Friday, August 20, 2010

Seeing the World Right-Side-Up

A selection from a letter by Jack Miller, a church planter and seminary professor with the PCA, to a couple (Peter and Shelly) whose child had just been diagnosed with a progressive disease. Mr. Miller and his wife, Rose Marie, had been praying for them during this difficult trial. His letter is filled with encouragement more than counsel, with what the Lord had taught him, not advice on how to handle the situation. The letter was written in December, 1993.

Jesus, you turn my world upside down! When I submit to You, Lord, it suddenly occurs to me that I am seeing the world right-side-up. And somehow mysteriously the pain of not knowing what to do becomes the joy of the child of God. And I say, 'Ah Lord, if I don't have to be in charge anymore, then I can drop a lot of burdens. I don't need to worry, or plan, where planning makes no sense. I am free to sit at Your feet and to listen and be taught, and learn about Your plans.' At such times I often see new ways of doing things. The various things that Satan meant to use to destroy me become opportunities for serving Christ joyfully, boldly, and freely. Then my heart knows a peace and quietness. I find myself saying in spite myself, 'Your will, not mine, be done.' In your will I find perfect peace. What a mystery of grace!

The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller, C. John Miller, edited by Barbara Miller Juliani, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004, pp. 304-05.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

True Marriage Multiplies Joy

A selection from a letter by Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer to Anna, a young girl who had become like a daughter to him. She was engaged to be married and asked Rev. Palmer to perform the wedding ceremony. He agreed to leave New Orleans and make his way to New York for the wedding. But he gave her some marital counsel in his letter of acceptance and promised to give her more advice upon his arrival. The letter was written August 2, 1866.

I am not sorry that you are to marry. With such a wealth of love as your broad, warm heart contains, it would be an injury and a wrong to you not to fill all the relations which call for love. I accept all you tell me of Mr. Carter—and from other sources I hear that he is all the word gentleman implies. Knit to the man who is worthy of you, and with a true love between you, life will be brighter and happier to the end. I say it deliberately and upon knowledge, that a true marriage multiplies the joys of a life a thousand fold—and that despite all the sacrifices and sorrows that may be incident thereto. Take the joy with a grateful heart, renewing the consecration of yourself to our loving Redeemer, and trust Him for grace to bear every bitterness which His holy will may hereafter allot for your discipline.

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1906, published by The Banner of Truth, 1987, pp. 374-75.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Little Child Was Born for Eternity

A letter from John Elias to a relative, the Rev. W. Roberts, who had lost an infant girl in death. The parents were naturally grieving and Rev. Elias offered sympathy and encouragement to them under such distressing circumstances. I can well imagine how this letter must have been read many times over in their days of sorrow. The letter was written July 12, 1838.

I hope you both shall have much strength from above to bear under the trial that is so painful to flesh and blood. To be enabled to view the secret movements of the good and wise providence of God towards us, would afford great calmness and ease of mind. He does all things right, they cannot be better; and he can bring us to see that, and to reconcile us to his proceedings, though so disagreeable to our natural feelings.

To lose dear infants, and to commit them to the dust, is most poignant bitterness. But some meet with more distressing circumstances in the conduct of those that are spared! Your little child was born for eternity; it is her dwelling, her home. The Lord has been pleased to remove her there, according to his eternal counsel, sooner than you expected. Who can say how great was his goodness in this act? She was taken out of the reach of many temptations, and out of many evils and sorrow.

You have no need to be uncomfortable as to the state of the child; your heavenly Father took her to himself. It was very distressing to you and her mother to behold her affliction; it was becoming to mourn and to sympathize; but now, she being dead, arise and wash away your tears, and worship God (2 Samuel 12:20). May the Lord give you help in the time of need, may he support and comfort you!

John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1844, published by the Banner of Truth in 1973, pp. 219-220.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christian Politicians?

A portion of a letter by Francis Wayland (1796-1865), a well-known Baptist pastor and educator. He was once the president of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and also pastor of the First Baptist Church there, the first Baptist church to be established in America. He published a book in 1863 entitled, Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel. The letters do not have dates, nor are recipients identified, but they contain a treasure of wisdom for all serious-minded ministers of the Gospel. This particular letter describes what the pastors were like when he was young compared to those in the latter year of his life. The following paragraph addresses the subject of politics with regard to the old guard of ministers in the Baptist denomination.

Our brethren of the former generation were a people of a somewhat rugged character, having but little to do with the great world, and the more time to devote to religion; ready to bear their portion of the burdens of society, and forward, according to the standard of the time, in extending the knowledge of Christ; but neither seeking for the rewards of office, nor indeed were they often tempted by the offer of them. They stood aloof from political agitation. When a Christian man became a politician, it was a source of alarm to his brethren. I well remember to have heard it remarked, that since such or such a brother had become a politician, his Christian character and his interest in religion had sadly deteriorated; and his brethren feared that it would lead to his final apostasy.

Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel, by Francis Wayland, Gould and Lincoln, 1863, pp. 21-22.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Theatre

A portion of a letter by John Calvin to his fellow reformer, Melanchthon. He referred to him as "most distinguished sir," and spoke of him as a man "whom I venerate from the heart." The letter is a response to Melanchthon's comment about antagonists who were teaching false doctrine and causing trouble in the churches. He said that they "have no other object in view than to show themselves off on a public stage." Calvin responds with an exhortation to be careful themselves for they too are being observed. The letter was written from Geneva, August 23, 1555.

But though their [the antagonists] expectations, as I trust and as is probable, will be frustrated, nevertheless, even if they should gain the plaudits of the whole world, it becomes us to direct all our attention with so much the more zeal to that heavenly prize-giver under whose eyes we combat.

What! Shall the sacred assembly of the angels, who animate us by their favour, and strenuously point out to us by their example the manner of acting, permit us to grow sluggish or advance with hesitating steps? And the whole band of the holy fathers! Do they not also stimulate us to exertion? In fine, the church of God which is present to our view in the world! When we know that its prayers combat on our side, and that it is animated by our example, shall its suffrages in our favour be lost upon us?

No, let this be my theatre, and satisfied with its approbation, though the whole world should hiss me, I shall never want courage. I am very far from envying these silly and noisy players. Let them enjoy for a brief space and in an obscure corner their barren little sprig of triumph. What the world deems worthy of its applause or hatred does not escape me. But far more important I hold it to follow the rule prescribed by our Master. Nor have I any doubt that this ingenuousness will in the end prove more agreeable to all pious and rational minds, than a complaisant and wavering manner of teaching, which is always swayed by some empty terror.

John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Jules Bonnet and translated by David Constable, first published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858, republished by The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, vol. 6, p. 219.