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Written by Bishop LEIGHTON on different Occasions: the first, taken from an Authentic Copy; the rest, from the Author's Originals. [Edit. 1748.]
LETTER to the Synod of GLASGOW, convened April 1673.
IT is neither a matter of much importance, nor can I yet give you a particular and satisfying account of the reasons of my absence from your meeting, which, I trust, with the help of a little time, will clear itself: But, I can assure you, I am present with you in my most affectionate wishes of the gra cious presence of that Holy Spirit amongst you, and within you all, who alone can make this and all your meetings, and the whole work of your ministry, happy and successful, to the good of souls, and His glory that bought them with his own blood. And I doubt not, that your own great desire, each for yourself, and all for one another, is the same; and that your daily and great employment is, by incessant and fervent prayer, to draw down from above large supplies and increases of that blessed Spirit, which our Lord and Master hath assured us that our heavenly Father will not fail to give to them that ask it. And how extreme a negligence and folly were it to want so rich a gift for want of asking, especially in those devoted to so high and holy a service, that requires so great degrees of that spirit of holiness and divine love to purify their minds, and to raise them above their senses and this present world! Oh! my dear
Brethren, what are we doing, that suffer our souls to creep and grovel on this earth, and do so little aspire to the heavenly life of Christians, and more eminently of the messengers and ministers of God, as stars, yea, as angels, which he hath made spirits, and his ministers a flume of fire! Oh! where are souls to be found amongst us, that represent their own original, that are possessed with pure and sublime apprehensions of God, the Father of spirits, and are often raised to the astonishing contemplation of his eternal and blessed being, and his infinite holiness, and greatness, and goodness; and are accordingly burnt up with ardent love! And where that holy fire is wanting, there can be no crifice, whatsoever our invention, or utterance, gifts may be, and how blameless soever the externals of our life may be, and even our hearts £ee from gross pollutions; for it is scarce to be suspected, that any of us will suffer any of those strange, yea, infernal fires of ambition, or avarice or malice, or impure lusts and sensualities, to barn within us, which would render us priests ofidols, of airy nothings, and of dunghill gods, yea, of the very god of this world, the prince of darkness. Let men judge us and revile us as they please, that imports nothing at all; but God forbid any thing should possess our hearts but He that loved us, and gave himself for us; for we know we cannot be vessels of honour meet for the Master's use, unless we purge ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and empty our hearts of all things beside him, and even of ourselves and our own will, and have no more any desires nor delights, but his will alone, and his glory, who is our peace, and our life, and our all. And, truly, I think it were our best and wisest reflection, upon the many difficulties and discouragements without us, to be driven by them to live more within; as they observe of the bees, that when it is foul weather abroad, they are busy in their hives. If the power of external discipline be enervated in our hands,
yet, who can hinder us to try, and judge, and censure ourselves; and to purge the inner temples, our own hearts, with the more severity and exactness? And if we be dashed and bespattered with reproaches abroad, to study to be the cleaner at home: And the less we find of meekness and charity in the world about us, to preserve so much the more of that sweet temper within our own hearts; blessing them that curse us, and praying for them that persecute us; so shall we most effectually prove ourselves to be the children of our heavenly Father, even to their conviction, that will scarce allow us, 1 any sense, to be called his servants.
As for the confusions and contentions that still abound and increase in this Church, and threaten to undo it, i think our wisdom shall be, to cease from man, and 'ook for no help till we look more upwards, and dispus and discourse less, and fast and pray more; and so draw down our relief from the God of order and peace, who made the heavens and the earth.
Concerning myself, I have nothing to say, but humbly to entreat you to pass by the many failings and weaknesses you may have perceived in me during my abode amongst you; and if in any thing I have injured or offended you, or any of you, in the management of my public charge, or in private converse, I do sincerely beg your pardon: Though, I confess, I cannot make any requittal in that kind; for I do not know of any thing towards me, from any of you, that needs a pardon in the least; having generally paid me more kindness and respect, than a much better or wiser man could either have expected or deserved. Nor am I only a suitor for your pardon, but for the addition of a further charity, and that so great a one, that I have nothing to plead for it, but that I need it much-your prayAnd I am hopeful as to that, to make you some little, though very disproportioned return; for whatsoever becomes of me, (through the help
of God), while I live, you shall be no one day of my life be forgotten by,
Your most unworthy, but most affectionate,
P. S. I do not see whom it can offend, or how any shall disapprove of it, if you will appoint a fast throughout your bounds, to entreat a blessing on the seed committed to the ground, and for the other grave causes that are still the same they were the last year, and the urgency of them no whit abated, but rather increased: but in this I prescribe nothing, but leave it to your discretion and the direction of God.
The two following Letters were written to Persons under Trouble of Mind.
THOUGH I had very little vacant time for it, yet I would have seen you, if I could have presumed it might have been any way, useful for the quieting of your mind; however, since I heard of your condition, I cease not daily, as I can, to present it to Him, who alone can effectually speak peace to your heart; and I am confident, in due time, will do so. It is he that stilleth the raging of the sea; and, by a word, can turn the violentest storm into a great calm. What the particular thoughts or temptations are that disquiet you, I know not; but whatsoever they are, look above them, and labour to fix your eye on that infinite goodness, which never faileth them, that, by naked faith, do absolutely rely, and rest upon it, and patiently wait upon Him, who hath pronounced them all, without exception, blessed that do so. Say often within your own heart, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; and if, after some intervals, your troubled thoughts
do return, check them still with the holy Psalmist's words, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? &c. If you can thoroughly sink yourself down, through your own nothingness, into Him who is all, and, entirely renouncing your own will, embrace that blest and holy will in all things, there, I am sure, you shall find that rest, which all your own distempers, and all the powers of darkness, shall not be able to bereave you of. I incline not to multiply words; and, indeed, other advice than this I have none to give you. The Lord of peace, by the sprinkling of the blood of his Son Jesus, and the sweet breathings of the great Comforter, his own Holy Spirit, give you peace in himself. Amen.
THOUGH I have not the honour to be acquainted with your Ladyship, yet a friend of yours has acquainted me with your condition, though I confess the unfittest of all men to minister any thing of spiritual relief to any person, either by prayer or advice to you; but he could have imparted such a thing to none of greater secrecy, and withal of greater sympathy and tender compassion towards such as are exercised with those kind of conflicts; as, having been formerly acquainted with the like myself, all sorts of sceptical and doubtful thoughts, touching those great points, having not only past through my head, but some of them have for some time sat more fast and painfully upon my mind; but, in the name of the Lord, they were at length quite dispelled and scattered. And, oh! that I could love and bless Him, who is my deliverer and strength, my rock and fortress, where I have now found safety from these incursions; and I am very confident you shall very shortly find the same; only wait patiently on the Lord, and hope in him, for you shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance; and it is that alone that can enlighten you, and clear your mind of all those fogs and mists that now possess it,