Friday, January 30, 2009

Less Than Nothing and Vanity

A selection from a letter by Augusta Toplady to someone who had written him with words of admiration. He responded with a personal assessment of himself. The letter was written November 2, 1777.


Your letter quite distresses me, because it places excellencies to my account which I feel myself to be totally unpossessed of. Among all the weak and unworthy servants of Christ, I am the unworthiest and the weakest. If you know me as well as I know myself, you would be entirely of my mind.

For the Lord’s sake let us look to Jesus only, and learn to cease from man. Christ is all in all. Every other person and thing are vile, and wretched, and hateful, but so far as he deigns to smile and bless. “Less than nothing and vanity” is the only motto that belongs to me. If he vouchsafe to wash me in his blood, and to save me by his infinitely free and glorious redemption; a more worthless and helpless sinner will never sing his praises in the land of glory.

Instead of commending me, pray for me; that I may be kept from evil, and devote my few days (in humble and earnest attempt at least) to the honour of his name…

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, p. 878.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obedience to Christ and Compassion for the Perishing

A selection from a letter by Sarah Boardman to her parents about the death of her husband, George Boardman. The Boardman’s went to Burma to serve with Adoniram Judson in the mission work that he had begun. George Boardman died at age 30. Mrs. Boardman told her parents that he refused to leave the primitive area where they were trying to reach the Karens with the gospel for a place that would be better for his health. In a letter written on March 7, 1831, she recounted the words of her husband, who said:

And even should my poor, unprofitable life be somewhat shortened by staying, ought I, on that account merely, to leave this interesting field? Should I not rather stay and assist in gathering in these dear scattered lambs of the fold? You know, Sarah, that coming on a foreign mission involves the probability of a shorter life, than staying in one’s native country. And yet obedience to our Lord, and compassion for the perishing heathen, induced us to make this sacrifice. And have we ever repented that we came? No; I trust we can both say that we bless God for bringing us to Burmah, for directing our footsteps to Tavoy, and even for leading us hither.

The Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella Stuart, first published in 1851, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1999, pp. 175-76.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Master Your Temper

A portion of a letter by the Welsh pastor, John Elias, to his son John who was away at school. Edward Morgan said of Elias, “How few professors and ministers pay so much attention to the spiritual interest of their children as Elias did!” Elias’s son was sixteen years of age when this letter was written in 1819.

Take great care of thy temper; learn to be master of it now in thy youthful days; yea, if some laugh at thee, or despise thee, or offend thee, receive it mildly, and take care that thou dost not suffer thy self to be under the dominion of an angry, surly, and revengeful temper. It is not manly, much less Christian-like – nay, it is Satan-like. Therefore, my dear son, beware of this temper; it is a disgrace to the human nature; it is a great defect in the moral character of man, to say that he is of a rash, angry, and revengeful temper.

John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1844, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1973, p. 204.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Loss of My Beloved Pearce!

A selection from a letter by Sarah Pearce, wife of Samuel Pearce, pastor of the Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England. She was writing to her friend, Francis Franklin, about the recent death of her 18 month-old son, Samuel. She also mentioned how terribly she missed her husband who had died a year earlier at the age of 33. The letter was written July 11, 1800.

Oh could I feel but half the resignation respecting the loss of my beloved Pearce! But I cannot. Still bleeds the deep, deep wound; and a return to Birmingham is a return to the most poignant feelings. I wish however to resign him to the hand that gave and that had an unquestionable right to take away. Be still then every tumultuous passion, and know that he who hath inflicted these repeated strokes is God; that God whom I desire to reverence under every painful dispensation, being persuaded that what I know not now, I shall know hereafter.

The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, by Michael Haykin, with Victoria J. Haykin, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009, p. 68.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

He Love Black Man All Same White Man

A selection from a letter by Maggie Paton, wife of missionary John Paton, to a friend back home in Stirling, Scotland, about some of their first impressions of the New Hebrides. The letter was written on October 17, 1865.

I remember seeing a number of Natives assembled on the deck-house one Sabbath for Service, which Mr. Paton conducted in what is here termed Sandalwood English—a sort of peculiar broken English, which traders use with the Natives all over the Islands. I was amazed to see how he had gained the attention of all, when not above two or three of them knew the same language. They were looking earnestly into his face, and evidently drinking in every word. I crept nearer, and, listening attentively, heard such sentences as the following: Jehovah very good. He love Black Man all same White Man. He send Son belonga Him. He die for all Man.

Letters and Sketches from the New Hebrides, by Maggie Whitecross Paton, printed by Reformation Heritage Books and Sprinkle Publications, 2003, pp. 6-7.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Make Haste to Seek that Pearl

A selection from a letter by Samuel Rutherford, imprisoned at Aberdeen for nonconformist views, and no longer permitted to preach from his pulpit in Anwoth. The letter was written to Thomas Corbet, a member of the parish church in Anwoth. It was written in 1637.

If you depart from what I taught you in a hair-breadth, for fear or favour of men, or desire of ease in this world, I take heaven and earth to witness that ill shall come upon you in the end. Build not your nest here. This world is a hard, ill-made bed; no rest is in it for your soul. Awake, awake, and make haste to seek that Pearl, Christ, that this world seeth not. Your night and your Master Christ will be upon you within a clap; your hand-breadth of time will not bide you. Take Christ, howbeit a storm follow him. Howbeit this day be not yours and Christ’s, the morrow will be yours and his. I would not exchange the joy of my bonds and imprisonment for Christ with all the joy of this dirty and foul-skinned world, I am filled with Christ’s love.

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. 147.

Friday, January 16, 2009

See That You Please the Lord

A selection from a letter by the Puritan preacher, Joseph Alleine, to his congregation from prison. He was ejected for nonconformity in 1662 and was arrested and imprisoned because he continued to preach. While in prison he wrote his congregation numerous letters. John Wesley referred to him as “the English Rutherford.” This letter was written November 22, 1663.

The Lord taketh infinite care for you; see that it be your care, the care of your very hearts, to please the Lord. Set your hearts to it as the business of your lives, and the very end of your beings, to walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing… He must be pleased, though all the world be displeased. Let it be enough to you to have his good-will. Let this be the one thing that you bend yourselves to seek; and if you set to seek it, you may be sure to find it.

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. 187-88.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Famous Preacher of England

A letter by Sarah Edwards, wife of the famed New England pastor, Jonathan Edwards, written to her brother, James Pierpoint of New Haven. Her letter is about the visit of the English evangelist, George Whitefield, who came to Northampton in October, 1740.

October 24, 1740

Dear Brother James,

I want to prepare you for a visit from the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, the famous preacher of England. He has been sojourning with us, and after visiting a few of the neighbouring towns, is going to New Haven, and from thence to New York.

He is truly a remarkable man, and during his visit, has, I think, verified all we have heard of him. He makes less of the doctrines that our American preachers generally do and aims more at affecting the heart. He is a born orator. You have already heard of his deep-toned yet clear and melodious voice. It is perfect music.

It is wonderful to see what a spell he casts over an audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible. I have seen upwards of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence, broken only by an occasional half-suppressed sob.

He impresses the ignorant, and not less, the educated and refined. It is reported that while the miners of England listened to him, the tears made white furrows down their smutty cheeks. So here, our mechanics shut up their shops, and the day-labourers throw down their tools, to go and hear him preach, and few return unaffected. A prejudiced person, I know, might say that this is all theatrical artifice and display; but not so will anyone think who has seen and known him.

He is a very devout and godly man, and his only aim seems to be to reach and influence men the best way. He speaks from a heart aglow with love, and pours out a torrent of eloquence which is almost irresistible. I wish him success in his apostolic career; and when he reaches New Haven, you will, I know, show him warm hospitality.

Yours in faithful affection,

George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival, Arnold A. Dallimore, Cornerstone Books, volume 1, 1970, pp. 538-39.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Preaching to the Unsaved

A selection from a letter by A. W. Pink to his good friend, Lowell Green. The letter was written on March 19, 1939.

In preaching to the unsaved I never did anything more than I do in my articles: presented the truth of God so far as I knew it, and left the Holy Spirit to apply and bless it as he saw well. I never held any ‘after meetings,’ never asked sinners to signify by any outward sign they had accepted Christ or desired to be prayed for. If any waited behind to speak with me, I told them frankly I could not help them, and urged them to go home and read God’s Word. Nor did Spurgeon use any of these Arminian methods of ‘casting out the net,’ ‘penitent forms,’ etc., for the simple but sufficient reason that neither Christ nor his apostles ever did so! Needless to say I was often criticized: yet God was pleased to honour my faith as the Day to come will show.

The Life of Arthur W. Pink, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 2004, pp. 174-75.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Do Not Forget Things Better

A portion of a letter from Rev. Joseph Kinghorn, pastor of St. Mary’s Baptist Church, Norwich, England, written to R. S. Foster, student at the University of Edinburgh. Mr. Foster had sent Rev. Kinghorn a letter about hearing Dr. Thomas Chalmers for the first time. After speaking highly of Dr. Chalmers in his reply, Kinghorn exhorted Foster not to forget the better things. The letter was written February 10, 1829.

And now, I hope you do not forget things better than any of the studies in which you are engaged at College. You know such things there are. Be all that attention and study can make you; but be the Christian, the man of God also. God grant us all more of that holy science, by which we may know Christ, and him crucified!

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 426.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Supreme Desire Now

A selection from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his good friend, Dr. Philip Hughes. The two had corresponded with one another for over 40 years. After Mr. Hughes left England to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, they maintained a close relationship. “The Doctor,” as he was affectionately called, wrote this letter five weeks prior to his passing into glory. The letter was written January 22, 1981; he died on March 1.

My health is still very much the same and I have not been able to preach or do anything else since the beginning of June. I thank God for all His bountiful goodness to me over the long years, and for all He has graciously allowed me and enabled me to do. My supreme desire now is to testify more than ever to the glory and wonder of His grace. I shall greatly value your prayers that I may be given strength to do so to His glory.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 232.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Have Mercy on the Children

A selection from a letter by Timothy Edwards, father of Jonathan Edwards, written when he was a chaplain for a colonial military expedition against Canada. The letter was written to his wife, Esther, on August 11, 1711. He asked her to give his affection to the children. Jonathan was eight years old at the time.

Remember my love to each of the children, Esther, Elizabeth, Anne, Mary, Jonathan, Eunice and Abigail. The Lord have mercy on and eternally save them all, with our dear little Jerusha. The Lord bind up their souls with thine and mine in the bundle of life… [have them] above all things to seek the grace and favor of God in Christ, and that while they are young.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George M. Marsden, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 21.