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I received thy letter kindly, and in the tenderness of love, which desires thy enjoyment of the Lord in this world, and the eternal welfare of thy soul with him for ever.
It is a great matter, to have the mind rightly guided to that wherein God appears, that the soul may wait at the posts of wisdom, to hear wisdom's voice; and he that hears and observes wisdom's voice, what saith wisdom concerning such an one? "I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." Prov. 1:23.
Thou hast read in the Scriptures, of the kingdom of God, which, Christ told the Pharisees, was within them. He also, in parables, expressed what it was like; even like a grain of mustard seed, like a pearl of great price, like a lost groat, or piece of silver, like a treasure hid in a field, like leaven, &c. Now, oh that thou mightst come to the discerning of this. Is there any such thing in thee? Surely, there is. Dost thou know it? art thou <33> in union with it? is it grown and enlarged in thee? is there room made for it, and doth it overspread thy heart? Oh that it were thus with thee!
Whereas thou sayest, The covenant, the new covenant, is contained in the Scriptures; that expression of thine is not clear, and to the nature of the thing. There are, indeed, descriptions of the covenant in the Scriptures; but the covenant itself as an agreement of life and peace, made with the soul in the Lord Jesus Christ, upon his believing in His power, and obeying His voice; according to that scripture, "Hear, and your souls shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Isa. 55:3. Now, this is it the soul is to wait for; even to feel the power of life breaking the bonds of death, and opening the ear to the voice of God's Spirit, that it may receive the impressions thereof, and feel the new creation inwardly, the new heart, the new mind, the new law of life, written within by the finger of God's Spirit, even the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And then this law is the rule inwardly, as the outward law was the rule to the outward Jews.
Thou thinkest me somewhat too sharp and severe, in my sentence concerning the ministers [of the day]. I do not remember that passage. I have received great mercy, and I would not be sharp or severe towards any. If, therefore, any such thing was, be assured it was in faithfulness to the Lord. All sorts of Christians own Christ in words, but all do not distinguish, discern, [nor are] subject to, the appearances of his Spirit and power; but resist, gainsay, and oppose, through error and mistake at first, till at length they come to hardness. These are the builders who refuse the Corner-stone. The builders rejected Christ's appearance in flesh, in the days of his flesh; and the builders again refuse his appearance in Spirit, in this day of his Spirit. Oh that any who are tender among them might be sensible of it! that they might not draw down God's severity and sharpness upon their heads; which if they do, it is not our joy, but matter of grief to us. And, friend, the state of profession is not what it was, when thou and I were acquainted; but a withered state in comparison of that. I can truly say, concerning many professors, Oh that I could find them to be now, what they were twenty years ago! They have got more head-knowledge; but that <34> savor of life which then was in them is not now to be found among them. Truly, I speak not otherwise concerning them, but as I feel the Spirit of the Lord testifying in me; neither would I have mentioned this at this time, but for thy sake. Whatever is of God in any, my heart cannot but own: but many take that to be of God (that fear, that faith, that love, those prayers, those hopes, that peace, that joy, &c.), which is not of him. Oh, how precious is that which truly and rightly distinguisheth! "My sheep hear my voice." The voice of the Shepherd distinguisheth ever deceit and every deceiver.
But whereas thou sayest, The spirits are to be tried by the Scriptures; I have found it otherwise in my experience. The Scriptures may try words; but nothing can try spirits, but the Spirit. "I will know," said the apostle, "not the words of them that are puffed up, but the power." Deceivers may come with scripture words, but they cannot come with the true power. Therefore, the Apostle John, who bade the believers try the spirits, told them, they had an unction from the Holy One, and pointed them to the anointing. 1 John 2:20,27. But who can judge of this, but he that hath the anointing, and is taught of the Lord to try things by it? he knows how it tries, and what a certain judgment it gives concerning the nature of things, and concerning every voice and every appearance. The Spirit of God searcheth all things, discerns all things, discovers all things, -- every snare, every device of the enemy, the net spread ever so secretly; blessed are they, whose eyes are opened and kept open by him.
There was a time of great darkness befell me, wherein all that I had known and formerly experienced was hid from me; and I cried out, "I know not the Lord; and yet I cannot live without him. Oh! what shall I do?" &c. But I never denied Christ to be the way of salvation, in my deepest darkness and distress. And now at length, -- blessed be the Lord! -- I have lived to see the day, wherein he is made of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to me; and I feel his blood sprinkled and overflowing, which makes whiter than snow; and find him to be the mercy-seat, through whom I have access to God; and live by mercy and the deep compassions of God towards me, which, because they fail not, but are daily renewed upon me, therefore is my soul preserved in life before my God.
<35> Oh, wait to know that wherein the Lord inwardly appears! and take up the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to every thing that is contrary to God; that it all may be crucified in thee, that thy soul may live in the abundance of life and peace. God is not straitened to any of the children; oh that none of them may be straitened in their own bowels! And be not discouraged because of any weakness, or because of thy age. What knowest thou, what the Lord will do for thee? Thy weakness is not thy disadvantage, but thy advantage; for the weaker thou art in thyself, the fitter art thou to have Christ's power revealed and manifested in thee. Only wait to know that wherein God appears in thy heart, even the holy seed, the immortal seed of life; that that may be discerned, distinguished, and have scope in thee; that it may spring up in thy heart, and live in thee, and gather thee into itself, and leaven thee all over with its nature; that thou mayst be a new lump, and mayst walk before God, not in the oldness of thy own literal knowledge or apprehensions of things, but in the newness of his Spirit.
The Lord appear to thee, in the light and demonstration of his Spirit in thy heart and conscience, touch thee, quicken thee, lead thee, guide and make thee sensible of every appearance of his; that no motion or drawing of his Spirit may be quenched in thee, nor any motion of the contrary spirit, under any deceivableness, hearkened to; that thou mayst travel faithfully, and come to the end of thy travels with joy and full peace, reaping the sheaves in life everlasting, of all that thou hast sown to the Spirit.
This is the earnest and single desire of my soul for thee, who am thy true and faithful friend, and a hearty well-wisher to thee and thine.