August 10, 2011 by Stacy McDonald
“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things…”
Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5
Mary Love, the wife of the seventeenth century Puritan preacher, Christopher Love, is an inspiration to me. Not because she possessed within herself any great and wonderful strength or passion, but because she didn’t.
By her own admission she was a mere sinful, mortal wife. Just like the rest of us, any good or noble character she possessed was a reflection of God’s mercy in her life and not her own merit.
Mary, pregnant with their fifth child (two had already gone to be with the Lord), was a devoted wife who was deeply in love with her husband, Christopher Love. When he was charged and sentenced to death for treason, Mary faithfully petitioned parliament four times – requesting a pardon, banishment and, in desperation, begging to be executed in her husband’s place.
…Be comforted concerning thy husband, who may more honor God in his death than in his life… Christopher Love, Written from the Tower on the Lord’s Day (p 99)
With a resolved trust and simple, yet profound understanding of God’s sovereignty, she encouraged her husband and entrusted him into the hands of God. Amazingly, the words that poured from her heart were not focused on her loss, but on her husband’s gain:
…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… (p. 1)
She understood that God planned the moment of Christopher’s death before the foundation of the world, and the events that were taking place had not taken God by surprise. She quietly trusted Him and focused not on her loss, but on the unspeakable joy that awaited her husband and the glorious reunion they would have in heaven.
It would have been easy to despair, but Mary looked beyond the moment. She gives us a sobering reminder that God offers the precise measure of grace we need at the exact time we need it most.
On August 21, 1651, the day before his execution, Mary wrote a farewell letter to her precious husband. Although her love for her husband was deep and steadfast, her love for her God was greater. Here is just a portion of what she wrote on the eve of that sorrowful day:
My Heavenly Dear,
I call thee so because God hath put heaven into thee before He hath taken thee to heaven. Thou now beholdest God, Christ and glory as in a glass; but tomorrow, heaven’s gates will be opened and thou shalt be in the full enjoyment of all those glories which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither can the heart of man understand…
…O let not one troubled thought for thy wife and babes arise within thee. Thy God will be our God and our portion. He will be a husband to thy widow and a father to thy children; the grace of thy God will be sufficient for us…
…Farewell, farewell, my dear, till we meet there, where we shall never bid farewell more; till which time I leave thee in the bosom of a loving, tender-hearted Father, and so I rest till I shall forever rest in Heaven. (pp. 84-85)
Mary Love, certainly full of grief over the prospect of losing her “Heavenly Dear,” laid aside her own feelings and fears. With a sinking spirit, but a soaring faith, she gazed heavenward for her strength and trusted God.
When we face an impossible situation–loss of income, loss of a loved one, miscarriage, difficult church relations, marriage problems, a rebellious child, and more–our strength is drawn from the same well as Mary’s when we trust God and lean on Him. Trusting God is more than hoping He will make it all turn out alright; it is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is a good and gracious God, that He loves us, and that He really and truly does orchestrate our steps.
Mary’s letter in its entirety:
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 though 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 does 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 they 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 are 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 they 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.
Christopher Love (1618 – 22 August 1651) was a Welsh Presbyterian preacher during the time of the English Civil War. In 1651 he was executed by the government, after it was discovered that he had been in correspondence with the exiled Stuart court. He went to his death as a hero and martyr of the Presbyterian faction which had petitioned in vain for his pardon.
The quotes by Mary and Christopher Love, found in this article, are taken from the book, A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love, by Don Kistler.
Join us this year at Providence Church for our annual Reformation Day Faire where my husband will share more about the inspiring life of Christopher Love.
This post was modified from an article I wrote for Homeschooling Today® magazine several years back.