– from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford ( 1600-1661)
The godly Scottish preacher Rutherford was forbidden to preach and banished from his home church Anwoth to Aberdeen in Scotland in 1636 by his enemies. Although he did suffer from periods of depression and a feeling of uselessness during this time, above all it was what he called the dumb or silent Sabbaths that distressed him most, remembering his flock left behind at Anwoth like the sheep without a shepherd. God used this time of suffering to draw him very close to Christ and equipped him to write with deep compassion and wisdom to his people, friends and others who were seeking his counsel. Out of the 365 letters written during his lifetime, 220 were penned during his exile and imprisonment in Aberdeen what he called “my kings palace”. This excerpt was from one of these letters.
Sweetness in bitterness
I perceive your case in this world savour of worship and communion with the Son of God in His sufferings. You cannot, you must not have a more pleasant or more easy condition here than He had, who ‘through afflictions was made perfect’ (Heb 2:10). We may indeed think: cannot God bring us to heaven with ease and prosperity? Who doubt but He can? But His infinite wisdom think and decree the contrary; and though we cannot see a reason for it, yet He has a most just reason.
We never with our eyes saw our own soul, yet we have a soul; we see many rivers, but we know not their first spring and original fountain, yet they have a beginning. ……, when you come to the other side of the water, and have set down your foot on the shore of glorious eternity, and look back again to the waters and to your wearisome journey, and shall see in that clear glass of endless glory nearer to the bottom of God’s wisdom, you shall then be forced to say, ‘If God had done otherwise with me than He had done, I had never come to the enjoying of this crown of glory.’
It is your part now to believe, and suffer, and hope, and wait on: for I protest in the presence of that all-discerning eye who know what I write and what I think that I would not lack the sweet experience of the consolations of God for all the bitterness of affliction; nay, whether God come to His children with a rod or a crown, if He come Himself with it, it is well. Welcome, welcome Jesus, what way so ever you come, if we can get a sight of you. And sure I am, it is better to be sick, providing Christ come to the bed-side, and draw aside the curtains, and say ‘Courage, I am your salvation,’ than to enjoy health, being lusty and strong, and never to be visited of God.
A Sanctuary in Captivity
You are now deprived of the comfort of a lively ministry; so were Israel in their captivity; yet hear God’s promise to them: “Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’’ (Eze 11:16). Behold a sanctuary! for a sanctuary, God Himself, in the place and room of the temple of Jerusalem: I trust in God, that carrying this temple about with you, you shall see Jehovah’s beauty in His house.