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03/02/2011 / Test All Things

A Letter To Joseph Tanner – November 22nd, 1861

My dear Friend, Joseph Tanner,

Our coward flesh shrinks from every affliction and trial, and even though we may have proved in times past that there has been a blessing couched in them, yet our heart murmurs and frets under the weight of the cross. But the Lord, like a wise parent, does not consult us as to where, when, or how He may lay on the chastising stroke. It is best therefore to fall into His hands, and to lie at His feet begging that He will sanctify to us every afflicting stroke, not lay upon us more than we can bear, and remove the trial when it has done its appointed work.

Of one thing I am very sure, that it is far better to suffer from the Lord, than to sin against the Lord. There is no evil which we need really fear except sin; and though the Lord in tender mercy forgives His erring wandering children, yet He makes them all deeply feel that indeed it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against Him. I myself have no opinion of that religion, let it be called by what name it may, which does not make the conscience alive and tender in the fear of God. The blessed Lord gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world; and the fountain which was opened in His bleeding hands, and feet, and side was to wash away not only guilt and filth from the conscience, but to sanctify the soul. Holy John saw blood and water gush from the Redeemer’s side when it was pierced with the Roman spear; and thus blood to wash away sin, and water to purify the heart, lip, and life, flowed together from the wounds of the pure humanity of the Son of God. I only wish that I could live more in the enjoyment of those two rich and unspeakable blessings—salvation and sanctification.

But we shall always find it to be a fight of faith, a struggle against the power of temptation and corruption, a conflict between the spirit and the flesh, and one in which by strength no man can prevail; for the weak take the prey, and the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. In myself I can truly say I have neither help nor hope, but am obliged every day of my life to look outside of myself to the blessed Lord, that He would manifest Himself to my soul, and shed abroad His love in my heart by the Holy Spirit. I am not one bit stronger in myself with all my long profession and, I hope, possession of the life of God; but on the contrary have a more sensible feeling of my weakness, sinfulness, and helplessness than ever I had before. At the same time I hope I have learned more deeply and thoroughly whence all my strength, wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification are to come, and thus to look more to the Lord and less to self.

I hope you find the Lord with you in your attempts to exalt His worthy name, and that you find yourself encouraged in the work. Sometimes it is most going on when we see it least, and when we feel most desponding as to any good being done, that is often the very season when the Lord is most at work. To be blessed with signs following, is the greatest encouragement that a minister can have.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

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