LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1862)


January 10, 1862

My dear Friend, John Grace—I sincerely desire to sympathize with you and Mrs. Grace in the trying affliction and painful bereavement which you have just sustained, in the removal of your beloved daughter. From what you have named of her experience, particularly toward the last, I think there is every ground for a good hope that she was among the number of those favored souls who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and made alive unto God by regenerating grace. Considering her age, mode of bringing up, and natural disposition, there was hardly reason to expect a very marked and conspicuous work of grace upon her soul. We hardly know how feeble and faint may be the measure of saving grace in a truly quickened soul, especially if there be great fears of making an insincere profession. It was not as if she had the way of truth to learn for the first time; or any self-righteous profession which had to be pulled down with a strong hand. There could hardly be therefore that clear, marked, and decided work which we see in people who have been brought out of the world by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; nor was there, so to speak, that necessity of being taught terrible things in righteousness, which in some cases seem to be almost necessary to burn up the wood, hay, and stubble of a legal righteousness. She was evidently sensible of her danger, had often heard the way of salvation pointed out, and the blessed Lord ever held up as the only hope and help for the people of God. We cannot say then how secretly or mysteriously the Lord might have begun or carried on the work of grace upon her soul.

Last evening I happened to open the Bible in the chapel upon Mark 4:26, and following. I just glanced my eye over the parable, and as I saw something sweet and experimental in it, I expounded it before prayer and preaching. While doing so, I was struck with the expression of "a man sleeping and rising night and day, and the seed springing and growing up he knows not how." Whether "a man" be a minister, the sower who sows the seed, or whether he be a believer in general, it seems plain that the lesson which the Lord meant to teach was that man had nothing to do with the matter, and that whether he slept or whether he awoke, he could not contribute one atom to the germination of the seed or the growth of the plant. The earth, by which I presume is meant the heart of man, or rather the new heart promised, brings forth fruit of itself, independent of the care of man, but wholly dependent upon the rain and sun which come from God. But the blessed Lord goes on to tell us that the work of grace upon the heart resembles the growth of wheat in having first the tender blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.

Now I am not going to give you a sermon upon that text, or even to say what I understand by it, but the parable strikes my mind as having some bearing upon poor Lydia's case. You could hardly tell when the seed was first sown in her heart. Most probably it was sown by your own hand. But you slept, and you rose night and day, and the seed sprang and grew up you knew not how. You might and did supplicate the Lord on her behalf, and many others did the same; but neither you nor they could contribute one mite to the germination of the seed, or the growth of the plant. Her heart, made honest and sincere, we hope by the grace of God, brought forth fruit of itself. You were watching to see the seed spring up and grow, and in due time you saw a little tender blade, which grew up you knew not how. I much love tenderness in the things of God. Josiah's heart was tender, and the Lord took blessed notice of it.

From all I have heard about poor Lydia, there was a tenderness in her religious feelings. She was afraid of presumption, hypocrisy, and making a profession without the power. All this looked well as far as it went. But as long as there is only the blade, you can scarcely tell a wheat field from a grass field. Something more is needed to prove it to be corn, and not grass. There is the ear, which seems to be some formation of Christ in the heart; for as in the literal figure, the corn is formed in the ear, though still green and milky, so in grace, when the blessed Lord is in any measure revealed to the soul and embraced by faith, He is then in substance all He ever will be. It is true the corn has to be ripened, but this has little to do with the shape of the grain.

So I trust your poor dear girl had a sufficient discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ to give her a saving faith in His blood and obedience, and a love to His name. I like what she said to her mother about the passage from Micah, and we would hope that as the Lord "delights in mercy", and she "delighted in mercy" too, her will was melted into the Lord's, and that being joined to Him, through faith in the promise, she was one spirit. I think also that the words which were made sweet to her at the beginning of her illness were very suitable, and we know if they came from the Lord He will be faithful to His own word of promise. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

January 22, 1862
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry. . . I believe that the Address (Gospel Standard) is generally very well liked. If I may be a judge of my own composition, I have written better and worse; I therefore consider it about an average; but if I may say so, I think it is written in a good spirit. One thing I am very sure of—that whether it be preaching or writing, I have no power to do either to any purpose, except as I am specially enabled by God. It is surprising what a difference I feel in the power of conceiving gracious thoughts, or giving them spiritual utterance by tongue or pen. It is easy enough to use words, but what are words if the life-giving power of the Spirit be not in them? There is almost as much difference between a living man and a corpse, as between words animated by the Spirit and words in which there is only the breath of man.

But in this, as in everything else, the Lord is a sovereign, not only as to those on whom He bestows the unction of His Spirit, but also as to the times and seasons when He grants it. Private Christians know this from the difference of their feelings in prayer, hearing, reading the Scriptures, meditation, and Christian conversation; and if called upon to pray in public, they know it also from the different way in which they are enabled to exercise their spiritual gift. I have often thought and said that, though from education and long practice I may be able to speak or write so as not to be altogether confounded, yet as regards liberty, life, power, or feeling—I am as dependent upon the Lord in the exercise of my ministry as any of my poorer and less educated brethren. Indeed, sometimes every gracious thought and feeling, with every good word and work, seem utterly gone, just as if I had never known any one divine truth, or as if the Bible had never come before my eyes or with any power into my heart.

I think you have done well upon the whole in establishing a prayer meeting; but like most other things, it is easier to begin than to go on. I was very much struck with an expression made by a gracious friend of mine some time ago. Speaking of a minister whom you do not know, but who stands high in the professing church, he said—"He has no prayer in him." Well, it struck me in a moment—"Where or what must a man be if there be no prayer in him!" I almost fear that his judgment was correct, for he had often heard him pray and preach, and judged him from the feelings of his own soul. So I would say of those who pray at a prayer meeting, if there be no prayer in them it will be but a poor dead lifeless service, but if there be prayer in them it will come out of them, to their own refreshment and to that of the hearers. But you well know, my dear friend, that the Holy Spirit alone can bestow the spirit of grace and of supplication, and that this blessed Intercessor intercedes in and for the saints with groanings which cannot be uttered. Mr. Huntington was against prayer meetings, I suppose from seeing how they became preaching nurseries; but surely if prayer be good in private, it should be good in public, and there is no more reason why a gracious man should not pray spiritually in the pew, as well as a godly preacher in the pulpit.

We have been spared to see the beginning of another year; the Lord knows whether we shall be permitted to see its close. This time thirty-one years ago, I was staying under the roof of our friend William Tiptaft, then Vicar of Sutton Courtney, and so weak and poorly was I at that time, that I did not go out of doors for the months of December and January. Most probably those who knew me then did not think that my life would be prolonged up to this time. Poor Mrs. C., for one, used to think that I was doomed to an early grave; but I have lived to see her, and her sister too, taken away before me. Truly could David say—"My times are in Your hand." The blessed Lord holds the keys of death and hell; and as He has thus far preserved my life, He can, if He will, prolong it still. My desire is, whether it be long or short, that I may walk in His fear and live to His praise, enjoy in my own soul His manifested favor, and be made a blessing to the church of God. I have had many persecutions and many enemies, but here I stand at this day, unharmed by them and much more afraid of myself than I am of them. It is a mercy that, though I have never been strong in body, and now begin to feel the infirmities of advancing years, my mental faculties have been preserved. I cannot indeed study and read as I once did, but am still enabled to get through the work that lies before me, both in preaching and writing.

I am glad that the testimony of poor Edward Wild was well received in your parts. I think it has been generally liked as a simple narrative of the Lord's work, and one stamped with sincerity, if not with any great depth.

No doubt you and yours, in common with us all, have sympathized with our poor afflicted Queen. You know that I have always been what is called a loyal subject, having no sympathy with radicals and republicans, but I believe that the whole country has felt for her, from the palace to the cottage. What a mercy it would be for her if the grace of God would but sanctify the afflicting stroke to her soul's immortal good!

I continue, through mercy, much as usual, though this last frost has rather pinched me. I preached however twice on Lord's day. Time is advancing with us all. O that when it shall be said to us, "Time no longer", it may bear us into a blessed eternity!
I am, yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 14, 1862
My dear Friend and Brother in one Common Hope, Mr. Leigh—I would be very glad if I could give you any counsel upon the point concerning which you have written to me; but I have no doubt that you have long proved, as I have had to do, that in all matters connected with the things of God, "vain is the help of man." Nor do I know, for the most part, a more difficult point as regards acting in the fear and love of the Lord, than how and when to join one's self to the visible church of Christ. Not that I mean that to my mind there is any difficulty as to what a church of Christ is, for according to my view, that is clearly laid down in the New Testament; the difficulty is in forming a personal connection with a church. For there are so many things to consider, even when the question is fully settled in one's own mind as to what a Gospel church is.

There is, first, the consideration whether it be the will of God that I should join a church at all. Some of the best Christians whom I ever knew either did not see the ordinance of baptism, or did not see their way to be baptized. Then, secondly, one has to consider the church which presents itself to our view, upon which the question arises—do I feel a spiritual union and communion with the members of it? Then, thirdly, there is the ministry in that church, which might not altogether be commended to my conscience, or be made a blessing to my soul. Then, fourthly, there is the question whether I am of such a natural temper and disposition, or whether grace has so subdued my carnal mind, that I am fit to be a member of a Gospel church.

I know at this present moment, several people, both male and female, undoubtedly partakers of grace, and some of them well taught in the things of God, who from infirmity of temper or a contentious spirit, are not fit to be members of any church. I once saw a church torn to pieces and almost broken up by one member, but in a remarkable way the Lord appeared, and the member resigned. Since then they have had peace, and it is a church as much favored with the power and presence of God as any that I know. Now all these things have to be well considered, to be spread before the Lord, and not taken up except as He is pleased to guide and lead. The privilege of being a member of a Gospel church is great indeed. It is a high honor to make a public profession of the name of Christ, to sit down at His table, and to be joined in fellowship with those who fear God and walk before Him in the light of His countenance. But in proportion to the greatness of the privilege is the necessity of being led every step by the Lord Himself. Nothing is more easy than to be baptized and join a church. It is done by hundreds, the whole of whose religion stands in the flesh. But a spiritual man cannot move forward in such a carnal way, for if he does, he will find afterwards nothing but bondage and condemnation.

You will think, and that justly, that I have given you very little help in this matter. And the reason is, because I wish you to be led by the Lord alone. From what I have said in the former part of this letter, some might think that I consider it a matter of indifference what a church of Christ is, or whether it be right in a Christian to become a member of it. But to think so would be a great misapprehension of my meaning. Indeed it lies just the other way. It is because I have such a view of what a church is, and of the blessedness of being a member of it under divine teaching, that I have written as I have done. It is not from indifference, but from seeing the spiritual character of the whole matter, that so many difficulties arise in my mind. As a proof of this, in my ministry I scarcely ever touch upon baptism or a Gospel church; not that I do not hold both with as firm a hand as those ministers who are always bringing it forward, but because I wish for the Lord Himself to lead His people to see it for themselves, and to be persuaded by His own sweet and invincible power. . . .

The Gospel Standard is not what I could wish it to be. Like its editor, it falls very short of his own standard of real vital godliness. But his desire and aim are the glory of God and the good of His people, and that the sweet and sacred unction of the Holy Spirit may spread itself through what is written and what is inserted. It is quite a fight of faith, for there are many adversaries, but the Lord still holds up my hands. . . . It is a mercy that the Lord did not allow your foes to triumph. The Lord will fight for His redeemed. I was reading this morning 2 Kings 9, and could not but see from it what a dreadful thing it is to sin against God.

I am pretty well, through mercy, in health, but not likely again to visit Liverpool. I thank you however for your kind invitation.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

March 4, 1862
Dear Friend, Mr. Hoadley—Amid all my labors for the profit of the church of God, the various trials and temptations with which I am exercised, and the numerous enemies, internal and external, against whom I have to contend, it is a sweet satisfaction to find that the Lord is pleased to bless to any of His people what I send forth in His holy name. However the Lord's people may differ from each other in station, education, abilities, and other mere natural circumstances, yet are they all blessedly united in one Spirit to the Son of God. Therefore they love the same truth, feel the same power, live the same life of faith, and eventually die to enjoy in substance what they have tasted in shadow. In writing the Address for this year, (Gospel Standard) my desire was to edify and profit the church of the living God. This I knew could only be done by the power of God resting upon my pen; for in myself I am a poor, blind, ignorant, destitute, and unfeeling wretch, who cannot even think a good thought, much less write a good word or perform a good action. It is a mercy then that, not only you, but others also, have felt a measure of sweetness and savor in what then dropped from my pen. To the Lord be ascribed all the glory.

I was sure that you would find Mr. Brown an honest, gracious, and experimental man. In giving him out to preach here, or speaking of him, I have called him sometimes "Good Mr. Brown." He has gone through a good deal of trial and trouble, and this, by the grace of God, has softened and meekened his spirit.

I have often thought that those who are placed at the head of a little Cause in the country are put into a very trying situation, when they are brought to see the emptiness of all profession and preaching which do not stand in the power of God. It is to me a grievous sign in the present day, that there are so few men raised up who preach the Gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. There is no lack of ministers, such as they are, and men too who hold the truth, at least in the letter. But some hold it merely in the head, and others, it is to be feared, in unrighteousness. But oh, how few are enabled to preach it feelingly and experimentally under the savor and blessed unction of God the Holy Spirit. The Lord seems taking away His servants. You have lost within about a year four in your own county—Mr. Vinall, Mr. Crouch, Mr. Cowper, and poor old Mr. Pitcher. Oh that the Lord would raise up men who know the truth, love the truth, preach the truth, and live the truth!. . . .
The Lord bless you and keep you.
Yours in Gospel bonds,
J. C. P.

 

March 19, 1862
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry. . . I am glad to find that in your illness you have not been altogether left of the gracious Lord. It is but rarely that we can see at the time itself, what benefit there is to spring out of sickness and affliction. Our coward flesh cries out for ease, we want to get better, and dread being worse; and as illness usually fluctuates, we are raised up or depressed according to circumstances. But indeed it is an unspeakable mercy when the affliction is truly sanctified to our soul's good, when we can submit to the Lord's will, lie passive in His hand, and know no will but His. When too, a little measure of meekness and softness is communicated, with faith and hope in exercise upon the blessed Lord, it seems to reconcile the mind to the affliction. When too we can read the Word of truth with sweetness and pleasure, are enabled to call upon the Lord with a believing heart, and are in any way blessed with that spirituality of mind which is life and peace, then we can say—"It is good for me to have been afflicted".

All the saints of God have ever acknowledged that it was in the furnace of affliction that they learned their deepest lessons, and got their greatest blessings. Some, if not many, of the usual trials of the Lord's people, you are in good measure exempt from; but as each must bear his cross, yours, and I may add mine also, has been bodily affliction. People who are healthy and strong may think lightly of it; but those who know what it is by painful experience, feel that it is no small an affliction, especially when it is more or less permanent. It is a good thing however, to be thus daily reminded of our latter end, and as the Apostle says, thus to die daily. It has a good effect in loosening the heart and affections from the poor perishing things of time and sense, and impressing deeply upon our minds that this polluted world is not our rest or home. We take much to uproot us, for our carnal heart strikes deep root into earthly objects—much deeper than we are aware of, until we find how closely we cleave to things which we thought had scarcely any hold upon us. James gives good advice where he says—"Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray." You will find it a great mercy if you are enabled in your affliction to call upon the Lord; for though He may seem to hide His face and delay to answer, yet He puts the tears of His saints in His bottle, and writes their prayers in His book.

The operation of truth upon the heart is like the light of day, gradual and yet effective; or like dew and rain, which soften and fertilize the ground, we can scarcely tell how. So divine truth in the lips, or written by the pen of a servant of God, often has a very gradual influence upon the mind; but this influence, though imperceptible, is not less real, for it is due not to the man but to the truth which he proclaims, and which the blessed Spirit seals with power upon the conscience. The Lord has placed me in a position which I never sought or desired; but being in it, I do not see my way to retire from it as long as I have grace and strength to execute it. It costs me at times a great deal of mental labor, as you would see from the writing which I have monthly to produce for the Gospel Standard, and all this in addition to my ministerial labors. I wonder sometimes that my poor brain can sustain so much work, for sometimes on the Lord's day, after two laborious services, I write a good part of the evening. Still, as strength is given me, I go on, desiring not to live to myself, but to the glory of God and the good of His people. I only wish that I could enjoy more myself of the precious truth of God, and feel more of its liberating, sanctifying influence upon my own heart, lip, and life.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

May 23, 1862
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry. . . Mr. Godwin would tell you how I am as regards the poor body—just helped through day by day, without any reserve of strength to fall back upon, like the balance of a rich man at his banker's. He would also tell you of the congregations which we had at Godmanchester. There certainly is an increased spirit of hearing in that place and neighborhood, which I have now known for some years past; and I trust from what I saw and heard, that our friend Thomas Godwin is where the Lord would have him to be, and is blessing his labors among the people. I suppose such a congregation was never before seen in the chapel. Some said there were 1,000 people present, and others 1,300. It took more than half an hour in the afternoon to get them seated. It is a large commodious chapel, without galleries, and very easy to speak in. I cannot say that I felt much at liberty on the Lord's day, but on the Tuesday evening was more indulged, and I hope we had a profitable time.

The period is rapidly drawing near when I shall be leaving home (D.V.) for what I call my London campaign. Hitherto I have found the promise good—"As your day is, so shall your strength be." I trust therefore that once more I may be enabled to raise up my Ebenezer. Most probably I shall have large congregations, and I shall need all the bodily strength which the Lord may give me. But this, though most desirable, falls very short of being blessed in my soul, and blessed also to the souls of others. Next to the salvation and sanctification of one's own soul, there can hardly be a greater blessing than being made an instrument of good to the Lord's family. But oh how we need the special power and blessing of the Spirit, that any good may be effected by the words of our mouth! What strongholds of Satan we have to pull down; what arrows of conviction to launch; what balm of consolation to administer; what strong hearts to break; what broken hearts to bind up! And who is sufficient for these things? How the whole, first and last, is of the Lord! So that if the least good be done, or the least blessing imparted, the praise and honor of it must all be freely given to the God of all grace.

I was never more convinced of this in all my life than I now am. Ever since you have known me you can bear witness that I never gave any strength to the creature, but ascribed the whole of our salvation, first and last, to the God of all our mercies; and the longer I live, the more I know of myself, and the more I see of others, the more am I convinced that the Lord must have the glory of the whole. Indeed I do see so much of the fall of man, and what I am as a poor, vile, filthy, guilty, and helpless sinner, that I am too glad and too willing to be saved wholly by sovereign grace, and wonder sometimes whether that amazing grace can ever indeed have reached my bosom. At one time of our lives we may, perhaps, think that it is very easy to be saved; but when we have been well drilled in the school of temptation, then we begin to see that it is the hardest thing in the world, so hard indeed, that nothing short of a miracle of free grace can work in us that religion which shall save the soul.

When I have, with God's help and blessing, finished my London labors, I hope to set my face towards Wilts, taking in my way Abingdon and Cirencester. Should the Lord permit me once more to come into Wilts I hope it may be under the teaching and testimony, work and witness, of His most blessed Spirit. If I think of myself, and myself alone, I could not dare to entertain such a hope; but in spite of all my weakness and worthlessness, we have now had the experience of nearly twenty-seven years to afford us some little testimony that the Lord has condescended to meet with us in our attempts to worship Him in spirit and in truth, as well as to preach and fear His holy Word. We know that there are those now dead, of whom we have no doubt that they were blessed in the house of prayer, and who will be raised up one day out of their lowly tomb in which they rest in hope, so that your little graveyard will send forth a company of glorified bodies when the great trumpet sounds.

As then you pass by their sleeping dust and look upon their graves with affectionate remembrance, it gives you to hope that they have not borne away all the blessings, but that there are living souls yet who come in for a share too of the same grace which was richly bestowed upon them. How often you pass by the graves of poor old Farmer Wild, our dear friend Dredge, the two sisters, poor Ed Wild, and others, of whom you have a well-grounded hope that their souls have passed into rest and peace. And we too, my dear friend, must one day follow them and be laid as low in the grave as they are now. Oh that the Lord would smile upon our souls and bless us with a sweet manifestation of His love, that when our time comes, we may lay down our head in peace, with a blessed testimony that the Lord is our God. It sometimes seems as if it were too great a blessing to expect. How base have been our backslidings—at least I may say so of my own! How little we have lived to the glory and honor of God! And still how weak our faith, and hope, and love! How many years have I preached and written, and I may say, considering my health and strength, how much have I labored! And yet how little, how poor, how insignificant it all seems. And yet I hope at times I have not labored in vain nor spent my strength for nothing.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

May 29, 1862
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner. . . How time slips away with rapid wing! Revolving months have brought me against the eve of my summer campaign, when I leave my quiet home, my wife, family, and my books, to sojourn for a while in the busy metropolis, and then turn my face towards the swelling hills and green downs of Wilts. But before I once more (D.V.) see their broad backs and undulating line, I hope to visit that ancient town where He who fixes the bounds of our habitation has cast your earthly lot, and there, with the Lord's help and blessing, renew those ties of friendship and affection, all laid, we trust, beforehand on a right basis, and cemented during that eventful season which I spent under your roof in the autumn of 1860. In our day, there is but little union or communion between those who profess the same truths and who preach the same Gospel. The reason of this is that there is so little union and communion with the blessed Lord; for wherever there is union and communion with Him, there must be the same with His people. Where too humility is lacking, and where pride, ambition, or covetousness prevail, there cannot be real union and communion, for that monster Self steps in between to intercept it.

But when we are made willing to take the lowest place, and to esteem others better than ourselves, there seems to be some foundation laid for Christian union. Such is, I trust, my feeling wherever I see real grace. Gifts may be useful in their way; but it is grace, and grace alone, which unites the soul to Christ, and to those who are Christ's. If ministers, instead of seeking after gifts and popularity, were hungering and thirsting after larger communications of grace for their own souls' present and future benefit, and for their people's, there would be more union among them. But we are poor, fallen creatures, and I have no right to censure others where I am so deficient myself.

I cannot at present fix the exact day when I shall hope to see you, but most probably it will be either Tuesday, July 22nd, or Wednesday, July 23rd, if the Lord grant me health and strength to carry out my London and Abingdon engagements. I should not object to speaking on the evening of the Thursday in the same hall as before, if you think there would be a sufficient congregation to warrant our meeting there instead of the chapel. I still carry about with me a weak tabernacle, having often much cough to try both body and mind. Still, hitherto I have found strength equal to my day, and been helped through my labors so as not to break down, though often very weak before, and in, and after them. No doubt I need all the ballast I carry, to steady my ship, for there is no safe sailing without it.

You too have your cares and trials; bodily cares, family anxieties, business perplexities, ministerial troubles, and no doubt besides, and beyond all these, that most pressing and most present of all—the heavy weight of a body of sin and death hampering and clogging every movement of the soul Godwards and heavenward. Under the pressure of all these trials and temptations, what a poor empty thing does the world appear, how transitory and vain our present earthly life; and indeed all things within and without with which we are surrounded. Sin and death seem visibly stamped upon them all. But though we thus seem to get sick of earth, sin, and self, yet we feel the need of divine communications of life, light, liberty, and love, to raise up the heart and draw the affections heavenward. Hunger is not food, weariness not rest, and sickness not cure.

How we need the blessed Lord to appear for us, and in us, that we may find in Him that rest and peace, that happiness and consolation, which none but He can bestow. How poor, how empty, how needy am I without His grace; how unable to think, say, or do any one good thing! How dark my mind, how cold my heart, how earthly my affections, unless He is pleased to move and stir my soul toward Himself. Thus I daily find and feel that, without Him I can do nothing, and that He must be my All in all. In private, in public, whatever I do or wherever I am, from Him is all my fruit found. Among the professors of the day how few know and love the truth, and among the preachers how few preach it from any sweet experience of its power! I am afraid of myself, and I am afraid of others; so powerful is unbelief, and so deceitful the heart, so strong is Satan, and so mighty is sin. May the Lord Himself teach and guide us, bless us, and hold us up, for then, and then only, shall we be safe.

I have written a sad stupid letter, but it will show you how dark, barren, and unprofitable I am without the Lord's especial help.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

September 11, 1862
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I need not tell you how disappointed I was at not being able to come to Oakham for last Lord's-day, especially after so long an absence, but my voice was almost wholly gone, and therefore even if I had come and got into the pulpit I could not have made myself heard by the congregation. How true it is that disappointment and vexation attend all our earthly steps. I have not been better in health I think for many years than during my absence from home, and have labored harder in the ministry than since the year 1847. Just then, as I was hoping to give my friends at home a little of my renewed strength, this stroke has come upon me which seems to bring back all my old feelings of tenderness and weakness. . . . I feel very unworthy that any of the dear family of God should be looking to me for instruction and edification when I need so much for myself, and daily feel my own deficiency in everything spiritually good. Still, if the Lord be pleased in any way to make use of me for the building up of the Church on its most holy faith, to Him must be ascribed all the praise, for I cannot take an atom of it to myself.

I return you Mr. Grace's letter. You probably know that we met in Wilts at the Calne anniversary, and that I got him to preach there to the satisfaction of a large number of spiritual hearers. As I expected to find him much pulled down by his illness he did not seem to me to be looking at all more poorly than I expected to see him. He had come that morning more than twenty miles in an open vehicle, had risen at four o'clock, and had not slept all night. But in spite of all this he seemed to be strengthened in body, soul, and spirit, to preach to a very large and attentive congregation, and did not seem to suffer much afterwards.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
 

 

September 15, 1862
My dear Friend, Mrs. Tanner—I desire very sincerely to sympathize with you and your family in the heavy trial through which you are all now passing, in the severe illness which it has pleased the Lord to lay upon my dear friend Mr. Tanner. I truly hope that the persuasion which you have that he will be still spared to yourself, his family, and the church, will be realized; but after so severe and prolonged an attack, recovery, if the Lord be graciously pleased to grant it, must be slow. I am sure that he has the desires and prayers of all who know him in the Lord, that he may be spared. Prayer is a powerful weapon in the hands of the Lord's family, and thus we hope that it may please the Lord to hear prayer on his and your behalf, and to spare his valuable life.

We felt it very kind in Mary giving us so accurate and detailed an account, keeping back nothing, and yet at the same time giving us some good ground of hope that he might still be raised up from his bed of sickness and affliction. There seems now some reason why you should have been lately so much favored. The Lord saw the trial which was coming upon you, and He therefore prepared you for it. I am sure that you must need all the faith that He may have given you, and all the support which may be granted for both body and soul. It must indeed be a most anxious time with you all, and you no doubt see now the mercy of your son's return. Thus you see mercy mingled with judgment, and strength and support graciously given when most needed. We all have to learn that it is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom. Trial after trial, like wave after wave, rolls over the family of God; and the more that the Lord favors and blesses them in His grace, the deeper and heavier for the most part do their trials become. The day of adversity is ever set against the day of prosperity; and wisely so, that we may learn our dependence upon the Lord and know more of His goodness and grace.

I shall be very anxious to have fresh news how your dear husband really is. May the gracious Lord of His infinite mercy spare my dear friend's life, support and bless his soul under the affliction, and comfort and support your heart. My love to him if he can receive the message. Two years ago, just at this time, I was under your kind and hospitable roof. Had it been this year, what an additional load it would have been to your mind. How wisely, how kindly does the Lord dispose all events!
Believe me to be, my dear Friend,
Yours with much sympathy and affection,
J. C. P.

 

October 29, 1862
My dear Friend, William Brown—I was sorry to hear that you were suffering from the effects of your painful gouty arthritis, and had not the free use of your lower limbs. You must feel it much, being so often called from home, and having to travel by such various conveyances. We must all have our daily cross. My tender chest has long been one to me, and deprivation of the free use of your hands and feet has been and is still one to you. But we trust that this cross has not been without its profit. The Lord saw that we could not be trusted with health. Like an unbroken steed, full of high courage and spirits, it might have run away with us had we been placed upon its back; and what might have been the consequence? A broken neck or a fractured limb.

I was sitting some time ago by the bedside of a woman who has been more or less confined to her bed for thirty years. I said to her, "You don't know what sins you have been kept from by being confined here." The thought seemed to strike her as one with which she had not been conversant, and she named it afterwards as an unseen benefit of her affliction. So lame feet may keep a man from running into evil, and make him walk, if not more easily and comfortably, more in the strait and narrow path.

Our unseen mercies may be greater than our seen mercies. The prophet's servant did not see the horses and chariots of fire round about the mountain; but they were there, though he saw them not. We need many trials, and a long course of them, to meeken our spirit and give us patience; for tribulation works patience, as patience works an experience of the mercy and goodness of the Lord, and as an experience of past and present support works a hope of support for the future. Trial of some kind or other is indispensable to a Christian, and especially to a Christian minister. The Lord's people are a tried people, and therefore need a tried experimental ministry.

I feel much for the appalling distress in Lancashire, and look forward to the coming winter with great apprehension, knowing the general sequel of previous famines. I have been apprehensive from the very first, lest there should be a breaking out of fever, which now seems to be the case at Preston. I traveled from Leicester to Oakham with Dr. S., and I put the question to him whether such a fear might not be justly entertained. He was clearly of that opinion; and I would not be surprised if we had a repetition, at least on a smaller scale, of the Irish Famine in 1847. I am doing what I can to help the brethren, and obtained at Oakham a collection of £41 when I was last there. But my lack of local knowledge is a hindrance to my satisfactory distribution of the money sent me or collected by my own exertions. I am therefore obliged to let Mr. Gadsby take that part of the good work upon himself. You would probably hear from Mr. Grace his account of his northern visit, but a mere passing view cannot give an adequate idea of the depth and extent of the calamity. Its physical evils are and will be increasingly dreadful, but I much fear that its moral evils will be even greater and more permanent. It has already reduced to the same level the provident and the improvident, the industrious and the indolent. This is one moral bank already swept away; and if it pauperizes Lancashire, it may next sweep away that other noble bank—the stout-hearted independence of Lancashire men.

Still He who sits upon the waterflood can keep back the waves; and He whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil can make even this calamity a blessing. The two greatest public calamities which we have known, the Irish Famine and the Indian Mutiny, have been made of the most signal service to both those countries. We may add to this perhaps, that other third calamity, the Crimean War, which swept away a whole host of abuses. We may hope therefore that a blessing will come out of this cotton famine; and indeed I understand a more dreadful crash, if possible, must soon have come from over-production, had the present cause of suffering not intervened. I greatly fear, from all I have seen and heard, that the northern churches are at a very low ebb in vital godliness. Who knows but that this heavy affliction may be a means of stirring up the suffering people of God in the north. . . .
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 17, 1862
Dear Madam—I am sorry to find from your letter that your friend has suffered so much in mind from that most unhappy circumstance which you have mentioned—the suicide of a minister who she believes was made instrumental for the good of her soul. I am not surprised that she has been, and still continues to be, much exercised upon that point; but I hope that the Lord, in due time, may give relief.

I admit that it is a mysterious circumstance; but I cannot say how far the Lord does not make use of the ministry of men who themselves are not partakers of His grace. Balaam preached precious Gospel truths; and no doubt some of the truths which he preached, as recorded in the Book of Numbers, have at various times been blessed to the souls of God's people. Caiaphas, when high priest, prophesied grand Gospel truths (John 11:49-52). So we see the Lord may make use of unconverted men to lead His people into truth; though they themselves may not be partakers of it.

I know at this present moment a very gracious woman—one who has been at times much favored of the Lord, who sat for some years under the ministry of a man who, after a long profession, unhappily committed suicide. I have not spoken with her on the subject since, as I did not wish to bring to her mind so painful a circumstance; but I have not the least doubt of her state before God, and that she would say, if she were asked, that the poor man's ministry had been made useful to her.

I think perhaps we might make a distinction of this kind. A ministry might be made useful in opening up the Scriptures or leading the mind to see the truth, where it was not blessed in the same way as the ministry of the Lord's sent servants, that is, to bring liberty and love into the soul. Besides which, it is often very hard to distinguish, especially in early days, between light in the understanding and gracious power in the soul.

But I trust your friend will not be left to cast away her hope, nor yield to the suggestions of despair. Let her still, as far as she can, look to the Lord, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him; and she will not look in vain. The Lord can deliver her out of all her temptations, and her being exercised with them shows that she has a tender conscience and a fear of the Lord's great and glorious name.
I am, dear Madam,
Yours very sincerely for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

December 19, 1862
My dear Friend, Mr. Tanner—I have often thought of you during your long and heavy affliction, and have endeavored to put up my poor prayers on your behalf, that the Lord would be pleased to spare your valuable life for the sake of your dear wife and family, and the Church of God. And I do trust that the Lord will go on to strengthen your poor weak body until He restores you to a good measure of your former health. I can well sympathize with you, for I know full well what a deep and heavy trial bodily affliction is. But what a rich and unspeakable mercy it is when the affliction, though so painful and trying to the flesh, is sanctified to the soul's profit. We need something powerful to pull us out of our carnal besetments. It is not a little thing which will bring down our proud heart; and heavy and repeated blows seem needful to knock us down and keep us down. But, oh, how kindly and graciously does the Lord make the bed in all time of sickness—not laying upon us more than He gives us strength to bear; and, as we have proved, surrounding our bed with the kindest and tenderest of nurses, and providing every earthly means of relieving the poor body. Mary was kind enough to tell me of a sweet view which you had of the adorable Lord at the right hand of the Father, ready as it were to receive your ransomed spirit had it been His holy will to have called you unto Himself. It is these views of Jesus by faith which raise up the tried and exercised soul to see Him as all its salvation and all its desire; and such gracious visitations of His presence, and such believing views of His person and glory, have a most blessed and sanctifying effect upon the soul and make most durable impressions.

Should the Lord, as I hope and trust, restore you again to the work of the ministry, it will give a power and a force to your testimony on behalf of the crucified, risen, and glorified Son of God. Oh, may we believe in Him more firmly, love Him more strongly, and cleave to Him more closely.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.




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