Thursday, February 28, 2008

Preaching Christ

A selection from a letter by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to his friend, Rev. R. MacDonald, January 12, 1839, written after having been laid aside for awhile by illness:

It is a glorious thing to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ! We do not value it aright till we are deprived of it; and then Philip Henry’s saying is felt to be true – that he would beg all the week in order to be allowed to preach on the Sabbath day.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains, Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1884, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1966, p. 209.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Watch Over Yourself

From a letter by Jonathan Edwards to his 15 year old daughter, Mary, who was visiting family in New Hampshire, written July 26, 1749:

I hope you will maintain a strict and constant watch over yourself and against all temptations: that you don’t forget and forsake God; and particularly that you don’t grow slack in secret religion. Retire often from this vain world, and all its bubbles, empty shadows, and vain amusements, and converse with God alone; and seek that divine grace and comfort, the least drop of which is more worth than all the riches, gaiety, pleasures and entertainments of the whole world.

Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children, Dorie McCullough Lawson, Doubleday, 2004, pp. 132-33.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Religion

An extract from a letter by Rev. J. H. Thornwell, to a pastor, telling him of the profit he had received from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis, January 30, 1860.

I have just finished Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis, and cannot tell you how much spiritual refreshment and comfort I have derived from the light which his own experience and grace enabled him to throw upon the dealings of God with the ancient patriarchs. Every day enlarges my views, and deepens my convictions of the infinite riches of Divine wisdom and goodness. We serve no hard master. Our religion is no cold and lifeless homage to an unsympathizing superior. We have a Saviour that loves us, that enters into all our joys and sorrows, that permits us to converse familiarly with Him, and that shows, in the confidence of friendship, the secret of His covenant.

The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, first published in 1875, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1974, p. 445.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grief Moderated

A portion of a letter from the one-eyed Baptist preacher of Wales, Christmas Evans, to the poet, Robert ap Gwilym Ddu, who had recently lost his daughter in death.,written on November 5, 1834:

The religion of Jesus does not make us unfeeling Stoics in the face of losing our loved ones, but it moderates our grief with submission to the will of God.

Christmas Evans: The Life and Times of the One-Eyed Preacher of Wales, by Tim Shenton, Evangelical Press, 2001, p. 436.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh, That Heavenly Loadstone!

An extract from a letter by John Newton to his Baptist friend, Rev. John Ryland, Jr., May 28, 1775:

In our turns we are all favoured with a glimpse of him [King Jesus], and have had cause to say, How great is his goodness! How great is his beauty! We have the advantage of the Queen of Sheba, a more glorious object to behold, and not so far to go for the sight of it. If a transient glance exceeds all that the world can afford for a long continuance, what must it be to dwell with him! If a day in his courts be better than a thousand, what will eternity be in his presence! I hope the more you see, the more you love; the more you drink, the more you thirst; the more you do for him, the more you are ashamed you can do so little; and that the nearer you approach to your journey’s end, the more your pace is quickened. Surely, the power of spiritual attraction should increase as the distance lessens. Oh, that heavenly loadstone! May it so draw us, that we may not creep, but run. In common traveling, the strongest become weary if the journey be very long; but in the spiritual journey, we are encouraged with a hope of going on from strength to strength…

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes, by Josiah Bull, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, p. 206-207.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading the Letters of John Newton

William Jay profited by reading the letters of John Newton, the converted slave-trader turned preacher of the gospel. In his autobiography, Jay quotes Newton as having said, “I rather reckoned upon doing more good by some of my other works than by my ‘Letters,’ which I wrote without study, or any public design; but the Lord said, ‘You shall be most useful by them,’ and I learned to say, ‘Thy will be done! Use me as Thou pleasest, only make me useful.’”

William Jay then shared how useful Newton’s letters had been, not just to others, but to himself. “What thousands have derived repeated profit and pleasure from the perusal of these utterances of the heart! Nor ever will they cease to be found means of grace, whilst God has a church on earth. With regard to myself, I commonly had one of these letters read to me on every Sabbath evening, after the labours of the day; and what refreshment and profit have I derived from them” (The Autobiography of William Jay, first published in 1854 and reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, p. 280).

Quite a commendation indeed! And Jay followed this with a few samples of letters written by Mr. Newton. I certainly add my hearty amen to the comments of William Jay about Newton’s letters. They are “utterances of the heart” that are full of Christ and the free salvation that is ours through Him. The letters of Samuel Rutherford are generally regarded as the nearest thing to inspired literature there is, or at least Spurgeon thought that so, but the letters of John Newton rank highly with them.

The Banner of Truth Trust recently published a collection of Newton’s letters entitled, Letters of John Newton. It was first published in 1869 and contains biographical sketches and notes by Josiah Bull. I cannot commend this book too highly. It is a goldmine of spiritual thought. I commend his letters to the reader for the blessing they will be to your own soul, but also, as a model for writing letters to others.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Praying by the Wayside

A selection from a letter by Elizabeth Prentiss to Miss Eliza A. Warner, September 27, 1868:

And the praying we do by the wayside, in cars and steamboats, in streets and in crowds, perhaps keeps us more near to Christ than long prayers in solitude could without the help of these little messengers, that hardly every stop running to Him and coming back with the grace every moment needs.

More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss, George Lewis Prentiss, reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books, p. 247.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Live for Eternity

A selection from a letter by James A. Haldane to his ten year old daughter, Elizabeth, written while he was away on a preaching trip, June 22, 1805:

Several young people are under much concern about eternal things. May the Lord, my love, manifest His glory to you, as he does not to the world…I am sorry to hear you have been unwell, but hope you are better, and that the Lord will make the illness useful to you. Our life is but a vapour. Let us live for eternity.

The Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, first published in 1852, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 1990, pp. 349-50.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Do We Feel the Grace?

A selection from a circular letter to the churches of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association by Andrew Fuller, May, 1785:

We avow the doctrines of free, sovereign, and efficacious grace; but do we generally feel the grace therein discovered? If we did, how low should we live! How grateful should we be! We should seldom think of their sovereign and discriminating nature, without considering how justly God might have left us all to have had our own will, and followed our own ways; to have continued to increase our malady, and despise the only remedy! Did we properly enter into these subjects, we could not think of a great Saviour, and a great salvation, without loathing ourselves for being such great sinners; nor of what God had done for and given to us, without longing to give him our little all, and feeling an habitual desire to do something for him.

The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, edited and introduced by Michael A. G. Haykin, Joshua Press, p. 94-95.

Friday, February 8, 2008

None a Loser

An extract from a letter by the Puritan preacher, Joseph Alleine, to his wife, explaining how the Lord would take care of them in a new pastoral charge, even though the salary would be small. It was written May 27, 1659:

That none ever was, or ever shall be, a loser by Jesus Christ. Many have lost much for him, but never did, [and] never shall any lose by him.

Life and Letters of Joseph Alleine, by Rev. Richard Baxter, Theodosia Alleine, and others, with a new introduction by Joel R. Beeke and Herb Samworth, Reformation Heritage Books, reprinted in 2003, p. 142.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Influence of Jonathan Edwards

A selection from a letter by Joseph Kinghorn, while a student at the Baptist College in Bristol, England, to his father, writing of the influence of Jonathan Edwards on his life. The letter was written on March 7, 1785:

There are many of Jonathan Edwards’ Treatises, Sermons, &c. [in a pastor’s library he had access to], which I never saw before, but intend to read as much as may be. I have read his Life and some sermons—such a life did I never read, he seemed to live a heaven on earth, and in abilities he was unrivalled, although his learning was not very extensive. But might I be any man I ever heard of or saw it should be Jonathan Edwards.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 84.

Monday, February 4, 2008


A selection from a letter by C. H. Spurgeon to his mother, Eliza Spurgeon, February 19, 1850:

I have come to a resolution that, by God’s help, I will profess the name of Jesus as soon as possible if I may be admitted into His Church on earth. It is an honour—no difficulty—grandfather encourages me to do so, and I hope to do so both as a duty and privilege. I trust that I shall then feel that the bonds of the Lord are upon me, and have a more powerful sense of my duty to walk circumspectly. Conscience has convinced me that it is a duty to be buried with Christ in baptism, although I am sure it constitutes no part of salvation. I am very glad that you have no objection to my doing so…

Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Selected with Notes, by Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, p. 22.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Disgraceful Unbelief

From a letter by Martin Luther to his wife, Katie, July 2, 1540, writing about the recovery of Philip Melanchthon from a severe illness.

… Master Philip truly had been dead, and really, like Lazarus, has risen from death. God, the dear father, listens to our prayers. This we [can] see and touch [with our hands], yet we still do not believe it. No one should say Amen to such disgraceful unbelief of ours.

Luther's Works, Letters III, Vol. 50, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 290.