Book Review: Spiritual Rest During Trials

Spiritual Rest During Trials

Hugh MacKail

Reformation Press, 2020 (ISBN: 9781912042166, 69pp, £6.20)

The year of our Lord 1662 is remembered south of the border as the tragic point when Cranmer’s peerless prayer book was cruelly edited and weaponised to eject hundreds of godly congregations and ministers from the national church. The settling-in of the restored Stuart monarchy and its schismatic ecclesial policies also however effected a broadly equivalent ejection in Scotland. Over recent decades, the Banner of Truth has kept in print many of the sermons of the English ‘Bartholomeans’ but those of the Scottish brethren are less known. This volume from Scottish Heritage puts in our hand one such sermon; one indeed of such note that it earned its author a martyr’s death in 1666, four years after its delivery. Spiritual Rest is particularly notable due to the youth of the preacher – MacKail was only 20 at the Restoration, having proceeded through a full course of formal education at the remarkable pace not uncommonly found in Scotland. 

A foreword is provided by David Campbell, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland (perhaps the modern denomination which may most justly claim inheritance of the covenanter mantle, albeit via the mediating influences of the 1690 Act of Settlement, the 1843 Disruption, and the schisms of 1900 and 2000). Campbell’s foreword sets MacKail’s sermon in its historic context, providing biographical information and a gloss on the theological perspectives at the time on Canticles (from which the text was drawn). The sermon text itself is made digestible with helpfully formatted headings and divisions and constitutes a homely exhortation to take true rest in Christ.

Edward Keene, Little Shelford