Samuel Rutherford: Divine Right of Church Government

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Welcome to the Still Waters Revival Books video book summary for “The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication” by Samuel Rutherford

“The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication: A Peaceable Dispute for the Perfection of the Holy Scripture in Point of Ceremonies and Church Government in which the Removal of the Service Book is Justified. The Six Books of Erastus Against Excommunication are Examined; with a Vindication of the Eminent Divine Theodore Beza Against the Aspersions of Erastus, The Arguments of Mr. William Pryn, Richard Hooker, Dr. Morton… and the Doctors of Aberdeen; Touching Will-Worship, Ceremonies, Imagery, Idolatry, Things Indifferent, An Ambulatory Government; The Due and Just Power of the Magistrate in Matters of Religion, and the Arguments of Mr. Pryn, in so Far as they Side with Erastus, are Moderately Discussed.” (Facsimile, 1646, also contains: “Scandal and Christian Libertie”)

“The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication,” by Samuel Rutherford, is over 750 pages in length. Walker writes that it “contains the amplest exposition and vindication of our old ecclesiastical principles.”

Rutherford here gives a classic defense of Presbyterianism, touching on both church government and “the due and just power of the Magistrate in matters of Religion.” Regarding worship, he touches on imagery, idolatry, things indifferent, ceremonies and will worship.

Sherman Isbell describes this book as follows: “Rutherford asserts that there is delineated in the NT a form of Church government by elders and Presbyteries which is of permanent obligation; more-over, that discipline and suspension from the sacraments are vested with church officers rather than with the Christian civil magistrate. The book also expounds the Westminster Assembly’s principle that the mode of acceptable worship is regulated by the will of Christ as king speaking in the Scriptures; the Church is not at liberty to alter or invent anything in worship or government which goes beyond the pattern in God’s Word. Rutherford’s writings during the London years provide a significant commentary on the theology of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms” (“Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology,” pp. 735-36).

Innes notes that Rutherford had “no hesitation in including among matters of faith — first, fundamental points; second, superstructions built upon the fundamentals; third, circa fundamentalia, things about matters of faith;” making this an important look at the teaching surrounding the Scottish view of the visible church, close communion, separation, church unity, etc.

An exceedingly rare gem by this celebrated Presbyterian minister, a Covenanter’s Covenanter (i.e. a faithful Protestor, not a compromising Resolutioner), and Scottish commissioner to the famous Westminster Assembly of the mid seventeenth century.

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