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.

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