Alexander Henderson Steers Scotland Through Troubled Waters

This is the day that …Alexander Henderson died in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1646.

Henderson was born in 1583 at Criech, Fifeshire. He graduated at the University of St Andrews in 1603 and in 1610 was appointed professor of rhetoric and philosophy. Shortly after this he was appointed to the parish of Leuchars by Archbishop George Gladstanes.

Henderson’s sympathies were with the organised church, which made him extremely unpopular at first. He subsequently changed his views about church government and became a Presbyterian in doctrine and order. This paved the way for him becoming an outstanding leader and statesman for the Presbyterian cause in the resultant clashes with the English monarchy.

He was a natural leader and was eloquent and effective in dealing with the Crown. When King Charles I sought to impose episcopacy (the rule of bishops) upon the Church of Scotland, it was Henderson who led the fight against it. He helped with the final draft of the “National Covenant” which began its public signing at Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh on March 1st, 1638. He debated the famous Aberdeen Doctors and was later chosen Moderator of the Scottish churches at the Glasgow Assembly on 21st of November 1638. That gathering deposed all the Scottish bishops, excommunicated a number of them, repealed all acts favouring episcopacy, and reconstituted the Scottish Kirk on thorough Presbyterian principles.

As leader of the Covenanters he steered the Scottish Church as their elected moderator (1638-1658) through twenty stormy years. Through his handling of the First Bishop’s War he made a favourable impression on King Charles. When the Scots saw that the King was preparing for the Second Bishop’s War they took the initiative and invaded England, securing a decisive victory. King Charles acceded to all their demands, however the formal development of the treaty was a long process, which was overseen by Henderson.

His crowning achievement could well be that he oversaw the establishment of the Solemn League and Covenant, which passed through both houses of the British Parliament, which thus allowed for the two systems of church government to co-exist.

For the last six years of his life he was rector at Edinburgh University.

“His name,” writes W. Barker, is “revered as second only to John Knox in the Church of Scotland”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

John Cairns the Presbyterian

This is the day that …John Cairns was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church – one of the three branches of Presbyterianism that existed in Scotland in 1845.

Born on 23 August, 1818, John Cairns was to become “their outstanding leader” – 33 years ministering at Berwick-on-Tweed, and then serving many years as principal of their theological college and professor of systematic theology and apologetics at the United Presbyterian Divinity Hall in Edinburgh.

It was not learned until after his death that he had received an invitation, at the age of 40, to the principalship of Edinburgh University, and had turned it down.

Alexander Gammie, in his Preachers I Have Heard, tells of Principal Cairns’ pulpit style: “His arms seem to give him the most trouble. It was all utterly ungainly. It would have been enough to wreck the pulpit popularity of most men. But in his case it was quite otherwise. People would have walked miles just to hear John Cairns say: ‘Let us pray …’” (page 58). “His transparent goodness, his simplicity of character, his forgetfulness of self, shone through every utterance. He was a saint who was unconscious of his saintliness …” (page 59).

And in The Christian Portrait Gallery we read: “He was an orator, and swayed his hearers with the passion and pathos of his words! He was fond of illustrations, and used similes never beyond the comprehension of the illiterate, but instinct with a fire that set the blood tingling through the veins” (page 52).

All of this was combined with a massive intellect.

Near the end of his ministry he exclaimed: “I have now preached for 43 years and I have been a professor of theology for more than 20, and I find every year how much grander the gospel of the grace of God becomes, and how much deeper, vaster and more unsearchable the riches of Christ, which it is the function of theology to explore …” (Fathers of the Kirk, by R. Wright, page 213).

Principal John Cairns died in 1892 at the age of 74.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Horatius Bonar Longs for the Spirit

This is the day that … Horatius Bonar died in 1889.

He was born December 19, 1808 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Along with his brother Alexander, he witnessed revival meetings in 1839 under W.C. Burns. The brothers kept revival expectancy alive in the hearts of their hearers.

He is remembered as one of the greatest of Scottish hymn-writers, indeed the “prince of Scottish hymn writers”.

“Go labour on, spend and be spent” and “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto Me and rest’,” are but two of the 600 hymns which came from his ever-busy pen.

Besides hymn writing, he found time to edit the “Quarterly Journal of Prophecy” – a magazine dedicated to pre-millennial beliefs. He also was elected Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and ministered at Chalmers Memorial Church in Edinburgh for 23 years.

Over and again his hymns return to the theme of the Lord’s return:

Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice;
For toil comes rest, for exile home.

Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom’s voice,

The midnight cry, “Behold I come”.
Amen!

In reference to his hymn writing his friend, Rev. E. H. Lundie, said at his memorial service, following his death:
“His hymns were written in very varied circumstances, sometimes timed by the tinkling brook that babbled near him; sometimes attuned to the ordered tramp of the ocean, whose crested waves broke on the beach by which he wandered; sometimes set to the rude music of the railway train that hurried him to the scene of duty; sometimes measured by the silent rhythm of the midnight stars that shone above him.”

Dr Horatius Bonar lamented the church’s reluctance to embrace the move of the Holy Spirit. He likened the limiting of the Holy Spirit in his day to Israel’s rejection of Christ in the days of His flesh.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.