Samuel Rutherford Steers Scotland

Saintly Samuel Rutherford died, on March 30, 1661.  I know that Protestants do not usually use the word “Saint” for special folk, but if there is one who deserves it more than most others, let me suggest the godly Samuel Rutherford.

Spurgeon spoke of Rutherford’s letters as “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in the writings of mere men” (Holy Men of God, by E. Cumming, page 69).

Born in Scotland in 1600, Rutherford was converted some 26 years later – and became a minister of the Gospel. He was a brilliant scholar such that people expected him to excel. Following his studies at the University of Edinburgh he, as a young man, was then made Professor of Philosophy there. He then took the post of minister at Anwoth in Galloway and was a most diligent man. He rose often at 3am then spent his time thoroughly, “reading, praying, writing, catechising, visiting, and other duties belonging to the ministerial profession and employment”.

In June 1630 – and again in 1636 – he was tried by an ecclesiastical court for erroneous doctrine and irregularity of church practice, based around his book, Exercitationes de Gratia.  His first wife died at about this time and in banishment at Aberdeen he wrote the letters that have become a blessing to so many. Rutherford also contracted tertian fever and was so ill for thirteen weeks that he could barely have the strength to preach.

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Rutherford returned to his congregation at Anwoth and was made Professor of Divinity at St Andrews.

The complexities of the history of the church at this time need not concern us here. Rutherford’s stand against Arminianism ired some. He was charged with non-conformity. His stand for the right for families to establish private worship in their homes also received opposition. He opposed the Anabaptists and other sects in his book, Lex Rex. He participated in the Westminster Assembly, from which came the Westminster Confession.

He opposed the flourishing independent groups of worship which sprang up under Oliver Cromwell, but when Charles II gained the throne Rutherford was accused of high treason and his book, Lex Rex was burned as a public condemnation. However Rutherford did not get to face his kingly accusers.

Suffice to say, the saintly Samuel Rutherford entered into rest on 30 March, 1661.

So it was that Rutherford presided over the Lord’s work in a very troubled Scotland, refusing to take appointments abroad because he felt it his duty to endure on behalf of the Lord. History records that his faithful spirit did prevail, against the host of opponents and challenges.

His letters are still in print – “I am pained, pained with the love of Christ,” he writes.  “He hath made me sick and wounded me.  Hunger for Christ outrunneth faith … Oh, if they knew His kindness to my soul …”  (Life and Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by A. Bowen, page 22).

The hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking, by Mrs Cousins, is based on some of the best and sweetest parts of Rutherford’s letters.

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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: www.donaldprout.com

King James I And The KJV Bible

King James I of England died in peace on March 5, 1625, at the age of 59, having caused the creation of the most popular text in all of human history.

James Charles Stuart was born at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, on June 19, 1566. His father was murdered before he was one year old and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, after a short spell on the Scottish throne was forced to abdicate to her son, James. She spent the next 19 years imprisoned in London by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, before being executed in February of 1587. So King James was raised without mother or father at hand.

James became King James VI of Scotland when he was 13 months old, with John Knox preaching at his coronation. However he was then placed under four tutors who disciplined his mind and life. James excelled in his studies, spoke many languages and was highly learned in many subjects.

James began to rule Scotland at age 19 and took Anne of Denmark for his Queen a few years later. Thus followed a happy marriage, producing nine children. James wrote poetry to his beloved bride.

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James believed that his monarchy was a divine appointment, subscribing to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and the monarch’s duty to reign according to God’s law and the public good.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, James ascended to the English throne and united Scotland, England and Ireland for the first time, forming Great Britain, which is the title he liked to use.

There were several attempts on the King’s life, most notably that of Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes who, in 1605, attempted to blow up Parliament while the king was to be there. The plot was discovered and all conspirators executed, and the English celebrate Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 each year. James was no friend to Catholicism, strongly delineating the errors of Roman doctrine and spurning them. Yet he treated Romanist subjects fairly.

It was during the reign of this “wisest fool in Christendom”, as he is called by some historians, that this Scottish-born king of England granted permission for an ‘Authorised’ version of the Bible.

In 1604, at the Hampton Court Conference, the Puritan, Dr John Reynolds (or Rainolds) broached the subject.  The king was not happy with the Geneva Version which had been the “Bible of the people” for about half a century.

Thus it was that 54 men were nominated for the task … although we only know of 47 who actually took part – and in 1611 the “Authorised Version”, or “King James Version” was printed, and this has remained a firm favourite with millions of Christians for almost 400 years.

The men chosen to create the new Bible translation were the best linguists and scholars in the world. They were top of their field and brilliant men. Much of their work on the King James Bible formed the basis for our linguistic studies of today. The creation of this great text had a profound influence on English literature from then on.

Yet the translation and translators are not without criticism. Among the translators was “Richard Thomson, the fat-bellied Arminian who, they said, went to bed drunk each night…” (The Men Behind the KJV, by G. Paine, page 155). “Ah, yes,” says Donald Prout, “there are some curious moments in church history!”

There are two historical views of King James I of England. His detractors, such as Anthony Weldon and Francis Osborne, spoke scandalously of him after his death, when he could not defend his reputation. Despite the obvious bigotry and racial prejudice among the writings the claims have been given credence by many.

It has been said that to have the name of King James I on the frontispiece of the Scriptures is ‘a blasphemous joke’.  This was the king who persecuted Puritans and Presbyterians, was a “notable exponent of the Divine Right of Kings,” and caused thousands of Christians to leave England seeking religious liberty.  “He created the most openly homosexual and drunken court in England’s long history!” … was “headstrong and haughty” … “at odds with nearly everyone during his reign” … “never popular or highly respected”…

Other records of King James I show him to be a devoted husband and a god-fearing man, motivated by the highest ideals. His book, Basilicon Doron (the Kingly Gift), written to instruct his son who would succeed him, gives the following instructions:

“Diligently read his word, & earnestly … pray for the right understanding thereof. Search the scriptures saith Christ for they will bear testimony of me. The whole Scriptures saith Paul are profitable to teach, to improve, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect unto all good works.” “The whole Scripture contayneth but two things: a command and a prohibition. Obey in both… The worship of God is wholy grounded upon the Scripture, quickened by faith.”

When knowledge of that book got out the people demanded to have copies and it became a popular text in English, Welsh, Latin, French, Swedish and German for the following 50 years.

James Disraeli declared that James “had formed the most elevated conception of the virtues and duties of a monarch”.

James was an excellent writer and is regarded by some as the leading literary figure of his day, with his writings being among the most important and influential British writings of their period.

Despite the great achievements attributed to King James, he was no stranger to pain and grief. He endured poor health with various physical handicaps, especially in his legs and with an enlarged tongue. He suffered many falls, accidents and injuries. His diseases are listed as “crippling arthritis, abdominal colic, gout, inability to sleep, weak/spasmic limbs, nausea, frequent diarrhoea, and kidney pain“. His pain was so great that the king at times became delirious.

James also suffered from depression following the loss of his beloved wife Queen Anne in 1619. She was preceded in death by their eldest son, Prince Henry in 1612. The King was no stranger to pain and sorrow.

However, at the time of his death, James ruled over a nation that had enjoyed internal and international peace. He died peacefully and handed the throne to an adult son. There was indeed great grace upon his reign.

As a side-note to the KJV Bible the name “James” was inserted into the New Testament, in place of anyone among Jesus’ generation named Jacob. Jesus’ disciple and Jesus’ brother were not known as James, but as Jacob. The inclusion of the name James was a personal concession to the King.

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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: www.donaldprout.com

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.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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: www.donaldprout.com

The Cambuslang Revival Comes in Response to Prayer

The Cambuslang Revival commenced on the outskirts of Glasgow, February 15, in the year 1742.

“On Monday, 15 February, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday, a band of intercessors gathered at the manse,” writes John Shearer in his exciting book Old Time Revivals (page 33). The minister of the Parish Church was Rev William McCulloch. There had already been a touch of revival in the area the year previous, when George Whitefield came a-preaching in Glasgow. But now it broke out afresh under this humble, godly minister.

“For 12 weeks he preached daily to stricken people. The life of the community was transformed. Drunkenness and blasphemy ceased. Faults were confessed … restitution was eagerly made. Family worship was revived” (page 34).

And it all began with “a band of intercessors …”

“If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray…” (II Chronicles 7:14).

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In the 1740’s Cambuslang was a farming, mining and weaving community 5 miles south west of Glasgow. The faithful parish minister, William McCulloch, was of no special quality, but he earnestly desired to see his people come to genuine faith. Upon hearing of the George Whitefield revivals in America he began to preach gospel messages about what it is to be saved. This awakened the congregation to spiritual concerns.

A prayer movement of sorts was spreading through Britain and McCulloch authorised special prayer meetings in the parish, but only for those who were approved by the sincerity and consistency of their commitment. He was afraid of emotion and sensationalism, teaching his congregation to maintain decency in all matters, especially within the church.

As the fervour of the congregation rose, so too did the fervour of McCulloch’s preaching, until on Sunday February 14, 1742 a woman came under extreme conviction in the morning meeting. She was carried to the parsonage and there McCulloch answered her anguished cries of despair with promises from the Bible. McCulloch kept the event as orderly as possible by having those gathered at the parsonage sing psalms from time to time to settle the atmosphere. Note that psalms were the only approved songs for singing in Presbyterian churches. At the end of an extended and exhausting time of despair, exhortation and response the woman came to a glorious conviction of salvation.

That woman’s conversion popped the cork on the revival that had been brewing for many months and which had been bathed in earnest prayer. Word spread like wild-fire and crowds were drawn from far and wide. Ministers were called in to meet the needs of the ever growing crowds. Tents were erected near a spacious natural amphitheatre close to the church, as well as in the church yard and a nearby field.

McCulloch called upon George Whitefield to come and preach and when he arrived Whitefield declared that this was the most profound expression of revival he had seen anywhere in the world.

Over the previous century a tradition of special outdoor meetings focused on the Lord’s Table had been built up. Sacramental gatherings would run for four days or so and culminate in the serving of communion to the believers. Revivals had previously been associated with such events. McCulloch called for two such sacramental events in the months that followed. The second such gathering brought together over 30,000 people, some say as many as 50,000.

Hundreds were saved, piety and transformation was abundantly evident and uncontrolled weeping was widespread, despite the calls for decorum. This was the highlight of Scottish revivalism.

Opponents, mostly those of Deist persuasion, who did not believe in a present God who touched the hearts and lives of men, accused the revival of shallow emotionalism and ignorant sentimentality. And though the revival fires and the sacramental gatherings spread to other communities and touched many more lives, the revival was effectively doused by its opposition. Shortly thereafter the rising tide of reformed thinking extinguished the revivalist elements within the Scottish Presbyterian church.

But Cambuslang still stands as testimony to what can happen when humble souls preach the true gospel and willing hearts pray for revival.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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: www.donaldprout.com

James Alexander Haldane Establishes Congregationalism in Scotland

James Alexander Haldane died on February 8, 1851. James, along with his older brother Robert, left an indelible mark upon Christianity in Scotland.

Born in Dundee on July 14, 1768, orphaned at the age of 6, and educated at Edinburgh University, young James joined the navy at the age of seventeen, as a midshipman aboard the East India Company’s “Duke of Montrose”.

After four voyages to India and China, he was appointed Captain of “The Melville Castle”, in 1793. The ship’s sailing was delayed, however, leaving James time for more reflective pursuits.

It was during this period that “he commenced to read the Scriptures from a sense of propriety rather than any concern about his soul” (Cyclopaedia of Modern Religious Biographies, page 241).

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He sought out a Dr David Bogue, a pastor in the vicinity of Portsmouth, and requested that he might partake of the Lord’s Supper. Dr Bogue was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society and he pressed upon Haldane the claims of Christ upon his life.

Haldane quit the navy before The Melville Castle sailed, choosing to take up a religious life instead of his captaincy. That was 1794.

Sometime in the next two or three years he found the salvation for which so long he had sought. He left the established Church of Scotland when the General Assembly of 1796 refused to promote aggressive evangelisation.

At that time he became acquainted with Charles Simeon of Cambridge. In his company Haldane toured Scotland 1797, distributing tracts and trying to awaken spiritual interest. In May 1797 he preached his first sermon, at Gilmerton near Edinburgh, with encouraging success.

That same year he and brother Robert founded The Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home, which gave the impetus for the development of the Congregational Churches. James was ordained as a Congregational minister in Edinburgh.

James Haldane married twice in Edinburgh, in 1793 and, his first wife having died, again in 1822.

In 1799 James was ordained pastor of a large independent congregation in Edinburgh. That group was the first to be known as a Congregational Church in Scotland.

After his brother inherited the family wealth, he built a church or Tabernacle, for James’ Congregational church in Edinburgh in 1801. From 1801 until his death James Haldane preached prodigiously and “counted it his privilege for nearly 50 years to preach the Gospel …” in the Tabernacle, Edinburgh’s largest church. In 1808 James and his famous brother Robert “embraced Baptist principles” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 447).

James Haldane contributed to current theological discussions with articles on church order, refutations of heresy and exploration of various Bible books and doctrines.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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: www.donaldprout.com