Lex, Rex, or The Law And The Prince by Samuel Rutherford

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Without a doubt “Lex, Rex, or the Law and the Prince,” by Samuel Rutherford, is one of the greatest books on political philosophy ever written. Samuel Rutherford’s teaching, taken from Scripture, decimated the “divine right of kings” doctrine and set up Scripture as the standard by which to judge the actions, beliefs and constitutions of civil government.

Picking up where Brutus, in “A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants,” left off, Rutherford here has penned a great Christian charter of liberty against all forms of civil tyranny — vindicating the Scriptural duty to resist tyrants as an act of loyalty to God. Subtitled: “A dispute for the just prerogative of King and people: containing the reason and causes of the most necessary defensive wars of the kingdom of Scotland, and their expedition for the aid and help of their dear brethren of England; in which their innocency is asserted, and a full answer is given to a seditious pamphlet, entitled, … The Sacred and Royal Prerogative of Christian Kings…” Rutherford used this book to promote the great work of covenanted reformation taking place in his day.

Murray, in his “Life of Samuel Rutherford” (1827) notes, “The work caused great sensation on its appearance. Bishop Guthrie mentions, that every member of the (Westminster–RB) assembly ‘had in his hand that book lately published by Mr. Samuel Rutherford, which is so idolized, that whereas Buchanan’s treatise (de jure Regni apud Scotos) was looked upon as an oracle, this coming forth, it was slighted as not anti-monarchical enough, and Rutherford’s Lex Rex only thought authentic…’ During the period which followed the death of Charles I. to the restoration, Rutherford took an active part in the struggles of the church in asserting her rights. Cromwell had in the meantime usurped the throne, and independency held sway in England. On the death of Cromwell in 1658, measures were taken for the restoration of Charles II. to the throne.

The Scottish Parliament met in 1651, when the national covenant was recalled — Presbyterianism abolished — and all the decrees of Parliament, since 1638, which sanctioned the Presbyterian system, were rescinded. The rights of the people were thus torn from them — their liberties trampled upon — and the whole period which followed, till the martyrdom of Renwick in 1688, was a scene of intolerant persecution and bloodshed. Rutherford, as may be supposed, did not escape persecution in such a state of things. His work Lex, Rex, was considered by the government as ‘inveighing against monarchy and laying the ground for rebellion;’ and ordered to be burned by the hand of the common hangman at Edinburgh. It met with similar treatment at St. Andrews, and also at London; and a proclamation was issued, that every person in possession of a copy, who did not deliver it up to the king’s solicitor, should be treated as an enemy to the government. Rutherford himself was deprived of his offices both in the University and the Church, and his stipend confiscated; he was ordered to confine himself within his own house, and was summoned to appear before the Parliament at Edinburgh, to answer a charge of high treason. It may easily be imagined what his fate would have been had he lived to obey the mandate.” At this time Rutherford was already terminally ill and uttered his famous words, “I have got summons already before a Superior Judge and Judicatory, and I behove to answer to my first summons, and ere your day come, I will be where few kings and great folks come.”

Don’t miss this title, as its contents will become more and more valuable to the extent that present civil governments deny the Lordship of Christ, “frame wickedness by law,” and persecute the faithful. Also includes George Buchanan’s “De Jure Regni apud Scotos” (in English).

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