If Samuel Rutherford Could Blog….Redux

June 18, 2010

Christian Life

[This is a re-posted blog entry from November.  I place this here to bring it back out into the light.- DB] 

My belief is that if Samuel Rutherford could blog,….he wouldn’t.  Blog?  He’d probably think you were talking about the food in Aberdeen prison.  Gruel, gob, blob?  Of course, having read his work, I’m doubtful he’d really spend much time on his own misery to invent pet names for food.  Though alone, cold, and hungry a weaker man would inevitably find self pity.  Would my letters out be filled with reminders of the plight I was in?  Yes.  Would Rutherford’s? Maybe a little.

What’s to be heard in prison?  Cries and silence?  The mocking of the guards?  Most definitely the wind during winter.  One hopes he had companionship to some degree.  Were there other imprisoned clergy during this reign of the English Episcopacy?  What was it like?  Think 1600’s.  A pile of straw for a latrine.  No hygiene, or at least not much.  Slow justice, cruel justice, no justice.  Remember, this was a period in time where they could throw you in debtor’s prison.  God help us all if that were the case today.  Are we, today, going back to a time when the government looks for good reasons to throw christians in jail?

Think cold and dark and harsh and everything that would make us, in this day, shudder in fear.  Think of the relative isolation of being in prison.  Think of the regret, the sullenness, the weeping.  Think of the reality of Samuel Rutherford’s plight.

Now stop!  Think of a light shining in the darkness.  Think of glorious praise and worship; loving platitudes for Christ’s tender mercies; genuine concern for fellow-man.  Think on these and your thoughts would be nearer the beautiful letters that ministered to the flock of a loving pastor; the Letters of Samuel Rutherford.

In 1636 Samuel Rutherford was thrown in prison for writing a book that defended the doctrines of grace.  Before that he was a dedicated pastor.  Rising at 3:00am every morning, Rutherford was “always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying.”  He loved those of his pastorate, so being torn from them was nearly unbearable.  But what the church in England meant for evil, God meant for good.  The letters he wrote to his congregation were often prized possessions.  Shortly after his death they were compiled into book form.  Spurgeon once said they were “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.” 

To John Henderson [of Rusco]

from Aberdeen [undated]

Loving Friend:

I earnestly desire your salvation.  Know the Lord and seek Christ.  You have a soul that cannot die.  Seek for a lodging to your poor soul, for that house of clay will fall.  Heaven or nothing!  either Christ or nothing!  Use prayer in your house and set your thoughts often upon death and judgment.  It is dangerous to be loose in the matter of your salvation.  Few are saved; men go to heaven in ones and twos, and the whole world lieth in sin.  Love your enemies and stand by the truth which I have taught you, in all things.  Fear not men, but let God be your fear.  Your time will not be long; make the seeking of Christ your daily task.  Ye may, when ye are in the fields, speak to God.  Seek a broken heart for sin, for without that there is no meeting with Christ.  I speak this to your wife as well as to yourself.  I desire your sister, in her fears and doubtings, to fasten her grips on Christ’s love.  I forbid her to doubt, for Christ loveth her and hath her name written in his book.  Her salvation is fast coming.  Christ her Lord is not slow in coming, nor slack in his promise.

Grace be with you, Your loving Pastor.   S.R.

Samuel Rutherford lived in the light of the Gospel everyday.  It was not far from his tongue when counseling those of his pastorate.  His love of others was demonstrated by his earnest appeal for them to make sure their own salvation.  This letter, albeit short and of a necessity emphatic, is fairly typical of Rutherford’s style.  But, you say, this goes against the tone a pastor should have in today’s culture.  Aren’t we suppose to have our best life now?  Aren’t we all basically good and doesn’t Jesus just see though our mistakes?  Emphatically, NO, and if your pastor is telling you this find another.  It is because he loved his flock so dearly that he wanted them to know that death and hell and judgement wait for them; they wait for everyone outside of Christ.  It is a pastor’s calling to exhort people to mortify their sin and establish their faith.  Mercifully and Lovingly Rutherford would dare not give a poor soul advice against the way established by God.

So,…would Samuel Rutherford blog?  My first thought was that never a blog would be so passionate for Christ.  And of a truth, Rutherford would be loving and emphatic and the Gospel of Christ would be taught and lived.  But I don’t know.  Technology is distant.  Rutherford was personal.  Blogs are safe and he put his ministry before his life.  Of reading his letters, A.W. Tozer said he was almost sickened when considering his own faith in comparison.  Samuel Rutherford’s faith was born of a deep and personal love of Christ and a studied love of His law and Word.  What an amazing man.

So again,…would Samuel Rutherford blog,…..or tweet, or text, or email or any of the things we do today?   No, I don’t think he would do too much of that.  He’d probably just go out and knock on your door.

Thanks to Monergism and A Brief Life and Times of Samuel Rutherford by William Carson,  http://www.puritansermons.com/ruth/ruth6.htm  for some bio information.

Also: “The Letters of Samuel Rutherford”, Puritan Paperbacks, Letter number 37, page 104

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