Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your Saviour is Leading You

A portion of a letter written to Paul Wolfe by a friend. Paul learned that he had cancer when he was a senior at Westminster Seminary. Paul had surgery and went through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. God spared his life and taught him many lessons along the way. Those lessons are the subject of a book he has written, published by the Banner of Truth, which is a great encouragement to believers who face cancer, or for that matter, who face any life-threatening ailment. The following was written to him by a friend four days after he was diagnosed with cancer. It was written April 27, 1999.

Dear Paul, surely your Saviour is leading you and Christy through the deepest waters, and is asking you both to trust him with your lives. What else can you do, dear friend? This dark providence has consternated us all, and we cry out for you both. But it is only our dear Elder Brother who understands your sufferings, and through them is changing you from one degree of glory to another. We ever look to his mercy.

My God is True: Lessons Learned Along Cancer's Dark Road, Paul D. Wolfe, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, p. 110.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Great Expectation

A portion of a letter written by a former slave, Ambrose Headen, who obtained his freedom after the Civil War. Life had been hard for the slaves but they were able to start a new life. The slaves rejoiced in the freedom they now knew. This letter was written in 1878 and explains some of the struggles of slavery and of the longing for freedom.

During all my slave life I never lost sight of freedom. It was always on my heart; it came to me like a solemn thought, and often circumstances much stimulated the desire to be free and raised great expectation of it...

We always called "freedom" "possum," so as to keep the white people from knowing what we were talking about. We all understood it... and now all my children are good scholars; one is a minister, one has charge of an academy; I have a good house of seven rooms, and eleven acres of land about it, besides a farm of 320 acres in the country.

Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery, by Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith, published by Harcourt Brace and Company, 1998, p. 443.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Earnestly Pray for Brainerd

A selection from a letter by Jonathan Edwards to Rev. Joseph Bellamy. David Brainerd, missionary to the Indians, was convalescing in his home (another preacher, Eleazar Wheelock, was also sick and recuperating at the Edward's house). Edwards hoped and prayed that Brainerd's health would improve but it was not to be. The letter was written May 6, 1747, and Brainerd passed away on October 9. Bellamy was a close friend to both Wheelock and Brainerd.

Mr. Brainerd has lately been at my house with Mr. Wheelock. Mr. Wheelock is very poorly and not able to preach, and so has been for some time; tis' uncertain whether he [will] ever preach more. Mr. Brainerd is far from being so broken in his understanding, as I have heard. He is capable of conversing very agreeably, and praying in the family most admirably. He is now gone to Boston with my daughter Jerusha. She intends to stay in Boston about a fortnight while Mr. Brainerd goes to the eastward, and then he is to return with her hither again.

Mr. Brainerd is a very desirable man indeed; I am glad I have had such an opportunity of acquaintance with him. Physicians speak of the state of his bodily constitution as very dangerous and difficult, and Dr. Mather of this town gives him over, but Dr. Pynchon is not so positive that he will not recover. For my part I cannot but have some hopes of his recovery. I think it is what all that know him should earnestly pray for.

Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, edited by George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 223.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Must Be, A Necessity

A selection from a letter by Augusta Toplady to someone who had asked him some important theological questions. One question was whether God might have saved sinners in some other way than by the sacrifice of His Son. Toplady answered that question clearly and accurately in this letter written December 4, 1772.

As to the second question, “Whether sinners might not have been saved in some other way, than by the incarnation, righteousness, and death of Christ?” I make no scruple to give it as my judgment that there was no other possible way of salvation for the lost sons of Adam. If there had, Infinite Wisdom and Goodness would certainly have fixed upon it, in preference to the sorrows and agonies, the wounds and death of him who had done no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. His own prayer, If it be possible, let this cup (the cup of pain and death) pass from me, would most infallibly have been granted (for the Father heareth him always), and Christ could no more pray than he could bleed in vain, if any thing short of the oblation of himself could have obtained eternal redemption for the people of his love.

Ought not Christ to have suffered these things…? Was there not a must be, a necessity for it? Yes, there was. And, upon any other hypothesis, I see not how it could please the Father to bruise the sinless Messiah and put him to grief, without forfeiting every claim to justice, wisdom, and goodness.

The Works of Augustus Toplady, Bookshelf Publications, reprint from the 1794 edition, p. 835.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Depend Upon His Promises

A selection from a letter by John Newton to Sarah Pearce, on hearing of the death of her husband. Sarah was married to Samuel Pearce, pastor of Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, from 1790 to 1799. He was only 33 years old when he died but he was a tremendous preacher and more importantly, a godly man. Very near his death, Sarah repeated to him the final verse of Newton’s hymn, “Begone, Unbelief.” Grant Gordon says, “Upon hearing of his death, Newton sent his widow a letter of condolence. He identified with her loss as he shared how God had helped him through the painful loss of his spouse. Then he expressed strong words of encouragement filled with scriptural allusions.” Pearce died October 10, 1799. The letter was written in November of that year.

You are a widow, yet not strictly so, for your maker, your redeemer, the Lord of hosts is still your husband… he is unchangeably the same, and because he lives, you shall live also. My friend Ryland informs me that you have five children, but your living husband knows their number and the names of them all. I doubt not but you and your husband, who has lately exchanged earth for heaven and a bed of languishing for a seat near the throne, offered up many prayers for them both jointly and separately. And you know the Lord our God is a hearer of prayer. Has he not said, ‘Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in me’ [Jer. 49:11].

Depend upon his promises, madam, they will bear you up. He has not bid his people seek his face in vain. All hearts and means are in his hands and he could as easily provide for fifty children, if you had so many, as for five, as for one.

Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letter to John Ryland, Jr., edited by Grant Gordon, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, p. 367.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sovereign Disposal

A selection from a letter by Rev. Thomas Boston, to his friend, James Hog. Hog's wife was ill as was Boston's wife. He wrote to remind his friend that the Lord was not absent in the hour of trial and that the hope of glory was sure. The letter was written April 25, 1726.

I understood by yours, that your wife continues in her ordinary tender condition; may it be sanctified by grace to her and to you. The different states of persons, in respect of health and infirmity, is a piece of sovereign disposal, which the afflicted are to reverence and adore. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; and if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. The heaviest burden of affliction is but light in respect of the weight of glory we have in hope; and the affliction that is of such continuance as the party has forgot prosperity, is but for a moment, being compared with the eternity of that weight which faith has the view of.

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, first published in 1899, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1988, p. 501.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Walking by Faith

A selection from a letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854) to a friend. She spoke of a minister who had many needs in providing for his family but who was trusting in the Lord. She then wrote about the importance of living by faith. Not date is given for the letter.

How good it is to walk by faith. I am certain it is the right road to glory; no other would do us equal good. Faith in Jesus brings us countless blessings to the soul, and glory to God the Father. No wonder, then, the Lord tries the little we have, that it may be increased, and that every other grace might grow in proportion. We never should value a throne of grace as we ought to do if our faith was not tried. Jesus is very precious, and I am most graciously permitted in His name to have free access to the heart of God, my Father and your Father.

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. 290-91.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Disease and the Remedy

A portion of a letter by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to a friend of a friend, a person whom he had never met. M’Cheyne bid him to look to Christ. Throughout the letter he called on him to look at particular passages from Scripture. The heart of an evangelist is evident in M’Cheyne’s correspondence. He ended the letter with an appeal; “I pray for you, that you may spiritually see Jesus and be glad—that you may go to Him and find rest.” The letter was written March 20, 1840.

I do not even know your name, but I think I know something of the state of your soul. Your friend has been with me, and told me a little of your mind; and I write a few lines just to bid you look to Jesus and live.

Look at Num. 21:9, and you will see your disease and your remedy. You have been bitten by the great serpent. The poison of sin is through and through your whole heart, but Christ as been lifted up on the cross that you may look and live [Jn 3:14-15]. Now, do not look so long and so harassingly at your own heart and feelings. What will you find there but the bite of the serpent? You were shapen in iniquity, and the whole of your natural life has been spent in sin. The more God opens your eyes, the more you will feel that you are lost in yourself. This is your disease. Now for the remedy.

Look to Christ; for the glorious Son of God so loved lost souls, that He took on Him a body and died for us—bore our curse, and obeyed the law in our place. Look to Him and live. You need no preparation, you need no endeavours, you need no duties, you need no strivings, you only need to look and live.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains, Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1884, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1966, pp. 278-79.