Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We May Hear the Lion Roar But He Cannot Reach Us

A selection from a letter by Mary Winslow (1774-1854). Joel Beeke says that her letters are "a rich treasury of experiential and practical divinity." Widowed at 40 and left to raise nine children, three of whom became faithful ministers of the gospel, Mrs. Winslow knew God's Word and gave sweet counsel to her many correspondents. She once encouraged her son, Octavius, to fill his sermons with Christ, from first to last. She followed that same practice in writing letters. No date is given for this letter nor is the recipient known, but she warned of Satan's devices and set forth Christ as the only refuge.

Satan will keep us poring over our difficulties until they grow into mountains in our imagination. We have but a very imperfect idea of Satan's power and malice towards us. Our only help is to flee at once to our Stronghold, our Refuge, our Hiding-place, where alone we are safe. Oh, how safe! We may hear the lion roar, but he cannot reach us. Sheltered beneath the wing of Jesus we can defy his malice and his power. What does the Lord try us for but to carry on our spiritual education, and thus mature us for our glorious inheritance above?

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. 253-54.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

He Exhorts His Fellow Sinners

A portion of a letter by James Haldane to his ten year-old daughter, Elizabeth. He and his friend, John Campbell, were away preaching in the northern part of Scotland. He told her about a man that had been converted on a previous trip they had made to the north, who had lost both his hands "by the going off of a gun." This convert was most thankful for the goodness of God in sparing his life that he might come to know Christ. The letter was written June 22, 1805.

He was brought to a knowledge of the truth, by a sermon of Mr. Campbell's, the last time we were north. We did not find him at home, but just as we were setting off, after dinner, he came running to see us, and appears to be very happy in waiting for the coming of Jesus. He occasionally exhorts his fellow-sinners, and sometimes holds out his arms, and calls their attention to the goodness of God, in not allowing him to die when he was ignorant of Christ.

The Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, first published in 1852, reprinted by The Banner of Truth, 1990, p. 349.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Firmer Grip Than Ever

A portion of a letter from Charles Haddon Spurgeon, written to his congregation, four weeks prior to his death. His church was the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England. He was writing from Menton, France, where he had gone to recover from illness. But recovery was not meant to be. He had gone through the valley of the shadow of death just a short while before, but his health was now worse. He wanted his flock to know that the gospel he had preached for over 40 years was still his hope and joy, and should be theirs too. The letter was written January 6, 1892.

I feel my mind grasping with firmer grip than ever that everlasting gospel which for so many years I have preached to you. We have not been deceived. Jesus does give rest to those who come to him, he does save those who trust him, he does photograph his image on those who learn of him. I hate the Christianised infidelity of the modern school more than ever, as I see how it rends away from sinful man his last and only hope. Cling to the gospel of forgiveness through the substitutionary sacrifice, and spread it with all your might, each one of you, for it is the only cure for bleeding hearts.

The Suffering Letters of C. H. Spurgeon, annotations by Hannah Wyncoll, Wakeman Trust, 2007, pp. 118-19.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Wisdom and Love of God in the Crucifixion

A selection from a letter by John Newton to John Ryland, Jr. The elder Newton, an Anglican, corresponded with the younger Ryland, a Baptist, for a period of 40 years. Newton addresses the subject of God's sovereign control over all events in this letter, in particular, the crucifixion of Jesus. Though it was "the worst action that the worst men ever committed," it must be considered as God's appointment and "the brightest display of His glory ever afforded to his creatures." The letter was written March 15, 1794.

But I compose my mind by considering all hearts and all things as instruments of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will [Eph. 1:11], and makes all subservient to the fulfilling it. I think the crucifixion of our Lord, was, taken in one view, the worst action that the worst men ever committed. But instead of scolding Caiaphas, Judas, and Pilate (whose part I should have acted had I been in their places and left to myself), I rather choose to admire the wisdom and love of God in this transaction, which considered as his appointment, was the brightest display of His glory ever afforded to his creatures.

Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letter to John Ryland, Jr., edited by Grant Gordon, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, letter #64, pp. 303-04.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hold Fast That No Man Take Your Crown

A portion of a letter by the Puritan preacher, Joseph Alleine, to his church. Alleine was in prison, being held because he preached without the approval of the crown. Disappointing news had come to him that he would not be freed when hoped. The news, however, was more disappointing for his flock than for him, so he exhorted them not to lose their zeal for the Lord and to remain faithful. His letter was more like a sermon, for he said, "I forget that I am writing a letter." No date is given for the letter but it was written sometime in 1663 or1664.

Now is the time that the love of many doth wax cold. But I bless God it is not so with you; I am sure your love to me is, as true friends should be, like the chimmeys, warmest in the winter of adversity; and I hope your love to God is much more, and I would that you should abound yet more and more.

Where else should you bestow your loves? Love ye the Lord, ye his saints, and cling about him the faster, now ye see the world is striving to separate you from him. How many are they that go to knock off your fingers! O, methinks, I see what tugging there is. The world is plucking, and the devil is plucking. Oh! hold fast, I beseech you; hold fast, that no man take your crown. Let the water that is sprinkled, yea, rather poured upon your love, make it to flame up the more.

Are you not betrothed unto Christ? Oh remember, remember your marriage covenant! Did you not take him "for richer for poorer, for better for worse?" Now prove your love to Christ to have been a true conjugal love, in that you can love him when most slighted, despised, undervalued, blasphemed among men. Now acquit yourselves, not to have followed Christ for the loaves. Now confute the accuser of the brethren, you may be ready to suggest of the best of you, as he did of Job, "Doth he serve the Lord for nought?"  And let it be seen that you loved Christ and holiness, purely for their own sakes; that you can love a naked Christ when there is no hopes of worldly advantage, or promoting of self-interest in following him.

Life and Letters of Joseph Alleine, by Rev. Richard Baxter, Theodosia Alleine, and others, with a new introduction by Joel R. Beeke and Herb Samworth, Reformation Heritage Books, reprinted in 2003, pp. 206-07.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


A selection from a letter by George Whitefield to a friend who had taken a settled pastorate in London. Whitefield knew that God had called him to an itinerant ministry, at least for the present. He shares some of his reasons why and rejoices in the blessing of God on his labors. The letter was written July 13, 1741.

I have no freedom, but in going about to all denominations. I cannot join with any one, so as to be fixed in any particular place. Every one hath his proper gift. Field-preaching is my plan; in this I am carried as on eagles wings. God makes way for me every where. The work of the Lord increases. I am comforted night and day. O free grace to such an hell-deserving sinner!

Letters of George Whitefield for the Period 1734-1742, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, Letter [CCC], p. 277.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Summit of Ambition

A selection from a letter by Andrew Fuller, to Mr. and Mrs. James Chater and Mr. and Mrs. William Robinson, who were following in the train of William Carey, off to do mission work in India. Fuller exhorted each couple regarding their relations to the unconverted, as man and wife, and in regards to one another. He also challenged them to "be very conversant with your Bibles" and to "often think of the dying love of Christ." But above all, he entreated them to focus on Christ. The letter was written April 5, 1806.

My dear Brethren, know nothing but 'Jesus Christ and him crucified' [1 Cor. 2:2]. Be this the summit of your ambition. For you to live must be Christ [Phil. 1:21]. You may never be of that literary consequence which some are; but if you possess a savour of Christ, you will be blessings in your generation; and when you die, your names will be precious, not only in India and Britain, but in the sight of the Lord.

The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, edited and introduced by Michael A. G. Haykin, Joshua Press, p. 209.