A Letter To Joseph Parry – January 27th, 1865
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry,
I was very sorry to hear of our esteemed friend Mr. Tuckwell’s illness, but hope it may not be really serious. Oh, when I look round upon my friends, especially those who like myself are advancing in life, I see how affliction is falling upon them one after another. How true the words, that “whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” And what a mercy it is when we can bend our back to every stroke of His chastising rod, and believe that all is meant for our spiritual good. These afflictions produce, under divine teaching, exercises of soul before God, shake us out of the miserable lees and dregs of carnality and self, and make us long for and desire those gracious visitations which alone can preserve our spirit.
How sad it would be for men at our time of life, and with our long profession, to be at ease in Zion, and never be emptied from vessel to vessel. Except to fall under the power of temptation, which is the worst of all possible cases, few things are worse for a Christian than to drop into carnality and sloth; to have little or no heart for secret prayer or reading the Word, but to be ever like a spider spinning out some filthy web, shut up in a dirty corner of carnal security. Even if we do not get much, and only have, so to speak, our daily bread, it is far better to have the heart drawn out toward divine things than be shut up in worldliness, fretful murmuring, and peevish discontent with ourselves and others.
There is nothing which draws the heart out and up to divine realities, as some inward view of the glorious Person and work of our most blessed Lord. We may not perhaps enjoy much of His sensible presence; but still He is the Object of our faith and hope; and as by night and day our thoughts and desires are mounting up toward Him, as He sits on His throne of mercy and grace, there is some separation wrought thereby, of heart and affection from this wretched world. No, even if we can only confess our dreadful sins committed before and against His holy Majesty, and seek for the application of His precious sin-forgiving blood to our consciences, there is some spiritual good wrought thereby, some separation from carnality and death, and some spirituality of mind in which alone is life and peace.
I look back sometimes through my long profession, and feel condemned at the wretched carnality and worldliness, not to say worse, which have possessed my mind; how little I have walked and acted in the fear of God, and how little I have lived to His glory. It is indeed a humbling retrospect; and nothing but the precious blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, can wash away the blots and inconsistencies of a long profession. Thus we come into the spot of the poor tax-collector and the thief upon the cross, having no hope but in the superabounding grace of God in the Person and work of His dear Son.
I am very sorry to hear of your illness. Perhaps your anxiety about our esteemed friend, Mr. Tuckwell, may have partly brought it on. With the Lord all things are possible; but the Cause at Allington seems, humanly speaking, to hang upon you two. When you both shall have passed away, as we hope and believe to a happy eternal home—an event, I trust, yet distant, and your bodies lie mouldering in the little chapel yard, where you have so often stood, who will hold up the cause of truth as you two have done? Your house has long been a welcoming and welcomed home to men of God; but I cannot bear to think of the future, and therefore stop. I have spent many pleasant times in your company, and under four distinct roofs, where I have been your guest; and while life lasts I shall always gratefully remember your liberal and affectionate Christian hospitality. Let us hope that we may be spared to meet once more in the summer; as I should like, even if I could not preach much, to see you and my other Wiltshire friends again.
It will be thirty years on the 7th of next June since I opened my commission, preaching in the morning from Zeph. 3:12, 13, and in the afternoon from Rom. 2:28, 29. I hope I then proclaimed the same divine truths as I do now, though, like the Apostle, I might have used sharpness. But is not the Word of God, if properly handled, “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword”? You and others found it so; and was that not a proof that it was the word of the Lord to you? “The entrance of Your words gives light”; “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach out of Your law.” Blessed are those chastenings and those teachings which bring us to the feet of Christ, and by which He is made precious to the soul. This is the end of God in all His doings and dealings with His people, to strip and empty them wholly of self, and to manifest and make His dear Son feelingly and experimentally their All in all. In Him and in Him alone can we, do we, find either rest or peace.
Through much mercy my health continues pretty good, and when the weather is fine, I endeavor to get a little walk. We have near our house a kind of park, with well-graveled walks, and where one meets scarcely a single soul. Here I usually walk, and find it both pleasant and profitable. As we live a mile and a quarter from the chapel, I am obliged to have a fly, and generally go but once—in the morning. I hear the minister, Mr. Covell, very comfortably. He is a good man and has a good experience, with a very fair gift, having a great knowledge of Scripture, and much readiness in quoting it suitably and appositely. He is very friendly, and generally spends an hour with me once a week.
It certainly is a relief to my mind not to have the burden of the ministry and the cares of a church and congregation upon my shoulders. Still, you may depend upon it, I am not without many exercises of mind, which, I trust, serve to keep my soul alive in the things of God; and if I cannot speak of any special blessings, I am thankful to find a warm spirit of prayer and supplication is often felt in my bosom. I have no doubt, my dear friend, that if our secret prayers and ejaculations for these many years could be numbered, they would amount to many thousands, may I not say tens or more of thousands. One mark of the elect is, that they cry unto God night and day; and though our petitions may often seem unanswered, yet the Word of truth gives us to believe that, so far as they are indited by the Spirit, they enter the ears of the Lord Almighty. Depend upon it, a man must be very dead in his soul when there are no such movements of his spirit upwards. The Lord keep us from sinking into carnality and death. But only He who quickened can keep alive the soul; and it is our mercy if we ever find any revivings and refreshings from His gracious presence. I trust that in your last affliction you have felt something of the same blessing which you had before.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.