Saturday, September 30, 2006

'From the Mouths of Children'

In 1859, Revival came to Wales in a mighty way. The country was changed decisely. The Church of England went into a decline which would not be reversed until the end of the century, while the chapels were filled. But Revival did not break out everywhere at once. The beautiful town of Dolgellau in Merioneth was for a while left untouched, while the surroundingt district was set on fire for God. Despite the prayers of the people, the heavens seemed to be as brass.

Then, one night, the children of the town felt let to pray. Creeping into the vestry of one of the chapels, they lit a candle, being careful to black out the windows, so that no-one could see them the eldest of the children, who was only twelve, led with the opening phrases of the Lord's Prayer, the only prayer he knew.

And the Holy Spirit came! The children were at once 'filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' They threw open the doors of the chapel, and found the grown-ups coming to meet them, calling out, 'he is come!'

And that, lest we frown on emotionalism, is revival. Getting the strong impression to rush out of the house in the wee small hours of the morning, to celebrate the coming of the presence of God.

(the story is taken from W. Vernon Higham, The Turn of the Tide (Cardiff & Wheaton, 1995), pp.51-2. I came across it in recent reading.)

A word on the 'Churches' links.

The churches linked in the sidebar are a real mixed bunch. Most of them are there for one of three reasons:
1. I have a personal connection with them. Either I have been there to preach or just to worship, or I know the pastor/someone who goes there.

2. Reformed churches. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, and one or two are there just because they had websites and the church I was looking for doesn't.

3. Why not? This covers everything else.

The presence of a church, and especially a denomination, website in the sidebar does not constitute an endorsement of every, or indeed any, aspect of the church's life and worship. They vary enormously in terms of Bibler version, worship style, and even theology (the Wesleyan Reform Union are not exactly Calvinistic, for example). There are also churches NOT linked in the sidebar (because they have no websites) that we approve of completely.

So, if you should go to one of these churches and be horrified by the 27-piece rock band on the platform and the inclusive-language Bible version used, don't blame us.

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? V.

Marcus Dods continued his career as a probationer, preaching in some churches that were "very hard to please", where a couple of hundred people sat in a chapel seated for at least a thousand. At the same time he had started writing articles for T. & T. Clark's 'North British Review', articles which he assured a friend "will appear as soon as Cunningham comes to a colon and lets anyone else get in a word." [the earler version of this post contained a sentence here which has been removed due to inaccuracy]
He even contemplated going abroad, and was asked to go to Sydney, but the fact that it was only a possible appointment made him understandably wary of going in the days when it meant a very long ocean voyage.
His first book was published in 1862, a volume of selection from Augustine entitled 'Manual of Devotion'. At the same time he writes in a letter to Marcia: "Would you ask Stevenson (in Maclaren's [bookshop]) if he thinks he could get the first series of Robertson of Brighton's sermons second-hand. I feel the want of genius just now."
But Robertson of Brighton was not exactly orthodox. Dismissed by 'Rabbi' Duncan for believing that Christ did on the cross "something or other that somehow or other had some connection or other with salvation." For a man who read Owen and Augustine, Robertson was quite a come-down!
And it was in that year that Simeon Macphail, a friend of his, began to question the doctrine of inspiration. Unfortunately the most important letter on the matter appears to have been mutilated, probably deliberately ('Early Letters of Marcus Dods', P. 232). Dods wrote: "I wish now I had spent MORE than I did upon it. I now see that what I maintained, and what Cunningham approved, was mere infallibility." (10th September 1862)
His friend's problems led Dods to study the subject. What the results were we shall see in some future post, God willing. In the meantime some of his other friends were urging him to publish his sermons on the Lord's Prayer (published as 'The Prayer that Teaches to Pray') - and Rainy, who had just been appointed to succeed Cunningham at New College, was recommending Dods for the pastorate at the Free High Church, Edinburgh. Dods thought this was a silly idea, but he was still willing to try.
And so Marcus Dods went on, hoping, praying, preaching and writing, like many another man in his position, before and since.

Of which more, God willing, next time.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? IV.

Marcus Dods attended New College in the enthusiasm after the Disruption of 1843. But the reality of a call to the ministry can be years of 'probationership', life as a prospective pastor, preaching around churches seeking a pastorate. So it was with Marcus Dods. From 1858 to 1864 he was a minister without a settled charge. Sometimes he would be called as a 'temporary pastor', to take an extended series of services. One of the earliest of these places was Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There he stayed, desperately unhappy in a room in a "dingy brick house, one of a series of dingy brick houses, which series is one of a grand collection of dingy brick houses, the name whereof is Newcastle" (letter dated 18th November 1858). Not surprisingly, Dods was not called to that church!
1859 was another year of disappointments. In a letter to his sister Marcia Dods wrote: "Mr. Miller thinks I would be pretty sure of a call from the Baptists, if I professed my doubts as to the efficacy of infant Baptism - but that, unfortunately, is one of the few points on which I am rather inclined to be dogmatic" (letter dated 17th March 1859). In another letter from the same place (31st March 1859) he said: "I wish Dr. Cunningham was here for a week; he would go back and append some fierce denunciations to his lecture on the Arminians. Everybody here almost is Arminian, and won't get out of it."
His constant companions in those early years were the 'Olney Hymns' and Augustine's 'Confessions'.
After Newcastle came Hexham, and then he returned to Edinburgh, where 'Rainy's' (the Free High Church) was the family church. Marcus Dods was kept busy, however, preaching elsewhere.
"Were I to tell certain friends of mine what I am," he wrote to Marcia, "they would aghast hold up their hands and say 'You in the Church!' Tell me, if you can, if this is honest, this way of life." (May, 1860). He was also irritated by the General Assembly, declaring that if he had to be an ecclesiastical statesman "it would kill me."
It was also at this time that he began to contemplate what many p;eople regard as his greatest service to the Church (whether this outweighs his disservice to her is another matter), a new edition of the Works of Augustine. In a letter to Marcia dated 14th June 1860 he wrote: "I can't understand why Augustine's 'Confessions' are not UNIVERSALLY read; they seem to me to be just THE biography, and I am strongly inclined to write a new translation. I know it could be no better than others, but there ought to be lots circulating, and I don't know of any circulating at all."
He suffered terribly with indwelling sin. There are some tortured passages in the 'Early Letters' that are written in tears, like Romans 7. If this series was more general I would give all of them. However, this one must suffice:
"Whatever Paul says of the law in the 7th of Romans I have found true of the ministry; no doubt it is holy in itself, but in me it has revealed and EXCITED an amount of sin that has slain me. Other people with stronger natures may have, doubtless have, endured more, but I could not have endured more misery than I have since I began to preach. When I look at the two years as a whole, I cannot but wonder how I have got through it so long. The mercy is it comes pieve by piece... I know that no man's sufficiency is of himself, but I can't ACCEPT; to-day I do it, and to-morrow I am unable..." (letter to Marcia, 26th June 1860).
But things were soon to change. Just two days later Mr. Clark (of T. & T. Clark) approached him after he had preached, asking Dods to write an article for the 'North British Review', a magazine that Clark had just taken over.
Marcus Dods was launched as an author.

His theological career continued, of which more, God willing, next time.


A Puritan in Chester: Matthew Henry

A Chester Chronicle article about Matthew Henry entitled "One man's 'love of the Bible' that impacted generations", has recently come to my attention. Published in 2004, it reports a celebration marking the three hundredth anniversary of Henry's starting work on his commentary in Chester.

"THREE hundred years ago, Matthew Henry began his world famous commentary on the bible. Last weekend the congregation at the Matthew Henry Church in Blacon celebrated his achievements. But behind the Chester-based preacher, known as the last of the puritans, is a story of rebellion, determination and faith. JESSICA SHAUGHNESSY reports..."

You can read the rest
  • here
  • .

    The Matthew Henry Evangelical Church is located in the centre of Blacon, England's biggest council estate and a centre of deprivation. It is a great work, and a worthy memorial to Henry.

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? III.

    Marcus Dods began his theological course at New College, Edinburgh, in 1855. In one of the earliest New College letters in the first volume of his letters he reflects on some of the professors:
    "I have a thing to write for Dr. Cunningham, which I must work at in the holidays. I enjoy his class very much, but find Dr. [James] Buchanan painfully prolix. However, there are some very fine passages in his lectures, and I think his course is in itself more uninteresting than Cunningham's. Dr. Duncan is going through Job just now, and gives some most valuable notes, a good many queer [odd] stories, and a great quantity of minor matter difficult to carry away." (Letter dated 8th December 1855)

    "[Dr. Duncan] is getting fonder of us every day, and seems inclined to teach us all languages, living, dead, buried, and a few which might be but are not yet; and he keeps ominously before us a book printed in seventy-two languages, and called 'The Napoleon Polyglot', towards which he every now and then casts a loving grin, as much to say, How I wish I had lived at the time of Babel, or been interpreter at the court of Shem. You can't blame me fo being so wordy when Dr. Duncan is the theme." (Letter dated 'Nearly August' 1857.)

    Where, our readers may ask, is the 'Emergent' in this series. Well, seeing as Brian Maclaren was in his forties when he became 'emergent', and Marcus Dods was twenty-four when he left New College, he still has time. Going through the staunchly conservative New College of the 1850s, Marcus Dods came out as conservative as his father had been. And Dr. Duncan never did teach the class 'all languages'. Dods, like many students before and since, was intimidated by the square characters of Hebrew. In another letter he confesses to using his lexicons as dumb-bells to exercise the body, rather than the mind (a mighty lexicon in each hand would certainly do the trick).

    But in 1858 Marcus Dods graduated from New College to the ranks of the probationers of the Free Church of Scotland. A minister without a charge has an obscene amount of time for reading. As well as a tendency to depression when he reflects how many churches he has preached at without being called to the pastorate of any of them.

    But THAT, God willing, shall be our subject next time.


    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? II.

    [Note: My recent absence from this blog is due to a preaching engagement last Lord's Day at Witton Chapel, Droitwich Spa. I traveled there by train, necessitating one day to get there (Sat.), one day to get back (Mon.) and one day to recover (Tues.)]

    In his university days Marcus Dods was an ordinary (if there be such a thing) Reformed evangelical presbyterian. The following extract from a letter is instructive:

    "I am reading Bogue's essay [on the inspiration of Scripture - H.H.] just now, and intended to read Gaussen's 'Theopneustia' (which you mention) and Chalmers on the same subject. I hope with my studies I shall be able to act upon your advice, and always look for assistance from God. I have not yet made up my mind about becoming a member of the Church: in your next letter could you mention some book which would help me to prepare myself?" (Extract from letter to Rev. George Wilson, 16th November 1850)

    Dods believed fuly in the traditional evangelical doctrine of providence, witing of a friend who had lost all three of his children in one month: "I had a very delightful letter from him, showing that God has been pleased to teach him that it is done by the loving hand of a Father." (letter dated 5th September 1853)

    He read Calvin daily, and in one letter he criticised Sir J. Stephens for not believing in eternal punishment thus:
    " But no man is without his faults, and he does not believe in Eternal Damnation. Yet he believes in Eternal Bliss, i.e., he believes that God is merciful, but he cannot believe that He is just." (letter dated 'Natural Philosophy Classroom, Pouring rain, 28th January, half-past 2 [1854]')

    But after university came theological college. And that, God willing, shall be the subject of our next post here.


    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? I.

    Marcus Dods was born on April 11th 1834 in Belford, Northumberland, to the Rev. Marcus Dods, pastor of the Church of Scotland congregation there.He had two brothers and four sisters. Marcus Dods senior was a conservative Reformed evangelical who had written in defence of the doctrine of the Westminster Confession, which he believed with all his heart. He was grieved that there were men in the Church of Scotland's ministry who did not believe the Confession, but who signed it simply to obtain pastorates or other posts. He was a friend of the leading Church of Scotland devangelicals, Thomas Chalmers, Andrew Thompson, and others. He was held in high esteem by the local Church of England ministers as well. His love for the Bible was deep , for he had been led by the Holy Spirit on a long and difficult pilgrimage from the darkness of rationalism into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God.
    Probably Marcus Dods senior would have joined the Free Church of Scotland at the Disruption of 1843, but we shall never know that for certain, since he died in 1838, leaving his widow with seven children. Since they had lived in the manse belonging to the church they were effectively served notice to leave their home.
    Although Mrs. Dods was a native of Northumberland by birth, she was Scots by marriage, and she moved to Edinburgh, where she took boarders - mostly schoolboys - to support her family. We can never know how much Marcus Dods lost by the death of his father, but the loss was considerable.
    Mrs. Dods worked hard to support her children, and to give them the education which their father would have desired for them. Marcus was sent to the Edinburgh Academy, which he left in 1848 to be apprenticed to the National Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. But he was not suited to the office of a bank manager, and after two years at the bank he left with the intention of studying for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland, to which the family had adhered at the Disruption in 1843.

    Next time, God willing, we shall see how Dods fared at the unversity.


    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    A Favourite Hymn - and wonders of grace

    Libbie, over at 'Musings of an English Muffin' has posted three verses of a Charles Wesley hymn. I encourage everyone to read it before reading this -mostly as if you don't you'll have no idea what it's about (

    The chaplain of Glasgow prison once found a young woman of eighteen or nineteen standing in her cell with her hymn-book in her hand (I presume it was a gift from a prison-visitor or some such person, - H.H.). "She looked up, and, holding it out, said to me, 'This is a hymn which I'm much ta'en up wi'.' I read the first two lines,

    Weary of wandering from my God,
    And now made willing to return,
    (these are the first lines of the ORIGINAL verse 1, which is omitted in 'Grace Hymns'. - H.H.)

    and found my eyes filling with tears as I looked at her and said, 'Are you weary of wandering from your God?' The answer was, 'Yes, indeed I am.' Thereupon I had the great privilege of dealing with an anxious soul.
    "Next Sunday we not only sang the hymn, but I preached especially to weary wanderers. The following day an old man grasped my hand As I entered his cell, and in an earnest and solemn voice said, 'When the great day comes there will be found a soul among the redeemed, brought there through that hymn we sang yesterday, for,' he continued, 'when you read out 'Weary of Wandering from my God', I said, That's me. I'm weary, and I'm made ready to return, and,' he added, 'come back to my God I have.'"

    From John Telford, 'The Methodist Hymn-book Illustrated' (London, The Epworth Press, Fifth edition, 1929) Pp. 225-6


    Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? Introduction.

    Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D., fifth principal of New College, Edinburgh, is remembered today as a liberal theologian - and rightly so. Any man who declared that the Old Testament contained 'errors and immoralities' was no Evangelical. And yet throughout his life Marcus Dods protested that he WAS an Evangelical. And he believed it. Dods was part of what historians have dubbed 'The New Evangelism', a movement particularly within the Free Church of Scotland that sought to make the church more appealing to 'modern' people - particularly young people.
    It is my contention that this New Evangelism, which eventually became theological liberalism, fatally compromised the very Gospel proclamation that it sought to reinforce, and instead of making Christianity seem more 'relevant' to late Victorian man, it made the Church seem completely irrelevant.
    It is my further contention that the Emerging Church movement of today in many ways replicates the Victorian 'New Evangelism', and that its results, if the movemnt continues on the route it is on now, will be every bit as catastrophic.
    So I have taken Marcus Dods as an example. As a leader in the 'New Evangelism' who developed his thought, and as one of the more radical, I find him quite enlightening.
    Secondly, many of Marcus' Dods' personal letters, not originally intended for publication, were collected and published by his son (also Marcus Dods) in two volumes in 1910 ('Early Letters of Marcus Dods') and 1911 ('Later Letters of Marcus Dods'). 'Early Letters' covers the period 1850-1864, from Dods at university through to his being called to his first and only congregation, Renfield, Glasgow, 'Later Letters' the period from 1895 to 1909, when Dods was at New College, Edinburgh, as Professor of New Testament, and latterly as Principal also (very briefly). Although it will be noted that there is a long period - a little over thirty years - not covered by these volumes, that was the period during which Dods' work was most public, so we lose little by the gap.
    God willing, then, this series will begin next time.


    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    The Church Walking with the World: IV.

    So the poor were turned from her door in scorn,
    And she heard not the orphan's cry;
    And she drew her beautiful robes aside,
    As the widows went weeping by,
    The sons of the World and the sons of the Church
    Walked closely in hand and heart,
    And only the Master, who knoweth all,
    Could tell the two apart.
    The Church sat down at her ease and said,
    "I am rich and in goods increased;
    I have need of nothing and nought to do
    But to laugh and dance and feast."
    The sly world heard her, and laughed in his sleeve,
    And mockingly said aside,
    "The Church is fallen - the beautiful Church -
    And her shame is her boast and pride!"

    The Angel drew near the mercy-seat,
    And whispered, in sighs, her name,
    And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed,
    And covered their heads with shame.
    And a voice came down, through the hush of heaven,
    From Him who sat on the throne;-
    "I know thy works, and how thou hast said,
    I am rich; and hast not known
    That thou art naked, and poor and blind
    And wretched before My face;
    Return, repent, lest I cast thee out,
    And blot thy name from its place!"

    Matilda C. Edwards

    Taken from the Free Presbyterian Magazine vol. 3 (Reprinted Glasgow, 2000).

    The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has an excellent online bookshop, based in Glasgow, and are responsible for publishing many interesting books of Scottish interest. Not least among these are the first six volumes of the denominational magazine. We would like to take this opportunity to reccomend these volumes to all our readers. Not only are they of historical interest and significance, but they contain a great deal (such as the poem above) that speaks to our current situation.


    Saturday, September 16, 2006

    The Church Walking with The World. III

    "Your preachers are all too old and plain,"
    Said the gay old world with a sneer;
    They frighten my children with dreadful tales,
    Which I like not for them to hear:
    They talk of brimstone and fire and pain,
    And the horrors of endless night;
    They talk of a place that should not be
    Mentioned to ears polite.
    I will send you some of the better stamp,
    Polished and gay and fast,
    Who will tell them that people may live as they list
    And go to heaven at last.
    The Father is merciful, great and good,
    Tender and true and kind;
    Do you think He would take one child to heaven
    And leave the rest behind?"
    So he filled her house with 'cultured' divines,
    Gifted and great and learned;
    And the plain old men that preached the Cross
    Were out of the pulpit turned.

    "You give too much to the poor," said the World,
    Far more than you ought to do;
    If the poor need shelter and food and clothes,
    Why need it trouble you?
    Go, take your money and buy rich robes,
    And horses and carriages fine,
    And pearls and jewels and dainty food,
    And the rarest and costliest wine.
    My children, they dote on all such things,
    And if you their love would win,
    You must do as they do, and walk in the ways
    That they are walking in."
    The Church held tightly the strings of her purse,
    And gracefully lowered her head,
    And simpered, "I've given too much away;
    I'll do, sir, as you have said."

    God willing, next time we will conclude the poem.


    Friday, September 15, 2006

    The Church Walking with the World: II.

    Half shyly the Church approached the World,
    And gave him her hand of snow;
    The old World grasped it and walked along,
    Saying, in accents low -
    "Your dress is too simple to please my taste;
    I will give you pearls to wear,
    Rich velvet and silks for your graceful form,
    And diamonds to deck your hair."
    The Church looked down at her plain white robes,
    And then at the dazzling World,
    And blushed as she saw his handsome lip
    With a smile contemptuous curled.
    "I will change my dress for a costlier one,"
    Said the Church with a smile of grace;
    Then her pure white garments drifted away,
    And the World gave in their place,
    Beautiful satins and shining silks,
    And roses and gems and pearls;
    And over her forehead her bright hair fell
    Crisped in a thousand curls.
    "Your house is too plain," said the proud old world;
    "I'll build you one like mine:
    Carpets from Brussels, and curtains of lace,
    And furniture ever so fine."
    So he built her a costly and beautiful house - splendid it was to behold;
    Her sons and her beautiful daughters dwelt there
    Gleaming in purple and gold;
    And fairs and shows in the halls were held,
    And the World and his children were there;
    And laughter and music and feasts were heard
    In the place that was meant for prayer.
    She had cushioned pews for the rich and the great
    To sit in their pomp and pride,
    While the poor folks, clad in their shabby suits,
    Sat meekly down outside.
    The Angel of Mercy flew over the Church,
    And whispered, "I know thy sin;"
    The Church looked back with a sigh, and longed
    To gather her children in.
    But some were off in the midnight ball,
    And some were off at the play,
    And some were drinking in gay saloons;
    So she quietly went her way.
    The sly world gallantly said to her,
    "Your children mean no harm -
    Merely indulging in innocent sports."
    So she leaned on his proffered arm,
    And smiled, and chatted, and gathered flowers
    As she walked along with the World;
    While millions and millions of deathless souls
    To the terrible pit were hurled.

    God willing, we shall continue with the poem next time.


    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    The Church Walking with the World: I.

    This poem by Matilda C. Edwards first appeared in the Free Presbyterian Magazine Vol. 3 P. 40. May 1898.

    The Church and the World walked far apart,
    On the changing shores of time;
    The World was singing a giddy song,
    And the Church a hymn sublime.
    "Come, give me your hand," cried the merry world,
    "And walk with me this way;"
    But the good Church hid her snowy hand
    And solemnly answered, "Nay,
    I will not give you my hand at all,
    And I will not walk with you;
    Your way is the way of endless death;
    Your words are all untrue."

    "Nay walk with me but a little space,"
    Said the World with a kindly air;
    "The road I walk is a pleasant road,
    And the sun shines always there;
    Your path is thorny and rough and rude,
    And mine is broad and plain;
    My road is paved with flowers and gems,
    And yours with tears and pain.
    The sky above me is always blue;
    No want, no toil I know;
    The sky above you is always dark;
    Your lot a lot of woe.
    My path, you see, is a broad, fair path,
    And my gate is high and wide, -
    There is room enough for you and for me
    To travel side by side."

    God willing, we shall continue the poem next time.


    An Old Hearer at the Cromarty Firth

    The Rev. John Campbell, when preaching in the North of Scotland and Orkney Islands, went down the Frith [sic] of Cromarty and to Drummond, where an old man who enjoyed his sermon told him of a scotch bishop who used to preach in that quarter. The bishop asked one of his old heares why he had forsaken him? “Because I get no good,” said Donald Munro. “But should you not wait at the pool, Donald?” “No, I expect no good at your pool.” “Oh, but did not the man at Bethesda get a cure at last?” “Yes, but he had some encouragement. He saw others cured now and then, but I never knew one who was cured at your pool.”
    -Taken from ‘The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland’ by William Adamson (Second Edition, London, Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1898) P. 306.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    A Woman Beadle

    “When I went to Johnstone and Wamphray the Beadle was Mr. William Johnstone, Skip... Mr. Johnstone was succeeded my Miss Mary Glendinning. Woman in all walks of life has often to contend with the wall of prejudice. We had a high pressure system of heating, which depended for its smooth working on a regular supply of added water in the pipes. It was said that a woman could not work the heating apparatus. I undertook to supply water at regular intervals. Formerly a very little water was supplied, as one Beadle put it to me, at the beginning of each seaon with the result that interstices of air got in and the water in filling up these made a loud noise, as if a hammer were striking the pipes; now with a regular supply the working was smooth and noiseless. But many maintained that a woman could not be a success in the work, and one said to me: ‘She is not managing the pipes; you never hear them going click-click the way they did under their former Beadles.’”

    -James Barr (not that one) ‘Lang Syne’ (Glasgow, William Maclellan, 1948) Pp. 36-7

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Thomas M'Crie: VII: The Legacy.

    Thomas M’Crie died in 1835, but his legacy is still with us. First of all there was the legacy of his home. His eldest son, also called Thomas, became a minister and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a historian and pastor of the same congregation! He wrote a biography of his father, a history of the Scottish Church, a volume called ‘The Annals of English Presbytery and ‘Memoirs of Sir Andrew Agnew’, as well as translating and editing an edition of the Provincial Letters of Blaise Pascal (my copy, obtained for the princely sum of a pound, rather worryingly contains a bookplate reading ‘Free Church Manse Library, Kirkaldy). The younger Thomas M’Crie was one of the majority of Original Secession (as M’Crie’s denomination was called) ministers to enter the Free Church of Scotland in a merger in 1852. Four years later he became Professor of Church History and Systematic Theology in the English Presbyterian College, then located in London (Now Westminster College, Cambridge).
    A grandson of the elder Thomas M’Crie, C.G. M’Crie, was a Free Church minister in Ayr and joined the United Free Church in 1900. He wrote a volume on ‘The Confessions of The Church of Scotland’ (Chalmers lectures, 1906), but sadly from a rather liberal perspective. His other writings include ‘The Church of Scotland: Her Divisions and Re-unions and ‘The Public Worship of Presbyterian Scotland’ (Cunningham Lectures, 1892). He was the last M’Crie church historian.

    But Thomas M’Crie’s greatest legacy remains the book which first made his name. Today, nearly two hundred years after it was first published, M’Crie’s Life of Knox remains in print, published by Free Presbyterian Publications, Glasgow. (ISBN 0 902506 05 6). His ‘Reformation in Spain’ is also in print, and both are available from the Tabernacle Bookshop, and from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, Glasgow. Thousands still read M’Crie, and would agree with Professor John M. Simpson of Edinburgh University, that “Thomas M’Crie was one of the best historians Scotland has ever produced. He had unrivalled dilligence in sifting the records, the raw materials of history, when this was much harder than it is now. He had the literary gifts to bring his findings to life.” (Quoted in the Publishers’ Introduction to the Free Presbyterian edition). And his findings continue to live in the hands of his worldwide readership. But we must remember that all Thomas M’Crie’s abilities WERE gifts, and praise God for them, which is what M’Crie would surely want.

    William Adamson, ‘The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland’ (Second Edition, London, Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1898)
    Thomas M’Crie: ‘The Life of John Knox’ (Glasgow, Free Presbyterian Publications, 1991, ISBN 0 902506 05 6)
    Thomas M’Crie: ‘The Life of John Knox’ (Edinburgh, William Blackwood and Sons, 1855)
    Thomas M’Crie: ‘Vindication of the Covenanters’ (Edinburgh, William Whyte and Co., 1845)
    Thomas M’Crie: ‘The Story of the Scottish Church’ (Glasgow, Free Presbyterian Publications, 1988. ISBN 0 902506 25 0)
    Thomas M’Crie (translator): ‘The Provincial Letters of Blaise Pascal’ (Edinburgh, Johnstone and Hunter, 1851)
    Charles G. M’Crie: ‘The Confessions of the Church of Scotland’ (Edinburgh, Macniven and Wallace, 1907)
    Jabez Marrat, ‘Northern Lights: Pen and Pencil Sketches of Modern Scottish Worthies” (Third edition, London, T. Woolmer, 1885).


    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Thomas M'Crie: VI: The Literary Task.

    Thomas M’Crie may have stepped into the seventeenth century to answer Sir Walter Scott and to defend the honour of the ‘Cloud of witnesses for the royal prerogatives of King Jesus’, the Covenanters, but his real love was the sixteenth century, the age of the Reformation. His view was by no means parochial, for he followed Knox to Geneva, that melting-pot where refugees from all over Europe gathered. His fertile mind considered next those countries where the Reformation had failed, Italy and Spain. From his pen came histories of the Reformation in those countries, chronicles of martyrdom and of suffering. They are different from his ‘Life of Knox’, but no less valuable.
    His last project was his greatest, a biography of the Reformer of Geneva, John Calvin himself. It would have beenthe capstone to his labours, and one of his sons, who was in Europe, helped with the research in remote libraries. But God intended otherwise, and Thomas M’Crie was called home before he could finish his work. In the beginning of 1835 his health failed and his work became harder for him. The preparation for the Lord’s Day and weeknight meetings became too much for him and the Life of Calvin was laid aside never to be taken up again, and half-an-hour’s speaking exhausted him.

    In the summer of 1835 he preached from the text, “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” After the service he sat by the vestry door and watched the congregation depart. Early the following week he was stricken with disease, and on August 5th 1835, aged sixty-three, Thomas M’Crie went to be with his Lord and Saviour.
    Although a famous historian, Thomas M’Crie was not affected by his fame. In M’Crie’s opinion he was simply honouring the God who had brought about the Reformation. If he replied to Sir Walter Scott, it was because he felt that Scott, in libelling the Covenanters, had libelled their God and his God. Although he could have had any position he wanted, including a university chair, M’Crie remained pastor of that congregation meeting in the old chapel in Carruber’s Close, to the surprise of those who came to hear him from far and wide. He actually refused a number of potentially lucrative book deals because they were not to his liking and would interfere with his congregational work. In fact it was said that the surest way for a publisher to lose Dr. M’Crie was to offer him a lucrative deal!

    Next time, God willing, we shall consider M’Crie’s legacy


    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Tom Nefyn: 'A Cup of Cold Water'

    When I wrote my series on Tom Nefyn, I noted that the exact reasons for his return to the ministry of the Calvinistic Methodists were unclear. Since then, some digging in the archives has produced this marvellous letter, written to layman, former MP and invalid, John Herbert Lewis, an orthodox Calvinistic Methodist, and one who had agreed with the decision to suspend Nefyn. Make of it what you will:

    March 29 [1933]
    My dear Sir Herbert Lewis,
    ‘A cup of cold water.’ At times, such a statement appears simple and commonplace, and the reaction it evokes in the heart is both weak and colourless. Its meaning depends on man’s circumstances; they make it trivial or vital. For in the valleys of Wales, where the silver streams babble and flow endlessly, it would probably lack all force and fascination. But in a distant desert-land! Its words would soon assume a character, essential and appealing; it would associate itself with man’s destiny. ‘A cup of cold water.’
    And during the last three years and eight months I have walked across a bleak and lonely country, homeless and without a Church, desirous of reaching the City of Reconciliation but exposed to the chilly wind of misunderstanding. Sometimes the soul has felt inclined to yield – to yield to its own weakness and weariness, and to the suggestion of things. During these moments the Desert almost won its victory; hope frequently gave way to pessimism.
    But suddenly and unexpectedly – ‘a cup of cold water’!! You, George Davies, Fearon Halliday, and four or five other men, gave me signs of loyalty, affection, understanding, sympathy, and fellowship, and the soul renewed its strength. And this water Christ always turns into wine; the cup also does He make into a Communion Cup.
    At last I have crossed the bleak and lonely country, and the City of Reconciliation has been reached. For that is the true significance of the Rhoseomor Call and Reply. Before I enter, however, let me say – thank you very much for your cup of cold water in days of isolation and need. ‘A cup of cold water’! Out of such does God make the dew of the Heavens.

    With a deep sense of gratitude and
    My heart’s best wishes. Gwyn eich
    Byd. Troisoch eich gwely clf yn
    Orsedd Gras I eraill
    Very sincerely
    Tom Nefyn

    Sir John Herbert Lewis died later that year. Did he do right in keeping the way open for Tom Nefyn's return, or did this send the signal that the church was not serious about its beliefs? In the final analysis, there seems to be a tension between Sir Herbert Lewis' Christian charity to the man, and an implicit endorsement of his theology.


    Monday, September 04, 2006

    The Decline of Welsh Nonconformity 10: Conclusions

    There is one clear objection to this view of nonconformity in decline: the revival of 1904. Surely, this great revival gives the lie to notions of Christianity in crisis? Yet the tides of revival ebbed with astonishing speed. The slide towards doctrinal compromise was unaffected, although the revival had touched the colleges.[1] With its emphasis on individual experience, the revival, if anything, accelerated the move towards a pietistic Christianity that had little to say to the world outside the churches.

    To what extent, then, was nonconformity in decline before 1914? The decline was not fatal, was not the precipitate decline in numbers that was to take place after 1918, and especially after 1950. But, nevertheless, it was a serious decline. Welsh nonconformity, in exalting subjective experience over objective faith opened the door to doubts about the authority of the Bible. Welsh nonconformity exalted cultural and social activity over religious activity, bringing in members who valued churchgoing for its social role. The danger here was that members who came to see the church as little more than a social club would leave when better social activities became available. The church, uncertain of its own doctrines, was unable to enunciate a constructive alternative to a socialism that would eventually rob it of its place in many Welsh hearts. To put it bluntly, in the years 1890-1914, nonconformity took a decisive step towards irrelevance.

    [1] Davies: Light, p.101. See also: Sheehan: ‘Decline’, pp.15-22.

    Appendix: Loss of Membership in the Calvinistic Methodists (Presbyterians) and Baptists, 1897-1907:

    Calvinistic Methodists:
    Average number of Members lost per year between 1897 and 1900: 2,631
    Members lost 1905: 5,492
    Members lost 1907: 5,437

    Average number of Members lost per year between 1897 and 1902: 2,639
    Members lost 1906: 5,949
    Members lost 1907: 5,489

    Members excommunicated average 1890-1903: 1,243
    Members excommunicated 1906: 2,417
    Members excommunicated 1907: 2,457
    In both denominations the greatest losses took place in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire (Source: Jones, Faith, pp.363).


    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    Thomas M'Crie:V. A Household Name.

    Thomas M’Crie’s biography of John Knox is a great book by any standards. As I write my own copy of the seventh edition of 1855 is by my elbow. I refer to the seventh AUTHORISED edition - the book was also pirated. Also to the British edition, it was not only published in the United States but translated into French, Dutch and German. It was the book that every well-read Scotsman was expected to have read, and it gave Scotland a worthy biography of the great national reformer. His son, Thomas M’Crie the Younger wrote in the preface of the seventh edition: “It has long held its place among the standard histories of the land.” It restored Knox to his proper place alongside Robert the Bruce and William Wallace as one of the great Scottish heroes and patriots (although Mel Gibson would probably NOT want to play Knox).
    M’Crie did not rest on his laurels. He wrote a sequel, the Life of Andrew Melville, who was in many ways the successor of Knox. It was not greeted with the same interest as the biography of Knox, but it was recognised as a worthy product of the same pen, and in many ways a continuation of the same history.
    His next notable work was controversial in tone. It was a review of Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Old Mortality’, in which Scott caricatured the Covenanters of the seventeenth century as bigots who even justified cold-blooded murder in the name of the Gospel. M’Crie was not a man to stand for that, both as a careful historian and as an evangelical who professed the principles of the Covenanters. It originally appearred in three parts in the pages of the ‘Christian Instructor’, anonymously (as ‘Old Mortality’ was anonymous). Just as Scott could not hide, neither could his antagonist. The author of the ‘Life of Knox’ was instantly detected by his concern for historical accuracy. I have sitting on top of my copy of the ‘Life of Knox’ a small, fragile book bound in nondescript Brown cloth with a worn paper label on the spine reading ‘M’Crie’s Covenanters’. The publication date is 1845, and the title is ‘Vindication of the Covenanters’. The author of the introduction states: “It is valuable, not merely as a vindication of our fathers from the author of the Tales [Scott - H.H.], but as a piece of interesting and authentic history.” Scott was forced to try to vindicate himself. The judgement of this author is that he failed. Historical novels, M’Crie insisted, had to be historically accurate, expecially when they contained depictions of real historical figures and scenes. Scott was not, and to a careful historian like M’Crie that was unacceptable.
    I think he might well have written against ‘The Da Vinci Code’ had he lived today. Although to go from Scott’s prose to Dan Brown’s would be like stepping from a Grecian temple into a pigsty.

    God willing, next time we shall conclude our look at Thomas M’Crie’s labours.


    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    Thomas M'Crie: IV. The Rebel and the Writer.

    Thomas M’Crie and three of his fellows had objected to the Anti-burgher Secession Church changing its Testimony so as to remove a commitment to the Establishment Principle. They were told in no uncertain terms that their silence on this theological point which was dear to them was the price of remaining in the denomination. It was a price they were not willing to pay, and they viwed themselves as already ejected de facto and in 1806 formed themselves into a Presbytery of their own, ‘The Constitutional Associate Presbytery’.M’Crie was seen as the ringleader and deposed from the ministry and put under a sentence of excommunication. Many in his congregation were outraged at such action, and some of them went to express their sympathy.
    “I certainly looked for being suspended; I hardly expected they would proceed to this length: but what am I that I should be counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name?” was his reply.
    Worse was to come. The Potter-row congregation were divided nearly equally over their pastor's stand, and both parties claimed the meeting-house. Sadly there was a lawsuit, and finally M’Crie’s supporters agreed to give up their claim in exchange for a sum of money in compensation. So they left their chapel to an obscure little place at the foot of Carruber’s Close, where in an ugly old chapel they worshipped as they had been accustomed to do.

    Thomas M’Crie had studied the history of the Scottish Church dilligently, and it was now that he was the pastor of an obscure congregation, a secession from a secession, that his studies bore fruit. In the late eighteenth and early 19th century John Knox and the other Scottish Reformers were popularly seen as a band of narrow-minded bigots. M’Crie longed to change that perception and began to research the life of Knox. In 1811 the first edition of his ‘Life of John Knox’ was issued. It was a best-seller. The reviews praised its historical accuracy and attention to detail, and when the University of Edinburgh discovered that the author was one of its graduates it awarded him the honourary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
    But the greatest honour M’Crie recived was from his favourite professor, Dugald Stewart. One Lord’s Day Stewart was confined to bed with sickness and his old servant John had stayed home from church to look after him. Needing help Stewart rang the bell, but there was no answer. He rang several more times, but still with no response. Rising from his bed the professor descended the stairs to find John absorbed in a book. Stewart shook his servant’s shoulder and asked what the book that had so captivated him was. “Why, sir, it is a book that my minister has written, and it really is a grand one,” the servant said. It was M’Crie’s life of Knox. Stewart borrowed it and found that it was every bit as rivetting as John had found it. Stewart wrote a letter to the author praising it.
    So Thomas M’Crie, excommunicated pastor of a rebel congregation, became a household name. Of which more, God willing, next time.


    Thomas M'Crie: III. Pastor of Potter-row.

    As the name suggests, Thomas M’Crie did not minister in a fashionable part of Edinburgh. Nor was he ever to do so. Even when his biographies of the Scottish Reformers had made him a famous man he ministered in a nondescript chapel in a back street to the ordinary folk of the area. This was a great advantage to him as it required him to moderate his natural love of rhetorical display in the pulpit.
    He was also a pastor in the best sense. Like Baxter’s ‘Reformed Pastor’ he visited his people in their crowded tenements and dark courtyards and wynds. He did not have any thought of the financial side except that he did not want to burden his people too much. When they proposed to increase his stipend in 1798 he thought they were already giving all they could afford and he begged them to delay until the increase would be possible without their denying themselves necessities. “Abound yet more and more in the fruits of righteousness,” he wrote to them. “Let me have joy in beholding your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ; and every other good thing shall, in due time, be added to me.”
    But Thomas M’Crie was also forced to be for a time a man of strife. The matter of the Church’s ‘Testimony’ came before the synod for revision, amd M’Crie found himself in the minority.
    The ‘Testimony’ of a Scottish Church is basically a statement of principles indicating where it differs from all the other Scottish Presbyterian Churches holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Anti-burgher testimony included, among other points, a condemnation of ‘voluntaryism’, the idea that Church and State should be separate. The revisers wanted to omit that passage, among others. M’Crie thought it vital. In his opinion a healthy church-state relation was vital to the proper development of Christianity in a nation.
    There were fierce debates in Synod, and finally the Revision was accepted. M’Crie and three other members of Synod protested against it. The Synod offered them the liberty to remain in the church holding their views so long as they did not speak against Voluntaryism. M’Crie refused, and he and his fellow protesters found themselves practically shut out of their own church.

    What they did next we shall, God willing, see next time.


    Thomas M'Crie: II. Student and preacher.

    Thomas M’Crie took immediately to the Edinburgh University course. He had worked hard to be able to attend, and he wasted not one minute of his time when he was there. He graduated with distinction and in 1791 he entered the Divinity Hall of his denomination. In common with the Burgher Secession Divinity Hall taught by George Lawson of Selkirk, the Anti-burgher Hall was taught by one professor who was also a full-time pastor. The Anti-burgher Hall was taught by Rev. A. Bruce at Whitburn. When the Hall was not in session M’Crie taught a school in Brechin, where his ability as a teacher was such that the school soon became one of the best in the town.
    He was licensed to preach in 1795 by the Anti-burgher Presbytery of Kelso, and the following year he was called to the pastorate of a congregation in the Potter-Row, Edinburgh. At first he suffered from a problem that is all too common among those recently out of theological college - the young graduate’s sermons were so rhetorical that they went straight over the heads of most of his hearers. Some despaired of ever being able to understand their pastor, but a visit to the Orkney Islands completely cured him.
    He was going to Kirkwall to assist at an ordination and to preach on one of the islands swhere a revival had broken out in a prayer-meeting and a request for ministerial help had been sent to the Anti-burgher synod. There M’Crie saw the Gospel preached by older men in a simpler style than his to the salvation of many souls. He was convicted and vowed from then on to preach ‘not with words of human wisdom’ as he had before, but to ‘preach Christ, and Him crucified.’
    The change was amazing. The poor folk of Potter-row were made glad when they had the Gospel preached to them.

    Thus was Thomas M’Crie made an evangelical preacher, although he had been an evangelical believer before. Next time, God willing, we shall see what sort of a pastor he was.


    The Decline of Welsh Nonconformity 9: Politics and 'The New Theology.'

    However, for many in the churches, political and social involvement under the auspices of Christianity prepared the way for an ideology that looked for the realization of God’s kingdom on earth through political action, in other words, Socialism.[1] Keir Hardie liked to declare that socialism was the realization of the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus,[2] echoing the words of R. J. Campbell (pictured), controversial minister of the City Temple, London, who declared: 'Our business is to show that the religion of Jesus is primarily a gospel for this life and only secondarily for the life to come.'[3] Jones notes that, in order to make such a statement, Hardie had had to distort the message contained in the Bible, something made easier by the new doubt in theology. Indeed, Hardie’s ideas owed a great deal to the ‘New Theology’ of R.J Campbell, a modified pantheism that saw sin as merely error and Christ as an enlightened man and example, as well as stressing social action.[4] For men like David Thomas, Chapel doctrine, so muddy and confused, became pointless, to be replaced by red-blooded socialist doctrine. If Christianity seemed to be in conflict with socialism, the message of the Gospels had to be changed, not the message of socialism.[5] And, slowly, God could even be written out of the picture, replaced by the message of Karl Marx.

    [1] Robert Pope: Building Jerusalem: Nonconformity, Labour and the Social Question in Wales 1906-1939 (Cardiff, 1998) p.83-85; R.J Campbell, The New Theology (London, 1907): Pantheistic conception of God pp.18-21; Christ a man who ‘was divine simply and solely because His life was never governed by any other principle’ save love, pp.75-7. Sin human error in seeking after God, pp.160-2: The man who got drunk last night […] would be surprised if you were to tell him […] that he seeking God; but so it is.’
    [2] In fact it appears that Keir Hardie was more interested in Spiritualism, Palmistry and astrology than orthodox Christianity. However, his appropriation of religious language allowed him to speak to the workers in a langauge they understood (Robert Pope, Jerusalem, p.9).
    [3] R. J. Campbell, The New Theology, p.256. He also declared: ‘In fact, the Labour Party is itself a Church, in the sense in which that words was originally used, for it represents the getting together of those who want to bring about the Kingdom of God [R.J Campbell, The New Theology (London, 1907), p.255].'
    [4] Pope: Jerusalem, p.14-15.
    [5] Jones: Faith, p.410.


    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Thomas M'Crie: I. ‘The Boy is Father of the Man’

    Perhaps one of the greatest Scottish Christian biographies ever written is Thomas M’Crie’s “Life of John Knox’. Often republished (most recently by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in a cheap popular edition) it is still regarded as THE biography of Knox in Reformed circles. But perhaps relatively little is known of its author. Our intention in this series, God willing, is to remedy that defect.
    Thomas M’Crie was born, like Thomas Boston, in the town of Duns in the old county of Berwickshire. Since Berwick is in England Duns has long laid claim to the place of country seat of Berwickshire, and in order to secure that claim it has laboured long and hard. Many people believe that Duns was also the birthplace of the medieval scholastic theologian Duns Scotus, but that is debated.
    Theologically M’Crie’s parents were in agreement with Thomas Boston, members of the Anti-burgher Secession Church. Thomas was born in November 1772, and his mother prayed with him from an early age. A serious lad, Thomas M’Crie early thought of becoming a minister, and although the ambition was by no means uncommon in Scotland, Thomas took it very seriously. He was a boy of studious habits and read everything he could lay his hands on - which in the pious Anti-burgher atmosphere meant books of the kind today republished by the Banner of Truth Trust.
    His father was less keen on the idea, declaring that he would not make one of his sons a gentleman at the expense of the rest. Thomas agreed with him, and as soon as he could became a school-teacher - at the age of fifteen. At sixteen he left home for the University of Edinburgh. The following year his mother died, having seen her son set off on a career that no-one could have predicted.

    Next time, God willing, we shall follow him through university and into the beginning of his ministry.


    George Lawson of Selkirk. IX: Gathered to his Fathers.

    George Lawson served his generation and his church as a minister, a writer and a theological professor. He criticised Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Old Mortality’ for its insult to the Covenanters, and he preached before crowned heads. But at last his flesh failed, worn down by the hard work of his pastorate and theological college. His last sermon was on the death of George III and his text ‘I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.’ He had to be carried from the manse to the church to preach it, and it was obvious to all that he was preaching his own funeral sermon as well as that of the king. A few days later his soul passed into the presence of God.
    As he lay dying one of his sons said to him, “Dearest father, what is the ground of your hope and comfort in this trying hour?”
    “All my hope, and all my comfort spring out of the mercy of God, as manifested in the mediation of Christ Jesus. Here are my only stay, and strength, and consolation.”
    Someone referred to his useful life, but ‘the Doctor’ shook his head.
    No, no; had I been such a man as Mr. Brown of Haddington, or Mr. Johnstone of Ecclefechan [his one-time classics tutor before university], I wouldf have done far more good. I have done little, very little.”
    One by one he called his family, blessed them and said farewell. At last he lifted up his hands and said weakly, “The Lord bless you all.” His final words were, “Lord, take me to paradise.” The prayer was answered.

    Lawson’s influence lives on in his books, which have been highly valued in the past and are still valued today by discerning readers. Spurgeon writes of Lawson’s ‘Life of Joseph’: “Dr. Lawson had a fertile mind, and a heart alive both to the human and divine side of truth. He writes with pleasing simplicity of style. One of the highest compliments to this book is found in the fact that a distinguished American scholar [Dr. George Bush of New York, no relation to the President (that we know of). The book in question is Bush’s ‘Commentary on Genesis’ which is largely plagirised from Lawson’s ‘Joseph and Andrew Fuller’s commentary on Genesis. This note is included as Bush’s book has been reprinted in the 20th century. Do not buy or read Bush’s commentary. Buy and read Lawson and Fuller - H.H.] issued much of it as his own.” (‘Commenting and Commentaries’ (London, Passmore and Alabaster, 1885) P. 54)

    [Note on sources:
    J.H. Leckie, ‘Secession Memories’ (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1926). A personal reflection on the United Presbyterian Church by a theological liberal. Despite the theological reflections a good enough book.
    Jabez Marrat, ‘Northern Lights: Pen and Pencil Sketches of Modern Scottish Worthies” (Third edition, London, T. Woolmer, 1885). Contains a good biographical sketch of Lawson. Evangelical
    C.H. Spurgeon: ‘Commenting and Commentaries’ (London, Passmore and Alabaster, 1885). Remarks on commentaries by both Lawson and Brown of Broughton Place. No Reformed reader should be without this book.
    David Woodside, ‘The Soul of a Scottish Church’ (Edinburgh, United Free Church, no date). More of an official publication than Leckie, so not so theologically outspoken. Subtitled ‘The Contribution of the United Presbyterian Church to Scottish life.” Not a history as such, but contains historical matter, including a valuable section on ministerial training.


    The Decline of Welsh Nonconformity 8: Poltics.

    Welsh Chapels had fulfilled a political role since before the 'revolutionary' year of 1868, when newly-enfranchised Nonconformists had overturned the long-dominant county families in seats like Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. They had traditionally supplied speakers and candidates for the Liberal Party, in opposition to the Anglican-supported Conservative Party. The campaign for the disestablishment of the Anglican Church saw nonconformity even more closely involved with politics, with Nonconformist advocates like David Lloyd George (pictured) and John Herbert Lewis holding the 1894-5 Liberal Government to ransom over this. Nonconformists and churchmen clashed in print, with allegations dishonouring to the body of Christ being traded openly.[1] Besides this, there was also the question of social action, working to make the lot of the poor better. These came together with the rise of labour, and especially the rise of socialism. For those concerned with social action, socialism seemed to offer a better way of addressing social issues than the old individualism. For some socialists, it was easy to paint Liberal-supporting chapels as being no more than stooges for capitalism, stressing an inner piety that capitalists had little to fear.[2]

    [1] While the early literature on Disestablishment and the woes of the Church in Wales was generally prepared to recognise fault on both sides, e.g. Judge Johnes' Inquiry into the Causes of Dissent in Wales, later literature, such as that of David Davies, Penarth (The Ancient Celtic Church in Wales) and anything by the Bishop of St. Asaph was far more confrontational. The reaction of Nonconformity to the final Disestablishment settlement was anything but gracious, and left an impression of vindictiveness.
    [2] Cyril E. Gwyther: ‘Sidelights on Religion and Politics in the Rhondda Valley, 1906-26’ in Llafur (3.1) (Aberystwyth, 1980).