Rutherford's Letter to Lady Kenmure on the Death of her Husband
Samuel Rutherford wrote a stirring letter to his friend Lady Kenmure who had recently lost her husband, Lord Kenmure. Ruthermore himself was acquainted with grief - the death of his wife and many children - yet he wrote as one with a keen eye to heaven. We considered portions of this letter in yesterday's sermon, and now here it is in full.
XXXVII.—To my Lady Kenmure. (ON THE DEATH OF LORD KENMURE—DESIGNS OF AND DUTIES OF AFFLICTION.)
My Very Noble and Worthy Lady,—So oft as I call to mind the comforts that I myself, a poor friendless stranger, received from your Ladyship here in a strange part of the country, when my Lord took from me the delight of mine eyes (Ezek. xxiv. 16), as the Word speaketh (which wound is not yet fully healed and cured), I trust your Lord shall remember that, and give you comfort now at such a time as this, wherein your dearest Lord hath made you a widow, that ye may be a free woman for Christ, who is now suiting for marriage-love of you.
Seeing, amongst all crosses spoken of in our Lord’s Word, this giveth you a particular right to make God your Husband (which was not so yours while your husband was alive), read God’s mercy out of this visitation; albeit I must out of some experience say, the mourning for the husband of your youth be, by God’s own mouth, the heaviest worldly sorrow (Joel i. 8). And though this be the weightiest burden that ever lay upon your back; yet ye know (when the fields are emptied and your husband now asleep in the Lord), if ye shall wait upon Him who hideth His face for a while, that it lieth upon God’s honour and truth to fill the field, and to be a Husband to the widow.
See and consider then what ye have lost, and how little it is. Therefore, Madam, let me intreat you, in the bowels of Christ Jesus, and by the comforts of His Spirit, and your appearance before Him, let God, and men, and angels now see what is in you. The Lord hath pierced the vessel; it will be known whether there be in it wine or water. Let your faith and patience be seen, that it may be known your only beloved first and last hath been Christ.
And, therefore, now ware your whole love upon Him; He alone is a suitable object for your love and all the affections of your soul. God hath dried up one channel of your love by the removal of your husband. Let now that speat run upon Christ. Your Lord and lover hath graciously taken out your husband’s name and your name out of the summonses that are raised at the instance of the terrible sin-revenging Judge of the world against the house of the Kenmures. And I dare say that God’s hammering of you from your youth is only to make you a fair carved stone in the high upper temple of the New Jerusalem.
Your Lord never thought this world’s vain painted glory a gift worthy of you; and therefore would not bestow it on you, because He is to propine you with a better portion. Let the movables go; the inheritance is yours. Ye are a child of the house, and joy is laid up for you; it is long in coming, but not the worse for that. I am now expecting to see, and that with joy and comfort, that which I hoped of you since I knew you fully, even that ye have laid such strength upon the Holy One of Israel, that ye defy troubles, and that your soul is a castle that may be besieged, but cannot be taken.
What have ye to do here? This world never looked like a friend upon you. Ye owe it little love. It looked ever sour-like upon you. Howbeit ye should woo it, it will not match with you; and therefore never seek warm fire under cold ice. This is not a field where your happiness groweth; it is up above, where there are a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands (Rev. vii. 9). What ye could never get here ye shall find there.
And withal consider how in all these trials (and truly they have been many) your Lord hath been loosing you at the root from perishing things, and hunting after you to grip your soul. Madam, for the Son of God’s sake, let Him not miss His grip, but stay and abide in the love of God, as Jude saith (Jude 21).
Now, Madam, I hope your Ladyship will take these lines in good part; and wherein I have fallen short and failed to your Ladyship, in not evidencing what I was obliged to your more-than-undeserved love and respect, I request for a full pardon for it. Again, my dear and noble lady, let me beseech you to lift up your head, for the day of your redemption draweth near. And remember, that star that shined in Galloway is now shining in another world.
Now I pray that God may answer, in His own style, to your soul, and that He may be to you the God of all consolations.
Thus I remain, Your Ladyship’s at all dutiful obedience in the Lord, Anwoth, Sept. 14, 1634.