My dear Friend,—I have frequently thought of you and the friends who met together under your roof to partake of your hospitality when I came to Stamford. "Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it. If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."
Yes, dear friend, love is of God; and "he that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; for God is love." Even natural love is a sweet and valuable principle. Some one has said it is the best rag of fallen nature; and I think it is. I have sometimes thought how wise and wonderfully the great Creator has ordered this, that certain persons, male and female, should find their affections go out towards each, and that they love such as they love none other. Were it not so, those who are destitute of grace would not be very likely to be chaste towards each other, although married to one another. Even natural love cannot be bought for gold or silver. It is true, individuals have been induced to enter the marriage state only on account of wealth; but in most cases of this kind unhappiness has been the result. But spiritual love, the love of the children of God toward each other, is derived, and also maintained and perpetuated, from a higher source, taking its rise from the sovereign love of a covenant God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Did you and I love a person never so much, we could not impart a similar principle to them, and so make our love reciprocal. But our ever-blessed God can and does do this. Nay, he does what nature never can do,—love those who are enemies to him by wicked works, while they are unregenerate. And I have often thought that the chief cause of a convinced sinner not being able to give credit to God's love towards him is because the love of God is in himself, self-originating, self-moving, nothing apart from his own sovereign goodwill and pleasure. He loves because he will love. Were it not so, it could never have reached fallen man. And, my dear friend, see the wondrous way in which this love of God is manifested, and the blessed channel through which it flows to its object. The objects of God's love being sinners against him, transgressors of his laws, were exposed to the consequences of disobedience,—the curse. Love and wisdom divine find out a way in which the barrier can be removed; so that the law is honored and justice satisfied. And love goes farther than this; for it not only finds out a way in which a sinner can be forgiven and saved from everlasting woe, which wondrous redemption is by the incarnation, life, sufferings, and death of the coequal, coeternal Son of God. When I say love goes farther than mere redemption from the curse, it is in this way. Suppose an atonement only had been made for our sins, although by that atonement we should have been freed from the curse of the law, yet we should not have had a just title to heaven. This was procured by the spotless active obedience of the dear Son of God in our nature, and on our behalf, fulfilling every precept and command of that law; so that the Father, the great creditor, says he is well pleased for his righteousness'sake; for he will magnify the law and make it honorable (or give it the honor due to it); so that the glorious righteousness is imputed to a sinner, who has none of his own, for his justification. Hence, by the blood-shedding of the dear Redeemer, the sinners' sins are all forgiven; and by the meritorious obedience of our blessed Jesus, he becomes the Lord our righteousness. Now, a poor sinner viewed as washed from his sins in the blood of the Lamb, and clothed in that spotless wedding garment, has a free- grace right and title to mansions in the skies.
0 what wonders love has already done! But the brightest saint that ever dwelt on earth, while in this world, could only have a glimpse, a drop, in comparison, of the unfathomable ocean. The desire of Paul for the church was that they might be able to comprehend somewhat of the height, depth, length, and breadth of that love which passeth knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God. John, in his epistle, says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." The beatific vision is reserved until we pass through this wilderness into the world of spirits, to join the spirits of the just made perfect; but the vision will not be fully known until our bodies are raised out of the dust, to be re-made or fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.
0, who can conceive rightly of the glorified body of the great Head of the church? If even the appearance of an angel, when commissioned to reveal God's will, was so glorious, what must be that glorified humanity of Jesus, through which all the infinite perfections and attributes of Deity will be shining with ever-increasing glory for ever and ever?
0 my dear friend, who can properly estimate the greatness of the mercy of having a good hope, through grace, of being predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's dear Son? "If children," says the apostle, "then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together with him." Well may it be added, "For I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." And again, "These light afflictions, which are but for a moment compared to eternity, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen" (with the natural eye); "for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
0 what poor earthly-minded, groveling creatures are we, for the most part of our lives! How we cleave to the dust, not only before being made partakers of a spiritual nature, but, alas! afterwards, and that, too, after we may have been blessed with some sweet transforming views of a precious Jesus, tasting that the Lord is gracious, receiving into our hearts some drops of honey from the honeycomb.
When first my soul got a sight of him by faith, hanging upon Calvary's cross, I could and did enter into the substance of Dr. Watts's hymn:
"When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."
And also that of Toplady:
"Emptied of earth I fain would be,
The world, myself, and all but thee;
Reserved for Christ, who bled and died,
Surrender'd to the Crucified."
This was about 42 years ago. Alas! When I take a retrospect of my life since then, shame and confusion of face well becomes me, on account of my base backslidings, and from the best of friends. Certain I am that nothing but interest in an everlasting covenant could have preserved me from becoming an apostate, which I have thousands of times feared would be the case."
"0 to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrain'd to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee."
0 the long-suffering of God to his children, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. What gracious words are these: "Return, ye backsliding children, for I am married unto you." "I drew them," says God, "with the cords of a man and with bands of love." And if we look into the prophet Hosea, what a portrait we have of ourselves in the character of Ephraim. And yet the Lord says of him, "Is Ephraim my dear son, is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him I do earnestly remember him still. My bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him." And then in the last chapter of that book we find the dear Lord invites his disobedient child to return, and putting words into his mouth to plead: "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him. I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found." How in these things we prove the aboundings and the super-abounding of grace over sin, "that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so shall grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
But perhaps you may be saying I am on too high ground for you to have fellowship with me in these things. If so, I must tell you that I am not always on the mount. I know what it is to have to feel the need of crying for quickening, renewing grace,—that whilst, through mercy, ever since the Lord opened my prison doors last March, I have not got into that "black hole" where I was before, yet I am often feeling destitution and poverty; and not only that, but a good deal of "the abominations done in the land" (of my own heart). Still, I hope I have the mark that I sigh and cry on account of it. And I also find that the adversary is not wanting in injecting, as much as he is permitted, his fiery darts; so that I find myself still in the field of battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil; nor have I any expectation of being able to stand in this warfare but as upheld by the almighty hand of Him who hath destroyed death and him that hath the power of it, and also hath brought light and immortality to light through the gospel.
It is our mercy not to be called into such a warfare at our own charges; but that we have, in our most glorious Lord, a Captain who has engaged, and, single-handed, made a complete conquest over, all his and our enemies. So that, through interest in him, and by grace and strength given out from him, we shall be going on conquering and to conquer, until at last it shall be said, "They overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the saints' testimony." Will it not be a wonder of wonders for us to stand at last with those whom John saw in vision, clothed in white robes, with palms in their hands, and to join without ceasing in that glorious anthem, "Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father?"
0 that, through grace, we may be enabled, for the remainder of our mortal life, to live more "a life of faith upon the Son of God," believing that he hath loved us, and given himself for us, and that closer we may cleave to his bleeding dying breast. There is no satisfaction in anything short of a precious Saviour, and the sweet visitations of his love. All, all in this world has stamped upon it, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." It is a mercy to know this, not merely from the testimony of Solomon, but from our own experience. None but such ever aspire after those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
I know my dear friend has necessarily much to do with the busy world, having a large young family dependent upon him, with large outgoings; but it is his mercy while in the vain world, not to be of it. Our blessed Lord supplicated his heavenly Father, not that his people might be taken out of the world, but that they might be kept from the evil. Indeed, did we rightly view things, that man, who, in the providence of God, has much to do with his fellow-creatures in the things of this life, has the greater opportunity given him to glorify his God, in his body and in his spirit, by a walk and conversation becoming the gospel. The Lord says, a candle is not lit to be put under a bed, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house; and then adds, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Thus it is that the church is distinguished from the world. There is so much hypocrisy and deception amongst mere professors of Christianity. Like the Pharisees of old, "they say, and do not."
May it please the good Shepherd to watch over us by day and by night; and so be pleased to defend us from every beast of prey, and from the roaring lion of hell, who is still "going about seeking whom he may devour." Bless the Lord for that gracious promise that he will keep it night and day, and water it every moment. May we, therefore, ever be made and kept sensible of our need of the fulfillment of this and of every other precious promise. Where, my dear friend, should I have gone, and what should I have been in my unregenerate state, and where should I have wandered since the dear Shepherd sought me out and brought me to his sheepfold? He only knows. I am sure I have cause, if any poor sinner has, to say, "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name, for having forgiven all my iniquities, for healing all my diseases, redeeming my life from destruction, crowning me with loving-kindness and tender mercies, and for filling my mouth with good things, and thus renewing my youth like the eagle's."
But I must bring my long scribble to a close. I did not think I should write so much; as, when I took pen in hand, I did not know what to say, and I had to ask the Lord that, if it was in accordance with his will for me to write to you, he would be pleased to give me something by which he might he glorified, and your soul profited. How far this desire has been granted I must leave with you to determine.
I hope yourself, your partner, and your family are well; and, if the will of God, that it may be your happiness to witness the incorruptible seed of the truth sown in their youthful hearts; by which they would be taught to "remember their Creator in the days of their youth; while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when they shall say, I have no pleasure in them."
Will you be pleased to give my kind love to Mrs. D., and thank her for her kindness to me and mine? Also our united love to all those dear friends whom we saw when at Stamford, and to any others who love us for the truth's sake. I should be glad to have a letter at any time from yourself and from any of them.
I am sorry to say that my dear wife has been very ill indeed; that I have been quite apprehensive that I should lose her. I would, however, be thankful that there is a little improvement. The locality of Abingdon is not at all congenial to her constitution, which requires a dry, pure atmosphere, while this is quite the reverse. We are, therefore, desirous of finding a different part in which to pitch our tent; and we want the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire to go before us to the end of our journey. I should like the dear friends who love me for the truth's sake to see this letter, as I trust I can say I love all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
The furnace is for purifying the vessels afore prepared unto glory. The Lord says he will bring the third part through the fire; he will not leave them in it, but bring them through it; and adds, "They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them. I will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is my God."
Now, dear friend, I must, for the present, say Farewell. That the Lord may bless, keep, and uphold you with the right hand of his righteousness is the desire of
Yours very sincerely,
Abingdon, Sept. 5th, 1873.