To M.B., One of his flock who had felt deserted in soul
Peterhead, February 7, 1843.
Here is a model of pastoral advice and counsel to one who feels a loss of assurance of one’s salvation. While not the only possible cause for a loss of assurance, persistence in some sin will cause a believer to suffer a lack of assurance (for a further discussion of this issue, see, https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/a-cherished-sin-can-damage-assurance/). Note how M’Cheyne begins with kindness and sympathy. Even as Paul wrote kindly to the Corinthians despite their manifest sins (1 Corinthians 1:1-13), M’Cheyne writes to his “friend.” He weeps with one who weeps (Romans 12:15b). When a Christian has moved from rebellion in sin to sorrow for sin, when one has shown to be weak and fainthearted, the wise counselor will match encouragement and help for the weak and faint-hearted (1 Thessalonians 5:14) (If this had been sometime earlier in the progress of the sin, perhaps M’Cheyne would have been required to admonish this friend.).
—I was very happy to hear from you. I grieve to hear of your sorrow; but Job’s sorrow was deeper, and David’s also, in Ps. 42. If you cannot say, “I found Him whom my soul loveth,” is it not sweet that you can say, “I am sick of love”—He is my beloved still, though He has withdrawn himself and is gone for a time? Seek into the cause of your declension. See that it be not some Achan in your bosom,—some idol set up in the corner of your heart. See that it be not some allowed sin,—an unlawful attachment that is drawing you away from the bleeding side of Jesus, and bringing a cloud between you and that bright Sun of Righteousness. When you find out the cause, confess it and bewail it in the ear of a listening God. Tell Him all; keep nothing back. If you cannot find out the cause, ask Him to tell it you. Get it washed in the blood of Jesus. Then get it subdued.—Micah 7:19. None but the Lord Jesus can either pardon or subdue. Remember not to rest in a state of desertion. “I will rise now and go about the city.” And yet do not think that you have some great thing to do before regaining peace with God. The work on which peace is given has all been done by Jesus for us. “The word is nigh thee.” Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
The sunshine is always sweeter after we have been in the shade; so will you find Jesus in returning to Him. True, it is better never to wander; but when you have wandered, the sooner you return the happier you will be. “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now.” Hos. 2:7.
Do not delay, but humble yourself under his mighty hand, and He will exalt you in due season.
I have been speaking to-night in this place to a large and attentive audience on Zech. 9:9. May you be enabled to apply it. Remember me to Mrs K——, and also to all your fellow-servants whom I know and love in the truth. Tell N—— C—— to make sure that she is in Christ, and not to take man’s word for it. Tell E—— L—— to abide in Jesus; and tell her brother to take care lest he be a rotten branch of the true vine. Tell W—— J—— to be faithful unto death.
I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in the truth.—
I am, your loving pastor, etc.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne