NEW BOOK - Unity & Diversity

May 20, 2010

Find it at

It has been many years since there has been a popular level book, which has looked at the life and ministry of some of the 'fathers' of the Free Church of Scotland.

This book looks at the life and ministry of a number of the key figures in the Disruption era and late 19th Century Free Church. Beginning with Thomas Chalmers, each chapter has a biographical sketch of a key figure with an emphasis on why these men mattered in their time and what they still have to say to us in the 21st century.

All of the men portrayed were committed to the advancement of the Gospel in Scotland and further afield. While they shared a commitment to the Confession of Faith and Reformed theology, this was expressed in unique ways by each of these men. Hence both unity and diversity is on view in these fascinating pages.


About the Author

Alexander (Sandy) Finlayson is library director and professor of theological bibliography at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sandy holds degrees from the University of Toronto and Tyndale Theological Seminary in Canada, where he was also Library Director for eleven years. Sandy served as an elder in the Toronto congregation of the Free Church of Scotland for ten years. He is married to Linda, who writes books for children, and they have one son.

"How is it that the Librarian at Westminster Theological Seminary would write a book about the 19th century Free Church of Scotland?  Part of it was for personal reasons, because my Scottish Canadian background has given me many historical and family connections with the Free Church.  Also, I served as a ruling elder at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Toronto, which is a part of the Free Church of Scotland.

"More than this, I was moved to write this book because I think this period of Scottish church history has something to say to the 21st century church around the world.  The men who left the Church of Scotland in 1843 to form the Free Church were men of principle, they were passionate about the gospel and they placed a high priority on the church impacting the world. They were committed to confessional orthodoxy, evangelism and social action.  In the book I mention that the

"…Free Church would become an influential force in the ecclesiastical life of Scotland and beyond. As the nineteenth century progressed, the Free Church had to contend with the issues of confessional orthodoxy during a time when the winds of theological change were blowing. The church also evidenced a desire to inculcate evangelical piety in the lives of its members and to put the gospel into action in the world. Its ministers, office bearers and organizations would show genuine concern for the social conditions of the poor in Scotland. Lest it be thought that this was a parochial church, it should be noted that it would be responsible for mission work in a number of parts of the world.

"I hope that as people read this book they will not only learn something about a distant era of church history, but they will also see what it means for the church to implement the Great Commission then and now."

Sandy Finlayson, director of library services and professor of theological bibliography
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What others are Saying?

"Sandy Finlayson's study of the nineteenth century leaders of the Free Church of Scotland is neither hagiography nor iconoclasm; rather, it is the thoughtful reflection of a committed presbyterian on the men who helped shape the Scottish church through their commitment to orthodoxy, evangelism, and social action. The attractive churchmanship which these church leaders represented is all too rare today; and I hope this work will do something to restore it to its rightful place in the wider Christian landscape."

Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman ~ professor of historical theology and church history
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“While all of them were excellent; each of them was peculiar.” What John Kennedy said about the ministers of Ross-shire might well be said about the galaxy of men who led and shaped the nineteenth century Free Church of Scotland. They were all excellent – excellent Christians, churchmen, intellectuals and orators. But they all had their own peculiarities, as Professor Finlayson demonstrates in this new collection of memoirs. From the administrative genius of Thomas Chalmers to the confessional radicalism of Kennedy himself, the men featured in this book were all endowed with qualities singularly suited to their respective callings. Where there is a love for the gospel in Scotland, their story deserves to be told, and Sandy Finlayson has told it well. A highly commended volume."

Rev. Dr. Iain D. Campbell ~ minister
Point Free Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis, UK

"At this moment in church history the people of God sorely need to be reminded that following Christ means being willing to part with cherished denominational identities and connections, church buildings, and even houses and secure salaries. This welcome book includes a picture of each of these founding fathers of the Free Church of Scotland and - to a man - they all look as sober as hot, black coffee in a styrofoam cup. As we are in no danger of overdoing their earnestness, spending a few hours with such steely-eyed men can safely serve to remind us of what it means to stake one's life and livelihood on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Sandy Finlayson has written a clear, lively book that concedes when these churchmen were wrong without thereby obscuring their passionate stand for the Gospel."

Dr. Timothy Larsen ~ McManis professor of christian thought
Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois