This is the second of the letters William Romaine wrote to Mrs. B.
Even more so than the first, this letter hits me every time I read it. Probably because Mrs. B’s case has so often been my own.
I know firsthand the anxious fears, the puzzling doubts, and the spiritual distress that comes from knowing the truths of the gospel in my head, yet not being able to find any joy or comfort from them in my heart.
This is where Mrs. B was. It’s where I am a lot of the time. Maybe you’re there now.
But the good news of this letter is that the Lord himself brings us to that place to teach us a lesson- a lesson the Lord often teaches in no other way than by bringing us to a place of complete and utter helplessness.
If you’d like to learn what that lesson is, read on. I think you’ll find your affections stirred by the faithfulness and glory of Jesus.
Blackfriars, Aug. 12, 1769.
My dear Friend,—We had a letter from your sister, giving an account of your journey, (thanks be to him who kept your going out and your coming in,) and of your present situation and trials; in which I can see nothing singular.
The lesson which the Lord is now teaching you is plain. His way of teaching it has nothing new; it is the established method in his school, and your averseness to learn it occasions all your uneasiness. When he has made you a good scholar, you will then find relief in your soul, whatever befalls your poor crazy body.
I take it for granted, that you are acquainted with the doctrines of free grace and finished salvation: you are not suffered to doubt of their truth, but you cannot receive comfort from them at this time.
Your conscience draws fresh bills of indictment against you. You do not see your interest in your divine Advocate, and therefore you cannot answer them as you used to do.
Hence you are puzzled and mourn; are become impatient and fretful; fear this and the other; and are left to yourself, to your sinkings and dejections, and groundless apprehensions; fancied miseries are felt as real, and fancied fears of dying are as bad as death, yea, worse than death will ever be to you.
This is something like your case, is it not? And what is to be done? Where is the remedy? Certainly our all-wise Physician has left some prescription for it, and he can make it, bad as it is, work under him for good.
But how? Why, he would teach you now one of his highest lessons, and you are brought into circumstances most exactly suited for your being a proficient in it.
He intends in this (as in all things) to promote his own glory as the Alpha and Omega of your salvation, not only in working of it out, for he has satisfied you of this, but also in the security of it; he must have all the honour of the safe-keeping of it— it for you, and you for it. He is the Keeper of Israel, who keeps all the Israel of God by the power of God; and you cannot glorify him in this his great covenant office, but by giving up your body and soul, you and yours, absolutely to his keeping.
And how could you be taught this in a shorter or better way, than by being brought into your present distress? For you now find, that you can no more secure and keep, than you could work out, your salvation. He must do it all; begin, carry on, and finish. This is your lesson.
Finding yourself then in this situation, utterly helpless, without any thing good in you; a poor, dejected, fearful, destitute creature—commit the keeping of your soul to Jesus; you will thereby bring him a richer revenue of honour than all the rejoicing Christians in the world.
You will glorify his faithfulness to his word and work, by venturing upon that arm of the Lord which is engaged to do all for you, and all in you.
Mind one of his sublime styles and titles: He is the Saviour of him that hath no helper. What! have you no help? Do you feel it? Then the Spirit says, he is your Saviour. Mrs. B. he is yours, as surely as he ever saved any one who had no helper.
But, alas! how weak is my faith! My dear friend, do not look at the how; that will only puzzle you; it will make believing to be a work, and will tempt you to be comforted when you believe well, and to be dejected when you are displeased with your believing.
You know it is not the degree, or the joy of faith that saves; but it is Jesus who saves, and your safety arises from trusting to the work of God-Jesus, and your comfort should spring from taking it to yourself upon the warrant of God’s free offer to sinners like you; not to qualified sinners, but to coming sinners.
“Whosoever cometh unto Jesus;” it matters not how he comes, nor who he be, nor what he has been; to him coming, God gives his word, and pledges his honour—” Thou shalt never, never perish, but shalt have everlasting life.”
Whether he come fainting, live fainting, or die fainting, it is the same; the word cannot be broken, but standeth fast for ever and ever. Mrs. B. fainting, dejected, without spirits or liveliness, comes; she shall never, never perish, says God—she shall have everlasting life.
But what signifies the truth of this to me, while I find no comfort in believing?
Your case does not admit of comfort; the Master is carrying you up into a more exalted state of believing, wherein we are to get above baby comforts. You could not learn the present lessons of his love in a comfortable frame; he therefore brings you into the valley of Baca, to teach you what Jesus is in himself, and that all your salvation is in him undertaken, fulfilled, applied; and that after all your knowledge, and all your experience, you have nothing to this moment to depend upon, but his faithful arm and watchful care.
This is his last lesson; nothing is beyond it but heaven. You are left to your present distresses on purpose to learn this.
Your dear Jesus lets you feel how utterly helpless you are, that you may find how faithful he is to his promised help. He is as exactly suited to your case, as light is to your eyes; and your relief does not consist in getting comfort again, but in getting nearer to Jesus, and in seeing what he is to such as you, and thereby growing up more into him. Your present frame is to bring you to commit the keeping of yourself and of all your concerns to him.
You find you can do nothing; quite lifeless, heartless, comfortless. Very well; but Jesus has undertaken to keep such, and he is now making you willing that he should be your keeper. O that you would not reason and puzzle your poor heart, but follow his teaching: and now simply.leave it to him, to do what he will—your salvation will then be as safe in his hands as if you were in heaven.
And why should not you simply trust him? Consider, you cannot honour his office as your keeper, you cannot bring him more glory than others do, but by coming as the weakest of all creatures. You find you are so. Why then, let bis strength be perfected in your weakness. You see you can do nothing; let him then have the crown of doing all. What sad work would you make, if your graces or comforts were left to your own keeping! You are learning now to put no confidence in the flesh.
O that you may yield to the Spirit’s leading, and may be willing to be just what your God would have you to be! But how can you do this under these faintings, sinkings, etc.?
These are your schoolmasters. You could not learn without them your absolute dependence upon God-Jesus: and you experience these on purpose that you may find how careful Jesus is over you.
He has the same love to your soul, the same faithfulness to his own work, when you have no strength, as at other times. He says so: “I change not”—I am the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever—the same to the fainting as to the rejoicing believer.
O fall, then, fainting into his arms: venture—cast yourself upon him; for he is a very present help in every time of trouble.
You see I have no more room. I follow my advice with my prayers. I pity you much for what you suffer: but I wish God may let you see it as I do. Still all is well—may you say so.—Read as you can bear it, and pray for light to know, and faith to follow, the Lord’s leading. It is a dark night, and a long night; but the morning cometh, and you shall rejoice with the gladness of his people.
Romaine, William, 1714-1795. Select letters of the Rev. William Romaine, A.M. (Kindle Locations 4305-4312). Glasgow : Printed for William Collins.