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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.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1579 – Francis Fletcher, chaplain to Sir Francis Drake, read from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer somewhere in California on “the first Sunday after Trinity”—the first time the English prayer book was known to have been used in the New World. A number of Indians gathered to watch. Captain Drake’s rough sailors, who had just plundered their way up the Spanish coast, lifted their hands to heaven and prayed to God to open the eyes of the Indian idolaters “to the knowledge of Him and of Jesus Christ the salvation of the Gentiles.”
1663 – The men of Groton, Massachusetts, voted to make Samuel Willard their pastor “for as long as he lives.” Several years later an Indian raid destroyed the town and Willard moved to Boston where he rose in prominence.
1834 – Cyrus McCormick, a Christian inventor, and businessman from Virginia, patented the world’s first truly workable reaper. He made a fortune from it, much of which went to charity.
1846 – Isaac McCoy, a missionary to American Indians died. McCoy and his family endured great privation and hardship in their pioneer life. He was criticized for urging the transfer of Indians from their ancestral lands, but his writings show he was concerned they were being corrupted by contact with whites.
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