XXII — To John Kennedy.
My Loving and Most Affectionate Brother in Christ,—I salute you with grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
I promised to write to you, and although late enough, yet I now make it good. I heard with grief of your great danger of perishing by the sea, and of your merciful deliverance with joy. Sure I am, brother, that Satan will leave no stone unrolled, as the proverb is, to roll you off your Rock, or at least to shake and unsettle you: for at that same time the mouths of wicked men were opened in hard speeches against you, by land, and the prince of the power of the air was angry with you by sea. See then how much ye are obliged to that malicious murderer, who would beat you with two rods at one time; but, blessed be God, his arm is short; if the sea and wind would have obeyed him, ye had never come to land. Thank your God, who saith, “I have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. i. 18); “I kill, and I make alive” (Deut. xxxii. 39); “The Lord bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up” (1 Sam. ii. 6). If Satan were jailor, and had the keys of death and of the grave, they should be stored with more prisoners. Ye were knocking at these black gates, and ye found the doors shut; and we do all welcome you back again.
I trust that ye know that it is not for nothing that ye are sent to us again. The Lord knew that ye had forgotten something that was necessary for your journey; that your armour was not as yet thick enough against the stroke of death. Now, in the strength of Jesus despatch your business; that debt is not forgiven, but fristed: death hath not bidden you farewell, but hath only left you for a short season. End your journey ere the night come upon you. Have all in readiness against the time that ye must sail through that black and impetuous Jordan; and Jesus, Jesus, who knoweth both those depths and the rocks, and all the coasts, be your pilot. The last tide will not wait you for one moment. If ye forget anything, when your sea is full, and your foot in that ship, there is no returning again to fetch it. What ye do amiss in your life to-day, ye may amend it to-morrow; for as many suns as God maketh to arise upon you, ye have as many new lives; but ye can die but once, and if ye mar or spill that business, ye cannot come back to mend that piece of work again. No man sinneth twice in dying ill; as we die but once, so we die but ill or well once. You see how the number of your months is written in God’s book; and as one of the Lord’s hirelings, ye must work till the shadow of the evening come upon you, and ye shall run out your glass even to the last pickle of sand. Fulfil your course with joy, for we take nothing to the grave with us, but a good or evil conscience. And, although the sky clear after this storm, yet clouds will engender an-other.
Ye contracted with Christ, I hope, when first ye began to follow Him, that ye would bear His cross. Fulfil your part of the contract with patience, and break not to Jesus Christ. Be honest, brother, in your bargaining with Him; for who knoweth better how to bring up children than our God? For (to lay aside His knowledge, of the which there is no finding out) He hath been practised in bringing up His heirs these five thousand years; and His bairns are all well brought up, and many of them are honest men now at home, up in their own house in heaven, and are entered heirs to their Father’s inheritance. Now, the form of His bringing up was by chastisements, scourging, correcting, nurturing; and see if He maketh exception of any of His bairns: no, His eldest Son and His Heir, Jesus, is not excepted (Rev. iii. 19; Heb. xii. 7, 8, and ii. 10). Suffer we must; ere we were born, God decreed it; and it is easier to complain of His decree than to change it. It is true, terrors of conscience cast us down; and yet without terrors of conscience we cannot be raised up again: fears and doubtings shake us; and yet without fears and doubtings we would soon sleep, and lose our grips of Christ. Tribulation and temptations will almost loosen us to the root; and yet, without tribulations and temptations, we can now no more grow than herbs or corn without rain. Sin, and Satan, and the world will say, and cry in our ear, that we have a hard reckoning to make in judgment; and yet none of these three, except they lie, dare say in our face that our sin can change the tenor of the new covenant. Forward, then, dear brother, and lose not your grips. Hold fast the truth: for the world, sell not one dram-weight of God’s truth, especially now, when most men measure truth by time, like young seamen setting their compass by a cloud; for now time is father and mother to truth, in the thoughts and practices of our evil time. The God of truth establish us; for, alas! now there are none to comfort the prisoners of hope, and the mourners in Zion. We can do little, except pray and mourn for Joseph in the stocks. And let their tongue cleave to the roof of their mouth who forget Jerusalem now in her day; and the Lord remember Edom, and render to him as he hath done to us.
Now, brother, I shall not weary you; but I entreat you to remember my dearest love to Mr. David Dickson, with whom I have small acquaintance; yet I bless the Lord, I know that he both prayeth and doeth for our dying kirk. Remember my dearest love to John Stuart, whom I love in Christ; and show him from me that I do always remember him, and hope for a meeting. The Lord Jesus establish him more and more, though he be already a strong man in Christ. Remember my heartiest affection in Christ to William Rodger, 1 whom I also remember to God. I wish that the first news I hear of him and you, and all that love our common Saviour in those bounds, may be, that they are so knit and linked, and kindly fastened in love with the Son of God, that ye may say, “Now if ye would ever so fain escape out of Christ’s hands, yet love hath so bound us, that we cannot get our hands free again; He hath so ravished our hearts, that there is no loosening of His grips; the chains of His soul-ravishing love are so strong, that neither the grave nor death will break them.” I hope, brother, yea I doubt not of it, that ye lay me, and my first entry to the Lord’s vineyard, and my flock, before Him who hath put me into His work. As the Lord knoweth, since first I saw you, I have been mindful of you. Marion M‘Naught doth remember most heartily her love to you, and to John Stuart. 2 Blessed be the Lord! that in God’s mercy I found in this country such a woman, to whom Jesus is dearer than her own heart, when there be so many that cast Christ over their shoulder. Good brother, call to mind the memory of your worthy father, now asleep in Christ; and, as his custom was, pray continually, and wrestle, for the life of a dying, breathless kirk. And desire John Stuart not to forget poor Zion; she hath few friends, and few to speak one good word for her.
Now I commend you, your whole soul, and body, and spirit, to Jesus Christ and His keeping, hoping that ye will live and die, stand and fall, with the cause of our Master, Jesus. The Lord Jesus Himself be with your spirit.
Your loving brother in our Lord Jesus,
Anwoth, Feb. 2, 1632.
1 Livingstone in his “Memor. Characteristics” mentions this godly man, a merchant in Ayr.
2 See Letter CLXI.