A Letter To Joseph Parry – May 23rd, 1862
My dear Friend, Joseph Parry.
Mr. Godwin would tell you how I am as regards the poor body—just helped through day by day, without any reserve of strength to fall back upon, like the balance of a rich man at his banker’s. He would also tell you of the congregations which we had at Godmanchester. There certainly is an increased spirit of hearing in that place and neighborhood, which I have now known for some years past; and I trust from what I saw and heard, that our friend Thomas Godwin is where the Lord would have him to be, and is blessing his labors among the people. I suppose such a congregation was never before seen in the chapel. Some said there were 1,000 people present, and others 1,300. It took more than half an hour in the afternoon to get them seated. It is a large commodious chapel, without galleries, and very easy to speak in. I cannot say that I felt much at liberty on the Lord’s day, but on the Tuesday evening was more indulged, and I hope we had a profitable time.
The period is rapidly drawing near when I shall be leaving home (D.V.) for what I call my London campaign. Hitherto I have found the promise good—”As your day is, so shall your strength be.” I trust therefore that once more I may be enabled to raise up my Ebenezer. Most probably I shall have large congregations, and I shall need all the bodily strength which the Lord may give me. But this, though most desirable, falls very short of being blessed in my soul, and blessed also to the souls of others. Next to the salvation and sanctification of one’s own soul, there can hardly be a greater blessing than being made an instrument of good to the Lord’s family. But oh how we need the special power and blessing of the Spirit, that any good may be effected by the words of our mouth! What strongholds of Satan we have to pull down; what arrows of conviction to launch; what balm of consolation to administer; what strong hearts to break; what broken hearts to bind up! And who is sufficient for these things? How the whole, first and last, is of the Lord! So that if the least good be done, or the least blessing imparted, the praise and honor of it must all be freely given to the God of all grace.
I was never more convinced of this in all my life than I now am. Ever since you have known me you can bear witness that I never gave any strength to the creature, but ascribed the whole of our salvation, first and last, to the God of all our mercies; and the longer I live, the more I know of myself, and the more I see of others, the more am I convinced that the Lord must have the glory of the whole. Indeed I do see so much of the fall of man, and what I am as a poor, vile, filthy, guilty, and helpless sinner, that I am too glad and too willing to be saved wholly by sovereign grace, and wonder sometimes whether that amazing grace can ever indeed have reached my bosom. At one time of our lives we may, perhaps, think that it is very easy to be saved; but when we have been well drilled in the school of temptation, then we begin to see that it is the hardest thing in the world, so hard indeed, that nothing short of a miracle of free grace can work in us that religion which shall save the soul.
When I have, with God’s help and blessing, finished my London labors, I hope to set my face towards Wilts, taking in my way Abingdon and Cirencester. Should the Lord permit me once more to come into Wilts I hope it may be under the teaching and testimony, work and witness, of His most blessed Spirit. If I think of myself, and myself alone, I could not dare to entertain such a hope; but in spite of all my weakness and worthlessness, we have now had the experience of nearly twenty-seven years to afford us some little testimony that the Lord has condescended to meet with us in our attempts to worship Him in spirit and in truth, as well as to preach and fear His holy Word. We know that there are those now dead, of whom we have no doubt that they were blessed in the house of prayer, and who will be raised up one day out of their lowly tomb in which they rest in hope, so that your little graveyard will send forth a company of glorified bodies when the great trumpet sounds.
As then you pass by their sleeping dust and look upon their graves with affectionate remembrance, it gives you to hope that they have not borne away all the blessings, but that there are living souls yet who come in for a share too of the same grace which was richly bestowed upon them. How often you pass by the graves of poor old Farmer Wild, our dear friend Dredge, the two sisters, poor Ed Wild, and others, of whom you have a well-grounded hope that their souls have passed into rest and peace. And we too, my dear friend, must one day follow them and be laid as low in the grave as they are now. Oh that the Lord would smile upon our souls and bless us with a sweet manifestation of His love, that when our time comes, we may lay down our head in peace, with a blessed testimony that the Lord is our God. It sometimes seems as if it were too great a blessing to expect. How base have been our backslidings—at least I may say so of my own! How little we have lived to the glory and honor of God! And still how weak our faith, and hope, and love! How many years have I preached and written, and I may say, considering my health and strength, how much have I labored! And yet how little, how poor, how insignificant it all seems. And yet I hope at times I have not labored in vain nor spent my strength for nothing.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.