Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

As I lurk inside and hope no more small children knock on my door (there was one, but he wasn't even trick or treating, just demanding sweets. I gave him an apple and he looked disgusted), my thoughts stray to Reformation Day. I found this link: The Reformation Polka. It may be silly, but humour does have a role in the fellowship of the church.

Llandewi Brefi Church, close to the spot where St. David confounded the Pelagian heretics in Wales seems an appropriate illustration. Calvinistic Methodist leader Daniel Rowland was later curate here.

May I wish you all a very happy Reformation Day.

Three Reformation Day Books

Today is Reformation Day. On 31st October 1517 Dr. Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, thus ushering in that great revival of religion that we call the Reformation.

First of all, let me begin by recommending two books by T. M. Lindsay, neither of which will break the bank. Lindsay was professor of Church history at the Free (later United Free) Church College in Glasgow and an expert on the Reformation.
Firstly, Lindsay's 'The Reformation', recently reprinted by the Banner of Truth and given a rave review on this blog. Anyone wanting to get a good, short introductory work on the Reformation should start here.
The second book is Lindsay's biography of Luther, now published by Christian Focus in their 'Historymakers' series, but first published in 1900 as 'Luther and the German Reformation'. It is the best biography of Luther I have read, and that includes Bainton's 'Here I Stand'. Anyone wanting to know more about the man who started the Reformation could do a lot worse than to start with Lindsay.

This is how Lindsay describes the character of the Reformation:
"It was a genuine revival of religion, a fulfillment of the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon His waiting Church." ('Reformation', second edition, P. 170)

"[The Reformers] had no wish to make a new Church, still less to create a new religion. The religion they professed was the religion of the Old Testament and of the New, the religion of the saints of God from the days of Pentecost downwards. The Church to which they belonged after their severance from Rome was the Church of the Apostles, and of the Martyrs, and of the Church Fathers. It was the Church in which God had been adored, and Christ trusted, and the presence of the Holy Spirit felt from the times of Christ's apostles down to their own day.
Reformation kept them within, they thought; it did not send them out of the Church of their fathers." ('Reformation', second edition, P. 181)

The central principle of the Reformation, according to Lindsay, is the Priesthood of all believers. Is it our principle? IT HAD BETTER BE!

In his larger work on the Reformation, Lindsay writes:
"Luther rediscovered religion when he declared that the truly Christian man must cling directly and with a living faith to the God who speaks to him in Christ, saying, 'I am thy salvation.' The earlier Reformers never forgot this. Luther proclaimed his discovery, he never attempted to prove it by argument; it was something self-evident - seen and known when experienced." ('A History of the Reformation' (Second Ed., T. & T. Clark, 1907) Vol. 1 P. 432).

A somewhat more expensive (but also considerably larger) book on the Reformation is William Cunningham's 'Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation' published by Banner of Truth. As the title suggests, Cunningham deals with the theology of the Reformers in some detail. Alexander Whyte said of the book, "For the time the set of some minds among us is somewhat away from the Reformation theology; but that can only be for a time. And here again I would urge all our students to place Dr. Cunningham's Reformers on their desks beside Hanna's Chalmers. I speak about that book also with some warmth of feeling, for I well remember the absolute glee - not wholly wicked, I hope - with which I read, and many times read, the tremendous castigation that Dr. Cunningham administered to a famous Edinburgh Professor of that day who had ventured to attack Luther, and simply to vilify him, as Dr. Cunningham proved."
Like all of Cunningham's works the 'Reformers' was not originally written as one work, but was compiled and published after his death from materials previously published in magazines and from previously unpublished lectures. His opening sentence is well worth giving here:

"The Reformation from Popery in the sixteenth century was the greatest event, or series of events, that has occurred since the close of the canon of Scripture; and the men who are really entitled to be called the 'Leaders of the Reformation' have a claim to more respect and gratitude than any other body of uninspired men that have ever influenced and adorned the Church." (Cunningham, 'Reformers' P. 1)
Then are not we, who share in the profound convictions that drove the Reformers of the sixteenth century, justified in keeping today, as best we can, as a holy day unto the Lord in thankfulness for those men and what, under Him, they achieved?


Monday, October 30, 2006

Thomas Gee: Welsh Disestablishment 5

The struggle over Welsh Disestablishment became intense after the 1880s, as a new generation of Welsh politicians entered the fray. Supporting these were radicalised political journalists. Most prominent among these was Thomas Gee (1815-1898), a Calvinistic Methodist Preacher and publisher, whose premises are illustrated opposite. His scheme for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, while never adopted, gives a good idea of what the pro-disestablishment nonconformists wanted. I have reproduced a some of the provisions of the scheme to give an impression:

  • The compensation of clergy should not be the same as the Irish scheme (which had been considered too generous).
  • Those who lost revenue should receive a part of this as salary, no more.
  • Rectories, deaneries and Bishops' palaces should remain the property of the church only so long as the incumbents remain in them, and should be sold afterwards, the proceeds to go to a general tithe fund for the county, not to the church.
  • Tithes were to be handed over to the county in which the parish was situated, with a portion going to the parish for education and development purposes.
  • All private rights to seats in churches to cease, subject to the approval of the congregation. All denominations were to be allowed to use the church buildings for funerals, provided this did not disturb services, and reasonable notice was given.
  • Burial grounds to pass to the control of parish councils.
  • Church congregations were to remain in charge of maintaining the church buildings, but if these were neglected, the council was to step in.
  • The people of the parish were to be allowed to take the church away in cases where: '... Doctrines are taught or ceremonies introduced which they consider inconsistent with the Protestant character of the Church."
  • If the cathedrals were unused or allowed to deteriorate, they were to be taken into the ownership of the County Councils.
  • Parish endowments, such as legacies or charities were to be handed over for the use of the entire parish.
  • All endowments and churches or parsonages erected by public subscription since 1820 should be considered the property of the disestablished church, as should all furniture and plate.
  • Parish records should be handed over to the county councils.
  • Religious equality in the appointment of chaplains to public institutions such as hospitals, workhouses and lunatic asylums.
  • The disestablished church was to be treated in exactly the same way as the nonconformist churches.

The defenders of the established church described this as '[...] a clear case of injustice [...].' Whatever the truth of their claims, it would have left the Church in Wales in a strange position. While Nonconformist chapels might change their doctrine (and, indeed were moving away from Calvinism already), the Church in Wales would have had her doctrines subject to external review, and would have held her buildings on sufferance. The late date given before which all endowments would be considered national property was another thorny subject. Indeed, it would become the issue as the disestablishment struggle came to an end.

But next time, God willing, we shall look at the arguments over the continuity of the Church in Wales.

Thomas Gee's scheme is summarised from the account given in J. H. Slater, The Established Church in Wales, being a short account of its Origin, its development, and its maturity (London, 1893).


Monday Quote - III.

[In light of the series on A. B. Taylor currently running it was decided that this Monday's quote would be from one of his sermons in 'The Manchester Pulpit'. This quotation comes from No. 22 'Paul's Prayer for the Saints' Grown in Grace' (October 1862). The words and punctuation are given as they occur on the page.]

"The enemy of souls often attempts to darken the enlightened understanding, but fails in his purpose, which is totally to blind and damn the soul that bears the image of the Son of God. The attempts to put out the light of the eyes, is perhaps one that seems most likely to succeed in leading one from the narrow way; but the enemy of souls cannot do it, for the 'wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.'
"Many of the dead preachers of the day attempt in ignorance to extinguish this light, and by false glosses put upon the word of God attempt to darken the understandings of the children of light. But O how vain the attempt to put out the light of the eternal God from an understanding heart. Sooner might a dying mortal stop the light of the sun from shining on our earth. O Christian, let your light shine before men, now that life and immortality are brought to light in your soul and understanding. In attempting to put out this light, the body may be destroyed; but the Lord says they have no more power; that is as far as they can go, as much as they can do; therefore fear them not. Poor child of faith, you sometimes conclude, that your own vile heart will extinguish even the light of your understanding, and all the graces you have ever experienced. If anything could do it, the abomination of the heart is the most likely, for it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and cannot be known. But it cannot be done; and therefore when in our right minds, we adore, because, 'the righteous shall hold on his way.'"

(The Manchester Pulpit, 1862, P. 157)


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dean Henry T. Edwards : Welsh Disestablishment 4

The attacks on the Church in Wales by Nonconformists like Henry Richard, alleging that the Church in Wales was no more than an Anglicising influence, alien to the spirit of the Welsh people, stung some in the Church in Wales into action. These men recognised that there was a spark of truth in the accusations. Most notable among these was Henry T. Edwards. Born in 1837, the third son of the Rev. William Edwards, Vicar of Llanymawddwy. Like his four brothers, H. T. Edwards entered the Ministry, being ordained deacon by Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St. Davids in 1861, and received into full orders by Bishop John Vowler Short of St. Asaph in 1862 as Curate of Llangollen, assisting his father, who was by this time in poor health.

Ironically, Bishop Short was just the sort of Bishop H. T. Edwards would later attack. Formerly Bishop of Sodor and Man, and an evangelical, Short had been an interim appointment to the Diocese of St. Asaph under an abortive plan to amalgamate that diocese with neighbouring Bangor. He was not Welsh, he did not speak Welsh, and he did not like the Welsh, although he was an effective administrator.

Himself an energetic, bilingual preacher, whose ministry at Llangollen was blessed with conversions, and Henry Edwards' next concern, at a time when the Church in Wales was being attacked by Henry Richard for its poor provision of seatings, was the enlargement of the Parish church to accommodate the new converts. David Jones, his disciple and biographer, writes:

"In what he successfully did for the outward structure of his father's church at Llangollen, may be recognised his ideal conception of what should be universally effected in the Church of his fathers, not only in material, but also in intellectual and spiritual, reform."

In 1866, Edwards was appointed to the living of Aberdare in the South Wales Valleys. Aberdare, a centre of industry, was a very different place from Llangollen. With the aid of wealthy churchmen, Edwards set up a church extension society, to provide churches of the growing population of the region. When it came to Disestablishment, Edwards' policy could be summed up in the phrase 'reform and defence.'

In 1869, the same year in which he was appointed to Caernarvon, he wrote to Gladstone, then Prime Minister. His letter, later published as a pamphlet, The Church of the Cymry. He began by conceding the numerical case:

"Now there are but few, I think, who, knowing Wales well, can venture to doubt that accurate statistics would show that seven-tenths of the native Cymric population of Wales are alienated from the Church of their forefathers. At the same time, the Church, as existing in Wales, inherits in a large measure the spiritual forces that have been found in all ages to exercise the most authoritative influence over the souls of men. She is strong in the undoubted inheritance of the spiritual authority of original mission to the ancient people who for more than two thousand years [...] have inhabited the valleys of Wales [...]."

In the view of Edwards, who was later appointed Dean of Bangor for his work, the Church had alienated the people, but not fatally. Appoint Welsh-speakers, attend to the work of teaching and evangelism, and the Church in Wales would not be ashamed. As for the claim made by the Liberation Society that Wales was 'A Nation of Nonconformists,' who would not accept the doctrine of the established church:

"Can it be said that the Nonconformity of the Cymric people is attributable to their unwillingness to accept the dogmatic teaching of the Church? It cannot. There prevails among the Nonconformist societies of Wales the utmost indifference, and, I may add, ignorance concerning systems of dogmatic teaching."

He believed that the Chapels were sincere but superficial in the presentation of Christianity and lacked the authority possessed by the Church in Wales, being regarded by the people as 'merely rival religious seminaries.' Once the Church in Wales reformed herself, she would be again the natural home of Welsh Christianity. Dissent, he explained, was due more to the practical than the doctrinal failings of the Church in Wales. Correct those, and the reasons for Dissent, and therefore Disestablishment, would vanish.

However historically correct he may have been, and there is no doubt that, from John Penry onwards, Welsh dissenters had left the Church because of her very real shortcomings, Edwards' programme was out of date. Besides, there were strong political pressures that would be brought to bear on the Church. Next time, we shall examine the scheme of Thomas Gee, Denbigh, for the Disestablishment of the Church.

I shall treat Dean Edwards in more depth at some other time. Suffice it to say, this little glimpse at a man who was called home before his three score and ten years were done has proved more interesting than I thought it would.

All quotations and the picture of Henry Edwards are taken from: David Jones (ed), Wales and the Welsh Church: Papers by Henry T. Richards, MA, Late Dean of Bangor (London 1888). Additional information is from P.M.H Bell, Disestablishment in Ireland and Wales, Roger L. Brown, In Pursuit of a Welsh Episcopate (Wales, 2005).


Friday, October 27, 2006

Henry Richard: Welsh Disestablishment 3

The town of Tregaron in Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire) is one of the most beautiful old places in the world. And I ought to know. I've seen the pyramids, St. Petersburg, Victoria Falls. A little old town nestling in the hills, it is grouped, like many towns in Ceredigion, around a central square. And, in the middle of that lovely square is a mighty statue of a bearded man, apparently in the act of delivering a speech. This is Henry Richard, 'The Apostle of Peace.'

Born in Tregaron in 1812, son of Ebeneser Richard, a nonconformist Minister, he was ordained and spent much of his life ministering in London. It was there, in 1848, that he was appointed secretary to the Peace Society. It was in this period that he first became involved in the movement to disestablish the Anglican Church, organised under the banner of the Anti-State Church Association (later the Society for the Liberation of the Church from State Control).

In 1868, he was elected Liberal MP for Merthyr Tydfil, at that time the largest town in Wales, defeating Cabinet Minister Henry Austin Bruce (also a Liberal). An activist, a Nonconformist and a Liberationist, Henry Richard had actively condemned the Church in Wales, as well as establishments in general.[1]

Such was his activity as MP, he became known as 'the Member for Wales.' At the same time, he published a little book of Letters on the Social and Political Condition of Wales. In this, he attacked the Church in Wales fiercely, declaring that it was unrepresentative and largely anglicised.[2] The balance of Anglicans to nonconformists was 20 to 1 against the established church. Indeed, so low was the condition of the Church in Wales that there was not even sufficient provision of seats in Churches for all Welshmen.[3] On this basis, the Church should thank the Chapels for saving them the embarrassment of having to turn people away!

However, when, in 1869, following the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Ireland, Watkin Williams, the member for Denbigh, introduced a motion advocating the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, Henry Richard opposed it, both as coming too soon, and as lessening the case for general disestablishment. [4] Despite the use of arguments appealing to Welsh nationality, Henry Richard was not about to see the Welsh situation remedied if that meant that the Church remained established in England.

[1] Henry Richard, Letters on the Social and Political Condition of the Principality of Wales (London, 1866), p.2.
[2] Bell, Disestablishment, p.228.
[3] Richard, Letters, pp.15-23.
[4] Jones, Congregationalism, p.207-8; Kenneth Morgan, Freedom, pp.10-11.
(Apologies are offered for the lack of direct quotations of Richard. Sadly my copies of his letters are both currently not in my possession. From the next post on, I shall be using books that are currently in my shelves)


Thursday, October 26, 2006

A. B. Taylor. III.

Like many young men, even from Christian households, young Aleck Taylor looked forward to working away from home. The early years of idependence can be a snare to young people from Christian backgrounds, as a heart that is not stayed upon God has the opportunity to rebel. Although he went to Glasgow with a certificate of membership to enable him to attend one of the United Secession Churches in Glasgow, he left the certificate in his trunk and threw himself into all the pleasures Glasgow had to offer. Looking back, Taylor was astonished at how much he had been kept from sin by the mercy of God. "I was at this time a vain and foolish fellow, mixed up with many things, the song and the dance, made smart with curled hair and fine slippers, albeit my good minister's certificate was at that time in my trunk."
Again we say, beware if all YOUR religion is in a certificate or a church book. Both will be burned up on the Last Day.
Even an accident in which he fell through ice and nearly drowned did not give him any concern
Yet God was working in his life. At that time Dr. Thomas Chalmers was the wonder of Glasgow, the greatest orator in the city. His preaching was something everyone in Glasgow went to - and Taylor went. Yet his heart was not affected in any lasting way beyond occasional fears of death.
Then the company closed, and he had to return to Perth. That filled him with concern, for Mr. Jamieson was certain to know that the certificate he had given Aleck had never been presented. He tried to avoid him, and when he had arranged to go to England to complete his apprenticeship he thought that he had accomplished his objective.
He had not. One day Mr. Jamieson met him on the road and asked about the certificate. Stumblingly, Taylor explained that he had felt he would not be long in Glasgow, so he had hesitated before transferring his membership. Jamieson observed that he would need another certificate if he was going to Lancashire. That put Taylor in a very awkward position, for he had already asked a certificate from another church. He explained.
Then Mr. Jamieson looked at him very earnestly and said: "I have a favour to ask you before we part."
Writing later, Taylor confessed he would have said anything just to get rid of the godly minister. He said he would agree to it, whatever it was.
"The favour I ask of you is, to read your Bible; you know not what God has for you to do. You are a child of many prayers; you know not what God has for you to do. Read your Bible."
The words sank into Taylor's heart, "read your Bible." Although he tried to dismiss them, he could not.
That summer (1826) A. B. Taylor felt a strange and affecting sense of the sufferings of Christ for sin. Although he had often heart of the death of Christ, now it came home to his heart with a peculiar power. Yet he was not yet a Christian, and he was still in sin.
But now the time came for him to leave Scotland and go to England. "Surely, 'God brings the blind by a way they know not.'" Taylor observed in later years.
God willing, next time we shall consider Taylor in England, and what happened to him there.


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Old Mother: Welsh Disestablishment 2

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the established church in Wales (henceforth Church in Wales), no longer represented the majority of Christians in Wales.

The leadership of the Church in Wales, or what had passed for it in the Eighteenth Centur,yhad rejected the Calvinistic Methodists. The fathers of Methodism were either refused ordination (Howell Harris), or refused preferment (Daniel Rowland, Williams Pantycelyn), and by 1801, the Calvinistic Methodist societies had been forced to organise as an independent church. In addition, the church leadership, in the form of the bishops, were English, and possessed no sympathy with the aspirations of Wales as a nation. Put simply, the Church in Wales could not have done a better job of appearing to be an English body if they'd tried.

The religious census of 1851 established that, in Wales, the Anglican Church, ‘by law established’ was no longer the church of the majority. Eighty percent of Welsh churchgoers preferred to draw their water from a different spring, and although it could be argued that this figure had been exaggerated, it remained clear that the established church only catered for a minority of the population.[1] While the Church in Wales had been losing members to nonconformity for at least a century, calls for disestablishment had at first been muted. The first generation of leaders of the independent Calvinistic Methodist Church were more concerned with spiritual than temporal matters.[2] Although the older dissenting denominations, such as the Independents and the Baptists had historically been committed to the separation of Church and State,[3] it was only after the Calvinistic Methodists abandoned their conservative political stance following the death of John Elias in 1841 that the campaign for disestablishment in Wales really gathered speed.[4]

Next time, we shall look at the arguments of Henry Richard, one of the earliest proponents of Disestablishment.

[1] Kenneth Morgan, Freedom, or Sacrilege? (Penarth, 1966) p.4; P.M.H Bell, Disestablishment in Ireland and Wales (London, 1969), p.17; R. Tudur Jones, Congregationalism in Wales (Cardiff, 2004), p.207.
[2]In the 1834 Bala Association of the Calvinistic Methodist Church, a resolution was passed disassociating the Calvinistic Methodists from the agitation for disestablishment (Jones, Congregationalism, p.163; Kenneth Morgan, Freedom, p.7).
[3] Kenneth Morgan, Freedom, p.6. The independent minister Samuel Roberts (1800-1885) spent much of his time after his ordination in 1827 in airing nonconformist grievances. Methodist leader, John Elias was careful to disassociate himself from ‘radical’ sentiments in the eyes of churchmen (Jones, Congregationalism, pp.161-4).
[4] Edward Morgan, John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays (1844 and 1847, reprinted Edinburgh, 1973), pp.181; Jones, Congregationalism, p.167.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Folly and the Fury: Welsh Disestablishment 1.

As I walk along the path from my home behind Heath Evangelical Church to Canton, a large spire is visible from behind the trees. This is the spire of one of the two towers of Llandaff Cathedral, the closest thing Cardiff has to a metropolitan cathedral. Its location, in the tiny settlement of Llandaff, which was not joined to Cardiff until the construction of the Gabalfa Housing Estate in the last century. Even so, this building housed the 'multi-faith' service that marked the opening of the National Assembly in 1999. Just a century ago, when the Church in Wales was the Welsh Branch of the Established Church, this would have been impossible, such was the bad feeling between Church and Chapel.

The story of Disestablishment has been told several times, and I do not propose to tell that story again, but address the spiritual aspect of this particular episode.

The Disestablishment controversy lasted from the 1860s to 1920, when the Church in Wales was separated from the See of Canterbury and constituted as a separate Province of the Anglican Communion. By that time, however, the force had gone out of the argument and if a Bill to Disestablish the Church in Wales had not been introduced before the outbreak of war in 1914, there is every chance that disestablishment would never have taken place, as ecumenism replaced confrontation.

The debates were often heated and sometimes foolish. In fighting Anglicanism, the representatives of Welsh Nonconformity took their eyes off the spiritual declension within their own ranks, while the Anglican Church seemed often to be more interested in political power than holiness. Nevertheless, this episode is instructive as far more than tragedy.


A.B. Taylor. II.

Alexander Barrie Taylor was, as we have said, brought up by pious parents who were members of the Secession Church. At that time most Scots were presbyterians, either of the Church of Scotland, the Secession Church, or the Reformed Presbyterian Church. There were however a few Baptists and Independents. In God's providence some of these Baptists lived close to the Taylor family, and in his childhood Taylor had discovered that they had not Baptized their baby. Like many, young Taylor was amazed to hear that, and said he was sorry that such parents should have children. His mother told him that the child was really no worse off for not being baptized.
That puzzled young Taylor. If a child was as well unbaptized as baptized, then what really was the point of Baptism? It is the sort of thing children sometimes say, and Mrs. Taylor was not really sure how to answer. That left her son with some suspicions that maybe these Baptists were right.
As often happens in paedobaptist churches, when young Aleck (as he was called) grew older, he was proposed for full Church membership by his father, a good man, but one who was disturbed by his son's doubts concerning the Baptism of infants. Perhaps he thought that Aleck ought to be thinking more about his own relationship with God and less about questions of Church order!
A. B. Taylor consented, and he was placed in the communicants' class to prepare him. At the time he was still a worldly man, and he preferred his shooting to the classes.
He was well taught, and as far as the examinations were a test of Bible knowledge he passed them. But the minister, John Jamieson, knew that, as Hart puts it,
True religion's more than notion,
Something must be Known and Felt.
"Did you ever feel any portion of God's Word to be a comfort to your heart as touching another world?" he asked.
Taylor was taken aback. To be refused full membership would distress his parents but, as he would write later, "Such an idea had never entered my head, let alone my heart." He was caught, and he took the path of least resistance - he lied. Jamieson had recently preached a series from the text 'Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out," and so Taylor repeated that text.
On the strength of that lie he was admitted to full Church membership and given a communion token. Not that he was irreligious. He was formal, serving the Lord in a natural way and living like the world. Before we judge Mr. Jamieson for his letting such a man into church membership, how many of our Evangelical Churches today would do the same? How many men are there in our churches who profess to serve Christ, yet live just like the world?

Next time, God willing, we shall continue with Taylor's life leading up to his conversion, and we shall see how he was brought out of his carnal security.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A.B. Taylor. I.

It will have been noticed by our readers (assuming the Marcus Dods series didn't get rid of all of them) that we have tended to refer particularly to Scottish Presbyterianism. Those who know the true identity of the editor know that he is no Presbyterian! But the field of Scottish Church History is dominated by Presbyterianism. However there are notable exceptions. Congregationalists and Baptists both have honourable Scottish histories. Scotland has not only had many great preachers who ministered chiefly within its borders, but also she has given great preachers to England. One of them was Alexander Barrie Taylor.
Born on October 18th, 1804 (so today is the 202nd anniversary of his birth), in the village of Craig Hall near Pittendynie, about three miles from the city of Perth, A. B. Taylor (as he is normally called) was born into a poor but pious family connected to the Secession Church. His parents taught him to repeat the 23rd Psalm and the last three verses of Matthew 11 before he could read. Born and brought up in the country, he had a fairly happy childhood. His parents tried to bring him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
At the age of six he was sent away to a school kept by a Mr. Dick. Mr. Dick had trained for the Secession ministry but, due to some sin on his part, he had been barred from it. Looking back on his childhood Taylor reflected, "Perhaps the Seceders of those days saw too clearly, 'Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.'"
For six years, until the age of twelve, Taylor remained with Mr. Dick. Then disaster struck the Taylor family. The Corn Laws caused an increase in the price of bread, and the sort of smallholding that the Taylors owned became uneconomical. Only tenants, the family were evicted.
Like many such familes, the Taylors went from the countryside to the city, seeking employment in factories. In the case of the Taylors they went to Perth, just a few miles from their own home, and a fairly small city. A. B. Taylor became a worker in the calico industry. By the time he was eighteen he was apprenticed as an engraver. It was a good company, and the appentices were taught free of charge on week evenings by a schoolmaster employed by the company.
But in 1824 disaster struck. The company for which he worked went out of business A. B. Taylor, like many a young man, went to the rapidly expanding industrial city of Glasgow to seek employment. As an engraver, a skilled craftsman with a skill that was much in demand, he got a situation.
The Taylors were members of the Methven United Secession Church, and their pastor was Rev. Mr. Jamieson, an honest Christian man. In the 1820s much of the true religion in Presbyterian Scotland was to be found in the United Secession Church. But Alexander Barrie Taylor had none of it. A careless, carnal sinner, he went to Glasgow accompanied by the prayers of his family and pastor.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what Taylor found in Glasgow.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday Quote - II.

This Monday's quote is taken from R.S. Candlish's 'Lectures on I John' (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1973). Of this book I have said in the pulpit:
Would you read a book that makes your hair stand on end, that carries you on a rushing journey up hill and down dale, from soaring heights to echoing depths, a book that makes you one moment beseech God to depart from you, since you are a sinful man, the next cry 'hallelujah!' for His free grace? Then let me take the liberty to recommend to you R.S. Candlish's lectures on I John.
I feel deeply about this book. I got great good from it once, and I still do every time I open it.

But here is the quote for this Monday:

All misery lies in our judgement not being in subjection to God's; our will not being in harmony with his. Misery ends, and fulness of Joy comes, when we think and feel and wish as God does. Therefore fulness of joy may be ours; ours more and more; when 'beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord' - this glory of his being the Father's willing servant and loyal Son, - 'we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.'"

(Vol. 1. P. 33)


Friday, October 13, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? XIII.

Marcus Dods, as he reached the end of his life, found himself more and more alone. Many of his friends were dead, and his students had not rested content in his teachings but had moved on to more 'advanced' views. Instead of the confidence that had once marked his life Dods was tormented by depression. His religion seemed almost gone. Writing to a friend in March 1908 he complained:
"I am at no time a religious person, and I seem during the last six months to have been unusually irreligious. At first I prayed a little for better health, but I soon stopped that and fell back on my text, which seems to me to contain the whole of religion, 'Who... though He were a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered.' To obey, that is, to accept the spirit of Christ in the only form I have any consciousness or knowledge of a spirit of Christ." (P. 280)
As the end drew near Marcus Dods found no relief.
"Funnily enough I do not remember to have ever been so irreligious, so little inclined to pray, so cold on the spiritual side, so content to let things slide. I wonder if that is a common experience in sickness. I can't quite understand it." (p. 300). He wrote that on 1st October 1909. Soon after he was dead, 'failure' written, as he saw it, across his entire life.

Was Marcus Dods a Christian? It is hard to tell. Sometimes as I read through his letters I catch a glimpse, a spark, that seems to answer yes. Yet his teachings seemed to undermine the Gospel. But then again, Dods himself did not think that they did! He seems to have genuinely believed that, by letting a few things go, he could make Christianity truly more attractive to the younger generation. By adapting Christianity to the spirit of the age he hoped that he could bring the age over to Christ. Instead he and those like him set Scottish Christianity on a fatal down-grade on which it was broken.
And Dods himself was broken. No-one can read the 'Later Letters of Marcus Dods' without feeling that they are the letters of an old man who had lost his way.

What can we learn from the awful experiences of Marcus Dods? Surely we learn that it is a deadly mistake to try to adapt the message of the church to the spirit of the age. Whether it is called 'modernism' or 'postmodernism', it is the same thing - the World. Modern Pagan Scotland is the direct result of Dods and those like him.
We are not in the business of anathematizing anyone. We are in the business of warning. And this series has been written with deepening concern that what happened in the later 19th century in the Churches is happening again. Recall that THIS is the end of it all.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? XII.

Marcus Dods had, in the 1860s and '70s, been an optimistic exponent of the 'New Evangelism'. But with old age came a different view of things. While publically he continued to preach success for his teachings, in private he sounded a more depressed note. In 1902 he wrote:
"I wish I could live as a spectator through the next generation to see what they are going to make of things. There is a grand turn up in matters theological , and the churches won't know themselves fifty years hence. It is to be hoped some little rag of faith will be left when all's done. For my own part I am sometimes entirely under water and see no sky at all." (P. 67)
Looking back on life the man who spoke so often of theological change could write, "College is a different place with Davidson gone and Rainy only occasionally appearing. I hate all changes, and the world is all change." (P. 70)
All confidence was gone. The movement that was to reshape the churches had done so - but those who followed Dods were not content to stop where he had, and he was left alone, a tragic figure.
"Across the whole of my life I see FAILURE written -failure in all the best things," Dods mourned in 1904. "We are left drowning, with but our lips underwater, and sometimes not that." (P. 154)
And, try as he might, Dods could not find support even in the Bible for what he was teaching. While he said that there were 'grave moral difficulties' with penal substitution he could not deny it was what Paul taught:
"Paul's view is quite clear - man is a guilty individual at God's bar, he is condemned to die, and Christ suffers in his room; and considering that Paul always recognised his union with Christ (as few others have recognised it), I don't think there is much repulsive in that. The writer to the Hebrews finds that men are excluded from God's presence, and that Christ by His holiness and sacrifice opens a way for them into God's presence and favour. A great deal in the Epistle seems to be written from the point of view that it is His personal worth (especially His obedience, see ch. v.), that constitutes Him priest, but that tenth chapter still rather seems to me to demand the supposition that the writer believed that Christ's death was a sacrifice in the then ordinarily accepted meaning of the word... I would like to think he only meant that Christ offered His body obediently to the law of death, but it is difficult to believe that. I go over the Epistle every year, and every year I try to find that meaning in that tenth chapter, and every year I fail." (P. 145-6).
Striving against God's Word, and knowing he did so, Marcus Dods could never be happy. Next time, God willing, we shall conclude this sobering tale.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? XI.

Marcus Dods had become known as one of the young radicals in the Free Church of Scotland. And publically Dods remained optimistic, the herald of a new 'age of faith'. Getting there, he admitted in public speeches, might be difficult, but the best was yet to come.
Was it? The volume 'Later Letters of Marcus Dods (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1911) reveals a rather different course of events. Dods taught that the New Testament itself was not final for the 'advanced' Christians: "The truth given us by the Apostles in the New Testament is merely, as Matthew Arnold said, 'thrown out towards the object,' and does not completely express it. But it helps rather than hinders, it keeps us in touch with reality until we outgrow it, and for those who never outgrow it it is the very truth" (letter in 1904, P. 101).

In fact Dods was by no means as optimistic as he appeared outwardly. "I am a backslider," the New College Professor admitted in 1898. "I used to enjoy prayer, but for years I have found myself dumb. Of course one can always make a prayer, as I do every morning for my class, but prayer in the sense of asking for things has not been in my case a proved force. The things I have chiefly prayed for all my life I have not got. Communion with the highest and consideration of Christ are of course efficacious to some extent; but I pray now not because my own experience fives me any encouragement, but only because of Christ's example and command." (P. 29). Should a man who regards the New Testament as less than final for faith expect any other experience, we ask? Can a man living in sin (the sin, namely, of disrespecting the Bible) expect answers to prayer? Or will he find himself under the chastisement of God.
Even the criticism that had once pleased him was now a burden. Writing to Henry Sloane Coffin of New York, a leading American liberal and later pastor of Riverside Church, he said: "I have been reading, with much enjoyment, Seeberg's 'Grundwahrheiten', which probably yoy have read long ago. It's a great relief from the worrying at the details of the Gospels which I need to read but of which I am sick and which only does me harm. I wish someone would stop the stream of criticism and say something convincing about the existence of a personal God." (P. 87).
And referring to a book by the Rev. James Moffatt, later a professor at Union Seminary New York, he wrote: "I wish there were more help in it. He leaves us just where Julicher and the rest leave us - and that, to my mind, is a most insecure position. It's rather striking how this type of literature should always spring from our Church?" (P. 42)
But it was unsurprising, seeing what Dods had been teaching.

Next time, God willing, we shall continue our look at the older Dods.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? X.

Having been accused of heresy Marcus Dods was forced to defend himself before the College sub-committee - a committee that consisted mostly of his friends, surely a gigantic abuse if there ever was one.
Questioned on the statement about the atonement he informed the committee that his views on the atonement were in no way in opposition to the Westminster Confession. This was not the point of the accusation. The accusation was that Dods' statements on the atonement tended to subvert the Confession, since he said that it really did not matter if a man believed the Confessional statement or some other view.
The Committee accepted Dods' statements that his sermon 'What is a Christian?" was addressed to those who were exposed to 'modern negative influences', and therefore were believed to have 'honest though imperfect and mistaken impressions of the Person of Christ.' True, but Dods seemed to suggest that an 'honest' Unitarian who denied the deity of Christ might nevertheless be a Christian. The Committee said Dods was thinking of an attitude towards Christ that 'practically makes Christ its God' without articulating His Divinity.
On the matter of Inspiration the Committee again excused Dods, saying that the Confession of Faith did not require a belief in inerrancy. This is an old canard, and even if true it missed the point. As Dr. Chalmers once said, creeds and confessions are "land-marks of old heresies," and the doctrine of Inspiration had not been questioned in any serious way before the Westminster Confession was written. Not that inerrancy was a new teaching - quite the reverse; it was the old teaching, and Dods' view of a 'limited inerrancy' (as it is called now. Dods denied it to be inerrancy at all) the new.
A defender of Dods declared that "It was criminal to shut their eyes to these things [the new views in theology]. Dr. Dods had gone down to the arena and tried to fight these men with their own weapons..."
Dods declared:
"I must do the work I am called to do. I am delighted that other men should put things differently, but I have also an evangelistic function which I cannot decline to discharge."

And there was the whole rationale for Dods' teaching - to reach the present age by trimming the Gospel to fit its views. The result promised for this teaching by men like Dods was a new age of Christian influence, a revival. Some said even the Millenium.
But what WERE its results? To that, God willing, we shall turn next.


Monday, October 09, 2006

More on Dolgellau and the 1859 Revival

Thanks to the efforts and advice of one Gerontius Cambrensis of Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff, and one of our readers, it is now possible for me to continue with the story of Dolgellau. What follows is his translation of ‘Diwygiad Mawr 1859-60’ in Cymru, xii. (1897), by Edward Thomas (Idriswyn):

'By this time it was drawing to the close of 1859, and the churches had almost succumbed to despair, after doing, as they imagined, what they could to bring down the divine influence, yet everything around them was as normal – sinners as hard and bold as ever, and all the means [of grace] like Mount Gilboa, without dew or rain – not so much as a cloud the size of a man’s hand to be seen anywhere – it was as black as could be. But one Friday night, about the middle of October, after the seiat, on the way home it suddenly entered into the heads of some of the children, or rather boys, all under twelve years of age, to hold a prayer meeting on the Saturday night to ask the Great King to visit Dolgellau; and they swore not to say a word to anyone. And it should be observed that no one had given them permission to use the vestry, and the chapel house where the key was, was, of course kept by the most spiteful and hateful of men, particularly to children, that I have ever met; even so, when at about five o’clock on Saturday afternoon he was asked for the key to the vestry, he held it out to us with a cheerful face, without so much as asking a single thing.

'This in itself was something inexplicable, and he could hardly have been faulted, because the vestry contained scores of pounds worth of books and other things belonging to the chapel, like the valuable lamps that were used in the chapel before it had gas. Whatever, the key was obtained without the least sign of resistance – indeed, the old hand asked whether they had matches to light the gas, and the matter was turned around. Having locked the door and put a bung in the key hole and filled the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, so that no one who happened to pass could see a ray of light, they felt they were safe from the interference of any man, since the only window faced the graveyard, which was surrounded by rather high walls. Having read a chapter, no one was ready to pray, as it was something wholly foreign to each of the boys; and despite much urging of each other, not one of them possessed of enough courage to overcome his timidity and begin praying. Chapter after chapter was read, but no one obeyed; and the only thing that could be done to make the meeting something like a prayer-meeting was to all go on their knees while one of them read a Psalm, and so the meeting was concluded, but it be remembered, in full determination of meeting the next day, Sunday. It was a little easier in the second meeting, and by the third and fourth, almost all of them took part in them; but nothing out of the ordinary took place until the seventh day, namely Friday. As the walls of Jericho fell the seventh time the children of Israel encircled them, the seventh time that that handful of children met together, the wall fell, the clouds and darkness fled away, and a corner of the veil of the temple was lifted, and the Divine came in view. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, some overwhelming distress came over the children; some started crying out about the place; others shouted out as if something was killing them; and the rest escaped out through the window as if for their lives – the key was kept in the pocket of one of them every night – and over the graveyard walls like squirrels and home at a wild gallop shouting all the way, - ‘He’s come.’ And he had come, and that amongst and through a handful of little children; yes, he had come in all his power and glory – as much as a man can hold, however. One of the first to go in to them having opened the graveyard gate – through the window, be it remembered – was the Rev. Richard Roberts who lived nearby – a man who had little sympathy with children, and especially these, since he knew them only too well as ‘ysgol y capel’ children – namely the British School – which was held above the house he lived in, and his woollen mill was also near the school, – a man who only valued good works and right behaviour; and one who set little store by emotion. But, here’s the old godly minister starting to grow pale, standing amazed, dumbstruck, quaking, and breaking down and weeping like a child. As many of the boys appeared to be about to faint, Mr Roberts began to raise them to their feet, and comfort them, and having found the key in the pocket of one of them, they were persuaded to go home. This was about six o’clock, and the news of what had happened spread like wildfire through the town. A seiat was held that evening - and an amazing seiat it was; no one had anything to say, everyone was silent; ‘everyone’s heart was,’ as it is said, ‘in his throat,’ or rather, the heart was too full of emotion for the tongue to speak. Seriousness was written on everyone’s faces; and the minister, dear John Griffiths, said, ‘Give us a word Mr. Roberts, surely you’ve got something to say to us.’ ‘Mr Griffiths,’ said the old preacher, ‘if you’d been in a furnace as I have been tonight with those children, I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to say a single word.’ That heavy seiat ended, but everyone was very stubborn to leave, and having left, they loitered around the chapel talking about what had happened among the children; and eventually a number went to the vestry to hold a prayer-meeting. One or two tried to pray, but with great difficulty, it appeared as if there was something in their throats; afterwards someone gave out an old verse to sing:

Hwn yw’r Oen ar ben Calfaria
Aeth i’r lladdfa yn ein lle,

[This is the Lamb upon the top of Calvary who went to the slaughter in our place]

'and the Spirit descended; everyone’s tongue was loosed at once; some praying, some singing, and the rest praising until the town was roused. The room was filled and there were hundreds outside, many of whom partook of the feast that was going on inside. Thus it was for hours, until all were overcome by the warmth, and many were carried out who had fainted.'
You will notice that it was a hymn, and not the Lord's Prayer that was recited before the coming of revival. However, that occured after the events in the vestry, which caused the children to flee before the presence of a holy God, crying 'he is come.' This took place before six o'clock, and a seiat (experience meeting) was held to follow up the events in the evening, and it was here that the Spirit came again, and here the town was roused.
A full and proper account of the events in Dolgellau, digested and edited will appear in a couple of weeks.

Monday Quote - I.

We are starting a new Free St. George's regular feature - the Monday Quote. Something inspiring from the Free St. George's Library. An inspiring, faith-affirming quote from Scottish Church History.

"So far from finding any kind of contrast between love and propitiation, the apostle [John] can convey no idea of love to any one except by pointing to the propitiation - love is what is manifested there; and he can give no account of the propitiation but by saying Behold what manner of love. For him to say 'God is love' is exactly the same as to say 'God has in His Son made atonemennt for the sin of the world.' If the propitiatory death of Jesus is eliminated from the love of God, it might be unfair to say that the love of God is robbed of all meaning, but it is certainly robbed of its apostolic meaning. It has no longer that meaning which goes deeper than sin, sorrow, and death, and which recreates life in the adoring joy, wonder and purity of the first Epistle of St. John"

James Denney 'The Death of Christ' (Fifth edition, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1905) P. 274


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? IX

While Marcus Dods' teaching in a church in Glasgow hardly made waves in Scotland, in 1889 he was appointed to the chair of New Testament Exegesis in New College, Edinburgh, to succeed George Smeaton, author of 'The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit', 'Christ's Doctrine of the Atonement' and 'The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement' (all currently published by the Banner of Truth Trust). Why Dods was appointed to this post we are not sure. Up to that point his most well-known work had been editing a translation of the Works of Augustine. But he was appointed to the post.
It was at that moment that the conservative party in the Free Church objected. Already A.B. Davidson was applying the destructive criticism to the Old Testament in New College, with the appointment of Marcus Dods to teach New Testament only the higher critical view of the Bible would be presented at the denomination's flagship theological college.
Pamplets were written calling the church's attention to the professor's teaching on the Bible, the atonement, even the divinity of Christ and the resurrection.
Which is not to say that Dods denied either the divinity of Christ or the resurrection of the Saviour. No, what he DID say was that neither belief was necessary for a man to be a Christian. Preaching on 'What is a Christian?'in the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St. Giles. Cathedral, Dods had said:
"If, then, we are accepting God's forgiveness, and living humbly in the sunshine of His favour, we need not be seriously disturbed in spirit if we cannot accept what is known as the orthodox theory of the atonement (the very view Smeaton had written to defend! - H.H.). That theory is that Christ took our place and bore the punishment due to us, so that we can now claim forgiveness in His name and on the ground that our sins have been punished in Him..." After acknowleding that this theory is supported by the Biblical evidence Dods went on:
"It is open, however, to obvious objections. Men are conscious... that they bear the punishment of their own sins all their life... they cannot believe that God needed to be propitiated, but rather accept the statement of our Lord Himself, that God loved and longed for His children even when they had strayed from Him. They consider Christ's life and death to be a manifestatio... of His redeeming love... In point of fact both theories of the Atonement produce good Christians." (Quoted in Henderson, 'The Religious Controversies of Scotland' Pp. 235-6. lightly edited for this blog.)
On the divinity of Christ Dods had said:
"We must not too hastily conclude that even a belief in Christ's Divinity is essential to the true Christian." (Henderson, P. 237) The same, he maintained, was true of the resurrection. Even if a man could not believe that Christ's body had risen from the tomb, if Christ was 'a living reality' to him, he was a true Christian.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what Dods had to say for himself!


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? VIII.

Finally called as pastor of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, Marcus Dods found himself in a pastorate in Scotland's Western capital, a place of influence. Still a young man himself, Dods turned his attention towards the young in particular.
But not the poor. By the 1860s the Free Church of Scotland, like all too many of the English nonconformists, had become middle-class and respectable. The thoughts of many of the leadership were turning to politics rather than evangelism, and it was left to just a few, such as James Hood Wilson of the Barclay Church in Edinburgh and James Wells in Glasgow's Wynd Free Church to try to help the urban poor who crowded into the cities.
Men like Marcus Dods, however, looked instead to the future leaders of the nation, young students at Scotland's universities. They worried that the Church seemed to be losing her grip on those men, and they made efforts to reach them.
That is commendable, after all the middle classes need Christ too. Unfortunately Dods, in trying to make the Gospel appeal to these students, capitulated to rationalistic criticism of the Bible.
He worked quietly, taking Bible classes and preaching, making pastoral visits. But Dods was not the sort of man who can be unnoticed for long. The opportunity came in the tangled web of the Robertson Smith case of the late 1860s and the 1870s.
Robertson Smith took the same views of the Bible that Dods took, limiting inerrancy to 'religious matters', and teaching that the Pentateuch was a late, post-exilic product of various writers.
In 1877 Dods entered the controversy, preaching a sermon entitled 'Revelation and Inspiration'. In that sermon Dods argued that the element of inspiration in Scripture was limited to matters of Salvation. What was more, he insisted:
"If revelation is to be conserved, it must not be bound up and made to stand or fall with a special theory of inspiration."
The Bible record was not to be seen as one hundred per cent reliable.
"No careful student of Scripture can well deny that there are inaccuracies in the Gospels and elsewhere - inaccuracies such as occur in ordinary writings through imperfect information or lapse of memory, sufficient entirely to explode the myth of infallibility."
What, then, was inspiration? We tend to identify the subjective view of revelation with the Neo-orthodox of the 20th century, but they were not the first to propound such a theory.
"I do not believe what Paul says, because I first believe him to be inspired; but I believe him to be inspired, because he brings light to my spirit, which can only have proceeded from God."

Because of the raging Robertson Smith case, Dods' sermon was hardly noticed at the time. But it was a sign of things to come. There was, Dods and his friends thought, a change in the way people were thinking. They had to adapt the way they preached, and their teaching on the Bible, to those views.

God willing, we shall continue with Dods' teaching next time.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? VII.

11th November 1863 saw Marcus Dods writing to A. Taylor Innes, an old college friend who had felt unable for doctrinal reasons to enter the Free Church ministry and who was now a member of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, about the inauguration of A.B. Davidson (whose Hebrew Grammar has nearly killed many students) as successor to ‘Rabbi’ Duncan.
“At the opening of the College here Davidson made an Introductory full of pretty fancies, and one might almost say rich in gems of thought, not all his own, but finely wrought together. He showed, as was expected, a decidedly liberal tendency [‘liberal’ did not then have the narrow meaning it has today. It still meant ‘generous’ - H.H.], and yet was guardedly orthodox, without letting it be seen that he was guarded, or careful to conciliate...” By this time Dods was in close agreement with Davidson on the Old Testament - that the Pentateuch, for example, was not a product of the time of Moses.
But we must be careful. Apart from his views on the Bible Marcus Dods was THEOLOGICALLY just where he had always been. He was not going to deny the doctrines of Grace any time soon. He would never have dreamed of denying the deity of Christ. But he thought that the doctrine of an inerrant Bible would be a stumbling-block to others. He had read ex post facto accounts by certain German rationalists who claimed that it was the doctrine of inerrancy that had made them so. He was beginning to think that inerrancy had to be abandoned to present the Gospel to the Modern world.
In March 1864 he went to preach at Renfield, staying with his friend A. Taylor Innes. “I think this must and ought to be the last time I shall ever preach as a candidate,” he wrote, on the verge of giving up all thought of the pastoral ministry.
Well, it WAS, but not for the reasons he thought. After his visit they extended a call to him! By June it was settled, the Presbytery had sustained the call and Marcus Dods had accepted. He was officially the pastor of Renfield Free Church of Scotland.

And thus the first volume of letters ends. But our series goes marching on. Next time, God willing, we shall see how Marcus Dods finally presented his theological opinions to an unsuspecting world.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Appeal for Information

The last story I posted, on the coming of the 1859 Revival to Dolgellau, has turned up some interesting problems. Based on an anecdote told by William Vernon Higham, apparently the story is based on a number of stories. The sources I have had mentioned to me are J J Morgan, Hanes Dafydd Morgan Ysbyty Diwygiad59 , Cymru XII, Geninen 1905 and Utgorn y Bobl for 1859.

When time permits, I shall be endeavouring to work though these sources. If anyone has further information on the coming of the Revival to Dolgellau in 1859, I would appreciate it if they could share it.

Accordingly, I have added my Email address to my profile.

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? VI.

1863 was an important year in the life of Marcus Dods. Firstly, it was in that year that he met Alexander Whyte, then a student in Edinburgh. Of him Dods wrote on 14th May , “Whyte is a very high Calvinist and a lover of the Puritans, and would talk doctrine for a year on end.” The likeness is perfect. Whyte urged the unhappy probationer (whose status was fast becoming that of the ‘stickit [failed] minister’, to set up a “barracks for students”, a sort of private hall of residence.
Rainy tried to encourage the young Marcus Dods, apparently sensing all was not well.
It wasn’t. Writing to Marcia on 13th March he confided that he had been reading ‘Colenso’, probably the work on the Pentateuch by the notorious liberal Bishop of Natal. Commenting on the book Dods wrote: “I think our views of inspiration will be greatly altered in future years. Indeed mine are very different from those I recieved from Gaussen twelve years ago.” Colenso had helped to convince Dods that the Pentateuch had in fact been written centuries after Moses and was in fact a poorly-assembled hodge-podge of disparate writings scarcely worthy of the name of literature (this is our opinion of the ‘assured results of the higher criticism’).
Another post came to his notice in 1863. William Hetherington, Professor at the Free Church College, Glasgow, had been unwell for some time, and the Assembly decided it would be best to appoint a man to be his colleague and eventual successor. Dods’ name was mentioned in connection with the post, most probably by Rainy. Dods was a well-read man, but in the end his lack of experience told against him, and the post went to another.
In September he refused an invitation to preach at Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, since there were three other vacancies for which he was already a candidate. Renfield extended a call to Rev. John Kennedy of Dingwall, but that gentleman resolutely remained ‘of Dingwall’, so the church remained vacant for a little longer.

Next time, God willing, we shall see Dods rushing, all unsuspecting, towards Renfield.


Monday, October 02, 2006

'A Scottish Christian Heritage'. Review.

Iain H. Murray, 'A Scottish Christian Heritage' (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth) ISBN 0-85151-930-X

Over the years we have larned that a new book by Iain Murray is an event. Despite disagreements in places, Iain Murray's books are sure to stimulate thought. 'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is no exception.
'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is NOT a history of Scottish Christianity, rather it is a series of 'studies' in Scottish Christian history from the Reformation to the 1900s. These studies are given under three headings, 'Biography', 'Missionary' and 'Church Issues'. As we have come to expect from Mr. Murray history and theology are linked together. Biographical studies on John Knox, Robert Bruce, Thomas Chalmers, John Macdonald and Horatius Bonar are given with serious application to the prsent day. The 'Missionary' section contains two studies, both of which make excellent reading.
But by far the most challenging section of the book is the final part, 'Church Issues'. The first essay is on the subject of 'The Churches and Christian unity in Scottish Church history'. It deals in particular with the view held by the post-Reformation Scots theologians that there should be one church and one church only in Scotland. Murray rejects this view and explains that Christian unity is less a matter of outward union and more a matter of union of heart. The Bible, he notes, never uses 'Church' in the singular in reference to the believers in a country, but always in the plural, 'The ChurchES in Galatia'.
We agree. While denominations who agree substantially with one another ought to feel no guilt in uniting in the truth, it is to be feared that too many church union schemes have in fact sacrificed truth on the altar of unity. They are not Christian unions so much as confederacies to do evil.
As for the attitude that there ought to be one church in each nation, it is not a Biblical concept and has given rise to unseemly wars and confusion.

An essay on Scottish preaching follows. It ought to be read by all preachers. It is penetrating and thought-provoking.

The third essay in the section is on 'The Problem of the 'Elders''. In some Reformed churches today 'Elders' are viewed as a kind on panacea. The 'plurality of elders' is viewed as a principle established from Scripture. But is it? That is what Iain Murray discusses. What are elders? Ought every church to have a plurality? Everyone exercised with this question (we fear there are not enough who are) ought to buy this book and read the essay. It will be sure to get you thinking on the issue.

The final essay is on a subject readers of the blog will know is dear to our heart - 'The Tragedy of the Free Church of Scotland'. The book is worth the price just for this penetrating essay. Murray begins with the Robertson Smith case and explores the tragic effects of the Higher Criticism in Scotland, and how a people once known for piety and seriousness have fallen.
"But, 'the end is not yet'", he concludes. No, the end is not yet. The Church of God still exists in Scotland.

We read this book on a Lord's Day, during torrential rain and bright sunlight. It certainly grabs the attention. But we have one criticism. Endnotes. They are distracting and sometimes downright annoying. Why will not people put notes where they ought to be, at the foot of each page? It's a minor quibble, of course, but we feel it ought to be said. And Murray is by no means a serious offender in the matter.

'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is a marvellous book, and a fitting addition to the Free St. George's Library. We would advise our readers to get it. If you enjoy our Scottish Church History articles, you will certainly enjoy Murray.