The Christian Lover – Michael Haykin

14 01 2009

I’ll never forget my pre-marriage counsellers advice. “Write down why you love each other, and what made you want to marry your wife. Then when you go through tough times, what you’ve written will serve as a reminder.

I chose to read this read book for various reasons. But mostly because I felt a bit “doctrined” out. Not only that but I must admit that I am a sucker for love letters. I find them intriguing. We hang onto these small bits of paper for years to come. We cherish them and are so uplifted when we read them.  I hope this book will spur me to write a few for my own beloved wife :).

The book is a short read, coming in at 99 pages. Each chapter is devoted to a married couple from theological history, albeit exclusively from the Reformed and Puritan traditions. However apart from Luther, Calvin, and Lloyd Jones, I had no clue who the other people were. The book opens with a short introduction on the history of Sex and Marriage through the theological ages. Each chapter gives a brief introduction to occassion of each letter and background information to each couple.

Chapter 1 – Martin & Katharina Luther – Martin’s safety must have been a worry for his wife for he writes to assure her God is in control. Its understandable given his opposition to the Catholic Church at the time, and the “civil” war that followed. Luther describes an amusing incident when his travelling party was accosted by a large anabaptist woman who tried to re-baptise them with water and ice.

Chapter 2 – John & Idelette Calvin – Calvins letters are written following the death of his wife. He writes to several colleagues to express his grief, and tell of the final moments of his wifes life. They were very moving. Nearing her death He told his wife he would not neglect his duty to look after her two children from her previous marriage. She said that she had already committed them to God because he would not take anything lightly that was committed to God.

Chapter 3 – John & Lucy Hutchinson – This is an excerpt John’s memoirs written by Lucy (who always refers to herself in the third person) and addressed to her children . She was one very loved woman. “No man had a greater passion for a woman” according to Lucy. Children should always be aware of the love parents have for each other, and that the ultimate fountain of that love, is the love poured out for us on by Jesus on the cross.

Chapter 4 – Philip & Mercy Dodderidge –  Philip longs to be with his wife, but while they apart he learns how to depend on God, and enjoy his presence.

Chapter 5 – Benjamin Beddome & Anne Steele – This is an interesting one. Both were hymn writers. Benjamin proposed marriage to Anne, who rejected his proposal. We don’t have her reply to Benjamin, but we do have a letter she wrote to her sister, saying  she was happy as she was and had no desire to marry. Unrequited love is a fact of life, and Benjamin seems to have taken it on the chin, and married another. His letter reveals a true romantic “Would you permit me to myself at your feet and tell you how much I love you?” (page 34)

Chapter 6 – Henry& Eling Venn – Our love for each other in marriage is not diminished, but rather enhanced when it is in subordination to God. This is a great mystery, but one embodied by Venn in his letter. 

Chapter 7 – Thomas & Sally Charles – Thomas pursued Sally even when she didn’t like him. He comes accross as a bull terrier in spirit. Holding fast and never letting go. This is something men do well. Eventually he won her over. Their letters reveal a frank honesty and deep friendship.

Chapter 8 – Samuel and Sarah Pearce – “The pursuit of the beloved does not end with the ceremony” (page 65). Sarah had to deal with the death of her son and her husband Samuel. The hope, strength and faith displayed in these letters is breathtaking.

Chapter 9 – Adoniram & Ann Judson – The first letter recounts Adoniram asking Ann’s Fathers permission to marry. The second recounts His petition to Ann. In both cases he is completely honest about what she can expect should she marry him.

Chapter 10 – John & Lottie Broadus – John was a pastor and chaplain during the American Civil war. Lottie was his second wife, after his first died a few years earlier. His letters reveal an unrestrained admission of his need for her in his life.

Chapter 11 – Martyn & Bethan Lloyd Jones – Martyn was a trained medical student who felt his calling was to preach the Gospel. He left the prospect of a great medical career to become a pastor. The chapter gives one letter he wrote to his wife. It is extremely forthright and to the point (as are his books) that he loves her more than any man has loved any woman.

Chapter 12 – Helmuth & Freya von Moltke – The guy wrote 1600 letters to his wife during their marriage. I don’t think I have given my wife 1600 of anything ! He was linked in a plot to overthrow hitler and was arrested in 1944. The letter written (presumably while in prison) speaks candidly of facing death and his assurance of the sovereignity of God in his life.

What emerges at the end of reading these letters is a very human picture of the lives of the authors.  They all wrestled with the same problems and temptations we face today. Distance, death, rejection, and uncertainty echoing the words of the Bible, “No temptation is given, except that which is common to all man.” Reading other peoples love letters can make you feel a bit voyeuristic, so I’m glad this is not a long book. Its a worthy read that will inspire you to write your own love letters.

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