’I would not live alway, thus
fettered with sin,
Temptation without and corruption within;
In a moment of strength, if I sever the chain,
Scarce the victory is mine ere I’m captive again;
E’en the rapture of pardon is mingled with fears,
And the cup of thanksgiving with penitent tears;
The festival trump calls for jubilant songs,
But my spirit her own miserere prolongs.
’Who, who would live always
away from his God!
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode
Where the rivers of pleasures flow o’er the bright plains,
And the noon-tide of glory eternally reigns;
Where the saints of all ages in harmony meet,
Their Saviour and brethren transported to greet;
While the songs of salvation exultingly roll,
And the love of the Lord is the bliss of the soul.’
’Sin poisons all our enjoyments.’—Rutherford.
Jean Brown was one of the selectest associates of the famous Rutherford circle. We do not know so much of Jean Brown outside of the Rutherford Letters as we would like to know, but her son, John Brown of Wamphray, is very well known to every student of the theology and ecclesiastical history of Scotland in the second half of the seventeenth century. ’I rejoice to hear about your son John. I had always a great love to dear John Brown. Remember my love to John Brown. I never could get my love off that man.’ And all Rutherford’s esteem and affection for Jean Brown’s gifted and amiable son was fully justified in the subsequent history of the hard-working and well-persecuted parish minister of Wamphray. Letter 84 is a very remarkable piece of writing even in Rutherford, and the readers of this letter would gladly learn more than even its eloquent pages tell them about the woman who could draw such a letter out of Samuel Rutherford’s mind and heart, the woman who was also the honoured mother of such a student and such a minister as John Brown of Wamphray. This letter has a bite in it—to use one of Rutherford’s own words in the course of it—all its own. And it is just that profound and pungent element in this letter, that bite in it, that has led me to take this remarkable letter for my topic to-night.
There had been some sin in Samuel Rutherford’s student days, or some stumble sufficiently of the nature of sin, to secretly poison the whole of his subsequent life. Sin is such a poisonous thing that even a mustard-seed of it planted in a man’s youth will sometimes spring up into a thicket of terrible trouble both to himself and to many other people all his and all their days. An almost invisible drop of sin let fall into the wellhead of life will sometimes poison the whole broad stream of life, as well as all the houses and fields and gardens, with all their flowers and fruits, that are watered out of it.