‘Letters of Samuel Rutherford’ – A Review by Kenneth MacDonald
Having been reading these letters in an old well-worn volume printed many years ago I was delighted to see this recently published edition by the Banner.1 It is beautifully presented and contains all the hitherto published letters as well as a biographical introduction by Andrew Bonar and a glossary that is so useful when encountering old Scottish words. Many will already be familiar with these letters and Rutherford’s circumstances when he penned most of them.
This is not a book you should read from cover to cover even over a period of weeks, but is best read over a prolonged period of time, and as you do so, try to enter into the situation Rutherford was in as he corresponded with various people. Some of these he obviously knew well and wrote to them a number of letters, while others were relatively unknown to him, but yet the way he addressed even such shows the wonderful pastor’s heart that was his.
Lady Kenmure was one whom he loved much, and writing to her on the death of a child he entreats her to
look to him who hath stricken you at this time … I am persuaded your Physician will not slay you, but purge you … for to lance a wound is not to kill but to cure the patient … I believe faith will teach you to kiss a striking Lord and so acknowledge the sovereignty of God.
To a John Osburne, he writes:
I take His cross in my arms with joy; I bless it, I rejoice in it. Suffering for Christ is my garland. I would not exchange Christ for ten thousand worlds! nay, if the comparison could stand, I would not exchange Christ with heaven.
Writing to another, with thoughts of those who were under his former ministry, he says,
My soul longeth exceedingly to hear how matters go betwixt you and Christ … whether or not there be any work of Christ that will bide the trial of fire and water … My dearest in the Lord, stand fast in Christ; keep the faith; contend for Christ … Oh that the Lord would fulfil my joy, and keep the young bride that is at Anwoth to Christ!
Rutherford had such a sense of communion with his Saviour that at times you feel that it is almost as if he was actually physically beside him as he writes. In a letter to William Glendinning he extols the loveliness of the Lord Jesus:
Acquaint yourself with Christ’s love … draw the curtains and make bare His holy face; clear our dim and blearied eyes to see His beauty and glory. He should find many lovers. I would seek no more happiness than a sight of Him so near hand as to see, hear, smell, and touch and embrace Him.
Such a sense of Christ we need in our day, and yet there is a holy boldness with this saint of God that some of us cannot enter into. He continues in the same letter, ‘I should not refuse ten thousand years in hell, to have a wide soul enlarged and made wider, that, I might be … filled with His love’.
Many of his letters conclude with words that say much of the heart of this spiritual giant: ‘Yours, in his sweet Lord Jesus’. It is doubtful if many men born of women knew or desired the love of Christ in the way Rutherford did, even as he suffered at the hands of the vindictive, godless yet religious persecutors as a prisoner in Aberdeen.
We cannot recommend this book too highly, but let another great man of God, C. H. Spurgeon, have the last word: ‘Rutherford’s Letters (are) the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.’
Having been reading these letters in an old well-worn volume printed many years ago I was delighted to see this recently published edition by the Banner.1 It is beautifully presented and contains all the hitherto published letters as well as a biographical introduction by Andrew Bonar and a glossary that is so useful when encountering […]
Taken with permission from the Free Church Witness January 2007
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