Samuel Rutherford was born in Scotland in 1600. He lived a careless life as a youth, but after graduating from the university in Edinburgh, he became serious about following Christ. He studied theology and was licensed to preach. The Scottish village of Anwoth, Kirkcudbrightshire, called him to pastor its church. Rutherford’s wife and two of his children died shortly after arrival. But Samuel busied himself with ministry and pressed on.
Rutherford’s vision encompassed the entire Scottish church, suffering at the time from weak theology. He wrote a book entitled An Apology for Divine Grace, that so attacked the clergy that he was withdrawn from his church and “exiled” in Aberdeen, forbidden to preach anywhere in Britain. He felt like a half-blind man whose one eye had just been plucked out. There, suffering mentally and spiritually, he wrote a letter on July 7, 1627 to his similarly beleaguered friend, James Hamilton:
For your ensuing and feared trial, my dearest in our Lord Jesus, alas! What am I, to speak comfort to a soldier of Christ who hath done a hundred times more for that worthy cause than I can do! But I know, those of whom the world was not worthy wandered up and down in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth; and while there is one member of mystical Christ out of heaven, that member must suffer strokes, till our Lord Jesus draw in that member within the gates of the New Jerusalem.
My one joy, next to Christ, was to preach my sweetest, sweetest Master and the glory of his Kingdom; and it seemed no cruelty to them to put out the poor man’s one eye. I cannot be delivered. None here will have my Master. Alas! what aileth them? (But) fear not. Christ’s withered garden shall grow green again in Scotland. My Lord Jesus hath a word hid in heaven for Scotland, not yet brought out.
Rutherford didn’t realize that the Lord’s hidden word for Scotland included his own collected Letters from Aberdeen, published after his death and destined to become one of the classics of Christian literature.
I am badly injured and in constant pain.
Are you going to disappoint me,
Like a stream that goes dry in the heat of summer?
Then the Lord told me: Stop talking like a fool!
…I am making you strong, like a bronze wall.
They are evil and violent, but when they attack,
I will be there to rescue you. (Jeremiah 15:18-21a)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 7