4. Lastly, in the closing sentences of this inexhaustible letter, Rutherford says to his waiting and attentive correspondent: ’Growth in grace, sir, should be cared for by you above all other things.’ And so it should. Literally and absolutely above all other things. Above good health, above good name, above wealth, and station, and honour. These things, take them all together, if need be, are to be counted loss in order to gain growth in grace. But what is growth in grace? It is growth in everything that is truly good; but Fleming, as he read his Directory daily, would always think of growth in grace as the right improvement of his remaining time, and, especially, its religious use and dedication to God; as also of the government of his own untamed tongue; the extinction of the desire for revenge, and of all delight in the injury of his enemies; and, above all, and including all, in making God his chief end in all that he did. How all-important, then, is a sound and Scriptural Directory to instruct us how we are to grow in grace. And how precious must that directory-letter have been to a man in dead earnest like John Fleming. It was precious to his heart, you may be sure, above all his ships, and all his woodyards, and all his fine houses, and all his seats of honour. And if his growth in grace in Leith has now become full-grown glory in Heaven, how does he there bless God to-day that ever he met with Samuel Rutherford in old John Maine’s shop in his youth, and had him for a friend and a director all his after-days. And when John Fleming at the table above forgets not all His benefits, high up, you may be very sure, among them all he never forgets to put Samuel Rutherford’s letters; and, more especially, this very directory-letter we have read here for our own direction and growth in grace this Communion-Sabbath night.
XXIV. THE PARISHIONERS OF KILMACOLM
’For want of time I have put you all in one letter.’—Rutherford.
There is a well-known passage in Lycidas that exactly describes the religious condition of the parish of Kilmacolm in the year 1639. For the shepherd of that unhappy sheepfold also had climbed up some other way before he knew how to hold a sheephook, till, week after week, the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed. The parishioners of Kilmacolm must have been fed to some purpose at one time, for the two letters they write to Rutherford in their present starvation bear abundant witness on every page to the splendid preaching and the skilful pastorate that this parish must at one time have enjoyed. There must have been men of no common ability, as well as of no common profundity of spiritual life in Kilmacolm during those trying years, for the letters they wrote to Rutherford would have done credit to any of Rutherford’s ablest and best correspondents—to William Guthrie, or David Dickson, or Robert Blair,