May 18, 2016

How Samuel Rutherford Changed My Life

Stephen Nichols
How Samuel Rutherford Changed My Life


Stephen Nichols (SN): Welcome back to 5 Minutes in Church History. The last time we saw Dr. Guy Richard, we had left him on our deserted island with his books. And we wanted to bring him back. So, it's nice to see you again, Dr. Richard.

Guy Richard (GR): It's great to be back, sunburned.

SN: You look well rested and ready to go. When we have folks visit our deserted island who have authored books as you have, we ask them to leave behind one of their books. And I'm guessing that you will leave behind The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford.

GR: That would certainly be wonderful. That has been something I have lived with for many, many years. I feel like Rutherford is a houseguest whom I have lived with for fifteen years or so.

SN: Well let's talk about, first of all, who is Samuel Rutherford? He's a seventeenth-century British pastor and theologian. He also wrote in the area of political science. So who is Samuel Rutherford?

GR: Rutherford was a Scottish minister, born around 1600. He pastored from about 1628 or so until about 1661 when he died. And he also served as professor of divinity at St. Andrews University. He taught theology and was the principal of St. Mary's College, which is the divinity school at St. Andrews. And he served as copastor of the local church at St. Andrews. He was also one of the commissioners from the Scottish church to the Westminster Assembly, so he helped write the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and the other documents that came out of that assembly.

SN: Now, explain this for our folks. The Scottish ministers who were invited did not actually have voting rights in creating the standards, but they were invited there as consultants. Could you explain that?

GR: That is correct. They did not actually vote, but they served on every committee. Rutherford spoke more than just about anyone in all of the discussions and debates. He contributed in every way. He was there longer than any other Scottish commissioner. He was thanked specifically for his diligent attention to the work of the assembly because he had served longer and more diligently than any of the other commissioners.

SN: That's fascinating. I've heard you speak on Rutherford before, and we have this book on Rutherford that's called The Loveliness of Christ. You've referenced this.

GR: It's certainly one of the things that drew me to Rutherford to begin with and has kept me coming back to him. He was a man who was quite sensitive to his own sin. Through a serious issue or failure in his life, he came to Christ, and I think he lived with a constant reminder of his sin and his failings. So, the cross meant everything to him, and you can see especially in his letters that he had a passion for Christ, an overwhelming delight in the Lord Jesus Christ. There was nothing more delightful to Rutherford than his Savior.

SN: There is a hymn about Samuel Rutherford. Which hymn is that?

GR: "The Sands of Time Are Sinking." It is a beautiful hymn, drawn largely from the imagery from Rutherford's letters and capitalizing on the imagery of the Song of Solomon. Many of the Puritans would use that imagery as a picture of salvation and the Christian life and use that intimate, sensual language to look at how we should feel in our relationship toward Jesus.

SN: Do you have a favorite line from that?

GR: I think the image of the wedding and the fact that the bride doesn't look down at her garments. She doesn't look around. Her eyes are fixed upon her bridegroom. It's a beautiful way of looking at our entrance into heaven, when all of our righteousness will be nothing compared to our Groom who is there waiting for us and whom we will see face-to-face.

SN: Thank you, Dr. Richard. And we can say thank you also to Samuel Rutherford.

GR: It's great to be with you, Steve. Thank you.