LETTERS of J. C. Philpot (1860)
January 17, 1860
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—I was very sorry to hear of Mrs. —'s alarming illness. I do hope that it may please the gracious Lord to raise her up, for she would be very much missed among you, from her kindness and liberality; but if such be not the will of God, I do hope that the Lord may be pleased to reveal a sense of His love and mercy to her soul. We have deep and daily proof that it is not a 'mere profession' which can save or bless the soul—and that there must be that 'divine work' upon the heart and conscience, whereby the soul passes experimentally from death unto life. It is not for us to decide how much or how little grace and faith are necessary for salvation, nor how clear and full a hope of confidence it may be blessed with. But we know that the Lord must communicate some sense of His goodness and mercy to take away the guilt of sin, and the doubts and fears that haunt the mind. It is a very great point to be made spiritually sincere before God; to be convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit; to have some experimental discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ to the soul, so as to raise up a living faith, hope, and love in Him. I think I know what true religion is or should be, and I think I can recognize it where the blessed Spirit has wrought it by His own divine power. There are those whom I know, of whose grace I have not the least doubt; and there are others of whom I dare not say that they do not possess the grace of God, but it has not been so manifested to my conscience as to remove all doubt about it.
You may depend upon it that when illness is very severe, the poor soul needs divine support, which often consists in keeping it simply to rest upon the faithfulness and mercy of God, without any of that earnestness and activity of spiritual feeling which many people look for. You have often been much and deeply exercised in your own soul about your state and standing before God, and have at times sunk very low through doubt and fear. But the Lord has from time to time been very gracious to you, and given you some manifestations of His love and mercy which have cheered and revived your cast-down spirit. This experience, both of judgment and mercy, makes you look for it in others who profess the truth, and has taught you the emptiness and worthlessness of a mere profession.
If the Lord has shown these things in any measure to our consciences, we cannot but contend for them. We may lament our own wretched coldness, deadness, and darkness in the things of God, and may see and feel ourselves very far from the enjoyment of the precious truths which we profess; but at the same time we cannot join hand in hand with those who we feel are out of the secret, and are satisfied with a name to live while dead. . . .
As we get older we may expect to see greater and greater changes. Old friends will drop off by death; we shall ourselves, if spared, begin to feel more and more of the infirmities produced by illness and old age.
We seem to live in very trying times, when we may expect great changes, and perhaps great calamities in the church and in the world. How grievous it is to see error so spreading, and minister after minister drinking it in. How few faithful experimental men of God there are, and in what a state for the most part are the churches of truth!
In the providence and grace of God, I have become fixed in a very important and responsible position, for which I need the continual supplies of His grace. I consider that The Gospel Standard is a very important work, as having so wide a circulation among the churches, and I could wish it filled with the life and power of God, so as to exercise a divine influence wherever it goes. Besides which, my sermons are much read and sought after, and these I wish to be impregnated with the life, and power, and grace of God, so as to reach men's hearts and consciences.
Time with us all here must be short, and we should do what we can to serve our day and generation; to live as far as we can to the glory of God and the good of His people, and not lead useless, selfish, unprofitable lives, as if money were our god. All Christians have their place in the mystical body, and their place to fill in the church of God. You have yours, as connected with the Cause of truth at Allington; to bear and forbear, and to manifest our love to the Lord and to His people in various ways, as I believe you do.
J. C. P.
January 24, 1860
My dear friend, Mr. Tips,
Trials and afflictions are the appointed lot of the family of God, and if we belong to that favored number, we shall certainly have our share of them. Some of these afflictions are of the body, others of the mind; some are connected with the family, others with our circumstances in life; some come from the temptations of Satan, and others from our own evil hearts.
The blessed Spirit in the Scripture compares these trials and afflictions to a furnace in which gold and silver are refined (Isa. 48:10; Zech. 13:9), the object of God being to try our faith (1 Pet. 1:7). The Lord therefore bids us buy of Him gold tried in the fire (Rev. 3:18), and compares Himself to a refiner and purifier of silver (Mal. 3:3). Now what is the first effect of the furnace when the impure metal is put into it? It begins to soften and melt by the application of the fire; smoke is seen gathering over the refining pot, scum and dross work up to the top. But where all the time is the pure metal? Out of sight, for it is hidden by the scum and foam; but when that is taken off the pure gold appears. Now nothing but the heat of the furnace could have separated the pure metal from the dross. So it is with the spiritual furnace. Nothing but the heat of the flame can separate true faith from false, and the life of God in the soul from a mere fleshly religion. But when we are in the furnace, it is like what we see in the purifying of the gold. The dross and scum of our evil hearts at first alone appear; the pure gold of faith, hope, and love, which are God's gift, is hidden from view. But after a time, when the Lord is pleased to take away the dross, then the pure gold of faith shines more bright than ever.
I hope that my dear friend, to whom I am writing, is well convinced that all true religion is the gift and work of God, as we read—"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). God is too pure, just, and holy a Being to look with satisfaction upon our obedience, or anything done by the flesh. This He shows us by the teaching of His Holy Spirit; for we see light in His light, and it is by the shining in of divine light that all things are made manifest (Eph. 5:13). When Isaiah saw His glory in the temple, he cried out—"Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Isa. 6:5). When Job saw God, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5, 6), and the loveliness of Daniel was turned in him unto corruption (Dan.10:8). Now these Scripture instances show us what the saints of God saw and felt concerning themselves, when they had a spiritual view of the glory and majesty of the Lord God Almighty.
It is plain therefore that men who think highly of their own goodness have never had such a view of the purity and holiness of God as His saints have as recorded in the Scriptures. Therefore they see no danger; they fear no ill; they have no sense of sin; nor can they have any repentance of it. But those who are taught of God have been made to see and feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin; they have fled for refuge from the wrath to come, unto Jesus the only Mediator between God and men. To His exalted Person at the right hand of God they look; before His throne of grace they bow; under His atoning blood and justifying righteousness they shelter themselves; and in Him they thus find rest and peace.
The ever varying, ever restless sea rolls between us; but if we have a living union with the Lord Jesus Christ, it may separate, but it cannot divide. We speak two different languages, but I hope we can also speak the one language of Canaan. We may read the Bible in two different versions, but it is the same holy inspired Scripture which speaks to us as by the mouth of God; and we trust we have one and the same Father, one and the same Elder Brother, and one and the same Spirit as our Guide, Teacher, and Comforter (Eph. 4:4, 6). The chief thing to press after is an experimental knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the efficacy of His atoning blood, and to enjoy union and communion with Him. He is the Vine, we are the branches; without Him we can do nothing. But if we abide in Him, and He abides in us, then we shall bring forth much fruit. Our chief desire should be to know Him and the power of His resurrection, that we may be found in Him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil. 3:9, 10). To do this, we must cast aside our own righteousness, and be clothed in this which is perfect.
But we shall always find sin to be our worst enemy, and self our greatest foe. The carnal mind is enmity against God (Rom. 8:5), and not being subject to the will of God, it will be ever rebelling against Him. We need not fear anything but sin; nothing else can do us any real injury. But sin can and will make God hide His face, will grieve the blessed Spirit, will darken our evidences, and give room to the accusations of Satan. It will be our mercy if we are found often seeking the Lord's face, confessing our sins, reading His holy Word, and striving to obtain some manifestation of the Lord's mercy, goodness, and love. The Lord Jesus has promised to manifest Himself to those who love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:21), and it is by these manifestations that we come to know Him experimentally and savingly. The Lord Himself has told us what eternal life is, that it is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). If we know by divine teaching the only true God, we shall fear and revere His holy name; and if we know Jesus Christ whom He has sent, we shall love Him with a pure heart fervently. You have the Holy Scripture in your hand, a treasure of which the blind Papists would willingly deprive the Church, and in that you can read the mind and will of God, and learn from it the way of salvation. The Lord Himself bids us search the Scriptures, and tells us that they testify of Him (John 5:39). You have a throne of grace which is ever open, and to which we are invited to come boldly, that we may find mercy and grace to help in time of need.
I was in hopes, from what you said to my young friend Mr. P., that you would visit England last autumn. I hope you may be induced to come over this summer, and to come to see me. I shall be pleased to have a letter from you when convenient. And now, dear friend, accept my Christian love for yourself and your dear wife, and all who love the Lord whom you know.
Yours, in the Lord Jesus Christ,
J. C. P.
January 25, 1860
My dear William Tiptaft—Many people think that illness is the best time for religion, and for being prayerful and spiritually-minded but this is a great mistake. When the illness is severe, it takes such possession of the whole mind, and at the same time so enfeebles it, that it has not power to act as in health. I have often found that, when the main force of the illness is over, and I am beginning to recover, that that is a good time, if the Lord is pleased to draw the soul upward to Himself, to read, pray, and meditate. But when illness is severe, the soul needs divine support, patience, submission, resignation, and to lie passive in the Lord's hands, believing He does all things well. It is then we need special support, so that the mind may not be distracted, but rest upon the Lord's goodness and mercy, and what we hope has been felt in times past. I remember what poor Thomas Copeland once said to me in his illness. "People", he said, "think that illness is a good time to seek God; but they will find, when they are very ill, that the illness itself occupies all their thoughts and feelings." At the same time, there are times and seasons in illness when the weight of bodily affliction seems partially removed, and then, if the Lord be pleased to work by His Spirit and grace, there is a drawing-up of the soul unto Himself.
Certainly one thing trials and afflictions produce, if they are in any measure sanctified; they show us the impossibility of being saved, but by an act of free, distinguishing, sovereign grace; they make us cast ourselves wholly upon the blood and righteousness of the Son of God, and to rest satisfied with nothing short of its application. Sin also is seen to be exceedingly sinful, and the recollection of past sins grieves the conscience. Nothing has tried me more than the recollection of my sins and backslidings since I made a profession. These have been much more grievous in my eyes than any sins which I committed in the days of darkness and death. But I believe it is good for us to see and feel the weight and guilt of our sins and backslidings, so as to break to pieces our self-righteousness. A man does not know his own temptations so as to say, "I am not tempted with this or that propensity"; I may be wrong therefore, when I say that I am not much troubled with self-righteousness; for I see and feel in myself nothing but sin—and what is more trying still, my carnal mind is just as sinful, polluted, and corrupt as ever it was in my life. I do see the deep necessity for every child of God to walk much in godly fear. Sin and Satan are never off their watch, if we are. Sin is like a spring which can only be kept from expanding to its full length by continual pressure. Take away or relax the pressure, it expands in a moment to its full length. The fear of God in the heart is the pressure upon the spring; and if that relaxes or lets go, sin extends itself in a moment, and who can tell how far it will go? As Francis Spira said—"Man knows the beginning of sin, but who comprehends the outcomes thereof?" It is much easier to check sin in its first movement than when it has gained strength. If the egg be not crushed, it will break out into a viper. What would we do without free grace, the atoning blood of the Lamb, and the work of the Holy Spirit to make the Gospel precious to the soul?
I hope I have learned some of these lessons in my affliction. But how soon is all forgotten? Religion is a daily, one might say an hourly, work—and only He who began can keep alive His work upon the heart.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
February 1, 1860
My dear friend, William Brown—I am glad to find that, through the rich mercy of the Lord, you have derived benefit from your sojourn at Brighton, and I hope that it may be permanent when, in the providence of God, you shall have turned your back upon that bracing air. We are strange creatures, and body and mind have so close and intimate a connection, that the very blowing of the sea-breeze upon the face, not only cheers and braces the languid body, but acts in a corresponding way upon the burdened mind. Few things make cares sit more heavily than to stay at home by the fireside and nurse them. Not that relief is obtained from care and anxiety by any such natural means, but there seems more strength to endure them when the poor body is in some measure braced up.
I could wish that your path were more free from perplexity, anxiety, and care, but no doubt He who sees the end from the beginning, and all whose ways are ways of mercy and truth to those who fear His name, sees that these cares and perplexities are for your spiritual good. This world is proverbially "a valley of tears"; thorns and briers spring up on every side, because the very ground on which we tread is under the curse; and as followers of the Lord the Lamb, we may expect, not only the world's portion of sorrow, but the church's. And indeed, though our weak flesh often staggers and sinks under the load, yet as the blessing of God for the most part only comes in this way, we are made willing to endure the affliction, from the benefit connected with it.
I have no doubt, the longer we live, the more we shall find of trouble, anxiety, and sorrow, both to body and soul, so as to be made willing at last to lay down our poor, worn-out frames in the dust, as being only full of sin and corruption. This seems to be the conclusion to which the Lord usually brings all His redeemed people, to be willing to depart and be with Christ, as far better than continuing in a body of sin and death. We need something to wean us from life, and to deaden and mortify us to the charms of the world and the pleasures of sin, which are but for a moment. Christ is not to be found in the path of carnal ease and worldly joy. It is in tribulation and trouble alone, that He is really sought and really found. We cannot choose for ourselves what that trouble shall be; but its fruits and effects must be good, if they lead us up to the Lord Jesus Christ, or bring down any measure of blessing from Him.
There is so much of seeking and serving the Lord with half a heart; so much mingling of the flesh with the spirit, and trying to unite the manna of the wilderness with the flesh-pots of Egypt. But we may be certain that, when the taste is vitiated with the onions and the garlic, there is no relish for angel's food. This then is one of the benefits of sanctified affliction, that it purges the appetite from delighting in the foul food of Egypt, to give it a taste for the bread which came down from heaven, that a man should eat thereof and not die.
But what is most puzzling to a spiritual mind is, that the carnal mind still continues so base, so foul, so dark, and so dead, under any or every discipline. If I know anything of the life of God in the soul and of the operations of a living faith, I am also a witness to this solemn fact, that the carnal mind is still enmity against God, that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. I am well convinced that there must be a measure of inward holiness communicated by the good Spirit of God, for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." But I am equally sure that there is no sanctification of the body of sin and death, and that we only enjoy real sanctification of heart as the Lord is pleased to communicate it by His Spirit and grace.
I am glad that you felt yourself at home at Chichester. The Lord has a people scattered up and down this land, whom He loves and who love Him; and though the Church is sunk into a very low spot, yet the Lord has not left Himself without witness. He has still a people who fear His great name, and whom He will not allow to be overcome by the Antinomian spirit of the day; for He causes His fear to work too deeply in their souls for them to be overcome by it.
J. C. P.
February 3, 1860
My dear William Tiptaft—I am very glad that you have felt led to render us some assistance in our time of need; I have no doubt that the friends both here and at Oakham will be much pleased to see and hear you again. Mr. Keal was here last evening, and brought over your last letter. What you say in it about despair, I can well go along with. To be abandoned to it, and that at the last, is more dreadful than tongue can express or heart can conceive; but I believe all must have some taste of it, to make them in earnest about their souls, and to flee to Christ's blood and righteousness as that which alone can save. Presumption and despair are indeed two wide extremes, and yet they touch so closely that as Hart says of two other extremes—"There's scarce a hair's-breadth between." And I suppose there is no living soul who has not been tempted with both, and that not once or twice, but many, many times in his Christian course; nor can one hardly tell which is the more distasteful to his soul, for if he hates the false joy of presumption, he also dreads the deep feelings of despair. I am sure that it is good for the soul to be exercised in the things of God, and except being carried away by the power of sin, there is no worse state for the soul than to be at carnal ease.
But how impossible it is for us to produce any right or spiritual feeling! All is a sovereign gift, even to read the Word with a believing heart or any softened feeling, or to lift up the soul even for a few moments to the Lord in real earnest desire for His presence and power to be felt, and His blood and love to be made experimentally known. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is thought by many a very simple and easy thing, and so it is when the Lord moves by His Spirit and grace upon the heart; but to believe in spite of unbelief, infidelity, and the misgivings of a guilty conscience, is no such easy matter. . . .
What is there to be compared with a blessed manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ, to remove all guilty fears and to enable the soul to lie down in peace? I believe that the Lord, for the most part, will make His people thoroughly weary of this life before He takes them out of it. Sickness of body, trials in providence, afflictions in the family, and above all, the wearing conflict under a body of sin and death, with a blessed view of a glorious immortality, sooner or later will make them willing to depart and be with Christ, as far better than living in this vain world.
I hope the Lord may come with you.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
February 21, 1860
My dear friend, William Brown,
The Lord has hitherto appeared for you in opening doors for you to preach, and giving you acceptance among His people. This must very much relieve your mind, and convince you that you are not yet thrown over the wall, like a weed plucked out of the bed of a garden, which is perhaps one of the most painful feelings that a minister, as a minister, can well feel. Sussex is a highly favored county. It will be twenty-two years next July since I preached for good old Mr. Pitcher, and slept at his house. He told me some of his temptations and experience, and I believe we felt a mutual union which has never been dissolved. I much admired his simplicity and godly sincerity, and am glad to hear that he still continues to bear fruit in old age. How faithful the Lord is to His people, and how those who sow in tears are sure to reap in joy! Those who fear God and pass through many mental exercises, trials, and temptations, mainly in consequence of that fear being rooted deeply in their heart, shine all the brighter when the Sun of Righteousness arises upon them with healing in His wings; while those who seem so full of confidence, often concerning faith make awful shipwreck.
The sovereignty of God is as much displayed in the experience of His people as in their original choice. I see more and more that, not only will the Lord have those whom He will, but He will have them in His own way. My desire is to be wholly and solely His, for Him to make me what He would have me to be, and work in me by His Holy Spirit everything which is pleasing in His sight. At present I do not seem much to improve in health; but what I chiefly feel is debility, and this, I think, will be the case until I can take more food and get into the open air.
What a world of sin, sorrow, and confusion this is! Satan, I see, is continually stirring up error and evil on every side. What need we have of grace every moment, and what poor, helpless creatures are we without it! I feel compelled to look more to the Lord than ever I did in my life, and to hang more and more all my hopes upon Him and Him only.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
March 21, 1860
Dear friend—You are no doubt expecting a line from me in reply to your last kind letter, wishing me to come over to B. some time in the summer, to obtain a collection for the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society. I am sorry however to say that I cannot make any engagement of the kind, for it has pleased the Lord to lay upon me His afflicting hand, and to lay me aside from the work of the ministry. It has been a hot and trying furnace, but I hope I have reaped some good from it. The Lord has favored me with a spirit of grace and supplication at times to seek His face, and my heart has been much drawn up to the Lord of life and glory. I never had a greater insight into the nature and necessity of a spiritual religion, nor ever saw more of the emptiness of the general profession of the day. I have seen also much of the necessity, as well as of the blessedness, of walking much in the fear of God, and being kept from evil by His mighty power. My sorrow is that I have not walked more in godly fear and kept more close to the Lord. Depend upon it, if a man be not blessed with godly fear in continual exercise, and is not kept by the mighty power of God, he will break out somewhere. A broken heart, a humble spirit, with contrition and godly sorrow for sin, and a living faith in Christ, is worth all the mere head-notions in the world.
I am glad to find that my attempts to point out error and to set forth truth, by the pen as well as by the word of mouth, are approved of by the churches; and I hope that the Lord may give me that wisdom from above in opening up that most blessed, yet mysterious subject, the eternal Sonship of Christ, which may enable me to write in such a way as may establish it more and more firmly in the hearts of his saints; for depend upon it, it is a doctrine according to godliness, and contains in it one of the most momentous truths of our most holy faith.
Wishing you and the friends the enjoyment of every needful blessing, I am,
Yours very sincerely,
J. C. P.
April 10, 1860
My dear friend, John Grace—I received your parcel quite safely, and much prize Miss V.'s kind present. Have the kindness, when you see her, to present her with my Christian regards and thanks. I have no doubt I shall find it very useful as a book of reference, and a good companion to his invaluable commentary. The advantage of such books is that they lead us to the Scriptures, the fountain-head of all truth, and pack together in a small compass the chief outlines on almost all subjects of divinity. I use such books, not as masters, but as servants; not as teachers, but as pointing out the road where I may get the true teaching; not as guides, but as direction posts.
It is a mercy to be taught of God the truth for ourselves, so as to know it by an inward testimony, and thus be able to exercise a spiritual judgment in the things of God (1 Cor. 2:9-12, 14-16; Heb. 5:14). For lack of this divine teaching, many men take up with the authority of some great writer, and without the least power to exercise any judgment of their own, become his disciples. This is the great danger of using commentators, or indeed adopting any one author as our guide. I love to read the Word of truth by and for itself, and to have it opened up to my heart and conscience with a divine power. Then it does me good, becomes my own, and its effects are gracious, spiritual, and experimental. But if I read the Scriptures only in the light of Dr. Gill or Mr. Huntington, I merely get my teaching at secondhand, which will neither benefit me, nor anyone through me. I believe that, if the Lord has a work for a man to do, either by tongue or pen, He will give him, not only a sufficiency of grace, but an original gift to set forth the truth; and by this, among other marks, the servants of God are distinguished from mere apes and imitators. God Himself asks Moses—"Who has made man's mouth?" And surely if the Lord sends a man on His errands, He will put a word into his mouth. It was so with the ancient prophets, whom the Lord always furnished with a word to speak to the people; and where this is not, we may doubt if the Lord has sent a man to preach in His name. Not but what I think that a gracious gift may be improved by exercise. The apostle bids Timothy, "not to neglect the gift that was in him, but to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine", or as the word should be rendered, "teaching." Yes, he bids him, "Give himself wholly to these things, that his profiting may appear to all".
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
June 26, 1860
My dear Mr. Tips—I am glad that the Lord was pleased to give you and your friend a favorable voyage home, and that you found your dear wife and family in the enjoyment of that greatest of all temporal mercies. It gives me pleasure also to learn from your friendly and affectionate letter, that you bear in remembrance the days which you spent at my house. There is no bond like a spiritual union, for that endures when all others sink and die. All natural ties must end with this life, but spiritual ties are forever. Before your visit here, you only knew me by having read my sermons; but now you have seen me, conversed with me on the things of God, and have heard me preach the word of life. You will now read the sermons with more interest, and seem to hear me preach them. The sermon which you heard me preach in the morning is just published, and if I can, I will enclose it in this letter.
Through mercy, my health continues pretty much as it was when you were here; and I hope it may please the Lord to preserve it for my own sake and that of others. I am going tomorrow, if the Lord wills, from home for six weeks, half of which I am to be in London, and the other half in Wiltshire, one of our southern counties where there are a good number of the Lord's dear family. The work of the ministry is a great work to be engaged in, and none can be fit for it except the Lord is pleased to make him fit. "It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." "Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God who gives the increase." The blessed Lord has said, "Without Me you can do nothing"; and this is what all His dear people are fully convinced of; for they find and feel that in them, that is in their flesh, dwells no good thing; for to will is present with them, but how to perform that which is good, they find not.
Yours in the Gospel,
J. C. P.
July 27, 1860
My dear friend, Mrs. Pinnell—I much regret that I shall not be able this time to accept your kind invitation to come to Westwell, as I must reach home by August 10th. I would otherwise have had much pleasure in once more visiting you all, and renewing our friendship and spiritual communion. The time of the year naturally reminds you of that solemn scene which I witnessed when poor John passed away from this valley of sickness and sorrow, to be at rest on that happy shore where sin no more defiles, and pain of body or mind are alike unknown. Viewing the peculiar severity of the past winter and spring, his poor dear father's long and trying illness, the incurable nature of John's disease, and the sweet hope you entertain of his eternal salvation, could you have wished him a longer stay here below? And as to the manner of his death, though solemn to the spectators, it was not painful to him, and was much more speedy, as well as easy, than a more lingering mode of departure. When faith can look through and beyond the dark cloud of sight and sense, it sees mercy and goodness in those things wherein the unbelieving heart does but murmur and rebel. But whose voice should we listen to? That of sense and nature, which always disbelieves and opposes the way, word, and will of God; or that of faith and grace, which believes, and submits, and speaks well of the Lord and His dealings?
With many trials, you and dear Mr. Pinnell have had many mercies. In fact, your very trials have been among your mercies, and if not, the very chief of them, have made a way for the choicest to be made manifest. "The Lord tries the righteous." Their trials are as much appointed them, as that righteousness in which they stand, and whereby they are justified. And if the Lord Himself tries them, then the nature, season, duration, and all attending circumstances of all their trials, are determined for them, selected by infinite wisdom, decreed by unalterable purpose, guided by eternal love, and brought to pass by almighty power. To believe less than this is secret infidelity, and will always issue in murmuring, rebellion, self-righteousness, and self-pity. But with faith (at least when in exercise), there will be submission and resignation to the will of God, and clearing of Him, and so condemning ourselves.
Still, nature will feel and carnal reason will work, and then under their wretched influence, there will be a going over the same useless and miserable ground. "Why this, why that? Why was dear John not spared as a prop to the family? Why cut down like a flower, when other young men are going about in full health and strength?" So reasons, so murmurs nature, and then comes self-pity and that worldly sorrow which works death. May you and dear Mr. Pinnell be graciously delivered from all such subtle attempts of the flesh to wrest the scepter of sovereignty from the grasp of Jehovah, and to say to Him when He exercises it contrary to our fleshly will, "What are You doing?"
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
August 31, 1860
My dear friend, John Grace—I am much obliged to Mr. — for his kind message. I have always held him in honor for his steadfast maintenance of sound doctrine. If we view religion as a body, may we not say that the doctrines of the Gospel are the bones, experience the flesh, and the blessed Spirit the life of both bones and flesh? The doctrines of the Gospel support all sound experience but at the same time are so clothed with it, that they are not visible except through the medium of the flesh. But in the body, the flesh could not stand without the support of the bones. So in religion, what would experience be unless supported by sound doctrine? But again, take the flesh from the bones and you have nothing but a dry skeleton. So take the experience of the truth from the doctrines of truth, and you have nothing but what Mr. Hart calls, "dry doctrine." Again, without the blessed Spirit, what is either doctrine or experience, but a lifeless lump? The dead Calvinists have the bones without the flesh; the Arminians have the flesh without the bones; the daily experimentalists, for such there are, and such there were even under Mr. Huntington, have bones and flesh without life. But the living family of God have bones and flesh and life, for they have truth in doctrine, truth in experience, and truth in life and power; and thus religion with them is a living body. Of course I use it merely as a figure, and figures are necessarily imperfect; and as I have dictated just what has occurred to my mind, it may not be able to bear the test of rigid examination. Therefore receive it as I send it, and if you do not accept the figure, I believe you will accept what I mean to represent by it.
One effect of this late controversy has been to show me the necessity of bringing forward into prominent view the grand leading truths of our most holy faith. I have been very surprised, I will not say at the ignorance of private Christians, but even of some who are accepted as servants of God, upon that great leading point of vital truth, the real Sonship of our adorable Lord. Some have said they had never heard of the doctrine before, and others have expressed their regret that I should trouble, as they call it, the church with it, and have called it my hobby. Is not such ignorance greatly astounding, when the true and proper Sonship of the blessed Redeemer, through the whole of the New Testament, illuminating its pages with a sacred light, forms not only the fundamental article of a believer's faith, but occupies nearly the whole of John's blessed Epistle?
I very much like your remark, that anything that sets forth clearly the eternal Sonship of our blessed Lord, creates a glow of love to His glorious Person. It is precisely what I have felt myself in reading such works written by men of God as set it forth. I think you have Dr. Hawker's works. If you possess Palmer's edition of them in ten volumes, published in 1831, you will find at the end of Vol. 3 a blessed work of the good old Doctor entitled—The Personal Testimony of God the Father to the Person, Godhead, and Sonship of God the Son. I think it is one of the best works that ever fell from the Doctor's pen, and must convince anybody who is willing to be convinced, what his views were on that important point. Mr. —, in the Earthen Vessel for August, has made mention of this work, and quoted a number of passages from it which must fall, one would think, with crushing weight upon those who would deny that the Doctor held the truth of Christ's real Sonship.
There is one feature in the eternal Sonship of our blessed Lord, to which I think due prominence has hardly been given, that is, that without it you may have a Trinity, but not a unity in that Trinity. It is most true that we cannot comprehend the mystery of the subsistence of three Persons in one Godhead, but yet we see that the unity of Deity requires a mutual and eternal relationship between them, or else they would be three distinct Gods. We can see by faith, and I believe we have both felt far more than we could ever express, in seeing the blessed relationship which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to each other, from this mutual intercommunion in the one undivided Essence.
There is a most unspeakable blessedness in beholding by faith the Father as the eternal Father, the Son as the eternal Son, and the Spirit as the eternal Spirit. This mutual relationship must be eternal, and independent of any acting of the Persons in the Godhead out of themselves toward man; and must therefore exist independent of any foreview or fore-ordination of the Son of God as Mediator. To my mind then, to make the eternal relationship of the three Persons in the sacred Godhead dependent upon any covenant act of grace is, if I may use the expression, to break up the most blessed Trinity; for it destroys the eternal relationship which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to each other prior to, and independent of, any purposes of grace to man. According to their view, our blessed Lord would never have been the Son of God if man had neither birth nor being. What was He then in those eternal ages before man was formed out of the dust of the earth? Was He not then the Son of the Father in truth and love? How derogatory to the Son of God and to the Father, to deny that eternal and most blessed relationship which exists between them from all eternity, and to make the very name and nature of Son depend upon the actings of that grace which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit felt, as distinct from their mutual love and eternal intercommunion. But I forget that I am writing a letter and not a book, so please excuse the length of my thoughts on this most blessed subject.
I am now writing a very long letter to a Scotch minister upon the subject of the Law NOT being a rule of life to a believer. I did not wish to have any controversy on the subject, and kept silence as long as I possibly could, but he has plied me with letter after letter until I have been obliged at last to give him an answer. I shall keep a copy of it, and may perhaps put it in the Standard. Both Mr. Huntington and Mr. Gadsby have written most fully, clearly, and blessedly on the subject, but their works are not accessible to all who love the truth; and sometimes a short syllabus is useful to those who desire to have a Scriptural and experimental summary of the truth in a short and readable form. This was the reason why our Reformers in their time, drew up many Catechisms, that the people might be instructed in the truth in a simple compendious way. Great ignorance prevails among our people in many places, for very few ministers are now able to set forth the truth with clearness, and thus, like children, they are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
September 5, 1860
My dear friend, Joseph Tanner—You will not expect me to write you a long letter, but will be waiting to learn whether I object to preaching in the Temperance Hall, instead of your little chapel. As a rule I generally feel more comfortable when I speak to the people in their usual place of worship, as a strange place and a mixed congregation often seem to rob me of that life and liberty which I like to feel in the best of all services; but for two reasons I would prefer speaking in the Temperance Hall—(1) On the ground of its accommodating more people; and (2) as giving better ventilation; for small chapels, especially in the evening, when lighted with gas and crowded with people, much try my weak chest. I think therefore that, upon the whole, if the Temperance Hall be not too large or too hard to speak in, I would prefer preaching there.
My sincere desire is, that the blessed Lord may come with me, and anoint both my heart and lips with the unction of His grace. What we all need so much, is that anointing of which John speaks as teaching of all things; for I am very sure, without this blessed unction of the Holy Spirit, we are and have, know and feel nothing in the true sense of the word. There is a power in divine realities, when experimentally felt, beyond all description, and if we know anything of this in our own souls, all but it seems light indeed. A man may have much knowledge, great acquaintance with the Scriptures, and a sound creed as regards the letter of truth, and yet be utterly destitute of that kingdom of God which is not in word but in power. It is for this power in their own souls, and as resting upon their ministry, that the servants of God should especially strive with the God of all grace.
I am very sure, whatever people may think of me, that in myself I am nothing but sin, and filth, and folly. But I hope the Lord has given me, in His sovereign grace, a knowledge of and a love unto His blessed truth; and my desire is to live and die in the sweet enjoyment of it, to proclaim and defend it as far as I am enabled by tongue and pen, to live under its liberating, sanctifying influence in my own soul, and never say or do anything which may cause it to be evil spoken of. That is a most blessed promise—"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".
Yours in the hope of the Gospel,
J. C. P.
September 26, 1860
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—I need not tell you what a trial and exercise of mind this affliction has given me, and how sorry I have been to be obliged to disappoint the people at Bath and Leicester. . . . It would be a very gladdening sight to see men raised up by the power and grace of God, able to preach the Gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. But the Lord knows best. He will carry on His own work in His own way, for His footsteps are in the deep waters; He will work, and none shall hinder it. I must be content if I can submit to be laid aside, at least for a time, for I do not see much prospect of being able to resume the ministry for the present. The Lord knows best how to deal with me, and what to do by me. My earnest desire is, that it may be for my soul's lasting profit, and for His own glory. The Lord will take care that no man shall glory in the flesh. It is very easy to say, as thousands do, "Yours is the power, and the kingdom, and the glory"; but how few there are who can submit that God should have what they tell Him belongs unto Him. He will however make all His people see that to Him belongs all power, by stripping them of all their own strength; that His is the kingdom, and that He will give it to whomsoever He will, and that His is the glory which He will not share with another.
But when the Lord is carrying into execution His secret counsels, they are so contrary to the will of the flesh, and so opposed to our thoughts and ways, that we can hardly see His hand in them. Our flesh murmurs and rebels under the heavy strokes. It wants ease, indulgence, and self-gratification—not to be mortified and crucified. If we were wholly left to ourselves, we would choose greedily and eagerly the way of destruction. It is a mercy then, that the Lord does not leave us wholly to ourselves, but brings down the heart with labor, so that we fall down and there is none to help.
People may talk about crying and praying to the Lord, but to be made to cry and pray really and truly, out of a believing heart, is one of the most trying spots into which the Lord can bring a soul that He has made honest before Him. It is not a little thing that will make us truly pray and cry to the Lord; and often when we do so, the Lord seems deaf to the voice of our supplications, and we can get no manifest answer to our petitions. We often have to keep praying and crying on, without any testimony that the Lord hears. This is very discouraging, and seems at times as if it would, if not stop, at least dampen all the prayer of the soul. But it will be our mercy if we still call upon His name and seek His face, and a greater mercy still, yes the greatest of all mercies, if He bows down His ear and gives a manifest answer. You and I have been at this work, at various times, for a good many years, and I hope we may prove that praying breath is not lost breath.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
September 28, 1860
My dear William Tiptaft—I have reason to hope that my illness last winter was blessed to me, and to others through me; for I certainly had more life and feeling in my soul, and I believe in my ministry, as the fruit of it.
But though we prize spiritual blessings above all others, yet our coward flesh shrinks from the trial of affliction through which the blessing comes. God however has joined them together, and they cannot be separated. I believe I can say, I never had a single spiritual blessing which did not come either in or through affliction or trial; and I also know that we are not fit for spiritual blessings, except by being made so through the furnace. There seems to be no real earnest cry, or longing desire for a blessing from the Lord Himself, except we are humbled and brought down into some pressing necessity. I have always found that this has been the spot where the most sincere and earnest cries and prayers are made to the Lord, and where the Lord Jesus Christ is made precious to the soul. These afflictions and trials strip, as it were, the world and worldly things off our backs, as well as all our own wisdom, and strength, and righteousness; and this makes us long for spiritual blessings, such as to be taught of the Lord Himself, to have His strength made perfect in our weakness, to be washed from all our sins in His atoning blood, and to be clothed with His glorious and perfect righteousness. And these prayers and desires are not mere words or formal expressions, but the real breathings and earnest desires of a soul which stands feelingly in need of them all. I know this has been my experience since I have been under my present affliction; and therefore I do not speak of things at a distance, but near at hand. Hezekiah, on his bed of sickness, could say—"By these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit."
I could wish, if it had been the Lord's will, to have spoken at Bath, Trowbridge, and Leicester, of some of those divine realities which I trust I have seen and known for myself. But it was not to be so; and it becomes me, if the Lord enables, to submit. I am sure I fully deserve to be entirely cast out of His hand, and never again to be made use of, either by tongue or pen; so that if I were to look to myself, I would not have far or long to search for the cause of my being laid aside, for I am sure I deserve nothing but the Lord's anger and displeasure, and that for evermore. Whatever ground others may stand upon, there is one on which I can never stand, no, not for a single moment—and that is my own righteousness. And if we are to have some standing-ground—or how else can we stand for time or eternity?—what rock can there be for our feet, but that which God laid in Zion? Being driven from every other standing-place by the law of God, the convictions of our own conscience, and a view of our dreadful sinful heart, we feel compelled to show to others, when called upon to do so, the peril of standing upon such a sandy foundation as SELF; and having seen and felt something of the blessedness and suitability of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can hold Him up to others as a sure foundation, if the Lord be pleased to reveal it to their hearts.
We had a very good congregation at Abingdon on the Tuesday evening. I felt in a solemn frame of mind, and I hope we had something of the power and presence of the Lord. I think I never knew the Abingdon congregation to listen with so much stillness and attention as on that evening. On the Lord's day there is usually a good deal of crowding, and this sometimes takes off from the attention; but this year was the quietest and least excited congregation that I have known for several years. The Temperance Hall was well filled. It was thought about or over four hundred people, and I understand, if it had not been for a tea meeting among the Independents, we would have been overflowed. I hope I felt some life and liberty in speaking. It is one of the nicest places to speak in (not a chapel) that I was ever in. There is no ceiling, but it is open to the roof, very much like the college halls at the university, which makes it very airy and pleasant, without draught. There is no pulpit, but a raised platform, like that at Birmingham, and a kind of sounding-board behind, which throws the voice well out, so that there is no need of exertion.
I hope the Lord will be with you and the people at Stamford next Lord's day.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.
October 1, 1860
My dear friend, John Grace,
Trials, sufferings, afflictions, vexations, and disappointments are our appointed lot; and though grievous to the flesh, yet when they are sanctified to the soul's good, are made to be some of our choicest blessings. But when we are in the furnace, we rarely see what benefit it is producing, or what profit is likely to arise to ourselves or to others out of it. Our coward flesh shrinks from the cross, and until submission and resignation are wrought in us by a divine power, and the peaceable fruits of the Spirit begin to show themselves, we cannot bless the Lord for the trial and affliction. It is true that our trials vary as much as our outward circumstances or inward feelings, and each perhaps thinks his own trial the heaviest. But no doubt infinite wisdom appoints to each vessel of mercy, those peculiar trials in nature or degree which are required to work out God's hidden purposes. "What I do", said the Lord to Peter, "you know not now, but you shall know hereafter"; and thus time and larger measures of light and grace may show us the reason, as well as the needs-be, of many afflictive circumstances which, when we were passing through them, were to us an insoluble enigma. No, as out of the bosom of the darkest cloud the most vivid flash of lightning usually shines forth, so out of our darkest hours the brightest light sometimes gleams forth.
Those especially who stand up in the Lord's name, if they are to preach with any profit to the tried and exercised family of God, must themselves be well acquainted with the path of tribulation; for how else can they go before the people, or cast up the King's highway, or take up the stumbling stones? Levity, carelessness, and indifference, with a general hardness and deadness in the things of God, soon creep over the mind, unless it be well weighted with trials and afflictions; and when this spirit prevails in a man's mind, it will manifest itself in his ministry, to the deadening of all life and power in the preaching of the Word. In this way we become surrounded with a host of men whose judgments are informed in the letter of truth, but who know little or nothing of its life and power. Not that trials and afflictions have in themselves any power to produce spiritual life and feeling, as they rather work rebellion and death; but the gracious Lord condescends to work in and by them, and to communicate of His grace to the soul that lies at His feet, burdened and exercised.
What a mercy it is to have any divine life in the soul, any grace, or any marks of grace; to be made to see and feel the emptiness of the world, the sinfulness of sin, the evils of the heart, and above all, to see and feel the preciousness of Christ in His bleeding, dying love! There is a reality in the kingdom of God as set up in the heart; and there is a suitability and a preciousness in the Lord Jesus Christ which may be felt, but can never be adequately described. The Lord knows how to support the soul in trials and afflictions; how to draw forth faith, hope, and love upon His most gracious and glorious self, and to give us eventual victory over every foe.
I am, yours affectionately,
J. C. P.
October 23, 1860
"Love is of God, and he who loves is born of God"; nor is there any sweeter feeling in a Christian's bosom than to love the Lord and the Lord's people, because they belong to Him, and because he sees the mind and image of Christ in them.
The Lord knows that I have many bitter enemies, therefore He has given me, by way of recompense, many warm and attached friends; and it is the desire of my heart, that I may never be left to give a feast to the former, or to grieve or distress the latter. I look upon it as one of the Lord's rich mercies, that He has put it into my heart, and given me power to send forth such testimonies for His truth, as have been, and still are, owned and blessed to the souls of His people. I can hardly explain myself the peculiar influence under which I was led to send forth those two sermons, 'The Heir of Heaven' and 'Winter before Harvest'; but I certainly was much helped at the time, both in preaching them, and afterwards writing them; and I have had remarkable testimonies how they have been blessed, and especially the latter, to the calling, delivering, and comforting of the Lord's people.
When we are passing through painful trials, and especially severe and distressing temptations, do we not see what the Lord is effecting thereby; how He is killing us to self-righteousness, stripping us out of an empty profession, and convincing us that nothing but His own divine work in our souls is of any value. I see so many resting upon the shallowest evidences, having apparently no doubt of their interest in the blessed Lord, when, could you see into the ground of their hope, it would be of the feeblest possible character, if indeed it were a good hope at all. The faith of most is but a 'doctrinal faith'—a faith merely in the letter of truth, without being wrought in their souls by the power of God. As this faith of theirs is never tried by law or conscience, by sin or Satan, by trial or temptation, and as God Himself does not try it, it appears in their eyes sound and good; and it is to be feared that hundreds go out of the world with no better faith than this, who are considered to have died in the Lord. Now we know by experience what this faith is. It has been weighed in the balance and found lacking, and this has made us look out for a better kind of faith—a faith that we feel convinced must be the gift and work of God.
Now if you look through all the way along which the Lord has led you these many years, you will find that you never got any real blessing but through trial and temptation; that your afflictions have been your best friends; that out of your darkness came your light; out of your death came your life; out of your distress came your joy; and out of your bondage came your deliverance.
Where we err is, that we want to be something, when we are nothing. We want in some way to recommend ourselves to God, and do or be something that we can be pleased with, and which we think will therefore please Him. It is very hard to learn the depth of our spiritual poverty, the greatness of our sin, and our thoroughly lost, ruined, and helpless condition. We believe in our judgments that salvation is all of rich, free, and sovereign grace, and may to a certain extent have felt, tasted, and enjoyed its blessed freeness. But when we get, so to speak, out of our depth in temptation, exercise, and trouble, when sin and guilt press hard upon our consciences, and we have a view by faith of the purity, greatness, majesty, and holiness of that great and glorious God with whom we have to do, and all our sins come trooping into view, with all the horrid evils of our dreadful hearts, then we lose sight of the freeness and fullness of divine grace, and it seems almost impossible that such a one can be saved. It is something like a little boy learning to swim. He can swim pretty well, after a time, where the water is shallow; but when he gets out of his depth, he loses all courage, and it seems as if he must be drowned; and indeed he would, unless he were plucked out by the very hair of his head.
Many think they are great Christians who have scarcely learned the A B C's of religion; believe they know much of the Lord, when they have scarcely seen the skirt of His garment; have a high opinion of their faith, when it would go down in the first real storm. As then we are taught these things in our own souls, we can see more clearly, not only where we ourselves are, but see also more plainly where others are. And while this separates us more completely from letter-men and letter-professors, it gives us a sweet and blessed union with the Lord's family, who are tried and exercised, and know things by divine teaching. When we begin, in the fullness of our heart and in the simplicity of our minds, to speak of these things, we find immediately that the greatest offence is given thereby to professors whom we cannot but condemn. They begin to hate us with cruel hatred; and the more our soul is sick with their mere notional religion, and craves for the inward teaching and testimony, the more bitter they are. We wonder at first what offence we have given; but the offence is, that we have taken away their gods, and what have they more?
May the Lord keep you very near to Himself, with much of His precious fear in your heart, and blessed fellowship with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,
Yours affectionately for the truth's sake,
J. C. P.
November 14, 1860
My dear friend, Joseph Tanner—I hope that by this time both you and your dear wife are in some measure reconciled to the departure of your dear son to a foreign shore, and are enabled in some measure to see the Lord's hand in it. Time has a wonderful effect in healing grief and soothing sorrow, at least where that sorrow does not arise from sin and guilt; for that is a wound which time can never heal.
You will be glad to hear that, through mercy, I am better than when I left you, and have been enabled to preach on the last two Lord's days. I still continue however weak and tender, and have my fears whether I shall be able to continue preaching throughout the winter. How various are the trials and afflictions of those who desire to fear God, and walk in His ways. But though they may differ in nature and degree, yet they are, for the most part, as much as they can well bear. The Lord indeed is very gracious in not laying upon them more than they can bear; but He will give them all enough to find and feel that this world is full of sin and sorrow; that their own hearts are full of evil; and that nothing but the pure, rich, free, superabounding grace of God can save or bless their souls.
It seems as if we needed day by day to be taught over and over again our own sinfulness, weakness, and helplessness, and that none but the blessed Lord can do us any real good. Religion is not like any art or science which, when once learned, is learned forever; but is a thing which we are ever forgetting, and ever learning over and over again. Nor can we make any use of our knowledge, experience, or faith. It is like a well that is of no use unless water is drawn out of it by the hand of another. We may have a certain knowledge, both of ourselves and the Lord Jesus, and have had raised up from time to time a living faith in Him; but we cannot make any use of our knowledge or our faith, at least so as to do us any sensible good.
The clay cannot mold itself into a vessel; it requires a potter's wheel and a potter's hand. So we are but the clay, and God must be our Potter; for we only are what is pleasing in His sight, as we are the work of His hand. It is a great lesson, and yet a painful one, to be made nothing; to feel one's self weaker than the weakest, and viler than the vilest; to be a pauper living upon daily alms, and to be made often to beg, and yet sensibly to get nothing.
People think sometimes how highly favored ministers are; they view them almost as if they were angels, and were possessed of a faith far beyond the generality of God's people. But if they could see them as they see and feel themselves, they would find that they were men of like passions with themselves, and often in their feelings sunk down lower than many of their hearers; more tried and exercised, more assailed with temptation, and but for God's grace, more prone to fall. In fact, it must be so. It is necessary that those who stand up to preach to the hearts of others, should have a deep acquaintance with their own; that those who have to preach trials and exercises, should be well acquainted with what they speak; and that those who set forth the Lord Jesus Christ, should know something experimentally of His beauty and blessedness, grace and glory. Unless ministers are well exercised in their own minds, they are pretty sure to drop into the spirit of the world, and to depart in their feelings from the life and power of vital godliness. We must be in a thing, that we may speak feelingly of it.
You can now tell what a father feels when a son leaves his house for a foreign land; and those who have to pass through a similar experience will at once know that you were in it. So therefore, unless a minister be feelingly in the things of God by a daily experience, he cannot speak of them with any life, power, or freshness. The life of God must be kept up in his soul, or he cannot be a 'bosom of consolation' to the family of God. Now this sometimes makes us very rebellious, that we should have to go through so many trials and temptations, to be able to speak a word in season to others. We naturally love a smooth and easy path, and would almost sooner forego the blessing, than get it in God's way. But He gives us no choice in the matter; for He leads the blind by a way that they know not.
Your affectionate friend,
J. C. P.
November 21, 1860
My dear Mr. Tyrrell—I am obliged to you for your kind letter, and your liberal offer to take twenty copies of a sermon from Isaiah 17:10, 11, if I could bring it out in a similar way to Winter before Harvest. My time is so much occupied with The Gospel Standard, and a little work which I hope soon to bring out upon The Eternal Sonship of our Blessed Lord, that I almost fear whether I would be able to comply with your request. But as my sermons are frequently taken down here by a very excellent reporter, and published once a month, I may, with God's blessing, be perhaps enabled to preach again from the same text at my chapel here, when it could be taken down. But though I may take the text, I am utterly powerless to preach from it, except so far as the Lord is pleased to give me thoughts and words, and to communicate a divine influence to my heart and mouth. Before I preached from that text in London, I had spoken from it last year at Oakham; and I was particularly favored on that occasion, so that I think I spoke from it with more power and enlargement of heart and mouth than I did this year at Gower Street.
It is surprising, as all experimental ministers know, what a difference there is between the same man at different times; how sometimes he is so shut up that he has scarcely a thought in his heart, or a word on his tongue; and at others, has his soul filled with a sweet influence, which communicates a flow of spiritual ideas and suitable expressions, even to his own amazement. When I was in London I was very weak and poorly, and had, if I remember right, on that Lord's day a severe cold and cough. But the Lord was better to me than all my fears, and brought me through the day, and especially the evening, far beyond my expectation.
I do not usually care to have my sermons taken down, but there were two which I preached at Gower Street this year under a peculiar influence, one on the evening of Lord's day July 15th, from Acts 20:24, and the other on the last Tuesday evening, July 17th. Perhaps the congregation did not feel them as I did; but they were the two sermons that I would much liked to have had taken down, for I was very much favored in delivering them. What I said on those two occasions has quite passed from my mind, nor can I now recall them; but I would have been glad to leave them as my living and dying testimony to God's truth.
It seems to me that we live in a very awful day, when the shadows of evening are being fast stretched out, and the sun has well-near gone down upon the prophets. This awful error of denying the true and essential Sonship of our blessed Lord has taken a deep root in the minds of many doctrinal ministers and churches, and I fear has penetrated more into experimental churches than is generally thought to be the case. How then can we expect that the Lord should bless those who deny His only begotten Son? But no doubt there is a purpose to be accomplished in all this. It will make a wider and more decided separation between the letter ministers, and those who know the truth by sweet experience; and as the latter are enabled more clearly and more experimentally to hold up the blessed Son of God as the object of the church's faith and hope, those who know and love His name will cleave with more affection to the men of truth, and be separated more widely from the men of error. All this brings down great hostility upon the head of those who contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints—and I have had a large measure of it; but what is this compared with the testimony of a good conscience, and the conviction that one is laboring in the cause of God and truth?
I was pleased to hear the account that you gave of the good old woman who was blessed in reading Winter before Harvest. I have had many sweet testimonies of the Lord's having blessed that little work, both to the quickening of those dead in sin, and to the comfort and consolation of some in bondage and distress, through the guilt of sin and the power of temptation. Letter-men and presumptuous professors may fight against living experience, the reason being, for the most part, that it condemns them; but it will have a voice in the consciences of God's people; for it often meets their case, opens up mysteries which have often tried their minds, and casts a clear light upon the path in which the Lord is leading them.
May our desire be to know more of divine things by divine teaching; to see and feel more of our own weakness and helplessness; to have a stronger faith in the blessed Lord; and to have clearer and sweeter manifestations of His love, and blood, and grace. This will produce a separating influence from the world, will give more strength to fight against sin and Satan, and will eventually bring the soul off more than conqueror, through Him who has loved it with an everlasting love.
Yours in the best bonds,
J. C. P.
December 3, 1860
My dear friend, Joseph Parry—You will probably have seen by The Gospel Standard that I have been in some measure restored from my late illness; but it is a great trial to me, and no doubt to the people also, that I should be so weak and tender; for it makes my preaching so uncertain, and has such a tendency to scatter the congregation. Were I in the full enjoyment of health and strength, and above all, were the Lord to favor me with His presence and blessing, I would not lack a congregation either here or at Oakham; and indeed I might say, if I were favored with the strength of body enjoyed by so many ministers, I would, as far as I can judge, find hearers in other places. But no doubt there are wise reasons why I should not be thus made use of; for we know, however dark and mysterious things may appear to our mind, the Lord cannot err in His dealings with His children. It is my earnest desire that my long affliction may be deeply blessed, not only to my own soul, but for the good also of others; and that will throw a blessed light upon the whole path from beginning to end.
You may depend upon it, that in my solitude—for I spend most of my time alone—many thoughts pass through my mind, with many exercises on various things. I have thought sometimes that there are few temptations, and especially inward temptations, that I have not experienced and been exercised by; and I have felt and found in them that none but the Lord Himself can deliver me out of them, or overrule them for my spiritual good. When we are passing through various temptations, we cannot well speak of them; but when we are in some good measure delivered from them, then we can trace them out and speak of them as things painfully known. I am well convinced that no man knows anything to any real profit, except what he is taught in his own soul. All true religion must be gotten from the Lord, and that only will stand which He Himself has wrought with a divine power in the heart. This, I trust, was shown me many years ago, and impressed upon my heart, so that I have never been able to take up for myself or preach to others, any religion but that which comes down from above, from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
And I believe also that true saving religion must be got in the furnace, and for the most part through trials, temptations, and afflictions. At any rate, I am sure that such a religion not only shines brightest, but wears best, and lasts longest. Nor indeed have I any union or communion with any other religion, though I could only wish I had more of it in my own soul.
I am sorry to hear so sad an account of poor Mrs. T. I do hope that the Lord may appear for her, and bless her with some manifestation of His pardoning love. It is a mercy that she is delivered from trusting in her own righteousness, and is enabled, however dimly, to look to the atoning blood, finished work, and glorious righteousness of the blessed Lord. I have often thought what sweet and blessed words those were which dropped from His sacred lips when upon earth, which I need not quote at length, for you will find them in John 3:14-16.
It is not our knowledge, or wisdom, or gifts, or abilities, or usefulness, or anything of the kind that can save us, but looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and being blessed with a living faith in Him. Many a poor creature who has scarcely been able to say anything during life, and been seemingly outshone by great professors of religion, has received that into his soul, dropped into his heart as it were from the mouth of God, which has saved him with an everlasting salvation; while the other has sunk into eternity without hope. So I would encourage every poor, tried, tempted soul still to look, and still to long, still to seek, and still to knock until the Lord appears; for it is in this way that deliverance is obtained, Christ revealed, mercy manifested, and pardon sealed upon the heart.
Oh that I could be, both as a Christian and as a minister, what I see and feel a Christian should be; for I feel to come sadly short of even my own standard of one or the other! There is a general complaint of the low state of things in the church of God. But if ever there be a revival out of it, I am well convinced through what means, as an instrument, that revival must come. It must be through a pouring out of the blessed Spirit upon the ministers. It was so on the day of Pentecost; for the disciples were bidden to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high; and we find that it was through this power being then given them, that God wrought in the hearts of His people.
I was glad to hear that poor old Sarah Giddings is so favored. She is another testimony that your prayer under the apple tree was accepted. Surely we can both look back to my coming to Allington as a marked event in our lives, for we have known both the dead and the living to have testified that the blessing of God rested upon my testimony in the little chapel. It is not a little temporary excitement, or what is called hearing well, that proves a ministry to be owned of God; but that it abides in the heart, stretches through life, and reaches down to the very swellings of Jordan. I hope I can say, to the praise, honor, and glory of God, that some of those who have been blessed, either in hearing my voice or in reading my sermons, have borne upon a dying bed their testimony that God had blessed the word to their souls.
I am sure I feel in myself one of the most unworthy of all men, that the Lord should condescend to speak in, by, and through me to the hearts of His people; but I know that He will send by whom He will send, that He chooses His own instruments, works in His own way, and does His own will. Oh that He would bless and favor my soul with His manifested presence, keep me in His fear all the day long, sanctify to me all my trials and afflictions, bless me in life, be with me in death, and land me safe in a happy eternity!
I hope that those who follow you may never sell the truth out of the chapel, and that they would rather convert it into cottages than let error come within the doors.
My daughter is still at Leicester. I miss her, as I find her very useful as a secretary. I told her, when she accepted the office, that she would find it no easy task; and I believe she has proved my words to be true, though nothing can exceed her kindness and readiness to help me in my correspondence and occupation in carrying on the Standard. As a specimen of the work which she had to do, I dictated a letter to a Scotch minister, which filled six sheets of the largest-sized note paper. Several friends wish me to put it in The Gospel Standard, and I think I probably shall do so. It is on the subject of the law NOT being a believer's rule of life. Our friend William Tiptaft invited him to preach at Abingdon, and there he got into conversation with him and J. Kay upon the subject of the law; and the Scotchman was so shocked by the views which were expressed by our friends on the subject, that he fairly took flight and would not preach, though engaged to do so. He wrote in consequence to Tiptaft upon the subject, but could get no answer from him. So at last he wrote to me several long letters, begging most earnestly for answers. So I was compelled to take up the subject, though I could scarcely afford the time. And when I had written it, it struck me it might do for The Gospel Standard; as many children of God who are sound in the truth, though they cannot explain their own views, and can understand them when they are put forth by others; and as those friends who saw the letter wished me to put it into the Standard, it seemed to concur with my own feelings, and therefore I probably shall do so.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.