Archive for the ‘Samuel Rutherford’ Category

Rutherford vs Hoeksema – “The Preached Covenant”

July 9, 2012

One of the many helpful chapters in Samuel Rutherford – An Introduction to his Theology is Sherman Isbell’s “Samuel Rutherford and the Preached Covenant”.  In this chapter Isbell accurately sets out Rutherford’s covenant thought (against the background of earlier covenant theology) and in drawing contemporary application sets him is sharp contrast to Herman Hoeksema. I don’t have time to go through the chapter in detail on the blog (maybe one day!) or set out Isbell’s arguments but I will quote his conclusion that:

“Hoeksema’s variance with the Westminster standards may be seen on many points of doctrine. But more that disagreement on a number of individual points, there is a systemic contrast. His opposition to the free offer is not incidental to his theology, but is integral to his wide-ranging reconstruction of covenant theology.”

Supporters of Hoeksema need to recognise that he is not a faithful representative of the system of Reformed though contained in the Westminster Standards.

New Book on Samuel Rutherford’s Theology

June 23, 2012

An exciting new volume has been published by the Scottish Reformation Society on the theology of Samuel Rutherford (“Samuel Rutherford: An Introduction to his Theology”).

The volume is edited by Matthew Vogan and includes a good variety of essays by recognised Rutherford scholars.  It is well worth a look.

A table of contents is available on the preview link here.

HT: The Holdfast

Rutherford’s Arguments For the Covenant of Redemption

January 29, 2011

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.

Rutherford’s Theological Foes

January 25, 2011

Although reductionism is always a danger in historical theology I think Kim’s twofold classification of Samuel Rutherford’s opponents is helpful:

Rutherford’s theological foes can be categorized into, broadly speaking, two groups: ‘Arminians’ who ‘enthrone Nature, and extol proud merit, and abase Christ and free grace’, and ‘Antinomians’ who ‘turn man into a block and make him a mere patient in the way to heaven’. Here, Rutherford’s classification of his opponents grasps the ‘Papist’ and ‘Socinian’ within ‘Arminianism’, and ‘the Familist, libertine’ within ‘Antinomianism’.

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), 21.

This is true for Durham as well, the vast majority of his polemical writings are directed against ‘the Arminians’ and ‘the Antinomians’.  For more on Durham’s theological opponents see:

https://jamesdurham.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/durhams-top-five-polemical-targets/

The Law pressed upon Israel was not a Covenant of Works – or Was it?

November 20, 2010

Samuel Rutherford:

But the truth is, the Law pressed upon Israel was not a Covenant of Works.

1. The Law as the Law or as a Covenant of Works is made with perfect men who need no mercy; But this Covenant is made with sinners, with an express preface of mercy: I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, &c. … the end of the Lords pressing the Law was to bring them under a blessed necessity to seek salvation in their true City of Refuge Christ Jesus…

2. It was the covenant made with Abraham, which was a Covenant of Grace … there were some additions of special blessings, cursings, Ceremonial Commands that were not in the formerly proposed Covenant, Exod. 20. yet the same it was in substance, to love the Lord with all the heart, Deut. 2.10,12,13,14. The same with that of Abraham, Deut. 8.18. That he may establish his Covenant, which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day … Exod. 2.24. And God heard their groaning, and remembered his Covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob … the Lord expressly tells them Deut. 7.12. If thou hearken to these judgments to do them, it shall come to pass that the Lord thy God will keep unto thee the Covenant of mercy that he sware unto thy fathers, &c.

3. This covenant hath the promise of a circumcised heart, Deut. 30.6. and of the word of faith that is near in the mouth, and of the righteousness of faith clearly differenced from the righteousness of the Law by doing. For so Paul, Rom. 10.5,6,7 &c. expounds, Moses, Deut. 30.11, 12,13,14.

4. The Covenant of Works taught nothing of the way of expiation of sin by blood typifying the Ransom of blood that Christ was to pay for our sins, as this Covenant all along had sacrifices and blood to confirm it…

Thomas Boston:

…the preface to the ten commandments deserves a particular notice, in the matter, of the Sinai transaction, Exod. xx. 2. ” I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Hence it is evident to me, that the covenant of grace was delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai …

But that the covenant of works was also, for special ends, repeated and delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, I cannot refuse, 1. Because of the apostle’s testimony, Gal. iv. 24. ” These are the two covenants; the one from Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage” … 2. The nature of the covenant of works is most expressly in the New Testament brought in, propounded, and explained, from the Mosaical dispensation. The commands of it from Exod. xx. by our blessed Saviour, Slat. xix. 17—19. ” If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which ? Jesus said, Thoushalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery,” &c. The promise of it, Rom. x. 5. ” Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doth these things shall live by them” … 3. To this may be added the opposition betwixt the law and grace, so frequently inculcated in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s epistles. See one text for all, Gal. iii. 12. ” And the law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them.” 4. The law from Mount Sinai was a covenant, Gal. iv. 24. “These are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai,” and such a covenant as had a semblance of disannuling the covenant of grace, Gal. iii. 17. ” The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law which was 430 years after, cannot disannul ;” yea, such a one as did, in its own nature, bear a method of obtaining the inheritence, so fat different from that of the promise, that it was inconsistent with it; ” For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise,” Gal. iii. 18. wherefore the covenant of the law from Mount Sinai could not be the covenant of grace…

Wherefore I conceive the two covenants to have been both delivered on Mount Sinai to the Israelites. First, The covenant of grace made with Abraham, contained in the preface, repeated and promulgate there unto Israel, to be believed and embraced by faith, that they might be saved ; to which were annexed the ten commandments, given by the Mediator Christ, the head of the covenant, as a rule of life to his covenant people. Secondly, the covenant of works made with Adam, contained in the same ten commands, delivered with thunderings and lightnings. the meaning of which was afterwards cleared by Moses, describing the righteousness of the law and sanction thereof, repeated and promulgate the Israelites there, as the original perfect rule of righteousness, to be obeyed; and yet were they no more bound hereby to seek righteousness by the law than the young man was by our Saviour’s saying to him, Mat. xix. 17, 18.  “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments—Thou shalt do no murder,” &c…

Thus there is no confounding of the two covenants of grace and works ; but the latter was added to the former as subservient unto it, to turn their eyes towards the promise, or covenant of grace : ” God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law ? it was added, because of transgressions, till the Seed should come,” Gal. iii. 18, 19. So it was unto the promise given to Abraham, that this subservient covenant was added ; and that promise we have found in the preface to the ten commands. To it, then, was the subservient covenant, according to the apostle, added, put, or set to, as the word properly signifies… it appears, that the covenant of grace was, both in itself, and in God’s intention, the principal part of the Sinai transaction: nevertheless the covenant of works was the most conspicuous part of it, and lay most open to the view of the people…

That the conditional promise, Lev. xviii. 5. (to which agrees Exod. xix. 8, and the dreadful threatening, Deut. xxvii. 26. were both given to the Israelites, as well as the ten commands, is beyond question ; and that According to the apostle, Rom. x. 5. Gal. iii. 10. they were the form of the covenant of works, is as evident as the repeating of the words, and expounding them so, can make it. How then one can refuse the covenant of works to have been given to the Israelites, I cannot see. Mark the Westminster Confession upon the head of the covenant of works: ” The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” And this account of the being and nature of that covenant is there proven from these very texts among others, Rom. x. 5. Gal. iii 10. chap. 7. art. 2.

Where Does this Leave Us?

Well, clearly without a reformed consensus.  And that should teach us to use moderate language on this subject.  Now historically I believe Rutherford’s views broadly represents the majority position and theologically (despite being a Marrowman!) I think Rutherford is right here.  Nevertheless, those who hold views equivalent to Boston’s have every right to present their position and attempt to persuade others of the validity of their understanding without having their “reformed” credential questioned (of course within the bounds of Confessional Orthodoxy and sound historical theology).  This debate will undoubtedly continue for some time!

With Whom was the Covenant of Grace Made?

November 13, 2010

Here is Samuel Rutherford:

…the Reprobate in the Visible Church, be so under the Covenant of Grace, as some promises are made to them, and some mercies promised to them conditionally, and some reserved speciall promises of a new heart, and of perseverance belong not to them. For all the promises belong not in the same way, to the parties visibly and externally, and to the parties internally and personally in Covenant with God. So the Lord promiseth life and forgiveness shall be given to these who are externally in the covenant, providing they believe, but the Lord promiseth not a new heart and grace to believe, to these that are only externally in the covenant. And yet he promiseth both to the elect.

Hence the Covenant must be considered two ways, in abstracto and formally, in the letter as a simple way of saving sinners, so they believe, so all within the Visible Church are in the Covenant of Grace, and so it contains only the will of precept. 2. In the concrete, as the Lord carries on the Covenant in such and such a way, commensurably with the decrees of Election and Reprobation; As the Lord not only promises, but acts and ingraves … so the Elect only are under the Covenant of Grace.

There are a number of interesting points here. First this sheds light on how Rutherford would have understood Larger Catechism Q&A 31, namely, that it is speaking of the covenant “in the concrete”. There is also an outward administration of the covenant of grace where it is appropriate to say that “all within the Visible Church are in the Covenant of Grace.” Second, note Rutherford’s insistence that the gospel “promises” (albeit conditional promises) are made to the reprobate. This is in contrast to modern reformed critics of the free offer, who deny this. I’ve got a rather large section in the dissertation on this 🙂

Things are progressing well on the dissertation, although it always take longer to tidy up a chapter than anticipated!

“The Grammar of the Holy Spirit”

October 30, 2010

Here is Samuel Rutherford facing the question – if all are not elected, redeemed, loved savingly, how can I trust in Christ, is it not presumption unless I know I am elect?

“In this grammar of the Holy Ghost, observe we, by the way, for resolution, The wisdom of God, in framing the words of the gospel. It cannot be said that God loved all the world, in Christ his beloved; and all, and every sinner, and all the race of mankind. Yet, laying down this ground, that God keepeth up in his mind, the secrets of election and reprobation, till he, in his own time, be pleased to reveal them; the Lord hath framed the gospel-offer of Christ in such indefinite words, and so general (yet without all double-dealing, lying, or equivocating; for his own good pleasure is a rule both of his doings and speeches.) As, 1. Seldom doth the Lord open election and reprobation to men, till they, by grace, or in the order of his justice, open both the one and the other, in their own ways; and therefore he holdeth out the offer of Christ, so as none may cavil at the gospel, or begin a plea with Christ. 2. Seldom doth the gospel speak, who they be that are elect, who reprobate; yet doth the gospel offer no ground of presuming on the one hand, or of despairing on the other. For if thou be not a believer, nor a weak reed, nor a saint, yet thou art a sinner; if not that, thou art a man; if not that, thou art one of the world: and tho. the affirmative conclude not, I am a sinner, I am a man, I am one of the world, but it followeth not, therefore I am elected to glory, or, Ergo, I am ransomed of the Lord; Yet the negative, touching reprobation, holdeth, I am a sinner, I am of the world, I am a man; hence it followeth not, therefore I am a reprobate, and therefore I have warrant to refuse the promise, and Christ offered in the gospel. It followeth well therefore, I must be humbled for sin, and believe in Christ. There is room left for all the elect, that they have no ground of standing aloof from Christ, (and the rest never come, and most willingly refuse to come) nor have the reprobate ground to quarrel at the decrees of God; tho. they be not chosen, yet they are called, as if they were chosen; and they have no cause to quarrel at conjectures, they have as fair a revealed warrant to believe, as the elect have; they are men, sinners of the world, to whom Christ is offered: why refuse they him upon an unrevealed warrant?”

I’ve been writing up the last chapter of the dissertation this past fortnight – it focuses on Sedgwick, Manton, Rutherford and Dickson.  A bit to go yet but lots of good material on the free offer from these four individuals to include.

As an aside Rutherford’s statement that the reprobate have “as fair a revealed warrant to believe, as the elect have” was well used by the Marrowmen in their defence of the gospel offer.

Grace in the Garden?

October 5, 2009

Following up the discussion at Meet the Puritans Samuel Rutherford explains as follows (note particularly his third point):

In all pactions between the Lord and man, even in a Law-Covenant there is some outbreakings of grace.  It is true, there was no Gospel-Grace, that is a fruit of Christ’s merit in this Covenant.  But yet if grace be taken for undeserved goodness: There are these respects of grace.  1. That God might have given to Adam something inferior to the glorious image of God, that consists in true righteousness, knowledge of God, and holiness, Gen 1:26, Eph 4:24, Col 3:10 … 2. Being and dominion over the creatures is of undeserved goodness … 3. The Covenant of Works itself, that God out of sovereignty does not command, is undeserved condescending; that God bargains for hire, do this and live, whereas he may … [as] Sovereign Lawgiver … charge and command us, is overcoming goodness.  Law is honeyed with love, and hire; it is mercy that for our penny of obedience, so rich a wage as communion with God is given…”
Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened: Or, A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (Edinburgh: Robert Broun for Andrew Anderson), 35.

Brings a helpful balance to this debate I think.  Whatever the exact view of the word “grace” in reference to the garden of Eden surely the substance of what Rutherford says is correct.

The blog will hopefully be up and running again now.  It has been a very busy time trying to finish off the thesis, work as hectic as ever and the general rush of life!

Defining Faith – Rutherford Style

April 25, 2009

How should we define faith?  Samuel Rutherford, via Guy Richard, is very helpful indeed.  Richard’s summary of  Rutherford is as follows:

Faith necessarily and in the first instance involves the intellect. Certain facts must be known and believed to be true.
But saving faith is more than that, because ‘it is not enough to salvation [simply] to believe that God is true in his Word’.  Saving faith also contains the voluntaristic element of trust or fiducia.  And, in continuity with Calvin, specifically, and Reformation and post-Reformation thinking generally – including such men as Musculus, Ursinus, Ames, Leigh, Ussher, and Macovius – Rutherford placed fiducia at the very center of his definition of faith:
‘True Faith in the Scriptures is not merely a firm assent [assensus] to the way of God, which is prescribed by Christ; this is the Historical and dogmatic faith of the Papists; but more than an assent [assensus] of the mind, true faith is determined by the heart’s trusting [fiduciam] in God through the Mediator, and by a fiducial [fiducialis] leaning upon him.
Richard, Supremacy of God, 187-8

Rutherford’s polemic here is directed against Arminian, as well as Roman, theology (those who know the modern American debate over the definition of faith should understand the irony in this!).  Richard’s goes on to explain:

By denying that fiducia is of the essence of saving faith, the Arminians are, as Rutherford sees it, placing their emphasis on the rational rather than on the experiential … As a result, the Christian life becomes primarily a rational pursuit rather than an intimate relationship … involving every faculty within the individual … they reduce the object of faith merely to factual information that must be personally understood, believed and trusted in. Such a view according to Rutherford, is wholly ‘misleading’ and ‘futile’,
‘[b]ecause the object of Faith, in this way of thinking, is not Christ … But the History of the Gospel, by which I firmly believe that I avoid hell and obtain eternal life only through Christ and his reasoning [rationem], as prescribed in the Gospel … [and because] to believe in Christ in this way is merely to believe in Christ recounting [narranti] that people obtain eternal life by repentance and faith: But this is an Historical faith, which is in the Demons and many of the reprobate.’
Ibid, 190-1

What is the implication of this definition of faith, involving as it does more than simple intellectual apprehension?  Well it should mean that preaching seeks to do much more than simply impart knowledge:

Rutherford, therefore, believes that every minister should preach in such a way as to appeal to and excite all the faculties of the soul, but especially the affections. A sermon that concentrates only on the presentation of information to the mind fails to excite the affections and, thus, leaves its hearers no better off in their pursuit of sanctification. Truth must be crafted and presented in such a way so as to encourage love in the affections for Christ.
Ibid, 203

Amen to that Mr Rutherford!

Rutherford, The Will of God and ‘Desire’

April 20, 2009

The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford (Studies in Christian History and Thought)I’ve been really enjoying Guy Richard’s work on Rutherford.  With Richard’s and Coffey’s complimentary studies Rutherford is well served in terms of fair representations of his life and theology.  Richard’s work is well written and a pleasure to read, but it is not “easy,” is fairly “in depth” and definitely requires concentration!  The best thing about the book is that he “gets” Rutherford and understands the theological tradition, and therefore the distinctions, Rutherford was working with.  [He is a country mile or ten ahead of me!]  One key distinction which bears on my own studies is over the will of God and how we understand the relationship between God’s commands (revealed will) and his decree (secret will).  What Richard’s says is eminently helpful:

…the voluntas signi, which is the ‘revealed’ (revelata), ‘approving’ (approbans), or ‘commanding’ (preacipiens) will of God, whereby he makes known to his creatures all that he approves of, as being ‘morally lawful and noble, even if the future actuality of … [those] good thing[s] may never by decreed by God.’  In this way God desires, approves, and commands many things to be done, which he decrees not to be done in actuality … For example Rutherford says that God ‘desires the obedience of Judas and Herod and Pilate‘, by his approving, commanding and revealed will, and ‘yet he decreed [by his hidden or decretive will] that they should crucify the Lord of Glory‘.
p103 [emphasis added]

So according to Richard, Samuel Rutherford, man of extremes that he was, had no difficulty with speaking of the “desire” of God (as defined above) for things he had not decreed.  Who would have thought it possible 😉

PS Much more to come from this book – it really is top notch.