A LETTER BY JOHN BERRIDGE
“Dear Sir, – Your letter of 2nd of July came duly to hand, but has waited a wearisome while for an answer. Indeed, I have been much, yet not too much afflicted, for some months, with my old disorder, a nervous fever. We have been housekeepers every summer these forty years, and this fever-friend has kept me in this summer twelve weeks at home and forbidden me literary correspondence. I do not love this fever-friend, yet he is the best earthly companion I have. No lasting gain I get but in a furnace. Comforts of every kind, in the issue, make me either light or lofty, swell me, though imperceptibly, with self-sufficiency. Indeed, so much dross, natural and acquired, is found in my heart, that I have constant need of a furnace and Jesus Christ has selected a suitable furnace for me; not a hot and hasty one which might harden and consume me, but one with a gentle, lingering heat, which melts my heart gradually and lets out some of its dross. Though I cannot love a furnace nor bask in it like a salamander yet the longer I live the more I see of its need and its use. A believer seldom walks steadily and ornamentally unless he is well furnaced. Without this
his zeal is often scalding hot, his boldness attended with rashness and his confidence at times more the result of animal spirits than the fruit of the Spirit; but a furnace consumes these excrescences and when sweetly blown by grace, will make a Christian humble and watchful and mellow, very conscious of himself and full of compassion for others. May your congregation keep increasing in numbers and the power of the Lord be present to wound and to heal, to quicken and comfort; but, let me add, the growth of the children will greatly depend on your conduct for a congregation quickly drinks into the spirit of the preacher. Much reading and thinking make popular ministers but much secret prayer must make a powerful preacher. If you commune much with God on the mount, as Moses did, and as the old puritans did, your hearers will perceive a gospel lustre on your countenance, and, what is best of all, you will not be sensible of it yourself. Much secret prayer will solemnize your heart and make your visits savoury as well as your sermons. The old puritans visited their flocks by house-row; the visits were short. They talked a little for God and then concluded with prayer to God – an excellent rule which prevented tittle-tattle and made visits profitable. May God bless you and water your flock.
Everton, Beds., Oct. 18th, 1788