Samuel Rutherford and the prophecies of the Reformers

Discussion in 'Pneumatology' started by Reformed Covenanter, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    What should we make of the below quotation from Samuel Rutherford?:

    These worthy reformers did tie no man to believe their prophecies as scriptures, we are to give faith, to the predictions of Prophets and Apostles, foretelling facts to come, as to the very word of God, they never gave themselves out as organs immediately inspired by the Holy Ghost, as the Prophets doe, and as Paul did Rom. 11. prophesying of the calling of the Jews, and Joh. Revel. 1.10. and through the whole book; yea they never denounced Judgment against those that believe not their predictions, of these particular events and facts as they are such particular events & facts, as the Prophets and Apostles did.

    Samuel Rutherford, A survey of the spiritual antichrist (London: Andrew Crooke, 1648), Part 1.7, p. 43.
  2. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    What are some examples of reformers' prophecies to which Rutherford refers?
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Research Alexander Peden.

    I believe some have uttered prophecies. Even the Oracle of Delphi was right on a number of occasions.
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I would not call them prophecies but lucky guesses. :)
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Among his hearers was Andrew Dalziel, a wild-fowler, who had been detained indoors by the weather and was present as an onlooker. Dalzier was known in the neighborhood for loose living, and Cameron's preaching aroused his indignation. At last he could retrain himself no longer. "Sir,' he called out derisively, 'we neither known you nor your God.'

    Cameron, musing a little, said: "You and all that do not know God in his mercy shall known him in his judgment, which shall be sudden and surprising in a few days upon you, which shall make you a terror to yourself, and all that shall be witness to your death, and I, as a sent servant of Jesus Christ, whose commission I bear, and whose badge or blaze upon my breast, give you warning.'

    Grant mentions Dalziel died a few days later (Grant, The Lion of the Covenant, p. 188).
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The problem I have with the later stories like of the Cameronians is they tend to be weirder and I would suspect they are exaggerations or fabrications for burnishing their legitimacy purposes. Or are we to believe Cameron glowed iridescently as in one account? I find the first and second reformation statements more credible. Robert Blair says the same thing in effect as Rutherford, who experienced making some predictions. He writes regarding such in his biography:

    "If any of my relations, reading these things, shall stumble, that both now and heretofore I have mentioned what hath been revealed to me of events to come, seeing revelations are now ceased, and we are to stick close to the revealed will of God in the Scriptures, for their satisfaction I answer as follows: That if an angel from heaven should reveal anything contrary to the Scriptures, or offer to add anything to that perfect rule of faith and manners, he ought to be accursed, and much more if any man on earth should offer to do the same. This accursed way of revelation we leave to Papists and other sectaries. But, in the meantime, it ought not to be denied that the Lord is pleased sometimes, to his servants, especially in a suffering condition, to reveal some events concerning themselves and that part of the Church of God wherein they live; innumberable examples whereof might be produced, and not a few within this same land; as to the blessed martyr Wishart, Mr. Knox, Mr. Davidson, Mr. Welsh, and Mr. Patrick Simson of Stirling. This I write under protestation that I compare not myself with these I have now mentioned." Link.

    Durham and Gillespie had statements on this as well. I thought my paper from years ago was posted on PB but I cannot find it. I will see if I can upload.
  7. Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

    Seeking_Thy_Kingdom Puritan Board Freshman

    I recently read some of Cameron’s sermons and they do have a very strong prophetic tone, but I doubt that he believed that he was he said was on par with ‘Thus saith the Lord’.

    A minister called by God does have a prophetic voice, but rather than receiving special revelation he interprets current events in light of Scripture and can make a ‘prophetic judgment’. Ministers have been warning for decades against the horrors of abortion or the vileness of same sex marriage, some have even said that if we do not repent judgment will come. Can we now say it is here? And if so, have these ministers been prophesying without having a direct revelation?

    William Gouge says it this way in Gods Three Arrows when speaking about the great plague in 1665/66:

    §. 10. Of the grounds that Ministers now have to foretell judgements.

    Ob. MInisters have not now such certaine knowledge of Gods minde, as of old the Prophets and Apostles had, to whom God did immediatly and infallibly make knowne his minde.

    Answ. We have a more sure word, namely the holy Scriptures, which are given by inspiration of God. These shew what sinnes do most offend God, and what doe soonest pull downe vengeance from God, upon the committers of them. So as when Ministers see such sinnes impudently and impenitently committed, they may well inferre that God purposeth to send some judgment to such a people. To this purpose is it that the Apostle reckoneth up sundry sinnes that the Israelites committed in the wildernesse, and judgements that followed thereupon, that we should not sinne as they did, and fall after the same example of unbelief or disobedience.

    On this ground many Ministers well noting the sinnes of these times, did foretell that God would bring on this City, or a Plague, or some other judgment. And in the beginning of the yeare many did particularly foretell the Plague it selfe.Their threatning was little regarded; little or no amendment followed thereupon: now therefore is the Plague among us.
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Dalziel's prophesied death was rather specific.
  9. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    How exactly did God tell this was going to happen?
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Been about 8 years since I have read it, but I think Cameron got the timing right. Don't know if he made any claim to the mode of death.
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Surly you must remember if he referenced what God's voice sounded like or if he thinks God implanted his "prophesy" in his mind directly. ;)
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    My memory is not infallible. You can read the primary sources if you want.
  13. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    My point was that what he foretold was no prophesy.
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's an assertion, not a logical argument. Whenever you are presented with counter-evidence, you simply redefine the situation so that the evidence doesn't apply. Your position is unfalsifiable. What my net don't catch isn't fish.

    And when I present you with primary sources and scholarship, you simply fall back to "that couldn't have been prophecy." So when you asked the question you weren't really interested in the answer.
  15. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I would maybe accept the evidence of prophesy today if I saw or heard it directly from God, or during the period of Jesus and The Apostles. Now I will say I would be very skeptical of my thinking if I thought I heard directly from God outside of scripture today. Yes that is an assertion based on my presuppositions I hold to today. :)
  16. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    There are a number of examples of foretelling of events in John Knox's History of the Reformation.
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    “There is a revelation of some particular men, who have foretold things to come, even since the ceasing of the Canon of the Word, as John Husse [John Hus], Wickeliefe [Wycliffe], Luther, have foretold things to come and they certainly fell out, and in our nation of Scotland, M. George Wishart foretold that Cardinal Beaton should not come out alive at the Gates of the Castle of St. Andrews, but that he should die a shameful death, and he was hanged over the window that he did look out at, when he saw the man of God burnt, Knox prophesied of the hanging of the Lord of Grange, M. Ioh. Davidson uttered prophecies, known to many of the kingdome, diverse Holy and mortified preachers in England have done the like…"

    [Samuel Rutherford. A Survey Of The Spiritual Antichrist. Opening the Secrets Of Familisme and Antinomianisme in the Antichrist Doctrine of John Saltmarsh… (London: no pub., 1648), 42. The reference to M. Ioh.

    I agree with Rutherford. And we both agree with the WCF on this issue. See the single best book on this topic here:,aps,378&sr=8-1
  18. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    So Daniel, specifically, what did you mean by "what do you make of this"? It's a sort of broad question.
  19. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    So may I ask why we could not add these "prophesies" to scripture? I ask in all seriousness.
  20. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Perg has answered this one.

  21. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    It is a broad question because various other questions arise out of it.

    Here is a more specific question: Are modern cessationist interpretations of the Westminster Confession really sustainable in light of what Samuel Rutherford states as being his own position? I ask that question as a strict cessationist.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    My take on it--as someone who is "open but cautious"--is that the WCF expects a practical cessationism. I am not aware that it expected or really made room for the prophecies of the Scottish Covenanters. As long as you take it as a "practical cessationism" without making it absolute, it isn't a problem. That's what analytic philosophers call a "de dicto" reading, as the text is.

    If you then from that you to force a "de re" (absolute) cessationism on the WCF in light of the Scots, then cognitive dissonance will build up.
  23. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Perhaps, though my argument concerning Samuel Rutherford may suffer from making the assumption that the Scots = the WCF. Still, people refer to Rutherford's supralapsarianism as proof that the WCF is not infralapsarian. If it works in one case, why not in the other?
  24. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Yeah Earl, if my memory serves me right, you don't believe in all that supernatural stuff, do ya?. Of do I have you wrong?

  25. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I most certainly do believe in the supernatural stuff that happened before the closing of the cannon. :)
  26. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    So I did remember right. Do you not even believe in the filling of the Holy Spirit? How 'bout the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
    There is a bunch of nut cases running around saying that they do believe—crackpots like Martyn Lloyd Jones.
    Baptism and Filling, for example.

    I pity those poor deceived Covenanters like George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford, John Knox, and more.

    Gillespie makes some significant observations about prophecy as it was experienced by the Scottish Presbyterians and Covenanters of previous generations as well as by those he would have known as contemporaries.

    And now, having the occasion, I must say it, to the glory of God, there were in the church of Scotland, both in the time of our first reformation, and after the reformation, such extraordinary men as were more than ordinary pastors and teachers, even holy prophets receiving extraordinary revelations from God, and foretelling divers strange and remarkable things, which did accordingly come to pass punctually, to the great admiration of all who knew the particulars. Such were Mr. Wishart the martyr, Mr. Knox the reformer, also Mr. John Welsh, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. Robert Bruce, Mr. Alexander Simpson, Mr. Furgusson, and others. It were too long to make a narrative here of all such particulars, and there are so many of them stupendous, that to give instance in some few, might seem to derogate from the rest, but if God give me opportunity, I shall think it worth the while to make a collection of these things; meanwhile, although such prophets be extraordinary, and but seldom raised up in the church, yet such there have been, I dare say, not only in the primitive times but amongst our first reformers and others; and upon what scripture can we pitch for such extraordinary prophets, if not upon those scriptures which are applied by some to the prophesying brethren, or gifted church members?
    Samuel Rutherford was another Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly. In writing about the nature of subjective (internal) revelation Rutherford says:

    (3) There is a revelation of some particular men, who have foretold things to come even since the ceasing of the Canon of the word as John Husse, Wickeliefe, Luther, have foretold things to come, and they certainely fell out, and in our nation of Scotland, M. George Wishart foretold that Cardinall Beaton should not come out alive at the Gates of the Castle of St. Andrewes, but that he should dye a shamefull death, and he was hanged over the window that he did look out at, when he saw the man of God burnt, M. Knox prophecied of the hanging of the Lord of Grange, M. Ioh. Davidson uttered prophecies knowne to many of the kingdome, divers Holy and mortified preachers in England have done the like….
    Rutherford notes that these men did not require others to believe their prophecies as Scripture and did not denounce those who did not believe their predictions of particular events and facts. It is significant to note that Rutherford, along with Gillespie, recognized the unique extraordinary revelation that was given to those who had preceded them, and uses the term prophecy to describe such revelation.
    Poor deluded souls.

    Robert Blair, a contemporary of Gillespie and Rutherford, also makes reference to Wishart, Knox, Davidson, and Welch as men who had received extraordinary revelations concerning the times in which they lived.

    The force of the Gillespie, Rutherford, and Blair references is that these men who either were commissioners to the Westminster Assembly or lived during its time, recognized the extraordinary revelation that God had given to their predecessors and did not see it as inconsistent with their understanding of the Scriptures as the only infallible rule of faith and life. In other words, their understanding of the uniqueness of the Scriptures did not lead them to conclude that God could not continue to reveal himself through extraordinary revelation.

    You can read many more fools here:

    Have a look here at a simple Google search:
    There is no shortage of fruitcakes in Reformed history.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
  27. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Then write them down and say this is scripture. Make no mistake IF God foretold the future, as the above said, you are morally obligated to believe that as The Word of God.
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's actually not what he asked you. In any case, nobody did that with the content of Phillip's daughters who prophesied.

    And the phrase "Word of God" isn't univocal throughout Scripture and theology. I can think of at least 5 different (maybe seven) uses of it.
  29. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    You are really hardcore, aren't ya?
  30. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    If Rutherford were writing this today maybe he’d choose not to use the word “prophecy” in relation to things the reformers said, since the concept has become so abused. I remembered an old thread where this was talked about (you participated there Daniel but it was a long time ago); I thought Rev Winzer had some good points. He (and Chris made the same statement) said that the subject is ”best discussed under extraordinary providence, or perhaps, because that phrase is usually associated with miracles, it would be best to call it unusual providence.“ He also noted a quotation from Robert Blair concerning times of suffering, “which are times when the Lord will often undertake for His people in unusual ways.”

    Rev Winzer went on to say: “There is a fundamental problem with the way modern folk interpret the language of men like Rutherford. Their statements are not understood within the basic theological framework they worked with. Now Rutherford held some fairly concrete ideas on the subjects of Scripture and assurance. Most moderns do not hold Rutherford's doctrine of immediate inspiration, but follow men like Warfield and adopt a more organic approach. So it comes about that when Rutherford speaks of the possibility of continuing revelation, the modern mind naturally assumes he is referring to the same process which was necessary for the production of the Scriptures, and subsequently concludes that he did not hold a cessationist position.

    ”Again, Rutherford held that assurance requires us to know something infallibly which is not specifically stated in Scripture, namely, our personal interest in Christ. Most moderns cannot appreciate the nuances of his position here, and so it is wrongly concluded that Rutherford believed the Spirit immediately witnesses truth to the heart of the elect.

    ”The fact is that Rutherford held there are different kinds of revelation, and he articulated this in the very passage men quote to show he was not cessationist. Now, if the revelation which continues is different from the revelation which produced Scripture, and the revelation which produced Scripture is regarded as having ceased, it should be obvious to clear thinking people that Rutherford held to the position that special revelation has ceased. What continues is not the special revelation which produced Scripture, but another kind of revelation altogether. Given this fact, he cannot be used as an example of a non-cessationist advocate influencing the formation of the Westminster Standards.”
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