Friday, February 27, 2009

A Special Offer by The Banner of Truth Trust

The Banner of Truth Trust has recently republished the seven-volume set, John Calvin – Tracts and Letters. This is to mark the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. The entire set is being offered throughout 2009 in the USA directly by the Banner for $80. The set consists of three volumes of Reformation tracts and other writings of Calvin, and four volumes of his letters.

Concerning the Letters, volumes 4-7 of the set, the Banner of Truth Magazine for March says:

“A man who regularly lectured to theological students, preached on average five times a week, and authored enough material to fill forty-eight large volumes would not be expected to show much enthusiasm for correspondence. Yet in the Complete Works of John Calvin there are no fewer than eleven volumes of letters. Calvin wrote to kings and princes, reformers and friends, nobility and common people alike. His letters discuss affairs of State, but also the most mundane problems of everyday life, and through them all there is revealed a man of deep pastoral concern, consistent and exemplary evangelistic zeal, and a humble sense of the final authority of God and his Word.

“The four volumes of Letters in this edition range from 1528 to the year of the Reformer’s death (1564). They are of enormous historical interest, but their permanent significance lies in the reminder they provide of a great work of God, and the example they set of compassionate Christian care and a deep concern for the advance of the gospel wherever it is proclaimed. Calvin’s personal ambition undergirds each letter: ‘It is enough that I live and die for Christ who is to his followers a gain both in life and in death.’”

I add my hearty amen to this endorsement. The letters are a goldmine of historical, theological, and pastoral interest. A man’s personal letters opens a window into his soul. If you want to know Calvin better, then read his letters. I am enjoying the journey through them at present and I am finding them both enjoyable and profitable.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

God Makes a Man What He Wishes

The conclusion of a letter by Martin Luther to Caspar Müler, the chancellor at Mansfeld, whom he addressed, “my kind lord and dear friend.” The letter reveals the good humor of Luther even when not feeling his best. The letter was written January 19, 1536.

Accept my ways (as Your Honor knows them); for I am quite rough and coarse, big, grey, green, overburdened with, excessively mixed up in, and overtaken by [all kinds of] affairs, so that sometimes, in order to preserve myself, I have to force myself to make a joke. Of course, a man is not more than a man, even if God can make out of a man what he wishes—yet we have to do our part too. Greet all good gentlemen and friends!

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

Little Longer to Remain Below

A selection from a letter by Benjamin Morgan Palmer to a lifelong friend in Maryland. Mr. Palmer was sick and thought he was soon the leave his earthly tabernacle and enter the presence of the Lord. He would live another 13 years but when he wrote this letter on February 20, 1889, he believed his earthly sojourn would soon be over. The words are fitting for all believers for our death may be nearer than we know.

We have little longer to remain below; soon we are to be caught up into the splendor of our Lord’s own presence. Let us carry up with us into that supreme glory the remembrance of a communion with our heavenly Father, such as we have never known before; leaving the light of our testimony for Christ, which shall help those who remain after us to find the way to the bright heaven which is our home forever.

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1906, reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, p. 577.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What I Pray For

A selection from a letter by Robert L. Dabney to his sister, Betty. She was suffering from a severe case of bronchitis. The letter was written December 22, 1861. She did not recover from the illness though much prayed for and in the hands of the best medical care. Dabney told his sister how he framed his petitions on her behalf.

You cannot tell how much I have been affected and moved by your sickness. A large part of every prayer I try to offer is for you. Shall I tell you what I pray for? First, that you may possess a sustaining faith, and the ‘the joy of the Lord may be your strength;’ and that patience may have its perfect work in you. Second, that for the sake of mamma, and of all of us, rather than for your own sake, your disease may be speedily rebuked and your health firmly restored.

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. 248.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Corrupt Books

A selection from a letter by Jonathan Edwards to John Erskine in Scotland. The letter was written from Stockbridge on December 11, 1755. Mr. Edwards comments on a book that he had recently received from Erskine but had already read. Erskine had sent him a copy of Essays on the Principles of Morality, by William Hogg. He also refers to a book by the Scottish philosopher, David Hume, who was famous for his naturalistic philosophy and trust in the powers of human reason. Titles by David Hume in Edwards “Catalogue of Reading,” include A Treatise of Human Nature, Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

I had before read that book of essays; having borrowed Mr. Bellamy’s; and also that book of Mr. David Hume’s which you speak of. I am glad of an opportunity to read such corrupt books; especially when written by men of considerable genius; that I may have an idea of the notions that prevail in our nation.

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 679.

Monday, February 16, 2009

He Will Not Be Hindered

A selection from a letter by John Newton to Miss Mary Barham, the daughter of one of his dearest friends, a Moravian, J. Foster Barham. The Barham’s lived in Bedford, Bunyan’s town, not too far from Olney. Mary recently “had entered in the way of salvation” and Mr. Newton wrote this letter of challenge and encouragement to her. This letter was written November 11, 1775.

In a sense, we are often hindering him by our impatience and unbelief; but strictly speaking, when he really begins the good work, and gives us a desire which will be satisfied with nothing short of himself, He will not be hindered from carrying it on; for He has said, I will work, and none shall let it. Ah! had it depended upon myself, upon my wisdom or faithfulness, I should have hindered him to purpose, and ruined myself long ago. How often have I grieved and resisted his Spirit! But hereby I have learned more of his patience and tenderness than I could otherwise have known. He knows our frame, and what effect our evil nature, fomented by the artifices of Satan, will have; He see us from first to last.

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes, by Josiah Bull, first published in 1869, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 2007, pp. 217-18.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Wonders of Redemption - The Cream of All

Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) wrote these words in a letter to a friend, August 24, 1852. She spoke of the beauty of God’s creation she had witnessed on a visit to the mountains of North Wales but rejoiced the more in the wonders of redemption.

But we not only enjoyed nature’s loveliness and grandeur; we also found some gems of grace, such as the Lord will own when He maketh up His jewels; dear Welsh sisters, with whom we could take sweet counsel; sweetly proving that whatever be the country, or natural language, the new heart beats the same in all. Though I do almost extravagantly enjoy the wonders of creation, yet the wonders of Redemption are to me the cream of all; and to find one dear saint, though poor and mean, and despised of men, is treasure to this heart.

The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ: Letters of Ruth Bryan, with a Preface by the Rev. A. Moody Stuart, Reformation Heritage Books, 2005, p. 212.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Letter to a King

A selection from a letter by John Calvin to the young king of England, Edward VI. Along with the letter he sent a copy of his exposition of Psalm 87, hoping that he would “take pleasure in it” and that it “might be profitable” to him. The letter was written in Geneva, July 4, 1552.

You know, Sire, how much danger kings and princes are in, lest the height to which they are raised should dazzle their eyes, and amuse them here below, while making them forgetful of the heavenly kingdom; and I doubt not that God hath so warned you against this evil, to preserve you therefrom, that you are a hundred times more impressed with it, than those who have no personal experience of it… It is indeed a great thing to be a king, and yet more, over such a country; nevertheless, I have no doubt that you reckon it beyond comparison better to be a Christian. It is therefore an invaluable privilege that God has vouchsafed you, Sire, to be a Christian king, to serve as his lieutenant in ordering and maintaining the kingdom of Jesus Christ in England… I pray our Lord to fill you with the gifts of his Holy Spirit, to guide you in all prudence and virtue, to make you prosper and flourish to the glory of his name.

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. 354-355.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ready To Go At Any Moment

A selection from a letter by Rev. Daniel Baker to his wife. He was on a preaching tour raising money for Austin College in Huntsville, Texas. And epidemic of cholera had broken out, taking several lives. He assured his wife that he was ready to go and meet the Lord if it was the Lord’s will. This letter was written from Memphis, May 13, 1851.

I have visited Vicksburg, Jackson, Yazoo City, and Memphis. Last Sabbath morning I preached for brother Coons. I am just waiting for a boat for St. Louis. Cholera has broken out in this place; I believe three or four persons died yesterday, and two last night—one a young man who eat his supper in good health—this morning a corpse! The sexton of the _____ church rang the bell last night, and about three hours after the services closed, was in the arms of death. What poor creatures we all are!—how important to be ready to go at any moment. You need not be uneasy, my dear E. [Eliza], on my account; I am in the hands of a Being who is infinitely wise and good, and, as the saying is, ‘I am immortal till my work is done’… O what a blessed thing it is to be a Christian, and to have heaven in full view! My dear E., let us try to be more engaged—‘O for a closer walk with God!’

Making Many Glad: The Life and Labours of Daniel Baker, by William M. Baker, first published in 1858, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 2000, pp. 428-29.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Lord's Laying Aside His Instruments

A selection from a letter by C. H. Spurgeon to the members of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England. He had been once again laid aside with sickness and was unable to preach. He had gone to Mentone, France, to recuperate. The letter was written December 6, 1890.

I have no question that there is great wisdom in the Lord’s laying aside his instruments. It is for his own glory, for thereby he shows that he is not in need of them, and it is for their humbling, for hereby they learn how deep is their need of him. The uninterrupted reception of blessing through one channel might breed in our foolish hearts an idolatrous confidence in the means; therefore there comes a break in the use of the means that the Lord may be the more tenderly remembered. We may be sure that, if the Lord dries up a cistern, it is because he would have us fly to the fountain of inexhaustible strength.

The Suffering Letters of C. H. Spurgeon, annotations by Hannah Wyncoll, The Wakeman Trust, 2007, p. 71.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Power in the Pulpit

A selection from a letter that George Whitefield wrote to a pastor. Whitefield was in Scotland preaching the gospel, twice each day and sometimes even three or four times daily. He spoke of how the Lord had helped him in proclaiming the Word. The letter was written from Aberdeen on October 13, 1741.

This morning I felt his power in the pulpit, and now feel it much in my soul. O what a blessed thing it is, to have God’s spirit witness with our spirit, that we are God’s children! This, glory be to free grace! I have continually; and let me be in what frame soever, my soul is waiting for the coming of the Son of Man. Blessed be God, it will not be long ere I shall see him as he is. The sight I have of him by faith, ravishes my soul; how shall I be ravished when I see him face to face!

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, pp. 332-33, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One of the Best of Mothers

A selection from a letter by Samuel Wesley, father of the famed John and Charles Wesley, written to his oldest son, Samuel Wesley, Jr. often called Sammy. The elder Wesley praised his wife and mother of their 19 children (9 of whom did not survive infancy), Susanna. He encouraged his son to remember all she had taught him and to reverence and support her. No date is given for the letter.

You know what you owe to one of the best of mothers… often reflect on the tender and peculiar love which your mother has always expressed towards you, the deep affliction, both of body and mind, which she underwent for you, both before and after your birth; the particular care she took of your education when she struggled with so many pains and infirmities; and, above all, the wholesome and sweet motherly advice and counsel which she has often given you to fear God, to take care of your soul, as well as your learning, to shun all vicious practices and bad examples… as well as those valuable letters she wrote to you…

You will not forget to evidence this by supporting and comforting her in her age… and doing nothing which may justly displease and grieve her, or show you unworthy of such a mother…

In short, reverence and love her as much as you will… the more duty you pay her and the more frequently and kindly you write to her, the more will you please your affectionate father…

Susanna Wesley: Mother of John and Charles Wesley, Arnold A. Dallimore, Baker Book House, 1993, pp. 95-96.