Making spiritual progress

Making spiritual progress

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.

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).



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

What can I tell my friends about Jesus?

What can I tell my friends about Jesus?

What can I tell my friends about Jesus?
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.

In a recent study of what people in the UK think about Jesus, it was found that following a conversation with a practicing Christian, around a third of non-Christians said they wanted to know more about Jesus, felt more positive towards Jesus, and were open to an encounter with Jesus. This seems to reflect a growing openness towards hearing about Jesus from Christians compared to previous findings, perhaps reflecting the upheavals and uncertainties of the last couple of years. So what would we most of all want our non-Christian friends to know about Jesus? Samuel Rutherford had no doubts about the attractiveness of Jesus to sinners, even people who thought they had no use for Him in their lives. In the following updated extract, Rutherford describes some of the wonder of Jesus as the Saviour. More than bare facts and doctrines, Rutherford is gripped with the beauty and loveliness of Christ, the eternal Son of God. Jesus has such a powerful magnetic influence that once He gives someone a glimpse of Himself, they can’t help but be drawn to Him for salvation. What then are some of these glimpses we want people to see?

Jesus Christ has a unique aptitude for drawing sinners to Himself.

Jesus is the Redeemer

The Father is not the Redeemer, nor is the Holy Spirit, but Jesus Christ is in person the Lord Redeemer. In the deep of God’s wisdom, the Son was thought fittest to make sons (Gal. 4:4). As Lord Saviour, Christ is a fit person to rescue captives, and to draw them into the state of sonship. I do not say this in a way that excludes the other two persons of the Trinity, for the Father draws sinners to the Son (John 6:44), and the Spirit of grace is a special agent in the work of conversion. But Christ is personally the one who draws sinners, and God works all plans He designed in heaven by Christ. It is Christ who brings many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).

Jesus is the Mediator

Christ’s role is to be a congregating and uniting Mediator (Col. 1:20). He reunites heaven and earth. He is our peace (Eph. 2:14), the Shepherd who gathers in one the sons of God (John 11:52). By the merit of His blood He makes sinners legally one with God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. We were banished out of paradise, but the Son was sent out to bring in the out-law sons.

Jesus embodies God’s mercy to sinners

In Christ, God has laid down (so to speak) His compassion, mercy, and gentleness to sinners. In His person and work, Christ has taken away infinite wrath, and satisfied divine justice. God nowhere has so much mercy, graciousness, kindness, tender compassion to sinners and such a sea of love, as in the Lord Jesus. O but He is a most lovely, desirable, compassionate God in Christ!

The sinner finds all that God can have in him, or do for saving, in the Mediator Christ. Nothing can come out of God to the sinner, except through Christ. There is no golden pipe, no channel but this. All God, and whole God, is in Christ, and all God as communicable to the creature. If only God was seen in His lovelyness, His beauty would be strong ropes to draw hell itself up to heaven. Love, grace, mercy, are uniting attributes in God, attributes which solder or fuse things permanently together. These essential attributes that are in one person of the Trinity are in all three persons of the Trinity, yet the mediatorial manifestation of love, grace, and free mercy is only in the Son. Christ is the treasury, store-house, and repository of the free goodness and mercy of the Godhead. As the sea is a congregation of waters, so Christ is a confluence of these lovely and attractive attributes that are in the Godhead.

Jesus reflects God’s beauty to sinners

Christ is the face of God (2 Cor. 4:6). The beauty and loveliness of the person, and much of their majesty and glory, is in the face. So the beauty and majesty and glory of God is manifested in Christ. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory (Heb. 1:3); the Father is as it were all sun, Christ the Son is the substantial rays, light-shining, the eternal and essential radiating of this sun of glory. The sun’s glory is manifested to the world in the light and beams that it sends out to the world, and if the sun kept its beams within itself, we would see nothing of its beauty and glory. No man or angel could see anything of God, if He had not had a consubstantial Son, begotten of himself by an eternal generation. But Christ is the beams, and the splendour, and the shining (but the consubstantial shining) of the Father. As God incarate Christ reveals the excellency, glory, and beauty of God.

Christ is the drawing loveliness of God. If you see a creature’s beauty, or a man’s face, you see the creature itself and the man himself. That’s what Christ says to Philip (John 14:9). “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. I am as like the Father, as God is like Himself; there is a perfect, indivisible, essential unity between the Father and me. I and the Father are one; one very God; He the begetter, I the begotten.”

So you see that God has pledged all His beauty, His loveliness, and His attractive virtue in Christ, the lodestone of heaven. Wisdom is a fair, lovely, and alluring beauty. Well, Christ is the essential wisdom of God. If ever your eyes once fastened on that dainty lovely thing Christ, that eternal, infinite flower and lily that sprang out of the essence and beautiful nature of God, with eternal, infinite greenness, beauty, fragrance, vigour, life, never to fade, that essential wisdom and substantial Word – if ever your eyes once fell on Him in a vision of glory, it would be un-possible to take your eyes off Him again! Such attractive rays and visual lines of lovely beauty and glory would come from His face to your eyes, and such darts of love into your understanding, heart, and affection, that you would be captivated by His glory for ever and ever.

Jesus came as close as He possibly could to sinners

Then there is so much warmness of heart, and such a fire of love, such a stock of free grace, so wide, so tender, so large a heart of mercy and compassion toward sinners, that He had to put Himself into such a posture of mercy that would most conveniently allow Him to get a strong pull of sinners to draw them – a large and wide handful, His arms full of sinners.

How? He had to be a man for us, to get all the organs of lovely drawing sinners to Him. He got Himself a human heart to love humans, human bowels to compassionate humans, human hands to touch the leper’s skin, a human mouth and tongue to pray for humans, to preach to humans, and in our nature to publish the everlasting gospel, human legs to be the good shepherd to walk over mountain and wilderness to seek and to save lost sheep; a human soul to sigh and groan for humans; human eyes to weep for sinners.

To lay down His life for His poor friends, He became a created clay-tent of free grace, a shop and a warehouse of compassion towards us. He borrowed the womb of a sinner to be born, He sucked the breasts of a woman who needed a Saviour, He ate and drank with sinners and publicans, He came to seek and to save lost sinners, He was numbered with sinners, He died between two sinners, He made His grave with sinners, He borrowed a sinner’s tomb to be buried in.

And now He keeps up the old relationship with sinners, even now that He is in heaven. Honour has not changed Him, He has not forgotten His old friends. “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In heaven Christ cannot now sigh, but He can feel sighing, He cannot weep, but He has a man’s heart to compassionate our weeping, in such a way as is suitable to His glorified condition. The head is in heaven, but He has left His heart in earth with sinners: that Comforter, His Holy Spirit, who He has sent to abide with us.



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Why become a Christian?

Why become a Christian?

Why become a Christian?
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.

Many Christians feel uncomfortable witnessing to unconverted friends and neighbours. Among the various possible reasons for this can sometimes be a nagging feeling that non-Christians would have a point if they were put off by how inadequate existing Christians are, and how unappealing organised religion often is. But what the unconverted person is missing out on is not so much to do with Christians or the church, but the wonderful Saviour and His amazing salvation. In the following shortened and updated extract, Samuel Rutherford lists a number of ways in which the unconverted should find Christ Jesus attractive. Perhaps if believers themselves were more struck with the loveliness of Christ and more convinced about the benefits of Christ’s salvation, it would come more easily to speak to others about Him.

The Lord Jesus Christ draws you to come to Him with various kinds of reasons to persuade you. One reason is the pleasure and enjoyment you can have from the beauty that is in God.

God is beautiful

What then is the beauty of God? I conceive it to be the loveliness of His nature, and all infinite perfections, as this loveliness offers itself to His own understanding and the understanding of humans and angels. David makes this his one desirable thing, ‘That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and enquire in his temple’ (Psalm 27:4).

The Lord is beautiful because infiniteness, and sweetness of order, is spread throughout His nature and attributes. Nothing can be added to Him, nothing taken from Him; and He is not all mercy only, but infinitely just. So then one attribute does not overtop, out-border or limit another, which would deface His beauty.

And what is beautiful must be natural, and truly and really there. Borrowed colours, and painted embellishments, are not beauty. The Lord, in all His perfections, is truly what He seems to be.

This is why the perfect blessedness of heaven is described as seeing God face to face (Rev. 22:4; Matt. 18:10). God does not have a face; but to see God’s face, is to behold God’s blessed nature (as far as the creature can see God). We see God’s face when we behold Him at close range – not by hearsay, but directly. Let us imagine that millions of suns were all amassed in one: this sun would far excel the sense of seeing in everyone who has ever lived. Now imagine that the Lord created an understanding faculty, millions of degrees more vigorous and apprehensive than if all who have ever been created were consolidated in one. Yet even this understanding could not see God’s transcendent and superexcellent beauty! There would remain unseen treasures of loveliness never seen. In fact, it involves an eternal contradiction, that the creature can see to the bottom of the Creator.

God’s beauty is in Christ

But all this beauty of God is held out to us in Christ! He is fairer than the sons of men (Psa. 45:2), handsome with a double excellency. ‘Behold thou art fair, my Beloved, yea pleasant,’ lovely, delightful, most acceptable (Cant. 1:16.) He is white and ruddy (Cant. 5:10.). His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars (v. 15). His countenance is as when the sun shineth in its full strength (Rev. 1:16). All the beauty of God is put forth in Christ. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty (Isa. 33:17). Christ is the brightness of His Father’s glory (Heb. 1:3). The light of the sun in the air is the ‘accidental’ reflection of the sun’s beams; but Christ is the substantial reflection of the Father’s light and glory, for He is God equal with the Father, and the same God.

God’s beauty is worth seeing

This beauty is outstanding to human and angel observers. Angels are said to have eyes within and without, in front and behind (Rev. 4:6), to behold the beauty of the Lord; and their eyes are absorbed always in beholding His face. They stoop down, as if looking into a dark and veiled thing, with the head bent and the neck outstretched, with great attention of mind. Angels are not nosey, but this exceeding great beauty they must see. They cannot get their eyes pulled off Jesus Christ.

Communion with God is beautiful

We have communion with God in Jesus Christ, when we love Jesus and Jesus shows us that He loves us. There is a beautiful sweetness in being conscious of the love of Christ, which delights all the spiritual senses.

1. The smell of Christ’s spikenard, His myrrh, aloes, and cassia. His ivory chambers smell of heaven. The ointment of His garments brings God to the sense. (Psa. 45:8; Cant. 1:13)

2. To the sight, Christ is a delightful thing: to behold God in Christ, is a changing, transforming sight. (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 1:17; Matt. 16:17; 1 John 2:27.) To see the King in His beauty is a thing full of ravishing delight.

3. It captivates the spiritual sense of hearing. The spouse is so taken with the sweetness of Christ’s tongue that, for joy, she can only speak broken and imperfect words. ‘The voice of my Beloved!’ is not a perfect sentence, but for joy she can speak no more (Cant. 2:8). It is the voice of joy and gladness, that with the very sound can heal broken bones (Psa. 51:8). O if you heard Christ speak! Christ’s piping the joyful gospel tidings should make us dance (Matt. 11:7). Christ harping and singing sinners with joyful promises, out of hell to heaven, must have a drawing sweetness to move stones, if the sinner has ears to hear! And what warmth of love must it bring, when Christ is heard say words of comfort (Isa. 54:11; Isa. 40:1).

4. Christ is sweet to the spiritual taste. ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet in my mouth’ (Cant. 2:3; also Psa. 34:8). The wine, the milk, the honey, and the fatted calf, are all but shadows to Christ’s excellent gospel dainties.

5. The sense of touch, which is the most spiritual, is the heavenly feelings, sense, and experience of God’s consolations; and this sense is fed with the kisses of Christ’s mouth (Cant. 1:3), and with the hid manna, the white stone, the new name.

Joy in God is beautiful

Joy is a drawing delight, and in His face there is fulness of joy (Psa. 16:11). Look, however far God’s face casts down from heaven sparkles of joy on us, as far goes our joy; and we are said, in believing, 1 Pet. 1:8. to rejoice with joy unspeakable, and glorious.

The abundance in God is beautiful

‘They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink the rivers of thy pleasures’ (Psa. 36:7). Should not this draw people to Christ? There must be abundance of pleasures where there is a river of pleasures (as in Psa. 46:4). What a sea of seas must God Himself be! His full and bright face, His white throne, His harpers and the heavenly troops that surround the throne, the Lamb, the heaven of heavens itself, the tree of life, eternally green, eternally at once both adorned with soul-delighting blossoms and loaded with twelve manner of fruit every month; peace of conscience from the sense of reconciliation, the first fruits of Emanuel’s land, that lies beyond time and death! This must all be above expression.


Read more articles from the Samuel Rutherford blog




Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Lex Rex

Lex Rex


Our ideas of political power and its limitations were significantly shaped by Reformed writers like Samuel Rutherford and his book, Lex, Rex (The Law and the King) The book is a hammer blow against state claims for absolute power and so they had it publicly burned. We live in times when politics is polarising to an extraordinary degree. In many democratic countries there is a drift towards autocracy. On the other hand some want to take us into an anarchy where valued liberties and principles are discarded. What are the lessons we can learn today?

In his book (which develops the Reformation teaching about civil government), Rutherford asks some fundamental questions concerning civil government.


  • What is the purpose of government? The glory of God and the wellbeing of the people in both outward and spiritual terms.
  • Who or what brings government into being? It is brought into being by God and the people by means of a contract or covenant.
  • What is the nature of government? Government involves declaring, applying and enforcing the law.
  • What are the limits on government? Government cannot go beyond God’s law and command what is contrary to it or abuse the people.

He draws the answers out of the Bible using passages like Deuteronomy 17 and 1 Timothy 2:2. There are more principles than you might think in Scripture and it is necessary to handle them carefully. Ultimately civil government is from God, for His glory and limited by His law, but the power is given through the people for whose wellbeing it is to be exercised.

Rutherford’s discussions of these principles help us with a more detailed understanding of the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 23) on the matter of Civil Government. “God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers”. “Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake; and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.”

Romans 13 tells us that “the powers that be are ordained of God”. But does this mean that their power and authority is unlimited so that whatever they command is right simply because they command it? Rutherford denies that Scripture supports such a view which can lead to totalitarian tyranny. Instead he says that although government derives its authority from God as the ultimate source, this power is limited in two ways.


It is limited by divine law and subordinate to it. The government is not above the law. “There is no lawful power to do evil”. Romans 13 tells us that the purpose of civil government is to be a terror to evil doers and an encouragement to those who do well (according to God’s law). Lawless governments are going beyond their power and authority and are not acting as the ministers of God when they command something contrary to the law of God. Such laws may be disobeyed and if necessary resisted because only God is lord of the conscience.



It is also limited by the people through whom power is lent unto rulers as subordinate to the people (see the article What is Political Sovereignty?). “No title could be given to any man to make him king, but only the people’s election”. Rutherford shows from the Old Testament how the consent and choice of the people was essential in making a ruler. Power is only lent to rulers and it can be recovered if they prove to abuse it and use it tyrannically.


It is important to have different levels of representatives involved in government and not just one sole ruler. These representatives can help to recover power when it is abused by the key ruler. It provides for checks and balances to ensure accountability. None of this means that people should rebel at the least abuse of power or matter with which they are displeased. They should suffer long before they take the step of revolution in self-defence and use all lawful and non-violent means of redress in the meantime. When they resist they do not resist the office but the person who occupies the office who has exceeded the limits of the power of that office.

The Piety of Samuel Rutherford


William Shisko interviews Matthew Vogan of Reformation Scotland and Pastor Jim Campbell, a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The program gives you an introduction to the life and times of Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century Scottish pastor (who would serve as one of the Scottish representatives to the Westminster Assembly.

God and Government


William Shisko interviews Matthew Vogan of Reformation Scotland and nd Dr. David Innes, professor of Political Science at the King’s College in Manhattan about Samuel Rutherford’s 1644 volume LEX REX and how it applies to the current political situation in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

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.


Read more articles from the Samuel Rutherford blog




Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?

Is Uncertainty a Virtue?
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.

Increasingly, there is a subtle tendency to sidestep difficult and inconvenient issues by saying we cannot be certain about them. Of course, being non-dogmatic is thought to be a virtue in our culture. Yet it’s one thing to acknowledge a defect in our own understanding, it’s another thing to claim that for everyone else. Open questions and matters indifferent seem to have increased at the expense of the practical authority of Scripture. Sometimes muddying the waters means people feel free to take up a definite alternative position. For instance, where professing evangelicals want to support something like same-sex marriage. If they can make the Biblical passages seem unclear then they feel justified in their position. But where do such claims end in relation to God’s revealed will? What indeed are we saying about God’s ability to give us clear teaching?

Of course some parts of the Bible need more careful study than others to understand them in the right way. But this is different to saying that they cannot be understood. There can also be doubts and difficulties that we must work through but that is something different to making doubt an essential aspect of our belief. It is different to the idea that the Church must progress (claiming the leading of the Spirit) to believe things that are flatly contradictory to Scripture and to how former generations understood Scripture. One former evangelical has recently written a book called The Sin of Certainty to champion the conviction that striving for certainty is destructive. One may well ask how “certain” the author is about that conviction itself.

This idea of virtuous uncertainty is not in fact a biblical idea. God has given us “excellent things in counsels and knowledge” to make us “know the certainty of the words of truth” (Proverbs 22:21). “All Scripture…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We are meant to be able to handle it skillfully and in the right way (2 Timothy 2:15). We are not meant to “be tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Our love abounds through knowledge not through ignorance (Philippians 1:9). Even in things indifferent “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

These issues are not in fact new. Samuel Rutherford had to counter a rising skepticism and we can learn a lot from the principles he draws from Scripture. He gives particular focus to the idea that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we believe what is necessary to be saved.

1. We Can be Certain About Things that are Not Fundamental

We believe with certainty of faith, many things which are not fundamental. For example we are not to be “ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Many (we may suppose) are in glory that died ignorant of this and without believing or. Or at least they died without any certainty of faith on this point: that with God time has no coexistence of duration whether long and short. Yet Peter asserts that it is to be believed with certainty of faith.

The Holy Spirit tells us of many historical matters in Hebrews 11. We believe these by certainty of divine faith but they are not fundamental. If we do not believe all that Paul and the rest of the apostles have written and Moses and the prophets have said we must take them to be false witnesses in saying, preaching and writing what is not true. Paul says so (1 Corinthians 15:15).

The apostles say, “we are witnesses of these things” (Acts 5:32). Now these things refer not only to Christ’s death and resurrection but also to points that are not fundamental. They include identifying the instruments of His death (verse 30; Acts 4:10 and Acts 3:26). The apostles and the Holy Spirit were witnesses of the truth of both fundamental and non-fundamental things (Acts 1:8). Christ said they were “my witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). These things are identified in verse 44, “all things that must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me”. This includes the sacrifices, types, and particular ceremonies that were shadows of Christ.

2. We Are to Examine the Truth to Gain Certainty

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) means prove and search our the true meaning of divine truths. Having thus proved and believed, hold the truth. It does not mean believe it for a day and yield to the complete contrary tomorrow, and then find and yield to yet another contrary principle the day after. If this was so the Holy Spirit would be commanding doubting, doubting till we lose faith and find it again and lose it again in a circle.

If this was the case, then the Bereans (Acts 17:11) must examine their own examining and their own doubtings and believing, and so on to infinity. It would be as though when they find Christ to be in Paul’s teaching and Moses and the Prophets, yet they must still examine and doubt. As though they should only believe the teaching of the prophets, apostles, and the Holy Spirit with reserve, waiting until they ‘receive’ new and contrary understanding from the Holy Spirit.

This is to teach us to be carried about with every wind of doctrine. Believing the truth of Scripture (whether in fundamental or non-fundamental things), however, is to believe a truth, because the Lord (cannot lie or speak untruth) says so.

3. We Ought to Pray For Certainty

We should pray “Lord enlighten my eyes” but this is not a prayer for conjectural, fluctuating and changeable understanding. Such a prayer for new light, is not that the Holy Spirit would teach us to believe truths and falsehoods in a circle. Instead it is a prayer that God:

  • Would give the Spirit of revelation to see gospel truths with a clear revelation of faith;
  • That He would be pleased to cause the light by which we see the same ancient gospel truths to shine more fully, with a larger measure of heavenly evidence.
  • That our understanding may so grow that we see new deductions, consequences, and heavenly new, fresh conclusions from the former truths of God.

Skeptical faith desires God to give us a contrary new light so that we would believe things to be true which were formerly believed to contradictory to the Word of God. This would turn light into night darkness, the truth into a lie, and make the Spirit of truth the father of lies.

4. The Apostles Encourage Certainty

The apostles never urge us to know any truth of God with a reserve. The apostles and the Holy Spirit in them, urge us to know assuredly that Jesus is Christ the Lord. They exhort us to be rooted and established in the faith (Colossians 2:7). They urge us to be fully persuaded of everything both fundamental and historical concerning Christ. Luke wanted Theophilus to “know the certainty” of the “things most surely believed among us” (Luke 1:1, 4).In Hebrews 5:12-13 the apostle exhorts us to believe many points concerning Christ beyond the first principles of the oracles of God. He exhorts them to progress to maturity (Hebrews 6:1). 

5. The Word of God is Able to Give Us Certainty

The principle of uncertainty implies the Word of God is obscurity and dark, not able to instruct us in all truths. It makes a blasphemous charge against the Holy Spirit, as if He had written the Scriptures with the intention that we would have no assured and fixed knowledge. It would leave us not with faith but a mere probable opinion, a conjectural, dubious apprehension of truths, with a reserve to believe the contrary. This would be as though the Lord’s purpose was to make us all skeptics and die doubting.

The apostles command us to believe and be comforted in believing the truths which they themselves believed as Christians and as fellow citizens with us. Are we going to say that the apostles also believed with reserve? That would be blasphemous.

6. We Must Serve God with Believing Conviction

All our practice must be in faith, i.e. with a persuasion that what we do is according to the revealed will of God. If it is otherwise we sin (Romans 14:23) and are condemned in all we do. But if faith with reserve must be the rule of our practice, we can do nothing in faith.


Today we face those who claim to be “progressive Christians”. They tell us that inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers and we should explore the truth rather than declare it. They seem very uncertain about what God’s Word says but very certain about what human opinion (especially science) maintains. They are ready to say that we can’t be sure that the Bible condemns same-sex marriage but move quickly to say that we can be sure that it is ok. They tell us that we shouldn’t judge others. But that in itself is to pass moral judgement on our conduct. Christ says it is necessary for reconciliation to point out what others have done wrong (Matthew 18:15). The tide of uncertainty is influencing some evangelicals in subtle ways and we need to recognise this so as to resist it.



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Spiritual Summer Time

Spiritual Summer Time

Spiritual Summer Time
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.

Who would not welcome the warmth and light of summer? It provides opportunities that we may not have at other times of the year. Its life, growth and fruitfulness should encourage thoughts of the things we long for spiritually. Perhaps we feel that we are in the very opposite condition but spiritual summer is still what we desire. It is good for our growth to have a variety of spiritual seasons. The important matter is to make best use of our current condition.

Samuel Rutherford often compared the changes in our spiritual experience to the seasons of the year. In this updated extract he considers the nature of spiritual summer for the individual and the Church.

1. Spiritual Summer is Not Continuous

Christ is the Sun of Righteousness with “healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2). He is “the dayspring from on high” (Luke 1:78) and “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Now, when the sun departs (when Jesus goes away) then it is dead winter with the Church.

It is clear that under Joshua the Church had her summer and fair weather. The prince of their salvation fought for them and their enemies were subdued under them (Joshua 5:14). The Lord left them many times under the Judges and sold them to their enemies. This was their winter, when God departed from them and they worshipped other gods. And are they not sometimes mourning at the rivers of Babylon? And sometimes dwelling peacefully under their own fig-tree!

(a) The Church has a changeable condition. She must wade through one river and then she goes some miles on dry land and then a river again.

(b) In respect of the outward ministry of the Word. Christ blows out the candle when He has gathered those whom the Father has marked out.

(c) In respect of His felt presence, He is always coming and going and He must go up to His Father’s court and send down love-letters to us again. Christ Jesus in the power and ministry of the Word is not an abiding heritage to any people. Our Lord is riding through the world on the white horse of the gospel (riding triumphantly) and to the extent that His people welcome Him, He remains.

Christ is amongst us now on horseback, the summer is now well near an end. Do you know the signs of winter? Before the winter, the leaves fall off the trees. People now fall away from their profession. Many are ashamed to own Christ and profess Him, they will not be called Puritans. Trees dry up, cast off their fruit and become barren. You never saw the gospel more barren in good works and alms deeds than now.

2. Spiritual Summer is Not Constant Sunshine

We must not think that the child of God will never get a shower in their way to heaven. Sometimes near mid-summer, there will be a blast of hail. But the nature and season of the year will soon melt and dry it up, and it will clear in the west. The birds will renew their songs again and the roses will spread their leaves again when the sun shines. So even while it is summer, the Sun of Righteousness will hide His face from the poor believer. Christ will seem to go away and the conscience will quake and tremble.

It was so with Hezekiah when he mourned to God as a dove and chattered like a crane. It was not the fear of death but because (when he was so near death) God felt so far from him. The soul that knows what it is to be without Christ under these trembling fears will never have a happy look until the sky clears in the west again. Then the Sun of Righteousness begins to break though the clouds of His wrath.

No one knows what it is to be without God, except such as once had Him. People will say this is winter indeed and the child of God is going backwards under such conflicts. I answer that nothing grows and flourishes in winter but even then there are many sweet flowers springing up in the soul. It is true felt enjoyments wither because it is not the time of year for those to grow. But now under these desertions humility grows, feeling of guilt grows, the love and longing to be kissed with the kisses of His mouth grows, a concern to seek God’s face grows and smells sweetly like the rose in June.

The soul is never under such a good condition as now; for the souls of God’s children are always in one of three conditions:

(a) Summer

Towards Christ, it is mid-summer sometimes with the soul, when it enjoys God’s sweet and felt presence. Sometimes we may be so drunken with sense, that we become proud and haughty. We think this a good case; yet, there is great danger that” we provoke our Lord Christ to go away from us. Therefore, we have now need of a holy fear, and of ardent prayer to God to continue our case.

(b) Winter

The soul will be in such a winter, that the Lord will withdraw Himself for many days and years. Yet the soul is so dead in sleepy security that it never misses Him. This was David’s condition; when news came to him that Uriah the Hittite was slain, he called it a chance occurrence of war and sent Joab word to renew the battle again. But the Lord had then left David and he knew it not.

(c) Autumn

The third condition is best of all, when God is appearing to go away and the child of God holds Him fast. When God is saying as He did to Jacob, “Let Me go”, Jacob would not let Him go without a blessing (Genesis 32:26). When Christ says to the woman of Canaan, I came to the world for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, I came not for you. Yet she still knocks, and cries for “mercy, mercy” and cries on Him and would take no such answer. It is the sweetest season in the year when faith binds and holds Christ so fast that He cannot get away. No cord will hold our Samson but faith, love, zeal, new desires for Christ, humility etc. When all these graces flourish, the soul has joy and comfort in Christ.

3. Spiritual Summer Has Certain Signs

It is time now for some directions about the specific evidences, signs and marks of summer. “The flowers appear on the earth” (Song 2:12). By this I understand, the holy lives of the saints, which are as beautiful in the eyes of Jesus as the flowers in summer are beautiful in the fields and gardens. “Israel shall blossom and bud as a rose, and fill the face of the world” (Isaiah 27:6). “And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth” (Psalm 72:16). “He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5).

The Church is God’s garden and plot of ground. He Himself sets flowers in it by the ministry of the Word. It is a mark of the true Church of God that the Word is accompanied by the effectual working of God’s Spirit. Sweet-smelling flowers grow in this plot of ground, the garden of the Word. Do you know what makes the Lord’s flowers fruitful in His vineyard? There are four things that make all Christians fruitful in it.

(i) The Father’s cultivation. He is a good gardener, if any are planted by Him they must grow.

(ii) Christ is a fertile piece of ground. He brings forth a hundred fold. If a flower is planted in Christ, it draws life from Christ: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection “(Rom 6:5). All that grow fruitfully unto God must be planted in the death of Christ. When Christ died, He was sown and planted in the earth and the third day He came above the earth and budded. So our body of sin is sown in the body of Christ and the third day the image of God buds up again.

(iii) Abundant rain makes flowers grow. We are watered, and washed with the purging blood, and cleansing water, that came out of the side of Jesus.

(iv) Flowers must have sweet, wholesome air to make them grow. The sweet worthiness of God’s Spirit rebuking the conscience for sin, and the sweet south wind of the same Spirit comforting the soul, blows upon God’s flowers. What makes so many stinking weeds in our land? God may say as He said of the people“The best of them is as a brier; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge” (Micah 7:4). “Pride has blossomed, “violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness” (Ezekiel 7:11 see also Hosea 10:4). The reasons is that they are not planted in Christ but grow wild upon the mountains of the earth like nettles and thorns.

4. Spiritual Summer in Eternity

We need various spiritual seasons rather than have a constant summer. We cannot have our heaven here as well as hereafter. As Rutherford put it: “We love to carry a heaven to heaven with us, and would have two summers in one year, and no less than two heavens. But this will not do for us: one (and such a one!) may suffice us well enough. The man, Christ, got but one only, and shall we have two?”

Whatever our spiritual condition may be presently, we should be longing for that endless spiritual summer. Rutherford longed for heaven, the constant summer of eternity. “O for the long summer day of endless ages to stand beside Him and enjoy Him! O time, O sin, be removed out of the way! O day! O fairest of days, dawn!”n time, and will be set before us before we famish and lose our stomachs. You have cause to hold up your heart in remembrance and hope of that fair, long summer day”.

Radio Programme on the Piety of Samuel Rutherford: You can listen to a recent radio programme on the subject of Samuel Rutherford’s piety here.


Read more articles from the Samuel Rutherford blog




Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

The Christ We Do Not Know

The Christ We Do Not Know

The Christ We Do Not Know
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.

A provocative statement perhaps. Yet, we hear so much casual use of the name of Christ and glib talk of knowing Jesus. This isn’t the same as knowing a mere mortal and we should never seem to put Christ on that level. We can have a true and real knowledge of Christ as a person but He is infinite. There is always more to know and discover not only about but in Him. That should inspire humble awe. Samuel Rutherford never stopped speaking of Christ but it was always in the most reverent way, grieving at the small amount of knowledge grasped. We need to wonder together with him at so glorious a Saviour.

Rutherford says that there is “an infiniteness that is invisible and incomprehensible” in Christ. “In regard of any comprehensive knowledge, we but speak and write our guessings, our far-off and twilight apprehensions of Him”. It will be the delightful work of saints to all eternity to search into the glory of Christ.

here is gospel-work for all eternity to glorified workmen (angels and ransomed men) to dig into this gold-mine, to roll this soul-delighting and preci­ous stone, to behold, view, inquire, and search into His excellency. And this is the satiety, the top and prime of heaven’s glory and happiness, to see, and ne­ver out-see, to wonder, and never over-wonder the virtues of Him that sits on the throne; to be filled, but never satiate with Christ. And must it then not be our sin, that we stand aloof from Christ?

Rutherford has a similar theme in a sermon on Revelation 19:12 “And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself”. The following is an updated extract.


None knows infinite Christ but Himself. Surely Christ is an unknown person; though each one has Christ Jesus in his mouth, yet he does not know what he is saying. There are three mysteries in Christ we cannot perfectly know or understand in this life.

1. The Mystery of Infinite Christ

The infinite wisdom, mercy, goodness, love, and grace in Christ, which the angels delight to look into and wonder. Come near Christ, and you will never see to the bottom of Him. You have seen mercy, great mercy; there is yet more left. One has seen much of Him, another more; the angels that are sharp in sight have yet seen more; nay, but there is infinitely more left.

You will as soon hold the sea in the hollow of your hand and bind the wind in your cloak as you will gather Him up completely. You must even stand still here and wonder and cry out, “Oh great Jesus, who will or can fathom Thee out?”

2. The Mystery of Incarnate Christ

Oh what a depth is in the work of Christ’s incarnation! God and dust married together! How the blood remains in a personal union with God! How the finite Manhood subsists in His infinite personality! And how the Godhead in the second person, and not in the first or third, assumed our nature, and yet there is but one Godhead in all the three! How the Godhead stood under the Manhood that was stricken, and the Godhead as a helping-friend held Him up, and yet the Godhead did not suffer! How Jesus-man died and Jesus-God lived and remained in death God and man!

3. The Mystery of Enthroned Christ

The third mystery is this: what a name Jesus has by His rising from the dead, and how the Man-hood is advanced. Christ knows all these full well; He can read His own name.

You will speak of learning to measure the earth, number the stars and learning their motion—that is deep knowledge. But God help you to come and see this unknown name, Jesus, and find it out if you can. I know you cannot.

Where will you set Christ? Where will you get a seat, a throne, a chair to Him? He cannot be set too high. If there were ten thousand times ten thousand heavens, and each above another, and Christ were set in the highest of them all, yet He would be too low.


Oh, let us long for glory, that place where we will read His name clearly and will see Christ face to face. Oh, strange that we do not long to be in heaven, to see this comely glorious one (if I may so speak), a darling indeed, and to play God’s children in heaven! We will then come and look into the ark. The curtain will be drawn by, and we will see our fill of Christ there.



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Did Luther Reject the Ten Commandments?

Did Luther Reject the Ten Commandments?

Did Luther Reject the Ten Commandments?
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.

It is not uncommon to encounter the idea that Luther discarded the Ten Commandments. The idea is that he emphasised grace so much against works and gospel so much against law that he downplayed the believer’s use of the Ten Commandments. Alternatively it is suggested that he was worried people would return to works righteousness if they were taught the obligation of holy living by the Ten Commandments.

It is a strange idea because the Ten Commandments were a constant feature of Luther’s experience and preaching. He said that “every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc”. He preached on them from 1516 onwards and published A Brief Explanation of the Ten Commandments in 1518. In the midst of the conflicts raging at this time he says: “each evening I expound to children and ordinary folk the Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer”. He felt that it was necessary to keep these together in order to have a right perspective on the Commandments.

No man can progress so far in sanctification as to keep even one of the Ten Commandments as it should be kept, but that the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer must come to our assistance, as we shall hear, through which we must continually seek, pray for, and obtain the power and strength to keep the Commandments

Luther had a high esteem for the Ten Commandments. “They are the true fountain from which all good works must flow”. “Only those things are good works which God has commanded, just as only that is a sin which God has forbidden. Therefore, he who wants to know and do good works need only know God’s Commandments… These Commandments of God must teach us how to distinguish among good works”.

Luther also expounded the Ten Commandments in his Large and Small Catechisms as well as composing a song by which they could be learned. Saving faith must evidence its real character in a changed life. “We must prove ourselves before the world. How? By keeping the other commandments as well: ‘You shall honor your father and mother’ “

The idea that Luther rejected the Ten Commandments is in fact such an old notion that in 1648, Samuel Rutherford went to the extent of translating Luther’s treatise Against the Antinomians from the original German. The following is an updated extract from that book.

Luther’s Use of the Ten Commandments

And truly, I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law or Ten Commandments. There are available so many of my own expositions (and those of several sorts) on the Commandments. They are also daily expounded and used in our churches – to say nothing of the Confession and Apology and other books of ours. Add to this the custom we have to sing the Commandments in two different tunes; and also children painting, printing, carving, and rehearsing them both morning, noon, and evening. I know no other way than what we have done except that we do not (alas!) as we ought, really express and delineate them in our lives and conversations. I myself (as old as I am) have it for my custom to recite them daily, as a child, word for word.

If any should have been mistaken about what I had written, he might (seeing how vehemently I urge these catechetical exercises) in reason have been persuaded to call on me and demand these or similar questions. What? Good Doctor Luther, do you press so eagerly the Ten Commandments and yet also  teach that they must be rejected? They ought to have dealt thus with me and not secretly undermine me behind my back, and then wait for my death so they might afterwards make of me what they pleased. Well I forgive them, if they leave these courses.




Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life
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.

Sometimes we pray even though we do not feel like praying. We open our Bibles and our minds and hearts feel as though they are under a dead weight. How should we approach this problem? There is a widespread false assumption that the spiritual life is either all or nothing.  The idea is that things must come spontaneously and effortlessly or it just isn’t real. Yet the Scriptures speak of striving and agonising in prayer and disciplining ourselves in godliness. Exalted joy and love are not the only heavenly inclinations in the soul. There is genuine spiritual life in desiring to be revived. Mourning over our condition, examining and questioning ourselves and other things are also signs of life. Yet what can we do in such a situation? How do we stir up spiritual inclinations?

Such questions can be perplexing but are not always fully discussed; despite being so critical to our daily spiritual life. One person who did seek to tackle them was Samuel Rutherford in his book Influences of the Life of Grace. This deals with the sovereign influences of the Holy Spirit together with our own responsibility to engage in spiritual duties. Both work together in the area of spiritual growth and experience.

What Are Heavenly Inclinations?

Rutherford illustrates what he means by heavenly dispositions or inclinations by pointing to David’s experience in Psalm 57:7-8. David says “My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise. Awake up my glory, awake psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early”. David had “a disposition of fixedness of heart”. His vehement affections are evident in the way he repeats this.  This heavenly inclination produced within him “a fixed resolution to praise”. “Praying begets a holy disposition to pray”.  “One grace brings forth another, and so holy dispositions [bring forth] holy actings; faith and trusting in God brings forth claiming God” as our own. The Lord “bids you pray, that you may pray; believe, that you may believe. So he commands heavenly dispositions, and He only can give them”. Influences of the Spirit generally come in connection with such commanded means.

David says “My heart is fixed, I will sing. Awake up my glory”. See how the touch of the Spirit in His heavenly inclinations sets afloat (a) the tongue; (b) the psaltery and harp; (c) David; (d) David’s heart to sing and praise. Though they were all sleeping, they are all awakened out of their sleep. It is in the same way as a great high spring-tide may set all the ships afloat, even though there were many hundreds of them. Thus:

  • Actions are of the same nature as our inclinations
  • Strong and mighty inclinations have strong and mighty actions
  • Lesser actions arising from inclinations waken up the soul to strong actions

Sinful inclinations to the love of the world, vain-glory and empty pleasures, bring forth sinful actions. The thorn-tree brings forth a thorn-tree and the thistle-seed a thistle. This is clear in Cain and the Pharisees for example. Thus also, gracious inclinations produce acts of love, faith, hope, godly sorrow, works of righteousness and mercy. As wine-grapes grow out of the vine, the Lord fits influences of grace for such inclinations. The harvest will be like the sowing: men do not gather figs from thistles.

How Do We Receive Heavenly Inclinations?

Get heavenly dispositions and God will act on His own work, and bring forth all His own acts out of His own seed. The way to get heavenly dispositions is:

1. Peruse the Word and promises often: (a) Meditate on them; (b) Learn them; (c) Observe and love the testimonies of God. This is proof of heavenly inclination (Psalm 119).

2. Keep communion with God in praying, hearing, reading and spiritual conversation (Luke 24:34; John 7:45-46; Song of Solomon 2:4-7). Someone who spends much time daily among the perfumes of a perfumer will find that smells will cleave to him whether he wants them to or not.

3. Seek and keep much in mind the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3).

4. Cherish the Spirit, obey Him, do not grieve Him and work with Him (See Ephesians 4:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20; Song of Solomon 3:4 and 5:8-12). Be willing to act in response to the breath of the Spirit blowing on you as a wind and when He draws, follow Him sweetly and willingly.

5. Beware of frequently smothering the light of divine knowledge. Deal tenderly with the light of the natural conscience and tenderly with convictions and warnings. If you do this, you will hardly lack divine inclinations and suitable influences (1 Samuel 24:4-6).

How Should We Do When We Lack Heavenly Inclinations?

How should we act when the soul is indisposed like a bird that cannot fly without its wings?

  1. It is possible that in those renewed ones that are in Christ, heavenly inclinations may seem to be a fire that has been extinguished and turned to cold ashes. We are to stir up and awake the principle of grace and act according to it. The instinct and nature of the new man possesses the principle of gracious acts and we are to make best use of the principle of grace.
  2. When one inclination is smothered by unbelief casting us down, there is still half of a contrary spiritual inclination alive which is working contrary to that unbelief. For this reason David chides his own soul in Psalm 42:5 for being cast down and urges it to trust in God. Whether David’s soul pleads against David’s soul by the principle of grace, or by an heavenly inclination or by both, it shows that all spiritual inclinations are never entirely lost, there is a seed of God which may be wakened up.
  3. When the inclination is smothered with heaviness, there is another counteracting heavenly inclination (Psalm 119:28). They have been disposed to deadness but behold there is a disposition to pray for strengthening in counteracting that disposition. In Psalm 119:81 the psalmist is in a fainting condition which indicates some weakness. There is still, however, a disposition to hope in God’s Word, which counteracts fainting. He says “I am become like a bottle in the smoke” (Psalm 119:83) which indicates some disposition to deadness in his spirit. But notice the counteracting disposition, he does not forget God’s statutes. 
  4. The Spirit in the renewed person ultimately prevails over the flesh (Romans 7:23-24). So the gracious disposition is also victorious over, and gets the better of the sinful disposition. David may have been disposed to doubt at the time when he is forced to flee to the cave and part from with his few soldiers. Yet his faith and believing disposition prevails over his fears and doubting. This is clear from Psalm 57:1 and also verse 3 “He shall send from heaven and save me”. In verse 7 he says “My heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise”. He believed in God’s deliverance since a slain man buried in the cave could not sing and give praise? 

When we do not feel spiritually inclined we must do as those who want to cross a river, if one ford is too deep try another and try every ford. There may be an indisposition to believe, but there may also be besides this a spiritual disposition to pray. Set to praying then.  Sometimes there is a deadness that hinders praying, so that we cannot speak (Psalm 77:4) yet there is also a disposition to praise in Psalm 77:14-15. Set about praising then. Perhaps dispositions, motions, experiences are all gone and there is nothing left but the principle of grace. Go over the promises and act on the principle, blow on the glowing coal and strengthen that which remains. When one tool is broken, the tradesman makes use of another.

Though sinful dispositions and the flesh have the better of us for a while, wait on the Lord and trust in His strength and act. The heavenly flamings of God will eventually prevail. The Spouse is drowsy for a while, and refuses to open and refuses Christ lodging in Song of Solomon 5:2. Eventually, however, when Christ puts in His hand by the hole of the door, faith and heavenly inclinations are victorious. She rises and opens; she misses and seeks Him. She prays and becomes sick of love for Him (Song of Solomon 5:6-8). Then she bursts out in a high song extolling her beloved in verses 10-12.

Job is cast down under much sadness of spirit due to unbelief in Job 19:6-7. “Behold I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard; I cry aloud, but there is no judgment” These are hard words indeed! If there is no judgment for an oppressed man crying to God, there is no providence, no God who rules the world. Yet in Job 19:25 he is able to say “I know that my Redeemer lives, I know I shall see him” [Rutherford’s paraphrase]. Get anything of the principle of grace and spiritual inclinations and act with them. You will not lack victorious influences on the basis of this because “greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).


Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article What You Must Do When You Feel Spiritually Dead. John Brown of Wamphray explains how Christ is still the life the believer needs even when we feel dry and barren and wonder if things will ever change. Not only this but he shows how to make use of that life.





Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Conscience is Fragile: Handle with Care

Conscience is Fragile: Handle with Care

Conscience is Fragile: Handle with Care
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.

The human mind is fragile as well as powerful and complex. The human spirit can be resilient but may also be frail in the face of countless intricate emotions, memories, doubts and fears. Conscience is an especially delicate part of who we are. God has given it to us as a witness to His righteous requirements. Sin has disordered it but further damages it. Our moral compass is easily warped by sin’s magnetic force. The Bible tells us that conscience can be defiled, wounded and seared. Through handling conscience carelessly we can do untold damage to ourselves. Grace, however, can heal and restore.

Samuel Rutherford adores the great wisdom of God in creating the world which is best seen in creating so rare a thing as the soul. He says that the most intricate part of the soul is the conscience which he describes as “that lump of divinity” because it is “like a beam of God”. “Conscience is the gold of the man”.

Conscience is placed in the soul as God’s own deputy and God’s notary [official recorder]. There is nothing passes in our life, good or evil, which conscience notes not down with an indelible character—conscience writes all men’s iniquities as the sin of Judah was written (Jeremiah 17:1) with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond. Conscience…keeps a daily diary of everything that occurs in the whole course of our life, and then conscience is as a thousand witnesses: it’s an eye-witness and a pen-witness, bringing testimony from the authentic registers and records of the court of conscience.

Samuel Rutherford describes conscience in many memorable ways. It may be like a delicate glass object that is easily broken. Alternatively, it may be like a boat that has a leak below the water-line that is difficult to identify and mend. Perhaps they do not realise that the water on the bottom of their ship is from a leak rather than the spray. In one of his letters he gives the following caution:

keep the conscience whole without a crack! If there be a hole in it, so that it take in water at a leak, it will with difficulty mend again. It is a dainty, delicate creature, and a rare piece of the workmanship of your Maker; and therefore deal gently with it, and keep it entire

He speaks of a pure conscience as one that is good having been purged and washed (Hebrews 10:2). The great spot of guiltiness has been taken away, and it is clear, pure, terse, like a crystal glass (1 Timothy 1:5). It is also good and honest, or beautiful and fair. A good conscience is a comely, resplendent, lovely thing (Hebrews 13:18). Conscience when it is working properly is sensitive and easily broken. If we ignore it we can become unbreakably hardened.

some conscience…is made of glass and is easily broken, and some of iron and brass, lay hell on it, let Christ say to Judas in his face, he shall betray his master and he has a devil, yet his conscience does not crow before daylight to waken him.

The conscience is a tender thing, says Rutherford and it can either be our best friend or our worst enemy.   Who can bear a wounded spirit (Proverbs 18:4)?

Blessed is the man who follows the injunctions, dictates, prohibitions and determinations of a good and right-informed conscience, and hearkens to all its incitements. Oh that every man would remember how dangerous a thing it is to resist the checks of conscience, for in so doing we fight not only against our own light, but against the light of the Holy Spirit!

Rutherford wrote an extended account of one man whose conscience had been hardened but later became inflamed with guilt. Aged only 35, John Gordon must now come to terms with a terminal illness and a burden of guilt. This is the powerful account of a man with a troubled conscience being counselled in the face of death. In these conversations, Samuel Rutherford lovingly and faithfully administers the conviction and comfort the young nobleman needs. True peace and assurance are carefully distinguished from false hope. It is valuable for all of us but especially those nearing eternity and those who seek to give them spiritual help.

This book has now been reprinted as Conversations with a Dying Man. It is highly valuable and recommended. This was a man who wanted to have the best of this world but had to compromise in order to get worldly status. His backslidings became an unbearable burden on his conscience in the face of death, however.

John Gordon, Viscount of Kenmure speaks of “the fearful wrestlings of my conscience…when I seemed to be glad and joyful before men”. He had pretended to be ill in order to avoid standing out clearly in the interests of Christ’s cause. This would have involved opposing the king in Parliament. He later acknowledge with the most bitter sorrow, “I deserted the Parliament for fear of incurring the indignation of my prince, and the loss of further honour, which I certainly expected”. He confessed:

I have found the weight of the Lord’s hand upon me for not giving testimony for the Lord my God, when I had occasion once in my life at the last parliament. For this foul fault, how fierce have I felt the wrath of the Lord my God! My soul hath raged and roared: I have been ripped up [grieved] to the heart…Would to God I had such an occasion again to testify my love to the Lord! For all the earth should I not do as I have done, tell them…Woe, woe be to honours or any thing else bought with the loss of peace of conscience and God’s favour!

Rutherford must have many conversations with him in order to bring him to true repentance. Sometimes he must rebuke him as well as administer comfort. His faithful pastoral care brings the conscience of John Gordon from despair to joy unspeakable. He died “sweetly and holily, and his end was peace”. Rutherford concludes that the “way of impiety never had, nor shall have, good success…there is no delight [comparable to] the delight of a good conscience: let that bird in the breast be always kept singing”.

Rutherford believed it was necessary to record such “heavy pangs of conscience and torment of mind” to show what can happen when we go against conscience.  We can learn much and in particular “be warned by his example” not to forsake God’s cause when we have opportunity. We are especially “never to wrong their conscience, which is a tender piece [thing], and must not be touched”.

We take nothing to the grave with us, but a good or evil conscience.



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences

Submitting to God’s Will in Dark Providences
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.

Dark Providences are those events that not only cast a deep shadow but seem inexplicable. They seem to overwhelm us and turn our thoughts upside down in bewilderment. We are lost in trying to find out a purpose in them (Psalm 77:19). “When providences are dark it is difficult to read them” (John J Murray). If they are difficult to comprehend, how much more challenging is it to submit to God’s will that it should be so?  It may seem virtually impossible. Perhaps God does not even seem to be near (Job 23:8-10). Yet it may be that in the confused noise of such dark trials we can discover more of what it is to trust an infinite God through submission. The darkness then becomes to us “the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Samuel Rutherford looks at the best response to the darkest providence: Christ submitting to the Father’s will in accepting the cup of suffering. The time of Christ’s soul trouble in the Garden of Gethsemane has much to teach us. We must learn to say with Him: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is an updated extract from his book Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself.

We must also bear in mind what Rutherford said elsewhere, that “the Providence of God has two sides; one black and sad, another white and joyful”. “Christ scourged; Christ in a condition, that He cannot command a cup of water; Christ dying, shamed, forsaken, is black: but Christ, in that same work redeeming the captives of hell, opening to sinners forfeited paradise, that is fair and white…Joseph, weeping in the prison for no fault, is foul and sad; but Joseph brought out to reign as half a king, to keep alive the Church of God in great famine, is joyful and glorious”.

1. Submission Looks to God’s Will as Ultimate

Submission must be grounded on looking higher to the will of God, this is what Christ did. Every wheel in a great mechanism moves according to the motion of the highest and first wheel that moves all the rest. Rivers regulate the flow of lesser brooks by their motion.  The principle of motions and ways in all mortals begins at the highest mover, the just and wise will of God. All must say, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”.

2. Submission Looks to God’s Will as Holy and Wise

Submission in adverse providence must look to the Lord’s wise and holy will as Christ did. David said that Shimei cursed him because the Lord had bidden him do it. Job acknowledged that the Lord had taken away and said: “Blessed be the name of the Lord”. Anyone can say “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when He gives. Most men look to second causes but never rise up to God as the first Mover.

3. Submission Approves of God’s Will being Done

Hezekiah said “good is the word of the Lord” (Isaiah 39:8). It was hard, all in his house would be caried away to Babylon and his sons would be captives. Yet the will of the Lord was good and just, even when the thing willed and decreed of God was bad for him.

4. Submission Will Not Hinder God from Doing what He Thinks Good

Christ will not hinder God from doing what He thinks good. Murmuring is a stone in God’s way. Murmuring is an anti-providence, a little God, setting itself against the true God that causes everything in His wisdom. The murmurer does what he can to stop up God’s way. Old Eli, when he heard sad news, says, “It is the Lord, let him do (I will not hinder Him from doing) what is good in his eyes” (1 Samuel 3:18).  Christ says that He came to do God’s will (Psalm 40:7).

5. Submission Does Not Abolish Our Own Will

Christ did not give away His natural will; rather He submitted in the act of willing. He kept for Himself a submitted will. It is not intended that our will be abolished in hard providences, but that it submits.  We must not quarrel with Justice. Lamentations 3:28-29 gives many sweet signs of a broken will: (a) solitary sadness; (b) silence, the soul not daring to quarrel with God; (c) stooping to the dust, and putting clay in the mouth, for fear it speaks against God’s dispensation (see Job 40:4-5); (d) willingly accepting blows on the cheeks and reproach (Micah 7:9) the man like a well-nurtured child kisses God’s rod. Only a bad soldier follows his captain sighing and weeping. Faith sings at tears and rejoices under hope in the day of adversity.

6. Submission is Our Happiness

It’s the child’s happiness that the wise father’s will is his rule and not his own. Our own will is our hell (Ezekiel 18:31): Christ’s will is heaven. Christ thinks it is best that His Father’s will should stand and His own human will be repealed. “For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3). All God’s works of providence are as good as his works of creation. If God would direct my way to heaven through fire, tortures, blood, poverty – though He should trail me through hell – He cannot err in leading (though I may err in following).

7. Submission Prescribes Nothing Except that God’s Will be Done

Christ prescribes no way to His Father but in general “The Lord’s will be done on me” (He says).  “Be what it may, if it is the will of my Father so be it. Welcome black cross, welcome pale death, welcome curses, and all the curses of God that the just law could lay on all my children (and they are a fair number), welcome wrath of God, welcome shame and the cold grave”. The submission of faith subscribes a blank sheet of paper, let the Lord write on it what He pleases. “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him”, said Job (Job 13:15). To resign ourselves without exception to Christ is a rare grace of God, and not of ordinary capacity.

8. Submission Takes God’s Revealed Will for Our Rule

In submitting His will Christ makes the prophecies and the revealed gospel His rule. He is willing to be ruled by God’s revealed will in His duty. He is willing that the Lord’s will stand for a law  in His suffered. He willingly submits and will in no way quarrel with everlasting decrees. To be ruled by the one is holiness; to submit to the other is patience. Patience is higher than any ordinary grace in being willing to adore and reverence something more and higher than the commanding, promising, and threatening will of God. It was a grace which was a most eminent in Christ the Lamb of God, dumb, meek and silent before His shearers. The meekest in earth and in heaven, He only never resisted the revealed will of God, but never had any thought, motion or any hint of a desire in Him against the secret, eternal decree and counsel of God.

9. Submission Subjects Natural Reason to God’s Will

Christ submits natural reason with which His natural will might seem to plead under the Lord’s feet. It seems strange: God has many sons but none like Christ. He was an only Son, He never had a brother by eternal generation. He was the only heir of the house, but there never was a son so afflicted as He. It seems against all reason. But Christ says the Father’s will must be done. It’s against submission to put absolute questions on the Lord. We love to have God account for His providence to us and that our reason is the final court of appeal in the ways of the Lord. Though we do not see why, yet there is a cause why He does all He does. Reason is an essential ingredient in all His actions.

10. Submission Acknowledges God’s Infinite Wisdom

The Lord takes many different ways at once in providence. In this very act [Christ’s suffering] He redeems the world, judges Satan, satisfies the law and justice, glorifies Christ, destroys sin, fulfils His own eternal will and counsel. There is a manifold wisdom in Providence as in the work of redemption. In every work that God does He leaves wonder behind Him. None can come after the Almighty, and say, “I could have done better than He”. It is natural to blame God in His working, but impossible to mend His work.

11. Submission is Not Loss but Gain

Christ is no loser by losing His will for the Lord’s; rather His will is fulfilled in that which he feared (Hebrews 5:7). Submitting to providence brings us a hundred fold in this life (Matthew 19:29). He is able to do above (more than abundantly above) all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). I can ask heaven and He can give more than heaven and above heaven. I can think of Christ, but He can give above the Christ that I can think of, because I cannot comprehend infinite Jesus Christ.

12. Submission Reverences a Higher Providence

Christ is not intent and heart-bent on freedom from death and this black and sad hour but He reverences a higher providence, that Gods will be done. Thus, we are also to look to providence and  not stumble at outward strokes in sad occurrences (Job 9:22; Ezekiel 21:3).

13. Submission Approves God’s Will as Good Even When Things are Worst

Christ declares that even when matters are worst, there is good will for Him in God’s will being done. Christ says (as it were), “I have (God knows) a heavy soul, my strength is dried up like a potsherd. This cup tastes of hell and fiery indignation, the sight of it would kill a man. Yet I’ll drink it. The good and just will of my Father be done. Here I stand, I go no further. To stand still, silence our tumultuous thoughts (since we have a body of sin) and be satisfied with the will of the Lord, is safest. The friends of Paul heard what he must suffer and urged him but “when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14). To cease and say nothing more when we see the Lord declare His mind to us is grace. A holy heart will not go one hair’s breadth beyond the Lord’s revealed will.

14. Submission Even Accepts God’s Felt Absence

Christ submits His will to the will of God in soul-desertions: so should we. Christ’s love to His Father is not jealous against the Lord’s dealings in relation to the influences of heaven on His soul. He is willing to lay his soul-comforts in the free-will of His Father. In this He judges the Lord’s will, better than His own will. We have too many complaints against the reality of Christ’s love when He hides Himself.  We are covetous and soul-thirsty after our own will in the matter of soul-manifestations. We idolise spiritual comfort and would gladly have a Christ of created grace rather than Christ, or His grace. When we are thirsting for Christ, it is His comforts, the rings, jewels and bracelets the Bridegroom gives that we seek after, rather than Himself. We desire a never-interrupted  sense of God’s presence, whereas Christ submitted to go without it for a time when He saw this was God’s will. Though we do not and cannot always have an edge of actual hunger, yet we can be submissive to going without, when we see that this is His will.



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person
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.

Spirituality is a vague concept these days – both inside and outside the Church. As David F. Wells has put it: “Today, we think that each person must find his or her own way of being spiritual, something that is comfortable to that person; each spirituality is particular to each person.” Too often it’s something esoteric and about self-discovery with no connection to how the Bible defines spiritual life.

Scripture is clear that spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit alone. In the New Testament, the word “spiritual” means “of the Holy Spirit”. Like Lydia the heart is first opened by the Spirit to receive the truths of God’s Word (Acts 16:13-14). Samuel Rutherford observes:

We do not have the Spirit till we are brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Christ is not owner of the man who does not have the Spirit “If any have not the spirit, he is none of Christ’s” (Romans 8:9). Christ and the Spirit cannot be separated. The Spirit that is in the first heir (Christ) is in all the rest. We must be diligent to make our calling sure or else be “none of Christ’s”.

Spiritual life is dependence on the Spirit. Samuel Rutherford wrote a large book dealing with the relation of the Spirit to the believer work in the matter of spiritual growth and experience. This is something that concerns the Christian every day in his devotional life.  The book is called Influences of the Life of Grace.

He deals with many important questions, such as what believers should do when they do not feel spiritually exercised.  Rutherford asserts that the believer is to do his duty in prayer and worship even if he feels otherwise. It is the believer’s duty to pray away spiritual indisposition. We must pray for the Spirit’s help but we must make the Word our only rule and not our feelings. He emphasises that spiritual life centres around the Word of God: “the word is the chariot, the Spirit the driver of the chariot”.  Rutherford also stresses the believer’s union Christ who bestows the Spirit and His influences. “Know the way to the well of life, be much with Christ, and lie, and be near to the well, if you would have influences every moment”. “Make sure union with the Vine-tree, if you would be sure of growing to the end”.

The following abridges and updates an extract from Influences which identifies ten characteristics of a spiritual person from the Bible. He is answering the question: how can we identify a spiritual person and spiritual influences?

1. A Spiritual Person Submits to the Guidance of the Holy Spirit

The guide is the one who determines the journey. The commands of the Spirit have much free grace and persuasive leading (Acts 10:19; Acts 11:2; Acts 18:9-11; John 14:16, 26; John 16:13). Where the will presses forward strongly with much liberty in obedience, there is much of the Spirit. Drawing back in spiritual actions, however, indicates much of the flesh. Christ, who had the anointing of the Spirit without measure, was all will and all heart and all spirit to obey and suffer (John 10:17-18; Psalm 40:8-9).

2. A Spiritual Person Runs Strongly After the Holy Spirit

A spiritual person runs strongly in following the leading and drawing of the Spirit (Song 1:4; Psalm 119:32). “I held him and would not let him go” (Song 3:4). Is this not vehemence? It is followed by sweet feelings and high commendation of Christ. The Spirit’s power in drawing and the bride’s energy in running combine. He that is willing to be led shall be led. Keeping Christ’s commandments makes room for the Father and the Son to come and dwell (John 14:21 and 23). Fire makes more fire.

3. A Spiritual Person Cherishes All of the Spirit’s Activity

A spiritual person takes care that none of the parts of the new creation are damaged. He loves and honours his guide and leader. Scripture notes our wrongs we do to the Holy Spirit: (a) vexing; (b) quenching; (c) tempting; and (d) resisting.

(a) A spiritual person will not vex the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10) or grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). To grieve is to sadden rather then to anger (see Matthew 14:9; 17:23 and 26:22). Can a friend lodge in a house, where he is saddened every hour? Is not this to chase him away? The signs of grieving the Spirit are when we acts in a deadened condition. For instance in praying when a Christian knocks faintly and life, liberty and godly boldness are absent.

(b) A spiritual person will not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Some cast water upon the fire and holy flamings of the Spirit. This makes a cold hearth-stone and mightily obstructs the working of We should rather add new fuel to His fire, blow away the ashes and wrestle against deadness, dullness, faintness, and stir up the grace of God. Do not quench it in your self by unbelief and cheerless walking. When men cast water on the flamings of the Spirit and crush His work in others they are doing Satan’s work.

(c) A spiritual person will not tempt the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). We must acknowledge and adore the Holy Spirit as God and not follow Ananias in trying the Holy Spirit to see if he will find out hypocrisy, (Acts 5). A spiritual person will not say “but I may do this and be pardoned”. Tempted free grace is a transgression with so loud a cry, it is heard all heaven over.

(d) A spiritual person will not resist the Holy Spirit and do despite to the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:28-30; Matthew 12:31-32). Do you find not the actings of the Spirit sweet and heaven-like? If so, it indicates a spiritual disposition.

4. A Spiritual Person Displays Much Self-denial

He who will be least his own is most God’s, and partakes most of the divine nature. There is little of self in children; the children of God are like such as are learning to walk. So does the Spirit act without resistance in the sons of God. It’s true, there is much of renewed self, in spiritual actions and this increases the excellency of the actions (see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Galatians 2:20; Romans 7:17, 22; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21)

5. A spiritual person is spiritually bewildered

A spiritual person doubts every way he walks in except the way that he is sure to be from God (Psalm 143:10). This shows that:
(a) The spiritual person doubts every way and knows that he is a bewildered and ignorant traveller in himself. He is not able by his own light to know the way, the home and lodging or the guide.
(b) The spiritual person esteems God’s Spirit to be a good leader and guide.
(c) The spiritual person commits their
goings to the Spirit and asks Him to be a guide to them.

He fears lest the way be hidden to him (Psalm 119:19). The commandments are the way, and a hid and covered way is misery to a stranger or pilgrim. Seeing our ignorance and errors frequently and being in love with the Spirit’s leading is good.

6. A Spiritual Person Finds Spiritual Actions to be Natural

Action is easy when it comes from an inward principle. The stream flows from the fountain naturally without violence. Likewise heat comes from the fire naturally. It’s neither toil nor labour to the sun to give light. All these come from internal principles. There is violence in the motion of a clock, and therefore the wheels will be worn out by time. But the actions of the Spirit are sweet and natural. Grace makes the commandments to be not grievous. It is no effort but easy to a gracious pastor to love Christ. It breaks neither leg nor arm to desire Christ and be sick for Him and feed His flock out of love to the Chief Shepherd.

Meekness is easily led and drawn. When the Spirit comes in, the man is made pliable for counsel. O wrestle not against warnings, but yield to them! All gracious influences are sweet, delightful and easy. It is not a struggle but sweet and pleasant for a field of roses, of vine-trees to receive showers and summer influences from the sun and heaven. It was sweet for the baptised man Christ to receive and lodge the Holy Spirit who came down in the form of a dove on Him in all His influences.

7. A Spiritual Person Acts Much in the Spirit

Acting much in the Spirit brings greater abundance of the Spirit.

(a) The more that someone acts for the good of others (especially the people of God) the more the person is under the Spirit. Christ was under mighty flowings of the Spirit in redeeming His people. He was willing to have the influences of spiritual comfort withdrawn and be under that sad cloud of being forsaken by God in order that God might embrace us. It is the characteristic work of the Spirit to glorify God. “He shall glorify me (Christ says about the Spirit) for he shall receive of mine” (John 16:14). The more we glorify God and Jesus Christ God’s Son, the more we testify that we partake more of the flowings of the Spirit. The Church shows more of the Spirit in being willing to bear the Lord’s indignation because she has sinned (Micah 7:9) and bear public sufferings to illustrate the glory of His justice.

(b) If we have much of the spirit, we will patiently submit to the Lord’s sovereign withdrawing influences of comfort. What if He withdraw joyful influences of believing, of glorying, and rejoicing in the Lord, and feed the poor sinner with absence and exercise him with sad desertions?

(c) We are in a spiritual condition when Christ casts in feelings and discernible motions of the Spirit and we are moved and our soul fails for Him (Song 5:2, 4-6). “Quench not the spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) includes the positive requirement to cherish kindly and yield sweetly to the flowings and sweet influences of the Spirit.

8. A Spiritual Person is Watchful

The Spirit of God keeps the soul watchful. “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the spirit” is combined with watching “with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18 see also Jude v21). “The spirit is willing” (Matthew 26:4 – forward, watchful i.e. the renewed part) “but the flesh is weak” (i.e. sleepy, and lazy). How much a person has of the Spirit is the amount they have of holy watchfulness. Watching guards against sleeping, and watchfulness makes the soul resolved to watch. Since the Spirit is a spirit of life, and a quickening and living spirit, (Romans 8:1). The more watchfulness in any, the more of the Spirit. “Let us not sleep as do others: but let us watch, and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-7; see also Romans 13:13).

9. A Spiritual Person Keeps Company with Other Spiritual People

They are born of the Spirit by the same Father (John 5; John 3:1; John 3:14; Psalm 119:63). Brothers love one another; the common nature and spirit of their Father dwells in them. Birds of the same feather and colours flock together. Beware of becoming weary of the Spirit’s company or that of spiritual men. Beware of loathing a spiritual ministry. The saints keep their spiritual being with the excellent ones in whom is all their delight (Psalm 16:2). God ordinarily showers influences and promises influences to the flocking together of the godly and pouring His Spirit on them, (Jeremiah 50:4-6; Zechariah 8:21-23; Malachi 3:16)

10. A Spiritual Person Speaks About Spiritual Things

When the well is full it must run over. When there is a treasure and abundance in the heart, the Spirit comes to the tongue in Zechariah and Simeon (Luke 2:25, 27).  Grace seethes and boils up to the tongue when the conceptions of the King Christ are the good matter indited by the heart (Psalm 45:1). Men show their spirit by their language. The spiritual person speaks about Christ, redemption and imputed righteousness. The pilgrim’s heart, tongue and thoughts are all on his way and his home. In the same way the spiritual person dwells much on eternity, heaven and Christ.



Read more articles from the Samuel Rutherford blog




Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.