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Comfort in Sorrow

by John Owen

To Mrs. Polhill, on the death of a pious relative. Dear Madam: The trouble expressed in yours is a great addition to mine. The sovereignty of Divine wisdom and grace is all that I have at this day to retreat unto. May God direct you thereunto also, and you will find rest and peace. It adds to my trouble that I cannot possibly come down to you this week: nothing but engaged duty could keep me from you one hour, but I am conscious how little I can contribute to your guidance in this storm, or your satisfaction. Christ is your Pilot, and however the vessel is tossed while He seems to sleep, He will arise and rebuke these winds and waves in His own time. I have done it, and yet shall farther wrestle with God for you, according to the strength He is pleased to communicate. Little it is which at this distance I can mind you of, yet some few things are necessary.

Sorrow not too much for the dead: she is entered into rest, taken away from evil to come. Take heed, lest by too much grief, you too much grieve that Holy Spirit who is infinitely more to us than all natural relations. I blame you not that you so far attend to the call of God in this dispensation, as to search yourself, to judge and condemn yourself; grace can make it an evidence to you that you shall not be judged or condemned of the Lord. I dare not say this chastisement was not needful. We are not in heaviness unless need be; but if God be pleased to give you a discovery of the wisdom and care that is in it, and how needful it was to awaken and restore your soul in anything, perhaps in many things, in due time you will see grace and love in it also. I verily believe God expects, in thus dealing with you, that you should judge yourself, your sins, and your decays; but He would not have you misjudge your condition. We are like froward children, who, when they are rebuked and corrected, neglect other things, and only cry that their parents hate and reject them. You are apt to fear, to think and say, that you are one whom the Lord regards not, you are none of His, and that for sundry reasons which you suppose you can plead. But, saith God, This is not your business, this is a part of your stubbornness. I call you to quicken your grace, to amend your ways, and you think you have nothing to do but to question My love.

My dear sister, my child and care, beware you lose not the advantage of this dispensation; you will do so, if you use it only in afflictive sorrows, or questioning the love of God, or your interest in Christ. The time will be spent in these things, which should be taken up in earnest endeavours after a compliance with Godís will, quickening of grace, returns after backslidings, mortification of sin, and love of the world, until the sense of it pass away. Labour vigorously to bring your soul to this twofold resolution. 1. That the will of God is the best rule for all things, and their circumstances. 2. That you bring yourself to a fresh engagement to live more to Him; and you will find the remainder of your work easy, for it is a part of the yoke of Christ. I shall trouble you no farther, but only to give you the assurance that you are in my heart continually, which is nothing, but it helps to persuade me you are in the heart of Christ, which is all. I am, dear Madam, your very affectionate servant, John Owen.


Originally edited by Emmett O'Donnell for Mt. Zion Publications, a ministry of Mt. Zion Bible Church, 2603 West Wright St., Pensacola, FL 32505. www.mountzion.org


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