In Loving Memory of Samuel Rutherford: Professor, Pastor, Counselor, Friend.

(c) University of St Andrews; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationThat legislative body otherwise known as Drunken Parliament…

…which began January 1, 1661, under King Charles II, did something more than pass laws which were fraught with mischief and misery. It determined to send to a violent death the leaders in the Protesting section of the Church, the men whose advocacy of the Covenant was most unfaltering and outspoken. Four of these leaders were marked for execution “Samuel Rutherford; the Marquis of Argyll; James Guthrie; and Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston. The first and the last of the four eluded the doom intended for them: the one because the finger of God beckoned him, before his enemies could accomplish their purpose; the other because he contrived to hide himself until Middleton’s power was vanishing, although in this instance the scaffold was merely postponed, and the infliction of the sentence came at the hands of those who had ousted the Commissioner from his place. As for the Marquis and the minister of Stirling, they were crowned at once with the thorny crown which the Parliament had twined for their brows.

Ever since the Restoration Samuel Rutherford must have guessed the punishments which his enemies designed for him. Three months after Charles’s return, the Committee of Estates in Edinburgh [Parliament] issued a proclamation, worthy in its rage and impotence of the angriest of the Popes. It decreed that all copies of the Lex Rex which could be found should be gathered before the middle of October, and burned at the Mercat Cross in the capital and at the gates of the New College in St. Andrews. The thing was duly done; but, “full of seditious and treasonable matter” as the Lex Rex was announced to be, its teaching lives to this hour.

Lex Rex is the plea of the Covenanters for the majesty of the people; for the truth that the law, and no autocrat on the throne, is king; for the creed that limitless sovereignty is the property of God alone.

The Stuart monarch could not check the advance of these principles by bonfires in the streets of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Much of the book, it has been said, is “the constitutional inheritance of all countries in modern times.”

Through forty-four chapters, or “Questions,” Rutherford develops his argument. The book, says Dr. Hume Brown, is “tediously pedantic”; and no doubt it is so, if one should attempt to read it in its entirety. There are too many minute details, and the hard and syllogistic method of the debater is over much in evidence. But, every little while, the underlying enthusiasm mounts to the surface, and refuses to be quite concealed. With all the strength of his conviction and all the fire of his zeal the author fights on behalf of the liberties of the nation. Prince and beggar, he reminds us, spring of one clay; yet he grants that government has a divine sanction, and is necessary and inevitable.

Ay, but to whom does government belong?

Not to a royal James or Charles, but to the men and women of their realm. They are the true rulers. They can delegate their authority to this representative or to that, selecting whom they please. They may measure it by ounce-weight or by pound-weight. They may limit and moderate and set its banks and march to its exercise. They can take it to themselves again, if the conditions on which they bestowed it are disregarded and broken.

The king, beyond dispute, has his special dignity and stately privilege; but, when all is said and done, the commonwealth is more excellent than the king; and he is ordained to serve it as its shepherd, its captain, its leader. Is not the pilot less than the passengers, the tutor less than the children, the physician less than the patients, the master less than the scholars? He who by his very office is obliged to expend himself and, in the last resort, to sacrifice his life, for the safety of those who are denominated his subjects, must in reality be inferior to them. If they invest him with politic honours and prerogatives, they keep to themselves natural prerogatives and honours which they never can surrender.

These are axioms of the Lex Rex: “The law is not the king’s own, but is given to him in trust”; “Power is a birthright of the people borrowed from them; they may let it out for their good, and resume it when a man is drunk with it”; “A limited and mixed monarchy hath glory, order, unity from a monarch; from the government of the most and wisest it hath safety of counsel, stability, strength; from the influence of the Commons it hath liberty, privileges, promptitude of obedience.” These are the axioms on which our regulated freedoms of to-day are broad-based.

Looking back to Rutherford, we see his forehead lighted with the prophecy of the better era, and we know that, almost three centuries since, he recognized

what health there is
In the frank Dawn’s delighted eyes.

In the autumn of 1660 the book received its martyrdom, and in the early spring of 1661 the Privy Council and the Parliament were eager to have its author martyred too. He had been denuded of his offices in the University of St. Andrews, and deprived of his pastoral charge; but these confiscations were not enough. He was cited to appear at the bar of the House on a charge of treason. The messengers carried the citation across the Firth of Forth. But God had forestalled them.

For weeks, as Rutherford wrote in a letter, “a daily menacing disease” had been hanging over him; and he lay now on his deathbed.

It was a wasted hand which received the document the emissaries brought; but the voice had parted with none of its fire. “Tell them,” he said,” that I have a summons already from a superior Judge and judicatory, and I am behoved to answer my first summons; and, ere your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks come.” When they reported his condition, the Council declared with feeble malice that he must not be permitted to die within the College walls; but, even in the hostile court, one member had grace and fortitude to befriend him. Lord Burleigh rose and said, “Ye have voted that honest man out of his College, but ye cannot vote him out of heaven.” Nothing could be truer than those courageous words.

While he waited till it was time to “answer his first summons,” Samuel Rutherford must have been visited by moving memories. He was one of the most extraordinary men in an age of heroes; and he had many marvels to recall, as he tarried immediately outside the joys of what he loved to delineate as the Upper Garden of God.

He saw himself in the unprofitable half of his life “the little child in the Border village of Nisbet or Crailing, surrounded even then by miracles; the student and boyish Professor of Latin in Edinburgh; the offender, with whom the University officials quarreled because of some irregularity in his youthful marriage, the nature of which it is not easy now to unravel. These were the acid ingredients in the cup of recollection.

For it was the sorrow of his later years, as it was St. Augustine’s, that he allowed himself to reach manhood before he yielded his heart to God. “Like a fool as I was,” he says,” I suffered my sun to be high in the heaven, and near afternoon.”

Few things in the Letters are more beautiful than the earnestness with which he beseeches the young to consecrate their freshest hours to eternity. “It were a sweet and glorious thing for your daughter Grissel to give herself up to Christ, that He may write upon her His Father’s name and His Own new name.” “I desire Patrick to give Christ the flower of his love; it were good to start soon to the way.” To Earlston, when he was leaving boyhood behind, he writes: “There is not such a glassy, icy, and slippery piece of way betwixt you and heaven as youth  the devil findeth in youth dry sticks and dry coals and a hot hearthstone; and how soon can he with his flint cast fire, and with his bellows blow it up!”

He is as vivid and as solicitous, when he addresses Lord Boyd: “It is easy to master an arrow and to set it right ere the string be drawn; but, when once it is shot and in the air and the flight begun, then ye have no more power at all to command it. And therefore O what a sweet couple are Christ and a young man! This is a meeting not to be found in every town.” Was it the thought of his own delays which stirred this yearning over others? He would have no one imitate him, “loitering on the road too long, and trifling at the gate.”

But this vision passed, and the dying man saw himself the minister of Anwoth. For nine years, from 1627 to 1636, he was the spiritual father of the quiet parish, lying round the Water of Fleet, among the soft green hills of Galloway. There was his manse, the Bush o’ Bield, where he rose each morning at three, to spend the day’s commencement in prayer and study. To its door, one unforgotten Saturday, Archbishop Ussher turned aside in the disguise of a traveller, to be hospitably entertained, and catechised, and reproved for his seeming ignorance of a fact so elementary as the number of statutes written by God’s finger on the Tables of Stone ” an ignorance explained when he spoke, next morning, in the Presbyterian kirk, on the new commandment of Jesus, “That ye might love one another.”

From the rooms of the Anwoth manse, the mistress of the home and more than one of the children went to God; “an afflicted life,” the husband and father wrote, “looks very like the way that leads to the Kingdom.” Close to the Bush o’ Bield stood the tiny sanctuary, as tiny as George Herbert’s in Bemerton; the visitor may still walk round its ivied and ruined walls. What a centre of zealous labour it was!” For such a piece of clay as Mr. Rutherford,” said James Urquhart, minister in Kinloss, “I never knew one in Scotland like him. He seemed to be always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always teaching in the schools, always writing treatises, always reading and studying.” The Sabbath was his crowning day. He had a “strange utterance, a kind of a screech.” But the shrillness of the voice could not hide the heart’s fervours, and the hearers hung upon him listening. Often, one of them confessed, he fancied the minister “would have flown out of the pulpit, when he came to speak of Christ, the Rose of Sharon”; then, indeed, he was “as a fish in the ocean, never in his right element but when he was commending his Lord.”

In Anwoth the sermons were prepared and spoken, which afterwards were given to the world under the title of The Trial and Triumph of Faith ” a retelling and expansion of the immortal story of that pleading and prevailing mother from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, who enmeshed Jesus in the net of His Own promises, and clung about His feet until she had obtained all her desire; those other sermons too, which were to be known in their printed form as Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself. Both volumes, in spite of the dull yellow paper and the dim and faded ink, palpitate still with their author’s affection for his divine Master. “We but play,” he protests in the preface to one of them, “about the borders and margent of knowledge of Christ, as children do with the golden covering and silken ribbons of an Arabic Bible that they cannot read.” Even the Middle Ages, he thinks, encrusted with superstition as they were, put their more prosaic and less exuberant successors to shame. “O, how rarely do the needle-eyed schoolmen write of Christ!

O, how subtle and eagle-eyed seem they to be in speculations –grave-deep, or rather hell-deep, touching His grave-linens, what became of them when He rose from the dead, and the chestnut colour of His hair, and the wood of His Cross, and the three nails that wedged Him to the Tree, and the adoring of anything that touched His body!” But the glow of the saint and singer who poured forth his soul in the Jesu ! dulcis memoria influenced every look and tone and gesture of the Covenanting preacher, and no mediaeval recluse was more rapt in his devotion.

His parishioners, the herd boys as well as the Viscount Kenmure, revered the “little fair man.” They recounted his untiring charities. In his very gait they detected his communion with God; “when he walked, it was observed he held aye his face upward and heavenward.” The home, the church, the “blessed birds” of Anwoth, the path among the trees which he paced talking with his unseen Friend –he beheld them again in dying, and thanked God for them.

Then, once more, his dream changed. He was a prisoner in Aberdeen. Thomas Sydserf, who had come from the northern diocese of Brechin to be Bishop of Galloway, was no lover of Samuel Rutherford; and his repugnance was heightened when the preacher published his book against the Arminians:  Exercitationes pro Diuina Gratia he called it. He hauled him before the High Commission Court, in Wigtown and in Edinburgh, and had him deposed and exiled to the northern city, far enough distant from the familiar hills and tides. “I go,” the banished man said, “to my King’s palace at Aberdeen; tongue, pen, and wit cannot express my joy.”

But, if he carried music in his heart, he had his experiences of depression during his eighteen months of seclusion. It was hard for the impassioned servitor of Jesus to maintain silence. “I had but one eye,” he mourned,” and they have put it out.” Yet, long before he came to his deathbed, he saw that God’s purpose was one of purest grace.

A new field of work had been disclosed. If his lips were shut, his pen was busy. Two hundred and twenty of the Letters, those amaranthine Letters, whose glow and tenderness and pungency are the best demonstration of his spiritual genius, were sent from Aberdeen.

It is easy doubtless to deride the tropical luxuriance which marks the style of “Joshua Redivivus.” The clever, but supercilious, author of A Literary History of Scotland is only amused by the faults of taste and tact and discretion which the Letters reveal. Few will question that there are faults in the Letters, when they are appraised by literary canons alone. But, even before this tribunal, their grandeurs and sublimities are as conspicuous as their mistakes. And they have spoken to ten thousand souls, in the rhythm and cadence of the better country which is the heavenly. In “the little flock named after God’s own heart ” their writer needs no defense; for its members crowned him long ago. This, therefore, was the divine necessity for the loneliness and hatred to which Rutherford was subjected.

Perhaps another dream followed…

He was in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster, one of the Scottish commissioners to the Assembly of Divines. “For the great parts God had given him,” wrote Robert Baillie with the pride of a countryman, ” Mr. Samuel’s presence was very necessary.” Again, in his thoughts, he debated the doctrine of the Church’s freedom against those captains of Erastianism, Lightfoot and Selden.

Again he argued with the Independents; although now, more than ever, he felt that they were “gracious men,” and, “of all that differed from us, came nearest to walking with God.” Again he busied himself in writing his Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery and his Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication.

Again he did his emphatic part in framing the Confession, and the Directory, and the Catechisms. Did he recall, too, the fresh and poignant home-griefs of these London years? “I had two children,” so he had related the sorrow when it was new, “and both are dead since I came hither. The good Husbandman may pluck His roses and gather His lilies in the beginning of the first summer months. What is that to you or to me? The Creator of time and of winds did a merciful injury, if I may borrow the words, in landing the passenger so early.”

Samuel Rutherford was at Westminster from the middle of 1643 to the end of 1647; and he was glad when, at length, he could set his face northward to his students and congregation and childless home –glad with that emotion which the poet calls a “bitter-sweet” delight.

To his students he returned; for, since the close of the Anwoth ministry in 1639, he had been Professor in St. Andrews. And there, in labours more abundant than any of his compeers, he lived the remainder of his life. They made him Principal of the New College and Rector of the University. Since Alexander Henderson had gone, he was the senior member of Scottish thinkers and teachers. Edinburgh tried, in 1649, to secure him for its own; and other lands coveted him.

Twice Utrecht sent him a call to occupy its chair of theology. But the tempest- driven Kirk, with its unhappy controversies and those dangers that loomed ahead, had thrown its hoops of steel about his soul.

He could not go away. “I had rather be in Scotland with angry Jesus Christ,” he said, “than in any Eden or garden in the earth.” So he continued in St. Andrews, until the Earl of Middleton bade him answer for his fearless witness against all arbitrary power in Church and State.

In that tumultuous Scotland which tugged so constrainingly at his heart-strings, he had, from the early days in Anwoth to the last hours in St. Andrews, made every class and rank in the community his debtors. We are surprised not by the number only but by the variety of his friends. There are godly women, like Marion M’Naught, the wife of William Fullerton, Provost of Kirkcudbright, to whom, because of her rare insight, he could lay open his very soul; or like Lady Jane Campbell, the Viscountess Kenmure, whom in her illnesses and depressions he comforted with many words of cheer; or like the mother of John Brown of Wamphray, most redoubtable of Calvinists and most learned of theologians. There are Churchmen famous in the transactions of the General Assembly, and humbler ministers scattered throughout the land, and young students of divinity to whom he commends not so much the erudition of the schools as the practice of personal sanctification.

Congregations appeal to him in their perplexities, and he never fails to send them a message as shrewd and penetrating as it is high pitched and spiritual. The nobles of Scotland, some of them headstrong and turbulent, others temporizing and disposed to halt between two opinions, are often in his thought and prayer; and he has for each a discriminating advice and a definite command. To Lord Lothian he says, “to want temptations is the greatest temptation of all”; to Lord Loudoun, “Events are God’s; let Him sit at his Own helm”; to Cassillis,” The Earldom of Cassillis is but a shadow in comparison of the city not made with hands; it is no wisdom to be silent, when they are casting lots for a better thing than Christ’s coat”; to Craighall, “Fear your light, stand in awe of it, for it is from God. Kings cannot heal broken consciences; it is common for men to make doubts when they have a mind to desert the truth.” He passes through life, giving to everyone who crosses his path a word in season and a veritable pronouncement from the King of kings.

Yet Rutherford was not himself a perfect man. There were defects both in his creed and in his character. His temper was fiery, and too frequently he made no serious effort to moderate its energy; “I am made of extremes,” he wrote to his friend, David Dickson. Dialectician and polemic all his days, he had scant mercy for those who saw the truth from other angles than his own. Towards the Resolutioners he showed, on many occasions, an acrimoniousness which was far from admirable. Perhaps it was inevitable that it should be so.

“The intellectual gladiator, the rejoicing and remorseless logician, the divider of words, the distinguisher of thoughts, the hater of doubt and ambiguity, the scorner of compromise and concession, the incessant and determined disputant, the passionate admirer of sequence and system and order in small things as in great “in the corner of an argument as in the mighty world outside”: thus Dr. Taylor Innes paints him in a portrait as masterly as any of Mr. Sargent’s; and so intent and vehement an ecclesiastic forgets at times the urbanities of thought and the courtesies of speech. But, when these deductions are made, he still rises to a stature attained by only the select few in Christ’s dazzling host” by a St. Bernard, a Madame Guyon, a Brainerd. Dr. Taylor Innes is as felicitous in depicting the more celestial side. This man, he says, was “impatient of earth, intolerant of sin, rapt into the continual contemplation of one unseen Face, finding his history in its changing aspect and his happiness in its returning smile.”

That is Rutherford’s glory, his absorption in Christ

…Christ, whom he lauds as “the outset, the master flower, the uncreated garland of heaven, the love and joy of men and angels.” Many temperaments, many goals; but for him there is only one Goal, and no other is worth the mentioning.

Samuel Rutherford went to sleep with Christ for his pillow; he awoke in Christ.

Doubtless he loved both the girl-wife of his youth and the home-companion of his riper years, although in him, as in others of his Covenanting kin, we note a certain detachment from the ties and tendernesses of the family; but, while he could endure widowhood, he would have refused the offering of life without his Christ. His heart, as he said, was not his own; Jesus had run away to heaven with it.

Christ had been near him in infancy, though he was a man before he confessed his Lover’s grace. Playing once with the boys of Crailing, the child stumbled into a deep well; and his frightened comrades ran to acquaint his father and mother. They hurried out, fearing that they would not see their Samuel alive. But they discovered him “sitting on a hillock, a little from the well, all wet and cold,” but unharmed and safe. How had he got there? they asked, and he answered, ” A bonnie white Man drew me forth and set me down.” The old story-teller adds, “It is thought it was an angel.” But we may surmise that, in later years, the boy ascribed his deliverance to One more excellent than the angels, their Lord, Who had “come riding on the rainbow and clouds” to rescue him.

And, if Christ was the Beginning, the End was Christ, beheld with clearest intelligence and firmest faith and consuming love. The Analecta preserves some “words that dropped from him at several times,” as, in that March of 1661, Rutherford lay in his room and looked for his Master. “I shall shine; I shall see Him as He is. I shall see Him reign, and all the fair company with Him, and I shall have my large share. Mine eyes shall see my Redeemer, and noe other forme. This seems to be a wide word; but it’s noe fancy nor delusion: it’s treu, it’s treu!”

These, too, were his exultations: “My blessed Master ! My kingly King ! Let my Lord’s name be exalted; and, if He will, let my name be ground to pieces, that He may be all and in all. If He should slay me ten thousand times ten thousand times, I’ll trust.”

Often he repeated the text, Thy Word was found, and I did eat it, and it was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. “It’s no easy thing to be a Christian,” he said to one; “but, for me, I have gotten the victory, and Christ is holding out both His arms to embrace me.”

When the end drew near, Robert Blair asked, “What think you now of Christ?” “I shall live and adore Him,” he replied; and in whispers he was heard saying again and again, “Glory to Him in Emanuel’s land!”

That One Face was more and more his Universe.

Someone alluded to his own work of faith; but he was quick to interrupt: “I disclaim all. The port I would be in at is redemption and salvation through His blood.” To four of his brethren who visited him, he gave the counsel: “Pray for Christ; preach for Christ; do all for Christ; beware of men-pleasing.”

Once or twice he cried for “a well-tuned harp,” as if already he would participate in the strains of the worshippers within the veil. On the afternoon before he died, he predicted: “This night will close the door, and fasten my anchor; and I shall go away in a sleep by five in the morning.” And thus it happened; for at that hour on the morning of the 29th of March “the daybreak hour which, as Henry Vaughan sings, “best doth chime” with the glory of the divine Bridegroom, God hid Samuel Rutherford with Himself from the wrangling and cruelty of wicked men.

Between the Parliament in Edinburgh and the deathbed in St. Andrews there is more than the distance which separates earth from heaven.

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Taken and Adapted from, Men of the Covenant, Vol 1.
Written by, ALEXANDER SMELLIE, M.A., D.D.

Edited for thought, sense and space

 

The LORD’s Steadfast Love Despite the Changing faces of Providence

Edited and adapted from “Trial and Triumph of Faith.”
Written by Samuel Rutherford

gods-providence
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:10 (ESV)
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Consider the art of Providence here…

1st, The devil sometimes shapes, and our wise Lord sews; Babylon kills, God makes alive; sin, hell, and death, are made a chariot to carry on the Lord’s excellent work.

2nd, The Providence of God has two sides; one black and sad, another white and joyful.

Heresy takes strength, and is green before the sun; God’s clearing of necessary and seasonable truths, is a fair side of that same providence.

illustration001Adam’s first sin, was the devil and hell digging a hole through the comely and beautiful frame of the creation of God; and that is the dark side of Providence: but the flower of Jesse springing up, to take away sin, and to paint out to men and angels the glory of a heaven, and a new world of free grace—that is a lightsome side of Providence.

Christ scourged; Christ in a case, that he cannot command a cup of water; Christ dying, shamed, forsaken, is black: but Christ, in that same work redeeming the captives of hell, opening to sinners forfeited paradise, that is fair and white.  

Joseph, weeping in the prison for no fault, is foul and sad; but Joseph brought out to reign as half a king, to keep alive the Church of God in great famine, is joyful and glorious.

The apostles whipped, imprisoned, killed all the day long, are sad and heavy: but sewed with this, that God causes them always to triumph, and show the distinctive quality of the knowledge of Christ; and Paul triumphing in his iron chains, and exalting Christ in the gospel, through the court of bloody Nero,—makes up a fair and comely contexture of divine Providence.

WylieAttack3rd, God, in all his works, now, when he raineth from heaven a sad shower of blood on the three kingdoms, has his one foot on justice, that wrath may fill to the brim the cup of malignants, prelates, and papists; and his other foot on mercy, “to wash away the filth of the daughter of Zion, and to purge the blood of Jerusalem in the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” [Isa. 4:4.] And this is God’s way and ordinary path-road, (Psalm 25:10.) And in one and the same motion, God can walk both to the east and to the west, and to the north and the south.

APPLICATION—It is our fault, that we look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces; and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in a hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place, half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draws the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colors all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man. So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts; and we see him bleeding his people, scattering parliaments, chasing away nobles and prelates, as not willing they should have a finger in laying one stone of his house: yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece.

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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”.

 

I long to know how matters stand between Christ and your soul…

Written by, Samuel Rutherford, (1600-1661).
Taken from, “A Selection from his Letters.”
Written to, The Lady Gaitgirth.
Where and when, Aberdeen, 1637.
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesTime cannot change Him in His love.

Ye yourself may ebb and flow, rise and fall, wax and wane; but your Lord is this day as He was yesterday. And it is your comfort that your salvation is not rolled upon wheels of your own making, neither have ye to do with a Christ at your own shaping. God has singled out a Mediator, strong and mighty: if ye and your burdens were as heavy as ten hills or hells, He is able to bear you, and to save you to the uttermost.

Your often seeking to Him cannot make you a burden to Him.

I know that Christ has compassion for you, and feels and groans in heaven for you, in all your moods, and under your down castings; but it is good for you that He hideth Himself sometimes. It is not niceness, dryness, nor coldness of love, that causeth Christ to withdraw, and slip in under a curtain and a veil, that ye cannot see Him; but He knoweth that ye could not bear with furled sails, a fair gale, a full moon, and a high spring-tide of His fully felt love, and always a fair summer-day and a summer-sun of a felt and possessed and embracing Lord Jesus.

His kisses and His visits to His dearest ones are thin-sown.

He could not let out His rivers of love upon His own, but these rivers would be in hazard of loosening a young plant at the root; and He knoweth this of you. Ye should, therefore, understand Christ’s kindness, as to its sensible and full manifestations, till ye and He be above sun and moon. That is the country where ye will be enlarged for that love which ye do not now contain.

Cast the burden of your sweet babes upon Christ, and lighten your heart, by laying your all upon Him: He will be their God.

I hope to see you up the mountain yet, and glad in the salvation of God. Frame yourself for Christ, and gloom not upon His cross. I find Him so sweet, that my love, suppose I would charge it to remove from Christ, would not obey me: His love has stronger fingers than to let go its grips of us children, who cannot go but by such a hold as Christ. It is good that we want legs of our own, since we may borrow from Christ; and it is our happiness that Christ is under an act of cautionary for heaven, and that Christ is booked in heaven as the principal debtor for such poor bodies as we are.

I request you, give the laird, your husband, thanks for his care of me, in that he has appeared in public for a prisoner of Christ. I pray and write mercy, and peace, and blessings to him and his.

Grace, grace be with you for ever.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Samuel Rutherford (c.1600 – 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 w

God is washing away the blood and filth of his church…

It is our fault [through sin], that we look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces…

moon18n-3-web…and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in an hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place, half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draweth the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colours all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man. So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts; and we see him bleeding his people, scattering parliaments, chasing away nobles and prelates, as not willing they should have a finger in laying one stone of his house: yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece.

God is washing away the blood and filth of his church…

…removing those from the work who would cross it. In bloody wars, malignant soldiers ripping up women with child, waste, spoil, kill; yet are they but purging Zion’s tin, brass, and lead, and such reprobate metal as themselves. Jesuits and false teachers are but God’s snuffers, to occasion the clearing and snuffing of the lamps of the tabernacle, and make truth more naked and obvious. 

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), Scottish minister and covenanter Rutherford was born about the year 1600 near Nisbet, Scotland. Little is known of his early life. In 1627 he earned a M.A. from Edinburgh College, where he was appointed Professor of Humanity. He became pastor of the church in Anwoth in 1627. was a rural parish, and the people were scattered in farms over the hills. He had a true pastor’s heart, and he was ceaseless in his labors for his flock. We are told that men said of Rutherford, “He was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying.”

His first years in Anwoth, though, were touched with sadness. His wife was ill for a year and a month, before she died in their new home. Two children also died during this period. Nevertheless God used this time of suffering to prepare Rutherford to be God’s comforter of suffering people.

In 1636 Rutherford published a book defending the doctrines of grace (Calvinism) against Armininism. This put him in conflict with the Church authorities, which were dominated by the English Episcopacy. He was called before the High Court, deprived of his ministerial office, and exiled to Aberdeen. This exile was a sore trial for the beloved pastor. He felt that being separated from his congregation was unbearable. However, because of his exile, we now have many of the letters he wrote to his flock, and so the evil of his banishment has been turned into a great blessing for the church worldwide.

In 1638 the struggles between Parliament and King in England, and Presbyterianism vs. Episcopacy in Scotland culminated in momentous events for Rutherford. In the confusion of the times, he simply slipped out of Aberdeen and returned to his beloved Anwoth. But it was not for long. The Kirk (Church of Scotland) held a General Assembly that year, restoring full Presbyterianism to the land. In addition, they appointed Rutherford a Professor of Theology of St. Andrews, although he negotiated to be allowed to preach at least once a week.

The Westminster Assembly began their famous meetings in 1643, and Rutherford was one of the five Scottish commissioners invited to attend the proceedings. Although the Scots were not allowed to vote, they had an influence far exceeding their number. Rutherford is thought to have been a major influence on the Shorter Catechism.

During this period in England, Rutherford wrote his best-known work, Lex Rex, or The Law, the King. This book argued for limited government, and limitations on the current idea of the Divine Right of Kings.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, it was clear that the author of Lex Rex would could expect trouble. When the summons came in 1661, charging him with treason, and demanding his appearance on a certain day, Rutherford refused to go. From his deathbed, he answered, “I must answer my first summons; and before your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks come.” He died on 30th March 1661. 

C. H. Spurgeon once said, “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 man.”