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A person of spiritual discernment would rather be the author of one page, written in the humble garb of Bunyan, upon a serious subject, than to be able to rival the sprightliness and elegance of Lady M. W. Montague, unless it could be with a view to edification. The subjects you propose are important; and with respect to sacramental meditations, and all devotional exercises so called, I perfectly agree with you, that to be affecting and useful, they must be dictated rather by the heart than by the head; and are most likely to influence others when they are the fruits and transcripts of our own experience. So far as I know, we are but scantily provided with specimens of this sort in print, and therefore I shall be glad to see an accession to the public stock. Your other thought, of helps to recollection on Saturday evenings, is, I think, an attempt in which none have been beforehand with you. So that, according to the general appearance, I feel myself disposed to encourage you to do as you have purposed. On the other hand, if I meet with any thing, on the perusal of the papers which in my view may seem to need alteration, I will freely and faithfully point it out.
I can almost smile now, to think you once classed me amongst the Stoics. If I dare speak with confidence of myself in any thing, I think I may lay claim to a little of that pleasing, painful thing, sensibility. I need not boast of it, for it has too often been my snare, my sin, and my punishment. Yet I would be thankful for a spice of it, as the Lord's gift, and, when rightly exercised, it is valuable; and I think I should make but an awkward minister without it, especially here. Where there is this sensibility in the natural temper, it will give a tincture or cast to our religous expression. Indeed I often find this sensibility weakest where it should be strongest, and have reason to reproach
myself that I am not more affected by the character, love, and sufferings of my Lord and Saviour, and my own peculiar personal obligations to him. However, my views of religion have been such for many years, as I supposed more likely to make me bedeemed an enthusiast than a Stoic. A moonlight head-knowledge, derived from a system of sentiments, however true in themselves, is in my judgment a poor thing: nor, on the other hand, am I an admirer of those rapturous sallies, which are more owing to a warm imagination, than to a just perception of the power and importance of gospel truth. The gospel addresses both head and heart; and where it has its proper effect, where it is received as the word of God, and is clothed with the authority and energy of the Holy Spirit, the understanding is enlightened, the affections awakened and engaged, the will brought into subjection, and the whole soul delivered to its impression, as wax to the seal ;-when this is the case, when the affections do not take the lead, and push forward with a blind impulse, but arise from the principles of scripture, and are governed by them, the more warmth the better. Yet in this state of infirmity nothing is perfect; and our natural temperament and disposition will have more influence upon our religious sensations than we are ordinarily aware. It is well to know how to make proper allowances and abatements upon this head, in the judgment we form both of ourselves and of others. Many good people are distressed, and alternately elated by frames and feelings which perhaps are more constitutional than properly religious experiences. I dare not tell you, madam, what I am, but I can tell you what I wish to be. The love of God, as manifested in Jesus Christ is what I would wish to be the abiding object of my contemplation; not merely to speculate upon it as
a doctrine, but so to feel it, and my own interest in it, as to have my heart filled with its effects, and transformed into its resemblance; that with this glorious exemplar in my view, I may be animated to a spirit of benevolence, love, and compassion, to all around me; that my love may be primarily fixed upon him who has so loved me and then, for his sake, diffused to all his children, and to all his creatures. Then, knowing that much is forgiven to me, I should be prompted to the ready exercise of forgiveness, if I have aught against any. Then I should be humble, patient, and submissive under all his dispensations; meek, gentle, forbearing, and kind to my fellow worms. Then I should be active and diligent in improving all my talents and powers in his service, and for his glory; and live not to myself, but to him who loved me and gave himself for me. I am, &c.
MY DEAR MADÁM,
Nov. 29, 1776.
I AM persuaded you need not be told, that though there are perhaps supposeable extremities, in which self would prevail over all considerations, yet in general it is more easy to suffer in our own persons, than in the persons of those whom we dearly love; for through such a medium our apprehensions possibly receive the idea of the trouble enlarged beyond its just dimensions; and it would sit lighter upon us, if it were properly our own case, for then we should feel it all, and there would be no room for imagination to exaggerate.
But though I feel grief, I trust the Lord has mercifully preserved me from impatience and murmuring, and, that in the midst of all the pleadings of flesh and blood, there is a something within me that aims to say without reserve or exception, "Not my will, but thine be done."
It is a comfortable consideration, that he with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now for ever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiserations, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state. The whole history of his wonderful life is full of inimitable instances of this kind. His bowels were moved before his arm was exerted; he condescended to mingle tears with mourners, and wept over distresses which he intended to relieve. He is still the same in his exalted state; compassions dwell within his heart. In a way inconceivable to us, but consistent with his supreme dignity and perfection of happiness and glory, he still feels for his people. When Saul persecuted the members upon earth, the Head complained from heaven; and sooner shall the most tender mother sit insensible and inattentive to the cries and wants of her infant, than the Lord Jesus be an unconcerned spectator of his suffering children. No; with the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, he attends to their sorrows; he counts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle; and when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, he knows our path, and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance, with the same unerring wisdom and accuracy as he weighed the mountains in scales,
a balance, and meted out the heavens with a span. Still more, besides his benevolent, he has an experimental, sympathy. He knows our sorrows, not merely as he knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation, and who, though without sin himself, endured, when upon earth inexpressibly more for us than he will ever lay upon us. He has sanctified poverty, pain, disgrace, temptation, and death, by passing through these states; and in whatever states his people are, they may by faith have fellowship with him in their sufferings, and he will, by sympathy and love, have fellowship and interest with them in theirs. What, then, shall we fear, or of what shall we complain? when all our concerns are written upon his heart, and their ma— nagement, to the very hairs of our head, are under his care and providence; when he pities us more than we can do ourselves, and has engaged his almighty power to sustain and relieve us. However, as he is tender, he is wise also; he loves us, but especially with regard to our best interests. If there were not something in our hearts and our situation that required discipline and medicine, he so delights in our prosperity, that we should never be in heaviness. The innumerable comforts and mercies with which he enriches even those we call our darker days, are sufficient. proofs that he does not willingly grieve us; but. when he sees a need-be for chastisement, he will not withhold it because he loves us; on the contrary, that is the very reason why he afflicts. He will put his silver into the fire to purify it; but he sits by the furnace as a refiner, to direct the process, and to secure the end he has in view, that we may neither suffer too much, nor suffer in vain.