On This Day

Each month we remember key figures from the past whose stories have contributed to the life of the church in Scotland and continue to provide encouragement and inspiration to us today.

This month we remember, among others, an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, a brave woman who toured the world and a Scottish minister who was also an international historian.

1 June: Helen Keller

Helen Keller, an American who died in 1968, was stricken with blindness and deafness as an infant. With the great help of her teacher Anne Sullivan she overcame her disability and went on to graduate cum laude at the prestigious Radcliffe College. She toured the world to promote the education of those similarly afflicted. Regarded by many as a brilliant woman, she was a devout Christian and she remains an example of the biblical affirmation: "my grace is sufficient for you." Her The Story of my Life, Helen Keller's Journal and other writings have inspired many.

2 June: Ebenezer Erskine

Ebenezer Erskine was an able and popular preacher at Portmoak and later at Stirling. He, with his brother Ralph and others, was the founder of the Secession Church - an evangelical reaction to the system of patronage (where the principal landowner of a parish could appoint the minister). Formed at Gairney Bridge, near Kinross in 1733 as 'The Associate Presbytery', the secession movement, despite several later fractions (burgher and anti-burgher, auld lichts and new lichts) expanded considerably, especially among weavers and artisans in the towns. 1847 brought re-union with the Relief Church to form the United Presbyterian Church which eventually united with the Free Church to form the United Free in 1900. The two strands came together in 1929. The dove, which was often used as their symbol, had returned to the ark. There are still several churches named after Erskine in Scotland. He died in 1754.

3 June: Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor, born in 1832, was a devout medical man of indomitable faith and great fervour. He laboured as a missionary in China, travelling extensively and working hard despite indifferent health. He was the founder of the interdenominational China Inland Mission, and by the time of his death more than 200 mission stations had been established, with some 800 missionaries, and well over 100,000 Chinese converts associated with it. Besides translation work, he wrote with a great passion for China, in such works as China: its Spiritual Need and Claims. He died in 1905. To find out more about Charles Wesley visit Wholesome Words Christian Biography Resources website at www.wholesomewords.org.

5 June: Boniface

Boniface (originally Wynfrid/Wynfrith) is generally regarded as: "the apostle to Germany". An Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk born in 680, he declined an abbacy in favour of missionary endeavour (and the imposition of Roman as opposed to Celtic order) in the whole Frankish kingdom. He was to prove so successful that Pope Gregory II created him bishop, then archbishop, then primate of all Germany. He was however martyred by Frisian pagans. He died in 754.

6 June: Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung was the son of a Swiss minister, is known after Freud with whom for a time he worked, possibly as the most renowned psychologist and psychiatrist. He is notable for proposing the concept of 'extrovert' and 'introvert' personalities, and for advocating the idea of 'the collective unconscious'. Jung wrote extensively, for example On Psychic Energy, Psychology and Religion, and The Undiscovered Self. His autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections is revealing. Jung, regarded by many as a religious leader and as a founder of a new humanism, when once asked how he believed in the existence of God replied simply: "I know." He died in 1961.

9 June: Columba

Columba is for ever associated with Iona where in 563 he established a Celtic monastery that came to be a light in the Dark Ages. Of princely Scots-Irish background and notable for earlier establishing Christian centres in Ireland, he is thought to have left Ireland, with 12 followers, as a result either of political pressure or simply as some kind of penance. Iona became famous as a sanctuary, as a school for scholars, as a centre for the production of illuminated manuscripts, and above all for its missionary outreach – the formidable Columba himself penetrating to the heartland of the Northern Picts in what is Inverness. Many monks of Iona were to travel to England and across to the continent, e.g. St. Gall in Switzerland and Bobbio in Italy, spreading the Gospel. Though his fame is in part due to Adomnan's biography, there is little doubt that Columba is the most recognisable and notable figure in early Christianity in the land. Two hymns, Christ is the world's redeemer and O God, Thou art the Father, attributed to him, express the distinctive Christ-centred theology, with its quality of universalism and its resonance with nature, that is characteristic of Celtic monasticism and that still has much appeal today. He died in 597 in the midst of copying Psalm 34.

11 June: William Robertson

William Robertson is regarded by some as one of the greatest figures in 18th century Scotland. A minister who was an internationally renowned historian (History of the Reign of Charles V; The History of America), he was a leader in the Scottish Enlightenment - the flourishing of learning and much else that made Edinburgh: "a hotbed of genius". A man of great erudition and ability, as principal of Edinburgh University and with a virtually permanent seat in the General Assembly, he and the influential moderate party which he led dominated much of the Church of Scotland's ethos and practice for many years. Though the moderates were reacting to the crude Calvinism of a previous generation, their perceived lack of zeal for the Gospel helped create the evangelical revival that lead to the Disruption of 1843. He died on this day in 1793.

Also on this day: James Denney was a New Testament professor and principal of the Free (later United Free) College, Glasgow. His strong Calvinistic background was mitigated by wide reading, especially in the works of C.H. Spurgeon. He became not only a considerable Pauline scholar but a theologian of the atonement. Denney dismissed speculative theology and emphasised the historicity and the absolute centrality of Christ and the Cross and its propitiation for humanity. Denney's works by their style, their phraseology, and their power reached many who would otherwise have been unaffected by matters of theology. Toward the end of his life Denney, more involved in church affairs, became one of Scotland's ecclesiastical leaders. He died in 1917.

12 June: Ternan

Ternan (Terrenanus or Tigh-Earnan) has been described as a: "high bishop of the Picts". Said to have been baptised by Palladius and to have founded a monastery at Culross in Fife, this Irish-Scot is associated with the North East of Scotland. Banchory Ternan bears his name and there are other church dedications at Slains, Arbuthnott and elsewhere, including the Pictish capital at Abernethy where he died, about 431.

16 June: Cyrus

Cyrus was a Roman child martyr of the early fourth century, whose mother Julitta was tortured and beheaded. Cyrus' brains were dashed out and cult grew up around him which saw him as an intercessor for children in trouble. That the cult spread to Scotland is evidenced in several place names and he is referred to also in the Pictish Chronicle. He may be patron saint of the town of Ceres in Fife.

17 June: John Morrison

John Morrison was born in 1750 and was educated first in his native Aberdeenshire and then in Edinburgh where he began the work on which his fame rests – that of contributing to the writing of the verses based on Scripture that are known as the Scottish Paraphrases. He became a member of the General Assembly's committee which produced the collection, first published in 1781. Come, let us to the Lord our God and The race that long in darkness pined, among others, are directly attributed to him. As parish minister of Canisbay in Caithness he contributed the parish entry for Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account. He died in 1798.

20 June: Fillan of Lochearn

Fillan of Lochearn was one of some four reputed saints of the same name, said to have lived in the sixth century. Several traditions associate him with a speech defect, or a hare lip. He is said to have been one of 22 missionaries sent from Munster by St Ailbe to missionise Scotland. Several place name derivations seem to be associated with him in the area round Loch Earn.

22 June: The Battle of Bothwell Brig

The Battle of Bothwell Brig fought near Hamilton in 1679, was a victory for the then government in its attempt to quell resistance to the royal policies of forcing bishops and a state religion on the people. Successfully defeating a force at Drumclog led by Graham of Claverhouse in his attempt to disperse a conventicle (an open air Presbyterian service), the Covenanters (Presbyterians who adhered to the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant) were forced into open rebellion. They were defeated by Duke of Monmouth with some 10,000 troops and were harshly dealt with, some being transported and others drowned in the process. Such was the zealous faith of many that resistance was continued by a 'righteous remnant' led by Richard Cameron and others who in 1680 on the anniversary of Bothwell Brig rode armed into a small Dumfriess-shire town and made the 'Sanquhar Declaration' which renounced allegiance to Charles II. Scotland and its presbyterian establishment owes no small debt to such Covenanters, pejoratively termed 'fanatics' but in reality devout and brave men (and women) who suffered much, even to martyrdom under insensitive governments and cruel laws.

24 June: The Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle of Bannockburn was fought on St John's Day (i.e. John the Baptist, the last of the old prophets and forerunner of Christ who called people to prepare for him) in 1314 between a Scots army under Robert the Bruce and an English one under Edward II. Despite being greatly outnumbered (approx 10,000 against approx 20,000), the Scots, who carried the 'Brecbannoch' before them (the Monymusk Reliquary, containing the supposed bones of Columba), inflicted a great defeat on the invaders. Bannockburn was a decisive event in the struggle for national freedom which was formally asserted in the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320. The victory remains something of an emotional and inspiring patriotic symbol.

25 June: Robert Leighton

Robert Leighton is one who could well be described as a 'presbyterian bishop'. He was a saintly and scholarly man, a parish minister of Newbattle and later for a time principal of Edinburgh University, where he advised his students to follow charity and to eschew: "the itch for polemical and controversial theology which is so prevalent and infectious." At the Restoration, he was induced to become a bishop, choosing Dunblane as the poorest diocese, and later, when made archbishop of Glasgow, he accepted only a fifth of the emoluments. Of irenic and kindly disposition, he was an early ecumenist and a man of moderate views at a time of extremism who sought to combine in his (failed) Plan of Accommodation the best of both presbyterianism and episcopacy. He advocated regular scripture reading in church and expository preaching, and when so many preached: "up the times" he sought to preach: "up the eternities". He abhorred the persecution of the Covenanters, describing it as: "scaling heaven with ladders fetched from hell" and, tired of all the disputation, he resigned in 1674 to die 10 years later in a London inn (according to an old wish).

Also on this day: Moulag ministered about the same time as Columba, indeed quite close by, based on the island of Lismore, off Appin on the west of Scotland. Both Irish, there is a rather unsavoury legend of their alleged squabble over Lismore as a head quarters. Moluag got there first by allegedly slicing off his thumb and pitching it ashore from the racing coracles. Firmer history is the connection with this vigorous and well-travelled saint with places ranging far across Scotland (from the west Highlands to Banff and Rosemarkie on the east of Scotland - where he is said to have died in 592). In the 13th century, Lismore was made the cathedral of the isles, and part of this building is incorporated in the present-day parish church. Moluag's crook has been preserved, and an ancient Celtic bell believed to be from Lismore is now in the National Museum of Scotland.

30 June: King James Version of the Bible 'approved' by James in 1611

The result of the Hampton Court Conference (1604), it was the work of English scholars who used the Bishops' Bible and other earlier English versions as a basis. Often called the 'authorised version', no formal authorisation was given to it, neither in England nor Scotland. However, with its degree of accuracy and felicity of language, it fairly soon came to be the accepted translation among English speaking people – replacing The Genevan Bible generally and previously used in Scotland. The 'AV', many of whose words and phrases owe much to William Tyndale's translation (made about 1526), has woven its way into the lives of countless millions and has done much to shape the English language. It is still in considerable use, and its inherent dignity of language is preserved in some modern translations, including the New Revised Standard Version.