Jesus Christ King of the Church by James Moir Porteous. Hardback, 350 pages, published by the James Begg Society, £10.99. Obtainable from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom.
THIS useful volume was originally published in 1872 under the title The Government of the Kingdom of Christ. An Inquiry as to the Scriptural, Invincible, and Historical Position of Presbytery. Porteous (1822-1891) had already been inducted as Free Church minister in the Dumfriesshire parish of Wanlockhead and Leadhills when he won a prize, in a competition organised by his Church, for an essay on Presbyterian order and government. The essay became the book which is reviewed here, although the final section, a survey of Presbyterian churches throughout the world during the late nineteenth century, has not been republished, but it is available “in facsimile” from the James Begg Society.
The first part of the book contains an exposition of a series of 15 principles, beginning with: “The only King and head of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ”, “The visible Church is the organised society of those professedly believing in and bearing testimony unto Christ”, and, “The Scriptures are the only ultimate standard or law of the Church”. Among the more contentious of these principles are: “The office of elder or bishop is identical”, “The course of administration in every congregation is by representative associated elders”, and, “The congregations of a locality form one church, which is governed by the associated elders of these congregations”.
This work deals simply and thoroughly with the whole subject of church government, pointing out carefully the Scripture evidence for Presbyterianism. Each of the chapters, mostly very short, closes with a suitable series of questions. There are a few blemishes, such as an unsatisfactory reference to New Testament manuscripts. Of course, because of the length of time since the book was written, some of the references to the practice of particular denominations are necessarily out of date. One feels too that, at the end of the book, the author has been rather carried away at the prospect of cooperation between different Presbyterian bodies, without sufficient regard to their identity in doctrine. The book is attractively produced, but there is a surprising number of misprints.
For a more concise account of this subject, one can also recommend Thomas Witherows The Apostolic Church, published by Free Presbyterian Publications, and obtainable from the F. P. Bookroom at £2.95.
Rev. K. D. Macleod