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David Dickson

David Dickson (1583-1663) was the son of a wealthy merchant in Glasgow. His early aspirations to enter the family business were diverted through an illness and a subsequently lengthy period of convalescence. The result was that he entered the University of Glasgow (then under Principal Robert Boyd) and prepared for the Christian ministry. Following graduation he remained in the University as a regent until, in 1618, he was called to the parish of Irvine in Ayrshire.

Deprived of his ministry in 1622 by the Bishop of Glasgow for his opposition to the Five Articles, he was banished for a year to Turriff in Aberdeenshire, but on his return was the instrument in the hand of God of numerous conversions. It was out of his pastoral experience that his famous manual of spiritual counsel, Therapeutica Sacra, was written.

In 1638 he was present at the famous Assembly which restored Presbyterian government in Scotland, and the following year was chosen Moderator of the Scottish Church. In 1640 he became Professor of Divinity in Glasgow, transferring to Edinburgh ten years later. During that period he played a considerable part in establishing vital, orthodox Christianity throughout the land. He helped to draw up the Directory for Public Worship, and with James Durham compiled The Sum of Saving Knowledge (a work instrumental in later years in the conversion of Robert Murray M’Cheyne).

Restoration troubles after the return of King Charles II in 1660 hastened his death. As the end drew near, he spoke the memorable words: ‘I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad, and cast them in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both, and betaken myself to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.’

Dickson is the author of Truth’s Victory Over Error: A Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith and a commentary on the Psalms in the Geneva series, both published by the Trust.

[Fuller accounts of Dickson’s life can be found in the Introduction to Truth’s Victory Over Error (the same ‘Short Account of the Life of the Reverend Mr David Dickson’ by Robert Wodrow appears in Volume 2 of Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies) and in The Scots Worthies by John Howie.]

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