Lady Culross’s name will always be held in tender honour in the innermost circles of our best Scottish Christians, for the hand she had in that wonderful outpouring of God’s grace at the kirk of Shotts on that Thanksgiving Monday in 1636. Under God, that Covenanters’ Pentecost was more due to Lady Culross than to any other human being. True, John Livingstone preached the Thanksgiving Sermon, but it was through Lady Culross’s influence that he was got to preach it; and he preached it after a night of prayer spent by Lady Culross and her companions, such that we read of next day’s sermon and its success as a matter of course. I cannot venture to tell a heterogeneous audience the history of that night they spent at Shotts with God. It is so unlike what we have ever seen or heard of. There may be one or two of us here who have spent whole nights in prayer at some crisis in our life, going from one promise to another, when, in the Psalmist’s words, the sorrows of death compassed us, and the pains of hell gat hold upon us. And we, one or two of us, may have had miracles from heaven forthwith performed upon us, fit to match in a private way with the hand of God on the kirk of Shotts. But even those of us who have such secrets between us and God, we, I fear, never spent a whole Communion night, never shutting our eyes but to pray for a baptism of spiritual blessing upon to-morrow’s congregation. What a mother in Israel was Lady Culross, with five hundred children born of her travail in one day!
I have not found any of Lady Culross’s letters to Samuel Rutherford, but John Livingstone’s literary executors have published some eight letters she wrote to Livingstone, her close and lifelong friend. And Lady Culross’s first letter to John Livingstone is in every point of view, a remarkable piece. It has a strength, an irony, and a tenderness in it that at once tell the reader that he is in the hands of a very remarkable writer. But it is not Lady Culross’s literature that so much interests us and holds us, it is her religion; and it is its depth, its intensity, and the way it grows in winter. After a long and racy introduction, sometimes difficult to decipher, from its Fife idioms and obsolete spelling, she goes on thus: ’Did you get any heart to remember me and my bonds? As for me, I never found so great impediment within. Still, it is the Lord with whom we have to do, and He gives and takes, casts down and raises up, kills and makes alive as pleases His Majesty. . . . My task at home is augmented and tripled, and yet I fear worse. Sin in me and in mine is my greatest cross. I would, if it were the Lord’s will, choose affliction rather than iniquity.—Yours in C., E. MELVIL.’
It was now winter with John Livingstone. The persecution had overtaken him, and this is how her ladyship writes to him:—