From the Prime Minister to the Preacher

10 Downing Street

June 18, 1884

My Dear Sir,

I cannot avoid writing a line to offer you my hearty congratulations upon the approach of a day full of interest to many who stand beyond the circle, wide as it is, of your immediate hearers, followers, and denominational brethren.

I believe that both you and I belong to the number of those who think that all convictions, once formed, ought to be stoutly maintained, and who would, therefore, be called strong denominationalists.

But, without prejudice to this persuasion and outside the points by which our positions are marked off, there happily abides a vast inheritance of truth which we enjoy in common and which, in its central essence, forms, as I rejoice to think, the basis of the faith of Christendom.  I, therefore, ask to unite my voice with the voices of thousands in acknowledging the singular power with which you have so long testified before the world “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,” and the splendid uprightness of public character and conduct, which have, I believe, contributed, perhaps equally with your eloquence and mental gifts, to win for you so wide an admiration.

[Very Sincerely Yours,]

William Gladstone

From: Correspondence on Church and Religion of William Ewart Gladstone, selected and arranged by D. C. Lathbury; 2 volumes (London: John Murray, 1910), 2:324.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the recipient of this letter, was the most famous preacher in England.  The letter was written to mark the occasion of Spurgeon’s 50th birthday (the next day).

William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), politician and statesman, was four times Prime Minister of Great Britain (1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894).

Matthew Henry (10)

. . .heaven. . .a state of blessedness which even the Old Testament saints had some expectation of.  Godly parents have great reason to hope concerning their children who die in infancy, that it is well with their souls in the other world, for the promise is to us and to our seed, which shall be performed to those who do not put a bar in their own door, as infants do not.  Favors received should produce the hope of more.  God calls those His children who are born to Him and, if they be His, He will save them.  This may comfort us when our children are removed from us by death.  They are better provided for, both in work and wealth, than they could have been in this world.  We shall be with them shortly, to part no more. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on 2 Samuel 12.15-25.

God is Our Shield

There will be times when troubles come from every side.  But God proves to be our shield, very strong, always ready at hand, and surrounding us in His protecting love.  We must never sink into despair.  Prayer is absolutely vital.  In His sovereignty, God is prepared to respond to prayer and work on our behalf.  Committing everything into God’s hands, we may rest, assured that He will grant both help and peace.  Remembering former deliverances, we will find courage to face the unknown future.  He is the same as ever He was.  We go forward, feeling there is much we do not know.  But, one thing is sure: “Your blessing is upon Your people” (verse 8).

How has God proven to be your help and peace?

From: Family Worship Bible Guide, Joel R. Beeke, general editor (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2016), p. 349 (first of two comments on Psalm 3).

Rome and the Spread of Christianity

Nor is western civilization conceivable without the existence of the Roman church.  From the very beginning of Christianity, the Roman empire made physically possible the rapid propagation of the Christian message.  This was realized and admitted by some early Christians, who themselves saw, in the peace and the security of the Empire, an act of divine providence.  The empire provided the incentive and the opportunity for them to organize and centralize the new faith.

As early as the second century AD, the bishops of Rome were being recognized as the successors to Saint Peter and [as] the heirs of his apostolic primacy.  But, in addition to this, the very fact that the Roman church was situated in the capital of the empire gave it a universal character and an authority which the other great Christian communities could not hope to attain.  The road was opened which, eventually, led to the papacy.

From: Rome in the Augustan Age by Henry Thompson Rowell; The Centers of Civilization Series, Volume 5 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), pp. 230-231.

Receiving the Bible’s True Doctrine

Let us learn to be inflamed with such zeal to profit in the holy Scriptures as we may preserve the doctrine that is contained there before all our own fancies, and before all the vanities of this world that carry us away. – John Calvin (1509-1564), from his sermons on the Book of Job.

For the Lord’s Day (485)

Then their father, Israel, said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags and carry a present down to the man – a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.  Take double the money with you.  Carry back the money that was returned in the mouths of your sacks.  Perhaps it was an oversight.  Take, also, your brother and rise, go again to the man.  May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.  And, as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”  (Genesis 43.11-14)

Matthew Henry (9)

[Hannah] overlooks the gift and praises the giver, whereas most forget the giver and fasten only on the gift.  Every stream should lead us to the fountain, and the favors we receive from God should raise our admiration of the infinite perfections there are in God.  There may be other Samuels, but no other Jehovah. . .God is to be praised as a peerless being, and of unparalleled perfection. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on 1 Samuel 2.1-10.