Posted at Reformation Scotland:
The Church is often given scant regard in society at large. Changing values and trends push the church well into the shadows. Statistics like those in the recent Scottish Church Census are not lacking to underline how secularised things have become. It is easy to see the Church as weak when viewed outwardly. Again, however, we must see the Church from Christ’s perspective rather than look through the blurred lens of unbelief.
Christ’s true Church in Scotland seemed perhaps even more weak and despised in the times of James Renwick than it does now. Renwick was ordained as a minister in Holland in 1683, before coming back to Scotland to begin preaching. The flocks to which Renwick returned were in his own words, “a poor, wasted, wounded, afflicted, bleeding, misrepresented, and reproached remnant and handful of suffering people”. They had no congregations and no buildings in which to worship. Conventicles or illegal worship services in the fields and hills were held at the risk of their lives, liberty and livelihoods.
Renwick preached intensively and travelled incessantly across the country. For his safety he had to take shelter in moors and caves and travel under cover of darkness. It broke his health – he said that “Excessive travel, night wanderings, unseasonable sleep and diet, and frequent preaching in all seasons of weather, especially in the night, have so debilitated me that I am often incapable for any work”.
On one of these occasions Renwick opened his remarks with the following moving observation. “The Lord, by a special providence, has brought us together, not knowing if ever we shall have the like occasion to meet together again”. It seems likely from some of what he said that the service was at night in order to be better concealed under cover of darkness. The sermon he proceeded to preach was from Zechariah 2:8. His theme was that the Church is Christ’s glory (see also Isaiah 4:5).
Christ has the Church for His special and unique kingdom where he delights to manifest His glory. She is His declarative glory, His purchase and the price of His precious blood. She is His society where He desires to dwell. O who can set forth the love of Christ to His Church? She is beautiful through His comeliness.