Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Samuel Rutherford on Restitution

by Daniel F. N. Ritchie
Reformed Worldview Books 
Reformed Covenanter  

In context, Samuel Rutherford is discussing the question as to whether or not the reprobates have lost all right to the use of God’s creation as a result of Adam’s fall.  In the midst of this, he raises a question concerning thieves being required to make restitution for goods that they have stolen, and he answers in the affirmative.  

Although I am not sure if this is enough to indicate a change in position from that which he took in his earlier work, A Free Disputation (where he argued that restitution for theft was not among the Mosaic laws of common equity), the reference to the case laws in Exodus 22 implies that the marrow of the laws concerning restitution are still binding:
[A] thief is obliged to restore stolen goods […] They who enjoy that which they may and ought by their own private power, restore, such as ill conquered goods.  They sin in using that, true, Proverbs 3:27; Exodus 22:26, 27; Luke 19:8.  It’s a sin to withhold the raiment though laid in pawned, which should cover the poor man’s skin in the night, and they have no right to enjoy that.
Samuel Rutherford, The covenant of life opened; or, a treatise of the covenant of grace, ed. C. M. McMahon (1654; New Lennox IL, 2005), pp 98-9.

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