(ON THE DEATH OF HER CHILD – CHRIST SHARES IN HIS PEOPLE’S SORROWS.)
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. I know that ye are near many comforters, and that the promised Comforter is near at hand also. Yet, because I found your Ladyship comfortable to myself in my sad days, which are not yet over my head, it is my part and more, in many respects (howbeit I can do little, God knoweth, in that kinds), to speak to you in your wilderness lot.
I know, dear and noble Lady, that this loss of your dear child (John, second Viscount Kenmure who died in 1639) came upon you, one piece and part of it after another; and that ye were looking for it, and that now the Almighty hath brought on you that which ye feared; and that your Lord gave you lawful warning. And I hope that for His sake who brewed and masked this cup in heaven, ye will gladly drink, and salute and welcome the cross. I am sure, that it is not your Lord’s mind to feed you with judgment and wormwood, and to give you waters of gall to drink (Ezek. xxxiv. 16; Jer. ix. 15). I know that your cup is sugared with mercy; and that the withering of the bloom, the flower, even the white and red of worldly joys, is for no other end than to buy out at the ground the reversion of your heart and love.
Madam, subscribe to the Almighty’s will; put your hand to the pen, and let the cross of your Lord Jesus have your submissive and resolute AMEN. If ye ask and try whose this cross is, I dare say that it is not all your own, the best half of it is Christ’s. Then your cross is no born-bastard, but lawfully begotten; it sprang not out of the dust (Job v. 6). If Christ and ye be halvers of this suffering, and He say, “Half mine,” what should ail you? And I am sure that I am here right pon the style of the word of God: “The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” (Phil. iii. 10); “The remnant of the afflictions of Christ” (Col. i. 24); “The reproach of Christ” (Heb. ii. 6). It were but to shift the comforts of God, to say, “Christ had never such a cross as mine: He had never a dead child, and so this is not His cross; neither can He, in that meaning, be the owner of this cross.” But I hope that Christ, when he married you, married you and all the crosses and wo (grieved) hearts that follow you. And the word maketh no exception. “In all their afflictions He was afflicted” (Isa. lxiii. 9). Then Christ bore the first stroke of this cross; it rebounded off Him upon you, and ye get it at the scond hand, and ye and He are halvers in it. And I shall believe, for my part, that He mindeth to distil heaven out of this loss, and all others the like; for wisdom devised it, and love laid it on, and Christ owneth it as His own, and putteth your shoulder beneath only a piece of it. Take it with joy, as no bastard cross, but as a visitation of God, well-born; and spend the rest of your appointed time, till your change come, in the work of believing. And let faith, that never made a lie to you, speak for God’s part of it, “He will not, He doth not, make you a sea or a whale-fish, that He keepeth you in ward” (Job vii. 12). It may be, that ye think not many of the children of God in such a hard case as yourself; but what would ye think of some, who would exchange afflictions? and give you to the boot? But I know that yours must be your own alone, and Christ’s together.
I confess it seemed strange to me, that your Lord hsould have done that which seemed to ding out the bottom of your worldly comforts; but we see not the ground of the Almighty’s sovereignty. “He goeth by on our right hand, and on our left hand, and we see Him not.” We see but pieces of the broken links of the chains of His providence; and He coggeth the wheels of His own providence, that we see not. Oh, let the former work His own clay into what frame He pleaseth! “Shall any teach the Almighty knowledge?” If He pursue the dry stubble, who dare say, “What doest Thou?” Do not wonder to see the Judge of the world weave, into one web, your mercies and judgments of the house of Kenmure. He can make one web of contraries.
But my weak advice (with reverence and correction), were, for you, dear and worthy Lady, to see how far mortification goeth on, and what scum the Lord’s fire casteth out of you. I know that ye see your knottiness, since our Lord whiteth, and heweth, and plaineth you. And the glancing of the furnace (The brightness of glowing heat) is to let you see what scum or refuse ye must want, and what froth is in nature, that must be boiled out and taken off in the fire of your trials. I do not say that heavier afflictions prophesy heavier guiltiness; a cross is often but a false prophet in this kind. But I am sure that our Lord would have the tin and the bastard metal in you removed, lest the Lord say, “The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed in the fire, the Founder melteth in vain” (Jer. vi. 29). And I shall hope that grief will not so far smother your light, as not to practise this so necessary a duty, to concur with Him in this blessed design.
I would gladly plead for the Comforter’s part of it, not against you, Madam (for I am sure ye are not his party [An opposing party to him]), but against your grief, which will have its own violent incursions in your soul: and I think it be not in your power to help it. But I must say, there are comforts allowed upon you; and, therefore, want them not. When ye have gotten a running-over soul with joy now, that joy will never be missed out of the infinite ocean of delight, which is not diminished by drinking at it, or drawing out of it. It is a Christian art to comfort yourself in the Lord; to say, “I was obliged to render back again this child to the Giver: and if I have had four years’ loan of him, and Christ eternity’s possession of him, the Lord hath kept condition with me. If my Lord would not have him and me to tryst (meet by appointment) both in one hour at death’s door-threshold together, it is His wisdom so to do; I am satisfied. My tryst is suspended, not broken off, nor given up.” Madam, I would that i could divide sorrow with you, for your ease. But I am but a beholder: it is easy to me to speak; the God of comfort speak to you, and allure you with His feasts of love.
My removal from my flock is so heavy to me, that it maketh my life a burden to me; I had never such a longing for death. The Lord help and hold up sad clay. I fear that ye sin in drawing Mr. William Dalgleish from this country, where the labourers are few, and the harvest great.
Madam, desire my Lord Argyle to see for provision to a pastor for his poor people. Grace be with you.
Your Ladyship’s at all obedience in Christ,
Kirkcudbright, Oct. 1, 1639
Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 565-68.