Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to HimselfSamuel Rutherford (1600-1661) - One of the most influential Scottish Presbyterians in the Westminster Assembly.
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“Christ’s honeycombs drop honey and floods of consolation upon my soul; my chains are gold. Were my blackness and Christ’s beauty carded through other, His beauty and holiness would eat up my filthiness. The secret formula of the saints: When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” John 12:27-28.
Suppose it were revealed to a godly man that he were to suffer an extreme, violent, and painful death, and, withal, some fearful soul desertion, as an image of the second death. It should much affright him to remember this, and he might pray that the Lord would either save him from that sad hour, or then give him grace with faith and courage in the Lord to endure it. So here, Christ, God and man, knowing that he was to bear the terrors of the first and second death, doth act over aforehand (the time being near) the sorrow and anguish of heart that he was to suffer in his extreme sufferings.
As it were, ere the cross come, to act it in our mind, and take an essay and a lift of Christ’s cross ere we bear it, to try how handsomely we would set back and shoulders under the Lord’s cross, we are to lay the supposition, what if it so fall out (as Christ being persuaded his suffering was to come, acted sorrow, trouble of soul and prayer beforehand), and to resolve the saddest, and antedate the cross, and say with our own hearts, Let the worst come. Or to suffer our fear to prophecy, as Job did (Job 3:25): Yet suppose the hardest befall me, I know what to do; as the unjust steward resolveth on a way, beforehand, how to swim through his necessities, Luke 16:4. Grace is a well-advised and resolute thing, and has the eyes of providence to say in possible events, What if my scarlet embrace the dunghill, and providence turn the tables. It is like wisdom (grace is wise to see afar off) to foreact faith, and resolve to lie under God’s feet, and intend humble yielding to God, as II Samuel 15:25-26.
What they shall pray in the time of their extremity, who now spit at all praying and religion! They shall be religious in their kind, when they shall cry (Revelation 6:16), Mountains and rocks fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. You cannot believe that a Lamb shall chase the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich man, and every bondman, and every free man, into the dens and rocks of the mountains, to hide themselves. But the Lord acteth wrath and judgment before your eyes. Men will not suppose the real story of hell. Say but with thyself, Oh! shall I weep, and gnaw my tongue for pain, in a sea of fire and brimstone? Do but forefancy, I pray you, how you shall look on it, what thoughts you will have, what you shall do, when you shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, II Thessalonians 1:9.
In the complaint, we have the Lord’s troubled soul. This holy soul thus troubled was like the earth before the fall, out of which grew roses without thorns, or thistles, before it was cursed. Christ’s anger, his sorrow, were flowers that smelled of heaven, and not of sin. All his affections of fear, sorrow, sadness, hope, joy, love, desire, were like the fountain of a liquid and melted silver, of which the banks, the head spring, are all as clear from dross as pure crystal. Such a fountain can cast out no clay, no mud, no dirt. When his affections did rise and swell in their acts, every drop of the fountain was sinless, perfumed and adorned with grace; so as the more you stir or trouble a well of rose water, or some precious liquor, the more sweet a smell it casts out; or, as when a summer soft wind bloweth on a field of sweet roses, it difuseth precious and delicious smells through the air.
There is such mud and dregs in the bottom and banks of our affections, that when our anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, does arise in their acts, our fountain casteth out sin. We cannot love, but we lust; nor fear, but we despair; nor rejoice, but we are wanton and vain and gaudy; nor believe, but we presume. We reft up, we breath out sin, we cast out a smell of hell, when the wind bloweth on our field of weeds and thistles. Our soul is all but a plat of wild corn, the imaginations of our heart being only evil from our youth. Oh that Christ would plant some of his flowers in our soul, and bless the soil, that they might grow kindly there, being warmed and nourished with his grace! If grace be within, in sad pressures it comes out. A saint is a saint in affliction, as a hypocrite is an hypocrite; and every man is himself, and casts a smell like himself, when he is in the furnace. Troubled Christ prays. Tempted Job believes, Job 19:25. The scourged apostles rejoice, Acts 5:41. Drowned Jonah looks to the holy temple, Jonah 2:4.
Christ’s affections were rational; reason startled at fear, but reason and affection did not outrun one another. Grace did so accompany nature that he could not fear more than the object required. Neither were his affections above banks. He saw the blackest and darkest hour that ever any saw. Suppose all the sufferings of the damned, for eternity, were before them in one sight, or came on them at once, it should annihilate all that are now, or shall be in hell. Christ now saw, or foresaw, as great sufferings as these, and yet 1. believed, 2. prayed, 3. hoped, 4. was encouraged under it, 5. suffered them to the bottom with all patience, 6. rejoiced in hope, Psalm 16:9. Now our affections rise and swell before reason. 1. They are often imaginary, and are on horseback and in arms at the stirring of a straw. 2. They want that clearness and serenity of grace that Christ had, through habitual grace following nature from the womb. 3. We can raise our affections, but cannot allay them, as some can make war, and cannot create peace. It is a calumny of Papists that say that Calvin did teach there was despair, or any distemper of reason, in Christ, when as Calvin saith, He still believed with full assurance.
Christ had now and always the grace of peace, as peace is opposed to culpable raging of conscience. First, he never could want faith, which is a serenity, quietness, and silence of the soul and assurance of the love of God. Secondly, he could have no doubting, or sinful disturbance of mind, because he could have no conscience of guilt, which could overcloud the love and tenderest favor of his Father to him. Christ never needed pardon; he needed never the grace of forgiveness, nor grace to be spared. God spared him not. God could exact no less blood of him than he shed; but he received an acquittance of justification, never a pardon of grace. But concerning the peace which is opposed to pain, and sense of wrath and punishment for the guilt of our sins, so he wanted peace, and was now under penal disturbance and disquietness of soul.
Can God, can the soul of God be troubled? It must be, first, because the loss of heaven is the greatest loss. To ransom a king requireth more millions, than pence to ransom slaves. When we were cast and forfeited, more than an hundred and forty-four thousand kings (in the Lord’s decree they were kings) were cast out of heaven. Where was there gold on earth to buy heaven and so many kings? And yet Justice must have payment; a God-troubled Savior, and a soul-troubled God, was little enough. Oh, saith Love to infinite Justice, What will you give for me? Will you buy me? My dear children, the heirs of eternal grace? A price below the worth of so many kings, Justice cannot hear of; equal it must be, or more. Secondly, Law cannot sleep satisfied with a man’s soul trouble. For as sin troubles an infinite God’s soul, so far as our darts can fly up against the sun, so must the soul trouble of him who is God expiate sin.
Thirdly, heaven is not only a transcendent jewel, dear in itself, but our Father would propine rebels with a sonship and a kingdom. What standeth my crown to God? Why it could not possibly be dearer. The soul of God was weighed for it: that not only freedom, but the dearest of prices, might commend and cry up, above all heavens, Christ’s love. Fourth, if my soul, or your souls, O redeemed of the Lord, could be valued every one of them worth ten thousand millions of souls, and as many heavens, they could not overweigh the soul of God. The soul that lodges in a glorious union with God, and the loss of heaven to the troubled soul of this noble, and high and lofty one, though but for a time, was more, and infinitely greater, than my loss of heaven, and the loss of all the elect for eternity.
Now this must be a mystery, for though the essence of God, and more of God than can be in a creature, were in Christ, and in the most noble manner of union, which is personal, yet, as our soul doth not grow, sleep or eat, though united to a vegetive body which doth grow, sleep, eat, drink, and as fire is mixed or united with an hot iron, in which is density and weight, and yet there’s neither density nor weight in the fire, so here. Though the Godhead in its fullness was united, in a most strict union, with a troubled and perplexed soul, and the suffering nature of man, yet is the Godhead still free of suffering or any penal infirmities of the soul. The vigor and color of a fair rose may suffer by the extreme heat of the sun, when yet the sweet smell doth not suffer, but is rather enlarged by exhalation. Yet is there great halting in these comparisons, because there is such alliance and entire society between the soul and the body that the soul, through concomitance and sympathy, does suffer, as the indweller is put to the worse if the house be rainy and dropping. The soul findeth smoke and leakings of pain, in that it’s pinned in a lodging of sick clay, and so put to wish an hole in the wall, or to escape out at door or window, as often our spirits are overswayed so with distaste of life, because of the sour accidents that do convey it, that they think the gain of life not so sweet as it can quit the cost. But the blessed Godhead united to the manhood cannot so much as for company’s cause be sick, pained or suffer; nor can the Godhead be weary of an union with a troubled soul. We conceive, in the grave and death that glorious fellowship was never dissolved.
Many things may suffer by invasion of contraries, as shoot an arrow against a wall of brass, some impression may remain in the wall to witness the violence that has been there. But the blessed Godhead in Christ is incapable of an arrow, or of repercussion. There is no action against God. He is here not so much as a coast, a bank or bulwark, capable of receiving one spitting or drop of a sea wave. Only the man Christ, the rose of heaven, had in his bosom, at his root, a fountain, oh how deep and refreshing, that kept the flower green, under death and the grave! When it was plucked up, it was fair, vigorous, green before the sun, and thus plucked up and above earth, blossomed fair! Not only the influence and effects of the glorious Godhead did water the flower and keep strength in Christ, but there was the fullness personal of the Godhead that immediately sustained the man Christ; it was not a delegated comfort, nor sent help, nor a message of created love, nor a borrowed flowing of a sea of sweetness of consolation. But God in proper person, infinite subsistence, the personality of the Son of God bottomed all his sufferings; the manhood was imped and stocked in the subsistence of the tree of life.
The cause of this soul trouble was for sinners; this was surety suffering. The choicest and most stately piece that ever God created, and dearest to God, being the second to God-man, was the princely soul of Christ. It was a king’s soul. Yet death, by reason of sin, passeth upon it; and not a common death, but that which is the marrow of death, the firstborn and the strongest of deaths, the wrath of God, the innocent pain of hell, void of despair and hatred of God. If I had any hell on me, I should choose an innocent hell, like Christ’s. Better suffer ill a thousand times than sin; suffering is rather to be chosen than sin. It was pain, and nothing but pain. Damned men, and reprobate devils, are not capable of a godly and innocent hell; they cannot choose to suffer hell, and not spit on fair and spotless justice. Because Christ’s blood was to wash away sin, he could not both fully pay, and contract debt also.
But if it be so, that death finding so precious a surety as Christ’s princely and sinless soul, did make him obey the law of the land ere he escaped out of that land, what wonder that we die, who are born in the land of death? No creature but it travaileth in pain, with death in its bosom, or an inclination to mother-nothing whence it came. God only goeth between the mightiest angel in heaven, and nothing. All things under the moon must be sick of vanity and death, when the heir of all things, coming in amongst dying creatures, out of dispensation, by law must die. If the Lord’s soul, and the soul of such a Lord, die and suffer wrath, then let the fair face of the world, the heavens, look like the face of an old man, full of trembling, white hairs, and wrinkles, Psalm 102:26. Then let man make for his long home; let time itself wax old and gray-haired. Why should I desire to stay here, when Christ could not but pass away?
And if this spotless soul that never sinned was troubled, what wonder, then, many troubles be to the sinner? Our Savior, who promiseth soul rest to others, cannot have soul rest himself: his soul is now on a wheel sore tossed, and all the creatures are upon a wheel, and in motion. There is not a creature since Adam sinned, sleepeth sound. Weariness and motion is laid on moon and sun, and all creatures on this side of the moon. Seas ebb and flow, and that’s trouble; winds blow, rivers move, heavens and stars these five thousand years, except one time, have not had six minutes rest. Living creatures walk apace toward death. Kingdoms, cities, are on the wheel of changes, up and down. Mankind run, and the disease of body trouble, and soul trouble on them, they are motion sick, going on their feet, and kings cannot have beds to rest in. The six-days creation hath been travailing and shouting for pain, and the child is not born yet, Romans 8:22. This poor woman hath been groaning under the bondage of vanity, and shall not be brought to bed, while Jesus come the second time to be midwife to the birth. The great all of heaven and earth, since God laid the first stone of this wide Hall, hath been groaning and weeping for the liberty of the sons of God, Romans 8:21. The figure of the passing-away world, I Corinthians 7:31, is like an old man’s face, full of wrinkles, and foul with weeping: we are waiting, when Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, and shall come and wipe the old man’s face. Every creature here is on its feet, none of them can sit or lie.
Christ’s soul now is above trouble, and rests sweetly in the bosom of God. Troubled souls, Rejoice in hope. Soft and childish saints take it not well that they are not every day feasted with Christ’s love, that they lie not all the night between the Redeemer’s breasts, and are not dandled on his knee. But when the daintiest piece of the man Jesus, his precious soul, was thus sick of soul trouble, and the noble and celebrious head heir of all, the first of his kingly house, was put to deep groans that pierced skies and heaven, and rent the rocks, why but sinners should be submissive when Christ is pleased to set children down to walk on foot, and hide himself from them? But they forget the difference between the inns of clay and the home of glory. Our fields here are sown with tears, grief grows in every furrow of this lowland. You shall lay soul and head down in the bosom, and between the breasts of Jesus Christ; that bed must be soft and delicious, its perfumed with uncreated glory. The thoughts of all your now soul troubles shall be as shadows that passed away ten thousand years ago, when Christ shall circle his glorious arm about your head, and you rest in an infinite compass of surpassing glory, when glory or ripened grace shall be with you, and without you, above and below, when the feet of clay shall walk upon pure surpassing glory. The street of the city was pure gold: There is no gold there, but glory only; gold is but a shadow to all that is there.
It were possibly no less edifying to speak a little of what love and tender mercy it was in Christ, to be so troubled in soul for us. Self is precious, when free of sin, and withal self-happy. Christ was both free of sin, and self-happy. What then could have made him stir his foot out of heaven, so excellent a land, and come under the pain of a troubled soul, except free, strong and vehement love, that was a bottomless river impatient of banks? Infinite goodness maketh love to swell without itself, John 15:13. Goodness is much moved with righteousness and innocence; but we had a bad cause, because sinners. We were neither righteous nor good; yet Christ, though neither righteousness was in us, nor goodness, would dare to die for us, Romans 5:7-8. Goodness and grace (which is goodness for no deserving) is bold, daring, and venturous. Love, which could not flow within its own channel, but that Christ’s love might be out of measure love, and out of measure loving, would outrun wickedness in man.
Had Christ seen, when he was to engage his soul in the pains of the second death, that the expense in giving out should be great, and the income small, and no more than he had before, we might value his love more. Christ had leisure from eternity, and wisdom enough, to cast up his counts, and knew what he was to give out, and what to receive in. So he might have repented and given up the bargain. He knew that his blood, and his one noble soul, that dwelt in a personal union with God, was a greater sum incomparably than all his redeemed ones. He should have in little, he should but gain lost sinners; he should empty out (in a manner) a fair Godhead, and kill the Lord of glory, and get in a black bride. But there’s no lack in love; the love of Christ was not private, nor mercenary. Christ the buyer commended the wares ere he bargained, Song of Solomon 4:7: Thou art all fair, my love, here’s not a spot in thee. Christ judged he had gotten a noble prize, and made an heaven’s market, when he got in his arms his wife that he served for, Isaiah 53:11: He saw the travail of his soul, and was satisfied. He was filled with delight, as a full banqueter. If that ransom he gave had been little, he would have given more.
It is much that nothing outside Christ moved him to this engagement. There was a sad and bloody war between divine Justice and sinners. Love, Love pressed Christ to the war, to come and serve the great King, and the state of lost mankind, and to do it freely. This maketh it two favors. It is a conquering notion to think that the sinner’s heaven was bred first in Christ’s heart from eternity, and that Love, freest Love was the blossom, and the seed, and the only contriver of our eternal glory, that free grace drove on from the beginning of the age of God, from everlasting, the saving plot and sweet design of redemption of souls. This innocent and soul-rejoicing policy of Christ’s taking on him the seed of Abraham, not of angels, and to come down in the shape of a servant to the land of his enemies, without a pass in regard of his sufferings, speaketh and crieth the deep wisdom of infinite Love. Was not this the wit of free grace to find out such a mysterious and profound dispensation, as that God and man personally should both do and suffer, so as Justice should want nothing, mercy be satisfied, peace should kiss righteousness, and war go on in justice against a sinless Redeemer? Angels bowing and stooping down to behold the bottom of this depth, I Peter 1:12, cannot read the perfect sense of the infinite turnings and foldings of this mysterious love.
O Love of heaven, and fairest of beloveds, the flower of angels, why camest thou so low down, as to bespot and underrate the spotless love of all loves, with coming nigh to black sinners? Who could have believed that lumps of hell and sin could be capable of the warmings and sparks of so high and princely a love? Or that there could be place in the breast of the high and lofty One, for forlorn and guilty clay? But we may know in whose breast this bred; sure none but only the eternal Love and Delight of the Father could have outed so much love; had another done it, the wonder had been more. But of this, more elsewhere.
Use. We may hence chide our soft nature. The Lord Jesus’ soul was troubled in our business; we are startled at a troubled body, at a scratch in a penny-broad of our hide. First, there is in nature a silent impatience, if we be not carried in a chariot of love, in Christ’s bosom, to heaven. And if we walk not upon scarlet, and purple under our feet, we flinch and murmur. Secondly, we would either have a silken, a soft, a perfumed cross, sugared and honeyed with the consolations of Christ, or we faint. And providence must either brew a cup of gall and wormwood mastered in the mixing with joy and songs, else we cannot be disciples. But Christ’s cross did not smile on him, his cross was a cross, and his ship sailed in blood, and his blessed soul was seasick, and heavy even to death. Thirdly, we love to sail in fresh waters, within a step to shore; we consider not that our Lord, though he afflict not, and crush not, from his heart, Lamentations 3:33, yet he afflicteth not in sport. Punishing of sin is in God a serious, grave, and real work. No reason the cross should be a play; neither Stoics nor Christians can laugh it over; the cross cast a sad gloom upon Christ.
Fourth, we forget that bloody and sad mercies are good for us. The peace that the Lord bringeth out of the womb of war is better than the rotten peace that we had in the superstitious days of Prelates. What a sweet life, what a heaven, what a salvation is it, we have in Christ! And we know the death, the grave, the soul trouble of the Lord Jesus, travailed in pain to bring forth these to us. Heaven is the more heaven, that to Christ it was a purchase of blood. The cross to all the saints must have a bloody bit, and lion’s teeth; it was like itself to Christ, gall and sour, and it must be so to us. We cannot have a paper cross, except we would take on us to make a golden providence, and put the creation in a new frame, and take the world and make it a great leaden vessel, melt it in the fire, and cast a new mold of it.
Fifth, we can wrestle with the Almighty, as if we could discipline and govern ourselves better than God can do. Murmuring fleeth up against a dispensation of an infinite wisdom, because it’s God’s dispensation, not our own; as if God had done the fault, but the murmuring man only can make amends, and right the slips of infinite wisdom. Sixth, we judge God with sense, not with reason; the oar that God rolleth his vessel withal is broken (say we), because the end of the oar is in the water. Providence halteth (say we), but what if sense says, a straight line is a circle? The world judged God in person a Samaritan, one that had a devil; if we misjudge his person, we may misjudge his providence and ways. Suspend your sense of God’s ways while you see his ends that are underground. And instead of judging, wonder and adore, or then believe implicitly that the way of God is equal, or do both, and submit, and be silent. Heart dialogues and heart speeches against God, that arises as smoke in the chimney, are challengings and summons against our highest landlord, for his own house and land.
If Christ gave a soul for us, he had no choicer thing. The Father had no nobler and dearer gift, than his only begotten Son. The Son had no thing dearer than himself. The man Christ had nothing of value comparable to his soul, and that must run a hazard for man. In this giving and taking world, we are hence obliged to give the best and choicest thing we have for Christ. Should we make a table of Christ’s acts of love, and free grace to us, and of our sins and acts of unthankfulness to him, this would be more evident. Thus (1) there was before time in the breast of Christ an eternal coal of burning love to the sinner. Christ began with love to us, we begin with hatred to him. (2) Christ gave his soul to trouble, and to the horror of the second death for you. Consult with your heart, if you have quit one lust for him. Christ laid aside his heaven for you, his whole heaven, his whole glory, for you, and his Father’s house. Are you willing to part with an acre of earth, or house, and inheritance for him?
In calling us out of the state of sin, to grace and glory, oh I must make this sad reckoning with Jesus Christ. Oh, Christ turneth his smiling face to me, in calling, inviting, obtesting, praying, that I would be reconciled to God. I turn my back to him. He openeth his breast and heart to us, and saith, Friends, doves, come in and dwell in the holes of this rock, and we lift our heel against him. Oh what guilt is here to scratch Christ’s breast! When he willeth you to come and lay head and heart on his breast, this unkindness to Christ’s troubled soul is more than sin; sin is but a transgression of the law. I grant it is an infinite but. But it’s a transgression of both law and love, to spurn against the warm bowels of love, to spit on grace, on tenderness of infinite love. The white and ruddy, the fairest of heaven, offereth to kiss black Moors on earth; they will not come near to him. It’s a heart of flint and adamant that spitteth at evangelic love. Law-love is love; evangelic love is more than love: it’s the gold, the flour of Christ’s
wheat, and of his finest love.
Song of Solomon 5:6: I rose up to open to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone, my soul passed away when he spake. There be two words here considerable, to prove how wounding are sins against the love of Christ. 1. My beloved hath withdrawn himself; the text is, and my beloved had turned about. Christ being unwilling to remove, and wholly go away, he only turned aside. This intimateth so much as Christ taketh not a direct journey to go away and leave his own children, only he goeth a little aside from the door of the soul, to testify he would gladly, with his soul, come in. Now what ingratitude is it to shut him violently away? 2. My soul was gone; the old version is, My soul melted, at his speaking, my soul passed over, or went away; to remember his ravishing words, it broke my life and made me die, that I remembered a world of love in him when he knocked, saying Open to me my sister, my love, my dove. To sin against so great a bond as grace must be the sin of sins, and amongst highest sins, as is clear in these that sin against the Holy Ghost. Then it must be impossible to give grace anything, we but pay our debts to grace; we cannot give the debt of grace to grace in the whole sum.
Sorrow for Sin
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” John 12:27-28.
It cannot then be a sin, intrinsically and of itself, to be troubled in soul, if Christ was under soul trouble, for sins imputed to him. Hence let me stay a little on these two: First, what a troubled conscience is, and secondly, what course the troubled in soul are to take in imitation of Christ. A soul troubled for sin must either be a soul feared and perplexed for the penal displeasure, wrath and indignation of God, or for the eternal punishment of sin; or, for sin as it faileth against the love of God, or for both. In any of these three respects it is no sin to be soul-troubled for sin, upon these conditions: (1.) That the soul be free of faithless doubting of God’s love. Now Christ was free of this. He could not but have a fixed, entire, and never-broken confidence of his Father’s eternal love. If we have any sin in our soul trouble for sin, it’s from unbelief, not from soul trouble; if there be mud and clay in the streams, it is from the banks, not from the fountain.
Or, (2.) If the soul fear the ill of punishment as the greatest ill, and as a greater than the ill of sin, there is more passion than sound light in the fear. This could not be in Christ. The aversion of the Lord’s heart from the party in whom there is sin, either by real inherence, or by free imputation, and the withdrawing of rays and irradiations, and of outflowings of divine love, is a high evil in a soul that hath anything of the nature of a son in him. Now there was as much of a son in Christ as a man’s nature could be capable of. And the more of God that was in Christ, as the fullness, the boundless infinite sea of the Godhead overflowed Christ over all the banks, then for Christ to be under a cloud in regard of the outbreathings of eternal love, was in a sort most violent to Christ, as if he had been torn from himself, and therefore it behooved to be an extreme soul trouble, Christ being deprived, in a manner, of himself, and of his soul’s only substantial delight and paradise. And this could not be a sin, but an act of gracious soul sorrow, that sin and hell intervened between the moon and the sun, the soul of Christ and his Lord.
The more of heaven in the soul, and the more of God, the want of God and of heaven is the greater hell. Suppose we that the whole light of the body of the sun were utterly extinct, and that the sun were turned in a body as dark as the outside of a caldron, that should be a greater loss, than if an half penny candle were deprived of light. Christ had more to lose than a world of millions of angels. Imagine a creature of as much angelic capacity as ten thousand times ten thousand thousand of angels, all contemperated in one. If this glorious angel were filled, according to his capacity, with the highest and most pure and refined glory of heaven, and again were immediately stripped naked of all this glory, and then plunged into the depth and heart of hell, and of a lake of more than hell’s ordinary temper, of fire and brimstone, or suppose God should add millions of degrees of more pure and unmixed wrath and curses, this angel’s soul must be more troubled than we can easily apprehend. Yet this is but a comparison below the thing. But the Lord Jesus, in whose person heaven in the highest degree was carried about with him, being thrown down from the top of so high a glory, to a sad and fearful condition, an agony and sweating of blood (God knows the cause), that shouting and tears of this low condition drew out that saddest complaint, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, his loss must be incomparably more than all we can say in these shadows.
This showeth the cause why there is not among troubles any so grievous as the want of the presence of God, to a soul fattened and feasted with the continual marrow and fatness of the Lord’s house. No such complaints read you, so bitter, so pathetic, and coming from deeper sense, than the want of the sense of Christ’s love. It’s broken bones and a dried-up body to David; it’s bitter weeping and crying, like the chattering of a crane, to Hezekiah; it’s more than strangling, and brings Job to pray he had been buried in the womb of his mother, or that he had never been born, or his mother had been always great with him. It is swooning, and the soul’s departure out of the body, sickness and death, to the spouse, Song of Solomon 5:6 and 8; it’s hell and distraction to Heman, Psalm 88:15. It is to Jeremiah the cursing of the messenger that brought tidings to his father that a man child was born, and a wishing that he never had being, nor life. It’s death to part the lover from the beloved, and the stronger love be, the death is the more death.
But in all that we yet have said, Christ’s greatest soul trouble as a Son (for that he was essentially) was in that his holy soul was saddened and made heavy even to death, for sin, as sin, and as contrary to his Father’s love. The elect sinned against the Lord, not looking to him as either Lord or Father; but Christ paid full dear for sin, eyeing God as Lord, as Father. We look neither to Lord, to law, nor to love, when we sin; Christ looked to all three, when he satisfied for sin. Christ did more than pay our debts; it was a sum above price that he gave for us. It is a great question, yea out of all question, if all mankind redeemed came near to the worth, to the goodly price given for us.
So according to the sense of any happiness, so must the soul trouble for the loss of that happiness be, in due proportion. First, as we love, so is sorrow for the loss of what we love. Jacob would not have mourned so for the loss of a servant as for his son Joseph. According to the fulness of the presence of the Godhead, so heavy was Christ’s loss under desertion. Now no man enjoying God could have a more lively and vigorous sense of the enjoyed Godhead, as Christ; so his apprehension and vision of God must have been strong. The union with the Godhead, and communion of fullness of grace from the womb, must add to his natural faculties a great edge of sense; his soul and the faculties thereof were never blunted with sin. The larger the vessel be, the fullness must be the greater: When Solomon’s heart was larger than the sand in the sea shore, and he was but a shadow of such a soul as was to dwell personally with the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Oh how capacious and wide must the heart of the true Solomon be? It being to contain many seas, and rivers of wisdom, love, joy, goodness, mercy, above millions of sands in millions of sea shores. What bowels of compassion and love, of meekness, gentleness, of free grace must be in him, since all thousands of elected souls sat in these bowels, and were in his heart, to die and live with him, and since in his heart was the love of God in the highest degree. God’s love must make a strong impression in the heart of Christ, and the stronger, purer and more vigorous that Christ’s intellectuals are, the deeper his holy thoughts and pure apprehensions were, and more steeled with fullness of grace, therefore his fruition, sense, joy, and love of God must be the more elevated above what angels and men are capable of.
Hence it must follow that Christ was plunged in an uncouth and new world of extreme sorrow, even to the death, when this strong love was eclipsed. Imagine that for one spring and summer season all the light, heat, motion, vigor, influence of life, should retire into the body of the sun and remain there, what darkness, deadness, withering, should be upon flowers, herbs, trees, mountains, valleys, beasts, birds, and all things living and moving on the earth? Then what wonder that Christ’s soul was extremely troubled, his blessed sun was now down, his spring and summer gone? His Father a forsaking God was a new world to him, and I shall not believe that his complaint came from any error of judgment, or mistakes, or ungrounded jealousies of the love of God. As his Father could not at any time hate him, so neither could he at this time let out the sweet fruits of his love; the cause of the former is the nature of God, as the ground of the latter is a dispensation above the capacity of the reason of men or angels. We may then conclude that Jesus Christ’s soul trouble, as it was rational and extremely penal, so also it was sinless and innocent. Seldom have we seen soul trouble sinless, but it is by accident of the way. For our passions can hardly rise in their extremity (except when God is their only object), but they go overscore. Yet soul trouble intrinsically is not a sin.
Then to be troubled for sin, though the person be fully persuaded of pardon, is neither sin, nor inconsistent with the state of a justified person. Nor is it any act of unbelief, as Antinomians falsely suppose. For (1.) to be in soul trouble for sin which cannot, to the perfect knowledge of the person troubled, eternally condemn, was in Jesus Christ, in whom there was no spot of sin. But Antinomians say, Sin remaining sin essentially, must have a condemnatory power. (2.) To abstain from sin as it offendeth against the love of God showing mercy, rather than the law of God inflicting wrath, is spiritual obedience. So also to be troubled in soul for sin committed by a justified person against so many sweet bonds of free love and grace is a sanctified and gracious sorrow and trouble of soul. (3.) To be troubled for sin, as offensive to our heavenly Father and against the sweetness of free grace and tender love, includeth no act of unbelief, nor that the justified and pardoned sinner thus troubled is not pardoned, or that he feareth eternal wrath (as Antinomians imagine), no more than a son’s grief of mind for offending a tender-hearted father can infer that this grief doth conclude this son under a condition of doubting of his state of sonship, or a fearing he be disinherited. (4.) Sanctified soul trouble is a filial commotion and agony of spirit, for trampling under feet tender love, spurning and kicking against the lovely warmness of the flowings of the blood of atonement. Such soul trouble is found in checks and love terrors or love fevers that Christ’s princely head was wet with the night rain while he was kept out of his own house, and suffered to lodge in the streets, and fear that the Beloved withdraw himself, and go seek his lodging elsewhere, as Song of Solomon 5:4-5, Psalm 5:9-10, and that the Lord cover himself with a cloud and return to his place, and the influence of the rays and beams of love be suspended. This soul trouble represents sweet expressions of filial bowels, and tenderness of love to Christ.
Libertines imagine that if the hazard and fear of hell be removed, there is no more place for fear, soul trouble, or confession. Therefore they teach that there is no assurance true and right, unless it be without fear and trembling; that to call in question whether God be my dear Father after, or upon, the commission of some heinous sins (as murder, incest, etc.) doth prove a man to be under the covenant of works; that a man must be so far from being troubled for sin that he must take no notice of his sin, nor of his repentance. Yea, Dr. Crisp saith, “There was no cause why Paul” (Romans 7) “should fear sin or a body of death, because in that place Paul doth” (saith he) “personate a scrupulous spirit, and doth not speak out of his own present case, but speaks in the person of another, yet a believer. And my reason is, Paul, in respect of his own person, what became of his sin was already resolved (Romans 8:1): There is now no condemnation, etc. He knew his sins were pardoned, and that they could not hurt him.”
Observe that Arminius, as also, of old, Pelagius, interpreted Romans 7 of a half renewed man, in whom sense, which inclines to venial sin, fights with reason, that so the full and perfectly renewed man might seem to be able to keep the law and be free of all mortal sin. So then there is no battle between the flesh and the Spirit in the justified man, by the Antinomian way to heaven. As the old Libertines in Calvin’s time said, The flesh does the sin, not the man, for the man is under no law, and so cannot sin. But that Paul, Romans 7, speaks in the person of a scrupulous and troubled conscience, not as it’s the common case of all the regenerate in whom sin dwells, is a foul and fleshly untruth. (1.) To be carnal in part, as (verse 14), to do that which we allow not, to do what we would not, and to do what we hate, is the common case, not peculiar to a troubled conscience only, but to all the saints, Galatians 5:17. (2.) Paul speaketh not of believing, as he must do if he speak only of a scrupulous and doubting conscience. But he speaketh of working (verse 15), doing (17-18), willing (15, 19). (3.) A scrupulous and troubled conscience will never grant, while he is in that doubting condition, that he does any good or that he belongs to God, as is clear, Psalm 88, 38, 77:1-4, etc. But Paul in this case granteth that he does good, hates evil, delights in the law of the Lord in the inner man, hath a desire to do good, hath a law in his mind that resisteth the motions of the flesh.
(4.) Yea, the apostle would have had no cause to fear the body of sin, or to judge himself wretched. This would be his unbelief, and there would be no ground of his fear, because he was pardoned. It would then be Paul’s sin, and the sinful scrupulosity of unbelief, to say, being once justified, “Sin dwells in me,” and “There is a law in my members, rebelling against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity unto the law of sin,” and “I am carnal, and sold under sin,” and “I do evil, even that which I hate.” For all these would be lies, and speeches of unbelief: the justified man sinneth not, his heart is clean, he doth nothing against a law. But I will remember that our divines, and particularly Chemnitius, Calvin, Beza, prove against Papists that concupiscence is sin after baptism, even in the regenerate, and it is called eleven or twelve times with the name of sin, Romans 6-8. So we may use all these arguments against Libertines to prove we are, even being justified, such as can sin, and do transgress the law. Therefore we ought to confess these sins, be troubled in conscience for them, complain and sigh in our fetters, though we know that we are justified and freed from the guilt of sin and the obligation to eternal wrath.
Sin is one thing, and the obligation to eternal wrath is another thing: Antinomians confound them and so mistake grossly the nature of sin, and of the law, and of justification. Some imprudently go so far on that they teach that believers are to be troubled in heart for nothing that befalls them, either in sin or in affliction. If their meaning were that they should not doubtingly, and from the principle of unbelief, call in question their once sealed justification, we should not oppose such a tenet. But their reasons do conclude that we should no more be shaken in mind with sin than with afflictions and the punishments of sin, and that, notwithstanding of the highest provocation we are guilty of, we are always to rejoice and to feast on the consolations of Christ. Their reasons are, (1.) “Because trouble for sin ariseth from ignorance or unbelief, when believers understand not the work of God for them, the Father’s everlasting decree about them, the Son’s union with them and headship to them, his merits and intercession, and the Holy Spirit’s inhabitation in them and his office toward them, to work all their works for them, till he make them meet for glory.” (2.) “Because such trouble is troublesome to God’s heart, as a friend’s trouble is to his friends. But especially, because the Spirit of bondage never returns again to the justified,” Romans 8:15.
But I crave to clear our doctrine touching soul trouble for sin in the justified person. Assertion 1. No doubting, no perplexity of unbelief, de jure, ought to perplex the soul once justified and pardoned. (1.) Because the patent and writs of an unchangeable purpose to save the elect, and the subscribed and resolved-upon act of atonement and free redemption in Christ, standeth uncanceled and firm, being once received by faith; the justified soul ought not so to be troubled for sin as to misjudge the Lord’s past work of saving grace. (2.) Because the believer, once justified, is to believe remission of sins, and a paid ransom. If now he should believe the writs, once signed, were canceled again, he were obliged to believe things contradictory. (3.) To believe that the Lord is changed, and off and on, in his free love and eternal purposes, is a great slandering of the Almighty. (4.) The church acknowledgeth such misjudging of God to be the soul’s infirmity, Psalm 77:10.
Assertion 2. (1.) Yet, de facto, David, a man according to God’s heart, fell in an old fever, a fit of the disease of the Spirit of bondage, Psalm 32:3-4: When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. So the church in Asaph’s words, Psalm 77:2, 7: My sore ran in the night, and ceased not. Will the Lord cast off for ever? Will he be merciful no more? Then faith and doubting both may as well be in a soul possessing the life of God, as health and sickness in one body, at sundry times. And it is no argument at all of no spiritual assurance, and of a soul under the law or covenant of works, to doubt; as sickness argueth life, no dead corpse is capable of sickness or blindness. These are infirmities that neighbor with life; thus doubting with sorrow, because the poor soul cannot, in that exigency, believe, is of kin to the life of God. The life of Jesus in the soul hath infirmities kindly to it, as some diseases are hereditary to such a family. (2.) The habit or state of unbelief is one thing, and doubtings and love jealousies is another thing. Our love to Christ is sickly, crazy, and full of jealousies and suspicions. Temptations make false reports of Christ, and we easily believe them. But jealousies argue love, and the strongest of loves, even marriage love. (3.) The morning dawning of light, is light; the first springing of the child in the belly, is a motion of life; the least warmings of Christ’s breathings, is the heart of life. When the pulse of Christ new-framed in the soul moveth most weakly, the new birth is not dead; the very swoonings of the love of Christ cannot be incident to a buried man.
(4.) The disciples’ prayer, Lord increase our faith, Christ’s praying that the faith of the saints, when they are winnowed, may not fail, and the exhortation to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, prove the saint’s faith may be at a stand, and may stagger and slide. (5) The various condition of the saints, now it’s full moon, again no moonlight at all, but a dark eclipse, evidenceth this truth. The believer hath flowings of strong acts of faith, joy, and love, supernatural passions of grace arising to an high springtide, above the banks and ordinary coasts, and again a low-ground ebb. The condition in ebbings and flowings, in full manifestations and divine raptures of another world, when the wind bloweth right from heaven, and the breath of Jesus Christ’s mouth, and of sad absence, runneth through the Song of Solomon, the book of the Psalms, the book of Job, as threads through a web of silk, and veins that are the strings and spouts carrying blood through all the body, less or more.
Assertion 3. The justified soul, once pardoned, receiveth never the spirit of bondage, to fear again eternal wrath. That is, this spirit in the intention of the habit such as was at the first conversion, when there was not a grain of faith, doth never return, nor is it consistent with the Spirit of adoption. Yet happily it may be a question, if a convert brought in with much sweetness and quietness of spirit, if he fall in some heinous sin like the adultery and murder by David, have not greater vexation of spirit than at his first conversion, but more supernatural.
But yet this must stand as a condemned error, which Libertines do hold, “that frequency or length of holy duties, or trouble of conscience for neglect thereof, are all signs of one under a covenant of works.” This is but a turning of faith into wantonness, whereas faith, of all graces, moveth with lowest sails. For faith is not a lofty and crying, but a soft-moving and humble, grace. For then David’s being moved, and his heart smiting him, at the rending of King Saul’s garment, should be under a covenant of works, and so not a man according to God’s own heart, for a smitten heart is a troubled soul. And then David ought not to have been troubled in soul for sin, for his sins were then pardoned; nor could the Spirit of the Lord so highly commend Josiah’s heart-melting trouble at the reading and hearing of the law, nor Christ own the tears and soul trouble of the woman, as coming from no other spring but much love to Christ, because many sins were pardoned.
Nor can it be said that we are to be less troubled for sin than the saints of old were, because our justification is more perfect, and the blood of Christ had less power to purge the conscience and to satisfy the demands of the law before it was shed, than now. Indeed, the law was a severer pedagogue to awe the saints, then in regard of the outward dispensation of ceremonies and legal strictness, keeping men as malefactors in close prison till Christ should come. But imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and blessedness in the pardon of sin, and so freedom from soul trouble for eternal wrath, and the law’s demanding the conscience to pay what debts none were able to pay but the surety only, was one and the same to them and to us. Who dare say that the believing Jews died under the curse of the law, Deuteronomy 27:26? For so they must perish eternally, Galatians 3:10. Then there must be none redeemed under the Old Testament, nor any justified, contrary to express Scriptures. As they were blessed, in that their transgression was forgiven, and their sin covered, and that the Lord imputed no iniquity to them, our blessedness is the same, and Christ as he was made a curse for them, so for us. David, Abraham, and all the fathers under the law, were justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith, as we are, Romans 4:23. Then the law could crave them no harder than us, and they were no more justified by works than we are. The law did urge the Jews harder than us (1.) in regard of the Mosaical burden of ceremonies and bloody sacrifices, that pointed out their guiltiness, except they should flee to Christ, (2.) in regard of God’s dispensation of the severer punishing of law transgression, and that with temporary punishments, and rewarding obedience with external prosperity, and (3.) in urging this doctrine more hardly upon the people to cause them not rest on the letter of the law, but seek to the promised Messiah, in whom only was their righteousness: as young heirs and minors are kept under tutors while their nonage expire. But who dare say that the saints under the Old Testament were to trust to the merit of their own works, or seek righteousness in themselves, more than we? Yea, they believing in the Messiah to come, were no more under the law and the dominion of sin, than we are, but under grace, and pardoned, and saved by faith, as we are.
Josiah’s tenderness of heart, David’s smiting of heart, the woman’s weeping, even to the washing of Christ’s feet with tears, Peter’s weeping bitterly for the denying of his Lord: these woundings were gospel affections, and commotions of love issuing from the Spirit of adoption, of love, grace, and nothing but the turtle dove’s love sorrow. These soul commotions were not, as Antinomians imagine, from “demands of law to pay what justice may demand of the self-condemned sinner”; such an obligation to eternal wrath is no chain which can tie the sons of adoption, who are washed, justified, pardoned. And yet if the justified and pardoned say they have no sin, and so no reason to complain under their fetters, and to sigh as captives in prison, as Paul doth, Romans 7:24, nor cause to mourn for indwelling of sin, they are liars and strangers to their own heart, and do sleep in deep security, as if sin were so fully removed both in guilt and blot, as if tears for sin as sin should argue the mourning party to be in the condition of those who weep in hell, or that they were no more obliged to weep, but only to exercise joy, comfort, and perpetuated acts of solace and rejoicing, as if Christ had, in the threshold of glory, already with his own hand wiped all tears from their eyes.
Saltmarsh saith in a dangerous medicine for wounded souls, “Where there is no law,” (as there is none in or over the justified soul) “there is no transgression, and where there is no transgression, there is no trouble for sin, all trouble arising from the obligement of the law, which demandeth a satisfaction of the soul for the breach of it, and such satisfaction as the soul knows it cannot give, and thereby remains unquiet, like a debtor that hath nothing to pay, and the law, too, being naturally in the soul, as the apostle saith, the conscience accusing or else excusing. It is no marvel that such souls should be troubled for sin and unpacified, the law having such a party and engagement already within them, which must needs work strongly upon the spirits of such as are but faintly and weakly enlightened, and not furnished with gospel enough to answer the indictments, the convictions, the terrors, the curses which the law brings.”
I can see no reason why any should affirm that “the law is naturally as a party in the soul,” either of the regenerate and justified, or of those who are out of Christ. (1.) For the law’s engaging, by accusing and condemning, is not naturally in any son of Adam, because there is a sleeping conscience, both dumb and silent, naturally in the soul. And if there be any challenging and accusing in the Gentile conscience, Romans 2, as stirring is opposed to a silent and dumb conscience that speaketh nothing, so the law-accusing is not naturally in the soul. A spirit above nature (I do not mean the Spirit of regeneration) must work with the law, else both the law and sin lie dead in the soul. The very law of nature lieth as a dead letter, and stirreth not, except some wind blow more or less on the soul, Romans 7:8-9. (2.) That the law wakeneth any sinner, and maketh the drunken and mad sinner see himself in the sea, and sailing down the river to the chambers of death, that he may but be occasioned to cast an eye on shore, on Jesus Christ, and wish a landing on Christ, is a mercy that no man can father on nature, or on himself. (3.) All sense of a sinful condition, to any purpose, is a work above nature, though it be not ever a fruit of regeneration. (4.) It’s true, “Christ teacheth a man’s soul, through the shining of gospel light, to answer all the indictments of the law, in regard that Christ the Ransomer stops the law’s mouth with blood,” else the sinner can make but a poor and faint advocation for himself. Yet this cannot be made in the conscience without some soul trouble for sin.
Another Antinomian saith, “God’s people need more joys after sins than after afflictions, because they are more cast down by them. And therefore God useth sins as means by which he leads in his joys, in this world; and also in the world to come, their sins shall yield them great joys. Indeed, in some respects they shall joy most at the last day who have sinned least; but in other respects, they have most joy who have sinned most.” It’s strange that God’s people “need more joy after sin than after affliction,” and that in “some respect they have most joy who have sinned most.” Sure, this is accidental to sin: this joy is not for sin, but it’s a joy of loving much because much is forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of free grace; sin is no work of grace. Sin grieves the heart of God, “as a friend’s trouble is trouble to a friend.” The believer is made the friend of God, John 15:15, and it must be cursed joy that lay in the womb of that which is most against the heart of Christ, such as all sin is. Yea, to be more troubled in soul for sins than for afflictions smelleth of a heart that keeps correspondence with the heart and bowels of Christ, who wept more for Jerusalem’s sins than for his own afflictions and cross. There is no rational way to raise and heighten the price and worth of the soul-Redeemer of sinners, and the weight of infinite love, so much as to make the sinner know how deep a hell he was plunged in, when the bone acheth exceedingly. For that the gospel tongue of the Physician Christ should lick the rotten blood of the soul’s wound, speaketh more than imaginable free love. Nor do we say that gospel mourning is wrought by the law’s threatenings; then it were servile sorrow. But it’s wrought by the doctrine of the law discovering the foulness and sinfulness of sin, and by the doctrine of the gospel, the spirit of the gospel shining in both; otherwise, sounds, breathings, letters of either law or gospel, except the breathings of heaven shine on them and animate them, can do no good.
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Christian Directions by Rev. Samuel Rutherford
- That hours of the day, less or more time, for the Word and prayer, be given to God; not sparing the twelfth hour, or mid-day, howbeit it should then be the shorter time.
- In the midst of worldly employments, there should be some thoughts of sin, death, judgment, and eternity, with at least a word or two of ejaculatory prayer to God.
- To beware of wandering of heart in private prayer.
- Not to grudge if ye come from prayer without sense of joy. Downcasting, sense of guiltiness, and hunger, are often best for us.
- That the Lord’s Day, from morning to night, be spent always either in private or public worship.
- That words be observed, wandering and idle thoughts be avoided, sudden anger and desire of revenge, even of such as persecute the truth, be guarded against; for we often mix our zeal with our wild-fire.
- That known, discovered, and revealed sins, that are against the conscience, be avoided, as most dangerous preparatives to hardness of heart.
- That in dealing with men, faith and truth in covenants and trafficking be regarded, that we deal with all men in sincerity; that conscience be made of idle and lying words; and that our carriage be such, as that they who see it may speak honourably of our sweet Master and profession.