Book Reviews

Stories of the Scottish Covenanters by Robert Pollok

Rev. Lloyd Sprinkle was a godly Baptist pastor in Virginia. After coming to embrace the “doctrines of grace,” he became burdened to teach his flock that these doctrines were historically and earnestly confessed by most Bible-believing Christians. Lloyd felt compelled to reprint many of the difficult-to-obtain old books that taught these doctrines. So, Sprinkle Publications began in 1976 and reprinted many of the great, old books. Although Lloyd Sprinkle went home to be with Christ on September 26, 2019, his books are still available through Reformation Heritage Books.

Stories of the Scottish Covenanters by Robert Pollok was first printed in 1827, and reprinted by Sprinkle. These Scottish Christians were called “Covenanters” because they had signed the National Covenant vowing to worship in the biblical Presbyterian heritage of John Knox. Thus, they were in direct opposition to the tyrannical Stuart monarchs of Scotland. This resulted in the martyrdom of 18,000 Covenanters from 1660-1688.

This book records intriguing histories of three families that lived in the West of Scotland during the “Killing Times.” The first story is about the Rev. James Bruce who exercised an itinerant ministry “on the run” with his wife, son, and daughter for a considerable period until wicked persecutors murdered them one by one as they fled from one hiding place to another.

The second account is about the wealthy Gemmell family of Irvine. George Gemmell was a staunch supporter of the Stuarts and a nominal Episcopalian. His godly wife, Isabella, was true to her Presbyterian upbringing. As a praying wife and mother, she sought to rear their two sons in the truth of the gospel and in sympathy with the persecuted. Of course, George opposed her godliness and drew away Edward, the younger son, to follow his evil persecuting ways. But Ralph, the older son, loved the Bible and adhered to his godly mother’s faith. Gradually, the stress of marriage to a wicked, cruel husband broke down Isabella’s health and she died when the boys were barely teenagers. Her last words to Ralph were “Be faithful to Christ, for He never forsakes His people.” Ralph began attending the secret worship of the persecuted and was quickly apprehended by the soldiers, but he was freed by his father’s influence. Being apprehended the second time, he was exiled as a slave to Jamaica. Finally, the Glorious Revolution restored Ralph to his father and to his brother. Isabella’s prayers were answered at last for her whole household being united in Christ.

The third history tells of the Thomson family that lived near Glasgow. James was the head of the household and served as a soldier in Charles II’s army in Holland. After several months, the sad news of James’ death reached the little family. His widowed wife, Agnes, was left with two young children: Helen was four years old and William was only two. Agnes returned to the old homestead of her childhood. Her father’s former shepherd was the owner of the farm. He was a godly man and allowed the widow to move into an empty house on the farm. From time to time he shared food with the little family. They were all Covenanters and enjoyed fellowship in the true worship of God. When Helen was only eight years old, she went with her mother to a secret worship service. On the way home, two soldiers met them and demanded that Agnes swear allegiance to the king or be shot. Agnes begged for mercy because her husband had died in loyal military service to the king. They refused her mercy and ordered Agnes to prepare to die. Tearfully, she exhorted Helen to raise her younger brother as a believer in Christ. After Agnes prayed her final prayer for Christ to receive her, they shot her dead. Little Helen fainted and the old farmer found her. Compassionately, he adopted Helen and her brother and raised them as believers in Christ.

The Stuarts’ policy of religious genocide must not be forgotten by God’s people. Knowing the history that brought many of the church’s present liberties is absolutely essential. Here is inspiration for young and old to stand for Christ in these evil days.

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By Myron Mooney

Rev. Myron Mooney is minister of Trinity FPC, Trinity AL.