In 1939, the principal of the Free Church of Scotland college, Dr John Macleod, delivered a series of lectures at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He was an acknowledged master of his chosen subject, Scottish theology.
His ten lectures were published in 1943, and this reprint has a new foreword, a series of helpful footnotes and, as an appendix, an address by John Macleod on the work of a theological college.
The subtitle, In relation to church history since the Reformation, indicates that this is no mere discussion of doctrine. It is a work rather of historical theology. We are introduced not only to a range of important theological issues, but to the men and churches intertwined with them. This added drama, colour and human interest enhance the value of the book.
After an introductory lecture, the course progresses in broadly chronological order. Beginning in the 16th century with the successors to John Knox, we eventually arrive at the early years of the 20th century.
It is a journey of lights and shadows. There are great movements of the Spirit of God along the way and an unbroken succession of outstanding theologians and preachers. Times of declension and darkness are not few, however, and it is sobering to see what long shadows deviant doctrines or groups of men can cast.
What kind of topics are raised in a book on Scottish theology? Among them, the doctrine of the church, the relationship between church and state, the nature and extent of the atonement, the way in which the gospel should be preached, the evangelisation of the heathen, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture.
Principal Macleod writes from the standpoint of a traditional Scottish commitment to the doctrines of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Presbyterian model of church government.
This is by no means a book for all. To get the full benefit of it, one has to already possess some knowledge of the subject. But, for any who are eager to grow in their understanding of the great matters that have been fought over in the Scottish church since the Reformation, and to make the acquaintance of its leading figures, it is a treasure chest.