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The Life of John Milne – A Review by John Keddie

Author ,
Category Book Reviews
Date March 4, 2011

This is a wonderful biography. It is all the more powerful in view of the fact that the subject is so little known. It is the biography of a spiritually-minded preacher and pastor.

The reader finds himself in the heady atmosphere of periods of great spiritual fervour and revival. It is free-offer, historic Calvinism at its best. This makes the reading of this work such a stimulus and treat. Although this is in no small measure due to the talented and spiritually heart-warming writing of the biographer, Horatius Bonar, it is also due to the use Bonar makes of the letters and journals of Milne. In this way, Milne speaks for himself.

John Milne (1807-1868) was one of a group of men whom the Lord raised up in the late 1830s in Scotland, whose ministries were so notably powerful, fragrant and blessed. Better known among such were Horatius and Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne and Alexander Moody Stewart among the preachers, and William Cunningham and George Smeaton among the theologians.

One cannot help but be impressed by the dedication, consecration and spiritual fervour of the subject of this biography. This gives wonderful insights into the conduct of a preaching and pastoral ministry.

There was, with these men, wholehearted commitment to the authority of Scripture. They were not afflicted by the later ‘disease’ of historical criticism, which (humanly speaking) devastated the Church of Scotland and other churches through the 20th century, and into the present one.

There’s a wonderful passage which sums up John Milne. It has reference to Milne and his successor Robert Cowan:

They believed that what man needed was salvation; that the gospel for humanity in all ages is that gospel which is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ and that this salvation comes not through philosophy, or science, or sacramental grace, or connection with a church, but through the cross of Christ and the Spirit of the living God. Thus they preached, and thus multitudes believed

The book has been reset and is beautifully produced with some illustrations. It is highly recommended to all pastors and preachers. The easy style, however, will also make it an edifying read for anyone simply interested in good men and gospel truth.


1. The Life of John Milne of Perth
Horatius Bonar
464 pages, clothbound
£14.00, $28.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 961 6

John W. Keddie is Pastor of Bracadale Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) on the Isle of Skye. This review first appeared in Evangelical Times, March 2011.

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