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Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford (1600? – 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author. He was one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.

Born in the village of Nisbet, Roxburghshire, Rutherford was educated at Edinburgh University, where he became in 1623 Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin). In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Galloway, from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity. His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbytery in 1638 he was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews, and in 1651 Rector of St. Mary's College there. At the Restoration he was deprived of all his offices.



Rutherford's political book Lex, Rex (meaning "the law [and] the king" or "the law [is] king") presented a theory of limited government and constitutionalism. It was an explicit refutation of the doctrine of "Rex Lex" or "the king is the law." His argument against "Rex Lex" was based on Deuteronomy 17, and it supported the rule by law rather than rule by men, based on such concepts as the separation of powers and the covenant, a precursor to the social contract. It laid the foundation for later political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and thus for modern political systems such as that of the United States. After the English Restoration, the authorities burned Lex, Rex and cited the author for high treason, which his death prevented from taking effect.

Rutherford was also known for his spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself and his Letters. Concerning his Letters, Charles Spurgeon wrote: "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". Published versions of the Letters contain 365 letters and fit well with reading one per day.

Rutherford was a strong supporter of the divine right of Presbytery, the principle that the Bible calls for Presbyterian church government. Among his polemical works are Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), Lex, Rex (1644), and Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience.

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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File:Samuel Rutherford.jpg
Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford (1600? – 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author. He was one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.


Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Grace will ever speak for itself and be fruitful in well-doing; the sanctified cross is a fruitful tree.
    • P. 10.
  • Ye have lost a child — nay, she is not lost to you, who is found to Christ; she is not sent away, but only sent before; like unto a star, which going out of our sight, doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere.
    • P. 53.
  • Let your children be as so many flowers, borrowed from God. If the flowers die or wither, thank God for a summer loan of them.
    • P. 51.
  • Dearest wife, let us go on and faint not; something of ours is in heaven besides the flesh of our exalted Saviour, and we go on after our own.
    • P. 53.
  • My desire is that my Lord would give me broader and deeper thoughts, to feed myself with wondering at His love.
    • P. 93.
  • In our fluctuations of feeling, it is well to remember that Jesus admits no change in His affections; your heart is not the compass Jesus saileth by.
    • P. 93.
  • Every day we may see some new thing in Christ. His love hath neither brim nor bottom.
    • P. 95.
  • I find my Lord Jesus cometh not in the precise way that I lay wait for Him. He hath a manner of His own. Oh, how high are His ways above my ways
    • P. 97.
  • Take Christ in with you under your yoke, and let patience have her perfect work.
    • P. 98.
  • There is nothing that will make you a Christian indeed, but a taste of the sweetness of Christ.
    • P. 105.
  • Christ, in that place He hath put you, hath intrusted you with a dear pledge, which is His own glory, and hath armed you with His sword to keep the pledge, and make a good account of it to God.
    • P. 106.
  • Christ seeketh your help in your place; give Him your hand.
    • P. 124.
  • You must take a house beside the Physician. It will be a miracle if ye be the first sick that Christ hath put away uncured.
    • P. 154.
  • Welcome, welcome, cross of Christ, if Christ be with it.
    • P. 171.
  • How soon would faith freeze without a cross!
    • P. 171.
  • Build your nest upon no tree here, for ye see that God hath sold the forest to death.
    • Samuel Rutherford, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 206.
  • Be not cast down. If ye saw Him who is standing on the shore, holding out His arms to welcome you to land, ye would wade, not only through a sea of wrongs, but through hell itself to be with Him.
    • P. 253.
  • When ye are come to the other side of the water, and have set down your foot on the shore ot glorious eternity, and look back again to the waters and to your wearisome journey, and shall see in that clear glass of endless glory, nearer to the bottom of God's wisdom, ye shall then be forced to say, " If God had done otherwise with me than He hath done, I had never come to the enjoyment of this crown of glory."
    • P. 265.
  • It is no small comfort that God hath written some Scriptures to you which He hath not to others. Read these, and think God is like a friend who sendeth a letter to a whole house and family, but who speaketh in His letter to some by name that are dearest to Him in the house.
    • P. 270.
  • There is nothing left to us but to see how we may be approved of Him, and how we may roll the weight of our weak souls in well-doing upon Him, who is God omnipotent.
    • P. 274.
  • It is certain that this is not only good which the Almighty has done, but that it is best; He hath reckoned all your steps to heaven.
    • P. 276.
  • I know that as night and shadows are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are better than a continual sun, so is Christ's absence of special use, and that it hath some nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility, and putteth an edge on hunger, and furnisheth a fair field for faith to put forth itself.
    • P. 277.

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