Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Far Be It From Us To Repine

A portion of a letter from John Newton to his beloved wife, Mary. She was away carrying for her father. They were to be together again but the weather became a hindrance. He was disappointed that he would not see her when planned but bemoaned his lack of trust in the Lord more so. The letter was written from his home in Olney, England, January 7, 1776.

I suppose, if Self had his will, he would think his journey to you, of such importance, that no snow should have fallen to retard it, or make it inconvenient. Poor proud creature! What a presumptuous worm, to admit one thought against the appointment of the most High; instead of being duly thankful, that you and I, are safely sheltered, and well provided for, in this severe weather! What hardships are some person suffering this morning, while you, I hope, are sleeping peacefully in your bed, and I am sitting by a good fire. Far be it from us to repine, if in some things our inclinations are a little crossed. It is often, yea always, in mercy when they are. We have seen it so in many instances already, and shall hereafter see that it was so in all.

Letters to a Wife: Written in England from 1755 to 1785, by the author of Cardiphonia (a pen name for John Newton), vol. 2, London, 1793, pp. 192-93.

Monday, June 28, 2010

He Hath Made a Covenant With Us

A letter by James Renwick, a Covenanter known as the last Scottish martyr, to a friend who was being persecuted for his faith. Instead of speaking about his ordeal he encouraged him with thoughts about the everlasting covenant made with the saints by the Lord Christ. The letter was written July 15, 1687.

Right Honourable and dear Sir, if I had the tongue of the eloquent, and the pen of a ready writer, my desire would be to employ both in praise of the Great King. O, "Who is like the Lord amongst the gods? Who is like Him, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders!" We are rebels and outlaws, we are lost and undone for ever; but He hath made a covenant with us, and given Himself a ransom. This covenant is everlasting, "well ordered in all things and sure." It hath all fullness in it, for the matter; all wisdom, for the manner; all condescendence, in the terms. It is most engaging in its end, being made to bring about the peace and salvation of sinners; and it is most necessary, for there is no journeying to heaven without it. This then is the chariot that will carry us into the joy and rest of our Lord; this is the chariot wherein His glory and our good ride triumphantly together, for it is made for Himself and the daughters of Jerusalem. This is the chariot that hath "the pillars of silver, the bottom of gold, the covering of purple, and the midst of it paved with love." O what a pavement is there! What lining and stuffing is there! O happy are they who are taken up into this chariot! They stand upon love, they sit upon love, they lie upon love, and, if they fall, they fall soft, for they fall upon love…

The Life and Letters of James Renwick: The Last Scottish Martyr, by Rev. W. H. Carslaw, published by Solid Ground Christian Books, taken from the 1893 edition, p. 226.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

He Has Brought Us Here

A letter written by Ann Judson, wife of Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma, to her sisters. The hardships of missionary life were great, and she longed to see them again and visit with them, but there was much work to do for Christ. She shares some of their goals in this letter, written in December of 1815.

On how I long to visit Bradford; to spend a few evenings by your firesides, in telling you what I have seen and heard. Alas! We have no fireside, no social circle. We are still alone in this miserable country, surrounded by thousands ignorant of the true God… But we still feel happy in our employment, and have reason to thank God that he has brought us here. We do hope to live to see the Scriptures translated into the Burman language, and a church formed from among these idolaters.

The Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella W. Stuart, first published in 1851, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1999, pp. 37-38.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tribute to a Warrior for Christ

A selection from a letter by Sinclair Ferguson, to Susan Marshall, whose husband John had recently passed away. Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Marshall both served together for a number of years on the board of the Banner of Truth Trust. It was my pleasure to hear John Marshall preach on several occasions. He was a powerful preacher of the gospel. He was pastor of the Alexandra Road Congregational Church in Hemel Hempstead, England, for over 40 years. He died August 29, 2003. This letter was written shortly after his death.

Earlier in the year, as John preached at the closing session of the Leicester Ministers' Conference – with such grace and unction – I was overtaken by a sense that perhaps the explanation for the unusual occasion it was might be that it would be the last time many of his friends would ever hear him preach. I do wish you could have been there to have heard him, such was the blessing of his ministry. It now seems to me to have been a little intimation of the Lord's love for him, when John himself seemed to grow in grace, assurance, joy in proclaiming Christ, confidence in the gospel.

John was such a warrior – and now he has placed his sword in tribute at Christ's feet. Yet to me on a personal level he was full of kindness, friendship, encouragement, full of good fun, full of a seriousness of spirit that was a model to me. Thank you for sharing him with me.

John E. Marshall: Life and Writings, John J. Murray, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, pp. 80-81.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mistake Not the Means for the End

A selection from a letter by Rev. John Newton to Rev. Thomas Scott. Mr. Scott was an unconverted Anglican minister in a nearby parish. His conversion came about through a friendship with Mr. Newton, who through correspondence answered many of his questions. In a letter written December 8, 1775, Newton answered several questions that had been posed by Scott. Newton told him, "I have embraced the occasion to lay before you simply, and rather in a way of testimony than argumentation, what (in the main) I am sure is truth." One question was whether man had the power to do anything good apart from "an extraordinary impulse from on high."

You ask if man can do nothing without an extraordinary impulse from on high, is he to sit still and careless? By no means. I am far from saying man can do nothing, though I believe, he cannot open his own eyes, or give himself faith. I wish every man to abstain carefully from sinful company, and sinful actions, to read the Bible, to pray to God for his heavenly teaching. And if he persevere thus seeking, the promise is sure, that he shall not seek in vain. But I would not have him mistake the means for the end; think himself good because he is preserved from gross vices and follies, or trust to his religious course of duties for acceptance, nor be satisfied till Christ be revealed in him, formed within him, and dwell in his heart by faith.

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes, by Josiah Bull, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, p. 270.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Worth of My Lord Jesus

A selection from a letter by Samuel Rutherford, written from prison in Aberdeen, Scotland, to William Semple. As he often did, Rutherford spoke of his great delight in knowing Christ and of the joy he experienced in contemplating the wonderful love of Jesus. The letter was written July 10, 1637.

Oh that my adversaries knew how sweet my sighs for Christ are, and what it is for a sinner to lay his head between Christ's breasts, and to be over head and ears in Christ's love! Alas, I cannot cause paper to speak the height, and breadth, and depth of it! I have not a balance to weigh the worth of my Lord Jesus. Heaven, ten heavens, would not be the beam of a balance to weigh Him in. I must give over praising Him…

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. 436.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Grand Object of Education

A letter by Ernest Reisinger, to the son of a distinguished seminary professor and friend, who was graduating from High School. Mr. Reisinger sent him a gift and a letter of encouragement and challenge. I am sure this young man's parents were thankful for the godly counsel and wisdom given to him by this distinguished correspondent. The letter was written June 1, 1990.

My dear friend _____,

Congratulations on completing your High School education. I pray that you will always remember the grand object of your education, that is, that it contributes to the glory of God who gave you your existence, talents and gifts. On Him, also, you are dependent for their preservation. It is most reasonable, therefore, that these powers, gifts and talents should be empowered to His service for ever. I am enclosing a little gift for your graduation present.

You will soon be leaving the influence of a Christian home and godly parents; therefore, you will face new temptations and dangers. May our Lord be pleased to help, guide and protect you.

_____, the most important counsel I could give you, or any young Christian man, is this, never to make an intimate friend of anyone who is not a friend of your God. I do not mean that you have nothing to do with anyone but true Christians, but be very careful in your choice of friends. Ask the question, Will this friendship benefit my spiritual life? Follow the example of David who said, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts" (Psa. 119:63).

May our Father in heaven keep you safe from all harm, give you diligence in your studies and fortitude, wisdom in all your decisions, integrity in your living and a Christ-like example to others.

Your old friend,
Ernest C. Reisinger
P.S. Try hard to find a good church to attend.

Ernest C. Reisinger: A Biography, by Geoffrey Thomas, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002, pp. 152-53.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anxious Cries for Your Salvation

A selection from a letter by Mary Jones, wife of the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones. She wrote her son Charles about a cousin who had given himself to drink. She exhorted her son against the sin of intemperance. She said, "I honestly believe that every man who takes a glass, saving in cases of sickness or ill health, or who makes a practice of offering it to his friends, is treading the broad road to ruin himself and drawing others along with him." Since he was not yet converted to Christ, she also pleaded with him, as she often did in her letters, to be saved. The letter was written February 28, 1860.

Have you read the paper I put into your hands as we parted [a tract, perhaps]? Daily does my soul go out to the precious Saviour in anxious cries for your salvation. When, my son, are you going to consider the interests of your immortal soul? Are you daily reading the Word of God? Do you pray? I know that the Holy Spirit alone can enlighten your heart and new create it, but you must "seek if you would find," "knock if you would have the door of mercy opened." Will you not say with the Psalmist: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities. Blot out my sins, and remember no more my transgressions."

The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, edited by Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 564-65.