Review: Samuel Rutherford Bitesize Biography

Hannula, R. (2014). Samuel Rutherford Bitesize Biography (p. 144). Grand Rapids: EP Books. God has long used men often counted unworthy or unfit for the task by the world. It was true with the early church members, it was certainly true as the Church moved into the Patristic age and it could not be more apparent that the men leading the Church today are discounted in the eyes of the people of this age. The same can be said about Samuel Rutherford, a 17th Century Scottish Puritan. Born sometime around 1600 in a small village called Nisbet, Rutherford grew up during a time amidst a changing political climate as well as a religious change of guard. 1627 had been a good year for Rutherford. Freshly licensed to preach the gospel, he accepted the call to Anwoth in Galloway. It was there that he and his family settled into, what is nowadays commonly called a parsonage. It was here in Anwoth that Rutherford was energized for the task of ministry. Rising long before the sun, he would spend several hours communing with God through the study of His Word and the task of sermon preparation. Also during the wee hours of the morning he would seek God’s face through prayer and meditation. He spent his days traversing the foothills near the village in order to fully develop relationships with those who belonged to his congregation. A friend of Rutherford’s commented that he was “one of the most faithful and diligent ministers that ever labored among a people.” (30) Deeply engrained in Rutherford were the Reformed creeds of his country and the doctrines of the Scots Confession of 1560. Because of these doctrines which grew sweet in him, Rutherford kept a communication going with other Presbyterian ministers across the country and as Charles I threatened the churches under his influence he became alarmed. As pressure grew in the coming days against he Scottish Presbyterians a gathering was called to order. Rutherford urged that he would not be silent in crying out against what he saw as the, “Lord’s house burning.” (51) In the midst of impending exile and tiring duties a book penned by Rutherford found its way to a publishing house in Amsterdam. This treatise fortified Rutherford as an outstanding Reformed theologian and garnered the notice of those much higher up on the totem pole than he was. In the spring of 1636, Bishop Sydserff demanded that Rutherford be removed from his position of ministry at Anwoth. He also wanted the verdict confirmed by a higher court which meant a more severe punishment. Later that summer Rutherford began the 100-mile journey, on foot, to Edinburgh to sit before a jury who would try him as a nonconformist. This is just a glimpse of a man who would die of a sickness before allowing the gallows to steal the very air from his lungs. Through a country troubled by war and a Church torn apart by the struggle for power, Rutherford saw and taste of the sweetness of Christ in even the most dire of circumstances. He won the admiration of Reformed churches across the land and his legacy stands to this day as a testament of what God can do int he darkest of days. Many of his countrymen tasted death at the hands of a wicked ruling family and yet were comforted by the power of grace in the life of Samuel Rutherford. His words and sermons followed them to the grave as they had drunk deep of the wickedness of the world and yet savored the grace of Christ even in their passing. Men like this should be read and his story is a huge encouragement for us even in this day. We must hold tight to our confession of Christ even as our world falls apart around us and friends betray us. Here we have a man whose heart was set on fire with the love of Jesus and we desperately in need of men like that today. I am great for the Bitesize Biography Series which serve to highlight the lives and writings of those who have lit the way for us. This piece on Rutherford sits near the top but surely the rest are a wonderful read. They are short, clear, and heart-warming. They are great ideas for gifts, especially with the holidays coming up, and can easily be shoved into a stocking. But more than gifts for friends and families, this biography in particular, is a gift from God to his Church. May we see the example of a man who spent his very life for Christ and most assuredly found his reward waiting for him, on the other side of the water.

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