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Rutherford on Providence

Rutherford on Providence

One practice that I learned to value while going through cancer treatment was a regular, systematic reading of Scripture each day. This was something I had had problems with in the past – not so much reading the Bible, but the regular, daily reading. I had been rather haphazard and random before.

Along with that also came other daily reading, especially from the Puritans. And one book has been very helpful over the last year, especially – Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing. Mr. Rushing has compiled short, daily readings from a variety of Puritan writers that always seem to have a timely message. The one for today, September 28, is from Samuel Rutherford, and is particularly pertinent for me, going through the challenges of the last few months. Here it is:

My Father is the vine-dresser… Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. – John 15: 1,2

The great Master Gardener in his wonderful providence has planted me in this part of his vineyard by his grace, and here I grow and abide till the great Master of the vineyard thinks it fit to transplant me. Give him leave to take his own way of dispensations with you. His people must be content with what he carves out for them. Christ and his followers suffered before they reached the top of the mountain, but our soft nature desires heaven with ease. All who have gone before have found sharp storms that took the hide off their face, and many enemies in the way. His ways are far above me, with windings we cannot see. Obstacles are written in the Lord’s book by his wise and unerring providence. We see only the outside of things. It is a well-spent journey to crawl hands and feet to enjoy him at the well-head. Let us not be weary; we are closer than when we first believed. Do not focus your thoughts among the confused wheels of secondary causes, as – ‘O if this had been, this had not followed!’ Look up to the master motion of the first wheel. In building, we see hewn stones and timbers under hammers and axes, yet the house in its beauty we do not see at the present, but it is in the mind of the builder. We also see unbroken clods, furrows, and stones, but we do not see the summer lilies, roses, and the beauty of a garden. Even so we do not presently see the outcome of God’s decrees with his blessed purpose. It is hard to believe when his purposes is hidden and under the ground. Providence has a thousand keys to deliver his own even when all hope is gone. Let us be faithful and care for our own part, which is to do and suffer for him, and lay Christ’s part on himself, and leave it there; duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.

– Samuel Rutherford

John Owen on mortification of sin

John Owen on mortification of sin

The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.

The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work.

Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.

There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.

The contest is for our lives and souls. Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin, is to neglect that excellent succour which God hath given us against our greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who hath furnished us with a principle of doing it.

Where sin, through the neglect of mortification, gets a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul, Ps. xxxi. 10, li. 8, and makes a man weak, sick, and ready to die, Ps. xxxviii. 3-5, so that he cannot look up, Ps. xl. 12, Isa. xxxiii. 24; and when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse up themselves to a vigorous opposition, can they expect any thing but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death? 2 John 8. Indeed, it is a sad thing to consider the fearful issues of this neglect, which lie under our eyes every day.

Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who doth not kill sin in this way takes no steps towards his journey’s end.

The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. When a man hath confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade.

– From Volume 6 of Owen’s Works