LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1865)


January 2, 1865

My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . As the Lord, we hope, has brought Mr. Knill among you, you will now have, as a church and people, to watch and wait for what He may speak to your hearts by His servant. You and all our dear friends who know something experimentally of the kingdom of God, which is not in word but in power, will be looking out and feeling for the power which may rest upon his Word; and if he feels the power and blessing of God in his soul and ministry, and the Lord's people find and feel the same, it will be a confirming evidence that the Lord has sent him among you. I do hope that he may be more blessed in the calling and comforting of the Lord's people than I was, and that there may be a union of esteem, love, and affection between him and the people. No doubt there will be trials, and you will have to bear and forbear with one another's infirmities; but if the blessing of God be in your midst, everything else will be of little account. May the Lord keep you as a church and people from any root of bitterness which, springing up, may trouble you. . . . It is not for us, if we are oppressed, to fight our own battles. It is best to leave these matters with the Lord, who has promised to make every crooked thing straight. . . .

In my long observation of the people of God, and I may add, also in my own experience, I have seen that the Lord does not usually or often thus lead His people. It is, I know, a very delicate and difficult point, as your late dear husband has often felt and said, to distinguish between real divine leadings and impressions upon the mind. All these circumstances teach us to watch and wait, and see what the outcome of such things may be. I see that, in Scripture, much is said of a sober and sound mind (See 1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8; 2 Tim. 1:7). This sobriety of mind, especially when it springs from being sobered by afflictions, trials, and temptations, and by the solemn dealings of the Lord with the soul, is a blessed preservative, not only from levity and frivolity in the things of God, but also from delusion and enthusiasm.

We see sometimes how easily some who, we hope, fear God are lifted up and cast down by some transient impulse. There is nothing weighty, spiritual, or broken in their communication; but a wildness, and very often a vain, confident, presumptuous assurance, which finds no entry into a heart exercised with divine teaching. How narrow is the path that lies between truth and error, the teaching of the Spirit and the delusions of the flesh. We may well say of it, in the language of Hart—"The distinction is too fine for man to discern; therefore let the Christian ask direction of his God." How continually, at all times and under all circumstances, we need to be looking up to the Lord Himself to teach, guide, and lead us. And have we not His own gracious promise that, if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths? "I will guide you with My eye."

You were not the only person who has objected to my answer on the wrapper of the Gospel Standard; but I think perhaps it has been a little misunderstood. It has been thought from it, that I hold with the practice of what is called 'blessing children'. This is not the case, for I see many evils attending it, though not wrong in itself could it be done in the fear of the Lord. But my main object was to testify against that spirit which will not allow the least deviation from our own path. For instance, Mr. Covell does two things which I never have done, and which, I dare say, if I had attempted to do at Oakham, it would have caused a stir. 1. He returns thanks for women after childbirth, and asks for a blessing upon mother and offspring. 2. He prays, and often at some length, for our children, begging of the Lord to bless them, and if it be His will, manifest them as His.

Now this does not offend my ear, though I never do it myself, and have often refused to do the first in London. Now suppose that without any public ceremony, for my remarks were more addressed to private than public prayer—but suppose that a gracious couple, having had a child born to them, should in simplicity and godly sincerity kneel down before the Lord, and ask Him to bless the babe, mentioning it by its new name, could that be condemned? And suppose that their pastor were to kneel down with them, thank the Lord for His mercy unto them, and call the babe by the name which its parents had given it, with a petition for the Lord's blessing upon it—must that be summarily cut off and cut down as a work of the flesh? It is what I never did myself, but it was rather my carnality than my spirituality to which it might be attributed. This then was the point at which I aimed—not to tie up matters of this kind with our own string; but to allow good men a liberty of action where the Scripture did not condemn it. All this is quite different from infant sprinkling. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

January 17, 1865
Dear Friend, Mr. Walter—I was very glad to get a few lines from you, and to hear the account which you have given of your poor dear old father. I was always sure that sooner or later the Lord would break in upon his soul, for I do not know that I ever knew a man more deeply or more continually exercised about eternal things than he, or who had more of the fear of God, a sense of the weight and reality of eternal things, or more earnest desires for the manifestations of Christ to his soul. It is now many years since I first knew him, and ever since our first acquaintance we have been united in spirit; and now he is proving that the things he has so long professed are divine and blessed realities. I am sorry to hear of his afflicted body; and yet, as the poor earthly tabernacle must come down to the dust, it is a mercy that the Lord is for the most part taking it gently down. It is a mercy that, though so weak in body, he has all his mental faculties, and, above all, that the Lord is pleased sometimes to favor his soul with His sweet presence. The dear old man is now reaping what he has so long sown; and as he has sown to the Spirit so will he of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

I am glad to find that you and your wife are so kind to him in his old age. The Lord will bless you for it; and though you may feel at times the trouble, you will never repent having shown him that kindness which his necessities now require. I shall much prize the picture of my dear old friend, and send one of my own in return.

It has been a great trial to me to have to leave my own people and my own home, and to lay down the work of the ministry. But I am thankful to say, in answer to your kind enquiries on the part of your father, I am better in health, and entertain the hope that when the weather becomes warmer I may be able to preach again, though I never expect to be fit for much work. Still, I am spared to employ my pen, and I hope the Lord will give me grace to use it for the good of His people. I am glad that your father liked my Address. It has, I believe, been well received.

Give my love to your good old father. I shall always be glad to hear how he is, both in body and soul.

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

 

January 23, 1865
Dear Friend in the Lord, Mr. Blake—I was much pleased with your experimental letter, and would be glad at some future opportunity to put it into The Gospel Standard, if not in the body, which being limited is much taken up, on the wrapper. It is indeed many years since you passed through the things which you have mentioned, and yet living experience is always fresh; there is something ever new in it, and this makes it refreshing to the saints of God. It is a mercy when the Lord keeps reviving His own work upon the soul, and does not allow it to sink down into coldness, carnality, and deathliness. I have known those who many years ago seemed from their own account, to have had a true and gracious experience of the things of God in their own soul; and yet, as years advance and age creeps on, appear to lose all its sweet savor, and to differ little from the dead professors of the day. And I believe this will be always the case, unless they are well exercised with trials and afflictions, and corresponding mercies, so as to keep their souls alive and lively. It is a sad thing to be allowed to drop into a cold dead state; especially if a man stands up in the name of the Lord to preach to saints and sinners. If he be cold and lifeless in his own soul, how can he instrumentally communicate life and warmth to the souls of others? And again, how is our inward life to be maintained but by prayer, meditation, reading the Scriptures and the writings of good men, and all connected with inward exercise through affliction and temptation? But how good is it of the Lord, of His own free and sovereign grace, of His own pure mercy and eternal love, to revive His work upon the heart. It is this which gives us submission to His holy will, resignation to His afflictive dispensations, and a sensible feeling that there is nothing worth desiring, nothing worth living and dying for, but the enjoyment of His favor and love.

Wishing you every enjoyment of the Lord's goodness and mercy, such as you have felt in times past, I am, dear Friend,
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

January 25, 1865
My dear Friend, Mr. J. Davis—I received safely your kind letter, with the enclosed cheque for £5, which I will endeavor, as the Lord may enable, to give away from time to time among the poor saints of God. I have what I call my charity purse, which is supplied from time to time by kind friends, and this, with what I am enabled to add to it from my own, allows me to help sometimes the poor saints of God. I shall therefore put your money into my charity purse, and as opportunity offers, shall give a little here and there to the poor saints whom I know, or who come before me. This, I think, is better than giving it away all at once, for when that is done, the money is sometimes given where not so much needed, or, at least, not so seasonable. If, indeed, a little of the superfluity of your land of gold and wool could flow among the poor suffering saints of God in this country, what a blessing it might be to them, without injuring the donors. But the Lord only can open heart and hand, and make anyone feel that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

You will perceive from the change in my address that I have left Stamford. Indeed, I have been obliged from failing health to give up the charge of my two churches and congregations at Stamford and Oakham, where I had labored for more than twenty-six years. Through mercy I am better in health, but never expect to be able to labor as I have done in the work of the ministry; though I hope the Lord may enable me to preach a little from time to time when the weather is warm, as I much feel the cold, and cannot expose myself to it.

I hope you are favored from time to time in your soul with a sense of the Lord's goodness and mercy. This I know is what your heart is after, and without which you cannot feel satisfied. O may nothing ever content us but the blessing of the Lord, which alone makes rich; and if we are favored with this, we shall not covet the miser's gold, or be satisfied with a portion in this life. I well remember your visit to Allington, and felt a union with you, which time and distance do not break. Mr. Parry and Mr. Tuckwell are both of them afflicted in body, but I hope alive in soul. Mr. Godwin is quite well, and laboring hard in the work of the ministry. I hear Mr. Covell, the minister here, very comfortably. He is a good man, and a good preacher, contending for experimental, saving realities.

The Lord bless you, and keep you in His love and fear. My very kind regards to your son Aquila, Mr. Huntley, and all enquiring friends.

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

 

January 27, 1865
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—. . . I was very sorry to hear of our esteemed friend Mr. Tuckwell's illness, but hope it may not be really serious. Oh, when I look round upon my friends, especially those who like myself are advancing in life, I see how affliction is falling upon them one after another. How true the words, that "whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." And what a mercy it is when we can bend our back to every stroke of His chastising rod, and believe that all is meant for our spiritual good. These afflictions produce, under divine teaching, exercises of soul before God, shake us out of the miserable lees and dregs of carnality and self, and make us long for and desire those gracious visitations which alone can preserve our spirit.

How sad it would be for men at our time of life, and with our long profession, to be at ease in Zion, and never be emptied from vessel to vessel. Except to fall under the power of temptation, which is the worst of all possible cases, few things are worse for a Christian than to drop into carnality and sloth; to have little or no heart for secret prayer or reading the Word, but to be ever like a spider spinning out some filthy web, shut up in a dirty corner of carnal security. Even if we do not get much, and only have, so to speak, our daily bread, it is far better to have the heart drawn out toward divine things than be shut up in worldliness, fretful murmuring, and peevish discontent with ourselves and others.

There is nothing which draws the heart out and up to divine realities, as some inward view of the glorious Person and work of our most blessed Lord. We may not perhaps enjoy much of His sensible presence; but still He is the Object of our faith and hope; and as by night and day our thoughts and desires are mounting up toward Him, as He sits on His throne of mercy and grace, there is some separation wrought thereby, of heart and affection from this wretched world. No, even if we can only confess our dreadful sins committed before and against His holy Majesty, and seek for the application of His precious sin-forgiving blood to our consciences, there is some spiritual good wrought thereby, some separation from carnality and death, and some spirituality of mind in which alone is life and peace.

I look back sometimes through my long profession, and feel condemned at the wretched carnality and worldliness, not to say worse, which have possessed my mind; how little I have walked and acted in the fear of God, and how little I have lived to His glory. It is indeed a humbling retrospect; and nothing but the precious blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, can wash away the blots and inconsistencies of a long profession. Thus we come into the spot of the poor tax-collector and the thief upon the cross, having no hope but in the superabounding grace of God in the Person and work of His dear Son.

I am very sorry to hear of your illness. Perhaps your anxiety about our esteemed friend, Mr. Tuckwell, may have partly brought it on. With the Lord all things are possible; but the Cause at Allington seems, humanly speaking, to hang upon you two. When you both shall have passed away, as we hope and believe to a happy eternal home—an event, I trust, yet distant, and your bodies lie mouldering in the little chapel yard, where you have so often stood, who will hold up the cause of truth as you two have done? Your house has long been a welcoming and welcomed home to men of God; but I cannot bear to think of the future, and therefore stop. I have spent many pleasant times in your company, and under four distinct roofs, where I have been your guest; and while life lasts I shall always gratefully remember your liberal and affectionate Christian hospitality. Let us hope that we may be spared to meet once more in the summer; as I should like, even if I could not preach much, to see you and my other Wiltshire friends again.

It will be thirty years on the 7th of next June since I opened my commission, preaching in the morning from Zeph. 3:12, 13, and in the afternoon from Rom. 2:28, 29. I hope I then proclaimed the same divine truths as I do now, though, like the Apostle, I might have used sharpness. But is not the Word of God, if properly handled, "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword"? You and others found it so; and was that not a proof that it was the word of the Lord to you? "The entrance of Your words gives light"; "Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach out of Your law." Blessed are those chastenings and those teachings which bring us to the feet of Christ, and by which He is made precious to the soul. This is the end of God in all His doings and dealings with His people, to strip and empty them wholly of self, and to manifest and make His dear Son feelingly and experimentally their All in all. In Him and in Him alone can we, do we, find either rest or peace.

Through much mercy my health continues pretty good, and when the weather is fine, I endeavor to get a little walk. We have near our house a kind of park, with well-graveled walks, and where one meets scarcely a single soul. Here I usually walk, and find it both pleasant and profitable. As we live a mile and a quarter from the chapel, I am obliged to have a fly, and generally go but once—in the morning. I hear the minister, Mr. Covell, very comfortably. He is a good man and has a good experience, with a very fair gift, having a great knowledge of Scripture, and much readiness in quoting it suitably and appositely. He is very friendly, and generally spends an hour with me once a week.

It certainly is a relief to my mind not to have the burden of the ministry and the cares of a church and congregation upon my shoulders. Still, you may depend upon it, I am not without many exercises of mind, which, I trust, serve to keep my soul alive in the things of God; and if I cannot speak of any special blessings, I am thankful to find a warm spirit of prayer and supplication is often felt in my bosom. I have no doubt, my dear friend, that if our secret prayers and ejaculations for these many years could be numbered, they would amount to many thousands, may I not say tens or more of thousands. One mark of the elect is, that they cry unto God night and day; and though our petitions may often seem unanswered, yet the Word of truth gives us to believe that, so far as they are indited by the Spirit, they enter the ears of the Lord Almighty. Depend upon it, a man must be very dead in his soul when there are no such movements of his spirit upwards. The Lord keep us from sinking into carnality and death. But only He who quickened can keep alive the soul; and it is our mercy if we ever find any revivings and refreshings from His gracious presence. I trust that in your last affliction you have felt something of the same blessing which you had before.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 2, 1865
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I think I have in this and my last letter answered most of your inquiries. I thank you for the excellent advice of Miss — which you have kindly sent me. It is a most needful word of caution, and I hope I may have grace to beware of the snare which she so truthfully lays before me.

I hope the Lord will give me grace so to write upon the precept, as not to swerve from those discriminating truths which I hope I have been enabled so long to contend for. I quite see, with you and her, that many legalists would gladly lay hold of what I might say upon the precept, unless grace and wisdom were given to me to handle it aright, to make it appear as if I favored their legal views. So far from that, I can assure you that I never more felt the necessity and blessedness of sovereign free grace than I do at this present moment, and was never further from creature strength, wisdom, and righteousness. My heart is and ever has been with those only who look to, hang upon, and exalt the glorious Gospel of the grace of Christ; but as I do see a beautiful harmony of promise and precept, grace and truth, love and obedience, in the Person and work of the Son of God, I have felt led to lay these things before the church of God.

In my walk yesterday in our quiet North Park, I seemed to have for a few minutes a very sweet and blessed view of the harmony of promise and precept, and indeed every Gospel truth, in the glorious Person of the Son of God. It is in Him, my dear friend, that all truths harmonize. He is the center in which all Gospel truth meets and unites; and out of Him, as an ever-flowing, overflowing fountain of life, of grace, and truth, the whole Gospel, as a complete revelation of the wisdom and love of God, flows down into the hearts of His dear family. He is the Head and they the members; and as in our natural body there is a union of will and power which cannot be separated, so it is in the mystical body. Now all this is very different from taking the precepts as so many dead and dry commands. Depend upon it, we can never see and feel the beauty and blessedness of Gospel truth, except as we see it by faith and love in the Person of the God-Man. Severed from Him and the power and influence of His Spirit and grace, the precepts are but burdensome commands.

Poor Mr. T., like us all, has his trials. But unless he needed them, they would not be sent. Wherever I turn my eyes, I see affliction is the lot of the family of God; and I observe that the nearer they advance to their end, the heavier do these afflictions become. My poor friend Mr. Parry has had another severe attack, and now Mr. Tuckwell is ill. My sister too, Mrs. Isbell, has been quite ill, though now mercifully better. How true then it is, "whom the Lord loves He chastens" &c.!

What you have said about the new chapel at Oakham has quite satisfied my mind, and I hope the Lord's hand is in it. I fear you will all be disappointed in the Address (Gospel Standard), as it falls very short of what I could wish it to be.

I sincerely wish you and all my dear friends in Oakham and the neighborhood every blessing of the New Year, and may we all prove the goodness and faithfulness of God, both in providence and in grace.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 10, 1865
Dear Friend in the Lord, Mr. James Churcher—You have given me an interesting account of your late visit to our esteemed friends Mr. and Mrs. Church. It is good for those who love the Lord to meet together and speak of His precious name, as, no doubt, you have found at Gower Street; and the Lord speaks of hearkening and hearing the spiritual conversation of those who fear the Lord and that think upon His name. "Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name." Malachi 3:16.

I should be glad to see the MS. book of which you speak. Though I attend the chapel at Croydon when weather and health admit, I have not yet seen Mrs. A., but I often hear of her from those who know her; nor have I yet made the acquaintance of W. G. Indeed I live much alone, and am very slow to form fresh acquaintances, though I ever desire to love those who fear and love the Lord.

My dear wife will be very happy to give you one of my pictures. It is a matter in which I myself take no part. But as many of my friends like to see the outward man as well as the inward man of J. C. P., she has had some taken. But you must come some day, when the weather is more favorable, and see me here, and you can then take away with you the picture of my poor body—looking to my writings and preaching for the picture of the renewed soul. I am thankful to say that, through rich mercy, I am somewhat better and stronger in health than in the summer. Still I shall never be again what I have been, and during the cold weather I keep much within doors. My desire is that every stroke of the Lord's afflicting hand may be blessed to my soul's good. It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom; and God will take care that all His children shall be more or less conformed to the suffering image of their great Head.

Wishing you, my dear friend, the enjoyment of every spiritual blessing,
I am, yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

February 16, 1865
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner—I am truly glad that you did not repent of your journey to Croydon. It is good for those who fear God, and have some measure of spiritual union, to meet together for a little converse upon those things which belong to their everlasting peace. It is pleasing to the Lord (Mal. 3:16), and strengthening to the faith and love of those who thus meet (Rom. 1:11, 12). I would be glad indeed if you lived a little nearer, that we might from time to time communicate more freely and fully than is possible by pen and ink. This John felt (2 John 12; 2 John 13, 14), for though to communicate by pen and ink is a privilege, yet it falls far short of communication by friendly and gracious conversation. But no doubt there are wise reasons why those who fear God and feel union with each other are often deprived of Christian converse. It may be a fact through the weakness and depravity of our nature; but it does not fall in with the Gospel truth of one body and many members, and that they all are baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:12, 13). My eye or ear, hand or foot, would not flourish most the more distant it was from, and the less united with, the other members. But alas, many blessed truths are weakened or broken asunder by the infirmity of the flesh! Yet of one thing I am sure, that where love is deficient, there is a sad lack of every other Christian grace. "Love all defects supplies." It is sweet to feel it, and a misery to be plagued with its opposite. But I am writing a letter to a friend, not preaching a sermon or writing a meditation.

I have often thought that, though there is in our day so much strife and division, yet there is a real and close union among the living family. How many kind affectionate friends has the Lord given to me; and my desire is to walk with them in union and communion, and as far as I can, to avoid everything which may tend to separation. Next to loving the Lord and His truth, is loving His people; and how sweet it is to feel the flowings forth of love and affection to the Lord's people for His sake, and for the image of Christ which we see in them. The lack of this love in our day stamps it with one of its worst characters.

No doubt you have heard of the serious illness of our friend Mr. Grace. He has been so reduced through weakness as to be scarcely capable of thought. But upon the whole, he has been favored with a calm and sweet reliance upon the faithfulness of a covenant God, and been able to lie peaceably and passively upon those everlasting arms which are underneath. He has not now his religion to seek, but enjoys the benefit of what in past seasons he has tasted, felt, and handled of the pardoning love of God. Much prayer has been made for him by his church and his numerous friends, and much interest and affection shown on all sides. In one of the churches (Mr. Clay's) he was prayed for publicly.

But the Lord seems taking home or laying aside His ministering servants. Good old Mr. Chandler, in Kent, is upon a sick, and probably dying bed. We look around, and how few there seem to be raised up to take the place of those who have stood hitherto upon the battlements of Zion. And what sickness and affliction seem to fall to the lot of our personal friends. But of course, as we advance in life, we must expect both affliction for ourselves and for others; and if not ourselves summoned away, to see those taken from us with whom we have walked in Christian union, and taken sweet counsel together. We know not how soon it may be with us, "time no longer." I was truly sorry to read the account you give of your son's affliction. You have indeed, my dear friend, affliction upon affliction, trial upon trial, wave upon wave; but not one too many, nor too heavy, if we can but believe that they are all sent in number, weight, and measure by a kind and loving Father, and only wise God.

You will see, as I advance in the subject, what are my views of the precept. I hope they may coincide with yours, but shall be very willing to receive and consider anything that you may say where you differ from them. It is indeed a trying spot to write what so many read, and among them so many of the excellent of the earth. I see no reason why you should not put pen to paper upon those blessed truths, such as the work of the Holy Spirit, into which you seem led feelingly and experimentally. No doubt, writing is a gift as much as preaching, and practice too is requisite in order to express ideas clearly and fully. But gold is gold, whether wrought with art and skill, or roughly and inartistically. And as the roughest workmanship in gold is far more valuable than the finest workmanship in plated metal, so sound experience and gracious teaching, however roughly wrought, will ever outshine all the lacquer of mere creature eloquence when the substratum is base metal.
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

February 23, 1865
Dear Friend, Mr. Hammond—If my advice can be of any service to the church at — I shall feel very happy to give it; but I wish you and the friends to bear in mind that I can only give you counsel upon general grounds, as I am quite ignorant who the person is about whom you make the inquiry.

Now, to be candid with you, I must say that I have very little confidence in ministers who advertise their services. As far as I can see there has not been for many years a greater demand for real men of God than at the present time. It has pleased the Lord to call some of His dear servants home, and to lay others aside by sickness and infirmity. There are very few settled pastors anywhere; and yet there is a great desire in many places for real experimental preaching. Now it seems to me that a man really taught of God and able to feed his church with food convenient for them, need never advertise his services; for not only can God find him out in his obscurity, but God's people will find him out too. I never, therefore, feel satisfied with an advertising minister, as I think there must be something in the background, such as lack of grace, lack of gift, or lack of character, which keeps him hidden in a corner. It certainly seems a taking advertisement for poor churches; and not knowing the man I cannot say that he may not be a gracious man with a small gift so as to prevent his general acceptability, and yet might be serviceable in a small way. If, therefore, you still think about the man who thus advertises himself, I would advise the church to move very cautiously and very warily, and to make very strict inquiries, not only of the man himself, but of any references.

You may depend upon it that it will be far better for you to go on as you are, either with your broken state, struggling to keep together in the fear of the Lord, than get a man among you who might bring in error, have only a letter knowledge of the truth, perhaps be a bad character, and bring nothing upon you but trouble and disgrace.

There was a time with you when the Lord seemed to smile upon your cause, when you had gracious and godly members, some of whom I knew, now gone home, and when the Lord blessed the word in your midst. Oh, how grievous it seems to be to look back to times past, and with Job to remember the days when in the Lord's light you walked through darkness, and the rock poured out rivers of oil. Oh, that those among you, and my good old friend Mrs. W. among them, might be stirred up to seek the Lord's face in prayer and supplication, that He would turn your captivity, and appear for you as a church and people.

If I can be of any service to you in this matter I shall be willing to do so; but you quite distress my mind when you talk of paying me for it. Freely you have received, freely give.

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

 

February 28, 1865
My dear Friend, Thomas Godwin—I have been desirous for some time to answer your truly kind, affectionate, and experimental letter, which I read with much sweetness and pleasure. When I read how the Lord had favored your soul, and the sweet and blessed feelings which you had under it, the words came to my mind—"Love all defects supplies." When your letter came, I had just been reading 1 Sam. 20, and I thought verse 23 was very suitable to the feelings of mutual union and affection which had been between us for so many years, in spite of all that sin and Satan, friends or foes, professors or possessors may have tried to break it. What you said also about the precept, and the desire which you felt as the Lord blessed your soul to keep it, very much fell in with my own views and feelings, and with what I had been writing the day before. When walking in the North Park a few days before, I had for a short time a very sweet and blessed view of the meeting of all doctrine, precept, and practice in the Person of our dear Lord, for so I must call Him, as I believe He is dear to both of us, though you may have been more favored than I. I am not fond of referring anybody to my poor writings, but if you will just read a few lines in page 94 of the March Standard, beginning with "All doctrine" down to "acceptable service", you will see what, for a few moments, seemed presented to the eyes of my faith. Now this was much the strain, though you were favored with a larger and more abiding measure, of what I seemed to see and feel upon these points. When then your letter came, it so met my feelings and so dropped into any experience, that it quite did me good to read it. And as I would like others to feel the same, I want to ask your permission to put it into the Standard.

This, my dear friend, is the right way to keep the precept. You were keeping it in the railway carriage. There was no wandering eye or wandering heart; no listening to the conversation; no going out after the things which feed pride and covetousness; no, I dare say you did not want to look out of the window of the carriage. Love is the fulfilling of the law—love to the Lord, love to His truth, love to His people, love to His doctrines, love to His ways, love to His ordinances, love to His precepts. And I am well convinced, where this spring is lacking, there is love to neither doctrine, experience, or practice. Oh that I were more favored with it in my own soul! I should then need no whip and no spur. But where there is not a spiritual mind and a love for the Lord, and what comes from and what leads to the Lord, religion, call it by what name you will, is but a burdensome, legal, and unacceptable service.

I like much what the Holy Spirit says by Paul, Gal. 6:15, 16. Our best rule is the new creature—that new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). And can we not say, dear friend, with Paul—"As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God"? And if we are blessed with the possession of this inward rule, and the Holy Spirit shines and act upon it, we shall find it sweetly harmonize with the precepts as the outward rule.

But there are very few, speaking comparatively, in the professing church of God who can receive or bear this. When you began to insist on practice at W. you know how it was received, and what a storm and confusion it created. Now I believe that men can bear the precept, if it be handled in a legal way, though they themselves are walking contrary to it. But when a man thinks he can, when he likes, alter his ways, the precept does not touch him, because he believes that if he is not fulfilling it now, he can and will do it one day. But when it comes out of a Gospel heart, is preached by Gospel lips, and handled by Gospel hands, then none will receive it but those who have felt the inward life and power of the Gospel with its effects in the soul. But I must not fall to preaching. You know these things better than I; and it is our mercy if we have been taught by the Holy Spirit to know anything for ourselves, either of doctrine or experience, either of promise or precept.

You have no doubt heard of the dangerous illness of Mr. Grace. But he has been spared to his wife and family, and to his congregation also, as I hope; though I understand it will be probably some time before he will be able to resume his place. He was comfortable in his mind during his illness; not favored with any great manifestations, but with a calm reliance on the faithfulness of God, and with some sweet communion with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. He felt himself that he would die, and was quite resigned.

You will be glad to hear that, through much mercy, I am better in health than when you were here, and hope now that it may please the Lord to restore me in some measure to the work of the ministry, though I hardly expect ever to be fit for much continuous labor.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

March 4, 1865
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—You may perhaps have already received the sad tidings communicated in the accompanying letter. I call them sad, not for Mr. Grace's sake, poor dear man, who is sad no more and never will again know what sadness is; but sad to his family, to his church and congregation, to his personal friends, among whom we indeed were, and to the church of God at large. At his age indeed, and with an attack so severe, it was almost to be anticipated that he might sooner or later sink under it; but I understand that he himself, whatever might have been his feelings at first, had lately anticipated recovery, for in a letter received this morning by Mr. Covell from one of his leading men, it is mentioned that but a short time before he sank into the arms of death, he had been speaking of preaching again.

I wrote to him a few days ago, and I now feel glad that I did so, as it seems that he was pleased with my letter. Its chief drift was the sweetness and blessedness of calmly relying on the faithfulness of God, and lying like a little child in the arms of eternal love. It was not with him as if he had for the first time to find pardon and peace. That had been long ago sealed upon his heart. All that he then needed was to die in faith as he had lived in faith, and to receive the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul.

It will be an irreparable blow, humanly speaking, to his poor widow and family, and to his church and congregation. Indeed I know no one who could at all take his place over them. I would say that no man whom we have known was more generally respected, both in his personal and ministerial character, especially at Brighton, where he had lived in the eyes of the people so many years, and from his former connection with Mr. Hannington, was almost as widely known by the world as by the church. We shall never see his friendly countenance or hear his cheerful voice again, at least not in this life; nor shall we ever converse with him as we have done on the precious things of God. He is gone, and we must soon follow, and may our last end be peace, if not joy, in believing.

The Lord comfort, bless, and be with you both, and with all the church of God. Our love to all our dear friends.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

April 19, 1865
My dear Ann—I fear you will begin to think that I have quite forgotten my promise to write to you; but you know how much my time is engaged, and even were it not so, that to will is often present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.

What a mercy it is for us that, if indeed we belong to the Lord, nothing can ever separate us from His love, so that neither time, nor distance, nor circumstances can cut the bond of union. Though we feel so often at a distance from Him, He is never at a distance from us; and as a proof of this, there are from time to time revivals of faith, and hope, and love. And what a mercy too that the whole work of grace, from first to last, does not depend upon ourselves or upon anybody else, but depends altogether upon His faithfulness who cannot lie. But why do I say all this? To encourage you and all my dear friends from whom I have been separated in body, but not in spirit, to trust more in the Lord's goodness and mercy, and less in themselves or in one another.

I was glad to find that you and my dear friends at B. still cleave close to one another in love and union. Next to enjoying the Lord's presence, and having union and communion with Him, the greatest favor is to have union and communion with the dear family of God. And how painful it is, instead of finding this sweet union, to find little else but strife and division. But even this sometimes, though so painful and wounding to the feelings, works together for good; for it drives the soul from looking to and resting upon man, to look more to the Lord and to rest more upon Him. Thus when the spirit is wounded and distressed with what is seen of strife and division, if it make one look more to the Lord and seek more after a feeling sense of His goodness and mercy to the soul, it works for good, though so trying and painful. I have always found that the worst effect of strife and division is to ruffle one's own spirit, and communicate that very spirit of strife to one's own mind which we so lament to see in others. It is in this way that strife leads to strife, and one evil begets another, until every gracious and godly feeling seems withered and gone, and nothing to remain but guilt and confusion.

It seems to me a great mercy that the Lord should have raised up Mr.— to go in and out before you, as I hardly know what would have been the consequence had you been left without a man of God to keep you together and feed you with the bread of life. He is a man who has gone through much conflict and deep exercise in his own soul, and enjoyed also blessed seasons of deliverance, so that he is able to speak a word in season to those who are weary. Those who receive benefit from his ministry, and esteem him as the servant of God, should seek to hold up his hands, not only by prayer and supplication on his behalf, but by maintaining, as far as they can, a spirit of love and union towards him. I know from painful experience how the hands of a minister are weakened when, instead of pulling with him, the people pull against him. But this union of love and affection requires much self-denial and mastery over one's own spirit; for it is only by pride that comes contention, and if the soul were well humbled in the very dust, then there would be a spirit of sweet humility, and with that humility, there would be forbearance and love.

I truly desire that every blessing may rest upon all who fear God and love the Lord Jesus Christ, not only at — but everywhere. And my advice to all my dear friends. . . is to live and walk, as far as they can, in the fear of God, looking unto and hanging upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and living in a spirit of love and union with His dear people. Give my love to all who remember me in the love of the Gospel.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

April, 1865
Dear Friend—I am very much obliged to you for the gift of beautiful fruit you have sent me, which arrived safely this afternoon. I accepted it, not only for the value of the present, but also for your kind and affectionate consideration of your old friend and pastor, now separated by distance, but with his church and people often still present in spirit.

I desire to make daily supplication on behalf of the little Church and Cause of God and truth of which I was the unworthy shepherd for so many years. May the God of all grace hold her up, establish and strengthen her, unite the hearts of the friends in affection and love, teach them to bear and forbear with each other, and to feel that the blessing of one is the blessing of all, and the blessing of all is the blessing of each.

I desire and pray that the blessing of God may rest upon Mr. Knill when he comes among you, and I hope those of the church and congregation who are blessed with a spirit of prayer may hold up his hands by secret supplication to the Lord, that his word may be with power. I shall not feel envious, I trust, if the Lord blesses his ministry among you manifold more than He has done mine. There are no blessings like spiritual blessings, and to be without them is for a child of God to walk in sensible darkness. May it be our blessed portion to be receiving daily supplies out of the fullness of Christ, enabling us to walk in the fear of God, embracing with a living faith His dear Son, have our vile lusts and passions mortified and crucified, and live in peace with the dear family of God.
Your affectionate friend,
J. C. P.

 

April 20, 1865
Dear Friend—I am sorry to be obliged once more to decline the invitation of my Zoar friends. Indeed I have no alternative—for so far as I dare make engagements, the Lord's day for which you have asked me, I had already fixed to spend with my Oakham friends. It will be therefore quite out of my power to accept your kind invitation. And I much also fear, even were you to ask me for a week-night when I am (D.V.) at Gower Street, whether I should be able to accept it.

It is quite true that, through much mercy, I am better in health; but I still feel, and shall probably ever feel, the effects of so many attacks of illness, the consequence being such tenderness of the chest, and an habitual cough which tries me much, especially in preaching, and which sometimes I think will prevent my preaching altogether, as speaking often brings it on. But we must all have our afflictions and trials; and this is one of mine, heavy to bear as interfering so much with the work of the ministry, and crippling me just where I should wish to be strong.

I am glad to find that the Lord still favors Zoar. It used to be a favored place twenty-five years and more ago, when you were but a young man. In those days, what a concourse there was; and how many dear saints of God used to flock like doves to the windows. Great changes have you seen there. If then the Lord is graciously reviving His work in your midst, to Him be all the praise. There are no doubt many gracious souls in the east of London, to whom Zoar used to be a little refuge. That it may ever be so, and that increasingly, is the desire of,
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

June 27, 1865
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I have no doubt that a few lines from me, just to let you all know how I am and how I am going on, will be acceptable to you and to our dear friends at Wharflands.

I came back much wearied by my labors at Oakham and Stamford, and was not at all well on the Saturday evening. Still I went to chapel on Lord's day, and preached twice to large and attentive congregations, and on the whole, though weak, was comfortably brought through. On Monday I was better, through mercy, and preached on the Tuesday evening quite comfortably. And last Lord's day I was still much better, and was helped in body and soul through both services. Mr. Ford was not there, which some regretted, as I was favored with some life and liberty in speaking. My texts were Luke 24:25, 26 and Heb. 11:13. I showed from the first our folly, and mainly in four points—
(1) looking at external appearances, and judging our state and case from them. Here I named the gloomy cloud which hung over me last year in my illness, leaving an attached people and my own comfortable home, and how the cloud seemed gradually breaking;
(2) trusting to our own reasoning minds;
(3) crediting Satan's lies;
(4) being led by other people, and not looking to the Lord for guidance.
I then showed the slowness of our faith to believe all that the Scriptures have spoken, and the necessity of the sufferings of Christ, and His entrance into His present glory. As I felt some liberty of heart and mouth to open these points, I almost wished that the reporter had been there. But I may (D.V.) have an opportunity of again speaking from the words, when they can be taken down, though I may not have the same door of utterance.

A good man told me what a blessing my sermon on a similar subject from Psalm 107:17-20 (which you will find, I think, in the Zoar Pulpit) had once been made to him, and that the blessing had been renewed that morning. Thus the Lord does not leave His poor unworthy servant, but helps him still in body, soul, and spirit. The heat was trying on Lord's day, but we got all the air we could. I hope the good Lord will bring me through my London labors, and bless them.

In the evening I dwelt much on the three marks of faith—
(1) seeing afar off;
(2) being persuaded of the truth and blessedness of the promises;
(3) embracing them with love and affection.
I also spoke much of our being strangers and pilgrims on the earth; how felt and how confessed—confessed in life and conduct, as well as in words. And I spoke of dying in faith, and dwelt on the life and death of our dear friend William Tiptaft, as a remarkable example of both. I trust on the whole that we had a good day. . .
Yours affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

July 28, 1865
My dear Friend, Mr. Tanner—I am glad there is some hope of seeing you at Calne. May we meet in the spirit, as well as in the flesh, and find and feel the presence and blessing of the Lord resting upon us in public and in private, in our communion with the Lord, with His people, and with one another. I trust I feel thankful in being so far better as to be able again to speak in His blessed name. I have labored now for ten continuous Lord's-days, eight of them at Gower Street, and am not worse for my labors—indeed, rather stronger than when I began them. How good the Lord is to poor unworthy me. May a sense of it lead me to walk in His fear and live to His praise! I was well attended at Gower Street Chapel, and my last Tuesday evening congregation was quite a usual Lord's-day one. I felt encouraged that eight Lord's-days had not worn out my ministry among them.

I feel for you in your trials and afflictions, so various, painful, and multiplied. But dare I wish you free from what the all-wise, all-gracious Lord lays upon you? Could He not in a moment remove them all?

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

 

October 23, 1865
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I am sorry to have to mention a sad event, which took place on Saturday. I was sitting quietly in my room before dinner, when Mr. George Covell, the brother of the minister, came up to ask me to preach as yesterday. His brother, I am grieved to say, had broken a blood-vessel that morning after breakfast, and had brought up a considerable quantity of blood. Dr. C., his medical man, had been sent for, and had ordered him to bed, to be kept very quiet, and indeed had enjoined that course of treatment which I knew was usual in such cases. I felt much grieved at the circumstance, as he has been so kind a friend to me, and as I knew well what a grave symptom it was. I therefore said immediately that I would preach once for him, taking the morning service, but that I could not do more in my present weak state. My services of course were gladly accepted; and so yesterday morning, in the midst of a most driving rain which lasted all day, I went in a cab to the chapel, and was on the whole helped through better than I could have expected. The incessant rain much thinned the congregation; still we had a goodly number, and I was very glad to do what I could to alleviate the blow, both to himself and the congregation. I am glad to say he is going on well.

It was only on Friday that he came to see me, and as the day was fine, wished to take me a drive into the country. He was very cheerful, and seemed to be in the best of health. When he has come to see me on a cold, wet, or snowy day, I have sometimes said to him—"Happy man, not to know or care whether it is cold or hot, wet or fine"; and now see, he is lying on a bed of sickness, bidden not to speak, and I, the poor invalid, standing up in his place. I have not felt anything for some time which has so truly grieved me; and I look forward with pain and fear to what may be the result. He is much loved by his church and congregation, and it will be to them a most severe blow. I cannot do much for him and for them, as at this time of the year my winter cough is often very troublesome; but still I hope to render what little help I can.

Oh how uncertain is everything here below! How often have I coveted his health and strength; and yet how all may be dashed in a moment! He has been much blessed in his soul of late, especially on a Lord's day or two back, and for the most part enjoys a sweet assurance of his interest in the love of God and the blood of His dear Son.

We still continue to like our new abode and, I may say, our new town. I have found a nice dry walk, very retired and very pleasant, which quite makes up for the park I have lost. One very nice feature of this place is the great dryness of the gravel walks, so that even after heavy rain, a day or two gives you a walk where you scarcely soil your feet. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

December 29, 1865
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—You will be glad to hear that my dear friend Mr. Covell is wonderfully restored, and seems almost as well as before. I wish you could have heard his opening address the first time he preached after his illness. He gave a testimony which might well make many of us blush or hang our heads down for shame. He said that for many months previously he had never once gone to bed dry-eyed—that is, as he explained it, without having shed tears during some part of the day, either of contrition or melted by mercy. He also said that, in reference to this, the words of Psalm 126:5 were much upon his mind, and that the interpretation which he gave them was the glimpses of joy which he felt on these occasions; but when he was laid upon his bed, that then he saw that this reaping in joy had a much greater fulfillment, for that he swam as it were in a sea of love, enjoying so much of the presence and power of God. I cannot tell you half that he said, and much wish that it had been taken down. The chapel was very full, and it might be said the people rejoiced with trembling, fearing his exertions might bring on another attack. But he seemed not at all the worse for it next day, and has now resumed his usual labors. I am (D.V.) to speak again for him on the morning of January 7, as it is ordinance day, and thus he has more than his usual labors. I feel quite willing and desirous to do what I can to help him, and as I have a cab to and fro, and the chapel is easy to speak in, I can do so without much risk.

30th.—I am sorry to find you have not been well. Where one naturally possesses an active mind, to have our energies lowered is in itself a suffering, especially where we have so many calls upon both body and soul. You have many cares, not only from the anxiety and burden necessarily attending your waiting upon your dear invalid sister, but from the weight with which church matters and church trials rest upon your mind. It is indeed a blessed mark of divine teaching to have sympathy with the cause of Christ and His afflicted members; but it adds much to the burdens which the true follower of the Lamb has to carry. Where the conscience is tender in the fear of God, and the Lord's people much loved in Him and for His sake, it must open up a path of peculiar suffering, for it is a part of the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ which the Apostle longed to know. Those who are wrapped up in carnality and self escape many of the trials and sufferings which befall the family of God; but if they escape the suffering, they also escape the consolation, and what is more, that conformity to the suffering image of Christ to which God has predestinated His people. It is a mercy that we have some left who love Zion, who feel bound up in her welfare and interests, and who can say with the Psalmist, Psalm 137:6. Praying souls hold up a minister's hands—nor indeed can any others rightly expect to derive a blessing from his ministry.

I am glad to find that Mrs. B. made a good end. She always seemed a very attentive hearer, and one of the afflicted followers of the Lamb, as her countenance bore marks of care and suffering. How often it is that at eventide it is light! Mr. Lightfoot, who used to visit the sick a good deal at Stamford, has met with several instances of a blessing being given on the bed of death to exercised souls who sat for years under my ministry. It is encouraging to find how faithful God is to His own word and work.

Two good men, twin brothers, Moses and Aaron Burton, called on me the other day, and both of them testified how much my published sermons had been blessed in Sussex. They had been on a visit to Mr. Godwin, and brought back a good account of his health, but a sad one of the ravages of the cattle plague, which has swept away nearly all the cows of the poor freemen who make the cheese at Godmanchester. Who can tell what the end may be, and what we as a nation may have to suffer? For we are so bound together, that the loss to one is injury to all. But what few signs of national repentance!. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.




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