Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Thee Have the Faithful Trusted

A portion of a letter by John Calvin to his friend, Guillaume Farel, about his wife's death. Calvin was happily married to Idelette de Bure, who was a widow with two children when they were joined together in holy matrimony. After suffering from ill health for a number of years, she died in March 1549. With a heavy heart he wrote to his friend about her death. This letter was written April 11, 1549.

About the sixth hour of the day, on which she yielded up her soul to the Lord, our brother Bourgouin addressed some pious words to her, and while he was doing so, she spoke aloud, so that all saw that her heart was raised far above the world. For these were her words: "O glorious resurrection! O God of Abraham, and of all our fathers, in thee have the faithful trusted during so many past ages, and none of them have trusted in vain. I also will hope." These short sentences were rather ejaculated than distinctly spoken. This did not come from the suggestion of others, but from her own reflections, so that she made it obvious in few words what were her own meditations.

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, 2009, p. 11.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sweet Rod

A portion of a letter by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to W. C. Burns, a Scottish Presbyterian minister that went to China in 1848 as a missionary. He was recovering from sickness when M’Cheyne wrote this letter of thanks and encouragement. The letter was written June 10, 1840.

I am truly thankful that you have been raised up again—renewed, I trust, both in the inner and outer man. “I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” [Ezk. 20:37]. Sweet rod that drives the soul into such a precious resting place! “I will visit their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless, my loving–kindness I will not take from him” [Psa. 89:32-33]. This has been the experience of the greater part of my life, at least of my spiritual life. Remember Edwards’ magnificent resolution: “Resolved to improve afflictions to the uttermost.” Spread the sail when the breeze of adversity blows, and let it drive your vessel onwards on its course.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains, Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1884, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1966, p. 94.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Your Only Happiness

A selection from a letter by Samuel Rutherford to Lady Kenmure with spiritual advice in time of troubles. The Letter was written from Anwoth, January 14, 1632, prior to his being imprisoned for nonconformity.

You shall find it your only happiness, under whatsoever thing disturbeth and crosseth the peace of your mind in this life, to love nothing for itself, but only God for Himself. Our love to Him should not begin on earth as it shall be in heaven; for the bride taketh not, by a thousand degrees, so much delight in her wedding garments as she does in her bridegroom; so we, in the life to come, nevertheless clothed with glory as with a robe, shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the Bridegroom’s joyful face and presence.

Letters of Samuel Rutherford, With a Sketch of his Life and Biographical Notices of His Correspondents, by Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1664, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1984, p. 20.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baptism in the Open River

A selection from a letter by C. H. Spurgeon to a Mr. Soper. Soper had written to Spurgeon reporting the conduct of some villagers after an outdoor baptism at Sheepwash. There were many opponents in England to baptisms by the Baptist. Spurgeon reflected on opposition he had faced in his early days when pastoring in Cambridgeshire. He then commended public baptisms for the effect they had on those who observed them. The letter was written May 13, 1885.

Baptism in the open river is so Scriptural, and, withal, such a public testimony, that I hope our friends will never abandon it. The reproach is to be bravely borne; for, if you hide away in the meeting-house, it will follow you there. We are most numerous where the ordinance is most known. Next to the Word of God, a baptizing service is the best argument for baptism.

Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Selected with Notes, by Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, p. 156.

Monday, April 12, 2010

May Your Child Be His Child

A selection from a letter by John Newton to John Ryland, Jr. Ryland's wife, Elizabeth, had just given birth to their first and only child. Mrs. Ryland died a few weeks after giving birth. Newton wrote a letter of sympathy then but this letter was full of rejoicing for the little boy that graced their home. The letter was written December 16, 1786. Having a granddaughter born this past week, Nasia Marie Hewlett (pictured here), reminded me of Mr. Newton's prayer for the Rylands.

I will join you in praising the Lord for his goodness. May he crown the mercy by raising up Mrs. Ryland to praise him in his house. And may your child be his. You have now another comfort, another care, and what, if grace prevent not, might be another snare; but to those who feel their own weakness, grace is all-sufficient. My best wishes await you both.

Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letter to John Ryland, Jr., edited by Grant Gordon, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, letter #36, p. 181.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thinking Too Lightly of the Conversion of Sinners

A selection from a letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854). No name or date is given but what a convicting letter regarding the lack of general concern believers have for the lost. She points to her own carelessness and then exhorts her correspondent, as well as herself, to be a faithful witness for Christ.

I think the best of God's saints think too lightly of the conversion of sinners; and I take shame to myself that it has not had the influence upon my own mind that it ought to have had. Oh, how much and how deeply have I had cause to mourn over my lack of faithfulness to an immortal soul I knew was traveling the downward road that leads to eternal death; and yet, from fear of offending, have withheld the truth, or have merely satisfied myself with some general hints, unsatisfactory and unconvincing! Did we really believe that ever unconverted person we met with dying so, would be lost forever, should we not be in earnest to warn that soul to flee from the wrath to come? Should we not avail ourselves of every favourable opportunity of praying for them, expostulating with them, and beseeching them to consider their latter end and turn to the Lord that they might be saved? I know there is much wisdom to be exercised to know how and when to speak, all of which the Lord will give to those who are earnest in asking for it. May the Lord make us faithful, myself in particular.

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. 175-76.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Let Others See What Is In You

Paul Wolfe concludes a portion of a letter from Samuel Rutherford to a woman whose husband had died, in his book, My God is True! He also gives some background information on Rutherford himself. His comments and the portion from Rutherford's letter help stay the soul in difficult times.

"Throughout his life Rutherford carried on a remarkable ministry of letter-writing to members of the congregation he served, as well as to other friends and family members, using pen and post to encourage them with the truths of the gospel. Today we have over three hundred of Rutherford's letters preserved.

"On September 14, 1634, Rutherford wrote to a woman whose husband had died just two days before. Rutherford knew from personal experience that the death of one's spouse ranks high among sorrows (his first wife had died in 1630), and he acknowledged this in his letter to her. He wrote, 'I must out of some experience say, the mourning for the husband of your youth be, by God's own mouth, the heaviest worldly sorrow (Joel 1:8).' He knew that her was a grief not to be treated lightly or dismissed. Yet he also knew that the Lord was at work to bring about good. In particular, Rutherford trusted that the loss of her husband would serve as a heart test that would show others where her deepest joy was to be found. He urged her, in the midst of her sorrow, to:

'Let God, and men, and angels now see what is in you. The Lord hath pierced the vessel; it will be known whether there be in it wine or water. Let your faith and patience be seen, that it may be known your only beloved, first and last, hath been Christ.'

"Those are stirring and challenging words. He wanted this woman to appreciate the fact that her joy was now on trial as a result of her husband's death. It was her heart that was now being tested and revealed. God and men and angels were watching. Of course, God already knew what was in her heart, but men and angels needed to see it, and in any case the all-knowing God was still worthy of a faithful display. And Rutherford was confident that she would make just such a display. He knew her well enough to know that the results of her test would be heartening. He wrote:

'I am now expecting to see, and that with joy and comfort, that which I hoped of you since I knew you fully, even that ye have laid such strength upon the Holy One of Israel, that ye defy troubles, and that your soul is a castle that may be besieged, but cannot be taken.'

"As it was with those who read the Apostle Peter's letter [1 Peter 1:6-9], so it was with this woman who read Rutherford's letter: her loss had not made her joyful; rather, it would have the effect of revealing the joy in Christ that she already had."

Letters of Samuel Rutherford, The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 1984, pp. 100-101. My God is True: Lessons Learned Along Cancer's Dark Road, Paul D. Wolfe, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, pp. 73-74.