A. B. Davidson, who was appointed in 1863 to the Chair of Hebrew Old Testament Literature in the New College, Edinburgh, had drunk deeply at the wells of German Liberal theology. He subtly began to introduce the new theology in his classroom. Finlayson notes that Davidson gave this counsel to his students:
"Be careful to give this to your congregations in small doses." (p.196)
A. B. Bruce, professor at the Glasgow College, is a further tragic example of the effects of Liberal theology:
Of some others in the forefront of the movement, it can only be said that there was a breakdown in character as well as in faith, over which the veil of charity must be drawn. As sad a case as any was, perhaps, that of A. B. Bruce, because of the early promise of his work on the teaching of Christ: and yet at the end of the day one of his closest friends commented sorrowfully: 'Sandy Bruce died without a single Christian conviction.' (p. 198)
From the vantage point of the 21st century as we survey the wreckage of Liberalism, the emptying of the churches, we rightly wonder why this was not seen to be the logical outcome of the new theology. Finlayson touched on that very point:
The fact so difficult to understand is that this barren rationalism captured so many of the Reformed Colleges within a few decades, and Church leaders, professing to be evangelical, could not see that it could produce only bankruptcy in the realm of faith, and complete sterility in the life of the Church. (p. 195)
As deluded as this marriage of evangelical convictions to biblical criticism now appears, at the time it was considered necessary for the survival of Christian faith in the modern world. This was the "New Apologetic." But it was a compromise with the spirit of the age. Tragically when it was preached it was to sound the death knell of authentic Christian faith. The damage done was unspeakable. Considered in the light of the Day of Judgement it is deeply traumatic to contemplate. The consequences of this kind of error are eternal.
Marcus Dods, who was to become Principal of New College, Edinburgh, in 1907 wrote in a letter to a friend:
"The churches won't know themselves fifty years hence. It is hoped some little rag of faith may be left when all's done."
The story in Scotland of what I have called "Liberalism: A Warning from History" is poignantly told by R. A Finlayson. Iain Murray gives a much fuller account, from which I have also drawn, in his chapter "The Tragedy of the Free Church of Scotland" (in A Scottish Christian Heritage, Banner of Truth). It is a chapter that should be read by every theological student, every minister, and every seminary professor. It is a sobering warning to our own generation.