’Soon shall the cup of glory
Wash down earth’s bitterest woes,
Soon shall the desert briar
Break into Eden’s Rose:
I stand upon His merit,
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.’
Bailie John Kennedy, of Ayr, was the remarkable son of a remarkable father. Old Hugh Kennedy’s death-bed was for long a glorious tradition among the godly in the West of Scotland. The old saint was visited in his last hours on earth with a joy that was unspeakable and full of glory: the mere report of it made an immense impression both on the Church and the world. And his son John, who stood entranced beside his father’s chariot of fire, never forgot the transporting sight. He did not need Rutherford’s warning never to forget his father’s example and his father’s end. For John Kennedy was a ‘choice Christian,’ as a well-known writer of that day calls him. And he was not alone. There were many choice Christians in that day in Scotland. Were there ever more, for its size, in any land or in any church on the face of the earth? I do not believe there ever were. Next to that favoured land that produced the Psalmists and the Prophets, I know no land that, for its numbers, possessed so many men and women of a profoundly spiritual experience, and of an adoring and heavenly mind, as Scotland possessed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Wodrow volumes should be studied throughout by every lover of his church and his country, and especially by every student of divinity and church history.
But we need go no further than Samuel Rutherford’s letter-bag; for, when we open it, what rich treasures of the religious life pour out of it! What minds and what hearts those men and women had! And how they gave up their whole mind and heart to the life of godliness in the land, and to the life of God in their own hearts! How thin and poor our religious life appears beside theirs! What minister in Scotland to-day could write such letters? And to whom could he address them after they were written? Was it the persecution? Was it the new reformation doctrines? Was it the masculine and Pauline preaching: preaching, say, like Robert Bruce’s and Rutherford’s that did it? What was it that raised up in Scotland such a crop of ripe and rich saints? Who are these, and whence came they?
Rutherford was always on the outlook for opportunities to employ his private pen for the conversion of sinners, and for the comfort, the upbuilding, and the holiness of God’s people. From his manse at Anwoth, from his prison at Aberdeen, from his class-room at St. Andrews, and from the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster, his letter-bag went out full of those messages, so warm, so tender, so powerful, to his multitudinous correspondents. Public events, domestic joys and sorrows, personal matters, special providences,—to turn them all to a good result Rutherford was always on the watch.