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Samuel Rutherford lived from about 1600 to 1661. He was a theologian and author. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Samuel Rutherford was born and brought up in the village of Nisbet, three miles north of Jedburgh. He went on to study at the University of Edinburgh, where he gained his degree of MA and his licence to preach as a church minister. In 1627 he became Church of Scotland minister at Anwoth, near Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway, where Rutherford's wife died. In 1636, he published a book in which he strongly promoted Presbyterianism, or church government by lay members. At the time the church in Scotland was dominated by Episcopalians, who favoured church government by bishops. Rutherford was sacked from his position and exiled to Aberdeen.
With Presbyterianism resurgent in 1638, Rutherford became Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. Between 1643 and 1649 Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian representative at the "Westminster Assembly of Divines", the body charged with restructuring the Church of England. Rutherford took the stance that there was a "divine right of Presbytery", in other words that the Bible required Presbyterian church government. In 1651, Rutherford was appointed Principal of St Mary's College, the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews.
In 1644 Rutherford published his best known book, Lex, Rex, which used religious arguments and biblical references to call for limitations on the power of kings and for constitutionalism. It was hugely influential, laying the foundations for later political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and for modern constitutional democracies. After the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, the English religious authorities burned copies of Lex, Rex and demanded that its author be tried for treason. Rutherford was removed from his posts in St Andrews, but died before any prosecution could be brought.