Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live Near to God

A selection from a letter by Andrew Fuller to a young man in prospect of his ordination to the gospel ministry. Fuller lamented the fact that he would not be able to attend the ordination but wrote some very valuable brotherly counsel to his young friend. The letter was written August 30, 1810.

If you would preserve spirituality, purity, peace, and good order in the church, you must live near to God yourself, and be diligent to feed the flock of God with evangelical truth. Without these nothing good will be done…

A young man, in your circumstances, will have an advantage in beginning a church on a small scale. It will be like cultivating a garden before you undertake a field. You may also form them in many respects to your own mind; but if your mind be not the mind of Christ, it will, after all, be of no use. Labour to form them after Christ’s mind, and you will find your own peace and happiness in it.

The Works of Andrew Fuller, edited by Andrew Gunton Fuller, first published in 1841, republished by The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007, p. 851.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Preaching Grace

A portion of a letter by Martin Luther to Philip Melanchthon. The bulk of the letter contains Luther’s views on celibacy and communion but he concludes with a word about sin and forgiveness. Luther appears to encourage licentiousness but his intentions lay elsewhere. The great reformer meant to highlight the greatness of Christ’s atonement. However, it is easy to see why others misunderstood his meaning. The letter was written August 1, 1521.

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.

Luther's Works, Vol. 48, Letters I, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 91, p. 283.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Saviour of the Helpless

A portion of a letter from C. H. Spurgeon to William Cooper, one of his former pupils at Newmarket. Spurgeon himself was very young but wrote this young boy about the need of coming to Christ. The letter was written from Cambridge in 1851.

Perhaps you intend to think about religion after you have enjoyed sin a little longer; or (but surely you are not so foolish) possibly you think that you are too young to die. But who knows whether that future time will be afforded, and who said that you can turn to Christ just when you please? Your heart is deceitful above all things, and your natural depravity so great that you will not turn to God. Trust not, then, to resolutions made in your own strength, they are but wind; nor to yourself, who are but a broken reed; nor to your own heart, or you are a fool. There is no way of salvation but Christ; you cannot save yourself, having no power even to think one good thought; neither can your parents’ love and prayers save you; none but Jesus can, He is the Saviour of the helpless, and I tell you that He died for all such as feel their vileness, and come to Him for cleansing.

The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, first published in 1923, published in electronic format by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009, p. 173.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cherishing the Elderly

A selection from a letter by Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, to his son, Charles. The father conveyed to the son the loss of a friend in death. The friend was an elderly black servant in another family. Rev. Jones had visited her several times in her illness and conducted her funeral. He reminded his son of the honor that should be given to the elderly. The letter was written July 30, 1858.

The death of old and valued members of our families and households creates losses that never can be repaired. We ought to cherish the spark of life in the aged to the last hour, and pay them every attention, and add all we can to their comfort and happiness. God’s command is: ‘Thou shalt rise up before the old and gray-headed.’ How comprehensive! How beautiful!

The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, edited by Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, p. 433. Iain Murray makes reference to this book of letters in a chapter on Charles and Mary Colcock Jones in his excellent book, Heroes (published by The Banner of Truth Trust).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sad Errors

A letter from George Whitefield to the Welsh evangelist, Howell Harris. Whitefield was in Boston but expecting to return to England soon. He wrote of concerns with the theology of John Wesley and his influence on friends at Fetters Lane Society. The letter was written September 24, 1740.

And is dear Brother H[owell] H[arris] yet alive in body and soul? Blessed be God, who causes those that wait on him to renew their strength. I rejoice in your success; may you mount with wings like eagles, walk and not be weary, run and not be faint! You shall not be taken or hurt, till the appointed hour is come.

I hope your conversation was blessed to dear Mr. W[esley]. O that the LORD may batter down his freewill, and compel him to own his sovereignty and everlasting love! Some of F[etters] Lane society, I fear, are running into sad errors; but this happens for our trial, especially mine. Those that before, I suppose, would have plucked out their eyes for me, now I suspect, I shall see very shy, and avoiding me. This is my comfort, the LORD is a never-failing friend; his truth will make its way in spite of all carnal reasoning. O pray for me that I may have the spirit of judgment and a sound mind…

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, p. 210.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Sense of Duty

A selection from a letter by Robert L. Dabney to the esteemed professor of theology at Princeton Seminary, Charles Hodge. Hodge had been trying to persuade Dabney to leave his teaching post at Union Seminary in order to teach Historical Theology at Princeton. The professorship was vacant due to the unexpected death of J. A. Alexander. Dabney refused the invitation despite the pleas of Hodge and the appeal of being a professor at such a famous school. Having given several reasons why he could not accept the offer, he gave as his last reason for remaining at Union, the call of duty. The letter was written April 10, 1860.

Last, I give no little weight to this thought, that I am most probably deciding as a Christian should, because I am deciding contrary to the promptings of ambition, and, indeed, of nearly all the natural affections of carnality.

In the eyes of the Presbyterians of Virginia, Princeton is ever esteemed venerable and attractive. Do not suppose, my dear sir, that I am insensible to her superiority. The man who goes there and does his duty, will have his name blown much further by the trumpet of fame than mine will ever be. He will be in the focus of national observation, at least, for Presbyterians; I shall remain in comparative obscurity. He will teach the many, I the few; for I do not dream that your Seminary will cease to maintain the preeminence so honorably earned; and especially, the faithful and useful man at Princeton will probably receive that most gratifying of all earthly rewards, a united, enlightened, and steady support on the part of the proper constituency of the Seminary, which Presbyterians in Virginia have not always been accustomed to bestow, even on those who attempted to serve them faithfully.

I have my eyes open to all these things, and because my sense of duty outweighs them, I feel a good confidence that it is conscience, and not carnality, which decides me.

The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1903, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, p. 205.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pray That I May Have Wisdom

A selection from a letter by Jonathan Edwards to Rev. Thomas Foxcroft, pastor of the 1st Congregational Church in Boston. Foxcroft was a supporter of Edwards, who was going through a difficult time in his church over baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Edwards took a position, contrary to that of his esteemed grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, that only those who made a good profession of faith in Christ could come to the Lord’s Table. Edwards told his friend that he might be removed from the pastorate by the congregation, a fear that was later realized. Though he had no other way of supporting his family, he was resolved to be steadfast in the faith. The letter was written May 24, 1749.

If I should be wholly cast out of the ministry, I should be in many respects in a poor case. I shall not be likely to be serviceable to my generation, or get a subsistence in a business of a different nature. I am by nature very unfit for secular business; and especially am not unfit, after I have been so long in the work of the ministry. I am now comfortably settled, have as large a salary settled upon me as most have out of Boston, and have the largest and most chargeable family of any minister, perhaps without an hundred miles of me.

I have many enemies abroad in the country, who hate me for my stingy principles, enthusiasm, rigid proceedings and that now are expecting full triumph over me. I need the prayers of my fathers and brethren who are friendly to me, that I may have wisdom given me by my great master, and that I may be enabled to conduct with a steady faithfulness to him, under all trials and whatever may be the issue of this affair. I seem as it were to be casting myself off from a precipice; and have no other way, but to go on, as it were blindfold, i.e. shutting my eyes to everything else but the evidences of the mind and will of God, and the path of duty; which I would observe with the utmost care.

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 284.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Neglect Not the One Thing Needful

A selection from a letter by Rev. J. H. Thornwell to his son, Gillespie, fifteen years of age at the time. He longed for the salvation of his children and often addressed his desire when writing to them. This letter was written August 4, 1859.

My cup of earthly happiness would be full, if you, and Jimmie, and Charlie, were only true Christians. You would then be safe for time and for eternity. Depend upon it, my dear son, you will never repent of it, if you should now give your heart unto the Lord. Let me beg you to seek, this summer, the salvation of your soul. You will have time to think, and read, and pray. Write to me that you are not neglecting the one thing needful…

The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, by B. H. Palmer, first published in 1875, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1974, p. 442.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Delight Yourselves in Christ Alone

A letter by James Renwick, a Covenanter known as the last Scottish martyr, to a company of believers that had been condemned to banishment for their faith. He himself would be put to death by the enemies of Gospel in 10 months. His letter is filled with encouragement for those who stood for Christ and Scottish liberty. The letter was written April, 1687.

Beloved Friends,

As my time will not allow me to write largely unto you, so you must accept this short and insignificant line, as a token of my consideration of your lot, and concernedness with it.

Your case is somewhat singular, for banishment will readily be looked upon as a great trial for you, through the prospect of many snares, fears and distresses, whereunto you may be subjected. Howbeit, you may have no small peace and consolation from the consideration that you could not evade it, unless you had denied truth. Whatever sufferings you may meet with from your countrymen, for the seas, and from foreigners, you may reckon it all upon the honorable account of your duty.

But, my friends, O do not fear the difficulties and perplexities that sense and reason may apprehend to be abiding you. For the Lord’s children have often found it by experience, that their present fears have been greater than their future troubles, and that they have oftentimes been more frightened than hurt. He that made a passage for His chosen through the Red Sea and the swellings of Jordan can give you a dry foot passage through all the waters and floods of your afflictions.

Take your eyes off the vain things of this world. Look not back on old lovers, but delight yourselves in Christ alone, who is your exceeding rich reward, your satisfying and everlasting portion. Take Him with you. O, He is sweet company! And He ‘will never leave you, nor forsake you.’ Yea, in the time of your greatest trouble He will be most near you, and in your greatest distresses He will be most kind. Be careful of nothing but how to please Him, and to honour Him in all places whither you may be scattered.

Now, commending you to His grace, which I pray may be sufficient for you, I am, your sympathizing friend and servant in the Lord,

James Renwick

The Life and Letters of James Renwick: The Last Scottish Martyr, by Rev. W. H. Carslaw, published by Solid Ground Christian Books, taken from the 1893 edition, pp. 224-25.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What We Need

A selection from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to the Rev. Ron Clarke, minister of Buckingham Chapel, Clifton, England. Both men were in poor health. Lloyd-Jones was only a few months away from death but wrote in response to a letter received from Mr. Clarke. The letter reveals his contentment in the midst of sickness. It was written December 4, 1980.

We have both been passing through new experiences and I am sure that you feel as I do that finally nothing matters but the fact that we are in God’s hands. We and our works are nothing. It is His choosing us before the foundation of the world that matters and He will never leave us nor forsake us. More and more do I see that what we need is a simple child-like faith, just to believe His word and surrender ourselves to Him utterly.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 231.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So Live As to Be Missed

A selection from a letter by John Newton to John Ryland, Jr. The elder Newton, an Anglican, had a lengthy correspondence with the younger Ryland, a Baptist. Ryland’s letters to Newton have not survived but Newton’s letters to Ryland have. In this letter, Newton comments on Andrew Fuller, who had experienced a light stroke. It was an opportunity for Newton to speak of ministering faithfully so as to be missed when removed from the sphere of service to the Lord. The letter was written February 18, 1793.

I sympathize with Mr. Fuller, and shall be glad to hear that he is better. Should he be removed or laid aside it will doubtless be a loss to your denomination, and I suppose beyond that boundary. I hope that he and you and I shall all so live, as to be missed a little when we are gone. But the Lord standeth not in need of sinful man. And he sometimes takes away his most faithful and honoured ministers in the midst of their usefulness, perhaps [for this reason] among other reasons, that he may show us he can do without them. The residue of the Spirit is with him. And believers may confidently adopt Mr. Pope’s maxim, ‘Whatever is, is right.’ Blessed is the servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing, with his loins girded up, and his lamp burning. Give my love to Mr. Fuller and pray for me that I likewise may be faithful to the end.

Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letter to John Ryland, Jr., edited by Grant Gordon, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, letter #59, pp. 279-80.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Origin of Sin

A selection from a letter by J. C. Philpot, the Strict and Particular Baptist pastor and editor of the Gospel Standard magazine, to a man that had asked his opinion of a book by William Tucker, Predestination, Calmly Considered from Principles of Reason. Mr. Philpot replied that the doctrine of predestination was a matter of divine revelation, not reason. He also repudiated a false doctrine of sin set forth in the book. The letter was written April 2, 1867:

…He speaks of the existence of sin being in consequence of the sovereign appointment of God. Now I do not believe that this is Scripture doctrine, nor do I know a single passage even bearing that way. I fully believe that the entrance of sin into the world, and of death by sin, was according to the permissive will of God, for without it it could not have entered; but not appointed by Him in the same way as what is good, for such an assertion, reason how we may, would make sin being a creature and such metaphysical subtleties are mere sophism.

Two things are very evident; first, that sin is a most dreadful evil, hateful to God, and calling down His displeasure and righteous punishment; and secondly, that there is no remedy for this dreadful evil, except through the incarnation and bloodshedding of the Son of God. Here I rest, not being willing to trouble my mind with daring reasonings of men destitute of godliness, and here I advise you to rest too.

Letters and Memoir of Joseph Charles Philpot, first published in 1871, reprinted by Baker Book House, 1981, p. 469.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Heart of Holy Gratitude

A selection from a letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854) to her children. She reminds them of the goodness of God in helping her to raise them in a godly home. In the space of a few short days, in the year 1815, she had lost a child in death and her husband. She was left a widow to bring up nine children. She cast herself upon the Lord for help and received a promise in her soul, as she said, “that God was MY God, and my children’s God, and that He would fulfil His word of promise to me and mine. I felt assured that God would not only be a Father to my fatherless ones, but also a Husband to their widowed mother.” No date is given for the letter but it was written when her children were grown.

And now, my beloved children, trace the faithfulness and loving-kindness of God. Compare that period with the present. How was it then? How is it now? Has God not to the letter fulfilled that promise? He has been to you all a Father, and to me, in its fullest sense, the God and Husband of the widow. He has watched over you, spared and protected you, has been your Father, Benefactor, and Friend. Again and again, when you have travelled by land or by sea, when calamity has threatened, or sorrow has bowed you, have I retired to my room and pleaded this promise on your behalf, and He has answered.

I can truly say that in no instance have I called upon the Lord and He has failed me. Oh that He might cause you to lie low in the dust before Him, and give you each a heart of holy gratitude, that the remainder of your days may be devoted to His glory. Beware of tracing you blessings and your deliverances to second causes, lest the Lord Himself rebuke you for this sin.

Heaven Opened: A Selection from the Correspondence of Mrs. Mary Winslow, edited by her son, Octavius Winslow, 1864, reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books, 2001, p. 339.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Will Not Some of You Give Yourselves?

A selection from a letter by Margaret Paton, wife of missionary John Paton, to children in Scotland who had given offerings for their work. Their gifts help pay for a ship called Dayspring, which brought letters and supplies to the missionaries and took them to Australia for special needs. She thanked the children for their financial help and called on some of them to consider coming someday as missionaries. The letter was written in July, 1871.

I have told you a little of what the Dayspring does for the missionaries; but just think of what it has done for the Heathen, by bringing these missionaries to them. I have not time to dwell on this; but there will be ages and ages in eternity for these redeemed Ethiopians to show forth their praise and gratitude to God for sending us to tell them of Him who died for them.

Remember, however, that it is the missionary, and not the mission ship, that brings souls to the Saviour; for important as the Dayspring is, and it is of vital importance, it cannot make known to a single individual the way of salvation through Christ. We must have missionaries, who will go and live among the ‘Darkies,’ learn their language, teach them to read, and show them what it is to live as Christians.

Will not some of you, who have done so well in giving your money to the mission, do infinitely better by giving yourselves some day?

Margaret Paton: Letters from the South Seas, first published in 1894 as Letters and Sketches from the New Hebrides, published by The Banner of Truth Trust in 2003, p. 80.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who Is Sufficient for These Things?

A selection from a letter by John Elias to Rev. Ebenezer Richard, a friend in the ministry of the Gospel. Like most of his letters, Elias wrote to encourage others. He addressed the wonder of God using weak men for the great work of the ministry, and not only encouraged a brother, but surely cheered himself. The letter was written September 16, 1808.

Dear Brother, I wish you much of the Lord’s gracious presence in the great work of the ministry everywhere. I perceive much of my own corruption and unfitness for the Lord’s work. I find my spirit rather far from him and too unconcerned for man’s salvation. I am constrained to exclaim, by considering the magnitude of the work, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ But as the Lord hath been pleased to take such humble instruments into his hands, and to put the Gospel treasure in earthen vessels ‘that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,’ there is no reason to be discouraged on account of our great infirmities and unsuitableness. But we should endeavour to surrender ourselves to him; and though weakness itself, yet that weakness, in his hands, shall be ‘stronger than men.’

John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1844, published by the Banner of Truth in 1973, p. 314.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sweet and Easy is the Cross of my Lord

A portion of a letter by Samuel Rutherford, to Alexander Gordon, written early in his exile to prison for the cause of Christ in Aberdeen, Scotland, September 5, 1636.

The Lord is with me, I care not what man can do. I burden no man, and I want nothing; no king is better provided than I am; sweet, sweet and easy is the cross of my Lord; all men I look in the face, of whatsoever rank, nobles and poor, acquaintance and strangers, are friendly to me. My Well-beloved is kinder and more warm than ordinary, and cometh and visiteth my soul; my chains are over-gilded with gold… No pen, no words, no engine [ability], can express to you the loveliness of my only, only Lord Jesus…

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. 42.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Deep and Affectionate Sympathy

A portion of a letter from Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Confederate army, to his daughter-in-law, Charlotte Wickham Lee. Dorie McCullough Lawson writes, “He had [recently] suffered the loss of his beloved twenty-three-year-old daughter to typhoid fever. Lee wrote the following letter to his daughter-in-law upon learning of the death of his only living grandchild, a baby girl.” The letter was written December 10, 1862, three days prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

I heard yesterday, my dear daughter, with the deepest sorrow, of the death of your infant. I was so grateful at her birth. I felt that she would be such a comfort to you, such a pleasure to my dear Fitzhugh, and would fill so full the void still aching in your hearts. But you have now two sweet angels in heaven. What joy there is in the thought! I can say nothing to soften the anguish you must feel, and I know you are assured of my deep and affectionate sympathy. May God give you strength to bear the affliction He has imposed, and produce future joy out of your present misery, is my earnest prayer.

Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children, Dorie McCullough Lawson, Doubleday, 2004, p. 230.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Something Surprising

A portion of a letter from David Kinghorn to his son, Joseph Kinghorn, who was studying for the ministry and would later become the pastor of St. Mary’s Baptist Church, Norwich, England. He commented on an associational letter written by Robert Hall, Sr., dealing with the Trinity. He said that Mr. Hall gave “the Arians the smartest whip I ever read” and then offered a warning to his son. The letter was written October 29, 1791:

There is something surprising, that man, who cannot comprehend himself, should think to comprehend deity, and equally so that contradictory things should be pretended to be proved from the sacred Scriptures concerning deity, as if the Scriptures were like a well-tuned fiddle, to play anything.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 197.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If God Has Given Me Christ

A selection from a letter by the Welsh preacher, Thomas Charles, to his wife to be, Miss Sarah Jones. Charles expressed a thought that brought him comfort in the midst of trials that might enable her bare up during times of trial. The letter was written June 5, 1780.

As to your complaints, I shall be always glad to hear them with attention, and esteem myself very happy to bear a part of your burden. I could likewise repeat numberless complaints in return; but instead of that, permit me to mention my ‘cordial,’ which, amidst all my complaints, helps me to many a quiet thought and many a sound sleep, which is—‘If God has given me Christ, what can I have to complain of?’ But then you must know, that I take him as a free gift, and attempt to cast myself wholly upon him; and according to Luther’s advice, throw all I am and do into one heap, and lay it down at the foot of his cross. O! He has a world of merit in his hands for you, for me, and a gracious heart to bestow it…

Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels: Selected from his Letters and Papers, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1836, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1993, p. 234.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Beseech You to Pray for Me

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon, attached to a printed sermon that was on sale to the public. Sermons were printed each week in The Penny Pulpit. This letter contained information about his recovering health and an appeal for funds to carry on many of the ministries of which he was in charge. It was printed at the end of a sermon from Mark 14:6, entitled, “To Lovers of Jesus: An Example,” which was preached at the Tabernacle on November 2, 1884.

Mentone, [France], April 5, 1885

Dear Friends,

When this letter reaches you I hope I shall have returned to my family, and my people, much refreshed. I can hardly hope to be very long quite free from the disease which afflicts me; yet I do confidently expect a few months of steady service, and I am anxious that upon these the divine blessing may richly descend. I beseech you pray for me.

For more than thirty years these sermons have been published week by week; may I not entreat your supplications that I may be enabled to maintain their freshness, fullness, and power? For this I shall need great help from on high. My own resources are slender enough, but the divine fountain can never run dry.

The church over which I preside is large beyond all precedent, containing more than five thousand members. I entreat your prayers that wisdom and grace may be given me as the Pastor of such a flock. I tremble as I think of my responsibility. Who is sufficient for these things? Beside all this, — there are the Orphanage with its hundreds of little ones, the College with its students for the ministry, the Colportage with its book-selling missionaries, the Evangelists travelling from place to place and proclaiming the living word, and many other minor enterprises. The burden is too great for me unless the Lord’s own power be revealed in my weakness. For these institutions I need money in large measure, and grace beyond all measure. Those who profit by these sermons would act kindly if they would help me with their prayers and their contributions. I need both, and both at this time, in a special manner.

On my return I shall have to prepare for the gathering of the clan, in the form of the College Conference. A great host of ministers will come together to spend a week in holy fellowship and united devotion. If the Lord be with us, it will be a soul-refreshing season, and the brethren will return to their flocks prepared for a great blessing: but without the Spirit of the Lord all will be in vain. By the love of Jesus I implore the special prayers of faithful brethren and sisters. O Lord, send now prosperity! Revive thy work! Revive our own souls, for Jesus’ sake!

Your servant for Christ’s sake,
C. H. Spurgeon.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle, vol. 31, No. 1834, Logos Library System and Ages Software.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life Is Too Short For Prolonged Contention

A letter seeking reconciliation by Robert Haldane to Greville Ewing, a pastor friend who had separated himself from Haldane due to differences in doctrine and other matters. Their disagreements had an adverse consequence on the growing Baptist and Congregational movement then taking place in Scotland. Haldane didn’t want to enter heaven without their being reconciled. Haldane’s efforts for a public reconciliation were in vain but it appears that Mr. Ewing laid aside all personal animosity and bitterness. The letter was written in 1819 in Montauban, France, but was not delivered until Haldane returned to Scotland in 1821.

My Dear Sir:

Having had the other night a pleasing dream respecting an interview which I thought I enjoyed with you, and which recalled all that tenderness of affection I once had for you, I cannot let the feeling it excited pass without sending you these lines. Life is too short for such a prolonged contention. A great portion of yours and mine has passed since the unseemly strife began. Peace be with you!

I would not, however, desire to place so important a matter merely on the foundation of feeling, but it appears to me, considering the complication of circumstances which were, and perhaps still are, viewed by us in different lights, and the long period that has elapsed since we met, that while to each of us there are strong ground of searching of heart, all real or supposed offences may now be mutually set aside and give place to peace and cordial goodwill. May He who, I trust I may say, has loved us both, and washed us in his blood, subdue all our iniquities and cast our sins behind him into the depths of the sea! Being at such a distance, it is uncertain if we shall ever meet on earth. May we enjoy a blessed eternity in his presence!

I am, my dear Sir, yours,
Robert Haldane

The Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, first published in 1852, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 1990, p. 374.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Pop-Gun Threats of a Frowning World

A selection from a letter by the Puritan preacher, Joseph Alleine, to his congregation from prison. He was ejected from the Church of England for nonconformity in 1662 and was arrested and imprisoned because he continued to preach the gospel. Alleine wrote letters to his church while in prison. John Wesley once referred to him as “the English Rutherford.” Alleine touches on the theme of persecution and its blessedness in this letter. It was written July 28, 1665.

…Hath not God said, that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him; and that these light afflictions work for us a weight of glory? And if this be true, I pray you tell me whether God hath not dealt well with us in counting us worthy of this little tribulation for his name? Indeed, the sufferings are but little; but verily the reward will not be little. I know whom I have trusted; I am well assured the glass is turned up, and every hour reckoned of our imprisonments, and every scorn and reproach of our enemies is kept in black and white.

I believe, therefore do I speak; God is infinitely tender of us, my brethren, though a poor and despicable generation. I value not the pop-gun threats of a frowning world; it is well with us, we are God’s favourites. Come, my beloved, let us sit down under his shadow; here is safety and rest; if God be for us, who can be against us? Verily He bottles all our tears, and tells all our wanderings; He numbers all our hairs; whosoever toucheth us shall not be innocent. Know you not that we are the apple of his eye? Hath not he reproved the greatest for his people’s sakes, saying, ‘Reproach not mine anointed.’ And so we forget how he loved us. Are not we his jewels? Doth He not own us for his members, for his children?

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, pp. 197-99.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Little Fire for the Devil

A selection of a letter from Martin Luther to his wife, Katie. He was hoping to return home soon. He reported on a fire that raged in the Thuringian Forest. He believed the devil was behind the damage done. He then asked Katie to pray and have the children to pray against the attacks of the devil. The letter was written July 26, 1540.

Pray, and have [the children] pray against that horrible Satan who most violently attacks us not only in soul and body but also in property and honor. May Christ our Lord come down from heaven and also start a little fire for the devil and his companions which the devil would be unable to extinguish. Amen.

Luther's Works, Letters III, Vol. 50, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 293.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Keeping Things Within Bounds, Time-Wise

A selection from a letter by William Still to his congregation, Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen. He wrote a pastoral letter to his people each month. Having a lengthy pastorate there meant he wrote hundreds of letters which take up many themes. This letter is an appeal to backsliders but he also addressed a complaint that the services were too long. It was written May, 1970.

I know my faults, and realize the danger that meetings can go on too long. Many feel this and often appeal to me to try to keep the meetings, as well as the services, within bounds. And we are learning, slowly, although I must admit that it is hard to have one’s enthusiasm for the Word and the things of God clipped because people nag about the length of meetings. Do not I also need to consider my body? But I am determined to try to keep things within bounds, time-wise, because it is often our keenest folk who are most definite that the time factor must be observed. Yet the Lord and His Word and His work are so preoccupying that it is the easiest thing in the world to forget the clock and go on and on. Would you not like to be so caught up with the movements of the Spirit working in, from, and through, our congregation that time cease to be an overruling or dominant factor?

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 105-06.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Very Sweet View of Affliction

A selection from a letter by Rev. Thomas Boston, to his friend James Hog. Boston’s wife suffered from depression. She had gotten better but then turned worse again. The letter is full of faith and trust in the Lord even in the midst of afflictions. It was written August 8, 1724.

There is no appearance of the dissolution of the cloud that for several years now has been over my wife. We have made a new essay this season in the use of means for her help; but all hitherto serves for nothing, but to discover that vain is the help of man in the case.

She has not wanted seasonable supports from a higher hand; and when several coals were by wise and holy Providence cast in together into our furnace, she who behooved to be waited on and served before, was even helped to wait on, and be very helpful to others in distress; and then the clouds returned after the rain, and now she comes little out of the bed at all.

But all is necessary, and He is infinitely wise who has the managing of all in His hand. It is a very sweet view of affliction, to view it as the discipline of the covenant; and so it is indeed; and nothing else to the children of our Father’s family. In that respect it is medicinal; it shines with many gracious purposes about it; and, end as it will, one may have the confidence of faith, that it shall end well. And O how happy would we be if we could always maintain the confidence of faith! The soul in that case would be like that babe in the shipwrecked woman’s arms on the plank, smiling amidst the waves, unconcerned with the hazard.

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, first published in 1899, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1988, p. 499.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Independent Minds Rejecting Christianity

A selection from a letter by John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. Though rivals in the political realm for many years, they came to appreciate one another and were friends, evidenced by their extensive correspondence. This letter was written near the end of their lives. It makes clear that Adams shared with Jefferson the religion of Deism. Both were guilty of excising all from the Bible except the moral principles they approved of. In this letter Adams mocks those who have creeds and confessions of the Christian faith, stating his devotion to liberal science instead. The letter was written January 22, 1825.

Your University is a noble employment in your old Age, and your ardor for its success, does you honour, but I do not approve of you sending to Europe for Tutors, and Professors. I do believe there are sufficient scholars in America to fill your Professorships and Tutorships with more active ingenuity, and independent minds, than you can bring from Europe. The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices both Ecclesiastical, and Temporal which they can never get rid of; they are all infected with Episcopal and Presbyterian Creeds, and confessions of faith, They all believe that great principle, which has produced this boundless Universe. Newtons Universe, and Hershells universe, came down to this little Ball, to be spit-upon by Jews; and until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams, edited by Lester J. Cappon, The University of North Carolina Press, 1987, p. 607.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Little Girl Was Wrought Upon

A selection from a letter by Andrew Fuller to his friend in the ministry, John Ryland. Fuller wrote about the effects of a child’s death who had come to know the Lord. No date is given for the letter, but it was sometime in 1786.

Some time ago I spoke at a child’s grave, and addressed the children. It appears that a little girl was wrought upon, who is since dead. At that time her father and mother were very ignorant. She talked much to them before her death. I hope the Lord has lately wrought upon her mother. She seems very tender-hearted, and in real earnest after the salvation of her soul. Her husband has opposed her coming to meeting, but in vain. He beat her, but to no purpose. He then despaired, and began to think her right and himself wrong. ‘If it had not been of God,’ he said, ‘I had overcome it before now.’ The man invited me to visit his wife. I went, expecting him to dispute with me, as he had threatened to stop me in the street for that purpose; accordingly I gave him an opportunity; but, says the poor man, ‘I have done with that now, my chief concern is, What must I do to be saved?’ I cannot tell how it may issue as to him; he comes sometimes to meeting, and sometimes goes to hear Mr. Lydiat, at Warkton.

Last Tuesday I was visited by a lad, who has lately been observed to weep very much under the word. He appears to have every mark of true and deep contrition, and says a sermon I preached, two or three months ago, on sinners being under the curse of the Almighty, was first of use to him. The Lord carry on his work!

The Works of Andrew Fuller, edited by Andrew Gunton Fuller, first published in 1841, republished by The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007, p. li-lii.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Forget Not the Truth

A portion of the letter that John A. Broadus wrote to his church, the Charlottesville Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, when he resigned the pastorate in order to take up a teaching position in the newly established Baptist Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. J. P. Boyce had prayed to God and pleaded with Broadus that he might help begin what was soon to become The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which eventually moved to Louisville, Kentucky. The letter was written August 28, 1859.

I am unable to express my feelings of gratitude for all your kindness and of affectionate interest in your welfare, as a church, as families, and as individuals. I trust you will always look with charitable indulgence upon my faults of character, and failures in duty. I have little fear of being personally forgotten here, but I especially ask that you will not forget the truth I have preached among you, but will seek to profit hereafter by the labors which are now ended; so ‘that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.’

Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by Archibald Thomas Robertson, 1901, reprint by Gano Books, p. 166.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Greatly I Have Been Blessed!

A portion of a letter from Rev. Daniel Baker to his friend in the ministry, Rev. John S. Galloway. He told him of the blessings they had experienced in a protracted meeting in his church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and of his sons call to the ministry. The letter was written December 21, 1842.

I have some very pleasing intelligence to communicate. We have had a blessed and powerful work of grace in my church. We had a protracted meeting in September last, and about seventy precious souls were made, as I hope, to bow at the feet of our blessed Redeemer! Protracted meetings were held nearly about the same time in all the other churches; and the result of the whole is, the hopeful conversion of more than two hundred souls in our town! To God be all the glory!

Among the converts in my church, I am peculiarly happy to say is my youngest son, who has already turned his attention to the sacred office. Once he was deeply tinctured with the principles of infidelity, and was a great admirer of Byron; but, after his conversion, when asked whether he was willing to be a preacher, he replied, with much emotion, ‘Pa, I would be willing to be a ditcher, for Christ’s sake.’ I have sent him to Princeton to prepare, if it be the Divine will, to preach the glorious gospel of the blessed God. I have another son, who was last week taken under the care of our Presbytery as a candidate for the gospel ministry. How greatly have I been blessed! Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Making Many Glad: The Life and Labours of Daniel Baker, prepared by his son, Rev. William M. Baker, first published in 1858, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 2000, pp. 294-95.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Happy State

A selection from a letter by Henry Venn, Church of England minister, to his son, Rev. John Venn. He stated his satisfaction with Christ as Lord and Saviour and his contentment with a life of preaching the whole counsel of God. The letter was written January 1, 1796.

I have to tell you—and would, if it were with my last breath—that I can wish for nothing more than I now find Christ is to me. And though I discover, more than ever, most lamentable defects in my preaching, and cannot place the smallest confidence in the multitudes to whom God has been pleased to make His Word a blessing by my mouth and pen, yet I am absolutely certain that I have preached the very doctrine that Christ and His Apostles did. The whole Word of God is equally acceptable to me—not less those parts which are the fortress of Arminians, Perfectionists, and Antinomians, than the others; so that I am, and have been for thirty-five years, in the happy state of not being tempted to wrest any Scripture, or pervert it, in order to make it favour my own tenets.

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 531-32.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Country Beyond the Grave

A selection from a letter by Thomas Chalmers to a close friend, Jane Morton. Mrs. Morton’s daughter, Catherine, had recently died and Chalmers wrote to extend his sympathy and offer a word of comfort. He contemplated the day of his own death and charged Jane to join him in proper preparation for meeting the Lord. The letter was written May 4, 1845.

I am now more than half way from sixty to seventy; and certain it is, that though free of any specific complaint, there has been a general decay of strength during the last year, which tells me that I should forthwith set my house in order, and be in readiness for the coming of the Lord.

But this readiness is a duty which lies upon all of every age and condition; and may the death over which we have been called to mourn bring the lesson forcibly home to us. May the event be sanctified and blessed to all your family. Though in itself not joyous but grievous, may it yield to you and yours the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Let us stand, my dear Jane, more disengaged than ever from a world that will soon pass away; and with the feeling that we are strangers and pilgrims here, let our doings plainly declare that we seek a country beyond the grave—that we are looking forward to a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 248.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Is It With Your Soul?

A selection from a letter by Augusta Toplady to a friend, inquiring about the state of her soul. The preacher who has brought encouragement to us all with his wonderful hymns also encouraged many with his letters. He once said, “Letters are but conversation committed to paper.” Here he has, as it were, a conversation with a friend about her relationship with the Lord. The letter was written November 20, 1772.

Above all, Madam, how is it with your soul? What are your views of God and Christ and heaven? Lively, I trust, and full of glory. Yet if our views are dim and languid, still He abideth faithful, and cannot deny himself. Not upon our frames, but upon the adorable Giver of them, is all our safety built. If we cannot follow him in the light, God help us to follow him in the dark; and if we cannot follow him so, to fall down at his feet, and sink into nothing, under the feelings of our own vileness. They who are enabled thus to fall, shall be raised in due time. I know not why, but I could not forbear writing to you. May the Spirit of the living God write his consolations on your heart, and cause your triumphs in Christ to abound more and more.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, pp. 834-35.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Public Prayer a Holy Work

A selection from a letter by John Elias to his son about praying in public. The younger Elias requested spiritual counsel from his father for he had been asked to lead in public prayer. His father cautioned him to be watchful and exemplary. He believed that leading in prayer in the assembly of the Lord’s people a task not to be entered into lightly. The letter was written October 18, 1821.

Moreover, consider well carefully what is your own motive in such a great undertaking, especially when you feel some desires and propensity for it. Be very careful that you have no end in view for such a holy work, but to glorify the Lord. Besides, be assured that if you engage in such a public part of the service of God, it will be necessary for you to be more watchful and circumspect in all your conduct and conversation, such as becometh the Gospel of Christ; the more public we may be engaged in his service, the greater will be the dishonor we shall bring upon his cause if we should be inconsistent. If any one takes the place and work of an elder, he should have the spirit and conduct of such a person.

John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1844, published by the Banner of Truth in 1973, pp. 208-09.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Tremble Yet Rejoice

A portion of a letter by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, written to his parents after getting settled in school at Newmarket. He hadn’t been long converted and was joyous of knowing Christ but struggled spiritually because he didn’t want to bring disgrace on his Saviour. He was not yet 16 years old when he wrote this letter, January 30, 1850.

How sweet is prayer! I would be always engaged in it. How beautiful is the Bible! I never loved it so before; it seems to me as necessary food. I feel that I have not one particle of spiritual life in me but what the Spirit placed there. I feel that I cannot live if He depart; I tremble and fear lest I should grieve Him. I dread lest sloth or pride should overcome me, and I should dishonour the gospel by neglect of prayer, or the Scriptures, or by sinning against God. Truly, that will be a happy place where we shall get rid of sin and this depraved corrupt nature. When I look at the horrible pit and the hole from which I have been digged, I tremble lest I should fall into it, and yet rejoice that I am on the King’s highway.

The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, collected and collated by his son, Charles Spurgeon, first published in 1923, p. 13, now available electronically by Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wounded and Healed

A letter from George Whitefield to an acquaintance in Philadelphia who was an overseer of a Society of “negro women and children.” Whitefield had a great interest in the slaves and often preached the gospel to them. Arnold Dallimore shows in a chapter of his two-volume work on the life of Whitefield entitled, “Whitefield and the American Negro,” how he loved the slaves and how they loved him. Many of them responded to the gospel message as preached by Whitefield. Dallimore even argues that Negro Spirituals originated from the slaves that found Christ as Savior and Lord through Whitefield’s preaching.

May 2, 1740

Dear R______,

Let nothing said to you in my absence affect you. God has lately delivered you out of one snare; take heed how you fall into another. If you watch unto prayer, who knows but God may bless your endeavours amongst the poor negro women and children? I could not wish you more happily situated.—My love to all the society.—Exhort them not to rest in good desires. Shew them, O shew them the necessity of being deeply wounded, before they can be capable of healing by Jesus Christ. Bid them to beware of a light behaviour, and light company. Both do grieve the blessed Spirit of God. Take heed, take heed of those accursed snares. I could say more, but time will not permit. My love to the Negro Peggy, and all her black sisters. Bid them to pray for me. May the blood of Jesus wash away all the pollutions of their sin-sick souls! What if they were put into a society by themselves, and you, or some white woman, met with them? The good Lord direct and bless you in all things.—This is the hearty prayer of

Your sincere friend and servant in Christ,

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, pp. 476-77.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


A portion of a letter by John Calvin to his fellow reformer, Melanchthon. The letter reveals Calvin’s high regard and love for his friend, but he wrote to rebuke him for giving up ground that had been gained in the Reformation. Calvin addressed Melanchthon’s weakness in character in the desire to maintain a good reputation above adherence to the truth. The letter was written June 18, 1559.

Although I am fully persuaded that the fear of death never compelled you in the very least to swerve from the right path, yet I am apprehensive that it is just possible, that another species of fear may have proved too much for your courage. For I know how much you are horrified at the charge of rude severity. But we must remember, that reputation must not be accounted by the servants of Christ as of more value than life. We are no better than Paul was, who held fearlessly on his way through ‘evil and good report’ [2 Cor. 6:8]. It is indeed a hard and disagreeable thing to be reckoned turbulent and inflexible,—men who would rather see the whole world in ruin, than condescend to any measure of moderation. But your ears should have been deaf to such talk long ago. I have not so bad an opinion of you, nor will I do you the injustice, to suppose that you resemble the ambitious, and hang upon the popular breath. Yet I have no doubt but that you are occasionally weakened by those goadings…

You know why I am so vehement. I had rather die with you a hundred times, than see you survive the doctrines surrendered by you…

Adieu, most illustrious sir, and ever worthy of my hearty regard. May the Lord continue to guide you by his Spirit, and sustain you by his might; may his protection guard you. Amen.

John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Jules Bonnet and translated by David Constable, first published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858, republished by The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, vol. 5, pp. 273-74.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Patience of Suffering and the Patience of Waiting

A portion of a letter by the Anglican minister, Thomas Scott, to his Baptist friend, pastor John Ryland. The two had a cordial relation together. Rev. Scott followed with great interest the missionary labors of the Baptists, led by William Carey, which he mentions here. The missionary team sent out by the Baptist of England had not long been in India when Rev. Scott wrote this letter to Ryland. The letter was written December 23, 1794.

I rejoice to hear of the prospect that opens before your missionaries in Asia; yet, knowing something of human nature, I cannot but believe that it will rise violently against their message, when the Hindoos and others, generally understand the nature and tendency of it, and the humbling mortifying things it implies. Did I therefore correspond with the missionaries, I exhort them to pray without ceasing, not only for the patience of suffering, but also for the patience of waiting; in my idea, the most essential requisite for a modern missionary. I have, however, no doubt that the Lord will eventually bless the design; and I have the satisfaction to say, that even some of my acquaintance, who are not very favourable to dissenters, highly applaud it.

The Life, Letters, and Papers of the Late Rev. Thomas Scott D.D., to which is added The Force of Truth, by Rev. John Scott, New Haven Publishers, 1827, p. 373.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In the Midst of Troubles and Difficulties

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards to the Scottish pastor, Thomas Gillespie, after his removal as pastor from his church in Northampton. He explained to his friend the causes of his dismissal and then expressed thanks for the prayers of his Scottish brethren. The letter was written from Stockbridge, the place of his new ministry, July 1, 1751.

I have much to teach me to behave as a pilgrim and stranger on the earth. But in the midst of troubles and difficulties, I receive many mercies. Particularly I have great reason, with abundant thankfulness, to take notice of the great kindness of friends in Scotland. Blessed be God who never forsakes those that trust in him, and never wants instruments for the conveyance of his goodness and liberality to those who suffer in his cause…

Remember me, dear Sir, at the throne of grace, with regard to all my trials, and with regard to my new circumstances, and the important service I have undertaken in this place…

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 387.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tell Him All Your Sorrows

A selection from a letter by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to a friend that was gravely ill. He wrote to lift her spirits by directing her to set her heart upon the Lord. The letter was written August 16, 1840.

If at any time unbelief steals over your heart—if you lose sight of Jesus, our Passover sacrificed for us—if you forget the hand of the all-tender gracious Father of Jesus and of your soul—you will be crying out, All these things are against me. But ah! how soon you will find that everything in your history, except sin, has been for you. Every wave of trouble has been wafting you to the sunny shores of a sinless eternity. Only believe. Give unlimited credit to our God…

Tell Him all your sorrows, all your doubts and anxieties. He has a willing ear. Oh, what a friend is Jesus, the sinner’s friend! What an open ear He has for all the wants, doubts, difficulties of His people! He has an especial care for His sick, weakly, and dying disciples…

Keep your eye upon Jesus and the unsearchable riches that are in Him; and may the gentle Comforter fill your soul, and give you a sweet foretaste of the glory that is to follow. May He leave His deep eternal impress upon your soul, not healing you and going away, but abiding within you, keeping the image of Christ in your heart, ever fresh and full,—Christ in you the hope of glory. The Comforter is able to fill you with calmness in the stormiest hour. May He fill your whole soul, and transform you into a child of light. Good-bye till we meet, if it be the Lord’s will. If not in this world, at least before the throne, casting our crowns at His feet.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains, Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1884, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1966, pp. 285-87.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Prayer and a Hymn

A selection from a letter by Mary Jones, wife of the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, to her granddaughter, Mary. She sent a prayer that she might say before a meal and a hymn for her to memorize. The letter was written March 30, 1864.

I am very much pleased to hear that you go to Sunday school and love your teacher. You must obey all she tells you, and always say your lessons well… The other day we went to Flemington, and Willie and Jimmie both repeated a beautiful hymn they had just learned, and did not miss a word of it—the hymn your mother and Uncle Charles and Uncle Joe used to say when they were small; so that Grandmama remembered it, and now writes it from memory for you and Brother to learn to say to me when I come up. Cousin Marion Glen, one of my dear friends, has been a week with me, and her niece Miss Laleah Dunwody, and she said a sweet little grace for Little Sister to learn; and I write it down here for you to say when there is no one to ask a blessing:

Lord, bless this food which now I take
To do me good, for Jesus’ sake

And this is the hymn:

My Heavenly Father, all I see
Around me and above
Sends forth a hymn of praise to Thee
And speaks Thy boundless love.

The clear blue sky is full of Thee,
The woods so dark and lone.
The soft south wind, the sounding sea
Worship the Holy One.

The humming of the insect throng,
The prattling, sparkling rill,
The birds with their melodious song
Repeat Thy praises still.

And Thou dost hear them every one;
Thou also hearest me.
I know that I am not alone
When I but think of Thee

The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, edited by Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 1155-56. Iain Murray makes reference to this book of letters in a chapter on the Jones’s in his recent book, Heroes (published by The Banner of Truth Trust).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Design of the Gospel

A selection from a letter by John Newton to Thomas Scott. Mr. Scott was a neighbor to Newton. He was an Anglican minister in a nearby parish but he didn’t know the Lord. It was through his friendship with Newton that he came to understand the gospel and was converted. After his conversion Scott wrote A Commentary on the Whole Bible that went through many editions, being popular both in England and America. He wrote his spiritual biography in a book first published in 1779, published now by The Banner of Truth Trust, The Force of Truth. This letter was written August 11, 1775, during Newton’s witnessing stage to Scott.

The gospel, my dear sir, is a salvation appointed for those who are ready to perish, and is not designed to put them in a way to save themselves by their own works. It speaks to us as condemned already, and calls upon us to believe in a crucified Saviour, that we may receive redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins. And the Spirit of God, by the gospel, first convinces us of unbelief, sin, and misery; and then by revealing the things of Jesus to our minds, enables us, as helpless sinners, to come to Christ, to receive him, to behold him, or in other words, to believe in him; and expect pardon, life, and grace from him; renouncing every hope and aim in which we once rested, ‘and accounting all things loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.’

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes, by Josiah Bull, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, p. 256.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Looking to the Lord for Help

A selection from a letter by James Petigru Boyce to his good friend and fellow laborer in the gospel, John A. Broadus. The Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina, of which Boyce was president, was moving to Louisville, Kentucky. Boyce faced much opposition in heading up this move and was attempting to raise funds for the school. The cause of the school was in doubt but due to the laborers of J. P. Boyce and the power of God, the school, now known as The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was firmly established. This letter was written December 10, 1872.

I have had some blessed experience in this work of mine. I fear I came in too great self-confidence and conviction that so good a cause must commend itself. The Lord has taught me that all hope in man is vain and as I have been able to look to Him alone I have some wonderful evidences of His aid. Do you wonder then that in the moment of real disdain, and when all felt that nothing could be done, I was enabled to rise and say all is right? I shall succeed. I have no fears. And I feel confident, thought human flesh sometimes fails and I fear. My experience was like that of David in the cave (Ps. 142). Even the temptation was put before me to destroy my enemies, and I was graciously enabled by my publications of minutes to show what I could have done. And I believe God had blessed by peaceful intentions and answered my prayers and accepted my trust. Or shall I not rather say others’ prayers, for all of you have been praying for me—or rather none of ours but only those of Christ whose Spirit has taught us what to ask for and who has himself asked that the prayers be granted. All the glory be to God. The work is succeeding I am sure. Yet I have no more subscriptions yet to report, but my plans are working.

James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, by Thomas J. Nettles, P & R Publishing, 2009, pp. 252-53.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The More We Understand the Gospel

A selection from a letter by James A. Haldane to his friend, Colonel Anderson. He wrote an encouraging word about the blessings of the gospel. The letter was written September 1, 1849.

The more we understand the Gospel, the more clearly do we see its adaptation to our circumstances, at once excluding boasting, and enabling us to joy in God through Jesus Christ, by whom we have also received the atonement. We are exalted in Christ’s righteousness…

Considered in ourselves, we are alienated from the life of God, through the darkness and ignorance that is in us; but in Christ we are washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. We were at first created in the image of God, but by the disobedience of our first father we lost that image; but it is restored in Christ, and His appearance for us at the right hand of God gives us the assurance of the enjoyment of every spiritual and heavenly blessing.

May you continue to enjoy much of the consolation that is in Christ, and continue to be eminently useful in the important sphere in which the Lord has placed you...

The Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, first published in 1852, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 1990, pp. 680-81.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Slothful or Industrious?

A selection from a letter by the Welsh preacher, Thomas Charles, to Mr. D. Charles. The writer spoke at length about Christians being active rather than slothful. Too many Christians, he says, complain about their circumstances or wish things to be better when they need to take “an industrious course.” The letter was written October 4, 1782.

The husbandman well knows, that if he be idle and slothful in seed-time, it will be in vain to form any expectations as to the time of harvest. ‘The sluggard will not sow by reason of cold;’ and what return hath he in harvest? He must ‘beg in harvest and have nothing’ (Prov. 20:4). So it is in spiritual things. The hand of the diligent alone maketh rich. Tell me how a man employs his time, whether he is slothful or industrious, and I will tell you what progress he makes in grace; for you may as soon gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles, as enjoy those fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, and peace, whilst you live after the flesh, in self-indulgence, ease, and sloth.

Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels: Selected from his Letters and Papers, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1836, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 225-26.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Heart Wants a Companion

A portion of a letter from Joseph Kinghorn to his father about marriage. A quick P.S. was added to his father’s last letter, “This day thirty-two years ago we were married.” Joseph, pastor of a leading Baptist church in the county of Norfolk, England, was single. He once was engaged but things didn’t work out so he remained unmarried all his days. But he understood the bliss of married life and expressed it in his letter, which was written, probably in early May of 1797.

Terry Wolever, book editor for Particular Baptist Press, pointed out this letter to me in a phone conversation yesterday. Terry, who wrote the forward to the book that contains this letter, is scheduled to give a paper on Joseph Kinghorn at the Baptist Spirituality Conference, which is being held August 24-25 at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Louisville, Kentucky (see for more information).

I was struck with your relation of the anniversary of thirty-two years marriage. May that day often find you both in health and happiness. There is a solitariness in single life; the heart wants a companion, a friend to whom all can be told is not to be met with in our common intercourse. I dare say if I had a wife I loved, and who loved me, I should tell what now lies buried till it is forgotten.
What are generally called friends are very valuable. I own it, and I have many I esteem, yet there is an intercourse of sentiment of a higher kind, and which it seems impossible to enjoy but where the interest and happiness of two are completely made one. You will be this time suspect that I am at least half in love, perhaps courting, etc. No; but I could not help saying what I have, from the circumstance you mention.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 270.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Faith Humbly Presses On

Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) wrote these words on faith in a letter to a friend, June 3, 1858. Miss Bryan ministered too many through letter writing. She encouraged them to press on in the faith and live for the glory of God.

Faith humbly presses on through the tribulation path, looking unto Jesus, and fully understands that excellent saying of Hewitson, “The soul will be staggered even by loose stones in the way if we look manward; if we look Godward faith will not be staggered even by inaccessible mountains stretching and obstructing apparently our outward progress.”

Perhaps I shall weary you; but this subject of faith is dear to my heart, and I do long for your furtherance and joy of faith. Let not that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold you God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” Yes, the feeble and the fearing He will save. Oh! May the feet and ankle bones of faith receive strength to enter into Christ the true temple, leaping and walking and praising God.

Letters of Ruth Bryan, first published in 1865, republished by Reformation Heritage Books, 2005, pp. 252-53.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Delight In Being Heirs Together of the Grace of Life

A selection from a letter by Rev. J. H. Thornwell to his wife, Nancy. In The Life and Letters of J. H. Thornwell by B. M. Palmer, six letters are printed which he wrote to his wife during a summer trip to Europe in 1841. He wrote her from England, Scotland and France. The letters reveal how close they were. He referred to her as “my dearest, most precious Nancy.” He said she was “ten thousand times dearer to me than all the world besides.” But in one letter, written from Glasgow, he shared how he hoped that they would have a better spiritual relationship together. The letter was written July 15.

It is with heartfelt pleasure that I sit down to hold communication with her whom my soul loves, in the only way which is now left me. I feel that, in your affections, I possess a prize of inestimable value; and I look forward, with interest and delight, to the renewed joys which we shall experience in the society of each other, when God shall bring us together again, after our long and painful separation.

I have thought much of the best methods of sanctifying our love, and of being fellow-helpers to each other in our heavenly pilgrimage. I feel a renewed obligation, from God’s great goodness to me since I left home, to devote myself wholly, unreservedly, to His service and glory. He has protected me from danger, and has, I trust, entirely restored my health. What can I render to Him but that life which He has preserved, that health which He has restored, and that strength which He has increased?

Let us both endeavour to be more holy, watchful and devoted; let us endeavour to build each other up in the most holy faith. I am afraid that, in past times, our intercourse has not been sufficiently of a religious character. We have both been a little shy in communicating our spiritual states, our joys or sorrows, our hopes and fears. If there has been an error of this sort, let us try to correct it hereafter, and delight more in being heirs together of the grace of life. It is my earnest prayer that God may give us grace to glorify His name in all things.

The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, by B. H. Palmer, first published in 1875, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1974, p. 175.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Acceptance With God

A letter from George Whitefield to an inquirer about the way of salvation.

London, June 8, 1741

Dear Sir,

I like your last letter best. There is one thing you still lack, “to be convinced of unbelief.” By faith, and not by works, are you to be justified in the sight of God. Make use of the means. You must take care that you do not rest in them. You must not think anything you can do, will in the least recommend you to the favour of God; and yet you must strive, as if you were to be saved by your striving. The only cause of our acceptance with God lies at the feet of sovereign mercy, through Christ. Entreat the Lord to give you faith, and who knows but he may have mercy upon you. Remember you are a poor sinner, and deserve nothing. That God may reveal his dear Son in you, is the hearty prayer of

Your affectionate friend and servant,

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, pp. 270-71.