This is an excellent, scholarly, book, recounting of the story of the church in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries through the personalities involved.
The beginning of the 16th century was the time of the Reformation ignited by Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg castle. Through reading the Bible, Luther rediscovered the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. He realised that simply by believing in Jesus Christ he was made right with God and was fit for heaven. This was an abhorrent doctrine to the corrupted medieval Roman Catholic church which was committed to salvation by works. According to this teaching you had to live a good enough life to enter heaven or pay your way instead.
Early in the 16th century, the Reformation doctrines reached the shores of Scotland, and Donald Macleod recounts how Patrick Hamilton (1504-1528) and George Wishart (1513–1546) were the first Scots to preach them and die as a result. Next came John Knox (c.1514–1572) who became famous for his fiery preaching and uncompromising adherence to the gospel. Knox was a major contributor to the Scots Confession (1560) and First Book of Discipline (1560) which were mileposts in Scotland becoming a Protestant country.
In the following chapter Macleod introduces Andrew Melville (1545–1622), an academic recognised by his European peers, who was responsible for the production of the Second Book of Discipline (1578) which laid the foundations for Scottish presbyterianism. The next theologian Macleod presents to us is Robert Bruce (1555–1631), not to be confused with Robert Bruce, King of Scotland (1274–1329). Bruce was an apprentice of Andrew Melville and he became the Minister at St Giles, Edinburgh. He was a favourite of King James VI, but later in his ministry he was exiled by the same king.
Founder of Reformed Church
Macleod then tells us about Alexander Henderson (c.1583 –1646) who was one of the drafters of the National Covenant (1638) and, as such, was one of the founders of the Reformed church in Scotland. The National Covenant rejected King Charles I attempts to impose the English Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish church. Henderson battled for a free Scottish church and Parliament.
The next two theologians Macleod tells us about continued in the same line: Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661), author of Lex, Rex and David Dickson (1583–1663). These gospel-hearted men thought long and hard about the relationship between church and state. Rutherford was an attendee at the Westminster Assembly (1643–1653) which produced the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), a summary of Reformed christian doctrine. The final theologian Macleod describes is Robert Leighton (1611–1684) who became Archbishop of Glasgow, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh from 1653 to 1662. He wrote a famous commentary on 1 Peter.
I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out about these men of God who did battle for the gospel in their life and times. In our day and age it is unfashionable to be a Christian and even more unfashionable to be interested in the history of the Scottish Reformation! However, for the searcher after truth, there are treasures to be dug up in the lives of these Scottish Christians. This book contains many of them and I highly recommend it.