Rutherford’s Catechism – Prolegomena and Theology Proper


Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was an important Reformed theologian and pastor. Here’s an accessible biography. Known for his help on the Westminster Assembly’s shorter catechism, Rutherford also penned his own. I have tried to clarify the spelling and make it available in searchable text. Continuing sections will be set out in the future.

Rutherford’s Catechism, or, The Sum of Christian Religion

Q. #1 What is the way to life eternal?
A. To know God and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.
John 17:3

Q. #2 Wherein stands this knowledge?
A. In faith and good works, that are the fruits of faith.
Titus 1:16; I Timothy 1:5; Psalms 37:3

Q. #3 Where may we learn the doctrine of faith?
A. In God’s wisdom (I Cor 2:6) in the Old and New Testaments, containing all things to make us wise to salvation.
II Tim 3:16

Q. #4 Then this Word of God is a perfect rule of faith and manners
A. Yes, it is so perfect that they are under a curse that add to it or take from it.
Ps 29:7; I Tim 3:18; Luke 16:29; John 22:31; I Cor 2:6; Rev 22:19; Deut 12:31; Prov 30:6

Q. #5 Who should expound the Word?
A. It is plain, and a light to those who have eyes (Psalm 119:105; II Pet 1:19; Deut 30:11), and in material needful to salvation it expounds itself and those that have the Spirit of God (II Cor 2:11; Psalm 25:9; John 12:12) should expound the Word by the light of the Word.

Q. #6 For what cause should we believe the Word to be the Word of God?
A. Not because men or the Kirk say so, but because God who cannot lie says it.
John 5:33 – 35; Matt 16:17

Q. #7 Have all men place to read the Word?
A. All, both learned and unlearned (John 5:39) should search the Scriptures (Col 4:16; I Thess 5:21; Deut 6:6 – 8), and try the spirits and the Word preached, and not receive it by guess (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11).

Of the Godhead and the Blessed Trinity

Q. #8 What is the chief purpose of the Word of God?
A. To teach us what God is in himself, and his holy nature, and what he is in his works toward us.

Q. #9 What is God in his nature?
A. Jehovah having life and being of himself, and infinite and incomprehensible in all his properties, one God (I Cor 8:6; Deut 6:4; Deut 32:39) in nature; and three in person, the Father, Son, and one holy Spirit (Matt 3:16 – 17; II Cor 8:4; I John 5:7).

Q. #10 What do you learn of this that there are three persons?
A. That our salvation is sure, because three witnesses in heaven have said that our life is in pledge in Christ’s hand.
I John 5:11

OF God’s Decree

Q. #11 What is God towards us as His creatures?
A. Our king and the sovereign lord of all.

Q. #12 Wherein stands His kingly power?
A. In his free and absolute decree, whereby in his wisdom he has appointed all things in the world and brings all to pass in his own time.

Q. #13 What are the properties of his decrees?
A. They are eternal (Eph 1:4; Rom 11:34; Eph 3:11), unchangeable (Job 33:13; Is 14:24; Psalm 33:10 – 11), and righteous (Rom 9:14).

Q. #14 But if God has decreed all things unchangeable then we have no free will to do or not to do what we do?
A. Yes, all the actions of freewill are concluded and appointed unchangeably in God’s mind whereas men in time work freely.
Eph 3:10; Is 14:27; Acts 28:20 – 31.

Of Predestination

Q. #15 What decrees has God concerning mankind?
A. Two, the decrees of election and reprobation.

Q. #16 What is God’s decree of election?
A. It is the Lord’s free appointment setting some men apart for glory (Eph 1:5 – 6; John 17:6), and making them his sons in Christ (Eph 1:5; II THess 2:13), for the praise of His glory (Eph 1:6).

Q. #17 What is the decree of reprobation?
A. It is God’s free appointment whereby he decrees to pass by some and to leave them to the hardness of their own heart.
Jude 4; I Pet 2:8; I Thess 5:8; Rom 9:22; II Pet 2:12.

Q. #18 What moves God to make this difference?
A. Neither good nor evil in man (Rom 9:11), only the good pleasure of His will.

Coming next – creation, humanity, the Fall…

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