I had the second but not the third. I drew a line. It has to be drawn somewhere. Where you draw yours is up to you but I had to make up my own mind. When the idea that an unprecedented measure is held out to you as being temporary for a specific purpose in an unparalleled emergency, but it slyly slips into something that looks permanent, you have to decide how much you will take, for who knows where it will end?

Austria and now Germany, with the EU to follow, gives us a clue. You wonder if they teach 20c history in schools anymore or is it simply collective amnesia? Diversity and inclusion will now have to be redefined.  The unvaxed are the great unclean, who must be shunned and separated from the rest and those who refuse will face the full force of the law, be fined for each passing month until they are ruined. This is no conspiracy theory. This is what the leaders of these nations are actually saying – “vaccinated, recovered or dead”.

But up here, we are not like them. We have our own bungling clownish ways of doing things: arguing about parties, who can kiss who, checking that our granny has certification before including her in the invite, ordering every visitor to our home to take a test beforehand, testing and testing before we go anywhere and all the usual idiocies of terrifying our children with masks and fear of strangers. Its beyond embarrassing, but it is also evil (and I have chosen that word carefully). It is the slimiest stasi-like trick in the book. Get the people to enforce your will. Get them to call out and shame the dissidents. Frame the narrative in black and white terms: good and bad, caring and selfish, compassionate and venal and you have enrolled half or more of the population who can work across communities and families to coerce and enforce it. There is no need to appeal to fact or reason, logic has gone AWOL. There is no need to argue about whether the vaccines can stop the spread. There isn’t one. We know they don’t.

“It’s your civic duty” they will say, but it’s not mine. I can take the names. Stick and stones will break my bones and words can hurt but I don’t need to let them.  They have crossed the river and launched a civil war. You would think they knew what they were doing but, I guess, if you have forgotten what happened 80+ years back you are unlikely to remember 49BC.


There was something about the announcement this week that was depressing as it was predictable and I struggle to make up my mind if the actors are simply evil demagogues impelled by dark forces or just bit players and useful idiots in a treacherous game over which they have no control.

The appearance of Omicron, an anagram of “moronic”, having jumped Nu and Xi, so as not to cause offence to our oriental friends, came at just the right time.  There was the possibility that people were beginning to believe the storm had passed, the nightmare was over and we could begin to rebuild the house and repair the roof. There was the ever-present danger that citizens might see the complete disconnect from what they were hearing and what they were seeing and begin to ask questions. The time would come soon enough when the people’s enquiry into what had happened would expose the fraudulence of the official narrative and someone would be in dock in the Hague. Some boy would eventually cry out that the emperor had no clothes.  So, it was vital that something new had to be found to divert attention from what was really happening. To cover over what may have been behind the introduction of this plague. And, sure enough, it was found. This time in beautiful Botswana.

The trouble is, evil always overplays its hand. The cunning plans eventually unravel and there is no place to hide. It has always been that way.  The video clip I have in my mind is Ceausescu’s wooden speech from the balcony of the Central Committee building in Piata Revolutie, Bucharest where he misreads the crowd, who seem, at first, to be chanting and cheering but it soon becomes booing and jeering with cries for his downfall which was enacted a few days later.

The banal “cause for concern” chant repeated by so many betrays a staggering out-of-touchness with reality, the real world and the real concerns of real people. The “Concern” over a new strain with barely a dozen reported cases in the UK, where there is no evidence that it could in the future cause fatalities, or lead to serious illness or hospitalisation or maybe just a runny nose, when this is the cause for concern, where is the concern for the real distresses that face real people every day?  for cancer, for heart disease, for type2 diabetes, for mental health, for dementia, for the adverse effects of the vaccine: (Blood disorders, pulmonary Embolism and deep vein thrombosis, anaphylaxis, acute cardiac issues, Infections, Herpes, Immune system disorders, blindness, eye disorders, deafness, spontaneous abortions, skin disorders, psychiatric disorders, migraines and headaches, central nervous system disorders, Guillain-Barre syndrome, facial paralysis vertigo tinnitus, respiratory disorders, seizures, paralysis, tremors, reproductive disorders and almost 1,800 deaths in the UK) the destruction of economies, for the jobless, for dept, for child abuse for drug deaths and drug lives, for migrants, for violence, crime, for poverty, for….?

Sooner or later the skin on the bubble will be stretched so thin that the whole thing will burst. Illusions are illusions but reality is reality and eventually all the shams and charades, the deceit and maleficence will be exposed.

But maybe I am totally wrong about all of that. Maybe it is me who is out of touch. Maybe us plain folks don’t know all the story. Maybe we have misjudged and attributed false motives to those who have been responsible. Maybe we have allowed a level of scepticism and cynicism to creep into our thinking and see corruption in every level of government, in the World Health Organisation, in Fauci and Bill Gates, in Moderna and Pfizer and Astra Zeneca, in Davos, Klaus Schwab, and the great reset, in the Chinese Communist Party, the Guardian, the Independent, CNN and the BBC.  Maybe we should trust in the noble altruistic selfless character of human nature and acknowledge that all of these players are acting out of truly unselfish motives and only with our best interests at heart. Maybe.

We need to talk about lock-down

Why? It never occurred to me that we would. To talk about it, I mean. We have already talked about it enough and wasted millions of words and thousands of hours on debates. We have squandered valuable resources on mountains of articles and papers in the past year and half and, needless to say, I have added my bit to the pile too. It is time to lay this ghastly episode to rest in history and concentrate our minds on better things. The idea that any government within a liberal democracy anywhere in the world would ever countenance again imprisoning its own people or rerun an experiment with no evidence that it made any difference, is simply not credible. It’s just not going to happen.

Trouble is, things that we thought were not going to happen often tend to happen. Things that were inconceivable turn out to have been conceived in the darkness when we were not paying attention and birthed when we were looking the other way. If anything this past while has taught us, is that the things we thought unimaginable have an uncanny way of being imagined. We used to make pythonesque jokes about the silliness of bureaucracy and government overreach into the intimacies of life, but they are no jokes anymore. This time it’s real. 

Despite constant assurances to the contrary in words like “we have no plans to …”, another lock-down is certainly planned and it could be brought in very soon. Already the media is priming us for it. The news outlets which used to tell us what had happened, now tell us what is going to happen and they seem to know. Already we hear doom laded stories about the winter and the prospect that flu will be the enemy this time round. The same measure, they say, that worked for Covid could just as sensibly be used for flu. I listened to an interview with a public health expert the other day on the BBC, where the interviewer was doing precisely that. She was repeatedly trying to get the expert to say that in the face of a major flu outbreak this winter, lock-down and similar measures would be an appropriate response.

There is no compelling evidence that lock-downs actually worked in any way and, at the same time, it brought about nightmarish hardship, suffering and deaths. That doesn’t seem to register, however, when you are blinded by the dogma and you have drifted so far from reality you wouldn’t recognise it, even if it hit you between the ears.  So be in no doubt, while presently hidden from view the thing is slowly leaking out and it is more than likely that the government will once again turn to this vile procedure on the pretext of saving the NHS. As if, once western civilisation has finally collapsed in ruins and nothing is left but the shattered bombed out remains of a once great city, we can always say “but we did it to protect the NHS.”

Q How many lock-downs does it take to save the NHS?

A One more that we have had

So, if that’s it, what’s the point and the need to talk? There is very little we can say or do that is likely to have any influence on the power brokers or change the direction of the juggernaut. A letter to the Times won’t cut it this time round.  Reason and nuance have been blocked out. Behind the smiling face of officialdom no quarter is given. But the chosen trajectory will certainly lead to disaster. Silencing your opponents, feeding sweets to the sceptics, making alliances with the hesitant might work for a time but sooner or later the dam will burst and things could get ugly. The legacy of trust, that has been formed over centuries and on which much of our society exists, can be lost in a very short time. Our governments are playing with fire and another lock-down might just set it ablaze. That’s why we need to talk about it.

We need to talk about the vaccine

When the surgery called very early on in the affair to offer myself and my wife the Covid vaccine, I was knocked off my guard. I knew this was coming but had not expected it so soon. The receptionist was pleasant. She was not pushy and when I said I was really not sure, she accepted my reticence and suggested that, if I changed my mind, I should just call back for an appointment.  Being a weak individual and sensitive to emotional pressure I succumbed, but never with any sense of conviction and with piles of doubts.  I wasn’t proud and a little ashamed that I had not stood for my convictions and I was quite embarrassed, with friends of our own age who were trumpeting that they had the vaccine and it was like they had won the lottery. It was a weird situation. When I expressed my reticence, it was sometimes met with shock and unbelief and on at least one occasion with the “anti-vaxxer” retort.  I have learned that when people call you names, they have reached the point where they tire of reasoned debate and don’t want to engage anymore. This is a shame because the issue is deadly serious.

There are so many questions so much obfuscation and blatant attempts to sidestep any reasonable and legitimate inquiry.  This whittles away at confidence and sows the seeds of cynicism.  The gatekeepers actively discourage any valid questioning of the merits of a vaccine rollout. Just try and write to your elected representative in the parliaments in our land and if you get a reply it will simply restates the line without taking on your question. The language is often duplicitous.

Take as an example the concern that many people have that the vaccine might have a negative effect on fertility. It’s a perfectly valid concern not just for young people but of course for everyone. The official stated line which is reiterated at every turn, is that there is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. Now you don’t need to have a degree in philosophy to know that this a sleight of hand. The statement will be true but it is constructed in such a way as to lead you to believe that there is evidence that it doesn’t affect fertility. When you realise that, at this point in the vaccine’s history, there is no way of knowing whether the vaccine will affect fertility or not, it makes such a statement grossly misleading, if not deceitful. “We don’t know” would be a more accurate and respectful answer, but with this and so many other issues, the authorities show little respect for the intelligence of the population and you can only wonder at what other devious ploys they have up their sleeves.

Take the issue of what it actually is. It is not a vaccine in the traditional sense. It is not like any other vaccine and probably best described as a form of gene therapy. It is something that has never been tried before, only approved under a temporary authorisation and we have no idea what the long-term effects it will have on the population not least the young and those yet unborn.

And take what the main stream media feed us. I try to avoid watching news on TV especially the BBC but last night it was on and I watched.  I was staggered that they still went through the farcical ritual of numbers and graphs and cases, hospitalisations and deaths. (There were no deaths reported in Scotland.)  From a news angle, what exactly was the point of this charade?  Why were there no record of recoveries from the disease? (Which is close to 98%.) Why were there no graphs and records of cancer deaths of drug deaths of suicide or road deaths? Why were there no records of those who have died after taking the vaccine (which in the UK is in excess of 1,600) or the scale of the yellow card alerts? Why were they actively pushing for the vaccination of pregnant women on the same news programme, when there are so many serious questions and doubts about long term side effects? None of this makes any sense at all unless, of course, there is something else going on. I wonder what it might be?

Any sane person who had a reasonable grasp of the facts and a modest dose of common sense would have called a halt to the roll out long before now, but there is no sign that this is likely to happen and when it does, it will be too late.

I got my blue letter through today for the booster. This time I plan to hold my nerve and refuse, unless, that is, I get convincing answers to my questions.

Crawford Mackenzie

We need to talk about masks

The thing that epitomises the age of covid more than any other is the face covering. While there are big issues with lock down, the restrictions, the interference in personal lives, the terrible cost, the collateral damage, the serious problems with the vaccine, nothing quite sums up the whole wretched business like the mask and I can never get used to it. It is the flag of allegiance the icon of conformity. The fact that they come in all different sizes and creative designs only conceals the fact they are potent ideological symbols. Wearing one, makes it clear you are on the right side. Even if you have absolutely no conviction that it does any good, wearing one demonstrates that you are in solidarity with the vulnerable and you care. It signals your virtue. It’s the “workers of the world unite” poster you put up in your grocer’s shop.

When I complain about the mandate, friends keep telling me “och, its no big deal….what’s the problem? people in Asia have been wearing them for years… just be patient, nobody likes them, but, hey, we have been through this for over a year we can manage another month or two surely?…there are people really worried about the virus and it helps them if you toe the line…See it as an act of kindness…we all need to do our bit” etc etc. The overwhelming majority of those in my circle take that line and think that I am being really obtuse and deliberately awkward if not downright misanthropic in doubting the perceived wisdom. They come over as being pretty wearied of my cantankerous obstinacy and unwillingness to shut up. As it happens, most of the time I do. But there comes the time when we need to talk.

I can only speak for myself, but my hatred of mask wearing is visceral. It is not the face covering that I use to stop plaster dust getting into my lungs when ripping out the lath, it is not the mask our friend in Nepal would wear when she ventured into the heavily polluted air of Kathmandu, it is not the masks that the surgeons wear in medical procedures. There is sense in logic in all of those. But there is no logic or sense in the mandating of face coverings in certain public spaces, as is the law in Scotland today. A law that seems unlikely ever to be repealed.  

But my revulsion goes deeper. Masked balls in period dramas always gave me the creeps and I would never watch the phantom of the opera for the same reason.  Faces covered with a mask of an animal or a bird a bear or a goat, often associated with some pagan caper, always unsettles me and even a photomask of a person’s face with slits for eyes does the same. I remember a surprise engagement party that was arranged for a friend of ours while her boyfriend was in a different country. When I brought her to the party, all the friends had facemasks made from a photo of his face. It was so creepy. She did manage to carry it off with astonishing grace but it would have traumatised me. Now, seeing people I know and love and care about obscured behind pieces of cloth is extremely disconcerting. I will never get used to that and I refuse to.

Everyone, I assume, now knows that the science is not only pitifully weak on the efficacy but weighted against any value that face coverings have in halting transmission of the virus. I am not a scientist, but common sense tells me so and there is a simple experiment that pretty well proves it. The decision for the mandate is almost certainly a political one, not a scientific one and it divides people. 

For my own part I simply try and avoid any place where I am required to wear one or, at most, keep it to an absolute minimum. I used to love public transport but now take any other option than board a bus or a train. I walk or cycle or just don’t go. I chose cafes who are more relaxed and who apologise for what they have to do. I make visit to shops, in an out, as speedily as possible. I avoid eye contact with people wearing masks in the street, while exchanging smiles with faces I see. It was not what I wished for, but I guess I can cope with all of that.

Still I have a problem, a serious one that is still unresolved and it is to do with the wearing of masks in Church. It is doubly complicated, as I have a leadership role and there is constant internal argument, that rages in my mind and ties nasty knots in my gut. We are of course following the official line being “Subject to the Governing Authorities” who are there for our good. We are also discouraged from discussing the issue. It could be divisive. “This is not the time” we are told, “to air personal opinions. These should be put aside as we work for the common good”.  We are to be sensitive and considerate of our “weaker brother” who might be fearful of a mask-less community. We should show love. All of this pulls incessantly on my emotions and throws doubts into my resolve.

At the same time the logical reasoned side of my brain tells me this is all wrong. Somehow the experience, the vital experience, of coming together with the people, to worship God should not be hindered or shackled by the diktats of the state. The Free Church of Scotland, would surely be the last church on earth to acquiesce with the government but that is what we have done. Goodness me, this is the denomination that was born out of a rebellion against the unlawful interference of the state in the life of the church.  So this is deeply troubling.

The counter, of course, is that this is simply a health issue. We should comply and we are not compromising. I would like to think that is true but I suspect that something deeper and more sinister is going on and it is to do with the covering of the face. It is to do with the stoking of fear. It is to do with the emasculation of communication. It is to do with bearing allegiance to another god.  When we sing our songs of worship, we sing them through a cloth mandated by the state. When we listen, the preacher cannot second guess where we are, behind our forced facades. When we share, all subtleties and nuances are filtered out.   One, possibly the, most blessed and enriching experience in all of life, for me, is at once neutered and reduced to a bland innocuous and soulless happening. I can’t, I won’t get used to it.

For my sanity’s sake, at least, we need to talk about it.

Three Steps in the Great Leap Forward

Two weeks ago, the Scottish Government announced its intention to use the health crisis to purloin more power for itself. The blatant bare faced arrogance of it was breathtakingly yet so ineffective and compliant is the fourth estate that this shameless seizure of power barely registered in the main stream media.

The follow up, earlier this week was the announcement of an alliance with a minority party, the Scottish Greens. The clear aim was to consolidate power and to use the threat of a climate crisis to slip further into soft totalitarianism. The leader of the party, Patrick Harvie, is a regional list MSP. He is not a constituency MSP. That means that, in the hybrid voting system we have in Scotland, he has been elected because of his position in the party. No one, in effect, voted for him. His allegiance is to the party and not the constituency. Now he and his colleague have seats in the government of our nation. You just have to watch a few minutes of the parliament video ( to see him lick his lips and be aware that he is the one who is now in charge. 

On Wednesday, it was the announcement on vaccine passports. This means that the government will have power over what you can and cannot do, dependent on the disclosure of personal information relating to your personal health. This was the sort of information that was previously private and confidential and jealously guarded. No one had the right to know or ask about what medical interventions you might have had. It was private. It was your body. Now the government will have that right to know, provided, of course you decide not to play the game and are not interested in going to a night club, a football match, a concert, a rally, get on a train of a bus or go to a supermarket. In other words, just about anything.   

Yes I know, it has to be ratified by parliament “signed off” as the media amusingly puts it. But It’s a done deal. We know that. Any opposition to it is likely to be muted and those who are willing to speak out will be quickly shouted down. The movers and shakers have learned a lot from their successes in the past while, the introduction of same sex marriage being a case in point. ( They know that to come out with an outrageous directive like this would be seen for what it is, a violation of personal freedom, unjustifiable discriminatory and a naked form of apartheid. So, they introduce it by a drip drip process, bit by bit, leak by leak, giving the impression that it is just about night clubs…and we can do without them. That way the population are softened up and anyone who raised concerns can be dealt with in the usual way, by ad-hominin name calling.

So that is it,  three moves, all in quick succession and together a great leap forward in the progress towards the new normal. 

The Game is Over

There is something about the events of the past week that seems to confirm that the game is now well and truly over. It wasn’t a re-run of Saigon, or Teheran or the Bay of Pigs, though it looked very much like it. It was far worse with a hint of finality about it. I had a hunch that when the great celebrations erupted with the defeat of Donald Trump, the devil we didn’t know was going to be much worse that the one we did and so it turned out to be.

They say that we get the leaders we deserve. Well now we know.  Where is the Churchill, the De Gaulle the Mandela the Havel? There were those who said, that as far as the west was concerned, Donald Trump was our only hope. Its hard to believe, but there surely was some truth in that. Biden has simply replaced a loud mouth with a feeble one. Our own bungling buffoon styled himself on Churchill, but it was all bluff. There would be no fighting on the beeches or the landing grounds instead he chose to run, first from the illiberal mob on their diet of identity politics, then from the virus and now from the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud the only glimmer of light in the resistance is now isolated with his fighters in the Panjshir valley. The people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Crimea, Ukraine and the Baltic states now know they are on their own. The Uighurs, Armenians and Kurds are not likely to get any help soon. We have pulled up the drawbridge and retired to our lager. But this time we are unlikely to defend even that.  Our belief in our selves has gradually collapsed after decades of self-induced self-doubt, self-loathing and crippling guilt and we are ready to throw in the towel.

If western civilisation does implode, as it could well do, and all that remains are the architectural ruins of our cathedrals and cities, the lost symphonies, plays and novels the half-remembered philosophies, sciences and poetry and the faint recollection of a now forgotten way of life, what will the world look like then?   It could be, as Churchill suggested, “the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science” This time that science in the control of politicians, would include the horrific might of nuclear and biological weapons and with an all-seeing all-knowing all-powerful technology. It could be a world fuelled by big pharma, big tech, big data, big-business and big-government whether as a centrally controlled totalitarian state or a worldwide Caliphate. Or it could be the demise of overgrown empires and a world scattered into small nations of little people. It’s impossible to know or second guess, but the times they are a changing, that’s for sure.

It was an act of mercy that God brought confusion on the people building their tower on Shinar plain, and he may do that again. It is certainly true that throughout history all empires, though they looked unmovable and unbeatable at the time, eventually, did fall and sometimes spectacularly so. In the Genesis account it was interesting that he didn’t destroy the tower. He confused their language so they couldn’t communicate easily.  The parallel with the comprehensive and immediate communication available through the internet is striking and if this giant suffered a complete breakdown the world would be quite different altogether. That’s a strong possibility and not all that fanciful either.

Crawford Mackenzie


Somehow, we suspected that there were dark forces at work. Somehow, we anticipated that, under the cover of a health emergency, the Scottish Government would move with stealth and skill to seize new powers and advance their progressive ideology. We were warned about this and we guessed that the claims of measure being purely temporary was disingenuous and deceitful at best.

What, however, takes us by surprise, as it always does, is the blatant duplicity of it all. It is quite breath-taking.

Today the Deputy first minster in Scotland John Swinney, announced the publication of a consultation paper, which details the government’s proposal to “give the Scottish ministers the same powers to protect the people of Scotland from any incidence or spread of infection or contamination which presents, or could present, significant harm to human health in Scotland, not just Covid. In addition to being able to impose future lockdowns and restrict gatherings, ministers would also be able to order school closures “during the remainder of the pandemic” or for any future outbreak of an infectious disease, so long as they believe it is “necessary and proportionate”, and the chief medical officer has been consulted. Among the plans for the justice system are calls for continued powers to permit the early release of prisoners and allowing people to avoid attending court in person by taking part remotely.”

The chilling bit is that minister will have these powers, no longer temporary but permanently enshrined in law “as long as they believe it is ‘necessary and proportionate’. So it’s a matter of belief about “necessity” and “proportionality”. Irrespective of any objective threat or reality, what matters is what the minsters believe and they will be the arbiters and the ones who will define what is necessary and proportionate. It’s about faith and feeling and fits perfectly with the progressive ideology.

It’s a “consultation” of course and everyone is encouraged to make their feelings known. But we all know about “consultations”. One a few years back revealed that the majority were opposed to the government’s proposal but they went ahead anyway and claimed that the consultation was not binding.  

So that’s it, they want permanent powers to lock people in their homes, shut the schools and open the prisons.  What’s not to like about that?

For those of us who are quite relaxed about government powers, who believe that those who govern are essentially good, altruistic, have access to the best advice and have our interests at heart, who are happy to sacrifice our personal autonomy and responsibility for the sake of the “common good” and who are untroubled by all of this, as long as we are kept safe, for us, it is no big deal and there is nothing to see.

For others it is a chance to say “NO” and you can do it at But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Crawford Mackenzie

Desert Island Books 2: The letters of John Newton

Not long ago I was invited to join a local reading group. It was specific and specialised. The titles were limited to classic and contemporary Christian books grappling with fundamental theological issues and ranging from Augustine, Knox, Calvin, through Edwards, Flavell, Baxter, Chesterton and Bonhoeffer to Keller and Ferguson. I was only able to share in the monthly gathering for a short while but it kick-started me into reading in a new way and I was surprised by the thrill that I found in discovering, for the first time, writers whose names I knew, but whose words I had seldom ever read. 

Among the gems that was uncovered for me was “The letters of John Newton” edited and compiled by Josiah Bull. Maybe it was the bight sized nature of the letters that appealed to my short attention span. But I was astonished at how accessible they were, how easy they were to read, what wisdom they communicated, what insight and what it said about the preacher’s pastoral heart. Written so long ago they are surprisingly contemporary and despite the odd word and archaic expression they are clear and uncluttered in a way that most present-day Christian literature is not.

Life in early 18th century England was harsh and brutal, especially for the poor. Cities lacked sanitation and drinking water was so nasty that beer was safer to drink. The availability of cheap gin was destroying lives and striking at the moral fabric of the country. Among the citizens, cock baiting and dog fighting were common place and tickets were sold for public executions. There was a yawning gap between the rich and the poor and crime was endemic in the cities where the desperate poor resorted to stealing, simply to keep body and soul together. Punishments were severe even for minor thefts of items of clothing or tableware and could include the death penalty. These were often commuted to imprisonment or banishment to the colonies. The prisons themselves were desperate places. Many prisoners were held in hulks off shore without water or proper sanitation. For the prisoners, men and women, sometimes with their babies, the journey to the other side of the world was a wretched one. David Hill in “Convict Colony” details the misery visited upon these poor souls and many died before they reached Botany Bay. All this time, the iniquitous Atlantic slave trade was burgeoning

It was into this dark world that the evangelical revival movements began, firstly with Whitfield and Wesley, who brought the light of the gospel in all its fullness to the common people. It could well be one of the reasons why England did not follow France in a bloody revolution. The revival led to changes in society, anti-slavery movements, prison reform, relief for the poor and the expansion of schools and hospitals throughout the land.  Two years into Parliament, Shaftesbury commenced his efforts to alleviate the injustices caused by the Industrial Revolution, which included acts that prohibited employment of women and children in coal mines, provided care for the insane, established a ten-hour day for factory workers, and outlawed the employment of young boys as chimney sweeps.

It was in the later part of the 18th century, in what is described as the second wave of the revival, that John Newton, the converted slave trader and writer of what is possibly the most famous English hymn “Amazing grace” began as a preacher in the town of Olney.  Because of his special gifts in explaining the gospel to ordinary folk his fame spread and people came from miles to hear him preach. “They found in him one who was a worse sinner than themselves and who could enter into their experiences with tenderness and sympathy”.  Many who could not travel communicated with Newton by letter and it is these gems that remain as a testimony to his work.

In these letters there is humour and insight, there is constant pointing to and referencing of scripture. So soaked must he have been in the words of the bible and so well acquainted with its whole, that barely a sentence goes by without some reference direct or indirect or some allusion to the Word. In this, he was fulfilling God’s charge to Joshua not to let “This Book of the Law depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.”

Many of his letters were to other preachers, where his keen understanding of the treasures and the trials of the ministry were sympathetically spent

To Rev W B Cadogan:

“I have seen enough to remind me of the difference of setting out, and holding out to the end, and to warn me that we can have no security from gifts, labour’s, services, or suffering, from clear viewers, or past experiences from first to last only safety is in the power, compassion, and faithfulness of our great Redeemer“

 To a Mrs Coffin he writes:

“religion does not consist in doing great things, for which few of us have frequent opportunities, but doing the little necessary things of daily occurrence with a cheerful spirit, as to the Lord.

Writing to a recently bereaved women (a Mrs Talbot)  he shows remarkable tenderness and understanding, yet points to the only place where she can find real comfort:

“My heart is full, yet I must restrain it. Many thoughts which crowd on my mind and would have vent, were I to write to another person, would to you be unreasonable. I write not to remind you of what you have lost, but of what you have which you cannot lose…….

All the comfort you have ever received in your dear friend was from the lord, who is abundantly able to comfort you still; and he is gone but a little before you.

Some of his most touching letters are to his brother in law John Catlett, who was not a believer but who he tries to persuade in the most gracious way, making a specific appeal to reason.

“It is not reasoning but neglecting to reason and to extend conclusions to their just consequences, that I condemn as the vice of the age…Faith is the gift of God, but then he is always ready to bestow it. When I was first brought to consider the evil of my life, and to endeavour at amendment, the same difficulty lay in my way. I could not pretend to say in my prayers that I believed the gospel. Alas! I did not at that time believe a word of it! I was confounded but not convinced. However, it pleased God (as I am firmly persuaded) to lead me to the following resolution: Though I am not assured of the truth of the New Testament, yet I cannot be certain that it is false, I will endeavour, therefore, If I mistake, that it shall be on the safe side. I will take its truth for granted. I will study the promises and comply with the commands I find there, and if it did indeed proceed from God, He who revealed it, and sees my sincerity in trying to quit my prejudices may, nay, if that is his word indeed, he undoubtedly will, assist, me and enable me to understand it, by degrees, till at length I believe it with the bottom of my heart.”

On my desert island, as the radio game goes, you are given the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. In my isolation, I would want to have John Newton and his letters as my  companion and pastor.

Crawford Mackenzie

Fear: the second wave

Right on cue, now that the doomsayer’s terror tactics over the virus has all but been exhausted, every ounce of fear mongering has been expended, the horror stories, the frightened eyes, the stats and graphs disappear from our screens, the media and governments, with their allies in big tech, big pharma, big data and big business now turn to the second card they hold in their hand – the climate crisis.  

It’s “Code red for humanity”.  It is “unprecedented”. (now where did I hear that word before?) it is “irreversible” and it is all our fault. Not the fault of the 20 thousand delegates who will be coming to Glasgow in their solar power yachts sailing up the Clyde, from red amber and yellow countries all quarantine at their own expense in guarded hotels for 10 days all double vaccinated and socially distanced with covered faces.  No, not them. It’s the fault of the poor who need to feed themselves, who need to find shelter, warm their homes and support their families. These are the ones who are already subsidising the green revolution and who will have to make the sacrifices to “Save the planet”.

So be prepared for the next wave of doomsday divinations and the flooding of our screens with the climate meta narrative. Be aware that every clip of an iceberg melting, a wild fire, a flood, a superstorm or a drought will be milked dry until humanity is finally cowed and comes to heel.    

There is, of course, a serious point here, but that will have to wait.

Crawford Mackenzie