Weekly Update 24 – Wodrow’s Analecta

Yes I know I’m late, but I’ve been busy!  Speaking at the Young People’s meeting on Thursday night and the Youth Fellowship yesterday meant something had to give!  Now on to the post.

Robert Wodrow’s Analecta (Analecta: or, Materials for a history of remarkable providences; mostly relating to Scotch ministers and Christians. Glasgow: Maitland Club, 1842-1843, 4 Vols) is a great source for students of Scottish Church history.  It is full of interesting anecdotes and provides many helpful insights into the leading figures of Scottish theology during the “Second Reformation”.  I’ve been working through these volumes and thought it would be good to post some of Wodrow’s material that relates to Durham.

Miss [Mistris] Fullartoun, a cousin of Mr [James] Durham’s and Mr George Sample’s sister, tells me that her brother, Mr Sample, was educate by Mr Durham. That Mr Durham, on his death-bed, was under some darkness, as to his interest in Christ, and said to Mr Carstairs, “Brother, for all that I have preached and written, there is but one Scripture I can remember or dare grip to; tell me if I dare lay the weight of my salvation upon it? ‘Whosoever cometh to me, I will in no ways cast out.'” Mr Carstairs said, ” Sir, you may depend on it, though you had a thousand salvations to hazard!”
Vol 1, p136
[This is also related on p215 but the text is ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary’]

This is a fairly well-known tale regarding Durham’s death.  It has been used by some critics of 17th C Scottish theology to illustrate how much the “Calvinism” of people like Durham destroyed the possibility of assurance.  The critique runs along the lines of “See these people whose whole theology is dominated by election and limited atonement – even their leading representatives died without assurance.”  A couple of points need to be made.  First, if one of the leading representatives lacked assurance in their death it would not be just to extrapolate from that one instance to say 17th C Scottish theology as a whole led to a lack of assurance.  Second, it appears incorrect to me to say that Durham died without assurance.  It is evident that he lacked some comfort as he approached death.  But if Scottish theology really destroyed assurance then Carstairs would not have been able to give the comfort he did, would he?  So based on Carstairs’ response I think it is fair to say Durham died with assurance.

Mr DAVID DICKSON… and Mr James Durham drew up The Sum of Saving Knowledge, in some afternoons when they went out to the Craigs of Glasgow to take the air, because they thought the Catechism too large and dark; (and, if I be not forgot, my informer, Mr P. S. [Patrick Simson,] was their amanuensis,) and the application was the substance of some sermons Mr Dickson preached at Inneraray, written out at the desire of my Lady Argyle.
Vol 1, p166

Wodrow clearly ascribes the writing of the famous Sum of Saving Knowledge to David Dickson and James Durham.  Although he notes that the base of the Sum came from Dickson’s sermons I don’t think we should minimise the input of Durham into the Sum.  Its teaching is fully and continually reflected in his sermons.  What is interesting here is Wodrow’s comment that Durham and Dickson thought the Catechism [The Larger Catechism] “too large and dark”.  Is this true?  Possibly.  Now Durham refers extensively to the Shorter Catechism as “our excellent catechism” in his sermons, so he obviously held the Westminster Catechisms in high regard.  But, and I am speculating here, there may be reason to think that Durham and Dickson might have regarded the Catechism as capable of greater precision on one point that was dear to them – the covenant of redemption.  The Westminster Standards do not differentiate clearly between any covenant of redemption and a covenant of grace.  But Durham and Dickson did, and they felt it was important to do so.  Further, they make this distinction in the Sum of Saving Knowledge.  So there may indeed be this one respect in which they felt the SoSK was clear and the Catechism was “dark”.

[David Dickson said] marks should be given sparingly and sickerly, and so given as to lead in to Imputed Righteousness ; because, said he, marks are ready, either to lead in to a Covenant of Works, or if not sound, to discourage. He excelled in conference.

I know this isn’t about Durham but it is an important point which serves to correct much that is said about “Second Reformation” Scottish theology.  17th C Scottish theology is alleged to place such weight on the internal marks of grace (love to the brethren, hatred of sin, etc) as to lead unintentionally to the neglect of the imputed righteousness of Christ.  Here we have Dickson, a leading Scottish theologian warning against that very alleged error.  It fairly undermines the critical historiography!

He [Durham] said to my father, if he were to live ten years longer then he had done, he would choose to have nine years to study for preaching the tenth.
Vol 1, p168

This is Durham’s view of the importance of study and learning for preaching.  It reveals a very high view of the importance of doctrinal precision in preaching.

Mr James Stirling tells me, he hears that Mr Durham kept two days a week for fasting and prayer, for discovering of the Lord’s mind when he was writing on the Revelation; and it was thought that, with his close study and thought, cast him into that decay, whereof he dyed. He was a man that was very much in meditation.
Vol 1, p321

Durham clearly recognised that more than a good intellect is necessary to interpret Scripture correctly.  True spiritual understanding which is only given by the Lord is the great necessity.  But that does not mean we neglect God’s appointed means of hard study either.  And neither did Durham – indeed if the anecdote above is accurate he took it to excess.

Mr Patrick Simson told me, that Mr Durham used to say that division was by far worse then either of the sides; and applied this to the Protesters and Resolutioners.
Vol 1, p324

Durham was a man who understood the seriousness of breaching the visible unity of the Lord’s church.

It was Mr Dickson that brought him to Glasgow, and promoted his call. It was observed by the Ministers at that time, that Mr Dixon was for the moving the affections, and Mr Durham for close-dealing with the conscience.
Vol 2, p116

This is an accurate description of one of the strengths of Durham’s preaching.

Mr Durham was a person of the outmost composure and gravity, and it was much made him smile. In some gentleman’s house, Mr William Guthrie and he were together at dinner; and Mr Guthrie was exceeding merry, and made Mr Durham smile, yea, laugh out, with his pleasant facetious conversation. It was the ordinary of the family to pray after dinner; and immediately after their mirth, it’s put upon Mr Guthrie to pray ; and, as he was wont, he fell immediately to the greatest measure of seriousness and fervency, to the astonishment and moving of all present. When they rose from prayer, Mr Durham came to him, and embraced him, and said, ” O ! Will, you are a happy man! If I had been so daft as you have been, I could not have been serious, nor in any frame for forty-eight hours !”
Vol 2, p140

As well as providing an interesting insight into Durham’s character, this episode also illustrates just how different in personality Christians can be.  Durham and Guthrie are both fine representatives of Scottish theology in the mid-17th century – and yet their natures are so different.  But grace unites them.

7 Responses to “Weekly Update 24 – Wodrow’s Analecta”

  1. Chris Coldwell Says:

    Wodrow’s Analecta is a rare set to come by, and you are happy to have a set or access to one. I passed on a set twice many years ago and not until 2005 was I able to obtain a fairly nice set, which I detail here:
    Some of the information on Dickson and Durham’s authorship of the Sum of Saving Knowledge is cited in other works but not all the references if I recall my own research on the authorship question which I published some months back (“Sum of Saving Knowledge; Authors and History,” The PuritanBoard Theological Journal online at http://tinyurl.com/ytguzj).

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Thanks for the links to your articles – especially the one on the authorship of “The Sum”. Most helpful.

    I’m afraid I don’t have my own set of the Analecta and I’ve never seen a set become available. A University about an hour away has a set. Google books have also digitised 3 of the volumes. Would Naphtali consider reprinting the set or would it be too big a project?

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  3. Chris Coldwell Says:

    Very huge! I couldn’t do it I’m sure. I missed that Google, the spoiler of reprint dreams and antiquarian book values, had done Analecta; I think they did some or all of W’s Correspondence. But, still, its nice it have. I do have the Correspondence, 3 vols, and I should still have History of the Sufferings. I have most of the Wodrow Society volumes named for W, including an ugly battered set of Calderwood’s history in 8 vols.

  4. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Sounds like quite a library you have!

    Personally I don’t like e-books – fine for reference, hopeless if you actually want to read the book. So whether it is on Google or not wouldn’t really affect whether I would buy it.

  5. Chris Coldwell Says:

    Bless you. 🙂

  6. greenbaggins Says:

    I like your blog, and hope that God blesses you richly as you explore Reformed theology in your thesis. I will link to your blog on mine.

  7. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Pastor Keister

    Thank you for your kind words and for linking to my blog. I will return the favour. Thank you also for all the work you put into defending the biblical and confessional doctrine of justification against its current critics. It is much appreciated.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

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