A Letter To A Friend – March 17, 1843
My dear friend
Time and circumstances did not permit me on Tuesday evening, when I saw you at Barrowden, to do anything more than merely acknowledge the receipt of your letter. I take this opportunity, therefore, to write a few lines in answer to it.
I am exceedingly sorry that this fresh root of bitterness has sprung up to trouble us; but I feel glad that it did not originate in me. H____ commenced the correspondence by complaining of my being prejudiced against him. I thought, therefore, as an honest man, I could not do otherwise than state my reasons for my unfavorable opinion. This seems much to have stirred up his indignation, and he wrote me a reply, of which I would much sooner be the receiver than the sender. I would like you to see it, that you may judge whether “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” are more visible in it, or the proud spirit of man’s heart. I confess, for my part, though I would by no means un-Christianize the man, that I see in his reply little of those blessed fruits which spring from the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart. At any rate, I most earnestly desire to be kept from such a spirit, and feel no union with it.
How contrary are all the preceptive parts of the New Testament, and all the words and all the example of the Blessed Lord — to everything bitter, contentious, and self-exalting!
Men, even good men, often err under the idea of boldness and faithfulness; and mistake the fire of their own spirit for the fire from heaven that came down upon the altar. I have had this spirit myself, and know from experience that there is no dew nor unction of the Spirit attending it. This carnal fire dries up all such heavenly dew. And I know from experience that a tender conscience cannot go into the sanctuary of the Lord’s presence with this unholy fire burning in the heart or carried in the hands.
It is far better to be censured unjustly ourselves, than for us to pass harsh and unfounded judgments on others; and it is, I believe, a part of a Christian’s cross, and one branch of his inward suffering with and conformity to Christ, to be misunderstood and misrepresented.
Jesus was said to have a devil and to be mad, was called a glutton and a wine-bibber, and was crucified as a blasphemer. Thus He was misunderstood and misrepresented; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, but must fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. If you feel your conscience bearing you witness in the Holy Spirit that you desire not to have the pre-eminence, to be called a Diotrephes cannot injure you; and if you feel meekness and love in your heart, and that you dare not give a false testimony, such charges as “murder,” etc., may pain, but cannot harm you. The ’causeless curse’ shall not come upon you. I trust we may one day clearly see the needs-be for this painful affair, and in the meantime watch, wait, and pray.
I was very glad to see Mrs. Clementson’s testimony, which was fully commended to my conscience as a divine work. I felt I could give her the right hand of fellowship, and would be glad to see her one with us in the church.
I do indeed sincerely desire that we may be at peace among ourselves, and walk in union and brotherly love; “for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16).
The Lord clothe us with humility and fill our hearts with His dying love!
Yours affectionately, for Christ’s sake,
J. C. P.