Letter IV. To the Elect and Noble Lady, my Lady Kenmure, on occasion of the death of her infant daughter.
(TRIBULATION THE PORTION OF GOD’S PEOPLE, AND INTENDED TO WEAN THEM FROM THE WORLD.)
Saluting your ladyship with grace and mercy from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
I was sorry, at my departure, leaving your Ladyship in grief, and would still be grieved at it, if I were not assured that ye have One with you in the furnace, whose visage is like unto the Son of God. I am glad that ye have been acquainted from your youth with the wrestlings of God, and that ye get scarce liberty to swallow down your spittle, being casten from furnace to furnace, knowing if ye were not dear to God, and if your health did not require so much of Him, He would not spend so much physic upon you.
All the brethren and sisters of Christ must be conform to His image and copy in suffering (Rom. viii. 29). And some do more vively resemble the copy than others. Think, Madam, that it is a part of your glory to be enrolled among those whom one of the elders pointed out to John, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Behold your Forerunner going out of the world all in a lake of blood, and it is not ill to die as He did. Fulfil with joy the remnant of the grounds and “remainders of the afflications of Christ” in your body (Col. i. 24).
Ye have lost a child: nay she is not lost to you who is found to Christ. She is not sent away, but only sent before, like unto a star, which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere. Ye see her not, yet she doth shine in another country. If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that she hath gotten of eternity; and ye have to rejoice that ye have now some plenishing up in heaven. Build your nest upon no tree here; for ye see God hath sold and forest to death; and every tree whereupon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may fly (In the earlier editions it is given “fly” throughout; not “flee.”) and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock. What ye love besides Jesus, your husband, is an adulterous lover.
Now it is God’s special blessing to Judah, that He will not let her find her paths in following her strange lovers. “Therefore, behold I will hedge up her way with thorns, and make a wall that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them” (Hos. ii. 6, 7). O thrice happy Judah, when God buildeth a double stone wall betwixt her and the fire of hell!
The world, and the things of the world, Madam, is the lover ye naturally affect beside your husband Christ. The hedge of thorns and the wall which God buildeth in your way, to hinder you from this lover, is the thorny hedge of daily grief, loss of children, weakness of body, iniquity of the time, uncertainty of estate, lack of worldly comfort, fear of God’s anger for old unrepented-of sins. What lose ye, if God twist and plait the hedge daily thicker? God be blessed, the Lord will not let you find your paths. Return to your first husband. Do not weary, neither think that death walketh towards you with a slow pace. Ye must be riper ere ye be shaken. Your days are no longer than Job’s, that were “swifter than a post, and passed away as the ships of desire, and as the eagle that hasteth for the prey” (ix. 25, 26, margin). There is less sand in your glass now than there was yesternight.
This span-length of ever-posting time will soon be ended. But the greater is the mercy of God, the more years ye get to advise, upon what terms, and upon what conditions, ye cast your soul in the huge gulf of never-ending eternity. The Lord hath told you what ye should be doing till He come. “Wait and hasten,” saith Peter, “for the Coming of our Lord.” All is night and is here, in respect of ignorance and daily ensuing troubles, one always making way to another, as the ninth wave of the sea to the tenth; therefore sigh and long for the dawning of that morning, and the breaking of that day of the Coming of the Son of Man, when the shadows shall flee away. Persuade yourself the King is coming; read His letter sent before Him, “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. iii. 11). Wait with the wearied night-watch for the breaking of the eastern sky, and think that ye have not a morrow. As the wise father said, who, being invited against to-morrow to dine with his friend, answered, “Those many days I have had no morrow at all.” I am loth to weary you.
Show yourself a Christian, by suffering without murmuring, for which sin fourteen thousand and seven hundred were slain (Numb. xvi. 49). In patience possess your soul. They lose nothing who gain Christ. Thus remembering my brother’s and my wife’s humble service to your Ladyship, I commend you to the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus, assuring you that your day is coming, and that God’s mercy is abiding you. The Lord Jesus be with your spirit.
Yours in the Lord Jesus at all dutiful obedience.
Antworth, Jan. 15, 1629
Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 40-42. (I edited the text for ease in reading)