LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1867)


January 16, 1867

My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I have been much occupied with writing, but I take the first opportunity of sending you a few lines to express my sympathy with you all under those trying afflictions which have fallen with so heavy a weight on those whom we so much esteem and love. I feel very much for you all, and especially for poor dear Eliza in her distressing bereavement, and the heavy pressure of her own personal affliction. I cannot say that at present I feel at all reconciled to the loss of our dear friend Richard Healy. Indeed, excepting Mr. Keal, there is scarcely one whom I would miss so much if I were with you. He seemed so calculated to stand in the gap, and fill up the place of those who in time must have to give way to infirmity or old age. For many years our losses by death in the Church at Oakham were but few. But oh, in these last few years what gaps have been made, especially among our male members, who are so much needed in the church! God is able to raise up others to supply their place, but no man having drunk old wine, etc. New members can never be to a church what old members are; for they lack the experience and the wisdom which the dealings of God bring about, in an exercised conscience and a matured judgment.

You will much miss our departed friend's prayers on the reading days, for I have frequently heard how honest he was in his confessions, and how earnest and sincere in his petitions. He was possessed also of a good experience, and for the most part pretty sound in judgment, with a right apprehension of living realities and a desire to glorify God by his life and conduct. I have had much conversation with him at different times, and I believe we always met and parted in sincere friendship and affection. We could communicate very freely in divine matters, and well understood each other's minds in those points of exercise and temptation, where hints are sufficient, and to go beyond which is to venture on unsafe grounds. He always treated me with great respect and affection, and if he did not agree with me on all points, would not make it a matter of dispute. When I have seen him looking so strong and healthy, I little thought that I would be the survivor. How often have I looked from my window on a winter afternoon, on my return from chapel, and seen him and his poor wife hurrying off through the cold air to go home amid the dark night, when I was glad to keep close to the fire. It grieves me to hear that his poor widow is worse. Daily do I beseech the Lord that He would comfort her heart, give her faith and patience, and sanctify to her soul's good every stroke of His afflicting hand. Nor do I forget to ask the Lord that He would sanctify the stroke to her aged parents, who have had so many family trials of late years. I hope the Lord will abundantly bless Mr. Knill's ministry to the sorrowing church, as well as to the friends and relatives of the deceased.

I quite approve of the purchase of the ground at the cemetery. It is an odd word to make use of, but I have often said—"How very comfortable it is to have a cemetery where the people of God can be buried by their own minister, and lie together until the resurrection morn." You would more deeply prize the spot where you have placed a monument to your late dear husband, were his remains beneath it.

I was much interested in the account you gave of the funeral. I thought much of you all that day, the snow lying so deep, and the weather so cold. It must have been a very solemn and affecting scene; and the numbers who attended it showed what great respect they had for his memory. I do hope the solemn event may be blessed and sanctified to the church and congregation. Such heavy strokes seem sometimes to stir up the soil, and fit it for the reception of the Word. "You received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit." Deep affliction and the joy of the Holy Spirit going together, make the Word received, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually works in those who believe.

I am always glad to get a few lines from you, as I have scarcely any other means of obtaining any news, either temporal or spiritual, of what is going on among you at Oakham; and you may be sure that having been among you for so many years, you all still live in my affections and remembrance. I feel a great comfort in my own mind that, amid all the trials which have befallen you, Mr. Knill is with you to comfort your hearts by the word of life; for I hardly know what you would have done had the pulpit been vacant, and you left merely to Supplies.

We unite in love, &c.; and please assure the church for me that I still bear it in my heart, and desire that the blessing of God may abundantly rest upon it.
I am, my dear friend,
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

January 24, 1867
My dear Mr. Copcutt—The United States is a wonderful country, and possesses in the largest abundance every natural gift of heaven. But unless God shows great mercy in the gifts of His grace, and raises up a people in your midst to fear His great name, all your wealth and power, and all the capabilities so largely possessed of furnishing everything in the shape of wealth and abundance, may only prove sources of sin and eventual misery. Amid so widespread a profession, one would hope that God has, here and there, some whose hearts He has touched by His grace; but there is a sad lack of a preached Gospel, and of ministers who take forth the precious from the vile, and so are as God's mouth. As the editor of the Gospel Standard, I get letters sometimes from various parts of the United States, and in almost all of them I find the same complaints of the lack of a sound experimental Gospel ministry. Gracious people also, who have emigrated, send back the same report; so that I am forced to come to a conclusion that the truth as it is in Jesus is but little held and little preached.

I have the pleasure since I have lived here of sitting under a very sound, experimental, and much-favored servant of God, Mr. Francis Covell. During, indeed, the severe weather, I have been much confined to the house, but greatly prize his ministry, as his soul is much alive in the things of God. In prayer especially he is most warm and fervent, with great sincerity and simplicity of petition, much humble confession of sin, and great earnestness in wrestling for heavenly blessings. In his preaching also, though not what is called eloquent, yet his sermons are sound in doctrine, clear and savory in experience, and strictly practical in all fruits of Christian obedience.

Your various journeys, both at home and abroad, must bring to your mind many pleasant reminiscences, as well as striking contrasts. You have seen the palms and tropical vegetation of Cuba, the pine forests of Canada, the glaciers of Switzerland, and the green fields and well-cultivated lands of Bucks, besides, no doubt, a large acquaintance with the scenery of your adopted country. The face of nature thus affords many pleasant recollections; but how man has ruined everything and every place which he has touched! What sin, misery, and wretchedness meet the eye and grieve the heart on every side! Violence, injustice, cruelty to man and beast, oppression, falsehood, selfishness, and disregard of everything but the cravings of aspiring ambition, show themselves everywhere; not to mention those grosser evils in which man seems to sink to a lower level than the beasts.

There is one feature in this country which is especially admirable—the supremacy of law. No one, from the richest peer to the most abject pauper, can set himself against the law; and as our judges are men of great ability and sterling integrity, and are upheld and supported by all the power of public opinion, their decisions are final. Law is our grand protection, without which neither property nor person would be safe; and where there is in a nation a respect for law, liberty flourishes under its shade. . . .
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.

 

January 25, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—We can hardly expect to pass through life, and especially the latter stages of it, without trials and afflictions; for if they do not come in one shape, they will come in another. The Lord means to make us sick and weary of everything but Himself; and I believe that most of His people are made willing to depart before the final stroke comes. It is the lack of sweet manifestations of His love and mercy, the sense of what we have been, and what a wreck and ruin sin has made of us, with the various exercises of mind that spring out of it, which so often make the prospect gloomy. But this stirs up many an earnest sigh and cry for the Lord to appear and to speak a word with power to the soul, that we may enjoy a blessed testimony to our acceptance in the Beloved. How much one is led to see and feel of the dreadful evil of sin! How loathsome it is in the sight of a holy God! What vile wretches we are in ourselves! And what a mighty work the gracious Lord had to do to save us from death and hell! I never saw so much of the evil of sin, and of my own evil case as a sinner, as I have seen and felt of late; and I do beg of the Lord, not only to manifest and reveal Himself with power to my soul, but to give me godly sorrow for sin, with a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a humble mind.

These things many overlook, and some despise, but they are choice gifts of God, and highly prized by those who know their value. Seclusion and solitude give time and opportunity to look over the past; and I am sure the reflection is anything but comfortable. Oh what heaps of sins are brought to view, and how little we seem to have lived in the fear of God, to have sought His will, or been fruitful branches in the only True Vine! Men speak sometimes of looking back upon a well-spent life, but I cannot; I have to cast myself wholly upon the superabounding grace of God. No doubt advancing life and frequent indisposition make us see things in a very different light from that in which they are viewed by the young and healthy. But the question after all is, Which is the right view? Is the world a happy or a miserable one? Is life to be lived to self, spent in carnality and ease, or should we seek to live unto God? David could say—"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept Your word." It will be our mercy if afflictions have taught us the same lesson. But I must not sermonize, though I have no doubt that in these points we see and feel alike.

Allington must have presented but a cold and chilling appearance during the late frost and snow; and I can readily believe that the north-east winds, which were felt keenly here, must have swept from off your Downs with terrible force. But the snow must have been a great protection to the young wheat, and thus we can see mercy in that severe snowstorm which was so widely prevalent. I spent two winters at Allington, 1835-1836 and 1837-1838, and my reminiscences of it are of great cold without, whatever warmth and cordiality there was within, especially when the big blocks sent a roaring fire up the drawing-room chimney, aided by the draught of the middle door, left open by the present master of the house, then a little pale-faced boy. We have seen great changes since then; but I believe we may say that our mutual friendship and affection have not changed, but rather expanded, as the little boy into the stout well-grown man.

Many friends have we seen removed since June, 1835; and the list of ministers who have stood in your pulpit since the chapel was opened, who have been removed by death, forms quite a long catalogue. Poor old Mr. S. is another added to the number. As my life is thus far spared, I desire that what still remains of it may be spent in the fear of God, and for the good of His people. I did not think, when I first knew you, that I would have written so much or been so widely known; but I have been led on, step by step, seeking neither praise nor popularity, but content to do what lay in my path, and what I felt called upon from time to time to execute. The Gospel Standard and the sermons take up much of my time, and it is sometimes a weariness to the flesh; but they occupy my thoughts and exercise my mind upon divine things, which is better than indolence or distraction. I can hardly however get time to attend to the memoir of our late dear friend William Tiptaft, as the press, like the two daughters of the horseleech, is ever crying "Give, give." . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

January 26, 1867
My dear Friend, Mrs. Clowes—I desire sincerely to sympathize with you in your present deep trial and heavy affliction, and I wish that I could offer you some consolation, or at least some hope, under the weight of your trouble. But I know well that none can give you any support or consolation but the Lord Himself. And oh that He would kindly and graciously speak a word with power to the soul of your poor afflicted husband, and that he might be blessed with a feeling sense of the Lord's love to his soul! We do not doubt but that he is all right for eternity. We know, and he cannot deny, that the Lord in times past has been very gracious unto him, and has manifested His love and mercy to his soul. But he wants to hear again His blessed voice, and to feel the certainty of His pardoning love, through the application of His atoning blood to his conscience. Oh that it might please the Lord to give him one sweet smile, to break in upon his soul, and say, "I am your salvation", break all his bonds asunder, and reveal peace with power to his heart! But even should this be withheld, the Lord has already mercifully taken away his fear of death; and thus it may not please His gracious Majesty to grant him the blessing which he desires, and we also desire for him. The Scripture says but little of the dying experience of God's saints; and sometimes we look too much for what the Lord has not especially promised—that is, any great manifestations of His love and mercy. He has promised to make their bed in all their sickness, never to leave them or forsake them, and that He would love them to the end. And all this He will fulfill in and for our dear friend. . . .
Yours most affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 14, 1867
My dear Afflicted and Widowed Friend, Mrs. Tanner—But for much occupation I would have written to you immediately that I received the tidings of your late beloved husband's departure, that I might sympathize with you in your troubles and sorrows. I had heard of his illness, but was not aware until the day before he died that it was of so serious a nature. But now, poor dear man, he is released from all his sufferings, both of body and mind, and is in the fruition of that perfect happiness to which he so often looked forward during the latter stages of his pilgrimage here. Having so sweet an assurance of his eternal happiness, and knowing what a life of suffering his was, it would indeed be selfish and cruel to wish him back. You well know what he had to suffer with his many trials from so many quarters, and though you may deeply miss him, and weep at the thought that you will never more in this life see his face nor hear his voice, yet I am sure that you have every reason to rejoice, rather than mourn. Still, nature will have its course, and it is often a great relief when the tears can freely flow, and grief find its appointed vent. It was a great mercy also that you and your daughters were able to minister to his needs and comforts in his last illness, and to have the sweet satisfaction of witnessing the sweet peace that he enjoyed in his soul. What an infinite mercy it also is, that the Lord has blessed you with the consolations of His spirit at various times; and I do hope that as your afflictions abound, so also may your consolations.

I believe you know that we were much united both in heart and judgment. Indeed, I had great esteem and affection for him; and I am sure he always treated me with the greatest kindness and affection. I would be glad if you could put together some little obituary of him, as he was so much esteemed and respected by all who knew him, that there might be some record of him in the Gospel Standard.
With our united kind love to yourself and Mrs. W., I am,
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

February 16, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—And so our dear and esteemed friend Joseph Tanner is entered into his eternal rest. For him there is no more pain or suffering, but an eternity of bliss and blessedness in the presence of God and the Lamb. We shall miss him greatly, especially you, who have lost in him, not only a valued and affectionate friend, but a choice and acceptable Supply. We shall never see his face or hear his voice upon earth any more. He was younger than both of us, but from his many bodily afflictions, more advanced in constitution than in age. He has left a good name behind him, which is a wonderful mercy, considering the snares and temptations to which he, in common with others, was exposed. Even his own family could scarcely have wished him to live, when they saw him so continually racked with pain and suffering. It must have been a satisfaction to him to see his eldest daughter comfortably settled in life before he was taken away. Thus he could sing both of mercy and judgment, and the combination of these two makes, in divine things, the most harmonious music. I believe he had a very sincere and warm esteem and affection for you, and had a good union with the friends generally at Allington. How one after another is passing away, and if our dear friend William Tiptaft had been alive, he would have been reckoning up how many ministers, who had occupied the Allington pulpit, had been removed by death. I have no doubt that many thoughts have crossed your mind in connection with the removal of our esteemed friend, and many desires and petitions have gone upward that, when your time shall come, you may find the Lord to be the strength of your heart, and your portion forever. I have no doubt your prayers will be abundantly answered. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 25, 1867
My dear Afflicted and Widowed Friend, Mrs. Clowes—I would have written to you before this to express my deep and affectionate sympathy with you under your distressing bereavement, if I had not thought it best to wait a little until the first gush of your sorrow had found vent. When sorrow is so very recent and so pressing, there is no room in the heart to receive any word from a friend—and none but the Lord Himself can either console or support the troubled spirit. Knowing how all your affections, and almost your life, were bound up with my dear departed friend, I am sure that your grief must be very great. But I do hope that the Lord may not only impart some sweet consolation to your troubled heart, but give you also some submission and resignation to His holy will.

I would be glad if you could bear in mind how many mercies have been mingled with your bereavement. He was spared to you for many years, and was permitted to live to a good old age, possessing all his faculties both of body and mind to a remarkable degree. Was not this a mercy for you both? The Lord also took his earthly tabernacle gently down, and thus gradually prepared your mind for his final removal. Was not this a mercy? How much more deeply you would have felt it if he had been taken away suddenly! How united also you both were, both in natural and spiritual love; and what a kind, tender, and affectionate husband you always found him to be. The recollection of this, I know, only increases your grief, for you keep thinking upon all that you have lost in him. But is it not a great mercy that you can look back upon the years of your married life with satisfaction, and without any regretful recollection? You were also enabled to nurse him tenderly and affectionately to the last, and do everything for him which his illness and infirmities required. Was not this a mercy, that sufficient health and strength were given you to do this?

But the mercy of mercies is that you have so good a testimony that he is gone to his eternal rest. It pleased the Lord indeed, for His own wise purposes, to keep him for many months in a low place. Poor dear man! He was so afraid of presumption, vain confidence, and hypocrisy, that he almost misjudged his own state and standing. Having been blessed in days gone by with clear manifestations of the Lord's love to his soul, he could not rest satisfied unless they were renewed. I never doubted him, though he often doubted himself; for not only his past experience, but his life, conduct, tenderness of conscience, godly fear, true humility of mind, separation from the world, and Christian spirit, clearly manifested his possession of the grace of God. In all my long communion with him, I never received from him anything but the greatest kindness and affection. A man of more tender spirit I never knew, or one who boasted less of himself, or in any way put himself forward. I much feel his loss, and shall always think of him as long as I live with the highest esteem and affection.

I much regret that my health did not allow me to come up and see him, and to comply with your wish that I should pay the last tribute of affection to his remains. I was glad to learn that the Lord shone upon his soul before He took him hence, though, had it even not been so, I would not have been shaken in the least as to his eternal happiness.

And now, my dear friend, I do hope that you will not abandon yourself too much to your great sorrow. You cannot recall him; nor would you in your right mind wish so to do. Resignation and submission to the will of God are very desirable for you; and when you can say, "Your will be done", it will bring you relief. May the Lord sweetly shine upon your soul, and give you a word to comfort your heart. I endeavor to pray to the Lord that He would give you resignation to His holy will, comfort your heart, and grant you faith and patience. If you could drop me a line just to let me know how you are, and especially anything about the last days of my dear departed friend, I would esteem it a favor.

Please present my kindest regards to Mr. Lavell; I feel for him as well as for you. He has lost, indeed, a most kind and affectionate father.

My dear wife unites with me in kind love and sympathy.
Yours most affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

March 6, 1867
My dear and esteemed Friend, Mrs. Peake—I am not surprised that our friend O. should feel as he does towards our dear departed brother Richard Healy, or wishes to put on permanent record those traits of Christian uprightness which he has mentioned. I will think over the subject, and as far as space admits, either in the next issue or at some other opportunity, will endeavor to record them in the G. S. The simple fact is, that being pressed for space, we can only allot a certain portion for the obituary, and are therefore obliged sometimes to divide, and at others to curtail, the accounts that are sent us. But I am sure that in this day we need testimonies to vital godliness and real, powerful, practical religion; for this is that in which there is, and I suppose always has been, so great a defect in the church of God. I have often thought of, and sometimes quoted, the words of Bunyan where, speaking of Talkative, Christian says, "The soul of religion is the practical part", meaning doubtless that where there is no practice, religion is but a lifeless corpse. But nothing commends it more to the consciences of all men, whether natural or spiritual, than to see the fruits of godliness made manifest, especially when they are directly opposed to self-seeking and self-interest.

The providence which removed him is indeed mysterious. We seem to understand, and be reconciled to the removal of the aged and infirm, especially of those who bore the heat and burden of the day, like the two Coopers and other members of your church—but to see the young, like Richard Healy and your own dear husband, taken away, whose lives seemed so valuable both to the church and their families, makes us sometimes wonder at the Lord's dealings. And yet we know how many sorrows and sufferings they have been spared, and the very circumstance that they were taken away in the very prime of life and usefulness, casts round their memory a more tender and sacred halo. I believe that the obituaries in the G. S. are generally very acceptable and very profitable. Mr. —, of Nottingham, has frequently mentioned to me how good he has found the obituaries, and we find sometimes how people on their death-beds have spoken of the encouragement which they have met with in reading them. In a sense, we may say of the departed saint whose experience and words are thus recorded—"By it, he being dead, yet speaks".

We are deeply grieved to hear of poor Eliza's sufferings. Seeing nothing before her but pain and suffering, and having, we hope, a good testimony of her eternal safety, it will be almost a relief if the Lord would give her a parting smile and take her to Himself. When I left Oakham in 1864, I left them both, as it appeared, in the full enjoyment of health and strength, and now one is gone, and the other fast following. I pray the Lord to sanctify the affliction to her aged parents, that they may see in it the frailty and uncertainty of all things here below, seek more earnestly to know and live unto the Lord of Life and Glory, and submit with resignation to His holy will. My daily prayer for poor Eliza is that the Lord would comfort her heart, alleviate her pain, give her faith and patience, with submission to His will. Poor Richard is spared the suffering of seeing her suffer, which he could ill have borne, and all those anxious cares which would have been entailed upon him by her illness. We know not from how much evil death saves us from, and still less what bounty it gives. Could we see with the eye of God, we would see wisdom and goodness marked upon every movement of His hand.

You probably know that my dear friend Mr. Clowes is gone to his eternal rest. He was very much tried through the whole of his illness, and sank very low, fearing at times that he was lost—but about two hours before he died, the Lord broke most gloriously in upon his soul. I will endeavor to let you see Mrs. Clowes's letter. She is indeed a mourning widow, for I think I scarce ever saw a woman whose almost every thought seemed to be to and for her husband. He was indeed a most kind and affectionate partner, and as a Christian, blessed with a good experience, with great tenderness of conscience, and much circumspectness of life. We were much attached to each other, as I have known him for more than thirty years, and being with him every summer since 1855, of course I have seen a good deal of him. He was a man of very tender feeling, and never parted from me without shedding tears of true affection. I shall much miss him when I go again to London, if spared to fulfill my engagement at Gower Street Chapel.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

March 27, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—I have no doubt that you were shocked, though perhaps not surprised, at the tidings of poor Mrs. Healy's death. The case indeed was hopeless from the first, and nothing could be looked for but a long suffering illness, of which death would be the close. At last she sank away, passing off quietly, and the last few days scarcely able to speak audibly or intelligibly. But we have every good ground of hope that her soul was saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, as she had had at various times many sweet promises applied to her heart, and many encouraging words spoken with power. Her religion was indeed not so deep and clear as her poor husband's—but there was great sincerity and sweetness stamped upon what she said. It will be ten years on the thirtieth of next month since I married them. Looking at them then, there was every promise of their life being long—but how mysterious are the ways of the Lord! They now lie side by side in the Oakham cemetery; yet could the question be put to them, they would not change their present state of happiness and peace with any others who might be named as enjoying everything which this world can give—and were you their father, I believe you would look at their grave with a sweeter satisfaction than if, in the full enjoyment of life and health, they were walking after the course of this world.

I was much united in heart and spirit to poor Richard. As far as he had opportunity, when I was at Oakham, he would often come up to my sitting-room for the sake of a little undisturbed spiritual conversation, and very sweetly would he speak of the things of God and His dealings with him. I have often envied his health and strength, as he was a stout, strong young man, caring little for wind or weather, though there was something in his countenance which at times betrayed a native delicacy of constitution.

But here I am still in the wilderness, having survived him and many others whose prospects of life, humanly speaking, were much greater than my own. We think of bringing out a little memoir of him, which will, I believe, be found interesting and edifying. He was a man who carried out his religion into practice. Some instances will be named in the memoir; but I will just mention one now. One day during the cattle plague he was struck with the fact that his beasts had been preserved. "Well", he said, "Your poor people, Lord, shall reap the benefit", so he sent Mr. Keal £20 to be distributed among the poor members of the church and others who feared God in the congregation. I much doubt whether many professing farmers whose herds were spared have acted in a similar way.

With you and me, dear friend, the bloom of life is utterly gone, and we may almost say, "We would not live always." There is nothing for us, as regards us personally, to look forward to but increasing years and infirmities, until we are brought down to our native dust. Our chief desire and the longing of our heart is to be favored with some sweet manifestations of the Lord's love and mercy, and no doubt your heart, like mine, often goes up to His blessed Majesty that He would take pity on us in our low estate, compassionate us, and speak a word of peace and consolation to our inmost soul. He has taught us, we trust, to fear, revere, and adore His great, and glorious, and holy name, and to believe in His dear Son, looking to Him alone as all our salvation and all our desire. We have seen and felt a little of the evil of sin, and desire to repent of it with real godly sorrow, brokenness of spirit, contrition of heart, and true humility of mind.

We would desire also to be more separated from the world in heart, spirit, and affection, to be spiritually-minded which is life and peace, and to know more of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. And though we find sin still working in us, and sometimes as bad as ever, yet our desire is to have it subdued in its power, as well as purged away in its guilt and filth. We have lived to see what the world can do for us, and found it can only entangle; and what sin can do, which is to please for a moment and then bite like an adder. And we have seen also a little of the Person and work, blood and righteousness, grace and glory, blessedness and suitability of the Son of God; and He has won our heart and affections, so as at times to be the chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One.

But with all this, we desire more clear visitations of His gracious presence, more precious words from those lips into which grace is poured, and more sensible discoveries of Himself in the light of His own countenance and the words of His own application. Am I an interpreter? Do I read some of the desires and feelings of my friend's inmost soul, and express the breathings of his heart toward the Lord at various seasons by day and night? I tell my friend Covell sometimes that I want "realities", and that if he did not preach them, I could not sit to hear him. How I see men deluded and put off with a vain show, and how few there are, whether ministers or people, who seem to know anything of the transforming efficacy of real religion and vital godliness. Here I have been about forty years, for it is just now forty years since eternal realities were first laid upon my mind, groping and feeling as it were my way to the true light and to the true life, to the vital power and divine reality of the kingdom of God. And yet after all my thousands of prayers, looking and crying to the Lord for His teaching and blessing, and all my reading, writing, preaching, and professing, how little do I seem to know of the kingdom of heaven as set up in the heart by the Holy Spirit! Only just enough to show me what and where I am, what I want, and the miserable state of all who are destitute of the life and power of God in the soul.

I hope what I am writing from Ephesians 1 may be made a blessing. I have seen much in that wondrous chapter, and if I can but a little lay bare its glorious riches, it may comfort and encourage some of the dear family of God. Thus I may hope to preach from my study, if not from the pulpit.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

April 1, 1867
My dear Friend, Thomas Godwin—I understand that you and Mrs. Godwin saw poor Mrs. Healy on your way to Leicester, and found her much altered. When we received the tidings of her death—though in some sense it came as a shock, as such tidings always do, yet I felt it to be a merciful release. There was nothing before her in this life but suffering and pain; and as one had a good hope of her eternal safety, no one who loved her could wish her to continue in her house of weakness and suffering. It was a kind providence that she had her father's house in which to spend the last days of her widowhood, and so kind and attentive a nurse in her sister Emma, who has much risen in my estimation from her unwearied devotedness to her suffering sister.

Mr. and Mrs. Keal would doubtless feel the stroke; but I have often observed that, in old persons, the natural feelings are a good deal blunted, and that they bear the loss of relatives with much less sorrow than those who are younger. My desire and prayer for them both is, that the Lord would sanctify the affliction to their souls' good. They must shortly follow; and it will be their mercy if the Lord would brighten their evidences, and manifest Himself more clearly unto them, before He calls them hence. We know their great kindness, liberality, and hospitality to the Lord's saints and servants; and how they have borne the heat and burden of the day, and stood by the Cause with unabated firmness for so many years. Now if the Lord would but shine into their souls in their latter days, what a strength and comfort it would be, both to the people and to those like us, who have received from them so many proofs of kindness and affection.

We think of bringing out a little memoir of poor Richard, as a little memento of him; and I think it will be well received. It will contain his experience, which appeared in The Gospel Standard last year, and the letters to his wife, which our friend Mrs. Peake has put together, and which have appeared, and will appear also in the G. S. He was a man well taught in the things of God, tender in conscience, liberal in heart, and circumspect in life. We have at various times had a good deal of conversation upon spiritual things; for he would come up to me in my little study at Oakham, and there we would often compare notes upon the precious things of God. We saw much eye to eye in the precious truth, and if we did not meet on every point, we never jarred nor disputed, as he always treated me with great respect and affection, and knew well how much I was attached to him. He had a great esteem and affection for you, as your ministry had at various times been blessed to his soul—and when he was first brought under deep spiritual trouble, he felt as if he must come and see you, that you might give him some encouragement.

He was also very fond of our friend the late William Tiptaft, and in many points much resembled him. I little thought, when I made him my executor, that I would survive either him or his wife. But oh how many heartier and stronger men have I seen removed from this vain scene; and I am still spared, who have held my life in my hand, as it were, so many years, and known so much of bodily affliction! My desire is to live to the Lord all the days that still remain to me in this lower world, to walk more in His fear, enjoy more of His presence, and be more spiritually-minded, which I know from experience is life and peace. My chief trouble is the recollection that I have not walked more in the fear of God, but have been so often entangled in the snares spread for my feet. I do earnestly desire to know more of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a tender conscience, and a humble mind, with sweet visitations of the Lord's love, and the rich manifestations of his superabounding grace. It is my mercy that I am not settled upon my lees, or at ease in Zion; but find my soul for the most part kept alive in the things of God in prayer and supplication, in reading His holy Word with sweetness and savor, and passing my time much alone in the exercise of it on divine realities. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

April 2, 1867
[Mr. King having sent Mr. Philpot an extract from a publication entitled "Predestination, Calmly Considered from Principles of Reason,"—Mr. Philpot sent the following reply.]

Dear Mr. King—I am sorry that you should take the trouble of reading such books as that from which you have sent me an extract; especially as you acknowledge that the reading of it produced much hardness, barrenness, coldness, and deadness in your soul. Indeed to my mind the title of the book is itself sufficient to condemn it. Predestination as a divine truth is not to be calmly considered from principles of reason, being in a Christian point of view wholly a matter of divine revelation. The great Apostle of the Gentiles who has laid it down so clearly and fully (Rom. 9), does not attempt to reason about it; but, in answer to one who does, says, "No but, O man, who are you that replies against God?" and in Romans 11:33, shuts the whole matter up in the words "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"

I do not feel disposed, therefore, to examine the extract which you have sent me; though, as far as I have looked at it, it seems to me both erroneous and sophistical. Thus he speaks of the existence of sin being in consequence of the sovereign appointment of God. Now I do not believe that this is Scripture doctrine, nor do I know a single passage even bearing that way. I fully believe that the entrance of sin into the world, and of death by sin, was according to the permissive will of God, for without it it could not have entered; but not appointed by Him in the same way as what is good, for such an assertion, reason how we may, would make God the Author of sin. I think, also, that all his reasonings about sin being a creature and such metaphysical subtleties are mere sophisms. Two things are very evident; first, that sin is a most dreadful evil, hateful to God, and calling down His displeasure and righteous punishment; and secondly, that there is no remedy for this dreadful evil, except through the incarnation and blood shedding of the Son of God. Here I rest, not being willing to trouble my mind with daring reasonings of men destitute of godliness, and here I advise you to rest too.
Yours very sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
 

 

April 16, 1867
My dear Friend in the Lord, Mrs. Peake—I am very glad that the memoir of our late dear friend, William Tiptaft, so far as written, has given satisfaction to yourself and my Oakham friends. I have had to steer a kind of middle course, which is always very difficult to maintain. On the one hand I wish to write an interesting biography, and on the other to make it as far as I could spiritual and profitable. I think readers generally, and I may include among them spiritual readers, take much interest in the narrative of circumstances which, if providential, have yet a bearing on what is spiritual; for generally speaking, the dealings of God with us in providence and in grace are so connected that they cannot be separated. Take, for instance, the way in which you and your dear sister were brought to —. What an influence it has had upon your subsequent life, and I may truly add, has been made a blessing to others as well as yourselves. So my connection with William Tiptaft, through our meeting together at the clerical meeting, has had an influence on all my subsequent life. It was for this reason therefore, that I thought it well to give so much place to mere narrative. I did not wish even to name myself, beyond a passing notice; but I felt almost compelled to do so by the circumstances of the narrative, and I am glad you think I have not said too much.

William Tiptaft, in his later days, was much more reserved about himself than when I first knew him. This, I think, arose from his great cautiousness, lest he should in any way commit himself. But the effect has been much to diminish the narrative part of the memoir; and if my memory were not in some things rather tenacious, I could not have gathered up what I have written upon the early days of our friendship. But his letters, however good, needed a little relief as well as explanation, as it is somewhat wearisome to read a series of letters, and unless explained they are often obscure. I hope, as far as I may be favored with help from on high, I may go on with the memoir, but The Gospel Standard takes up so much of my time, and when that is finished my sermon for the Gospel Pulpit, that I have only a few days at the end of the month to attend to the memoir. I may also add that I have not now the strength of body and mind which I once possessed, so that I soon get weary and flag, which makes writing not only a burden, but what I write heavy and dull. Still I must go on, I suppose, like the ox laboring in the furrow until worn out with toil, and if my labors are blessed of God, it is my best reward.

Dear Richard's letters to his poor afflicted wife have been read, I understand, with much feeling and interest. There is heart in them. Like Paul's, in a sense, they were written out of much affliction and tears. The dear man knew what he wanted for himself and her, pressed after and at times enjoyed divine realities, and cast aside, in the earnestness and almost agony of his spirit, the rags and wraps of a wordy profession. There is also great tenderness of spirit and strong affection in them towards his poor suffering partner.

I do hope that his memoir, when it comes out, may be profitable to the church of Christ, and if spared, I shall hope to write a little Preface to it, and to insert what would otherwise have appeared in The Gospel Standard. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

April 18, 1867
Dear Friend in the Truth, Mr. James Davis—Your handsome rug and the two muffs came safely to hand on the second of this month, and we beg to express our thanks for them; one of the muffs I have given to my dear wife, and my daughter begs to thank you very kindly for thinking of her and for sending her so pretty a present.

Your last kind letter came to hand this morning. I am always sorry that anything should appear in the Gospel Standard which can stumble any mind or hurt the feelings of any child of God, especially when it has any reference to the glorious Person of our adorable Lord. There certainly is no evidence that the blessed Lord ever actually wrought with His own hands, nor is it implied in the expression, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" which was but the expression of scorn and contempt in the mouth of the ungodly; and I am sure anything that in the least degree touches upon the holy humanity of our gracious Lord makes one who loves His name to shrink, and, as you say, shudder lest anything should be said derogatory to Him.

I am fond myself of Berridge's "Hymns," but there are many expressions in them, as in his other writings, of which I by no means approve. When, therefore, I edited, in 1842, his "Songs of Zion," though I did not feel warranted to alter much, yet I struck out some expressions or omitted some verses of which I could not altogether approve. But, dear friend, where shall we find anything like perfection in the creature? or any writer in whom there will not be expressions that we cannot approve of? I am very sure that I have written things, especially in times past, or rather dropped expressions, which I would not do now; and I dare say sometimes when you think of expressions that you yourself have made use of, you have had to wish that you could recall them. Indeed James tells us that "if any man offend not in word the same is a perfect man," which, I am sure, neither you nor I ever profess or expect to be.

I am glad that the Lord does at times encourage you still to go on speaking in His name. He accepts what a man has, and does not look for great gifts in setting forth His truth. A few broken words, which He is pleased to apply to the soul with a divine power, will be made a lasting blessing when all wordy eloquence falls to the ground like water spilt. The great thing is to have a single eye to the glory of God, a love to His dear people, and to know experimentally the things contended for. All the saints of God have to a certain extent the same teaching, the same experience, and the same feelings. Some indeed are more blessed and favored, but all in their measure are led into the same precious truth in the same blessed way. When, therefore, they hear a servant of God contending for those divine realities of which they have felt the life and power, it often sweetly revives the work of grace upon their heart, and encourages them to hope and believe that they are rightly led and taught. But you justly observe that the chief thing is to have the inward witness, and I am well satisfied that there is no real satisfaction without it. The lack of this makes many a poor child of God sigh and cry, and when he gets it makes him rejoice.

I am sorry to find from your last letter that you are complaining of your chest. I thought that in your beautiful climate you had not those illnesses in the chest which we have in this damp, foggy country.

I am sorry to hear Mrs. C. is not well; please give her my love. How is Aquila? I wish the Lord would send you a real servant of His, but I have little hope of it. We are fast losing our best men here, and none are raised up to take their place. What a world it is of sin and sorrow! Oh to be saved from it and out of it with an everlasting salvation!
Yours affectionately, in the Truth,
J. C. P.

 

May 18, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry. . . As regards myself, you have been rightly informed, for I have had an attack of my old illness, from which I am but slowly recovering. Mr. Gadsby expressed a great wish for me to marry his daughter at Gower Street Chapel; and as I had known her from an infant, I did not like to refuse. I took however the precaution of having a brougham to take and bring me back, hoping I would in that way escape cold. But it was a remarkably cold day, the wind being in the east, and when I went into the vestry there was no fire there, and I seemed struck with a sudden chill. There was a large congregation to witness the ceremony, and I must say that I was much helped in conducting the service, and the whole was carried on in a very proper and becoming manner. I took the opportunity of showing at some length that marriage was a divine institution; and in giving an address to the newly-married pair, I took the opportunity of showing what were the mutual duties of husband and wife, addressing myself as much to the married in the congregation as to the bride and bridegroom. My wife and elder daughter were with me; we lunched with a friend, and came home directly afterwards. Unhappily however, I took cold, and it has been rather a severe attack, so that I have been obliged to defer my visit to Gower Street for two or three Lord's days, and indeed have had great fears whether I would not be obliged to give up all my engagements for the summer, and yours among them. But I am, through mercy, slowly recovering, and hope that it may please the Lord so far to restore me, that I may not wholly disappoint the friends.

How on every side we see the strides which death is making. In March, 1860, I was very ill, and as I was slowly recovering, a letter came one morning announcing the decease of our friend Isbell. About the middle of the same day our dear friend William Tiptaft, who was supplying for me, came to see me. He had not been long seated, before in came Mr. Grace of Brighton, bringing with him his friend Mr. Pickering. While we were conversing together on the best things, Mr. Brown of Godmanchester, who was then staying in Stamford, also came in. Mr. Grace was struck with the circumstance, and said in a very solemn manner—"We four ministers will never meet again together in one room. Let us, before we part, read and pray together." This was of course done. William Tiptaft read, and Mr. Grace prayed. It was a solemn season with us all, and when we parted it was, I believe, in love and affection. Now since that date William Tiptaft, Mr. Grace, and Mr. Pickering have entered into their rest, and I heard yesterday, from good authority, that Mr. Brown is not expected to live. What a voice these dispensations have, and how they all say—"you also be ready!" How they call upon us to be as men whose loins are girt and lamps burning, and to be waiting for the Lord's coming. My desire is to have every stroke of affliction sanctified and blessed, and to hear the voice of God speaking in every dispensation, especially those which are trying and afflictive.

I hope that the Lord may bless Mr. Hazlerigg's visit, both publicly and privately, and that much of the presence and power of the Lord may attend his testimony. You will give him my love, and my prayers and desires for the blessing of God upon his visit.
We unite in love and sympathy with your family circle.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

July 30, 1867
My dear Friend, Mr. Surin—I can only write you a few lines; but I know you will be glad to hear that I have thus far been brought through my London labors. I never before came to London so weak, both in body and in soul; but have found the Lord's strength made perfect in my weakness. You know that I cannot take up with, and rest upon, such evidences and testimonies as many men seem satisfied with. I must have something special, or to me it is nothing. All the vain applause of mortals, and all that is called popularity, I think little of. It leaves an aching void, and often a guilty conscience. The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and all else is poverty, rags, and shame. I am thankful to be helped through, and to feel a little life and liberty in my soul. If the word be blessed to any, the Lord shall have all the praise.

I have been very comfortable here, although I much miss my dear old friend. The quietness of the house suits me well—no street noises as at —; so that I get better nights. Mrs. C. is quite nicely, and most kind and attentive. Of course we often talk of her beloved husband, and it seems to soothe and relieve her.

The memoir of Tiptaft is selling well. I had 3,000 copies printed, and about 1,600 are already gone. The dead man's letters speak for themselves, and remind many of his ministry. Beyond advertising it in the G. S., I have left it to sink or swim, as it best deserved, and have no wish either to puff or push it. Not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. And as with men, so with books. God's smile, not man's, is the only smile worth having.

I am not at all surprised about the Bedford services. If you were not to go there, it would soon drop to nothing. Mr. H. is a good man and a good preacher, but his ministry lacks that power and authority which are needful to bring together the Lord's people, far and near. He has been spoken of as a pastor for Zoar; but I believe he would not keep a London congregation together for a permanency.

We are all fast fading away, and must soon lie among the clods of the valley. May our last days be our best days, and our death the death of the righteous. . . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

October 17, 1867
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—. . . I feel thankful to have returned to my own home in peace and safety, and to have been preserved during my absence as well as favored with a sufficient measure of health and strength to fulfill all my engagements and to preach for fourteen Lord's-days continuously. I hope also that I may say without presumption that the Lord helped me in soul as well as in body, and enabled me to set forth His truth as I have received it. I was glad to see my old friends, and to speak to them once more in the name of the Lord; and I hope there were those among them who felt the power and savor of the word of truth which I was enabled to bring before them.

No one I believe is more convinced than I am that nothing but the power of God accompanying His word can make it effectual either to kill or make alive, to wound or to heal, to pull down or build up. And from whomsoever's mouth words of grace and truth drop, whether educated or uneducated, whether learned or unlearned, the power is the same. Some despise learning and some despise the lack of it; but the people of God know what power is when they feel it to accompany the word; and those who know not what that power is are no judges of the matter. It is a day of small things well-near everywhere, and those who have life seem much overborne by darkness and the death that is in their carnal mind.

I had a pleasant and I hope profitable visit to Nottingham. The room was very full, and on the Tuesday evening we had quite a large congregation. Some young clergyman sat close to the pulpit. What he thought of my discourse I can hardly conjecture, but he seemed to listen very attentively. One does not know what good is done on such occasions, or how it may please the Lord to bring His word home with power to some thoughtless sinner's heart. I never saw Mr. — in better health, and we had some short but very sweet conversation upon the things of God. He is truly a spiritually minded man, and to be made and kept spiritually minded our dear friend W. Tiptaft used to say was one of the greatest blessings which we could have. The Memoir [of William Tiptaft] is nearly sold out, but I hope the second edition which is passing through the press will shortly appear. It seems to have been generally very well received, and the letters highly prized. By them, he being dead, yet speaks; for I hear it often remarked, "How vividly they recall the man."

My visit to Oakham seems almost like a dream, and you perhaps feel the same. It came and went; but I hope, unlike a dream, it has left some traces of its real existence.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

December 14, 1867
My dear afflicted and widowed Friend, Mrs. Brown—I desire sincerely to sympathize with you under your most distressing bereavement. It has indeed not come upon you unexpectedly, and thus your mind must have been in some good measure prepared for this desolating stroke. You have also the unspeakable consolation of knowing that your dear husband has passed away from this world of sin and sorrow to be forever with that dear Lord whom he so sincerely loved and faithfully served when here below. Still, with these sources of consolation, when such a bereavement comes, though they alleviate the shock, yet nature must ever feel the pain and grief of the loss; and, therefore, there is no use in friends trying to make a burden light, which cannot but be from its nature heavy.

Under such circumstances no one but the Lord Himself can administer support and comfort; and His way often is to allow the stroke to be deeply felt, giving just sufficient support under it, that it may do its appointed work. You may, therefore, not at present receive that strength and consolation for which you might look; but if the Lord grants you faith and patience, He will in due time appear for you and fulfill every promise which He has given to the widow, and to her especially who is desolate, and a widow indeed.

Few men have died more in the esteem and affection of God's saints and servants than your late dear husband. His great sincerity and uprightness of character, boldness and faithfulness in the declaration of truth, and the sweet spirit which more especially of late years accompanied his ministry, much endeared him to all who knew him, especially to those who sat under his ministry. I always found him a sincere and affectionate friend, and could only regret that for the few last years I have seen so little personally of him. But I most highly esteemed him for his work's sake.
The Lord support and comfort you in your affliction.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.




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