From Joseph Peake near the ‘silk manufactory’ in Newcastle under Lyme to Mary Tooth. Peake has long wished to have a talk with Tooth in spiritual matters and he had this wish satisfied on the evening of the 12th inst. He certainly enjoyed those precious moments under her roof and the impressions that he received there remain very warm in his heart.
Peake’s only aim in writing this letter is to ‘bespeak your renewed and (if possible) redoubled exertions in furtherance of the blessed cause in which you are embarked: and to fan the flame of divine love already kindled in your devoted soul. The situation in which you are emplaced is critical and important in a high degree and I could name one who felt materially [unreadable word] in your success. In the first place, as a female you may not be absolutely invulnerable to the attacks of artful and designing men who do not always act exclusively from the “Love that endureth all things” and one false step herein might prove equally ruinous to past performances and future prospects. Moreover your acting in public involves a delicacy which nothing can shelter except a very extraordinary call of that God to the work who “sends by whom he will send”. That your call hereunto is as dear and satisfactory as was that of Mrs F. is not my task to enquire into. I neither doubt nor affirm. I touch upon it with all possible tenderness; I share your burden; I pray for you; I wish you good luck in the name of the Lord – succeeding however, as you do, as bright a luminary as Mrs F., who in her turn succeeded one of the brightest stars, now at God’s right hand, you will naturally be looked up unto for the support and continuance of a work which has been so ably commenced.
The foundations of Christ’s Church at Madeley and neighbourhood have been laid deep and strong and lasting by a wise master builder of inimitable skill, ability and industry: and for a long series of years the superstructure has been raising up with the assistance of numerous hands amidst prayers innumerable, and sighs, groans and tears…And who shall bring up the top stone? and when? Perhaps not till the earth and sea give up their dead. It cannot but be known to you my dear sister…that you have certainly a flattering opportunity of contributing essentially in this important affair. And I hope, I trust, I pray that when death shall put a final period to your exertions…it may then appear, if not appear, that your appointments were of God, that many may rise up to call you blessed, and say, “A Mother in Israel hast thou also been, and thy works shall praise thee…” But Satan is not yet dead…I wish your peace may continue at the barn…I do not see it necessary for you to declare yourselves unless compelled to it. But whenever that is done, my humble opinion is your place there will know you no more…and the day is perhaps at hand when a declaration of the truth as it is in Jesus will be unavoidable and then you will have to stand alone or make such compliances as conscience cannot approve – Alas for Madeley, poor Madeley, my soul is pained for thee.
Let me advise you to select a chosen band not exceeding four including yourself and spend one hour a week for this identical purpose; namely that God would revive his work amongst you as in former days. That he would either convert the present ministry or send another after his own heart and more congenial to the spirit of a pure Gospel etc…But an apostle names false brethren also amongst his capital troubles. Yes, whining hypocrisy will yet borrow the visage of truth, and wily serpents deeply hid in verdent and flowery fields will not infrequently wound unwary travellers. Had I not had the most painful experience from the quarters to which I allude, this reflection would probably have been spared.’
Spiritual matters are discussed in detail with specific regard to Peake’s retiring nature, which makes it extremely difficult for him to engage in public ministry. ‘At the same time I am neither satisfied to remain a private Christian nor can I fill any post to my satisfaction. I am proud I own and lament. And of all pride, spiritual pride is my worst foe…’. Spiritual matters are further discussed with further regard to the impact of Peake’s personality on his faith.
In a postscript he asks that his love be passed to John and Elizabeth Bartlam – ‘two old (and I fear rather neglected) disciples’.
- John Bartlam (1767-1828) of Madeley Wood in Shropshire was converted as a young man by the ministry of John and Mary Fletcher exercised in meetings at the Madeley Vicarage. His reading of the biography of the preacher John Nelson particularly influenced him and in 1782 he became a member of John Fletcher’s class. After Fletcher’s death in 1785 Rev. Joshua Gilpin of Wrockwardine took his place as class leader. Bartlam married Elizabeth Nicholls in April 1789 and moved from Madeley to Madeley Wood. A short time later he was appointed class leader and retained this position until his death. Bartlam was also a local preacher and exercised this ministry until poor health forced him to desist in about 1819. Bartlam worked as a coal miner and had a large family. He was often subject to the temptation to indulge in heavy drinking but was able to resist the same. During his last few years he suffered from what his obituary described as severe “asthma” but was probably industrial-related. He died on 15th May 1828. Source: Arminian Magazine 1828, pp.212-214
- Elizabeth Bartlam (1763-1835), wife of John Bartlam of Madeley in Shropshire, was a Wesleyan Methodist for fifty-two years and one of the last surviving members of the Society led by John Fletcher. Source: Arminian Magazine 1835, p.318