Anne Dutton's Letters on Spiritual Subjects
My Dear Sister in the Lord,
All our times of refreshing, my dear sister, come from the presence of the Lord. If God is present with our souls, by the special gracious influence of His Holy Spirit, we are refreshed; if God is absent, as to His sensible influence, we find no refreshment in reading, hearing, or praying. We are dry and barren if the Lord does not sensibly water us. We are cold and frozen if His sun-like face does not shine to thaw, warm, and comfort us. All the refreshment that new-born souls enjoy, does and must come down from heaven. Nothing that this earth affords can refresh and solace the spiritual part of a heaven-born soul. No, such a soul is prepared for a higher glory, than any that is to be seen and enjoyed among the creatures and things of this lower world. Such a soul opens its mouth wide after God, and His gracious influence, to refresh and comfort it, as the earth in a time of drought opens its mouth for the dew and rain to descend for its refreshment. "Give me Christ," says the new-born soul, "or I die. God is my life, my exceeding joy, and without His gracious, comforting presence, my spirit dies, and I sink in sorrow."
When the Sun of righteousness withdraws His glorious rays, and it is night with our souls, then, in an especial manner, the corruptions of the heart, and Satan with his temptations, like the devouring beasts of prey, creep forth from their dens, and with their hideous roars, afflict and terrify us. But our compassionate Jesus, whose eyes are as the eyes of doves—pure, piercing, mild, loving towards his own mate—clearly sees, with infinite delight, the dove-like nature of His spouse, and looks upon her with boundless compassion under her present affliction by the serpentine poison and gall of every sin which remains in her, and the cunning and power of every temptation that besets her; and from these her enemies—from these grieving thorns which scratch and tear His beloved lily—He does and will, in His own way and time, deliver her.
Again, beware of thinking—from what I have said of the nature of new-born souls to thirst after God, to see His power and His glory as they have seen Him, when He withdraws the brightness of His face—that if at such seasons you do not always find such a thirst in you, you are not therefore a regenerate person, or that you do not love the Lord above all; for when Christ withdraws from His spouse, as she loses sight of His glory, which drew her graces into exercise, these shutting up, like the flowers at the sun's withdrawal, the corruptions of her unrenewed part, excited by diverse temptations from Satan and the world, begin to exert themselves, and after foolish vanities and vile iniquities the heart for a time may run, and even the spouse of Christ may play the harlot with other, with many lovers—and, thoughtless as it were of her Beloved, lie down in sinful ease on her bed of carnal security without Him; yes, she may sink so low as to be unwilling to be raised up by repeated intimations of His mind unto her duty of seeking Him in good earnest, as (Jer. 3:1; Song 3:1, with 5:2, 3), Until her beloved puts His hand in by the hole of the door, until His power afresh touches her heart, renews her grace, and gives her a quick remembrance of His glory, and of her great misery without Him, and then straight away her affections move for Him, she arises to every duty, and inquires of His friends, "Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?" And rest she cannot until she finds Him, in whom all her joy and life is, and from whose presence all her refreshment flows.
Thus, my dear sister, when I speak of what souls are and do as creatures, it is to be understood of them as when enabled to act according to the new creature life in their hearts. That you may walk in the comforts of the Holy Spirit and be edified, is my hearty desire.