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17/12/2010 / Test All Things

A Letter To John Grace – August 3rd, 1863

My dear Friend, John Grace,

I reached here last Friday evening after a month’s sojourn in London, where I had a very comfortable, and I hope profitable visit. I was with my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Clowes, whom the more I know, the more I value. I was favored for the most part with liberty in the pulpit, and my health, instead of suffering, was improved up to the end. Indeed, London air at this time of the year always suits my chest. There is a warmth and dryness about it which exactly suits my breathing apparatus; and I have almost reason to believe that London, as a residence, except perhaps at the foggy portion of the year, might suit me better than our northern exposure. Your air would be too keen, and too loaded with moist saline particles. We had yesterday our usual attendance, almost as Hart says: “Gathered from all quarters”, and I hope the Lord was with us.

Tomorrow is Calne anniversary, where, if spared to go, I shall meet one of the largest gatherings of the seed royal that is well known. You may have something like it in Sussex, but we have nothing like it in Lincolnshire or Leicestershire. I hope that we may have the Lord’s presence and power in our midst. It is not often that you have shaken hands in one day with so many honest palms. I have said sometimes that it has almost made my hand ache after it has been grasped so much, and often so warmly, by hands hardened, not like a reprobate’s conscience by God’s judgments, but by honest labor. Hard hands and tender hearts are far better than soft palms, or smooth tongues, and seared consciences.

I find a great difference in my preaching here and in London; not that there is any change in doctrine or experience, but a rustic population requires a more simple and almost familiar mode of utterance than suits a London congregation. It is not that I study my style, or seek to adapt it to different classes of people; but the thing comes, as no doubt you have felt, almost intuitively, without study or forecast. It is like sitting down to converse with my old almshouse woman and Mr. Smart of Welwyn. We naturally necessarily drop into that style of speech which adapts itself to the person we converse with. And I am well convinced, unless a minister can in this sense be all things to all men, it will much limit his usefulness. We need not be low, we need not be vulgar, we need use no word which would offend the most fastidious ear, and yet be perfectly intelligible to the fisherman on the beach, or the woman that cleans the chapel.

I have often admired our Lord’s discourses from this point of view, independent of their solemn weight and power. What dignified simplicity, what exquisite clearness! Intelligible to the lowest, and yet, in their depth, unfathomable to the highest capacity. Blessed Lord! May our desire and delight be to exalt Your worthy name; for You are our All in all! All divine truth is in Jesus, comes from Him, and leads to Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. To know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is eternal life, and all knowledge short of this is but death—as deadly in its consequences as the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

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