A Letter To Joseph Parry – November 23rd, 1866
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry.
I was sorry to learn from your last kind letter that the Lord had again laid upon you His afflicting hand; but it was your mercy to find profit from the furnace, and that the painful trial was sanctified to your spiritual good. We are such poor, stupid, cold, lifeless wretches when things are smooth and easy with us, that we seem to need trial and affliction to stir us up, and bring us out of carnality and death. The Word of God is written for an afflicted and poor people, and they alone understand it, believe it, feel it, and realize it. How often you had read Micah 7:8-9, and yet did not enter into its sweetness, suitability, and blessedness as you did in your late affliction. There is a sermon of mine from it in the Gospel Pulpit, No. 77, which you can look over; but I daresay you could preach a better sermon from it than I did, if you could tell out all that you felt in the sweet application of it. Luther used to say that, before he was afflicted, he never understood the Word of God. This witness is true. There is no real place for it in our conscience or affections. And yet how hard it seems, and trying to the flesh, to learn our religion in such a painful way; but any way is better than to miss the prize at last. And if we are favored to reach the heavenly shore, we shall forget all the perils and sufferings of the voyage.
I hope however that you will take all due care of yourself at this trying season of the year, as you cannot stand the damp and cold as you once could. I have not been very well myself the last week, but with this exception I have, through much mercy, been more than usually well during the autumn. This has enabled me to get most days my usual walk, without which I rarely find myself in tolerable health.
I preach here sometimes, but more to assist my friend, who though much recovered is not I think very strong, than for any other reason. He is a very good preacher, much better than most that I know; and what is better than good preaching, his whole heart and soul seem in it. He has been very much kept during a long profession, nearly as long as mine, and been at times much blessed and favored. This gives much life and power to his ministry, but at the same time makes it very searching. Last Lord’s day morning he spoke from 2 Kings 18:6, 7, and was very close upon cleaving to the Lord, and departing not from following Him. I could not find, alas, that I had cleaved so closely to the Lord, and not departed from following Him as he drew the line. But it is good sometimes to be searched, that we may see our sinfulness, confess, and forsake it.
The ministry of the day is for the most part so loose and lax that it is good to have a closer, if not stricter, line of experience drawn out, if it be not too strongly insisted on for the casting down of the tried and tempted. I remember how you once were much tried by a sermon which I preached from Romans 12:1, 2 more than ten years ago (in 1856), though I believe I advanced nothing in it but what you would fully agree with. We need castings down and liftings up, sometimes to be searched and exercised about the reality of our religion and sometimes to be strengthened and encouraged so as not to be utterly cast down. It is those who have no changes that fear not God. All who walk in the ways of truth and righteousness will find changes within, though we know that there are no changes without, for with God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Though we do not like these changes for ourselves, yet we have little union or communion with those who have none.
The Lord we trust has opened our eyes and hearts too to see and feel what true religion is; and though we seem at times to have so little of it, and almost none at all, yet in our right mind nothing can satisfy us but what comes from and leads to the Lord. Growing years have not made us grow more in a good opinion of self, or the goodness of the creature. If we have grown in anything, it is in a sense of the suitability, blessedness, grace, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.