A Letter To Joseph Parry – November 5th, 1868
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry,
You have been very kind in communicating to me the tidings of our dear friend Miss Wild’s death. It has taken place somewhat sooner than I had anticipated; but considering that the winter is coming on, which would no doubt have severely tried her weakened frame, I cannot but view it as a mercy that she is removed to that happy land of which the inhabitants shall no more say ‘I am sick’. She was one of the most honest people that I ever knew in my life, and though there was a roughness or rather abruptness in her manner, yet it was so mixed with good feeling, as well as softened by grace, that there was nothing in it repulsive or annoying. I always liked her from my first acquaintance with her, when I used to go to S., and afterwards to the farm on the hill. She was a very tender and affectionate daughter, and she and her poor mother, with many points of roughness in each, yet were much united in the things of God, and were, I believe, especially in latter days, a comfort to each other. There was one thing very satisfactory in her religion—that you could depend upon all that she said, and that she would rather keep back the marks and evidences of God’s manifested favor than put them forward, or wish you to think well of them. I consider that the Lord was very gracious to her in the latter portion of her life; and though she had a rough and thorny path, yet her afflictions and trials were much blessed and sanctified to the good of her soul. I wish there were more like her, whose religion bore so clear a stamp of being a divine work, and one which the Lord so owned, crowned, and blessed.
I hope, through God’s mercy, I am slowly recovering from my late attack; but though not severe, it seems to have laid deeper and firmer hold of me than almost any one that I have had since I left Stamford. I think the heat and exertion of preaching during the last summer had enfeebled my frame, and therefore when I took cold, it seemed to lay firmer hold of me. I much feel being shut up so much in the house, as I have not been out of the gate even to chapel since I came home. I hope however that the affliction and trial has not been sent altogether in vain, and that I have reaped some small measure of spiritual profit from it. Hart well and wisely says, “Affliction makes us see what otherwise would escape our sight”.
It seems to bring us to book, to make us consider our latter end, to wean and separate from the world, to give power and reality to divine things, to stir up the grace of prayer and supplication, to show us the emptiness of all natural and creature religion, to make us look more simply and believingly to the blessed Lord, to feel how suitable He is to every want and woe; and that in Him, and in Him alone, is pardon, acceptance, and peace. It also discovers and brings to light many past sins, and working with the grace of God brings us to confession, self-abhorrence, contrition, brokenness, and humility before Him, against and before whom we have so deeply and dreadfully sinned.
We cannot choose our own path or our own trials, and usually do not know what the Lord is doing with us by them, until after-light discovers them. He brings the blind by a way that they knew not, but sooner or later He will make every crooked thing straight, and every rough place smooth. When we look back upon the way by which we have been led, how many things we see which should indeed humble us into the very dust. And yet how wonderfully has the Lord at various times appeared for us, and in various ways stretched forth His blessed hand.
My desire is, and never was stronger in my life, to walk in the fear of God, and to have the manifestations of His mercy, goodness, and love. There is a divine reality in true religion, as our dear friend Miss Wild found upon a dying bed; and if we have not a little of this divine reality, we have nothing. For this, you will bear me witness, I have always contended, from the day when you first saw my face and heard my voice in Stadham Church; and it was this which gave me a place in your esteem and affections, because you had a testimony in your own conscience that it was a solemn and saving truth, and that in it lay the sum and substance of all vital godliness. You have had many testimonies to the power and reality of this real religion in those at Allington, who have lived and died in it, as our dear friend Mr. Tuckwell and many others; and I consider your little place highly favored, that the Lord should have had many living witnesses, that His eye has been upon it for good, and that He has honored, owned, and blessed the Word of His grace preached therein. It is a sweet confirmation of the past, and a blessed encouragement for the future—for Jesus Christ in whom we believe is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.