John Newton's Letters
Eight letters to a friend
July 30, 1767
Your letter gave me much pleasure, and increases my desire (if it is the Lord's will) of having you so near to us. As I hope it will not be long before I have the pleasure of seeing you, I shall be the less solicitous if my frequent engagements should constrain me to close before my paper is filled up. I can only advise you to resist, to the utmost, every dark and discouraging suggestion. The Lord has done great things for you, and wonderfully appeared in your behalf already; take encouragement from hence, to hope that he will not forsake the work of his own hands; Judges. 13:23. There is much weight in the apostle's argument in Romans 5:10.
Surely he who showed us mercy before we asked it, will not withhold it now he has taught us how to plead for it agreeably to his own will. Though sin has abounded in us—grace has superabounded in him; though our enemies are many and mighty—Jesus is above them all; though he may hide himself from us at times for a moment—he has given us a warrant to trust in him, even while we walk in darkness, and has promised to return and gather us with everlasting mercies.
The Christian life is easy and clear in theory—but not without much care and difficulty, can it be reduced to practice. Things appear quite otherwise, when felt experimentally, to what they do when only read in a book. Many learn the art of sailing (as it is called) by the fire-side at home—but when they come to sea, with their heads full of rules, and without experience, they find that the art is only to be thoroughly learned upon the spot. So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to hope against hope, to trust the Lord's heart, when we cannot trace his hand; and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned. But, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two different things.
We think at setting out, that we sit down and count the cost; but, alas! our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily! For every day shows as some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us, which we were not aware of; and upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight. Thus it would be with us at last—if the Lord Almighty were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall—Jesus has been our stay. And if he is the captain of our salvation; if his eye is upon us, his arm stretched out around us, and his ear open to our cry, and if he has engaged to teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, and to cover our heads in the day of battle—then we need not fear, though an army rises up against us! But, lifting up our banner in his name, let us go forth conquering and to conquer! "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you!" Romans 16:20.
We hope we shall all be better acquainted soon. We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals; but the determination is with the Lord. We may rejoice that it is so—for he sees all things in their dependencies and connections, which we see not, and therefore he often thwarts our wishes—for our good. But if any measure we have in view would, upon the whole, promote our comfort, or his glory—he will surely bring it to pass in answer to prayer, however improbable it might appear; for he delights in the satisfaction and prosperity of his people, and without a need-be, they would never be in heaviness. Let us strive and pray for a habitual resignation to his will—for he does all things well. It is never ill with us—but when our evil hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths!
I beg an interest in your prayers, and that you will believe me to be, dear sir, your affectionate servant.
February 22, 1770
My very dear friend,
We were all glad to find that the Lord had given you a good journey, and that he is pleased to support and comfort you with his presence; and that we all sympathized with you in your present trial, and are greatly interested in your brother's illness. Prayer is made both for him and you among us publicly, and from house to house. And as you know we have had repeated cause to say, He is a God who hears prayer, we hope that our prayers in this behalf likewise will open a door for praise.
And now may the Lord direct my pen, that I may send you what Philip Henry calls, "A word upon the wheels!" a word in season for your refreshment and encouragement. I rejoice and I mourn with you. The little acquaintance I have had with your brother, (independently of his relation to you,) has given him a place in my heart and esteem; and I can form some judgment of what you must feel at the apprehension of losing so near and dear a friend. But though he is brought very low, and physicians can afford little assistance, "to God the Lord belong the issues of life and death." He can speak a recovering word at the last extremity; and what he can do—he certainly will do—if it is best upon the whole.
But if he has otherwise determined, he can enable you to resign the loss of your brother—and can answer your desires in what is of still greater importance than prolonging the natural life. Considering how much his best interest is laid upon your heart, the pleasure he expressed at your arrival, his willingness to hear your prayers for him, and the liberty you find to improve every opportunity of speaking, I am willing to hope, that you will be made a messenger of light and peace to his soul. The Lord's hand is not shortened that he cannot save. He can do great things—in a small time—as you know from your own experience. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, he can command light to shine out of darkness. If he but speaks—it is done!
Your brother's amiable character and moral deportment would undoubtedly be to his advantage, if he were to stand before a human judge; but we know that we have to do with a God who searches the heart, and to the demands of whose holy inflexible law, the whole world must plead guilty—and cast themselves entirely upon his mercy in Christ, or be eternally confounded. This we cannot make one another understand—but the Lord can convince us of it in an instant; and then how plain, how pleasing, how welcome is the gospel method of salvation by free grace in the blood of Jesus! One glimpse of the worth of the soul, the evil of sin, and the importance of eternity—will effect that which has been in vain attempted by repeated arguments. I hope the Lord will be with your heart and mouth, and that he will afford you the opportunity, and direct your words to your brother's heart. Perhaps now you may be heard when you touch upon your own most singular case, and declare the manner and the effects of the Lord's wonderful dealing with yourself, which, as it cannot be argued, so neither can it be accounted for upon any other principles than those of the Scripture, respecting the power, grace, and all-sufficiency of Jesus to save to the uttermost!
You may perceive I would willingly help you if I could, though I know the attempt is needless, for the Lord is with you; and though I feel my own poverty in the endeavor; accept it, however, as a token of my affection, and as a proof that my heart is warmly engaged with yours in your present concern.
I was sorry to be prevented accompanying you to W ___, but I found afterwards it was right; you were better engaged, and I would but have only interrupted you. I was with you, however, in spirit, as I returned alone in the carriage, which were two of the most pleasant hours I have known for some time. I preached that evening at Weston, from Deuteronomy 32:9-12; a passage which exhibits the history of a believer in miniature—the Christian life in a nutshell. The night was stormy, so that we had but few people.
Two people who were well the day you left us—have since died. One of them has already been buried—a poor profane creature, suddenly cut off in the prime of life! The other man was young, jovial, jesting, and thoughtless. He became sick on Saturday—and died on Monday evening! Oh, my friend, what do we owe to the grace of God, that we were not cut off in the days of ignorance—as so many have been! Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
Believe me to be, your most affectionate and obliged.
March 8, 1770
My dear sir,
While it is the Lord's pleasure that we should be separated, I would be thankful for the convenience of post-office, by which we can exchange a few thoughts, and let each other know how we go on. You are remembered by me, not only jointly with the church—but in my family and in secret; and, indeed, there are not many hours in the day when I do not feel your absence and the occasion of it. I hear that your brother is little better; but it is an encouragement to know that he is no worse. His disorder is alarming and dangerous; but, though physicians and friends can do little, there is a Great Physician to whom all cases are equally easy—and whose compassion is equal to his power. If he who does all things well sees it best—he can and he will restore him! If not, he is able to give him such a view of what is beyond the grave, as would make him desirous to depart, and to be with Christ; and make you perfectly willing to resign him.
This is my prayer—that he may find that to live is Christ—and to die is gain! For this I commend him to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who has overcome death, and Him who has the power of death, and is exalted to save to the uttermost. That word uttermost has an extensive meaning—it includes a conquest over all difficulties, and a supply of all that is necessary. How totally, and (if possible) how often, would I have been lost—had not Jesus engaged to save me to the uttermost. And many a time I think I would have given up all hope—but for those two texts, his own gracious declaration, "Him who comes unto me—I will never cast out!" and the apostle's assertion, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that "He is able to save to the uttermost!" "Never!" takes in all possible characters. "To the uttermost!" reaches to all possible circumstances. He can enlighten the most ignorant, soften the most obdurate, support the most tempted, comfort the most distressed, pardon the most guilty. Oh, may his precious name be engraved upon our hearts, and sound sweeter than music to our ears—for he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and will save to the uttermost in defiance of all our sins, fears, and enemies!
Your present trials are great; but God is faithful—and will not allow you to be overpowered. Your consolations at such seasons are great likewise. I know the hour of conflict is sharp—but the victory in which it terminates is sweet! Your conjectures how Mr. ___ and myself would behave under a fiery trial, are highly precarious, and seem to depend upon a supposition which, though it may steal into our thoughts, has no place in either of our judgments, namely—that some believers have an inherent power which other Christians do not possess—which will appear in exercise whenever it is needed.
Undoubtedly, Mr. ___ , if left to himself in similar cases, would do as Job, Jeremiah, and Jonah have done before us. The grace of the promise is and shall be sufficient for our support; but while you are borne up by a power above your own—it is right and fit that you should feel your own weakness. It must and it will be so with all to whom the Lord has given that frame of spirit, in which he delights. As to myself, my very heart sinks at the apprehension of sharp trials. The Lord has long dealt with a marvelous accommodation to my weakness in this respect; what supports me when I anticipate them, is a persuasion of his nearness, faithfulness, and all-sufficiency! But I know there is a great difference between viewing the battle at a distance—and being actually engaged in it! This I find, that in my present calm and easy situation, I have not a grain of strength to spare!
And, when I think of the questions, "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out—how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country—how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" Jer. 12:5, I can only say, "Be my strong tower whereunto I may continually resort!"
In a word, trials would not deserve the name—nor could they answer the ends for which they are sent—if we did not feel them! They are not, they cannot be joyous while present—but grievous! But in the end, they shall surely yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The God whom you serve is able to support and deliver you, and I trust you shall have cause to praise him for this also, as you know you have—for those through which he has already brought you, 2 Cor. 1:3-11.
William C ___ is one of those who have been lately visited with the festering fever and sore throat. He had been for some time (longer than I knew of) under a concern about his soul. His illness brought him to the brink of the grave. But the Lord has been gracious to him, not only in sparing his life—but in filling him with peace and consolation to a degree he is not able to express. He now rejoices with the joy of an inexperienced soldier, who is little aware of what he may meet with in the course of the war, and seems hardly to understand us, when we bid him expect changes and difficulties in the Christian life; for his mountain stands so strong, that he thinks he shall never be moved. Thus it is—nothing but experience can teach us the lesson, which in words is so plainly set before us—that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom. But the Lord knows and pities our weakness, and shows us the nature of the Christian life, by degrees, as we are able to bear it.
Believe me most cordially yours.
My dear sir,
Since the news from Mr. C ___ , we await the mail with concern; the accounts we received yesterday, give me a very lively idea of your situation, while you are expecting so critical and dangerous an hour as that which you have in view. I can, and I do feel for you—yet I know you are and shall be supported. Prayer is made without ceasing among us—for both you and your brother. And we know and believe that the Lord, on whom we call, is rich in mercy, and mighty to save. We see many among us—who have been restored from the gates of the grave in answer to prayer—when the healing arts of medicine had proved utterly ineffectual. This encourages us to hope that our prayers shall terminate in praises to the Lord, to whom belong the issues of life and death. In the mean time, I am glad to drop a word that might afford you some consolation in your present trial. I have just arisen from my knees, to take the pen in hand—may the Lord be with my heart in writing—and with yours in reading what may occur to me.
I drank tea last night with Mr. ___ I had sent him my book a few days before, and I found he had read it about half through. I expected he would say something about it, and he did. Though he seemed to perceive and approve the main design, and to be pleased with what he had read—yet I suppose many things were not much to his purpose. What he chiefly fixed on was, the second chapter, and he told me the description I had given of the gospel was exactly suited to the state, the needs, and desires of his mind; that he had read it twice over, and found much comfort from it. This gave me pleasure. He is, as you know, a man much exercised with a sense of the evils of his heart, and therefore I account him a competent judge. I hope I would rather be instrumental to the peace and consolation of one such person, than honored with the applause of thousands who live at their ease.
Since I left him, I have been led into some reflections on the admirable suitableness of the gospel way of salvation by Jesus Christ, to all the possible varieties of a sinner's condition. When once he knows himself, and is acquainted with the holiness, justice, and majesty of the God with whom he has to do—no other solution can ever satisfy him, or give peace to his conscience. And when once he knows Christ as the only way, and receives saving faith—he is provided with an answer to every discouragement and fear that can arise. And here people of every age, country, character, situation, and capacity, unite and agree. Their views of themselves, of the Savior, of the ground of their acceptance with God, and of the communion with God which the Scripture speaks of, are so similar, that many think they learn them one of another, which is indeed sometimes true with respect to the influence of means, (God having appointed to diffuse the knowledge of salvation by his blessing on preaching, etc.). Yet every one of them is taught of God, and receives personally for himself an inimitable conviction, which, as it cannot be easily described so as to be understood by those who have not experienced it, (for which reason it is compared in the Scripture to tasting, Psalm 34:8, and 1 Peter. 2:3,) so all attempts to refuting it, are like attempting (as we commonly say) to persuade us out of our senses.
I remember that, three or four years ago, I mentioned some part of the gospel truth to a gentleman who called on me here, and he answered, "If it is a truth—you are indebted for it to Calvin." As well might he have said, because Calvin had seen the sun, and has mentioned it in his writings, we build our knowledge of its light and influence, upon his testimony.
These gospel truths are acknowledged throughout the world, whenever there is an eye to behold them. Here the king and the clown, the philosopher and the savage—are upon a level. And Occam, the Indian, in describing to me the state of his heart when he was a blind idolater—gave me, in general, a striking picture of what my own was, in the early part of my life; and his subsequent views of the gospel corresponded with mine as face answers to face in a looking-glass, though I dare say, when he received them, he had never heard of Calvin's name!
I am sure I can say for myself, that I did not receive not the gospel from man. The little instruction I had received in my youth—I had renounced; I was an infidel in the strictest sense of the word. When it pleased God to give me a concern for my soul, and for some years afterwards, I was upon the seas, or in Africa, at a distance from the influence of books, names, and parties. In this space, the Lord taught me, by reading the New Testament—the truths upon which my soul now ventures its everlasting concerns, when I did not know there was a person upon earth who had the same views with myself, or at least did not know where to find such a person! Perhaps, I may rather say, I took it for granted that all people who were religious, were of my mind, and hardly suspected that any who professed a regard to the Bible, could doubt or deny what to me appeared so plain.
Your case likewise has been pretty much like my own. How different were your views when you left, compared to what you had when you went there; and how little did men contribute to that difference! These things I am sure of: that the proper wages of sin is death; that I and all mankind have sinned against the great God; that the most righteous person is unable to stand the trial of God's holy law. When I saw things in this light, I saw the necessity of a Mediator. And in the account the Scripture gave me of Christ, his adorable person, his astonishing offices, his matchless love, humiliation, obedience, and death—I saw a provision answerable to my need. His blood is declared to be a complete atonement for sin; his righteousness is a plea provided for the guilty; his power and compassion are both infinite; and the promise of pardon, peace, and eternal life, is made to them who savingly believe him. He himself is exalted to bestow that faith to which the promises belong, and he will give it to all who ask. This I have found to be very different from the intellectual assent we give to a fact of history! This changes the views, dispositions, desires, and pursuits of the mind! This produces that great effect, which is emphatically called, being born again; without which, our Lord assures us, no man can see the kingdom of God, whatever his qualifications may be in other respects.
Oh, my friend, let us praise the Lord who has enlightened our dark understandings, subdued that natural enmity we felt against his government and his grace, and has given us the hope of eternal glory! Now we are enabled to trust in him; now we find a measure of stability in the midst of a changing world; now we can look forward to death and judgment with composure, knowing whom we have believed, and that we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Having little news to communicate, I have let my thoughts run at random upon the subject you best love. My letters, so far as they are not taken up with necessary occurrences, are concerning the love and grace of our adorable Redeemer. Oh, to think what we were—when he showed us mercy; what great things he has done, and is preparing for us, and that he so loved us as to wash us from our sins in his own blood! These are themes suited to warm our hearts, to bear us up under all our troubles, and to fill us with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Oh, that my heart may take fire as I write! Surely I am in my better judgment persuaded, that life is not worth living—but as affording opportunity to spread the savoir of his name, to set him forth in my ministry, for the comfort of his people and the salvation of poor sinners. I trust you pray for me that I may be faithful; that I may give myself wholly to this service, and, by continuing in it—save myself and those who hear me!
I am inviolably yours.
March 15, 1770
My dear friend,
Though I have hardly time to write, I cannot be silent upon this occasion. You will easily judge what satisfaction your letter gave us. Blessed be God—the God who answers prayer, and who alone does marvelous things. I rejoice with you; I rejoice with your brother. Now, a chief point in our prayers will give place to praises, and we shall have the sweetest encouragement to continue praying for the re-establishment of his health. If we had broadcast the good news, how quickly would it have flown over the town. But we have thought it best to keep it to ourselves a few days. When we shall meet on Tuesday evening, I purpose to impart it to the people in a body, by reading your letter; my heart jumps at representing to myself, how they will look, how they will feel, how they will pray and give thanks—when they hear what God has wrought! I am willing to hope we shall have a comfortable and memorable evening. In the mean time, there is some self-denial in keeping the secret; for myself, I feel it at my tongue’s end continually, and am ready to speak of it to everyone I see—but we think, upon the whole, it will do better to come to them when all gathered together.
You need not wonder if, upon this very affecting and important occasion, the enemy attempts his utmost to disturb you. He fears for his kingdom, which has already received many severe shocks—in the increase the Lord has lately given to his gospel; he sees a new instrument raising up (as we hope) to deliver souls out of his power; he knows how nearly you are concerned in these things, and therefore, so far as he is permitted, will give you trouble. And you may be assured there are wise reasons for his having such a permission—but all your conflicts shall lead to consolation, and end in victory—and at last you shall be more than a conqueror.
General Wolfe conquered—but died upon the field of battle. Hannibal was a famous and a frequent conqueror—yet at length was vanquished by his foes. But the believer shall so conquer at the close of the campaign—that he shall never hear the sound of war any more; he shall so conquer in time—as to triumph to eternity. This we owe to Jesus; we overcome not by our own might—but by the blood of the Lamb, and by the Word of his testimony. He has conquered for us, and goes before us; and fights in us by his Spirit; and in his own time he will bruise Satan under our feet. In the mean while, he will be your strength and your shield; your song and your salvation. In his name you may lift up your banner, and bid defiance to Satan and all his hosts!
Remember me affectionately to your brother. I can truly say, I esteemed him, I loved him before; but my regard has been increased by the share I have taken in his concerns during his illness. And how much more is he dear to me, since I know that we are united in the love of the truth. With what pleasure shall I now receive him! Now the restraints we were mutually under, for fear of giving each other offense, are removed. I think, when the Lord permits us all to meet here again together, we shall have much to say on the subject of redeeming love; much to ascribe to the wisdom, power, and goodness of a wonder-working God, who causes light to shine out of darkness, and has given us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the person of Jesus Christ. What an amazing change in our state, in our heart, in our views—is the result of this discovery! Old things pass away—all things become new! Then we see how unavoidably we must be wondered at—by all who have not experienced the same things, and we are content to be so for his sake who has loved us, and to account his cross our glory!
Believe me to be, my dear sir, most affectionately yours, in the nearest and strongest bond of friendship.
Charles Square, April 29, 1780
My dear friend,
I hope, when the weather will not allow you to be all day in the garden, that you are preparing a letter for me.
The recovery of my arm has advanced happily without interruption. I can now put on my overcoat, am almost done with my sling, and hope, in a few days more, to be released from the bandages. Blessed be the Lord, my best Physician and Friend, my present and all-sufficient Help! I have seen no reason yet to regret my fall, nor have I been permitted to do it; yet I may consider it as a chastisement, though of a gentle and merciful kind. A sinner need not spend much time in searching out the cause of an affliction; but that the afflictions of such a sinner as I, should be so seldom, so moderate, so soon removed, depends upon reasons which I would never have known—but by the Word of God. There I am taught to spell his name, "The Lord, the Lord God, long-suffering, abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;" and thus I read the reason why I am not consumed.
The spring, long retarded, begins to force its way, and to make its appearance in the trees which surround our square. The field behind our garden seems as green as your meadows, and the cows that are feeding in it, have very much the look of country cows. In other respects, our situation is, upon the whole, very well.
But indeed, the moving away of two such dear friends is a trial, and gives me at times a mental feeling, something analogous to what my body felt when my arm was forced from its socket. I live in hopes that this mental dislocation will one day be happily reduced likewise, and that we shall come together again as bone to its bone. The connection which the Lord himself formed between us, was undoubtedly formed for eternity—but I trust we shall have more of the pleasure and comfort of it in time. And that I shall yet hear you say, "Come, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together, for he has turned my mourning into joy, and he has taken off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness!"
I have little idea as to the state of things in the world—for I seldom see a newspaper for two weeks together. And when I do, I meet with so little to encourage me, that I prefer a state of ignorance, which gives me more scope for hoping for the best. The prevalence of wickedness and spiritual insensibility, however, forces itself upon my notice, whether I want or not. And I am afraid, in the contentions which are fomenting and spreading throughout the kingdom—I see such seeds of trouble, as were sown in the early part of Charles the First's reign, and which quickly produced such plentiful crops of confusion and misery! Yes, I am afraid that the present times are worse! There is an equal degree of party rage, without any portion of the public spirit, which undoubtedly influenced many individuals in those days. The pretenses on each side are but a thin veil, through which it is easy to perceive that the contest is chiefly between the ins and the outs, and that while some plead for arbitrary power, under the name of constitutional prerogative; others, who clamor for liberty, mean nothing better by the word than licentiousness.
So that, if my calling as a Christian would permit me to take an active part in this uproar, (which, in my view, it does not,) I must still remain neutral, until I could find more men of principle on one side or the other to associate with. I must be content to look on, and patiently wait the outcome, and should be ready to sink with apprehension—but for three supporting considerations:
1. That the Lord reigns, and will surely accomplish his own wise and gracious purposes.
2. That, in the midst of all this confusion, he is manifestly spreading the light of his gospel, and gathering sinners into his fold. While he maintains and multiplies the means of grace among us, and increases the number of praying souls to stand in the breach, I think we have a pledge that we shall not be given up, that our motto will be no worse than, Cast down—but not destroyed.
3. There is a third, a personal ground of comfort. He has said that it shall be well with those who fear Him—and his Word is sure. His people have properly nothing to lose, and nothing to fear—for he is their sun and shield, and exceeding great reward. His power, providence, presence, and all-sufficiency, will lead them safely, and, upon the whole, comfortably, through every possible change, and bring them to their unchangeable rest!
My wife sends her best love. She has very tolerable health. I was at first afraid that her concerns, on account of my fall, would have brought a return of all her nervous illness. I felt more for her than for myself, while the four men were almost displacing my bones which were right, in order to put that one bone right which was out of place. But, while I was in the attitude, I may say with Nehemiah, "So I prayed unto the God of heaven;" I prayed for her, and the Lord heard me. She was at first exceedingly terrified, and felt the effects of the shock for a little time—but I hope they are quite subsided.
I am, dearest sir, your most affectionate and obliged.
Charles Square, May 6, 1780
My dear sir,
You will have no reason to apply to me, Luke 7:32, "We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry." For, when you pipe, I am ready to dance; and, when you mourn, a cloud comes over my brow, and a tear stands a tip-toe in my eye. I observe your letters usually begin and end in the allegro strain, and you put the more serious part in the middle—as this seems the fittest place for it, I will try to imitate you, though it will be something, if either my beginning or my close should entitle me to your smile, except you smile at the presumption of your humble imitator, and recollect the fable of the frog who tried to imitate the ox!
Do not wonder that I prize your letters. Besides the merit which friendship puts on them, as being yours, you always send me something that I would value from a stranger. Some thoughts in your last letter—I shall be the better for. How wonderful is that tincture, that inexpressible something, which gives your sentiments, when you speak of yourself, so gloomy a cast, while, in all other respects, it leaves your faculties in full bloom and rigor! How strange that your judgment should be clouded in one point only, and that a point so obvious and strikingly clear to everybody who knows you! How strange that a person who considers the earth, the planets, and the sun itself as mere baubles, when compared with the friendship and favor of God their Maker—should think the God who inspired him with such an idea, could ever forsake and cast off the soul which he has taught to love him! How strange is it, I say, that you should hold tenaciously to both parts of a contradiction! Though your comforts have been so long suspended, I know not that I ever saw you for a single day since your calamity came upon you, in which I could not perceive as clear and satisfactory evidence, that the grace of God was with you, as I could in your brighter and happier times. In the midst of all the little amusements, which you call trifling, and which I would be very thankful you can attend to, in your present circumstances, it is as easy to see who has your heart, and which way your desires tend—as to see your shadow when you stand in the sun!
I have a little back-parlor, which bears the name of my study. It is at present much unfurnished, and I must beg you, therefore, to send me a few pictures to ornament the walls. My bandage is taken off, and my arm almost in status quo. I wish to be thankful to Him who makes sore—and binds up; who wounds—and whose hands make whole.
Accept our best love, and believe me to be, most affectionately yours.
Charles Square, Hoxton,
My dear friend,
On Monday we went to Greenwich, and returned today in time to preach my monthly sermon in the forenoon. I have much to be thankful for, and particularly that my wife was well all the time. Two very agreeable hours I spent alone in the park, a situation which I think is hardly to be equaled upon the earth. Rural prospects equally striking, or more so, may be found in abundance; but the embellishments of such a city, at a distance so convenient to the eye, and of such a river, with the navigation, are local advantages peculiar to the spot. Were I to traverse the park daily, perhaps when familiarized to the objects, the effects would not be great. But I believe twenty years or more have passed since I was there, and therefore all appeared to somewhat new to me.
When I was in London, the cloud of smoke hanging over the city, to which every house contributes its quota—led me to daydream. I thought it an emblem of the accumulated stock of misery, arising from all the trials and afflictions of individuals in the city. I am persuaded that a sight of these troubles, were our minds capable of receiving it, would give such a sobriety to our minds, that no funny incident, however jocular, would move us to laughter, or even extort a smile. We would no more be able to laugh, than one who could be merry among the lunatics in Bedlam, or in the midst of a group of agonizing sufferers in Bartholomew's Hospital, or on a field of bloody battle! And what is the world at large—but a more extensive and diversified scene of wretchedness, where frenzy and despair, anxiety, pain, poverty, and death, have their respective wards filled with patients.
I thought it likewise an emblem of that cloud of sin which is continually ascending with a mighty cry into the ears of the Lord Almighty. Sin overspreads the earth; but in London the number and impunity of offenders, joined with the infidelity and profligacy of the times, make it a kind of hot-bed or nursery for wickedness. Sin is studied as a science, and there are professors and inventors of evil things in a variety of branches, who thrive on teaching others to sin with delight. Could we have knowledge of the monstrous enormities and villainies which are committed in a single day in London—it would make us groan and tremble! Such were a part of my meditations, accompanied with some degree of praise to him who snatched me out of that state in which I was a monster in iniquity, and brought me to a knowledge of salvation and peace!
I am your very affectionate and endeared friend, and obliged servant.