As promised, over the next few posts I will write on who we are as it relates to our standing before God. To some of you this may be redundant information as you have heard it all before. However, as Peter said in 2 Peter 1:12, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.”
Before we look into this topic, I want to introduce you to my inspiration and the source of much of my thoughts. Thomas Boston was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor (1676-1732) who shepherded several congregations in the early 1700’s. His father was a covenanting cooper. (A what?) Well, you may be familiar with what a cooper is. No, his last name was not Cooper. (Coo -per or Ku-per, the pronunciation depending on whether you were born on a dirt road or a paved road in Horry County; also one of the guys who sends you your electricity in S.C.) Unless you are in the whiskey distilling or whiskey enjoying business, your familiarity with a cooper may be vague. Primarily, a cooper made wooden barrels, buckets, casks etc. What made this cooper a Covenanter is the more important descriptor of the elder Boston. A Covenanter was a Presbyterian Christian from Scotland who had signed a pact called the National Covenant, which opposed the government approved “Church of Scotland”. Basically, the Church of Scotland had agreed to adopt and enforce many of the practices and beliefs of the Church of England, headed by the Stuart kings. The Covenanters wanted the Presbyterian Church in Scotland to be left to decide for itself how it would worship and practice its religion. They were convicted that their beliefs, practices and form of church government were biblical. Some of Thomas Boston’s earliest childhood memories were visiting his father in prison, where he had been incarcerated for not conforming. Think about that the next time you have a beef with your church. Following your convictions could lead to conviction. (Love the play on words) These Covenanters were not the Puritans, who later became the famous literary characters. You know, those highly “accurate” accounts such as “The Scarlet Letter.” (Sorry, not a fan) In 1687 the Act of Toleration allowed the Covenanters to resume meeting for worship and church fellowship but initially only allowed to do so in private homes and barns. The Bostons would travel five miles to the home of Henry Erskine for worship, one of the namesakes for Erskine College.
I can only imagine the hardship and sacrifice of following your convictions during this time. For a middle class tradesman to be shunned by his fellow townsmen would have been financially difficult. To be jailed could have been ruinous. How wonderful it is for us today and we still complain. We even rage that the president is not a “Christian.” Maybe we should be satisfied with God’s sovereign providence. Remember, the Stuart King was a “Christian”. (At least the way the world uses the term) You will have to excuse my zeal for the Covenanters as I have always related to my Scot heritage. Only recently, due to my daughter’s quizzical mind and great computer skills, I learned that a forefather of mine was a covenanting Presbyterian minister who was beheaded in 1691 for failing to vow to King Charles. His wife and son fled to Virginia immediately and thus my family became Americans.
Thomas, at the age of 9, was sent off to grammar school where he studied Latin and Greek, but his favorite subject was Bible. (Presumably with no iPads) He graduated the University of Edinburgh, was lettered in Divinity, became a schoolmaster, and was licensed to preach all by the age of 21.(Maybe he did have an iPad) Starting out with a small parish church of 90 members, he finally pastored 700. He preached his last sermon from his bedroom window as he neared Glory. Unlike many of our popular preachers today, he did not have a side job as an author nor conference speaker. He was a pastor shepherding his flock. Ultimately, however, a vast treasure was discovered by his son after his death. Thousands of pages of notes, sermons, and memoirs would later be compiled into some of the greatest of Christian literature. To give you an idea of the scope of his work the 12 volume set of his “Complete Works” consists of 7,376 pages. (Sorry, no abridged version)
Why do I give you all of this information about this man? For he was only a man. I do so to get your attention and to qualify him as my source. Many of these long dead heroes of our faith have been hidden purposely from our eyes by those who would say their words were too heavy, too hard, or to complex. They were said to be over the head of the common church goer. Well if something is over our head we need stand on a stool. *** NEWS FLASH*** The people who heard the words from these preachers mouths were not intellectuals. They were the common farmers, tradesman, and townspeople, both men and women, and, get this, their CHILDREN!
“Who put a bee in his bonnet,” you ask? I guess those who would seek to keep us in the dark by not recommending we study these old dead guys work. I intend to whet your appetite with just some small take aways from Boston in the coming days. As agonists, let us celebrate the struggle of learning more about our natures using Boston’s “Human Nature in its Fourfold State.”