August 27: Resting in the Arms of Jesus

“Philip, unless Christ be in you, you are a dead man,”

Our post today is an anecdote told by the esteemed pastor, Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely. Here he speaks of the American Indian, Philip, and the life-changing challenge presented to him by the legendary William Tennent, Sr., founder of the Log College, that great predecessor to Princeton University.

William Tennent, Sr.’s Abrupt Challenge

Extract from II Letter addressed to James Stuart, esq. of Philadelphia, dated Lebonon (Con.), August 27, 1821.

My dear Elder—It will give you joy to learn, that in Exeter, a small and poor parish in the township of Lebanon, which is without a stated pastor, such a revival of religion has been experienced, that yesterday fifty persons were received to full communion. The Domestic Missionary Society of Connecticut has sent them Supplies for a time, and this seems to be in part the fruit of their labours, in conjunction with those of a pious deacon, and a few other aged Christians. What encouragement does this present for Christians to persevere in prayer and pious exertions for the salvation of their fellow sinners!

I pray you and the other members of our particular church not to be weary in well doing. My heart’s desire and prayer to God is, that every one of the people of my charge may be brought to a religious experience similar to that of Indian Philip of Connecticut. You may rely on the truth of what I shall now state concerning him, for my grandfather knew him well. That aboriginal lived in the time of the great revival in this state, in 1740, and was thought by himself, and others, to be a renewed man. But the renowned Mr. Tennent, of our city, came this way, and after conversing with Philip, feared that he put his trust in the pious frames of his own mind, made a Christ of them, and so was deceived. Mr. Tennent therefore said to him, “Philip, unless Christ be in you, you are a dead man,” and then abruptly turned away. This was the means of Philip’s experiencing renewed and very pungent convictions of sin; which finally terminated well. In relating his own views of his past experience, subsequently to this, he said, that when he found comfort it was in this manner. He seemed to himself to be clinging to a pole with both his hands, and thus to be suspended over the bottomless pit. He was keeping himself out of hell by his own exertions. He tried to sustain himself, but soon one hand, from exhaustion of nature, let go its hold; and he hung fast by the other. Then, after a little, one finger of that hand relinquished its grasp, and then another, until he hung, for a second, by one finger alone. That failing, he seemed to be falling, falling down, down to hell; but the first he knew, he was caught in the arms of Jesus. So may my people despair of every thing in the matter of salvation but Christ; and when they seem to be sinking to endless ruin find, that the Redeemer folds them to His arms.

Yours, affectionately,

Ezra Stiles Ely.

Words to Live By:
“Unless Christ be in you, you are a dead man.” In too many Christian circles, there is far too much of what is known as “easy believe-ism”—the idea that just because I’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer, that all is now well and right with God.


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