On Owning Christ and Suffering Well: Samuel Rutherford

I don’t usually write letters to those who hold public office. They live in their world and I live in mine and I’m content with that. But this was not the case in the past. Pastors often wrote magistrates, governors, kings and presidents; and often, the content of their letters called their recipients to serious reflection on their responsibility before God. One such letter was written by Samuel Rutherford to a Mr. John Osburn, Provost of Ayr, on March 14, 1637.

The letter speaks to me, not so much that I should be more involved in the political system, but that I should be involved with those holding public office when possible in order to influence them for Christ. May God grant grace to be more proactive in this, for the good of the nation, state or city, that Jesus might be glorified.

But it speaks to me in another way too. Samuel Rutherford’s was banished from preaching in his church in Anwoth in September, 1636 and forced to live, against his will, in the primarily Roman Catholic town of Aberdeen until sometime in 1638; and as appears in this letter, he suffered well. He states in this letter how he kisses and embraces Christ’s cross, and this same theme is found in many of the letters written to friends during this time.

What was the key to Rutherford’s suffering well? It was Christ~intimacy with and dependence upon Christ as the source of his joy and strength. He was truly a man who could say, as John Bunyan said, that he learned to “live upon God, who is invisible”. His sustenance during this trial was supernatural~and communion with Christ saw him through until he was finally set at liberty.

Rutherford’s letter is below. He wrote:

Much honored Sir~Grace, mercy and peace be to you—Upon our small acquaintance and the good report I hear of you, I could not but write to you. I have nothing to say but that Christ, in that honorable place He has put you in, has entrusted you with a dear pledge, which is his glory; and has armed you with His sword to keep the pledge, and make a good account of it to God.

Be not afraid of men. Your Master can mow down His enemies and make withered hay of fair flowers. Your time will not be long; after your afternoon will come your evening and after evening night. Serve Christ. Back Him; let His cause be your cause; give not a hair-breadth of truth away; for it is not yours but God’s. Then, since you are going, take Christ’s testimony with you out of this life–“Well done, good and faithful servant!” His ‘well done’ is worth a ship full of “good-days”,  and earthly honors.

I have cause to say this because I find Him truth itself. In my sad days, Christ laughs cheerfully and says “All will be well”. Would to God that all this kingdom [speaking of Scotland] and all that know God, knew what is between Christ and me in this prison–what kisses, embracements and love communion! 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 ! No, if the comparison could stand, I would not exchange Christ with heaven.

Sir, pray for me, and the prayers and blessing of  prisoner of Christ meet you in all your straits. Grace be with you.

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