December 15, 2006


It was close to one year ago, in early 2006. I was preparing for an upcoming job interview for Manager of North America Operations with an organization from Scotland that I had known and loved for years, The Banner of Truth. I was in my pastor's study that Wednesday night, seeing what "Banner books" he had on his shelves, when I pulled one out for a closer look. "Ohhhhhhhhh," Pastor Mark exclaimed with noticeable compassion in his voice. "THAT has got to be the most devotional book I have ever read!" Thus was my first introduction to, "Letters of Samuel Rutherford."
Who was Samuel Rutherford? A professor, a minister, an author. He lived 1600-1661 and was a man of God who wrote letters, hundreds of them, filled with godly advice, biblical encouragement, timeless wisdom in every way. Get this ... C.H. Spurgeon called Rutherford's letters "the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men." Just this morning, I received an email from a pastor asking that I pray for him. He wrote, "I do believe, as I read Rutherford's letters (I think every minister ought to have a copy!) that our Lord is trying to teach me how to look to Christ as Rutherford did - his chief love and best friend for whom he would suffer anything. Please pray for me to grow into that frame of heart and mind."
Here, let me share a few of these letters with you; perhaps you'll see why this really is a book that, not only every minister, but every saint of God really ought to become familiar with...
"Mistress , -- My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful at my departure from you, especially since ye were in such heaviness after your daughter's death. Yet I do persuade myself, ye know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you lieth upon your strong Saviour; for Isaiah saith, "In all your afflictions He is afflicted" (Isa. lxiii. 9). O blessed Second who suffereth with you! and glad may your soul be even to walk in the fiery furnace with one like unto the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. Courage! up your heart! When ye do tire, He will bear both you and your burden (Ps. lv. 22). Yet a little while and ye shall see the salvation of God. Remember of what age your daughter was, and that just so long was your lease of her. If she was eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years old, I know not; but sure I am, seeing her term was come, and your lease run out, ye can no more justly quarrel your great Superior for taking His own at His just term day, than a poor farmer can complain that his master taketh a portion of his own land to himself when his lease is expired. Good mistress, if ye would not be content that Christ would hold from you the heavenly inheritance which is made yours by His death, shall not that same Christ think hardly of you if ye refuse to give Him your daughter willingly, who is a part of His inheritance and conquest? I pray the Lord to give you all your own, and to grace you with patience to give God His also. He is an ill debtor who payeth that which he hath borrowed with a grudge. Indeed, that long loan of such a good daughter, an heir of grace, a member of Christ (as I believe), deserveth more thanks at your Creditor's hands, than that ye should gloom and murmur when He craveth but His own. I believe you would judge them to be but thankless neighbours who would pay you a sum of money after this manner. But what? Do you think her lost, when she is but sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? Think her not absent who is in such a friend's house. Is she lost to you who is found to Christ? If she were with a dear friend, although you should never see her again, your care for her would be but small. Oh, now, is she not with a dear Friend? and gone higher, upon a certain hope that ye shall, in the Resurrection, see her again, when (be ye sure) she shall neither be hectic nor consumed in body? You would be sorry either to be, or to be esteemed, an atheist; and yet, not I, but the Apostle, thinketh those to be hopeless atheists who mourn excessively for the dead (Thess. iv. 13). But this is not a challenge on my part. I do speak this only fearing your weakness; for your daughter was a part of yourself, and, therefore, nature in you, being as it were cut and halved, will indeed be grieved. But ye have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven. Follow her, but envy her not; for indeed it is self-love in us that maketh us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? Because for them we cannot mourn, since they are never happy till they be dead; therefore we mourn for our own private respect. Take heed, then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter, ye be not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself. Consider what the Lord is doing in it. Your daughter is plucked out of the fire, and she resteth from her labours; and your Lord, in that, is trying you, and casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest; and now remember that the eye of God is upon the bush burning and not consumed; and He is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrate of his design. Now honour God, and shame the strong roaring lion, when ye seem weakest. Should such an one as ye faint in the day of adversity? Call to mind the days of old. The Lord yet liveth. Trust in Him, although He should slay you. Faith is exceeding charitable, and believeth no evil of God. Now is the Lord laying, in the one scale of the balance, your making conscience of submission to His gracious will, and in the other, your affection and love to your daughter. Which of the two will ye then choose to satisfy? Be wise, then; and as I trust ye love Christ better than a sinful woman, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Lord's rod. Men do lop the branches off their trees round about, to the end they may grow up high and tall. The Lord hath this way lopped your branch inn taking from you many children, to the end you should grow upward, like one of the Lord's cedars, setting your heart above, where Christ is, at the right hand of the Father. What is next, but that your Lord cut down the stock after He hath cut the branches? Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. While ye prodigally spend time in mourning for her, ye are speedily posting after her. Run your race with patience. Let God have His own; and ask of Him, instead of your daughter which He hath taken from you, the daughter of faith, which is patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head: ye do not know how near your redemption doth draw, Thus recommending you to the Lord, who is able to establish you, I rest, your loving and affectionate friend in the Lord Jesus,
Samuel Rutherford
Anwoth, April 23, 1628"

"Dear and loving friend, -- I cannot but, upon the opportunity of a bearer, exhort you to resign the love of your youth to Christ; and in this day, while your sun is high and your youth serveth you, to seek the Lord and His face. For there is nothing out of heaven so necessary for you as Christ. And ye cannot be ignorant but your day will end, and the night of death shall call you from the pleasures of this life: and a doom given out in death standeth for ever -- as long as God liveth! Youth, ordinarily, is a post and ready servant for Satan, to run errands; for it is a nest for lust, cursing, drunkenness, blaspheming of God, lying, pride, and vanity. Oh, that there were such an heart in you as to fear the Lord, and to dedicate your soul and body to His service! When the time cometh that your eye-strings shall break, and your face wax pale, and legs and arms tremble, and your breath shall grow cold, and your poor soul look out at yor prison house of clay, to be set at liberty; then a good conscience, and your Lord's favour, shall be worth all the world's glory. Seek it as your garland and crown.
Grace be with you.
Yours, in His sweet Lord Jesus,
Samuel Rutherford
Aberdeen, March 14, 1637"

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