Professor James Stalker the Famous Scottish Preacher

James Stalker was born on February 21, in 1848.

This Scottish pulpit giant was ordained by the United Free Church, later becoming Professor of Church History in their college in Aberdeen.

The 1873, when Stalker was 25, the Moody and Sankey mission to Scotland impacted him deeply and played a major role in his evangelistic outlook – and “the evangelical glow of those early days remained with Stalker ever after”. Though Moody was a poorly educated shoe salesman his preaching resonated in the heart of the educated theologian.

During Staker’s lifetime he became more widely known in America than any other Scottish preacher.

His books, Life of Christ, and Life of Paul, made his name famous. Dr Bob Jones Jnr named the book, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ, by James Stalker as one of the books which most influenced him.

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Stalker spent 20 years in the latter part of his life as a Professor in Aberdeen, having declined an invitation to become Principal of the college. But he is best remembered for his preaching prowess. He occupied two pulpits in his ministry, St. Brycedale, Kirkcaldy, and St. Matthew’s, Glasgow.

Stalker was resolute and aggressive in manner. His voice had a commanding bark, which could even be disconcerting to those hearing him for the first time. He carried the zeal of an evangelist and keenly approved of all who embarked on daring ventures for the Kingdom of God.

With a lucid and steady flow of thought, constructing his case clearly and driving each point with measured force, he unpacked the truths he needed to impart to his hearers. He was a commanding preacher with eloquence and substance, and the ability to stir vast audiences with the insights and observations he bestowed. Rather than preach from extensive notes he kept a short list of headings, pausing from time to time to pick up the paper and check what his next point was to be.

One story concerning Professor Stalker (often repeated in books of illustrations!) comes from his ministry at St Matthew’s, Glasgow. It was his invariable custom to begin the service with a prayer of Thanksgiving. But this particular day was ‘wet and foggy, Glasgow at its worst!’ Everyone in the congregation was feeling miserable … and wondered what he would do to be thankful that morning. Stalker, we are told, mounted the pulpit stairs and prayed – “in his quick, abrupt way: ‘We thank Thee, O Lord, that every day is not like this…’”

Professor Stalker died in 1927, at the age of 79.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

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