The Christian Letter Project at ThingsAbove is about exposing our readers to one of the greatest traditions in our Christian history: writing letters! It is our goal to publish one each Monday. We are not endorsing everything found in each of these letters nor every doctrine held by those who wrote the letters. We hope these serve as a source of Christian encouragement and perhaps even a motivation to be a letter writer yourself. To save time and space we do not include biographical information about the letter writers, but entrust the research to you. The source for each letter is linked at the bottom. If you have questions, please comment below or contact us. To receive our blog posts in your email inbox, sign up on the sidebar.
EDINBURGH, February 6, 1839
To all of you, my dear flock, who have chosen the good part which cannot be taken away, your pastor wishes grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The sweet singer of Israel begins one of his psalms with these remarkable words: “I will sing of mercy and judgment; unto Thee, O God, will I sing.” This is the experience of all God’s servants in time of trouble. Even in the wildest storms the sky is not all dark; and so in the darkest dealings of God with his children, there are always some bright 183 tokens for good. His way with us of late has been “in the sea, and his path in the deep waters.” Yet some of you may have felt that his own hand was leading us like a flock. Ps. 77:19, 20. One great token of his loving-kindness has been the way in which He has supplied the absence of your stated minister.
Ordained messengers, men of faith and prayer, have spoken to you from Sabbath to Sabbath in the name of the Lord. Awakening, inviting, comforting messages you have had; and even your meetings on Thursday evenings He has continued to you; the gates of the house of prayer, like the gates of the city of refuge, have been as open to you as ever, inviting you to enter in and behold by faith what Jacob saw in Bethel, “the ladder set on earth, and the top of it reaching into heaven,” inviting you to meet with Him with whom Jacob wrestled till the breaking of the day. Think how often, in tim 184 wrestling prayer, that the temple of God is to be built in our parishes. I have hanged my harp upon the willow, and am no more allowed “to open to you dark sayings upon the harp,” nor “to speak of the things which I have made touching the King,” who is “fairer than the children of men.” Still my soul does not dwell in silence. I am permitted to go in secret to God my exceeding joy; and, while meditating his praise, I can make mention of you all in my prayers, and give thanks for the little flock, who, “by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality.” “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
I feel it is another gift of grace that I am suffered to write to you. You remember how often the apostles cheered and strengthened the disciples, when absent from them, by writing to them. What a precious legacy of the church in all ages have these epistles been! every verse like a branch of the Tree of Life, bearing all manner of fruit, and the leaves for the healing of the nation. You remember how holy Samuel Rutherford, and many of our persecuted forefathers in the Church of Scotland, kept the flame of grace alive in their deserted parishes by sending them words of counsel, warning, and encouragement, testifying, not face to face, but with ink and pen, the gospel of the grace of God. I do feel it a great privilege that this door is open to me, and that, even when absent, I can yet speak to you of the things pertaining to the kingdom. “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance; yea, I think it meet, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.”
I. Abide in Him, little children, whom I have always preached unto you, that when He shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at his coming. Let every new sight of your wicked heart, and every new wave of trouble, drive your soul to hide in Him, the Rock of your salvation.There is no true peace but in a present hold of the Lord our Righteousness. II. Enjoy the forgiveness of sins—keep yourselves in the love of God. If you abide in Christ, you shall abide in his love: your joy let no man take from you. “These things write we unto you that your joy may be full.”
III. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. “He that (saith He) abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” Ah, how many falls will I have to mourn over when I return, if God send me back to you,—how many unseemly quarrellings and miscarriages among you, that are God’s own,—how many unlovely tempers among those who follow Him who is altogether lovely! Oh take heed, do not give the enemy cause to blaspheme; naming the name of Christ, depart from all iniquity.
IV. Continue in prayer. How many messages have been carried to you publicly and from house to house, and yet how little success! I bless God for all the tokens He has given us, that the Spirit of God has not departed from the Church of Scotland—that the glory is still in the midst of her. Still the Spirit has never yet been shed on us abundantly. The many absentees on the forenoon of the Sabbaths—the thin meetings on Thursday evenings—the absence of men from all meetings for the worship of God—the few private prayer-meetings—the little love and union among Christians—all show that the plentiful rain has not yet fallen to refresh our corner of the heritage. Why is this? This is the day of Christ’s power—why are the people not made willing? Let James give the answer: “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Finally, dear brethren, farewell. Day and night I long to come to you, but still God hinders me. Do not omit to praise Him for all the great grace He has mingled in our cup of bitterness. “Seven times a day do I praise Thee because of thy righteous judgments.” When passing through the waters He has been with us, and in the rivers they have not overflowed us; and, therefore, we may be sure that when we pass through the fire we shall not be burned, neither shall the flames kindle upon us. Now, may the God of peace himself give you peace always, by all means, and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits. Amen.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne