Who is Samuel Rutherford?

by on January 10, 2009

The information for this post can be found in Meet The Puritans by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson available at Reformation Heritage Books or Westminster Book Store.

As part of Going to Seminary’s devotional initiative, we would like to briefly introduce Samuel Rutherford and his life. Only 5 days left for the offer from Banner of Truth!

Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 in Nisbet, Roxburghshire to a farming family. He earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1621 and was chosen to be Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh in 1623. However, in 1625, he was forced to resign for “behaving inappropriately with a young woman” a trial that is believed to have led to his salvation in Christ Jesus. He was asked to pastor a church in Anwoth where he gained his greatest fame.

Rutherford would spend countless hours in prayer throughout his ministry and Christian walk. To do this, he would wake up at 3 am each day. While at Anwoth, he experienced many personal losses and trials and it is because of these that we have The Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Of all his children, only one daughter died at an early age. His wife, Euphame, died in 1630. His mother, who was living with him, passed away in 1635.

During this time, from 1630-1636, was hounded by the courts for not conforming to the Perth Articles. I say until 1636 not because he conformed; rather, because he was forbidden by the high court to preach in Scotland and ultimately placed under “house arrest” in Aberdeen. It was during this time that many of his letters were written as he sought to minister to the congregation he was forced to leave.

Fortunately, in 1638, the National Covenant was signed in Scotland enabling Rutherford to return to Anwoth. However, this was for a short period of time because he was appointed to the strategic position of professor of theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Andrews. He accepted on the condition that he would be allowed to preach at least once every Lord’s Day.

He remarried in 1640 to Jean M’Math and had six more daughters in addition to the one living daughter from his previous marriage. Unfortunately, all seven daughters died before him with two dying while he and his wife were away in London.

He was one of six Scottish commissioners to attend the Westminster Assembly in 1643 and stayed until 1647. He greatly contributed to the Shorter Catechism. Perhaps of more personal note, he wrote five books during this time including Lex Rex.

In 1649, Rutherford was appointed principal of St. Mary’s College and ultimately rector of the University in 1651. However, the 1650’s brought much unrest to the Church of Scotland with the monarchy ultimately being restored in 1660. In 1661, Rutherford was charged with treason and was stripped of his church, his university and his monetary stipend. His books were ordered burned and he himself was once again put under house arrest. The Lord had favor on Rutherford and allowed him to die in peace on March 30, 1661 before he was to appear for sentencing. He is buried in the Old Cathedral graveyard in St. Andrews.