Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

6 January 1921 A.D. Scots Presbyterian Rev. Alexander Whyte Dies—He Overcame Being a Bastard

6 January 1921 A.D.  Scots Presbyterian Rev. Alexander Whyte Dies—He Overcame Being a Bastard

Graves, Dan. “Alexander Whyte Overcame His Illegitimacy.”  Jun 2007.  Accessed 7 Jul 2014.

Alexander Whyte Overcame IlligitimacyOn this day, January 6, 1921, Alexander Whyte died quietly in his sleep. The eighty-five-year-old Scotsman had risen from poverty and illegitimacy to become one of the most prominent pastors in Scotland. His faith began when he was young. Sunday mornings, his hardworking mother, Janet Thomson, took him to the Free Church. In the afternoon, he attended the Relief Church with his grandmother. He capped off Sunday by attending the Auld Licht (Old Light) Church by himself in the evening. He dreamed of becoming a minister.

Although his mother could not afford to pay for his education (those were the days before governments educated everyone), Alexander was determined to learn. He subscribed to a magazine on self-education and paid a younger boy to hold up borrowed books for him so that he could read while be made shoes as an apprentice.

With this learning under his belt, he became a teacher. To keep ahead of the more advanced pupils, he studied late at night after class was done. The following year, a sympathetic minister taught him Latin and Greek so that he could go to university--if the funds could miraculously be found.

Alexander swallowed his pride and wrote to the man who had fathered him and then abandoned his mother. John Whyte had become a successful businessman in New York. He sent Alexander the money. Teaching factory workers to cover his living expenses, Alexander threw himself into his studies. He graduated second in his class. Because of his own experiences, he never forgot the poor.

Eventually, Alexander headed the largest Scottish church and was a college president. A powerful speaker, in his very first sermon he emphasized the need to focus one's attention on Christ. Throughout his life, he always stressed the importance of a personal religious experience. Christianity was not just a matter of keeping commandments. Many of his sermons, with vivid illustrations, found their way into print.

A sermon he preached on prayer is a good sample of his style: "We hate God, indeed, much more than we love ourselves. For we knowingly endanger our immortal souls; every day and every night we risk death and hell itself rather than come close to God and abide in secret prayer. This is the spiritual suicide that we could not have believed possible had we not discovered it in our own atheistical hearts. The thing is far too fearful to put into words. But put into words for once, this is what our everyday actions say concerning us in this supreme matter of prayer. 'No; not tonight,' we say, 'I do not need to pray tonight. I am really very well tonight. And besides I have business on my hands that will take up all my time tonight. I have quite a pile of unanswered letters on my table tonight. And before I sleep I have the novel of the season to finish, for I must send it back tomorrow morning..."

Alexander was buried in Edinburgh. On his coffin were inscribed David's words, "'I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15).


Bradley, Maureen. "Scottish Presbyterian Alexander Whyte (1836-1921)."

"Whyte, Alexander." Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, 1964.

"Whyte, Alexander." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.

Last updated June, 2007

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