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07/01/2013 / Test All Things

A Letter To Joseph Parry – September 20th, 1849

My dear Friend, Joseph Parry,

It is a mercy that where the Lord has begun a good work He will carry it on, and bring it to perfection. If it were not so, what hope could there be for such poor, dark, dead wretches, who can no more revive themselves, than they can quicken their own souls?

And when we have no trials or temptations, or at least not heavy ones, how soon we sink down into carnality and death. I dare say you find that nothing past, either trials or mercies, can do for the present; and that you need the Lord to set to His hand as much as if you had never known and felt anything of a vital nature.

I am, through mercy, better than I was after my Abingdon visit, but not so well as I could wish. I was remarkably well this time last year, and I then thought I was almost as well as before my illness in 1847. But I fear this will never be the case, and that I shall never know good health again. I still, however, continue to preach as usual, and walk out most days when the weather is tolerably fine. At present we have been mercifully preserved from cholera, having had only one case in the town, and that caught passing, it is supposed, through London. At a village near Oakham it has been rather severe. I hope the Lord may mercifully preserve us and our families from that dreadful disease, which has already carried off so many thousands. It has been very bad at Plymouth and Devonport; but through mercy those dear to us have hitherto escaped at Stoke. I think our Government very culpable in not having a day of national humiliation. Ahab and the city of Nineveh are quite scriptural precedents. As we are afflicted naturally and nationally, why should we not repent naturally and nationally? Some of my friends do not see with me in this matter, but I think my views are scriptural.

Poor dear M’Kenzie is at rest. There will appear (D.V.) a short account of his last days in the next Standard. He is taken away in the prime of life and, we might say, usefulness. Truly may we say, “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts,” etc. His death throws more labour and responsibility upon me; but for some time before his death I had most of the Standard work to do, and I have long had to endure the chief responsibility. I hardly know where to look for help to fill his place; and must, I suppose, for the present, at least, bear the undivided burden. It is an office that requires some judgment and experience, as well as some degree of literary qualification, and it is hard to find all these in one individual.

My mind has of late been more settled. That matter troubles me but little now. I believe it is a legalized gospel such as the Galatians were bewitched with; and we see from it similar fruits — “biting and devouring one another.” I hope to go on in my own path not moved by what is said for me or against me. It is through “evil report,” as well as “good report,” that ministers must pass. It is a mercy when the former does not cast down and the latter does not puff up.

You have had most beautiful weather for the harvest, and I hope have had a good crop. But prices are ruinous to the grower, and I fear will continue so. All things seem out of course. Thousands cut off by cholera, illness generally prevalent, much distress everywhere. And abroad still greater calamities.

What a mercy amid all the turmoil and strife to have eternal things to look to — a kingdom that cannot be moved!

In twenty years, today’s price of oil will probably mean little to you. But it will much matter whether your soul is in heaven or hell. When the cold winds are whistling over your grave, or the warm sun resting on it, what will it matter whether sheep sold badly or well at the market?

Could we realize eternal things more, we would be less anxious about temporal things.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” It is only our unbelief and carnality which fetter us down to the poor things of time and sense. “Lord, increase our faith.”

Through mercy we are all well, and this is a great mercy, for the town is full of sickness, chiefly small-pox, and many, especially children, have died. I consider ourselves favoured in having a healthy locality to dwell in.

Yours very affectionately,
J. C. P.

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