The History of Leith

March 18, 2012

THE SERMON.July 1909 Tercentenary Celebrations.

THE SERMON.July 1909 Tercentenary Celebrations.
The Minister of the Church (the Rev. John
White, M.A.) then delivered the sermon He
said :—
At the first General Assembly of the Reformed Kirk of
Scotland, 2Oth December 1560, it was found reasonable
and expedient that the parishioners of Restalrig should
repair to the Kirk of Leith, and that the Kirk of Restalrig
should be razed and utterly destroyed as a monument
of idolatry. Fifty years thereafter, 24th June 1609, this
Kirk of Leith, then called St. Mary’s, was constituted by
Act of Parliament the Parish Church in place of the
ruined Restalrig.
It is befitting that this Tercentenary year of a church
that has bulked so largely in the annals of the town of
Leith, that has played its little side part in the history of
the nation, that has been a place of worship for Kings
and Queens, that has been the Assembly-room of a.
Convention that seriously influenced the history of the
Church for generations, and that still possesses the subtle
fascination of holding the affections of all who, at any
time, have been associated with it, should be specially
“Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity !”
To-day we think reverently of the former that we may
think sensibly of the latter. It is divinely wise to talk
with the past years ; to listen to the echoes that survive
when the voices of the past are hushed ; to go back
through the centuries, and step by step, to ” see the steady
gain of man,” and
” That all of good the past hath had
Remains to make our own time glad.”
A rapid survey of former times impresses one or two
great truths on the mind.
(a] The records of this Church for four hundred years
enable us, by the side-lights cast on the politics of Church
and State, to see how in pre-reformation times, in the
struggles of the Lords of the Congregation, in the Stuart
and Commonwealth periods, as well as thereafter, the
history of the nation is closely intertwined with the
history ef the Church. Religion and patriotism are not
two but one : ” What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.” The Cross of St. Andrew has
its best background in the Cross of Christ. It was the
preachers of the latter that were the guardians of Scottish
freedom ; they paid the price of liberty which is eternal
vigilance ; ” what the Nobles and Crown had put in peril
that did the clergy save.” It is David Lindsay of South
Leith, who, in this church, exhorts the King to be mindful
of his promises to distribute impartial justice; it is
John Durie, at one time his colleague, who, in defence of
the liberties of the people, inveighs against the Court
from the pulpit of St. Giles, and is imprisoned ; and
reflects on the Duke of Lennox and others, and is
removed from the City : But the time would fail to tell
of others. Long may the nation recognise the religion of
Christ as her true refuge and strength, and the guardian
of her liberties.
(b) The past centuries speak to us of the continuity of
the Church. It is as a place where for generations men
have sought the Lord and carried their sorrows and needs.
that this Church derives its chief and sacred interest.
Whether it be the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice at the
altar of St. Peter, the apostle, in the New Church of
1490 ; whether it be the celebration of High Mass, as the
bullets from the guns of the Reformers pass through the
great window in the East; whether it be George Wishart,
that “blissful martyr of God,” preaching on the Sower
that went forth to sow seed; whether it be David
Lindsay, the Protestant Bishop of Ross and Minister of
Leith ; or John Moray and Alexander Gibsone and
Principal Wishart, determined Presbyterians ; or William
Wishart and William Morton, Anti-Covenanters; or
Bishop Andrew Cant, Militant Royalist; or Dr Grant,
Churchman; or David Thorburn, Free Churchman;
whether it be the simple ritual of the present or the
ornate ritual of the past, it is ever the one Lord, the one
faith, the one baptism that is set before the people, as the
satisfaction of needs that are the same in the human
breast yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
From such a glance backwards is there no suggestion
of that which binds all churches in one ? Is there nothing
in all this to prompt the prayer that all may be one? If
by going wrong all things come right then are we near a
better time ; and from these “old, unhappy far-off things,
and battles long ago,” we shall reach a happy stage of
peace when, if we must strive, it shall be with “cornmutual
zeal” in acts of dear benevolence and love;
” brothers in peace, not rivals in command.” There are
many to-day who hear the low sweet prelude of this
coming harmony :
” Through clouds of doubt and creeds of fear
A light is breaking'”
(c) Our chief word to-day is one of thanks : thanks to
Him who hath compassed the paths of our pilgrimage.
Erected when Luther was born, when Leonardo da Vinci
was painting the Last Supper, thirteen years before
Calvin saw the light of day, one hundred years before the
University of Edinburgh was founded, God has kept in
the midst of His people this token of His presence and of
His blessing. From the architect who designed it, and
built his mind into these stones, to the children of the
generations that followed. God Jias put it into the hearts
of His worshippers to give good gifts for the beautifying
of His House, and, as we look on the labour and wrought
substance of it all, we say, ” See this our fathers did for
us.” Feebly striving after the beauty- of holiness we
worship God surrounded by the sanctity of beauty. On
the coining Lord’s day we shall take the opportunity
presented by the great eucharistic rite o£ communion—
the central thought of which is thanksgiving for the great
gift and blessing of God in Christ, by Whom all other
blessings of the past are hallowed, and all future days are
brightened with a living Hope—to offer our sacrifices of
praise and gratitude.
To-day we remember that ” what’s past is prologue.”
The problems of the past lead up to, though they differ
from the problems of to-day ; differing in form—no longer
theological but sociological—at heart they are the same ;
the problems of life, enriched and deepened by faith in
God, and of society uplifted and beautified by the
common worship of His Christ. And the best Tercentenary
offering of gratitude that the Church (I speak of
the Church in its wider sense, as including the daughter
Churches of South Leith and those co-operating Churches
that have so kindly come for an hour under the old rooftree),
could make would be to engage more unitedly, and
more earnestly than ever, in a forward movement to stem
the forces that make for unrighteousness around us, to
bring the power of the Gospel of Christ—the solution of
all life’s enigmas and of society’s problems—to bear on
the many who are living under the shadow of our
churches’ walls, yet outside of all religious influence,
until they “see their Saviour plain,” to show them that
the Church is full of sympathy with them in all that concerns
the life that now is, as well as the life that is to
come, and thereby build up a glorious church, a spiritual
edifice, to the honour of our Lord and King.
Henceforth my heart shall sigh no more
For olden time and holier shore ;
God’s love and blessing, then and there,
Are now and here and everywhere.
\ow unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the power
that worketh in us ; unto Him be glory in the Church by
Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end.—

source-South Leith Church

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