For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
~ Hebrews 3:14
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
~ Hebrews 6:19
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
~ Colossians 2:5, Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 2:7
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
~ Hebrews 12:14
Letter of John Owen to The Church Meeting in Leadenhall Street, London 1
Beloved in the Lord,
Mercy, grace and peace be multiplied to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, by the communication of the Holy Ghost. I thought and hoped that by this time I might have been present with you, according unto my desire and resolution; but it hath pleased our holy and gracious Father otherwise to dispose of me, at least for a season. The continuance of my painfull infirmities and the increase of my weaknesses will not allow me at present to hope that I should be able to bear the journey. How great an exercise this is to me, considering the season, he knows, to whose will I would in all things cheerfully submit my selfe.
But although I am absent from you in body, I am in mind, affection and spirit present with you, and in your assemblies; for I hope you will be found my crown and rejoicing in the day of the Lord: and my prayer for you night and day is, that you may stand fast in the whole will of God, and maintain the beginning of your confidence without wavering, firm unto the end. I know it is needless for me at this distance to write to you about what concerns you in point of duty at this season, that work being well supplied by my brother in the ministry; yet give me leave, out of my abundant affections towards you, to bring some few things to your remembrance as my weakness will permitt.
And in the first place, I pray God it may be fixed and rooted in our minds, that the shame and loss we may undergo for the sake of Christ and the profession of the Gospel, is the greatest honour which, in this life, we can be made partakers of. Hence it is reckoned to the Philippians in a peculiar manner, that it was given unto them, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him; That it is far more honourable to suffer with Christ than to reigne with the greatest of his enemies. If this be fixed by faith in our minds, it will tend greatly to our encouragement. I mention these things only, as knowing that they are more at large pressed on you.
And secondly, the next thing I would recommend unto you at this season is the increase of mutual love among your selves. For every trial of our faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ is also a trial of our love towards the brethren. This is that which the Lord Christ expects from us, namely, that when the hatred of the world doth openly manifest and act it selfe against us all, we should evidence an active love among ourselves. If there have been any decays, any coldness herein, if they are not recovered and healed in such a season, it can never be expected. I pray God therefore that your mutual love may abound more and more in all the effects and fruits of it towards the whole society and every member thereof. You may justly measure the fruit of your present trial by the increase of this grace amongst you: in particular have a due regard to the weak and tempted that ‘that which is lame may not be turned out of the way, but rather let it be healed’.
Furthermore, brethren, I beseech you to heare a word of advice in case the persecution increases, which it is like to do for a season. I could wish that because you have no ruling elders, and your teachers cannot wall about publickly with safety, that you would appoint some among your selves, who may continually as their occasions will admit, goe up and down from house to house and apply themselves peculiarly unto the weake, the tempted, the fearful, those who are ready to despond, or to halt, and to encourage them in the Lord. Choose out those unto this end who are endued with a spirit of courage and fortitude; and let them know that they are happy whom Christ will honour with his blessed work. And I desire the persons may be of this number who are faithfull men, and know the state of the church; by this means you will know what is the frame of the members of the church, which will be a great direction to you, even is your prayers.
Watch now, brethren, that if it be the will of God, not one soul may be lost from under your care. Let not one be overlooked or neglected. Consider all their conditions, and apply your selves to all their circumstances.
Finally brethren that I be not at present further troublesome to you, examine your selves, as to your spirituall benefit which you have received or do receive, by your present fears and dangers, which will alone give you the true measure of your condition. For if this tends to the exercise of your faith and love and holiness, if this increases your valuation of the privileges of the gospel, it will be an undoubted token of the blessed issue which the Lord Christ will give unto your troubles.
Pray for me as you do, and do it the rather, that if it be the will of God, I may be restored to you. And if not, that a blessed entrance may be given to me into the kingdome of God and glory. Salute all the church in my name. I take the boldness in the Lord to subscribe my selfe,
Your unworthy pastor and your servant for Jesus sake,
I humbly desire you would remember in your prayers the family where I am 2; from whom I have received and do receive great Christian kindness. I may say as the Apostle of Onesiphorus: the Lord give unto them that they may find mercy of the Lord in that day; for they have often refreshed me in my great distress.
1 ‘Owen MS. Letters’. This was the church of which he was pastor. In the later part of his life he was helped by several assistant ministers.
2 He was staying at Wooburn as a guest of Philip Lord Wharton.