Thursday, September 05, 2019

Rutherford Revised (286)

286. To the parishioners of Kilmalcolm.    From Anwoth 5 Aug 1639

(A rural Renfrewshire parish.)

Worthy and well-beloved in Christ Jesus our Lord,- Grace, mercy and peace be to you. - Your letters could not have come to my hand in a greater press of business than I now experience at this time, when our church requires the public help of us all. Yet I can only answer the main points of both your letters, providing that after this you choose a more fitting time for writing. 

 I. I would not have you to choose me as the man able by letters to answer this kind of doubts, while there are with you, man of great gifts able for this work. Know the best are unable; yet it pleases that Spirit of Jesus to blow His sweet wind through a piece of dry stick, that the empty straw may keep no glory for himself. But a minister can make no such wind as his  blow; he is barely able to lend it a passage to blow through Him.
 2. Know that the wind of this Spirit has a time when it blows sharply, and pierces so strongly, that it would blow through an iron door; and this is usually under suffering for Christ rather than at any other time. Sick children get Christ's pleasant things to play with, because Jesus is most tender to the sufferer, for He was a sufferer Himself. Oh, if I only had the left overs and the scraps of the side table of a sufferer! But I leave this to answer yours.
   1. You write that God's vows are binding you; and security, wrong and related to nature, steals on you who are weak. I answer:
 1. Until we are in heaven it is evident the best have heavy heads. Son 5:1, Ps 30:6, Job 29:18, Mat 26:33. Nature moves slowly and does not love the work of religion; therefore, rest should not be taken until we know the disease is over, and in the way of turning, and that it is like a fever past the cool. And the quietness and the calms of the faith of victory over corruption should be entertained, in place of security; so the if I sleep, I should want to sleep faith's sleep in Christ's arms.  2. Know also that no-one who sleeps soundly can complain of sleeplessness. For a slumbering soul, sorrow is a sign of a watchful spirit. But this is soon urned into lack of restraint, as grace in us is too often abused; therefore, our waking must be watched over, else sleep will even grow out of watching, and there is as much need to watch over grace as over sin. Full men will soon sleep and sooner than hungry men.
 3. For your weakness to keep off security, that steals up on you like a thief, I would say two things :_
 (1.) To 'lack complains of weakness's for heaven and angels the never sinned, not for Christians in Christ's camp on earth. I think our weakness makes us the church of the redeemed ones, and Christ's field the Mediator should work in. If there were no diseases on earth we would need no doctors. If Christ had cried down weakness, He might have cried down His own calling; but weakness is our Mediator's world; sin is Christ;'s only; only fair and market. No-one should rejoice at weakness and diseases; but I think we may have a sort of gladness at boils and sores, because without them Christ's fingers (as a killed Lord) would never have touched our skin. I   dare not thank myself, but I dare thank God's depth of wise providence, that I have a work in me while I live, for Christ to come and visit me, and bring with Him, His drugs and His ointment. Oh how sweet it is for a sinner to put his weakness into Christ's strengthening hand, and to father a sick soul on such a Doctor, and to lay weakness before Him, to weep on Him and to plead and pray! Weakness can speak and cry when we do not have a tongue.  'And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, Live! (Eze 16:6). Then he church could not speak one word to Christ: but blood and guiltiness beyond measure spoke, and drew pity out of Christ, and a word of life and love.
 (2.) As for weakness, we have it so we may employ Christ's strength in our weakness. Weakness is to make us he strongest things; that is, when having no strength of our own, we are carried in Christ's shoulders, and walk as it were on His legs. If our sinful weakness swells up to the clouds, Christ's strength will swell up to the sun, and far above the heavens of heavens.
   II. You tell me here is need of advice for strengthening new beginners. I can say little to them who has not begun well myself: but I know honest beginnings are nourished by Him, even by lovely Jesus, who never yet put out a poor man's dim candle, who is wrestling between eight and darkness.I am sure that if new beginners would urge themselves on Chest, and press their souls in Him, and beg Him for a drink of His sweet love, they could not wrongly come to Christ. Come on in on the right point and step of His lovely love, and I  defy you to get free from Him again. If any beginner fall off Christ again, and miss Him, they never came on Christ as Christ: it was only an idol, like Jesus, which they mistook for Him.
   III. You complain of a dead ministry in your area; you are to remember the Bible among you is your contract of marriage; and the way of Christ covering  His love to your heart, is not absolutely dependent on lively preachings as there is no conversion at all, no life of God, except that which is tied to a man's lips. The daughters of Jerusalem have offer done what the watchmen could not do. Make Christ your minister. He can court soul on a bank in the field. He does not need us though his flock need to seek Him in the shepherds' tens. Hunger made by Christ, may thrive even under servants who do not care to feed the flock. O blessed soul, that can leap over a man, and look above a pulpit, up to Christ, who can preach home to the heart, though we are all dead and rotten.
   IV. So to complain about ourselves, as to justify Gd is right; providing you justify His spirit in yourselves. For men seldom argue against Satan's work and sin in themselves. but against God's work in themselves. Some of the people of God slander God's work in their souls; as some wreches used to do, who complain and murmur of lack ('I have nothing' they say; 'all is gone, the ground yields only weeds and stalks'), whereas their fat harvest, and their money in the bank, shows them liars. But for myself, alas! I think it is not my sin; I am hardly clever enough to sin this sin. But I advise you to speak well of Christ, for His beauty and sweetness, and I speak well of Him for His grace to yourselves.
   V. You say light remains, but you cannot get to pain. See if his complaint is not in the New Testament; and the place is like this, ,'I can will it, but how to do what is good I do not know(Rom 7:18) But not everyone has Paul's spirit of complaining: for often, in us, complaining only a humble backbiting and speaking badly of Christ's new work in the soul. But for the mater of the complaint; I would say the light of glory is perfectly obeyed in loving and praising and rejoicing and resting in a seen and known Lord; but that light is not here in a clay body. For while we are here, light is (mainly) broader and longer than our narrow and careless obedience. But if there is light, with a fair train and great backing (I mean armies) of challenging thought, and sorrow for coming short of performance in what we know and see aught to be done, the sorrow for no doing is accepted by our Lord in place of doing. Our honest sorrow and sincere aims, together with Christ's intercession, pleading that God would welcome that which we have, and forgive what we do not have, must be our life, until we are over the boundary and in the other country, where the law will get a perfect soul.
   VI. In Christ's absence, there is, as you write, a willingness to use means, but heaviness after the use of them, because of formal and slight performance. In Christ's absence, I confess the work is behind. But if you mean absence of comfort, and absence of sense of His sweet presence, I think the absence is Christ's trying us, not simply our sin against him. therefore, though our obedience is not sweetened with joy (which is the sweetmeat children would have), yet with little feeling, and the more willingness in obeying, the less formality in our obedience. Though we do not think this way; for I believe many think obedience formal and lifeless, unless the wind is fair in the west, and sails filled with joy and sense, until souls, like a ship fair before he wind, can spread no more sail. But I do not agree with them. But is, by the absence of Chris, you mean he withdrawing of His working grace, I do not see how willingness to use means can be in such an absence. So, be humbled for heaviness in the obedience, and thankful for willingness; for the Bridegroom is often adorning His spouse, while she is half asleep; and your Lord is working and helping more than you can see. Also, I recommend to you heaviness about formality, and for lifeless sadness in obedience. Be depressed as much as you will or can, for deadness; and challenge that dull and slow carcase of sin, that will neither lead nor drive in your spiritual obedience. Oh how sweet to lovely Jesus are complains and grievances given in against corruption and the body of sin! I would have Christ, in such a case, troubled (if I may say so) and deafened by our cries, as you see the Apostle does, 'Wretched man that Iam! Who will deliver me from this body of death?'(Rom 7:24). Protestations against the law of sin in you are grounds why sin can have no law against you. Seek to have your protestation discussed and judged, and then you will find Christ on your side of it.
   VII. You believe Christ must have hearty service of no service at all. If you mean He will not have half a heart , or have pretend service, such as hypocrites give Him, I grant you that; Christ must have honesty or nothing. But if you mean He will have no service at all where the heart draws back in any way, I hope that would not be true for my part of heaven, and all I am worth in the world. If you want to walk to heaven without cramp or a limp, I fear you must go alone. He knows our rubbish and defects, and sweet Jesus pities us, when weakness and deadness inner obedience is our cross, and not our desire.
   VIII. The Liar (Joh 8:44), as you write, challenged the work as formal yet you bless your Surety for the groundwork He has laid, and dare not say you have assurance in some way. To this I say:
 1. It is no fault to anticipate Satan by jealously searching into it yourselves, or at least examine and censure; but beware of Satan's purpose in challenging, for he wants to put Chris and you in opposition.
 2. Welcome home faith in Jesus, who still washes when we have defiled our souls and made ourselves loathsome; and still seek he blood of atonement for faults little or much. Know the gate to the well and lie near it.
 3. Make much of assurance for it keeps your anchor fixed.
   IX. Outbreakings , you say, discourage you, so you do no know if you will ever gain to such overjoying consolations of the Spirit in this life, as you had before; and, therefore, a question may be, if after assurance and mortification the children of God are usually fed with sense and joy? I answer: I see no inconvenience to think it is enough, in a race, to see he finish at the starting place, although the runners never get views of it until the course's end; and our wise Lord thinks it best we should no always be fingering and playing with Christ's apples. Our Well-beloved I know will sport and play with His bride, as much as He thinks will allure her to the course's end. Yet I see nothing wrong to seek renewed consolations providing,
 1. The heart s submissive and content to leave the measure and timing to Him.
 2. Providing they are sought to excite us to praise, and strengthen our assurance,  and sharpen our desires for Him.
 3. Do not let then be sought for our feelings or swellings of nature, but as foretaste of heaven. And I think many atain to greater consolations after mortification, than they ever had before.But I know our Lord walks here with sovereign latitude, and does not keep to the same way as to one hair's breadth without miss towards all His children. As for the Lord's people with you, I am not the man fit to speak to them. I rejoice greatly that Christ is engaging souls among you, but I know that in conversion, all the winning is in the first outing as we used to say. For many lay false and bastard foundations, and take up conversion as their foot, and get Christ for as good as half nothing, and never had a sick night for sin; and this makes loose work. I beg you to dig deep. Christ's palace work, and His new house, laid upon hell felt and feared, is most firm: and heaven, grounded and laid on such a hell, is sure work, and will not wash away with winter storms. It is good if professors are not like young heirs, that come to their rich estate long before they come to their senses; and so is seen on it. The bar, and the cards and the prostitutes steal their riches, from the before they are aware what they are doing. I know a Christ bought with blows is sweetest.
 4. I recommend to you fellowship and prayer at private meetings; for reason see Is 2:3, Jer 1:4-5, Hos 2:1,-2, Dec 8:20-23, Mal 3:16, Luke 24:13-17, Joh 20:19, Ac 12:12, Col 3:16, 4:6, Ep 4:29, 1Pet 4:10, 1Th 5:14, Heb 3:13,10:25. Many coals make a good fire, and that is a part of the communion of saint.
   I must beg you and your Christian friends in the parish, to remember me to God in your prayers, and my flock and ministry, and my transferring and removal from this place, which I fear at this Assembly, and be serious with God for our mother church. For lack of time I have put you all in one letter. The rich grace of our lord Jesus Christ be with you all. 
   Yours, in his sweet Lord Jesus,  S.R.

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