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The Marks of Saving Faith
Rutherford's warning to "lazy professors"
In his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, C.S. Lewis famously noted the value of reading old books: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”1 This being the case (and, frankly, because time has gotten away from me this week), I thought for this week’s post that it might be useful to use an excerpt from the letters of Samuel Rutherford. There is a rich Christian heritage that exists in the Puritans, and Rutherford is one of its wellsprings. Enjoy.
31/To John Clark,
Hold fast Christ without wavering, and contend for the faith, because Christ is not easily gotten nor kept. The lazy professor hath put heaven as it were at the very next door and thinketh to fly up to heaven in his bed, and in a night-dream. But truly, that is not so easy a thing as most men believe. Christ himself did sweat ere he won this city, howbeit he was the freeborn heir. It is Christianity, my heart, to be sincere, unfeigned honest, and upright-hearted before God, and to live and serve God, suppose there was not one man nor woman in all the world dwelling beside you, to eye you. Any little grace that you have, see that it be sound and true.
You may put a difference betwixt you and reprobates, if you have these marks:
If ye prize Christ and his truth so as you will sell all and buy him, and suffer for it.
If the love of Christ keepeth you back from sinning, more than the law, or fear of hell.
If you be humble and deny your own will, wit, credit, ease, honour, the world, and the vanity and glory of it.
Your profession must not be barren and void of good works.
You must in all things aim at God’s honour. You must eat, drink, sleep, buy, sell, sit, stand, speak, pray, read, and hear the Word, with a heart-purpose that God may be honoured.
You must show yourself an enemy to sin, and reprove the works of darkness, such as drunkenness, swearing, and lying, albeit the company should hate you for so doing.
Keep in mind the truth of God that you heard me teach, and have nothing to do with the corruptions and new guises entering into the house of God.
Make conscience of your calling, in covenants, in buying and selling.
Acquaint yourself with daily praying; commit all your ways and actions to God by prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. And count not much of being mocked, for Christ Jesus was mocked for you.
Persuade yourself that this is the way of peace and comfort which I now suffer for. I dare go to death and into eternity with it, though men may possibly see another way. Remember me in your prayers, and the state of this oppressed church. Grace be with you.2
C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 12.
Samuel Rutherford, Letters of Samuel Rutherford (East Peoria, IL: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2020), 83–84.