James Durham

James Durham (1622–1658) was the eldest son of John Durham of Grange Durham Angus, and proprietor of ‘a good estate,’ then called Easter Powrie, in the county of Forfar. He studied at St. Andrews University, and afterwards lived at his country place. Subsequently he took arms in the civil war and became captain of a troop. Naturally serious and thoughtful, he had come under profound religious impressions on a visit to the relations of his wife (Anna, daughter of Francis Durham of Duntarvie) at Abercorn, near Edinburgh, and it was his being overheard praying with his soldiers by David Dickson, an eminent Presbyterian divine, that led to his devoting himself to the ministry.

After studying at Glasgow he was licensed as a preacher in 1647. That a man of his position should make such a change excited some comment among his old friends and neighbours, but his whole soul was in his new occupation, and he vindicated himself with great fervour.

Durham was a man of intense strength of conviction and great gravity of character. It is said of him, as of Robert Leighton, to whom in certain respects he bore a resemblance, that he was seldom known to smile. His studies, both in Scripture and in the theological and ecclesiastical questions of the day, were carried on with extraordinary diligence. Of his devotion to the Christian ministry he gave decided proof, both by his laboriousness in the work and by his retiring from the position and enjoyments of a country gentleman’s life.

Of his power and faithfulness as a preacher a remarkable illustration is said to have occurred at the time of Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland. It is said that Cromwell entered his church incognito, and got a seat as it happened in the pew of the provost’s daughter, who, as he wore the dress of an English officer, was by no means very courteous to him. At the close of the service Cromwell asked her the preacher’s name. She gave a curt reply and asked why he wished to know. Cromwell replied ‘because he perceived him to be a very great man, and in his opinion might be chaplain to any prince in Europe, though he had never seen him nor heard of him before.’ It is certain that Durham preached before Cromwell against the English invasion. One version of the story has it that Cromwell asked him whether it was his habit to preach on politics, and that he replied that it was not, but seeing him present he thought it right to let him know his mind.

For a time he exercised his ministry in Glasgow, and in 1650 he was appointed Professor of Divinity in the university there. But before he could be settled in that office the General Assembly decided that he should attend as chaplain on the king. The duties of this office he discharged ‘with such majesty and awe’ as to inspire the court with much reverence for him. When free from this situation he was again called to the ministry in Glasgow, and inducted into the ‘Inner Kirk.’

His health had never been strong, and he was prematurely old, partly the effect of the singularly laborious life of study which he led. He died on 25 June 1658, in the thirty-sixth year of his age. He was held by his contemporaries in the very highest esteem as one of the most able and godly men of the time. [from The Dictionary of National Biography] [Alan Newble has another biographical sketch here] [see also John Howie’s biographical sketch here] [Donald J. Maclean’s introduction to James Durham]

 The Works of James Durham:

The Blessedness of the Death of Those That Die in the Lord. (165 pages)
[pdf via Digital Puritan] [web via EEBO]
Seven sermons on Revelation 14:13.

Christ Crucified, Volume 1. (555 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
Seventy-two sermons which form a stately exposition on Isaiah 53. Inside Charles Spurgeon’s copy were written the words, “Much prized.”  This volume contains the first 33 sermons, and covers Isaiah 53:1-8.

Christ Crucified, Volume 2. (559 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
This volume contains sermons 34-72, and covers Isaiah 53:9-12.

Clavis Cantici. (363 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive] [web via Fire and Ice]
Also titled, “An Exposition of the Song of Solomon.”

A Commentary on the Book of Revelation. (791 pages)
[pdf via Google Books] [txt web via EEBO]

The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland. (468 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
Also titled, “A Treatise Concerning Scandal.”  Very useful counsel for church leaders and members alike when scandals arise in the church, or one party offends another.  Thorough and biblical instruction on how to deal with schism, division, and the spreading of false teaching within the church body.  How to promote unity in the body, and close differences in doctrine.

An Exposition of the Book of Job.
[epub mobi txt web via puritan-books.org]
Update (9/28/17): puritan-books.org has gone dark; the web link is to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

The Great Corruption of Subtle Self. (166 pages)
Six sermons on Matthew 16:24.
{Can you help us find a copy of this?}

Heaven Upon Earth in a Serene and Smiling Good Conscience. (529 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via EEBO]
Containing the following:

  1. Six sermons on Acts 24:16 – pdf, 129 pp.
  2. Three sermons on 1 Peter 3:21 – pdf, 60 pp.
  3. Two sermons on Romans 9:1 – pdf, 46 pp.
  4. Five sermons on 2 Corinthians 1:12 – pdf, 111 pp.
  5. Three sermons on Hebrews 13:18 – pdf, 63 pp.
  6. Three sermons on Hebrews 9-10 – pdf, 69 pp.

The Law Unsealed. (495 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
Also titled, “A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments.
This volume contains the following:

  1. The First Commandment (Exodus 20:1-3) – pdf, 45 pp.
  2. The Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) – pdf, 62 pp.
  3. The Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7) – pdf, 57 pp.
  4. The Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) – pdf, 94 pp.
  5. The Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12) – pdf, 29 pp.
  6. The Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13) – pdf, 8 pp.
  7. The Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:14) – pdf, 33 pp.
  8. The Eighth Commandment (Exodus 20:15) – pdf, 36 pp.
  9. The Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:16) – pdf, 9 pp.
  10. The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) – pdf, 15 pp.
  11. The Great Gain of Godliness (three sermons on 1 Timothy 6:6-8) – pdf, 35 pp.
  12. The Danger of Resting on a Form of Godliness, Without the Power Thereof (2 Timothy 3:5) – pdf, 21 pp.

The Parliament’s Commission. (8 pages)
[epub mobi txt web via EEBO]
A sermon on Nehemiah 2:19-20.

The Sum of Saving Knowledge. (41 pages)
[pdf via Digital Puritan] [pdf epub mobi via On The Wing]
The On The Wing edition has been entirely re-typeset and gently modernised by Bill Gross.

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. (280 pages)
[pdf via Google Books] – Thank you to user Mark L. for finding this!
A collection of fourteen communion sermons:

  1. Two sermons on 1 Corinthians 11:29 – pdf, 31 pp. Individual sermons:
    1. The great danger of unworthy communion (1 Corinthians 11:29) – pdf, 17 pp.
    2. The great sin of not discerning the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:29) – pdf, 14 pp.
  2. Gospel-preparations are the strongest invitations (Matthew 22:4) – pdf, 28 pp.
  3. Gospel privileges oblige to a Gospel conversation (Philippians 1:27) – pdf, 23 pp.
  4. The necessity and excellency of a conversation in heaven (Philippians 3:20) – pdf, 20 pp.
  5. The best wares at the lowest rates, or, Grace’s market is for the moneyless (Isaiah 55:1-3) – pdf, 20 pp.
  6. After God speaks peace, turn not again to folly (Psalm 85:8) – pdf, 22 pp.
  7. Five sermons on Jeremiah 50:4-5 – pdf, 88 pp. Individual sermons:
    1. To amend an ill condition, make sure covenant with God (Jeremiah 50:4-5) – pdf, 15 pp.
    2. Right covenanting with God a business of the greatest concern (Jeremiah 50:4-5) – pdf, 19 pp.
    3. Heart melting is a good frame for covenanting with God (Jeremiah 50:4-5) – pdf, 15 pp.
    4. We should stir ourselves up to covenant with God (Jeremiah 50:5) – pdf, 25 pp.
    5. To keep covenant with God, adhere to him by faith (Jeremiah 50:5) – pdf, 18 pp.
  8. Two sermons on Matthew 26:28-29 – pdf, 40 pp. Individual sermons:
    1. Through Christ’s blood alone is the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28-29) – pdf, 27 pp.
    2. Believers’ sweetest communion is with Christ in heaven (Matthew 26:29) – pdf, 14 pp.

Two Sermons on Revelation 22:20. (48 pages)
[pdf via Digital Puritan]

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7 thoughts on “James Durham

  1. Thanks so much, for posting this Bio of James Durham!
    I came across a Booklet by him called, “How to Heal Rather Than Deep Divisions.” Which I do not see listed above (pdf below).
    A local Reformed church had it in their ‘Free Literature Table in their foyer and it caught my eye. Very Good! A Man of God, to be Sure!
    The reason I looked him up on the net was to see why/how he died so young?
    Such a gifted man of God! I need to study more on this man and his contemporaries! ❤️


  2. Thank you for making James Durham’s works available. Concerning the Revelation, his commentary is the most accurate overall among all the Reformed, Puritan, and later expositors that have commented upon this book. Any God fearing person will find much help and edification reading Mr. Durham’s work on the Revelation. Mr. Durham was very gifted, as all his peers bear witness (see John Owen’s introduction to the Song of Solomon) in opening up allegorical Scriptures; and therefore, in addition to his most useful work upon the Revelation, he is also is extremely helpful in opening up the Song of Solomon. His work on the Ten Commandments (especially see the fourth in explaining the Lord’s Day) is a great treasure as well. To speak modestly, but to give honor to whom honor is due, Mr. Durham was not only eminently gifted as an expositor, but his gifts were accompanied by great piety as well, as the discerning Christian will find when reading his works. In short, all of James Durham’s works are invaluable to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ: and it is my prayer the Lord will continue to bless His servant James Durham’s labors to His people.

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