To Jonathan Scott, Esq
November 6, 1765
am overjoyed to learn of your knowledge of Christ and your determination to live in His service. This connects us more closely than if we were brothers, for many times brothers will be separated, but all who love the Lord Jesus will dwell with Him forever. Love for Him and for your soul prompts me to lay before you a few hints gained from long service in the church of Christ, which, had I received on my entrance into it, might have preserved me from many hurtful mistakes.
Your Christian calling is a warfare, where no quarter can be given on either side. If you prove faithful to death, angels will receive your departing soul, eternal glory will be your crown, the armies of the saved will receive you with delight, and the Redeemer’s presence will be your Heaven forevermore. Should you forsake Him, or hold secret sympathy with His foes, you must be punished, like them, with eternal infamy in Hell.
Your first “enemies” will probably be your former intimates, friends, and nearest relations, whose polite conversation and affection for you have been so pleasing. For until their understanding of sin, true religion, and humanity’s chief good are formed from Scripture, as your own now is, they will despise your new way of life. Your corrupt nature will be tempted to join them—along with a subtle destroyer, long practiced in arts and wiles—to the ruin of your immortal soul.
In this perilous condition you have joined yourself (having been influenced by grace) to Christ as your Leader and Commander. Under his banner, diligently using the means He in tender love commands, you should confidently expect both protection and victory.
These means are secret prayer, Bible study, public worship, hearing faithful preachers, Christian society, and much solitude.
Our Lord frequently practiced secret prayer at stated times, and all His illustrious saints have done the same. Indeed, stated times of prayer, where they can be had, are as necessary to make the soul flourish as stated meals to keep the body in health. To willfully neglect them is to walk contrary to the example of Christ and His saints, and such behavior will never reproduce their holiness in our own lives.
But when you do observe stated times of secret prayer, you will often find great stupidity of mind and not know what to pray for. You may feel that your faith is very weak or be oppressed by a swarm of idle thoughts. Do not, on this account, leave off your constant devotions or question whether they will profit your soul.
It is actually good for you to feel that you have no power to command your own thoughts, so that your own experience will confirm what the word of God and His people teach—that you are weak and poor, always standing in absolute need of the mercy of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost.
On the contrary, beware of being elated with spiritual joy, which sometimes will flow into your soul. Should this experience lead you to think highly of yourself, watch out: Carelessness first, and then a miserable fall, will follow, for self-exalting thoughts always defile the soul and grieve the Spirit of God.
Neither can any assurance as to future safety be justly built on what has passed in our own minds. Witness the noble confession Peter made of his faith in Christ one hour, and the astonishing reprimand he received the next: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me.”
These sweet sensations of spiritual joy fulfill some of the precious promises made to believers in Christ and are designed to allure us, not to excite a conceit of anything good in ourselves.
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