The Loveliness of Christ
When my father passed away five months ago, a dear friend gave my mother, myself, and each of my brothers a copy of a tiny little leather-bound book The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. Soon afterwards, looking for a devotional book to use in our family's morning devotions, I picked it up and we began to read through it together.
While at times the antiquated language structure and word-usage can be difficult (there is a glossary of difficult words in the back of the book that we did not discover until we finished the book), the small effort of either passing over difficult passages or looking up words with an online dictionary is well worth the rich insights and meditations gleaned from this Puritan pastor's heart-words. The book is a collection of excerpts from various letters from Samuel Rutherford, most of which deal directly with suffering and what our perspective as Christians ought to be when it rears its frightening head in each of our lives. As the title of the book suggests, Rutherford's solution is always to raise our eyes to Christ and His cross.
Sinclair Ferguson writes, in the foreword to the book, “Surprising though it may seem in a world of large books, of all those owned by our family this may be the one we have most often lent or quoted to friends. It is full of rich spiritual wisdom and insight culled from the experience of a man who knew both the sorrows of life and the joys of faith in great abundance.” I suppose this is what struck me the most about Rutherford's writings -- it is clear that this is one suffering saint (e.g. having lost both of his own children, one letter is to a woman who has recently lost one of hers) who is writing from Scripture and from personal experience of its veracity and glory in his life.
Because of the excerpt format of the book, it is impossible to outline its contents in any systematic way. So perhaps the best way to review it for you is to share some particularly poignant passages, which I found especially striking and helpful, in the hopes that it will effectively whet your appetite to read the rest for yourself:
- "My shallow and ebb thoughts are not the compass Christ saileth by."
- "If ye were not strangers here, the dogs of the world would not bark at you."
- “I wonder many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what their Lord is preparing for them.”
- “Glorify the Lord in your sufferings, and take his banner of love, and spread it over you. Others will follow you, if they see you strong in the Lord; their courage shall take life from your Christian carriage.”
- “The floods may swell and roar but our ark shall swim above the waters; it cannot sink, because a Savior is in it.”
- "If there were ten thousand, thousand millions of worlds, and as many heavens full of men and angels, Christ would not be pinched to supply all our wants, and to fill us all."
- "Now would to God, all cold-blooded, faint-hearted soldiers of Christ would look again to Jesus and to his love; and when they look, I would have them to look again and again, and fill themselves with beholding of Christ’s beauty..."