A Letter To Joseph Tanner – January 6th, 1863
My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner,
I am sorry to learn that you are still suffering from your old illness. I greatly fear that you will never be free from it, and that it is one of those crosses which the Lord sometimes binds fast round the shoulders of His people, that they may carry it to their dying day. My best wish is that it may be richly blessed and truly sanctified to your soul’s good, and that you may reap the peaceable fruit of this painful affliction as one who is exercised thereby. But feeling some sympathy with you in your affliction, and some moving of affectionate desire toward you under it, it has come into my mind to drop you a few lines, which you will take as a token of my love, if there be nothing in them worthy of your perusal.
We would, if we could, spare our friends the trials and afflictions under which we know they groan, being burdened, and yet we are well aware that it is the will of the Lord that they should be thus afflicted that they might become partakers of His holiness. But our coward flesh shrinks from suffering, whether it be in our own persons or those of our friends.
So Peter, if he could have had his fleshly will, would have prevented the redemption of the church by the blood of the Son of God. That his dear Lord and Master, the Son of God, in whom he believed by a special revelation of His divine Sonship, that He, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, should be nailed to a cross and there die in shame and agony—Peter could not endure. He therefore put forth his feeble hand to stop the work which the Father had given the Son to do, and by so doing was actually, though unwittingly, an accomplice of Satan. So we would spare our friends from the nails of crucifixion, not seeing that by so doing, we would, if we could succeed, rob them of that suffering with Christ which is necessary, that they should be glorified together. I will not therefore do you the injury of wishing your sufferings less, but would desire instead that, as the sufferings abound, so also may the consolations. What no doubt, you chiefly feel, next to the pain of personal suffering, is the hindrance which it is to the work of the ministry. Still, even there the Lord can blessedly overrule it for your good and the good of the people; and even if you preach less you may preach with more savor, unction, and power.
We are entered, my dear friend, upon a new year, and while I wish the best blessings to rest upon you and yours during the year, yet no doubt we shall find it, if we are spared, full of trials and temptations; and it will be our rich mercy if deliverances and manifestations of the Lord’s goodness and mercy at all keep pace with them. You and I are going down the hill of life. We shall no longer possess the health and strength of years gone by, even in that minor measure which was allotted us, compared with many of our brethren in the ministry. It is my desire, when at all favored with a sense of the Lord’s presence, to walk more in His fear, and to live more to His praise, than I have ever yet done. I feel it to be a mercy that my mental faculties are preserved to me without much sensible diminishing or decay; and as, without my seeking, the Lord has placed me in a position to speak far and wide to His people, my desire and prayer are that He would give me His grace, not only to keep me from evil that it may not grieve me, but to feed the church of God, as far as He enables me, with such savory food as their soul loves. I feel, I hope, an increasing desire to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, to live myself in the enjoyment of the power of God’s truth upon my own soul, and to bring before the people such divine realities as are made known to my heart and conscience. As you know, I have no one to help me in this lawful strife but the Lord. Indeed, perhaps I could not bear a partner in the firm, and therefore find it best to work alone.
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.