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I CALL you dear because I love you, and I shall continue to style you Reverend as long as you dignify me with that title. It is indeed a pretty sounding epithet, and forms a striking contrast in the usual application. The inhabitants of the moon (if there be any) have perhaps no idea how many Reverend, Right Reverend, and Most Reverend sinners we have in Europe. And yet you are reverend, and I revere you, because I believe the Lord liveth in you, and has chosen you to be a temple of his presence, and an instrument of his grace.
I hope the two sermons you preached in London were made useful to others, and the medicines you took there were useful to yourself. I am glad to hear you are safe at home, and something better. Cheerful spring is approaching, then I hope the barometer of your spirits will rise. But the presence of the Lord can bring a pleasanter spring than April, and even in the depth of winter.
At present it is January with me, both within and without. The outward sun shines and looks pleasant, but his beams are faint, and too feeble to dissolve the frost. So is it in my heart; I have many bright and pleasant beams of truth in my view, but cold predomi
nates in my frost-bound spirit, and they have but little power to warm me. I could tell a stranger something about Jesus that would perhaps astonish him: such a glorious person! such wonderful love! such humiliation! such a death! and then what he is now in himself, and what he is to his people! What a sun! what a shield! what a root! what a life! what a friend! My tongue can run on upon these subjects sometimes; and could my heart keep pace with it, I should be the happiest fellow in the country. Stupid creature! to know these things so well, and yet be no more affected with them! Indeed I have reason to be upon ill terms with myself! It is strange that pride should ever find any thing in my experience to feed upon; but this completes my character for folly, vileness, and inconsistence, that I am not only poor, but proud; and though I am convinced I am a very wretch, a nothing before the Lord, I am prone to go forth among my fellow-creatures as though I were wise and good.
You wonder what I am doing; and well you may: I am sure you would if you lived with me. Too much of my time passes in busy idleness, too much in waking dreams. I aim at something; but hindrances from within and without make it difficult for me to accomplish any thing. I dare not say I am absolutely idle, or that I wilfully waste much of my time. I have seldom one hour free from interruption. Letters come that must be answered, visitants that must be received business that must be attended to. I have a good many sheep and lambs to look after, sick and afflicted souls, dear to the Lord; and therefore whatever stands still, these must not be neglected. Amongst these various avocations, night comes before I am ready for noon; and the week closes, when, according to the state of
my business, it should not be more than Tuesday. precious, irrecoverable time! O that I had more wisdom in redeeming and improving thee! Pray for me, that the Lord may teach me to serve him better.
I am, &c.
April 28, 1778.
I WAS not much disappointed at not meeting you at home. I knew how difficult it is to get away from ******, if you are seen in the street after breakfast. The horse-leech has three daughters, saying, "Give, "give:" the cry there is, "Preach, preach." When you have told them all, you must tell them more, or tell it them over again. Whoever will find tongue, they will engage to find ears. Yet I do not blame this importunity; I wish you were teased more with it in your own town; for though undoubtedly there are too many, both at N**** and here, whose religion lies too much in hearing, yet in many it proceeds from a love to the truth, and to the ministers who dispense it. And I generally observe, that they who are not willing to hear a stranger (if his character is known) are indifferent enough about hearing their own minister.
I beg you to pray for me. I am a poor creature, full of wants. I seem to need the wisdom of Solomon, the meekness of Moses, and the zeal of Paul, to enable me to make full proof of my ministry. But, alas! you may guess the rest.
Send me the way to Christ. I am willing to be a debtor to the wise and unwise, to doctors and shoemakers, if I can get a hint, or a Nota Bene, from any
one, without respect to parties. When a house is on fire, Churchmen, Dissenters, Methodists, Papists, Moravians, and Mystics, are all welcome to bring water. At such times, nobody asks, "Pray friend, whom do you hear?" or, "What do you think of the five points?" &c. &c.
I am, &c.
My Dear Friend,
July 7, 1778.
I KNOW not that I have any thing to say worth postage, though perhaps, had I seen you before you set off, something might have occurred which will not be found my letter. Yet I write a line, because you bid me, and are now in a far; foreign country. You will find Mr. **** a man to your tooth, but he is in Mr. W******'s connection. So I remember venerable' Bede, after giving a high character of some cotemporary, kicks his full pail of milk down, and reduces him almost to nothing, by adding in the close to this purpose: "But, unhappy man, he did not keep Easter "our way!" A fig for all connections, say I, and say you, but that which is formed by the bands, joints, and ligaments the apostle speaks of, Eph. iv. 16. et alibi. Therefore I venture to repeat it, that Mr. ****, though he often sees and hears Mr. W******, and I believe loves him well, is a good man; and you will see the invisible mark upon his forehead, if you examine him with your spiritual spectacles.
Now, methinks, I do pity you: I see you melted with heat, stifled with smoke, stunned with noise. Ah! what a change from the brooks, and bushes, and birds, and
green fields, to which you had lately access. Of old they used to retire into the deserts for mortification. If I was to set myself a moderate penance, it might be to spend a fortnight in London in the height of summer. But I forget myself: I hope the Lord is with you, and then all places are alike. He makes the dungeon and the stocks comfortable, Acts, xvi. yea, a fiery furnace, and a lion's den. A child of God in London seems to be in all these trying situations: but Jesus can preserve his own. I honour the grace of God in those few (comparatively few, I fear) who preserve their garments undefiled in that Sardis. The air is filled with infection; and it is by special power and miraculous preservation they enjoy spiritual health, when so many sicken and fall around them on the right hand and on the left. May the Lord preserve you from the various epidemical soul diseases which abound where you are, and be your comfort and defence from day to day.
Last week we had a lion in town. I went to see him. He was wonderfully tame; as familiar with his keeper, as docile and obedient as a spaniel. Yet the man told me he had his surly fits, when they durst not touch him. No looking-glass could express my face more justly than this lion did my heart. I could trace every feature: as wild and fierce by nature; yea, much more so but grace has in some measure tamed me. I know and love my Keeper, and sometimes watch his looks that I may learn his will. But oh! I have my surly fits too; seasons when I relapse into the savage again, as though I had forgotten all.
I am, &c.