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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Faith -- The Instrument of Our Justification, Not the Grounds

A selection from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Fred and Elizabeth Catherwood, his daughter and son-in-law. Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatest expositors of the 20th Century. He often wrote letters to them, telling them what he preached the week before. In this letter he refers to a sermon he gave on a Friday evening at the Bible study at Westminster Chapel on justification. The letter was written April 12, 1954.

On Friday night I tried to deal with the doctrine of justification by faith only. I felt that I did not do it justice, largely due to the fact that I was somewhat tired physically. I shall send you the notes when they arrive. The main point emphasized was that faith is but the instrument of our justification, not the grounds. We are not justified because of our faith or on account of it. It is but the channel or instrument by which we receive the righteousness of our Lord by which we are justified. He is our justification, not our faith in Him. You will realize that many, if not most evangelicals these days, go astray at that point. It is a most subtle heresy which turns faith into a work and really teaches justification by works again, our faith being the works.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 121.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Lord Was Very Gracious

A selection from a letter by Thomas Boston, to his friend James Hog. Both of them were “Marrow men,” holding the freeness of the gospel to all men in the midst of religious culture of hyper-Calvinism. Boston’s family was going through “the furnace of affliction” due to serious sickness. After he related their particular troubles, Boston appealed to his friend for prayer and spoke of his trust in the Lord. The letter was written in June, 1724.

I have given you this particular account, as making no doubt of your sympathy, and that you will join with us in the deliverance wrought for us, and in seeking pity and help in the continued affliction, and grace rightly to improve both the one and the other. The Lord was very gracious according to His word, and I felt Him to be the lifter up of mine head, while carried through the deep waters; and my soul blesseth His holy name for this dispensation in the this trial, in which He made me inwardly to rejoice when nothing of that kind appeared about me. O that I could praise and trust Him! He is a skilful pilot, and one might be very easy in doubtful events, trusting and relying on Him, believing that what is good He will give.

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, first published in 1899, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1988, p. 500.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Close Thinking Men, Not Deceived by Appearances

A portion of a letter from Joseph Kinghorn, pastor of St. Mary’s Baptist Church, Norwich, England, to his father and mother. He shared with them the profit he had received from two books that he had recently read. The letter was written May 1, 1798.

I have lately met with two singular books, viz., Jonathan Edward’s account of the revival of religion in New England in his time; and the life of Thos. Halyburton; and their accounts have the greater weight with me, because they were both very close thinking men, who were not to be deceived by appearances, but searched ideas to the very bottom.

May the grace they each described be felt by us, and by many more who yet are strangers to it! Then the world would be much happier than at present.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 285.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Use of Means

A selection from a letter by Augusta Toplady to Ambrose Serle, a “dear and ever respected friend.” Toplady once said, “Letters are but conversation committed to paper.” This “conversation” was written July 8, 1774.

Sure I am, that God will incline the scale (and not this only, but every other, to the end of time) so as shall conduce to his own glory, and to the accomplishment of his own purpose. It is ours to use the means, in a dependence on his absolute providence; to bless the means used, is his. With him, all events must be ultimately rested; and I trust I can say, ex animo [from the heart], with him I ever wish and desire to rest them; nor would I ever have a single incident removed out of his hand, were I possessed of all power both in heaven and earth.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, p. 859.