In Its Relation to Church History
‘It has been my endeavour to handle my theme in a free and familiar fashion so as to avoid a coldly technical and stiff treatment of it, and to make it as instinct with human interest as the case permitted. This called for setting forth a theological discourse in a setting of real church life. Thus discussion and exposition are woven into a fabric of narrative. I need hardly say that I write from the standpoint of one cordially attached to the faith and witness of the Reformed churches. Though that faith is, for the time being, largely under an eclipse, its friends live in the hope that with a resurgence of evangelical godliness in days of reviving it will have an ample vindication, so that its future will in glory and in power surpass the best and brightest days of its past.’ PRINCIPAL JOHN MACLEOD
Scotland has made a unique contribution in the field of theology, and the influence of its theologians has been and continues to be felt across the world. Indeed it was an American audience for whom John Macleod prepared this narrative of Scottish Theology, which was originally delivered as lectures to students at Westminster Theological Seminary.
Scottish Theology traces the development of theological thought as it was worked out in the life of the church in Scotland after the Reformation. It is far from a neat and straightforward story. But Macleod, in no way neglecting the details or the personalities involved, recounts it in such a way as to draw attention to the broad themes and the big principles that were at stake in the debates and controversies which took place amidst ongoing changes in the realms of church and state. At one level, Macleod’s narrative is an historical document in itself a Reformed, evangelical, and Presbyterian interpretation of the events that it describes.
But it is much more significant than a mere historical source. The issues documented the relationship between church and state; the authority of Scripture; the nature of the atonement; intra-church conflict; the persecution of Christians; the church’s missionary responsibility all have a resounding contemporary significance, and especially so with the hindsight of the developments that have taken place since the conclusion of Macleod’s narrative. A judicious consideration of history is a sure way to promote humility, and a careful study of Macleod’s account will enable readers to appreciate more fully the distinctive theological inheritance of Scotland, and to be thankful for the way God has worked in his providence to use this heritage to build and preserve his church down through the centuries to the present day.