Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Book Review: 'George Smeaton'

John W. Keddie's biography of George Smeaton (Paperback, Evangelical Press) has been available for a while. We review it now because we were given it for Christmas.

George Smeaton was one of the Disruption Fathers of the Free Church of Scotland. A stalwart of the old Calvinistic Scottish theology, Smeaton is probably best known today for his book on The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, published today by the Banner of Truth Trust. Perhaps because of his uncompromising stand for the Truth, no biography of Smeaton has been published until Keddie's worthy effort. A Professor at the Free Church College Aberdeen, and then at New College Edinburgh, Smeaton was placed at the centre of the theological turmoil that engulfed the Free Church of Scotland in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Keddie weaves a masterful narrative that shows that we today have to face many of the same difficulties that George Smeaton faced in his day. We do not face so much in Evangelicalism men who outright deny the Gospel, but men who claim to believe the Gospel but teach views that are ultimately destructive OF the Gospel. So it is with sound churches and denominations. Satan tries to sneak in, as it were, through the back door! Keddie shows us how the theology that drove Smeaton, that theology which is called Calvinism but which is really the old Gospel that Paul taught, is the only sure defence against heresy, whilst true Christian experience is vital as well. Life and doctrine must always be together.
So we would say read this book. It is a book that has come none too soon. Smeaton shows us how a true Christian lived in those times when liberalism came in like a flood. Whilst many turned aside after the theological speculations of Germany, thinking that by so doing they were abandoning a parochial for a cosmopolitan theology, Smeaton recognised that the German theology was every bit as parochial as the Scottish, if not more so. His books show that he was widely read in both English and foreign literature. The supporters of the German liberal theology ignored him, and they have been meting out the same treatment to him to this day. Keddie shows us the challenge of Smeaton for our day. Let us learn from this great man, and not merely admire him but follow him as he followed Christ.

George Smeaton by John W. Keddie is published by Evangelical Press.
Smeaton's books on the Atonement and the Holy Spirit are published by the Banner of Truth Trust and may be found here, here and here.



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