Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Declaring the Death of Christ: James Denney. I.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Professor James Denney, who was born 5th February 1856 in Paisley. His parents were 'Cameronians' - that is to say, they were Reformed Presbyterians, or Covenanters, members of that Church which originated in the fierce persecutions of the 'Killing Times' of 17th cenury Scotland. Four months after Denney's birth his parents moved the the nearby town of Greenock, and for that reason Denney regarded himself as a Greenock man. They attended the Reformed Presbyterian Church until, in 1876, the majority of the Cameronians united with the Free Church of Scotland. Denney's father was a joiner by profession, and also held the office of deacon in the Cameronian congregation of which he was a member. Thus James Denney was trained up in the Reformed Presbyterians during his formative years, and for the rest of his life he would own that he owed the RPs a debt that he could never repay.
Denney was an excellent student at the schools of his youth. At the Highlanders' Academy he carried all before him, and was soon teaching himself! He was no comet, however, but a steady, methodical boy who succeeded by sheer hard work. Nor was James Denney too proud to put on an apron and work at the joiner's bench at his father's little firm. For two years after he finished at the Highlanders. Academy, Denney worked in the office of a tug boat agents, in order to develop his penmanship.
James Denney's sights at this time rose no higher than an ambition to be a teacher. He was indeed to become a teacher, and his pastor, noting the young man's intellectual abilities and his fervent piety, suggested to his young member that God might be calling him to the ministry.
In order to enter even the Cameronian ministry, Denney would have to take an arts course at university -and it is there, God willing, that we shall rejoin him next time.



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