A Letter To A Brother In Christ – February 25th, 1832
February 25th, 1832
My dear Brother,
Since I last wrote to you I have been actively engaged in preaching God’s word; but not without giving offence, for I find the cross has not ceased. I preached at Reading about a month ago in a large chapel, and it was very crowded; and, this last week I have been to see Mr. Hitchcock, of Devises, who seceded about six years ago from the Established Church, and is now a minister at a Baptist chapel there. I preached on Tuesday evening at Trowbridge, in the chapel of an old and faithful servant of the Lord, John Warburton, to several hundred people; and on Wednesday evening at Devises. On Thursday I was severely lampooned in the “Devises Gazette”; and the “Reading Chronicle” has a copy of it today. I sent you a specimen from Devises, having an old one given to me. The cross is not to be escaped, if we are to enter into glory.
My ‘letter of resignation’ to the bishop is now rapidly selling. About 3,000 have been dispersed, and another edition is needed. Newspapers insert it; and a bookseller at Southampton has printed it without asking my permission. One ‘reply’ has been published at Reading, and another at Salisbury. I have not yet seen the latter; the former strengthens my arguments. There are truths contained in my Letter so supported by the word of God that they are not able to overthrow them.
My chapel is nearly finished, and is to be opened on the 25th of March; Mr. Warburton and Mr. Hitchcock are expected to preach. Hundreds will crowd into the chapel and the two vestries; but it is supposed scarcely half will be able to enter.
I am looked upon with an eye of contempt, and am considered a troubler of Israel. Some say I am a good man; others say that I deceive the people. Though the Lord enables me to be bold and faithful, I by no means lack chapels to preach in, for I am engaged to preach in several that I have never yet entered. The more the Lord shows to me my darkness in spiritual things, the more clearly do I discern the real state of others. You know that profession is not possession; and when the religion of the bulk of professors is tried by the word of God, how awfully deficient it appears!
I am living in a very quiet part of Abingdon, in a small room, together with two bedrooms, all which I furnished myself. I have a man and his wife in the same house with me, who wait upon me. I live in a plain way, and find my expenses small. I have scarcely any one to visit me but poor people, whose company is the most profitable, and they do not feed my pride. All the best of my furniture has been sold by auction, and it sold remarkably well.
There is much excitement in this neighborhood, through the building of my chapel; but they know not what to do. I do hope and trust that it will be made manifest, that it is for the Lord’s glory. The truth has been studiously kept out of the town, and I shall rejoice to find that the Lord has a few ‘hidden ones’ here, for gross darkness prevails. In this very town, though so large, I cannot find ten who can give a satisfactory account of the work of regeneration in the soul. My chapel has a plain appearance. It is partly pewed, for I bought the whole of an inside of a chapel at Reading for £25, with pulpit, etc.
I still continue in the same mind about not taking the hard earned pence of the poor people, while I have so much of my own, and am clothed in fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day. Let me not be eased, and another burdened. When the gospel was first preached, those who had land and houses sold them, and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. The gospel has not that effect upon the rich professors of the present day. But I consider the love of money is the cause.
You will be soon “a speckled bird” in Oakham; but you have suffered very little in the Lord’s cause at present, not many trials outward, and not many inward. You know little or nothing of ‘the furnace’ which is needful to take away our dross. If people are not opposed by Satan they know nothing of the power of godliness. Every Christian man must know the plague of his own heart. The Psalms and various parts of the Scriptures will not be understood unless we are brought to feel sensibly the same trials that the saints of old went through. Many think they are going to heaven when Satan makes no opposition, for they have nothing but head-notions. Consequently they make no encroachments upon Satan’s dominions, and he will therefore show to them no opposition.
Sometimes Satan tempts me to think that I am making a great sacrifice; but I ought to blush for shame. What is the sacrifice? All I have, from whom does it come? If I built myself an expensive house, to gratify my flesh and pride, the professors could better understand it. We can spend hundreds upon our lusts, but we sparingly bestow a pittance for Christ’s cause. If the love of money is the root of all evil, from it all evil must necessarily arise. May the Lord deliver us from it; may He give us more of the mind of Christ, who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. Pride is a reigning principle. How very little we really need in this life! “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Vital godliness is but little known in the present day. When we are led to have a view of the Cross, how very different does everything appear! We are like dunces, for it takes us many years to learn such a truth. There are very few who can give a good account of their call by grace, and those who are really regenerate enjoy but little communion with God. When you talk upon the subject of religion, keep people close to the work of grace upon the heart. Let them know that they must learn their saving interest in Christ under the testimony of the Spirit. True religion is the life of God in the soul. Scores can speak of doctrines and the plan of salvation as clearly as possible, who know nothing of the kingdom of God within. Few contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; and there are very few who are outcasts for their godliness.
The present day is not a time of trial, therefore hypocrites abound. The ‘heap of professing Christians’ would be very small—if the chaff were sifted out. If a persecuting time were to arise, and God’s children were imprisoned for their faith, it would change the present scene. We are going to heaven in silver slippers. We have the wind at our backs. We are little hated and despised, and know but little of sharp conflicts with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Affectionately yours in the best of bonds,