LETTERS of J. C. Philpot (1841 - 1845)
February 26, 1841
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—I desire deeply to sympathize with you in your present distress. I believe you will find it hereafter to contain in it the root and seed of the best of blessings. I know that it is useless to try to comfort you, that being the Lord's sole prerogative. He alone can bring your soul out of prison, and I believe He will do it to the glory of His holy Name. If the Lord had meant to have destroyed you, He would never have thus applied His holy Law to your conscience, but would have let you go on in delusion and been in peace and quiet.
I believe the soul is often quickened before the Law is experimentally known, and this, perhaps, is your case. Look at all the saints of God—such as Hart, Bunyan, Huntington, Barry. They have all passed under the bond of the Law before solid deliverance came. The Lord is able to deliver. He hears the cry of the prisoner, and preserves those who are appointed to die. Jesus is just such a Saviour as you need—mighty to save, able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him. You have never been in such deep waters before, but when the Lord shall bring you out, your joys will rise as high. My dear friend, can you not cast yourself at a throne of mercy and grace? Can you not confess how base you have been and are? Can you not groan forth your soul to the Lord, and seek salvation, mercy, and pardon from Him? You condemn yourself as a presumptuous wretch. Indeed, indeed, we have, all that know our own hearts, reason to cry and groan under the sin of presumption. But did you ever take up religion as a matter of gain, or ever were allowedly a hypocrite? I never heard you boast of things beyond your experience, or talk of liberty and assurance when it was not given you. I would gladly encourage your poor drooping soul to wait at mercy's doorposts until light appears. Thousands have been saved out of as deep waters as you are now wading in; and why not you—oh, why not you?
I would advise you, my dear friend, in your present state to have nothing to do with the chapel service, as Satan is sure to employ it as a weapon against you. Let Mr. Dredge and Mr. Tuckwell carry it on as well as they can.
I cannot allow a post to elapse without dropping you a line, but hope to write again in a few days. I will not ask you to write, but shall be glad, and indeed very anxious, to hear from friend Tuckwell how you are in soul matters. My dear friend, is there any limit to the Lord's power and love? Oh, may He quickly appear!
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
March 2, 1841
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—As I wrote you so hasty a letter the other day, I feel disposed to drop you a few lines of sympathy again without waiting for an answer to my last.
I fully believe that you will one day, if not soon, see and feel that the present fiery trial through which you are passing contains wrapped up in it a spiritual and eternal blessing. "I will bring the third part through the fire;" "I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire." Are not these the words of Him who cannot lie? The Lord has seen good for your profit and His own glory to plunge you into these waves of trouble; but He who has thrust you down can, and doubtless will, one day lift you up. What has produced your trouble? Not the commission of some outward sin to disgrace you before men; not any providential reverses; but the application of the Word of God with power to your conscience. But why should God apply His word to your soul unless He has a gracious purpose in it? The Law was never applied to the conscience of a reprobate. The Lord allows the lost to glide smoothly on until they drop into hell. You have often sighed and panted after a divine deliverance into the light, life, liberty, joy, and peace of the Gospel. But, perhaps, you little thought that you would be plunged into such terrors, fears, and alarms as to be, as it were, without hope; and that this would be the way to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. But when the blessed change shall come you will see and feel how needful all this work was to endear the blessing.
I dare say you think that you are not a common sinner, but a gospel sinner, a presumptuous hypocrite that has rushed into religion of your own accord. I think, my dear friend, few know you better than I do. Our long and unreserved intimacy has, of course, made me well acquainted with you spiritually as well as temporally. I will not allow that you have been a presumptuous gospel sinner; I know better. I have never seen allowed, indulged presumption in you. Like myself, you have a vile, presumptuous, hypocritical heart, but it has been with you as with Paul, "That which I do, I allow not." You have had more or less of a tender conscience. You have had at times some seasons of solemn prayer to a heart-searching God; you have felt a knitting of soul to the people of God; you have esteemed such as Mrs. Wild, Dorcas, Edith, etc., as the excellent of the earth. I will not say anything of outward sacrifices, as none who know themselves can take such evidences. But I would appeal to inward feelings and scriptural evidences.
But you say, "They are all swept away, and I cannot find in myself one evidence." No! if you could, there would not be such a thorough sweeping of the house. But cannot you cast yourself as the vilest, the worst, the basest of wretches, at the feet of sovereign mercy? Oh, my friend, is your case, however seemingly desperate, beyond the reach of Jesus' arm, or the efficacy of His atoning blood? Is He not mighty to save; and has He not saved, pardoned, and blessed thousands as black, as guilty, as helpless, and as hopeless, as you feel yourself to be? I know that you cannot lay hold of any truth of this nature. But your fear, and guilt, and terror, and despair do not alter the case, nor render Him less able, less willing to save. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. You are not beyond "the uttermost," nor ever will be.
Many now in glory have sunk as low, many lower than you. Look at Barry, and Huntington, and Gibbs, and Wade; all have sunk below a hope in God's mercy, and all have been brought out to praise His glorious name.
A well-taught and well-exercised man, who could go in and out before the people, would be very desirable for you at the present juncture. I think you will find a suitable letter in the Standard, which was written to me by "a Sinner Saved" (A. Charlwood, Norwich), in December number. You will see there what a state of despair he was in for five years, and what a deliverance he enjoyed. He now seems to live in the enjoyment of pardoning love. The first letter in this month's number, signed "G. M." (George Muskett), is from the young man whom he mentions as his minister, and who seems to be a well-taught man.
I will not weary you, my dear friend, with more now. May the Lord bring you out of prison, smile into your soul, and set you at happy liberty. Who can tell the boundless riches of His grace to the vilest of the vile?
Accept my affectionate sympathies and prayers for your deliverance.
Your affectionate Friend,
J. C. P.
October 4, 1841
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry—. . . I would rejoice should it please the Lord to bless Daniel Smart's ministry to your soul; to wait for a deliverance amid many sinking fears whether it will ever come is trying work. Fear, guilt, bondage, and self-pity are painful companions. Hope delayed makes the heart sick, but there is no doubt a needs-be for the delay. It says, "He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help." But it is not a little labor that can bring the heart down. The word implies long continued toil, and that they became faint and weary with perpetual exertion. Could you see matters from a right point of view, you would doubtless feel that your present state of soul trouble is far preferable to carelessness and carnality. In those wretched states of mind, deliverance is not desired nor sought after; but you feel that you must perish without it. It is a good thing to be crying for mercy, and sighing forth the desires of the soul, for the promise-keeping God has given many sweet promises to those who seek His face.
I trust that my late visit to Allington may be manifested to have been of the Lord. I felt more, I believe, of the power and presence of the Lord than I have often felt before during my former visits. I am much obliged to you and Mrs. Parry for your kind hospitality.
Your affectionate friend,
J. C. P.
October 15, 1841
My dear friend, Isaac Harrison—Our letters crossed on the road, as you would probably perceive by the date of mine.
It will not be in my power to go to Leicester for a Lord's-day this year, as I have been absent so many already. Next Lord's-day at Godmanchester will be the sixteenth that I have been absent at different intervals since the spring, and as this already exceeds by three or four Sundays my usual times of absence, I must now stay at home for some time to come. I think, however, I can promise (D.V.) two week evenings next month, November 10th and 11th, as I feel a desire to give you a little assistance, though I cannot go on a Lord's-day. I have not yet spoken to the friends, but doubt not to obtain their consent.
It is well to be on our guard against crafty and designing professors of religion; and yet I believe, especially in the matter of pecuniary assistance, we may carry our caution too far. Our covetous heart is very ready to suggest reasons why we should not assist those who are in need, and we are glad to catch at the idea that they are hypocrites, to save our own selves. But we are to do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith. A man in distress is a fit object for relief, and it becomes those whom God has blessed with abundance to be "ready to distribute." If he is a child of God, he has a greater claim upon our sympathy, and to him it should be given freely; but it seems to me that to say, "I will give to none but those who are commended to my conscience as living souls," has a strong tendency to shut up a man's affections of compassion and foster a spirit of covetousness. Poor Morse, with his large family, is an object of compassion, even if he be not a minister of righteousness. Mr. Ireson gave him, I think, nearly a new suit of clothes when a little assistance was raised for him at Cliffe. The Lord has blessed you with abundance, and, in so doing, has made you a steward of His bounty for others. I trust you will excuse the freedom of these remarks, which have been drawn from me from a feeling I had in reading your letter.
I doubt not that you have your trials, and will have more. Standing as the head of a cause in a large professing town will bring with it plenty of trials, and your religion can only be proved to be genuine by being put into the furnace. An untried religion is no religion, and he who has no cross here will have no crown hereafter.
Remember me kindly to your sisters and Mrs. Hardy, and believe me,
Yours sincerely, for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.
January 28, 1842
[Miss Richmond kept a school for young ladies.]
My dear friend, Miss Richmond—I feel so unable to give wise and spiritual counsel that I hardly know what to write in answer to your letter. My carnal mind would advise one thing, and my better judgment another. I feel for you temporally and spiritually, and would be sorry to hear that you were obliged to give up your school, and leave Stadham; but I have usually found whatever perplexities and difficulties occur in our path, that they are such more from our own crookedness and waywardness, than from what they are in themselves. The path is straight enough, but our eyes look crookedly at it, and then the road appears to be crooked. Were our eye single, the path would be plain and clear; but the films of self-seeking and flesh-pleasing darken in our view the path itself. We often know not how to act, not because the right way is difficult to find, but because the road is too rough and thorny for our tender and ease-loving feet.
But it is in this way, I think, that the Lord tries the strength and reality of faith. He brings the soul, as it were, to a certain point in the road, where He sets this question before it, "Will you serve Me or yourself? Will you act with a single eye to My glory, or please your flesh?" All looks dark and gloomy; no possible way of deliverance appears, and there is nothing but the naked word of God, lying with more or less weight upon the conscience. Now if the soul is secretly strengthened to stand on the Lord's side, and not hearken to the flesh, deliverance will sooner or later come. But if the flesh be pleased, bondage and the rod will follow. See this in the case of Abraham (Gen. 22), Moses (Heb. 11:24-26), and the three children (Dan. 3). These would not consult the flesh, but acted in faith, and to them all deliverance came.
Your present difficulties seem to be two—1. Whether you should teach the Church catechism? 2. Whether you should have with the children what is termed "family prayer"? The first seems to be the more easy to answer. In the first place, your own convictions; and in the second, the word that you received, as you believe, from the Lord ["Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life," Rev. 2:10.] seem quite sufficient to decide that matter. You would be rebelling, not merely against light in your judgment, but also against the special word of promise in your soul, were you to draw back to consent to teach the children the catechism. You know that whatever they are in Covenant purposes, they are not manifestly "members of Christ, children of God, and the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven," still less were they made such when sprinkled at the font. I cannot see how you can swerve here without positive sin.
As to the other point, I cannot speak so decidedly. Family prayer might be preserved, and yet not a form persevered in. You might offer up a few petitions in the presence of the children, in which you might keep your conscience clear of, at least, wilfully mocking God. Their inattention is not your sin, and I think a few simple words might be offered up by you which need not pain your conscience, and which would yet preserve you from the imputation of utterly neglecting any recognition of God in your family. I do not think that you could conscientiously teach them or hear them what is called "say their prayers" individually; but I do not see that you are called upon to prevent or forbid them doing so, if they had been taught so to do before they came to you. I cannot say how I would act under similar circumstances; but I seem at present to feel this, that if I had a pupil who had been taught to pray before he came under my care, I would not forbid him, though I would not hear him. I could not make the child understand why he should not say his prayers without leading him to believe that there was no such thing to be attended to as prayer, because I could not make him understand the difference between carnal and spiritual prayer. If I were to teach him, or hear him say prayers, I am so far mocking God, and sinning against light, but the child has not my knowledge, and does not at any rate wilfully mock God thereby.
But, indeed, it is a most difficult point, and one on which special light is needed for our individual guidance. I can only refer you to the "Wonderful Counselor," out of whose mouth comes knowledge and understanding. You need much wisdom, much grace, much faith, much strength, which the Lord alone can supply you with. May you be much at the throne. "If any man lacks wisdom," etc. (James 1:5). The Lord is able to deliver you, and amply provide for you temporally as well as spiritually. "It is better to suffer than to sin." The Lord can send you children from most unexpected quarters, or so turn the hearts of the parents that they shall disregard what in your mind is burdensome. A lady who keeps a school at Kensington, and is a member at Zoar, was very fearful of losing her school when she joined the church, but her school has never more flourished. So full of unbelief are our hearts, so able to deliver is the Lord.
I am sure that it is our wisdom, as well as our mercy, when we can act as conscience bids. None were ever eventually losers by making sacrifices for Christ. With all my unbelief, I must say that He has been faithful to His promise (Mark 10:29, 30).
I shall be glad to hear from you again, and hope that the Lord may direct you in all things. I was very sorry to hear of poor Brookland's heavy affliction in the loss of his little girl. Give him my love and sincere sympathy in his heavy trial.
My love to the friends; greet them by name. My kind remembrances to your sisters.
Believe me to be, yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.
March 14, 1842
My dear friend, Arthur Charlwood—I take shame to myself that I have delayed so long to answer your kind and experimental letter. I was so much pleased with it that I intended to send it to the Standard, but I have somehow or other mislaid it and cannot put my hand upon it. Your poetry would have appeared in the Standard, but it was lost upon the road there. I sent it with something of my own, and it never reached its destination. I could not understand why J. Gadsby did not send me the proof; and when I wrote and asked the reason I received for an answer that he had never received anything of the kind. I therefore concluded it was the will of the Lord that my piece should not appear, and did not attempt to rewrite it. I am sorry, however, that it involved the loss of your piece too.
I have been far from well of late, having suffered from pain in my chest and cough. Sometimes I have thought it has been sent to bring me to my end. This has produced some searchings of heart, and I have, at times, felt a spirit of grace and supplication whereby I have been enabled, in a very close and urgent manner, to wrestle with the Lord for His blessing. I have, however, chiefly desired Himself, as knowing and feeling that all gifts fall short of the blessed Giver Himself. I can join in Paul's earnest breathing, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection." O what treasures of wisdom and knowledge and grace are locked up in those few words—"That I may know Him!" The creatures we soon know, and, generally speaking, the more we know any man the worse we esteem him. But this glorious God-man cannot be known but by special revelation; and then how small a part do we understand; for who has sought out the Almighty to perfection?
All below the skies is uncertain and unsatisfactory. Day after day comes and goes, and finds as well as leaves us jaded and tired of the things of time and sense. What rest is there for a restless soul in this polluted world? We must die to it and die out of it before abiding peace and rest can be enjoyed. But here the flesh shrinks, reason fails, and nature stands aghast. To die in order to live, to put off the mortal to become immortal, to firmly believe this, and be willing to die to obtain it, what a triumph of faith is here! I cannot say I am in the spot. I shrink, and turn away from the gloomy portal. Jesus has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light; but I need the sweet application of that truth to my soul.
I hope the Lord still encourages you to go laboring on in the vineyard. Many are our disappointments and humbling lessons in it. I sometimes think I am the dullest, blindest, least able to speak to edification, of all the ministers of truth. I can find neither text nor matter, neither thoughts, feelings, words nor power. I seem to labor all in vain, to beat the air, to thresh chaff and merely stir up dust, to stupefy, blind, and suffocate myself and my hearers. I cry to God for dew, savor, and power; but feel dry, dead, and barren. And should I feel otherwise, and I have some little enlargement of heart and mouth, there is a cursed something in me which would rob God of all the glory and burn incense to my own drag, though my sighs and cries for help previously should seem sufficient to teach my doltish heart that in me dwells no such good thing as unction and power.
We would not dare to serve our earthly benefactors so, and after receiving their liberality coolly button up our pockets and say we are indebted to them for nothing, for that they never gave us a penny. Truly the Lord must be stronger than I and prevail; truly He must overcome me and melt me into faith and love, by proving in me that His grace superabounds over all the aboundings of my iniquity. As the hymn says—"Your mercy is more than a match for my heart." And I am sure that nothing but superabounding, victorious, overshadowing, and overpowering grace will subdue me to the feet of Jesus and slaughter my idols. God knows what is in man, which legal preachers and dead Calvinists do not. It is not a man's head that needs subduing, renewing, melting, and winning. The 'law' works wrath, 'dry doctrine' works presumption, 'pharisaism' produces self-complacency, the 'letter' genders strife of words, and a 'dead profession' begets all manner of hypocrisy; while all the time sin, Satan, self, and the world reign and riot supreme in the carnal mind. The gates of the citadel are shut against God and godliness until the Prince of peace comes to take possession, and moves and melts the heart to realize, embrace, and submit to His blessed scepter.
"Lord," I sometimes say, "take my heart; subdue and melt it, and make it all that You would have it to be." But, alas! idols too often lift up their heads in it, darkness covers it, the wild boar out of the forest destroys it, dogs bark, swine burrow and grunt, and vultures prowl about to pick up carrion in it; so that it may be said, "What ails you now, that you are full of stirs, a tumultuous city?" The voice alone of the Prince of peace can still these stirs and make a great calm, wherein He is heard alone.
I am glad to hear that the Lord continues to smile upon the cause at Jireh. If room be really needed, an enlargement cannot be objected to, if done prudently and economically. I can hold out no expectation of paying a visit to Norwich this year, being obliged to diminish instead of increase my pulpit labors. I have even written to the friends in London to decline my annual visit this year. They have written, however, to say that, having been unsuccessful in procuring supplies instead of me, they intend to keep it open, hoping it may please the Lord to grant me better health in the summer. I need rest and quiet, and therefore must decline invitations until the Lord, if ever, may strengthen me.
My love to Mr. and Mrs. Charlwood and the friends. As I could not find your last letter I have sent another instead, though not so good, I think, to the Standard.
Yours affectionately, for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.
March 24, 1842
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—I would be sorry if my delay in replying to your letter should seem on my part a mark of neglect or of coldness. Most of my hindrances in answering the letters of my friends arise not from them, but from myself.
But were I to enumerate all the obstacles that daily and well-near hourly occur from that moving mass of carnality and helplessness which I carry about with me, and under the load of which I often groan, being burdened, my letter would be all preface, and, like some sermons that I have heard, consist almost wholly of introduction.
It seems scarcely possible for me to tell you how unlike I am to everything I wish to be, and how like to everything which I wish not to be. I would be spiritually minded, would read the Word of God with delight, would approach the mercy seat with freedom of access, would look back upon the past without sorrow, and to the future without apprehension. I would never throughout the day forget, "You, God, see me;" I would not occupy nor interest my mind in anything earthly, sensual, or devilish; I would be continually fixing my eyes on the cross of Immanuel, and be living upon His grace as freely, sensibly, lovingly, and savingly revealed. This is what I would wish to be.
And as to what I would wish not to be, I would not be a miserable idolater, raving and roaming after some ash-heap god, nor a wild donkey of the desert snuffing up the wind, nor a peevish rebel, nor a sullen self-seeker, nor a suspecting infidel. If not all these in open, daring, unchecked practice, I am it all in inward bent and wretched feeling.
A friend of mine brought me word the other day that some of the Bedfordshire Calvinists had spread a report that I was turned Baxterian or Fullerite. Had I no other preservative, I think my daily and almost hourly sense of my miserable helplessness and thorough impotency to raise up my soul to one act of faith, hope, or love would keep me from assenting to Andrew Fuller's lies. Nothing suits my soul but sovereign, omnipotent, and superabounding grace. I am no common sinner, and must therefore have no common grace. No texts have been much sweeter to my soul than Jer. 20:7, "You are stronger than I, and have prevailed;" and Rom. 5:20, 21, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," etc.
I find true religion to be a very different thing from what I once thought it. There was a time when, in all apparent sincerity, I was looking to my spirituality and heavenly mindedness as evidences of my salvation, instead of being a poor needy suppliant and starving petitioner for a word or a smile from the Lord Himself. It seemed more as if my spirituality were to take me to Christ, than that my miserable poverty and nakedness were qualifications to bring Christ down to me; but all these idols have tumbled into ruins. I am now in that state that Immanuel, the God-man Mediator, must have all the glory, by stooping down to save, bless, and teach an undone wretch, who has neither spirituality, nor piety, nor religion, nor anything holy or heavenly in himself, and whose chief desire, when able to breathe it forth, is to be but the passive clay in the hands of the Divine Potter, and sensibly to feel the almighty, though gentle, fingers molding him into a vessel of honor fit for the Master's use.
You speak of "going down 'Lumber Lane.'" I, alas! seem to live in it. When we go down a lane, we may hope to get to the bottom of it; but I seem to have my house there, and besides all the mud in winter, and all the dust in summer, there are tall thick hedges made of thorns which shut out the sun. But I am glad to have that in me which hates "Lumber Lane," and longs after green pastures, still waters, and the warm sun.
J. C. P.
June 17, 1842
My dear friend, William Scott—I was truly sorry to hear of the affliction that has befallen you, which I learned on Wednesday on my return from Oakham, but only heard the particulars this evening. I have felt my mind moved to write you a few lines, not only to sympathize with you in your affliction, but also to express my affection for you, and my sincere pleasure that the blessed Lord has been with you to bless your soul with some melting sense of His mercy and love. My dear friend, if you can view it by the eye of living faith, you will see your present state of pain and bodily suffering a million times preferable to all that the worldlings can covet. The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. It is incalculably better to be afflicted and have Jesus in the affliction, than to have all the honors, pleasures, and riches that Satan can offer or the world bestow. But we do not voluntarily choose afflictions. The Lord takes care to choose them for us, and they are just such as are suitable to our condition and circumstances. You would not have chosen a broken leg and arm, but doubtless it was good for you to have them broken, or they would not have been so. It might have been your neck; and then how distressing would that have been to your wife and family and friends.
Now, though we feel for you, we can in a measure rejoice that the Lord has blessed your soul in this affliction; and this unspeakable mercy has knitted our hearts more to you than before. There is no curse in this affliction, no vindictive punishment. It is rather the voice of a kind Father, gently whispering to you, "My son, give Me your heart." You are withdrawn from your wife, family, and friends, and thrown among strangers. All this may be that the Lord may have more of your thoughts and affections. There is a sweet hymn of Hart's in Gadsby's Selection, 707, which I hope you may sweetly experience.
My dear friend, it will be your wisdom and mercy to be often committing your way unto the Lord. You know how much I insist upon secret prayer and supplication. And it will be your wisdom, too, to read much of the Word of God during the time you are thus laid aside. Read Proverbs 2 and 3, and see the promise made to those who seek wisdom. You will find the Psalms sweet reading, and the Gospel of John, especially chapters 14, 15, 16, 17. To read, meditate, pray over, and ask the Lord to bless what you read to your soul, you will find sweet and profitable. I am not setting my friend a task to perform a duty to be done in an Arminian, Pharisaical way, but pointing out a sweet path in which we both, I trust have walked. Avoid unnecessary conversation with carnal people; they will make your soul lean and barren. They will want to amuse you, as they call it; but sin is all the amusement they know; and the guilt of that on your conscience will be far worse than the pain of a broken limb. Tell them you need quiet. The company of the Blessed Trinity will comfort you in solitude, and leave a sweet savor behind, which the company of the wicked will only mar and rob you of.
You will probably find a season of impatience after the season of patience that you have been favored with. Satan may be allowed to try your mind, and cast a doubt over the Lord's manifested mercy. It will be your mercy if you can hold fast your confidence in spite of unbelief and Satan. Remember it has great recompense of reward (Heb. 10:35), and is not to be cast away at the devil's bidding.
May the Lord make your bed in your sickness, and sweetly overshadow your soul with His love which passes knowledge.
Yours affectionately in the bonds of the gospel,
J. C. P.
July 19, 1842
My dear friend, Miss Richmond—It will not be in my power to visit Stadham for a Lord's-day on account of my other engagements; but I hope (D.V.) to be at Abingdon on Lord's-day, August 28, when I shall hope to see my friends from that place. As my time is so limited, I greatly fear that I shall not be able to visit it for a week-day evening, which I would like to do, did circumstances permit, feeling an interest in the place and in the cause of truth therein.
But what with weak bodily health, and what with similar or greater soul indisposition, I feel very unfit in every way to accept any engagement of a preaching nature. Many times I feel fit neither for the Church or for the world; being too barren and unprofitable for the former, and having too much light and sense of the evil of sin to join the latter. My own evil heart is more or less my daily burden, and hinders me in everything which I would think, say, or do in the name of the Lord.
Sin, in some shape or other, is continually haunting me; and I find the truth of what Paul says, "When I would do good, evil is present with me." But by this I am taught to prize the atonement which the Son of God has made by shedding His own precious blood, that it might be a complete propitiation for sin; nor can I find the least relief from the guilt, filth, or dominion of indwelling sin, but by faith going out towards and laying hold of the blood and righteousness of Jesus. Here, sometimes, the poor and needy soul is enabled to cast anchor, and only, so far as it does this, can any true or solid peace be tasted.
A child of God can never rest satisfied with the knowledge of sin. He cannot rest in a spiritual discovery of the disease. No! he must have some experimental acquaintance with the remedy, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin." Sweet words, when any measure of their truth is experimentally felt. "All sin" is a very comprehensive word. The horrible aboundings of iniquity in our carnal mind, the vain imaginations, polluting thoughts, presumptuous workings, vile lusts—what can cleanse our consciences from the filth, guilt, and power of those hourly abominations, but the precious blood of Christ as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot? Yet often in our feelings we are, as Berridge describes—"The fountain open stands, yet on its brink I dwell."
We lack the power to wash therein and be clean. And this makes us add—"Oh! put me in with Your own hands, and that will make me well."
I am glad to hear that the Lord deals kindly with you in providential matters, and, in spite of all your unbelief and distrust, still brings you pupils. What a mercy it is that though we believe not, He continues faithful. Did the blessed Lord change as we do, what would become of us? But with Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
My love to the friends.
Yours very sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
November 24, 1842
My dear friend, George Isbell—You must not expect me to answer your letters with much regularity or expediency. I have many hindrances to regular correspondence with my friends, of which the chief perhaps is the lack of what David felt when he penned Psalm 45. Were I, like him, "bubbling up some good matter", I would have more of the pen of a ready writer. One said of old, "Behold, my heart is as wine which has no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles." His heart was all in a ferment with the things of God, and he would gladly speak that he might be refreshed. Blessed speaking, preaching, and writing when such is the case. But oh, how rare with me to be thus alive in the things of God! How rarely do pen and tongue move with spiritual readiness and divine unction! Carnal fluency in the pulpit or in the parlour may and often does exist with much barrenness and leanness of soul. The liberty of the flesh in handling divine matters is very different from the liberty of the spirit. The latter may exist where the tongue is tied, and vice versa.
I am glad you desire to see your way made plain before you leave —. I think — might prove a much more trying spot. The old garment and the new patch never coalesce; and there you would have to take to an old church as at —. I consider myself favored in having had new ground to till here and at Oakham. My best people are, like myself, seceders from the Church of England. I remember reading, I think in Anson's voyage, of the effects of a long calm at sea. Corruption and sickness were the consequence, and they gladly hailed the whitening surf at a distance as the herald of a breeze. So a calm in a church may not be the most desirable thing. If it teaches you patience and forbearance, meekness, gentleness and love, it will be a blessing eventually. — may be to you a Southsea Common to make you a soldier. I do not mean to say I understand the use of arms, but if I know anything of drill, I learned it in my seven years' exercise at Stadham. I was raw indeed when I went there, but had many trials and few friends or counselors in them. I often acted very rashly and hastily, and frequently mistook my own spirit for the Spirit of the Lord. You will find it your wisdom never to allude to church or personal matters in the pulpit. Leave them all in the vestry with your hat and gloves. A pulpit battery is usually more destructive to the assailant than the assailed. . . .
Our love to Fanny and our relatives.
Yours affectionately and sincerely,
J. C. P.
December 19, 1842
My dear Friend—According to your wish, I attempt to reply to your friendly and experimental letter. You do not, I hope, measure my esteem and affection for you by the frequency of my letters; as, were you to judge of them by that standard, you might almost conclude that I had neither one nor the other for you. But I do assure you that such a conclusion would be most erroneous. I have very much correspondence on hand, which must be attended to, and many necessary engagements to occupy both my mind and my time. But I confess, after all, that had I more of what David felt when penning Psalm 45, and were my heart, like his, "bubbling up with a good matter", my pen would be more that of a ready writer. And perhaps I feel this more sensibly in writing to those whom I esteem most. I feel my shallowness and ignorance, compared with their superior light and life; and perhaps my pride makes me loath to show them my barrenness and leanness. I am glad, however, to find so much in your heart that resembles mine—the same sense of helplessness and weakness, the same feeling of the beggary and bankruptcy of our fallen nature, and, through mercy, the same sighs and breathings at a throne of grace, the same restless dissatisfaction with the things of time and sense, and the same going out in desire and affection after the light of the Lord's countenance and the manifestations of His goodness and favor.
I find my religion more or less a daily work. Some trial or temptation, some doubt or fear, some seeking the Lord's face, some sighing forth my soul after Him, and, at rare seasons, some eating His Word and finding it precious, some relief and sweet sensations at a throne of grace, some life and liberty in preaching. Some of these things form more or less daily and weekly work with me. I am indeed very far from knowing what I desire to know, or being what I wish to be—and am often a puzzle to myself, seeing and feeling no more grace than the most carnal wretch who makes no profession; and yet having restraints and inward checks, breathings, and sighings of which I am persuaded such know nothing.
So you see, my dear friend, that I am at present very far from that strong confidence, so much spoken of in London, which speaks of sin as a nonentity, and as though there were nothing to apprehend or to suffer from the world or the flesh. As I feel on these matters, so I preach; and I find, every now and then, testimonies that power and dew have accompanied the word. My congregations continue large, especially at Stamford, and I have many proofs that I have a place in the affections of the people.
I am glad the friends among whom you are now ministering have made a separation on the grounds of truth. I am no friend to splits and divisions, where they can be avoided; but we had much better come out and be separate than live in error.
Yours affectionately, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
January 5, 1843
My dear Friend—You will doubtless have thought me very dilatory in answering your kind and experimental letter; but I am treating you only as I do others of my correspondents, and therefore you must not complain. Where there is a union from God, it will stand in the absence of communication, either personally or by letter; and where there is no such union, all the letter-writing in the world cannot create any lasting tie. Union with the members resembles union with the Head. There will be many things to try it, many hard tugs to snap it, many blasts from hell endeavoring to break it asunder. But, as union with Christ outlives every storm, so union with the people of Christ will stand amid all the gusts and breezes that blow upon it.
Where there is the fear of the Lord in the soul—spiritual humility, simplicity, and godly sincerity, a measure of faith in the blessed Redeemer, and of love to the tried people of God—my soul is glad to unite with such. But I cannot unite with vain confidence, dead assurance, and a reckless, careless walk and conversation. My path, indeed, lies more in the darkness than in the light, more in sighing and seeking after the Lord than in sweetly rejoicing in Him, more in the valley than on the mount. I have been led much of late from time to time to cry to the Lord to keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me. I see such sin in my wretched, fallen nature, and feel so much my weakness against temptation, and see at the same time what a horrible and dreadful thing sin is, that I am led from time to time earnestly to call upon the Lord to hold me up that I may be safe. I feel, too, my ignorance in divine things; how dark my mind is when not enlightened by the Blessed Spirit; how unable I am to realize any portion of God's Word, to feed upon any one truth, or taste the sweetness of any one promise. And thus I feel myself led to look up for divine teaching, and that the Lord Himself would make His blessed truth known to my soul.
As I was taking my walk today, I seemed favored with a spirit of prayer, and was enabled to seek the Lord's face with some measure of sincere desire towards Him; when these words dropped into my mind, "In everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." What a sweet promise! And shall not the Lord fulfill it? Can He deny Himself? For not to perform His promises would be to deny Himself. And what better, what richer, what sweeter thing can we receive into our wavering and often warring hearts than "the peace of God, which passes all understanding"? Peace through the blood of the Mediator, the slaughtered Immanuel, implies reconciliation to God, forgiveness of sin, blessed sensations of mercy and love here, and eternal bliss and glory hereafter.
But how short-lived are any divine sensations in the soul! If we find the Word of God sweet, if we are enabled to meditate on some blessed truth, if favored to pray with some earnestness and feeling, or to preach with some liberty of soul, we soon have to return to our place, and again walk in darkness, carnality, and hardness of heart. But something heavenly is felt again, and this once more lifts up the soul Godwards.
I fear you had not a very pleasant visit to L. I greatly fear that all is not right with the old gentleman, and that there is more crookedness and craft than I once imagined he could be capable of. But I would be glad, for the sake of the few who love experimental truth, that the chapel might be left open for the supplies who have hitherto gone there. In the course of things, his life cannot be very long; and it would seem a pity for the chapel to fall into the hands of the enemies of truth. I would counsel, therefore, the friends at L. to maintain peace as long as it can be done with a good conscience; not, indeed, to sacrifice the least portion of truth, nor wink at any evil, but in unimportant matters rather to give way than strive. I have a good opinion of N.'s firmness for truth, and yet quietness of spirit; and think much will depend upon him. Good, however, will be done where we little expect, and some casual hearer, whom neither we nor the church know, may carry off the blessing. One would hope that in that large town truth has not been preached in vain.
I wrote this last evening, and have now no more to add than that, with my kind regards to your wife and friends,
I am, yours very sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
March 17, 1843
My dear friend—Time and circumstances did not permit me on Tuesday evening, when I saw you at Barrowden, to do anything more than merely acknowledge the receipt of your letter. I take this opportunity, therefore, to write a few lines in answer to it. I am exceedingly sorry that this fresh root of bitterness has sprung up to trouble us; but I feel glad that it did not originate in me. H— commenced the correspondence by complaining of my being prejudiced against him. I thought, therefore, as an honest man, I could not do otherwise than state my reasons for my unfavorable opinion. This seems much to have stirred up his indignation, and he wrote me a reply, of which I would much sooner be the receiver than the sender. I would like you to see it, that you may judge whether "the meekness and gentleness of Christ" are more visible in it, or the proud spirit of man's heart. I confess, for my part, though I would by no means un-Christianize the man, that I see in his reply little of those blessed fruits which spring from the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart. At any rate, I most earnestly desire to be kept from such a spirit, and feel no union with it.
How contrary are all the preceptive parts of the New Testament, and all the words and all the example of the Blessed Lord—to everything bitter, contentious, and self-exalting! Men, even good men, often err under the idea of boldness and faithfulness; and mistake the fire of their own spirit for the fire from heaven that came down upon the altar. I have had this spirit myself, and know from experience that there is no dew nor unction of the Spirit attending it. This carnal fire dries up all such heavenly dew. And I know from experience that a tender conscience cannot go into the sanctuary of the Lord's presence with this unholy fire burning in the heart or carried in the hands. It is far better to be censured unjustly ourselves, than for us to pass harsh and unfounded judgments on others; and it is, I believe, a part of a Christian's cross, and one branch of his inward suffering with and conformity to Christ, to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Jesus was said to have a devil and to be mad, was called a glutton and a wine-bibber, and was crucified as a blasphemer. Thus He was misunderstood and misrepresented; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, but must fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. If you feel your conscience bearing you witness in the Holy Spirit that you desire not to have the pre-eminence, to be called a Diotrephes cannot injure you; and if you feel meekness and love in your heart, and that you dare not give a false testimony, such charges as "murder," etc., may pain, but cannot harm you. The 'causeless curse' shall not come upon you. I trust we may one day clearly see the needs-be for this painful affair, and in the meantime watch, wait, and pray.
I was very glad to see Mrs. Clementson's testimony, which was fully commended to my conscience as a divine work. I felt I could give her the right hand of fellowship, and would be glad to see her one with us in the church.
I do indeed sincerely desire that we may be at peace among ourselves, and walk in union and brotherly love; "for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16). The Lord clothe us with humility and fill our hearts with His dying love!
Yours affectionately, for Christ's sake,
J. C. P.
March 31, 1843
My dear friend, Isaac Harrison—I am glad that I did not go to Leicester this last visit in vain. I felt encouraged by the good attendance all the times I preached, and the great attention shown by the people. I felt also some little liberty, and had ground to hope that the Lord was with me of a truth. I believe I can say I delivered my conscience, whether men would hear or forbear to hear, and did not use flattering words. The result must be left with God, who works all things after the counsel of His own will. He alone can bless His own word. In these God-dishonoring days, when "truth is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter" doors, hearts, or chapels, it is a mercy to have an ear to hear, a conscience to feel, and a heart to embrace and love God's simple saving truth. Too few in our day can move along without being flattered at every step. Remove from hundreds their carnal motives, which keep them moving on in a profession, and they would stop as certainly as a locomotive would were all supply of steam cut off. And this seems to me the miserable office of many ministers—to keep their people moving along, by flattering them under various forms. Faithful and yet kind and affectionate dealing with their consciences is little thought of. So that when such people come to hear other ministers who speak to their consciences, they stand amazed at the novelty of the sound, and, if rotten at heart, kick and rebel against the unwelcome truth. As Job says, "They rebel against the light" (24:13). And the Lord says they hate the light (John 3:20). I have been surprised so many would come to hear their death sentence read; but it was so in the time of the apostles (Acts 7:44). And I believe faithful preaching will draw a congregation where unfaithful will not. "Wisdom is justified of her children."
Kind remembrances to your sisters and the friends.
Yours sincerely, for truth's sake,
J. C. P.
June 24, 1843
My dear friend, Isaac Harrison—I purpose, if the Lord wills, to leave Oakham for Leicester on Tuesday morning by the coach, and intend to bring my wife and little girl with me. We think of getting down at the turnpike at Belgrave, as I did before, but as I have to preach that evening we shall sleep at the chapel-house.
I have been but poorly since I came home, and was able to preach but once on Lord's-day, and that much shorter than usual.
We cannot always, nor indeed often, see how these trials work together for good. Here, however, is the more exercise of faith and patience. "Let patience," says James, "have her perfect work;" but if patience has no trials to bear no dark and mysterious dispensations to endure, she can have no work at all, much less a perfect one.
I have had a letter from Mr. Brown, of Woburn, and greatly fear the breach is irreparable. I certainly think he has not been treated well. But at present I have heard one side only, and therefore feel it premature to come to any decision on the subject.
I hope your sister at Belgrave will take care to have the bed well aired for my wife and daughter, as I shall feel anxious about them.
Yours very sincerely, for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.
March 25, 1844
My dear friend, Isaac Harrison—I am sorry that I shall not be able to be with you on Lord's-day, April 21st. I am sorry it should happen so; but I cannot leave my people here wholly unprovided for. You may expect me, however, (D.V.) for the 14th; and it is my present intention to go on the Friday afternoon previous by Pettifer's coach.
I wish I could have had the pleasure of friend M'Kenzie's company here for a day or two. One of the friends (Mrs. Knight) offered to pay a part of his expenses if he would come; and I am sure the friends generally would have been much pleased to hear him. I so rarely hear ministers myself that I feel it to be a treat to hear a man of truth; and have rarely heard such without some profit, though not always with comfort.
I am glad the friends at Alfred Street hear profitably. What a wonderful thing truth is; and how much more wonderful to have it applied to the soul! It is a mercy when the soul feels the word of God to be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. My earnest desires accompany friend M'Kenzie's labors, that the Lord may abundantly bless him. My sincerest Christian affection to him. Remember me affectionately to your sisters and the friends.
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.