Friday, July 30, 2010

Let Us Not Fear

A letter from George Whitefield to the Welsh evangelist, Howell Harris. Whitefield was soon to be in Wales. Whitefield spoke of the opposition they both faced in preaching the gospel but rejoiced in the care extended to him by Christ. The letter was written from London, June 6, 1741.

Outward enemies are now more quiet. Enemies within the church, carnal professors, and self-righteous Pharisees, most try us. Let us not fear, JESUS CHRIST will give us the victory over all. God mightily strengthens me. Our congregations are very large and solemn. I never had greater freedom in preaching. God enables me to cast all my care upon him, with a full assurance that he careth for me.

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, p. 268.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

These Perplexing Dispensations

A selection from a letter by Rev. Thomas Boston to a friend whose wife was ill. Boston's wife was also ailing. The explanation that he gave his friend for God's design in sending hardships was as much intended for his own soul as for his acquaintance. The letter was written January 27, 1728.

When the storm is hard where two seas meet, great is the hazard of fainting; but patience must have her perfect work. These things are designed, I believe, by a holy wise God, not against you, but against the unrenewed part in you, called in scripture the flesh, which is not to be amended, but to be mortified gradually till it die out in the close of the spiritual warfare; at which time the new creature will be perfected, and the image of God, that is never on the whole soul, will wholly occupy every part of the soul, through full and perfecting supplies of grace from Christ the Head, not communicate during the course of this life. Then will be fully seen the beauty of these perplexing dispensations, the necessity of them, and every one of them, which is now to be believed, but not to be clearly seen, by reason of the remains of darkness that is to be found together with the light of grace in the mind.

Be we so happy as to take part with the spirit against the flesh in this war; and though this last complaint under great hardships put upon it, let us secretly rejoice, that the Lord is at such pains to advance mortification in us, that we may be still aiming to be as weaned children, and look upon your afflictions as what the Lord is laying on, to conform you to the image of His Son, whereof suffering and holiness are joint parts.

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, first published in 1899, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1988, pp. 504-05.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Good Old Wine of Distinguishing Grace

A selection from a letter by the well-known hymn writer and preacher of the gospel, Augustus Toplady, to a Mr. Bottomley, who had sent him a paper that he had written expressing his acceptance of Calvinistic doctrine. Toplady encouraged him to continue to search the Scriptures and with the light given to him, to throw off the errors of Arminianism. The letter was written December 3, 1768.

I verily hope and believe that that most gracious Being who has led you thus far, will go on to translate you farther and farther into the light and liberty of his children. As I once took occasion to tell you, it is much the same with mistakes in matters of judgment, as it was with the two disciples in the dungeon of Philippi [Acts 16:26]: first the prison shakes and next the doors fly open. I am heartily glad that you are shaken as to the system you have long embraced and trust that it is preclusive to your deliverance from it…

Chiefly keep your eye fixed on the Scriptures and derive by humble, earnest, waiting prayer, all your light and knowledge thence. One thing I am very clear in, that if you reduce your ideas to the standard of Scripture, and make this the model of those, suffering the unerring word of revelation to have the casting vote, and turning your mind into the gospel mould, you must and will eventually throw the idol of Arminianism, in all its branches, to the moles and to the bats. You will no longer dwell with Mesech, nor have your habitation among the tents of Kedar. Having tasted the good old wine of distinguishing grace, you will no longer have any relish for the new scheme of grace without a plan, and of a random salvation; for you will both know and acknowledge that the old is better.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, pp. 832-33.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Very Bright Constellation

A selection from a letter by Thomas Chalmers, Scottish Presbyterian preacher and professor, to J. E. Ryland of Northampton, England. Ryland's grandfather and father were luminaries in the Baptist constellation of great preachers in the later part of the 18th Century and the first part of the 19th Century. Dr. Chalmers shows his appreciation for the Baptist of that era. Ryland had written to Chalmers about the death of the well-known English essayist of Baptist persuasion, John Foster. Chalmer's letter was written from Edinburgh, November 17, 1842.

I ever had the greatest veneration both for him [John Foster] and Mr. [Robert] Hall, who along with Dr. [John] Ryland [Jr.], Andrew Fuller, Drs. [William] Carey, [Joshua] Marshman, and [William] Ward, made up altogether a very bright constellation, and which serves to signalize the Baptists of England more than any other denomination which I at present recollect.

Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna, first published 1853, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 322.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turn Your Eyes Upon Christ

A selection from a letter by Rev. William Still to his congregation, Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen, October, 1972. He warned his people about the devil and sin, stating that many Christians dismissed Satan and his wiles to readily. He also encouraged them to keep their eyes on Christ and not be caught up in a negative ministry.

… I think men in their preaching, teaching, and writing can become too preoccupied with the world situation and with the evils of the present day. Some are in a ferment concerning insidious influences in the Kirk and in the land who would have every one as hot and bothered as they are over such things. But that agitated frame of mind is far from being the strong bulwark against the spiritual disintegration of Christ's church in the land that some think it is. Some have given their lives to combat the world's evils and have worn themselves out accomplishing nothing because their eyes were on the wrong thing, namely, evils in men. Turn your eyes upon Christ, and He will soon let you see who your enemy really is, and will help you to bind him and rescue souls from his grip. Mere denunciation and fevered polemic will never effectively combat the ills in the Kirk and in society, although, of course, we admit the validity and necessity of protest. But the consistent building up of Christ's people in their most holy and glorious faith will combat these ills and increase the area in the Kirk, and then in the land, where the fruits of that upbuilding will be seen…

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 133-34.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

He Reigns Over All

A selection from a letter by Samuel Pearce, pastor of the Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, to Mr. Matthias, a friend he met while preaching in Ireland. The General Evangelical Society in Dublin invited him to come to Ireland to preach the gospel. He made several friends on his mission there from the University of Dublin, Mr. Matthias being one of them. Pearce wrote of how much he valued his new friends. He also shared with him the joy in the Lord that he was experiencing at that time. The letter was written in September or October, 1776.

I thank God, I never, I think, rejoiced habitually so much in him as I have done of late. "God is love." That makes me happy. I rejoice that God reigns; that he reigns over all; that he reigns over me; over my crosses, my comforts, my family, my friends, my senses, my mental powers, my designs, my words, my preaching, my conduct; that he is God over all, blessed for ever. I am willing to live, yet I long to die, to be freed from all error and all sin. I have nothing else to trouble me; no other cross to carry. The sun shines without all day long; but I am sensible of internal darkness. Well, through grace it shall be all light by and by. Yes, you and I shall be angels of light; all Mercuries then; all near the Sun; always in motion; always glowing with zeal, and flaming with love. Oh for the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness!

A Heart for Missions: The Classic Memoir of Samuel Pearce, by Andrew Fuller, with an introduction by Michael Haykin, reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006, p. 88.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All Them Beautiful Texts

A selection from a letter by the beloved hymn writer, Francis Ridley Havergal, to a pastor friend and his wife. She wrote of the joy that she had in teaching a 90 year-old blind woman, Mrs. Lane, verses from the Bible and the good these texts did for the old lady. Miss Havergal expressed what the old woman, who lived alone, said to her about these verses. What power and comfort there is in the Word of God! The letter was written in 1871.

"Oh dear, Miss, this summer's gone too quick for me; it made the time pass so pleasant, having all them beautiful texts. I couldn't tell you how it's passed away the time.

There's 'I am poor and needy, but the Lord thinketh upon me.' There's a many as don't think about a poor old blind body like me, but the Lord does; and that must be for me, Miss, because I'm very poor, Miss, just like it says in the verse.

And then there's 'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' That's my companion, I call it, Miss; you wouldn't believe what company that is to me, and it seems to take me through all my little troubles of every day; I don't think that's been out of my mind an hour since you learnt it me.

Ah! I know what came next – 'Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.' That was right, wasn't it, Miss? I couldn't say it rightly at first, but I've got it faster than any now, since you taught it me over again; that's always my comfort when I feel so sinking like, and I think perhaps it's the end coming near, and then He'll love me unto the end.

But that last one I learnt – 'Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty' – that is beautiful; oh, it is a beauty! My poor eyes, Miss, that can't see you, it says they shall see Him; to think of that now! Well, to be sure now!"

And the dear old woman's voice lowered, murmuring on in broken exclamations of happy anticipation, till she seemed almost to forget her visitor's presence.

Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal, edited by her sister, Maria V. G. Havergal, first published in 1885, reprinted by Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, pp. 105-06.

Monday, July 5, 2010

While I Breathe I Shall Be Your Friend

The conclusion of a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. These political opponents in early life, one from Massachusetts and the other from Virginia, both crafters of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, became friends after their days in political life. They carried on an extensive correspondence until the year they died. One of the quirks of history is that their deaths occurred on the same day, which happened to be July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of signing of the Declaration of Independence. This letter was written February 25, 1825. It is a deep token of friendship but contains no word of hope or mercy in Christ.

I wish your health may continue to the last much better than mine. The little strength of mind and the considerable strength of body that I once possessed appear to be all gone, but while I breathe I shall be your friend. We shall meet again, so wishes and so believes your friend, but if we are disappointed we shall never know it.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson & Abigail & John Adams, edited by Lester J. Cappon, The University of North Carolina Press, 1959, p. 610.