Rutherfurd - Encyclopedia

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RUTHERFURD (or [[Rutherford), Samuel]] (c. 1600-1661), Scottish divine, was born about 1600 at the village of Nisbet, Roxburghshire. He went to college at Edinburgh in 1617, graduating M.A. in 1621, and two years afterwards was elected professor of humanity. On account of an alleged indiscretion before his marriage in 1626 he was dismissed his professorship in that year, but, after studying theology, he was in 1627 appointed minister of Anwoth, Kirkcudbrightshire, and soon took a leading place among the clergy of Galloway. In 1636 his first book, entitled Exercitationes Apologeticae pro Divina Gratia-an elaborate treatise against Arminianism-appeared at Amsterdam. Its severe Calvinism led to a prosecution by the bishop, Thomas Sydserf, in the High Commission Court, first at Wigtown and afterwards at Edinburgh, with the result that Rutherfurd was deposed from his pastoral office, and sentenced to confinement in Aberdeen during the king's pleasure.

His banishment lasted from September 1636 to February 1638, and the greater number of his published Letters belong to this period of his life. He was present at the signing of the Covenant in Edinburgh in 1638, and at the Glasgow Assembly of the same year he was restored to his parish. In 1639 he was appointed professor of divinity in St Mary's College, St Andrews. He only accepted the position on the condition that he should be allowed to act as colleague to Robert Blair in the church of St Andrews. He was sent up to London in 1643 as one of the eight commissioners from Scotland to the Westminster Assembly. Remaining at his post over three years, he did great service to the cause of his party. In 1642 he had published his Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul's Presbyterie in Scotland, and the sequel to it in 1644 on The Due Right of Presbyteries provoked Milton's contemptuous reference to "mere A. S. and Rutherfurd" in his sonnet On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament. In 1644 also appeared Rutherfurd's Lex Rex, a Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People, which gives him a recognized place among the early writers on constitutional law; it was followed by The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication (1646), and Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience (1648), characterized by Bishop Heber as "perhaps the most elaborate defence of persecution which has ever appeared in a Christian country." Among his other works are the Tryal and Triumph of Faith (1645), Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself (1647), and Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist (1648). In 1647 he returned to St Andrews to become principal of the New College there, and in 1648 and 1651 he declined successive invitations to theological chairs at Harderwijk and Utrecht. After the Restoration in 1660, his Lex Rex was ordered to be burned. He was deprived of all his offices, and on a charge of high treason was cited to appear before the ensuing parliament. His health utterly broke down, and he drew up, on the 26th of February 1661, a Testimony, which was posthumously published. He died on the 23rd of the following March.

The fame of Rutherfurd now rests principally upon his remarkable Letters, which, to the number of 215, were first published anonymously by M`Ward, an amanuensis, as Joshua Redivivus, or Mr Rutherfoord's Letters, in 1664. They have been frequently reprinted, the best edition (365 letters) being that by Rev. A. A. Bonar (1848), with a sketch of his life. In addition to the other works already mentioned, Rutherfurd published in 1651 a treatise, De Divina Providentia, against Molinism, Socinianism and Arminianism, of which Richard Baxter, not without justice, remarked that "as the Letters were the best piece so this was the worst he had ever read." See also a short Life by Rev. Dr Andrew Thomson (1884); Dr A. B. Grosart in Representative Nonconformists; Dr Alexander Whyte, Samuel Rutherford and some of his Correspondents (1894); Rev. R. Gilmour, Samuel Rutherford (1904).

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