The Clergy; Natural Strength and Gifts; the Lord's Ways With Peter

John 21:15  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Dear Brother,—I was very glad and thankful to receive your letter, and I bless God for having led you as He has done in His goodness, and am quite relieved to find that our brethren of La V. are edifying themselves together. It is a favor from God. When we are doing the will of God, God will help those that are cast down and He takes care of them, and the result is that they are greatly strengthened, because they make experience of the faithfulness of God.
Remember, dear brother, that it is dangerous to be raised all at once into a pulpit. It is not that I do not believe it to be the will of God, but you know that when St. Paul had been caught up, even into heaven, from the work of God, that would have been a snare to him, because of his flesh, but God is faithful to keep us. Man's acceptation is not God's approbation, although God can give it us to favor the propagation of the truth; but if we stop at the result, we are at a distance from the source, and that becomes a snare to wither up our soul, instead of a means to lead us to those upon whom we should pour out His riches. I believe that God has in His mercy allowed you to be tested, that you may know how little and feeble you are, before introducing you to the work. As for although I hope it will never lose its attractions in your eyes, if God give you for a time work to do elsewhere, and that His will is clear to you, you ought to entrust these dear souls to Him who alone can—whether you are absent or present—feed and nourish them. No one will go further, I hope, than their faith will lead them. If they make progress in your absence, it will be a lesson, often very necessary, that God can act without us, but up to the present no one has visited them.... As to your debts, it is clear you ought to pay them, and a minister of the gospel ought not to suffer the reproach that he is going to work, or rather, according to them, to lead an idle life, instead of paying his debts. I shall be very glad to help you in carrying out this duty, but until I return to England I should hardly be able to do so.
I must stop. May God keep you in simplicity of heart, and always in the sense of your vileness before Him. All our joy is destroyed the moment we lose sight of what we are before Him; and our natural strength, for there is that, becomes to us the means of leading us to some fall like St. Peter. He truly loved the Lord, but he had confidence in that love for Jesus, and in his integrity which, nevertheless, was sincere. He could say, "Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;" and he fell terribly, led by that very love, from the moment that he trusted it in the time of temptation. I do not suppose such things of you, dear brother, but I tell you these things out of love to you, in confidence that they will not happen. I trust in God for that, assured of His faithfulness. Only be watchful, and pray. Beware of the traditions of men, and of the spirit of the clergy; all that dries up the soul, dishonors the Lord, and nourishes the flesh, by the sense of human respectability, "the pride of life." But at the same time, honor fully all the gifts God has given to whoever it may be.
What you tell me of the B.'s interests me greatly; only, dear brother, in acknowledging the truth of these hopes in general, for probably there are incorrect thoughts as to details, do not depart from the foundation with them. God has been merciful in giving you access to this people; may it be to bring in with all regard to their condition, and with all prudence, the whole truth. Perhaps you will find that fundamental truth will stumble some among them, and you will have some testing in this direction. May God give you all the wisdom, gentleness, meekness, and firmness, that you will need. You will accept, I am persuaded, all these remarks that I make, knowing well my weakness, for the love of Christ.
Affectionately yours, in the work and the hope of this beloved One, our only Savior.
July 5th, 1840