“If evangelists were our theologians or theologians our evangelists, we should at least be nearer the ideal church.” So wrote James Denney (1856–1917) in the foreword to his famous work on The Death of Christ (London, 1902, p. viii), a book which displays in a remarkable manner the truth that the evangelical theme of atonement is central in its significance for Christian theology. Equipped with one of the most brilliant intellects of his day, the whole life of this humble and single-minded man was an illustration of the way in which a theologian could be at the same time an evangelist, not only in his preaching but also in his thinking and writing.
Centennial Of Denney’s Birth
Denney was born in Paisley on the 5th of February, 1856; but he grew up in Greenock where he rejoiced in the friendship of that man of genius, J. P. Struthers.
At the age of eighteen his illustrious career as a student in the University of Glasgow commenced. Prizes and gold medals came his way almost as part of the natural order of things, and so outstanding were his abilities that already many visualized him as the future occupant of a professorial chair in the Arts faculty—just which chair might depend on his own choice. His choice, however, fell not on one of the Arts subjects, but on Theology, which he proceeded to study in the Free Church College in Glasgow.
After his graduation in divinity, he accepted a call to be minister of East Free Church, Broughty Ferry. There he spent eleven happy years. His preaching, disciplined, incisive and directed to the consciences of his hearers, was essentially evangelical, and, indeed, was influenced by his reading of the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. It demonstrated that his belief ...1
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