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Not much of a souldier

February 2012 | by Wayne Pearce

Not much of a souldier
David Christie
Diadem Books, 269 pages, £8.99,
ISBN: 978-1-908026-11-8

Not much of a souldier is historical fiction. It charts the origins of the Cameronian Regiment through the story of its principal characters, William Cleland, the first commanding officer of the regiment, and covenanting minister, Alexander Shields, who became its first chaplain.
It takes its title from a remark made by the famous Scottish military leader, General Hugh Mackay, who reputedly said of Cleland ‘a fine resolute man, but not much of a souldier’.
The author, David Christie, is a retired army officer who served in the Cameronians at the time of the regiment’s disbandment in 1968. According to Christie, ‘this book recounts the human story behind the author’s DTh thesis (Stellenbosch University, 2008), Bible and sword: the Cameronian contribution to freedom of religion’. While the story is worth the telling, the writing style is a little wooden in parts.
This reviewer however has concerns regarding the author’s grasp of covenanter theology. For example, he has the covenanting minister Richard Cameron saying ‘only God has divine right, and he made us free to worship as we would, not as the king orders’.
Here the author fails to portray accurately the regulative principle of worship — the Covenanters did not seek to worship God as they saw fit, but as God mandated in his Word.
In the author’s note at the end he suggests Alexander Shields would have been pleased that, at the disbandment of the regiment, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians were able to worship together! This he evidently thinks is a positive development — a value judgement that would not have been shared by Shields and his fellow Covenanters.
Wayne Pearce
Isle of Skye

 

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