Monday, April 30, 2007

10 Great Scottish Christian Biographies. 1.

Christians ought to read. We, of all people, know that books communicate knowledge to us. And, seeing that we are compassed about with 'so great a cloud of witnesses', Christians ought to read biography.
Dr. Al Mohler brought this to our attention with a blog post and a radio programme. So here are ten great Scottish Christian biographies. Unfortunately not all of them are currently in print, but most of them are.

The first three of these books are from the Reformation to the Covenanting period.

1.Thomas M'Crie 'Life of John Knox'. Published by Free Presbyterian Publications and available from Free Presbyterian Bookroom for £5.00.
This is THE biography of John Knox. We have dealt with M'Crie on this blog already. This book re-awakened interest in the Scottish Reformer, and remains one of the all-time classics. M'Crie, himself an unbending presbyterian, had a great deal of sympathy for Knox, and very little sympathy for Mary, Queen of Scots. The Free Presbyterian edition of M'Crie is somewhat edited, so that the book is less intimidating than later nineteenth century editions.
Our quotation comes from M'Crie's description of Knox's agonising over his call to the ministry:
"His distress of mind at the present occasion proceeded from a higher source than the deficiency of some external formalities in his call. He had now very different thoughts as to the importance of the ministerial office, from what he had entertained when ceremoniously invested with orders [in the Roman Catholic Church - H.H.]. The care of immortal souls, of whom he must give an account to the Chief Bishop; the charge of declaring 'the whole counsel of God, keepinf nothing back', however ungrateful to his hearers, and of 'preaching in season and out of season'; the manner of life, afflictions, persecution, imprisonment, exile, and violent death, to which the preachers of the Protestant doctrine were exposed; the hazard of his sinking under these hardships and 'making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience'; these, with similar considerations, rushed into his mind and filled it with agitation and grief. At length, satisfied that he had the call of God to engage in the work, he composed his mind to a reliance on Him who had engaged to make His 'strength perfect in the weakness' of His servants, and resolved, with the apostle, 'not to count his life dear, that he might finish with joy the ministry which he recieved of the Lord, to testify the gospel of the grace of God'. Often did he afterwards reflect with lively emotion upon this very interesting step of his life, and never, inthe midst of his greatest sufferings, did he see reason to repent the choice which he had so deliberately made." (P. 33)

2. Maurice Grant: 'The Lion of the Covenant' Published by Evangelical Press. £ 9.95 from Free Presbyterian Bookroom
The era of the Covenaters is the great heroic era of Scottish Church History, and there are few figures more dashing and heroic in that era than Richard Cameron, the man who lived praying and preaching and died fighting and praying. Maurice Grant does not fall into the trap of making Cameron into a larger than life figure, but gives us Cameron as he may be best known - as a man of God who fought the Lord's battles and who finally chose martyrdom rather than a comfortable life among the exiles of Holland because he loved Christ more than he loved his life.
Our quotation comes from Grant's account of Cameron's return to Scotland after his ordination.
"There can be no doubt that Cameron faced his return to Scotland with a very keen sense of a divinely appointed mission. It would indeed be surprising had he not done so, given the particularly solemn circumstances in which he had been ordained. It would, however, be a mistake to think that Cameron entered on the work in Scotland with little regard for the consequences, either for himself or others. The evidence shows clearly that he was fully conscious of the dangers of resuming field-preaching at a time of intense and bitter persecution. Not only so, but he was also keenly aware of the new responsibilities that devolved on him as an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland. That meant, among other things, maintaining the unity of the church against schism and division. As a true son of the Scottish Reformation, Cameron had an instinctive horror of separatism. That may seem paradoxical in view of his subsequent actions, but the evidence clearly suggests that Cameron was keenly aware of the duty of maintaning communion with his fellow-ministers and not disrupting the visible unity of the church." (P. 165)

3. Julia Buckroyd 'The Life of James Sharp Archbishop of St. Andrews 1618-1679'.
If Cameron's is a heroic life, and an example to all of us, James Sharp is a warning from history, a presbyterian minister who became a persecutor of all he had once believed in, and was finally murdered for his part in the persecution of the Covenanters. Sharp is the flip side of Knox and Cameron, who 'loved not their lives'. He loved his life too much, and compromised until he had sold himself and his church into the hands of the enemy, and there was no return for him. Buckroyd refuses to take the easy route of either making Sharp a martyr for prelacy or a monster and a hypocrite from the beginning. Instead she charts a life of compromise to its bitter end, the life of a man who gained power and influence, but who lost his life and, we fear, his own soul. Buckroyd's book is a tragedy in the best sense.
We give a short extract from the latter part of the book:
"For three years Sharp had been made to dance to a merry tune. His political ambitions had led him to seem to support a cause which he did not support, and to antagonise Burnet into the process. His subordination to the nobilty was not yet complete, however. The process culminated in Sharp's enforced agreement to the Act of Supremacy."
(P. 93)

God willing, next time we shall present some more books.



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