Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Book Review: 'The Scottish Pulpit'

William M. Taylor: 'The Scottish Pulpit From the Reformation to the Present' Solid Ground Christian Books, paperback.

This volume, first published in 1887 (and therefore 'the present day' of the title is the 1880s) began as the Lyman Beecher Lectures given at Yale in 1886. It is not a mere repetition of the material given by W.G. Blaikie in his volume 'The Preachers of Scotland', but a very different work. Taylor was a United Presbyterian minister, and that comes out in his ani -state churchism exhibited in the book (a position most modern Christians will agree with). He traces the history of Scottish preaching from John Knox to the preachers on the 1880s, through Henderson, Rutherford (unfortunately Taylor lived at the period when an abortive effort was made the change the standard spelling of the pastor of Anwoth's name) and the other preachers of the Second Reformation, through Archbishop Leighton and the persecuted covenanters, through the eighteenth century, and through Thomas Chalmers.
The book is full of hints for preachers. For example, Taylor shows how Knox "favoured as a general thing the practice of continuous exposition, as being fraught with profit both to preacher and hearer" (P.48), surely suggesting that modern preachers ought to engage in systematic expository preaching as that Reformer did. Taylor points out how Knox's delivery was almost as important as the content of his sermons (P. 59), another pregnant point. the preacher ought to be in earnest, Taylor draws from Knox, passessed by his subject. Rutherfod he shows as a mn full of Christ and longing to speak of Him who is the 'chiefest among ten thousand'. "Like him, preach the living, personal Christ, once crucified, but now risen and reigning as the Saviour and Sovereign of men. Unfold His loveliness. Proclaim His merits. Hold up Himself..." (P. 87)
Archbishop Leighton, a man who was quite unconcerned about the form of Church government, is brought in as a rose among the thorns of prelacy, a man who was for peace when the government and his superiors were for war. The field-preachers appear as they were, a noble race of preaching martyrs driven by the cross of Christ.
Taylor deals well with the Moderates, admitting that they were more cultured than the evangelicals, but with this one fatal defect - they did not preach Christ, "If we have any love for definite theological teaching on such subjects as the Fall of man and the Atonement of Christ, or anything like what seems to me to be Scriptural views of the importance of Regeneration and Conversion, we will look upon the age of their ascendancy as one of dark and disatrous eclipse."
This is a preachers' book, but hearers will benefit from its warm and lucid description of good preaching. We would reccommend it to all.

[NOTE: The author of this review used the 1887 edition of the book, not the Solid Ground reprint, so page numbering may vary]



Blogger Gordan said...


I'm wondering, from your own experience, of the advice that is given in this book, which bit do you believe needs to be heard and implemented with the greatest urgency in truly Reformed pulpits?

9:49 pm  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Since my experience is decidedly limited geographically (More so in terms of hearing than in terms of speaking), I can only speak from that. But I feel that we have to most remember to preach 'the loveliness of Christ' as Rutherford did. The whole book is full of good advice, but this preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified is first and foremost.

8:05 am  

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