Tuesday, March 28, 2006


This past term postings at Free st. George's have been practically daily. However, once again a term at England's best Bible college has come to an end, and with it my day-to-day access to broadband. Fear not! I shall return, God willing, on 22nd April, if the internet connection here is still working then. In the meantime posts will be sporadic, probably at the rate of one or two per week.
And I, God willing, shall be enjoying the charms of the English countryside.

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. IV

After his recieving license to preach in the United Secession Church, James Morison began to preach around the pulpits of his denomination. He appealed pointedly to his hearers at the end of his sermons, and his preaching was appreciated wherever it was heard.
After preaching in various places, Morison was instructed to proceed north and place himself under the supervision of the Presbytery of Elgin. He was sent effectively as a missionary to the far North of Scotland. Heading North, he proceeded to Aberdeen where his first destination was, unsurprisingly, the main bookshops of the granite city. He also visited the Secession ministers of Aberdeen. From there he proceeded further north, to the parish of Cabrach, in Banffshire. It was a poor area, and he lodged in a farmhouse of the old-fashioned type. Like all Highland parishes, Cabrach was really a collection of townships, with a meeting-house located more or less centrally.
The Seceders of Cabrach were in a low state when James Morison arrived among them. They shared their meeting-house with the Independents, each church using it on two Lord's Days every month. Arriving for his first meeting, Morison found no precentor, so he had to pitch the tune himself, something which he was fortunately able to do. His sermon was too literary for the people, because he read a sermon that he had prepared in his early student life. In the evening he decided to preach extempore. He spoke with a freedom and power that he had never experienced before. At once he decided that the common people did not want literary sermons, but earnest extempore discourses. "Orations won'ty save souls," Morison concluded.
At this time Morison was reading Charles G. Finney's Lectures on the Revival of Religion. Finney's emphasis struck a chord with the young Morison, and his early experience at Cabrach seemed to have confirmed Finney's advice concerning the kind of preaching that promoted revival.
At the same time, Morison's theology was shifting in the direction of Finney's. As he preached evangelistic sermons, Morison's logical mind asked "what is the gospel?"

His answer, and what came next, will, God willing, be the subject of our next post.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. III

In the United Secession Theological Hall, James Morison applied himself more fully to the Bible. He gave great attention to his teachers, especially professors Brown and Balmer. Morison's class essay on 'Emmanuel' was published in the Secession Magazine in 1838. He was a popular and successful student.
But he also began to become controversial. Professor Balmer set an essay on 'The Sonship of Christ'. The question of the eternal generation presented itself to Morison as a challenge. Morison plunged into the subject with characteristic energy. In an action that must be a challenge to many seminary students (such as the present writer), Morison consulted the Latin and Greek Fathers, and the great theologians of all ages, as well as the Bible. He was interested in the relation of these to a rational conception of the Godhead.
Morison concluded that the idea of eternal sonship was irrational, therefore untrue. Christ was the Son by virtue of the incarnation, and not eternally. Christ's sonship was a temporal and economical relationship, not an eternal one. While Christ, he taught, was the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, but He was not eternally the Son of God.
That was not the teaching of the Secession Church or the Westminster Confession. Professor Balmer was worried, but he did not think that Morison was heretical. He worried that he had given his brilliant student an essay that had brought forth a false and permature conclusion.
Morison never changed his mind about the sonship of Christ. Indeed, in later life he claimed that the doctrines of the eternal sonship and the eternal procession of the Spirt were "the double-yolked egg out of which Arianism in ancient times and Unitarianism in modern times have been hatched."

In 1838, Morison finished his studies, and he was licensed to preach the Gospel in May 1839 by the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Secession Church. Immediately afterwards he preached for Dr. John Brown in the Broughton Place Church. James Morison chose a text that would be the motto of his ministry, Galatians vi.14: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucifed unto me, and I unto the world."

Next time, God willing, we shall look at the start of James Morison's ministry.


Friday, March 24, 2006

O Sancta Simplicitas! (A.L. Struthers)


James Morison, the Scottish Finney. II

When James Morison entered the Theological Hall of the United Secession Church in 1834 at the age of eighteen it still taught only in one short session of two months every summer - August and September. Thus Morison could begin his Theological Hall session while still studying at university. Having started with only one professor, who thus took all the classes, it had four professors.
The United Secession Hall professors were full-time pastors as well, and the Hall met at the Church of the Principal, which was in Glasgow in 1834.
The professors at the Hall when Morison started were Rev. Dr. Mitchell, the principal, who taught Biblical Literature; Dr. Balmer, professor of Systematic Theology; Dr. Duncan, professor of Pastoral Theology; and a newcomer, Rev. Dr. John Brown of Broughton Place, Edinburgh (author of the famous Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord, and commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and 1 Peter, to name a few of his many works). A great preacher, it was Dr. Brown who was the great influence on the students. "His knowledge, acquirements and talents are beyond all I ever imagined," Morison wrote of Dr. Brown. Morison also appreciated the teaching of Dr. Balmer, and he had a respect for Mitchell and Duncan also. But it was Balmer and Brown in particular who were the deepest influences on young James Morison. From his first meeting with Brown, Morison loved and admired the pastor of Broughton Place Church. For his part, Brown admired Morison's mental power and saw in him great promise. His admiration and love for the student was symbolised by Brown giving Morison a key to his library.
The theology of the United Secession Hall was that of the Secession fathers, the Calvinism of the Marrowmen, Evangelical Calvinism. Christ was described as given for "sinners as such."

What Morison learned at the Hall we shall, God willing, see next time.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. I

Morisonianism. The word probably means nothing at all to most people. The first definition found on the internet is extremely meagre. Another site has a fuller definition. Morisonianism was a nickname for the Evangelical Union, a denomination founded in 1843 by James Morison and three other ministers, including his father. All four had been expelled from the United Secession Church, the largest of the Scottish Secession denominations, for rejecting the Calvinism of the Westminster Confession. But who was James Morison, and why did he reject the Calvinism of his Church? That is the question that this series sets out to explain.

James Morison was a son of the manse. He was born in the manse of the Secession Church, Bathgate, Linlithgowshire. His father, Rev. Robert Morison, was an able, intelligent minister of the Secession Church. Robert Morison came from the Perthshire Morisons, who have always spelled their name with one 'r', not two.
James Morison was a bright boy, but his childhood was darkened by tragedy. His mother died when he was only five years old, and he could not, in later life, remember anything about her. A clever boy, he used to enjoy acting the minister in his childhood (remember this picture?). He enjoyed greatly his father's preaching, even before he could talk.
He was sent to the local School, and from there he went through Edinburgh University, where he was noted for his serious application to studies. He was an able and popular student, a lover of languages and Greek in particular. He suffered from occasional depression, probably the result of not getting enough fresh air and exercise, a frequent problem with scholars.
From the university, Morison went on to the Theological Hall of the United Secession Church. And that, God willing, shall be our subject next time.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. VIII.

After forty-two and a half years, Dr. William Lindsay Alexander felt he had to resign from the pastorate of Augustine Church. He often preached in Augustine Church in the remainder of his ministry, but he was called to another work. The Congregational Union Theological Hall had recently been given £10,000, the income from which was to be used to pay a full time Professor of Systematic Theology. Before this all tutors in the Hall had been pastors, lecturing as an extra burden. The full-time Professor would also have the pastoral care of the students.
The committee in charge of the Hall asked Dr. Alexander to take up the post. He accepted, but he made it clear that he did so only as a temporary measure, saying that it would be better to appoint a younger man to the post.
Dr. Alexander was a well-loved professor. He had the happiest relations with the students, who respected him as a professor, and who felt he was a man they could talk to. He was their pastor, and their friend.
Dr. Alexander worked in the post happily until 1881. He wrote a couple of commentaries, one on Zechariah for the Homiletic Magazine, and one on Deuteronomy for the Pulpit Commentary. But he was getting old, and in July 1881 he resigned his appointments.
Yet, until his successor was appointed, Alexander agreed to remain in his post until his successor was appointed. He contined in the work into 1882, when the committee tried to get him to withdraw his resignation, but he refused. At the end of 1882 he finally left the work.
He remained interested in the Hall and Augustine Church, but he was old, and his health declined. Dr. William Lindsay Alexander departed from this world at 11.30 am, 20th December 1884. He was honoured by his colleagues in the ministry, and rightly so, for he always sought to serve God faithfully. Dr. Alexander described the death of an aged believer in one of his hymns:

At length the door is opened, and free from pain and sin,
With joy and gladness on his head, the pilgrim enters in;
The Master bids him welcome, and on the Father's breast,
By loving arms enfolded, the weary is ar rest.

The pilgrim's staff is left behind, behind the sword, the shield,
The armour dimmed and dinted on many a hard-fought field;
His now the shining palace, the garden of delight,
The palm, the robe, the diadem, the glory ever bright!

William Lindsay Alexander fell asleep, having served his generation by the will of God.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. VII.

William Lindsay Alexander's ministry at Augustine Church was greatly blessed by God. He had become a leader in the congregational denomination, and that brought responsibility.
Congregational Churches are independent of one another, and the Congregational Union was only a loose fellowship. They had no formal creed, and no church courts. So long as the Congregational Churches of Scotland were all Calvinist, everything went well, but in early 1866 a controversy blew up.
Rev. James Cranbrook, pastor of Albany Street Congregational Church, Edinburgh, had been preaching extremely unorthodox sermons. Mr. Cranbrook had settled in Edinburgh in 1865 after a period of ministry in Liverpool. But before he became pastor of a congregational church in liverpool, Cranbrook had been a Unitarian minister. He had been assumed by some to be an ex-unitarian, but it became clear that his theology was not Biblical; it departed from the faith once delivered to the saints in several vital points. This was the first time heresy had reared its ugly head among the Scottish Congregationalists, and Dr. Alexander and his fellow leaders in the denomination realised that people would hear that Cranbrook was a 'Congregationalist' and assume that all Congregationalists agreed with him. What was worse, a number of Edinburgh Congregational ministers had been present at Cranbrook's recognition service at Albany Street. Alexander sent Cranbrook a brotherly letter, and Cranbrook replied angrily, accusing the ministers in whose name Dr. Alexander had written of constituting themselves an inquisition. A letter was sent in reply stating that Dr. Alexander and the other ministers had to suspend ministerial communion with Mr. Cranbrook.
Cranbrook went from bad to worse, and finally he separated from Albany Street and gathered a little congregation of his admirers around himself. Held together only by his preaching, the congregation broke up after Cranbrook's death in 1869.
Meanwhile Dr. Alexander's ministry continued, both at Augustine Church, and in the wider Church. But by 1877 his health and his pulpit ability were starting to fail. He felt that God had brought his ministry to an end at Augustine Church, and on 6th June 1877 he resigned the pastorate. He had ministered in the congregation for forty-two and a half years.

But Dr. Alexander's ministry was not over. Where God called him after Augustine Church we shall see, God willing, next time.


Monday, March 20, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. VI.

Following a government purchase of their building in 1855, the old North College Street Church had to build a new home for themselves. As their pastor, Dr. William Lindsay Alexander was intimately involved with the project. He was original in both name and design. The style of the building was something of a novelty for 1850s Edinburgh, which preferred Neoclassical architecture, and the name he chose was unusual - he called it 'Augustine Church', after his favourite Church Father (Michael Haykin would probably like Dr. Alexander). The Church is illustrated here.
Although they had some problems with the construction of the building, it was finally opened on 8th November 1861. Alexander led the opening service, explaining that congregationalists attatch no particular sanctity to buildings, but that they dedicated their building in prayer to God's service, for it had been built to his glory. It is an evidence of Dr. Alexander's reformed 'ecumenicity' that the sermon at the opening of the church was preached by Dr. Guthrie of the Free Church of Scotland.
There had been no organ at North College Street, and the congregational singing, led by an excellent choir, had been incredibly impressive; North College Street had "the best sung congregation in Edinburgh." Just to hear the singing there was a blessing. At first Augustine Church had no organ, but in 1863 a brand new organ was presented to the church. It was not the blessing some thought it would be, for congregational singing at Augustine Church was never the same again.
The ministry of Dr. Alexander at Augustine Church was blessed as his ministry at North College Street had been. But Dr. Alexander was now a leader in the Scottish Congregationalists. A decided Calvinist (or Augustinian!) himself, Dr. Alexander deplored the sort of theological laxity that some Congregationalists displayed. He found himself involved for that reason in two theological controversies, which we shall, God willing, address next time.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. V.

William Lindsay Alexander loved the church at New College Street, and he had no thought of leaving. In 1855 the Government informed the church that they required the New College Street Church for part of the site of the Industrial Museum. The Church sought a new site, and they met for the last time in the old chapel on 28th October 1855.
The old chapel had seen all sorts of people under Dr. Alexander's (for Alexander had been awarded a doctorate by now) ministry. Many of the 'mixed multitude' of visitors tended to sit in the gallery, with the result that the gallery became the scene of a number of interesting incidents. A number of these called forth some of Dr. Alexander's more caustic rebukes. On one occasion he was reading the chapter in Acts recording the fall of Eutychus from the 'third loft' when one of the gallery doorkeepers, who had fallen asleep, nodded back against the panelling at the back of the gallery. The noise caused Alexander to start, and some young men in the gallery smiled. "You young men up there had better take care, or perhaps some accident of the kind may happen to you!"
It was not the doorkeeper's fault. His job kept him on his feet all day, and he had to work long hours. On another occasion he was so worn out that he fell against the door of his box-pew. It fell open, and he fell onto the gallery stairs. Dr. Alexander looked towards the startled man and said softly, "I knew it would come to that some day!"
Often umbrellas fell in the gallery, and on one occasion after one umbrella too many had fallen down.
"Might I ask those of you who are in the habit of going to sleep, before doing so to put your sticks and umbrellas in a safe place, so that those who are awake may not be unnecessarily disturbed!"
For six years the church were without a building of their own, and they met in the Queen Street Hall. Dr. Alexander was at the height of his powers, and the ministry was greatly blessed. Attempts were made to draw him off to a teaching post somewhere, but he was resolute. He was a preacher, not an academic. In any case, he had to look after his church while they built a new meeting-house. He remained with his people.

Next time we shall, God willing, look at Dr. Alexander's ministry in the new building.


Friday, March 17, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. IV.

William Lindsay Alexander's rise to popularity was almost unprecedented in Edinburgh. Despite, or perhaps because of, his own diffidence concerning his preaching powers, it was his powerful, Biblical preaching. An expository series on the first nine chapters of Genesis attracted great attention, and many flocked to hear him; like Dr. Lloyd-Jones in the 20th century, W. L. Alexander, he drew crowds, and retained them, by preaching the Word of God. Alexander's manner was natural, free and expressive, particularly in the early years of his ministry. One of his hearers from his early years said:
"His delivery of one discourse in particular I shall never forget. It was supurb. For power and pathos, for lofty and commanding eloquence, for heart-thrilling, soul-subduing effect, it far transcended any discourse from the pulpit I had ever heard before or have heard since."
Being a pastor, although much of his time was taken up in preparing sermons and preaching them, but he also had reponsibility to care for the members of his church. Like many pastors, he had trouble with some of his deacons. They were older men, and some of them thought the young pastor needed their supervision to perhaps a larger extent than he actually did. He also suffered the attention of men he called 'talkers', opinionative men who were always willing to tell the pastor exactly what was wrong, and what needed to be done to improve the Church. As a congregational pastor, Alexander had to deal with these people in church meetings. Sometimes he was discouraged after church meetings, feeling he actually had to 'recover' from them. But he used great tact and firmness in the meetings, and after the first few years, things became easier as church and pastor came to understand each other.
Young churches have their problems. But old established churches like North College Street have their own problems. In general there was a close fellowship among the members, but when there were fallings out, things could get very nasty. And the most trivial things could cause strife. One married lady in the congregation fell out with another because she had heard of the marriage of the daughter of another member from a third party, not the other member herself! Alexander laboured long and hard to recconcile the two women, and at last he thought they were recconciled. They came together, apologised one to another, and made to part. Then one brought the matter up again, and once again Alexander found himself in the middle of a violent argument!

But his ministry at North College Street was in general a happy ministry. His heart knitted with the congregation. He did not consider for a moment leaving them.
But he did have to leave New College Street. How and why we shall see next time, God willing.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. III.

William Lindsay Alexander was to be ordained to the ministry at North College Street Congregational Church, Edinburgh, on February5th 1835, but his ministry in that place began on 1st January of that year. He was officially ordained on February 5th.
The North College Street Church was an historic one, and they met in a plain stone chapel without ornamentation. The Church membership included some of Edinburgh's most distinguished men, but Alexander was without respect of persons. He set himself to be the most loyal minister in all Edinburgh. God had brought him into the ministry, not man, and so he would give God his best.
William Lindsay Alexander laid down two rules for himself as he entered the ministry, and they bear repeating. First he resolved that he would not attempt to 'make great sermons.' That would be a waste of his time and energy. He would be a simple expositor of the Scriptures, not a great orator. Second, he resolved never to have 'an hour to spare'. He systematically organised his time so as to make the best use of it for God. He adhered to these rules through all his life.
Although he had resolved not to try to make 'fine sermons', this did not mean he skimped preparation. Quite the reverse; instead of agonising over words and expressions, he agonised in making careful and exact exegesis of his text. At the same time he had to guard against merely giving a commentary on the text. He identified one or more key themes - usually just one - in the text, and centred the whole sermon on this.
Like DR. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the 20th Century, W.L. Alexander believed very strongly in expository preaching. He believed that only expository preaching could awaken and maintain the interest of a congregation throughout a ministry of any length. If he had felt compelled to be a mere preacher on 'subjects', or topics, he would never have been able to stay in the ministry. He shrank at the thought of the 'mental drugery' involved in selecting a topic, then hunting for a text to attach to it. No, he thought, only the full power and variety, freshness and enduring interest and importance of the whole Word of God could possibly sustain him. He noted that there were two sorts of preachers, those who made their hearers say, "what a man!" and those who made their hearers say, "What a Gospel!" His aim was the latter.
Like many men, Alexander started out writing his sermons out in full , but later abandonded the practice and wrote out only notes. From 1850 onwards he wrote out most of his morning sermon, and delivered his evening discourse extempore.
He rose rapidly to popularity, and North College Street Chapel was soon filled with people from all parts of the city. The effects of this we shall, God willing, see next time.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. II.

William Lindsay Alexander found every door shut before him in 1831. Then, as he was passing through Liverpool in 1832, the friend with whom he was staying said to him: "You have come just in the nick of time. We have been disappointed in not getting a minister for our chapel next sabbath, so you will come and preach for us."
Alexander was not keen. He made the excuse that he had no black coat, but the friend replied that there was no problem, for the Church had a very nice pulpit gown that he could wear. One Sunday's preaching engagement became an informal pastorate of a year and a half! Despite himself, William Lindsay Alexander had become a Congregational minister. He had struggled against the purposes of God, and God had conquered him. It is no surprise that Alexander was a Calvinist all his days!
God blessed the pastorate at Newington Independent Church, Liverpool. Many were brought into Church membership, and the chapel filled rapidly. The news of this Scottish congregational pastor spread rapidly.
In October 1833 Alexander recieved a letter from Rev. John Aikman of the Argyle Square Congregational Church, Edinburgh, inviting him on behalf of the Church to come and preach for them with a view to becoming assistant minister to Mr. Aikman.
Alexander, conscious that he was still a young man, relatively untaught, saw at once the advantages of working with a more experienced man. However, he worried that his powers were not sufficient for Edinburgh, and that Newington Church needed him to remain there. But then God slowly closed the door at Newington, and in 1834 he was finally forced to leave Newington. In the meantime the door at Edinburgh had closed too, and so Alexander found himself once more unsettled. But Newington had settled him in one thing; he was a Congregational minister, and so he would remain.
He used his time out of the settled ministry to study theology in Germany, among the more orthodox German theologians. After his return from Germany he was asked to preach several times at the very Church he had previously turned down, Argyle Square, otherwise known as North College Street Church, Edinburgh. Eventually North College Street called him to supply the pulpit for six months with a view to becoming their pastor. Alexander declined; the Church was divided, and he was sure he would be unhappy there. He was therefore astonished when, on 1st November 1834, he was invited to become pastor of the Church! The call was all but unanimous, and Alexander, after three weeks of careful consideration, accepted.

God willing next time we shall look at W.L. Alexander's ministry at North College Street.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

William Lindsay Alexander. I.

Scottish Christianity is best known in the world in its Presbyterian dress, but of course there are other varieties of it. One of the oldest is Scottish Congregationalism, now sadly all but swallowed up in what is generally known as the United Reformed Church. Scottish Congregationalism has produced a number of notable men, one of the chief of whom was William Lindsay Alexander.
William Lindsay Alexander was the son of William Alexander and Elizabeth Lindsay. He was born at Leith, the port of Edinburgh, on 24th August 1808. William Alexander came from Moffat, and in his youth he had studied for the Congregational ministry, but serious health problems prevented his entering the ministry, or even completing his theological course. Instead he entered into business with an Edinburgh wine merchant. At the same time he joined the Church assembling at the Tabernacle under the pastorate of J.A. Haldane, embracing Baptist views. Mr. Alexander was a liberal giver to Christian work, and he brought up his son in the fear of the Lord.
William Lindsay Alexander was educated at first in the local schools, then at the University of Edinburgh. From there he moved to the University of St. Andrews. He profited greatly from the lectures of Thomas Chalmers in Moral Philosophy.
During his time at St. Andrews, Alexander joined the Congregational Church at Leith, thus declaring that he could not share his parents' Baptist views. Still, he often attended his parents' Church.
At St. Andrews, Alexander first began to preach in public. A number of small local Congregational Churches were without pastors, and were supplied by the Church to which Alexander belonged. He was an enthusiastic preacher, and his father seems to have persuaded the pastor of the Church to which he belonged to allow William Lindsay Alexander to preach in Swinton Row Baptist Church, Edinburgh.
In 1827, William Lindsay Alexander entered the Glasgow Theological Academy of the Scottish Congregational Churches, which was taught at that time by Rev. Dr. Ralph Wardlaw and Rev. Greville Ewing. He did not seem to get on well there, and he moved to take the post of Classical Tutor of the Blackburn Theological Academy, Lancashire. Alexander was soon teaching a lot more than the Classics - and he was not yet twenty!
But W.L. Alexander was not going to remain a tutor in a theological academy. Although he wanted to become an academic, God closed every door in his face. Alexander decided to study for a medical career. That failed too, but still Alexander resisted the call to the ministry.

We shall, God willing, see how God disposed next time.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Blotting Paper

One final T. M. Lindsay post. Ministers ought, as you all know no doubt, to exercise rigid economy in order to be able to buy more books for their already over-filled bookshelves. This means watering down ink, writing sermon-notes on the backs of envelopes, that sort of thing: T. M. Lindsay:

"Have I ever told you that I seldom or never buy blotting paper? Generally enough comes in advertisers' specimens to serve me for the year. They generally came about Christmas. None has come this time; I fancy the advertisers have at last discovered that I do not buy. I was seriously thinking of buying when I was saved from the extravagance in a way you would never imagine. A great envelope arrived - directed to Mrs. Lindsay. I opened it. It was an advertisement, twenty-four pages with outlines of women's blouses, petticoats, stockings and combinations, all printed on blotting paper. It is perhaps, rather improper for me - all these details of feminine garments; but I have blotting paper enough for two months at all events; and cling to me pet economy. The page of combinations is already black all over; so the impropriety, if it exists, is vanishing."

Letters of T. M. Lindsay to Janet Ross P. 125


Saturday, March 11, 2006


Although he enjoyed foreign travel, Principal T. M. Lindsay had one complaint - some of his fellow tourists!

"I should have liked to have seen you entertain those carriages full of American women. I have no doubt that you charmed them; but at what a cost! Why does the average American do two very objectionable things? - Pay one compliments to one's face in the most deliberate way, and also demand categorical answers to conundrums of thought, or what they consider thinking. I went one day to lunch with an American lady and her companion. What do you think of this? "Dr. Lindsay, will you give me in one clear succinct paragraph a summary of your views on the bringing up of children?"
"Certainly, I'll give you them in two words. 'Wholesome Neglect.'" "Oh Maria" (this to the companion) "would not Amelia D. Parkes call that answer perfectly lovely?" What can you do with such people, save resolve to keep as far away from them as possible?
But some Americans, men and women, are the most delightful persons one can meet."

Letters of T. M. Lindsay to Janet Ross Pp. 15-16


Friday, March 10, 2006

Incident at Waterloo Station

Thomas M. Lindsay's biography of Luther has recently been republished by Christian Focus. We thought that Free St. George's readers might enjoy a couple of incidents from the lighter side of Lindsay's life (and perhaps time to recover from 35 Rainy days).

Just to put this first one in context, Lindsay was born in 1843 at Lesmahagow, where his father was Free Church minister. Although he trained for the Free Church ministry, he held no pastorate beyond a short stint as Alexander Whyte's assistant at Free St. George's. He was a brilliant student, and at the age of 29 he was appointed to take the classes of Dogmatics and Church History at the Free Church College, Glasgow. In 1872 he was appointed to the chair of Church History there. He was elected Principal of the now United Free Church College, Glasgow in 1902, a post he held until his death in 1914. Principal Lindsay wrote a number of books, the best-known of which are The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1902), A History of the Reformation (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, vol. 1 1906, vol. 2 1907), Luther and the German Reformation (Edinburgh, T. &. T. Clark, 1908).
The only biographical work of any kind about Lindsay is Letters of Principal T. M. Lindsay to Janet Ross (London, Constable, 1923). It consists of letters that Lindsay sent to a learned lady who lived in Italy. At first she did not realise he was a minister - hence this letter. Now, before I fill a post with Lindsay's biography:

Incident at Waterloo Station
"I really ought to apologise for coming to you as a wolf in sheep's clothing; but I dislike uniform of all kinds, and never wear clerical dress out of Scotland. They are quite a nuisance in travelling. A clerical garb is a sort of placard, 'Enquire here for everything,' especially to ladies, who demand strings, paper, ink and pens, the names of hotels, the proper tips to give, etc. , etc. I remember once at Waterloo station, when I was in uniform, a very ecclesiastical lady accosting me. "Are you a Churchman, Sir?" I naturally said "Yes," forgetting for the moment that I was in a foreign land - then recollecting said: "I am a presbyterian." The poor thing was quite dismayed at contact with a schismatic and gasped out - "Bu- Bu- But perhaps you can tell me the way to the underground railway?" Apostolic succession was not needed to give correct information on that point at least."
Letters of Principal T. M. Lindsay to Janet Ross, P. 1


Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXXV.

Robert Rainy's long and eventful life was drawing to a close in that small room in Australia, far from Scotland and his beloved New College.
"I wonder at the love of God to me, as He has shown it all my life," Rainy said to a brother minister. To another he said, "I believe that, notwithstanding all my shortcomings, I am not shut out, but - shut in." On 22nd December, shortly before nine in the morning, Principal Robert Rainy of the New College, Edinburgh, left this world, his face bearing "a lofty calm that was not less than majesty". Looking down on his were his two predecessors, present in image. His body was taken back to Scotland for burial, and he was interred in the Dean Cemetery on 7th March 1907. Rainy was acknowledged as the United Free Church's greatest leader yet, an due to his leadership it seemed that the United Free Church was headed for great things.

In 1929 the majority of the United Free Church of Scotland united with the Church of Scotland, laving a minority who still clung to the old Disestablishment rhetoric. Both the majority and the minority appealed to Rainy's memory. Today Robert Rainy's medallion still looks down on a new generation of New College students as they meet in the Rainy Hall. For good or for ill, his legacy continues.

Most of the information in these articles was obtained from Patrick Carnegie Simpson's Principal Rainy (2 volumes, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1909). Other books consulted include James Lachlan Macleod, The Second Disruption (East Linton, 2000), Alexander MacPherson (editor), The History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Glasgow, 1970), One Hundred Years of Witness (Glasgow, 1993) and James Barr (not that one, the Labour MP), The United Free Church of Scotland (London, 1934).

Robert Rainy Select Bibliography:
Three Lectures on the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh, John Maclaren, 1872)
The Delivery and Development Of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1874)
The Bible and Criticism (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1878)
'The Apostle Paul' in The Evangelical Succession (Edinburgh, Macniven and Wallace, 1882)
The Epistle to the Philippians (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1893)
Robert Rainy, James Orr, Marcus Dods, The Supernatural in Christianity (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1894)
The Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1902)
Sojourning with God and Other Sermons (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1903)

(These are the books by Rainy that you stand half a chance of actually being able to get hold of)


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXXIV.

Rainy had guided the United Free Church of Scotland through the crisis on 1904-1905, but now he had a crisis of a far more personal nature to deal with.
Mrs. Rainy had fallen ill in 1905, and it swiftly became plain that she was not going to recover. She died on 30th September 1905, and it seemed that nearly all of Scotland wanted to comfort Rainy in his loss. The funeral was made a public event, so many wanted to join Rainy in his mourning.
"I must always feel the empty place, and yet I should be most ungrateful if I did not consider that eight-and-forty years of happy life together are not given to many married couples. Also there was much of Divine gentleness in the circumstances of her last illness. It remains that I should seek to learn the lessons set for me, and I am still a very slow scholar." Rainy wrote to a friend. Writing to his son George, he said:
"It is more than a month now since your beloved mother died. Nothing can deprive me of the memory - nor the fact - of forty-eight years filled and gladdened by a great affection on both sides. Then - the love and loyalty of our children. All that has left its deep deposit in my life and has made me very rich. If now I am enabled to be alike rich towards God, how good it will be."

Rainy continued in his work for the United Free Church, working to uphold the Church as it waited for the final settlement with the Free Church property. The work went on slowly, and it was not until late in 1906 that a final list was produced. It did not fully satisfy either side - which probably meant it was more or less fair. When the United Free Assembly prepared to meet, the Commissioners in charge of the distribution of the property declared that the United Free Assembly ought to meet in the Assembly Hall. The Free assembly were to be housed in the old Free High Church. For the last time, Rainy was able to meet with his brethren in the old Assembly Hall that he knew so well. There he made his last Assembly speeches. Unknown to him, his life-work was finished then and there. Less than a month later he was taken ill, and he was forced to spend the summer in retirement.
In early October he presided over the opening lecture of the New College session. The meeting was held in the Free High Church, for New College had not yet been restored, but Rainy was upbeat. He called on the students to make this "not merely an average but a memorable session."
The news that the Citadel would be returned on the 1st January 1907 was greeted with jokes that it would make a good 81st birthday present to the Principal - but it was not to be.
Rainy sailed for Australia in early November. The voyage was good, and at first Rainy seemed to be recovering. But, in the second half of the voyage, he became steadily worse. By the time he reached Australia, he was dying.

And so, God willing, next time we shall complete this series.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXXIII.

At the 1905 United Free Church Assembly, held in the old United Presbyterian Synod Hall, the United Free Church, presided over for the last time by the imposing figure of Principal Rainy, had declared its spiritual independence and its power to alter or amend its creed. Rainy emphasised that the freedom was not a licence to do whatever they wanted. They were not radicals, discarding the doctrines of the Church:
"They were children of the Reformation; they were the children of the Scottish Reformation. They were Presbyterians. They were believers in a great evangelical system of faith. They believed in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They believed in the great redemption of Christ. They believed in the office and work of the Holy Spirit. They believed emphatically that salvation was of the Lord always, and in every case it was His wonderful work of saving the sinner. And so it was from no desire to change - he would not say the foundation of the creed - it was from no desire to cease to be Scottish evangelical Presbyterians that they made that assertion. They did it because they must make clear to the world the meaning of the Reformation, and the meaning of the independence of the Church of Christ, which was not concieved by their fathers as something that existed then, and never was to exist any more." Rainy told the Assembly.
The Assembly closed on a high note. They closed awaiting the decision of the Government Commission on the property of the Free Church. While the Citadel was a major issue, the greatest concern was the actual funds of the Free Church. This had been an issue that had been overlooked where congregational property was at stake, and when suggestions had been made that the United Free Church should have given Churches and manses to the congregations of the Free Church minority, but it was of vital importance. Buildings were of little use without the funds to maintain them, and the machinery of a Presbyterian Church cannot be run free of cost. Rainy wrote to the Prime minister on the matter, suggesting that, where there were both Free and United Free Churches, and it was possible, the United Free Church property be divided equitably. If there were two United Free Churches in a locality, they could be united in the larger building, and the Free Church could be given the smaller. If there was a Church Hall separate from the main Church, it should be treated as a separate piece of property and given to the smaller congregation.
At last the day came. To his delight Rainy learned that the Citadel had been returned to the United Free Church, and the Free Church offices next door had been given to the Free Church (this is the present-day Free Church College) for offices and a College. The United Free Church was less pleased by the amount of money that was given to the Free Church - who were in turn not too impressed by the apparent favour that had been shown to the United Free Church in some places - but on the whole the more sober people on both sides were satisfied with what they had recieved.

Rainy had guided his Church through yet another crisis, and now he looked forward to "a little rest." We shall see next time, God willing, how he bagan that 'rest'.


Monday, March 06, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXXII.

Perhaps because of his leadership during the Free Church crisis of 1904, Rainy was now the best known Churchman in all of Scotland, and the supreme leader of the Free Church - much to his own annoyance. The way things were going, he complained, people would think that the United Free Church was "a one-horse affair." He was the principal of a theological college, not archbishop!
Though Rainy led well, he was now in his eightieth year, and he knew that he might not live to see the conclusion of the crisis. He saw two things as needful during his third moderatorship; the first was to re-affirm the fundemental tenets of the Free Church of Scotland, the second to secure as much of the Free Church property as possible for United Free Church congregations.
The great danger of the crisis, in Rainy's view, was that the United Free Church would put too much trust in the state. There were many in the state who were sympathetic with the United Free Church's more 'open' attitude on matters of doctrine, and who would do all they could to secure an advantageous settlement for the United Free Church which, in mistaken gratitude, might bind herself too closely to the state and act as if the recovered Free Church property was a sort of state endowment. This would be directly contrary to every Free Church principle (and to every United Free Church Principal, if the pun may be allowed). Whatever form the final settlement took, it could not be in such a shape that the United Free Church could be seen as being 'endowed' by the state.
When the Commission began its sittings, the Free Church of Scotland, as was expected, put in a large claim. They claimed three hundred Church buildings, a similar number of manses, and of course the Edinburgh 'Citadel'. Schemes for joint occupation of buildings they dismissed as 'impractical', an assessment that was quite right, since there was a level of animosity on both sides.
The Free Church probably never expected to get everything that they asked for; they started with a high bid so that they stood a chance of getting all that they wanted. The leaders on both sides knew that they would have to compromise. Free and United Free minorities both held tenaciously to their right to buildings hallowed by the association of years, but the Commission did its best to divide the property according to the ability of the two parties to use it.
on the occasion of his first Moderatorship, Rainy had sat in the great Moderator's Chair of the Free Assembly Hall. Although he sat as Moderator three times, he never sat in that chair again; his second Moderatorship had been of the Union Assembly, held not in the Free Assembly Hall, but in Waverly Market; and this, his third Moderatorship, occurred when the post-union Free Church of Scotland had possession of the Free Assembly Hall, so that Rainy sat in the Moderator's chair of the old United Presbyterian Synod Hall. He addressed the Assembly as a man who knew that he had not many more years left to him, and he knew that it was entirely possible that he would never again be allowed into the New College buildings. Still, he spoke as a fighter, a leader of a great body under Christ.
Under Rainy's moderatorship the United Free Church pledged itself again to the Spiritual independence that has always been the pride of the Scottish Presbyterians. But now there were some in the Assembly who were far more radical, who wanted to tear down the Church of Scotland, divide its property, and set up the United Free Church on the ruins. Needless to say Rainy was not among them - he was far too sober-minded.

The United Free Church had declared its liberty. What Rainy waited for now was the restitution of justice.
And that, God willing, shall be our subject next time.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXXI.

The House of Lords had decided that the whole property of the pre-union Free Church of Scotland belonged to the minority who had not gone into the Union of 1900, and not to the United Free Church. Rainy found himself called to uphold his Church once more, to bear the troubles of the United Free Church.
Meanwhile the government began to realise that they could not just leave the matter to be sorted out by the two Churches, neither of which was in any mood to compromise. The idea began to be voiced of setting up a commission to divide the property of the Free Church between the Free Church as now constituted and the United Free Church. The Free Church minority had what they wanted, the name of the Free Church of Scotland. Now they were concerned that the commission should not treat them unfairly. While there were many church buildings where there was no controversy over who ought to have it, there was a significant minority where there was a debate, where a portion of the congregation adhered to each side. Then there was theNew College complex, comprising the College, the Free High Church and the Assembly Hall (known as the Citadel). Both sides wanted it, and only one could have it. When the Commission was set up in November 1904, they knew that the Citadel would be the most difficult part of the Church property to decide on.
Rainy was extremely pleased by the conduct of the United Free Church during the crisis; the Church had stuck together rather than falling apart. Rainy having kept up his pressure on the government, he saw the setting up of the commission as a new challenge for him.
His challenge was made official by his being called to the Moderatorship of the United Free Church for the second time. Rainy was not at all sure that it was a wise move, indeed, he was rather annoyed by it, but the representatives of the Church pressed it on him. No-one else was fitted to lead the Church in the present crisis, they told him. At last Rainy capitulated and agreed to "get into moderators' breeks again" (Traditionally the moderators of Scottish Presbyterian Churches wear 18th Century style court costume, including knee breeches).

The year of Rainy's moderatorship promised to be a very interesting one, as we shall, God willing, see next time.


Friday, March 03, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXX.

In 1904 the House of Lords had found that the Free Church majority had acted incompetently in entering into the 1900 Union with the United Presbyterian Church. Both the name and the property of the Free Church of Scotland (for the two were linked inseperably) belonged to the minority of mostly Highland ministers who had refused to enter the union. It had for three years seemed that those ministers were going to lose manses and Churches, but in an astounding reverse it had been the United Free Church that had lost its property. The idea of giving the property of a huge nationwide Church to about twenty-seven minsters and about a hundred congregations seemed absurd, but in his speech Lord Robertson, the Lord Chancellor, declared that, "Since the days of Cyrus it has been held that justice is done by giving people not what fits them, but what belongs to them." The whole property of the Free Church was given to the minority.
Rainy returned to Edinburgh to find a Church that was in danger of adopting a bunker mentality. The United Presbyterian members of the UF Church did all they could to help the former Free Church members. Fortunately the old United Presbyterian Synod Hall, which had been put up for sale, had not yet been sold, and that could be used. While the Free Church (the minority will henceforth be called by that title) had 'occupied' the New College complex, the United Free Church Colleges in Glasgow and Aberdeen were left alone (despite James Denney's fears).
The Principal kept up fighting talk. He called for the setting up of an emergency fund to help the United Free Church through the crisis, and the members of the Church gave enthusiastically. Out in the country there were ugly scenes as United Free Church zealots and Free Church zealots clashed over Church buildings in incidents that were deplored by both sides.
Rainy wrote letters to leaders in Church and State in all of Britain, canvassing support. The Archbishop of Canterbury, himself a Scot, offered to mediate between the two Churches, but Rainy declined his offer, pointing out that the Free Church was unlikely to accept such a mediator, but thanking the Archbishop cordially. Writing to a politician, Rainy revealed: "The Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking to me before judgement was delivered but when its character was foreseen, said to me, 'But what will you do?' I told him we would take joyfully the spoiling of our goods."
Rainy foresaw that many who had wavered in 1900 might very well go back to the Free Church following the House of Lords Judgement. He instantly organised a United Free Church aggression in the Highlands to counter such a tendency. He himself addressed as many meetings as he could, rallying the United Free Church support.
There were no mass defections from the United Free Church among the ministers, and most of the members in the Free Church section of the United Free Church stayed put. Some congregations were split, most notably in the Highlands.
Rainy had to leave New College, unsure if he would ever go back. It seemed that the United Free Church was in an impossible situation. How she got out of that situation we shall, God willing, see next time.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXIX.

Robert Rainy seemed to have come into a quiet, sunlit old age, which would be marked by literary activity rather than ecclesiastical politics. But it was not to be. The Free Church law case had been rumbling on in the courts, ignored by all and sundry, who assumed that the United Free Church would, as a matter of course, win.
The minority case was that the Free Church of Scotland, as "a voluntary association of Christians associated together under a definite contract involving the maintenance of definite principles." The "Contract" was the Claim of Right of 1842 and the Protest and Act of Separation of 1843. The majority had, it was claimed, departed from those principles, and threfore they had forfeited their claim to be the Free Church of Scotland.
The majority replied that the Church of Scotland had always held its Confessions and constitution as open to revision; what was more, the Declaratory Act of 1892 had modified that constitution.
In 1901 the Court of Session had found in favour of the majority. The minority appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session, and in 1902 that court also found in favour of the United Free Church. A further appeal was mounted, all the way to the House of Lords, as the highest court in the land. Whoever won that case would be the final victor. There were six judges, and they sat from 24th November to 7th December 1903. Unfortunately one of the judges died before the judgement could be given, and so a new hearing was ordered with two judges in the place of the dead judge. It was to take place after the Assemblies of 1904, and at the Free Church Assembly an offer of an out-of-court settlement. The Minority were not interested so long as the name of the Free Church of Scotland was not a part of that settlement.
The House of Lords heard the case in June of 1904. Rainy was a constant attender on the case. He knew that a victory for the United Free Church was not certain. The minority had good counsel. As time went on, he realised that the minority were in fact on course to win the case. Indeed, on 1st August 1904, judgement was given. Five judges gave judgement in the favour of the minority, two in favour of the United Free Church. The Union of 1900 was legally to be regarded, not as a union, but as the majority of the Free Church of Scotland defecting en masse to the United Presbyterians. The minority were legally the Free Church of Scotland. But, with the name, came the whole of the property of the Free Church - including New College.
Rainy at once began to plan the recovery of the United Free Church, before both the United Free Church and the United Free Church destroyed each other.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what Rainy did in the Free Church crisis.


"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXVIII.

Robert Rainy, still Principal of New College, Edinburgh, though no longer the Professor of Church History there, was enjoying a time of peace in his life. He had three new books in print, books that represented him as historian, preacher and Bible expositor. He was still acting as a pastor to those who needed his care and love. As his old friends began to die around him, Rainy wrote:
"Bereavements come with strange force, and they leave us crushed and lonely. And yet we are sure that our Heavenly Father turns all these sorrows, which seem to come upon us like fate, into means of grace, and is near us to be sought and found. He does it for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness. Only this does not come to pass as a matter of course, and we have to ask for help and to find our way to the Father's mind and to trust. 'Though He cause grief, yet He will have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.'
"I think, as we advance in life, we may do well to think more of the great hope of the Gospel. The fashion of this world passes away, but we have great hopes before us. Yet surely, they are not so welcome, not so dear, do not come home to us with soothing and cheering power, as they ought to do. Do we not find ourselves in moods in which these hopes are strange, not entering harmoniously into the life of our souls? I believe it is because we need to have revealed to us more fully the love of God. In that great revelation, everything takes on a new light and warmth, and the hopes I speak of become dear and real. Well, we must ask for great things, for the greatest; our Father is a great God."
In one of his serons he had said:
"The prospect of departing in God's good time, to us unknown, should be a great and bright hope before us - the refuge of our hearts in trouble, the retreat into which we go when we would soothe and cheer our souls, a great element of the cheerfulness and patience of our lives - while we assure ourselves that the best of all we find here is by and by to give place to that which is better."

But Rainy had one more battle to fight, one more crisis. God willing, that is what we shall consider next time.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXVII.

Rainy had successfully piloted the United Free Church through her first crisis, and all seemed well. Things seemed to be looking up, even in the Highlands. Rainy seemed to be about to settle down to a quiet life as a Church leader. He was able to turn his attention to all the various matters that were concerning the Church and the wider world.
One of the matters that came to his attention was the Boer War. Maybe his thoughts on that war would be of interest today:
"I was against the war as clearly not justifiable, but once it was decided and entered on I regarded further discussion as vain. The thing had to go through; and it must be settled in such a way as to avert the risk of the thing breaking out again."
Rainy's son George, having graduated wth a first from Oxford, went on to take the Indian Civil Service Examination. He came first and so he went out to India, where he was quickly promoted to an under-secretaryship.
Rainy took a keen interest in his son's career, noting that some quarters of the Civil Service seemed to attach high importance to certain qualifications that were less than academic. Rainy commented wryly in a letter to George Rainy:
"Why is there not an exam in dancing along with the others - two or three papers and a demonstration? It seems comforting to refelct that while other posts may be swamped by natives, under-secretaryships will continue to be a British preserve, for what self-respecting native - Mohammedan especially - would dance?"
Principal Rainy was concerned, of course, that the culture of the British Indian Civil Service was not one in which evangelical faith was encouraged. Far from home and from his father, George Rainy would be tempted to enter into the usual round of dances, tiger-hunts and other social affairs.
Even more dangerous was the temptation to keep up Bible reading and prayer in a purely formal manner. Mindful of this Rainy wrote:
"So much alone as you are and pressed with work, it is perhaps difficult to keep sight of the main things. If you had only three minutes for Bible reading, I would give one to reading and three to thinking about it in God's presence. It is the same with prayer: shorter prayers, if it must be so, but let us think a little before we begin."
In 1901 Rainy was able to attend the 450th anniversary of the University of Glasgow. Indeed, in the years immediately following the Union, he seemed to be everywhere. He was also able to do some of the literary work that he had not been able to engage in. While it was too late for him to write his biography of Augustine, he was able to turn some of his lectures on Church History into a book giving an historical survey of the life and thought of the early centuries of the Church from the accession of Trajan to the Fourth General Council. Of the book Alexander Whyte said, "I know of nothing else like it." There is nothing else like it. Although the information in the book is rather old now, I still know of nothing else like it. It goes by the name of The Ancient Catholic Church, and there are usually a few dozen copies available on ABE books. Rainy sums up men and movements in a few pithy sentences. Tertullian, for example, he says, "combined in himself the Puritan and High Churchman, with even a touch of the Fifth Monarchy man thrown in."

The other books Rainy published at this time were an expository commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians and a volume of sermons entitled Sojourning with God. Both represented his pulpit ministry. Rainy was before the public as an author as ever before.

Rainy was enjoying a brief period of peace - a peace that would prove to precede a great storm.
But next time, God willing, we shall continue for a while in that peace.