MUCH HONORED SIR, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. I am well. Christ triumpheth in me, blessed be His name. I have all things. I burden no man. I see that this earth and the fatness thereof is my Father's. Sweet, sweet is the cross of my Lord. The blessing of God upon the cross of my Lord Jesus! My enemies have contributed (beside their design) to make me blessed. This is my palace, not my prison; especially, when my Lord shineth and smileth upon His poor afflicted and sold Joseph, who is separated from his brethren. But, oh, my neglects! Oh, my unseen guiltiness! I imagined that a sufferer for Christ kept the keys of Christ's treasure, and might take out his heart-full of comforts when he pleased; but I see, a sufferer and a witness shall be holden at the door, as well as another poor sinner, and be glad to eat with the bairns, and to take the by-board.
Sir, lay the foundation thus, and ye shall not soon shrink, nor be shaken. Make tight work at the bottom, and your ship shall ride against all storms, if withal your anchor be fastened on good ground; I mean within the vail. And verily I think this is all, to gain Christ. All other things are shadows, dreams, fancies, and nothing.
Sir, remember my love to your mother. I pray for mercy and grace to her; I wish her on-going toward heaven. As I promised to write, so show her that I want nothing in my Lord's service. Christ will not be in such a poor man's common as mine. Grace, grace be with you.
ABERDEEN, Sept. 22, 1637
LVII. To LADY BOYD
MADAM, -- I would have written to your Ladyship ere now, but people's believing there is in me that which I know there is not, has put me out of love with writing to any.
My Lord seeth me a tired man, far behind. I have gotten much love from Christ, but I give Him little or none again. My white side cometh out on paper to men; but at home and within I find much black work, and great cause of a low sail, and of little boasting.
I wish all professors to fall in love with grace. All our songs should be of His free grace. We are but too lazy and careless in seeking of it; it is all our riches we have here, and glory in the bud. I wish that I could set out free grace. I was the law's man, and under the law, and under a curse; but grace brought me from under that hard lord, and I rejoice that I am grace's freeholder. I pay tribute to none for heaven, seeing my land and heritage holdeth of Christ, my new King. Infinite wisdom has devised this excellent way of free-holding for sinners. It is a better way to heaven than the old way that was in Adam's days. It has this fair advantage, that no man's emptiness and want layeth an inhibition upon Christ, or hindereth His salvation; and that is far best for me. But our new Landlord putteth the names of devours, and Adam's forlorn heirs, and beggars, and the crooked and blind, in the free charters. Heaven and angels may wonder that we have got such a gate of sin and hell. Such a back-entry out of hell as Christ made, and brought out the captives by, is more than my poor shallow thoughts can comprehend.
I hear that the prelates are intending banishment for me; but, for more grace, and no other hire, I would make it welcome. The bits of this clay house, the earth, and the other side of the sea, are my Father's. If my sweet Lord Jesus would bud my sufferings with a new measure of grace, I were a rich man. But I have not now, of a long time, found such high spring-tides as formerly. The sea is out, the wind of His Spirit calm; and I cannot buy a wind, or, by requesting the sea, cause it to flow again; only I wait on upon the banks and shore-side, till the Lord send a full sea, that with upsails I may lift up Christ. Yet sorrow for His absence is sweet; and sighs, with Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?' have their own delights. Oh that I may gather hunger against His long-looked-for return! Well were my soul, if Christ were the element (mine own element), and that I loved and breathed in Him, and if I could not live without Him.
Remember my service to my lord your son, who was kind to me in my bonds, and was not ashamed to own me. I would be glad that Christ got the morning service of his life, now in his young years. It would suit him well to give Christ his young and green love. Christ's stamp and seal would go far down in a young soul, if he would receive the thrust of Christ's stamp. I would desire him to make search for Christ; for nobles are now but dry friends to Christ.
The grace of God our Father, and the goodwill of Him who dwelt in the Bush, be with your Ladyship.
LVIII. To LADY ROBERT LAND
Like many other of the great ladies of the Covenant, some of whom we have already met in these letters, and others of whom are in the full collection, Lady Robertland was a woman of deep personal faith and of devoted service to the cause of Christ. She was noted, too, for her witty and fascinating conversation and her way of illustrating spiritual truth by most vivid and homely similes and parables.
MISTRESS, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. -- I shall be glad to hear that your soul prospereth, and that fruit growth upon you, after the Lord's husbandry and pains, in His rod that has not been a stranger to you from your youth. It is the Lord's kindness that He will take the scum off us in the fire. Who knoweth how needful winnowing is to us, and what dross we must want ere we enter into the kingdom of God? So narrow is the entry to heaven, that our knots, our bunches and lumps of pride, and self-love, and idol-love, and world-love, must be hammered off us, that we may thring in, stooping low, and creeping through that narrow and thorny entry.
And now for myself, I find it the most sweet and heavenly life to take up house and dwelling at Christ's fireside, and set down my tent upon Christ, that Foundationstone, who is sure and faithful ground and hard under foot. I thank God that God is God, and Christ is Christ, and the earth the earth, and the devil the devil, and the world the world, and that sin is sin, and that everything is what it is; because He has taught me in my wilderness not to shuffle my Lord Jesus, nor to intermix Him with creature-vanities, nor to spin or twine Christ or His sweet love in one web, or in one thread, with the world and the things thereof. Oh, if I could hold and keep Christ all alone, and mix Him with nothing! Oh, if I could cry down the price and weight of my cursed self, and cry up the price of Christ, and double, and triple, and augment, and heighten to millions the price and worth of Christ. But we are still ill scholars, and will go in at heaven's gates wanting the half of our lesson; and shall still be bairns, so long as we are under time's hands, and till eternity cause a sun to arise in our souls that shall give us wit. We may see how we spill and mar our own fair heaven and our salvation, and how Christ is every day putting in one bone or other, in these fallen souls of ours, in the right place again; and that on this side of the New Jerusalem, we shall still have need of forgiving and healing grace. I find crosses Christ's carved work that He markets out for us, and that with crosses He figureth and portrayeth us to His own image, cutting away pieces of our ill and corruption. Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord wound, Lord do anything that may perfect Thy Father's image in us, and make us meet for glory.
Pray for me (I forget you not) that our Lord would be pleased to lend me house-room to preach His righteousness, and tell what I have heard and seen of Him. Forget not Zion that is now in Christ's caums, and in His forge. God bring her out new work. Grace, grace be with you.
ABERDEEN, Jan 4, 1638
LIX. To THE HONORABLE, REVEREND, AND WELL-BELOVED PROFESSORS OF CHRIST AND HIS TRUTH IN SINCERITY, IN IRELAND
At the time of this letter the Presbyterian Church of Ireland was in a very depressed condition. In 1632, as we have seen, Robert Blair and other ministers were deposed for nonconformity. In the autumn of 1636 the same thing happened to five more. All were obliged to leave the country. In consequence the Church was deprived of many of its best ministers. Rutherford's letter was intended to confirm them in adherence to the cause for which they and their ministers were suffering.
DEARLY BELOVED IN THE LORD, AND PARTAKERS OF THE HEAVENLY CALLING. -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you, from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
I always, but most of all now in my bonds (most sweet bonds for Christ my Lord) rejoice to hear of your faith and love; and that persecutions and dockings of sinners have not chased away the Wooer from the house. I persuade you in the Lord that the men of God, now scattered and driven from you, put you upon the right scent and pursuit of Christ; and my salvation on it (if ten heavens were mine) if this way, this way that I now suffer for, this way that the world nicknameth and reproacheth, and no other way, be not the King's gate to heaven. And I shall never see God's face (and, alas, I were a beguiled wretch if it were so!) if this be not the only saving way to heaven. Oh that you would take a prisoner for Christ's word for it (nay, I know you have the greatest King's word for it), that it shall not be your wisdom to speer out another Christ, or another way of worshipping Him, than is now savingly revealed to you. Therefore, though I never saw your faces, let me be pardoned to write to you, if possibly I could, by any weak experience, confirm and strengthen you in this good way, everywhere spoken against. I can with the greatest assurance (to the honor of our highest, and greatest, and dearest Lord, let it be spoken!) assert (though I be but a child in Christ, and scarce able to walk but by a hold, and the meanest, and less than the least of saints), that we do not come nigh, by twenty degrees, to the due love and estimation of that fairest among the sons of men. Therefore, faint not in your sufferings and hazards for Him. Where can we find a match to Christ, or an equal, or a better than He, among created things? Oh this world is out of all conceit, and all love, with our Well-beloved. Oh that I could sell my laughter, joy, ease, and all for Him, and be content with a straw bed, and bread by weight, and water by measure, in the camp of our weeping Christ! I know that His sackcloth and ashes are better than the fool's laughter, which is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. But, alas! we do not harden our faces against the cold north storms which blow upon Christ's fair face. We love well summer-religion, and to be that which sin has made us, even as thin-skinned as if we were made of white paper; and would fain be carried to heaven in a close-covered chariot, wishing from our hearts that Christ would give us surety, and His handwrite, and His seal, or nothing but a fair summer until we be landed in at heaven's gates!
How many of us have been here deceived, and have fainted in the day of trial! Amongst you there are some of this stamp. I shall be sorry if my acquaintance A.T. has left you: I will not believe that he dare to stay away from Christ's side. I desire that ye show him this from me; for I loved him once in Christ, neither can I change my mind suddenly of him. But the truth is, that many of you, and too many also of your neighbor Church of Scotland, have been like a tenant that sitteth mail-free and knoweth not his holding whill his rights be questioned. And now I am persuaded, that it will be asked at every one of us, on what terms we brook Christ; for we have sitten long mail-free.
Many take but half a grip of Christ, and the wind bloweth them and Christ asunder. Indeed, when the mast is broken and blown into the sea, it is an art then to swim upon Christ to dry land. It is even possible that the children of God, in a hard trial, lay themselves down as hidden in the lee-side of a bush whill Christ their Master be taken, as Peter did; and lurk there, whill the storm be over-past. All of us know the way to a whole skin; and the singlest heart that is has a by-purse that will contain the denial of Christ, and a fearful backsliding. Oh, how rare a thing it is to be loyal and honest to Christ, when He has a controversy with the shields of the earth! I wish all of you would consider, that this trial is from Christ; it is come upon you unbought. Do not now joule, or bow, or yield to your adversaries in a hair-breadth. Christ and His truth will not divide; and His truth has not latitude and breadth, that ye may take some of it and leave other some of it. It is not possible to twist and compound a matter betwixt Christ and Antichrist; and, therefore, ye must either be for Christ, or ye must be against Him. I know and am persuaded that Christ shall again be high and great in this poor, withered and sun-burnt Kirk of Scotland; and that the sparks of our fire shall fly over the sea and round about to warm you and other sister churches; and that this tabernacle of David's house, that is fallen, even the Son of David's waste places, shall be built again. And I know the prison, crosses, persecutions and trials of the two slain witnesses that are now dead and buried (Rev. 11.9) and of the faithful professors, have a back-door and back-entry of escape; and that death and hell and the world and the tortures shall all cleave and split in twain, and give us free passage and liberty to go through toll-free: and we shall bring all God's good metal out of the furnace again, and leave behind us but our dross and scum. We may then beforehand proclaim Christ to be victorious. He is crowned King of Mount Zion: God did put the crown upon His head (Ps. 2.6; 21.3) and who dare take it off again?
Two special things ye are to mind: First, try and make sure your profession; that ye carry not empty lamps. Alas! security, security is the bane and wrack of the most part of the world. Oh how many professors go with a golden lustre, and are gold-like before men (who are but witnesses to our white skin) and yet are but bastard and base metal! False under water, not seen, is dangerous, and that is a leak and rift in the bottom of an enlightened conscience; often failing and sinning against light. Woe is me that the holy profession of Christ is made a stage garment by many, to bring home a vain fame, and Christ is made to serve men's ends.
Know, secondly, except men martyr and slay the body of sin in sanctified self-denial, they shall never be Christ's martyrs and faithful witnesses. Oh if I could be master of that house-idol myself, my own mind, my own will, wit, credit, and ease, how blessed were I! Oh, but we have need to be redeemed from ourselves, rather than from the devil and the world! O wretched idol, myself! when shall I see thee wholly decourted, and Christ wholly put in thy room? Oh, if Christ, Christ had the full place and room of myself, that all my aims, purposes, thoughts, and desires would coast and land upon Christ, and not upon myself! And howbeit we cannot attain to this denial of me and mine, that we can say, I am not myself, myself is not myself, mine own is no longer mine own', yet our aiming at this in all we do shall be accepted: for alas! I think I shall die but minting and aiming to be a Christian. Is it not our comfort, that Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, is come betwixt us and God in the business, so that green and young heirs, the like of sinners, have now a Tutor that is God! And now, God be thanked, our salvation is bottomed on Christ. Sure I am, the bottom shall never fall out of heaven and happiness to us. I would give over the bargain a thousand times, were it not that Christ's free grace has taken our salvation in hand.
Pray, pray and contend with the Lord, for your sister church; for it would appear that the Lord is about to speer for His scattered sheep, in the dark and cloudy day. Oh that it would please our Lord to set up again David's old wasted and fallen tabernacle in Scotland, that we might see the glory of the second temple in this land! And, howbeit He has caused the blossom to fall off my one poor joy, that was on this side of heaven, even my liberty to preach Christ to His people, yet I am dead to that now, so that He would hew and carve glory, glory for evermore, to my royal King out of my silence and sufferings.
I entreat you earnestly for the aid of your prayers, for I forget not you; and I salute, with my soul in Christ, the faithful pastors, and honorable and worthy professors in that land. Now the God of peace, that brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight. Grace, grace be with you.
ABERDEEN, Feb. 4, 1638
LX. To LADY KENMURE, on the death of her son, John, second Viscount Kenmure
MADAM, -- Grace, mercy, and peace, be to you. I know that you are near many comforters, and that the promised Comforter is near at hand also; yet because I found your Ladyship comfortable to myself in my sad days, that are not yet over my head, it is my part, and more in many respects (howbeit I can do little, God knoweth, in that kind), to speak to you in your wilderness-lot. I know, dear and noble lady, this loss of your dear child came upon you one piece and part of it after another; and that you were looking for it, and that now the Almighty has brought on you that which you feared; and that your Lord gave you lawful warning: and I hope for his sake who brewed and masked this cup in heaven, you will gladly drink, and salute and welcome the cross. I am sure it is not your Lord's mind to feed you with judgment and wormwood, and to give you waters of gall to drink (Jer. 9.15). I know that your cup is sugared with mercy; and that the withering of the bloom, the flower, even the white and red of worldly joys, is for no other end, but to secure the reversion of your heart and love. Madam, subscribe to the Almighty's will: put your hand to the pen, and let the cross of your Lord Jesus have your submissive and resolute amen. If you ask and try whose this cross is, I dare say that it is not all your own, the best half of it is Christ's. If Christ and ye be halvers of this suffering, and He say, Half Mine', what should ail you? And I am sure that I am here right upon the style of the word of God: The fellowship of Christ's sufferings' (Phil. 3.1O); Tho remnant of the afflictions of Christ' (Col. 1.24); The reproach of Christ' (Heb. 11.26). It were but to shift the comforts of God, to say, Christ had never such a cross as mine: He had never a dead child, and so this is not His cross; neither can He, in that meaning, be the owner of this cross.' But the word maketh no exception. In all their afflictions He was afflicted' (Isa. 63.9). It may be, that ye think not many of the children of God in such a hard case as yourself; but what would ye think of some, who would exchange afflictions? But I know that yours must be your own alone, and Christ's together.
I confess it seemed strange to me, that your Lord should have done that which seemed to ding out the bottom of your worldly comforts; but we see not the ground of the Almighty's sovereignty. He goeth by on our right hand, and on our left hand, and we see Him not.' We see but pieces of the broken links of the chains of His providence; and he coggeth the wheels of His own providence, that we see not. Do not wonder to see the Judge of the world weave, into one web, your mercies and the judgments of the house of Kenmure. He can make one web of contraries.
I would gladly plead for the Comforter's part of it, not against you, Madam, but against your grief, which will have its own violent incursions in your soul: and I think it be not in your power to help it. But I must say, there are comforts allowed upon you; and, therefore, want them not. It is a Christian art to comfort yourself in the Lord; to say,
I was obliged to render back again this child to the Giver: and if I have had four years' loan of him, and Christ eternity's possession of him, the Lord has kept condition with me. If my Lord would not have him and me to tryst both in one hour at death's door-threshold together, it is His wisdom so to do; I am satisfied. My tryst is suspended, not broken off, nor given up.' Madam, I would that I could divide sorrow with you, for your ease. But I am but a beholder: it is easy to me to speak; the God of comfort speak to you, and allure you with His feasts of love.
My removal from my flock is so heavy to me, that it maketh my life a burden to me; I had never such a longing for death. The Lord help and hold up sad clay.
Madam, desire my Lord Argyle to see for provision to a pastor for his poor people. Grace be with you.