The other day I caught part of David Platt’s message from Together for the Gospel 2010. The only part I heard was him reading an excerpt from Mary Love’s last letter to her husband who was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell. My interest was peaked and so began my search for the letter in its entirety. Along the way I also found Christopher’s last letter to Mary. I have been thinking a lot lately about those who have gone before me. I was listening to “O Church, Arise” by Keith and Kristyn Getty and there is one line in the song that talks about the saints who have gone before us lining the way to God’s throne and telling triumphs of his grace. It gives me chills to think about it. Reading these letters bring tears to my eyes as I realize God’s faithfulness to this husband and wife and his grace that sustained them and enabled them to face death without fear.
Here is Mary’s letter to Christopher
July 14, 1651
Before I write a word further, I beseech thee to 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 own 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 the 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 thy clothes on that morning, O think, “I am now putting on my wedding garments to go to be married to my everlasting 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 thy layest thy precious head down to recieve 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 the 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 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.
My most gracious Beloved,
I am now going from a prison to a palace: I have finished my work, and am now going to receive my wages. I am going to heaven, where are two of my children, and leaving you on earth, where there are three of my babes. These two above, need not my care; but the three below need thine. It comforts me to think, two of my children are in the bosom of Abraham, and three of them will be in the arms and care of such a tender and godly mother. I know you are a woman of sorrowful spirit, yet be comforted, though you sorrows be great for you husband going out of the world, yet your pains shall be the less in bringing your child into the world; you shall be a joyful mother, though you be a sad widow; God hath many mercies in store for you; the prayer of a dying husband for you, will not be lost. To my shame I speak it, I never prayed for you at liberty, as I have done in prison. I can write much, but I have few practical counsels to leave with you, viz.,
1. Keep under a sound, orthodox, soul searching ministry. Oh! There are many deceivers gone out into the world, but Christ’s sheep know His voice, and a stranger they will not follow. Attend any minister that teacheth the way of God in truth; and follow Solomon’s advice, Proverbs 19:27.
2. Bring up your children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. The mother ought to be a teacher in the father’s absence, Proverbs 31:1, “The words that his mother taught him…” And Timothy was instructed by his grandmother, 1 Timothy 1:5.
3. Pray in your family daily, that yours may be in the number of the families who call upon God.
4. Labor for a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God, is of great price, 1 Peter 3:4.
5. Pour not on the comforts you want, but upon the mercies you have. Look rather at God’s ending in afflicting, than to the measure and degree of your affliction.
6. Labor to clear up your evidence for heaven when God takes from you the comfort of earth, so that as your sufferings do abound, your consolation in Christ may abound much more, 2 Corinthians 1:5. Though it be good to maintain a holy jealously of heart, yet it is still ill of you to cherish fears and doubts touching the truth of your graces. If ever I had confidence touching the grace of another, I have confidence of grace in you; as Peter said of Silvanus, I am persuaded that this is the grace of God wherein ye stand, 1 Peter 5:12.
7. O, my dear soul wherefore dost thou doubt, who heart has been laid upright, whose walking has been holy, &c. I could venture my soul this day in they soul’s stead, such a confidence I have in you.
8. When you find your heart secure, presumptuous and proud, then pour upon corruption more than grace: then look upon your grace without infirmities.
9. Study the covenant of grace, and merits of Christ, and be troubled if you can; you are interested in such a covenant that accepts purposes for performances, desires for deeds, sincerity for perfection, the righteousness of another, viz., that of Jesus Christ, as it were your own alone. Oh! My love! Rest thou in the love of God, the bosom of Christ.
10. Swallow up your will in the will of God. It is a bitter cup we are to drink, but it is the cup of our Father which has been put into our hands. When Paul was to suffer at Jerusalem, the Christians said, “The will of the Lord be done!” Oh! Say ye so, when I go to the Tower-Hill, “The will of the Lord be done!”
11. Rejoice in my joy. To mourn for me inordinately argues, that you either envy or suspect my happiness. The joy of the Lord is my strength; Oh! Let it be yours also! Dear wife, farewell: I will call thee wife no more: I shall see thy face no more: yet I am not much troubled, for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to whom I shall be eternally married.
12. Refuse not to marry, when God offers you a fair opportunity; but be sure you marry in the Lord; and one of a good disposition, that he may not grieve you, but give you a comfortable livelihood in the world.
Farewell dear love, and again I say farewell. The Lord Jesus be with your spirit, the Maker of heaven and earth be a husband to you; and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ be a father to your children – so prays your dying,
Your most affectionate friend till death,
The day of my glorification.
From the Tower of London, August 22, 1651
This is one of my favorite quotes and I immediately thought of it after reading these letters.
“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
– C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (8 November, 1952)