LETTERS of J. C. Philpot (1837 - 1838)
May 9, 1837
My dear James Brookland,
I am very sorry that it will not be in my power to come to Stadham at the time mentioned in your letter, to open the chapel. A family affliction (the loss of my only brother) requires that I should go to Plymouth before the time which is fixed to have the chapel opened; and I am afraid that I shall not be able to come to Stadham for that purpose until the last Lord's-day in July. I am quite aware that I said, when I was at Abingdon, that I wished the chapel to be opened before June; but, of course, I could not foresee that affliction which required me to go to Plymouth a month sooner than I intended. I am afraid it will much disappoint the friends to put off the opening of the chapel so long; but as you are not without a place to meet in, I hope they will not object. If they do not like to wait so long, they had better get it opened by some other minister; and I will come, if the Lord wills, to preach in it on the last Lord's-day in July. I wrote to Mr. Tiptaft last week to mention this to the friends, but I have learned that he is not at home.
I know pretty much of the path in which you represent yourself as traveling; a great deal more at times than I like. I have known during these last two years more of trouble, difficulty, perplexity, and confusion than ever I did in my life, and can enter fully into all that you say about yourself. It is to me a very bad sign when a man has no changes, no ups and downs, no heart-sinkings and soul-quakings, no strong cries, at times, for mercy, no sighs, no groans over a body of sin and death, no self-abhorrence, no putting the mouth in the dust and sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Nor do I believe a man will ever be delivered from the power of sin who has not felt what a giant he has to grapple with, nor be delivered from the guilt of it unless he has been first plunged down into the ditch of a polluted nature. A man must hate himself for loving sin, despair of ever being delivered from the dominion of it, and sink away into dreadful fears of being eternally swallowed up by it, before he will find One stronger than he, kinder to himself than he, wiser than he, and more merciful than he, who will intervene in his behalf when his case seems beyond hope and beyond remedy.
And thus a man learns the truth and blessedness of those doctrines of grace which thousands of cuckoos and parrots prate about every day in the week, but which they never can learn aright until they have been down into the low dungeon and had the water flow over their head. When a man has got there, with his prison dress on, and a prison fare, and a treadmill to work upon all day, and a cruel jailer, and solitary confinement, and every now and then a whipping, he cannot boast much about liberty and joy and an assurance never to be damped nor shaken. But, like Joseph of old, he is learning lessons there which will make him a revealer of secrets (Gen. 41:45) when he is sent for, and brought hastily out of the dungeon, and shaves his beard, and changes his clothing, and comes in before the king.
You and I were mighty sticklers for election, and thought how wise we were about it, when we had only learned it as I learned Latin, and as you learned how to plough a straight furrow. It is a great mercy for us if we have been able to vomit up all this head-knowledge, and have been placed at the bottom of the class in Christ's school, to learn of Him who was meek and lowly in heart. For, unless we are so taught, you might as well be as you were when you lay under a haystack, coming from Little Milton; and I might just as well be as proud an orator as when I used to strut up High Street. Divine teaching is the all in all of vital godliness; and where that is lacking, a pick-pocket and a harlot are as good Christians as a chapel-going Calvinist.
I sincerely hope that the little cause at Stadham may be of God, and then who can overthrow it? If it is not, the stones with which it is built might just as well have been used to mend the roads with. Give my Christian love to all the friends.
Believe me to be,
Your affectionate Friend for Truth's sake,
J. C. Philpot.
June 29, 1837
My dear Friend—I received your letter in due course, but, being absent at the time from this place, it was forwarded to me at Devonport, where I was then staying. I am glad that any of my publications should be blessed to your soul, and it causes me no surprise that my Sermon, of which you speak [The Heir of Heaven, then in its 4th Edition], should stir up the wrath of empty professors both in and out of the Establishment. What Satan and his children hate is power. Neither he nor they dislike the 'form of godliness', as they have no quarrel with anything which does not disturb his kingdom. Thus dry doctrines, and empty notions, and such husks as the swine eat will go down with thousands who are mortal enemies to vital godliness. Vain confidence, false hopes, groundless assurance, great swelling words about Jesus Christ in the letter, numerous quotations from the Bible, lines of hymns always on the tongue—well varnished over with feigned humility—a pious exterior, fleshly sanctification, and mock spirituality pass current in our day for wonderful attainments in religion. All this whitewash usually covers a filthy sepulcher, abhorred of God, and abhorred by His discerning people.
Those who have had a spiritual discovery of all the hypocrisy, deceitfulness, falsehood, self-righteousness, and natural religion of which our hearts are full can see in professors what professors cannot see in themselves. A Bank of England clerk can detect, in a moment, a forged note, which you or I might take to be genuine. And how does he find it out? By the lack of a certain mark which every genuine note possesses. And thus, let anyone have all the appearance of spiritual religion, if he has not the mark upon his forehead, which the Spirit of God alone can put there, he is not to be received as genuine. He must be a spiritual mourner (Ezek. 9:4) before he will have the mark, and if he has not this stamped upon him the men with the slaughter weapons in their hands will destroy him utterly. All the sheep of Christ, when they have their old dirty torn wool of self-righteousness sheared off, are marked by the Good Shepherd, and there is no fear of His afterwards mistaking them for goats.
I have desired my publisher to procure and send me your edition of "Bunyan on Prayer." I know the little book itself very well, and never read anything which suits my views and feelings about prayer more than what is there set forth. I am deeply convinced that all saving religion is of a supernatural character, that it is the alone gift of Jehovah, who will be gracious to whom He will be gracious; that it cannot be bought, deserved, nor earned; that, whatever it is, it makes a man a new creature; that it is got out of the fire and out of the water; that it is the preparation for a similar eternity. Such a religion as comes down from God Himself into the soul few are acquainted with. Their religion is all, "I this, and I that—something I have done, obtained, or acquired—something I have obtained and procured by my exertions."
It seems to me that the great employment of professors is to keep turning the winch and working at the crane, and that the occupation of the parsons is to stand over them with a heavy whip to keep them up to the work. There is the Sunday School, and the prayer meeting, and the three services, and the week-night preaching, and the exhortation, and the invitation, and the scoldation, and the legalization, and the moralization. And then there is the duty of faith, and the duty of love, and the duty of obedience, and the duty of church membership, and the duty of aiding Missionary and Bible societies, and, above all, the duty of paying for a seat and contributing handsomely to the quarterly collections.
This is the crane which the people have to keep working at, and if they do their duty, and keep turning away to the end of their lives, they will, no doubt, crane up their souls to heaven. This is a modern chapel religion, and those who will not work at the crane, but love and contend for a free grace religion, and love to be at God's feet that they may be the clay and He their potter—Oh! these are your lazy, stinking Antinomians; these are the vilest characters, and the most awful, dreadful persons, to be shunned as a plague and abhorred as a pestilence! Even universal charity is inflamed with wrath against these; and if ever the meek, mild, gentle, soft, holy man in the pulpit flares out into righteous zeal and pious indignation, it is against the doctrines and principles of such as make God everything and man nothing. But all these bursts of holy zeal will not trouble nor terrify one with whom the secret is, and who has an eternal, divine, supernatural religion.
I hope to be in London, at Great Alie Street Chapel, if the Lord wills, the first two Lord's-days in August next; but I would advise any who have thought I was much of a preacher to moderate their expectations, as my own feelings tell me I can write better than I can preach.
One of your church ministers, Mr. Powell, was an old friend of mine at Oxford. I fear that his dry doctrines are more suited to feed dead Calvinists than living souls.
Wishing you much of the good old wine of the kingdom in your soul, which is for him that is ready to perish and of a heavy heart (Prov. 31:6), and much of that oil which makes the face to shine, and of the bread which strengthens man's heart (Psalm 104:15), I am, with love to all true pilgrims and contrite souls,
Yours faithfully, for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.
My dear Friend—I received your letter in due course, and was able, with some pains, to read its contents. I believe you are an honest man, though sometimes, like myself, rather a rough one; and this feeling has induced me to answer your letter. I have various correspondents whose letters I never answer, or, if I do, treat them as Joseph did his brethren, and speak roughly to them. Some are too canting, others too abusive; some plaster me over too much, and others hardly treat me with civility. I like honesty, and think half a grain of godly sincerity worth all the empty profession without it, which could be raked together out of all the churches and chapels in London; and I believe that, where a work of grace has passed upon the soul, it has made the heart honest, and, though sin and Satan may damp it for a time, that this divine honesty will break forth.
True religion is a personal thing. The grand question which the soul wants to have settled is this, "Damned or saved?" A man must go down to the root of the matter to have this question answered. A shilly-shally, dilly-dally, half-and-half, milk-and-water religion will not suit a man who feels that he has a soul to be damned or saved. But a sanctified countenance, a feigned humility, a soft manner, a smooth tongue, a retentive memory, and a seat in a Calvinistic chapel make up the religion of hundreds, who know no more of vital godliness than one of your horses. Among his other tricks, Satan has in our day well-near changed the names of things. Honesty he calls rudeness, decision he terms impertinence, faithfulness he names a bitter spirit, freedom from the law he calls Antinomianism, the doctrines of grace he terms doctrines of devils, love to Christ he calls "enthusiasm," and love to the children of God he names party spirit. And so, in a similar way, he calls flattery and cant a gospel spirit, endorsing everybody's religion a candid and sweet disposition, formality and self-righteousness he terms decided piety, and enmity against the truth a holy zeal.
This is a turning of things upside down, and I believe God will one day esteem it as potter's clay, fit only to be trodden under foot. There are two ways of learning religion—one out of the Bible; the other in the soul, under divine teachings.
The first way is 'the religion of the day', but I find that I can't learn my religion in that way. How pleasant it would be if I could take down my Bible and learn a little humility, or get a little faith, or a little love, or a little abiding consolation, from this and that passage, or out of this or that chapter! But I find that I have to learn my religion in a far more painful way than this. I have to learn humility by daily and hourly feeling the plague of my heart and seeing all its abominations exposed to my view. I have to learn repentance by feeling the weight of guilt and the heavy burden of sin. I learn faith by diving deep into, and being well-near drowned by, unbelief and infidelity; and I learn love by a sense of the undeserved goodness of God to the vilest of the vile.
A 'letter religion' is the religion of thousands. Some are Arminians in the letter, and others are Calvinists in the letter. And what is the difference between the two? Hell is the portion of both, if they live and die in a letter religion; and they will one day or other find that 'a few doctrines' will no more quench the flames of hell than a pailful of water will put out a blazing conflagration. But those who never knew anything of the terrible guilt of sin, love a religion as easy as an old glove and as smooth as a bowling green; and, until God takes them in hand and lets down eternal realities into their soul, they will go on deceiving and being deceived.
Believe me to be, yours sincerely for the truth's sake,
J. C. Philpot
My dear Friend—You will think me, I fear, very negligent in not taking earlier notice of your kind letter; but what with busy occupation at some times and sluggish indolence at others; what with deadness of soul, hardness of heart, and great unwillingness to write at all, having nothing to communicate worth postage. I hope, if you are acquainted with similar exercises, that you will excuse my long silence.
You find, I doubt not, the road to heaven still more difficult, strait and narrow. A corrupt nature, a deceitful heart, an ensnaring world, a lustful flesh, a law in the members, and a body of sin and death will always fight against the life of God in the soul; for as long as the clay tabernacle exists they are enemies within the garrison and are continually plotting to deliver it over to the king of the infernal pit, whose allies they are. Some people seem to have a religious "old man"; but of mine I most freely confess that it is as dead as Lazarus in the tomb, as earthly as the clods of the valley, as sensual as the beasts that perish, as untamable as the wild donkey, as undisciplined as the unicorn (Job 39:5-12), as hard as Pharaoh, and as unbelieving as the lord on whose hand the King of Israel leaned (2 Kings 7:2), nor do I expect him ever to get any better. He hates vital religion, abhors wisdom, loathes instruction, cannot endure chastisement, rebels against discipline, and cannot bear check, head-piece, bit, rein, or martingale.
I don't know whether you have found out all his tricks, wiles, deceit, hypocrisy, fretfulness, blasphemy, infidelity, and devilism. Alas, alas! he is so painted, gilded, adorned, beautified, decorated, trimmed up, varnished, and polished nowadays in churches and chapels, that very few seem to know that he is the same man that murdered Abel, intoxicated Noah, drowned the world, set Sodom on fire, slew six hundred thousand in the wilderness, seduced David unto adultery, led Solomon into idolatry, made Peter swear and curse, and crucified the Lord of glory. But this murderer and liar has become 'pious', and it has been reserved for the enlightened age in which we live to turn enmity into love—flesh into spirit, sin into holiness—a rebel into a friend—and the image of the devil into the mind of Christ.
The thick veil of spiritual blindness and ignorance that is spread over the minds of men sometimes strikes me with astonishment. How few know God or themselves—sin or salvation—the malady or the remedy! All their stock-in-trade religion consists of a few borrowed notions picked up under a pulpit or out of a book. Oh! in what refuges of lies do thousands hide themselves, and then make a covenant with death and an agreement with hell. The work of thousands of ministers is to build up these lying refuges for deluded souls to shelter themselves in. Men unstripped, unhumbled, and unemptied themselves will never strip or sift others. Judgment must be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet in their own souls first before they will lay them to others; and they may prate with great swelling words about Christ, grace, and the full assurance of faith, when they know no more what grace is than Satan does, and, instead of full assurance, are wrapped up in the most daring presumption.
Christ is only a rock for the shelterless, a refuge for the distressed, a harbor for the shipwrecked, a physician for the leper, a Redeemer for the captive, and a Savior for the lost. A 'letter Christ' is a false Christ, and such empty preaching stocks the land with professors and fills it with hypocrites. But these are said to be "dear men of God, blessed preachers, men of a gospel spirit, ministers sweetly led into the truth," while honest, sincere, God-fearing, and upright laborers are called bigoted, narrow-minded, bitter-spirited; men without any tenderness, meekness, or love; and thus they put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, and call evil good and good evil.
Your sincere Friend for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
March 3, 1837.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—The first edition of my sermon, [The Heir of Heaven] consisting of 1,500 copies, is already exhausted, and a new edition, with a short preface, will appear in a few days. Fowler has had some orders for this also, so that it appears at present likely to sell. More than 500 copies have been disposed of in these parts, and many have read it who never heard me preach. It has made quite a stir at Stamford, and it is thought many more would come to hear me who have hitherto not done so. P— refuses to sell it, as being "contrary to the religion which it professes to illustrate," and has returned all the copies. I have a notion the edge is too keen for his self-righteousness. A—, I have reason to think, is equally afraid of them. But all this will not stop their sale, and Tiptaft says he will sell them at his chapel. I think you gave too great an order when you wished to have 300. I felt my mouth opened the morning that I preached it, and some have preferred my oral to my written discourse, which is, of course, only a resemblance of it.
I am glad you think it sounds like my own thoughts, as R. H. might think I have been dipping into the ample stores of Goodwin and others. I think I am too proud and independent to borrow of others—if I had no other motives to restrain me, and would not readily send abroad into the light of day 'stolen goods'. This I leave to those who have no mind, no original ideas, no real experience, no open door, no decided views for themselves. And I believe stolen goods are sure to be detected, sooner or later, though the construction of them are altered. Nothing but realities will ever stand the brunt of time and trouble. The plated goods wear, the mock luster fades, the potsherd, covered with silver dross, betrays its base original. But gold may be beaten, bruised, worn down, melted, shivered into dust, and each little grain will still say, "I am gold, do what you will to me and grind me down to powder."
"True faith's the life of God,
Deep in the heart it lies;
It lives and labors under load,
Tho' damped it never dies."
Realities! realities! What is all the windy blustering noise of preachers worth who will not contend for realities from a real experience of them? Guilt, condemnation, dismal forebodings of judgment, fears of hell, a sight of one's own self—that hideous monster self—cuts out the way for realities. Real guilt needs real pardon, real weakness requires real strength, real wounds need a real cure, real trouble demands real consolation. A sense of one's own dreadful malady cuts to pieces all that empty, formal, superstitious, traditional religion, in which well-near all the churches and chapels of the land seem buried. And when a faithful warner comes, the cry is, "Have you found me out, O my enemy?"
Oh, to be kept from myself! my vile, proud, lustful, hypocritical, worldly, covetous, presumptuous, obscene self. O self! self! Your desperate wickedness, your depravity, your love of sin, your abominable pollutions, your monstrous heart-wickedness, your wretched deadness, hardness, blindness, and indifference; you vile wretch, how you do make my sword droop and palsy all my strength! You are a treacherous villain, and, I fear, always will be such! Do these exclamations find an echo in J. P.'s bosom? Is my heart a copy of his? Is it a looking-glass in which he sees his face reflected? What! no further yet in sanctification? Tell it not! publish it not!
Such feelings, however, my friend, pave the way for sovereign grace to heal all, cure all, cover all, swallow up all. No half measures, no creature contributions, no a little bit here and a little bit there will do for those who feel so weak, so helpless, and so vile. A dose of evening prayer, or a regular chapter of the bible read, or a three-times-a-day attendance at chapel, will not reach such a malady as those groan under, who know themselves and toil in the deep slough of corruption and heart-wickedness. Something deep, powerful, and effectual; something fully commensurate with the disease; something that goes to the very bottom of the case is required, and where that is not obtained all seems lacking. Few know the up-stroke of the great A in religion, who are thought wonderful Christians, and most professors can no more read the mysteries of vital godliness than Belshazzar could read the letters written by the hand upon the wall.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
June 3, 1837.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I presume you are, by this time, expecting a letter from me and watching the movements of the postman more than usual. I am happy to say that, through much mercy, I arrived here safely, on the evening of the day on which we parted, about ten o'clock. I was a little fatigued with my journey, which, however, a night's sound sleep dissipated, and I awoke in the morning quite uninjured by my long day's work.
I found my dear mother quite as well as I expected. She seems much reconciled to her loss [the death of her elder surviving son, Augustus Robert], and feels that there are many alleviating circumstances connected with it. I find I have already derived benefit from the change of air, combined with the rest of body which I am able to indulge myself with. I do not think it at all likely that I shall preach here, as I am quite unknown, and mean to continue so if I can.
The religion of the place seems to me to be chiefly 'Bible religion', of which there is a vast abundance of every kind and in every direction. I heard, last Lord's-day evening, John Hawker, a son of the Doctor. If his father were like the son, I would not give a shilling a year for a seat under him. Abundance of Scripture, a copious supply of dry doctrine, a tolerable quantity of pride, and enough presumption to stock half-a-dozen pulpits, seemed to me to make up the sermon. Among other things, he said, "Sin! what is sin? I can't define what sin is! Sin is a principle. The Scriptures say it is a transgression of the Law, and that is all I know about it." I thought if he had tasted the wormwood and the gall, though he might not be able to define the nature of wormwood or explain what gall was composed of, he could have told us what a bitter taste it had, and how many wry faces it causes in those whose mouths are filled with it. Like most ministers whom I hear, he and sin never seem to have fought with drawn swords. As usual, he was "established in Christ;" far too established for a poor creature like me, driven up and down by every vile lust and abomination.
I find hearers and preachers must be like mortise and tenon. Unless there be a fitting in of feelings there can be no union, and they are barbarians one to the other. I could see, plainer than ever, that dead Calvinism is the best weapon that Satan has to harden the hearts and sear the consciences of unhumbled professors. I find almost everywhere the same great mistake—'Bible religion' substituted for 'soul religion'. Believe me, it is here and there only a pilgrim who knows anything of the latter, while thousands on thousands have an acquaintance with the former. As to myself, I often feel that hitherto I know nothing as I ought to know, and at present am only groping for the wall like the blind, and groping as if I had no eyes. I am full of confusion, and often full of condemnation, and still more often think, act, and talk as one without God in the world.
I find I can do very little to my intended publication, partly from indolence, partly from disinclination, and partly from weakness of my eyes. Of all places that I know, this is the worst for the eyes, from the dazzling glare produced by the limestone with which the streets are paved and the houses built. All people, but especially strangers, complain of it. The beauty of the scenery here, the many lovely prospects afforded by a large harbor, enclosed by wooded heights and occupied by noble ships, and the many pretty walks in a rich country, have all tempted me to more exercise than at Allington, and I have already derived benefit from the change. The weather, too, has been fine and warm, and thus I have been able to walk out every day. I have not yet arrived to that degree of perfect sanctification to be dead to all the charms of nature and wonders of art, and can gaze with pleasure on a lovely expanse of blue sea, or on a noble three-decker lying at anchor, as the masterpiece of human skill and ingenuity. Though all things are deadening where God is not, yet I would feel happy to have no worse thoughts than those which arise in my mind as I view the beautiful arm of the sea in which my brother-in-law's noble ship stands out of the clear blue water as a moving fortress, weighing more, probably, than 2,000 tons, and yet moved by every wave, and swinging to and fro at every tide.
I called on a friend at Exeter on my journey. I found they had had there a minister, but he was obliged to leave. He was one of your 'dead Calvinists', and had a great knowledge of the word, and a great aptitude at quoting it. But texts and chapters are a poor bulwark against sin. That giant easily runs his spear through such a wooden shield as a memory well stored with passages, and a prating tongue that can repeat them by dozens. A small portion of godly fear will do more against sin than a Concordance, or even Bagster's Family Bible with a million of marginal references. A 'paper religion' is a poor affair. The ten commandments, written by God Himself, could not stand a fall from the hand of Moses, and how can a paper creed stand when a stone decalogue was broken to shivers? The Law, written on fleshy tables of the heart, can alone endure both fire and water, and a living epistle, will outlast a dead letter, as a living hedge will outlast a dead hedge that is rotten. But whereas two of your laborers could put up the one in a day, while the other requires months and years to make it a hedge at all, so a dead religion can be put up under a sermon, while a living one needs many revolving seasons to make it grow. It must be cut and pruned, and hoed and weeded, and beaten and well-near cut through, and laid flat, before it will become a fence to keep out intruders. A dead hedge needs none of this. A few dry doctrines for stakes, and an ample supply of cant and worldly policy for willow-poles to interweave the stakes with, and a hole dug in natural conscience, by the bar of Moses, are all that is needed for a dead hedge to be made up. It will last a few years, and is sometimes useful to protect the young ones from being nibbled off by goats, but its end is to be burned, and, sooner or later, it finds its way to the oven. I dare say you often think your religion, if it has life at all, is something like the hedge round the orchard, which you have spent so much money and pains upon. O, for a little real, genuine, Divine, God-given, supernatural, eternal life! Nothing else will preserve soul and body from stinking with putrefaction in the nostrils of a holy God!
I hope you find the "coal-heaver" [William Huntington, S.S.] improves as you dig deeper into him. I believe he will be known and valued, just as we know little or much of experimental religion. The world, profane and professing, knows not true Christians, because it knew not Christ. It can understand everybody but a gracious soul, and love every one but a child of God. And let me whisper this in your ear, that a sound creed, and a mere profession of experimental religion, too, cannot open a man's eyes to see, nor his heart to love, the secret track of a living soul. Therefore, friend Parry, marvel not if Particular Baptists' churches and ministers hate you as bad as Wesleyans and Independents.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
September 13, 1837.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I presume the harvest has found so much occupation for your hands, that it has left none for your fingers. The driving-whip and the pony-bridle have been in such requisition that the ink has become moldy in the stand, and the penknife covered with rust. As, however, you are at no time fond of writing, and as this uncertain weather must have given you more than your usual harvest occupation, I can readily excuse you. I believe, however, a letter from me finds a welcome at Allington, and therefore, without further delay, I send you a few lines.
I have now fulfilled half of my engagement at Manchester, and have no reason to regret coming into these parts. I cannot, indeed, well say how I have been received by Gadsby's people, but I have reason to believe with some measure of acceptance. I judge more from the size and attentiveness of the congregation, and scattered hints, than from any positive direct testimony. North country people usually are not flatterers, and you know that I am not much of a vestry man, or a gadder about from house to house. A good many ministers, methinks, who run about to pick up tit-bits of flattery, would not like to hear all the remarks made upon them even by their professed friends, and did every stick and stone which were hurled at them behind their backs fall upon their skin, they would be too sore to preach the Sunday following. As, however, the deacons have waited upon me to ask me to stay over another Lord's-day, it seems as though they were not fully tired of me. I declined their invitation, as I had previously promised to be at Stamford on October 1, and could not disappoint the friends there.
I have some thoughts of publishing a sermon which I preached at Oakham on Lord's-day morning, August 20, from Isaiah 18:5, 6. [The well-known sermon, Winter afore Harvest; or, The Soul's Growth in Grace.] It is the same text that I preached from at Trowbridge, but I could not get into my subject as I did at Oakham, and most probably the printed sermon will differ from both. The text was opened to me one morning at Devonport as I was reading the chapter, and I saw in it a path traced out of which I knew something experimentally. I therefore took it at Trowbridge, but could not get into it, and as I felt a great desire to open up that line of experience at Oakham, I preached from it there, and was more favored with an entrance into it and an utterance out of it than at Trowbridge. The people, I believe, heard it well, and as it seemed to me a path in which many of God's children walk, when I came here and found more than my usual leisure for writing, I felt inclined to put it upon paper. After I had written some pages, I mentioned my intention in a letter to Oakham, and have since heard from Tiptaft that the friends there had a wish to have the sermon in print before I mentioned the subject. Thus there seems a 'coincidence of inclinations' unknown to each, and this has given me encouragement to persevere in my undertaking.
I was pleased with my visit to Liverpool, and heard a minister there—a Mr. Kent with great satisfaction. His congregation on the week night did not exceed twelve people. He is building a new chapel at the expense of £1,600, and wishes me to come and assist Gadsby in opening it; it will not be ready until November. I made myself known to him, and was very cordially received, and sat an hour with him the day following. We conversed very pleasantly upon experimental religion, and did not at all jar. He invited me to preach for him, but as I have declined all invitations, I was compelled to refuse. Many invitations have come to me from the neighboring towns, in most of which some place in connection with Gadsby's is to be found. But I find preaching in this large chapel, twice on the Lord's-day and once in the week (Tuesday evening), quite as much as I can get through. Last Lord's-day I had a cold upon me, and found it hard work before I concluded the day, as I exceeded the hour both times. The congregation was very large, exceeding probably 1,200 people, and I believe I exerted myself more than was needful, as a lower pitch of voice might have been heard all over the chapel. I have, in other respects, through mercy, been pretty well, though I think the Oakham air suits me better than the Manchester. I intend (D.V.) to preach at Leicester, September 28, on my way to Stamford, and mean to be at Stamford the three first Lord's-days in October, and at Oakham the two last in October and the first in November.
I hope the Lord was with Smart, and that you and the friends heard him profitably. You are doubtless reckoning now upon Tiptaft's visit, and getting your appetites well sharpened up to the feeding point. He is an honest, sincere man, and such God will bless.
My religion at times seems altogether gone, and at the bottom of the Kennet and Avon Canal. I have had some heavy steps along its banks, and sighs enough to ruffle its waters.
I have not found many 'sinners' at Manchester. They talk about trials and deliverances, but so few seem to have had a battle with sin, or know what a giant he is. All seem to have buried him and preached his funeral sermon, and, like Giant Pope and Giant Pagan, he seems only able to grin at the pilgrims, and abide in his cave; but he and I cannot keep so far asunder. I know he has cost me a good many groans and sighs, and yet, to this day, he cleaves to me as the collar of my coat; yes, he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, and is not a neighbor but an in-dweller.
I find Warburton's manuscript [the well-known Mercies of a Covenant God.] will cost me a great deal of labor. Mr. J. Gadsby put it into the hands of a schoolmaster to copy and correct the bad grammar, but he has sewed so much gold fringe upon John's plain cloth, that my present employment is to rip it all off. He has altered John's plain, straightforward language, and made him talk like a schoolmaster, so that my present tedious task is to compare the two copies line by line, and word by word, and restore the original language. This, with numerous letters, and my sermon from Isaiah 18:5, 6, leaves me scarcely any leisure time for anything else.
Give my Christian love to all the friends of Jesus, and believe me,
Your sincere and affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
October 21, 1837.My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I can readily imagine you and our mutual friend Tiptaft walking over the farm together, conversing, sometimes on things temporal, and sometimes on things spiritual, and on each and all finding your opinions not very far asunder. It will give me great satisfaction to hear that our valued friend has been blessed to your soul and to the souls of the people of God, and that your drooping hearts have been revived under him.
I arrived here on Friday, and am, through mercy, well and strong in bodily health. I have recovered the fatigue of my Manchester labors, and feel better than I have done for some time. The spirit of hearing at Stamford increases rather than diminishes, and I have never yet seen the chapel so crowded as during this last visit. The beautiful weather and dry walking have, no doubt, lent their powerful aid. As there is such a desire after the word, I have felt induced to half promise that I will come again in the spring, for March and April, previous to my going to London in May, being the first of those months at Stamford, and the second at Oakham. I scarcely expect that this will please my Allington friends, but when I see the great thirst after the word in these parts it makes me feel willing to come among them. That I should come in March was Mr. de Merveilleux's proposal, and did not come from Oakham; and it was chiefly seeing the large congregations, and the great desire for preaching at Stamford, that induced me to think seriously of his proposal. How far the work may be of God I will not undertake to decide, and I am sure, so much do I feel of my own vileness and dreadful wickedness, that it astonishes me either to be ever blessed myself or to be blessed to others. I hope Tiptaft will go to Stamford when he comes into these parts, as there is a great desire to hear the truth. Mr. de Merveilleux proposes to build a gallery in his chapel, but I don't much encourage him to do so, as there is so little probability of constant preaching. He is somewhat better in health, but his chest is still very tender.
I like one of the friends here, but it is young days with him, and he and Giant Sin have not fought many battles. He has never been dashed down by the giant seizing him by the collar of his coat, nor rolled over and over in the stinking ditch of loathsome nature. I wish that giant did not lay hold of me so often and so dreadfully bruise my bones. I could wish at times never to sin more, and not receive such cruel wounds; and at other times I think my conscience is altogether seared and I shall live and die a reprobate. I often see myself an outcast from God and man, and think I shall either be cut down by some sudden judgment or short disease, or die in sullen despair. I am sure I have no reason to love sin, as I have tasted the wormwood and the gall, but if I loved it not my conflict would cease. I am sure we pay very dear for the transient pleasures of sin, and they leave little else but ashes in the mouth after we have sucked the first fruit. Divine things leave no sting, nor cutting remorse behind them, but are like the money we give to any of the Lord's needy family, which, though it may cost a momentary struggle, leaves no guilt and sorrow behind.
They are looking forward here to Tiptaft's visit in January. Reading does here better than at Stamford, but it is very hard to carry a cause on, especially in its infancy, by reading sermons every Sunday. People are so accustomed to preaching from infancy that reading seems hardly worship at all, and this is much the case at Stamford, where there are many people who would give up their seats at other places of worship, if there were constant preaching at North Street. Their cry is, "What are we to do?" To which my answer is, that it is better to hear truth read than error preached. I may seem, perhaps, more drawn to Stamford than I was. If so, it is for two reasons—(1) Because I have felt at home in the pulpit there; and (2) because I feel there is a desire after experimental preaching. Tiptaft was heard very well there the last time, and I sincerely hope he will go again.
The Leicester friends wish me to preach there on my way, and I think I shall most likely comply. I wish to see Tiptaft before he leaves for London, and fully intend (D.V.) preaching for him on November 19, and at Allington, November 26. You will then have me for three months before I again start on my travels. I cannot expect you to enter into my feelings as a minister, nor can I enter into yours. Where I am well heard, and feel myself at home in the pulpit, there I like to go, and where I am shut up, there I feel unwilling to set my feet in the stocks. At Allington, however, I have felt at home often, and feel a union with some who worship there, never to be dissolved. Go wherever I may, I shall meet with no kinder or dearer friends than some there. I said at Leicester, speaking of my exercises in leaving the Church, that I had found kinder, better, dearer friends since I left it, and had had every need more liberally supplied, than when I was dependent. I am sure I have had more money to give away, as what comes in liberally opens the heart to go out liberally, while a certain small income pinches you up into dross. You know your income and dare not exceed it. Mine was one I could not sink if I would.
October 22.—We have had two large congregations today, and this afternoon quite overflowing. I never saw the chapel fuller. I was not at home in the morning, but more so this afternoon. Mr. and Mrs. de M. and Miss L. came from Stamford. He seems quite decided on enlarging the chapel and building a gallery, and calculates on an accommodation for 150 being thus afforded. They think at Nottingham that ministers should leave it to God to sift tares from wheat. S— has been preaching against baptism, and sprinkled openly six children. They wish me to go again to Nottingham, but I think I shall decline on account of S—'s errors and speaking against baptism. I might as well unite with free-will as infant sprinkling. Though not always prating about it, I cannot bear to have baptism spoken against, as a part of the faith delivered to the saints. I never saw an argument against it worth a straw. S— thought the eunuch was sprinkled because he would not like to ride in his wet clothes! So Queen Candace's treasurer had not a change of clothing, nor even a portmanteau.
I shall hope to hear from Tiptaft while with you, and that when he has left, you will favor me with a long letter. Give him my sincere and affectionate love. I earnestly desire that the Lord may bless him, and believe that He will. I have seen him taken and myself left; him a vessel of mercy and me of wrath. I hope when I have finished Warburton's MS. to go on with my sermon, which is at a complete standstill.
My love to Dredge and all Christian friends.
J. C. P.
November 8, 1837.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—If you measure me by yourself you will not conceive writing letters so pleasant a task as to expect two of me before I return to Allington. One, I believe, must satisfy you this time. I intend, God willing, to leave Oakham on the 15th, and hope to arrive at Abingdon that evening. I have been wanted to preach at Newbury, but I cannot fully settle when until I have seen Tiptaft. I am glad he was so well heard at Allington. You, I doubt not, had much pleasant conversation with him, and found in him a listening ear as well as a ready tongue.
The spirit of hearing at Oakham, and the anxiety of the people, greatly induced me to remain so long here. As I was sitting in the pulpit the last Sunday I was there, and viewing the congregation and their eagerness to hear, I felt I was about to return to a comparatively thin chapel, and the desire to preach to a people so willing to hear arose in my mind. And this it was which led me to lend a more willing ear to Mr. de Merveilleux, when he asked me to return in the spring. The general impression here was that I meant to stay the winter, which I never thought of doing since last July. Our congregations here continue unabated, and as we have been favored with fine Sundays, it enables the distant hearers to come. I don't think any hearers can be fair judges of ministers. They, of course, think of themselves, and if they hear well, and love a minister, they want to keep him all to themselves. He, on the other hand, where he feels life and a blessing to attend his ministry, is drawn to that place, and where he meets a hungry people, is willing to give them such food as he has. And I dare say we wanderers contract a roving disposition and like change.
Popularity, too, has its dangerous charms, and large congregations please the carnal mind. But I think I am so well weighted and ballasted by temptations and sins, that popularity has less charms for me than many. A man full of evil, and that continually, has not much to be proud of, and his fear is lest God should stop his mouth or cut him down for his presumption. As a farmer you are not very proud of your diseased lambs, and as a preacher I cannot be very proud of my diseased prayers and sin-stained sermons. Neither can I boast much of my daily backslidings, hardness of heart, discontent, vileness, and abominable filthiness. I at times know not what will become of me, and fear I shall live and die a reprobate. I find sin has such power over me, and, though I call on the Lord again and again for deliverance, seem to be as weak as ever when temptation comes.
"O you hideous monster, sin,
What a curse have you brought in!"
I love it, I hate it; I want to be delivered from the power of it, and yet am not satisfied without drinking down its poisoned sweets. It is my hourly companion and my daily curse, the breath of my mouth and the cause of my groans, my incentive to prayer and my hinderer of it, that which made a Savior suffer and makes a Savior precious, that which spoils every pleasure and adds a sting to every pain, that which fits a soul for heaven and that which ripens a soul for hell. Friend Joseph, can you make out my riddle?
"Is your heart as my heart?" said one of old. "Then come up into my chariot." We shall quarrel by the way unless "as in water face answers to face, so does the heart of man to man." Black men will not form a good regiment with white ones, and clean hands will not do to show dirty hands with. I believe I shall never live and die a Pharisee. I must come in among the sinners, the ragged regiments of adulterous Davids, idolatrous Manassehs, swearing Peters, persecuting Sauls, fornicating Corinthians, railing thieves, and self-abhorring publicans. Pardon, to the innocent, is a word of six letters—and that is all. Redemption, to the self-saved, is a Bible term—no more; and some of them say it is a universal term, and others a particular term; and the one quotes an Arminian, and the other a Calvinistic text, and with these sticks they belabor one another's heads. While a lost, sin-bitten, bulrush-bowing, (Isaiah 58:5) half-desperate, ditch-plunged, black-hearted wretch, up to the neck in guilt, cries for its individual application as his only remedy and only hope.
I at times quite despair of salvation, and then again am as careless as if hell had no wrath, and heaven no love; as if sin had no wormwood, and pardon no sweet; as if there were no God to mark evil, and no devil to tempt to it. So my friend you must not expect to find your winter fireside companion much grown in progressive sanctification and creature holiness.
You say very little about my leaving you again in March; I suppose, from thinking me too obstinate and self-willed to listen to anybody's will and advice but my own. I shall hope, however, to have some pleasant conversations with you during the dreary months so rapidly coming on. I am glad to hear all your family are well, and desire my kind love to all the children. My kind regards to Mr. and Mrs. T., Mrs. C., and your kind lady, and believe me to be,
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
April 30, 1838.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I was sorry to learn, through a most kind and affectionate letter from our dear friend Dredge, that you were so much troubled at the mention which I made in my last letter of my intention to settle here. Believe me, my dear friend, that had it not been for my being under the necessity of fixing on some settled place of abode, I would have paused very long before I relinquished my post at Allington; and had I continued, as might, perhaps, have been best for me, unmarried, I should have felt very unwilling to leave that abode, which not only your kindness and hospitality, but also our union in divine things, rendered always so comfortable. I shall never forget that for nearly three years our friendship, instead of diminishing, has only kept continually increasing, and that during all that time no unkind word, or, I believe, even look, has passed between us. Whatever unkind thoughts or feelings Satan or our vile hearts have coined, they have mercifully been confined within our own bosoms. As you never thwarted or opposed me, and, indeed, were only anxious to anticipate my wishes, I cannot take much credit to myself for evenness of temper, as I know not how sullen and growling I might have been had you often trampled on my toes; and you are well aware that I have two or three corns which will not bear much treading upon. And as to my reception by yourself and a few others, as a minister, all I can say is, that I most fully believe that both you and a few others thought by far too well of me, and were blind to great defects which I daily see and feel in myself. Nor do I ever expect to find, wherever I go, hearers, on the whole, comparable to a few at Allington, who understood, received, and felt my drift and line of things, so as in most things that we could see eye to eye, and feel heart to heart, with each other. I feel a real soul union to a few there, who, as our friend Dredge once truly expressed it, met together to worship God aright. And it was the desire of my soul not to read for reading's sake, nor pray for praying's sake, nor preach for preaching's sake, but to be so favored with the presence and power of the blessed Spirit in each and all, that our souls might be refreshed thereby. And though, through weakness of the flesh, hardness of heart, deadness of soul, temptations of Satan, and withdrawings of God's presence, I was often bound, fettered, and shut up in heart and tongue; yet this I can say, to the honor and glory of God, if ever I felt my heart solemnized in prayer, or my soul enlarged and mouth opened in preaching—if all was not delusion and a subtle refinement of nature counterfeiting the operation of grace—I have felt both in Allington pulpit. I have felt something like what Bunyan mentions ("Grace Abounding," section 282) with respect to the things I have there contended for, "methought I was more than sure that those things which I asserted were true."
I was much pleased with friend Dredge's kind letter, and felt a real soul union to him. A few real, gracious, heaven-taught souls, how preferable a thousand times is their friendship to all the canting, whining, "brother this" and "sister that" of empty professors!
When a man begins to doubt, and fear, and question for himself, he will find similar exercises respecting others, and universal charity will wither away from the root. You and I, my friend, cannot say that sin has no dominion over us. Alas! Alas! We feel its power daily and hourly; and we sigh and groan at times to be delivered from the giant strength of those corruptions, which seem to carry us away captive at their will. Though sin is a sweet morsel to our carnal mind, it grieves our soul, cuts up our evidences, removes our landmarks, and often seems to make our salvation impossible. Oh, what snares and temptations does the cunning devil lay for our feet, and seldom do we see the snare before we feel the smart! And a preacher, too! Oh, I think if I were seen in my right colors, and if that window, of which the Wesleyans talk, were placed in my bosom, what filth and vileness would be seen! I am sure I must be a monument of grace and mercy if saved from the guilt, curse, and power of sin.
Few know what sin is. Who would think one spark of fire, on which your little boy could tread and extinguish, could burn down your ricks, barns, house, and everything where it could reach, or on which it could feed? Such is sin. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles." We feel we have no strength against sin, and we are sure that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse from sin's guilt and filth, and His grace alone from its power and dominion.
I arrived here on Friday last, and preached yesterday to two large congregations. I felt shut up in the morning, but more at home in the afternoon.
As a convenient house does not offer at Stamford, we think of lodgings for the first year or so. I think most probably we shall be married in July. Give my love to friend Dredge, Mrs. Wild, etc. etc.
Your affectionate fiend,
J. C. P.
June 4, 1838.
To Joseph Parry,—Here at length, then, my dear friend, am I in this busy metropolis, where, as far as the eye sees, well-near all are seeking their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ's; and yet here, doubtless, there is a remnant, according to the election of grace.
I was sorry to hear of your heavy loss of ewes. I dare say these trials in Providence, which you have lately so much suffered, have been both embers and bellows to the carnal mind, which is enmity against God; but sure I am that the letter of the word, as well as the universal experience of the living family, testify that providential losses and crosses are marks for, and not against, those who fear God.
I preached twice yesterday to two large congregations; the evening one might be called overflowing, as the forms were filled up all the aisles, and many sat and stood upon the stairs of the galleries and the windows. I cannot say that I felt much at home in the morning, but had more of a door of utterance in the evening. But, indeed, I feel myself very unfit to preach either in London or anywhere, and would much sooner tarry at Jericho until my beard be grown. I hope, however, the Zoar friends did not think my sword had been lying unused ever since I saw them, and was covered, blade and handle, with a thick coating of rust. I felt, towards the close of my sermon, that I cared for nothing and nobody so long as I cleared my own conscience, and I desired that every arrow should pierce through the joints of the armor into the heart. That, however, I must leave in the hands of Him who has twice said that power belongs unto God.
I was not so fatigued with my exertions as I expected, and feel today, notwithstanding my broken rest, pretty comfortable and strong. I have walked about a good deal today, and am just returned from hearing the Jew, who said some good things; but not exactly in our line. I intend (D.V.) hearing him again, as he preaches near here every Monday evening, and is very sound in the letter of truth, as well as preaches more experience than most of the London ministers. I see, from his preaching, how defective I am in bringing forward Scripture. He quotes it very much, and often much to the point. I intend taking the opportunity of hearing various ministers while in town, that I may feel more what it is to be a hearer, and what food and what preaching feeling souls need.
I was pleased to hear, from Dredge's letter to S—, that he hears Kay so well. It will be quite a providence if you can have him occasionally, as you are likely to be so destitute. I believe him to contend for right things, and to bear many marks of Divine teaching. I do not, however, conceive that he will be permanently attended with crowded congregations.
I find this busy city very distracting at times to my mind, and am too much carried away by its noise and glare. Yet I walk about its streets as one who has no communion with its busy crowds. I heard this morning old Mr. Wilkinson, near the Bank, preach. He appears to be a good old man, but is very smooth, and would by his preaching take in hundreds. He was speaking about the sin against the Holy Spirit, and almost intimated his belief that it could not now be committed. He is the last left of Romaine's school, and is sound in the letter of truth. The aisle was quite full, and I stood during the whole time. I find there are very few preachers that can really hit the right nail on the head. I saw in the old gentleman's sermon, this morning, abundant places for discrimination and separation from the vile, which he never alluded to. No one that I hear ever insinuates a doubt whether there be such a thing as a counterfeit religion and a false experience. The old gentleman would make the stockbrokers look about them if he talked about forged notes and dishonored bills. The walls of his church form a part of Capel Court, where the Stock Exchange is situated, and many of his hearers are brokers there. I receive most days invitations to preach, but am compelled to decline them all, as having to speak two evenings at Zoar besides my labors on the Lord's-day. You are looking, no doubt, to Tiptaft's coming among you, and expecting much pleasure and profit, both from his preaching and conversation. I shall be very glad to hear that the Lord has blessed him both in the pulpit, and the parlour. As I have to speak this evening, allow me to wind up thus hastily by signing myself,
Your sincere and affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
My Christian love to the friends.
June 12, 1838.
My dear Friend Joseph Parry,—I received your kind letter safely; and as the wetness of the afternoon allows me a leisure hour, I answer it thus early.
I have now fulfilled half my engagement at Zoar, and have reason to be thankful for having been helped thus far. I have never, I think, more sensibly felt my unfitness and unworthiness for the pulpit than during my visit to town this time; and this not because I have been altogether left to my own miserable barrenness and nothingness, or because I have been more than usually shut up and restrained. No! I have reason to be thankful that I have been enabled to contend for the things of salvation with such a measure of utterance as is commonly given to me. The morning congregation yesterday (Sunday) was very large, and besides the seats and galleries, the aisles were fully occupied, benches being placed up the middle one. I cannot say that I felt much at home. After service, I received five different invitations to preach, that is—at Dunmow, Essex; at Winchmore Hill; at a place on the road to Brighton; at Mr. Fowler's, Gower Street; and for the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society. Of these I could only accept one, that is, the last, as I find that preaching twice at Zoar on the Lord's-day, giving an exhortation, as they call it—though I make a short sermon of it—on Tuesday evening, and preaching again on Thursday evening, is ample work for my weak chest. On yesterday evening the congregation was very large, there being a row of standers as well as sitters up the middle aisle, and all the lobby and porch quite full too.
Well, you will say, did not old nature swell up and puff at such a sight? Ah, my friend, I had ample valves to let out all this stinking gas. First, I felt that novelty and excitement would draw a congregation, where there was no power from on High; and that a man who would preach a sermon standing on his head, would draw ten times as large a congregation as I. Grimaldi turned preacher would fill St. Paul's Cathedral to suffocation. Secondly, I felt my ignorance and lack of experience, my deep pollution and sinfulness, and utter unfitness and unworthiness to be a teacher and leader of the people.
I was enabled, however, to contend for the power of vital godliness, and the attending deficiencies and obstacles of the way, and endeavored to show that it was no easy or common thing to be a Christian. I particularly aimed my shafts against those who, according to their preaching, were in the third heaven, and yet never spoke of trials proportionate to their faith.
Mr. Triggs, of Plymouth, was my immediate predecessor, and I am told fills the chapel very much. They say there are but four or five ministers who fill the place, among whom they reckon Kershaw. Tiptaft, and my unworthy self. I had almost resolved that I would not break the bread at Zoar this time, but Justins pressed me so warmly, and saying that the friends wished me so much to do it, that I felt I could not decline. I think you know my aversion to putting myself thus prominently forward, and I can say I scarcely ever felt more sensibly unfit and unworthy. But my frame was solemnized, and I was enabled to pray and speak with some simplicity. The galleries were nearly full of spectators, and I dare say some remarks which I dropped upon 'closed communion' did not suit many. One woman came into the vestry afterwards to set me right, which she failed in doing, though I received her experience, which she told me, as a striking one.
A lady at Kensington, a widow, who has an establishment for twenty-four young ladies, came to me in the vestry last Tuesday, and had an interview with me yesterday. I cannot narrate all her history, but it appears she has been under spiritual exercises for some years. About two years ago a friend put into her hand my pamphlet about the Church of England, which, according to her account, opened her eyes and drove her out of the Establishment. Not able to find food among the Dissenters, she joined a party who met to read and expound the Scriptures. On discovering that some of the party lived in known and justified sin, she left them, and meditated returning to the Church; but a singular coincidence threw "Winter afore Harvest" into her hands, which decided her never to go back; and learning from the Gospel Standard that I was to be at Zoar, she determined to come and see me, and take my advice what to do. Seeing me so young, and, as I suppose, ruddy as youthful David, she thought she could not open her mind to me, until I took a text which had been applied to her mind with power some years ago, and then she determined to come forward and ask my advice how to act. She said she did not mind losing all her scholars if she could but know where to go to hear and what to do. I liked some things she said; but she has been badly nursed. She is quite a lady in her manners and appearance, but says she cares not how mean and poor her companions are, if she could but hear truth. I could give her no advice but to seek counsel of the Lord.
Poor Fowler broke a blood-vessel again on Saturday, and of course could not preach yesterday. The deacons wished me to preach for him tomorrow, but being published here I could not. I thank you for your kind invitation for myself and fair companion, which I hope to accept in due time. I cannot fix exactly the time, as it will depend on our visit to Plymouth. I think of staying in town a week, and then of going to see my mother, but you may depend upon it I will endeavor to give you what time I can. I hope you will write often, as, believe me, I would sooner hear from you than most of my correspondents. I have written a short P.S. to Tiptaft. And now, my dear friend, with my Christian love to friend Dredge and all the friends, from
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
June 22nd, 1838.
My dear Miss Richmond,—I am sorry that it will not be in my power to accept your kind invitation, and that of the friends, to come to Stadham, as my engagements have been made for some time, and I have already refused several invitations since I came to town. It would, indeed, give me pleasure to see my old friends at Stadham and the neighborhood, and converse with them on the things that belong to our everlasting peace, and the many and various ups and downs that we meet by the way.
I find myself in the old track still, nor can I get into a smoother road. But in my right mind, and that is a rare mind to be in, I feel it is a better and safer path than the vain confidence of puffed-up professors. It is easy for a dead, unfeeling soul to presume, but it is hard for a living God-fearing soul to believe. Servants ride upon horses, a vain thing to save a man, while princes walk as servants upon the earth. Surely, there are many whose excellency (in their own estimation) mounts up to the heavens, and whose head (not their hearts) reaches unto the clouds, and yet they shall never see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter, but the heaven shall reveal their iniquity, and the earth (God's children) shall rise up against them (Job 20). The whole testimony and spirit of the word of everlasting truth is to put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt them of low degree; to fill the hungry with good things, and to send the rich empty away. Thus the lame take the prey, the blind see out of obscurity and out of darkness, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them. But if we are never feelingly and experimentally lame, blind, leprous, deaf, dead, and poor, surely we can have no fitness for, nor interest in gospel blessings.
I trust I learned lessons in your little village, which have been, and are now, profitable to me since I have been brought out more into the public ministry of the word; and the experience I there had, often in sickness and sorrow, of the deceitfulness, hypocrisy, pride, presumption, vileness, and desperate wickedness of my heart, as well as of God's mercy and goodness, have, I trust, in some faint and feeble measure qualified me to testify of the inward evils of the heart in others, and to contend for a free-grace salvation, experimentally made known.
I am now in this large metropolis, where I believe amid all its wickedness and abominations God has a living family, and the chapel where I preach, though large, is very fully attended. Amid the many scores of ministers, there seem to be few indeed who are privileged to undo heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free. Most are groveling in the dregs of Arminianism, or soaring aloft in the regions of 'letter Calvinism'. Few, it appears to me, feed the flock of slaughter.
I have heard very recently from Oakham, and am glad to say that Mr. Tiptaft is better. Preaching, however, so much injures his health, that he has been compelled to give up for a time. Both he and the people feel much his being thus laid aside. As to my own health, it has been, through mercy, considerably better than when I was at Stadham, the damp situation of which never agreed with me. I have enjoyed, too, better health since I left Allington, and suffer now less from preaching twice than once when at Stadham.
I am glad to hear that Brookland has been promoted from the barn to overlook his fellow-workmen, and sincerely hope the Lord will make him faithful to his earthly master. He will have many temptations to be otherwise, and Satan will lie hard upon him to cast him into a snare, and thus thrust him down; and then the ungodly would shout. I understand Mr. Kay was lately at Stadham. I hope the Lord was with him to bless the word.
Remember me affectionately to the friends who worship in your little place. Greet them by name. Were I to mention some and omit others, the latter might think I had forgotten them or neglected them, when I had not. I remember most with Christian affection, and would be glad to see them once more in the flesh.
Yours very sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.