“When we are dead and gone, let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere man.”
So wrote Charles Haddon Spurgeon concerning the letters of Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century Scottish pastor and commissioner to the Westminster Assembly. Nor was Spurgeon alone in this high praise. Richard Baxter said of Rutherford’s letters, “hold off the Bible; such a book the world never saw;” and H.C.G. Moule called them “a small casket stored with many jewels.”
Rutherford’s letters have been through something like 100 editions, and have nourished countless readers in every generation since they were first published. Yet many people today know nothing of them, even among those of us in the Reformed tradition who are his direct theological and spiritual ancestors. This is unfortunate, as Rutherford has much to say to our generation (and much of it is very tweet-able, too).
In 2008 Banner of Truth put out a small collection of extracts from Rutherford’s letter under the title The Loveliness of Christ to complement their earlier and longer collection in the Puritan Paperbacks series. Both are excellent resources. You can also read a bit more about Rutherford’s life and writing here.
Here are 10 quotes from The Loveliness of Christ to give a flavor of Rutherford’s appeal and to encourage more reading and awareness of him.
“When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time – suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven” (19).
“Christ all the seasons of the year, is dropping sweetness; if I had vessels I might fill them, but my old riven, holey, and running-out dish, even when I am at the well, can bring little away. Nothing but glory will make tight and fast our leaking and rifty vessels…. How little of the sea can a child carry in his hand; as little d I take away of my great sea, my boundless and running-over Jesus Christ” (38).
“I am sure that the saints at their best are but strangers to the weight and worth of the incomparable sweetness of Christ. He is so new, so fresh in excellency, every day of new, to these that search more and more in him, as if heaven could furnish as many new Christ’s (if I may speak so) as there are days betwixt him and us, and yet he is one and the same” (45).
“My Lord Jesus has fully recompensed my sadness with his joys, my losses with his own presence. I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ’s joys, my afflictions with that sweet peace I have with himself” (48).
“Christ and his cross together are sweet company, and a blessed couple. My poison in my palace, my losses are rich losses, my pain easy pain, my heavy days are holy and happy days. I may tell a new tale of Christ to my friends” (51-2).
“Let not the Lord’s dealings seems harsh, rough, or unfatherly, because it is unpleasant. When the Lord’s blessed will bloweth cross your desires, it is best in humility to strike sail to him and to be willing to be laid any way our Lord pleaseth: it is a point of denial of yourself, to be as if ye had not a will, but had made a free disposition of it to God, and had sold it over to him; and to make of his will for your own is both true holiness, and your ease and peace” (58).
“His cross is the sweet burden that ever I bare: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, and sails are to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour” (72).
“I but mar his praises; nay, I know no comparison of what Christ is, and what his worth is: all the angels, and al the glorified, praise him not so much as in halves: who can advance him or utter all his praises?” (75).
“I beseech you in the Lord Jesus, beware, beware of unsound work, in the matter of your salvation: ye may not, ye cannot do, ye do not want Christ. Then after this day convene all your lovers before your soul; and give them their leave, and strike hands with Christ, that hereafter there may be no happiness to you but Christ; no hunting for anything but Christ; no bed at night (when death cometh) but Christ; Christ, Christ, who but Christ? I know this much of Christ, he is not so ill to be found, not lordly of his love; woe had been my part of it for evermore, if Christ had made a dainty of himself to me; but God be thanked, I gave nothing for Christ; and now I protest, before men and angels, Christ cannot be exchanged; Christ cannot be sold, Christ cannot be weighed” (76-77).
“Among many marks that we are on the journey, and under sail towards heaven, this is one, when the love of God so filleth our hearts that we forget to love and care too much for the having or wanting of other things; as one extreme heat burneth out another” (78).