Rutherford on Faith

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“Rutherford defines faith in his catechism as ‘ane assurance of knowledge that Christ cam into the world to die for sinners … and a resting and a hanging upon Christ with all the heart for Salvation.211 By defining it in this way, Rutherford shows that he, like Calvin, stands within a tradition extending at least as far back as Aquinas, which teaches that faith has both an intellectual and a voluntaristic aspect.212 But whereas Aquinas emphasizes the intellectual over the voluntaristic, Rutherford and Calvin, following Duns Scotus (or at least the later Scotists), assign predominance to the will. Like Luther and Zwingli, they understand that faith includes both information (notitia) and assent (assensus). Thus, explains the reason why faith is an ‘assurance of knowledge’ by saying that it is merely ‘a blind gessing’, and not faith at all, ‘to beleeve as the kirk beleeveth quhen [when] we know not [quhat [what] we beleeve’. Faith necessarily and in the first instance involves the intellect. Certain facts must be known and believed to be true.

But saving faith is more than that, because ‘it is not enough to salvation [simply] to beleeve that God is true in his Word’.213 Saving faith also contains the voluntaristic element of trust or fiducia. And, in continuity with Calvin, specifically, and Reformation and post-Reformation thinking generally—including such men as Musculus, Ursinus, Ames, Leigh, Ussher, and Maccovius—Rutherford places fiducia at the very center of his definition of faith:214

True Faith in the Scriptures is not merely a firm assent [assensus] to the way of worshipping God, which is prescribed by Christ; this is the Historical and dogmatic faith of the Papists; but more than an assent [assensus] of the mind, true faith is determined by the heart’s trusting [fiduciam] in God through the Mediator, and by a fiducial [fiducialis] leaning upon him.[This is Guy Richard’s translation from Examen Arminianismi, p. 544–545.]

To prove this, Rutherford launches into a detailed and protracted exegetical survey of biblical texts, citing from the Hebrew and Greek originals, even down to the tenses of the verbs. His conclusion: to believe is to ‘lean upon Go in Christ, as though we were a weary pilgrim [viator] with a staff or a rod’, and to roll (convolvit) and turn (controrquet) ourselves and our burdens upon.215”
211–215. See the substantial footnotes in the preview on Google books; elaboration on Perkins is also interesting.
Guy M. Richard, The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford, Studies in Christian History and Thought (Paternoster; rpt. Wipf & Stock, 2008) 187–188.
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