Friday, October 29, 2010

What a Danger

A portion of a letter by Martin Luther to Cardinal Albrecht against the sale of indulgences, one of the biggest money making schemes ever invented by religious men. Forgiveness of sins were promised on the payment of money into the coffers of the Roman Catholic Church. Roland Bainton called the sale of indulgences "the bingo of the sixteenth century." With much grace and humility Luther pleaded for this practice to cease. This letter was written on the same day that Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, October 31, 1517.

The first and only duty of the bishops… is to see that the people learn the gospel and the love of Christ. For on no occasion has Christ ordered that indulgences should be preached, but he forcefully commanded the gospel to be preached. What a horror, what a danger for a bishop to permit the loud noise of indulgences among his people, while the gospel is silenced, and to be more concerned with the sale of indulgences than with the gospel!

Luther's Works, Vol. 48, Letters I, edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Fortress Press, letter # 16, p. 47.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Life of Faith is a Wonderful Life

A letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854). The date the letter was written is not given nor the name of the person to whom she wrote. Her letter is about faith, in particular, the trial of faith. If anyone knew by experience how to walk by faith during difficult times, it was Mary Winslow. At forty years of age, she was widowed and left to raise nine children in her newly adopted country, America. She truly learned to walk by faith in times of suffering. Her counsel is wise and tried.

But you must look above and beyond these earthly disappointments, to Jesus as our only Friend. We only want more faith to ask at His hands what we will, and to be satisfied with what He gives, believing that if more were for our good, our dearest and best Friend would give more.

The life of faith is a wonderful life. Honoured is the Christian who is called to live it. He is trained in this life to know more of himself, and more of the unchanging character, love, and tender, watchful care of his heavenly Father. Has God so loved us as to give His only and well-beloved Son to die for us, and is it probably that He will withhold anything that is absolutely needful for us? The trial of faith is the sure way of increasing it. We ask for more faith, and God tries what we have, and that is His way of answering our prayer for its increase. He brings us into trials, so that we are compelled to look only to Him for help. He knocks from beneath us every human and earthly prop; for (to our shame be it spoken) we are for ever hewing out creature cisterns, and constructing earthly supports, instead of going without ceasing to our sure and faithful Friend for all we need.

I sometimes think it were a greater trial to be rich than to be poor. Of this I am quite sure, that riches to the Christian are a great snare, as well as a great trouble, and entails more anxiety and sorrow than real pleasure and enjoyment. If ever I have wished for affluence, it has been to help others. Yet in so doing, what losers might the objects of my charity be in this experimental acquaintance with the Saviour's love! Why did our all-wise God lead the children of Israel through the wilderness, and feed them day by day with manna from heaven and water from the rock, but to shew them what was in them, and what was in Him?

And so He feeds and cares for His sheep now. He is unchanged and unchangeable. He took care of Elisha, and He takes care of us; so let us be of good courage, and trust fully in the Lord our God.

Heaven Opened: A Selection from the Correspondence of Mrs. Mary Winslow, edited by her son, Octavius Winslow, 1864, reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books, 2001, pp. 222-223 (the letter has been broken up into paragraphs in order to make it more readable).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Make the Grip Stronger

A portion of a letter from Samuel Rutherford to Lady Boyd, a frequent correspondent. His letter directs her to be strong in the midst of trials and exercise faith in "a smiting Redeemer." A time of trial for a believer is an occasion to cleave to the Lord. The letter was written October 15, 1640.

What is wrath to others is mercy to you and your house. It is faith’s work to claim and challenge loving–kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God…

And, since you will not alter upon Him who will not change upon you, I do in my weakness, think myself no spiritual seer if I should not prophesy that daylight is near, when such a morning darkness is upon you; and that this trial of your Christian mind towards Him (whom you dare not leave, nevertheless He should slay you) shall close with a doubled mercy. It is time for faith to hold fast as much of Christ as ever you had, and to make the grip stronger, and to cleave closer to Him, seeing Christ loveth to be believed in and trusted to. The glory of laying strength upon one that is mighty to save is more than we can think.

That piece of service, believing in a smiting Redeemer, is a precious part of obedience. Oh what glory to Him to lay over the burden of our heaven upon Him that purchased for us an eternal kingdom! O blessed soul, who can adore and kiss His lovely free grace!

Letters of Spiritual Counsel: Taken from Samuel Rutherford's Letters (electronic edition), Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flee From Idolatry

An extract from a letter by Ruth Bryan (1805-1860) to a woman she had become acquainted with and to whom she wrote letters to till her death. Her letters were most profitable to the recipient and to many others who have read them since. Miss Bryan always sounded an encouraging note to her correspondents. The encouraging note in this letter included a word about consecrating children to the Lord and not letting them become idols. The letter was written May, 1854.

The Lord bless you, and be not silent to you, and keep you from idols. May your children be kept in their proper place, blessed of the Lord, held in the Lord, and consecrated to the Lord. You will not wish to gain for them the admiration of the world, because you would shudder that they should hereafter be embraced by it, and embosomed in it. A mother in this vicinity lately lost a precious daughter of sixteen. As she stood over the coffin, she said, 'There lies my beautiful girl. Oh, I have been proud of her!' and, turning to a minister who stood beside, 'Do you think, sir, the Lord has taken her away on my account, because I was proud of her? I have been too proud of her.' I do not know the minister's reply, but that which we are to learn from the mother's deep anguish is very plain—'Flee from idolatry' [1 Cor. 10:14].

The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ: Letters of Ruth Bryan, with a Preface by the Rev. A. Moody Stuart, Reformation Heritage Books, 2005, p. 55.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Is Enough That I Live And Die With Christ

This is the last letter written by John Calvin. It was written to his longtime friend, William Farel. Calvin died May 27, 1564, age 55. Farel died the next year, September 13, 1565, age 76. After Calvin's death, Farel wrote a friend, "Oh why was I not taken away in his stead, and he preserved to the church which he has so well served, and in combats harder than death? He has done more and with greater promptitude than any one, surpassing not only the others but himself. Oh, how happily he has run a noble race! May the Lord grant that we run like him, and according to the measure of grace that has been dealt out to us." Calvin's letter is a moving testimony of his gratitude to God for his friend and a deep expression of his own personal devotion to Christ. It was written from Geneva, May 2, 1564.

Farewell, my most excellent and upright brother; and since it is the will of God that you should survive me in the world, live mindful of our intimacy, which, as it was useful to the church of God, so the fruits of it await us in heaven. I am unwilling that you should fatigue yourself for my sake. I draw my breath with difficulty, and every moment I am in expectation of breathing my last. It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all his followers a gain both in life and death. Again I bid you and your brethren Farewell.

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. 7, p. 364.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy in Living and Blessed in Dying

A portion of a letter from Robert Murray McCheyne to a female acquaintance about the state of her soul. Six letters that McCheyne wrote her were published. They are model evangelistic letters of a believer concerned for an unbeliever. This paragraph comes from the fourth letter and was written December 1841.

Now, will you come, for all things are ready? Are you now saying in your heart, I cannot but believe I am the chief of sinners, and Jesus offers to be my refuge, my Mediator, my all in all; I feel He is precious? Oh! dear friend, I trust you do. This only will make you happy in living, and blessed in dying. This is a poor, dying world. Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. There is no part here that death cannot take from us. But if you have Christ, you have the only imperishable portion! Oh, may the Holy Spirit give you a firm hold of Jesus! Then we shall meet in that sweet place, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. The Lord deal kindly and gently with you, both soul and body. Farewell, dear friend.

Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne, A. A. Bonar, electronic edition, Logos, p. 118. The book is also published by Banner of Truth Trust.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Daily Questions

A portion of a letter from George Whitefield to James Habersham, the man in charge of the Orphanage in Savannah, Georgia that Whitefield helped to establish and raised funds to support. He gave thanks for the sovereign love of Christ and exhorted his friend to join him in living fully to the Lord. The letter was written February 18, 1741.

O the sovereign love of Christ in choosing me! My dear friend, let us study to be holy even as he is holy, and walk even as he also walked. Let these be your daily questions, 'Am I more like Christ? Am I more meek and patient? Does my practice correspond with my knowledge, and am I a light to enlighten and enflame all that are around me?'

Letters of George Whitefield: For the Period 1734-1742, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, reprinted from The Works of George Whitefield, 1771, pp. 247-48.