LETTERS of J. C. Philpot (1849)
February 23, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—It is a mercy amid all one's coldness, deadness, and hardness sometimes to feel a little revival, and to be blessed in speaking of the Lord's people. It encourages us to go on in spite of all opposition within and without. I think more of the value and blessedness of the preached gospel than I once did. It often stirs up prayer, shows where we have been wandering, revives the soul, points to Jesus and His precious blood, and encourages us to believe that where sin did and does abound, there grace does much more abound. And, I believe, where the preached gospel is little valued, it arises from deadness and carnality. It is, I believe, a great mercy when the heart of the preacher is enlarged and his mouth opened to set forth the truth as it is in Jesus, and the ear and heart of the people enlarged and opened to receive and feel it. It will detect many snares, make the soul cry at times, "Search me, O Lord, and try me," and give now and then a little strength to fight against besetting sins and temptations, as well as lead the poor soul at times to the fountain once opened for all sin and uncleanness. I once thought I really would get better before I died; more holy and pure, and strong and spiritual. But I find that these things are only at times and seasons, as the Lord is pleased to work in the soul to will and to do of His good pleasure; and that left to ourselves we are, and ever shall be, sinners of the deepest and blackest dye.
But religion and experience, and all that regards the work of grace in the soul will ever be a mystery; and we not only can know only just as much as we are divinely taught, but seem only then to know it when under the feelings and influences. I can recollect having seen and felt such and such things, and may, perhaps, be able to describe them; but how different this is from being under their power and influence. Then they seem to be really known, and only really then. . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
March 8, 1849
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—You will be very sorry to hear that our poor friend M'Kenzie is dangerously ill. He broke a blood vessel on Saturday last, and brought up much blood, and had a return of the same on Monday. The doctor says it is from the lungs, which makes it all the more dangerous. He may not be immediately removed; but I would greatly fear the ultimate event, as such attacks generally terminate in consumption even when not quickly fatal. The Lord, however, mercifully blessed his soul, after the first attack, with His presence, and that, after all, is everything. Our time here in this world must at the very longest be short; and what is the longest or most prosperous life without the Lord's blessing? When we feel what vile sinners and dreadful backsliders we are, and have been, it almost makes us despair of a blessing. Indeed, we could not entertain the least hope of one were it not for free and sovereign grace—but this opens a door of hope for the vilest and worst. How valuable, how indispensable a blessing seems to be when sickness makes death stare us, as it were, in the face! How empty and worthless really are all human cares and anxieties, as well as all human hopes and pleasures, when viewed in the light of a vast and endless eternity!
I have not been very well of late, having suffered from my old complaint, cold on the chest. I generally suffer from it every spring, especially when the winds are cold and searching. It much confines me to the house at present; but I still go on preaching as usual. I never have been attended better since I was settled here, and especially since the weather has been dry and fine. We have many country hearers, and short days, bad weather, and dirty roads are hindrances to their attendance.
I do not see any probability of my being able to be at Allington more than the first three Lord's-days in May. Poor M'Kenzie's illness will make a sad gap in the supplies. He was to be at Leicester in April, and to follow me at Eden Street chapel in August. What they will do at the latter place, I know not. I would not be surprised if they should wish me to stay another Lord's-day, and then it will be, perhaps, a question with me whether I ought not to stay in preference to coming down to Allington. When I dropped hint of coming to Allington on my way to Abingdon for August 12, I, of course, could not contemplate such an event as M'Kenzie's illness. Ministers have to consider not merely their own feelings and wishes, but the good of the churches.
Mr. Harrison has already applied for me to help them at Leicester, and I would like to do so, if I could see my way, or procure an acceptable supply here. I find it more difficult now to leave home than ever, there being a greater unwillingness among the people that I should go from home. Churches, like individuals, are selfish, and rarely consider or consult each other's profit and convenience.
How our friends and acquaintances seem continually falling around us! R. Dredge lies in Allington graveyard, and J. M'Kenzie may soon be numbered among the departed. Such things have a voice, could we but hear it, and be stirred up by it. It seems to say, "you, be also ready." But what can we do to prepare ourselves for the solemn hour? Nothing. The God of all grace can alone, then and there, by appearing to us, and for us, enable us to say, "Come, Lord Jesus!" But it is a mercy when deep and solemn considerations about death and eternity have some effect in loosening the strong bands of sin and the world, and lead on to that spiritual-mindedness which is life and peace.
I doubt not that the low price of corn, conjoined with the bad yield, sometimes tries your mind. But you will have enough of "the thick clay," doubtless, to carry you honorably through. And why need you covet more? We shall always have enough for needs, but never for covetousness.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
March 26, 1849
My dear Tiptaft—I consider poor Mrs. C.'s case a very trying one, and one very difficult indeed to pronounce any decided opinion upon. Say, for instance, that we gave it as our decided advice that she should stay away from chapel; that would seem shunning the cross. Say, that we advised her still to go, and she should lose her life in consequence, painful reflections might be cast upon us. Such dreadful brutality we rarely hear of—indeed, I might say, such murderous proceedings. I think, however, there is a decided difference between doing evil and forbearing to do well. Thus, I think, she might resolutely deny to go to church, whatever the consequence. There, I think, my mind is pretty clear. But whether she might not abstain for a season, during his present dreadful madness, I might call it, from going to chapel, is another matter. Christians, when persecuted in one place, might flee to another. Here was an allowed declining persecution by flight; but, on the other hand, God, we know, can make a way of escape even by people persevering to go. Look at D—, how her husband stood with a knife at the door the morning she was to be baptized, to stab her, and how she crept out at the window, was baptized, and how all was overruled, as we hope, for his eventual good.
A note which fell into my hands this morning gives an account of a poor woman much in Mrs. C.'s situation. I think much must depend on the state of her mind; what she feels led to do, what promises the Lord has applied to her soul, what faith and strength she has in exercise, how her own conscience is exercised in the matter. It is so hard to lay down rules of action in these matters, for what one can do another cannot. Peter, who once denied his Master, could afterwards be crucified with his head downwards. Nicodemus comes first by night, and afterwards goes boldly into Pilate's presence. Elijah flees before Jezebel, and then meets Ahab in Naboth's vineyard. David kills Goliath, and then flees before Absalom. Thus, good men act differently as faith is weak or strong; and we would not counsel any man to walk on the waves unless we knew he had Peter's Master near, and Peter's faith in exercise. Thus I feel slow to offer advice, or give counsel in this painful and difficult matter. We feel, however, encouraged to hope the Lord will appear for her from the promise He has given her.
We had a church meeting here yesterday. Two candidates were fully received, Miss B, and Mrs. L. They were both well received, but the latter particularly. Oh, with what sweetness and power did she speak! I never myself was so melted with hearing an experience, and I am sure there was not a dry eye among us. I did not know I had such a hearer. She has been, and is, a most deeply-tried woman; bodily pain, until lately, deep poverty, and soul trouble have sunk her very low; but lately she has been so much blessed in her soul, especially yesterday fortnight and the following Tuesday. Besides this lately, she was much blessed in her soul some years ago. I do not think we ever had a candidate before the church so much in the present savor of things. Others may have as good an experience, but they did not come before the church in the savor, blessedness, and power of it. It seemed quite to encourage me in the work; she could speak of what she had felt under this and that preaching, and how it abode with her and what it did for her, so clearly and sweetly. She has great trials about coming to chapel, having opposition at home, and an afflicted body. She has been a hearer eight or nine years.
R. S. has been blessed again in her soul. She thought she was dying, but had no fear. She has a great desire to see you. Some of the friends, I think J. C. among them, have seen, and think well of her.
Mrs. L.'s testimony has much encouraged us all. I felt I would not care for the speeches of a hundred enemies if the Lord would condescend so to bless the word.
If spared, I hope to baptize the three candidates (D.V.) April 8. Mrs. L. spoke of how she heard you on baptism. What a power there is in true religion, and what can be compared to it! but how it is got at only through trials and exercises! My heart cleaves more and more to the power. All without is worthless—a mere tithing of mint, anise, and cummin. Mrs. B. speaks highly of Mrs. L.'s consistency.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
April 24, 1849My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—We were well attended at Leicester. Many, I am told, could not get into the chapel in the evening. I hope it was a good day, as I had a spirit of prayer on the Saturday, and a text came with some sweetness to my mind; and I had some liberty and sweetness in speaking. There is quite a spirit of hearing there.
I baptized here the Lord's-day previous, and the candidates were, I hear, much blessed in their souls. One was so blessed in her soul that she could not sleep that night, and could do nothing but bless and praise God for two or three days. So that we have some little evidence that the Lord has not forsaken us, whatever men may say or surmise. Indeed, it matters little what men may say or think for or against us. If God is for us, it matters not who is against us; and if God is against us, it matters not who is for us. My mind is much more here than it used to be. Everything cries aloud, "Cease from man," who cannot make one of his own hairs, nor ours, black nor white. How much better is it, instead of seeking man's smile, or fearing man's frown, to be committing our way to the Lord, to be seeking His presence and smiles, to desire to know and do His will, and live and walk in His fear! What support under trial, deliverance from temptation, comfort in affliction, submission in sickness, or peace in death, can man give us? What blind unbelieving fools, then, to be looking so much to the creature and so little to the Creator!
We have a poor girl dying in this town, and it is, indeed, marvelous to see what a work God has done for her soul. I saw her in her trouble and distress, and have seen her since the Lord blessed her soul, which He has repeatedly done. All fear of death is gone, and her soul seems filled with peace. She has had convictions for years, and been a constant hearer, but nothing decided until lately. What a wonderful thing grace is, both in its Fountain and streams! Well may we contend for nothing else, for what else can save, suit, or bless a poor guilty, fallen sinner?
I am much as usual, sometimes feeling very poorly, and then again a little better. Our poor clay tabernacle, what a burden it is to us from sickness and sin!
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
June 2, 1849My dear friend, Joseph Parry—I reached home safely, through mercy, on the Friday, to dinner, and found my dear wife and little family pretty well.
I preached at Wellingborough Thursday evening, 24th. If "like priest like people," be a true saying, I would fear there was not much life, power, or feeling in the congregation; and I felt but little in my own soul. My words seemed to rebound upon me almost as if I were throwing balls against a brick wall. Good, however, might still be done, as our feelings are in these matters by no means infallible marks. I would be sorry to set up my feelings as a tribunal from which there is no appeal; though we cannot help being to a certain extent guided and influenced by them. I consider this a nice and difficult point. I have generally found that when I have gone contrary to my feelings as regards men and things, I have erred, and more or less suffered in consequence. We may be thus slighting the secret leadings and impressions of the Holy Spirit. But, again, we may be under wrong impressions which a subsequent experience may correct. In this, as in all other matters, wisdom is profitable to direct. In all our movements and actings we need grace to teach, guide and direct; and without it we are sure to err.
My visit to Allington seems now almost like a dream. I would hope, however, that all the effects have not so passed away. A minister should leave a sweet savor of heavenly things wherever he goes. If he does not he will make the people worse instead of better. When the Holy Spirit makes our bodies His temple He will cast forth some rays of His indwelling presence. Christians will either spiritualize or carnalize each other; will stir up one another to good or evil. When we are ourselves a little spiritual, we are grieved to see the children of God, and especially those whom we love, worldly and carnal. This makes us get away from them, and in solitude seek the Lord, feeling no pleasure nor rest outside of Him. Time and experience correct many errors, and especially in religion. I am daily more and more convinced that it is a secret work carried on in private between God and the soul. The conscience is the grand battlefield where the conflict is fought. Condemnation and justification in all their various branches and workings are there felt and known. And unless we live much alone, and are more or less continually engaged with this inward communion of heart, our religion withers away. "Commune with your own heart on your bed, and be still." I only wish I could live a more separate life, and have eyes, ears, and heart more separate from the world lying in wickedness.
The friends here consider me looking better than when I left; and, indeed, I feel so myself. It always suits me best when I can get air and exercise. But I often find when I am, as it were, congratulating myself with being better, and so forgetting to die daily, I get a pull-back; and so now some of my old pains and sensations admonish me not to be high-minded, but fear. Like escaped greyhounds, how madly and eagerly we rush afield when the hand that checks seems a little to slacken its hold! But evening comes, and the old collar is slipped over our necks; and perhaps a beating is added for our wild roamings.
A head-ache or a sinking market, or a sense of guilt and bondage, or a solemn view of eternity, or a remembrance of past backslidings and sins, or a slip with the tongue or feet, or some unaccountable depression of spirits—each or any or all put the feet in the stocks. I am well persuaded that without exercises the soul cannot be kept alive; that is, in a healthy or spiritual sense. He who began must carry on; He who kindled must keep alive; He who is the Author must also be the Finisher of faith. This we are well persuaded of in our judgment; but we have to learn it in daily experience. And, I believe, it is often to us a cause of inward condemnation that we are what we are; that we have not more life and feeling, more prayerfulness and watchfulness, more knowledge of and communion with the blessed Jesus. We condemn graceless professors, and would rather open our lips no more upon religion than speak like them; and yet how much we really resemble them! Indeed, we differ from them only as far as our souls are kept alive by exercises and gracious influences and operations. All things that we see and hear, the very necessary business of life, and all our relationships in the world, only tend to deaden and harden our souls. And though we can leave neither our families nor the world, and must continue in the calling where God has placed us, yet we shall ever find it our wisdom and mercy to live much alone as regards our souls.
In this point you are much favored. You have fields and downs, quiet meadows and isolated walks, where you may think, meditate, and pray. And as these fields have formerly witnessed your sighs and tears, so may they witness your blessings and praises until the green sod covers your body in that little spot which many gracious feet have trod, and where sleep our friends, R. Dredge, poor farmer Wild, and others, that we have been united to in life, and from whom we hope death will not separate us.
We may have worldly troubles and worldly mercies, and our hearts may be often depressed by the one, and carried away by the other; but, after all, there is nothing really enduring and satisfying but grace in its Fountain and in its streams.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
June 7, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—It seems that troubles and trials still await me, and what is to be their end or outcome, I know not. I was thinking the other day that either Satan must hate me very much, or that there must be something in me very wrong, for many seem to rise up against me.
And having so much besides in me which causes condemnation and fear, and the Comforter who would relieve my soul being far from me, makes me wonder how the scene will end. What adds to the trial is my public situation as a minister and editor of the Gospel Standard. Were I obscure and unknown, like many private Christians whom I envy, how many trials should I be free from! But so many eyes are fixed upon me, some for good and some for evil. I have so many enemies as well as friends; and I find it so difficult, either by pen or tongue, to express myself so as to be free from misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or cavil, that my way seems completely hedged up. But in the midst of all these trials I trust there are some mercies. The Lord has not withheld that spirit of prayer and supplication which I trust He first gave me more than twenty years ago, and to His throne of grace He from time to time draws me.
I have still encouraging testimonies that the work is going on at Oakham. A woman came to see me on Tuesday afternoon who has been a hearer ever since the chapel was opened. The Lord quickened and blessed her soul many years ago, but for the last seven or eight years she has been in a lukewarm profession, with only just enough life to keep her out of the world, and burdened with its cares and anxieties. But within these last few months the Lord has set to His hand the second time, and wrought very powerfully and blessedly in her soul, first bringing her to the deepest self-abasement and sorrow for her long state of backsliding, and then manifesting His mercy and love to her soul. She could hardly speak for tears and blessing the Lord for His mercies. It was not altogether under the word, though she said she has heard with new ears the last few months; but it seems that the work was helped on by the word. She will (D.V.) come before the church at our next meeting, when I doubt not she will be well received, and I hope to baptize her on my last Lord's-day at Oakham.
I am, you know, slow to receive what are called "blessings," especially when said to have been under my preaching; but these cases at Oakham have been so clear, and there has been that savor and power attending the testimony which the friends have given, that I could not but believe them, they have come with such weight to my conscience.
Amid all this, when I look within I feel much to condemn me. My past backslidings rise up to my view, with many sins and temptations, besides my continual propensity to carnality and folly. And then, when these attacks come from without, it makes me sink, as if the Lord had a strong controversy with me, and that after all my enemies might be right and I might be fearfully and perhaps wholly wrong. Why have I so many opponents? Other ministers pass along untouched, but book after book comes out against me, as if they would sink me outright. If this be the price paid for many hearers such as at Allington and elsewhere, methinks it is very dear.
When, after hearing Mrs. L.'s testimony at the church-meeting at Oakham, I was walking from the upper vestry, I think, to the pulpit, I felt and said to myself, "If the Lord bless so my word to the people, let me go on preaching, I shall not mind a hundred —s." But, alas! how soon the heart sinks again when trouble arises, and I could not help wishing I had lived and died in the Church of England. I thought I might have been quiet there, and need not have preached at all. I was struck last evening with Psalm 11. I cannot say that either was applied to my soul, or that I would or did call my adversaries wicked. But the drift of the Psalm struck me as peculiarly forcible. We must be tried if we are the Lord's, and when our trials bring us to His feet, we may hope they may do us good. I do not wish, however, to burden you with my trials, though I know and feel you are and always have been a kind and sympathizing friend.
I hope the Lord may be with you at Allington this time, and bless you in your own soul and in the ministry of the word to the hearts of the people.
I think (D.V.) of going to Lakenheath for Lord's-day, August 12. You know how desirous they have been for me to go there, and having that day to spare, I seemed led to spend it in that way.
I had a pleasant and I hope a profitable visit at Allington this time. But if I had my encouragements there, and many hearers and friends, I have had since and have now my ballast. . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
June 19, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—We had a church-meeting here, on Lord's-day, and received two candidates for baptism. They were both well received, being well known to the friends and hearers almost ever since I came to Oakham; but one gave a blessed testimony, being now in the sweet enjoyment of the love of God, so that she could speak of the Lord having blessed her soul not once or twice, but again and again even to last Tuesday. She has been a backslider in heart many years, though a most consistent woman; but with what self-abhorrence does she now speak, and did, at the church-meeting, with the tears of sorrow and love mingled together.
I went to K— yesterday, and saw both her and the woman whom I baptized last, who so melted us all at the church-meeting before I left home. I found also two other gracious people there—constant hearers at the chapel—one a woman whose soul the Lord wonderfully blessed some years ago in a severe illness, but now much tried and harassed. Since the Lord has revived the work here I have seen more of the friends, and believe when you come here you do not preach to stocks and stones. Amid all our darkness and bondage there is, I believe, life and feeling in the souls of some, and I am sure, that next to feeling life in his own soul, there is nothing so encouraging and so drawing, as it were, life out of a preacher, as seeing there is life in the hearers.
I certainly felt some life and power when in Wilts, but since then seem to have well-near lost it all. On Lord's-day morning I really could not find one grain of grace in my soul, and I think sometimes I am one of the greatest hypocrites that ever walked, and all I feel and talk about is but pretense. Sometimes my mind is filled with infidelity, as if the Bible and religion were all an invention; then again with unbelief as to my own state and standing, and then with all manner of hypocrisy and falsehood. So that when one's poor soul gets a little respite from the devil's snares in one way—lust and filthiness—there are snares and temptations on the other. There is either filthiness of the flesh, or filthiness of spirit, and we hardly know which is the worse.
But these things we must know experimentally, that we may dive into people's hearts and penetrate beneath that crust of self-righteousness and ignorance which hides so many from themselves. Men's motives, and thoughts, and feelings, are laid bare to us by knowing ourselves, and we are sure there is nothing really good in any, but what God Himself puts there by His grace; and thus while we value at its due worth all human pretensions, we put a great price upon everything commended to our conscience as really of grace; and thus by these exercises we can not only draw a clearer line between people in a congregation, but also more sift and separate the hearts of God's people and speak more to their comfort and encouragement.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
July 17, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—I never came to London more unwillingly. I left Oakham very poorly, and weak in body and tried in mind, and called myself a thousand fools to have made the engagement. But hitherto the Lord has helped me, and I hope the poor and the needy may have reaped some little benefit from my trials and exercises. I hope the Lord was with me on Lord's-day, and I was enabled to speak pretty plainly upon the difference between exercised and unexercised persons, whether ministers, deacons, or hearers. I see this—that we must give up all idea of being what is called generally useful. There are very few children of God anywhere, and of these very few who are really tried and exercised, and know what they hear. There are but few who are really panting after heavenly blessings, or know the difference between the letter and the power. A 'doctrinal' sermon about Jesus Christ will suit them far better than a real experimental one fetched out of the furnace. However, all we can do is to deliver our conscience, and speak what we know and feel to be true, and leave it in the hands of the Lord, who has promised that His word shall not return to Him void. There may be a few poor needy souls to whom it may be blessed, and that is all our reward and comfort as regards the ministry.
I think I have not felt so strong in speaking for months, I might almost say years, as I felt on Lord's-day. Though the place was very full, my voice seemed to ring through it like a bell. The preceding Lord's-day it seemed like speaking through water. But I had some life and feeling on Sunday; and that, you know, makes a wonderful difference even with our natural voice. What poor creatures we are without the Lord! And with Him we seem able to thresh the mountains! It seemed to raise up a little gratitude that the Lord had so far restored my health and enabled me to speak.
I hope you have found the Lord with you at Oakham and Stamford. I hope there is a work going on at Oakham, and that we shall have more come forward to declare what God has done for their souls; but it will be sure to make Satan rage, and stir up new trials and temptations.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
July 24, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—I believe on the main points of experimental truth and vital godliness we see eye to eye, and feel heart to heart, and this makes us cleave to each other in affection and esteem. I am quite sick of the generality of Calvinistic professors, and I believe we may read their charter in Ezekiel 34—especially the ministers. But I leave them. Time and circumstances will make many things clear which now are dark and mysterious, and I wish neither their company, nor their standing, nor their spirit. When Osbourn's letter came out against me, these words were almost continually in my lips, "O Lord, fight my battles, and bring me off more than conqueror." All their strife and bitterness only give me more errands to a throne of grace and stir up my soul, which is so sadly prone to rest on its lees. Osbourn's scurrility, pride, and bitterness seem to excite general disgust. Are these the fruits of gospel liberty, and such manifestations as few have been favored with since the times of the apostles? Judge such men by their fruits; and what is their religion really worth? The blessed Lord did not speak in vain, "By their fruits you shall know them." Men may come in sheep's clothing, while inwardly they are ravening wolves. "Not every one who says, Lord, Lord," etc.
I am glad you saw Mrs. —; she is a choice and well taught woman, and I think I never call upon her without seeing the grace of God shining forth in her; and I think I could show you some who attend the chapel at Oakham who can give as good an account of themselves as she, particularly some who have joined the church lately.
It is a consolation and encouragement to me to believe and feel that the Lord has a people at Stamford and Oakham to whom, from time to time, He blesses the word. Men may rage and storm, and try to crush me as a worm under their feet, but if the Lord blesses His word through me, what more, as a minister, can I desire?
I am well attended here. I think I never saw the chapel fuller than on Lord's-day evening. They were standing wherever they could, in the aisles and about the doors. But it was not a good day with me either time, and I seemed to have neither life and feeling in my soul, nor a door of utterance with my lips.
I believe your remarks about the real hearers are quite true. It is not the great body of seat-holders, but the unknown in holes and corners. Our hire, like Jacob's must be "the speckled and spotted," "the brown and the ring-straked;" all the snowy fleeced are Laban's.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
August 31, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin—I was so poorly on Saturday night, and coughed so much during the night, that I almost despaired of being able to preach at all. I was sharply tried, for as I seemed to see the Lord's hand so plainly in my going to Lakenheath, it would have been very trying and mysterious if I could not preach, and I knew it would not only be a disappointment to the congregation, but would open the mouth of my enemies. I got up, however, and when soon after breakfast the gigs and vehicles came pouring in, I felt I must preach, or at least make the attempt, come what would. I think if ever I looked to the Lord alone for strength and help, I did that morning. When I went up to the chapel it was so crowded I could scarcely get through to the pulpit. I read and prayed very short, and my cough kept interrupting me, so that I quite dreaded the sermon; but when I came to preach I found my voice strengthened, and I was mercifully helped through, beyond my expectation in every sense of the word.
There were people there from twenty miles' distance, and the number of the vehicles very far exceeded that at Allington. I preached again in the afternoon, and my voice seemed clearer and stronger than in the morning. The people were standing back nearly as far as the trees, and yet my voice seemed able to reach them. On Tuesday evening I preached again to a full chapel. I came home on Wednesday. Tiptaft preached for me on Thursday, but I was so unwell I could not go out to hear him. I preached, however, on Lord's-day here twice, and had so good a congregation that I thought there was some mistake, and that there was an impression Tiptaft was to preach.
I hope I may one day see clearly why many painful things have been permitted. I think, indeed, I am getting more light upon them. The Lord has delivered me from some very trying temptations, and seems of late to be drawing me nearer to Himself. When we are under guilt and condemnation, all things seem against us, and there is a fleeing when none pursues. All things in providence and in grace have a veil over them, and we see nothing clearly. But as the Lord draws us out of these feelings by drawing us nearer to Himself as the God of all grace, light begins to dawn upon the soul, and many perplexities are cleared up. It is a blessed thing to be drawn out of the world and things hateful and evil, by tasting that the Lord is gracious. It is the power of sin which needs breaking, and this can be only by being brought under the power of grace.
I have had many trials, afflictions, persecutions, and temptations; and I hope these have all worked together for my soul's profit. It is not often at the time that we see the good of our trials and afflictions. But what poor useless beings we would be without them—a burden and a nuisance to the children of God! I was thinking the other day that there were only two things really worth living for; to be blessed ourselves, and be made a blessing to others. Without this, what is life? To eat so many pounds of bread and meat, drink so many tumblers of water, sleep so many hours—is this life? But to be blessed and made a blessing, to have the hope of immortality in one's bosom, and for some of God's children to bless the Lord that we ever lived—this is worth living for, and dying for too. Let us live twenty years longer, it will only be the old scene over again, and we with less strength to bear it. The world, sin, and Satan will not change. But if by living we are made instruments in the Lord's hands of spiritual good to His people, this will be a blessing for eternity. This may reconcile us to our trials, if through them we are made a blessing to the heirs of glory.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
September 18, 1849
My dear Mr. Beecher—From various causes I have not been able to attend earlier to your kind and friendly letter.
I think sometimes that Satan, seeing the Lord has blessed my ministry, is doing all he can to overthrow it. The doctrine and the experience cannot be overthrown; and therefore attempts are being made to overthrow the author. And what more ready way than to say that he borrows what he preaches? But surely they ought to point out whence it is borrowed. I have not read nor, indeed, seen poor old Osbourn's book, but I am told it is a shameful production, and full of scurrility and abuse. But how little he can know of me, or of my experience. When he was at my house he seemed to have no inclination to talk upon experimental things, nor did he ask me one word about my experience. Nor do I believe he has read any of my writings. The poor old man was annoyed and disappointed because I would not praise up his writings, which I could not do when I found him so different a character from what I anticipated. And when the remarks in the Standard appeared, it incensed him all the more. I believe, therefore, in my own mind, his letter to me was written altogether out of spite and revenge. It is not likely, therefore, that God will own and bless a book written from such motives and in such a spirit.
I cannot now sit down and write you an experience spread over more than twenty-two years. My experience is incorporated in my sermons. And if you cannot see nor feel that to be genuine and my own, it is not all I could write that could do it. I have felt guilt and bondage; have had sweet and blessed views of Christ; have seen His glory by the eye of faith; have felt Him precious to my soul; and, did time and space permit, could tell you where, when, and how. But you will find my experience in my sermons, for I feel what I preach, and preach what I feel; and this makes them blessed to God's children, and stirs up the malice of Satan. If I were to be satisfied with a dry doctrinal religion, I would be let alone. But because I contend for the power, some seem almost as if they would pull me to pieces. And if I know nothing of experience, why do I contend for it? Why did I not stay in the Church of England, where I might, but for conscience' sake, have been this day, without let or molestation?
But I hope the Lord will bring me safely through all this strife of tongues. I mean to keep quiet (D.V.), and let them say what they will. All their attacks only give me fresh errands to the throne of grace.
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.
September 20, 1849
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry,
It is a mercy that where the Lord has begun a good work He will carry it on, and bring it to perfection. If it were not so, what hope could there be for such poor, dark, dead wretches, who can no more revive themselves, than they can quicken their own souls? And when we have no trials or temptations, or at least not heavy ones, how soon we sink down into carnality and death. I dare say you find that nothing past, either trials or mercies, can do for the present; and that you need the Lord to set to His hand as much as if you had never known and felt anything of a vital nature.
I am, through mercy, better than I was after my Abingdon visit, but not so well as I could wish. I was remarkably well this time last year, and I then thought I was almost as well as before my illness in 1847. But I fear this will never be the case, and that I shall never know good health again. I still, however, continue to preach as usual, and walk out most days when the weather is tolerably fine. At present we have been mercifully preserved from cholera, having had only one case in the town, and that caught passing, it is supposed, through London. At a village near Oakham it has been rather severe. I hope the Lord may mercifully preserve us and our families from that dreadful disease, which has already carried off so many thousands. It has been very bad at Plymouth and Devonport; but through mercy those dear to us have hitherto escaped at Stoke. I think our Government very culpable in not having a day of national humiliation. Ahab and the city of Nineveh are quite scriptural precedents. As we are afflicted naturally and nationally, why should we not repent naturally and nationally? Some of my friends do not see with me in this matter, but I think my views are scriptural.
Poor dear M'Kenzie is at rest. There will appear (D.V.) a short account of his last days in the next Standard. He is taken away in the prime of life and, we might say, usefulness. Truly may we say, "God's thoughts are not our thoughts," etc. His death throws more labor and responsibility upon me; but for some time before his death I had most of the Standard work to do, and I have long had to endure the chief responsibility. I hardly know where to look for help to fill his place; and must, I suppose, for the present, at least, bear the undivided burden. It is an office that requires some judgment and experience, as well as some degree of literary qualification, and it is hard to find all these in one individual.
My mind has of late been more settled. That matter troubles me but little now. I believe it is a legalized gospel such as the Galatians were bewitched with; and we see from it similar fruits—"biting and devouring one another." I hope to go on in my own path not moved by what is said for me or against me. It is through "evil report," as well as "good report," that ministers must pass. It is a mercy when the former does not cast down and the latter does not puff up.
You have had most beautiful weather for the harvest, and I hope have had a good crop. But prices are ruinous to the grower, and I fear will continue so. All things seem out of course. Thousands cut off by cholera, illness generally prevalent, much distress everywhere. And abroad still greater calamities. What a mercy amid all the turmoil and strife to have eternal things to look to—a kingdom that cannot be moved! In twenty years, today's price of oil will probably mean little to you. But it will much matter whether
your soul is in heaven or hell. When the cold winds are whistling over your grave, or the warm sun resting on it, what will it matter
whether sheep sold badly or well at the market? Could we realize eternal things more, we would be less anxious about temporal things. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." It is only our unbelief and carnality which fetter us down to the poor things of time and sense. "Lord, increase our faith."
Through mercy we are all well, and this is a great mercy, for the town is full of sickness, chiefly small-pox, and many, especially children, have died. I consider ourselves favored in having a healthy locality to dwell in.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.