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.
IN the disciples we see little tenderness: no more but “send her away, she troubleth us with crying.”
Forsooth, they were sore slain, that their dainty ears were pained with the crying of a poor woman! Why, they say not, ‘Dear Master, her little daughter is tormented with the devil, and thou, her Saviour, answereth her not one word; she cannot but break her heart; we pray thee, Master, heal her daughter.’
Natural men, or Christ’s disciples, in so far as there is flesh in them, understand not the mystery of sorrow…
…and fervour of affliction in the saints, crying to God in desertion, and not heard, Natural men jeer at Christ deserted: “He trusted in the Lord, let him deliver him.” (Psalm 22:8.) Heavy was the spirit of the weeping Church, a captive woman at the rivers of Babylon; yet, see, they mock them: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Sion.’
Even the saints, in so far as they are unrenewed, are strangers to inward conflicts of souls praying, and not answered of God.
The fainting and swooning Church is pained; “O dear watchmen, saw you my husband?” (Cant. 5:6, 7) Heavy was her spirit, but what then? “The watchmen, that went about the city, found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.” (verse 7.) Instead of binding up her wounds, they returned to her buffets, and pulled her hair down about her ears. And the daughters of Jerusalem say to the sick sighing Church pained for the want of her Lord, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” etc. (verse 9.) Whereof is thy Christ made? of gold? or is thy beloved more precious than all beloveds in the world? Troubled Hannah grieved in spirit, to Eli, is a drunken woman. The angels find Mary Magdalene weeping, they leave her weeping, they give her a doctrinal comfort; “Woman, why weepest thou? He is not here, He is risen again.”
If a string in the conscience be broken, the apostles that were with Magdalene cannot tie a knot on it again.
If there be a rent in the heart, so as the two sides of the soul of the woman rend asunder, she, poor woman, still weepeth: “Oh, why speak you, O angels, to comfort me? They have taken away my Lord: Angels, what are you to me?” And, indeed, they cannot sew up the woman’s rent heart. This is the Lord’s prerogative, “I create the fruit of the lips, peace.” (Isa. 57:19.) I know no creator but one, and I know no peace-creator but one. Peace of conscience is grace; grace is made of pure nothing, and not made of nature. Pastors may speak of peace, but God speaketh peace to his people. (Psalm 85:8.)
There be some acts of nature, in which men have no hand: to bring bread out of the earth, and vines, men have a hand; but in raising winds, in giving rain, neither king, armies of men, nor acts of Parliament have any influence. The tempering of the wheels and motions of a distempered conscience is so high and supernatural a work, that Christ behoved to have the Spirit of the Lord on him above his fellows, and must be sent with a special commission to apply the sweet hands, the soft merciful fingers of the Mediator, with the art of heaven, that I (saith he) should, as a chirurgeon [surgeon], bind up with splints and bands the broken in heart, and comfort the mourners in Sion. (Isa. 61:1.) There must, 3rd, be some immediate action of Omnipotency, especially when he sets a host of terrors in battle array against the soul, as is evident in Saul, in Job, “His archers compass me round about;” (16:13,) that is, no less than the soul is like a man, beset by enemies round about, so as there is no help in the creature, but he must die in the midst of them. “The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” (Job 6:4.) Only, the Lord of Hosts, by an immediate action, raiseth these soldiers, the terrors of God; he only can calm them.
What wonder, then, that ministers, the Word, comforts, promises, angels, prophets, apostles, cannot bind up a broken heart?
Friends cannot, till a good word come from God. It is easy for us on the shore, to cry to those tossed on the sea between death and life, “Sail thus and thus.” It is nothing to speak good words to the sick; yet angels have not skill of experience in this.
The afflicted in mind are like infants that cannot tell their disease…
…they apprehend hell, and it is real hell to them. Many ministers are but horse-physicians in this disease; wine and music are vain remedies, there is need of a Creator of peace. “She is frantic (say they), and it is but a fit of a natural melancholy and distraction.”
The disciples are physicians of no value to a soul crying…
...and not heard of Christ. Oh! Moses is a meek man, David a sweet singer, Job and his experience profitable, the apostles God’s instruments, the Virgin Mary is full of grace, the glorified desire the church to be delivered; but they are all nothing to Jesus Christ.
There is more in a piece of a corner of Christ’s heart (to speak so) than in millions of worlds of angels and created comforts, when the conscience hath gotten a back-throw with the hand of the Almighty.
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”.