Monday, May 18, 2009

How one small nation changed the world

This is the title of a conference to be held later this year: Scotland's Global Impact - How one small nation changed the world! There is nothing of the religious impact upon the world made by Scotland in this conference, however. Unfortunately the Scots have the counter-legacy of the Englightenment to own up to also - as this book demonstrates.

Yet when President Mbeki of South Africa addressed the Scottish Parliament in 2001, almost all the historical links that he cited between the two countries were related to missionaries. Wherever Presbyterian churches exist throughout the world, Scotland's influence is witnessed, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. David Bogue in 1818 was so bold as to say: ‘Scotland has since the Reformation sent more saints to heaven than any country in Europe of the same population.’ We wonder if he would have been confirmed in this when he saw the fuller effects of the Scottish missionary movement. I recommend Chapter 8. The Hope and Scotland's Missionaries in Iain Murray's The Puritan Hope for further reading.Scotland’s first foreign missionary, Alexander Duff, declared: "Oh, what promises are ours, if we had only faith to grasp them! What a promise is that in the Great Commission – Go and make disciples of all nations, and lo I am with you, even to the end of the world! We go forth amongst the hundreds of millions of the nations; we find gigantic systems of idolatry and superstition consolidated for thousands of years … they tower as high mountains. But what does faith say? Believe and it shall be. And if any Church on earth will realise that faith, to that Church will the honour belong of evangelising the nations, and bringing down the mountains."

It was a clear eschatology that gave rise to this movement. Murray says: "The theological impetus which lay behind the new missionary era came from the Puritan books of the seventeenth century, which must be classified as Calvinistic." In his commentary on Psalm 72 David Dickson cites nineteen benefits that will ensue as the gospel prospers in all nations so that they call Christ blessed.

I wonder if more prayers have been made from Scotland in the past for the conversion of the Jews, an event that will certainly change the world. Iain Murray comments:

The future of the Jews had decisive significance for them because they believed that, though little is clearly revealed of the future purposes of God in history, enough has been given us in Scripture to warrant the expectation that with the calling of the Jews there will come far-reaching blessing for the world. Puritan England and Covenanting Scotland knew much of spiritual blessing and it was the prayerful longing for wider blessing, not a mere interest in unfulfilled prophecy, which led them to give such place to Israel

There is no place for pride, however, Scotland's own darkness is now so profound that it will not be long before she requires missionaries herself.