A Letter To Joseph Parry – April 15th, 1848
My dear friend, Joseph Parry
I hope I may say I am through mercy better in health. I have partially resumed the work of the ministry, having commenced to preach once on the Lord’s-day. I seemed shut up and embarrassed the first Lord’s-day that I spoke here; but had somewhat more life, liberty, and feeling at Oakham. I seemed favoured with a little of the spirit of prayer while going there by the coach, and also in the morning before preaching.
It is a mercy to feel the heart sometimes a little softened and humbled, and life and power to accompany the word. I was in hopes that my long affliction would have done my soul more good, and produced more solid, spiritual, and visible fruit, internal and external, than I have yet experienced from it. It seems to be indeed a sad and lamentable thing to be continually chastened, and yet be after all an unfruitful branch and a vile cumber-ground!
A sickly body and a dreadfully diseased soul make a daily cross, and one sometimes hard to be borne. I cannot throw aside my religion, and yet how hard it is to keep it. To think, speak, act, and live as a Christian; to be one inwardly and outwardly; to be a true follower of the Lamb wherever He goes; to walk daily and hourly with godly fear in exercise; to conquer sin, master temptation, and live a life of faith in the Son of God—if this be true religion, how little I seem to have of it!
I never could boast much of my exploits and attainments, or the great things I have done or mean to do; but now seem less disposed to do so than ever. Nothing short of an almighty miracle of mercy and grace can suit or save me!
We often prate and prattle about sin and grace, faith and repentance, and Christ, and so on, when we really know scarcely what the words mean. Many painful lessons and humbling cutting strokes are needed to teach us the A B C’s of vital godliness; and perhaps all that we may know about eternal things, may be no more than what a babe a few days old knows of this life. It breathes, and cries, and nurses, and sleeps; and as regards divine things we may never here do much more.
I hope that the Lord may own and bless Thomas Godwin’s word among you this time as He did before. I am very sure that all preaching without the power and blessing of the Lord upon it will be but empty breath. I never saw the littleness of man so clearly, and my own littleness in particular. I never felt so much my miserable ignorance, unfitness and insufficiency for the ministry. Indeed, I am and have nothing.
I hope Mrs. Wild will be comfortable at Allington. You must not, however, expect too much from one another. Man is a poor fallen creature, a selfish wretch, a very monster of iniquity. At least, I am. Nor does grace always reign even where it dwells. I very much esteem and respect her, and perhaps think better of her than she does of herself. But there is truth in what William Tiptaft says, that Christians are like cabbage-plants which flourish best when not too near. I am afraid of everybody, and afraid of none so much as of myself. No one has ever so much tried me, so much plagued me, or so much frightened me, as J. C. P., and no one, I am sure, but myself knows what reason I have to be afraid of him. . .
Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.