A selection from a letter by Jonathan Edwards to Rev. Joseph Bellamy. David Brainerd, missionary to the Indians, was convalescing in his home (another preacher, Eleazar Wheelock, was also sick and recuperating at the Edward's house). Edwards hoped and prayed that Brainerd's health would improve but it was not to be. The letter was written May 6, 1747, and Brainerd passed away on October 9. Bellamy was a close friend to both Wheelock and Brainerd.
Mr. Brainerd has lately been at my house with Mr. Wheelock. Mr. Wheelock is very poorly and not able to preach, and so has been for some time; tis' uncertain whether he [will] ever preach more. Mr. Brainerd is far from being so broken in his understanding, as I have heard. He is capable of conversing very agreeably, and praying in the family most admirably. He is now gone to Boston with my daughter Jerusha. She intends to stay in Boston about a fortnight while Mr. Brainerd goes to the eastward, and then he is to return with her hither again.
Mr. Brainerd is a very desirable man indeed; I am glad I have had such an opportunity of acquaintance with him. Physicians speak of the state of his bodily constitution as very dangerous and difficult, and Dr. Mather of this town gives him over, but Dr. Pynchon is not so positive that he will not recover. For my part I cannot but have some hopes of his recovery. I think it is what all that know him should earnestly pray for.
Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 223.
Before e-mails, telephones and text-messaging, people wrote letters to one another. Letters are personal and thoughtful. We can be thankful that biographers have letters to and from the people they write about from generations gone by, for modern forms of commu-nication leave us in want. Letters have a quality about them not found in e-mails. Historian and biographer, David McCullough, says, “I think often of how little we will leave about ourselves and our time in our own words. Maybe some of the e-mail will survive, but I doubt it. How will future gen-erations ever come to know us? Historians and biographers a hundred or three hundred years hence will have almost nothing of a personal kind to work with. Our story, consequently, will be a lot less interesting, less human, per-haps even impossible to write.”
It is a shame that few of us today craft letters to our children and friends. Letter writing is a lost art. I hope this blog will inspire others to write letters. Letters are valuable. C. H. Spurgeon said, “A man’s private letters often let you into the secrets of the heart.
Most of what appears here are selections taken from letters of Evangelical Christians. There will also be occasional reviews of books of letters.
Articulate, Thoughtful, and Well-Composed Letters
"In the nineteenth century, many biographers wrote books titled The Life and Letters of So-and-So. While this was not always an eloquent way of writing history, it speaks volumes about our cultural distance; if restricted to composing a narrative of someone’s life around his written correspondence today, we wouldn’t be able to write biographies, because people write too few letters to constitute the substance of a book. Further, if you read those nineteenth-century letters, you cannot fail to notice how articulate, thoughtful, and well composed they commonly are. A culture that was accustomed to thoughtful, well-composed letters produced remarkable significant letters, even among fairly common people. Today, we have become a culture of telephone babblers, unskilled at the most basic questions of composition…"
Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers, by T. David Gordon, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2009, pp. 66-67.
A Wonderful Book of Letters: "The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ: The Letters of Ruth Bryan"
Moody Stuart said, "Ruth Bryan's letters are remarkably like those of Samuel Rutherford's, closely resembling them in most winning, unwearied, and gloriously endless eulogy of the King in His beauty." Joel Beeke says, "Ruth Bryan stands in a class of great female devotional writers, such as Anne Dutton and Mary Winslow, whose Christ-centered correspondence has helped hundreds of God's people drink more deeply of the wells of salvation."