VI. To MARION MCNAUGHT, when persecuted for her principles
WELL-BELOVED SISTER, -- I have been thinking, since my departure from you, of the pride and malice of your adversaries; and ye may not (since ye have had the Book of Psalms so often) take hardly with this; for David's enemies snuffed at him, and through the pride of their heart said, The Lord will not require it' (Ps. 10.13). I beseech you, therefore, in the bowels of Jesus, set before your eyes the patience of your forerunner Jesus, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously (I Pet. 2.23). And since your Lord and Redeemer with patience received many a black stroke on His glorious back, and many a buffet of the unbelieving world, and says of Himself, I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting' (Isa. 50.6); follow Him and think it not hard that you receive a blow with your Lord. Take part with Jesus of His sufferings, and glory in the marks of Christ. If this storm were over, you must prepare yourself for a new wound; for, five thousand years ago, our Lord proclaimed deadly war betwixt the Seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent.
Be you upon Christ's side of it, and care not what flesh can do. Hold yourself fast by your Savior, howbeit you be buffeted, and those that follow Him. Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed' (II Cor. 4.8, 9). If you can possess your soul in patience, their day is coming. Worthy and dear sister, know to carry yourself in trouble; and when you are hated and reproached, the Lord shows it to you -- All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten Thee, neither have we dealt falsely in Thy covenant' (Ps. 44.17). Unless Thy law had been my delight, I had perished in mine affliction' (Ps. 119.92). Keep God's covenant in your trials; hold you by His blessed word, and sin not; flee anger, wrath, grudging, envyving, fretting; forgive a hundred pence to your fellow-servant, because your Lord hath forgiven you ten thousand talents: for, I assure you by the Lord, your adversaries shall get no advantage against you, except you sin, and offend your Lord, in your sufferings. But the way to overcome is by patience, forgiving and praying for your enemies, in doing whereof you heap coals upon their heads, and your Lord shall open a door to you in your trouble: wait upon Him, as the night watch waiteth for the morning. He will not tarry. Go up to your watch-tower, and come not down, but by prayer, and faith, and hope, wait on. When the sea is full, it will ebb again; and so soon as the wicked come to the top of their pride, and are waxed high and mighty, then is their change approaching; they that believe make not haste.
Now, again, I trust in our Lord, you shall by faith sustain yourself and comfort yourself in your Lord, and be strong in His power; for you are in the beaten and common way to heaven, when you are under our Lord's crosses. You have reason to rejoice in it, more than in a crown of gold; and rejoice and be glad to bear the reproaches of Christ. I rest, recommending you and yours forever, to the grace and mercy of God. Yours in Christ.
ANWOTH, Feb, 11, 1631
VII. To LADY KENMURE
MADAM, -- I would not omit the opportunity of remembering your Ladyship, still harping upon that string, which in our whole lifetime is never too often touched upon (nor is our lesson well enough learned), that there is a necessity of advancing in the way to the kingdom of God, of the contempt of the world, of denying ourself and bearing of our Lord's cross, which is no less needful for us than daily food. And among many marks that we are on this journey, and under sail toward heaven, this is one, when the love of God so filleth our hearts, that we forget to love, and care not much for the having, or wanting of, other things. For this cause God's bairns take well with spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance (Heb. 10.34). That day that the earth and the works therein shall be burned with fire (II Pet. 3.10), your hidden hope and your life shall appear. And therefore, since ye have not now many years to your endless eternity, and know not how soon the sky above your head will rive, and the Son of man will be seen in the clouds of heaven, what better and wiser course can ye take, than to think that your one foot is here, and your other foot in the life to come, and to leave off loving, desiring, or grieving, for the wants that shall be made up when your Lord and ye shall meet. Then shall ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory -- and your joy shall no one take from you.' It is enough that the Lord has promised you great things; only let the time of bestowing them be His own. It is not for us to set an hour-glass to the Creator of time. It will be; for God has said it, bide His harvest. His day is better than your day; He putteth not the hook in the corn, till it be ripe and full-eared. The great Angel of the Covenant bear you company, till the trumpet shall sound, and the voice of the archangel awaken the dead.
Ye shall find it your only happiness, under whatsoever thing disturbeth and crosseth the peace of your mind in this life, to love nothing for itself, but only God for Himself. Our love to Him should not begin on earth as it shall be in heaven; for the bride taketh not, by a thousand degrees, so much delight in her wedding garments as she does in her bridegroom; so we, in the life to come, howbeit clothed with glory as with a robe, shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the Bridegroom's joyful face and presence. Madam, if ye can win to this here, the field is won.
Fearing to be tedious to you, I break off here, commending you (as I trust to do while I live), your person, ways, burdens, and all that concerneth you, to that Almighty who is able to bear you and your burdens. I still remember you to Him who will cause you one day to laugh.
ANWOTH, Jan. 14, 1632
VIII. To JOHN KENNEDY, on his deliverance from shipwreck
John Stuart, Provost of Aye, another correspondent of Rutherford (Letter XXIX), was told that a ship of his, bound from Rochelle to Aye, had been captured by the Turks. The rumour proved incorrect, for at length it arrived in the roads. Kennedy, an intimate friend of Stuart, was so overjoyed that he went out to it in a small boat. But a violent storm suddenly arose and he was driven out to sea and given up for drowned. But three days later Kennedy, who had managed to land safely on another part of the coast, returned home. Kennedy was member for Aye of the Scottish Parliament from 1664 to 1666, and was then Provost of the town. He was also a member of the General Assembly of the Church for some years.
MY LOVING AND MOST AFFECTIONATE BROTHER IN CHRIST, -- I salute you with grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
I promised to write to you, and although late enough, yet I now make it good. I heard with grief of your great danger of perishing by the sea, and of your merciful deliverance with joy. Sure I am, brother, that Satan will leave no stone unrolled, as the proverb is, to roll you off your Rock, or at least to shake and unsettle you: for at that same time the mouths of wicked men were opened in hard speeches against you, by land, and the prince of the power of the air was angry with you by sea. See then how much ye are obliged to that malicious murderer, who would beat you with two rods at one time; but, blessed be God, his arm is short; if the sea and wind would have obeyed him, ye had never come to land. Thank your God, who saith, I have the keys of hell and death (Rev 1.18); I kill, and I make alive' (Deut. 32.39): The Lord bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up' (I Sam. 2.6). Ye were knocking at these black gates, and ye found the doors shut; and we do all welcome you back again.
I trust that ye know that it is not for nothing that ye are sent to us again. The Lord knew that ye had forgotten something that was necessary for your journey; that your armour was not as yet thick enough against the stroke of death. Now, in the strength of Jesus dispatch your business; that debt is not forgiven, but fristed: death has not bidden you farewell, but has only left you for a short season. End your journey ere the night come upon you. Have all in readiness against the time that ye must sail through that black and impetuous Jordan; and Jesus, Jesus, who knoweth both those depths and the rocks, and all the coasts, be your pilot. The last tide will not wait you for one moment. If ye forget anything, when your sea is full, and your foot in that ship, there is no returning again to fetch it. What ye do amiss in your life to-day, ye may amend it to-morrow; for as many suns as God maketh to arise upon you, ye have as many new lives; but ye can die but once, and if ye mar or spill that business, ye cannot come back to mend that piece of work again. No man sinneth twice in dying ill; as we die but once, so we die but ill or well once. You see how the number of your months is written in God's book; and as one of the Lord's hirelings, ye must work till the shadow of the evening come upon you, and ye shall run out your glass even to the last pickle of sand. Fulfill your course with joy, for we take nothing to the grave with us, but a good or evil conscience. And, although the sky clear after this storm, yet clouds will engender another.
Ye contracted with Christ, I hope, when first ye began to follow Him, that ye would bear His cross. Fulfill your part of the contract with patience, and break not to Jesus Christ. Be honest, brother, in your bargaining with Him; for who knoweth better how to bring up children than our God? For (to lay aside His knowledge, of the which there is no finding out) He has been practiced in bringing up His heirs these five thousand years; and His bairns are all well brought up, and many of them are honest men now at home, up in their own house in heaven, and are entered heirs to their Father's inheritance. Now, the form of His bringing up was by chastisements, scourging, correcting, nurturing; and see if He maketh exception of any of His bairns; no, His eldest Son and His Heir, Jesus, is not excepted (Rev. 3.19; Heb. 12.7-8; 2.10). Suffer we must; ere we were born God decreed it, and it is easier to complain of His decree than to change it. Forward then, dear brother, and lose not your grips.
Now I commend you, your whole soul, and body, and spirit, to Jesus Christ and His keeping, hoping that ye will live and die, stand and fall, with the cause of our Master, Jesus. The Lord Jesus Himself be with your spirit. Your loving brother in our Lord Jesus.
ANWOTH, Feb. 2, 1632
IX. To LADY KENMURE, on the perils of rank and prosperity
MADAM, -- I determined, and was desirous also, to have seen your Ladyship, but because of a pain in my arm I could not. I know ye will not impute it to any unsuitable forgetfulness of your Ladyship, from whom, at my first entry to my calling in this country (and since also), I received such comfort in my affliction as I trust in God never to forget, and shall labour by His grace to recompense in the only way possible to me; and that is, by presenting your soul, person, house, and all your necessities, in prayer to Him, whose I hope you are, and who is able to keep you till that Day of Appearance, and to present you before His face with joy.
I am confident your Ladyship is going forward in the begun journey to your Lord and Father's home and kingdom. Howbeit ye want not temptations within and without. And who among the saints has ever taken that castle without stroke of sword? The Chief of the house, our Elder brother, our Lord Jesus, not being excepted, who won His own house and home, due to Him by birth, with much blood and many blows. Your Ladyship has the more need to look to yourself, because our Lord has placed you higher than the rest, and your way to heaven lieth through a more wild and waste wilderness than the way of many of your fellow-travellers -- not only through the midst of this wood of thorn, the cumbersome world, but also through these dangerous paths, the vain-glory of it; the consideration whereof has often moved me to pity your soul, and the soul of your worthy and noble husband. And it is more to you to win heaven, being ships of greater burden, and in the main sea, than for little vessels, that are not so much in the mercy and reverence of the storms, because they may come quietly to their port by launching amongst the coast. For the which cause ye do much, if in the midst of such a tumult of business, and crowd of temptations, ye shall give Christ Jesus His own court and His own due place in your soul. I know and am persuaded, that that lovely One, Jesus, is dearer to you than many kingdoms; and that ye esteem Him your Well-beloved, and the Standard-bearer among ten thousand (Song of Sol. 5.1O). And it becometh Him full well to take the place and the board head in your soul before all the world. I knew and saw Him with you in the furnace of affliction; for there He wooed you to Himself, and chose you to be His; and now He craveth no other hire of you but your love, and that He get no cause to be jealous of you. And, therefore, dear and worthy lady, be like to the fresh river, that keepeth its own fresh taste in the salt sea.
Madam, many eyes are upon you, and many would be glad your Ladyship should spill a Christian, and mar a good professor. Lord Jesus, mar their godless desires, and keey the conscience whole without a crack! If there be a hole in it, so that it take in water at a leak, it will with difficulty mend again. It is a dainty, delicate creature, and a rare piece of the workmanship of your Maker; and therefore deal gently with it, and keep it entire, that amidst this world's glory your Ladyship may learn to entertain Christ. And whatsoever creature your Ladyship findeth not to smell of Him, may it have no better relish to you than the white of an egg.
Madam, it is a part of the truth of your profession to drop words in the ears of your noble husband continually of eternity, judgment, death, hell, heaven, the honorable profession, the sins of his father's house. He must reckon with God for his father's debt; forgetting of accounts payeth no debt. Nay, the interest of a forgotten bond runneth up with God to interest upon interest. I know he looketh homeward, and loveth the truth; but I pity him with my soul, because of his many temptations. Satan layeth upon men a burden of cares, above a load (and maketh a pack horse of men's souls), when they are wholly set upon this world. We owe the devil no such service. It were wisdom to throw off that load into a mire, and cast all our cares over upon God. Look for crosses, and while it is fair weather mend the sails of the ship. Now hoping your Ladyship will pardon my tediousness, I recommend your soul and person to the grace and mercy of our Lord, in whom I am your Ladyship's obedient.
ANWOTH, Nov, 15, 1633
X. To LADY KENMURE, on the death of her husband
MY VERY NOBLE AND WORTHY LADY, -- So oft as I call to mind the comforts that I myself, a poor friendless stranger, received from your Ladyship here in a strange part of the country, when my Lord took from me the delight of mine eyes (Ezek. 24.1), as the Word speaketh (which wound is not yet fully healed and cured), I trust your Lord shall remember that, and give you comfort now at such a time as this, wherein your dearest Lord has made you a widow, albeit I must out of some experience say, the mourning for the husband of your youth be, by God's own mouth, the heaviest worldly sorrow (Joel 1.8). And though this be the weightiest burden that ever lay upon your back; yet ye know (when the fields are emptied and your husband now asleep in the Lord), if ye shall wait upon Him who hideth His face for a while, that it lieth upon God's honor and truth to fill the field, and to be a Husband to the widow. Let your faith and patience be seen, that it may be known your only beloved first and last has been Christ. And, therefore, now ware your whole love upon Him; He alone is a suitable object for your love and all the affections of your soul. God has dried up one channel of your love by the removal of your husband. Let now that speat run upon Christ.
And I dare say that God's hammering of you from your youth is only to make you a fair carved stone in the high upper temple of the New Jerusalem. Your Lord never thought this world's vain painted glory a gift worthy of you; and therefore would not bestow it on you, because He is to propane you with a better portion. Let the movable go; the inheritance is yours. Ye are a child of the house, and joy is laid up for you, it is long in coming, but not the worse for that. I am now expecting to see, and that with joy and comfort, that which I hoped of you since I knew you fully; even that ye have laid such strength upon the Holy One of Israel, that ye defy troubles, and that your soul is a castle that may be besieged, but cannot be taken. And withal consider how in all these trials (and truly they have been many) your Lord has been loosing you at the root from perishing things, and hunting after you to grip your soul. Madam, for the Son of God's sake, let Him not miss His grip, but stay and abide in the love of God, as Jude saith (Jude 21).
Now. Madam, I hope your Ladyship will take these lines in good part; and wherein I have fallen short and failed to your Ladyship, in not evidencing what I was obliged to your more-than-undeserved love and respect, I request for a full pardon for it. Again, my dear and noble lady, let me beseech you to lift up your head, for the day of your redemption draweth near. And remember, that star that shined in Galloway is now shining in another world. Now I pray that God may answer, in His own style, to your soul, and that He may be to you the God of all consolations.