Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From a Prison to a Palace

A selection from a letter by the Welsh Protestant preacher, Christopher Love, to his wife, on the day before his execution by the English government. He was found guilty of treason because he was of Presbyterian persuasion. Other Puritans would be ejected from the Church of England but Love was tried and put to death. He left four children behind with another soon to be born. In writing he revealed great love and care for his wife and demonstrated confidence and faith in Christ. The letter was written from the Tower of London, August 22, 1651.

I am now going from a prison to a palace. I have finished my work, I am now to receive my wages. I am now going to heaven where are two of my children, and leaving thee on the earth where are three of my babes. Those two above need not my care, but the three below need thine. It comforts me to think two of my children are in the bosom of Abraham and three of them will be in the arms and care of so tender a godly mother.

I know thou art a woman of a sorrowful spirit, yet be comforted; though thy sorrow be great for thy husband's going out of the world, yet the pains shall be the less in bringing thy child into the world. Thou shalt be a joyful mother, though thou beest a sad widow. God hath many mercies in store for thee; the prayers of a dying husband for thee will not be lost. To my shame I speak it: I never prayed so much for thee at liberty as I have done in prison…

Dear wife, farewell. I will call thee wife no more. I shall see thy face no more, yet I am not much troubled for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom I shall be eternally married.

A Spectacle Unto God: The life and death of Christopher Love, by Don Kistler, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Read With Much Interest and Pleasure

A selection from a letter by the Scottish Presbyterian professor, Thomas Chalmers, to John Ryland, Baptist pastor in Northampton, England. Chalmers was writing to express thanks to Ryland for sending him a copy of the book he had written on the life of Andrew Fuller and for a copy of a pamphlet he had written on Antinomianism. Many Calvinists were attracted to Antinomianism and Ryland's refutation of this dangerous, insipient error was greatly appreciated by Chalmers. The letter was written from Glasgow, February 18, 1818.

I can assure you that I read the latter ["Antinomianism"] with much interest and pleasure. It revived all my recollections of the excellent Jonathan Edwards, to whose principles on the subject of Freewill I have long been a decided convert. You have given a very clear and judicious exposition indeed, of the perfect consistency which obtains between the absolute sovereignty of God on the one hand, and the fitness of bringing forward the urgency of Gospel calls and Gospel invitations on the other. I trust that your performance will do much good. It reminds me of your conversation when I had the pleasure of meeting you at Bristol, and which I shall not soon forget. I feel greatly indebted to you for the question you proposed to put to him who said, "I have come unto Christ,"—"What have you gotten from Him?"

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 320.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sins That Have Always Attended Me

A portion of a letter from William Carey, missionary to India, to one of his dear friends and chief supporters in England, John Ryland. Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, posted this excerpt on his excellent blog, The Wanderer (http://eardstapa.wordpress.com/). In the letter Carey laments his weaknesses and sins. We would do well to examine our own lives for surely the same sins that plagued him are true of us.

I am convinced that some sins have always attended me, as if they made a part of my constitution; among these I reckon pride, or rather vanity,—an evil which I have detected frequently, but have never been free from to this day. Indolence in divine things is constitutional: few people can think what necessity I am constantly under of summoning all my resolution to engage in any thing which God has commanded. This makes me peculiarly unfit for the ministry, and much more so for the office of a missionary. I now doubt seriously, whether persons of such a constitution should be engaged in the Christian ministry. This, and what I am going to mention, fill me with continued guilt. A want of character and firmness has always predominated in me. I have not resolution enough to reprove sin, to introduce serious and evangelical conversation in carnal company, especially among the great, to whom I have sometimes access. I sometimes labor with myself long, and at last cannot prevail sufficiently to break silence; or, if I introduce a subject, want resolution to keep it up, if the company do not show a readiness thereto.

Memoir of William Carey D.D., by Eustace Carey, first published in 1836, pp. 37-38.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Live For God and All Will Be Well

A portion of a letter from Edmund Botsford, pastor of Georgetown Baptist Church, Georgetown, South Carolina, to a young pastor friend, John Roberts. Botsford exhorted John and his new wife to talk freely to one another on spiritual subjects and to form the habit of praying together. With a bit of humor he told Mrs. Roberts if John was too backwards to converse with her, to let him know and he would scold him soundly! The letter was written November 24, 1802.

I sincerely wish you and the dear young lady with which you are connected, the best of blessings. Do, my dear young friend, from the first, make free to talk with the wife of your bosom, and that frequently, on divine subjects. Get her to pray with you; often be on your knees together, and do tell her from me, from your real friend, I beg her, I entreat her, not only to join you in prayer, but pray herself with you. O my young friends, do be praying husband and wife. Do not let shame prevent. O Mrs. Roberts, I earnestly entreat you to pray in secret with your husband; do my dear child get into the habit of praying with your husband; and if you find him backward to converse with you on spiritual subjects, let me know, and I will scold him soundly. I tell you both, live for God, and all will be well.

Memoirs of Elder Edmund Botsford, compiled and edited by Charles D. Mallary, first printed in 1832, now printed by Particular Baptist Press, Springfield, Missouri, 2004, p. 119.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Can't Turn to Christ When You Please

A portion of a letter by Charles Haddon Spurgeon to William Cooper about his need for Christ. Spurgeon, only a young man himself, had been a student-teacher at a school in Newmarket, where he met William. Spurgeon later moved to another school in Cambridge and wrote this letter to his former pupil, encouraging him to come to Christ for cleansing. Spurgeon was only 17 or 18 years of age at this time, yet he was greatly concerned about the salvation of lost sinners. The letter was written sometime in the year 1851.

Perhaps you intend to think about religion after you have enjoyed sin a little longer; or (but surely you are not so foolish) possibly you think that you are too young to die. But who knows whether that future time will be afforded, and who said that you can turn to Christ just when you please? Your heart is deceitful above all things, and your natural depravity so great that you will not turn to God. Trust not, then, to resolutions made in your own strength, they are but wind; nor to yourself, who are but a broken reed; nor to your own heart, or you are a fool. There is no way of salvation but Christ; you cannot save yourself, having no power even to think one good thought; neither can your parents’ love and prayers save you; none but Jesus can, He is the Saviour of the helpless, and I tell you that He died for all such as feel their vileness, and come to Him for cleansing.

The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Collected and Collated by his son, Charles Spurgeon, Marshal Brothers Limited, 1923, p. 174. Also available by Logos Research Systems, 2009.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There is Yet Room

A selection from a letter by Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) to an unconverted friend. Miss Bryan was the daughter of a pastor in Nottingham, England. She was greatly used of the Lord to encourage people with her letters, some of whom were unconverted. Three evangelistic letters to this friend are in print. She pressed him to lay aside his excuses and find salvation "in the love of a bleeding Saviour." This letter was written January 19, 1856.

But perhaps you will say, "I have no other sources of pleasure; would you have me quite miserable?" O beloved, there is not a blood-redeemed sinner before the throne but was miserable once; and I well remember a time in my early days when I was miserable too. I could not enjoy the world as some I knew seemed to do; there was something wanting. I could not enjoy religion and the things of God as believers did. I felt unlike everybody else, and as if I never should find happiness either in the world or in the church. But though I knew it not, the Lord's hand was in it; and He drew me by a strange way, till at last He brought me to the foot of the cross, to find true peace and happiness in the love of a bleeding Saviour. I should not, therefore, be sorry for you to lose your present poor pleasures, and feel "an aching void," for in my Saviour's heart there is yet room, and He can fill it all. I find His love so precious that I long for others to enjoy it, and cannot help saying, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good" [Ps 34:8].

The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ: Letters of Ruth Bryan, with a Preface by the Rev. A. Moody Stuart, published by Reformation Heritage Books, 2005, pp. 137.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seek the Lord While Your Heart is Young and Tender

A selection from a letter by Ernie Reisinger to a grandson at Christmas. Mr. Reisinger was a faithful witness for Christ till the day he went home to glory. He longed to see sinners bowing the knee to Jesus Christ and confessing him as Lord and Savior. He especially desired to see his family members converted. So along with a gift certificate for Christmas, he urged one of his grandsons to be saved. The letter was written in December, 1979.

… We are enclosing a gift certificate for Christmas, and as we do, our thoughts turn to the real meaning of Christmas, that is, why Jesus came – 'To save his people from their sins,' and 'To seek and to save that which is lost.'

Our prayers for you this Christmas are that you would be seeking him as he is seeking you. We would encourage you and plead with you to seek the Lord while your heart is young and tender because if you delay, your heart will grow harder, and then, humanly speaking, it will be more difficult to be saved. God can and does save sinners at any age, but more often he seems to choose the time of youth. You will therefore understand our prayer for you at this season so that your young day will not pass over your head without you being saved, or that you will remember your misspent privileges if you are not saved at all…

Ernest C. Reisinger: A Biography, by Geoffrey Thomas, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002, pp. 170-71.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pray to God to Give You a New Heart

A selection from a letter by Rev. Daniel Baker to some Sunday School children in Frankfort, Kentucky, where Baker used to pastor, who had sent him money to aid in his mission work in Texas. He told them how God had been saving people through his ministry in Texas, and as he was want to do, exhorted them to be sure that they were Christians and ready to go to heaven when they died. The letter was written from Galveston, July 20, 1849.

And remember, dear children, if you wish to try to get some of the people in Texas to go to heaven, you must be sure to try to get to heaven yourselves. O, it is a sweet place, a blessed place; and if you get there you will be as angels, with your crowns so bright, and your robes so white. I do believe that there are a great many children there already, and many others are on their way to that happy world now. A little girl, only thirteen years of age, joined my church last Sabbath; she was permitted by the Session to sit down at the table of the Lord, and take the sacrament. She seemed very happy, and I do believe she is a real Christian.

Would you not like to be real Christians too, and go to heaven when you die? Then you must pray to God to give you a new heart, and make you good children. I used to live in Frankfort; I used to preach in your church, and talk to your school; but I don't know that I shall ever be in Frankfort again. Many of you, I suppose, never saw me. No matter; if we get to heaven, we will see and love each other there; and there we will see our blessed Saviour, and the holy angels, and all our pious friends, and be so happy for ever and ever!

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, p. 387.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Present Need

An extract from a letter by Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his good friend, the Rev. Philip E. Hughes. Lloyd-Jones mentioned several good books that had been recently published, books by Oswald T. Allis, Cornelius Van Til, and a book written by several faculty members of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He said, "These seem to me the more important books to which I should draw your attention." But having pointed out the vital importance of good books for ministers, "the Doctor," as he was often called, gave a spiritual diagnosis of a different sort. The letter was written April 17, 1946.

All these things are of real importance but more and more I feel that my present need is "to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" [Phil. 3:10]. Clear ideas are vital and clear thinking but that is not enough. I feel my love to Him is so cold and so poor and so weak. Yet He is gracious and kind.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, p. 72.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Cannot But Rejoice

A portion of a letter from missionary William Carey, to his pastor-friend in England, Andrew Fuller. Carey had received letters from Fuller and was thankful. He said, "Few things afford me more pleasure than your letters do." In his reply, Carey gave a report of baptisms for the year 1809. It took seven years before the mission work saw its first baptism but he was able this particular year to report that there had been many. The letter was written December, 1809.

I believe the number baptised within the last year, in all the Churches of Bengal, is sixty seven. Two or three of them have been excluded or suspended, but a greater number of those who had been formally excluded, have given satisfactory proof of repentance, and have been re-admitted to the Lord's table. All the churches are supplied with pastors and have the Word regularly dispensed among them, and some new stations have been attempted, and old ones strengthened. Upon the whole, I cannot but rejoice in what the Lord has done and is now doing among us.

The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey, collected and edited by Terry G. Carter, Smyth & Helwys, 2000, pp. 202-03.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To A Friend in Trouble

A selection from a letter by John Newton (1725-1807) to a friend who was experiencing tough times. The letter was later published in the Gospel Magazine under the pseudonym, Omicron. Readers didn’t know who wrote the letter or to whom it was written. A series of letters were published under this pen name that was helpful to numerous hurting and struggling Christians. When published, this letter was entitled, “A Letter to a Friend in Trouble.”

... Read the inscription, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" [2 Cor. 6:10]. No wonder that we are often sorrowing in such a world as this; but to be always rejoicing, though in the midst of tribulation, this may seem strange, but it is no more strange than true. When I want witness to this truth in open court, I may confidently subpoena you to confirm it.

They who would always rejoice, must derive their joy from a source which is invariably the same; in other words, from Jesus. Oh, that name! What a person, what an office, what a love, what a life, what a death, does it recall to our minds! Come, madam, let us leave our troubles to themselves for a while, and let us walk to Golgotha, and there take a view of his…

The Works of John Newton, vol. 6, first published in 1820, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, pp. 377-78.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thou God Seest Me

A selection from a letter written by William B. Sprague (1795-1876), pastor for 40 years of the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York. He wrote a series of letters to his daughter after his wife and her mother died. The letters contain counsel from a loving father who desired for his daughter to become a godly woman. No date is given for this letter.

… let me counsel you to cherish a deep sense of the constant presence of God, and of your accountableness to him for every part of your conduct. An habitual impression of this kind will make you comparatively indifferent, both to the censures and applauses of mortals, and will lead you to regard every other question as unimportant, in comparison with the simple question of duty. And the consequence of this cannot fail to be, that you will judge carefully and honestly of what is right, and will act with unyielding decision. No matter what temptations may spread themselves before you to divert you from the path of duty, the reflection, "Thou, God, seest me" [Gen. 16:13], brought home to your understanding and conscience, will insure you the victory over them. This is something distinct from natural inflexibility of character: it is independence of mind, based on religious principle; and it is this especially which I urge you to cultivate.

Letters on Practical Subjects to a Daughter, by William B. Sprague, New York, 1831, pp. 90-91.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Devil Old Woman Has Come!

An excerpt from a letter by Lottie Moon, missionary to China from 1873 to 1912, to Henry Allen Tupper, the Corresponding Secretary of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. Miss Moon makes reference to her practice of "regular, systematic visiting." A major part of her mission work consisted in visitation of people in their homes. She took a Chinese helper with her; they were sometimes treated cordially and sometimes not. This letter was written December 28, 1874.

As I write, the old woman who goes out visiting with me comes in. I thought surely, with the ground covered with snow, she would hardly make her appearance today, but she is really indefatigable. The branch of work to which I am especially devoting myself, is regular, systematic visiting. I feel a good deal encouraged by the kind reception that I meet. Not of course that personal kindness means spiritual interest, but it is more pleasant to visit those who receive you cordially and address you respectfully, than it is to go among those who greet your appearance with the words, "The devil old woman has come!"

Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, edited by Keith Harper, Mercer University Press, 2002, p. 160.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christ's Beauty and Love

A selection from a letter by Jonathan Edwards to Lady Mary Pepperrell. Edwards had visited her husband, Sir William Pepperrell, and had found her to be in deep sorrow because of the death of her only son. When Edwards left, she asked him to write her, so he did. He penned a letter, as he said, on "the subject which above all others appeared to me to be a proper and sufficient source of consolation to one under your heavy affliction: and this was the Lord Jesus Christ." He developed two main points in his letter – "the infinite worthiness" of Christ and Christ's "great and unparalleled love to us." What sweet comfort this letter breathes! It was written from Stockbridge [Massachusetts], November 28, 1751.

Now, Madam, let us consider what suitable provision God has made for our consolation under all our afflictions in giving us a Redeemer of such glory and such love, especially when it is considered what were the ends of that great manifestation of his beauty and love in his death. He suffered that we might be delivered. His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, to take away the sting of sorrow and that we might have everlasting consolation. He was oppressed and afflicted that we might be supported. He was overwhelmed in the darkness of death and of hell, that we might have the light of life. He was cast into the furnace of God's wrath, that we might swim in the rivers of pleasure. His heart was overwhelmed in a flood of sorrow and anguish, that our hearts might be filled and overwhelmed with a flood of eternal joy.

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 418.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Solemn Visitations of Providence

A portion of a letter written by a soldier in the Southern army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) to the newspaper, The Southern Presbyterian. This soldier was part of the Sixth Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers and was stationed near Richmond, Virginia. He sent a report about the revival that was taking place among the soldiers.

I am happy to report to you the manifest tokens of the presence of the Spirit among us, even in these times of strife and battle. I do believe that these solemn visitations of Providence have been His chosen way of touching many a heart. There are earnest desires awakened in many a bosom, which I trust will lead them to the Cross.

Christ in the Camp, J. Williams Jones, first published in 1887, now published by Vision Forum, p. 274. This portion of the letter is quoted in an excellent article, "The Fruit of Revival," at Joel Taylor's blog, 5 Pt. Salt (http://5ptsalt.com/2010/11/05/the-fruit-of-revival/).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sustaining Hope

A selection from a letter by Thomas Chalmers to a close friend, Jane Morton. Having already written a letter of sympathy to her upon the death of her daughter, he writes again to help steady her soul with the comfort of the Lord, but he cautions her not to sorrow as those who have no hope. The letter was written October 19, 1845.

I observe from your letter of the 1st, that you still dwell on the thoughts of your dear Catherine, and I would not forbid this; mellowed and mixed up as these thoughts are with the sustaining hope that you will meet her again. The Gospel does not lay an interdict upon your sorrow, though it would dissuade you against being swallowed up of too much grief. But you have fled to the best refuge; and He who is touched with the fellow-feeling of our infirmities, knows how to adapt His succor to the necessities of all who trust in Him.

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, pp. 248-49.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What a Danger

A portion of a letter by Martin Luther to Cardinal Albrecht against the sale of indulgences, one of the biggest money making schemes ever invented by religious men. Forgiveness of sins were promised on the payment of money into the coffers of the Roman Catholic Church. Roland Bainton called the sale of indulgences "the bingo of the sixteenth century." With much grace and humility Luther pleaded for this practice to cease. This letter was written on the same day that Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, October 31, 1517.

The first and only duty of the bishops… is to see that the people learn the gospel and the love of Christ. For on no occasion has Christ ordered that indulgences should be preached, but he forcefully commanded the gospel to be preached. What a horror, what a danger for a bishop to permit the loud noise of indulgences among his people, while the gospel is silenced, and to be more concerned with the sale of indulgences than with the gospel!

Luther's Works, Vol. 48, Letters I, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 16, p. 47.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Life of Faith is a Wonderful Life

A letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854). The date the letter was written is not given nor the name of the person to whom she wrote. Her letter is about faith, in particular, the trial of faith. If anyone knew by experience how to walk by faith during difficult times, it was Mary Winslow. At forty years of age, she was widowed and left to raise nine children in her newly adopted country, America. She truly learned to walk by faith in times of suffering. Her counsel is wise and tried.

But you must look above and beyond these earthly disappointments, to Jesus as our only Friend. We only want more faith to ask at His hands what we will, and to be satisfied with what He gives, believing that if more were for our good, our dearest and best Friend would give more.

The life of faith is a wonderful life. Honoured is the Christian who is called to live it. He is trained in this life to know more of himself, and more of the unchanging character, love, and tender, watchful care of his heavenly Father. Has God so loved us as to give His only and well-beloved Son to die for us, and is it probably that He will withhold anything that is absolutely needful for us? The trial of faith is the sure way of increasing it. We ask for more faith, and God tries what we have, and that is His way of answering our prayer for its increase. He brings us into trials, so that we are compelled to look only to Him for help. He knocks from beneath us every human and earthly prop; for (to our shame be it spoken) we are for ever hewing out creature cisterns, and constructing earthly supports, instead of going without ceasing to our sure and faithful Friend for all we need.

I sometimes think it were a greater trial to be rich than to be poor. Of this I am quite sure, that riches to the Christian are a great snare, as well as a great trouble, and entails more anxiety and sorrow than real pleasure and enjoyment. If ever I have wished for affluence, it has been to help others. Yet in so doing, what losers might the objects of my charity be in this experimental acquaintance with the Saviour's love! Why did our all-wise God lead the children of Israel through the wilderness, and feed them day by day with manna from heaven and water from the rock, but to shew them what was in them, and what was in Him?

And so He feeds and cares for His sheep now. He is unchanged and unchangeable. He took care of Elisha, and He takes care of us; so let us be of good courage, and trust fully in the Lord our God.

Heaven Opened: A Selection from the Correspondence of Mrs. Mary Winslow, edited by her son, Octavius Winslow, 1864, reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books, 2001, pp. 222-223 (the letter has been broken up into paragraphs in order to make it more readable).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Make the Grip Stronger

A portion of a letter from Samuel Rutherford to Lady Boyd, a frequent correspondent. His letter directs her to be strong in the midst of trials and exercise faith in "a smiting Redeemer." A time of trial for a believer is an occasion to cleave to the Lord. The letter was written October 15, 1640.

What is wrath to others is mercy to you and your house. It is faith’s work to claim and challenge loving–kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God…

And, since you will not alter upon Him who will not change upon you, I do in my weakness, think myself no spiritual seer if I should not prophesy that daylight is near, when such a morning darkness is upon you; and that this trial of your Christian mind towards Him (whom you dare not leave, nevertheless He should slay you) shall close with a doubled mercy. It is time for faith to hold fast as much of Christ as ever you had, and to make the grip stronger, and to cleave closer to Him, seeing Christ loveth to be believed in and trusted to. The glory of laying strength upon one that is mighty to save is more than we can think.

That piece of service, believing in a smiting Redeemer, is a precious part of obedience. Oh what glory to Him to lay over the burden of our heaven upon Him that purchased for us an eternal kingdom! O blessed soul, who can adore and kiss His lovely free grace!

Letters of Spiritual Counsel: Taken from Samuel Rutherford's Letters (electronic edition), Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flee From Idolatry

An extract from a letter by Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) to a woman she had become acquainted with and to whom she wrote letters to till her death. Her letters were most profitable to the recipient and to many others who have read them since. Miss Bryan always sounded an encouraging note to her correspondents. The encouraging note in this letter included a word about consecrating children to the Lord and not letting them become idols. The letter was written May, 1854.

The Lord bless you, and be not silent to you, and keep you from idols. May your children be kept in their proper place, blessed of the Lord, held in the Lord, and consecrated to the Lord. You will not wish to gain for them the admiration of the world, because you would shudder that they should hereafter be embraced by it, and embosomed in it. A mother in this vicinity lately lost a precious daughter of sixteen. As she stood over the coffin, she said, 'There lies my beautiful girl. Oh, I have been proud of her!' and, turning to a minister who stood beside, 'Do you think, sir, the Lord has taken her away on my account, because I was proud of her? I have been too proud of her.' I do not know the minister's reply, but that which we are to learn from the mother's deep anguish is very plain—'Flee from idolatry' [1 Cor. 10:14].

The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ: Letters of Ruth Bryan, with a Preface by the Rev. A. Moody Stuart, Reformation Heritage Books, 2005, p. 55.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Is Enough That I Live And Die With Christ

This is the last letter written by John Calvin. It was written to his longtime friend, William Farel. Calvin died May 27, 1564, age 55. Farel died the next year, September 13, 1565, age 76. After Calvin's death, Farel wrote a friend, "Oh why was I not taken away in his stead, and he preserved to the church which he has so well served, and in combats harder than death? He has done more and with greater promptitude than any one, surpassing not only the others but himself. Oh, how happily he has run a noble race! May the Lord grant that we run like him, and according to the measure of grace that has been dealt out to us." Calvin's letter is a moving testimony of his gratitude to God for his friend and a deep expression of his own personal devotion to Christ. It was written from Geneva, May 2, 1564.

Farewell, my most excellent and upright brother; and since it is the will of God that you should survive me in the world, live mindful of our intimacy, which, as it was useful to the church of God, so the fruits of it await us in heaven. I am unwilling that you should fatigue yourself for my sake. I draw my breath with difficulty, and every moment I am in expectation of breathing my last. It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all his followers a gain both in life and death. Again I bid you and your brethren Farewell.

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. 7, p. 364.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy in Living and Blessed in Dying

A portion of a letter from Robert Murray McCheyne to a female acquaintance about the state of her soul. Six letters that McCheyne wrote her were published. They are model evangelistic letters of a believer concerned for an unbeliever. This paragraph comes from the fourth letter and was written December 1841.

Now, will you come, for all things are ready? Are you now saying in your heart, I cannot but believe I am the chief of sinners, and Jesus offers to be my refuge, my Mediator, my all in all; I feel He is precious? Oh! dear friend, I trust you do. This only will make you happy in living, and blessed in dying. This is a poor, dying world. Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. There is no part here that death cannot take from us. But if you have Christ, you have the only imperishable portion! Oh, may the Holy Spirit give you a firm hold of Jesus! Then we shall meet in that sweet place, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. The Lord deal kindly and gently with you, both soul and body. Farewell, dear friend.

Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne, A. A. Bonar, electronic edition, Logos, p. 118. The book is also published by Banner of Truth Trust.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Daily Questions

A portion of a letter from George Whitefield to James Habersham, the man in charge of the Orphanage in Savannah, Georgia that Whitefield helped to establish and raised funds to support. He gave thanks for the sovereign love of Christ and exhorted his friend to join him in living fully to the Lord. The letter was written February 18, 1741.

O the sovereign love of Christ in choosing me! My dear friend, let us study to be holy even as he is holy, and walk even as he also walked. Let these be your daily questions, 'Am I more like Christ? Am I more meek and patient? Does my practice correspond with my knowledge, and am I a light to enlighten and enflame all that are around me?'

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, pp. 247-48.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Want Joy Very Badly

A selection from a letter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who joined a conspiracy against Hitler's life. He was arrested in April 1943 and died on a Nazi gallows in April 1945. This letter was written early in his imprisonment, June 4, 1943. It reveals how much he appreciated receiving letters during his incarceration.

Thank you very much for your letters. They are always too short for me, but of course I understand! It is as though the prison gates were opened for a moment, and I could share a little of your life outside. Joy is a thing that we want very badly in this solemn building, where one never hears a laugh—it seems to get even the warders down—and we exhaust all our reserves of it from within and without.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison, edited by Eberhard Bethge, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1971, p. 49.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Live and Learn

A portion of a letter from J. C. Philpot to his friend, Mr. Godwin. Philpot, a Strict Baptist pastor, was ill at the time and only able to preach once in the week. If he dared preach more he would risk damaging his health. In being laid low for awhile, he was able to learn some important lessons. The remarks here were written May 18, 1848.

We have to live and learn; sometimes more of ourselves, sometimes more of others. To be quiet and meek, to think little of ourselves, to prize grace in others, to think very highly of and to cleave close to the Lord Jesus for everything, is far better than striving who is to be greatest.

Letters by the Late Joseph Charles Philpot with a Brief Memoir of His Life and Labours, London, 1871, p. 211.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Give Thanks

A portion of a letter by William Still, pastor of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen Scotland, from 1945 to 1997. He wrote a letter monthly to his congregation to exhort, encourage, admonish, and teach them God's word in light of current events. This selection appeared on the blog of Charlie Wingard (http://charliewingard.blogspot.com/) pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday, September 17, 2010.

If you see the grace of God working in your life, and if you recognize material blessings that have come your way as a consequence, do not forget to thank Him. It is sad when there is nothing for which we feel grateful to God, but it is serious when there is something and we fail to show gratitude, and it is tragic when we are so busy asking for more that we forget to thank Him for what we have received.

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 34-35.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Born Again!

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon to T. W. Medhurst written after Medhurst had become a believer. The last two letters that I have posted were from Medhurst to Spurgeon asking if there was any hope for him, to which Spurgeon responded with the glorious affirmation of hope in Christ. It wasn't long afterwards when salvation came and a dead sinner was raised to life. Medhurst wrote Spurgeon, telling him that he had been converted upon hearing his sermon on John 6:37. He also told him of his desire to be baptized and join the church. Spurgeon replied to Medhurst in this letter written August 7, 1854.

My Dear Sir,

Your letters have given me great joy. I trust I see in you the marks of a son of God, and I earnestly pray that you may have the evidence within that you are born of God.

There is no reason why you should not be baptized. "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest" [Acts 8:37]. Think very seriously of it, for it is a solemn matter. Count the cost. You are now about to be buried to the world, and you may well say, "What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness" [2 Peter 3:11]. The friends who were with you in the days of your carnal pleasure will strive to entice you from Christ; but I pray that the grace of God may be mightily manifest in you, keeping you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

I should like to see you on Thursday evening, after six o’clock, in the vestry.

I am,
Yours faithfully,
C. H. SPURGEON

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. The Banner of Truth Trust have these excellent volumes in print form.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There Is Hope

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon to T. W. Medhurst. Medhurst had been attending the services at the New Park Street Church where Spurgeon was preaching and soon to officially be the pastor. He had come under conviction of sin and had sent Spurgeon a letter asking if there was hope for him (see previous post). Spurgeon replied most graciously to his letter. The young man was later converted, entered the ministry, was trained at the Pastor's College later established by Spurgeon, and pastored for over 40 years in churches all across Britain. The letter was written July 14, 1854.

Dear Sir,

I am glad that you have been able to write to me and state your feelings. Though my hands are always full, it will ever give me joy to receive such notes as yours.

You ask me a very important question, “Are you one of God’s elect?” Now, this is a question neither you nor I can answer at present, and therefore let it drop. I will ask you an easier one, “Are you a sinner?” Can you say “YES”? All say, “Yes”; but then they do not know what the word “sinner” means.

A sinner is a creature who has broken all his Maker’s commands, despised His Name, and run into rebellion against the Most High. A sinner deserves hell, yea, the hottest place in hell; and if he be saved, it must be entirely by unmerited mercy. Now, if you are such a sinner, I am glad to be able to tell you the only way of salvation, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.”

I think you have not yet really understood what believing means. You are, I trust, really awakened, but you do not see the door yet. I advise you seriously to be much alone, I mean as much as you can; let your groans go up if you cannot pray, attend as many services as possible; and if you go with an earnest desire for a blessing, it will come very soon. But why not believe now? You have only to believe that Jesus is able and willing to save, and then trust yourself to Him.

Harbour not that dark suggestion to forsake the house of God; remember you turn your back on Heaven, and your face to hell, the moment you do that. I pray God that He will keep you. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, He would not have showed you such things as these. If you are but as smoking flax, there is hope. Touch the hem of His garment; look to the brazen serpent.

My dear fellow-sinner, slight not this season of awakening. Up, and be in earnest. It is your soul, your OWN soul, your eternal welfare, your Heaven or your hell, that is at stake.

There is the cross, and a bleeding God-man upon it; look to Him, and be saved! There is the Holy Spirit able to give you every grace. Look, in prayer, to the Sacred Three-one-God, and then you will be delivered.

I am,
Your anxious friend,
C. H. SPURGEON
Write Again

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Have I Any Room for Hope?


A letter from T. W. Medhurst to C. H. Spurgeon. The young Medhurst had attended a few services at the New Park Street Church to hear the new pastor, who was quite young himself. Spurgeon preached from Hosea 6:3 on a particular Lord's Day evening. Medhurst came under conviction of sin. In trouble of soul, he wrote the pastor a letter, inquiring if there was any hope for him. It was written July 2, 1854 (I will post Spurgeon's reply in the next post).

Dear Sir,

Will you be kind enough candidly to inform me whether I have any room for hope that I belong to the elect family of God, whether Jesus Christ His Son has died for me, while my affections are in the world? I try to pray, but cannot. I make resolutions only to break them. I from time to time listen to you when you speak of the glory set apart for the saints, when you describe their joys and their feelings, but I feel myself as having nothing to do with them. O sir, that Sunday morning when you spoke of the hypocrite, I felt that you described me!

I go to chapel to hear the Word preached, I return home, and make resolutions; I go to work, then out into the world, and forget all until the time for preaching comes again. I read the Bible, but do not feel interested; it seems no more to me than a book I have before read,—dry and insipid. Christ has said that, of all who come to Him, He will not send any away. How am I to come? I feel that I cannot come. I would if I could, but I cannot. At times, I think that I will give it all up, that I will not go to chapel any more; yet when the time comes, I cannot stay away, but feel compelled to go again once more. Do, dear sir, tell me, how am I to find Jesus? How am I to know that He died for me, and that I belong to His family? Dear sir, tell me, am I a hypocrite?

I remain,
Dear sir,
Yours to serve in anxiety,
T. W. MEDHURST

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Compassion for Others


A portion of a letter written by Bob Jennings, a pastor in Sedalia, Missouri. Pastor Jennings has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He is writing a blog about his experience in this journey toward death. He posted a reply to a letter from an 8 or 9 year old boy about his illness and what he had learned through this great trial. The letter was posted September 8, 2010.

That was very nice of you to write. That is merciful of you; that is compassion. Jesus was very compassionate, as it is written, "He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them…" (Matthew 14:14).


This sickness that I have has helped me see how lacking in compassion I have been. Others have been sick and I did not enter into their difficulty like I should have. I had good health and that was their problem. But we are in a very needy world. How many people are not in good health. Really everybody is sick and will die. So, we want to sincerely reach out to others, especially with God’s message, for, if their soul is ok, then their body will be ok too. My little grandson, Raymond, 7, said, “Grandpa, I know you will feel better in heaven.”


What is the key to serving others? We must be free of selfishness and filled with the living God. God sent His Son for others. That is how the Lord Jesus was. He gave Himself for others.


The Lord bless you, and may He give you a great heart of compassion for others, as it is written, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4).

Bob Jennings Journal, http://bobjenningsjournal.com/, September 8, 2010.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Our Life Work


A selection from a letter by James Petigru Boyce to his good friend and fellow laborer in the gospel, John A. Broadus. They had labored together in establishing The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. As president of the seminary, Boyce had the immense pressure of raising funds for the school. While on a visit to France, he received a letter from Broadus telling about a gift of $50,000 for the building of a library. Broadus said this "would doubtless encourage you, with reference to your life-work." It was a great encouragement to him and he expressed his gratitude to God in a return letter to Broadus, written October 31, 1888.

Please express to your friend my hearty thanks for this contemplated gift, both personally and officially. I know not what words to use. None could express too strongly my gratitude and thanks. May God reward her, for he alone can do so worthily of her generosity and noble purposes.

God be with you and bless you, my dear friend. No one knows how much I owe you for your help and your influence in the matter of the establishment of what you call my life-work, but which ought to be 'our life work.'

Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by A. T. Robertson, first published in 1901, reprinted by Gano Books, 1987, p. 374.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reading Christian Biographies


A selection from a letter by Rev. Henry Venn, Church of England minister, to Lady Mary Fitzgerald and a group of ladies she met with regularly, who were reading a recently published biography on John Fletcher (1729-1785). Fletcher, an eminent Christian, had been a close friend to John Wesley. Venn had been a friend of Fletcher too. He commended the life of Fletcher to the ladies but cautioned them that Christian biographies often emphasize the excellencies of men and overlook their weaknesses, which must be taken into account. There was only one perfect man, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. The letter was written March 3, 1787.

We are continually taught in Scripture, that there is none without deplorable spots and defects before God—no, not one! While, therefore, we glorify Him in His saints, for their excellent life and conversation, we must not forget, that, however they appear, they are not yet without sin, or less need the Advocate and the propitiation than other men…

… using proper caution, and guarding against the mistakes I have now pointed out, we may read, with great encouragement and profit, how the chief of saints have fought our common enemy, prevailed over the corruptions of nature, adorned their holy profession, and left their name and memory to be a blessing to the Church…

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 580, 585-86.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seeing the World Right-Side-Up


A selection from a letter by Jack Miller, a church planter and seminary professor with the PCA, to a couple (Peter and Shelly) whose child had just been diagnosed with a progressive disease. Mr. Miller and his wife, Rose Marie, had been praying for them during this difficult trial. His letter is filled with encouragement more than counsel, with what the Lord had taught him, not advice on how to handle the situation. The letter was written in December, 1993.

Jesus, you turn my world upside down! When I submit to You, Lord, it suddenly occurs to me that I am seeing the world right-side-up. And somehow mysteriously the pain of not knowing what to do becomes the joy of the child of God. And I say, 'Ah Lord, if I don't have to be in charge anymore, then I can drop a lot of burdens. I don't need to worry, or plan, where planning makes no sense. I am free to sit at Your feet and to listen and be taught, and learn about Your plans.' At such times I often see new ways of doing things. The various things that Satan meant to use to destroy me become opportunities for serving Christ joyfully, boldly, and freely. Then my heart knows a peace and quietness. I find myself saying in spite myself, 'Your will, not mine, be done.' In your will I find perfect peace. What a mystery of grace!

The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller, C. John Miller, edited by Barbara Miller Juliani, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004, pp. 304-05.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

True Marriage Multiplies Joy

A selection from a letter by Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer to Anna, a young girl who had become like a daughter to him. She was engaged to be married and asked Rev. Palmer to perform the wedding ceremony. He agreed to leave New Orleans and make his way to New York for the wedding. But he gave her some marital counsel in his letter of acceptance and promised to give her more advice upon his arrival. The letter was written August 2, 1866.

I am not sorry that you are to marry. With such a wealth of love as your broad, warm heart contains, it would be an injury and a wrong to you not to fill all the relations which call for love. I accept all you tell me of Mr. Carter—and from other sources I hear that he is all the word gentleman implies. Knit to the man who is worthy of you, and with a true love between you, life will be brighter and happier to the end. I say it deliberately and upon knowledge, that a true marriage multiplies the joys of a life a thousand fold—and that despite all the sacrifices and sorrows that may be incident thereto. Take the joy with a grateful heart, renewing the consecration of yourself to our loving Redeemer, and trust Him for grace to bear every bitterness which His holy will may hereafter allot for your discipline.

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1906, published by The Banner of Truth, 1987, pp. 374-75.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Little Child Was Born for Eternity


A letter from John Elias to a relative, the Rev. W. Roberts, who had lost an infant girl in death. The parents were naturally grieving and Rev. Elias offered sympathy and encouragement to them under such distressing circumstances. I can well imagine how this letter must have been read many times over in their days of sorrow. The letter was written July 12, 1838.

I hope you both shall have much strength from above to bear under the trial that is so painful to flesh and blood. To be enabled to view the secret movements of the good and wise providence of God towards us, would afford great calmness and ease of mind. He does all things right, they cannot be better; and he can bring us to see that, and to reconcile us to his proceedings, though so disagreeable to our natural feelings.

To lose dear infants, and to commit them to the dust, is most poignant bitterness. But some meet with more distressing circumstances in the conduct of those that are spared! Your little child was born for eternity; it is her dwelling, her home. The Lord has been pleased to remove her there, according to his eternal counsel, sooner than you expected. Who can say how great was his goodness in this act? She was taken out of the reach of many temptations, and out of many evils and sorrow.

You have no need to be uncomfortable as to the state of the child; your heavenly Father took her to himself. It was very distressing to you and her mother to behold her affliction; it was becoming to mourn and to sympathize; but now, she being dead, arise and wash away your tears, and worship God (2 Samuel 12:20). May the Lord give you help in the time of need, may he support and comfort you!

John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1844, published by the Banner of Truth in 1973, pp. 219-220.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christian Politicians?


A portion of a letter by Francis Wayland (1796-1865), a well-known Baptist pastor and educator. He was once the president of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and also pastor of the First Baptist Church there, the first Baptist church to be established in America. He published a book in 1863 entitled, Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel. The letters do not have dates, nor are recipients identified, but they contain a treasure of wisdom for all serious-minded ministers of the Gospel. This particular letter describes what the pastors were like when he was young compared to those in the latter year of his life. The following paragraph addresses the subject of politics with regard to the old guard of ministers in the Baptist denomination.

Our brethren of the former generation were a people of a somewhat rugged character, having but little to do with the great world, and the more time to devote to religion; ready to bear their portion of the burdens of society, and forward, according to the standard of the time, in extending the knowledge of Christ; but neither seeking for the rewards of office, nor indeed were they often tempted by the offer of them. They stood aloof from political agitation. When a Christian man became a politician, it was a source of alarm to his brethren. I well remember to have heard it remarked, that since such or such a brother had become a politician, his Christian character and his interest in religion had sadly deteriorated; and his brethren feared that it would lead to his final apostasy.

Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel, by Francis Wayland, Gould and Lincoln, 1863, pp. 21-22.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Theatre


A portion of a letter by John Calvin to his fellow reformer, Melanchthon. He referred to him as "most distinguished sir," and spoke of him as a man "whom I venerate from the heart." The letter is a response to Melanchthon's comment about antagonists who were teaching false doctrine and causing trouble in the churches. He said that they "have no other object in view than to show themselves off on a public stage." Calvin responds with an exhortation to be careful themselves for they too are being observed. The letter was written from Geneva, August 23, 1555.

But though their [the antagonists] expectations, as I trust and as is probable, will be frustrated, nevertheless, even if they should gain the plaudits of the whole world, it becomes us to direct all our attention with so much the more zeal to that heavenly prize-giver under whose eyes we combat.

What! Shall the sacred assembly of the angels, who animate us by their favour, and strenuously point out to us by their example the manner of acting, permit us to grow sluggish or advance with hesitating steps? And the whole band of the holy fathers! Do they not also stimulate us to exertion? In fine, the church of God which is present to our view in the world! When we know that its prayers combat on our side, and that it is animated by our example, shall its suffrages in our favour be lost upon us?

No, let this be my theatre, and satisfied with its approbation, though the whole world should hiss me, I shall never want courage. I am very far from envying these silly and noisy players. Let them enjoy for a brief space and in an obscure corner their barren little sprig of triumph. What the world deems worthy of its applause or hatred does not escape me. But far more important I hold it to follow the rule prescribed by our Master. Nor have I any doubt that this ingenuousness will in the end prove more agreeable to all pious and rational minds, than a complaisant and wavering manner of teaching, which is always swayed by some empty terror.

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, p. 219.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Let Us Not Fear


A letter from George Whitefield to the Welsh evangelist, Howell Harris. Whitefield was soon to be in Wales. Whitefield spoke of the opposition they both faced in preaching the gospel but rejoiced in the care extended to him by Christ. The letter was written from London, June 6, 1741.

Outward enemies are now more quiet. Enemies within the church, carnal professors, and self-righteous Pharisees, most try us. Let us not fear, JESUS CHRIST will give us the victory over all. God mightily strengthens me. Our congregations are very large and solemn. I never had greater freedom in preaching. God enables me to cast all my care upon him, with a full assurance that he careth for me.

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, p. 268.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

These Perplexing Dispensations


A selection from a letter by Rev. Thomas Boston to a friend whose wife was ill. Boston's wife was also ailing. The explanation that he gave his friend for God's design in sending hardships was as much intended for his own soul as for his acquaintance. The letter was written January 27, 1728.

When the storm is hard where two seas meet, great is the hazard of fainting; but patience must have her perfect work. These things are designed, I believe, by a holy wise God, not against you, but against the unrenewed part in you, called in scripture the flesh, which is not to be amended, but to be mortified gradually till it die out in the close of the spiritual warfare; at which time the new creature will be perfected, and the image of God, that is never on the whole soul, will wholly occupy every part of the soul, through full and perfecting supplies of grace from Christ the Head, not communicate during the course of this life. Then will be fully seen the beauty of these perplexing dispensations, the necessity of them, and every one of them, which is now to be believed, but not to be clearly seen, by reason of the remains of darkness that is to be found together with the light of grace in the mind.

Be we so happy as to take part with the spirit against the flesh in this war; and though this last complaint under great hardships put upon it, let us secretly rejoice, that the Lord is at such pains to advance mortification in us, that we may be still aiming to be as weaned children, and look upon your afflictions as what the Lord is laying on, to conform you to the image of His Son, whereof suffering and holiness are joint parts.

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, first published in 1899, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1988, pp. 504-05.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Good Old Wine of Distinguishing Grace


A selection from a letter by the well-known hymn writer and preacher of the gospel, Augustus Toplady, to a Mr. Bottomley, who had sent him a paper that he had written expressing his acceptance of Calvinistic doctrine. Toplady encouraged him to continue to search the Scriptures and with the light given to him, to throw off the errors of Arminianism. The letter was written December 3, 1768.

I verily hope and believe that that most gracious Being who has led you thus far, will go on to translate you farther and farther into the light and liberty of his children. As I once took occasion to tell you, it is much the same with mistakes in matters of judgment, as it was with the two disciples in the dungeon of Philippi [Acts 16:26]: first the prison shakes and next the doors fly open. I am heartily glad that you are shaken as to the system you have long embraced and trust that it is preclusive to your deliverance from it…

Chiefly keep your eye fixed on the Scriptures and derive by humble, earnest, waiting prayer, all your light and knowledge thence. One thing I am very clear in, that if you reduce your ideas to the standard of Scripture, and make this the model of those, suffering the unerring word of revelation to have the casting vote, and turning your mind into the gospel mould, you must and will eventually throw the idol of Arminianism, in all its branches, to the moles and to the bats. You will no longer dwell with Mesech, nor have your habitation among the tents of Kedar. Having tasted the good old wine of distinguishing grace, you will no longer have any relish for the new scheme of grace without a plan, and of a random salvation; for you will both know and acknowledge that the old is better.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, pp. 832-33.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Very Bright Constellation


A selection from a letter by Thomas Chalmers, Scottish Presbyterian preacher and professor, to J. E. Ryland of Northampton, England. Ryland's grandfather and father were luminaries in the Baptist constellation of great preachers in the later part of the 18th Century and the first part of the 19th Century. Dr. Chalmers shows his appreciation for the Baptist of that era. Ryland had written to Chalmers about the death of the well-known English essayist of Baptist persuasion, John Foster. Chalmer's letter was written from Edinburgh, November 17, 1842.

I ever had the greatest veneration both for him [John Foster] and Mr. [Robert] Hall, who along with Dr. [John] Ryland [Jr.], Andrew Fuller, Drs. [William] Carey, [Joshua] Marshman, and [William] Ward, made up altogether a very bright constellation, and which serves to signalize the Baptists of England more than any other denomination which I at present recollect.

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 322.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turn Your Eyes Upon Christ


A selection from a letter by Rev. William Still to his congregation, Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen, October, 1972. He warned his people about the devil and sin, stating that many Christians dismissed Satan and his wiles to readily. He also encouraged them to keep their eyes on Christ and not be caught up in a negative ministry.

… I think men in their preaching, teaching, and writing can become too preoccupied with the world situation and with the evils of the present day. Some are in a ferment concerning insidious influences in the Kirk and in the land who would have every one as hot and bothered as they are over such things. But that agitated frame of mind is far from being the strong bulwark against the spiritual disintegration of Christ's church in the land that some think it is. Some have given their lives to combat the world's evils and have worn themselves out accomplishing nothing because their eyes were on the wrong thing, namely, evils in men. Turn your eyes upon Christ, and He will soon let you see who your enemy really is, and will help you to bind him and rescue souls from his grip. Mere denunciation and fevered polemic will never effectively combat the ills in the Kirk and in society, although, of course, we admit the validity and necessity of protest. But the consistent building up of Christ's people in their most holy and glorious faith will combat these ills and increase the area in the Kirk, and then in the land, where the fruits of that upbuilding will be seen…

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 133-34.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

He Reigns Over All


A selection from a letter by Samuel Pearce, pastor of the Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, to Mr. Matthias, a friend he met while preaching in Ireland. The General Evangelical Society in Dublin invited him to come to Ireland to preach the gospel. He made several friends on his mission there from the University of Dublin, Mr. Matthias being one of them. Pearce wrote of how much he valued his new friends. He also shared with him the joy in the Lord that he was experiencing at that time. The letter was written in September or October, 1776.

I thank God, I never, I think, rejoiced habitually so much in him as I have done of late. "God is love." That makes me happy. I rejoice that God reigns; that he reigns over all; that he reigns over me; over my crosses, my comforts, my family, my friends, my senses, my mental powers, my designs, my words, my preaching, my conduct; that he is God over all, blessed for ever. I am willing to live, yet I long to die, to be freed from all error and all sin. I have nothing else to trouble me; no other cross to carry. The sun shines without all day long; but I am sensible of internal darkness. Well, through grace it shall be all light by and by. Yes, you and I shall be angels of light; all Mercuries then; all near the Sun; always in motion; always glowing with zeal, and flaming with love. Oh for the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness!

A Heart for Missions: The Classic Memoir of Samuel Pearce, by Andrew Fuller, with an introduction by Michael Haykin, reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006, p. 88.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All Them Beautiful Texts

A selection from a letter by the beloved hymn writer, Francis Ridley Havergal, to a pastor friend and his wife. She wrote of the joy that she had in teaching a 90 year-old blind woman, Mrs. Lane, verses from the Bible and the good these texts did for the old lady. Miss Havergal expressed what the old woman, who lived alone, said to her about these verses. What power and comfort there is in the Word of God! The letter was written in 1871.

"Oh dear, Miss, this summer's gone too quick for me; it made the time pass so pleasant, having all them beautiful texts. I couldn't tell you how it's passed away the time.

There's 'I am poor and needy, but the Lord thinketh upon me.' There's a many as don't think about a poor old blind body like me, but the Lord does; and that must be for me, Miss, because I'm very poor, Miss, just like it says in the verse.

And then there's 'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' That's my companion, I call it, Miss; you wouldn't believe what company that is to me, and it seems to take me through all my little troubles of every day; I don't think that's been out of my mind an hour since you learnt it me.

Ah! I know what came next – 'Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.' That was right, wasn't it, Miss? I couldn't say it rightly at first, but I've got it faster than any now, since you taught it me over again; that's always my comfort when I feel so sinking like, and I think perhaps it's the end coming near, and then He'll love me unto the end.

But that last one I learnt – 'Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty' – that is beautiful; oh, it is a beauty! My poor eyes, Miss, that can't see you, it says they shall see Him; to think of that now! Well, to be sure now!"

And the dear old woman's voice lowered, murmuring on in broken exclamations of happy anticipation, till she seemed almost to forget her visitor's presence.

Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal, edited by her sister, Maria V. G. Havergal, first published in 1885, reprinted by Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, pp. 105-06.

Monday, July 5, 2010

While I Breathe I Shall Be Your Friend


The conclusion of a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. These political opponents in early life, one from Massachusetts and the other from Virginia, both crafters of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, became friends after their days in political life. They carried on an extensive correspondence until the year they died. One of the quirks of history is that their deaths occurred on the same day, which happened to be July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of signing of the Declaration of Independence. This letter was written February 25, 1825. It is a deep token of friendship but contains no word of hope or mercy in Christ.

I wish your health may continue to the last much better than mine. The little strength of mind and the considerable strength of body that I once possessed appear to be all gone, but while I breathe I shall be your friend. We shall meet again, so wishes and so believes your friend, but if we are disappointed we shall never know it.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson & Abigail & John Adams, edited by Lester J. Cappon, The University of North Carolina Press, 1959, p. 610.