The first Free Presbyterian Magazine, published in May 1896, is now available in PDF format at this link. More than 120 years old, it is of historical interest obviously. But also it is full of spiritually profitable material for today, and we could not recommend it more highly.
- The editorial of more than four pages explains the Magazine’s purpose and aims, against the backdrop of the formation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland three years earlier, necessitated by the Free Church passing the Declaratory Act. That Act fundamentally altered the Free Church’s constitution, away from an unqualified adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith as her subordinate standard, to an undefined “substance of the Reformed faith”. The need for the same witness against the compromised versions of the Reformed faith prevalent in our day is clear.
- There follows an edifying and instructive 19 page sermon by Rev D MacFarlane, then of Raasay, on the Lord’s promise in Exodus 33:14, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest”. Mr MacFarlane was the only minister at the Free Church Assembly in 1893 to protest against the iniquitous Declaratory Act. In his sermon he states that a “disruption was pressed upon us in 1893 by the errors introduced into the church – a disruption for which there were graver reasons than those which caused the Disruption in 1843”. A particularly precious part of the sermon is where Moses is explained as a type of Christ the Mediator.
- The third article, “Inspired Psalmody”, rejects some of the specious arguments for uninspired hymns in the worship of God, and refutes objections to the exclusive use of the Psalms. The scriptural arguments for exclusive psalmody have been rehearsed so convincingly on so many occasions over the centuries, that it is astonishing that this attainment of the Church of Christ still meets with rejection by so many that claim subjection to the Head of the Church.
- Various notes and comments follow, including one deploring Parliament’s decision to open London’s museums and galleries on the Lord’s Day. “It confirms similar decisions made within recent years, and affords another opening for the Sabbath desecration which has become so prevalent in the present day.” How much more prevalent is it in our day! There is a telling note in the article: “We regret the almost universal use of the word Sunday, which is of heathen origin. The Sabbath is a name that fully expresses the character of the day, and has the supreme sanction of the Lord of the Sabbath.” Is the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland now alone in contending for using only Sabbath or Lord’s Day for the first day of the week?
- The congregational notes are particularly interesting, recording the ordinations and inductions of Revs Neil Cameron, James S Sinclair and Roderick Mackenzie, and the progress being made with buildings in various places.
Our hope is that other early issues of the magazine will appear on the website over coming months. The whole first year of the magazine in a bound volume is available from the FP Bookroom, as are other early volumes. These old paths are the good way indeed. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” ( Jer 6:16).
Rev Keith M Watkins