A Letter To Duncan Mathieson – January 28th, 1852
My dear Duncan Mathieson
I have indeed reason to bless the Lord for the way in which in His mysterious providence and grace He has condescended to spread and bless my little productions. And this because I have never attempted to spread them myself, and have no pecuniary interest in them. It is indeed mysterious that they should have reached your remote district, and especially so that your first knowledge of them should have come through such a remarkable channel [The Duchess of Gordon].
A few days before your letter came to hand, I received one from a clergyman in Herts, who had been under great distress of soul. Change of air was recommended, and he went to Ramsgate. Going one morning to bathe, his eye glanced in at a shop window, in which the “Heir of Heaven” sermon was exposed for sale. He was struck with the title, and went in and purchased it. It was made a blessing to his soul. He was led to procure my other writings and sermons, and speaks of them as being blessed to him.
How mysterious are the dealings of God!
Feeling my own dreadful sinfulness, it makes me wonder at His free, sovereign, matchless, super-abounding grace.
Of all men, I was most unlikely to be made useful to the Lord’s family. Until I went to college in 1821, I actually never knew there was any such thing as religion professed, beyond the mere Church of England formalism in which I was educated. There, by the conversation of a fellow-student, my judgment was convinced, but my heart untouched; until in 1827, in a solitary part of Ireland, in the midst of a deep affliction, the Lord was pleased, I trust, to quicken my poor dead soul. This entailed the overthrow of all my University prospects, which were good, as in human learning I had in 1824 taken what are called high honours; and indeed my heart was devoted to books and the acquisition of earthly knowledge.
From 1828 to 1835, I was a minister in the Establishment, residing chiefly in a lonely village, where I had much sickness, and learned, I hope, in soul some of those lessons which are embodied in my ministry.
As my conscience became burdened with the unscriptural character and services of the Church of England, I was compelled to leave it. My path has been, and is, one mainly of trial and temptation, having a heart so evil, a tempter so subtle, and so many crosses and snares in which my feet are continually caught and entangled.
But I hope that my trials and temptations are mercifully overruled for the benefit and edification of the church of God. We are overrun with a shallow, superficial ministry, which is destitute of all life, savour, and power.
The trials and exercises of the family of God are untouched, or if alluded to, are trampled down with contempt. A dry, dead-letter scheme of doctrine, as mathematically correct as the squares of a chess-board, prevails, where what is called “truth” is preached, and to move texts on the squares as pawns or pieces is the art of preaching. Where heart and conscience are not reached, where the inward conflict is not opened up, where the sweet and savoury Gospel is not preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, there the flock of slaughter cannot feed. Ezekiel 34 is a true picture of the false shepherds.
How simple is truth!
Man’s misery, God’s mercy; the aboundings of sin, the super-aboundings of grace; the depths of the fall, the heights of the recovery; the old man and the new; the diseases of the soul, and the balm of a Saviour’s blood — these lessons learned in the furnace of inward experience, how different from the monkish austerity of the Puseyite, the lip service of the Pharisee, and the dry Calvinistic formulary of the church!
A friend of mine, now departed, was called, in the providence of God, to Glasgow. Thence he wrote to me that he had wandered from church to chapel, and, I think, the same at Edinburgh; but all was dead joy. At last he used on the Lord’s day evenings to leave the town, sit on a hillside, and there pray and read, drawing sometimes from his pocket one of my little sermons. He would have rejoiced to find a few there with whom he could have united. When I sent forth my little productions, I had not the remotest idea of their being so widely spread, or that the Lord would condescend so much to bless them, as I trust He has done. With the sermons which have been taken down, I have had still less to do; but as they have obtained a wide circulation, and are read in many little chapels where there is no minister, I think it right to revise them before they go forth.
May the Lord lead us more deeply into His most blessed truth.
What are all the painted toys of time, compared with the solemn, weighty realities of eternity?
But alas! what wretches are we when left to sin, self, and Satan!
How unable to withstand the faintest breath of temptation!
How bent upon backsliding!
Who can fathom the depths of the human heart?
Oh, what but grace, super-abounding grace, can either suit or save such wretches?
Tender my love to all in your circle who bear me in their heart. I deeply need their prayers. May the Lord keep and bless you.
Yours, I trust, in the best bonds,
J. C. P.
J. C. P.