Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Death of William Cowper (By Alexander Whyte)

(This post is the result of a post on Cowper on Steve Hays' Blog)

"When William Cowper died, there came out upon his sad countenance a look of 'holy surprise.' The very last poem Cowper had composed was about himself, and he had entitled it 'The Castaway.' But, instead of being what he thought he would for ever be, a look of 'holy surprise' came out of his heart, and spread over his dead face - so abundant was the entrance that was being at this moment administered to him.

Come then, away, O downcast soul! Come away! And William Cowper, and you, and I, will one day hold a three-cornered contest in heaven as to which of us three has the most wonderful story to tell and the most wonderful song to sing. I think I know who will carry away the prize from you both.
Nay, I am sure I know! 'Of whom I am chief.'"

(The conclusion of a sermon entitled 'A Wonder in Heaven' preached in Free St. George's January 13th 1901) published in With Mercy And With Judgement (London, Hodder and Stoughton, no date) Pp. 91-2


'The New Evangelism' III

In our last post we saw that Henry Drummond said that a new theological climate demanded a 'New Evangelism'. Why? What was wrong with the old one?

"The view we are to take, therefore, of the old theologies is not that they are false, but simply that they are old. Those who framed them did in their time just what we want to do in ours..." (P. 10)

So far so good. But why change? Drummond lets fly with a few pointed negatives concerning the old theologies. He criticized its theology and its ethical effects. First of all, the old evangelism, in Drummond's opinion, inculcated a wrong conception of God, ignoring the incarnation. The concept of God taught by the old evangelism was "as far as it could be formed... the God of the Old Testament." (P. 13). The old evangelism practically ignored the revelation of God in Christ. Christ, to the old evangelism, was a mere "theological person," (P.15), a convenience, not a real man. "In our zeal for the doctrines of the Atonement we are really robbing God of His doctrine of the Incarnation." (P. 18).
Note that Drummond, despite his statement that the old theologies were "not... false", rapidly resorted to saying just that!
As for Justification by faith, that was ruinous: "The characteristic to notice here is that religion was not so much a question of character as of status. Man's standing in the sight of God was the great thing." (P. 20). He went on to say that this tended to antinomianism.

In our next post we shall, God willing, consider the 'positive' side of the 'New Evangelism', that is to say, what it would and would not be.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'The New Evangelism' II

Towards a New Evangelism

Drummond's blend of Christianity and Darwinism is well known, we shall not deal with it here. Our subject is a lesser-known work of Drummond which is, to me, the most interesting of his books. It was published posthumously, and its title is The New Evangelism (London, Hodder, no date). The book contains a number of essays and addresses by Drummond, relating to evangelism. They open a window on Drummond's thoughts, particularly the paper which gives the work its name, The New Evangelism.
The thesis of the paper is simple: The Church's old methods of evangelism were not working - the numbers attending Church were high, but the proportion of the population attending was falling. What was going wrong? The Churches were evangelizing, but it was not working as it ought to. The Church needed to develop a New Evangelism.
Henry Drummond did not pretend to offer a finished product - it was a 'work in progress', a process going on in the Church.

What is a 'New Evangelism'?
"The particular substance and form of evangel which is adapted to the present state of men's minds. the new Evangelism, in a word, is the Gospel for the age... of course we do not want a new evangel, we state that out at once; but an Evangelism is a different thing, and we do want that; we want that at the present hour, almost above any reform of our time." (P. 4)
Drummond goes on to describe the decline of 'vital religion' which is the reason for this need, then offers a diagnosis:
"What is the cause of this decline in vital religion? Why is the Gospel not reaching the Age? Because it is not the Gospel for the age, it is the Gospel for a former age." (P. 7)

"The very nature of truth demands from time to time a new evangelism," Drummond said. What he meant was, however, that since theology had changed, methods of evangelism should change too.

God willing we shall unpack that a little in our next post

(Illustrated: Free Church College, Glasgow, where Drummond taught)


Monday, November 28, 2005

Where I was Today

Today I was at the Spurgeon Fraternal at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. There Dr. Masters decried certain Christian bloggers who use their blogs to distribute all sorts of trivia and fluff. We trust that Free St. George's will never descend to that level. Nothing is posted here that we are not persuaded is important and worth bringing before the people of God. This is a challenge to Christian bloggers. Are we blogging what is worthwhile, or parading our egos in front of the world?

But Dr. Masters' intention was not simply to make remarks on blogs (he admitted to having read four). In fact he was trying to bring attention to the fact that so many Christians, even Reformed Christians, have two 'faces'. We are not sure if we want to be fully committed to Christ or not, we live with one foot in the world, and the other in the Church. I use the 'we' deliberately. This is not just the 'preacher's we', but the Pauline 'we'. We Christians. Sanctification is important, but especially decision. A divided heart will not do so much for the Lord as one which has been deliberately given to God and is consciously being offered to Him every hour. Reader, are you doing that? I am asking myself that question too. I do not want your answer, but the Lord wants our answers.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I am Preaching this Lord's Day

'The New Evangelism' I

Henry Drummond

In the next few posts I intend, for the benefit of those readers who were not scared away by the series on Alexander Peden, to explore the issue of the New Evangelism in the Free Church of Scotland in the late 19th Century. Michael Haykin has already mentioned Henry Drummond (1851-1897) and his teaching, "an eclectic blend of Darwinism and Christianity." Alexander Whyte's comment on Drummond is most revealing “The trouble with Hen-a-ry is that he doesna ken [know] onything aboot sin.” [Cited Alexander Gammie, Preachers I Have Heard (London: Pickering & Inglis, Ltd., 1945), 12]. And that was Drummond's problem. He wrote widely, and anyone interested in his writings may find them here.

Drummond was born in Stirling in 1851, into a staunchly evangelical family. He was 'brought up' a Christian, and never went through any sort of crisis experience. This is not, of course, a proof he was no Christian (although the Highland Host tends to suspect such people). Drummond was educated at the local schools before going up to Edinburgh University. From Edinburgh university he went to New College, Edinburgh, then the Edinburgh college of the Free Church of Scotland. Drummond was attracted to the study of natural science (no bad thing, the Highland Host has a science degree), and won a class medal in geology (his sole qualification in the subject). Geology seems to have attracted him partly because it involved a lot of work out-of-doors - Drummond was a very out-of-doors sort of man.
At the New College Drummond got involved in the students' Theological Society, and embraced the Germon Higher Critical view of the Bible. More of that later.
Drummond did not become a minister. At New College he became caught up in the Moody and Sankey campaign in Scotland, but after he finished his course, he took up the post of lecturer in Natural Science at the Free Church College, Glasgow. He remained interested in evangelism, and pursued both interests until he was stricken down by a mysterious wasting disease that finally killed him in 1897.

In the next post we shall, God willing, begin to consider Henry Drummond's 'New Evangelism'.


Friday, November 25, 2005

The Scottish Fundamentalist

Rev. Professor James Orr (1844-1913)

What is a fundamentalist? The usual image that comes to mind is that of a wild, Bible-pounding American preacher. But the name is derived from the series of books edited by R.A. Torrey and others, entitled The Fudamentals. Contributors to the series included B.B. Warfield, R. A. Torrey and Thomas Spurgeon (son of C.H.).
Prominent among the contributors is the name of James Orr. He was reponsible for articles on 'The Holy Scripture and Modern Negations', 'The Early Narratives of Genesis', 'Science and Christian Faith', and 'The Virgin Birth of Christ'.
Orr was educated at Glasgow university and the United Presbyterian College. Following a pastorate of fifteen years at Hawick in the Borders, Orr was appointed professor of Church history in the United Presbyterian College. It was while in this post that he produced his book The Progress of Dogma (1901), which is a history of Christian doctrines.
Following the union of the Free and United Presbyterian bodies in 1901, James Orr was appointed professor of apologetics at the United Free Church College, Glasgow, teaching alongside James Denney, the author of a number of important books about the atonement.
In a period when many leading Scottish theologians were compromising the Faith, Orr stood firm. He was associated with B.B. Warfield, and wrote uncompromisingly on the authority and integrity of the Bible. Since liberal theologians had produced a number of Bible dictionaries and encyclopaedias promoting their views, Orr edited the Internatioan Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, with contributors including B. B. Warfield. Orr died in 1913, an uncompromising champion of Evangelicalism.
Before Lloyd-Jones and the Banner of Truth Trust, James Orr's scholarly defence of Evangelical Truth was a source of great comfort to evangelical students and preachers who were vexed by the liberals. R.L. Morgan, the first missionary to be sent out by the Cardiff Evangelical Union [an evangelical student body], nourished himself on Orr's writings in the period 1927-30 when he was studying theology at the predominantly liberal Presbyterian College in Aberystwyth. There is a James Orr shelf in the Free St. George's Library, and I often read James Orr's books, and find them a rich well of godly, evangelical theology.

A list of James Orr's books is to be found here.


A Corner in St. Andrews Churchyard (J.P. Struthers)

Mr. Halyburton is best known by his Memoirs, a book which Rabbi Duncan called one of the great books of the world. You may get it for less than sixpence at most old book-stalls. A little before he died he said, "I was just thinking on the bonnie spot of earth that I will get to lie in, beside Mr. Rutherford, Mr. Forrester, and Principal Anderson, and I will get my pleasant George" (his dead son) "in my hand; and oh! we will be a knot of bonnie dust!"

(First appeared in The Morning Watch for July 1896)

[Comment by Highland Host: Mr. Struthers' remark on the ease with which Halyburton's Memoirs may be obtained is no longer true. The Memoirs of Halyburton have since become a very scarce book. The James Begg Society of Aberdeen have, however, recently published a new edition of Halyburton's works, the most complete ever published, and Halyburton's Memoirs are to be found in the fourth volume. American readers may find the book here.]


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Inclement Weather

We have been having torrential rain here lately. This is A.L. Struthers' take on it. The beautifully dressed girl is carrying, not an umbrella, but a parasol (to protect her complexion from the sun. Suntans were NOT fashionable in 1896) that won't keep the rain off her for long. Of course, it's winter here.


HMS Terrible (By J. P. Struthers)

One day lately I saw a pretty child with a cap inscribed "HMS Terrible." At the first glance it seemed a ludicrous misnomer. But on second thoughts one saw that there is something terrible in the eyes of a child, and especially in those of a little girl.
You know what is meant by the phrase l'enfant terrible. It describes the child that in the innocence or simplicity of its heart blurts out things at inconvenient moments. But it is not the child that tells things that is to blame, but we who do the things that won't bear telling. I once heard a very good and very wise man say - and he was one who was singularly happy in his marriage - that a man should have a certain feeling of awe in the presence of his wife. A good woman - I mean one of the highest type - should represent not only the infinite tenderness and forgivingness of God, but His purity and holy severity as well. Her look of pain when one whom she loves does anything unworthy, is a glimpse of God's own face. There is an awful truth in the saying of M. Renan, that the judgements that shall be pronounced in the valley of Jesoshaphat will not differ much from those already passed on us by good women.
May every child we see draw us nearer God; may its face look forth to us as the morning -
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Terrible as an army with banners.


Covenanter Wisdom

Before leaving behind for a while the heroic Covenanters, who purchased a freedom now enjoyed in America and the United Kingdom with their sufferings, here are a few choice sayings of theirs:

"In the worst of times, there is still more cause to complain of an evil heart than of an evil world." - Robert Fleming (1630-1694)

"Prosperity, ease, and the desires of the soul, send leanness to the soul; the evils of the world are much better than the good thereof." - James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698)

"Here there is much repining and fretting at God's dispensations; but believe it, the day is approaching when ye shall write upon the posts of the doors of heaven, He hath done all things well." - Andrew Gray (1634-1656)

"Heaven is a land of peace, and all things are there in full age; here all are in minority [childhood], it is but yet night; but, when the day shall break up, and the shadows fly away, and the Prince of peace shall appear and be revealed, He shall bring peace and grace both with Him, and both perfect." - Hugh Binning (1625-1654)

"Our apprehensions [fears] are not canonical [Scripture]." Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Martyr's Hymn

There was gladness in Zion, her standard was flying,
Free o'er her battlements, glorious and gay;
All fair as the morning shone forth her adorning,
And fearful to foes was her godly array.

There is mourning in Zion, her standard is lying
Defiled in the dust to the spoiler a prey;
And now there is wailing, and sorrow prevailing,
For the best of her children are weeded away.

The good have been taken, their place is forsaken;
The man and the maiden, the green and the grey;
The voice of the weepers wails over the sleepers,
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away!

The hue of her waters is crimson'd with slaughters,
The blood of the martyrs has redden'd the clay;
And dark desolation broods over the nation,
For the faithful are perished, the good are away!

On the mountains of heather they slumber together;
On the wastes of the moorland their bodies decay;
How sound is their sleeping, how safe is their keeping,
Though far from their kindred they moulder away.

Their blessings shall hover, their children to cover,
Like the cloud of the desert, by night and by day;
Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish,
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away!

Horatius Bonar


Who Was That Masked Prophet? X

Selections from the works of Alexander Peden

Because Peden lived and died during times of persecution, and his 'study' was a cave in the ground, he has not left much in the way of writings. We have two sermons, four letters and some 'Notes on the Covenant of Redemption' amounting to a single sheet of paper. These may be found on pages 182-220 of Johnston's book (see last post and here). The two sermons were preached out of doors in Peden's old parish of New Luce. The first sermon was on the text Matthew 21.38.

"Now, people of God in Scotland, what are ye doing when such dreadful wrath against God is at the door in Scotland? He is not worth his room in Scotland the day that prayeth not the half of his time, to see if he can prevent the dreadful wrath that is at your door, coming on your poor motherland. O sirs! ye must pray ploughing, harrowing, and shearing, ay and at all your labour, ay, when ye are eating and drinking, going out and in, and at all your employments; there never was more need than now. O that noble life we might have of communion with God! O sirs! it is He that makes heaven pleasant; it's communion with God that makes heaven pleasant. Will ye long to be there, O people of God?"

"Young folk, what are ye doing? Will ye venture to close with Him, lads and lasses in Scotland, and I will tell you news of it. The lads and lasses that have followed Him in the stormy blast, and laid down their lives for Him, your eyes, sirs, shall see them on thrones, and crowns on their heads, and robes of glory, with harps and palms in their hands, as ye may see in the Revelation 7th chapter and 9th verse."

"Grace is young glory at your conversion. Our Lord gives you one end of His line, but He keeps the other end in glory with himself; and He will have you there, sirs, at length."

And from the second sermon, on Luke 24.21:
"Where is the Kirk of God in Scotland this day? It is not among the great clergy folk. Sirs, I'll tell you where the Kirk of God is - wherever there is a praying lad or lass at a dyke-side in Scotland, a praying party will ruin them [the oppressors of the Church] yet, sirs, and a praying party shall go through the storm."

Words for our day as well as that day. May we learn from the Masked Prophet of the Covenant.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who Was That Masked Prophet? IX


As we saw in the last post, Peden was buried at the foot of the gallows on the hill above Cumnock. But the 'place of ignominy' was hallowed by the prophet's bones, and it became the town's burying-place.
Think! no more in the old graveyard
Will anyone bury his dead!
They carry them high to the Gallows Hill,
And lay them there at his head.
An old hawthorn-tree grows over Peden's grave, and there is a little Reformed Baptist chapel across the road. It is a quiet, affecting spot.

But what are we to make of Peden? He was no deciever, that is certain. What was he? A prophet? Or just a preacher gifted with remarkable insight?
Peden saw himself as a minister called by God to watch over the flock of God in Scotland in peculiarly perilous times. Some of his prophecies, particularly those concerning the battles of Pentland and Bothwell Bridge may be regarded as examples of keen insight. The rebel armies could never have hoped to beat well-trained government troops, and the result of such unsuccessful risings was bound to be further oppression. But can we dismiss all of Peden's prophecies this way? It would be neat and tidy to. I am no charismatic, but I find that I cannot dismiss Peden. God is still able to guide his people today by extraordinary as well as ordinary means. Why should He not have chosen to give some special words of comfort to His persecuted people through Peden? Times of persecution are extraordinary times, after all.

No doubt some of you will accuse me of sitting on the fence. Maybe I am engaging in fence-sitting, but I cannot dismiss The Prophet of the Covenant easily.

(All factual information in these posts has been obtained from the book Alexander Peden: The Prophet of the Covenant, by John C. Johnston, published in 1988 by the Mourne Missionary Trust of Northern Ireland. The book is available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, Glasgow. Futher information about Peden may be found here and here, not to mention here. )

We have not quite left Peden. God willing I shall post a number of Peden quotes here from his letters and sermons.


Reasons for Not Going to Church by J.P. Struthers (II)

This woman has given up going, because, "The church is so empty," and it is "so depressing;" and she is "always meeting people who have the same feeling," and like herself "prefer to stay at home on Sabbaths and read their Bibles."

"And it is so different from what it was" when she was young. She often sits and thinks of the days "when the Church was crowded to the door," and she and others "had many a time to sit on the pulpit stairs. But there doesn't seem to be the same earnest spiritual life that there used to be."

Thou hypocrite!


Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Lord's Day

Free St. George's is sabbatarian. Nothing new will be posted here until Monday 21st November 2005.
(J.P. Struthers' Church, Greenock)

Who Was That Masked Prophet? VIII

The Last Prophecy

In his latter years Peden became more and more isolated, as his friends were murdered one by one by the government. After the death of Richard Cameron, the best known of the Covenanter leaders, Peden regularly visited the grave of Cameron often, being heard to say, "O to be wi' Ritchie.
There came a worn and weary man to Cameron's place of rest;
He cast him down upon the sod - he smote upon his breast -
He wept as only strong men weep, when they must weep or die,
And 'O to be wi' thee, Ritchie!' was still his bitter cry.

Upon wild and lone Airsmoss down sank the twilight grey,
In storn and cloud the evening closed upon that cheerless day;
But Peden went his way refreshed, for peace and joy were given,
And Cameron's grave had proved to him the very gate of heaven.
(Mrs. Menteath)

Late in 1685, Alexander Peden's health began to fail. "Take my corpse to Airsmoss and lay it beside Ritchie," he said. But he knew that they would be unable to do so. "I shall be decently buried by you, and if my body be suffered to rest in the grave where you shall lay it, then I have been a deciever, and the Lord hath not spoken by me; but if the enemy come a little afterwards to take it up, and carry it away to bury it in an ignominious place, then I hope you will believe that God almighty has spoken by me, and consequently not one word fall to the ground."

Peden died in his brother's house on 26th January 1686. He was buried in the family vault of the Boswells of Auchinleck. Six weeks later, however, government troops came and took the body from the vault. They carried the body to Cumnock, where they were going to hang the body on the gibbet in chains. They were ordered by the local laird, the Earl of Dumfries, that the gibbet was for murderers, not for such men as Peden. The soldiers buried Peden's corpse at that foor of the gallows, 'an ignominious place.' There he still lies, with a monument raised over his now honoured corpse.

The next post will, God willing, be an attempt to examine the story of the Masked Prophet.


Who Was That Masked Prophet? VII

The Browns of Priesthill

Despite the rout of the covenanters in arms at Bothwell Bridge, there were still some faithful presbyterians in Scotland. Among them was John Brown of Priesthill (a small farm in the hills of Ayrshire near Muirkirk). Brown was known as 'the Christian Carrier, as he supplemented the small income from his farm by carrying goods for other people.
In 1682 Alexander Peden married John Brown to Isabel Weir. After the marriage Peden said to the bride, "Isabel, you have got a good man to be your husband, but you will not enjoy him long. Prize his company; and keep linen by you to be his winding-sheet, for you will need it when ye are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one."

In May 1685 Peden returned to Priesthill. He stayed the night with the family, and when the time came for him to depart, Peden was heard to say to himself, "Poor woman, a fearful morning," twice over. And so he went his way.
The following morning John Brown went out to dig peat for fuel. The mist was thick, and it was not until it was too late that Brown realised that Claverhouse, the most ruthless of all the persecutors of the presbyterians, was coming to Priesthill.
Claverhouse's soldiers surrounded Brown and took him to his house, where he was interrogated. John Brown was accused of preaching, but there was no evidence of the charge (in fact Brown had a speech impediment and could not preach). "If he has never preached, meikle (much) has he prayed in his time," Claverhouse answered brutally. "Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die."
Brown went down to pray, but Claverhouse was so displeased at the length of his prayer that he interrupted. Brown continued to the end of his prayer, and then he was taken out to be killed, his wife and children looking on helplessly. Brown bade fare-well to his family and kissed them, wishing God's blessings on them. Six of Claverhouse's men formed the firing-squad, and most of the bullets struck Brown's head, killing him instantly.
"What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?" Claverhouse mocked. "I ever thought much good of him, and now as much as ever," she replied bravely. She was left with her husband's corpse.
Brown was killed between six and seven in the morning, and Peden was ten or eleven miles away, having been travelling through the night. He arrived at a safe house between seven and eight in the morning, in time for family prayer. During those prayers he said, "Lord, when wilt thou avenge Brown's blood?" After prayers his host asked what Peden had meant. "Claverhouse has been at Priesthill this morning and has cruelly murdered John Brown. His corpse is lying at the end of his house, and his poor wife sitting weeping by, and not a soul to speak comfortably with her."
And so it was. There are other reports of Peden's prophetic gift, but I have detained you too long on this matter already, so that the next instalment (God willing) shall be the last prophecy of Peden.

(Illustration: John Brown's grave at Priesthill. Taken from the Alexander Peden page)


Friday, November 18, 2005

Reasons for not Going to Church by J.P. Struthers

This lady has changed her mind, and is not going to church to-day because her sister, who has just returned from London, tells her that in that dress she is "a perfect fright, a regular old frump - the skirt is not HALF tight enough to be in the fashion!" (I think her sister envied her!)

(First appeared in The Morning Watch for August 1910)


Who Was That Masked Prophet? VI

The Return of the Exile

(The battle of Bothwell Bridge)

In the summer of 1679, Alexander Peden came North again. At the same time the Covenanters (persecuted presbyterians) had risen again, and were marching on Glasgow. Flushed with success after routing a small force of government troops, they had raised an army to take the second city of Scotland. On 22nd June 1679, the Covenanter army met the government forces in battle at Bothwell Bridge. Peden was in the borders, many miles from the scene of combat. On the saturday before the battle he had cried out at worship in the family with whom he was staying, "I tell you, sirs, our deliverance will never come by the sword. Many thought, when the bishops were first set up, that they would not continue seven years; but I was never of that mind. It is now near three sevens; they will not see the fourth seven, but I fear they will come near to it." The Episcopalian regime was not overturned until 1688.

The two armies met on the Sabbath, when Peden was due to preach. He said, "let the people go to prayer, for I can preach none. Our friends are fled and fallen before the enemy... and their blood is flowing like water." Throughout the day he spoke of what was happening at Bothwell Bridge, and how it would be such a heavy stroke on Scotland. Only when the battle was done did news reach the Borders.

Depressed by what had happened, Peden went to Ireland for a short time, where he ministered among the Scottish refugees. He soon returned to Scotland and continued to preach, giving occasional 'prophetical words,' if the histories are to be trusted.

The days of the Masked Prophet were growing short, and he would not live to see the end of persecution. There were still two more scenes of prophecy in his life, and to those I intend to turn, God willing, to-morrow.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Who was that Masked Prophet? V

Liberty to Prophesy

On 9th October 1677, the council decided to liberate Peden from the Bass, on the condition that he left Great Britain for ever. He refused, and it was decided to banish Peden from Scotland. He was transferred to the old Tolbooth for another year until, in December 1678, the council condemned Peden to be transported to the plantations in America with sixty-seven other men. In America the men were to be sold as slaves (Think Captain Blood here). The prisoners were put aboard the St. Michael of Scarborough at Leith, the port of Edinburgh.

After the sentence was passed Peden was heard to say, everal times, that the ship had not yet been built that would take him, or his fellow prisoners, to America. To one James Law, one of the prisoners, Peden said, "James, when your wife comes in, let me speak a word with her." He spoke with her. Afterwards, as they prayed, he said, "Good Lord, let no James Law's wife miss her husband, until thou return him to her in peace and safety, which we are sure will be sooner than either he or she is looking for."

But the ship sailed from Leith. There were rumours that torture would be used on the prisoners, but Peden calmed them saying, "Lift up your hearts, for the day of your redemption draweth near. If we were once at London, we will be set at liberty." Another time he was heard saying in prayer, "Lord, we bless Thy Name, that will cut short our voyage, and frustrate Thy wicked enemies of their wicked designs, and will not let them get us where they intend; and some of us shall go richer home, than when we came from home."

And so it was, for when the captain who was to have taken them to Virginia recieved them and found that they were political prisoners and good Christians, he refused to take them in his ship. So all of the prisoners were set free in London. They returned to Scotland, free men once more. Peden remained six months in Scotland, and he returned to find that the Presbyterian cause had suffered a terrible blow.
But that must wait for our sixth installment.


Who was that Masked Prophet? IV

The Prophet in Prison

For ten years Peden evaded capture by government forces, roaming the hills dressed in grey, his sword by his side and his identity concealed by his famous mask. In June of 1673, however, while he was preaching at a house-meeting in Carrick, the house was raided and Peden was arrested. He was taken to Edinburgh for trial and, on 26th of June, he was condemned to "close imprisonment" on the Bass rock, an island-prison for political prisoners in the Firth of Forth from which there was no escape.

Because the Bass was escape-proof, prisoners were officially allowed a certain amount of freedom. This was not always respected in practice, and prisoners were kept shut up in cells cut into the rock for days at a time. Soldiers on the Bass tried to seduce the maid-servants who attended on the imprisoned ministers and blame the ministers for the resulting children. The result of this was that few women wanted to work on the Bass. (For the preceding paragraph my authority is the Memoirs of James Fraser of Brea, one of Alexander Whyte's favourite books)

Peden was kept a prisoner on the Bass for four and a half years. One day he saw the fourteen-year-old daughter of the governor of the Bass mocking and laughing as the prisoners conducted their public worship. With a solemn face he turned to the girl and said, "Poor thing, thou mockest and laughest at the worship of God; but ere long God shall write such a sudden, surprising judgement on thee, that shall stay thy laughing, and thou shalt not escape it." Shortly afterwards, while the girl was walking on the rock, a gust of wind blew her into the sea, where she was lost.

But Peden's prophetic reputation was also used to good. On another occasion Peden was walking on the rock, and a number of soldiers walked by. One said of Peden, "the devil take him."
"fy, fy, poor man, thou knowest not what thou art saying," Peden said to the man, "But thou wilt repent that."
The soldier was terrified, taking Peden's words as a prophect that the devil would take him. Convicted of his guilt in persecution, the soldier was converted and left the King's service, returning to his home, where he became a noted Christian.

There were some prisoners who died in the Bass, others remained in prison unil the end of the persecution. Peden regained his freedom - but that will be the subject of our next post (D.V.)


A Distinguished Visitor

Michael A.G. Haykin dropped by here recently. What was more, he actually recorded the fact on his blog. Now we here at Free St. George's have to live up to his expectations, as well as those of our other readers (computed at six by the method of plucking a figure out of thin air). We have a responsibility!

Dr. Haykin will be at the Westminster Conference in London in December. His topic is Augustine's The City Of God. Free St. George's will be listening avidly.

Who Was That Masked Prophet? III

The Prophet of the Covenant

The ejected ministers were to remain silent or to face the consequences, outlawry, persecution, prison, exile and even death. Some of the older ministers went to Holland and a Scots expat. community grew up around them. But many stayed in Scotland; their voices would not be silent and, forced out of the churches, they took to the open air:
"The minister's home was the mountain and wood."
They took particularly to the wild country of the South-west of Scotland, "a land of intricate rolling hills, clear streams, remains of ancient forests with, on the one hand, green smiling valleys that stretch to the sea, and at their heads, on the mountain summits, breadths of waste moorland and labyrinths of bogs and morass, the haunts of the curlew and lapwing, that break the deep solitude with their wild, melancholy cry." (John C. Johnston, Alexander Peden)
Peden was denounced as a rebel on 25th January, 1666. To recieve him was a crime against the state, and to hand him over to the authorities an act of loyalty. His crime? Preaching the Gospel. His hearers were threatened with death. At last, in November 1666, the oppressed people rose. They captured the King's commander and marched on Edinburgh. Peden went with them for a while, but at length he turned back, "Being persuaded that they would fall and flee before the enemy."
That was not necessarily prophetic. The rebels continued to the Pentland Hills, just outside Edinburgh.
A couple of nights later, Peden was dining with friends in Carrick, sixty miles from Edinburgh. He was seen to be very troubled and distressed by something. When his landlord asked him what the trouble was, Peden replied, "To-morrow I will speak with you," and retired to pray, not sleeping all night.
Early in the morning Peden called to his landlord and said, "I have sad news to tell you; our friends that were together in arms for Christ's interest, are now broken, killed, taken and fled every man." The news came by foot some forty-eight hours later.
Despite not being present at Pentland, Peden was condemned for being there. But Peden did not leave Scotland, he went on preaching up and down the country, even visiting Ireland in 1670, to encourage the Scots presbyterian exiles there.
But Peden, despite some hair's breadth escapes, did not remain at liberty for ever. But more of that in our next instalment.
(Illustration: Peden's Pulpit, Gameshope, Tweedsmuir,


Playing at Politicians

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who was that Masked Prophet? II

The First Prophecy
While we do not have accounts of every farewell sermon preached by the four hundred ejected ministers, we do have an account on Peden's, although it is undated. The text was Acts 20.32: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified." Most of the congregation were in tears. Peden called upon them to be quiet, but when he told them that they would never see his face in the pulpit again, they wept all the more. He carried on preaching well into the night and, when the sermon was over, he came out of the pulpit and closed the pulpit door. Having done that, he knocked three times on the pulpit door with his Bible and uttered the first of his prophecies.
"I arrest thee in my Master's Name, that none enter thee but such as come in at the door, as I did."
By which he meant that, "Peden fenced the pulpit of Glenluce, and declared that none of the curates should ever set foot in it." (Robert Gordon) And, strange to say, no minister ever did until 1693, when William Kyle was inducted according to the Presbyterian form. And so was born the story of Peden the Prophet.

And the mask? As shown at the head of the last post, it was a disguise later adopted by Peden when he was a hunted man. More of which anon.


Who was that Masked Prophet? I.

I threatened this post on the Pyromaniac comments page the other day. With all this talk of prophets and prophecies today, the Highland Host decided to bring the searchlight of Scottish Church history to bear upon this matter.
Doubtless some have heard of Alexander Peden, and those who know his background can skip this introductory post and come back later for the meat and potatoes, so to speak.

Alexander Peden was born in the parish of Sorn, Ayrshire, in 1626. Of his childhood we know only that he had one. In due course he went up to the University of Glasgow, but all we know of his time there was that he was a good student. When his university course was complete, Peden took the post of schoolmaster, precentor and session-clerk at Tarbolton, a parish neighboring Sorn. At some point either before or after this, Peden was precentor for William Guthrie at Fenwick.
Peden was ordained to the recently established parish of New Luce in 1659, the second minister to serve the parish since its creation in 1647. Peden served in New Luce for only three brief years. Refusing to swear the oath of allegiance to King Charles II as "only supreme governor of the kingdom over all persons and in all causes civil and ecclesiastical", Peden was ejected from the parish in 1662, one of four hundred ministers ejected in all of Scotland. He was prohibited from preaching, and spent the rest of his life as a fugitive, preaching where he could, hiding in caves and dens of the earth. And around his head gathered the reputation of a prophet.
To which I shall turn, the Lord willing, in the next post.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

J.P. Struthers

I intend, if the Lord will, I live and my internet connection does not go down, to post as a weekly feature some of the wit and wisdom of the greatest Reformed Presbyterian preacher of the nineteenth Century, the Rev. J.P. Struthers of Greenock, 'The Children's Editor'. Struthers' dates are 1851-1915. A brilliant intellect, he sacrificed great prospects of worldly success for the ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian or Cameronian Church. He served in only two pastorates, in the little congregation of Whithorn for three years from 1878-1881, and in the congregation of Greenock for the rest of his life. He held firmly to the Reformed doctrine, and preached the Truth fearlessly. He loved the whole Bible with all his heart.
From 1888 until his death Struthers edited the Morning Watch, the Sabbath-school magazine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Morning Watch was a legend in its own age, and the twenty-seven slim volumes are a mine of pure gold. Most of the contents of the magazine was written by Struthers himself, and its value was vastly increased by the charming chalk illustrations, of which I intend to post more God willing. The illustrator married Mr. Struthers, so it became a family affair, "a little book for children, crammed full of stories," Mrs. Struthers called it. But it is not only for children, as I hope to prove.


Why Free St. George's?

Why did I choose the title 'Free St. George's', not something in Greek or Latin (or Gaelic)? Well, the answer is a name, Alexander Whyte.
Alexander Whyte is one of the three authors who have had most impact on me. As the others are C.H. Spurgeon and John Calvin, I used a Whyte reference for my blog title. The others have been done.
Free St. George's (now St. George's West Church Edinburgh, see previous post) was Whyte's church for the greater part of his ministry, and there you have the whole in a nutshell.

Michael Haykin recently posted a very helpful blog post on Whyte:

Welcome to Free St. George's

Welcome to Free St. George's, a blog dedicated to the ramblings of your HIGHLAND HOST. Postings will be random, but the main subject will be Reformed theology. Our readership is presently NIL, but will hopefully increase to at least four.

Free St. George's is located in the United Kingdom, and is in no way linked to the Free Church of Scotland (, the United Free Church of Scotland ( or St. George's West Church, Edinburgh ( Nor is it affiliated with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland ( The Highland Host is not associated with any of these organisations either, except that I have bought books from the FP Church and attended Free Church and FP Church services.

Why Free St. George's? Well, that's another question. And another post.