Samuel Pearce’s (1766-1799) life and works can still influence one’s life even after more than two centuries. Indeed, I started reading Michael Haykin’s compilation of Pearce’s letters and works during the start of Fall in 2020. Since I am inclined to reading biographies, I read another biography of Pearce written by Tom Wells that supplemented my reading of Haykin’s book devotionally.
There are a bunch of themes in Pearce’s works found in Haykin’s Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory. I will point out the two-most themes that made an impact in my heart and mind. Pearce’s letters seem to overflow from his heart with the capability to pierce the reader’s heart with joy, sweetness, pastoral love, and brotherly affection both from the past—the intended reader—and the contemporary readers.
As I reflect upon Pearce’s letters, I focused on two themes where the spirituality of Pearce was exemplified. These themes can be encapsulated in one category under “relationship”. First is friendship, Pearce treasured these God-given friends as valuable gifts that are not to be taken for granted. Second, his relationship with his wife Sarah. These are the themes I will be reflecting upon since these genuinely made an impact to my spirituality.
Friends—as commonly defined—are those people who are always there with and for you especially when you needed them the most. For Pearce, friendship is essential mainly in one’s pastoral circle and spirituality. He has kept regular communication with his friends. He wrote letters, updates—even on his dying months—about his thoughts, advices, and prayers to them. In his early pastoral years, Pearce had Isaiah Birt (1758-1837) as his accountability partner. Though Pearce viewed friends as God’s providence to people, he secured himself with his inner circle, these were: Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), William Carey (1761-1834), John Ryland Jr. (1753-1825), and John Sutcliff (1752-1814).
Other than earthly friends, Pearce noted that there is one ultimate friend that each believer must cherish—Jesus Christ. True friendship is defined and modeled by Christ as someone who will lay one’s life for his friend (Jn. 15:13-14). Pearce said, “[a Christian] will love the Christian for Christ’s sake (77).” Pearce also noted that even when these earthly friends fail you, God is still there. He said, “Where no friend would or could sympathize with me, I have found ever nigh (119).”
I am an extrovert; a very sociable person. However, when I started my further studies, I tend to manage my time for reading and writing. Thus, I opted to limit my circle of friends, not to be antisocial, but to be a good steward with God’s blessing. This shift is a similar idea with Pearce when he gave a piece of advice to a Bristol student. He advised the young student to stay away from a large group of friends—choose two or three only—that you deem mature in God’s truth (167). Nevertheless, I make it a point to invest genuine friendship to whom I ought to “lay my life” for Christ’s sake.
I have been dealing with trust issues especially when it comes to my friends. I have discovered that I repressed a certain memory in my mind when my high school and some college friends did something unthinkable to me. Thus, I re-adjusted my way of dealing with people and choosing friends. Yet, I realized that this was not good.
I have been reflecting since a couple of years ago, and today, again, due to Pearce’s letters that I ought to accept that there are no perfect friends. Still, we must love our brothers and sisters as to how Christ loved them.
Providentially, God gave me genuine friends. One of them is Jerome, the pastor of Muntinlupa Baptist Church in the Philippines. We met when we were sent by our association to evangelize and help a pioneering SBC church in Marinduque Island. It was a wonderful journey with him since we also became classmates in our MDiv at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary.
Additionally, I am also grateful to Kevin S., Miguel P., Jeremiah M., just to name a few, for being my pastor-friends. Truly, God provides people whom you can depend on and point you more to Jesus Christ.
Michael A.G. Haykin, ed., Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory: The Piety of Samuel and Sarah Pearce (Ontario, Canada: Joshua Press, 2012).
Tom Wells, “Samuel Pearce (1766-1799)” in The British Particular Baptists 1638-1910, Vol. 2 Edited by Michael A. G. Haykin (Springfield, Missouri: Particular Baptist Press, 2000), 182-199.