If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, John viii. 31.
Agreeable to my promise, I now sit down to write to you, and according to your request have taken for a motto the text I mentioned to you when at our house: it affords me, I assure you, no little pleasure to see you both setting out in the good ways of God; you may remember I told you I hoped to meet you not only at —— but also in the kingdom of heaven. This is a pleasing hope, may it be fully accomplished in due time. In the first place, give me leave to assure you, that I did not mention this text with any view to discourage you; perhaps you are already troubled upon this subject, and afraid lest you should not continue – I know young converts are very apt to be cast down upon this account, but would not wish you at present to be troubled about this, but your principal concern should be to see that you set out aright, for all depends upon that. – Many set out in the profession of religion who do not continue, but are presently blown away by the wind of temptation and trial; but the reason is, they did not begin aright, they were not disciples indeed. “If,” says Christ, “ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.”
This is a consolatory text, for it proves that they who are real disciples, or disciples indeed, do continue; the great thing then is to become disciples indeed: they who are such, are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, I Peter i. 5. A disciple indeed, is that in heart, which others are in shew: he has not only the leaves of profession, but he has also the root of grace, without that root the leaves will presently wither, and the fairest blossoms fade: but where that root is, though it may sometimes experience a spiritual winter, yet it shall notwithstanding, bud and blossom, and bring forth fruit even unto old age. Mere professors are very well contented with their profession, and however others may fear and tremble for them, they seldom fear and tremble for themselves; but those who are disciples indeed, especially when first called by divine grace, are deeply concerned to know whether they are right; they are subject to many fears and doubts about this matter, and are frequently much troubled and distressed with the apprehensions of being deceived, or mistaken; and are in the general, much more perplexed with doubts about the reality of the work of grace in their hearts, than of either the power or willingness of Christ to save them: you perhaps may feel something of this. Now there is none but the Holy Ghost himself that can put this matter entirely out of doubt, but it has pleased him to lay down in his word some characteristics of those who are disciples indeed, and it is our duty to examine whether those characteristics belong to us; if they do, it becomes our privilege to draw the most obvious conclusion from them, viz, that God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation, by our Lord Jesus Christ. The first characteristic I shall mention is this, (and I mention this because twenty one years ago, I myself experienced the sweetness and consolation of it,) “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Acts ii. 21. Joel ii. 32. This is an absolute promise to, as well as a description of, the people of God. Here is one great difference between the disciple indeed, and the mere professor, the one prays, the one appears to pray; could you look into the heart of a mere professor of religion, you would not find one grain of the spirit of grace and supplication in it, though perhaps he may be able to say much by way of prayer, even in the great congregation; but the disciple indeed, though he may not be able to say much in public, yet could you take a peep into his heart, you would find him a wrestling Jacob. Some of God’s people have much of the gift of prayer, but they all have the grace of prayer; the experience of God’s people are various in some things, some are led by the deep waters of conviction, and much sorrow upon the account of sin; others are gently led forth out of a state of nature into a state of grace, by the still waters, and drawn by the cords of love; but which ever of these is the case, they unite in this, viz. being wrestling Jacobs before they become prevailing Israels; and the reason of this is evident, every disciple indeed feels the importance of everlasting things, feels the necessity of salvation, of being born again, of being washed in the blood of the Lamb, and cloathed in his righteousness, for he finds he has none of his own, and according to the degree of the sense he has of these wants, he becomes a wrestler with God for a supply of them; he cannot be easy; he cannot be contented; he cannot be happy, in time or eternity, without these blessings; he finds in his flesh dwelleth no good thing, but he sees that in Christ all fullness dwells; and he hears him say, “Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: whatsoever ye shall ask in my name. I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John xiv. 10. This encourages his hope, the desires of his soul aspire after heaven, and heavenly things; and the earnest, the constant language of his heart and lips are, “I will not let thee go until thou bless me:” He now loses all relish for the pleasures of the world; he despises them as trifling trash, unworthy of a soul that is born for eternity; the things which he formerly loved, he now hates, and the things which before were disgustful and disagreeable to him, now become objects of his delight; he now finds wisdom’s ways to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace – this is the disciple indeed. The mere professor, though he may attend to all the outward forms of religion, yet remains destitute of the power of it; his heart feels no want, and consequently he seeks no supply; but when God says to the seed of Jacob, “seek ye my face,” their hearts reply, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” And then says the promise, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved; your heart shall live that seek God,” Psalm xix. 32.
Now, my dear friends, I hope and believe that in the above little description of a disciple indeed, you will find something of your own picture. Do you feel the importance of everlasting things? do you feel the necessity of being born again of God, of being washed in the blood, and cloathed in the righteousness of Jehovah Jesus, and so interested in his complete salvation? do you so feel the necessity of these things as earnestly to desire them? and do these desires lead you to call upon God for them, in the name of Jesus? are the secret breathings of your soul aspiring to him, when no eye but his, is upon you? if so, remember the promise – All who call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved; for none but disciples indeed, so call upon him. – Have the pleasures of the world lost their relish in your esteem? can you, will you choose affliction with the people of God, before the pleasures of sin for a season? this must be done, but none can do it but those who are disciples indeed; if it is the choice of your heart, happy are you: the family of God, both in heaven and earth will give you the right hand of fellowship. Is it the sincere wish, the unfeigned desire of your inmost souls to be devoted to God, that he may purify your hearts by faith, and make you holy as well as happy? and do you find his ways delightful to you? is a day in his house sweeter to you than a thousand spent elsewhere? and do you desire to continue in his ways? do you dread going back? and is it the ardent wish of your heart, that you may be kept by his power through faith unto salvation? if you can go with me thus far, I have no doubt but you will go with me a step further, that is, to heaven, for the Lord who gives grace, gives glory also; none but the disciple indeed, can go thus far, mere professors know nothing of these things.
In the next place, how is it that disciples indeed continue in the word of Christ, and by so persevering, give evidence of what they are? even because they are like the house that is founded upon a rock, the floods arise, and the winds safe, because it is founded upon a rock; so the believer is built upon Christ, he is a sure foundation; and another reason is, because God the Holy Ghost has promised that he will abide with the Christian for ever, John xiv. 16. None but he who first made the Christian, can keep him when made; it was God the Spirit first quickened you; had it not been for his Almighty and gracious influence, you might have set under the gospel a million of years, and remained deed in trespasses and sins; and I would wish you to remember, and never forget, that even now, you are not sufficient to think a good thought of yourselves; you cannot keep yourselves a moment from sin; you cannot overcome the world, or the devil, but by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost; if he has wrought divine faith in your hearts, remember you cannot exercise that faith, but while under his influence, nor any other grace: you can have no spiritual strength, no increase of grace, no divine consolation, but from him; therefore prize him highly, for he has promised to abide with you for ever: it is only he can make his word powerful and profitable to you; therefore pray much for his presence, and influence, and teaching; seek him in all his ways, for we can do nothing spiritual without him; love the means of grace: use them diligently: he has promised to give his holy spirit to them that ask him, Luke xi. 13. “And,” says the Lord, “I have it more abundantly:” never be satisfied with present attainments, but seek after more. The promise is, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” Isaiah xl. 31. Search the scriptures, and carefully avoid all erroneous preachers, and books; let the bible be your chief study; visit other good authors sometimes, but dwell with the word of God. You will find many spiritual enemies to encounter with; there is much contained under these three heads: the world, the flesh, and the devil; but remember, this is the victory, even our faith, I John v. 4. There is nothing can conquer sin and satan, but faith and prayer: but faith and prayer assuredly will conquer, because Jesus Christ, who is the object of faith, is Almighty to save, and has promised to save; he is always faithful to his engagements, and when faith lays hold of his power and faithfulness, and calls upon him to fulfill his word, this brings the very omnipotence of Jehovah to the believer’s aid, and then sin and satan flies before him, and the Christian experiences the truth of that word, “to him that believeth all things are possible,” but yet remember, the power is God’s, and not the christian’s. – We do not always conquer, because we are slow of heart to believe the promises of God, and his power and faithfulness to fulfill them; for want of this, the Christian is often worsted by his spiritual enemies, but notwithstanding this, he that is a disciple indeed shall overcome at the last; he shall endure to the end, because he is kept by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation. God is glorified by the perseverance of his saints in holiness, and by so continuing in the good ways of God, they prove to the angels, and to devils, to good men, and bad men, that they are disciples indeed, and also get a good evidence to their own souls, that they are amongst the number of those of whom Christ says, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand,” John x. 8. I could say a good deal more upon this subject, but having already exceeded the moderate bounds of a letter, shall postpone any further remarks till another opportunity, and shall conclude with observing that they who know most of divine things in this world, know but little, they who are most kept by the power of God, have most reason to be thankful; by faith we stand, but let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. We are never safe but when we are nothing in our own eyes; when we are weak, then we are strong; when we are most sensible of our own weakness, then the power of Christ rests upon us. May you and I then, my dear friends, be very humble, very thankful; may we press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; may we be enabled to glorify him on earth, and may we meet in his kingdom to praise his name, and to ascribe salvation to God and the Lamb, throughout the countless ages of eternity.
I am, my dear friends,
Yours most sincerely in the best bonds,
MARIA DE FLEURY.
Text: Maria de Fleury, Divine Poems and Essays on Various Subjects (London: Printed for the Author, and sold by T. Wilkins, Aldermanbuy; by Bellamy and Roberts, No. 202, Strand; M. Trapp, No. 1, Pater-noster Row; Mr. Nott [Knott], Lombard Street; M. Gurney, No. 128, Holborn; and by the Author, No. 31, Jewin-street, 1791), pp. 225-33.