The Cross and the need for Soul Preparation: Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor who lived in the 17th century (1600-1661) is one of my favorite Puritan divines and his letters, available through Banner of Truth Trust, are rich in insights and encouragement. One of Rutherford’s letters, dated March 13, 1637, and written to his friend John Ewart, Bailie of Kirkudbright, was of particular interest to me recently. Rutherford wrote to encourage his friend to bears the cross and to lay a sure foundation for his salvation. I was motivated and challenged by this letter because it is fitting for Christians of our day to contemplate. Of particular note is Rutherford’s comparison of the cross to a birds wings or a ships sails, as well as his cal to work out our salvation with an eye on the day of Judgment. If more people were to take Rutherford’s advise there would be less people ashamed on that great and terrible day. May you be encouraged by this letter, written 372 years ago, to run with patience the race set before you, looking to Jesus all the way.

To John Ewart:

“MY VERY WORTHY AND DEAR FRIEND,—I cannot but most kindly thank you for the expressions of your love. Your love and respect to me is a great comfort to me.

I bless His high and glorious name that the terrors of great men have not frightened me from openly affirming the Son of God. No, His cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bare; it is such a burden as wings to a bird or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbor. I have much cause to fall in love with the world; but rather to wish that He who sits upon the floods would bring my broken ship to land, and keep my conscience safe in these dangerous times; for wrath from the Lord is coming on this sinful land.

It were good that we prisoners of hope know of our stronghold to run to, before the storm come on; therefore, Sir, I beseech you by the mercies of God and comforts of His Spirit, by the blood of your Savior, and by your future appearance before the sin avenging Judge of the world, keep your garments clean, and stand for the truth of Christ which you profess. When the time shall come that your eye strings shall break, your face grow pale, your breath grow cold and this house of clay shall totter, and your one foot shall be over the border, in eternity, it will be your comfort and joy that you gave your name to Christ. The greatest part of the world think heaven at the next door, and that Christianity is an easy task; but they will be misled by craft. Worthy Sir, I beseech you, make sure work of your salvation. I have found my experience, that all I could do has much difficulty in the day of my trial; and therefore lay up a sure foundation for the time to come.

I cannot repay you for your undeserved favors to me and my afflicted brother. But I trust to remember you to God. Remember me heartily to your kind wife.

Yours in his only Lord Jesus,

Samuel Rutherford

This letter may be found on page 262 of Letters of Samuel Rutherford, printed by Banner of Truth Trust, first published 1664, reprinted 1984 and 2006.