Letters of James Bourne, 1773-1853

 

Letter 1

(To his sister E.) 1807

Dear Sister,

I was permitted for years to go on in my own strength, to let me see what mighty acts I could perform. A self-righteous spirit will lead us to make such a patch-work garment as will for awhile conceal the filthy imaginations of the heart; and thus we carefully preserve our reputation and honor, and get the name of devout Christians; the chief of our food is the applause of those about us. If we are disposed to exercise our charity, we take care to blow the trumpet, lest we should not be seen by men; and leave nothing undone but the weightier matters of the law.

But as God had purposes of grace towards me, I was not allowed to go on in this spirit to the end; for all my fair and fond hopes of keeping everything straight, shunning the cross, and appearing outwardly devout, were brought down—being founded on my own strength and on my own wisdom. I was permitted to raise this airy tower until it reached nearly to Heaven but the Lord looked down and scattered all my lofty thoughts, and I was obliged to acknowledge that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God, and I was so hemmed in on every side as to be made to cry, "Lord, save me, or I perish!"

In this frame of mind I was allowed to continue for some time, until I was filled with my own devices (Proverbs 1:30). I felt much pity for myself and much enmity against God, and thought I was dealt harshly with; and began to look for nothing but the fiery indignation of the Lord. Every refuge seemed to fail me, every false confidence was destroyed; my life hung in perpetual doubt, and every outward providence untoward.

But underneath all this there certainly was an almighty arm of mercy, so that though exceedingly perplexed, I was not in utter despair; and it was in the midst of the darkest outward providences that the Lord was pleased to raise my soul to a hope that Jesus would reveal himself to me as my friend; and in the strength of this I was enabled to go many days. For faith, though "as a grain of mustard seed," yet being of the operation of the Holy Spirit, will enable us to creep along fearful of our own strength, looking to Christ for strength, hoping and despairing. So it was with me, until at length be revealed himself to me as the sinner's all in all; and then I knew the Lord by this most glorious name "I AM THAT I AM."

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

Letter 2

(To Mr. Gadsby, Minister of the Gospel, Manchester.) London, 1807.

Dear Sir,

I fear you will begin to think, and that not without cause, that I have entirely forgotten you; but I have only been at home one week, and I found much to be done after so long an absence. I feel a great backwardness to write even now—I am so dark and shut up that I cannot come forth; yet there is a secret something which tells me I am under the leading of God—yes, according to that word, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not"—and blind indeed I am, for I am groping for the wall at noonday.

I have been very sharply tried in various ways since I saw you, and have been many times ready to give all up; but thanks be to God, he will not give me up; and at other times I have had the sweetest refreshings, which I cannot describe. Indeed, it may be said of me, "Unstable as water, you shall not excel" (Genesis 49:4).

This one thing is at all times a source of consolation to me—I cannot help looking back at the miserable condition I was in when the Lord Jesus Christ first espoused me to himself, made me one with him, and put a ring upon my finger, an emblem of his eternal and unchangeable love. And though in my gloomy moments I call all this into question, yet the devil has not yet made me believe it to be entirely a delusion. I know God hears prayer, even put up in the dark seasons, for he often gives me the desire of my heart. But the happy moments are so transient that I scarcely know what to make of it. Unbelief seems to be the only thing that prevails in my heart. O how I hate myself for it! For I would gladly take my Jesus at his word, and feed thereon and grow; but instead of this, I am always getting on the sand.

I feel I have no power to quicken my own soul. He shuts and no man opens; he hides his face, and we are troubled. It is sin, and nothing else, that separates God front us. O how I loathe myself on this account! But blessed be God, though "weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning." I had such a sight and sense of what I am, that it made me greatly to fear, and say, Will the Lord be gracious? Are not his mercies clean gone forever? I began to look for some fearful thing to happen to me; but under Mr. Huntington's preaching last night the Lord broke my heart with his goodness, and I was filled with the keenest sense of my own nothingness, and of his unchangeable and everlasting love to me.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 


Letter 3

(To his Sister E.)—December 1807.

Dear Sister,

I promised to give you an account of my visit to Manchester, but I must defer it until I see you. When the mind is dark and the soul is barren, it is hard work to spin out anything that will be profitable; but as I desire the glory of God when I write, so I hope he will stop my pen when it is no longer profitable to you. I am so bewildered as scarcely to know what I am about. I am ready to say, "Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?"

My days seem to consume in vanity and trouble. I know that the Lord has done great things for me, and it is my grief that I have not a heart to thank him for it. My unbelief is greater than anything, and I am ready to say, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" Can he give me the bread of life, who am so barren?

Thus my unbelief brings the sensible anger of God upon me. O that I knew where I might find him! for there is nothing in this world that can satisfy my soul. I feel the conflict is begun, and begin to understand something of those words, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." We carry about a body of sin, and this pulls one way, while the renewed man will not agree to it, and pulls another way, "With my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin." I am proud, self-willed, perverse, and I know God will bring all this down. Into the furnace I must go; and I tremble lest I should be consumed, though the word of God tells me I shall come forth purified a vessel fit for the Master's use.

It is certainly a token for good, when afflictions make us cry to God, and produce a longing after him and a waiting for him; while others are made to call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, to hide them from the wrath of God and of the Lamb. The one sort cry for mercy, while the other flee from his presence; I am sure I am of the former number; I have no desire to flee from his presence; it is his presence I want, and the sense of his favor; for it is only in his light I have light; of myself I am total darkness, and can only complain of my detestable ways. I have a keen and sensible fear of God, and would not for the world (when in my right mind) offend him; but the old man of sin and the devil are so combined and strong, that faith seems often almost out of hearing.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

Letter 4

(To a Friend)—1808.

Dear Sir,

As it respects 'The Barber', I can speak with confidence. It was the first book that ever was attended with light, as well as power, to show me the desperate condition I was in. I had been convicted, and I believe it was the Spirit of God that convicted me; yet I had not light to understand what it meant; and I went on in misery and vexation eighteen years, until this book (whoever likes or dislikes it) fell into my hands.

I always determined never to read Mr. Huntington's controversial books, lest I should be prejudiced against his preaching; because I was told they were cruel and abusive, and written in a bad spirit. But one night, walking along Oxford Street, I thought I would turn into a bookshop and ask if they had any of Mr. Huntington's works. They replied that they had The Barber and another, both of which I bought, and immediately read. Until then I knew nothing of the spider's web I had been weaving; but that book plainly showed me the difference between the letter and the spirit, the form of godliness and the power. God by it so entangled me with my own deceivings, that I was forced to cry out, "Lord, save me, or I perish." Let who will find fault with The Barber or his bad spirit, I will thank God that he should condescend to send that book with such power to my heart, and will pray that the author may be established in his own soul, and blessed in all his labors.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 5

(To Mr. H. B.)—Brighton, 1808.

Dear Sir,

I was very glad to see your letter, it was a word in season; and it really rejoiced my heart to hear that you find a greater earnestness with God. "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." We both have felt this.

You saw by my letter the state of my mind when I first arrived here, and the rebellion and unbelief of my heart. But thanks be to God, he does all things well; instead of entering into judgment with me, he poured his loving-kindness into my heart, insomuch that I had not one petition left—my prayers were turned into praises. The grief and joy I felt were beyond all power of words to describe. Indeed I repented in dust and ashes, but found a full and complete satisfaction. He became my all in all, and myself worse and less than nothing.

I had some conversation with Mr. Brook, and I have no doubt the Lord enabled him to open all his heart to me; he told me all his trials and difficulties. I saw so clearly the hand of God in it that my heart was drawn out to believe that he regards both the spiritual and the temporal needs of his chosen ones, and that I should lack no good thing. This stopped my unbelief, and I was made to be very passive, desirous of knowing God's will toward me, and patiently to wait.

I felt myself very sober-minded all Saturday, and on Sunday walked alone to Lewes, with a spirit of prayer when Mr. Brook preached from these words, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born to adversity." This really suited my case. I found that my friend, Christ Jesus, had loved me, and that it was from everlasting to everlasting the same; and the latter part of his discourse made the ungodly world retire many miles out of sight. I felt myself a poor, helpless, lost creature, but at the same time found my Elder Brother was "in all points tempted like as we are" and was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" and that every affliction was to try me and prove me, and to do me good in my latter end.

In the evening at Brighton he preached from the words, "If any man serves me, him will my Father honor." I had faith given me to receive every word he said as my own portion. I knew that he had honored me, and made me his son by adoption. I was fully persuaded of this truth—that where God does not incline the heart to cry to him, he does not design to give. He will make a man feel his needs before he ever supplies them. I cried earnestly to the Lord, and he heard my petitions, and gave me an answer of peace; this is better than ten thousand pounds; and I know all this comes from him by the fruits. It has meekened and humbled me, given me patience and resignation, and destroyed every present anxious care for this life.

I supped on Sunday evening with Mr. Brook, and told him of my happy deliverance that day. It seemed greatly to warm his heart, He is very affectionate and kind, and has no reserve, but tells me all his heart. He will take me to see Mr. Jenkins when he returns, if I stay until then.

If I meet with any employment, I will continue here some time. I have a garret, and sit occasionally with the old landlady in the kitchen, who provides my breakfast. I look so little like a beggar that few would believe it. I have now one guinea left, and I shall spin it out as far as possible.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 6

(To Mr. H. B.)—London, 1808.

Dear Sir,

For three weeks after I wrote to you last, I enjoyed much of God's presence; "the candle of the Lord" shone bright upon my head and "his visitation preserved my spirit;" and I often thought this was fitting me for some serious affliction, and that I would soon be fast "bound in affliction and iron." And surely the thing that I greatly feared came upon me, so that my spirit was overwhelmed within me.

The enemy tried hard to turn me out of the chapel, telling me I was not fit to walk about; he has made me to skulk and hide myself where I could, like a thief that is detected. He followed me as close in my business, so that I was obliged to resign much of my employment. These things made me cry infinitely to God for help, for I knew not where it would all end. I could neither eat, drink, nor sleep; everybody perceived something was wrong with me, but none could find out the cause, for I told nobody the real state of my case. O what a hornet's nest appeared within! What rebellion, self-will, what tender compassion for self, and what secret anger sometimes against God—for not appearing immediately to deliver me!

I have often lain on the floor weeping and calling upon God for a long time together, and it seemed as if the more I cried and groaned, the less help I found. I thought I went in faith; but alas! there was no resignation, and conscience has often secretly told me that from my heart I could not add these words, "if consistent with your righteous will." O no! I would gladly be delivered at all events; no patiently waiting, nor quietly hoping. Here I lay for six weeks, like a fool brayed in a mortar.

God has at length given me light and understanding to see that it was his hand upon me, and that for good. He has given me a measure of fitness and submission, and enabled me feelingly to say "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him." But then I am more brutish and proud than any man, and therefore the furnace must be heated sevenfold. I would be something, and God is showing me that I am less than nothing. I was taking the highest room; but God has said, Go down to the lowest, and give every man place.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 7

(To the Rev. W. J. Brook ) London, 1808.

Dear Sir,

I fear it can be no entertainment to you to hear how I go on, but I feel disposed to write, and may God enable me to do it in godly sincerity. My health is better, but I move very heavily on. I cannot get to hear the Word, being kept in such bondage and fear that I have not presumed to set my foot nearer than the top step of the gallery, where I can hear but little, and sometimes not at all. This is a sore grief to me, and I have cried bitterly to God to deliver me, but find no strength; and I now begin to fear that God has utterly separated me from his people, and that I shall be held in perpetual contempt.

A little time past, I enjoyed his presence, and then I thought my afflictions were all the best things that could befall me; but I have lost all sight of his dear face, and all sense of his favor towards me; I walk in sore darkness and seem troubled on every side. If I could have ever so distant a hope that God would restore me, I think I would then be satisfied.

What you told me in the vestry at Providence Chapel, is the only thing that has abode with me; and that was, that God had some purpose to answer in my affliction, and when that was answered he would remove the rod. Amen. If I could but fully believe this, I think I should then wait for the day in patience, for I have sinned against him.

I find at times uncommon energy in prayer to God in this trouble, but get no sensible deliverance. O that I could quietly wait for his salvation! I think I never asked you to write to me, but if God should put it into your heart to do so now, how thankful I would be! Perhaps he may send a word of support by you.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 8

(To the Rev. W. J. Brook.)—1809.

Dear Sir,

I thank you much for your kind letter. I believe God is doing me good, and in this he is pleased to say he delights. Though we cry hard under his chastening hand, the rod will not be spared. This quietly waiting for God is a hard lesson, and flesh and blood will have a voice here, and say it is cruel. Hence comes the contention; so that when I would quietly submit and patiently wait, this evil is present with me.

I often wonder at God's merciful forbearance to such a perverse fool as I am; for surely he shows at times such a tender regard for me, and gives me such sweet indulgences and familiarities, as to melt my soul into gratitude for his loving-kindness, and cover my face with shame for all my rebellion and hard thoughts towards him. I believe that it is good to be afflicted; for I am sure it is the source of a great deal of secret communion between the soul and God, which they that walk in a clear path know but little of. It causes me to watch every turning of his hand, and many, many times in the day my heart is lifted up in prayer to him, and I feel at times sweet and speedy answers. When my case appears quite desperate, I am helped with a little help. It is true I have thought my troubles great, yet invariably when I feel Christ in my heart, "the hope of glory," then I can rejoice in tribulation, and kiss the rod of affliction. Then again the corruption of the heart and unbelief bring a cloud over the mind, and all is fretfulness again. But by all these things I learn that I am walking in the footsteps of the flock, and in all these things is the life of my soul. Who teaches like God?

I have heard much of your persecutions at Brighton; but blessed be God that he has left on record that the trial of faith shall "be found onto praise, and honor, and glory." "Such honor have all his saints."

I do love to watch God in everything, in our going out and in our coming in; for I am sure he is in everything, and is said to be about our path; nor can I see in what other way we can be said to walk with God.

I like your idea of liberty—those sons of liberty are slaves to sin, and are the devil's prisoners; none but those whom Christ makes free are free indeed.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 9

(To Mr. Burrell, afterwards Minister of the Gospel.)—1809.

My dear Friend,

The feeblest and weakest of all creatures desires to speak a little of the wonderful loving-kindness of God, so visibly shown in my behalf, and so sweetly felt in my heart. I seem more and more comforted under these tumults, and have fresh assurances of God's everlasting love to my soul. These words came sweetly into my mind while reading before chapel this morning, "He has delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me!" Oh, how suitable and supporting! I can bless my dear Redeemer for these unlooked-for mercies. He knows my weak and trembling state, and therefore encourages me by those sweet and frequent visits. "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul."

I have lost a few earthly companions, and the dear Lord Jesus has come in their stead. O that God would condescend still to teach me, to be my guide, counselor, and friend, and give me a grateful heart for all his condescension and mercy to the vilest and unworthiest of his people; and may he bless you for your kindness to me; and though I have been brought acquainted with you under a cloud, yet I do believe God will, in rich mercy, make it manifest that he has chosen me; and that your labor of love towards me shall not be in vain.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

Letter 10

(To a Friend.) March 7, 1810.

My dear Friend,

Since I saw you last I have been much exercised in various ways, but I find my hope is still in the Lord; and that none are able to pluck me out of his hand. It is now that the testimony of God supports me, while I have looked in vain for that of man. His comfortable presence, which is often with me, and has been so with very little intermission ever since Monday two weeks ago, at half-past six, is now my strength. I sometimes think that if this dear Friend, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, were wholly to withdraw himself, I would indeed be at my wits end; but it is not so with me yet; the blessed Spirit is pleased to help my infirmities, and quiet my soul under all these storms.

Those that have risen up against me will find in the end, that nothing can by any means hurt me, because the Lord is on my side, and he will, in his own time and manner, manage all these matters in my behalf. I desire to leave my cares in his hands, and often feel enabled to do so.

I sincerely hope matters go on well with you, and that the joy of the Lord is your strength. I beseech you to keep close to God, begging earnestly of him to teach and instruct, and to reveal himself more clearly to you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 11

(To the Rev. J. W. Brook.) 1811.

My dear Sir,

I was very desirous of seeing you when you were last in town, but things so happened that it could not be. I had much of God's goodness fresh upon my heart, and could have told you of many sweet interferences of God in my behalf. I have been severely tried with distressing fears for many months respecting my old malady. These have exercised me nearly as much as the actual affliction; but all has brought me into the dust before God, to cry mightily to him, and has been the means of much communion between God and my soul, accompanied with the fullest and sweetest assurances of his love and favor. His kind sympathy and condescending care over me, have so endeared him to me, that even in my sorest troubles I have stood astonished, and said, Lord, I love this sore affliction, however hard to flesh and blood, while I feel such a close union with you, my best and only Friend, who loves at all times. How can I wish to be delivered from what seems to be the means of such inexpressible delight? I can have no other Heaven. O let me be perfectly resigned, knowing that you are righteous in all your dealings.

O how little did I appear in my own eyes, and yet how much strong confidence I had in the Rock of Ages! I see God's wonderful kindness, in taking such pains with us to make us understand his loving-kindness, and to hide pride from our eyes.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 12

(To his Wife.) Southampton, 1812.

My dear Wife,

It is indeed a grief to me to hear of my little boy's relapse. It is my earnest desire to leave the outcome with God. On opening your letter I felt it severely, but no contention with God. It immediately came into my mind how tenderly and kindly the Lord had dealt with me; and I was much softened under a sense of his goodness. I am sensible I have no power to resign my child, or patiently submit to any afflictive dispensation, yet I am much drawn out to beg of God to make me passive in his hands; and at times feel sweetly satisfied that he is doing all things for our good.

O how many mercies and blessings I enjoy! How I am comforted at times with an entire sense of his love to me in Christ Jesus, and so kind is he in all his providences, that, were it not for the reproach I lie under, and the sickness of my child, I could hardly be in the footsteps of the flock; for tribulation is and must be the lot of God's children.

I cannot describe to you how desirous I feel at times to bear every adverse providence, not only with patience but thankfulness. I am very sensible that ballast is necessary; mine neither is nor has been a common case. Never man so unworthy as I am was dealt with so tenderly. It is true all cry out against me; but God in Christ is very, VERY precious to me. I now enjoy the secret reward, and believe one day of other I shall have it openly. Don't misunderstand me; I mean, I have a comfortable testimony of God's love now, and whether I am ever received by God-fearing people or not, this I know, I shall have "an inheritance incorruptible and that fades not away."

Matters come to a very narrow point, if we could think so; for how little it signifies whether I go first or my boy; a few years must settle the whole. But everything is on my side. "Chosen of God, elect, precious"—"All things are yours." I feel everything sweet, but the river Jordan. At times that looks deep and broad, and it is injected into my mind that it will be doleful; but all beyond is pleasant; and I live in hopes that God may be better to me than all my fears, even in this matter.

I do most earnestly beg my dearest wife to write by return of post, and let me hear all.

Adieu. James Bourne

 

Letter 13

(To M. B.) London, 1819.

Dear Cousin,

I have many anxious fears about you, when I consider the reasoning of these people. All genuine experience is called impulse and natural feeling. All faith without doubt, upon the written word, is called the true confidence. All those sweet visitations and lifts along the way—all secret hints to keep me out of mischief—all spiritual counsel and direction to keep me from the paths of the destroyer—are called a narrow, bigoted spirit; and this being backed with that scripture, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged"—seems right. I can only come off clear with this scripture, "Regarded as deceivers, and yet true."

Here, I trust, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I shall be able to stand until the day of judgment, and then all deception will be at an end; yet through grace I am made to feel my own blindness and helplessness.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 14

(To M. B. ) London, 1810.

Dear Cousin,

I believe the way to be so narrow, that millions who think they are in it will never pass through; and many in our own family are among that number, unless grace prevents the sad mistake. I hope to abide in this narrow spirit with my last breath. The general profession of the day is no religion; it amounts to very little more than what Hart calls "mere notion." The part I value above every earthly comfort is considered as nonsense, delusion, and conceit—all those sweet visitations that preserve my spirit from the spirit of the world—all those secret rebukes and reproofs that God sanctifies to my soul to keep me from evil, and that, I may not be condemned with a wicked and sinful world, are considered as fanaticism.

Even so; let me be accounted as it deceiver, and yet be true in Christ, and be made willing to pass through evil report as well as good report. I heartily wish you no worse than to join us in these divine things, and not content yourself with anything short of the truth.

In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress there are two sorts that get into the Slough of Despond, but only one of them gets out on the right side. Ponder this, my dear cousin; it is an important matter. The whole of your happiness turns upon this.

I have no doubt you find many trials, and many rebukes; and yet no wisdom to know how to proceed. So it was with me. But God was pleased, by due and slow degrees, to unfold his providence by little and little, and led me to watch his hand, and earnestly at all times to beg his help, and that he would show me his will concerning me both temporally and spiritually. I really found it sweet living in this way; and everything appeared plainer and plainer as I went along. The Lord gave me an understanding to know how I was to proceed; yet I must confess I brought many afflictions and rods upon myself by my untoward and perverse ways, though not left in them to destruction; but he was pleased to sanctify the afflictive cross, and to humble me under it, and to heal my soul; and has never yet left me nor forsaken me.

Now, try him in the same way, and see if you do not find him faithful and true.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 15

(To M. B.) 7 Somerset Street, London, January 1820.

Dear Cousin,

If God is pleased to make you sick of your evil ways in every sense, and of your evil nature too, you will so sicken and die to the world, that neither the kindness of friends, nor the hypocrisy of false professors, will be able to keep you from crying for mercy. I know you must have many difficulties to encounter, and find nobody to counsel you. This is hard; but, however hard it may appear, I really think we are too apt to go to human means (if near at hand), and by that are kept longer in misery; while, if human means are withheld, we MUST go to the fountain-head, where alone all real and efficacious help is to be had. This has been much my case in the beginning of my profession; and I find it much the same now.

I have had many anxious cares and feelings about my new abode, and have been dreadfully afraid of entangling myself in expenses too great for me. I have had many sleepless nights, crying earnestly to God to undertake for me; and on Monday last, I was so ill in body, and so burdened with care, that I knew not how to exist. I had long cried to God to relieve me, but found no sensible help.

There is a quietly hoping and patiently waiting for the salvation of God. My desires after him were intense. I wanted his approbation, and an assurance that he would bring me through life, and give me an expected end; and in my new house, just before bedtime, when alone, the Lord was pleased to shine into my heart in the sweetest possible manner. It was attended with such godly repentance, godly sorrow, and self-abhorrence, as I shall never be able to describe, Christ assuring my heart of his tender mercy to me, and that I was walking in the steps of his providence, and that my happiness and privilege were to cast my care upon him, for it was not in my power to manage matters, but God would in infinite condescension undertake for me both spiritually and temporally.

O what happiness to be in such hands! Troubles we must have, but a sweet hope of mercy at last sweetens all; and if you attain to a comfortable assurance of your saving interest in Christ, it will be more to you than all outward earthly comfort whatever. My wife joins in kind regards.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 16

(To a Friend.) London, 1821.

Dear Friend,

Whatever may be your thoughts, where you are to settle and how to manage your business, they ought to run in this channel, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." While I put business first, I find "death in the pot;" everything goes counter, and I am as lifeless as a post; but when I am earnestly seeking for a better portion, and eternal things are uppermost, then I consider by what means God will preserve this spiritual life, and what steps will be most conducive to it; whether a distant country, where no fellowship with the saints is found, no sound of the gospel is heard, no affliction with the people of God suffered, but plenty of business, and plenty of admirers, and a soul as dark and as dry as a potsherd; or to be content with the daily manna, watching the hand of God, living with his people, and, like Ruth of old, saying, Let nothing prevent me following the people of God, "Your people shall be my people, your God my God; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part you and me." So let all your plans and pursuits be, and so shall they have a happy outcome.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 17

(To Mr. Nunn.) Hampstead, 1823.

Dear Friend,

I am truly sensible of the kindness God has put into your heart towards me. I have found much fellow-feeling in your sufferings, and also in a measure have been made partaker of those comforts that you have had. If the Lord shall enable me I will tell you honestly the things I have lately been through, and beg that God for Christ's sake may have mercy upon me, and show me if I am wrong.

I thought I saw much of the mercy of God in all my stay at Peper-Harrow. After I had finished there, I remained a short time in the country on some further business, and was taken so ill that I despaired of ever returning home; but my spiritual coldness was by far the worst grievance. I seemed to sink without measure, and groaned most earnestly that my life might be spared to return. I seemed to get worse every day, and the more I cried to the Lord, the more gloomy everything seemed, and what would become of me I knew not. I did from my very soul justify the Lord in his dealings with me, and agreed that my afflictions were due to my folly. The night before I came away I fainted, and the next morning was hardly able to prevent fainting again, and put up many earnest petitions that the Lord would enable me to get home to die.

Now, I think, if ever, I was made honest and tender and sincere. I longed to see some of the friends, yet dared not send for them, thinking God had bid them stand aloof from my sore, and being made willing, even if I perished in the contest, still to cry mightily to God to help me, for I knew that my evidences must be something more than the kindness of friends.

God knows how glad I was to see you when you called. On Wednesday night when alone, I read the Word of God, and prayed and cried most bitterly, that he would look with mercy upon me, for I had no strength to contend with the various assaults I met with, and the fear and horror of death in such a state seemed to drink up my spirit. The Lord was pleased to soften my heart and made me feel much meekness and patience, and a sweet sensation of his kindness towards me.

O how I begged that he would be with you all at chapel, and with the preacher that he might abound with blessings for himself and the people. My heart was truly with the work, and I could bear witness in my soul that the Lord was with us. But this only continued until next day. I began again to sink into all the horrors of darkness beyond what I can express, and gave up everything. I was so ashamed I knew not where to hide my face. No guilty condemned wretch could fear death more than I did; and so I continued until Sunday morning, when I found much encouragement and was sweetly refreshed.

How mightily I feel all matters relating to the soul With me it is a case of life and death. Though this conflict has been, is, and I fear will yet be, very sharp, I have at times a sweet secret hope that he is doing me good, and intends to give me an expected end. Dear friend, I believe my sharp conflict has made me more sincere, honest, and in earnest than I ever felt in my life. O what a depth of sin has been discovered, which in the day of prosperity was never suspected!

May you be led to pray for me, that the Lord would be with me to instruct me, and to work in me all the good pleasure of his will.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 18

(To his Wife.) Kidbrook, August 11, 1821.

My dear Wife,

I was rather low on leaving London (partly owing to nervousness), and anxious to have some token for good before entering Kidbrook. I felt much earnestness, with godly fear, that I might not be found where I had no right to be, and I could not quite satisfy myself, unless I could perceive some access, or the Lord taking some notice of me, some way or other.

In reading Job 37, I cannot describe the sensation I felt, cleaving to the Lord with much watchfulness and humiliation, and a great sense of my weakness. I saw some beauty in these words, "Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him that is perfect in knowledge? How your garments are warm when he quiets the earth by the south wind?" Yet I did not get all I wanted. But when I came to these words, "Can you bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?" (Job 38:31.) I could not help crying, No Lord, I cannot; I wish with all my heart I could but continually keep them while I live on earth! And with much joy the Lord visited me and meekened me under a sense of his love, and I went on quite satisfied that God was with me. I said, Lord, if I am to meet with vexation and disappointments, let your Holy Spirit teach me how to bear it, and let it be seen that this is of you by a discreet behavior, which is so contrary to my nature. In this frame I put up many petitions, and found my heart filled with such composure and watchfulness as I cannot tell; nor did I forget you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 19

(To his Wife ) 19 August, 1824.

My dear Wife,

I was exceedingly happy on Sunday morning in reading and meditation. I do not know when I found so much meekness and humility before God, and such godly sorrow and real grief of heart on account of sin. I was first much struck in reading Elisha Coles, where he says, "Moses for once speaking unadvisedly was shut out of Canaan, though he would gladly have gone into that good land, and solicited the Lord much about it as if he would have no denial. Yet the Lord would not hear him: 'Speak no more to me of this matter.' "

I felt great fear and trembling here, and could bring many things to mind, if God had been pleased to enter into judgment; but I was led to confess my folly, acknowledge my sin and its deserts, and found the Lord heard my prayer, and broke my heart with his goodness. As I went on with Elisha Coles I read, "It shall be no grief of heart to you to remember your mortal sufferings when you see such peaceable fruits of righteousness brought forth thereby." O no! But I cannot paint my feeling in what follows, "He will never repent who sows in tears, when he brings home his sheaves with joy, to eternal life." What sweet and powerful words!

Can so poor and wretched a creature as I be brought to receive such an inexpressible feeling in his heart? Yes, by the mighty power of God. What purity and love it works! How sweet and undefiled! Dare I say so? Yes, I must say so; but it is all in Christ Jesus, and what he works in us. How odious it makes sin, and how ashamed we are when we bow before him in adoration! Nothing can describe my humiliation at such a time, nor the grief I feel for my sinful nature; and the more because of his pardoning love. It is wonderful to say it, but it seems almost too much. But, O what a sweet union exists between Christ and the soul under such influences! I give a very lame account of it, very short of what I wish to describe.

I afterwards found much sweetness and encouragement in reading 2 Peter 1:10, 11, "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if you do these things, you shall never fail; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the ever-lasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." O do seek for this! Slack not, nor tarry in all the plain.

I also saw much in Micah 4:6-12:Not to take heed to any that may be watching for our halting, but rather to watch what the Lord will do for us, and see that we obtain a FULL REWARD. I hope the Lord will appear for you, and do you good, and make you much in earnest.

Yours etc. James Bourne

Letter 20

(To M. B.) July 25, 1825.

Dear Cousin,

I feel quite sorry for _______, yet when I consider the mighty power of God that must be displayed in the behalf of every sinner that is saved, I know that he can make every mountain a plain, and remove every obstacle. When he will work, NONE SHALL HINDER. Please tell her to listen to none, and to go to none but God; and let her beg earnestly for a spirit of prayer and supplication. May the Word of God dwell richly in her heart, and be her rule and guide! Let her pray over it, and entreat the Lord to grant her his Holy Spirit, who shall guide her into all truth. I am sure if she be rightly led, she will often feel ready to despair and to give up praying; but hope will revive in prayer, and encouragement spring up. Her time, like mine, appears as if it would not be long on earth; and to have God on our side when we draw near our end, is worth more than all the treasures of earth.

By reason of my sin, I perceive that I must pass through that spiritual baptism which our Savior speaks of, and in which he cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In every such place of horror, darkness, and fear, I would utterly faint if he did not please to return with some strength, some hope, some consolation, to raise up my sinking spirit. This makes me to stand my ground.

We all (like the virgins in the parable) sleep by the way, and often the heaviest troubles take us at such a time. We should thus soon come to destruction, were it not for the fear of the Lord, like a sentinel, to rouse us, and make us tremble at the prospect of his judgments, which seem to be coming heavily upon us; and work in us such a falling down before him, that he cannot but look upon us in mercy. Hereupon we find once more the oil in our lamps, and are ready for the marriage supper.

I am sure that there is no other way than that of trouble and anguish because of sin, and joy and gladness because of mercy. These, more or less, are constantly the frames of all such as have divine life.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 21

(To Mr. Nunn.) Middleton Park, 1827.

Dear Friend,

I feel much disposed to give you some account of myself; but when I was most willing, then time and power were both wanting. I never leave home on such an occasion without much anxiety, knowing the manifold snares and difficulties which are sure to befall me. I was very unhappy on Wednesday afternoon with a great mixture of deadness and barrenness; and though I was led to cry to the Lord, unbelief seemed to say that there was no use in it—a backslider in heart can only be filled with his own ways. I fretted against the Lord, but did not quite give up hoping; and when I heard the text that evening, "Who is on the Lord's side," the very words seemed to vibrate in my heart, and I thought I could say, I am! Then something replied, Keep praying; and in a little time I found a spirit of meekness and godly sorrow, and my mind greatly refreshed, and my heart turned to be quite in earnest.

I went home and read the chapter from which the text was taken (Exodus 32.) and the following one; and my heart sweetly kindled as I went on to these words, "Now, therefore, I pray you, if I have found grace in your sight, show me now your way, that I may know you, that I may find grace in your sight;" and the following words took me greatly by surprise, "And he said, My presence shall go with you." Out of the abundance of my heart, feeling such ineffable sweetness in the sense of his loving-kindness and care over me, I cried, "My Lord and my God!"

Sin was acknowledged and in heart forsaken, and many petitions put up that he would remember me when I forget myself! O, my dear sir, where is there such a friend? These are not cunningly-devised fables, but solid realities. How it prepares my heart against disappointments, and makes me still under many crosses! This God is our God, and will be our guide unto death.

Tell Mrs. N. to try this way. Perhaps she will reply that she does try; but not with all the heart. A savor in what she says is wanting. Secret prayer and meditation not only bring life into the soul, but their effect is sure to be felt by those about you. Moses' face shone so much after his secret converse with God, that the children of Israel could not well look at him; and if I meet a friend that has prevalency with God, and hear him tell the tale, I feel the glory with such inexpressible shame and guilt, that I cannot look my friend in the face; and why? because something says, "God is no respecter of persons," and that my backsliding, giddy, and foolish heart has kept back these blessings from me.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 22

(To M. B.) Paper Harrow, August 6, 1826.

Dear Cousin,

It is true I was low and gloomy when I was at your house, yet I felt a cleaving to the Lord, and a measure of hope that he would be with me; and after supper, in returning thanks, I was most sweetly comforted with his presence, and with a great sense of my own insufficiency. I had a good journey down, and found my little place retirement itself. Though not much exercised, I have been occupied with prayer, to be kept discreet and sober-minded, and have found much meekness on my spirit; and this sort of communion has, by the great goodness of God, kept me in a good place.

I was much struck with reading these words, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever." It felt to me as if to fall into temptation was to fall into sin, for that I was the most foolish and weak creature possible; and the power to keep me is the Lord's, and the kingdom is his, which I long to have maintained in my heart, but which sin always puts down as to the present enjoyment of it. But when in the enjoyment of it, there is a hearty ascribing the glory to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

I have been sleepless and languid through the heat, but have put up many petitions not to complain, and find my past afflictions have been exceedingly sanctified, by the great goodness of God, in leading me to turn every apparent trifle into prayer.

While you seem so much exercised where to go, I think you are not yet in the spot where God designs you to be. One place I would advise you to lodge in—that is, "Let patience have her perfect work"—patiently wait, and quietly hope, for the salvation of God. Those little whispers that you hint at, I would have you attend to. They will not lead you here and there; but they will lead you, like Samuel of old, to attend, and say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears."

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 23

(To Mr. Nunn.) Sezincot, Oct. 1827.

Dear Friend,

I am never happy at the thought of leaving town without some token for good. While with my family on Sunday, after chapel, the Lord was pleased to draw near with all the assurances of mercy and friendship that could be conceived. The more I debased myself, the more he assured me of his favor. I could now commit my family to God; and many in the church also crowded upon my mind. O that they did but know the goodness and tenderness of our God! They would never reproach him with keeping them at a distance, but would readily acknowledge that sin alone separates between God and them.

Tell Mr. T. that such a visit as this would make the lips of him that is asleep to speak—and what will he speak? He will speak all that is good of God's name; he will exonerate God in all things, and put all darkness, confusion, distance, dryness, barrenness, and unbelief, to his own account. In these visits he will also wonder at the unbounded freeness of God's everlasting love in Christ Jesus, overtopping all our misery and sin.

To return to my subject, I cannot express to you my joyful surprise and gratitude to God, nor with what willingness I took my journey the next morning. In the coach I read Romaine's Walk of Faith, and again found many sweet and precious sips—many times in spirit lying prostrate in the dust, deeply sensible of my unprofitable life, and yet seeing my High Priest ready to atone, feeling the peaceful application of his Spirit upon my heart; and this wrought an unspeakable wonder at his picking up me—yes, unworthy me!

My prayers also were towards our little flock, that he would remember them, though separated, and hated of all, and many among them asleep in the midst of light!—some making all kinds of excuses for their continual sorrow and want of power to make clear work, and laying the fault upon God! O how I can, with all my heart, declare that he is pitiful and of tender mercy, and is very near to every one of us if haply we feel after him!

Let us consider the difference of the two parties that give us an account of the promised land. One brought an evil report; the other, precious fruit. O that men were wise!

In former days, I well remember that these visits were a seasoning for some approaching trial; and as I always fear the enemy at hand, I did, on my journey, most earnestly beseech the Lord to be beforehand with me—that he would so manage for me as not to let me play the fool; that he would keep me spiritually-minded, and that when my feet were ready to slip, he would be pleased to remember me. I wished to be in a low place, for then I knew I should not have far to fall. It is high and large expectations, lofty conceits, and towering prospects, that bring a man down in sorrow.

Tell Mr. C. that he need not go back to a certain stile near Witney for another visit from the Lord; I hope he has found even Hampstead none other than the house of God, none other than the gate of Heaven. Our God does not grudge his visits; I have the sweetest sensation on my heart while I write, declaring the inexpressible freeness of his grace. Only remember how Josiah acted when Huldah the Prophetess declared her message; may we all go and do likewise, and our end shall be peace.

Tell Mrs. N. that if she could get a little of the new wine of the kingdom which I have had this day, or, in plain language, if she could get some comfortable and friendly communion between God and her soul, it would clear up her doubtful path, and make her to know that her salvation is of God.

I have told another friend that she is spending the best period of her life without this spiritual friendship. The word says, "Occupy until I come;" the slothful professor says, I knew you were a hard master, and therefore "hid your talent in the earth; lo, there you have what is yours." Give not sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids, until you have "found out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob," even in your heart. Pray admit him; you will never meet with a better friend. Farewell.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 24

(To M. B.) Sezincot, 1827.

Dear Cousin,

I was very sorry on one account to hear so poor an account of yourself; yet when I see what the world is after, and the exceeding shortness and uncertainty of all things, I seem more desirous of ending my days in peace—yes, much more desirous of ending well, than of planning for life. I will endeavor to give you some reasons. Since I have been here I have had some sweet, very sweet, and precious moments; my whole heart laid out for God; no room for earthly objects, no wish for any change; persuaded that the Lord would be with me at last.

But my foolish heart soon changes; sin soon takes occasion; and I am carried where I would not, as our Savior says of Peter. Then I fret and pine after what I have lost, and bitterly complain of what I have got in exchange—spiritual dryness, barrenness, and distance; very little power to pray, and yet no heart to anything else; exceedingly mortified at the loss of the Lord's sweet presence, and (I am sorry to add, yet must tell all) feeling angry because I am so served, and thinking it hard that when I would do good, evil is allowed to be present with me.

I believe you are brought into the straits you speak of for the very purpose that you may make your calling and election sure, and may have a clearer insight into the depths of your heart. I think I find this daily more and more. We would never know what a great salvation it is, unless we were brought into these sad places. Do excuse my expressions; but were I to weep drops of blood, I could not paint out to you the grief and bitter sorrow I often feel on account of my sinful nature. Alas! what am I, and what have I done? All that I could do, and be, against the best of friends! What is He, and what has he done for me? All that he could do, and be, on behalf of the worst of enemies! "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." They need not tell us that therefore we may live ungodly or in sin; we love his sweet presence too much for that.

Can I harm anyone by wishing him this blessed Friend, this ready Savior? O, Mr. T., let not the enemy befool you out of the presence of this kind friend; do not submit to be continually blinked by the enemy. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" How I wish Mrs. B. could obtain admission, and for once "see the King in his beauty!" Then she would feel his power in breaking every yoke. Poor Mr. R.! I believe the Lord is with him, and will make it manifest that his deeds are wrought in God. The first trial did not seem sanctified to his wife, perhaps this will have a closer effect. As Mr. Burrell says, God now looks for fruit.

I much wish I could see spiritual life increase among our elder brethren in the church; I am persuaded it would greatly encourage the younger ones. Many get their heads well furnished, but very little dew upon the branches. The shadows of the evening are greatly lengthened with many of us, and the harvest may be past and the summer ended, before we have found a place of shelter. It shall certainly go ill with the wicked, but well with the righteous—they shall never be confounded that seek the Lord.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 25

(To M. B.) London, July, 1828.

Dear Cousin,

What you say in your letter respecting the spending of your first Sunday, I quite agree with. Unless there is an entire seeking of God and giving yourself up to that service, when thus separated from the public means, I know there will be nothing but death and confusion. If we through fear give way, and give that to man which so justly belongs to God, we shall find God will resent it, by hiding his face and making our path dark. I hope God will give you courage to spend your Sundays privately, in seeking him; wholly so.

I am truly grieved for Mrs. _______, you see in her the lamentable effect of living without the means, and having no converse with lively Christians. I hope the Lord will be pleased to direct you in your conduct and conversation with her. Pray do not enter into contention; watch the death that such things bring into the soul. Let the conversation be ever so exciting, beg of God that your words may be few, and those few attended with godly fear, not mixed with wrath and bitterness, for that will not work the righteousness of God. If the poor man knew the plague of his own heart, he would gladly hear the tale of those who have had their plague healed. He will look upon us as enemies; whereas it is not in the power of a carnal man to wish so well to him, as we in the fear of God most earnestly desire.

I have had various exercises; a deal of death, a daily cross, and many, many petitions put up, that I might not be left to backslide and grow indifferent. How unprofitable is a dead soul! All that such speak is like the white of an egg.

When the cross pinches hard, many petitions go up. This was my case yesterday; and in my pleadings and acknowledgments I found by the power of the Spirit, a perfect acceptance of the rod, and such repentance unto life as I cannot describe. I could not help saying, "Behold the goodness and severity of God"—severity against this evil heart of unbelief, but goodness and mercy towards that principle of divine life planted in the heart.

Meditating on the deadness and darkness I felt the day before, and fearing and wondering how it would end, the Lord applied with great power and sweetness these words, "Be silent," O Earth, "and let the people renew their strength" (Zechariah 2:13; Habakkuk 2:20; Isaiah 41:1).

At first I did not quite understand it, though I received it with much sweetness upon my spirit; but I soon saw that God, by his Spirit, silenced in my heart all carnal-mindedness, and all that was earthly, sensual, and devilish; and instead thereof, peace, tranquility, and godly sorrow flowed in. By this my strength was renewed, and my spirit greatly refreshed. I then soon found out the spiritual meaning of the words.

This morning at chapel, I found the text most precious, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go," etc. (Psalm 32:8-11). The prayer was also very suitable to my wants and feeling of gratitude, and the whole was a sweet anointing for my journey tomorrow.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 26

(To M. B.) Aylesbury, July 1828.

Dear Cousin,

"Continuing instant in prayer." I see great beauty in the constant exercise of prayer; I perceive its prevalency, and that God does indeed hear us when we cry earnestly at the approach of an enemy. Communion with God is a check against levity, and a maul upon the old man of sin, on every occasion; we see what is going on within, watching every emotion of the heart, and are led to bring all our miseries to the "Fountain opened," and are made spiritually-minded, which "is life and Peace." With David we say, "I hate vain thoughts, but your law do I love."

You are now in an enemy's country, and I hope you will keep a double watch. Let me entreat you not to get into distaste with your prayer-closet; as secret prayer ebbs and flows—so will you find your spiritual strength ebb and flow. Delilah is a fair speaker, but will certainly betray us, if we are found sleeping in her lap. The lock will be cut off; and then, like Sampson, we may shake ourselves, but to our sorrow it will cost much time and labor before the lock be grown again. Only the Lord can preserve your spirit, and give you divine wisdom and discretion, that you may not prove a sport to the Philistines.

The world is very congenial to our old man; and the professing world is a sort of plaster to the carnal mind, and often hushes a benumbed conscience to sleep; but be sure to listen to every little dictate within, and brow-beat it not. Be sure you do as this inward monitor bids, and beg to be like a little child at the foot of Christ.

As I told you in my last, Enter not into contention; "Keep the door of your lips;" and let the word of God dwell richly in you; so shall you prosper.

Yours etc. James Bourne

Letter 27

(To M. B.) Wiston Park, July 1828.

Dear Cousin,

I am with much pleasure able to inform you that I do not seek the face of God in vain. I have been in the deepest distress, but kept constantly crying to God; and though at times I find his gracious presence, at other times I tremble from head to foot with fear; but under all this cleave the more closely to him.

O what happiness to find no reproof, no rebuke! but I am bid to look at all those that have gone before me in the path of tribulation, and learn that our reproach need not be borne single-handed; our sweet privilege is to believe that our reproach fell upon Christ. May you and I consider "that though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;" and may we by prayer and supplication make manifest the same in our life and conversation. Our blessed High Priest was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and "was in all points tempted like as we are." Such things as these are inconceivable supports (Hebrews 4:8, 15).

Thus I am occupied here, and kept with a mighty hand. My spirit is much preserved, and my trouble too complicated and severe to allow me time to trifle, and too heavy to be borne by flesh and blood.

This morning, reading the epistle to the Hebrews, I have had a sweet season; much enlargement of heart, liberty in prayer, and fresh assurances of God's loving-kindness and tender care; many accusations from the enemy, many lying predictions, and painful threatenings, which the Lord is graciously pleased to remove by some word or other on which he causes me to hope.

How sweet were these words to me today (I believe spoken by the Spirit, and imprinted on my heart), "See that you make all things according to the pattern showed you in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5).

In this mount God has often put me lately (the mount of his presence), and the pattern I there saw was to be clothed with humility, patience, meekness, temperance, and spiritual mindedness; no murmuring at God's dispensations, no sparing the flesh, no contention in the soul; see that your profiting appears in all these things. O Lord, be pleased to grant that this spirit may grow and increase more and more, that we may really walk in the enjoyment of them, is the prayer of,

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

Letter 28

(To Mr. Nunn) Wiston Park, July 1828.

My dear Friend,

The various exercises I have been under render it very difficult for me to send you an especial account, yet I cannot help endeavoring for your encouragement to tell you something of them.

I have labored under many grievous and sore conflicts; and between despair, murmuring, contention, and all such like feelings, and the fixedness of my heart in fighting against them, it has proved no small work. I have been groaning deeply under manifold sorrows, and have as it were lived in the word of God and prayer.

As I was entering my employer's garden, I seated myself privately under a large oak tree, and prayed most earnestly that the Lord would hear my cry and appear for me. I was enabled to pour out my sorrow before him; and I think I shall never forget the tender sound of these words, "TOUCHED with the feeling of our infirmities; IN ALL POINTS tempted like as we are;" and as if it further said, I am no stranger to your fears and dismay, but am with you in it all.

I cannot tell you the revolution this caused in my soul; my sins appeared like mountains, and unspeakably offensive to me, and yet broken to pieces with the sense of my standing completely justified in Christ's righteousness. On my return I could not but stop in the same corner and bless his holy Name for revealing himself so kindly and tenderly to me, and he again repeated his assurances of tenderness and care, and laid great emphasis on the word touched, as if he said, I feel and am troubled for you in all your troubles, but you shall understand my loving-kindness in all these dispensations.

All that day and all night, I had a sweet view of Christ's being near to help, and a kind friend at hand; but again I sank at once into much gloom and many fears; yet the word of God was still my food and drink. It does indeed talk to me by the way, and look at me in every direction. I said, "O Lord, what shall I do?" Be pleased to show mercy, and let not murmuring once come into my heart. O Lord, stand my friend. In this case I stood by the road side, trembling from head to foot, and these words sounded with the same tenderness as the above, "O MY FATHER." I said, "May I use these words?" Yes, doubtless, my Father, my faithful Friend in time of need. "O my Father, IF IT BE POSSIBLE let this cup pass from me." Here I was shown the lawfulness of praying to be delivered from every burden. But the next word "NEVERTHELESS" I prayed earnestly might never be forgotten by me, "Nevertheless, NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL" (Matthew 26.39).

How shall I describe my sensations here? This I can say, that I said with all my heart, soul, and strength—accept the punishment of my sins, and lay meekened at the footstool of Christ, crying, "Do unto me what seems good in your sight, for I perceive that truly as you have said in your word, so you are well acquainted with all our sorrows, and are very near to help, if haply we feel after you."

I was sweetly instructed again in reading the following words, and cannot describe to you the compassion and tenderness with which the Lord was pleased to bring them, as if he really felt every trial I was under just as I did. "These things have I told you, that when the time shall come you may remember that I told you of them" (John 16.4). That is, that when you are in your trouble, you may not be taken by surprise, but remember that I told you before, that it would come. Yes, Lord, I said, by your grace I do remember you did once tell me that, "Bonds and afflictions abide me in every place;" but I did not know that I would meet with such heart-breaking compassion, and that the consolations should so certainly abound, as the tribulation increased.

Can I praise the Lord enough for all his goodness to me? I need an eternity to show forth all his praise, and words to declare my gratitude. If others did but know even what I do, of the preciousness of this salvation—they could not "tarry in all the plain" of this world, but must come to this Friend of sinners, this present help in every time of need. O how I long to persuade such as feel their need of help, to come as I came (most wretched); then they will find as I have found, that "He is able to save to the UTTERMOST."

Tell Mrs. N. I can well recommend this way; it is a safe way, "A tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." When I lie awake in the night, the thoughts of his goodness and care break my heart, and keep my spirit as a weaned child. The watchfulness which he is pleased to create, makes me not to lose many opportunities of prayer and reading his word. I am made to go on from day to day trembling exceedingly, and when I get into these gloomy fears, they seem doubled by a sense of my ingratitude and unbelief; yet out of the depths I cry, and the Lord hears me!

Remember me most kindly to the church, and believe me to remain,

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

Letter 29

(To M. B.) Wiston Park, July 1828.

Dear Cousin,

Since I wrote last I have again been greatly exercised, insomuch as almost to lose my sleep—being quite broken-hearted, and despairing of the help of God, although I have lately experienced so much of his goodness. I feel greatly ashamed to write it, but it is too true. I said, "Let me not displease you by coming so often with my troubles, nor grieve you with my continual complaints." In this I found some compunction, and was satisfied I did not offend nor displease the Lord by so doing, but that he did attend to my cry.

This morning, in my employer's carriage, I was meditating on my lack of patience, my murmuring thoughts, and discontented feelings, and all such like misery; and I could not help saying to myself, Lord, by your holy fear, and the Spirit helping my infirmities, I would not give place one moment to these things; and these words were sweetly and powerfully whispered in my ears, "We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS, through him that has loved us." This broke my heart; I could not help weeping, though in so public a place, and knew not how or where to hide my face.

Here I saw the inhabitants of the world less than a drop of a bucket, and myself safe in Christ Jesus; the cross and the crown closely bound together; tribulation in the world, but peace in him. The world is mad; I would be worse, if not thus violently plucked as a brand from the burning.

Mine is a painful path just now, but surrounded with mercies and blessings—no frowns from a gracious God in Christ; many sorrows and much grief, but such indescribable tenderness and pity as passes all conception. If I had not found it so, I must have sunk into despair.

I would by all means entreat you to cleave to God; let his word be your rich treasure, and by that he will instruct and comfort you. How sweet it is to have communion with God, and for his word to look at you, with helps and smiles, in every direction!

What the Lord is about to do with me I know not. I desire at all times to remember the word, Nevertheless. Let me pray for what I may, I would wish, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done."

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 30

(To M. B.) Batsford, August 12, 1828.

Dear Cousin,

I had some comfortable tokens for good the night before I left home, and found I was at peace with God; nor was I without them on my journey, though oftentimes exceedingly mournful, bowed down under a daily cross. My happiness is that these things do not leave me without hope, but lead me more earnestly to keep close to God. I daily see more and more, that it is through much tribulation I must enter the kingdom, and this shuts my mouth against self-pity or repining. When such a spirit shows itself, then my sins appear and the desert due to them; but godly fear steps in and justifies God, and I am silent.

It is good, very good, for me, that I have been afflicted, for it makes me to consider, both in adversity and prosperity; it separates me from the world and the spirit of it. The word of God is precious and faith increases, so as to believe more both the promises and the threatenings.

The Lord is pleased to instruct me with a strong hand, and does not allow me to go far astray; but I am soon fetched back by the noise of a tempest, and often return with bitter weeping and lamentation. I think if he were to turn his back upon me, I would very soon sink into despair.

How much I see of the reality of religion! Far beyond my utmost power to describe. For a creature, defiled with sin in every way, to walk with God in peace and equity, is a mystery the world cannot get hold of.

Here I must transcribe what I read with all my heart, and felt most sweetly this morning, in Romaine's Walk of Faith, "May I ever have grace to draw near to my reconciled Father with a good conscience. Yes, Lord, it is my heart's desire. I would walk with you day by day in perfect peace. O deny me not the request of my lips! Glory be to your free love, that through Jesus I am allowed to have access into your presence, and am commanded to come with boldness into the holiest of all."

Let the blood of sprinkling be applied effectually and continually; a sense of this will produce steadfastness in our walk, lightening the daily cross, and giving a hearty acceptance of all God's righteous dispensations. I perceive the flesh strives hard for the mastery, but God's mighty power is such as to bring down every lofty imagination. May you and I wisely take counsel, that we may escape the storm that threatens the whole world. "Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust" (that is, be very low) "for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty." For the day of the Lord is at hand, and we shall all find his word to be true (Isaiah 2:10-22).

Give my Christian love to Mr. and Mrs. Nunn. My heart's desire and prayer is that they may be saved. I perceive the battle to be hard, and am often reminded of these words, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my Name's sake." I sometimes have much encouragement in believing the first clause and the last, but tremble exceedingly at the whole.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 31

(To M. B.) Worthing, 31 August 1828.

Dear Cousin,

I have finished my fortnight's employment at Wiston Park, with the severest conflict I have known for many years, and the sweetest assurance of God's tenderness and care. It has been exceedingly painful to flesh and blood, but very establishing to my soul. On my arrival here I was taken suddenly with a very severe rheumatic attack, and have scarcely been able to move; yet, under all the pain, I find the peace of God ruling in my heart and conscience; living under a sweet sense of the tender care of a reconciled God in Christ Jesus. The evil of my nature, and the sin of my life, appear to raise insurmountable mountains against hope and faith. Were my salvation to be wrought out by myself, I would have fainted long since; but in the Lord I find righteousness and strength.

Communion with him in reading and prayer is an inconceivable privilege, and this he graciously permits me to enjoy. I began this Sabbath with such a rest as is a pledge of that heavenly and uninterrupted rest which we shall have with Christ to all eternity.

I think of you all as you are now assembling for worship. May the Holy Spirit be with you all, as he is with me. May we be filled with holy fear while we ponder these words, "Unto whoever much is given, of him shall be much required." May we earnestly seek to God, that the fruits of the Spirit may be in us and abound to his glory, our comfort, and the good of his church at large.

How I desire that some of our weak ones may take courage from the dispensations which I have been under, and am, which are both dark and severe; yet, by laboring in the Spirit I have found by the blessing of God, eternal light and life spring up more abundantly than ever I knew before. And so I must be put among the number of those who are represented saying, "Amen. Blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever! Amen." And when it was asked, "Who are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they?" it was said (and here also am I), "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." O happy, happy lot! I have lately rejoiced at tribulation, and under every load could not help crying out, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage!" Yes; God can soften the hardest heart, and make the proudest spirit bow. He has done it in a measure to me, and then tells me that a broken and contrite spirit he does not despise.

I write in great bodily pain, but my heart is set upon these things; and if I should hold my peace, the very stones would cry out against me.

What you complain of, that the body of sin and death is still mighty in you, does not appear as an evidence against you, if the conflict is sharp against it; because whatever makes manifest is light. God shows you the evil of your heart, and your privilege is to beg for the powerful quickening influence of his Spirit to come to Christ, the fountain of life; and when this life is imparted to the soul, and brings in the love of God, then all your bondage breaks; and though you see yourself still worse, yet having Christ for your surety, righteousness, and strength, you will find in the application nothing but friendship and peace.

I do hope that Mrs. B. may be profited by the affliction I have lately been in, and that there is that earnestness which will never wholly wear off, until she finds rest in Christ Jesus. Please remember me to Mr. and Mrs. Nunn I am often with them in the spirit, as also with the rest of the church.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 32

(To M. B.) Sezincot, 1828.

Dear Cousin,

In my visit here I see something of that awful place of danger out of which God took me when living in the spirit of this world. God is not in all their thoughts; another world is never thought of, nor hoped for. I cannot express to you how I feel, first, the everlasting destruction from the presence of God; then the being plucked as a brand from the burning; then the walking with God in friendship here; and then the everlasting life, when this scene of trial and tribulation is over. Seeing these things are so, "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"

If God has been pleased to give us a principle of divine life, how we should continually watch its motions, and be on the alert to follow whatever the Spirit dictates! "God speaks once, yes, twice, yet man perceives it not." Even in deep sleep, there is an awful voice in that: "What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise, and call upon your God, that he may think upon us that we perish not" (Jonah 1:6). And let the voice be what it may, whether in judgment or mercy, by giving a listening ear we shall find that communion with God is kept up.

It is said of some, that as they did not regard his voice, so when they cry he will not hear (Zechariah 7:13). May the Lord keep us ever tender and obedient, "for our God is a consuming fire" to us all. If we belong to him, he will by his fire consume our dross, and this is exceedingly painful to flesh and blood; and if we belong not to him, he will consume us altogether. How people can go on long, without knowing in some measure on whose side they are, I know not; I think their sensations are not very keen, nor can sin have been made "exceeding sinful" to them, nor can they know anything of the justice and holiness of our God.

O how sweetly do all these attributes harmonize in Christ Jesus, and in the sinner's conscience when purified! His justice, righteousness and holiness, his sovereignty and power, seemed all combined in the behalf of a poor repenting sinner; so far from dreading these tremendous attributes, I see them as so many sweet causes and the safe ground of my hope, and I am then lost in the admiration of such a Friend, who loves at all times, and will make all things work for my good, and bring about my everlasting salvation.

Surrounded with the tokens of mortality in my body, and fifty-five years old, I cannot be long here. I daily ponder how I shall spend my last hours. I have sometimes a sweet view of God's helping hand, and that though pain and sickness may make both heart and flesh to fail, yet our God, reconciled in Christ Jesus, will be our portion, and the strength of our heart. Our happiness is in keeping up communion now, and leaving no sin unrepented of, that whenever he is pleased to knock, we may be ready to open.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 33

(To Mrs. Bourne) Sezincot, 2 November 1828.

My dear Wife,

Of late I have much meditated on my summer's affliction, and I think I find much sober-mindedness and steadiness in the reflection. I am not in the same piercing trouble as then, and therefore have not the same conspicuous deliverances. My latter end is not often out of sight; many infirmities bring it to me; nor can any earthly thing whatever beguile me to think of being here forever, like the foolish world.

I have been sweetly entertained with Joshua's account of the passing through Jordan. The Ark of the Covenant was to be there. I pictured to myself my dying hour; and faith seemed to spring up unawares, and make the personal application as I read on. When we come to the brink, Christ our ark shall pass before us. As soon as we touch the brim, that is, I thought, as soon as our fears and dismay should seize us, the waters shall divide hither and thither, and our standing shall be firm as there described. What repentance and heavenly joy, what praises and acknowledgments, what wonder and amazement we feel! What looking within and without there is, to search out anything and everything that may be a hindrance!

Let me entreat you to let slip no opportunity that God is pleased to put into your hands, but as it offers, so be diligent in seeking. I mean, if you find the least drawing, at once run after him; if any meekness of spirit, beg for all shyness to be removed, and all quarrels to be made up. Do not begin to say, I said a word too much here, I was wrong there; this thought was unbecoming, and that inclination ungodly. O no! but come altogether as a guilty sinner, and confess your utter folly and sinfulness, and beg power to fall before him. Confess that you are always wrong, and that you were always wrong. Pray don't pick out things, and say you were right here or there, though to be sure you were wrong in something else. This is our calamity, "holding back a part of the price", not made honest to the bottom; and in these things deceiving ourselves, not knowing that "the heart is deceitful above all things". Therefore I entreat you to take every advantage of the least opening or budding hope, and stay not until you can come a little better; for I am sure you will never come, but as being worse and worse.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 34

(To Mr. Nunn) Tunbridge Wells, 16 August 1829.

Dear Friend,

Although I hear but little of you, my mind is much occupied about you all. I shall not therefore wait for any letter, but send you some little account how I go on. I am through mercy much better in health, and free from pain; my eye is a little worse, but I have many secret reasons for believing that this is not forgotten by the Lord.

I think I never felt a greater desire to maintain communion with God, night and day watching the various influences that pass upon my soul, and my feelings under the absence of my best Friend, and the way in which a returning spirit is given to me. In reading the last chapter of Mark, I found these words: "Tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you." As soon as I had named the word Peter, I cannot tell you the sensation of peace and friendship I found. It sounded in my heart, as if it said: Tell James Bourne I go before you to guide you and comfort you; in every affliction, temptation, and grief, I go before you and will be with you, and sustain you. Nothing shall be too hard for the Lord; nothing shall be too hard for you.

I would not know how to manage with my employers here, unless the Lord went before me. These little matters of business were the subject of earnest prayer before I entered the family; and I watched the Lord's hand, and before the day was over, they expressed great surprise at the sudden improvement they had made. These things much encourage me to bring greater matters to the Lord; and all contribute to endear him to me.

In the early part of my profession, especially, I saw and understood but little of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the manner in which God knows and notices everything. I am sure it must be (at least I hope it is) in God's light that I discern my guilty fallen condition, far beyond my power of describing, and often wonder how I can ever be brought back to Christ's fold; and I really think there are none among us so unfaithful as myself. But "his compassions fail not;" and this made Jesus send the message to Peter, especially by name, that he would go before him, though he had so basely denied the Lord, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow, and think: Though Christ says he will go before the disciples, he does not mean me. The sense of this kindness broke my heart, and I would wish it might ever remain so broken.

How it would comfort my heart to hear that friend T. could attain to some consolation in his distressing case! I seldom go upon my knees but there seems a goodly company of you presented to my mind, for whom I desire most earnestly that the Lord would appear.

Our time here is short. I wish you would notice Luke 21:34-36. I have often waked in the night with much darkness and dread upon my spirits, and felt as if I could not "stand before the Son of man"; and that the last trial would prove it so. At such a time fears and reasoning seem quite to dismay me, but something here invites my attention by way of solemn caution, not to be overcharged; for that day shall come unawares, "as a snare shall it come upon all", good and bad; but it is in vain to set a snare in the sight of any bird; and it is only by watching and giving ourselves to prayer that we shall be able to stand before the Son of man.

The Lord says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Revelation 3:20). The question is, How is the door to be opened? Flesh cannot open it; and we see that the power of God is not alike displayed to all his people, so as at once to open it. Now just at this point I have lately been considering the absolute necessity of acknowledging that my sin shuts the door and bars it; my folly keeps it so, and my enmity clenches it with the old idle excuse that God is Sovereign.

It was only yesterday that I had light upon this subject, in the following text, with sweet acquiescence in my spirit: "God will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 35

(To M. B.) Derby, 29 August 1829.

Dear Cousin,

I left your party reluctantly, but I saw the providence of God open another way; and I hope ever to be found above all things watching the Lord's leading. "Who shall harm you, if you are followers of that which is good?" I was very low at the thoughts of coming here, and wept when I left my door in Somerset Street, fearing many things, especially lest I should have to perform my journey at my own charges; yet seeking to commit my way to him, in whom alone is safety. It was chapel night, and my heart was there; I seemed torn from the people and worship of God. When I arrived at Lad Lane, a band of music struck up. The whole world seemed intoxicated, and because I wanted a Savior, and desired to be sober, I seemed as strange as Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair. However, I was brought to much contrition and godly sorrow, wondering at the mercy which left me not in a giddy world to sorrow out my days in lying vanities, and despair at last; and in this frame I felt more satisfied to start.

I have met with the most comfortable lodgings that can be, private and airy; but my spiritual exercises have been new and strange to me. My thoughts became so scattered and unsettled that I could not read a line in the Bible with my mind upon it. As soon as I made the attempt I was gone upon some idle wandering. The same in prayer; not one sentence from the heart; as soon as on my knees, my thoughts were gone; and when recovered, not retained one moment. This went on until Friday evening, and I wondered whereto it would grow. Though all power of seeking deliverance seemed taken away, I did not give up, but in the lamest way possible begged mercy and showed the Lord Jesus my trouble; and the first sensation of relief came in reading these words: "Unto you will I cry, O Lord my Rock; be not silent unto me, lest if you be silent unto me, I become like them that go down into the pit" (Psalm 28:1).

It was this silence that I feared, lest the Lord would not speak to me, either reproof or encouragement. But now he was pleased to whisper that he was not far off; I found the Word sweet, and not so sealed. But the next morning the temptation returned more than ever, and I was greatly troubled, for my will was not with my wandering. I had light left to see the hypocrisy of uttering words and having my heart at the ends of the earth. I spent much time in prayer, continually begging that this temptation might be removed, but all with scattered thoughts, and wondering where it would end; at one time resolutely bent that by the help of God I both must and would pray myself out of this wretched state; and then again so confused in my mind as if the enemy were resolved I should not.

At last Saturday evening came, and bedtime, and I said, Lord, give me patience, but must I go to bed, and this night too, and have no look nor smile from you? And while on my knees by the bedside the Lord was pleased to come, and drive out all these occupiers of his temple, and give me such holy repentance, and such assurances of favor as I cannot well describe. Glory, glory be to his holy name, for such a Savior!

How I pity those who are left all the year round in the place I have been in! My temptation proves to me my weakness and sin on every side; it also shows me the privilege and absolute necessity of prevailing with God in prayer.

I hope I shall hear that you have proved the truth of this scripture, "The soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Pray let not your eyes and heart be caught by the vanity of the place you are now in. If God has sent you there, prove it by an increase of spiritual growth. I know you cannot by any other means be sure that it is God who says, "Fear not to go down into Egypt . . . I will go down with you" (Genesis 46:3, 4). Mind the last sentence, and see that you find the fulfillment of it, without any ifs or buts; and let your profiting appear. May the Lord bless you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 36

(To Mr. Nunn) Derby, 6 September 1829.

Dear Friend,

I know nothing more endearing than those secret intimations of the Spirit's returning into a sinner's heart, after a long and laborious seeking him. O what humbling sensations it produces! How low we lie at the footstool of Christ, and adore him for his great condescension! How wretched we feel our lost condition, and are amazed at the merciful plan of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the salvation of such sinful worms!

I am ashamed and confounded at my unfaithfulness in every direction, and I think a sight of this keeps me feelingly crying to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy and help. I often fear he will never soften my hard heart any more, and I am quite astonished at the means he makes use of for that purpose, which is a deep sight of my nature's evil, mixed with sore repentance and a belief that I am gone forever—unless his free, rich, and sovereign grace be bestowed upon unworthy me!

I am now separated from friends, and from the church, but not separated from the Word, nor from that "little Sanctuary" which God has promised to be to his people, wherever he carries them. Surrounded with temptations, and often feeling much distance, and many fears, I find it hard fighting, especially if the throne of grace is inaccessible. While that is clear, I feel power to cast my burdens upon the Lord, but if sin causes him to depart, then I seem to toil all night, and get nothing.

As I think much of this, so I would counsel every one to be very tender and fearful, that they do not bar their hearts against the Holy Spirit. I am sure it is hard work rowing against wind and tide. It doubles all our afflictions, and causes a wrong construction to be put upon all the dispensations of God; everything has a wrong coloring, and we get further and further from the light, while we continue in this painful path.

O what of some of our friends, who seem to be almost all the year round in this place? I wish they would believe me, that the Lord is very near, "if haply we feel after him", with all the heart.

How often has he whispered peace to me since I have been here! I have to bless his holy name forever, for what he has done for me; empty, void, and waste, he has really filled me with many good things. The more I see of the riches and vanity of this life, in the way of my business, the more I wonder at the discriminating grace of God; and while I pity the portion of the great, I do from my very soul adore Father, Son, and Spirit, for the great salvation brought home to my soul. Yes, not only "an inheritance that fades not away, reserved in Heaven", but I have found him (blessed be his holy name) a help in trouble in this life, a good Physician, a beloved Friend, a wise Counselor, who has never left me to plead my own cause, or to pay my own costs. I know not how to stop, for my heart is much impressed with a sense of his goodness, and I really find the truth of his promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Do tell those friends that do not venture to come, tell them how kind the Lord is, more ready to hear than we are to pray. "The end of all things is at hand," and I am sure we cannot struggle through without his help; and (what is more) if we know how sweet his presence is, we shall not wish to do so.

With every kind remembrance to the church, and the pastor at the head of them, who are I believe at this moment assembled for public worship, in which my spirit joins most sweetly and cordially,

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 37

(To M. B.) Alderwasley, 13 September 1829.

Dear Cousin,

I hope your next account will be better, your health mended, and your mind more settled. I have had hard work, and sometimes have thought I would never more see a friend in this world. I would not willingly go so far from home again, but I must not choose; it was by faith Enoch walked with God, and I must walk in the same steps, if I walk safely or wisely.

But alas! I seem to have got into Bye-path meadow, and there is no way out; to be fast confined in Doubting Castle, and unable to move hand or foot. I look back on many marvelous helps and deliverances, but they seem to add to my sorrow. I can only think of my ingratitude, which has caused the Lord to hide himself behind such an impenetrable cloud. I am not indifferent, but my labor seems only in the flesh.

When I left Derby I had no small difficulty, but was very anxious not to leave without some token of God's goodness and gracious care, and he was pleased to greatly comfort me; but when I came here, all was gone, and there seemed no possibility of finding him whom my soul loves. I seemed quite forgotten; but since I wrote the above, while making my lamentations known unto him, and condemning myself every way—the Lord Jesus was pleased to appear, and break my heart with a sweeter sense of his mercy than I had found this summer before.

How wisely does he do all things! How low his goodness and mercy make us! How we feel ourselves nothing, like a moth, and yet saved in Christ Jesus with an everlasting salvation! May this be an encouragement to you, and as a counsel to my children to walk in those steps that lead to eternal life. My day is over; theirs will soon be so too. The giddy multitude, old and young, are now passing my window (though Sunday). Discriminating grace has changed my heart, and makes me see death and destruction the end of their ways; and the way in which he leads me, the safe way to eternal life. O Lord, be pleased to teach my children this way, and show them your salvation.

With kindest love to all,

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 38

(To a Friend) Sezincot, 11 October 1829.

Dear Friend,

I was very unfit for my journey when I left home, but, thank God, my health is no worse, though my cold mends very slowly. But I find a cold in the heart once caught is both more lingering and worse to bear than the other. It seems to disarm me of all the means either of present cure or future prevention; and until it pleases God to quicken my soul afresh, I seem to lie in a stupor bemoaning my folly, and feeling that it has perverted my way.

The word I spoke to you the other night was very beautiful to me, "The Lord is near unto such as be of a broken heart;" but my heart was not sensibly broken; I saw and admired the rich fruit upon the tree, but there was a wall between it and me. So I went my journey, sometimes hoping, often fearing, and feeling a great readiness to dishonor God by my unbelief.

The evening I arrived here I opened the Bible, but thought I could find nothing new, nothing suitable, and that the Lord would not look upon me as he was accustomed. I opened at Proverbs 3, and he was pleased to soften my heart greatly with these words, "My son, forget not my law, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and long life and peace shall they add to you", long spiritual and eternal life, and peace that passes all understanding. And what are his commandments? "Let not mercy and truth forsake you", that is, Christ, "the way, the truth, and the life". Slight him not by a carnal worldly spirit. "Love not the world, nor the things that are in it." Let faith as a chain grace your neck, let love keep him close in your heart. "So shall you find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart"; let not sin work faith out of your heart: "and lean not unto your own understanding", no, not in secret prayer. Let not your heart deceive you in partly seeking God, and partly leaning to self. How wise and needful is this counsel, and how seldom watched! Neglect of this stops more prayers than we are aware of.

But it goes on, "In all your ways acknowledge him;" and then comes the promise, "he shall direct your paths." These are the steps that never slide (Psalm 37:31).

O sweet Counselor! heavenly Guide! thus to tutor and direct a worm. "Be not wise in your own eyes", in your own fleshly conceit; but "fear the Lord, and depart from evil." And then the whole of it is summed up in this sweet spiritual and divine promise, "it shall be health to your body and marrow to your bones."

My heart really melts with love and gratitude for the Lord's gracious dealings with me, a poor abject and afflicted sinner; kept by the mighty power of God; regarded in the lowest place; picked up and restored like the lost sheep in the wilderness.

I have often thought of your case, and the trials you have lately been in. How little in our own eyes these things make us feel! How the Lord resents and resists flesh and blood in every direction! He breaks our hard and stubborn hearts, and gives us contrite spirits, and then shows us that he delights in such, and beholds them in Christ Jesus. May you and I be enabled to keep close to him by prayer and meditation, and be found watching when he comes. I feel my body mortal more and more daily, and have many serious thoughts of my latter end, how it will be; and the best way to meet it is to live a watchful life, and endeavor to keep up communion now.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 39

(To Mr. Nunn) Godalming, July 1830.

My dear Friend,

I am often meditating on the various cases in our church, and sometimes foolishly measuring myself by them, ready to conclude that because I have not those bright and solid evidences which our friend Mr. Draper picks up in the furnace of affliction, I have not yet found the real thing; or that because I am not so low and despairing as some, in this also I am not in the footsteps of the flock.

Yet the Word of God is very precious to me, and I cannot but call to mind the sore troubles that have befallen me, and the wonderful deliverances God has wrought for me.

In coming here I met with many difficulties for the trial of patience, but the Lord made me watch; so that instead of haste, there was watchfulness; and instead of disappointment, nothing but the good hand of God appeared. You will be ready to say, What then? I was afraid it was too smooth; here also the Lord fore-armed me with much suspicion and godly fear, and many petitions that he would guard my heart and spirit. For you and I well know that indiscretion and imprudence cause the Lord to hide his face. We have been so often burnt in this fire, that we have, by the grace of God, a spiritual dread of it. By these means my present path has been sweetly cleared.

I had a good day on Sunday, though I was not so abundantly comforted, nor had any word powerfully spoken; yet I had much godly fear and humble confidence in the mercy of God in Christ, and could feel that he had done all things well, and would give me "an expected end".

As it respects the church affairs, my spirit was so meekened, that I have not a will in the flesh about it, but it seems quite left with God to do as it seems good to him. I shall be happy to put my name, in the fear of God, to any whom the church appoints (to be Deacon); and I trust if I am nominated, the Lord will more fully show me his will concerning it. Bonds and afflictions abide us in every place and in every situation.

I fear party spirit greatly, and am sorry to say that it requires no small affliction to drive it out. I think one of the greatest mercies God bestows is a spirit that is quickly meekened, and falls quickly into contrition and repentance. But alas! Mr. Will-be-will is always at my elbow, ready to give his advice gratis, and something within me is ready to take it.

A place where we are nothing, is hard to find; I dread beforehand, on every occasion, I shall fail in this. May the good Lord make you and me willing to be nothing, and then we shall be, through his Spirit, fit for anything that may meet us.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 40

(To M. B.) Purfleet, 12 September 1830.

Dear Cousin,

I am the subject of many changes. I do not remember the time when I had such a sweet journey as in coming here. It brings to my mind the pleasant week I spent at Greenhithe, the many tokens of God's favor towards me, and the peace of mind that kept pace with them. I now have many conflicts, and not a few difficulties; my peace is often disturbed but I am made to believe the Lord has "not done without cause" all that he has done to me; and this brings in deep humiliation.

Luther tells us that these changes are often upon us, in order that we may not dash our heads against the heavens, in the day of prosperity; nor our feet against the earth, in adversity.

I have no wish to give way to unbelief, but feel full fraught with a determination that the more desperate my case looks, the more I will cry to the Lord for help; and I have occasional sweetness in perceiving that he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and therefore not only knows how to support such as are tempted, but is more ready to help than we to pray. "For that your name is near, your wondrous works declare" (Psalm 75:1).

What (say you) are his wondrous works? I will tell you a few that he has wrought in me. He has made me say, with David, "I opened not my mouth, because you are the one who has done this!" (Psalm 39:9). This is one, and it is called by many names, such as patience, longsuffering, resignation, submission; add to this a step further, a meek and quiet spirit, deep humiliation under a sense of a sinful nature, contrition of spirit, a sore heart under any offence offered to his gracious Majesty; and among many more, I must add one step further, a hearty acceptance of the rod upon the old man, a glorious sense of God's mercy in Christ Jesus working a complete dominion over the will and affections, a rejoicing in this sweet salvation, though surrounded with all sorts of difficulties, and a looking to the end of our race with a hope full of immortality.

Blessed be God, I write none other things than such as the Holy Spirit has wrought in my heart, and I have the clearest understanding of. I cannot wish you a better portion than to be in the full possession of the same.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 41

(To a Friend) London, May 1831.

My dear Friend,

Mr. Burrell, in consequence of the conduct of _______, took his text as follows: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (John 13:35). He began by saying that it was in consequence of one in the church who he feared had made a breach in spirit. I never heard him more powerful and solid. He told us that Judas had his feet washed, as well as the beloved disciple John, but that it was only an outward washing. None of them seemed to know what Judas was about, not even when Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly."

Men may carry on a profession many years with their feet washed, yet with secret enmity, conceit and independence lurking in the heart, as Ahithophel long possessed the confidence of David, though in heart set against him; but at last it is brought to light and made manifest, and sometimes by a very slight circumstance.

I rose this morning with much heaviness, and was very dark in prayer, and greatly feared I should have nothing to say to my family. In reading Matthew 24, I had no sooner begun than I found the Spirit helping my infirmity. The mourners in verse 30 ("Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn") I could not help describing as those who should "see the Son of man come with power and great glory". The power is his judgment, and the sensible anger which poor sinners feel; and those that feel it shall certainly, sooner or later, understand his glory. The angels with the trumpets are the servants of God, preaching the word of life. The branch that "is tender and puts forth leaves" sets forth the extreme tenderness of those that are in soul trouble, anxious to lay aside everything that they conceive to be displeasing to God. Such may know, or be assured, that summer is near, that Jesus Christ is near at hand to heal. I cannot tell you the power and sweetness I felt, and the assurance of God's Spirit that he had chosen me, and made me to rejoice in his salvation, and greatly to hope that he would be with my children.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 42

(To a Friend) 1831.

Dear Friend,

I cannot help writing to tell you, that though I am surrounded with difficulties, yet I would not have my path other than just what it is; only that my unbelief might forever depart. In reading that ever to be remembered chapter, Genesis 28, I have had such a sweet sense of the unchangeableness of God's power, love, mercy, and faithfulness, as I never felt before. How sweetly could I, by the help of God's most Holy Spirit, climb up to the very top of that ladder! Stones have been my pillow some time; and, instead of envying, I learn to pity such as have downy pillows. There is no place so fruitful as the furnace; no way so safe as to take first the lowest step of the ladder. Precious 15th verse! ("Behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done what which I have spoken to you of.")

My heart is too full to explain anything; but I find that every dreadful place into which the Lord brings me proves eventually none other than "the gate of Heaven". When destruction is threatened on all hands, then the Lord says, "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28). I know not how to debase myself enough! With what holy reverence and godly fear I draw near! Not with slavish fear, but at a loss how to crouch low enough, or to honor his holy name enough, for noticing one so unholy. Sin is hateful, and I cannot forgive myself, yet mercy is so sweet, that I cannot but adore his love. Precious, precious word! It has been more to me than life itself. Read the chapter, and see if it will not fit you as well as me; and may the name of the God of Jacob defend you.

This is the sincere prayer of your unworthy friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 43

(To his Daughters H. P. and H. etc.) Brighton, 31 October 1831.

My dear Children,

I write this to you, and to Mrs. J. and cousin Mary. I am under various exercises here; often so cast down as to wonder whereto it will grow, and now and then so comforted and supported as to believe the Lord is doing nothing with me or for me but good. But to say this from the heart, when his heavy hand is upon me, I find to be very hard; yet all things are possible with God.

I was sweetly melted in reading Isaiah 53, especially the words "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted". It reconciled me to all my troubles; I perceived I was treading in the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially by that spiritual patience and tender watchfulness which I perceive he creates in me. The chapter begins in a low key, but how beautifully everything brightens up! "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand;" and under "the travail of his soul" we who are by nature poor barren souls, are to "break forth into singing", to fear none of those afflictions which come upon us, for we shall never be ashamed nor confounded.

The exercises which cousin Mary is under, are not strange to me; for I perceive that by means of them, spiritual life is kept up; and every succeeding wave brings us nearer to the heavenly Canaan. Nothing can equal the sweet light and clear perception of God's tenderness and care which I find in those visits which he pays me in the furnace; whenever I touch upon this subject, I know not where to end in speaking his praises; and I can add, "Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." His good pleasure overtops all our mountains of difficulties.

The Lord has brought forth these sweet things out of much bitterness, through the means of a faithful ministry. Our sores have been deeply probed; and we have found a sound healing in that very point, at which many have been offended, and have left. We too have been asked, "Will you also go away?" The unseen and unknown hand of God has prevented this, and we are now reaping the rich fruit of following the Lamb, though through much tribulation, yet through much light and comfort, with a good hope of a better inheritance. Therefore we ought to be continually praying for the prosperity of our minister; also that the government may prosper, and that we may have our privileges continued.

I must say I am a wonder to myself, that while I thus feel my heart supported and defended and abounding in hope, yet all my troubles are still upon me and about me. What is there like the true grace of God? It is health in sickness, life in death, true riches in poverty, patience in tribulation. May the Lord cause all these things to abound in you all; may he have a kind remembrance of you in your troubles, and so sanctify them that they shall yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. This will be the way he will get all the glory.

Your affectionate father, James Bourne


 

Letter 44

(To a Lady of Rank) London, 20 May 1832.

Madam,

I am quite at a loss to express my feelings for your repeated kindness to my family. I am happy to say my eldest daughter is much more satisfied in her mind, and shows the safety of a slow progressive work, while I have often seen that scripture verified which compares a quick falling into religious notions to the grass on the housetops, or seed sown by the wayside.

I hope your Ladyship will forgive me, but I am sure that there are some among your family that have an ear to listen to these things. You all know what it is to be great in this world; but if by the true grace of God you should become little in your own eyes, but highly prized by the Lord Jesus Christ, this would be a higher sort of greatness, and you would possess a better and more enduring inheritance.

Greatness in this world may procure a down pillow for a sick bed, but to be partakers of the true riches will procure peace in the soul, even in the most abject poverty; and I conceive there cannot be a greater difficulty than for such as are of your Ladyship's rank to feel that they are nothing but vanity, and as such to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive as a free bounty all that he has to bestow.

I perceive this kingdom is filled with a profession that is for the most part held with pride and independence of God. True religion is a much more deep and spiritual thing than it is at first sight judged to be. I have found it to be one continued crucifixion of all the wants, desires, prospects, and vanities of this natural heart of mine. I have found this crucifixion to be a very lingering death, and often when I have thought myself brought down in much humility, fresh light has discovered manifold hidden corruptions that cannot live, nor be allowed to dwell in the renewed heart. God and Mammon cannot live in the same house.

Seven years ago and upwards, when I was at your Ladyship's house, I was, and had been, very ill, and often under the greatest alarm lest I should not find the Lord to be gracious to me in the time of death; and many places can bear witness to the secret and trembling petitions I put up to the Lord to help me; and I assure you I had many sweet spiritual answers of peace and hope, that he would never leave me nor forsake me.

Since then I have been restored to health, and thank God he has not allowed me to forget the happiness of considering my latter end. I have been, and am surrounded with many trials, but having such a Friend to go to I am sustained, and can truly say that while the world, and this nation in particular, is filled with tumults and confusion of all sorts, I am preserved in Christ Jesus under the most heavenly calm you can conceive.

Something seems to say, How dare you write in such a manner? I can but reply, Because I cannot help thinking there are some among your party that understand what the Bread of Heaven means, and are often hungry for want of a morsel of it. To such I write, and would gladly exhort them to be much in earnest; for let not a wavering mind expect to find anything from the Lord.

I am, etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 45

(To M. B.) Tunbridge, 29 July 1832.

Dear Cousin,

You are often upon my mind, especially concerning those matters you have often spoken to me of. I am now residing with a very numerous family, and have wondered to see that whatever occurs to the children, they are perpetually running to their parents to tell them.

Dr. Owen asks, "Do you distinctly go to God, upon all occasions, to have light and judgment upon the matter, or do you make use of that judgment which you conceive you possess?" On this hangs all the right and wrong. If you distinctly trade with God upon those matters, I tremble for the object that causes your distress; for the Lord is a jealous God, and will not allow "his eye" to be touched with impunity. Neither his Word, nor his people, can be profaned; and surely such as transgress will one day be caught in the thorns. "He who being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

Then I would point out another view (which, however, by no means sets aside the first), and that is on your part. Has nothing called for this dispensation? Is there to be no humbling before God? Has not a fretful and fruitless spirit invaded you? Have you not grown more upwards than downwards? Does not the Lord check your natural or fleshly resting places by this? Independence cannot grow in so luxuriant a manner as it would, if such as these did not continually lay the cross upon your back. You see in them many things that are superabundant in yourself. You have now and then given me hints, not upon this subject, but upon another, that have made me see what a necessity there is for us all to be closely pursued, and held in with bit and bridle. I dare not exclude myself in all that I have written, but out of the abundance of my own heart, and according to the way the Lord has led me, I write.

You are now no longer a child dandled upon the knee, but are called to fight, and, like Deborah, to go forth, and not turn aside when a little strong food is offered. You are now needed in the church as an example in all things, and your carnal fears and carnal unworthiness must not keep you from showing your profiting in all things. I must say the Lord has dealt very graciously with you, but be not like the horse or the mule, and the Lord says, "I will guide you with my eye" (Psalm 32:8, 9). This eye means light, wisdom, understanding, discretion, sound judgment, in consequence of communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; thus will you be guided with his eye.

I hope you will prove to be a good nurse to little children, and cherish them with divine and spiritual food; and not cast off the lame, but rather bear them on your shoulder. I have seen a quick retiring from them, when they have started aside a little; I think if we have ever received anything that has appeared in them, it should not be so hastily given up. We have a deal of fleshly feeling like this. It is so much trouble to be always at one that gives so little hopes. Ah! if the Lord were to say so to us! Parents must lay up for children. Meditate and look in all directions (both you and I) if God's long-suffering and patience have not been tried wonderfully towards us, yes, quite as much as with those children. Eternal things are at stake; then why mind a little trouble?

I am ashamed of myself. "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." Something says, Not so! seek ease and quietness in the flesh. Thus I am beguiled often, and darkness covers me, and for a while I am not able to go to God for instruction. O may the Lord be pleased to pardon all my blunders! Let the time past suffice, and let us be more and more in earnest, seeing the day fast approaches when we must finish our course; and that we may finish it in peace is the prayer of

Your affectionate cousin, James Bourne

 

Letter 46

(To M. B.) Tunbridge, August 1832.

My dear Cousin,

I was exceedingly glad to see your letter, which has drawn out many petitions for you; and I sincerely hope that your present complicated afflictions of mind and body may be sanctified to you, so as to produce a more steadfast and lively walk with God, a fuller dependence upon him, and a more tender view of his displeasure, displayed throughout the whole of his Word, against his people. For in many things I exceedingly fail, and reproach myself.

It flashes in my face, "What manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness!" The apostle says, "Our conversation is in Heaven." Is mine? Because of these deficiencies under the sunshine of gospel light, I am often sickly, and fall into spiritual sleep; and in this sleep the furnace is preparing, and is sometimes made severely hot before I am aware; then it comes like a flash of lightning, What have I been about? How I have loitered by the way! How I have left off to be sober and watchful! This furnace is always prepared for such triflers, and I am continually caught before I see the snare.

Now I think that perhaps there is more spiritual wisdom necessary in these dark and painful paths than when all things seem straight; perhaps there is more to be learned, more good to be had, in the former than in the latter, if we are led by the Spirit of God rightly to improve the sad dispensations that bring on a hot furnace.

I find the first and best thing that can be done is at once to fall down and cry for mercy, confessing that our sin has procured it. If we can feel that God is kind in thus stopping us and purging us, nothing sweetens the affliction more; and if we can find a listening ear, he has often much to say to us under these doleful dispensations. Therefore, at such a time, if it is possible, be much alone; cease not from watchfulness and prayer; keep constantly begging instruction—first repentance and humiliation for the sad cause that brings us low, and then much self-loathing to think that he will take such sweet advantage of our calamity and sin as to make them profitable to us, and will not leave us until he says, "Friend, come up higher!" But all this is not done in a noise and bustle. It is called in Scripture God's "secret place" (Ezekiel 7:22).

There is still a further lesson to learn, wherein I have always been anxious to be instructed. Am I a nonentity in the church of God? Is this gracious dispensation come upon me for myself alone? O Lord, if it be for the good of your poor, tried, afflicted people—then give me time, talents, and power, to tell to others what you have done for my soul, that I may, by the help of your Holy Spirit, rightly instruct and encourage such of your desponding flock as fall in my way; for I, of all men most miserable and most weak, have been surprised with the loving-kindness and tender mercy of our God in Christ Jesus.

There is still something further—that I should not only receive this precious salvation, and declare it, and comfort others by it, but be found so walking as not to cause to stumble those whom I counsel, nor grieve those who hear that I prevail with God. As I have "received Christ Jesus the Lord", so must I learn "to walk in him" in godly simplicity and transparency. This will preserve the unity of the Spirit. It is repeatedly and wonderfully set forth in the Word. Let us remember that true faith, as Hart says

"Takes the whole Gospel, not a part,

And holds the fear of God."

I would have you remember that the Lord will try his people. Perhaps pride about the present matter, or some other more secret thing, must have a blow, and the Lord saw that this would inflict the wound in the right place, where the gangrene needed letting out.

"Our good Physician heals our wounds

With tenderness and skill."

There seems a great stir among our strangers. I shall be truly glad if Mr. C. J. comes out on the right side of the Slough of Despond. I hope he will take no hasty steps to settle his matters. Let me counsel you, while in the neighborhood, to visit Mrs. L. and Mrs. N., and see if you can find spiritual fellowship; and let me hear of your matron-like walk; and excuse me if I add a Scripture which you will wish neither to wipe out nor disannul: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." This is their profiting by your walk. Watch while you are visiting, and remember an idle life is a sensual one, delighting too much in the accommodations afforded. Stop every thief or highwayman that would plunder you, by being determined not to dwindle into gossip. If you are spiritually minded on your visit, you will find it life and peace, but if this is interrupted by light and trifling conversation, life and peace will go. "Let your conversation be as befits the gospel", not only at times, but "Be instant in season and out of season." Tell them if they wish to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—then the flesh must be put off, mortified, and crucified. Independence must be laid at the Savior's feet, and all must become beggars, who long to partake of the royal bounty of Heaven.

May the good Lord instruct you in all things unto his heavenly kingdom, is the prayer of

Your affectionate cousin, James Bourne

 

 

 

Letter 47

(To Mr. Nunn) Tunbridge, 26 August 1832.

Dear Friend,

It is with the greatest sincerity I acknowledge your kindness in writing from time to time, as I find your letters are a continual source of meditation and spiritual life to my soul, and keep alive and fresh that unity of the Spirit with the church of God, a sweet bond which I hope neither time nor distance will ever remove.

I have had some very sweet seasons in reading lately, especially in the consideration of being clean, through the word spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:3). He speaks peace upon the heart. While we have this cleanness we are fruitful; lose it, and we are at once unfruitful. To abide in this is the only means of keeping his joy remaining in us; to lose this is to be cast forth as withered branches. There are more ways than one of being cast forth; it does not mean final destruction only. I am led to see and feel in myself what I have often seen and felt in others, how for want of this spiritual cleanness I have been cast forth as a dry, unsavory, fruitless, useless branch, for a season. To my shame be it spoken, I have found the spirit of the world has gathered my affections from God for a season, until he has sent some heavy dispensation to teach me to ponder my way, and to show me that all this is come upon me for want of attending to this cleanness. I have left my abiding place, lost my cleanness, and in consequence, all fruitfulness.

It is the will of our heavenly Bridegroom that we should always be where he is, that we may behold the glory of this great redemption, and hear him proclaim his great name, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty" (Exodus 34:6, 7); and that we may more fully enjoy the love with which the Father has loved the Son, and may more sweetly comprehend the divine and spiritual union of the Trinity with the mystical body of Christ. The cleanness and the abiding in Christ are the same thing.

If you read John 15 you will find that all the sweet things that are there pointed out are referred to in the last verse, as if it said, All these are and must be found in you, that you may bear witness to the truth. There must be no useless members in the body of Christ.

My desire is that while I have the light I may walk in the light, lest darkness come upon me for my unfruitfulness, and lest after the Lord has spoken these things, he should depart and hide himself from me. I assure you I move in great fear; and am sorry to say that with all my fears, afflictions, and crosses, the spirit of this world, and spiritual barrenness, and want of diligence and energy continually come upon me. I begin to discern that it is the true teaching of the Holy Spirit to make manifest my corruptions in all directions, and to sanctify the sight, so as to lead me with double earnestness to Jesus Christ as my only remedy; and especially while I am here without the converse of the people of God, I seem to have a double jealousy over myself, and keep saying, How long is it since I had the last visit from the Lord? Is spiritual decay begun? What shall I do to regain my loss? And there seems no rest in my spirit if I find barrenness in reading, or any unusual dryness in prayer; or if I wake in the night, and my thoughts are lost in the world, or if in my walks I catch myself occupied on trifles. I fear all these things as so many tokens of the beginning of spiritual decay, and am led to be very earnest that the Lord would keep me while here, maintain my lot, and make it manifest I am not straying foolishly and perversely from his fold.

I also found yesterday Isaiah 60 very sweet, and after many things suitable to me and brought warm to my heart, this seemed to top them all, that the Lord should say that we are necessary for his glory, and to beautify the place of his sanctuary. This thought always breaks my heart, having such a sight of myself in my first birth, neither washed in the blood of Christ, nor swaddled in his righteousness, nor suppled by the anointing of the holy Spirit, but lying polluted in my own blood (Ezekiel 16:3-6)—then for the Lord to pass by, and pity and save! And to tell me, moreover, that I am necessary for his glory! You and I can only say, "Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."

It is always a comfort to hear of the goodness of God to his poor afflicted. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the Angel of his presence saved them." How sweet were these words to me today, "In his love and in his pity he redeemed them." And now I bear in mind poor Mrs. T. It is no new thing he is doing for her; he bare her and carried her in his purpose from the days of eternity, and that is the reason his arms are now underneath her.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 48

(To Mrs. J.) Tunbridge, September 1832.

Dear Friend,

I cannot help sending you a few lines, nor must you be alarmed if I begin by bearing testimony against the whole tenor of your letter. I think I have full proof; I have known you for some years, and when first you were among us, you, like the rest, wanted a good deal of pruning; and the Lord has done it, as he always does, as a Sovereign. He prunes one, one way, and another another way, but all to make us fruitful; and to remain unfruitful under such circumstances is a sad omen. If in natural things such were to be the case, no doubt you would find fault with the gardener; but who is to be found fault with in spiritual matters? I say we do well not to suffer one member to set aside another, nor to compare our fruitfulness with another's, but rather acknowledge that measure of growth which has been evidently displayed under the kind management of the Holy Spirit. As it respects yourself, I for one must acknowledge you have been useful to me. I have seen and heard of your manifold afflictions, and have heard you declare the goodness of God to you in them. I have been greatly refreshed by it so as to be encouraged, foreseeing myself on the bed of languishing, hoping as the Lord has appeared for you, so he would also be with me; and thus I have gone away with much godly fear on my spirit. I call this your fruitfulness abounding towards others. Your mercy lies in this, not thinking yourself anything, but highly prizing the rich treasure that the Lord has put into your earthen vessel; be careful not to take the glory, but ascribe the whole of it to God and the Lamb, who has washed us in his blood.

Pray remember me to your daughter E., and tell her to call to mind those seasons of darkness and fears that led her so to cry to God as to prevail, and not to be satisfied with the testimony of man, but seek for perpetual renewals of his tokens, that there may be fellowship between God and her soul; and let her remember that in every visit there is a discovery of light upon her path spiritually and temporally. "Light is sown for the righteous," as well as "gladness for the upright in heart." Stumbling comes in consequence of walking in darkness. Sin is what we stumble over, and nothing removes this but the precious blood of Christ. He is the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in his wings; "in his light we see light," and let us mind while we have the light to walk in it, for we shall not stumble in this light. Take heed that darkness do not abide upon your spirit, for he who walks in darkness knows not where he goes. Comfort my heart, my dear friend E., in showing your earnest desire after these things, your fervency of spirit, and increase of understanding, so that your profiting may appear.

It is my sincere desire to see the prosperity of our Zion, and that you may increase more and more,

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 49

(To the Rev. Charles Jeffreys, concerning his friend Mr. Maddy) October 1832.

My dear Sir,

I have for this last year been frequently going to Greenwich Hospital, and could not but remark how often a lame pensioner was coupled with a blind one; and so I cannot but call to mind how in my early days, before I had much understanding in divine things as respects myself, I was often obliged to bear testimony to many truths which as yet I had not fully proved. This seems in a measure to be your present case with your friend, and you may say to him, as one of old said (Psalm 114), "What ails you, that you are driven back?" and I may add, "Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the Lord." You and I must now pause and ask, Will he indeed turn the flinty rock into springs of water? The presence of the Lord, it is true, is with both you and your friend; but something yet further is wanting before you can be satisfied what this presence is for, whether for judgment or for mercy. Now, if you can prevail upon the Lord Jesus Christ to hear your prayers, and can in any wise perceive that he has kind intentions towards you, even in the most distant hope, and that only for a very short time, yet while it lasts it will draw forth such an expression as this, "I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications." I was in deep sorrow and trouble, in gross darkness and ignorance, but in calling upon the name of the Lord I found him merciful; he acknowledged the sincerity of my heart (made so by his Spirit) and helped me (Psalm 116).

Having believed and received this, I can declare it to my friend, and recommend to him to be exceedingly diligent at a throne of grace. There are no end of instances in the Word of God of men calling upon the name of the Lord in their distress, but not one instance of a failure; and it is here added (Psalm 118), "The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place." I am sure that if both you and your friend make not God your strength in all the perplexing dispensations that are come and are coming over your heads, you will not find the salvation that you seem to be seeking for. "The right hand of the Lord" alone "does valiantly;" and if you make him your strength, though he chasten you sore with many fears and misgivings, yet he will not give you over unto death.

Be faithful to the utmost of your spiritual understanding, and enter not into any other field. As your friend wants, or seems to want, spiritual counsel, tell him all the truth, and fill not your letters with postscripts and additions of deviations on other subjects, which will certainly blunt the edge and divide the attention, half for the world, and not half for the Lord. I hope it will please God to direct you, that this labor of love may not prove in vain.

I am, etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 50

(To the Rev. Watkin Maddy) London, 10 January 1833.

Dear Sir,

I begin to fear lest you should prove yourself ignorant of Satan's devices. The worst of snares are usually laid in the most insidious places. I have heard of a Mr. B—, who seemed armed with all the zeal of an apostle, and feared not the face of any of the great men of Oxford. But where is he? Swallowed up in errors, and has made it fully manifest to all such as fear God, that the root of the matter was never there. I exceedingly tremble at your loitering, and the plausible excuses you make. While you are endeavoring in your own wisdom to make straight all things that God has made crooked, take heed lest the city be in flames, and you find no angel to take you by the hand.

In reading this morning, with my family, the captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20), I was awe-struck with the stripping of every fair outside of religion, and how God will discover us to all the world, and make it manifest, even by some little foolish and apparently trifling circumstance, if our covering is not that of the Spirit, but of the flesh; and so we are led away captives.

The enemy goes about "as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour". A sheep, separated from the fold, is in danger of every wolf. The worst snares are such as seem kind and religious; for these deceitful workers are set forth as subtle of heart, loud and stubborn, lying in wait at every corner. They will do all they can in their kindness to kiss you, and, with a presumptuous confidence, tell you, "I have peace offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows; therefore came I forth to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you;" and it is added, "Thus with her much fair speech she caused him to yield, and with the flattering of her lips she forced him." These are some of the things I often fear in myself, and therefore am led to caution others, knowing that this Mr. Fair-speech, or some of his family, resides in every place, and is ready to offer his services on all occasions. I would have you remark that all that listen are described as simple ones, void of understanding, passing near to the place of danger, and going the way to the house of folly. Alas! alas! None are so wise and so strong as those who know nothing as they ought to know, and feel themselves quite able to stand their ground in every dangerous place (Proverbs 7:6-23).

May the Lord direct, and help you to know and understand aright, and make his Law to be a lamp to you, to keep you from the flattery of "the strange woman"; and rest assured that in the reproofs of instruction is the way of life. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" It is said, "Men do not despise a thief if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry." You, Sir, have been this thief, but the Lord has found you out, and you must now no longer become vain in your robbery; but as you have been told the truth, and have in part acknowledged it, so must you now make restitution, by showing your ardent desire to cleave to that truth which God has revealed. He who turns away from it lacks understanding, destroys his own soul, and gets nothing but wounds and dishonor, and his reproach shall never be wiped away (Proverbs 6:23-33).

May the Lord give you courage to listen to his voice, and to forgive me, is the prayer of

Your unworthy servant, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 51

(To a young Friend) London, 18 April 1833.

My dear young Friend,

I must acknowledge "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, for before I was afflicted I went astray." I was very untender in my early profession, and therefore am anxious to warn the young of the rocks on which I struck.

If you read Ezekiel 20, I think verses 5, 6, 7, and part of 8 will point out much of what has been my case. Yet such has been the mercy of God towards me as is described in the 9th verse. This deeply impressed my mind, and humbled me in the dust, and makes me to bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him. He would not suffer me to pollute his name, and therefore put me into many repeated and hot furnaces, that the dross of pride and vanity might be purged away; and has given me a measure of hope that he will make me a vessel meet for the Master's use. On my first entrance into a profession, I sat under a ministry which took but little notice of our outward walk. It was left a good deal to turn upon this hinge, that the teaching of the Spirit will direct us in all our outward proceedings; gain but the favor of God, and all other things will find their right course. This is true, but not all the truth that should be declared; else why did the Savior and all the apostles say so much upon the subject of our whole outward walk? I had many sweet intimations of God's love, and many secret admonitions and warnings about things I seldom heard of from the pulpit. At first through that tenderness which the Lord kindly gave me, I seemed to listen to them, and the milk and honey were often given to me, and all things went on well; but the idols of Egypt, and the many snares which were privily laid for my feet, entangled me, and I perceived a cloud hung over my spirit, and a measure of despondency took place, and I could not but cry, "My leanness, my leanness! Woe unto me." And then came this question, Why am I thus? Where is the milk and the honey? And upon an honest inquiry sprang up the conviction, that as the Lord declares by Ezekiel, I polluted his sabbaths, my walk rendered them unprofitable, and I despised his judgments; for though executed even before my eyes in the church, I feared not my own case. But the 17th verse of the same chapter seems exactly the truth to me: "Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness." Such has been my untoward perverseness and ignorance, that nothing but the mighty power of God could have stopped me from ruin. I must add, that from the 33rd verse to the end of the 37th my case is set forth, and the 38th is descriptive of the corruptions of my heart, at the sight of which I often tremble; but the 43rd and 44th are so true to the work of God in my own soul, that I cannot but rejoice in hope.

From what I have written, I would have you understand the caution I am anxious to give you respecting this early part of your spiritual teaching. Suspect anything like a lowering cloud hanging over your head; and if the milk and honey are stayed, enter minutely into the cause; pass not over it and "You shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done, says the Lord" (Ezekiel 14:23). In your separation from your godly friends and the ministry, you will find it hard labor to maintain spiritual life; and I would recommend you to attend very particularly to Paul's advice to Timothy, that you may not come home with your locks shorn, but that your profiting may appear, and your labor not be in vain in the Lord. "Let the word of God dwell in you richly"; "Exercise yourself unto godliness"; "Keep that which is committed into your trust" (namely, godly fear in a tender conscience). Listen to the secret checks I speak of, and browbeat them not, and so shall your profiting appear. Grace be with you. Amen.

If it is well with you, remember me in your prayers, and write me word how you go on.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 52

(To Mr. Yeomans) London, 28 September 1833.

Dear Friend,

It is a matter of deep humiliation to me when I hear that one so sapless and dry has been profitable to any. It makes me look with shame on many foolish, vain, and unprofitable hours that I have spent, even since I have known the Lord. Herein I learn to justify God in all the severe dispensations I have passed through, and believe that all God's judgments are right. I have had a painful path, but my proud heart called for heavy strokes, and for the destruction to which God says he will bring all his people (Deuteronomy 32). He did not spare my flesh for my much crying, but having purposes of mercy towards me, prepared the furnace accordingly. In this way great self was brought down gladly to take the lowest room, and think none so mean and base as himself; and the repetition of the same afflictions was necessary to keep him there. I must now acknowledge, however painful this labor has been, it has not been in vain; for "in all these things is the life of my spirit".

If you are desirous of attaining a good degree, it is only through much tribulation. In the many mortifications and crucifixions I have suffered, I have never yet found but that God has caused my sorrow to pass away like the sorrow of a woman in travail. The birth has been made clear, and the Lord has often told me the sweetest things that a man on earth can know. He once said to me, "Satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord;" and this, with many other things that seem too great to speak of, I have found in the valley of humiliation. It is in the sea of troubles he makes a way for his ransomed to pass over; they are not left to stick fast in the mire, but made to pass over. Take my advice, never let your troubles, whatever they are, pass away without a token of Christ's deliverance; let not a fleshly arm put them aside, nor wear them out by time. Every trouble and difficulty, all shyness and distance between the Lord Jesus Christ and you, if rightly ended, must issue in the shedding abroad of his love in your heart. So will you come to a better acquaintance with the Friend of sinners, and find no grief too heavy for him to bear, no difficulty too great for him to bring you through. He is, and will be found to be, "a tried stone, a sure foundation". Venture on him. He has "the keys of Hell and of death"; and neither shall touch you, if you make him your Friend. If he shows the least sign of displeasure upon your conscience, bow, and stoop, and confess, and pray, and fall at his feet; if you understand not what it means, do not contend, but fall. This is our place; let us learn steadily to judge ourselves in all cases, that we be not judged of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:31). Fret not when disappointed; God's voice is in all his dispensations, and he never speaks but something is to be attended to; and, remember, he goes from words to blows. We cannot fall too soon. A broken spirit is a rare thing, and is only found as the effect of much affliction.

I do hereby again declare that the sweetest path I have been in has been in the valley of humiliation. The surest tokens of the love of God have been found in the sharpest exercises. I can, therefore, well recommend to you this "Friend that loves at all times", and who will not turn his back upon you when all things seem to come to an end, and all other friends fail.

I can truly lament your want of the means which God has provided for us; but it seems indeed, and of a truth, that he has been "as a little sanctuary" to you for many years. May he enable you to double your diligence as the day approaches, and remember me when it goes well with you. With kind regards to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, in truth and sincerity, in your little circle, believe me to remain

Your affectionate friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 53

(To a Friend) London, 18 November 1833.

Dear Friend,

I have been for a long time exceedingly cast down and trembling in spirit lest the judgments of God, as recorded in his Word, should overtake me and mine. Everything seemed to appear against me, and I became "like the sparrow alone upon the house-top". Yet I found under all this heavy cloud a very sensible and close cleaving and crying to the Lord. I overheard someone mention Psalm 102, and when I returned home I desired it to be read in my family. I saw some things in it very suitable, but not yet attainable by me. I therefore retired, and in secret read it over again with many longing desires. The first words which warmed my heart were these, "When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory;" and the next verse, "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer," quite melted my heart in contrition, and gave me a sweet and comfortable hope that he was doing me good, and not wreaking his fury upon me; that he was really dealing gently and kindly with me, and as a father chastens his son, so the Lord was chastening me; and that he would look down from the height of his sanctuary to hear the groaning of me his prisoner, "to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem".

This greatly comforted me, and gave me such light and understanding in my path as at present I forbear to describe; but this gradually closed, and darkness returned with all my despondency. In reading the whole history of Hezekiah, as given by Isaiah, I was again enlightened and encouraged; and then again confused and covered with fears; but this evening these words revived and filled my soul with hope and much contrition: "A bruised reed shall he not break." Thus hoping and desponding, crying and groaning, I have had many changes, even in this one day; sometimes fearing lest my religion should come to nothing, and sometimes looking out of obscurity, and seeing my eternal safety in Christ Jesus, and that better and brighter days yet await me.

A friend, sitting by, read Habakkuk 2:The first three verses were so sweetly applied with divine power upon my heart, as to assure me of the Lord's kind favor, and that he would do me good and not evil all the days of my life. ("I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower; and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; for it will surely come, it will not tarry.")

Yours etc. James Bourne


 

Letter 54

(To Mrs. Burrell) London, 25 March 1834.

Dear Friend,

I have often grieved at the cause of the darkness which covers my friend, which is sin; and have wondered why the Lord should suffer me to be so continually involved in that misery. I now begin to think one cause is that we may warn and caution all about us, lest spiritual sloth and want of watchfulness overtake them before they are aware. I have experienced much of this darkness and sorrow lately, and find few companions that can enter into my case. Death, judgment, holiness, justice, and righteousness, are often my contemplations; and they rouse my fears and discover to me what the prophet saw through the hole in the wall (Ezekiel 8). A light professor is death to me, and disturbs my meditations, which I dare not say are all bondage; for I assure you even in these places, Christ often speaks a word to me from off the mercy-seat. By these my heart is kept out of the world, and the sight of God's greatness in all directions makes me sink into nothing before him. This fear keeps me firm at my post; "knowing the terror of the Lord" I wish to persuade those about me. I perceive it is a fearful thing to sin against God. It is said of Moses that God would not speak to him as to other men; with him he would speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and yet we read, "And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron, Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring up this congregation into the land which I have given them" (Numbers 20:12).

I am persuaded that Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost; I also perceive that he will take vengeance of our inventions, to keep us in a low place, and make salvation sweet and great and precious; and I think I know what this means, "The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty waves of the sea" (Psalm 93). These are the fearful and tremendous exercises that I labor under in all directions; being often brought to the bar of God, I sink in fearful apprehensions of his taking vengeance of my inventions. In such a case we have a full sight of our inventions, and are quite sure that sin is exceedingly hateful to God, so that we cannot attend to what is often lightly said, Why don't you roll yourself upon the promises? Alas, alas! "To will is present with me, but how to perform I find not." How deeply we are convinced that we must bow in absolute submission to the sovereignty of God, and have nothing left, within or without, but "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and even here patience must have its perfect work, and we must be brought patiently to wait, and quietly to hope, for his salvation. But we find it does most assuredly come, and is like "new wine put into new bottles", and thus we are preserved unto eternal life.

In such an experience I find all my native loveliness turned into corruption, and all my fair pretensions lose their claims, and I am made willing and glad to be saved in God's way.

This morning I had a sweet season in prayer, and while my heart was melted as wax before the fire, I thought of you, and begged that you might rejoice with me in this great salvation; that the Lord would raise your drooping head, and cause your tongue to say, "He has done all things well." So prays

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 55

(To M. A. H.) London, 30 May 1834.

Dear Friend,

I, with you, am subject to many changes, and I must confess that in the exercises which these changes bring, is the life of my spirit. About a year ago I was under many apprehensions that the Lord would return no more. I was in that "horror of great darkness" out of which I thought the Lord never intended to deliver me. He showed me the "smoking furnace" that I was about to be put into, to humble my pride and make me less independent; and I think he made me in some measure to accept with all my heart the punishment of my sins; for I dared not murmur. I have often since wondered how the Lord kept me patiently waiting for him; nothing is so likely to bring us to this as a sense of our sin, under which we have nothing to say but Guilty; and nothing to do but to put our fingers upon our lips and cry, "Unclean, unclean." And when the Lord comes to us in such a place as this we are indeed surprised, and his goodness and mercy quite break our hearts.

By these various exercises the soul gains much increase of understanding, and a further insight into the work of God, both in ourselves and in others. Past experiences are always more or less like waymarks in future difficulties, and cause a greater readiness to run to our Stronghold.

No doubt you have been in many perplexities since you left us, and for want of public and private communion, with the saints there have been many painful seasons of spiritual death, and some cross or other has been laid upon you to add energy to your prayers.

Be sure you never "let that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." Nothing will establish darkness and despondency in the soul sooner than an old sin passed over, forgotten, and unrepented of. May you and I be able to pray with the Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting." Make the Word of God your constant companion in your present banishment, and may you, like John, be found "in the Spirit on the Lord's day".

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 56

(To M. A. H.) London, 1834.

Dear Friend,

I am sorry to hear such sad accounts of your health, but I go about and perceive that affliction is the lot of all God's people; and as you have prayed to be manifestly his, this is the universal means of being made so. I am just returned from Mrs. O., and find her past all hopes of recovery, but wonderfully supported. She told me that when in health she used to think that death was so awful and so tremendous, that she should not he able to bear its approach; but that now, when she feels herself sinking and very near it, she finds the Lord removes her distress and dark feelings about it. A few days ago the Lord whispered to her, if it had not been so, he would have told her, but that he went before to prepare a place for her; and that it is far better to be with Christ than in the world. Though she often complains of deadness, yet she says he brings some such word as this, "I will love you to the end;" on which she is caused to hope.

This is very encouraging to me, and I hope it may be so to you. The Lord has been pleased to lay his afflicting hand upon you, and your great mercy will be to find grace to stoop under it as low as possible. I have learned that the place where we may find the Lord is the lowest place where no strength remains shut up (Deuteronomy 32:36), and we are so weak as not to be able to look up, but would, if possible, absolutely accept the punishment of our sins. Here, if we pray and cry, no harm can come to us, but God will in due time both hear and relieve. In this low place let us listen to the many good lessons that are and ought to be learned, and we shall believe that though the Lord chastens us sore, he will not give us over unto spiritual death; and that the intended profit shall be accomplished to his honor and glory.

Press on, my dear friend, and though it be through a crowd of hindrances, yet be determined to make your way to Christ. If this spiritual labor be ever so secret, the Lord will reward you openly. Seek not natural life as the chief good, but let spiritual life be earnestly desired and maintained in the soul. In the exercise of this your profiting will appear, and your growing up in Christ, your living Head in all things. Be much in the Word of God and prayer; and when it is well with you, remember me.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 57

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 7 June 1834.

Dear Sir,

Half an hour ago I had little thought of writing to you so soon, but hearing of your present trial excites me to pray that as you partake of the affliction of the children of God, so you may also of the consolation. I believe you have been led in godly simplicity to beg of God to clear your way and to show you how you ought to go; so I believe that he will unfold the mystery in a way that we cannot in any ways foresee. Perhaps this very circumstance which seems big with ruin, will, by the Lord's help, give you power to bear witness to the truth where you were least likely to have an opportunity of so doing. My prayer for you shall be that you may be fortified and emboldened to bear a clear testimony of the hope that is in you, and that you may give a scriptural ground for your proceedings, and may find power to leave the event with the Lord, and be much in prayer to be at his disposal.

I have often, in the course of my life, been in such intricate circumstances as to think there could be no way opened for my escape; but by giving myself to prayer, I have been astonished to find, when the time has arrived and I have almost despaired, the Lord has spoken these words, and others of the like sort: "The battle is not yours, but God's;" "Because you have made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, your habitation, there shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling." And I have found the verity of these precious words; and they have silenced all my fears, and strengthened my hopes, in future difficulties.

Be very particular to attend to this my request: if any plans in the flesh are proposed in your mind, or any schemes of human prudence are held before you, reject them as you would a viper, and for this once try what being a fool for Christ's sake will do. Let patience have its perfect work; rely, if possible, on the Lord; be much in prayer, night and day; and believe me, the weaker you feel, and the more sensible you are of your want of power to manage the matter, so much the more likely you are to meet with God's protection. "He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increases strength."

I send this to some friends who, though unknown to you, are anxious for your spiritual welfare, and would desire with me that this trial may end in showing you more and more of the mysteries both of grace and providence.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 58

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 19 June 1834.

Dear Sir,

I have often thought of you in your present difficulties, and only hope the Lord is on your side by the deep exercises you labor under, and the deep sense you have in them of God's visiting your sin, and by his stirring up adversaries to bring you to the feet of Christ as a lost sinner. When these outward trials and inward conflicts bring you to that place, I shall have further hope that the Lord has some marvelous blessing in store for you, if you, like the publican, dare not so much as to lift up your eyes unto Heaven, but smite upon your breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

Will you plead that you did not deserve such treatment? Did the publican plead his good intentions? Did he plead his faithfulness to such treacherous and unfaithful friends, and that he deserved and looked for better treatment than what he found? No! You do not hear one plea in his own behalf, but "God be merciful to me a sinner."

May the Lord, in all the dark dispensations you are now passing under, teach you to stand in awe of his word, and bring you to the very place in which the publican was. May he make you not to fear man, but to remember, "He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."

I dare say you are often ready to dispute your title to the name of Israel; then I say, "Give the Lord no rest," begging that this trial may have this very effect in it, that your calling and election may be sure to you. Let me put this prayer on your lips, and may the Holy Spirit bring it forth from your heart:

"Unto you lift I up mine eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud" (Psalm 123).

Let me entreat you to watch this one thing, that whatever the outward event may be, whether prosperous or adverse, you gain a spiritual increase, and come not out of the trial like a fool brayed in a mortar (Proverbs 27:22). If you belong to God, you will certainly see that every cross providence has spiritual instruction in it, and if sanctified, will produce a clearer fellowship between the Lord Jesus Christ and your soul. I have always found my heaviest troubles in the end produce the sweetest enjoyments of God's love, and the brightest and clearest views of his gracious intentions of doing me good and not evil all the days of my life. I hope the Lord has something to clear in this crisis, and that your spiritual attention to his "still small voice" within, may not be lost by the thunders and threatenings without, which I am sure will be the case if you are not much in prayer.

May the Lord protect you and Mrs. Gilpin, and make you willing to be nothing—hard lesson! Here let me quote for you both a part of our late friend's prayer: "O Lord, keep me very low, O keep me very low indeed! O Lord Jesus, do you do it, and save me as you did her who sat at your feet, and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and you said her sins, which were many, were forgiven, and she loved much." Get here, and all outward difficulties are easily righted. The Lord exalts them of low degree, and to the poor in spirit salvation is sent.

From your unworthy but willing servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 59

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 22 June 1834.

My dear Friend,

I would first consider the letter you have received, which appears to have been written with much kindness. If I were to answer it I would not advert to the outward circumstances, but if possible, with the utmost godly simplicity, declare that you are under spiritual difficulties, and are making the Lord your refuge; that you by no means dare to run from your post, where you believe that God is instructing you. What the Lord may do for you is yet undiscovered but you mean not willingly to give offence, nor to flinch from the cross when offence is taken against the truth.

I judge that your influential friend has no God, or he would have directed you to him, but an arm of flesh is all he offers. Be as short in your answer as such received kindness will admit of. Be on the defensive, explain nothing, clear nothing, leave as much difficulty upon curious inquiries as you can. "Be wise as serpents." Make God your counselor, keep very private, very silent. While you are secretly laboring with God, he will openly work for you. Deep piety, as it is called without meaning, will do you no good. Scrupulous tenderness must be given up, if it only leads us to be pleasers of men. To move out of the furnace before the Lord moves the cloud would to me appear a very black mark. While you would be busied here and there, in other places, the Holy Spirit would leave you as barren as a potsherd, without knowing when he would in mercy return.

O my friends, remember Jonah, what he suffered, and how he was forced to return and bear heavy tidings at last! May the Lord give you power to "endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ", and not suffer you to fall by the kindness of false friends. None so false as those who lead you to an arm of flesh. They kindly and tenderly hand you over the stile to By-path meadows, and leave you not until they fairly see you safe in Doubting Castle, under the charge of Giant Despair; and there his wife Diffidence will keep you from a Throne of Grace, and make you long rue the first wry step you took, in shutting your ears to the "still small voice", and in being enticed by the sweet things such false friends promise, but never mean to perform.

O beware! your conflict and danger are great indeed. But, "Fear not, you worm Jacob"; while you are this worm, fear not: "I will be with you." The waters shall not overflow you, when you pass through. All this will be proved, not in an obstinate and violent opposition, but in a secret feeling sense of sinking at Christ's feet as a condemned sinner. The Lord never makes his grace, mercy, and power manifest, but when we are nothing. He never displays his wonderful intervention so much as when all, all is left, by prayer, at his disposal. A long experience only will bring us firmly to believe that "safety is of the Lord". We may have some notion of it, but do not readily perceive in what state we find ourselves when the Lord does this mighty work. I always find it comes when all my might, my conceit, my wisdom, my contrivance, and, in short, when all the wonderful powers of the human soul are laid low in the dust at the feet of Jesus Christ. Then it is that the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table. As I said in my last, "Venture to be nothing." It will do you both good. Therein lie your safety and happiness. The road to it lies through many prickly thorns: to lose a good name, to be counted a fool for Christ's sake, to be hated for the same cause. Sometimes Heaven and earth seem combined to bring on our ruin; and so they are. There must be a downfall of the old man; he must be crucified.

Until we come into this furnace (in which I have been, and am daily exercised) we have no notion what it is to be nothing; but here it is we are taught the nature of the apostasy of the professing church, and learn not to say, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people say, A confederacy (Isaiah 8:11-12). Here too you will learn not to trifle with the message on which God has sent you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 60

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Bushey, Herts, July 1834.

Dear Friend,

I exceedingly lament the time and manner of your captivity; yet I cannot understand how it is you can both see and hate that which lies hard upon you, unless it be the Spirit humbling you by slow degrees to bring you to the knowledge of that sad state to which sin has reduced you. It is written in 2 Kings 24 that it was the Lord who sent the bands of the Chaldees and Syrians and Moabites and Ammonites against Judah to destroy it. "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins . . . which the Lord would not pardon." All the vessels of gold were taken out of the temple of the Lord, and carried away to Babylon; all the golden faith that should be manifest in hearing the word is carried off by temptation to the spirit of the world and lightness; no access; no sense of God's presence; all is darkness and despondency, and no prospect of a change. The Lord has given you up to the enemy for a season to show you what Babylon can do for you, and what you can do for yourself. I know you will struggle long to labor for life, and to get from under the yoke, not knowing that a great ransom cannot deliver you, none less than Jesus Christ. Him you reject, and put carnal reason, human virtue, and pious resolutions in his place; but the Lord will carry away all these mighty men of valor, all these craftsmen, and cunning workmen, and artificers; not one shall remain. And when all your strength is gone, and none shut up or left, then will the Lord appear.

I hope the Lord will continue that fear which you speak of, for by it we depart from evil. It is that remaining spark of life by which we contend, though but weakly, against our desperate foes. Pray cherish this; it is your best jewel; do not break through this hedge; fight hard, and give not up prayer, however dead and unprofitable it may appear.

I have had some sweet seasons, and only wonder at the goodness of God to me.

Yours &e. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 61

(To Mr. Nunn) Bushey, July 1834.

Dear Friend,

I am very glad to hear that there is hope you may yet be spared to us a little longer. It has been deeply impressed on my mind, and may it be yet more deeply impressed on yours, to remember the sore conflicts we have had, and the vanity we have been made to feel in all created things; and may we now find leisure from the world to "sing of mercy and judgment". We have been put into these deep waters as a caution to light professors, to show them what they must go through if ever they are saved; and that making their strength firm will not deliver them. You and I know in our measure what this means: "we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom." They are not words without meaning.

I think I never felt anything like the sensation of darkness and despair which I felt when the Lord once seemed to speak these words upon my heart, "You have forsaken me, and served other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more" (Judges 10:13). This was a place of all but despair. I repeated the words, No more! and something replied, No more. O the sackcloth that covered my soul, and the dark and hopeless condition of my spirit, being fully convinced of the righteous judgment of God! Here I lay three days, and could not rest in my bed. What confessions, what stooping, with my mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope! At length a whisper, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy," to show that the Lord is faithful. He made me feel that he was grieved for my misery, and touched with the feeling of my infirmities; and I have heard such whispers as these, Because your heart has been made tender under the rod, and you have humbled yourself before the Lord, "Behold therefore I will gather you unto your fathers, and you shall be gathered into your grave in peace" (2 Kings 22:10, 20).

This, my dear friend, is one of many things that have tended to make me dread the snares of a bewitching world, and a vile, treacherous heart which takes part with it; yet, by the mercy of God, I cannot quite forget "the wormwood and the gall," and my spirit wishes to take the lowest place (Lamentations 3:20, 21).

Another sweet motive which often lifts me above the world in hope is the thought of this:

"Was ever grace, Lord, rich as Thine?
Can anything be with it named?
What powerful beams of love divine,
Your tender heart inflamed!"

The whole of that hymn of Hart's has been very precious; and I may continue,

"Grace and glory in you shine,
Matchless mercy, love divine."

 

I often say in my family, and you may say it in yours, Woe unto you all, if God does so many mighty works before your eyes, and you repent not! "It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for you!" For God has spoken to them not only by our lips, but by all his dispensations to us. They have seen our castings down, and they have seen how the visitations of the Lord have preserved our spirits, and they must all give an account of whatever talent the Lord has lent them.

It is no small joy that the Lord permits me to hope that I shall see you once more in the flesh, and that as I have entered in a measure into your conflicts, so I may be a partaker of the consolation. I hope you will be able to dictate a few words that I may hear how you go on.

Mr. Burrell is now beginning the morning service. My heart is with him and the rest of the people, that a double portion of the Spirit may be there, as a Spirit of judgment, and a Spirit of burning (Isaiah 4:4). How little we are apt to think of our privileges until they are past! Though all things may appear to go on quietly for a while, yet I am sure the time will come when slighted means and ordinances will appear against us in a very different light from that in which we now see them. Where is the late church? "Ichabod" (1 Samuel 4:21). I fear many among us are on the borders of the same precipice.

May the Lord Jesus Christ take you up in the arms of his everlasting dying love, and bless you! May he keep you little in yourself, and of no account in this world, but one on whom he sets an infinite value, having paid an infinite price for you! May he never leave you in the hour of extremity, but grant that we both, as our breath departs, may find something to whisper peace, and give us an abundant entrance into glory.

My heart has been sweetly entertained while I have been writing this, so that sometimes I could scarcely see to write.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 62

(To Mr. Nunn) Maidstone, August 1834.

My dear Friend,

I was very glad to see a letter from you, written in your own hand, and especially for the contents, which encourage me still to press on, though greatly cast down, fearing that there is not in me that real honesty that I find in others, and that when the end comes all will be darkness. "This is my infirmity, but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High."

I have had some tossing nights here, with sharp spiritual conflicts; but if the road to the park, and the park itself, could speak, they would bear witness to some of the most endearing embraces that can be. The Lord has indeed kept me, and has been "the strength of my life", but I soon came again to this petition, "Hide not your face from me; put not your servant away in anger." This also again returns (even while I write) with great sweetness and power: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want"; "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

You and I can testify that the true fear of God is no light thing, that the Lord has declared war against the sin of our nature, and that when he takes vengeance of our inventions, it cannot be without many broken bones. This furnishes us with petitions agreeable to his revealed will in Christ Jesus, "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice;" and we know that one word, or one look, will do it. Thus we learn to "sing of mercy and judgment", and to "rejoice with trembling"; not with slavish fear, but with true filial fear; and as you say, we pray that what he shows in these deep places may be graven on our hearts as long as we live, that sin may appear exceeding sinful, and that the Lord may always appear most holy; and that there may be no independence of God. Even such a sentence as this makes me blush, "We have our conversation in Heaven." This is often lightly passed over, but I am ashamed because my conscience tells me how far otherwise it often is; and this is the real cause of darkness and distance at a throne of grace. It is often through a sanctified furnace, very sharp, we are brought to a proper understanding.

My letter (which you have seen) to our poor friends at ________ is all I know of the truth; if there be another gospel, then I have yet to be made acquainted with it. Real affection in the Lord made me write what I did; I found the situation in which God had placed me in our church rendered it needful in my conscience to counsel, and my spirit was enlarged and comforted in it. My prayer still is, that the Lord would give a right understanding in all things, especially in that precious unity of the Spirit, which can feel "Who is offended, and I burn not?" Charity divine endures all things, and will never fail. In all the reproofs I have had, whether intended for reproofs or not, whether true or false, I have found my happiness has been in taking the lowest place. Divine charity feels no disgrace at being put down, but says, "Behold, I am vile." The Lord Jesus Christ, when his judgment was taken away, opened not his mouth. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because you did it." If the Lord does not by his Spirit in great condescension dictate what I write, I know not how I could find his sweet presence as I do, to help my infirmities; for I think I cannot tell when I have written a letter and have not found encouragement in it.

The afflictions of our church make me thoughtful. I hope I have not written with an untempered zeal; through grace I perceive much soberness upon my spirit. My end is much in view, and my fears run high; and it is out of the abundance of these changes my heart is kept anxious both for myself and the church of God. We seem now in a peculiar state, and I often feel for our pastor. I hope he is in a measure reaping the fruits of his labor. We ought to bear him on our minds much.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 63

(To a Friend) Holmwood, September 1834.

My dear Friend,

Of all states of men in this life there is none like that of a professor of religion, who is destitute of the vital power. The prophet Ezekiel gives a fearful account of such, written in a book full of "lamentation, mourning, and woe". He calls them "impudent children and stiff-hearted" and "a rebellious house" (Ezekiel 2:3-10). These are they who are ever learning, and never attaining; who tithe mint and anise and cummin, but omit the weightier matters of the law.

How often have I had a dread upon my spirit lest this should be my case! Darkness, dryness, and barrenness have come upon me, and my backsliding heart has driven me further and further into the wilderness, and seemingly nothing is left, but a little glimmering light in some measure to discover the condition to which my sin has brought me. How this has fretted me, and made my temper sour, adding sin to sin, until a fearful apprehension springs up that surely this is not the spot of God's children, but a mark of the "perverse and crooked generation" (Deuteronomy 32:5). I bring every one into bondage, therefore cannot belong to the true church. Such as these become the secret meditations of my soul night and day, until the misery grows too great for me to bear with, and some affliction or cross is laid upon me, to rouse me from this wretched state. Here I feel my sin, that it is exceeding sinful in the sight of God; nor do I ever find comfort until I am made to repent in dust and ashes, and to loathe myself before the Lord, with my mouth in the dust. Here the Lord shows me the difference between real love and dissembled love, feigned faith and living faith, a good hope and the hope of the hypocrite; and here the "gates of righteousness" are opened, and I go into them and praise the Lord (Psalm 118:19). Here too I have had a sweet view of God's love in Christ Jesus, manifested to us in the way of communion with him. "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?" And though this talking may be, and sometimes is, in finding many faults, and giving some correction and much admonition and counsel, yet if we have the witness of the Spirit that he is teaching us by all these means, we cannot but cry, "You are my God, and I will praise you."

How often have I felt this, with a lively testimony of God's goodwill: "The Lord has chastened me sore, but he has not given me over unto death." He has been pleased to make a discovery to my soul of the necessity of a sharp furnace; he has plainly shown me many times the mischievous effects of an easy path, the danger of the foolish pride of my heart, which must be humbled, and the repeated blows which are necessary for that purpose; and the exceeding shortness of memory of that man of sin within us, for unless the strokes are repeated the effect is quickly lost.

"You are the temple of the Holy Spirit." "An habitation of God through the Spirit." What manner of men then ought we to be? What manner of men should we be, if left in the quiet management of ourselves? I stand deeply convicted here, and can only pray with Hart,

"How harsh so e'er the way,
Dear Savior, still lead on;
Nor leave us until we say,
Father, Your will be done."

In this I perceive another lesson, namely, the conflict of two contending parties, the flesh and the spirit, two manner of men within us, which is a mystery to the world and to all carnal professors.

While we thus gain by trading, and profit by affliction, we learn to believe and feel that the Lord Jesus Christ is full of compassion, gracious, and longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. One said, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psalm 119:71). We do not know how gracious our God is, until we have been well immersed in afflictions. In them we find his affections are always moved towards us, and that he is plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon him. By them does God "turn to the people a pure language" (Zephaniah 3:9); and by degrees we know what it is to become a little child, and learn in heart, in secret before God, as well as openly, to prefer others that fear God before ourselves. An ear made ready, a heart warmed with the love of God, and abased under a sight of our sad condition, will receive what the Lord may send us even by babes, or fools made wise unto salvation.

O then, may you and I prize this teaching of God's most Holy Spirit, and thus make manifest to the church, to our own families, and in the world, that we are not such as have "a name to live", while dead in trespasses and sins; but that, life and immortality have been brought to light in us, through the gospel. So may we live, and so die, is the prayer of your unworthy friend,

James Bourne

 

 

Letter 64

(To a Friend ) Chelmsford, September 1834.

Dear Friend,

I cannot tell you with what awe I ponder over your case, and see in it the reality of God's Word. O how my foolish heart flattered itself for many years that peace, peace, was all that I should know! I stopped my ears and blinded my eyes to God's denunciations against this sin of our nature, and I thought that I should somehow escape in a measure what the Lord continually told me out of his Word, where he speaks of rebukes and chastenings as among the strongest tokens of his love. "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man" (Proverbs 30:2); and this was the reason why I almost sank into despair when the rod was laid on my foolish back, not considering what I want now to remind you of: "Know you not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." And again, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:3-6).

What is the conflict that you have now long labored under, but the crucifixion here spoken of? You and I have found it a painful lingering death, which must be labored under while we remain here below. The apostle tells us of the necessity of dying daily. Do we not in this sad case find the world and all created things diminish in value, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and glory, increase in value and desirableness? Crucifixion reduces us, with all our lofty thoughts, to dust; it breaks our bones of conceited strength. O how deeply has the Spirit of God convicted me of this at times! If ever I have learned these truths, it has been by this crucifixion. Never lose sight of these precious words, for I well know the force of them: "Afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11).

This chapter (Romans 6) cuts very close; I read and tremble, I pray and confess, and know most truly that it is God's Word. There can be no rising to newness of life, but first through this terrible crucifixion. I have need of all the encouragement to prop up my trembling heart; and having found the truth of it, I long to tell you that this which has happened to you is no strange thing, but the direct way to glory. "If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;" and "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."

I have been lately reading the first sixteen chapters of Ezekiel, and have great cause to admire the riches of God's grace to me in making me tremble at almost every line. If it pleases the Lord to take us in hand now, what a mercy! How many are left with untempered mortar about them until the judgment day! When we are brought to the bar of God at midnight, when no mortal eye sees, and the sentence of death is upon our souls, then indeed are our idols thrown to the moles and to the bats, and the cry of the publican only suits us: "God be merciful to me a sinner." How often have you and I found hope to abound in these low places! Then let us not be weary nor faint in our minds; you shall reap in due season; for I know the Lord brings abundance of good out of all these seeming evils.

Yours etc. James Bourne


 

Letter 65

(To M. B.) Chelmsford, September 1834.

Dear Cousin,

My letters must appear very melancholy to my friends; my spirit seems so full of fears lest the Lord should execute upon me those judgments which are threatened upon his people that depart in heart from him. It has not been until of late years that I laid to heart such expressions as these: "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it": "He is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap." Fury, rebukes, chastisement, horror, captivity, destruction, death, all these things for some time passed over my head as belonging to the false church, I did not see that the body of sin within needed them all, and a daily crucifixion. My mind ran much upon the words, "Make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you," but not upon the means that go before (1 Peter 5:10), and I looked for all the comfort and prosperity which is set forth in the Word; so that when I was first cast into spiritual prison, which I soon found was for a debt I could not pay, I was almost ready to charge God foolishly, and to think him a hard master. It was long before the Lord showed me that I was covering my sins, and therefore could not prosper (Proverbs 28:13). The greater part of my airy confidence stood not the furnace. He is a jealous God, and will bring down the high tree, and exalt the low tree, and will dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree to flourish; "I the Lord have spoken, and have done it" (Ezekiel 17:24). So he confounds the wisdom of the wise.

When I look at the case of —, as well as my own, though I tremble under the hand of God, yet I feel it safe and sure ground. The whole tenor of God's Word shows that "man in his best estate is altogether vanity"; he is worse than a brute, he can only do evil, and that with all his heart. I also perceive that as our Lord Jesus Christ had a sore baptism for us, so we must be partakers of his sufferings; if we are rightly taught, our sin will daily bring on this crucifixion; if we are tenderly led, we shall die daily to those abominations within and without, that are as a wall of partition between God and us. Pride, unbelief, independence, fullness of bread and spiritual idleness very quickly grow rampant; without the rod, the furnace, and the sword of the Spirit we should grow to that spiritual deformity of being all head, and this sentence would be pronounced, "Depart from me, I know you not."

Which then would you choose, the sore conflict, with many sweet hopes at times, or an easy path only for a season? I truly believe there will now be no hesitation here. You know as well as I, what manner of persons the Lord says we ought to be, and he will make us to be; and you also know, as well as I, that there is no other means of bringing this about but through the furnace.

The Lord has been pleased to set forth in his Word, in many different ways, how precious is the trial of faith. Sometimes it is said, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you;" sometimes, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake," that the poor and feeble may come after with some encouragement and hope. All this is to teach us, in some small measure, how exceedingly hateful sin is in the sight of God, and how deep the stain is upon our hearts. It is for no small cause the Lord Jesus left his glory and shed his blood; and he will make us feel this truth. He has made me many times, since I have been here, cover my face for the shame I felt under a discovery of my sin as hateful to God. With what awe I thought of our poor friend, and with many prayers, and some sweet ones, begged the Lord to favor him, and to help me!

In the twenty-four hours, how little time is occupied in communion with God! Yet I am sure there is a nature in me, called the new man, that delights in that communion more than in anything else. Then how rampant a principle is the contrary which domineers so much as to have the pre-eminence so long! Does not this open our eyes to the necessity of the furnace? Can we not justify God when he comes with the rod? Does it not stop your mouth from muttering perverseness? It does mine; and I am enabled at times from my heart to utter the prayer, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for in your sight shall no man living be justified."

These are my latter days; I feel a great desire to have clear work, not contending against God, but falling under every conviction, and seeking God's remedy in his appointed way. However desperate my case or yours may seem, we have an example and encouragement in the word, "You have delivered my soul from the lowest Hell" (Psalm 86:13). This, I believe, was written for our learning, because the enemy is ever telling us that our case is worse than any. I must finish my letter with Hart's words,
"That foe can't boast of much
Who makes us watch and pray."

Be sober, be vigilant, and hope to the end; and believe the cross and the crown inseparable.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 66

(To Mr. Nunn) Woodham Mortimer, October 1831.

Dear Friend,

Although I had solicited your company I could not feel disappointed when you fixed not to go, for as soon as we parted many difficulties arose in my mind, and I felt I must go alone; but though greatly cast down, I said, Lord, will you go with me? I dread my journey; I always find sorrow; and in a strange place all seems covered with darkness without you. And presently something whispered, "I will be with you." Lord, I replied, What does this mean? Is this your voice? And it was repeated twice more before I reached Cavendish Square. Yet I began my journey much cast down, and was dull and sluggish all the way, and knew not how it would end, nor whether that very sweet sensation of contrition and peace that I felt when the above words were spoken was not purely natural. I was filled with heaviness all the night, discontented with I knew not what. I took up Boston's Crook in the Lot, but could find nothing for my case. I then turned to the Book of books, the Word of God, and there I found what never fails in time of extremity, and what I am not in the least able to set forth; but this I know, "His mercy endures forever."

In 2 Kings 17 we are told that Hoshea king of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and for many things he was shut up and bound in prison. This made me ponder, Why am I so shut up? A little further it is said, "The children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God." Do I stand clear here? A believer rightly taught will not be found in open wickedness and profanity; I saw at once with much condemnation that that dryness and dullness of spirit which often comes over me is one of the secret things that God hates. It soon alienates the affections from him, his Word, his people, and his ways. No wonder therefore that we find ourselves shut up in prison. I also perceive to my sorrow a great deal of secret carnality in the whole of my life, going far too near the spirit of the world in maxims, and customs, and habits, covered well with a spirit that will justify anything we choose to walk in. This is a secret which it is a shame to speak of, and I have often been shut up for it. And we are not contented to be found here ourselves, but in this chapter we are charged with causing our sons and daughters also to pass through that fire. This too is covered with ten thousand excuses, but I know there are times and seasons when we are ashamed of the secret, and are shut up and bound because of it. There is no end of causes; my soul was this morning brought very low, fully justifying the Lord for all the shutting up I had known, and I only wondered that he would take any notice of me, the very portrait of Hoshea.

In this condition I turned to the Epistle to the Hebrews, to see what the Lord Jesus Christ could do for his people, or such as in distress call upon him; and there I saw that he upholds all things by the word of his power, that his throne is forever and ever, and that he made Heaven and earth. O, my dear friend, pray attend. Seeing we have such a Friend, "therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." What is such a worm or dead dog as I am, that he should be mindful of me, who have done so many secret things to displease him? What is the son of man, a corrupt lump of clay, that the Lord should visit him? See how beautifully the apostle shows our condition; first, that man in the image of God had all things in subjection under him; then, that man having lost that image, has not now all things put under him. "But we see Jesus," suffering death for us, and crowned with glory and honor.

I shall never in this world be able to set forth my sensations in reading the whole of this. O how sweet the tenth verse, and then the eleventh was as if it had been written thus on my heart; he that sanctifies and I who am sanctified, are both one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call me his brother. "Behold I" (says Christ), "and the children which God has given me." To be one of these, what in the world can be compared with it? To have that "merciful and faithful High Priest" to atone for our sins; and however shut up or bound in prison, to get one such word as this from him: "Say to the prisoner, Go forth!" Neither men nor devils can then hold the poor sinner any longer.

I have indeed proved that the Lord is with me; but I never expected such a ray of heavenly light to dart into my soul on this side of eternity. To him be all the glory.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 67

(To Mrs. Burrell) Woodham Mortimer, 9 October 1834.

Dear Friend,

You have been often upon my mind during the past summer, and I cannot help including you with myself and many more among us, as in the number of that "poor and afflicted people" which the Lord will leave in Zion. The Lord, as a Sovereign, keeps some of them continually under the sentence of death temporal, so that there often seems but a step between them and it; and this (as I know full well) excites ten thousand fears and reasonings, which we cannot assuage. It is true we read, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me;" but there is often a secret fear, Will it be so with me?

With all my heart I believe it, when by faith I perceive that Christ was in all things made like unto his brethren, "that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people." Then the scene brightens, and hope springs up, an anchor of the soul, and removes the slavish tormenting fears that bore me down before. And now I feel another grief; for as soon as the cloud returns, I begin to suspect the faithfulness of that Friend who has dealt so tenderly with me at all times. How this discovers the weakness of my heart, and how frail I am!

This day I have been greatly ashamed before God in meditating on these words, and feeling an interest in them: "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he bare them and carried them all the days of old;" and after all this, to suspect! I may call it an heart-rending sight. I dare not excuse myself and say, I have no power to do otherwise; no, I can only say, O Lord, have mercy on my sin! And the more I plead against myself, the more he pleads for me. Is not this enough to break your heart and mine? Consider, that as "he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support them that are tempted."

"Venture on him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude."

The prayer of Christ (John 17) has been so sweet to me this day as to make me feel myself a fool indeed; I cannot write to you as I ought. My heart is full of the wonders of God's grace. O how sweetly do I see the brightness of the eternal Son of God, described in Hebrews 1, harmonize with the wonders of his grace in that prayer! It is indeed life eternal to "know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." Jesus said, "I have manifested your name unto the men which you gave me out of the world." "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me, for they are your; and all mine are your, and your are mine." When the Spirit witnesses these things upon our hearts, how self-debasing! Mysterious words! Nothing but that faith, which is of the operation of the Spirit, can give credit to a personal interest in such divine and heavenly things. "All mine are your, and your are mine!" and I included here! I could not see to read on for tears of consolation and hope.

O how this humbles, though it enlarges my heart in the sincerest desires of love for all the afflicted people of God; as the Lord says "that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us." O sweet union! "And the glory which you gave me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one." Then the last three verses close the divine and heavenly union. I know not how to leave off, I am made so sweetly to receive the testimony of the Spirit that I am here included. But what secret shame I feel, and cannot forgive myself, under this sense of the favor of God, when I call to mind my unfruitful life; how light and vain and idle I have been! I beg for that discretion and prudence spoken of in Proverbs, for natural prudence fails when most wanted.

And now in a moment I revert back to my acquaintance with — and —, and the vain profession we walked in, and how hardly I then thought they dealt with me. But now I see that they were the rod the Lord made use of to humble me to hear our present ministry, under which he has been further pleased to open my ears to discipline, and I have been taught by the Spirit the necessity of the daily cross, and to put off the old man. By this ministry, under the kind hand of God, that faithful sentinel, the fear of God, has continually preserved me from plunging away from the sweet unity spoken of in this letter; and many more mercies which I have not room to write, have come through that teaching with which I have been so kindly favored of God. I think I shall bless him to all eternity for all the rods, crosses, and afflictions that bring to so glorious an issue: "I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one."

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 68

(To Richard Dore) Woodham Mortimer, October 1834.

Dear Friend,

As you and I are prevented from having much personal fellowship on account of your deafness, I take this means of repeating what we have often considered before, with a full belief of the truth of it, that it is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. You know, as well as I do, that a cross prayed off yesterday will not exempt us from a fresh one today; that bonds and afflictions abide us in every place, and under all circumstances.

The Lord was pleased to whisper in my heart that he would be with me here, and I must declare that he has been nearer than I expected. I foolishly could not open my mouth wide enough, for surely he was ready to fill it. I think I never saw the Word to sparkle so with glory as it did when I first came here for two or three days. Surely I know in some measure what the apostle means by "joy unspeakable". Our poor words cannot possibly describe the love, the power, the glory, of Christ. The disciples could only say (what you and I have often said after them), "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" But alas, when all this subsides, then I find myself like Joseph and Mary, seeking him sorrowing in all directions.

I have still with me the promise of God, "I will be with you;" and in all dangers, and wherever I go, I keep saying, Lord, "remember the word unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope" (Psalm 119:49). Darkness covers me, and I cannot see my way as I did; but I perceive that he is with his people as a perpetual check to the violence of the old man, which we are so slow in putting off; he is with them in the furnace, under the rod, in darkness, in despondency, under manifold fears and temptations, even when we begin to think we have quite mistaken the way, and are for giving up, as if it were altogether a fruitless effort in the flesh that will end in confusion. At last he kindly whispers, "Be of good cheer; it is I", I that am humbling you, I that am correcting you for your folly, I that am breaking that cursed spirit of independence: "Be not afraid;" "because I live, you shall live also." Thus upon every fresh manifestation of his Father's presence, we shall know that he is in his Father, and we in him, and he in us (John 17:21-23).

This is the union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that you and I must covet above all things; and it is also union with the church militant. Therefore let us be specially careful to maintain that love in all directions, as the peculiar fruit and effect of God's love to us.

You are now collected together for public worship, which I am deprived of, and not only so, but distracted with the song of the drunkard. We little know the violence we are redeemed from. The next room contains numbers of men who have not the decency of brute beasts; and what shall we say to this? "Such were some of you, but you are washed"; naturally quite as vile; it is the grace of God that makes the difference. We who were alienated from God, and far off from him by wicked works, are now made near by the blood of our dear Redeemer, whose name I often hear in this place cast out as evil; but he will one day make them to call for the mountains to fall on them and cover them from his wrath.

Do remember me in your prayers, that nothing may move me from the simplicity of the gospel.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 69

(To M. B.) Woodham Mortimer, October 1834.

Dear Cousin,

I was exceedingly glad to perceive that the spirit of your letter throughout was the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan. That which appears to us to be the destruction of our souls is the Spirit of God enlightening us to see the danger we are in, which rouses our fears: "You are weighed in the balances, and found wanting." But having the Spirit of life, a cry is brought forth, and we perceive in God's light a remedy provided; and though we cannot at once obtain relief, yet there is an unaccountable cleaving, like that of a man who is drowning; and with Jacob we say, "I will not let you go, except you bless me."

You will say, But why all this casting down? You have fully set forth the reason in your letter; it is because of the many things we are found walking in, which would harden our consciences so that we should soon forget how hateful sin is in the sight of God, and rest in talk, unless the Lord put a thorn into our nest. If he discover his love, it will be by chastening us sore, and not giving us over unto death. The rebukes we have for a treacherous backsliding heart are not because God is departed from us and will hear us no more, but the scourge is used to preserve us from the very evils we fear.

You say you cannot find abiding sweetness, tenderness, and godly fear. Who can? You will find it in glory, but not here below. "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet;" so that that which is lame may be healed. This is the sweetest abiding place you will find on earth, and here the greatest tenderness and godly fear will be manifest, and all the spreading branches of the corrupt principle within will be carried to the fountain opened for sin and for impurity, and there will wither and die. This is the effect of a divine and spiritual "looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith". We must consider him who endured the cross, lest we be faint and weary in our minds. Do we feel a contradiction of that sin within us, or a compliance with it? No doubt both; hence come our sorrow and conflict. Christ willingly laid down his life for our sin; do not you and I, at times, willingly suffer with him? Are we not made willing to endure all contradiction, and to put off the works of the flesh, called the old man? This is to resist, "striving against sin", and it is the Spirit of God in us that does it; and though the conflict be sharp and long, it is the way by which we are led eventually "to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12:2-24).

I have many mercies to acknowledge, and wonder at the goodness of God in fulfilling his promise, "I will be with you." Constantly, night and day, I plead it, and it never fails. I have quite a new scene here, but all things are possible with God; for though writing in the midst of noise and singing and drunkenness, I have been surprised that for a long time together I have not heard the tumult, my mind has been so sweetly abstracted. Yet I look forward to the time when this labor will be over; my employment from home becomes a great burden; but as I have written to you, so I desire to exercise myself, and to endure hardness as a good soldier.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 70

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 22 November 1834.

Dear Friend,

I am grieved to hear that you have been again attacked. In one of my former letters I ventured to caution you that if there should be an apparent cessation of arms, you must not sleep, nor put off your armor. I am sure that if the Lord has sent you to preach the Word where of late it has not been heard, the enemy will raise a strange outcry, and tell you that you "cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils". You must be a continual living reproach to all who live in sin, whether professor or profane; and the thorn goads them so, that they spit their venom in enmity against the Most High himself. If it be he who has set you to the work, it is his power and will they strive against and defy; and often for awhile such may seem to prevail.

The Lord has many things to do in such a tumult as this, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Who knows but that—, who in his bitterness vows vengeance, may yet, like the jailer, cry out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"—even after scourging Paul and Silas? Perhaps these troubles will try the spiritual integrity of your friend, and prove whether true religion will be as closely adhered to when held in dishonor by false professors, as when it walks in silver slippers, as Bunyan says. How will your sober friend Mr. M. act, who, like Nicodemus, comes by night? Perhaps these tumults may draw a line which without them might never have been discovered.

There is one thing yet of more consequence to yourself; that is, How goes on the work within? Does every fresh appearance of the rod (for such no doubt it is in the hand of God) bring on a fresh humbling, and lead you in heart to be willing to be servant of all? If so, no evil (as such) can befall you; nor must you think it strange concerning the fiery trial; it is foremost among your best tokens, especially if it lead you to secret converse with the Lord Jesus Christ. He talks with us of judgment as well as of mercy.

Whatever you are or may be in your public capacity, this I know, that if saved at all, you must be a sinner saved by grace and every outward dishonor shown to you, if it operate aright, will have the effect of great self-abasement before God in secret; and here the Lord will show you not only that you are hated for telling the truth, but that you are chastened by the Lord as a son in whom he delights. If you are to be received by this heavenly Father, it can only be through correction. Whatever hand may be lifted against you, no blow can be given until the Lord permit and if it come, it is because it is needed.

"This is an hard saying, who can hear it?" Can you? If you can, then be assured the Lord has opened your ears to discipline; and when you understand experimentally this terrible work, you will be the most proper person in the world to declare what all the prophets and apostles have declared in ages past, that it is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that Jesus Christ was sent.

Your situation raises in me a spiritual anxiety for your welfare and though I cannot fathom the depth, nor measure the extent of your present trial, yet I know full well that I may say to the righteous, "It shall be well with him" (Isaiah 3:10), and there now remains no labor so essential as to know that that important word belongs to us. Let me entreat you to be much in earnest. The Lord has blown the trumpet in Zion, the alarm is given. It is a day of gloominess, for the enemies we have to contend with are powerful; many faces gather blackness with rage. The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and unless you are enabled to turn to him with all your heart, with fasting from strife, with weeping and mourning, and heart-rending confessions, you will not find what is most desirable, that the Lord "is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil. Who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?" (Joel 2:1-14).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 71

(To M. A. H.) London, 25 November 1834.

Dear Friend,

I was sorry to find you were so cast down as not to be able to come among us last night. If you had come you would have found that it was no strange thing which had happened to you. You with the rest of us have been building with hay and stubble, with the stones of emptiness and vain conceit; and the Holy Spirit is come to discover the work to the foundations, and the appalling discovery turns your loveliness into corruption; for here the Lord is said to break our graven images to pieces, and makes us to know that childhood and youth are vanity. This cannot be known but by means of the furnace, in which God burns up much goodness which we thought would stand the test; and instead of it nothing is left but desolation. In this naked state, in which you now are placed, you (like myself and others) believe your wound to be incurable; and so God designs that you should believe. Here there will be a secret spiritual howling and wailing and mourning, like that you now express. The Lord calls it Jacob's trouble, and declares there is none like it, "but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). You are ready to say, Yes, but mine is different from yours, there is so much sin discovered against light. True, I admit this; but God says to every one that comes into spiritual trouble, There is no trouble like yours, yet, notwithstanding this, you shall be delivered.

I have told you before that for want of the spiritual labor in which you now are, there have been so many abortive births. New wine in old bottles will not endure. Emptying from vessel to vessel is in experience a painful operation. Consider what a broken spirit means; when you break the spirit of an unruly child you know it is by much correction and many stripes; yes, a long perseverance in opposing all those natural inclinations and pursuits in which the child promises itself much happiness. So spiritually you must now expect more or less of this, lest through your independent spirit you should learn to live without God in the world. Besides, God delights in them whose spirit he breaks; they become, under his divine management, fit temples of the Holy Spirit. Such also learn that sin is exceeding sinful; and it is God's design that you should know what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against him (Jeremiah 2:19 and 48:3).

Without this work you would, like the unruly horse, rush into presumption, or like the stubborn mule, lie down in your sin unpurged. All the children of God have a principle of Esau within them, as well as of Jacob; and we would naturally desire that these might dwell together without being disturbed. If this were suffered Jacob would soon be silenced, and must never have a word for God, nor show his head at any time; but not so. The Lord steps in, and behold, "How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!" The deception is discovered. These Esaus would eat up all the spiritual bread of life, and would soon wound you and leave you for dead. But the Lord comes in that day, the day of Jacob's trouble, and will destroy the wisdom of these Edomites within, and for his violence against his brother Jacob, Esau shall be "cut off for ever". This is the labor you are now under, and I do not wonder at your dismay. You could not make the work manifest if you were at ease. "But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance." When? When the humbling dispensation you are under has had its due effect, and when you dare not so much as lift up your eyes to Heaven for shame. It is under this judgment of God against the Esau within that the kingdom of Christ is set up in our hearts; for the new wine being now in new bottles, both are preserved to eternal life (Obad. 6-23).

You will one day bless God for all the labor and sorrow you have had in this long night of affliction. "Let patience have its perfect work;" in due time you shall reap if you faint not. I am often overpowered by weariness, but in my mourning and lamentation for the cause of my sorrow, which is sin, the Lord speaks to me in much compassion, telling me that he is touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and knows both how to deliver, and also the best time when. My prayer is for you, with much encouragement, that you may patiently endure, but give him no rest until he make you "a praise in the earth".

Your affectionate friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 72

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 9 December 1834.

Dear Sir,

I was not taken by surprise when your sister called this morning to tell me the issue of your late trial, which I look upon as only the threshold of another. Therefore you must still remember that "Elijah was a man subject to like passions" with you; and as he prayed, so have you, and found much support and many tokens for good, by which your spirit has in a measure been kept from contention. You have often prayed that you might know the mind of God in your anxious case, which is now unfolded. It is said, "Elijah prayed again that it might rain." Fresh necessities and fresh trials will bring forth further cries, and, like Elijah, you will find yourself compassed about with many contending passions. Yet this did not stop his prayers, nor must your fears and anxieties stop yours, but rather put a keenness to your spiritual appetite, to clear every step of your way. What makes prayer effectual and fervent? The intercession of Chris, and a deep sense of want (James 5:16-18).

Remember how Christ was rejected of men, and "we hid as it were our faces from him", ashamed of him, his laws, his government, his kingdom, his crown, his cross; and you will find many will be so ashamed of you as that they will not be seen walking or talking with you, and will cross the street, or turn short down another, rather than meet so mean a person. Despised, afflicted, held in contempt, but let the contempt be what it may, our Lord has suffered more. He therefore tells you, "In your patience possess you your souls;" "In due season you shall reap, if you faint not."

I have been in these sad places, and felt it at times hard to bear; but prayer ascended and pity came down, and here it was that "the oil and the wine" were poured in, with such a light upon my path as I cannot describe, and many secret assurances respecting both body and soul, that I dare not tell anybody; an unfolding of the mysteries of providence and grace, which in due time were fulfilled to the confusion of all my enemies, and the salvation and consolation of my own soul.

There is need that we should be at times "in heaviness through manifold temptations", you, in order to know how to speak to such as are tempted, and I, to keep me constantly dependent upon the Lord Jesus; and all of us for the humbling of our souls in the dust, and for keeping in continual remembrance the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

You will find your great advantage over your enemies by dealing earnestly with God in secret. While they are talking, you must be praying; and this will bring about the open reward. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end." All opposition and persecution is as grass, all kind intrusion of false friends is as the flower of grass—both must wither and fall away, "but the word of the Lord endures forever"; and if the Lord speak this word to you, woe to them that mock! "You shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord." May he manifest to you his full purpose in sending you "to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build, and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:7-10).

Remember, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 73

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 17 January 1835.

Dear Friend,

I think it is a great mercy that you should be (as you say you are) ashamed, and afraid, and cast down. It is always so where the Lord is disciplining a man to bear tidings for him. You will find Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah all perfectly understood this. You ought not to say you see not one footstep before you; the first sentence of your letter contradicts this, for the Lord evidently sent you once more into St. Andrew's pulpit. The prayer goes no further than this: "Give us this day our daily bread." All these little oversights are to show the reality of what you wrote, namely, your weakness and want of submission; not to dishearten, but to discover the utmost of man's wisdom and strength to direct his way. These perplexities are to teach you from experience to set before the people how they are to proceed when surrounded with all sorts of difficulties, and not to despair if they find the want of submission, enmity, dissatisfaction, and a whole host of desperate evils in battle array against God. Even in such a case, set forth before them what God has taught you in the furnace for that very purpose, even that effectual prayer (which I now copy from one of your letters), "Fulfill the good pleasure of your will, O God, in me." And when he has brought us to this, he will plead our cause, and make manifest that he is on our side, and that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against us. There is in me a wonderful impatience to know how I am to live upon the Lord next week, both in providence and in grace; and in this anxiety I lose many present mercies, as well as opportunities of communion with him. The world wisely considers "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush"; but the children of God are never so safe as in the midst of fears and dismay, trusting in the Lord, cleaving to the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, with some measure of belief that he is able to save to the uttermost, clean contrary to all human probabilities and impossibilities. The Lord delights in all such as hope in his mercy. They shall never be finally ashamed, nor confounded, world without end. I have found it so, and still retain a secret hope that nothing is too hard for the Lord. He can do no wrong. He instructs us, and leads us about, a round-about way, as we think; but he keep us "as the apple of his eye." Prove him, and see if he will not leave a blessing behind. Only be sure to attend to one thing, that secret prayer goes up; and if you think that he does not clear your way in providence, yet see that he purges your conscience from every evil work, and owns you for his own adopted son. Gain that point daily, and then will this also be effectually added, he will "freely give us all things". I could never yet find a clear way that was satisfactory to the flesh, nor a smooth one wherein I prospered in spirit; and perhaps you will one day say you never were kept more tender in all your life than while under your present oppression. Be an apt scholar, beg for a docile spirit, be tractable under the rod; rich fruits will spring out of humbling dispensations.

I have been greatly cast down lately, and feel myself a most unfit person to write to you. When I read your letter I wept before the Lord, saying, How can it be that I should be able in any ways to counsel a servant of your? Yet my judgment informs me that the power is of God. He can do what he pleases, and by what means he pleases; so I am encouraged to write, as also I have not ceased to pray for you, that the Lord would stand your Friend, clear your way, keep you in a low place, learning every day more and more that you are nothing, an empty pitcher, an earthen vessel, a fool for Christ's sake; then will the power and glory of God rest upon you.

Whatever you preach, be sure that it is that which you have tasted and handled of the word of life; and let your enemies hear it, as well as your friends, for who knows for what purpose the word of life is sent to Hertford? Whatever may be the pleasure of the bishop, rest assured he is in this matter God's messenger to you; do not hastily leave Hertford, even in the event of leaving St. Andrew's. We generally find the Lord unfolds his will by slow degrees; nothing is so darkening as a hurrying spirit. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."

After I had written the above, I began to contemplate the wonders that God had wrought by the empty pitchers and the lamps of God within them (Judges 7); this broke my heart under the feeling sense of my own condition, and the wonderful display of God's mercy to me in Christ Jesus. I shall be truly happy if you also find the same.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 74

(To C. G.) London, January 1835.

My dear Friend,

How greatly am I made to stand in awe, while in spirit I am made to look on the wondrous work the Lord is carrying on among you! You, and your sister too, will now believe, "He is terrible in his doing toward the children of men;" and you with us are now called to come and see this mighty work of God (Psalm 66:5).

My reading this morning was in Zechariah 11, which begins, "Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars." I could not help remarking what a beautiful temple we raise with our own hands, and how finely we decorate it with all manner of cedar work; but when God comes in terrible majesty, as he has done to your sister, how the fire consumes all that ornamental work in which we trusted, and the very best of our confidences do not stand that fire. This I, as well as your sister, have found to be a terrible place. Here we learn what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God. Here also we have some sight of the filthiness of our own righteousness, and the foolish and empty means by which we adorn ourselves; the very remembrance of which covers us with shame. This fire destroys all vain confidence, and we sink into nothing.

Your sister now knows some little of the meaning of this: "The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." It is not, "I have nothing to, fear; I never doubt the mercy of God;" with many other such words. O no! but now it is: "Will you, can you, have mercy upon me?" O how the language changes when the fire has taken hold of the poor soul, and has begun with a most vehement flame to burn up much pride, vain conceit, and frivolous profession, that would never bring any glory to God!

If ever we are vessels meet for the Master's use, we shall have need of sharp work and much cleansing for that honorable purpose. A bad servant will leave the dirtiest corners; but in this fire, as your sister says, How are the hidden things sought out, as well as counsels of the heart, which we in false liberty seek deeply to hide! "The candle of the Lord" is little understood until this takes place; we imagine we can stand any trial, wade through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil; but we are not aware that in this confidence we are like "a king against whom there is no rising up". Satan will not oppose his own kingdom, nor does he mind how many of his disciples are laid with seeming peace in the grave, for this will deceive more than anything. But if it please God to make a discovery of his wiles and snares, then he will seek to counteract the work another way, even by tempting to despair. His unceasing labor is if possible not to suffer us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ; and sometimes the Lord suffers us to be put into Satan's sieve, yet though at such times the Lord is covered with a cloud, he is watching that we shall not be tempted above that we are able to bear.

I must confess I always find that when the trial has had its due effect, he makes a way for my escape; and I believe the time will come when this word shall be fulfilled, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; . . . your King comes unto you; he is just" (in all that terrible work you have gone through) "and having salvation." Therefore it is said, "Turn you to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope." Under your present difficulties you have need of this stronghold; and I am sure he is nearer than you are aware of, and you will find "double" for all the sorrow you have had (Zechariah 9:9-12).

Your casting down is that you may long remember the wormwood and the gall, your soul have them still in remembrance and be humbled within you; that there may be no trampling on the blood of Christ, nor lightly esteeming the rock of our salvation; no flourishing profession covered with a double deceit, but transparency and godly simplicity; no kings and lords, but little children, whom Christ can take up in his arms and bless.

There is nothing in all the account you have sent but what I have been acquainted with. I cannot, so I beseech you will not, think it strange concerning the fiery trial which you now are in. I believe as you say, "It is even the time of Jacob's trouble," therefore you "shall be delivered out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). And my prayer is that you may be kept in a low place all the days of your life as a guilty sinner saved by free and sovereign grace. We have all neglected this for years, and yet some of us have been partakers of it at last; and even restored after we have treacherously departed from him, because "he hates putting away".

From your sincere friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 75

(To M. J. and C. G.) London, 24 February 1835.

Dear Friends in the Lord,

I have had many anxious thoughts concerning you all, and many petitions have been put up in your behalf. Though now often visited with encouraging hopes, perhaps you do not find that clear coming forth which you expected. It is for the further discovery of that independent spirit which we all exceedingly like to live in. The Lord will make us feel our spiritual weakness, and teach us, by the inexpressible wants we fall into, to cry to him who alone can supply them.

The language of Scripture is everywhere to this effect: "Thus says the high and lofty One, that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." The Lord has been pleased to bring you in a measure to this, and here your lofty claims have been greatly changed, and for joy you have had great bitterness. Here I, as well as you, have feared destruction close at hand; but I found it was only to teach me that the lowest place best became me; and when there, I soon heard this language spoken to me: "I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth;" and I perceived the Word looked at me here and there with an encouraging smile. This did not lead me to conclude that all was settled and my conflict over, but rather caused me to press forward to make my calling and election sure; therefore I say, Whatever encouragement you meet with, remember what the apostle says: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus . . . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Isaiah 57:16, 17; Philippians 3:12-14).

This brings me to the purpose of my writing. You all complain of spiritual death, and the many difficulties that surround you under your peculiar circumstances. You find you cannot walk as you have done. Here lies the cross; will you take it, or leave it? Will you tenderly watch what the Lord will have you to do? Will you anxiously seek instruction? Can you with your heart seek so as to obtain, or do you seek that God would reconcile that to you which would be suitable and convenient to flesh and blood? I hope you are made willing with our hymn to say,

"Choose you the way, but still lead on."

Until it please God to appear for you, I would advise you that seem united in spirit to fix certain stated times for divine worship, and let nothing interrupt you: reading the Scriptures, or some good author, beginning with one of Hart's hymns and prayer. I believe, if this be tenderly watched and diligently attended to, spiritual life will be maintained, and you will find the Lord as good as his word: "I will be to them as a little Sanctuary in the countries where they shall come" (Ezekiel 11:16). If such measures as these seem to meet your wishes, may the Lord prosper them, and make manifest his approbation by his presence; but if a thousand excuses are made, I fear spiritual death will come on.

Your sister is every day with us at our morning reading. I am continually exhorting her not to be here for two, three, or four years, and then to leave us just as she came, but that she may be able, as the apostle says, to make her profiting to appear. I earnestly desire she may be watchful and sober, and let no outward circumstances divert her attention from what the Psalmist sets forth: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4).

Beware of spiritual indolence; it is an enchanted arbor where we may sleep many days, and not be properly waked until the Lord, by some heavy judgment, rouse us under a deep and painful conviction of our treacherously departing from him.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 76

(To M. G.) London, 1835.

Dear Madam,

"Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine" (Psalm 33:18, 19). When I read these words my mind was looking straight towards you; since which time I have seen your letter, and am exceedingly desirous, if the Lord should enable me, to write to you what has been much impressed upon my mind.

Last night I lay sleepless with the thought of your cases; I was much struck with the sober account you give of your feelings under the present dispensation, and the acknowledgment you make of the dangerous delusion in which you have been wrapped up. One of you in a measure brought out by the rod of God's power; another looking on and trembling for fear of his judgments; and another, like the Queen of Sheba, coming to hear the wisdom and power and glory of God among a poor and despicable people, no better than the broken pitchers which held Gideon's lamps.

You say, "Fearfulness and trembling did truly take hold upon me." Your sister's affliction, temporal and spiritual joined together, confirmed it, and there remained no more strength in you. You say further, "This has God wrought." I do not see why you should add, "All this is purely natural," for I conceive you are not a proper judge; nor do I see any cause for trembling, if it be not at God's anger against your sin. Then you question whether you can give up all for Christ; and add, "All must be forsaken." What is this all, or what is a part of it? I suppose in general terms, that inefficient profession you have hitherto lived in, in which are included many erroneous and fatal heresies, disputing the sovereignty of God and his eternal choice of his people, and the final perseverance of the saints, depending on the immutable purpose of God in Christ Jesus. Your religion was not the religion of the Bible, for these truths, or some or them, were left out of your creed, and instead of them were put in what is called deep piety; that is, dissembled love, sober looks, many works of outward kindness towards the dead professing church. I believe the sight of these things was the cause of your trembling, and brought the fearful judgments of God into your conscience. Many more things might be added as causes of the misery and fearful exercises you have lately fallen into, and are yet likely to be involved in, perhaps more deeply than you are aware.

I would have you very tender of God's teaching, and not hold fast that which he bids you let go. Let the Word of God be your rule; it will make a straight line for your feet, and teach you well to ponder your path. How can you touch pitch, and not be defiled? Withdraw from that which you see was your downfall. "Say you not, A confederacy" (Isaiah 8:11-13). Remember, "You are not your own. You are bought with a price." Ascertain by earnest prayer whence your profiting is to be derived; and let me again entreat you to watch the secret teaching of the Spirit upon your hearts, and consider that if he has brought you from a delusive profession, his sacred teaching will not guide you again to the desperate place of danger, the sight of which spiritually made you all to tremble. Take heed of the dangerous and stupefying effects of remaining in the use of such means as you have seen by the Spirit's teaching to be delusive. Be very cautious how you trifle here; for if the Lord has in any measure opened your eyes, it would be attended with very dangerous consequences to return, like the dog to his vomit, or a sow to her mire. Such often get their "bands made strong", and it is sometimes long enough before the Lord returns to a soul that has thus slighted his condescending teaching. I know the perplexing fears and dark mistrust that you must feel; and if under these dark sensations you are led to an ungodly compromise, you will perceive the Lord will show his displeasure by double darkness, and confusion that may be felt.

I desire to write most cautiously and tenderly, yet I dare not hide all I know. If you are determined to live godly in this present evil world, you must be hated of all men, and be a living reproach to all the dead professors about you. If you love this world, and the applause of those that walk in what is called deep piety, you will never know when real good comes, but will be like the barren heath. Let me entreat you all not to trifle with the light and convictions you have, but to be much in earnest with the Lord to arm you against all enemies, and make you willing (as you say) to give up all for Christ. It will be presently noised abroad that "Mercy also is gone on pilgrimage." Let them say all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ's sake; you shall rejoice in your portion when the King says, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," though now covered with nothing but reproach.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 77

(To M. J. and C. G.) London, 21 March 1835.

My dear Friends,

You excite me to write a second time to explain some things in which you have a little misunderstood me. Trembling at God's Word is set forth as a good token of the Spirit's work, but your rejoicing must not be in man's acknowledging your testimony, but in manifesting at what you trembled.

I think there can be no sin so great as to be convicted deeply, even to trembling, of an evil profession, and then against light, for the sake of a quiet house, to conceal that conviction, and to continue in those things which God has discovered to be unfruitful to you and hateful to him. He would not have led you to tremble at those things, if he had meant to teach you by them.

Salvation from first to last is close work, and there are few that be saved, though many make a profession. O take heed! You know not on what a brink you stand. If God has in any measure enlightened you, do nothing to extinguish that light. Give no right hand of fellowship to errors, or erroneous teachers. One of you has had some sharp work, and I would not have you suffer in vain, "if it be yet in vain". The true light must have life and power and efficacy so as to keep you from all things that are and have been discovered to be false. If the Lord is leading you "in paths that you have not known", and making "crooked things straight" before you, it is, as you truly say, unspeakable love, but love has many aspects. Plucking out right eyes, cutting off right hands, and many more such painful things, are set forth in God's Word as his dealings in love to his people, to take them from their idols. If this work be of God, he will put you into a thousand furnaces, but he will make you come to your first avowal, and forsake all for Christ. Yes, and you will think yourselves gloriously repaid for all your trouble.

I believe, with you, my last letter was a message to your souls, but am grieved that the most important point should be in a measure overlooked. You quote my words about attending to the sacred teaching; I was here still pressing and warning you to remember what you trembled at, and the discovery of your former errors. I fear you have not a sense of your danger, nor of the poisonous effect of evil communications, but are disposed to pad the cross, and make it soft to your shoulders. If you belong to God, you will see how he will oppose you in all such attempts, and make matters far worse for you than if you "turn the battle to the gate", and make Christ the Captain of your salvation. Do not be afraid of making too much use of Christ; he will not desert you in extremity. I know your cases are peculiar, and so are all the cases of God's people; this brings more honor and renown to him as a strong Deliverer.

Again I repeat, "You are not your own." Why should you embrace the bosom of a stranger to God's covenant, and become the members of a harlot? Such as are instructed as you lately have been must sit "as a sparrow alone upon the housetop", and "not be reckoned among the nations" (Psalm 102:7; Numbers 23:9). "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father's house; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty, for he is your Lord, and worship you him" (Psalm 45:10, 11). The Lord declares he will take all the mountains of difficulties away. Confer not with flesh and blood. "Remember Lot's wife."

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 78

(To M. J. and C. G.) London, 26 April 1835.

My dear Friends,

I have lately heard of you, and can truly feel for you under the difficulties you are surrounded with; yet I see nowhere in God's Word that you can obtain the prize without them. Human contrivances and human prudence have destroyed thousands. Many are the devices of man's heart, and many are the schemes by which he seeks to elude the cross; it is long before he quite understands, no cross, no crown.

The young man in the Gospel would give up everything but one thing; that being touched, he manifestly chose Hell instead of Christ. We all have our tender points, our beloved Isaacs, or idols of some sort, which are allowed for a while to be embraced, but the time comes with us all, called in Scripture "a certain day", when the Lord will judge us in righteousness, and discover what are the secret devices of our hearts, and what our affections are really set upon.

Your sister cannot forget in so short a time the despairing convictions she labored under, and what the Lord by his Spirit then dictated upon her heart. She then saw in a measure the difference between truth and error, between possession and profession, and was enabled to give up all for Christ. Then she found a door of hope, which will presently close if trifled with. From her late conflicts and conquests she ought to be a pattern to the rest of you, "holding faith and a good conscience", which some, not doing, "have made shipwreck". But I would rather hope that she may hold fast that good thing which appeared committed to her by the Holy Spirit in her late affliction; for there are many who turn away. But learn to endure hardness as good soldiers, and mind that you strive lawfully for the incorruptible crown; and the Lord give you understanding in all things (1 Timothy 1:16-19; 2 Timothy 1:13, and 2:3, 7).

I feel you have put upon me a most important task, for who am I, that I should counsel you? I am but weakness itself, and surrounded with all the difficulties and dangers that you are. I am ready to say, Do I make straight paths for my feet? Do I not turn that which is lame out of the way, but really get it healed by the blood of Christ? Do I walk as an example to my family, and a comfort to the church of God? I ought duly to weigh these things, or it may be said, "Physician, heal yourself", or learn first to take the beam out of your own eye, before you can see clearly to take the mote out of another's eye. If this be neglected, "You hypocrite" is the dreadful denunciation. Therefore I feel it a matter of great weight to take upon me to instruct others. Yet if it please God to make use of one so mean and ignorant, he can even by such an instrument warn you that "perilous times shall come"—that both men and women shall turn away from the power of godliness, though they retain the form: "led away with divers lusts", "ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth". Perhaps the time is hastening when we shall not endure sound doctrine, but after our own lust heap to ourselves teachers, having itching ears, and shall turn away our ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables. Now if you are of God, you will be spiritually watchful, and seek to make full proof of the truth; if not, this battle will not be to your honor, nor will you, like the apostle, finish your course with joy, nor find that crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge will in that day give "unto all them that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 3:1-7; and 4:1-8). I find it hard work to be faithful, yet the Lord instructs me with a strong hand, and keeps me trembling at his judgments, both for myself and others, especially for you who are in such slippery places.

I quite understood your former letter, and this, and was grieved to see in them so much that is of the flesh, and not the Spirit's teaching. You ought by no means to walk after my counsel, unless the Spirit of God convince you of the truth of it. If your proceedings are only because you are bidden to do or to say anything, this has not the power of God in it to back it; therefore, when fortitude is most wanted, there will be none, and your good intentions, not being from the Lord, will easily be given up. If you are led of the Spirit, light, more or less, will come to discover what is truth, and where you are. In this teaching the fountain of the deep of your nature's evil would also be discovered, and your free will would sicken and die; and your concern would be so pressing that you would forget all other things whatever but this: "God be merciful to me a sinner." Your natural feelings are greatly excited, and the flesh makes a desperate claim, but God is a jealous God, and they that are his must crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, and must both live and walk in the Spirit, and not have so much fleshly religion as you have set forth in your last letter. We must not deceive ourselves; if we sow to the flesh in walking after another's counsel without knowing why, we shall "of the flesh reap corruption". Therefore take heed, and make God your counselor, and in this way sow to the Spirit, and you shall "of the Spirit reap life everlasting". Do not be weary of this teaching, for that would manifest all your profession to be of the flesh. It is no small thing to be saved; many run in this race, and but one obtains the prize (Galatians 5:24; 6-9; 1 Corinthians 9:24).

Do not imagine I am not acquainted with your cases; I trust the Lord has condescended in some measure to show me that if salvation is come to your house, all your fleshly goodness and fleshly obedience will be burnt up in the furnace, and this will, by little and little, bring you to speak a purer language; but if you cannot discover my drift, I fear it is because the Spirit of God has not enlightened you to see how spiritual true religion is. May the Lord impress your minds with this, that transparency and godly simplicity, and no hiding of anything, are true tokens of the Spirit's teaching; and all short of this is human contrivance, which will not prosper. How can any counsel, if the principal half of the matter is hidden? The Lord will manifest his displeasure on this account, if you are his; if not, you will soon be weary of any fellowship with me.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 79

(To C. G.) London, 1 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

I was much pleased with the sober manner in which you answered my last letter, and am greatly encouraged to believe the Lord will maintain your lot, and discover to you more and more the desperate deceitfulness of the heart, especially in being convicted of many things and purposes, the fountain of which you little suspected to be bitter, and to have need of healing. Be not disheartened at the sight of your weakness and irresolution, while it makes you tremble, and cleave the closer to Jesus Christ. Seek to be carried in his arms, and never venture to walk without his hand guiding you.

It is a sad thing to break through the hedge which the Lord has made; no doubt in this case the serpent will bite (Ecclesiastes 10:8). I have to my sorrow often found it so. A viper can get through a very small place. We are apt to think little liberties, a little relaxation, a little holiday-keeping (spiritually), cannot produce much harm; but a certain author says, We may see the beginning of sin, but who knows the bounds or issues thereof? Therefore, let us take spiritual heed not to break through the hedge.

You are surrounded with snares and difficulties; and remember no man knows his time. "As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in a snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them" (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Therefore be sober and watchful, and continually be seeking to have a clear work of grace upon your hearts; and if insensibility or stupor comes over you, be much in earnest prayer and confession, until the blood of sprinkling heal you. In this line of walking you will find too much exercise to listen to the various temptations that attend your present circumstances. No doubt it was for want of some such spiritual labor that David was led in an evil hour to go upon his house-top, where the snare was already laid for him. It was an evil time, though very short; yet if you read the history, the sword of God never departed from him all his days. Moses and Aaron and Samuel are set forth as God's peculiar people, yet each of them fell into this net; and it is said, "You took vengeance of their inventions" (Psalm 99:6-8). These things were written for our learning, and may you and I be found apt scholars.

It is said, "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor" (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Our perverse ways after that we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, the spirit of the world, communicating with erroneous professors, a lifeless walk in a true profession, and many more such things, are these "dead flies", and lead observers to ask, Is this the fear of God? O how little worth is our religion, if we have not the honor of God tenderly at heart, and seek continually to have our feet washed as the Lord washed his disciples' feet. When the Lord puts his fear into our hearts we become like a candle upon a candlestick, that all that are in the house may see it; and our mercy is to be very diligent that it may be so, that our profiting may appear, not in the flesh, but in making it fully manifest that we are (more or less) led by the Spirit, and do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

May the Lord direct all your steps, and put you in the "cleft of the rock," and make all his goodness pass before you, is the prayer of

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 80

(To J. G.) London, 3 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

Although I have already written to your sister, yet on the receipt of yours I cannot help sending you word how much I am comforted with your simple account, which displays the mercy of God to you in the utmost extremity. You have not much joy, and have many things yet to be cleared up; so have we all; but this which is already past truly manifests that the Lord has put his fear into your heart, and has brought you out of the miry clay of a false profession, where thousands perish, crying, Precious Jesus! having "a name" that they live, and yet being dead (Rev. 3:1).

You can now "sing of mercy and of judgment" (Psalm 101); therefore behave yourself "wisely in a perfect way". Let Christ, the perfect way, be your Friend and Guide in all things, and let your heart be perfect in your spiritual walk at home; that is, perfectly helpless in yourself, and perfectly at a point in making Christ your help in all your secret difficulties, both as it respects your own calling and election, as well as things you have to contend with in your outward walk. Set no wicked thing before your eyes, as necessary to be done for the sake of peace, but for God's sake hate the works and false doctrines of such as turn aside. A froward heart contends against God, departs from him, and makes the way broader than God's Word: and by this means slanders his best neighbor, the Lord Jesus Christ; and they that lightly esteem him, and his choice of his people, and his righteousness, will be cut off. He who cannot keep his mouth in the dust, and not so much as look at himself, God will not suffer. But if you are enabled to love and honor such as are faithful, and desire to live and die with them, this shall be your token, that you are "passed from death unto life", and shall have his presence watching over you in all your conflicts. Such as profess to know Christ, and yet in doctrine deny him, are called "deceitful workers" (2 Corinthians 11:13), and must not be followed; nor must he who counts lies be made a spiritual companion. The end of the psalm shows that earnest prayer and decided measures will alone do in such cases, before the evil gains admittance into our hearts, or we shall be covered with darkness, and know not how to find our way to our stronghold.

I could wish you to find the same sweet power and light that I at times find in the Word, the savor of which sweetly mixes itself in all my worldly engagements, and affords a comfortable prospect of a good hope in my end. That hope you now have found counteracts the despairing thoughts you once labored under. You have a measure of hope from what the Lord has already done, that it is not his purpose that you should "dwell with everlasting burnings", but that through grace you shall obtain everlasting life. Deal tenderly with every check your conscience gives, and this will keep it tender. Always lay to heart everything that brings on a lowering cloud, and let not your want of memory pass it away, but never rest until it be washed in the blood of the Lamb. We hope to hear of your welfare from time to time.

Your willing servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 81

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 8 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

I received your tidings, and wish to add, the Lord's ways are in the deep, and it is our mercy in all things to look well to the words of our Lord, "Nevertheless not my will but your, be done." I hope you will be able to remain at your post to comfort the few poor remaining sheep that have thus been driven. I am not at all surprised at the darkness and distress that this circumstance has brought upon you both; and though it has been coming upon you as gradually as it well could, yet I have no doubt it has brought much sin to remembrance. I would call to your mind that a horror of great darkness fell upon Abraham, very little before the Lord renewed his covenant with him. I well remember our friend and pastor, when he first exercised the ministry; it was under the most distressing difficulties and darkness, with great bondage and contraction of spirit; and yet to the confusion of all his enemies the Lord stood by him, and brought him through with a high hand; and through many groaning petitions, the misgiving fears and dismay that often overpowered him were sanctified to the humbling of his soul, and the seeking of still further testimonies of his being sent of God.

I am sure you will have the prayers of all here that understand "the affliction of Joseph", and know what spiritual baptism means. "Blessed is the man that fears the Lord;" he shall be prevalent with God. To him that thus walks uprightly, shall arise "light in darkness"; he shall know that the Lord is gracious, and righteous altogether. "Surely he shall not be moved forever," notwithstanding that the waves roar, and all things threaten destruction. Therefore be not afraid of evil tidings; trust in the Lord, and your horn shall be exalted with honor (Psalm 112).

Let your spiritual labor be manifest now in seeking God night and day, and never cease until he is pleased to enlighten your darkness, and compose your distracted, fluctuating mind.

From your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 82

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 14 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

I am by no means disheartened by the difficulties you daily encounter. It is no small thing to bear tidings between the living and the dead; nor do I see how you could find a suitable word to broken-hearted sinners but by the perplexities you yourself endure. The lessons you are now learning in this furnace will enable you to discover the many hiding places and false hopes that we should like to take refuge in.

The enemy preaches to you the uselessness of pressing through a host of difficulties, any one of which is or ought to be sufficient to inform you that the Lord has no need of you. If this were to succeed, his end would be gained; but blessed be God, who instructs us with a strong hand, and will not give us over into the hand of the enemy, though he will bruise us, and make us eventually sit at his feet, willing to be instructed, and to go where he bids and do what he says.

Seek the Lord night and day until he returns; then you can assure your hearers they shall not seek in vain. Paul warned his hearers for the space of three years. Preach what you are taught, and nothing else. Let the Lord the Spirit dictate upon your heart, and give learning to your lips. Many will gladly hear your broken sentences of dismay, the power of God will be felt in them, and sinners will fall, though by such weak means. It is that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of God, not of man. The weaker you are, the more manifest the power of God; only give yourself wholly to prayer, that your profiting may appear. Be not too much cast down, nor look too much at things that are seen but beg for power to wait upon God without distraction.

I am glad you feel strength to remain at your post, for by this will eventually be discovered the purpose of God toward you. It would grieve me to hear of your hasty leaving. I cannot help feeling it much safer under present circumstances that you should be in this low state. I have no doubt it produces many confessions of things said and done, which in your former prayers you have often acknowledged ought not to be done. Perhaps you have not until now truly felt, "There is no health in us." The Lord will not teach you merely to say how lost men are, and the way they are to be saved, but will most effectually involve you in all the despondency and dismay of a lost perishing sinner, as the best means of warning others; and when the comfort comes you will also be able to encourage them. See Lamentations 3:22, 23.

May the Lord kindly look upon you and your wife, and direct all your steps steadily, that you may both patiently wait, and quietly hope for his salvation. Call to mind the many favors that the Lord shows you in this trial; the labor and toil many show in your behalf, how the Lord turns their hearts, to render you every service in your affliction, and their anxiety to find a place for you to preach in.

Your affectionate friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 83

(To Mr. W. Maydwell) London, 14 June 1835.

Dear unknown Friend,

I am glad to see your letter to Mr. Gilpin and that it has pleased God to give you some discernment between the dead professing church and the true church of God. I cannot but hope the Spirit of God has made you to feel the inefficiency of the one and the desirableness of the other; for the mirthful professors of the present day are not denied any of the pleasures and fashions of this world, and if you in your measure are dead to these through the fear of death and a broken law, to such the gospel is sent. You must not be disheartened because you find not abiding peace. "I am come to bring fire on earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?" Judgment most commonly precedes mercy, and there is pulling down before building up, and breaking the clods and ploughing before sowing. None of these things are pleasant spiritually though both safe and necessary. The Lord will sooner or later turn us to destruction, before he bids us to return and live; and in the beginning of our profession we are not at all aware what this turning to destruction means. It is anything but abiding peace.

Be not discouraged if the assurance of salvation does not come about according to your notions of it; nor think that your safety consists in attaining to high things at once. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word."

The despondency you speak of is to create a feeling sense of your weakness, and train you not for high things, but for small things; to hear the truth from a child; to think it a wonder of wonders if the Lord should condescend to visit you in ever so little a way by the ministry of a poor despised man. The furnace has been the means that has brought me down in many ways from my heights, and the furnace must still be heated and prepared to keep me down, and so it must be with you, if you are saved; by this you will get to know what is meant by "enduring hardness as a good soldier". In this low place you will prefer the honor of God to your own, which is hard work, for we value nothing and nobody so much as ourselves; and nothing can reduce this mighty self so much as the true efficacious and powerful grace of God. The great and mysterious work of grace in a sinner's heart is not wrought in a day; there is so much to be pulled down, put off, denied and crucified; and the Lord can do nothing but with broken hearts.

O may the Spirit of God quicken you! I hope you will be able by the grace of God to abide by the Word in this time of persecution and disgrace. Christ "made himself of no reputation." Can you find power from on high to give up your reputation? Or will the love of this present evil world in a profession entice you to betray him? Do not think that I wish in any way to judge my unknown friend, or can do so—no, by no means; yet we read such words as these left as a caution to us: "Is your servant a dog that he should do this great thing?" (2 Kings 8:13). If we suspect our hearts we are more likely to seek the Lord for strength to hold out in the hour of temptation.

May the Lord greatly enlighten and comfort you, and discover to you more and more the safety and sweetness of that salvation which is treasured up in Christ for all afflicted consciences.

From your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 84

(To a Friend) London, 24 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

I must acquaint you that I too have a path of tribulation and am often greatly at a loss to see my signs (Psalm 74:9). All the difficulties and darkness that you and the rest of the friends at Hertford complain of, I am surrounded with, and sometimes so entangled by them as not at all to see my way out.

I am exceedingly comforted to find that the Lord so emboldens you as to make it openly manifest which way your heart beats, and that you are made willing after the inner man to despise the shame that must continually be upon all such as take up such a despicable cause. I trust it is because you have a view to the recompense that Moses set his heart upon. In the present low state of the church of God among you, there seems but little to flatter the natural pride of man, but we must remember, the Lord Jesus Christ made himself of no reputation for your sake and mine, and when we first enter the lists as soldiers for him, we are not always aware of the posts of danger in which we shall be placed.

However I may be told to sit down and count the cost, I am such a fool, never can beforehand settle these matters, for all my settlings are like the weather-rooster, in all directions in one day. So that when I come into the actual experience of heavy trials I feel all the weakness and uncertainty that you feel, and see no way of escaping God's judgments; already feeling myself more than half gone in fluctuating irresolute thoughts and fears, lest that good old path of tribulation should not be the right way, for there seems a prospect of much pleasure likely to go, and of nothing but contempt certain to be gained. These arguments are put into such reasonable shapes, with so many plausible appearances of truth, by our arch-enemy, that we in the confusion can hardly tell hitter from sweet. Yet here, with all these burdens upon us, will be found the arm of God's everlasting love underneath, protecting so that we do not finally settle on the wrong side; but by his over-ruling management he causes us to die to the world, to its applause as well as to its contempt. Sin grows so exceeding sinful, and God appears so holy, and our danger of perishing so great, that out of a keen feeling of the reality of these things we cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

Here we cannot pay much regard to any that might otherwise drag us back; but being in true earnest, we cry out, "What will you have me to do?" One says, Behold if I have wronged any, my heart cordially restores fourfold. The cross is kindly taken up; like the disciples we leave our nets, and follow the Lord; but not without sore conflict. "In your patience possess you your souls." "In due time you shall reap, if you faint not." So prays

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 85

(To C. G.) London, 28 June 1835.

My dear Friend,

I would remind you of a dangerous point which our insidious enemy will gain, if the Lord prevent not by watchfulness and prayer: that is, "As your servant was busy here and there," the essential point was neglected (1 Kings 20:40). What with the anxious fear of offending friends, the difficulty of tracing the footsteps of the Lord, and misunderstanding his present design, you get confused and unsettled in every sense. I think the whole of this is to teach you "to turn the battle to the gate", and most earnestly to watch and see if the Lord will not give you some measure of composure to leave human events for him to settle and unfold as he sees fit. I never felt a happier moment in my life than when by the power of God's Spirit I once spoke these words from my heart, "Nevertheless not my will, but your, be done." This would leave room and time to seek to clear another point: whether your name be written in the Lamb's book of life.

You will in your present walk find nothing but hurry of spirit and legal bondage, no heart for reading the Word of God, no relish for half an hour's secret prayer, no room for meditation, no calmness for judging yourself, no sensibility to confess your sins. This is the very cause why you are reduced now to such a state of darkness as not to feel or to suppose you are in the right way inwardly or outwardly. I have no doubt if you could find power with God in prayer, the very discovery of his coming and going would bring along with it light upon your path. This is called walking in the fear of God, and would prove "a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death".

The condemnation that you say you feel for all you do is the effect of legal bondage, and has in it an expectation that by doing or forbearing you will excite the Lord's compassion. This drives you farther from the mark, and has a tendency to entangle you in a worse hurry of spirit, the bane of all spiritual seeking. I would therefore entreat you to turn your mind wholly to the state of your soul, and leave your outward matters in God's hand, and seek his kingdom, believing that, according to his Word, all things else will he added, and all enemies be made at peace with you.

Will it be any encouragement to you if I tell you that I find the way as difficult as you do, and this powerful body of sin a perpetual hindrance to my happiness? Some foolishness or other in me causes the Lord to depart, and it is often a sore and long absence, and brings much shame and many bitter reflections at the thoughts of my folly, and many confessions, before my heart is moved by his returning kindness.

May the Lord keep you all transparent, and not like "whited sepulchers"; and when you come before our spiritual Joseph, may you be able to say, "We be true men."

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 86

(To M. and J. G.) London, 4 July 1835.

My dear Friends,

Your first letter gives me an account of many things, and especially that my friend is not aware of the real lost condition of a poor creature that God takes in hand. It is true that in experience you know nothing as yet of the judgments of God; if you did, your trembling hand would not so lightly express your ignorance; nor would you, under a feeling sense of your fearless condition, so lightly have written that you were destitute of the fear of God. O how soon do we lose the little light we have been favored with, if we turn again to the "beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9). May you and I duly consider these words, "If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Those who are in that darkness cannot comprehend it, for they think they have light, and do not consider the Lord's words, "But now you say, We see, therefore your sin remains" (John 9:39-41).

You write upon the subject of religion, but not once tell me the nature of your exercises, nor whether the things which once afflicted you are removed, and how; nor do you describe any victory obtained over the world, the flesh, and the devil, in all your affairs. If you have not the fear of God, how can you know what can be had by fighting under the banner of Christ, the Captain of our salvation? How comes it that this Captain of your salvation (as you write) does not at times, in his terrible majesty, make you tremble? Is it because, as you say, you have not the fear of God?

If I might be allowed to judge, I fear you have not been ploughing with God's heifer since last winter; but perhaps, through the violence of Satan's temptations, you have sought for a cessation of arms, and have desired to rest upon your oars, and have sent over to the enemy some conditions of a truce. If so, no wonder you cannot pray, as you say; this is the most effectual way of stopping all spiritual fellowship. Is there yet a small remaining fear of your danger, or can you boldly assert you are satisfied with this line of things, and see no beauty nor truth in that way which is so narrow as to forbid all communion with what the Church of England calls "false doctrine, heresy, and schism"?

It is neither obstinacy nor temper that leads me to point out your danger and mine, but a sheer feeling sense of God's holiness and my sinfulness, that does not suffer me to trifle; but through trembling apprehensions of God's dealing with me in wrath, leads me not to consider any inconvenience I may put myself to, and leaves nothing in me or about me, but "God be merciful to me a sinner." This cry from the heart will bring about something worth receiving from God, as well as hearing about; and such as are in earnest seeking for these things will be greatly encouraged to find some who have obtained this desire of their hearts, namely, mercy.

And now, my other dear friend, why do you, too, write that you know nothing of these things, when the very next words are, "I have indeed an awful sense of the wrath of God against sin,"? and you add that, notwithstanding your dread of his anger, you can sometimes hope in his mercy. Yet all this is nothing! O my dear friend, you either darken counsel by a crooked walk, or you suffer great loss for the want of a spiritual ministry, which I also fear I do not sufficiently value.

Both your letters are distressingly general; no soul-trouble explained; no spiritual labor unfolded, no encouragement fairly stated; no difficulty shown, nor the way of escape that the Lord makes for his people; but a general history of religion, such as the professing church has no end of. God forbid that you should again be cordially joined to your old idols; nor can I believe that you will be let alone. If you belong to God, you will find, as you have found, that he will not be at a loss for means to bring you both to a pure language.

You say, "When I feel weak in myself, then I feel he is strong." I must say when I feel weak, I doubt his strength too, and am so weak as to fear I am quite given up, and that the Lord will never appear. I cannot make up so good a creed as you can. I perceive head-knowledge and heart-experience will often differ, because we dread everything in the furnace, and the face of Christ is hid; but bold presumption fears nothing, and knows everything, and believes everything, and has no doubt but God will be sure to help, and that whenever we call. May the Lord condescend to instruct you both, and keep you alive in the midst of all your threatened dangers!

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 87

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Bushey, 12 July 1835.

Dear Friend,

You were brought strongly upon my mind in reading the following words: "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Timothy 2:24, 25). I said, How often my friend has opposed himself, and what false reasoning he makes use of, to quench that little spark of fire, which I trust is yet in the temple of his heart, and will be found a fire that shall never go out, but is kindled to eternal life! If you could fully enter into that which the devil brings upon us while we listen to our carnal reason, you would tremble at the load of darkness and confusion he thus lays on. I have often been greatly surprised in my conversations with you, at the turns you have given to some of the simplest things in experience that a child of God is instructed in, saying, I have no real spiritual life, or, I do not read the Bible enough, or, I have too much to do in the world; therefore I cannot attain to what I want. If this or the other were better managed, you seem to think, then your prayers might be heard. True; this is a way of man's devising, but not the way of the Spirit. Mourning, self-despairing, trembling, fearing, crying, lamenting, all denote the state of a coming sinner, one that supposes himself to have neither life nor light, yet pines for the mercy of Christ. Such obtain help in time of need, and make it manifest that this is the true teaching of the Spirit of God. Such find (more or less) union with the church of God, and a receiving of God's Word by the mouth of his servants, and by these means are enabled, sooner or later, to recover themselves out of the snare of the fowler.

The apostle then speaks of many things that I trust will never be laid to your account, any more than as being the true character of the old man of sin; and adds, "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." I am sure that herein is set forth the dangerous condition of a legal conscience, that puts a false coloring on God's way of saving sinners, while perfectly unacquainted with it, and unconscious of the fatal error. "There is a way that seems right to a man," but the end thereof shows the danger, for it is death, spiritual, temporal and eternal (Proverbs 14:12).

You are not sufficiently aware of the value of an enlightened ministry, and how, if neglected, it increases God's judgment upon us. "All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people," a people that do err in their heart, that cannot find their way to the city. Such is the character of God's nominal people, among whom are a few Joshuas and Calebs. O my dear Sir, what will become of us, if we are not among this number? Will reason save us in the time of extremity, death, and judgment? Oh, let us hasten our escape, for the windy storm of temptation will come upon us, and who can help us but the Lord Jesus Christ?

It is a miserable life, to have just conscience enough to feel death and destruction is in the way of the world, but not life and power enough in the soul to come forth of them all, and live sensibly on the infinite fullness that is in Jesus Christ. O how was that fullness made manifest to me this day, when the Lord came into my soul with these most tender words, "O my threshing, and the corn of my floor!" (Isaiah 21:10). A personal interest in Christ made it most sweet; for as we are partakers of his sufferings so also shall we be of the consolations. This holy anointing is what I wish you to be partaker of; for because of this, every yoke (even the yoke of legal striving) shall be broken. Here only can we say, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Here we lose sight of the things that the natural eyes delight in, and are enabled spiritually to behold the things that are invisible. In this way only I find sweet and safe sailing to our heavenly port. May you be enabled to receive and comprehend this way, for it is the King's highway of holiness, happiness, and eternal life.

Your most willing servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 88

(To Mr. Nunn) Bushey, 24 July 1835.

My dear Friend,

Yesterday a person belonging to this house read some of my letters, and told me that he thought I had had some teaching, but could not find out to what sect I belonged. He could see, he said, that I had a great deal of constitutional melancholy, which runs through the whole of them, and he wondered I did not take the promises more. I confessed that, by the grace of God, I adhered chiefly to Luther and Calvin, and many more such men whom the Lord had owned, and considered that the dissenters, as a body, were, for the most part, equally with the church people, a dead carcass, trusting in the written Word, without the powerful application of it by the Spirit to the wounded conscience. This I said to see what he would make of it, and he immediately replied, How limited in your views! Are there none in all these that are right? I replied, Out of these lumps of dead clay the Lord chooses his elect, and the rest he leaves to trust to promises unapplied. I cannot argue, I said, but I find the Lord is a God of judgment as well as of mercy; dead professors take such promises as seem to suit the flesh, and leave out many that strike hard at the old man within; for instance, the Lord promises to take vengeance of our inventions; this is to be forgotten; and while "peace and safety" is all that is looked for, alas! "sudden destruction comes". So we parted.

Early this morning I awoke full of fears, and very poorly. I started up, and began to ponder over my miserable condition; what a grievous sinner I was, and how surrounded with such sorrows as would be most fearful in my dying moments; and something said, Don't you think your poor friend Mr. Nunn has as many and as sore conflicts as you have, and more too? This consideration brought me to some acknowledgment, and I began to forget myself and to ponder over your lingering trial, and the need of the perpetual exercise of patience, and how hard this is when we are in the dark. I then thought on what I had written to Mr. R., and the same words came with inexpressible sweetness to my heart, as if spoken to you,

"Cheer up, you traveling souls,
On Jesus' aid rely!"

This removed all my sorrow, and my eyes full of weeping admired the riches of his grace and mercy manifested to you and me. I then believed, with all my heart,

"He sees us when we see not him,
And always hears our cry."

 

At once the fear of death and destruction was removed, and a sensible drawing near, with holy familiarity and self-abasement, took place; and my prayers went up for you, and all afflicted people.

I found this better than the letter of a promise to be taken with a withered hand. I had rather have the hand of faith restored, and then, under the influence of that divine power, it will stretch forth and lay hold on eternal life. This is a substance; the other a thing of nothing. My poor friend here would rank himself as a limb of that dead carcass. "Such were some of you; but you are washed." "Who made you to differ? And what have you, that you did not receive?" So I found it in the night, and could not but adore the riches of his sovereign grace; for I never felt it so free before, nor myself less likely to have such a visit as I then found. And let me repeat what was so sweet in my cast-down situation, Cheer up, poor sinner, "on Jesus' aid rely." This was the precious part; there seemed in the words such a sweet invitation to come, and I found in him all that I wanted. I had no wishes or wants left unsatisfied, and this made me weep with many mixed feelings of shame at myself, and acknowledgments of his great condescension. Thus I find the standard of the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up, when the enemy comes in with a flood of despair.

I felt the truth in a certain sense of my poor friend's remark, that I had a great deal of melancholy, only I call it unbelief at the sight of my awful corruptions; and I think if he could see spiritually what is in his heart, he would have more melancholy than he has now. But the whole-hearted want no Physician; those who are sick and have many fears want speedy remedies.

O may you and I, and the rest of our little body, with our pastor at the head of us, make it more and more manifest that the Lord has chosen us out of a dead, professing world, and through the Spirit bring forth fruit unto life eternal.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 89

(To Mrs. T.) Bushey, 2 August 1835.

Dear Friend,

I am truly sorry to hear of your being put into the furnace again, and also that our friend did not send me any particulars respecting your exercises under it. For my part, I am always sore broken at the sight of the rod, and very commonly think at the first that the Lord is about to bring me to final judgment. In such a case I find nothing so safe or so difficult as to acknowledge the justice and righteousness of God in thus dealing with me.

I was exceedingly struck this morning in reading Jeremiah 2., and with shame I could, in a measure, fall under the charge. "Thus says the Lord, I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Then was Israel very tender, and the world and its fashions very small; but what does the Lord say now? "What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?" .... "I brought you up" (out of the Egypt of the world) "into a plentiful country" (a land where the gospel is faithfully preached, and among a people that fear God); "but when you entered, you defiled my land" (with the spirit and fashion of this world). "Wherefore I will yet plead with you, says the Lord." This further pleading is, I conceive, the continued furnace-work that the Lord sees absolutely needful for us, that the spirit, maxims, and fashions of this world may die in us. Without this we should soon find that the former tenderness and tempered zeal would disappear, and we should "change our glory", or this work of God, for the truest nonsense that man can name, for dress, for straws, for anything that is not God; and thus insidiously slide from spiritual union with Jesus Christ, "the fountain of living waters", and make up the deficiency, if possible, with "broken cisterns that can hold no water".

It is on this account that you and I are so often in the furnace; and if we say we don't know why he thus afflicts us, we may depend upon it, he will continue the furnace until we do find it out, and an honest confession comes from the heart by the power of the Spirit, under a discovery of the greatness and number of our multiplied transgressions, notwithstanding some light, some intimations, some sweet and friendly hints, such as "This is the way, walk you in it;" all which have been shamefully slighted. "How often would I have gathered your children together, ... and you would not!" How have I set before you a way of escape in time of temptation, and yet the love of sin prevailed!

Thus, when the furnace has been heated seven times more than it was accustomed, I have been made in the end to acknowledge the truth of what the Lord says: "Have you not procured this unto yourself," in forsaking the Lord and taking up with toys? But it is our mercy that the Lord will not leave us until he has made us quite ashamed of ourselves. Then what a sweet prayer Psalm 51 becomes, and how glad we are of that thorough washing by the Spirit, which is there spoken of!

May the Lord graciously visit you in this affliction, and grant that the natural sottishness and want of understanding that abound in us all, may be discovered more and more to you, and removed by the Spirit of light and life entering abundantly into your heart. Wise enough we all are to do evil, but to do good we have no knowledge.

I am often cast down because of the way; my sin makes it thorny, and there seem but few Scriptures more suitable than the Lord's reproof: "O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?"

Sin, in any shape, bears no other fruit than unbelief. When the Lord withdraws, I find often that the sight of my sin remains, and its demerit; I leave you to guess my feelings, with an enlightened judgment in the terrible majesty and holiness of God, and Christ out of sight. The law works wrath, and stirs up enmity, and all former tokens are hidden, and God speaks terrible words in this thick cloud. But here, when all contention gives way, I am led to bow, to stoop, to confess, to admire and agree to all his judgments, and to say no way could be so just, so kind, so tender as this, to bring down this wretched heart of mine, big with opposition in all directions, to God's way of saving sinners. And now, Lord, I have no wish, no will, no way, but your! All this while weeping under a sense of his goodness, admiring the pains he takes that I should not be condemned with a wicked world in the great day.

The apostle protests, "I die daily," and that by crucifixion, a long, lingering and painful death; and this is, and must be, the way spiritually with us, if we ever know the rising in newness of life. We are always calculating upon some rest here in this world. If we have been ever so near to the grave, and a respite is given us, the first thing considered is generally some little accommodation for the flesh, some toy put into the hand to amuse us, and divert us from the spiritual life and tenderness gained in the furnace.

May the Lord make and keep us more wary! I fall daily here, and am ashamed.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 90

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Bushey, 10 August 1835.

My dear Friend,

I have been under various exercises lately, and not the less so since our afflicted friend Mr. Nunn came down here. How can a poor creature like myself be profitable to one who is on the borders of eternity (as he appears to be), and has nothing uppermost but how to finish his course with joy? His trial is great, his darkness sometimes very distressing; but "the Lord knows them that are his", and will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to bear. If I might be allowed, with much humility and tenderness, to say it, I think I have seen for some time where the Lord does gently contend, and in much compassion says, "Come now, and let us reason together." Why so careful about many things? I have laid you by for purposes best known to myself; I have taken you from the busy scenes of this life, for what cause you shall know hereafter. "In your patience possess you your souls." "I am your salvation." Cannot you call to mind that almost every relapse, for more than a year, has been in consequence of over-exertion in something of this life? Your limited view puts a necessity where there is none, and an importance upon straws when compared with communion with me, which you know is a Heaven upon earth; so that when you are entertained with it, you acknowledge that all besides is vanity.

Our friend's journey down here was attended with great fatigue; he has had a sad night. In the course of the evening his wife left him with me for half an hour, and I thought during that time he was breathing his last. He took my hand and peacefully told me he thought he was going, but found no fear, hope was abounding; and in a little time he revived and breathed more freely; but I was sent for at half-past three in the morning, and found him very ill in body, and that he had been much exercised in soul. He broke out in many words, declaring the goodness of God to him and his family for many years, and that that goodness was greatly manifest in bringing him under a faithful ministry. He said the Lord had often told him that the reproofs he had often received from his pastor should never be a grief of heart to him in his dying hour, and so he now found it. Oh (he said), how sweet is the favor of God in Christ Jesus! It is too much for a poor, wretched, sottish sinner, thus overpowered with his favors. How great is his goodness, how inexpressibly sweet! He seemed overcome by the softness and brokenness of spirit which he now felt, and continued, Oh, what a heavenly thing! How sweet it is to my soul: "You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory!" O my soul, crown him Lord of all, for he only is worthy! "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Many more such things he said, to the comfort of my soul; especially desiring to be affectionately remembered to his pastor, and all that love and fear God.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 91

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) Bushey, 19 August 1835.

My dear Friend,

Many things have combined to prevent my writing to you before this. I was sorry I should be from home when you were in London. Your difficulties are often presented before me, either at the beginning or at the end of prayer. May the Lord reveal himself to you more and more, and make you alive to the various and peculiar snares that will be laid for your feet as a young minister. I would caution you against the flatterer; it is said, "Many shall cleave to them with flatteries." This is very ensnaring and enchanting; it requires great spiritual courage to resist this. Perhaps many may make suit to you, and seek for a confederacy; and it is not every one that finds power at once to resist a snare here, though the Spirit says, "Say you not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear you their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:12, 13). There will spring up gospel ministers here and there, yet let me beseech you to be sober, and receive not hastily every "Lo here;" for there are many false Christs, as well as false ministers; and many shall be deceived. You may generally know them by their great confidence, unshaken trust, unchanging love; fearless and presumptuous. While you are hearing their tale, you will find yourself ready to sink with fear, and conclude you know nothing, and have lost your way. You will wonder at their attainments, while their words work nothing in you but despondency and wrath. False religion always leads from God, until at last you will find yourself compassed about with the fiery mountain, for God out of Christ is "a consuming fire".

I have had many changes since I wrote last, some refreshings from the presence of the Lord, and many castings down. It is a part of my happiness, that by the Spirit I discover his coming and going. I sensibly feel the light, power, and sweetness of his presence; his presence drives all evil beasts into their dens, and is "as the light of the morning when the sun rises"; "clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (2 Samuel 23:4; Song 6:10). I also perceive it worse than midnight when he withdraws. I know nothing so grievous to bear, as I am persuaded he never goes without cause; and when gone, I find nothing to supply the deficiency. O how I rue this unhappy part of my experience! It is putting on sackcloth with a witness; and my unbelieving heart cannot help poring over the sore that has made him depart, instead of speeding my way to the Good Physician, who can "heal our wounds with tenderness and skill". My sluggish, mulish spirit here always fills me with shame, and sends me further and further from the central point, until my case becomes desperate; and then, when the sack's mouth is opened, and the cup is found, I have nothing to say but mourning and lamentation. But blessed be God, that in this way you and I have, times without number, with the publican, found our way to Christ. It is this way we must all come while here on earth, and him that comes in this way, the Lord will by no means cast out.

Our afflicted friend Mr. Nunn is with me here; he has appeared once or twice to be near his end, but the Lord has had mercy on me, and has greatly revived him. The Lord graciously comforted him in his trouble, until his joy became almost too much for his weak frame; thus he has found that as his tribulation abounded, so did also his consolation. In this friend we see much of the goodness of God; though now for nearly four years the Lord has crossed all his natural wishes and delights, yet he has most graciously made up the deficiency by giving himself: "I am your salvation."

I would press you exceedingly to learn, by prayer and earnest supplication, "to endure hardness, as a good soldier". "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." O do not turn back in the day of battle! It is said of many, "You did run well; who did hinder?" May the Lord strengthen you by the Spirit's might in the inner man, and make you a full partaker of the fruits; which will be so sweet and so enlightening that out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will set before sinners that true and living way which you have found both safe and sure.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 92

(To M. O.) Bushey, 23 August 1835.

Dear Friend,

I was much comforted to hear that the Lord had dealt so tenderly with you, in this your time of extremity. Sin will always be a source of fear and dismay, and as we approach the border of eternity and perceive our naked souls at the bar of God, no wonder that we should feel that it is of his mercy we are not consumed. Nothing short of a powerful persuasion of the love of God in Christ Jesus will enable us at all to "sing of mercy and judgment". It is when we sink into the depths of misery and self-despair, that the Lord condescends to give us some comprehension with all other saints, of "the breadth and length and depth and height" of the unsearchable love of God. I have often thought, with you, that if it had not been so boundless, I should never have been brought from the dark corners of the earth. I know with you what it is to fear lest his mercies should be "clean gone forever", and he would be favorable no more; but this was my infirmity, (Psalm 77) for he has returned with double kindness, and told me what I am sure he will in mercy tell you: "I will never leave you nor forsake you". "Though you pass through the waters, I will be with you." You and I must not give up such mercies to the lies of the devil, nor believe every word he may inject. Let not man nor devil take your crown.

You are indeed now at the strait gate, and few there be that press through; but your fears, when sanctified by the Spirit of God, will add energy to your prayers, so that you will take no denial. He always fills the hungry with good things, yes, every bitter reproof, every anxious fear, will be sweet, while it increases the cry, "Lord, save, or I perish." I hope you will be able to acknowledge more and more the great goodness and kindness of the Lord to you in this distressing hour; think not anything too hard for the Lord to do for you, nor too good to bestow upon a poor trembling sinner. I am truly glad that you manifest the same conflicts and conquests that I have found in all the children of God that I have known; nor must you now consider it strange concerning the fiery trial, as though you alone were in it; but give the Lord no rest night or day, and if possible touch the hem of his garment, and you shall find virtue and efficacy, for "love is strong as death".

In your little note I find the whole of my conflicts and difficulties set forth, and I am encouraged by it that God is no respecter of persons, but whoever calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. O how true and sweet is this! and when (as it was with Paul) all hopes of being saved have been taken away, some broken pieces have brought me safe to land; that is, two or three words of a verse, or some sweet look of approbation have so won my best affections, that I am willing to be (as you say) anything or nothing. In this valley of humiliation I pray this letter may find you; and when hope encourages you, remember me.

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 93

(To M. O.) Bushey, 15 September 1835.

Dear Friend,

You are now brought to such a condition as to make full proof of the power and efficacy of God's grace. What would you do now if forsaken of him? Instead of which, you often find, "Love is strong as death"; and it is no small comfort to consider that (let your case be what it may) the Lord Jesus Christ endured more for you, and has in all sad places been before you; so that he is perfectly acquainted with all your fears, pities all your dismay and trembling, and knows how to support in the time of extremity.

I have often wondered at one thing, that is, no matter how ill, or how near the borders of eternity a man may be, there is nothing in these alarming circumstances to create spiritual life, but the soul in such a case feels spiritual death, and a backsliding heart. How this convinces me of my base original, and of my utter inability to mend it, and that nothing but the eternal Spirit can quicken or revive our drooping spirits, or bring us out of this languishing and dronish state. A sick bed, long continued, is often attended with this, and we have need of perpetual prayer to the Lord to revive his work upon our hearts. Hence we often find rebukes, temptations, desertion, and darkness, that we may be taught our dependence on him; and we no sooner feel our hopeless condition, than the Lord puts underneath his everlasting arms. "The poor hears not rebuke" (Proverbs 13:8). I am sure you know the truth of all this, and I believe you will find in this your weak condition that the power of God will be so manifest as to enable you to say in his strength, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

My prayer has been many times, and I trust will still be, that this may be your happy lot.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 94

(To M. G.) Bushey, 17 September 1835.

Dear Friend,

Your letter to your brother is now before me, and I am astonished and pleased with its contents, especially the three different scriptures which you name, as having been spoken by the Lord upon your heart, and the manner of their repetition; which no doubt was for the express purpose of claiming your attention. I cannot understand how such language can be spoken to anyone towards whom the purpose of salvation is not intended; it must be the voice of a friend, not of an enemy, and therefore eternal life must be the issue.

Having this persuasion, I must tell you that the Lord has dealt with me in the same manner at different periods of my life; the last time about three years ago. I was awakened out of sleep with these words: "Son of man, what see you?" I saw a furnace smoking, such as metal is melted in, and replied, I see a smoking fiery furnace. It was repeated twice, and the vision withdrew, leaving me very cast down, in a horror of great darkness, believing in my conscience I was about to enter into deep affliction, which did indeed prove true beyond what I had ever known before. I seemed for some time to despair of all help, and thought these words were applied to me: "I will deliver you no more." I went about solitary, without any prospect of change, and, like Hezekiah, thought, "I shall go softly all my days, in the bitterness of my soul." But one day reading in Psalm 126, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy; he who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless" (this word seemed ten times as big as the rest) "shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him"; this set my soul on high, and I could bless the Lord for the dispensation, which humbled me in the dust, and makes me to this day keenly to feel and "to remember the wormwood and the gall; my soul has them still in remembrance, and is humbled within me." I therefore can enter into your case, and tell you to be very watchful, for, as sure as you are born, the Lord will fulfill the words he has spoken to you. It appears he has already begun, but has not told you all, lest you should be disheartened and faint by the way; for so your first text declares, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).

Then the second, "Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appears?" (Malachi 3:2) is a little sharper and closer; your abiding seems threatened, but God's Word is on your side, and therefore it is with you as Hart says in his hymn about Noah,

"To make the preservation sure,
Jehovah shut him in."

You will have the waves of temptation and the winds of error, and all sorts of assailants, but the Lord has cautioned you to make use of him at all times. Keep to this very thing, even at the point of despair, still crying against every opposition within and without. All this is "like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap"; the qualities of which, spiritually, I am in a measure acquainted with, and know that no flesh living can abide them; but "with God, all things are possible".

The last text, "Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you?" (Ezekiel 22:14) denotes the closest and hottest work of all, and calls for much humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer, with much confession, earnestly entreating the Lord for his name's sake to keep your heart tender, and not suffer you in anything to choose for yourself. "All things are possible with God." Beg grace to keep this firm in your heart. I was once in a long trouble (perhaps seven years ago), and labored long and seemed to gain but little help; but being in an agony, I cried sorely to the Lord to have compassion, and shall never forget the manner in which he spoke these words: I am touched with the feeling of your infirmities, and have been tempted in all points as you are. O how sweetly did this break my heart! I found myself so submissive, patient, and quiet, that I could have endured anything under this influence, knowing that he had endured much more for me. But a few days afterwards I again lost sight of his sweet presence, and gathered all my trouble together, and knew not how to bear up under it, until he kindly came again and told me that I should be more than conqueror through him that loved me. These are things that reconcile us to the furnace, and lead us to acknowledge the necessity of it; for by his divine management it furthers the work, and brings glory to God; it abases the sinner, and keeps him in a low place, but exalts the Savior.

I cannot but remark the many heavy charges laid in the chapter wherein your last scripture is found; and I say, "Can your heart endure?" No; it cannot, unless the mighty power of God sustain you. And I believe he will sustain you, and you shall know that he is the Lord. All these terrible things are to show you that God hates a light professor, and that he is determined to make you a vessel unto honor. O take the counsel of one of old, "Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour." I believe he may not devour you, but the trial will make manifest. My prayer will be for you, as of one that has suffered like things, that you may prove "a vessel unto honor, meet for the Master's use". The day of trifling is past, and it will now be seen of what metal you are.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 95

(To one who said there was no hope) London, 7 October 1835.

Dear Friend,

I know of nothing so disheartening, though very common, as for young professors to take the seat of judgment and finally decide what the Lord means to do; and then to hold their notions so fast as to think it must be as they judge, and can be no otherwise. They are not aware that this snare is a masterpiece of Hell, and a deathblow to spiritual life; for they generally add, It is no use seeking God; I am so sinful that he cannot have mercy. Now, if natural things were so treated, a man of natural common sense would soon discover the fallacy. I cannot but believe that the Lord allows all this for the humbling of our pride, and the bringing down of our native strength, which until this trial comes on, we think is wonderfully great. We are suffered sometimes to labor here for long, to be more deeply convinced of our totally lost condition.

"He shall by means like these
Your stubborn temper break;
Soften your heart by due degrees,
And make your spirit meek."

 

You are not yet able to understand the deep necessity of the chastening hand of God. I wish I could prevail on you to make your present despair a plea, and not hastily conclude that God's purposes towards you are only final destruction; one says, truly and wisely, that it is not the office of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to this. Therefore let me entreat you in prayer to dispute the point, and to refuse to give up crying for mercy while the Lord gives you breath. You can but despair and sink into ruin, if you pray in vain; but where will you find one that was ever finally lost, who looked to Jesus Christ for help? He was sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Luther remarks that though David says, "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; the sorrows of Hell compassed me, and the snares of death prevented me," and though these were so overwhelming as to leave no room for hope or help, for he was completely surrounded and overpowered by them, yet in his distress "he called upon the Lord, and cried unto his God;" and his cry entered into the ears of the Lord (Psalm 18:4-6).

These things are left on record as an especial check to our rebellion, and ought to stop our mouths from daring to decide what God in his sovereignty has in all ages chosen to keep a hidden mystery. I cannot but yet hope that your trouble is what is called "Jacob's trouble", of which it is said, "Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7).

John Bunyan was two whole years laboring in this despair, which the Lord suffered him to know in order that he might have a clear conception of the cases of many poor lost sinners to whom he would have to preach, and set forth Jesus Christ as the only source of help and redress against all the objections that can be raised.

I myself have been long at the point of despair, not having in my apprehension the least shadow of a hope that the Lord could have any purpose of mercy towards me. I could neither eat nor sleep, thinking it could be no use to mind anything, seeing I was doomed to destruction. I lay in this state long without any interval of hope, but about six o'clock one evening in my desperation I cried to the Lord with much agony of spirit, that if there could be mercy shown, he would show it to me; and presently these words were whispered in my heart, "You shall return in the power of the Spirit." I put it away, because I thought it was only spoken of Jesus Christ; but it came a second time, and was repeated seven times, before I could receive the power of it upon my heart. I had so many objections, and was so fearful that it was impossible any mercy could be shown to me. But the power became so great as to remove all objections, and fill my soul with joy and peace in believing. The effect was the most sensible self-abasement, while I enjoyed such sweet holy familiarity and access as I had never known before. How sweetly did the Bible speak to me! That which was lately full of vengeance and judgment was now all mercy.

One day a cloud came over me which caused such heaviness that I knew not how to bear the loss of the sweet things I have written above. I made many lamentations and confessions, and earnestly begged of the Lord to return; and these words were spoken upon my heart with great sweetness and power, "What woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one of them, does not light a candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently, until she find it?" (Luke 15:8). The word diligently was greatly impressed on my mind, and I cried, Lord give me this spiritual diligence; and I found my spirit would not rest from crying, and the Lord again restored to me the light of his countenance, and I once more went on my way rejoicing. In that light I had often a sweet discovery of God's especial favor towards me, telling me the battle was not mine but his, and that he would never leave me nor forsake me.

This sweet way of living continued some time, but a foolish backsliding heart again insidiously drew me aside into the spirit of the world, and again I required heavy strokes. Under the apprehensions of death I felt much despair, sometimes to such an extent as to alarm my friends, until they sank with me and thought my case hopeless; but here also the Lord did not judge as man judges. When he had humbled my pride, and made me effectually feel my lost condition, he showed me that "the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock." The discovery came with such power as to counterbalance all my despair, and the Lord was pleased to turn my captivity, and spoke these words to me, which were unspeakably sweet in the unfolding of them, "You shall again go forth in the dances of them that make merry" (Jeremiah 31:4). This was spiritual, and was fulfilled by the joy unspeakable that he gave me, restoring me to health both of body and soul. This conflict lasted four years at least; but his faithfulness never fails.

After this also I gradually and foolishly went back again to a distance from the Lord. In this melancholy and fearful trial my feelings were such that even the remembrance of them makes me shudder; but I must say, O Lord, I can by your grace acknowledge that you are clear when you judge. I knew not at the time what the Lord would do with me. His judgments are a great deep. My heart had gone astray from him, and I read these words, "You have forsaken me and served other gods; wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods you have chosen" (Judges 10:13, 14). My spirits sank and I seemed to have no hope, nor to find any way of escape. The terrors of the night almost overcame me, and I fully concluded I should go in the bitterness of my soul all my days. None seemed to care for my soul, and none could help me. Yet here also the Lord appeared for me, and these words came with such power and divine authority as to fill my soul with the greatest joy: "He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

All these things I desire to set before you, at the same time knowing that the natural mind of man is more obstinate than a mule, and more violent in opposition to God than can be set forth. This will join you in affinity to Satan, to set the shoulder against all that God has left on record in his Word, and against all the sweet deliverances he has wrought for his people, under the most distressing despair. O do pray, and let not a rebellious spirit tempt you to refrain, "lest your bands be made strong". Think of Esther's memorable words, and try them, "If I perish, I perish." Joel asks, "Who knows if the Lord will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?" You are not yet where Jonah was; there seemed no hope for him; yet he cried and found deliverance. Do not limit the Holy One of Israel. May he prove himself better to you than all your fears! and pray do never again say anything more about your knowing that God's judgments were denounced against you, which you can never prove.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 96

(To C. G.) London, 11 October 1835.

Dear Friend,

I cannot help remarking how slowly and steadily the work of God (in general) goes on, in opposition to that haste which is seen in the flesh. Our time is always ready, and we think we discover many things, especially when the natural passions are excited upon spiritual objects. We believe all things, we hope all things, and feel such softness upon our spirits, that we think our loving hearts can never rise up against God, let him do what he will. We think we see the very way he means to lead us, and are quite armed, as we suppose, for the battle; that the Lord has so taken us out of the world, that neither the laugh, nor the scorn, nor the kindness which is offered, shall move us from the zeal we feel for the Lord of Hosts.

But now comes the Refiner, and by due degrees makes manifest that all this is not pure gold; and the discovery sinks us amain. Our zeal abates; our spiritual strength withers; and we begin to perceive we are not so near heaven's gate as we supposed, but that the gates of Hell have compassed us about; and we find ourselves in a path very different from that which we in our wisdom had chalked out. The Refiner still pursues his work, until there seems almost nothing left: "as the shepherd takes out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear" (Amos 3:12); and we sink into desperate apprehensions of the danger to which sin has reduced us, so as to become a prey to every evil beast.

But the Lord will both search his sheep and seek them out, in this tremendous cloudy and dark day, and will "feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the rivers", signifying both the waters of life and the waters of affliction. These shall be good feeding pastures, though thus mingled with gall; for by sanctified afflictions our proud hearts are brought low. Do not he disheartened; "I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away" (by temptation), "and will bind up that which was broken" (in judgment), "and will strengthen that which was sick" (spiritually). Only take good heed that you do not tread down these good pastures, nor foul the waters with your feet (Ezekiel 34:5-19).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 97

(To Mr. W. Abbott of Mayfield, Sussex) London, 21 October 1835.

Dear Friend in the Lord and in the path of tribulation,

How unsearchable are the ways of the Lord! Job says, he "does great things past finding out, and wonders without number. Behold, he takes away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What do you?" You have long lain under these mysterious dispensations. If it should please the Lord to sanctify them, you will have to bless God to all eternity for all the means he has made use of to humble you to the uttermost, and under these humbling circumstances to make all his goodness pass before you; and you may be asked (as he asked the disciples of old), "When I sent you without purse, or scrip, or shoes, lacked you anything?" and, like them, reply, Nothing, Lord. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." I have found the rod, the furnace, affliction, disappointment, and crosses of all sorts have been given to me as good things; and, moreover, I have been brought, in a measure, to see the beauty and safety of them, and the wisdom of God in them.

I have longed to make this world my rest, and have sought no small honor in it (I mean that honor which comes from men), and to my shame be it spoken, through spiritual pride and vain conceit I would have been something in the church, as well as in the world; but it has pleased God, in great mercy, to put a worm to the root of this gourd, which has made it to wither, under no small terrors and apprehensions of final separation from him. Under this fire much has been burnt up, and I found nothing left but an ear to learn discipline, and Peter's cry, "Lord, save or I perish." But the Lord being moved with compassion, set my feet upon the rock, and there showed me where my hope and strength must be. He also showed me the destructive power of the cankerworm and palmerworm, and all that great army (spoken of in Joel) that would destroy us root and branch if left under their influence.

While I write, my heart melts with contrition and shame at all the provocations with which I have provoked the Lord ever since I have known him, and especially at his kind condescension in not leaving me under the power and influence of these evils; and that he made me, contrary to my flesh, to cut off right hands, and to pluck out right eyes; and showed me eventually what a poor pitiful creature I was, as is described in Ezekiel, "polluted in your blood", and neither washed nor suppled.

I once read all these things as if they meant nothing; but the Lord has shown me that they are what all, more or less, shall know by experience. Shall the apostle say, "He has delivered us from so great a death," and this mean little or nothing? It is not until we have been much immersed in the furnace of affliction that we are aware, in any measure, of the greatness of the salvation, or the extent of that death (in every branch of it) in which we are involved.

O my dear friend, long inured to this furnace, however desolate your case may appear in the eyes of the world, the Lord can make this desolate place to blossom as the rose; yes, he can make it fragrant to himself and fruitful, and cause you even here to see the glory of the Lord, and the excellent wisdom of our God. I am well aware you often feel, with me, much casting down, and are ready to say, "Can he prepare a table in the wilderness?" The entrance of such a thought has often made me to blush before him, and such words as these have stopped my rebellion: "He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" I sometimes think, Surely if he gives us himself, there can be nothing so great and valuable; why should we fear he will forget us in any of these things, which are so inconsiderable compared with himself? Then I say, "Fear not, behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you." He will open blind eyes and deaf ears, the dumb shall sing, the lame shall leap, for in this wilderness heart of ours he will and does open streams, and the rivers break out (Isaiah 35:1-7); so that the whole glory of this great salvation shall be ascribed to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and not unto us.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 98

(To Mr. T. O.) London, 30 October 1835.

My dear Friend in the common path of tribulation,

My heart was much broken when I heard the few words you spoke; and when you read that part of the Word of God, it plainly showed me where you were. The judgments of God are a great deep. "He is the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is he." Though there be some measure of credit given to this, yet we are found in great haste, crying, "Bring my soul out of prison," long before we have learned the lessons God has designed we should learn; and especially to acknowledge from heartfelt experience that the Lord is righteous altogether when he talks with us of judgment. Then it is that he tries our reins, and shows us what our delights are; and in this severe scrutiny (which is none other than communion with God), many inventions of our own are discovered, which we never before suspected, and many promised delights; as it was with Solomon when he got him "men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, and that of all sorts", nor could he say all this was vanity, until the candle of the Lord shone in the innermost parts of his belly; then he cried "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Deuteronomy 32:4; Jeremiah 12:1-3; Ecclesiastes 1:and 2).

This is laying "judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet", the sight of which proves our hearts so crooked that our souls are filled with dismay, and the terrors of death get hold upon us, make us "go softly", like Hezekiah; and it is God's design that they should have this effect. That strange scripture which we all in turn must understand, will no doubt be fulfilled in you: "By terrible things in righteousness will you answer us, O God of our salvation!" (Psalm 65:5). But as the destruction comes first, our fears run high lest it should be final; and this also is God's design, that it may break our rampant spirit, and show us feelingly what the sentence of death is, that hangs over us. O how we bow and stoop, beg and cry, if so be there may be hope; we sit solitary, and all created things are hung in sackcloth; we believe there is but a step between us and death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. O what a struggle have I found here! What terrors in the night! Fearfulness and trembling have got hold upon me, and I have been ready to conclude that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, and that he would be favorable no more.

This, my dear friend, I found to be communion with God. My ears were by these judgments opened to discipline, and many things confessed and forsaken which would have been quite overlooked, if I had not thus been brought to his bar. Do not you find, as I have found, more tenderness in our life and walk under this discipline, than ever before? "Behold this selfsame thing, that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yes, what clearing of yourselves, yes, what indignation" (spiritual indignation against your sins), "yes, what fear, yes, what vehement desire, yes, what zeal, yes, what revenge!" (2 Corinthians 7:11).

This was the cause why I felt such true sympathy for you, being persuaded that the Lord has thoughts of good, and not of evil towards you, to give you an expected end. May the Lord give you a fervent desire to grow in grace and in the knowledge of him. Though it be through much tribulation I know the issue will be "a wealthy place", better than the wealth of this world. When Jacob was in your case, he cried, "How dreadful is this place!" He was threatened by his brother, and turned out into the wide world; and not knowing what would become of him, in weariness he lay down to sleep, making a stone his pillow; but though so dreadful, he presently found: "This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of Heaven."

O may the Lord be pleased to grant you grace so to profit by the present dispensation, that however dreadful it may be in your apprehension, it may yet prove, eventually, none other than the house of God and gate of Heaven to you!

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 99

(To Mrs. Benson) London, November 1835.

Madam,

How universal is the profession of religion, and how general and frivolous is that universal profession! It appears chiefly to consist of I think so and so, My sentiments are these, and I don't agree in this or that, without the least regard to such words as those of Psalm 66: "How terrible are you in your works" (your work of conversion); "through the greatness of your power shall your enemies submit themselves unto you."

The Lord's eyes behold the general hypocrisy that rules in men's hearts. Though we make many inquiries after religion, yet when the only true and right way is set before us, it is often manifest that in our pride and rebellion we exalt ourselves against it. But if spiritual life is in us, our feet are not removed by the discipline he brings us into, by which he proves and tries us, as silver is tried; and then we do not cry out, I believe the Methodists are right, the Baptists are right, or, the Evangelical clergy are right; but we stand deeply convicted that we are wrong, and here we cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner." The Lord brings us into the gospel net, and lays "affliction upon our loins" and thus weakens our strength by the way, so that all sorts of vain professors "ride over our heads"; and we are made to take the lowest place, being defiled with ignorance and sin, so that our very clothes abhor us. The sentence of death is in our consciences, and destruction round about us. This is passing (in some measure) through the fire of God's law, and through the waters of affliction, by which means the soul is humbled to come in God's way of saving sinners; and in the end we are made acquainted with the "wealthy place". This sort of experience will open our mouths to sing the high praises of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, and then alone shall we cry, "Come and hear, all you that fear God" (none else), "and I will declare what he has done for my soul." This truth has power, efficacy, and light in it, by which we shall see our way, and make it manifest that we are his sheep by turning from all false ways, and hearing his voice and following it.

Perhaps you will say, O that I knew how to get at these things! Surely this verse in Hart's hymns is beyond a doubt true,

"Prayer is appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live should Christians pray,
For only while they pray, they live."

And I would further add (from the same Psalm 66), "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

I believe I have set before you the way the Lord has dealt with me, and most of the people I know here; and though it may appear hard, yet the hardships are well worth enduring for the wealthy place that follows, which all that seek in God's way are sure to find. Salvation is a great thing, and we are saved "so as by fire". Much tribulation, much affliction, and joy in the Holy Spirit; and such as talk of an easy way, and being drawn by love, and tell you that all are not called to go through the same troubles, such, I say may be suspected, that as yet they have known but little. But if by the grace of God we are enabled to leave all this, and say,

"How harsh so'er the way,
Dear Savior still lead on,"

we shall manifest the work to be of God, and that it will endure to eternal life. That this may he your happy lot is the prayer of

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 100

(To M. C. B.) London, 12 December 1835.

Dear Madam,

I am often greatly cast down, and think that every one is more transparent and honest than I am. I see their spiritual beauty and order, while I am judging myself not half so tender, nor so often making manifest my prevalency with the Lord. I was deeply lamenting this on Saturday evening, and the Lord kindly melted my heart with a sweet sense of his pity and care. I do not attain to what you may call great things; and yet they are great, because in them is felt a hope full of immortality; which in its measure causes me to die to this world, and the vain prospects and promises of it.

Every part of the Word of God sets forth trouble, affliction, tribulation, but always points to the "wealthy place" beyond. I was sweetly entertained a little time ago with these words, "Command the children of Israel that they bring unto you pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually" (Leviticus 24:2). Here I saw the anointing of the Holy Spirit accompanying the affliction; without both of these, the lamp of our profession will never burn brightly, nor will the "peaceable fruits of righteousness" be found.

I wish, with you, to be more meek, and to fulfill the duties of my station better; but as spiritual light increases, I am persuaded we shall find ourselves worse and worse to the end. This is to teach us to prize the more highly the great salvation, and to be under the desperate necessity of coming continually to Christ. Nothing else but the discovery of our shortcomings in all things will have this effect. There is and can be no way of subduing our iniquities but by the Lord's casting them "into the depths of the sea"; or in other words, by the precious blood of Christ cleansing us. This brings in such love as fulfills every law.

I would caution you, myself, and all that fear God, against a light, trifling, frivolous spirit. It is the death of all spiritual life. There can be no fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ with such a spirit; the furnace and the rod are prepared for it. I was once bemoaning my want of discretion before the Lord with much feeling, and this came with very great power to my conscience, Never fear but you will have trouble enough to keep that down. And so I have found it. We do not learn every lesson in one day. "Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10).

I tremble for your pious friend; and if you dare tell her so, you may. I fear what she calls a cautious spirit is insensibility. It is not likely but that God is true, whatever man or woman may say. He asks the question, "Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). I like your disquietude better. The different places you quote, chiefly from the Proverbs, are, I believe, words applied with great power to your conscience; such words have been many times applied to me as warnings and cautions, "whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place", none darker than my soul has been.

Your unworthy though faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 101

(To M. C. B.) London, 28 December 1835.

Dear Madam,

You say I have not told you what I think of your spiritual condition. I thought the whole tenor of my letter conveyed my feelings upon that subject. I cannot understand how people, in a vain and empty profession, can have such reproofs as those you allude to from the book of Proverbs. The dead cannot hear such things. But you would not be so continually reproved upon the same point, if there were not plenty of cause; and the cause is, your walk in that respect is not consistent with the fear of God, but is quite consistent with the spirit of the world. You have borne testimony before your family that this Spirit of life has entered your heart, and they evidently perceive that you feel death written upon all created things. Hence, I judge further, that as these reproofs are the way of life, life will show itself in growth, not in being always found in the same place. The sore back dreads the rod. True teaching will appear in an increase of tenderness, and it will grow to be a very evil and bitter thing to be found abiding in the place against which the Lord is always testifying his displeasure.

What made you feel those words: "the death of all spiritual life" in my last? Was it not both the possession of that life, and the sense of the want of it? This proved is the new birth. "The dead know not anything." Spiritual life is a new covenant blessing, and is manifest in receiving the reproofs of instruction,

"It lives and labors under load,
Though damped, it never dies."

It especially will not let "that which is lame be turned out of the way" (Hebrews 12:13). What do you mean by this? You will say, I mean the reproofs, which you have hinted at in every letter, for the same things. This is what I call lame in you, and my advice is, Turn not this sad evil out of the way, but let the spiritual life be found laboring under this load in confession and prayer, and do not give it up until it be healed. If this be done, this also manifests the new birth. Old things are not held fast, but denied and put off; and the Spirit of life entering makes a new creation. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." How evident this is in the shame and confusion of face we find when sin and vanity seem to bear the sway. O what fear and torment enter our souls, what darkness and perplexity! We may enter our rooms, and sit as long as we like there; but all we can think is, What fools we are! How strange it is, that while we are thus judging ourselves, the Lord most kindly comes in with some little hope or help that brings us up out of this "pit wherein is no water", and advances us one step further to believe that he has a favor towards us!

Seek not to rest in the testimony of man; you know in your heart what you are after, and you shall not be long seeking the Lord before you shall have some token from him of your spiritual integrity. If these heavenly and spiritual treasures were to be lightly come by, they would be lightly esteemed. Much independence and rubbish of all sorts must be cleared away, before the foundation of this spiritual house can be safely laid. "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6). Ploughing, digging, and harrowing, the chisel and mallet, and all the things by which the Lord sets forth the foundation-work, are very painful and humiliating. "Can your heart endure?" If the Lord is your refuge when the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow, you will be sure to stand, because you are founded upon the Rock. That this may be your happy case, is the sincere prayer of

Your unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 102

(To Mr. Nunn) London, 10 January 1836.

Dear Friend,

How deep and mysterious are the ways by which the Lord makes these earthen vessels meet for the Master's use It is said, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day;" but you and I know, in some measure by sad experience, how slowly this old man perishes, as well as the slow progress of the new plan, in the daily renewing. How many days pass that have not this renewing in them, to my shame be it spoken! When I read such things I am quite abashed, and begin to ponder whether I rightly know anything.

I believe your faith has been manifested to be true, by its standing the fiery trial, and will, in due time, "be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ". The words of the apostle (1 Peter 1) here impress my mind, that if I attain to this conquest in Christ Jesus, I must, as an obedient child, no longer fashion myself according to my former lusts, but as he which has called me, by this holy calling, and has manifested his love to me, is holy, so must I be "holy in all manner of conversation". This again cuts me down clean to the root, nor can I tell how to abide this scrutiny. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?" Will Christ appear for me? I do, in some measure, feel it encouraging, that the apostle shows there is hope for those who "pass the time of their sojourning here in fear"—not a hope that this continual labyrinth of fear can be removed by our legal righteousness, or that any vain attempts of ours can ever deliver us from the wretched bondage that a vain conversation brings us into—but a hope in "the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot". "All flesh," and fleshly means of attaining spiritual ends, "is as grass," and "all the glory of man," the glorious outside of vain pretensions, "is as the flower of grass." These we see, and clearly understand by the Spirit's teaching, wither and fade away when most wanted. But that which you have lately passed through will endure, because the Word of the Lord has spoken it; and I desire to be a partaker of the same hope.

The apostle adds (chapter 2), as a further test of the genuineness of the work (if we have indeed been made partakers of this heavenly treasure), "Laying aside all malice, and all deceit, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby", if you have indeed already proved and "tasted that the Lord is gracious". Here, again, I feel my fears arise; everything I read is so high, so holy, so heavenly, I seem to know nothing yet as I ought to know; but in this my ignorance, there is an inconceivable desire to be coming to Christ, the living stone. Though disallowed of men in general, Christ is my soul's desire. But when the apostle says, "You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house," I can see that you are in this case, and have been well instructed of late in this heavenly are of building, but I, alas, like Nehemiah's men upon the wall, am driven away; the enemy often comes and defeats me, and that which I supposed I had built up, seems presently pulled down again. Your spiritual sacrifices, I see, are acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ; but, alas, I perceive that the chief corner stone is hidden by much rubbish, by reason of which, through unbelief, the wall remains broken down.

"Unto you that believe he is precious." How sweetly do I see in these words what the Lord has done for you! "A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people;" (but O what a sweet constraining power is now laid upon you!) "that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Abstain from everything that wars against this life of God in the soul, and let your conversation be honest in the world, as well as in the church. Here again l fall, and am ashamed, when this plummet is put to my conscience, to see how crooked and out of the way my soul appears; how infinitely short. O my dear friend, pray for me, for I read that our good works are to be seen by others, that they may "glorify God in the day of visitation".

When it has pleased the Lord that we obtain what the Scripture calls "a good degree", there seems this necessity put upon us, that our weapons become mighty to the pulling down of those strongholds that Satan has formerly kept and maintained in our souls. All high things that exalt us, and not Christ; all wrong spirits that exalt folly, not Christ; that exalt self-pleadings, self-power, self-vindication against all that is reasonable, are parts of those strongholds which must be pulled down, that Christ may be exalted in word, in spirit, in conversation, in all things. Here again I fall. You in these afflictions have found this self-debasing place. I feel the necessity (as an example) of keeping there. I see the beauty and desirableness of these things, but am far from them. Opposition on all hands disheartens, and, like Mephibosheth, I am lame of both feet.

May the Lord help you, and put it in your heart to pray for me.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 103

(To Mrs. Tims) London, February 1836.

Dear Madam,

I have often wondered at the length of time during which some have waited at the pool of Bethesda to be healed, having the mortification of seeing others outstrip them, and get their healing, and go their way. There are many mysteries in the Word of God that flesh and blood will never be able to fathom. You once were lame and sick, and under a false ministry got your healing and went your way. This afforded satisfaction, and it worked as that sort of healing always works; for when providence throws such in the way of hearing the truth, there is found in them a most determined hatred and resistance against it; and, like that great man Naaman, they are ready to exclaim, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?", being enraged that any should presume to dictate to them what is truth. If God were to leave us here, how just, and yet how awful!

Surely a measure of this has been fulfilled in you. You went to Hertford satisfied with anything but the truth; and when the Lord opened the mouth of such a poor weak instrument, how it offended your greatness! But, like Naaman, you were persuaded at length that the waters of Damascus could not heal your sickness, and you were made willing, by slow degrees, to receive the waters of Israel, which not only recovered you of your disease, but also brought you to see. How wonderful are the ways of God! As a further test of the power and efficacy of his Word, he put before you a living and dying testimony of the power and efficacy of these waters of life. You are not yet fully aware of the wonderful grace thus so freely bestowed upon you, that the Lord should cause the Spirit of life to enter your soul, by which you discover the difference between your former profession and that in which your dear mother so peacefully ended her days. You cannot yet fully understand the great condescension of the Lord in the manner in which he has so tenderly led you, and made you submit to his yoke.

Hart says of the Christian's warfare,

"His fairest pretensions must wholly be waived,
And his best resolutions be crossed;
Nor can he expect to be perfectly saved,
Until he find himself utterly lost.

When all this is done, and his heart is assured
Of the total remission of sins,
When his pardon is signed, and his peace is secured,
From that moment his conflict begins."

Nor let your heart sink at this, though the trial comes from quarters none can foresee. The Lord puts no value upon human happiness, it is made up of such vanity; therefore he will not spare, though there be much crying for the loss of it. But this he will do: he will sanctify the troubles, let the nature of them be what it may, by working a measure of patience and submission, and teaching us, by little and little, to live upon the Word of God. First, believing we are great sinners; then, feeling sin exceeding sinful before God; then, trembling at his threatened judgments; then, stooping with fear, and yet crying for mercy, even after we have many times obtained mercy. In this way he makes us feel how little we are, and these exercises continued keep us little in our own estimation. And often while thinking, Shall we, so mean, so base, ever attain to eternal life? in some secret whisper we are surprised at the honor and value he puts upon us. Thus he gives us strength according to our need.

I have lately felt greatly cast down at the sight of many things which seemed lame in me, and greatly afraid lest I should be suffered to turn them aside without a sound healing; but in my many days of mourning, the Lord was pleased to look with compassion upon me in these words: "He has not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." This was inexpressibly reviving, and made me to rejoice in hope.

When I paid your mother a visit, I requested Mr. Gilpin to read to her Psalm 1, which was very sweet to me, as well as the comfort I found in prayer. My heart was united to her in spiritual love, and I could discover the joints and bands by which Christ's spiritual building was fitly framed together. I would now recall your attention also to the same psalm. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of ungodly sinners, nor stands in obstinacy in the sinful ways of error, nor sits down quietly in the seat of scorners, to make light of those who hold the truth. But his delight is in the truth of God, the effect of the light of life entering the soul. He now begins to be a thinking man, and meditates day and night. He takes the whole Word, not a part. The effect of all this is sweetly found in your experience. "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season." Alas! you say, where is this fruit? You have been quickened to feel there was a divine power manifested in your mother's testimony; you believed the report; and the fruit was an earnest seeking to have that established in your heart, which you saw in her was quite sufficient to live and to die by. Then I add, as you thus received Christ, the light of life, so also look for the love of his heart; and whatever you do in this line of things will prosper. "The Lord knows the way of the righteous," and their many fearful and despairing thoughts. May he encourage you to follow the steps of those who are now, through faith and patience, inheriting the promises, is the prayer of

Your most unworthy servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 104

(To M. C. B.) London, March 1836.

Dear Madam,

My last letter to you was on a most important subject, and I was led with much anxiety to ponder what might be the effect of it. You are now in another and more responsible position. This change, whatever you or I may think, will bring to light many things heretofore hidden. You having put your hand to the gospel plough will, if the due weight of such a consideration be felt, find at times a clog in your new circumstances, and the new aspect of things. If you have feelings like myself, you will understand me when I say that a spirit of independence, which comes upon us in consequence of any prosperity, is the bane of one trembling as a sensible sinner under the conscious displeasure of God. How often, in the course of my pilgrimage, have I met with such as could not take counsel, because they thought themselves, as to outward circumstances, beyond the reach of the Word of the Lord, but, like that king of old, have gone away "heavy and displeased". Although I write in this manner, I hope better things of you; and these are peculiarly called for at this time.

I only express my wish to hear of your spiritual welfare; nor can I clear my own way unless I can prove that I feel for the affliction of Joseph. If you are spiritually taught, you will, with the rest, value the love of the church of Christ, and seek to be found in their prayers; for the Lord says, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another."

I exceedingly feel for you under the discouraging thought you express respecting giving up the means of grace. I hope such a day will never come. It was said to one, "Unstable as water, you shall not excel;" yet even that poor creature was, under the blessing of God, upheld by his almighty arm (Genesis 49:4; Deuteronomy 33:27). The Lord Jesus Christ says, "O you of little faith," not of no faith; and speaks thus for the comfort of you and me. Surely secret prayer will never be given up; though you may call your attempts no prayer, this proves nothing. God says, "Pray without ceasing."

"Prayer is appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give.
Long as they live should Christians pray,
For only while they pray they live."

O may the Lord never suffer you to become a dead professor!

So prays your unworthy servant, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 105

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 8 April 1836.

My dear Friend,

I have often thought that there may be many about you that will say like Pharaoh, "They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in." If you are like me you will find a fearful testimony within that often makes you, for a season, to believe the same. If you are of Israel, no doubt your difficulties will be both great and numerous; for God says, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them." You will find (as I have found) that this pursuit of our enemies will make us sorely afraid; but it will be our mercy if like the children of Israel we in our fear cry unto the Lord; for though this cry be accompanied with much secret mourning and repining, the long-suffering mercy of God is such that he does not send us to our deserved place, but bids us not to fear, but "stand still, and see the salvation of God".

I wish not to complain, but I would have you know that I have many difficulties on all hands which are far beyond the help of flesh and blood. Yet I am not left to fight my battles alone; and though many watch for my halting, the Lord often draws very near and whispers sweet instruction. Since I wrote last I have been greatly cast down, fearing the Lord would give me up. In my sorrow I mourned before the Lord, and I remember the sweet sensation he created in my heart when he told me it was a time of double circumspection: "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." Be much in prayer; "Watch and be sober." The enemy is very busy; cleave close to me; and see, if this counsel be taken, whether it falls to the ground. Was it not infinite condescension in our God, to deal so tenderly with one so base, so abject, so treacherous, as myself? But he is a sovereign, and will have mercy because he will have mercy. But to return, I found grace from on high to take his sweet counsel, and was astonished to see that I had not to fight, but to pray, for the battle was his, not mine. "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

Let me conclude this letter with the next verse for Mrs. Gilpin: "For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness."

From yours affectionately in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 106

(To M. C. B.) London, I May 1836.

Dear Madam,

You tell me you have lately felt a great difficulty in either speaking or writing upon spiritual subjects; and I add, if you wish to avoid these difficulties, there can be nothing better for you than to give them up altogether, and escape, as David once did, into the land of the Philistines, so that we may despair of finding you in any coast of Israel. You will then be out of the reach of all such as truly fear God, and would in love caution you. And you may further proceed in your new pursuits, to give them some place in your affections, so as to follow your vain speculations as David did, for a full year and four months; during all which time, it is remarkable to observe, he neither spoke nor wrote on spiritual subjects. See 1 Samuel 27.

You will say then, What did he? He spent his time in worldly pursuits; one day he invaded the south, another day he invaded another place, and so enriched himself with spoils and friends, not always speaking the truth. What became of all these proceedings? If you pass on to chapter 30, you will find the Lord measures into his lap, full, pressed down, and running over, what he had for some time been measuring to others. He not only lost his family and his property, but the affections of those he sought to win by enriching them; for they presently threatened to stone him.

All these things God designed, under his divine management, to work for good; and David now began again to speak on the subject of religion, for it was pressed out of him by the weight of his calamity. "David was greatly distressed." Now if you, like David, manifest spiritual life under your trying circumstances, and feel distressed, and are enabled to encourage yourself in the Lord your God, and in your heart cry to him, with many confessions of that troop of evils you complain of, and wistfully pray, "Shall I pursue? Shall I overtake?" Shall I regain my spiritual speech? O my dear friend! All your happiness in this life, and in the next, depends upon the important answer, which if you do not gain, sooner or later, there can be no ground of hope for you. It is said, "David recovered all." And then out of the abundance of his heart he comforted the church of God. "O Lord, open you my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise."

I grieve to read in your letter the following words, "How very indifferent and careless I am about such matters, in general, and so taken up with the business and cares of this life, that I pass days without anything like real prayer." Now does not the repetition of this make you blush? You will find it as the Lord says, "Therefore will I be unto them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them" (Hosea 13:7). No doubt matters will take a decided turn shortly, and the question will be, "Who is on the Lord's side?" (Exodus 32:26). Do not be too hasty in saying that you will soon settle that. "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs; but of God who shows mercy."

Whatever distressing difficulties you may have to contend with, the Lord has told us that there is in every temptation, "a way to escape"; but man will not always inquire into this way. I can tell you what this way is—it is Christ, the only way of a sinner's escape.

Let these things sink deep into your heart, and remember that whatever trials you are called to be exercised in (no matter how many or how complicated they may be), if sanctified, they will lead you the more earnestly both to speak and to write spiritually, and increase in your communications with the church of God, that you may not be quite swallowed up in the cares of this life. "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world."

That the Lord may discover to you your danger, and graciously apply the remedy, is the prayer of

Your faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 107

(To a Friend) Tunbridge Wells, 22 July 1836.

My dear Friend,

I have felt from many hints you have lately dropped, that you are not quite satisfied with everything that goes on within. You have sat under a bright ministry, and your head has gone faster than your feet, so that your enlightened understanding shows you that in the vanity of your mind you walk in many things which cannot consist with a broken and contrite spirit. I think you do well to notice this; and if this caution, at which you so often pause, be attended to, it may be a means of saving you much trouble.

Natural discretion is not spiritual; we may put it for spiritual discretion, but it always falls short when most needed, and a lightness of spirit is discovered, when the contrary is most profitable. A broken spirit will endure contradiction, even from inferiors; perhaps you feel the want of this as an overwhelming evil, which the Lord suffers, to show us that fleshly prudence can do little or nothing in the hour of temptation, especially when he is pleased to expose our weakness.

Some can scarcely bear to be spoken to upon any common subject, they are so quickly offended; but here is the point in question—a broken spirit cannot endure that it should be thus. The profiting which such often speak of is rendered unprofitable by it, and their lightness of spirit causes them to go away and forget "what manner of persons" they ought to be, "in all holy conversation and godliness"; so that their profiting becomes like the early dew, it passes away in the first heat of temptation, and there is nothing left but an unsavory account of something which, like the prodigal, they have shamefully wasted.

What shall we say to all this? If I may be allowed to say how it has been with me, I have found the furnace the only means of breaking the neck of that unruly independence and consequence which the flesh assumes, even in a profession. We sit as kings and queens, and so we would sit, and receive much fleshly respect, and call it spiritual union, until the gates of death are opened, and the Lord discovers the cheat. O what work is here! A sealed book, a sealed heart, and all darkness! We have lost our way. We have been in no end of company, and have talked much, and gained much of that honor that comes from men. But now our lamp seems put out. With shame I write it, but I have often been in this awful despairing place; but after much humbling work, by the kind management of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have eventually found that he has turned my captivity, and has given me some of the brightest evidences I ever knew; and the repetition of this has effectually brought me to the broken heart and contrite spirit of which I speak.

Then let our prayers continually be that the secret hints and whispers of the Spirit may be greatly cherished and daily watched and prayed over, and that we may have a wise and understanding heart given us to put these things into practice.

How hard it is to be nothing, when everybody is telling us we are something! But the sanctified furnace will do this, and must, if we ever come to know what spiritual happiness is.

I have had I trust a godly jealousy at seeing your increase of acquaintance; the profiting does not keep pace with it, nor is there much sympathy with the afflicted. "A word spoken in due season, how good is it!"

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 108

(To Mrs. Clark) Tunbridge Wells, 22 July 1836.

Dear Mrs. Clark,

You have been much upon my mind since I left town; though I have left you all for a season, I have not left off to consider "the affliction of Joseph," but am deeply affected by it, knowing that I am also in the body, and subject to the same. My fears run very high, lest I should be utterly forsaken in these times of trouble. I read the Word, and am often appalled at the manner it looks at me, and tremble lest I should not find a hiding place. This was very searching to me the other day, "I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house; when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity that he knows", not only his not restraining his sons, but for many more things which the Lord and he had often (if I may be allowed the expression) touched upon, but which Eli had passed by, and was therefore now to be judged (1 Samuel 3:11-14). I cannot tell you how these things make me ponder my way, and are a maul upon that levity and vanity, which so quickly brings in spiritual death.

The night before last I had a most awful sight of myself as a sinner before God. I saw nothing but his holiness and my sinfulness; every way of escape was hidden from my sight; very little power with the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, and very little hope of seeing his reconciled face again. But such is and always has been his compassion that it never fails in the time of extremity. "Our Joseph cannot long refrain." The following day he returned, not with much joy, but with sweet power, and made me very sober, very little indeed in my own eyes, and trembling lest I should again be brought to such a place, and kept there; for I am persuaded the Lord need not look far for plenty of causes, if he were pleased to deal with me according to my sin.

I admire the goodness of God in your behalf, for I am sure you will acknowledge the truth of what I am about to say. While you were not so afflicted in body, and perhaps not so cautious in spirit, you had not those sweet intimations of God's gracious favor so frequently as you now have. You no doubt find with many of us, that the conflicts and conquests go together.

When I was lately called to speak to the people, my conflicts were very great. I never had such a sense of my ignorance and weakness in my life. I knew not what the Lord would do with me; all I could cry day and night was, "Lord, have mercy upon me." I was on a pinnacle, and knew not but that I might be dashed off. Yet the Lord had mercy, and often promised me I should not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end. So I have found it hitherto. "He is faithful that promised."

Every fresh trouble needs a fresh visit from the Lord. I cannot rest unless I find it. This is the exercise of living faith. A dead faith lives upon the written Word; a living faith lives upon the power of God, brought into the conscience. This is always attended with peace, and a perfect contentment with our lot, as given us in infinite wisdom. We, with the burdens thus fitted for us by divine wisdom, are sanctified by his sweet presence.

I hope you will forgive my writing, but my heart has been greatly toward you in your conflicts. Though I have been so silent, I seldom forget you before God; also our friend Mr. Nunn, whose case often makes me to tremble, lest the Lord should put me into such a furnace, and I not be able to bear it, as he does.

Your faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 109

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Tunbridge Wells, 5 August 1836.

My dear Sir,

I was glad to see your two letters, and more exceedingly to see the spirit of them; nor can I think that the Lord will suffer either your pupils or anything else to separate you finally from his love in Christ Jesus. I had a good morning in speaking upon "the vineyard of red wine" (Isaiah 27:2, 3), that the Lord will keep it, that none shall hurt it, neither sin, death, nor the devil; for the Lord will water it, either with affliction or the waters of life, so that neither the night of desertion nor the day of prosperity shall hurt it. All things shall work together for good in his elect. The Red Sea shall afford a safe passage for his people, but prove the destruction of his enemies. I felt greatly encouraged in many ways, and in the things that seemed to turn up in my favor. The Lord was present to heal, and has left a sweet savor of godly fear, with some hope that he will be with me in speaking in the evening upon the 4th and following verses.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 110

(To M. B. ) Tunbridge Wells, 12 August 1836.

Dear Cousin,

I thank you for the account you have given us of S. What is the nature of his despair? I cannot but secretly hope, from all that transpires, that even yet there may be a returning; but I feel the worst part to be, that after having been so long a member of a true church, and having given so many accounts of himself, now at the last this melancholy event should overtake him. Had it been at the beginning, we might have looked at it with more hope, but for the winding up of a profession to have this in it, is truly awful.

O Cousin, let not a vain, frivolous, and forgetful spirit be encouraged by us, for this will not abide the refiner's fire, nor the fuller's soap. Prosperity in any shape is a dangerous pinnacle. What I wrote in a letter a few days ago, I may now repeat. It is hard to be persuaded we are nobody, while everyone tells us we are somebody; even a grave look will hide part of this hypocrisy for a season, though we contend with the Lord secretly who is to have most honor. For this cause we are sent into captivity and left there; and the Lord only knows how long, or to what extent, this oppression of our enemies may be allowed. Remember poor young T., and now S. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." If genuine, a little more simplicity is seen, a little more quietness in spirit is felt, a little more humility is manifest; and all these things not only in the church, and before tender-hearted Christians, but before the world, and when no other eye but God's is witness. I am made to cry that I may not be left under the influence of any known sin, but earnestly seek, like Samuel, to offer up the lamb wholly to the Lord. O what should I do, if such a grievous event as this should overtake me? While I write my heart is drawn and invited to Jesus Christ as a suitable hiding place and strong tower, wherein his tempted souls may enter and find safety.

I observe generally that such as are overthrown in these "strong places" are those who will not be governed. They will not believe "the Lord is a man of war"; but a listless indifference overpowers them, and the devil tells them that all the cautions they hear are but man's words, and that they know better; thus they build, they plant, they marry, they sell, they buy, until the day comes and takes them all away. May the Lord open our ears to discipline, and give us to understand his voice in the present dispensation, and give us grace to take the warning, that all that is lame in us and about us may be healed.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 111

(To J. G.) Tunbridge Wells, 23 August 1836.

My dear Friend,

I have your letter to your sister C. before me now, and must say it has been a sweet savor of life unto life to my soul to see and feel the simplicity that is there manifest. I am truly happy to find you proceed so tenderly, for such caution is of the Lord. This is the very place that manifests between them that fear God and them that fear him not. How many say, "Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?"

I was also much comforted in the account of Mrs. Oakley, and think she must be a true yoke-fellow. The tenderness and patience she manifests is evidently of the Lord. I cannot but admire how the Lord is bringing to light a little lot of his sheep in your dark corner; and how you find out one another's spirit, and what unity is felt. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;" "a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers." The plain English is this: the talk of the professors of the present day is the voice of the stranger; the sheep of Christ cannot understand it, nor feed upon such husks, nor bear it; but a few broken-hearted, cast down afflicted ones can understand one another. They know the voice of the Spirit that speaks in them; and thus they fold together, and Christ their Shepherd leads them. But poor Mrs. Oakley will say, I wish I could find he leads me; I have nothing but sorrow and trouble, and little hope of its being otherwise. I still say this good Shepherd leads us, and appoints many a painful and wearisome way; and what makes it more so, is our thinking he never does anything but comfort; in which we are deceived. He leads us by the waters of affliction first, to humble our pride and bring us to the publican's state; also to make us like little children without strength; and then come in the waters of life, most refreshing and reviving. Then, as new wine in new bottles, we are preserved unto eternal life. The one, namely the sorrow, is equally the leading of our good Shepherd with the other, namely the joy and peace. Therefore be not disheartened. "There is an end, and your expectation shall not be cut off." Gideon's army grew faint, yet they still pursued. David likewise pursued and re-covered all.

It is said in Joshua 23, "Be you therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses" (the Word of God), "that you come not among these nations that remain among you, neither make mention of the name of their gods . . . but cleave unto the Lord your God, as you have done unto this day; for the Lord has driven out from among you great nations and strong, but as for you, no man has been able to stand before you unto this day." While I write this, my heart warms with love and gratitude to the Lord for his mercy to us. His faithfulness has never failed; surely goodness and mercy have followed us, and it is of his mercy that we have not totally and finally fallen. The Lord our God has fought for us; as he promised, so he has performed, far beyond our utmost expectation.

Pray read that sweet chapter of Joshua; it is full of caution and admonition. My heart is much softened in warm desires to be kept very tender, and not to offend the Lord by turning aside at every "Lo here!" or "Lo there!" but still to keep close to this good Shepherd; now and then sweetly believing, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 112

(To a Friend) Tunbridge Wells, 11 September 1836.

Dear Friend,

There is nothing in this life that can equal or be compared to the least and most transient view of God's love in Christ Jesus to a broken-hearted sinner. I was much cast down this afternoon, and saw no end of that melancholy which turns everything into a wrong channel, besides filling the soul with slavish fear, as if God would never be gracious, and his mercies were clean gone for ever. Looking, and almost wearied out with looking, for some portion for my Sunday morning's reading, I quite gave up what I always desire to find, that is, a word that comes first with sweetness and power to my own heart, and makes me feel master of my subject. But in turning over the leaves, my eyes caught these words (John 20): "Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping, .... and they say unto her, Woman, why weep you? She says unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." This suited my case, and moved me more than I can tell. I said, That is indeed the cause of all my sorrow. But my weeping was accompanied with such a divine adoration and sweet sense of his inestimable love, that I could scarcely show myself.

Many things in that chapter show Mary's great anxiety, perplexity, and grief; but presently the Lord Jesus Christ said, "Mary;" and she knew the voice. So did I; it was the voice of love and mercy, of reconciliation and friendship. No, he is not gone forever; but very near, if haply we feel after him. How low these things make us fall! How little in our own estimation! How high and holy is the Lord! We know not how to exalt him enough. He is truly what Mary called him, Master. We then desire that he should be our Lord and Master, our Priest and King; we seek with all the heart to render to him again for all the benefits received; but alas, how little can be said or done! And this is not all; for her further encouragement and mine, the Lord added, "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God and your God." O my dear friend, these inestimable benefits exceed all words; and the very opening or glimpse of his sweet returning presence brought them all in. Eternal life was the beginning, middle, and end; and this is what the Apostle calls "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

All this began with the words, "Why weep you?" The remembrance is still so sweet that I can scarcely write the account to you. I have wept spiritually much lately, but the Lord's visitations have preserved my spirit. The same evening, we are told, he appeared to his disciples, and as he always did, brought peace along with him. So he does now whenever he comes, as I know full well, and would if I could invent better words to set such heavenly things before you; but what can I say, if the apostle calls it "passing all understanding", and in another place, "unspeakable"? I must leave it to that experience you have often had. "O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusts in him. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him."

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 113

(To — ) Handcross, 22 September 1836.

My dear — ,

I wish particularly to remind you of the beginning of the despair of poor S.; was it not a fear of coming to want? Your letter has much of this in it, and therefore I would caution you. What has been provided hitherto, and who has provided? Are you not at a loss to find your way to the Lord? I continually sink at the prospect of things, but I find God and his Word my refuge, and the little hope I attain to brings along with it a full reliance upon his goodness. Prevail with the Lord in prayer, and come to the blood of sprinkling, and you will find it speaks better things than human contrivances. It will honor God, and acknowledge that he does all things well. Did you ever consider that not a sparrow falls without his notice? and for your encouragement and mine it is added, "You are of more value than many sparrows." This consideration has often humbled me, and made me quite ashamed, and I have earnestly begged that I might in patience possess my soul, and quietly wait for his salvation.

We do well to consider that there may be many causes why the Lord withholds for a time: a worldly spirit, a seeking too much for worldly accommodation, a repining spirit, overlooking the many mercies we enjoy, a covetous spirit, a careless walk, a fruitless profession, a want of union with the church of God, no grieving for "the affliction of Joseph", continually walking to the stumbling of those about us, not keeping our place in subjection to the Word of God, hardening ourselves against reproof, living in independence of the people and the ministry, following the fashion of this world and lusting after it, idle hours every day, no heart to wrestle with God, plenty of reading the Scriptures, and grave looks, but no spiritual life, no profit in hearing, no willingness to help in the family worship, in the spirit of it, and let me add one more, no nourishing and cherishing any spark of spiritual life that appears in those with whom we dwell. For these and many more causes the Lord contends; and there is and can he no remedy, no clearing, no way of escape, but by falling down before the Lord and entreating him to give us a hearty acknowledgment of our sin. Here is a promise of mercy and nowhere else. O may the Lord suffer us not to say, This is not true, and that; but, like the Psalmist, "I have sinned."

From yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 114

(To M. C. B.) London, 10 October 1836.

Dear Madam,

I have been long absent from home, and have almost lost sight of you. May I declare what I sometimes hear a little of? That my friend is at times very light-hearted, and has business to do for which I hope she is not fully qualified; that is, to entertain carnal and frivolous friends with empty talk. O how will this soften a dying bed! Two parts to act! Two manners of life to walk in! The Lord says, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," and "Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." Here I fear is the cause of all your darkness, and of the display of want of ballast in your carriage with the world. The fear of God has a peculiar dignity in it; it commands respect, and God stamps authority upon it; but a loose walk is like a city without walls, or a vineyard with the hedge broken down. How the Lord resented this in me, in my early profession! What unheard of, what unforeseen things, most mortifying and crucifying, were suffered to overtake me, until I could learn, like Nebuchadnezzar, that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men! How exceedingly insensible to divine things you must be in your evening entertainments! How your friends must laugh in their sleeve (as it is called) at your religion! Nehemiah says, "So did not I, because of the fear of God." Joseph says, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

Nothing will bring on or hasten the heavy hand of God more than meddling with divine things with a frivolous mind. For this reason it is written, "Stand in awe, and sin not." For if once the Spirit, as a Teacher, leave us, or in any way depart, we know not how long it may be before we find him helping our infirmities again.

Let me entreat you to lay these things to heart, and also remember that the Lord loves to deal in impossibilities of all sorts. "All things are possible with God," and nothing is too hard for him to overrule. May he be pleased to give you some lively spiritual energy, and manifest to you something of his sweet power, so as to discover to you that he is more "a very present help" than you are aware.

From your sincere friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 115

(To M. C. B.) London, 25 October 1836.

My dear Friend,

Your letter demands my earliest attention and acknowledgment. I wonder at your forbearance, and must claim a little more of it. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it", and very few of that few in your rank of life.

Two especial things I notice in your letter; the first is a conviction of great hypocrisy. This would shock the dead professing world, but gives me hope that spiritual life is manifest thereby; since hypocrisy lies quiet and undisturbed in the breast of professors in general. And if words can convey the real feelings of the heart, I must confess your words upon this subject show me that you have no small portion of spiritual light. For in all directions I feel myself thus convicted in a way I never suspected before I became a partaker of the Spirit.

There is another thing I wish you could manifest by the same Spirit, as a further evidence of the work being of God, and that is, that when you are charged with anything which you perhaps may think yourself fully clear of, you may he enabled to fall, being a sinner in every sense. No sin can be laid to your charge which you can stand clear of in the sight of God. When the conscience is made tender, and the heart has a warm side towards God, it will always fall. As I often say, if I am charged with robbing the mail, though I know nothing about it, I sink in spirit, knowing God's judgments are past finding out. I cry, Woe is me!

"Are you come to call my sin to remembrance?" and by thus confessing and making the battle the Lord's instead of my own, I perceive I come off more than conqueror, and in no other way. The Lord often suffers men to charge us with many things that pride may be humbled, and that other things, which we carefully put aside may be brought to light. His ways are inexplicable, but tend all to one purpose, the glory of God.

The second thing I notice is this passage: "And this I am convinced of the instant I enter my room, and find myself alone in the Lord's presence." Surely this is not the way of death, but must be spiritual life; this is not insensibility, but conviction by the Spirit. And O, my dear friend, cherish this more than life itself, and whatever this says to you, be sure you pray and beg and entreat that it may be accomplished, yes, even if it be to the crucifixion of the flesh, that you may be saved in the day of the Lord. I say again, for God's sake, for Christ's sake, for your own salvation's sake, cherish, reverence, and stand in awe of the sacred and secret whispers of the Spirit, the Guide of your spiritual youth. Whatever loss you bear beside, O never give up this! This will teach you to lay your hand upon your mouth, and say with Job, "Behold, I am vile," whatever you are charged with; and I am sure you will never find a readier way to Christ than this.

May the Lord instruct you with his strong hand, and never let you go, until he clearly discovers to you himself, the only Way, the Truth, and the Life. I hope I shall find you "steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord"; for I am sure if it be so, "your labor is not in vain in the Lord".

Yours etc. James Bourne

P.S. When the sack's mouth was opened before Joseph's brethren, did they not look like thieves? They had not a word to say. Remember how quickly they were made conscious of their designs against their brother. Thus you see a thing of which they were not guilty was suffered to come upon them, to bring to their minds their guilty conduct to their brother.

 

 

Letter 116

(To Mrs. H.) London, 3 November 1836.

Dear Mrs. H.,

When first the Lord takes us in hand we always feel as if it were for our destruction that he has found us out. Under these terrifying feelings we are often charged with being mad, and lost to our family and friends; nor do we know to what extremity the displeasure of God which we feel may drive us. We secretly join in all the accusations of the grand enemy and of our blind friends, and sink into great despondency, thinking there can be no case like ours.

If any light appears, and we think that the Lord is surely instructing us, and bringing us either out of the world or a false profession, how our little light seems to encourage us to point out to those about us the dangerous places from which we have been plucked as brands half burnt from the fire. At first we are astonished that the friends we thus converse with cannot see with our eyes, nor understand they are in any danger; some pity, some laugh and mock, some scorn and utterly despise, and some that we think we have gained only prove thorns in our sides, and bring us into great bondage by a sort of compromise; half meeting their ways, to the great hindrance of the work of God. Yet here the Lord's pity is seen, in that he suffers not all this to stop his work, but prepares for it a furnace, and, like a wise Refiner, watches over the pure metal, so that none is lost; but only the dross of natural affection, and of loving mortal man more than the living God, is purged away. By these afflictions we are brought to a measure of subjection. "He is your Lord; and worship you him." Though this work fills us with fear and shame, yet it puts us a few steps lower in our own estimation, and leads us a little more steadily to stand in awe, and commune with our own hearts; and the discovery is, how deceitful they are, and not to be trusted.

Still, under all these various circumstances and trials, the work goes on, like the child that grows in the womb, and we know not how. At length we cry, "Behold, I am vile." This is what the Lord means to bring about by all his repeated blows; and when we lay our hands upon our mouths and justify God, acknowledging his infinite wisdom in all that he has brought upon us, God's messenger (and but "one among a thousand" is such) is sent to us, and his message is, "Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom." This opens or unfolds a marvelous "new and living way", Christ Jesus, and we pray unto him, and he is favorable unto us, and we "see his face with joy", which but just before was a terror to us.

Thus if by the power of the Spirit you are enabled to stoop under all your various embarrassments, and find grace to put your mouth in the dust because you have perverted that which was right, then I say, however you may tremble for fear of God's judgments, yet you will find deliverance, and your "life shall see the light". Do not be surprised at the way the Lord is leading you, for it is written, "Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man," and that for no other purpose than "to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:14-30).

"Mark well, O Job." In the various beclouded places in which you are now continually exercised, seeing you are surrounded with many that watch your movements, mark well that you lean not to your own understanding, though it may be naturally good; but be aware that fleshly prudence and natural discretion go but a very little way in spiritual matters. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," but fools despise this heavenly treasure, and know not that it brings discretion. Shun all odd ways, singular habits or anything that attracts attention. Be doubly cautious, by prayer and supplication, to square your life and walk, that they may reverence "your chaste conversation coupled with fear", and be ashamed when they falsely accuse you.

Let all see, when you have to act as head of the family, that the true fear of God increases your desire to be most useful, ornamental, and tender, in every direction. "Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 117

(To Mrs. H.) London, 14 December 1836.

Dear Mrs. H.,

The godly fear that I so strongly recommended in my last letter I would now also press you exceedingly to seek after and prize. It will prove "a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death", and will be such a light to your steps that you shall not stumble. It is necessary, in your situation, to retain much authority; which, as I said in conversation, and now say in writing, cannot be duly established but by the fear of God. This will stamp a dignity upon both your words and actions, and make you exceedingly tender in not doing anything that may offend the Lord; it will also keep you uniform in your outward walk in your family, not all levity and trifling one hour, and all religion the next.

How shall such an unprofitable servant as myself presume to counsel you? Often full of sorrow and darkness, I see not my own way, and sometimes fear I have lost it altogether, under sudden darts of the enemy that bring me almost to distraction. Yet the Lord, in great mercy and compassion, visits me with some hope, in the strength of which I press on; but I find that religion is a coming forth by the power of the Spirit from the vanities and love of the world; and if this part of the work be slow, so will our light be dim, our conduct and ways moveable, and all our paths filled with much confusion. Be "wise as serpents", but "harmless as doves". This can only be attained to by much secret seeking the Lord. Enter into your closet and heart; let that cry of the heart be heard, and then the open reward shall be seen.

No doubt you are aware, in secret before God, how far your heart is set upon seeking the Lord; and whether the world, the love of your family, or the fear of man, in some measure, directly or indirectly, sways you. According as these things preponderate, so will be your spiritual adversity or prosperity. The eyes of the Lord are open upon all our ways, and he gives to every man accordingly.

I hope the Lord will keep you very tender of his honor. Tempt not the Lord, lest he depart, and you should not be able to bring him back again into your heart. Cherish most tenderly every secret whisper of the Spirit, and grieve him not for the sake of any outward accommodation or comfort. Ought we not to obey God rather than man? (Acts 4:19). What need you have of wisdom from above, both as to the manner and matter of the obedience to be yielded to man; for much is to be done and won by gentleness in the fear of God and prayer. Especially remember you have nine watching all your movements, who will judge every step you take. The same circumstance has been to me a greater source of sorrow than most of my domestic concerns. I cannot always clear myself, nor explain to those about me the secret exercises of the heart; the heart-rending acknowledgments that are made before God, and the deep self-abasement I find for all my family sins and blunders. I know of no remedy but Christ, and no safety but in cleaving to him with all the heart. He will have nothing to do with divided hearts; never let such suppose that they shall obtain anything of the Lord.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 118

(To Mrs. H.) London, 13 February 1837.

Dear Friend,

It is said "Lord, in trouble have they visited you; they poured out a prayer when your chastening was upon them;" but does the trouble increase in any degree like that of the woman with child, when she "draws near to the time of her delivery", and "cries out in her pangs"? Have the cries been more vehement, or do you lose this spiritual energy in lesser troubles and cares? There is a great danger lest in this mistake we die not to the world, the flesh, and the devil. True spiritual life will fear a compromise, and such words as these will fill us with great alarm, "How soon is the fig tree withered away!" It had many leaves, but no fruit. But if these spiritual pangs have the right effect, they will bring on death, death to all hopes of salvation by the works of the law—death to chimeras and vain speculations, both as to ourselves and the imagined happiness of those about us.

In this death we mourn sore as doves, and are left alone as a sparrow upon the housetop; too good for this world, too bad for the church of God. Here the Lord in infinite condescension sends a word of encouragement, and tells our hearts that these are his dead, and that they "shall live". As the Lord Jesus Christ by his eternal power raised himself from the dead, so he will manifest the same power in raising such dead men to newness of life. This heavenly and spiritual resurrection will produce a new song of praise, and the heavenly dew shall so distill upon the soul, as to enable us to cast forth all ties and entanglements that would otherwise hold us from his sweet presence.

When the pangs of this spiritual birth are upon us, we cannot see how we are to be delivered, but Christ in due time shows us that he is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life". But, as I said before, remember our God is a jealous God, and will be honored and had in reverence; and in proportion as that heavenly dew drops upon the spirit, so and no more will your affections be attracted by your heavenly wooer, and by little and little you will withdraw from the dangerous snares that you suffer to be laid for your feet.

I find little else in this world but sorrow, my sin being the procuring cause; yet when I am enabled to enter into my chambers, and hide myself in much humiliation before God, I am surprised what a small moment it seems that the Lord Jesus shows his indignation towards me, before in mercy and compassion he visits my troubled heart, and fits me further for the next trouble, which is sure quickly to take place, as each succeeding wave follows the last (Isaiah 26:16-21).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 119

(To Mrs. H.) London, 3 March 1837.

My dear Friend,

I am exceedingly anxious to see that the profession we enter into is not merely a system of morality and opinion, but that we attain to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are troubled in our minds about the salvation of our souls, we may be sure the enemy will raise no end of diversions in all directions to keep us from the point in hand. We ought to know that finding opposition from all quarters is not Christ; and making all manner of sacrifices of our pleasures and comforts is not Christ. We may take the veil, and miss Christ. All these things show the deep necessity of entering narrowly into our ways, and considering well what it is we are seeking after. Christ compares himself to a door, and tells us if we enter in we shall be saved. We may stay as long as we please on the outside, and as near as we please, but we are told that the entering in is the salvation. This we ought especially to lay to heart. We read of one who was thirty-eight years without the power of entering (John 5:5). Let us be diligent in secret prayer to the Lord to show us all the hindrances. Perhaps the love of many things, more than the difficulties attending the entrance at this Door, keeps us on the outside; perhaps the love of the world, which appears in many shapes, pride, ambition, comfortable accommodations, fear of reproach or evil reports, or possibly that most dangerous of all snares, a compromising spirit, seeking to make friends with both parties.

Perhaps you will say, I have neither wisdom nor strength to help myself. In that case, if the heart is made honest, I can assure you there will be no end of ways and means by which the Lord will appear, and often give the most sweet and pressing invitations to enter this Door; and though he bring us into a wilderness of difficulties for the humbling of our pride, yet there he asks, "Did ever people" (except the people of God) "hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live?" and further tells us, "Out of Heaven he made you to hear his voice, that he might instruct you" (Deuteronomy 4:33-36). When this voice, comes in terrible majesty, and we hear these words pronounced upon our hearts, "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20), it turns all our lightness and loveliness into corruption, and makes us to inquire in good earnest where the door is, and how it is to be entered. But while the conscience is whole and quiet, or only a little disturbed, the various occupations of a slight and easy profession will more than half satisfy the soul in such a sluggish posture inquiring for this Door. "The soul of the sluggard desires and has nothing." "Yet a little sleep" (he says), "a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." "So shall your poverty come as one that travels, and your want as an armed man" (Proverbs 13:4, and 24:33, 34). Then there will be a sudden discovery how we have slighted the means, and trifled our lives away on the outside of the Door, and too late we shall begin to knock, "Lord, Lord, open unto us!"

I have had a heavy heart of late, surrounded with many fears and difficulties known only to God; but I found the sweetest encouragement this day in Deuteronomy 4:I may say with David, "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy" (unbelief), and gave me a sweet entrance into the Door of life. That this may be your happy lot, is the prayer of

Yours most faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 120

(To Mr. H. H.) London, 22 March 1837.

My dear young Friend,

I have a Friend to recommend to your notice whom I have tried for many years. Your frail appearance leads me to hope that you will listen to my recommendation. He is the best Physician I ever met with; no complaint is hid from him, nor any too desperate for his skill. No poor mortal was ever in a more dangerous condition than myself, under sentence of death for the worst of crimes, and lost to all hopes of relief; yet even then this Friend appeared, and while I looked on, "he did wondrously". Can you be excited to listen? Can you believe the report? I assure you the half cannot be told of his skill and power, his affections of compassion and tender care. I would say, "Venture on him, venture wholly." The oil and the wine which he will give will cheer and comfort your drooping spirits, and the ointment when poured forth will cause you to love him with all your heart. He will take care of you on your journey through life, and bind up that which is broken. Can I yet prevail on you to bring your complaints to him? He never leaves his patients nor forsakes them, though they have neither money nor price, but puts underneath them his everlasting arms, and supports them in their greatest pangs, and is gentle towards them, even as a nurse cherishes her children; so that whatever they stand in need of, under all their calamities, he is that.

I entreat you not to delay to present your case before him. Be assured, if you come with all your heart, you will not long lie unnoticed, but you will have some such kind word as this: "What will you that I should do unto you?" Then tell him of all your sores, and you will find a complete cure; and you will be most glad to give the whole glory unto such an incomparable Friend.

From your sincere well-wisher, in the service of the best Physician, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 121

London, 1 May 1837.

To the church of God, or little hill of Zion, at Pulverbach in Shropshire.

I have been much pleased with the accounts which my friends have lately sent, and I cannot but be thankful to see that teachable spirit which so much abounds, and its sweet effects. Godly simplicity is an inestimable grace which will stand the furnace, and never shines more brightly than when depressed and surrounded with all sorts of perplexities and difficulties, as in the case of your friend Mrs. Oakley. You have sent a sweet account of the work of God upon her heart, and as sure as the Redeemer appeared for her, in all her overwhelming difficulties, so sure will he deliver her from every enemy.

Remember her spiritual anxiety was great; she was brought very low, and the sorrows of death compassed her about; but the Lord heard the voice of her supplication, and the support she found was none other than the love of God to her in Christ Jesus, for he stood at her right hand to save her from those that would condemn her soul.

Let her be mindful of the exhortation "that you increase more and more." She is not yet out of the field of battle; she may rest assured that every inch of this heavenly ground will be disputed; therefore tell her to keep close to that Redeemer who came to her help in the first instance, and to believe that he will never leave her nor forsake her. Troubles do not spring out of the ground, but are given in weight and measure, as the Lord sees that we need ballast. She would never know the preciousness of this sweet Savior, if she never went into the depths of misery; it was here David cried, and the Lord heard him; but see how earnestly he waited both for and upon the Lord, and surely he did not wait in vain; no more will Mrs. Oakley. David bids her to hope in the Lord, "for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption." I have indeed found this to be a truth many times, and especially of late, far beyond my utmost expectations.

Dear Mrs. Oakley, you have found with me that the incorruptible seed of eternal life is sown in weakness; and (like your corn) sometimes lies earth-bound for want of the showers of Heaven; but the Lord has graciously told us, "The gardener waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain." You and I have found that the Lord has tried us long here, but at length has not failed us; we have been surrounded with many fears, and have often been ready to give up all, yet a power unseen, and less understood, kept us, and kept us crying, and for this purpose, that our strength and wisdom might have no hand in the mighty work of God.

O what little light we have upon God's ways and purposes for a long time! Yet as we need so he gradually unfolds them day by day, keeping us dependent upon him. It is wonderful how, in these dark dispensations, we are kept seeking; and how the Lord blends temporal concerns with spiritual, and often when we are seeking for wisdom to act in our outward matters, condescends to show us some token for good as it respects his favor towards us, even a sweet hope that Christ is our Redeemer, and that with him we possess freely all things.

How sweetly these words came to me last night, "After long abstinence" (much darkness, many fears) Paul said, "There stood by me this night the angel of God" (the angel of the everlasting covenant) "whose I am and whom I serve, saying, 'Fear not.' " (Acts 27:21-24). This shows the goodness and mercy of God in trouble, and also gives us to understand that there is yet further trouble to come, but that the Lord will stand by us, and tells us not to be disheartened. I felt this was a truth, and for the time was enabled to cast all my cares, fears, and anxieties upon him, in full confidence that he would not leave me nor forsake me.

No doubt the little help that the Lord has afforded you has often since been disputed as being nothing but delusion; but let me entreat you to dispute this point, and not think yourself obliged to believe every lie the devil will tell you. Only watch and see when you claim these sweet seasons (however short) to be of God, whether he will tell you they are a deception. I am sure you will never find any such thing; but if, in your fears, you cry earnestly to him, he will confirm it all, and add more. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."

Be constant at a throne of grace, and watch how the Lord receives you there; and if you find shyness or difficulty of access, then be sure something is wrong, and turn your prayers into confessions, and tell him he is the light of the world, and he alone can discover the hidden deception of the heart; and be sure you seek to feed spiritually on "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). I often beg (and I trust by his grace with some sincerity) that I may be made and kept transparent; this is in opposition to a double mind which shall obtain nothing from the Lord (James 1:6-8).

I have known many troubles, and have often remained long in them, because I have much pride to bring down; but the Lord has, sooner or later, not only taught me to bear his indignation because I have sinned against him, but has also given me the brightest discoveries of his love I ever knew, when his delivering hand has appeared. Therefore I say if we think it long before this takes place, "though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry;" and wait in prayer, not in idleness; "watch and pray;" let your eye and expectation be continually on the lookout for Christ, for you that wait for him shall never be disappointed nor confounded world without end (Micah 7:9; Habakkuk 2:3).

I entreat you to seek for further discoveries of God's love; it is called unsearchable riches that pass all human knowledge; the length and depth, breadth and height, exceed your utmost objections, sins, and difficulties. Give the Lord no rest until he make you "a praise in the earth". The prayer of faith will quench the fire of temptation, and will make the weakest strong in the Lord, so as to wax valiant in fight and turn to flight all the armies of the aliens; thus we shall obtain a good report of the Spirit of God, that the work is his own, and that he will finish it, bringing forth "the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, Grace unto it" (Isaiah 62:7; Hebrews 11:2, 34; Zechariah 4:7).

I am truly glad to hear that there are a few among you who are seeking for the water of life.

The young man you speak of appears very hopeful, and I hope the world, and all the cravings of that body of sin within, may not draw him aside from "the simplicity that is in Christ". Tell him to seek most earnestly for that rich treasure, the fear of God; it will prove "a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" which will be laid for his feet in all directions. Tell him to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, false professors who will come, some with "Lo here!" and others with "Lo there!" Tell him to read his Bible, and pray over it, and confess his sins to the Lord Jesus Christ. If they become a heavy burden, too heavy for him, it will make him cry for help, and he will find there is no help but Christ, and he will one day be surprised how kindly Christ will come and speak to him, and assure his heart of his love to him, and that he shall never perish. Tell him also to beware of the public house, and shun it as he would the devil, either to receive wages, or meet sick clubs, or for any other pretended necessary purpose. Such baneful beginnings would cut up all spiritual increase, and leave him, like Samson, shorn of his strength. Attending funerals of the dead, eating, drinking, smoking, carnal company and publicity of all sorts tend to deaden the soul and make the spirit flat when we return in private before God. May the Lord condescend to clear his way, and keep his heart tender and his mind sober, so that he may be brought to the saving knowledge of the truth in a sweet experience.

Tell Sukey Harley to watch over him, and like a good mother in Israel, to pray for his spiritual prosperity; and to be sure to blow the trumpet and give the alarm at the first sight of the enemy towards him.

May you all preserve the unity of the Spirit and have the testimony of God that you are of one heart and one way. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 122

(To M. C. B.) London, 12 May 1837.

My dear Friend,

Christ says, "I counsel you to buy of me white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear" (by our spirits being dry, flat, barren, and lifeless); "and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Rev. 3:18). The Psalmist tells us "The trees of the Lord are full of sap." There must be (more or less) spiritual energy, some measure of prevalency with God in prayer, so as not to be altogether carried away by outward circumstances.

I have always been led to fear that profession of religion which finds fault with, or complains of the post in which God himself in his all-wise providence has placed us. It denotes an ignorance of God's ways, and a want of understanding that he can do no wrong. Your present circumstances will very likely be a test of your profession altogether. I read this morning, "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time;" but it is added, "and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1). You will be ready to ask, What did you say to this? This was my reply, Lord, you have said, "Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you, and hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast" (Isaiah 26:20). You know as well as I that Christ is the only hiding place.

It is a sad mark to be discouraged when the truth is set before you, and not to find it attended with some bitter cries of your need of a Savior, making your restless spirit to find no place for the sole of your foot in this vain world; but that is a right discouragement which does thus lead you from self to the Rock. There is no situation in life, however difficult, wherein God has placed us, but he will fit us to acquit ourselves like people that fear God; and instead of withering under the circumstances we are placed in, we shall find the words true: "My grace is sufficient for you." But do you ask for this wisdom and grace? Are you honest here? I fear there is some decay in secret, as the cause of the outward confusion and darkness in which you are shut up. You have been much upon my heart and in my prayers, and it would grieve me to find that you are not like the grain of mustard seed, in the parable; however small, we read that it grows until it, be manifest to all; and the apostle says "I beseech you, brethren, that you increase more and more."

I have as many and as great difficulties to contend with as you, yet I dare not repine, but cry to the Lord; and this morning, so crying, as I recommend to you, I was surprised to find the Lord Jesus Christ very near to comfort and cleanse my guilty soul. I recommend nothing to you that I have not tried, and I am confident you will find him a sure Foundation, for "with God all things are possible".

I entreat you as the apostle does his son Timothy, "Meditate on these things, give yourself wholly to them, that your profiting may appear to all." And O what words are added! Did you ever lay them to heart? They make me tremble while I consider them: "I give you charge in the sight of God, who quickens all things, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, that you keep this commandment" (the word of the Lord) "without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Grace be with you, Amen. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 123

(To Mrs. H.) London, 12 May 1837.

Dear Mrs. H.,

Much of your future happiness depends upon your present measures, and how far you prevail with the Lord to give you that spiritual discretion without which you cannot take one step aright. He himself declares, "Without me you can do nothing;" yet how many vain plans you contrive, and forget that he is always telling you, "Many are the devices of a man's heart; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." If the sight of these things makes you tremble, and you feel the force of them, you will continue the prayer you spoke of, for nothing will communicate such divine courage to the soul as the sweet sense of the Lord's presence, and of his kindly hearing your feeble petitions. This will give the wisdom and prudence I speak of, and clear the rugged path.

I purpose by the help of God to tell you what in your letter fails in knowledge of the Word of God, and the work of the Spirit, and yet to show that even such are taken in hand and instructed, "here a little, and there a little", until they fall flat at the feet of Christ, like Mary Magdalene.

First, your legal spirit wants to make a preparation; for you say you do not know how sinful you are, and therefore are not humbled before God. I should wonder if you had known this mystery, for God himself has asked the question, and it never yet was answered, "Who can understand his errors?" Let it suffice that you are troubled. It is said, without naming what your trouble is, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Nothing will make you more bitterly lament your sin and folly than a sweet revelation of God's favor to you in Christ Jesus. This will effectually humble you in the dust.

"Law and terrors do but harden,
All the while they work alone,
But a sense of blood-bought pardon,
Soon dissolves a heart of stone."

Christ gives his disciples "power to tread upon serpents and scorpions", the serpents and scorpions of pride, self-will, self-sufficiency, and the love of vanity. We shall have power given to tread on these; it must be so; but the Lord adds, "Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven." This is the testimony that you must seek after (Luke 10:19, 20). Then you write, "There always seems something between me and my God which I cannot see." You are nothing but sin in God's sight, and loathsome, and blind; and therefore no wonder you cannot see. Why seek to the Good Physician, if you could see? He is of no use to such as can help themselves, nor will he help any that claim him as their God, without the witness of the Holy Spirit.

You again add: "and there is a lurking fear of man." I should wonder if it were not so; but I see you are determined to be very good, and God is determined to serve you as he did Job, plunge you into the ditch, so that your own clothes shall abhor you. Nothing but perfect love can cast out all fear; and that is the love of Christ, which I entreat you to seek after, and not to mend yourself before you cry for it.

These few hints may at first sight dishearten, yet a false healing will never do any good. If ever you are saved it must be as a sinner;

"Not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call."

 

Only to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" was Christ sent. When you begin to mourn alone, and really feel a secret suspicion rise in your heart that it is all over with you, and now there can be no hope, then is the time of deliverance. "Then look up, for your redemption draws near."

Take courage; be willing to be nothing; you have long enough been something in your own eyes; but God will strike a humbling blow upon the weakest part, and give you many a weeping eye, when you lay to heart how little you have thought what Christ has done and suffered for you; and you will learn to put your mouth in the dust before God, and wonder at his inexpressible condescension to you, a worthless worm. Can you understand this language? By God's grace I can, and find it the happiest place in all the world; for while I am nothing before the Lord Jesus Christ, he is everything; yet he allows me such holy familiarity as I cannot describe, telling him how much I love him, because he has first loved me; and suffers me to bring all my troubles, cares, and sorrows, perceiving that he is moved with the feeling of all my infirmities.

Whatever I have written at the beginning that may cast you down, let this encourage you to hope in the Lord; and remember he is "no respecter of persons".

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 124

(To M. C. B.) London, 18 May 1837.

My dear Friend,

Do pardon my liberty in so quickly answering your letter, which has laden me with much sorrow. I have seen much of the world, as well as much affliction in the church of God, and have met with a great variety of characters; and therefore am often led to ponder those words: "considering yourself, lest you also be tempted." This has taught me much tenderness and patience.

I know and am persuaded that there is no other gospel, nor way of salvation, than that I have set before you; and that if the truth does not save you, nothing else can. I also know that when the law enters it will stir up nothing but wrath and enmity; and this is God's design, that some discovery may be made of the depths of iniquity within, and of the desperate state in which sin has involved us. Your kind interest in my behalf has deserved and brought out the utmost faithfulness in my prayers on your behalf. I have no other means to show my gratitude to God and to his people; and herein have I found both my safety and spiritual prosperity, and do expect to find afterwards more favor than he who flatters with his lips. I must press this upon you. Do not suppose I am judging you, but that I feel for your case, and would, with many prayers, defeat the purpose of the devil, who is going about seeking whom he may be permitted to devour. You have been long in the Slough of Despond, and it would sorely grieve me that you should make a desperate plunge, like Pliable, to get out on the side next to your house.

I think I never pass a day but I beg of the Lord to remember you. I cannot altogether be so easily thrust off, and not correspond any more. "Who is offended, and I burn not?" Long-suffering is a grace of the Spirit which I wish to be found in the exercise of. I am not naturally so soon disheartened, and I think the Holy Spirit has taught me not to be too hasty in any of my measures. If you knew the full extent of what it is to be rent from the heart, prayers, and affections of the people of God, you would exceedingly fear such a thing. I was once under that distressing trial, and could find no rest, night nor day; no sleep, no appetite, no relish for the world, no looking for anything but an everlasting separation from the presence of God. But here it was his compassions did not fail; and here he said, You shall return in the power of the Spirit; and though I found it hard to believe, as being too great for such an unworthy creature as myself, yet his word was like a hammer; it broke my heart to pieces, and like ointment poured forth, it comforted me so that I believed I should never perish, but have everlasting life.

I am sorely grieved for you, and know how to feel for you in all your troubles. I wish I could help you. Dare you believe me? This is a day of trial to you; God has put you into the trial; you must not murmur at a faithful friend. I dare not deal roughly with any because of the fear of the Lord. I dare not deal falsely with any because of the same. This day of trial shall come upon all flesh; but all flesh will not stand it. My dear friend, "Stand in awe"; for if we stop short of Christ's salvation, what an awful day will that be! Do not so much fret about your present deprivation of communion with the people of God; but rather seek communion with God himself, and tremble when your pen is about to write that you do not pray. If once you could prevail with the Lord, you would soon see that that gift would make room for you in the hearts of all the children of God.

As I told Mr. H., so I tell you, it is hard to be nothing. Yet I hope the Lord is working this mighty work in you; and rest assured it will not be the work of a day. When he has brought you to this, you will not wish to drop your correspondence with me, but will more heartily wish to declare to all what a dear Savior you have found.

I must still insist upon it that my difficulties and afflictions are as great and manifold as yours, and my sorrows as heavy upon me; though I allow that, by the mercy of God and long experience, I have been taught a readier way to find shelter in Christ's wounded side. I see no cause why you should be disheartened when your case is pointed out; nor will I hear of your not having fellowship with the people of God. My prayers shall yet be for your spiritual welfare, and that the Lord may appear for you in your present anguish, and make it manifest that though there is none like it, yet he will deliver you out of it.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 125

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 18 May 1837.

My dear Friend,

The spirit of your letter comforted me greatly. I myself am under many trials, and am often cast down because of the way. The troubles of our church fill me with much grief, and being ignorant, I know not how to handle them. I have some fearful apprehensions of the necessity of sheltering in Christ's wounded side. It is on this firm Rock alone that believers stand. The weakest of all weak worms shall stand there, even when towers fall.

My letter to Mrs. H. can be no grief of heart to you; nor can there be any other gospel than that which I have showed to M. C. B. Being much in trouble myself, I had much sought the Lord for myself, and had found at times such sweet supporting strength as I cannot describe; and those two letters were written when I was like a weaned child, under the sweet influence and power of these things. The true light shone; the truth and the way were discovered; and therefore I felt so free in heart to point out the snares of the devil, and the sly, soft insinuations of natural affection, which always forbid a probing of the wound, and therefore, of consequence, a sound healing. But truth will come out at such a time; and if it meet with rickety children, they cannot bear shaking; and if with sound and healthy, they receive it, and it confirms their spiritual health.

The hindrances to my visiting you appear great, yet I am never disheartened by such things, nor do I ever find them to be the sign; for often the sweetest blessings are found, after pressing through the thickest crowd.

Many here join me in kind remembrances to your little church. Nothing comes so sweet as what we get at through the difficulties you describe; it is rest to the weary, bread to the hungry, and to them "every bitter thing is sweet".

Yours very affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 126

(To Mr. Yeomans) London, 18 May 1837.

My dear Friend,

Since I wrote last I have been in many afflictions, both personal and in the church. In the latter, though not directly concerned, yet I have fallen into much anxiety and some heavy fears. I was one morning reading the Word, and this portion first caught my eye, and then entered deeply into my heart, with a sweet persuasion that the Lord had given me power to trust in him: "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Proverbs 29:25). This greatly encouraged me, and followed me for some days, reminding me of the necessity of that lively trust which would now be called for; and it caused much watchfulness, with fear and trembling. A verse in Hart's hymns was also very sweetly applied when I was cast down

"Your goodness how immense,
To those that fear your name!
Your love surpasses thought or sense,
And always is the same."

It enlarged my contracted heart, and encouraged my faith and hope in the Lord, and I was again brought to the first point, namely, "Whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." I again returned to many fears, but the Word of God was often my support, and at times shone like many diamonds. The Lord spoke more kindly to me by it than I can tell you, and gave me such understanding of my personal interest in it, as often to make me like a weaned child. He seemed determined that I should understand he would take care of me and hide me under the shadow of his wings; and if the Lord will enable me, I will tell you how he manifested this kindness. It was by greatly humbling me in my own eyes and causing me to fear always, yet with such a meek spirit of freedom as I cannot express. "Who is offended and I burn not?" Yet I was still kept in the exercise of many conflicts and much threatened danger. I have gone to chapel crying, praying, and entreating that the Lord would be merciful to me, and have been astonished how he has comforted me. The second hymn today quite overpowered me, and set my heart in sweet liberty:

"But they that in the Lord confide,
And shelter in his wounded side,
Shall see the danger overpast,
Stand every storm, and live at last."

The first beauty I found in these words was, that there is no shelter, no rest, no hope, no love, no liberty, but in the blood of Christ cleansing from all sin. The Holy Spirit bore a sweet testimony that this was the case with me, and I greatly rejoiced in this salvation. Then the next verse:

"What Christ has said must be fulfilled,
On this firm Rock believers build.
His word shall stand; his truth prevail;
And not one jot nor tittle fail."

This I saw was the only Rock that would stand the storm, and banish slavish fear; and this Rock of ages must be brought into the heart by a true and living faith wrought by the Holy Spirit. I saw that all religion that stops short of a shelter in Christ's wounded side would prove a house upon the sand. I cannot tell you how much I was comforted and how much at a loss I am to declare sufficiently the goodness of God to me in all my afflictions.

I have read your account of Mrs. Barber, and find her a true yoke-fellow. O that I may finish my course as she did! The Lord has been very kind to me, and I know not how to doubt that he will fulfill that promise upon which he has caused me to hope, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." What you say is true indeed. How few we can find union with, and therefore how ought this sweet spiritual fellowship to be cherished! May the Lord comfort your heart and maintain spiritual vigor, as your natural life decays, and not suffer the giving up of your temporal concerns to bring a flatness upon your spirit (which is so common a case) and to cover your latter days with a cloud. May the Lord abundantly shine upon your heart, and lead you continually to shelter in the Savior's wounded side.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 127

(To Mrs. H.) London, 21 May 1837.

Dear Mrs. H.,

I have always considered my correspondence with you of very weighty importance. Your case is peculiar; your difficulties are many; and the enemy is very earnest in seeking to confound your steps in the entrance of the Gate of Life. We are told (Proverbs 1), Wisdom cries "in the opening of the gates", and the cry is, "Turn you at my reproof; and behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." This is given as a tender caution; I feel the weight of it, and therefore am led with much awe upon my spirit, and in the greatest kindness not to hide any of the dangers to which you are exposed. I cannot tell you what fear I have felt lest I should be found setting at nothing Wisdom's counsel; the words which follow (v. 26) filled me this day with great consternation, and in the next verse we hear of desolation, destruction, whirlwind, distress, anguish, under all which the Lord will not hear, because "they would none of his counsel". Yet I was much encouraged at the sweet opening of the way of escape which he makes for every trembling heart. "But whoever hearkens unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."

Being greatly moved for your spiritual welfare, I would most earnestly entreat you not to listen to that evil principle which is in your heart, which will object to all truth, and set you down in a fleshly profession; but rather take heed to that principle called "the new man", or the Spirit of life, which I trust has entered your heart. This will find many friendly excuses for plain dealing, and "incline your ear unto wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding;" for you may rest assured that if you cry after spiritual knowledge, and search for it as for "hid treasures", "then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." And you will bless God forever that he has sent you a faithful friend, who dared not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, so far as he knew it.

When Jesus Christ, the heavenly Wisdom, enters into your heart, and this knowledge is pleasant unto your soul, "discretion shall preserve you, understanding shall keep you", to deliver you from the evil spirit in man, "that speaks froward things" (Proverbs 2:1-12).

My heart's desire and prayer is that you may be saved. "Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go; keep her; for she is your life." Though you may complain of much darkness and your mind be at times in confusion, yet "unto the upright" (the honest or transparent) "there arises light in the darkness;" and "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day." This will bring spiritual health; this will establish your goings, and sweetly unite our spirits in the bonds of the gospel (Proverbs 4:13, etc.).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 128

(To Mrs. Tims) London, 4 June 1837.

Dear Mrs. Tims,

I am sorry I have so greatly neglected you, but a variety of exercises have drawn my mind another way. I perceive the gospel net has enclosed you, and though flesh and blood would rend you from it, yet the Savior gave the command to cast the net on the right side, that it might enclose you.

Though these early intimations of his goodwill and purpose are but seen "through a glass darkly", yet they are seen and this excites the cry you set forth in your letter. Fear will many times drive you to cry to Jesus Christ, and he will often appear to turn a deaf ear, and seem as if, instead of attending to you, he would be writing on the ground. Thus he proves the faithfulness of the heart, whether the work be of the right sort. The Syrophenician woman was greatly rebuffed, but it only made her the more earnest, until the Savior said, "O woman, great is your faith; be it unto you even as you will." Who knows but this may be your happy case? Do you feel a spiritual determination to try? If it be, most assuredly you will find all your darkness and confusion, your fears and anxieties, will be lost in the revelation of Christ's pardoning love to your soul; which will make the new birth clear, and enable you "to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth and length, the depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge".

O what a secret and incomprehensible thing it is to be translated into the kingdom of Christ! "You that were sometime alienated" now reconciled! The apostle calls it "the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints". I scarcely know how to write these heavenly things. You and I, we now living, are made partakers of "the riches of the glory of this mystery", even Christ in us, the hope of glory. This sweet chapter (Colossians 1) also tells us of the necessity of warning, that we should not let slip the teaching of wisdom, for it is written in another place, "You did run well; who did hinder you, that you should not obey the truth?"

The apostle seems to think that the Colossians scarcely suspected the conflict he had for their spiritual welfare, and how earnestly he desired "that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding". I also feel for many of you at Hertford; I long after you in Christ Jesus, that you may come to the experimental knowledge of the mystery of God the Spirit, of the Father, and of Christ. Surely here "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". I am again overpowered with the sweet sense and power of these things, and feel the sweetest personal interest in them, beyond what I can express. O my dear friend, thus receive Christ Jesus the Lord, and thus walk in him; and beware lest you be beguiled through the vanity of your worldly cares to rest short of him, the only help of helpless sinners (Colossians 2, 1-8).

Remember me very kindly to Mrs. H. I often think of her, and often pray for her. I cannot but believe the Lord will take her part against all her enemies; and I hope and pray that he will give her what David had when pursued of Saul. It is first said, "David behaved himself wisely;" but as circumstances grew more desperate, it is added, "he behaved himself very wisely" (1 Samuel 18:5, 14, 15). I am much in earnest that our friend may abundantly make manifest this wisdom of God in her.

Remember me also to Mrs. G. I hope this letter may be as well for her as for you, and that she will, in her present affliction, get some of the same fire which the Lord has kindled in my heart in the writing of it. May the Lord increase your spiritual energy, so that you may never let him rest until he make you "a praise in the earth".

Yours faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 129

(To J. G.) Hertford, 20 August 1837.

Dear Friend,

I have been much comforted with your letter, and cannot but perceive that the Lord deals very graciously with you in an increase of divine knowledge and godly simplicity. It has been your mercy that the Lord has given you a teachable, tractable spirit, and though you may be despised of men for this very thing, yet the day will come when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and that it is only of the mercy of God you were not led away from that simplicity to follow a multitude in an evil profession.

I cannot but bless God and admire his goodness and mercy in watching over Mrs. Oakley, and at length appearing and speaking upon her heart, by which it is sweetly manifest that eternal life is begun. Now then, seeing this is most assuredly established, and she dare not deny it, let me entreat her to cherish it most tenderly, and never cease, by secret prayer and much seeking the Lord in his Word, that he would maintain and increase this spiritual life. I know there will be no end of things that must be done, and Satan will insist upon their propriety in all directions; but she must not listen to all the lies he is ever injecting into our minds, to give us a disrelish for divine things, but remember that, thus says the Lord, "Be instant in season and out of season," and "Pray without ceasing;" and life will spring up and light to guide her steps, and she will perceive the truth of God's Word, "Him that honors me I will honor;" and again, "To him that orders his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God."

Be of good cheer, my dear friend Mrs. Oakley; you may depend upon it that he who has begun this good work will accomplish that of which he has so often and so sweetly given you kind intimations from time to time. Be not dismayed at your trials; they are compared to fire and water, but God tells us this is the straight road to the "wealthy place" (Psalm 66:12); and as our Lord Jesus Christ has passed through the whole of this, he knows all the miry places, marshy ground, pitfalls, and dangers of all sorts, and was in all points tempted as we are, every one, for the express purpose that he might be moved for us in all our calamities, and know how to support, both as to the time when, and the manner how. Fear not; the Lord delights in all such as hope in his mercy. Your difficulties and hindrances, your afflictions and burdens, are no hindrances to the Lord. "He gives more grace."

I pray you to remember me to E. P., and tell him that if he maintains his standing it will be against ten thousand enemies, and that he must learn to "endure hardness as a good soldier". He will be both threatened and allured by his master as well as by his old comrades; he must turn a deaf ear to both, and earnestly entreat the Lord to help him. He will often be ready to give way, as I have often feared for myself, but in these cries the Lord has appeared and given me fresh courage, and assured my heart that he will never leave me nor forsake me; so he will find it: sometimes he will fear the enemy has quite got the mastery over him, and in this sorrow he will perceive a crying to the Lord under all, and this is the place where the Lord steps in, and makes us to feel that he has a regard unto us, and will defeat our enemies; and instead of being clean carried away, fresh life is communicated, fresh vigor added, and there is a sweet perception that the Lord is our strength, and is also become our salvation. This will brighten his views, and will be a comfort to the little few that are watching over one another, and you will be jointly encouraged to see the work of God go on in the midst of an enemy's country.

The communion of saints is what I wish much to impress on your minds, that each of you may learn by it to bear one another's burdens, and so to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Your sister will, by such communication, learn a purer language, and be led to consider, with fear and trembling, that whether the vessel be mean or not, yet the treasure in it is infinite; and therefore, when addressing herself to such, it is as in the presence of God, whether she be instructing or receiving instruction. This ought to put an awe upon our spirits, while we are acting as lively stones in this spiritual house.

Remember me kindly to Sukey Harley. I can enter into some of her feelings in her affliction, and I have no doubt the Holy Spirit, who darted such convictions into her heart, made her greatly to fear and tremble, and turned all her loveliness into corruption. Is it not marvelous that a poor creature like her, living in a wood, in that corner alone, should be the object of God's care, and that by his grace she should be able to describe the work of salvation upon her own heart, and that her description should exactly agree with the testimony of living saints, and of those that are gone before, and above all with the Word of God? She may well say with David, "Who am I, O Lord God, or what is my house," that I should be dealt with after this manner? The loss she has sustained I hope will not be long mourned after; perhaps her covetous heart was too much set upon that which has been taken away, and a calculating spirit had contrived many things that God was not well pleased with. Has she been able to confess this, and with her mouth in the dust to feel that true and righteous are his judgments? and by it have there been discovered some fresh corners hitherto hidden of her treacherous heart? If so, God be praised for taking such pains. Pray let him have his way, and do not cry after toys and idols, but rather cry that your sin and folly procures such measures; and then, when submission is wrought, all shall be well.

You will be glad to hear that your brother is made useful here, and I trust above all things he seeks for himself the lowest place, by which means the Lord exalts and honors him, and instructs him in the work he has for him to do.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 130

(To Mrs. H.) Hertford, 30 August 1837.

Dear Mrs. H.,

I feel anxious to hear of your welfare, and peculiarly so now, seeing it has pleased God to lay his hand upon Mr. H, which in a measure unfolds the wisdom of God in impressing your mind with divine truths at such a time as this. When the Lord began to work upon my heart he met me in all directions to stop my course in the world, and by his long continued and varied dispensations brought me down to hope there might be mercy for me. We for a long time think we can do many things and help ourselves in many ways, until the Lord is pleased to put a blow upon this contrivance and that, to mar this speculation and that, and to bring our fair prospects to the ground; and it is well if the Lord condescends to give us grace, in this humiliating posture, to put our mouths in the dust, and continues that grace that we may keep them there.

Your present affliction looks as if the Lord were determined to work for you, and make a way for your becoming a partaker of the privileges and immunities peculiarly belonging to his spiritual city. A wise man would rejoice that your heart is turned from those foolish ways you once lived in, and would manifest a delight that there is a prospect of his children being brought up in the fear of God, with prudence, integrity, and economy. These are accomplishments but little known in the present day, but the Lord will make his people not to forget the necessity of this course. If it please God to enlighten you with the light of life, it will make you most tender in all the various movements of your life, and you will perceive and soon learn to understand when the Lord is pleased and when he frowns. A tender regard and attention to that point will bring in much fellowship with the Lord, which as yet you have but little knowledge of.

I am exceedingly anxious that the little light you have, may, by the blessing of God, discover your real dangerous condition, under sentence of death by the law of God, and that there can be no reprieve, no help, no remedy, but in the Spirit's application of the blood of sprinkling to your conscience. This will bring light and understanding along with it, and further discover to you that in Christ the sentence of death is removed, and life and immortality brought to light in your soul in its stead. This will make you a good Christian, a good and obedient wife, a good and tender mother, and a useful and ornamental member of society. A profession of religion without this is exactly the contrary; many sit down contented with nothing better than the shell; they have the honor that comes from men, but not the honor that God gives to his people. May the Lord communicate to you a wise and understanding heart to walk according to his pleasure in that very important post in which he has placed you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 131

(To Mrs. H.) Hertford, 5 September 1837.

Dear Mrs. H.,

I have been pondering upon various things that have come within my observation, and cannot help remarking that there is a necessity laid upon all that fear God, or manifest the early budding of reverence, not to seek to contrive after the wisdom of the flesh, to appease the displeasure of those about them. The weapons of our spiritual warfare must not be carnal; all such weapons would, in the end, be found to be weak, nay, rather to strengthen the measures taken against us, and enfeeble our hands in our intended purposes.

If God puts his hand upon us, our persons, our prospects, our family, and if, like Job, we find the messengers come very quickly, one after another, our mercy is to fall before him, and if possible to seek to understand what his purposes are, and to stand in awe of his judgments, and to consider that we cannot trace his footsteps. Therefore if he threatens our prospects, let the fear of God early lead us by all means and in all directions to stay our hands, and curtail ourselves by refraining from all vanities that we have been accustomed to. No head of a family that has either natural wisdom or integrity can complain of this; but I say the fear of God should lead us to it, though it may be against the inclination of all about us. Even a discerning and watching world will and must acknowledge the outward prudence of such a step. The same fear of God will remove all profane visitors, let the consequence be what it may; the time which used to be thus idly lost will be spent in redeeming that which has been lost, and in training up a young family in all useful knowledge to be good members of society, as well as to understand in their measure the Word of God.

If the Lord has purposes of mercy he will bring us low; and let us seek by whatever fleshly means we please to ward off our difficulties, we shall perceive eventually that we only increase them by such foolish measures. It is a great mercy to find courage to show our colors, and not to be ashamed of the cross of Christ. Communication with the people of God is a source of the growth of this courage, and will always lead the poor tried soul to press after the Lord Jesus Christ for help; and though oppressed and brought low and exceedingly despised, the Lord in due time turns the captivity, and then in our turn we rejoice in him, and admire his way of saving us. We perceive that nothing has been hurt or wounded but our pride, and this can well be dispensed with; and we find our weakness, misery, and ignorance, when brought before the Lord, is no hindrance, but rather excites his compassion; and we hear, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you," even through all these miry places, and set your feet upon the Rock.

If these things be disregarded, and not laid deeply to heart, and if ten thousand excuses be made, let us take heed lest our building prove "hay, straw, and stubble", which will certainly be burnt up in the day of trial, and we be gathered among light and foolish professors, who will build us up with "untempered mortar". Such always end in hatred and enmity to those that fear God and have manifested a great spiritual anxiety for the salvation of their souls. "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise," for "the days are evil," and seek to understand "what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 132

(To one whose conduct was inconsistent) London, 10 October 1837.

Dear ,

I have read carefully your account, and perceive you have set forth many things that are well worth our mutual attention.

That part wherein you write, "I did not find the fruits and effects equal to the power," shows the chief source of your unhappiness and difficulties. It appears that your deep convictions and heart-searchings had not their due effect. Hence the sad things which have followed in your life and walk. "Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto you; O Israel, if you will hearken unto me. There shall no strange God be in you, neither shall you worship any strange God." But God's people would not hearken, so he gave them up to their own lusts; and they walked not in his counsel, but in their own (Psalm 81:8-16). And we easily see the effect of this; God turns all their counsel into foolishness. It is evident that your want of attention, and your not cherishing the good things you have had, and revering the sweet presence and power of God, is the cause of the dreadful perplexities in which you have been continually entangled. "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and like the early dew it passes away." The Lord has hewed you by the prophets. He has desired fruits, not sacrifice; but you have dealt very treacherously (Hosea 6:4-7).

You write that these words were applied to your conscience: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven." But I think you ought to consider the whole scope of that account (Luke 7:37-50) and of the character of Mary, and see whether she returned continually to folly, as you confess you have done. Herein you differ from her.

These words you also claim: "Fear not, little flock." But let me ask you, if this little flock walk more like goats than sheep, will there not be room for fear? This is the part you seem to overlook.

You then mention something which is absolutely necessary to be done, namely, asking for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. But can it be a right honest asking, if we walk counter to the good counsel given by the minister and the elders of the church? What you say is true in part, "He who confesses his sins", but I add, he manifests his spiritual integrity when he forsakes them; and then only "finds mercy". The forsaking part you forget.

My dear friend, your unbelieving fears and doubts, as you write, are excited by your heart departing from the Lord, and returning so quickly to the old place. May the Lord give you help and grace "to leap over a wall" which is too high for flesh and blood. Let me entreat you to turn to Jeremiah, and join with him and me, "O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" and make my escape from the evil within; for we "proceed from evil to evil". Our tongues have been as arrows shot forth, speaking deceit; our hearts lie in wait to trip up our neighbor. "Shall I not visit them for these things? says the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah 9:1-9:Yes, truly; I believe it because I have found it so to my shame and sorrow; and I know that he will make us remember "the wormwood and the gall", and by repeated afflictions and furnace-work will keep us in remembrance and humble our souls. In this painful path I have often waded, and have found some of the severest things overtake and surprise me; yet the Lord did not utterly forsake me.

May the Lord give you a tender spirit of watchfulness, that you may not so grieve the Holy Sprit as to cause him to remove your candlestick (as it is called) out of your heart, and that for being a reproach in many things, and you not to find him any more to your dying day. Such things have been seen and suffered, as a warning to others.

Your faithful and affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 133

London, 27 October 1837.

To the little hill of Zion, at Pulverbach, M. and J. G., Mrs. Oakley, Sukey Harley, E. P., with all others whose names are written in the book of life.

There is no end of cautions and admonitions in the Word of God, and it denotes sad darkness and confusion of mind not to lay them to heart. The eighth chapter of Zechariah begins with God's jealousy against Jerusalem, and his fury poured forth for many evils, some of which are pointed out in the chapter before, such as making a profession, bearing the name of spiritual life, yet walking under the influence of spiritual death, going through all the outward ceremonies of religion with the heart not changed, not taking heed to the counsel given, but always falling into some fresh matter to damp the spiritual ardor which now and then appears. These repeated charges not being attended to, God lays his heavy hand upon the people, and says, Now they shall call, and he will not hear, for they set their heart against all the counsel he gave them; therefore he will scatter them, unhinge them, unsettle them; they shall seek but not find, until he shall have laid their spiritual land waste. Then the Lord will remember his covenant with Abraham, and will return to Zion, and it shall be called "a city of truth". The Lord will save his people, and "they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem", the church of God, and they shall be his people and he will be their God "in truth and in righteousness". "Let your hands be strong, you that hear these words," says the Lord of Hosts.

If God has impressed your hearts with these things be sober and watchful, and very minute in your attention to what the Spirit whispers within. He will all the day long be teaching you one lesson or another. Let no legal pretensions present themselves to keep you out; this will cause the Spirit to depart. Beg to be kept as little children. Let no idle visitor intrude into your houses; let your words be few, and your petitions unceasing.

Call to mind, Mrs. Oakley, that before these days you had no rest, going out or coming in, because of the continual hand of God upon you one way or another; for whatever you touched it seemed to turn to bane, and every hand seemed turned against you. But now you, in a measure, see a promised change. This afflicted vine shall now "give her fruit", which until now always appeared untimely. "The ground shall give her increase" after this long desolation, and "the heavens shall give their dew," and my people shall possess these things. It shall be that as my people were a curse, "so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong; for thus says the Lord of Hosts, As I thought to punish you, so again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear you not" (Zechariah 8:10-15).

This chapter finishes with many cautions and warnings that you and I have continued need of; especially let godly simplicity and transparency be seen, and no more of that native duplicity that is so abundant in us all; let truth, peace, and judgment now be seen in our gates. At last it sets forth indirectly the unity of the Spirit, and then shows the sweet effects of the communion of saints (vs. 16-23).

May the Lord give you all power to see eye to eye with me in these things, which I have been scarcely able to write for the sweetness and power I felt. May you press on in this unity. I am persuaded that in the exercise of these things will be found the increase of fruit spoken of in this letter.

I am, dear friends, your willing servant in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 134

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 3 November 1837.

My dear Friend,

I have been made deeply to feel the various cases in your little church, and the various circumstances under which they lie. When I first went down in the beginning of last summer, there was an evident sleep pervaded the whole, and the case of — secretly grieved me to the heart; for I found her a source of stumbling to the weak, instead of an old soldier enduring hardness. The evident confidence she felt was not at the time attended with a broken heart, and she had need again to learn the first principles of the oracles of God.

If you ask me to account for this, I know of no reason, except that the pastor had folded his hands, and had not sufficiently cried in secret on behalf of his little flock. There is a deep necessity of having our message warm from the Lord, like the showbread. To receive it thus from him is a wonderful means of being abstracted from all worldly objects; and this is the best condition in which we can stand between the living and the dead. The credentials being thus sealed home upon our hearts, we shall be at a point in declaring them to the people. "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it." You have professedly made an open declaration of this; and if you thus proclaim that many are wrong, how careful you ought to be in testifying what is truth! Paul well says to Timothy, "Give yourself wholly" to these things, "that your profiting may appear to all." I perceive that some are brought to the birth, but for the want of a skillful midwife they cannot bring forth. I have heard you describe the pains of this spiritual labor in a measure, but I am anxious that you may, from a rich experience, be able to set before the people "the place of the breaking forth of children" (Hosea 13:13), and to manifest a clear prevalence with God there. This gives a sweet savor to what you advance, and enters the hearts and consciences of those that hear. It shows to them that this spiritual life is not all labor and toil, but that there is a sweet rest; and this must be continually pressed home upon their consciences.

Spiritual watchfulness and diligence are indispensable when God has given the charge; and the Lord Jesus Christ perpetually cautions his disciples to this purpose. Your people will never be clear if you are short in your spiritual tokens. "We have the mind of Christ," if so be that we know anything aright. "We have received the Spirit that is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God," and these we are to distribute to an afflicted people; that which we speak the Holy Spirit teaches, for "the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2).

If all this be true, what manner of men ought we to be with such a charge! "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Nothing can preserve you from error but a repeated sense of the heart's being sprinkled from an evil conscience. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin; but not your sin, if not applied personally by the Holy Spirit. This makes clear the new birth, the adoption, the sonship, the heirship. All religion short of this will prove no better than the white of an egg.

I have been greatly exercised since my return. I long after your spiritual prosperity.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 135

(To M. and J. G.) London, January 1837.

My dear Friends,

I have been thinking a good deal about young P., and sometimes wonder what the nature of that work was which appeared so genuine upon his heart, and the simplicity that continued for some time. I am truly sorry to hear that he has fallen among thieves, as I am sure they will strip him of his simplicity and rob him of all his tenderness and the measure of hope he had, and leave him dead in soul. Poor man, he is not aware of the danger to which he has exposed himself, nor will he find it out until his feet are so entangled that he will not be able to make his escape. I think one of the greatest mercies God bestows is to give us a distinct apprehension of the difference between the dead professing church and the church of God, which is not discernible by the natural man. This especial error appeared even in the apostles' days, and spread itself far and wide in the first century: "having a form of godliness, but denying (absolutely denying) the power". From such we are told to turn away (2 Timothy 3:5). But carnal reason shows so many plausible excuses, and makes us believe that it is a sad thing not to attend worship, and thus without making God our wisdom, we at once turn to fables. If the poor man has really known the right thing, then I am sure he has laid the foundation for much sorrow, and the light and teaching of the Spirit will now and then come with such deep conviction and sorrow as he has never known before; he will feel much darkness and confusion, and not know when good comes, nor how to get out of his misery; and here he may be left many years to rue his folly.

I was glad to hear of you both, and will again explain what was my meaning respecting your manner of writing. I perfectly understood the first part wherein you described the sensible wrath and displeasure of God in a broken law; and that though this was so fearful, yet it was not without hope. It is well described by Jeremiah (chapter 4:23, etc.): "I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void" (that is, it was a desolate waste wilderness, descriptive of the heart of man); "and the heavens, and they had no light" (that is, there was no access to God, but we were sensibly afar off by wicked works). "I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled" (all the presumptuous confidence in which we walk, before God shines into the heart, now gives way) "and the hills moved lightly" (all difficulties and hindrances become light when God begins to work). "I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled"; now the scene begins to open and change, and a ray of light darts into the soul, and shows us that all refuge will fail, and no man will care for our souls; and makes all cheerfulness and the natural vivacity which men possess to vanish. "I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger." All carnal means of pleasing God (such as Sunday Schools, Bible Meetings, organs, singing, and many other things by which we have sought to obtain the favor of God) prove a wilderness; every refuge of lies gives way here, however well we may attempt to defend ourselves; nothing can stand when "he searches the inmost parts of the belly". Then follows what you meant to describe: "For thus has the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end."

But you justly observe that though this is encouraging, yet it is not all you want; and you say truly, for as soon as these dreadful meditations are over, you need a little more spiritual simplicity, for you lose the power both of describing the past, as well as that you are looking to obtain. My dear friends, when you wish to set forth your experience of these things, be sure to pen it down at the time you are under the exercise; and if you then put it aside and return to look at it a few weeks after, you will be surprised to see the simplicity and clearness of your tale.

In all that I have said there is a caution to us both, which is, that this trying hour will come upon us, and we shall lose our comfort, and not be able fully to hold fast our hope; there will be a discovery of the evils of our hearts and of God's holiness, which will bring us very low. The Lord asks, "What will you do"? (when you are thus spoiled). "Though you clothe yourself with crimson, though you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, though you rentest thy face with painting, in vain shall you make yourself fair; your lovers will despise you; they will seek your life." This is the picture of all the false pleas that a poor creature can make, and will, but in vain; and we must in the end cry, "Woe is me now!" But "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 4:30, 31; and 8:22). If the Lord brings us to these places of darkness and difficulty, and shows us wherein we have exceeded, we know that such shall be brought further to understand his loving-kindness and tender mercy; and surely this same prophet sets before us strong grounds for its accomplishment: "If Heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel" (that are thus brought before me in judgment) "for all that they have done, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:37).

I do not like to close this letter without some account of myself. I was very comfortable about a two weeks since, and had a sweet hope abounding; but a treacherous backsliding heart caused the Lord to depart, and I felt his evident displeasure; no access in prayer, no sweet power in the Word, but all darkness and all reproof. I could but reproach myself exceedingly, until my hope seemed almost gone, and I began to think I should see his reconciled face no more in this world; at least Satan would have persuaded me so. I had short and transient views of his mercy, but so short that I felt as if these could be no tokens of the Lord's favor restored; but at length, while meditating on the Word, the Lord surprised me with his love in Christ Jesus so as fully to satisfy me. He again restored to me the light of his countenance and the love of his heart.

These words, in Jeremiah 12:14, were very sweet to me, and I found the Lord's usual power in them: "Thus says the Lord against all mine evil neighbors, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit, Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them." I went back to the 7th verse, and the Lord showed me the cause wherefore the "dearly beloved" of his soul was left in the hands of her enemies. The enemies there spoken of are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; when these attack us, and we fall into confusion and darkness, we must yet, if possible, remember that though this sad condition has befallen us, we are still the Lord's beloved, and must strive with all our spiritual might to maintain this spiritual position. My beloved! Encourage the thought that notwithstanding all you may feel, and all the charges laid to your conscience, still you are my beloved! Begin to reflect, What was that which I felt a day, a week, a month, or a year ago? Was it not a sweet token of God's love? Did I not get some answer to prayer? Did not one word counteract the despair I was in, and could I not then in some measure hope I was his beloved? And does he not say, "I the Lord change not"? Be assured, however low we may be cast down, the Lord will bring us up. The Lord suffers our evil neighbors (that body of sin within and a tempting devil) to torment and perplex us, that our pride may be brought down, and we be made more sensible of our slighted privileges, and learn to feel it a sore evil to grieve the Holy Spirit; nor shall we be recovered until power is given us to come with an honest confession, and to put our mouth in the dust.

Then verse 8: "Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it cries out against me; therefore have I hated it." They have lost a tender conscience, and presumptuous claims upon God are made, and unpurged guilt is passed by and forgotten; humility is laid aside, and some word or other taken out of Scripture to vindicate a declining cause; or perhaps such a saying as this in a fleshly manner applied, Once in Christ, always in Christ. This is the bold lion that God hates, because there is no brokenness of spirit. Such will roar out, I cannot help my sins; faith is the gift of God, I cannot quicken myself. Thus they cry out against God; and though the Lord says that he hates them, yet they, as bold as a lion, will call themselves the beloved of God.

Verse 9: "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her. Come you, assemble all the beasts of the field; come to devour." Here are set forth the two natures. It is hard to believe we are the Lord's beloved, when these beasts of the field are suffered to devour; the corruptions of the heart make head, and darkness covers us; dead professors either counsel or condemn, and we have not a word to say; we dare not unite, we scarcely know why; we die to the world, though we feel dead to God; we find ourselves strangers and outcasts whom no man regards. The people of God stand aloof from our sore, and watch to see which way it will turn with us, so that we sit solitary, and cannot venture to say "I am my beloved's." Still, do not sit down and conclude the contrary; let the Lord be judge; "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird."

Verses 10, 11: "Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot," etc. The world is full of pastors that destroy God's vineyard and make his pleasant portion desolate, by subtly training their hearers to rest upon the written Word without the application of the Holy Spirit, and saying that Jesus is very pitiful and tender and will show mercy, and not setting before the people that he will show them judgment as well as mercy, and that all who are saved shall certainly find that he will first turn them to destruction, and then show them that it was only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that he was sent. These pastors will tell us that we are sinners, to be sure, and the greater sinners the better, for we have the more need of a Savior; but they neither tell us how the Savior is to be obtained, nor set before us the anger of God in a broken law; thus they make the heritage desolate, so that few are found who mourn to the Lord, nor do they lay to heart their fatal mistake.

Such of the children of God as are for a while caught in this snare will be made to feel what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin in this way against God; and though they have "sown wheat" (v. 13) that is, some honest prayers and some sorrowful confessions, yet they will find the Lord will resent their sins, that they may know and keep in remembrance the wormwood and the gall; and "the spoilers", even the devil and our corrupt hearts will be left to hinder our prayers, and no access will be readily found either in reading, hearing, or in conversing with the saints. All this the Lord suffers for the further humbling of our pride and independence; yet even here is set before us an open door, that when he has made them ashamed of themselves, he will take in hand those "evil neighbors" (our deceitful hearts and a tempting devil) and pluck them out of their hands, and have compassion upon them and bring them again to his heritage; and he will again be their beloved, and they shall be his.

Thus I have written what I found to be exceedingly sweet and encouraging, and hope you will all sooner or later be able to find you are the Lord's beloved, though a poor and an afflicted people.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 136

London, January 1838.

Dear Sukey Harley,

What an inexpressible mercy it would be for your husband to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in his old age. I know that old age brings on many infirmities; death naturally draws near; youth will hope for long life, but old age cannot; and with me this reflection often brings many fears, which nothing can quell but the secret and comforting presence of God's love to my soul in Christ Jesus.

Let me ask you, Charles, what do you know of these things? If you say that few and evil have been your days, and you feel it a truth, do you ever go and tell this to the Lord? For he only can mend them, and give you grace and understanding to come to Jesus Christ for mercy and pardon. If you mean to be happy, be much in prayer; and when you read, search for the Lord in his Word as for hid treasures, and you will be surprised how he will condescend to speak to you by it. Be not a stranger to the new birth. "You must be born again." This is the something that Sukey so long sought for before she could find, and yet did not seek in vain. Take heed, be of a teachable spirit, and be not wise in your own conceit; be very especially cautious not to lay a stumbling-block before each other's feet, for that would soon hinder your prayers. The fear of God will prove "a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death".

Do not lose sight of your sister; remember, Sukey, you have been long strangers in a strange land; watch over her and see what the Lord is doing, and whether you can help her with your prayers. She seems to be come to the birth, but not yet delivered. Show her the way to the Lord Jesus Christ. I think I hear you say, But how shall I show her? By telling her of the many years of fears and sorrows that you have had, and how the Lord made you to write vanity upon all created things; when you despaired of all things, and most of yourself, then the Lord Jesus came to your help and saved you.

Tell her to give him no rest, but to cry night and day, "for the Lord hears the poor, and despises not his prisoners". Tell her to watch if she ever gets answers to prayer; be sure to cherish such answers and magnify the Lord with thanksgiving for them, and this will please him better than any fleshly pretensions (Psalm 69:30-33).

Tell her to be cautious to whom she tells her tale. "All men have not faith," nor all that are in a profession; there are many false Christs, and her neighbors will cry, Lo here! and Lo there! and she will be deceived if she do not get wisdom from above. Let wisdom enter into your heart, then "discretion shall preserve you, understanding shall keep you, to deliver you from the strange woman" (that is, the false church); "even the stranger which flatters with her lips." There is much more danger here than perhaps your sister is aware of; tell her to be very tender and to receive instruction, or she will be betrayed. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding" (Proverbs 2:10-19, and 3:5).

This counsel will also suit your daughter; and if it should please the Lord further to open her understanding, tell her to lay to heart and cherish his teaching. Let not the vanities and cares of this world choke the word; for the last state of such a professor will be found worse than the first. She may perhaps now say like Hazael, "Is your servant a dog that he should do such things?" I hope not, but if she does, she will not be the first. I hope I may hear of better things, even things that accompany salvation, though I speak thus. But remember "strait is the gate that leads to life," and trifling professors will never find it. The profession of the day is easy, and all your neighbors and friends who go with the tide will, if possible, drag you along with them, and go you must, if the grace of God and his power made manifest in your weakness prevent not.

From your sincere friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 137

London, January 1838.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

I have no doubt you find many difficulties in your way. I have a family of seven children constantly at home, and neither wisdom nor prudence (naturally) to manage them, but I perceive the Lord is all-sufficient, and often clears my way in answer to prayer. I fear what God says about the families that call not upon him, and therefore seek to warn and caution my family in all directions. I have often many fears and much anxiety respecting them, but hitherto the Lord has dealt very kindly with me; and I am sure if you are in the habit of watching, you will be surprised at the various turns which take place in your favor, even when you have feared beyond measure. "Your heart shall live that seek God." Continually seek and pray that spiritual life may be kept up in the soul, for this alone will enable you to bear up under all sorts of crosses. Keep your garments always white (Ecclesiastes 9:8); that is, never let sin pass unnoticed, unrepented of, unpurged; make a point to bear this upon your mind, and never cease to carry all your evils before the Lord Jesus Christ, until he take the burden from you and restore peace, and you again perceive that he looks kindly upon you. In six troubles he has appeared, and in seven he will not forsake you; this I know.

Your faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 138

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 18 January 1838.

My dear Friend,

I have been greatly comforted and encouraged by your letter, and do sincerely sympathize with you in all your tribulations, knowing that without them you cannot be a pastor after God's own heart. How sad a thing it is to have a religion that knows nothing of communion with the Lord! How dead and sapless a church becomes that is without the continual changes incident to the poor and afflicted people of God! If you and I were left in darkness, and no distress on account of it, how soon we should lose sight of the truth!

All that is good will ever be found like so many links in one chain; conflicts, sorrows, fears, and dismay, with many cries, terminating in conquest, through the blood of the Lamb. "You now therefore have sorrow;" but "your sorrow shall be turned into joy." You will be brought oftentimes into lower places still than any you have hitherto known, for the express purpose of teaching the people the necessity of these humbling lessons, and their use. For self must come down, and the Lord Jesus Christ alone be exalted. All religion short of this is only fleshly, and will not endure the hour of temptation, which always comes when least expected or guarded against.

These humbling lessons keep us from presumption and boldness in the flesh, and teach us gentleness toward the tempted, considering ourselves as liable to the same. When we have attained to the power of the truth and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, through much affliction this also makes us fearful of allowing anything contrary to the truth to be admitted; so tender are we made of the Word of God. A little error (as it may appear at the beginning) ends in complete separation from Jesus Christ, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life".

My heart's desire is that the Lord would discover to you more and more of the way of salvation, and that your little flock, together with your own soul, may be the chief object of your care, and that many prayers may be made to the Lord for wisdom and faithfulness. It is no small charge, if you have but two or three souls to instruct.

I should have found means to have written sooner, but I also have been in much darkness; yet the Lord has proved a light unto me, and I have not been utterly confounded. Jeremiah 14:sets forth my case. "Judah mourns, and the gates thereof languish." They came to the pits and found no water of life; they returned with their vessels empty, ashamed and confounded. The ground was chapped, and there was no rain to soften it. Yet even here I often called to mind his former loving-kindnesses, and acknowledged with many confessions my backslidings were many; and so were my pleadings. "O the hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble, why should you be as a stranger in the land," so as for me almost to forget how long since the last visit; "and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night?" Though I found these pleadings by the power of God effectual, yet I also found much reproof. "They have not refrained their feet." Here, like Jacob, with many confessions and pleadings, I could not let the Lord go except he blessed me; and my eyes were opened to see his tender regard and watchful care set forth all through the Word, and this satisfied me of his great mercy. I am therefore constrained with much melting of heart to bless and praise the Lord Jesus Christ for his marvelous saving benefits.

Poor Mr. Draper is no more. His end was peace; very solid, like an old father in the church. With many kind wishes and prayers for you and Mrs. Gilpin, and the friends at large, I remain, my dear friend,

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 139

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 14 February 1838.

My dear Friend,

I often feel myself laden with your spiritual cares, and more incapacitated in my feelings to render you any essential service than I can express.

I perceive that we are called to war, that the enemy is powerful, and that there is no discharge in this war. My spirits often sink at what is before me; and the troubles of our church fill me with inconceivable fear. Sin, like an armed man, is hard to drive out of the conscience; and we never fail by all the human means possible to extenuate and palliate, and where we can do neither we strive, but only after the flesh, to make use of the way that the Lord has set before us in his Word. By all these means we gain no ground, complete no victory, but lose our courage in contending, and the enemy sensibly gains the ascendancy; and then universal charity and tenderness prevail where there ought to be reproof, a care for our own honor but not for God's, a compromising spirit, a confederacy, a shunning of the cross, an increase of darkness, distance, and confusion.

How much have I known of this, and how little have I gained by it but misery! and all for want of coming empty-handed to Christ, the Fountain of living waters, which refresh, and strengthen, and arm the soul for the contest, and give courage to worms to contend against all the powers of darkness. Being at a point in our own consciences by feeling the powerful efficacy of the blood of sprinkling, we are quite sure of its humbling effects, and of its absolute necessity, not only for our salvation hereafter, but for our tender walk here.

When the Holy Spirit discovers and applies a crucified Savior to our hearts, it is always attended with light, and we are at the time sure of the way we take. This is a fact, but I cannot reason upon it. I also know that this will create a great desire to be much with him whom our souls love, seeking him in season and out of season, and entreating him to guide us in everything we have to do that is difficult, either in the church or family. When he is in the heart, honored and cherished there, let us remember that we have a Special Pleader at hand, the King's Leading Counsel, in whose hands our cause is sure to prosper; only we must make full use of him while he is thus with us, and must tell him the worst of our cares and fears and sins, and hide nothing; whoever or whatever among the people fills us with sorrow, we must tell him all, and he will most marvelously unfold his mind and will towards us, in a way that is inconceivable, and what we know not nowhe will take some future opportunity of showing us; and we shall acknowledge his wisdom. He has many things in which he will instruct us, and if the trying circumstances and characters which alarm us were not placed before us, we should often want a word in season for such as are tried. Were there not an experience and knowledge of such characters, and were they not continued long before us, we should never see their windings and many crooks which by length of time are manifested.

All this time we are very little aware of the necessity the Lord has laid upon us of being "a savor of death" to such as are appointed thereunto, as well as "a savor of life" to the afflicted and broken-hearted repentant. How many among you have been and are discovering themselves, and making manifest that there is no fear of God before their eyes! This ought not to dishearten you, for God says, "If you will take forth the precious from the vile, you shall be as my mouth;" and most assuredly if you do this, you shall be as all the rest have been, "hated of all men" for this very reason. I find it so. "But he who endures," remember this word and its meaning, "he who endures to the end, the same shall be saved." Keep in mind the almighty power of God as set forth in every page of Holy Writ, and call to mind all former times of extremity. Has not the Lord hitherto been a very present help, a shelter from all past storms, a strong tower from your enemies? Then still trust in the covert of his wings. "Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness," though we know not how or when it will be.

Your very affectionate friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 140

(To Mrs. K.) London, February 1838.

Dear Mrs. K.,

I was glad to hear from you, and if the Lord shall enable me, I will endeavor to tell you what I think of myself when exercised as you describe.

First, the darkness you complain of does not so trouble you as to keep you from sloth, therefore it is not a very heavy burden: moreover, you say you abide in it; this is dangerous. It is said in Jeremiah 30 that the Lord "heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace"; but he does not hear this from you, not much of it; I therefore do not wonder that you feel as if you had none of the Spirit. If you had the Spirit sensibly, you would not remain in the dark place you speak of.

The inward trouble you feel, I believe and always find with myself, is the lashing of a guilty conscience for our sluggish spirit, and for letting ourselves be more busied in the things of time and sense than in seeking to be saved. I find God is jealous, and resents this, and makes me to know that "by much slothfulness the building decays, and through idleness of the hands the house drop through" (Ecclesiastes 10:18). By such a spirit we lay ourselves in the way of temptation, and Satan has but little difficulty with those who are so often and so long at a distance from the Lord. I have felt my situation so fearful on these occasions as for some time to think myself past recovery; but that thought has been so sore and so terrible, that it has made me (while the painful fear lasted) cry out, "Search me, O God, and know my heart;" yet even there I feel the deceit of my heart, for when the Lord really begins his searching work, I flinch, and cry, Anything, Lord, but this; this is more than I can bear. But when brought to a real sense of my desperate condition, all these futile and idle excuses are lost in the fearful agony of my soul; I make no further bargains nor inquiries into the way and means that the Lord pleases to use, but am forced to come to a short cut, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Do you choose the way, and spare not for my much crying.

This is honest work, and all short of it will leave us loitering. The desire of such sluggish ones, Solomon says, obtains nothing, and its natural effect is always a slavish fear of death, for we are conscious we are but half-hearted in the things of God; everything is left in uncertainty, and we cannot see nor understand when good comes. No doubt the idol is self in some shape or other; and as we are indifferent in temporal things, as to the order and exactness of them, so spiritually we leave our soul's concerns without a purified conscience, and when thus left unclean nothing but confusion ensues.

Do you indeed seek most earnestly to obtain the mercy of God? If you do, I have no doubt but he will be as good as his word; but the heart is deceitful, and you do not know how many things take both the time and the attention which God claims in your conscience; or else you know it, but make no confession. The Scripture says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." "He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them, shall have mercy."

I believe the Lord has given you some intimation of his mercy, but there seem such hindrances at present that you may expect the rod to hasten your feet, and yet not more haste than good speed. I am firmly persuaded that if you give yourself wholly to these things, your profiting will appear.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

Letter 141

(To Mrs. K.) London, 13 April 1838.

Dear Mrs. K.,

I am truly glad to find the Lord has been pleased to rouse you out of your lethargy, and has not suffered you "to sleep the sleep of death". The arbor of this world is an enchanted place, and if you sleep there you will lose your evidences for your better inheritance. Hence it is said in the psalm you speak of, he "redeems your life from destruction." Spiritual life is included in this. But the means which the Lord uses are not always welcome to us. The fear of death and desponding thoughts are suffered to come upon us, to excite a cry from the heart; and in these sharp exercises we perceive, "He will not always chide, neither does he keep his anger forever." Instead of chiding, he renews our spiritual strength, so that we "mount up with wings as eagles"; and in this strength of the Lord we most gladly and with all our hearts acknowledge his judgments to be infinitely righteous, and always executed in behalf of that poor soul which is harassed with the various corruptions of his nature. The blow which he gives is at the old man of sin within, who is always crying, Spare. It is a mercy that he pays no regard to such cries, remembering that "we are dust", and can naturally feed upon nothing else.

That psalm (103) shows that they who trust in the Redeemer shall not be fruitless. The Lord puts his fear into our hearts, which always acts as a check to our carnal and worldly spirits; or we should soon go beyond bounds, and he would have only the very fag end of our hearts and affections, and of those times and seasons which rightly belong to him, and which to give to him is our high privilege, and profitable for this life as well as for that which is to come. And then he says his mercy is "from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him". This will enable you to bless the Lord, and not forget his saving benefits; and to say with David, "I will render praises unto you, for you have delivered my soul from death; will you not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"—not in a dead profession (Psalm 56:12, 13).

Look back, my dear friend, upon those times when you had no access to God, no spiritual energy; a sort of empty, vague, aching, restless spirit, and no heart to pray yourself out of it. I say, look back at this (and at no great distance too) and call to mind the fruits of such a mode of living. Was it not all darkness and confusion, and you could scarcely tell whether you knew anything aright or not, or whether you should ever know what the light of God's countenance meant? Is that the way you are to spend your days, and die in darkness? O no! Now that the Lord has most graciously opened the door, and invited you into the presence chamber, take heed, and sleep not, nor give slumber to your eyelids, until you enter there, and "find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob" (Psalm 132:4, 5).

Though this labor is said to be wrought by you, you must never forget that "it is God that works in you". This is a mystery you will soon understand, if God the Spirit lead you into all truth. God bless you. Farewell.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 142

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 18 April 1838.

My dear Friend,

It is said of Asher, "Let Asher be blessed with children, let him be acceptable to his brethren;" and then in order thereto it is added, "let him dip his foot in oil." I have been greatly comforted with these words, perceiving in them the necessity of continual confession and humiliation, attended with the application of the blood of sprinkling by the Holy Spirit to my wounded conscience. I perceive I am continually contracting fresh guilt in my walk, and an old experience will not heal these fresh wounds; hence the necessity of my dipping my foot in oil, as denoting a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Without this I shall be fruitless, and without children; but these fresh visitations not only refresh and preserve my spirit, but make me acceptable to my brethren. Besides this, they give firmness to my steps; a holy confidence in the strength of the Lord, which is "made perfect in weakness". Thus "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace", it is said "Your shoes shall be iron and brass;" but all this I continually find is proved in the furnace, and if the work were not of God, I should not be able to abide there. But it is added, "As your days, so shall your strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:24, 25).

These spiritual communications always fill my soul with holy awe. It is a great thing for God to visit a poor sinner, and for such an one to know that God speaks upon his heart. What manner of men ought we to be on this holy ground!

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 143

(To Mrs. T., formerly M. B.) Pulverbach, 8 July 1838.

My dear Cousin,

I had a pleasant refreshing journey, and found all things very comfortable. I have seen Sukey Harley, and hope to spend this day at her cottage in expounding the Word, and have been seeking the Lord that he would be with us and bless the meeting.

I have had many changes, and have at times been greatly encouraged and comforted. I am sure the Lord is with me. The enemy is very watchful, and especially seeks to betray me into something or other that would stop the fellowship between God and my soul, when I want his peculiar presence to help me; for nothing else gives savor to our proceedings, or light upon our steps. Go without his company long, and you will be sure to stumble. A religion without talking with the Lord by the way is sure to be attended with blunders sooner or later. He is the only true light of the world, therefore I say it becomes us, if we know or have any acquaintance with this light, to cherish it by manifesting a spirit of diligence. "What woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it?" How you and I often want this spiritual diligence, in consequence of which we walk in confusion, and are not aware of the dust we have contracted by reason of the darkness that Christ's absence has brought on.

A listless life of religion, without conflicts and conquests, is the life of a snail. No features of heavenly divinity stamped upon the soul; no grace of humility alive and in exercise; no sweet holy anointing, bringing us sensibly near to the Lord; no brokenness of heart under a sense of our inexpressible vileness, and the greatness of God's mercy to us in Christ Jesus; no understanding what it is spiritually to put our mouths in the dust; no self-loathing. Spiritual life, or the Spirit of God dwelling in us, will teach us humbly to cherish his presence, and to revere and honor him; and will lead us into the exercise of all these things, and to value them more than life itself.

My soul was filled with the sweet presence of the Lord last night; it was a Heaven upon earth. "Because of the savor of your good ointments your name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love you" (Song 1:3). What the Savior did to the poor woman in the Gospel was of this nature, when he said, in the midst of the crowd, "Somebody has touched me, for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me" (Luke 8:43-46). May the Lord grant you and Mr. T. power daily thus to touch him, and not to have to count the days and weeks and months since this virtue was last received from the Savior. What need you have of this touch in your new capacity! Stale showbread will not do. An easy chimney corner is not conducive to those conflicts that end in conquests. My spirit at times argues in all manner of ways with the Lord to prove that ease in any way and cessation of war is lawful; but the cutting convictions of the Spirit in the dead of the night bring me to the bar of God, and then my iniquitous purposes are exposed in their true colors, and I utterly despair of self, and have nothing left but just a little power to cry and confess my ignorance, misery, and sin. Here comes an end of all hopes of ease in the flesh, and I am taught in a measure to endure hardness as a good soldier, and never to give up the contest until, by a touch of the Savior, I am made more than conqueror.

My difficulties in this place appear to me many, but the Lord is my stay. I only desire so to walk as to keep him in my company. I dread my foolishness grieving him and causing him to depart. I dare not walk long in the dark, especially under my present circumstances.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

P.S. I have been much pleased with my Sabbath at Sukey's. The Lord was with us; a sweet sense of his approbation comforted my heart; and many home truths were spoken through his grace.

 

 

Letter 144

(To Mrs. Jones) Pulverbach, 14 July 1838.

My dear Friend,

The Lord does nothing in vain, nor does he ever make any mistakes. You once told me there was a "need be" for these trials (1 Peter 1:6), but did you find out that need as it respects your long confinement? Have you not seen something of it in your continual proneness to backslide in heart, and the desolation you feel within, withering presently from the sweetest communications of his lovely presence? This is suffered to show you more of your deceitful heart than you have heretofore known; and that you may still see more and more that there is no fullness, satisfaction, or rest for you, but inasmuch as you are able to draw it from Christ Jesus. However kind he may have been, we sometimes forget, and lay down our arms, looking for a little respite from this war; it is then the enemy comes and entertains our minds with ten thousand baubles; but by and by our never failing Friend asks our consciences this question, When did you last talk or walk with me? This question fills us with fear and shame, and we begin to ponder our way and to see how treacherously we have departed from him; and now we perceive the need for the rod of affliction; for God is holy and jealous, and will have no rival in our affection. This work, under the mighty and wise management of our best Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, turns to our good, and humbles us in the dust, and we become like Joseph's brethren; the cup is found in the sack's mouth, and we are greatly ashamed.

Now I come to what I can never account for, but have often wondered at with great astonishment, and covered my face in silence, while I have thus lain at his feet like a lost criminal, when he has pronounced such words as these: "For your shame you shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: everlasting joy shall be unto them" (Isaiah 61:7).

May the Lord grant that this may be your portion, as I believe it will. You and I must give the Lord no rest. I am in the midst of trials and difficulties, but the Lord is with me and gives me peace in him. In the world you and I have been made to know there is nothing but tribulation; but the Savior kindly tells us, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;" and he also tells us we shall be more than conquerors through him that has washed us in his own blood. This is my stay; for every day brings along with it something or other to show me that this fountain of evil within would drown me in perdition and destruction, were it not for the arm of the Lord made bare, in all directions, for my help against my pride and conceit and independence of God, and for the support and maintenance of that new man which the Holy Spirit has planted in my heart; and this blessed indwelling of the Spirit shows itself by that especial grace called godly fear, which starts at the slightest alarm given, and knows no other refuge than Christ Jesus. This is the way the vulture's eye, however keen, can never see, but it is more or less discovered to poor broken-hearted sinners that feel their lost estate.

May the Lord comfort you, and give you his sweet presence. Sukey Harley sends her love to all that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth. I remain with great affection,

Your friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 145

(To Mrs. Jones) Pulverbach, 24 July 1838.

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Your letter has been a source of comfort and satisfaction to me, as I felt assured there was a need for that heaviness you labored under. Your mercy has been to have an ear to hear the admonition of the Lord, and that notwithstanding your backsliding heart you were not suffered to abide under that load of unbelief which bore down all your spiritual light and understanding. The Lord graciously said to you, "Do you believe on the Son of God?" Then why all this load and heaviness that you have carried so long? Is it not a folding of your hands to sleep? Why not arise and call upon your God, that you perish not? Do not you perceive that the kind caution only half awoke you, and therefore he suffered the enemy to come in like a flood; and that the admonition not being fully laid to heart, the chastening rod was sent? But you, by the mercy of God, were enabled to kiss it, and to stoop under it, and confess your treacherous dealing towards the best of friends.

It was your mercy that he caused you to pass under the rod (as Ezekiel says) and not to despise it or leave it unnoticed; for when you found grace to stoop under it, then the Lord revealed his covenant mercy to you in Christ Jesus, and all contention ceased, and unbelief, the worst of rebels, was purged out; and then, not until then, could you loathe yourself and repent in dust and ashes. Here it is that "light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart"; and this heavenly light diffuses itself in the Word, and everything we read now seems spoken in loving-kindness and tender mercy to us.

You know now what the Lord means by gathering "the waters of the sea together as an heap"; and laying up "the depth in storehouses". Therefore fear the Lord, for his eye "is upon them that fear him, and upon them that hope in his mercy"; (and never more forget what follows) "to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine". You have lately suffered this famine; and if his eye had not been upon you, you could never have returned in the power of his Spirit. Therefore "our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name". Praise you the Lord (Psalm 33).

Yours very affectionately in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 146

(To James Bourne) Pulverbach, July 1838.

My dear young Friend,

It is a great thing to be made a sensible sinner, and to know for what the sentence of death has passed upon us; and that nothing but a revelation of Jesus Christ to our souls in all his saving benefits can remove this sentence. But do we think we attain to this by leaning to our own understanding, as thousands think and perish; or have we the secret and powerful testimony of the Spirit upon our consciences that we have come out of the world, and the spirit of it, leaning upon the Beloved? The difference is so spiritual, and so far beyond the natural understanding, that God says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25).

The right way must be acknowledged to be a secret not known to the world, nor to all professors of religion; but the Lord says it is revealed to them that fear him. O how tender are such as fear him; how afraid to take part with any that do not understand this tender point! How hard is the conversation of those who do not possess this fear; how confident they are, and yet how evidently without any experience or saving knowledge! Such as possess this fear have always (more or less) some knowledge what truth is, and where it is; and are not unceasingly talking about its being here and there and everywhere; for the Lord the Spirit shows them in this fear that there are few that be saved, though many run in the heavenly race (Psalm 25:4-12).

You have many subtle enemies within that will argue and reason very wisely; and if your present religion be only in the flesh it will not be long before it comes to an end, and only because of the want of the fear of the Lord. You will find it an easy matter to be persuaded to go in a beaten path, which many have made smooth and even; it seems to be freer from crosses and difficulties, and is not stigmatized with bigotry and dogmatism, nor is it called narrow and limited; this is true; but the fear of the Lord will tremble at that beaten path, and call to mind what God says, "We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom."

Be not hasty; be much in prayer; take counsel of God; and remember, if you think you know anything of yourself you know nothing aright.

Yours most faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 147

(To Mrs. Oakley) Pulverbach, August 1838.

My dear Friend,

When I saw you on your sick bed, I was pleased to hear you say that your affliction had driven you to Christ for salvation. When I saw you after you were in a measure recovered, your language was changed. I think you said something of this sort, that your minister had been with you, and you believed he was a good man, but that he did not think all the work of religion upon the heart was of the Spirit, but that man must do a part. How can a good man be so totally divested of the first rudiments of the doctrines and oracles of God? The Lord tells us, "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13); but your minister thinks a part of this heavenly work is to be done by us. Indeed matters must be at a low ebb if we have not a clearer knowledge of the truth than this. Surely if spiritual energy had been felt it would have produced a brighter evidence. I perceive exceeding great darkness in many hereabouts, and I fear the cause is their believing and hearing every one that cries, Lo here! Salvation is a rare thing; a profession is a common thing; and some are easily persuaded that the strait and narrow way is bigotry.

You and I are not far from the end of our race. It is an awful thing to be brought to the bar of God in our dying moments, where no lies nor errors will stand, nor our saying we are good, or this or that man is good; but we must have the true, vital, regenerating power of God's grace upon our consciences, so that we may be at a point, and more than sure, that the Lord Jesus Christ has a favor towards us. May the Lord cause you to give him no rest until this takes place; then I am sure the light which this will bring along with it will show you the way you ought to take. The fear of man is often a great snare, and keeps us from boldly showing our colors, in consequence of which we spend our days in confusion of mind, and seldom have any of the sweet supporting presence of the Lord; but the Bible teaches us that the fear of man, as well as every other yoke, shall be destroyed because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 10:24-27).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 148

(To Mr. Yeomans) Pulverbach, 5 August 1838.

My dear Friend,

I know no greater mercy than that the Lord should speak to us by his Word, and unseal it so that it may be written upon our hearts, testifying of God's love to us in Christ Jesus. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works;" and also armed against the assaults of the enemy.

I was greatly surprised in reading in Numbers 7, the offerings made by the princes on the dedication of the altar after it was anointed; those types and shadows furnished me with sweet tokens of Christ's love. In the first instance I perceived that all we have and are (whatever value we may put upon our possessions, reputation, honors, health, or other things) must be offered before the Lord; but it was the turning point here that melted my heart, namely, all that is thus offered must be "full of fine flour mingled with oil". Lord, I said, what is this? Something replied, Flour is wheat bruised; and need you be told who is compared to the finest of the wheat, bruised for you, and thus becoming the Bread of eternal life? Only mind that in Christ, the hope of glory all your offerings are made. Then the mingling of the oil I saw and felt to be the holy anointing of the Spirit of God, to testify of the truth and reality of these things. Then follows the peace offering; Christ in the heart, testified by the Holy Spirit, brings in the peace of God which passes all understanding. Even while I write I feel the sweetness and power, nor can I tell what to say of these things, the Lord is so very precious to me, and I so vile and treacherous. You and I may add, "Unless your law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction;" and through it I get understanding, and by it you have taught me, and I find it sweeter to my taste spiritually than honey is to my mouth. It is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path (Psalm 119:92-105).

Many here are not aware that a half profession and mingling with all sorts is the sure way of darkness and confusion. O how evident it is that we cannot touch pitch without being defiled! Many hide themselves with saying they are poor creatures and know nothing, and can do nothing; yet if you watch their spirit they can do many things against the Word of the Lord, and make manifest much bitterness, with all their confidence in God's mercy. This is a very awful state, and there is but one remedy, "Such were some of you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." This will effectually subdue our native enmity, and make us, like Manasseh, greatly to humble ourselves. He who is thus "joined to the Lord is one spirit". This is the union which exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and his mystical members, the sweet and heavenly union which is so beautifully set forth in John 17.

It is astonishing what errors a benighted soul will admit and hold fast, and yet think to prosper. But "no lie is of the truth," and "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns." When the Spirit of truth comes, he guides into all truth; and that glorifies Jesus Christ, who says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace;" not darkness and confusion, the effect of ignorance and distance from God. In the world we find plenty of this, but be not disheartened by that, nor by lying preachers and professors; be of good cheer, and always keep in mind, "I have overcome the world;" and you shall overcome too, and be "more than conquerors" in him.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 149

(To Mr. Nunn) Pulverbach, 12 August 1838.

My dear Friend,

I can join full well in what you said respecting your feelings when Mr. G. left you. It was but Friday night I was very restless, and seemed brought to the bar of God. The fear of death and judgment took hold upon me, and my sins all seemed to stare me in the face, and the Lord was withdrawn. I feared I should be put to shame in the great day, and more especially because I have said so much to others. I think I am more attacked upon the subject of my writing and speaking to others than upon anything else, and yet my comforts and assurances flow in more by these channels than by any other; and I am often greatly surprised how the Lord does continually show his tokens of favor on these occasions. This morning Philippians 2:15 was very sweet to me, elucidated by Deuteronomy 32, where God says he separated the sons of Adam and set them bounds, and he himself took one part and called them his portion. On these last words I dwelt, and thought I proved by the Spirit that I was in that portion, and my soul was comforted. Such conquests make us to "shine as lights in the world", by the tender effects of the true essential fear of God. I cannot yet forget or leave the sweet consideration of being God's portion; if I look within, the sight tempts me to despair; but the Lord says he finds his people in a sad condition when he first takes them in hand, "in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness", but he condescends to instruct them, and to keep them as the apple of his eye. "As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings," so the Lord alone leads us by various sorts of discipline and furnace-work, that no strange God may be harbored. I find many strange gods within that would be reverenced, if the Lord did not keep me continually in a low place. It is my dire necessity that drives me to him for help; and if my sin causes him to hide his face I seem quite at a stand, without judgment, light, or understanding; and I fear the Lord will resent my folly to my dying hour. But his compassions have never failed; he surprises me with his mercies, and restores to me the joy of his salvation, and upholds me with his free Spirit; and this instructs me what to say in my readings, for I cannot help showing forth his praise, as you did when you returned that day in the power of the Spirit.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 150

(To Mr. Harvey) Pulverbach, 14 August 1838.

My dear Friend,

It grieves me to hear you are so unwell. I have many times in my sicknesses been ready to give up all my worldly concerns, and think myself past all service to anybody. I know that the enemy would have it so, if possible, to make me a reproach to the cause of God. It is surprising when I have obtained the Lord's presence, and have got under the light of his countenance, how ready I have felt to be active, and to do anything the Lord is pleased to set me to do. If I determine to do nothing because I cannot do what I formerly did, I lose the presence of God, and a withering takes place. I am often astonished how the enemy and our deceitful hearts combine to keep us by all means from the lively exercise of the gifts and mercies the Lord bestows upon us, and how soon we conclude what poor creatures we are, that can do nothing: and true; we can do nothing without him. Have you watched the state of your soul when you have concluded yourself perfectly unfit for employment? Do not you find that it is when barrenness comes on, and secret prayer becomes slack, and the spirits sink for want of a little wine of the kingdom? It is this that cheers me and fits me for all impossibilities, and carries me through all that is painful to the flesh. Had I not had some of this sweet refreshing from the presence of the Lord before I came here, I should have taken to my bed a sick man, and have given up all thoughts of doing anything; but I found I could do all things through Christ strengthening me, and bear evil report and good report, and labor with my hands to supply my need; and I perceive in this line of things spiritual life is maintained, and the purpose of God is unfolded.

It is said, in the song of Moses, that God separated the people, and fixed the bounds of that part which he called his portion. You and I must be very particular to find this out, that we are God's portion; and to show it by keeping the separation clear that he has made, and by being found in the bounds which he has fixed; exercised in all the various things the Lord has appointed to each of us, and neither giving up nor taking on anything at our pleasure. We have to watch God's dismissal of us, and also every reviving help that he gives us to fulfill our day and generation, according to his appointment.

I have found your conversation profitable, and I know the Lord has often spoken upon your heart; so be not disheartened at what is before you, but press hard after Christ, and you will want no good thing. Be of good cheer; Christ has overcome the world. We are hastening to the end, and had need be sober and watchful.

Your very sincere friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 151

(To Mrs. T.) Pulverbach, 25 August 1838.

Dear Cousin,

O what a day this has been! First, fears and dismay; then, some distant intimations of God's sweet favor in conversation with some of the people here; then some attacks from another quarter, and a letter bringing iniquity to light, and many causes why the Lord should send the rod; and withal much mourning and fearing lest there should be no token of a spiritual Sabbath tomorrow. But while thus bemoaning myself the Lord stepped in, and broke my heart with the sight of his beauty and goodness; and then, as is always the case on such occasions, I loathed myself and repented in dust and ashes, and could by no means resist the double power and efficacy of his sweet presence, namely, joy and repentance. They wrought such a wonderful admiration of his matchless and unbounded love, so unexpected, so undeserved, yet much needed, for I had almost given up all hopes of relief during my stay here; but now I can, with a holy confidence, declare to my poor friends here how dear a Savior I have found, and how near he is, if haply we "feel after him". So that I can now declare, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. The Lord is near unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he will also hear their cry, and will save them" (Psalm 145:17-19).

(Sunday.) I have had a very encouraging morning reading from the words, "How great is his goodness." If the Lord permit, I hope in the evening to speak from the following words: "How great is his beauty" (Zechariah 9:17). But how can I describe the loveliest of all matchless beauty, especially when he comes into my heart under the most reckless misery and despondency?

While speaking in the evening I came to these words: "When you did march through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens also dropped, at the presence of God." I remembered how terrible a thing I had felt it for the Lord to march up and down in my wilderness heart; and how when one thing and another, which had been carefully covered, was by this marching brought forward against me, I did indeed tremble and shake. I also well remembered it was then the Lord, in infinite mercy, fulfilled to me these words: "You, O God, did send a plentiful rain, whereby you did confirm your inheritance when it was weary." Thus did he prepare of his goodness for the poor, or I should have utterly sunk into despair (Psalm 68:7-10). I look back at those times with astonishment, and bless his holy Name, who has not left me to perish, but has led me to set forth the wonders of his grace to a few poor desponding souls here and there, who tell me it encourages them to press on, and never rest until they obtain the same deliverance. May the Lord bless you both.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 152

(To Mr, Yeomans) Pulverbach, 2 September 1838.

What, my dear friend, can be compared with communion with God through Christ, and the sweet teaching of the Spirit, that holy anointing which shall teach us all things? We know that this "is truth, and is no lie". All these waters of life come from the smitten Rock. "Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed" (Psalm 78:20). O how sweet these words have been to me this day! How precious this makes the Lamb that was slain! It washes away sin, and removes the spirit of the world, and enlarges, expands, and comforts the contracted heart, and gives even me power to cast my troubles upon the Lord as a very present help, and fits me for all that he sends me to do. O how descriptive are these waters gushing out, of a soul sinking in self-despair, and surprised with the sudden visit of this heavenly Friend! How his comfort overflows, and how low it lays the soul in the dust!

I was again made sensible of this while setting forth the necessity of washing the hands and the feet, that we die not (Exodus 30:17-21). Nothing is more defiling, confusing and darkening than unwashed sins and unpurged guilt. What a withering it brings to the soul; and what death ensues! I also felt much sweetness in God's charge respecting the compound of bitter and sweet spices, to be made a holy ointment with oil, and the confection for a holy perfume (Exodus 30:22-38). Here I saw the necessity of sanctified affliction working godly fear, holy repentance unto life, submission, humiliation, and attention to what the apostle says to his son Timothy: "that your profiting may appear to all." The table and all the furniture of it were to be anointed with that holy oil, to set forth that all the appointments and ordinances of God must (if profitable) have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, denoting the sweet refreshing approbation and presence of God. I was greatly comforted with a sweet assurance of a portion in this. May the Lord make you and your family joint partakers of these heavenly benefits.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 153

(To part of his family) Pulverbach, 2 September 1838.

I have this day had a sweet token of God's approbation and presence, in being so divinely supported and comforted in taking leave of my poor little set of people here. The Lord has been with me through a host of difficulties. I dared not leave them sooner, and am now sure I have done right, by the sweet and powerful sense I have of the love of God in Christ.

I hope the Lord will protect you while I am away. I desire to move tenderly, and in obedience to his heavenly dictates. May he now further preserve me in the journey before me; and in due time bless you all with his life-giving power, and then your end will be happy.

So prays,

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 154

(To Mrs. T.) Hertford, 16 September 1838.

Dear Cousin,

My visit here is attended with continued self-abasement. I am kept in a very low place, but dare not say the Lord forgets me. He is a very present help, and my morning readings are comforting to me, and attended by many who are not expected.

Mrs. Gilpin has had a sweet discovery of God's love to her in Christ Jesus, and her tender fears are evidence that spiritual life is abundantly in her. It would do you good to hear her account from herself, and to see her spirit. Another friend also has had a sweet refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and I think some others are looking out of obscurity. I have scarcely seen —; I fear she is gradually getting into a place where she will be hard set to clear the work. O how I fear feigned humility and dissembled love! I know God will discover this wherever it is.

I have hard work to show my face here, because of the fearful sight I often have of my sinful nature, and the importance that is put upon what I say here. Yet I have been comforted this morning with these and the following words: "Be not you therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord . . . but be you partaker of the afflictions of the gospel," for therein will be found and understood "the power of God". The mystery of salvation is hid in Christ Jesus, but is made manifest when he brings life and immortality into the soul. This makes me a willing partaker of the sufferings, because I am persuaded he is able to keep me unto eternal life (2 Timothy 1:8-12). His strength, communicated to my soul by the Holy Spirit, is all my stay and support; I am not able to abide one moment without it, but with it I can bear all things.

This is what I recommend to you and Mr. T. It will bear you both up under the various changes that continually overtake you. We know not what a day may bring forth; and if we have not the spiritual habit of making the Lord our refuge, some sudden storm may upset us; but if Christ is our Ark, we shall certainly weather it.

I droop in spirit more than I can express, and would often run away from God, from myself, and from the eyes of all living; but the Lord will not have it so. I must stand the brunt, and face it out, to make manifest the power and efficacy of God's regenerating grace; and instead of finally sinking, I perceive, by every fresh humbling dispensation, he raises me higher in hope and humble confidence in him, and sets me lower in my own estimation. This is my path of tribulation; not all sorrow, not all casting down, but now and then exalted to a place far enough out of the reach of the enemy that puffs at me.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 155

(To Mrs. Oakley) London, 9 October 1838.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

You have been much upon my mind since I saw you, and I desire to be a fellow-helper of your joy, and to hear that the Lord comforts you in all your afflictions. It has pleased God to put a worm to every gourd that you have planted, so that all things in this life wither, and it is a mercy to you that they afford no shade nor repose for your flesh. It appears to me that God has some better things in store for you, and will teach you that whom he loves he chastens, and scourges every son that he receives. This is hard to believe and understand; but as it pleases God to sanctify these afflictions by humbling our souls in the dust, and there showing us his loving-kindness under them, so shall we discern his wisdom in all his dispensations, and wonder at the pains he takes to bring us out of the world and the spirit of it, and to make us more in earnest to seek for a better inheritance. If your troubles work as mine have done and yet do, they lead you to daily communion with the Lord, and to be greatly troubled at the thought of grieving the Holy Spirit by lightness in thought, word, or deed; for if he condescend to give us his company, he will be honored and cherished; "Him that honors me I will honor;" and we never more honor him than when we lament and mourn his absence. This is true love; especially if we put our mouths in the dust for the causes of his hiding his face from us, which will easily be discovered if we are in the habit of watching what goes on within. This is walking in the Spirit; and if we thus walk, we shall not fulfill the desires of the flesh. The sweet influence of the fear of God will be as a sentinel at the door of our hearts to stop the entrance of folly, and if through the power of temptation it enter there, what struggling and restlessness will be found (where the conscience is kept tender) until Christ comes with his whip of small cords, and drives it out. This will be the continual warfare, and we must learn of the Lord how to be good soldiers, and endure hardness; for it is hard work (I find it so) to deny self in all its various branches.

There is nothing will grieve the Holy Spirit, nor cause him to depart, sooner than the giving of the right hand of fellowship to dead professors that rest in the letter, and know nothing of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, nor of his holiness, but are hardened in a presumptuous confidence. You and I know by the grace of God that the true evidence of a child of God is to fear always, and to tremble at his Word; for the Lord declares it is to such he will look: and you and I know that one look from the Lord Jesus Christ is worth more than ten thousand worlds, and assures our hearts of God's everlasting love to us in Christ Jesus.

Search daily for this Friend, as you would for hid treasures, and you will surely find him from time to time. His presence will compensate for all your bodily pain, family troubles, and worldly anxieties; and while it lasts you will be able to see all things in their right aspect, and that he can do you no wrong. Stick close to him; pursue him in his Word; do not mind any of his disciples crying, "Send her away, for she cries after us." Give him no rest; pray without ceasing; and you will find that he will say what he said to the poor woman of old: "Be it unto you even as you will;" and I am sure that under this influence you will leave all to his management, with all the heart, mind, and strength. Can your poor husband understand these things? If he can, tell him from me to seek the Lord incessantly.

From your affectionate friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

Letter 156

London, October 1838.

Dear Mrs. Morris,

It gave me pleasure to see you occasionally at my family worship while I was with you at Pulverbach; and also to perceive that you had for many years more or less felt the necessity of a spiritual work upon the heart. I believe I had a witness in your conscience that I spoke the truth, and described the work of God that must be found upon the sinner's heart if ever saved. I also perceived you were quite aware that all are not partakers of the Spirit who are in a profession, nor do all that are found in pulpits, professing to teach the truth, either know it themselves or preach it; and more than this, they often publicly and professedly hate those that can give a reason of their hope with meekness and fear. But, my dear friend, you must go still further if you are saved. Your understanding is in a measure enlightened, but you do not know what it is to be brought to God's bar and feel his wrath against you in a broken law. This brings a man down from all carnal hope, and binds him under the sentence of death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. The authors of the church prayers knew something of it when they wrote, "tied and bound with the chain of our sins". This indeed will extort a bitter cry for mercy, and set aside all light, trifling religion. The soul in this condition will not wait to inquire who is pleased or displeased, but out of dire necessity, like a drowning man, will unceasingly cry; knowing that if Christ does not help him he is gone forever. It is my sincere desire that your religion may be of this sort; then you will know the solid comfort that it will afford in sickness and death, and you will understand what is meant by Christ being in you "the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Pray watch if the Lord ever answers any of your prayers, or ever did; and depend upon it, if you clear this point, you will be encouraged to hope that he will withhold no good thing from you.

Do not deceive yourself; it is most awful. Do you really want to know Christ with all his saving benefits? If you do, be not surprised if he comes in terrible majesty to shake that earthly mind of yours, but remember, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word." Do not sit down in an easy, sapless religion, like thousands about you. Death will destroy all such religion. Seek for that which will carry you through all your difficulties, and let me hear that you obtain this grace and grow in it.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 157

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 26 November 1838.

My dear Friend,

There seems a necessity laid upon me to reply to your letter forthwith. In my trouble I sympathized with Mrs. Gilpin, and thought more of her than anybody. I then felt the anguish of soul she felt; and I also felt the turning point, where the Lord in his sovereign mercy caused her to hope. I found it not a step between me and death; and I dare say she found it so too. Despair seemed close at my heels, and I thought, and was resolved in it, that even if I perished and went to destruction, it should be in crying to God. This is what I always insist upon; and here I found that the prayer of the destitute was heard, and I manifestly came to that destitute condition which God's Word speaks to. Here it was God broke the gates of brass, and bars of iron. I was made sensibly to feel that indeed, indeed, there was no help in me; and when the Lord came, I was more than surprised at his wonderful condescension and his wonderful manner of giving me the Spirit of grace and supplication, which encouraged me greatly, and brought me very near in hope.

As it respects yourself I also truly sympathize with you, nor can I believe that you will labor for nothing, or bring forth for trouble. You say truly, many here seek your spiritual welfare. It is by the painful things you describe that the Lord instructs his people; and, if messengers, makes them faithful in declaring what he shows them. Beg of him that you may be faithful in the ministry, "to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin"; that the gate is strait, the way narrow; that the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence; but that the strength of the Lord shall be seen to be made perfect in every coming sinner's weakness.

I wish I could convey to you how ardently I desire that you may be partaker of my joy. My misery has been extreme, my case exceeding desperate; yet the Lord appeared when I least expected it. I thought he would never come more, that his mercy was "clean gone forever". But he showed me the need for all this heaviness and humbling, and told me that I should yet know still more of his compassion and favor. You see I do not know where to stop. H — is much better, and I believe the Lord is sweetly instructing her. By these terrible things in righteousness he answers us, and becomes our Savior.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 158

(To M. and J. G.) London, 30 November 1838.

My dear Friends,

When first I heard of my daughter's illness I was alarmed and sank in spirit; and when I arrived at home and saw how matters were, I felt the affliction would not be either small or of short continuance. I continued sinking in spirit some days, until I seemed to lose my own hope, and everything about me looked as if God meant to crush me and all my family; for I could get no sensible help nor find my prayers were heard. The nights were a terror to me, and the days were spent in most earnest and bitter cries and groans until I thought the Lord would hear me no more. One night in particular, about midnight, I felt as if I were on the brink of despair, without power to help myself from sinking forever into destruction; but I thought if I perished it should be in crying to the Lord; and then it was the Lord condescended to compose my mind, and caused a calm, which I had not felt for some days. But it was not until the following day that any words were presented to me; and then Isaiah 42:10-17 raised my soul again to hope in his mercy. "Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, you that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice; the villages that Kedar (that is, sorrow) does inhabit. Let the inhabitants of the rock sing; let them shout from the top of the mountains." With this not only was my hope restored, but a spirit of grace and supplication was given, and the Lord again talked to me in the Word. Isaiah 54 became very sweet: "Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed, O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! . . . In righteousness shall you be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you;" and the last verse of the chapter sweetened the whole.

These things came with great power, but I soon lost sight of them through fear and anxiety, my daughter's affliction often appearing too desperate for carnal reason or the most sanguine fleshly hope to think it could end in anything but death. We twice sat up to see her end; yet the Lord not only overruled it, but comforted her at times with the sweetest consolation. The work of grace growing still more evident, and the Lord confirming the same now and then by a word upon my heart, greatly helped forward my hope, and encouraged me to trust in him. "For a small moment have I forsaken you, but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord your Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you."

All this greatly comforted and meekened my spirit, and kept me out of the spirit of the world. The Lord was very precious to me and endeared himself more to me than I can express. I think I never before felt to such a great degree the beauty, value, suitableness, and preciousness of a Savior; nor can I possibly express what I felt of his infinite condescension and love to me and mine. 2 Corinthians 4 was exceedingly precious. I could by faith "look at the things that are not seen" by the natural eye, and believe that the darkest dispensations, by God's all-wise management, would work effectual good; so that I could leave all in his hands, who works all things after the counsel of his own will. I found I was enabled to do this even when he hid his face, so deeply had he impressed my heart with a feeling sense of his infinite wisdom and especial kindness toward me and mine.

I was one day after this greatly cast down, but earnestly entreated the Lord to help me; and he was pleased to make known to me that he regarded my troubles, and would take them in hand, and plead my cause. This wrought great contrition and weeping before him, and then I told him many things; but especially I said, Lord, what shall be done with my afflicted and sick child? and these most sweet words broke my heart: I will comfort you on every side. I cannot describe the wonder I felt at these words, and the scrutiny I seemed to make about them with all reverence and tenderness; I thought them too much for such an one as myself; but surely the Lord owned them and confirmed them; and I have yet to hope and watch the final issue.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 159

(To Mr. W. Maydwell) London, 11 January 1839.

My dear Friend,

I have been under many changes since I took leave of you in the street; but though I have passed through fire and water, the Lord has made me taste of the happiness found in the wealthy place. These extremities bring us to a strict scrutiny, and if there be any spiritual integrity in us it will be found at such a time, and David's cry will then be forced from our hearts, "Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." And again, "Rebuke me not in your wrath, neither chasten me in your hot displeasure. For your arrows stick fast in me, and your hand presseth me sore." "Forsake me not . . . make haste to help me." This is the way the Lord opens our ears to discipline, and when our souls are bowed down to the dust and we thirst for the living God, then in some way or other spiritual life is more clearly perceived, and we find power to pour out our souls before the Lord; upon which he presently appears, and the voice of joy is heard. How humbling is all this work, and how little it makes us to feel ourselves! How wise we see his dispensations! How light the vanities of the world appear, compared with this! How short time seems in the sweet prospect of that eternal weight of glory which is set before us, and of which we are at such a time in our measure partakers! Religion without these changes has not the fear of God for its foundation, nor the Word of God for its rule, nor the Spirit of God to testify of its reality.

I speak and write as I do because I am continually falling into trouble, as one wave succeeds another, but have always found the truth of God's Word, "Not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you" (Joshua 23:14). No trouble has been too great for him. "Who are you, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain." Nothing shall be impossible with God, and nothing has been so in my case. He has surprised and won my heart and affections so that I am by his grace together with him contending against that body of sin within, that seeks to mar and destroy the vineyard which God's right hand has planted. Afflictions, crosses, perplexities, and various inextricable providences daily occur, to keep me of necessity dependent upon him; and in the exercise of this he discovers himself in all the various characters that I can desire, and to the utter confusion of all my spiritual enemies. Oh! the discovery of these foul enemies casts me down almost to the gates of despair; but this unchangeable everlasting love of God is unsearchable, and the subject too great ever to get to the end of it.

I commend you with many prayers to the Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be a fellow partaker both of the sufferings and of the joy.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 160

(To Mrs. Tims) London, 11 January 1839.

Dear Mrs. Tims,

I often think of the manner of my leaving your kind and hospitable residence, and ought to be ashamed that I have found no time to thank you before this. My exercises have been multiplied and changed into so many shapes and forms that I have scarcely had courage to visit any of the friends here; but I have been taught the meaning of the words, "For your shame you shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion." Out of these deep and low places it is that the Lord picks us up and exalts us to a place of safety; here we find the reality and stability of God's faithfulness and mercy to us in Christ Jesus. Out of these deep waters spring the brightest evidences as well as the deepest humiliation and self-abasement. When the Savior comes to us in these extremities, then it is we repent in dust and ashes, and find no place low enough to put ourselves in, and none high enough for the Savior. We can but weep it out, for the apostle tells us the truth, and says it is "joy unspeakable and full of glory".

The profession of the day is carried on with a light heart, and is as unsavory as the white of an egg. I have told all of you in my morning readings of the troubles and afflictions that await God's people, and my mournful message has seemed very discouraging to some; but we can only testify of such things as we have tasted and handled of the Word of life. I am continually falling into these difficult places, and shall I not show there is a need for them? I am sure I set forth the power and efficacy of God's grace in bringing me out; and how shall I sufficiently exalt him for this? Some, three parts asleep, will say, All do not go into such troubles; I answer, All do not get to Heaven that say, "Lord, Lord." The Lord tells us, "The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

The fear of God is a rich treasure; how tender it shows itself of God's honor; with what spiritual obedience and reverence it delights in God's service; how watchful it makes us; when he frowns, how we stoop and put our mouths in the dust; and when he smiles, how we draw near and give him our best affections, and surrender all things into his hands, and how delighted we are to feel that he will condescend to be our Guardian and Guide. May the Lord increase this more and more in you as the day approaches, is the sincere desire of

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 161

(To W. B.) London, 17 April 1839.

My dear young Friend,

I cannot forget you, and the way in which we first became acquainted at Pulverbach. I am anxious to tell you of the unsettled state of my mind when first the Lord began to work upon me. I could give no reason why it should be so, nor settle myself by any means; I changed my purposes and accomplished nothing, until at length I was quite cast down, and felt myself an outcast whom no man regarded. Here I was led, before I knew the Lord for myself, to go in secret, and most earnestly cry to the Lord to direct my way and show me what it was his will I should do, that I might not appear as an idler in the world; and to my utter astonishment the Lord plainly pointed out the way I have followed these last forty years, and prospered me in it; and in this employment he called me by his grace to the saving and spiritual knowledge of himself. All my friends feared I should come to ruin, but God had different purposes for me; and in due time, though by very slow degrees, unfolded his manifold wisdom and mercy to me in Christ Jesus. Mine has been a path of great tribulation; my sin has made it so. My foolish back has called for many strokes, and the Lord has not spared for my much crying, but his compassions have never failed. Always in the time of extremity the Lord Jesus Christ has been a very present help.

Do you find your spirit in earnest prayer in secret? Prayer God appoints (as Hart says) to convey the blessings he designs to give; and I hope you will manifest, sooner or later, that he has given you a spirit of grace and supplication. Let me be allowed to give you a piece of advice. You are of such an age as is considered in the world, in some measure, equal not only to judge for yourself, but also to act for yourself, without being a burden to your father, who, being a clergyman, is not capable of properly settling you in active life. Therefore let your restless spirit unceasingly cry to God for all things temporal and spiritual; and let it be seen that God can give you that energy which shall determine your pursuits, and that you are in downright earnest to seek the blessing of God in them. If you are honest here, be assured you cannot seek in vain. He can fit you for anything, and lead you the right way to accomplish it; and if you watch his hand, you will see how wonderfully he will lead you and guide you; and if you be not as the horse too rash, or as the mule too stubborn, you will perceive his gracious eye upon you for good (Psalm 32:8, 9). The pillar of cloud will be your direction by day, and the pillar of fire your protection in the night of affliction and adversity. This I can well testify. He has never left nor forsaken me; and I still trust he will yet deliver.

I am, my dear friend, yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 162

(To Mrs. Oakley) London, May 1839.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

How true it is that through Christ alone we are more than conquerors! You well know (by watching what goes on within) the power of our grand adversary; how he attacks our hopes, and seeks to sap the very foundation. He often almost makes us believe that the Lord has done nothing for us, and that all is a delusion; but our troubles rise so quickly, and the Spirit so helps our infirmities, that we cannot but cry mightily for mercy; and Jesus Christ steps in to our relief; our burden is gone, our fears assuaged, and the storm becomes a calm, so that we prove this enemy a liar. Sometimes he tells us that we walk in presumption, and find fault with everybody; and then sends some hypocritical professor to warn us of our danger, and tell us that we shut out the people of God and his faithful ministers, who show such feigned love; and these things are so plausibly brought before us that it is not possible to withstand their influence, unless the Spirit of truth guide us. There hardly seems an ear left to hear the secret cry of the Spirit within, causing us to tremble, and putting some such words as these into our hearts, O Lord, I am distracted and drawn in all directions, but I am afraid to grieve your Holy Spirit; let it please you to lead me in a plain path, and "let my sentence come forth from your presence."

It is in this way the Lord has led me through many difficult and painful paths, and has preserved my feet from the snare of the fowler. That trembling and weak dependence upon the Lord can never be put to shame nor confounded. It is only the fat and the strong that shall be destroyed. You will find by the papers that your friend will lend you that I have this winter waded through many deep waters, and that it has been only by the Lord Jesus Christ taking me by the hand that I was preserved from sinking, and brought to praise him. My religion, like yours, as well as my outward matters, are by no means mirthful. Full of troubles and conflicts, I must bear this testimony: I never yet fell into any difficulty or trouble but the Lord delivered me, and made me to praise him for his goodness and mercy; and I am quite sure that you will find the same.

Keep watching what the Lord continually speaks upon your heart, and beg for grace to understand and follow that. Pray for spiritual obedience, and listen not to any "Lo here" or "Lo there." Let the Spirit be your guide, not only in spiritual matters, but also in your temporal affairs; and remember that God is the Guardian of the poor and afflicted. You need no better friend. It is to his love I commend you; and I desire in return your prayers, that we both may in the great day of account be accounted worthy through the worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yours very faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 163

(To J. G.) London, 7 July 1839.

My dear Friend,

I have long wished to write to you, but I have been so cast down that I have not been able to do anything to purpose. My fears and despondency have prevented my fellowship with others, and I knew not how I should show my face again. But the Lord, who is infinite in mercy now and then, softened my spirit, and for a few minutes revived my hope; and yesterday morning I felt a sweet influence come over my mind, with much awe and holy reverence before God. I was in secret, and said in my despondency, Surely this is the true essential fear of God; and immediately the Lord bore a sweet testimony to the truth of this, and added such a divine and comforting testimony of his everlasting favor, and that he would never leave me nor forsake me, that I could not but rejoice in this salvation. It was very sweet to me for a season; but the confusion and darkness of my mind gathered again, and I was greatly cast down, not knowing how far these things would eventually sap the foundation of my hope.

This morning (being Sunday) I was hearing our minister commenting on Luke 17:6: "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say unto this Sycamore tree, Be you plucked up by the root, and be you planted in the sea; and it should obey you." The Lord the Spirit helped my infirmities, and I believed he had wrought this grain of genuine faith in my heart; and it immediately raised me up from all the fears and unbelief that I had labored under for some weeks. While the minister was setting forth the impossibility of the least ground that is gained in faith ever being lost, I believed it with all my heart; and many times circumstances and things recurred to my mind wherein I had most assuredly at the time believed with all my heart, which I now received as truly as if accomplished, with eternal life at the head as the sure issue. This gave me one of the sweetest and most lively testimonies of God's love to me in Christ Jesus that I have had for some years; it set my mind and heart free towards Pulverbach, and my spiritual affections went out in a most lively manner for the welfare of every one of you, and I longed to see you once more in the flesh, if I might, by the blessing of God, impart some fresh benefit to your souls. I must acknowledge that I am less than the least of you all, but the Lord chooses not by outward appearance. He can and often does make use of the meanest instruments. In consequence of all this I am now, by the will of God, and all things combining to bring it about, made willing and pleased to go; and I purpose seeing you in the course of ten days.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 164

(To Mr. Nunn) Stapleton, Shropshire, 21 July 1839.

My dear Friend,

We had, by the blessing of God, a favorable journey. Our friends were ready to receive us, and glad of our arrival. Poor Mr. Oakley (in whose house we lodge) is in a most distressing state; his faculties are very weak, but not so bad in that respect as I expected. He tells me he has been almost in despair for nearly two years together. 'O Sir, I am the vilest sinner that ever was on the earth; there can be no hope for such a sinner.' I asked, Do you pray for mercy? 'Yes, Sir, but I am too great a sinner to hope; there is none like me.' I said, The Lord came to save sinners, not the righteous; it was only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that he was sent. He seemed to pause, and I asked him if he ever had hope. He replied, 'Now and then a little transient hope'; and then burst out crying, 'O that I could but be saved! There is nothing I want but mercy.' He is a farmer, seventy-three years of age. In conversation with his wife he said, 'I do think I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he is the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.' She said, Can you pray? He then prayed, 'O Lord, show me the light of your countenance, and your salvation.' After this there seemed a gleam of light upon his soul, and for a little while he saw the way, and Christ the living head directing him.

I never spent such a sixteen months as the last have been; the first six or seven in sweet assurances of the Lord's presence and help; the winter in one continued scene of changes, in the deepest despondency and fear, and now and then very comforting promises of help. Many terrible fears respecting my coming here, but some of the kindest assurances of the Lord's approbation and presence. Much of all this again quickly covered with clouds, so that I felt fears about acting upon what I had been assured came from the Lord. Yet I ventured, and am now sensible of the Lord's great mercy to me hitherto. All my desponding fears and misgiving apprehensions of danger the Lord has been pleased to remove; and he gives me sweet liberty in his Word in the family worship, so that I am satisfied the Lord is my Guardian and Counselor, and I hope my visit here may not be in vain to the people I converse with. Mrs. Oakley has just been telling me how profitable she has found our morning readings, and how she feels that it is the Lord who is instructing her by his servant.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 165

(To Mrs. T.) Stapleton, 1 August 1839.

Dear Cousin,

I cannot help beginning at once with a visit I had from Mrs. Oakley. She was too full to wait until I might go into her room. She had been upstairs to see Mr. Oakley, and found him in a very meek and peaceful spirit. He said, "Where is it in the Testament about the crumbs that fall from the Master's table, which Mr. Bourne spoke of to me?" She read it to him, and he then said, "I have such a hope that I shall have some of these crumbs; I have been pondering this ever since I heard it, and am much encouraged. I have been reading the Psalms, and Psalm 116 has been very sweet to me, and has made me so comfortable that I want you to stop, and let us talk these things over. I am a great sinner, and have been a devil to you, but these crumbs have made me very peaceful."

There is a great opposition to the truth in this place; but the Lord has said, "Hitherto shall you go, and no further; and here shall your proud waves be stayed." Plans of all sorts have been laid to frustrate our proceeding, but as yet they have not been suffered to do so.

I must acknowledge the goodness of God. He still preserves me in peace and hope, and all that terror and fear I lately suffered he has for the present been pleased to remove, which I never expected in this life. I look back upon the last twelve months' trouble with dread, for though the Lord condescended at times to comfort me greatly with sweet hope, yet the quick returning again to despondency was terrible, and I could not fathom the dispensation. I saw how far I was in trouble, but saw not how much further I might go, and to what extent he might lay his hand upon me. I was afraid of his judgments, for if he had dealt with me according to my sin, I should have been pursued to destruction; but these words were often a stay to me, and once came with great power; "As I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you."

What you allude to respecting Mr. —'s conflict, I believe is just to let him taste of the bitter cup. I think no evil of him, when I think he will yet have it sharper and longer. I believe with all my heart it will only be to give him brighter and clearer evidences of Christ's love to him. It is true all are not afflicted alike, nor dare I say he has not had many sore throes; yet surely when the Lord comes to show him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are hid in Christ Jesus, this will open his heart and his mouth, and keep them open. For though the riches of Christ are unsearchable, and the height and depth and breadth and length of his love are far beyond our measuring, yet we do, through the fire and through the water, obtain a goodly portion; and the clusters of grapes that grow in this wealthy land refresh the soul so much, that we cannot but speak well of it. So may the Lord in mercy deal with us.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 166

(To Mr. James Abbott) Stapleton, 1 August 1839.

Dear Companion in the path of tribulation,

Since I have lately from time to time heard of your conflicts, you have been much in my heart and affections. I have scarcely found any that have been so long and so deeply involved in those despairing feelings with which I have been exercised through the last twelve months. The great goodness and mercy of God has been very conspicuous in visiting my soul with exceeding great promises; yet my returning so quickly into misery and fear has caused me to think at times there must have been some fatal mistake in my experience. I have often wondered at the forbearance of God, for I have felt anything but a trust in him. Fear, and sometimes terror, took hold upon me; but at times I saw the Psalmists were in like troubles: "Chasten me not in your hot displeasure." Many such sentences in the Word of God kept my heart crying to him. His Word was very precious to me, and I can say with truth that he sometimes visited my soul with some word, some hope, or some sweet meditation of his friendship towards me, not less than four or five times a day. These words were very comforting at one time, "For a small moment have I forsaken you, but with great mercies will I gather you . . . The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you." Notwithstanding these very sweet renewals of God's favors in Christ Jesus, I continually returned, like Abraham, to my old place, and the Lord left off communing with me. I found the ministry exceedingly profitable the greatest part of this period, and sometimes knew not where to hide myself because of the Lord's love and sweet presence. At these times you always gave out such hymns as exactly suited my case, so that the whole worship seemed on purpose for me.

I think I hear you ask, Are you any the worse for your troubles and exercises? O no! I have found out by God's grace that the prosperous poor and afflicted people of God must pass through much tribulation; and my heart trembles now, while I write, for I know not what is before me in order to cut down that vain conceit of knowledge and judgment, which is so rampant in us all.

In this path of tribulation we learn many things which we never properly understood before; this for one: "Considering yourself, lest you also be tempted." It makes us perceive that all wisdom does not dwell with us, and that there is a very hasty deciding upon cases where God never sets us to judge. There is also a great readiness to think we must be always talking, and to condemn the attentive listeners for not talking, though I have ever found, even in the most profitable talkers, that the greater part has been about nothing. The furnace makes us feel that we are very, very poor, and then by the mercy of God a few words from a tried saint sink deep; and we are glad to hear in silence what the Lord will say to us by another. Then something is drawn out of our hearts which seems so small that we hardly dare speak of it; and this is what God prospers and owns and honors; and one poor creature and another comes and says, I am thankful to God that you spoke, I am greatly comforted or encouraged; and you scarcely believe that such as you can be profitable, and therefore readily give God the glory.

Hence comes a sweet and divine unity; no boasting, no empty talking, no brawling; but the Holy Spirit bears witness to this sort of communion, and (like the disciples of old) our hearts burn within us, while we thus talk by the way. In this union, which the Spirit of God works in the heart, there is evidently also something further that is sweet and establishing to the soul; even the love of the Father shed abroad in our hearts, the love of Christ manifestly constraining us, and the love of the Spirit testifying of the same; and that with such clearness and sweetness that we perceive it is what the Lord speaks of in John 17: "That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us." What religion is worth having without this? Besides the Lord says that he will give us his glory, which the Father gave him, that we may be all one, as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one.

You and I must wait until we arrive at eternal glory before we can fully understand these unsearchable riches, to which we are born again. This is my hope; this is what my very soul is set upon; and when my evidences and title to this beautiful inheritance become beclouded, I fear and tremble, for I cannot bear the loss of such a rich treasure.

Remember me to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

Letter 167

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Stapleton, 9 August 1839.

My dear Friend,

I must thank you most sincerely for your kind intelligence from time to time. I have been exceedingly comforted with my letters from London, and hope you will be able to get out of the bondage which has so long held you. I feel the bias of your legal spirit even in your earnest seeking to break forth into spiritual liberty. The moment you write what poor Mrs. Jones dictates, it is all laid aside, and you write a pure language. The liberty that we have in Christ Jesus is a wonderful, mysterious, and powerful thing. See how it supports her under all her severe trials! She feels that dying is a dark valley, but the spiritual liberty which she finds in Christ Jesus supports her, and removes her fear and dread. It is this liberty in Christ Jesus that counteracts despair in my soul, and causes hope to be as an anchor both sure and steadfast. I often say to myself in secret, All but gone; but here in this time of extremity the dear Lord Jesus whispers, "No more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ;" and a joint-heir with Christ. This is liberty indeed, and humbles the soul to the dust in self-abasement.

Lamenting the sad discovery of ten thousand evils which are more or less bringing a continual cloud over my mind, I found these words very sweet in my family reading this morning: "All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea" (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). I replied in my mind, Then why should I complain and despair, seeing this is the way that all have gone before me? For surely I have eaten of "the same spiritual meat", and drunk of "the same spiritual drink", and that is Christ. We soon begin to think it strange if we fall into temptation, and forget there is a continual need for it, that our topsails may be lowered. I never should have chosen such a path of tribulation as I am generally walking in; my natural inclination would have been for something more easy and dignified. But I now believe with all my heart that there is a need for it; first, that I may be brought as a beggar to the Lord Jesus Christ (we hear of none else being in Abraham's bosom); and secondly, that I may know how more to prize this blessed Savior, who has brought me up out of such deep and desperate places. Hart says,

"Could we his person learn to prize,
We more should prize his grace."

The Lord is determined we shall learn this lesson more or less; he therefore suffers us to fall into all sorts of difficulties, and sanctifies them, so that, like Paul in the shipwreck, all hope of being saved seems taken away. Then, my dear friend, what think you of Christ? O what inexpressible grace! As poor Frank said, when black despair was close at hand, then it was he "against hope believed in hope", and found Christ, the resurrection and the life. May you be able thus to prevail, and then you will know what true spiritual liberty means.

(August 11.) I have come with much fatigue to Sukey's today, and I write this at her house. The Lord has been very precious to me here, and Proverbs 3:1-20 has been most sweet; the power of the words "my son" was more than I ever felt; the endearing epithet quite broke my heart, and brought me into the sweet liberty I write about at the beginning. Under the power of this liberty I could trust to the Lord with all my heart, and not lean to my own understanding; and by this sweet and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ all depths of sorrow, hardness, and impenitency were broken up, and the clouds dropped down the dew. May the Lord grant you a portion of the same, and set your soul free in Christ.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 168

(To Mrs. T.) Stapleton, 18 August 1839.

My dear Cousin,

I now feel the great importance of having to instruct others, because my own ignorance is so great. My difficulty in prevailing in prayer also keeps me from presumption. I am not without hope, but dare not ask for great things; every day convinces me of my extreme ignorance, and from my heart I am forced to acknowledge that I am the last and the least of all the Lord's people. When I returned home on Sunday after I had had the sweetest tokens of the Lord's presence and favor, I pondered the matter over and said, Was this indeed, Lord, spoken upon my heart for my encouragement, and may I receive it as a token of your kind approbation? Something came so sweetly again into my heart with these words, As a father chastens the son in whom he delights, so only does he chasten you. This was just as I was going to bed, and being alone I gave vent to my feelings in acknowledgment of his wonderful care, kindness, and mercy, to me. I was now satisfied that the Lord was with me. "My son!" It is no mean thing to be thus chastened, therefore do not grow weary; love is in every blow. How these things make me to ponder my way and wherefore I am brought here. I dare not say it is in vain, the Lord is so with me; yet I am more weak and miserable in myself than I can express, fearing and trembling and watching and praying; and when I feel close to an overthrow, then the Lord appears to comfort me. Also he comforts me by some intelligence of good received through so weak an instrument.

Mr. Oakley is at times all but in despair, and now and then he seems to catch at something to hope upon. He still remembers "the crumbs that fall from the Master's table" and hopes to get some; but last night and early this morning he seemed past all hope, until at last he said, "I see the Savior on the cross shedding his blood for me; I see his blood spilt for me; I have hope. I was in Hell last night, but the Savior tells me that his blood is sufficient for all my sins." Mrs. Oakley says that he never had such distinct hope, nor ever such deep despair, before I spoke to him, and that he has never since been so dreadfully outrageous; but his spirit is calm, and there seems a great change. He told me he had a soul to save, and then added, "for ever, and ever, and ever. O Sir, to go to Hell is very terrible!" I have been able to persuade him to attend our family reading these last two days. What all this means the Lord will show in due time. One says, "Satan must ask leave before he smites Job, or sifts Peter."

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 169

(To Mr. Nunn) Stapleton, September 1839.

My dear Friend,

I find many things combine to exercise my mind here, and it is no small difficulty to keep a continual sense of God's presence with me. Perhaps God is pleased to make use of these as a means of bringing me to himself, for with all my vain attempts I cannot do without him. I am often cast down and much laden with inexpressible fears and misgivings, having at times such discoveries of what is within that I cannot help thinking there are none like me. I think I could enter into your letter, and feel the difficulties with which you are surrounded.

You will see by the accounts I have sent that I cannot mold all to my pattern, nor can I frame a pattern by the Word of God that shall suit the precise case of every one. I perceive many things must be taken into consideration. First, "Take heed." This is loudly spoken upon my heart, "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall;" therefore I am led to be very tender and serious, that I may not judge according to outward appearances, and that our pulling down weapons be not carnal, but mighty through God. The strongholds of Satan can be destroyed by God's power only, and not by my caprice. I may boast of the authority which God has given me; but if I do, I had need to take heed that I stretch not myself beyond my measure, for not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. This makes me to move with great fear and many prayers, and I trust the Lord having given me prudence has overruled all things for the mutual humbling of every one of us.

The poor people here find I am not come to trifle, but that both they and myself are accountable for both hearing and speaking; and our consciences I trust are kept alive, by the Lord's making us susceptible of the importance of the word spoken. As a wise author says, Have we no cause to fear? Have we no need of caution? The better your opinion of yourself is, the closer ought your search to be. For it is not said, Let him that made a slip take heed; but, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall;" for many live in a form; that is easy, but there is no dying in a form. Therefore it is necessary to be deeply humbled with many fears respecting myself and a sight of the difficulties to which I am exposed, in order to set before these poor creatures the conflict as well as the conquest, He is "the God of all grace", who calls us unto eternal glory by Jesus Christ; and by the power of this grace he will effectually instruct me how to be sober and feed the flock, and not lord it over them, that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, he may crown both them and me with that glory that fades not away.

I had been burdened for two or three days until yesterday with a very grievous load upon my spirit. I mourned and cried under it, and could get no relief; but the Lord appeared last night in reading, and gave me a sense of his kindness and goodwill, and showed me that he always had a good will towards me, but that there was a need for this heaviness to keep down my proud and foolish heart. O how low these visits make me to put myself, and what a holy trust and confidence I place in him in all his dealings and dispensations! At such a time I know that all things are intended, and do work, for my good.

My subject today was Hebrews 12:1:I found my heart deeply affected with it, and told the people there was no setting aside dead weights, and besetting sins, and no running our race with patience, but by looking unto Jesus; and that nothing else would strengthen the hands that hang down, or make the knees to bow before God. Many professions are entered into, but in the end prove unsound; for those who hold them look to themselves and not to Jesus, and therefore their faith Christ will not own, being neither the author of it nor the finisher. Look diligently to this, for it is not he who thinks he stands that shall prevail; but, as Hart says,

"A wounded soul, and not a whole,
Becomes a true believer."

Sukey Harley said she found the Word searched her beyond expression; "I know," she said, "that the Lord is with you, for I wanted to put away many things, but my Redeemer would not let me; and at last he gave me power to fall, and there I find my comfort. But, O Sir, what shall I do when you are gone? I shall feel my need more than ever; O how I pray for you, and that the Lord would bless you at home!"

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 170

London, 2 November 1839.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

I cannot help calling to mind the manner in which I first became acquainted with you, and how afterwards myself and family resided in your house. I was exercised often in much prayer that the Lord would direct me that I might not speak after the wisdom of the flesh, but that our family worship might be attended "with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power". Though I cannot boast of wisdom or superior light, yet I must say that the Lord in his all-wise and overruling providence has given me many advantages by an enlightened and faithful ministry; having fixed the bounds of my habitation here, where not only, is the truth preached, but the continual communication with the afflicted people of God has been a very fruitful, instructive, and humbling lesson to me. These means it has pleased God in a measure to deprive you of. Perhaps on this account I was enabled to discover many things in which you were hoodwinked, and wherein you lived very short of your privileges. I was much comforted often to see how teachable your spirit was, and how you were enabled to pass over the weakness of the instrument, and to pay great reverence to the Word of the Lord; and this again made me the more earnest in secret that I might have the presence and approbation of the Lord, and that I might myself enjoy the comfort and liberty I set before you.

I had many distressing fears, and sometimes severe conflicts almost to despair, even while I was at your house; but the Lord always appeared, sooner or later. At one time, when I seemed ready to give all up, fearing exceedingly I was not right in speaking as I did to the poor people at Pulverbach, these words came with great sweetness and power, "My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction; for whom the Lord loves he corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights." In the strength of this I found great liberty to speak, and it assured me that the Lord had directed my way, and that it should not be in vain. Besides, I often found the sweet and comforting presence of God, when I was with my family in your little room; I was quite sure that the Lord was with us, for I perceived that he opened your eyes upon many things that you had not laid to heart before, some of which had brought you into great bondage.

I was much encouraged when you told me of the courage the Lord gave you to read Jude to the people that assembled with such levity, under the pretense of visiting a sick friend. How it showed me that the Lord had indeed drawn a clean line of separation between your spirit and theirs. This I believe is the gulf that God has fixed between his people and all carnal professors; they that would pass here cannot, for they cannot understand that this secret distinction rests entirely with them that fear him, and they alone shall share in his covenant.

Let me entreat you to pray to be kept very tender, and not seek to pass the line that God has drawn. I perceive he has made you very observant; be sure to keep in mind what you felt when little Becca brought you the tract, and the scripture which then first caught your eye; let it never slip from your heart: "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications." This Spirit will always bring us very low in our own estimation, to feel and understand in a measure the exceeding sinfulness of sin; and then what follows will indeed make us sober-minded: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn for him, and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." There is nothing that will bring us down like this, nor anything that will prove so safe and profitable, or make us so careful and tender in our walk; for here we learn that everything that is untoward in us is a fresh piercing of him, and this will bring us quickly to confession and many earnest prayers for a fresh discovery of Christ's mercy to us.

I hope Mr. Oakley has not forgotten to ask for the crumbs that fall from the Master's table; tell him despair is the worst of sins, and that the Lord delights in all that hope in his mercy. How I grieved that the enemy should so overpower him as to prevent his joining us in family worship! He ought to know that all sorts of sinners and sins are pardonable. "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." Why will he lie in his bed in direct opposition to God? It is most fearful. There can be no good come of direct disobedience to God. May the Lord help him from henceforth to call upon his name; and may God bless you with a daily increase of godly fear.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 171

(To Mrs. F.) London, 22 November 1839.

Dear Mrs. F.,

I have been anxiously watching the various changes that I have heard have passed upon your mind since your first attack in this illness. God does nothing by chance, nor in vain; but he often deals in very peculiar tenderness with some, and I think with none more so than with you. How gently he led you through various secret cogitations, until he brought you to a fuller discovery of the dangerous state of your soul, and of the souls of all mankind by nature! O how gently he instructed you in the nature of sin and its consequences when you lay fainting at the Lodge! Death at your heels, sin all round about you, and guilt unpurged and unatoned. All this the Lord showed you at that time, and by the sight taught you to pray in earnest for mercy. There you saw in a measure the vanity of all created things. Nothing then seemed so suitable to your wishes as for God to be reconciled in the face of Jesus Christ. This led you to be very serious in your desires and inquiries after the Word of the Lord, and you could then have hazarded much if you might but be permitted to hear the Word. You thought, and thought justly, that something by it might be made known to you respecting the way. In all this appeared to be spiritual life and sensibility; and moreover you found it was not in vain, but this apparent life manifested itself in various ways; sometimes with deep exercises and conflicts of fear and dismay in the night, and a feeling that you must be among the people of God, for it is only "out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined". Then the Lord spoke to you by that psalm you named to me, which contained much encouragement for you; and about the same time you had some answer to your prayers respecting leave to hear the Word, and you did hear it, with a power with which you had never heard before.

All these things are the secret tender leadings of the Spirit of God, and denote that you are of that vineyard spoken of in Isaiah 5:It is said "he fenced it", that is, the Lord gave you those secret checks, and little discoveries of his mind and will, to keep you and fence you from the path of the destroyer, "and gathered out the stones thereof", that is, all the rubbish of carnal reason, natural affection when clashing with God's Word, pride, vanity, conceit of knowledge, hardness of heart, and many more such things; "and planted it with the choicest vine", that is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory"; "and built a tower in the midst of it", that is, upon all the glory he put a defense, according to his promise (chapter 4); "and also made a winepress therein", that is, all the furnace-work and sanctified afflictions which his people go through; and then comes the issue, "and he looked that it should bring forth grapes", that is, fruit unto eternal life; but alas! we find the charge against us is: "It brought forth wild grapes."

This is the point I would by all means draw your attention to: "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" What gentleness, what pity, what tenderness! And where is the return? I have always watched this, that where there has been a peculiar stir or exercise of the mind, such as you have lately gone through, it always is, sooner or later, brought to this issue; it brings forth either good grapes, or wild grapes.

You will naturally ask, How shall I know which? If good, the glory I spoke of will be defended by the power of God against all temptation, and there will be a growth of tenderness and anxiety in hearing the Word of the Lord, and a walking more or less in the daily exercise of watching the coming and going of the Lord. If wild grapes, an outward show of quietness, and a usual appearance at our appointed places, but a terrible death within, with many secret suspicions that all is not right, and a seeking after the flesh to put that straight which God will (under such circumstances) make and keep crooked. This last is generally attended with repeated blows of God's sensible displeasure, and a legal striving to mend that which Christ alone can mend; and this brings on "the sorrow of the world", that "works death". But he who hearkens to the Word of the Lord, either in his dispensations or in any other way or means by which he is pleased to show his mind and will, will find a defense upon his measures that shall keep him safe from all his enemies; "his leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper."

May the Lord encourage you to watch and pray, and fear; for happy is that man that trembles at his Word. God bless you, is the prayer of

Your unworthy but faithful friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 172

(To his Daughter H.) London, 23 November 1839.

My dear H.,

I trust you had a safe journey, and doubt not you have had a very kind reception from our friends at Hertford. I miss you in many ways, and you are often in my thoughts, especially in my prayers that the God of all grace may stand by you, and sanctify every change that in his providence he may direct. You have not been absent from me since your last illness; and it being exactly twelve months since I was sent for on that occasion from the place where you now are, brings afresh to my mind the many sorrows I endured at that time, and the way in which the Lord watched over me. As my need, so was the strength he gave me; or I should have utterly despaired. For though he turned me to destruction, yet how tenderly and carefully, and with what assurances of love, did he prop up my sinking spirit, until he did indeed comfort us on every side! How sweetly he brought you up out of the depths, and set your feet upon a rock, and established your goings! Before this you knew but little either of yourself or of the Lord; but you have since found where the wealthy place lies, that is, "through fire and through water".

May the Lord keep you ever in remembrance of the wormwood and the gall, that your soul may be deeply humbled within you. Never forget that the conflict is not over, but only just begun; as Hart says,

"When his pardon is sealed, and his peace is procured,
From that moment his conflict begins."

The temptations of the enemy are too subtle for us to find out before we are caught in the snare. Among these are pride, feigned humility, conceit, self-will, and a long train of the like; sometimes even accompanied with tears, until we think them graces. But the Spirit of God now and then shines on a sudden with such a luster and piercing power that we are for a moment quite overwhelmed, and fear we have altogether mistaken the way; and in this fear is light and life, causing a mournful cry: "Woe is me, for I am undone!" That cry is all the Lord calls for; when that comes from a broken heart, presently "a live coal from off the altar" touches the heart; iniquity is forgiven, and sin purged; and then, free as air, we bless and praise the Lord once more for his wonderful love and mercy to the chief of sinners (Isaiah 6:5-7).

In this way I am led, and I doubt not you move in the same. In this way the pride of man is brought low, and the insuperable love of Christ exalted. By these things we gain confidence to put our trust in him, and seek most ardently to make him our Counselor and Friend.

"Be sober, be vigilant;" for your adversary will never cease nor tire while you have one breath to draw. Beware of a worldly spirit, idle vague conversation, listless frames; these are the engines Satan works with. Seek especially for godly simplicity. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," and can obtain nothing from the Lord.

Your affectionate father, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 173

(To one who manifested enmity) Stoke Newington, 9 December 1839.

Dear Friend,

There is not a more subtle corruption than prejudice, the offspring of enmity, a true child of the devil, which often influences and greatly affects that corrupt part which is found in the hearts of the children of God, and is called in Scripture "the old man". We are told by the Word of the Lord to put off, or deny, this corrupt principle; and to "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord".

You have often given intimations of a work of grace upon your heart; and have spoken of troubles and deliverances which, if of the right sort, must of necessity humble the soul in the dust. The very distant suspicion of enmity in the heart towards any one, at such a time, would bring the soul into great consternation; and these words would stare the poor creature in the face, so that he would not dare to lift up his head, but cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner"; "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20). This sentence would so burden and bind us, that we should never be able to approach a throne of grace, nor feel any other thing than that the Lord beholds us afar off, while we encourage the least ill-will or unkind thought towards any of the children of God. Divine charity "thinks no evil, bears all things, hopes all things;" and it never fails, nor deviates from this rule.

I have always observed that such as are free to judge others seldom judge themselves. You perhaps will ask, Why then are you so free? Because I do not so willingly judge, as I would admonish and caution; and because you have expressed much respect for me, and what I have said on these occasions. I therefore venture to show you that you will never be able to prove your footing upon the Rock of Ages, when the rains descend and the winds of error beat upon you, and the terrors of death assail you, if the least grain of enmity be encouraged.

If you desire the counsel of a friend, and tell me that you are under a sore conflict in this matter; that the temptation is so strong that you mourn under the weight of it, but it often returns, then, I say, you are in the footsteps of the flock. We are all harassed in our turn by the violence of Satan. I would counsel you to pray incessantly for those whom you are tempted to revile. This is the way I have been led, and have found it the effectual teaching of the Spirit, and have received many blessings in my own soul, as well as found deliverance from the snare. He who will observe these things "shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord".

Thus we shall "lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us". In doing so, we shall be the better able to "run with patience the race that is set before us". Enmity keeps us looking to the dark side of everybody and everything but ourselves. Instead of which, if by the power of God's grace we deny that, and look to Jesus, we shall soon understand that he is the Author and Finisher of that faith which will carry us through all our difficulties, as it did those worthies mentioned in Hebrews 11:This faith will work by love, and teach us to endure the cross, and deny our lusts.

Therefore, my friend, "despise not you the chastening of the Lord" for your sins and pride; "nor faint when you are rebuked of him." For only those whom he thus takes in hand he loves, and receives none but whom he scourges (Hebrews 12:1-8).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 174

(To M. G.) Stoke Newington, 9 December 1839.

My dear Friend,

Your present affliction has entered deeply into my mind, and I can truly feel for you, and find much encouragement in my prayers in your behalf. It never was said to the seed of Jacob, "Seek you me in vain;" nor can I be persuaded that the conflict you have described can end in anything but a conquest. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." The intercession of Christ is never more needed, nor given, than when we are surrounded with perplexities; "troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." We which have this spiritual life "are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh", and that in all the deliverances which he works for us (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Where would be the glory of God's grace, if we were always in very easy places and very slight difficulties? He magnifies the riches of his power and the efficacy of his grace by working impossibilities; and when all our strength, wisdom, and natural hope is gone, then comes in the beauty, suitableness, and sweetness of his almighty power, which saves to the uttermost. Remember the mercy of the Lord in these words, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake, and without fail recover all." "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

"Poor pilgrims shall not stray,
Who, frighted, flee from wrath.
A bleeding Jesus is the way,
And blood tracks all the path."

You see the conflict must be sharp, but the conquest shall be sure. May the Lord continue to give you that prudence, discretion, and silence, with which he has hitherto armed you, and you will find your safety in turning this battle "to the gate" (Isaiah 28:6), for it thus becomes not yours but the Lord's; and woe be to them who are found fighting against the Lord. I never felt that word more true than now, and I believe it will be seen in your case: "He who touches you touches the apple of his eye" (Zechariah 2:8). The judgment of God lingers not. The quarrel is his, and woe be to him that contends with his Maker. "Surely in the fire of my jealousy I have spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession, with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey." Therefore the Lord says, "They shall bear their shame," but "I will do better unto you than at your beginnings, and you shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 36:5-11). So that you may perceive that the wisdom of God is such, that out of the darkest dispensations he often gives to his people their brightest evidences, and the sweetest tokens of his loving-kindness towards them.

Tell your sister not to be disheartened if she fears she has scarcely bodily strength or spirits to go through these dark valleys; tell her, if she seeks the Lord and watches the effects of her petitions, she will soon perceive that the Lord has not said in vain, "As your days so shall your strength be." Do not give way to carnal reason. "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

"Your Captain is stronger
Than all that oppose."

Make but a free use of him, and watch if he forbids it. On the contrary, I am sure you will gain courage this way. I know your often infirmities; you are soon cast down, because you too often look at the danger, and not at the strength that is in Christ Jesus.

You are now in the midst of the fiery furnace; you will soon tell me how you came out; that the Lord was with you in it, and that the smell of fire did not touch you. These are the ways and means the Lord takes to fit you to instruct your poor neighbors; his instruction is better than head-knowledge. I have been long inured to these conflicts, and cannot manage better with them than you; only I know you will gain the victory some way or other, because the Lord never yet failed his people once.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 175

(To M. and J. G.) Bayswater, 29 January 1840.

My dear Friends,

I cannot help sending you a few lines that perhaps would have been written before this, had I not been painfully ill for a two weeks. I entered this valley of humiliation with some feeling sense of my high privileges: "This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word has quickened me." In this I found eternal life, and had some sweet tokens and renewals of it as I proceeded. On Sunday morning, while looking and longing for a further renewal of this quickening power, as I read Malachi 4, the first verse filled me with awe, and I saw and felt much that, like stubble, must be burnt up; yet the Lord makes a reservation, which seemed to look straight at me, saying with inexpressible kindness and mercy, "but unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." This I found a spiritual healing, and the sweet rays of this Sun burnt to ashes all my unbelief, and left my spirit softened and comforted with a sweet hope.

I have been two days with my relations, Mr. and Mrs. T. I found a sweet gale from the Lord on my entering their house, a very soft and secret contrition, a deep feeling of humiliation, with a most sweet and honest power of confessing my sins, not with wrath and fear, but with an inexpressible feeling as of a child at the feet of a kind and tender Father.

This is the Friend I want to recommend to you in your present dilemma. He never fails. Listen to what he says: "Be still, and know that I am God." What see you in this dispensation? "A seething pot, and the face of it is towards the north", a cutting, trying dispensation, with many secret dark rebukes and reproofs for the Lord will utter his judgments in a broken law. Here I think the Lord has for some time held you; everything seems to make against you, and every testimony (however false it may be) seems to sink into your hearts; the Lord suffers it to enter your spirits as if it were true, and you find no shelter. This is God's design, that all refuge may fail you without and within. All shall fight against you, "but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you" (Jeremiah 1:13-19).

Though it may be a doleful, dark, and long night of affliction, yet I believe that this necessary law-work is to bring you down to know something more than you have done of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And remember, "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings," and you shall "go forth and grow up" in the midst of these terrible things. The effect will be a purer language, and a brighter view of Christ's precious salvation; and in the end all shall acknowledge that you are "the seed which the Lord has blessed".

Read very diligently Deuteronomy 4:"You that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive, every one of you, this day." In that chapter is set before us the great necessity of spiritual attention and diligence; and it shows us we cannot have a better token of God's favor than a secret watchfulness of the Lord's movements within and without, attended with prayer.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 176

(To M. and J. G.) London, 4 February 1840.

My dear Friends,

"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." The Lord has called you to the battle, and has in many ways told you that it is not yours, but his. While you have a breath to draw, spend it in prayer and confession to him. "A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring." It is said of one of old, "His heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz . . . and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted" (Isaiah 7:2-7). Let not your carnal fears nor any human threats drive you from an earnest and continual cry to the Lord. I have often in the course of my life been driven into such desperate places that I must either cry to the Lord or sink, and have always found the Lord to answer me in the extremity; and the greater the impossibility, the clearer has been the relief. If taught of the Spirit, you will find enough of your misery and sin to lay before the Lord; and you cannot abase yourselves too low. He will exalt such as abase themselves. It has pleased God to put you into the hot furnace, and he will sit as a refiner, and see that no pure metal shall be lost.

True religion consists of judgment and mercy. "Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it," (and that for the wisest purposes)? (Amos 3:6). O what a mercy it will be for you both, if you turn out apt scholars under this severe teaching! "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because you did it." Let your secret moments be much spent in confession, and you will then find that "like as a father pities his children", so, even so, will the Lord pity you. Do not look at your mountains of difficulty; that would make them the more impassable: but look to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has tenderly invited you to cast your burden upon him especially if you are "weary and heavy laden". If once you can believe he has a kind intention towards you, you will then feel a greater readiness to make use of him, and not be so frightened at the threats of your enemies. The Lord is stronger than all that oppose. Read Isaiah 7:1-9, and you will then see who has the ordering of all things, in Heaven above and on earth beneath; and I am sure they that touch Jerusalem will find it a "burdensome stone" (Zechariah 12:3).

With many prayers and hearty good wishes I commit you both into the hands of the Lord. You know he can do you no wrong, and this trial will work for good. I doubt not (nor will you in the end think it a strange thing) but God has something peculiar to do in it, which as yet cannot be fathomed. Patiently wait therefore, and quietly hope for his salvation; and remember they that wait for him never can nor shall be disappointed, world without end.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 177

(To M. and J. G.) London, 8 February 1840.

My dear Friends,

I am sorry to see you so cast down under your present trial. Surely you must be aware that the peculiar hand of God is in it all, and that it is for some express purpose as yet not known to you. But let me tell you the dispensation calls for great humiliation on your part; and instead of sorrowing as the world sorrows, you had need to watch and see if you can attain to that godly sorrow that works repentance unto life.

Paul tells the Thessalonians that they knew that they were appointed thereunto; and you ought to know it too, for it is through much tribulation you must enter the kingdom. He had told them before what I have often both written and spoken to you: "that we should suffer tribulation, even as it is come to pass;" and I still desire with him to write to you "to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain." I am sure I can also say with the apostle, that I am "greatly comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith; for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord." I do not forget you in prayer, as I believe this is your hour of temptation, and what I wrote in my last you do well to attend to, especially that secret communion with the Lord in confession; the more you are found here, the nearer you will be allowed to approach unto him.

In Psalm 81 it is said, "You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder" (this is where you now are); "I proved you at the waters of Meribah." Now mind what follows, "Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto you . . . . I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt" (the Egypt of this world); "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." O let me see and hear of the spiritual fulfillment of this! Your present circumstances call for it. If the Spirit ever was a spirit of grace and supplication in you, or if you ever knew what it was to have Christ for your Intercessor, let these things be seen now in your present difficulty, and do not let it be said, "My people would not hearken to my voice and Israel would none of me." If they had hearkened, the Lord would soon have subdued their enemies and turned his hand against their adversaries; he would have fed them with the finest of the wheat, and satisfied them with honey out of the rock.

By these things you may judge how you go on; and I hope the Lord will not suffer you to pore over your troubles, but encourage you to make much use of Christ, and see that this secret and spiritual fellowship be kept up. It can only be in Christ that you shall overcome your enemies; maintain an fellowship there or there can be no victory. I hope the Lord will make you very seriously to lay to heart the counsel you have had, and though the whole of it has been very contrary to flesh and blood, yet it has been a safe and sure way to come off more than conqueror.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 178

Hertford, 6 March 1840.

Dear Mrs. J.,

I am of necessity at a distance from you, yet I often lay to heart your case, and am greatly encouraged by it. God's faithfulness to his people is unfathomable, "his ways past finding out". O how great is his goodness towards them that fear him! "There is no want to them that fear him." How true and faithful to his Word he is! Though he speaks with ever so low a whisper upon our spirits, yet we have ever found him so; and it is one of our greatest mercies, that our unbelief does not make his Word without effect. He shows his people "the power of his works", that they are "verity and judgment", that they "stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness". "His praise endures forever" (Psalm 111).

I have found many changes here; especially in the night when no eye sees. Then it is the Lord walks up and down in my conscience, and shows me many things that cover my face with shame. O how low and little this makes me, and drives out that wretched legal spirit that would have something to present. So far from patching new upon old, I am forced to hasten my escape from the storm, and take a very short cut. Indeed there seems no room nor time for anything but "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and here I find no rebuke, but something seems to say, Keep here; and you will sooner or later perceive that instead of rebukes, the best robe, the ring, and the fatted calf shall be set before you. And surely I find it so, and have often found it, since I came here; nor am I without the sweetness of these things upon my spirit while I write; blessed be his holy name. I cordially desire, if I could, to communicate a portion of this heavenly flame to your heart, and pray that the live coal may never go out sensibly, until death is swallowed up in everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pray remember me in your prayers, and give my kind regards to your sisters. I remain your companion in tribulation, abounding in hope.

James Bourne

 

Letter 179

(To his Daughter H.) Hertford, 13 March 1840.

My dear H.,

I am just returned from Hitchin. Last night a Mrs. P. desired to meet us at a friend's house where several were collected. After some conversation they desired me to expound; and I took Psalm 34, but felt fear and some suspicion because there appeared (as I thought) too much gaiety in the whole party. I checked it more than once, but at length began; and, among other subjects, spoke of the exceeding vanity of all created things, which is seen in the deep furnace. There, if God sanctify the affliction, we see the true color of all things, the death that reigns in the world, and the judgment of God which follows, as well as the sweetness, beauty, and desirableness of heavenly things, and of communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. All else at such a time is but dung and dross. But through the power of temptation this vision seems to withdraw; and as we are gradually restored to the occupations of this life, an importance begins again to be put upon those things which in the furnace seemed so light.

This moved our new friend to speak, and she began to tell us of the deep despair and sorrow she fell into, and the furious fever that raged, so that her friends supposed she lost her senses, and often thought she would never be restored. "But here," she said, "the Lord took sweet advantage of my misery, and so abundantly comforted me that I knew not how to speak of it, such sweet communion, such holy triumph, that all created things seemed less than nothing. But now, as you say, I mourn and lament; my heart gets entangled, my spirit worldly; created objects will intrude themselves as very important, and I am greatly cast down, and alarmed at my treacherous dealing. I never thought I should be brought to this again; but sometimes those words revive and encourage me, 'The Lord, the God of Israel, says, he hated putting away.' I grieve to feel this gradual withdrawing; I am ashamed after such mercies received; but I feel a little comforted tonight."

All this occurred about eight months ago; and though in the telling of it I am not able to describe half, yet I felt so comforted, so sensible of the power of God in her behalf, and so led to see how the Lord had dealt with you, that she quite won my heart; and I secretly wept to hear so much of the goodness of the Lord. I told her I wished you had been there, to compare notes with her; for I thought you both together would be like iron sharpening iron.

May the Lord comfort you, and prop up your heart still to wait patiently, and quietly hope for his salvation. These conflicts are the universal exercises of God's elect. But truly, what the Lord says shall be fulfilled: "more than conquerors through him that loved us," and who in times past has manifested his love and mercy to us. Therefore, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Your affectionate father, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 180

(To — ) Hertford, 25 March 1840.

Madam,

It is now nearly seven years since you first came among the little despised flock in which you now rank yourself as one. In the first letter I received from you I thought I discovered much tenderness and humility, which led me to hope that the Lord had been pleased to take you in hand, and bring you down before him as a lost sinner. Where is all that appearance now? What is become of that little light you once possessed? Where is that appearance of steadiness in your purposes? Where is that kindness towards the people of God, which once seemed to be the effect of spiritual union? How or why is this fine gold become dim? Dim it is in the worst sense; for you are not aware of the thick darkness that covers your mind.

You say, none know your afflictions; nor is there any necessity that any should. God knows them, and has placed you in the midst of them, to make manifest whether that light profession you have hitherto walked in be "wood, hay, stubble", or what it may be. If gold should at last appear, that stands the fire. You are aware that the Lord has "his furnace in Jerusalem", to purge away the dross of that gold; and though you may find terrible work in that furnace, the Lord will be all-sufficient for you.

I fear the complaints you now make of your trouble are the lashes of God's anger for the spirit of the world in which you live; so that when you come among the people of God you know nothing of that language of Canaan which is peculiar to those who live there. Your mind is so flitting that there is no such thing as to keep your attention to any solid, sober, momentous subject; which always betokens an unbroken heart. You are not aware of your continual. attempts to point out your terrible difficulties, nor of your light manner of justifying yourself in everything, and then as if to appease your conscience, adding a few words to represent something of spiritual labor; which I fear in the end will only prove natural conscience lashing you for your light, very light, profession.

I am old, and must soon put off this tabernacle; it therefore becomes me to be faithful to the uttermost; and the more so because of the especial situation in which you and the rest of the friends here have placed me. My manifold afflictions by the blessing and management of God have brought me very low; and I often look at the Lord Jesus Christ in terrible majesty, "who shall judge the quick and the dead", and "who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire". I say, this look brings me down to nothing, and neither paint nor paper can divert my afflicted troubled heart, but I am forced to put my mouth in the dust, as a guilty, guilty, sinner; and wait to see if the Lord will have mercy upon so base a sinner as I. I dare not, I cannot, utter one word about my difficulties, my sins do so stare me in the face as my very own; and I am forced to clear the Lord when he judges, and cry, "Unclean, unclean."

There is but this way set forth in God's Word; all other ways lead to death. Your half profession will one day prove a burden to you that you will not be able to bear; and then you will remember that once you had a faithful friend. Make not light of this, but, like Manasseh, humble yourself greatly, and beg of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop the withering which has already begun, and to dig about the barren fig tree, and dung it, if haply it may bear fruit another year.

That the Lord may cause you to lay these things deeply to heart, is the prayer and sincere good wish of

Your aged friend in the path of tribulation,

James Bourne

 

 

Letter 181

(To Mrs. T.) Hertford, 28 March 1840.

My dear Cousin,

Your welcome letter came in a time I needed it, and I felt much encouraged by it. Your first chapter of Joshua has been a sweet portion to me, and though it fills my spirit with awe, yet it arms me with divine courage to meet what it may please God to bring me into. I am not here without much spiritual conflict; at times overwhelmed with the deep and subtle threatenings of the enemy, setting before me the utter destruction of myself and family, and adding that there is a necessity for it, because of my pride and presumption, and many such things. I dare not say these are temptations, and so pass them lightly by, but they bring me to much confession and many prayers; and here I found the word of the Lord to Joshua helped me: "Be strong and of a good courage." This being often repeated in the chapter showed me I should need all the help the Lord would bestow; that my enemies are mighty and many, but that the Lord would not leave me in their hands.

I often plead the comfort and encouragement I met with last winter in my affliction, and am encouraged to believe that the Lord remembers the promises he caused me to hope in, and that the needy shall not always be forgotten. The overwhelming prospects the enemy sets before me sometimes appear too terrible to bear up under, but these things teach me something of the nature of a broken heart. I dare not contend, but cry; not quarrel with the Lord, but say, If it please you, O Lord, deliver my soul. No demand, O no! but the most abject submission. Such is the sight and weight of my sins, that I can have nothing to say, but, Will you have mercy, O Lord, and leave me not in my old age. My heart is softened with his unfailing compassion, and I have hope that matters shall not go to the dreadful extent of my fears. I know his judgments are a great deep, and that my sins call for heavy strokes; but the very falling under the feeling sense of them sometimes is attended with this sort of reasoning—The Word says, "Only acknowledge your iniquity;" and I reply, Lord, I desire to hide nothing, but to fall flat before you. My judgment being in a measure enlightened, I say to myself, Surely this is the way the Lord removes his heavy hand, and will not enter into strict judgment, but will be better to me than all my fears. Thus hoping and fearing, spiritual life is kept in exercise, the soul kept low, pride put down, and all vain conceit removed, and we become profitable to the afflicted children of God.

O my dear friends, stick close to the lessons you have been learning in the furnace. I am sure the enemy will thrust sore at you, and you will need all that the Lord has so tenderly shown you. Never forget this: "He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer you." You will be much harassed, and soon begin to question whether the Lord will ever hear you again; nevertheless, in all your straits, whatever they may be, he will be as good as his word, and never leave you nor forsake you.

Your affectionate cousin, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 182

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 20 April 1840.

My dear Friend,

I have often reflected upon my visits to Hertfordshire—the fears with which I was surrounded within and without, and the many encouraging times I found in prayer, respecting the whole of them. My bodily health kept me low, which I found to be profitable; for the Lord did not keep me at a distance. While at Hitchin I found my spirit free to speak all the truth, as the Lord enabled me; and I trust it was not wholly in vain, for the Lord was there. I was comforted in the account some gave us, because I felt we were taught by the same Spirit. My heart was one with Samuel Underwood, and I had much sweetness and power while speaking at his house. I also felt it no small mercy that the Lord discovered to me that there was a contrary spirit among some of them. I thought it the most awful thing imaginable to be found in such darkness and presumption, and especially dreaded the light manner in which they held the truth as experienced in Underwood and others. I was thankful that I could exceedingly profit by the account of that poor and outwardly wretched woman, Fanny Chote, too insignificant to be considered profitable by many of them, for want of their being well immersed in affliction themselves. This is the reason why they cannot be intimate with the poor and afflicted people of God, who they say are always in bondage. Happy bondage! Love is all the Savior asks for, and that he bestows. He entreats us to take this bondage upon us, and try it. He says, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light;" and so will all say that have labored hard under the terrible yoke of their transgressions. They who have changed that yoke for the Savior's will readily join with me and say, Happy change from death to life, both present and eternal!

I also found my labors at Hertford very profitable to my own soul, being often much exercised with fears and the sight of my own danger, yet as often comforted with the cheering presence of the Savior, causing me to hope in him for all that I had to do among you. I found many different cases, and my mind was much exercised on account of them. Mrs. H. and her sister seemed to be in travail of soul, and in pain to bring forth, but they seemed held where a deliverance ought to be wrought. I felt as if Miss S. and Mrs. Tims were much increased in simplicity, and that both of them on that account would be the objects and subjects of much temptation. The more they are in earnest, the more the enemy will throw hindrances in their way; but I am sure they will find that the "wealthy place" lies directly through the fire and water (Psalm 66:12). Luther speaks of nothing else. This life, with all its accommodations of health and comfort, is not compatible with a spiritual warfare. Our sin has polluted them, and therefore God will continually strike at them as our worst enemies, and the greatest hindrances to our spiritual prosperity.

Mrs. R. has certainly found a goodly pearl, and so cleared her way, that I hope she may never forget how she received the Lord Jesus Christ, but by God's help be able to walk in the same spirit, and be a comforting example to the little colony about her. There are others surrounded with various difficulties, into which, I believe, the Lord has plunged them, in order to make manifest of what metal they are. It is said, "They cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands asunder" (Psalm 107:13, 14).

Pray remember me affectionately to Mr. Maydwell. May he be spared through all his delicate health to be a further comfort to you, as a helpmate in all the various changes and afflictions that occur in your little community.

I found the Lord so near and so precious, the last two mornings especially, that I thought I felt an intimation that the whole of my labors would be blessed, and that the Lord would make it manifest that the weakest instrument, under his almighty power, might be made use of to the pulling down of some of the strongholds of Satan.

Remember me affectionately to Mrs. Gilpin, who is laboring in this heavenly vineyard, and tell her not to be envious of those who are paid before her. The penny a day is agreed upon, and will be paid; but we must learn spiritually both to wait patiently, and quietly to hope that it is not a sweeping dispensation which holds us at a distance, but that the Lord's time will come, which will be then thought the very nick of time, and that all trouble will presently be forgotten in the ocean of eternal love.

Give my affectionate regards to Mrs. F., who waits in hope; the Lord seems gently to pull down her fleshly hopes, and is still undermining all confidence in the flesh, and attracting her heart to a better and more enduring substance, "a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God". I must not forget her neighbor; I am sure she had some feeling of the things spoken, but she hardly dares, through want of courage, quite to show her colors. I think I saw some very great tenderness, but the kingdom within her seemed partly clay (Daniel 2:41-43). I fear the furnace; the Lord is a jealous God, and whatever we sow we shall reap. I hope she will never seek to patch up a friendship with Heaven by her own righteousness, for Christ says, for the great humbling of such, that publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of Heaven before them. O, do not think that taking the sacrament at stated times has any salvation in it; that is most awful darkness. Beg and obtain mercy; then "Do this in remembrance of me," of my dying love.

Remember me kindly to the H's, and tell them from me that strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and I hope they will seek it with all their hearts.

Remember me also to the poor blind friends; tell M. that it has been a great mercy that the Lord has bestowed upon her a quiet spirit, and that she feels the necessity of humility. It has pleased God to place her where she (though naturally blind) must be as a candle upon a candlestick. The true fear of God will lead us all to be anxious here, and I trust E. will also consider the goodness of God, who has graciously fixed the bounds of her habitation, and caused her lines to fall in pleasant places. It is a sign of good teaching to be deeply affected with these things, and to be thankful that they have the privilege of constantly hearing the truth. May the Lord bless them both, and keep them united in spirit, bearing one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ.

I feel it utterly impossible I should have been so comforted in my soul during my long visit with you, had not the Lord been among us. I cannot therefore easily forget it, but my prayers and sincere and affectionate good wishes attend you all, and I hope you will increase more and more. Be sure, my dear friend, to entreat the Lord for clear work upon your own soul, as a proof of the power and genuineness and reality of the work of God; and that his presence may so arm you as to enable you to say, "Thus says the Lord."

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 183

(To a Daughter of Mr. Oakley) London, 30 April 1840.

Dear Madam,

I cannot help sending you a few lines, but how to say it is in sympathy with you I scarcely know; because the very long and fearful trial that you have witnessed in your late father has terminated so exceedingly sweetly as much rather to create thankfulness than the sorrow of the world. The whole of the circumstances had in them the deep and unfathomable judgments of God, so as to make us all to tremble, and as the Lord declares (Psalm 99:8), so we perceive he really acts, namely, though he forgives the sin of his people, yet he takes vengeance of their inventions, that all men may see and hear, and fear and depart from evil. O how true the Word of God is, "Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap." How much have we seen of this in your poor father's case, and yet how wonderfully in the midst of judgment has the Lord shown mercy!

This case seems set before his family especially to encourage them to hope, if any of them are led to lay it to heart. I know that you have had many secret workings in your own mind respecting the safety of your soul, and these have been attended with many fears. I hope the Lord will not suffer you to browbeat these secret intimations of his mercy, but do by all means cherish them. See and call to mind what the power and efficacy of God's grace has effected in your dear mother; how she has been carried through all her trouble for full four and twenty years, and though often cast down and hopeless as to the issue, yet how sweetly it has appeared that the everlasting arms of the Lord (though underneath and often out of sight) were nevertheless round about her to sustain her. Look well at the wonders that the Lord has wrought for your parents; and, if you can, venture to hope that he is both able and willing to save you.

It has pleased God to give you the accommodations of this life, and it is with pleasure I have both seen and heard much of your kindness to your God-fearing parents. May the blessing of God be found in this! I trust it will be so. But let not worldly comforts entangle your affections, nor suffer yourself to consider that gain is godliness.

I have been often surprised how the Lord has kept your dear mother from the various errors of the day, and how he has put this special fear in her heart upon this subject, so that she cannot communicate with all who offer the right hand of fellowship. I sincerely hope you will be able to see with her the necessity of this; that the Word of God may be your guide; and that your heart may be kept tender, and susceptible of those very secret divine impressions that show us the way we should go. Nothing will prove so hardening and darkening as to stifle these; it will cause continual stumbling, and end in your calling good evil, and evil good; bitter errors sweet, and sweet truths bitter.

May the Lord direct and comfort your hearts, so that you may finish your course with the same sweet peace which your father enjoyed in his last hours.

Yours most respectfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 184

(To W. B.) London, 23 June 1840.

My dear W. B.,

I am truly sorry I cannot get at you so much as I could wish. I feel much for your long captivity, but consider (as no doubt you do), This is the Lord's doing; and I trust it is to engage your attention to that "still small voice" which he utters upon your conscience, to inform you of the dangerous state of your soul, which perhaps would never be laid to heart were the body sound, and all things going on well.

Young people are apt to think that religion is receiving the Word in their natural perception, and establishing themselves in the light they receive by the ministry, and suppose that this is all that can be known; whereas it is worse than nothing if it end here. But angry looks and terrible frowns from God, and a sensible rebuffing from the Lord, together with some sight of his justice, holiness, and truth, these are considered the black marks of a finally condemned criminal. O no! They are not so; but on the contrary this is the sort of trouble which turns men into such fools as God makes wise unto salvation. The Lord hides his purpose in these terrible dealings, for a time, in order to humble the poor soul in the dust, and to show him something of the depth of misery into which he is fallen, and then to discover the greatness of the beauty and the suitableness of the precious Savior.

Although you say but little to me about these things, yet, if I can ever read hearts, I think I can read something of this sort upon yours; and my counsel is, While you are the Lord's prisoner, give him no rest, until he condescend to bestow a kind look, a tender word, or some heart-rending mercy, which shall forever fix him in your best affections. So prays

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 185

Fittleworth, Sussex, 20 July 1840.

Dear Mr. Maddy,

I was much struck with reading in Romans 4 how Abraham was not disheartened at the thoughts of his own body being dead, but rather looked to the promise of God, and staggered not. That dead body is a figure of the dead works that dead professors bring to Christ; and why will they attempt at this? Because they have light in some measure to see their sins, and yet not light enough to see that this death is no hindrance to him who is the Resurrection and the Life. Though through the blackness and multitude of our sins there seems no prospect of life, yet Abraham "against hope believed in hope", and so must we believe; yes, believe that though we are barren and fruitless and dead, yet Christ has died to revive such sensibly barren fruitless and dead sinners, whom he has made to pine after him. Nothing is said of our wonderful performances in all this chapter, but the contrary is insisted upon and established.

Nothing is more dangerous than the slightest deviation from the truth of God's Word; and nothing makes so ready an entrance for all error as a legal spirit; it will go on in an untoward way in thought, word, and deed, contrary to God, nor will anything turn that mighty torrent of obstinacy but the rod of correction.

I have been greatly exercised since I came here, but not in vain.

Yours very truly, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 186

Fittleworth, 23 July 1840.

Dear W. B.

I am not able to find out your secret thoughts, but of this be assured, God is doing business with your soul; and you had need to pray for a watchful spirit, that you may know what to answer when he reproves. I would advise you only to make use of one word in your answer, namely, Guilty; and see what a compassionate Savior will say; also remember that Jesus came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance". It appears that the Lord will not let you go, until all your quarrels are made up. If you escape with these unsettled, woe be to you; for he has taken you in hand, and you cannot get out of his hand. Take hold of Christ's strength, that you may make peace with him; and you will find that though he debates with you, he will stay his rough wind in the day of his east wind; and this is the way your iniquity shall be purged (Isaiah 27:5-9). Do not idle your time away in listlessness, but give the Lord no rest; and be assured you are in no trifling case; the judgments of God are a great deep, but for all who tremble there is always a way out. May the Lord comfort and encourage you to be much in earnest.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 187

(To Mrs. T.) Fittleworth, 26 July 1840.

Dear Cousin,

Wherever I am I feel that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads unto life"; and everything that transpires has a tendency to work death. I have been all my life long too much widening this narrow way, and am even now convicted of the same in all directions. This is the watchword, "I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction," and this you know is very contrary to a mirthful spirit. My illness has frightened me. I cannot endure the thought of being a foolish virgin, nor of my lamp being put out in obscure darkness. The little I know of the Lord's presence, love, and kindness, is so precious that it is dearer to me than life itself; and I am anxious to have the enjoyment of these in my latter hours. The spirit of the world, wherever it is found, is contrary to all this; it eats as a canker and leaves no life behind. Mr. T.'s repeated conflicts show me the necessity of sobriety and watchfulness; and I hope neither he nor I shall be enticed away from the secret teaching of the Holy Spirit, for this will be one part of it, "In such an hour as you think not, the Son of man comes." I feel it a sore thing to grieve the Spirit, and nothing does it more effectually than walking in two spirits, if I may so speak; one always ready for the truth and the people of God, and another for all sorts that walk in the flesh.

I have many cares and many fears respecting my large family, and they increase as I come nearer to the end. I am very dark as to the right mode of proceeding, but I find the most efficacious way is unceasing prayer. Everything seems to wind up with me into so narrow a compass, that I have no friend left, no hope, no help; and I begin, I think, to perceive that this is a mercy from the Lord. The flesh recoils, and when I am shut up in darkness I think my case different from that of any other of God's people; but this is my infirmity, and I am greatly ashamed of it. When the Lord softens my spirit, I repent in dust and ashes, and feel it is of his mercies I am not consumed. I then can, and do, commit myself and my family wholly and entirely into his hands, and wonder at the strange and marvelous mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he will at all plead my cause, and give so wretched a sinner such a sweet hope of eternal life. This brings me clean out of the world, clothes me, and puts me in my right mind; and all things are right. Here I am loosed from the bands of my stiff neck and the iron sinew that binds me, and the Lord rules and reigns in my heart and affections.

These are the changes I am continually subject to, but which I sometimes hope the Lord sanctifies. How few believe the report, or show any anxiety to profit by it! Fashion in all its various shapes beguiles the spirit, and Paul's words are forgotten, who tells us that he rejoiced in his weakness while it was profitable for the church of God. Hence we see authority taken not by the sensibly weak, but by such as think themselves strong, strong in self-confidence, not in the Spirit. This sometimes lasts a good while, yet the day comes when the Lord shows who is weak and who is strong. The furnace shows what is gold and what is stubble. These things make me dread to lose sight of the resting place that the Lord has appointed; for he only shall abide whom God approves. I therefore do most exceedingly desire that my sentence may come forth from him, and neither from the world, nor the dearest well-wisher we have upon earth.

I hope you will accept my best wishes, and tell Mr. T. I trust the Lord will never suffer his faithfulness to fail towards either of us, but remember us in our low estate.

Your affectionate cousin, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 188

Fittleworth, 30 July 1840.

Dear Mrs. Burrell,

There is no situation in life that screens us from affliction. I used to think that poor —'s frequent visits to your father (Mr. Huntington) would be the means of his getting all the blessings, while I should be left in the dark, hopeless and helpless. I have had also the same sort of thoughts respecting you; but I perceive what the Word of God says is true, "The land shall mourn . . . every family apart, and their wives apart" (Zechariah 12:12-14). I have long watched your casting down, and have seen this very essential grace in it, namely, the fear of God; and to such the time will come when there will be a lifting up.

There will yet be many changes; I seldom find myself in the same place many hours together. My present bodily affliction often rouses my fears, because I see death making hasty steps, and Satan paints before me many terrible things which I shall not be able to contend with. His great aim is to gain my attention to his voice, and to keep me looking at him, and listening to his suggestions, and to my own deceitful heart. All this brings me very low; but (if possible) he will not let me look to Christ; and I think it is every day harder to turn my eyes that way. Yet when the Lord does grant me that power, I am astonished how all the rest vanishes into smoke.

I found some melting from these words in meditation this morning, "Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure;" and I could cordially join with David in saying, "This is all my salvation, and all my desire." I felt sweetness in the thought, and a secret testimony that the Lord had wrought it in my heart. I felt also much brokenness of heart in reading the preceding verse, "He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain" (2 Samuel 23:4, 5). It led me first to consider this: "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings," and brought to my remembrance the comfort the Lord sent me by those words at the beginning of my affliction. "The tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain," I know secretly to be the graces of the Spirit flowing out after the holy anointing with which he has so often refreshed me. No wonder it should be called tender grass, for nothing makes a man so tender and self-abased, as the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart, which is the clear shining of the Father's love to us in Christ, testified by the Spirit.

It was this "clear shining" that carried our departed friend Mrs. Jones so sweetly through the valley of the shadow of death; and the same would be quite sufficient for me; for it would remove all darkness, and betray all the subtle lies of the enemy. I feel its power now in a measure. It is a very serious thing really to come to dissolution; only I find every promise of God has eternal life in it, and therefore believe that I cannot be confounded in the last conflict. I have often had a secret assurance that the Lord Jesus will be with me then, and feel a holy confidence that it must be as he has said; and in watching the ends of those among us, I find none are disappointed.

Some time before Mr. Harvey was taken ill, he spent an hour with me, and I felt quite satisfied and comforted that the Lord was with him. I could never lose sight of this; and I am glad to hear that in the midst of his extreme weakness God manifested the efficacy of his grace, and that the poor man's end was peace. Surely these are not cunningly devised fables, but the true fruits and effects of a ministry which God has appointed. When I mentioned something of this sort to one of a contrary spirit, the reply was, That is nothing; we have had three hundred happy deaths in a short time! The magicians could do most of the wonders the Lord wrought by Moses. But let me be found walking in the fear of God, and seeking for such a testimony as he will approve in the great day. "Let my sentence come forth from your presence;" for this will stand, and nothing else.

I am here in a most retired spot, and find none inquiring after the Lord. I seek for nothing new, but desire to watch the daily movements within, and find this is sufficient labor for me; and inasmuch as the Lord is with me in it, I perceive it is not in vain. For by this exercise it pleases him to maintain spiritual life, though you see by this letter I am in a low place.

Your faithful and affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 189

Fittleworth, 30 July 1840.

Dear W. B.,

Let me kindly ask you, Why are you so deadly silent? If the devil can bind you hand and foot, no doubt he will; but why believe him more than God's Word? The Lord has put you into a desperate place, and you cannot get out of his hand; there is nothing left for you but prayer. Perhaps you are not aware that all who have been made partakers of mercy, and have at any time obtained any hope, have passed through the same sad place, and know the confusion that attends it. When I am traveling, and have lost my way, I ask somebody that knows the country to direct me; for I feel I dislike to have to go miles back for want of asking. But I believe the devil tells you it is no use; so he tells me, but I don't see it any use to believe his lies. Is it of use to know Christ, whom to know is eternal life? If you come to the borders of eternity (and you are not very far off), you will find you cannot face that without help. It will then appear whether you wanted Christ, or a name to live; why you left college, and why you hear Mr. Burrell, and why you allow me to write the truth to you. Trees do not always continue in blossom; corn does not always lie in the ground; there must be a reaping time and an in-gathering. Take heed; we read, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." May the Lord help you.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 190

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Fittleworth, 4 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

I am happy to find the Lord gives you a little more liberty; I thought you had got to a sad length: "bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face bound about with a napkin". I know of nothing like the spiritual liberty that Christ bestows upon the poor and needy. Whom the Son makes free are free indeed.

Luther on the Epistle to the Galatians has been my companion since I have been here. The Word of God, and this, have been sweet spiritual food. Luther, writing on the words "for me" (Galatians 2:20), begins: "Who is this me? Even I, wretched and damnable sinner, so dearly beloved of the Son of God, that he gave himself for me." This came with a sweet appropriating faith into my heart, melting my soul in contrition. Then he tells us there will be innumerable sects, devising new works, but what are all these compared to the death and blood of the Son of God, "who gave himself for me"? "If I, being a wretch and a damned sinner, could be redeemed by any other price, what needed the Son of God to be given for me? But because there was no other price, either in Heaven or in earth, but Christ the Son of God, therefore it was most necessary that he should be delivered for me. Moreover, this he did of inestimable love; for Paul says, 'Who loved me.' Wherefore these words, 'Who loved me,' are full of faith. And he who can utter this word me, and apply it unto himself with a true and constant faith, as Paul did, shall be a good disputer, with Paul, against the law . . . . Be it so, that the law is a heavenly doctrine, and has its glory; yet notwithstanding it loved not me, nor gave itself for me; yes, it accuses me, terrifies me, and drives me to desperation. But I have now another who has delivered me from the terrors of the law, sin, and death, and has brought me into liberty, the righteousness of God, and eternal life; who is called the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever." He goes on to show that this is a hard lesson to learn, "that when the devil shall come to us under the color of Christ, and shall go about to trouble us under his name, we may know him not to be Christ, but a very fiend indeed. For Christ, when he comes, is nothing else but joy and sweetness to a trembling and broken heart." Now if these things be true, he concludes (and they are true indeed), then we are not justified by the righteousness of the law; and much less by our own righteousness.

In all this I found a clear testimony of the precious love of Christ to me. It removed all fears and misgivings, and set my feet in a large room. But oh! how soon these seasons withdraw, and I am again sent into the field of battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil! My many changes bring on the fear of death, and I get into the very places Luther describes.

But the Word of God is not bound; this is my mercy. The Lord yet speaks to me by it, and often softens my spirit in prayer. I am quite surprised how quickly he returns. His mercy, patience, longsuffering, and infinite condescension often fill me with the greatest amazement.

I was very glad to hear from Mr. Dore; he is a true yoke-fellow, a good fellow-soldier, who fights hard to the last. O what a mercy to have such spiritual life in old age: How true it shows the Word of God to be! How professors in general wither here, and how many vain excuses are made for them! But not so with such as make the Lord their refuge; the promise is, "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright."

Yours very faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 191

(To M. G.) Fittleworth, 7 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

I was most glad at receiving the account of your visit to Mrs. Oakley. I trust I caught a spark of that heavenly fire which warmed my best affections towards the Lord Jesus Christ for his love to the chief of sinners. I must confess I felt myself very little while reading the account, and with shame I sought to take the lowest place, "in honor preferring others", for the work's sake. This I conceive is the unity of the Spirit, and a true test of the work being genuine. By it we perceive we are of one heart and one way. But alas! how often is this work sadly disfigured by the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil, so that we lose sight for the present of all that is profitable.

This morning, while meditating for my reading, Ezekiel 16 struck me much. I wondered greatly at the infinite condescension of God to pick out such as are there described; and that we, in our wisdom and self-righteous spirit, should take such pains to be somebody before we will come to him, though he there shows us that his choice lies in no such way. "As for your nativity," that was bad. "In the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you, you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all . . . . but you were cast out in the open field, to the loathing of your person." That is, When I picked you up, you were not separated from the spirit of the world; you had no water of life, no savor of grace in you; born in sin, and shaped in iniquity. "And when I passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you when you were in your blood, Live."

O what a blow ought this to be to a legal spirit? What can the self-righteous say to this? and yet how bound hand and foot they often are, and cannot see where they are held; nor are they able to see that the wretched condition here described is that which moves the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call."

How true is what Hart says again,

"A sinner is a sacred thing;
The Holy Spirit has made him so."

The Savior further says, "When I passed by you, and looked on you, behold, your time was the time of love" (we always think the first look means nothing but destruction; but not so; it is a time of love); "and I spread my skirt over you" (that is, I covered you with the robe of righteousness, so that your nakedness did not appear); "yes, I swore unto you, and entered into covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine." O what unheard of mercy and love, what inconceivable condescension, to choose such wretches, and tell them they are his! Then it is added how he thoroughly washes away their filth, and anoints them with the sweetest tokens of eternal life; the Holy Spirit thus testifying of the Father's eternal love to such sinners in his well-beloved Son. What more can we have? Is not all this far beyond the comprehension of the wisdom of the flesh, or the utmost bounds of the most refined reason? Do I indeed know anything about this? Surely I do. How came I acquainted with this wonderful and mysterious secret? Only by the sovereign grace and mercy of God. The world knows not anything of it, nor does it desire to know. We also were in the same condition, but the Lord picked us up, as described at the beginning. Only admire the love of Christ, and see the value he puts upon such miserable forlorn creatures. Consider this when you are in great straits and troubles; and if he establish the first, see whether he will not with himself freely give you all things, present help in trouble, hope, encouragement, revival in our bondage, and many little secret intimations that he has not forgotten us, nor ever will.

I think of you every day in my prayers, which sometimes gives me hope the Lord will yet appear for you, and your enemies shall be ashamed. I only fear your growing slack. The word is, "Give him no rest." It is not possible that the Lord should turn his back upon such. He is represented as inclining his ears, hearkening, and hearing. Is this to mock us? O no; but you and I have need of much humbling, and it is a great salvation. Consider redemption, how precious, how vast! Salvation cannot be attained to, but through fire and water.

Yours faithfully and affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 192

(To Mr. J. H.) Fittleworth, 8 August 1840.

Dear Friend,

I thank you much for your very friendly letter, as well as for your very kind invitation. I often think of the distracted state of your little church, and wonder some of you are not anxious to bring matters to an issue. All things are possible with God. I fear that as a body (if I may judge by the spirit of some among them), they are left to wander in dark places; but I see not why such as fear God should wander with them. I wonder that some of you who really thirst for the waters of life are not anxious to have a constant ministry, though it may not please all. Why should not the few, who cannot live without the Word, seek out by prayer and supplication a little place where someone might be found to be their constant minister, and not contend for the rights of the chapel, and headship, and the rest of it, but contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints? This might be profitable, seeing how long you have been unsettled, and how short life is. Is there none, among all the children that your church brought up, that could thus dispense the truth, and leave the mixed ministry to them whom it may concern? I fear you are not aware of the danger to which you expose yourselves as a body; and how, by not coming to a decision in the fear of God, the glory of God may depart. I found several among you that manifested much tenderness; but there is a promise that says, "Yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers" (Isaiah 30:20). This evident withdrawing of the Lord from among you is a dark mark, and the clouds may gather thicker and faster than you are aware of. Samson knew not that the Lord was departed. Such are sad times, for it may be long before he returns. There must be much reproach to endure in such proceedings, but eternal life is at stake; and we are told we must and shall be hated of all men for Christ's sake, and by none more than those who have a name to live, and yet are dead. It is a great mercy to be brought to this point: "As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15); and that through evil report and good report; being accounted deceivers, though true in Christ.

Tell your dear wife to be much in earnest to watch the fruit of those good things she told me of. You farmers know full well you must not be always ploughing and sowing; you expect to be reaping the fruits of your labors; so spiritually we are not to remain always in the same state. Watch and see that the grain of mustard seed grows according to God's Word, and that the briars and thorns choke not the word so that it become unfruitful.

Remember me also affectionately to Underwood. I hope he will never tire and faint in his long afflictions, but that the Lord gives him a spirit of grace and supplication; and that he is led to watch over you both, and set before you the way of the Lord, a path of great tribulation, but a path the Lord's people have trodden in all ages, and by which they shall still come, and by no other way. But they all shall be more than conquerors through him that loved them; and shall have no conflict without obtaining sooner or later a conquest.

I hope the Lord will enable you to lay to heart the things I have written, and not suffer you to settle anything by human wisdom or carnal reason. Bear in mind that the counsel of the Lord alone shall stand; but this counsel is to be sought for and obtained by much diligent and earnest prayer; and the apostle says, "Your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord." The Lord direct you both.

Yours faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 193

Fittleworth, 8 August 1840.

Dear W. B.,

I must write to inform you that I feel the importance of a true work of grace upon the heart to be such that it becomes us all to be faithful to the uttermost, that there may be no mistake at last. I have been, and still am, so interested on your behalf, that l would gladly have you comforted and instructed in such things as accompany salvation. I believe those secret cogitations and fears which you find lead you to cast a wistful eye to the Lord, with some such words as these, O that I knew where I might find him! How shall I stand death and judgment without him? These are the trembling thoughts I had when I first began to think about religion; they were among the first breathings of the Spirit that led me to cry mightily to Jesus Christ. I had no rest in secret; but I knew of none like me, nor ever heard of any who had been like me. My secret sins lay so heavily upon me, that I thought none who were taught of God were such sinners as I. But now I find that none else but those to whom God discovers these evils know anything aright.

It is under this dreadful discovery we are made to fear and tremble; and then comes in the Word of God, which is "like apples of gold in pictures of silver": "To this man will I look" (and to none else), "even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2). This is a look of mercy and salvation; and in this sweet revelation of hope you will find many things to soften your fears and raise your drooping spirits. For the Lord always gives his people something they like better than the things he takes away. He never takes away their natural life, until he shows them their spiritual and eternal life, the sight of which overtops all created things and makes them finally glad of the exchange. I often say it, and I desire you exceedingly to exercise your mind in this one thing, and beg of the Lord to help you. "Look not at the things which are seen" (for their sight works despair), "but at the things which are not seen" (that is, not seen with the natural eye). For those eternal things are discovered to be all beauty to the spiritual understanding, and will be suitable to your condition, be it what it may (2 Corinthians 4:18). It will be seen, in your thus looking, that the Lord makes crooked places straight, and rough places smooth, and reconciles everything in the Spirit which is irreconcilable to the flesh; and patience at length will have her perfect work.

May the Lord comfort you abundantly in your present affliction, and cause you to be much in earnest to have a clear interest in Christ, for this will be profitable for this life as well as for eternal life. So prays continually

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 194

(To Mrs. Tims) Fittleworth, 8 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

We are told to bear no burdens on the Sabbath day, but in this I fail; I am generally burdened with many things, and am so today; yet I think the Lord has not given me over unto death, and am anxiously watching to see whether he will be as good as his word, "Wait on the Lord, and he shall save you" (Proverbs 20:22).

I am often surprised to see the wonderful effects of the true fear of God. How this active, watchful, lively spirit enters into every part of my warfare, and gives such a turn to all that carnal reason asserts as I cannot describe. It goes quite contrary to the will of the flesh, and to what the world calls necessary pride. It makes a way for such only as are deeply humbled and well taught to know that the eyes of the Lord are upon all our ways, and that he will "bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing". Therefore we are admonished to take heed to the movements of this heavenly grace of godly fear.

When my mind is bewildered I begin to fear something is out of order, and seek to be alone to ponder my way. In this state many things are presented to me, some very terrible and weighty; and by reason of the clouds and darkness that surround me, I cannot clearly discern the difference between the convictions of the Spirit and the accusations of the devil. This godly fear teaches me not to parley with the devil, but to come to Christ as my Counselor to plead my cause. It does not suffer my memory to pass by the reproofs of conscience, nor does it let me amuse myself with trifles to blunt the edge of them, but leads me to watch for a clean and clear issue in the blood of Christ, which alone leaves a savor upon the spirit, and makes me understand what spiritual liberty means. This again cherishes godly fear, and greatly encourages the growth of humility, in which I am taught to bear many things my natural pride and foolish self-consequence spurn at.

I cannot tell you how evidently I find the workings of the two natures. The old man is still alive and in his full vigor, and would often lord it over me, but for this godly fear actuating the new principle; hence arises a terrible confusion at times, and nothing but the arm of Omnipotence, in the behalf of the weak, timid, trembling, new man, could ever cause him to prevail. My feeling this often makes me (when the victory is gained by the blood of the cross) to cry out, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory." Then this grace of godly fear appears again in great vigor, which causes me to walk still more cautiously. I perceive it makes me often to tremble, and is always attended with a sense of great weakness. I become afraid of everything, and sometimes think I shall through weakness be betrayed altogether into the hands of the enemy and fail at last; but here I am often surprised by finding myself nearer to Christ than I thought. How so? Because he says, "Let the weak say, I am strong." The Word of God begins to open itself sweetly in behalf of all such weak ones; my ears and heart open; and I find there is no end of compassion shown to the helpless, while the fat and the strong are left. Thus the fear of God proves "a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death"; and as Hart says:

"The fear of the Lord forbids us to yield;
It sharpens our sword and strengthens our shield."

 

I have been much tossed about in my mind since I left you, but the Lord having put the rich treasure of his fear into my heart, I have not been left destitute; his visitations preserve my spirit from utterly sinking. It is in the dispensations I have lately been under that I learn the truth, value, and reality of those things of which you have often heard me speak. I wish to believe at all times the things that I utter, and am sure I do, when I am alive to all the terrors and tremblings which many call bondage, but to which I hope the Lord will keep me alive to the last, because I find nothing else extorts a cry to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have never yet had a battle without a victory; therefore why should I complain? I know the truth and certainty of those words, "More than conquerors through him that loved us." There is no death nor shame in seeking him. "Your heart shall live that seek God."

I often think of our little meetings at Hertford; I am sure the Lord was with us by the blessing of godly fear in my own heart.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 195

(To Mrs. Tims) Fittleworth, 10 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

I wrote to you the other day upon the subject of godly fear. I must now write something more upon its most sweet effects; and my desire is that you and the friends may gain in the account what I have found, for it will be greater riches than all the world can boast of. I have been greatly cast down, and, as the apostle says, "pressed out of measure"; and this, by the mercy of God, was the cause of much heart searching and unceasing prayer. Here I believe the Spirit helped my infirmities; and in reading Psalm 85 I was led in sweet meditation to make a pause at these words: "Surely his salvation is near them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land." My heart both broke and expanded under the influence of this godly fear, and the word "surely" encouraged me to draw near, until the glory of his grace and mercy abounded in my heart, and I could apply the beginning of the psalm, "Lord, you have been favorable unto your land; you have brought back the captivity of Jacob; you have forgiven the iniquity of your people; you have covered all their sin." What tears of contrition, and what power to draw near to the Lord I found under the influence of this godly fear, because I perceived the Lord had taken away all his wrath, and had turned himself from the fierceness of his anger, and comforted me. Here I found the sweet effects of what I wrote in my last, "Wait on the Lord, and he shall save you." Those words kept sounding in my heart: "Surely his salvation is near them that fear him;" and led me to be very watchful and tender that I might not quench the Spirit, nor grieve him to depart. My heart was continually going up to the Lord, and the more earnest I seemed the more the enemy filled my mind with foolish and vain thoughts; but, by the mercy of God, I found that "in vain is the snare laid in the sight of any bird"; for he kept his fear so alive in my heart that the more I felt confused with the empty vanity, the more was I led to cry for help. I had a most weighty object before me, namely, the light of the Lord's countenance to be gained, and this godly fear to be greatly cherished.

Under many changes and some very cutting fears, I was then led to meditate on 1 Corinthians 2, which begins, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." O how sweetly this entered my heart, and showed me that the sensible weakness and trembling I found under my present trouble was no token of God's displeasure, but the contrary. I perceived it to be the Spirit's work, for it led me to cry mightily to Jesus Christ. I also perceived that the Spirit accompanied all this weakness and trembling with divine power upon my heart, and upon the hearts of those that heard me. God takes this humbling way that no flesh may glory. Godly fear keeps the soul from poisonous pride; "the wisdom of men" is here brought low, and "the power of God" exalted.

But how shall I tell you of the heavenly power conveyed to my soul in the verses which follow, the brokenness of heart and deep humiliation before God, while I wanted words to set forth the riches of his grace? "Mercy and truth" did indeed meet together, "righteousness and peace" kissed each other; truth sprang out of the earth, and righteousness looked down from Heaven, and said, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you." How shall I sufficiently set this before you? The apostle calls it "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom", which none of this world know anything about. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him; but God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit." How sweetly the Spirit applied that word us to me, and made my cup run over! The apostle also shows that this conveys to us "not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God". Here again I had a heavenly testimony of the true teaching; for by the heavenly power the apostle speaks of, I was more than sure of all that the Lord had wrought in my heart.

This is the salvation that is "near them that fear him". The living principle of the fear of God becomes a fountain of life to our drooping spirits, and makes us depart from the snares of death. The fruits and effects of this godly fear are often little understood by us, even when we are under the most powerful influences of it. You will ask, How so? Because of the great weakness and trembling fear we feel. We judge these sweet tokens to be black marks, although there are no promises in the Word of God to any other. May the Lord encourage us to press through the crowd of objections that carnal reason and fleshly wisdom make, and learn from happy experience to believe that "surely his salvation is near them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land."

Tell poor dear W. B. not to be disheartened; hard as his case may be it cannot be worse than mine. Tell him to remember the greatness and power of the Savior, who is able to save to the uttermost; and tell him if possible not to look to himself, a bad sinner, but to look only unto Christ, who came to save sinners, not good people. Who knows but the secret dread he feels may prove to be "Jacob's trouble"? There is none like it, either so bad or so great, or of the same kind; but if so, "he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). He cannot go beyond lost, and if lost, he cannot help himself; but the Savior came "to seek and to save that which was lost", and none else. This is the place where salvation meets a poor sinner; cannot he hope so? Is there not a secret thought that perhaps it may prove so? Then tell him not to suffer the enemy to brow-beat that thought.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 196

(To Mr. Nunn) Fittleworth, 11 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

I was truly glad to receive your letter, and have been exceedingly surprised how the Lord has led me in respect of it, as well as the whole of my late exercises.

I was much impressed with these words: "The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his goings." This led me to very earnest prayer and searching of the Word of God; and I was much encouraged by these words: "Say not you, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save you." This followed me night and day with unceasing prayer, and I found an inconceivable drawing near in hope, and my spirit kept in the sweetest composure, and a peculiar sense of godly fear. The Word of God and prayer were my chief employ. I felt greatly encouraged to hope the Lord would help me, and I found a spirit of prayer for you. I was never suffered for one moment to feel anything but that true spiritual union which the Lord alone can work in such a rebellious heart as mine. I then found a sweet confidence arise with these words: "Surely his salvation is near them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land." This kept by me with some continuance, and showed me Christ as God's salvation; and he came into my heart with all his saving benefits in such a way that I can scarcely remember the time when I had so sweet a sense of his love to me, and of my eternal safety in him.

The Word of God was still my refuge, and 1 Corinthians 2 again came with such divine power to my heart as I cannot describe. The weakness and trembling and fear there spoken of encouraged me greatly; and I found that the Lord had graciously revealed his hidden wisdom to me, and that I should still comprehend in some measure, by faith, what the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man to conceive; even what God has prepared for them that love him.

My heart went up sensibly in prayer to the Lord for you in all your afflictions, and I am persuaded the Lord heard me by his helping my infirmities; for I had been very much cast down, but he has been marvelously kind in keeping me sober and watchful. I hope he will also give you his comforting presence, and be with you in all your troubles.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 197

(To Mrs. T.) Fittleworth, 22 August 1840.

My dear Cousin,

I am called to many and peculiar exercises here, and am surrounded with people that will neither hear nor show reason. I am for peace, but they are for war. I was exactly situated in the same way about ten years ago, only a few miles from this place. I think the Lord suffers me to be thus pursued, that with this ballast I may walk more steadily, and watch the coming and going of spiritual life. I perceive this is but little noticed, especially the first rise of a listless spirit, which is so hard to get removed. I perceive the promised daily cross, when sanctified, is one fruitful means of leading us to mourn to the Lord under the perplexing contradictions of the world; and this mourning to the Lord will be much more profitable to us than resenting any offence that we may seem to have received. Pride feels itself quickly injured, and resentment and recompense are the only means of gratifying it; but oh, the death and distance they work! Here I soon find myself heavily laden, and greatly alarmed lest I should be left to abide under the influence of this death; a cry is created, with many confessions, and the deliverance is not so soon brought about as said, for there must be much humbling and taking the lowest place. O what a blow to the pride of man to be made really nothing, the last, the least; yet how profitable and safe! For here it is, and here alone, that Christ pays his visits. He goes down, it is said, "to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies" (Song 6:2). But what a change takes place by these kind and tender visits; how they calm the tumultuous spirit and make pride to go into his den; and instead of revenge, what affections of mercies and humbleness of mind are found, and what tender fear is created to keep up the spirit of grace and supplication, that we may be assured that the Lord's salvation is near us, and that no harm can overtake us in this manner of walking. This I conceive is walking in the fear of the Lord; and under this leading, though surrounded with ten thousand enemies, we must come off more than conquerors.

Such is the goodness and mercy of God that he will manage our difficulties, both as to weight and measure, so that they shall be to our profit, and by them teach us more earnestly to seek his help. Until sharply exercised in this way, I did not know the meaning of that sweet Psalm 123, "Unto you lift I up mine eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us." Oh this waiting! there is often an inconceivable sweetness in it, although at the time I cry, How long? So that I dare not complain of my difficulties while the Lord evidently makes them profitable to me, and by them keeps my spirit out of the world, and makes me diligent in searching his Word. I find also that the Lord by these things instructs me to enter more fully into the cases of others, and especially to feel for their afflictions, and to take the admonition "considering yourself, lest you be also tempted".

I had a most humbling sight of myself yesterday as a lost sinner, while I contemplated the wonderful mercy of God in Christ. His beauty, suitableness, compassion, and condescension moved me greatly. He was most precious to me, so that although I cannot fathom many things, and perceive that his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out, yet at such a time I am enabled to leave all to him; quite sure and satisfied that he will do all things well, yes, more than well; that he has done and will do nothing with me but what shall be to my profit and his glory.

These seasons do not abide, but I think I perceive a lasting savor upon my spirit; which encourages me in fresh attacks, to make him my sole refuge. I sometimes for awhile wonder that he does not overrule some things in which his power seems to be set at defiance; but I soon become silent and put my mouth in the dust. I must never be higher than this. God has so determined it; and I believe this is the cause of all the cross providences that befall me, and that I shall learn by them to see greater beauty in a dying Savior, and have my affections more fully set upon eternal things. I wonder often how short these seasons of spiritual life are, and how long death reigns in the soul; how often my prayers seem but words, as if all my religion were come to an end; but Christ, the resurrection and the life, raises me continually to bless him for an understanding that the redemption of my soul is precious indeed.

It is surprising how much better my health is. I trust the Lord will sanctify the affliction to his glory, and to the profit of the affectionate friends with whom I correspond, enabling me to set forth in some small measure the exceeding riches of his grace wherein he has abounded towards me. I hope to be at home on Friday evening, yet long to hear from you once more. You must remember we are without the public means and the personal communion of saints; and though I find the promise in its measure true, "Yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come" (Ezekiel 11:16), yet I find the cloudy days are many and solitary, and death comes in from all quarters. I also think upon that part of my family I leave at home, and have many anxious cares and fears, which are the subject of many prayers and much watchfulness. It is a wonderful mercy to have the blessing of God upon my family, yet it comes not by outward observation, but oftentimes through the most threatening circumstances. This is the Red Sea, in which it appears as if we must be drowned, because it seems to involve both body and soul. The flood appears like wrath poured forth without a remedy; but this excites a bitter and lamentable cry, and though everything seems coming to ruin, yet here it is (and I have found it so) that the Lord turns our captivity with a sweet assurance of eternal life, and a hope that he will be our stay and friend in all our perplexities. Although this satisfies my soul for the present, yet the clouds gather quickly and return after the rain, and my fears come on again and again, which keep me trembling and fearing lest all that is past should yet prove a blank. I think the Lord suffers this that I may not get independent. The flesh loves ease, but the Savior says, "Take my yoke upon you;" and though his yoke will be easy, and his burden light, to the new man, yet the flesh will always spurn at the cross. Hence comes the conflict; and the Lord takes care that it shall be kept up among his people, that he may hear constantly from them. My brightest seasons have followed the darkest dispensations, and I have found the truth of his word, "that he would dwell in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12). I cannot help acknowledging the wisdom of God in these various dispensations; for if it were not thus, I should be like the vineyard with its hedges broken down, and the wild boar of the forest entering, or the little foxes which spoil the tender grapes (Psalm 80:12, 13; Song 2:15).

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 198

(To Mrs. Tims) London, 31 August 1840.

My dear Friend,

I cannot refrain from sending you a few lines upon the blessed subject of waiting upon the Lord. I am seldom without some burden too heavy for me to bear; whether at home or abroad, the cross follows me still; and I am made to acknowledge the need for it. I returned home on Friday evening wonderfully recovered in health; but soon gathered new burdens, which furnished me with fresh errands to the throne of grace. I mourned without expectation, but these words invited me to take them for my morning reading: "The poor commits himself unto you; you are the helper of the fatherless" (Psalm 10:14). This suited my destitute state, and seemed to come with an endearing aspect. I found much liberty and some sweetness; yet my fears ran high, and some heavy clouds hung over me from all quarters, and I, like a poor man, felt myself friendless.

In this condition I was on Sunday morning; and while meditating on Psalm 36, which seemed given me for my family, I felt many keen fears and much misgiving lest I should see the hand of God go out against me, which I am always ready to take as a mark of his displeasure. Still I kept my eye every now and then upon what the Lord had done, and how tenderly he had led me; but I was so very low I could not hope, though I gave not up a very earnest cry. All at once the Lord turned my eye to verse 34 of the next psalm, and so spoke it upon my heart, that it brought me out of all my troubles: "Wait on the lord." I replied, Lord, I do humbly wait. It continued, "And keep his way." I replied again, Lord, enable me fully and wholly to give up my ways. Then followed the rest of the Psalm: "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in the time of trouble. The Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him."

The power of these words filled my soul with the sweetest consolation and assurance, and at the same time discovered to me a further depth of my nature's evil, and brought me down in the deepest humiliation. For the time being I felt the Lord assured me of many things wherein he would stand my Friend, and that I should see that nothing was too hard for him. O how my prayers went up for all of you at Hertford, and many more! My burden was removed; I found I had a Friend indeed, "a Friend that sticks closer than a brother".

Under this sweet power I went down to my family reading, and warned and cautioned them all against being independent of God; I told them what a fearful thing it is to enter into life without regarding his blessing, and also what a great blessing it would be to have the fear of God before their eyes, and how precious a treasure is the blessing of God, which through mercy I then felt I possessed. But I could not half set forth the praises or the value of such a heavenly gift.

It is indeed a mercy to find grace to be diligent, and as Paul says, to "increase more and more"; for we shall certainly find that every gift the Lord bestows will be put into the furnace, to show the metal, whether it be gold or anything else. It is this furnace, following so closely upon my comforts, which often alarms me; and yet I think it is the wisdom of God to confound the pride of man, and to show him that of himself he is worse and less than nothing. For if we have ten thousand deliverances, attended with the brightest evidences, yet let them be withdrawn one moment, and where is all our mighty courage and confidence? We must all come to the same point with David in Psalm 39: "that I may know how frail I am."

On the evening of that day the minister was speaking of the good of waiting; this warmed my heart, and I believed to the comfort of my soul, and found a holy confidence to commit my burdens once more to the Lord. While this lasted, my eye caught one of my children, for whom I am much interested, and my heart melted in much compassion, with many cries to the Lord on his behalf; and to my great surprise the Lord came in with such a sweet encouraging hope for the object prayed for, that I was melted in tears of contrition, and my soul went up in ardent love and gratitude to the Lord beyond what I can express. It made me inquire very minutely whether I presumed, or was in any way deceived; but the more I adhered to what I hoped the Lord meant to show me, the more I was encouraged and comforted. It also brought up other times and seasons wherein I believed the Lord had spoken to me on the same subject, and confirmed the whole.

Thus I found the words of my text just suited me: "Wait on the Lord, and keep his way." The verses that followed it were unfolded, but with such a fearful light that I forbear to write upon the subject. May the Lord comfort you also in thus waiting upon him, and we shall most assuredly find that he will not suffer us to wait in vain.

Tell our young friend W. B. that this waiting upon his Master shall be honored. Neither his goodness nor his badness shall alter that; because the Lord says it is not for our sakes, but for his own name's sake. He must be a wretched loathsome beggar, that all, except the Good Samaritan, will pass by. Bid him try, when he hears that Jesus is coming that way, whether he can prevail upon him to have mercy. Importunity denotes a sense of need; and I am sure if his burdens are heavy, he will be glad of a Friend to bear them; and if he knew what I do of the tenderness and skill of that Friend, he would gladly go to him without ceasing, and I am sure would speak good of his name.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

Letter 199

(To E. L.) London, 17 September 1840.

My dear Friend,

I was glad to see your letter, and to find you are better in health. What you say respecting the Lord searching the heart, and trying the reins, I have well understood by painful experience; and I have no doubt you would find vanity written on all created things, a fearful alarm of danger, and but little, if anything, of your former religion would stand.

If you indeed know this heart-searching work, there are many ways in which it will appear. Did you perceive the profession of the day full of error and danger? Did that sight lead you to pray to be brought out from the darkness which had before involved your mind? Did the deep searching bring about a desire to have a secret religion between God and your soul, which an open reward might follow, namely, "All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord has blessed"? In this sharp furnace the Lord will discover to the trembling lost sinner what truth is, and where it is to be found; so it is said in Proverbs 3:His two-edged piercing sword will also cut us off from the spirit of the world, and discover the death that all needless communication with it works.

It is not possible for any one to be so searched and tried as you describe, but the time when, and the manner how, this great work was wrought must be clearly known; and the revelation of Christ's mercy to a soul in such trouble must, of necessity, have such a divine light attending it, that you would be able to describe the sweetness, power, and efficacy of the wonderful grace bestowed.

My reason for naming this is that the whole dead professing church lies buried here in the ruins of the fall. They know they must describe something of trouble, and something of the blessings of God's favor in Christ; but for the want of the work of the Spirit upon their hearts, they will, with immeasurably hasty strides, step over this sweet portion of the truth, and put in a presumptuous claim which the Lord neither owns nor honors. Hence come all those invectives against such as tremble at God's Word, and yet are sensibly comforted with the Spirit's testimony that the blood of sprinkling cleanses their guilty consciences from all sin.

It is because in the course of my long profession I have met with many dangerous and presumptuous characters that I write thus, and again add that you are more exposed to danger than you can well be aware of. Do not think you know all about it; if you think so, you are already entangled in the net of error. If a fear spring up, cherish it, and see if it do not lead you tenderly to pray in secret that the Lord would be the Guide of your youth. Let secret checks not be despised as weakness, but held in great reverence as the admonitions of God. If kept tender and watchful here, you will never want a Guardian or Friend; but if this hedge be broken, the viper of error in all directions will bite you. Take heed; religion is no plaything. We shall certainly meddle to our hurt, if the Lord be not our refuge. May he direct your anxious spirit to the Fountain of eternal life, and then you will never more thirst for vanity, but will manifest yourself a stranger and pilgrim upon earth.

Your much-obliged friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 200

London, 28 September 1840.

Dear W. B.,

There is nothing more odious than a profession of religion that brings nothing in. I am therefore anxious that every step of your way may be tried, so that the Lord shall bear his testimony to the truth and soundness of it.

One point most of us, and you among the rest, are apt to mistake; because things appear small, and our movement slow, we conclude that all is wrong. This is a false aspect; the fear of God may not have so brilliant an appearance as many things that make much outward show. True religion is very hidden, and is called "the secret of the lord" (Psalm 25:14). It is only manifest in godly fear, a plant that bears root downward in humility, and shows itself in all our necessary engagements in the world in great integrity and transparency in all directions.

I sincerely hope the Lord will appear for you in healing both your soul and your body, and that he will sanctify this affliction at the beginning of your life, so that you may never forget it as long as you live; but be truly thankful that he should check the exuberance of a worldly spirit, and convince you that there is another concern of more importance which must first be attended to.

We often find among us, that such as seem to have too great a readiness to attend to temporal things are presently laid by, and made deeply to ponder their ways. This checks the spirit of the world, and the Lord in mercy puts temporal matters in their right places, and then blesses their labors. The Lord comfort and instruct you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 201

(To M. G.) London, 12 October 1840.

My dear Friend,

I have been thinking of poor Mr. Morris. The Lord's ways are in the deep and his footsteps are not to be traced. It is a great mercy he has so much sensibility in his affliction. That secret fear of death which works in his mind is no small token of a sense of the need of a remedy to counteract it; nor do I wonder he should often retire from a busy world and company of all sorts, and sit solitary, while God's hand is upon him. I would advise him by all means to cherish these things, and to be much engaged in the Word of God, for he knows not but that the Lord may surprise him by a kind word, and by that means raise his drooping spirits.

All are born in sin, and all must perish if the Lord do not quicken them to feel their danger and to cry for mercy. This he does by various means. When we are brought very low with apprehensions of God's wrath, and there is but one step between us and death, it becomes a fearful dispensation, and turns all our loveliness into corruption, and all our worldly speculations into less than vanity. Oh! what secret mourning, what secret sighing it excites, and what a cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy! And though we do not all at once sensibly attain to mercy, yet there is a something that holds our souls in life; and we feel by that something, which as yet we do not understand, that we are encouraged to give the Lord no rest; for we perceive salvation is to be found nowhere else but in Jesus Christ. When once this is established in the heart, there is an unceasing look to him alone; and when these looks and cries at times grow feeble, the Lord causes a fear to spring up in the conscience which gives a fresh energy, and something like this is groaned out of the heart, when no eye sees us, Lord, have mercy on me, and do not let me die until I know more about you. We do not know that these are the groanings of the Spirit helping our infirmities; but by and by we perceive encouragement to spring up, and Christ becomes our salvation, and the only object of our desires.

Thus the Lord instructs his people by slow degrees. Sanctified humbling dispensations are very fruitful, and the tree often grows downward at the root when there may be but little appearance to the natural sight. We all require much to humble us; and who knows hut this dispensation may eventually have much instruction in it for Mrs. Morris also? She has had a good deal of light, and now the time is come when the Lord is bidding her to take the lowest place, and is in every way showing both him and her what helpless, hopeless sinners they are. They must not be surprised if their troubles are heavy and very tedious to flesh and blood. The Lord will turn this old man of ours to destruction before he bids us to return and live (Psalm 90:3). It is only by sharp furnace-work that the Lord turns to us a pure language, and makes us sober-minded (Zephaniah 3:8, 9). This is not done in an hour, or by one short affliction, and then nothing but joy. It is through much tribulation we enter the kingdom. This work makes and keeps us more dependent on the Lord in our walk, and less conceited of anything we possess.

I cannot help observing, whenever the Lord graciously visits my soul, what humbling effects it produces; how simple and like a little child it makes me; how passive and patient in the furnace; how willing to wait the Lord's time; and how ready to believe that the trial is the best thing that could befall me to bring about my spiritual prosperity and clearer discoveries of the love of Christ. This is the way we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

When first enlightened with the light of life we are very apt to call the marks and tokens of God's work begun upon us, black marks of his final displeasure; whereas the truth is, as I said at the beginning, and will again add, God's displeasure is shown against the sin of our nature, and that makes us to feel bitterly the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and in some measure his holiness. These things meeting in our conscience, and pondered, have a very cutting effect; and, if they work aright, will cut us out and off from the spirit of the world, and from that half-profession which is so general. Perhaps Mr. Morris has been entangled here. An old and empty profession will stick to us as close as our skin; and nothing but the rod of correction will drive it away. The Lord appears to be at this work in earnest with them both; and if it really prove so, I am sure they will declare all their troubles to be the best things that could have happened. I say they will acknowledge this, living or dying. May the Lord in great mercy encourage them to press on; for none ever sought his face in vain. I shall be very happy to hear my words are come true, and that they both may yet see the glory of God in the salvation of their souls.

Cease not, my dear friend, to pray for the welfare of Zion, for in the peace thereof you shall have peace. Slack not your hands on any feeling of the approach of victory. Victory and safety are of the Lord. Grieve him not by remissness, lest he withdraw, and leave you to another campaign.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 202

(To Mrs. J. H.) London, October 1840,

My dear Friend,

I know of no means of showing my sincere sense of your kindness to me and my daughters, but in telling you all my heart respecting the way the Lord has led me.

When I first perceived myself under conviction of my sin, and the danger to which I was exposed of dying without hope, I felt a sort of necessity to mingle among professors, but I had no discriminating knowledge of characters. I therefore was sorely entangled by the general religious professors of that day, all of them seeking to set me down short of the truth; some indeed seeming to come very near to it, but all agreeing in warning me away from such as preached or experienced the real truth. These, they told me, were dangerous characters, and I, for a while, believed them; but my soul-trouble greatly increasing, none of these light professors could understand me, nor could their preachers ever enter into my troubled heart; they only told me to believe in Jesus, and I should find him very merciful, and there they left me, and passed by on the other side. Thus I found the spirit of all who knew not the real thing was alike, although differing in shades respecting the mode of expressing themselves; nor was it until the Lord enlightened me, that I could understand what any distinction meant. The Lord put me into many trials, and my troubles made these professors look very shy upon me. I became so sorrowful under the heavy hand of God, that I was not a welcome visitor among the whole-hearted; and one friend (so called) after another dropped off, until I seemed desolate indeed and was made to sit alone. All this was a sore grief to me; I considered it a black mark of God's anger, and often feared lest I should be found wanting at last when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. But the Lord being infinitely gracious caused all these things to work for good, and by them he taught me to cry for mercy. I believe that I was suffered to pass through this discipline to humble my pride, and to cure me of independence of God; to pull to pieces my wisdom, and to show me that Christ alone is the essential wisdom.

I have been exceedingly grieved at the number and variety of preachers which the poor and afflicted people of God among you have been tormented with; also at the want of discrimination you all have manifested in the choice of them. I would have you seriously lay to heart what the wise man says, "When you sit to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before you; and put a knife to your throat, if you be a man given to appetite." This is strong language, and denotes the awful danger of a general profession. It is added, "Be not desirous of his dainties," (such as the truth in the letter, but no word of exhortation; the head stored, but the heart unbroken); "for they are deceitful meat." If something in your heart replies, I need not fear this, then I say, "Cease from your own wisdom. Will you set your eyes upon that which is not?" for in the hour of trial these empty vanities "make themselves wings and fly away". The character of these numerous teachers is further described in their saying, "Eat and drink," but their hearts are set upon their covetousness, which is here called "an evil eye" (Proverbs 23:1-8).

In another place the wise man says, "Bow down your ear and hear the words of the wise." Remember there will be no hearing without the bowing down, which is to set forth the sweet grace of humility. This counteracts self-conceit, or any notion that we may have power to hear or judge in such divine matters. But when the Lord thus bows us down, he says, "Apply your heart to my knowledge;" and glad enough we are to hear anything about the knowledge of salvation by Jesus Christ in this cast-down condition. This will be "a pleasant thing" to you, and the Lord's words shall "be fitted in your lips" (Proverbs 22:17-21).

I fear you will not have the courage to believe me, yet I would caution you to attend to that very secret teaching, in which I trust the Lord has instructed you. Do not browbeat that, lest the Lord should withdraw his kind admonitions, and leave you to your own understanding. Hart says truly,

"So gentle sometimes is the flame,
That if we take not heed
We may unkindly quench the same;
We may, my friends, indeed."

Be much in prayer and reading the Word, if you value the clear truth; and, remember, "the diligent soul shall be made fat." "We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" therefore come boldly unto a throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in this time of need. "The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way." The humbled soul, that is secretly desirous of being taught, will have no ear but for the Word of God. "What man is he who fears the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose."

If I had not a persuasion that the Lord had begun the effectual work of grace on your heart, I should not have written thus. I fear you are not sufficiently aware of the danger of "enticing words", and many like things, which are hinted at in the Word of God as being the cause of darkness and confusion of mind, and of much disquietude. If it should please the Lord to work this peculiar fear and watchfulness in your heart, it will be a great mercy and a matter of rejoicing to me.

Yours sincerely, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 203

London, 11 November 1840.

Dear Mrs. F.,

There is great difficulty in discerning between the natural light of such as hear the truth and the first dawnings of spiritual light and life. Some are constitutionally what we call very sentimental, easily moved to hope or fear; and so soft and naturally tender are such, that they are easily persuaded that all this is religion, and are set down in a self-complacent and self-righteous spirit, exceedingly delighted with themselves. Who so good as they? This sort of religion gives way in the time of sharp trial, and leaves the poor creature discontented, and finally in despair.

When you were taken ill on that bridge near Tewin, and carried into a neighbor's house, did not the Lord then sit on the throne of your conscience, and was not the truth of your condition brought to light? This should never be forgotten. What the Lord then discovered to you was beyond nature. You fell under the conviction, and stood as a guilty criminal before him. You could not set aside that true indictment, and all things round about you were set in their proper colors; and you then weighed them in the balance of the Sanctuary, and found them lighter than vanity compared with the salvation of your soul. This work is compared to fine gold, which the heavenly Refiner puts into the furnace, so as to have for himself a vessel meet for his own use. I think I hear you say that you almost forget all that. Then "How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!" Have not the things of time and sense so swallowed up the attention, that this secret work has been too much set aside for the present?

Not cherishing divine awe upon the spirit when God speaks is very often the cause of much darkness and confusion; and then the bustle of this world drowns that still small voice, which often whispers to the wary soul, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." For want of due reverence and attention to the secret teaching of the Spirit, we are apt to grow listless, and soon get at a distance, and know not the voice of the Beloved, who is continually knocking at the door of our hearts for entrance. That knocking is the conviction of the Spirit, but for want of watchfulness, we (like the world) feel cast down, and are unhappy, and scarcely know why; and then, instead of deeply entering into the matter, and searching the very foundation with that prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts," we seek for some little family concern to amuse, and make us forget what should never, never be set aside, but fully inquired into, as something lame that must be healed.

In dealing thus faithfully with our consciences, we shall soon come to a right understanding as to the nature of our convictions. The Spirit will help our infirmities, and a sensible awe will be found upon our heart, and light to discover that the Lord is with us, instructing us in this secret hidden wisdom, which the vulture's keen eye can never discover. But an inattentive and untender walk, after having received the light of life, will be greatly resented; and if we dare to act contrary to that heavenly gift, we shall have to rue it, and perhaps cry many a day before the Lord will be pleased to restore us. The untenderness may have no reference to our outward walk; God looks at the heart. Men generally judge after the sight of the eyes, and therefore judge wrongly. Outward appearances may continue very smooth, and no change be apparent to the common observer, while the heart may be greatly removed from the first look that the Lord gave us.

Call to mind what the apostle sets forth as a proof of the genuineness of the conviction: "What carefulness it wrought in you, yes, what clearing of yourselves, yes, what indignation, yes, what fear, yes, what vehement desire, yes, what zeal, yes, what revenge!" It will always be the genuine effect of the convictions of the Spirit to bring us out of the spirit of the world, and not to let us sit down short of Christ's promised rest.

Thus I have endeavored, by the help of God, to show you the way the Lord has led me. I have also intermingled some very necessary cautions, because I know that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, even in the way of fatherly chastisement, which I, to my shame, have called for so much; and I hope it also is that I may, as long as I live, warn incautious professors. We can scarcely sufficiently lay to heart this plain scripture; it ought to be graven on the posts of our doors: "God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7); and we easily get an understanding by the light of the ministry what our hearts are set upon. I now desire most exceedingly that in all your fears you may make a friend of the Savior. You will find him a sure foundation. I have never been deceived nor forsaken. The Lord knows my manifold difficulties, and it is one of the greatest mercies of my life that in these I am led to go to him. He never forsakes me. He pleads my cause; he clears my way; he comforts me with a sweet hope. All that know his precious name will put their trust in him.

Your sincere and faithful friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 204

(To Miss H.) London, 20 November 1840.

My dear Friend,

I cannot help expressing myself as much encouraged by your honest and simple letter. When I have corresponded with persons of high rank, I have generally found them too humble in the onset, but ending in great pride, and a manifest proof of their not understanding the nature of spiritual life. I have observed in such a remarkable attachment to certain persons who have obtained great influence by their talents, and their head knowledge of general truths, and this has set them down satisfied with man's application of the truths of God, without searching diligently what the Lord's testimony is. At this point we have generally parted; they satisfied with the letter of the Word, flattered into a profession of their belief of it, and yet remaining with an unbroken heart.

I exceedingly like your hints concerning your present afflictions, as well as those that must abide you in every place, if you are made honest in seeking for mercy in Christ Jesus. The Word tells us that the way to the wealthy place is "through fire and through water", and that it is "to the poor the gospel is preached". I have been long inured to this path; and though sometimes pressed so hard as to see no way at all, yet then I have found the Lord has opened a way through all obstacles. "The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm;" and when they rise to the highest, I have often found that these tremendous clouds "are the dust of his feet", that is, his approaches to my help have been very near. He has rebuked the devouring sea, and made the hills of difficulty to melt. Thus the Lord has manifested his goodness to me, and become "a stronghold in the day of trouble" (Nahum 1:3-7). When young I was called upon to give up all that was dear to me upon earth. I understood not as yet my path. I concluded that ruin was at hand, that the Lord intended to destroy me, and make manifest to all that my religion was hypocrisy. But though driven out friendless and penniless, his eye was upon me for good, and he suffered no man to do me essential wrong. Thus he humbled me, and proved me, and showed me something of the deceit of my heart, and how ready I was to sit down satisfied with a false profession; but the Lord would not have it so.

You ask, How do you apply the promises to obtain comfort? I answer, One of the first things I was convinced of was the unbelief of my heart, and my want of power to understand anything aright. I was lost in confusion, and could not ascertain how people got at that secret religion which differed so essentially from the general profession. I had been in that general profession, and was sure it never cut at the root of pride, nor gave one blow to the spirit of the world in me; but gave me much vain and empty confidence, which the Lord never owned nor honored. But when the Lord took me in hand, and made the whirlwind to blow from all quarters, then my lovely confidence and conceit began to give way; and instead of saying, I know, I trust, or, I am sure Jesus will help me, a great alarm sprang up lest the Lord should turn his back upon me forever. I did not now consider how to apply the promises, but watched very narrowly whether the Lord would speak one kind word to prop up my sinking spirit; looking diligently whether I could perceive any hope of mercy. It was some time before the Lord was pleased to favor me with a clear sense of pardoning love. When I was at the point of despair, under the loss of my friends, my health, and all my fair prospects in life, then he spoke these words upon my heart "You shall return in the power of the Spirit." This came with such divine authority as to raise my sinking spirits, and make me rejoice in the great salvation I found in Jesus Christ. I walked long in the comfort of this; as it was with the prophet of old, the Lord knew I had a long journey to perform, and had need of much support. The whole of it has been disputed in the hot furnace, but never finally given up; because "whatever God does, it shall be forever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and God does it, that men may fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

When the Lord comes effectually into the heart, he will overpower all opposition, and make us to know in that day that it is he who speaks (Isaiah 52:6). There shall be no mistake here to the poor trembling soul. His sheep hear his voice, and know it, and follow him; and that through all fear and misgivings, until the cloud be cleared up, and matters are brought to a sweet assurance.

I am glad to find your mind so tossed and unsettled, and hope I shall see more of this; for it is no small thing to be lost, and it is only to the lost that the Savior is sent. If in secret you are longing after the Lord, and find a desperate opposition within, this I believe is the conflict of the two natures, and will be found in the end to be coming burdened to Jesus Christ. Sooner or later you will understand it by the spiritual rest the Savior will bring. It will be nothing without the Savior's sweet power felt. Many take such things for granted, and this makes their religion as unsavory as the white of an egg.

I feel with you the necessity of waiting; but perhaps you may not be aware, that waiting spiritually is a very active principle, as sweetly expressed in Psalm 123:I have often found myself in such trying circumstances that I have scarcely known how to wait or what step to take; but have endeavored most cautiously, by the help of God, not to go before him. I have always found that according to my burdens, so has been my cry; and that sooner or later an opening has been made for me. You will never find your conscience defiled by waiting upon and for the Lord.

Be very tender of bringing needless reproach upon the cause of God. Make sure ground. If you ask, How shall I? By not moving until the Lord manifestly directs your heart in answer to many confessions and prayers. Godly simplicity is a rich treasure; transparency before God is little known. The heart is full of duplicity. A legal spirit hides many things, and the spring of their actions from many. Hannah was a woman of a sorrowful spirit; she waited long, and obtained an answer at last. You must not conclude that the Lord never decides. He says, "My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready." There is much pride and impatience to be brought down, much independence of God to be removed; and these things will never be effectually done without many vexatious disappointments, many crosses, and many sharp rebukes from the Savior for our unfaithfulness to the convictions given, and many charges against us for turning a deaf ear to his reproofs and counsels.

When these enter, who may abide the scrutiny? I cannot express the alarm they work in my mind, although the Lord has a thousand times manifested his love and mercy to me. O what mournful confessions and entreaties are made under these exercises, and how we seek for the lowest place, and put our mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope! Here we come nearer to the promises than we are aware. We need not apply them; nay, we do apply none but such as make point blank against us; but the Savior himself comes as the good Physician, and pours in his oil and wine, and comforts our dejected spirits with a sweet hope in his mercy. This is so testified by the Holy Spirit as to need no explanation, nor any inquiry into its truth, for "when he, the Spirit of truth, shall come, he will guide you into all truth".

You with me many times consider yourself a reprobate, for if you are made honestly to seek the Lord, the grand adversary will find out many arguments to prove you are a reprobate. He will tell you that it is too late to seek, and that real believers do not find what you perceive in your heart, and many more such foolish reasons, which the Lord will overrule by making you sick of yourself, and to all intents and purposes lost. This will create a short cut in your experience; it will bring you to a point: "Lord, save or I perish." Here you begin to do business in great and deep waters; and the cry of fire within will move you to escape for your life. This is the law of God entering into your conscience, and showing you that you lie under the sentence of death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal; and that there is no hope, no way of escape. None are brought here by the Spirit of God, but they have a discovery more or less of Christ as a suitable Surety and Savior; and we often see his suitableness, beauty, and power, for a long time before we can believe he is willing. He will be honored and waited upon, and in due time he will appear to the joy and rejoicing of our hearts.

During the whole of this work of God, from first to last, even from the earliest dawnings of the fear of God, we can surely call to mind some intimations of God's intended favor in answer to prayer, very feeble, perhaps, yet mournfully presented in all humility to the Lord Jesus Christ for instruction and mercy; some little circumstances, also, in his divine providence, wherein he has shown us that his eye was upon us for good, both as to our preservation and the special appointment of our lot. On one or another such time we often look back with hope, and say, Surely this was the Lord's doing.

I have many times feared the Lord would give me up to despair. Not more than two years since, I thought he had taken his eternal leave of me, yet I did not give up crying to him; and to my surprise he applied these words to my poor distressed soul: "As I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you." This turned my captivity, and showed me my interest in that everlasting covenant, made between the Father and the Son, and now applied to my conscience by the Spirit.

Whatever the Lord speaks at such a time to comfort you, be sure to hold it as fast as you can. You may judge by the fruits from whence it comes. If such encouragement humbles you, and makes you more tender and watchful, then surely it must be of the Lord; but if it works self-complacency and a conceit of knowledge, resist it as unprofitable and vain. Be honest to your convictions.

There is no end to confusion in going up and down for religious advice. I have nothing to say on my own behalf on this subject. If God has enlightened you, you will by the same Spirit discover where the truth is, as well as what it is. If you have no discrimination on this point, I fear you have watched but little of the Lord's movements in your conscience, for this is called "the candle of the Lord", which searches the deep recesses of the heart.

Your faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

Letter 205

London, 21 November 1840.

Dear Mrs. Tims,

I am often greatly surprised at the changes I find; and especially at the great distress that often comes suddenly upon me even in one day. I sometimes meet such a sweet encouraging gale from the everlasting hills, that I am ready to believe, "I shall never be moved." Yet how soon this deceitful heart of mine is led astray; and before I feel the guilt contracted I am far removed from the simplicity I felt perhaps but an hour before. Then arises a secret suspicion whether I am at all under the teaching of the Spirit; and the enemy takes every advantage to further the calamity by many proofs which he invents as infallible tokens of hypocrisy. These are the things which make me mourn, and search deeply into the Word of God, to see if any saints have been exercised in the same way; and I find they all sing of mercy and of judgment.

How well David seemed to begin in the name of the Lord to fight Goliath, and what discouragement he endured from his brethren! The victory he obtained by the wonderful mercy of God procured him the notice of Saul, and he was raised to great honors; but soon we hear of Saul casting his javelin at him through jealousy, if possible to counteract what he knew to be the purpose of God. Though Saul again restored him outwardly to favor many times, and gave him his daughter in marriage, yet he pursued him continually. This is the true picture of every one that is in earnest for the kingdom, and on whom the Lord has in any degree manifested his purpose of mercy. If it were possible, our grand adversary would put a final close to all our mournful seeking, by bringing us under some untoward dispensation that should seem to threaten any purpose of God towards us for mercy or salvation.

Solomon, who was a man of peace, and to whom the Lord so abundantly manifested his favor, soon showed how outward prosperity carries the heart away. None were ever so wise as Solomon, and none in Scripture seem to have acted so foolishly as he respecting his wives and their gods, who turned away his heart, to the destruction of his kingdom.

These things show that the Lord is a minute observer of our ways; and it is no small token of living faith to tremble at his judgments. The fear of his uplifted hand is a continual exercise to me, knowing that my heart is foolishly carried away with idols. Nothing but the Spirit, as "the candle of the Lord searching the innermost parts of the belly", will cause this trembling (Proverbs 20:27): but when once the alarm is struck within, I find no rest until the Lord comes with some favorable token of his mercy to me and mine. Such as fear God are subject to these painful changes; but I am also quite sure that a mournful watchful spirit will work its way out of them all. Many strange things occur from quarters never thought of, which involve us in inextricable labyrinths, and are so managed by the enemy as to preclude all power of helping ourselves. This is his craftiness to catch the unwary; but through mercy the snare is discovered, and we find the way out, not by carnal reason, but by a simple cry to the Lord. When we feel ourselves most unworthy of help and mercy, and in the lowest place, then we find an open door. Hope revives, patience is found, and something of quietly waiting brings up the rear; and to our surprise the Lord draws near and tells us we are more than conquerors through him. O how sweetly this breaks the heart, and makes us see the wisdom of God in the trial, as well as his power, faithfulness, loving-kindness, and tender mercy, in the deliverance out of it. Thus we get honey out of the carcass of the lion, and the places that threaten the greatest sorrow are productive of the sweetest evidences of eternal life begun.

I have written to you because I know you are often assailed with many fears, and neither you nor I can put far away the end of all things in this life.

Yours faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 206

London, 5 January 1841.

Dear Mrs. Tims,

It pleases God that I shall have a path of tribulation, but I begin to think it not strange, but that the Lord can cause much of his goodness to pass before me in the midst of the furnace. It was there the three children had the presence of Jesus Christ, and were carried safely through without the least harm; and there I too hope at times for much profit.

I have been for some few days considering what are the best means of profiting by affliction, and these words came as very suitable and profitable: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting." As it is said in the verse before, so the Lord in mercy "opened mine ear" to discipline, and by his grace "I was not rebellious". In this sad cast-down state I perceived a very sober watchful frame, especially to see by God's help, what was the secret movement of my spirit; for that measure of enlightened understanding which I think the Lord has given me, makes me very desirous of watching this point. If resentment be encouraged, if counter-charges are made, if a self-justifying spirit be cherished, at once to conflict with these, and by God's grace give my back to the smiters, though full of grief and mourning, yet with some little secret hope that "the Lord God will help me", so that I shall "not be confounded" (Isaiah 50:5-7).

When I am brought to this, then comes in a secret peace, and I return once more to my old promise, "Wait on the Lord, and he shall (yet) save you." This secret work is very little known to another by outward observation; but I am utterly astonished how such proceedings vanquish the enemy in all directions, so that he is not able to approach, and is for a season, wearied with oppressing. The Lord gently and sweetly whispered these words in my heart last night, when I was grievously upset with reproach: "In me you shall have peace." And indeed I had peace; all my burden was removed for the time.

When Shimei cursed David, how wisely he bore it, saying, "Let him alone . . . It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day" (2 Samuel 16:12). Now, my dear friend, I feel oftentimes exactly so. The Lord has often doubly blessed me in thus turning my battles to the gate, and not attempting to fight them myself; and though I am so terrified and cast down in the onset, as to believe there can be no escape for me, yet this very fright drives me to my Stronghold, which never yet did fail me in the time of extremity. "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God" (Isaiah 50:10). Let him venture on that name and he will find that he cannot be confounded. I have walked in this mournful path, and have been often brought to such a point as to fear my utter ruin; instead of which I have had nothing but repeated tokens and assurances of the Lord's help. These have always appeared when all prospect of help has been at a distance.

What, say you, has been the effect of these conflicts and conquests? I think I have been kept more alive to the things of God. My family, and their souls' concerns, have been nearer to my heart, and therefore liveliness in my prayers and much watchfulness have been maintained in begging the Lord to keep them in bounds; and much peace has been the consequence; and what the final issue may be I do not yet know. I have also found the Word more precious in the reading, the Lord often speaking upon my heart many things both of admonition and instruction; and in the Word preached I have felt a great trembling, receiving it not as the word of man, but as the message of God, which has had a very humbling effect, and has often sent me home with cries and tears. This is another way of giving my back to the smiters.

We read as soon as David acknowledged his sin, Nathan had his message, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die" (2 Samuel 12:13). O what a mercy it is to be enabled to attend to these divine and spiritual things, what heavenly prosperity follows, and what admiration is excited of Christ's beauty and suitableness! How our spirits are engaged in this divine work, so as to have no spare time for reflecting upon persons or things, to bring about a stumbling somewhere or other! The hot furnace is a good place to cure that disorder, and brings the severest reflections upon our own depraved hearts. It makes me feel myself of all sinners chief, and of all saints least; and the sad and painful discovery of my nature's evil makes me keep silence when I am reproached; being yet secretly assured, "Your heart shall live that seek God."

Yours sincerely, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 207

(To E. L.) London, February 1841.

My dear Friend,

I was very glad to find that your present indisposition is attended with the hopes of a quick relief. Our spiritual maladies are not so easily removed. I have been in manifold exercises since I saw you, and have scarcely seen any way of escape, but the Lord has been my refuge. Fears within and fightings without troubled me on every side; "nevertheless, God that comforts them that are cast down" has often come to my relief in the very time of extremity. My sorest enemies, next to my own heart, are those who hold the truth in an unpurged conscience. These smite my life down to the ground, while they establish their own hope upon my ruins. This casts me down, and fills me with fear, and overwhelms my spirit, causing sleepless nights and sorrowful days; and I seem to thirst after the Lord, and cry, "Hear me speedily, O Lord, for my spirit fails. Hide not your face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit." In this struggle the compassion of the Lord is moved, and he gives me some secret intimation of his tender care and mercy. He still keeps me in a low place that boasting may be excluded, and that I may keep in remembrance the bitterness and evil of sin, and be humbled.

I do not find these exercises once in my life and then have done with them, but no sooner does one wave of trouble subside than another arises; so that I am made in some measure to understand that this captivity is for long, even as long as I live; only now and then mingled with divine and spiritual revivals, which "drop as the rain, and distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass". You may say, This is a mournful religion, I want more comfort; but God declares, "This is not your rest;" your sin and mine has polluted it; yet these drops of heavenly dew upon the soul will teach us to say, "He is the Rock; his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Deuteronomy 32:2-4).

This sort of sharp exercise will teach us distinctly the difference between the letter and the spirit, and between the Word of God, as a word only, and the divine and spiritual work upon the heart and conscience by the Spirit. When the Spirit of truth thus enters he guides us into all truth essential to salvation, and gives us a peculiar discriminating knowledge of truth and error; a discernment of a wrong spirit where there may be some right words, even so that "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect".

These are dangers, which as yet you are not fully aware of. Your friendly bosom receives all who move themselves aright, and whose words give their color in the cup. You are little aware that at last they bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder. They have a peculiar soporiferous effect upon the conscience, and you will not know that death is there; but Solomon says, "Your heart shall utter perverse things." This is a terribly dangerous place, for it is "as he who lies on the top of a mast", or he who sleeps in the midst of a stormy sea of trouble, instead of praying (Proverbs 23:31-34). Nothing short of the power of God can cause any one to tremble at these dangers. How many are warned of them, and yet venture all, both body and soul, upon their own wisdom; and cannot or will not see that their hope is built on carnal reason, which must prove a sandy foundation, or that they make a false claim upon the Word, without the Spirit of God testifying his approbation, and sealing home upon the conscience that the Lord Jesus Christ has cleansed them from all their sin.

If that work of the Holy Spirit takes place, how it humbles the soul; and brings us out of the genteel religious world, as it is called; and makes us look back with abhorrence upon that part of our profession wherein we were then held fast until the rod of correction drove us out, and brought in a little more tender regard for the honor of God, a little more humiliation of self, and sober watchfulness into the nature of our communion with God, how far it affects us in society, and whether we can now spend our hours in levity or idle talk about many things that concern not the salvation of our souls. A due examination into these things (if we are made honest) will presently discover the nature and extent of our profession, and whether the heart be duly affected, or only the head furnished. If we walk tenderly, I am persuaded that conscience will do its office, and we shall soon come to the true state of the case. The Lord's complaint is, "You will not come unto me that you may have life," but will lean to your own understanding. Solomon says again, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool"; because it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The fool says he can, and there lies his ruin. May you and I be able to receive instruction from the Lord, suspect our own hearts, and learn to lean upon the Beloved in all this wilderness journey of life we have to pass through; then shall we safely arrive at the end of our course, and it shall prove the salvation of our souls.

Yours faithfully, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 208

(To Miss S.) London, 7 February 1841

My dear Friend,

It pleases God that his people shall be called to fight, and not to play. He will teach them, not always with the rod and the furnace, but often with the sweetest and most endearing tenderness and kindness that can be impressed on the heart of man, how to be good soldiers and to endure hardness. I am often greatly depressed, fearing the worst of evils, and especially lest the hand of God should signally go out against either me or my family. In my mourning and manifold confessions the Lord softens my spirit, and by a few words, such as, "Fear not," he looks so kindly at me, that I find nothing left for me to do but to fall flat in the dust before him, and in this my abject condition entreat his mercy; and instead of rebukes and reproach, I find the sweetest tokens of his love. The lessons this teaches me are, to keep no secret from him; to trust in him at all times more freely; to feel assured that the heart shall live that seeks God; and to believe that all the temporal affairs of his people are as much the object of his notice and care as the spiritual. "Not a hair of your head shall perish." I found this very sweet yesterday, and while it was fresh on my spirit, I so firmly believed the truth as to be enabled to cast all my care upon the Lord. And though it quickly gathers again, yet by the mercy of God these lessons are not learned entirely in vain; for day and night unceasingly I am led to watch the movements of the Lord within, and how far he will condescend to clear my way, that hope may abound, and that his hand may be seen towards those he has committed to my charge. For my soul and the souls he has given me I would gladly seek his face, that we may be bound in the same bundle of life with the Lord my God (1 Samuel 25:29).

I do not see how spiritual life can be kept up without this spiritual anxiety. Many of my sweetest evidences of Christ's everlasting love to my soul have sprung out of these concerns; and I think this is walking with God. The Lord said of Abraham, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment" (Genesis 18:19). This is what I pray for night and day; and though (like Abraham in the case of Ishmael) I may not find it fully accomplished, yet to discover some token of God's favor is an inconceivable mercy, and has a very peculiar general effect, so that we do not become like the salt that has lost its savor.

Yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 209

London, 14 February 1841.

Dear W. B.,

I have been greatly exercised and much cast down of late. God only knows why you are continually, with some others, on my mind and in my prayers. I do not know when I have felt such floods of sorrow and fear. Under these feelings the Lord led me to these words for my morning's reading yesterday: "He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he has sent empty away." This greatly encouraged me; and in my meditation these words came with sweetness: "I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, . . . for he disappoints the devices of the crafty, . . . but he saves the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor has hope, and iniquity stops her mouth" (Job 5:8-16). Psalm 107 was also very encouraging to me; these words: "He sets the poor on high from affliction; the righteous shall see it and rejoice," came with such unspeakable and personal application as to comfort me exceedingly with a sweet sense of the Lord's love, tenderness, and care; and the last verse crowned the whole, and showed me the unspeakable love of Christ to his afflicted people, and to me as one of them. While pondering over this heavenly gale of Christ's everlasting love, which brought me so clean out of my sorrows, these words were gently whispered in my heart, Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow? In them I heard the voice of my Beloved, to quell my grief, and to make me lay to heart that my sin had caused his sorrow; and that I had need to abase myself, and look only at his sovereign mercy, which had visited me in such a low condition. It wrought contrition and godly sorrow, with an inexpressible tenderness towards him, while I was led, like Job, to abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

I know not when I had so sweet a token; but my changes are very many. Things arose from all quarters, which caused the clouds to gather and threaten another storm; but when evening came, I was led, I think by the Lord, to these words for this morning's reading: "The hand of the Lord was with him" (Luke 1:66). I first saw Samuel, when young; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. I then thought of David when first presented to Saul; how the hand of the Lord was with him, and brought him through all his difficulties. The history of Joseph also shows the overruling power of God; and Jacob, though turned out of doors, yet protected and preserved, returns home greatly increased after twenty years' absence. Naomi said she must no more be so called, but Mara, because the Lord had dealt bitterly with her; but read to the end, and you will see how the hand of the Lord is towards his people.

I found Psalm 89 a sweet key to my text: "You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, and high is your right hand. Justice and judgment are the habitation of your throne; mercy and truth shall go before your face." The hand of the Lord is seen in giving knowledge of salvation by the remission of sin. We can scarcely feel it possible that this happy day should ever arrive; but the hand of the Lord brings it about, and shows us that it is not by our might or power, but by the Spirit, that this work is wrought in the heart, and that this precious gift is only bestowed upon them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; that such poor creatures as you and I may have peace.

Whatever you may think, I am sure I have felt this day that there is no sinner so great as myself; and by the deep self-abasement I found at the sight, I believe it was the Spirit of God that showed me this. When I had finished my reading, I went to my friend Mr. Maddy, and told him of my cast-down condition and the sorrow under which I labored; he endeavored to cheer me, and said, This sorrow is for something good. I was obliged to go out on business, and when I entered Portman Square, I said very mournfully, Lord, is it true what my friend said? Is this your work that I feel? Are you humbling me? All this was very sorrowfully spoken, and I added, Are all the good things you have promised me to go for nothing? I felt as if it could scarcely be so, though fears were ready to admit the thought; but just then these words were whispered, "He will exalt you in due time;" and with them I found the sweetest return of Christ's loving-kindness that I can express. It melted me into tears of contrition and gratitude, and made me feel more abject in myself, and more safe in the eternal love of Father, Son, and Spirit, than it is possible for me to describe. My thoughts of praise and adoration went as quick as lightning to acknowledge the infinite condescension of the Lord in regarding the low estate of his servant, and showing me that in the world I shall have tribulation, but in him shall always find a Friend.

This is the Friend I want strongly to recommend to you. I know your fears, and I am sure they will be multiplied, and that you will have some bitter throes of conscience, when Hell and death approach. I find them overwhelming; but the hand of the Lord will be with you to sustain you and make known to you that "he has raised up a horn of salvation for us", by which he will push aside all his enemies and ours; and will make manifest that, however secret or small the beginning may be, yet by this power and this hand, he will bring forth the top stone with shouting (Zechariah 4:6, 7). You will naturally say, Why do you tell all this to me? Because I have been so continually mindful of you in my prayers, and think I have found such tokens of good as will accompany your salvation.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 210

London, 6 March 1841.

Dear Miss H.,

The nearer I come to my end the more my fears are excited, lest I be found sleeping, and not listening to what the Lord says. This leads to much secret examination, confession, and repentance, and I should be of all men most miserable, if the Lord did not return in mercy to my soul. The judgments of God are a great deep. Old as I am, I see fresh instances of them towards his people, unexpected, unfathomable, unsearchable; and these things the Lord does that men may fear before him. A light profession is no better than the crackling of thorns under a pot; it is full of noise and outward zeal, but has no real solid work of the Spirit wrought upon the heart, and therefore dies in the time of extremity. I have seen much that bid fair in the onset; but when the blessed Lord of the vineyard came to see the fruit, it was all wild grapes (Isaiah 5:2).

These things are set forth in the Scriptures for you and me to lay to heart; that we may not hastily conclude there is no fear of our being found in the like case; but very cautiously inquire what the Lord says about it, and whether he bears testimony in our conscience that we are his. You will say, Have I not told you in my letter what the Lord has done for me? True; but through the unceasing power of the enemy there will be a necessity for the renewal of the Lord's visits continually, or we shall lose sight of our hope. Nothing confirms the past tokens of God's love so sweetly as present tokens of his being with us and in us.

I thought you cut short your last letter, only answering one part of mine. Could you clearly discriminate between a minister of the letter and one of the Spirit? The minister of the letter, though preaching every truth, tender in his walk, and approved of men, yet not being sent of God, cannot minister the Spirit to the afflicted, but will always bring them into bondage, and leave them there. "There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." A minister of the Spirit is one whom God instructs, and sends, and to whom he gives authority. His Word shall enter, and it shall be as the sword of the Spirit, which shall effectually instruct the child of God in such terrible and deep lessons of humiliation as shall bring him in hopeless and helpless; and here it shall also set before him an open door, even Christ Jesus, while the Spirit working faith in the heart brings in the Savior, as the only Friend suitable and all-sufficient to meet his troubles, counteract his despair, and give him a sweet hope of eternal life. The minister of the Spirit being himself the subject of manifold temptations will take heed carefully to watch how the Lord helps him, and that he does not fall asleep in his trials, but fights hard against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and manifests his walking in the Spirit by his prevalency with the Lord. Such an one will be able to set before an afflicted people much encouragement, and show them that his Christ is "a tried stone, a sure foundation"; and this will be very different from head knowledge and a dry description of the work of God.

I hope you will be able to discern the difference, and to see your danger. There is no end of false Christs; many cry Lo, here! and Lo, there! but after all that is said about the universal spread of the gospel, and the wonderful light of the present day, the Savior's words must be true: "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it." "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" I am often charged with being too narrow and exclusive, but I must tell you all my heart. The judgments of God have made me tremble on all hands, both in my own family and myself; and I hope "my soul has them still in remembrance, and is humbled within me". This does not work bondage, but filial fear and holy awe and reverence, and what certainly becomes a sinner saved by sovereign grace.

May the Lord instruct you in these things more and more, and especially not to take things for granted, for all is not gold that glitters, nor is all vital godliness that seems to move itself aright, and shows a fair color in the cup (Proverbs 23:31).

Yours faithfully in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 211

London, 16 March 1841.

My dear W. B.,

I must tell you again, you are in the strong hand of God, and he will take care that you shall not escape. You are ready to say, Why should I be here so long? I reply, Would you be like a fool brayed in a mortar? (Proverbs 27:22). Then remember,

"Your Lord for nothing would not chide;
You highly should'st esteem
The cross that's sent to purge your pride,
And make you more like him."

I am in hopes your trouble will prove to be that which God calls "Jacob's trouble", different from all other trouble, divine, spiritual, which, though it turns man to destruction, yet has eternal life as its issue. This is brought about by the wonder-working power of God, and is attended with ten thousand changes.

O how often am I brought to the very brink of giving all up! but my judgment being enlightened, I perceive I can gain nothing by that; therefore I continue to cry, and find relief in the end. This day I have been comforted in the meditation of these words: "You have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy", which fury is in a broken law, fastening the sentence of death upon the conscience; but God says, "I am the Lord your God, that divided the sea, whose waves roar", (at times with great fury). "I have covered you in the shadow of my hand . . . and say unto Zion, You are my people" (Isaiah 51:12-16). Ah! (say you) this was spoken to Zion. Yes; and it was also spoken to me, who am a poor, weak, cast-down, afflicted person, with no more ground of hope than you. The Lord is no respecter of persons, but all that call upon him in sincerity will and must find the truth of his Word.

Are there not times and seasons in which a ray of light shines with truth and clearness upon your soul, and though it be but transient, conveys for the time the testimony of God to the sincerity of your spiritual pursuits, and counteracts the despairing feelings that assail you? This testimony of God is the sweetest foundation of hope, and brings in eternal life as the end of that feeble faith which is so often hidden.

Be sure you do not trifle with your profession of religion; you have light enough to know the difference between the professor and the possessor. The former abounds everywhere, and ends in everlasting disappointment; but one grain of godly fear will carry you through all your troubles, however great or long. It will always prove a fountain of life, and bring up the sinking spirit from the depths of Hell. It is a part of the divine nature which the Lord imparts to his broken-hearted children. I have found this grace wrap round my very soul, to buoy me up, when everything else seemed quite gone. It is a rich treasure, that will make us put up with poverty, sickness, and disappointment in all shapes: it will allow God to choose our inheritance for us, and teach us to say, "He has done all things well."

But mind, while we live on earth, we shall possess two natures and that which is, and always was, corrupt, will not be patient, resigned, humble, but the contrary to all this. Yet the new nature will conflict with these evils, and will not submit to be domineered over by them. It will so cry, and fight, as to bring in the promised help of the Lord, and thus manifest the secret power and efficacy of this divine and heavenly grace, called the fear of God.

So faint not, my dear friend; the battle will be hot and sore but "wait you on the Lord, and he shall save you." The victory is sure in him; and though carnal fear and terrors run high, yet I, with you, must look at the Captain of our salvation, his strength and power, his willingness, his loving-kindness and tender mercy and if he but return one look toward us, we shall certainly find that one look contains eternal life. Bless his holy name, I have often found it so; so did Mrs. Gilpin, and so will you. It is this that so endears the Savior to us. We know no grief so great as offending him, and yet how treacherous our hearts are! Do not give up; you will never find another such Friend; you will say: "My beloved is the chief among ten thousand;" "yes, he is altogether lovely." My daily prayer is that you may come to the full possession of this rich treasure.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 212

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 7 April 1841.

My dear Friend,

None but such as God takes in hand really know what it is to be pulled to pieces. How I see on all hands not one escapes! Expectations cut off, purposes thwarted, designs frustrated, until at length the destruction appears, to which God will turn those whom he purposes to bid to return and live (Psalm 90:3). This destruction does not only come at the beginning, but as long as we live the Lord will strike at all our fleshly expectations to which we are (at least I am) continually subject.

I was very sorrowful last night, and much cast down. I have lately pondered much the way in which I have been led the last two years, and have looked at the repeated and continual difficulties in which I have been involved; and yet I think I never found spiritual life more in exercise, nor such frequent visits from the Lord to comfort me. I needed the comfort, because the nature of my troubles led me greatly to suspect and fear many things in myself, and that these would accumulate like a great mountain, which I should not be able to pass over on a dying bed. This was not a slight reflection that soon passed off; but it has been a long continued judging of myself, every now and then attended with such fears as like a flood overwhelmed me. I have at different periods had some very sweet and precious and encouraging words applied to my heart, which have comforted me much for a time; but the returning of the clouds after the rain has greatly depressed me.

This morning early, being desirous of having some kind token from the Lord, and feeling an anxious desire to have clear work, I said, Lord, did I offend and grieve your most Holy Spirit in the matter of my daughter's illness in any way? or did I offend in the affair of F. J.? Did I offend in my communications with Hertford or Pulverbach? or have I grieved your Spirit in my writing to other places? O Lord, you only know whether I was simple and sincere. Have my communications with our own church grieved you? Have you not made me truly, in secret, to desire your honor? and though I am of all sinners chief, yet have you not made me honest? O Lord, if it please you, show me if I walk in anything wherein I offend your blessed Majesty. Here the Lord softened my spirit, and I could not proceed; my heart began to melt, and a ray of heavenly light showed me all the way I had come; and though it had been a path of great humiliation, yet I perceived that underneath were the everlasting arms of love and mercy. Thus was the Lord pleased to break in upon my soul with a clear token of his love, and the sweetest sense of his approbation, without one rebuke.

This light of life discovered many things which it is my wisdom to withhold; but it certainly discovered this, that if the Lord gives us simplicity and sincerity, you and I may rest assured we shall be found among the number of his chosen ones, and shall make it manifest that "in him we live and move and have our being". It is inexpressibly sweet to have such a Friend; how often has he saved us from despair!

The Lord has been with me much of late in my morning readings, and I have felt the great importance of the truths spoken, though for the most part I have been "as a sparrow alone upon the house top". I am much surprised in reading John Knox and others, to find the very same things that exercise me set forth by them as their trials. This comforts me with a prospect of a happy issue, and reconciles me to the cross.

Remember me very kindly to Mrs. Gilpin, and tell her not to be disheartened because she perceives the battle waxes hot, but to remember what I have written often before, how the Lord said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." This is not our rest, and the Lord will make us to know it; and he will also make us to know the sweet refreshing rest that is to be found in all the kind visits of the Lord Jesus Christ. These more than compensate for all our troubles, and afford us a sweet perception of the reality of eternal life, and of being forever with the Lord. May you and she have a goodly portion in these things is the prayer of

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 213

London, 24 April 1841.

Dear Mr. Maydwell,

It appears to me that there has been a long quarrel and contention between God and your brother's conscience; and that he cannot persuade the Lord to give place, no, not for one moment; nor to withdraw his hand one inch. Such is the obstinacy of the human heart that it would die in the contest rather than give up. What are the weapons with which such contend and fight? Feigned humility, dissembled love, false confidence, pride and presumption in ten thousand shapes, all centering in one charge which the Savior makes (John 9:41), "Now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains." There it will remain to all eternity, unpurged and unwashed, unless the sovereign mercy of God break the neck of ignorance, and open the blind eyes to see the awful place that we are in. If you say, I wish I could see how this may be done, I reply,

"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;"

and perhaps in this especial case he has a double object in view; one, to bring a trial upon you; and the other, to manifest the riches and power of his sovereign grace.

For many years I was suffered to eat my own bread, and wear my own apparel, and call Jesus mine; but the Lord contended with me by various disappointments and cross providences, which brought me to an extremity; nor was it until this took place, that the branch of the lord was to me beautiful and glorious. What made him so beautiful and glorious then? It was because he washed away my filth and purged the blood of my enmity, "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning". Then upon all this glorious work he put a defense (Isaiah 4:2-5). The grace of humility, repentance unto life, godly sorrow, and all the graces of the Spirit, defend from the spirit of the world, conceit of wisdom, and all those foolish and lofty imaginations, which are no better than a bubble in the air, bringing in nothing but the sorrow of the world and death filled with the conceit of life.

O what a wonderful mercy it is to have such a Friend as this, who will not suffer us to go headlong to destruction! How long I seemed to be in this dangerous place! I now look back with horror, for I was as one of two grinding at the mill, of two in a bed of security, and knew it not; and my fellows and companions are still left in the ruins of the fall, and the vain and fair beginnings of their free-will profession have issued in all manner of errors and immorality, the end of which I know to be death eternal.

Who knows but that in the secret purpose of God your brother may be thus taken in hand, and in all directions clean wiped out, "as a man wipes a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down" (2 Kings 21:13); and that this may be the preparation of the heart, the Lord himself turning out the buyers and sellers in his heart with the cords of affliction, and making room for himself?

These are times for great sobriety, while the especial hand of God is upon us or close round about us. You and I may say, How shall we escape all the threatened dangers? I can only reply in the words of the prophet, "It shall come to pass." That is all the Lord will explain, "It shall come to pass;" and that is enough for you and me. There shall be "a place of refuge, and a covert from storm and rain" (Isaiah 4:3-6). Have we not always found it so in the time of extremity? "Hitherto has the Lord helped us," while many have stumbled and fallen, and have been broken and snared and taken. Isaiah seems to show us the way he escaped, when he says, "I will wait upon the Lord who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him;" according to that sweet invitation, "Look unto me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth." And the Savior takes especial notice of this look, saying, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

When the disciples were alarmed at the tempestuous sea, the Savior appeared near at hand, and they were soon at the end of their difficulties; this was the issue of their long and toilsome looking, seeking, fearing, trembling; and it shows that he hears the cry of the poor, and will not despise their prayer.

May the Lord manifest himself abundantly to you, that you may be able to open your mouth wide, that it may be filled; and that you may see the wisdom of God displayed in all the various dispensations you are brought into, and may understand that they have all one end, namely, the glory of God and the salvation of your soul.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 214

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 29 May 1841.

My dear Friend,.

There is nothing more common, in an early profession of religion, than for the enemy to watch the constitutional or besetting sin, and to work upon that, and if possible in some way or other, to enforce the absolute necessity of being found in the full exercise of it, covered with the name of godly fear.

For instance, if I am naturally indolent, the enemy will soon impress me (but all in a wrong aspect) with such truths as these: I can do nothing; I cannot quicken my own soul; I must wait God's time; I must not be impatient. Thus the poor creature, before he well knows his right hand from his left, has these shades put upon his conscience to hoodwink him in every proceeding in life; and he is so bewildered as not to see nor to suspect the snare.

Waiting upon God is a very active principle, and so is waiting for him; and he who waits in the Spirit will leave no stone unturned until he is fully satisfied the Lord is directing him. Would you know who is the man that is not actuated by godly fear, and makes not God his refuge? It is he who sits still, and vainly imagines that matters will come right, and makes no use of God's appointed means. Such an one not only meets with disappointment, but is surrounded with spiritual death, darkness, and confusion of mind; and is not aware of its being the consequence of that slothful inactive spirit which binds him down to the earth.

As it respects your friend Mr. D., I look upon it there is a double necessity that he should unceasingly seek the Lord that he would unfold the mystery of his providence now. This seems to be a peculiar turn in life with him, and a wrong step might mark his future life with much bitterness and sorrow; therefore he should deeply lay it to heart. The enemy is very busy; the issue none knows but God. If he makes the Lord his refuge, he will be carried safely through all his difficulties. He will find that God "has determined the times before appointed", as well as the bounds of our habitation; and for this purpose has declared that we shall seek the Lord, and feel after him, and find him; and in that exercise (however painful), understand that he is not very far from us (Acts 17:26, 27).

It is sweet to know that the Lord's people are his portion and inheritance; therefore "when he separated the sons of Adam, he fixed the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." Though he finds us "in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness", he leaves us not as he finds us, but leads us about by various dispensations, and instructs us and keeps us, and never takes his eye from us. But remember, as the eagle with its young, so he stirs up our nest (there is no such thing as being still or inactive), he flutters over us, takes us on his wings into many terrible dispensations; but in his wisdom he never leaves us, nor will, until he teaches us "to suck honey out of the rock and oil out of the flinty rock" (Deuteronomy 32:8-13).

Tell your friend to be cautious. It is a great salvation! he knows not how great; for eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can the heart conceive what God "has prepared for him that waits for him". It is a great thing to be a lost sheep of the house of Israel; to such the Savior is sent, and such shall find him. Tell him also to lay to heart the honor of God and of his cause, that he may bring no reproach upon either the ministers or the people of God, either by odd ways, singular proceedings, inconsistent indolence, or any of such faults, a list too long to name.

If the conscience be tender, there will be a due regard to these things, and the footsteps of God's providence will be narrowly watched. Wherever we can trace his marks, there (like Standfast) we shall covet to step, and nowhere else. The apostle says, "Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." "Not my will, but your, be done." In these exercises we perceive the coming and going of the Lord, his smiles and frowns; and when sin is charged home upon the conscience, either in exceeding or falling short, we hasten to the fountain opened, and have no rest until the pardon is procured. Thus by the various circumstances of outward things the Lord causes the inward and spiritual life to grow and increase.

I hope your friend will tenderly attend to these things; I am sure he will find his advantage in so doing. It will keep him from what the wise man says, "By much slothfulness the building decays, and by idleness of hands the house drop through." With the sincerest good wishes for him, I remain,

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 215

(To Mr. Nunn) Croft Castle, Leominster, 25 June 1841.

My dear Friend,

I have been very anxious to have some especial token of the Lord's approbation and blessing on my journey and employment here. In reading Psalm 36 I was surprised to find my spirit soften, and the Lord draw near; and when I came to these words, "he abhors not evil," I paused, and presently a great sweetness came into my heart; my soul was filled with self-abasement, and I felt the witness of the Spirit that God had made me to abhor evil, and that that was the cause of my present manifold fears. This power continued, and the following words suited my feelings, "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds: your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep: O Lord, you preserve man and beast." I cannot express my feelings, and how I desired to acknowledge with all my heart the goodness and faithfulness of God to me. This left a very great awe upon my spirit, which led me to consider what the Savior says, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," which we are sure to fall into, if we are led into temptation.

Afterwards I opened the Bible upon these words in Deuteronomy 7: "You are a holy people unto the Lord your God." O what an awe attended the reading, and what fear lest I should grieve the Spirit of God; and yet with it a beautiful sense of the mercy and favor of God in Christ Jesus. I felt a sweet acquiescence in what the Lord there shows us, namely, that he did not set his love upon anything in us, for we are but the essence of sin; and when I came to these words: "but because the Lord loved you," they filled me with unutterable astonishment and praise. O what holy awe and fear I felt all this time, and grief at myself for what I am, have been, and shall be! I was led to be very earnest in prayer that the Lord would preserve my spirit, and keep alive his fear in my heart, and continue to give me that holy light and sweet unction in reading his Word; for there it is he reveals himself in justice and righteousness, and judgment and mercy. Then it continues, "because he would keep the oath which he had sworn, . . . has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondmen," that is from the bondage of sin unto the glorious liberty of the gospel. I felt a sweet caution upon my spirit, attended with much savor, as I continued reading, "If you hearken to these judgments, and keep them, and do them, the Lord your God . . . will love you, and bless you, and multiply you;" and so on to the end of that chapter. All this has been an inexpressible comfort to me, yet leaves a very great awe upon my spirit, and causes many prayers that I may not lose the sweet power I find in reading the Word.

It is a sweet consolation in pain or sickness to feel that the Lord knows all our troubles. The very thought of the words "if need be" (1 Peter 1:6) stills my repinings, and makes me to ponder the cause of my manifold exercises; and I find they are not only to humble me, but also to teach me to listen to what the Lord says: "Said I not unto you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?" This leads me to consider in what way the glory of God should be manifested in my affliction. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, which is profitable both in the church of God and in my family. Again, if my affliction be sanctified, I shall tenderly regard every part of God's Word, and shall consider nothing is quite as it should be, if sin has any dominion. Affliction, if not sanctified, makes me imperious and not to be controlled, petulant and angry. Such things fill me with inconceivable fear; and if charged with them I cannot sleep, lest the Lord should take vengeance of my inventions. Many confessions are made, and many mournful and almost hopeless cries are put up, and not until the Lord draws near can I rest. When he comes and breaks my heart, then a little child may lead me; and this is a discovery of the glory of God, and the way in which it works in my heart.

I often think of you all, and know some among you have prayed for me. I never felt a greater need. Remember me to Mrs. Nunn; I hope she is much in earnest, and has good tokens of the Lord's favor; for he says he will come as a thief in the night.

Believe me yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 216

(To M. and J, G.) Leominster, 29 June 1841.

My dear Friends,

Although I have been so silent of late, yet I have not been an insensible observer of your various conflicts, temptations, and afflictions. I would desire deeply to impress upon your minds the need for the fiery trial; and that you may not think it strange, the Lord has kept on record, from Genesis to Revelation, innumerable instances of his people's afflictions and their deliverances out of them. We know not how great sinners we are, nor can we conceive how infinitely wise and just God is. His judgments are an unfathomable deep, and we see not how far in his infinite wisdom he may go; this calls for great humiliation on our part.

Abel lost his life, though he obtained the favor and approbation of God. Abraham found no deliverance, until the knife was at the throat of his son. This is the time of extremity. Jacob must be driven about for twenty years before he could hope for the fulfillment of the promise, and on the first opening of the door for his escape he is threatened by his brother; yet through all his complicated difficulties the Lord proved faithful. One would have thought that Joseph's first trial of being cast into the pit might have sufficed, but God knows there is a need for continual and repeated trouble to keep our proud hearts dependent upon the Lord. Such were Joseph's troubles that every new trial fitted him for greater honors; and ours also, if it please God to sanctify them, will yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Moses, though the meekest man, and one with whom the Lord spoke face to face, yet in the trial muttered perverseness and went beyond the orders God had given him, for which thing the Lord would not suffer him to go into the promised land; nevertheless we find that though the displeasure of the Lord was manifest in this, his end was unutterable peace; thus God mingles mercy with his judgments.

What shall we say of Job? God says, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?" yet he must be tried; and the manifold afflictions laid upon him brought him down to a very low ebb, and manifested many things in his heart which before he did not expect to find; nor did the Lord cease to contend until he was made not to pity, but mourn, and to abhor himself, "and repent in dust and ashes". Some of our friends suspect that there must be something wrong when continued affliction, poverty, or sickness abide upon us; and certainly there is some truth in the suspicion. I believe Job's self-righteous spirit was one cause why the Lord contended; and you and I have much pride and ignorance which the Lord will not overlook.

One affliction and no more we perceive will not suffice. We, like the apostle, are troubled on every side; but these afflictions will be light, if we are enabled with the eye of faith to look at the things that are eternal. What makes the misery is perpetually looking at the things that are seen; we cannot suppose there can be an end; we reason, and set things down, as coming to pass, which God has designed never shall come to pass; also we draw out lines for the accomplishment of our ends, where God never moves; and we get sadly confounded and sink into despondency. This is always the issue of natural and fleshly wisdom; for God will confound it. Joseph little thought that the direct road to be chief and governor of all Egypt lay through the pit whence the Midianites drew him.

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;"

but wonders he will yet perform in behalf of his afflicted people. It is yet left on record, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

Salvation is a great thing, and your eyes and hearts must be more set upon the heavenly inheritance; and when you are enabled to give up the treasures of Egypt, then you will find no end of the sweetness and power of the unsearchable riches of Christ. "Be sober, be vigilant;" for your adversary the devil is seeking to devour you with fear and despair. Jesus Christ is stronger than all that oppose. Cleave closely to him, and you will find your safety there. Use the Psalmist's prayer perpetually, "Be you my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort;" and may the Lord bless you.

I remain yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 217

(To his Daughters H. P. and H.) Leominster, 3 July 1841.

My dear Children,

In this latter period of my life I begin to see some of the fearful places where I stumbled and fell, and also some of the immeasurable and free grace which restored me; but I find that my backsliding heart, continually prone to wander, is the cause of those perpetual blows and rebukes which overtake me; and though all of them have been much mixed with mercy, they have left me so sore that I dread another stroke. I think this is God's design that I may deeply lay to heart what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God, for he will surely take vengeance of the sins of his people. This sort of exercise, sanctified, will produce godly fear, which, like a sentinel, will keep the heart in the midst of temptation, and let no strange thing pass through without strict examination, confession, and pardon. It is in consequence of my having been so exercised that I write to you; first, to warn you of places of danger, and caution you to stand aloof and, secondly, to encourage you to believe that you shall find in this exercise that nothing is too hard for the Lord, though everything is too hard for us, if we presume to manage it according to the wisdom of the flesh. If you are diligent and watchful in all these places, you cannot tell how hope, under the worst appearances, will counteract despair and despondency. Living at a distance from the Lord always produces a looking at the things that are seen; and it pleases the Lord to put a canker-worm at that root, and then murmuring and repining are sure to follow, and these are not the fruits of the Spirit.

If your lives are spared, still you cannot long have the privilege of the present ministry; therefore take heed that it proves fruitful. It is a sad mark when the ministry is unprofitable; you may be sure that you have in some way offended him who has sent both the messenger and the message; therefore search this out by confession and prayer, and never rest until the Lord appears again in the public ordinances; and be sure to pray for and seek the peace of spiritual Jerusalem.

If you are enabled steadily to watch and pray for wisdom and discretion in your daily conversation, you will find that the Lord Jesus Christ is faithful to his Word, and not only will he fit you for everything to which he appoints you, but the peace of God will rule in your hearts, and a sweet communion be kept up, together with those evidences that accompany salvation. Thus what God has so sweetly joined together, let not the flesh, nor a fleshly walk in independence of God, put asunder. Be sure diligently to seek and cherish unity, so that no fleshly attachment shall supersede that which is divine. If jealousies appear, be sure to take them with mournful confession to the Lord, and never rest until you can in his strength accomplish this word: "In honor preferring one another." Be cautious how and where the spirit of the world creeps in, for it will make its inroad by all the faculties and senses we possess, and in so subtle a manner that we are often deeply entangled in the snare before we feel the danger. Be always suspicious and jealous of yourselves, and remember God's testimony: "The heart is deceitful above all things," beyond what you can conceive. If there be the least lowering upon your spirit, do not begin to consider from what quarter it comes, or whether it be a temptation, but be sure to spread it before the Lord, for he alone can help. If the enemy can tempt you to reason, or to mend it by a stricter observance of many things, you are already in the snare. Christ says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life;" so that all the ways that the naturally wise and prudent use lead only to death.

May the Lord multiply mercy toward you, and not suffer you to live in the spirit of the world, and all your days be unprofitable to the church of God. May shame cover your faces at the thought of such a thing, and make you much in earnest to maintain a good conscience toward God in all things. So prays

Your affectionate father, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 218

(To the Rev. W. Maddy ) Leominster, 6 July 1841.

My dear Friend,

I have, by the blessing of God, of late years considered much the causes of spiritual decay and the continual darkness that overtakes us; and I cannot but believe it is for want of a true reverence for the Word of God. We seem to receive the doctrines therein contained, and to pay some regard to the promises the Lord makes to his afflicted people; and perhaps you will say, What more need we? Carefully read the Epistles, and you will find the apostles always follow up their doctrine with counsel, and show the necessity of the fruits and effects of the divine work upon the heart being openly manifested. Where this is not regarded, there will be much darkness and distance from God. If I pay not due reverence to such a word as this: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21), I shall fall into bondage, and find my prayer shut out. It will prove a hindrance to my approaches to God, for "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18).

I was much struck this morning in reading 1 Thessalonians 5, "You are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness; therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober." The apostle gives this reason: "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ;" and then adds, "We beseech you, brethren," and again, "We exhort you, . . . Quench not the Spirit." As though he said, If you attend not to the word of exhortation, you will find no end of misery and the sensible lack of the Lord's presence; you will have no communion with the Lord Jesus Christ; no communion with his people; no blessing of God upon the works of your hands.

How difficult it is to come to the apostle's words, "Being reviled we bless" (1 Corinthians 4:12); yet I am firmly persuaded if we can find grace and humility so to walk, we shall have abundant peace and composure of mind. I have been in the midst of contention and war, and there have had no end of support in finding these words applied to me: "Say not in your heart, I will recompense evil; but wait you on the Lord, and he shall save you." O how true and faithful is the Lord to his Word! I am sure we may wholly confide in him. When all friends fail, and all refuge too, he will delight in and honor them that hope in his mercy. Joseph had but a poor prospect of retrieving his character; he little thought that the prison was the way to be lord of all Egypt. But before honor there must be humility; or we should all prove like a ship without ballast.

It is marvelous how earnestly Paul, in that same Epistle to the Thessalonians, prays that spiritual unity may exist and manifest itself, to the end that our hearts may be established unblamably in holiness before God. This can be no other way than by the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin, and by which alone we walk with God in peace and equity. It is not in vain that it is said: "Let your garments be always white, and let your head lack no ointment" (Ecclesiastes 9:8). A profession without this is like salt that has lost its savor, and in time of affliction it leaves the soul to despair of all things, which I dread exceedingly in these my latter days.

I cannot express my anxiety here that my employers should be satisfied with what it pleases God to enable me to accomplish; otherwise I suspect that something in me causes the Lord to withdraw his favor from me. I little thought of ever being so far from home again, but I trust the Lord will preserve me, and enable me to finish this my last engagement; which often brings to my mind the first, forty-one years since. I must acknowledge the goodness and mercy and faithfulness of God which have followed me all my days, and I am quite sure that he who walks uprightly shall want no good thing. May every blessing attend you.

I remain your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 219

(To Mr. R. Taylor) Leominster, 10 July 1841.

My dear Friend in the path of great tribulation,

I am ashamed that I do not profit as you do in the furnace of affliction. I often think of your troubles, and know not how to pity you, but rather rejoice in that the Lord is your hope and help, and never forgets you. He is with you in meditation and prayer, and in reading his Word; and though your pains may at times be very racking, yet the Lord's all-sufficiency counteracts your evils, so as to make them not evil, but good. Even in your temporal concerns I know that the Lord will direct you, inasmuch as you make him your refuge. He never fails. No one can tell for another what shall be the line he should walk in. The Lord appoints and marks out our boundaries, and it is our mercy to mind his marks. If we were to follow the counsel of the best men we might err. They cannot fathom God's design: the Lord does not often show a man what shall be the line of things for his friend, but he is pleased to show each individual what is the course he must take; and he who tenderly regards this teaching shall never want a wise counselor. He will often lead through seas which man cannot fathom, and especially will teach us to walk by faith, and not by sight.

I am much comforted with what you say respecting honoring the Lord with your substance and the first fruits of all your increase. I have been greatly harassed about this, and the enemy has thrust sore at my profession altogether, because I had not so much money to give to the poor of the flock as some have. But you show me that praise for spiritual mercies, offered from a heart in spiritual liberty, is the best first fruits with which we can honor the Lord.

There is nothing in the natural man that can rejoice when the fig tree does not blossom; but the new man sees beauty in this spiritual baptism, and knows that not only must we endure the cross and die to the world and self, but by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ rise again to newness of life. This will teach us to rejoice when Jesus lifts up the light of his countenance upon us in our sad cast-down dejected state; then we cannot but rejoice at the wonders of his love and mercy. The returning of the burden of sin is only to show us the constant need of the fountain opened. We should soon forget his favors, if his absence did not exceedingly burden us; it is this that makes us cry, "O that I knew where I might find him!" and he is not long sought, before we perceive "It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go." This is the way we are led of the Spirit and carried through all our troubles, as the children were supported in the furnace; not only the smell of fire was not found upon them, but a fresh display of the glory, power, and efficacy of God's grace was granted them, and fresh courage to hope and trust in the Lord in all future troubles, which arise one after another like the waves of the sea. This is sowing beside all waters, and our spiritual increase will be found in it.

From your faithful friend in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 220

(To M. M. A. G.) Leominster, 18 July 1841.

My dear Friend,

I was very glad to receive your letter; and though the time of my being here ends on Thursday, according to my first engagement, yet I am requested to stay another week; so that, if it please God to prosper my way, I hope to be at home the last day of this month, on my way to my family in Surrey.

I have often observed, when any temptation has got fast hold upon us, it has been first trifled with, just as the fish plays with the bait, not suspecting the hidden hook until it be well fastened; and then, to our sorrow, we are not so easily disentangled as we expected. Besides this, I have generally found one entangling snare leads to many other difficulties, quite unforeseen, and very curiously hidden from us by the craft of the devil. But the Spirit of God, enlightening and making tender the conscience, gives a discovery of the danger, accompanied with power unceasingly to cry; and the issue in such a case is sure. "For you will light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. By you I have run through a troop, and by my God have I leaped over a wall." Thus we escape out of a troop of obstinate, rebellious, and self-willed entangling snares, and prove that no hindrance, however high and impenetrable, is insurmountable. This is to the glory of God's rich grace, showing that nothing is too hard for him and the sweet humbling effect of this grace bestowed makes us declare that his way, though so mysterious and humbling, is perfect; and though he try us to the uttermost, yet will we trust in him; for "who is God save the Lord?" and who can deliver after the same manner? A firm Rock, on which we may safely build, with the sure prospect of standing every storm. This will make our feet like hinds' feet, and as the hymn says, "in swift obedience move"; and will teach us not to trifle with temptation, but show us how our hands are to handle the word of life, and that we must be fighting soldiers in this warfare; so that a "bow of steel", a mighty strong temptation, terrible in its power, will be broken, if brought to him who is the Shield of our salvation, who will guard us and guide us so that no evil shall finally befall us. In so walking, our feet will not slip, nor will our steps be straitened; but the necks of these enemies shall be broken. It is God that avengeth us of our grand adversary, and lifts us up above all those things and persons that would stop our course; and therefore we must, and most readily do, "give thanks unto you, O Lord, and sing praises unto your name", for the great deliverance you are continually working for us (Psalm 18:28-50).

So that when the enemy raises surmises that there is no help for us in God, we must dispute this point sword in hand, for we shall most assuredly say with David, "You, Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter up of my head." The Psalmist adds, what I am sure both you and W. will find a truth; therefore venture unceasingly to try it: "I cried unto the Lord in my distress, and he heard me out of his holy hill;" and in so doing, he declares, "The Lord sustained me;" that is, I did not get all I wanted and longed for at once, but I was propped up and encouraged to press on. If you ask, To what am I to press on? Still to cry, "Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God;" for "salvation belongs unto the Lord", and he has it to bestow upon just such miserable wretches as we are (Psalm 3).

Do, my dear W., lay this to heart; the storm has begun, and you have need of a shelter. Think not that none of the Bible saints were in so bad a case as you; both they and all of us are at times obliged to cry, "O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger; neither chasten me in your hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord." Let this be your errand day and night to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalmist mournfully says, "In death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who can give you thanks?" I would, by the help of God, lead your mind to the issue of all this sorrow. "The Lord has heard my supplication," my pitiful sighs and hopeless groaning; "the Lord will receive my prayer." Therefore let that shameful enemy unbelief be put to shame, and let the Lord be magnified (Psalm 6).

Where is my friend J.? Where does he hide himself? I hope he is not an insensible looker-on at the visitations of God in your house and family, but that while he stands in awe at the terrible things which the Lord is doing among you, he may with holy reverence bow and stoop in spirit under the mighty hand of God, and acknowledge his infinite wisdom in all his dispensations. As I said before, the storm is begun. O may he seek, like the dove, to rest only on the ark! This alone will save him. The fiery trial will overtake him also; for though it may not come in exactly the same shape, yet God has told us all that we shall certainly pass through the fire and the water; and it will be our mercy to believe the report, and be unceasingly seeking the Lord Jesus Christ to stand at our right hand, to defend us, and carry us safely through. So shall we prove the truth of his word: "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

May the Lord be with you all.

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 221

Leominster, 21 July 1841.

My dear W. B.,

It gave me great pleasure to see your letter, but I felt more than what is so called in the meditation of its contents, especially where you write and complain of the continual sense of spiritual death and darkness, from which you can by no means deliver yourself. Consider, "the dead know not anything." Why so anxious to prevail with the Lord, if in some measure your case is not like many described in the Word of God? For instance, "How long, Lord? will you be angry forever?" "O remember not against me former iniquities." "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before you; preserve you those that are appointed to die" (Psalm 79:5-11). Now do consider whether your case can be worse than this. David in Psalm 18 says, "The sorrows of death compassed me;" "the sorrows of Hell compassed me about." God's rebukes made fearful discoveries, and, if you observe, the language is very strong; "The foundations of the world were discovered at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils." Is your case worse than this? But even here the Psalmist says, "He sent from above, he took me, and drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy," and then adds, "for all his judgments were before me." It was because these were laid to heart and he was made to tremble at them; and thus he sums it up, "You will save the afflicted people, but will bring down high looks." And I am sure it is in and through these various dark and dismal dispensations that the Lord (as this Psalm shows) lights our spiritual candle, and enlightens our darkness; and here he girds us with strength by various little helps, and lifts and glimpses of hope. Here also the Shield is discovered to be closer to us than we imagined, so that the fiery darts of the enemy do not make so desperate an inroad upon us. It is by the help of this Shield that our enemies are pursued, overtaken, and finally destroyed. "Therefore (says the Psalmist) will I give thanks unto you, O Lord."

None of these Bible saints obtained their comforts but through that path of tribulation in which you now are. Their lost hopes and reckless fears were precisely the same as yours and mine; and whether we utter a noise or only sigh, yet we are made to understand the Lord looks at the heart; and though that be full of deceit, yet if he make us tremble at the sight, this is the token that he is bringing us down from our heights by hard labor, as is said of the redeemed of the Lord (Psalm 107), until they fall down and find none to help; there the Spirit helps their infirmities, and teaches them to cry to the Lord in their trouble, and then "he saved them out of their distresses."

The hope you describe is most assuredly of the Lord, and the next time you have the sweet power upon your heart (however small) tell the Lord that you believe it is from him to encourage your drooping spirit, and that you desire to acknowledge this precious gift as an infinite mercy; and see now if the Lord does not encourage this hope with a further increase of it. He delights in all such as hope in his mercy.

I was contemplating your case since your last letter and in earnest prayer for your spiritual enlargement, and while I was thus occupied, the Lord broke in upon my heart with such an abundance of his mercy and love as greatly enlarged my heart, and encouraged my hope for you; and I felt quite sure the Lord would do you good, and that this affliction should be for the glory of God. Only remember, "let patience have her perfect work;" but never let the word patience make you indifferent, for spiritual patience is a very active fruit of the Spirit of God.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 222

Leominster, 22 July 1841.

Dear Mrs. Clark,

I am ashamed to say how little I lay to heart, in comparison with what I ought to do, the condition in which God has placed me by a revelation of his dear Son in me with all his saving benefits. I was this morning struck with great awe in reading these words in Acts 7: "Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." I considered where I stood in Christ Jesus; this is holy ground. God has placed me as a standard bearer in my line of things; then put off fleshly vanity and self in all directions. This holy place can admit of no co-partner with the Lord in his mighty work. When Moses saw complete redemption in Christ Jesus, and appeared as if he wanted to understand that naturally which was only to be discovered to the spiritual understanding, God cautioned him and said, "Put off your shoes." And though it moved Moses with great fear, yet here the Lord renewed his covenant that he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and promised him a deliverance, which should be accompanied with many tokens of God's favor. But this is never to be forgotten: "The place whereon you stand is holy ground." No presumption can be admitted here; God is holy, and nothing that is unclean, or defiles, or loves or makes a lie, can enter into his presence. The Lord said, "Certainly I will be with you," and "Thus you shall say unto the children of Israel, I am has sent me unto you."

This is what I am continually exercised about, and when cross providences and difficulties arise I begin to fear that the great I am has not sent me, and I forget how much opposition and many difficulties Moses met with, and that the Lord himself says, "I am sure the king of Egypt will not let you go;" yet would the Lord bring them out of the affliction of Egypt unto a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3). I say, though I have proved the truth of this a thousand times, yet upon every fresh trial this great I am seems far from me, and I keep looking one way and another to find some fleshly means of obtaining spiritual ends. The shoes are harder to cast off than at first sight appears. Then I consider where this great I am has placed me, and the ground I stand upon in the sight of God, in the church, in my family, and in the world, and what need I have of the Lord's most Holy Spirit so to guide me and keep me in his holy fear, as that my spirit in all these shall agree and harmonize, and I not appear in two characters; for it can only be in this divine and spiritual agreement that the work can be proved to be of God, and will be received by his afflicted children.

I am much struck with the effect that all those strange things which the Lord wrought had upon Moses. He says at last, under a feeling of his abject and low condition, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since you have spoken unto your servant; but I am slow of speech, and am of a slow tongue." But here the Lord helps our infirmities and shows us that the weak may say they are strong. For in order to stop all objections and fears he said, "Who has made man's mouth? or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say" (Exodus 4:10-12). This has opened my mouth many times, and I think it has also guided my pen.

These are the things that should keep me constantly sensible of the holy ground on which I stand, and give me peculiar spiritual care and watchfulness that that which is lame be not "turned out of the way", but that every such thing be healed, by the application of the blood of sprinkling. How often have I been asked, "Who made you a ruler and a judge?" I can but reply, The Lord has done all that has been rightly done, and has made me often to tremble at the sight of what he has done, the many wonderful and miraculous escapes, as it were, from the wrath of an angry God, the marvelous and narrow escapes from despair; the pit has seemed to open its mouth upon me, as it did lately upon poor —; he as well as I have found it a holy place, and that no fleshly confidence could abide. In these places we appear to stand naked before God, and are in much awe, not knowing which way the scale will turn. O how self is put off, as a filthy cloth! How deformed and ugly we are forced to acknowledge ourselves, while thus we behold and acknowledge the infinite justice, righteousness, and holiness of God in terrible majesty! Here we see vanity written upon all created things, and learn to know their full value; that is, less than nothing and lighter than vanity. But how soon the scene in a measure changes! Yet by the power and mercy of God it leaves a savor upon the spirit, so that whenever Egypt is presented as desirable, there immediately springs up a prohibition, and a recollection of the terrible things we have passed through, and the sweet deliverances the Lord in infinite mercy has wrought for us by the way. How it brings to mind certain turning points, when all hope was gone, and then the Lord came. I well remember many such seasons. How can I but bless and praise the Lord with heart and soul for such marvelous mercies! All but gone; and carried from thence into the third Heaven of his superabounding mercy!

I must again repeat, this is holy ground; therefore "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!" and I especially in my present position where I am separated from the people of God; and yet must bear testimony to the work of God upon my heart by walking in his fear.

May the Lord be your portion and guide, and comfort you through this waste wilderness, which our sin has made barren; but a leaf from the tree of life I am sure has in a measure healed us, and will finally and effectually work a perfect cure; and to the Lord Jesus Christ with the Father and the Spirit be all the glory.

From yours in the Lord, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 223

(To Mr. Nunn) Ockley, Surrey, 15 August 1841.

My dear Friend,

We were very glad to hear from you. I full well know there is something, which varies a little in us all, lying (as you say) like a cankerworm at the root of all earthly happiness; and it is our mercy that so it is. "Much tribulation" are not words without meaning; but I am sure the Lord means to make all great men very little, whom he intends to save. Little children have small ideas, and can accomplish very little; and the Lord designs we shall be as such. His kingdom is to be made up of such. You say truly, There is no keeping the affections on things above, but by denying self in all directions; this is no small denial, for our fleshly spirits account our pride, consequence, natural authority, and self-will, to be absolutely necessary to keep good order; but Psalm 18 describes another way. In this I am often brought to secret terror. God discovers the cheat and deceit of the heart, and shows me that nothing but self is set up there, and his honor is disregarded. The flesh cries out, Carry your head very high; but the Spirit says, Put your mouth in the dust. If you will be safe, be very little in your own estimation, fear everything, tremble at God's Word, and be deeply sensible of your own weakness; and let such say, "I am strong," not in themselves, but in that communication of God's grace which he so freely bestows on the weak, the feeble, and the poor. This sort of exercise always brings about much contrition and self-abasement; it makes me willing to take the lowest place, and let the Lord make use of me as he pleases; "Not my will, but your be done." This also makes the poor and afflicted people of God very profitable company. I am not anxious to tell them all I pass through, but rather to hear of God's dealings with them, and I find this confirms my tokens, and my heart unites most sweetly with the work described, and we become one in Christ. I know not a sweeter token.

Remember me most kindly to our minister; I feel much the loss of the (preaching of the) word, but the Lord is merciful and does not utterly forsake us in our little assemblies here. My subject this morning (Sunday) was "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of Hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord ; 0 Lord, I beseech you, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3, 4). I exemplified this in the case of Jonah, which I think was quite as desperate as Mrs. Burrell's can be; but Jonah, and also Hezekiah and Manasseh, all ventured to look once more, and found mercy. Who knows the time and the manner in which it shall please God to have mercy upon her? We read of one that waited many years at the pool, and was healed at last. May the Lord be pleased to visit her.

Remember me also to Mrs. Nunn and tell her what the Lord said to his disciples in the garden, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation;" for it is much easier to enter, than to endure and come out. That the Lord may be with you both is the sincere wish of all our party here, who join in kind regards.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 224

Stoke Newington, 20 September 1841.

Dear William Morris,

I cannot help hoping that the Lord has said to you as he did to Simon, "I have somewhat to say unto you." I think his voice has been long and loud upon your heart. It will be your mercy to cry for understanding, that you may know that God is infinitely just, and shows his displeasure and wrath against you in a broken law. The misery, guilt, and disquietude you feel is the proof of this. But I cannot help hoping that the Lord would not have showed you this, if he had meant to destroy you. Let nothing dishearten you from coming to Jesus Christ. Be often alone, and tell him all your troubles, and especially your fears, your sins, and all the hindrances you feel that prevent you from coming as you seem to wish and want.

If your heart is so disposed, do not let anything keep you from this sort of seeking, for the Psalmist says, "Your heart shall live that seek God." Do not believe anything to the contrary; and if anything present itself to hinder you from seeking, be sure to take heed, and suffer not the hindrance to take place. Beg of God to strengthen you through all opposition, and not suffer you to rest until you know that he has pardoned your sin. You cannot get out of his hands; he has you a safe prisoner; but "there is mercy with him, that he may be feared." Take heed, watch and see; if the Lord condescend to give you any encouraging hope, do not let the things of time and sense damp it, but be diligent in reading his Word. Oh! my friend, eternity is a vast and awful thing, and to have no hope on the brink of eternity is terrible; therefore give the Lord no rest, but pray unceasingly that he would look with mercy and compassion upon your soul.

I cannot think that your going to your room to pray will be in vain; for I must hope that it is done under a feeling sense of want: then watch and see if these prayers fall to the ground. I trust not. Some hope will be gathered; some prospect of help to counteract despair. Jesus Christ is the Friend of the friendless; and "when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly," that repentance unto life might be manifested.

I have no doubt your former profession secretly covers you with shame; I trust also this shame is the effect of the light of life that discovers the hypocrisy. Be sure not to cover your sins, but confess; and see if hope will not spring up where you least expected; nay, even where you were almost ready to give all up. Abraham had no ground to hope, but he against this did hope, and obtained, and was therefore called the father of the faithful. The Lord delights in all such as hope in his mercy. Can you for one moment suppose this? If you say, Yes, then does not this very thought comfort and encourage you? and is not this then a token of better days, and as if the Lord had not altogether forgotten to be gracious? The invitation is very strong: "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden" (under trouble, sickness, or anything, heavy laden with sorrow), "and I will give you rest."

Is there nothing in all this that is acceptable to you? Do you find no relish for it? If you do, make it manifest by continual and unceasing prayer, for you are in a place that needs the utmost mercy; all refuge seems taken from you, and all prospect of worldly relief; but Christ the good Physician knows how to administer the oil and wine, to soften and comfort under the most deadly complaint, and turn the shadow of death into the morning (Amos 5:8).

Your faithful friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 225

(To the Rev. R. M.) Stoke Newington, 20 September 1841.

My dear Friend,

I know your wish for me to write, and your own disinclination to do so; but how shall I find a subject suitable unless I see by your letters where you are?

Your letter to me from Brighton alarmed me, nor can I think the light beginning of that could be accompanied with a deep sense of your danger. The work of God is yet what I fear is secret to you. God says, "It is a terrible thing that I will do" (Exodus 34:10); this work brings men down very low and teaches them to cry mightily to the Lord for mercy, as poor, lost, undone sinners, and all former profession sinks into worse than nothing. It was a loveliness that delighted us, but now this loveliness in the light of the Spirit is sad corruption, and we find no anchor-hold, but go about mourning; and all refuge fails, and friends stand aloof. If you had a little more of this trouble it would bring forth a purer religion. For want of this many a gilded and fair profession or shell is held for years; but when the rains descend, then it appears on what this profession is built. I have witnessed much of this sort, and it is most awful. They know everything but the secret of the Lord, and therefore are not sharers in his covenant, and are left at last without the hope that the afflicted find in their extremity. My profession began with affliction, was carried on in the furnace, sustained by the word of the Lord, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you;" and I believe it will end in a good hope.

In your other letter there appears something more lively and spiritual; but you that have been so long in a profession, and have been accustomed to teach others, cannot perceive where you have missed the mark. Nothing is so deadening and confusing as being in the practice of teaching what we have established in our minds as truths, and yet are not so. How hard to relinquish such habits even after the conviction of their unsoundness; and how little is laid to heart the real mischief of teaching others such false ways! I say these are bewildering circumstances, and we wish as it were to jump over these things, and are apt to think we shall not find their binding effect. Not so. Sin is exceedingly sinful, and God is infinitely holy; this we must be instructed to feel, and we shall never be so instructed, but by the convictions of the Spirit upon our consciences of the evil of our heart and ways; and this is not done in a day. We shall find, if we are rightly taught, that this effectual work is slow, though progressive and sure; and brings us down to very low places. We in vain suppose that coming out of a false profession, and being brought right by the power of God, is an easy work or quickly accomplished. O no! this pulling down means more than you are yet aware; and though your last letter encouraged me to hope, I yet feel much more must be manifest before you yourself are satisfied that the Lord Jesus Christ is your Friend.

If what I have written sharpens the iron, thank God. I am sure it had need to be sharpened; for you may change from one profession to ten thousand others, and yet if your heart be not broken under a sense of sin, and healed in the blood of sprinkling, there can be no foundation to hope that any change yet has been right. May the Lord deeply affect your heart to consider well upon what foundation you stand. It is for you and me to be at a point in this.

Pray give my kind regards to your brother; I hope his soul prospers. We that are old know our time is very short; you that are young cannot tell how soon your decrepit frames may bow; so that it becomes us all to make our calling and election sure.

From your faithful and affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 226

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 12 October 1841.

My dear Friend,

How shall I lament the death of one who has been so sweetly put to sleep in Jesus?(5) 'Tis true you will find a heavy loss; nevertheless on a due consideration of the sorrows and vanities of this life, which continually cast down the child of God, so sweet a relief must he admitted as desirable. Poor H. said, when she read the account, "I am only sorry it is not I." What a true Friend the Lord always proves in the hour of extremity, and no doubt he will be so to you who are left behind, if you dare to make free, and try him to the utmost of his Word.

I know what it is to sink in spirit beyond expression, but even then the everlasting arms have been underneath. Last night I was pondering my manifold difficulties and presenting them mournfully before the Lord, and he was pleased most graciously to whisper in my heart that he chastens every son, and corrects all whom he receives; this brought sweet peace, quietness, and resignation, and the sight of these words confirmed the feeling in my heart: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." I assure you the light and power which attended those words made me entirely to cast my burdens upon the Lord, as upon an assured and faithful Friend. I quite accord with you in feeling a sad difficulty in so doing, and also in finding little at times but oppression of spirits; yet in patiently waiting and quietly hoping the Lord comes, and brings such seasonable relief that we then can rejoice in tribulation, knowing that it is every way for the furtherance of the gospel.

The Lord has not taken you by surprise in this heavy dispensation, but has kindly led you both on most gently to expect the event, and has softened the whole of it with his sweet presence and favor, so that there was no trace of a desire left in the heart of our departed friend to continue here. She felt it was far better to depart, and be forever with the Lord. Your part is otherwise, and a new line of things will open to you altogether, new troubles, new difficulties, and new crosses; but God is all-sufficient, and will show to his people that he is a very present help; and I truly hope you will constantly go to him for that help, in all your various difficulties. I have had ten thousand fears, but, blessed be his holy name forever and ever, he has been a faithful near and dear Friend to me.

Believe me yours affectionately, James Bourne


 

Letter 227

(To Mr. Maydwell and Rev. R. M.) London, 25 October 1841.

My dear Friends,

I think your kind attention to me deserved a better remembrance than has appeared. I have not forgotten it, but manifold exercises engage the whole of my attention, and prevent much that is due to my friends.

Since I left you, I have been often ready to fear that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, and that he had shut up his tender mercies. "Changes and war are against me;" nevertheless my heart was continually after him, so that I have acted as I said at Hertford, "I will not let you go, except you bless me." In this exercise the long night of affliction ended with the breaking of the day, and the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing to my soul; but alas, how soon it sets! The days are very short, the nights very long: my sins procure the rod, and I learn to put my mouth in the dust; and when the Lord does condescend to come, I prize it more than I can express.

I am often brought to a stand by the sweet words that the Lord whispers upon my heart, for no sooner am I comforted by them, than another spirit tells me it is all a fable, the power of illusion, and that I shall see nothing will come of them. To my great shame I yield an ear to this, and it brings evil surmising, and makes all my calamities much worse. I often fear I have not a right understanding in the word applied, and think it should surely be fulfilled there and then; I forget the trial of patience, and think the Lord must work my way, though he tells me his ways are not like mine, nor to be compared with them. His ways are always right, and in infinite wisdom; but my ways I am sure would lead headlong to destruction.

These ponderings are the cause of much spiritual fellowship with the Lord, and I am sure create much godly fear, by which I am led to depart from the spirit of the world. In thus secretly mourning and seeking the Lord in his Word, in the ministry, and in meditation and prayer, I find he returns with double mercy, and assures my heart he will never leave me nor forsake me. I trust this is the conflict which will end in conquest, and that the arm of the Lord will be revealed in behalf of his afflicted. I am taught most heartily to justify God, and to loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes; and here it is the Lord contends no longer, but pours in the oil and wine; and my confidence and hopes then grow strong, that all shall be well, and that no good thing shall fail of all that the Lord has spoken from the beginning.

Let not this dishearten either of you; it must be a path of great tribulation, but the Lord passed this dark valley before you and perfumed it, so that though you have to walk through it, you will learn in the issue to fear no evil, because his power and presence will comfort you.

From your faithful friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 228

London, 12 November 1841.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

It is now long since I heard of you. I have as usual been in much affliction, but not left without a Comforter. My daughter H. has again been very ill for six weeks, and has sometimes given us reason to fear she would not recover. The Lord was near to her in her extremity; though at times she greatly deplored his absence, her unceasing cries moved him to compassion, and she declares and proves that nothing can separate a broken-hearted sinner from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I have often thought, if anything could do so, my foolish backsliding heart would; but there is mercy with him that he may be feared.

The time of affliction is often a time of desertion and darkness, attended with much fear and oppression of spirits, and we cannot tell how or in what way we shall ever get out of our trouble; fears run very high, and hope runs very low; we see the beginning of God's judgments, but who can fathom them or see the end? Who would have thought that all that long and toilsome affliction of Mr. Oakley's was the right and only way the Lord chose to take to bring him finally to his spiritual senses, and give him such a beautiful entrance into the heavenly kingdom? Such thoughts as these stop my lips from uttering perverseness, while something seems to say, Wait patiently; quietly hope; and you shall see the salvation of God. I have lately stood as it were in this place, almost pulled to pieces with fear, yet I could not help crying, "If you are pleased, O Lord, to trample me under foot, you are nevertheless infinitely righteous and just." When the Lord brought me to this point, then he showed me his marvelous loving-kindness, and all contention ceased.

Let our troubles be what they may, it shall not prove vain simply to bring them to the Lord. I have been often brought to the utmost extremity; but when all my own hope and strength and every refuge was gone, then the Lord appeared. This is not a fable, but a reality that comforts the soul in all its tribulation, and will be found to be strong as death. So Mr. Oakley found it, and so shall you and I certainly find it.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 229

London, 17 April 1842.

Dear Mrs. Tims,

I felt my charge at Hertford beyond my power of expression, and the danger of many that appeared resting short of Christ's atoning blood. If this be continued in, it will appear, when the errors of the day become still more rampant than at present, that the seed of the Word has not taken effectual root, and they will fall into the snares laid for their feet. Hazael said, "Is your servant a dog, that he should do this?" Nevertheless, when the opportunity is given, there is often a discovery of evil we never dreamt of, and from which we can never be preserved, except in Christ Jesus. I am sure it is most needful that we make clear work; for the threatened fire will try every man's work, of what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). Wood, hay, stubble denote the light profession of the day that rests short of Christ's testimony, and is satisfied with a false report, which allows them to mingle with carnal friends and erroneous teachers, and finds no fault with vain professors. Such think they can touch pitch without being defiled, and cannot receive the Word of God which bids us not to say a confederacy to everyone, but to sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be our fear and our dread. This will lead us safely, if duly attended to. But I see such half-professors and quarter-professors among you, as make me tremble. Their language is dark; their walk more dark; and their best evidences show that they prevail not with God in prayer: and this is tenfold more grievous, because of the growing errors of the Papacy and of the Puseyites. They all offer a religion that can be performed by manual exercise, without the spirit of these awful things being searched into. This is "will-worship", which puffs up the fleshly mind, but gives no relief to a broken heart (Colossians 2:18-23).

Some among you truly comforted me with the zeal and love they expressed in describing the work of God upon the heart, and the manner in which the Spirit helped their infirmities in prayer. These greatly encouraged me; and the spirit of liberty I found in speaking led me to believe they were a people that had their spiritual ears open to receive the Word with an appetite. I was truly glad you should be one of them. It strengthened my hands; for as we are now finishing our days, it is our mercy to know that there is nothing between the Lord and us to make a throne of grace inaccessible.

This morning's reading was, "Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me" (Genesis 32:26). I could not help pointing out the many trifles by which we let the Lord go; holding the world and many vanities, but not retaining him. I considered that the break of day signified those reviving hopes with which the Lord visits us, and which were intended not to rest in, but to add energy to our prayers for that clear and spiritual liberty which is to be found in Christ Jesus, and nowhere else. But we foolishly often rest in the daybreak, and do not wait for the Sun of Righteousness arising in the heart, which would bring such a sweet healing power as to satisfy us entirely of the eternal love of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This brings us clean out of the spirit of the world, and gives us an abundant entrance into his heavenly kingdom. This stands the test of errors, persecution, and love and endearing ties of relations, and far surpasses the power of the enemy in all directions, and makes us fruitful and profitable in the church of God, which is the spiritual kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 230

(To Mr. Burrell) London, 5 May 1842.

My dear Sir,

I have had some very sore mourning on account of the illness of my daughter H. But the Lord will humble us, and I have reason to hope that it is for good; for I already see the effect of the affliction upon more than one in my family. The circumstances of it leave an awe upon their spirits, and a very sober attention to the ministry. As for myself, though I am greatly bowed down with fear, yet the Word of God looks very sweetly at me, and by the power I feel in it I am enabled to put my mouth in the dust. There the Lord spoke these words softly upon my heart today: "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." This led me further to examine what the Lord said to the children of Israel in their hard bondage; how he heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant; and these words: "I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments," left upon my spirit much trembling, but not without hope; and the next words comforted my heart: "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, that brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I am the lord." (Exodus 6:6, 7).

I hope you will forgive my sending this, and that you will pray for me and my family, as I have many times for you and your family. May the Lord bless you and still spare you for the comfort and instruction of his afflicted people.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 231

(To Mr. Burrell) London, 12 May 1842.

My dear Sir,

I cannot help sending you word how my present affliction works. Although at times greatly bowed down, my burdened heart cleaves to the Lord under all. I never in my life felt the wonderful mercy of God in his all-wise providence bringing me through many changes to hear a faithful ministry, so much and so greatly as yesterday and on Wednesday evening. What the Lord led you to say on "our light affliction, which is but for a moment", entered my heart with sweet power and encouragement. I was much surprised to hear you speak of your heart sinking like lead in the water. It led me very much to resignation, submission, and hope; for I had felt before as if none were like me. Your first prayer was also a source of great encouragement to me, so that a day of mourning was closed with divine and spiritual relief.

My present trouble works many ways. I trust by it the Lord is humbling me and showing me, in some small measure, how real and great is his salvation; and that surely by these things he means to do me good in my latter end; also how light are these afflictions which daily befall me, when compared to the eternity of misery, or to the endless ages of happiness. I think the Lord is bringing me to a clearer resignation of H. into his hands, and a great willingness that everything respecting it may be left at his disposal. I am kept in continual prayer, confession, and watchfulness; constantly crying, Lord, teach me perfect submission, and to acknowledge your infinite wisdom, righteousness, and justice. Though my spirit often sinks, it does not cease from prayer; which I feel a great mercy, because the Lord has said, "Your heart shall live that seek God" (Psalm 69:32)

I was greatly comforted on Monday evening with these words: "He has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up" (Hosea 6:1). They came with a holy confidence, that when the Lord has humbled us, he would in mercy return.

Your most faithful and affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 232

(To Mr. Maydwell and Rev. R. M.) London, May 1842.

My dear Friends,

"Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." I once thought this was only a saying, but I have now found it a reality. I watch, and am very desirous to see that the Lord will condescend to sanctify my trouble, that it may be to his glory and the effectual salvation of my soul. I have been often lately brought so low as to fear that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, but I was convinced this was my infirmity, for he has as often told me that I shall not be forgotten of him. This very morning, fearing I had totally lost the power and spirit of prayer, and mourning exceedingly because I could find no relief, I was led to Psalm 27, and as soon as my eyes saw these words they kindled upon my heart: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Here at once I saw myself in the footsteps of the flock, and that David was a true yoke-fellow, who well knew what trouble meant. This brought great resignation; but when I read the next verse: "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord", it was spoken upon my heart as if the Lord himself was moved with compassion for me, and it truly caused me to believe every word would be fulfilled in my behalf. This was a sweet visit from the Lord; it both gave me comfort and preserved me from fainting in this day of adversity.

The whole of this day has been spent in conflict and in bringing again to my mind the Lord's sweet words from Psalm 27; constantly praying that I might not faint, but find the promised strength and courage; and I think the Lord has heard my prayer; in the midst of many difficulties he has strengthened me, and carried me through them all to the present moment. I feel as if the words denoted continual conflict, and that I shall need this spiritual and heavenly courage; the Lord has therefore given me a sweet view whence all my help is to come, and that in waiting upon him and for him I shall find it a truth. These conflicts cause me to die to the world and all created pleasures. They put a damp and blank upon all things except the needed help of the Lord. How earnest it makes me to caution all who have a profession of religion, that it may have power and efficacy in it, and that none may rest short of those evidences which accompany salvation. The time of trial is sure to overtake us all, for the Lord is determined to show what is hay or stubble, gold or silver, for it is said, "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is." That which stands the fiery trial shall be a vessel meet for the heavenly Master's use; and I am sure there neither is nor can be any standing but in the strength of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Timothy 2:10-21; Ephesians 6:10-13). It has been my mercy to obtain strength at his hands in all my former troubles, which encourages me to hope the Lord will appear for me more fully in this. May you both find comfort in your affliction is the sincere desire of

Your affectionate friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 233

(To Mr. Nunn) London, 4 June 1842.

My dear Friend,

This fourth day of June is a day of great alarm and terror to me; but though I am brought very low, yet under all I find there is a reality in true religion that counteracts despair. God's Word is indeed a substance on which I have feebly rested, and might firmly rest as on the arm of Omnipotence. I know there is no weakness in the Word, but the weakness lies in my unbelieving heart. The Lord has said that he would strengthen my heart in every trial, and that he would never leave me nor forsake me: this has always established a hope in the deepest trials that he will bring me up again from the depths of the sea. In all former troubles it has been so, yet the enemy will insist upon it that this is no rule for the future, and that now I shall find that the Lord will forget me; and he always assails me upon the same point, namely, that delays are the proof of non-fulfillment, and so casts me down. But as the apostle says, so I find it: though sorely cast down, "yet not destroyed". Still pacing up and down in the room, heavy laden, yet crying, mourning, and seeking to accept the punishment of my sin, at last his compassionate ear opens, and he gives me some sweet glimpse of his heavenly favor, which so refreshes me as to make me renew the attack again and again. Were it not for these short visits my spirit would be swallowed up with sorrow; but while these last my soul sees such beauty in all his dispensations and judgments, such tenderness and care and condescension in his management of all my temporal and spiritual concerns, that I am lost in the sweet contemplation of the Lord's love and mercy to me in Christ Jesus; and this for the time gives me power to cast all cares and fears upon him, and shows me the safety of making him my sole refuge.

The conflicts and conquests that I am often exercised with cannot be put into words; but such as have fallen into these spiritual depths will understand and know the truth of them, both as respects the misery and shame, and the consolation and sweet encouragement which the Lord always in the end brings to his afflicted people. Under my present circumstances "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living"; but the Lord most assuredly told me to be of good courage, and he would strengthen my heart in patiently waiting and quietly hoping for his salvation. I am continually resting upon this; as the eye of the servant to the hand of his master, so is my eye up unto the Lord my God, until that he have mercy upon me.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 234

Hertford, 27 June 1842.

Dear Mrs. C. Jeffreys,

I have great cause to be thankful that my health is restored, and that I am not left destitute of a sweet sense of God's mercy and favor and tender care. I am made truly to believe that the Lord is touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and that the merciful power I feel upon my heart is not a shadow, but a real substance which supports me under all my various trials, and that the Lord oftentimes causes hope to abound on every side. I do not know how far I may have been a reprover to many, which I hope has been profitable, but I feel that my afflictions have been so sanctified as to discover to me the deep necessity of a close and sober walk, because I have experienced that both the wood, hay, and stubble have been tried, as well as the gold; and if the Lord had not been with me in the furnace, I must have utterly perished.

If the houses I have passed so often on the way to Kilburn could speak, they would testify of the many doleful horrors that I have conflicted with, and the dreadful sinkings from which I could scarcely hope ever to rise; but to my utter surprise I have also had the sweetest tokens of the Lord's favor, which have so counteracted the despair, that I cannot describe to you the unspeakable sense I have had of his everlasting love to me; and these among many more words were brought to me on my way to your house, with such an abounding hope that I have not yet lost sight of them: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." About two years ago I was in great trouble, and the Lord gave me a word which I watched, and on which I was caused to hope; and the whole of it was marvelously fulfilled. I have just the same hope and the same watchfulness in this, and a feeling as if the Lord did not intend to disappoint me; so that with my present support and future hope, I have yet a prospect of comfort on every side.

If the pride of my heart is to be judge, I should say that my hope is perished from the Lord; but I feel that in his mercy he makes the new man which he has planted in my heart to be the judge, and this declares he can do no wrong, but on the contrary, goodness and mercy have followed me all my days. He gives me many mercies, without rebuke, and when I lose sight of him, I mourn and tremble until I find him again. Mine is not a life of rebukes from the Lord, but of mercies. I must say that the life of my soul has flourished in the furnace.

And now I must beg of you and Mr. J. to accept ten thousand thanks for your unbounded kindness to me; I hope the Lord has made me deeply sensible of it, and that he will reward you a hundredfold.

From yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 235

(To Mr. Nunn) Hertford, 10 July 1842.

My dear Friend,

I have been much encouraged and comforted by Colossians 2:2, 3, and have seen great beauty in the unfolding of that "mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". Those who are of the world have no knowledge of these unsearchable riches, which are divine, heavenly, and spiritual. They may know something of God by the wonders of creation, and may hear that he gave his only begotten Son to come down upon earth to give his life a ransom for sinners. They have even seen that Christ came, and bore much reproach, and at length was crucified among them. But the mystery of God the Holy Spirit none can by nature fathom, nor understand the way in which he testifies of the Father's love to us in Christ Jesus; by which testimony we in some measure comprehend our interest in these immense treasures of wisdom and knowledge, our understandings being enlightened, by the same Spirit, to perceive that no access to God the Father or God the Son is known, but by the mysterious testimony of God the Holy Spirit. No fellowship of this mystery, but through the Spirit. It is hid in God from the eyes of all living in the flesh, but revealed to poor troubled souls that often fear the worst, but by this wonderful teaching are heartened to believe that they shall never perish. It is the sweet taste of these things that enables me to come with holy boldness to a throne of grace, and to find, through the eternal Spirit, access to the Father; and I am surprised at his condescension and mercy, in permitting me to draw so near, through his dearly beloved Son (Ephesians 2:13-18; 3:8-12).

I often sink very low, and am tempted to despair, but these sweet seasons are so encouraging, that I find under the enjoyment of them that there is no ground to despair; that the whole of this work upon the heart is the work of God, and therefore it is sure to be completed. I cannot describe to you how sure I find it when I have this sweet power fresh upon my heart. Though I know that the Lord is faithful and changes not, yet when darkness comes on I lose the sense of these sweet things, and fear all that is past may prove a mistake. Perhaps you will be ready to say, Are you no farther yet? I confess my weakness, and am greatly ashamed; I sometimes think I shall get to a firmer standing, yet our minister tells us continually of the weakness, fear, and trembling with which he himself is surrounded.

Yours affectionately, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 236

(To Mrs. J., R. H., M. A. H., etc.) Hertford, 26 July 1842.

My dear Friends,

I have reason to be thankful that the Lord has restored my health, but have had no heart to put pen to paper, though my thoughts have not been altogether unfruitful, nor have I by the grace of God been destitute of many sweet tokens of the Lord's favor. My morning readings have been attended by many; but I am made to feel them all daily to be sown in great weakness, and I often tremble when I enter the room and see so many waiting to hear. My late afflictions made me speak much of the furnace that is to refine; but, as I have myself found, I tell them further that there can be no sanctified conflict without a conquest. My heart has often been enlarged in the declaration of my trials, and the manner in which the Lord most sweetly supports me; so that instead of self-pity and the sorrow of the world, I find repentance unto life and an acknowledgment of God's infinite and righteous wisdom in all his dispensations; and this leads to spiritual diligence, to hear what the Lord says in his Word that he will do for all such, which is much more profitable than looking at "things that are seen".

Never in all my life before have I watched so closely what the Lord will do in me and for me, and what that is which he has spoken upon my heart. I feel a readiness, by the grace of God, to believe that I may have mistaken the meaning of many words upon which he has caused me to hope; but I still watch, and plead them until I am absolutely forbidden, or perceive that the accomplishment of what I conceived to be set forth in them is totally out of the question. I have had some of these tokens respecting my afflicted daughter H., and even now while I am writing I am comforted with a hope that I shall one day or other see the salvation of God. I am not looking for great things in this life, but for the secret display of God's favor, which has at different times been brought into my heart in answer to earnest prayer and in great heaviness of spirit. I could scarcely hope the Lord would hear; and yet I can clear him, even if that which I have felt be not accomplished. Nevertheless, I keep pleading the same, and I am sure I should have fainted had I not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I do not ask when or in what manner, but wait to see the sovereign pleasure of God move in our behalf.

It has pleased God to bring me very low under all these circumstances, but in these low places he has given many sweet tokens of his loving-kindness. His Word has been very precious and I must confess that the whole has been very profitable in many ways. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," for I never knew so much the extent of what the apostle says, Neither height nor depth can separate us from the love of Christ. If it were not so, in the depth I must have utterly despaired. I can say also, O the depth of the riches of his grace! "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" I have also felt great fear and awe upon my spirit; something (I think) like that mentioned in Acts: "Great fear fell upon all the churches." I am sure by these various afflictions I am made to die to the world, and to see an increasing vanity upon all created things; also to acknowledge how much further than I had formerly considered, the Lord may cause his judgments to follow his people; only I see that with them all there is mercy.

Our poor old friend Mrs. Judd, who dwells near this place, has been tried in all directions. The last survivor of her twelve children, a son nearly fifty years old, appears now on the brink of eternity, without a good hope. She is herself blind, bed-ridden, often oppressed in spirit with a horror of great darkness; and has been living without anyone in the house to help them, destitute of the common comforts of life, though they were formerly very respectable farmers, having plenty of everything, and their family prosperous around them. She told me today how independent of God she had been in her prosperity, being quite sure she should never be moved. "But now," she said, "I am deprived of everything; my sin has procured these afflictions; but I can bless the Lord with all my heart for his infinite goodness and wonderful mercy. It is indeed a marvelous thing that the Lord should look in mercy upon such a sinner as I; for though I have had so much of this horror of late, it has not been without some transient views of his favor."

In reading Psalm 107 this morning, I have found how many times God's people are minished, and brought low; but it is always added that they cried unto the Lord, and he saved them out of all their distresses; and then follows what I gladly join in: "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

The Lord has often given intimations of heavy troubles coming on, and has never told us the bounds. When I was young I took all the comfort that the Word of God set forth, but as for these things I passed them over, or supposed they belonged to somebody, I knew not whom. Such words as these: "He shall sit as a Refiner," "Who may abide the day of his coming?" with the long list of Paul's perils, and the like, were all laid aside, either as past, or not to happen in these days. But the Lord has shown me that as it was in the beginning, so it is now, and ever shall be: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God;" and I now declare for the encouragement of all young people, that "the wealthy place" is as sure as "the fire and the water". How have I been made to kiss the rod, and would not have it otherwise for ten thousand worlds! This grace has been given me in the furnace; a grace I never thought of before I had been well immersed in trouble.

Dear Mrs. James, you have been long inured to afflictions, which being sanctified, you have learned many wholesome lessons; and one above all, namely, that the Lord Jesus Christ will never, never leave you, but will give you an expected end. May the Lord grant to each and all of you not to be frightened at the cross, but to keep your eyes steadily on that incorruptible crown that never changes, reserved in Heaven for all broken-hearted sinners.

Yours very truly, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 237

Hertford, 29 July 1842.

Dear Mrs. Oakley,

I have been long occupied many ways, or I should have written sooner. My head has been bowed down with many and grievous burdens unfitting me for everything except confession and prayer, and never until I came into these deep waters did I so well know the power, extent, and efficacy of God's grace. You and I have no ground to despair; our condition has often called us to put this to the test, and to our utter surprise, we have found the Lord when we least expected him. In this valley of humiliation we often fear the worst and conclude the Lord has forgotten to be gracious, and that his mercies are clean gone for ever, and while we are thus concluding he is pleased to bring some comfortable word to our heart, that assures us he will not leave us in our trouble, nor be otherwise than afflicted in all our afflictions. This brings in an inexpressible sense of his kindness, and works in us an acceptance of the punishment of our sins, and makes us put our mouths in the dust before him with astonishment at his tender care and mercy towards us.

How the Lord stood by you during all the years in which your husband was unable to render you any assistance! His eye was upon you both for good; and Mr. Oakley's end proves that the Lord never forgot him, but preserved him to that appointed time in which he appeared for his comfort, bringing him safely to Jesus Christ, and enabling him to finish his course with joy. This ought always to encourage us. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He will bring his people into the fire, and into the water; none shall escape, neither shall they be hurt; for the Lord will not finally leave them there, but will bring them out into the wealthy place. The valley of humiliation is a safe and fruitful place, and nothing is more dangerous than independence of God. If not well immersed in the furnace we should soon become independent; our lamps, like those of the foolish virgins, would be found without oil, and so go out when most needed. I must bear testimony to the truth of God's faithfulness; no trouble but there is some comfort to be found in it. I have never fallen into any sorrow, but it has pleased God to make it in the end a godly sorrow that works repentance unto life, and brings in some sweet tokens that the Lord Jesus Christ is my Friend. This encourages me to bring my troubles to him in the sweet confidence that I shall eventually profit by them. He who seeks to attain to eternal life without the cross will never attain to it: no cross, no crown; but as your tribulation abounds, so will your consolation. In all my troubles I have never found the Lord a hard master, but he is pleased continually to be paying me sweet and comforting visits to prop up my sinking spirits, and to give me clearer and brighter evidences of my eternal interest in Christ Jesus. It is thus he makes us fruitful, and the graces of humility and self-abhorrence are found in exercise, which are profitable to the church of God, and to us in the training of our families, and in all our engagements in life.

I long to see you all once more, but find no way open for that purpose; and I dare not go before, but had rather follow close after the Lord, and watch his leadings; then I may hope for his blessing. May it please God greatly to comfort your heart, and abundantly to make up the loss you sustain in not hearing the gospel, nor enjoying much of the sweet and comforting communion of saints. May he give you much spiritual life and light, that you may finish your course in peace, and find an abundant entrance "into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 238

Hertford, 6 August 1842.

Dear E. H.,

Although the testimony of man is nowhere in Scripture highly prized, yet when a God-fearing man burdens the spirit with reproof, it must not be considered altogether as the word of man, but as a message from the Lord to break the neck of some hidden evil in the heart, which the Lord is determined to take in hand. I hope the things you have written to me have led you to deep examination. When the Spirit of truth shall enter your heart, he will guide you into all truth, and remove that deceit and hypocrisy of the heart which beguile us into many things that secretly work a glorying of the flesh. Such glorying cannot stand with the true humbling of the Spirit. We may be, through ignorance, held in it for a season; but if we belong to the Lord, he will take some effectual means to root it up, and to bring us a few staves lower in our own estimation; and then, however we may regard with desire what is said in the Bible, we shall claim no more than what the Spirit of God shall have testified out of that Word to our consciences. So much is ours by the gift of God; all beyond is a robbery, and you know what becomes of thieves and robbers.

Let me entreat of you to be, inasmuch as lies in you, sincere and without offence; let your life, walk, and conversation, in the circle in which you move, be consistent with the fear of God which you profess. An empty fruitless profession will soon wither, and bring no fruit to perfection. "The trees of the Lord are full of sap." Take heed of enmity; it is a root of bitterness that will defile those about you. "In the reproofs of instruction is the way of life." Take heed that you harden not your neck. This is a part of the Savior's yoke, easily borne where love is in the heart. The grace of humility is rare. The Psalmist says, "Great peace have they that love your law," and "nothing shall offend them."

Let me teach you a prayer that always has been and is still very hard for me to learn, and yet I feel it needful: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." If your whole soul be engaged in this, I may add what the Word of God further says: "Who is he who will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?"

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 239

Hertford, 12 August 1842.

Dear Mr. Burrell,

I am anxious to send you a few lines, and the more so from hearing what your conversation turned upon at Mrs. L.'s party, namely, real recent communion with the Lord, not merely head-knowledge. It struck me that in this lies the distinction between the true church of God, and the professing church, and I was led to some meditation how it was with me, and by what means this life had been communicated and kept up. I found a suitable key to unfold my thoughts in 2 Corinthians 4, where the apostle shows us that he was troubled on every side, but his troubles were so sanctified by the sweet presence and help of God that they did not bring forth despair. "For which cause (he says) we faint not, but though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed day by day." I, too, have found, and still find, that this daily precious renewal reconciles the cross and makes it easy; for the Lord's sweet presence conveys such light into the soul that we see and feel that our affliction "is but for a moment", yet "works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"; and we are enabled to draw our minds from created objects, and fix them upon that which is spiritual and eternal.

When I left town I thought I had heard you for the last time. I was reduced to a very low condition, but it has pleased God wonderfully to restore me, and with temporal health he has added many tokens and views of his tender regard. I cannot help thinking that he has made my affliction profitable to many here who attend my family worship. I am surprised at the simplicity I find in the accounts which some of them give of the daily coming and going of the Lord.

I have had some earnest and pressing invitations from our friends in Shropshire. The poor people seem very ardently to desire my company among them once more. I have many fears, and tremble at the important task; yet I am not without some hope, from what has already taken place there through the weakest of all instruments. My prayer is, "If your presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." The fear of refusing to give my labor where the Lord calls for it, and the fear of going without the approbation of the Lord, bear very heavy upon me at times; and I am sure I have need of your prayers and the prayers of the rest of the friends that I may never be like the disobedient prophet, but may walk very tenderly before the Lord.

May it please God to bless you in your labors, and to grant that the blessing of eternal life may effectually reach dear Mrs. Burrell's heart, so as to cast out all her fears.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 240

(To a Lady) Hertford, August 1842.

Dear Madam,

Your friend showed me that part of your letter which referred to the state of your mind. Although it was exceedingly mournful, yet the Lord speaks so much in the behalf of a broken heart that it ought to encourage us mournful ones to hope that he does not mean utterly to forsake us.

A broken heart is a rare thing, and may always be known by its mourning after the right object. David under it cried out, "How long will you forget me, O Lord? forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" This is our fear, lest it should indeed be for ever. The broken heart, under such a painful feeling of the Lord's displeasure, cannot see an end of trouble, and therefore is ready to faint, but it will not utterly give up the cry, although there is a fearful apprehension lest our dreadful enemy unbelief should gain the victory, and we sink in despair. Here the broken heart makes a desperate struggle, which manifests that it is the quickening Spirit of God with his two-edged sword that has pierced it; and the terrible sinking that it feels leads it to cry, "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." Let me see that this is the way in which you are pleased to save sinners; and though it be by terrible things in righteousness that you Answer me, yet be you still my Savior, lest my enemy prevail against me (Psalm 13).

How few there are to be found who are spiritually exercised as you are now; and how truly can I rejoice that you can mourn for the want of the communion and instruction of the people of God! This also is a true token that your heart is set upon the right object, and that Jesus Christ has given that wound which he will take care none shall heal but himself.

Your sister leaves Hertford tomorrow; I wish with all my heart she may feel as you do; then she will be very fearful of every step she takes, and every company she enters; and will inquire by diligent prayer, Is the Lord there? The near approach of death, if sanctified to us, will sober us and make us see created things in their right color. O eternity! How dreadful to look upon without hope! And although a sweet hope in the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is very supporting and precious, still it brings and leaves an awe upon the spirit, so that much company is not congenial to a soul seeking to finish its course in peace. Both light professors, and such as have nothing but the spirit of the world, are very unsuitable to broken hearts, or to any who desire to have a clear work upon their souls. It is no small thing to give up all for Christ, and to count all things but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. O how precious has that testimony been to me this evening! My hearty desire is that you may win Christ, and be found in him, having neither spot nor wrinkle. My very heart believes that the Lord will thus appear for you, before he takes you home.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 241

(To the same) Hertford, 25 August 1842.

Dear Madam,

God is determined to make us feel what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against him, and how truly our sin is the cause of our being covered with thick darkness and impenetrable confusion. It pleases him to sanctify his dispensations towards us, so as to make us die to the world and all the vanities of it, and to cut us off from all hopes that we gather in a false profession. It is a great thing to be thus lost; we think and fear that it is final destruction. Nevertheless we perceive that God's ways and thoughts are not ours. He purposes to crucify in us the old man, and to create in us a new and living principle, called the new man, in which he is pleased to dwell. The new cannot take place without pulling down the old; which is to us most dreadful, because our fleshly wisdom and the devil so miscolour and falsely represent the truth, that we should be brought to final despair, did not the Lord counteract it by that sweet hope you mention in your letter.

I am truly glad that you cannot rest without knowing that Christ is yours, and you are his. I trust it is his design that you should not rest, and that for this cause he suffers so many fears and misgivings to arise in your mind, that by them you may be taught to pray under a feeling sense of your need. You and I are on the confines of eternity; and what real substance can you find here that can relieve your troubled mind? None, I am sure. One kind look of mercy from the Lord makes every crook straight; and I believe his mercy to you is such that he will confound every attempt at gaining relief, except in himself. This in due time will bring you to be without strength; and when the Lord sees that your "power is gone, and there is none shut up nor left", that is, no reserve in secret, but a complete falling down before him, then you will be surprised with a sweet revelation of his everlasting love and mercy to you. This is the way the Lord seeks and saves the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and this is the way I believe he will seek and save you. Be not disheartened; pray without ceasing; and his word will sweetly speak upon your heart, and whisper, "This is the way; walk you in it" (Isaiah 30:21).

There are many terrible things that overtake the children of God, and we are apt to forget that the Word says, "By terrible things in righteousness will you answer us, O God of our salvation." I entreat you to stand in awe of all the painful fears and feelings you endure, and see if they do not lead you to be very sober and tender, and have a great tendency to break the neck of that levity which so much abounds in us all. It pleases God often to bring good out of these seeming evils; therefore do not repine nor be overmuch cast down, but watch unto prayer, and see what the Lord will do for you, and what he is all day long doing in you. If you gain not comfort all at once, yet in this sober walk you will gain instruction, caution, admonition, reproof, and many things that may be exceedingly profitable; and the Lord will not be far off, but will one day tell you, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

May the Lord encourage you thus to hope, and you will not be disappointed world without end (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 242

(To Mr. D.) London, 27 September 1842.

My dear Friend,

Since I had the pleasure of knowing you I have been much interested in the account you gave of your leaving C— and L— and coming to Hertford. It is evident that God had some peculiar design in it, and you have let the whole of that dispensation pass by without coming to the right knowledge of it. I have often heard you half bemoan the spiritual darkness and decay that so quickly followed the appearance of spiritual life; but half things will not do in religion, and though you cannot quicken your own soul, I fear there seems but little spiritual labor to beg of God to do it.

Abraham pursued his obedience to God's words until the knife was on the throat of Isaac, and it was then the Lord appeared, and called him the father of the faithful. Jacob was under as many difficulties as you, and I dare say felt his weakness more than you; yet he wrestled with the Angel, and would not let him go without a blessing. We also find David surrounded with all sorts of fears, and he cried unto the Lord and not only found relief in and from present trouble, but he says the Lord also gave him promises "for a great while to come". So it is said of all the fathers; they cried unto the Lord, and were delivered; they trusted, and were not confounded. I also have known many set-fast places, and am surrounded with many fears, yet the Lord encourages me to hope in his Word; he is unceasingly telling me, "Men ought always to pray and not to faint;" and I am seldom long at this exercise before I am encouraged to hope, and find fresh light upon my path.

How hard it is to keep conscience honest! We shrink, and quibble, and twist things into a different light from that in which the Spirit shows them; and this brings on fear and terror, out of the abundance of which we are made to cry, "Lord, save, or I perish." This is no easy work. We say, "Search me, O God, and try me," without the least meaning or desire it should be so. You may think you pray in this way honestly, but "the heart is deceitful above all things", and you presently cry out for a little more slumber. Were you but half aware of the danger of your state you would give the Lord no rest until some change take place.

Perhaps you have not duly considered the condition in which it has pleased God to place you, a constant hearer of his Word. What can be the meaning of those words: "But they made light of it" (Matthew 22:5)? That saying belongs not only to such as mock, but to such also as do not profit. It is God's design that in some way we should be fruitful branches; instead of which there appears an uncommon weariness in those things which the Savior sets forth as absolutely needful to be found in his followers. Understanding in some measure what should be, but like Felix declining the word of exhortation for the present, and saying you will send for the Savior at a more convenient season, namely, when you are more alive in soul, as you suppose. These are dangerous things; nevertheless there is mercy with the Lord, that he may be feared; and if you set your heart to seek you will surely find.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 243

(To C. G.) London, 17 October 1842.

My dear Friend,

I was sincerely glad to see your letter, but you overlooked the subject of mine, which was written under many alarming fears respecting myself, how I should finish my course. But that Friend you speak of, who came to you at midnight, also brought to me some of that Bread of eternal life which was, and is still, my comfort and nourishment. Your religion and mine would indeed be at a very low ebb if we attained to nothing to urge us to seek his face. I find that if nothing else is sent for that purpose, the Lord is pleased by many ways to raise an alarm ("at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom comes"), and this teaches me to cry until I find his merciful presence some way encouraging me to hope; and I am assured if I seek for that wisdom which you speak of, as for silver, and search for it as for hid treasures, then shall I "understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God". But the watching and waiting enters more deeply into our life, walk, and conversation, than we are at first sight aware. For how long do we go unwatchful, when beclouded, not examining the cause of it, nor considering in what manner the Lord is showing his displeasure! On this account we are often ready to conclude (when the alarm is given) that the Lord is now intending to bring us to nothing, and utterly to crush our profession. If we had been watching and waiting, we should understand the Lord's tender care in checking and stopping a fruitless profession, and teaching us the necessity of spiritual communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and our interest in this marvelous and inestimable treasure (Luke 11:5-13; Matthew 25:1-13).

If our hearts are set upon these things, we may be assured that the enemy will oppose, alarm, and terrify by all means, and none more frightful than inserting into the mind blasphemous thoughts and sights which no human soul can invent, and then accusing the poor soul of the things which are altogether of his own hatching. Such a one cannot be persuaded but that it is the sin of his nature, and that he shall be brought to destruction for it, except by the almighty power of God, who in due time shows him whence these terrifying things arise, and that Jesus Christ himself was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil". Here an objection will be raised, that Christ's temptations were not like ours; but I would ask the meaning of these words: "Tempted in all points like as we are" (though he was without sin); and again: "In that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to support them who are tempted." I know all this is suffered to bring us to understand our weakness, and the desperate state that sin has brought us to. All glorying is set aside here, all self is put to the blush, and we begin to feel what it is to be lost. One ray of light sets the Savior in a most sweet and precious view, and we cry out, "How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!" These are the things that give savor to the salt, life in our profession, and teach us to write vanity on all created comforts (Hebrews 4:15; 2:18; Zechariah 9:17).

I was truly glad to hear that Mrs. Morris felt the sound of alarm in her conscience on the doctor's sentence; tell her to ponder well that though it was but the doctor's sentence, no doubt the voice of God was in it; and I trust the Lord said in her heart, "Arise you and depart, for this is not your rest." She has had repeated admonitions in the long illness of her husband, but now again must be taken in hand: the Lord makes no mistakes. Did she ever read or understand this: "The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force"? A light profession brings nothing in: branches in the Vine must be fruitful, or cut off. A knowledge of doctrine, or even an approval of true religion, is not vital godliness. The furnace brings to light who are who; and those who cannot receive hard sayings, nor bear to be told, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life," will soon find an easier, broader way which will end in despair: but if, where many are offended, such a thought as this arises: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," then I say, these workings in the mind show that we are led of the Spirit, will stand the fire, and come forth as gold. I exceedingly desire that she may attain to all this, and have such bright evidences as shall comfort her in a dying hour. I hope also that her husband does not forget the fearful apprehension of danger he felt when in the hottest of his trial, and that there can be no relief but in Jesus Christ.

How awful do I see the general profession of your parish; they are all swallowed up with free will. I find no religion but in the furnace: it is almost entirely set aside by the professing world, where is little else but vain and frothy joy, which blows away with all sorts of errors, and when most needed is utterly extinguished. If my health and life be spared, and the Lord permit another visit among you, I fear the way will be pointed out narrower than many will like: but the will of the Lord be done.

Those hopeless feelings you mention spring out of a backsliding heart; the straitness lies there, not in the Lord. We grow faint and weary in our minds for want of communication with the tried people of God, and the preaching of the Word. It pleases God to suffer us to degenerate into these states, that we may be deeply convinced how barren and unfruitful we are without the daily renewals that the Lord speaks of in his Word.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 244

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 20 October 1842.

My dear Friend,

I was very glad to receive your letter, and think I perceive that the Lord is leading you into that path of tribulation which shall prove your calling to be of him. You may collect a number to hear you from many causes, but if you set before them the daily cross and the furnace, you will find many to serve you as they served the Savior: "they walked no more with him." The few that are enabled to hear and receive the Word will be glad to find one that has already passed through what seem to them most sad and stick-fast places. I would not naturally like to be so weak, so dark, so ignorant; but I believe the Lord brings me down to such a condition, not only to teach me to pray and look only to the Lord Jesus Christ for my evidences, but that I may declare in a pure language the way and manner in which the Lord saves his people, through the sovereign mercy of Christ, displayed in the behalf of the most wretched sinners. I know not how to get from this point, nor how to express the manner of God's bringing us down, down, down, and keeping us down in this low place, and there showing us all the glorious things he has promised in this world and in eternity. I feel the flesh at times to revolt; but when the Lord gives me but one transient look, I beg pardon for my rebellion, and with all my heart acknowledge his wisdom in all his ways with me.

I often think of your little community, and what the Lord will do to make his work manifest. I could desire to see more life in some; and I believe the Lord will give it to you, and from you its savor will be spread; and, inasmuch as your own spirit grows, so will it be with the people. May the Lord comfort your heart with repeated fresh tokens of favor, and bid you be of good cheer, because of his power and mercy towards a poor seeking people.

I often wish our dear friend W. could by the help of the Lord "leap over a wall", but the grievous clog of unbelief prevents his springing. In meditating on these words: "To be spiritually minded is life and peace," it struck me that many sorrow because they cannot attain to this peace, and do not notice the life which is often to be seen where the peace is not manifest. Godly sorrow for sin is most certainly spiritual life; and that, with many more graces of the Spirit, may be found in exercise, while as yet peace is not felt. This ought to encourage us; and if the encouragement come from the Lord, it will have a pressing power to urge us not to rest until he is pleased to brighten our evidences, and give us that peace "which passes all understanding"; and this will "keep our hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus", from all the vanities of this life, and make us watchful that the day of the Lord should not overtake us as a thief in the night.

What you say of the simplicity which appears in —, I also say, I wonder. The Savior's words proved many, so that at last they could walk no more with him. The trial makes manifest, but at present he has all things, within and without, sailing with a fair wind. We, by the mercy of God, and by that alone, have found that the wind often changes, and storms arise, and at first we see not how nor whence they spring; but when "God thunders marvelously with his voice", we "stagger like a drunken man", and know not what the end will be. But "the Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm," and though he bring us to our wit's end, yet if we be in his purpose of mercy, he presently says, "Peace, be still." This is the calm that stills the accusations of the law, conscience, and Satan, and causes that spiritual-mindedness which is life and peace. But O, to be wrecked in that storm! Christ is called the Rock of offence; and it is said, "Whoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."

I witnessed our friend Mr. T. draw his last breath on Tuesday morning. The Lord visited him with sweet supporting power, so that he was abundantly satisfied.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 245

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) London, 10 November 1842.

My dear Friend,

I assure you that I am daily and increasingly exercised as the time approaches that is named for my going into Shropshire. I have had some very sweet encouragements, and some very terrible damping fears, arising from various quarters. I have known what trouble means since I saw you, but the Lord is with me, and I sometimes venture to hope that by it I shall be taught some useful lessons for the afflicted people of God in the way of counsel and encouragement. I am made to put my head very low. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God." I am sure it is but very few that know much of this sweet grace of humility: the oftener I find the least taste of it, the more I feel how scanty a portion I possess; and with great shame I see and acknowledge the necessity of a daily cross. I only begin to feel what a vile sinner I am, and the small discovery almost makes me despair, yet pray and cry I do, and must; and here, sooner or later, the compassion of the Lord is moved, and hope springs up. "Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." My sins are the cause of my afflictions. I ardently desire to take up my cross, and in patience to possess my soul; and am often, by the mercy of God, enabled to do so. His Word is very sweet, and his smiles, when I have them, very precious, and my fears and troubles then very small. At other times I mourn and cry, "How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?" My eyes and my heart are continually watching, and I sorely fear to grieve the Spirit of God. Oh! how often do I beg the Lord to forgive my blunders of all sorts, to lay no sin to my charge, but give me a right honest heart to confess and forsake it, and obtain the promised mercy.

Tell all my friends that their profession will be tried to the uttermost, and that there can be no salvation but through the fiery furnace. The Refiner who sits over it is a tender, careful, and powerful Friend, and will take care that he loses nothing worth preserving; but his eyes being "as a flame of fire", he discovers many a "refuge of lies", which at the beginning of our profession was not duly considered nor feared. This "terrible thing" (Exodus 34:10), which God does with his people, is the only safe way to the heavenly kingdom.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 246

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) The Grove, Pulverbach, 1 January 1843.

My dear Friend,

I feel myself much affected with what you say respecting our friends the s; their condition begins to wear a very serious aspect. I have seldom seen the Lord send afflictions single-handed where he has purposes of carrying on a work of grace. It is easy for us to seek to raise ourselves, and to make many (what we call very necessary) movements to promote our well-doing in this life, and we are not aware there is but one way: "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God", let your spirits sink some degrees lower. The Lord never takes a severe advantage of such steps, but in many ways exalts those who take them. Coming down is hard work, but the Lord requires it. I have shed many tears in this dark valley, which amounted to nothing but self-pity; yet, afterwards the Spirit has enlightened me to understand that before spiritual and divine honor there must be humility, and this can only be brought about by humbling circumstances. Here we begin to learn that God takes notice of none but these humble ones, and to gain a little encouragement; for we perceive something of his design, namely, that he is working for our good. We gain clearer views of the manner of his dealing with his afflicted people, in giving them many sweet tokens of his favor; and we begin to find there are more comforts in the low place than we expected, and this works patience; pride is cut down, and neither thought needful nor allowed, but feared; and our ears are opened to "hear the rod, and who has appointed it" (Micah 6:9). Boston says: "Affliction calls men down from their heights, and plucks away their mirthful feathers wherein they prided themselves, and rubs off their paint and varnish; whereby they appear more in their native deformity."

I had occasion to speak today upon these words: "When the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp" (Genesis 15:12-17). I could not help calling to mind the terrible afflictions the Lord had brought me safely through, in consequence of which the lamp of my profession had many bright shining evidences of the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the things which make the lamp to burn bright. I was led to show that the smoking furnace denotes the various and heavy troubles that the people of God are called to endure, and the darkness and confusion that often attends the entrance into them. I told the people they all knew in their country what a literal furnace meant, for they could see for miles on a dark night the fire and smoke that issued from them; and that I had known many such spiritual furnaces, and had feared they would never end, and I never find any way of escape. I have said with Asaph, "How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? Shall your jealousy burn like fire?" But there has always been some relief when it came to this, for then the Lord has come with some encouragement, and I have been enabled to acknowledge my need of these afflictions, both to bring down my proud heart, and to make fresh and further discoveries of his everlasting love and mercy to me. Sukey was greatly comforted with what I said on this subject; she said her heart was quite full.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 247

Pulverbach, 1 January 1843.

My dear James Bourne,

I fancy I can see you bemoaning your case, and saying within yourself, This seems very hard, I fear the hand of the Lord is gone out against me, and that I shall be Mara, not Naomi. Only consider how wise God is, and that the government of all things is upon his almighty shoulders. He will act as a Sovereign, and give no account of his matters. Perhaps you cannot fathom his designs, but can you not venture to hope that they are for good towards you? The very circumstance you look at with suspicion, as evil, may be God's way of keeping you under the Word, and of giving you a keener appetite for it.

Unbelief, or carnal wisdom, meeting with no small conceit and consequence, finds it hard work to agree with the Lord that it is his design to do you good by these dispensations; it will rather consider them as so many black marks of his purpose of utterly pulling you to pieces. This was the way the Lord began with me; and for the want of that good instruction which you have under a faithful ministry, I was long entangled in confusion, not knowing which way to take; but the Lord mercifully kept his eye upon me to preserve me from utterly departing from him, and by many trials and adversities of all sorts he brought me to bow and stoop under his mighty hand. At last I began to understand that it was the Lord who had taken me in hand, and that though I had struggled hard to escape, all attempts to do so were vain. But he was pleased to give me a little light and understanding in his gracious purpose, which brought me to many confessions; and to my surprise, the more I came this way, the more the Lord instructed me. "I was brought low, and he helped me." Then I searched more particularly in his Word what sort of sinners find mercy, and how; and I was further surprised to see that the promised rest was only for the troubled, and that his people were a poor and afflicted people; but let them be never so low, he made me to understand that he would have me in all my difficulties to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear young friend, do not be disheartened at what is before you; there can be no real ground for fear, if it be Jesus you are seeking. He will take care that all crooks shall be made straight; and though you may have to rough it for awhile, only watch his coming and going, and you will never be a loser.

Your faithful friend, James Bourne

 

 

Letter 248

(To the Rev. R. M.) Pulverbach, 4 January 1843.

My dear Friend,

I was once in very sore trouble some years back, and thought I had come to the end of all things, and should never more know comfort; and these words became exceedingly precious to me: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy: he who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Since I have been here those last words are continually sounding very quietly in my heart, while meditating on and delivering my subject, and while conversing with any of the people; they come also in the night, and in prayer; and something says, Do not you remember how happy you were when the words were first applied, and you could not make out what bringing the sheaves with you meant? Do not you now begin to see some truth in those words? I cannot, and dare not, set them aside, but feel both comforted and encouraged to hope that the Lord is in some way accomplishing them.

The Word preached begins to make a great stir in this parish, which excites many fears in my heart; but the Lord is very near, and often comforts me in the course of the day. The people in general seem in the very deepest possible stupidity and ignorance, yet many have terrible fears, and know not how to get understanding, but wander up and down for lack of knowledge. Sukey is truly in earnest, and sweetly enjoys the Word, and is seldom sent away without some fresh power on her heart.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 249

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin) Pulverbach, 8 January 1843.

My dear Friend,

I have by the mercy of God finished my day's labor. I had many fears and many misgivings, thinking my subject was much too high for one like me; and though I was in prayer the night before, yet I could not find that spiritual liberty I wished. When I arrived at the room and saw the people collecting, my heart sank, and it made me in earnest with the Lord, and he heard my cry, and my subject unfolded from these words: "Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). The Lord was very near to me, and helped me to speak upon that precious doctrine of the Trinity; he also enabled me to point out how each divine Person was engaged in the work of redemption. I set forth, as at the beginning of the chapter, that it is the Spirit that quickens and gives life, and that through Christ we are reconciled to the Father, and that in consequence of this mysterious work of grace upon the heart, according to the purpose hid in God from all eternity, but now revealed, we no longer continue strangers and foreigners, but are fellow-citizens with the saints, and make it manifest by not walking after the flesh, but after the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." They know it by the measure of spiritual liberty they have in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-15). This part I somewhat enlarged upon, and felt a sweet liberty which the Lord had most graciously bestowed upon me, with much comfort in my own heart. I believe that many were enabled to receive the Word; and though I set forth, by the help of God, his eternal purpose in Christ Jesus in saving some and not all, yet they seemed patiently to endure it. I spoke also of that foolish supposition which some advance, that if they are elected they may live as they like; though the apostle says, "We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them;" namely, godly fear, repentance unto life, and self-abhorrence.

This subject was so sweet and so extensive that I was obliged to continue it in the evening, when there were present more than I had ever seen before. I found Ephesians 1 a key to my evening's discourse, and am sure that the Spirit helped my infirmity in describing the sovereign choice of God, and how they should be both holy and without blame before him in love, and that all things needful for our salvation were in Christ, and that the sealing of the Spirit would confirm the same; so that we should be quite sure and clear of our interest in these things, which would all be found in a path of great tribulation. I then, by the help of God, showed them the earnest prayer and desire of the apostle, that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ would open the eyes of our, understanding, to know "what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints".

My heart was filled with the love of God, in considering the amazing condescension of the Lord to such worms as we are, and even to me. Can I believe that I am a part of his rich inheritance? As I said, so I write; I cover my face with shame while I consider the value the Lord puts upon me, and the wretched return I make; how often listless and lifeless in my walk, and how often forgetful of his kindness and care. Yet, these are the feelings that make us to abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes; and we are encouraged to hope that the Lord, who says such mighty things, will never leave his afflicted people.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 250

(To the Rev. W. Maddy) Pulverbach, 15 January 1843.

My dear Friend,

How inexpressibly fearful do I feel my situation, and if it were not for the comforting power of God visiting me at times, I should utterly sink. My temptations are on all hands, innumerable threatenings from the enemy, and dreadful fears how I shall finish my course, who am so ready to instruct others. I dare not tell you all my painful fears, yet the Lord comes and oftentimes comforts my heart with such a sweet assurance of his favor, and he has given me such conspicuous answers to prayer, that I cannot but marvel at his goodness. My exercises are very sharp, and I can scarcely give credit to the things the people tell me concerning their profiting by what they hear; yet their tale is so simple that I dare not set it aside. I am kept in continual fear, in a very low place, which enables me to describe such places with feeling; by the mercy of God I can also point out to them the way I get out, namely, by earnest seeking and watching. This daily spiritual exercise keeps out all room for boasting. I think by the tenderness the Lord gives I am not perverse in my way, and that he is often present to comfort and encourage me in the work he has given me to do. How harassing it is to look at inward and outward things, instead of looking to Jesus! How clear I am made to see the way while I am speaking in public, and how hard I find it to put it into practice! I sometimes consider the unspeakably merciful intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ in times of my extremity that are past, and am encouraged, yes, and more than encouraged; I firmly believe he is my hope and sure foundation, and that when the rains descend and the winds beat I shall still stand, because of the Rock on which I am built. But we have need of patience, or the Lord would not have said such great words as these: "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." The unceasing assaults of the enemy make us need that perpetual help of the almighty power of God to sustain us.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 251

(To a Friend) Pulverbach, 23 January 1843.

My dear Friend,

I think the people increase every time. My subject yesterday was Luke 9:23, "He said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." I chose the well-known hymn, "Come, you sinners, poor and wretched;" but as I was about to begin, my eye caught the first line of another hymn on the same page, and I read it to myself: "Keep Christ in view." The words so sweetly entered my heart, that they were as ointment poured forth, and a sweet preparation for prayer and the beginning of my discourse. I endeavored by the help of God, first, to show that all his disciples must carry this cross; next, that it is not all trouble and sorrow, though the cross is necessary for the death of that domineering principle called "the old man." Though the Lord called Peter and others to forsake their nets and all things, yet soon he took them up to the mount and gave them such a glimpse of the glory of Heaven, and such a glorious sight of the eternal Son of God, that they presently said, "It is good for us to be here." The daily cross is lost and forgotten while under the savor of these sweet visits, and we then rejoice in our portion. It is true there is and must he a daily putting off the old man with all his longings and desires; and sometimes it is no small conflict, and we scarcely know which way it will turn; but our mournful sighs and cries move the compassion of the Savior, and he comes in the very time of need to save the sinking soul. Just after the Savior called his disciples to leave all and bear their daily cross, it is said he "opened his mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven: blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." So that I found abundant room to recommend the cross as the only way to all the blessedness set forth in the Word of God. And though a part of the cross is to be hated of all men, yet he who endures makes it manifest that the Lord is his strength, and will be his salvation. The Lord's care of his people under the cross is very manifest; for he condescends (as if it were to meet our wretched infidelity) to tell us that not a hair of our head shall perish. While I write this I feel my heart greatly moved believing that this truth will be verified in me, the chief of sinners; and this encourages me to write as I do to you.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 252

(To a Friend) Pulverbach, January 1843.

My dear Friend,

On Sunday evening I was led to speak from these words (Hebrews 8:5): "See that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount." God will be worshiped as revealed in his Word, and not according to the foolish fancies of men. "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." I endeavored to show that the Lord tells his people in an especial manner to remember how he spoke to them at mount Horeb "out of the midst of the fire" (Deuteronomy 4:10-12); that this fire is his wrath revealed to us in a broken law, as the first step to salvation; that for want of this first work there was much light, vain and foolish profession, which ended in worse than nothing; that God did this that we might learn to fear before him all the clays of our life; and that it is by these terrible means we are brought out of Egypt, and become an inheritance for him. I also endeavored to show that this was the way to eternal life, though so contrary to the wisdom of the flesh, and that here the Spirit reveals Christ as a new and living way to the Father, removes the wrath, reconciles the sinner, and makes Father, Son and Spirit to be our Friend in trouble, and our Deliverer in death from final destruction; but that this work manifests itself, as it is carried on, in godly fear, tenderness of conscience, and a coming forth from the world and the spirit of it. If any should ask, Who are they that manifest this beginning work? I could not help telling them that the plan, form, and pattern of this mysterious work would be shown to such as were ashamed. But I warned them to measure the pattern, and however badly they matched or fitted, if with shame they were enabled to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, he would show them the laws of his house, repentance, humiliation, a broken heart. Such as are conformable to these shall find their way into this mysterious dwelling, and shall know the mournful goings out as well as the reviving and restoring comings in (Ezekiel 43:10, 11).

Poor — said to Sukey Harley, "These are things we never heard before; no minister ever spoke a word to us upon this subject. I feel it is the true way, and what a mercy to have such instruction!"

William Morris seemed much cheered.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 253

(To the Rev. Bernard Gilpin, Mr. Maydwell, etc.) London, 14 February 1843.

My dear Friends,

I have one more account to give you all, which is to acknowledge the goodness of God during my stay in Shropshire, as well as in bringing me home in safety.

I was at times greatly encouraged and comforted in my heart with the divine power of the Word, though I began generally in much trembling and weakness. For the most part I was made to feel the Word first spoken to myself, and then sounded out to such among the people as had an appetite for it.

Since I came home I have had some sweet tokens of the approbation of God, but these have been sorely tried. I have also sunk very low in fear, and have been ready to give up my hope because of the unwelcomeness of a faithful report. The enemy tells me I shall not have one friend left, and my heart fears the same; I am allowed to encourage, as it is called; but beyond this I am not wanted. He also takes advantage of my castings down, and tells me that these are the tokens I ought to judge by; that I should not speak, for I was never sent to distress his kingdom; and that I ought first to judge myself, and if I will presume to instruct, I ought to be better equipped; and I believe this to be true.

O how I feel I must judge myself very narrowly, and take heed I say nothing but what the Lord enables me to put in practice! How often did I watch this point in Shropshire, and how anxious I was to proceed as the Spirit of God had led me in my own experience; and one especial thing I was made deeply to feel, namely, my great ignorance in all things, and particularly in the spiritual state of others. I cannot express the fear I have lest I should give a wrong judgment, especially where there is any regard paid to what I say. These things abide in my mind, and are attended with continual searchings of heart, because the eye of God is upon me, and he knows my ways and thoughts afar off; and if we are found walking contrary to his Word, his judgments are a great deep, and overtake us long before we are in the least aware. O how I desire to be found in the exercise of that grace of humility! I know it is safe. I dread independence of God, or to be in any way presuming. I know the next step must be a downfall. I am surrounded on all hands with terrible things, and if it please God to keep me watchful and sober and unceasingly crying to him, I know there may be some revival in this bondage, and that the Lord will appear and make me to see that nothing is too hard for him.

On Sunday morning I was much in earnest in prayer, and very anxious to find the Lord in hearing the Word, and the Lord came with sweet power into my heart while Mr. Burrell was commenting on Matthew 17; but in the evening at the sacrament, while he handed the cup I felt the marvelous dying love of the Savior to me. In this I found that sweet liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, and all my bonds were broken, and the Lord drew very near. It was to my soul a full proof of the Lord's approbation on my proceedings at Pulverbach, and gave me power to leave all my fears and misgivings in his hands.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 254

(To P. M. and his wife) London, 20 February 1843.

My dear Friends,

I called at your house before I left Pulverbach, but you were from home. I have often wondered at the manner in which it pleases God to speak upon the sinner's heart; it is often by the weakest means, and at a time when we are little aware of the great weight which God purposes that the Word shall have upon the conscience. It is a great thing to be convinced of sin, for until we feel ourselves condemned to perish we never effectually cry for mercy to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only to the troubled soul that rest is promised. If the Lord begin to break a sinner's heart it is that in due time he may heal it. The breaking of the heart is a thing the world knows nothing of. It is brought about often by repeated afflictions and disappointments, and we learn by slow degrees that it is the hand of the Lord upon us, and that with all our struggles we cannot get out of his hand; and when we are made to stoop, and yield, and acknowledge we are utterly lost, then the Savior steps in to our relief, and shows us that there is mercy with him for just such miserable sinners as we are. While the Lord is working thus in us, we become sick of the vanities and pleasures of this life, as well as of the company that would allure and entice us from seeking Jesus Christ to stand our Friend. We soon find that either Christ or the vanities of this life must be given up. Christ the eternal Son of God will never dwell in the heart of a carnal or worldly professor, but with the cast-down, broken-hearted, sorrowful sinner. If any pretend to tell you of an easier way, believe them not. All other ways lead to death. There are swarms of religious professors who know nothing of the work of the Spirit upon the heart, and mislead thousands by vain promises of safety, while they themselves are led captive by the devil. I sincerely hope you will lay to heart the deep necessity of a true work of grace; for you will not be able to face death in peace and comfort unless the blood of Jesus Christ cleanse you from all sin. There is a divine secret in these things which is revealed by the Spirit to such as fear God. These shall share in that covenant which God the Father has made in Christ Jesus, and is testified by the Spirit to the consciences of poor wounded, hopeless, helpless sinners. I am made greatly to feel for your spiritual welfare, and hope that you will both manifest that the Spirit of God has sown the incorruptible seed which shall endure to eternal life.

Your faithful well-wisher, James Bourne

 

Letter 255

(To T. O. and his wife) London, 20 February 1843.

My dear Friends,

I was sincerely glad to see you so constant in hearing me, but you ought to be aware that something more than hearing will be necessary to your salvation. I am told you have got some right notions in your head, but that your feet go another way; that is, you do not live consistently with that profession of religion you make. There is nothing more dangerous to the soul than this, because it is an utter abhorrence in the sight of God, and he often cuts down such in the open face of all men, as an example for others to fear and depart from evil. I hope you will be able to lay this to heart and not seek in any way to deny it, but confess this truth in secret before God, and entreat him to have mercy upon your soul for the sake of his dear Son Jesus Christ. If you perceive the least fear of God to spring up in your heart, instruct your children in the same; and be sure to manifest that fear of God by meeting your family in some way to read a portion of God's Word and to pray together, and make no excuse for your ignorance. Children begin at a very early age to watch their parents, and have often a clear discernment of the spirit in which they walk: they can soon discern sincerity or the want of it in their parents; therefore there needs a spiritual discretion to be given us, how to walk before such as God has committed to our charge.

It is no small thing to become a converted sinner. There will be found in such ten thousand changes and fears, which the Spirit sanctifies to instruct them unceasingly to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ for fresh, clearer, and brighter tokens of his mercy to them. If we only learn to talk about these things, we shall find ourselves sorely at a loss when sickness and death come, and our hopes are built upon a sandy foundation. Take heed, my friends; it is not everybody that possesses the religion you see in Sukey Harley. Vital godliness is a rare thing; anything in the shape of it, not being the real thing, will not stand the fiery trial which is to come upon all men; and woe be to such as come to that and have not the blessed Savior for a Friend.

Give my kind respects to J. P. Tell him to give the Lord no rest until he finds a sweet hope to spring up in his heart that shall be his support in the fiery furnace. Tell R. O. to pray to the Lord that the vanities of youth may not carry him clean away into the world, and he be lost in the general deluge.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 256

(To A. H.) London, 20 February 1843.

My dear Friend,

I am truly glad to hear of your welfare, and that you still hunger after the bread of life; for the Savior says that such shall be filled. I fear that the dangerous places your husband is exposed to will try his profession to the quick. Often so long from home, and no word of exhortation, and the world at all times before him, and a bad example. I am greatly afraid these things will be too strong for him, if he make not God his refuge by constant prayer. I fear that prayer may be forgotten and left off in his pots of beer; and that though not a drunkard, he may be betrayed into excess, and be made to know that God will not be mocked. If he lightly gets over what he heard from me, the Lord can soon break another arm, or lay both him and his family upon a bed of sickness; it therefore becomes him to stand in awe of God while his spirit is in some measure softened by the Word, that his secret fears may prove the working of the Spirit to teach him to cry for mercy to the Lord Jesus Christ. He will quickly stand in need of this mercy when brought before God's bar; and though he may be tempted now to make light of these things, yet he will never be able to stand God's scrutiny when once he arises to judge him, unless he fall flat in spirit at the feet of Christ, and entreat his sovereign mercy.

So must you also do, and your sister Sally. There is but one way. It is a bitter thing to sin against God, and it is dreadful to be convinced of unbelief by the Spirit of God; but all must feel their lost state before they find salvation. I believe that you have tasted of relief from the Savior in some of your troubles, as well as in the dreadful fear that came upon you after you uttered those angry words to Sukey Harley. It is by such convictions we are cured of all self-righteousness, and are made as lost sinners to come to him alone for help; and we become the more astonished that the Savior will look on such abject sinners, and pardon us, or even give us the least hope that we shall not finally perish. I hope it may please God to help you in your approaching trouble, and by it teach you to make use of him, and to remember that in all our afflictions he was afflicted, and therefore knows when and how to help. May he maintain spiritual life in your souls, so that you may be a joy to me and not a grief.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 257

(To B. B.) London, 20 February 1843.

My dear Friend,

I have often thought of the sharp exercises which you have been called upon to endure, yet you can now see how marvelously the eye of God was upon you to preserve you from ruin. This consideration should be to you a continual source of admiration and praise; preserved until called, and now brought sensibly to feel the mercy of God to you in Christ Jesus. I would by no means dishearten you, but I would remind you that this world is full of thieves and robbers, and that they generally come in the night of affliction. The Savior gives us a particular caution, that as we know not what hour the thief will come, we should watch, and by confession and prayer, not suffer our souls to be robbed. We are continually backsliding in some way or other, and then is the time for the enemy to make his advances. He is watching while we are straying from the good Shepherd, and then robs us of our most valuable jewels, faith and hope, and puts in their place presumption and natural affection, and these soon bring on despondency and unbelief; and when once we are made prisoners in Doubting Castle, we find it no easy matter to get out, for this thief that has robbed us turns accuser, and tells us of our shameful ways in departing from the Lord; and we find plenty within to prove the truth of the charge, and to make us fear, either that the Lord will never forgive us, or that he never did anything for us. When we are thus down, and the Lord is pleased to leave us thus forlorn to learn a little more of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, then the grand adversary comes with all his might, and brings on a most terrible fear of death in the very place where we can least bear it. The thoughts of being brought to the bar of God with all this terrible burden upon us drink up our spirits, and under this heavy load we are bowed down very low. It pleases God to sanctify these troubles to his elect, so that by his management they are to us as ballast to a ship. They have a tendency to humble and steady the soul, and cure us of that levity and vanity which is so much seen in a light profession. When we have had many sights of God's infinite holiness and his unsearchable judgments, we cannot but tremble even while we rejoice. There is much said in the Word of God about standing in awe, and having the Lord in reverence. Of late years I have, by the mercy of God, been led to read the Bible more carefully than formerly; in consequence of which I am made to walk in greater fear, not slavish but filial fear, exceedingly anxious not to quench the Spirit, nor to grieve him.

The enemy will take every advantage to work the fear of death in the heart of God's elect, and by it draw them to dishonor, in the furnace of affliction, him who has made so many mighty promises to help the helpless and to stand by the friendless. A general idea that God will be with us, and that the fear of death will not touch us, will avail nothing when it comes to the point. Such untried confidence will fall like the house upon the sands. When I have found myself overwhelmed with that fear, I have cried to the Lord, and unceasingly besought him to remove it and give me some hope; and to my surprise he has removed it, and given me a sweet hope that he will be with me in that tremendous hour. Such promises, founded on God's Word and brought into the heart by the Spirit of God, are sure to stand; nevertheless we are continually losing sight of them in fresh fears, and find we can only go again the same way to work, that our tokens may be renewed. While the sweet love of God rules in the heart, all fear and torment is cast out; but the Lord tells us the days of darkness shall be many. Therefore he also further warns us, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise" (Proverbs 6:6-8). I sincerely hope this will be your way, and that in every trial you may come off more than conqueror through Jesus Christ.

Tell your fellow-servant to give the Lord no rest until she finds clear evidences of the Lord's mercy and favor towards her; and both of you remember you are called to endure hardness as good soldiers, and that there must be no turning back in the day of battle.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 258

(To M. D.) London, 22 February 1843.

My dear Friend,

It gave me sincere pleasure to see you so desirous of instruction. If I mistake not the Word of God entered your heart, and the Spirit convinced you of sin, producing many fears and misgivings; for while the Lord Jesus Christ is out of sight there is no hope of Heaven, and at such a time death is often brought very near, and the guilty spirit sinks very low. Thus the Lord brings us to a sense of our utter ruin; and the way is safe, though it appears very dreadful, for by these terrible means we are made steady; our lightness is burnt up in this furnace, and we learn to value the Savior more. I know you were not without some encouragement; and though you soon lose the sweetness of this in the trial, yet if the work be of God, you will learn to cry to him under the heaviest darkness and misery. It is said of the hypocrites in heart that they cry not when God binds them (Job 36:13). It is a marvelous thing to be brought to understand, and more so to feel, the wrath of God in a broken law. Your fellow-servant can tell you of a thousand snares that will be laid for your feet, to keep you from coming to Christ for mercy; and the enemy will subtly whisper in your ears that you have only to go to worship, for there is nothing more to be known. This will be done to make you contented without a sense of Christ's pardoning love; and if he can persuade you to this point, your profession will soon wither, and you become a fruitless branch. I hope that all you in the same house will make it manifest that you walk in the same spirit. If, through a backsliding heart, you withdraw, there will be ground to suspect your profession is not sincere. I believe you will have your religion sharply tried, even so that all about you shall see whether the Lord stands by you or not. I do not write this to dishearten you, but to forewarn you, that you may lay up many petitions to the Lord against. that day.

If you are tempted to seek the Lord where he is never to be found, you will find this will bring you into great confusion. Excuse what I am about to say. The Lord will never send you among the congregation of the dead for spiritual food. Be tender of God's honor, and true and honest to your convictions. If you argue or reason with the devil, he, being a special pleader, will soon put you out of countenance, and make you firmly believe you will be ruined forever, if you walk so contrary to your interest; all will forsake you, and you will come to want. This is language I am accustomed to, and have often been made to fear the worst, but being through mercy secretly supported by the power of God, I have stood my ground, and found all threatenings come to nothing, my conscience comforted, and God honored. Human contrivances always fail; God will blow upon them. We may think we should prefer a voyage to Tarshish, but God designs we shall go to Nineveh; and to Nineveh we shall go, if we go to the bottom of the sea first. "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." Therefore pray for godly simplicity, for "a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways". May the Lord give you abundance of spiritual life and discernment, that you may escape the terrible snares all round about you, and that you may come clear out as "a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use".

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 259

(To M. C.) London, 21 February 1843.

My dear Friend,

I do not know how you have gone on since I left Pulverbach, but this I know, that a path of tribulation is appointed for all God's people; and that we may not be disheartened, the Lord has told us he will not leave us comfortless, but will come to our relief again and again. This way is so appointed in infinite wisdom to keep us from the spirit of the world, which carries thousands in a vain profession of religion headlong to destruction. I would gladly hope your religion is not of this sort, but of that which will abide the fiery trial, and so prove it to be the work of the Spirit of God.

I often wonder whether any of those who were strangers to me received the word preached as the Word of God, and by the power of it have been brought to seek the Lord more earnestly now I am gone, so as to show it was indeed the Word of God, and not merely what they heard from me. In the parable of the sower you must remember that some of the seed sprang up very quickly, and as quickly perished, to show that where the Word of God makes but a slight impression, it is soon wiped away by slight temptation. The Savior does not tell us these things to discourage us, but to forewarn us not to be too much surprised when those about us, who have made a fair show of religion, for want of that first work which you have often heard me describe, wither before the fruit be ripe, and so manifest themselves to be fruitless branches, which men abounding in all manner of errors gather into their company, and all of them are consumed together.

That first work which I allude to is God's bringing us out of the world, by temptations, signs, wonders, war, and by a mighty hand, and stretched out arm, and by great terrors, and by his making us to hear his voice, and causing us to tremble at the sight and discovery of our lost condition. The Spirit of God uses these means to teach us the unspeakable value of the dying love of the Savior to such sinners as we are found to be; and where this love is applied to the guilty conscience, it removes all that superabundance of the love of the world and its vanities, and gives new desires, even for communion with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Father of all mercies. The Spirit of God also works a secret desire that all this may be kept alive in the midst of the death that is round about us; and that when spiritual decay comes on, we may manifest that the Lord is still with us by a secret mourning and crying after him to restore our souls, not resting until he appears again. This sort of religion has life in it, will support us in all our afflictions, and comfort us in the hour of death.

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 260

(To Mr. Harrow) Hertford, 7 March 1843.

My dear Friend,

You have been on my mind since I saw you on Sunday evening, for I know that all faintings in elderly people betoken bodily infirmity. I also know full well that the enemy never loses an opportunity to alarm us, whether there be danger or not; and as he comes as a thief in the night, we are not always so awake as immediately to put on the whole armor of God; and no other armor can be proof against the dreadful fears and misgivings which he brings. Yet such is the marvelous mercy of our God, that when we are led to mourn and humble ourselves under these painful alarms, then (as the Psalmist sweetly sings), "He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dunghill," to which we naturally cleave. It is true the enemy comes as a terrible blast, and "as a storm against the wall"; but if I may be allowed to speak, this is the very place where the Lord has always, without fail, been my refuge, and given me "a feast of fat things, full of marrow", and refreshed my frightened soul with "wines on the lees well refined"; and here does the Lord "swallow up death in victory", and wipe away all tears of sorrow and fear (Isaiah 25:4-9).

When once we feel the sweet power of Christ's love in our hearts, we can leave all events in his hands, quite persuaded that he will work all things wisely after the counsel of his own will; and he makes us feel with the sweetest assurance the value he puts upon us, and that he will take care to oppose all other claims. "They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spares his own son that serves him" (Malachi 3:17).

I know not how it is, but I perceive a sweet savor of rest while I write to you on this subject, as if it were not a shadow but a real substance that will uphold the spirit in a dying hour, and carry us safely through the valley of the shadow of death without the tormenting fears with which we are often threatened. May the Lord greatly comfort you, sick or well, and give you an abundance of peace. I have often felt, in our meetings for many years, that though you have said but little, you have fully understood the path of affliction and tribulation that I have spoken of, as well as the mighty deliverances God has wrought. It is this that unites the spirits of those who fear God, and they become sharers of each other's troubles as well as consolations; and here I desire to join you; and remain, my dear friend,

Yours etc. James Bourne

 

 

Letter 261

London, 28 March 1843.

Dear Mrs. Rayment,

Do you think when David said (Psalm 60), "O God, you have cast us off, you have scattered us, you have been displeased," that this happened before he had tasted of the goodness and mercy of God? O no! Only in the psalm before he says, "I will sing of your power; I will sing aloud of your mercy;" and this is to teach us that the Lord's people are subject to many changes, though he declares he changes not. If you read the last verse of Matthew 3, it is said, "Lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and in the first verse of the next chapter it is said, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Again we read Peter, James, and John were taken up into the mountain, and