Christopher and Mary Love.

February 14, 2009

Yes, I am writing about “Love” on Valentine’s Day … Christopher and Mary Love, a young Welsh preacher and his wife.

Christopher Love was executed (beheaded) in 1651 for alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell.  Oliver Cromwell was then the Lord Protector of England, and he accused Christopher Love and a couple others of conspiring to restore the monarchy.  Love’s last letter to his wife included exhortations for her to be a godly mother and to rejoice with him in the death that will bring him to Christ.  He dates the letter, “The day of my glorification.”

The scaffold, the place of his execution, was his final pulpit.  He used his remaining time to preach his final sermon and to pray, even for his accusers.  His last words were, “Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.”

God’s grace upheld him in his final moments as he anticipated the heavy stroke of the blade that would bring him to glory.

But what of his wife?  He would, in a short while, be with Christ, but she would be widowed and left alone to care for their children.  She was pregnant with her sixth child, the fourth to live, at the time of his execution, too.  What was her response?  Perhaps we can catch a glimpse of her heart (and firm faith) in her last letter to her husband:

June 14, 1651

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 are putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am now 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 shall 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 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.

It’s hard to read this with a dry eye.  How sweet was her release of him.  He wasn’t “hers”; he was Christ’s.  It wasn’t a clinging, possessive, I-can’t-live-without-you kind of a love.  It was a strong love rooted in the God who loved first, a love that loved deeply but held loosely.  It was a love that entrusted all things dear to the One who, in love, dealt the heaviest stroke on His own son and promised eternal life to those who believe.

I hope this doesn’t just leave you with a morbid aftertaste, but that it would challenge your view on love and display what kind of sacrificial, Christ-centered love can be reflected between two sinners even in the face (humanly-speaking) of “unspeakable loss.”  I think our world has a tendency to exalt idolatrous, obsessive love, but this is not the love of God.  She could have been weepy and needy, but she chose to direct his thoughts (and hers) to the person and glory of heaven: Jesus.

How appropriate that their family name was Love.

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7 Responses to “Christopher and Mary Love.”

  1. Cassandra Says:

    Dude!! That woman was for FOR REAL.
    To even imagine someone taking MY Christopher away fills me with fear and dread. A love rooted in the knowledge that we will both be in heaven is something I would say that I have, but when push came to shove, would I be that strong?
    Probably not. I would rail against the authorities and fight blindly with all my pitiful strength. I suppose I have a long way to go. Then again, I pray no one is going to be beheading my husband anytime soon!!

  2. tia Says:

    Cass: Wasn’t she?! I think sometimes it doesn’t come across as something that “really” happened, just because of the archaic language, but so crazy that it did and so crazy that that was their response. I’m sure they did all they could to try to free him, but when that wasn’t going to happen, this was the degree to which they trusted God!


  3. […] you won’t be able to read this letter without  being moved–a letter that Mary Love wrote to her husband Christopher before he went […]

  4. Jessica Says:

    Hi Tia,

    My name is Jessica … I came across your blog today while searching online to learn more about Mary Love’s farewell letter to her husband, Christopher Love. How providential that was, and how happy I am to find your blog! I first read Mary Love’s letters from James Anderson’ book, Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, and was googling her because I’m intrigued to learn more about the wives of our godly heroes of the faith from past.

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart on your blog, because I’ve been greatly inspired and encouraged in the faith from reading them.

    I read on your other post that you’d like to read more of the Puritans as a resolution. That’s also one of my resolutions! I enjoy them as well, and find that they not only convict me of my sins, yet also inspire and encourage me at the same time. And every page of their writing seems to have at least one quotable quote. 🙂 What is your favorite Puritan book? I especially like Thomas Watson because he’s such a picturesque and readable author.

    I noticed in your links section that you list some churches. I grew up and live in East Bay area. This may be a long shot, but do you happen to know of any solid churches in East Bay area for Mandarin speaking people (one that also exalts God’s sovereign grace)? I’m inquiring for my family member/relative.

    At any rate, I wanted to drop a line to say “hello” as a fellow pilgrim who has crossed your path through your blog here. 🙂 Thank you for God-glorifying, encouraging posts.

    In His grace,

    Jessica

    • tia Says:

      Jessica, I’m not sure if I can narrow down a favorite Puritan book yet … that’s a hard one. :] I like Thomas Watson a lot, and I also like Charles Spurgeon. Both have a way of conveying spiritual truth in very precise, heartfelt language. And no way — what a small world! I’ll be moving to the East Bay soon post-wedding. :] I’m not sure if I know of any solid Mandarin-speaking church in the East Bay; I’ve only attended English-only churches. But you might want to check out 9marks.org’s Church Search (churches who claim to hold to biblical teaching, etc. appear on this site … it’s a good resource) or look to see if any Master’s Seminary alumni is preaching in the area. These aren’t foolproof searches, but it might be a good start. If I find anything more, I will let you know! So glad to have met you. If you’re ever in the Bay Area again for some time, maybe our paths will cross in person! Press on, sister.

  5. Jessica Says:

    Hi Tia,

    Thanks for your response. And thanks for suggesting the 9marks church search. My parents don’t speak English very fluently, but they speak Mandarin, so that’s why I wanted to find a good church for them since they haven’t been attending one for a while. The churches I’m familiar with are English-speaking also.

    And yes, amazing how small a world it is! My hometown is actually still in East Bay area as I visit my parents on weekends every few weeks or so. If you’d like to, please do feel free to let me know if you’re ever free around the East Bay area sometime, perhaps we could cross path in person when I’m back there. 🙂 I like to meet other like-minded Christian sisters, and find that a blessing. By the way, you’re welcome to visit my blog if you’d like, though it’s not up-to-date like yours. 🙂 I had named it “Pilgrim’s Progress,” after John Bunyan’s book, to post some things I’m learning or experiencing in my own spiritual pilgrimage.

    Have a wonderful day of worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow!

    Jessica

  6. Monique Carte Says:

    O how sweet those words of his wife, there is a taste of Heaven in them. It is such a Blessing to all true believers to be given this Grace of Devine Comfort from Him Who redeemed us. Thanks be to our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ!


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