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? Her love and faith in God can be reflected in her letter to her husband:
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’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 Bridegroom—the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.