A Letter To Thomas Godwin – June 19th, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin
We had a church-meeting here, on Lord’s-day, and received two candidates for baptism. They were both well received, being well known to the friends and hearers almost ever since I came to Oakham; but one gave a blessed testimony, being now in the sweet enjoyment of the love of God, so that she could speak of the Lord having blessed her soul not once or twice, but again and again even to last Tuesday. She has been a backslider in heart many years, though a most consistent woman; but with what self-abhorrence does she now speak, and did, at the church-meeting, with the tears of sorrow and love mingled together.
I went to K___ yesterday, and saw both her and the woman whom I baptized last, who so melted us all at the church-meeting before I left home. I found also two other gracious people there — constant hearers at the chapel — one a woman whose soul the Lord wonderfully blessed some years ago in a severe illness, but now much tried and harassed. Since the Lord has revived the work here I have seen more of the friends, and believe when you come here you do not preach to stocks and stones. Amid all our darkness and bondage there is, I believe, life and feeling in the souls of some, and I am sure, that next to feeling life in his own soul, there is nothing so encouraging and so drawing, as it were, life out of a preacher, as seeing there is life in the hearers.
I certainly felt some life and power when in Wilts, but since then seem to have well-near lost it all. On Lord’s-day morning I really could not find one grain of grace in my soul, and I think sometimes I am one of the greatest hypocrites that ever walked, and all I feel and talk about is but pretense. Sometimes my mind is filled with infidelity, as if the Bible and religion were all an invention; then again with unbelief as to my own state and standing, and then with all manner of hypocrisy and falsehood. So that when one’s poor soul gets a little respite from the devil’s snares in one way — lust and filthiness — there are snares and temptations on the other. There is either filthiness of the flesh, or filthiness of spirit, and we hardly know which is the worse.
But these things we must know experimentally, that we may dive into people’s hearts and penetrate beneath that crust of self-righteousness and ignorance which hides so many from themselves. Men’s motives, and thoughts, and feelings, are laid bare to us by knowing ourselves, and we are sure there is nothing really good in any, but what God Himself puts there by His grace; and thus while we value at its due worth all human pretensions, we put a great price upon everything commended to our conscience as really of grace; and thus by these exercises we can not only draw a clearer line between people in a congregation, but also more sift and separate the hearts of God’s people and speak more to their comfort and encouragement.
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.