LETTERS of J. C. Philpot (1835 - 1836)
March 30, 1835.
My dear sister Fanny,—The tidings I am about to communicate may concern you more than surprise you. After many trials of mind about it, I have come to the resolution of seceding from the Church of England. In fact I have already resigned my curacy, and shall, in a day or two, give up my Fellowship. I could have wished to have retained my income and independence, but, as I could not do so with a good conscience, I was compelled to give it up. The errors and corruptions of the Church of England are so great and numerous that a man, with a conscience made tender by the blessed Spirit, cannot, after a certain time, remain within her pale. And though I have thus resigned my ease and income, I feel my mind more easy and at liberty, and trust I shall never come to poverty. My needs are now much less than they used to be, and I trust I shall be content with such slender fare as I may have to expect. Life is short, vain, and transitory; and if I live in comfort and ease, or in comparative poverty,it will matter little when I lie in my coffin! I trust, if I have health and strength given me, I shall not be a burden to my dear mother.
The cause of true Religion has, indeed, spoiled all my temporal prospects, and, doubtless, made the worldly and carnal think me a fool or mad. But, after all, the approbation of God and the testimony of an honest conscience are better than thousands of gold and silver. My resolution was rather suddenly executed. I had thought of giving my incumbent notice that I should resign the curacy at Midsummer. But it seemed to me inconsistent to tell my incumbent that I could not continue in the curacy but a certain time because I was doing evil. It was as though I had said to him, "Will you allow me to do evil for three months to come?" So I resolved to resign it at once, especially as my assistant promised to undertake it, if required, for the ensuing quarter. I told only two people of my intention, and having, on Sunday the 22nd, preached in my usual way, I added at the end—"You have heard my voice within these walls for the last time. I intend to resign the curacy and withdraw from the ministry of the Church of England." It was as if a thunderbolt had dropped in the congregation. I did not wish any excitement or manifestation of feeling, and therefore shut it up as quickly as possible. The people were much moved. And the next day some met, and said they could build me a chapel if I would consent to stay. To this, however, I do not feel inclined, though the people wish it much, and say it should not cost me a farthing.
I think, God willing, at present, of staying at Stadham until some time in June, and then I shall probably go to a place called Allington, near Devises, Wilts, where there is a chapel in which I shall preach. The deacon heard me preach about one year and a half ago, and as soon as he heard I had left the Church of England, he had his horse saddled and rode to Stadham to see me. I happened to be here where he came. So I have consented to go to Allington for a few weeks.
I am now writing a letter, which I mean to publish, to the provost of Worcester College to resign my Fellowship, containing my reasons for seceding from the Established Church. It will be not more than twopence or threepence. If you would like to have some copies, I will ask the London bookseller to send you a hundred or so. It will be rather strong against the University and the Church of England system.
I trust that my dear mother will not be much hurt at this step I have taken, and I sincerely trust I shall prove no burden to her. The disgrace and the financial hardships, I do not think she will mind. The reproach of Christ is greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. At present I can speak nothing as to my future plans. I may spend some little time with you in Devon, and obtain that rest which I find necessary after preaching, and I trust the good Lord will never leave nor forsake me. He has many ways to provide for His servants, and can make the ravens feed them as Elijah of old. If I had health and strength, I might be able to make a living from preaching, or might keep a school. But at present I can say nothing, as I do not see my way clear, as to anything. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.
I have been staying here, at my friend Tiptaft's, since Saturday, and I shall stay a day or two longer. So that I do not know whether you may not have already written to me. Direct your letter Stadhampton as usual, and tell me what you have settled about going into Devon.
This life is soon passing away, and an eternal state fast coming on. The grand question is, What do we know of Christ by the inward teachings of the Spirit? What true faith have we in a Savior's blood and righteousness? What do we know of His having died for us?
The time of the post going presses so that I will add no more than that I am, with love to my dear mother and all your circle,
Your affectionate Brother,
J. C. P.
June 3, 1835.
My dear friend Joseph Parry,—I am still very weak, and liable to take cold, and indeed have been unwell for three or four months.
I hope and pray that I may not come among you in vain. How far our views and principles may coincide, I know not; but I shall, God enabling me, faithfully declare what I feel and believe to be true, without fearing man. I am on the dark side of things, and more for confusion, guilt, and bondage than liberty, assurance, and freedom. Not that I object to the realities of these latter, but to their counterfeits, which are so universally current. Neither do I wish to preach to a people who will not or cannot receive me and my doctrine. I come, therefore, to you, as a friend, for a few days, or a few Sundays, just as I and the church suit one another. If I do not suit them, I will be glad to leave Allington after the first Lord's-day. If they can hear me comfortably and profitably, I would not mind staying three or four. But I wish it to be understood that I come to see you as a personal friend, and only to preach as a friend staying with you—as a wayfaring man who tarries for a night. Expect but little from me, and you will be less disappointed, as I am a very poor creature in body and soul.
With Christian regards to Mrs. Parry, and all that love the truth at Allington,
Believe me to be,
J. C. P.
June 17, 1835.
My dear sister Fanny,—As I promised to write to you when I was somewhat settled here, I sit down to fulfill my promise.
I came here Friday, June 5, from Newbury, where I had come from Abingdon the day preceding. I was engaged to speak in the room of a Christian lady at Newbury, but as it was feared it would not be sufficient to hold all that were expected, she procured a chapel for me to preach in. This was among the General Baptists, who are Arminians in sentiment. When I, therefore, began to open up that God had a chosen and peculiar people, the whole place seemed in commotion. One man called aloud, "This doctrine won't do for me," and walked out, and was instantly followed by five or six others. I was not, however, daunted by this, but went on to state the truth with such measure of boldness and faithfulness as was given me. Some of my friends in the chapel thought that the people would have molested me, but no one offered to injure me by word or action, and I came safely out from among them. The next day I came by one of the coaches to Marlborough, where my friend Mr. Parry met me, and brought me safely here. I have already preached here five times, that is, twice on two Lord's-days, and once during the week besides.
My services have been requested at Reading about the middle of next month for one Lord's-day, but the time is not exactly fixed; on that must depend a good deal when I shall come into Kent. Indeed, for some reasons, I would rather not come to Walmer at all this year. For, first, there is a great desire here that I should stay at Allington as long as I can. This is a neighborhood remarkably favored, and a great 'spirit of hearing' abroad. It was supposed that there were 250 people in the little chapel last Lord's-day in the afternoon, some of whom had come seven miles' distance, and others distances varying from one to five or six miles. There are also many of the children of God in this vicinity, who would gather under the banner of truth, if faithfully displayed. I am very comfortable at Mr. Parry's; he is a very large farmer, and has a wife and four children. He is a very good and gracious man, and is the deacon and, in fact, the sole support of the cause of God in the village. He has a very great desire that I should settle here awhile, as they are quite destitute of a minister. But I am in a strait between two, having, for some reasons, a wish to return to Stadham, and yet finding difficulties in the way. I am praying for the Lord to guide me, as I scarce know what to do, or which way to take.
I can say I do not at all regret leaving the Church of England, and feel quite satisfied and comfortable at having done so. My conscience is now at ease, which it was not while I was entangled in so carnal a system, and at times I see more of its awful mockery and the dreadful lies which are solemnly told by the professed ministers. I do not fear that the Lord will take care of me and, indeed, have no reason to think otherwise as long as He gives me sufficient health and strength to preach. There are many places which would be glad enough to have me were I willing to go.
My letters to the Provost, &c., have had a great sale, but are now declining. They have, I believe, reached the fourth edition. Though the main sale may be over, yet straggling copies will yet sell for some time.
I heard the other day from Mr. Wise, who will be auctioning off my library of books. The two cases had arrived from London; the sale was to commence on the 15th of this month, and to last three days. I hope they will go off well. Wise said in his letter that a great many people had been to see them, and he thought the sale would excite some interest.
I hope MaryAnn and the little boy are now doing well; if they go to Plymouth in the beginning of July, I fear I shall not see them. I do sincerely hope that I may be able to run down into Kent for a few weeks, as such a change and rest is good for my health; but I feel that I must go on working while it is day. The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few. It is a great thing to be engaged in the work of the Lord Almighty, and the desire for carnal ease and rest must be laid aside by him who would endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. . . .
There is no greater inheritance than to be a son or daughter of the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:18). Gold and silver cannot purchase this; for Jehovah has redeemed His Church and people, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18, 19). To have a saving interest in the electing love of the Father, the redeeming blood of the Son, and the sanctifying operation of the Holy Spirit, is worth a million of worlds! Without such an interest we must be eternally miserable, and with it eternally happy. This was all David's salvation and all his desire (2 Sam. 23).
Write soon, as I don't know when I shall be leaving this, and tell me your plans, and how you all are. My affectionate love to my dear mother, MaryAnn, and Augustus, and accept the same from,
Your affectionate Brother,
J. C. P.
August 29, 1835.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—My present intention is to leave this place on next Wednesday, September 2, for Bath, (God willing), where I mean to sleep, and leave next day for Devises, where I shall hope to meet you. I could not trouble you to come to Bath, as there are coaches through Devises, and the weather is uncertain. You speak of the baptizing. But I have many doubts and fears respecting it. First, I feel my miserable unbelief, sinfulness, hardness of heart, backslidings, ignorance of Christ, and manifold corruptions as most powerful obstacles in the way. Secondly, my poor, weak, shattered, tottering, cold-catching body fills me with many apprehensions. But I trust if I saw Jesus one side of the water I would venture through. I seem now to have missed the most favorable opportunity during the warm weather we have just had. But I would add that, if I am to go through the ordinance this year, it must not be pushed into the autumn. September 13 is the latest Sunday I could submit to it, and I do assure you I shall be very thankful to escape with a cold. I asked Mr. Warburton to baptize me if I should go through the ordinance, and would not wish any one else to baptize me. If, then, he is able to come to Allington on September 13th, I would, the blessed Lord enabling me, follow the example of the great Head of the Church, in passing through the waters of Jordan. You should, perhaps, write immediately to Mr. Warburton to invite him for that purpose, and to preach as well, as I could not think of preaching that day. I hope, however, the church will understand I would not at all alter the relation in which I proposed to stand to them. I would still be no other than a 'temporary supply', willing to go or stay as we mutually suited each other.
I am daily more and more sensible of the desperate wickedness of my deceitful heart, and my miserable ruined state as a sinner by nature and by practice. I feel utterly unworthy of the name of a Christian, and to be ranked among the followers of the Lamb. And I have no wish to palm myself upon any Church, any minister, or any Christian, as though I were anything special. I am willing to take a low place; and whoever doubts my Christianity, only does what I do myself continually. Now that you are likely to see more of me, you will be sure to find out more infirmities and failings, both as a man and as a minister, than you have as yet, perhaps, discovered. A few weeks is too short a period to know a man. There is in most, and I am sure there is so in myself, much waywardness, selfishness, obstinacy, and evil temper, which is not at first developed. People, from a short and imperfect acquaintance, expect great things, which subsequent communion does not realize. And many are foolishly apt to imagine a minister is more spiritual than anyone else, and in conversation is more profitable. As to myself, I disclaim any such remnant of priestcraft. I am very carnal, very proud, very foolish in imagination, very slothful, very worldly, dark, stupid, blind, unbelieving, and ignorant. I cannot but confess that I have a dreadfully corrupt old man, a strange compound, a sad motley mixture of all the most hateful and abominable vices, that rise up within me, and face me at every turn. So that, instead of expecting a profitable and spiritual companion for your fireside, you must make up your mind for a poor invalid, shrinking from every breeze, and a proud, presumptuous, hardened creature, that can neither be softened by mercies, nor humbled by trials.
But this I say, as I did once before, I wish to saddle myself on nobody. I wish to be independent of the deacons and members of the church, male and female; I mean so as not to flatter or please them. If they don't like me, or are not satisfied with my doctrine, experience, or practice, let them tell me so at once, and I will leave by the first coach. Or if they can't hear me to profit, and wish a more gracious and gifted man, I will give up the pulpit at the first warning. I don't want the 'canting compliments' and 'honeyed looks' of hypocrites and dead professors, whether Calvinists or Arminians. My desire is to feed the Church of God which He has purchased with His own blood. Remember me affectionately to Mr. T., Mrs. C., your good lady, and all the church. If I lift up 'the sword', recollect it must go through friend and foe who are not on the Lord's side, and may He keep me from sparing any but those whom He loves as the apple of His eye.
Yours affectionately, in the best of causes and the service of the best of Masters,
J. C. P.
September 23, 1835.
My dear James Brookland,—Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ the Lord.
I have been desirous for some time past to write to you, that those who profess to love and feel the power of experimental truth in Stadham and its neighborhood may not think I have totally forgotten them—though I have been taken from you in presence, I trust not altogether in heart. And I shall rejoice to hear that you, who have separated yourselves from a carnal and corrupt system, are walking in truth, from tasting, feeling, and handling the sweetness and power of it in your own souls.
I find the Lord daily to me far better than I could in any way anticipate. He has raised up for me kind friends, with whom I feel a spiritual union, given me a measure of acceptance among His people, and supplied my dark, foolish, ignorant, barren soul from time to time with thoughts, words, and feelings when I stand up in His name. But my cold, ungrateful, proud, presumptuous, deceitful, and rebellious heart only repays Him with deadness and coldness, worldliness, carelessness, sin, and corruption. Thus, I am driven to salvation by free sovereign grace as my only hope, and see in myself at times so few marks of grace, and so many of unbelief and carnality, that I feel I must be singled out as an especial object of discriminating mercy, if saved at all. Thus, I am taught that profession, knowledge, consistency, creature strivings, fleshly righteousness, and all the other trumpery of nature's forging, are useless and vain. I am brought to contend for the immediate, powerful, and supernatural work of the blessed Spirit on the soul.
I am daily more and more confirmed in my views of the profession of the day, and can find but few in whom I can trace the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit. Broken hearts, contrite spirits, emptied, stripped, and humbled souls, I very rarely meet with; and thus I am led to insist much on the need of the mouth being put into the dust, and of being plunged into the ditch until our own clothes abhor us. But all this stripping and humbling work, I am led to see and feel, is of sovereign grace in the person, in the manner, in the time, in the means, and in the circumstances. I am brought to see and feel that it "is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy;" that His elect family are the "clay, and He the potter;" and that He works in them to will and to do of His good pleasure; and thus I am brought to see these things, not as dry, dead doctrines, but as truths of inward and feeling experience; and I am convinced that, however painful the lesson is, there is no other way of learning truth but by a feeling sense of our deep need of it, and of its precious suitability to our lost and helpless condition.
This also teaches me the shallowness and emptiness of professors and the religion of the day, and that, for lack of being stripped, emptied, and wounded, they are mistaking husks for bread, and chaff for wheat, dross for gold, and the delusions of Satan for the truth of God. Your eyes and those of my dear friends in the neighborhood are, I trust, open to see these things; and if you have learned this in the 'school of experience', and not in your 'judgment only', you have reason to bless God who has thus kept you from the delusions of the day.
About a week back I was privileged to follow the dear Lord through the waters of baptism, and never more sensibly felt my unworthiness than on that day. He was pleased to keep me from taking the least cold, to give me more confidence to step into His watery grave than I could have expected from my many bodily and spiritual temptations and exercises. Mr. Warburton preached, and baptized me with the greatest solemnity, unction, and affection.
I am glad to hear that Mr. Doe is enabled to come among you, and that there is some prospect of having a place of worship erected where truth may be preached. I am daily more and more convinced that nothing is of the least avail but experimental realities, made known unto the soul by the unction and manifestation of the blessed Spirit. All forms, opinions, rites, ceremonies, and notions to me are nothing, and worse than nothing; they are the husks which the swine eat, not the food of the living soul. To have the heart deeply penetrated and possessed with the fear of Jehovah, to be melted and filled with a sweet sense of dying love and atoning blood, to have the affections warmed, and drawn forth under the anointings of the eternal Comforter, this is the only religion that can suit or satisfy a regenerate soul.
But, alas! how dark, stupid, lifeless, trifling, and unfeeling are our hearts! Every little trifle, every lustful desire, every covetous wish, every rising anger, every emotion of pride, carries the soul away at once, and makes it more like a devil than a saint; and then guilt, doubts, and fears set in like a flood, and hide from the soul all hope or evidence of grace.
By these trials and temptations, these ups and downs, we are experimentally taught to know ourselves and the wondrous riches of electing love, redeeming blood, justifying righteousness, quickening, upholding, and renewing grace; self falls lower and lower, and a triune Jehovah rises higher and higher in our eyes. Self is loathed, and Jesus loved; self is taught its weakness, foolishness, and sinfulness; and the strength, wisdom, and love of Jesus glorified. And thus, the sovereignty of divine grace, the emptiness of professors, the folly of free will, the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, the reality of vital godliness, and the blessedness of a free salvation are taught experimentally, and wrought into our souls as eternal realities.
I am daily made more and more sensible of my unfitness for the work of the ministry; but the Lord is pleased sometimes to favor me with some liberty and enlargement of soul in contending for experimental truth; and glad would I be to be assured that I did not spend my strength for nothing and in vain at Stadham, but that the Lord did indeed work by me to quicken and edify the souls of His dear people. May He be pleased to bless the little company who there are willing, from an experimental acquaintance with it, to contend for the power of truth. May He unite them in the bonds of love and affection, and keep far from them all jealousy, division, and disunion. You will have much to contend with from without and from within, from the world and from professors, as well as from yourselves. Many are watching for your halting, and saying, perhaps, of your little Zion (Neh. 4:3), even that which they build, "That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!" May the blessed Lord keep you from disunion and division among yourselves, and may He shut out all jealousy and suspicions of one another, and unite you to contend as one man for the faith once delivered unto the saints.
I have, through mercy, enjoyed of late better health than when I saw you in the summer, and have reason to bless God for the comforts and kindness which He daily bestows upon me in His providence. I am sure He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil, and is never weary with blessing the rebellious and ungrateful. If, indeed, we belong to His blood-bought family, well may we say, "Happy are you, O Israel—who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord!" It is uncertain when I shall see you all again in the flesh, but trust I shall ever continue to love you with Christian affection. Give my Christian regards to all the Christian friends who meet together to worship in spirit and truth.
I shall be glad to hear from any of the friends who can write, as I wish to know how you are going on.
I am, your and their affectionate friend,
J. C. P.
November 12, 1835.
My dear Brookland,—To all that, under the blessed Spirit's teaching, experimentally and feelingly know the plague of their own heart, and something of the riches of a Savior's blood, grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
An opportunity occurring to answer your letter, I reply to it sooner than I might otherwise have done; and may the eternal Spirit guide my pen to write a few lines on vital godliness and experimental truth to the comfort of any of God's quickened family who may hear or read them.
Instead, then, of finding day by day the number of heaven-taught souls increase in my eyes, I seem to draw the circle narrower and narrower; and the more that I am led to see the nature and reality of true religion, and the great mystery of godliness, I seem to see more and more how few are experimentally led into it. 'Notional religion' is the grand deceit with which Satan deceives the nations; the husks which the swine eat, he passes off as the bread of life. 'Dry doctrines', which only puff men up with pride and presumption, he palms off as the truth as it is in Jesus. A 'sound creed', a fluent tongue, a well-informed judgment, a ready gift in prayer, a consistent life, attendance on the means, a sanctified appearance, a knowledge of the Scriptures, pass off upon thousands as the religion that can save the soul.
I am quite convinced that very few people have been taught by the blessed Spirit even the very first elements of religion, namely, repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A man that has repented toward God has had his back broken, his mouth has been in the dust, and himself plunged into the ditch until his own clothes abhorred him. The idol of free-will has been broken to pieces, self-righteousness stripped away, presumption plucked up by the roots, and hypocrisy torn off. Not but that these members of the old man will ever continue to trouble and plague the living soul, but they will be hated and disallowed. "God makes my heart soft," says Job (23:16). And thus, when there is true repentance toward God, the heart will be softened down into meekness and contrition. But how few are lepers; how few have got the plague of leprosy in their houses, their garments, or their bodies! They have never had this spreading scab and festering raw flesh (Lev. 13:8-10) to eat away the vitals of their fleshly religion, and to make them filthy and leprous from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet. A man must know something of this inward experience before he can be said to repent towards God.
And, again, how few have the other element of true religion—namely, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Most people' faith is an assent and consent to the mere letter of truth. They believe because they never disbelieved. They believe because their fathers told them so; because they were taught in the Sunday school; because they have read about Jesus Christ in the Word; because they have heard Mr. So-and-So preach about it; because they have read a tract of Dr. Hawker's which explained the way of salvation; because they have heard others tell their experience; and because it is so wicked and dreadful not to believe in our blessed Savior.
Such are some of the lying delusions of the father of lies whereby souls are juggled into hell. A notional faith never did and never can save a soul. To be thus born of blood, and of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, leaves the soul where it found it—an enemy to God, and the bond slave of the devil. And all this false notional and fleshly religion will be as stubble when "the day comes that shall burn as an oven." May the blessed Lord keep us from a notional religion, which will only leave our souls exposed and naked to His terrible wrath when He shall rise up to the prey.
The only faith that can satisfy a living soul is that which is the gift of God, and springs out of the inward relation of Jesus Christ. How few have experienced that work of faith with power whereby they have come out of themselves as Lazarus came forth from the tombs. The question is, What has our religion done for us? Has it left us where it found us? Are we, indeed, new creatures; have we been inwardly and experimentally translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son? We had better throw away our religion on the first ash-heap we come to, to rot there in corruption, if we have nothing better than a name to live. We had better be open sinners than deceived and deceiving hypocrites.
But I believe no living soul can be satisfied with a notional religion; though a miserable backslider, and driven into the fields to feed swine, he cannot feed on their husks, but sighs after the bread of his Father's house. The eyes being enlightened to see the nature of sin, the justice and holiness of God, and the miserable filthiness of self, the quickened soul can find no rest in anything short of a precious discovery of the Lamb of God; and the more that the soul is exercised with trials, difficulties, temptations, doubts and besetments of various kinds, the more does it feel its need of that blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. What is a Christian worth without inward trials and exercises? How dead and lifeless are our prayers; how cold and formal when the soul is not kept alive by inward exercises!
Where are the sighs, cries, groanings, wrestlings, and breathings of a soul that is at ease in Zion? The world is everything and Christ nothing, when we become settled on our lees, and not emptied from vessel to vessel; but inward exercises, fears, straits, and temptations, stir up the soul to cry, and pray, and beg for mercy. The certainty, the power, the reality of eternal things is then felt, when guilt, and wrath, and fear, and disquietude lay hold of the soul. Mere notions alone of Christ, false hope, a dead faith, a presumptuous confidence, a rotten assurance, are all swept away as so many refuges of lies, when the soul is made to feel its nakedness and nothingness, its guilt and helplessness before God. And thus all their inward exercises pave the way for their discoveries of Christ—those views of His blood and righteousness, that experimental acquaintance with His person, love, grace, and work, which is life and peace.
May this be our religion. It is a religion that we can die by, but it is a religion which the profane and professing world hates and derides. If you and the other friends of truth who meet together at Stadham are enabled to contend for this religion, you will be hated and despised by those professors who never had their backs broken and their mouths in the dust; for you cannot sanction and uphold their religion, and will be constrained, as wine which has no vent (Job 32:19), to tell them faithfully your opinion of their state. You that contend for experimental realities are a city set on a hill—all eyes are upon you; the professor and the profane will alike watch for your halting. They would say of your little cause, "Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof!" May the blessed Lord keep your steps. Oh, how weak and helpless we are! how fond of sin, how averse to God! If He does not keep us, we must fall. Our pride, presumption, hypocrisy, lust, covetousness, carnality, love of ease, and fear of the cross, must overcome us unless He is stronger than we, and prevails.
It is very uncertain when I shall see the friends at Stadham and the neighborhood face to face. I shall most probably winter here, and believe it is of the Lord that my steps were directed to this place, as it affords me a much wider sphere of usefulness, if the Lord bless the word, than I could have had at Stadham. If, indeed, the King of Zion was pleased to bless my weak ministry at Stadham, it will be proved by the people's abiding in the truth, who professed to have been profited by it. By their steadfast perseverance in, and earnestly contending for, the faith once delivered to the saints, they will make it manifest whether they have been spiritually quickened, or have learned their religion from man. And if the blessed Lord has indeed been pleased to raise up your little cause as a witness for Himself against corruption and error, He will keep it, He will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, He will keep it night and day. I hope you may soon see the foundation-stone of a house for His worship laid, and that He will create upon your assemblies a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night.
My love to all that have been made honest, who fear God, have a tender conscience, and depart from evil. Greet the friends by name,
Yours and theirs affectionately in Christ Jesus,
J. C. P.
July 18th, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—It being Monday, and I being, as usual, not fully recovered from yesterday's exertions, I will not promise to write at any great length. I arrived here on Friday evening last from Oakham, a distance of about eleven miles. Mr. de Merveilleux sent a coach for me, so that I arrived here without inconvenience, though the day was cold and rainy. I was very unwell during the first part of my stay at Oakham, having caught cold on my journey. Towards the end of last week, however, I rallied, and am now, through mercy, as well as I usually am. I preached at Oakham twice yesterday week, July 10th, and again on the following Wednesday, July 13th. Yesterday I preached twice in Mr. de Merveilleux's chapel here. The place was very full both times. Many, no doubt, were attracted from curiosity, my "Letter" having been widely circulated in these parts, and my intention to preach having been made known through the newspaper, as well as by printed bills. The Baptist minister left his flock to visit his friends, and, there being no Supply, his congregation came to hear me. Many church-people, too, were present; and doubtless we had a sprinkling of gracious people from out of the country, for many miles round. I never feel at home amid such a motley multitude, and such was the case yesterday. I attempted, with God's help, to cut down natural religion, and to build up spiritual religion; but I fear 'Joseph Charles' had much more hand in the sermon both times than the Spirit of the living God. At least, if they were as much dissatisfied with me as I was with myself, the children of God went grumbling home; and if the word came home to them with no greater power than I felt it myself, they went home as hungry as they came.
I have received invitations to preach from Boston, Peterborough, Leicester, and Cambridge. All these invitations I have declined but the last, which I have accepted for Thursday, July 28th, on my way to Welwyn.
I found myself quite at home at Oakham, Mr. and Mrs. Keal having all the friendliness and hospitality of Tiptaft. I cannot say that I was much favored in the ministry there, being, in my own feelings, shut up, except on the last time that I preached, which was on Wednesday last, when, the spring seeming to flow and the cruse to run, I was enabled, as I freely received, so freely to give. A great multitude, especially if in a strange place, usually shuts me up, and, instead of a sweet entrance into the word of truth, and a living experience, I seem able to bring forth nothing but a noisy stream of 'pulpit prattle' and a tangled skein of unmeaning declamation.
I find Mr. de Merveilleux very kind; and, indeed, so vile and unworthy a wretch as I, who seem at times to be a burden to myself and to everybody else, finds everywhere kindness and attention. They wish me very much to come again to Oakham, and I have thought of the following plan, if it should be agreeable to the friends and yourself. Instead of going down to Plymouth, as I proposed, I would return to Allington from London, so as to preach on Lord's-day, August 14. Thus I would stay with you during August and September, and leave you during the month of October, which, in that case, I would spend at Oakham. The weather in October is not too cold, and the days not too short, to hinder my traveling at that time. I think such an arrangement might suit me, as well as yourselves and the friends at Oakham. August, I know, does not suit you so well, as it is so bustling a time; but it is hard to arrange any plan to which objections may not be raised. There is a great spirit of hearing at Oakham, and I have found myself well received by the people. On Wednesday evening last the congregation was larger than at Allington on the Lord's-day afternoon. Let me hear from you on this subject immediately as I wish to write to Plymouth, which I cannot do until I receive your reply. I shall hope to spend the winter at your friendly and hospitable fireside.
This dry weather, I suppose, stirs up the old man sometimes in your bosom, and you are thinking what will become of the sheep unless the turnips look better than they now do. I observed that the wheat crops in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Northamptonshire had a much better appearance than those in Wiltshire. But what will it signify to Joseph Parry, in a few years, whether "the fly" had carried off his turnips or not; and what will it matter to J. C. Philpot whether his chest was sound or unsound? But how much will it matter to each of them whether their religion was natural or spiritual, their faith human or divine, their hope a heavenly gift or a spider's web! But our blind, foolish hearts are so concerned about things which are but the dust of the balance, and so little anxious about our all in all.
I hope that friend Stenchcumb was heard with profit, and brought you some of the good old wine, and that Tiptaft was favored with a door of utterance and a door of entrance into your souls.
I intend to leave Stamford, if the Lord will, on Wednesday, July 27, and proceed by Cambridge to Welwyn, where I hope to arrive the Friday evening following. On the succeeding Tuesday I shall hope to go to London, and it will depend on the arrangement that we may make whether I shall proceed to Plymouth or Allington. I would wish to consult the wishes of the friends, as well as my own; and though I cannot brook much thwarting or controlling, I feel desirous to walk amicably and comfortably with the people of God.
I hope the friends are well, body and soul, and that the Lord has shone upon your assemblies. Greet them all with my Christian love. The children, I hope, are well. May the Lord stir up our fainting, stumbling souls, and lead us into all experimental truth. My affectionate remembrances to Mrs. P., Mr. and Mrs. T., Mrs. C., and all that have any care for, or any interest in, so poor a creature as
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
July 25, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I fear I must make my usual excuse for a short letter, that is, that it is Monday, on which day, you know, I am fit for little else than to loll about and do nothing. Mr. Keal was over here from Oakham yesterday, and we talked matters over. The arrangement which I seem to have come to is to be at Allington before August 14th, so as to stay with you during that month and the following, and return, if the Lord will, to Oakham by the first Lord's-day in October. I must thus give up my visit to Plymouth, which will be a disappointment to my mother, as well as to myself, and deprive myself of that rest in which I usually indulge my poor body once a year.
The opening for truth at Oakham and Stamford is very great, and people come from distances which puts your lazy Wiltshire professors to the blush. Twenty miles is not thought much of as a distance in this country. Yesterday morning was very wet, and this thinned down the congregation to what the Dissenters call "comfortably full;" but, the weather clearing up, the afternoon congregation was overflowing. It appeared to me larger than on the Lord's-day previous. Through mercy, I was helped with a little help, and the door of utterance was not shut so close as I often feel it, and thus I was enabled to deal out a portion to professor and possessor more than I sometimes can. On Wednesday next I intend, if God wills, to leave Stamford for Cambridge, where I am to preach next evening. On Friday I mean to go to Welwyn, and on August 2nd to London, and hope to reach Allington August 12th, but will write to Mr. Tuckwell or yourself to mention when you are to send to Marlborough for me. Mr. T., it appears, was anxious to view my old haunts at Oxford. Well, they have pretty much forgotten me, and I them. Our tie has been broken through forever, and I am satisfied it should be so.
I am glad that you heard Tiptaft well, and that he found an entrance into your heart. You had, no doubt, much conversation together, and I dare say he asked many questions on many subjects. He will not lack information if inquiry can obtain it. I have found much kindness both here and at Oakham. Mr. Keal is a particularly friendly person, and we soon became able to converse freely. His wife is very much like Tiptaft in manners and disposition. If I consulted my own wishes I would go to Plymouth and rest, and return to Allington in September, as I originally proposed. But there seems a field of usefulness opened here, and my ministry appears to be received by the people of God. An old professor came about thirty miles to hear yesterday, and came to see me this morning for about three hours. I found him a man well and deeply taught in the things of the Lord.
You will, perhaps, think that my coming into these parts may be the first step to my leaving Allington altogether. I do not anticipate any such conclusion. It may lead to my coming here occasionally, but I do not think it will have any other consequence. Both at Oakham and here they seem attached to the ministry of Tiptaft and Smart, and I think the utmost of their wishes is that we three should come as well as we may be able. Mr. Keal does not wish to hear any other ministers, and reads when one of us is not at Oakham. Mr. de Merveilleux engaged a minister, who proved to be a duty-faith man, and he was obliged to withdraw from his ministry; so that he usually 'reads printed sermons' in the vestry, and that to not more than twelve people. Nearly all the congregation left with the minister, and have a building very near. Thus, as this is an infant cause, and there is much opposition both from church and chapel, it needs a little fostering.
I do not forget the kindness of yourself and Mrs. Parry amid the kindness of my new friends, and I do not believe that I ever shall. Wherever a union is felt, through grace in the heart, it cannot easily be torn up. Jealousies may rise, and evil tempers may work, but I believe there will be always a revival of affection in the soul where a true union exists.
I have sold nearly two hundred copies of my pamphlet here and at Oakham. Nearly all the influential people of this town are acquainted with my family, my grandfather having resided here many years. What a violent tearing asunder of all natural ties is produced by leaving the Establishment! Those who would have hailed me as a friend, would now turn from me as an enemy. I find more and more that to leave 'Babylon' is to offend all that is respectable and worldly. Mr.— would not be so angry, nor his friend Miss J—, if I would uphold their system. Well, their hatred little troubles me. I fear my own vile heart more than their enmity, and if they knew as much of my vileness as I do, they would find plenty of room to shoot their arrows at. I am quite aware of your kindness from repeated instances of it, as well as that of your wife, and hope that nothing may ever occur to interrupt our friendship. My kind regards to Mrs. Parry, and remember me very kindly to all inquiring friends. I am obliged to Mr. Tuckwell for his kind letter. I am, through mercy, pretty well, and beg to remain,
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
P.S.—Shall I buy any of Huntington's works for you, as there is a cheap edition coming out, and you would find them profitable to read and lend?
August 6th, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—As the time of my return to Allington is drawing near, you are doubtless expecting a line from me to fix the precise day on which you are to send to Marlborough for me. I intend, then, to leave town on Tuesday morning next, if the Lord wills, and do not think of stopping anywhere on the road before I reach Marlborough. Mrs. Merrewether, probably, and the friends at Newbury would wish me to stop one night there, and speak in her room; but I feel so unfit to preach anywhere, that necessity must be laid upon me before I can engage in the work. I believe, if it were left to me, I would never preach again—so much vileness, unbelief, and dreadful sinfulness do I feel working within.
Those who say they always hate sin must have very different feelings from me, as the chief part of my burden is that I love it so much. I feel something like a man in love, who is prevented by a thousand obstacles from gaining what his heart is set upon. If he did not love the fair lass, his heart and affections would not always be roving after her, and he would little care whether she were dead or alive. But to feel the constant workings of passionate love and eager desire, and then to be prevented, cut off, and intercepted by a thousand difficulties, this will make a man miserable enough. Thus sin, that crafty and cursed Delilah, is loved to distraction by our old man. If we dared woo and win this beautiful Philistine, a match would be made, vows plighted, hands joined, and the marriage celebrated. But when a tender conscience, a godly fear, the wrath of God against sin, His presence in the soul, and a thousand other inward obstacles step forward and forbid the union, what a storm does it raise within! But if to press the hand and touch the lips of this accursed Delilah cause such guilt within, and force out such groans and sighs from a burdened conscience, it is our richest mercy that so many real friends come forward and prevent a complete union. These two things I know, that sin is sweet, and that sin is bitter. The honey and the sting are in the same bee, and, if you plunder the hive, it is a narrow escape if you are not stung to death.
I left Stamford, July 27, and arrived at Cambridge the same evening. On the following evening I preached at a chapel, about a mile out of the town, to a full congregation. If they felt as straitened as I did, they were shut up enough; and if they were as dissatisfied with me as I was with myself, they went grumbling home. On the next day I arrived at Welwyn. I found friend L. and his wife very kind, and was quite at home with the friends at Welwyn on spiritual things. I think them a people of the right stamp. I cannot say I was much at home in the pulpit on the Lord's-day. On the Tuesday evening, however, I spoke again and felt more of the springing well and flowing brook. The place was quite full on Lord's-day both times, and on the Tuesday evening there were not many vacant places. The friends thought the place was fuller on the Lord's-day than they had ever seen it.
Friend Smart's house is roofed in, and, if the God of all comfort now and then visits it with His presence, will be a comfortable abode for him. The plan is simple enough. Two rooms, one on each side the street-door, will form his kitchen and parlour below, and there will be two bedrooms above. I told Friend L. that a third bedroom was wanting for the little handmaid, as he would wish to have a spare bedroom for a friend. On the day before I left, the foundation was laid for the washhouse, etc. The friends of truth are looking anxiously forward to his coming to settle among them, and the friends of the world are marveling that so much has been done to carry on the cause, the downfall of which they prophesied.
I am pretty well tired of London, though from my former residence of six years in it, and continual visits to it for nearly every year since I was nine years old, it is less strange to me than to most regular inhabitants of the country. It is some degrees warmer than the country, which, in some respects, suits me, though I find more excitement from its noise and bustle than is good for my head and chest.
I hope I shall see Friend Smart before he leaves Wilts. You must do your best to detain him at Allington until I arrive, and as long after as he feels disposed to stay. I sincerely hope that the Lord may be with him tomorrow, and give the word that he shall preach a blessing, and effectual entrance into your hearts. I do not know what you would do in this scene of bustle and confusion, where Mammon seems universally worshiped, and where Satan's seat seems above most places to be. I shall hope, if the Lord will, to find you, your wife, and children, well. Remember me affectionately to all inquiring friends, and
Believe me to be,
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
October 24, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I arrived here on Friday last from Oakham, and am, through mercy, pretty well.
The friends at Oakham have much pressed me to stay the winter, to which I would not have any great objection, as the climate is mild, the friends kind, and the door for preaching wide. The last Lord's-day afternoon on which I preached being very fine (October 16), the congregation was overflowing. A person at the door counted fifty who could not get in; and on last Wednesday evening, which was moonlight and a beautiful evening, we had considerably more than at Allington on the Lord's-day afternoon. I do not mention this as though it were anything, for novelty will bring a congregation; and I dislike a crowd, as it usually shuts me up, and seems to draw back anything like a flow of unction and feeling. I seem at such times lost in a flood of unmeaning generalities, and to have no power to dive into the depths of man's heart. Like a raw swimmer, I seem to be splashing in shallow water, knocking the waves about, perhaps, as I spread forth my hands to swim, and every now and then gulping down a draught of salt water or gasping for breath, but unable to dive into those dark silent depths of internal experience or the calm depths of a free-grace salvation, without which to preach is only to beat the air and to run as uncertainly; yet this I would say to the glory of God, that though wretchedly dark and barren out of the pulpit, I have not been altogether left to my foolish and empty self in it since I left Allington, but have at times found life, and light, and a door of utterance opened out of confusion and ignorance. Yesterday morning I felt myself favored in some degree with an open door; but in the afternoon my old shackles were again put on, and confusion and perplexity seemed to fill my mind. The congregation was very large both times, the day being fine, and in the afternoon uncomfortably crowded. I feel, however, but little drawing towards Stamford, and should fear there is but little life in the place. I am much more at home at Oakham, and have usually more feeling and liberty in that pulpit than in this.
Poor — seems to display his weakness more and more. I can hardly think him sincere in all his admissions to you, but I believe the great key to his words and actions is to know that he has no fixed opinion to give, and no firm principles on which to act. A man that does not know his own mind must always be a puzzle to others, and I should expect fixedness as much from a weather-cock as from —. A weather-cock, you know, will sometimes not turn for a week if the wind is still, and rust will make it at times wondrous steady; but a good stiff breeze will turn it round a hundred times a day. Let Master — encounter what the sailors call a north-wester, or let "a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon" beat into him, and I believe he would be in their case of whom we read that, "when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive." If the — friends had gone down to the sea in ships, and done business in great waters, they would have found out that their pilot looked too much to the chart, when he should have sounded, and if he had found it twenty fathoms should have gone a little further and sounded again, and if he found it fifteen fathoms, should have cast four anchors out of the stern and wished for day. But, instead of that, when the wind of Irvingism "blew softly" he must needs loose the rudder-bands and hoist up the mainsail to the wind, and make towards shore; and thus he fell into a place where two seas met—the sea of experimental Calvinism and the sea of Arminian Irvingism; and then need we wonder if he ran the ship aground, and while the forepart, that is, his head, stuck fast and remained immovable in the sands of unknown tongues, miraculous cures, and unfulfilled prophecy, the hinder part, that is, what the Lord had done in his heart, was broken with the violence of the waves? I can only say that it will be his mercy if he escapes safe to land on boards or broken pieces of the ship.
As Master — is so fond of spiritualizing the word, he could not be offended at my tracing his experience in Acts 27, and I believe that my explanation is every whit as good as his interpretation of "The Wall," which he was so willing to favor you with.
I hope that Friend Smart will furnish you with such savory meals that you will go in the strength of that food many days, and will not need to be fed again for some weeks to come.
I wonder, indeed, that any people are willing to be burdened with my company, as I am often a burden to myself, and am a wretched mass of vileness and corruption.
I seem surprised at the priestcraft of the human mind, which makes people so fond of ministers. If they all thought of them as I do, there would be many sent to the right-about. They would see that they had a deal more of the devil in them than of the angel, much more of the flesh than the spirit, and more hypocrisy than humility.
I wonder sometimes that people can bear my rough remarks, and crude speeches, and doubts as to the genuineness of their religion; but I suppose they see enough carnality in me to serve as a nice excuse for their own. If the minister is so carnal, says Mr. Worldly-mind, surely I may be so too; and if the Reverend Dr. So-and-so is not always so spiritual, surely I may give my tongue a little licence. Thus worldly people like the ministers to be carnal, that under this shed, as Friend Kay says, they may creep with their carnality, and think they will do exceedingly well if they have half the religion that the parson has. It is to some such feeling as this deeply lodged in the human heart that I am gladly to ascribe the kind reception I meet with wherever I go.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
November 14, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I hinted in my last letter at the probability of my staying the winter in these parts, and as the friends here, and at Stamford, are very urgent that I should do so, I seem inclined to listen to their wishes. I do not, however, think it right to decide upon a point which affects you as well as them, without first writing to you on the subject. I am encouraged to continue here a while longer, as the people profess to derive profit from my ministry. At Allington, you know, the winter congregation is often very scanty. I find the climate here and at Stamford much more suitable to my weak chest than the cold blasts which blow so chill and strong over your unsheltered downs. I hope you know me too well to think I have forgotten your unvarying kindness, or that I am tired, either of your hospitable fireside, or of the pulpit where, I trust, I have at times felt refreshings from the presence of the King of kings. I would be sorry, too, that you should think I have any intention of forsaking Allington, or that new faces and new friends have had the effect of dividing my regard for old ones. You recollect, when I first came among you, I never promised to tie myself to Allington, and have always considered myself as a temporary Supply, who was at liberty to go away for a shorter or longer time, or even altogether, without its being considered that I violated any engagement, or broke any promise. At the same time I feel a regard for Allington, and for some of the people who attend the chapel there, and, I need not add, for yourself.
After all this preface, you will be saying to yourself, "But how long does he mean to stay away? What does he call staying the winter? How long does he call 'winter'?" Why, if we were to calculate very nicely, it might be winter at Allington, perhaps, when it is spring elsewhere, and the almanacs tell us that winter commences December 21st, and ends March 21st. And if my chest were consulted on the subject, and I do assure you that I am obliged to take its opinion much more than I could wish, it might say winter lasts from September to the beginning of June. I will not then take either Francis Moore's winter, or my chest-definition of the same season, lest I should weary out your patience altogether. But I think it probable I shall continue in these parts during the months of December and January, and return to Allington about the beginning of February. In this case, I purpose to be at Oakham the three following Lord's-days, November 20th and 27th, and December 4th. I then think of returning to Stamford, to be there three or four Lord's-days more, and to return afterwards to Oakham. There is a great spirit of hearing both here and at Stamford, and people come from considerable distances. I have been favored at times with the Lord's presence in the pulpit, and the people profess to hear me well on different occasions. I feel encouraged to continue a little while longer among them. If you cannot procure such Supplies as you can profitably and comfortably hear, I would recommend you to go on with reading of sermons. And I would counsel you to read sometimes Huntington, and at other times Webster, as the people seem to hear with profit.
Tiptaft has been for five Lord's-days in London, and, according to his own account, got on better with the Londoners than he expected. I wrote to him a few days ago, and mentioned my plan of staying here a while longer, as well as suggested that he might pay Allington a visit. I get on but slowly with my pamphlet, and have a new work in hand, a sermon from Isa. 50:10, 11. [Eventually published as The Heir of Heaven Walking in Darkness and the Heir of Hell Walking in Light.] This, however, I am getting on but slowly with, and find my quiet room at Allington more favorable to writing than this place, or Stamford, where there are so many things to distract the attention. I was surprised yet glad to hear that Friend Smart preached at Devises, and I hope he shook the boughs with a firm and vigorous hand. I shall be glad to hear that the Lord was with him there as well as at Allington.
For myself I go on in spiritual things much as usual, generally very dark and dead, and at other times favored with desires and breathings after a fuller discovery and enjoyment of eternal things. I feel, however, that the old vile heart will turn up its mire and filth, and that no change of time or place can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. I need not say I meet with every kindness both here and at Stamford, and can only wonder what people can see in me to call forth so much attention and regard. They do not see me as I see myself, and it is my mercy that they do not know all the workings of a vile and depraved heart.
I think, with one exception, besides twice on the Lord's-day, I have preached once in the week regularly since I left Allington. I have received an invitation from Boston, which I have promised to attend to for some future opportunity, besides one from Nottingham, Lynn, Woburn, and other places. But when I return to Allington, I shall hope to remain there quietly for a few months. I have through mercy been stronger, since I left Allington, in my chest and general health, and do not feel the cold weather quite so sensibly. This, I confess, is one reason why I am induced to spend the severe part of the winter here, as I do not forget my last winter at Allington, and how I suffered from the cold.
Let me hear from you soon, and write me a good long letter.
Believe me to be,
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
December 1, 1836.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I am very sorry that my intention to continue here a little longer has so much hurt your feelings, and that you have found the old man so rebellious on the subject. I find it very difficult so to act as to escape censure from some one or other, and whichever way I turn I find difficulties. Ministers cannot always consult private feelings, nor, indeed, would they act right if they did so. Many motives sway their minds and influence their decisions, of which hearers have little conception. The hearer looks only to himself and his own pleasure in hearing any favorite minister, and never considers how far that ministry, which is profitable to him, may be so to others also. But the minister looks to where he has the widest door set before him—where he is most blessed himself, where the most evident blessing rests on the word, and where he feels most unction and power present with him. And thus he has many motives and leadings, of which the hearers know nothing.
I feel, too, in my own case, as you yourself have so often remarked, that I require some time to make way into the understandings and affections of the people, and that it is not half-a-dozen sermons which will make my drift evident. To this let me add that I require a short time before I am at home in the pulpit, and that a little thing will shut me up, and stop the flow of utterance which I enjoy sometimes. I need not enlarge on this point, as you have often remarked the same, and said I need a little time before people can receive my ministry and enter into my drift. I feel that hitherto I have been laboring at a disadvantage, and that I am only just now obtaining a footing in the understandings and affections of the people. This is one main reason why I have been induced to prolong my stay. I have felt desirous, too, of leading the people to contend for right things, for internals more than externals; and I have been anxious to demolish some of those mighty castles of 'letter-religion' which Satan everywhere builds up. I find I cannot accomplish my work in one or two sermons, and that I have to build up, as well as to throw down. These motives have weighed with me to continue some time longer, and I have been further induced by the often-repeated wishes of the people and my kind friends here and at Stamford. To this I must add that I have been so much better in health, and find the climate much more congenial to my weak chest than Allington.
Thus, I can say it is from no diminishing of either Christian affection or esteem that I have protracted my stay from your hospitable fireside; and I trust I need not add that it is no mercenary motive that weighs with me, as I have many expenses here, as traveling, servants at two houses, washing, wear and tear of better clothes, etc., which I have not at Allington. I hope I have said enough to set your mind at rest, and I need not hint that I am bound by no engagement to Allington, and have always considered myself as a Supply from week to week. Indeed, I may add that my strongest tie to Allington is my private friendship for you, though I admit that there are several in and out of the church to whom I feel a union, and whom I shall be glad to see again. I intend at present (D.V.) to return to Allington some time in February, if health and weather permit, and hope to stay with you for a few months, before I take a second flight.
I am glad that friend Warburton has paid you a visit, and that his word was blessed. John, with all his faults, has the right stuff in him, and will outlive a thousand May-flies, who flutter their hour in the religious world.
I intend (D.V.) to leave Oakham for Stamford about December 8, and shall stay until about January 5, continuing there for four Lord's-days. I do not see that you should be anxious about having preachers. Your cause is small, and in winter the congregation is never very numerous. Let them hear the reading of Huntington or Webster, and I believe they will hear no such preaching as the former, let them go where they will. Stand firm for experimental truth; none but the chaff oppose it. I doubt not that many are glad that the troubler of Israel is many miles away from Allington, and that the Church ministers are not the only people who are secretly rejoicing. I hope, however, if the Lord will, to trouble them again, and not leave them always to rejoice.
My sermon advances slowly. I find that so much letter-writing as I have, cuts up my time for it very much. It is quite uncertain when I shall be able to bring it out. I often find it irksome to write, and a thousand excuses rise up in my mind to defer it to another day, and thus I do not often set to work upon it. A person has offered to advance me £50 if I could put to press a volume of sermons; but I have no intention to do so. My other pamphlet I have laid aside for a long time. [This was never finished.]
I hope the Lord may lead us more and more to contend for realities—the things that accompany salvation. All things else are mere soap-bubbles, blown up by the breath of a child, which glitter for a few moments with the rays of the sun, and then burst forever. If the people at Allington do not contend for realities, it shows there is a woeful deficiency somewhere; for I am well satisfied that God will make all His people, great and small, contend for what they have tasted and handled. I look upon it, then, as a fatal mark, when men are contending for externals and doting about theological questions, while they neglect the weightier matters of the law. Contend for the power of eternal things and the mysteries of vital godliness, and you will have the devil and his twin family of 'dead sinners' and 'dead professors' against you; but you will have the family of God, to a man, with you, and above all, you will have God Himself on your side.
Where now are all those who, in their day and generation, worshiped an unknown God, talked of an unknown Christ, and took into their lips the name of an unknown Spirit? "In hell", is the answer; "reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day". And where are all those happy saints who saw, believed in, worshiped and loved a triune God? Safe with Christ; happily landed on the peaceful shore of eternity. A few years will put us among one of these two companies. Let us contend, then, earnestly and unwaveringly, for that truth which is able to save our souls. "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do engender strife." Let us not have separated from 'ungodly systems' and 'dead professors' on account of doctrines only and outward ordinances, however true and scriptural; neither let these things, especially the latter, break the union between the family of God. I am a decided Baptist, but I can stretch my hand across the 'water' to God's children, whose eyes are not open to see the ordinance, while there are thousands of Baptists to whom I would not willingly hand a chair. Write me a good long letter soon, as I like your letters much, and think you a very good scribe.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
[Extract from a letter to one who denied the Doctrine of Justification by the Imputed Obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gospel Standard, 1836, page 196]
To a "Professor"
. . . I consider the doctrine of the believer's justification through the obedience of Christ imputed to him for righteousness, to be one of the greatest importance, and could not unite with anyone who denies it. And I cannot help thinking, that if you had ever been arrested by Moses, and cast into prison, so far from denying the imputed obedience of the Surety, you would be sighing and groaning for a manifested interest in that blessed righteousness. I will not argue the point from the Scriptures, though Romans 5:19 stands as a brazen wall against all that rise up against this glorious doctrine, as it would do you no good to have your judgment enlightened, if you were not led into it from soul experience.
I am constrained to think, from the general tone of your letter, that you know very little of heart work. I can trace no groans, nor sighs, no confessions of ignorance and darkness, no humility and self-abasement, nor any symptoms of that unctuous experience which is the secret of the Lord with those who fear Him. You appear rather to rest on the letter of the word, if I may judge from your frequent array of texts, than to know experimentally that "spirit and life" (John 6:63), without which "the letter kills" and "the flesh profits nothing." You seem to fear lest "I lack knowledge," which deficiency you think yourself qualified to supply, rather than whether I lack an experimental work of grace on my heart; and you wish me "to explain my views as to how God justifies the ungodly," instead of asking me to explain how I have myself been brought in as ungodly, and how I have been justified in my own conscience. A little knowledge from the letter of the Scriptures united to an idea of greater personal sanctity than most possess, is very apt to puff up the mind, and make us think we are something when we are nothing. And thus I trace in your letter, though I am personally unacquainted with you, a greater opinion of your own knowledge and attainments than I do of the Spirit's operations, in bruising your soul into nothingness and self-loathing before the holy Jehovah. I should have felt more union with you if there had been in your letter more experience and less doctrine, more confession of ignorance and less assumption of knowledge, more of the spirit and less of the letter, more of the Creator and less of the creature.
I greatly fear you have got to Mount Zion without ever having been at Mount Sinai, are wise without having become a fool, have been healed before you have been wounded, and know everything before you have been made to know nothing. If this be the case, you have all to learn afresh—to begin again—to take with shame the lowest room—and to come down from being something to be nothing. You may, in your own opinion, have a more scriptural creed, a more consistent walk, and a mode of worship more acceptable to God than others possess. But what is all this? It may be only the whitewash of a sepulcher, the untempered mortar of a wall, the rough garment of a false prophet (Zech. 13:4), the pillow of an empty profession sewed on to your armhole (Ezek. 13:18), the broad phylactery of a pharisee, the spider web of a false hope (Job 8:14), the mire and the water in which the reed of a hypocrite's hope grows up (Job 8:11-13). You are probably, like Job, instructing others (4:3, 4), when you have only heard of God by the hearing of the ear, and have never seen Him, so as to abhor yourself, and repent in dust and ashes.
I wish to see you well humbled, and shaken to pieces (Job 16:12), and plunged into the ditch until your own clothes of sanctity and profession abhor you. If you are only a professor, though your excellency mounts up to the heavens, and your head reaches unto the clouds, you will be chased away as a dream of the night (Job 20:6-8). I would have you examine the root of your religion, whether it stands in the wisdom of men, or in the power of God, and whether you have been born of the flesh, or have been born of God. Is your religion one of groans and sighs, humility, contrition, and self-loathing, or do you despise these things as legal, or slight them as unnecessary? Is your liberty that of Christ's giving or your own taking? Have you learned your religion from the Bible, or through doubts and fears, strong cryings and wrestlings, trials and temptations, pressing needs and manifest deliverances? If you are a vessel of mercy, may the Lord humble and prove you, turn your wisdom into foolishness, your knowledge into ignorance, and your loveliness into corruption; and then nothing will satisfy you but the revelation of Christ to your soul, the sprinkling of His blood on your guilty conscience, and the inward manifestation of that justifying righteousness which you now deny.
J. C. P.
To the Friends of Vital Godliness at Stadhampton and the Neighborhood,
[Gospel Standard, 1841, p. 281]
To all that worship the great, glorious, unchanging, and unchangeable Three-in-One Jehovah in spirit and in truth, and know Him, not by the teaching of man, nor by a traditional religion, nor by the letter of the word, but by His own manifestations—be grace, mercy, and peace multiplied!
My dear Friends and Brethren—I see and feel that there is abroad in the world, and among the professing churches, so much false and delusive religion, that it seems as though I was continually compelled to be bearing witness against it. If, indeed, this natural and creature religion were confined to the unregenerate, I might well leave it alone, and let the dead bury their dead; but it infects the children of God too; it creeps in and insinuates itself even among those who are partakers of a new and spiritual nature, and is closely mixed up, though it can never really unite, with all our acts of spiritual worship. I find so much of this natural and creature religion in my heart, that I think I have nothing else; and when I look round upon the professing churches, even the purest and most experimental, I see a religion received by tradition from their fathers standing too much in the place of, and almost eating up, that vital, heavenly, and supernatural godliness which comes from and rises up to the Father of lights. Ordinances, prayer meetings, preachings, reading the Word, and family prayer, seem prized for their own sake, more than the simple, pure, heavenly and divine communications of God to the soul. These things I do not despise, yes, rather practice and attend to, but to me they are barren husks in themselves; I value them only as the shell that contains the kernel, and if the nut be lacking, or if there be a worm within it, I can trample upon the shell. It is not prayer, but the answer to prayer, that delivers the soul; it is not the ordinance, but He whom the ordinance sets forth, that is food and drink; it is not the preaching, but the Spirit ministered through the preaching (Gal. 3:5), that profits and edifies.
I wish to steer the middle path, not to despise the ordinances of God, and yet not to over-value them; not to make idols of them, and yet not call them Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4), which means a piece of brass, and a piece of brass only. And my firm conviction is, that God, who is a jealous God, will teach all His people the difference between worshiping an idol and worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. I want God's religion—the Creator's, and not the creature's. I want that pure and heavenly, and yet simple and most blessed religion, which is the gift of God and the work of God. I want that religion which the world hates, the professors cry down, the Ishmaels mock, the Pharisees revile, that illegitimate children ridicule, and the zealots despise. I want that religion which the clean-hearted call licentious, and the workers pronounce idle.
Yes, I want that divine and heavenly religion to stream down into my soul out of the fullness of the God-man which is like rivers of water in a dry and thirsty land—not a religion that will puff up, but abase—not fill the creature full of himself, but empty him into nothingness, and at the same time fill, melt, soften, renew, and warm the soul with the sweet pledges of eternity. Such a religion as this, my dear friends, will not lead to sin, but from sin, yes, will show sin in its true colors, as that unclean thing which Jehovah hates. This is the universal medicine, the balm of Gilead, which heals the ulcers, cleanses the wounds, and mollifies with ointment the putrefying sore.
But O, my soul! how much of this religion do you possess? You have sometimes the desire after it; you see this land at times a great way off; you now and then break out into a cry after it in the lonely watches of the night, and you cannot be satisfied without it. But what if, instead of enjoying and realizing this heavenly gift, you seem to possess nothing but confusion and emptiness? What if, instead of the good Shepherd pitching fold there, your heart is rather a habitation of dragons and a court for owls? What if the wild beasts of the desert meet there with the wild beasts of the island, and the wild goats bleat to each other? What if little else but deadness, darkness, vileness, earthliness, filthiness, and uncleanness gush up in your heart? What if blasphemy and infidelity, with all imaginable and unimaginable lustings taint every thought?
Why, put all this together, and add to it the thousand nameless workings and boilings up of your own filthy heart, dear reader, and then you have the picture of the writer's heart. But do not show this dark picture to the holy and the pious; tell it not in the streets of self-righteous Gath, and evangelical Askelon, lest the daughters of the clean-handed triumph. And if you feel and find your heart like mine, keep the doors of your mouth from her that lies in your bosom.
But is this religion? Is not religion to be holy and good, to be free from all sin, and have a heart so pure that a sinful thought never lodges there? Yes, my friends, this is religion—but whose?—man's or God's? This is a religion which nature, reason, and the world approve, but not the way that leads to Zion. I have found that the experience I have of my sinfulness makes me long for and value Christ's atoning blood—that the sense I have of my helplessness leads me to cry for God to help me—that the knowledge which I have of my condemnation teaches me to prize a free grace salvation. But I find I am always expecting to have grace in me, instead of looking for it outside of me. I read of the God of all grace, and I receive it as a most solemn and certain truth that all grace comes from Him; but when I come to experience, I want to find that grace in me which is stored up in the Redeemer; in other words, I want to find some stock of faith, prayer, hope, spirituality and love stored up in my heart, to which I can go as to the money in my purse. But this I cannot find, and because I cannot find it, I feel guilty and condemned. I want a spirit of prayer to dwell in me, and not to be lodged in the hands of the Redeemer. I want to believe when I like, and be spiritual when I like, and mortify sin when I like. But where would grace be then? Would Jesus be its Author and Finisher? Would I pray and cry to Him for it, if I could find it in myself? No! I would act as the rich man does, who, when he wants a supply, goes to his own coffers; and not as the beggar who must go and beg for it.
I saw this very clearly today, as I was taking my solitary walk, and it seemed to encourage me. When I acknowledge Jehovah as the God of all grace, I own that it is in Him, and not in me, and that all I at any time have is His direct and sovereign gift. You know me, I trust, too well to think I am one of those dry and dead Calvinists who abuse this truth to their own destruction, and who, because a man has not a stock of grace, are satisfied without any. No, I only know what grace is by feeling its operations and having it within. He who has it not in his heart will die in his sins.
May the Lord communicate to us, out of His own fullness, abundance of grace. May He work in us cries, sighs, breathings, groanings and wrestlings. May He give us a tender conscience, a contrite spirit, and a filial fear, and fill our souls with real humility, meekness, and godly sorrow, that we may be as a weaned child before Him.
I am glad to hear that the Lord keeps you together as a little band whose hearts He has united. I would be happy to hear that a place was erected for His Name among you, but would counsel attention to be paid to the Lord's parable, Luke 14:28-30; neither would I recommend the modern fashion of running into debt for a chapel as worthy the imitation of a God-fearing people. If all are saved that can crowd into the cottage, it will beat the proportion to be found in many gospel chapels. I am glad to find that Mr. Doe still goes in and out among you. It is a great blessing to have one who does not come with a "Lo, here! and Lo, there;" but can teach us the path from having himself walked in it.
It will not be in my power to accept the invitation of the friends to minister among them during any portion of the summer, as I am already engaged for the time that I shall be absent from Allington; nor do I see any necessity, as you are already provided with a minister, and the places I shall go to are quite destitute. I am much obliged, however, to Mr.— for his kind invitation.
I have heard, since I began this letter, that you are about to commence building a chapel. May the blessing of the Lord rest upon it. May He honor it greatly by His presence, that prayer may be answered there, and abundant supplies of grace communicated to vessels of mercy out of the fullness of the God-man. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. My desire is that it may be a place of sound, savory, and experimental truth, where the illegitimate children will find nothing to bolster them up in their pride and presumption, but where the living family of God will be melted, refreshed, humbled, comforted, strengthened, and revived; yes, that it may be written up when he numbers the people, that this and that man were born there. May we find and feel God stronger than we, and may His rich and abounding grace triumph over all our guilt, sin, and unbelief, yes, above all our continual lustings after those evil and soul-destroying things which God hates.
Greet the friends by name, and present them the Christian affection of a vile sinner, but their sincere well-wisher and affectionate friend,
J. C. P.