Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To See and Feel Your Need of a Precious Saviour

A selection from a letter by Mary Jones, wife of the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones. She wrote her son Charles about the death of a young man, George Helm. She used the opportunity to press on him his need for Christ. The letter was written on February 16, 1858.

Would that I could know how he died. I have often thought of his spiritual state. Did he return to the Ark of Safety? Had he an opportunity to seek his Saviour’s face? We may never know. Your father and myself gave him at parting a little token of our interest in his spiritual welfare. Why was he taken and you are left? God’s sovereignty has so ordained it, but for some wise design. My dear son, I pray the Lord to open your eyes and open your heart by this stroke to see and feel your need of a precious Saviour. Oh, to live without Christ and to die without Christ is to be lost forever! Poor, lost, and guilty as we are, we must have an Advocate with the Father—divine and all-sufficient Jesus Christ the Righteous!

The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, edited by Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, p. 394. 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).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Apply to God

A selection from a letter that George Whitefield wrote to Benjamin Franklin, the famous American inventor and politician. Their friendship lasted over 30 years. On hearing of his death, Franklin said, “His integrity, disinterestedness and indefatigable zeal in prosecuting every good work, I have never seen equaled, I shall never see excelled” (George Whitefield, A. Dallimore, vol. 2, p. 453). Whitefield endeavored to lead Mr. Franklin to Christ in both conversation and correspondence, but did not see his desire fulfilled. The letter was written on November 26, 1740.

I do not despair of your seeing the reasonableness of Christianity. Apply to God; be willing to do the divine will, and you shall know it.

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, p. 226, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Have Great Hope

A selection of a letter from Martin Luther to Martin Bucer, pastor in Strassburg. They were seeking to come to an understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Luther wanted greater fellowship with Bucer but it depended on their common agreement concerning this doctrine. The letter was written from Wittenberg on January 22, 1531.

I wish you would believe that, as I have told you at the Coburg, I want to settle our discord even though I might have to live three times to accomplish it, because I have seen how necessary your fellowship is for us, and how the gospel was and still is disadvantaged [by our discord]. I have become so much aware of this that I am convinced that all the gates of hell, the whole papacy, all of Turkey, the whole world, all the flesh, and whatever evils there are could not have harmed the gospel at all, if we had only been of one mind. But what am I to do with something which cannot be accomplished? If you wish to be fair, then you will attribute the fact that I shun this unity not to stubbornness, but to the urging of my conscience and to the force of my faith. Since our discussion at the Coburg I have great hope, but this hope is not yet unwavering.

Luther's Works, Letters III, Vol. 50, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 238.

Monday, April 20, 2009

You Are Not Forgotten

A selection from a letter by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), author of the useful evangelistic classic, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, which was instrumental in the conversion of William Wilberforce. The letter was written to his wife, Mercy. They were deeply in love and wrote letters filled with longing one for the other when away.

Remember me to the dear children, and tell them I am very glad to hear they are so well, and that I pray for them every day. Their dear mamma may be sure she is not forgotten. I hope we shall have many comfortable days and Sabbaths together. And in the meantime, let us, whether present or absent from each other, own the divine goodness in preserving us so graciously thus long and endeavour to prepare more and more for that better world, where so many of our dear friends are awaiting us and where there will be no more absence.

The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, Michael A. G. Haykin with Victoria J. Haykin, Reformation Trust, 2009, p. 21.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Widows and Prayer

A portion of a letter written by Augustine of Hippo (354-430) to Faltonia Proba, a widow of the wealthiest man in the Roman Empire. She had asked him about prayer. He wrote a letter to her which has become a classic on prayer.

I haven’t forgotten your request, and what I promised you, to write you about praying to God… I can’t tell you what great joy your request gives me, for I see what real concern you have about prayer. Can you not realize that there can be no worthier occupation as a widow than prayer? As the Apostle admonishes: “a woman who is a true widow in her desolation, wholly trust in the Lord, giving all her days and nights to prayer.” It might seem strange to have prayer as your first priority, when you are noble and rich from a worldly perspective, and indeed the mother of so many children. But you are spiritually wise enough to recognize living in this world, with this kind of life, no heart can be free from anxiety.

Letters of Faith Through the Seasons, James M. Houston, Honor Books, 2006, vol. 1, p. 272. The letter of Augustine on prayer in this volume is “a paraphrased series of selections from his long response” on prayer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Apostles Were Baptists

A portion of a letter from Rev. Joseph Kinghorn, pastor of St. Mary’s Baptist Church, Norwich, England, written to his father, David Kinghorn. He spoke of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in this letter. He said that “the piety of many pedobaptists” and “their path to heaven is as straight as our own,” but he could not own that infant baptism was Biblical. The letter was written in 1794.

I believe with all my heart that the apostles were Baptists, both in principle and practice; that the primitive church was baptist throughout; that infant sprinkling and transubstantiation are pretty much alike, the one being as well supported as the other. I think the Baptists are the preservers of one institution of Christ, which has been neglected and despised, and that they ought to consider it lies on them to endeavour to preserve it, for they seem left to defend it.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 236.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seek the Lord

A selection from letters of Rev. Charles Colcock Jones (1803-1863), affectionately known as “the apostle of the Negro slaves.” His son Joseph, a professor in the University of Georgia, professed faith in Christ in 1858. But his son, Charles, a lawyer, gave no evidence of knowing Christ, but received many letters from his father that included pleas for him to be converted. There is some evidence that he was brought to faith in Christ after his father’s death. Below are three samples of exhortations of a father to a son to be saved.

“Do not put off making your peace with God. You stand in danger of eternal ruin every hour you live without repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (September 6, 1854).

“My dear son, I pray the Lord to open your eyes and open your heart to see and feel your need of a precious Saviour” (February 16, 1858).

“When, my son, will you seek the Lord? Why are you not a Christian?” (October 3, 1859).

Heroes, Iain H. Murray, the Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, p. 233. This is a wonderful volume, especially the chapter on Charles Colcock Jones, and his wife, Mary. He was once the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia, and was professor of Columbia Theological Seminary, but his greatest work was that of evangelizing slaves.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Pure and Simple Order of Worship

A selection from a letter by John Calvin to John Knox, the Scottish Presbyterian in exile at Frankford. The English church there was divided over what forms were acceptable in worship. Calvin declared his opinion in writing to Knox, who like Calvin, desired that the public worship of God be according to strict simplicity. The letter was written from Geneva on June 12, 1555.

Certainly no one I think who is possessed of a sound judgment will deny that lighted tapers, and crucifixes, and other trumpery of the same description, flow from superstition. Whence I lay it down for certain, that those who from free choice retain these things, are but too eager to drink from polluted dregs. Nor do I see for what reason a church should be burdened with these frivolous and useless, not to call them by their real name, pernicious ceremonies, when a pure and simple order of worship is in our power.

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. 6, pp. 190-191.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Call No Man Master

A selection from a letter by John Newton to John Campbell, a friend in Scotland. Newton spoke of the danger of making too much of great men, especially of their writings. Better search the Scriptures ourselves than be dependent solely on man’s authority. Such a word needs to be heard today given the tendency by some to make idols out of learned theologians and powerful preachers. The letter was written in 1803.

Study the text of the good word of God. Beware of leaning too hard on human authority, even the best; you may get useful hints from sound divines, but call no man master. There are mixtures of infirmity, and the prejudices of education or party, in the best of writers. What is good in them they obtained from the fountain of truth, the scriptures; and you have as good a right to go to the fountain head yourself.

Heroes, Iain H. Murray, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, p. 111. Mr. Murray takes this portion of Newton’s letter from Letters and Occasional Remarks by John Newton, edited by John Campbell, published in 1809.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Let It Be So

A selection from a letter by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), to Marion M’Naught, his “favorite correspondent.” He had prayed for her with regard to a private wrong done to her by another. This letter of encouragement was written June 2, 1631.

What! Howbeit you receive indignities for your Lord’s sake, let it be so. When he shall put his holy hand up to your face in heaven, and dry your face, and wipe the tears from your eyes, judge if you will not have cause then to rejoice.

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. 24.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Longing for Revival

A selection from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Fred Catherwood. They had been married only a month. It was his first letter to her as Mrs. Catherwood. “The Doctor,” as he was fondly called, often rehearsed sermons that he had recently preached in his letters to family members, as he does here. This letter was written March 29, 1954.

Last night I preached on Exodus 3:16. This is the last of a series of six sermons on that chapter. You Elizabeth heard the first the Sunday before the wedding. The theme last night was this: Why do people not experience and enjoy the great salvation which God has provided? The answer is that their attitude is wrong, as it was with Moses at first. The initial attitude is impersonal, detached, external. It is curious and speculative and analytical. But God addressed Moses and the latter’s attitude became entirely changed… I felt again that there was much conviction. But I long for the days when people will be broken down.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 116.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Creed as to Matrimony

A selection from a letter by B. M. Palmer to R. H. Reid, a young man in the ministry whom he had taught and was a mentor. Reid had asked Rev. Palmer for advice regarding marriage. He hesitated to offer advice on this subject but after consulting with Mrs. Palmer, did so anyway, even recommending a young lady in his congregation for consideration! The letter was written from Columbia, South Carolina, May 1, 1850.

… I have but two suggestions on the general subject; for really my creed as to matrimony is exceedingly simple. The first is, commit this selection of a wife to Providence, and wait until you are caught… My second suggestion is, do not surrender yourself blindly to the impulses of the taste and heart, but weigh in the balance of a sound judgment the qualities of any who may have caught you by the horns… A good wife is from the Lord; therefore deliver yourself in this to the guiding of his Providence. The great secret of a happy choice may be given in a single sentence: it consists in uniting the taste and the judgment equally in the selection. Let the former be the active power, going forward in the choice; and let the latter be the satisfying power, indorsing or else vetoing, as the case may be. If both are satisfied, there is not much danger of forming a connexion that will be regretted hereafter.

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1906, reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, pp. 145-46.