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25/12/2010 / Test All Things

A Letter To John Grace – January 10th, 1862

My dear Friend, John Grace,

I sincerely desire to sympathize with you and Mrs. Grace in the trying affliction and painful bereavement which you have just sustained, in the removal of your beloved daughter. From what you have named of her experience, particularly toward the last, I think there is every ground for a good hope that she was among the number of those favoured souls who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and made alive unto God by regenerating grace. Considering her age, mode of bringing up, and natural disposition, there was hardly reason to expect a very marked and conspicuous work of grace upon her soul. We hardly know how feeble and faint may be the measure of saving grace in a truly quickened soul, especially if there be great fears of making an insincere profession. It was not as if she had the way of truth to learn for the first time; or any self-righteous profession which had to be pulled down with a strong hand. There could hardly be therefore that clear, marked, and decided work which we see in people who have been brought out of the world by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; nor was there, so to speak, that necessity of being taught terrible things in righteousness, which in some cases seem to be almost necessary to burn up the wood, hay, and stubble of a legal righteousness. She was evidently sensible of her danger, had often heard the way of salvation pointed out, and the blessed Lord ever held up as the only hope and help for the people of God. We cannot say then how secretly or mysteriously the Lord might have begun or carried on the work of grace upon her soul.

Last evening I happened to open the Bible in the chapel upon Mark 4:26, and following. I just glanced my eye over the parable, and as I saw something sweet and experimental in it, I expounded it before prayer and preaching. While doing so, I was struck with the expression of “a man sleeping and rising night and day, and the seed springing and growing up he knows not how.” Whether “a man” be a minister, the sower who sows the seed, or whether he be a believer in general, it seems plain that the lesson which the Lord meant to teach was that man had nothing to do with the matter, and that whether he slept or whether he awoke, he could not contribute one atom to the germination of the seed or the growth of the plant. The earth, by which I presume is meant the heart of man, or rather the new heart promised, brings forth fruit of itself, independent of the care of man, but wholly dependent upon the rain and sun which come from God. But the blessed Lord goes on to tell us that the work of grace upon the heart resembles the growth of wheat in having first the tender blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.

Now I am not going to give you a sermon upon that text, or even to say what I understand by it, but the parable strikes my mind as having some bearing upon poor Lydia’s case. You could hardly tell when the seed was first sown in her heart. Most probably it was sown by your own hand. But you slept, and you rose night and day, and the seed sprang and grew up you knew not how. You might and did supplicate the Lord on her behalf, and many others did the same; but neither you nor they could contribute one mite to the germination of the seed, or the growth of the plant. Her heart, made honest and sincere, we hope by the grace of God, brought forth fruit of itself. You were watching to see the seed spring up and grow, and in due time you saw a little tender blade, which grew up you knew not how. I much love tenderness in the things of God. Josiah’s heart was tender, and the Lord took blessed notice of it.

From all I have heard about poor Lydia, there was a tenderness in her religious feelings. She was afraid of presumption, hypocrisy, and making a profession without the power. All this looked well as far as it went. But as long as there is only the blade, you can scarcely tell a wheat field from a grass field. Something more is needed to prove it to be corn, and not grass. There is the ear, which seems to be some formation of Christ in the heart; for as in the literal figure, the corn is formed in the ear, though still green and milky, so in grace, when the blessed Lord is in any measure revealed to the soul and embraced by faith, He is then in substance all He ever will be. It is true the corn has to be ripened, but this has little to do with the shape of the grain.

So I trust your poor dear girl had a sufficient discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ to give her a saving faith in His blood and obedience, and a love to His name. I like what she said to her mother about the passage from Micah, and we would hope that as the Lord “delights in mercy”, and she “delighted in mercy” too, her will was melted into the Lord’s, and that being joined to Him, through faith in the promise, she was one spirit. I think also that the words which were made sweet to her at the beginning of her illness were very suitable, and we know if they came from the Lord He will be faithful to His own word of promise.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

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