A Letter To A Friend – October 23rd, 1860
“Love is of God, and he who loves is born of God”; nor is there any sweeter feeling in a Christian’s bosom than to love the Lord and the Lord’s people, because they belong to Him, and because he sees the mind and image of Christ in them.
The Lord knows that I have many bitter enemies, therefore He has given me, by way of recompense, many warm and attached friends; and it is the desire of my heart, that I may never be left to give a feast to the former, or to grieve or distress the latter. I look upon it as one of the Lord’s rich mercies, that He has put it into my heart, and given me power to send forth such testimonies for His truth, as have been, and still are, owned and blessed to the souls of His people. I can hardly explain myself the peculiar influence under which I was led to send forth those two sermons, ‘The Heir of Heaven’ and ‘Winter before Harvest’; but I certainly was much helped at the time, both in preaching them, and afterwards writing them; and I have had remarkable testimonies how they have been blessed, and especially the latter, to the calling, delivering, and comforting of the Lord’s people.
When we are passing through painful trials, and especially severe and distressing temptations, do we not see what the Lord is effecting thereby; how He is killing us to self-righteousness, stripping us out of an empty profession, and convincing us that nothing but His own divine work in our souls is of any value. I see so many resting upon the shallowest evidences, having apparently no doubt of their interest in the blessed Lord, when, could you see into the ground of their hope, it would be of the feeblest possible character, if indeed it were a good hope at all. The faith of most is but a ‘doctrinal faith’—a faith merely in the letter of truth, without being wrought in their souls by the power of God. As this faith of theirs is never tried by law or conscience, by sin or Satan, by trial or temptation, and as God Himself does not try it, it appears in their eyes sound and good; and it is to be feared that hundreds go out of the world with no better faith than this, who are considered to have died in the Lord. Now we know by experience what this faith is. It has been weighed in the balance and found lacking, and this has made us look out for a better kind of faith—a faith that we feel convinced must be the gift and work of God.
Now if you look through all the way along which the Lord has led you these many years, you will find that you never got any real blessing but through trial and temptation; that your afflictions have been your best friends; that out of your darkness came your light; out of your death came your life; out of your distress came your joy; and out of your bondage came your deliverance.
Where we err is, that we want to be something, when we are nothing. We want in some way to recommend ourselves to God, and do or be something that we can be pleased with, and which we think will therefore please Him. It is very hard to learn the depth of our spiritual poverty, the greatness of our sin, and our thoroughly lost, ruined, and helpless condition. We believe in our judgments that salvation is all of rich, free, and sovereign grace, and may to a certain extent have felt, tasted, and enjoyed its blessed freeness. But when we get, so to speak, out of our depth in temptation, exercise, and trouble, when sin and guilt press hard upon our consciences, and we have a view by faith of the purity, greatness, majesty, and holiness of that great and glorious God with whom we have to do, and all our sins come trooping into view, with all the horrid evils of our dreadful hearts, then we lose sight of the freeness and fullness of divine grace, and it seems almost impossible that such a one can be saved. It is something like a little boy learning to swim. He can swim pretty well, after a time, where the water is shallow; but when he gets out of his depth, he loses all courage, and it seems as if he must be drowned; and indeed he would, unless he were plucked out by the very hair of his head.
Many think they are great Christians who have scarcely learned the A B C’s of religion; believe they know much of the Lord, when they have scarcely seen the skirt of His garment; have a high opinion of their faith, when it would go down in the first real storm. As then we are taught these things in our own souls, we can see more clearly, not only where we ourselves are, but see also more plainly where others are. And while this separates us more completely from letter-men and letter-professors, it gives us a sweet and blessed union with the Lord’s family, who are tried and exercised, and know things by divine teaching. When we begin, in the fullness of our heart and in the simplicity of our minds, to speak of these things, we find immediately that the greatest offence is given thereby to professors whom we cannot but condemn. They begin to hate us with cruel hatred; and the more our soul is sick with their mere notional religion, and craves for the inward teaching and testimony, the more bitter they are. We wonder at first what offence we have given; but the offence is, that we have taken away their gods, and what have they more?
May the Lord keep you very near to Himself, with much of His precious fear in your heart, and blessed fellowship with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,
Yours affectionately for the truth’s sake,
J. C. P.