Making spiritual progress
Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 1661) was one of the foremost Scottish theologians and apologists for Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century, playing a major role in formulating the Westminster Standards at the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his many devotional letters and Lex, Rex–his seminal work on political sovereignty.
6 Jan, 2024

The Christian walk is characterised by newness of life and closeness to the Lord. Yet as time goes by, those who are in the way can grow conscious of distance from the Lord as well as a degree of lifelessness and lack of energy for the journey. At significant milestones, it can help to refocus on our priorities and remind ourselves of the things that will assist our progress and reduce hindrances. Samuel Rutherford is a pilgrim who shared what he himself had learned on the way to help those coming behind to make better progress. The following updated excerpt comes from a recently published book called Daily Walking With God. It was originally titled “Some Helps for a More Exact and Close Walking with God.”

Set aside time for the Word and prayer

Give some hours of the day, maybe more, maybe less, to read God’s Word, and to pray. Prefer these activities to the greatest affairs and employments of your calling, even if you spend the shortest time in them. Let the firstfruits of your morning thoughts smell of such religious duties, excluding all else till they have taken possession.

Have occasional spiritual thoughts during work

In the midst of worldly employments let there be some thoughts of sin, judgment, death, eternity, and God’s free love, with a word or two of prayer to God.

Avoid discouragement in prayer

Do not grudge it even if you come away from prayer without sense, or downcast, or a sense of guiltiness. Instead let this sharpen your appetite for another hearing, and do not rest on what you have already done.

Keep the whole Lord’s day holy

Spend the Lord’s day from morning till night always in private or public worship, even taking account of the smallest thoughts, as this day is set apart from the rest of the days of the week for the Lord’s worship only, as not being lawful to have our own thoughts

Avoid idle thoughts

Observe and avoid wandering and idle thoughts, as they are the harbingers of unsavoury speech, and ushers to profane actions.

Avoid wandering thoughts in prayer

Beware of wandering of heart in private and public prayer to God. In private, make your heart go along with your tongue, and in public have hearty joining, as if you felt the present necessity pressing you to it. Also join in praises with a feeling heart, proceeding from a principle of love, to exalt His glory.

Avoid all known sin

Eschew all revealed sins and whatever things are against the conscience, as most dangerous preparatives to hardness of heart. Always be governed by your conscience, rather than conscience being governed by you.

Have integrity in dealings with others

In dealing with others, whether in agreements or business, have a regard for sincerity, and make conscience of idle words and lying. Let us behave in such a way that they shall speak honourably of our sweet Master, and not in any way that would damage our profession. The life we live should correspond to the outward show, so that not only in appearance but in reality we may be true Christians.

Spend time in spiritual company

Frequent most the company of those with whom the soul may be most benefited. Develop all conversations in a way that contributes to spiritual usefulness, striving to edify one another in mutual confidences, cherishing heavenly thoughts, and sympathizing with the sufferings of our mother the church. In all your prayers hold up her (the church’s) condition to the Lord, and the condition of one another.

Avoid godless company

Eschew the company of the profane and “those who are without,” unless it is for the purpose of bringing them into the knowledge of Christ, by convincing their judgments. In no wise abstain from challenging their erroneous vices, as choosing rather to incur their wrath than to let God’s glory suffer in the least measure. Better to suffer in vindicating His cause than to be guilty by participating in sin that dishonours Him, for what you suffer in that, you suffer as a member of Christ.

Meditate frequently on the Word

Do not content yourself with morning and evening reading of God’s Word and sacrifices of prayer. Rather, whatever you read or hear, digest it by meditation, and turn it over in praises oft-times a day, as occasion offers, not sparing your most important activities.

Keep daily accounts

Every night call your thoughts, words and actions to a strict account. See where you have omitted, gone back, stood still, or come short. With sorrow, promise and purpose to amend what has been amiss. Let this possess your night dreams, and then awaken with a desire to pray and praise.

Submit to God in affliction

In afflictions or crosses, whether on body or mind or friends, often practice submission by acknowledging that nothing happens by accident, but by an overruling providence. Gather sweetness out of the bitterest portions, as things that serve to make you more heavenward, and do not drag Christ’s cross, but bear it cheerfully.

Avoid hatred even towards enemies

Keep well clear of vehemence, envy, hatred, desire of revenge, even against those who persecute the truth; for we often mix our zeal with our wildfire. Maintain charitable thoughts of those that are without, not being a slave of your passions, but commanding them, and let them express themselves most against your own corruption.

Daily examine your growth in grace

Daily assess your growth in grace. If you do not see it grow daily perceptibly, yet by testing you must find imperceptible growth [over time], otherwise doubt yourself. For as standing water goes bad, so grace not growing must decay, and then you would come short of your mark.

Suppress idle thoughts

When idle thoughts enter your heart, suppress them quickly, for they are like the thief that will open the door to the rest to break in till they become the strong man, and then act in a way which cannot be so easily resisted. It is best to smother them in the birth before they come to infancy, and far more before they come to such full strength that they can hardly be rooted up.

Be consistent in resolutions

Do not content yourself with flashes of good resolutions, before or after the sacrament, or in the heat of public or private ordinances, which are suddenly choked. These are like the seed among the corn, which spend their life in their birth. On the other hand, do not be discouraged with the clouds of God’s absence. Rather judge for yourself what occasions it, still waiting patiently, not idly, under the cloud, till He break forth with the beams of His countenance to enlighten your deserted (but not rejected) condition.

Daily examine every thought

What if, if it were possible, you were to write every thought of the day, both good and bad, and, in order to make more conscience of them, you were to summon them before thee at night to be censured according to their demerits, persuading yourself to be so strictly examined before God’s tribunal in the day of the Lord?

Deny self in order to be Christ’s

Do not let idol-self have such a reigning power in you, but rather dismiss it in disgrace, so that Christ may take possession. To be less your own is to be more His. This will oblige you to be more painstaking about mortifying your sin and putting on the new man.

Resist doubts and unbelief

Strive against doubting. If you lack feeling of faith, complain bitterly for the lack of it, and seek out where the sin that hinders it is lurking. Use all means by which you can get the Lord’s countenance, and no less to entertain it.

This updated excerpt is taken from the book titled Daily Walking With God, by Samuel Rutherford, published by Reformation Press (2022).

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