What to Do With the Worries of 2019

What to Do With the Worries of 2019

What to Do With the Worries of 2019
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
26 Dec, 2019

​According to the Bible App, the Bible verse most engaged with around the world and throughout the year was Philippians 4:6. It seems to indicate an uptick in concerns and anxieties in the midst of a year of tension. This has been a trend across recent years. It’s said that 14,000 google searches a month look for bible verses to address anxiety. But this verse also speaks about what to do with such concerns. Philippians 4:6 is commonly summarised like this: worry about nothing, pray about everything and be thankful for anything. But how can we make best use of the spiritual wisdom of this verse?

James Fergusson points to the fact that the reference to worry and anxiety in Philippians 4:6 literally speaks of heart-cutting concerns. These may be about the things of this world and the success of what we do in our work or other aspects of life. In seeking to serve God conscientiously in our daily concerns we need go to God in prayer. We are to pour out our hearts before God in thankfulness and confession as well as asking for the things we need. In this way we commit all things to His will. In the following updated extract, Fergusson helps us to grasp the full extent of this verse so that it exhorts as well as encourages us. 

1. We Need to Avoid Excessive Concern

There is a lawful concern about the things of this world. In fact, this kind of carefulness is frequently commanded in Scripture (Romans 12:11). Yet such concern is unlawful when it is excessive. This is especially the case when we care about nothing except the world (Psalm 49:11). This kind of concern keeps us on the rack continually, in fearing lack of success in the things we engage in (Psalm 37:5). It can tempt us to make use of anything (however sinful it may be) that will preserve or bring about the thing for which we are anxious (1 Timothy 6:9). This excessive anxiety is sinful and forbidden in this verse.

2. We Need to Have Moderation in Our Outward Dealings

This excessive concern hinders us from displaying the moderation we ought to have. Philippians 4:5 speaks of the moderation or gracious gentleness we ought to show. But anxious concern can drive us to be inflexible and harsh in all our dealings with others. This is because we fear that by giving way in the smallest way we undermine our own interests. Nothing contributes more to make us merciful and gentle than keeping the heart above anxious, heart-cutting worry. It will help us in accommodating to the needs and good of others, even though it may seem to harm our own interests. Previously, Paul exhorted them to make their moderation known to all. He now adds the counsel to worry about nothing as something that will help.

3. We Need to Take Our Burdens to God

The best remedy against excessive concern is not to go to the extreme of abandoning all lawful careful diligence in the things of this world (Matthew 4:7). We are rather to be conscientious in our duty but in the midst of this to pray to God. We should ask Him for the success we desire and thank Him for favours already received. In this way we leave the burden of all our concerns on Him. This is what the apostle prescribes here for us to do “in everything”.

4. We Need to Pray According to God’s Will

All our prayers should be composed in such a way as that they may be “known to God”, that is, approved of Him. They must come from the sense of our need, (1 Kings 8:38), be offered in Christ’s name (John 16:23) and be for things that are according to His will (1 John 5:14).

5. We Need to Use All Kinds of Prayer

Various kinds of prayer are mentioned here in three distinct terms. The word “requests” is a general term that relates to all kinds of prayer. The other words used for prayer are:
(a) Prayer, where we seek from God the things which we lack, acknowledging how unworthy we are of them.
(b) Supplication, where we pray about afflictions and chastisements that we either feel or fear. We also acknowledge our sins which bring these things on us.
(c) Thanksgiving, where we thank God for favours already bestowed

6. We Need to Be Thankful Not Just Wishful

It is necessary to combine thanking God for favours received with prayer and supplication. This is because there are constant reasons for thanksgiving in every condition we experience (Philippians 4:11). Thanksgiving suppresses the discontented, fretting and complaining spirit which often vents itself against God in our prayers and supplications. This can happen if we neglect to combine with such prayers thanksgiving to God for favours received (compare Psalm 77:7 with verses 10-11). This is why the apostle commands “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God”.

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
18 Jan, 2019

From gender to nationality to race–can we choose the identity we want? Are these things that drive identity politics real? Even if we resist every other label – what exactly does human mean these days? Other subtle influences within society point us to find our identity in what we have and what do. Is there something fixed that goes beyond changeable subjective notions?

Yes. We can draw our identity from what God has done and what God has said. We need to go back to the beginning, to creation. We cannot understand who we are without this. This is the foundation of understanding our personal identity. That is exactly what Hugh Binning does in the following updated extract.

 

1. Our Original Identity

It is certain, that you will never rightly understand yourselves or what you are, until you know first what humanity was made to be. You cannot imagine what your present misery is until you know the happiness man had when he was created: “let us make man in our image”.

Some have called Adam a microcosm of the world, because he had heaven and earth as it were married together in him. He united two very remote and distant natures. The dust of the earth and the immortal spirit  (called the breath of God) sweetly linked, conjoined and inclined to one another. In this piece of workmanship the Lord made a microcosm of all His works. He brought together in one creation the marvellous wisdom, being, living, moving, sense and intelligence which are scattered across the other creatures. We carry around in ourselves the wonders we admire in the rest of creation.

With a mere simple word, this huge framework of the world started out of nothing. But in creating humanity God acts as a skilful craftsman: “Let us make man”. He makes rather than creates. He first raises the walls of flesh, builds the house of the body with all its organs, all its rooms, and then He makes a noble and divine guest to dwell in it. He breathes into it the breath of life.

 

2. Our Unique Original Identity

But what the Lord would have us consider most is the image of Himself imprinted on man —“Let us make man in our own image.” There was no creature without some engravings of God and His power, wisdom, and goodness. The heavens are said to declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). But whatever they have, it is only the lower part of that image, some dark shadows and resemblances of Him. But the final work of creation is made according to His own image. He reflects Himself in this as with a mirror. The rest of creation resembles His footstep but man resembles His face. He was made “in our image, after our likeness”.

It is true that only Jesus Christ His Son is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”. He alone  resembles Him perfectly and thoroughly in all properties. He is another self in nature, properties and operations. He is so like Him that He is one with Him, it is really a oneness, than a likeness.

But man was created according to God’s own image, with some likeness (not sameness or oneness) to Himself. That is a high privilege indeed, to be like God. How could man be like God, who is infinite, incomprehensible, whose glory cannot be given to or shared with another? There are unique aspects of His being in which He not only has no equal not none even to compare to Him. In these He is to be adored as infinitely transcending all created perfections and conceptions. But yet in others He reveals Himself so as to be imitated and followed. For this purpose He first stamps these qualities on man in shaping him at first.

 

3. Our Original Moral Identity

If you want to know what those qualities are in particular the apostle defines them.  They include “knowledge” (Colossians 3:10), “righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21). This is the “image of him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).  It is the image which the Creator stamped on man, that he might seek Him. He set him apart for Himself to keep communion with him and to bless him. There is a spirit given to man with a capacity to know and to will. This is God’s face sketched out and this is not engraved on any other creature that has feeling. One of the most noble and excellent operations of life which exalts human beings above brute beasts is the capacity to reflect on ourselves and to know ourselves and our Creator. Other things have natural instincts suitable to their own nature, but none of them have a capacity to know what they are or what they have. They cannot conceive ideas of He who gave them a being.

He has limited the eye to respond to colours and light, He has limited the ear so that it cannot act without sounds. He has assigned every sense its own proper range within which it moves. But He teaches man knowledge, and He enlarges the sphere of his understanding beyond visible things to invisible things or spirits. He has put a capacity in the soul to know all things, including itself. The eye discerns light, but does not see itself. But He gives a spirit to man to know himself and his God.

And then there is a willing power in the soul by which it gives itself towards any thing that is conceived as good. The understanding directs and the will commands according to its direction. Then the whole faculties and senses obeying these commands make up an excellent portrait of the image of God. There was a sweet proportion and harmony in Adam, all was in due place and subordination. The motions of immortal man began within. The lamp of reason shone and gave light. There was no stirring, choosing or refusing until reason moved. This was like a ray of God’s light reflected into the soul of man.

When reason discerned good and evil this power in the soul influenced the whole person accordingly, to choose good and refuse evil. There would have been no living resemblance to God if there was only power to know and will.  These capacities must also be beautified and adorned with supernatural and divine graces of spiritual light, holiness and righteousness. These complete the image of God on the soul in full colour.

There was a divine light which shone on the understanding until sin intervened and eclipsed it. The sweet heat and warmness of holiness and uprightness in the affections came from the light of God’s face.  There was nothing but purity and cleanness in the soul, no darkness of ignorance, no muddiness of carnal affections. The soul was pure and transparent, able to receive the refreshing and enlightening rays of God’s glorious countenance.

This was the very face and beauty of the soul. This is the beauty and excellency: conformity to God. This was throughout the whole: in the understanding and the affections. The understanding had to be conformed to God’s understanding, discerning between good and evil. As a ray of that sun, a stream from that fountain of wisdom, a light from God’s understanding it has to be conformed to Him.

The will agreed with His will: approving and choosing what He approved and refusing what He hated. This union was closer than any bond among men. It was as if there were not two wills but as it were, one. The love of God reflecting into the soul drew the soul back to Him again. Love was the conforming principle which shaped the whole person without and within to be like God and obey Him.  Man was formed for communion with God, and he must have this likeness or else they could not join as friends.

 

4. Our Original Moral Identity Destroyed

But it is sad to think where we have fallen from and how great our fall is. To fall from such a blessed condition is great misery indeed. Satan has robbed us of our rich treasure, the glorious image of holiness. He has drawn the very image of hell on our souls the very visage of hell, the distinctive features of his hellish countenance. But most people are unaware of anything of this. If we could consider all the sad and awful consequences of sin in the world and what miseries that one fall has brought on all humanity we would see what a fearful fall it has been.

Sin intervened between God and us, this darkened our souls and killed them. The light of knowledge was put out, the life of holiness extinguished. There now remains nothing of all of that stately building except some ruins of common principles of reason and honesty in everyone’s consciences. These merely show us what the building was like. We have fallen from holiness and therefore from happiness. Our souls are deformed and defiled. If sin was visible, how ugly the shape of the soul would be to us. This is because it has lost its very beauty, which is God’s image.

 

5. Our Original Moral Identity Restored

We must know where we have fallen from and into what a gulf of sin and misery we have fallen. When we know this, the news of Jesus Christ, a Mediator and Redeemer of fallen man will be sweet to us. It was the Lord’s will to let His image be marred and ruined in us because He had this purpose to repair and renew even better than of old. He created (the human nature of) Christ according to His image for this purpose. He stamped that image of holiness on His humanity. This was so as to be a pattern and pledge of restoring original glory and excellence to the souls that flee to Him for refuge. He has made His Son like us that we might once again be made like Him. He said in eternity, “let one of us be made man”. This was so that it might be said once more, “let man be made like us, in our image”. Only a second creation can do this. Look at your hearts to enquire if it this new creation has been formed in you. You must be re-created in that image if you belong to Christ.

 

Conclusion

There are many voices in our generation encouraging everyone to seek their own identity. Young people are often on a quest to find an identity even if it means that their minds and bodies are at odds with one another. But this will never bring the happiness and peace we seek. We have lost an identity and we need it recovered, but it is the identity God has given and offers not the one that we choose out of our own preferences. In one sense the gospel is saying to us, “be who you were meant to be, who you were created to be.” We will only find that if we are a new creation in Christ. This is the true basis for our personal identity.

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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.
10 Mar, 2017

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.

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New Year Revolutions

New Year Revolutions

New Year Revolutions
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.
1 Jan, 2016

New Year’s resolutions tend to be drowned in motivational and self-centred hype. Perhaps it’s no surprise that many quickly disappear without trace. No doubt we all need to change, but the change we really need is a revolution. We need our attitudes and perspectives turned upside down. That is where reformation begins.

1. Christ’s Way, Not Ours

Samuel Rutherford wrote two letters on the 1 January 1637. He lamented the prevailing spirit of comfortable apathy. Everyone wanted “moderation in God’s way”. Being strict or extreme was the worst fault. They didn’t want God to demand too much from them in terms of how they lived and how they served God.  He spoke of how rare “the power of godliness” was in the land. It was a cheap form of Christianity. But heart-work is hard work and so it is neglected.

a bed watered with tears, a throat dry with praying, eyes as a fountain of tears for the sins of the land, are rare to be found among us.

Life and religion was both easy and self-centred. So it is today. What prevails is what fits best with own preferences and assumptions. Rutherford says: “how soon are we pleased with our own shadow in a glass [mirror]!”

Time, custom, and a good opinion of ourselves, our good meaning, and our lazy desires, our fair shows, and the world’s glistering lustres, and these broad passments and buskings [expensive decoration and attire] of religion, that bear bulk [carry weight] in the kirk [church], is that wherewith most satisfy themselves.

Few wish to offend. They like the status quo. They need approval from others and popularity. Rather than what pleases the flesh we need to seek the right way from God in Scripture. “It were good to be beginning in sad earnest to find out God, and to seek the right tread of Christ [the right path from Christ]”.

Rutherford was hardly to know that by the summer of that year revolutionary events would begin to unfold.  Events that would release him from his enforced banishment in Aberdeen and bring about the Second Reformation in Scotland.  The nation would be turned upside down. Truly, we do not know what a year may bring forth. As Rutherford expressed to Hugh Kennedy on that New Year’s day, Christ “can, in a month, make up a year’s losses”.

To Hugh Kennedy, he also expressed his contentment despite the trials he was experiencing. “I am every way in good case [condition], both in soul and body; all honour and glory be to my Lord. I want nothing but a further revelation of the beauty of the unknown Son of God”.

 

2. Christ’s Will, Not Ours

Rutherford had struggled with submitting to Christ’s will. Through his trials he had to learn how to abandon his own ideas of how his Lord should act. “I, like a fool, once summoned [as in a court summons] Christ for unkindness, and complained of His fickleness and inconstancy, because He would have no more of my service nor preaching, and had cast me out of the inheritance of the Lord”.

At first, he had been ready to challenge Christ’s Providence in removing him from his congregation and pulpit. He loved preaching Jesus Christ. Could it be right, good and wise? It turned all his expectations and hopes upside down. This seemed to render him useless at a time when the Church seemed to need its defenders most. Why did Christ’s will not recognise this? So he was contradicting Christ because “His whole providence was not yea and nay to my yea and nay”. It didn’t rubber stamp his own expectations. This is quite often why we take difficulties and changes in our lives so hard. We had a different plan and the Saviour has cut right across it.

Yet he learned to submit to Christ’s will. His Master could have responded in chastisement to these “weak apprehensions of His goodness”. But Christ was patient with him. He considered what his weak servant had a “desire to be, and not to what I am”. Instead of chastisement, Rutherford found that his experience of Christ’s love entered far greater depths.

He hath paid me my hundred-fold in this life, and one to the hundred. This prison is my banqueting-house; I am handled as softly and delicately as a dawted [fondled] child.

He had learned to judge things other than they appeared. Previously, he had “believed Christ’s outward look better [more] than His faithful promise”. “I hope to over-hope and over-believe my troubles. I have cause now to trust Christ’s promise more than His gloom [frown]”.

 

3. Christ’s Purpose, Not Ours

He had been grieved at the events that banished him far from his sphere of usefulness. He couldn’t see a purpose in the afflictions that Christ was laying on him. Yet he came to understand that there was a purpose why he must pass through the fire of affliction. Christ was purifying him. He “will see to His own gold, and save that from being consumed with the fire”.

Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus! who hath now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, that goeth through His mill, and His oven, to be made bread for His own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and it is more than grace; it is glory in its infancy. I now see that godliness is more than the outside, and this world’s passments and their buskings [expensive decoration and attire].

Grace is shown to be genuine when it is tried. There is a purpose of spiritual fruitfulness in such trials. Though it was painful to have the barren ground ploughed up, it would result in a spiritual harvest.

Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows on my soul? I know that He is no idle Husbandman [farmer], He purposeth a crop. O that this white, withered lea-ground [untilled ground] were made fertile to bear a crop for Him, by whom it is so painfully dressed [painstakingly tended to]; and that this fallow-ground were broken up!

Christ owed him nothing. But neither had he lost anything by this experience. It was not the punishment that his enemies intended after all.

How blind are my adversaries, who sent me to a banqueting-house, to a house of wine, to the lovely feasts of my lovely Lord Jesus, and not to a prison, or place of exile!

4. Christ’s Glory, Not Ours

Christ’s glory was greater by this affliction, while Rutherford was humbled. He wanted to praise and glorify the grace and love of Christ. To Robert Gordon he says: “I charge you before God, that ye speak to others, and invite them to help me to praise!” He was in debt to Christ. It was a debt of glory and praise so great he could not estimate it.

Oh, my debt of praise, how weighty it is, and how far run up! O that others would lend me to pay, and learn me to praise! Oh, I am a drowned dyvour [debtor submerged in debts]! Lord Jesus, take my thoughts for payments.

5. Christ’s People, Not Ourselves

It must be clear to us that Rutherford was exiled for a purpose. He was to enter into a writing ministry there. Just as the Lord had a purpose in putting the Apostle Paul into a prison from which many letters were sent. Most of the letters we have from Rutherford’s pen were written during his time in Aberdeen.

Others were on his mind and heart. He wrote to strengthen them with the strength he himself had received. He sought to encourage them with fresh views of Christ and His love, to know that it was worth suffering. These and other spiritual influences encouraged many ministers and nobles to stand fast and embrace the Second Reformation. Certainly, Robert Gordon of Knockbrex would later be very useful, steadfast and active in Christ’s cause.

There was real affection towards the people of God. “Dear brother, ye are in my heart, to live and to die with you”. Rutherford realised the value of the prayers of Christ’s people. “Visit me with a letter. Pray for me”, he says to Robert Gordon. To Kennedy he writes, “Remember my love to your wife. Grace, grace be with you; and God, who heareth prayer, visit you, and let it be unto you according to the prayers of Your own brother, and Christ’s prisoner”.

He could not stop thinking about Christ’s people. How were some of them faring, he wondered. He mentions one individual. “Write to me your mind anent [about] Y. C.: I cannot forget him; I know not what God hath to do with him”. His prayerful thoughts and longings also went out to his flock at Anwoth. How were they “served in preaching”? Was there “a minister as yet thrust in upon them”? “I desire greatly to know, and…much fear”.

 

Conclusion

Rutherford was a moving preacher and writer of deep Christian experience. He is both exuberant and sublime in his commendation of communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet uniquely homely in the powerful imagery also flow from his pen. Only the Bible exceeds his letters in spirituality. This was the opinion of both C H Spurgeon and Richard Baxter. There are 365 of Rutherford’s letters available and, of course, this means that you could read one of his letters every day. Starting today, in fact. There is an online edition which has each day of the year against each letter. Here are some spiritual priorities for the coming year. 

Although written more than 380 years ago, we can glean some spiritual priorities from these two letters for the coming year. If we embraced them fully…they would turn our lives upside down.

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