Open main menu

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
Colour portrait painting of Samuel Rutherford
Samuel Rutherford
Bornc. 1600
Died29 March 1661
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
The Signing of the National Covenant. The Victorian painter William Hole places Henderson (standing on the gravestone) at the centre of events in 1638. Archibald Johnston is on the left and Samuel Rutherford is also depicted.[1]
Rutherford's Monument, Anworth[2]
Rutherford's Monument
The inscription stone on Rutherford's Monument
Anwoth Old Kirk and Kirkyard[2]
Memorial plaque to Samuel Rutherford
The grave of Samuel Rutherford, St Andrews Cathedral churchyard[3]

Samuel Rutherford (or more correctly Rutherfurd), was born at Nisbet (now part of Crailing)[4], Roxburghshire, about 1600. Nothing certain is known as to his parentage, but he belonged to the Hunthill family (from whom Sir Walter Scott was descended)[5] and his father is believed to have been a farmer or miller. A brother was school-master of Kirkcudbright, and Reader there, and another brother was an officer in the Dutch service. He educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and the University of Edinburgh. After graduating with an M.A. in 1621, he was appointed regent of Humanity at Edinburgh in 1623.[6] He demitted that office in 1626, because of immoral conduct with Euphame Hamilton (afterwards his wife) (Minutes of Edinburgh Town Council, 3 February 1626. He was admitted to Anwoth in 1627, probably without Episcopal sanction. In 1630 he was summoned before the Court of High Commission, but the charge of non-conformity was not persisted in. Mainly for his publication of a work against Arminianism he was again accused in 1636 by Bishop Sydserff, and after proceedings at Wigtown, was cited before the Commission and prohibited, 27 July, from exercising ministerial office, and ordered to reside in Aberdeen during the King's pleasure. During this period he wrote most of his well-known Letters. In February 1638 he returned to Anwoth and attended the Glasgow Assembly that year as one of two commissioners from his Presbytery. Shortly afterwards he was elected one of the ministers of Edinburgh, but the Commission of Assembly appointed him, in preference, Professor of Divinity at St Andrews, which office he only accepted on condition that he should be allowed to act as colleague with Robert Blair, one of the ministers of St Andrews, 7 January 1639. He was a member of succeeding Assemblies and consistently supported the Covenanting Party therein. In 1643 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Church of Scotland to the Westminster Assembly and preached several times before Parliament, remaining in London for four years.[6]

Rutherford was appointed to Principalship at the university in 1647. He was offered in 1648 a Divinity Professorship at Harderwyck in Holland, in 1649 the Chair at Edinburgh, and in 1651 he was twice elected to a Professorship at Utrecht, but all these he declined. In 1643, 1644, 1650, and 1651 he was elected rector of the University, and in 1650 on Charles II.'s visit to St Andrews, he made a Latin speech to him on the duty of Kings, and in 1651 he joined the Protesters. After the Restoration he was one of the first marked out for persecution, his work Lex Rex was ordered by the Committee of Estates to be burnt at the Crosses of Edinburgh and St Andrews, and he was deprived of his office of Principal. Further, he was cited to appear before Parliament on a charge of treason, but he died 29th March 1661 [the date — 20th — on his tombstone is an error]. One of the classical figures of the Church of Scotland, his influence during his lifetime, as scholar, preacher, and writer, was profound and wide, and after his death his name received a popular canonisation which it retains to this day. Some forty editions of his Letters have been reprinted (Bonar's edition contains 365), and innumerable anecdotes of his sayings and doings are enshrined in, and constitute no inconsiderable part of the Scottish tradition. Among his last words were: "Glory shines in Immanuel's Land," on which Mrs Anne Boss Cousin founded her hymn, "The Sands of Time are sinking." He was buried in the churchyard of St Begulus. In 1842, a massive granite obelisk to his memory was erected at Anwoth, where the site of his manse — Bush-o'-beild — and "Rutherford's Walk" and " Witnesses " are still pointed out. His church stands ruinous in the churchyard.[6]

LifeEdit

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".[7][4] From Anwoth he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, from where "his writing desk", was said to be, "perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in old Christendom."[8] 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, and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews in 1651.[6] 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[6] and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.[9]

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'.[10]

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.[11]

Personal lifeEdit

He married firstly in 1626, Euphame Hamilton, who died June 1630, and had issue — Marie, baptised 14 April 1628. He later married again on 24 March 1640, Jean M'Math, who was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard 15 May 1675, and had issue — Agnes (married William Chiesley, W.S.), died 29 July 1694, and six others who predeceased him. He is known to have been friendly with James Guthrie.[12]

WritingsEdit

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,[13][page needed][14] 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."[15] He continues describing: "individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry".[15] Elsewhere he talks of "a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations".[8] He also quotes that "each letter, full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.'[16] 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)[17] was written in response to John Maxwell's Sacro-Sanctum Regus Majestas and presented a theory of limited government and constitutionalism.[18] It raised Rutherford to eminence as a philosophical thinker.[19] 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 WorksEdit

  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,[7] with updates and corrections.

BibliographyEdit

Hew Scott's:

  • Gilmour's Samuel Rutherford (portrait), Edinburgh, 1904 ;
  • Cat. Edin. Univ. Lib., iii. 426 ;
  • Whyte's Samuel Rutherford and some of his Correspondents (Edinburgh, 1894);
  • Murray's Life (Edinburgh, 1828) and Literary History of Galloway, 76-95 (Edinburgh, 1832);
  • St Giles' Lectures, 3rd ser., 73-108 (Edinburgh, 1883;
  • Life, by Andrew Thomson, D.D. (Edinburgh, 1884);
  • Andrew A. Bonars edition of the Letters (Edinburgh, 1891);
  • Philip's The Devotional Literature of Scotland, 116-25 (London, 1925);
  • Dict. Nat. Biog. ;
  • St Andrews Tests.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Citations
Other sources

Further readingEdit

External links and electronic versionsEdit