Written by Samuel Rutherford.
Edited for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.
And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts,
and cried to him, saying, Have mercy on me,
O Lord, you son of David;
my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.”—Vs. 25.
It seems that Christ had denied her to be his…
…but she will not deny but Christ is her’s: see how a believer is to carry himself towards Christ when it feels that he is deserting, or frowning.
- Answered her not one word.
- He gave an answer but to the disciples, not to the woman. Oh dreadful! Christ refuseth to give her one word that may go between her, and hell and despair.
- The answer that he giveth is sadder and heavier than no answer; it is as much as, Woman, I have nothing to do with thee; I quit my part of thee.
- She is patient.
- She believeth.
- She waiteth on a better answer.
- She continueth in praying.
- Her love is not abated; she cometh and adoreth.
- Acknowledgeth her own misery; “Lord, help me,” and putteth Christ as God in his own right to be adored.
- She taketh Christ aright up, and seeth the temptation to be a temptation.
- She runneth to Christ; she came nearer to him, and runneth not from him; she clingeth to Christ, though Christ had cast her off.
Patient submission to God when you cannot see him, is sweet.
What though I saw no reason why I cry and shout, and God answereth not? –His comforts and his answers are his own free graces; he may do with his own what he thinks good, and grace is no debt. “Hear, O Lord, for thy own sake.” (Dan. 9:19.)
Infinite sovereignty may lay silence upon all hearts:
Good Hezekiah, “What shall I say? He hath spoken unto me, and himself hath done it.” (Isa. 38:15.) It is an act of Heaven; I bear it with silence.
There is a high and noble commandment laid upon the sad spirit: “He that walketh in darkness, and seeth no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” (Isa. 50:10.)
Fill the field with faith, double or frequent acts of faith: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Two faiths are a double breastwork against the forts of hell. (Eph. 6:16; 1 Thes. 5:8.)
In the greatest extremity believe, even as David in the borders of hell: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalm 23:4.) It is a litote; I will believe good. It is a cold and a dark shadow to walk at death’s right side, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15.) See Stephen dying and believing both at once: Christ’s very dead corpse and his grave in a sort believing: “My flesh also shall rest in hope.” (Psalm 16:9.) How sweet to take faith’s back band, subscribed by God’s own hand, into the cold grave with thee, as Christ did; “Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave.” (verse 10.)
Faith saith, sense is a liar: fancy, sense, the flesh will say, “His archers compassed me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare, and poureth out my gall on the ground:” (Job 16:13:) but faith saith, “I have a friend in heaven; also, now, my witness is in heaven.” (verse 19.) Sense maketh a lie of God; “He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and taketh me for his enemy.” (Job 19:11.) No, Job, thou art the friend of God: see how his faith cometh above the water, “I know that my friend by blood, or my Redeemer liveth.” (verse 25.)
She waits in hope, and took not the first nor second answer:
Hope is long breathed, and at midnight prophesieth good of God: “Though I fall, I shall rise again:” (Mic. 7:9). “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will look toward thy holy temple.” (Jonah 2:4.) There is a seed of heaven in hope. When God did hide his face from Job, (Job 13:24;) yet, “He also shall be my salvation:” (verse 16). There is a negative, and over-clouded hope in the soul at the saddest time; the believer dares not say, Christ will never come again: if he say it, it is in hot blood, and in haste, and he will take his word again. (Isa. 8:17.)
She continueth in praying:
She cried, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy upon me;” she has no answer; she crieth again, till the disciples are troubled with her shouts: she getteth a worse answer than no answer, yet she cometh and prayeth. We know the holy willfulness of Jacob, “I will not let thee go till thou bless me.” (Gen. 32:26.) Rain calmeth the stormy wind: to vent out words in a sad time, is the way of God’s children: “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me: My eye mourneth by reason of mine affliction.” (Psalm 88:7, 9.) And what then? “Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands to thee.” (Psalm 22:2.) Christ in the borders of hell, prayed, and prayed again, and died praying.
She hath still love to Christ, and is not put from the duty of adoring.
“Whom having not seen, yet ye love.” (1 Pet. 1:8.) The deserted soul seeth little: there must be love to Christ, where there is, faith in the dark; faith is with child of love. Where the believer is willing that his pain and his hell may be matter of praising God: “Who is so great a god as our God?” (Psalm 77:13).
She putteth Christ in his chair of state, and adoreth him: the deserted soul saith, Be I what I will, He is Jehovah the Lord.
Confession is good in saddest desertion, “I have sinned; what shall I do to thee, O preserver of man?” (Job 7:20). The seed of Jacob is in a hard case before God, (Lam. 1:17,) and under wrath, (verses 12-14). Yet, “The Lord is righteous, for I have sinned:” (verse 16:) this maketh the soul charitable of God, how sad soever the dispensation be.
She seeth it is a trial, as is clear by her instant pursuing after Christ, after many repulses.
It is great mercy, that God cometh not behind backs, and striketh not in the dark. “And I said, this is my infirmity:” (Psalm 77:10:) he gathereth his scattered thoughts, and taketh himself in the temptation. It is mercy, To see the trial in the face. Some lie under a dumb and a deaf trial that wanteth all the five senses; God’s immediate hand is more to be looked at, than all trials and other temptations. Hence the conscience is timorous, and traverseth its ways under the trial. When a night traveler dare not trust the ground he walketh on, he is in a sad condition; he is under two evils, and hath neither comfort nor confidence. “He that walketh in darkness, and hath no light,” (but some glimmering of star-light, or half moon under the earth, and knoweth not the ground he walketh on,) “let him trust in the name of the Lord.” (Isa. 50:10.)
She runneth not away from Christ though she believes that she is under desertion; but she cometh to him.
It is a question of what souls that feel forsaken shall do in that case. See, that you run not from Christ. It was a feeling of desertion that Saul was under, and a sad one we read of; but he maketh confession of his condition to the devil; a sad word; “I am sore distressed:” (1 Sam. 28:15,) there is a heavy and lamentable reason given why; “the Philistines make war against me.” Why, that is not much; they make war always against the people of God: Nay, but here is the marrow and the soul of all vengeance, “God is departed from me.” Why, foolish man, what availeth it thee to tell the devil, God is departed from thee? Judas was under a total desertion; he went not to Christ, but to the murderers of Christ, to open his wound. “I have sinned:” fool! say that to the Saviour of sinners. The Church forsaken, betaketh herself to Christ, and searcheth him out: “Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?” (Cant. 1:5). It is a bad token, when men, conceiving themselves to be in calamity, make lies and policy their refuge.
“But she came and worshipped.”
A heavier trial cannot befall a soul tender of Christ’s love, than to cry to God and not be answered; and to cry, and receive a flat and downright renouncing of the poor supplicant. Yet this doth not thrust her from a duty; she cometh, and worshippeth, and prayeth. It is a blessed mark, when a temptation thrusteth not off a soul from a duty. And (1.) When the danger and sad trial is seen, it is good to go on. Christ knew before, he should suffer; and when they would apprehend him, yet he went to the garden to spend a piece of the night in prayer. It was told Paul by Agabus, if he went to Jerusalem, the Jews should bind him, and deliver him to the Gentiles: it was his duty to go, thither he professeth he will go: “What mean ye to weep and break my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but to die for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 21:13.) Dying could not thrust him from a duty. Esther ran the hazard of death to go in to the king; yet conscience of a duty calling, she goeth on in faith; “If I perish, I perish.” (2.) In the act of suffering: Christ on the cross prayeth and converteth the thief; Paul, with an iron chain upon his body, preacheth Christ before Agrippa and his enemies, and preaching Christ was the crime: Paul and Silas, with bloody shoulders, must sing psalms in the stocks. (3.) Indefinitely. After the trial, and when the temptation is on, yet the saints go on: “All this is come on us,” (Psalm 44:17,) there is the temptation: the duty, “Yet we have not forgotten thee, neither dealt falsely in thy covenant.” “Princes did speak against me,” there is a temptation: yet here is a duty: “But thy servant did meditate on thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:23.) “My soul fainteth for thy salvation, but I hope in thy word.” (verse 81.) “The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I erred not from thy precepts.” (verse 110.) “Many are my persecutors and mine enemies, yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.” (verse 157.) “They fought against me without a cause:” (Psalm 109:3.) “For my love they were my adversaries, but I gave myself to prayer.” (verse 4.)
It is a sign of a sweet humbled servant, who can take a buffet…
…and yet go about his master’s service; and when a soul can pass through fire and water to be at a duty; for then, the conscience of the duty hath more prevailing power to act obedience, than the salt and bitterness of the temptation hath force to subdue and vanquish the spirit: it is likely grace hath the day, and better of corruption. “They prevented me in the day of my calamity;” (Psalm 18:18). “I was upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.” (verse 23.) The devil hath a friend within us: now there be degrees of friends, some nearer of blood than other some; the man’s own predominant is the dearer friend to Satan, than any other sin; if pride be the predominant, it is so Satan’s first-born, he agents his business by pride. As grace appeareth the more gracious and active, if it hath an adversary; as fire and water, put forth their greatest strength when they actually conflict together.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 30 March 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.
Rutherford was educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh University, where he became Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin) in 1623. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire,Galloway, where it was said of him ‘he was always praying, always,preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying’, and from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, ‘being very powerful on the side of the Reformed faith and of God living’, there in Aberdeen, ‘his writing desk’, was said to be, ‘perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom’. His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638 he was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews.
Rutherford was chosen as one of the four main Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines in London taking part in in formulating the Westminster Confession of Faith completed in 1647, and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St. Mary’s College at St. Andrews in 1651. Rutherford was a staunch Protester during the controversy in the Scottish Presbyterian church between the Resolutioners and Protesters in the 1650s, and at the Restoration of Charles II his Lex Rex was burnt by the hand of the common hangman, and the “Drunken Parliament” deprived him of all his offices and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.
His epitaph on his tombstone concluded ‘Acquainted with Immanuel’s song’.
Rutherford’s has been described as ‘Prince of Letter writers’ and C. H. Spurgeon described Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men, continuing in an 1891 review of Rutherford’s (posthumously published Letters (1664) ‘when we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men’. Andrew Thomson, a Scottish minister, in a 19th-century biography observed ‘the letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry’ continuing ‘a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.’ Rutherford was also known for other spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself, “The Trial and Triumph of Faith”.