Letter to Mr. T-------y (1748)

In this formal letter Dutton writes to a defined male auditor (Mr. T.), but that narrow audience is clearly circumscribed by a wider public audience provided through the means of the printed book in which the Letter is contained. In the opening section, we see a movement from the writer (“I/me/my/mine”-- 9 times) to the auditor (“you/your/yours” -- 10 times) to the a specified external audience (“they/them/their” -- 6 times) to a universal external audience (we/our/ours/us” -- 18 times); thus, Dutton moves from the intra-personal (me and you) to an indefinite group of unbeliev (“they/them/their”) to the definite collective group of the saints of God/church/elect (“we/us”).  God is not the first-person “Thou” but the second-person “He/Him”; not “my God” but “the Lord.” Thus, Dutton serves as a kind of mediator between her friend and God through these various relationships with her, the world, the church, and God.

For a brief biographical notice of Dutton, click here; for some private letters by Dutton, click here; for a selection of her hymns, click here

My dear and honour’d Brother in the Lord,

   Yours I receiv’d, and return Thanks.  I rejoice with you for the Advancement of our Lord’s Kingdom and Glory in the Increase of his willing Subjects, where he hath called you to labour in his blessed Gospel. – The Account you gave me of the Lord’s blessing my poor books at Br——ly, &c. thro’ his gracious Influence upon my Heart, melted me down into Tears of humble Joy before him, and engag’d me to give Glory unto the God of all Grace. – I sympathize with you, my dear Brother, under your present Affliction, ‘of a lifeless Frame of Soul, which (in some Degree) comes upon you.’ I am glad you dread it; that is your great mercy. The Lord preserve the Fear of slumbring and sleeping in your Heart! While that prevails, there will be striving against carnal Security, and wrestling with God for quickening Grace, to maintain and increase your Spirituality. As in Nature, when Persons go to Sleep, they disband all Cares, and compose themselves to Rest; so in Grace, when Persons once grow careless, and indulge to spiritual Slumber and Sleep; they are presently overcome therewith. And as in [11] natural Sleep, which is the Image of Death, the natural Senses are bound up and restrained from their proper Exercise; so in spiritual Sleep, the Life of Grace in Believers, is as to its Exercise, prevailed over by the Death of Sin, that dwells and works in them, and their spiritual Senses are rendred inactive towards those glorious Objects, about which they ought to be conversant. Natural Sleep indeed, in due Measure, as to the present State of our frail Bodies, is necessary and useful for the Preservation of our natural Life. But spiritual Sleep, directly tends to the Destruction of our spiritual Life; it preys upon our Graces and Comforts, and eats up the Vitals of Christianity. While we sleep spiritually, we lose our Time, our precious Opportunities of growing in Grace, and in the Knowledge of Christ; of being useful to others, both Saints and sinners, in our Generation; of glorifying God in this World: and so far as we yield to it, we lose of that Crown of Glory, which we should otherwise receive at our Lord’s Appearing. And therefore, we have Reason to dread spiritual Slumber; and in the Use of all appointed Means, at our Lord’s Command, to watch: That our Lights may be burning, our Loins girded, and ourselves like Men that wait for their Lord.  And especially ought we to watch, since to excite us to Diligence, our Lord saith, At such an Hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh. – I well know, my dear Brother, that we can’t hold our own Souls in Life. But by our Neglect of frequent secret Prayer unto God, reading of his Word, and Meditation. Thereon, we doubtless may, and many Times do, provoke the Lord to with-hold from us the quickening Influences of his Grace. – And however from his free, rich, all-overflowing [12] Mercy, he is pleased to over-rule our Deadness, to shew us more of our own Nothingness, and of our continual Need of his All-sufficient Grace; to teach us greater Humility, and Sympathy with others; to make us set a higher Value upon the Life-giving Influences of his Holy Spirit, when he is pleased to breathe upon our Souls afresh; and so to give him all the glory of our spiritual Life and usefulness, in its Maintenance and Increase, as well as in its Beginning: Yet let us beware of this great Sin, this deadly Evil of spiritual Sleep. Let us not lie down, loving to slumber. For hereby a deep Sleep, ere we are aware, by insensible and increasing Degrees, will soon fall upon us. And if we thus fall asleep, the Lord in his Fatherly Displeasure, may justly as a Rebuke of our Negligence, withdraw the sweet Shines of his glorious Face from us, and give us up to a dark, and comfortless Frame of Spirit, and to a lifeless, fruitless Heart and Conversation. – But on the other Hand, when we find spiritual Drowsiness begin to seize us; if we attempt our Duty in the Lord’s Strength, to stir up ourselves, and call upon our God, we shall find, that drawing nigh unto God, with our frequent Requests, He will draw nigh unto us with his quickening Grace. This is God’s usual Way of shewing Mercy to his People. – But if we should not instantly meet with the desir’d Mercy; yet let us follow hard after God in the Way of our Duty. For hereby our father will be glorified. And if for a-while, he should in a Way of Sovereignty, hide his Face from us; it will delight his Heart, to see us as his dear Children, frequent his throne with our repeated Requests, for the renewed Blessings of our Father’s Love. And down he will pour them upon us in Abundance. If for a Season he delays [13] the Answer of our Prayers, we may be assur’d, while we keep seeking of him, that we shall not seek Him in vain. That he is but preparing greater Mercy for us, and preparing us to receive it, at a Time when it shall be most for his Glory, and for our Advantage.

   Go on then, my dear Brother, to seek the Lord for renewed Quicknings; and fear not. For tho’ at Times you feel much Weakness and Deadness; there is in Christ for you, the Power of an endless Life. Because He lives, you shall live also. Believe afresh on the Son of God, for fresh Supplies of Life from his inexhaustible Fulness. He that believeth on Me, he saith, tho’ he were dead, yet shall he live; and he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? Dost thou believe it, my Brother? If so; rejoice in your Portion; live upon your Portion; you can never spend it. There is Fulness enough in Christ, to supply you in all your Emptiness. And it is treasur’d up in Him, on purpose for you. God your Father hath blessed you with all spiritual Blessings in the Heavenlies in Christ; with a rich Stock, and endless Store. Your dear Lord Jesus, who once in his boundless Love, descended into the Depths of your Misery, that in the Virtue of his Death, he might rise, and ascend far above all Heavens, to receive all Mercy, Life and Glory for you; will pour down all Blessings upon you, as the Fruit of his Life for you at God’s right Hand, of his Advocacy and Intercession with his and your Father. And lo, the Holy Ghost your Comforter, will abide with you for ever; and will take of the Things of Christ, and of the Father, and will shew them unto you; to your Light, Life, Joy and Peace in Believing. The Lord the Holy Ghost, sent from the Father [14] and the Son, did not take Possession of your Soul at first, and give you the new Adam’s Life, to forsake you after a Time, and leave you to sink again into the old Adam’s Death. No, my Brother, the Three-One God, the God of all Grace in Christ, is your God forever and ever; and is and will be the God of Love, the God of Life unto you. Ask therefore, and you shall receive, that your Joy may be full. The spirit will endite your Petitions; Christ will receive and present your Requests; and the Father thro’ Him, will bless you with gracious Answers.  Go with your empty Sacks, to your Brother Joseph’s Stores. His Heart, his fulness, is open unto you. His bowels will yern upon you in your Necessity and Distress. He will not, he cannot hide Himself from his own Flesh. The Lord the Saviour, who for you received Gifts of the Father from his own Interest with Him, and Heart-Love to you, will give them. Let all your Wants be upon Christ, as a Believer in Him, and as a Minister of his Gospel. And of his Fulness you shall receive, and Grace for Grace. Great Grace be with you and yours, and the dear Saints with you!-- I am glad you pray for me and mine. I bear you and yours continually on my Heart before the Lord. In Him dear Sir, I am, 

                                                   Your most affectionate Friend,

                                                                                                                     ----- -----

Text: Anne Dutton, Letters on Spiritual Subjects, and Divers Occasions; sent to Relations and Friends (London: Printed by J. Hart, in Popping's-Court, Fleet Street: And Sold by J. Lewis, in Bartholomew-Close, near West-Smithfield, 1748), pp. 10-14,