Archive for the ‘Robert Wodrow’ Category

Wodrow’s Analecta Again

June 21, 2008

Robert Wodrow’s work Analecta: Or, Materials for a History of Remarkable Providences; Mostly Relating to Scottish Ministers and Christians (4 vols. Edinburgh: Maitland Club, 1842-1843) is an absolutely fascinating work for students of 17th C Scottish theology.  Whilst not always entirely accurate it is generally reliable and  is really crying out for reprinting in a critical edition as it is very hard to obtain now – maybe I’m old fashioned but being on google books doesn’t count for me!  Anyway I posted some material from this a few months ago.  Here are some sections from my notes I didn’t include then.

David Dickson in Durham

He [Dickson] had a wonderful opinion of great and worthy Mr Durham … He said somewhat to this purpose of Mr Durham, that ‘He was like a great bottle full of excellent good wine that when it did go to come out it could not well come out… ‘ so Mr Durham had little expression [in preaching or writing] but much good and great matter.
Analecta, 3:10

This ties with my own reading of Durham’s sermons.  Absolutely fantastic material but lacking the accessibility of the works of say George Swinnock or Thomas Watson.  Woodrow notes the same point himself:

Mr Durham was full of great substantial matter, but had not a popular or plausible way of speaking given him, as Mr Carstairs had. Every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner and another after that. Every man must have some thing to humble him; as Moses, though a great instrument, and man of God, yet was of slow speech, and yet none like him in Israel, in his day; yet of himself a poor foundling cast out in the open field.
Analecta, 3:108

On Gloves

MR FRANCIS AIRD … Mr Durham did name Mr Aird to succeed him in the ministry at Glasgow. I heard that Mr Aird was once preaching before the Synod of Glasgow and he was speaking much about the faults of Ministers, and he was weeping much.  He began to speak of their apparel, and of their very gloves! He said weeping, ‘And we Ministers, must have our mounted gloves!’ – and Mr Durham was just sitting before him with a pair of good new gloves, and he presently took them off his hand, (it’s said,) and put them up in his pouch!
Analecta, 3:56

Nothing particularly theological here – just an interesting anecdote!

 Three Great Qualities of James Durham

There was a learned man, Sir James Turner, said this of Mr Durham: ‘He had these three in a considerable manner in him, which are to be found but rarely in one man, viz., great piety, which was evident by his exposition of the Song of Solomon; great prudence, whereof he gave a clear specimen in his book on Scandal; and great learning, and reading, and knowledge in History, whereof he gives a clear specimen in his book on the Revelation.
Analecta 3:107-8

This is a fine analysis of some of Durham’s qualities.  The argument that Durham’s exposition of the Song of Solomon reveals his piety rests on the (correct!) assumption that the Song is a description of the relationship between Christ and believers.  Given this, in order to understand this relationship described in the Song, one needs to, first and foremost, have experienced this relationship.  The argument goes that the closer a believer is to Christ, the more a soul will experience and understand Christ’s dealing with it, the esasier it will be to expound the Song.  So, a when preacher can handle the Song experimentally it was traditionally taken as an indication of the piety of the preacher.

Durham’s learning is highlighted here – and correctly so for it is truly monumental.  Church history, general history, patristics, Medieval developments in theology, contemporary Reformed and Catholic theology were all within his grasp.  His colleague in the ministry John Castairs describes this well:

It [Treatise on Scandal] discovers withal so very great insight in church history and writings of the ancient Fathers, wherewith it is everywhere most beautifully illuminated, that it may well be said of him … that one would have thought universam antiquitatem in ejus pectusculo latuisse reconditam, that all antiquity lay in his breast … he was so familiarly acquainted with the Fathers as if he himself had been one of them.
John Carstairs, Introduction  to James Durham, The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland or, A treatise Concerning Scandal(Reprint. Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1990, pxxii)

Durham’s Humility

But such gifts did not puff Durham up, he esteemed his brethren as better than himself as may be seen in this anecdote:

Mr Durham not having a popular way of speaking to the common people, he, with some of his Elders, would have seen the people running away from him to hear Mr Gray in the Outter High Church. The Elders seemed to be very displeased, but Mr Durham said, ‘Let them alone, let them go where they think they profit most; for it is probable, if I were in their case, I would do the same thing .’
Analecta, 3:109

These are some insights to the more human side of Durham.  I hope to pick up on some of his thelolgical insights soon with substantial posts on: “Preaching and the Doctrine of Election,” “On Covenants: Works, Grace and Redemption” & “The Sabbath: Ten Words Have not become Nine”.  I have the material ready – I just need the time to arrange it properly.

Weekly Update 24 – Wodrow’s Analecta

October 15, 2007

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.