Monday, March 18, 2019

Samuel Rutherford - biography

Samuel Rutherford ( c. 1600 – 29 March 1661) his father was a respectable farmer. He was probably born at Nisbet a village in Roxburghshire, a few miles from Jedburgh where he went to school. Forty years earlier the Scottish Parliament, under the guidance of John Knox, espoused the Reformed Faith as the national religion. When Mary Queen of Scots began to exercise her power as Scotland’s monarch in the following year, 1561, she tried to revive the interests of Romanism, but her immoral conduct alienated the nation from her and led to her abdication six years later. Her infant son was proclaimed James VI of Scotland, but during his childhood the country was governed by regents. After James himself assumed the reins of government in 1578, the Court and Church engaged in a long and hard struggle over the right of the Church to govern her affairs independently of the civil powers. The king’s aim was to eradicate Presbyterian church government and to control the Reformed Church and her General Assemblies by means of bishops.One major response to the king’s absolutist ambitions was the signing of the National Covenant in 1580, by which the Protestant leaders solemnly pledged themselves to support the Reformed doctrine and discipline. Four years later, the Court party being predominant, Parliament took away the independence of the Church by the Black Acts, which decreed that no church assembly was to be held without the King’s consent and that all ministers were to acknowledge the bishops as their ecclesiastical superiors. The tables were turned in 1592 when the Black Acts were repealed and Presbyterianism was re-established. Even the king himself, under the pressure of public opinion, now professed to be a true Presbyterian. He was a Calvinism but in reality he hated Presbyterianism "No bishop: no king" was his dictum.But Stuarts were dissemblers as his grandson proved. When the National Covenant was renewed in 1596, a revival of religion ensued but this proved to be but the sunshine before the storm. James VI, who became also James I of England in 1603, used his increased power to give bishops a place of authority in the Church by the crafty strategy of requiring each Presbytery to have a perpetual Moderator. The existing Bishops were made Moderators of such Presbyteries as usually met at Episcopal seats. This introduction of “Perpetual Moderators” was one of the final steps in the King’s plan to foist complete diocesan Episcopacy on the Church of Scotland. He also manipulated the General Assemblies of the Church, exiled the leading Presbyterians, and sought to make Scottish worship conform to the pattern of the Anglican Church by the notorious Articles of Perth of 1618.
    Nisbet, Rutherford's birthplace was spiritually stagnant – a place where, as Rutherford said later, “Christ was scarce named, as touching any reality or power of godliness”. However, young Rutherford sat under the ministry of the parish minister, David Calderwood, who was one of Scotland’s most ardent Presbyterian polemicists in those early years of the century. When Calderwood was summoned before the King at St Andrews in 1617, he boldly defended Presbyterianism, which so enraged the King that he cried, “Away with him, away with him,” following which Calderwood was deprived of his charge.So Rutherford had the rare experience of hearing a true exponent of Andrew Melville’s theory that the two kingdoms, Scotland and England, had the duty of asserting the independence of the Church from the crown, and the need of eschewing all popish ceremonies”. Undoubtedly it was teaching which profoundly affected Rutherford and permanently shaped his thinking on the burning issues of that era. Rutherford went to school at nearby Jedburgh where his promise was evident.
  • Samuel Rutherford was from 1617, educated at Edinburgh UniversityTwo years after Rutherford graduated as a Master of Arts, he was appointed, at the age of 23, Professor, or Regent, of Humanity, having been recommended by the professors for “his eminent abilities of mind and virtuous disposition”. In this position he had special responsibility for giving tuition in Latin language and literature.However, within two years he resigned in rather perplexing circumstances – a fact that has generated much discussion. Rutherford, entered on the married state [with a Miss Eupham Hamilton], and some indiscretion or irregularity connected with the formation of this union appears to have produced so much irritation and unpleasantness between himself and his colleagues, that from a sense of discomfort, or wounded feeling, or self-displeasure, he demitted his charge. That the offence, whatever it was, could not have been one of much gravity, or fitted to leave a permanent stain upon his character, seems beyond doubt, both from the testimony of continued confidence with which his demission was received, and yet more from the fact that, in the future conflicts of parties in which he afterwards intermingled, when scandals are so often raised from their graves to do the work of faction, no reference appears to have ever been made to this, by his most relentless adversaries.”In 1625 he left but there was no church discipline involved and he led a private life. Rutherford was now led to study for the ministry. He commenced his two-year divinity course in 1625 under Andrew Ramsey, Professor of Divinity in Edinburgh University, a man of Calvinistic principles.That year Charles I became king. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire, Galloway. Episcopacy was encroaching in Scotland but there was no episcopal involvement in his calling.The next year Laud. became Archbishop of CanterburyNot long after Rutherford was licensed to preach the gospel, he was ordained as the minister of the rural parish of Anwoth in Galloway. As Andrew Thomson comments, “What a ministry of power and blessing did that act initiate! What a centre of influence in the cause of pure and earnest religion, and of the crown rights of Christ, did that little Galloway hamlet become!” His settlement there was at the initiative of Sir John Gordon of Kenmure (afterwards Viscount Kenmure). Through his advice, the people of Anwoth invited Samuel Rutherford to become their spiritual teacher, and the Bishop of Galloway, Lamb to name, was induced to consent tacitly to the laying of presbyterial hands upon Rutherford. So Rutherford, now 27, and his young wife Eupham entered Bushy Beild, the Anwoth manse which had formerly been a manor house.Some visitors to the ivy-clad ruins of Rutherford’s church in Anwoth are surprised by two things: the smallness of the building and the isolation of the beautiful spot. They wonder at the greatest preacher in Scotland in his day labouring for nine years in an obscure part of the country, among a people sparsely scattered over a wide area. But a bond had been forged between the soul of Samuel Rutherford and his Anwoth flock that remained intact to the end of his days  It was said of him 'he was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying. His first years in Anwoth, though, were touched with sadness. His wife was ill for a year and a month, before she died and two children also died during this period. At first he saw little fruit for his labours. After two years there he wrote, 'I see exceedingly small fruit of my ministry. I would be glad of one soul to be a crown of joy and rejoicing in the day of Christ.' He complains of it being spiritually winter in Anwoth and could not even get funds to repair the church building. But eventually people came from great distances and filled the church. All classes of people at Anworth were the objects of his care. He befriended people of higher rank and seemed remarkably blessed in his ministry to them, but he also cared for ordinary people and young children. He prayed much. At one time he had a fever lasting over three months and when he recovered for a long time though he preached he had to stop visiting and catechising. This was just before his wife's death in 1630. Some years after his mother who moved in with him was dangerously ill. Many people visited including Archbishop Usher who came incognito but when he was recognised Rutherford had him preach'

    1636 Rutherford published a book in Latin, Exercitationes de Gratia, defending the doctrines of grace (Calvinism) against 
    Armininiasm. This put him in conflict with the Church authorities, which were dominated by the English Episcopacy. He was called before the High Court, deprived of his ministerial office, and exiled to Aberdeen. where
     Samuel Rutherford
    Source: Wikipedia 
     'his writing desk' was said to be 'perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom'.On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638, he escaped Aberdeen, Presbyterianism was re-established, was made Professor of Divinity at St. AndrewsAfter 5 months at St Andrews, having been a widower for nearly 10 years he remarried.  Rutherford in 1443 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. While he was in London two infant children by his second wife died. She was to bear him five more four of whom predeceased Rutherford. So he was a man acquainted with grief and so well able to counsel the bereaved. I previously revised his Letter 310 in modern English. It appears that the recipient of this letter from London, a mother of three sons,  was unknown to Rutherford but known to Blair his fellow minister who has pastored he son who died young. It is remarkable for the tender comfort given but also for the richness of his metaphors which he is not beyond the odd mixing.H
    is Letters, or at least selections from them, have been issued in at least 100 editions (80 of them in English, 19 in Dutch, four in German, one in French and one in Gaelic). 

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