A Letter To Joseph Parry – January 25th, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry — We can hardly expect to pass through life, and especially the latter stages of it, without trials and afflictions; for if they do not come in one shape, they will come in another. The Lord means to make us sick and weary of everything but Himself; and I believe that most of His people are made willing to depart before the final stroke comes. It is the lack of sweet manifestations of His love and mercy, the sense of what we have been, and what a wreck and ruin sin has made of us, with the various exercises of mind that spring out of it, which so often make the prospect gloomy. But this stirs up many an earnest sigh and cry for the Lord to appear and to speak a word with power to the soul, that we may enjoy a blessed testimony to our acceptance in the Beloved. How much one is led to see and feel of the dreadful evil of sin! How loathsome it is in the sight of a holy God! What vile wretches we are in ourselves! And what a mighty work the gracious Lord had to do to save us from death and hell! I never saw so much of the evil of sin, and of my own evil case as a sinner, as I have seen and felt of late; and I do beg of the Lord, not only to manifest and reveal Himself with power to my soul, but to give me godly sorrow for sin, with a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a humble mind.
These things many overlook, and some despise, but they are choice gifts of God, and highly prized by those who know their value. Seclusion and solitude give time and opportunity to look over the past; and I am sure the reflection is anything but comfortable. Oh what heaps of sins are brought to view, and how little we seem to have lived in the fear of God, to have sought His will, or been fruitful branches in the only True Vine! Men speak sometimes of looking back upon a well-spent life, but I cannot; I have to cast myself wholly upon the superabounding grace of God. No doubt advancing life and frequent indisposition make us see things in a very different light from that in which they are viewed by the young and healthy. But the question after all is, Which is the right view? Is the world a happy or a miserable one? Is life to be lived to self, spent in carnality and ease, or should we seek to live unto God? David could say—”Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept Your word.” It will be our mercy if afflictions have taught us the same lesson. But I must not sermonize, though I have no doubt that in these points we see and feel alike.
Allington must have presented but a cold and chilling appearance during the late frost and snow; and I can readily believe that the north-east winds, which were felt keenly here, must have swept from off your Downs with terrible force. But the snow must have been a great protection to the young wheat, and thus we can see mercy in that severe snowstorm which was so widely prevalent. I spent two winters at Allington, 1835-1836 and 1837-1838, and my reminiscences of it are of great cold without, whatever warmth and cordiality there was within, especially when the big blocks sent a roaring fire up the drawing-room chimney, aided by the draught of the middle door, left open by the present master of the house, then a little pale-faced boy. We have seen great changes since then; but I believe we may say that our mutual friendship and affection have not changed, but rather expanded, as the little boy into the stout well-grown man.
Many friends have we seen removed since June, 1835; and the list of ministers who have stood in your pulpit since the chapel was opened, who have been removed by death, forms quite a long catalogue. Poor old Mr. S. is another added to the number. As my life is thus far spared, I desire that what still remains of it may be spent in the fear of God, and for the good of His people. I did not think, when I first knew you, that I would have written so much or been so widely known; but I have been led on, step by step, seeking neither praise nor popularity, but content to do what lay in my path, and what I felt called upon from time to time to execute. The Gospel Standard and the sermons take up much of my time, and it is sometimes a weariness to the flesh; but they occupy my thoughts and exercise my mind upon divine things, which is better than indolence or distraction. I can hardly however get time to attend to the memoir of our late dear friend William Tiptaft, as the press, like the two daughters of the horseleech, is ever crying “Give, give.”
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.