May 2nd, 1831
My dear Brother,
I was very glad to hear by your last letter that your wife has safely delivered another son; and I hope that he will prove a blessing to you both. God’s mercies have been great and manifold towards you in this life, and I pray that they may not prove snares. The children of God almost always flourish more in trials and difficulties than in the sunshine of health and prosperity. The promise is, “As your days, so shall your strength be”; consequently, if there are not trials within from Satan’s temptations, or afflictions and persecutions from without, we would not call upon God heartily for help. So when we pray for grace, we at the same time ask for trials. In the case when Paul prayed that the messenger of Satan might depart from him, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Most gladly, therefore,” he adds, “will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” So the Lord answered his prayer, not as Paul asked; but he was content that it should be so, that he might enjoy more of the power of Christ in his own soul.
Your last letter was very short, and you never gave your opinion respecting the important change I contemplate about leaving the Establishment. My mind is perplexed upon the subject, which I believe will end in my leaving. “But he who believes shall not make haste.” I trust that God will direct me. I can assure you that the more I reflect upon the state of our Establishment, the more I am persuaded it becomes me, as a consistent minister of God’s word, to leave it. I consider the riches of the national Church are a great cause of her corruptions. Take them away, and then who would belong to her? Would the ‘blind guides’ work for nothing? Would the spiritually minded go through forms which they must condemn in their own consciences?
Pride and covetousness cleave very close to us, and they influence us more than we imagine. How very different are the ministers of the present day from those in Paul’s day! He says, “We are the filth of the earth, and the offscouring of all things”; “Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that are with me.” Ministers of Christ are now called gentlemen—”Reverend”, “Right Reverend”, “Most Reverend Father in God.” They are bowed down to and worshiped. Will God be mocked? Will He not be avenged on such a professing Church? “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and the people love to have it so. But what will they do in the end thereof?” What does Christ say? “He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger” (Luke 22:26). It is plain they differ widely in these respects, but by no means less in their doctrine. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant (slave).” The power of godliness is but little known.
What is the Church of England? Of what characters does it consist? Is the system altogether pleasing in God’s sight, or is it hateful? I will not say any more on the subject; for perhaps you may think I am prejudiced, and do not state things fairly.
Bulteel and myself intend to go for two months to preach the gospel in the dark parts of the West of England. We shall go the middle of this month (D.V.). We shall preach in churches, chapels, barns, rooms, or in the open air. We shall, if the Lord strengthens us for the work, give great offence. But it is a glorious work to preach the everlasting gospel. It is the very purpose for which I was ordained. Christ will not turn us out of His Church for following His steps in preaching the gospel in every city and village. I would not be surprised if the Bishop withdraw Bulteel’s licence, as he is only a curate. My vicarage is a freehold, and I know not what authority the Bishop has over me. He would not turn me out if I went to Melton to ‘hunt and gamble’. But preaching the gospel in dark villages is a ‘dire and heinous offence’, being so very contrary to the word of God. Such a charge, that even the very apostles never heard of, and whoever commits it is worthy of bonds and imprisonment, or even death itself!
I am anxious to hear how you are going on in spiritual things at Oakham. You must remember that everything is opposed to the work of Christ; but in this respect His power is made more fully manifest. God’s grace is visible when we see it affect the hearts of the most determined sinners, and cause them to stand up boldly for His worthy name, which they formerly used to blaspheme. You will find great difficulties to walk and act like a Christian in your profession. Even the very beginnings of a Christian life in such a dark place as Oakham will be hated. If you have but little light, you cannot sit under such dark ministers. You would rather dig for your bread, than act so contrary to Christ’s express commands—”Take heed what you hear”; “Beware of false prophets.” You will cause the weak brethren to stumble by inconsistency. If you sit under a blind guide, you confirm him in his ministry, and bolster up his pride. You may profess what you please if you will hold with the world, and sit under the same minister, however dark, with the world. You may boast of your knowledge, for that is all you can boast of; for living sheep must have living shepherds, and dead people dead shepherds.
You will find the most spiritual of God’s people among the poor. I observe so much pride and conformity to the world among the rich, that I stand in doubt of many who are considered to be spiritual people. James 2 condemns most of them.
They have a fear of God, but it is to be feared it “is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). That you may differ widely from such professing Christians among those of your rank and condition is the sincere prayer of,
Yours in the bonds of the everlasting gospel,
William Tiptaft (1803-1864) was a Strict and Particular Baptist pastor. In 1831, he oversaw the construction of a chapel in Abingdon, where he remained as the Pastor until his death. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“William Tiptaft…exercised a ministry largely used to the awakening of sinners and to the driving of those who had only a name to live from the false confidences in which they trusted.” Joseph Philpot wrote of him—“He seemed ever ready to make any personal sacrifice for the glory of God or the good of His people. Time, money, health, strength, life itself, he did not consider his own. He felt he was but a steward who held them in trust, and who might be called at any hour to render an account of his stewardship. To live to God, to walk in His fear, to serve and please Him, to preach His truth, to do His work, to know and obey His will, and to be made a blessing to His people, seemed to be his daily end and aim. I have known men of greater natural abilities, of deeper and more diversified experience, of more shining pulpit gifts, of more enlarged views of Divine truth; but I have never seen anyone, whether minister or private Christian, who approached him in his own peculiar line of practical Godliness, carried out with undeviating consistency for the thirty-five years during which I had the pleasure and profit of his friendship. The Churches of truth needed an example of the practical power of the doctrines which they profess. A light, loose, Antinomian spirit had too much prevailed, and with a great deal of religious talking there was a very small amount of religious walking. But however low quickened souls or living Churches may sink, they have still a conscience made tender in the fear of God, and to this conscience William Tiptaft's keen, pithy remarks, and, above all, his Godly life and shining example, commended themselves."