A Letter To Mrs Peake – March 6th, 1867
My dear and esteemed Friend, Mrs. Peake — I am not surprised that our friend O. should feel as he does towards our dear departed brother Richard Healy, or wishes to put on permanent record those traits of Christian uprightness which he has mentioned. I will think over the subject, and as far as space admits, either in the next issue or at some other opportunity, will endeavor to record them in the G. S. The simple fact is, that being pressed for space, we can only allot a certain portion for the obituary, and are therefore obliged sometimes to divide, and at others to curtail, the accounts that are sent us. But I am sure that in this day we need testimonies to vital godliness and real, powerful, practical religion; for this is that in which there is, and I suppose always has been, so great a defect in the church of God. I have often thought of, and sometimes quoted, the words of Bunyan where, speaking of Talkative, Christian says, “The soul of religion is the practical part”, meaning doubtless that where there is no practice, religion is but a lifeless corpse. But nothing commends it more to the consciences of all men, whether natural or spiritual, than to see the fruits of godliness made manifest, especially when they are directly opposed to self-seeking and self-interest.
The providence which removed him is indeed mysterious. We seem to understand, and be reconciled to the removal of the aged and infirm, especially of those who bore the heat and burden of the day, like the two Coopers and other members of your church—but to see the young, like Richard Healy and your own dear husband, taken away, whose lives seemed so valuable both to the church and their families, makes us sometimes wonder at the Lord’s dealings. And yet we know how many sorrows and sufferings they have been spared, and the very circumstance that they were taken away in the very prime of life and usefulness, casts round their memory a more tender and sacred halo. I believe that the obituaries in the G. S. are generally very acceptable and very profitable. Mr. _______, of Nottingham, has frequently mentioned to me how good he has found the obituaries, and we find sometimes how people on their death-beds have spoken of the encouragement which they have met with in reading them. In a sense, we may say of the departed saint whose experience and words are thus recorded — “By it, he being dead, yet speaks”.
We are deeply grieved to hear of poor Eliza’s sufferings. Seeing nothing before her but pain and suffering, and having, we hope, a good testimony of her eternal safety, it will be almost a relief if the Lord would give her a parting smile and take her to Himself. When I left Oakham in 1864, I left them both, as it appeared, in the full enjoyment of health and strength, and now one is gone, and the other fast following. I pray the Lord to sanctify the affliction to her aged parents, that they may see in it the frailty and uncertainty of all things here below, seek more earnestly to know and live unto the Lord of Life and Glory, and submit with resignation to His holy will. My daily prayer for poor Eliza is that the Lord would comfort her heart, alleviate her pain, give her faith and patience, with submission to His will. Poor Richard is spared the suffering of seeing her suffer, which he could ill have borne, and all those anxious cares which would have been entailed upon him by her illness. We know not from how much evil death saves us from, and still less what bounty it gives. Could we see with the eye of God, we would see wisdom and goodness marked upon every movement of His hand.
You probably know that my dear friend Mr. Clowes is gone to his eternal rest. He was very much tried through the whole of his illness, and sank very low, fearing at times that he was lost—but about two hours before he died, the Lord broke most gloriously in upon his soul. I will endeavor to let you see Mrs. Clowes’s letter. She is indeed a mourning widow, for I think I scarce ever saw a woman whose almost every thought seemed to be to and for her husband. He was indeed a most kind and affectionate partner, and as a Christian, blessed with a good experience, with great tenderness of conscience, and much circumspectness of life. We were much attached to each other, as I have known him for more than thirty years, and being with him every summer since 1855, of course I have seen a good deal of him. He was a man of very tender feeling, and never parted from me without shedding tears of true affection. I shall much miss him when I go again to London, if spared to fulfill my engagement at Gower Street Chapel.
Yours affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.