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18/12/2010 / Test All Things

A Letter To William Brown – October 29th, 1862

My dear Friend, William Brown,

I was sorry to hear that you were suffering from the effects of your painful gouty arthritis, and had not the free use of your lower limbs. You must feel it much, being so often called from home, and having to travel by such various conveyances. We must all have our daily cross. My tender chest has long been one to me, and deprivation of the free use of your hands and feet has been and is still one to you. But we trust that this cross has not been without its profit. The Lord saw that we could not be trusted with health. Like an unbroken steed, full of high courage and spirits, it might have run away with us had we been placed upon its back; and what might have been the consequence? A broken neck or a fractured limb.

I was sitting some time ago by the bedside of a woman who has been more or less confined to her bed for thirty years. I said to her, “You don’t know what sins you have been kept from by being confined here.” The thought seemed to strike her as one with which she had not been conversant, and she named it afterwards as an unseen benefit of her affliction. So lame feet may keep a man from running into evil, and make him walk, if not more easily and comfortably, more in the strait and narrow path.

Our unseen mercies may be greater than our seen mercies. The prophet’s servant did not see the horses and chariots of fire round about the mountain; but they were there, though he saw them not. We need many trials, and a long course of them, to meeken our spirit and give us patience; for tribulation works patience, as patience works an experience of the mercy and goodness of the Lord, and as an experience of past and present support works a hope of support for the future. Trial of some kind or other is indispensable to a Christian, and especially to a Christian minister. The Lord’s people are a tried people, and therefore need a tried experimental ministry.

I feel much for the appalling distress in Lancashire, and look forward to the coming winter with great apprehension, knowing the general sequel of previous famines. I have been apprehensive from the very first, lest there should be a breaking out of fever, which now seems to be the case at Preston. I traveled from Leicester to Oakham with Dr. S., and I put the question to him whether such a fear might not be justly entertained. He was clearly of that opinion; and I would not be surprised if we had a repetition, at least on a smaller scale, of the Irish Famine in 1847. I am doing what I can to help the brethren, and obtained at Oakham a collection of £41 when I was last there. But my lack of local knowledge is a hindrance to my satisfactory distribution of the money sent me or collected by my own exertions. I am therefore obliged to let Mr. Gadsby take that part of the good work upon himself. You would probably hear from Mr. Grace his account of his northern visit, but a mere passing view cannot give an adequate idea of the depth and extent of the calamity. Its physical evils are and will be increasingly dreadful, but I much fear that its moral evils will be even greater and more permanent. It has already reduced to the same level the provident and the improvident, the industrious and the indolent. This is one moral bank already swept away; and if it pauperizes Lancashire, it may next sweep away that other noble bank—the stout-hearted independence of Lancashire men.

Still He who sits upon the waterflood can keep back the waves; and He whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil can make even this calamity a blessing. The two greatest public calamities which we have known, the Irish Famine and the Indian Mutiny, have been made of the most signal service to both those countries. We may add to this perhaps, that other third calamity, the Crimean War, which swept away a whole host of abuses. We may hope therefore that a blessing will come out of this cotton famine; and indeed I understand a more dreadful crash, if possible, must soon have come from over-production, had the present cause of suffering not intervened. I greatly fear, from all I have seen and heard, that the northern churches are at a very low ebb in vital godliness. Who knows but that this heavy affliction may be a means of stirring up the suffering people of God in the north.

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

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