Reading Alexander Maclaren and how not to do history

We Evangelicals have a real problem in the way we do history and remember our own past. We highlight certain figures--the "great men" and the "great women"--in our past and the result is that we fail to understand often what God was doing in the given era which we are studying. For God never acts solely through one individual in the history of the church. We talk about Athanasius contra mundum, for instance, but what about Serapion of Thmuis, and Hilary of Poitiers, and Ossius of Cordoba, and Lucifer of Cagliari and Eustathius of Antioch and Meletius of Antioch and Epiphanius of Salamis. Tell me, why is only Athanasius remembered? Something is very odd here. I could mulitply numerous examples here. To be sure, one reason, for remembering Athanasius is all that he wrote. The other men just listed, apart from Hilary and Epiphanius, wrote little. But church history is not only about books, even though that is the medium by which we have access to it. Our path to the past we have confused with the past itself. Church history is not simply the story of great theologians talking to each other.

My recent excursion down this way of thinking happened recently when reading some of the sermons of Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910). I suddenly realized that the sermonic ability and achievements of CH Spurgeon overshadowed everyone else of that era, including Maclaren. But Maclaren is good, very good. Pick him up and read him.