Scottish Puritans - Select Biographies constitute one of the great treasures of Scottish Christian literature. In quick succession, we meet such justly famous and revered figures as John Welsh, David Dickson, William Guthrie, and James Fraser of Brea, but also the lesser known and long forgotten, like the land-labourer of Carrick, John Stevenson.
Here are the stories and reflections of men and women who, in times of great darkness, testing, and suffering, tasted what the author of Hebrews calls 'the powers of the age to come'.
This is a magnificent two-volume set, calculated to stir the soul and to find a place of honour and affection in every Christian who loves to read the thrilling history of the Scottish church! - Sinclair B. Ferguson
The 17th century was a dynamic period in Scottish church history, and yet many of its rich records lay hidden in privately owned manuscripts for two hundred years. It was only with the evangelical awakening of the 1840s that close attention was given to their publication, and a Society, formed for that purpose in Edinburgh, took the name of the historian, Robert Wodrow (1679-1734).
On the 26 volumes thus published subsequent authors have depended heavily, and particularly so with respect to the two volumes originally entitled Select Biographies. In an era when Puritan literature is again being rediscovered their reprint is timely, providing as it does the opportunity to go back to first-hand sources. Here, for the most part, men and women live in their own words, or in the witness of their contemporaries. The 19th-century editor, William Tweedie, himself an evangelical leader, thought it worthwhile to be the editor of this rare material, and all who have possessed them endorse his judgment.
Of the two volumes packed with biography, the first tells the story of John Welsh, Patrick Simson, and John Livingstone, men 'who acted a prominent part in their eventful times but whose histories were not so generally known'. The son-in-law of John Knox and minister of Ayr, Welsh was one of 'the most remarkable men of his time . . . for his learning, piety, and zeal.'
Simson was minister at Stirling and, although less well known than Welsh, was of a similar noble character. It was said of him that few were able to surpass him in learning, judicious counsel, and boldness in opposing error. Livingstone, perhaps the most powerful preacher in Scotland during the mid-seventeenth century, was instrumental in a revival at the Kirk of Shotts, before going on to minister in Killinchy (Ireland), Stranraer, and Ancrum.
He played a notable part in the tumultuous events of those years, including the negotiations that led to the return of the exiled King Charles II. Letters, sermons, and some other rare material supplement the biographies of these men.
Also included in this first volume are: the Last and Heavenly Speeches of John, Viscount Kenmure (attributed to Samuel Rutherford), the Memoirs of Walter Pringle, and the Soliloquies of Mrs Janet Hamilton of Earlstoun.
All give insight into, not only the manners and spirit of the age, but also the faith, love, zeal, and sufferings of men and women whose lives speak to us of apostolic Christianity. They devoted themselves to the Word of God and prayer. They enjoyed real communion with Christ. They knew the Holy Spirit and believed in his power to change both lives and nations.
The second volume of Scottish Puritans - Select Biographies contains the lives of David Dickson, William Guthrie, and James Fraser of Brea. Dickson, 'a star of the first magnitude' among the eminent ministers of Scotland, laboured In Irvine with extraordinary fruitfulness for twenty-three years, before suffering ejection and exile under the episcopal policies of King James I.