July 29th, 2009
Tweedie, W.K., editor. Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008. 1070 pp. $69.00.
Originally published by the Woodrow Society in 1845 as Select Biographies, Banner of Truth has brought back five wonderful biographies of Scottish Puritans in a two-volume set.
In the first volume, we meet John Welsh, Patrick Simson, and John Livingstone. All three men were used of God to further the gospel for many years beyond their ministry.
John Welsh may be best known for being the son-in-law of John Knox. However, John Welsh labored for many years in the gospel ministry in Selkirk and Kirkcudbright. He saw little fruit but was overjoyed that those who professed faith were able to listen to Samuel Rutherford whom he befriended. He also witnessed a revival in Southern Scotland in the late 1500’s. He came to be most known for his work in Ayr where he labored more intensely for the gospel than at any other time in his ministry.
Patrick Simson and John Livingston both ministered under difficult circumstances during their lives. Both had to deal with the Roman Catholic church as well as oppression from the ruling government which was going back and forth over Protestant and Catholic beliefs. Theirs is a story worth learning as we enter an age in America where some of what they experienced might not be too far around the corner for us.
The second volume looks at the lives and ministries of David Dickson, Wiliam Guthrie, and James Fraser of Brea. In all three cases, we again see much suffering for the gospel and are blessed to learn how they maintained their faces “like flint” toward their respective ministries.
David Dickson served in Irvine where he witnessed much fruit from his ministry. However, he was exiled when King James I ruled. He is most noted for his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith.
William Guthrie was said to have been “one of the greatest divines that ever wrote” by one John Owen. Guthrie has been used of God to this day through his book The Christian’s Great Interest. Guthrie was not only influential in his own day, but thanks in large part to the Banner of Truth Trust, still wields and influential pen today.
Finally, Fraser of Brea, who was born a nobleman was ordained to the “lowly” gospel ministry amid much oppression. He suffered much persecution for the sake of the gospel and was ultimately arrested and imprisoned. He wrote his memoirs which are still well-read today.
Both volumes contain additional writings and stories of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who suffered much for the sake of the gospel. Among whom are John Nisbet and John Stevenson. The former having been martyred while the latter suffered much but was granted grace without measure.
We also read of Walter Pringle as well as the lives of a few women including Lady Coltness, Lady Anne Elcho and Mrs Janet Hamilton.
We are deeply indebted to the Banner of Truth Trust for once again bringing these biographies to light. While this is a costly two-volume set, I would highly recommend picking them up and drinking from the well that was Scottish Puritanism. In a day when we easily become cavalier about our faith and take it for granted that we can worship in a church free from harassment, this set serves notice that it was not always the case. We would do well to learn from our brothers and sisters from the past as I am sure history will soon be repeating itself.