LETTERS 11-15

 

ELEVENTH LETTER

To one who is in great pain. God is the Physician of body and of soul.
* Feels that he would gladly suffer at His wish.

I DO not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray GOD
earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as
long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to
the cross: He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy those who suffer
with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him
the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He shall judge to be
necessary for you. The men of the world do not comprehend these truths,
nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer like what they are, and
not like Christians: they consider sickness as a pain to nature, and
not as a favour from GOD; and seeing it only in that light, they find
nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness
as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effects of His mercy, and the
means which He employs for their salvation, commonly find in it great
sweetness and sensible consolation.

I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense)
nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in
health. Rely upon no other Physician, for, according to my
apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself. Put then all your trust
in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery,
which we often retard, by putting greater confidence in physic than in
GOD.

Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He
permits. When pains come from GOD, He only can cure them. He often
sends diseases of the body, to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself
with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body.

I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease, that I
eat and drink at the table of the LORD. YOU have reason: but think you
that it would be a small pain to the greatest criminal in the world, to
eat at the king’s table, and be served by him, and notwithstanding such
favours to be without assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel
exceeding great uneasiness, and such as nothing could moderate, but
only his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that
whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, yet my sins, ever
present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon,
torment me, though in truth that torment itself is pleasing.

Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy
you may think me, I envy you. Pains and suffering would be a paradise
to me, while I should suffer with my GOD; and the greatest pleasure
would be hell to me, if I could relish them without Him; all my
consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.

I must, in a little time, go to GOD. What comforts me in this life is,
that I now see Him by faith; and I see Him in such a manner as might
make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith
teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I will
live and die with Him.

Continue then always with GOD: ’tis the only support and comfort for
your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my
service.

 

TWELFTH LETTER

To the same correspondent probably, and expresses his own abiding
comfort through faith.

IF we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD, all
bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby. GOD often permits
that we should suffer a little, to purify our souls, and oblige us to
continue with Him.

Take courage, offer Him your pains incessantly, pray to Him for
strength to endure them. Above all, get a habit of entertaining
yourself often with GOD, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him in
your infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to time; and, in the
height of your sufferings, beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a
child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall
endeavour to assist you with my poor prayers.

GOD has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself
from us: but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need, ought
to be our support, and the foundation of our confidence, which must be
all in GOD.

I know not how GOD will dispose of me: I am always happy: all the world
suffer; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so
continual, and so great, that I can scarce contain them.

I would willingly ask of GOD a part of your sufferings, but that I know
my weakness, which is so great, that if He left me one moment to
myself, I should be the most wretched man alive. And yet I know not how
He can leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a conviction as
sense can do, that He never forsakes us, till we have first forsaken
Him. Let us fear to leave Him. Let us be always with Him. Let us live
and die in His presence. Do you pray for me, as I for you.

 

THIRTEENTH LETTER

To the same he exhorts for fuller and entire confidence in God, for
body and soul.

I AM in pain to see you suffer so long; what gives me some ease, and
sweetens the feeling I have of your griefs, is that they are proofs of
GOD’s love towards you: see them in that view, and you will bear them
more easily. As your case is, ’tis my opinion that you should leave off
human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of GOD;
perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in Him
to cure you. Since notwithstanding all your cares, physic has hitherto
proved unsuccessful, and your malady still increases, it will not be
tempting GOD to abandon yourself in His hands, and expect all from Him.

I told you, in my last, that He sometimes permits bodily diseases to
cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then: make a virtue of
necessity: ask of GOD, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to
bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please, and as
long as He shall please.

Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable
to GOD, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and when
one loves GOD, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do you
so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him, who is the only Physician
of all our maladies. He is the FATHER of the afflicted, always ready to
help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine: love Him then,
and seek not consolation elsewhere: I hope you will soon receive it.
Adieu. I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are, and shall be,
always, yours in our LORD.

 

FOURTEENTH LETTER

Gratitude, for mercies to his correspondent, and measure of relief
while he has himself been near death, but with consolation in his
suffering.

I RENDER thanks to our LORD, for having relieved you a little,
according to your desire. I have been often near expiring, though I was
never so much satisfied as then. Accordingly I did not pray for any
relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and
love. Ah, how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! however great the
sufferings may be, receive them with love. ‘Tis paradise to suffer and
be with Him; so that if in this life we would enjoy the peace of
paradise, we must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble,
affectionate conversation with Him: we must hinder our spirits
wandering from Him upon any occasion: we must make our heart a
spiritual temple, wherein to adore Him incessantly: we must watch
continually over ourselves, that we may not do, nor say, nor think
anything that may displease Him. When our minds are thus employed about
GOD, suffering will become full of unction and consolation.

I know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult;
for we must act purely in faith. But though it is difficult, we know
also that we can do all things with the grace of GOD, which He never
refuses to them who ask it earnestly. Knock, persevere in knocking, and
I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time, and grant you
all at once what He has deferred during many years. Adieu. Pray to Him
for me, as I pray to Him for you. I hope to see Him quickly.

 

FIFTEENTH LETTER

From his death-bed. * Repeats the same exhortation to knowledge, that
we may love.

GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for
our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to
receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the
bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions
never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When
we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that
it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings
will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.

Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more
one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of
love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater
will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him
equally in pains and pleasures.

Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible
favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours,
though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in
one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek
Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him
alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and
perhaps offend Him? Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us
dear.

Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast
everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg
this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon
see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him
sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His
mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one
another.

He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.

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