Rutherford’s Arguments For the Covenant of Redemption

Some further material from Kim, S.D. “Time and Eternity: A Study in Samuel Rutherford’s theology, with Reference to His Use of Scholastic Method,” Ph.D. diss., Aberdeen University, 2002.

“Rutherford fully develops the idea of ‘the covenant of redemption’ or ‘the covenant of Suretyship’ … Rutherford confirms there is ‘a covenant of Suretyship’ (or Redemption) between JEHOVAH and the Son of God’ in twelve arguments. It is worth summarizing the arguments in order to appreciate his points. He argues that there is a covenant of redemption because of Christ’s calling the Lord his God, because of the Lord’s way of calling Christ to his Office of Mediator, because of Christ’s voluntary offering of his service to God, because of the Father’s giving of the elect to Christ to be redeemed and the Son’s willingness of receiving, because of the receiving of the seals in order to prove Christ to be Surety of the covenant, because of the Lord’s liberty, because Christ was to be made the promise and the Covenant, because of the Lord’s promising that he shall be heard and prospered with success in his work, because of Christ’s working for wages and the Lord’s paying him his wage by a voluntary compact, because of the Oath of God by which Christ is made High Priest, because every priesthood is imposed by Covenant. Indeed, as may be observed, all that he elucidates concerning the covenant of Suretyship is saturated with teaching about Christ the God-Man and Mediator. Expressing the Christocentric emphasis in his theology, Rutherford writes that ‘Christ God-Man is in Covenant with God, being a person designed from eternity, with his own consent, and in time yielding thereunto, and yet he stands not in that covenant-relation that we stand in’.”

It is important to understand Rutherford’s reference to JEHOVAH here:

“According to Rutherford’s understanding, the Holy Spirit is included in the covenant of redemption. He says that there are two parties in the covenant of redemption; ‘Jehovah God as common to all the three on the one part, and on the other part is the only Son of God second person’, which is to say the three persons of the Godhead each take part in the covenant. When he describes the activity of God in the covenant of redemption, he prefers to use JEHOVAH rather than God or the Father.”

Durham does the same as well – the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the CoR in 17th C reformed thought could do with further study.

4 Responses to “Rutherford’s Arguments For the Covenant of Redemption”

  1. Ed Brooks Says:

    Thanks for this. I am doing some work on the CoR in Patrick Gillespie and he leans heavily on Rutherford. I am trying to get to grips with the parties of the CoR and am stuck on the idea of Christ as God-man in eternity. What does this mean? Is it that the persons of the Trinity jointly will the covenant which involves the Son assuming the role as mediator (God-man) which is then his role in terms of his action as covenanting party? Does Rutherford go into much detail on the relationship between decree and covenant in eternity?

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Thanks for the comment. Very interesting questions. Am snowed under with work at the moment – will get back to you next week hopefully!

  3. Ed Brooks Says:

    Thanks. Look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to email me
    Also, if you are able to mail through the thesis you cited on Rutherford that dealt with the CoR I would love to have a look. Please might that be possible?

  4. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Dear Ed

    Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment on the blog … where does time go! (Ps 90:12)

    The pactum salutis is indeed a difficult doctrine. Although a commonplace in later 17th C reformed it has never been given explicit ecclesiastical authority. I have sent you a copy of the short(!) section in my dissertation which deals with Rutherford and the CoR.

    You may have seen this but it is worth a read – “The Doctrine of the Pactum Salutis in the Covenant Theology of Herman Witsius”. (

    Additionally Carol Williams has done a PhD on David Dickson and the covenant of redemption. It is available here:

    Hopefully this is of use. Happy to discuss further!

    Every blessing

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