My first pastoral letter was penned three months after I came among you. Now three years later, I write again believing that it is time to enquire how things are with us as individuals, as families, and as a congregation. Taking the last-mentioned first, we note that some have left the district. Their loss has been only partly made up by others coming in; and death, infirmity and desertion of the public means of grace leave us numerically fewer than when I came.
Murdo MacLeod, Marion Murray, Rose Bannerman and John Munro were taken to eternity in these three years. They were all of an advanced age; but young, as well as old, ought to be preparing for eternity. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps 90:12). These four were known to me as persons who regularly read God’s Word, prayed and would have gone to God’s house regularly if they could. Can you say so much? Can you go further and say like Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim 1:12). Only those who can say in humility that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins are safe.
A quarter of the congregation are not able to come to church. The numbers of the infirm have increased since I came here. Most of these would come if they could. We miss them from the church and try to visit them regularly. Sadder is the case of the able-bodied persons who only occasionally, some never, enter the house of God. They wrong their own souls and appear to love death – “He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate Me love death” (Prov 8:36). Their empty places in church are a source of mourning to their minister and to the Lord’s people, and their failure to contribute to God’s work lays a heavier burden on those who attend regularly (Mal 3:8-10).
There is however a brighter side, and I wish to say what pleasure it gives me to enter God’s house and view those who faithfully attend it. I yearn to be enabled to minister to the spiritual needs of the Lord’s people, yet I know that if I come short in this, their gracious Lord will not, for “He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Ps 107:9). In the case of others, I hope that their attentiveness means that the Holy Spirit is causing them to give the Word a lodging, and I trust that by God’s blessing they may attain to the saving knowledge of Christ. Nothing short of this will save us.
Again, with joy, I view those seats where parents and children sit together under the Word. May the Lord bless these families and make the children His own in the days of their youth. The prevalence of God-honouring households made Scotland strong and influential in the past, and she will not be great again until family religion is revived by the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for an outpouring. Over the households that are divided in matters of religion, a pastor can only pray. In these cases parents and children alike suffer.
I wish now to press the need for receiving Christ on each unsaved person who reads this. The greatest need of such is to have their sins pardoned and their persons accepted by a just and holy God, who says that there is no peace to the wicked. Every natural man is alienated from God and an enemy in his mind by wicked works: “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Col 1:21). Only Christ can gain a favourable entrance for such into the presence of the God of holiness. “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The sinner’s only hope is to believe the love that God declares He has for sinners, and to trust the Redeemer as the only way to the Father. He saves from sin’s guilt, power and pollution, and is near to all that call on Him.
And now, as 1964 comes to a close and we enter on a way that we have not gone hitherto, I wish for you all the favour of the Lord through Jesus Christ the one Saviour. You who are Christ’s will be able to say, “The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us” (Ps 115:12). You can trust God to keep His promise never to leave nor to forsake you. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut 33:25). The Christless, on the other hand, may rest assured that, if they seek, they shall find, and that a merciful God invites them to taste and see that He is good. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Ps 34:8).
May troubles, afflictions and sorrows be blessed to your eternal good and may the love of Sion and Sion’s King predominate in your affections. We bless His Holy Name that He reigns and advances His Kingdom still, despite our many shortcomings and provocations. That He may continue to do so by blessing you all is the prayer of your loving pastor.
1. This letter, dated 30 December 1964, was written while Mr McPherson was minister of the Dornoch and Rogart congregation.