Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600-1661) on patience and Providence


When Christians are suffering in various ways it is made worse sometimes because we just can’t understand what’s going on – why is God doing what he’s doing? Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600-1661) here reminds Christians that we can usually only see half the picture of providence. Therefore, we need to be patient and remember that we have a limited view of God’s greater plan – a plan for his glory and the good of his people. Quotes taken from Rutherford’s The Trial and Triumph of Faith, p. 28:

“…We look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces; and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in an hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draweth the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colors all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man.”

“So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts, and we see him bleeding his people, scattering parliaments, chasing away nobles and prelates, as not willing they should have a finger in laying one stone of his house; yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece. God is washing away the blood and filth of his church, removing those from the work who would cross it.”

In other words, God’s providence is like a house in construction or a huge painting and we can only see a little here and there. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a building or a beautiful picture; instead it looks like a mess. But if we have patience and wait, in time we’ll see more of the building or picture and it’ll make a lot more sense – if not in this lifetime, then in the one to come. We need to pray for the faith to remember that God is the sovereign artist and architect who knows exactly what he’s doing.


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