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    Issued By The Committee Of The General Assembly Of The Free Church Of Scotland, For The Publication Of The Works Of Scottish Reformers And Divines.



    IN issuing their first volume, the Committee think it right to place on record, by way of general preface, the deliverance of the General Assembly appointing them, together with a portion of their first circular, to explain the nature of the plan which they were appointed to carry out. “Edinburgh , 18th May, 1844. — Sess. 4. “The General Assembly having called for the Overture by certain members of the house for the appointment of a Committee, or board of Religious Publication, and for the Overture from the Synod of Aberdeen relative to a Catechism on Presbyterianism, said Overtures were read. The General Assembly cordially approve of the objects contemplated in these Overtures, and resolve to appoint a Committee, for the purpose of carrying these objects into effect; with power to the Committee to superintend the issue of such of the practical and other writings of the Scottish Reformers, and the Divines of former times, as may seem suitable in these days, at a rate which may bring them within the reach of the people; and also, with authority to prepare suitable Tracts and Catechisms in Gaelic, as well as in English, on the different topics referred to in these Overtures, for circulation among the families of our land.”


    The object in view is, to secure the republication of the good old theological literature of Scotland, in such a form, and under such arrangements, as will bring it within the reach of every family. This object the Committee seek to accomplish, by an extensive subscription throughout the country, on the principle of the Parker, Wodrow, and other societies, but at a greatly reduced rate. Four shillings a year, or one shilling a quarter, is the sum to be subscribed; and for this sum every subscriber is to receive at least three volumes every year, of a good size, and large type, each volume containing about 350 pages. This is on the supposition of the subscribers amounting to about 20,000, — the number of subscribers being unlimited.

    The Committee think it right to state, that it is not their intention to issue, on this plan, any new or copy-right works, but rather to bring out those valuable treatises of practical theology and personal religion, which have to a large extent fallen aside, and do not form part of the ordinary stock of booksellers.

    It is plain, indeed, that this proposal has a new and independent field of its own to occupy. The mass of the people never think of going to the booksellers’ shops, especially to buy such books as this Committee propose to issue. Nay, even when such books are offered from door to door, whether in whole volumes, or in parts and numbers, but few, comparatively, become purchasers. But there is a charm in the feeling, that by subscribing his four shillings a year, or one shilling a quarter, a man becomes a member of an association, and acquires a title to have his three or perhaps four volumes, every year, delivered at his own house; and if, in this way, the Committee succeed in introducing among the people the practical writings of the old Scottish worthies, and secure that they shall be read, (as they are more likely to be, when thus presented, in single volumes, at stated intervals, than if they were bought all at once, entire), the result will be, by God’s blessing, an increased appetite for religious literature of the best sort, which religious authors and booksellers will have to exert themselves, with increased diligence, to satisfy.

    But the chief recommendation of the plan, is the direct good it is fitted to accomplish.

    The divines of the two Scottish Reformations, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and their not unworthy successors in the beginning and middle of the eighteenth, may have been less erudite and accomplished scholars than the giants of the Anglican Church, and less elegant rhetoricians than the school of Tillotson; but in Scriptural and practical divinity, they attained to such richness, copiousness, and variety, as none but the Puritans have ever rivalled; while, in addition, their national shrewdness, and stern force of intellect, combining with the sound creed which Knox learned from Calvin, preserved them from that oscillation or vibration between Pelagianism and Antinomianism, which has too often, especially in times of excitement or awakening, characterized the Evangelism of other lands. At all events, the writings of the men who compiled our earlier standards, and who had the chief hand in the composition of the Shorter Catechism, — the writings which formed the Scottish character in Scotland’s best days, and whose dingy and wellthumbed volumes, preserved on cottage shelves, from generation to generation, and read, on winter evenings, by the dim fire-light, kept alive true religion in many a district where, in the pulpit, the trumpet gave forth an uncertain sound, or a sound all too certain on the side of error, — the writings which, beginning with Knox’s startling appeals, take in the many weighty words of wisdom with which a suffering and often sinning Church was edified, till they come down to Boston’s faithful searchings of heart, and the pointed sermons of the Erskines, — these writings must be worthy of a revival, especially in an age which has been summoned once more to take up its hereditary testimony for the crown-rights of the Redeemer, and the spiritual freedom of his Church.

    It is good that such a man as Rutherford should be known to the modern religious world by his Letters as well as by his Lex Rex; and there are many others among the Scottish Martyrs and confessors, of whom men think as merely hard and dry controversialists in a strife of ecclesiastical politics, to whom justice may be done, by rescuing from oblivion their devout exercises before God, and their deep, experimental dealings with the souls and consciences of their fellow-men. If Scotland owns these Fathers as handing down to her the principles of her church polity, she may do well to consult them, as having also moulded the form, and breathed into that form the spirit of her homely and heart-felt piety; and if, in his great kindness and forbearance, God is now pouring out upon any portion of his Church a measure of the blessing which was often experienced of old, and reviving his work in the midst of the years, nothing can be more suitable for giving a healthy tone to such a movement, and preventing the risk of its being marred by shallow and upstart fancies, than the attempt to leaven the minds of men now, with the same style and kind of Christianity, high-toned, manly, and practical, as well as deeply meditative and spiritual, which was formed, under God, by those masters in ancient learning, moral science, and Holy Writ, whose works it is intended to bring again into notice and into use.

    The Committee have only further to state, that already the number of Subscribers amounts to nearly 40,000, chiefly in Scotland alone: and that the scheme is gradually extending, both here and in other countries. The publications being stereotyped, new subscribers may be supplied, from time to time, with the earlier volumes.

    TheREVEREND THOMAS THOMSON, Editor of Calderwood for the Wodrow Society, having been appointed by the Committee to edit their publications, with the assistance of members of the Committee, has prepared the following volume with extreme care, collating the different editions and MSS. to which he had access, and writing out an accurate copy for the press. The Committee are also deeply indebted to the Reverend Thomas M’Crie for most valuable aid in the preparation of this volume, and in the general management of the scheme.

    With these explanations, the Committee earnestly commend this undertaking to the prayers of the people of God, that his blessing may render these treatises as useful, to the saving of souls and the advancement of his cause, now, as they were of old, when they issued fresh from the pen of their living author. (Signed) In name of the Committee, ROBT. S. CANDLISH Convener.


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