By Samuel Rutherford
XVI. To MR ROBERT BLAIR
Blair became minister of Bangor in Northern Ireland in 1623. But after nine years there he was deposed for nonconformity with a number of other ministers. A group of them took ship to emigrate to America in search of religious liberty but were forced by the weather to return, which is the occasion of this letter. In 1638 Blair was called to be minister in Aye and later in St. Andrew, where he became a close friend of Rutherford. In 1661 he was summoned before the Privy Council for a sermon on the Covenant and deprived of his church. He died in 1666. See also Letter LIV.
REVEREND AND DEARLY BELOVED BROTHER, -- Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, be unto you.
It is no great wonder, my dear brother, that ye be in heaviness for a season, and that God's will (in crossing your design and desires to dwell amongst a people whose God is the Lord) should move you. I deny not but ye have cause to inquire what His providence speaketh in this to you; but God's directing and commanding Will can by no good logic be concluded from events of providence. The Lord sent Paul on many errands for the spreading of His Gospel, where he found lions in his way. A promise was made to His people of the Holy Land, and yet many nations were in the way, fighting against, and ready to kill them that had the promise, or to keep them from possessing the good land which the Lord their God had given them. I know that ye have most to do with submission of spirit; but I persuade myself that ye have learned, in every condition wherein ye are cast, therein to be content, and to say, Good is the will of the Lord, let it be done.' I believe that the Lord tacketh His ship often to fetch the wind, and that He purposeth to bring mercy out of your sufferings and silence, which (I know from mine own experience) is grievous to you. Seeing that He knoweth our willing mind to serve Him, our wages and stipend is running to the fore with our God, even as some sick soldiers get pay, when they are bedfast and not able to go to the field with others.
When they have eaten and swallowed us up, they shall be sick and vomit us out living men again; the devil's stomach cannot digest the Church of God. Suffering is the other half of our ministry, howbeit the hardest; for we would be content that our King Jesus should make an open proclamation, and cry down crosses, and cry up joy, gladness, ease, honor, and peace. But it must not be so; through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of God. Not only by them, but through them, must we go; and wiles will not take us past the cross. It is folly to think to steal to heaven with a whole skin
For myself, I am here a prisoner confined in Aberdeen, threatened to be removed to Caithness, because I desire to edify in this town; and am openly preached against in the pulpits in my hearing.
There are none here to whom I can speak; I dwell in Kedar's tents. Refresh me with a letter from you.
Dear brother, upon my salvation, this is His truth that we suffer for. Courage! Courage! Joy, Joy, for evermore! O for help to set my crowned lying on high! O for love to Him Who is altogether lovely -- that love which many waters cannot quench, neither can the floods drown!
I remember you, and bear your name on my breast to Christ. I beseech you, forget not His afflicted prisoner.
Your brother and fellow prisoner.
ABERDEEN, Feb. 7, 1637
XVII. To ROBERT GORDON OF KNOCKBREX
Robert Gordon lived in the next parish to Anwoth. He was a prominent figure in Church life in Scotland.
MY VERY WORTHY AND DEAR FRIEND, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. Though all Galloway should have forgotten me, I would have expected a letter from you ere now; but I will not expound it to be forgetfulness of me.
Now, my dear brother, I cannot show you how matters go betwixt Christ and me. I find my Lord going and coming seven times a day. His visits are short; but they are both frequent and sweet. I dare not for my life think of a challenge of my Lord. I hear ill tales, and hard reports of Christ, from the Tempter and my flesh; but love believeth no evil. I may swear that they are liars, and that apprehensions make lies of Christ's honest and unalterable love to me. I dare not say that I am a dry tree, or that I have no room at all in the vineyard, but yet I often think that the sparrows are blessed, who may resort to the house of God in Anwoth, from which I am banished.
Temptations, that I supposed to be stricken dead and laid upon their back, rise again and revive upon me; yea, I see that while I live, temptations will not die. The devil seemeth to brag and boast as much as if he had more court with Christ than I have; and as if he had charmed and blasted my ministry, that I shall do no more good in public. But his wind shaketh no corn. I will not believe that Christ would have made such a mint to have me to Himself, and have taken so much pains upon me as He has done, and then slip so easily from possession, and lose the glory of what He has done. Nay, since I came to Aberdeen, I have been taken up to see the new land, the fair palace of the Lamb; and will Christ let me see heaven, to break my heart, and never give it to me? I shall not think my Lord Jesus giveth a dumb earnest, or putteth His seals to blank paper, or intendeth to put me off with fair and false promises. I see that now which I never saw well before.
(I) I see faith's necessity in a fair day is never known aright; but now I miss nothing so much as faith. Hunger in me runneth to fair and sweet promises; but when I come, I am like a hungry man that wanteth teeth, or a weak stomach having a sharp appetite that is filled with the very sight of meat, or like one stupefied with cold under water, that would fain come to land, but cannot grip anything casten to him. I can let Christ grip me, but I cannot grip Him. I cannot set my feet to the ground, for afflictions bring the cramp upon my faith. All I dow do is to hold out a lame faith to Christ, like a beggar holding out a stump instead of an arm or leg, and cry, Lord Jesus, work a miracle! Oh what would I give to have hands and arms to grip strongly.
(2) I see that mortification, and to be crucified to the world, is not so highly accounted of by us as it should be. Oh how heavenly a thing it is to be dead and dumb and deaf to this world's sweet music! As I am at this present, I would scorn to buy this world's kindness with a bow of my knee. I scarce now either see or hear what it is that this world offereth me; I know that it is little that it can take from me, and as little that it can give me.
(3) I thought courage, in the time of trouble for Christ's sake, a thing that I might take up at my foot. I thought that the very remembrance of the honesty of the cause would be enough. But I was a fool in so thinking. Christ will be steward and dispenser Himself and none else but He; therefore, now, I count much of one dram weight of spiritual joy. Truly I have no cause to say that I am pinched with penury, or that the consolations of Christ are dried up. Praise, praise with me.
Remember my love to your brother, to your wife, and G.M. Desire him to be faithful, and to repent of his hypocrisy; and say that I wrote it to you. I wish him salvation. Write to me your mind agent C.E. and C.Y., and their wives, and I.G., or any others in my parish. I fear that I am forgotten amongst them; but I cannot forget them.
The prisoner's prayers and blessings come upon you. Grace, grace be with you.
Your brother, in the Lord Jesus.
ABERDEEN, Feb. 9, 1637
XVIII. To ALEXANDER GORDON OF EARLSTON
Alexander Gordon of Earlston, not far from Anwoth, was summoned before the High Commission by the bishop of Glasgow for preventing the intrusion of an unpopular nominee of the bishop into a vacant parish. This charge was not proceeded with, but on a later, similar charge he was heavily fined. He was a leading Churchman and a member of the Scottish Parliament.
MUHH HONORED SIR, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. I received your letter, which refreshed me. Except from your son, and my brother, I have seen few letters from my acquaintance in that country; which maketh me heavy. But I have the company of a Lord who can teach us all to be kind, and has the right gate of it. It pleaseth Him to come and dine with a sad prisoner, and a solitary stranger. But I verily think now, that Christ has led me up to a nick in Christianity that I was never at before. I think all before was but childhood and bairn's play. I look back to what I was before, and I laugh to see the sand-houses I built when I was a child.
At first the remembrance of many fair feast-days with my Lord Jesus in public, which are now changed into silent Sabbaths, raised a great tempest, and (if I may speak so) made the devil ado in my soul. The devil came in, and would prompt me to lay the blame on Him as a hard master. But now these mists are blown away, and I am not only silenced as to all quarreling, but fully satisfied. Christ beareth me good company. He has eased me, when I saw it not, lifting the cross off my shoulders, so that I think it to be but a feather, because underneath are everlasting arms. Nothing breaketh my heart, but that I cannot get the daughters of Jerusalem to tell them of my Bridegroom's glory. I charge you in the name of Christ that ye tell all that ye come to of it, and yet it is above telling and understanding. Oh, if all the kingdom were as I am, except my bonds! I write now what I have seen as well as heard. Now and then my silence burneth up my spirit; but Christ has said, Thy stipend is running up with interest ill in heaven, as if thou wert preaching'; and this from a King's mouth rejoiceth my heart. At other times I am sad, dwelling in Kedar's tents
There are none (that I yet know of) but two persons in this town that I dare give my word for. And the Lord has removed my brethren and my acquaintance far from me; and it may be, that I shall be forgotten in the place where the Lord made me the instrument to do some good. But I see that this is vanity in me; let Him make of me what He pleaseth.
Sir, write to me, I beseech you. I pray you also be kind to my afflicted brother. Remember my love to your wife; and the prayer and blessing of the prisoner of Christ be on you. Frequent your meetings for prayer and communion with God, they would be sweet meetings to me.
Yours in the Lord Jesus.
ABERDEEN, Feb. 16, 1637
XIX. To LADY KENMURE
MADAM, -- I hope that ye are wrestling and struggling on, in this dead age, wherein folks have lost tongue, and legs, and arms for Christ. I urge upon you, Madam, a nearer communion with Christ, and a growing communion. There are curtains to be drawn by in Christ, that we never saw, and new foldings of love in Him. I despair that ever I shall win to the far end of that love, there are so many plies in it. Therefore, dig deep; and sweat, and labour, and take pains for Him; and set by as much time in the day for Him as you can. He will be won with labour. Now, Madam, I assure you, the greatest part but play with Christianity; they put it by-hand easily. I thought it had been an easy thing to be a Christian, and that to seek God had been at the next door; but O, the windings and turnings that He has led me through! And I see yet much way to the ford.
I pray God I may not look to the world for my joys, and comforts, and confidence -- that were to put Christ out of His office. Now, the presence of the great Angel of the covenant be with you and that sweet child.
Yours in the Lord Jesus.
ABERDEEN, March 7, 1637
XX. To lady KENMURE
MADAM, -- Upon the offered opportunity of this worthy bearer, I could not omit to answer the heads of your letter.
Firstly, I think not much to set down on paper some good things agent Christ, and to feed my soul with raw wishes to be one with Christ; for a wish is but broken and half love. But verily to obey this, Come and see', is a harder matter! Oh, I have smoke rather than fire, and guessing rather than real assurances of Him. I cannot believe without a pledge. I cannot take God's word without a caution. But this is my way; for His way is, After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13).
Secondly, Ye write, that I am filled with knowledge, and stand not in need of these warnings.' But certainly my light is dim when it cometh to handy-grips. And how many have full coffers and yet empty bellies! Light, and the saving use of light, are far different. Oh, what need then have I to have the ashes blown away from my dying-out fire! I may be a bookman and (yet) be an idiot and stark fool in Christ's way. Learning will not beguile Christ.
Thirdly, I find you complaining of yourself. And it becometh a sinner so to do. I am not against you in that; the more sense of sin, the less sin. I would love my pain, and soreness, and my wounds, howbeit these should bereave me of my night's sleep, better than my wounds without pain.
Fourthly, Be not afraid for little grace. Christ soweth His living seed, and He will not lose His seed. If He have the guiding of my flock and state, it shall not miscarry. Our spilled works, losses, deadness, coldness, wretchedness, are the ground upon which the Good Husbandman laboureth.
Fifthly, Ye write, that His compassions fail not, notwithstanding that your service to Christ miscarrieth.' To which I answer:
God forbid that there were buying and selling, and blocking for as good again, betwixt Christ and us; for then free grace might go to play. But we go to heaven with light shoulders; and the vessels, great and smalls that we have, are fastened upon the sure Nail (Isa. 22.23-24). The only danger is, that we give grace more to do than God gives it; that is by turning God's grace into wantonness.
Sixthly, Ye write, few see your guiltiness; and you cannot be free with many as with me'. I answer, Blessed be God, Christ and we are not heard before men's courts: it is at home, betwixt Him and us, that our pleas are taken away. Grace be with you. Yours in the Lord Jesus.