Joseph Philpot's Letters

Think Before Acting

September 7, 1831

My dear William Tiptaft,—I trust you will deliberate much and long, and seek much the direction of the Spirit, before you venture on the step you meditate of resigning your living. You are placed in a very important station, and, according to your own testimony, have many opportunities of usefulness. You say your congregation is undiminished, that many come to hear you from distant parts, and that you have many spiritual hearers. You have no wish to remain for the sake of the ‘loaves and fish’, and would willingly give up your house and furniture and live in any obscure place that you might be placed in. All those who have left the Church agree in this, that a man should have a clear direction from the Spirit, and that if he leaves it without sufficient grounds, and seeing his way clearly, he will repent of it. Your eyes are partially open to see its defects, and most of your present intimates have either left her communion, or are dissatisfied with what they see in her. All this works on your mind and perplexes you.

Now, a good deal of what is merely carnal may here influence your mind. Your objections may arise, not from the teachings and leadings of the Spirit, but may be merely the workings of the flesh and the temptations of Satan, who would gladly see you removed from your present sphere of usefulness. I do not say you may not be under the leadings of the Spirit, but I say they should be very manifest and clear, much more so than they now seem to be, before you should take so important a step. My dear friend, do nothing rashly. Seek only to be led and taught of God. Cease from man—even spiritual men. They cannot direct you in such difficult circumstances. I would not wish you to stay a moment, if you were really led of the Spirit to leave the Church; but I am afraid of your acting on the suggestion of others, or from feelings merely carnal. The flesh, you know, is incredibly changeable, and can work just as well one way as another. It may work to keep you in, and it may work to turn you out. All I would say is, seek earnestly the direction of the Spirit, and do not move until you see your way clearly, either by inward light and manifestation, or outward providence. I think the Bishop will not bear with you much longer, and then you will see your way clearer.

You may think me carnal, and so on, but I cannot be wrong in advising you to seek earnestly direction from the Lord, and not to move without it. It will be a heavy blow for Sutton and its vicinity if you leave. I feel very sorry to think that many who now can hear you will not then be able, and I think, too, of Stadham. May the Lord guide and direct you. Do not act precipitately, or from merely carnal feeling, but wait to have your way very clearly made out.

I hope you will go over to Stadham, before you go away for a time. Can’t you go over the day this reaches you? it is the usual lecture-night. I could wish that Brenton had more the gift of preaching, and could speak more to the comfort and edification of the people. His sermons are too dry and abstract, too much the reflections of his own mind, and need simplicity of statement and application. They are good and true as far as they go, but they lack that energy and speaking to the heart, and suiting it to the cares and needs of the hearers, which make preaching profitable. They require too much attention to follow, and a mind in some degree imbued with the truth, and able to catch it when obscurely stated, to be generally useful. I am thankful, however, for the seasonable help the Lord has sent me in him, and feel a confidence in him which I could not have done in another. Besides which, I trust the Lord will teach him, and apply the truth with such power to his heart, that he will be constrained to speak it with power to others. Preaching without book, too, will, I think, be useful in leading him to greater simplicity of statement, and bringing him out of that essay style into which he has fallen.

I fear I shall not be able to comply with the wishes of the Stadham people in taking a part of the service. In the first place, I need rest, especially during the winter, when each cold affects my chest; and, secondly, if I were sufficiently strong, I would not think it right to interfere with Brenton. I have left him there to be in my place, which he has kindly consented to occupy; and if I were to return, of course the whole would seem to revert to me, and he be only my assistant. I think it best to leave him in sole charge, and am thankful I can do it so much to my own satisfaction. His visits and conversation, and his lectures, perhaps may be more profitable than his preaching, and it may lead the children of God to pray for him, and so be beneficial to their souls and his.

I was much pleased with a little note from Mrs. T., in which she expressed herself as thankful for Brenton’s being there, and seemed to imply this was the general feeling. I am anxious to know all about them. When you go over, make a point of seeing some of them, and let me know how their souls fare. I am glad Mr. — has come to hear you. There seems something like a shaking there. Few have, I believe, abused you more. His conversation was a web of oaths. I rejoice that Husband and you are so intimate. Your preaching at S. M. would, I am sure, give offence. The Pharisees can bear the Law better than the Gospel, and even the mild Husband now gives offence, and will do so more and more.

Miss — is, I fear, something like the robin spoken of in the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” who can eat sometimes grains of wheat and sometimes worms and spiders. I am quite sick of modern religion; it is such a mixture, such a medley, such a compromise. I find much, indeed, of this religion in my own heart, for it suits the flesh well; but I would not have it so, and grieve it should be so. We sadly need stirring up here. It is a trying situation to live altogether without spiritual society, and more worldly company comes to this house than is profitable to me, as I cannot altogether refuse to enter occasionally into their conversation.

I think of leaving about the 16th or 17th, and going to London, and thence to Petersfield. I cannot yet decide where I shall go to spend the winter. I wish to go to Plymouth, and think it very likely I may decide to go there. The back of the Isle of Wight would be better for my health; but I would have no fellowship there, and no opportunities of hearing anything profitable. At Plymouth I would find many friends, and have the opportunity of hearing the word. My sister is now staying at Stoke. The climate, I am told, is very damp and rainy, which is bad for me. I trust I shall be guided right. I heard Fowler preach at the little “Refuge” in Deal. Old John Kent, the author of “Gospel Hymns,” was there, and I had the pleasure of shaking hands with him. He had heard and drunk tea with Bulteel about three weeks before. I do not think it likely I shall speak to the people at Deal; I do not see my way clear. I do not wish to give up Stadham and forget my licence, which I should in that case do. I trust I am not unwilling, should the Lord please, to forsake worldly honors and gain for Him; but I must see my way clear.

I shall be glad to hear from you shortly again, and let me hear something about my Stadham people. I am sure Brenton would be glad for you to speak to the people, but on Tuesday night, being harvest-time, he was most likely apprehensive of not getting a congregation. May the Lord teach you out of His Holy Word, and make your ministry profitable to all His dear children.

Believe me to be, with true affection, Yours in the Lord,

J. C. P.

Joseph Philpot (1802-1869) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. In 1838 he was appointed the Pastor of the Churches at Oakham and Stamford, during which time he became acquainted with the Gospel Standard. In 1849, he was appointed the Editor for the Gospel Standard Magazine, a position he held for twenty-nine years (nine years as joint Editor and twenty years as sole Editor). John Hazelton wrote of him—

“A man of great grace, profound learning, and with a literary style equal to any of his contemporaries. For twenty years he was editor of the "Gospel Standard," in which his New Year's Addresses, Meditations, Reviews, and Answers to Correspondents were outstanding features. His ten volumes of sermons, entitled "The Gospel Pulpit," and his four volumes of "Early Sermons," testify to his powers as an expositor of the Word, to the beauty of his illustrations, and the heart-searching character of his ministry. He was born at Ripple, Kent, where his father was rector, and educated at Merchant Taylor's and St. Paul's schools, entering at Oxford University in 1821, taking a first-class, and ultimately becoming Fellow of his College. He accepted an engagement in Ireland as a private tutor, but prior to his departure he was unexpectedly detained at Oakham. There he bought a book, "Hart's Hymns," and was much struck by the beauty of many of them. In 1827, in Ireland, eternal things were first laid upon his mind, and "I was made to know myself as a poor lost sinner, and a spirit of grace and supplication poured out upon my soul." He returned to Oxford in the autumn, and "the change in my character, life, and conduct was so marked that everyone took notice of it." Early in 1828 he was appointed to the perpetual curacy of Chislehampton, with Stadhampton—or Stadham—not far from Oxford. He soon gained the love and esteem of his parishioners. His Church was thronged, and his labours were unceasing amongst young and old. In 1829 he became acquainted with William Tiptaft (1803-1864), vicar of Sutton Courtney, and a friendship commenced which death alone severed. Both ministers had been led to know the truths of predestination and election and the final perseverance of the saints, and preached them with unflinching boldness. Persecution soon arose; it always does in some quarter when there is a faithful ministry. In 1831 Tiptaft built a chapel at Abingdon, where he remained as a Baptist pastor until his death. In 1835 Mr. Philpot resigned his living and his fellowship; the temporal sacrifice entailed was such that he had to sell almost all his books. Soon after this momentous step had been taken he preached in a chapel at Newbury, which some of his friends had procured for the purpose. He writes: "When I therefore began to open up that God had a chosen and peculiar people the whole place seemed in commotion. One man called aloud, 'This doctrine won't do for me!' and started out, and was instantly followed by five or six others. I was not, however, daunted by this, but went on to state the truth with such measure of boldness and faithfulness as was given me. Some of my friends at the chapel thought that the people would have molested me, but no one offered to injure me by word or action, and I came safe out from among them." He also writes: “——is, I fear, something like the robin spoken of in 'Pilgrim's Progress, who can eat sometimes grains of wheat and sometimes worms and spiders. I am quite sick of modern religion; it is such a mixture, such a medley, such a compromise. I find much, indeed, of this religion in my own heart, for it suits the flesh well; but I would not have it so, and grieve it should be so." He preached much at Allington, near Devizes, and in the Metropolis, and many other places. His ministry was attended by crowds, and was blest to saint and sinner. In 1838 he became Pastor of the Churches at Oakham and Stamford, residing in the latter town till failing health caused his removal to Croydon. At the time of his settlement at Stamford he became associated with the "Gospel Standard," and in 1849 he was appointed editor. He was a most interesting writer on the things of God. His sermons are experimental rather than doctrinal, but when he treated of doctrine it was in a comprehensive and scriptural way, as his "Meditations" amply prove. His book on "The Eternal Sonship" practically closed the controversy which gave it birth. His "Reviews" are most instructive and brilliantly written. Would that the younger members of our Churches made a study of them! "The Advance of Popery" was another work which had a wide circulation, and events today prove the accuracy of the forecasts so solemnly made therein. His "Letters" have been a means of grace to many, and it is refreshing through them to know the spiritual history of some of the excellent of the earth in their day and generation, and to have glimpses of services at Eden Street, Gower Street, and Great Alie Street Chapels, and at Came and other places, especially in Wiltshire.”

Joseph Philpot's Letters
Joseph Philpot's Sermons