Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Book Review: God's Polished Arrow

William Chalmers Burns is an important figure in the modern Missionary movement. The man who encouraged Hudson Taylor to wear Chinese rather than Western clothes is not to be underrated. His work in Scotland as a preacher in the great revivals in Dundee and Kilsyth in 1839 is also remembered ny those who know and love the work of Robert Murray M'Cheyne.
But who was William Chalmers Burns? Those interested in the answer to this question ought to read 'God's Polished Arrow' by Dr. Michael McMullen. Published in 2000 in a handsome hardcover binding that makes it a good book to look at as well as to read, it is not a continuous biography, but within its 352 pages comprises four parts, an addition to an introduction. Part one, from P. 19 to P. 132, is a brief narrative biography of Burns, detailing his life from early years as the son of a pastor through his conversion and his career in the revivals of 1839. His work elsewhere in Scotland, in Ireland and in Canada are described, and of course his career as a missionary in China.
Part 2, from P. 133 to P. 248, offers extracts from Burns' Journals illustrating the Biography in his own words. Then Part 3 contains letters of Burns, including a number to Robert Murray M'Cheyne and part 4 contains six sermon outlines by Burns from 1842.
The book is probably best regarded as an introduction to Burns, not a normal biography, but this is no criticism. It is well priced and well presented, although the lack of any portrait of Burns is a rather obvious oversight. I like to know, where possible, what the subject of a biography looked like. Still, this is a minor quibble. The book is a good outline of a great servant of God. Dr. McMullen uses Burns' own words to give a flavour of revival. O that God would do the same in our day and in our poor dead and dry nation! The dangers of both revival and missionary work are not glossed over, and this is an honest book about an honest man. For Burns would be the first to say 'Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.' Praise the Master, not the servant.

'God's Polished Arrow' By Dr. Michael McMullen is published by Christian Focus Publications and retails for £12.99.
It should be available through any good Christian bookshop, so my apologies to all those who only have access to bad ones. It is also available through the link 'Scottish Reformed Books' in the sidebar. Alternatively you can use the link to the publisher to buy direct from Christian Focus.

For those who want more than this handsome volume offers, Tentmaker Publications of Stoke-on-Trent have republished Islay Burns' 600-page biography of his brother William for £20.95. This book is probably best purchased direct from the Publisher at www.tentmaker.org.uk (or follow the link 'Reprints!' in the sidebar)



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