ENCOURAGEMENT TO A DISCONSOLATE MINISTER.
A LETTER TO THE REV. J. U.N.
I have just been calling upon the Lord for you, and have now taken up my pen to write you a few thoughts, for your encouragement and comfort in your present distress. 0 may the Holy Spirit of truth and grace, whose sole prerogative it is to apply the truth to our hearts, make them the effectual means of present and lasting comfort to your troubled mind.
I often think of you and your people ; and my request to the God and Father of all our mercies, for you and for them is, that whatever there is among you opposite to his word, he will graciously pardon, and powerfully remove. Your heart bleeds over the wounds of Zion ; and the falls and contentions of your brethren make you groan in spirit, while floods of tears gush from your eyes, to tell those whose conduct grieves you, the bitter anguish of soul you feel on their account, because they dishonour the Holy One of Israel, and expose to ridicule and contempt the best of causes-the cause of Christ : more dear to you than the treasures of the Indies,-than all the riches of the world.
But why, my dear brother, this profusion of grief ? Has any thing strange or uncommon taken place ? " Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." It is but the same cup of trembling which is put into your hands, that hundreds of your brethren are now drinking ; but the same furnace you are passing, that thousands now with God, have passed before you. Come, dry up your tears, and consider,
First, that he, who walks serene "upon the wings of the wind," can, with a word, or with a nod, or even with a look, still, in the twinkling of an eye, the rudest tempests ; quell the most furious spirits and contentious tempers ; and hush even wild uproar into endless sleep ! When he says, "peace, be still," it must be according to his word. Till then, my good brother, you must wait; till then, human efforts will be all in vain. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him : the more patiently and submissively you wait, the more you will honour God and baffle the designs of the enemy, who has raised the storm in the house of God, and caused the iniquities of some, like the wind, to carry them away, to weaken your hands, and discourage your heart in your Master's work ; but fear not : for,
Secondly, the very hairs of your head are all numbered ; not one of them can fall but by an order from heaven: the very things which most distress you are, at this moment, under divine direction. Nothing, either painful or pleasant, is the effect of chance : prosperity and adversity are alike the subjects of decrees arising from boundless love, framed by infinite wisdom, and founded upon the absolute sovereignty of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will ; who says, "My counsel shall stand, and I will perform all my pleasure ; " whose hand none can stay, and to whom none, neither men nor angels, may say, " what doest thou ? " Our times are all in his hand, who created, who supports, and who sways universal nature. Who so fit to draw the lines of our lot, and measure out our portion of good and evil as he who called us into existence, and in whom infinite goodness and infinite understanding are united ? Oh that we were still ! that, by a cheerful submission to his will, we could acknowledge his right to reign, and to do all his holy pleasure, in every part of his vast domains ; influencing, restraining, and permitting the minds of men, according to his own supreme will, without giving unto us, or any of his creatures, any other reason of his conduct than this : '.` because it seems good in his sight." His will, let us rejoice, or mourn, his will is surely the best. But is it his will that those things by which his hallowed name is dishonoured, and his righteous cause is exposed to reproach and scorn, should occur ? If not, where are his independence and supremacy ? Whatever cause is supposed to produce an effect independent of his will, must, at the same time, be viewed as his superior; but he, before whom the nations are as the drop of a bucket and the small dust that cleaves to the balance, and in whose sight the whole creation is less than nothing and vanity, can have neither superior nor equal; therefore, nothing can take place in any part of his vast empire without his permission. Though such is the sublime holiness of his nature that he cannot possibly approve of the turpitude of any action, yet nothing is more certain than that he permits conduct the most nefarious to subserve his own sovereign designs, no less glorious and holy than profound and mysterious. That he suffered moral evil to enter our world, and envelope the whole human race ; that he leaves his own elect, prior to their regeneration, to live in sin, and some of them to plunge as deeply into its impure abyss as any that are born of woman; that he does not eradicate it from their nature when he calls them by his grace, but lets it remain and operate in them during their existence in this world ; and that he permits, in a multitude of instances, those who truly believe in Jesus, to fall, through the temptations of Satan and the power of indwelling sin, into crimes the most flagitious, are truths too evident to be denied. These are parts of his wonderful ways, the reasons of which can never be accounted for on any other ground than that of his eternal immutable good pleasure, and his absolute and righteous sovereignty, which is the glory that he will never give to another, but maintain inviolate as the basis of his throne, and the brightest gem of his crown, amidst all the murmurings of men, and all the envy and rage of devils.
Thirdly, when, therefore, that line of conduct, by which reproach is brought upon religion, the mouths of the ungodly are opened, awfully to blaspheme the worthy name by which we are called; and the church is wounded and distressed, is pursued by any of those, who make a part of our connexions, it would be well, if, while we view their criminality with holy detestation, and censure them with a becoming faithfulness, we could fully acquiesce in that will which suffers it to take place. However much we abhor sin, and grieve for the dishonour which is done to the divine name, and the religion we profess, by the misconduct of those around us, we should be still and know that he is God who permits it : we should fall before him with trembling adoration and reverend awe, and say, with Paul, " how un searchable are his judgments." So far as we disapprove of his will, even in the most awful dispensations of his holy providence among which his permission of sin in his church stands prominent, we charge him with folly, and assume an air of sovereignty, by which we dishonour and displease him in our turn, perhaps, as much as they do, whose conduct we justly censure, and whose crimes we mourn.
Fourthly, nothing is more certain than that the Almighty is glorified by all the acts of his will, as well as by those of his power, and that out of those heart-piercing things which cause you to sigh in secret, he will, some way or other, sooner or later, raise glory to his own great name, and good also, to the bleeding church, and her disconsolate pastor. It stands upon record, and is an indisputable fact, that °° all things work together for good to them that love God: to them that are the called according to his purpose." He, therefore, that goeth forth weeping, and bearing precious seed, as you my brother do, shall, doubtless, rejoice in due time, and, from a sorrowful seed time, shall reap an abundant, a joyful harvest. °' Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy shall surely come in the moming." The gloom of midnight must be succeeded by the splendour of day, and the dreariness of Winter by the charms of Spring. What, though some who once stood paramount in our esteem, with whom we have taken the sweetest counsel, and to whom our names were once as precious ointment, have turned aside to their crooked ways, and the Lord is leading them forth with the workers of iniquity to severe correction, or final destruction, yet peace shall be upon Israel. If backsliders abound on the right hand and on the left, and the iniquities of multitudes, like the wind, have carried them away ; still, .1 the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." Though Zion is afflicted, tossed with tempests and not comforted, yet her stones shall be laid with fair colours, and her foundations with sapphires, her windows shall he made of agates, and her borders of pleasant stones, and all her children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of her children, and, although, in the midst of her confusion and anguish, she says, "the Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me ; " she is still remembered of the Lord with peculiar regard; her name stands engraved upon the palms of his hands, and her walls, the means of her security, are continually before him; her children shall make haste, her converts shall increase, and her destroyers and they that made her waste shall go forth of her. It is indeed true, that the Almighty has his way in the whirlwind and the storm ; that the operations of his providence are inscrutable, and the footsteps of his infinite sovereignty past finding out; that from the eyes of mortals he conceals a part of the profundity of his counsels, and gives to his creatures no account of some of his affairs; that he, occasionally, hides both himself and his goings, even in the sanctuary, behind a thick cloud of impenetrable mystery: yet, he is ever the God of Israel, the Saviour !
Fifthly, it is no uncommon thing for the Lord to carry on his wonderful designs and promote effectually the best interest of his people by means, in their own nature, truly awful and afflictive ; and which, in human view, militate with the ends they are intended to effect. It was through the hatred and malice, treachery and cruelty of his brethren, the abject state of a slave, the temptation and false accusation of his mistress, and the gloomy horrors of a prison that Joseph passed to his elevated state in the court of Egypt ; by these events, apparently hostile to the import of his prophetic dreams, the prediction was fulfilled; and the wise and gracious decree of heaven, relating to the preservation of him and his father's house and the land of Egypt, had its exact fulfillment.
When Joseph was supposed to be dead, and a famine prevailed in the land of Canaan, and Benjamin must go into Egypt, Jacob, in the bitterness of his heart exclaimed, " all these things are against me." But oh ! how opposite the exclamation to the fact ! The event proved, that the very things which most afflicted him, were most in his favor ; that in the moment when they wore the most gloomy and terrific aspect, and pierced his mind with the keenest anguish, they all conspired to promote his interest and secure his happiness. The Prince of Life permitted the powers of hell and death to lead him captive, to judgment and the cross; that by means of his captivity and death, he might lead them captive, and raise upon the ruins of their sable empire, a glorious triumphal arch, which neither time nor eternity can efface ; it was through death, he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil. Hell was suffered, for a season, to exult in the Saviour's death, while his disconsolate church wept over his breathless clay; but hell soon found, to her eternal cost, that the cause of her triumph was the means of her destruction; and that the means of the church's dejection was the cause of her exultation. A violent persecution must arise about Stephen, to disperse the disciples, that they might spread the gospel, not only in all parts of Judea, but also in the Gentile world, as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch. And Paul and Silas must be cruelly persecuted and unjustly imprisoned, to be the means of converting the jailer and his house. Thus, the Most High, in his sovereign wisdom and love, carries on his glorious work, and promotes the interest of his kingdom by means which seem calculated only to impede the former and overthrow the latter ; by this mysterious procedure he baffles the designs of hell, confounds the wisdom of the world, seals instruction upon the minds of his people, and raises glory to his own name.
I need not say to you, pray ; I know you to be a man of prayer : you "call upon the Lord in the day of trouble, and he will deliver you ; and you shall glorify him." He, my good brother, who has promised this is the faithful God, he cannot lie; you may safely, therefore, comfortably trust him. Sooner shall heaven and earth sink into eternal chaos than one promise fail. What you have to do then, in your present situation, is expressed by the Holy Ghost; "wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." Remember me in your petitionary addresses at the mercy-seat.
Yours, in the cause of truth.