Valuing our ‘graces’
Recently when clearing out old church magazines I could not resist keeping just a few of the pastoral letters of beloved Mr Still of Aberdeen. They said things that are so life-giving and worth hearing again.
There are ministers who know what’s wrong with you; Mr Still knew what was right with you. That’s why to talk with him was such a healing experience.
Here is the letter from November 1996. The core of it is taken from a sermon by Christopher Love 1618-51, a Presbyterian minister (good man!) in London. Mr Still’s letter started with the quotation:
‘Look not so much on your sins, but look upon your grace also, though weak. Weak Christians look more on their sins than on their grace; yet God looks on their graces and overlooks their sins and infirmities. The Holy Ghost said ’you have heard of the patience of Job.‘ He might also have said, ’you have heard of the impatience of Job‘; but God reckons his people not by what is bad in them, but by what is good in them. Mention is made of Rahab’s entertainment of the spies, but no mention is made that she told a lie when she did so. That which was well done was mentioned to her praise, and what was amiss is buried in silence, or at least, is not recorded against her and charged upon her . . . O it is good to serve such a Master, who is ready to reward the good we do, and is ready to forgive and pass by what is amiss. Therefore, you who have but little grace, yet remember that God will have his eye on that little grace. He will not quench the smoking flax nor break the bruised reed.’
Mr Still went on: 'I fear we may be suspicious of that! And if so, is it not because we are more preoccupied with sin than with grace? This negative, lugubrious spirit is what has marred godliness in the Highlands of our land for generations, a preoccupation with sins and not with God’s super-abundant grace.
'It is a pity, isn’t it? Because instead of enjoying God’s grace and walking tall and straight with him in the light of his love, we are for ever groping among the shallows and dirt of our former selves and beating our breasts, when we should be swelling them with pride and joy that we have such a positive and gracious Saviour.
‘Of course we are sinners, in constant need of forgiveness, but we have it, when we are contrite, and our dear Lord is far readier to say to us, ’It’s all behind me and should be behind you too, if you want to enjoy my company. I do not want to be for ever preoccupied with sin. I have done all that was necessary about that by my Son on the cross. That’s past and done with. Let us go on to explore the worlds of grace which are before us, and let us enjoy them!
Yours sincerely, William Still.'
I reproduce that letter because I think some of us could usefully think more kindly, indeed highly, of ourselves than sometimes we do. Once we have learnt to, we shall be more at peace and find ourselves easier to live with. Others might find the same! And we shall be better at extending to others the grace in which we ourselves are learning to rest. Don’t you think?
C Peter WhiteView All Letters