LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1863 - 1864)


January 6, 1863

My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner—I am sorry to learn that you are still suffering from your old illness. I greatly fear that you will never be free from it, and that it is one of those crosses which the Lord sometimes binds fast round the shoulders of His people, that they may carry it to their dying day. My best wish is that it may be richly blessed and truly sanctified to your soul's good, and that you may reap the peaceable fruit of this painful affliction as one who is exercised thereby. But feeling some sympathy with you in your affliction, and some moving of affectionate desire toward you under it, it has come into my mind to drop you a few lines, which you will take as a token of my love, if there be nothing in them worthy of your perusal.

We would, if we could, spare our friends the trials and afflictions under which we know they groan, being burdened, and yet we are well aware that it is the will of the Lord that they should be thus afflicted that they might become partakers of His holiness. But our coward flesh shrinks from suffering, whether it be in our own persons or those of our friends.

So Peter, if he could have had his fleshly will, would have prevented the redemption of the church by the blood of the Son of God. That his dear Lord and Master, the Son of God, in whom he believed by a special revelation of His divine Sonship, that He, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, should be nailed to a cross and there die in shame and agony—Peter could not endure. He therefore put forth his feeble hand to stop the work which the Father had given the Son to do, and by so doing was actually, though unwittingly, an accomplice of Satan. So we would spare our friends from the nails of crucifixion, not seeing that by so doing, we would, if we could succeed, rob them of that suffering with Christ which is necessary, that they should be glorified together. I will not therefore do you the injury of wishing your sufferings less, but would desire instead that, as the sufferings abound, so also may the consolations. What no doubt, you chiefly feel, next to the pain of personal suffering, is the hindrance which it is to the work of the ministry. Still, even there the Lord can blessedly overrule it for your good and the good of the people; and even if you preach less you may preach with more savor, unction, and power.

We are entered, my dear friend, upon a new year, and while I wish the best blessings to rest upon you and yours during the year, yet no doubt we shall find it, if we are spared, full of trials and temptations; and it will be our rich mercy if deliverances and manifestations of the Lord's goodness and mercy at all keep pace with them. You and I are going down the hill of life. We shall no longer possess the health and strength of years gone by, even in that minor measure which was allotted us, compared with many of our brethren in the ministry. It is my desire, when at all favored with a sense of the Lord's presence, to walk more in His fear, and to live more to His praise, than I have ever yet done. I feel it to be a mercy that my mental faculties are preserved to me without much sensible diminishing or decay; and as, without my seeking, the Lord has placed me in a position to speak far and wide to His people, my desire and prayer are that He would give me His grace, not only to keep me from evil that it may not grieve me, but to feed the church of God, as far as He enables me, with such savory food as their soul loves. I feel, I hope, an increasing desire to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, to live myself in the enjoyment of the power of God's truth upon my own soul, and to bring before the people such divine realities as are made known to my heart and conscience. As you know, I have no one to help me in this lawful strife but the Lord. Indeed, perhaps I could not bear a partner in the firm, and therefore find it best to work alone. . . .

Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

January 29, 1863
My dear Friend, Jacob Blake—Not having heard of you or from you for so long a period, and having forgotten your address, I hardly knew whether you were still a sojourner in this valley of tears. This was the reason why I put the notice on the wrapper of the Gospel Standard, and I am very glad to find that you are still spared to be a witness for truth in this dark and cloudy day, when the sun seems much to have gone down upon the prophets. It is a mercy, therefore, that you are still spared to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The Lord has graciously promised, "That a seed shall serve Him"; and though the Lord's people are too often like two or three berries on the top of the uppermost bough, yet His promise still holds good.

I was much pleased and encouraged by the testimony contained in your letter, that the Lord graciously condescends to make use of my sermons and writings for the good of His dear people. Many of the Lord's people walk in great darkness, the reason often being that the way to the heavenly city is not clearly cast up. When, therefore, they can see that the path in which they are walking is the strait and narrow way which leads to life eternal, they gather up a sweet hope that the Lord Himself has put their feet into it, and will never leave them or forsake them, but will bring them off more than conquerors through the blood of the Lamb. I was much struck with what you said about the effects of my sermon at Langport, for I must confess that my mind that evening felt very much confused. But the Lord is a sovereign, for you were not the only one blessed that evening; Mr. D. had a special blessing. It has happened to me sometimes, in my experience as a minister, that the Lord has in a very particular manner attended the word with a divine power from my lips.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

February 6, 1863
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner—One of the most painful effects of protracted illness is the exhaustion of mental power, especially when the mind is naturally active and has been long accustomed to expend its energies without sensible fatigue. This exhaustion of mental energy you seem much to have experienced, and it may be some time before you recover the free use and easy exercise of all your mental powers. But it is an inestimable mercy when, in the absence or suspension of mental energy, the soul can quietly and softly repose on the bosom of mercy. And indeed this is one of the choicest blessings of the covenant of grace, that it gives rest and peace, quietness and stillness, in the assurance that the work of Christ is a finished work, that nothing remains to be done, and that all is secured in the person of the Son of God, in whom the Father is ever well pleased. If we had to work out our own salvation where could we begin and where could we end? What could we do on a bed of sickness, amid racking pain, restless nights, and wearisome days? How blessed then is a salvation without money and without price, which meets the soul in all its wants and woes and sustains it by the mighty power of God.

My dear friend, you have been deeply afflicted in body, have suffered greatly, and been brought down to the very chambers of death—and yet what goodness and mercy have been displayed on your bed of languishing! What kind, tender, watchful, and unwearied nurses you had to anticipate all your needs, and smooth, as far as it lay in their power, your restless pillow. Nothing has been lacking which the thoughtful heart or loving hand could supply; and all that medical skill could do to alleviate your symptoms, check the disease, and restore you to health has been done. You name the great kindness which has been manifested on all sides in sending you grapes and other things often very acceptable in a sick-room.

In answer to prayer, as we hope and trust, the Lord has thus far raised you up; but all this is the least display of the tender mercies of the God of your salvation. The sweet assurance which He gave you of His everlasting love, when you were first compelled to take to your bed, is the greatest blessing of all, and well worth all the sickness and suffering which followed. But now you must expect to find and feel more than ever the workings of that corrupt nature which is indeed the seat of every foul abomination, and which, to our shame and sorrow, is uncured and incurable. No amount of past mercy or sweet enjoyment of the goodness of the Lord can heal that corrupt fountain, which is ever manifesting itself in some evil thought, base desire, or corrupt imagination. And sometimes Satan takes advantage of bodily weakness to stir up peevishness, fretfulness, self-pity, rebellion, and discontent—evils which seem to lie in the marshy lowlands of our nature as distinct from the higher grounds of pride and self-righteousness, which Satan chooses for his stronger fortifications.

You will find many things opened up to you in a clearer light than you ever saw them before; when at least you get a little respite from the workings of self, and can as it were sit before the Lord with solemnity of mind, viewing His dealings in providence and grace with an enlightened eye. You will also find a clearer, broader, and brighter light shining upon the Word of truth; will sometimes wonder that you never saw the things of God so plainly before; and will think that if you were enabled to stand again before the people of God, you would preach to them almost in a new way, and urge truth upon their consciences as you think you have never done before. You will also have clearer light and deeper views of those two grand subjects for thought and meditation—the depth of the fall, and the height of the recovery. You will see also more of man's dreadful condition by nature with all his miserable sinfulness and helplessness; and you will see more of the beauty and blessedness, grace and glory of the Son of God. You will also see more of the wretched profession of the day; how low the church is sunk; how torn with strife and confusion; how weak in faith, and hope, and love; and how woefully deficient in all those fruits of righteousness which by Jesus Christ are to the glory of God.

You have already seen how feeble is the ministry of the present day, what little work is really going on, and how few the Lord seems raising up to preach the Gospel. But with all these things, you will feel a greater love to the truth, and to the dear people of God for the truth's sake, than you ever seemed to have felt before; and will be firmly convinced that, in spite of all their weaknesses and infirmities, they are the excellent of the earth in whom is all your delight. . . .

I am, my dear Friend,
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

March 18, 1863
My dear Friend, John Grace. . . I believe that the truth is never really known, valued, or prized, except as we feel the desperate state into which sin has cast us, and feel something of the liberating, comforting, sanctifying power and influence of truth upon the heart. Every truth connected with the Person and work, love and blood, grace and truth, power and glory of our blessed Lord, becomes sweet and precious as it is really believed in and experimentally realized to be spirit and life. It seems as if we were sometimes obliged to hang upon the Lord's words as a matter of life and death, as if the soul would bear its whole weight upon His words, to see and try if they are sufficient to sustain the weight; almost as a man struggling in a deep swamp, which seems as if it would engulf him, will fling himself upon a dry tussock that he may stand upon it firm.

Temptations are most trying to the soul, and I think there are few which I have not in some measure tasted of; but their effect is, when the storm has passed, to establish and endear the truth of God more to the heart. This, I suppose, is the reason why James bids us count it all joy when we fall into diverse temptations, and why Peter tells us that the trial of our faith is much more precious than of gold, though it be tried with fire. As a matter of experience and observation, we find very few of the Lord's people exempt from trials and temptations, and those who are, are generally as unsavory as the white of an egg. All must have their daily cross. You have yours and I have mine; and though we find it hard to carry, galling to the shoulder, and depressing to the spirit, yet we know what we would be without it. . . .

I quite agree with you in your comparison between Goodwin and Hart. At the same time I think that Goodwin's "Mediator", though it may be the deepest, is not the most unctuous of his works. I prefer some of his shorter pieces, and his "Exposition of Ephesians." But to read him requires almost as much attention as a mathematical problem. His writings are too deep, too labored, and too prolix for the present age. I have been reading lately Huntington's "Rule and Riddle", and have felt it very instructive and edifying. You have perhaps heard that Mrs. L., who gave me Bensley's edition of Huntington's works, is dead. She was confined to her bed with paralysis for many months, but made, I understand, a good end.

It is rather more than three years ago (March 6th) since you, Mr. Tiptaft, Mr. Pickering, and Mr. Brown met in my room. You then said that most probably we would never meet all again together. How rapidly have these three years fled. On that very day poor Mr. Isbell breathed his last. We still are spared. Oh may we be blessed and made a blessing! This sums up all.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

April 23, 1863
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I take it very kind of you sending me some account of Mr. Grace's sermon and of your visit to our two afflicted friends. I hope it may please the Lord to bless the word which Mr. G. was enabled to speak. I fully believe that he loves the Lord, His truth, His people, and His ways; and what he speaks, he speaks out of an exercised heart. The Lord will bless by whom He will bless, and He has His own time and His own way of blessing.

I—'s illness, and its fatal nature, have come upon us quite suddenly. I highly esteem him and believe him to be a man taught and blessed of God, and right as well as ripe for eternity. If I am spared to come among you again I shall miss no hearer so much as him, as he was so attentive to all that was said; ever sitting in the same spot, and a pillar of the truth. I shall, indeed, miss him very much. He would often come into the vestry when he had heard well to greet me with his friendly smile and his cordial shake of the hand. He has been a hearer of mine ever since I came into these parts, and we have always been much united in spirit, if not always in judgment.

I am sorry that I cannot give you a very encouraging account of myself, though, through mercy, I am somewhat better. But my medical attendant says that it will be at least a fortnight before I shall be able to go out of doors, and at least a month before I shall be strong enough to preach. Indeed, he says I ought to have two or three months' rest, as this last attack has so much pulled me down. We cannot foresee things, but I can now see that it was very rash and imprudent in me to come to Oakham the last time. The exposure to the cold, and the exertion of preaching, fixed the attack upon the lung which was going off previously.

I felt what you said about the love which exists between the members of the mystical body of Christ. I hope I feel it. To be laid aside is to me a very heavy trial in more ways than I can now mention; but to have it sanctified to my soul's good would be worth all the suffering. Love to all the friends.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

April 30, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. Crake—As I send this from a sick bed, to which I am almost wholly confined, by a severe attack of one of my usual chest illness, and am forbidden much exertion of mind or body, I can only acknowledge very briefly your kind communication and its enclosure. I have the pleasure of personally knowing Mr. L., as some years ago, when I was at Brighton, he wished to be introduced to me, having, I believe, been favored in reading some of my writings. I did not see much of him, but my own observation, and Mr. Grace's testimony of him, much agreed with the account that you have given of him. Indeed, the narrative speaks for itself, and is fully commended to my conscience as a simple, truthful, unexaggerated, at the same time sweet, savory, and unctuous account of a very special blessing. I particularly felt it, as since my affliction I have had very much of the same fervent spirit of prayer and supplication of which Mr. L. speaks; and I hope it may be the forerunner of a similar blessing, for I find more and more that nothing short of direct blessings from the Lord's own mouth can satisfy my soul. When put into the furnace it makes us examine matters from beginning to end; as Mr. Hart says, and I find it true, "Afflictions make us see, what else would escape our sight."

What a view does the furnace give of the sins of which we have been guilty. As Mr. L. says, "Our whole life since a profession seems one great sin." With this comes confession and a seeking unto the blood of sprinkling with a desire that the conscience might not only be purged thereby from guilt, filth, and dead works, but also made alive and tender in the fear of God.

I shall have great pleasure in inserting Mr. L.'s narrative in the Gospel Standard, and believe it will be commended to the consciences of many who truly fear God.

As reports are apt to get about magnifying sometimes attacks of illness, I think it right to say that my doctor fully believes the attack will go off; but I expect it will be some time before I shall be able again to preach, as I am much brought down and scarcely hope to be able to fulfill my London engagement.

I am, yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

May 11, 1863
My dear afflicted Friend, Mrs. Pinnell—I desire to sympathize both with yourself and your bereaved children in the great and irreparable loss which you have sustained in the removal of your beloved and lamented husband, and their most tender, thoughtful and affectionate father. Nor should I have delayed to write to you immediately on the receipt of the distressing intelligence, had I not been so very unwell as to be prohibited from exertion of mind or body. I have been suffering under inflammation of the chest, which has been very obstinate, and though, I trust, now giving way, yet still not removed.

How well I remember poor dear Mr. Pinnell coming with yourself and dear John, then a babe, to Newington House in 1835. Then it was that I first came really to know and value him, though it was not my first introduction to him; and ever since that period I have been pleased to renew my acquaintance, and I hope, I may add, real, sincere, Christian friendship with him. He was not a man who talked much; but in all he said there was a sincerity which much commended itself to my conscience and won my affections. Indeed, I do not know that we ever had the slightest difference or coolness, though from circumstances we did not see much of one another. For many years he used to come to Abingdon with the late Mr. Godwin to hear me on my annual visit; and when he could not do so, as of late years, I have been privileged to renew our friendly communion by visiting him at his own house. I was fully purposing to do the same this year, if health and strength allowed; and had fixed in my own mind the very time, which was to be at the expiration of my London engagement. But, alas! his lamented decease has concurred, with my illness, to defeat my plans. How deeply will you and your family miss his wise and affectionate counsel and protection. But I trust that the Lord will appear on your behalf and theirs. The anxiety of sorrow which he sustained through poor John's illness and death, humanly speaking, brought him to his end. Dr. C. told me that Mr. S's. heavy trial was doubtless the cause of his affliction and death. So poor Mr. P. almost seems to have lost his life with his beloved son's.

I have only just left myself room to sympathize with your daughters and sons. May the Lord be a father to them and a husband to you.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

May 16, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. Tanner—I am much obliged to you for your kind and affectionate inquiries about my health, and though I am forbidden to dictate too much, I cannot forbear sending you a few lines just to tell you how I am. We can sympathize with each other in these heavy trials, though you have been a greater sufferer in body than I. But we know not only the weight of bodily affliction but also of being laid aside from the ministry.

I truly rejoice that you have been restored to your beloved work; and though you may not see in yourself the effects of the furnace, it may be visible to your people. In reading your letter this thought came over my mind, that we must be brought down in soul before there can be any union and communion with the Lord or with His people. It is only in the valley of humiliation that there is any sensible communion with the Man of sorrows or His broken-hearted contrite people. And all other union is not worth a straw.

The Lord seems cutting Israel short. We have almost in a fortnight lost three of our most esteemed members; but they all made a good end, and departed full of faith, and hope, and love.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

May 29, 1863
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—As I am sure you will be very desirous to know how I am progressing, I will send you a few hasty lines, and am happy to say, then, that with the blessing of God I am much better. My medical man much wishes me to go somewhere for change of air; but I cannot at present see my way to do so. If all had been well, I would this day have reached London. I cannot but feel the trial being laid aside so long, and sometimes it makes me fear that the Lord has a controversy with me. I feel, indeed, quite to deserve His displeasure from many, many acts of disobedience, and am fully sensible that if He would utterly cast me aside as a vessel in which He has no pleasure, I would have my just desert. I am very sensible of all the sin and imperfection which has cleaved to me, both as a man and as a minister; and I am very confident that nothing but rich free and sovereign grace can superabound over these abounding sins. Still I hope that in His own time and way the Lord will restore me to the work of the ministry, though at present I cannot say when.

I am sure you will all feel much concerned that our dear friend Tiptaft should be obliged to take rest from his beloved work. I feel that we cannot ask, or indeed allow him, to fulfill his engagement in July, though I hope that he will come on a visit to Wharflands, where he would enjoy quiet and rest.

How everything serves to remind us that we are all passing away. It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom. We cannot choose our own trials, nor our own afflictions; all are appointed in fixed weight and measure, and the promise is that all things shall work together for good to those who love God.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.


 

June 9, 1863
My dear Friends,—I cannot forbear sending you a few lines written in my own hand to acknowledge your most unexpected and undeserved kindness and liberality. I am afraid, however, of saying too much or too little; but let me assure you I much feel your kindness and the Christian love and affection which I am sure prompted it. I do not often speak of the Lord's providential dealings with me, but I have seen them in a remarkable manner. He enabled me, many years ago, to give up all my prospects in life, and has most blessedly fulfilled a promise which once He made sweet to my soul (Mark 10:29, 30). I left all I had in possession or in prospect, and have I not received "houses?"—I live in one of my own; "and brethren?"—have I not many? "and sisters?"—are not you and many others? "and mothers?"—yes, mothers in Israel; "and children?"—literally and spiritually; "and lands?"—for even that I have; "with persecutions?"—and have I not had them? and now the last and best is still to come—"eternal life."

And you, dear friends, how you, too, have seen the Lord's providential hand. He has given you beyond all you hoped and expected during your former days of trial, and has given with it what is far better still, a free liberal spirit to minister most unweariedly to the necessities of the saints.

I am thankful to say I am much better, and walked nearly to Tinwell without fatigue, and enjoyed the beautiful fresh air. How good the Lord is to those who desire to fear His great name, and live to His glory. I begin much to feel my absence from the courts of the Lord's house, and hope next Lord's-day (D.V.) to meet with the people, even if I take no part in the service. . .

Your very affectionate and obliged Brother and Friend,
J. C. P.

 

July 2, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. Brown—Various circumstances have prevented my answering your kind and affectionate letter at an earlier period. My time, you know, is generally much occupied, and I have had of late the additional hindrance of illness and bodily weakness. I cannot, however, leave home without sending you a few lines just to keep up our friendly and brotherly communion, which is apt to drop if all correspondence be suspended. You will perhaps be surprised to hear that I am going to London (D.V.) tomorrow to supply at Gower Street for July. I go there very unwillingly, and I almost fear unwisely, as I am by no means fully recovered from my late attack of bronchitis, but trusting that the Lord will make His strength perfect in my weakness. . . . Time is rapidly passing away with us all, and I would be sorry to depart this life divided from any who, I hope, truly fear God.

I fear, from all I hear, that you are still a cripple, and can scarcely move from place to place without the aid of crutches. Thus it seems to be the will of God to afflict us both in our earthly tabernacle, though in such different ways. But no doubt He who is all-wise has selected for us both that peculiar way which He knows is best for our good—a way by which our pride may be effectually humbled, and our helplessness best taught us, and yet mercy mingled with the dispensation. Thus, like the psalmist, we have to sing of mercy and judgment, and such, no doubt, has been the character of our experience for many years, as it is the general character of the Lord's dealings with all who fear His great name.

Some time ago I was conversing with a dear saint of God, Elizabeth Holloway, of Devizes, who has been, if not quite confined to her bed, yet quite a cripple from an injured spine for nearly thirty years. I almost casually made the remark that perhaps she scarcely knew from what evils she had been kept by her long affliction. She paused for a moment, and seemed struck with the thought. As she afterwards told me, it was never presented to her mind before—at least, not so clearly, and she saw in it fresh proof of the mercy and wisdom of God. Thus you can hardly tell from what evils you have been preserved by your affliction. Nor again can we always or often see what sympathy and affection, as well as prayer and supplication from the God of all our mercies, are drawn forth on our behalf from the family of God, who witness the various afflictions with which the Lord is pleased to visit us. Thus, besides the more visible blessings which spring out of our afflictions and trials, there may be others less manifest, but not less real or less important. Time with us is fast passing away, one or another of our friends keeps dropping off, and we who survive for a time may soon be numbered with the dead. It will be our mercy to be found with our loins girt about, and our lamps burning, and we waiting like good servants our Master's return. There is a blessed promise to those found so watching and waiting.

I trust that you find the Lord present with you in the work of the ministry, and that you have continued proof that you are where He would have you to be.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

July 3, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. Grace—Will you kindly thank Mr. L— for his donation of £1 for publishing works of truth in Holland, as I have not time to write to him. I have just heard from Mr. Los, Gz. He tells me that through the aid of the donations of English friends he is bringing out a cheap edition of Huntington's "History of Little Faith," and intends from time to time, if the Lord enables, to bring out other works of the immortal coalheaver; I would think his "Bank of Faith," or his "Posthumous Letters," would be very suitable. He seems to be a man of a warm heart, and an earnest contender for the faith once delivered to the saints.

I am glad to find that your health is so much restored. It is indeed a precious gift of God, but, like most others, never really prized until lost. Of all men ministers seem most to need strong bodily health, having so much labor to perform of body and mind. But the Lord knows best how to deal with us both in body and soul.

I go to London in great weakness, but have often found the Lord's strength made perfect in it. I preached twice at Oakham last Lord's-day to one of the largest congregations I ever saw in the chapel—as large, I believe, as you saw there. I was comfortably brought through, and afterwards administered the ordinance. We all seem much to feel the loss of those members who have been taken out of our midst. I never seemed to realize their loss before. As they were aged, experienced men, we shall much miss their counsel and their prayers. I would gladly see more of the young raised up to fill up the place of those who are passing off the stage of life.

We had a pleasant visit at Leamington; I spoke there on the Lord's-day, in a lecture-room, to about fifty people.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

August 3, 1863
My dear Friend, John Grace—I reached here last Friday evening after a month's sojourn in London, where I had a very comfortable, and I hope profitable visit. I was with my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Clowes, whom the more I know, the more I value. I was favored for the most part with liberty in the pulpit, and my health, instead of suffering, was improved up to the end. Indeed, London air at this time of the year always suits my chest. There is a warmth and dryness about it which exactly suits my breathing apparatus; and I have almost reason to believe that London, as a residence, except perhaps at the foggy portion of the year, might suit me better than our northern exposure. Your air would be too keen, and too loaded with moist saline particles. We had yesterday our usual attendance, almost as Hart says: "Gathered from all quarters", and I hope the Lord was with us.

Tomorrow is Calne anniversary, where, if spared to go, I shall meet one of the largest gatherings of the seed royal that is well known. You may have something like it in Sussex, but we have nothing like it in Lincolnshire or Leicestershire. I hope that we may have the Lord's presence and power in our midst. It is not often that you have shaken hands in one day with so many honest palms. I have said sometimes that it has almost made my hand ache after it has been grasped so much, and often so warmly, by hands hardened, not like a reprobate's conscience by God's judgments, but by honest labor. Hard hands and tender hearts are far better than soft palms, or smooth tongues, and seared consciences.

I find a great difference in my preaching here and in London; not that there is any change in doctrine or experience, but a rustic population requires a more simple and almost familiar mode of utterance than suits a London congregation. It is not that I study my style, or seek to adapt it to different classes of people; but the thing comes, as no doubt you have felt, almost intuitively, without study or forecast. It is like sitting down to converse with my old almshouse woman and Mr. Smart of Welwyn. We naturally necessarily drop into that style of speech which adapts itself to the person we converse with. And I am well convinced, unless a minister can in this sense be all things to all men, it will much limit his usefulness. We need not be low, we need not be vulgar, we need use no word which would offend the most fastidious ear, and yet be perfectly intelligible to the fisherman on the beach, or the woman that cleans the chapel.

I have often admired our Lord's discourses from this point of view, independent of their solemn weight and power. What dignified simplicity, what exquisite clearness! Intelligible to the lowest, and yet, in their depth, unfathomable to the highest capacity. Blessed Lord! May our desire and delight be to exalt Your worthy name; for You are our All in all! All divine truth is in Jesus, comes from Him, and leads to Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. To know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is eternal life, and all knowledge short of this is but death—as deadly in its consequences as the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

October 16, 1863
Dear David Beattie—I sincerely wish that I could, with the blessing of God, write you anything that might afford relief to your troubled mind, but I feel how helpless I am in this matter.

Your case, as you describe it, is truly pitiable; but it is what many have passed through before you, who afterwards had reason to bless God for the fiery trial. We have all by nature a great deal of vain confidence and self-righteousness, which have to be burnt up in all who truly fear God; and the Lord often sees it necessary to show His people terrible things in righteousness, that they may learn experimentally somewhat of the depth of the Fall, and the need of being saved by the free sovereign grace of God. Besides which, the Lord has to make His people see and feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they may truly loathe it, and themselves for it.

Now when the soul is under these painful exercises, it cannot tell what the Lord is about, nor how the scene will end. Sometimes it hopes and sometimes it fears, but its fears are usually much greater than its hopes; and so it goes on, often it may be sinking lower and lower until the Lord appears. You will find in this month's Gospel Standard, and in the forthcoming number, an account of exercises even greater than your own, in the first piece, called "A Mirror of Mercy", so that you have no need to despair. And you will find in "Grace Abounding", by Bunyan, an account of his deep troubles and almost despair.

If I could give you any advice, it would be to continue as far as you can reading the Word, and above all plying the throne of grace with earnest prayers and entreaties that the Lord would pity your case, have mercy upon you, and reveal to you a sense of His pardoning love. The great thing is not to give way to despair, nor give up what little hope you may have that the Lord will in due time appear for the deliverance of your soul. The blessed Lord is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). And the same gracious Lord has said—"Him that comes to Me, I will in never cast out" (John 6:37). You will find it good to plead with the Lord His own promises, such as the one I have just quoted, and that also—"Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). The blessed Lord came to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10); and thus there is hope for every poor sensible sinner who feels himself in a lost condition.

That the Lord may soon graciously appear for your deliverance is the desire of,
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.

 

November 10, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. Grace—Circumstances are always occurring to prevent that free and frequent communication with our friends which we desire in order to maintain with them friendly and brotherly communion. Sometimes we lack the time and sometimes the inclination; sometimes engagements to preach or traveling, with its various hindrances, prevent our sending the intended letter, and I for my part am sometimes deprived of the ready aid of my secretary, without whom I do not now often write letters to my friends. Please then to accept these apologies for my delay in communicating with you by letter.

We would have been glad to see you here, had you been able so to have arranged it; but the King's business must always take precedence, and supersede everything else. I am glad that you have found an open door at Helmsley, and that you feel encouraged to go into that distant and almost unknown region. It is in grace sometimes as in nature—new, fresh soil gives better and healthier crops than that which has been so much worked. I was struck with your expression of "breathless attention." That is not a feature often seen in congregations which have long heard the word of life; though, I believe, in such places at least where the Lord manifests His presence and His power, there generally is a good share of solemn attention if the preacher has anything really worth hearing.

Ministers sometimes complain of the lack of attention in their hearers when the fault is in themselves; for who cares to hear a cold, dry, dead sermon which is merely a repetition of what has been heard over and over again? All preaching and all hearing that really profits the soul, must be of the Lord. I feel for myself an increasing desire that the word might be blessed. Life is passing away and the shadows of evening are being stretched out. I desire, therefore, that during the time when I may be allowed to preach and write, the blessing of God may rest upon my labors more abundantly than it ever yet has done. Both of us have had our threatenings, and may be looking forward to the time of being laid up or laid aside. May we work then while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 21, 1863
My dear Friend, Mr. J. Blake—Your post office order came safely to hand, and will be paid to the secretary at the end of this month. I see so much good done by the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society, and so much thankfulness manifested by the poor old pilgrims, that I am very glad to support it myself, and to see others doing the same. Satan will always oppose that which is good; and he will sometimes work upon our covetous heart to make us grudge giving anything to the Lord's cause, or the Lord's people. But what is the consequence if he gets the better of us, and shuts up our hearts and hands? We get into a cold bondage frame, in which there is no comfort for ourselves, and no doing any good for others. Besides which, by shutting up our compassion against the Lord's people, we provoke the Lord to shut His hand against us. I wish that I could have my heart and hand more open to the Lord's poor, but having family expenses I cannot do all that I would.

It is a great mercy to be kept looking to the Lord for the continued supplies of His Spirit and grace; for without it we soon sink down into carnality and death. Oh, that we might live more a life of faith in the Son of God, in the sweet persuasion that He loved us, and gave Himself for us! This is the happiest and the most blessed life that a man can live on earth; but none can do so except by the special help and continued grace of God.

May you and I be enabled to walk tenderly in the fear of God, and to live to His glory.

I am, my dear Friend,
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

January 18, 1864
My dear Friend, John Grace. . . My two favorite authors from whom I may say I have derived more instruction, profit, and consolation, and I may add, more heart-searching examination than many others, are Dr. Owen and Huntington. I am now reading, as far as time and opportunity allow, the doctor's Commentary on the Hebrews, which I purchased some time ago (the original edition in four folio volumes). That Epistle has always been a great favorite of mine, and Dr. Owen is truly great in those deep and important subjects which are there handled as the Person, sacrifice, blood-shedding, and death of our great High Priest, with His present intercession within the veil. These are the divine realities which form the food of faith. But how little are they received and believed in, even by some of whom we would hope better things. Most seem satisfied with hoping that they are the children of God because their feelings tally with what are described as marks of grace from the pulpit. But the Lord Jesus Christ, as the object of their faith, with the anchorings of hope and the flowings forth of love toward His dear name, with the various exercises whereby this faith in Him is tried, they seem to know so little of; and what is almost worse, do not seem aware of any deficiency. But a faith of which our once-crucified and now glorified Lord is not the subject and object, scarcely seems to be such a faith as the Scripture speaks of.

Look for instance at John's First Epistle. What a stress he lays upon believing in the name of the Son of God; and how he separates all men into two classes, those who have, and those who have not the Son of God. He does not lay down a certain number of ever-fluctuating feelings as sure marks of heavenly grace; but comes at once to the three Christian graces, faith, hope, and love—faith and love in almost every verse, and hope in 1 John 2:3. I am also reading, as occasion serves, Goodwin on the Ephesians; but I cannot get on so well with him as I do with Owen. In some deep points of truth he is perhaps more profoundly versed than Dr. Owen, but there is so much repetition and such long unwieldy sentences that, after I have read them, I scarcely seem edified or profited by what I have read.

How different is the immortal Coal-heaver! How at once he comes to the very marrow of his subject, and in his original inimitable way throws off from his pen living words of the truest and most gracious experience, from the beginning of a work of grace up to the highest point of divine attainment. Like a master musician he runs up and down the chords of the heart, and strikes off without the least effort passages of consummate truth and beauty. It almost seems as if the book of the human heart with all its deceitfulness and baseness, the book of the new man of grace with all its varied pages, and the book of the Word of God, were all equally familiar with him, and that he turns alternately from one to the other with all the intimacy that a merchant has with his journal and ledger, and finds in a moment what order to write or what sum to pay. I must confess that no writer knocks the pen so completely out of my hand as the poor Coal-heaver, whose very name must now hardly be whispered in the professing Church. . . .

Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

February 15, 1864
Dear Sir—I have much pleasure in forwarding you a copy of a sermon from the text which you name, as having been heard preached from by me, by your sister, during my last visit to Gower Street. I cannot say however that it is by any means the same discourse as that under which she was blessed, as I can rarely preach in the same way from a text at different times. Still, many of the ideas may be the same, and of course the general drift would not differ. The doctrine and the experience would be the same or similar, though there might be a very different way of handling the whole subject.

If I remember right, I was favored in my soul when I delivered that discourse in Gower Street; perhaps more so than I was when I spoke from it at Stamford. If however it should be any satisfaction to your mind to possess the sermon, I feel pleased to make you a present of it; and hoping it may be the Lord's will to communicate with it a spiritual blessing.

I am, dear Sir,
Yours very sincerely for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

February 19, 1864
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner—I see more and more what an afflicted people the Lord's people, or at least the best of them are. What sufferings in body, what trials in mind, what afflictions in family, what perplexity in circumstance, what trials in the church, what foes without, what fears within, are the most spiritual of the Lord's people exercised with. But how, by these afflictions, they are separated from the great mass of dead and worldly professors with which the visible church is filled; and how through these tribulations the work of grace is deepened and strengthened in their soul! We can look back to ourselves, and we can see in others how many wares were taken into the ship, which in the storm had only to be thrown overboard. I can see, even in those gracious friends to whom my heart is knit, that many things were cleaved to, if not actually indulged in, from which the furnace of a later period in life has purged them.

The Scripture well and wisely speaks of grace in our heart, as gold; but this gold gets mixed with dross and tin; not that gold is dross and tin, but as in the natural ore, the gold lies as if in streaks and in veins embedded as it were in worthless matter, so the grace of God in a Christian heart lies as it were in thin veins, surrounded with the mass of nature's corruptions. This is why we so need the furnace, for its hot fires discover and separate everything in us which is opposed to the grace of God.

Thus I have observed in those Christians who have passed through the deepest trials, and been most exercised in their own souls, more simplicity, sincerity, uprightness, godly fear, consistency, and fruitfulness; and yet with all this we find them continually lamenting their barrenness, deadness, and unprofitableness. Why so? Because the light which shines into their mind reveals, and because the life which is moving in their heart makes them feel, those deep and abiding corruptions which are never purged away in their being, though they may be in their power and prevalence.

I was much pleased with what you said about having your mind more fixed upon our blessed Lord, as having died and risen from the dead, and gone up on high. I have long seen and felt that our faith, if it is to work by love and purify our heart, must have an object—a divine and heavenly Object to whom it can look, on whom it can hang, and with whom it may have to do. There is a great tendency in the mind, and one, I must add, often encouraged by the ministry of the day, to look too much at our evidences instead of looking to Christ. It is a delicate subject to handle, and I should much like to talk it over with you in the fear of the Lord, and in that exercise of our enlightened judgment and spiritual experience which makes conversation profitable; and I believe, as we see eye to eye in these matters, we would not differ nor dispute. The great difficulty is to avoid getting on one wrong ground, in our anxiety to get off another. We see, for instance, many preachers speaking in very bold language of always looking to Christ, and shooting arrows of contempt against the poor tried children of God for being so much bowed down with doubt and fear, and against the ministers who, they say, encourage them in them. Now, how grievous it would be to join, even in appearance, with such men, for we feel confident that the faith of which they speak is for the most part presumption.

But then, on the other hand, there may be an error in leading the poor child of God to look too much to the work within instead of the work without, and make his feelings to be his Christ. Now we know that all our hope centers in the blood and righteousness of the Son of God; and we know that our faith, if it brings any peace or consolation with it, only does so as it receives the Son of God as made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. To take Christ out of our sight is like taking the sun out of the sky; and to look to one's self for light is like substituting a match for the light of day. What we need is for the blessed Lord to come into our soul in His dying love, in His risen power, in His free, rich, superabounding grace, in the manifestations of His glorious Person, and in the sweet assurance that He loved us and gave Himself for us. This is the doctrine—the heavenly doctrine which Paul preached, and which he prayed that the saints might enjoy (Eph. 1:12-23; 3:8-21), and this was his own experience (Gal. 2:19, 20). Though so deeply favored and so richly blessed, he was not looking to nor leaning upon his own experience, even though he had been in the third heaven, but was looking to and leaning upon his blessed Lord. How this shines, as with a ray of light, through his blessed Epistles, and oh that we might be taught by the same Spirit, have in measure the same experience, and preach to others the same glorious Gospel, holding forth the Word of life that we may rejoice in the day of Christ that we have not run in vain, neither labored in vain!

You complain of your want of ability &c.; but all our ability is of the Lord, and not of ourselves. One man may have greater natural ability, more clearness of thought, and power of expression, or his spiritual gift may be larger; as one servant in the parable had five talents given to him, and another two. But "Well done, you good and faithful servant", was said to both. The great thing is to labor with a single eye to God's glory, according to the ability which the Lord gives us. It is the Lord's Word, not our own, which we have to preach, and what the Lord blesses is not what we speak, but what the Lord speaks in and by us.

How mysterious are the Lord's dealings with His people, and often how inexplicable; but it almost seems as if the Lord had a controversy with Zion in taking away or laying aside His servants, and raising up so few to fill up their place. It will soon be with us, time no longer. Oh that we might be enabled to say when the time comes—"I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith!"

Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

 

March 30, 1864
My dear Friend, Mr. Grace—The friends, I am sure, will be very glad to hear you as they have had so little preaching lately. It is trying to be so much in the furnace, and to be so often laid aside from the work of the ministry; but I hope it may be sanctified to my soul's good. But no chastisement we read for the present is joyous, but rather grievous, nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are in exercise thereby.

I have been reading, during my illness, Bourne's Letters and Vinall's Sermons, and have found much in both agreeable to my own experience of the things of God which has been both confirming and encouraging. It is in the furnace that we learn our need of realities, our own helplessness and inability, and yet find there is a movement of divine life Godward—a reaching forth after the Lord Jesus, His person and work, His blood and righteousness, and dying love. It also brings to our mind the shortness of life, how vain all things are here below, and what a solid reality there is in the things of God as embraced by a living faith.

I have felt much union with the poor afflicted family of God, and seen the blessedness of true humility of mind, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, godly sorrow for sin, separation from the world, and living to the glory of God. These are things which will abide when head knowledge, pride, and presumption, will be driven like the chaff before the wind.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.


 

To the Members of the Particular Baptist Churches in Stamford and Oakham
April 2, 1864

Dear Friends and Brethren—As it has pleased the Lord again to lay upon me His afflicting hand, and thus to prevent my coming among you in the ministry of the Word, I have felt disposed to send you a few lines by letter, to show you that I still bear you in affectionate remembrance.

I need hardly tell you what a great trial it is to me to be thus afflicted, not only on account of the personal suffering of body and mind which illness almost always brings with it, but because it lays me aside from the work of the ministry; for with all its attendant trials and exercises, and with all my shortcomings and imperfections in it, I have often found it good to be engaged in holding forth the Word of life among you, and have been myself fed sometimes with the same precious truths of the everlasting Gospel which I have laid before you. But if it be a trial to me to be thus laid aside, it is no doubt a trial also to those of you who have received at any time any profit from my labors, now to be deprived of them. In this sense therefore, we may be said to bear one another's burdens; and so far as we do so in a spirit of sympathy and love, with submission to the will of God, we fulfill the law of Christ.

But as nothing can come upon us in providence or in grace but by the Lord's will, and as we are assured that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose, among whom we have a humble hope that we are, there is doubtless some wise and gracious purpose to be accomplished by this painful dispensation. I have, as you well know, long held and preached that it is through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God; that the Lord has chosen His Zion in the furnace of affliction; that it is the trial of our faith, and therefore not an untried but a tried faith, which will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ; and that no chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous, yet that afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised thereby.

Now I have to learn for myself, experimentally and feelingly, the reality and power of these truths, as well as ministerially set them before you. Indeed those of us who know anything aright, are well assured in our own minds that none can speak experimentally and profitably of affliction, and the fruits and benefits of it, but those who pass through it and realize it.

But besides you, my immediate hearers, I have a large sphere of readers, to whom I minister by my pen. There seems therefore a double necessity that I should sometimes, if not often, be put into the furnace, that I may be able to speak a word in season to those who are weary. Marvel not then, nor be cast down, my dear friends and brethren, that your minister is now in the furnace of affliction; but rather entreat of the Lord that it may be blessed and sanctified to his soul's good, so that should it please God to bring him out of it, he may come forth as gold. Peter speaks of being in heaviness for a season, if need be, through manifold temptations (1 Peter 1:5); and James bids us "count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2). The words "manifold" and "diverse", though differently translated, are the same in the original; and the word "temptations", as I have often explained to you, includes trials as well as temptations in the usual sense of the term. We may expect therefore that our trials and temptations should not only widely differ in kind, but be very numerous in quantity.

Now as to temptations in the usual sense of the term, I think I have had a good share, for I believe there are few, whether external, internal, or infernal, of which I have not had some taste, and of some more than a taste. But I cannot say the same of trials, for some severe trials have not fallen to my lot. Though I have had losses, and some severe ones, I cannot say I have had experience of painful business trials. Though when I left the Church of England, I gave up all my present and future prospects, and sacrificed an independent income, yet through the kind providence of God, I have been spared the pressure of poverty and straitened circumstances. I have not suffered the loss of wife or children, and have been spared those severe family trials which so deeply wound many of the Lord's people. But of one trial, and that no small one, I have had much experience—a weak and afflicted tabernacle. Though my life has been wonderfully prolonged, yet I have not really known what it is to enjoy sound health for more than thirty-three years, and for the last seventeen have been liable to continual attacks of illness, such as I am now suffering under. Thus I have had much experience of the furnace in one shape, if not in some of those which have fallen to your lot. But this I can truly say, that almost all I have learned of true religion and vital godliness, has been in the furnace, and that though ill-health has been the heaviest natural trial I have ever experienced, yet I trust it has been made a blessing to my soul.

But I will now tell you, my dear friends and brethren, a little of what I have felt under my present affliction, for you will feel desirous to learn whether I have gained any profit by trading. I cannot speak of any special blessing, and yet I trust I have thus far found the affliction profitable.

1. I have been favored at times with much of a spirit of prayer and supplication. This I count no small favor, as it has kept my soul alive and lively, and preserved it from that wretched coldness, barrenness, and death into which we so often sink. We must feel the weight and power of eternal realities, and highly prize spiritual blessings, before we can sigh and cry to the Lord to bestow them upon us. If I did not covet the Lord's presence, and the manifestations of His love and blood, I would not cry to Him as I do for the revelation of them to my soul.

2. I have seen and felt the exceeding evil of sin, and of my own sins in particular, and been much in confession of them, and especially of those sins which have most pressed upon my conscience.

3. I have seen and felt much of the blessedness of true humility of mind, of brokenness of heart, and contrition of spirit, and what a choice favor the fear of God is, as a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death. You all know how, for many years, I have stood forth as a preacher and as a writer, and yet I feel as helpless and as destitute as the weakest child of grace, and a much greater sinner, as having sinned against more light and knowledge than he.

4. I have felt my heart much drawn to the poor afflicted children of God, and especially to those who manifest much of the mind and image of Christ. I never, during the whole course of my spiritual life, felt the least union with the vain-confident doctrinal professors of the day, but have always cleaved in heart and spirit to the living family of God. But I have never felt more drawn than now to those of the people of God, who live and walk in the fear of the Lord, who are spiritually minded, who manifest the teaching of the blessed Spirit, and whose souls are kept alive by His continual operations and influences. I lament to see any who profess to fear the Lord carnal, and worldly, and dead, and do not covet their company nor envy their state.

5. I have been reading during my illness Mr. Bourne's Letters, Mr. Vinall's Sermons, and Mr. Chamberlain's Letters and Sermons, and am glad to find myself joined with these men of God in the same mind and in the same judgment. I have found their writings profitable, sometimes to encourage and sometimes to try my mind; but as in the main I feel a sweet union of spirit with them, I trust it is an evidence I have been and am taught by the same Spirit.

One of the most trying circumstances of my illness is that any exertion of the mind increases the illness and retards the recovery. I need perfect rest of mind and cessation from all mental labor; and yet I am so circumstanced that, with the exception of preaching, I am obliged to work almost as hard as if I were in perfect health. I have however this consolation, that I am working for the good of others, and that I must work while it is day, for soon the night will come when no man can work.

I have spoken thus far and thus freely of some of my own trials, and the effects of them; and now I wish to add a few words upon my present affliction in its peculiar bearing upon yourselves as a church and congregation. Everything connected with vital godliness has to be tried. My ministry among you; the cause of God and truth as ours professes to be; the faith and patience, hope and love, of those who fear God in the church and congregation; the mutual union of minister and people, and of the people with each other, have all to be tried as with fire. And it seems that the Lord is now trying us in all these points. We have lost by death during the past year some of our oldest, most established, and valued members, and by their removal the church has become proportionately weakened. My own ill-health, for the last few years, has left you for weeks sometimes without the preached Word. And as we know that a congregation is first brought together, and then kept together, chiefly by the ministry of the Word, this circumstance has a great tendency to thin and weaken our assembly. Many will come to hear preaching who have no real knowledge of, or love for, what the minister preaches; such hearers therefore naturally fly off when there is no minister in the pulpit. But these very things which naturally weaken a people as a people, try also the reality and vitality of the work of God among them. The ministry of the Gospel, when owned of God, is no doubt a great blessing to a people, and the deprivation of it will be deeply felt by those who derive profit from it. But this very deprivation may have its attendant benefit. You may see more clearly, and feel more deeply thereby, that you must get your blessings, your encouragements, your tokens for good, your helps by the way, your sips and tastes of the Lord's goodness and mercy, more directly and immediately from Himself. And this will help to put the ministry in its right place—to be highly prized as an ordinance of God, and yet not to be made almost a substitute for those other means of grace, such as prayer and supplication, reading the Word, private meditation, and meeting together among yourselves, all which the Lord can bless as much, if not more, than the ministry itself.

If my ministry has been owned of God to your souls, it will stand. The blessings which you have received under it, whether many or few, little or much, will abide and be rather strengthened than diminished by my present suspension from my labors. If all I have preached in your ears for more than twenty-five years is merely in the letter, and you have never received the least blessing nor felt the least power from my ministry, all you have heard will fall away from your mind and memory, like last autumn's leaves from the trees. Now then is the time to prove, by the effects left on your spirit, whether my word has been to you only in the letter, or has been attended with some power to your soul.

Many people's religion goes no deeper and reaches no further than hearing and approving of what they hear. They may at the time seem interested, or instructed, or even moved, with what they hear; but nothing is carried home with them to sink deep into their heart and to work with a divine power in their conscience. These are well described by the Lord as coming to hear His Word as His people come, and sitting before the prophet as His people sit, and hearing His words but not doing them. So to some, if not many of you, I may have been as one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; and with your mouth you may have shown much love, but your heart has gone after your covetousness (Ezek. 33:30-32).

Now when the voice is silent and the sound of the instrument not heard, such people's religion seems to die away. The Lord then may be purposely trying your religion by suspending the ministry for a time, to show the difference between those who have a living spring in their souls, independent of and distinct from the preaching, and those whose religion lies almost wholly in the use of the outward means.

We often speak of our weakness. It is a part of our creed and of our experience, that the strength of Christ is made perfect in weakness. But what a very painful and trying lesson this is to learn, whether individually as Christians or collectively as a Christian church! Now that is just the very lesson which you are learning now, and which I believe you will have to learn more and more. It is not often that living churches are what is called flourishing churches—that is, in the usual acceptance of the word. Large congregations, an abundance of respectable hearers, a continual accession of members to the church, flourishing circumstances, and a great flow of such prosperity as the worldly eye can measure, is not the appointed lot of the true churches of Christ. All this we may seem to see and believe, but it is only trying circumstances that can really convince us that when we are seemingly strong then we are weak, but that when we are weak then we are strong.

But I will not weary you longer. I shall therefore only add that, as the Lord through undeserved mercy is gradually restoring my health and strength, I trust that after a little time I may be given to your prayers. Meanwhile I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Brethren, pray for us,
Your affectionate Friend and Servant in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

April 26, 1864
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . I much liked the account which you gave of our dear friend Mr. Grace's testimony among you. It was quite commended to my conscience as simple, spiritual, and suitable. There was nothing in it, as it seemed to me from your account, too high or too low, but such a line of things as would meet with the average experience of the Lord's family. He told me, when here, that the text from which he hoped to speak at Oakham had been presented to his mind, and I said to him that I had generally found that such seasons were favorable. I expected therefore that it would be a good season.

I hope I can rejoice in the Lord's blessing the labors of other good men. It is indeed a sad spirit when ministers are jealous of each other, and would rather cavil, and find fault with each other, instead of desiring that the blessing of God might rest upon them and their labors. Every sent servant of God has his own peculiar gift and line of things, in which he is strong, and out of which he is weak. Now it matters little what be a man's gifts or abilities, it is only what the Lord blesses which is of the least worth or value. I have long seen and felt this, and I hope an experimental feeling of it has much kept me from exalting myself and despising others. Oh that miserable spirit of detraction and envy, which would gladly pull others down, that we might stand as it were a little higher upon their bodies! Where is there any true humility of mind, simplicity of spirit, brotherly love, or an eye to God's glory, when this wretched spirit is indulged? But I have rather wandered from my subject. I hope that a permanent blessing may rest upon the seed which our dear friend was enabled to sow. . . .

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

April 27, 1864
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner—Afflictions and trials, when they are made to work together for good, much draw the family of God nearer and nearer to each other. I have used this figure sometimes—Put together two pieces of cold iron, there is no uniting; put together one piece glowing hot out of the furnace and another cold piece, still no union; bring together two pieces, both out of the furnace, and let the heavy hammer of affliction fall upon them both together, there is a welding, a union, and they become one. The application will suggest itself without any explanation. I have felt, since I have been myself in the furnace of affliction, much more drawn to, and united with, the suffering family of God, than when I am out of it. I have no doubt, dear friend, that you have felt the same in your afflictions and trials, and that they give you more feeling for, more union and communion with, the suffering members of the mystical body of Christ, than when you are not so much in the furnace. The humble, the simple-hearted, the tempted and tried, the afflicted, the broken in heart and contrite in spirit, are not these the choicest of the Lord's precious jewels? And why? Because they are more like Christ, more conformed to His image, more manifesting the power of His grace.

I never was, since I made a profession, one in mind and spirit with the heady, bold, daring professors; but though for many years I could not clearly discern where they were wrong, yet I had an instinctive feeling of disunion and of separation from them in heart. I think from the very first, where there is what our blessed Lord calls the light of life, there is a spiritual discernment both of the truth of God and of the children of God. By the first we are in good measure kept from error, and by the second from becoming mixed up with ungodly professors. Not but what we often make great mistakes; but this is more from lack of judgment than from willful error. The Lord therefore graciously pardons such errors in judgment, as He knows that they are not done out of malicious wickedness.

How mysterious is the life of God in the soul. It seems like a little drop of purity in the midst of impurity. When I was a boy in London, there was exhibited in the window of some eminent watchmaker, a very curious movement, if I may so term it. If I remember right there was a flat plate of glass or metal, I forget which, suspended horizontally on a central pivot. In this plate there were cut, what I may call perhaps, little paths or roads communicating with each other, top and bottom, and a large globule, as it seemed, of quicksilver kept perpetually coursing up and down these paths, depressing alternately each side of the plate as a kind of pendulum. I may perhaps describe it wrong, as more than forty years have passed since I have seen it; but it just struck my mind as a representation of the new man of grace in the heart coursing up and down so bright, shining, and spotless, and yet giving movement to and regulating the whole machine. Please to forgive me if my figure be wrong.

I have had a severe attack of what I may almost call my constitutional malady—bronchitis. Through mercy, all the inflammatory symptoms have been removed, and now my chief ailment is great weakness and tenderness. Still, I am thankful to say that I am daily mending, and being able now to get my walks when the weather admits, I hope I may, with God's blessing, be after a little time restored to my usual health. It is very trying to me and to my people that I should be laid aside, as I so often am; but they bear it with much kindness and patience, and I doubt not there is a secret purpose of wisdom and goodness to be accomplished thereby—"What I do, you know not now; but you shall know hereafter".

It is a part of true Christian wisdom, of living faith, of real humility of mind, of submission to the will of God, to be content to believe what we cannot see. "He leads the blind by a way that they knew not." A sense of this blindness will lead us to commit our way unto the Lord, to trust in Him, that He may bring it to pass. But we have to mourn over our ignorance, darkness, unbelief, infidelity, and that wretched lack of submission to the will of God, which adds so much to the weight of every trial. If we could but believe, and be firmly established in the belief, that our various trials, whether bodily, or family, or mental, or connected with the church, were for our own good, how much would it lighten their load. But to grope for the wall like the blind, and to grope as if we had no eyes, leaves us to carry the burden alone; and you know what poor fainting work we make of it, when we have to carry the load with our own arms. The sweet persuasion that the Lord has sent the trial, will support us in it, and will bring us out of it, wonderfully lightens every trial, however weighty it may be in itself.

You have now a trial before you. You are going to London, weak in body and suffering various ailments which seem to need the especial care of home. Amid all these ailments you have to stand up before a London congregation, among whom there may be some choice children of God, and very many sharp-eyed keen-eared critics. You are looking perhaps to what you think is your lack of education, or ability to set forth the precious truths of the everlasting Gospel. You do not consider how the Lord can strengthen you in body, mitigate your ailments, alleviate your pain, take away the fear of man, and give you a door of utterance which may not altogether satisfy yourself, and yet may be satisfying to the hearers—at least to that part of them who alone deserve the name of hearers.

I have long seen, and see it more and more, that it is not gifts and abilities that the Lord blesses, but His own Word in the heart and mouth of His sent servants. As to gifts and abilities, they are something like what Mr. Huntington says of female beauty, scattered upon some of the worst of men. The letter ministers are far beyond the experimental in abilities, and in their way, far greater preachers. But what are all their gifts and abilities, but to build up themselves and their hearers in a graceless profession? A few simple words in the mouth of a simple-hearted servant of God, like David's sling and stone, will do more execution than all Saul's armor, or the spear of the Philistine like a weaver's beam. Be content then to go simply in this your might, with what the Lord has done for you, and what He may speak by you; and if Mr. Pride gets a wound in the head, it will not be the worse for the grace of humility. If you have but a single eye to the glory of God, He will bring you through safely, and it may be, successfully and honorably. . . .

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

May 14, 1864
Dear Friend—You may perhaps have heard that it has pleased the Lord to lay upon me His afflicting hand, so that for the last three months I have been quite ill from an attack of bronchitis. I trust however, with the blessing of God, I am gradually recovering, and have come here by the advice of my medical attendant for change of air.

It has been a trial to me, and to my people also, to be laid aside from the work of the ministry, especially as I have found such great difficulty in procuring acceptable Supplies. We cannot choose our own crosses, and generally speaking they are laid upon us where and when we feel them most. But they are as indispensable as blessings, and indeed are closely connected; for it is the trial that makes the blessing sweet.

I am glad to find that you can sing just now in the heights of Zion. The time has been when you were in the valley, and when you thought there was no mercy for a wretch like you. But the Lord's thoughts were not your thoughts, nor His ways your ways; for He has said—"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9).

We all have our trials; you have yours and I have mine, though in some respects they are similar, from weakness of body and trials of mind, both privately and ministerially. Nothing can reconcile us unto them but the power of God, and the persuasion that our trials and afflictions are working together for our own spiritual good. They have a voice, if we have but ears to hear; and they say—"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth; for you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:2, 3).

I am sorry to say that the health of Mr. Tiptaft does not improve so much as his numerous friends could desire, if it were the will of God; and yet I do not think that he is very much worse. But as regards his voice I see no improvement, nor any prospect of it, though we know that with the Lord all things are possible. For many months he has not been able to speak beyond a whisper. He does not suffer much pain, though sometimes inconvenience by a troublesome cough, especially at meals. He seems at times favored in his soul with the presence of the Lord.

Please remember me very kindly to Mrs. D., and give my love to Mr. Vaughan and the friends.

Yours sincerely for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

May 18th, 1864
Dear Friend, Mr. J. Davis—Your letter enclosing £5, (which I will pay to the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society), has been forwarded to me from Stamford to this place, where I am staying for the benefit of my health by the advice of my medical attendant. It has pleased the Lord to lay upon the His afflicting hand, so that for two months I have been unable to stand up in His holy name. I trust, however, that through mercy I am gradually, though slowly, recovering, and hope that it may please the Lord to raise me up again and restore me to my work.

I am glad to find you have been spared to return to your adopted country, and found your family in health. You have been spared to pass over many miles of wide sea since we met last year at Allington. I am glad to have seen you, and both I and the friends, Mr. Parry and Mr. Tuckwell, whom you saw at Allington, felt a union with you in the things of God, and liked your spirit. I am sure you must feel it to be a trial to have so few with whom you can feel sweet communion in the things of God where you are now, more especially as there seems to be strife and division even among the few who meet together.

Few things more show the low state of the life of God in the present day than that spirit of strife and contention which seems to rend asunder most of the churches. What little life and power there must be in the soul when people are ready to quarrel almost about a straw. How quick they are to see faults in others, and how slow to see faults in themselves. I find myself much more exercised about myself than about any other people. The great thing is to be right one's self, to have some testimony from the Lord that we are His, that we may walk in His fear, and live to His praise. We shall have plenty to do to look well at home, to watch the movements of our own heart, to be seeking the Lord's blessing, and to strive after union and communion with the blessed Savior of poor, lost, guilty sinners. If those who profess to fear and love the Lord were more brought down in their own souls, were more humbled, and stripped, and emptied, and laid low, there would be less strife, less contention, less backbiting, and more love, tenderness, and affection towards the people of God.

I thought that I could see in you at Allington a spirit of love and affection to the Lord's people, and a great unwillingness to rip up their faults and failings. And it seemed to me that you had tasted, felt, and handled the goodness and mercy of the Lord in your own soul, which made you long after a renewed sense of His favor and loving-kindness, which is better than life itself. I desire, therefore, that you may be blessed and favored in your own soul, made and kept very little and very low in your own eyes; and may the Lord keep you from a spirit of strife and contention, from getting entangled in the world, or being overcome by sin and Satan. You are called to stand firm, not only for living truth, but also to make it manifest by your life, conduct, and conversation, that you know its power and blessedness in your own soul.

My love to Mrs. Charlwood, and to all who love the Lord.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

May 25, 1864
Dear Mr. G. F. Taigel—I owe you an apology for my delay in replying to your letter; but various circumstances have concurred to prevent my answering it. And now that I have undertaken to send you a few lines in reply, I must fairly confess I hardly know what answer to give.

When we are in trouble and perplexity about divine matters, we often desire the counsel and advice of friends, especially of those whom we think to be established in the ways of truth. But we find after a time, that to lean upon them is like leaning upon a broken reed, which only runs into the hand and pierces it. Every part and particle of divine truth we have to learn for ourselves experimentally, in order that we may really know it. This is particularly the case in sitting under the ministry of the Word. Every child of God has to prove for himself the ground on which he stands; and generally speaking, he must be deeply and for a long time tried before he can come to a right judgment. He will have to compare the ministry which he hears with the work of God upon his soul, as well as with the Word of truth. He will also have to watch and see what power and savor, unction or dew, rest upon the word which he hears. If his soul be alive and lively in the things of God, he will soon find what the ministry is; and though for a time he may think the fault is all in himself, yet when he finds no power or unction under the ministry, and that it rather starves his soul than feeds it, rather draws up and dries the dew upon his soul than communicates it, he gradually learns that, whatever that ministry may be in itself, or whatever it may be to others, it is but a dry breast to him.

I do not wish, considering my position, to express any opinion about Mr. Wells or his ministry. Yet I cannot but think that there is a great deal of truth in what you say; that there is no separation or discrimination in his ministry, and that it is more like 'head notions' than an 'experimental knowledge' of the truth. What the man is in himself I must leave. One thing however I do know, which is, that he holds very serious error upon the subject of the eternal Sonship of Christ, and has used, what I may call, some awful expressions about it; for instance, such as saying that the doctrine of eternal generation was from beneath. Mr. Gunner, under whom you now sit, is a man sound in the truth, and has been taught it experimentally, so that I hope his word may be blessed to your soul.

Yours sincerely for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

June 15, 1864
My dear Friend, Mr. E. Walter—I am sorry to say that it will not be in my power to accept the kind invitation which you have sent me to come down to preach at Wadhurst, or Tunbridge Wells during my anticipated visit to London.

I would much like once more to see your aged father, with whom in times past I have taken sweet converse in the precious things of God, and who for many years used to come up to hear me when I was in London. I do hope that the Lord has blessed his soul with more consolation than he used at that time to speak of, and that his last days may be his best days. He always had since I knew him much of the manifest fear of God in living exercise, but did not enjoy much of that sweet liberty which some of God's saints are favored with. But I never doubted his case or state, and fully believe it will be well with him whenever the time shall come to cut the mortal thread.

The reason why I cannot come is the state of my health. I have been confined to the house for March, and a good part of April, through bronchitis, which has left me very weak; and though I am venturing to go to London in the strength of the Lord, yet it is in much weakness. I am therefore unable to accept any invitations, beyond my engagement at Gower Street, and have already refused several.

I am glad that your poor aged father still bears me in affectionate remembrance. He has seen many of his old friends gradually decline and drop—among them his pastor, Mr. Crouch. But what a mercy it is that though man dies, Jesus lives, and that He is full of compassion, mercy, and truth to all those who fear and love His great name! The path in which your father has been led so many years is a safe way, though a rough and rugged way. But the end will make amends for all.

My sincere Christian love to him and to all who love the truth.
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.

 

June 22, 1864
My dear Friend, Mr. Tanner—On looking over your letter this morning to refresh my memory, I was reminded of one of Bunyan's master traits, where, in describing the clothing of the women in the house Beautiful, he says, "They could not see that glory each one had in herself which they could see in each other. Now therefore they began to esteem each other better than themselves," etc. So I could see—don't think I am flattering—that grace in you which I cannot see in myself. You have had not only a long and trying affliction, but have had trial upon trial from almost every quarter—in your family, in your business, in the church, in your soul, and continually in your poor afflicted body. Your sympathizing friends would, if they could, take all these loads off your back, and all these pains and infirmities out of your body. But the same hand which took away the affliction, would with it take away the consolation, and by giving health to the body would remove health from the soul.

You have not only a better but a wiser Friend than we poor mortals could be to you, even with our best wishes, and tenderest sympathies; and that all-kind and all-wise Friend will not lay upon you any more than His grace enables you to bear; and though the profit of it may not appear to yourself, it is seen and felt by others. No one but he who has had an experience of it knows what a heavy trial an afflicted tabernacle is, and especially when to weakness is added almost constant pain. Of the former, as you know, I have had much experience; but of the latter I have had less, perhaps, than many of my friends, for my illnesses have not usually been attended with bodily pain and suffering.

But, through the goodness and mercy of the Lord, I am very much better, and entertain a hope that, with the help and blessing of the Lord, I may be brought through my London labors without breaking down. I have proved again and again that the strength of the Lord is made perfect in weakness, nor do I expect that I shall have any other experience of His strength but as made known in the same way. You know, my dear friend, that it is very blessed to feel the strength, but very painful and trying to learn the preceding weakness. But can the two be separated? If the strength of the Lord is to be made perfect in it, weakness must be as indispensable for that perfection as the mortice is for the tenon.

I was sorry to hear of your dear wife's affliction. But how kind and gracious was it of the Lord to give her such a rich blessing! Oh, how mysterious are His ways, and His dealings past finding out, and yet what goodness and mercy are stamped upon them all! How true it is that whom the Lord loves He loves to the end; and that He never leaves nor forsakes those in whose hearts He has planted the grace of godly fear. But oh, how in long seasons of darkness, all His past mercies seem buried and forgotten. I have often thought of a remarkable expression of Bunyan's in his "Grace Abounding," where he says "that when he had lost the feeling that though God did visit his soul with ever so blessed a discovery of Himself, yet that he found his spirit afterwards so filled with darkness that he could not so much as once conceive what that God and what that comfort was." How true is this that there seems to be through darkness and unbelief such a clear and clean sweep of everything tasted, handled, and felt, that it seems even as if the very conception of them was gone.

But it is in such spots as these that we feelingly and experimentally learn the depths of the fall, and how thoroughly and entirely destitute we are by nature of either power or will. Now what would we do, or what could we do, under such miserable circumstances, unless the Lord of His own rich, free, and sovereign grace, revived our spirit! What poor, unprofitable creatures would we be in the pulpit and in the parlour, in the church and in the family, on our knees or with the Bible open before our eves, if the Lord did not come of His own free grace. It is this thorough inwrought feeling and experience of our own miserable helplessness and of the freeness and fullness of sovereign grace, which enables us to declare as from the very bottom of our heart what man is by nature, and what he is made by grace; and as all the dear saints of God have a similar experience, both of darkness and light, of nature's miserable destitution, and of the Lord's almighty grace and power, it enables us, according to the measure of our grace and gift, to speak to the heart and conscience of the living family of God.

I see more and more that what the Lord blesses is His own word and work—that it is not great gifts or abilities in opening up the word, but that it is what the Lord in His sovereignty blesses. I have long seen this in a remarkable way in our dear friend, Mr. Tiptaft, now laid aside. His best friends could not say that his gifts were very great, or that he was an able expositor of the word of truth. And yet how much has his simple testimony been honored and blessed, far beyond that of men who have outshone him in ministerial gifts. No doubt he has been tried sometimes at his lack of variety and ministerial ability, but has been strengthened and comforted by the testimonies which he has received of the blessing of God resting upon the word preached by him.

Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

August 3, 1864
My dear sister Fanny,
I think of moving to Croydon, as there is a place of truth there, and the climate is dry and warm. My year at Stamford and Oakham expires in October, and then I think of resigning my care of the two churches and congregations. I shall much feel the step every way, and shall have to sacrifice my salary, which I can ill afford with my family. But it is better to stop in time and not sacrifice my life, which I shall do if I continue laboring as I have done. My dear wife and our son Charles are gone down to Croydon today, to see about a house. It is a large place not far from London. It is much warmer than Stamford, with a dry soil.

I think this last attack has brought matters to a crisis. If it pleases God to restore my health I would not lay down the ministry, but supply occasionally. It is the continuous labor, and in all weathers, which tries me; but I am deeply tried in various ways, as it is a most important step, and I cannot see plainly the will of the Lord. I need much faith and patience, and for some consolation to be mingled with my afflictions. I shall have more trials in providence as well as in grace, and a rough and thorny path every way. But the Lord is all-sufficient.

I hope the review has not hurt your mind. If I write at all, it must be honestly; and I thought a few hints might be useful to others. Let failings be tenderly touched, but not wholly passed by, as if a person were a perfect character. The accounts of saints in Scripture mention the bad as well as the good; and I would have been accused of partiality if it had been wholly praise. But I would be sorry to hurt your mind.

Your affectionate Brother,
J. C. P.

 

August 3, 1864
My dear Friend, W. T. Keal, M.D.— . . . . These continual attacks warn me that I cannot go on laboring as I have done. I cannot sacrifice my health and life, as I certainly shall do if I continue my ministry at Oakham and Stamford. I have a wife and family to think of, and I may add, the Church of God generally, besides the two causes where I have labored so many years. But I feel convinced I cannot go on as I have done. The climate, also, is too cold for me in winter, and especially in spring; and as every attack weakens me more and more, I am less able to endure it. I shall much feel leaving my people and the friends with whom I have been connected so many years, and no other cause would have induced me to do so. But again and again, and especially of late years, I have been laid aside for weeks together, and it is but a gloomy prospect to look forward to a succession of attacks of a similar nature. At present, my heart, though weak, is not diseased, nor is emphysema in itself a fatal malady; but I have to consider the probable consequences of my repeated bronchitic attacks, and their effect on my constitution. And if these consequences are likely to be very serious, no people could require of me that I should sacrifice not only health, but life itself, for their sake. I would not lay down the ministry if I ceased to minister at Oakham and Stamford, except, perhaps, for a few months this winter and spring, to recover my health, nor would I attach myself to any other people. But occasionally, as the state of my health permitted, I might supply at Gower Street, or any other place. I wish to make it a matter of prayer that the Lord would direct my path; nor do I wish to come to a hasty decision; but, as my year is up at the end of October next, and I cannot stay another winter at Stamford, it is in my mind not to go on beyond that time.

I have no doubt that my dear friends at Oakham and Stamford, and you and your dear wife among the number, will feel much grieved at the decision to which I have been compelled to come. But I have been almost practically useless for some time, and every attack lasts longer and leaves me weaker. I shall have to sacrifice a good part of my income at the very time when I need it most; but I do not wish to be a burden to the friends who have hitherto for so many years liberally ministered to my necessities. Indeed, I am in a strait, and much tried and exercised in my mind, as the step is so important in every way. I have great need of faith and patience, as the trial is exceedingly heavy, spiritually and temporally, in body and soul. None but the Lord, to whom I look, can do me any real good, and He alone must guide, support, and be with me.

Croydon is the place to which we shall probably move, as there is a chapel of truth there, and the soil and situation are dry and warm. This last attack has much pulled me down, both in flesh and strength. Dr. Corfe advises me to go to Allington for a little change, though I would prefer to come home.

Our united love to your dear wife, our children, etc.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.


 

August 4, 1864
My dear Friend, Mr. Lightfoot—I feel that I must write to you on a subject which, I am sure, will much try, not only your mind, but the mind also of many of my dear friends and hearers; and nothing but necessity would compel me to do so.

I have for some time been convinced that the state of my health, and the repeated attacks of severe illness which I have now had for several years, quite unfit me for the labors which I have undergone at Stamford and Oakham for nearly twenty-six years. I came to London very weak, but was in hopes that the change, as in former years, would do me good. And this was the case for the first two or three weeks; but the Lord was pleased to let a cold fall upon my poor weak chest, and the consequence has been one of my attacks of bronchitis, which has quite laid me aside. Dr. Corfe has attended me, and carefully examined my chest, and says I am not fit for continuous work, and that the climate of Stamford is too cold for me. I will endeavor to procure his opinion in a written expression of it, but I am quite convinced, from a feeling sense of my great bodily weakness, that he is right in his judgment.

What, then, must I do? Must I go on until health and life fail together, or adopt such means as, with God's help and blessing, might to some extent preserve both? I have a family to think of besides myself and the Church of God generally; and am I called upon to sacrifice all to the people among whom I have so long labored? I do not see that I am; nor could my friends, though they might be sorry to part with me, demand such a sacrifice. Besides which, my long and severe illnesses make me almost practically useless for weeks and months together; and if this is to increase, I am only a burden to the friends and no benefit. I am much tried on the subject, and am begging of the Lord to guide and direct me; for it is a most important step for me, as well as the people.

I seem, then, brought to this point, that I must resign my pastorship of both my churches at Stamford and Oakham; and, as my year expires in October next, then to leave, as I cannot stay at Stamford another winter and spring. You, and my dear friends and hearers, will think this a very hasty and precipitate step, and that I ought to have given you a longer notice. And so I would have, had there been any other reason than the state of my health. I shall have to make a very great sacrifice of income, which I can ill afford; but this will prove my sincerity, and that I am not leaving my people for advantaged motives.

I am very unwell, and deeply tried. The Lord appear for me in this most painful trial. My love to your wife and the friends.

J. C. P.

 

To The kind Friends who have contributed to the Testimonial presented to me by the Church and Congregation meeting at Providence Chapel, Oakham
October 11th, 1864

My dear Friends—I accept with much thankfulness and sincere gratitude the liberal, I may indeed say noble, testimonial which you have given me of your esteem and affection. It is much beyond both my wishes and expectations; but I have long known your liberal minds, and that to your ability, and beyond your ability, you have for many years shown me similar proofs of your love. I deeply regret that I am compelled by my failing health to sever the tie which has so long bound us together. But so far as we are united by the more enduring and endearing bond of the Spirit, knitting our hearts together in mutual love and affection, distance and absence will not separate us in spirit, if they separate us in body. We shall still desire and pray for each other's spiritual good, and meet at the throne of grace. The blessed Spirit may also sometimes bring to your mind and memory portions of the Word of God's grace which I have for so many years preached among you; and this will remind you, not only of me, but of those days when we were accustomed together, in the house of prayer, to find the presence and power of the Lord in our midst.

Great and many have been my infirmities and deficiencies, both as a minister and as a pastor, some perhaps arising out of my weak state of health, and others from a body of sin and death. But my desire and aim have been to preach to you faithfully and experimentally the Gospel of the grace of God.

And now, friends and brethren, farewell. Accept my love in the Lord, and as we have so often met below in the earthly courts of His grace, so may we meet above in the courts of His heavenly glory.

I am, my dear Friends and Brethren, your late attached Minister and Pastor, and still your affectionate Friend and Brother,
J. C. P.

 

October 14, 1864
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner. . . I came here last Friday, after a sad parting with many attached friends and hearers, among whom I have labored for so many years. The Lord mercifully gave me strength to preach at both places twice on the Lord's day, and at Oakham on the Tuesday evening before I left them. I have given them the best part of my life, and spent upon them my health and strength. God grant that it may be manifested that I have not labored in vain, nor spent my strength for nothing. Nothing but my failing health would have induced me to leave them; but both they and I were well convinced that I was not fit to carry on my continuous labors. We parted therefore, I trust, in mutual love and affection, as well as mutual regret.

I unhappily took cold the day before I left Oakham, and have been poorly ever since—not having crossed the threshold of my new abode since I entered into it. I have much desired to experience here the power and presence of the Lord, that I may have His approbation upon the step, and His sanction of my pitching my tent in this place. I desire to be ever watching His hand, both in providence and in grace; to acknowledge Him in all my ways, that He may ever direct my steps. I have been so often laid aside from preaching, and that for weeks and months together, that I do not feel the trial so great as might be anticipated. I live also in hope that it may be the Lord's will so far to restore me that, during the summer months at least, I may be enabled to go forth in the Lord's name. At present I am seeking rest, though as usual it is hard to obtain it, for much work lies before me; and if my tongue be still, my pen apparently will not lie idle. Indeed I have never for many years sought indolence, but have found a willingness to labor as far as the Lord has given me strength.

The meridian of life with us is gone by. The Lord has seen fit to lay his hand upon our poor bodies, and we may expect the rest of our lives to be more or less invalids, scarcely hoping for any length of time to be free from those attacks, which we must expect rather to gain potency with declining years. I think sometimes of you, our dear friend at Allington, and myself. We all seem to have before us a trying path, and I believe our desire is to find in it submission to the will of God, and to have every trial sanctified and blessed to our soul's profit. No doubt we need a great deal to bring us down. "He brought down their hearts with sorrow." We desire to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, a humble mind, a tender conscience. We desire to live and walk in the fear and love of the Lord, to be kept from evil that it may not grieve us. We also covet the presence and blessing of God in our souls, in the manifestations of His love and mercy. We desire also to see His good hand stretched out in providence, that we may have reason to bless and praise His holy name for His kindness and goodness to us; and yet with all this, what coldness, deadness, and darkness often beset the mind! Unbelief and infidelity, doubt and fear, surmises and misgivings, possess the mind, so that the life and power of real religion appear almost gone! Thus we have many changes, and these will ever keep us from being settled on our lees and being at ease in Zion. The flesh, it is true, loves an easy path, and left to ourselves, we would almost barter eternal life for better health, greater strength, and a larger amount of earthly good.

But it is our mercy that we cannot choose our own way, our own will, or our own cross, but that all is appointed for us—what to do and what to suffer, what to be, and what not to be. I wish I could be more spiritually-minded, which is life and peace, walk more in the enjoyment of the love and favor of God, feel more of the preciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have a stronger faith in Him. We cannot always nor often tell how our trials and afflictions are working for our spiritual good, nor how they are answers to our prayers for more humility of mind, and to know more of the power and blessedness of eternal realities. It takes a great deal to wean us from the world, to humble and mortify our proud heart, and break our stubborn spirit. We would like to have it done quietly and gently, by a secret, spiritual, and supernatural influence resting upon the mind, without any affliction of body, trial of mind, or crucifixion of the flesh. We would like Jesus to be manifestly our All in all, without walking in a path of trial or suffering.

We tell people from the pulpit what is the right way of getting at spiritual blessings, and yet are ever seeking or desiring them to come to ourselves in some different way. At least I find it so to be the case with me. It is a great thing to be made spiritually upright and sincere, to be ever seeking the blessing of God as a felt internal reality, and to desire nothing so much as His sensible favor and approbation. But it is a hard struggle to get at this and into this in the right way, especially when the Lord seems to hide His face and turn a deaf ear to our petitions. Still we must keep on seeking His blessed face, until He turns the shadow of darkness into the morning. . . .

Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

October 24, 1864
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I was beginning to feel very desirous, I may say anxious, to learn how matters were proceeding with you at Oakham, when your kind and affectionate letter came to hand to relieve my anxiety. I read it with very great interest, and I hope some feeling, not only on account of the expression of your affection towards, and continued interest in, my unworthy self, but as giving me some account of what I wished so much to hear—what was doing as regards the settlement of a minister and pastor among you. . . . May the Lord guide His servant to do that which shall be most for His people's good and His own glory; and I hope that my dear friends at Oakham and in the neighborhood will unite their supplications that the Lord would make His will clearly known; for without that no real blessing could be expected.

It is as much for the interest and comfort of the church and congregation that it should be the manifest will of God to bring Mr. Knill among you, as it can be for his. His coming might seem at first to settle matters quietly and comfortably; it would remove the trouble and anxiety about procuring acceptable Supplies; and all for a time might seem to go on prosperously. But unless the blessing of God rested upon his settlement among you, storms would arise in the apparently settled sky, and there would spring up difficulties and perplexities of a most trying nature. But if it were the manifest will of God that he should be settled over you, then whatever difficulties might arise, the power and presence of God and His blessing, would overrule and overcome all. There is no use therefore trying to settle such an important matter in a hasty, I might add, fleshly way, nor to tempt him as it were to decide such a point, by offering worldly advantages.

I always foresaw that if it pleased the Lord to remove me, it would open a door for much perplexity how to get my place supplied. Not that I wish to attach any value or importance to my labors among you, but as knowing the extreme difficulty in procuring acceptable Supplies. It was with the greatest difficulty that I could get my pulpit supplied when I went out. All these things have been present to my mind for years—in fact, ever since I have been strongly pressed to go to London. I have always felt that I would stay with you as long as health and strength were granted, and nothing but most painful and trying necessity would have compelled me to leave you. I feel therefore deeply anxious that Mr. Knill should be settled over you by the will of God, and that His blessing might rest upon every step which has been taken in His fear to promote it.

I shall not soon forget my last days among you; for surely I was helped both in body and soul to speak to you in the name of the Lord at my parting farewell. I have just finished revising the sermon which I preached from Phil. 1:5, 6, and I seem to think that it will be acceptable to the friends when it comes out in print, as I felt some sweetness and savor in revising it. I would much like to have my three farewell sermons put together in a little cover, when the third has been published in The Gospel Pulpit, that they may be a little memorial of my ministry among you, and may show both to friends and enemies what it has been. I would prefix a little preface, if thought desirable; and Mr. Ford probably would be willing to strike off some extra copies. I certainly had no wish that they should be written down, but I now seem pleased that they have been; and may the Lord condescend to bless them abundantly. I would not have named this subject, had you not been the person through whom it was brought about. . . .

At this critical time, all who love the Lord and His truth, and feel knitted to the cause of God at Oakham, should join heart and hand, to tide as it were the ship over the present waves; you dear friend, and others who can pray in secret, and the male members who have the additional privilege of praying in public. My poor prayers are put up for you all, that the Lord would bless you, and appear for you in this trying hour. I much liked the quotation you made from some good man about the uniting power of prayer. Oh that we might know much more of it!

I am getting tolerably settled in my new abode. I have much coveted the special presence and power of God upon my soul, as a testimony of His approbation; but though I have been favored with a spirit of grace and supplications, and at times some nearness of access to the throne, I have not realized, as I could wish, the coveted blessing. I have been reading with much pleasure, and I hope some profit, Huntington's Posthumous Letters. The more I read them, the more I seem to see the fullness and blessedness, and the varied experience of God's living truth, as set forth in them. Indeed, they are most choice and profitable reading. I would like you, dear friends, to read sometimes in them during the winter. They are short and sweet; you can take them up and lay them down without their requiring any stretch of thought, or continuous reading. I am so much occupied myself in writing, that I have not much time to read authors. What therefore I read, I like to be of the best; and I find no writings suit me better than those of the immortal Coalheaver.

At present I have seen none of the friends, except Mr. Covell, who is very attentive and friendly.

Our united love to yourself and your dear sister, our dear friends at Wharfland and the Terrace. My love to all the dear friends. I shall not soon forget our last church meeting. Greet them all by name, and indeed all who love the Lord.

Yours very affectionately in Him,
J. C. P.

 

November 11, 1864
Dear Friend, Mr. Whitteridge—There is much in your letter which I like, and it seems commended to my conscience as written by an honest man. You speak of yourself as one who has not had much education; and yet your letter evidences that you must have taken much pains with yourself, and after all even where, as in my case, a good foundation has been laid by early and long instruction, a man, to know anything aright, must very much educate himself. I speak of this, of course, only in reference to natural education; for, as you well know, we must be taught of God if we are to know anything as we ought to know. Any knowledge which I may have of the only true God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent, must have come from the anointing which teaches of all things, and is truth, and no lie, if indeed it save or sanctify my soul. But I have had to learn for the most part what I know, and what I teach by tongue and pen, through trial and temptation; for it is through much tribulation that we must enter the Kingdom.

But I now come to the main subject of your letter—the wish expressed in it that I could render some help in the way of counsel to plain, uneducated men. In the first place, I hardly know whether I am competent to give it, or whether, if given, any one would be willing to take it. I find for the most part that men ask for advice when they mean approbation. But, apart from this, neither time nor health would allow me to undertake such a task. My health is of late weakened, mainly with hard labor and exercise, and employment of mind. I need rest both of body and soul—for thought, tongue, and pen. My medical attendant told me a day or two ago he would like, if he could, to cast me into a six months' trance, meaning, I suppose, that I needed perfect rest for that period of time. I could not, therefore, in addition to all my present work with the Standard, and much correspondence, put a fresh burden upon my back. I consider that in writing for the Standard, I communicate for the most part what I am taught and know.

I thank you, however, for your kind and friendly letter, and wish it were in my power to give you or any other sincere, simple man any such counsel as might be offered and received in the fear of the Lord.

Yours very sincerely for truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

November 15, 1864
My dear Friend, John Grace—It is indeed now a long time since I wrote to you, but it is our mercy that union and communion, if ever we have felt it with any of the Lord's people, does not depend upon the post office, or indeed any other communication, but that which is maintained with our mutual Head. In Him all the members of His mystical body have both their being and their well-being; and thus their union and communion with each other still abide, however little there may be of present communication. There is one spot where all the regenerated family of God meet in spirit, that is, at the mercy-seat; and there is one Object on which they all fix their eyes, that is, the Son of God at the right hand of the Father. Lovers sometimes have fixed for both to look at the moon at a certain hour, that they may feel that their eyes, though distant in body, are viewing the same object. But those who love the Lord have a higher love and a better object than either moon or star, for they look, and sometimes from the ends of the earth, to the Sun of Righteousness.

I am well convinced that there is a secret union among the living members of the body of Christ; and surely next to union and communion with the Lord Himself, is union and communion with His dear people. May it be our blessed portion to enjoy a larger measure of both, for they wax and wane together; and he who loves Him who begat, loves him also who is begotten of Him. How sweetly does holy John treat of brotherly love, both in its source and in its streams; and how decisively does he lay down its presence and its absence, as sure marks of life and death! But alas, in our day the love of many is waxed cold; and indeed it ever must be so where there is so little faith which works by love and purifies the heart!

Since I have been in my new abode, I have had much in various ways to exercise my mind. Illness of itself is a heavy burden to carry; and though I must not call myself positively ill, yet I have much weakness and indisposition, which has much of the same depressing effect upon the mind. I have come also to a strange place and to a strange house, in most respects very inferior, though the rent is higher, than my own house at Stamford. I have also been much exercised in my own mind upon many things which I cannot altogether name, but which have served to cast me down, and at times to bring a cloud over my soul. And yet I hope, in and by all these things, the life of God has been maintained and kept up more than it would have been in a path of ease. I am well satisfied from Scripture, from observation, and from experience, that it is only through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God, either really or experimentally. And I also believe that in very many, if not most, cases, trials and afflictions increase rather than diminish in the later stages of life. At least I expect this will be my case, and I have seen it also in others.

About ten years ago you gave me a volume of Mr. Huntington's Posthumous Letters. This volume I make my daily companion; not that I mean I am always reading it, but generally do so at some part of the day. And I must say, the more I read it, the more pleasure, and I hope I may add the greater profit, I derive from it. There is scarcely a point of Christian experience, from the lowest depth to the greatest height, which the immortal Coalheaver has not touched upon, and indeed handled, with his masterly unrivaled pen. Nor is there an exercise of the soul, nor a secret lust, nor hidden corruption, that he has not dragged to light. It is indeed a most precious and valuable legacy to the church of God, and I could wish that it were more widely spread and better known. The two authors from whom I have gained the greatest profit, and the soundest as well as most savory instruction, are Dr. Owen and Mr. Huntington. I am a writer myself upon the things of God, but these two men above all others, and the latter especially, knock my pen out of my hand.

I am glad to find that, though I am laid aside, at least for the present, from the work of the ministry, you are still employed in the service of the great King. It is indeed a great honor for poor vile worms of earth to be employed as ambassadors for the King of kings and Lord of lords; but in these matters, as in all others, God is a sovereign, and as such I desire to submit to His holy will. It is a trial for me to be separated so much from my own former people; but I feel fully convinced that neither health nor strength were sufficient to allow me to continue ministering among them.

We shall be glad to see you if you can make it convenient to give us a call on your way to London. I gave your message to Mr. Covell. He generally comes to see me once a week, and I find him both a pleasant and profitable companion. He is very friendly and very unassuming. At present I have not been able to get out to hear him, nor have I seen anything of his people. Dr. Corfe tells me that my chest is much better than it was when in London, and gives me every hope that I shall preach again.

I am, my dear friend,
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

November 24, 1864
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . I believe that affliction, especially when long continued, has a sobering effect upon the mind, for we learn in it our deep need of vital realities; and these, as they are felt and apprehended, put to flight all the enthusiastic notions and mere visionary views and delusions that we might have. I am very fond of a sound mind in the things of God, for this is what God gives with a spirit of power and of love. (2 Tim. 1:7). In the things of God, and in vital experience, there is a holy soberness; for as in believing the truth we have not followed cunningly devised fables, so an experience of the truth brings with it a solemn sober conviction of their truth and reality. In times of trouble, temptation, sickness, and death, we need something firm to support the mind, and this we have not in airy notions, but in the Word of God, as made life and spirit to the soul. Few things have more discredited a profession of our most holy faith than the wild notions and still wilder expressions which some have indulged in, giving to the Word of God all sorts of strained meanings, and thus perverting and distorting it from its divine simplicity. But I must not run on in this strain, lest I send you an essay instead of a letter.

I have rather got over the trouble and exercise which I had about the testimonial. I think perhaps that your view was the right one; and I dare say my pride was as much touched as my better feelings were pained. Good often comes out of evil; or at least good comes sometimes in a way in which we would not have it come. In this way therefore, I desire thankfully to acknowledge the good hand of God in this very testimonial, though had it been left to my option, I should at once have stopped it. . . .

I much like Mr. Covell. He generally comes to see me once a week, and sits some time. We agree very well on most points. I find his conversation spiritual and profitable, without any affectation and cant.

Mr. Tryon came down to see me about a week ago. He was very kind and friendly, and gave me some account how matters were going on at Stamford. Though absent from you, I still feel present with you. My desire is that the blessing of God may rest upon His church and people at Oakham and Stamford. I would not have left you, or at least not given up my charge, had the Lord given me health and strength to go on with it. But it is the mercy of the people of God that their edification or consolation does not depend upon man, but that the Lord Himself has undertaken both to comfort and to build up Zion. We may expect as we advance onwards, if our lives be spared, to be ever meeting with new trials and afflictions—but the Lord has promised that His grace shall be sufficient for us, and to this alone can we ever look as able to support us under them, and to bring us off eventually more than conquerors. It is a fellowship in affliction and trial, and a fellowship in the grace of the Gospel, which forms the tie between the members of Christ's mystical body. And why, but because it gives them fellowship with their common Head? (1 John 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:9).

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

December 23, 1864
My dear Friend, John Grace—I cannot find among my books the last volume of Mr. Huntington's Posthumous Letters, but I have four volumes published by Bensley in 1822. . . . Taken as a whole, one may say that they contain the very cream of vital godliness. Not being controversial, there is the absence of that sharpness which marks some of his other writings; and being struck off, as one may say, at a white heat according to his various feelings at the time, there is a freedom and a warmth about them, a reality and a power, which much commends itself to one's conscience. It will be a sad day for the church of Christ in this country when the writings of the immortal Coalheaver are forgotten or utterly neglected; and there seems to be much fear of it, for there are only a few comparatively who read and value them. From no two authors have I derived such instruction and edification as Dr. Owen and Huntington. They have both condemned me, reproved me, cut me up, sifted, and almost emptied me—and also brought comfort, encouragement, life, and feeling into my heart. We have no such ministry now, take it for all in all, nor can we expect that matters will get much better—at least if Mr. Huntington is a true prophet.

Still, I believe that the Lord has a goodly number of those who fear His name; but they are, for the most part, in a low place as regards faith and godliness, and those who seem to be more blessed and favored are for the most part heavily weighted with trials and afflictions. I must say for myself, that the path in which I am now walking is the roughest and most trying road which I have traveled for a good many years. Mr. Hart is right in what he says: "That traveler treads the surest here, who seldom sees his way".

I am not out of the path; for indeed this has been, and is, my chief trial. I hope you may never be obliged to give up the ministry, or have to leave your own people and your own home. The Lord, I hope, keeps me continually looking up to Him to make every rough place plain, and every crooked thing straight; but it is one thing to be waiting, asking, and begging, and another to be blessedly receiving. Mr. Huntington tells us that, "the soul that has life may take comfort in the furnace"; but this is hard work, though I do believe that a living soul would sooner have the furnace, than be at ease in Zion.

I have been very busy with my Address (Gospel Standard); but with all my labor I cannot say much about it. No man and no thing are more than God makes them to be.

Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.




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