Rutherford was born in the Crailing parish of
Roxburghshire before attending Edinburgh University as a student from 1617 -
1621 and as a regent from 1623 to 1625. Viscount Kenmure, an ultra-Protestant,
presented Rutherford to the parish of Anwoth, Galloway in 1627.
Once Kenmure died in 1634 and Thomas Sydserf's appointment as Bishop of Galloway, Rutherford found his life becoming more difficult. His Exercitationes Apologeticae, which was published in Amsterdam in 1636, attacked the new Arminian theology and he found himself suspended. During this time he wrote his Letters which were first published in 1664 which were used by the critics of Charles I's ecclesiastical policies.
When Charles' administration began to collapse Rutherford returned to Anwoth and attended the 1638 General Assembly which had Alexander Henderson as its Moderator. He became Professor of Divinity at St Andrews in 1639 and four years later he was one of the commissioners to the Westminster Assembly alongside the likes of Alexander Henderson and George Gillespie.
Like them he also preached to the English Parliament, in 1643 and 1645 in his case.
In support of Presbyterianism he published several works including
The Due Right of Presbytery (1644),
The Divine Right of Church Government (1646),
A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist (1647), and
A Free Disputation against Liberty of Conscience (1649).
In 1648 he was appointed Principal of of St Mary's College and also turned down positions at Utrecht and Harderwyck. He supported the more extreme wing of the Covenanters, opposing the Engagement with Charles I and denouncing the agreement with Charles II. At the Restoration he was deprived and he published in 1644 Lex Rex which argued for the right of the people to depose the King.
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