Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mono to Theo Doxa

"Mono to Theo doxa" (Greek, "To God alone be glory") -- William Symington's personal motto.

William Symington (1795-1862) was a Scottish Reformed Presbyterian minister and theologian known best for two works The Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ (1834) and Messiah the Prince (1839). Although his sons published a memoir of Symington's life which appeared in the 1881 edition of Messiah the Prince, and Dr. Roy Blackwood contributed a brief article about him the Dictionary of Scottish Theology, there has been precious little written about this man of God over the years, although the legacy of his writings has made him an enduring representative of Second Reformation principles.

Thankfully, a new book has been published by Reformation Heritage Books which seeks to remedy this oversight. William Symington: Penman of the Scotttish Covenanters (2009, RHB) by Dr. Roy Blackwood and Michael Lefebvre is a helpful guide to the life, theology and writings of this man. It provides a good overview of the principles he stood for and the history of the Covenanters, as well as the experiences and influences of his own life. In addition, we learn something about Dr. Blackwood, whose life was impacted by a thesis he wrote on Symington many years ago. The in-depth examinations of his two greatest works on the atonement and the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ (I commend the article linked here on the subject by Pastor Phil Pockras) are valuable, especially for those who are new to these principles; they include helpful diagrams which express the principles visually. The book is well-documented with footnotes (although it lacks an index, which would be helpful to include if there is a future edition).

Russ Pulliam, associate editor of The Indianapolis Star, commends this book highly on the back cover, having been personally influenced by Dr. Blackwood's thesis on Symington years ago to better understand a key teaching of Symington: that the mediatorial kingship of Christ applies to all areas of life.

In what I consider to be his magnum opus, Messiah the Prince (most recently reprinted by BiblioLife in 2009 and available for purchase at Amazon here, as well as to read online here), Symington aims to explore the far-reaching principles associated with Christ's kingly office. As the eternally begotten Son of the Father, Christ has always had authority as God; but in a particular way, as Savior, he obtained royal authority to govern the universe through his victory at the cross, resurrection and ascension, all of which is prophesied in Psalm 2. This we refer to as his mediatorial kingship, which is specially directed to his church, but extensive over all creation, and all spheres of life, relationships and associations. With special reference to Christ's kingship over church and state (and the state's relationship to the church in matters circa sacra), Symington's lays out the Biblical groundwork for understanding both the doctrine and the application of his mediatorial dominion. Christ indeed governs now, not only spiritually in the hearts of his saints, who willing in the day of his power, but presently, in this very world even in the midst of his enemies, even through magistrates, who are his ministers, and even through the tyrants appointed by him to scourage his people. His kingship is not limited to a spiritual reign in the church but extends to all reaches of life, even outside the church. The implications of this dominion are profound, as many who have studied this doctrine will testify. There is no better treatise on the subject than that which Symington wrote over 150 years ago.

I commend this new biography of the man, as well as his own writings to you, dear reader. God grant that every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is both Lord and King. Thank the Lord for sending William Symington to help us understand what this means, and to men like Dr. Blackwood and Mr. Lefebvre, and others, who have kept his testimony alive. Messiah the Prince rules, let all the nations rejoice!

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