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Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Letters of Samuel Rutherford, 1664 The Banner of Truth Trust, Pennsylvania, 1973

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Rutherford was born about the year 1600 near Nisbet, Scotland. Little is known of his early life. In 1627 he earned a M.A. from Edinburgh College, where he was appointed Professor of Humanity. He became pastor of the church in Anwoth in 1627. He had a true pastor's heart, and he was ceaseless in his labours for his flock.

We are told that men said of Rutherford, "He was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying." Of course it helps when you get up at 3:00 every morning!

The Westminster Assembly began their famous meetings in 1643, and Rutherford was one of the five Scottish commissioners invited to attend the proceedings. Rutherford is thought to have been a major influence on the Shorter Catechism.

During this period in England, Rutherford wrote his best-known work, "Lex Rex," or "The Law, the King." This book argued for limited government, and limitations on the current idea of the Divine Right of Kings.

Overview

Letters is a selection of 69 pastoral and personal letters of Samuel Rutherford written from 1628 to 1661. He writes letters addressing topics such as: dealing with personal crisis, intimacy with Christ, congregational matters, providence of God, suffering, worship, law, and prayer.

Critique

Letters is an excellent example of the Scottish Presbyterian version of spiritual direction through letters. Rutherford’s heart emerges through these letters in such a warm, personal, and loving manner which is so appropriate for a pastor.

The intimacy which Rutherford had with Christ is the source of the warmth and wisdom he portrays in the letters he wrote. His passion for those who don’t know Christ and his concern for the church in Scotland is a great example for any serious Christian.

It is no wonder that Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Charles H. Spurgeon, and Richard Baxter viewed Letters with such high regard. The sentence structure and language are difficult to follow at times. Without knowing the complete context of why he is writing is also a challenge.

Application

Letters has challenged me again to use the “power of the pen” to effectively encourage, pastor, train people in my life. The lasting benefits far outweigh the initial time investment. I keep a file of letters and notes which people have sent to me. There are times in life and business where the effectiveness of a personal written letter or note cannot be replaced by a phone call or email.

Best Quotation

“Let us come near and fill ourselves with Christ, and let his friends drink and satisfy our hollow and deep desires with Jesus. O come all and drink at this living well; come, drink and live for evermore, come, drink and welcome.”

Letter to Lady Kilconquhar, August 8, 1637 (page 121)