I ought to take it very kindly that you are pleased to make any enquiry after such a one as I ought to reckon myself. It is no great humility for me to think that I and my preaching deserve to be buried in oblivion and infamy, that is, with regard to what I am in myself, and what of my preaching comes properly from me.
However, it is no part of true humility to speak evil of what is wrought by the Spirit of God in us or by us. I wish I had much more of that kind to speak of than I have; which I might have if it were not my own perverseness and unbelief. It is the sad effect of unbelief to prevent Christ's doing many mighty works.
So far as I can judge, it does not appear that the Lord is at present using me as an instrument of doing great execution as to the work of conviction and conversion. The principal effect of my present labours seems to be with regard to some of the people of God, in their instruction, direction, and consolation, particularly in perplexed and distressed cases. But I think, so far as I am an instrument at all regarded by the Lord, he is rather preparing and polishing me than using me. Though he has had such bad materials to work upon in me, that it seems to require more pains at his hand than is taken with some, the more that this is the case, the greater glory will appear in him who is the great artificer in the kingdom of grace, who is able of stones to raise up children to Abraham; nor is it vain for a poor creature to wait upon him in that empty, hungry, distressed way in which it is ordinary for me to wait upon him. He with whom we have to do is one who brings the blind by a way that they know not, and who makes darkness light and crooked things straight. And, though it is a great thing to us, yet it is not also a great thing in his eyes, in a short time to make a rich compensation (I mean not in the way of death but of grace) for the on-waiting of many years.
I do not think it presumption to comfort myself with such expectations, as that though I may be allowed to seem to toil long to little purpose, yet he may train me up for being at length used as an instrument in an acceptable time, when the wind of the Spirit shall blow with more apparent quickening power than at present, and when trembling at the word of God shall not be so much out of fashion as it now seems to be.
The Lord can soon give such a draught of souls as will be matter of astonishing triumph through eternity. Surely it is worth while to wait long upon the possibility of this, and, with such hope, ‘in the morning to sow our seed, and in the evening not to withhold our hand.’
I have said enough as to myself; I acknowledge myself obliged to have a deep concern for the success of the gospel in your hands, and am desirous of acting much more up to this obligation in the way of earnest prayer than the wretched prevailing of spiritual death will frequently allow. None ought more especially to thank God through Jesus Christ than I, for the ample treasures of sin-conquering and fruit-producing grace.
It will be good news to hear of there having been much of the presence of God with you at your sacramental solemnity, which will probably be over before this comes to hand.
I humbly beg to be remembered in your prayers, JL.