Richard M. Hannula adds a nice little work to the “Bitesize Biographies” series published by evangelical press books edited by Michael Haykin. His biography on Samuel Rutherford is the first thing I have read on Rutherford and was a simple and interesting introduction. It is a widely accessible biography of the 17th century Scotish Presbyterian minister at a beginner level.
This book is short and readable for those who want to learn more about great men of the church yet don’t want to know every last detail. Coming in at 138 pages it is not a huge commitment. In the short work though one will gain a greater appreciation for Rutherford and His life and ministry and how that fits into British church history.
I for one was most impressed with his commitment to a small rural church. He was essentially forced away from it into what others would considered more prestigious positions in the universities. He was dogmatic about serving the people where God had placed him and would spend long hours walking to visit with the flock God had placed under his leadership where they were often in the fields working. It is quite admirable the visitation he did and the dedication he had to these people.
We learn of Rutherford’s suffering through death in family and also through political persecution. Much of what he went through and the lessons learned are so applicable to 21st century Americans. He lived a life that had its ups and downs but he persevered and died with his hope in Christ alone.
The most interesting chapter to me was on his role at the Westminster assembly. For those interested in the confession you will enjoy the chapter. It also was the chapter that most clearly showed Rutherford’s theological distinctives.
Another good part about the book is that while it is overwhelmingly in praise of Rutherford he does mention a couple places where Rutherford was not perfect showing he was a real man and a man of his time. He mentions the possibility that Rutherford’s first wife was pregnant before they were married (p.24) and also how Rutherford occasionally corresponded the cause of the Covenanter army with the cause of Christ. (p.110). This is helpful to not present and unrealistic portrait of a man.
I would have loved to see some footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography. Rutherford and others are quoted widely throughout without any noting where the quotes come from. For one wanting to study further it will make this book not helpful in that regard. There is an appendix with recommended further reading but no sources given for where the material in book came from. Having not read many short biographies like this I am unsure if this is commonplace or not, but I would hope not. There is also no note of where the picture on front cover comes from which I would be interested to know what where it is.
As it is a “bitesize Biography” I understand that not everything can be included but I do wish that more of Rutherford’s theology and how he got there was included because that seems helpful in understanding the positions he took and life he lived.
Also not really bad but unless familiar with Scottish Presbyterian lingo you will need to look up several words along the way. For instance many Americans may not have a clue what a Kirk is. I believe Kirk is just the Scottish way of saying church.
If interested in the man, the time, or Westminster divines or related subjects you will enjoy this short read.
Samuel Rutherford: by Richard M. Hannula in Bitesize Biographies series
Edited by Michael Haykin
Publisher: EP (evangelical press)
Recommended Reading : Yes