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03/02/2011 / Test All Things

A Letter To Thomas Godwin – October 29th, 1861

My dear Friend, Thomas Godwin,

It is a good thing that spiritual union does not depend upon letter-writing, though one is always glad to receive a few lines from those with whom we are united in heart and spirit. It is some time since I have either heard from or written to you, but our union remains the same, as being, I trust, based upon a better foundation than pen and ink. Holy John was glad sometimes to avail himself of this means of communion with the elect lady, whom he loved in the Lord, but he preferred to commune with her face to face. Indeed, there are many things which we cannot altogether communicate by pen and ink, and which only can be unfolded when we are brought together in person as well as in heart.

You will be glad to hear that I continue, through undeserved mercy, still pretty well in health, and am enabled at present to take my daily walks and attend to the labors of the ministry. I feel it to be a mercy that I have been enabled this year to fulfill all my engagements from home, and I trust I have, in some measure, felt the power and presence of the Lord in them. I had a much more pleasant and comfortable visit to Leicester this autumn than in the spring. Then I was much bound and shut up in soul, but enjoyed more life and liberty in my late visit. We had a crowded house, and I hope some of the friends were blessed in hearing. I dined with Mr. H. at Belgrave, and had a good deal of conversation with him; not indeed very close, but still very comfortable. I endeavored to show a kind and friendly spirit towards him, and I think he met me in a similar way. He is, I believe, a good man, though he has a great deal to learn, especially of himself. He has never been much rolled in Job’s ditch, nor been in the furnace of affliction, or passed through deep trials and cutting temptations. The lack of this experience makes him to the exercised family of God but a dry bosom. But if he lives, and if the Lord exercises him well with afflictions and trials, breaks up the depths within, and leads him down more into the valley, he will preach with more acceptance to the flock of slaughter.

A friend of mine, a man of very good discernment in the things of God, said, after hearing him, that he was sure of one thing that, whatever he might be, he had not yet taken the lowest room; and as before honor is humility, and the Lord never exalts any man who is not abased, he will have to go a deal lower before he can rise in the estimation of those who know the plague of their heart and who are chastened every morning. I wish him well however, with all my heart, and would be glad if the Lord were to lead him into those things which, when preached with unction and power, are made acceptable to the saints of God. He was, I understand, not very fully attended at Allington, which he named to our friend; but I believe he was well heard by the people there.

I am glad to tell you that our friends here heard you with much sweetness and power during your last visit. I don’t think I ever heard the Stamford friends speak more warmly of your ministry than this last time. I have not felt, I must say, very comfortable here since I came back; but I cannot now enter into all the reasons. In one instance I acted under a wrong impression, which caused some little painful feeling in the church; but as I explained it and expressed my sorrow for having acted under a wrong impression, I trust the unpleasant feeling has passed away. I am sure that, except the breaking out of error or of evil in a church, there is nothing to be so much dreaded as a party spirit. It is the death of all that is good; it sours the mind, hardens the heart, embitters the spirit, defiles the conscience, and brings with it nothing but misery, confusion, and death. It hardly seems much to matter which side is, in the first instance, right or wrong; for as the party spirit goes on, it inflames both sides alike, until each is full of bitterness and enmity. How Satan does rejoice in separating chief friends, and what darkness and death are brought into the soul under his suggestions! It seems at times almost to shut both my heart and mouth, and to put into my hand rather a rod than to fill my soul with the spirit of meekness.

I hope you find yourself pretty comfortable, both in the parlour and in the pulpit, where your lot is now cast. You have never been at any place since I have known you where you have not had trials, and I expect that you will have them at Godmanchester.

Yours affectionately,
J. C. P.

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