Samuel Rutherford and the Magistrate is properly a Minister of God for Good

The Magistrate is as properly the Minister of God for good, for the praise of well-doing, as the Minister of God for wrath, and if the Church should tell the Magistrate his duty, as watchmen should do to all under their care Ezek 3.16, 17, 18, 19. Magistrate or other, if the Magistrate spare the life of a murderer, the watchmen are unfaithful, if they complain not openly and tell the Magistrate he does not his duty, and upon the same ground, if the Magistrate must coerce with the sword seducing wolves and Jezebels, the Pastors ought to admonish him.

And its Atheistic to say the Magistrate is conscious of sins against manners, and of his duty and obligation he needs no instigation. Because no Magistrate be he an Achab or a David, but he needs be quickened to his duty, and will send a murderer away, and a bloody Joab whom God will have not to live, and should the prophets be called instigators, and savientes per alios, such as destroy men’s lives when they tell the Magistrate he is a murderer and guilty of innocent blood, if he suffer the bloody man to live? Or should this be calling taletelling, and the Pastor thrusting of himself into a more disaffecting office to be a Tale-teller an Apparitor or Summoner of men to the Civil Magistrate’s court, he made such a poor man be fined and wife and children be starved because he is not of his opinion. What would this author give an Atheist leave to say? but so slander free preaching or free Synodical complaining to the Magistrate? Such a man of our charge is damned by his own conscience and devours the flock, as Arrius and Manes did, such a one is a bloody murderer, a Sorcerer, the Magistrate bears the sword to execute vengeance on evil doers, and yet suffer known murderers to live and be gray-haired, are ministers, who are to warn Fathers, Teachers, Masters, Judges, Kings Jer 1.10. Nations, and Kingdoms of their duty, thrusters of themselves into a disaffecting office, and Apparitors and Summoners of men before Civil courts, because they warn the Magistrate of his duty? …

It is clear the question must be thus stated, for all the laws of the old Testament (which we hold in their moral equity to be perpetual) that are touching blasphemies, heresies, solicitation to worship false Gods and the breach of which the Godly Magistrate was to punish, command or forbid only such things as may be proved by two or three witnesses, and which husband and wife are not to conceal, and from which all Israel must abstain for fear of the like punishment. Deut 13.8, 9, 10, 11. Deut 17. 5, 6. Levit. 20. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Samuel Rutherford
A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience, 1649


“The words of the Law do reveal, what the Magistrate may do, jure, and what the guilty deserves by the Law, but do not reveal the intention and absolute decree of the Law-giver, and what punishment actually, and quoard eventum shall be inflicted upon the guilty, and what shall come to pass as a thing decreed of the Lord: So, Genesis 9:6, the murderer shall die by the Sword of the Magistrate, and Exodus 22:18-20, the witch, the man that lies with a beast, he that sacrifices to a strange God, shall die the death jure, merito, and by Law deserving, but it followeth not; but such as commit these abominations, do live, as is clear in the kings of Assyria, Chaldea, and many of Israel, who were not put to death, but lived quoad eventum, though contrary to the Word of God.”

Samuel Rutherford
The covenant of life opened; or, a treatise of the covenant of grace, ed. C. M. McMahon (1654; New Lennox IL, 2005), pp 32-3.


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