George Smeaton, Sermons and Addresses, edited by John W. Keddie, Edinburgh: Banner Of Truth, 2022.

‘Time like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.’ Unfortunately, Isaac Watts was right. We are soon forgotten by a world intent on living like there were no yesterday and so is ill-equipped to face today, let alone tomorrow.

            George Smeaton is a case in point. Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve ever heard of him; yet in his day (1814–1889) he was a well-known and highly respected minister and theologian. He was brought up in a God-fearing home and early in his life confessed his faith in Christ as his Saviour. Apparently ‘his pious mother having, contrary to her own expectation and that of others, survived his birth, in her heart consecrated him to God, and resolved to train him for the work of the ministry.’

George Smeaton studied Arts and Divinity at Edinburgh University where he was a favourite student of Thomas Chalmers. He excelled in his theological studies. Concerning his time at Edinburgh he was said to be ‘the most eminent scholar of the set of young men who with McCheyne and Horatius and Andrew Bonar sat at the feet of Chalmers’. It was said that ‘his preaching set forth the great evangelical doctrines with rare power and unction.’ And another testified that ‘his sermons were full of Christian fervour and were characterised alike by purity of diction and breadth of scholarship.’

Banner of Truth have now published a collection of Smeaton’s sermons together with a brief biography of him by John W. Keddie, which is a great help in getting to know Smeaton and giving us a better understanding of his faith and work.

            Speaking of faith, one of his sermons is simply called ‘Faith’, the introduction of which points out that faith is grounded in a personal relationship with the person of Christ Himself: ‘The peculiar importance attached to faith in Scripture, and its relative position in Christian doctrine, become evident when it is viewed as that mental act upon which the whole application of redemption, on man’s side, depends. The term (πίστις [pistis]) (faith) properly means trust on a personal Saviour, as opposed to man’s native self-reliance; and the object of faith is not Christ’s doctrine, nor his historic life as a mere pattern, but his glorified person, with whom the closest relation is formed by an act which is simply receptive, and raising the mind above the seen and temporal.’

            The whole of this sermon should give pause for thought and re-assessment to all who ‘hold the form of religion but deny its power’ and comfortable assurance to all who live in personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact the whole book should do this. What a blessing it could bring to all who read it!

– Bob Thomas