About the blog

This blog was originally to document progress on my PhD dissertation at WEST/University of Wales Trinity St David entitled:

“Reformed Thought and The Free Offer of the Gospel, With Special Reference to the Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-58)”

That project is now complete – to God be the glory.

The blog will continue to host postings on areas related to the history of Reformed theology.

25 Responses to “About the blog”

  1. puritanismtoday Says:

    Dear Donald,

    Thank you for the link. I would like to know more about you and your thesis. Could you send a few details to puritanismtoday@btinternet.com

    Gary McCullough [G.M]

  2. thomasgoodwin Says:

    Hi Donald (I assume that is your name). Can you email me similar info about your studies? Where you are studying, supervisor, etc.? mjns at mta.ca I am planning to do work on the Song of Solomon and how various Puritans interpreted it. Mark

  3. RJS Says:

    I too am interested in this. I would however voice a word of warning, be careful not to fall afoul of anachronism. It will be very difficult, in my opinion, to argue that Durham used the term “offer” to mean what many modern Reformed writers do.

  4. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Dear “RJS”

    Thanks. For myself I’m more than happy to let Durham himself define what he means by the free offer of the gospel. If you search through the blog I trust you will see plenty of examples where he does just that.

    As I read your comment I think you are charging modern Reformed theologians with reading people like Durham “anachronistically” on the free offer. I don’t accept that – say take R. Scott Clark as an example.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  5. Simon Padbury Says:

    Dear Donald,

    I’m appreciative of your blog – I discovered it a few weeks ago (following a link from PuritanismToday, and have been reading on and off for a while.

    Do you (or anyone) know of a commentary on the Sum of Saving Knowledge? Or set of articles or sermons following it?

    Kind regards,

    Simon Padbury,
    A member of the Presbyterian Reformed Church,
    in Stockton-on-Tees, England.

  6. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Dear Simon

    Thanks for your knid words. The only relevant stand alone work that I’m aware of is:

    Macpherson, John. The Sum of Saving Knowledge, Hand-Books for Bible Classes, Edinburgh, 1886

    I haven’t read it so I’m not sure what it is like theologically but there was a copy available in the latest Geneva Books list.

    I’m fairly sure there will have been magazine articles etc. but none come to mind. I think Matthew Vogan did a blog post on it some time ago.

    By the way we are only about 30 miles apart as we stay in Thirsk. My wife knows your Pastor’s family.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  7. tony lambert Says:

    I am an OMF missionary working in China for 25 years – I am also a committed Calvinist and have been collecting and reading Puritan works for the last nearly 40 years. I have most of the works by Durham, Dickson and John Brown. I am very impressed with John Brown and wonder why most of his works have never been reprinted.
    I am very interested in many of the topics I believe may be covered in your thesis such as the free offer, common grace etc. I have read extensively the views of Hoeksema and the Prot Reformed brethren and remain unconvinced. However, I am not happy with the outcome of the doctrine of common grace as expressed by the Christian Reformed church and others. I have been reading Kuyper and finding his work on Particular Grace excellent – his writings on Common grace much less so as rather contradictory in some instances. It does seem to have opened the door to worldliness. Perhaps the term itself is misleading as it is not really (saving) ‘grace’. I gather Kuper used towe different Dutch terms for saving grace and common grace. It is a pity this has been lost in translation.
    I agree with you about the Marrowmen as being thoroughly evangelical. At the same time I am against Amyraldianism which seems a half-way house to Arminianism (or worse!)
    Anyway I would like to keep in touch and wish you God’s blessing as you continue with your studies.
    Yours in His wonderful grace,
    Tony Lambert

  8. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Dear Tony

    Thank you for your kind comments. I’m not sure why John Brown (Wamphray) has missed out on being reprinted. His works are certainly worthy of being studied.

    I have read a lot of the output of the Protestant Reformed Churches as well. As well as disagreeing with them on their theology I find their take on the history of the free offer seriously deficient. There were 3 articles in the Standard Bearer on the Marrow Controversy a few years back which ended, “the errors of the Marrow Men are still destroying the preaching of the gospel today”. I find that sort of language staggering.

    Having said this I agree with your caution on the misuse of common grace. Common grace can, and to a certain extent in some circles has, become an excuse for “common worldliness”. I don’t think there is any need to abandon the vocabulary of common grace though (it is used by Calvin, Dickson, Durham, Owen, Etc) – it just needs to be applied correctly.

    >At the same time I am against Amyraldianism which seems a half-way house to Arminianism (or worse!)

    One of the reasons I chose Durham as a case study was that he opposed the teachings of John Cameron and affirmed particular redemption clearly and frequently. So there is no way to deflect what he says on the free offer by questioning his views on the extent of the atonement. Incidentally I keep meaning to do a post on why Durham believed that a particular redemption was pastorally better than a universal redemption.

    May you know the Lord’s blessing in your labours in China and thanks once again for commenting.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  9. Stephen Tipton Says:


    I stumbled across your blog and I have greatly enjoyed perusing it these last few days. The issues of the free offer of the gospel has always been of great interest to me. I will continue to look forward to reading what you have to say.

    I notice you haven’t mentioned John Preston. You may want to take a look at his “Breastplate of Faith and Love”, as it definitely deals with the issue of the Free Offer. Also, he just precedes James Durham and may have been an influence. His most important statement was quoted in the Marrow of Modern Divinity. I am sure that much of what you intend to look into you haven’ mentioned on your site. In case Preston wasn’t on that list, I hope that this was helpful.


    Stephen Tipton

  10. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Stephen

    Thanks for your comment. I actually haven’t read that much of Preston. I will definitely look into his “Breastplate of Faith and Love” – thanks for the reference. From his writings it is evident Durham read widely so I’m sure he will have read Preston.

    In my chapter on the history of the free offer in Reformed churches prior to Durham I looked at Calvin, Ames, Ball, Knox & Rollock in detail. Of Durham’s contemporaries I’ll probably look in detail at Dickson, Rutherford & Gray in Scotland and Sedgwick, Manton and Greenhill (possibly Owen as well but I’m not sure yet) in England. I think they all tie in with the WCoF very well.

    I’ll be posting some of Dickson this Friday if I can knock my notes into shape. I also have Knox and Rollock in reserve to post on later. The actual bibliography is a lot wider that that so there will be posts on Hugh Binning, Robert Bolton, Jeremiah Burroughs, James Ferguson, Patrick Gillespie, Thomas Goodwin, George Hutchison etc coming up.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  11. Rowland S. Ward Says:

    Hi Donald,

    Greetings from Australia. My friend Scott Clark mentioned your site which I found indeed a excellent one. I’ll follow your work with interest.

    In Tasmania back around 1964, the body now known as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, reacted against the Murray/Stonehouse presentation on the Free Offer and in effect moved to the Protestant Reformed type position. (They train their ministers there despite having some differences from them on various matters.)

    Blue Banner Rowlett published a review of Murray/Stonehouse a few years ago by a Matthew Winzer, who belongs to a small group here. It’s on the web. Largely or perhaps entirely self-taught, Winzer also moves in the same trajectory at the Protestant Reformed.

    If there’s anything I can help you with re above let me know.

    Rowland S. Ward

    Rev Dr Rowland S. Ward
    Knox Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia,

  12. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Dear Dr Ward

    Thanks for the encouragement and the offer of help. They are both much appreciated. I am grateful to Dr Clark for his work on the free offer – both in putting the Murray/Stonehouse essay on the internet and for his own essay on the free offer in the Strimple festschrift. I build on the distinctions Dr Clark made in his essay a lot in my first chapter.

    I read Matthew Winzer’s review of Murray/Stonehouse on the free offer a few years ago. As a work it is lacking both on exegetical and historical grounds.

    Every blessing
    Donald John

  13. Matthew Wilson Says:

    Hi! I am trying to find Therapeutica Sacra by David Dickson on-line. Any idea where I can find it? I have seen places that give certain chapters but not the whole work. Thanks!

    Matthew Wilson

  14. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Matthew

    It is availabe here:


    Every blessing
    Donald John

  15. Stephen Tipton Says:


    I have continued to enjoy reading your blog. The more I think about it, the more I see the wisdom in tackling such a topic for your PhD. I cannot imagine the impact that such steeping in the Puritans, especially to search out and study the free offer of the gospel, will have on your future ministry.

    If you get a chance, please contact me, as I would love to speak with you further.

  16. Tim Goerz Says:

    Donald….I have today, discovered your blog via Tony’s Shepherds blog.

    Fascinationg stuff. If I may, I have a couple of questions for you.

    I have begun to read about the Scottish reformation. I ran across a fascinating sub-point in T.M. Linday’s “THe Reformation”. In his chapter on the Scottish reformation, he discusses the the old celtic church and it’s emphasis on education. He states that the educational system of the celtic monastaries were second only to the scholars in Constantinople and that Charlemagne tapped this wealth of knowledge for teachers to staff the european universities. I find this absolutely fascinating and would like to follow this topic.

    Could you recommend some historical sources on the Celtic church? Also looking for books on Scottish history in general, to get a better feel for this period, Wycliffe, Lollardly and the english university system at this time.

    The texts I’m reading on the reformation are Lindsay, Knox, Howie and Murray. Any other suggestions?

    I pray that I’m not requesting too much as I know you are very busy. Any and all consideration would be appreciated.


    Tim Goerz
    Alvord, TX

  17. Donald John MacLean Says:


    Thanks for your kind words. Despite being one of the dwindling number of Scots who can follow a Gaelic service I’m not well read on the Celtic Church. However, Donald Meek’s “The Quest for Celtic Christianity” is highly recommended (available on amazon.com). This will interact with the most substantial literature on the subject.

    More generally if you are interested in Scottish Church history in addition to the works you mention you should try to get hold of:

    Cameron, Nigel M. et al. (eds.) Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1993

    It is out of print but James Dickson Books have copies every now and again for c. $60. Pretty much everything that can be thought of has an article in there with references to the most important literature for more detail.

    Every blessing

  18. Tim Goerz Says:


    May I ask your advice on possible graduate studies in Scotland?

    I’ve looked at Aberdeen…good distance learning program, to get started; St Andrews…especially the Reformation Studies program; and Edinburgh, for the research capabilities and the Scottish History program.

    In addition to the academic quality, what type of spiritual climate would I expect to encounter?


    Tim Goerz

  19. Donald John MacLean Says:


    Sorry for not replying sooner but work has been really busy. I hesitate to give advice as I have not been at these institutions. Is it a taught (i.e. Masters level) or research (PhD) you are looking at? I would guess the guys at creed or chaos (http://creedorchaos.wordpress.com/ – postgrad at Aberdeen) and The Conventicle (http://theconventicle.com/ – postgrad at Edinburgh) would be able to offer more informed advice.

    I think in recent times Aberdeen has had the reputation of being more receptive of an evangelical viewpoint that the others but with staff turnover that changes. None would be “reformed,” but as it looks like Historical Theology is what you want to study that should not be a major issue. Edinburgh and Aberdeen would probably have a better range of Reformed churches than St Andrews.

    Hope your research on which University to go to progresses well – and let me know where you decide to go.

    Every blessing

  20. Bobby Grow Says:

    What do you think of Thomas F. Torrances’ “Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell”?

  21. Donald John MacLean Says:

    I’m afraid that I don’t rate it highly. Richard Muller said in a review that the book told us more about Prof. Torrance’s theology that the history of Scottish Theology. Certainly Durham’s theology is not portrayed fairly in either Torrance’s, or Bell’s works.

    That is not to say everything about the book is bad, just that Torrance’s work not a sound work of historical theology.

    From a brief read of your blog I’m afraid you will disagree with this!

    • Bobby Grow Says:

      Hi Donald,

      Sorry it took me so long to come back; I wasn’t sure you were doing much on the blog (given your absence of new posts, at least when I originally commented).

      I don’t necessarily disagree that Torrance can overstate; BUT, this sword cuts both ways. Do you know if Muller has anything to say about the Scots that TFT deals with in his book (Fraser of Brea, Binning, Campbell, et al)?

      In the end, I would say, TFT is a constructive theologian; and it is his constructive work on Trinitarin theology (homoosious, vicariousness, election, etc.) that I am most pleased with. Another Scot (contemporary) David Fergusson is also pleased with Torrance (not uncritically though).

      Anyway, I appreciate your response; and you’ve read me right 😉 .

      • Donald John MacLean Says:

        Hi Bobby

        Thanks for the reply. I have to confess that the only work of Torrence I have read is his Scottish Theology so I’m unable to comment on his other work. John Murray is the 20th century theologian I’ve spent most time in, and I guess that reflects my firm rooting in the “Westminster” stream of Scottish theology.

        I cant think of anywhere at the moment where Muller deals with these theologians. I’ve actually been mulling over doing an article on Binning once I get past the finishing line on the thesis.

      • Bobby Grow Says:

        Great, Donald,

        An article on Binning would be interesting; I would like to see how you might handle him differently, or not, from Torrance (as a Westminster type of guy).


  22. Jim O'Brien Says:

    Dear Donald, Discovered your web-site tonight from a link off the Heinrich Bullinger page. It’s wonderful how the internet allows men of common interest to find each other. As for Brown of Wamphray, he is excellent, although by the time he got to Christ the Life, he had pretty much said all that he wanted under Christ the Way and the Truth. It was a very rewarding book.

    I pastor in Greenville, SC and work in Puritan spirituality. If you get a moment, let me know more about yourself and your work. Thanks!
    P.S. Do you know if the book, ‘How the Irish Saved Civilization’ would address your correspondent who asked about Celtic Christianity?

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