To a special friend.
The Forks of Delaware, July 31, 1744.
--CERTAINLY the greatest, the noblest pleasure of intelligent creatures must result from their acquaintance with the blessed God, and with their own rational and immortal souls. And oh how divinely sweet and entertaining is it to look into our own souls, when we can find all our powers and passions united and engaged in pursuit after God, our whole souls longing and passionately breathing after a conformity to him, and the full enjoyment of him! Verily there are no hours pass away with so much divine pleasure, as those that are spent in communing with God and our own hearts. Oh how sweet is a spirit of devotion, a spirit of seriousness and divine solemnity, a spirit of gospel simplicity, love, and tenderness! Oh how desirable, and how profitable to the christian life, is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over ourselves; when our souls are afraid of nothing so much as that we shall grieve and offend the blessed God, whom at such times we apprehend, or at least hope, to be a father and friend; whom we then love and long to please, rather than to be happy ourselves, or at least we delight to derive our happiness from pleasing and glorifying him! Surely this is a pious temper, worthy of the highest ambition and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians. Oh how vastly superior is the pleasure, peace, and satisfaction derived from these divine frames, to that which we, alas! sometimes pursue in things impertinent and trifling! Our own bitter experience teaches us, that “in the midst of such laughter the heart is sorrowful,” and there is no true satisfaction but in God. But, alas! how shall we obtain and retain this sweet spirit of religion and devotion? Let us follow the apostle’s direction, Phil. ii. 12. and labour upon the encouragement he there mentions, ver. 13. for it is God only can afford us this favour; and he will be sought to, and it is fit we should wait upon him, for so rich a mercy. Oh, may the God of all grace afford us the grace and influences of his divine Spirit; and help us that we may from our hearts esteem it our greatest liberty and happiness, that “whether we live, we may live to the Lord, or whether we die, we may die to the Lord; that in life and death we may be his!
I am in a very poor state of health; I think scarce ever poorer: but through divine goodness I am not discontented under my weakness and confinement to this wilderness. I bless God for this retirement: I never was more thankful for any thing than I have been of late for the necessity I am under of self-denial in many respects. I love to be a pilgrim and stranger in this wilderness: it seems most fit for such a poor ignorant, worthless, despised creature as I. I would not change my present mission for any other business in the whole world. I may tell you freely, without vanity and ostentation, God has of late given me great freedom and fervency in prayer, when I have been so weak and feeble that my nature seemed as if it would speedily dissolve. I feel as if my all was lost, and I was undone for this world, if the poor heathen may not be converted. I feel, in general, different from what I did when I saw you last; at least more crucified to all the enjoyments of life. It would be very refreshing to me to see you here in this desert; especially in my weak disconsolate hours: but I think I could be content never to see you or any of my friends again in this world, if God would bless my labours here to the conversion of the poor Indians.
I have much that I could willingly communicate to you, which I must omit, till Providence gives us leave to see each other. In the mean time, I rest
Your obliged friend and servant,