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25/12/2010 / Test All Things

A Letter To Joseph Parry – January 22nd, 1862

My dear Friend, Joseph Parry.

I believe that the Address (Gospel Standard) is generally very well liked. If I may be a judge of my own composition, I have written better and worse; I therefore consider it about an average; but if I may say so, I think it is written in a good spirit. One thing I am very sure of—that whether it be preaching or writing, I have no power to do either to any purpose, except as I am specially enabled by God. It is surprising what a difference I feel in the power of conceiving gracious thoughts, or giving them spiritual utterance by tongue or pen. It is easy enough to use words, but what are words if the life-giving power of the Spirit be not in them? There is almost as much difference between a living man and a corpse, as between words animated by the Spirit and words in which there is only the breath of man.

But in this, as in everything else, the Lord is a sovereign, not only as to those on whom He bestows the unction of His Spirit, but also as to the times and seasons when He grants it. Private Christians know this from the difference of their feelings in prayer, hearing, reading the Scriptures, meditation, and Christian conversation; and if called upon to pray in public, they know it also from the different way in which they are enabled to exercise their spiritual gift. I have often thought and said that, though from education and long practice I may be able to speak or write so as not to be altogether confounded, yet as regards liberty, life, power, or feeling—I am as dependent upon the Lord in the exercise of my ministry as any of my poorer and less educated brethren. Indeed, sometimes every gracious thought and feeling, with every good word and work, seem utterly gone, just as if I had never known any one divine truth, or as if the Bible had never come before my eyes or with any power into my heart.

I think you have done well upon the whole in establishing a prayer meeting; but like most other things, it is easier to begin than to go on. I was very much struck with an expression made by a gracious friend of mine some time ago. Speaking of a minister whom you do not know, but who stands high in the professing church, he said—”He has no prayer in him.” Well, it struck me in a moment—”Where or what must a man be if there be no prayer in him!” I almost fear that his judgment was correct, for he had often heard him pray and preach, and judged him from the feelings of his own soul. So I would say of those who pray at a prayer meeting, if there be no prayer in them it will be but a poor dead lifeless service, but if there be prayer in them it will come out of them, to their own refreshment and to that of the hearers. But you well know, my dear friend, that the Holy Spirit alone can bestow the spirit of grace and of supplication, and that this blessed Intercessor intercedes in and for the saints with groanings which cannot be uttered. Mr. Huntington was against prayer meetings, I suppose from seeing how they became preaching nurseries; but surely if prayer be good in private, it should be good in public, and there is no more reason why a gracious man should not pray spiritually in the pew, as well as a godly preacher in the pulpit.

We have been spared to see the beginning of another year; the Lord knows whether we shall be permitted to see its close. This time thirty-one years ago, I was staying under the roof of our friend William Tiptaft, then Vicar of Sutton Courtney, and so weak and poorly was I at that time, that I did not go out of doors for the months of December and January. Most probably those who knew me then did not think that my life would be prolonged up to this time. Poor Mrs. C., for one, used to think that I was doomed to an early grave; but I have lived to see her, and her sister too, taken away before me. Truly could David say—”My times are in Your hand.” The blessed Lord holds the keys of death and hell; and as He has thus far preserved my life, He can, if He will, prolong it still. My desire is, whether it be long or short, that I may walk in His fear and live to His praise, enjoy in my own soul His manifested favour, and be made a blessing to the church of God. I have had many persecutions and many enemies, but here I stand at this day, unharmed by them and much more afraid of myself than I am of them. It is a mercy that, though I have never been strong in body, and now begin to feel the infirmities of advancing years, my mental faculties have been preserved. I cannot indeed study and read as I once did, but am still enabled to get through the work that lies before me, both in preaching and writing.

I am glad that the testimony of poor Edward Wild was well received in your parts. I think it has been generally liked as a simple narrative of the Lord’s work, and one stamped with sincerity, if not with any great depth.

No doubt you and yours, in common with us all, have sympathized with our poor afflicted Queen. You know that I have always been what is called a loyal subject, having no sympathy with radicals and republicans, but I believe that the whole country has felt for her, from the palace to the cottage. What a mercy it would be for her if the grace of God would but sanctify the afflicting stroke to her soul’s immortal good!

I continue, through mercy, much as usual, though this last frost has rather pinched me. I preached however twice on Lord’s day. Time is advancing with us all. O that when it shall be said to us, “Time no longer”, it may bear us into a blessed eternity!

I am, yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

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