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Rev. Samuel Rutherford


1600 - 1661

Non-conformist clergyman. Born in Nisbet (Scottish Borders), Rutherford was educated at the University of Edinburgh (then the Tounis College), graduating in 1621. He was elected to the Chair of Humanity there in 1623, but was dismissed in 1626 following an alleged sexual indiscretion. He turned to the Ministry and took a charge in Anwoth (Dumfries and Galloway) in 1627.

His Exercitationes Apologeticae pro Divina Gratia (1636) put forward a Calvinist theology and opposed the Episcopalian practices instituted by King Charles I (1600-49). This was unacceptable to the Church authorities and Rutherford was prosecuted by Thomas Sydserf, the Bishop of Galloway (1581 - 1663) at Wigtown and again in Edinburgh, resulting in his suspension in 1636. He was exiled to Aberdeen until 1638, when he was present at the signing of the National Covenant in Edinburgh. He also attended the General Assembly in Glasgow the same year.

Rutherford was appointed to the Chair of Divinity at St. Mary's College (St. Andrews University) in 1639 and preached alongside Robert Blair (1583 - 1666) in the town. He was elevated to Rector of the University in 1651. He was chosen as one of eight Scottish representatives to the Westminster Assembly of 1643.

English poet John Milton attacked Rutherford and the intolerance of the Puritans in his sonnet 'On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament':

Taught ye by mere A.S. and Rutherford?
Men whose life, learning, faith, and pure intent,
Would have been held in high esteem with Paul
Must now be named and printed heretics

Rutherford's Lex Rex or 'The Law and the Prince' of 1644 was regarded as a masterwork of political thinking which questioned the authority of the King. It brought him to public attention and considerable praise, but it greatly annoyed King Charles II (1630-85) who removed Rutherford from his post and charged him with treason in 1661. However, Rutherford died before he could be tried. He is remembered by Rutherford's Monument on a hill near Anwoth.


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