A Letter To Mrs Peake – January 16th, 1867
My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake — I have been much occupied with writing, but I take the first opportunity of sending you a few lines to express my sympathy with you all under those trying afflictions which have fallen with so heavy a weight on those whom we so much esteem and love. I feel very much for you all, and especially for poor dear Eliza in her distressing bereavement, and the heavy pressure of her own personal affliction. I cannot say that at present I feel at all reconciled to the loss of our dear friend Richard Healy. Indeed, excepting Mr. Keal, there is scarcely one whom I would miss so much if I were with you. He seemed so calculated to stand in the gap, and fill up the place of those who in time must have to give way to infirmity or old age. For many years our losses by death in the Church at Oakham were but few. But oh, in these last few years what gaps have been made, especially among our male members, who are so much needed in the church! God is able to raise up others to supply their place, but no man having drunk old wine, etc. New members can never be to a church what old members are; for they lack the experience and the wisdom which the dealings of God bring about, in an exercised conscience and a matured judgment.
You will much miss our departed friend’s prayers on the reading days, for I have frequently heard how honest he was in his confessions, and how earnest and sincere in his petitions. He was possessed also of a good experience, and for the most part pretty sound in judgment, with a right apprehension of living realities and a desire to glorify God by his life and conduct. I have had much conversation with him at different times, and I believe we always met and parted in sincere friendship and affection. We could communicate very freely in divine matters, and well understood each other’s minds in those points of exercise and temptation, where hints are sufficient, and to go beyond which is to venture on unsafe grounds. He always treated me with great respect and affection, and if he did not agree with me on all points, would not make it a matter of dispute. When I have seen him looking so strong and healthy, I little thought that I would be the survivor. How often have I looked from my window on a winter afternoon, on my return from chapel, and seen him and his poor wife hurrying off through the cold air to go home amid the dark night, when I was glad to keep close to the fire. It grieves me to hear that his poor widow is worse. Daily do I beseech the Lord that He would comfort her heart, give her faith and patience, and sanctify to her soul’s good every stroke of His afflicting hand. Nor do I forget to ask the Lord that He would sanctify the stroke to her aged parents, who have had so many family trials of late years. I hope the Lord will abundantly bless Mr. Knill’s ministry to the sorrowing church, as well as to the friends and relatives of the deceased.
I quite approve of the purchase of the ground at the cemetery. It is an odd word to make use of, but I have often said—”How very comfortable it is to have a cemetery where the people of God can be buried by their own minister, and lie together until the resurrection morn.” You would more deeply prize the spot where you have placed a monument to your late dear husband, were his remains beneath it.
I was much interested in the account you gave of the funeral. I thought much of you all that day, the snow lying so deep, and the weather so cold. It must have been a very solemn and affecting scene; and the numbers who attended it showed what great respect they had for his memory. I do hope the solemn event may be blessed and sanctified to the church and congregation. Such heavy strokes seem sometimes to stir up the soil, and fit it for the reception of the Word. “You received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” Deep affliction and the joy of the Holy Spirit going together, make the Word received, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually works in those who believe.
I am always glad to get a few lines from you, as I have scarcely any other means of obtaining any news, either temporal or spiritual, of what is going on among you at Oakham; and you may be sure that having been among you for so many years, you all still live in my affections and remembrance. I feel a great comfort in my own mind that, amid all the trials which have befallen you, Mr. Knill is with you to comfort your hearts by the word of life; for I hardly know what you would have done had the pulpit been vacant, and you left merely to Supplies.
We unite in love, &c.; and please assure the church for me that I still bear it in my heart, and desire that the blessing of God may abundantly rest upon it.
I am, my dear friend,
Yours very affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.