Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Scotland's Influence on Civilization
The Pulpit of Scotland


IF the Scottish pulpit, in the wide fields of its influence upon the national character and upon the world's civilization, it is difficult to speak here with that fullness which the intrinsic importance of the theme demands. Of the manifold agencies which had their share in working out the historic destiny of Scotland, forming the character of her people and giving them a strong hold upon the attention of other nations, far from being the least potential was her Christian pulpit. In truth, it is not going too far to say that in all these respects the bold, fearless, educated and evangelical ministry of Scotland, faithful to truth, to duty and to God, can be regarded as holding no second place. The history of Scotland and her influence upon the march of civilization could not have been what they were without such a ministry. No man can read or faithfully write that history without recognizing on every page the powerful guiding hand of the pulpit.

For more than three hundred years it has been a throne of power in the land. It has attained an excellence and it has gained an influence over the whole home-population, and at the same time commanded a respect abroad, not often equaled, and certainly never excelled, in other Christian countries. It has moulded the national character of Scotland and controlled public opinion among an intelligent reading people whom it largely, more than any other single agency, helped to educate. It has for generations made its voice heard as an authority in the exposition of God's word, in every family of the land, and in the daily lives of the people. It has also made that voice heard through all the ramifications of private business, through the halls of literature, science and philosophy, as well as in all the departments of the public service. It has been, and it still is, one of the essential factors in all the practical problems of popular education. Its influence has been felt for good not alone within the narrow boundaries of her eastern and western shores, but in all lands where the Anglo-Saxon tongue has been. Scotland could not exist without her pulpit: she would no more be Scotland.

From John Knox down to Alexander Duff, not to speak of the living, it is a long and illustrious succession which in all the greatest elements of evangelical preaching will compare favorably with the ablest min'-try of any age or of any nation. It has been a ministry distinguished for self-sacrificing zeal, conscientious loyalty to truth, strong common sense, energy and decision of character, unshrinking devotion to principle in the discharge of duty, and not unfrequently in the case of its leaders possessed of learning, culture, philosophy and eloquence fully equal to any in the world. It has been eminently wise and conservative, and at the same time eminently practical and aggressive. It has through all the ages felt itself in possession of the true word of God and entrusted by divine appointment with a true mission to man; nor has it ever shrunk, through fear or favor, from declaring to men what it conceived to be the whole counsel of God, whether men would hear or forbear to hear. John Knox, with his majestic intellect, his heart of energy, his will of adamant, his tongue of fire, may be regarded as the very founder and model of its peculiar style. He was himself, both in character and in action, the most fitting representative of its earlier period. He was the man for the times, and no man less highly endowed in all the attributes of intellectual and spiritual manhood could have stood in his place and accomplished his work. No man ever more thoroughly impressed his own character upon a people and upon a ministry than did Knox upon the pulpit and the people of Scotland. The Presbyterian Church of to-day in every part of Christendom is proud to acknowledge Knox as a leader and a champion of the truth who performed for Scotland a work not inferior to that accomplished by the great Reformers on the Continent.

As a body, the Scottish clergy throughout the succession have been characterized not so much for the graces of a finished oratory as for the greater gifts of profound thought, massive learning, sound doctrine, evangelical zeal and impassioned energy. As a class, they have been marked by what was called "ingenium perfervadum Scotorum." They have been earnest, thoughtful, conscientious men—men who felt that they had a mission from God, a work to do, and they were "straitened till it was accomplished." They have aimed to make their mark upon the men of their times, nor have they failed to do so. The grand distinction of the Scottish pulpit through every epoch has been "truth before beauty" - what to say rather than how to say it. Solid matter has been everything; method, a thing of minor consequence. The preaching has therefore been at all times instructive, practical, scriptural, experimental, discriminating, theological, and not unfrequently logical, philosophical and learned. This all-important attribute of strength and power shone forth in all the great preachers of the early period, who seemed to catch their inspiration from the heroic example of Knox. It was exemplified in the preaching of the learned and noble John Erskine of Dun; in James and Andrew Melville, the heroic compeers of Knox; in the eloquent Alexander Henderson, the gifted young George Gillespie, the saintly Samuel Rutherford—the three commissioners of the Scottish Church at the famous Westminster Assembly of 1643. It was illustrated in the preaching of the earnest John Welch and Robert Bruce, in David Dickson of Irvine and John Livingstone of Shotts, a single sermon of the latter being instrumental in converting five hundred souls. The same lofty style of spiritual power was manifested in the pulpits of the noble martyrs James Guthrie and James Renwick.

It would be tedious to recount the shining list of their successors of a later day—to tell of Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, of John McLaurin and Robert Walker, of Thomas McCree and Andrew Thompson, the accomplished John Logan, the elegant Hugh Blair, of James Hamilton of London and John Witherspoon of our own Revolutionary period. Each of these memorable names was a tower of strength in its day. The pulpit of Hamilton in London and the presidency of Witherspoon in America may be taken as types of a large class of distinguished men, who, after winning a just renown in the land that gave them birth, were enabled to carry the influence of that land abroad and to accomplish a still grander mission in the countries of their adoption. And how shall we describe the learning, the scholarly culture, the Christian philosophy, the statesmanship and sagacity, the burning eloquence and zeal, of Candlish and Cunningham, Buchanan and l3onar, Guthrie and Chalmers, the leaders of that memorable disruption of 1843 that gave to Scotland a free Church for ever delivered from State intrusion, and to the world one of the most impressive examples of moral heroism in all history—that of five hundred ministers of the gospel in a body, representing the Christian people of half the realm, choosing to renounce all the honors and the incomes of a Church Establishment rather than swerve a hair's breadth from the clear line of conscience. The olden days of allegiance to "Christ's crown and covenant" had witnessed nothing sublimer than this modern spectacle of the Assembly of 1843 at Edinburgh.

Who was Thomas Chalmers, the leader of this great movement, but another and nobler Knox brought to the front by the stern exigences of those recent times, only melted by love, refined by wider culture, expanded by the larger liberty, the broader science, the warmer sympathies, the more catholic spirit and the higher civilization of the nineteenth century? We venerate the name and the work of Knox and all the worthies of his day, but in the lofty grandeur of his character, in the world-wide sweep of his charity and in the soul-earnestness of his beseeching eloquence no pulpit of any age or of any country since apostolic times has probably produced a greater name and a higher type of preacher than Thomas Chalmers.

Where in the annals of modern missions can be found higher examples of heroic devotion to the cause of Christ and of philanthropic self-surrender to the good of men than those which shine forth in the lives of the Scottish missionaries of the last fifty years, Robert Moffat and David Livingstone in Africa, John Wilson and Alexander Duff in India, fitting representatives of the noble band? If their names do not appear on the bright roll of the pulpit in the home-field, it is only because with apostolic zeal they had chosen to carry the gospel to the perishing and to spend their lives on foreign shores. But in influence and in power it was the Scottish pulpit still, only transplanted to distant climes. Their glorious record is on high: they have rested from their labors, and their works do follow them. They have impressed their characters on the people for whom they toiled nevermore to be effaced. Their names are precious as household memories among the tribes of the Dark Continent and among the converts of Calcutta and Bombay. All the world knows how well they toiled and how nobly they died for the people of those distant regions. They were pioneers, and they laid foundations that shall be the basis of civilizations yet to follow. In learning, culture, philosophy and burning eloquence some of them—as Alexander Duff —would have graced any pulpit or any university chair in the mother-country. Indeed, the General Assembly of the Free Church in Edinburgh never honored itself more than when, in 185!, on one of his visits to his native land, the venerable Alexander Duff, with all the scars of veteran service upon him, though still enthusiastic and eloquent as ever, was elected by acclamation to the moderatorship of that august body. The next year he visited the United States and electrified our churches by the splendor of his eloquence.

At the opening of the present century Claudius Buchanan, a native of Glasgow, was already in Bengal, where he spent a long and active life exploring the country, translating the Scriptures into the language of Hindostan and laying the foundations of Christian missions. It was in 1829 that Dr. Duff was sent to Calcutta by the Church of Scotland, being the first Protestant missionary ever appointed by any national Established Church. His advent in that great capital formed a new departure in the missionary work. He lived to see the great college for the education through the English tongue of the higher classes of Hindoo youth which lie established there attended by thousands of pupils and forming a landmark in the conduct of missions to the more civilized heathen. Perhaps no Scotsman of this century has done a grander work in any land than this great man did at Calcutta. And almost equal commendation may be accorded to the similar career at Bombay of John Wilson—a man of kindred spirit and attainments, who was also made moderator of the Free Church General Assembly on one of his return-visits to Scotland.

Thus has the Scottish pulpit through its great missionaries been sending its influence around the globe. In the vast populations of paganism it has kindled the lights of education, of high culture, of free thought, of science and liberty—in a word, of Christian civilization, the noblest civilization known to mankind. These lights can no more be extinguished than can the onward progress of the race be arrested. What has been done in Asia has also been done in Australia, in, New Zealand and in Africa. The name of David Livingstone has been written across the centre of the Dark Continent as was that of his predecessor and father-in-law, Robert Moffat, over South Africa. Livingstone must henceforth stand among the greatest discoverers of the century, as he is one of its most daring and heroic missionaries. In philanthropy and in all that constitutes the true missionary spirit he will hold equal rank with Vanderkemp and Moffat in Africa, with Henry Martyn in Persia, and Judson in Burmah, with Gutzlaff and Morrison in China. And he has written his name also amid the stars of modern geographical service. Scotland has given many names to science; his is one which belongs alike to philanthropy. His long and toilsome career in Central Africa, surrounded by savages and the dangers of the most pestilential climates, shut out so long from all the sweets of home and native land, is one of the great significant facts of the age. It shows what men will dare for truth and love. It shows, too, how heroically such men can die.


Return to Book Contents Page