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.