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See: Wikipedia:Samuel Rutherford for original sources, and from which this has been adapted.
The Reverend Samuel Rutherford was born c1600, in the parish of Nisbet, Roxburghshire. Little is known of his early life, or of his precise ancestry. Our first firm records for him begin in 1617 when he entered the University of Edinburgh, where he received his received a master of arts in 1621. He was designated a regent of the college a few years later. He served in this capacity until about 1625 when he was apparently dismissed beause of an adulturous relationship with his future wife, Euphamia Hamilton, whom he married in 1625. Following his dismissal he devoted himself to the study of divinity. In 1627 he settled in as pastor of the parish of Anwoth, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
- Rutherford was accustomed to rise every morning at three o’clock. The early part of the day he spent in prayer and meditation; the remainder he devoted to the more public duties of his calling, visiting the sick, catechising his flock, and instructing them, in a progress from house to house. "They were the cause and objects," he informs us, "of his tears, care, fear, prayers. He laboured among them early and late; and my witness," he dares to them, "is above, that your heaven would be two heavens to me, and the salvation of you all, as two salvations to me." Nor were his labours confined to Anwoth. "He was," says Livingetone, "a great strengthener of all the Christians in that country, who had been the fruits of the ministry of Mr John Welsh, the time he had been at Kirkcudbright;" and the whole country, we are told by Mr M’Ward, accounted themselves his particular flock. (Chambers, 1856)
Euphamia died after a protracted sickness in 1630.
- Her disease seems to have been attended with severe pain, and he appears to have been much affected by her sufferings. "My wife," he observes in one of his letters, "is still in exceeding great torment, night and day. Pray for us, for my life was never so wearisome to me. God hath filled me with gall and wormwood; but I believe (which holds up my head above the water) it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." Her death seems to have greatly distressed him, and, though he nowhere in his correspondence ventures to introduce the subject directly, he frequently alludes to it in terms of the deepest tenderness.
Rutherford was an opponent of Arminianism, an offshoot of Calvinism. A central concept in Calvinism was that God elected certain persons for salvation, and that the individual could not influence that through "good works", or other means. This view was embraced under Presbyterianism, but was rejected by Arminianists who took the position that to be saved one had to be a believer, and that one could choose to believe, and hence could choose to be saved. Methodism is a later day descendant of Arminiansm.
In the early 1630's Arminians held sway in the Presbyterian church. Rutherfords anti-Arminian position, and other views, brought him into conflict with the church leaders. In 1630 he was summoned before the high commissioners, charged with preaching against the Articles of Perth, and writing against the Arminians. He was removed from his office in 1636, and confined to the town of Aberdeen. Political and religous changes in the church eventually enabled him to return to his ministry at Anwoth in February of 1638.
[Need to revise the rest of this to make it intelligible to the modern reader....]
His role in the church as a whole seems to have grown following this. Among other activities he was a delegate from the presbytery of Kirkcudbright to the general assembly in November, 1638. The university of St Andrews nominated him as a professor of divinity, much to the dissatisfaction of his flock in Anwoth.
In October, 1639, having previously entered upon his labours in the college, he was inducted by the presbytery as colleague to Mr Robert Blair in the church of St Andrews, which seems at this time to have been no very pleasing situation. In the days of Melville and Buchanan the university was the most flourishing in the kingdom; now it was become, under the care of the bishops, the very nursery of superstition in worship, and error in doctrine: "but God," says one of Rutherford’s pupils, "did so singularly second his indefatigable pains, both in teaching and preaching, that the university forthwith became a Lebanon, out of which were taken cedars for building the house of God throughout the land."
In the Assembly of 1640, Rutherford was involved in a dispute respecting private society meetings, which he defended along with Messrs Robert Blair and David Dickson, against the greater part of his brethren, who, under the terrors of independency, which in a short time overspread the land, condemned them. It was probably owing to this dispute, that two years afterwards he published his "Peaceable Plea for Paul’s Presbytery," an excellent and temperate treatise; equally remote from anarchy on the one hand, and that unbending tyranny which presbytery has too often assumed on the other.
In 1642, he received a call to the parish of West Calder, which he was not permitted to accept, though he seems to have been desirous of doing so.
He was one of the commissioners from the general assembly of the church of Scotland to the Westminster assembly, where his services were acknowledged by all parties to have been of great importance. The other commissioners from the general assembly of the church of Scotland were permitted to visit their native country by turns, and to report the progress which was made in the great work, but Ruthertord never quitted his post till his mission was accomplished. His wife (for he married the second time after entering upon his charge at St Andrews,) and all his family, seem to have accompanied him. Two of his children, apparently all that he then had died while he was in London He had also along with him as his amanuensis, Sir Robert M’Ward, afterwards minister of the Tron church, Glasgow, and who was banished for nonconformity at the Restoration.
Mr Rutherford exerted himself to promote the common cause not only in the assembly, but by means of the press in a variety of publications, bearing the impress of great learning and research, combined with clear and comprehensive views of the subjects of which they treated.
- The first of these was the "Due right of Presbytery, or a Peaceable Plea for the Government of the Church of Scotland," a work of great erudition, and which called forth a reply from Mr Mather of New England; one of the best books that has yet been produced on that side of the question.
- The same year he published "Lex Rex," a most rational reply to a piece of insane loyalty emitted by John Maxwell, the excommunicated bishop of Ross.
- Next year, 1645, he published " The Trial and Triumph of Faith," an admirable treatise of practical divinity;
- and, in 1646, "The Divine Right of Church Government, in opposition to the Erastians."
- In 1647, he published another excellent piece of practical theology, "Christ dying and drawing Sinners,"
- which was followed next year, though he had then returned to Scotland, by a "Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist," written against Saltmarsh, Dee, Town, Crisp, Eaton, and the other Antinomians of that day.
- In 1649, he published at London a "Free Disputation against pretended Liberty of Conscience," particularly directed against the Independents.
All of these productions are highly honourable to the talents of the author, and place his industry and fertility of mind in a singularly favourable point of view.
Rutherford, in returning to the former scene of his professorial and pastoral labours, must have felt agreeably relieved from the business and the bustle of a popular assembly, and hoped, probably, that now he might rest in his lot. Far otherwise, however, was the case. He was, in January, 1649, at the recommendation of the commission of the general assembly, appointed principal of the New college, of which he was already professor of divinity; and not long after, he was elevated to the rectorship of the university. An attempt had also been made, in the general assembly of 1649, to have him removed to the university of Edinburgh, which, Baillie says, "was thought to be absurd, and so was laid aside." He had an invitation at the same time to the chair of divinity and Hebrew in the university of Hardewyrk in Holland, which he declined; and on the 20th of May, 1651, he was elected to fill the divinity chair in the university of Utrecht. This appointment was immediately transmitted to him by his brother, Mr James Rutherford, then an officer in the Dutch service, who, by the way fell into the power of an English cruiser, and was stripped of everything, and confined a prisoner in Leith, till he was, through the intervention of the States, set at Liberty. As he had, in consequence of this disaster, nothing but a verbal invitation to offer, Rutherford refused to accept it. James Rutherford returned directly to Holland, and the magistrates of Utrecht, still hoping to succeed, sent him back with a formal invitation in the end of the same year. Rutherford seems now to have been in some degree of hesitation, and requested six months to advise upon the subject. At the end of this period, he wrote to the patrons of the college, thanking them for the high honour they had done him, but informing them, that he could not think of abandoning his own church in the perilous circumstances in which it then stood.
The whole of the subsequent life of Samuel Rutherford was one continued struggle with the open and concealed enemies of the church of Scotland. After the Restoration, when, though infirm in body, his spirit was still alive to the cause of religion, he recommended that some of the Protesters should be sent to the king, to give a true representation of the state of matters in the church, which he well knew would never be done by Sharpe, whom the Resolution party had employed, and in whom they had the most perfect confidence. When the Protesters applied to the Resolution party to join them in such a necessary duty, they refused to have any thing to do with their more zealous brethren; and when these met at Edinburgh to consult on the matter, they were dispersed by authority, their papers seized, and the principal persons among them imprisoned. This was the first act of the committee of estates after the Restoration; and it was composed of the same persons who had sworn to the covenant along with Charles ten years before.
The next act of the committee, was an order for burning "Lex Rex," and punishing all who should afterwards be found in possession of a copy. The book was accordingly burnt, with every mark of indignity, at the cross of Edinburgh; a ceremony which Sharpe repeated in front of the new college, beneath Mr Rutherford’s windows, in St Andrews. Rutherford was at the same time deprived of his situation in the college, his stipend confiscated, himself confined to his own house, and cited to appear before the ensuing parliament, on a charge of high treason.
Before the meeting of parliament, however, he was beyond the reach of all his enemies. He had long been in bad health, and now the utter ruin that he saw coming on the church entirely broke his spirit. Sensible that he was dying, he published, on the 26th of February, 1661, a testimony to the Reformation in Great Britain and Ireland. This testimony occupies ten octavo pages, and is remarkably clear and particular.
Of his last moments we can afford space only for a very brief account. He seemed to enjoy a singular rapture and elevation of spirit. "I shall shine," he said; "I shall see him as he is: I shall see him reign, and all his fair company with him, and I shall have my share. Mine eyes shall see my Redeemer; these very eyes of mine, and none for me. I disclaim," he remarked at the same time, "all that ever God made me will or do, and I look upon it as defiled or imperfect, as coming from me. But Christ is to me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Of the schisms that had rent the church," he remarked, "those whom ye call Protesters are the witnesses of Jesus Christ. I hope never to depart from that cause, nor side with those of the opposite party, who have broken their covenant oftener than once or twice. But I believe the Lord will build Zion, and repair the waste places of Jacob. Oh to obtain mercy to wrestle with God, for their salvation!"
To his only surviving child (a daughter) he said, "I have left you upon the Lord; it may be you will tell this to others, that the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places. I have got a goodly heritage. I bless the Lord that he gave me counsel." His last words were, "Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land;" and he expired on the morning of the 20th of March 1661, in the sixty-first year of his age.