LETTERS OF WILLIAM TIPTAFT (1834 - 1837)
February 17th, 1834
My dear Brother,
Yesterday I preached here in the morning, at Wallingford in the afternoon and evening, and had a very favorable day in my own soul. Husband baptized four. One was an old woman about 80 years old. He baptized in the mill-dam near his old church. He was low in spirits because I was not there, but the arrangement was entirely through him.
I find my old nature cleaves to money very closely when I part with it. If I had lived in the apostles' days I would have found the sin of Ananias in my heart, if it had not prevailed. Selling all or selling a part is very different. But if the world sees that we are covetous, and will make no sacrifices, they will quickly say, "What do you more than others?"
Yours most affectionately,
P.S.—I expect Warburton here next week. We scarcely know what to do here about forming a church. I found it good for my soul in breaking bread yesterday. I believe God's children are desirous of fulfilling God's will in receiving the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him.
July 7th, 1834
My dear Brother,
Many thanks to you for your kind letter; and as I have very lately heard from friend Gadsby, I now write to say when you may expect him. It is his intention to be one night at Uppingham, I imagine from invitation; consequently, he purposes being at Leicester on Monday, August 18th, on Tuesday at Oakham. In answer to this letter, you will let me know whether the above arrangement is agreeable, as he requests that I will inform you, that you may let him know; but if you very soon tell me, I will inform him. He especially wishes me to be at Manchester the whole of September; therefore, if the Lord will, I will preach at Oakham the last Lord's day in August, if you prefer my coming then in preference to my returning from Manchester, in October, by Oakham. You will be pleased with Gadsby's company. He will be very encouraging, and he will make himself quite at home with you. You will convey him to Uppingham, and the Uppingham friends can take him to Stamford.
I hope you will not raise your expectations too high about Gadsby. You can receive no blessing through him without the Lord's special grace. I hope to hear that the Lord sends him among you for the revival of His work in the souls of the Lord's people.
Last Lord's day week I spoke to a large multitude assembled together to see Husband baptize four members, and upon the whole it was a favorable day. I was enabled to speak plainly on the occasion.
We still talk about baptizing and forming a church here, but there are so few that I can fully receive in heart, and I feel myself so unfit for a pastor. I have at present no lack of hearers and I think, at times, that the Lord is surely with us, but I am a very poor, ignorant instrument as a minister. I feel more deeply the burden of the work, and am ready to halt. I have so little grace and power, and at times I question whether I have any. I feel myself so vile, so sinful, so full of unbelief, and at times I can thank God I am not in hell. But the Lord encourages me, at times, both in my own soul and in the ministry; and then I think that the Lord has really a work for me to do, and that my preaching will not prove altogether in vain.
I have various invitations to preach. Last Wednesday evening I preached in a wagon. The place would not hold the people, and on next Lord's day I am to preach at Wallingford.
If I could be what I would be as a man and a preacher, I would be very different from what I am. I would be more on the mount, I would pray more, and love more, and bring forth more fruit; but when I would do good, evil is present with me. Sometimes I feel very thankful that I am not left to fall a prey to my lusts, and to the temptations of the devil. I am daily a debtor to sovereign grace. Many, I believe, are waiting for my halting. Through the grace of God, I trust their eyes will fail with waiting.
There is nothing worth living for in this vain world. Vanity is stamped upon all created good, and my desire is to die to the world, and to be alive unto God. Oh! that the Lord Jesus would manifest more of His love to us, that we might triumph in Christ, and that we might speak of His glory and talk of His power. We need continually quickening and helping. We need holding up in all our goings out and comings in.
You are in a conspicuous situation; you have come forward in the Lord's cause. May the Lord manifest His power in you. May you be much more concerned about the Lord blessing your souls in The Factory than about its alterations.
All dealings with the world are of a deadening nature; therefore, whatever unnecessarily brings us into contact with the world should be avoided. We acknowledge the truth of it, and wish it when we are in our right minds. "No man can serve two masters." That great truth is a continual cross to many. "O wretched man that I am!" says the great apostle; and so says every child of God who knows the plague of his own heart. We need stripes, scourges, rods, and afflictions, besides various other crosses to separate us from worldly things. Our souls so very much cleave to the dust.
I hope that the Lord is blessing the church in your house. Sometimes grace seems to work very slightly in your heart as you view each other, but it is according as God deals forth to each. A day of trial may come upon you to prove the work in you all, and to make it more manifest to each other. Grace uplifts the heart with its own gifts, yet when the Lord blesses, the soul rejoices and sings, and is ready to despise the weaklings in the mire and dirt. The soul is in its best state when most humbled. Lowliness of mind and contrition of spirit are the best evidences of the effects of grace wrought in the soul. The promises are nearly all for the humble, the lowly, the broken-hearted, the tempted, the tempest-tossed, the devil-harassed, the afflicted children of God; for the Lord will revive the humble and the contrite. He will give grace to the lowly, and feed the hungry with good things.
Real religion is in the heart. Every child of God has a judgment-seat set up in his heart, and he knows repentance is not the work of a day, but he is continually sinning and repenting, and knows that godly sorrow must come from God alone.
I shall be very glad to have a very long letter from you, giving me a full and particular account of the Lord's dealings with the people of God among you. Please to give my Christian love to them, not forgetting those in your own house. I have been chiefly at home with my own people since I was with you.
I hope you are very liberal to the poor children of God. Open your hand wide to your poor brother. You will be no poorer for giving a sovereign or a five-pound note now and then. You only lend it to the Lord; and you are not your own; therefore glorify God in body and in spirit, which are His.
Yours very sincerely and affectionately,
April 6th, 1835
My dear Brother,
I thank you for your kind letter, and, though I have little to communicate worth postage, I imagine that you may be expecting a letter from me in answer.
I am glad to find you tried and harassed in mind. If there were no law in your conscience, there would be no working up of all manner of evil desires; and if there be no humility, there will be no honor. So you must be abased in your own eyes, and know something of the vileness of your corrupt nature, or you would be slipping into some of the various pits of error, and would not be a witness against the presumptuous free-willers.
May the Lord break down your self-will and free-will, and make you a humble man; for if the dross be taken away from the silver, there comes forth a vessel for the refiner. It is a painful process to pass through the furnace; but the best religion is bought the dearest, and what we get cheap we do not much value.
I can scarcely tell you how I am getting on. Sometimes I get on tolerably well, and at other times I seem to be going backwards. Sometimes I seem to have marks of grace, and of my call to the ministry, and at other times I have none. There is one mark I am scarcely ever without, which is that the unbelievers continue to slander me.
When I was traveling from Stamford in February, a gentleman (whom I believe to be a clergyman) on the coach, who had been visiting at Stamford, began to tell me and the others on the coach a long story about 'Tiptaft'. He said he had been preaching at Oakham and in the neighborhood, and brought several charges against me, such as making merchandise of my hearers, in two or three chapels, and ruining other ministers by drawing away their hearers. I asked him for his authority. He said that he had heard it at Stamford, and that I had a sister married at Stamford to a gentleman of wealth and respectability, and that it was all true. I thought it was not honest and kind to allow him to proceed without telling him who I was. He then told me he had a friend who knew me when I was curate at Treborough, who had spoken to him in the highest terms of me, and that he could not but regret that one of such eminent qualities should secede from the Church of England. The conversation was rather interesting to our fellow-travelers. I told him that the charges against me were false; and, though it was often reported that I was making a gain of godliness, I was at present free from the guilt of it. He would probably have told me something that might have been profitable; but I was not ruffled by what he said, as they were old tales. He was very civil afterwards, and apologized. I gave him, when he left at Huntingdon, Rowland Hill's letter.
This and other reports prove to me that Satan is not idle. I trust that my preaching is not in vain, and that his kingdom is receiving some little damage by me. I feel it more and more a great mercy that I can boldly and conscientiously meet all the charges, and may the Lord in His goodness and mercy hold me up, and then I shall be safe. David says, "Let them curse me, but You bless me"; and poor Jeremiah said, "I have heard the many rumors about me. They call me "The Man Who Lives in Terror." And they say, "If you say anything, we will report it." Even my old friends are watching me, waiting for a fatal slip. "He will trap himself," they say, "and then we will get our revenge on him." Jeremiah 20:10
Friend Philpot is with me for a day or two. He has left the Church of England, and has resigned his fellowship. His reasons for resigning will be published in a few days. It is a faithful testimony. He could stay in it no longer.
Poor Mr. Kay is still with me. His way is still shut up. Philpot says that the more he sees of him the better he likes him.
I dare say you will be much tried about your own soul, and about making the chapel; you will think that both began in the flesh; doubts, fears, and anxieties will follow you, and you will think how much better you would get on in every way, if you had made no profession in religion. But you may as well have no religion as that which brings no cross. There is no such path ever mentioned in God's word which leads to glory. Sometimes you will think that you have a great many crosses, and at other times you will think that you have not sufficient to prove that you are really a son.
The Lord's people are led in paths they know not, and they frequently get where Job was when he said, "I am vile," and "I am full of confusion." You will never be sorry you have waded through much miry clay when you are delivered, and you will learn to put a right value upon religion; for if a man is taught of God, his heart will make him speak aright, and pray aright, and will add learning to his lips. He will, by such teaching, be led to discern between good and evil, and to know things that differ.
Whatever true religion a man gets, he must buy; and "he who believes shall not make haste." I seem to get comfort from these words, for I am sure I do not make haste. Hardness of heart, unbelief, uncleanness, pride, self-seeking, covetousness, indifference about the Lord's cause, backwardness to prayer and preaching, with various other evils, make me feel more fit for hell than this earth, and I am glad to get comfort from the thought that Paul had to make a complaint of such evils, when he says that the law worked in him all manner of evil desires. These evils and abominations do not satisfy my soul that I am right; but I do not envy those, however holy they may be, and however strong their faith is, if the corruptions of their own hearts have never been stirred up; you will find that the genteel Christians generally fall short in such knowledge. But God must be known by His people as a heart-searching and thought-trying God. I question nearly everybody's religion which stands in much joy, peace, and comfort, for faith must be tried. If they are even sincere in thinking that they are blessed with such strong faith, they are only deceived, for in the present day very few can justly say they believe they are pardoned. Most of the Lord's people that I meet with cannot get beyond, "I hope and I trust."
As regards myself, I must confess that my prayers are faint and few. Sometimes I am concerned about my soul, and at other times feel hardened. I find the ministry a great trial to me, as I feel myself so ignorant and unfit for the work. I am driven into corners, and often wonder where the scene will end. O that the Lord would pour down his Holy Spirit on me, and make me more useful, so that I might have a sweet testimony in my soul that he is truly with me! I can preach very little about Jesus Christ, as I know so little of Him—so little of the power of His grace in my own heart. It even seems a mercy of mercies that I continue making a profession of the Lord's blessed name unto this moment. I find the way that I am in, is all up hill; but that does not satisfy me that it is the right way. I do not lack outward marks, such as sneers and persecutions, but I lack internal marks—more and more of the Spirit's work upon my heart, more and more of a spirit of love both to Jesus and His people.
I hope the Lord is blessing you in your meetings. You must not judge altogether of the good done by outward appearances. It is a great blessing that you are not worshiping with the congregation of the dead. I hope that the Lord will keep you, and make you very liberal to the Lord's people. And may you and I be kept, in the midst of all the enemies of the gospel, who are watching for our halting, and would be so glad to say, "Ah, so would we have it."
Yours very sincerely and affectionately,
August 24th, 1835
My dear Brother,
Through mercy, I continue until this moment professing the name of the Lord Jesus; but not without difficulties, and trials, and temptations, and many fears whether I shall endure unto the end. Sometimes I think it will be well with me, and I shall endure unto the end. I meet with a share of the reproach and contempt cast upon the truth, and I believe God will ever bear testimony to, and defend the doctrines which I preach. But of late many violent opposers of the blessed truths have had the hand of God put forth against them in a conspicuous manner. I heard, last week, that a minister's wife, who heard me preach some time ago in Wilts, was extremely violent against me and the doctrines; and in three or four days after hearing me, while severely condemning me and the truth, she was actually struck dumb, and remains so to this time. "The hand of the Lord shall be known towards His servants, and His indignation towards His enemies." It is awful to see a person so very violent against the distinguishing doctrines of grace. I feel myself altogether unworthy to have the hand of the Lord known towards me; but may I ever justify Him in maintaining His own blessed gospel.
I am more and more convinced how little I know, and how unfit I am to preach; and the work of the ministry is a greater trial to me than ever it was. It seems to me, at times, to be almost presumption to stand up in the Lord's name, being so ignorant, knowing so little of myself, and less of God. Hardness of heart, unbelief, and a sense of various inward abominations constrain me to contend for a free-grace gospel, the difficulty of going to heaven, and inability of man in every respect. I cannot think well of Christians who have always had a smooth path. If they have never had the pot boil within so as to be sensible of the scum, they have never valued mercy and the restraining grace of God. I get shut up in such places that I can neither go backwards nor forwards, and my hope of entering heaven sinks into nothing. When in that state, I wish someone would tell me how to exercise faith, and to get a glimpse of hope from the past.
When people talk about their religion without trials, conflicts, and diverse and manifold temptations, I think it is theirs, not God's; for He will prove the religion that He gives to a poor sinner to be genuine. Look out for humbled, broken-down, devil-harassed, and heart-plagued sinners, and make much of them. Such will be low in a low place, and the eye of the Lord will be over them, and He will dwell with such. We are sure to meet with difficulties in the way to heaven, and we may question whether we are in the way without them. If the law works a little in a poor sinner's soul, he will not want ministers to preach any free-will in their sermons. You and I have abominations in our hearts that we are little aware of; and if we are not brought to feel and confess how bad we are, we shall never know how good God is to us.
You are sure to be tried about your chapel, if any good be done. Though health, strength, and wealth are all Christ's, you will grudge and murmur about spending much in His cause. When your unbelief shows itself, it will condemn you for your foolishness, for having anything to do with religion beyond a mere form to please the world. But when you are in your right mind you will feel thankful that you are counted worthy to be an instrument to promote the Lord's cause, even in the least degree.
You are not to expect great things in yourself or others without great trials, afflictions, and persecutions. You may bless God, if grace enables you, for not giving you up to your vile affections, and thereby making you a dreadful example unto others. It is a great mercy that we are out of hell. Give my best love to all who love the Lord in sincerity.
Yours most affectionately,
February 1st, 1836
My dear Brother,
I have been hoping for some days to receive a letter from Oakham; but hope deferred makes the heart sick, so I write that I may have an answer.
Through mercy, I arrived safely at Abingdon again, and have been going on much as usual. I find that sin is a powerful enemy within me, and keeps me from preaching perfection in the flesh. I am obliged to make humble confession of my weakness, ignorance, sinfulness and foolishness, and I am sometimes almost without a mark of a child of God, except it be that I may be numbered among "the discontented." When I shall enjoy better days, I know not; but brighter scenes seem more desirable, if they are not so profitable.
My preaching tries me very much. I feel so unfit for it, and so unworthy of so great a work. I am constrained to think that the Lord is patient; that He does not cut me off for my presumption; for I often feel as if I had no reverence for His great name, and no delight to see Him honored and glorified. But in the midst of all my confusion, blindness, and deadness, I do trust I am not without sensible feelings of having something good in me towards the Lord. Some visible marks seem to show themselves for my encouragement, and I have signs and tokens that the Lord has been with me, and will be with me, even unto the end. But I am not satisfied with myself as a Christian, much less as a preacher. I want more powerful proofs and testimonies that God is my Father, that Christ is my Savior, and the blessed Spirit my Teacher. These mercies seem to be too great, and the knowledge so high that I cannot attain unto it.
I know and feel too much of my corrupt nature to be content with speaking of the Trinity, as many do, in word, and thus call themselves Christians. I am sure nothing will do for a sensible sinner but a knowledge inwrought in the soul by the blessed Spirit of God. All things here below seem opposed to the spiritual kingdom in the heart. Pride, lust, selfishness, unbelief, and strong love of self, with the powerful influence of the devil, seem to tread down and destroy everything in the soul which strives for and searches after eternal things. "When I would do good, evil is present with me." So going to heaven is a continual conflict, a daily cross, and a climbing of mountains, which difficulties often make the poor sinner wish himself back in Egypt, that there was no heaven, and that he had never gone forth as a pilgrim. He wonders where the scene will end, and is afraid of that text which says, "He who endures unto the end shall be saved." Encouragement is not given so soon as we think we want it, and we are obliged to say, with one of old, "Is His mercy clean gone forever?" And "have You forgotten to be gracious?"
Those who are always satisfied with their faith and hope, and who are not shot at by Satan, may despise our poor, low and groveling religion, creeping and hobbling on as we are obliged to do; but it is written, "The last shall be first, and the first last." "And he who gathered little had no lack." If we are so favored as to have the least grace, "the dust" of the building is to be "remembered," and the "prayer of the needy shall not aways be forgotten." The Lord will regard the sighing of the prisoners. The afflicted, the tempted, and distressed will pour out their groans and sighs, and they will enter into the ears of the Lord Almighty; and "those who are ready to stumble shall be girded with strength."
I am more and more convinced that no religion will do to die by which does not work by power and bring a man to see and feel himself very vile, very ignorant, and very helpless; and if a man is really weighed down and pressed in spirit through inward trials and outward crosses, he will not want to live always, and will not be puffed up by being upon good terms with himself, nor will he find delight and happiness in his worldly plans and ways. "Vanity of vanities," he must at times say, and desire to know Christ as his everything, his all in all. Unbelief and self-love will strive powerfully to make us act upon worldly principles, frequently termed prudence; and they would compel us, if grace did not prevent, to walk in the course of this world, and then, if that were the case, our 'mere opinions' would be the only proof of our religion. God will cleanse His people from their idols. He will give them those things that they hate, and take from them those things that they love, and hedge up their ways, and confound their worldly schemes and wisdom, until they wonder what He intends to do next.
If we are partakers of God's grace, we are rich indeed, being joint-heirs with Christ; but if we are to reign with Him, we must suffer with Him. There is no other path to heaven but the path of tribulation; and whoever finds no crosses and no trials in his path, "woe is me" if I encourage him in his religion. Experience and the truth of God's word are both against him, and he has neither law nor gospel to endorse his profession. Christians are very scarce who bear genuine marks of having passed through Moses' school to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I sometimes question the religion of people so much as to think true Christians are nearly as scarce as snowballs at mid-summer and roses at Christmas. "Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure; the Lord knows those who are His." I have reason to condemn my own religion. My heart sinks within me at times, and I am full of fears and doubts whether the Lord is leading me by the right way to a city of habitation. If it were not for some little marks of life, feeling, and love in my soul, I might despair indeed. A religion worth having is not cheaply bought and quickly obtained. There are many ups and downs, and we are not very willing to give up our own righteousness and doings. We daub away with untempered mortar, until we are really ashamed of our work, and confounded at our ignorance, our helplessness, and foolishness; and then we are obliged (no praise to us), from necessity, to receive the least hope or mark of mercy as flowing from sovereign grace.
Friend Kay is much the same. He was pleased with his shirts. (These were sent to him as a present from Oakham.) He lives, like many more, in hopes of seeing more independent days; but the Lord orders all things very wisely.
I shall be very glad to hear how you are going on in your meeting together—whether you are encouraged and comforted much in the work. Trials you must and will have; and if things went smooth and easy, you might be sure it is not God's way of carrying on His work. I hope the Lord is blessing you and making you fruitful branches. If grace works in your hearts, it will not work in vain. Flesh goes one way, and grace another, and there must be a war. Do you feel a desire of having less to do with the world? Prosperity in worldly things will dampen the desire of eternal things. God's children are generally poor, for we never hear, scarcely, of much grace in the heart and much gold in the pocket. Have you learned to your own comfort, in your own experience, that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Open your hand wide to your poor brother, and give liberally.
There are many very poor in this neighborhood, and some whom I hope well of, and believe to be partakers of grace, contend with great difficulties. I sometimes feel as if I had a mind to help; but my pocket is so soon empty, and I generally find where there is the empty pocket there is largeness of heart; for when a man stores up gold, it is his idol, and he will not part with it. I think there are a very few rich Christians that could lay down their lives for the brethren, for they are so slow to lay down a little of their money. It is a great mercy to be able to make a good use of our money. Money is a bad master, but a good servant, particularly when it supplies the pinching needs of the Lord's own dear children. SELF is so forward for everything, that the poor and destitute can get but little.
I sometimes think I am negligent in urging those who have plenty of this world's goods to give more liberally to the poor. Example is better than precept; but it is more contrary to our vile and selfish hearts. Selfishness is so strongly rooted, and is so cherished and nourished by the advice and example of others, and by the tradition of our forefathers, that a liberal spirit is sooner checked than encouraged by these words—"Spare yourself!" He, however, "who gives to the poor lends unto the Lord." But many who profess great love to Christ are rather covetous, and would rather trust to money in the funds than to God's promises—"All these things shall be added unto you;" "and no good thing will God withhold from them that walk uprightly." Whatever sins I may be guilty of, I trust I may be kept from hoarding up like a miser, while so many have scarcely bread to eat.
Yours very affectionately,
April 15th, 1836
My dear Brother,
Whatever charge they may bring against me, they cannot say that I am guilty of heaping up riches, while God's children are in such painful and trying straits.
I find myself too ignorant and sinful a creature to be a preacher of the gospel; and I wonder that God blesses me in any way. I would like to be more holy and heavenly-minded, and to enjoy more of the Lord's presence and love; but instead, I have to feel the bitter evils of my heart, and to question what right I have to make a profession of religion in any way whatever. I learn that there is no real hope, but in God's mercy. I am sure that I deserve hell. I have sinned; I am unclean; I am vile. I need the Lord's helping hand, and His delivering goodness. I feel no union with those who are not exercised with the evil workings of their hearts, and feel their helpless state. The Lord's people must and shall know that their strength is in God. I want to know more of the fullness of the gospel, and of the riches of God's grace realized in my soul, so that I might speak more clearly of what the Lord has done for me. I do not like to be obliged to take so low a ground, and to find so many oppositions within to everything that is good. I do not much expect to be quiet and at ease here long. Real religion will surely be opposed and appear very scarce, so that we shall be disappointed if we expect to see much in ourselves, or in others. It is only a "pledge" that the most gracious will ever have in this time-state; and whatever sweet and blessed testimonies any one may have, there will surely be ballast.
I hope the Lord will graciously appear and manifest Himself in your prayer-meetings, so that you may be encouraged to go on; for you will feel so dead, backward, and careless that you will need either a 'stripe' or a 'smile' to keep you moving. But remember, "he who believes shall not make haste."
All is vanity here below and vexation of spirit; everything earthly is full of dissatisfaction; but we have a nature that cleaves to the dust; our hearts especially cleave to 'fine gold dust', because it is the representative of all things; and we have hearts like those whose "idols are silver and gold." We like to be laden with 'thick clay' rather than be freed from such a burden; and at times we feel it no favor to have opportunities of doing good, even to the Lord's children. We cannot trust God. We are very much like those who have no religion. I wish that the Lord would make me esteem all things but rubbish and dross compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. It is one thing to preach, another to practice.
Grace must make us to differ, for we have the same evil hearts as the rest of the world. What a mercy it is to be enabled to say, "By the grace of God I am what I am!"
Yours very affectionately,
April 28th, 1837
My dear Brother,
I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your kind letter, with thanks, together with its contents.
You may, perhaps, not be expecting another application for money before I visit Oakham; but I have so many opportunities of assisting in real distress, without even seeking objects of great poverty, that I soon find my purse empty. I trust that you do not suppose I spend much of my money in luxuries and ornaments, and for the gratification of the flesh; nor am I speculating in any manner. It is a great mercy when our consciences are made tender in such things. If we are enabled to dispose of any of our riches for the real benefit of the needy, we prevent the temptation of falling into the snare of spending the money on our fancies and selfish desires. Distrust and unbelief keep the purse-strings tight; but I feel satisfied, in my right mind, that a little money well bestowed to others, is better than a great deal well laid up for ourselves. But we have to steer against a tide of selfishness in our own hearts, and to climb over heaps of examples and maxims of unbelievers, if we go along in the path of liberality, which may be considered such in the light of God's word. With respect to liberality, Paul says, "See that you abound in this grace also." And what does the apostle mean by the word "abound"? We have such self-seeking hearts that we are slow to believe the full extent of the expression, but readily consent for 'Mr. Worldly Prudence' to put his construction on it.
While we are in these tabernacles of clay our souls will cleave to the dust; and "Spare yourself!" is written so deeply on our hearts that we need provoking by example and exhortation to consider those who are in adversity. "When we would do good, evil is present with us." Nevertheless, where there is a living faith accompanied with this world's goods, the hungry and naked, and especially the Lord's family, will meet with something better than the mere words, "Be fed, and be clothed;" although much may be done in this way by mere natural people, and even to the condemnation of those who profess to love the Lord Christ.
Various sins will ever try us while in the body; and it is a mercy when we feel them, and groan under their weight. We are ready to excuse in others the sins we are most inclined to indulge in, in order to justify ourselves, when we can speak very severely against other sins which we think ourselves more free from. Pride and selfishness are nearly allied.
This you will consider a kind of preface to asking you to be so kind as to send me a ten pound note on Monday next. I am aware that I shall find myself very much in arrears; but it has been a long winter, and I am glad to say that I do not regret what is disposed of to the benefit of the poor and needy, for I am convinced that an empty purse with a large heart is a thousand times better than a full purse with a small heart; and may the Lord teach me ever to value the former, for it has even the greatest blessing in this life.
I shall be glad to hear how you are going on in the ways of God. Darkness and deadness are more known than the light of life. I get on much as usual, and wonder how it is at times I get on at all; for I have much evil and corruption to contend with, and my mind is frequently very much exercised and tried. O that the Lord would bless me!
I am full of fears about eternal things very frequently. I scarcely know how the scene will end, my unbelief and inward wickedness testify so much against me. May the Lord keep us. The work of the ministry is very trying. Without trials and exercises of mind we are very dead and unprofitable, yet we want to go to heaven without tribulation; but it is impossible.
Yours very affectionately,
August 4th, 1837
My dear Brother,
"Like people, like priest." Every one wants to be encouraged either in a false or true religion. Some like to be built up in empty notions, and others to have their hearts well searched, and their thoughts tried, that they may have the testimony in their conscience that they are true men of God; but the halt, and the lame, and afflicted will meet with the only true encouragement. The great question is, Are we in the right way? Is life communicated to our souls? What is all our preaching, reading, praying, and professing, if we have not the root of the matter in us? I believe every true-born soul will find that he will be tried, as long as he is in this tabernacle of sinful dust, whether he can be right, with so much pride, lust, and worldliness, etc. Satan, the world, and the flesh make such inroads upon his soul, at times, as to make him say that he feels destitute of every mark of a gracious character.
O! how dreary is the prospect of eternity when we long after nothing but what the world affords—when we have a heart ready for everything but prayer, self-denial, and what is God-glorifying! I used to find and think religion very different. And if I had not had the experience of some who seem always inclined to God and goodness, I would stumble when I considered their state, and should say, "Surely the Lord is with them alone"; but having had my religion sifted in sharp trials of mind, and heart-stirring seasons, I am confident that no religion is rightly measured if the opposition to it is not gauged also; that is, we are not to consider what wonderful conquests the new man has gained, if we do not hear a clear account of the power, might, and strength of his enemies in the old man. We must learn our religion in warfare, temptations, and fiery trials, which will surely attend every quickened soul. There must be a reality in a man's religion.
Where there is life, there will be fearing and sinning, loving and hating, falling and confessing, doubting and hoping, mourning and rejoicing, and various ups and downs, ins and outs, in a very mysterious manner wrought in the soul. I meet with but little vital godliness. Very few seem to have any powerful operations of grace upon the heart; and those few who can speak of the Lord's dealings seem very much like professors, with a name to live. The Lord evidently does not bestow much of His heavenly blessings on elect souls here below, so that they are reminded that they are to have only a pledge in this life. All things are very puzzling, and no one more than myself to myself; for I am a mystery indeed. I feel sensible, at times, of the Lord's goodness and mercy, that I am what I am; that I have any hope, faith, and love is a mercy indeed. And I am sure that the Lord must keep and preserve every tempted sinner; for all who know their inbred corruptions will acknowledge that the Lord is very merciful, in that He has not cut them off as vile cumberers of the ground.
As long as we live in this world we shall find that our hearts again and again cleave to the dust. All things here, however, are very uncertain and unsatisfactory. It is a great mercy when we can use the world as strangers and pilgrims. I am continually finding myself very dead and cold in spiritual things; but, through mercy, I continue. But, to my encouragement, I hear that the Lord blesses His word by me, and still gives me seals to my ministry. I am so hated, despised, and cursed that the Lord does favor me for their reproaches and curses; but it is a bad sign when a minister has the smiles of worldly professors.
I hope that grace is manifested in you and the Oakham friends, to draw down reproach and contempt. I hope, also, that the Lord has blessed your wife in all her exercises of mind.
How much we need wisdom to guide and direct us in all things!
Yours most affectionately and sincerely,