Christopher and Mary Love

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It is inspiring to hear or read of godly women in the faith, including those from centuries past.  One such woman in my reading is Mary Love, the wife of the great 17th century Puritan preacher Christopher Love.

Christopher Love’s life was cut short at the age of 33 when he was executed (beheaded) in 1651 for alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell, then the Lord Protector of England.  His wife was eight months pregnant with their fifth child, the third to live, at the time of his execution.

Love used the scaffold as a final pulpit to preach his last sermon and pray for his accusers.  These were among his last words: “There is but two steps between me and glory.  It is but lying down upon the block that I shall ascend upon a throne.  I am exchanging a pulpit for a scaffold and a scaffold for a throne.  I am exchanging a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels, to carry me to Abraham’s bosom.”

What was Mary’s response in the weeks approaching her husband’s execution?  We can see a glimpse of her heart and faith through a letter she wrote to her husband.  It is hard to read her letter with a dry eye:

July 14, 1651

My Dear Heart,

Before I write a word further, I beseech thee think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.”  Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.

O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations.  I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.

I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain.  Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory.

Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother.  Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory.

Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace.  And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.  I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.

My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it.  When thou art putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am putting on my wedding garments to go to be everlastingly married to my Redeemer.”

When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life.  When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.

And when thou layest down thy precious head to receive thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven.

And though it may seem something bitter, that by hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.

Let us comfort one another with these sayings.  Be comforted, my dear heart.  It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and where the wicked shall cease from troubling.  Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night.

My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee.  I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.

Farewell, my dear, I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.

Mary Love

Mary’s letter challenges my thoughts about the kind of love prevalent in today’s culture.  Her love for her husband was not a selfish nor idolatrous love that elevated him above God, but a love firmly rooted in the One who first loved us and who dealt the heaviest stroke of all upon His only begotten Son whom He loves (so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but receive eternal life).  Instead of focusing upon her great loss, Mary directed her focus (and her husband’s) upon their first Love and eternal Bridegroomthe Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.

Jonathan Edwards’ Personal Narrative

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This evening, came across Jonathan Edwards’ account of his early years and testimony of his faith in Christ.   He reminds me of the infinite riches and beauty of God’s grace and mercy with such eloquence, that I wanted to take notes for future reminder:

“My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountain over my head.  I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite.  Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, ‘Infinite upon infinite … Infinite upon infinite!’  When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.  And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth.”  —Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative”

I can relate.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know that we are not alone.”  It’s immensely encouraging to read of great theologians or heroes of the faith writing with such transparency about the reality of human frailties and struggles in their own spiritual pilgrimage, because I could then perhaps learn something of their perseverance and growth in the Christian life by God’s grace.

Sarah Edwards

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I came across a memorable excerpt about the wife of 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards.  He wrote the following about his (then to be) future wife, Sarah Pierrepont, in the first page of his Greek grammar textbook:

Sarah Edwards“They say there is a young lady [in New Haven] who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him — that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always.  There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever.  Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.  She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being.  She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind.  She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.  She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Edwards’ description conjures up a picture in my mind of someone who lives her life coram Deo (‘before the face of God’), always aware of God’s ever presence, in daily communion with Him.   What an inspiring picture.

 

Quotation is excerpted from George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life.