Thursday, October 13, 2011

A True Calvinist

A selection from a letter by Rev. Henry Venn to a pastor friend, Rev. James Stillingfleet. Mr. Venn spoke of John Berridge preaching at his church. Berridge was the vicar of Everton and was a much beloved preacher of the gospel. Spurgeon wrote a chapter about him in a book entitled, Eccentric Preachers. Venn commented on Berridge's Calvinism. Would that there were more Calvinist like him! The letter was written November 22, 1771.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Berridge was here, and gave us a most excellent sermon. He is a blessed man—a true Calvinist; not hot in doctrine, nor wise above what is written, but practical and experimental.

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, p. 189 (photo of John Berridge).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Inclination to Turn Back

A portion of a letter by the missionary to the Indians in Oklahoma, Isaac McCoy (1784-1846), to a critic, a Mr. Samuel Dedman of Pike County, Indiana, who opposed his plans to live among the Indians and give his life, if necessary, in reaching them with the gospel. The letter was written on January 12, 1820.

I assure you, my brother, that every opposing difficulty, the opposition of the association not expected, has only tended to increase my missionary ardour. May my merciful God forgive me if I be wrong, and set me right. I would rather be a missionary to the Indians, than fill the President's chair, or sit on the throne of Alexander, emperor of Russia. I would rather preach Jesus to the poor Indians in a bark camp, than address the thousands who assemble in Sansom Street meeting house, Philadelphia [the General Missionary Convention had been held there, May 7, 1817]. Something has turned my attention towards the Indians, and every feeling of my soul is enlisted in their cause, yet still I may be wrong. But I feel not the least inclination to turn back, but would drive on with the vehemence of Peter, the meekness of Moses, and the wisdom of Solomon.

Kansas Historical Quarterly, "Isaac McCoy and the Treaty of 1821," by Lela Barnes, vol. 5, no. 2, p. 128. Thanks to Gary Long of Particular Baptist Press for sending me a digitized copy of this letter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good From Scripture for One's Own Soul

A portion of a letter from Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) to a young minister about preaching. Fuller wrote several letters to this person under the title, "Thoughts on Preaching." The emphasis in this paragraph is the need for searching the Scriptures for one's own benefit, not just to find sermons.

To understand the Scriptures in such a manner as profitably to expound them, it is necessary to be conversant with them in private; and to mix, not only faith, but the prayer of faith, with what we read. There is a great difference between reading the Scriptures as a student, in order to find something to say to the people, and reading them as a Christian, with a view to get good from them to one’s own soul. That which is gained in the latter of these ways is, beyond all comparison, of the greatest use, both to ourselves and others. That which we communicate will freeze upon our lips, unless we have first applied it to ourselves; or, to use the language of Scripture, "tasted, felt, and handled the word of life."

The Works of Andrew Fuller, "Thoughts on Preaching," volume 1, letter 1, p. 713.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Cannot Hate Them In Return

A selection from a letter by Augustus Toplady to John Ryland, Jr. Toplady addressed the conflict he had with those of "Wesley's party," that is, the Arminians. He was greatly despised for his defense of Calvinism but sought to love those who differed with him, though he himself could be very sharp in disputation. The letter was written April 30, 1773.

The envy, malice, and fury of Wesley's party, are inconceivable. But, as violently as they hate me, I dare not, I cannot hate them in return. I have not so learned Christ.—They have my prayers and my best wishes, for their present and eternal salvation, But their errors have my opposition also: and this is the irremissible sin, which those red-hot bigots know not how to forgive.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, volume 6, London, reprint, p. 173.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Soldiers Converted in a Foreign Land

A portion of a letter from missionary William Carey, to his sisters back home in England. He writes about the conversion, this time, not of the Indian people he was attempting to reach with the gospel, but European soldiers stationed there, most of whom were surely British. The letter was written from Calcutta, May 4, 1810.

There has, of late, been a great awakening among the European Soldiers in several Regiments now in India. Bro. Chamberlain has baptized near fifty, mostly belonging to one Regiment. There are thirteen now in Fort William, who are under hopeful impression, who constantly attend worship at our Chapel in Calcutta. One of them, who has been long under very strong convictions is a native of Flower near Daventry, and another from the neighborhood of Bedford. Thus the Lord takes these people from a Land of Gospel light, to a land of gross Idolatry, and there reveals his grace to them.

The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey, collected and edited by Terry G. Carter, Smyth & Helwys, 2000, p. 186.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Really Don't Like This Guy

A portion of a letter written by a forty-three-year old black man from Tennessee, to John MacArthur. This gentleman had been influenced by the Black Power movement and had turned away from Christianity. In listening to MacArthur preaching on the Grace to You radio broadcast, he was converted and began to live for Christ.

I bought into the teaching against a "white" Jesus, and the pro-Black teachings became my religion… When I first heard you on radio about nine years ago, I thought to myself, "I really don't like this guy and what he is saying." I was pretty sure you were white. Then one day I heard you preach on forgiveness of sins and love, and the veil was lifted from my eyes. Up until then, I had never truly heard the gospel preached, never truly understood the holiness of God. The Word of God began to have an incredible impact on me as I listened to your preaching daily. By God's grace, I've been living for Him, studying His Word, and listening to your broadcast for the last nine years.

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock, Iain H. Murray, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011, p. 180.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Total Despair Unless

A portion of a letter by Francis Schaffer to a friend who had spent time with his family at L’Abri in Switzerland, a retreat center for Christian study and growth. Schaffer’s friend was struggling with depression. He himself experienced depression at times and knew by experience, not just in theory, the pain of ups and downs in mind and heart. His suggestion to her is to keep in mind the objective work of Christ on the cross. The letter was written January 4, 1971.

We all have our times of being strong and our times of being weak. The swings of the pendulum cover different ground for different ones of us, and the swings of the pendulum are of greater intensity for one of God’s children than another. But the swings are there for all of us—for weakness and unhappiness and also for sin. It is for this reason that any honest person must be totally in despair unless they understand the reality of the finished work of Christ upon the cross for us. If it was not for this, none of us could have any peace of mind either for this world or from the world to come.

Letter of Francis A. Schaeffer, edited with introductions by Lane T. Dennis, Crossway Books, 1985, pp. 118-19.