Letter of Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden to James Renwick of 12 May, 1684.


This letter is not included in the collections of Renwick’s correspondence, but was printed in Robert Hamilton’s The Christian’s Conduct, a rare and difficult to find volume which was published in Edinburgh in 1762.

It was sent from Robert Hamilton, the United Societies’ commissioner in Leeuwarden, to James Renwick in Scotland on 12 May, 1684. It contains words of encouragement to Renwick, mentions how the Protestation against the Scots Congregation at Rotterdam would make Hamilton ‘in a special way, a new storm, and a bitter one’, his planned embassy on behalf of the Societies to Switzerland and Geneva, how the colleges in the United Provinces were now closed to them, and his thoughts on sending Thomas Linning, the tutor of the Societies’ ‘expectants’, to him.

Letter of Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden to James Renwick of 12 May, 1684.

‘Right Rev[erend]. and much honoured of the Lord,
What think ye now of Christ’s cross? O what doleful uptakings has many of it! and O wretched and deluded popish clergy, who are for having it in such speals [splinters], making their own purse heavy! and O deluded souls and consciences poor therewith! Wo to them that can either part with it, or divide that noble jewel, All Christ, and all his cross; I say, Christ and his cross, one speal whereof is more than able to weigh down a thousand worlds. O the worth! the unspeakable worth thereof! I confess, it often makes a light purse, though I confess, some in our day have made a trade of it, and so now is seen on it; yet great contentment, and a serene and desireable frame of spirit, and an heavenly peace of conscience, attend it. O dear brother, go on in that noble work, the deeper the sweeter. It was Christ’s lot (O noble forerunner) his legacy, a testament indeed like himself. O what witless and silly creatures are we, that would ever be at carving out our own lot otherways than eternal love and infinite wisdom hath contrived it: we are ready to think, O if we wanted this cross, we would swim bravely; as if they were appointed for dead weights to drown us: And O if we wanted this cross, we would be the more fit to grapple against the common enemy; whereas it is the very contrary; to harden Christ’s soldiers against all toils, and render them invincible against all assaults, expert in the use and handling of their arms; yea, proof against all engines, that nothing may pierce them; and not only to know where their strength lies, the worth of their leader and commander; but also to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. O foolish soul, that thinks or desires to be at heaven without a cross, or fancies they would travel the better to it, if all crosses were away: Far is it from the judgment of all the worthies that have gone before them, who always taught that Before they were afflicted, they went astray; that thro’ great tribulation we must enter into the kingdom; far from the fair plot, and eternal contrivance of the Lord Jesus, who hath not only entailed the cross to his followers, but blessings to the cross; and the more crosses, the more blessings, Matt. 5.10-12 [‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’], that none might either mistake or scar[e] thereat. O poor things, that would be at serving God dry shod; nay, nay, when he is to court his bride, or a poor soul, he first brings her to the wilderness, and there speaks comfortably to her. [Hos. 2.14.] When there is any thing of moment he is to communicate to his servants, he first sets their feet in Jordan, ere he comes in speak terms with them; and there they are to stand still, and hear what the Lord has to say to them; and by an open profession and practice, bearing the ark of the Lord, entering Jordan, with this glorious burden on their backs. Alas! many fearing the ark would drown them, have cast it from them, and drowned themselves, and many with them. But oh! who would have the Lord without fail drive out the Canaanite, Hittite, Hivite, and Jebusite, and the Lord of the whole earth to pass over before them, whose stately steps, and obedience to his sweet commands, dries up the deeps, and over-awes the swellings of Jordan: let them keep fast by the ark, and no fear of their drowning; yea, it will fend for itself and them both. O wonderful! yet noble and experienced truth, that when the soul by faith wins to forsake its tents, with a resolution to deny itself, and take up its cross, and follow Christ, that oftentimes no sooner are their feet dipt in the brim of Jordan’s banks, (the sight whereof formerly was able to have drowned them) but their storms from above are not only calmed and removed, but made servants, to stand up, as it were, to receive their commands from them; and to rise up and give place, setting themselves in heaps, for bulwarks and walls of safety and defence round about them. As also these inward and underhand enemies, being the salt-petre of their afflictions, the salt-ocean of tribulation, not only cut off, but so sanctified, as made leaders and guides to land them safely and conveniently under the very walls of their adversaries, and in possession of a sure and glorious victory; yea, and of the land of promise, at one and the same time. O dear and honoured brother, what a glorious exchange shall that be, when they that are come out of great tribulation, having washen their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; having gotten the victory over the beast, his image, and his mark, instead of treading or standing any more in the swellings of Jordan, and marching thro’ the red and salt-seas of affliction, shall be eternally and firmly settled upon that glorious sea of glass, like unto crystal, before the throne of God; with the harps of God, singing the song of Moses, and of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, O thou King of saints: Who shall not fear thee, O Lord.

Dear Sir, I hope ye will recommend me much, while before the throne, to your Master, as also lay it upon all to do the same; Satan shoots sharply against me in a strange land, and separate from my brethren: And I see this protestation [against the Scots Congregation in Rotterdam] will make to me, in a special way, a new storm, and a bitter one. But O! his grace is sufficient for me; whose strength is made perfect in weakness [2 Cor. 12.9.]; neither dare I but prosecute it, cost what it will; and if he be glorified, and his cause advanced, we can have no skaith.—I have a door opened to go to Helvetia [i.e., Switzerland] and Geneva, but it will be September [1684] before I take journey. O lay it before the Lord; I see difficulties and trials abiding me wherever I go: I think the more secret it be kept, it will be the better; some trusty friends may know of it. I hope with the next occasion I will be more in case to inform of all matters than now. O to be much in wrestling and waiting, for the Lord cometh to judge the nations, and terrible shall the day of his coming be; however glorious to some.

Now, worthy and dearest friend, what can I say further to you, or unfold more of my heart unto you? O Scotland, the sweet remnant there, hath much room in my heart, and you no little, tho’ it is like we may never meet on earth; yet O, while alive, to be much in trysting before the throne, and living much faith’s life, in the sense, hope, and expectation of that general meeting of the first-born, where friends shall never part again; where Christ and his followers possess one another, in the lovely and everlasting mansions of endless eternity. O that honourable, lovely, and great work you are called unto, even to plenish Christ’s house, to weed, to sow, to harrow, to clod, to hedge and dyke in his vineyard, in his old and ancient habitation; to dig out the rotten stocks, and hunt out the cunning foxes, both old and young of them. O that the Lord may stand with you, and make you as a brazen wall against all his and your enemies, and replenish you with his Spirit, to whom the fulness thereof belongs: Stand on a hoof; Christ thinks more of a hoof now, than once of a bail cow: They have driven all from him; and, to speak with reverence of his holy Majesty, they say, He that hath but one eye, had need to keep it well. O his glory is dear to him, but never more than when so undervalued and trampled upon. O but it be a sweet Therefore that we read Psalm 119.126-128,—For they have made void thy law; Therefore I love thy commandments:—Therefore I esteem thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. And O! as it is pleasant to God, so a promising token, where ever such a spirit is; a promising one to Moses and Israel, when this spirit kyths in him; to Esther and the Jews, when the zeal of God nailed honest Mordecai’s hat to his crown; as it keeped his and their heads on their shoulders, so it nailed Haman’s to the gallows. O! it is such a spirit he delights to honour; such a generation he will take pleasure in. Now again, I must say to you, my dearest friend, lay it on friends that they do nothing rashly in sending any abroad: I confess Scotland’s case calls greatly for it; but alas! we are but witless worms, and see but very short way; God knows how to perform his great work upon mount Zion, without colleges [the University of Groningen had effectively closed its doors to Societies’ students]; not that I was ever against learning, but if not well larded with grace, I think there cannot be worse company this day. O ye know what a fleece the Lord hath cast off in our land; I think they will be strange folk he will take on again; and whatever other qualifications they may be known by, I think this will be one, They will be folk lying very low in the dust, sitting upon dunghills that he will honour and chop upon. O but my heart be much with you, and the pleasant remnant there: I think the Lord will never honour the like of me to return to it again; but O the skaith [i.e., hurt] is small, if he be glorified, and his work flourish there. I hope ye will not forget me; I hope ye will not do it; for I may say, if ever I was in hazard to be jealous or afraid of you, it was upon that head, that I thought you had any esteem of me; and the Lord knows how sometimes that has given me work; however, I had the more freedom to give you my poor advice. Lay not your love easily upon any in this day, so as to confide too much I mean on them; and in a special way it lieth upon you to manage that noble grace well; which tho’ it thinketh no evil, yet it is a grace that is not blind, it rejoiceth only in truth: indeed what of God we see in any, we are to cherish it so far, yet seeing it is the gift of God conferred upon a poor, failing sinful creature; when lodged with much ill company, we are called to deal circumspectly in it: for in our noticing the poor creature too much, as we greatly wrong God, so often we ruin ourselves, and the person also thereby. And O dear Sir, I know by experience, that the too great intimacy of ministers in Scotland with poor things, has ruined many a poor soul: it broke them off from all faithful freedom and holy authority, and so lulled many asleep, and at last broke the necks both of ministers and people. Where ye have most hope, be most watchful in marking, in freely reproving in all brotherly kindness; a little small hole will drown the ship, at least sorely endamage the commodities and the finer they be, the easier damnified [i.e., damaged]: indeed there is a catching of poor things by wiles; but O Sir, ye know this better than I, that the little freedom there hath been among all ranks in faithfully reproving one another, is one of our lands sins, I think the Lord hath been provoked with; for it came to that, if we could have spoken of this exploit or the other; of this or that design of the enemy, and could have cried out against the bishops, indulged, tyrant, &c. then we reckoned we were bound to bear with all other things in one another; and so it is seen on it this day. Soul conferences, soul-cases were very rare; if begun by any, all about were silent, and it was soon let fall again; little commending Christ’s cross, and his way, in engaging, alluring, and first wooing the soul, except by a word in general; and little in commending Christ himself, and laying out all his ways with one anothers souls; their drawings and his holdings; or talking of access, communion and fellowship with him; little crying of missing him, except in a word, which could do more ill than good, when not accompanied with that earnestness, brokenness, and fervency, in seeking of him again, and putting others to it upon their account, telling what he had done to their souls; what a friend, what a husband, what a prize, what a jewel, how fair, how lovely, how sweet, how matchless; and that now they could swim thro’ death, tortures, yea, hell itself for him. I think I know partly, that to fall upon religion in general with some, and by some, is as dangerous a thing as ever was invented against a poor soul; I mean, when Christians that have a name, and especially ministers, fall upon generals with some poor things, and so draw them on generals again, and every one of them consenting to another: it were far better, I may say, that that poor soul were hearing devils roaring against it, than to be so handled. O Sir, I even lay out my soul to you; I expect you will not take it ill, and it may be, we will not have long correspondence together; for I think I have seen that sight now of that poor land that I was promised; and I think I am assured it is before a terrible storm; yea, a great desolation: however, O blessed is he that is working now while it is the day; and tho’ your case be more hard and more intricate than any that has gone before; yet his grace is sufficient for you, whose strength is perfected in weakness; and ye must look upon it as also having its own advantages; ye have the prints and footsteps of our worthies that have gone before you, not loving their lives unto the death, to look into; ye have the wrath of great ones of all qualities, sex and age, lying upon all hands of you, crying to be faithful; you have the rocks they split upon, by their ruins, discovered unto you; you have the holiness, justice, sovereignty, mercy, and condescendency of God, eminently and largely pourtrayed unto you; his holiness and justice, in that he cannot bear with sin, no not in his own; his mercy, sovereignty, and condescendency in passing by the great and perfecting his praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. [Matt. 21.16.] O! great is his faithfulness, and his mercy endureth for ever. The blessing of him that dwelt in the bush be with you, and all of you.

As for sending Thomas [Linning] over [to Hamilton in the United Provinces to train for the ministry], it is like a little time will determine you better than I can; for indeed, I think shortly the world will be swimming in blood: it has long swimmed in sin; the will of the Lord be done. The Lord himself will take the sceptre in his own hand, and he will rule in righteousness, the colleges, the pulpits, the doctrine and the discipline: he will make good scholars, else he will make sore skins.

Now, what shall I further say, I think I am loth to part with you, and I can write no more; Many good nights is loth to part. I hope you and friends will mind me, and the blessing of the great Master of assemblies, the Bishop of souls, be with you. The blessing of Him who dwelt in the bush, and led Israel as a flock thro’ the wilderness, who holds the stars in his right hand, and walks among the golden candlesticks, be with you, and all the pleasant remnant, the followers of the Lamb in that land, who hath said he cometh; and so let our souls say, Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Right Rev. and much honoured of the Lord,
Your assured friend, and real sympathizer,
Robert Hamilton.’

~ by drmarkjardine on April 22, 2013.

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