Thursday, December 17, 2009

Feelings vs. Spiritual Well-Being

We all need, and at the seasons the Lord sees best, we all receive
chastisement. I hope you likewise have reason to praise Him, for
supporting, sanctifying, and delivering mercy. The cowardly flesh
presently sinks under the rod, but faith need not fear it, for it is
in the hand of One who loves us better than we do ourselves, and who
knows our frame, that we are but dust, and therefore will not suffer
us to be overdone and overwhelmed...

If, as you observe, the Song of Solomon describes the experience of
his church, it shows the dark as well as the bright side. No one part
of it is the experience of every individual at any particular time.
Some are in his banqueting-house, others upon their beds. Some sit
under His banner, supported by His arm; while others have a faint
perception of Him at a distance, with many a hill and mountain
between. In one thing, however, they all agree, that He is the leading
object of their desires, and that they have had such a discovery of
His person, work, and love, as makes Him precious to their hearts.
Their judgment of Him is always the same, but their sensibility
varies. The love they bear Him, though rooted and grounded in their
hearts, is not always equally in exercise, nor can it be so. We are
like trees, which, though alive, cannot put forth their leaves and
fruit without the influence of the sun. They are alive in winter as
well as in summer; but how different is their appearance in these
different seasons! Were we always alike, could we always believe,
love, and rejoice, we should think the power inherent and our own; but
it i. more for the Lord's glory, and more suited to form us to a
temper becoming the Gospel, that we should be made deeply sensible of
our own inability and dependence, than that we should be always in a
lively frame. I am persuaded, a broken and a contrite spirit, a
conviction of our vileness and nothingness, connected with a cordial
acceptance of Jesus as revealed in the Gospel, is the highest
attainment we can reach in this life. Sensible comforts are desirable,
and we must be sadly declined when they do not appear to us; but I
believe there may be a real exercise of faith and growth in grace when
our sensible feelings are faint and low. A soul may be in as thriving
a state when thirsting, seeking, and mourning after the Lord, as when
actually rejoicing in Him; as much in earnest when fighting in the
valley, as when singing upon the mount; nay, dark seasons afford the
surest and strongest manifestations of the power of faith. To hold
fast the word of promise, to maintain a hatred of sin, to go on
steadfastly in the path of duty, in defiance both of the frowns and
the smiles of the world, when we have but little comfort, is a more
certain evidence of grace, than a thousand things which we may do or
forbear when our spirits are warm and lively. I have seen many who
have been upon the whole but uneven walkers, though at times they have
seemed to enjoy, at least have talked of, great comforts. I have seen
others, for the most part, complain of much darkness and coldness, who
have been remarkably humble, tender, and exemplary in their spirit and
conduct. Surely were I to choose my lot, it should be with the latter.

by John Newton

January 11, 1777.