Three areas where faith overcomes
James Renwick (1662 – 1688) was the last of the Covenanter field preachers to be put to death. He was just twenty six when he was executed in the Grassmarket.
22 Jun, 2023

Jean Hamilton corresponded with several prominent Covenanting ministers, including James Renwick. Here are updated excerpts from three letters which she received from Renwick while her personal and family circumstances were in turmoil and she was dealing with a lot of uncertainty as to what to do for the best for herself and her children. When the troubles of the moment and the inadequacies within ourselves threaten to obscure God’s plain truth, Renwick’s wise advice helps us to refocus, and to fortify ourselves against the temptation to get so bogged down in problems that we forget we are journeying onwards to meet Christ in glory.

How to interpret providence

31st March 1683

I hope you will not think me so far out of my duty as to be unmindful of your case, for I am very conscious of the circumstances you find yourself in. However, though your trials be many, and your fears not few, yet I do not think your case is strange – similar things have happened to the Lord’s people.

O take it well, whatever comes from the Lord’s hand. Look to His purposes in His providences, and then you will be able to read love to you in the saddest of them. Away with scanty sense, which always interprets God’s heart to be the same as His face. Faith is a noble thing – it soars high, and can read love in God’s heart even when His face frowns. Do you not have reason to think the best of Him? You can depend on getting good from His hand. Your evening of sorrow shall be turned into an everlasting morning of joy.

Let the faith of this sweeten your present situation to you. The Lord be with you all. Remember your friend and servant in the Lord, who sympathises with you in your trials.

How to interpret yourself

20 June 1684

I received your letter, which unbosomed to me a troubled case, which touches me in no small measure. But as I am touched by the trouble of spirit which you express, I am just as much refreshed to see that you are not insensible about your situation. Your great complaint is that you lack light and life. I am convinced, however, that anyone who utterly lacks one or the other of these cannot be troubled to realise that they lack them. Nobody misses what never belonged to them. A horse has no sense of loss about the wings of an eagle, because they never belonged to him, but he would soon notice if he lacked his feet. Those who never knew anything of light and life would never miss them.

But what shall I say to you? Let nothing less than Christ Himself satisfy you. Try to live under the impression of His preciousness, for contemplating this fills the heart with love to Him, and love, you know, is a most active and lively thing.

Do not judge your own state by how you feel about yourself. A very fruitful tree will bear neither fruit not leaves in the winter, but there will still be plenty sap in the root. Do not spend time debating it, but make sincere and serious use of the means that you have of union and communion with Christ. This is both the surest and the shortest way to reach fixedness.

Also, do not seek simply to have your feelings satisfied for the time being – what you need is a well-grounded assurance for the future. So, look to the infinite power and infinite love of Christ. That is a two-edged sword to cut in pieces all your Gordian knots! Infinite power, what can it not do? Infinite love, what will it not do? Never seek anything in yourself to commend you to Christ, for that will keep you continually staggering. Instead I recommend you to the grace of Him who is able to perfect what concerns you.

I remain your ladyship’s soul’s well-wisher, sympathiser, and obedient servant in the Lord.

How to spend your time

18 November 1685

You doubtless think my long silence strange, and it is far contrary to my own resolution, but the abundance of cares and ongoing troubles block me up from doing many things I would like.

I think that when the Lord returns to us again, it will be with such a measure and outpouring of His Spirit that the remnant that are left shall have almost a heaven on earth, and our land shall be made the joy of all lands.

For us today, though, what is there but to make sure of Christ for ourselves, and to spend our days here below admiring the loveliness and condescension of our Beloved, and our own happiness in enjoying such a potion.

But this is a great work! Time isn’t enough for it! That is why we shall get eternity for it. O let us pursue the increase of the beauty of holiness, for happiness is inferior to it. It is by holiness that we are made like God, and is this not true nobility? O what is like it?! If we knew more of this pursuit – and attainment – we would feel less as if we have been deserted by the Lord, and we would enjoy more of the smilings of His sweet countenance, and of the breathings of His Spirit.

Also, while we are in this pilgrimage, let His will be ours in all things. Whatever He may carve out for us, or whatever we are involved in, let us say Amen to it, for if He wills it, it is enough for us. For that matter, let us reckon on the worst that can happen, so that whatever comes, we will not be surprised.



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