Tuesday, May 01, 2007

10 Great Scottish Christian Biographies. 2.

Part two of this feature looks at biographies of figures between the end of the Covenating period and the Disruption of 1843.

4. Robert MacKenzie: 'John Brown of Haddington.'
John Brown of Haddington is one of the great figures of the old Scottish nonconformity. The story of how an orphan shepherd boy became a minister and a theologian who influenced the whole of his country deserves to be read and re-read. Although the Banner of Truth has printed Brown's short account of his own life, this remains the best biography of this fascinating figure, and a window into Scottish religion in the period of his lifetime. Brown's 'Systematic Theology' and 'Self-Interpreting Bible' were prized by many of the best Christians.
Our quotation deals with Bown as professor:
"For the more efficient study of Hebrew, the Professor prepared a short grammar and vocabulary of his own. In Divinity he struck out a path for himself, and discarded what was generally taught in the theological classes of Scotland at the time, the 'Medulla' of theDutch theologian, Marckius, or the 'Institutes' of the Genevan Professor, Turretin. He produced a 'System' of his own, which he eventually published in 1782. In Church History he mapped out no less a field than one covering the whole course of the Church, from the birth of Christ to his own day, and its conquests in various lands. Lectures on Practical Training were also delivered, bearing on style, delivery, conduct as a pastor, and on examples worthy of imitation." (P. 137)

5. Alexander Haldane: 'The Lives of Robert and James Haldane' (Banner of Truth Trust) £13.95 from Free Presbyterian Bookroom
Scotland is best known as a Presbyterian country, and therefore most of these biographies are of Presbyterians. But there is one Baptist biography that stands up amongst all these Presbyterians, that of the Haldane brothers. Brought up Presbyterian, the reason they at length left the Church of Scotland is far from creditable to that Church. The work they did in spreadig th Gospel in Scotland and abroad still remains in a measure today. While James was a pastor, Robert was a missionary at home and in atheistic and rationalistic Europe. These were men we follow with unequal steps. The biography conveys their almost limitless energy excellently.
Our quotation comes from Robert Haldane himself:
"The impression produced at Geneva was, by the blessing of God, so great that discussions became frequent on the grand truths connected with salvation. The pastors and professors in the Faculty heard of the doctrine I was inculcating, and the manner in which I spoke of their false doctrine. They baga to preach openly against what I taught, and I as plainly controverted what they taught, collecting their aguments, setting them before the students and others to whom I had access, comparing them with Scripture, and labouring to refute their destructive heresies." (P.433)

6. William Hanna: 'Memoirs of Thomas Chalmers'.
Thomas Chalmers (subject of our last series) is a towering figure in Scottish history. The 'Moderate' who became an evangelical of the most pronounced kind and whose genius built the Free Church of Scotland, Chalmers was blessed with a biographer who knew him personally and whose writing style is clear and luminous. Chalmers left behind many letters and journals, which Hanna inserted almost entire, so this book is made up in a large part of autobiography. Quite rare, but the accompanying volume of letters is due out from the Banner of Truth soon. Petition the Banner to reprint the 'Memoirs' as well. For quotations from the memoirs readers are invited to see our paper on Chalmers.

7. Andrew Bonar: Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne (Banner of Truth Trust) £14.95 from Free Presbyterian Bookroom
This is another one of the great classics of Scottish Church history. M'Cheyne is a legend in Reformed circles still, a man who did more in his short lifetime (he died before he turned thirty) than many men do in a life twice as long. He remains a great example to set before ministers, a man who could say sincerely, "I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument." Everyone should have this book.
Our quotation deals with M'Cheyne's testing the fruits of the that had occurred revival in his church during his absence:
"Never, perhaps, was there one placed in better circumstances for testing the revival impartially, and seldom has any revival been more fully tested. He came among a people whose previous character he knew; he found a work wrought among them during his absence, in which he had not had any direct share; he returned home t go out and in among them, and to be a close observer of all that had taken place; and after a faithful and prayerful examination, he did most unhesitatingly say that the Lord had wrought great things, whereof he was glad."

God willing, next time we shall conclude this short series.



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