Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Title of the Book: Sermons in Times of Persecution in Scotland
Author: Various Publisher: Tentmaker
Publisher's address or where the book may be obtained: Gowan Books, Springfield, Co. Fermanagh
Year of publication: 1880 (reprint 2003)
Number of pages: 674 Hardback or paperback: Hardback
Price: £20.00 ISBN: 1-899003 -95-9

Note: From time to time, I review books for the British Church Newspaper.  Here is the review I wrote for this John Bunyan Classic.

A picture on the front cover helps set the scene for us as we read these sermons. A large crowd of Presbyterian Covenanters are on bended knee in solemn prayer as a preacher pleads with the God of Heaven for their Beloved and Covenanted land of Scotland. Judging from their countenances, they are confessing their sins, while the presence of armed look outs at the back of the picturing denotes the great danger that they are in for merely gathering together in such a fashion i.e. death for treason and rebellion.

You need to be acquainted with Alexander's Smellie's "Men of the Covenant" or Jock Purves' "Fair Sunshine" which tells the story of the Covenanters to fully appreciate these sermons. The godly in Scotland (along with England and Ireland) had covenanted to give their land to God and obey His laws and reject Popery and Prelacy and all manner of sin. Those in authority, notably the treacherous Stuart line of kings, but also with their Scottish collaborators (even in the ministry) declined to do so, despite their own oaths. As far as the Covenanters were concerned, this breaking of the covenant brought the wrath of God upon them. This was seen in the fact that many Covenanters (the salt o' the earth and the gospel licht in the midst of their present evil world) were hunted down like beasts and shot. There are sermons here by those who would, within days or weeks, become martyrs for Jesus Christ.

By limiting the choice of sermons to the various "Killing Times" in Scotland, the compiler hems us in to a particular type of sermon. Although there are some choice sermons here that open up the beauty of Jesus Christ and the freeness of the gospel offer etc., and are enjoyable, many of them are warning sermons. Doubtless needful in their day and indicative of the consistent belief among these heroes of the rightness of their cause, but to read (as I have done) several dozen of them served to depress more than to uplift. Perhaps a smaller selection would have been more appropriate, accompanied with as many of their more positive sermons, free of the constant reminder of their historical setting. In other words, any gripe I have is with the compiler rather than the various preachers.

The reviewer is an Ulster Scots Presbyterian whose folk came from the lowlands of Scotland. I would like to think that my ancestors were indeed on the Covenanting side of the battle. These were the people who gave us Samuel Rutherford and Richard Cameron and the two Margaret known as the Whigtown Martyrs.  Perhaps they were instead among the persecutors or the moderate Presbyterians who conformed to the demands of the authorities. I cannot tell. But I can read the various biographical notes of the various preachers here and remember that to live for Jesus Christ in any day and age is to swim against the tide, even if the toleration levels are considerably higher than back in the 17th Century in the Mitherland.  

1 comment:

  1. Amen. I was reading just this week where Paul wrote: "all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 Tim 3:12 The key word is godly...for there are many Christians in name only who get a pass, but those who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted. Also, we see that prior to his ultimate persecution - His sufferings and His death on the cross, Jesus Christ faced ongoing persecution...his house was not burned down nor his physical body harmed, but his life was threatened, he was insulted and reviled, opposed and harassed, and he was scorned and rejected. Those who love Jesus Christ will be persecuted. I wish that more would teach this and accept it. For those of us who do not have the privilege of saved family and neighbors are facing increasing opposition, rejection and hatred from the world. It doesn't help for folks to say we aren't being persecuted yet or to deny that it will happen. It will and it already is, for some. Praise the Lord we have His word to comfort us and we have the testimonies of so many brave ones who loved Him unto death.


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