Letter XXXV. To my Lady Kenmure, on the death of a child.
(GOD MEASURES OUR DAYS – BEREAVEMENTS RIPEN US FOR THE HARVEST.)
All submissive and dutiful obedience in our Lord Jesus remembered. I trust I need not much entreat your Ladyship to look to Him who hath stricken you at this time; but my duty, in the memory of that comfort I found in your Ladyship’s kindness, when I was no less heavy (in a case not unlike that), speaketh to me to say something now. And I wish I could ease your Ladyship, at least with words.
I am persuaded your Physician will not slay you, but purge you, seeing He calleth Himself the Chirurgeon [sic. “Surgeon”], who maketh the wound and bindeth it up again; for to lance a wound is not to kill, but to cure the patient (Deut. xxxii. 39). I believe faith will teach you to kiss a striking Lord; and so acknowledge the sovereignty of God (in the death of a child) to be above the power of us mortal men, who may pluck up a flower in the bud and not be blamed for it. If our dear Lord pluck up one of His roses, and pull down sour and green fruit before harvest, who can challenge Him? For He sendeth us to His world, as men to a market, wherein some stay many hours, and eat and drink, and buy and sell, and pass through the fair, till they be weary; and such are those who live long, and get a heavy fill of this life. And others again come slipping in to the morning market, and do neither sit nor stand, nor buy nor sell, but look about them a little, and pass presently home again; and these are infants and young ones, who end their short market in the morning, and get but a short view of the Fair. Our Lord, who hath numbered man’s months and set him bounds that he cannot pass (Job xiv. 5), hath written the length of our market, and it is easier to complain of the decree than to change it.
I verily believe, when I write this, your Lord hath taught your Ladyship to lay your hand on your mouth. But I shall be far from desiring your Ladyship, or any others, to cast by a cross, like an old useless bill that is only for the fire; but rather would wish each cross were looked in the face seven times, and were read over and over again. It is the messenger of the Lord, and speaks something; and the man of understanding will hear the rod, and Him that hath appointed it. Try what is the taste of the Lord’s cup, and drink with God’s blessing, that ye may grow thereby. I trust in God, whatever speech it utter to your soul, this is one word in it, “Behold, blessed is the man whom God correcteth” (Job v. 17); and that it saith to you, “Ye are from home while here; ye are not of this world, as your Redeemer, Christ, was not of this world.” There is something keeping for you, which is worth the having.
All that is here is condemned to die, to pass away like a snowball before a summer sun; and since death took first possession of something of yours, it hath been and daily is creeping nearer and nearer to yourself, howbeit with no noise of feet. Your Husbandman and Lord hath lopped off some branches already; the tree itself is to be transplanted to the high garden. In a good time be it. Our Lord ripen your Ladyship. All these crosses (and indeed, when I remember them, they are heavy and many, peace, peace be the end of them!) are to make you white and ripe for the Lord’s harvest-hook. I have seen the Lord weaning you from the breasts of this world. It was never His mind it should be your patrimony; and God be thanked for that. Ye look the like one of the heirs. Let the movables go; why no? They are not yours. Fasten your grips upon the heritage; and our Lord Jesus make the charters sure, and give your Ladyship to grow as a palm-tree on God’s mount Zion; howbeit shaken with winds, yet the root is fast. This is all I can do, to recommend your case to your Lord, who hath you written upon the palms of His hand. If I were able to do more, your Ladyship may believe me that gladly I would. I trust shortly to see your Ladyship. Now He who hath called you confirm and stablish your heart in grace, unto the Day of the Liberty of the Sons of God.
Your Ladyship’s at all submissive obedience in his sweet Lord Jesus,
Antwoth, April 29, 1634.
Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 97-99. (I edited the text for ease in reading)