John Livingstone was a preacher’s kid, born in Scotland in 1603. He continued living with his father when grown, and that caused problems. John wanted to move to France and study medicine. His father forbade him. The old man instead proposed that John marry, settle down nearby, and farm. John refused. They remained at loggerheads until the young man set aside a day to seek God’s direction for his life. He retreated to the woods and after much agony surrendered himself to preach the gospel. His father acquiesced.
On January 2, 1625 John Livingstone preached his first sermon in his father’s pulpit. He remained in his father’s house for over a year, carefully writing out his sermons word for word. One day he was asked to preach to a crowd he had addressed just the previous day, and having written no new sermon, he jotted down a few notes and preached with greater power than he had yet experienced. He never again wrote out his sermons.
He was soon in demand, and in June of 1630 he was asked to preach at the Kirk of Shots. On Sunday night he gathered with Christian brothers and spent the night “in prayer and conference.” The next morning he was seized by such feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness that he wondered if he could ever preach again. But that evening, Monday night, June 21, 1630, he rose to preach from Ezekiel 36:26,27a: I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put my Spirit in you.
Livingstone preached for an hour and a half, experiencing “the presence of God in preaching” as at no other moment in his life. The power of the Spirit fell on the meeting, and 500 people later dated their conversion from that message.
His mighty preaching brought both fame and friction throughout Scotland, and he was eventually banished to Holland on account of his Nonconformist views. Many Scots had already fled to Rotterdam, and Livingstone ministered there among them until his death in 1672.
I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 21.