W.R. Nicoll's main published books

Appendix 5: WRN AND HIS PUBLISHED PREACHING (AND COLLECTIONS OF HIS ARTICLES)

 

This is an attempt to survey and give some flavour of the books that Nicoll published, in which examples of his preaching are found. The expository element was always his preferred choice for moulding his thought, but as time and his own circumstances progressed he became increasingly ‘literary’ and, most unlike his father, he cut a definite pathway from his reading to his sermons. However, the essential dynamic of the preacher remained with him, and was discernable, even in ‘un-preached’ articles.

In 1877, Nicoll issued his first book of sermons, Calls to Christ. He called them addresses designed for the promotion of religious revival. The background here was the success of the Moody and Sankey meetings in Scotland. Nicoll was one of many who saw the liveliness of faith excited by the evangelists: “The glow and ardour of these experiences left a permanent impress on Nicoll himself.”[1] In a preparatory note Nicoll declares, “An effort has been made to secure some freshness in the themes and treatment, but there is no novelty in the doctrines taught.”[2] Most of the chapters are an exposition of gospel texts, with several being an extended exposition based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The book ends with ‘True Love’, based on the text John 14 v28, which develops a theme that was both the fascination of his day and a subject about which Nicoll developed a kind of expertise – death. His first book contained several papers that had previously been published in The Christian.

In 1881, he published The Incarnate Saviour[3] and stated in it, “We endeavour to illustrate three main propositions …First, Jesus Christ was God and man in two distinct natures and one person … Secondly, we further aim at showing that Jesus Christ came to suffer in order that He might save. His life did not begin at Bethlehem – He was from eternity. He came into the world with His life-plan foretold, and moved in obedience to old and sacred words of prophecy … the shadow of [the] cross lies over all His life – how it is impossible to understand that life apart from it … Thirdly, we endeavour to show the sweet and perfect accord of Christ’s words, works, and thoughts.”[4] These were basic Christian truths that became his focus and anchor in his leading articles in the British Weekly. In The Incarnate Saviour, Nicoll sought to write about what he called the living reality of the presence of Christ; revealed first in the events of Christ’s life and then relived by the disciple-readers of the Gospels. Nicoll supported orthodoxy but sought to explain his treatment as helpfully as possible for ordinary believers. He was not writing an academic or scholarly treatment, “It is incomplete to say that the miracles justify belief in Christ, and it is equally incomplete to say that it is belief in Christ that makes miracles credible. Christ comes before us as a whole - His person and His work.  It is impossible to separate the two and we believe in the whole - that is in both.”[5] Nicoll maintained a combative and defensive orthodox position on the New Testament and particularly its historicity.

In this book, he methodically works through the main outline of Christ’s life as recorded in the gospels. Nicoll sought to be fresh in his sermonic and applicatory exposition of the Scriptural picture. He draws to a conclusion in chapter 22 by declaring his understanding of ‘The Character of Christ’. Under the question ‘What think ye of Christ?’ Nicoll makes key statements:

  • “First, He was, according to His own claims sinless…His claim to be the judge of men involves His sinlessness … if He had ever been untruthful, vain, cruel, what becomes of the atoning character of His death? He claimed to die as a Priest, to lay down His life of His own free will for the world’s iniquity. How could He dare to offer a stained life as a sacrifice for stained lives? The judge of souls and the atoner for souls must, in virtue of these very claims, be sinless.”
  • “His character is marked by the balance as well as the perfection of excellence … His character is winning, and His power of drawing affection, as well as His power of enduring suffering, are feminine. But there is no weakness in it all.”
  • “His character is perfectly simple. He makes no attempt to dazzle or startle … He works a miracle, takes a meal, speaks an imperishable parable, all as they come, living His life quietly from hour to hour. Simplicity is a mark of greatness; none was ever so perfectly simple as He.”
  • “He left us an example … This is Christ as an example, and if He be allowed to be the perfect example, the ideal of humanity, the flower and the crown of the creation, the region of the miraculous has been entered …Is not all this the idea of God? And we close by repeating the question of the beginning: ‘Whence came he? How is He to be accounted for?’ Jesus must be accounted for. He is the problem of this age especially, and he will be the problem of all the ages.”[6]

At this time, Nicoll published a number of individual sermons.[7] One of these was in memory of John Henderson,[8] one of his senior elders. This sermon says much about death, a subject to which Nicoll frequently returns, but more particularly it shows that he saw himself and was perceived by others as standing in the succession of the great evangelical founding fathers of the Free Church. Nicoll exhorts, “I would speak especially to the young, and remind them that as the noble generation of the Disruption passes away one by one, it is for us who were brought up at their feet, have breathed the air made fragrant by their names, to take their places and to follow them in so far as they followed Christ. … Let us serve that great cause which our departed father loved so well and advanced so much, that when we too, like him, lie with our hands folded in their long rest, it may be said of us on earth, that we ‘served our generation by the will of God.’”[9]

 

In 1883, Nicoll published The Lamb of God,[10] which were expository studies and contained basic discussion overlapping with The Incarnate Saviour, and were a further statement about the doctrine of the person of Christ:

  • Christ’s Deity (‘The Lamb in the midst of the throne’),
  • Sinlessness (‘Holy, Harmless and Undefiled’),
  • Authority (‘The Lamb opening the sealed book’ – Revelation 6):
  • Judgement (‘The Warrior Lamb’ and ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’):

“Scripture teaches that a day is coming when the whole account of the    universe shall be summed up, and when all shall receive the due reward of their deeds. The world’s history is not of itself sufficient to be the world’s judgment. Christ will sit upon the great white throne upon that day, the central figure to which all eyes turn.”[11]

Nicoll displayed his theme from a number of texts in the writings of John and showed, clearly, his maintenance of the traditional approach to the problem of the authorship. Again, this would make him appear to an adherent of orthodox evangelical doctrines. Note there is nothing directly on the Old Testament, references or antecedents were handled in a traditional way.

 

The decade from 1883-93 was the period of Nicoll’s career change and he needed to establish himself as a journalist. However, at the end of 1893 he published his first collection of ‘articles/sermons’, The Key to the Grave[12] and it had both a poignant and a personal significance. The book dealt with the Christian view of death and bereavement and it followed a definite pattern from the first chapter, ‘Life, a patient waiting: Death, a Falling Asleep,’ through an examination of the death and resurrection of Christ, to the doctrine of immortality. Nicoll wrote as a pastor who would bring comfort and inspiration to his readers: “Deep in the heart of man is the desire for an end – an end which shall be at once the vindication and the term of history. It is answered by the Providence of God, which at steadily recurring epochs makes it plain that the world is the scene of the divine government. The curtain is, as it were, rung down, and men pause to think of all that has been, and discern the purpose and the movement of eternal righteousness … We know that He will make His word good; that He will appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation. Then will come the ‘end’.”[13] Many friends and acquaintances spoke of Nicoll’s ability to express a sympathetic word for such an occasion.

 

Later in 1894, Nicoll published Ten-Minute Sermons.[14] At the time, he was unable to do much public speaking and so the studies are his leading articles from the British Weekly. The title showed the way Nicoll viewed his work and supports the present writer’s contention that Nicoll looked on himself as a preacher. Further, if it is remembered that Nicoll was practising and becoming very proficient in the art of dictation, and there is an oral element in the creation of his leading articles, albeit a rather tenuous one. All the ‘sermons’ were ‘freestanding’ or independent, but they are transitional, as Nicoll began to modify his style. Gradually his more ‘literary’ approach would sometimes dominate, which meant that the addresses would become more thematic than expositional, but with Nicoll the ‘old ways’ could resurface, with his stated preference – expository preaching. Interestingly the actual texts, which are most conspicuous in the book, were not given in the original British Weekly articles. Further not only was there no arrangement for the ‘sermons’ but they are not even put together in the chronological order of writing; in fact the arrangement seems to be a complete mystery.

An anonymous reviewer wrote, “Whether these delightful and inspiring expositions and appeals were ever preached in their present form as sermons is doubtful. They are too subtle, compact, refined, and thoughtful for the average congregation. Dr. Nicoll has a genius for getting immediately at the heart of a truth and presenting it in a sentence. While deeply reverent and thoughtful, these discourses are also intensely spiritual, and are pre-eminently fitted to the needs of a feverish and materialistic age … Dr. Nicoll goes on to show that a man can only rise above this by seeing God … this volume from first to last is brimful of suggestive thought, and it never fails to inspire. We hope the author will long be spared in vigour to conduct healthy journalism, and give to the world such bracing teaching.”[15] However, to the modern ear the style is leisurely to the point of indulgent. It was the devotional musings of one who became the expert practitioner of an art form called ‘devotional religious writing’, and each age produces its own. Nicoll expressed that style that was pleasing to the late Victorians and Edwardians.

 

In 1895, Nicoll edited a series of ‘Little Books on Religion’ for Hodder and Stoughton. This became an extensive series with contributions from; R.W. Dale,[16] Marcus Dods,[17] P.T. Forsyth,[18] George Adam Smith,[19] James Denney[20] Alexander Whyte,[21] etc. Some of the contributions had already had and airing in the British Weekly, as had Nicoll’s own volume in the series, The Seven Words from the Cross.[22] In these studies, which might sound straight exposition, Nicoll used the sayings more as devotional exercises for believers than in trying to understand the meaning of the Passion of Christ. For example, in the fifth chapter where he took the saying “I thirst”, Nicoll sees this as ‘Our Lord’s Knowledge of Holy Scripture’. “That the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, ‘I thirst’ Mighty in the Scriptures, He overcame Satan and death … For remedy we must return to that Word of God, every part of which is inspiration and warning and power. It will bring fire and splendour into the commonplace duties of the common days, and fill us with buoyant strength when the youths faint and are weary, and the young men utterly fall. … but these truths will not help us unless they expand, and expand into all wisdom and knowledge, into all that God can give, all that man can receive. … A deep and intimate knowledge of Holy Scripture is the foundation of an enduring and stable spiritual life.”[23]

Nicoll had colleagues in the press who could give him a good write-up, as Nicoll was known to do himself for others, but had the writer following writer read Nicoll’s book? “Perhaps no finer appreciation of the sublime significance of Christ’s last words has hitherto been given in the whole scope of religious literature. The book must be classed as one of transforming power … to the reader in any way acquainted with its author’s many-sided work it will reveal how far the mind may keep above the thronging duties of the work-a-day experience. These pages have about them the atmosphere of unclouded thought, such as is found in the works of few writers.”[24]  That should have had them all queuing up in the streets to buy their copy! Nicoll always wrote well, but not in this august league.

 

In 1896, Nicoll published When the Worst comes to the Worst.[25] This was a short book in the ‘Tavistock Booklet’ series. For once, these three chapters[26] do not show a previous life in the British Weekly. Nicoll writes encouragingly of the need to persevere in the trials of life and ends in his typical style: “Let this be our last word. There are periods in life, years and years when no great trouble visits us. Then the storms of sorrow fall, and we are apt to feel, I have passed though and I may hope for immunity for the future. It is not so. The trouble may come back again worse … what then? At the very worst, the memory of the past will help us. We shall retrace the slow, difficult way to peace; our trust in God will be deepened, and we shall realise that, after all, the range of sins and sorrows is limited, though the sea of troubles may roll its white-crested billows as far as the horizon. What are truly numberless are God’s mercies. What is truly infinite is God’s love”.[27]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

1896 was, also, the year that saw Nicoll return to preaching and lecturing. This is reflected in his next collection of sermons and articles, The Return to the Cross.[28] All chapters were used in pages of the British Weekly and a few reports were addresses that Nicoll gave. Most often, these addresses were in theological colleges. Nicoll’s interest in theological issues and the fitting of the next generation of preachers for their work was reflected in these chapters. One of the addresses was given on his tour of America in 1896,[29] from where Nicoll felt encouraged and strong enough to do more public speaking. He responded to invitations to speak and his addresses to colleges show a high level of content that would be appreciated by the staff, if not by all the students. His lecture ‘The Secret of Christian Experience’ was one such an address given at the theological college in Bala, North Wales.

He began by depicting the incident in John Bunyan’s life when he listened to some women talking together about their Christian experiences. This rather than a text of Scripture becomes the launch-pad for Nicoll’s observations:

  • “In the first place what is supremely important to a minister is that he should have a message. Other things are by no means to be despised. He should be taught how to express that message in the speech of his day and in its relations to the varying aspects of thought”.[30]
  • “Further, this message is always a secret given by the Holy Ghost, and blessed by the Holy Ghost. No book, no earthly teacher, can ever impart that hidden wisdom without which your ministry must be a thing of nought. You in your inmost souls live through the struggle and the victory. Nothing avails at all in this connection except an immediate and original experience of salvation”.[31]
  • The Christian experience of the Reformation: “One of the great errors of modern evangelicalism has been to identify justification with pardon. Justification is more than pardon. It means something that is done once for all, and the shelter of which falls upon the past, present, and the future. It does not mean simply that the believer is restored to the favour of God, and that the penalty of law is remitted. It does not mean that Christ’s work rendered the remission of sin possible. It means that the believer is delivered from the condemnation by the satisfaction of the law, and that the law no longer condemns, but acquits and pronounces just.”[32]
  • “It is the union between man and Christ that makes Christ the propitiation, and without such a union we could not have the remission of sins. It is also through this union with Christ that we attain His likeness. It is not merely that Christ influences … in the spiritual order Christ is the vine and we are the branches. The life of the vine is active in all its members. Christ in the fullest sense is related to us, for we are rooted in Him, and our true life is lower even than our deepest consciousness.”[33]
  • “The nearer we come to God, the greater seems the interval between His righteousness and our unrighteousness. The sense of sin grows as the sin itself diminishes. It aches, and throbs, and burns in the heart. We utterly contemn, slight, and abhor our own righteousness. We have rejected it; cast it away as the ground of our justification before God, and after justification, it appears further and further from the divine thought and ideal. … so comes that strange life which believers know, the humiliation of ill deserts with the assurance of God’s love, the sense of unworthiness with the sense of peace, happy confidence with humble self-distrust, the self-renunciation and the self-abasement which gleam and burn through all the writings of the Apostles, and which make the normal Christian experience.”[34] 

 

Nicoll then explores and illustrates his theme by examining the teachings of William Law, using the reflections of Alexander Whyte and Andrew Murray. Here in the concluding section where he brings in the writings of Dora Greenwell, he begins to explore and open to his readers the subject of Christian Mysticism. This is also brought out in his chapter ‘The Wisdom of God in a mystery’ and the concern that Nicoll has to propagate Christian Mysticism deserves our particular attention. “For there is present evermore that aching sense of shortcoming. If we consent to the presence of sin without striving, without repentance, without grief, or if we lower the standard of perfection till it is within our reach, we are guilty of errors that have the same root and the same fruit. Nevertheless, the normal Christian life is the simultaneous presence in the soul of grace and peace, and of the consciousness of sin; and by virtue of our union with Christ we who are still sinners are nevertheless justified, and partakers of the peace of God.”[35]

Again, Nicoll is unashamed of his orthodox Evangelicalism and his Northern friends observed, “It is not a volume of sermons, but it contains more vital theological teaching than the majority of modern sermons. It is more than a mere volume of essays, though it has much of grace and charm of the true essay. It has in addition much matter calculated to make men think on the highest subjects, much that will linger in the memory and influence the life.” “If we go to church to hear sermons, then the sermons must be worth hearing and where they are not we are absolved”.[36]

 

The Clerical Life – a Series of Letters to Ministers[37] was a composite book, each chapter dealt with a particular question about church life. All contributions were used in the British Weekly before coming out in book form in 1898. There was a mixture of topics and styles; some of the articles were humorous, but all had serious aspects to bring out.  Nicoll obviously edited the volume, but he is also one of the contributors. These included, John Watson, Marcus Dods, T C Edwards, James Denney, T H Darlow, T G Selby, and J T Stoddart, although they signed themselves in code, ‘omicron’, ‘Lorna’, ‘oo’ [another of Nicoll’s own marks], etc. Their topics ranged over many subjects[38] and wit and insights abound: “However much we may bewail it, it cannot be denied that this age is not favourable to the making of great preachers. It produces critics and criticism; honest thought it may-be means doubt, but preaching implies faith. The great critic is seldom if ever a great preacher, at least, not before he wins his way into the light”.[39]

 

Also in 1899, Nicoll published a small volume, The Ascent of the Soul,[40] which comprised of an address given before Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College and three other articles from the British Weekly.[41] Again, here was Nicoll lecturing men for the ministry. He reminded them of Spurgeon’s sayings: “It must always be held in mind that whatever grace is attainable is grace for service. As Mr Spurgeon says, ‘There is no grace given to turn into diamond rings to wear on our fingers and flash in the sunshine.’ It is for the actual work and warfare of the Christian life that every gift and weapon of the Spirit is bestowed”.[42]

 

Nicoll made his apologetic statement in defence of the historicity of the New Testament in The Church’s One Foundation.[43] Nicoll, having permitted the critical virus to affect radically the perception of the Old Testament, was now faced attacks on the credibility and historical reliability of the New Testament. These articles are aware of scholarship, but Nicoll was looking to the ordinary ‘man in the street’, “I have endeavoured to make the book intelligible to the plain man. The questions discussed cannot be left to experts. They concern not merely the health, but the existence of the Church.”[44]

 

In 1905, Nicoll published The Garden of Nuts,[45] which was based on some lectures he had given and he added some other articles from the British Weekly. He had in his mind the ministerial student who might be having trouble with the place and use of Scripture, in the light of much higher criticism: “So the Written Word is found as a book among books. Like the Incarnate Word, it shares the lowliness, the infirmity, and the limitation of time. Its weakness may be discerned easily enough. The critic may have his way with it. He may dissect it as he would any other book. He may judge it and wound it, and fancy he has put it to death. Yet even as the Incarnate Word was the chosen tabernacle of eternal Truth, even so it is with the Written Word. But just as the flesh of the Incarnate Word was to be glorified, so it is with the spirit of the Written Word. Neither the Incarnate Word nor the written Word can perish, for in both of them is Divinity, and it is only when we discern the Divinity that we understand them at all.”[46]

 

The Lamp of Sacrifice,[47] published in 1906 was unique for Nicoll. All of the pieces had been used in the British Weekly, but all were addresses or sermons that Nicoll had given in the previous eight years. Of course, of the sixteen sermons that carried text, only three came from the Old Testament, and they were two from the prophet Isaiah and one from Psalms: no historical or critical questions were referred to or examined. Nicoll had modified his style. He was fully orthodox in his doctrine but more concerned with apologetics than in expounding Scripture. He still took a text of Scripture, but it was usually a peg to hang his doctrinal discourse on.

Nicoll’s ‘most famous sermon’, according to Jane Stoddart,[48] was his address on the dedication of the New Wesleyan Methodist Hall in Edinburgh, and called ‘The Watershed’.[49] Lady Nicoll referred to the circumstances of the sermon in her memoirs. “I remember once driving [in Scotland] … with my husband when he was much interested in the watershed of the burn that flows from the summit of the col. Noticing that it seemed to be little more than a stone that turned the tiny streams northward – towards the Avon and Spey – and southward – towards the Don. He quoted from Oliver Wendell Holmes[50] and

this started his thought about the Divinity of Christ as a watershed, parting the stream of doctrine into two courses, one teaching Christ as creature only, crucified, dead – flowing north …the other teaching Christ as Divine, crucified, risen – flowing south”.[51] At the time, Nicoll was busy with writing The Church’s One Foundation, with its particular concern about the historicity of Christ, but here he was not concerned with the historical veracity of the Gospels so much, as to proclaim the doctrinal convictions that he thought were being undermined.

He took four words from his text in 1 Corinthians 1 vs23; “We preach Christ crucified.” Apologetically he notes that many would stop with the historical reality of Christ crucified as the end of him: “It is a fact that the modern mind finds it easier to believe in the Cross than in the resurrection. The Cross, they say, does not involve a faith in the supernatural.”[52] His aim was to show the courses of two streams; those who would stop at the crucifixion and those who would proclaim a crucified, risen, Divine Christ. First, he looks at those who have denied the deity of Christ and delineates the stream that is concerned to assert, ‘Christ is a Creature.’ From Arianism to Socinianism the stream descends to those who deny the sinlessness of Christ to those who would deny the supernatural. Ultimately: “Can the stream go lower? Yes. So desperate is the problem of the character of Christ as viewed by rationalistic criticism, that some have strenuously and ably argued that He has never existed at all.”[53] Second, Nicoll looks at the other stream and expounds the Christian doctrine of the person of Christ: “The Divinity, or, rather, the Deity, is the dividing line. Christ was uncreated, not only the Son of God, but also God the Son. He was perfectly and purely God, and as truly and really man. The Church lives only as she holds fast to this fact, and she knows it.”[54]

Nicoll concluded with a rallying word for the preachers ‘of this Gospel’. “When we believe in the risen Christ there flows into us the strength and joy of His Spirit, the power of His resurrection that is the chief token of the supernatural Church to the world … the unbelieving world we must confront in the power of His resurrection … you have a mission to the apathetic world. We hear it said continually that the danger is indifference, that people do not care, that they get on very well without religion … We complain of the decline in candidates for the ministry … there is a decline of candidates for the ministry. What then? ‘Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth labourers into His harvest’ … but prayer is no easy thing – prevailing prayer.”[55] Then Nicoll ends dramatically with Savonarola’s cry “Wake Christ! Wake Christ!” Nicoll includes quotations from poets (Browning, etc) and also hymns, particularly Methodist ones. He was always careful to customise his address to the audience. Though he was a preacher of his day and more literary than in his earlier sermons, yet he retained his full doctrinal evangelicalism, which his audience warmed to, as the old beliefs seemed to be coming under attack.

 

In 1910, Nicoll published Sunday Evening,[56] which was another collection of British Weekly leaders. Some were preached sermons, but most were just articles. It must be remembered that this was a period of great involvement by Nicoll in political activities. Nicoll gave his texts and many of them might be loosely called expositions. However, the doctrinal concern tends to dominate: As in Sermon 41, where the text Luke 24, vs27 is given, but the sermon expounds ‘The Word of God’ in the book of Revelation! Nicoll’s concern was for people to appreciate the Bible and find that it can live in their lives like a personality. The text in Luke is only mentioned at the end! Yet Nicoll does seek to draw his application out, “As for Christian people in these times, they are so troubled about many things that they are in danger of missing the good part, which is so good because it shall never be taken away from them. They take up their time with questions of form and structure and date, to the neglect of the living spirit. If people would only read the Bible! What we need most of all is the transfiguration of our old way of seeking GOD, seeking Him in the faithful Scripture.”[57] Overall, the volume has no discernable order, and again there is a concentration of texts from the New Testament. Nicoll’s reluctance to use, or lack of confidence to use the Old Testament is seen again (Out of 52 sermons all are given texts from the New Testament, except 4 from the Old Testament).

 

Nicoll brought out a volume Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, but it carried no date. Nicoll continued to admire Spurgeon’s sermons and in his introduction: “He stands out a peerless instance of the efficacy of preaching … Spurgeon was a man of rigid and uncompromising orthodoxy … deeply read in the literature of Christian experience, he was not content with that. He himself had gone through the agonies and the triumphs that he preached. There was reality, sincerity, and definiteness in all he said. The last man on earth to pretend to what he did not possess, he was too reticent as to his wide reading and exact study of many subjects.”[58] Nicoll explains that his selection was mainly before 1876, for they showed the force and power of Spurgeon at his best, the later ones “are perhaps more touched with a growing gloom. For Spurgeon in his later years believed that he saw around him and before him a decay of faith.”[59] (See above – ‘Personalities’)

 

In 1914, Nicoll wrote a series for the British Weekly, and then published them as a small volume. This was The Difference Christ is Making,[60] and consisted of six articles under the title theme. These articles were topical[61]. Here Nicoll did not construct exposition; he rather sought to weave a number of authors into his treatment of the topics. He moves amongst books and personalities of the Church with ease and seems primarily to be appealing to ministers. In ‘The order of our going’, the preacher in Nicoll proclaims: “We must preach redemption and that more passionately than ever. Christians cannot be satisfied by the mere attainment of material decencies. They must separate themselves from blatant materialism of so many social reformers. They must steadily dwell on the two great assumptions, on which the teaching of Christ is based, the assumption that finds place in the Sermon on the Mount. These are that man is immortal and that man is sinful.”[62] Later the same year an even smaller volume came out with just two sermons in it; The Lord’s Servant deaf and blind[63].

 

1916 saw the publication of Prayer in War-Time,[64] which contained articles and short homilies that Nicoll had given at services for prayer at the City Temple. Nicoll draws out his devotional thoughts from Scriptural texts, but his concern is to engage with those questions that war brings to believers: ‘Pray without ceasing,’ ‘The Hand of God in Judgment,’ ‘When the wounded go home,’ ‘Suspense,’ ‘The acceptance of sacrifice.’ “What is the preacher to do? Much that he alone can do …the preacher who has the powerful enforcement of faith and earnestness will find that he has such an access to human hearts as he never had before. Let him only try it. Let him preach Christ and the new world from which Christ came, to which He returned, which He is still making, and which He will speak to the weary, aching, broken hearts ... if the pastor will lay himself out to serve his people in this fiery trial he will discover that worship is ministration, and the commoner service is divine service. If death has come he can administer consolation through the good hope.”[65]

His last book of sermons and articles reflected the concerns and experiences of the First World War; Reunion in Eternity was published in 1918. This brings Nicoll to familiar territory but he realised and knew from his correspondence the deep human and spiritual needs that were often brought to a breaking point because of the War. So many had been touched by the tragic loss of life that war brings and this collection of articles seeks to counsel and soothe the awful hurt and sense of anguish.

 

 



[1] Darlow: op cit 28

[2] Nicoll: Preparatory Note, Calls to Christ (Morgan & Scott, London: 1877)

[3] Nicoll: The Incarnate Saviour: A Life of Jesus Christ (T.&T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1881 – revised 1897, with a new preface, reprinted 1911)

[4] Ibid 2,4,5,6

[5] Ibid 110

[6] Nicoll: Incarnate Saviour, op cit, 309-317

[7] Nicoll also added to a series begun by his predecessor, Horatius Bonar called ‘Kelso Tracts.’

[8] Nicoll: ‘Life with Christ’, A Sermon, Preached in Kelso Free Church, 22 Oct 1882 (Macniven & Wallace, Edinburgh)

[9] Ibid 26-27

[10] Nicoll: The Lamb of God – Expositions in the writing of St John, a volume in the ‘Household Library of Exposition’, edited by WRN for Macniven & Wallace, 1883. This was transferred to Hodder & Stoughton in 1884 and republished in 1910

[11] Ibid 131

[12] Nicoll: The Key to the Grave (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1894)

[13] Ibid 179-181

[14] Nicoll: Ten-Minute Sermons (Isbister & Co Ltd, 1894 – reprinted 1908 & 1910)

[15] ‘Review of Ten-Minute Sermons’ Anonymous, N/D: Nicoll Papers, MS 3518/9

[16] Dale R.W.: Christ and the Future Life (Hodder & Stoughton, London, N/D)

[17] Dods, Marcus: The Visions of a Prophet (Hodder& Stoughton, London, N/D).

[18] Forsyth P.T.: Christian Perfection, The Holy Father, and the Living Christ (H & S, N/D)

[19] Smith, George Adam: Four Psalms (H & S, N/D)

[20] Denney James: The Church and the Kingdom; Gospel Questions and Answers; and The Literal Interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount [the latter shared with Marcus Dods and James Moffatt] (H & S, N/D)  

[21] Whyte Alexander: The Four Temperaments (H & S, N/D)

[22] Nicoll: The Seven Words from the Cross (H & S, N/D) also British Weekly, Sept 5, 12, 19, 26, Oct 3, 10, 17, 1895

[23] Ibid, 66-77

[24] Dundee Advertiser: review, N/D (Nicoll Papers Collection, MS 3518, Box 1)

[25] Nicoll: When the Worst comes to the Worst, (Isbister & Co, London 1896)

[26]Nicoll: The chapters are, ‘The Crowning Sorrow’; ‘Haydon, Sir Walter Scott, and Silvio Pellico’; ‘Hope Thou in God’

[27] Ibid 60-62

[28] Nicoll: The Return to the Cross (Isbister & Co Ltd, London 1897: Reprinted Hodder & Stoughton, London 1910)

[29] Ibid, ‘A Listener unto Death’ (89[1897]) given at Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Oct 11 1896

[30] Ibid 11-12

[31] Ibid 13

[32] Ibid 17-18

[33] Ibid 20-21

[34] Ibid 22-23

[35] Ibid 38

[36] The Dundee Advertiser: Oct 28 1897 (Nicoll Papers, MS 3518, Box 1)

[37] Various: The Clerical Life – A Series of Letters to Ministers (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1898)

[38] There were such subjects as: ‘To a minister who has studied in Germany’, ‘To a minister who inclines to condescension’, ‘To a minister who has warned his people against “Intellectual Preaching”’, ‘To a minister who regards himself as a prophet of criticism’, ‘To a minister who finds that some of his most attractive young men are sceptical’, ‘To a young minister who refused to wear a white tie,’ etc

[39] Ibid 67

[40] Nicoll: Ascent of the Soul (Isbister & Co Ltd, London 1899)

[41] The address had been published in the British Weekly under the title ‘The Uplift of the Soul’ (B/W April 21 1898).

[42] Nicoll: Ascent, op cit, 13

[43] Nicoll: The Church’s One Foundation – Christ and Recent Criticism (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1901)

[44] Ibid 18

[45] Nicoll: The Garden of Nuts, Mystical Expositions with an Essay on Christian Mysticism (Hodder & Stoughton 1905)

[46] Nicoll: Garden of Nuts, op cit 128

[47] Nicoll: The Lamp of Sacrifice (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1906)

[48] Stoddart: Nicoll, op cit 139: “Edinburgh hearers speak of this as perhaps Dr Nicoll’s greatest sermon”.

[49] Nicoll: Lamp of Sacrifice op cit 76; also British Weekly Oct 24 1901

[50]                                 Behold the rocky wall

                                     That down its sloping sides

                                      Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,

                                      In rushing river-tides! …

                                      The slender rill had strayed,

                                      But for the slanting stone …

                                      So from the heights of will

                                     Life’s parting streams descends,

                                    And, as a moment turns its slender rill,

                                     Each widening torrent bends –

                                    From the same cradle’s side,

                                     From the same mother’s knee –

                                     One to long darkness and the frozen tide,

                               One to the Peaceful Sea!

[51] Nicoll C.R.: Under the Bay, op cit 166-167

[52] Nicoll: Lamp of Sacrifice op cit 76

[53] Ibid 82

[54] Ibid 83

[55] Ibid 91-95

[56] Nicoll: Sunday Evening: 52 Short Sermons for Home Reading (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1910)

[57] Nicoll: Sunday Evening, ibid 323: British Weekly, July 26 1900

[58] Nicoll: Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: Selected with introduction by W R Nicoll, (Thomas Nelson & Sons, London N/D c1912) 7-9.

[59] Ibid 10

[60] Nicoll: The Difference Christ is making (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1914)

[61] The titles were, ‘They’ [money and wealth], ‘Property’, ‘Christian Legislation’, etc

[62] Nicoll: ‘The order of our going’ British Weekly June 18 1914: Difference ibid 35-6

[63] Nicoll: The Lord’s Servant deaf and blind and The Prophecy of the Bruisings [The Silent Hour Booklets] (Hodder & Stoughton, 1914)

[64] Nicoll: Prayer in War Time (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1916).

[65] Ibid, 124 & 127


Extra pages to WRN
Webpage icon The Decline of Nonconformity at a time of dominance
Webpage icon Religious Newspapers in the Nineteenth Century
Webpage icon Part 6: Inventory of British Weekly leading articles (1919-1923)
Webpage icon Part 5: Inventory of British Weekly leading articles (1914-1918)
Webpage icon Part 4: Inventory of British Weekly leading articles (1909-1913)
Webpage icon Part 3: Inventory of leading articles of the British Weekly (1901-1908)
Webpage icon Part 2: Inventory of British Weekly leading articles (1896-1900)
Webpage icon An Inventory of the leading articles from the British Weekly (1886-1895)
Webpage icon Biographical studies on Sir William R. Nicoll