Thursday, February 25, 2010

Walking Worthy

A letter from George Whitefield to a friend in South Carolina who had written him. He rejoiced in the common salvation they shared. Whitefield was in America at the time and was soon to take a ship bound for Scotland. The letter was written July 24, 1741.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who I trust hath begotten you, called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. What an honour is it, that we should be counted worthy to suffer the least degree of reproach for his great name sake? I am ashamed to think how little I do, or suffer for him. O free grace! Sovereign and electing love! How sweet to the soul, who really feels the power of it! May we walk worthy of that holy vocation wherewith we are called!

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, p. 281.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Disinterested Love of God

A selection from a letter by Thomas Chalmers, the Scottish preacher and professor, to the Rev. J. W. Cunningham of Harrow, London. He asked his friend if he had any acquaintance with a doctrine taught by some well-known American divines that he called “the doctrine of the disinterested love of God.” Chalmers feared it would hinder the liberty of men to preach the gospel freely and that it would introduce a requirement for sinners to meet in order to be accepted by God. The letter was written January 8, 1818.

Have you ever attended to the doctrine of the disinterested love of God? I fear that Edwards, Witherspoon, and the American divines have a little darkened the freeness of the Gospel offer by their speculations on the subject. They seem to put all the discredit of selfishness on the love of gratitude, and would suspend the act of acceptance by faith, till somehow or other it could be made contemporaneous with the dawn of love to God on account of His own excellencies. This I do think is a forbidding of those whom God has not forbidden, and I cannot but preach the Gospel without reserve to all men in every state of moral disease.

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 281.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Be Devoted to God

A selection from a letter by Daniel and Hannah Sutcliff, to their son John, who was studying at the Bristol Baptist Academy. Smallpox had killed a number of their friends and relatives. They were grateful that God had spared their son and wrote to exhort him to live his life to the glory of God. John Sutcliff later became the pastor of the Baptist church in Olney, a town made famous by the ministry of John Newton and William Cowper. John received this letter on March 7, 1773.

Dear Son, thy life has been spared through that and other disorders which calls for thankfulness and gratitude. O that it may be devoted to God, spent to His glory and the good of them where His providence may call thee to which end I would suggest a few things…

First, be humble, seek not great things for thyself… If thou have [John] Gillies’ history near thee read the life of [Richard] Blackerby and the extract from the life of David Brainerd.

2nd. Indulge yourself in the happiness of frequent contemplations upon and addresses to the Lord Jesus for light and assistance in all thy studies: consider that this Divine Redeemer’s presence is the life and light of thy soul.

The British Particular Baptists: 1638-1910, volume 3, edited by Michael A. G. Haykin, Particular Baptist Press, 2003, “John Sutcliff: 1752-1814,” by Michael A. G. Haykin, p. 22.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How I Love You!

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon to his wife, Suzanna. She was very dear to him. His letters to her are full of great affection and spiritual joy. The date of this letter is not known.

Sweet One,

How I love you! I long to see you; and yet it is but half-an-hour since I left you. Comfort yourself in my absence by the thought that my heart is with you. My own gracious God bless you in all things,—in heart, in feeling, in life, in death, in Heaven! May your virtues be perfected, your prospects realized, your zeal continued, your love to Him increased, and your knowledge of Him rendered deeper, higher, broader—in fact, may more than even my heart can wish, or my hope anticipate, be yours for ever! May we be mutual blessings;—wherein I shall err, you will pardon; and wherein you may mistake, I will more than overlook.

Yours till Heaven, and then,
C. H. S.

The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, first published in 1923, published in electronic format by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009, p. 74.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Only Hope

A portion of a letter written by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to the Rev. Kenneth J. MacLeay, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He had just been ordained to the gospel ministry and was serving his first church. Lloyd-Jones spoke about the great need of Revival and urged him to be prayerful and patient. He also encouraged him to read the sermons of men blessed of God in revival. It should be noted that although he commended Charles Finney in his letter, Lloyd-Jones later dismissed the theology of Finney as Pelagian and rationalistic. Lloyd-Jones was a believer in revival but not an advocate of revivalism. The letter was written March 3, 1942.

I trust that you will be much blessed in your charge and in the work. The times are difficult and we must be patient. The only hope, I see more and more clearly, is a Revival. I feel we are all called to pray and to prepare for such a movement. Nothing can possibly deal with the terrible state of the country and of the world. In any case our business is to sow the seed in hope, knowing that God alone can give the increase. Do not allow the devil therefore to discourage you.

I find nothing so refreshing to my soul as to read the accounts of revivals in the past. It is good also to read sermons and other works by servants whom God has honoured as Spurgeon, Moody, Finney, etc.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981, Selected with Notes, by Ian H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, pp. 63-64.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


An excerpt from a letter by Jack Miller, a church planter and seminary professor with the PCA, to a missionary couple who had begun ministry recently in Uganda. Because life is lived at a slower pace in Africa, he called on them to alter the tempo of their lives and learn lessons from God about delays. He encouraged them to slow down and love people. The letter was written in June, 1985.

Actually, delays are great because they often reveal the power of indwelling sin. We are flying high, then comes a postponement of our hopes, and we end up with an irritable spirit which shows an alarming degree of self-independence and reliance on human capacities. What we fail to see is that reliance on people, their capabilities, their keeping their promises, is a demonic faith, a cooperation in heart with the power of darkness. We join the enemy, Satan, when we fail to rely on the promises of God to move on our behalf. In brief, our impatience often has a Devilish, earthly side to it, which reveals that we have unconsciously forgotten that trusting Christ is more important than doing things for Christ.

I do not mean that we should be sluggish when God says, “March.” But all too often we march when He wants us to wait and rest, and then do not march when He calls us to go forward with power.

The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller, C. John Miller, edited by Barbara Miller Juliani, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004, p. 151.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Alarming and Anxious Thoughts About Death

A selection from a letter by the Welsh preacher, Thomas Charles, to Sally Jones, who would later become his wife. Many letters were exchanged between them that increased their understanding of one another and led to a deeper love, though he loved her long before she loved him. She had confided in him in a previous letter how alarming death was. He responded with Biblical counsel and a personal testimony. The letter was written March 1, 1780.

I feelingly sympathize with you when you inform me that the thoughts of death are alarming to you. It was the case with me for many sorrowful years. But, through the abundant goodness of my Heavenly Father, it is not generally the case with me at present. That Scripture, 1 Cor. 15:25, 26, was very remarkably blessed to me for the removing of all the very alarming and anxious thoughts about death which till then deprived me of lasting comfort. Death is considered there not so much our enemy as Christ’s, and he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; and though death will be the last enemy, yet death must be destroyed.

I saw I had nothing to do but enjoy the victory, Christ is engaged to conquer. The victory is obtained by the arm of omnipotence, and we shall, ere long, bear the palm in our hands as a token of it. Till that happy time arrives may it be our constant care and study to live in the fear and to the glory of him who hath thus loved us, and vanquished our strong enemies for us.

The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, by Michael A. G. Haykin with Victoria J. Haykin, Reformation Trust Publishing, a division of Ligonier ministries, 2009, p. 52.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Think of the Bridge!

I recently had the privilege of hearing Dr. T. David Gordon speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama (by the way, the pastor at WPC, Charlie Wingard, has a blog well worth reading, Dr. Gordon is the author of a fascinating book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach. Another book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing, is soon to be available. Dr. Gordon makes several good points about letter writing in his book (see the side-bar). He also includes a letter written by C. R. Vaughn to R. L. Dabney that is wonderful in its pointed message of encouragement. I include the portion of the letter quoted by Dr. Gordon, and his introductory information about the letter. The letter was written February 3, 1890.

Dr. Gordon says, “One of the great articulations of this reality in the history of Christian literature [that faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ] occurs in a letter written by Clement Read Vaughn to the renowned Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney. Dabney moved from Virginia to Austin, Texas, almost twenty years after the Civil war and lived there for another fifteen years. In his latter years, he became blind and weak, and knew his death was near. He wrote to his old friend Vaughan, wondering whether he would have strong enough faith to face his impending death, and Vaughan’s reply was as theologically trenchant as it was pastorally lovely. He wrote back to Dabney and asked Dabney what a traveler would do if he came to a chasm over which a bridge was spanned:”

What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge? He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it. He don’t [sic] stand at the bridge-head and turn his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if he has confidence in the bridge. If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow? Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge. Now, my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in. Think of the Master’s power, think of his love; think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him. Think of what he has done, his work. That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of all the sinners that ever lived. Don’t you think it will master yours?...

Now, dear old friend, I have done to you just what I would want you to do to me if I were lying in your place. The great theologian, after all, is just like any other one of God’s children, and the simple gospel talked to him is just as essential to his comfort as it is to a milk-maid or to a plow-boy. May God give you grace, not to lay too much stress on your faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinner’s refuge. Faith is only an eye to see him. I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step. Good-bye. God be with you as he will. Think of the Bridge!

The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1903, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, p. 480. The above letter is found in Why Johnny Can’t Preach, by T. David Gordon, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2009, pp. 76-77.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Love All Good Men of All Descriptions

A portion of a letter written by Charles Simeon of Cambridge, to James Haldane of Scotland. The two were close friends though of different denominations. Simeon was an Anglican and Haldane a Baptist. They had differences between them but appreciated one another and sometimes ministered together in the gospel. Ministers in the Established Church, whether Anglican in England or Presbyterian in Scotland, were not generally favorable to itinerant or lay preachers, as were the dissenters. Simeon was not of that mind and expressed his opinion in this letter, written April 13, 1798.

With respect to your excursion, I am far from having entertained the opinion you suppose. I must acknowledge that I think immortal souls of such value, that I should rejoice if all the Lord’s people were prophets. With respect to regularity, propriety, etc., the most godly men in all ages have differed in their judgment; and I find it so difficult precisely to draw the line in any case of my own, that I do not presume to judge for others. Some think they may eat meat, and others not; I neither judge nor despise, but leave all to their own Master. We certainly must not do MORAL evil, that good may come. But if mercy and sacrifice stand in opposition to each other, we may choose mercy; and if David and his men be fainting with hunger, they may eat the forbidden bread. I love all good men of all descriptions, and rejoice in the good they do, whether they do it in my way or not. I think for myself and act for myself, and leave others to do the same.

The Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, first published in 1852, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 1990, p. 197.