It was in Scotland, however, that the federal scheme of revealed truth was carried furthest and presented in the most developed form. In 1650 there was printed at Edinburgh an edition of the Confession and Catechisms in which there appeared for the first time a treatise having for title, The Sum of saving knowledge: or, a brief sum of Christian Doctrine, together with the practical Use thereof.1 This compendium never received the formal sanction of the Church of Scotland, but it became a well-nigh constant accompaniment of the Westminster documents in Scottish editions. Wodrow, the historian, declares it to have been the joint-composition of David Dickson, minister at Irvine, and thereafter Professor at Glasgow University, and of James Durham, minister of the Inner Kirk, Glasgow, and author of The Dying Mans Testament, or, a Treatise Concerning Scandal.2 A work which the saintly M Cheyne regarded as the means of bringing about in him a saving change may well be read with interest, and ought to be handled with respect.3 At the same time, it will readily be admitted that federalism, as developed in the Sum, is objectionable in form and application. Detailed descriptions of redemption as a bargain entered into between the First and Second persons of the Trinity, in which conditions were laid down, promises held out, and pledges given; the reducing of salvation to a mercantile arrangement between God and the sinner, in which the latter signifies contentment to enter into covenant and the former intimates agreement to entertain a relation of grace, so that ever after the contented, contracting party can say, ‘Lord, let it be a bargain,’–such presentations have obviously a tendency to reduce the gospel of the grace of God to the level of a legal compact entered into between two independent and, so far as right or status is concerned, two equal parties. This blessedness of the mercy seat is in danger of being lost sight of in the bargaining of the market-place; the simple story of salvation is thrown into the crucible of the logic of schools and it emerges in the form of a syllogism.

C.G. Mc’Crie, The Confessions of the Church of Scotland, Their Evolution in History (Edinburgh: McNiven & Wallace, 1907), 72-73. [Footnote values modernized, footnote content original; and underlining mine.]


1The Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisme, First agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. And now approved by the Generall Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, to be a part of Uniformity in Religion between the Kirks of Christ in the three Kingdomes. Edinburgh, Printed by Gideon Lithgow, Printer to the University of Edinburgh, 1650. The Confession and Catechisms are provided with distinct titles, but are paged continuously. At the end, occupying sixty-six unnumbered pages, comes what has for title page:–‘A Brief Sum of Christian Doctrine, and the Practical Use thereof, contained in Holy Scripture, and holden forth in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and received by the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland.’ The error in the punctuation of the above, which makes the Sum to be a product of the Westminster Assembly, was repeated in subsequent editions till 1744, when the period after Catechisms was changed into a comma. Subsequent to 1650 nearly all Scottish editions of the Confession include the Sum, which does not appear to have ever been issued as a separate publication. Carruthers’s Facsimile Shorter Catechism, pp. 41-42.

Prof. Warfield s Pointing of the Westminster Confession. Presbyterian and Reformed Review, Oct. 1901, pp. 626-27.

Dr D. Hay Fleming in D. x. 318-24.

2He [Mr David Dickson] and Mr James Durham dreu up The Summ of Saving Knouledge, in some afternoons when they went out to the Craigs of Glasgou to take the air, because they thought the Catechisme too large and dark ; (and if 1 be not forgot, my informer, Mr P. S. [Patrick Simson] was their amanuensis,) and the application was the substance of some sermons Mr Dickson preached at Inneraray, written out at the desire of my Lady Argyle. Analecta, vol. i. p. 166.

3Diary in Memoir, March 11, 1834.

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