I. To LADY KENMURE, at a time of illness and spiritual depression
Lady Jane Campbell, Viscountess of Kenmure, was the third daughter of Archibald Campbell, seventh Earl of Argyle, and sister to the Marquis of Argyle who was beheaded in 1661. She was remarkable for ability and Christian devotion, and for her generous help to those who suffered for conscience' sake. She had many troubles of her own, which are reflected in these letters. She lost two daughters in infancy and her husband died in 1634. Her son, who succeeded to the title, also died before attaining his majority, in 1649. The last of Rutherford's letters to her is dated in 1661, just after the execution of her brother. She herself lived to a great age, though suffering all her life from bad health. Forty-seven letters to her from Rutherford have been preserved, and sixteen of them are quoted in this selection. See letters, numbers II, IV, V, VII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XIX, XX, XLVIII, LX, LXX.
MADAM, -- All dutiful obedience in the Lord remembered. I have heard of your Ladyship's infirmity and sickness with grief; yet I trust ye have learned to say, It is the Lord, let Him do whatsoever seemeth good in His eyes.' For there be many Christians most like unto young sailors, who think the shore and the whole land doth move, when the ship and they themselves are moved; just so, not a few do imagine that God moveth and saileth and changeth places, because their giddy souls are under sail, and subject to alteration, to ebbing and flowing. But the foundation of the Lord abideth sure'. God knoweth that ye are His own. Wrestle, fight, go forward, watch, fear, believe, pray; and then ye have the infallible symptoms of one of the elect of Christ within you.
Ye have now, Madam, a sickness before you; and also after that a death. Gather then now food for the journey. God give you eyes to see through sickness and death, and to see something beyond death. Now, I believe ye have only these two shallow brooks, sickness and death, to pass through; and ye have also a promise that Christ shall do more than meet you, even that He shall come Himself, and go with you foot for foot, yea and bear you in His arms. O then! O then! for the joy that is set before you; for the love of the Man (who is also God over all, blessed forever') that is standing on the shore to welcome you, run your race with patience. The Lord go with you. Your Lord will not have you, nor any of His servants, to exchange for the worse. Death in itself includeth both the death of the soul and the death of the body; but to God's children the bounds and the limits of death are abridged and drawn into a more narrow compass. So that when ye die, a piece of death shall only seize upon you, or the least part of you shall die, and that is the dissolution of the body; for in Christ ye are delivered from the second death; and, therefore, as one born of God, commit not sin (although ye cannot live and not sin), and that serpent shall but eat your earthly part. As for your soul, it is above the law of death. But it is fearful and dangerous to be a debtor and servant to sin; for the count of sin ye will not be able to make good before God, except Christ both count and pay for you.
I trust also, Madam, that ye will be careful to present to the Lord the present estate of this decaying kirk. For what shall be concluded in Parliament anent her, the Lord knoweth.
Stir up your husband, your brother, and all with whom you are in favour and credit, to stand upon the Lord's side against Baal. I have good hope your husband loveth the peace and prosperity of Zion: the peace of God be upon him. Thus, not willing to weary your Ladyship farther, I commend you, now and always, to the grace and mercy of that God who is able to keep you, that you fall not. The Lord Jesus be with your spirit.
ANWOTH, July 27, 1628
II. To LADY KENMURE, on the occasion of the death of her infant daughter
MADAM, -- Saluting your Ladyship with grace and mercy from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. I was sorry, at my departure, leaving your Ladyship in grief, and would be still grieved at it if I were not assured that ye have one with you in the furnace whose visage is like unto the Son of God. I am glad that ye have been acquainted from your youth with the wrestlings of God, knowing that if ye were not dear to God, and if your health did not require so much of Him, He would not spend so much physic upon you. All the brethren and sisters of Christ must be conform to His image and copy in suffering (Rom. 8.29). And some do more vividly resemble the copy than others. Think, Madam, that it is a part of your glory to be enrolled among those whom one of the elders pointed out to John, These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' Ye have lost a child: nay she is not lost to you who is found to Christ. She is not sent away, but only sent before, like unto a star, which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere. We see her not, yet she doth shine in another country. If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that she hath gotten of eternity; and ye have to rejoice that ye have now some plenishing up in heaven. Build your nest upon no tree here; for ye see God hath sold the forest to death; and every tree whereupon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may fly and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock. What ye love besides Jesus, your husband, is an adulterous lover. Now it is God's special blessing to Judah, that He will not let her find her paths in following her strange lovers. Therefore, behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns and make a wall that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them' (Hos. 2.6-7). O thrice happy Judas, when God buildeth a double stone wall betwixt her and the fire of hell! The world, and the things of the world, Madam, is the lover ye naturally affect beside your own husband Christ. The hedge of thorns and the wall which God buildeth in your way, to hinder you from this lover, is the thorny hedge of daily grief, loss of children, weakness of body, iniquity of the time, uncertainty of estate, lack of worldly comfort, fear of God's anger for old unrepented-of sins. What lose ye, if God twist and plait the hedge daily thicker? God be blessed, the Lord will not let you find your paths. Return to your first husband. Do not weary, neither think that death walketh towards you with a slow pace. Ye must be riper ere ye be shaken. Your days are no longer than Job's, that were 'swifter than a post, and passed away as the ships of desire, and as the eagle that hasteth for the prey' (9. 25, 26, margin). There is less sand in your glass now than there was yesternight. This span-length of ever-posting time will soon be ended. But the greater is the mercy of God, the more years ye get to advise, upon what terms, and upon what conditions, ye cast your soul in the huge gulf of never-ending eternity. The Lord hath told you what ye should be doing till He come; wait and hasten (saith Peter,) for the coming of the Lord'; all is night that is here, in respect of ignorance and daily ensuing troubles, one always making way to another, as the ninth wave of the sea to the tenth; therefore sigh and long for the dawning of that morning, and the breaking of that day of the coming of the Son of man, when the shadows shall flee away. Persuade yourself the King is coming; read His letter sent before Him, Behold, I come quickly.' Wait with the wearied night-watch for the breaking of the eastern sky, and think that you have not a morrow. I am loath to weary you; show yourself a Christian, by suffering without murmuring; -- in patience possess your soul: they lose nothing who gain Christ. I commend you to the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus.
ANWOTH, Jan, 15, 1629
III. To MARION MCNAUGHT, when his wife was ill
Marion McNaught, a niece of Viscount Kenmure, married William Fullerton, Provost of Kirkcudbright. She was a close and lifelong friend of Rutherford. The manner in which he discusses with her the most profound questions of Christian doctrine and personal religion, as well as the tangled affairs of Church and State, are sufficient evidence of her outstanding gifts and graces. Forty-five letters to her have survived. Letters VI and XXXIX below are also to her.
LOVING AND DEAR SISTER, -- If ever you would pleasure me, entreat the Lord for me, now when I am so comfortless, and so full of heaviness, that I am not able to stand under the burthen any longer. The Almighty hath doubled His stripes upon me, for my wife is so sore tormented night and day, that I have wondered why the Lord tarrieth so long. My life is bitter unto me, and I fear the Lord be my contrair party. It is (as I now know by experience) hard to keep sight of God in a storm, especially when He hides Himself, for the trial of His children. If He would be pleased to remove His hand, I have a purpose to seek Him more than I have done. Happy are they that can win away with their soul. I am afraid of His judgments. I bless my God that there is a death, and a heaven. I would weary to begin again to be a Christian, so bitter is it to drink of the cup that Christ drank of, if I knew not that there is no poison in it. Pray that God would not lead my wife into temptation. Woe is my heart, that I have done so little against the kingdom of Satan in my calling; for he would fain attempt to make me blaspheme God in His face. I believe, I believe, in the strength of Him who hath put me in His work, he shall fail in that which he seeks. I have comfort in this, that my Captain, Christ, hath said, I must fight and overcome the world, and with a weak, spoiled, weaponless devil, the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me'. Desire Mr Robert to remember me, if he love me. Grace, grace be with you, and all yours.
Remember Zion. Hold fast that which you have, that no man take the crown from you. The Lord Jesus be with your spirit.
ANWOTH, Nov. 17, 1629
IV. To LADY KENMURE
MADAM, -- I have longed exceedingly to hear of your life, and health, and growth in the grace of God. I entreat you, Madam, let me have two lines from you, concerning your present condition. I know you are in grief and heaviness; and if it were not so, you might be afraid, because then your way would not be so like the way that our Lord saith leadeth to the New Jerusalem. Sure I am, if you knew what were before you, or if you saw some glances of it, you would, with gladness, swim through the present floods of sorrow, spreading forth your arms out of desire to be at land. If God have given you the earnest of the Spirit, as part of the payment of the principal sum, ye have to rejoice; for our Lord will not lose His earnest, neither will He go back, or repent Him of His bargain. If you find, at some time, a longing to see God, joy in the assurance of that sight (although the sight be but like the pass over, that cometh about only once in the year), peace of conscience, liberty of prayer, the doors of God's treasury opened to the soul, and a clear sight of Himself, saying, with a smiling countenance, Welcome to me, afflicted soul'; this is the earnest which He giveth sometimes, and which maketh glad the heart; and is an evidence that the bargain will hold. But to the end ye may get this earnest, it were good to come in terms of speech with God, both in prayer and hearing of the word, for the Christ that saveth you is a speaking Christ; the church knoweth Him by His voice (Song of Solomon 2.8), and can discern His tongue amongst a thousand. When our Lord cometh, He speaketh to the heart in the simplicity of the Gospel.
I have neither tongue nor pen to express to you the happiness of such as are in Christ. When ye have sold all that ye have, and bought the field wherein this pearl is, ye will think it no bad market; for if ye be in Him, all His is yours, and ye are in Him; therefore, because He liveth, ye shall live also' (John 14.19). Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me when I am, to behold My glory that Thou hath given me' (John 17.24). Amen, dear Jesus, let it be according to that word. I wonder that ever your heart should be cast down, if ye believe this truth. I and they are not worthy at Jesus Christ, who will not suffer forty years trouble for Him, since they have such glorious promises. But we fools believe those promises as the man that read Plato's writings concerning the immortality of the soul: so long as the book was in his hand he believed all was true, and that the soul could not die; but so soon as he laid by the book, he began to imagine that the soul is but a smoke or airy vapor, that perisheth with the expiring of the breath. So we at starts do assent to the sweet and precious promises; but, laying aside God's book, we begin to call all in question. It is faith indeed to believe without a pledge, and to hold the heart constant at this work; and when we doubt, to run to the Law and to the Testimony, and stay there. Madam, hold you here: here is your Father's testament -- read it; in it He hath left you remission of sins and life everlasting. If all that you have in this world be crosses and troubles, down-castings, frequent desertions and departures of the Lord, still He purposeth to do you good at your latter end, and to give you rest from the days of adversity. It is good to bear the yoke of God in your youth.' Turn ye to the strong hold, as a prisoner of hope. For the vision is for an appointed time, but at the last it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it: because it surely will come, it will not tarry.' Hear Himself saying, Come, my people (rejoice, He calleth you), enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, till the indignation be past.' Believe, then, believe and be ye saved: think it not hard, if ye get not your will nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but Himself. God forbid that ye should rejoice in any thing but the cross of Christ.' Grace, grace be with you. The great Messenger of the Covenant preserve you in body and spirit.
Yours in the Lord
ANWOTH, Feb. 1, 1630
V. To LADY KENMURE
MADAM, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied upon you. I received your Ladyship's letter, in the which I perceive your case in this world smelleth of a fellowship and communion with the Son of God in His sufferings. Ye cannot, ye must not, have a more pleasant or more easy condition here, than He had, who through afflictions was made perfect' (Heb. 2.10). We may indeed think, Cannot God bring us to heaven with ease and prosperity? Who doubteth but He can? But His infinite wisdom thinketh and decreeth the contrary; and we cannot see a reason for it, yet He hath a most just reason. We never with our eyes saw our own soul; yet we have a soul. We see many rivers, but we know not their first spring and original fountain; yet they have a beginning. Madam, when ye are come to the other side of the water, and have set down your foot on the shore of glorious eternity, and look back again to the waters and to your wearisome journey, and shall see, in that clear glass of endless glory, nearer to the bottom of God's wisdom, ye shall then be forced to say, If God had done otherwise with me than He hath done, I had never come to the enjoying of this crown of glory.' It is your part now to believe, and suffer, and hope, and wait on; for I protest, in the presence of that all-discerning eye, who knoweth what I write and what I think, that I would not want the sweet experience of the consolations of God for all the bitterness of affliction. Nay, whether God come to His children with a rod or a crown, if He come Himself with it, it is well. Welcome, welcome, Jesus, what way soever Thou come, if we can get a sight of Thee! And sure I am, it is better to be sick, providing Christ come to the bedside and draw by the curtains, and say, Courage, I am thy salvation', than to enjoy health, being lusty and strong, and never to be visited of God
My wife now, after long disease and torment, for the space of a year and a month, is departed this life. The Lord hath done it; blessed be His name. I have been diseased of a fever tertian for the space of thirteen weeks, and am yet in the sickness, so that I preach but once on the Sabbath with great difficulty. I am not able either to visit or examine the congregation. The Lord Jesus be with your spirit.