Saturday, May 06, 2006

Declaring the Death of Christ: James Denney. V.

At the age of 31 James Denney was ordained as pastor of East Free Church, Broughty Ferry. As the successor of A.B. Bruce, Denney was faced with an educated congregation with very high standards. Denney rose to the challenge, determined to preach 'Christ and Him Crucified.' Although he had many rich and educated people in his congregation, Denney did not succumb to the temptation to preach for them. He aimed at the common people, and was certain that the more educated would be able to understand him too. His sermons appealed to both the intellect and the conscience.
He had been moved in his doctrinal moorings by some of his teachers at the Free Church College, but at Broughty Ferry a new influence came to bear on him - James Denney married. His wife was an evangelical, and a lover of the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon as well. She introduced her husband to Spurgeon, and the London preacher's uncompromising Calvinistic theology drew Denney back to his evangelical roots. Mrs. Denney was an 'help meet' indeed to her husband!
The Cross filled Denney's horizon, and his preaching. He challenged his hearers with the claims of Christ to be Lord of All, and with the need to bear the cross. "Count the cost," was his message to the wealthy of Broughty Ferry. He would not - could not - compromise the cross. His motto in preaching was, "What we have got to do in preaching is not to be original, but to make the obvious arresting."
We have two memorials of James Denney's Broughty Ferry ministry, his commentaries on II Corinthians and Thessalonians in the 'Expositor's Bible' series. But Denney's abilities had been noticed, and in 1897 the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland appointed him to the Chair of Systematic and Pastoral Theology in the Free Church College, Glasgow. Eleven years of pastoral ministry was to be succeeded by twenty years of teaching.

God willing, we shall begin to look at those twenty years next time.



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