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Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Samuel Rutherford

It gives modern people a shock
That Rutherford, in cleric's frock--
It's most certain fact
That of social contract,
He wrote decades before Old John Locke.

Samuel Rutherford (1600?-1661) was a theological and political spokesman for covenanting Scotland during the 1640's. He was a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at St. Andrews University as well as a pastor of firm Presbyterian conviction. Persecuted by the disciples of Archbishop William Laud, he rose to prominence in Scotland after the Bishops' War of 1638.

He is best known for his collected letters, written from exile to former parishoners to urge them to remain steadfast, and for his Lex Rex (1644), in which he argues that government is divine in origin, but popular in mode, representing a compact between people, government, and God in which law is superior to either king or magistrate. This work justifies revolt under leadership of a lesser magistrate should the supreme ruler prove unfaithful to his part of the political compact.

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