LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1866)


January 24, 1866

My dear friend,
We seem to have to learn every attribute of God by repeated teachings; like children ever forgetting yesterday's lesson, and compelling, so to speak, the kind and patient teacher to teach it all again. Indeed, none but the Lord could or would bear with such miserable pupils, such out-of-the-way blockheads, such thorough dullards, and obstinate incurable dunces. Surely of all men and women we have reason to speak well of the patience and forbearance of the God of all grace, the God of all our mercies, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Had He not been what He is in His dear Son, He must long ago have driven us from His presence; and banished us for evermore out of His sight. But His goodness leads to repentance; and a sense of this in the heart makes us desire never to sin against Him more.
J. C. P.

 

January 24, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I am just now in the thick of my sermon for Mr. Ford, which takes both time and care to bring out in a clear and acceptable way. I am making, I am sorry to say, very slow progress with the memoir of our late dear friend William Tiptaft; but I can only do a certain amount of work, and get so weak and jaded if I exceed it, that all the freshness of my writing seems faded and gone. I generally spend an hour after breakfast in reading the Scriptures, chiefly for the most part in the original, as far as time admits; and then, when my mind is fresh, address myself to my Standard work. After dinner I rest, and in the evening comes correspondence, and reading again the Scriptures before bedtime.

And yet how time slips away, and what little real good seems to be got or done! At times it quite disheartens me to find so little progress made, if any at all. Still we must go toiling and suffering on, and not get weary in well-doing, but commit our ways and works to the Lord. I have often thought that the standard in my own mind both of preaching and writing is set rather high, and that is one reason why I seem sensible of so many failures. I never could be satisfied, even as a natural man, with anything mediocre or commonplace, and was always aiming at some knowledge or attainments beyond the common level. The same feeling perhaps accompanies my spiritual mind, so as never to rest satisfied with anything which does not bear the mark and stamp of God.

I was out on Lord's day morning, and heard Mr. Covell from Heb. 1:8, 9; but he only got as far as the first clause of verse 8. He was very solemn and affectionate, said he was a dying man, and spoke to the people as such. I heard him very well until just towards the end, when the oppressive atmosphere of the chapel—not a single ventilator open—well-near overpowered me. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

January 29, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I need not tell you that, in making engagements to preach, I feel more and more my dependence upon the Lord to enable me to fulfill them. The friends therefore of course will bear this in mind, and I hope it may stir up prayer and supplication on their and my behalf, that the Lord would grant our mutual desire to meet once more in His gracious and blessed name. We may indeed expect that every year, not to say month, may work a change in those of us who are advancing in the valley of tears. I look round sometimes, and think how many are fallen asleep of friends and brother ministers, whose life, humanly speaking, seemed better than my own—your poor dear husband, Isbell, J. Kay, and our dear and valued friend William Tiptaft. How I have seen them taken, and I left. Our friend Mr. Grace too, Mr. M'Kenzie, Mr. Gadsby, and Mr. Warburton, besides private Christians whom I have known. How loudly these things speak, and seem to bid us sit loosely to the world, have our loins girt and our lamps burning, not knowing how soon the message may come personally to us.

I was much struck with what you said about the year 1866 being a marked epoch. . . . When I look round upon this miserable world, and see it so overflowing with sin and sorrow, God so provoked, His people so afflicted, wickedness so rampant, godliness so low, it gives room to some inquiring thoughts—"Lord, how long?" But I forbear expressing all that I think and feel, contenting myself with this—that the Judge of all the earth must do right, that He will avenge the cause of His elect, and that it shall be well with those who fear God.

We read, I think, that there is a time when the mystery of God shall be finished, as He has declared to His servants the prophets. Then there will be a full clearing up of that great mystery, which now so sadly puzzles us—why things are as they are in this sin-disordered world; and all things will be made clear to the glory of God, the praise of Jesus, the salvation of the saints, the destruction of sinners, and the confusion of Satan. Our present portion is to suffer with Christ, that we may be also glorified together, believing that if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.

Our wisdom and our mercy will be to be ever looking unto Jesus, hanging upon Him, and cleaving to Him with purpose of heart, fighting the good fight of faith—that fierce and daily battle which we have to carry on against sin and self, Satan, and the world. I don't know any other way of getting on, or getting through our daily army of enemies without and within, but by believing in the Son of God, and looking to Him for the continual supplies of His grace; and this we are obliged to do, there being no other way open to us, and being shut out by law, conscience, guilt, and fear, weakness, sinfulness, and helplessness from walking in any other path but where Jesus stands at the head of the way. It is like a person in a dark night on a lonely moor eyeing a light at a distance, on which he fixes his eyes, and to which he directs his steps. How graciously He says, "I am the way; no man comes unto the Father but by Me." This seems sometimes our only direction, like the light of a lighthouse across the sea to guide the ship unto the desired haven.

But I am writing a letter, not preaching a sermon, and must therefore pause in the full current of thought. I was at chapel on Lord's day morning. Mr. Covell preached from 2 Chron. 33:12, 13, but did not get much beyond—"The Lord is God." He spoke very nicely upon affliction, and its effects in Manasseh's case. I heard him very comfortably, and could follow him very nicely in the path he laid down. I am (D.V.) to speak for him next Lord's day morning.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 16, 1866
Dear Friend in the Truth, Mr. Hoadley—We have to thank you for a very fine hare, which you have been so kind as to send us through your son. These little marks show that you still bear me in affectionate remembrance. It is, indeed, one of my mercies that I have many friends among the dear family of God who love me for the truth's sake; and may I never say or do anything to forfeit their esteem and affection, but be enabled still to labor in word and doctrine according to the ability which the Lord may give me. I consider it a great privilege that I am still enabled to go on contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and my highest reward is that the Lord should condescend to bless to His people anything which drops from my tongue or pen.

I hope the Lord still continues to strengthen you in standing firm for His truth; and you will find, as it is opened up to your heart with greater sweetness and power, a firmer standing in it and bolder contending for it.
I am, dear friend, yours in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

February 24, 1866

My dear Friend,—. . .You ask me a question, and inquire for a recipe which I can by no means give, and which, if I could, would neither satisfy nor be of any service to you. I believe that we, of ourselves, can neither obtain nor maintain the presence of God, that His visitations are as sovereign as His grace, but are directed by infinite wisdom. There is an expression in the Ephesians well worth considering. "Wherein He has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence" (Eph. 1:8). His abounding is in the riches of His grace; and yet it is guided by wisdom and directed by prudence. So that He knows how and when to give out of these abounding riches.

I hope you still continue your little meeting together. I found it good to be there when at —.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 


March 22, 1866

My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . It will be no disappointment to me if I am not the person to open the new chapel. Indeed, I was not aware until lately that any such thought or plan was entertained by the friends. Whoever opens it and whenever opened, may the presence of the Lord fill the house, and thus a gracious token be afforded of His approbation.

I am sorry to learn that Mr. Knill is suffering from a bad cold. He labors hard in the ministry, and will find, as others have found before him, that so much continuous exertion, with all the trials and exercises attending the ministry, tells upon the bodily strength. Most of our laborious ministers have been men of large frame, wide and deep chests, and much bodily strength—such were Huntington, Gadsby, Warburton, and Mr. Kershaw. Our dear friend also, William Tiptaft, was a strong-made man, broad and sound in the chest. Oh what a blessing health is, and what a trial is the lack of it! How it has crippled me nearly every day of my life for many years, though I have been spared already to live longer than many once expected! I have also been favored with much activity of mind—and if I have not been able, like many of my brethren in the ministry, to go about preaching the Word, yet with my pen I have labored hard, and perhaps never harder than at the present time.

The older I get, and the more I see and feel the solemn importance of the truth of God, the more do I desire and seek to put forth nothing by mouth or pen which is not instructive or profitable to the souls of men; nor did I ever more, if so much, desire to keep very closely to the Word of inspiration, and to advance nothing which is not in the fullest harmony with the Scriptures. I have read them a good deal this winter, and find them more and more full of holy wisdom and heavenly instruction. All I want is to believe them with a stronger faith and more sensibly, warmly, closely, and affectionately embrace the gracious and glorious truths revealed in them. It is for lack of this faith, simply to receive what God has revealed, that they are read for the most part with so little profit; unless they are mixed with faith, as the apostle speaks (Heb. 4:2), they cannot profit the soul. I am now reading the earlier chapters of Isaiah, the beginning of Leviticus, and the Epistle to the Colossians, studying them as far as I can in the original, and seeking to enter into the mind and meaning of the blessed Spirit in them.

If we read the early chapters of Leviticus with an enlightened eye, how much there is in them to illustrate the one great sacrifice of our gracious Lord. In Him we see the burnt offering as offering Himself without spot to God, the sin offering as bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, the trespass offering as especially applicable to sins of commission, and the grain offering as representing Him to be the food of our souls. Christ is the sum and substance of the Scriptures. Without Him they are a dead letter, full of darkness and obscurity; but in and with Him they are full of light and blessedness.

The apostle says—"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16), by which, I suppose, he means the word which testifies of Christ, and holds Him forth to our faith, and hope, and love. This is to dwell in us, not to be a passing visitant, but an abiding householder, and that "richly", so as to supply richly every need, and "in all wisdom", so as to make us wise unto salvation, and be ever guiding our thoughts, words, and ways. But oh, how short of all this do we come, our house being rather like an inn or a London lodging-house, with all sorts of guests, and all better lodged and better cared for, than the owner and master! Nothing more shows our desperate case by nature than the open doors and windows of our house, giving admission day and night to all manner of rackety guests, who care for nothing but their own convenience and enjoyment.

I am glad to learn that dear Mr. Keal has taken so much to reading the writings of the immortal Coalheaver. I have often felt that no writer knocks the pen more out of my fingers than that wonderful man. And there is this great advantage in his writings, that though full of divine thought, they do not require any strong exercise of our mental faculties. Thus many can read Huntington who cannot read such writers as Owen, Goodwin, and Charnock. His great gift is opening up a living experience, in which he excels in clearness, fullness, and variety, and I may add in savor and unction, all other writers that I am acquainted with. He also throws great light upon the Scriptures, for no man ever had a greater knowledge of them, or a clearer insight into their spiritual meaning. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

June 20, 1866
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—It seems to be your lot never to be free from your affliction for any long time. This is painful for the present, and not very encouraging for the future. But what can we say to these things? If we believe that all things are arranged by infinite wisdom and eternal love, and can believe our own interest in these wise and gracious arrangements, it will reconcile us to the severe dealings, though so trying and painful to the flesh. But I am well convinced that we may see and believe all this as a matter of doctrine, and yet be utterly unable to take any comfort from it, or obtain any rest in and by it. Our head believes one thing and our heart feels another. Nothing then but the almighty power of the Lord in a way of support, and His goodness and mercy in a way of experimental feeling, can reconcile our poor fretful wayward minds to the weight of a daily cross.

And what adds to it is continual fear of doing or neglecting something which may bring on an attack of any illness to which we are subject; so that we seem to move about in a kind of trepidation, fearing lest this cold wind, damp day, or some such circumstance may bring on what may be an attack. Through mercy, I do not usually suffer from pain, even when I am most ill; but to feel the weakness produced by it is in itself a suffering, and since I have known myself what the feeling of bodily weakness is, I have much sympathized with those of the dear family of God who suffer from great bodily weakness, and much more so when pain is added to it. It must have been very trying to you to have been laid up when Mr. H. was with you.

I am thankful to say that I am, through mercy, somewhat better in health, and am going to make the attempt of preaching at Gower Street next Lord's day. I go up in much weakness and with many fears; but I know that the Lord can make His strength perfect in the one, and graciously dispel and disperse the other. I have often gone up to London weak and feeble, and yet been mercifully strengthened, and left London stronger and better than when I entered it. There is something in the dry air at this time of the year which suits me there. But be it so or not, I must look higher and trace the good hand of the Lord in giving me strength according to my day. I felt for the deacons at Gower Street, and the church and congregation generally, as they have such difficulty in getting Supplies; and my being unable to go last month much put them about on account of the shortness of the notice. I hope to be under the roof of my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Clowes. I expect to see my good old friend every year more aged.

But we must expect that others, like ourselves, feel the pressure of advancing age and infirmity. Nor need we wish ever to live in this miserable world. The grand thing is to have a good hope through grace, and to be blessed, when our appointed time comes, with dying faith in dying moments, and be carried safely through the dark valley of the shadow of death. It is a mercy in many respects that the time and mode of our dismissal is hidden from our eyes. Thousands who have dreaded the last stroke have found, when it came, it was not a stroke of wrath, but one of tender love, and longed to be gone before the thread of life was cut. I am very sure that nothing short of sovereign superabounding grace, pure mercy, atoning blood, and dying love can meet our case, silence doubt and fear, open the gate of heaven, close the door of hell, and make the grave sweet.

I was struck with a passage that I met the other day in good Dr. Owen—"I know not how others bear up their hearts and spirits; for my part, I have much ado to keep from continual longing after the embraces of the dust, and shades of the grave, as a curtain drawn over the rest in another world." We have stood sometimes over the grave of a departed friend, and have thought within ourselves, here is a rest for his poor worn-out body—here will it be safely kept until the resurrection morn. Someone, perhaps, may think or say the same thing over us. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

June 21, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . .
We have lived to prove the uncertainty of all earthly things; and the various trials and exercises of body and mind through which we have passed have well convinced us that all here below is stained by sin, spoiled by infirmity, and ever subject to change. But what a mercy it is that the foundation of God stands sure, that those whom He loves, He loves to the end—the words will recall to your mind a funeral monument, where you have shed the silent tear—and that none can pluck out of Jesus' hand the objects of His all-victorious grace! It would, I hope, have rejoiced the hearts of many if, as we see eye to eye in the things of God, so we might have seen each other face to face in the flesh. But such was not the will of God, and though I feel His trying dispensations, yet I desire to submit to His heavenly will. No doubt there was a purpose in it, though at present it may be hidden from our eyes. But I will not dwell longer on this subject. The time may come when I may once more see my dear friends face to face, but when I cannot say; as if I were to mention a time, it might only cause a fresh disappointment. I will therefore leave that matter to the disposal of the Lord, who can bring it about in His own way.

When you receive this, I shall, if the Lord will, be in London under the roof of my old and attached friends Mr. and Mrs. Clowes, with the hope and expectation of preaching at Gower Street on the coming Lord's day. I go up to London in much weakness and in much fear. May the Lord graciously make His strength perfect in the one, and remove and dispel the other. I have proved both in times past, and have sometimes left London stronger than when I entered it. At this season of the year the dryness of the air seems to suit my chest; nor do I feel the exertion at Gower Street so much as might be expected from the size of the place. It is the bad ventilation in chapels which hurts me more than the physical exertion of preaching; and had I stood in the new pulpit at Oakham, I would have looked round narrowly to see how the ventilation was managed, and might have longed to have the same command of a window as I was indulged with at the old chapel. How freshly sometimes has the breeze come in when I have almost fainted with the pent-up breath of so many hearers! I used to tell you I loved the pure breath of heaven both in nature and grace, though I admit that often the keen breezes chilled my frame.

How we look back sometimes upon days that are passed, and how all seem now to have passed away as a dream in the night! But if God has in His mercy done anything for our souls, or if I instrumentally have been of any service to His afflicted family, that does not pass away; for what God does, He does forever, and the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart is as firm and lasting as the finished work of the Son upon the cross. We look around, and see how this and that friend or neighbor is passing away. We think perhaps of those whom we have lost. But they are not lost, though we have lost them. They are safely housed in the mansions above, out of the reach of every storm; and what a day will that be when the Lord comes to make up His jewels, when He will present them before the Father and say—"Of all whom You gave Me, I have lost none!" Oh may we, and those with whom we have walked in friendship and affection, be found among them! That happy day will make amends for all suffering and sorrow felt here below. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

September 20, 1866
My dear Friend, Thomas Godwin—It will not be in my power to come round by Godmanchester on my return homeward, as I hope (D.V.) to go to Nottingham next Wednesday, and preach there on the next evening and the following Lord's day. I was unable last year to fulfill my engagement, and therefore when Mrs. Henry Abel wrote to ask me, I felt bound in some measure to go there, if my health admitted; and as I have a vacant Lord's day, it seemed hardly worth while to go for one evening.

I came here via Leicester, and spent a day or two at Humberstone. On the Thursday evening I took tea with Mrs. Hardy, and went to the chapel to hear Mr. Hazlerigg, having previously declined speaking that evening, as I felt weak and unwell from my London labors. Mr. H. went into the pulpit, read and prayed, and to my great surprise, came to me suddenly as I was sitting in the pew and begged me to preach, as the friends would be so disappointed to see me there and not hear me.

It took me very much by surprise; but after a few moments' consideration, I complied with his wishes, and got into the pulpit, where I was helped through, somehow or other. I never was taken so by surprise before, and under ordinary circumstances, would not have consented.

I found the friends here much as usual. Mr. and Mrs. K. looking better than I expected, though I see Mr. K. much aged every way. We had a very full chapel on the Lord's day, and I hope on the whole we had a good day, as I felt at home with my old people, and some of them, I believe, felt at home with me.

It is a very nice chapel, much more easy and comfortable to speak in than the old—better ventilated, and with more accommodation every way for the people. The day was sadly wet after the morning, which seemed to mar the enjoyment of the day, especially considering the crops upon the ground still unharvested.

Through mercy I am pretty well, but rather wearied with my labors; and like a tired soldier, am looking out for home and winter quarters. You have probably heard of poor Mrs. R. Healy's affliction. She is now in London under medical treatment. May the Lord mercifully bless the means. She heard me two Lord's days at Gower Street, and was in the lodgings, as I did not occupy them, which she and her husband thought very comfortable. I drank tea with them there, and thought them a great improvement on the old ones, both in point of situation and size. I hope to leave tomorrow for Stamford, and shall be at Mr. Michelson's, where I expect to remain until the following Wednesday. I cannot now add more, except that we all unite in love to Mrs. Godwin and yourself.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

October 18, 1866
Dear Friend in the Truth, Mr. James Davis—I received safely your kind letter and the cheque for £5 which it contained, and ought to have acknowledged its receipt by the last mail; but the day slipped away almost before I remembered I should have acknowledged it. Forgive me this wrong. My mind was much occupied by preaching and writing, and various engagements. As you kindly gave me the option I have just put down £2 10s to the account of the Aged Pilgrim's Friend Society, and the other £2 10s I keep as a little fund from which to relieve poor saints, of whom I know and see many in my various movements here and there. I am not able to do as much for them now as I was before I gave up my two chapels, and lost with them all the income which I had from them. I am glad, therefore, of any little help to enable me to give away a little to the poor saints of God.

Through mercy I have been pretty well during the summer, and was enabled to preach sixteen continuous Lord's-days, and once in the week, and sometimes twice besides. This I consider a great favor, and I hope that the Lord not only brought me through the work, but was with me in it. I was eight Lord's-days at Gower Street Chapel, and visited Wilts, being at Allington three Lord's-days, and preaching at the Calne anniversary, where I think we had the largest attendance which I have ever known. Our poor friend Mr. P— is still a good deal afflicted, but was able to get out on all the Lord's-days that I was there. I fear, poor man, he will be afflicted for life; but his pains and afflictions seem to be sanctified to his soul's good. We are sorry to see our friends suffer, and yet what can we say, when we see their afflictions sanctified to their soul? We cannot love them, nor feel for, and sympathize with them as the Lord does; and yet He sees fit in His wisdom and mercy to afflict them, and we know that He would not do so unless it were for the good of their soul. What can we say then? All we can do is to beg of the Lord that He would support, comfort, and bless them; and this we shall do, as we are led to feel for them, and sympathize with them in their afflictions and troubles.

You would see in this month's Gospel Standard the account which you sent of your departed friend. I think it will be read with much interest, as there is so much in it that is very striking, and such an experience, both of law and Gospel, as one does not often meet with in these days. What a proof such an account affords of the wondrous sovereignty of God, and the exceeding riches of His superabounding grace! It is such things which show us the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that He still deals with the souls of His saints, at least with some of them, as in days of old, and that true religion and vital godliness are ever the same as wrought in the soul by a Divine power. But how is the fine gold become dim, both in minister and people! Where are there now such ministers as Mr. Symons and Marriner, whom you used to hear at Bristol?

The work of God upon the soul is almost everywhere at a low ebb, and though there is in this country, and especially in Wilts, a spirit of hearing, yet there is but little power either in the pulpit or in the pew. It seems to be the same with you in Australia as with us—great profession, but very little Divine life and power. Error abounds, and is wrapped up under such specious shapes that it is very hard to detect it. But you will always find that where error is there will be pride and contention. It is only a knowledge of the truth, attended with divine unction and power, which will produce brokenness, contrition, humility, meekness with faith, hope, and love, godly fear, a spirit of prayer, separation from the world, and that sweet spirituality of mind which is life and peace.

I hope that the few among you who love the Lord and His precious truth will keep close together in love and union, avoiding all things which cause strife and contention. You may be few in number, and may be derided as a little assembly; but it is better for a few to meet together and walk together in love and union, seeking the glory of God and His blessing, than to be mixed up with a number of people who have neither part nor lot in the matter of eternal life.

Please to give my love to Mrs. Charlwood, and any of the friends who may know me from my writings, and feel union with them, and with me for them. I hope Aquila is well, and your wife; kind remembrances to them.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

October 25, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I feel it to be a mercy to have been brought through all my travellings and labors, and to have reached my own home in peace and safety. To be preserved in our going in and out, and to find the Lord a shade on our right hand is indeed a mercy, and especially to one who feels his need of preservation from many things which do not affect the health or comfort of others; and besides all this, to have been allowed to fulfill all my engagements, and blessed, I hope, in fulfilling them, gives, or should give, an additional ground of thankfulness. I was enabled to preach during the past summer for sixteen continuous Lord's-days, besides speaking on the weekday evening, and in no one case disappointed the people, or broke an engagement. And I would gladly hope that amid all my weakness, sinfulness, ignorance, and infirmity, that the Lord was pleased sometimes to bless the word which I was enabled to preach in His name.

If I have learned anything by advancing years, and a long experience of the ministry, it is my own insufficiency to every good word and work; and that, even were I enabled to preach the Gospel with all clearness, faithfulness, and consistency with the word of truth; yes, were I just such a minister as I understand what a minister should be, even then all my words would fall to the ground, except so far as the Lord Himself were specially pleased to bless them to the souls of His people. While, then, I am thankful for any little help given to preach the word of life, yet I would be far more thankful to find that a blessing rested upon the word.

When, too, I consider what man is as a fallen creature, and what my heart is naturally, how hard, impenitent, obdurate, and unbelieving, and know that my heart is only as if a copy of all other hearts, how sensibly it makes me feel that the whole work, first and last, must be of the Lord, and that if He withhold the blessing, Paul himself might plant, and Apollos water, but there would be no increase. If, then, any blessing may have rested on my labors during the summer, I may well retire into my winter quarters with a feeling of thankfulness that they have not been in vain in the Lord. I am glad I have been to Oakham and to Stamford, not only once more to see my dear friends in the flesh, but also to unite with them once more in the house of prayer, and to feel some renewal and revival of the love and affection which never can be extinguished when once it has been kindled by the power of God.

I had some nice conversation with S. C. and her niece, also with others. At Stamford I was not able to see much of the friends, but was well attended, and felt comfortable in speaking among them.

I sincerely hope that you and your dear sister may derive benefit from your sojourn at L. It certainly was very beneficial to me both times that I was there. I am, through mercy, pretty well, and preached last Lord's-day morning and also on Wednesday evening. My texts were Jer. 31:11, 12, Lord's-day morning, and Wednesday evening Heb. 10:36, 37. From Jer. 31, I showed that there were six things stronger than Jacob, whom I took as a typical representative of a child of God: 1. the law; 2. sin; 3. Satan; 4. the world; 5. death; 6. hell, all which I worked out. Then the redemption by the Lord Himself by price and power, first price, and then power; then the effects as manifested to the soul in coming and singing in the height of Zion, on which Jesus now sits enthroned, and flowing with a melting heart to the goodness of the Lord to feed upon Gospel bread and Gospel wine, the unction of the Holy Spirit, the Paschal Lamb, and the fatted calf. I hope we had, upon the whole, a beneficial time.

I spoke on Wednesday evening, as my friend Covell was gone to the anniversary at Cranbrook, and I had quite a good congregation. . . .
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

October 25, 1866
My dear Mr. Whitteridge—I am obliged to you for your kind invitation to preach in your chapel when I am in town; but you will perceive from personal observation that my physical strength is but small, and, indeed, I find that my labors at Gower Street are quite as much as I can accomplish. I could not, therefore, undertake to accept your invitation, as I find that to preach more than once in the week besides the Lord's-day is more than I can do without suffering, and the hazard of laying myself up altogether. It is many years since I have suffered from weakness of the chest, and indeed was compelled by it to give up two chapels and congregations, among whom I had labored for more than twenty-six years. I feel it therefore a mercy that I am allowed during the summer months to speak a little in the name of the Lord, and gladly would I do more for His name's sake, if His glorious Majesty did but give me the power.

To preach the Gospel is a very important, and, I may say, an arduous task. Rightly to divide the word of truth, to take forth the precious from the vile, to preach the Gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, by manifestation of the truth to commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Well may we ask, Who is sufficient for these things? I feel myself most insufficient, but I know that the Lord makes His strength perfect in weakness, and this encourages me to cast myself on Him, and seek help from His gracious hands who has said, "My grace is sufficient for you."
I am, dear Sir,
Yours very sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.

 

November 23, 1866
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—I was sorry to learn from your last kind letter that the Lord had again laid upon you His afflicting hand; but it was your mercy to find profit from the furnace, and that the painful trial was sanctified to your spiritual good. We are such poor, stupid, cold, lifeless wretches when things are smooth and easy with us, that we seem to need trial and affliction to stir us up, and bring us out of carnality and death. The Word of God is written for an afflicted and poor people, and they alone understand it, believe it, feel it, and realize it. How often you had read Micah 7:8, 9, and yet did not enter into its sweetness, suitability, and blessedness as you did in your late affliction. There is a sermon of mine from it in the Gospel Pulpit, No. 77, which you can look over; but I daresay you could preach a better sermon from it than I did, if you could tell out all that you felt in the sweet application of it. Luther used to say that, before he was afflicted, he never understood the Word of God. This witness is true. There is no real place for it in our conscience or affections. And yet how hard it seems, and trying to the flesh, to learn our religion in such a painful way; but any way is better than to miss the prize at last. And if we are favored to reach the heavenly shore, we shall forget all the perils and sufferings of the voyage.

I hope however that you will take all due care of yourself at this trying season of the year, as you cannot stand the damp and cold as you once could. I have not been very well myself the last week, but with this exception I have, through much mercy, been more than usually well during the autumn. This has enabled me to get most days my usual walk, without which I rarely find myself in tolerable health.

I preach here sometimes, but more to assist my friend, who though much recovered is not I think very strong, than for any other reason. He is a very good preacher, much better than most that I know; and what is better than good preaching, his whole heart and soul seem in it. He has been very much kept during a long profession, nearly as long as mine, and been at times much blessed and favored. This gives much life and power to his ministry, but at the same time makes it very searching. Last Lord's day morning he spoke from 2 Kings 18:6, 7, and was very close upon cleaving to the Lord, and departing not from following Him. I could not find, alas, that I had cleaved so closely to the Lord, and not departed from following Him as he drew the line. But it is good sometimes to be searched, that we may see our sinfulness, confess, and forsake it.

The ministry of the day is for the most part so loose and lax that it is good to have a closer, if not stricter, line of experience drawn out, if it be not too strongly insisted on for the casting down of the tried and tempted. I remember how you once were much tried by a sermon which I preached from Romans 12:1, 2 more than ten years ago (in 1856), though I believe I advanced nothing in it but what you would fully agree with. We need castings down and liftings up, sometimes to be searched and exercised about the reality of our religion and sometimes to be strengthened and encouraged so as not to be utterly cast down. It is those who have no changes that fear not God. All who walk in the ways of truth and righteousness will find changes within, though we know that there are no changes without, for with God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Though we do not like these changes for ourselves, yet we have little union or communion with those who have none.

The Lord we trust has opened our eyes and hearts too to see and feel what true religion is; and though we seem at times to have so little of it, and almost none at all, yet in our right mind nothing can satisfy us but what comes from and leads to the Lord. Growing years have not made us grow more in a good opinion of self, or the goodness of the creature. If we have grown in anything, it is in a sense of the suitability, blessedness, grace, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

December 17, 1866
Dear Friend in the Lord, Alfred Hammond—I am glad to see how the Lord keeps alive His sacred work upon your heart, though I doubt not that, like most others of those who fear God, you have your changes. Indeed I believe, for my part, that the soul, when once made alive unto God, can no more be healthy than through air, food, and exercise, in the same way as the body. Breathing out desires, and breathing in the breath of the Spirit, hungering and feeding upon the bread of life, movements and exercises of each spiritual grace as faith, hope, love, patience, repentance, and godly sorrow for sin, meekness and humility, quietness and resignation, a falling into the hands and before the face of God, the renunciation of all our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness—these and similar exercises keep the soul alive and prevent it from settling on its lees or being at ease in Zion. These are the lessons which I am daily learning, and have been trying to learn for many, many years, but seem to have learned very little to profit. Still I have learned something of what I am, and something of what the Lord is; and I have learned in this school how vile I am, and how good is He. I feel myself utterly unworthy to occupy the position in which I am placed as a writer and preacher; still I desire to be faithful according to the measure of my light and grace. In this dark and gloomy day, stewards need to be faithful, as I have every reason to believe you are.

The Lord bless your aged father, yourself, and all near and dear to you by natural and spiritual ties, with every needful blessing. My love to you all.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

December 17, 1866

My dear Friend, Mr. Clowes. . .
You cannot expect to have now that health and strength which you had in younger days, and it will be your wisdom and mercy to bow down before the will of God, and submit with patient resignation to the strokes of His afflicting rod.
He has often in times past blessed, relieved, and comforted your soul, and though through the power of unbelief you may at times call in question all He has done for you and in you, yet all your doubts and fears do not affect the reality of His work nor the exceeding riches of His superabounding grace.

I was glad to learn, from a few lines received from Mr. G., that you felt your feet upon the rock. May the Lord give you grace and strength there to continue fast and firm, and not be moved from your standing by the assaults of Satan and the flesh. But I know from painful experience that it is only as the Lord is pleased to give and strengthen faith, that we can fight in this battle. We think of our sins, backslidings, inconsistencies, infirmities, the little fruit that we have borne or are bearing, and the few marks that we seem to have of the grace of God being in us of a truth. Unbelief is a dreadful foe to the soul's peace, and Satan takes every advantage of working upon our natural feelings to bring us into bondage and confusion. Bodily weakness also much helps him on, as we seem to have no strength of mind or body to resist him. In such extremities there is only one way of getting help and relief—to fall down before the Lord in all our weakness and sinfulness, and beg of Him to undertake our cause, that the sighing of the prisoner might come up before Him, that He would save those who are appointed to die.

But I hope my dear friend has obtained some gracious answer from Him who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him; for it is this alone which can give any solid comfort or abiding relief. You have for many years been learning your own sinfulness, weakness, and helplessness, and have often been brought down in your soul before God, as having in self neither hope nor help. And there have been times and seasons also when you have had discoveries to your soul of the goodness and mercy of the Lord, which have enabled you to believe in His name, hope in His mercy, and cleave to Him in love and affection. Now all these things are so many pledges and foretastes of His unchanging and unchangeable love; and I hope that you may be enabled to hold firmly what the Lord has given graciously, and not give way to Satan and unbelief.

We are miserable sinners in a miserable world. All around us, within us, and without us is a wreck and ruin. Sin, horrid sin, has utterly defiled both body and soul, and stained and polluted everything that is of the earth. Amid all this wreck and ruin which we daily feel, there is only one ray of light to guide our feet through this tangled maze of sin and sorrow, and this light beams forth out of the Son of God as once crucified, but now risen from the dead, and gone up on high to appear in the presence of God for us. He has destroyed death and him who had the power of death, even the devil, who through fear of death has so often brought us into bondage.

I was glad to hear from my dear wife the message that you sent, that you had no fear of death. He is the last enemy, and if his sting be taken away, then the victory is won. The sting of death is sin—but if that sin be pardoned and put away, then the sting is taken out, and to die is only to fall asleep in Jesus. I believe, for the most part, God makes His people willing to die before He takes them to Himself, for they feel there is no other release from trouble and sorrow. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 20, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . You know how interested I am in all that concerns the spiritual welfare of the Church at Oakham. I am truly glad therefore to find that, as the Lord takes away with one hand, He gives with the other. You must expect to see every year increasing gaps made in your midst. For many years our ranks were but little thinned; but as you know, my later days witnessed the removal of some of the chief pillars and ornaments of the church. My own feeling was much against widening the gate of the church, or we might have had numerous accessions. But my desire was quality rather than quantity; jewels which would one day shine in the heavenly kingdom, rather than what might turn out reprobate silver. But we are liable to extremes, and therefore I do not say that we might not have kept out some who might well have come in. It is a very difficult and delicate point, and one which requires very great judgment, discernment, and wisdom from on high, united with the spirit of love and tenderness. All I can say is, that I hope your new members may be to the church, both for its strength and ornament, and that neither you nor they may ever have any cause for grief for their admission among you.

I am also glad to find that the Lord gives His blessing to Mr. Knill's ministry; and I hope that as he becomes increasingly united to the church and people, he will find a corresponding increase of light, life, and power to minister among them the Word of truth. A church and its pastor should be like private friends, who know each other increasingly through length and intimacy of communion, and are thus enabled better to understand, and feel for, and sympathize with each other. The great point is reality, that a minister should be a real partaker of the grace of God, and be enabled by the Spirit's teaching and power to deal spiritually and experimentally with the Word of truth, and with the heart and conscience of the people of God. If a man be right, all in the end will come right, and be made right; and if he is in his right place, that also will be made manifest. God will ever acknowledge His own grace, His own work, His own cause, His own people, and His own servants. Clouds and darkness may rest upon them all, but the true light will arise, and shine them all away. A minister therefore need well be assured of three things—

(1) his own standing;

(2) his ministerial commission;

(3) that he is ministering to a people over which God has set him.

Doubts and fears may and will try his mind upon all these three points; but only so far as he is in some good measure established in them, can he find faith and confidence in doing the work to which he has set his hands. . . .

The loss of Mr. Lightfoot at Stamford will be, humanly speaking, irreparable. He and I did not quite see eye to eye on every point, but I very much esteemed him, and indeed as a deacon he was quite my right hand. No man in the church or congregation was, I believe, so much esteemed by the people generally; and from his great amiability of disposition, he had but few enemies. I fully believed he would make a good end, as I have seen for some years much growth in him of life and grace; and he was a man who increasingly loved and feared the Lord, bringing forth fruit in his old age. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 25, 1866
Dear Friend in the Lord—What are all our thoughts of or toward each other, or our remembrance, compared with the thoughts of peace which the Lord has to the suffering members of His mystical body, and the book of remembrance which is ever open before His gracious and all-seeing eye? We are powerless to help ourselves, and we are powerless to help one another, at least in spiritual things. Even when the will is present, or the desire on their behalf, we have no power to communicate to them the grace or the comfort which we would have them enjoy. But the Lord has not only will, and such a will as of which we have no measure, but power to do that which His will prompts.

It is this fullness in Him, and our sense of it, which lays the soul at His feet in all its poverty and deep necessity, which makes it turn away its eyes from all creature help and hope, and instrumentally, through the power and influence of the blessed Spirit, draws forth its breathings and desires towards Him, and Him alone, as the Fountain of all grace and glory, the Source and Spring of all happiness and holiness. Here, as on consecrated ground, all the quickened elect meet; here there is no jar, strife, or ambition which shall be the greater; here each God-taught soul sinks into its native nothingness, and looks for everything to the Lord the Lamb.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 31, 1866
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—The sad tidings contained in your letter came upon me quite with a sudden shock, as I had no idea that there was any serious danger connected with poor Richard's illness. Being accustomed to see him enjoying so much health, I could scarcely bring my mind to think of him as seriously ill. But oh, what lessons we have to learn of the brevity and uncertainty of human life; and how those seem taken away to whom we looked forward as pillars and supports of the cause of truth, when older heads should be laid low. I feel very much for the poor widow, with this heavy aggravation of all her afflictions, and I feel for the church and congregation, who have lost a most valuable member. There are few men with whom I have had more conversation or communion on divine things. We saw, I believe, eye to eye in the things of God, and he always treated me with great respect and affection. We cannot at present see the reason of this mysterious dispensation. Time only can unfold what is wrapped up in its bosom; and I cannot just now convey to you what thoughts have sprung up in my mind respecting it. Our dear friends at W. have troubles in their old age, and are likely to have more, but they have this satisfaction, as well as his poor dear widow, that he is gone to enjoy what his soul loved and longed for.

I was thinking this morning, as I was getting up, that there could be no real happiness or peace while in this poor body of sin and sickness. But we cleave to life; yet none of those who have dropped the body to be with the Lord would ever wish to take up again the miserable shell of humanity. How broken, how contracted, what a miserable tabernacle of sin and death must it appear to their glorified spirit—worse to them than a beggar's cast-off rags would be to us. My cold is, I hope, passing off. I was not able to get out yesterday. Mr. Covell preached from Rom. 8:38, 39.
We unite in kind love to our dear afflicted friends,
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.




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