Theology

Rutherford was one of the greatest theologians Scotland has produced and a recognised international theologian. In 1648, he was invited to occupy the chair of divinity and Hebrew in the University of Harderwyck and twice in 1651 to fill the chair of theology in Utrecht University after the death of  Demetius.  Rutherford remained in his chair at St Andrews, however. When he took the Professor’s Chair in St Andrews in 1639, he made a stipulation that he might be permitted to preach every Sabbath. It was said that in his time the University, “became a Lebanon out of which were taken cedars for building the house of God throughout the land.”

John Coffey’s biography seeks to set Rutherford in the context of intenational theology during the High Orthodoxy period (ca. 1640-1685-1725). The latter phrase is Richard Muller’s definition of the period in his book Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics:

“High orthodoxy, then, is the era of the full and final development of Protestant system prior to the great changes in philosophical and scientific perspective that would, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, utterly recast theological system into new forms” (80).

Guy Richard has written the first monograph on Rutherford’s theology, Supremacy Of God In The Theology Of Samuel Rutherford here. This book examines in detail chapters 1 to 14 of the Examen Arminianismi. Examen was published in 1668 in Utrecht after Rutherford’s death under the supervision of Robert MacWard, his amanuensis at the Westminster Assembly, and Matthias Nethenus, a professor of divinity in the University of Utrecht. It is based on Rutherford’s own theology lectures at the University of St. Andrews and is a polemic against Arminianism. James Walker describes it as “an excellent theological manual”. This is in process of being translated and there is an outline of the book here. There is a translation of the 19th chapter on the civil magistrate in the 2008 Confessional Presbyterian Journal.

Guy Richard has also written the article ‘Samuel Rutherford’s supralapsarianism revealed: a key to the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?’ here.

See also Strickland, D. “Union with Christ in the theology of Samuel Rutherford: an examination of his doctrine of the Holy Spirit.” Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, 1972.

Exercitationes

Exercitationes apologeticae pro divina gratia, Contra Jesuitas et
Arminianos.  pp. 400, Amsterdam, 1636.
From James Walker “The Theology and Theologians of Scotland”: “In 1637 there came from his seclusion his Exercitationes Apologeticae pro divina gratia, in which are discussed all the main points in the
Arrninian controversy, the Immutability of the Divine Decrees, the Scientia Media, a new Jesuit theory, the Efficacy of Grace, God’s Determination of the Will, and the like.  Rutherford’s fame was at once established. He was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews, where for the next twenty years he exercised an immense influence on the future ministry of our Church. He becomes now the leading theological writer of his day in Scotland, ever ready to press into the very thick of controversy.”

De Providentia

Disputatio Scholastica De Divina Providentia.  pp. 620. Edinburgh, 1649.
James Walker: “It deals with every question from which we now-a-days shrink back. Good Mr. Wodrow looked into it, and he seems to have been terror-stricken. Over more than six hundred closely printed pages, bristling with references to Thomas, and Scotus, and Bradwardine, to the great Jesuit and Arminian writers, he debates as though in his very element:
” What is the nature of God’s permissive will ? ”
” Whether under God’s permission sin comes necessarily about, by a necessity of consequence, though not by a causal bond? ”
” Whether there is such a thing as Christian fate ? ”
” Whether in the sins of men and devils God is the agens principalis in such a way that He is free from all stain? ”
winding up with an excursus which contains questions that seem to carry you into very cloudland: “Is God the origin and cause of possibles and impossibles? Is this possible something real? ” ” Is there anything impossible save as it has its original impossibility from God?”

Here is a section of Christ Dying ‘Places of Scripture seeming to favour universal Atonement vindicated’. See also here.

There is an examination of the Antinomian theology that Rutherford so vehemently opposed here, Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions By Barry H. Howson.

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