Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Want Joy Very Badly

A selection from a letter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who joined a conspiracy against Hitler's life. He was arrested in April 1943 and died on a Nazi gallows in April 1945. This letter was written early in his imprisonment, June 4, 1943. It reveals how much he appreciated receiving letters during his incarceration.

Thank you very much for your letters. They are always too short for me, but of course I understand! It is as though the prison gates were opened for a moment, and I could share a little of your life outside. Joy is a thing that we want very badly in this solemn building, where one never hears a laugh—it seems to get even the warders down—and we exhaust all our reserves of it from within and without.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison, edited by Eberhard Bethge, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1971, p. 49.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Live and Learn

A portion of a letter from J. C. Philpot to his friend, Mr. Godwin. Philpot, a Strict Baptist pastor, was ill at the time and only able to preach once in the week. If he dared preach more he would risk damaging his health. In being laid low for awhile, he was able to learn some important lessons. The remarks here were written May 18, 1848.

We have to live and learn; sometimes more of ourselves, sometimes more of others. To be quiet and meek, to think little of ourselves, to prize grace in others, to think very highly of and to cleave close to the Lord Jesus for everything, is far better than striving who is to be greatest.

Letters by the Late Joseph Charles Philpot with a Brief Memoir of His Life and Labours, London, 1871, p. 211.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Give Thanks

A portion of a letter by William Still, pastor of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen Scotland, from 1945 to 1997. He wrote a letter monthly to his congregation to exhort, encourage, admonish, and teach them God's word in light of current events. This selection appeared on the blog of Charlie Wingard ( pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday, September 17, 2010.

If you see the grace of God working in your life, and if you recognize material blessings that have come your way as a consequence, do not forget to thank Him. It is sad when there is nothing for which we feel grateful to God, but it is serious when there is something and we fail to show gratitude, and it is tragic when we are so busy asking for more that we forget to thank Him for what we have received.

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 34-35.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Born Again!

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon to T. W. Medhurst written after Medhurst had become a believer. The last two letters that I have posted were from Medhurst to Spurgeon asking if there was any hope for him, to which Spurgeon responded with the glorious affirmation of hope in Christ. It wasn't long afterwards when salvation came and a dead sinner was raised to life. Medhurst wrote Spurgeon, telling him that he had been converted upon hearing his sermon on John 6:37. He also told him of his desire to be baptized and join the church. Spurgeon replied to Medhurst in this letter written August 7, 1854.

My Dear Sir,

Your letters have given me great joy. I trust I see in you the marks of a son of God, and I earnestly pray that you may have the evidence within that you are born of God.

There is no reason why you should not be baptized. "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest" [Acts 8:37]. Think very seriously of it, for it is a solemn matter. Count the cost. You are now about to be buried to the world, and you may well say, "What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness" [2 Peter 3:11]. The friends who were with you in the days of your carnal pleasure will strive to entice you from Christ; but I pray that the grace of God may be mightily manifest in you, keeping you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

I should like to see you on Thursday evening, after six o’clock, in the vestry.

I am,
Yours faithfully,

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. The Banner of Truth Trust have these excellent volumes in print form.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There Is Hope

A letter from C. H. Spurgeon to T. W. Medhurst. Medhurst had been attending the services at the New Park Street Church where Spurgeon was preaching and soon to officially be the pastor. He had come under conviction of sin and had sent Spurgeon a letter asking if there was hope for him (see previous post). Spurgeon replied most graciously to his letter. The young man was later converted, entered the ministry, was trained at the Pastor's College later established by Spurgeon, and pastored for over 40 years in churches all across Britain. The letter was written July 14, 1854.

Dear Sir,

I am glad that you have been able to write to me and state your feelings. Though my hands are always full, it will ever give me joy to receive such notes as yours.

You ask me a very important question, “Are you one of God’s elect?” Now, this is a question neither you nor I can answer at present, and therefore let it drop. I will ask you an easier one, “Are you a sinner?” Can you say “YES”? All say, “Yes”; but then they do not know what the word “sinner” means.

A sinner is a creature who has broken all his Maker’s commands, despised His Name, and run into rebellion against the Most High. A sinner deserves hell, yea, the hottest place in hell; and if he be saved, it must be entirely by unmerited mercy. Now, if you are such a sinner, I am glad to be able to tell you the only way of salvation, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.”

I think you have not yet really understood what believing means. You are, I trust, really awakened, but you do not see the door yet. I advise you seriously to be much alone, I mean as much as you can; let your groans go up if you cannot pray, attend as many services as possible; and if you go with an earnest desire for a blessing, it will come very soon. But why not believe now? You have only to believe that Jesus is able and willing to save, and then trust yourself to Him.

Harbour not that dark suggestion to forsake the house of God; remember you turn your back on Heaven, and your face to hell, the moment you do that. I pray God that He will keep you. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, He would not have showed you such things as these. If you are but as smoking flax, there is hope. Touch the hem of His garment; look to the brazen serpent.

My dear fellow-sinner, slight not this season of awakening. Up, and be in earnest. It is your soul, your OWN soul, your eternal welfare, your Heaven or your hell, that is at stake.

There is the cross, and a bleeding God-man upon it; look to Him, and be saved! There is the Holy Spirit able to give you every grace. Look, in prayer, to the Sacred Three-one-God, and then you will be delivered.

I am,
Your anxious friend,
Write Again

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Have I Any Room for Hope?

A letter from T. W. Medhurst to C. H. Spurgeon. The young Medhurst had attended a few services at the New Park Street Church to hear the new pastor, who was quite young himself. Spurgeon preached from Hosea 6:3 on a particular Lord's Day evening. Medhurst came under conviction of sin. In trouble of soul, he wrote the pastor a letter, inquiring if there was any hope for him. It was written July 2, 1854 (I will post Spurgeon's reply in the next post).

Dear Sir,

Will you be kind enough candidly to inform me whether I have any room for hope that I belong to the elect family of God, whether Jesus Christ His Son has died for me, while my affections are in the world? I try to pray, but cannot. I make resolutions only to break them. I from time to time listen to you when you speak of the glory set apart for the saints, when you describe their joys and their feelings, but I feel myself as having nothing to do with them. O sir, that Sunday morning when you spoke of the hypocrite, I felt that you described me!

I go to chapel to hear the Word preached, I return home, and make resolutions; I go to work, then out into the world, and forget all until the time for preaching comes again. I read the Bible, but do not feel interested; it seems no more to me than a book I have before read,—dry and insipid. Christ has said that, of all who come to Him, He will not send any away. How am I to come? I feel that I cannot come. I would if I could, but I cannot. At times, I think that I will give it all up, that I will not go to chapel any more; yet when the time comes, I cannot stay away, but feel compelled to go again once more. Do, dear sir, tell me, how am I to find Jesus? How am I to know that He died for me, and that I belong to His family? Dear sir, tell me, am I a hypocrite?

I remain,
Dear sir,
Yours to serve in anxiety,

C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his diary, letters, and records, by his wife and his private secretary, Volume 2, 1854-1860, p. 141f, from the electronic edition by Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Compassion for Others

A portion of a letter written by Bob Jennings, a pastor in Sedalia, Missouri. Pastor Jennings has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He is writing a blog about his experience in this journey toward death. He posted a reply to a letter from an 8 or 9 year old boy about his illness and what he had learned through this great trial. The letter was posted September 8, 2010.

That was very nice of you to write. That is merciful of you; that is compassion. Jesus was very compassionate, as it is written, "He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them…" (Matthew 14:14).

This sickness that I have has helped me see how lacking in compassion I have been. Others have been sick and I did not enter into their difficulty like I should have. I had good health and that was their problem. But we are in a very needy world. How many people are not in good health. Really everybody is sick and will die. So, we want to sincerely reach out to others, especially with God’s message, for, if their soul is ok, then their body will be ok too. My little grandson, Raymond, 7, said, “Grandpa, I know you will feel better in heaven.”

What is the key to serving others? We must be free of selfishness and filled with the living God. God sent His Son for others. That is how the Lord Jesus was. He gave Himself for others.

The Lord bless you, and may He give you a great heart of compassion for others, as it is written, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4).

Bob Jennings Journal,, September 8, 2010.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Our Life Work

A selection from a letter by James Petigru Boyce to his good friend and fellow laborer in the gospel, John A. Broadus. They had labored together in establishing The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. As president of the seminary, Boyce had the immense pressure of raising funds for the school. While on a visit to France, he received a letter from Broadus telling about a gift of $50,000 for the building of a library. Broadus said this "would doubtless encourage you, with reference to your life-work." It was a great encouragement to him and he expressed his gratitude to God in a return letter to Broadus, written October 31, 1888.

Please express to your friend my hearty thanks for this contemplated gift, both personally and officially. I know not what words to use. None could express too strongly my gratitude and thanks. May God reward her, for he alone can do so worthily of her generosity and noble purposes.

God be with you and bless you, my dear friend. No one knows how much I owe you for your help and your influence in the matter of the establishment of what you call my life-work, but which ought to be 'our life work.'

Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by A. T. Robertson, first published in 1901, reprinted by Gano Books, 1987, p. 374.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reading Christian Biographies

A selection from a letter by Rev. Henry Venn, Church of England minister, to Lady Mary Fitzgerald and a group of ladies she met with regularly, who were reading a recently published biography on John Fletcher (1729-1785). Fletcher, an eminent Christian, had been a close friend to John Wesley. Venn had been a friend of Fletcher too. He commended the life of Fletcher to the ladies but cautioned them that Christian biographies often emphasize the excellencies of men and overlook their weaknesses, which must be taken into account. There was only one perfect man, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. The letter was written March 3, 1787.

We are continually taught in Scripture, that there is none without deplorable spots and defects before God—no, not one! While, therefore, we glorify Him in His saints, for their excellent life and conversation, we must not forget, that, however they appear, they are not yet without sin, or less need the Advocate and the propitiation than other men…

… using proper caution, and guarding against the mistakes I have now pointed out, we may read, with great encouragement and profit, how the chief of saints have fought our common enemy, prevailed over the corruptions of nature, adorned their holy profession, and left their name and memory to be a blessing to the Church…

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 580, 585-86.