Grace in Winter – Lessons from Samuel Rutherford

Regarding the life and ministry of Samuel Rutherford, C. H. Spurgeon said the following:

“When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”[1] The question is, what made Rutherford’s ministry so attractive? The attraction to his ministry was not found within himself but in the timeless attraction of Christ. A visiting Englishman said the following about Samuel Rutherford: ‘I heard a little fair man, and he showed me the loveliness of Christ.’ Rutherford was known to continuously tell of the “boundless and unsearchable riches of the saving and sanctifying grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.” What then can we learn from the ministry of Samuel Rutherford? I will draw three lessons from his life and ministry:

1)      The Importance of Union and Communion with Christ:

To begin, Rutherford knew that the heart of Christian experience is in union and communion with Christ. The greatest joy of the Christian is to have a living relationship with the all-majestic, all-glorious God. This relationship, however, comes at a cost. Rutherford was often exiled and imprisoned for his allegiance to the word of God and the God of the word. He suffered greatly in his life, yet his union and communion with Christ sustained him. Rutherford writes:

“O how sweet to be wholly Christ’s, and wholly in Christ; to dwell in Immanuel’s high and blessed land, and live in that sweetest air, where no wind bloweth but the breathings of the Holy Ghost… O for eternity’s leisure, to look on Him, to feast upon a sight of His face! O for the long summer day of endless ages to stand beside Him and enjoy Him! O time, O sin, be removed out of the way! O day! O fairest of days, dawn!”[2]

The union and communion that Rutherford had with the living God was his supreme delight and passion. He found his strength in Christ. Do you? Christian, do you understand the realities that are yours in Christ? Do you understand the privilege that it is to commune daily with the living God? Oh, that we would not take this privilege lightly. May we make it our aim to commune with God before we commune with man.

2)      The Supreme Beauty of Christ:

Secondly, Rutherford saw Christ in all his loveliness. He would often say, he is all-together lovely. Rutherford would later write, “I am sure, that if ye see Him in His beauty and glory, ye shall see Him to be all things, and that incomparable jewel of gold that ye should seek, howbeit ye should sell… I would far rather look but through the hole of Christ’s door, to see but the one half of His fairest and most comely face (for He looketh like heaven!), suppose I should never win in to see His excellency and glory to the full, than enjoy the flower, the bloom, and the chiefest excellency of the glory and riches of ten worlds.”[3]

Rutherford saw that Christ was the Chief among ten-thousands. His beauty and loveliness far surpass everything. For that reason, Samuel Rutherford gave his life to beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He longed to see Christ more. He longed to display this all-together lovely Christ to a dying world. He was captivated by the supreme beauty of Christ. Are you? Can you say, “all that thrills my soul is Jesus”?

3) A Proper Perspective on Suffering:

Most of Rutherford’s letters were written through seasons of tremendous trials. Yet, the Lord in his providence used Rutherford’s suffering for a greater purpose, namely, to minister to others. Rutherford shows the believer that their suffering is not meaningless. Rather, it is a means by which the gracious God grows them into Christ-likeness. Rutherford writes: “I think it is a sweet thing that Christ saith of my cross, ‘Half mine;’ and that He divideth these sufferings with me and taketh the larger share to Himself; nay, that I and my whole cross are wholly Christ’s. Oh, what a portion is Christ! Oh that the saints would dig deeper in the treasures of His wisdom and excellency.”[4]

Again, speaking on suffering, Rutherford writes: “The thorn is one of the most cursed, and angry, and crabbed weeds that the earth yieldeth, and yet out of it springeth the rose, one of the sweetest-smelled flowers, and most delightful to the eye, that the earth hath. Your Lord shall make joy and gladness out of your affiliations; for all His roses have a fragrant smell… But, Madam, come near to the Godhead, and look down to the bottom of the well; there is much in Him, and sweet were that death to drown in such a well.”[5]

In our suffering, Rutherford reminds us to look to Christ. Know that our trials are sovereignly ordained by our Heavenly Father for our good. At times, we must go through the fiery furnace of affliction. However, it is in that process where all of our infirmities and pollutants are scraped off, and in the end, we come out purer. Christian, in your afflictions, look to Christ!

In this post, we have seen three things: (1) The importance of union and communion with Christ, (2) the supreme beauty of Christ, (3) a proper perspective on suffering. I will conclude this post with Rutherford’s words as an exhortation to you:

“If those frothy, fluctuating, and restless hearts of ours would come all about Christ, and look into His love, to bottomless love, to the depth of mercy, to the unsearchable riches of His grace, to inquire after and search into the beauty of God in Christ, they would be swallowed up in the depth and height, length and breadth of His goodness. Oh, if men would draw the curtains, and look into the inner side of the ark, and behold how the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth in Him Bodily! Oh! Who would not say, “Let me die, let me die ten times, to see a sight of Him?”[6]

“But O for his insatiable desires Christward! O for ten such men in Scotland to stand in the gap! – men who all day long find nothing but Christ to rest in, whose very sleep is a pursuing after Christ in dreams, and who intensely desire to ‘awake with His likeness.”[7]

May God by his grace give us such men and women like Rutherford. Amen.

**Note: To purchase a copy of The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, published by Banner of Truth, click here.




[1] The Sword and Trowel, 1891.

[2] Samuel, Rutherford. Letters of Samuel Rutherford. 1984. Reprint, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2012), 13 – 15.

[3] Samuel, Rutherford. Letters of Samuel Rutherford, 378, 446.

[4] Ibid, 480.

[5] Ibid, 71.

[6] Samuel, Rutherford. Letters of Samuel Rutherford, 185.

[7] Ibid, 30.

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