Or, The Law and The Prince
The most famed work in all history about the responsibility of those who are in government authority, to submit to God’s law.
Rutherford’s volume covers questions of importance to Christians in every nation and age, including:
- In what sense is government from God?
- Whether or not government be Warranted by the Law of Nature
- Whether or not sovereignty is go from the people, that it remaineth in them in some part
- Whether or not a Kingdom may lawfully be purchased by the sole title of conquest
- Whether or no Romans 13:1 prove that in no case it is lawful to resist the king
- Whether the power of war be only in the king
- Whether or no the people have any power over the king
- Whether the king be above the law or no
- Whether monarchy be the best of governments
- Whether Christian kings are dependent from Christ and may be called His viceregents
By its full Puritan title, it was known as: Lex, Rex: or, the Law and the Prince. Being, a dispute for the just prerogative of King and People: containing the reasons 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 the seditious pamphlet entitled: Sacro-Sancta Regu Majestas. In 44 questions.
About the Author
Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. He is perhaps best known for his collected letters, which have been published many times. He is also the author of The Loveliness of Christ.
Rutherford was born in the village of Nisbet, Roxburghshire, and educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh University (MA, 1621). From 1623 he acted as Regent of Humanity at the University, with responsibilities as a Latin tutor. There is a strong suggestion that 1624 was the date of his conversion, and he began reading theology at Edinburgh under Andrew Ramsay.
In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire, and so began a ministry lasting only nine years, yet one ‘whose fragrance and power has left the name of Anwoth forever stamped on the hearts of Christian people’. In July 1636 the High Commission brought his ministry in Anwoth to an end because of his nonconformity, barring him from preaching in Scotland and exiling him to Aberdeen for the duration of the King’s pleasure. It was during his two years in Aberdeen that many of his much-loved Letters were written.
After the Covenanter revolution in 1638 Rutherford returned to Anwoth and was a commissioner to the Glasgow Assembly. The commission of that Assembly designated him Professor of Divinity at St Mary’s College, St Andrews. He consented to the office with the stipulation that he be permitted to preach regularly, and was made a colleague of Robert Blair in the city pulpit.
In 1643 Rutherford left for London as one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. He remained in the city four years, preached before the Long Parliament, took a prominent part in the Assembly’s debates on theology and Church polity, and published five major books. In his Lex, Rex (1644) Rutherford denied that a limitless sovereignty belonged to the King, and contended that the Crown is bestowed by the voluntary consent of the people, who are at liberty to resist a tyrant. In 1647 he resumed his duties at St Andrews and was soon made Principal of St Mary’s. In 1651 he became Rector of the University.
Restoration of Charles II
At the Restoration of Charles II in 1661 the Committee of Estates ordered the burning of Lex, Rex, deprived Rutherford of his offices, and cited him to come before Parliament to answer a charge of treason. Rutherford was already terminally ill and replied, ‘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.’ Death indeed intervened before the charge could be tried.