Thursday, December 30, 2010

From Israel, Happy New Year 2011 . . . from USA, uncommon New Year 1824 with James Brainerd Taylor

From Jerusalem, Israel, Happy New Year from Uncommon Christian Ministries.

May your 2011 be filled with the joy and peace that only the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Lord Jesus Christ, can give.

As a means of inspiration and encouragement to use this annual time for healthy self-examination--spiritual and otherwise--below are excerpts from the personal writings of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829). The "uncommon Christian" American evangelist wrote in his journal on December 31, 1823:

Looking at my record made one year ago this evening, I find my testimony to the Lord's goodness the year just then ending, and an invocation for the continuance not only, but for an increase of his favor and love, during the succeeding year. My prayer has been heard. Great and glorious things have been done for my soul, in secret with my God; and of all men I am under the strongest bonds of gratitude, of love, and of praise to him in return.

Why may I not expect greater things the coming year? "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day" [Proverbs 4:18].
Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, whose I am, thine would I be. To thee, through the beloved [the Lord Jesus Christ], I renewedly and solemnly engage my love and obedience. O keep me--save me from all evil [Matthew 6:13]--and bless me abundantly, more than I can ask or think [Ephesian 3:20]; all things are possible with thee [Philippians 4:13].

And in his journal on January 1, 1824, the cousin of the famed missionary David Brainerd (1718-1747) wrote the following "short but expressive notice" while a first-year student at Princeton University:

The Lord has indeed given me a happy beginning of a new year. At evening devotion, had a blessing so rich and full that there seemed a want of room to receive it. Carry on, carry on thy glorious work, O my God, and make me more like Jesus.

For further reflection, here is part of Taylor's annual New Year's letter (1824) to his family in Middle Haddam, Connecticut. The letter is "full of affection, filial and fraternal" and is "strongly expressive of gratitude and piety towards the Giver of every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17).

Reviewing the past year, many things which awaken pleasing reflections rise to my recollection. No period of my life has been marked with clearer indications of the Lord's goodness to his unworthy servant. . . .

As to religious enjoyment, no year has witnessed such displays of divine love. And I may humbly and joyfully say, I have grown in grace [2 Peter 3:18]. My trials have been few, and have all worked for good [Romans 8:28]; my temptations many, but in heaven's armor I have overcome [Ephesians 6:13]. . . .

To look forward a year! It is a precious--an invaluable--period of time. Thus, more than we do,  the ransomed of the Lord, and the spirits of the lost view it. O that we may be wise, to make the most of the year that is before us! What new plans, then, for doing good can we devise [Galatians 6:10]? Or how can we improve those already adopted? Why should we not strive, as individuals, to make our influence to be felt all over the earth [Acts 1:8]? The Lord help us to labor faithfully. And this we should do, not merely from a sense of duty, as obligatory upon all, but as binding upon each, and that too now, as we know not but, ere the close of 1824, we may be summoned hence. Has not heaven something for us to do; something to make known for the good of mankind through us? Let us pray over this interrogatory until we are satisfied.

What is before us as a family, and as individuals, we know not; but to Him who hath brought us hitherto, all is plain [Psalm 139:16]. Concerning this we should not be anxious [Philippians 4:6-7]; for, "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right" [Genesis 18:25]?

As for myself, I feel that the seeds of mortality have taken deep root within me, and I am frequently reminded of my latter end. But does this alarm me? No; for every evidence of the approach of the messenger, death, I have cause to rejoice, rather than to be terrified. It is a sweet exercise to pass the valley, in imagination, and look beyond, upon the pearly gates. Faith enters within the city, and walks the golden streets [Revelation 21:21].

"O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near, and like my God!"

Excerpts taken from:
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 178-82. Memoir viewable online via Google Books. Click here to read. 

Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by James' younger brother Fitch W. Taylor.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas from Israel . . . "looking unto Jesus" with James Brainerd Taylor and Hebrews 12:2, Christmas 1823

From the land of the Bethlehem-born Jesus, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a Christ-focused and joyful MerrChristmas.

With tourism currently booming, over 90,000 tourists and pilgrims are expected to visit Israel during the Christmas season.

May the below Christmas 2010 meditation inspire us to likewise be "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) with the same uncommon focus and intensity as the "uncommon Christian" James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829).

Written the day prior to Christmas Eve, below is a portion of a December 23, 1823, letter from the evangelist Taylor to his "aged clerical friend" and mentor, Frederick William Hotchkiss (1762-1844). At the time, the then 22-year-old "uncommon Christian" was a first-year student at Princeton University, and the Yale-educated Hotchkiss was the long-time pastor (1783-1844) of the First Congregational Church in Saybrook, Connecticut.

This evening my mind has been led to look to Jesus, as the apostle says, 'Looking unto Jesus.' I was thus led, more particularly, because tomorrow [Sunday] is to be our communion season [the Lord's Supper].
'Looking unto Jesus.' Before the world was, he dwelt with the Father. And, O what glory and delight he must have had from all eternity! We may look unto him as God, by whom the worlds were made [John 1:3, 10]. But had he need of worlds? What do they add to his infinite, underived, eternal glory? For whom, but for man, was this fair fabric formed, and lighted up, and adorned so richly? Upon God's equal we may gaze with wonder, and adore his condescension. O what pity touched his sympathizing soul! What the might of that love which brought him down! Well might the plains of Bethlehem resound with glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good will to men [Luke 2:14]. And well may we join the heavenly host in praising God; for unto us a Savior was born, who is Christ the Lord [Luke 2:11].
'O for this love, let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break.'
Let us look to Jesus during his state of humiliation, for from the manger to the cross he was preparing the way to bring many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:10]. O the contradictions he met from sinners! What temptations in the wilderness! What agony in the garden! But the wonders of the cross! It is here our hopes center. For the hope which the cross inspired, the primitive Christians were ready to suffer; nay, did suffer and die. However opposed, they preached its doctrines, and said, 'God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' [Galatians 6:14].
Extending our view beyond the cross, we may profitably look upon him whom we have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], as arising from the dead. 'He rose again for our justification' [Romans 4:25]. What joy his disciples felt when their eyes once more beheld their Lord, whom the Jews had crucified and slain! But he was soon to leave them, and triumphantly ascend up where he was before.
Thither our forerunner hath entered--our captain has led the way; and now we may look unto him at the right hand of the Majesty on high. By faith, too, we may look at the mansions he hath prepared [John 14:2]. But what is faith's vision? It is indeed a blessed reality; 'it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen' [Hebrews 11:1]. But we want more, and more we shall have. Not through a glass darkly shall we see him, but face to face--see him as he is [1 Corinthians 13:12]. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' [Luke 12:32].
Do we want stronger faith? To Jesus must we look, who is the author and finisher of faith [Hebrews 12:2]; and pray, as by example we are taught, 'Lord increase our faith' [Luke 17:5]. Would we be what God would have us to be, what do we need but to be conformed to the image of his dear Son [Romans 8:29]? And how shall this be effected but by looking continually unto Jesus?
Are we ignorant? He is our Prophet. Are we sinners? He is present to plead our cause--a Priest whom the Father heareth always, and whose blood cleanseth from all sin. Would we have all things brought into complete subjection to his law? As King, he is on the holy hill of Zion. Where is such an example of patience under suffering? And he knows how to succor them that are tempted. In doing the will of his heavenly Father, how assiduously and perseveringly did he accomplish his work!
What we find to do, may we do it with our might [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. The more steadily we look to Jesus, the faster we shall run, the higher will be our attainments, the happier we shall be, and the more we shall honor God.

Taken from:
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 172-77. Memoir viewable online and at no cost via Google Books. Click here to read. 

Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by James' younger brother Fitch W. Taylor.