Who is George Smeaton?

tsslogo.jpgAfter reading the following quote from Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington in The Great Exchange, a TSS reader asks, “Who is George Smeaton?”

Great question!

I know Smeaton authored two books on the atonement — The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement (1870/1991) and Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (1870/1991). Both were reprinted by the Banner of Truth in 1991 but neither appear to be in print and at least one is in print. Neither of these books (not even Smeaton himself) appear in the book or lengthy bibliography of Pierced For our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey and Andrew Sach. So who is George Smeaton?

Listen to Bridges and Bevington’s comments from the intro of The Great Exchange:

“This book is patterned after a nineteenth-century classic, The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement, written by Scottish theologian George Smeaton. While our book is neither an abridgment nor a modernization, it is nevertheless designed to make the brilliance and depth of Smeaton’s work accessible to mainstream readers …

There are two features of Smeaton’s book The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement that make it relevant and important to us today. First, he examines and expounds every passage of Scripture from Acts through Revelation that deals with the atonement. Because of Smeaton’s design to address every passage dealing with the subject, the book is redundant in a wonderfully effectual manner — the reader keeps getting the same message from slightly different perspectives so as to enhance, embellish, and deepen his or her understanding of the gospel. And with that comes passion for the person of Christ and gratitude for his finished work on the cross.

Second, Smeaton provides excellent description and emphasis on the believer’s union with Christ as the basis for our ability to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s atoning work. Today, for example, some people ask how it can be just for God to punish an innocent man, Jesus, for the sins of other people. The answer, which is clearly taught in Scripture, is found in the believer’s legal union with Christ; that is, because Christ was our representative in his life and death, it was just of God to punish him for our sins. As the prophet Isaiah said, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

Before Christ died for our sins, however, he lived a perfectly obedient life. He fully obeyed the moral will of God every second of his life. And just as our sins were charged to him so that he justly paid their penalty, so Christ’s perfect obedience, which culminated in his obedience unto death on the cross, is credited to all who trust in him—once again because of our legal union with him. And it is Smeaton’s grasp of this truth and his continual emphasis of it that makes his book so exciting. …

George Smeaton also authored a companion volume to The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement entitled Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, which examines similar Bible texts in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and in which Christ personally explains the scope, nature, and outcome of his upcoming death on behalf of sinners. Smeaton examines how Jesus explains his death and resurrection as the guarantee that God indeed forgives those sinners who trust in his substitutionary death for the resolution of their personal sin dilemma. In these gospel accounts, Jesus offered insight into the divine view of the cross.”

So can you help us out? Who is George Smeaton? Are these works in print?


UPDATE: Also in TGE, Sinclair Ferguson writes in the forward: “Smeaton was an outstanding scholar with a brilliant mind and a deep love for Christ. My own conviction is that these two great volumes [on the atonement] should regularly be in the hands of every person who teaches and preaches the gospel of Christ. They are treasure troves” (p. 12).

28 thoughts on “Who is George Smeaton?

  1. Thanks for the good work. I appriciate you taking the time to look this up. I hope I didn’t cause you to get off track today.

    Several book stores still sell The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement but I can’t find Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement.

    I am interested because these look like fantastic books to have on the shelf for preaching. I would love to be able to read them like a commentary as I preach through Cross-soaked texts.

  2. i may be wrong but i think that these books can be ordered from Banner of Truth’s UK store. of course you’ll have to figure out how to get a hold it stateside.

  3. ChristianBook.com has 2 copies of “The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement” in stock right now (hardcover, Banner of Truth editions). Also, Evangelical Bible Bookstore has both “The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement” and “Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement” (hardcover, Banner of Truth editions). Although the store is in San Diego you can order the books through their website (www.ebiblebookstore.com).

  4. Justin … Yes, I agree that from the sounds of it, these are books that would really serve the Cross-centered expositor.

    And here is a link to the Smeaton volumes at the Evangelical Bible Bookstore in San Diego. Thank you, Ryan, for the tip!

    Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement – $19.20
    Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement – $18.99 sold out

    Cant wait. Once my copies arrive, we’ll take a closer look. … BTW, we’re still looking for biographical info on Smeaton. Who was this guy?


  5. ‘The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement’ is still in print and appears in the US Banner Book Catalogue, so should be available stateside. ‘Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement’ IS out of print – but Banner does have plans to reprint at some point.

    Smeaton was professor of Exegetical Theology at New College, Edinburgh from 1857. He is described by Principal John Macleod as “the most eminent scholar of the set of young men who with M’Cheyne and the Bonars sat at the feet of Chalmers.”

    He was ordained to the ministry of the Church of Scotland at Falkland in Fife in 1839, and was amongst those who came out at the Disruption to form the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. He was appointed professor at the Free Church college in Aberdeen in 1854 before moving to New College in 1857.

    Smeaton is mentioned several times in Iain Murray’s ‘A Scottish Christian Heritage’, but without any detail.

    Banner of Truth magazine No.383 (Aug-Sep 1995) carried an abridged version of a sermon preached by Robert Gordon on the occasion of Smeaton’s death in 1889, but this says more about Smeaton’s character and godliness than providing many biographical details. (I can e-mail a PDF of this if required.)

    Banner also publish Smeaton’s work ‘The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit’.

  6. “this man who was a divinity school classmate and contemporary of such men as Robert Murray M’Cheyne and Andrew and Horatius Bonar.”

    That’s all I needed to read…those fellows got it right!


  7. hi tony, read here often, but generally don’t comment (sorry for a long first post).

    the latter half of the 19th century in scotland saw many folks revising and changing the doctrine of the atonement (wanted to do away with the calvinistic view of the atonement). it started with popular preachers first (edward irving, macleod campbell) and eventually moved to the professors.

    smeaton was the first to address the issue with a exegetical focus. because of this, his works remain immensely valuable.

    as has been said he was good friends with m’cheyne/bonar/etc. while in new college under thomas chalmers they started an exegetical society, reading papers and doing exegesis together. some of the papers can still be seen in the archives of edinburgh university. m’cheyne and the bonar brothers stood out in pastoral ministry (though theological) and smeaton excelled in the college.

    he was known as one of the free church fathers (those who were with the free church at the disruption and held to a robust reformed theology – buchanan (justification), cunningham (historical theology, theology of reformers), buchanan (church of Christ); probably one of the greatest groups of theologians in one place at one time).

    for a time he edited the ‘british and foreign evangelical review’ which was a strong scholarly calvinistic periodial from about 1850-1880s. that is all i can think of right now. his work on the Holy Spirit is, i believe, written from a covenantal framework, and (not that other covenantal folks haven’t written on the Holy Spirit) shows incredible originality and fresh thought.

    it looks like a fair number of copies of his works on the atonement are available second hand.

    i’m happy to hear that this new book will introduce folks to smeaton, and more importantly the glorious truth of my sin in exchange for Christ’s righteousness.

    and, lastly, if you want a good intro/overview of scottish theolgians, the book by macleod (scottish theology) that was mentioned earlier is a great place to start. if you have more money to put down, the dictionary of scottish church history and theology is invaluable. i’m pulling mine off the shelf constantly.

    Lord’s best,

  8. Michael, this information about Smeaton is incredibly valuable as we begin putting the pieces together on an author that seems to have escaped undetected in America for many years. I’m so grateful you read the blog and even more thankful that you commented! Thank you for your input! Tony

  9. Hi Tony, for clarification’s sake I’m from Brazil and not from Uruguai. No problem! :)

    The Banner of Trut Magazine has published in some issues some sermons by Smeaton, as follow below:

    The issue #16 has the sermon “The Lord’s Jealousy against Backsliders consistent with his Unchanging Love.

    The issue #334 has “Sermon on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit” previously published as “A Witnessing Church: A Church Baptized with the Holy Ghost”.

    The issue #87 has “Some Lessons from the History of Rationalism”.

    The issue #422 has a little excerpt “Christ Made Sin: How?”
    and issue #383 has “Tribute to George Smeaton” by Robert Gordon.

    And Rev. John Keddie has a lecture on Smeaton available at this link: http://www.schoolintheology.org.uk/lectures/georgesmeaton.rm


  10. Hello Carlos! It seems your IP address comes from Uruguai. Sorry about that. Brazil it is! Thank you for this further information. I look forward to hearing Keddie’s lecture. Blessed by your comments! Tony

  11. George Smeaton is a great 19th century Scottish Presbyterian. His works on the Atonement (Apostles and Christ — the latter being a 1953 Zondervan edition) are available currently at Reformation Heritage Books. He also wrote in support of the doctrine of the Establishment Principle (“The Scottish Theory of Ecclesiastical Establishments” and the preface to Thomas M’Crie the Elder’s “Statement of the Difference”). Anything by Smeaton is worth reading, imo.

  12. Further to Carlos’ list of Banner mag articles, there is also ‘An Offer not to be Missed’ in Issue 499 (April 2005) by – you guessed it! – Sinclair Ferguson. This said a bit about the books, and made a special offer (for magazine subscribers) to obtain the volumes at a discount – maybe that’s why they’re out of print?!

  13. My brother John Keddie has just published a biography of George Smeaton

    George Smeaton: Learned theologian and biblical scholar
    (evangelical Press, Darlington, UK)

    Copies have just reached the new world

    Gordon Keddie
    Pastor, Southside RPC, Indianaplis

  14. Tony,
    Logos Bible Software is hoping to generate enough support to publish three of Smeaton’s books. I thought you might be interested!

    <A href=”http://www.logos.com/products/prepub/details/4165″Smeaton Theology Collection (3 Vols.)

  15. I managed to score an unabridged “2-in-1” of the Smeaton works on the Atonement, at my local Christian used book store (Pilgrim Books, Calgary Alberta, Canada). Also, check out Valley Gospel Mission in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Their store is a modern miracle of all newly printed titles, all Protestant, Reformed. While any of you are “circling around” the “galaxy” of godly men that made up the Free Church, check out Hugh Martin. The reading of his “theological trilogy” on the Atonement (“The Shadow of Calvary”, “The Atonement”, & “The Abiding Presence”) is an experience you will not recover from (in a good sense!). While Smeaton, Owen, et al provide the theological “runway” for a proper doctrine of the atonement, Martin’s works soar off of that runway, up to the very throne-room of God Himself! Re Martin’s contemporaries, “on both sides of the Atlantic”, Pr. MacLeaod said of him, “For scintillating creative brilliance matched to reverant orthodoxy Martin outshines them all…”, and with this I must concur. Check him out, and be blessed. Blessings to all!

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