The puritan Richard Baxter once said of Samuel Rutherford’s letters, “Hold off the Bible; such a book the world never saw.” While I would never say that person should put down the Bible to read any other book, the letters of Rutherford are a rare jewel that give us a glimpse into a pure and undefiled love for Christ. The Loveliness of Christ is an edited version of Rutherford’s letters that pick out the most poignant and memorable quotations from his larger works. Rutherford’s letters are ideal for Christians who want to grow in their devotion and piety to Christ. While Rutherford’s language is a relic of the past, the book contains a glossary of terms in the back to help readers who are unfamiliar with 17th-century English.
The common theme which unites all of Rutherford’s sayings is the “sweetness of Christ.” Lasting satisfaction for our souls can only be found in him because he is the one for whom we are made. Those who will not love Christ will be miserable in the end. Christ gives to his children trials and great suffering to wean them from the world and enhance their devotion him. Rutherford teaches us that each of us must bear a cross if we want to enter heaven. That means our trials are foreordained by God for our good and sanctification. God’s providence gives us the confidence we need to live without fear because all that can harm us will only make us more like Christ. Each suffering we experience only draws us closer to heaven. As Rutherford says, “suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” God gives us trials so that we will long for heaven: “If contentment were here, heaven were not heaven.” I love how he uses the impassibility of God to comfort those who suffer: “His winds turn not when he seemeth to change, it is but we who turn our wrong side to him.” Because God does not change, that gives us confidence even when we fall into sin because he will not leave us. Our lack of joy and love for Christ is caused by our lack of submission to him: “I see Christ’s love is so kingly, that it will not abide a comparison: it must have a throne all alone in the soul.” The Loveliness of Christ is essential reading for anyone who wants to be a student of the Puritans.