Samuel Rutherford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Samuel Rutherford
Colour portrait painting of Samuel Rutherford
Samuel Rutherford
Bornc. 1600
Died29 March 1661
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
The grave of Samuel Rutherford, St Andrews Cathedral churchyard

Rev Prof Samuel Rutherford (or Samuell Rutherfoord; c. 1600 – 29 March 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.


Samuel Rutherford was born in the village of Nisbet, Roxburghshire, in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. Rutherford was educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and the University of Edinburgh, where he became Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin) in 1623. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire, Galloway, where it was said of him 'he was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying',[1][page needed] and from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, 'being very powerful on the side of the Reformed faith and of God living',[1] there in Aberdeen; 'his writing desk' was said to be 'perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom'.[2] His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638, he was made Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews.

Rutherford was chosen as one of the four main Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines in London taking part in formulating the Westminster Confession of Faith completed in 1647,[3][page needed] and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews in 1651. Rutherford was a staunch Protester during the controversy in the Scottish Presbyterian church between the Resolutioners and Protesters in the 1650s; at the Restoration of Charles II, his book Lex, Rex was burnt by the hand of the common hangman, and the "Drunken Parliament" deprived him of all his offices and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.[citation needed]

He is buried in the churchyard of St Andrews Cathedral just west of the bell tower. The stone is remarkably well preserved. The epitaph on his tombstone includes 'Acquainted with Emmanuel's Love'.[4]

There is also a monument to Rutherford, an Category B listed obelisk on the hilltop overlooking his former parish at Anwoth, in the village of Gatehouse of Fleet, southwest Scotland.[5]


Rutherford's has been described as 'Prince of Letter writers'[6][page needed], and Charles Haddon Spurgeon described Rutherford's letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men,[7][page needed] continuing in an 1891 review of Rutherford's posthumously published Letters (1664) 'when we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men'. Andrew Thomson, a Scottish minister, in a 19th-century biography observed 'the letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry' continuing 'a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.'[2][page needed] Rutherford was also known for other spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself, "The Trial and Triumph of Faith".

Rutherford's political book Lex, Rex, or The Law and the Prince (1644)[8] was written in response to John Maxwell's Sacro-Sanctum Regus Majestas and presented a theory of limited government and constitutionalism.[9] It raised Rutherford to eminence as a philosophical thinker.[2] After the Restoration, the authorities burned Lex, Rex and cited Rutherford for high treason, but his death intervened before the charge could be tried. Rutherford was vehemently opposed to liberty of conscience and his A Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience raised the ire of John Milton, who named Rutherford in his sonnet on the forcers of conscience in the Long Parliament. Rutherford also was a strong supporter of the divine right of Presbyterianism (the idea that the Presbyterian form of church government is mandated in the Bible). Rutherford was involved in written controversies over church government with the New England Independents (or Congregationalists). His A Peaceable Plea for Paul's Presbytery in Scotland (1642) was followed by his Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication (1648) and A Survey of "A Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline" penned by Thomas Hooker (1655), with not only Hooker but also John Cotton and Richard Mather writing books against Rutherford's view of church government.

List of Works[edit]

  1. Exercitationes pro Divina Gratia Amsterdam 1636
  2. A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul's Presbytery in Scotland London 1642
  3. A Sermon before the House of Commons, on Daniel, London 1644
  4. A Sermon before the House of Lords on Luke 7:22 London 1644
  5. The Due Right of Presbyteries London 1644
  6. Lex Rex, or The Law and the Prince London 1644
  7. The Trial and Triumph of Faith London 1645
  8. The Divine Right Of Church Government and Excommunication London 1646
  9. Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself London 1647
  10. A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist London 1648
  11. A Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience London 1649
  12. The Last and Heavenly Speech and Glorious Departure of John, Viscount Kenmure Edinburgh 1649
  13. Disputatio Scholastica de Divina Providentia Edinburgh 1649
  14. The Covenant of Life Opened Edinburgh 1655
  15. A Survey of 'The Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline' penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker London 1658
  16. Influences of the Life of Grace London 1659
  17. Joshua Redivivus, or Mr Rutherford's Letters 1664
  18. Examen Arminianismi Utrecht 1668
  19. A Testimony left by Mr. S. Rutherford to the Work of Reformation uncertain date
  20. A Treatise on Prayer 1713
  21. The Cruel Watchman, The Door of Salvation Opened Edinburgh 1735
  22. Twelve Communion Sermons Glasgow 1876
  23. Quaint Sermons Hodder & Stoughton, London 1885
  24. Rutherford’s Catechism: Containing the Sum of Christian Religion. London, 1886
  25. A discussing of some arguments against Cannons and ceremonies in God’s worship in David G. Mullan (ed.) Religious Controversy in Scotland 1625–1639. (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998), pp. 82–99

Initially sourced from Andrew Bonar's Letters of Samuel Rutherford,[1] with updates and corrections.

See also[edit]

  • Letters of Samuel Rutherford, selected by Andrew Bonar, The Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, ISBN 0851513883
  • Coffey, John, Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford, (1997), ISBN 0-521-58172-9
  • Covenanters
  • Andrew Bonar who edited Rutherford's Letters for publication in 1863
  • George Gillespie
  • Alexander Henderson
  • Robert Baillie
  • Rutherford Institute, a conservative civil-liberties organization named for Rutherford


  1. ^ a b c Rutherford 1891.
  2. ^ a b c Thomson 1884.
  3. ^ Rutherford 1996.
  4. ^ Bonar 1891, Sketch of Samuel Rutherford.
  5. ^ Historic Environment Scotland & LB3295.
  6. ^ Cook 1996.
  7. ^ Spurgeon 1891.
  8. ^ Rutherford, Samuel, Lex, Rex, or The Law and the Prince, London: Constitution.
  9. ^ Campbell, William M. (1941). "Lex Rex and its author". Scottish Church History Society: 204–288. Retrieved 25 August 2018.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]