A Letter To Two Sisters In Christ – December 22nd, 1868
My dear Friends in the Lord, Mrs. Peake and Miss Morris,
I am thankful to say that I feel somewhat better than when I wrote last. Twice I have been for a little walk, and was able last Lord’s day to go to chapel for the first time since my return home. I was glad once more to meet with the people, and they seemed glad also to welcome me again in their midst. The text was from Isaiah 12:2; but I did not hear my dear friend quite so well as I hoped, and as I have sometimes heard him. But we well know how much we vary in our hearing, and how dependent we are upon the Lord to make His Word spirit and life to our souls. The disciples, who heard the gracious words that fell from our Lord’s lips in the days of His flesh, knew and felt but little either of their meaning or their power. It was only after His resurrection and His ascension on high, when He sent the promised Comforter and Teacher, that what they heard Him speak was brought to their remembrance, its meaning unfolded, and its truth and power impressed upon their souls. Not only must the seed be good, but there must be a prepared and good soil for it to fall into; and even then showers and sun are needed to make it spring up, and grow, and bear fruit.
It is a great mercy when those words of the Apostle are fulfilled in us—“Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you in all wisdom.” Our heart must ever be full of something—either sin, worldliness, vanity, and folly, or the solemn realities of eternity. And it is according as our mind and thoughts are occupied with one or the other, that we are what we are, either before God or man. If sin, carnality, worldliness, and all that is vain and foolish, occupy and possess our minds, the growth of these weeds choke what there may be of the life of God in the soul; and we are barren, unfruitful, unbelieving, and worldly-minded, both inwardly before God and in our conversation, walk, and conduct before men. But when the Word of God strikes deep root in the soul, then, as by it alone do we know anything of divine realities, there is more or less of fruitfulness before God and man.
All the truth that we know profitably and savingly, all the experience that we have of the things of God, all the acquaintance, union, and communion that we have or can have with the Father and the Son in this time state, can only be through the Word of truth as opened by the Spirit to the enlightened understanding, and applied by His power to the heart and conscience. And there is this great blessedness in this sanctifying light and life, which come into the soul through the Word, that they draw the heart upward into heavenly things, and thus subdue and keep out the power of those worldly things, of which our mind is naturally full, and in which our carnal nature lives. But the wonder is, what strange and sudden changes and mutations take place in the mind; so that in one half-hour we may seem so under the power of eternal things, as if there were nothing else worth seeking or desiring, and yet in the next half-hour we may seem in our feelings as carnal, worldly, sinful, and sensual, dark, ignorant, and unbelieving, as if there were not, and never had been, one grain of grace or godly fear in the soul.
But amid all these changes it is our mercy that we have to do with the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, and with His Word, which endures forever. May we highly prize it, read it with profit and pleasure, feel its power and influence, be cast into the mold of it, and ever find it to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It is a treasure of which nothing can deprive us, and though we should ever highly prize a preached Gospel as being an ordinance of God, and be thankful for having our lot cast under it, yet the Lord may be pleased to feed our souls in private as much, if not more, by reading and meditating upon the Word of His grace. Nor does this at all interfere with, or militate against the preached Word, for the best hearers are those who are best instructed out of the Word in what they get alone, and their souls when watered by private reading, prayer, and meditation are most fit to receive the Word in its public ministration. Next to being quickened and made alive, is to be kept alive and lively in the things of God; and this cannot be by negligence, sloth, and carelessness, as if God would give the blessing independently of our seeking or desiring. But I will not run on further in this strain, lest the whole of my letter should be too much on one subject.
I send you some letters, among them one from the French lady whom I named to you. I had asked her to spend a part of her holidays here, and at the same time expressed my wish that she would write down some of the dealings of God with her soul; and I told her that she might write to me in her own language, if she felt more liberty in doing so. This will explain some things in her letter. I have often thought of several things which she named in the account that she gave of the Lord’s dealings with her soul. There was something in it so real and sterling, so original and fresh, so evidently the teaching and work of the Lord, that it made a deep impression upon my mind, and her manner was so simple, humble, and modest, that what she said commended itself so much to the conscience. Most of us old professors are so covered over and muffled up in a kind of traditionary religion that, when we meet with one who has been led in a peculiar, and yet unmistakably gracious path, it seems to come with a peculiar weight and freshness to the mind.
And now, my dear friends, I wish you the enjoyment of all those blessings which are connected with the season of the year—assuming that it was the season in which the Lord came into the world; and may we never forget why He came, for it is most suitable to us. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance”, and therefore of yours and mine, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners“, and can we not add—I am sure I can, and that with great reason—“of whom I am chief”? And again, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save those who were lost.” And were we not lost, to all intents and purposes, completely ruined, without hope or help? And have we not a thousand times over destroyed ourselves, so as to need above most Him in whom is all our help? I am well persuaded that a knowledge of sin and of the depths of the fall is necessary to any right view or feeling of salvation by the blood of the Lamb.
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.