Few smaller areas
of the world have ever seen the prodigous renaissance in Biblical preaching
that Scotland saw in the 18th and 19th centuries. With her divinity halls filled
with converts from the Great Awakening and the Moody evangelistic crusades.
Scotland saw the early dissipation of this era of immense promise through destructive
higher criticism and Darwinian naturalism. The slow and tortured death of a
dynamic church in Scotland has been tragic, although the light still shines
in places like the Tron Church in Glasgow, the Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh,
and other evangelical congregations.
One of the brightest
exceptions in this picture of decline was James S. Stewart (1896-1990), called
by many "the most outstanding modern Scottish preacher."
Born in Dundee,
Stewart's father was converted under D.L. Moody, sold his business and became
a well-known Bible teacher for the YMCA. Stewart earned degrees at St. Andrews
and Edinburgh and did graduate study at Bonn in Germany. Although he assisted
H.R. Mackintosh in translating Schleiermacher into English, he agreed with his
mentor that Schleiermacher did not take revelation seriously.
Before the merger
in 1929, he served several churches in the United Free Church and subsequently
pastored the prestigious North Morningside Church in Edinburgh (Church of Scotland)
from 1935 to 1946. The impact of his preaching was widespread. He is remembered
as being "unimposing and shy," but very effective in the pastoral letters he
wrote to members and friends of his flock.
In 1947 he moved
on to become Professor of New Testament at New College, Edinburgh, for 22 years.
During these impactful years he traveled widely and served his fellowship as
Moderator of of the General Assembly (1963-64). Although a convinced socialist,
his views never obtruded into his pulpit ministry. Professor Richard Longenecker
recalls his brilliant blending of "rigorous scholarship, reverential reading
of the Scripture and effective communication of the Gospel."
Like few others,
his pastoral years saw rich and scholarly production. His Bible Class handbook
on Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ (1933) sold more than 100,000
copies in the United States. His prose style was stately but lucid. His Cunningham
Lectures in 1935 were published as A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of
St. Paul's Religion. This is an exceedingly rich and rewarding study in
which he follows Deissmann's "Christ-mysticism" -- seeing that at the center
of Paul's theology is the believer's union with Christ.
When he was young
he was under the spell of James Denney, whose definition of faith he often quoted:
faith is self-surrender to God in Christ. He saw so clearly that Paul's was
a "conversion-theology" and that the Apostle was deeply into apocalyptic and
into the doctrine of the two ages.