A WANT SUPPLIED--RESOURCES EXCEEDING THE DEMAND--EVIL OF SURETYSHIP--POWER OF CHRISTIAN LOVE--GOD'S WORD THE FOOD OF THE SOUL--PREPARATION FOR THE HOUR OF TRIAL--POVERTY--DEPENDING ONLY ON THE LIVING GOD.
January 1, 1841. During this week we have daily met for prayer, for the especial purpose of asking the Lord to give us the means of having the last year's Report printed. It is three weeks since it might have been sent to the press. We felt this now to be a matter of especial importance, as, if the Report were not soon printed, it would be known that it arose from want of means. By the donations which came in during these last days for the orphans, and by ten pounds which was given to-day for the other funds, we have the means of defraying the expense of about two thirds of the printing, and therefore a part of the manuscript was sent off, trusting that the Lord would be pleased to send in more means before two sheets are printed off; but if not, we should then stop till we have more. Evening. There came in still further five pounds; also, ten shillings and three shillings.
Jan. 11. Monday. During the last week the Lord not only supplied us richly with all we needed for the orphans, but enabled us to put by several pounds towards printing the Report. On Saturday evening there was only three shillings sixpence left. On this account I was looking out for answers to my prayers for means, and the Lord did not disappoint me. There came in altogether yesterday nine pounds sixteen shillings fourpence. We have now enough even for the last part of the Report.
Jan. 12. To-day I have received a letter from a brother, in which he empowers me to draw upon his bankers, during this year, to the amount of one thousand pounds, for any brethren who have it in their hearts to give themselves to missionary service in the East Indies, and whom I shall consider called for this service, as far as I am able to judge. [This power lasted only for that year; but no brethren who seemed to be suitable offered themselves for this service. This is another fresh proof how much more easily pecuniary means can be obtained than suitable individuals. Indeed, in all my experience I have found it thus, that if I could only settle that a certain thing to be done was according to the will of God, the means were soon obtained to carry it into effect.]
Jan. 13. This evening I was called to the house of a brother and sister who are in the deepest distress. The brother had become surety for the debts of his son, not in the least expecting that he ever should be called upon for the payment of them; but, as his son has not discharged his debts, the father has been called upon to do so; and except the money is paid within a few days, he will be imprisoned.
How precious it is, even for this life, to act according to the word of God! This perfect revelation of his mind gives us directions for everything, even the most minute affairs of this life. It commands us, "Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts." Prov. xxii. 26. The way in which Satan ensnares persons, to bring them into the net, and to bring trouble upon them by becoming sureties, is, that he seeks to represent the matter as if there were no danger connected with that particular case, and that one might be sure one should never be called upon to pay the money; but the Lord, the faithful Friend, tells us in his own word that the only way "to be sure" in such a matter is "to hate suretyship." Prov. xi. 15. The following points seem to me of solemn moment for consideration, if I were called upon to become surety for another: 1. What obliges the person who wishes me to become surety for him to need a surety? Is it really a good cause in which I am called upon to become surety? I do not remember ever to have met with a case in which in a plain, and godly, and in all respects scriptural matter such a thing occurred. There was generally some sin or other connected with it. 2. If I become surety, notwithstanding what the Lord has said to me in his word, am I in such a position that no one will be injured by my being called upon to fulfil the engagements of the person for whom I am going to be surety? In most instances this alone ought to keep one from it. 3. If still I become surety, the amount of money for which I become responsible must be so in my power that I am able to produce it whenever it is called for, in order that the name of the Lord may not be dishonored. 4. But if there be the possibility of having to fulfil the engagements of the person in whose stead I have to stand, is it the will of the Lord that I should spend my means in that way? Is it not rather his will that my means should be spent in another way? 5. How can I get over the plain word of the Lord, which is to the contrary, even if the first four points could be satisfactorily settled?
March 4. From February 22 up to this day our necessities in the day schools were supplied by thirteen small donations, and by a donation of eight pounds from Q. Q. To-day I received fifteen pounds. When this arrived there was not one penny in hand for the day schools, whilst two days after about seven pounds was needed. This money came from a considerable distance, and from a brother who never had assisted in this work before, whereby the Lord afresh shows how easily he can raise up new helpers.
For the encouragement of believers, who are tried by having unconverted relatives and friends, I will relate the following circumstance, the truth of which I know.
Baron Von K., who resided in my own country, the kingdom of Prussia, had been for many years a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Even about the commencement of this century, when there was almost universal darkness or even open infidelity spread over the whole continent of Europe, he knew the Lord Jesus; and when, about the year 1806, there was the greatest distress in Silesia among many thousands of weavers, this blessed man of God took the following gracious step for his Lord and Master. As the weavers had no employment, the whole continent almost being in an unsettled state on account of Napoleon's career, it seemed to him the will of the Lord that he should use his very considerable property to furnish these poor weavers with work, in order to save them from the greatest state of destitution, though in doing this there was not only no prospect of gain, but the certain prospect of immense loss. He therefore found employment for about six thousand weavers. But he was not content with this. Whilst he gave the bread which perishes, he also sought to minister to the souls of these weavers. To that end he sought to set believers as overseers over this immense weaving concern, and not only saw to it that the weavers were instructed in spiritual things, but he himself also set the truth before them. Thus it went on for a good while, till at last, on account of the loss of the chief part of his property, he was obliged to think about giving it up. But by this time this precious act of mercy had so commended itself to the government that it was taken up by them and carried on till the times altered. Baron von K. was, however, appointed director of the whole concern as long as it existed.
This dear man of God was not content with this. He travelled through many countries to visit the prisons, for the sake of improving the temporal and spiritual condition of the prisoners, and among all the other things which he sought to do for the Lord was this also in particular: He assisted poor students whilst at the university of Berlin, especially those who studied divinity, as it is called, in order to get access to them, and to win them for the Lord. One day a most talented young man, whose father lived at Breslau, where there is likewise a university, heard of the aged baron's kindness to students, and he therefore wrote to him, requesting him to assist him, as his own father could not well afford to support him any longer, having other children to provide for. A short time afterwards young T. received a most kind reply from the baron, inviting him to come to Berlin; but, before this letter arrived, the young student had heard that Baron von K. was a pietist or mystic, as true believers are contemptuously called in Germany; and as young T. was of a highly philosophical turn of mind, reasoning about everything, questioning the truth of revelation, yea, questioning, most sceptically, the existence of God, he much disliked the prospect of going to the old baron. Still, he thought he could but try, and if he did not like it, he was not bound to remain in connection with him. He arrived in Berlin on a day when there was a great review of the troops, and, being full of this, he began to speak about it to the steward of the baron. The steward, however, being a believer, turned the conversation, before the young student was aware of it, to spiritual things; and yet he could not say that it had been forced. He began another subject, and a third, but still it always came presently again to spiritual things.
At last the baron came, who received young T. in the most affectionate and familiar manner, as if he had been his equal, and as if young T. bestowed a favor on him, rather than that he was favored by the baron. The baron offered him a room in his own house, and a place at his own table, while he should be studying in Berlin, which young T. accepted. He now sought in every way to treat the young student in the most kind and affectionate way, and as much as possible to serve him, and to show him the power of the gospel in his own life, without arguing with him, yea, without speaking to him directly about his soul. For, discovering in young T. a most reasoning and sceptical mind, he avoided in every possible way getting into any argument with him, while the young student again and again said to himself, "I wish I could get into an argument with this old fool; I would show him his folly." But the baron avoided it. When the young student used to come home in the evening, and the baron heard him come, he would himself go to meet him on entering the house, would light his candle, would assist and serve him, in any way he could, even to the fetching the bootjack for him, and helping him to take off his boots. Thus this lowly aged disciple went on for some time, whilst the young student still sought an opportunity for arguing with him, but wondered nevertheless how the baron could thus serve him. One evening, on the return of young T. to the baron's house, when the baron was making himself his servant as usual, he could refrain himself no longer, but burst out thus: "Baron, how can you do all this? You see I do not care about you, and how are you able to continue to be so kind to me, and thus to serve me?" The baron replied, "My dear young friend, I have learned it from the Lord Jesus. I wish you would read through the Gospel of John. Good night." The student now for the first time in his life sat down and read the word of God in a disposition of mind to be willing to learn, whilst up to that time he had never read the Holy Scriptures but with the view of wishing to find out arguments against them. It pleased God to bless him. From that time he became himself a follower of the Lord Jesus, and has been so ever since.
May 7. It has recently pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now, while preparing the fifth edition for the press, more than fourteen years have since passed away. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.
I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, either very soon after or at a later time, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.
With this mode I have likewise combined the being out in the open air for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours, before breakfast, walking about in the fields, and in the summer sitting for a little on the stiles, if I find it too much to walk all the time. I find it very beneficial to my health to walk thus for meditation before breakfast, and am now so in the habit of using the time for that purpose, that when I get into the open air I generally take out a New Testament of good-sized type, which I carry with me for that purpose, besides my Bible; and I find that I can profitably spend my time in the open air, which formerly was not the case, for want of habit. I used to consider the time spent in walking a loss, but now I find it very profitable, not only to my body, but also to my soul. The walking out before breakfast is of course not necessarily connected with this matter, and every one has to judge according to his strength and other circumstances.
The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for a revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer. But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour, on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that he has brought before me in his precious word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate, with God's blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. There is thus far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had previously time for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I had ever had before; and after having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. In addition to this I generally read, after family prayer, larger portions of the word of God, when I still pursue my practice of reading regularly onward in the Holy Scriptures, sometimes in the New Testament and sometimes in the Old, and for more than twenty-six years I have proved the blessedness of it. I take, also, either then or at other parts of the day, time more especially for prayer.
How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!
Oct. 1. When I had again not one penny in hand for the necessities of this day, there was brought to me this morning ten shillings for the orphans, which had been sent from Kensington. In the paper which contained the money, was written: "Your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things." "Trust in the Lord." This word of our Lord is to me of more value than many bank notes. About five minutes later I received from an Irish sister ten pounds, through her banker in London. I mention here, as a point particularly to be noticed, that after the season of comparative abundance had come to an end in September, the Lord did not at once allow us to be so sharply tried as we were afterwards. He dealt in the same gentle way with us three years before, when the trials of faith in this part of the work first commenced.
Nov. 2. At a time of the greatest poverty one pound was sent by a lady from Birmingham. About half an hour afterwards I received ten pounds from a brother who had saved up one hundred and fifty pounds, and put it into a savings bank, but who now sees that to devote this money to the promotion of the work of God tends more to the glory of the name of Jesus than to retain it in the savings bank upon interest for a time of sickness or old age; for he is assured that should such times come, the same Lord, who has hitherto cared for him whilst in health and strength and able to work, will also care for him then. The same brother gave me three pounds a fortnight since. This ten pounds came in very seasonably; for, though we had been able to provide for the absolute necessities of to-day, yet there was want in many respects, especially as a boy is just going out as an apprentice, who needs tools and an outfit.
Nov. 13. Saturday. This morning I took one shilling out of the box in my house. This shilling was all there was towards the need of to-day. Pause, dear reader, for a few moments! Consider that there are more than a hundred persons to be provided with everything they require; consider that there is no money in hand; and consider also that this is the case not once nor twice in the course of the year, but very frequently. Is it not precious, under such circumstances, to have the living God as a father to go to, who is ever able and ever willing to help, as it may be really needed? And to this privilege every one has a title who believes in the Lord Jesus, being as such a child of God. Galatians iii. 26. For though all believers in the Lord Jesus are not called upon to establish orphan houses, schools for poor children, etc., and trust in God for means; yet all believers, according to the will of God concerning them in Christ Jesus, may cast, and ought to cast, all their care upon him who careth for them, and need not be anxiously concerned about anything, as is plainly to be seen from 1 Peter v. 7, Philippians iv. 6, Matthew vi. 25-34. Under these circumstances of need, a silver watch, which only yesterday afternoon had become the property of the orphan fund, was disposed of, whereby we were helped through the expenses of to-day. The coals are almost gone in each of the houses. Every article of provision, etc., is likewise much reduced. Truly, we are exceedingly poor; nevertheless there are the necessary provisions till Monday morning, and thus we are brought to the close of another week. This afternoon all the laborers met for prayer.
Nov. 14. When we met again this afternoon for prayer, we had reason to praise, for the Lord had sent in means. This morning was given to me five pounds, and six shillings had come in by sale of articles.
Nov. 15. Last Friday brother Craik and I had a meeting for inquirers and candidates for fellowship. We saw eight, and had to send away ten whom we could not see, our strength being quite gone after we had seen the eight, one after another. This evening we saw seven, and had to send away three.
Nov. 16. The last four days we have daily met for prayer, there being no means to pay the teachers in the day schools. Besides this, we need a stove in one of the school-rooms; also some Bibles and tracts. To-day I received two pounds from a brother at Exmouth.
Dec. 9. We are now brought to the close of the sixth year of this part of the work, having only in hand the money which has been put by for the rent; but during the whole of this year we have been supplied with all that was needed.
During the last three years we had closed the accounts on this day, and had, a few days after, some public meetings, at which, for the benefit of the hearers, we stated how the Lord had dealt with us during the year, and the substance of what had been stated at those meetings was afterwards printed for the benefit of the church at large. This time, however, it appeared to us better to delay for a while both the public meetings and the publishing of the Report. Through grace we had learned to lean upon the Lord only, being assured that if we never were to speak or write one single word more about this work, yet should we be supplied with means, as long as he should enable us to depend on himself alone. But whilst we neither had had those public meetings for the purpose of exposing our necessity, nor had had the account of the Lord's dealings with us published for the sake of working thereby upon the feelings of the readers, and thus inducing them to give money, but only that we might by our experience benefit other saints; yet it might have appeared to some that in making known our circumstances we were actuated by some such motives. What better proof, therefore, could we give of our depending upon the living God alone, and not upon public meetings or printed reports, than that, in the midst of our deep poverty, instead of being glad for the time to have come when we could make known our circumstances, we still went on quietly for some time longer, without saying anything. We therefore determined, as we sought and still seek in this work to act for the profit of the saints generally, to delay both the public meetings and the Reports for a few months. Naturally we should have been, of course, as glad as any one to have exposed our poverty at that time; but spiritually we were enabled to delight even then in the prospect of the increased benefit that might be derived by the church at large from our acting as we did.