The Tree of Promise by Alexander Stewart
Free Presbyterian Publications, 1999, hardback, 372 pages.
Available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, 133 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6LE,
price £16.95, but available for a limited period at £13.50.
THIS work, The Tree of Promise, or, The Mosaic Economy a Dispensation of the Covenant of Grace, by the justly renowned Alexander Stewart of Cromarty, is considered, by those who are familiar with it, to be one of the most spiritual treatments of the Old Testament types.
Like McEwens work on the types (see page 281), Stewarts work is a summary of part of his preaching on the subject. “He was,” said James Hamilton of London, “in many respects, the most remarkable preacher in Scotland in his day.” However, the material used to make up this volume consisted of only the shorthand notes and skeletons of his sermons, which have been skilfully put into their present form by the editor of the work, Stewarts stepbrother, Charles Calder Stewart. (A later volume, The Mosaic Sacrifices, was edited by his close friend, Alexander Beith. It partially covers the same ground as the earlier volume, and was compiled from the notes of a lady in the congregation who, from memory, committed Stewarts sermons to writing).
The Tree of Promise consists of three parts: I, The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Levites; II, The Ordinary and Special Sacrifices (ordinary sacrices being the burnt-offering, the meat-offering, the peace-offering, the sin-offering, and the tresspass-offering; and the Special Sacrifices being those for leprosy and issues, and the sacrifice of the red heifer); III, The Stated Services of Public Worship, (these being the Daily Sacrifice, the Sabbath Service, the Day of Atonement, etc). An extract from the book is given on page 274.
Even although the volume contains but the remnants of Stewarts pulpit instruction, it shows his profound and original thinking, tempered by a reverent abiding within the bounds of Scripture. One of his hearers wrote of his preaching, “One of the most striking characteristics of Mr Stewarts originality was the solidity of the truths which always evolved. His was not the ability of opening up new vistas, in which all was unfamiliar. . . It was, on the contrary, the greatly higher ability of enlarging, widening, and lengthening the avenues long before opened up on important truths; and, in consequence, enabling men to see new and unwonted objects in old familiar directions.”
The volume is prefaced by an interesting biographical sketch of Stewart, by Roy Middleton, Barnoldswick, of which an abridged version appears on page 269 of this issue.
May the Lord bless the publication of this most useful work to many.