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Hugh Martin: The persevering penman

bridge, trial, suffering, hardship
Photo: Unsplash/Maria Teneva

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour
is not in vain in the Lord.” — 1 Corinthians 15:58

The 19th century produced a plethora of gifted preachers and writers. Many Christians are familiar with names like Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle. However, there are numerous important figures from the 1800s who, by comparison, have been seemingly forgotten. I’d like to introduce you to one such man, Hugh Martin, who has unfortunately flown under the radar of many modern believers. However, the usefulness of his writings and the powerful testimony of his life prove that he is worth remembering.

Martin was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1822.  August 11 of this year will mark what would have been his 200th birthday. In his youth, he enrolled in what is now known as the University of Aberdeen, earning his Master of Arts before the age of seventeen in 1839. He even received the college's highest award in mathematics. Yet, despite his natural skill in
math, he decided to pursue further studies in theology.

Martin was granted a license to preach in 1843. He pastored in Panbride for 14 years and in Edinburgh for several more before having to retire in 1865 due to mental health conditions. Although this ended Martin's time as a full-time minister, he did not let it stop him from doing the Lord's work, as he decided to turn his efforts to writing.

Martin's most notable works were written in his retirement. This included a commentary on Jonah, a treatise on the atonement, and even a mathematics book called A Study of Trilinear Co-ordinates.

Martin’s writings are still praised by many of today’s ministers for their depth and warmth. Sinclair Ferguson spoke highly of his works by saying, “Hugh Martin’s writings should be in the hands of every Christian — and certainly of every preacher — who appreciates the importance of thoughtful biblical exposition.”

Regarding the kind tone that Martin employed in his writing, Guy Davies wrote this in his review of The Shadow of Calvary, “We can certainly go to Hugh Martin (1822-85) for an enriched understanding of Scripture, but he is also a fine model of warm-hearted doctrinal preaching.”

Several of his works have recently been republished by the Banner of Truth, such as Christ Victorious (2019), The Atonement (2013), and Christ For Us (1998). They have also printed multiple editions of his commentary on Jonah and The Shadow of Calvary.

Imagine how the average person would have responded if they were placed in Martin’s situation. How many of us would have simply thrown in the towel when faced with a career-ending illness? Too often, we are quick to give up when we are met with difficulty and trials. Let us remember that even if we are suffering, we are commanded to work hard for the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Hugh Martin was a godly man who remained steadfast during times of trial. We would do well to remember his example when we face trials of our own. Let us never give up when times get tough.

R.A. Miller is an elder in Sarasota Reformation Church, Florida. He was born and raised in Sarasota, and now shepherds a congregation in his hometown. R.A. enjoys reading the Puritans and beef jerky.

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