A Letter to A Sister In Christ – June 3rd, 1969
My dear Friend in the Lord, Mrs. Peake
I have been so much occupied with preparing for publication my little work on the Advance of Popery, that I have scarcely found time to attend to my private correspondence. This must plead my excuse for not taking earlier notice of your kind and interesting letters. I have now however nearly finished it, and hope to be able to get it out before the end of the month. It has cost me some time and trouble, as I had both to re-write some parts and re-arrange others; and after all, having been written at various times and in detached articles, I fear it will be found to lack unity of thought and language, as well as arrangement, and to have too much repetition.
I have received several communications like your own, requesting me not to abridge the sermons, and therefore I feel bound to listen to what seems to be the general feeling and voice of its readers. The Lord works by whom He will work, as He sends by whom He will send; and thus if His gracious Majesty is pleased to make use of my printed sermons for His people’s good and His own glory, what can I say? I did not commence their publication, nor have I derived the slightest profit from them. All the labor that I have bestowed upon them, in revising and preparing them for the press, has been on my part wholly gratuitous, so that I have received nothing for my trouble, but the pleasing thought of their being made profitable to the church of God, which is far better pay than all that gold or silver could bestow.
I am glad that you, as well as others, have read with such interest and feeling the account which I have been enabled to give of the Wilds. They were indeed most worthy and excellent people, so honest and sincere in word and deed, so afraid of presumption and hypocrisy, and so deeply tried and exercised in almost every way—body, soul, family, and circumstances. I would think there was scarcely a trial or temptation, come from what quarter it may, which poor Mrs. Wild had not some experience of. But perhaps the account of her trials and sufferings, which I have recorded in The Gospel Standard, may be made a means of comforting and encouraging others who are called to walk in the same path of tribulation. She was a very sensible woman, and if I may say so, was very much attached to me and my ministry; indeed much more so than I could publicly mention.
It is at Allington as at Oakham—the old wine is better than the new. Though there are still many gracious people in that church and congregation, there is not now the life and power that there was in years past, nor the gatherings from all parts which there used to be in my former annual visits. But it seems to be everywhere the same—there is a gradual declension of the life and power of godliness. The work of grace upon the people is not so deep, clear, or decided, nor is the power of the Lord so present to heal as in days gone by. And I fear it will go on getting worse and worse until, according to the prophecies of the last days, men will have the form of godliness while they deny the power thereof.
The way of the cross is hateful to flesh and blood, and therefore a smooth easy path securing, as they think, the benefits and blessings of salvation without self-denial, mortification of the flesh, painful exercises, and many trials, is eagerly embraced and substituted for the straight and narrow way which leads unto life. And by this, or some other deceit of the flesh or delusion of the devil, all would perish in their sins, unless the Lord had chosen a peculiar people in the furnace of affliction and predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His dear Son, here in suffering, and hereafter in glory. They, like all the rest, would gladly, as far as the flesh is concerned, stretch themselves on a bed too short, and wrap themselves up in a covering too narrow, and thus make a covenant with death and hell that they might be disturbed by fears of neither.
But this the Lord will not suffer, and therefore lays judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and then they find that they have made lies their refuge, and under falsehood have they hidden themselves.
Now until this covenant with death and hell is broken up, there will be no view by faith, no being brought unto or building upon the foundation which God has laid in Zion, even that stone, that tried stone, that precious corner-stone on which the church is built. We may thus bless the Lord for every conviction, pang, trial, exercise, sorrow, distress, or temptation, which may, so to speak, uncase us of our self-righteousness and hypocrisy, and bring us to cleave to the rock for need of a shelter. And this not only at first, as if when peace was obtained by faith in the Son of God there were no more convictions of conscience or distress of mind to be undergone, but it was through more or less the whole of the divine life, one may say, to its very close.
I have been reading lately, and indeed read most evenings, Bourne’s weighty letters, and I find them profitable, as pointing out so clearly the way of tribulation with its benefits and blessings. I would like you and your dear sister to read sometimes these truly experimental letters, and believe you would find them instructive and profitable. They and Huntington’s Posthumous letters are, with the Scriptures, my chief reading.
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.