Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Rutherford Revised (364)

364. To (Brethren in) Aberdeen    From St. Andrews

Reverend and Dearly Beloved in the Lord,Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
There were some who rendered thanks, with knees bowed to Him of whom is named the whole family in heaven and earth,” when they heard of your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus;” and rejoiced not a little, that where Christ was scarce named, in flavour and power of the Gospel, even in Aberdeen, there Christ has a few names precious to Him, who will walk with Him in white. We looked on it (He knows whom we desire to serve in our spirit in the Gospel of His Son) as a part of the fulfilling of that, The wilderness and solitary place will be glad for them; and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1). But now it is more grievous to us than a thousand deaths, when we hear that you are shaken, and so soon removed from that which you once acknowledged to be the way of God. Dearly beloved, the sheep follow Christ, who calls them by name: a stranger they will not follow, but they fly from him, for they do no know the voice of a stranger. You know the way, by which you were sealed to the day of redemption; and you received the Spirit, by the hearing of faith. Do not part from  that way, unless you see there is no rest for your souls in it. Neither listen to them that say, Many were converted under episcopal as well as under presbyterial government, and yet the godly gave testimony against bishops;” for the instruments of conversion loathed Episcopacy, with the ceremonies of it, and never sealed it with their sufferings. We shall desire instances of any engaged by oaths, and sufferings of the faithful messengers of God, and the manifestations of the Lords presence, in the way you now forsake, who yet turned from it, and went one step toward sinful separation (and did it in that way you now aim at), and did yet flourish and grow in grace. But we can bring proofs of many who left it, and went further on to abominable ways of error. And you do not have it in your power where you shall lodge at night, having once left the way of God. And many, we know, lost peace and communion with God, and fell into a condition of withering, and not being able to find their lovers, were forced to return to their first Husband. We shall beg you, consider what a stumbling it is to malignant opposers of the way and cause of God (who with their ears heard you, and with their eyes saw you, so strenuously take part with the godly in their sufferings, and profess yourselves for religion, truth, doctrine, government of the house of God, His Covenant and cause), if now you build again what you once destroyed, and destroy what you built. And will you not make yourselves, by so doing, transgressors? How will it wound the hearts of the godly, stain the profession, darken the glory of the Gospel, shake the faith of many, weaken the hands of all, if you (and you first of all in this kingdom) will stretch out the hand to demolish the walls of our Jerusalem, by reason of which the Lord made her terrible as an army with banners!” For when kings came, and saw the palaces and walls of it, they marvelled and were troubled, and sped away; fear took hold on them there, and pain as of a woman in labour. And we will be grieved, if you should be heirs to the guiltiness of breaking down the same hedge of the vineyard, for the which the sad indignation of God follows this day the Royal Family, many Nobles, houses great and fair, and all the Bishops' party in these three kingdoms. And when your dear brethren are weak and fainting, will we believe that you will leave us, and be divided from this so blessed a union? The Lord Jesus Christ, we trust, will walk in the middle of the golden candlesticks, and be with us, if you will be gone from us. Beloved in the Lord, we cannot but be persuaded better things of you; and we will not conceal from you that we are ignorant what to answer when we are reproved, on your behalf, in regard that your change to another gospel-way (which the Lord stop!) is so much the more scandalous, that the sudden alteration (unknown to us before) now overtakes you when men come among you against whom the furrows of the fields of Scotland do complain. Do not forget , dear brethren, that Christ has now the fan in His hand, and this is also the day of the Lord, that will burn as an oven; and that Christ now sitts as a refiner of silver, purifying the sons of Levi, and purging them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness; and those that keep the word of His (not their own) patience shall be delivered from the hour of temptation, that will come on all the earth to try them.
   If you exclude all non-converts from the visible city of God (in which, daily, multitudes in Scotland, in all the four quarters of the land, above whatever our fathers saw, throng into Christ), will they not be left to the lions and wild beasts of the forest, even to Jesuits, seminary-priests, and other seducers? For the magistrate has no power to compel them to hear the Gospel, nor do you have  any church-power over them, as you teach; and they do not bring love to the Gospel and to Christ out of the womb with them; and so they must be left to embrace what religion is most suitable to corrupt nature. Nor can it be a way approved by the Lord in Scripture, to excommunicate from the visible church (which is the office-house of the free grace of Christ, and His draw-net) all the crowds of non- converts, baptized, and visibly within the covenant of grace, which are in Great Britain, and all the reformed churches; and so to shut the gates of the Lords gracious calling upon all these (because they are not, in your judgment, chosen to salvation), when once you are within yourselves. For how can the Lord call Egypt His people, and Assyria the work of His hands, and all the Gentiles (who for numbers are as the flocks of Kedar, and the abundance of the sea) the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, if you number infants (as many do), and all such as your charity cannot judge converts (as others do) among heathens and pagans, who have not a visible claim and interest in Christ? The candlestick is not yours, nor the house; but Christ fixs and removes the one, and builds or throws down the other, according to His sovereignty. We in humility judge ourselves, though the chief of sinners, the sons of Zion and of the seed of Christ; if you part from us, and carry from here the candlestick, let our Father be judge, and show us why the Lord has called you to come out from among us. We look upon this visible church, though black and spotted, as the hospital and guest-house of sick, halt, injured, and withered, over which Christ is Lord, Doctor, and Master: and we would wait on those that are not yet in Christ, as our Lord waited on us and you both. We, therefore, your brethren, children of one Father, cannot but with tears and exceeding sorrow of heart earnestly entreat, beseech, and swear you, by the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, by His sufferings and precious ransom which He paid for us both, by the consolations of His Spirit, by your appearance before the dreadful tribunal of our Lord Jesus, yes, and charge you before God and the same Lord Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, at His appearing, and His kingdom;” do not break the spirits and hearts of those to whom you are as dear as their own soul. Do not leave the assemblies of the people of God; let us not divide.
   Not a few of the people of God in this shire of Fife (in whose name I now write) dare say, if you leave, that you will leave Christ behind you with us, and the golden candlesticks; and shut yourselves, we much fear, out of the hearts and prayers of thousands dear to Jesus Christ in Scotland. Therefore, before ye fix judgment and practice on any untrodden path, let a day of humiliation be agreed upon by us all, and our Fathers mind and will inquired, through our one common Saviour. And let us see one anothers faces at best conveniency, and plead the interest of Christ, and be comforted; and not be stumbled at your ways.
   So expecting your answer, we shall pray that the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, may make you perfect in every work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. And I shall remain,
   Your affectionate brother in the Lord,     S. R.

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