CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3245
TitleSermons and related writings of Thomas Boston, John Brown, James Fisher and other members of the United Free Church in Scotland
Date1699 - 1851
Extent0.22 linear metres
Administrative HistoryFollowing the union of the United Presbyterian Church with the Free Church in 1900, the Brown-Lindsay Library in the United Presbyterian College Library, Edinburgh, was dispersed amongst the Free Church Colleges in Aberdeen (now Christ's College), in Edinburgh (New College) and Glasgow (Trinity College). At the formation of the United Presbyterian Church in 1847, the Rev. John Brown, D.D. (1784-1858) and the Rev. William Lindsay, D.D. (1802-1866) had been among the founding members of its College and its first two professors of Exegetical Theology. In 1986 Christ's College deposited in the University of Aberdeen volumes of pamphlets and the thirteen volumes of manuscript sermons and other devotional works, many of them by influential early Seceders, listed here.

Thomas Boston (1677 - 1732), preacher at Ettrick parish, Selkirkshire
Reverend James Fisher (1697 - 1775), Professor of Divinity at the Associate Burgher college, Glasgow
Reverend James Brown (1722 - 1787), Associate Burgher minister in Haddington, East Lothian.

P.G. Ryken in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that,

"Boston, Thomas (1676-1732), Church of Scotland minister and theologian, was born on 17 March 1676 at Duns, Berwickshire, the youngest of seven children of John Boston (1631–1701), a cooper, and his wife, Alison Trotter (d. 1691). Although he laboured in obscure parishes Thomas Boston of Ettrick became a national figure through his involvement in the Marrow controversy and through the evangelical Calvinism of his popular writings.

Though sometimes discouraged and often in poor health, he never failed to appear for a worship service in more than thirty years of public ministry. In addition to preaching twice on the sabbath and once during the week he visited every household in the parish twice annually for personal conference and catechetical instruction.

Among the laity Boston became popular for opposing the abjuration oaths of 1712 and 1719 which he refused to take, at risk to health and property, because they affirmed the legitimacy of the Church of England in its episcopal form.

Boston was also at the centre of the most famous ecclesiastical dispute of his day, the Marrow controversy (1717–23). He later came to believe that the ecclesiastical notoriety he received as a Marrow man prevented him from advancing to a more prominent pulpit. Nevertheless, the controversy helped secure his popularity in the Scottish border country, where the assembly's condemnation had the unintended result of stimulating greater interest in the Marrow theology.

Boston's popular reputation was further enhanced by his books, the most famous of which was Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1720, 1729). The Fourfold State, as it was called, became the most frequently reprinted Scottish book of the eighteenth century, going through well over a hundred editions in all. The book consists of a collection of sermons preached early in Boston's ministry and revised throughout his lifetime. It takes its structure from the four conditions of humanity first posited by Augustine: creation, fall, grace, and glory. Boston termed these the states of innocence, nature, grace, and eternity. This simple, practical, and memorable summary of Christian doctrine became a commonplace among Scottish Calvinists.

Nearly all the rest of Boston's writings were published posthumously and are included in his Complete Works (1854)."
Custodial HistoryThe volumes were held by Christ's College, Aberdeen, previously the Free Church College but now part of Aberdeen University.
SourceIt was transferred to the library in 1986.
DescriptionPapers of Thomas Boston, including his own sermons, notes of the sermons of others, notes of devotional and theological nature, etc., 1699 - 1739; Notes on sermons, partly in shorthand, 1727 - 1739, 1747 - 1767; Sermons by James Fisher, 1730 - 1749; Papers of John Brown, including skeletons of sermons, undated; Lecture notes on logic taken by James C. Brown from lectures by Professor James Finlayson, Edinburgh, 1802; Lecture notes on logic taken by James McCundie form lectures by Professor James Buchanan, New College, Edinburgh, 1851.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThere is no restriction of access, though any question of publication should be referred to the Master of Christ's College. The records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
Physical DescriptionSome of the volumes are in a fragile condition with bindings detached.
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