How to Counsel Friends & Family

Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAnne Dutton (1692-1765) wrote letters to her family, friends, and associates to encourage them and give them counsel. I know there are at least eight volumes of these letters, maybe more.

Briefly, Anne was the wife of an English Baptist minister. Her writing ministry corresponded with the birth of England’s Evangelical Revival and American’s Great Awakening. If you are interested in knowing more about all things Anne Dutton and the wide reach of her poetry and letters, I suggest Michael D. Sciretti, Jr’s well-researched and insightful dissertation, Feed My Lambs.

I don’t know of anybody today who writes letters to friends like Anne Dutton. Her letters go straight to deep issues of the heart, express a love for God and for the receiver, and are filled with deep and coherent biblical knowledge and truth. They glorify God for they put him forth as the answer to the human heart condition and to life’s stuggles. They are a wonderful reminder of the wise and often far-reaching counsel that Christian women can give when they are grounded in God’s word and speak out of it.

Below is a sampling of one of Anne’s letters from the book, Letters on Spiritual Subjects and Divers Occasions; sent to Relations and Friends, entitled, Letter VIII: To a little handful of Christ’s Lambs, p. 36 ff.

I hope that you will bear through the length, but if you don’t have time perhaps you can read through the parts that interest you – I only posted half of it. Though the letter specifically addresses fearfulness, it’s really a mini lesson on the doctrine of salvation (soteriology). After all, what can eliminate fear more than knowing you will be saved?

And I hope you will bear through the archaic language because the truths that Anne speaks to her friends are worth the work. I did take the liberty to add subject headings and to modernize and Americanize the spelling of some words so that the letter would be more readable. Also, know that Anne’s letter supposes an understanding of Biblical concepts. If you are confused by some of the terminology and want to understand it better, just leave a message and I will do my best to point you to reliable resources.

Sin is your great burden.

Dear Friends,

I long after you all in … Jesus Christ, that your Hearts might be comforted, your Hope increased and you Faith established upon Him, the Rock of Ages. And having but little Time to speak with you Face to Face, when I was last with you, I was desirous to have a little Converse with you by Writing. I find Sin is your great Burden, which fills you with Fears, last you should one Day perish

Remember that God the Father laid sin upon his own dear Son.

But as to this remember that Sin, all the Sins of all that shall be saved, were once laid by God the Father upon his own dear Son. All we, like Sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own Way, and the LORD hath laid on him the Iniquity of us all Is. 53:6. And as God the Father made all our iniquities at once to meet upon Him, the spotless Lamb of his own providing, and wounded Him for our Transgressions; so Christ bore our Sins in his own Body on the Tree, and gave up himself a Sacrifice in our … Stead; by which he as put away Sin, and forever made an End of it, 1 Pet 2:24. Heb. 5:26.

Jesus has victory over sin.

And as he has destroyed Sin in himself and given us a complete Victory over it in Him; so he will ever long destroy it in us perfectly, by the Power of his Holy Spirit, in the Virtue of his God-like Blood. Our Old Man was crucified with Christ, that the Body of Sin might be destroyed, Rom. 6:6. Sin is condemned to die, by the dying of the Lord Jesus, and therefore shall never condemn us. No; though Sin, Original and Actual, has abounded in such an amazing Manner, in it Guilt, Filth, and Power; yet blessed by God, where Sin abounded, Grace did much more abound; That as Sin has reigned unto Death, even so Grace might reign through Righteousness unto Eternal Life by Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom. 5:20, 21.

How did sin abound?

How did Sin [abound,] even our Sin, in Adam’s first Transgression? How has it abounded in that universal Corruption of Nature, which has overspread the Elect of God, as well as others, as Descendants from fallen Adam? And how has it abounded in all those filthy Streams which this filthy Fountain has been sending forth in all Ages, in Thought, Words, and Ways, even in the Chosen of God themselves? How far are the Aboundings of Sin, in those respects beyond the Comprehension of any Creature!

Where sin abounded, Grace abounded more.

And yet, Where Sin abounded, Grace did [much more] abound: When the LORD, the Father, took our Sins, the Sins of the whole Elect, and bundled them up, as it were, into one Iniquity, which he laid upon his dear son; who being an infinite Person, was well able to bear all that inconceivable Wrath, which a Sin-revenging God poured out upon him, as the due Desert thereof. By which he made a full Satisfaction.

Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied God’s justice.

Satisfaction to injured Justice, and an everlasting Peace between God and us; reconciling all the Divine Perfections, which gloriously harmonize in the Salvation of Sinners by the Blood of his Cross; and reconciling us too, in the Body of his Flesh throgh Death, when he gave himself a Sacrifice in our Stead.

We know God was satisfied because he raised Jesus from the dead.

Whereupon God, as the God of Peace, did bring him again from the Dead, or raise him up from under all that Guilt, Curse, Wrath and Death he bore for us; and thereby, at once did openly acquit and discharge him,  … and also freely, fully and eternally forgive us all our Trespasses and raise us up to endless Life and Glory in him, our great Representative. Thus Grace did much more abound.

Grace overcame sin.

Grace was not only a Match for Sin, and so could not be overcome by it; but it was stronger, infinitely stronger than Sin, and so overcome it, even to a complete and eternal Victory. Yes, Grace did much more abound, not only to an utter Destruction of Sin, in its Reign unto Death; but further also, in bestowing upon us such Life and Glory in Christ, as the Fruit of his Death, which is far superior than that we had in Adam. Oh, the Super-aboundings of Grace! This [much more] who can search the Dimensions of it!

God fore-viewed his display of grace in Christ’s death and resurrection.

And Grace [did] much more abound: It’s put in the past Sense, to show both the Earliness of it, and also the Foundation of its After-display in Christ, and glorious Reign throgh him. On the Earliness of this Grace! How did it super-abound in the everlasting Purposes, Counsels, and Covenants of the Three-One God, over all the Aboundings of Sin, fore-viewed even before Time commenced! And this was the foundation of that bright Display which was made of it in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Father, Son, and Spirit, equally participated in abounding grace.

And how did Grace, the Grace of all the Three Persons in God, super-abound, when Jesus died for our Sins, and was raised again for our Justification, and set down at God’s right Hand, as our representative and Forerunner! For Father, Son, and Spirit, had an equal Hand in these Wonders of super-abounding Grace. The Father laid Sin upon his own Son, and poured out upon him all his Wrath; the Son bore and endured the same; and the Holy spirit, by his Almighty Influence, enabled Christ, as Man, to endure the Cross, and despise the Shame, for the Joy he set before him. And all the Three, in boundless Grace to us, were jointly concerned in Christ’s Resurrection, and Ascension to Gory, as our Head and Representative. And though Grace [did] much more abound, [in] Christ, as the Foundation of its glorious Reign by him.

Grace reigns through the righteousness of Christ.

Grace did much more abound; that as Sin has reigned unto Death, even so Grace [might] reign through Righteousness unto eternal Life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Sin has reigned in its Guilt, Filth, and Power: It has reigned unto Death, unto bodily Death, unto Soul-Death, unto Time-Death, and Eternal Death, which, as the Wages of Sin, is the due Desert of every sinner. But Grace reigns unto [Life], through [Righteousness]; the Righteousness of Christ, or his complete Obedience, both active and passive; and so, according to the Righteousness of Jehovah’s pure Nature, and his holy Law: And it reigns [by Jesus Christ], the Anointed Savior, as our Life. Thus Grace reigns unto Life; Life of Justification, Sanctification, Consolation, and Glorification, and in all, unto Eternal Life; partial and initial in this World, and complete and total in the World to come.

What’s become of sin?

Well then dear souls, what’s become of Sin? Oh, look to Christ, once crucified, and there see Sin completely finished in him, with all its woeful Effects and forever made an end of. Yes, see in a risen and glorified Jesus, what full, transcendent, unchangeable and eternal Life and Glory, God’s super-abounding Grace has bestowed upon you in him!

Christ laid a foundation that is large enough to bear the sins of the Elect.

Here’s a Foundation laid, that is every way large enough to bear all that vast Superstructure of our personal Salvation, from all Misery, unto all Glory, which one Day shall be laid upon it, when the whole Elect, being completely favored, both mystically and personally, in, and through Christ shall forever, with Shoutings, cry, Grace, Grace unto it!

Lift up your heads and do not be afraid of condemnation.

Lift up you heads therefore, and be not afraid of Condemnation of Sin: It once reigned unto Death in Christ for you, when he died in your Stead; and even so, Grace shall reign, by him, unto Eternal Life, in your complete Salvation. Sin, in its Guilt shall not destroy you: for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, Rom 8:1. Sin, in its Filth, shall not make you loathsome in the Sight of God: for the Blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanses us from all Sin, 1 John 1:7. Sin, in its Power, shall not have Dominion over you; for you’re not under the Law, but under Grace, Rom. 6:14.

Sin will not always abide in you.

And sin, in its Being, shall not always abide in you neither; your Heaven-born Souls shall not always be vexed with the Being of the hateful Thing, Sin: For your Spirits, at the Moment of Death, shall be made perfect in Holiness, Heb. 12:23. And there shall be no Defilement, no unclean Thing, either in your Bodies or Souls, when you enter into the new Jerusalem, Rev. 21:27. You shall then be blameless in Holiness, before God in Love, Eph. 1:4. Thus, gloriously will Grace reign unto [Life], over all that Sin and Death that works in you.

Do not be cast down.

And be not cast down, because you have no Worthiness: For It is [Grace] that reigns, free Grace, that seeks none of the Creature’s Goodness to be a Motive of its reign. Be not discouraged by the Strength of you Soul-Enemies; for it is [reigning] Grace, all-conquering Grace, that is infinitely able to subdue all the Opposition it meets with.

Your righteousness is not your own.

And let not your own Unrighteousness hinder your Faith and Joy in this Grace: For it reigns through the Righteousness of another; through Christ’s [Righteousness], not your own. And though you have no Strength of yourselves to do anything for your own Defense and Safety, or for God’s Glory; yet his Grace will do all for you, as it reigns by Jesus Christ our Lord. By [Christ], not yourselves: The whole of your Salvation is committed into Christ’s Hand, not your own.

The letter continues and Anne Dutton goes on to press the importance of resting in Christ alone for salvation. She strongly refutes attempts at self-righteousness and dependence on self-sufficiency for salvation. She explains that, to avoid despair, hope must be transferred to the New Covenant of grace, and she emphases the link between assurance of salvation the operation of grace on desires.

Praying that you will be so grounded in God’s word that your counsel to your friends will be filled with wisdom from above and that your friends will be truly helped. 

References:

Dutton, Anne, 1692-1765, Letters on Spiritual Subjects and Divers Occasions: Sent to Relations and Friends, London: Printed by John Oswald, etc., 1740, Not in Copyright, pp. 36 -51, accessed January 26, 2013 from archive.org

Sciretti, Jr., M.D., Feed My Lambs, a dissertation, Baylor University, Dec., 2009, accessed January 26, 2013 from baylor.edu

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