Archive for October, 2008

General Charles Gordon: Selected Thoughts

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Charles Gordon’s letters to his sisters are considered by some to be the among the most devotional letters ever written. The BBC described him briefly as follows: “British general Charles Gordon became a national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defence of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels.” He was also a great Christian, as evidenced in the letters he sent home to his sister.  Here are some of his life-changing thoughts on a variety of subjects:

On Envy and Backbiting:
“I can say for my part, that backbiting and envy were my delight, and even now often lead me astray, but, by dint of perseverance in prayer, God has given me the mastery to a great degree; I did not wish to give it up, so I besought Him to give me that wish; He did so, and then I had the promise of His fulfillment. I am sure this is our besetting sin; once overcome it, and there will be no cloud between God and ourselves. God is love—not full of love, but love itself. The law is love; possessed of love, we shall find our other temptations fall from us like scales. We are all dreadfully prone to evil-speaking, but God is all-powerful against it; it is opposed to His nature, so He hates it. I pray for those I most envy, and the feeling leaves me at once.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 3  (Gravesend, June 12, 1866)

On Seeking Wisdom:
“Let our endeavors at least make us trust God as much as we would trust man. If we had a powerful friend ever near us, we would often ask his help and trust him; is not God in that relation to us? Is anything too small or too great for Him Therefore in all things make known your wants to Him, and trust Him to relieve them; He never leaves or forsakes. Do not try planning and praying and then planning again; it is not honoring to God. Do not lean at all on your own  understanding. Your heart will call you a fool; but let it call you what it likes, it has often deceived you and is desperately wicked. If doubt should arise in your mind as to what to do in any matter, think which of the two courses will best show forth God’s glory, and follow it; generally this will the be course most contrary to your own wishes. Supposing you have been led to leave the issue of any event to God, and afterwards begin to doubt if you are not called upon to do something to aid it, resist the temptation. All things are possible with God. Do not express your doubts; pray to God to help your unbelief every time it arises; remember we have power over our words, if we have not over our thoughts, and to prevent the tongue sinning is the first step towards the checking of the thoughts, which will soon follow. Act up to your religion, and you will enjoy it.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 4 (Gravesend, June 12, 1866)

On Patience, and Seeking God’s Glory:
“We should always remember that His glory should be more in our minds than our selfish desire to feel happy or comfortable. It is selfish to wish that God should hurry for your benefit; if we only wished for the advancement of His glory we might perhaps be impatient, but it is seldom for that we groan.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 4 (Gravesend, June 14, 1866)

On Receiving More Light:
“What a thought! “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). What a delightful verse! It means this: that just as much as we give up to our Lord, so much the more shall we understand; just as much as we live up to the light He has given us, so much the more light shall we receive.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, November 27, 1866)

Trusting God’s Leading:
“To write of the varied scenery one has passed through on a railway journey is unprofitable, and so would be any account of what has been my course of life since we left one another. The longest day comes to an end, and , thanks be to God, the bright morning will soon come. We have not time to look back as yet, He carries us on through all and will never leave us. A passenger is carried in a steamer. He may or may not believe the steamer is proceeding on its course to the appointed haven, but he progresses irrespective of his belief or unbelief of the fact; and thus it with God’s ways. He is carrying out His work, however little we may be aware of it, or however unlike the course pursued is to that which we, in our perverted understanding, would choose.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, 1867)

On Rejecting What God Sends Us:
“I am sure of one thing, we lose the very sweetest times by rejecting willfully what God sends us; in avoiding people and disagreeable things. God says, ‘I will preserve thee from all evil.’ ‘I will preserve thy going out and coming in, from this time forth.’ ‘There shall no evil befall you.’ And yet we refuse to believe this for even a second, and go on plotting and praying for more communion with Him; and the moment He begins to work, we fly from Him. I want to realize this more than I do, it is evidently the reason of our deadness; there can be no confidence where there is distrust. If we think we are bound to look after ourselves, if we think these strong expressions are only figurative, or dependent on any particular frame of mind, they are useless to us. Unless we take them in their strength, we shall crawl along all our days.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, May 3,1867)

On Reading the Bible:
“I have had, and continue to have, the most exquisite delight in the Bible beyond any past experience I ever felt. All that dead time when I read without interest, merely because I ought to do so, is now repaid me, and God brings the passages back to memory with the power of the Spirit. ‘The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance’ (John 14:26). Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 10 (Gravesend, May 16,1867)

On Appreciating Trials:
“I have felt a little of late of rejoicing in trials, and trust I may feel more. I mean really being glad at annoyances, inasmuch as they work experience and hope. This is a very great gift to obtain from God, but it is little to what He will give us if we persevere.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p.11 (Gravesend, May 28,1867)

On Mortifying the Flesh:
“We all have veils over our spiritual understandings; some of us have them thicker than others, we are quite blind till we get the veil removed. The veil is the flesh, it is never entirely removed while we live in the world; it is only made transparent by living in the Spirit, or mortifying the flesh, which are similar things. We all want to live in the Spirit and in the flesh also; this is impossible, thence the struggle. The more we apprehend that the death of the flesh is the life of the Spirit, the more we shall realize His presence. Death of the flesh is painful, but absolutely necessary, for, as we mortify the flesh, so shall we grow in the Spirit; we must feed on our flesh as it were. Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 12, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

The Great Secret of Life:
“Keep in view 1 John 4:15 (“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”); it has in few words the great secret of the new life. I have known many who have lately come to the truth and peace by asking God to manifest the power of it. As we remember it, we live happily; every time we feel cold or apathetic it arises from not realizing the truth, and God alone can keep that realization before us.”
Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 13,14, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

On God’s Indwelling:
“I have had very nice thoughts on 1 John 4:14—’Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.’ I think it is the key to much of the Scripture. I am more than ever convinced that the secret of happiness and holiness is in the indwelling of God. The same truth is shown in many other verses, but the above, to my mind, shows it more clearly. Let a man seek the teachings of the Holy Spirit on such verses, and he will grow much in grace. As we believe that text, so we shall realize the presence of God in our hearts, and, having Him there, we have as a sequence holiness and love. He alone can make us believe the truth and keep it in mind.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 13,14, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

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