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Book Review

Gleanings of Highland Harvest by Murdoch Campbell; published 1989 by Christian Focus Publications and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 160 pages; price £5.99. (9781871676105)

This book traces the spiritual life of the Scottish Highlands and Islands mainly in the period following the spiritual awakenings of the mid-nineteenth century. It is written by a believer from a "Free Church" background.

One great disadvantage under which the western Highlanders laboured for a long time was the lack of the Scriptures in their own native Gaelic. The first translation of the New Testament in Gaelic did not arrive until 1767 and the entire Bible was not published in Gaelic until 1801.

The revivals of the 1740s in Cambuslang and other areas of lowland Scotland worked northwards into the Perthshire Highlands and on beyond Inverness into the area of Easter Ross, Nigg, Fearn and Tain.

The first chapter entitled "What the Stranger Saw" relates how William Howitt witnessed a large gathering in 1838 at the Falls of Kilmorack. He asks, "What was it that moved such multitudes to walk in all weathers over moor, mountain and stream – many of them walking a distance of thirty miles each way?". As the gospel was preached, one instance is recorded when the word "eternity" was proclaimed several times. Sinners were so deeply convicted that the effect on the hearers was "indescribable".

In "These Called on God" there is a record of various believers who knew God and knew the way to the Throne of Grace. Their prayers ascended "like pillars of smoke". Angus Young of Kilmallie would resort to the hills overlooking Loch Eil and would pour out his soul before the Lord, unaware that those living on the other side of the loch could hear his fervent petitions. The author observes, "Such men were once the glory of the land".

In the helpful thirty page supplement, the preaching of the gospel in the Scottish Highlands is traced from early times. Mention is made of the noble martyr Patrick Hamilton. As the flames engulfed him at the stake, his last words were, "How long, O Lord, will darkness cover this realm?".

A Cameron

Toil and Treasure in Alaska - The Memoirs of Thomas J Thompson; published 2008 by and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 125 pages; price £4.99. (9781904064503)

This is the fascinating story of how Tommy Thompson of Belfast with his wife Sadie left their homeland to find work in South Africa in the difficult post war years, there to hear the clear call of the Lord to Alaska, a neglected mission field on the opposite side of the world. At that time, Alaska had hardly been touched by the gospel. It was a largely unknown territory, called the land of "fish, furs, and freezing cold".

The journey across the world via Northern Ireland and the United States is itself a remarkable tale of God’s gracious provision for those He was leading to begin a new work for Him. How they finally reached the town of Chitina driving a car bought for $200, how they settled there, built and equipped their own home, how they coped with the shyness and reluctance of the local people, indeed how they overcame many obstacles, both physical and spiritual, all show the providence of God along with the courage and tenacity of His servants.

The sixteen chapters of these memoirs cover more than fifty years. Interesting glimpses are given of the toils and trials the Thompsons encountered as they spread the gospel where it had not been preached before. Opposition and indifference, accidents and emergencies, even a huge earthquake, all make up the story. Along with the toils there are the treasures, descriptions of how souls were saved and eventually several assemblies were planted in different parts of Alaska and continue for the glory of God. Personal contacts, formal preaching, children’s camps, hospital visitation, all had their part in the sowing and reaping processes.

The enthusiastic style of this book makes it easy to read; a mixture of anecdotes and narrative, full of personal interest and spiritual value. Some of the author’s own photographs, one of his poems, and a tract written by an Alaskan convert are included the book. In the Preface, he tells us that he has recorded just a few of his many experiences of missionary work, and he has written them to encourage others to "launch out into the deep" in service for God. This is what he did himself, and how God richly blessed him and greatly used him is clear from these memoirs which are a pleasure to read.

RW Cargill


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