A Letter To Joseph Parry – March 27th, 1867
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry — I have no doubt that you were shocked, though perhaps not surprised, at the tidings of poor Mrs. Healy’s death. The case indeed was hopeless from the first, and nothing could be looked for but a long suffering illness, of which death would be the close. At last she sank away, passing off quietly, and the last few days scarcely able to speak audibly or intelligibly. But we have every good ground of hope that her soul was saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, as she had had at various times many sweet promises applied to her heart, and many encouraging words spoken with power. Her religion was indeed not so deep and clear as her poor husband’s—but there was great sincerity and sweetness stamped upon what she said. It will be ten years on the thirtieth of next month since I married them. Looking at them then, there was every promise of their life being long—but how mysterious are the ways of the Lord! They now lie side by side in the Oakham cemetery; yet could the question be put to them, they would not change their present state of happiness and peace with any others who might be named as enjoying everything which this world can give—and were you their father, I believe you would look at their grave with a sweeter satisfaction than if, in the full enjoyment of life and health, they were walking after the course of this world.
I was much united in heart and spirit to poor Richard. As far as he had opportunity, when I was at Oakham, he would often come up to my sitting-room for the sake of a little undisturbed spiritual conversation, and very sweetly would he speak of the things of God and His dealings with him. I have often envied his health and strength, as he was a stout, strong young man, caring little for wind or weather, though there was something in his countenance which at times betrayed a native delicacy of constitution.
But here I am still in the wilderness, having survived him and many others whose prospects of life, humanly speaking, were much greater than my own. We think of bringing out a little memoir of him, which will, I believe, be found interesting and edifying. He was a man who carried out his religion into practice. Some instances will be named in the memoir; but I will just mention one now. One day during the cattle plague he was struck with the fact that his beasts had been preserved. “Well”, he said, “Your poor people, Lord, shall reap the benefit”, so he sent Mr. Keal £20 to be distributed among the poor members of the church and others who feared God in the congregation. I much doubt whether many professing farmers whose herds were spared have acted in a similar way.
With you and me, dear friend, the bloom of life is utterly gone, and we may almost say, “We would not live always.” There is nothing for us, as regards us personally, to look forward to but increasing years and infirmities, until we are brought down to our native dust. Our chief desire and the longing of our heart is to be favored with some sweet manifestations of the Lord’s love and mercy, and no doubt your heart, like mine, often goes up to His blessed Majesty that He would take pity on us in our low estate, compassionate us, and speak a word of peace and consolation to our inmost soul. He has taught us, we trust, to fear, revere, and adore His great, and glorious, and holy name, and to believe in His dear Son, looking to Him alone as all our salvation and all our desire. We have seen and felt a little of the evil of sin, and desire to repent of it with real godly sorrow, brokenness of spirit, contrition of heart, and true humility of mind.
We would desire also to be more separated from the world in heart, spirit, and affection, to be spiritually-minded which is life and peace, and to know more of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. And though we find sin still working in us, and sometimes as bad as ever, yet our desire is to have it subdued in its power, as well as purged away in its guilt and filth. We have lived to see what the world can do for us, and found it can only entangle; and what sin can do, which is to please for a moment and then bite like an adder. And we have seen also a little of the Person and work, blood and righteousness, grace and glory, blessedness and suitability of the Son of God; and He has won our heart and affections, so as at times to be the chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One.
But with all this, we desire more clear visitations of His gracious presence, more precious words from those lips into which grace is poured, and more sensible discoveries of Himself in the light of His own countenance and the words of His own application. Am I an interpreter? Do I read some of the desires and feelings of my friend’s inmost soul, and express the breathings of his heart toward the Lord at various seasons by day and night? I tell my friend Covell sometimes that I want “realities”, and that if he did not preach them, I could not sit to hear him. How I see men deluded and put off with a vain show, and how few there are, whether ministers or people, who seem to know anything of the transforming efficacy of real religion and vital godliness. Here I have been about forty years, for it is just now forty years since eternal realities were first laid upon my mind, groping and feeling as it were my way to the true light and to the true life, to the vital power and divine reality of the kingdom of God. And yet after all my thousands of prayers, looking and crying to the Lord for His teaching and blessing, and all my reading, writing, preaching, and professing, how little do I seem to know of the kingdom of heaven as set up in the heart by the Holy Spirit! Only just enough to show me what and where I am, what I want, and the miserable state of all who are destitute of the life and power of God in the soul.
I hope what I am writing from Ephesians 1 may be made a blessing. I have seen much in that wondrous chapter, and if I can but a little lay bare its glorious riches, it may comfort and encourage some of the dear family of God. Thus I may hope to preach from my study, if not from the pulpit.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.