LETTERS of J. C. Philpot  (1868)


January 10, 1868

My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake,
How we seem to stand, as it were, amid the dead and dying!
How many of those with whom we have walked and talked on the things of God have passed away; and how, as each one is removed, it speaks as a personal warning, "You also be ready." But we know well that all our readiness must be in Him and from Him who gave the precept. What a gradual unloosening there is of the ties which bind us to life. And I believe for the most part the Lord makes His people willing to depart before He calls them up from this world of sin and misery.

I desire to sympathize with you both in your path of trial and affliction. Your dear sister has had a long and painful experience of an afflicted and suffering tabernacle, the trials of which those who enjoy health and strength have no idea of. And as regards yourself, such a weight of care, labor, and anxiety has been laid upon you as to tax to the utmost all your powers of mind and body. But in the world, and especially in the Church, there must be those who are willing and able to work and spend their energies on tasks laid upon them for the good of others; and, though sometimes they rebel at having so much cast upon them, yet they are made willing to work when they see and feel it is for the glory of God and the good of His people.

I am very sorry to hear so sad an account of poor Mrs. P—. No doubt she needs all the heavy strokes which have been laid upon her. She is a woman of good and choice experience, and has had greater manifestations of the Lord to her soul than most can speak of. The faith thus given her has to be tried by fire, and I have no doubt that she will come out of the great Refiner's hands with her dross and tin purged away. I know perhaps more of her experience than most do, and the remarkable way in which my writings, and especially "Winter afore Harvest," were blessed to her soul, when she did not know whether I was alive or dead, and then her being brought under my roof and ministry in a special way of providence have much knit us together. The Lord will surely regard the work of His own hands, and it will be well with her in life and death. I also much respect her husband, as I have long marked his consistent Christian conduct and bearing under very trying circumstances.

I am glad that you like the Address. It is very difficult year after year to write what shall be edifying and instructive to so many of the family of God, and so varied in circumstances, character, leadings, and experience. But my desire was to lay before them such things as I know from experience harmonize with the Scriptures of truth and the teachings of the holy Spirit. This I believe the Lord will ever bless.

My Christian love to all who love the Lord.
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 


January 30, 1868

My dear and valued Friend, Mrs. Peake—I feel much obliged to you for your kind feeling towards my ministry among you, and could say much upon the point, if I could do so without seeming self-exaltation. The blessing of a sound healthy ministry is little appreciated, because, like our food, its influence upon the whole system cannot be always distinctly traced. To be kept from error which is so rife and so deadly—to have the eyes, heart, and feet guided and directed to the only true Object of real faith, hope, and love—to have all that is good in us by grace nurtured, strengthened, and encouraged—and all that is evil in us, worthless and unprofitable, to be exposed to view, beaten down, cast aside, or subdued—to have weak things strengthened, feeble things confirmed, and the grace of God and what we are by grace brought out of, and disentangled from, all creature admixture—this peculiar feature of a sound wholesome ministry is only valued by a few, who know that in it is their life.

My desire and aim from the very first of my ministry, with all its weakness and shortcomings, have been and are to exalt and trace out the special grace of God as manifested in and by the Three Persons of the glorious, undivided, and indivisible Godhead. And you, dear friend, in looking at and over my testimony, whether preached or written, from the earliest days in which I stood before the church of God, will be able to see that there has been a unity in it from first to last, whether by tongue or pen. Allow me to add that our dear friend William Tiptaft used to say that my writings would be more valued when I was gone. But I am sure of this, that if there be any value in them, it is because the Lord was pleased to show me from the very first, and to impress deeply upon my mind, the grand distinction between nature and grace.

The first sermon that I ever preached was from Romans 6:23, at South Moreton Church, in Berks., and a gracious godly woman, the late wife of Mr. Doe, who happened to be present and was considered a mother in Israel, I am told, said of me after it—"That is a good man, and he will leave the Church of England." She lived to witness the truth of her prediction, and has often heard me at Abingdon Chapel. Excuse this much about myself. . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

February 24, 1868
My dear Friend, Mr. Hoadley—I am much obliged to you for your kind remembrance of us in sending us your acceptable present, and I would have been glad to have thanked you in person, had you given me the opportunity yesterday, or looked in upon me this morning.

Like many others, you probably did not expect to see me in the pulpit yesterday, and indeed, as I then said, I would much sooner be a hearer than preach myself. I hope, however, you were not disappointed, or at least, if you were, that it was made up in the evening. My dear friend Mr. Covell and I fully, I believe, understand each other, and that our mutual desire is the profit and edification of the people of God. We are not striving which should be the greater, but believing that in the mouth of two witnesses every truth shall be established, are made willing so far to work together that the people of God may have all the profit, and the Lord all the glory. I told our dear friend when I first came to Croydon that my desire was to avoid all party spirit with all strife and contention, and that I would, for my part, much sooner never step into his pulpit than be the least means of causing or strengthening any spirit of division or disunion.
I am, my dear Friend,
Yours, I trust, in the best bonds,
J. C. P.

 

March 20, 1868
My dear Friend, Mr. Godwin—I have been so very busy of late that I have been obliged to neglect my correspondents, and among them my old, faithful, and affectionate friend, to whom I am now endeavoring to send a few lines. Writing, however, is but a very imperfect mode of communicating with our spiritual friends. There is always something which we should like to say, but cannot, and which we could impart so much better in seeing them face to face. I feel this especially with respect to one or two things which you have named in your last kind letter. We have to be tried about ourselves, and we have to be tried about others, and for much the same reasons—that there are things in them and things in ourselves which we cannot make altogether straight with conscience and the word of God. And I am well persuaded that none but He who makes crooked things straight can make these things straight either as regards ourselves or others.

And there's another thing which you know as well as I do, that the more we know of people and the more we see of them, as well as the more we know of ourselves and see of ourselves, the less grace do we seem to see in ourselves and them. Now what does this bring us to, but highly to value the least mark of real grace; and I am sure it rejoices us to be able to find in ourselves and others any clear testimony that God is with us of a truth. I am glad therefore that you were able to speak so confidently at O— of a dear and old friend of ours, and I hope it may have a good effect. I quite understand an unwillingness to see friends when one is ill, for I have had, and still have, much of the same feeling myself; though when I have been enabled to break through the feeling I have been cheered and comforted by their company and conversation.

The memorial of our late dear friend Richard Healy is just published, and I think will be read with feeling by the Lord's family. I would like to insert in the Gospel Standard, as opportunity may occur, some of our late dear friend Carby Tuckwell's letters. The one which he wrote to you, giving an account of the special blessing with which he was favored last June, will appear next month in the obituary. I have often felt much union to him when we have got upon the things of God, and much esteemed and respected him; but he was, as you know, rather reserved, and not gifted with utterance of speech, as many are. We are losing our choice friends and companions, and where shall we find others to take their place?

Our dear friend at A. would deeply feel his doctor's death. What a mercy to be kept by the mighty power of God! What debtors we are to Him, both in providence and in grace, both for body and soul, both for this life and that to come. My chief, my daily grief is to have sinned against so good a God, and my desire is ever to walk in His fear, and to live to His praise. It is His goodness which leads to repentance, His mercy which melts the heart, His truth which liberates and sanctifies the soul, and His grace which superabounds over all aboundings of sin. What have we now, dear friend, to live for, but during our short span of life to know and enjoy more of His presence and love, and have clearer testimonies of what He is unto us and in us?

I am, through mercy, much as usual. Our good friend wishes me to take his place next Lord's-day morning. His annual collection on the 8th was £166 3s. 1d. You would think there must be both will and power in his congregation. But he sets a noble example of liberality, and the Lord honors him.
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

March 25, 1868
My dear Friends in the Lord, Mrs. Peake and Miss Morris—In my prayers for you both, I feel led to ask of the Lord to give you faith and patience, for these two graces you much need in active and daily exercise. But that you may have them brought into your heart and there maintained with a divine power, tribulation is needed, for tribulation works patience (Rom. 5:3), as well as the trial of faith (James 1:3). And this patience must have her perfect work, that you may be made perfect and entire, lacking nothing. If then you had no trials or perplexities, no tribulation or temptation, you could not have your faith tried as by fire, and there would be no patience accompanying it, working with it, and perfecting it. Nor again would you have it made manifest to yourselves or others that you are possessed of the grace of love, for that bears all things and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).

I was thinking the other morning about Christian love, and I seemed to see that it was the first of all evidences, and the last of all graces. Let me explain my meaning. Love to the brethren is the first Scriptural evidence of having passed from death unto life. But this love, as we journey onward, and have to do more and more with the crooked ways of God's people, is the last of all graces, as well as the greatest, as having to live and thrive under well-near everything which serves to damp or quench it. As patience then is useless without burdens to bear, and trials and temptations to encounter, so love is useless unless it has to be maintained under all those circumstances, and all that chilling opposition, which seem so contrary to it. If the people of God were all we could wish them to be, and for ourselves to be kind, forbearing, forgiving, affectionate, unsuspecting, open-hearted and open-handed, prayerful and spiritually-minded, love would flow out so toward them, that it would not be a matter of any difficulty. But to love the people of God for what we see of Christ in them, in spite of all their crookedness, perverseness, ignorance, obstinacy, ill-temper, fretfulness, and deadness in the things of God this is the difficulty.

But the Lord does not bestow His graces to lie idle in the bosom; but to manifest their presence, their activity, and their power by what they have to do. If then you are to be blessed with the graces of faith, and love, and patience, you must expect burdens, exercises, afflictions, perplexities, annoyances, and a variety of circumstances most contrary to your natural feelings and expectations. But if, in the midst of all these painful and perplexing circumstances, faith credits the word of promise, patience quietly and meekly endures its load, and love is still maintained in exercise in word and deed, you will find the approbation of the Lord in your own bosom, and will sooner or later prove that He ever honors His own grace and His own work in the soul.

The great thing that we have to dread is the giving way to, and being overcome by, our own spirit; or what is worse, mistaking our own spirit for a right spirit, and our own will for a right will. In these things we need to be instructed by the Holy Spirit, the promised Teacher, that we may have not only a right judgment in all things, but be enabled to speak, live, and act as He would have us to do. I think I know something of your perplexities and difficulties, and can see that to support you under them, and bring you through them, you need faith, and love, and patience; and this is the reason why I have ventured to lay before you a word of friendly counsel and encouragement, and I shall be very glad if you may find it suitable and supporting. I have endeavored to show you such a path as I would desire, if grace enabled me, to tread myself if placed in a similar position.

But, alas, it is one thing to give advice, and another to act upon it one's self. I remember, how many years ago, the words of Eliphaz (Job 4:3, 4, 5) came to my mind as sadly applicable to my case. But we have to learn our weakness, as well as where and in whom our strength lies, and the Lord is very merciful and gracious, never leaving us, nor allowing us to be led into any path in which His grace is not sufficient for us, if sought and looked to; for we have to confess that when it has been otherwise, it has been because we did not look to Him, nor lean upon Him; but looked to self either for strength or indulgence.
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
Jesus . C. P.

 

May 8, 1868
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—I walk every day when I can, and usually to the same spot, which is more than a mile from my house, to the top of a gentle hill, where there is a seat under a wide-spreading oak and commanding a lovely view of hill and dale, the latter wooded; and there I sit in the warm sun, sometimes meditating or otherwise engaged, perhaps not unprofitably, with soul matters, while the lark is singing just above me, or the thrush giving out its shrill sweet note. I think I never saw so much of the glory of God, and, I may add, His goodness and beauty, as manifested in visible creation. I was thinking in my walk today, when I looked round upon the beautiful face of nature, how beautiful must He be who has stamped so much of it on this present world—and yet what is all this beauty compared with the riches of His mercy, grace. and glory as manifested in the Person and work of His dear Son (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6)! How grievous it is ever to sin, rebel against, disobey, or displease such a God; and it is my desire to walk in His fear, live to His praise, and to glorify Him by knowing His will and doing it. There is no peace, rest, or happiness anywhere else, nor is it possible for God to make a man happy except by making him holy, sanctifying him by the power of His Spirit and grace, and conforming him to the image of the Son of His love. When this is perfectly done, he will be perfectly happy—but as long as sin remains in him, and it will do so to his dying day, he will ever find something to mar his peace. . . .
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

July 2, 1868
My dear sister Fanny—I am sorry to find from your letter that you are still so afflicted in body. I was in hopes you were gradually recovering health and strength, and, though weak, were able to come down stairs, or even get out into the open air. Unless much favored and supported by God, bodily illness is a great affliction; but you know where to look to for strength, and who has graciously said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." In times past He has been your stay, and "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever." To be so weak and helpless is a great affliction; but it is sent to wean you from this world, make life burdensome, and death desirable. You have had a long life compared with most, and for the most part a healthy one, and you cannot wonder if growing years bring with them growing infirmities. How many have we seen younger than we borne away—and we still remain. It is nearly twenty-one years ago since I came to Stoke from Malvern. Dr. S., your dear husband, and many others, little dreamt that I would survive them. But here I still am, "faint yet pursuing," in body and soul. . . .
The Lord support you under your trials and afflictions.
Your affectionate Brother,
J. C. P.

 

August 19, 1868
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake—Having now a little respite from my labors, and an opportunity not being likely soon to recur to write to you again, I send you a few lines according to your request.

You will be desirous to know how my health is, especially as the season has been so very trying. In common, then, with most who are weak, I much felt the great heat, especially as being obliged to preach to large congregations at the very time when it was at its greatest height. I was, however, mercifully brought through my labors in London, and have now completed my engagement here. I trust I found the strength of the Lord made perfect in my weakness, in soul as well as in body, and that He gave testimony to the word of his grace. But, for the most part, the things of God are at a very low ebb everywhere, both in town and country, and the churches seem much sunk into a cold, lethargic, and apathetic state. There are, indeed, a few souls which seem kept alive, and are sensible of their own state and the state of others, and these the Lord seems from time to time to revive under His word. There are some of these whom I know at Gower Street, and who spoke of the revival and renewal which they experienced under what one of them called the "sweet droppings of the Gospel." I cannot say that I felt any peculiar or extraordinary power resting upon my spirit as I have sometimes experienced; but upon the whole I was favored with some good measure of life and liberty. Some of the sermons were taken down; some perhaps of the best, and two especially, were not, as Mr. Ford was not there. I may, however, take the same words again when he is present, though, without special help, I shall not be able to handle them as I did then.

We had, I believe, on the whole, a good day at Calne, and the collection on behalf of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society was more than £30. Some of the friends said they had never heard me speak with greater power there. But the place was so full, the ventilation so imperfect, and the heat so great that I much felt the exertion, and did not get over it for several days. Mr. Taylor was not able to come on account of illness, which was a great disappointment.

I hope it may please the Lord to give me health and strength for the work which still lies before me; but this extreme change in the weather, from drought and heat to cold and damp, makes me feel very poorly. We are poor, dissatisfied creatures. When it was so hot I was impatiently waiting for the cold; and now the cold has come I could almost wish the heat were back. We have been favored in the weather as regards the Lord's-day, and I hope we have been favored also in the house of prayer, especially on the last Lord's-day, when the Lord, I trust, enabled me to speak with some life, feeling, and power. We had a large congregation, and gathered from distant quarters, some having come twenty miles, and there was a large collection of vehicles. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

September 3, 1868
Dear Friend in the Truth—I expressed in my last letter my inability to accept the kind invitation of the church to come among you, so as to have the opportunity of conversing with you upon your present trying circumstances. Indeed, there is scarcely any position more trying to a church than when it loses a beloved pastor, who under God has for many years been the honored instrument of feeding, guiding, and ruling it in the fear of the Lord. Such a loss, humanly speaking, is irreparable; for whatever gifts and graces his successor may possess, he can never be to a church what their own beloved pastor was. And it seems to me that in this day there is a peculiar dearth of men qualified for the pastoral office. They have neither the gift nor the grace to qualify them for that most important office. Even as Supplies, there is a great deficiency in the needful gifts and graces.

I wish that I could name any man as one whom it is likely you could receive as qualified to go in and out before you. Meanwhile you cannot do better than wait upon the Lord under a sense of felt weakness, that He would supply all your need out of the fullness which is in Christ Jesus. The great thing is to hang together in a spirit of love and union, and walk as far as you are enabled in the footsteps which your late lamented pastor for so many years laid before you. Some among you will probably get weary of meeting together in weakness, and be crying out to get the pulpit supplied rather than have no preaching. If indeed you can get a gracious, humble, spiritually-minded, faithful, and experimental servant of God to speak to you as occasion serves, it would be a great blessing, and would, I doubt not, be highly prized by those among you who love to hear the Gospel preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. But merely to desire preaching for preaching's sake, and to want the pulpit supplied because they cannot bear to see it empty, and think God has no other way of feeding his people when they meet together, is a great mistake, and often leads to very painful consequences. Strife and a party spirit come into the church and congregation. They are not united in one mind and in one judgment; they do not stand fast in one spirit, striving together for the faith of the Gospel, but have men's persons in admiration because of advantage; and this breeds strife and confusion, with every evil work. I have seen this again and again, and have observed how churches have in this way lost all their former spirituality and love to the Lord, His truth, cause, and people, and sunk down into carnality and death.

I hope therefore, dear friends, that you will cleave to each other in love, waiting upon the Lord in prayer and supplication, that he would send you a man after his own heart to feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

September 13, 1868
To the Congregation in Providence Chapel, Oakham

Dear Friends—It is a sad disappointment to me, and I doubt not will be so to many of you, that I am not able, from bodily indisposition, to stand up before you this morning and speak to you in the name of the Lord. But it has pleased the Lord to lay upon me one of those attacks of cold on my chest which so often, in times past, laid me aside, and which not only used so much to try my faith and patience, but yours also. Having been favored for thirteen Lord's days to preach His Word, I was greatly in hopes that health and strength might have been given me to speak once more to those who were so long my own people, that our union and communion in the Lord might be strengthened and renewed, and that meeting once more in the house of prayer, we might realize the power and presence of the Lord in our midst.

But we live to prove that our thoughts are not the Lord's thoughts, and that disappointment upon disappointment attends all our plans, even when they are made, as we hope, for the glory of God and the good of His people. You were looking perhaps too much to the instrument, and expecting that from the man which the Lord keeps in His own hands, the blessing which makes rich. It is a great trial to me that I cannot, as I hoped and expected, meet with you once more in the house of prayer, that heart might unite once more with heart in prayer and supplication, that I might preach to you again the Word of life, that our faith, hope, and love to the Lord might be strengthened, and our esteem and affection for each other renewed. It is however a great alleviation of my trial that our dear and esteemed friend Mr. Knill has so kindly determined to forego his engagement and preach in my stead, and may such a blessing rest on him, and the Word of God by him, that all disappointment may be removed, and you well reconciled to the will of God in this trying dispensation.
The Lord be with you and bless you.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.

 

September 21, 1868
My dear sister Fanny—It is now some time since I sent you a few lines, but we often hear of one another through the correspondence of our dear relatives. I was sorry to learn that the Lord had laid upon you His afflicting hand; but that is what we must expect at our time of life, and if these afflictions are blessed and sanctified to our souls' good, as we trust they are, they are rather marks of the Lord's favor than of His displeasure. But I know well that the poor coward flesh is fretful and impatient under the affliction, and would gladly have a smoother, easier path. I have myself been suffering for nearly a fortnight under one of my old attacks, and am not yet recovered from it. I was carried through thirteen Lord's-days, besides preaching in the week; but the great heat and exertion in London seemed at last too much for me, and when the weather turned suddenly cold the great change affected my chest and brought on one of my attacks. Being, however, not severe, and hoping it might pass off, which it does sometimes, I came down here to fulfill my engagement. But to my great disappointment, and that of the people, my illness increased so that I was not able to preach here, as engaged on the 13th. There was a large congregation gathered to hear me; but Mr. Knill very kindly consented to come and preach, which much alleviated the disappointment. Nor was I able to go to Stamford for the 20th, being at present confined to the house, and indeed to my two rooms up-stairs. I shall try, however, if I am able, to go to Leicester, as I have several times before disappointed the friends there from illness.

I long much for my own home, and what I call my winter quarters, when I am not obliged to preach, or even leave the house if the weather be unfavorable or myself indisposed. I was greatly in hopes that I might be allowed to fulfill all my engagements; but it was not the Lord's will and I must submit.

It must be a great comfort to you to be with your niece and so be relieved in good measure from those domestic troubles and anxieties which you must have had in a house of your own. I view it, therefore, as a special providence on your behalf, and doubt not that you, at times, have seen and felt it to be so. But such is our unbelieving infidel heart that, though we may see the Lord's hand at first in a circumstance, yet when difficulties and perplexities arise we get into a state of darkness and confusion, and almost fear it has been a wrong step.

Wherever we go, and wherever we are, we must expect trials to arise; but it will be our wisdom and mercy to submit to what we cannot alter, and not fret or repine under the trial, but accept it as sent for our good. You have had a long and trying affliction, but I hope you see at times mercy mingled with it. To be taken aside out of the world, to have opportunity for meditation, that after you have done the will of God, which is as much by suffering as by doing, you may receive the promise. Do not give way to fretfulness, murmuring, impatience, self-pity, hard thoughts of God, unbelief, doubt and fear, and other such evils of the heart which obscure the light of God's countenance and bring confusion and darkness into the soul. Those whom the Lord loves He loves unto the end, and as you have had many proofs and marks of the Lord's love to your soul, let not Satan and unbelief rob you of your faith and hope. I commend you to His grace, believing that He will be with you to the end. My own path is often dark and cloudy, but I daily endeavor to do what I have been counseling you to do.

Accept my brotherly love in every sense of the word. Though I do not often write to you, I think of you and endeavor, in my poor way, to ask of the Lord to support and bless you and give you faith and patience to hold out and hold on.

It is more than thirty-two years since I first came to this place, and about four since I was obliged, from failing health and strength, to leave it. In the lapse of those years I have seen great changes. Many, very many, have died since I first preached to them, and most of those who professed to fear God, and believe in His dear Son, have died well—but their decease has left great gaps in the church and congregation, not likely, I think, to be filled up, at least not with equally gracious people. . . .
Your affectionate Brother,
J. C. P.

 

October 1, 1868
Dear Friend in the Truth, Mr. Parrott—it was a great disappointment to me not to be able to fulfill my engagement at Stamford on the 20th, and I have no doubt it was so to others who, like yourself, in times past have been blessed and favored in that house of prayer, and were looking forward for a fresh discovery of the Lord's goodness and love to their souls under the preached Word. It is very difficult to read the mind of the Lord in these dispensations of His providence. As regards myself, I feel willing and desirous to preach His Word, so far as I understand it, feel the power of it, and taste and handle its sweetness and blessedness; and I know there are those who desire to come under the sound of the Word as thus preached, from seeing eye to eye with me in the things of God, having felt, as we hope, the same divine power, and seeking after the same spiritual blessing. I know well that it is not a man's gifts or abilities which can profit or edify the Spirit-taught family of God. These may please and attract outer-court worshipers, but those who have seen the beauty of the Lord in the sanctuary desire His presence, His power, and His blessing. This is what I am ever seeking after, both in my own soul and in my ministry—for I am well satisfied that all short of this leaves us full of unbelief, darkness, guilt, and bondage. But the blessing of the Lord—it makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.

I am glad to find that you have been brought out of your long captivity. The Lord is faithful, and where He has begun a gracious work, He will fulfill it until the day of Christ. What a mercy it is to have a faithful covenant-keeping God, and a gracious compassionate High Priest who can sympathize with His poor, tried, tempted family, so that however low they may sink, His pitiful eye can see them in their low estate, His gracious ear hear their cries, His loving heart melt over them, and His strong arm pluck them from their destructions. Oh what would we do without such a gracious Lord and most suitable Savior as the blessed Jesus! How He seems to rise more and more in our estimation, in our thoughts, in our desires, in our affections, as we see and feel what a wreck and ruin we are, what dreadful havoc sin has made with both body and soul, and what miserable outcasts we are by nature, as helpless and forlorn as the poor babe spoken of in Ezekiel 16—"Cast out in the open field, to the loathing of its person, in the day that it was born."

But oh how needful it is, dear friend, to be brought down in our soul to be the chief of sinners, viler than the vilest, and worse than the worst, that we may really and truly believe in, and cleave unto, this most precious and suitable Savior!

Can we not say that we have laid at His sacred feet thousands and tens of thousands of earnest petitions, prayers, supplications, and importunities, that He would come into our heart with a divine power, speak to us words of peace, and commune with us from off the mercy-seat? And when He is pleased in any measure to discover the wondrous mystery of His Person and work, blood shedding and obedience and death, and to give us to know the power of His resurrection in raising up our souls from death unto life, and secretly inspires faith, and hope, and love toward Himself as the glorious and glorified Son of the Father in truth and love, what then are all earthly things compared with Him?
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

October 1, 1868
My dear Friend, James Davis. . . I am sorry that you should have experienced so heavy a loss; but I have found myself more than once, when I have been calculating on some increase of income or some temporal advantage, that a sudden stroke has come and swept it away. We are thus taught not to trust in uncertain riches, which make to themselves wings and fly away; but trust in the living God, who has helped us so many years, and not allowed us to lack any good thing. Those words of our Lord, Mark 10:29, 30, were once made very sweet to me, for I could see them all fulfilled in my experience; but the sweetest of all was, "and in the world to come, eternal life." That crowns all. We might have all the gold that ever was dug up in Australia, and what would that profit us on a dying bed, or in the great judgement day, if gold were our god, and we had no other to look to, believe in, or love?

It has been with us a summer almost unparalleled for heat and drought, the thermometer being for several days at 92E, and in some places 94E. The whole country was burnt up, and the grass fields almost as brown as the road. I very much felt the heat and the exertion of preaching, and it very much prostrated my strength. I was at the Calne anniversary, and it was one of the very hot days, though not the hottest of the season. The heat of the chapel was very great, as it was much crowded; but I was much helped in speaking, and many of the friends spoke of it as having been a blessed time to their souls. My text was Jer. 32:14, and I endeavored to show from it the two kinds of evidences, which we must have to know that we are redeemed—sealed evidences known only to the happy possessor, and open, which are to be known and read by others. I said that these were put into an earthen vessel—our poor, frail, mortal bodies, and that they are in a sense buried with us, and will rise with us in the resurrection morn. Your old friend Hicks was there, and friends from Bath, Castle Cary, Malmesbury, and a long way round. It was at the anniversary that I first saw you, as no doubt you remember. Our friend Mr. Parry was better this visit, and able to hear me each Lord's day. He sadly misses our dear friend Mr. Tuckwell, and indeed all do who knew him and esteemed him for the truth's sake. He made indeed a good end, and as dear Tiptaft used to say, was well laid in his grave. I saw there many old friends, but it was the middle of harvest, and that and the great heat kept some away.

I hope you find the Lord with you in speaking to the people. You would find it a great trial to be laid aside. . . .
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

October 12, 1868
My dear Friends, Mrs. Peake and Miss Morris—We were highly favored in our journey home, not only in the day, but in the comfort of the transit, being by ourselves all the way, and passing from Leicester to London by the new line without once stopping. Still I felt very tired before I reached my own home, and though preserved from taking fresh cold, yet I have felt greater weakness than when at Oakham. I trust however that, through mercy, the attack is passing off, though I expect it will be some time before I regain that measure of health and strength, never very great, which yet enables me to go through the various tasks that lie before me, with some tolerable comfort.

I do not think I ever felt the disappointment so great as being laid aside on this present occasion. I wished so much to be allowed to speak once more in the Lord's name to those who I knew were desirous again to hear my voice. It is indeed to me a mysterious dispensation, and yet I hope it has in some measure been sanctified to my soul's good. I have felt, through infinite mercy, much of the life and power of divine truth in my heart, have had much of a spirit of grace and supplications, and not been allowed to drop into carnality and death, or be filled with murmuring, fretfulness, self-pity, or rebellion. The flesh indeed has felt, and sometimes almost fainted under the burden, but the spirit has been made willing, has cleaved to the Lord with purpose of heart, and hung upon Him and Him alone, as a nail fastened in a sure place. It has been with me a sowing time, and I hope in due season to reap, if I faint not. It is very sad in old age to sink into worldliness, carnality, carelessness, and deadness; and though the flesh may writhe under the afflicting strokes of God's hand, it is a mercy to have the life of God stirred up thereby, to be separated in heart and spirit from carnal earthly things, and to have the affections set where Jesus sits, at the right hand of God.

I felt anxious to know about Leicester, and am glad to learn from Mr. Knill's letter, that the Lord was with him and granted him a sweet sense of His presence, with an opening of the heart and mouth to speak in His name. The Lord very frequently overrules these disappointments, and not only displays in them the sovereignty of His will, but also the power of His grace.

You will be glad to hear of my son's recent success. . . . Surely I have much reason to be thankful that at present my family turn out so well; especially when I look around me and see what a trial unruly children have been and are to gracious parents.
I am, my dear friends,
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

October 28, 1868
My dear and much esteemed Friend, Mrs. Peake—I have often admired the spirit in which Mr. — acted when he had to curtail his expenses. He said the question was whether he should give up two extra carriage horses, or give up his donations for various religious end benevolent objects, and he at once preferred the former course. What we are enabled to give to the Lord's cause and the Lord's poor sanctifies, so to speak, the whole of the rest, and no one can expect to see the hand of God in providence stretched out in his behalf who from a spirit of covetousness or self-indulgence diminishes, unless actually compelled, what he has thus consecrated to the Lord's service. I have proved again and again, in providence, that the Lord will abundantly make up to us, any sacrifice that we may make, or any act of kindness and liberality that we may show to the members of the mystical body of Christ.

I was much pleased and struck with E.'s letter. There is so little in our days of that sweet communion with the Lord of which she speaks, that I have thought that its insertion in the Gospel Standard might be both a stirring up, as Peter speaks, of the pure minds of others, as well as a tacit reproof and rebuke to the cold and carnal state in which Christians are for the most part so deeply sunk. . . .

The feeling of weakness, when one has so much to do which demands energy and strength, is in itself a severe trial. Only those who know how exhausting mental labor is can form an idea of the trial which there is in weakness even where there is no pain; but when pain is mingled with it, it makes the trial severe and the burden of the daily cross heavy. But I trust I am deriving some spiritual benefit from it. We need trial upon trial, and stroke upon stroke to bring our soul out of carnality and death. We slip insensibly into carnal ease; but afflictions and trials of body and mind stir us up to some degree of earnestness in prayer and supplication, give a force and reality to the things of God, show us the emptiness and vanity of earthly things, make us feel the suitability and preciousness of the Lord Jesus; and as we taste any measure of sweetness and blessedness in Him He becomes more feelingly and experimentally all our salvation and all our desire. The Lord has His own way of dealing with us. None can lay down lines for Him, and though His dealings with each seem to differ widely, and few at the time can read His purposes, for He brings the blind by a way which they knew not, yet in the end all His ways are found to be ways of mercy, truth and peace—all stamped with the impress of infinite wisdom, and tender mercy and love. . . .
Yours very sincerely and affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

November 5, 1868
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—You have been very kind in communicating to me the tidings of our dear friend Miss Wild's death. It has taken place somewhat sooner than I had anticipated; but considering that the winter is coming on, which would no doubt have severely tried her weakened frame, I cannot but view it as a mercy that she is removed to that happy land of which the inhabitants shall no more say 'I am sick'. She was one of the most honest people that I ever knew in my life, and though there was a roughness or rather abruptness in her manner, yet it was so mixed with good feeling, as well as softened by grace, that there was nothing in it repulsive or annoying. I always liked her from my first acquaintance with her, when I used to go to S., and afterwards to the farm on the hill. She was a very tender and affectionate daughter, and she and her poor mother, with many points of roughness in each, yet were much united in the things of God, and were, I believe, especially in latter days, a comfort to each other. There was one thing very satisfactory in her religion—that you could depend upon all that she said, and that she would rather keep back the marks and evidences of God's manifested favor than put them forward, or wish you to think well of them. I consider that the Lord was very gracious to her in the latter portion of her life; and though she had a rough and thorny path, yet her afflictions and trials were much blessed and sanctified to the good of her soul. I wish there were more like her, whose religion bore so clear a stamp of being a divine work, and one which the Lord so owned, crowned, and blessed.

I hope, through God's mercy, I am slowly recovering from my late attack; but though not severe, it seems to have laid deeper and firmer hold of me than almost any one that I have had since I left Stamford. I think the heat and exertion of preaching during the last summer had enfeebled my frame, and therefore when I took cold, it seemed to lay firmer hold of me. I much feel being shut up so much in the house, as I have not been out of the gate even to chapel since I came home. I hope however that the affliction and trial has not been sent altogether in vain, and that I have reaped some small measure of spiritual profit from it. Hart well and wisely says, "Affliction makes us see what otherwise would escape our sight".

It seems to bring us to book, to make us consider our latter end, to wean and separate from the world, to give power and reality to divine things, to stir up the grace of prayer and supplication, to show us the emptiness of all natural and creature religion, to make us look more simply and believingly to the blessed Lord, to feel how suitable He is to every want and woe; and that in Him, and in Him alone, is pardon, acceptance, and peace. It also discovers and brings to light many past sins, and working with the grace of God brings us to confession, self-abhorrence, contrition, brokenness, and humility before Him, against and before whom we have so deeply and dreadfully sinned.

We cannot choose our own path or our own trials, and usually do not know what the Lord is doing with us by them, until after-light discovers them. He brings the blind by a way that they knew not, but sooner or later He will make every crooked thing straight, and every rough place smooth. When we look back upon the way by which we have been led, how many things we see which should indeed humble us into the very dust. And yet how wonderfully has the Lord at various times appeared for us, and in various ways stretched forth His blessed hand.

My desire is, and never was stronger in my life, to walk in the fear of God, and to have the manifestations of His mercy, goodness, and love. There is a divine reality in true religion, as our dear friend Miss Wild found upon a dying bed; and if we have not a little of this divine reality, we have nothing. For this, you will bear me witness, I have always contended, from the day when you first saw my face and heard my voice in Stadham Church; and it was this which gave me a place in your esteem and affections, because you had a testimony in your own conscience that it was a solemn and saving truth, and that in it lay the sum and substance of all vital godliness. You have had many testimonies to the power and reality of this real religion in those at Allington, who have lived and died in it, as our dear friend Mr. Tuckwell and many others; and I consider your little place highly favored, that the Lord should have had many living witnesses, that His eye has been upon it for good, and that He has honored, owned, and blessed the Word of His grace preached therein. It is a sweet confirmation of the past, and a blessed encouragement for the future—for Jesus Christ in whom we believe is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

November 19, 1868
My clear Friend, Thomas Godwin—I have often thought what a mercy it is that the people of God are not dependent upon one another for the supplies of grace whereby they live unto God. The ministry is useful, the conversation of friends is useful, correspondence by letter on the precious things of God is often useful, and from each and all of these we have derived or communicated profit. But how soon these cisterns may become dry, and indeed, unless supplied immediately from the Lord Himself, all the water contained in them is soon dried up and gone.

What a mercy then it is for our souls that there is a most gracious Lord, in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, that we might receive of His fullness, and grace for grace! How blessedly suitable He is to every want and woe, and how the poor soul is ever looking unto, longing after, hanging upon, and cleaving to Him as all its salvation and all its desire. Friends live apart, those whom we have known and loved are taken home, there are few opportunities for union and communion among Christian friends; but the Lord is ever near, ready of access by night and by day, full of pity and compassion to poor sin-sick souls, and able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. He never disappoints any who trust in Him, is more willing to hear than we to pray, and more willing to give than we to ask. The great, the only real grief of the soul is, that it should sin against Him, be denied His presence, not get a word from His lips, a smile from His face, or a touch from His hand.

We, my dear friend, are fast traveling down the valley of life; our lease will soon be run out, and after that, every year is beyond Scriptural limit of the appointed life of man. My desire is that my last days may be my best days, and I much dread sinking down into carnality and death. I have many things to try my mind; indeed some things, I may say many things, which try me most I have never named, and probably shall never name to any living soul. Every heart knows its own bitterness, and the wormwood and the gall which lie at the bottom of the heart do not always or often come to light; and yet it is felt that nothing but a word from the Lord can purge them out or sweeten them.

But I have proved this, that trials and exercises of body and mind keep the soul alive unto God, and thus I hope I have reason to bless Him, among other mercies, that He is pleased to keep my soul more or less alive unto Himself, and that chiefly through circumstances which in themselves are painful and distressing. Among the wonderful mysteries of the kingdom of God, this is not the least the way in which He makes even those very sins which cause shame and sorrow to work together for our spiritual good. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian, and the longer I live, the more I see how few there are, and what little real grace the very best Christians possess or manifest. In this life it is as it were the bud; the full fruit is reserved for a state of glory. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.

 

November 23, 1868
My dear Friend, Mrs. Clowes—I have often reproached myself with not writing to you, and I fear you must have thought it not only neglectful but ungrateful on my part, and a poor return for the great kindness and hospitality which I have received at your hands. But you know, my dear friend, how much my time is engaged, and that my silence does not spring from any lack of gratitude or affection. I take, then, the opportunity of a little leisure to send you a few lines. . . .

Now, my dear friend, as regards yourself. You found things at Y—, some of which gratified and some of which pained your mind. You were glad to find there was a pleasing recollection of your deceased brother, and yet how many things recalled to your mind the memory of the loved one whom you have lost. It was his native county, and I have always observed that Norfolk men have a singular affection for the place of their nativity. It was the case with your dear husband, who, though so long separated from it, still retained a good deal of his native affection for it. When you sat upon the pier, looking out on the wide sea and inhaling the healthy breeze, how you longed to have him again at your side, and the silent tear trickled down your cheek, or a convulsive sigh burst forth at the recollection of the past, and the feeling that you would never again in this life see him more. But you have found that the sorrow of this world works death.

A heart devoid of feeling and affection is repulsive and disgusting in all, but in none more than in a widow, who, in losing her husband, has lost her earthly all. But this earthly sorrow is, for the most part, so often mingled with self-pity, murmuring, fretfulness, unthankfulness, creature-idolatry, and hardness of heart towards God, that it is often, if not sin, yet an occasion for sin. And I would ask you if, after you have had one of your bursts of sorrow and passionate grief, whether, unless the Lord has blessed and supported you under them, you have not found darkness of mind, hardness of heart, and unbelief to get sensible prevalence. This is what the apostle means by telling us that the sorrow of this world works death, as opposed to that godly sorrow which works repentance to salvation not to be repented of.

Do not think me unkind in writing thus. I know and feel for your desolate state; but that is the very reason why you should not, by brooding over your sorrows, increase their weight and make you feel every day more desolate still. I do hope that the Lord will draw you near unto Himself, and, using this affliction as a means of weaning you from all earthly happiness, will fix your heart more upon Himself. If you could see it you have many mercies to be thankful for, and would even find that there was a blessing couched in your bereavement.

. . . As regards myself I hope I may say I am better; but my recovery has been very slow. At present I continue in the house, and fear I shall be a prisoner most of the winter.

My dear wife and daughters unite with me in love.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

 

December 22, 1868
My dear Friends in the Lord, Mrs. Peake and Miss Morris—I am thankful to say that I feel somewhat better than when I wrote last. Twice I have been for a little walk, and was able last Lord's day to go to chapel for the first time since my return home. I was glad once more to meet with the people, and they seemed glad also to welcome me again in their midst. The text was from Isaiah 12:2; but I did not hear my dear friend quite so well as I hoped, and as I have sometimes heard him. But we well know how much we vary in our hearing, and how dependent we are upon the Lord to make His Word spirit and life to our souls. The disciples, who heard the gracious words that fell from our Lord's lips in the days of His flesh, knew and felt but little either of their meaning or their power. It was only after His resurrection and His ascension on high, when He sent the promised Comforter and Teacher, that what they heard Him speak was brought to their remembrance, its meaning unfolded, and its truth and power impressed upon their souls. Not only must the seed be good, but there must be a prepared and good soil for it to fall into; and even then showers and sun are needed to make it spring up, and grow, and bear fruit.

It is a great mercy when those words of the Apostle are fulfilled in us—"Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you in all wisdom." Our heart must ever be full of something—either sin, worldliness, vanity, and folly, or the solemn realities of eternity. And it is according as our mind and thoughts are occupied with one or the other, that we are what we are, either before God or man. If sin, carnality, worldliness, and all that is vain and foolish, occupy and possess our minds, the growth of these weeds choke what there may be of the life of God in the soul; and we are barren, unfruitful, unbelieving, and worldly-minded, both inwardly before God and in our conversation, walk, and conduct before men. But when the Word of God strikes deep root in the soul, then, as by it alone do we know anything of divine realities, there is more or less of fruitfulness before God and man.

All the truth that we know profitably and savingly, all the experience that we have of the things of God, all the acquaintance, union, and communion that we have or can have with the Father and the Son in this time state, can only be through the Word of truth as opened by the Spirit to the enlightened understanding, and applied by His power to the heart and conscience. And there is this great blessedness in this sanctifying light and life, which come into the soul through the Word, that they draw the heart upward into heavenly things, and thus subdue and keep out the power of those worldly things, of which our mind is naturally full, and in which our carnal nature lives. But the wonder is, what strange and sudden changes and mutations take place in the mind; so that in one half-hour we may seem so under the power of eternal things, as if there were nothing else worth seeking or desiring, and yet in the next half-hour we may seem in our feelings as carnal, worldly, sinful, and sensual, dark, ignorant, and unbelieving, as if there were not, and never had been, one grain of grace or godly fear in the soul.

But amid all these changes it is our mercy that we have to do with the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, and with His Word, which endures forever. May we highly prize it, read it with profit and pleasure, feel its power and influence, be cast into the mold of it, and ever find it to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It is a treasure of which nothing can deprive us, and though we should ever highly prize a preached Gospel as being an ordinance of God, and be thankful for having our lot cast under it, yet the Lord may be pleased to feed our souls in private as much, if not more, by reading and meditating upon the Word of His grace. Nor does this at all interfere with, or militate against the preached Word, for the best hearers are those who are best instructed out of the Word in what they get alone, and their souls when watered by private reading, prayer, and meditation are most fit to receive the Word in its public ministration. Next to being quickened and made alive, is to be kept alive and lively in the things of God; and this cannot be by negligence, sloth, and carelessness, as if God would give the blessing independently of our seeking or desiring. But I will not run on further in this strain, lest the whole of my letter should be too much on one subject.

I send you some letters, among them one from the French lady whom I named to you. I had asked her to spend a part of her holidays here, and at the same time expressed my wish that she would write down some of the dealings of God with her soul; and I told her that she might write to me in her own language, if she felt more liberty in doing so. This will explain some things in her letter. I have often thought of several things which she named in the account that she gave of the Lord's dealings with her soul. There was something in it so real and sterling, so original and fresh, so evidently the teaching and work of the Lord, that it made a deep impression upon my mind, and her manner was so simple, humble, and modest, that what she said commended itself so much to the conscience. Most of us old professors are so covered over and muffled up in a kind of traditionary religion that, when we meet with one who has been led in a peculiar, and yet unmistakably gracious path, it seems to come with a peculiar weight and freshness to the mind.

And now, my dear friends, I wish you the enjoyment of all those blessings which are connected with the season of the year—assuming that it was the season in which the Lord came into the world; and may we never forget why He came, for it is most suitable to us. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance", and therefore of yours and mine, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners", and can we not add—I am sure I can, and that with great reason—"of whom I am chief"? And again, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save those who were lost." And were we not lost, to all intents and purposes, completely ruined, without hope or help? And have we not a thousand times over destroyed ourselves, so as to need above most Him in whom is all our help? I am well persuaded that a knowledge of sin and of the depths of the fall is necessary to any right view or feeling of salvation by the blood of the Lamb. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

 

December 30, 1868
My dear Mrs. Gadsby—We all desire much to sympathize with you in your present affliction, and sincerely hope that you may soon recover from the shock and suffering which must have been caused by your unhappy overturn. I well remember what a sufferer you were, a year or two ago, from being knocked down in the street; and without sanctioning any such thought or expression as ''fatality", it would almost seen as if it were your lot to get the heaviest part of such visitations.

I remember well also, a few words which dropped from you in the vestry at Gower Street, when I expressed my sympathy with you in your long affliction and trial; and indeed it greatly rejoiced my heart to find that the sweetness of manifested mercy had so dropped into your cup, as to reconcile you to its often bitter draught. Oh, what is this wretched world, and this poor vain life of ours, which every day is shortening and bringing to its appointed close! Surely, well has it been said of it, that it is all "vanity and vexation of spirit." But to be able, in sweet hope and confidence, to look beyond this wretched life to a state of eternal bliss, where there is neither sin—the greatest of all ills, nor sickness—of which you have had a large portion, nor sorrow—of which no doubt you have had your share, will not this make ample amends for all?

Salvation is for sinners; for "it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." As such therefore, and as such only, must we be saved.

We all unite in very kind regards and the best wishes of the season to Mr. Gadsby, Mrs. Wright, and Mr. Alfred.
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.




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