A Letter To Mr Tips – October 30th, 1857
Dear Mr. Tips, friend and Brother in the Lord of Life and Glory,
I received and read with much interest and pleasure your gratifying letter, the whole of which I was able to make out with tolerable facility. But though I understand enough of the Dutch language to be able to read it, I am not sufficiently conversant with that tongue, as regards its idioms and grammar, to be able to write it. I therefore avail myself of your kind permission to write to you in my native tongue, which it appears you understand, and in which I hope to express myself in a manner intelligible to you and easy to myself.
The information which your truly interesting and spiritual letter contains, that very many of my sermons have been translated into Dutch, and widely circulated among the tried and afflicted people of God in your country, humbled and melted my soul before the Lord, and I was enabled to praise His holy name for His great goodness and wonderful condescension, in making use of so sinful and unworthy an instrument as myself, to spread abroad His gracious and glorious name, not only in my own country, but in a foreign land (2 Cor. 2:14).
It also led me to supplicate His gracious Majesty, that He would still go on to make use of me as an instrument in His hands, to spread the Gospel of His sovereign, distinguishing, and superabounding grace. What made the matter more surprising in my eyes, and showed me more clearly that it was the Lord’s own work, was this circumstance, that I had no hand in the matter, and knew nothing of the work that was going on, until the pleasing news reached my ears. And it has been the same in this country; for with the exception of two or three little publications sent abroad by me twenty years ago, I have never had any hand in spreading my own sermons in this land, but have left the matter wholly in the hands of the Lord, as feeling if they were worthy to live and be spread, it would be done, and if not, let them die.
It may perhaps be interesting to you, and the readers of the sermons in Holland, to learn how they first came into public notice in this country. You are perhaps aware that I was brought up in the communion of the Church of England, our great national establishment, and was educated at the University of Oxford, where, to speak with all humility, I distinguished myself by my knowledge of Greek and Latin literature. I was ordained to the ministry in the Church of England in the year 1828, being then not quite twenty-six years of age. At that time I hope the Lord had, about a year and a half previously, quickened my soul into spiritual life, and taught me, by His Spirit and grace, something both of sin and of salvation. But my eyes were not then open to see the errors and corruptions of the National Church. I was much afflicted with illness in the years 1830 and 1831, and as eternal things came to lie with greater weight and power on my heart, and the Lord’s work was deepened in my soul, I became led to see more clearly, and feel keenly, the errors and evils of the Church of England; and after some years of trial and prayer to the Lord to lead and guide me, I was compelled, in the Spring of 1835, to withdraw myself from its communion, though obliged to relinquish at the same time a comfortable living which I had in it, and to renounce all my prospects of future advancement, which were much bound up in it.
At that time I was in a most delicate state of health, without any property, or the prospect of any; but like Abraham, I went out at the call of God and conscience, not knowing where I went, and I was enabled, through rich grace, to esteem, with Moses, the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. A door however, in answer to the prayers of a spiritual friend, was soon opened for me to preach the gospel outside of the Church of England, and since that period my ministry has been among the Particular Baptists—a religious denomination in this country called by that name, as holding the baptism of believers only, and also holding that the Lord’s Supper is, by Apostolic practice, restricted to baptized believers, holding those particular doctrines which are generally termed the doctrines of grace, and which were so clearly laid down by your forefathers at the Synod of Dort.
Since the year 1837, I have been in the habit of going to London once a year in the summer season, for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, as well as to other places, where I proclaim the Word of life; though my stated residence and ministry are chiefly at the town whence I date this letter, and another about twelve miles distant.
In the summer of 1839, being then in the metropolis on my annual visit, I preached a sermon at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, which has lately been translated into Dutch by J. Nieuwland, and published by J. Campen of Sneek, in his “Eerste Zestal Leerredenen, von J. C. Philpot”, from Psalm 106:4, 5, under the title—”De begeerte des harten van elken wedergeborene”.
This sermon was taken down entirely without my knowledge, and printed in a publication called, “The Penny Pulpit”, but I saw neither the MS. nor the printed sermon, until it was put into my hands. This sermon however, which was on the whole a faithful report, had a most rapid and amazing circulation, the sale having reached, I believe, nearly twenty editions. This circumstance, of course, encouraged the printer to work a mine, which seemed likely to yield him such profit, and thus since that date it has gone on, Mr. Paul and other publishers having availed themselves of my visits to London, to take down and publish the sermons which I have been enabled to preach there, so that they now amount to a considerable number, and many of them are out of print and cannot be procured. They have also been taken down at other places, and published in the same way. In all this matter I have taken no steps to have them reported, or to forward their sale; nor do I derive any pecuniary profit from them. But in order to secure myself from the unavoidable errors which would arise if I did not look them over, I make it a point to revise them before they are published, and thus they have all passed under my eye.
I have looked over those which you have kindly sent me through Mr. Bayfield, and as far as I have had time and opportunity to examine them, they appear for the most part faithfully and ably translated. The idiom of the two languages so much differs, that it is not possible always to preserve in Dutch the exact structure of the English sentences, in which much of the force and clearness of the English language consists. Nor is it possible in extempore preaching (all my sermons being delivered completely voor de vuist) to give that clearness and precision of thought and expression which can be communicated to a written discourse. Yet as far as the Lord enables me, I do what I can to make them clear, distinct, and forcible, that the trumpet may give a certain sound (1 Cor. 14:8). The sermons, I know, are much read in this country, and by all classes, both rich and poor, educated and uneducated. Knowing therefore how much the truths I preach are opposed to the carnal mind, and how gladly many would make me an offender for a word, I bestow what pains I can to cut off occasion from those who would seek occasion to wound, through me, the truth of the Gospel. At the same time, I bear in mind that whatever the sermons are, much more dwells in Christ, for “it has pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell” (Col. 1:19); and it is declared that “God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). It will be then our wisdom and mercy, to be ever looking unto this blessed Jesus (Isa. 14:2; Heb. 12:2); and to be living upon Him, as the Apostle declared, that he did (Gal. 2:20). It is in this way that we receive out of His fullness (John 1:16), feed upon His flesh, and drink His blood, and thus dwell in Him, and He in us (John 6:56). We should be much in prayer and supplication to the Lord for His own teaching and blessing. This is the direction given to us by James (1:5), and the same Apostle describes to us the blessed nature of that wisdom which is from above, and which, with every other good and perfect gift, comes down from the Father of lights (James 3:17; 1:17). The promise is—”All your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isa. 54:13); and the Lord Himself tells us what the effect of this divine teaching is (John 6:45). To come unto Jesus for salvation, for pardon, for peace, for sanctification, for victory over our besetting sins, is the fulfillment of the declaration, that every man who has heard, and who has learned of the Father, comes unto Christ (John 6:45). It is not a name, or a sound creed, or a mere calling Jesus “Lord”, that can or will save the soul from death and hell. There must be a living faith, a good hope through grace (2 Thess. 2:16), and a spiritual love shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), in order that the soul may be saved and blessed. Thus it is not merely the soundness of his creed which distinguishes a Christian, but that work of the blessed Spirit upon his heart, whereby he knows the truth, and finds to his soul’s joy that the truth makes free (John 7:32).
There is a blessed unity of spirit among all who are truly taught of God. They are loved by the same everlasting love, and redeemed by the same precious blood, are justified by the same righteousness, are led by the same Spirit, and are traveling toward the same happy and heavenly home. They all too speak the same language; for though in their time state one may speak English, another Dutch, and another German, yet they all speak a pure language, according to the Lord’s own gracious promise (Zeph. 3:9).
I much thank you for your kind invitation to come to Rotterdam, but I cannot accept it, as I am so much engaged in the work of the ministry. Besides which my health is delicate, and has been so for many years, so that I cannot go about as many do, who are more favoured with bodily health and strength. But the Lord has been pleased to spread my writings among those who know and love His truth, and I hope that they have been blessed to many.
My friends in England greatly rejoiced in the circumstance that my sermons had been translated into your native language, and spread among the believers in Christ Jesus in Holland. Many wept rejoicing tears over your letter, which I translated into English, and inserted in The Gospel Standard. As this periodical circulates nearly 10,000 copies, it made your letter widely read. I have been requested to insert in the same periodical my answer to it, but have not at present done so. It is a blessing to be fellow-helpers of each other’s joy and fellow-labourers in the service of the same blessed Master. As there is a commercial connection between Holland and England, each interchanging with the other the commodities of life, so there may be, with the help and blessing of God, a spiritual exchange of those heavenly wares, the possession of which makes the owner rich indeed.
If anything spoken by my mouth, or written by my pen, has been blessed to my believing brethren and sisters in Holland, to the Lord be given all the praise, honor, and glory. It does not, it cannot, belong to me. Everything worth having, knowing, or enjoying is the pure gift of God, and to Him be rendered everlasting praise by the suffering saints below and the glorified spirits above.
My Christian love to your wife and all who love the Lord and His truth.
Yours affectionately in the truth of the Gospel,
J. C. P.