A Letter To Thomas Goodwin – June 7th, 1849
My dear friend, Thomas Godwin
It seems that troubles and trials still await me, and what is to be their end or outcome, I know not. I was thinking the other day that either Satan must hate me very much, or that there must be something in me very wrong, for many seem to rise up against me.
And having so much besides in me which causes condemnation and fear, and the Comforter who would relieve my soul being far from me, makes me wonder how the scene will end.
What adds to the trial is my public situation as a minister and editor of the Gospel Standard. Were I obscure and unknown, like many private Christians whom I envy, how many trials should I be free from! But so many eyes are fixed upon me, some for good and some for evil. I have so many enemies as well as friends; and I find it so difficult, either by pen or tongue, to express myself so as to be free from misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or cavil, that my way seems completely hedged up. But in the midst of all these trials I trust there are some mercies. The Lord has not withheld that spirit of prayer and supplication which I trust He first gave me more than twenty years ago, and to His throne of grace He from time to time draws me.
I have still encouraging testimonies that the work is going on at Oakham. A woman came to see me on Tuesday afternoon who has been a hearer ever since the chapel was opened. The Lord quickened and blessed her soul many years ago, but for the last seven or eight years she has been in a lukewarm profession, with only just enough life to keep her out of the world, and burdened with its cares and anxieties. But within these last few months the Lord has set to His hand the second time, and wrought very powerfully and blessedly in her soul, first bringing her to the deepest self-abasement and sorrow for her long state of backsliding, and then manifesting His mercy and love to her soul. She could hardly speak for tears and blessing the Lord for His mercies. It was not altogether under the word, though she said she has heard with new ears the last few months; but it seems that the work was helped on by the word. She will (D.V.) come before the church at our next meeting, when I doubt not she will be well received, and I hope to baptize her on my last Lord’s-day at Oakham.
I am, you know, slow to receive what are called “blessings,” especially when said to have been under my preaching; but these cases at Oakham have been so clear, and there has been that savour and power attending the testimony which the friends have given, that I could not but believe them, they have come with such weight to my conscience.
Amid all this, when I look within I feel much to condemn me. My past backslidings rise up to my view, with many sins and temptations, besides my continual propensity to carnality and folly. And then, when these attacks come from without, it makes me sink, as if the Lord had a strong controversy with me, and that after all my enemies might be right and I might be fearfully and perhaps wholly wrong.
Why have I so many opponents?
Other ministers pass along untouched, but book after book comes out against me, as if they would sink me outright. If this be the price paid for many hearers such as at Allington and elsewhere, methinks it is very dear.
When, after hearing Mrs. L.’s testimony at the church-meeting at Oakham, I was walking from the upper vestry, I think, to the pulpit, I felt and said to myself, “If the Lord bless so my word to the people, let me go on preaching, I shall not mind a hundred —s.” But, alas! how soon the heart sinks again when trouble arises, and I could not help wishing I had lived and died in the Church of England. I thought I might have been quiet there, and need not have preached at all. I was struck last evening with Psalm 11. I cannot say that either was applied to my soul, or that I would or did call my adversaries wicked. But the drift of the Psalm struck me as peculiarly forcible. We must be tried if we are the Lord’s, and when our trials bring us to His feet, we may hope they may do us good. I do not wish, however, to burden you with my trials, though I know and feel you are and always have been a kind and sympathizing friend.
I hope the Lord may be with you at Allington this time, and bless you in your own soul and in the ministry of the word to the hearts of the people.
I think (D.V.) of going to Lakenheath for Lord’s-day, August 12. You know how desirous they have been for me to go there, and having that day to spare, I seemed led to spend it in that way.
I had a pleasant and I hope a profitable visit at Allington this time. But if I had my encouragements there, and many hearers and friends, I have had since and have now my ballast. . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.