Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spiritual Pride

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards to the Scottish pastor, Thomas Gillespie, after Edwards was removed as pastor from his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He mentioned some of his own sins and weaknesses that caused some of the difficulties that resulted in his dismissal, but he also spoke of the spiritual pride that permeated the congregation at Northampton. The letter was written from Stockbridge, the place of his new ministry, July 1, 1751.

In later times, the people have had more to feed their pride. They have grown a much greater and more wealthy people than formerly, and are become more extensively famous in the world, as a people that have excelled in gifts and grace, and had God extraordinarily among them; which has insensibly engendered and nourished spiritual pride, that grand inlet of the devil into the hearts of men, and avenue of all manner of mischief among a professing people. Spiritual pride is a monstrous thing…

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 382.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Free Mercy!

A selection from a letter by the Welsh preacher, Thomas Charles (1755-1814), to his wife, Sally Jones Charles. He going was through a difficult time and felt very much his weakness and corruption. He referred to verses in Romans 7 several times in this letter and wondered how the Lord could use him, seeing that he was so depraved and sinful. But his soul was lifted up in contemplating God's mercy. No date is given for the letter.

Blessed be the Lord, that his mercy is free. Guilt and unworthiness are obstacles which it easily surmounts. Nothing but free mercy could save my soul, or bring me this moment one drop of comfort. I have no comfort in myself; but I can see infinite consolations in God, and I long after a fuller enjoyment of them. I am a burden to myself; but I am happy in looking to that glorious deliverance from self, etc. which Christ hath procured for all his people.

Thomas Charles' Spiritual Counsels: Selected from His Letter and Papers, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1836 and republished by Banner of Truth Trust, 1993, pp. 299-300.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Value of a Mother

A selection from a letter by Robert L. Dabney to his mother, who had been sick. The letter expresses his appreciation for her and sets forth her noble character. The letter was written December 2, 1857.

Your sickness was needed to teach us all your value, and the love which we ought to feel and manifest for you. If there ever were children who owed a heavy debt of gratitude to a mother, we are among them; and if there ever was a mother in whom the description of Proverbs ought to be verified, "Her children rise up and call her blessed" [Prov. 31:28], surely our mother is one. I find my best solace in uncertainly to be in praying that the God and Saviour, whose compassions fail not, and who is in Louisa [the county in Virginia she lived in] as truly as in Prince Edward [the county in Virginia he lived in], will soothe all your sufferings, heal your sickness, and make affliction bring forth a far more exceeding weight of glory.

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. 179.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Helper and Comforter to Others

A selection from a letter by Mrs. Henry Smith, a close friend of Elizabeth Prentiss, to Mr. Prentiss, four months after the death of his dear wife. Elizabeth Prentiss was the author of the beloved hymn, More Love to Thee, O Christ, and the book, Stepping Heavenward, used by God to help many a weary saint traveling on their way to glory. Mrs. Smith reflects on the character of her friend. The letter was written January 2, 1879.

How naturally, modestly, almost indifferently, she received the tributes which poured in upon her! Yet, though she cared little for praise, she cared much for love, and for the consciousness that she was a helper and comforter to others.

More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss, George Lewis Prentiss, reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books, p. 289.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May Your Life and Health Be Long Spared

A letter to C. H. Spurgeon from the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, on the great preacher's 50th birthday. They rejoiced in the good ministry of the London preacher and expressed their appreciation for him and doctrinal agreement with him. The letter was written June 27, 1884.

The undersigned professors in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, beg leave to offer respectful and hearty congratulations on your fiftieth birthday. We thank God for all that he made you and by his grace enabled you to become and achieve. We rejoice in your great and wonderful work as preacher and pastor, and through your Orphanage and your Pastor's College; as also your numerous writings, so sparkling with genius, so filled with the spirit of the gospel. Especially we delight to think how nobly you have defended and diffused the doctrines of grace; how in an age so eager for novelty and marked by such loosening of belief you have through long years kept the English-speaking world for your audience while never turning aside from the old-fashioned gospel.

And now, honored brother, we invoke upon you the continued blessings of our God. May your life and health be long spared, if it be his will; may Providence still smile on your varied work, and the Holy Spirit richly bless your spoken and written messages to mankind.

Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by Archibald Thomas Robertson, 1901, reprint by Gano Books, pp. 341-42.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Seeing the Hand of God

A selection from a letter by David Kinghorn to his friend, Henry Dawson, who had recently moved to another village and therefore another church. He wrote words of encouragement regarding providence and prayer. In the years following, Mr. Kinghorn wrote his son, Joseph, when a student at the Baptist college in Bristol and then the pastor of St. Mary's Baptist Church, Norwich, many valuable and instructive letters. This letter to the former member of his church was written December 3, 1781.

…As the Lord's way is in the deep waters, and his footsteps are not known until his purposes break forth in his providence, and manifest his design to us, by their accomplishment, it is no wonder, that we should often think, that he writeth bitter things against us, even when he is bringing about the greatest good; and is no proof, that because judgment is not speedily executed against an evil work, that it will not be executed at all; so neither is it a proof, that because prayer is not immediately answered, therefore it is not accepted. The time when, the place where, and the means by which, God accomplishes his purposes, fulfills his promises, and grants our requests, are often quite out of our sight. This indeed makes the hand of God more manifest, for if we had our desires fulfilled in our own way, and agreeable to our own mind, in many respects, we should be at a loss to see the hand of God. To prevent which, and that we may not lose the comfort, nor himself the glory of his own works, he crosses his hands in his providence, and withholds from us, in our way, what he gives in his own.

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, vol. 3, compiled and edited by Terry Wolever, Particular Baptist Press, 2010, pp. 294-95.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Little Reproach

A selection from a letter by Thomas Hardcastle, written from prison in Bristol, England, to the Broadmead Church (Baptist) of which he was pastor from 1671 to 1678. He had been imprisoned because dissenters were not allowed to have their own churches; they were expected to worship with the Church of England, the only legal Church. Hardcastle refused to comply with the law on moral grounds. He wrote 22 letters to his congregation during the six months he spent in the Newgate Prison, encouraging them to be faithful to Christ during the awful days of persecution. This selection comes from the 14th letter and was written November 12, 1675.

What an honor he has put upon me, that I should be spoiled, and abused, and imprisoned for his cause!... And blessed be his name, which counts me worthy of such a privilege. Oh, sweet and precious cross! Lovely Jesus! What glory did he leave for me to take my sinful, infirm nature upon him! He made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, who thought it not robbery to be equal to God [see Phil. 2:5-11]. And I, a poor vile wretch, who is made of the same mold with the worms, and dust, and have a nature as vile as the vilest, and cannot say that I am worth a crumb of bread, or drop of water,—shall I think it hard to suffer a little loss, to bear a little reproach, to endure a little hardship?

No Armor for the Back: Baptist Prison Writings, 1600s—1700s, by Keith E. Durso, Mercer University Press, p. 139.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Soundly Converted Under My Preaching

A selection from a letter by Rev. Daniel Baker to his wife. He had recently arrived in Galveston, Texas, on a survey trip about the possibility of doing mission work there. The city was new and growing. His church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did not wish him to leave them but granted him permission to take the trip, along with the blessing of his local Presbytery. His letter home gave some indication of the open door for gospel work and church planting. He ended up spending the rest of his life preaching the gospel in Texas. The letter was written February 21, 1840.

I have preached some fifteen or twenty sermons already, to houses generally crowded, and we should probably have twice as many out, if we could accommodate them. Two or three persons, have, I trust, been this week soundly converted under my preaching. They are, I believe, the very first cases of conversion that ever took place on the island. Thank the Lord for this great honour conferred upon me, a poor, unworthy instrument!

One of the persons spoken of, is a lady of high respectability, who had been on the island about three years, and had never heard a single sermon before she heard me, except one from a Catholic priest some time ago. And strange to tell, this first sermon she heard me preach was blessed to her awakening. She has since obtained a hope, and is one of the most interesting and satisfactory cases of conversion I ever knew in all my life.

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, pp. 234-35.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Every Returning Birthday

A portion of a letter by Rev. Henry Venn, Church of England minister, to his son John on his 20th birthday. He recounted his son's birth in a depraved state, his upbringing and education, and then his conversion. He was a thankful father, happy to know that his son was a follower of Jesus Christ but also that he had given himself to the work of the ministry. His joy is expressed in this natal letter and wise counsel, peppered with hope, characterizes the last paragraph, a letter written March 9, 1779.

… With every requisite qualification as a scholar, and with a character unsullied by conformity to the world, you may, if life is spared, be admitted amongst the witnesses who testify against the evil doctrine and evil practice everywhere prevailing, and come forth engrossed by one grand purpose, from which nothing shall ever divert you—a purpose, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to spend and be spent in His service—to follow, though with very unequal steps, yet still with all your might to follow, the example of the Apostles, in the doctrine you preach, in the self-denied life you will lead, in the longing desire of our heart to see the lost saved, and the slaves of sin and Satan returning to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads, transformed into the Divine image, and, with all gratitude, confessing they heard from your lips what they found the means of their salvation. In this most blessed employment (if it please our adorable Saviour) may you work for many years! And every returning birthday solemnly present yourself before Him, to be endued with more wisdom, knowledge, and grace; till, in the appointed hour, you are called to give account of your ministry, and find the day of your death infinitely better than the day of your birth! This is the wish, the ardent, constant prayer, of your affectionate father…

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 273-74.