Humble Attempt in Defence of Reformation Principles: Fairley

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Welcome to the Still Waters Revival Books video book summary for “An Humble Attempt in Defence of Reformation Principles” by John Fairley

“An Humble Attempt in Defence of Reformation Principles; Particularly on the Head of the Civil Magistrate Wherein the gross falsehoods, calumnies, and imposed sense, palmed by Mr. John Goodlet, upon the Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery, are exposed and confuted; and said Testimony vindicated. As also, the seceding scheme of political principles more fully detected;– and discovered to be inconsistent with the law of nature, light of divine revelation, and covenanted testimony of the Church of Scotland” (1770)

Goold, in his “The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland: Its Origin and History 1680-1876,” writes of Fairly and this book,

“He was very zealous and outspoken in his maintenance of Church principles, and unsparing in his condemnation and exposure of the shortcomings of other denominations. This caused him to be both feared and disliked by many outside of his own communion; yet by the ministers who were nearest his residence, and who came most frequently in contact with him, he was greatly esteemed.

He was fearless of consequences in the discharging of his duties. On one occasion, when in Ireland, his scathing exposure of Popery so irritated the Catholics, that three of them resolved to disturb his next meeting by musical instruments (and remember that no faithful Presbyterian used this “badge of Popery” — musical instruments — in their public meetings–RB). They came prepared to do this, but were so overcome by the grave dignity of the man, and by the truth he spoke, that they could do nothing but quietly listen. Two of them, it is said, became earnest Protestants.

On another occasion he denounced ‘unpreaching bishops,’ and declared that his Lordship of Bangor was worse than Balaam’s ass, which spoke once at least, and rebuke the madness of the prophet. Some were so highly offended that they resolved to waylay and stone the preacher. Mr. Fairly was aware of this, but refused to change his route. As he approached the ambuscade, a dispute arose as to his identity; some held that it was the object of their hate, others said, ‘No, never a bit of him; who ever saw a mountain minister ride such a good horse?’ and while they disputed he got beyond their reach.

One who knew him writes thus:

‘I had some knowledge of the elder Fairley; he fearlessly attacked the reigning follies of his age, and preached the Gospel in a familiar but forcible style of eloquence. In his great field days, and when contending for the Testimony of the Martyrs, he was unsparing in the use of arrows, oft broke a lance with the Pope, and drove rusty nails into our venerable Establishment, and lashed the Secession and Relief for their declensions.’

So pointed was his dealing with the sins of the times, that many left his meetings when he came to the application of his discourse… He took part in the controversy with the Seceders, and published a pamphlet in reply to Goodlet, the Anti-burgher minister of Sanquhar, in which he gives a scathing exposure of the weakness and inconsistency of his opponent, and directs against him all his resources of humour and sarcasm, as well as the weightier weapons of solid argument.

But it was in proclaiming the riches of the glorious Gospel to cast audiences under the open canopy of heaven, that the power of Fairley was fully disclosed. He was undoubtedly the preacher among the ‘Four Johns.’ He had a commanding presence, a well-furnished mind, and a fluent and forcible utterance; and when he warmed to his grand theme, his words moved the hearts of the crowds that had gathered around him, and many owned him as their spiritual father” (pp. 221-222).

This book (of 290 pages) is another Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) classic!


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