Relief for a Burdened Heart

(A. Reply to an Anxious Enquirer, " E. M.")
Dear Friend,
Your letter has interested us exceedingly. Few things, indeed, lie nearer to the heart than the case of anxious and burdened spirits. The work of emancipating; and soothing such is becoming, each day, more and more charming to us. Words could not convey how intensely we long to be used as God's instruments in this most delightful work. We arc fully persuaded that it is a work, which lies very near the heart of Christ. How could we question this, while hearkening to such words as these, " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." (Luke 4 IS.) And again " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:2828Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28).) How precious is the thought of God sending His Son, and anointing Him with the Holy Ghost, to preach glad tidings to the poor, to bring healing to the broken-hearted, sight to the blind, deliverance to the captive, liberty for the oppressed, rest for the weary! What unspeakable comfort for one who may find himself in any of these conditions!
Now, dear friend, it seems very plain that you are a weary, heavy-laden one, and as such, you arc the very object for the gracious ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; you are one of those for whom He was sent, and for whom He was anointed by the Holy Ghost. We have not the slightest doubt but that the root of the matter is in you. The very anxieties to which you give expression are, in our judgment, the evidence of a spiritual work in your soul. Not that we want you to build your peace upon this. God forbid! If all the angels in heaven, and all the men upon earth were to give expression to their confidence in your Christianity, it might be a comfort and an encouragement to you, but could never form the ground of your peace, in the presence of a holy, sin-hating God. It matters little, comparatively, what men think about you, the question is, what does God think about you? He has found you out. He knows the worst about you; and yet He loves you, and gave His Son to die for you. Here is the only ground of a sinner's peace. God Himself has met your case. He has been glorified about your sins, in the death of His Son. It does not matter the least what you are. You say you are, sometimes, at a loss to know in what light to regard yourself, whether as wholly unconverted, or a backslider. The fact is, what you really want is to get to the end of yourself altogether; and when you get there, you will find God in all the fullness of His grace, as manifested in Christ; and surely to get to the end of oneself and find Christ, is the true way to find peace.
It seems to us that one special malady from which you are suffering, just now, is intense self-occupation. This is the case with thousands. It is quite true that the Spirit of God will exercise us about cur condition, and cause us to judge it. but then it is only for the purpose of leading us to the very bottom of it all, so that we may find settled repose in the fullness and sufficiency of Christ. This kind of exercise is very good. We delight in seeing a soul under deep spiritual work—the deeper the better. We are of opinion that, in spiritual husbandry, the deeper the furrow the stronger the root. We do not attach much value to a superficial work in the conscience; for although it is quite true that we are not saved by any special process or exercise whether of heart or conscience, still we have frequently found that persons who had glided rapidly into a certain feeling of peace, were in danger of gliding as rapidly out it, and becoming as miserable as they had once been happy. Sin must be seen in its sinfulness, and the sooner it is thus seen the better, so that having it really judged in the conscience, we may lay hold of a full and precious Christ, as God's answer to it all. "When this is the case, the heart enjoys a more solid, abiding peace, and is not subject to those variations of which so many complain.
But, on the other hand, there is a kind of self-occupation into which Satan leads the awakened sinner for the purpose of keeping him from Christ. This must be carefully guarded against. We apprehend he has entangled your feet in this snare. The style and tone of your letter quite lead us to this conclusion. We most fully enter into your case. Indeed you possess our entire sympathy. We deeply respect the feeling which leads you to absent yourself from the Lord's Table, in your present state of soul. We consider it vastly superior to the lightness, flippancy, and heartless formality with which so many approach that sacred institution. Far be it from us to pen a single line which would have the effect of emboldening you to approach the Lord's Supper in an unhappy and untruthful condition of heart and conscience. But then we want you so to apprehend the gospel of the grace of God—the fall forgiveness of your sins however magnified and multiplied- your complete justification, through the death and resurrection of Christ—we want you so to see the application of all this to your own soul, as that you may be able, like the poor man in the third of Acts, to rise up from your crippled condition, and enter into the temple, leaping and walking and praising God. Be assured of it, dearly beloved, this is your privilege. There is nothing to hinder your enjoyment thereof, this moment, save the unbelief and legality of your own spirit. The enemy would keep you occupied with yourself in order to keep you from Christ. Watch against this. It is the most hopeless, gloomy labor, to he seeking for aught in yourself. Look off unto Jesus. You will find all you want in Him. May the power of the Holy Ghost fill your whole soul with the fullness and preciousness of Christ, so that you may get into, and continue in, that holy and happy liberty which is the proper portion of every child of God.
You will further bear with us, dear Ε. M. when we tell you that we discern in your letter a great deal of the legal clement. This is an evil at once hateful to the Spirit of God and subversive of your own peace and comfort. You want to get into and breathe the genial atmosphere of free grace—that grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. You have very unworthy thoughts of God's perfect, eternal, and unchangeable love. You seem to measure God very much by the standard of your own thoughts. You are reasoning from what you are to God, instead of believing what God is to you. This is a serious mistake—the mistake of many, We are all, more or less, prone to this grievous error. Very few, comparatively, live in the actual enjoyment of salvation by grace. There is the continual weighing of sell in a legal balance. The principle of law is so deeply embedded in the heart, that nothing but the mighty power of the Spirit of God can deliver us from it, and lead us into the practical understanding of that brief, but most comprehensive statement of the apostle: " Ye are not under law; but under grace." Rom. 6
Now, we hold it to be utterly impossible for a soul to enjoy settled peace so long as it is, in any measure, under the influence of this law-principle. There may be occasional gleams of sunshine, such as you describe in your own experience; but there never can be abiding gospel-peace, so long as a single trace of the legal element is allowed to hold sway over the conscience. Abiding peace can only flow from a deep, thorough, practical sense of free grace; and that free grace acts towards the sinner on the settled ground of accomplished atonement. Legality, on the other hand, will ever be directing the eye inward upon self—yes, ever and only upon self. It will lead us to measure our standing before God by our own progress in personal holiness, our efforts, our services, our doings, our ways, our feelings, our frames, our something or other. All this produces spiritual darkness, gloomy uncertainty, mental bondage, intense soul-torture, depression, irritability, sourness of torn-per. And these things again re-act most prejudicially, upon our whole moral being. They fling back their demoralizing influence upon the life and character. The harp is hung upon the willow. The hymn of joyous praise can only, as you say, be occasionally sung. The Eucharistic feast—that most precious memorial of accomplished redemption—is abandoned, or if not abandoned, is gone through—we dare not say celebrated—without freshness, unction, power, elevation, or depth of spiritual tone. In this way, Christ is dishonored, the Holy Ghost is grieved, the testimony is marred, and the standard of practical Christianity greatly lowered. Moreover, the enemy, finding us in this condition of soul, cuts out ample work for us, by acting, in various ways, upon our lusts and passions, which only gather strength from the very fact of our being under law; for as the apostle says, " The strength of sin is the law." Thus the soul's history is summed up in two words, namely " Lust and law," or " Law and lust," and one is tossed like a ball from one to the other, until free grace comes in and gives full deliverance from both. Grace gives you power over sin; whereas law gives sin power over you. Grace keeps you in the place of continual victory; law keeps you in the place of continual defeat.
May the Lord lead you and all His people into a clearer apprehension of grace, that so your peace may flow as a river, and the fruits of righteousness abound to the praise of His name!
But we are not yet done with your letter, dear friend. We think we discern another feature in your case which tends to produce the spiritual depression of which you complain. If we mistake not, you are afflicted with a morbid or scrupulous conscience. This is a sore evil—a heavy burden—a very great trial. We deeply feel for any soul laboring under this grievous malady, for it not only affects oneself, but all with whom one comes in contact. There is a very wide difference indeed between a scrupulous conscience and a tender conscience. The former is governed by its own fears; the latter, by the word of God. That super induces feebleness and uncertainty in all one's ways; this a holy stability and consistency. We can hardly conceive a more troublesome companion than a morbid or scrupulous conscience. It is always creating difficulties for its possessor, and placing stumbling-blocks in his way. A tender conscience, on the contrary, is invaluable. It resents only what ought to be resented. Its action is true and healthy. It does not morbidly seek out cause of trouble and defilement; but, being duly acted upon by the word of God, as applied by the Holy Ghost, it yields a true Response, and thus discharges, with vigor, its divinely appointed functions.
Think, then, beloved, of all these things, and seek to watch against them, pray against them, and above all, believe against them. Get done with self occupation, rise above your legal fears, and cast away from you the workings of a morbid conscience. Be assured of it these are three features in your case; and they are the features of many a case—a self-occupied heart, a legal mind, a morbid conscience. Terrible evils! May the power of the Holy Ghost give you full deliverance from these three efficient agents of the devil! May He break every chain and give you to taste the true sweetness of spiritual liberty and communion of heart with a reconciled God and Father.
Do not, any longer, harass yourself with the questions, "Am I a converted person? or am I a backslider? am I this? or am I that? " You are, in yourself, a poor lost, unworthy, good-for-nothing creature; and yet God commendeth His love toward you in that He gave His only begotten Son to bear your curse and burden on the tree. Cast yourself on His boundless love, "a sea where none can sink." See that all is done. The debt is paid. Satan is silenced. The law is magnified. Sin is put away. God is satisfied, yea, glorified. What more would you have? For what are you waiting? You may, perhaps, say to us " I know all this." You do say in your letter that you " can hardly expect to hear anything more than you have already read." Well, we want you to make your own of all this by simple, childlike faith. We want to drive you from behind every bush, and out of every legal lurking place, into the full blaze of divine and everlasting love. Cast away from you, we beseech you, dear friend, all your legal reason-lags, and seek to exercise a believing mind that just takes God at His word, and takes possession, without a question, of all that He gives. We do not want to heal your wound slightly; to cry " peace, peace, when there is no peace." This would he cruelty rather than kindness. But we desire that you should " know the things which are freely given to you of God," and which are as clearly revealed in the word, as they are freely given through grace. We long to see you as happy as the gospel of the grace of God is fitted to make you. Then you will he able to sing hymns of praise, and take your seat at the table of the Lord in happy, holy, elevated communion and worship.
May the good Lord meet you in your present need! May He disperse, by the bright and blessed beams of His love, the dark cloud that has settled down upon your spirit, and fill you with all joy and peace in believing. To Him we do most affectionately commend you, praying Him to make use of what we have written, in blessing to your precious soul, and His name shall have all the praise throughout the everlasting ages.