Letter II. To a Christian Gentlewoman on the death of her daughter.
(CHRIST’S SYMPATHY WITH, AND PROPERTY IN US – REASONS FOR RESIGNATION.)
My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful at my departure from you, especially since ye were in such heaviness after your daughter’s death. Yet I do persuade myself, ye know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you lieth upon your strong Saviour; for Isaiah saith, “In all your afflictions He is afflicted” (Isa. lxiii. 9). O blessed Second who suffereth with you! and glad may your soul be even to walk in the fiery furnace with one like unto the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. Courage! up your heart! When ye do tire, He will bear both you and your burden (Ps. lv. 22). Yet a little while and ye shall see the salvation of God. Remember of what age your daughter was, and that just so long was your lease of her. If she was eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years old, I know not; but sure I am, seeing her term was come, and your lease run out, ye can no more justly quarrel your great Superior for taking His own at His just term day, than a poor farmer can complain that his master taketh a portion of his own land to himself when his lease is expired.
Good mistress, if ye would not be content that Christ would hold from you the heavenly inheritance which is made yours by His death, shall not that same Christ think hardly of you if ye refuse to give Him your daughter willingly, who is a part of His inheritance and conquest? I pray the Lord to give you all your own, and to grace you with patience to give God His also. He is an ill debtor who payeth that which he hath borrowed with a grudge. Indeed, that long loan of such a good daughter, an heir of grace, a member of Christ (as I believe), deserveth more thanks at your Creditor’s hands, than that ye should gloom and murmur when He craveth but His own. I believe you would judge them to be but thankless neighbours who would pay you a sum of money after this manner. But what? Do you think her lost, when she is but sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? Think her not absent who is in such a friend’s house. Is he lost to you who is found to Christ? If she were with a dear friend, although you should never see her again, your care for her would be but small. Oh, now, is she not a dear Friend? and gone higher, upon a certain hope that ye shall, in the Resurrection, see her again, when (be ye sure) she shall neither be hectic nor consumed in body? You would be sorry either to be, or to be esteemed, an atheist; and yet, not I, but the Apostle, thinketh those to be hopeless atheists who mourn excessively for the dead (Thess. iv. 13).
But this is not a challenge on my part. I do speak this only fearing your weakness; for your daughter was a part of yourself; and, therefore, nature in you, being as it were cut and halved, will indeed be grieved. But ye have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven. Follow her, but envy her not; for indeed it is self-love in us that maketh us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? Because for them we cannot mourn, since they are never happy till they be dead; therefore we mourn for our own private respect. Take heed, then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter, ye be not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.
Consider what the Lord is doing in it. Your daughter is plucked out of the fire, and she resteth from her labours; and your Lord, in that, is trying you and casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest; and now remember that the eye of God is upon the bush burning and not consumed; and He is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrate of his design.
Now honour God, and shame the strong roaring lion, when ye seem weakest. Should such an one as ye faint in the day of adversity? Call to mind the days of old. The Lord yet liveth. Trust in Him, although He should slay you. Faith is exceeding charitable, and believeth no evil of God (So in his “sermon before the House of Lords,” 1645: “Faith thinketh no evil of Christ.” Also Letterrs XX. and XCIL. : “Love believeth no evil.”). Now is the Lord laying, in the one scale of the balance, your making conscience of submission to His gracious will, and in the other, your affection and love to your daughter. Which of the two will ye then choose to satisfy? Be wise, then; and as I trust ye love Christ better than a sinful woman, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Lord’s rod. Men do lop the branches off their trees round about, to the end they may grow up high and tall. The Lord hath this way lopped your branch in taking from you many children, to the end you should grow upward, like one of the Lord’s cedars, setting your heart above, where Christ is, at the right hand of the Father. What is next, but that your Lord cut down the stock after He hath cut the branches? Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. While ye prodigally spend time in mourning for her, ye are speedily posting after her. Run your race with patience. Let God have His own; and ask of Him, instead of your daughter which He hath taken from you, the daughter of faith, which is patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head: ye do not know how hear your redemption doth draw, Thus recommending you to the Lord, who is able to establish you, I rest, your loving and affectionate friend in the Lord Jesus,
Antworth, April 23, 1628.
Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 34-36.