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18/12/2010 / Test All Things

A Letter To Joseph Tanner – May 29th, 1862

My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner.

How time slips away with rapid wing! Revolving months have brought me against the eve of my summer campaign, when I leave my quiet home, my wife, family, and my books, to sojourn for a while in the busy metropolis, and then turn my face towards the swelling hills and green downs of Wilts. But before I once more (D.V.) see their broad backs and undulating line, I hope to visit that ancient town where He who fixes the bounds of our habitation has cast your earthly lot, and there, with the Lord’s help and blessing, renew those ties of friendship and affection, all laid, we trust, beforehand on a right basis, and cemented during that eventful season which I spent under your roof in the autumn of 1860. In our day, there is but little union or communion between those who profess the same truths and who preach the same Gospel. The reason of this is that there is so little union and communion with the blessed Lord; for wherever there is union and communion with Him, there must be the same with His people. Where too humility is lacking, and where pride, ambition, or covetousness prevail, there cannot be real union and communion, for that monster Self steps in between to intercept it.

But when we are made willing to take the lowest place, and to esteem others better than ourselves, there seems to be some foundation laid for Christian union. Such is, I trust, my feeling wherever I see real grace. Gifts may be useful in their way; but it is grace, and grace alone, which unites the soul to Christ, and to those who are Christ’s. If ministers, instead of seeking after gifts and popularity, were hungering and thirsting after larger communications of grace for their own souls’ present and future benefit, and for their people’s, there would be more union among them. But we are poor, fallen creatures, and I have no right to censure others where I am so deficient myself.

I cannot at present fix the exact day when I shall hope to see you, but most probably it will be either Tuesday, July 22nd, or Wednesday, July 23rd, if the Lord grant me health and strength to carry out my London and Abingdon engagements. I should not object to speaking on the evening of the Thursday in the same hall as before, if you think there would be a sufficient congregation to warrant our meeting there instead of the chapel. I still carry about with me a weak tabernacle, having often much cough to try both body and mind. Still, hitherto I have found strength equal to my day, and been helped through my labors so as not to break down, though often very weak before, and in, and after them. No doubt I need all the ballast I carry, to steady my ship, for there is no safe sailing without it.

You too have your cares and trials; bodily cares, family anxieties, business perplexities, ministerial troubles, and no doubt besides, and beyond all these, that most pressing and most present of all—the heavy weight of a body of sin and death hampering and clogging every movement of the soul Godwards and heavenward. Under the pressure of all these trials and temptations, what a poor empty thing does the world appear, how transitory and vain our present earthly life; and indeed all things within and without with which we are surrounded. Sin and death seem visibly stamped upon them all. But though we thus seem to get sick of earth, sin, and self, yet we feel the need of divine communications of life, light, liberty, and love, to raise up the heart and draw the affections heavenward. Hunger is not food, weariness not rest, and sickness not cure.

How we need the blessed Lord to appear for us, and in us, that we may find in Him that rest and peace, that happiness and consolation, which none but He can bestow. How poor, how empty, how needy am I without His grace; how unable to think, say, or do any one good thing! How dark my mind, how cold my heart, how earthly my affections, unless He is pleased to move and stir my soul toward Himself. Thus I daily find and feel that, without Him I can do nothing, and that He must be my All in all. In private, in public, whatever I do or wherever I am, from Him is all my fruit found. Among the professors of the day how few know and love the truth, and among the preachers how few preach it from any sweet experience of its power! I am afraid of myself, and I am afraid of others; so powerful is unbelief, and so deceitful the heart, so strong is Satan, and so mighty is sin. May the Lord Himself teach and guide us, bless us, and hold us up, for then, and then only, shall we be safe.

I have written a sad stupid letter, but it will show you how dark, barren, and unprofitable I am without the Lord’s especial help.
Yours affectionately in the Lord,
J. C. P.

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