Letter To A Brother In Christ – November 16th, 1831
November 16th, 1831
My dear Brother,
I am rather disappointed at not having received a letter in answer to my last. As I have now been led to act in that which I have long talked about, I feel assured you will be glad to hear some of the particulars. My former letter, however, will prevent any surprise at the important step I have taken.
After frequent prayer to God and deep consideration, I sent a long Letter to the bishop of Sarum, declaring my intention of resigning my living last Thursday, and received an answer yesterday, saying he accepted it. You are aware that flesh is not favored in this transaction, but a burdened conscience. The performance of the ‘ministerial services’ constrained me to resign my living. I feel assured that only pride and covetousness have caused me to continue in it so long. I shall not enter into any particular reasons for resigning, as I intend to publish them, and then you can consider them at your leisure.
I do not expect to escape difficulties by giving up my living. They may be said now to begin; but the grace of God is sufficient for me. The great question is, What shall I do? If I am the Lord’s laborer, which I trust I am, He will find me work in His large vineyard. The most of my hearers are poor people, and they are very desirous for me to continue among them. They who are enlightened rejoice at the thought of my leaving the Church of England, for I have not a single hearer who is evidently a child of God that does not testify against the National Establishment.
I have been induced, from various reasons, to think about settling at Abingdon. Some poor friends thought a small piece of ground might be purchased to build a chapel on, and there was a probability of my having it; but last night I had an answer sent me in the negative. Though Abingdon contains 5,000 or 6,000 people, I scarcely think it possible to get a piece of ground to build a chapel upon. Abingdon is by far the most suitable situation, and very many of my present hearers could go there as conveniently, or more so, than come to Sutton.
The chapel would be the very plainest building, with all open seats; and as those who desire the gospel in these parts are obliged to eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, of course I could not ask them for sixpence, while I have so much of my own. But our souls are so wrapped up in thick clay, and earthbound, that when an opportunity offers of making a little sacrifice of our abundance for Christ’s sake, we are almost ready to make an excuse. If we were called upon to sell our houses and lands, and share them with the poor children of God, we would have something of the spirit of Ananias and Sapphira, in desiring to keep back part of the price. But as God opens our eyes by His blessed Spirit, to see more of the wondrous sacrifice that has been made for us, we shall more willingly offer body, soul and estate to His service. “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” How awful! The generality of professors are endeavoring to serve two masters; for when they have an opportunity of serving Christ, they are inclined to count their money, for fear they shall give too much. “Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.”
If a chapel be built at Abingdon, or elsewhere, a few will contribute who have the means, if not resident in this neighborhood; but, if not, I trust my heart will not prove so devoid of grace as not willingly to build it myself. A day will soon arrive when it will be made known how much we have spent in the gratification of our own lusts, and how little for Christ. When He lived in this world self was out of the question. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.”
Pray for me that I may have more grace and be more spiritually minded, and manifest more of a single eye to God’s glory. Religion is not in word but in power. We are so inclined “to walk according to the course of this world.” My flesh does not like giving up a very comfortable home, and a living altogether worth £140. My flesh would make excuses, and has done so. But neither you, nor I, nor any other interested person, as a member of the Church of England, can give an opinion on the subject. “A gift even blinds the eyes of the wise.” I think many are harassed about continuing in her, but it is the Lord’s time when they shall come out, so that they may not “be partakers of her plagues.”
I intend to go to London next week to resign, it being necessary to go before a notary; consequently, next Sunday will be my last. I do not at present see what I shall do, but I think of continuing in my vicarage a few weeks longer, and then I think of taking lodgings in Abingdon.
My congregations do not diminish, for last Sunday I think I scarcely ever saw more in my church. Several chapels will be open to me occasionally; but, of course, my chief interest is with those whom the Lord has called by my ministry, and those who are spiritual among my hearers.
As my ‘letter of resignation’ will be printed in London, I shall order about 200 to be sent to you from thence, and I will thank you to send Markham fifty, and tell him he is welcome to them, to sell them and keep the money, for he sent me as a present twenty-five of my sermons. You may give all my relatives two each; that is, to a family; and what you have left out of fifty, you may give to poor people, or whomsoever you please; and then there will be a hundred left to sell. The price will be about threepence each. As many will wonder why I have left the Church, I think it well to let them know my reasons.
The times seem very momentous, considering the very disturbed state of the country, and a daily expectation of the spreading of the cholera. Men’s hearts may be said to be failing them, for fear of what is coming upon the earth. But God’s people are safe; I trust that through the grace of God we shall find many led by the Spirit to seek the Lord.
I am anxious to know how you are going on at Oakham in religion. It is up-hill work to contend against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
How is the Lord dealing with your soul? Is He letting His light shine more fully into your heart? Are you more dead to the world? Do you heartily desire to have more of a work of grace upon your heart? The head travels much faster than the heart. Self-denial, taking up a daily cross, and following of Christ, are but little understood in the present day. But we are to walk in His steps. We have so much pride; until grace brings that down, we shall not suffer much for Christ. Have you ever felt a deep sense of your sinfulness, and a powerful testimony of God’s Spirit showing you your completeness through the righteousness of Jesus Christ? Does your Father purge you, that you should bring forth more fruit? You will find the way to heaven is through much tribulation. Do you read your Bible much? Can you say that you do not walk according to the course of this world? Many such-like questions, if applied with power, might be profitable in humbling us, which we much need.
Yours in the bonds of the everlasting covenant,