A Letter by the Late George Thomas Congreve
My dear Friend,
My troubled soul greeteth thee in the Lord. Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied.
Inasmuch as my aching mind does sometimes feel a little relief while communing by letter with those to whom I feel a sweet, solemn, and sacred union of soul, do allow me, my brother, to address you once more, in hope that this may be my case once again, if it be my dear Sovereign Lord's gracious, holy will and good pleasure.
Once I thought if I should ever arrive at a well-grounded, settled hope of my interest in Christ, I should not grieve or doubt any more. But now my soul knows better, with a witness. I have had many infallible testimonies from the Lord of my interest in him, and, down to the present time, do feel sweet evidences ofttimes of his marvellous loving-kindness to me. But, notwithstanding all this, such is the weakness of my faith and the deceitfulness of my heart, that as soon as he withdraws. from me the sensible enjoyment of his lovely presence, and leaves off to commune with his nothing worm, I feel surmisings, doubts, fears, jealousies, and suspicions beginning to arise within my breast, and such felt darkness and hardness of heart ensue, and I am so bound and shut up, in prayer and meditation, and feel so little will, or heart, or disposition to pray, that I cannot tell what to make of myself; and in those seasons I do not feel fit nor disposed to be in the company of, nor to write to nor see nor converse with any one, but rather feel desirous to hide myself from mortals, if I could be spared from business, and groan away my life in secret, until my Lord appears again, and gives me in part the desire of my heart once more; for let him give me what he may, or favour me however he will, still my soul craves something more at his dear hands. And when he favours me the most that he is pleased to favour me, then, to be still and retired from all worldly din and mortal ken, suits me best; so that my dear friends will do well to cease their kind and pressing invitations, for which, nevertheless, I feel very grateful to them.
Hence are the sorrows of my heart daily increasing, just (and some times double) in proportion as the joys of my soul abound. The higher I rise in my feelings the lower I sink into the depths of misery and sorrow afterwards. I pray for an increase of faith, and have an increase of trials. Anguish and torment of spirit await me after every joyful season of communion with God, "from the belly of hell," the depths of sin, guilt, and misery. How many "Once mores" are portrayed in my experience! Sin wounds my heart; I look to the only Antidote, and groan and weep in hope. Guilt defiles my conscience; I plead the name and merits of Jesus, and fly to the fountain of his blood, with indescribable trembling, anxiety, expectation, and desire. Misery of miseries weighs down my sin-sick, burdened, troubled soul; I long and tremble to take hold of the promise of his almighty arm, and enter into rest. As I have with heart and voice sung his high praises before, so does my soul still hope yet to praise him; but this does not satisfy. While my harp is hung on the willows, my mourning heart replies, "How can I sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" My Lord delays to answer my prayer, and my unbelieving heart directly grows faint and tired with watching and waiting so long. Then he answers me by contraries and crosses; to which rebellion from within says, "Pray no more." But as, soon as unbelief has thus settled it, an increased weight of cares, guilt, sin, and woe makes me cry and groan aloud again and again, till tribulation has worked patience, and I am brought to submit to divine sovereignty. So, being brought patiently to watch and pray, and wait the Lord's appointed time, and to endure his righteous, holy, dear will, My soul experiences, and learns, and feels, and knows, and sees more and more of his faithfulness, long-forbearance, goodness, power, love, and mercy, and beholds, and feels, and proves more and more the glorious wonders his grace can do, till my heart and soul abound in hope, praise, and thanksgiving at my dear Redeemer's feet, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to the praise of his glory; by whom and through whom I am sealed an heir of the inheritance above, and am accepted in the Beloved. Then Jesus drops the heavenly dew of his love into my soul, and I drop my all at his feet in return, and fly into his arms, and soon am well repaid for all the miseries, and disappointments, and sorrows I endured in waiting for him and his divine pleasure.
Thus "tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart." How blessed, my brother, to learn the truth of the solemn, faithful sayings of God by feeling experience. How the little I have thus been taught still urges on my longing soul thus to know more and more of the mysteries of the kingdom. O with what sweetness and power did these words drop into my soul, while my heart was just ready to break with the longing desires thereof, the other morning: "Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord." "Shall I, Lord?" replied I, in tears. "Then I am sure thou must enable me to follow on to know thee, or else, with such a deceitful heart as mine, I shall be sure to loiter on the road, and perish at last for ever." Not all the bitters which I am sure will be mingled therewith and fill my cup, in this sinful, worthless life, can daunt my soul from craving the heavenly sweets of the love and religion of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of my legal righteousness, and all my supposed goodness and merits, and do count it all, and all things beside, but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in him, clad in his righteousness and washed in his blood, and thus made meet, while here, to dwell and reign with him in glory for ever. My face is often wet with tears of joy and love in the thought how wonderful I shall feel and appear when once safe landed there, far beyond this world of sin and woe, and the gunshot of Satan, to sin no more, to sorrow no more, and to be with him whom my soul loves, and shine in his likeness to all eternity.
My dear friend, once I cursed the day wherein I was born, and envied even the brutes; but now my soul, sometimes even in transports of love, blesses God for giving me a life and being, and locking up so sweet and precious a hope as this in my breast.
"Wonders of grace to God belong;
Let not the dear weak saints of my Lord faint nor be discouraged because they are not thus favoured. Would they be thus blessed? They must go through great tribulation and anguish of body and mind first. The years of sorrow, trouble, and affliction, in mind and body, which I have endured, the losses, crosses, disappointments, sneers, jeers, persecutions, hard speeches, afflictions, and trials I have borne; the years of ease in Zion which have passed over my head and gone; together with the distress, bitter repentings, terrors, fears, bewailings, strugglings, and cryings for pardon, peace, and liberty which I felt before these favours were sent home again into my soul ! These things are no trifles to think of; and yet sure am I they do await (more or less) many, if ever they are to be brought into the true liberty of the gospel. Therefore does my soul ofttimes weep before the Lord for his dear Zion's sake, and tremble lest my own deceitful, treacherous, wicked heart should slide into that state again. "We may know the beginnings of sin, but who can tell the end thereof?" And who can endure the terrors of the Lord when he arises to punish for sin? Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe; quicken me, and I will call upon thee; turn my captivity, bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thee. Pour down thy Holy Spirit on me, that I may know more, and feel more, and enjoy more of the mysteries of God and of Christ, of his will, and love, and presence, and blood, with power. Reveal thyself unto me as thou dost not unto the world, and let me hide myself in thy bosom till all my sorrows, and troubles, and cares, and woes are over and past, and let me leave myself and all my concerns at thy dear feet, and entirely to thy gracious, sovereign, and wise disposal, and know no will but thine. Give me life, and light, and unction, and love, springing up in my soul for ever; and power to praise thee as my heart desires, that I may be acceptable to my brethren, and live and die thy witness, in sweet retirement, in peace, and quiet, a monument of grace, love, and mercy, to thine immortal praise and glory; and that thy Zion may catch the sacred flame, and bless the Lord for ever for the distinguishing favour bestowed so freely, without money and without price. These things form the substance of the incessant cryings of my soul, night and day, during my wakeful and leisure moments, and I hope will till my voice is lost in death, and the prayer of my heart is turned to praise above. Then shall I be satisfied, perfectly so, and not till then. Praise ye the Lord
Did the worldling, and the bulk of professors too, but know the half of the painful contradictions and changes that are continually passing through my mind, sure I am they would set me down as the basest of hypocrites. And if they did, at times, it would not move me, for they cannot conceive me to be blacker and more vile and worthless than I do see and feel myself to be. The Lord is my witness. Nevertheless there is hope for such as I. Neither does my soul want any other sacrifice but the one all-sufficient sacrifice of my dear Lord Jesus Christ, offered up on Calvary, according to the ancient settlements and eternal decree of Jehovah, and his appointment and foreknowledge and the purpose and council of his will are quite sufficient and enough for me, although I have sinned against him again and again. He hath made my soul willing in the day of his power to be saved in his own way and on his own terms, as I have witnessed before to a brother dearly beloved; and has made my conscience feel the power, by the Holy Ghost, of the dear Redeemer's atoning, cleansing, pardoning blood again and again. So that I now feel the witness within that he is able and willing to save me to the uttermost, and all who, taught and influenced by the Spirit, ever shall come to God by him. There may and will be "a certain fearful looking for of judgment" in the consciences of all his adversaries, who shall live and die in that state, which shall devour them with unquenchable fire. But still my soul cannot fear that this will be my case, although I tremble for others. The sprinkled blood of Jesus, felt in my conscience, is a peaceful sign to me. My eyes, and heart, and soul now melt with love, and wonder, and surprise while I record it.
But where am I rambling to? Pardon me, my brother, if I have detained you too long. The weight with which it sometimes presses upon my spirit to write to my friends is greater than I can bear, so that I am obliged to try to ease my mind a little. Then, when I try to begin, Satan throws so many obstacles in the way, and I feel so bound and shut up, that ofttimes I lay my paper aside and think I will never try to write any more. But the weight on my spirit grows heavier still, till it squeezes. the prayer of faith out of my heart to the Lord for his help, and for his blessing and unction to attend the reading of what is written. Then, in the strength and confidence which he gives me, I begin. While musing, the fire then begins to burn, and away my trembling hand and heart go together. And if he is pleased to make what I write acceptable to those to whom it is addressed, or any word dropped in great weakness his own power in comforting any dear sorrowful saint, my soul is heartily willing and thankful for him to have all the praise.
Therefore my brother will excuse the liberty I have taken in thus writing to him,, And if he can so arrange it before he returns to spend a day with us, and preach for us in the evening, we shall be very glad, and hope to hear, soon as convenient, which day we may expect you.
My spouse, a fellow-traveller to the kingdom, and both of our dear children, are, through mercy, much as usual. Our united love to you and Mrs. S.
In hope of a glorious immortality and eternal life beyond the grave,
I remain, Yours affectionately in the Lord,
G. T. CONGREVE,
[The dear good man who penned this sweet, savoury, and deeply experimental letter has passed into the eternal enjoyment of that blessed Lord whom he so believed in and loved whilst here below. He died after about a month's illness, during which he was sweetly and almost constantly favoured with the Lord's presence, on Friday, April 26th, aged 69. We shall hope to insert particulars in a future Number. - Ed.] J. C. Philpot