The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford (Richard)

Richard, Guy M. The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008.

Given that Samuel Rutherford is the most important Scottish theologian of all time, one must ask why there is so little written about him. The same question applies to his many yet-untranslated works.  John Coffey’s standard-setting biography did much to address the problem, but it didn’t deal with his theology in full depth. There are quite a few hagiographical works about him, but they do little in the academic realm.

Rutherford’s Examen Arminianismi function as a systematic theology, as he viewed Arminianism as an attack on the whole of Christian doctrine.  Some areas, like his focus on the doctrine of God and the human will, are beyond compare.  His supralapsarianism demands to be taken more seriously.  That’s not to say he is always fair to his opponents, nor does he always give an in-depth analysis.  Earlier, I had asked why there isn’t much work on or translated by Rutherford these days.  I think I might know the answer. Turretin is still the gold standard.  Regarding divine justice, John Owen seems to have given the definitive response to Rutherford–and most of Owen’s stuff is already in English.

Abbreviations

EA: Examen Arminianismi

Key Theological Terms

Archetypal: the infinite knowledge God has of himself (26).

Ectypal: the theology which is available to the finite capacities of humans.

Duplex cognito Dei: the distinction between the knowledge of God the creator and the knowledge of God the redeemer (33).

Theologia archetype et ectypa

Like the rest of the Reformed tradition, Rutherford holds to natural theology (Divine Right, 66)..  As Richard states, “For Rutherford, natural theology not only exists, but it serves at least two important functions as well, as we will see–it renders all people without excuse before the divine tribunal; and it acts as an instrument in apologetics” (32).

Arminius, by contrast, on Rutherford’s reading, collapses the natural knowledge of God back into the supernatural knowledge with its doctrine of prevenient grace (36). Indeed, “all knowledge of the divine is supernatural.” This means, in the Arminian view, men and women already have supernatural knowledge of God prior to grace.

According to Richard, Arminius “redefines the scholastic distinction between theologia archetype et ectypa.” This means he collapses “Deus abscondita into Deus revelaturs” (42).

Scripture and Causes

Efficient cause of Scripture: God himself.
Formal cause of Scripture: divine truth
Final cause of Scripture: to teach us God’s holiness
Material cause of Scripture: subject matter

Doctrine of God

Rutherford inherited and upheld the traditional model of divine simplicity.  He did so, however, as an adherent of the nominalist schola Augustina moderna. Doing so allowed him to give a new angle on the traditional problem of divine simplicity: given that God’s attributes are identical, how can we distinguish them?  Rutherford notes that they aren’t “real distinctions (different res), nor are they formal distinctions…but they are distinctions of reason” (81).

From this He makes several deductions:  1) God isn’t perfectible; 2) He has being from himself

Rutherford’s rebuttal of Arminius on the Trinity is highly illustrative for us today. Arminius said the Father is ‘the source of the whole Deity’ (WJA, II, 693). This sounds like the Greek East, but the Eastern Fathers made sure that they weren’t saying that the Father is the source of the Son’s essence, only of his hypostasis. Arminius’s view is subordinationist.

The Knowledge of God

God’s own knowledge is twofold

Knowledge of himself.

Knowledge of objects outside himself

Simple Intelligence.  This is his natural knowledge. Knowledge of possibles.

Knowledge of Vision. This is God’s knowledge of all actuals.

Both Arminius and Rutherford held to a loosely Thomistic framework.  Arminius, however, denied that God’s knowledge involved causality (92).

Rutherford’s problem with Middle Knowledge is “that it makes the creature or fate the first cause of all things and the divine will the second cause, because God looks out of himself to see what free creatures would do before he makes his decree” (92). 

The Voluntas Dei

Although Rutherford is a voluntarist, this does not mean that the will functions independently of the intellect (95). The divine intellect logically precedes the will.  The intellect, though, does not “make” the will do anything.

Voluntas ad intra et ad extra

Ad intra: the divine will in God
Ad extra: the divine will towards objects outside of God.

Potentia absoluta et ordinata

Rutherford makes a distinction between omnipotency and sovereignty.  Omnipotency refers to the potentia absoluta.  The latter refers to the potentia ordinata. Regarding his absolute power, God can do all that is logically possible.  His decree limits this.  God’s immutability “restrains his potentia.”  Richard highlights a difficulty with this: if God’s immutability limits his sovereignty ad extra, why can’t other attributes do the same (99)?  I think there might be a way for Rutherford to get around this.  Will and intellect are primarily faculties, not attributes.  Moreover, take an attribute like mercy.  It’s easy to understand how the will acts.  It’s not clear how mercy qua mercy would act. In fact, the will would have to act for mercy to act.

Voluntas beneplaciti et signi

The voluntas beneplaciti is “the decree of God by which he determines all things” that come to pass (103).  The voluntas signi is the revealed will. These aren’t contradictory. He doesn’t command x and non-x at the same time.  However, he can permit something be done by his voluntas beneplaciti that he does not approve by his voluntas signi.

Premotion and the Voluntas efficiens et permittens

There is one more distinction. This allows Rutherford to maintain the free decisions of creatures. The voluntas efficiens is “the first and highest cause of all positive existents” (105).  This is the doctrine of physical premotion.  Richard footnotes a useful diagram by Van Ruler (“New Philosophy to Old Standards).

Prime Cause
a / \ c
Secondary Cause – Effect
    B

Supralapsarianism

Richard argues that Rutherfold has a supralapsarian framework with infralapsarian language. With the supralapsarians, Rutherford says election is prior to every other divine decree, “but [he] says nothing about reprobation” (118). (This is in the context of an unpublished mss.: University of Edinburgh Library, La.II.394, p.5). With this established, the rest of Rutherford’s comments on election are fairly standard among the Reformed.

He does speak of reprobation.  It has two acts. God passes over and withholds “efficaciou grace” (120).

He does have a positive argument for supralapsarianism. With others like Twisse, Rutherford says the “end must be acknowledged both first in intention, and last in execution” (121). God first decrees those who are to be saved, and then he decrees the means.  It would make no sense “decreeing the means to accomplish salvation before decreeing salvation itself.” 

Rutherford anticipates the argument that Turretin makes against supralapsarianism: does it make sense to speak of a decree about possible men?  Rutherford responds that “everyone who believes in the traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo also makes a non-entity the object of the divine decree” (127).

The Atonement of Christ

Rutherford argues God is not obligated to exercise divine justice towards his creatures (134). Divine justice is an attribute ad intra. God’s will is hierarchically prior to justice. In other words, nothing ad extra can force God to exercise mercy. Lest this sound too severe, Rutherford does concede that there is a “relative necessity for him [God] to do so [i.e., act mercifully]” (135). 

This raises the other controversial issue for Rutherford on the atonement: could God have forgiven sinners apart from the death of Christ?  In terms of potentia absoluta, he could have.  Nonetheless, he has decreed potentia ordinata to forgive sinners by the death of Christ.

John Owen, by contrast, sees the justice of God as “the universal rectitude and perfection of the divine nature’, which is antecedent to all acts of his will’” (Owen, Works, X, p.498, quoted in Richard 136). Divine justice, then, is “the totality of the divine perfections.”  Carl Trueman has convincingly argued Owen’s case.  For Owen, the acts of God’s justice must conform both internally and externally (Trueman 93).

Soteriology

The material on covenant theology is fairly standard, so only a few comments will suffice. The covenant of redemption is “the relational context in which the decrees are given” (146). Richard has a good section on the nature of human willing. Does God’s grace violate man’s will?  No. Grace doesn’t “compel the will to act against its desires. It changes its desires” (174).

Conclusion

This isn’t merely a book on Samuel Rutherford. It is also a primer on Reformed categories.

Trueman, Carl. “John Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice: An Exercise in Christocentric Scholasticism.” Calvin Theological Journal 33 (1998), 87-103.

The Lion of the Covenant

The Lion of the Covenant by Maurice Grant.

Even in the best of times the relationship between Church and State has always been uneasy. While the idea of a Christian state is a hoped-for goal for many, the fact remains that the State has more often than not been the enemy of the church. Even more diabolical, however, is when the ecclesiastical establishment allies with the State and it, too, becomes an enemy to the people of God. So it was in Richard Cameron’s day.

Maurice Grant does a fine job in quickly and deftly explaining the context of the Cromwellian period and afterward. Of particular note is the controversy between the Protestors and Resolutioners, the former rejecting any compromise of Jesus’ crown rights over his church. The flow of the story parallels Richard Cameron’s own life. It starts small and remains uneventful for quite some time. Grant treats his readers to the intricate details of Cameron’s own development, his turbulent ministry, and his climactic (and prophetic) death.

More importantly, however, are the issues around which Cameron fought. If the civil magistrate proclaims himself head of the church, and thus blurs the distinction between Church and State, is it logically possible to resist him only in the realm of the church but leave him be in the realm of the State? Cameron’s critics say yes. Cameron said no. The Stuart monarchs also said no.

So what should we do?

I am not uncritical of Cameron, though. On a theoretical level, I agree with his taking arms against thugs who happened to have been deputized by a foreign power. That is Lex, Rex plain and simple. Grant is correct, though, that Cameron had not thought out the issues as thoroughly as his friend Donald Cargill had. The Scottish Reformation championed the idea of armed resistance to a king. But it still saw the king as king. Disowning a king, however, runs very close to the Romanist concept of a pope deposing kings as he saw fit. Cameron could have justified his actions with far more powerful arguments by relying much more closely on Rutherford.

Should we, likewise, resist tyrannical rulers? Well, it depends. Our situation is not analagous to Cameron’s, though one suspects the we live in a secular Erastianism. Cameron saw himself fully justified in resistance because by culture, tradition, and prior law he was bound to uphold the Covenants. We can’t exactly make that claim today. So what should we do? At the moment, nothing beyond a careful reading and application of Rutherford.

In conclusion, Richard Cameron represents an interesting case-study in church-state relations. He brings almost all of the logical implications of a previous century of covenantal thought to an armed showdown. I say “almost all.” He didn’t read Rutherford as carefully as he probably thought he did.

Sort of being nice to Covenanters

I’ve picked on Covenanters a lot in the past.  They deserved it. Probably still do.  Some of them (whom I know personally) have a tendency to hyper-legalism (emphasis on hyper).  The rest are LARPing.

With that said, the history of Covenanting is one of sheer heroism.  And the earlier Covenanters (but definitely NOT the post-1688 generations) produced top-rate theological scholarship. And theological piety.

I appreciate the emphasis on Psalmody.  I am not an exclusive psalmist.  I think much of it is question-begging and these discussions usually end up with name-calling.  Notwithstanding, I appreciate the emphasis on psalms.  We should all be singing more psalms.

And while scholasticism as huge problems, it was a necessary and legitimate intellectual response to the currents of the time.  It allowed theologians to address some problems with remarkable intellectual sophistication.

Rutherford and Possibilia

“Samuel Rutherford and the Divine Origin of Possibility and Impossibility” in Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland.

  1. P1: God’s being is the first principle of all things (142-143).
    1. Which means, pace Aristotle, that the Law of Noncontradiction is not the first principle.
    2. The law of NC is complex, not simple:  it involves both being and non-being.
  2. Possibilia: grounded in God’s omnipotence
    1. Rutherford’s specific claim is things are possible because God is omnipotent.
    2. Aristotle’s dictum: act precedes potency (144).
      1. Therefore, “the infinite active potency of God is prior to the passive and receptive potency of creatures” (Rutherford).
      2. Rutherford rejects the Jesuit argument that “the intrinsic possibility of things makes it possible for God’s omnipotence to create them” (144).
      3. This allows the Jesuits to claim middle knowledge: the possibility of things exist prior to God’s decreeing them.
    3. The impossible: when God creates the possible or actual essences of things, he in the same act creates the impossibilities between the nature of things.
      1. Impossibility in the created realm is always complex
    4. Future contingents
      1. Middle knowledge says that future contingents have a determinate truth prior to the decree of God (144).
      2. This is similar to the claim that possibilia are possible independently of God.
    5. Are possibilia real?
      1. As their name suggests, they are merely in potency, not actually existing.
      2. Christian faith incompatible with the idea of eternal essences that exist independently of God.
  3. God’s knowledge
    1. Scientia simplex intelligentiae: God knows which creature he could make in this or that order.
    2. Scientia libera: knowledge of ends and means.
    3. Practica scientia: knowledge by which God forms ideas of the possibilia and future things.
    4. Scientia speculativa:
    5. God’s will: by loving His omnipotence, God necessarily also loves the infinite possibilia within.
  4. Jesuit position, restated
    1. Jesuits locate the root of possibility and impossibility outside of God, in the things themselves (154).
    2. This means a future contingent is not grounded in God.
  5. Reformed response:
    1. A thing is possible because God is able to produce it., not God is able to produce it because it is possible.
    2. Since God’s being is prior, all possibilia must originate in God, not outside of God.

Rutherford’s Scotist Ethics

“Samuel Rutherford’s Euthyphro Dilemma” in Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland by Simon J. G. Burton

Cameron’s Thesis:

  1. Things that are good in themselves have a much stronger binding authority than adiaphora.

Rutherford’s Rejoinder:

  1. Constitution of the divine image is dependent on the divine will (130).
  2. Categories of simple and complex acts.
    1. The act of worshiping God is a simple act (for Rutherford, there is no object/intention in this act)
    2. The act of worshiping God in accord with the divine law is a complex act.
  3. Only complex acts have moral status (130).
    1. A created object is not the measure or rule of the divine will (131).
    2. When God creates rational creatures, he at once creates the common principles of the natural law (132).

Advancing the Position

  1. Love of God is the cornerstone of the natural law
    1. The question now becomes, per God’s command to kill Isaac, is whether a particular act should be considered obedience to God or not (132).
    2. This duty is not necessarily and immutably founded in God’s own nature before every decree of his will (133).
  2. Bradwardine
    1. Distinction between things reasonable naturally prior to the divine will
      1. Such as God’s being and goodness.
      2. They are able to move the divine will.
    2. AND things which are reasonable naturally posterior to the divine will;
      1. Depend on God’s will for their reasonable status.
      2. Caused by the divine will and cannot move it.
    3. and things which are said to be mixed.

Rutherford’s Scotist Ethics

  1. Both Rutherford and Bradwardine attempted to identify different logical moments within the eternal and indivisible divine act.
    1. Grounds contingency not in the possibility of future action but in the present moment of existence itself (135).
    2. This allows Scotus to make a distinction between the single instant of time and the single instant of divine eternity in terms of a series of logically connected instants (135).
    3. Logically successive, but temporally synchronic structural instants.
  2. Highest principle of morality:  God is to be loved
    1. Every moral action is defined in relation to this.
    2. Except for those acts with an intrinsic and necessary relation to the divine nature–those acts with God as the immediate object–the moral status of every action is determined solely by the divine will (136).
    3. Aquinas:  God didn’t actually command Abraham to murder; rather, God was calling due on Isaac early (since Isaac was supposed to die because he was mortal).

Bottom line application:  God is not bound by his creation.

Speak ye not of Calvin

I’ve read through the Institutes 3 times.  It’s good, I guess.  I just don’t really resonate towards Calvin.  And until 1800, that was more or less the impression in the Reformed world.  So why are people so concerned to tag us as Calvinists?  I debated Orthodox Bridge on this point 3 years ago.  They couldn’t even understand the question.

Where Calvin is interesting is not predestination.  You can find the same thing in Aquinas (and harder and more stern).  He’s interesting on union with Christ and church government.

Rutherford is a good example:

John Coffey notes in his glorious study on Rutherford concerning how marginal Calvin was for Reformed scholastics:

“Yet contrary to the common assumption, Calvin did not tower above all other Reformed theologians in importance. In *Pro Divina Gratia* Rutherford referred to Calvin only four times. William Twisse…was referred to 12 times… “Rutherford never called himself a Calvinist” (Coffey, *Politics, Religion, and the British Revolution*, p. 75)

Rutherford and Scotism

I’m not saying Rutherford is right or wrong, just noting particulars.

Taken from Guy Richards, “Samuel Rutherford’s Supralapsarianism Revealed.”

“Rutherford believes that God, although just, merciful, and good, is under no compulsion” to be just to his creatures ad extra (Richards 32).  “But once he decrees to act ad extra, he is bound to do so.”

In other words, for the Reformed voluntarist tradition, paraphrasing William Twisse, the only thing that limits God’s free will (to act ad extra) is his decree.  The Scotists aren’t saying that God’s will makes just anything right.  Rather, they are saying, given what God has indeed ordained to be the case (potentia ordinata), God is bound to will x.

Classic example:  Was Jesus’s atonement necessary?  Rutherford has usually been understood as saying, “No.  God could have forgiven sins otherwise.”  But I don’t think this is exactly what he said.  Rather, as Richards points out, it is contingently necessary (n 29).  Since God has chosen to act this way towards creatures, and to punish sin this way, has it become necessary.  But he was under no obligation to decide to act this way.

Review and Outline of Lex, Rex

This is Samuel Rutherford’s response to the prelate Maxwell who advocated absolute obedience to monarchs in all respects. This book is a point by point refutation (and reads like it). Rutherford’s Key argument: “I reduce all that I am to speak of the power of kings, to the author or efficient, -the matter or subject, – the form or power, – the end and fruit of their government, – and to some cases of resistance” (Rutherford 1).

We can say it another way: We can reorder the scholastic causes (formal, efficient, material, final) to forms of limitation: what is the purpose of govt? Who or what brings govt into existence? Who or what constitutes govt? If these distinctions aren’t kept in mind, Rutherford’s argument doesn’t make sense. In fact, constitutional govt wouldn’t make sense, either.

Rutherford explains government is natural in its root but voluntary in its mode. Further, The power of creating a man a king is from the people (6). Can the people cede all of their liberty to the king? No, for the people do not have absolute power over themselves. You cannot cede what you do not have (81). The king is above the people by eminence of derived authority as watchman, but he is inferior to them in fountain-power, as the effect to the cause (115). This is Rutherford’s key, and in my opinion, strongest, argument in the book. God’s intention per civil govt is “external peace, and quiet life, and godliness of his church and people, and that all judges, according to their places, be nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 40.23)” (105).

Can we resist the government? Well, individually no. As a member of an estate and body politic, yes. Resistance and patient suffering are not contraries when considered as virtues (153ff). If resistance can fall under the virtue of self-preservation, then it is not an evil. Were the entire Parliament and city of London to lay down their arms and go meekly to their deaths at the hand of Irish rebels? In lighter situations, such as taxes and tribute, we may not use acts of re-offending. Did Paul meekly submit to the king of Damascus or did he engage in self-preservation and escape (159)?

The book is somewhat difficult to read because Rutherford is engaging in a point-by-point refutation of Maxwell, so it isn’t always clear which point is under discussion.

Analytical Outline

I found Rev David Field’s analyses of Rutherford very helpful and invaluable.

http://davidpfield.com/other/rutherfordccs.pdf

http://www.davidpfield.com/published-articles/Rutherford-resistance.pdf

Rev Field’s key point, taken from Rutherford:

A woman or a young man may violently oppose a king, if he force the one to adultery and incest, and the other to sodomy (162 [331]).

If it be natural to one man to defend himself against the personal invasion of a prince, then is it natural and warrantable to ten thousand, and to a whole kingdom ; and what reason to defraud a kingdom of the benefit of self-defence more than one man? (158 [324])?

Key argument: I reduce all that I am to speak of the power of kings, to the author or efficient, -the matter or subject, – the form or power, – the end and fruit of their government, – and to some cases of resistance (Rutherford 1).

Field neatly rephrases Rutherford’s argument: If we reorder the causes (to final, efficient, formal and material) and take “cases of  resistance” to be “forms of limitation” we may rephrase the conclusions of Lex, rex as a series of questions: What is the purpose or goal of government? Who or what brings government into being? What is it that makes government government, or what is the essence of government? What is government made out of? What are the due limitations of civil government (Field 5)?

Rutherford gives a book-length response to “P. Prelate.”

C1: “All civil power is immediately from God in its root” (Rutherford 1).

  1. Civil society is natural in radice but voluntary in modo.
  2. The power of creating a man a king is from the people (6).
    1. Judges 9.6; 1 Sam. 11.15
    2. A choice is made to choose this man and not that man.
  3. Is God’s call to not resist ordained authorities always absolute?  Rutherford gives a number of reductios to prove otherwise:
    1. A pastor is ordained of God; if a pastor becomes a robber, is it a sin to resist him?
    2. If a king brings in foreign invaders, such as “Irish cutthroats,” it is lawful to resist (15).

C2: Where obligation exists by contract, violation of the faith plighted in the contract, cannot in proper terms be called disobedience or contempt of authority (24).

  1. Government and power-making: the community, not the Pope, doth put forth this act (making a king) as a free, voluntary power (29).
  2. The community keeps to itself a power to resist tyranny (35).
  3. The previous laws of a community or nation give people the right to resist invaders who try to overthrow that order (36).

C3: Idolatry and Prior Laws

  1. If a nation is Christian (or theistic), the people do not have to aid a ruler in making it idolatrous (40).
  2. Rutherford’s hypotheticals are quite interesting:  if a king invites Papists to invade and subdue the Protestants, must the Protestants merely accept this?
  3. Covenants limit the power of kings (57).
  4. The Western legal heritage at this time had already limited the power of kings: if a king negates the conditions which made him king (e.g., the people’s investiture), then he may be negated since he violated them “from his own consent” (63).

C4: Nature and Destruction

  1. Law is rooted in nature and nature can’t be destroyed.  Therefore, a king doesn’t have the power to destruction (66).
  2. What if a people are conquered?
    1. This is why there really can’t be a “blank check to Nero” type interpretation, otherwise it gets really silly.
      1. This means “might makes right.”
      2. So, the new conqueror is automatically “the powers that be”?
      3. Does that mean the old–indeed, legitimate–ruler is now illegitimate?
      4. At what point does he become illegitimate–when the new conqueror conquers 50.01% of the land?
    2. Presumably, given the analysis in 2.1.1-2.1.4, a people would be sinning in resisting.   Yet, let’s say they “reconquered” the conquerors.  Does that automatically make them “in the right?”

C5: Kingmakers

  1. The Holy Spirit invests the people (Dt. 17.15-16) with kingmaking power.
    1. But that’s the Old Testament!
    2. Fair enough–it is also Western (and Russian) legal tradition.
  2. Can the people cede all of their liberty to the king?
    1. No, for the people do not have absolute power over themselves.
    2. You cannot cede what you do not have (81).
  3. They give the king political power to their own safety, but reserve natural power to themselves.  Here Rutherford buttresses his argument with natural law reasoning and the 6th Commandment.
  4. Inferior magistrates are also “powers from God” (else, if Paul were just talking about the king, why didn’t he simply say “power”?).
    1. They also bear God’s sword (90).
  5. Scripture notes the people make the king, never the king the people (113).
    1. The people united to make David king at Hebron.
    2. The king is above the people by eminence of derived authority as watchman, but he is inferior to them in fountain-power, as the effect to the cause (115).  This is Rutherford’s key, and in my opinion, strongest, argument in the book.

C6: Parliament and the People

  1. “The princes of the house of Israel could not be rebuked for oppression in judgment (Mic. 3.1-3) if they had not the power of judgment” (95).
  2. Historical reductio:  Did Parliament sin by not giving Charles I the tax legislation he wanted?  
  3. The Parliament can resist the king, for it, too, his of God, even “a congregation of gods” (111, quoting Psalm 82.6).

C7: Is the King absolute?

  1. God does not give absolute power, because: (101ff)
    1. The king has his power from the people, as already established.
    2. The king is commonly known as a living law, but if he is a law then he is not absolute.
    3. Is the power to do evil from God?
      1. Depends on what kind of distinctions we make.  If “power” means “approval from God,” then did David have the power to kill Uriah and deflower Bathsheba (103)?
      2. Obviously, that is not a positive power but a mere permission.
      3. In either case, the king doesn’t have absolute power.
    4. The power to work contrary to the Good cannot be a lawful power, since the king is a minister of God for Good.
    5. The prophets rebuked the kings of Israel; hence, the power was not absolute.

C8: The Goal of Civil Govt.

  1. God’s intention per civil govt is “external peace, and quiet life, and godliness of his church and people, and that all judges, according to their places, be nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 40.23)” (105).
  2. Therefore, God must have appointed means to this end.
    1. The obstruction of Good and justice works contrary to this end.

C9: The Health of the People

  1. If the people are the cause of the king, then their own safety must be principally sought (119).
  2. What is the end or purpose of the king?  The king isn’t the king simply so he can be the king.  Therefore, the prelate’s argument is reduced thus:
    1. The king is a lame king unless given the power to waste and destroy.
    2. The king cannot be happy unless he has the power to lay waste the Lord’s inheritance.

C10: Royalty mediately

  1. The king has royalty mediately by the people’s free consent (123).
  2. Power is not an immediate inheritance from heaven but is always mediated in situations.

C11: Judges and the Laws

  1. If judges exist, then the king is not the sole interpreter of the law (137).

C12: War

  1. Private subjects, Rutherford carefully argues, may not officially rise against the king.  Estates, however, may (139).
  2. There is a distinction between the king in concreto and the king in abstracto (office of the king).

C13: Venerable authority

  1. The person of the king is not venerable in its authority.
  2. If the contrary hold true, then Manasseh did not shed innocent blood or engage in sorcery (150).

C14: Resistance and patient suffering are not contraries when considered as virtues (153ff).

  1. If resistance can fall under the virtue of self-preservation, then it is not an evil.
  2. Were the entire Parliament and city of London to lay down their arms and go meekly to their deaths at the hand of Irish rebels?
  3. In lighter situations, such as taxes and tribute, we may not use acts of re-offending.
  4. Did Paul meekly submit to the king of Damascus or did he engage in self-preservation and escape (159)?

C15: Self-Defense as Rational and Natural

  1. We must first engage in supplications.
  2. Flight is not always possible or natural, as in the case of the aged and infants.
  3. Rutherford makes an interesting assertion:  “No man in the 3 kingdoms sought to harm the king’s person” (162).  It does not seem that Rutherford would agree with Charles’ execution.
  4. Humorous reductio on the Irish rebel and natural law (165).

C16: More on Just War Theory and Defensive Wars (166ff)

  1. As the priests executed a ceremonial law on King Uzziah, so may the three estates of Scotland execute the  moral law of God upon the king (171).

C17: But what about martyrs? (182ff)

  1. Can Christians defend themselves against murderers?

Working outline of Lex, Rex

I still have 100 pages to go in my outline.  Most of my critical help has come from Rev. David Field.

I found Rev David Field’s analyses of Rutherford very helpful and invaluable.

http://davidpfield.com/other/rutherfordccs.pdf

http://www.davidpfield.com/published-articles/Rutherford-resistance.pdf

Rev Field’s key point, taken from Rutherford:

A woman or a young man may violently oppose a king, if he force the one to adultery and incest, and the other to sodomy (162 [331]).

If it be natural to one man to defend himself against the personal invasion of a prince, then is it natural and warrantable to ten thousand, and to a whole kingdom ; and what reason to defraud a kingdom of the benefit of self-defence more than one man? (158 [324])?

Key argument: I reduce all that I am to speak of the power of kings, to the author or efficient, -the matter or subject, – the form or power, – the end and fruit of their government, – and to some cases of resistance (Rutherford 1).

Field neatly rephrases Rutherford’s argument: If we reorder the causes (to final, efficient, formal and material) and take “cases of

resistance” to be “forms of limitation” we may rephrase the conclusions of Lex, rex as a series of questions: What is the purpose or goal of government? Who or what brings government into being? What is it that makes government government, or what is the essence of government? What is government made out of? What are the due limitations of civil government (Field 5)?

Rutherford gives a book-length response to “P. Prelate.”

C1: “All civil power is immediately from God in its root” (Rutherford 1).

  1. Civil society is natural in radice but voluntary in modo.
  2. The power of creating a man a king is from the people (6).
    1. Judges 9.6; 1 Sam. 11.15
    2. A choice is made to choose this man and not that man.
  3. Is God’s call to not resist ordained authorities always absolute?  Rutherford gives a number of reductios to prove otherwise:
    1. A pastor is ordained of God; if a pastor becomes a robber, is it a sin to resist him?
    2. If a king brings in foreign invaders, such as “Irish cutthroats,” it is lawful to resist (15).

C2: Where obligation exists by contract, violation of the faith plighted in the contract, cannot in proper terms be called disobedience or contempt of authority (24).

  1. Government and power-making: the community, not the Pope, doth put forth this act (making a king) as a free, voluntary power (29).
  2. The community keeps to itself a power to resist tyranny (35).
  3. The previous laws of a community or nation give people the right to resist invaders who try to overthrow that order (36).

C3: Idolatry and Prior Laws

  1. If a nation is Christian (or theistic), the people do not have to aid a ruler in making it idolatrous (40).
  2. Rutherford’s hypotheticals are quite interesting:  if a king invites Papists to invade and subdue the Protestants, must the Protestants merely accept this?
  3. Covenants limit the power of kings (57).
  4. The Western legal heritage at this time had already limited the power of kings: if a king negates the conditions which made him king (e.g., the people’s investiture), then he may be negated since he violated them “from his own consent” (63).

C4: Nature and Destruction

  1. Law is rooted in nature and nature can’t be destroyed.  Therefore, a king doesn’t have the power to destruction (66).
  2. What if a people are conquered?
    1. This is why there really can’t be a “blank check to Nero” type interpretation, otherwise it gets really silly.
      1. This means “might makes right.”
      2. So, the new conqueror is automatically “the powers that be”?
      3. Does that mean the old–indeed, legitimate–ruler is now illegitimate?
      4. At what point does he become illegitimate–when the new conqueror conquers 50.01% of the land?
    2. Presumably, given the analysis in 2.1.1-2.1.4, a people would be sinning in resisting.   Yet, let’s say they “reconquered” the conquerors.  Does that automatically make them “in the right?”

C5: Kingmakers

  1. The Holy Spirit invests the people (Dt. 17.15-16) with kingmaking power.
    1. But that’s the Old Testament!
    2. Fair enough–it is also Western (and Russian) legal tradition.
  2. Can the people cede all of their liberty to the king?
    1. No, for the people do not have absolute power over themselves.
    2. You cannot cede what you do not have (81).
  3. They give the king political power to their own safety, but reserve natural power to themselves.  Here Rutherford buttresses his argument with natural law reasoning and the 6th Commandment.
  4. Inferior magistrates are also “powers from God” (else, if Paul were just talking about the king, why didn’t he simply say “power”?).
    1. They also bear God’s sword (90).
  5. Scripture notes the people make the king, never the king the people (113).
    1. The people united to make David king at Hebron.
    2. The king is above the people by eminence of derived authority as watchman, but he is inferior to them in fountain-power, as the effect to the cause (115).  This is Rutherford’s key, and in my opinion, strongest, argument in the book.

C6: Parliament and the People

  1. “The princes of the house of Israel could not be rebuked for oppression in judgment (Mic. 3.1-3) if they had not the power of judgment” (95).
  2. Historical reductio:  Did Parliament sin by not giving Charles I the tax legislation he wanted?  
  3. The Parliament can resist the king, for it, too, his of God, even “a congregation of gods” (111, quoting Psalm 82.6).

C7: Is the King absolute?

  1. God does not give absolute power, because: (101ff)
    1. The king has his power from the people, as already established.
    2. The king is commonly known as a living law, but if he is a law then he is not absolute.
    3. Is the power to do evil from God?
      1. Depends on what kind of distinctions we make.  If “power” means “approval from God,” then did David have the power to kill Uriah and deflower Bathsheba (103)?
      2. Obviously, that is not a positive power but a mere permission.
      3. In either case, the king doesn’t have absolute power.
    4. The power to work contrary to the Good cannot be a lawful power, since the king is a minister of God for Good.
    5. The prophets rebuked the kings of Israel; hence, the power was not absolute.

C8: The Goal of Civil Govt.

  1. God’s intention per civil govt is “external peace, and quiet life, and godliness of his church and people, and that all judges, according to their places, be nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 40.23)” (105).
  2. Therefore, God must have appointed means to this end.
    1. The obstruction of Good and justice works contrary to this end.

C9: The Health of the People

  1. If the people are the cause of the king, then their own safety must be principally sought (119).
  2. What is the end or purpose of the king?  The king isn’t the king simply so he can be the king.  Therefore, the prelate’s argument is reduced thus:
    1. The king is a lame king unless given the power to waste and destroy.
    2. The king cannot be happy unless he has the power to lay waste the Lord’s inheritance.

C10: Royalty mediately

  1. The king has royalty mediately by the people’s free consent (123).
  2. Power is not an immediate inheritance from heaven but is always mediated in situations.

C11: Judges and the Laws

  1. If judges exist, then the king is not the sole interpreter of the law (137).

C12: War

  1. Private subjects, Rutherford carefully argues, may not officially rise against the king.  Estates, however, may (139).
  2. There is a distinction between the king in concreto and the king in abstracto (office of the king).

Trial and Triumph of Faith

Rutherford, Samuel.  The Trial and Triumph of Faith.  Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth.

In this volume you are able to see a side of Samuel Rutherford that isn’t quite as flowery as his *Letters,* nor as analytical as *Lex, Rex.* The layout is relatively simple: 27 sermons on Christ’s words to the Syro-Phoneician. But in these sermons Rutherford examines the nature of faith, justification, and the Covenant of Redemption.

The book represents both the best of and limitations of Scottish Presbyterianism. When Rutherford waxes eloquent, he has no equal. But, likewise, when he analyzes a topic it goes on…and on…and on.

The Topics covered:

God’s love: it is infinite in its act but not in its object; the way of carrying on his love is infinite (41). “Mercy floweth not from God essentially but of mere grace” (42), otherwise universalism would entail. “For what God doth by necessity of his nature and essence, that he cannot but do.”

Covenants

Rutherford ties the promises of the covenant of grace as exemplified in the Davidic covenant (53). Son of David: Christ had a special relation to Abraham, being his seed; but more special to David, because the covenant was in a special manner established with David, as a king, and the first king in whose hand the…Church…was laid down” (74-75). Df. of covenant = “A joint and mutual bargain between two, according to which, they promise freely such and such things to each other” (75).

The promises of Galatians 3.16 apply not to the hypostatic Christ nor the mystical Christ, but to the mediatorial Christ (very important discussion, 81-83).
(1) Christ is the heir of all things and we are co-heirs with him.
(2) The covenant (Of Redemption) was manifested in time but transacted in eternity.
(3) Not every promise made is a promise made to us (84). Christ is promised a “name above every name,” and this promise cannot be made to us. Christ is promised a willing seed; we are not.
(4) This covenant structures salvation (86).

Guilt and Justification
“Justification is a removal of sin by law-way” (195). Obligation to external punishment is removed.
Formal Justification: this goes along with the order of cause, time, and a required condition of apprehending Christ’s righteousness (209).
Guilt: the guilt of sin is not the same as sin itself (222). Macula, or the blot of sin, is defilement. “Guilt” is that which issueth from the macula because you aren’t perfectly spotless. Rutherford notes that this “blot” has different relations:
(1) Blot in relation to the law. This is formally sin and not guilt.
(2) Blot in relation to God, as offended and injured. This is formally removed in justification (224).

The reality of virtual actions = no legal fiction: “The proposition is sure: for if Christ was so made sin, and punished for sin, and liable to suffer for sin, and yet had not any sinful or blameworthy guilt on him” (226), then we can also say that God declares me just on Christ.

Rutherford ends by tying the current situation of Britain with eschatological reflections. Very beautiful and moving.