1st Pastoral letter. - View of what God has done,—how it should affect them. - Edinburgh, January 30, 1839.

1st Pastoral letter. - View of what God has done,—how it should affect them. - Edinburgh, January 30, 1839.

O all of you, my dear friends and people, who are beloved of God, and faithful in Christ Jesus, your pastor wishes grace and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. [25]

As several of you have expressed a desire to hear from me, and as He who at first sent me to you to bear witness of the Lord Jesus has for many weeks withdrawn me, and still lays His afflicting but gentle hand on me, it has seemed good to me, not without prayer, to write to you from week to week a short word of exhortation. May the Holy Spirit guide the pen, that what is written may be blessed to your comfort and growth in grace!

God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ; and the walls of my chamber can bear witness how often the silent watches of the night have been filled up with entreaties to the Lord for you all. I can truly say with John, "that I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth; "and though many of you were in Christ before me, and were living branches of the true vine before I was sent into the vineyard, yet believe me it is true of you also, I have no greater joy than to know that you are more and more filled with the Holy Ghost, and bear more and more fruit to the glory of God the Father. "Herein is the Father glorified, that you bear much fruit." You remember what Paul, when he was a prisoner of the Lord, wrote to the Philippians (Philippians 1:12): "I would that ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." I am very anxious that you and I should understand the very same, in the things which have happened unto me, that we may vindicate God in all His dealings with us, and "not despise the chastening of the Lord." I know too well that there are many amongst you who would feel it no grievance if all the Lord's ministers were taken out of the way. Ah, how many

First, With respect to myself. It does not become me here to show what benefit it may be to me. Suffice it to say that it has been a precious opportunity in which to reflect on the sins and imperfections of my ministry among you. A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man. Let it be your prayer that I may come out like gold, that the tin may be taken away, and that I may come back to you, if that be the will of God, a better man, and a more devoted minister. I have much to learn, and these words of David have been often in my heart and on my lips: "I know that Thy judgements are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me "(Psalm 119:75). Ministers are God's tools for building up the gospel temple. Now you know well that every wise workman takes his tools away from the work from time to time, that they may be ground and sharpened; so does the only wise Jehovah take His ministers oftentimes away into darkness and loneliness and trouble, that He may sharpen and prepare them for harder work in His service. Pray that it may be so with your own pastor.

Second, With regard to you, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, this time of trial is for your furtherance. Does not God teach you, by means of it, to look beyond man to the Saviour, who abideth ever? Is not God showing you that ministers are earthen vessels, easily broken, and fit only to be cast aside like a broken pitcher out of mind? Is He not bidding you look more to the treasure which was in them, and which flows in all its fullness from Christ? It is a sad error into which I see many Christians falling, that of leaning upon man, mistaking friendship towards a minister for faith on the Son of God.

Remember that before Moses was sent to deliver Israel, his hand was made leprous, as white as snow, to teach them that it was not the might of that hand that could deliver Israel (Exodus 4:6-7). It has been the fault of some of you to lean too much on man. Now God is teaching you that, though the cistern may break, the fountain abides as open and full and free as ever—that it is not from sitting under any particular ministry that you are to get nourishment, but from being vitally united to Christ. Ministers "are not suffered to continue by reason of death, but Christ, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Hebrews 7:23).

Third, With regard to those among you who are almost, but not altogether, persuaded to be Christians, does not this providence teach you to make sure of an interest in Christ without delay? You thought you would have the Saviour held up to you for an indefinite number of Sabbaths, little thinking that your Sabbaths and mine are all numbered. Many a time you have said to me in your heart, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season, I will call for thee." You did riot think that a time might come when you may call for your teachers, and they be silent as the grave.
I find many godly people here are looking forward to a time when God's faithful witnesses shall be put to silence, and anxious souls shall wander from sea to sea, seeking the word of God, and shall not find it. Be entreated, O wavering souls, to settle the question of your salvation now. Why halt ye between two opinions? It is most unreasonable to be undecided about the things of an endless eternity, in such a world as this, with such frail bodies, with such a Saviour stretching out His hand, and such a Spirit of love striving with you. Remember you are flesh—you will soon hear your last sermon. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have put before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose, life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Fourth, There is another class who are not of you, and yet are on every hand of you, "of whom I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose god is their belly, who glory in their shame, who mind earthly things." Ah 1 you would not believe if I were to tell you the great heaviness and continual sorrow that I have in my heart for you, and yet I hope my absence may be blessed even to you. Just think for a moment, if God were to remove your teachers one by one—if He were to suffer the Church of our covenanted fathers to fall before the hands of her enemies—if He were to suffer Popery again to spread its dark and deadly shade over the land, where would you be?—you that despise the Sabbath, that care little for the preached word you that have no prayer in your families, and seldom in your closets—you that are lovers of pleasure you that wallow in sin! You would have your wish then: you would have your silent Sabbaths indeed—no warning voice to cry after you—no praying people to pray for you —none to check you in your career of wickedness—none to beseech you not to perish. Learn from so small a circumstance as the absence of your stated minister what may be in store for you, and flee now from the wrath to come.

"It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger "(Zephaniah 2:3).

Finally, My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, abide all the more in Christ because of my absence, and maintain a closer walk with God, that when I return, as God gives me good hopes now of doing, I may rejoice to see what great things God has done for your souls. God feeds the wild-flowers on the lonely mountain side, without the help of man, and they are as fresh and lovely as those that are daily watched over in our gardens. So God can feed His own planted ones without the help of man, by the sweetly falling dew of His Spirit. How I long to see you walking in holy communion with God, in love to the brethren, and burning zeal for the cause of God in the world! I will never rest, nor give God rest, till He make you a lamp that burneth—a city set upon a hill that cannot be bid. Now strive together with me, in your prayers to God for me, that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.



[25] He had begun to correct a copy of these Pastoral Letters for publication, at the earnest request of some of his friends. The few corrections made are all inserted. The chief alterations are in the fourth of the Pastoral Letters. He had got no further than the seventh. are there who would rejoice if they were for ever left to sin unreproved, and to do what was right in their own eyes! Still I am quite sure that to you, "who have obtained like precious faith with us,"—to you, who are the Lord's people, the present is a season of affliction, and you feel, as Naomi felt, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against us. My present object in writing to you is shortly to persuade you that "it is well,"—"the Lord doeth all things well,"—and that it may be really for the furtherance of the gospel among you. In many ways may this be the case.
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