I am sorry you conjure up again your old doubts and fears respecting your spiritual state. They are frightful spectres. Be well assured they will never do you any good. Is there no such thing as bringing things to a clear and determinate issue? And is it not your duty to do so? If they are harboured long, I am certain they will eat out your vitals. They are directly opposite to that living faith which strengthens, nourishes, and feeds the soul.
Condemn and abhor yourself as much as you please; yea, let us mourn over our barrenness, earthly-mindedness, lack of spirituality and of love to God, to the greatest degree. There is no danger of excess here. The more we know ourselves and God, the more this godly sorrow will abound. This will do us good. This is consistent with, yea, inseparable from, that living faith by which we derive all our spiritual joy and peace.
But as to doubts respecting our state, let us give them no quarter, but bring the matter as soon as possible to a determinate issue. We must give ourselves no rest till this matter be seriously, solemnly and thoroughly determined between us and God. I do not say that it can be determined when you please, but I think that the anxiety and earnestness, which the importance of the matter demands, should influence us till it is so.
Till this is the case, it is utterly impossible that we should walk with God, have confidence and trust in Him on all occasions, or have our eye steadily fixed on Him in Christ as our all in all. Nor do I think that we shall be equally watchful over our hearts and minds, equally observant of our internal frame, or equally progressive in holiness, till things are brought to an issue respecting our state. For whilst we ought to be pressing forward in the road, we are standing still, full of doubts whether we are in the right road or not. I need not tell you, I am persuaded, that I say nothing of all this to distress you, but to help you out of your distress as far as in me lies, that you may obtain peace and joy for evermore. Neither do I need to tell you what I think of your state; what I think is already sufficiently known to you. I see in your very letter such fruits as never grew in your natural soil. But it is not sufficient that I see them; I would have you see them too.
“But will not this make me proud?” you may ask. We may as well think that the sun will make us blind. I am sure doubts never did, or will, promote humility in the smallest degree. True humility arises from a very different cause and is most abundant in those who have the fullest assurance of faith respecting their state, but doubts harden and alienate the heart from God. It is one thing to doubt, and quite a different thing to loathe sin and abhor ourselves. There may be doubts where there is not one spark of true grace but loathing sin is the effect of grace only.
I feel most anxiously concerned for your spiritual comfort and happiness. Were it not so, I should think I had a very poor regard for you. That love that is confined to the body and its welfare, and extends not to the soul and its happiness, is not worth having. But whilst I love you thus, I cannot love and encourage what John Bunyan calls an “army of doubters”. I hope you will believe that they are enemies to “Mansoul” and that, as such, you will oppose and resist them with all your might.
1. This letter, now slightly edited, was written by Thomas Charles (1755-1814) of Bala to his godly wife Sarah, of whom he said, “I bless the Lord that I have a praying wife”. The original title of this piece is “Doubts Injurious to the Progress of Piety”, and it may be found in pages 295-7 of Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels, which is available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom for £12.95.