Articles on Scottish Church History

St Giles Cathedral , Edinburgh 
George Wishart
Rising from his knees he was bound to the stake, and thrice he cried aloud, “O Saviour of the world, have mercy upon me! Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into thy holy hands! “The fire was kindled. The powder bags blew up. He was sadly scorched, but the captain of the castle, who stood near, perceiving that he was still alive, bade him be of good courage, and commend his soul to God. “This flame,” said the dying martyr, “hath scorched my body, yet hath it not daunted my spirit; but he who from yonder high place beholdeth us with such pride shall within few days lie in the same as ignominiously as he is now seen proudly to rest himself.” As he spake these words, one of the executioners drew the rope tight that was about his neck, the fire burned more fiercely around him, and in a short time the body was consumed to ashes.
The Martyrs of the Scottish Reformation
The first Scotchman who was honoured to seal his testimony to the reformed doctrine with his blood was Patrick Hamilton
John Knox
When a free Parliament met, it required the ministers to furnish it with a summary of doctrine which they could prove to be in accordance with the Scriptures, and which they desired to be established. The ministers were not unprepared for this, and in four days they produced a Confession of Faith, which was in accordance with the Confessions of other reformed Churches. It was the joint production of Knox and other three ministers, and was received by Parliament. They were afterwards instructed to prepare a book of church polity which they did in a very short time. It is known as the First Book of Discipline. Thus we find that in 1560 the Roman Catholic religion was overthrown in Scotland and the Reformed faith established in its place, with its Confession of Faith and Book of Church Polity, and all this under the leadership of John Knox in the face of strong opposition.
Andrew Melville
When matters had settled down in the University of St. Andrews, Melville was called forth to defend the liberties of the Church. Through Roman Catholic intrigue, King James VI was influenced by several Papists who had found a place in the Court, with the result that the Reformed faith was in imminent danger
Robert Bruce
“I would desyre no more for one request but one hour’s conference with King James: I know he hath a conscience; I made him once weep bitterly in his own house at Halyrudehouse.”
Alexander Henderson
Matters in Scotland were moving swiftly to a crisis and it was largely through his influence that the National Covenant was drawn up and signed in 1638.
The National Covenants
These Covenants were entered into during the most important periods in the history of this nation, and had much to do with the establishment of the kingdom of Christ in our midst.
Robert Blair
After the signing of the National Covenant many of the Bishops fled to England, and Mr. Blair received a Call to be minister of Ayr, which he accepted. At the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638, which ex-communicated the Bishops, he was by an Act of that Assembly transported to St. Andrews. After the Treaty of Berwick, King Charles I, with the perfidy for which the Stuart dynasty was noted, and at the instigation of the prelatic clergy, had that treaty burnt in London by the common hangman, and made preparations for a second invasion of Scotland. The Scots gathered an Army and invaded England as far south as Newcastle, after they had routed the English Army which never stopped till they reached Durham.
James Durham
His call and coming forth to the holy ministry was remarkable. The Scots army being about to engage with the English, he judged it proper to call his company and soldiers to prayer before the engagement. And as he was beginning to pray, it happened that Mr. Dickson, professor of divinity then at Glasgow, came riding by the army, who seeing the soldiers addressing themselves in prayer, and hearing the voice of one praying, drew near, and lighted from his horse and joined with them. He was so much taken with Mr. Durham’s prayer, that, after prayer, he called for the captain, and having conversed with him a little, he did solemnly charge him, that as soon as this piece of service he was engaged in was over, he should devote himself to serve God in the holy ministry, for to that he judged the Lord called him
Samuel Rutherford
The memory of Samuel Rutherford will be ever fragrant in the minds of all who savour the spirituality of his letters. The fame of his name will also live on among those who appreciate our Presbyterian heritage, and prize our religious and civil liberties. Samuel Rutherford, renowned as “the saint of the Covenant”, was one of the greatest men that Scotland ever saw, whether considered as a preacher, theologian, devotional writer or political theorist
The Life and Times of George Gillespie
The Lord endowed him with a clear penetrating mind, enabling him with ease to discern between right and wrong. In a brief lifetime he was able to accumulate a vast amount of learning, which his type of mind enabled him to call forth at a moment’s notice to marshal against the fallacious arguments of Episcopalians and Independents. The Presbyterian government of the Church of Scotland had been attacked and a determined effort made in high places to have it completely subverted. The Lord called forth George Gillespie, as a polished shaft in His hand, to show the Scriptural-ness of Presbyterianism, and the origin of that form of government which the Stewarts endeavoured to foist upon the people of Scotland, proving that it was not only unscriptural, but had its origin in the Roman Catholic Church. Gillespie was not raised up merely to battle with matters in his own time, but by his writings, gives a clear guidance to the present day to such as are inclined to make use of them.      
John Livingston
I must also mention that solemn communion at the Kirk of Shotts, June 20, 1630, at which time there was so convincing an appearance of God, and down-pouring of the Spirit, even in an extraordinary way, that did follow the ordinances, especially that sermon on the Monday, June 21, with a strange, unusual motion on the hearers, who, in a great multitude, were there convened of divers ranks, that it was known, which I can speak on sure ground, near five hundred had at that time a discernible change wrought on them of whom most proved lively Christians afterwards. It was the sowing of a seed through Clydesdale, so as many of the most eminent Christians in that country could date either their conversion, or some remarkable confirmation of their case from that day; and truly this was the more remarkable, that one, after so much reluctances, by a special and unexpected providence, was called to preach that sermon on the Monday, which then was not usually practised; and that night before, by most of the Christians there, was spent in prayers, so that the Monday’s work might be discerned as a convincing return of prayer.” The Church in Scotland from this date onwards set apart the Monday following a Communion Sabbath as a day of Thanksgiving and it is still observed in those congregations who uphold the time-honoured custom of the observance of the five days on communion occasions.
Battle of Drumclog
IT was on a fair Sabbath morning, 1st June, A.D. 1679, that an assembly of Covenanters sat down on the heathy mountains of Drumclog. We had assembled not to fight, but to worship the God of our fathers. We were far from the tumult of cities. The long dark heath waved around us; and we disturbed no living creatures, save the pees-weep and the heather-cock. As usual, we had come armed. It was for self-defence. For desperate and ferocious bands made bloody raids through the country, and, pretending to put down treason, they waged war against religion and morals. They spread ruin and havoc over the face of bleeding Scotland.
Richard Cameron 
At Ayrsmoss, or Aird’s Moss, this confidence was put to the test, and Providence seemed to be on the side of the big battalions. The Covenanters were hopelessly defeated; Richard Cameron was among “the ripe” who fell, and others of the leaders were reserved for a more cruel death. Cameron was not much over thirty, but hunted men grow old early, and all who followed him into battle looked upon him as ripe for the Master’s Kingdom. His prayer had been granted, and he was preserved from the evils that were to come in the next eight years. Yet his sacrifice was not in vain.
Emilia Geddie – A Child of the Covenant
She was born in times of persecution, and died when the furnace was even seven times heated, yet hers was an end of undisturbed peace. At that time Scotland was wet with the blood of her holiest men; women, too, were dragged to the scaffold for no crime than refusing to abjure the truth set forth in the Covenant. The month before Emilia Geddie died she no doubt heard of the triumphant end of Isabel Alison, a native of Perth, who gave her life, saying, “I lay down my life for owning and adhering to Christ’s kingly office, His being a free king in His own house-” Along with her died Marion Harvie, scarcely twenty years of age, singing the 23rd Psalm, and saying, “I’d rather die ten deaths than want an hour of His presence.”  But, on the other hand, Emilia was taken home without violence, the Lord, who hid Jeremiah and Baruch (Jer. xxxvi. 26) keeping her from the hand of the oppressor. Her life was like a stream that gently flowed between green banks, often ruffled by wild winds, and at times reflecting the forms of armed persecutors and weary martyrs. She was in spirit a martyr, and shall have a place in the Resurrection with those who never worshipped the beast nor his image, nor received his mark on her forehead or in her hand (Rev. xiii. 16).
The Wigtown Martyrs (Margaret Lauchlison and Margaret Wilson)
THE story of the drowning of Margaret Maclauchlan or Lauchlison, an aged woman, and Margaret Wilson, a girl of 18, in the Solway Firth in 1685, for testifying to the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most pathetic in the annals of Scottish Church history.
Religion in the Highlands after 1688
The few clerical survivors of the killing times were most cordially welcomed back to the churches out of which they had been tyrannically thrust in 1662, but in most parishes the curates remained in undisturbed possession.
Thomas Boston of Ettrick
It was in 1712 that Boston commenced the writing of the Fourfold State, and it is scarcely needful to say that it is as the author of this book that he is most widely known. Probably no theological book ever exercised such a mighty influence on the religious life of Scotland; and the sphere of its influence was not confined to Scotland alone
John Willison of Dundee
SCOTLAND in proportion to its size has contributed a very large number of men who may be reckoned as bright ornaments of the Church of Christ. Many of these appeared when religion flourished, while some were but like isolated stars, whose rays penetrated the gloom of a night of almost Egyptian darkness. The subject of this sketch may be said to be of the latter class.
The Secession of 1733
ON 5th December, 1733, the Succession Fathers – Ebenezer Erskine, William Wilson, James Fisher and Alexander Moncrieff met at Gairney Bridge, which lies on the Great North Road between Edinburgh find Perth, three miles from Kinross, and after some time devoted to prayer, they formed themselves into a Presbytery. There were also present Ralph Erskine and Thomas Mair who, while in sympathy with the Four Brethren, had not yet cast in their lot wholly with them.
The Cambuslang Revival (1742)
“Setting aside all those that appeared under awakenings here in 1742, who have since remarkably backslidden, there is a considerable number of the then awakened that appear to bring forth good fruits. I do not talk of them at random, nor speak of their number in a loose, general, and confused way, but have now before me, at the writing of this, 27th April, 1751, a list of about four hundred persons awakened here, at Cambuslang, in 1742, who from that time to the time of their death, or to this, that is, for these nine years past, have been all enabled to behave, in a good measure, as becometh the gospel, by anything I could ever see, and by the best information I could get concerning them.”
John Brown of Haddington
Among the great and good men who have occupied pulpits in Scotland, the name of John Brown will be held in everlasting memory as one of the righteous. His struggle with the hindering circumstances of poverty, his indomitable spirit in acquiring knowledge, his piety as a humble follower of the Lord Jesus, and his faithfulness and zeal as one of His ministers, all tend to give John Brown a place among the noted men of a land which has had its own goodly band.
Hector Macphail of Resolis
AMONG the noted ministers of Christ who laboured in Ross-shire, a highly honourable place has been given to Hector Macphail, Resolis. He entered on the solemn work of the ministry an un-converted man; but a great change came over him, and his labours were acknowledged in a signal manner by his Master, whom he so devotedly served. “He was perhaps one of the most deeply exercised Christians of his time,” says Mr. Sage, “and minutely conversant with the depths of Satan, on the one hand, and the unsearchable riches of Christ, on the other”
James Fraser of Alness
His near neighbour was the godly Mr Porteous, Kilmuir, a, cousin of his own. Some of the people who had been awakened under Mr. Fraser’s preaching began to find their way to Kilmuir. Mr Porteous’s people were afraid that this might awaken a spirit of jealousy in the mind of Mr Fraser, whom they highly respected and loved. They, therefore, asked Mr Porteous to speak to Mr Fraser and assure him that he had done nothing to induce the people from Alness to become occasional worshipers in his church. Mr Porteous readily complied with the request. Mr Fraser’s reply showed a fine Christian spirit and sanctified common sense. “My dear brother,” was his answer, “this will never produce any alienation of feeling between us. It is entirely of the Lord. He has given me a quiver-full of arrows, and it is not yet exhausted, and these arrows are piercing their consciences; hence their pain and cry for relief. But the Lord has given you a cruise of oil, and they run to you for relief. The whole is from the Lord, and no coolness shall arise between us.”
Angus Mackintosh of Tain
Rev. Dr. Angus Mackintosh was born in the parish of Moy in Inverness-shire. He was the child of godly parents, and he told me an incident in his early history which made an everlasting impression on him. When he was sixteen years old his father assembled a few Christian friends, and after spending a part of the day in devotional exercises he addressed his son as follows: – “When you were an infant I cast you on God’s covenant, and took its seal for you. You have now come to years when you are able to think and act for yourself, and I now remind you that God’s vows, are on you; that; as a baptized person, you have a special interest in the covenant, and that you are specially bound to give yourself to Christ, to receive Him as your own Saviour, and live to His glory.”
A Highland Evangelist – Finlay Munro
As he spoke the congregation were disturbed by the behaviour of some Roman Catholics from Glengarry, who, by moving about, distracted their attention. The speaker addressed himself to them, and told them that as a proof of the truth of his teaching his footprints would remain there for long. The accounts vary as to the length of time he mentioned; one account being that he said until his hearers should go to judgment, and another, until the Day of Judgment. But the fact is that after a hundred years the footprints can still be made out. The incident is said to have taken place in 1827.
Lachlan Mackenzie of Lochcarron
“His prayerfulness was the leading feature of his Christianity. Much of his time was spent on his knees, and many a sleepless night has he passed, sometimes wrestling, as for his life, against the assaults of the tempter, and at other times ‘rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. The nearness to the mercy seat, to which he was sometimes admitted, was quite extraordinary. Proofs of this might be given, because of which we cannot wonder that he had the fame and influence of a prophet among the people of the North. Avoiding the extreme of a superstitious credulity, on the one hand, and of the formalist’s scepticism on the other, it is altogether safe to say that Mr Lachlan enjoyed peculiarly familiar intercourse with God, and received such distinct intimations of His mind, in reference to the cases which he carried to the mercy seat, as but very few of God’s children have obtained”
John Kennedy of Killearnan
OF all the northern ministers there is scarcely any name that stands higher in the estimation of the Church of God than that of the Rev. John Kennedy, minister of Killearnan
John Macdonald, Apostle of the North
It was as a preacher he attained his eminence. There have been not a few who could defend the doctrine of the gospel against learned disputants with greater success. Many have equalled, and a few have surpassed him, in the power to affect the feelings of an audience. In skill of illustration he was inferior to some of his contemporaries, and there were others who were more skilful casuists. But all the elements which combine to constitute a true preacher of the gospel were found in him in rare harmony and in excellent measure. His expositions were always careful, luminous, and exact; his statements of doctrine were marvellously precise; the arrangement of his ideas was always logical and textual; his facility of expression was singularly great; his illustrations, always apt, were often striking; his practical counsels to Christians, suggested by his own experience, were always wise and seasonable; and his appeals to sinners were most solemn and powerful
Professor John Duncan
I have given only the barest outline of the life and character of one of the brightest Christian ornaments that the Church of Christ in Scotland had in modern times, and must express regret for my very imperfect effort. One of his friends said, “He seemed to be a child and a giant, in one – both characters curiously intermingled, making intercourse with him peculiarly delightful. No man ever inspired less awe, nor called forth deeper reverence.”
John Macrae of Ness
His appearance as he presented himself before a congregation at once arrested attention; it suggested to the hearers the thought that this was a messenger sent from God. Many in almost all parts of the world will remember services conducted by him; especially on Communion Sabbaths, when he appeared, with his countenance radiant, as one who had come down from the Mount of Communion; and how, by the time he had read the Psalm and engaged in prayer, the congregation often consisting of many thousands, was awed into eager attention, and throughout an expression of delight appeared on the faces of God’s people, while the most careless were solemnized, often deeply moved.
Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall
Dr Kennedy was a truly great divine. In doctrine he was clear and powerful and at the same time practical. He was tender and judicious in his application of his message, and he was an experimental divine in the best sense of the word. The great Puritans had no more eminent successor in the Scottish ministry in the 19th century