10 Great works of Scottish Church History: III
6. Jock Purves: 'Fair Sunshine' (Banner of Truth paperback) £.3.95 from Free Prebyterian Bookroom
'Fair Sunshine' is a series of character-sketches of thirteen heroes of the Scottish Covenant, from James Guthrie to James Renwick. We have here Richard Cameron, the pastor who returned to Scotland knowing that it meant certain death, John Brown of Priesthill, the 'Christian Carrier', executed summarily at his own cottage-door in front of his wife, Margaret MacLachlan and Margaret Wilson, an elderly lady and a girl of eighteen, sentenced to death by drowing for attending the field-meeetings of the Covenanters. Reading this book we are moved to utter a prayer of thanks that we live in a day when we have the liberty of the Gospel that these martyrs bought with their own life-blood. These men and women may seem at times to have been narrow and bigotted in their commitment to the Covenants, but as Burns rightly said,
'Solemn liberty was theirs,
If thou'rt a slave, indulge thy sneer.'
We see from the martyrs of the Covenant what it can mean to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. This is faithful contending exemplified indeed. Purves tells the stories of martyrdom as they ought to be told.
Our extract comes from his account of the Wigtown Martyrs and opens with Magaret MacLachlan.
"We never read of any word the old saint spoke. It appears that, sick at heart and disappointed with madly cruerl humanity, she turned to unending communion with the Lord. 'It is needless to speak to that damned oild bitch,' they rudely cried, 'let her go to hell,' and they tied her roughly fast to her leafless but fruitful tree. So came the hungry waters up and up, every wave splashing death, until she was choking in their cold, cold grasp. As she struggled, before she became a poor limp thing lying in the swirling flood, they said to young Margaret, 'What do you think of her now?' 'Think! I see Christ wrestling there,' said she. "Think ye that we are sufferers? No; it is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare at their own charges." (Pp. 80-81)
7. John Kennedy: 'The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire (Christian Focus Paperback) £9.99 from Christian Focus
Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall was one of the great Highland leaders of the 19th century. He exemplified Highland Calvinism for many. A friend of C.H. Spurgeon, Kennedy looked with great concern at the changes that came over his beloved Free Church of Scotland and called for a return to the Old Paths. Those old paths are described with passion in this book.
This edition of 'The Days of the Fathers' is in two parts. The first is strictly 'The Days of the Fathers', the second is Kennedy's biography of his own father, pastor of Killearnan. We have here a sketch of the Gospel in Ross-Shire, the Ministers of Ross-Shire, 'The Men' of Ross-Shire and the Religion of Ross-Shire. We see real, living religion, and ministers and people who suffered and struggled and won REAL VICTORIES for Christ. Some of the ministers were what Mr. Spurgeon calls 'Eccentric Preachers', and they were all the better for that. They did not put on a character that was not theirs, but God sanctified their existing characters. This is not the sort of book that can be read without leaving the feeling that our Church today needs that holiness that Kennedy so admired in the 'Fathers'.
Our extract comes from Kennedy's description of the godly ministers of the Highlands in those days:
"It was neither by talents, nor by learning, nor by oratory, nor was it by all these together that a leading place was attained by the ministers in the Highlands, but by a profound experience of the power of godliness, a clear view of the doctrines of grace, peculiar nearness to God, a holy life, and a blessed ministry. Without these, without all these, a high place would not be assigned to them either by the Lord or by men. Eminence thus reached is surely the holiest and the highest; and it is a healthful state of matters when the attainment of it otherwise is rendered impossible. In other portions of the Church a minister might become famous as an ecclesiastic, an orator, or a scholar, who, merely for his godliness, would be utterly unknown. But mere gifts and acquirements were but little accounted of in the north. Few opportunities for displaying them, apart from the pulpit, were presented to those who may have had them, and the unsanctified use of them there would earn only the distinction of disgrace." (Pp 30-31)