It is strange what comfort can be gained from reading other people’s letters! Certainly this is true of many books of the Bible, and it is also true of much correspondence from one Christian to another.
The Letters of Samuel Rutherford are justly celebrated as a rich devotional feast. Much of their value comes from the suffering circumstances which Rutherford endured, and in which many of the letters were penned. The fire of affliction is behind much of the tone of these letters.
Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who lived through the tumultuous period of the abolition of the British Monarchy, the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, the Westminster Assembly, and finally the restoration of the monarchy. He was banished to Aberdeen and forbidden to preach in 1636, and restored in 1638. When Charles II was restored, Rutherford was charged with treason, but died before his trial.
A typical collection of his letters includes a variety of persons addressed: parishioners, fellow ministers, nobles, countesses and a few unknowns. His letters sing of the sufficiency of Christ, and of the need to seek Him and adore him. Themes of assurance, suffering, pastoral concern, prayer, experiential knowledge of Christ, holiness and deep repentance are found throughout.
What makes these letters more than the average Puritan fare, is the ardent tone with which Rutherford speaks of Christ. He longs for Christ when he seems absent, and seems to sing of Christ’s sweetness in others. The letters are instructive, pastoral, and sometimes even painfully corrective. Yet they seldom fail to be acts of adoration for Christ. For this reason, Rutherford’s Letters have come to be considered gems of devotion.