Friday, October 31, 2008

Till I Have These Marks I Am Not a Christian

A portion of a letter by John Wesley to John Bennet, a lay-preacher of the Methodist Societies. The letter was written in June 1744.

If the Bible be true, then none is a Christian who has not the marks of a Christian there laid down. One of these is the love of God, which must be felt (if it is in the soul) as much as fire upon the body. Another is the witness of God's Spirit with my spirit that I am a child of God. Till I have these marks I am not a Christian; and no power can give me these but that which made the world.

The Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford, Epworth Press, 1931, also online at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

He Is Calculated For Great Usefulness

A selection from a letter by Henry Venn, Church of England minister, to his very dear friend, Rev. James Stillingfleet. He mentions a young man just ordained for gospel ministry whose ministry would be greatly blessed of the Lord – Charles Simeon. The letter was written October 9, 1782.

On Trinity Sunday was ordained Mr. Simeon, Fellow of King’s College. Before that day, he never was in company with an earnest Christian. Soon after, he was visited by Mr. H. Jowett, and my son, and two or three more. In less than seventeen Sundays, by preaching for Mr. Atkinson, in a church at Cambridge, he filled it with hearers—a thing unknown there for near a century. He has been over to see me six times within the last three months; he is calculated for great usefulness, and is full of faith and love. My soul is always the better for his visits. Oh, to flame, as he does, with zeal, and yet be beautified with meekness! The day he was a substitute for Mr. Atkinson, he began to visit the parishioners from house to house. Full of philanthropy was his address: “I am come to inquire after your welfare. Are you happy?” His evident regard for their good disarmed them of their bitterness; and it is amazing what success he has met with!

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 351-52.

Monday, October 27, 2008

If That Never Be

A selection from a letter by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), who had been removed from his pulpit in Anwoth and banished to Aberdeen for his nonconformist views. The letter was written to Lady Kenmure in 1637. He longed to be preaching in Anwoth again but was submissive to the will of God.

If my Lord would be pleased, I would desire some were dealt with for my return to Anwoth; but if that never be, thank God. Anwoth is not heaven, preaching is not Christ; I hope to wait on.

Letters of Samuel Rutherford: A Selection, The Banner of Truth Trust, the first edition of letters was published in 1664, this selection was published in 1973, p. 59.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Before It Be Too Late

A selection from a letter by the Puritan preacher, Joseph Alleine, to a cousin, encouraging her and her husband to love and follow Christ rather than the world. Mr. Alliene was in poor health and would die soon afterwards at the age of 34. This letter was written October 21, 1668.

Away with these lazy prayers, away with these cold and heartless professions, away with this drowsy, lifeless, listless, religion! Bestir yourself to purpose for your soul, before it be too late. Search your conscience, as with candles; be jealous of yourself. Consider, now is your time; what you do, you must do quickly. The patience of God is waiting, Christ is knocking, the Spirit of God is striving, and death is at the door. Oh, now take your opportunity, and take heed lest a slothful heart, and the cares of this world, or a presumptuous confidence that all is well and safe already, should at last shut you out of the kingdom of God.

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. 257.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Promote His Glory in the Conversion of Sinners

A portion of a letter written by John A. Broadus to Miss Cornelia Taliaferro, September 5, 1853. He told her about the blessing of God he had experienced in seeing sinners converted when preaching in various meetings.

Our kind Father will not fail to bless to our own growth in grace and comfort of love, any sincere effort, however feeble, which we make to promote his glory in the conversion of sinners; and this blessing may be realized, not only by the preacher in the pulpit, but by every Christian in private efforts to do good to individuals.

Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by Archibald Thomas Robertson, 1901, reprint by Gano Books, p. 113.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Jesus Increasingly Precious?

Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) wrote these words in a letter to a friend, August 27, 1850. She ministered too many people in the sweet, encouraging letters she wrote, always lifting up Christ. She was the daughter of a pastor in Nottingham, England.

Is Jesus increasingly precious, more than ever desirable? Is He, in your esteem, better than rubies, and all the things that may lawfully be desired not to be compared to Him? Is the Holy Spirit sharpening your appetite for this Bread of Life, so that with more ardent longings you are saying, "None but Jesus!" When He is in the right place, other things will be so; it is His rising in the soul that makes them sink to their proper level. And oh! He is so worthy, so suitable, so altogether lovely--we cannot prize Him too much, or hold Him too fast, or lean on Him too heavily. My highest praise of Him is far below His worth; but through rich grace, I, a vile sinner, have tasted and handled of this precious Word of life, and found such blessed benefit, such soul-invigoration, that I want to set others longing for these royal dainties!

Letters of Ruth Bryan, Reformation Heritage Books, reprinted 2005. Available online at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Revival in the Midst of War

A selection from a letter by a Confederate soldier, Tally Simpson, written to his sister Mary, April 10, 1863. Tally Simpson, along with his brother, Dick, enlisted in the army for the Southern cause in April 1861. Dick was discharged from service in July 1862 because of severe illness. Tally was killed in the battle of Chickamauga, September 20, 1863.

The revival still continues, and several hundred of Barksdale’s men have been converted, and many more are still anxious about their soul’s salvation. I saw, the other day, about twelve young men baptized in [the] Baptist faith. The pool is under the pulpit, and all to be done is to lift off the floor of the pulpit, where the preacher stands every Sunday, and there is the pool of the proper size. The evening was very cold, and it went very hard with the poor fellows. It was a touching sight, and I could not help thinking of the account given in the New Testament when Jesus was baptized by John. My prayers ascended to Heaven in behalf of the young converts, and Oh! how I wish we all, friends and relatives, and in fact every one, were in the Arc of Safety at this moment. I believe if we were all Christians this moment the war would close immediately. But as our nation is wicked, God will chastise it severely ere He stays his hand.

Far, Far From Home: The Wartime Letters of Dick and Tally Simpson, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, edited by Guy R. Everson and Edward W. Simpson, Jr., Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 213-14.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Praying for Missionaries

A selection from a letter by Samuel Pearce, pastor of the Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, to William Carey, missionary in India. Pearce desired to join Carey in his work but his congregation and other pastor friends persuaded him not to go. He regarded their counsel “as the voice of God.” Though he did not go to India, he was a major supporter of the work of Carey and did much to promote missions. This letter was written March 27, 1795:

Daily in our closets and in our families do we remember you before God; and, in the sanctuary, the tribes of God’s spiritual Israel wrestle hard for you Sabbath after Sabbath. Nor shall we pray in vain—God, even our own God, will bless you; his promise is on your side, and through him you shall do valiantly; never will he forsake his servants, nor leave them unassisted in their work; but your ‘confidence is strong;’ I rejoice that it is so, for ‘this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith;’ and he who hath been the author of that faith will, I doubt not, be the finisher of it too.

A Heart for Missions: The Classic Memoir of Samuel Pearce, by Andrew Fuller, with an introduction by Michael Haykin, reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006, p. 53.

Monday, October 13, 2008

God's Ways are Always Good and Right

A selection from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Mrs. J. Gwyn-Thomas concerning the death of her husband. Mr. Thomas was only 54 years of age when he died. Lloyd-Jones regarded him as “a very dear and valued friend.” The letter was written November 21, 1977.

God’s ways are beyond our understanding but we know that they are always good and right. He alone can help and strengthen you; and He has promised to do so. All we your friends can do is to pray for you, and we shall do so.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 224.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A portion of a letter written by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to Mr. George Shaw of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Mr. Shaw had written M’Cheyne about a number of subjects, the understanding of prophecy being one of them. M’Cheyne’s letter was written on September 16, 1840:

As to the mode of studying prophecy, dear friend, I am far from being a capable adviser. My advice, however, is that you begin with the simple and more unquestioned parts, and then advance to the more difficult ground. Begin with fulfilled prophecy; you will thus gain an intimate acquaintance with the language and manner of the prophetic writings. Then advance to the marks of unfulfilled prophecy, and cautiously and prayerfully to those parts that are obviously unfulfilled. This would be a most interesting course, and if humbly followed out, cannot but give you great light and interest in the cause of Israel, and the world’s conversion.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains, Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1884, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1966, p. 292.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Habitual Rest in God

A selection from a letter by Andrew Fuller, to his friend John Ryland, expressing joy in the Lord even though he had undergone a heavy trial. The letter was written December 21, 1801.

I have lately had another heavy trial. Yet, under all, blessed be God, my heart is fixed, trusting in him. I have seldom enjoyed more habitual rest in God, than of late. O how sweet it is to have no will of my own, but that of God! I know I have an interest in your intercessions, and those of many other dear friends.

The Work of Faith, the Labor of Love and the Patience of Hope: Illustrated in the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, by John Ryland, published by Button & Sons, Paternoster Row, London, 1818, p. 238.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ready to Preach

A selection from a letter by C. H. Spurgeon to his congregation, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, while he was recuperating from illness in Mentone, France. He was soon to return to the pulpit and anticipated with joy the privilege of preaching the gospel once again. The letter was written January 22, 1891.

I am glad that I am so near returning to you, for I am feeling ready and even eager to engage once more in the happy work of proclaiming the gospel to the crowd. This week’s printed sermon will assure you that I stand by the old standard; and I am all the more bound to do so when I note the new developments of error, of which I am bound to say that they seem form different points of view as horrible as ludicrous. There is no telling what we shall hear next; but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

The Suffering Letters of C. H. Spurgeon, annotations by Hannah Wyncoll, The Wakeman Trust, 2007, p. 77.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Agreement in Truth

A portion of a letter written by the Calvinistic Methodist Welsh preacher, Howell Harris, to his friend George Whitefield. He spoke of a visit with Charles Wesley and confirmed to his delight a point of agreement between them. The letter was written in October of 1741.

Brother Charles Wesley came to Town last Saturday night, and we providentially met; he owned he had no freewill until four years ago,—that it was God that chose him first, and not he God, and that he is kept faithful by the faithfulness of God.—He spoke tenderly of you and seemed to be quite loving and teachable.

The Life and Times of Howell Harris: The First Itinerant Preacher in Wales, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1852, republished in 1998 by Need of the Times Publishers, p. 93.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Election - The Only Adequate Ground of Encouragement for Preaching the Gospel

In 1832, Rev. Ebenezer Porter wrote a series of letters that were published in a religious periodical entitled, The Spirit of the Pilgrims. The letters reflect Mr. Porter’s eyewitness testimony of the revivals that took place in New England, which continued for many years, having begun in 1798. This selection highlights one of the doctrines that pastors who were the most useful in times of revival believed—the doctrine of election.

…I ought to state explicitly a concurrent and nearly universal sentiment of the pastors who were most instrumental of revivals, that the doctrine of election is the only adequate ground of encouragement in preaching the gospel. They reasoned thus: ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’ Sinners, left to themselves, without special, divine influence, will never repent. The best means in themselves are utterly ineffectual, and, without the Holy Spirit, will bring no one to comply with the terms of the gospel. Were it not revealed, then, that God has determined to render his truth efficacious in bringing some to faith and holiness, every minister who believes the Bible would see no encouragement to preach the gospel, and every sinner who understands his own depravity would be in total despair.

Letters on Revival, Ebenezer Porter, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004, pp.20-21.