till the blood is owned can the Spirit, who gives life and power, dwell in us. -- was not able to be there, for the hospital duties had re-commenced, as I suppose, and he had had his outing, and had been preaching in London, Broadstairs, Kent, etc. I fear the excitement in Aberdeen is rather too much, and that he may be working beyond his strength of body and power in the Spirit. But that is the right side, perhaps, to err upon in these days of self-preservation and avoidance of trusting in God. Perhaps there will come a time of calm teaching in Scotland. Patience of hope was called for while the door was shut, labour of love when the door opened; consolidation and exercise of faith may go together perhaps. At any rate, His mercy that has opened the door is to be owned. All South Scotland and the border land seems coming under the testimony, from Shields and Newcastle right back west. . . .
There has been a pushing out of the Lord from the central points of several, and a taking home of some too; also an adding of witnesses. His name be praised! All is in His hand, and He can supply labourers if He will, or work without them too if He will; for He does not depend upon our readiness to serve Him, in order for there to be blessing. He can save by many or by few.
Ritualism is becoming more and more material and fleshly here, and is largely affecting Dissenters, though not so much so as it does the Establishment of the country. The Master is the only one to be looked to, and His Spirit will not fail those who seek to bear testimony to the worth of the person and work of the Lord, and the counsels, plans, and prospects of the Lord of all glory.
My body has been better and stronger since July. For one month after our arrival in England I had to keep still, and recline a good deal. Well, to have His will done, and to enter into His mind, that we may intelligently and as from ourselves and of our hearty accord do it, that is the blessing.
Most affectionately yours in the blessed Lord, G.V.W.
February 2nd, 1870.
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD, -- "Behold he prayeth" told to Ananias a deal about God's heart and Saul. The forty-sixth Psalm is, as Luther used to say, a cure for little faith if taken pure and as it is. It is the Lord's mercy to put us back upon resurrection from among the dead always.
Affectionately yours, G.V.W.
We have some good cases of answers to prayer here of late.
July 16th, 1870.
MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER IN THE LORD, -- I and daughter have been here (at Whitwell, Isle of Wight) a month yesterday. We left London two days after the party sailed, with J. N. D., for Quebec and Guelph meeting. I had been laid up with fever (of typhoid form) for three weeks in London, and was thankful to get away from all the noise and bustle for a little. I am sure the Lord meant it in love and for blessing from first to last, and I am satisfied that He has done wisely in it, and have had no thought but that His hand has ruled throughout the whole. . . . The Lord rules things otherwise than we think; and it is well to remember that, and to be passive waiters on His omnipotent and all-wise hand.
Often do I look across in thought to you in B-, and pray and trust for the blessing of the Lord on the work there and elsewhere. Prayer is sure work, and the harbinger of blessing. So I have found in forty-six years' pilgrimage; and laid aside this spring, these two months, it has been a comfort to me to think so, though I have been reminded, too, when drowsy and heavy, of a still more precious truth; viz., that if prayer be a channel of blessing, the spring is in God and the fountain of blessing Christ Jesus. And the blessings flow down freely, and often what sets us a praying for more is a first dropping of His rich love and grace. I have been preaching this evening (July 3rd) from 1 John 4, to a very simple, poor people, as showing what the gospel which John wanted us to hold fast in the last days was. I found it good as testing what passes for religion nowadays, and testing too one's own heart, and mind, and life. Antichrist, any in the place of Christ, and therefore opposed to Him, does not confess Him, will not do, brings in the world, is of the flesh.
We begin with God's love -- love, that is for sinners, sent His Son to make propitiation for sin, to give life, to be the Saviour of the world. Thus God puts home upon us that we are sinners -- loved as such in all our sins, but atoned for, life provided for, a Saviour found for us.
Then the Spirit given we dwell in God, and God in us, and find that as Christ is so are we, though in this world, love to the brethren, freedom from fear, we love Him because He first loved us, new birth known and victory over the world.
One-fourth of the village is Ritualistic High Churchism, half Bryanites, the rest, save some brethren, nothing at all. One hardly knows what form wickedness is preparing to take just now; but, blessed be His name, the full, perfect model of the good is clearly, plainly before us in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He with transforming power moulds us into the same image from glory to glory. I have thought of late that we live too far off from Him, and that our being so often fretted because of evil and evildoers is a proof of it. Letters yesterday from -; pretty well there, though he says they want power in the Spirit, and more practical Nazariteship.
Our kindest salutations to all of His household, and of your own too.
Affectionately in Christ, G.V.W.
3, H. P. H. Road, London, W. Oct. 17th, 1870.
MY DEAR -, -- I have a letter to send to Barbados from a brother, so I shall make that an excuse for writing a few lines to you. The Lord's grace in heaven is as bright in heaven to us-ward on this side of the sea as ever, for Christ shines always and ever the same. To you likewise He is unchangeably the same. 'Tis good to get up to Himself, where all is eternally bright and divine; for truly all else is either vile, or only good in measure (like the angels), or mixed of good and evil, like saints unfaithful to their Lord. . . .
We remember with affection, in and before the Lord, all the friends in Barbados, and earnestly desire that their light may shine out more and more, through the grace of the Lord Jesus, and presence with them of the power of the Spirit. A strong taste of Christ upon the heart, a savour of heaven and its blessedness, while it is the portion of the individual Christian, is a blessed testimony for Him for us in a world of feeling of which is, "Who will show us any good thing?" Satisfied with God, rejoicing in Christ, full of the Holy Ghost, the weakest believer may be well one wondered at, by men of the earth, whose bellies are filled with husks that the swine do eat, and who feel an incessant craving for something they know not what.
May the Lord, beloved brother, sustain and cheer you more and more.
Ever yours affectionately, G.V.W.
January 3rd, 1871.
MY DEAR -, -- . . . I think that the power of sympathy in -- and the want of girdle accounts for his overstepping himself. I must add, that if we had possessed more power of the Spirit and in the truth, we might have come in and rescued him perhaps. It is blessed in my eyes that there was self-sacrifice and no self-accumulation. I can leave him peacefully with Him who had loved and washed him from his sins, and made him, too, part of the royal priesthood unto His God.
I have been giving some lectures, on Lord's-day evening, on Eternal Redemption; the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man; on the glories of the Lord as Mediator, and His humiliation as High Priest; on the principle on which He took us up, the word of God being the only principle for our walk. He brought us out of the world and from under Satan by it, and making us hear it. Well, from Red Sea to Jordan, we must hear Him and find Him faithful to God for us, and in the entering into glory the same word will be His warrant and our power. I have hardly got into my subject as yet fully the contrasts between redemption in time and eternal redemption; but as I go along it seems to me that there is much precious ore to be gathered here, if so He will.
Tonight I had proposed the blood of the ransom as my subject; but cold lays me up, and another is the mouth-piece, and I am writing to you and -- a few lines each.
When I commenced lectures as above I thought to write out afterward the outline of what was given to me, and I tried to do so, but I found what with pressure of work, and what with the many questions which sprang up to interest me, I got searching for more gold dust, instead of giving what I had had given to me. Naturally an extempore word is not deep, as it is addressed to the mass, and also when questions and points crowd in upon the mind while we are speaking, we must needs drop them for the time being to go on. I try to drop the hook where the fish are to be caught, or to feed the mouths that are hungering. But when one sits down to write upon the same subject, new matter and new truth are before one's mind, and lead one off in another line. There is, too, a freshness of the Spirit often when one is speaking as to souls which makes the word tasted in a way it is not even if in a reading-meeting the same subject is gone over more fully. I felt this last week. In my week lecture I had come down to the armour, etc., in Eph. 6, and went through it as trying to break up the loaf among the children. Next day, at a large reading-meeting at -, dear -- there, I asked, "What shall we read?" No one seemed to have anything, and I suggested "the armour," in Eph. 6, which he read, and broke it up afresh. My object was that, feeling the immense importance of the doctrine to saints in London just now, I thought in the testimony of a second, the word might be confirmed; it was so, and more brought out a good deal, and very nice truth too. Yet those who had heard Thursday's lecture seemed to taste what they heard more than Friday's reading, though they admitted it was fuller and confirmatory of what was heard on Thursday. I observe this too with -. He said lately, "I am going to preach to souls, and not merely to say what is in the Word for the enlargement of the mind in truth. The people's souls must be thought of."
The work goes on here. All that we have to do is to walk with the Lord, and keep the door open yet in holiness. Our position is still so despised that there is nothing much to attract to it save the truth; and if we could be full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, that would secure blessings within.
Most affectionately yours in the blessed Lord, with love to your household and to all saints, G.V.W.
MY DEAR MR. -, It seems to me (I think too it is the Lord's mind) that if souls in Brisbane realised that Scripture declares that the assembly is indeed part of the habitation of God, that this alone would be sufficient, not only to show out the wrongness of the expressing therein of mere human feelings, but to produce humility for anything of the kind that has been.
If I go to the table of the Lord with the two truths in my soul -- 1st, that my own body is a temple of God (for the Spirit is in me); and, 2nd, that this is my qualification to be in the assembly; then, in that presence of God, any sin I may have been guilty of will keep me lowly and slow to speak on the one hand; and, on the other, make any one who may be there, and be, and may have been, troubled by me, watchful not to show even their feelings while there, whatever they may -- if it has been godly trouble in them as to me -- be led to do afterwards through my brethren there.
Supposing I had deceived any one, or told a lie, ere I went to the table I ought to confess it, lest I become hardened; and having done that to God and my brethren -- certainly if I knew that I had been guilty of what God could not do (He "cannot lie") -- it ought to make me soft and practically full of self-judgment. On the other hand, if you, or any one against whom the lie was, showed your human feelings, on my most unadvisedly taking a part, as leading in the morning worship, you wrong the Lord and yourself in so doing, and make too much of me altogether; and, more than that, your misconduct puts my misconduct into the second place, your expression of feeling being an overt action of the flesh -- positive in character, while mine was more negative - want of grace.
The whole doctrine of what the Church of God is is lost and denied if my stupid hardness and dulness as to what becomes God's presence is allowed, or if the table of the Lord is the place at which my will and feelings may be allowed.
You are master in your own house -- and if a party of friends met there, you are responsible that no one guest is allowed to grieve another guest; and if you invite me, and I come to your house, I am bound to behave worthily of you. At the table -- God being there, and the eyes of the Lord upon His twos and threes -- each one there has to act worthily of God's presence, and each one is responsible for the conduct of all there that it is worthy of the Lord's table. All that are at the table, be it ten or a hundred, are at the Lord's table, and each has the Spirit of God; and if any thing disorderly occurs thereat, each bears the blame, unless and until he has called attention at a proper time to it, and the assembly has cleared itself of the sanction of the evil which its silence gives.
It seems to me, the doctrines of what is the assembly (or church), and what is the responsibility of each person in it, are greatly needed in teaching in this hemisphere; and I hope, amid all these soul-grieving disturbances, and amid all our culpable ignorance and great weakness, that the Lord is yet working so as to bring us into more light, and more practical consistency with His mind about the assembly, and the conduct that becomes us, as sons of God, when at the table of our gracious Lord and Saviour. For three years or more, after I began to break bread, there were but three of us together -- I only name this as showing that I know the difficulties of the twos and threes; then we were nine, and a pause; then about sixteen. The difficulties are greater in a small number, very often, than in a large number, always so if human thoughts and feelings are more at work than faith and the Holy Spirit.
Your brother in Him, G.V.W.
March 4th, 1871.
G.V.W. answers for himself. He is up and about; much sickness everywhere around, but all bright and clear in heaven above. The socks are to hand, and shall be tried. The Lord preserve -- in her going out and coming in. My daughter got a chill on Tuesday, and seems to have a bilious influenza attack, with quinsy, so that I write for her as she did for me last year.
My kindest love to one and all of ours around you.
Most affectionately in Him our ascended Lord, G.V.W.
March 12th, 1871.
MY DEAR MISS -, -- Evil news they say flies apace; but, thank God, through Christ, what man calls evil news has a side where God is found; and what is there which brought into the light of a risen and ascended Lord but may shine in His light?
It has pleased Him, verily, to permit me to be called upon to pay back a loan of His love to me. And the way in which He has wrought has been most merciful and pitiful, saying, as it were, to herself, If you know love, in that He laid down His life for you, do thou also lay down thy life for the brethren. This hindered its being an accident, as many call it. "My steps, thy steps" involves, and grows up out of, the privilege of -- having been made, through grace, one with Himself.
The reality that she is gone before remains, however, and through grace, by the Spirit, I justify Him in every step of the way, and cannot call it hard that He should have permitted her to go on high through nursing the sick.
I did not write to you sooner through pressure of duties. Mr. -- died in the Lord on Saturday, at twelve, a very bright specimen of mercy. She* is feeble, but happy in the Lord too. It is good to taste and feel the wilderness.
Love to all in the Lord, G.V.W.
*i.e. the widow. -- ED.
April 9th, 1871.
MY DEAR -, -- I have been watching for an opportunity in which to write to you and Mrs. -. But though at Malvern, I have found the calls, and visits, and letters, and reading-meetings, etc., absorb all my time. Today M. and B. E. are down here, and so I can get a free evening, which I think to claim, so as to write to you.
You may both have heard that it has pleased the Lord to call my child to Himself, and to have appointed the nursing of the sick poor, as her chariot of fire. The last Monday in April she went, hoping to save M. C-, a nursemaid, from being overtaxed in nursing a case of malignant scarlet fever; on Tuesday night she saw she was ill; Wednesday was ailing, but about; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, ill, and departed at 7.30 that evening. When HE told me, Saturday, 5.30 a.m., "Pray not, for I take her," I said, "Not my will, but thine be done. Only enable thou me to glorify Christ therein, so shall I neither repine nor wish her back." He has been faithful as ever, and His grace perfects itself in weakness. Sorrow is selfish, and makes us turn in on self. I know that, and know too who has touched me herein. But not one single thing is displaced in heaven, by the Lord's loan to me, through 39 years, being moved up there. Till she was gone I had no idea of what she was to saints, and to many of the labouring ones too. She had got quietly into work, and had grown in grace and truth perceptibly to all around her. To me the way of her departure was a great grace, not disease accidentally contracted, but in service, and in one of danger, known danger; but her mind was made up that 1 John 3: 16 meant what it did. And, grievously too, the danger on that one occasion seemed nothing compared with the other cases she had met. But the Lord's mercy is perfect. I have not the will, if I had the power, to alter one item. Thank God, I feel what He has done! but surely the Lord Jesus is welcome to the best of what He has given me, to take it back at Any moment; and for herself, how much has she gained! I know many of you will sympathize with me. . . . G.V.W.
April 14th, 1871.
MY DEAR SISTERS IN THE LORD, -- I doubt not you have both and all prayed for me. So you should know how abundant in grace and mercy the Lord has been. Not in an uncommon way, as though He had found either a vessel or wants which gave Him an opportunity to show how He could go beyond everything in ordinary cases. No; that would risk puffing any one up; but by every-day truth. Surely the Christ who satisfied, to such overflowing, the heart and mind of a Paul, a Stephen, of all the tried members of the household of faith, can fill to fulness my heart. (Eph. 3: 14-21) The work must now suffice me for the little while.
Most affectionate love to both, and to all saints. G.V.W.
July 5th, 1871.
MY DEAR MISS -, . . . He has no regrets that He has taken her [the daughter] to be with Himself; and when He looks upon the many graves where His own have had their bodies placed, no depression, no pang is His, nor any sense of bereavement. These things challenge our hearts as to whether we really are dwellers in heaven or not, and as to whether faith or sight have most sway with us spirit or flesh. And He giveth more grace. . . .
I am again in London on business for a little. What next I still wait to see; but I have not forgotten my invitation to -.
Most truly yours in Christ Jesus, G.V.W.
September 1st, 1871.
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD, -- I am just starting for Paris, Dijon, and Vevey, if it may please God to refresh some through my visit. On my return I hope to see you, ere I go, if He permit, farther to work. I know I may count on the beloved brethren at -. They will not forget me in their prayers, that Christ may be magnified in me, little as I am, more than He ever has been in me. What have any of us down here to live for save Himself and the blessing of His people?
With love to all. Most affectionately, G.V.W.
September 27th, 1871.
MY DEAR Miss -, -- Will you please direct this note for me to our sister? I thought I had her address, but I find it not. I enjoyed and got rested too in my little visit to -. How kind she is to me, and always so. Well, the Lord will repay it all, I doubt not. A round of work this morning, so I write this in haste ere going forth to it.
Ever yours in Christ, G.V.W.
I was reading at breakfast an account of a new sect, "The Positivists." The theory is, "Humanity is God," and besides that there is no God. What a fool man is when left to himself. But for the incarnation of the Son of God I should be ashamed to be a man.
October 1st, 1871.
MY DEAR FRIENDS, -- I know you will like to read a letter just come from our coloured brother. He is working apart from all system, and is one who has gleaned much from the Lord. Let me have it back at 3, H. P. Our brother, -, preached last Tuesday at C- Room, and said in the evening, "I feel twenty years younger." On Tuesday night, a few minutes after being in bed, he said something about "the end, the will of the Lord be done," and fell asleep. His wife asked for my presence at the funeral, and I hope, if the Lord will, to give it.
I ask the prayers of the assembly at -- for myself. I thought to ask them last Monday myself, but feared to do it. I am looking to Demerara, and then the West Indies, if the Lord will, by an early boat (2nd November), not that I count myself worthy to go, but the Lord is very gracious, and can use whom He will. It was the thought of this made me anxious to secure a sight of -- saints at once, seeing how short my stay might be in England. If He wills to bring me back in spring He can.
Ever affectionately yours in Him, G.V.W.
November 21st, 1871.
MY DEAR MISS -, -- On Sunday night, at twelve, I reached Barbados, when -- came on board to greet me, and -- to go on with me to Demerara. . . . We are now about fifty miles off Demerara, at half-past seven Tuesday evening, but as there is a mud bar to be crossed, and it is only high tide at one, I suppose we shall not be inside the bar, where Georgetown is, until two Wednesday morning.
I have found the Lord with me in the voyage, and I have no doubt but that He settled I was to come alone as to man, though dear A. P., who met me at the station, wanted much to come on with me; and indeed I would rather have had him than any one else, but I felt his family had a stronger claim than I had, and I said, No. . .
Most affectionate love to all saints, G.V.W.
Kingston, Jamaica, February 23rd, 1872.
MY DEAR -, -- Among changes many -- of circumstance and of place -- you have oft been before me, and that not only as one dear to me individually, but also, and the rather, as a vessel fitted for and called by grace to carry the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to present it and Him to men around you.
The Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the living and the only true God, is He whose perfect image has been presented to us in Jesus Christ; and not only so, but in grace most abundant it has all been written down for us in human language, so that amid all the failure of man as a bearer and reporter of truth, we have in the written word the exposition and presentation to each one of us of God's view of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I have been on South American shores, Demerara, and after that in Barbados (visiting brethren, labouring among saints and sinners), and am just arrived here with the like object. My heart has had to own the grace of God wheresoever I have been, but oh, the awful state of the mass professing to be Christians! and, alas! the little knowledge among true believers of the full and finished work of atonement; of how God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in Him. That truth becomes more and more precious in my eyes, and the knowledge of it through faith more and more distinctive of the blessing and blessedness wherewith God has made me to differ from what I was when I was in nature, and from my fellows all around me.
"Christ died, then I'm clean! Not a spot within,"
is often my morning song. Oft as I rise I sing that 22nd hymn
"How bright, there above, is the mercy of God!"
and follow it with the 327th --
"Lord Jesus! are we one with Thee!"
I find amid the wear and tear of life piety to be like oil on an overworked machine. "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," prepares the soul to give thanks always for all things. That is a fine test to the state of one's soul, and though the result of the application to my own soul oft humbles me, yet rather would I be humbled thus than cease to think that among other privileges this is one which Abba's love has prepared for us, even so to walk with Him that we can say, "All things work together for good to them that love God;" and if so, "In all things more than conquerors," and that enables one to give thanks always for all things. . . .
Heaven is opened on us, that we may look up and see Himself, Jesus, who sits there, our Anchor and Forerunner, fixed within the veil; may see Him who is the object of our faith, the giver of the Holy Ghost, and watch Him till He rises up to come forth and fetch us HOME; then all together, for ever with the Lord