A Letter To John Grace – November 15th, 1864
My dear Friend, John Grace,
It is indeed now a long time since I wrote to you, but it is our mercy that union and communion, if ever we have felt it with any of the Lord’s people, does not depend upon the post office, or indeed any other communication, but that which is maintained with our mutual Head. In Him all the members of His mystical body have both their being and their well-being; and thus their union and communion with each other still abide, however little there may be of present communication. There is one spot where all the regenerated family of God meet in spirit, that is, at the mercy-seat; and there is one Object on which they all fix their eyes, that is, the Son of God at the right hand of the Father. Lovers sometimes have fixed for both to look at the moon at a certain hour, that they may feel that their eyes, though distant in body, are viewing the same object. But those who love the Lord have a higher love and a better object than either moon or star, for they look, and sometimes from the ends of the earth, to the Sun of Righteousness.
I am well convinced that there is a secret union among the living members of the body of Christ; and surely next to union and communion with the Lord Himself, is union and communion with His dear people. May it be our blessed portion to enjoy a larger measure of both, for they wax and wane together; and he who loves Him who begat, loves him also who is begotten of Him. How sweetly does holy John treat of brotherly love, both in its source and in its streams; and how decisively does he lay down its presence and its absence, as sure marks of life and death! But alas, in our day the love of many is waxed cold; and indeed it ever must be so where there is so little faith which works by love and purifies the heart!
Since I have been in my new abode, I have had much in various ways to exercise my mind. Illness of itself is a heavy burden to carry; and though I must not call myself positively ill, yet I have much weakness and indisposition, which has much of the same depressing effect upon the mind. I have come also to a strange place and to a strange house, in most respects very inferior, though the rent is higher, than my own house at Stamford. I have also been much exercised in my own mind upon many things which I cannot altogether name, but which have served to cast me down, and at times to bring a cloud over my soul. And yet I hope, in and by all these things, the life of God has been maintained and kept up more than it would have been in a path of ease. I am well satisfied from Scripture, from observation, and from experience, that it is only through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God, either really or experimentally. And I also believe that in very many, if not most, cases, trials and afflictions increase rather than diminish in the later stages of life. At least I expect this will be my case, and I have seen it also in others.
About ten years ago you gave me a volume of Mr. Huntington’s Posthumous Letters. This volume I make my daily companion; not that I mean I am always reading it, but generally do so at some part of the day. And I must say, the more I read it, the more pleasure, and I hope I may add the greater profit, I derive from it. There is scarcely a point of Christian experience, from the lowest depth to the greatest height, which the immortal Coalheaver has not touched upon, and indeed handled, with his masterly unrivaled pen. Nor is there an exercise of the soul, nor a secret lust, nor hidden corruption, that he has not dragged to light. It is indeed a most precious and valuable legacy to the church of God, and I could wish that it were more widely spread and better known. The two authors from whom I have gained the greatest profit, and the soundest as well as most savoury instruction, are Dr. Owen and Mr. Huntington. I am a writer myself upon the things of God, but these two men above all others, and the latter especially, knock my pen out of my hand.
I am glad to find that, though I am laid aside, at least for the present, from the work of the ministry, you are still employed in the service of the great King. It is indeed a great honor for poor vile worms of earth to be employed as ambassadors for the King of kings and Lord of lords; but in these matters, as in all others, God is a sovereign, and as such I desire to submit to His holy will. It is a trial for me to be separated so much from my own former people; but I feel fully convinced that neither health nor strength were sufficient to allow me to continue ministering among them.
We shall be glad to see you if you can make it convenient to give us a call on your way to London. I gave your message to Mr. Covell. He generally comes to see me once a week, and I find him both a pleasant and profitable companion. He is very friendly and very unassuming. At present I have not been able to get out to hear him, nor have I seen anything of his people. Dr. Corfe tells me that my chest is much better than it was when in London, and gives me every hope that I shall preach again.
I am, my dear friend,
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.