I recently read this letter written in 1628 by Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish Presbyterian Pastor. It is addressed to a woman who had recently lost her daughter and who it sounds from the letter had also lost other children. It’s wording is a little archaic because it was written 388 years ago, but it contains a lot of truth that is applicable and encouraging today.
I want to note that I read an abridged version of this letter that changed ‘O blessed Second’ to ‘O blessed Savior.” I don’t think the reference of ‘blessed Second’ is to mean Christ was second to God, it sounds to me that it is a reference to Christ as the Second Adam. 1 Corinthians 15:45-47 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthly; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
My favorite lines from this are, “for you daughter was a part of yourself; and therefore nature in you, being, as it were , cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.”
“Go through all fires to your rest,; and now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and he is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrated of his design. Now honor God, and shame the roaring lion, when you seem weakest.”
“Lift up your head; you do not know how near your redemption doth draw.”
To A Christian Gentlewoman
[on the death of a daughter]
Anwoth, 23 April 1628
My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful at my departure from you, especially since you were in such heaviness after your daughter’s death; yet I do persuade myself, you know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lieth upon your strong Saviour. For Isaiah saith that in all your afflictions he is afflicted [63.9]. O blessed Second, who suffereth with you! and glad may your soul be, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with one like unto the Son of man, who is also the Son of God. Courage up your heart; when you tire, he will bear both you and your burden [Psalm 55.22]. Yet a little while, and you shall see the salvation of God.
Remember of what age your daughter was, and that just so long was your lease of her. If she were eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years old, I know not, but sure I am, seeing her term was come, and your lease run out, you can no more justly quarrel against your great Superior for taking his own, at his just term-day, than a poor farmer can complain, that his master taketh a portion of his own land to himself, when his lease is expired. Good mistress, if you would not be content that Christ
would hold from you the heavenly inheritance, which is made yours by his death, will not that same Christ think hardly of you, if you refuse to give him your daughter willingly, who is part of his inheritance and conquest? I pray the Lord to give you all your own, and to grace you with patience to give God his also. He is an ill debtor who payeth that which he hath borrowed with a grudge.
Indeed that long loan of such a good daughter, an heir of grace, a member of Christ (as I believe) deserveth more thanks at your creditor’s hand, than that you should murmur, when he craveth but his own. I believe you would judge them to be but thankless neighbours who would pay you a sum of money after this manner.
But what! do you think her lost, when she is but sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? Think her not absent who is in such a friend’s house. Is she lost to you who is found to Christ? If she were with a dear friend, although you should never see her again, your care for her would be but small. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall in the resurrection see her again, when (be you sure) she shall neither be hectic nor consumed in body! You would be sorry either to be, or be esteemed an atheist; and yet not I, but the apostle [I Thess. 4.13] thinketh those to be hopeless atheists who mourn excessively for the dead. But this is not a challenge on my part; I speak this, only fearing your weakness; for your daughter was a part of yourself; and therefore nature in you, being, as it were, cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.
Follow her, but envy her not; for indeed it is self-love in us that maketh us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? because for them we cannot mourn, since they are never happy till they be dead; therefore we mourn on our own private account. Take heed then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter, you be not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.
Consider what the Lord is doing in it; your daughter is plucked out of the fire, and she resteth from her labours; and your Lord in that is trying you, and casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest; and now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and he is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrated of his design. Now honour God, and shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem weakest.
Should such an one as you faint in the day of adversity? Call to mind the days of old; the Lord yet liveth; trust in him, although he should slay you. Faith is exceedingly charitable, and believeth no evil of God. Now is the Lord laying, in the one scale of the balance, your making conscience of submission to his gracious will; and in the other, your affection and love to your daughter. Which of the two will you then choose to satisfy? Be wise then; and, as I trust you love Christ better than a sinful woman, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Lord’s rod. Men lop the branches off their trees round about, to the end they may grow up high and tall. The Lord hath this way lopped your branch in taking from you many children, to the end you should grow upward, like one of the Lord’s cedars, setting your heart above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father. What is next, but that your Lord cut down the stock, after he hath cut the branches?
Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. While you prodigally spend time in mourning for her, you are speedily posting after her. Run your race with patience; let God have his own, and ask of him, instead of your daughter, whom he hath taken from you, the daughter of faith, which is patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head; you do not know how near your redemption doth draw. Thus, recommending you to the Lord, who is able to establish you, I rest.
Your loving and affectionate friend in the Lord Jesus,