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TO THE REV. JAMES PHI
Leicester, Feb. 16, 1809.
Rogers I have not yet found time to read through. I thank you for it, and am much pleased with the piety and spirit of it, as far as I have gone. I have read Zeal without Innovation, with extreme disgust: it is written with shrewdness and ability ; but is, in my esteem, a base, malicious, time-serving publication. It was lent me by Mr. Robinson, who, in common with all the serious clergy in these parts, disapproves it highly. I suppose the author wrote it to curry favour with such men as the
and to procure a living. His poverty is to be pitied; but I hope I would rather starve in a workhouse than be the author of such a book. I am afraid there is a party rising among the evangelical clergy, that will ruin the reformation which has been going on in the established church during the last forty or fifty years.
TO A FRIEND IN PERPLEXITY AS TO HIS
Leicester, April 20, 1809. I am much concerned to learn the unhappy state of your mind respecting religion. You may depend upon no one seeing the letter but myself; and I wish it were in my power to say any thing that might be of use. Of this I have very little hope ; for the adage might, in too great a degree, be applied to me—“ Physician, heal thyself;” as I labour under much darkness and despondency respecting my religious prospects, through the prevalence of indwelling corruptions. What, then, my dear sir, can I say to you or to any other? I would recommend
above all things, to have recourse to prayer—to fervent, importunate, persevering prayer. Take no denial : if you cannot pray long, pray often. Take the utmost pains in preparing your heart, and in the exercises of the closet; for, surely, an assurance of the forgiveness of sin, the light of God's Spirit, and the animating hope of glory, are worth all the labour, and infinitely more than all, we are capable of using to attain them. They are heaven upon earth. From what I know by experience, though it is not with me now as in months past, the enjoyment of God throws every other enjoyment, that can be realized or conceived, at an infinite distance. Fix it in your mind, my dear friend, as a most certain truth, that there is nothing deserves to be pursued for a moment, but in subordination to God and for God; and then act accordingly, and you will probably soon find a strange change for the better. Exposed, as you necessarily are, to the society of many who have either no religion or feel but little of its vital power, you are in peculiar danger of forming slight ideas of its importance; of being taught to look upon it as a secondary thing, an occasional law, whose authority is to be interposed, like the law of the land, to regulate other things; instead of looking upon it as a vital, prevailing principle of the heart and life. Many, it is to be feared, never attain the blessings of religion, because they never form that estimate of its dignity which is consonant with the oracles of God. Did it not seem like presumption, I should earnestly recommend the daily perusal, besides the Scriptures, (which I take it for granted you cannot omit,) of some practical and experimental divinity. We have great store of it :-Doddridge's Rise and Progress; his and Watts's Sermons; and, above all, if I may speak from my own experience, the wonderful Howe—particularly his Blessedness of the Righteous, his Living Temple, (the latter part,) his Treatise on Delighting in God. Perhaps you will say you have not time for this : but here the question recurs again—What is of the most importance for a creature that is to live for ever;—to be rich in this world, or to be rich towards God? I hope you will pardon the liberty I have taken, from a regard to the motive; which, you
will do me the justice to believe, is pure and
I remain, my dear Sir,
TO THE SAME.
Leicester, July 17, 1809. I duly received yours. Be assured, I sympathize with
you your spiritual trials, having had a large share of them myself. I wish I could adopt the language of Dido to the Trojans throughout“ Haud ignora mali miseris succurrere disco.” The “ haud ignora mali” is fully applicable to myself ; but I am afraid I have not yet learned the art of suggesting what may be useful to others in similar circumstances. I want “ the tongue of the learned, that I may be able to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” I congratulate you on your retaining your religious sensibility: the most dangerous spiritual symptom is apathy, or a stupid indifference to our real situation. While we have feeling enough to complain, we give unequivocal indications of life; however disordered its functions, or languid its actions, may be. What advice, my dear sir, can I possibly give you, but what your own good sense will suggest—that of giving all diligence, and following on? Then,” says the prophet, shall ye know, if you follow on to know the Lord.” Set a firm resolution against the indulgence of sin in any form. I know you too well to suspect external irregularities; but we are both fully convinced “the commandment is exceeding broad,” and that, if we would walk in the light of God's blessed countenance, we must keep the heart with all diligence, or, as the expression signifies, “above all keeping.” You will doubtless find your account in the serious, punctual, undeviating attention to private prayer, and reading of the Scriptures.
I feel a pleasing confidence that you are too much impressed with the importance of religion, to suffer these exercises to be superseded by any worldly enjoyments, or to be attended to in a slight, perfunctory manner, resting in the opus operatum, instead of improving them as means of nearness to God, and growth in grace. Would it not be advisable for you to give yourself up publicly to the Lord ? Might not your solemn engagement to be his, in the ties of a christian profession, have a happy influence on the train of your sentiments and conduct; not to say, that if you truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, you must necessarily feel a desire to keep his commandments ? I am glad to hear you are happy with Mrs. Please to remember me affectionately to Mrs. to -'s family in all its branches, to Mr. and all inquiring friends.
I am, dear Sir,