October 15, 1774.
My dear friend,
I think the greatness of trials is to be estimated rather
by the impression they make upon our spirits, than by their outward
appearance. The smallest will be too heavy for us if we are left to grapple
with it in our own strength, or rather weakness. And if the Lord is pleased
to put forth his power in us, he can make the heaviest trial light. A lively
impression of his love, or of his sufferings for us, or of the glories
within the veil, accompanied with a due sense of the misery from which we
are redeemed; these thoughts will enable us to be not only submissive—but
even joyful, in tribulations. When faith is in exercise, though the flesh
will have its feelings, the spirit will triumph over them.
But it is needful that we should know that we have no
sufficiency in ourselves, and in order to know it, we must feel it; and
therefore the Lord sometimes withdraws his sensible influence, and then the
buzzing of a fly will be an overmatch for our patience. At other times
he will show us what he can do in us and for us; then we can adopt the
Apostle's words, and say—I can do and suffer all things, through Christ
strengthening me. He has said, My grace is sufficient for you.
It is observable, that the children of God seldom
disappoint our expectations under great trials; if they show a wrongness of
spirit, it is usually in such little incidents that we are ready to wonder
at them. For which, two reasons may be principally assigned. When great
trials are in view, we run simply and immediately to our all-sufficient
Friend, feel our dependence, and cry in good earnest for help; but if the
occasion seems small, we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and
strength, as if in such slight matters we could make shift without him.
Therefore in these we often fail.
Again: the Lord deals with us as we sometimes see mothers
with their children. When a child begins to walk, he is often very
self-important: he thinks he needs no help, and can hardly bear to be
supported by the finger of another. Now in such a case, if there is no
danger of harm from a fall, as if he is on a plain carpet, the mother will
let him alone to try how he can walk. He is pleased at first—but shortly,
down he goes! A few experiments of this kind convince him that he is not so
strong and able as he thought, and make him willing to be led. But was he
upon the brink of a river or a precipice, from whence a fall might be fatal,
the tender mother would not trust him to himself—no not for a moment! I
have not room to make the application, nor is it needful. It requires the
same grace to bear with a right spirit a cross word—as a cross
injury; or the breaking of a china plate—as the death of an only son.