Disruption Worthies: Arnot to Candlish

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

William Arnot

William Arnot

As we sit under the shadow of a lofty hill, we can appreciate the beauty of the green turf, and of the wild flowers at our feet, but we cannot estimate its grandeur aright; it is too near us. It was thus we felt when William Arnot was taken from us.

He had been known to us for many years; we knew the warmth of his heart, the beauty and vigour of his mind; we had rested under the shadow of his friendship; but when death widened the distance between us and we gazed on the loved form as it receded from our view, then we felt not only how good but how great he was! This feeling was deepened when we looked around and could not find among the foremost ranks of the Christian Church one gifted and graced as he.

His personal appearance was impressive. He stood rather above the average height, with shoulders strong and massive; his frame, supported on well-set limbs, was of corresponding strength. His head was large and deep; till later years his hair was black. His face was tremulously full of thought and emotion, which glistened in his dark eye, and played round his full lips; yet the expression of the eye was thoughtful and loving, it had no fierceness in it. We think we see him still, entering the pulpit with slow and pensive step, the manner which naturally expressed his mental state.

The three outstanding features of his preaching were—first, the amount of embodied thought it contained. His sermons were thoughtful— eminently so—but the clear conception was always clothed in illustration. There is a faculty of decerning the analogy between God’s Word and God’s works, of tracing the Worker’s name and the similarity of the handiwork in both, possessed by some men. Such a gift Mr. Arnot had. If an incident happened to him of the most ordinary description he could find in it the illustration of a wide-stretching law, and could unravel its details so that you were delighted with the discovery. Or if some abstract doctrine lay in his path, he took it up, and reversing the process, followed it down from the region of thought to the highway of daily life trodden by the feet of men.

Once he enforced brotherly kindness thus:— “Crossing the Meadows, yesterday, I saw before me two ragged boys running on the pathway. One of them had shoes, the other was barefooted. Suddenly they came to a place where the way had been recently gravelled; the stones cut the bare feet and the boy without the shoes limped and suddenly stopped; his companion looked round, saw the difficulty, backed like a horse to the edge of the gravel, and bent forward his head and shoulders. With a leap and a merry shout his comrade sprang on his back, and gaily the burden-bearer trotted with him over the stones.”

The second feature of his pulpit work was its power. It was effectual. If he wished you to understand any truth, he calmly and deliberately, word after word, printed it on your mind. If he wished to reach the conscience he remembered how the truth reached his own heart, and he employed his knowledge and experience to send the arrow home to yours. This gave his power to his preaching. He understood the thoughts and the feelings of his fellow-men. He fully sympathised with them and thus he could effectually make them sympathise with him.

But the dominant prevailing truth and spirit of his preaching was the Gospel, and the love of Christ. Even the most terrible and alarming texts were handled so as to give new and precious views of our Saviour’s grace. In reading the words of our Lord, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” he paused and said, “These words are full of love, for they were uttered by Christ, that the poor sinner who heard them might escape, and never come to that place of torment. In mercy Christ hurls this fearful thunderbolt not at them, but on their path, to make them stop and turn. No hand but His could wield it, no heart but His would do so.” Thus he spoke of his Lord, and thus he sought to win souls.

Let us briefly sketch his life. It began in the village of Scone, Perthshire, in the year 1808. His father was the tenant of a small farm at Forgandenny, about four miles from Perth. William was the youngest of a family of seven, and his mother died at his birth. His parents and his ancestors seem to have been sober, intelligent, and industrious folk, with that solid basis of Scriptural earnest religion which long distinguished our Scotch peasantry.

He never knew his mother, yet he clung to the faintest tradition regarding her with fondest affection. Surely all the dying mother’s love and tenderness passed into the heart and character of her babe, and made him what he afterwards was, for such exuberant kindness was not inherited from his wise, good, but unimpulsive father.

The boy grew up, carefully tended among the scenes of rural life and beauty of nature’s scenery. All these influences sank deep into a retentive memory and a susceptible nature. The cottage, the trees, the stream, the boat, the green field and heathy upland were ever with him to his latest day. His school education was such as the parish schools afforded, and made him a sound good English scholar.

But children in such a rank of life early begin to share in their parents’ toil, and William when only entering his teens, herded the cattle and helped his father on the farm, till when about sixteen years of age he became a gardener, and that employment for three or four years left an aroma of flowers in his mind which never passed away. In that occupation he was associated with his brother Robert, and this companionship proved the turning-point of his life. His brother was his superior in everything; specially he felt Robert’s spiritual and intellectual influence. Robert fell into feeble health, and ultimately into hopeless paralysis. This drew William closer to him, he helped to move him, aided him in his studies at home, and spent his leisure and his strength in soothing and comforting him, till death, in 1828, separated the brothers. Deeply did the separation affect him who was left. The light of eternity from the gate of that world into which that loved one had entered, shone into his soul, and kindled there an earnest desire and a steady purpose to devote his life to the service of Christ and his fellow-men.

William had already begun studying Latin, and now commenced that hard long struggle which so many Scotch students know ere they reach the object of their ambition in the Church, in law, or in medicine. He carried his Latin grammar to the garden with him, conned it on the way in early morning, snatched a look at it at the end of digging a furrow, or at any minute of rest, yet always careful that his work should never suffer. During this time he wrought hard, and lived so economically that in November, 1828, he had gathered twenty pounds. With this capital he commenced his student life, and after a year’s private study, entered Glasgow University in October, 1829. His life there was a happy one, for he had high aims and steadily pursued them. He had dear, good friends at the College, James Hamilton, and James Halley, and earnestly, yet cheerily, they studied, talked, and lived together. He and a companion shared a single room, which was both bedroom and study. He writes home:— “I am very comfortable. If I had a bit of the pig at dinner-time, I could keep my expenses of meat, lodging, and light, within five shillings a-week.” That was thirteen pounds a-year! Such was the style of many a student at our Scotch colleges. Mr. Arnot was a good classical scholar, and most creditably passing all his examinations, was licensed in October, 1837.

Not a month elapsed before he was appointed assistant to Rev. John Bonar, Minister of the parishes of Larbert and Dunipace. It was a privilege to help so good a Minister, and it was esteemed such by the new assistant. Here, and in the beginning of his ministry in Glasgow, we find traces of weak health, of the mind overworking its willing, and in his case able, servant the body, and though they passed out of sight we fear they never passed away, but only hid themselves in his frame, to awake in after years with sudden, sad power.

Not a year elapsed after his settlement at Larbert, when he was called to St. Peter’s Church in Glasgow. He went, and there commenced his most laborious and most efficient ministry. We cannot tell how often he was tempted away from Glasgow to other parts of the country and the world, but he never left it till, in 1863, he came to the Free High Church in Edinburgh. During these years many important events happened. In 1843, the Disruption took place, and among the noble men who proved to the world that faith was still a stronger motive than money, Mr. Arnot gladly took his place, sharing the labours, the trials, with the honour. In July, 1844, he married the second daughter of Mr. Fleming of Clairmont, and found by his glad experience that undoubtedly this alliance was made by heaven. Four sons and five daughters blessed his happy home, and mourned his death. Next year he went to Montreal, to strengthen the Free Church cause in Canada, and remained some months. He did his work well, and enjoyed it.

During his ministry in St. Peter’s, his greatest and most efficient work as a pastor and an evangelist was done. The large congregation was gathered in and nourished up into a high style of life. The young were his especial care. In Bible classes and in Sabbath schools Mr. Arnot moved a burning and a shining light, often did he travel to London to comply with the invitation of the Young Men’s Christian Association of that city, and deliver a lecture to them in Exeter Hall.

Two objects excited his earnest sympathy—the effort to gather the irreligious population to Christ, and the struggle against intemperance. A vigorous organisation was maintained to labour among the former, and against the evil of drunkenness his hand and his heart, his pen and his voice maintained an uncompromising warfare. His views of what temperance was were strictly Scriptural, and frequently the more extreme total abstainers thought him only half-hearted in the cause, while the fact was his temperance was a far wider, deeper thing than theirs. He writes to the Secretary of the Free Church Abstinence Society, “It is peculiarly necessary in our place, and with our difficulties, to be patient and charitable. I don’t mean to counsel softness in dealing with the abominations of drinking habits. I mean we should depend more on the sureness and sharpness of the edge than the mere boisterousness of the blow.”

After much discussion and some division in the Free High Church Congregation in 1863, Mr. Arnot accepted the call, and came to Edinburgh, where the last twelve years of his life were spent. Most unwilling were his friends in St. Peter’s to part with him, yet we never heard that Mr. Arnot regretted the change. The Edinburgh congregation was small, but steadily and surely under such a ministry, it grew till it took its place among the first in the city. All the refined experience of the past, guiding a loving heart and clear powerful mind, made Mr. Arnot’s services to the Church and to society even more valued and more valuable than they had been in Glasgow. Of course the departments of labour were the same, and it is not necessary to detail them. Two events may be noted; in 1870 he enjoyed, and so did America, a visit paid to that country. His former visits and his books made him a great favourite, and very useful there. Then 1873 saw the Revival, in which Messrs. Moody and Sankey were instrumental.

Mr. Arnot’s daughter, Mrs. Fleming, in her Memoir of her father, says, “His assistance was given heartily and joyfully, up to and often beyond the measure of his strength. He found it impossible to refuse an invitation to help at one of those meetings where God’s hand was so evidently and so mightily at work, and many a time when he went out in great bodily weakness, he would return full of joy and gratitude.”

While thus describing the course of Mr. Arnot’s labours, we feel painfully that he was greater than his works. They give no idea of the richness and variety and depth of his mental attainments, nor of the loving, living heart which guided them in daily employment. Those nearest to him loved him most, for they knew him best. But one feature of his character was so prominent we must bring it to the front—Mr. Arnot’s keen sense of humour. It was the fruit of his childlike sympathy, he was naturally so happy and easily pleased, and he so rapidly caught any point of incongruity that his eye twinkled and the smile gleamed over his features, ere others could see the cause of laughter. This was no small gift; it added to his influence over many a popular audience, and that influence was always used for their good.

During his residence in Edinburgh, Mr. Arnot wrote much for the press, he took charge of the Family Treasury from the beginning of 1871. Here let us gather together the principal publications from his ready, graceful, and thoughtful pen. The first was his “Memoir of James Halley,” his loved friend and fellow-student. It was published in 1842. While labouring in Glasgow, the materials of the next book were gathered and matured in 1851, under the following title, “The Race for Riches, and some of the Pits into which Runners Fall: Six Lectures applying the Word of God to the Traffic of Men.” The book was most useful; like an arrow well-aimed, it hit “the gold.” Its writer records, “One day after preaching on dishonesty, a gentleman came to tell me that he approved of it; that his mind did not resent it; he thought I must suffer from the apprehension of offence.” This book was followed by an address to young men, “The Foe and the Fight; or the Dangers and Defences of Youth.” Five years afterwards the first volume on Proverbs appeared, under the title, “Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth;” and next year saw the second volume. A large volume of Sermons was published in 1859, under the name of “Roots and Fruits of Christian Life.” Many were the tracts, addresses, contributions to periodicals that he sent forth from his fertile mind and glowing heart, especially during the latter half of his work-day. After the change of residence to Edinburgh, the Family Treasury was enriched with many a beautiful and useful thought. All his writings have these distinguishing excellences; they place the Lord on His rightful throne, and they have an intense opposition to sin, while they are embued with kindest, truest sympathy with human nature. They show better than any memoir what Mr. Arnot was; the vigour, fortitude, clearness, and massive power of his mind, combined with the most delicate touch of imagination, and the whole atmosphere warmed and filled with the sunny radiance of his loving heart.

His strength perceptibly declined in the winter of 1874-75. He was now always ill after preaching, and could hardly struggle through ordinary duties. But he did struggle earnestly and constantly up to, and beyond his strength. Weakness and weariness followed him through every effort and place, and gradually increased, till suddenly on the morning of 3rd of June, 1875, he entered into rest. In sure hope of a blessed resurrection, his body lies in the Grange Cemetery.

J. G.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

James Bannerman, D.D.

James Buchanan

Of the ministers who felt themselves constrained to withdraw from the Establishment in 1843, not a few were sons of the manse, and of these the subject of this sketch was one. He was born on the 9th of April 1807, in the manse of Cargill, Presbytery of Dunkeld, of which parish his father was minister. His grandfather, the minister of St Martin’s, Presbytery of Perth, married Janet, daughter of Sir John Turing, Bart., minister of Drumblade. 1He died in June 1810, in the ninety-eighth year of his age, and the sixty-ninth of his ministry, and was at the time of his death the father of the Church of Scotland. This aged minister’s father, ordained in 1703, was settled first in the parish of Inveravon, Presbytery of Aberlour, and translated to Forglen, where he died in 1749. In the session records of the former parish there are not a few curious entries very characteristic of the times. The district was a wild Highland one, full of feuds and fightings, and the minister and his elders, with the occasional aid of the Laird of Grant, appear to have exercised discipline after a most vigorous fashion. His son, Professor Bannerman’s grandfather, afterwards removed to St Martin’s, was appointed assistant and successor to his father in 1742. Another son, Patrick, was minister of St Madoes in 1741, was translated to Kinnoull in 1746, and thence to Salton, Presbytery of Haddington. His sister married his successor at St Madoes, the Rev. Archibald Stevenson, who was distinguished for his general talents, and especially for his knowledge of Church law. In the well-known debate on the subject of the repeal of the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics, in the Assembly 1779, he seconded the motion made by the Rev. Dr McFarlan of the Canongate, which, with certain suggestions proposed by Principal Robertson, became the judgment of the house.

The subject of our sketch, whose father died in 1807, received his elementary education at the Perth Academy, and had as his tutor the late Dr Gordon of Edinburgh, for whom he ever cherished the warmest affection. He resided in the immediate neighbourhood of Perth, and attended the ministry of Dr William Thomson, until he went to Edinburgh University in 1822. He was a distinguished student—Professor Wilson’s certificate bearing that he “was one of the most distinguished students,” and Sir John Leslie’s running thus, “He distinguished himself so much as to carry the highest prize.” He graduated A.M. in 1826, an honour at that period rarely coveted, at least in Edinburgh. After the usual attendance at the Divinity Hall, Edinburgh, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Perth in January 1830. His gifts as a preacher were speedily perceived and appreciated. Extensive acquaintance with theology even then, the capacity of taking a large view and a firm grasp of the subject-matter of which he was treating, and a masculine style of writing, characterised his discourses. His own estimate of his pulpit gifts was modest enough. The writer of this notice remembers well walking with him in Nicolson Square (in the Methodist chapel there, during the repairs of St Giles, the New North congregation worshipped) on the day when he was first to officiate for Dr Gordon, whom they had both heard in the forenoon, and his saying, “The idea of my going up to preach after him!”

During his residence in Perth he took a deep interest in the Apocryphal controversy, and aided in more ways than one the labours of those who were protesting against the conduct of the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society. During this period also, and on the occasion of the death of Dr Andrew Thomson of St George’s, Edinburgh, he prepared for one of the Perth papers a short but discriminating article on the life and character of that eminent man, a few sentences of which we may quote, to shew at once the style of the writer, and the estimate that he had formed of the subject of his article:—

“As a public debater, he was confessedly unrivalled. His knowledge of Church law was extensive and accurate, and the power with which he brought this knowledge to bear on any particular point was truly astonishing. He seized upon the arguments of his adversary with the grasp of a giant, and tossed them about in every form, until their emptiness and insufficiency were obvious, even to the simplest comprehension. He was superior to the trickeries and claptraps of a mere public declaimer. He proceeded directly and unflinchingly to the establishment of his object; and although he frequently rose to the highest pitch of eloquence, he disdained to turn from his way in search of a figure, or to attempt to move a feeling without at the same time implanting a principle. Disingenuousness in all its forms was most alien to his nature, and never failed to arouse his keenest indignation, and the cutting sarcasm and stern reproof which he thundered forth against every exhibition of it in public men, often made the stoutest heart to quail with terror. The votes of the Assembly, and the voice of an interested few, may have often been against him; but where is the case in which the conviction of his auditors, and the voice of the country, were not ultimately in his favour? No public man was ever more entirely free from the influence of interested motives. Even his most inveterate enemies have never dared to bring an accusation against him.”

In the month of August 1833, Mr Bannerman was settled at Ormiston, in the Presbytery of Dalkeith, and in 1839 he married the younger daughter of the Hon. Lord Reston, one of the senators of the College of Justice.

Mr Bannerman’s influence and weight of character were soon felt in his own Presbytery and Synod, and on him, as convener of the committee appointed to examine and report on the writings of Mr Wright of Borthwick, no small share of the responsibility and labour of conducting the case devolved. When the case came before the Assembly in 1841 for final judgment, the opening speech was made by him; and his reply to the defence offered by Mr Inglis (now the Lord Justice-General), Mr Wright’s counsel, was most characteristic, shewing that as he knew when to speak, he knew also when speaking was unnecessary.

In the conflict which preceded the Disruption Mr Bannerman was not idle, and a letter which he addressed to the Marquis of Tweeddale, and published in March 1840, in reply to the speeches made at an intrusion meeting held in Haddington in the month of February of that year, did great and good service. His knowledge of the history and constitution of the Church, his full acquaintance with the principles involved in the struggle then raging, his ability to defend his own convictions, and to meet the statements and repel the arguments of opponents, are most apparent. The commencement of this letter shews how effectively Mr Bannerman could have employed sarcasm, had he chosen to use that weapon. The concluding sentences may be quoted:—

“I have already probably bestowed more attention on the speeches at Haddington than their worth or importance demanded. I doubt not that your lordship now looks back upon the meeting over which you presided with anything but emotions of pleasure. Allow me to say, my lord, that it is neither a very suitable nor a very safe position for the aristocracy of our country to occupy, when they place themselves in opposition to the people and the Church of Scotland, and league themselves with those who would deny her Christian rights, and help on her present affliction. I observe in the resolutions of the meeting, signed by you as chairman, that the advice is tendered to the Church to yield obedience, in the first instance, to the sentence of the Civil Court, as a means of obtaining the interposition of the Legislature in her favour afterwards. My lord, if we could submit to the sentence of the Civil Court at all, there would be no need for the interposition of the Legislature—it is because we cannot, that we decline that interposition. We cannot submit, because in doing so we would sacrifice our own consciences, we would sacrifice the rights of the Christian people, we would sacrifice our duty to our living and exalted Head. If the friendship and support of your lordship are to be purchased only by that submission, they would be purchased at too dear a price. There are, indeed, fearful odds against the Church in her present conflict, if you look merely to outward appearances. On the one side is the power of the Civil Court, armed by those civil sanctions which the bravest must feel, although he does not fear them. And on the other side, there is to be found only reason and scripture, and the prayers of a Christian people. But the eye of faith, even amid all this darkness, will behold a brighter sight. The servant of the man of God in Dothan could discern nothing but the host of the Syrian around him, and apprehended nothing but death approaching, until his eyes were opened to behold the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And even so the eye that is lifted up to God in faith, and looks beyond the darkness that covers the field of our present contendings here below, will be enabled to discern the horses and chariots of fire round about the Church of our fathers.”

The Assembly of 1840 appointed a Special Commission to co-operate with the Presbytery of Strathbogie in providing for the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the ordinances of religion and the exercise of discipline in the parishes of the seven suspended ministers of that Presbytery; and as indicating the high estimation in which by this time Mr Bannerman was held, he was named Convener of this Commission; and nine years afterwards, when moving that he should be appointed to the vacant professorship, Dr Candlish thus spoke of the manner in which he had discharged the duties of Convener:—

“He (Dr Candlish) had taken the liberty of referring formerly, and he would refer again to the fact, that in one of the most weighty matters the Church had in consideration before the Disruption, during the ‘ten years’ conflict,’ he alluded to the matter of the Strathbogie Commission, the Church committed that business to Mr Bannerman, and was thoroughly satisfied with the admirable manner in which he discharged it.”

From the Report of the Commission given in by him to the Assembly of 1841, a few sentences may be quoted:—

“The Commission have reason to know that the preaching of the gospel, both by the licentiates and the ministers of the Church appointed by them, has met with peculiar and very general acceptance among the people of the different parishes, and they have good reason for believing that in not a few instances the blessing of God has accompanied and given testimony to his own word. And further, your Commission must be permitted to say, that considering the manifest blessing which has followed the labours of the Church in the district of Strathbogie, even in circumstances of much painfulness, they have been encouraged to entertain the assurance, that in the midst of present trials her God has not forgotten to be gracious, but that he takes pleasure in her stones, and favours the dust thereof.”

In September 1841 Dr McFarlan of Greenock, along with Mr Bannerman, were in London as a deputation to prepare the way for the larger party who followed, and, as he wrote at the time, they had “very disagreeable work” in holding meetings with official people. They were joined by Dr Gordon, Dr Candlish, and others, and on 25th September 1841 had their interview with Sir Robert Peel. A letter of Mr Bannerman’s of that date states— “He was very courteous, but very close; …. was not prepared to say anything decisive, but was ready to hear all we had to say.”

After the Disruption, Mr Bannerman continued minister of the congregation at Ormiston adhering to the Free Church, till he was appointed Professor of Apologetics and Pastoral Theology in the New College, Edinburgh, by the Assembly 1849. This is not the place to speak of his fitness for the office, nor of the admirable manner in which he discharged its duties, and neither is it necessary to do so. The introductory lecture, on “The Prevalent Forms of Unbelief,” published in 1849; another lecture on “Apologetical Theology,” published in 1851; the treatise on “Inspiration: The Infallible Truth and Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures,” which was given to the Church in 1865; and the posthumous volumes on the “Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church,” edited by his son, and published in 1868, afford ample proof of his qualifications; and they who studied under him are not slow to tell of the benefit which they derived from his lectures, and from his kind and considerate counsels.

In his address as Moderator to the Assembly of 1868, Mr Nixon of Montrose well said:—

“And we have lost Dr Bannerman, the able and accomplished Professor of Apologetical Theology, enduring proofs and memorials of whose clear, massive, energetic, logical mind, have been furnished by his teaching to not a few ministers of the Church in their student days, and by his admirable, but alas! too scanty writings to the Church at large.”

Doubtless had his life been spared, his writings would have been more numerous; but in addition to the works already mentioned—and the largest of these was unpublished when Mr Nixon spoke—Dr Bannerman was the author of a number of articles in the North British Review on a variety of subjects. A posthumous volume of Sermons has also been edited by his son. And we must not forget to mention the large share he had in the responsibility of preparing for publication the posthumous works of his much loved and intimate friend, Principal Cunningham. The death of this eminent man was felt by him, not only as an irreparable loss to the Church, but as a deep personal affliction. Theirs was a long-tried friendship, endeared and strengthened by the truest fellowship in the work of the College, over whose welfare they had many an earnest and prayerful deliberation.

In 1850 Mr Bannerman received the degree of D.D. from the Princeton College, New Jersey.

In the movement in favour of union with the United Presbyterian, the Reformed Presbyterian, and the English Presbyterian Churches, Dr Bannerman took a warm interest and a decided and active part from the first, and soon became one of the most prominent advocates of the measure. However much some of the members of the joint-committee differed from him, all admitted his ability and the fairness with which he stated and defended his own convictions. The substance of the speech which he made in his Presbytery in January 1867, when he moved and carried an amendment to a motion made by Dr Begg, was afterwards published, and contains, in brief compass, a most clear and distinct vindication of the motives by which he and his friends were actuated, and at the same time an admirable statement of the principles embodied in the word of God and recognised by our Church, that should regulate the duty of union between separate churches.

Elected a member of the Assembly 1867, he was not able to take any part in the proceedings, and though, with his usual self-denial, he continued to meet his classes till the following spring, increasing weakness too plainly intimated that his valuable life was near its close; and the end came on 27th March 1868. The truth, as it is in Jesus, which he had so firmly held and so faithfully preached and taught, was the ever-abiding foundation of his hopes, and the presence of the Master whom he loved sustained him to the end. His weakened frame was resting on her who was dearest to him, when he said, “This is death;” and to the remark, “Yes, but you have peace,” he replied, “Let Thy servant now depart in peace. I have waited for Thy salvation, O God!” Thus passed from among us one who only required to be known to be loved. A natural reserve made him appear to superficial observers cold and somewhat distant in manner, but he was, on the contrary, easy of access, with very true and tender sympathies. Early brought under the saving power of divine truth, there was a reality and a symmetry about his Christianity that commanded confidence and respect in all who knew him. Generous, high-minded, and thoroughly trustworthy, with a heart true to God and true to all around him, loveable and loving, he had a large circle of deeply attached friends, who greatly felt his departure; and he left his widow and nine children—seven of whom still survive—to mourn his irreparable loss.

J. R. O.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

James Begg, D.D.

James Begg

In the front of the Gallery, close by the right-hand pillar, in the picture of “The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland Signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission,” an interesting group of seven Scottish Worthies is conspicuous. Dr. R. S. Candlish, of St. George’s, Edinburgh, has the roll of Members of Assembly open in his hand. Next to him are seen the venerable Dr. Muirhead of Cramond, and Dr. Wm. Cunningham, afterwards Principal of the New College. In the midst—between these and Dr. Thomas Guthrie, with Mr. Andrew Gray, of Perth, speaking to one of the most notable of Disruption elders, Mr. Makgill Crichton,—stands a dark-haired, vigorous looking man, who, staff in hand, has his eye fixed upon the Moderator, and seems to be profoundly meditating on the scene. That one in the centre, the only one of the seven who still survives, is the Rev. Dr. Begg, then Parish Minister of Liberton.

The second son of an energetic and influential Minister of the Church of Scotland (who survived till his 83rd year)—Dr. Begg—was born in the manse of New Monkland, near Airdrie, on the 31st October, 1808. There those Church principles to which he ever after clung, were instilled into his mind. “I heard,” he told in 1865, “the doctrine of the spiritual independence of the Church, the struggles of Knox, Henderson, and others, the atrocities of the violent settlements, discussed in my father’s manse by eminent men long since gone to their rest.” After a preliminary education at the parish school, extremely well taught, he entered the Glasgow University, where he speedily gave evidence of those talents, and that energy for which he became so distinguished, passing what is called the “Black-Stone Examination” on the 9th April, 1824, when he was under sixteen years of age. After taking his degree of M.A., James Begg was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Hamilton, on the 10th June, 1829. He was immediately appointed Assistant to the Rev. James Buchanan, of North Leith, and before a year expired he was called as Minister of the new Chapel of Ease in Maxwelltown, Dumfries. At his ordination on the 18th May, 1830, the Church was crowded to excess. Here he immediately secured a large congregation, but was only allowed to remain for six or seven months, becoming Assistant to the venerable Dr. Jones, in Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel, Edinburgh. Thereafter, inducted as Minister of the Middle Parish Church, Paisley, his popularity increased; and, there he spent three of his most stirring years, throwing himself heart and soul into the controversies of the day, contending for the legitimacy of establishments or national religion, as also for the Church’s freedom from civil dictation in spiritual matters. In the sixth of his recent articles on “The State and Prospects of Scotland,” Dr. Begg gives copies of petitions of his session and congregation in 1834—prior to the passing of the Veto and Chapel Acts—setting forth that the Patronage Act of Queen Anne, in violation of the Treaty of Union, and the want of power to subdivide parishes lay at the root of the Church’s difficulties.

After untiring labours in the West, he was translated to Liberton parish on the 18th February, 1835, remaining there till the Disruption, and effecting a decided moral reformation. At his entry, there were thirty-three public-houses in the parish, in which 9000 gallons of spirits were annually consumed, at an expense of £4500. Publishing a statement to the heritors and a statistical account of the parish, he revealed the cause of abounding poverty, the result being that seven dram-shops were immediately closed. Preaching a full and free Gospel, and embracing and promulgating what he felt to be the truth of God, Mr. Begg went resolutely forward on the side of the Evangelical party, and when the solemn Convocation and day of the Disruption came, he was not found wanting. He was an active worker along with Dr. Chalmers, and one of those honoured ministers of Christ interdicted from preaching at Huntly in the famous Presbytery of Strathbogie, on the 2nd April, 1840. This civil interdict in the performance of a spiritual duty he disregarded, while retaining the document. Again, on the 11th May of that year, along with Dr. Guthrie, he was once more interdicted from speaking in Gilcomston Church, Aberdeen, with a like result—the document bearing that “the said Messrs. Guthrie and Begg are travelling through the country haranguing the people for the purpose of subverting the Established Church,” &c.

Immediately after the Disruption, as two ministers left the Establishment in Liberton and none at Newington, with a number of his people, Mr. Begg removed his public ministrations to Newington, Edinburgh, taking a site where the present handsome edifice stands. Soon a large and influential congregation gathered around the earnest and enthusiastic preacher, which to this day has fully maintained its ground. His method of expounding a portion of Old and New Testament alternately, with clear Scriptural preaching faithfully applied, has been greatly relished. It was in Mr. Begg’s drawing-room at Liberton that The Witness newspaper was initiated by the eminent brethren assembled. The Scottish Guardian for ten years had done good service in the West; but money had been subscribed for a paper in the East, and when Hugh Miller’s “Letter to Lord Brougham” was there introduced, they felt and said, this is the man we want.

Sent as a deputy to Canada to preach and to disseminate intelligence, the narrative of his visit to the American Continent in the depth of the winter of 1845, as described by himself in The Free Church Magazine, is deeply interesting, and brings out the shrewd Christian energy of the man. Some suggestions he then made have since been realised. He then crossed over to the United States. Having preached and spoken with great acceptance in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and having ultimately preached to the Congress of the United States at Washington, after his return, Mr. Begg received a letter from Dr. McElroy, an eminent minister of New York, enclosing a Degree in Divinity from Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, of which Dr. McElroy was one of the directors, of date 14th September, 1847.

In the year 1850, the Pope, presuming on the apathy of the English people, divided England into thirteen dioceses, appointing over them as many Bishops, thus re-establishing the Papal Hierarchy in England. This called out—in a storm of indignation—the Protestant zeal and energy of Christians of every name. In none were these more conspicuous and continuous than in Dr. James Begg. Instead of allowing that powerful wave to float past unimproved, by a vigorous combination, the Scottish Reformation Society was called into existence, a mission to Romanists organised, and The Bulwark or Reformation Journal launched, with a circulation of 32,000. Dr. Begg ably edited this journal for twenty-one years. Out of these movements arose a general desire to celebrate the Tercentenary of the Reformation, which, mainly under Dr. Begg’s guidance, was suitably accomplished. Protestants from all parts of the world met, and thoughtfully and thankfully conferred for four days in Edinburgh. That Protestant Congress, on the 17th August, 1860, went in procession from the New Assembly Hall and laid the foundation stone of the Protestant Institute of Scotland as a training college for students of all denominations in Protestant principles. Dr. Begg had previously secured by purchase the Cowgate Chapel, in which the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was held, and where John Craig the colleague of John Knox, preached at that period. The purchase of the chapel, a site on George IV. Bridge, and the feu-duty, the plan, erection, and endowment of the Institute—the labour of years—were all, with the help of two assistants, the Rev. Drs. Badenoch, of the Protestant Educational Institute, London, and J. Moir Porteous, Wanlockhead, the work of Dr. Begg. The whole cost about £10,000. On the 4th February, 1864, an oil painting of its founder, by Norman Macbeth, R.S.A., giving a life-size and life-like representation of Dr. Begg in the attitude of addressing a public meeting, was, as the inscription on it bears, “Presented by a few friends to the Protestant Institute of Scotland, the establishment of which is chiefly owing to Dr. Begg’s long-sustained and arduous efforts on its behalf, and of the Protestant cause at large.”

Social questions, also, occupied much of Dr. Begg’s attention, and by his public advocacy of remedial measures, as well as by the utilisation of Church organisation, the attention of the community and of the Government were drawn to these. The Bothy system, the want of proper cottages for ploughmen and field-labourers, the dreadful scenes and immorality consequent thereon, the growing evils of pauperism and crime through intemperance and thriftlessness, the want of proper legislation suited to the requirements and rights of Scotland, for a long series of years were enforced in Church Courts, on platforms, and through the press. Dr. Begg continuously argued that no arrangements could secure prosperity which superseded the family system, which lay at the foundation of all social morality. By these and other efforts, working men were led to organise, save, act together, and erect numbers of houses for themselves, while benevolent landlords were stimulated to improve their cottars’ dwellings.

These objects were not suffered to monopolise public, or stand in the way of more private ecclesiastical duties. After the Disruption, Dr. Begg had mainly to do with getting an Act of Parliament to secure the perpetuation, without formal renewal, of the titles of Dissenting Church property, by which an immense amount of risk and expense has been saved, a similar Act being afterwards secured by the Dissenters of England. It was also considerably through his efforts that such clauses were inserted in the Education Act as enable School Boards in Scotland to continue religious teaching according to “use and wont.” More recently still, Dr. Begg was Convener of a Committee which secured an Act of Parliament to enable the Free Church to sell such schools as have become unnecessary, a service that was specially acknowledged by the Commission and Assembly.

Into the proposals for Union amongst the disestablished Churches in Scotland Dr. Begg entered at first very cordially, an approximation, under a different form and in other circumstances, to the grand idea of Alexander Henderson. To heal divisions would be most important. “But then,” said he, “the question arises, ‘Can it be brought about in such a way as to conserve our principles, which we cannot surrender?'”

On one of Dr. Begg’s frequent journeys to London on public duty, he met with a severe railway accident, the carriage having been overturned and dragged a considerable way. Laid up in a railway hotel for some time, the sympathies of his congregation, the Church, and country were fervently called forth. This was in the beginning of 1865, he having been previously chosen as Moderator elect of the General Assembly, and, notwithstanding his being very lame, he was able to discharge the duties. His fitness to preside over, and guide the deliberations of, the Assembly were fully acknowledged, this highest honour proving the Church’s appreciation of his services.

By a majority, the Free Church Union Committee resolved to carry forward the union, and in the Assembly 1867, by a large majority, it was declared that the distinctive principles of the Free Church in regard to national duty and obligation might be made, as the majority thought, an open question, and that “there was no bar to union on the first head of the programme.” Dr. Begg and others felt called upon to lodge a protest against this resolution as implying “an abandonment and subversion of an admittedly constitutional principle,” and as being ultra vires of the Assembly. With six or seven members of the Committee, he resigned. An intense conflict now arose, and prevailed until the Assembly of 1873. A “Free Church Defence Association” was organised, and The Watchword, “a magazine for the defence of Bible truth and the advocacy of Free Church principles,” edited by Dr. Begg, was widely circulated. As in the previous “Ten Years’ Conflict,” the battle raged again, not only in Church Courts, but in every corner of the land; and as the pressure increased so did the resistance. After consultation, the opinion of learned counsel having been obtained, every preparation was made for another Disruption, along with a claim on church property by the minority, as adhering to the constitutional principles of the Free Church. All through the forenoon sitting of the Assembly on Thursday, 28th May, 1873, a bitter separation alone was in prospect; while hearts were bowed in sorrow, although clear as to the path of duty. Happily, appeals to heaven were not in vain, and light arose in the darkness. Dr. Candlish proposed a modification of the Mutual Eligibility Scheme, which practically conserved the principles of the Church, and time being given for consideration, that was finally accepted by Dr. Begg and the minority, the Moderator, Dr. Duff, declaring, “It is the doing of the Lord,” and causing special thanksgivings to be offered up.

On his return from a six months’ journey to New Zealand, on a visit to his sons, Dr. Begg, receiving a public welcome, described his experience in Australasia, in the Literary Institute, on the 28th February, 1874. Sailing by Melbourne to New Zealand, after traversing the country, Dr. Begg returned by Melbourne, Ceylon, and Bombay. Preaching, speaking, and interchanging views, he everywhere received an ovation.

The estimation of Dr. Begg as a Christian patriot was thereafter evinced in various ways. A presentation of the sum of £4600, got up during his absence, was made to him by a deputation of gentlemen of several denominations. Another proof of public estimation was given in his return at the head of the poll as an independent member of the School Board in 1875, by the inhabitants of Edinburgh—strongly supporting the teaching of religion in the public schools, and deprecating removal of the central governing Board to London.

Notwithstanding his continual and multifarious engagements, Dr.Begg has, with slight exceptions, enjoyed much good health. His “Hints on Health,” as to the minister’s sleep, food, throat, dress, and exercise, give the results of his own practical experience.

Besides numerous speeches and tracts, Dr. Begg has issued what would make volumes of pamphlets. In addition to editing the publications named, and the “Select Anti-Patronage Library,” with prefaces to important works re-issued, Dr. Begg has published a “Handbook of Popery,” “Happy Homes for Working Men,” “Free Church Principles,” and “A Treatise for the Times on Worship.”

Twice married, he has had a large family. Not unlike the statue of Christopher North in Princes Street—tall, strongly built, with pleasing yet settled countenance and well-modulated voice—Dr. Begg, ever full of his subject, has invariably commanded the attention even of the most hostile audiences. Principal Fairbairn not inaptly described him, as “one who is distinguished for his practical sense and business habits, whose counsel and sagacity have materially contributed to the success of whatever scheme he favoured. His talents as a public speaker, his skill and power in debate, coolness of temper, promptitude of decision, and readiness of thought and utterance, have been conspicuous.”2

J. M. P.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Andrew A. Bonar, D.D.

Andrew Bonar

“The Brook Besor, by Andrew Bonar, D.D., Author of ‘Memoir of R. M. McCheyne,’ 1879,” is a title singularly suggestive of much that is fruitful in the religious and eventful in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland in the generation that is now fast passing away.

Thirty-five years have intervened between Dr. Andrew Bonar’s beautiful and characteristic little book of last year, and the faithful and graphic Memoir which has made his friend’s name and his own for ever fragrant. The lot of “two men in the field, the one taken and the other left,” may number among its many applications the history of these fellow-labourers in the field of the Gospel. As with the two apostolic brothers, James and John, one was taken the first of all the apostles, and the other left the last of all; so with these two brethren in the ministry—one was removed by his Lord in youth, while for the other it has been given by the same Lord to outlive his comrade by more years than he had seen at his early death, and with the hope of many useful years still to come. The wide spiritual and moral influence of the life and work of Robert McCheyne, enhanced as it has been by his apparently premature death, is in no small degree indebted to the inimitable biography by Andrew Bonar; which, by the blessing of God, has embalmed his memory, not only in Scotland, but in all lands where our English tongue is spoken, and is of itself a great work for a lifetime.

But of the two together in the field, whilst the one was graciously taken, the other has been graciously left; and, apart from his abundant and fruitful work in his own two churches, first in the retired country, and afterwards in the crowded city, it is not easy to estimate the influence for good through our Church and land that has flowed from Dr. Bonar’s life and ministry. The fruit of a brief work, an early death, and a holy memory in the case of his beloved friend, has in him been exchanged for a high and consistent Christian life, sustained through a long course of years, with his head anointed with fresh oil, and his vigour like the palm tree that still bears fruit in its age.

The Church of Christ on earth needs all kinds of men for her varied service in an adverse world, which she is sent at once to conquer and to win; men to lead her counsels, men to fight her battles, men to state and vindicate her truths, men to search and explain her Scriptures. But most of all she needs men to preach her Gospel and to illustrate her grace in their own character and lives. This blessing in his own place is found in every faithful minister of Christ. But it is an incalculable gain to the Church and to our human family when a man eminent for gifts is still more distinguished by grace; like a lamp on a watch-tower seen near and far, and guiding men to Him who is “The Light of the World.” Such a minister is a constant vindication of the Gospel, and a daily lesson-book of its truths; “an epistle known and read of all men.” One man, with the joy of the Lord for his strength, in truth and meekness bearing the image of his Master, humbling himself and exalting his Lord, and by his life saying to others, “Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ;” one man whose character all own as a work of grace, when divinely upheld through a long course of active service, is a great boon both to his brethren in the ministry, and to all the Churches in the land.

Such a man is the subject of this sketch. What Dr. Candlish once remarked of McCheyne was equally true of his biographer. “I can’t understand McCheyne,” he said, “grace seems to be natural to him, as if it needed no effort for him to be good.” Yet this is only by grace so abounding as to become a second nature; and both these brothers were in fullest sympathy with Paul in saying, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Andrew Bonar has been enabled to unite the gentleness of Christ with great steadfastness of purpose; love with faithfulness; strength of personal affection with kindness to all; retirement with the greatest openness and frankness; great activity and perseverance in ministerial work, so as to be “in labours more abundant,” with a most characteristic calmness and freedom from haste; along with singleness of eye, absence of self, and an uncommon transparency. These elements, happily mingled, have formed a character at once so consistent and so attractive, that if this one name had been lacking in the roll of our ministers, we cannot estimate the loss our Church would have suffered through an entire generation.

Mr. Andrew Alexander Bonar was born in Edinburgh on the 29th of May, 1810. He was the seventh son of James Bonar, Esq., Second Solicitor of Excise, of whom it has been said, that he was “a man of varied and extensive literature, and Christian excellency, author of several philological and other treatises, and a valued correspondent of the most learned men of his day.”

Of his honoured ancestors Dr. Bonar gave the following account from the Moderator’s chair in the General Assembly at Glasgow, dividing the honour of his election with them: “I am persuaded that, in choosing me for this office, you had regard to my forefathers and relatives, so many of whom have in this Church served the Lord Jesus, and sought the good of His people. We who are of this tribe (if I may so speak) like to think ourselves connected with that James Bonar, minister of Maybole, who stood by the side of the great Alexander Henderson in the struggle against Prelacy; but especially we boast of our descent from one who in the days of the Covenant forsook Episcopacy, and forfeited ease and position, if not wealth, that he might become a minister of Christ in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Ordained in 1692, John Bonar was spared to labour as the humble pastor of the parish of Torphichen for more than half a century. He was one of the ‘Twelve’ in the famous ‘Marrow Controversy,’ and in his declining years was more than ever intent on the conversion of souls. Having seen the awakening in Kilsyth, and having found something of the same blessing among his own people, he, in the last year of his life, journeyed, with great difficulty, to witness the revival scenes at Cambuslang; and returning from that visit, stood on the threshold of his house, exclaiming in the fulness of his heart, ‘Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’ From that manse of Torphichen have descended all of our name who have ministered in the Church.”

Mr. Bonar was educated at the High School, in which he distinguished himself as Dux of the School; he gained the Macgregor Medal in 1825, and the Gold Medal given by the Writers to the Signet in 1827. Afterwards he studied at the University of Edinburgh. In 1835 he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Jedburgh; and both there, in assisting the Rev. Dr. Purves, and afterwards in assisting Dr. Candlish in St George’s, Edinburgh, he was engaged in much earnest work in the Gospel. In 1838 he was ordained to the ministry on a presentation to the parish of Collace, in Perthshire; and while quietly and most faithfully working in that very rural parish, there came across his secluded path a providential call, which brought him more prominently before the Christian community, and has associated his name ever since with the salvation of Israel.

His early friend, Mr. McCheyne, was engaged in his fruitful ministry in Dundee, and the distance from Collace not being great, they saw much of each other, and often preached in each other’s pulpits. But the labours of a congregation in a large town had told on his delicate frame, and the state of his health caused some anxiety to his relatives. A double interest in the neglected Jews and in the welfare of his young friend, suggested to Dr. Candlish’s singularly fertile mind the idea of a mission of inquiry to the Jews, in which he hoped that the spiritual welfare of Israel might be combined with recovery of health to an overtasked minister. One day on the street he said to the present writer, “What would you think of sending McCheyne to Palestine? it would help us with the Jews, and would give him a rest.” According to his “use and wont,” he quickly followed up the thought. Mr. Bonar, both as familiar with the Hebrew Bible and full of love to God’s ancient people, and as McCheyne’s special friend, was selected to form with him the younger branch of the mission; Dr. Keith and Dr. Black as the senior members, the latter distinguished as an Oriental scholar, and the former very widely known and highly honoured as a writer on prophecy, which is so closely bound up with Israel.

Mr. Bonar, assisted by Mr. McCheyne, drew up the “Narrative of Inquiry,” which awakened in Scotland an interest in the Jews that has never quite abated, and is now increasing with the providential revival of the nation out of the dust of ages; in preparation, doubtless, for a spiritual resurrection from the dead, when the Spirit shall breathe on the dry bones which are “coming together, bone to his bone,” while as yet “there is no breath in them.” This lively interest in Israel from his youth has been constant and fresh ever since; his name is ever associated with them; and he has done much to keep alive the hopes which seem now to be hastening toward their fulfilment. Over the door of his new church in Glasgow, Mr. Bonar has had cut in the stone the Hebrew words of the text, “He that winneth souls is wise;” saying that it might attract some passing Jew.

On his return from Palestine, Mr. Bonar found that during his absence there had been in his own neighbourhood a remarkable work of grace under the preaching of Mr. William Burns, who was occupying Mr. McCheyne’s pulpit. The absent pastor rejoiced in the blessing that had come on his flock, and associated it with his having sought the good of Jerusalem, and with the promise, “They shall prosper that love thee.” Mr. Bonar entered with his whole heart and with labours more abundant into the work of the Lord, which extended to his own as to many other districts in the land; and in himself throughout his future ministry, as in many of his brethren, the hand of the Lord with his servants at that time inspired larger hopes of the kingdom of God coming with power in the preaching of the everlasting Gospel.

Side by side with a reviving ministry, and with a quickened desire in the people for faithful preaching, there had for a number of years been a growing desire throughout the country for renewing the right of the Church to choose its own ministers—the intrusion of pastors by patrons on an unwilling people having always been a source of spiritual deadness in the community. The religious progress of a generation had given rise to ecclesiastical energy, and the quickened conscience and life of the Church of Scotland gave occasion to the conflict which ended in its Disruption in 1843.

About two years before that great event, Mr. Bonar, along with many of his brethren, preached in the parishes of the deposed ministers in Strathbogie with much acceptance, and with the ingathering of a spiritual harvest. Although amongst the meekest of men, the interdict of the civil courts could not deter him from his Master’s work; and he might have added his own name to the words of McCheyne, whom we met in preaching through that forbidden district: “I can say with Paul, that ‘from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, I have preached the Gospel of Christ;’ and no interdict will keep me from preaching in Strathbogie.” If narrowness of mind, restlessness under lawful restraint, pleasure in contention, and ecclesiastical ambition had been the moving springs of that great conflict, Mr. Andrew Bonar would have been the last man in the world to have had any sympathy with its objects, or to have taken any part in its proceedings.

In the final issue in 1843, Mr. Bonar cheerfully left the Parish Church of Collace, but could not be persuaded to think of leaving the old sphere of his labours till 1856, when, most happily, he accepted a call to the Free Church of Finnieston, in Glasgow. In 1848, he married Isabella, daughter of James Dickson, Esq., Edinburgh, who died in 1864, leaving one son and four daughters. In 1874, he received the well-merited degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh. He was unanimously and most cordially elected Moderator of the Free Church Assembly in Glasgow in 1878; and he discharged the duties of the office with the greatest acceptance and success, and with all his own characteristic aptitude and happiness of address. In addition to his earlier works of the Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, and his Memoir of Mr. McCheyne, and besides a number of smaller books and tracts from time to time, Dr. Bonar has published a Commentary on Leviticus, and an Exposition of the Psalms.

Dr. Bonar ministers in Glasgow to a devotedly attached people in a large and full Church; and wherever he preaches, is listened to by crowded and deeply interested congregations. His preaching is singularly like the Bible. It abounds in the clearest enunciations of the doctrines of grace, and is pervaded by a natural order; but never approaches the form either of a confession of faith or of a theological argument. Full of the Bible in both its Testaments, it much resembles the Bible in its simple and altogether natural cast, and partakes not a little of its richness and fulness.

One of the elements of his permanent power in preaching is, that his sermons, although well prepared and remarkably equal, are never wrought up. The faculty of working for a great effort is one that he has never cultivated, and can hardly be said to possess. But he is so thoroughly at home in all that he utters, that his words tell with the force of one who speaks from the overflowing of his own heart, “believing and therefore speaking.” The heart of the preacher is perfectly open to his hearers; as with no cloak concealing it, so with no effort to make it visible; and they listen to words of the most unalloyed sincerity. Of his composition, McCheyne said that “he had no style;” and while he has more system than most men in all his habits and all his work, his style is certainly without systematic art. But his sermons are full of poetry. Not gifted like his brother to write exquisite hymns, his sermons are nevertheless, and perhaps all the more, rich in poetic images, like the letters of Samuel Rutherford which he has edited with a perfect sympathy. The variety of his happy illustrations gives wings to his weighty truths. May God still grant him many years for preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ, with the heavenly wisdom of winning souls for the Master he has loved and served so long.

A. M. S.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Horatius Bonar, M.A.

Horatius Bonar

The Rev. Horatius Bonar, son of James Bonar, Esq., Solicitor of Excise for Scotland, was born in Edinburgh on the 19th December, 1808. Descended from an ancestry which had contributed to the Church of Scotland a succession of faithful ministers stretching back to the times before the Revolution of 1688, he was himself reared amidst all the amenities and stimulating influences of a singularly happy and cultivated Christian home. His father was a man of scholarly tastes and no small scientific attainments, whose house was the resort of such men as Sir David Brewster, then in the midst of those great discoveries which have shed such lustre on his name. Amidst the bright intelligence and eager life of this household, no fewer than three ministers were in training for the Free Church— Dr. Andrew A. Bonar, Dr. Horatius Bonar, and their elder brother the Rev. John J. Bonar, the honoured and faithful minister of Free St. Andrew’s Church, Greenock, known throughout the Church as one of its most brilliant and effective preachers, a man of great theological and literary attainments, though, with perhaps too exclusive devotion to his study and his flock, he has hitherto been content to exercise within a comparatively limited circle those rare gifts so well fitted to enrich and edify the whole Church.

Under such influences, and with such companionship, Horatius Bonar began his preparation for the ministry with all the habits and characteristics of a thorough student and accomplished scholar, prepared to take advantage of the full and lengthened curriculum of study required by the Church in Scotland of all her students, before entering her Hall of Theology. Dr. Chalmers in the maturity of his powers was then presiding over the Metropolitan Divinity Hall, and by his magnificent exposition of the Evangelic system, and his own intense spiritual life, had rendered it, under God, a grand Missionary Institute and centre of spiritual power, from which our students went forth to their work as preachers of the Gospel, inflamed with a zeal that shrank from no labour, and strong in a faith that knew no doubt. It was in these times that a noble band of evangelists, represented by such men as Robert McCheyne, William Burns, John Milne, James Hamilton, of London, and others like-minded, some of whom are still amongst us, went forth upon their fruitful labours. They were all men of studious habits and scholarly acquirements, well read in the literature of theology and at home in the languages of the Old and New Testaments; and they were all possessed by a strong and invigorating faith; having, before approaching the ministry, cleared themselves by prayer and study from the enfeebling spirit of doubt and uncertainty by which nothing great was ever accomplished.

Amongst these men, Mr. H. Bonar occupied a very prominent and influential position, by his weight of character, his masculine thoughtfulness, and great attainments as a scholar and theologian. While yet a student of divinity, he had, in common with the majority of our ablest students acquired experience in Home Mission work, by regular visitation in some of the more necessitous districts of the Old Town; and after his license as a Probationer, this was much extended by his labours as Missionary Assistant to Mr. Lewis of South Leith, who was one of the first in that day to work his overgrown parish in the lines laid down by Dr Chalmers in his admirable works on “Parochial and Civic Economy.”

It was about this time that, as the fruit of the great Evangelical Revival in the Church of Scotland, her Scheme of Church Extension was being prosecuted with a measure of success that bade fair, with the blessing of God, to transform the waste places of the land into a garden of the Lord. Among more than 200 churches which, in answer to the magnificent appeals of Chalmers, had within a few years sprung into existence, the North Church, Kelso, had just been completed. The attention of its chief promoters having been called to the remarkable character and abundant labours of Mr. Bonar, a deputation of inquiry visited Leith, and having heard him preach, reported so favourably that he was at once appointed, and entered on his labours as Ordained Minister of the North Church, Kelso, on 30th November, 1838. It was a blessed time for any man to enter on his ministry. In our day it is said that doubt and uncertainty are in the very air. It was otherwise then. The very air seemed charged with hope and expectancy, based on faith in Jesus Christ, and in the Gospel as “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Earnest men will always be expecting and looking for fruit in the conversion of sinners under the faithful preaching of the Gospel. But at that time a body of men had been raised up in the Established Church of Scotland, who, more than had been common even with faithful ministers, waited and watched for conversion in prayerful reliance on the promised blessing of the Holy Spirit on every fresh announcement of Christ and Him crucified, as fitted and intended to “fill the heart with joy and peace in believing.”

It was in this spirit that Mr. Bonar entered on his ministry in Kelso. In his preaching, the line was clearly drawn between the converted and the unconverted, with no border land between. The prominence and persistency with which this was pressed home was felt as something new and startling. And so was the urgency with which free and immediate salvation, meeting every want, was pressed on the acceptance of the individual sinner. “See that your preaching be really glad tidings to the sinner,” he once said to a young probationer, now an earnest and honoured minister of the Free Church; and from the beginning of his own ministry he had acted on that principle. He had faith in the Cross of Christ to guard itself, and never found it necessary to impose any conditions, or erect any fence around the grace of God. Faith in Jesus Christ was pressed home on every sinner as his first and immediate duty to God, and the only sure way of honouring the Holy Spirit, as sent to bear witness to Jesus, and to show the things freely given us of God. No one was allowed to regard it as humility to wait for deeper conviction or anything else in himself, before putting his trust for salvation in Jesus Christ. In his preaching, as in all his writings, he followed the Reformers rather than the later Puritans, and reflected Luther’s frank outlook to the cross, and hearty reliance on the righteousness of Christ, rather than Baxter’s tendency to introspection in search of marks and evidences in self.

And from the beginning of his ministry there was visible blessing on his work. Even before the wide-spread revivals of 1839, and subsequent years immediately preceding the Disruption, for which they formed the preparation, a remarkable though quiet work of God had begun in Kelso. For in the old Established Church of Scotland, revival and faithful testimony to Christ as at once King of Nations and sole Head of the Church had always gone together. And it was so then. In that generation the Church had been called on to take up her ancestral testimony under both its forms: and amidst all the perils and distractions apt to be attendant on controversy, God bore her witness by out-pourings of the Spirit on so many portions of the Church as, by His blessing, imparted fresh life and strength to the whole. In that day it was almost exclusively by the preaching of the Ministry that God was pleased to grant revival to the Church. And it was noticed as a general rule that those who were most greatly blessed were men of cultivated minds and studious habits no less than of deep spirituality and of strong faith. When it is otherwise, there ought to be no jealousy indeed, but certainly deep searchings of heart among those set apart to the Ministry of the Gospel. The writings of Mr. McCheyne, Mr. Milne of Perth, Mr. Wm. Burns, and Dr. Mackintosh of Tain may give some idea of the revival preaching and revival preachers of those days. Such, with very marked characteristics of his own, was the preaching of Mr. Bonar. He never affected what is vaguely enough called “intellectual” preaching. But none the less it was the preaching of a very strong and cogent intellect, not unfrequently profound, but always so clear and well-defined as to be perfectly simple, and ever moving in the lines of truth, straight to the mark. “Every separate sentence tells,” said an intelligent mechanic in the Merse, “like strokes of a hammer, every stroke sends the nail further in and deeper down.” In the truth set forth there was nothing peculiar, and nothing peculiar in the style, except the amazing simplicity and power with which he was enabled to set forth the completeness of man’s ruin, as utterly lost, met by the completeness of Christ’s finished work for securing free and immediate salvation for the chief of sinners. It was not the mere cry “Believe,” or “Come,” for there was always a great body of truth presented; and it was Christ Himself as the object of faith, rather than the act of believing, that formed the staple of his preaching and gave it all its power. No truth in the entire round of the Gospel system was omitted or overlooked, but certainly the doctrine of acceptance with God, of free and immediate justification through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ gave tone and character to his entire ministry, and was often deepened into overawing power by the proclamation of Christ’s second coming “in flaming fire to take vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One memorable sermon in which these truths were set forth in combination, rises to the writer’s memory as preached in his own church, and resulting in the final decision of at least two young men, one early called away resting on Christ in perfect peace, the other still labouring as an elder in a distant land, full of faith and of good works. And this is but a specimen of the blessing that rested on his labours in those blessed days of revival.

In Kelso itself it was not perhaps so much the stir and excitement of one or more revivals, as the spiritual power, the still solemnity, the continuous life and action of a revived church, that made it the centre of life and refreshing to all the district round, through many a successive year. The Spirit came less as “the rushing of a mighty wind,” or “as floods upon the dry ground,” than as “rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth.” Meetings for prayer abounded, and “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another,” so that to some of us who had only begun our ministry, a visit to Kelso was felt to be a season of refreshing, whence we returned to our own work with new encouragement and hope. Classes for the young were greatly blessed. And none more so than his boarding-school classes drawn from all parts of the country, the fruits of which are still to be met with in many a family throughout the land.

In the midst of all his labours as pastor and evangelist, Mr. Bonar assiduously maintained the habits of a thorough student. So early as 1831 he had been amongst the first promoters of the “Presbyterian Review,” which for many a year before and after the Disruption represented all that was best in the Literature, the Theology, and the Spiritual life of the Church. From its commencement he was a regular contributor, and for many years acted as editor. In later years, as editor of the “Journal of Prophecy,” and more recently, of “The Christian Treasury,” he addressed different classes of readers with the same deep spirituality of tone and savour of Christ, which made them welcome to many, even of those who did not sympathise with all his views on prophecy. The “Kelso Tracts,” written in his early ministry to meet the wants and difficulties of his own flock in times of spiritual quickening, were greatly blessed to many throughout the Church, in clearing their way to Christ. These have been followed by numerous writings in different departments of literature, prose and verse, which have made his name known throughout the Church of God in all its branches, and on both sides of the Atlantic. Of his numerous hymns, many are to be found in nearly all the collections of every branch of the Protestant Church. And not a few appear to have taken their place in its permanent hymnology. “My Old Letters,” Dr. Bonar’s greatest essay in poetry is one of his last,—a work simple and original in its idea, rich in culture, and profound and varied in poetic feeling and thought. Of his minor pieces, less known perhaps than his hymns, the following may be accepted as a specimen, characteristic at once of his poetic style, and of the mode of thought that appears to have given tone and colour to his life:—

Make haste, O man, to live,
For thou so soon must die;
Time hurries past thee like the breeze;
How swift its moments fly.
Make haste, O man, to live!

To breathe, and wake, and sleep,
To smile, to sigh, to grieve;
To move in idleness through earth,
This, this is not to live!
Make haste, O man, to live!

Up then with speed, and work;
Fling ease and self away;
This is no time for thee to sleep,
Up, watch and work and pray!
Make haste, O man, to live!

The useful, not the great,
The thing that never dies;
The silent toil that is not lost,—
Set these before thine eyes.
Make haste, O man, to live!

The seed, whose leaf and flower,
Tho’ poor in human sight,
Bring forth at last the eternal fruit,
Sow thou both day and night.
Make haste, O man, to live!

Make haste, O man, to live,
Thy time is almost o’er;
O sleep not, dream not, but arise,
The Judge is at the door.
Make haste, O man, to live!

In 1843, Mr. Bonar felt constrained to join the great Exodus from the Establishment, as being no longer free, and has laboured ever since as a minister of the Free Church. In the same year he married Jane Catherine, daughter of the Rev. Robert Lundie of Kelso; and, of his family, his eldest daughter is now engaged along with her husband the Rev. G. Theophilus Dodds in the great Paris Mission originated by the Rev. Mr. McAll, perhaps the noblest and most hopeful mission in which the Church of Christ has engaged in our day. In 1853, Mr. Bonar received the degree of D.D. from the University of Aberdeen. In 1866, after a fruitful ministry of eight and twenty years in Kelso, he was translated to Chalmers Memorial Church, the Grange, Edinburgh, of which he was the first minister. Of his abundant labours there, as belonging to the present rather than the past, it will be for others to speak at some future time.

W. C.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

James Bonar

The Bonars with whom the subject of this sketch was connected are descendants of an old family belonging to Perthshire, who possessed considerable property, including part of Kilgraston, in that county. They have been largely—indeed almost hereditarily—connected with the gospel ministry in Scotland.

The son of John Bonar of Kilgraston was minister of Torphichen. His eldest son was the Rev. John Bonar of Fetlar, in Shetland; and his son again, also John, became minister successively of Cockpen and Perth. The son and grandson of this Rev. John Bonar of Perth were respectively the Rev. Archibald Bonar of Cramond and the Rev. John Bonar of Larbert; while no fewer than three brothers of James Bonar, the subject of this memoir, are well-known ministers of the Free Church of Scotland at this day, viz., the Rev. Drs Horatius and Andrew Bonar, and John James Bonar of Free St Andrew’s Church, Greenock.

The father of the subject of this sketch was James Bonar, Depute-Solicitor of Excise in Edinburgh,—himself a man of varied and extensive literature and Christian excellency, author of several philological and other treatises, and a valued correspondent of the most learned men of his day. In his public situation under Government, he proved himself to be also a man of most self-sacrificing integrity.

His virtues and strict Christian piety descended in large measure upon his son, James Bonar, of whose life and character we present the following outline. Like his father, he too was a scholar; and having a well-cultivated mind, based on a good foundation early laid, by dint of reading and continuous study he kept up his literary tastes and attainments to the last. Not only was this his own habit from student life upwards, but in his earlier correspondence, we find him earnestly pressing upon his fellows an equal course of diligence. Though never intended for a sacred or theological profession, there was scarcely a class in the University or in the Theological Hall which he had not attended. Along with a rich and varied acquaintance with general literature, he was particularly partial to the writings of the Puritan divines, for whose views in theology, as well as for their personal piety, he cherished a high regard.

Brought up domestically under unusual advantages, both as to literary culture and habits of strictest, yet cheerful, piety, James Bonar shewed himself an apt scholar in both departments; and such had been his advance in early piety, that when his father was removed by death, though the son was only about nineteen, the evening of that day found him quietly taking his father’s place at the family altar, the duties of which place he never afterwards relinquished, much to the joy of his godly mother and of the younger members of the family, of which, from that hour, he became the honoured and acknowledged head.

In those days when young men’s associations for mutual improvement were little known, Mr Bonar became, in December 1821, a member of “The Homiletical Society.” Being composed of a few devout young men, chiefly students, its meetings for many years were held in one or other of their rooms. In its later stages the ordinary meeting-place was the session-house of St Andrew’s Church. The character of the society was eminently devotional, consisting chiefly of prayer and praise, Bible reading, and exhortation. In the conducting of its business, Mr William Brown, surgeon, now an elder in Tolbooth Free Church, and Mr James Bonar, took a leading part.

Mr Bonar was an original member of another young men’s society, that which is now known as the Diagnostic, though it was then formed under another name. Besides Mr Bonar, who was secretary, we find the following among its original members:—John Purves, John Archibald Bonar, John Henderson, James Thomson, James Cochrane, of Harburn. This society, at its earliest stages, met in Mr John Purves’s room, Richmond Place; next in the house of Mr James Bonar’s father, Paterson’s Court, Broughton; afterwards in the school-room, Greenside, under the Tabernacle. It was afterwards joined by John James Bonar, William Cunningham, John Brown Paterson, Thomas Pitcairn—names well known and revered amongst us.

Mr Bonar’s calling in business life was that of a Writer to the Signet. For this profession he was trained, first in the office of his uncle, Mr Tawse, and afterwards in that of the late Sir James Gibson Craig. Business in those days being often carried over into the Sabbath, and the clerks’ attendance at the office required on that day, young Bonar expressed a conscientious objection, upon which, to the credit of the late head of that firm, he was at once exempted from all such duty.

Closely and originally attached as his parents had been to Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel (so called from the name of its noble and pious foundress), then under the pastorate of the late venerable Dr Jones, Mr Bonar was early admitted a member. In the summer of 1830 he was called to the eldership; and of his modesty and humility, as well as conscientious consideration in accepting and entering upon that office, we have a record in a letter then addressed to one of his brothers:—

“I have not consented to this nomination,” says he, “without much hesitation, nor, I can safely say, without great reluctance; never did I feel more disinclined to engage in any duty, and never have I seen more of my disqualifications for any public responsible situation than I have seen since this resolution was taken. … Anything like publicity is a snare into which so many far older men than I am have fallen, that I begin to fear that it may prove too strong for me. … One benefit I have no doubt found from having my mind directed to the subject of the eldership, that it has led me to seek more earnestly direction in prayer, and to strive to act more circumspectly; and this is one advantage which I anticipate, should I be ordained, may still continue. … I cannot see that, with the exception of preaching and administration of ordinances, an elder stands in a different situation from a minister, and he surely must (as one who rules well) be able to rule well himself, and his own family, before he can undertake or expect to rule well the Church.”

What ultimately decided him was, that “he could not see that he would not have been, in some measure, rejecting an invitation from Christ, made through His Church, had he given a negative to the proposal.”

Notwithstanding this serious reluctance to enter upon public religious office, so characteristic of his humbleness of mind, yet never was there, in fact, a more diligent, devoted, or practically useful elder. He was not only for many years clerk to the session, but he devised and carried out, at his own instance, very many practical measures for raising and maintaining the spiritual standing of the congregation, such as getting up sessional meetings specially for prayer, establishing similar district meetings, instituting Bible classes for young persons and children belonging to the congregation; and lamenting, moreover, the condition of the territorial locality in Greenside, he was in the habit of hiring a room in that locality, at his own expense, to which he might call wanderers in, and there conduct classes and prayer-meetings for that neglected population. In all such efforts Mr Bonar was ever active for good.

In the congregational class which he conducted, he prescribed regular exercises on some head of religion to be written out by the pupils in private during the week; and, considering his extensive professional business, it was marvellous what time he contrived to spend, not only in correcting the many papers given in, but in writing out at length his comments upon each in particular.

Along with such self-imposed duties as these, in which he took great delight, Mr Bonar was also an active member and official in various other societies of religious and philanthropic tendency. These included, e.g., the Edinburgh City Mission, the Orphan Hospital, the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands and Islands, also the Edinburgh and Leith Seamen’s Friend Society. Of this last Mr Bonar was a director almost from its commencement in 1820, and held the office of secretary till he died. It was mainly by his exertions that the proposal to erect a church (Free St Ninian’s) was brought to a successful issue. In carrying out these undertakings he not only gave gratuitously his valuable professional services, but also, from time to time, large pecuniary aid.

For a series of years he was secretary to the Senatus of the New College, which brought him much in contact with both professors and students, who not only enjoyed his kindred sympathies, but also valued greatly his counsel and assistance. He held also a Government appointment in connection with the Bible Printing Board for Scotland.

While his attachment to Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel, and subsequently Free Church, was unbounded, he, at the same time, cherished a truly catholic spirit, his sympathies not only embracing the whole church of which he was a member and office-bearer, but leading him to take a very warm interest in every mission enterprise undertaken for the conversion of the heathen, and more particularly of the Jews.

Throughout the “ten years’ conflict” the non-intrusion and spiritual independence party had not a more conscientious or ardent supporter than James Bonar; and when the Disruption came, he threw himself, heart and soul, into the Free Church, and became the zealous agent in defence in the lawsuit forced on by the Established Presbytery of Edinburgh, in their too successful attempt to wrest Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel and endowments out of the hands of the Free Church Trustees.

Mr Bonar’s personal character and attainments, along with an honest plainness and frankness of expression, were, as indicated, of a high order, and in every respect worthy of the family name which he bore.

He had, very manifestly, a most invincible love of truth, and though naturally quiet and unobtrusive in his general bearing, this did not prevent his thorough and outspoken repudiation of everything that was mean or disingenuous, or immoral in conduct. His Christianity, while deep and all-pervading, was yet ever of the most cheerful and attractive kind. Combined with a lofty seriousness, there was, especially when among young people and at his own fireside, often a playfulness of spirit, which never failed to win their affections, and thereby to render his instructions all the more acceptable and lasting.

The love and veneration indeed in which he was held by the young who had been under his charge, may be gathered not only from the interesting and edifying correspondence which he kept up with some of them long years after they had parted, but no less from the following expression which passed involuntarily from the lips of one such as he approached the house in which his loved and revered instructor died— “I never pass this house without feeling as if I should take off my hat.”

Having removed to the country in hope of benefit from the change, he there sank rapidly, his cheerful composure and entire submission to his heavenly Father’s will continuing to the last—the silence of the death-chamber broken only at intervals by such breathings as these: “The Rock is everything.” … “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me.”

Indeed, even in the most affecting moments—such as, when crossing the threshold of his much-loved home in York Place, fully believing it to be for the last time, and stepping into the carriage which was to convey him to the country—his first care was to seek to cheer and comfort Mrs Bonar and the other dear ones who accompanied him. He died without the shadow of a cloud upon his brow, at Juniper Green, in the parish of Currie, on the 11th of July 1867, his last words being, “Peace as a river.”

G. R. D.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

The Marquis of Breadalbane, K.T.3

The Marquis of Breadalbane was born at Dundee on the 26th October 1796. At an early age he followed in the footsteps of his ancestors by embracing Liberal opinions, when the very name of Reformer was odious, and by joining himself to the Scottish Whigs, who strenuously supported those principles which have long since been in the ascendant. Entering upon public life at a period of great excitement, when the Reform of Parliament was the absorbing question of the day, he threw all his energies into the struggle. To the memorable contest in 1832 for the representation of Perthshire, which he sustained with such spirit, and brought to so triumphant an issue,—his rank, position, prospects, as the Earl of Ormelie, gave special significance and weight. It struck a blow at the old system which resounded through the land; and it produced an effect on public opinion in favour of Liberal politics which did not speedily pass away. And though in later years, and especially from the time when as Lord Chamberlain he became connected with the Court, Lord Breadalbane took little if any part in Parliamentary discussions and public business, to the last he was a steady and consistent supporter of the Liberal party, and never for a moment swerved from his early views.

It is hardly to be wondered at that in 1843, when the Disruption of the Church of Scotland took place—this strenuous advocate of popular right and devoted friend of civil and religious liberty should cast in his lot with the Free Presbyterian Church. His sympathies had been with the Non-Intrusion party throughout the whole of the controversy; and, when the crisis arrived, he did not fail them. He acted, indeed, with his usual deliberation; for it was not till some days after the Disruption had taken place that he announced his decision. Reposing a degree of confidence in the intentions of the Government, he waited in the hope that some satisfactory settlement would be made; but as soon as he ascertained that his confidence was misplaced, he sent the following letter to Mr Dunlop, intimating the resolution he had formed:—

“London, May 23. 1843.

“Dear Mr Dunlop,—I received your note of the 19th instant yesterday morning, and as I have also received the Scotch papers, I am aware of all your proceedings down to Saturday. After a careful perusal of these, and having given my anxious consideration to the various topics of the Queen’s Letter, and the spirit which pervades it, I am most reluctantly obliged to give up that hope which I had till now fondly entertained, that the Government were really in earnest in their desire to bring in a measure consistent with the rights and privileges of the Presbyterian Church, and securing to the parishes of Scotland the appointment of ministers acceptable to the people. My resolve is therefore now taken, to vindicate my own principles as a Presbyterian, and to leave the Established Church; and I beg of you to command my humble services in any way which can be most useful in the cause of the Free Presbyterian Church. I remain, dear Mr Dunlop, very faithfully yours, Breadalbane.”

This step was most gratifying to thousands of his countrymen, and was of immense importance to the cause of the Free Church. His character stood so high—superior even to the rank which he held—that his adherence among the laity was what that of Dr Chalmers had been among the clergy—an answer to a thousand calumnies, and a very tower of strength. Who could connect anything of the fanatical or revolutionary with the name of Breadalbane, or believe that he was the patron of “rebellion against the laws of the land,” or the supporter of any schemes of “priestly ambition or clerical domination”? And yet, standing as he did almost alone among his peers and the aristocracy of Scotland, there must have been such a sacrifice of feeling demanded of him as only a high sense of duty, sustained by rare independence of mind, and no ordinary amount of moral courage, could have enabled him to make. But the patriotism and the religion of Lord Breadalbane combined to bear him through. He saw and appreciated what many Liberal politicians failed to see or recognise—the bearing on the national life and best interests of Scotland of the questions that had been raised by the Non-Intrusion controversy, as to the supremacy of conscience and the liberties of the Christian Church; and, warmly attached as he was to the principles of evangelical truth, and knowing their power, he gave his influence, heart and soul, to the party and the cause which held forth the best promise of their ascendancy. His pecuniary support of the principles he had espoused was munificent. Churches, manses, and schools were built by him in the different parishes of his extensive property, and ample provision of religious ordinances made for the adherents of the Free Church on his estates. The manses he built on his own estates were valued at £4000; he also contributed £1000 to the General Manse Fund, and an equal sum for the New College in Edinburgh, while an almost unlimited draft of slates for Free Church requirements was allowed from his quarries at Ballachulish and Easdale.

To the ground taken up by him in 1843, he resolutely adhered to the end of his life. No opinions he had ever entertained were held by him with greater tenacity, or asserted by him with greater emphasis to the very last, than those he had formed on the freedom of the Church. In every subsequent discussion of them he took the warmest interest; and in reference to the Cardross case, he declared himself less than ever disposed to acknowledge the civil judges as his spiritual chiefs. But, decided in his own opinions, he was most tolerant of others; and the freedom which he claimed for himself he cheerfully accorded to them.

His treatment of the Established Church which he had left, and of her adherents, was uniformly fair and honourable. His patronage he exercised with a view to her advantage, and in deference to the wishes of the congregations; while over the broad lands of Breadalbane no man ever suffered at his hands for his religious convictions; and never was the question raised by him, in regard to tenant, servant, or dependent, to which Church he belonged.

We might justly advert here to the decided part taken by Lady Breadalbane, a descendant of Baillie of Jerviswood and of John Knox himself, on the occasion of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843, and to her steadfast maintenance of the great principles on which the Free Church is founded. Devoted to her noble husband, the faithful companion for nearly forty years, the wise counsellor and active coadjutor in whatever engaged his attention or effort, the light of his home and the pride of his heart,—in her removal fourteen months before his own death, the noble Marquis met with an irreparable loss. The tomb which closed over her mortal remains on 6th of September 1861, was re-opened on Tuesday, 25th November 1862, to receive those of her lamented husband, the noble Marquis.

Lord Breadalbane’s general character was that of manly strength. Like his person, square, and firmly built, it was solid, sturdy, simple, unpretentious, but breathing unmistakably an air of conscious elevation, inborn dignity, and native greatness.

His intellect, though not of that order which is marked by rapidity of movement, or needle-like acuteness and power of penetration, was nevertheless uncommonly vigorous, searching, and comprehensive; capable of grappling with any subject; sure to examine it on every side; fond of entering into minute details: and almost certain, not swiftly, but after due deliberation, to arrive at the soundest conclusion. Indeed, his common sense and practical sagacity were truly remarkable; and, although not a man of business habits, he had the greatest aptitude for business, and was able to get through a large amount of it: and no sooner did he direct his mind to any question than he saw all its bearings, would detect real difficulties which escaped the attention of an ordinary observer, and start sound objections, which had not previously been raised, infallibly putting his finger upon a blot, if any such existed, and so sifting the whole matter in hand, that the result reached in the end could hardly fail to be satisfactory and safe. No doubt, there was a certain amount of irresolution in his character, and a tendency to procrastinate, and delay action, which increased with his years; but, though a weakness, it was the irresolution, not of a weak, but of a strong-minded man. He was not quick in making up his mind; but then he had much more of mind to make up than many, and an immense variety of subjects on which to make it up. His irresolution was mainly due to his Scottish caution and his strong conscientiousness, to his want of confidence in his first impressions, coupled with his anxiety to do what was right, and to his consequent habit of going over the ground again and again, and weighing thoroughly the issues to which it was leading him. And well for him it was so. For when once his decision was reached, he moved steadily in the path he had chosen, and could with difficulty be brought to listen to any change.

His Lordship’s moral qualities were of the first order: honour, bright as the or emblazoned on his shield; truth, that could not equivocate, and was abhorrent of a lie; a sense of justice, keen and strong, and carried out inflexibly, at any cost to his interests or his feelings; and a heart, as warm and tender in its affections as ever throbbed in human breast.

Never perhaps was there a man more marked by strict integrity, manly sincerity, and downright honesty, in all he did and said. He despised everything like meanness or chicanery, and was incapable of taking an unfair advantage of another. Where he had the advantage his chivalrous spirit would not permit him to press it; and he was always most disposed to be generous then, when his opponent lay at his mercy. Even in his school-days, he was the champion of the weak or the oppressed. “Send for Glenorchy,” was the cry at Eton, when any of his Scottish comrades was maltreated by English boys; and his impetuous courage and stalwart arm soon swept the assailants away. Had he been a soldier, we doubt not his spirit would have lightened forth in deeds of heroism, and, in battle, his clansmen would have found in him a daring leader, from whose lips no words could have more fitly sounded than the motto of his house— “Follow me.” If there was a degree of inertness in his composition, it was either the calmness and the quiet of conscious strength, or the smouldering of a fire that needed only to be stirred in order to blaze. On all questions involving principle there was a ready response. The metal, when rightly struck, instantly and invariably rang true. If he was slow to repose confidence in others, or to admit them to his love—when once that confidence was gained and given, it was unbounded; and where his judgment went along with his heart, there was no friend more firm or fast—no cause that could have supporter more staunch and true. His deepest sympathies were with his people. A Highlander himself, his heart was in the Highlands, and devoted to everything which concerned the honour and prosperity of that romantic country. It was his pride to be hailed, and to bear himself among his people, as a Highland chieftain; whilst the cause dearest to him on earth was that of their mental and moral elevation. He had his reward. The day before the news of his death arrived at Taymouth, a person was expressing to some of the crofters in the neighbourhood concern for the state of their crops, still out and rotting in the rain,— “We are not caring at present about the weather,” they said; “we are anxious about the Marquis.”

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Sir David Brewster

“Your church may well be proud of her men of science—Brewster, Miller and Landsborough,” said Edward Forbes in 1854 in the course of a pleasant geological ramble, as we rested in sight of the thatched cottage, Kirkroads, Bathgate, where Fleming was born. These men had won a fame wider than European, and were then drawing the attention of the foremost thinkers of their day to the principles for which the Free Church of Scotland had been honoured to witness and suffer. Ere six or seven years had passed, all, except Brewster, had gone to

“A higher place,
More to behold, and more in love to dwell.”

Sir David Brewster

David Brewster was born on the 11th December 1781, at Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, where his father was rector of the grammar school. David was the third of six children—four sons and two daughters. One son became minister of Craig, another of Scoonie, and a third of the Abbey Church, Paisley. David also entered the University of Edinburgh, with the view of qualifying himself for the ministry of the Scottish Church, but other work was to be laid to his hand.

The chief subjects of interest in the life of a man of science, are the records of his observations and discoveries; his influence on scientific progress and on public culture. This outline sketch of Brewster’s life is necessarily very general, but it may indicate what he was, and what he did, as “by the force of his own merit he made his way.” The man who conquers adverse circumstances, or makes them the steps of the ladder by which he climbs to eminence, is nobler and worthier than he to whom high position is secured by birth.

It is not necessary to dwell on David Brewster’s boyhood. The quiet beauty of the scenery around Jedburgh, the lingering legends of the stirring strife of feudal times, and the weird stories of superstition still rife in the district, together with the genial influence of Dr Somerville, the parish minister, and the companionship of lads whose mental bent was towards physical studies, all helped to mould and fashion the mind and habits of “the young philosopher.” He entered college when only twelve years of age, and graduated at nineteen. Self-reliant from the outset, he acted as a tutor from 1799 to 1807. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1804. He early identified himself with the Evangelical party in the Church, several of whose distinguished members anticipated for him a brilliant and useful career as a minister. Even before his licence, public attention had been turned to him, and he had won the high regard of many literary and scientific men. When it was known that he was to preach his first sermon in the West Church, Edinburgh, there was an unusually large muster, both of the congregation and of strangers. We are assured by one who was present that the discourse was thoughtful, earnest, full of gospel truth and good sense. “He had his discourse thoroughly committed to memory, and delivered it with great energy, increasing to the close, which was in these words:—’Let it be our firm resolution, our earnest endeavour, our importunate prayer, that, so long as we have being and breath, we will serve the Lord.'” After this he preached frequently, with much acceptance, in Edinburgh and the neighbourhood. But, from the outset, Mr Brewster suffered from a nervous infirmity, which led to most painful feelings whenever he was called in person to address others. This ultimately determined him to leave the profession of his early choice for the service of science.

The twofold curriculum through which he had passed served him well in after years, when, like other physicists, he reached points where observation must give place to faith—points which lie on the edge of that great mystery of Being, at whose closed gates all science comes, sooner or later, to knock, and where all true workers are made to feel that, if they are to enter in, it will not be in the light of the transient fire, struck out by their own efforts like sparks from flint, but in the steady light of faith. The discipline of the arts’ course ripened in him that trained common sense which finds its highest scope and satisfaction in rigidly scientific methods of observation and research, while the theological course gave a healthy tone and definiteness of doctrinal view to his religion. To all his scientific work he brought a quick habit of the eye, great breadth of view, strong imagination, a vigorous mind, persistent capacity of application, and, withal, a faith which kept the heart awake to, or on the alert for, hints of the unseen world among the patent phenomena of this.

At the time of Mr Brewster’s birth Scottish physical science had begun to attract great attention. Black, Robison, and Playfair were in the heart of their fruitful labours. Walker had left his manse at Moffat for the Natural History Chair in Edinburgh University. Geology was just about to take a step forward, prophetic of the high place since assigned to it. Hutton’s “Theory of the Earth” was laid before the Royal Society in 1789. Brewster hastened to take part in the movement, and to give direction to it. While yet in his teens, he began to publish his researches on the inflection of light,—a department in which he continued to gather fresh laurels till he was within six or seven of a hundred years of age.

Revived science very soon began to influence the work of the Church. Unbelief turned to it for weapons against revealed truth. The battle of the Evidences came to be fought on physical rather than, as in the past, on metaphysical ground. And men were needed whose attainments commanded the respect of scientific workers, and in whose theological acquirements the Church herself had confidence. Such were Chalmers, Brewster, and Fleming. A work of vast moment fell to them. They secured for men of science the sympathy and encouragement of thoughtful churchmen, while they held back the opposition to science on the part of an imperfectly instructed Christian community.

In 1806 Mr Brewster projected the “Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,” which he edited till its completion in 1830, and enriched by valuable contributions. An event occurred in connection with this work destined to have vitally important bearings, not on Scottish Christianity only, but on Christian thought throughout the world—an event, moreover, closely related to that religious and ecclesiastical movement within the Church which culminated in the Disruption. I refer to the remarkable spiritual change through which Chalmers passed when preparing the article, “Christianity,” for Brewster’s Encyclopaedia. When he began the work, he had only a name to live; but, in the course of it, views of the Godhead of Christ, the divine origin of the religion of Christ, and of his own need of a personal Saviour, filled his mind, and were used by the Holy Spirit to give him a place “among the living.”

In conjunction with Professor Jameson, Dr Brewster started the “Edinburgh Philosophical Journal.” Indeed, from the commencement of the Encyclopaedia, he continued to take a leading part in the literature of Scottish science. In the appendix to the admirable memoir— “The Home Life of David Brewster”—by his daughter Mrs Gordon, the titles of three hundred and fifteen papers are given, contributed by him to learned societies or to scientific journals. A searching analysis of these, in their relations to the views of other workers, has still to be made. When the scientific life of Sir David Brewster shall be written, it will be a record of untiring application, painstaking research, persistent devotion to scientific method, careful generalisation, and brilliant discovery.

His papers on Light—the phenomena of refraction, polarisation, and absorption—won for him a foremost place among physicists. Even his kaleidoscope, “the philosopher s toy,” has been turned to good practical account. “Where got you that striking pattern?” I once asked in a Birmingham warehouse. “In the kaleidoscope,” was the ready reply. Sir David also published several popular works, as “The Life of Newton,” “Martyrs of Science,” “Letters on Natural Magic,” and “More Worlds than One.” His articles in the quarterlies were many and interesting. Among those contributed to the “North British Review,” one deserves special notice. In 1845 Sir David reviewed the fourth edition of “The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,” a work which, at the time, was as much talked of as Mr Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was later. In this paper Sir David’s great ability, varied accomplishments, and tact as a Christian apologist, stand very boldly out. His facts in disproof of the author’s confident assertions were overwhelming. Indeed, the review was virtually the death of that work as a plea for materialism, It contains, moreover, the refutation of several of the strongest pleas recently urged in support of the factless theory of organic evolution. My personal acquaintance with Sir David began in 1858, when I became editor of the “North British Review.” From that date till my resignation of the editorship, I had frequent communications from Sir David, both personally and by letter. At this time an article written by him gave so much offence to certain workers, that strong efforts, successful for a time, were made to keep him from a position which was his by merit. At the request of Sir James Simpson, in whose house at Trinity he was then living, and several other friends, it fell to me to inform Sir David of the cabal. I have a lively recollection of the dignified bearing of Sir David as a philosopher and as a Christian gentleman, in circumstances peculiarly trying to a man of science. The honour was later bestowed, and lustre shed on it by Sir David consenting to receive it.4

Sir David continued loyal to the evangelical party in the Church, whose views of doctrine and work he had deliberately chosen at the outset of his career. And when, on the 18th of May 1843, the Disruption took place, he joined the procession from St Andrew’s Church to Canonmills Hall, his brother, the venerable Dr Brewster of Craig, leaning on his arm—fit representatives of Scottish science and Scottish piety. Sir David had, in the heat of the conflict, been a valued adviser of those who took an active and prominent part in it. Its close brought him into even more familiar and friendly relations with them. The College arrangements of the Free Church got much of his attention. The institution of the Chair of Natural Science in the New College, and the appointment of his friend Dr Fleming as its first Professor, greatly gratified him.5

Sir David was twice married—first, in 1810, to Juliet, youngest daughter of James Macpherson, M.P., Esq. of Belleville, editor of “Ossian.” Four sons and one daughter were the fruit of this marriage. Second, in 1857, to Jane, daughter of Thomas Purnell, Esq., Scarborough, by whom he had one daughter. Sir David died at his favourite country residence, Allerly, Melrose, on the 10th February 1868. His last words were, “Life has been very bright to me, and now there is the brightness beyond.” “I shall see Jesus, who created all things; Jesus who made the worlds; I shall see Him as He is.” “I have had the light for many years, and oh! how bright it is! I feel so SAFE, SO SATISFIED.”

J. D.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Charles John Brown, D.D.

Charles John Brown

Rev. Charles John Brown, D.D., Senior Pastor of the Free New North Church, Edinburgh, was born at Aberdeen, on 21st August, 1806, the fifth son of Mr. Alexander Brown, Bookseller, and Collector of the Inland Revenue for the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine, and for several years Lord Provost of Aberdeen. He received his education at the Grammar School and at Marischal College and University of Aberdeen. After an attendance of two years at the Arts Classes, he went to Edinburgh with the view of studying for the Bar. In preparation for this he entered the office of a Writer to the Signet. At this time he became a hearer of Dr. Gordon in Hope Park Chapel which was opened in 1824. Soon after he was brought under the saving power of the truth, and became a new creature in Christ Jesus. This led him to devote himself to the work of the Gospel ministry. Returning to Aberdeen, he completed his curriculum at the University, and thereafter attended the Divinity Hall, at the close of the usual course receiving license from the Presbytery of Aberdeen.

In 1831, he was elected minister of Anderston Church, Glasgow, an arduous and important charge. During the six years he remained there, he made full proof of his ministry, both as a preacher and pastor. He also took part in more public work. When the Voluntary Controversy began in 1832, he delivered very able lectures, both in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He also at that time published a small volume on the subject, the logical acuteness of whose reasoning was acknowledged even by those who differed widely from him on the points at issue.

In the year 1837 the Town Council of Edinburgh presented him to the New North Church, vacant by the translation of Dr. John Bruce to St. Andrew’s Church. This presentation he accepted, and began a ministry there of singular usefulness and success, giving himself wholly to his work, and making a deep impression, not only on his own congregation but on the whole community.

When the awakening began at Kilsyth, in 1839, Dr. Brown, as might have been expected, was deeply interested in that remarkable work, and paid several visits to the place. Returning with his heart greatly stirred, he gave his own people an account of what he had seen of the grace of God. He was not only made glad like Barnabas of old, but the sight seemed to give a new edge to his ministry. The lecture by him in the Glasgow course, on Revivals of Religion, in 1840—his subject being, “Symptoms and Fruits of a Revival of Religion”—is one of the most powerful and interesting of his publications.

At this period of his ministry, and for several years afterwards, he had a weekly class for young men, for the exposition of the Confession of Faith. This was attended by a large number of divinity students, as well as others, and many have testified to the great benefit they derived from it.

He always made conscience of preparing carefully for his ordinary pulpit work. The opening prayer before his forenoon lecture, will be memorable to all who waited on his ministry. We have heard said of it by more than one, that they could have gone home with the feeling that they had received spiritual strength from it for many days, so full was it of true devotional spirit and communion with God. But, indeed, in everything Dr. Brown was pre-eminently a man of prayer. The Lecture at which he greatly excelled, whether on the historical or doctrinal books of Scripture, was much valued, for he made history tell plainly its doctrine, and he showed the doctrinal to be powerfully practical. In his lectures and sermons there was a rare combination of intellectual power and spiritual earnestness, proceeding from a mind and heart full of the treasures of the Word. These were not given out in mere strings of texts. The armour had become his own; he had proved it. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and the Word prayed over and meditated on by day and night was in him as a well of water, ever springing up. Truly the Word of Christ dwelt in him richly in all wisdom, so that alike in the pulpit and at the Communion Table, at his prayer meetings, in his classes, in family visitation, and at the sick-bed, he fed his people with what had first of all enriched his own soul.

Dr. Brown was from the first an anti-patronage man, and, from the beginning of the Ten Years’ Conflict till its close in victory, he took the deepest interest in every movement connected with it. “The right of Christ to reign in His own house,” was felt by him to be a great principle, worth living for, and worth suffering for. He often reminded his own people and others that the battle must be fought in the strength and grace of the Lord; and for this prayer must be made by the Church to God without ceasing. His ardour throughout the struggle was not merely that of a patriot or an ecclesiastic, but of a public servant of God, jealous for the honour of his risen Lord and Saviour. He thus gave peculiar help all through the controversy, by keeping up in the minds of brethren a high spiritual tone. Although without Dr. Candlish’s wonderful versatility, Dr. Cunningham’s learning and invincible argumentative power, Dr. Buchanan’s statesman-like tact and knowledge of the Church and the world, or Dr. Guthrie’s great gifts of imagination and pathos, Dr. Brown gave invaluable assistance to the chief captains who bore the burden and heat of that ever-memorable time. He was called to take part in many grave public meetings, he was sent to visit the Strathbogie Presbytery, and also as a deputy to Ireland along with Dr. Guthrie, a visit to which he often afterwards referred. He also rendered useful service in conferences with influential persons, which, as a Christian gentleman, he often conducted with peculiar effect. The combination of warm catholicity, with great doctrinal and denominational earnestness was a peculiar feature in his character. At the memorable Convocation in November, 1842, he took an active part, and one speech which he delivered there, showing no common logical and legal power, was known to have had great influence on the minds of the assembled ministers. On the first Sabbath after the Disruption, Dr. Brown, by appointment of the General Assembly, preached in the Tanfield Hall in the afternoon, from the text, “I have set watchmen on thy walls, O Jerusalem; which shall never hold their peace, day nor night.” There seemed a deep impression produced on the 3000 worshippers.

Nearly all his congregation left the Establishment along with him, and worshipped for several months in Argyle Square Chapel, kindly offered to them by Dr. Lindsay Alexander’s congregation. They afterwards met in Brighton Street Church and Potterrow Church till they occupied their present place of worship in Forrest Road in June, 1848.

During the autumn of 1843 he went with others as a deputation to England, to explain the principles of the Free Church, and obtain contributions for the Central Building Fund. He was much in London, and enjoyed greatly the sympathy and fellowship of the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel, and other evangelical ministers of the Church of England.

When the Assembly of 1844 drew near, it was felt by many, and very strongly by Dr. Brown, that after a “Ten Years’ Conflict” for what many would deem the mere outworks of the Church, there was great danger of the people sinking into apathy and settling down into a dry Non-Intrusion body, without spiritual life. Under this impression much prayer was invited for the Assembly of 1844; and, when it met, it was resolved to devote Tuesday, the 21st May, to special religious services. That was a memorable day. Dr. Brown was called to preach before the Assembly, and, short as the notice was, he preached with unusual power from Habakkuk 2:1, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.” The solemn views there given of a minister’s responsibility and aim made a deep impression. The sermon was largely circulated, not only in Scotland, but elsewhere. Having been read by an eminent dignitary of the Church of England, he sent a copy of it to all the clergymen in his diocese. Dr. Brown at this time also published a letter addressed to the excellent Edward Bickersteth, the object of which was to give information on the subject of the Free Church to evangelical Episcopalians in England, by many of whom it had been much misunderstood. It may here be added, as the issue of that day’s proceedings, that a Committee was appointed, with Dr. Brown as convener, for sending through all the Presbyteries of the Church preaching deputations of two and two, to rouse the people to increased attention to the things that belonged to their peace; a movement which gave a quickened tone to the ministrations of the pulpit, and was blessed to many souls. Dr. Brown, however, found the business details of this Committee too much for him.

Naturally possessing an impulsive and mercurial temperament, which sometimes was misunderstood by those who did not know him well, he could never do work by halves. Whatever he did, he did with all his might, often indeed wasting his great nervous energy on details which could have been done more easily by less able men. This overstrain brought on a very serious illness, by which he was laid aside from all work for nearly two years. In the providence of God, this long rest may have strengthened him for the good work he was still to do, amid intervals of ill health, for nearly thirty years after. From 1846 to 1857, he was able for full duty, and his manifold labours were followed with a blessing from on high. But periods of weak health now ensued. After several temporary assistants, the Rev. Andrew Crichton was ordained as his colleague in 1860; and on his translation to Dundee, the Rev. R. G. Balfour, of Rothesay, became his colleague in 1866. Dr. Brown, however, was able till 1876 to take a share of the work of the Congregation as well as more public duty.

Dr. Brown was invited from time to time to address the Theological Students at the New College. His valuable book “The Divine Glory of Christ,” the indirect proofs from Scripture of our Lord’s Divinity, was one result of these addresses. The substance of later addresses to them may be found in a collected form in “The Ministry, being Addresses to Students of Divinity in 1872.” He there discusses shortly but powerfully and practically such subjects as the connection between Godliness and the Christian ministry, Public Prayer, Preaching—its properties, place, and power, &c.

At the Assembly of 1863, Dr. Buchanan moved for the appointment of a Committee to consider the subject of union with the United Presbyterian Church. In seconding this motion, Dr. Brown made a speech, distinguished by great ability, and some tender allusions, which touched the Assembly, to the too strong things which in the heat of the Voluntary controversy had fallen from the lips and the pens of both parties in that memorable controversy. This speech gave very much the keynote to the subsequent discussions on the question. In the joint meetings of the various Union Committees, his warmly devotional and brotherly spirit helped to make their intercourse most pleasant and refreshing, while his thorough knowledge of all the questions which successively arose, and his logical acuteness, were of real value.

Dr. Brown was called by the voice of the Church to fill the Moderator’s chair in 1872, an office which his state of health at the time happily enabled him to accept. In his address at the opening of the Assembly he referred in a very striking way to the providential band of God in circumstances preceding and preparing for the Disruption. In his closing address he spoke of the duties of ministers and elders in a way fitted to elevate and impress them. Both addresses were subsequently printed.

In all the work of his Congregation, Dr. Brown took the deepest interest. Their Home Mission and other work by his office-bearers and people were greatly helped by him. While he spared no personal labour, as in the matter of the Cowgate Territorial Congregation, in connection with their church and manse, yet he did even more by his hearty encouragement to all in their Christian work, wisely considering that he could thus do more good than by involving himself in details which others could do, and which would take him off from the ministry of the Word and prayer. The spiritual temperature of the members and office-bearers being kept high, there was no jarring or jealousy. Never had any minister a more attached or united congregation; and they have been a highly favoured one. One of the latest acts by which they showed their attachment to Dr. Brown, was the presentation to him and his family, of his portrait, an admirable likeness, painted by Mr. Norman Macbeth.

Ever longing for the revival of religion, he prepared several of the papers for United Prayer from time to time, and the movement in 1874, at the time of Mr. Moody’s visit, warmly engaged his heart. Akin to this it may be mentioned that several of the Pastoral Addresses issued by the General Assembly were prepared by him.

A wish had been often expressed that he would prepare a volume of sermons for publication. Various reasons long prevented him from complying with this desire. Besides his state of health, there was the difficulty arising from his mode of study. Gifted with an excellent memory, he studied his subjects most laboriously, but committed little to paper, and scarcely ever wrote out a sermon or lecture till after delivery—even then only in few cases. He was able, however, to comply with the wishes of his friends, by the publication of a volume, in 1874, entitled “The Word of Life, being Selections from the Work of a Ministry.” While this volume shows the richness of his preaching, and his power in the exposition, collocation, and application of Scripture truth, it cannot give a full idea of his liveliness and warmth in the pulpit. While retaining solidity and strength in his discourses with little illustration or imaginative sentiment, in the later years of his ministry there was a growing tenderness and sympathy, shown for example by favourite hymns being often introduced with exquisite feeling in his discourses.

For the last five years he has been laid aside from his much loved work. May the Lord, whom he has served so well, comfort him with the consolation with which he has so often comforted others.

D. D.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

David Brown

David Brown

David Brown was born in Aberdeen, 17th August, 1803. He was the fourth son of Alexander Brown, bookseller, and Collector of Inland Revenue for the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine, a prominent citizen of Aberdeen, who twice filled the office of chief magistrate of the city. His mother, Catharine Chalmers, the eldest of a large and well-known family, was a member of the Original Secession Church, and bore the highest character for Christian consistency and earnestness. He was educated at the Grammar School of Aberdeen, and at Marischal College and University, where he graduated in 1821. Having completed his divinity course there, he went at the close of his fourth session to Edinburgh, somewhat uncertain, owing to theological difficulties, whether or not he should prosecute his views to the ministry. In Edinburgh, however, partly through the powerful ministry of the Rev. Dr. Gordon of the New North Church, his difficulties were removed, and he returned to Aberdeen. During his early studies, a close intimacy with the late well-known John Duncan, afterwards Professor in the New College, Edinburgh, proved in no wise favourable to his religious state. But now having experienced a great change himself, and being stimulated by conversation with Dr. Caesar Malan of Geneva, his resumed intercourse with his old friend, and, above all, Dr. Malan’s own interviews with him, resulted in the change which Dr. Brown has described in his Memoir of Dr. Duncan.

Mr. Brown was licensed in 1826, and family circumstances taking him soon after to London, he met with Edward Irving, then in the height of his popularity as a preacher in the Caledonian Chapel, Hatton Garden. Week after week he stood in the gallery, behind such men as the Duke of Sussex, Lord Brougham, Mr. Canning, and a galaxy of literary men seldom seen together, while the adjoining streets were filled with carriages. Soon after, Irving removed to Regent Square, and Mr. Brown was invited by him to become his assistant, an office which he held about a year and a-half. Irving was led to adopt peculiar views of the gifts of the Spirit, holding that the primitive gifts were never formally withdrawn from the Church, but were lost by unbelief, and might be restored when faith claimed them. This at length led to claims to the possession of these gifts by members of Mr. Irving’s congregation. Mr. Brown watched this process with much anxiety, and all the more as the gifts claimed, though having certain features not easily explained, were very different from all that he had been accustomed to think of as gifts of the Spirit. At length, finding something wrong, he resigned his post and returned to Aberdeen. His next situation was that of assistant to the minister of Dumbarton, and thereafter, in 1835, he was ordained minister in the newly-erected chapel of Ord, in the parish of Banff, and Presbytery of Fordyce. Mr. Brown set himself with great earnestness to the duties of this rural sphere, and was soon recognised as one of the most able and earnest evangelical ministers in a district of country where Moderatism had prevailed for a very long time. While at Ord he was married to Catharine Dyce, third daughter of the late Dr. William Dyce of Aberdeen, and sister of the late Mr. William Dyce, the distinguished painter, a lady of the highest gifts and character, like himself very musical, and an active helper in every good work.

Part of the quoad sacra district of Ord lay in the parish of Marnoch, and Mr. Brown naturally felt a peculiarly lively interest in the whole circumstances of the struggle of which that parish was the scene. He was present on the occasion of the settlement of Mr. Edwards, or rather he was with the parishioners outside while the mockery of ordination was going on within the church. The snow was deep on the ground, and the occasion was one of great solemnity. Mr. Brown took his share in the ministrations appointed by the General Assembly in the parishes of the seven suspended ministers of Strathbogie, especially in the parish of Glass, ministrations that were much blessed in spite of the Interdicts which the Court of Session showered on all who took part in conducting them.

At the “Convocation” in 1842, Mr. Brown adhered to the resolutions which bound the Convocationers to abandon their connexion with the State, in the event of no relief being given by the Legislature to the grievances of the Church. When the Disruption came in 1843, he left without hesitation, followed by the great majority of his people. A congregation of the Free Church was organised in the village of Cornhill, three miles off, a more convenient locality than that of the old church. A few months after the Disruption, he received a unanimous call to be minister of Free St. James’s, Glasgow, which he accepted. He was inducted in October, 1843, during the sitting of the General Assembly that met in Glasgow. Besides discharging the duties of that important charge, he superintended for two sessions the training of the Glasgow Divinity Students in Biblical criticism. He had his share, likewise, in the stirring work of organising and watering the churches, characteristic of the time, and during an evangelistic tour in the Presbyteries of Stirling and Auchterarder, witnessed scenes of blessing never to be forgotten.

Having in 1845 contributed a series of papers to the Free Church Magazine on the question of the Premillennial Advent, then creating a considerable stir among many of the most estimable ministers and elders of the Church, he was induced by the editor, the late Rev. Dr. Hetherington, to recast them and form them into a volume. In 1846 the first edition was published; the second, in 1847, was virtually a new work. The book has gone through six or seven editions in all, and it has been generally accepted as the standard exposition of the anti-premillennial side of the question.

When the British and Foreign Evangelical Review was started by the late Rev. Dr. Andrew Cameron, Mr. Brown was sought by him as a collaborateur. Among his papers in this journal were— “John Albert Bengel,” “Sir William Hamilton on the Apocalypse,” “Maurice’s Theological Essays,” “Professor Jowett on the Epistles of St. Paul,” “Revision of English New Testament,” “John of Barnevelt and the Synod of Dort,” “The Miraculous Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was during this period that the degree of D.D. was conferred on him by the College of Princeton, New Jersey.

In 1854 he was appointed by the General Assembly Convener of the Committee for the Conversion of the Jews, and he continued to hold the office till his appointment to a theological chair.

In 1856, at the urgent request of Messrs. William Collins & Co., publishers, he undertook the preparation of a “Portable Commentary on the New Testament,” to be published in monthly parts; the commentary to occupy, so far as possible, no more space than the text. This work went on at intervals till the Epistle to the Romans was reached; but as no condensation could pack a commentary on that book into anything like the same space as the text, it was issued in a separate form, and was afterwards somewhat abridged for the “Portable Commentary.” The process of extreme compression, however, was distasteful, and by and by Dr. Brown set about the preparation of a larger commentary on the New Testament for the use of ministers who had neither time nor inclination to consult purely critical commentaries, and for cultivated private Christians. The first volume, embracing the Gospels, was issued in 1863, and has been repeatedly reprinted. The second, embracing Acts and Romans, was issued some years thereafter, and the concluding volume was the work of a clergyman of the Church of England.

In May, 1857, the General Assembly appointed Dr. Brown to the Chair of Apologetics, Exegesis of the Gospels, and Senior Church History in Aberdeen. All these branches he continued to teach till 1875, when a separate Chair of Church History was instituted, to which the Rev. Dr. Binnie was appointed. A few years after his return to Aberdeen, his Alma Mater, the University of Aberdeen, conferred on Dr. Brown its own degree of D.D.

In 1870, the Convocation of the English Church of the Province of Canterbury having appointed a committee of Biblical scholars of their own Church, with power to associate with them scholarly men of other denominations for the revision of the Authorised Version of the Bible, Dr. Brown was chosen one of the New Testament Company, who were to sit four days a-week in each month (save August and September), until the work should be completed. Dr. Brown has taken a great interest in the work, never having been absent from the meetings except during the College session. After the labour of nearly ten years, the work is understood to be now all but completed.

The lifelong intimacy of Dr. Brown with the late Professor John Duncan led to his being asked by Dr. Duncan’s Trustees to prepare a Memoir of his remarkable friend, which appeared in 1872. Two large editions of that work have been exhausted, and a supplementary volume, entitled “The late Rev. Dr. John Duncan in the Pulpit and at the Communion Table,” is now also out of print.

In 1876, Principal Lumsden having died, Dr. Brown was appointed by the General Assembly Principal of the Free Church College of Aberdeen, which office, along with his professorship, he continues to hold.

Among the more fugitive literary pieces of Dr. Brown were several papers, chiefly in Church history, contributed to the Sunday Magazine chiefly during the editorship of his friend and relation Dr. Guthrie. They were uniformly vigorous, substantial, and well toned. Mr. Strahan, the publisher, used to say that whatever Dr. Brown sent was “always good.”

Nor ought we to omit mention of a touching volume bearing the title, “Crushed Hopes Crowned in Death.” It was the memoir of the short life of his eldest son, a young man of remarkable talents, who, after a distinguished career at Oxford, had gone to India, but was driven homeward by illness, and died during the voyage. The title delicately indicates that it was the discipline of sickness and the shadow of death that led him, after a period of darkness, to manifest that assured trust in the Saviour, which to his parents was the token of answered prayers and of the presence of Him who leadeth the blind by a way that they know not.

Dr. Brown is one of the men who have helped to sustain a high tone of scholarship in the Free Church, and always in connection with orthodox views and high spirituality of mind.

W. G. B.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

John Bruce, D.D.

John Bruce

It is said that our Queen, after seeing an exhibition portrait of a certain minister, said, “Let me have another look at the dear old man.” Of those who once have known him, we suppose that there is not one who will fail to receive a peculiar pleasure on looking at the portrait of Dr. Bruce. It is a pleasure to think that he is still spared to the Church and land, and that, though tried with infirmities incidental to old age, he is a very happy man, quietly waiting for his nunc dimittis.

Born in the Manse of Forfar, 30th November, 1794; ordained at Guthrie in September, 1818; translated to New North Church, Edinburgh, in February, 1831; and thence to St. Andrew’s, Edinburgh, 1836; married to Miss Ramsay in 1836, who died in 1841, and to Miss Abercrombie in September, 1845, who died in January, 1857, and whose daughter succeeds to that name—Miss Bruce,—which is so fragrant in the memory of those who knew his sister in the Manse;—such are the external notes of the career of John Bruce, who now, though happily surviving, is to many a pleasant memory of an active ministry, in which he gained an amount and quality of affectionate veneration, or revering affection, from his own flock and from all who knew him well, such as is very rarely paralleled in the history of the Churches.

We shall speak of him as he was known to the Church and general community before being laid aside (in September, 1869) from the work of the pastorate. Even his bodily aspect was memorable. At one time it was said that the three beautiful men of Edinburgh were the three Rev. Doctors, John Brown of Broughton, Muir of St. Stephen’s, and Bruce of Free St. Andrew’s. In Dr. Bruce’s case the beauty, while delicate and spirituelle, was austerely masculine. He was thin in figure, and not lofty in stature. Yet any expert in manhood, observing him pass along the street in his quietly meditative manner, would have marked him as a clean-built and strenuous man, a physical athlete. But what dwells in the heart’s memory is the intellectual and moral aspect of one whose bust, as emerging in the pulpit, appeared that of an idealised Roman centurion. A noble brow, overshadowed with dark rolling hair, a face of melancholy grandeur, often lighted up with a wonderfully sweet smile, and—from those eyes, so deep and tender—an occasional glint of ethereal humour, weird and subtle; those features at once come back to recollection as soon as we begin to recall the man to mind.

But these were only the meet garment, or transparent veil, of nobler characters further “ben;” those characters which occasioned his peculiarly close personal intimacy with the great Chalmers, whom he now remembers well, after he has forgotten all other men of his past time. To the apprehension of his flock, and of others who knew him well, he was a perfect minister, in respect not only of preaching power and pastoral assiduity, but, also and especially, of personal gifts and graces, shining through all his public and private intercourse with them. To them he was a rarely pure and lofty gentleman serving Christ in the Gospel ministry, and as winsome as he was lofty. Along with authority, which was firm though gentle, he evinced towards the flock, both lambs and sheep, a peculiar affectionateness, a truly paternal familiarity, often running into sallies of playful humour, the outcome of a sanctified bonhomie and gaiety of heart, which in his case curiously blended with keen shrewd insight into men and things. A chance conversation with him on the street, a visit from him in the family, a students’ breakfast-party at the manse, a meeting of Kirk-Session or Deacons’ Court, a talk with collectors or Sabbath-school teachers;—perhaps no such occasion of coming into close intercourse with him ever passed away without leaving an abiding sense, a fragrant memory, of his many-sided Christian geniality.

One who knew him in his highest moods has said to us:—You cannot account for the peculiar impression made by Dr. Bruce, even through his preaching, when it was most austerely intellectual, or almost wildly imaginative, unless you take into view, as a thing in respect of which he excelled all other Christian teachers of our time, his completeness of humanity, his all-round comprehensiveness of sympathy. Over the mantle-piece, students at his breakfast parties observed, in Dr. Bruce’s own hand, this subscription to a picture of Chalmers, “The Numidian lion sleeping in the sun.” He was at home with Chalmers in his loftiest moods of solitary contemplation. But he was equally at home with a kitten gambolling on the hearth. His humaneness was complete. His sympathy seemed to be vividly in relation to all sentient creatures. Those who have closely studied the secret sources of social success, in private intercourse or in public assemblies, and who know how much depends on a look or a tone from the heart, will understand how largely a Christian minister must have gained upon the minds and hearts of his flock through that gift or grace, of quick and true and tender sympathy, so widely comprehensive in its range.

Dr. Bruce was one of those ministers who love to “dwell among their own people.” It is known that he twice refused to be Moderator of Assembly. His church is to this hour, in marked measure, sensibly and almost visibly a home of Christian worshippers. His junior colleague is well qualified to sustain in the congregation the character of domesticity in connection with what is loftiest in religion. But even at this hour, visitors to Free St. Andrew’s, renewing their sense of domesticity as the genius loci, will instinctively think of Dr. Bruce as the prime originator, and say, “The cask has retained the flavour of that which filled it.”

Homekeeping and peaceful, the doctor, as he was wont to remember with much glee, on some occasions played the man of war. And on those occasions he manifested a hearty relish for sheer fun, which cannot with propriety be spoken of in connection with his pulpit services, and yet which cannot be left unmentioned by any one giving a faithful delineation of this dear old man. Is it Charles Lamb that said that our generation shows degeneracy from the Shakespearean by incapacity of relishing bad jokes? In the once famous Moderatorship Controversy (A.D. 1837), Mr. Bruce published a small pamphlet about a conversation, to which he had been witness, between Dr. Chalmers and another grandee of the Church. The peroration was to this effect:—Christian people may think that in thus doing battle I have departed from the meekness of the Gospel; but the meekest man on earth, when he saw an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, killed the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand. The grandee lamented bitterly his being alluded to as “an Egyptian.” But Mr. Bruce, who had no more malice than a dove, must have keenly enjoyed the fun resulting from the happiness of the allusion, as well as from the ruffling of the equanimity of that ecclesiastical grandee; for long after, in the terrific college controversy in the Free Church, Dr. Bruce, at the end of a presbytery speech, reminded his hearers that they ought not to wonder at his taking part in this strife of tongues, seeing that in his comparative youth, when he saw an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand.

But his true battlefield was the pulpit—with its complementary pastoral care. Dr. Bruce’s preaching was always evangelical. But many of his pulpit contemporaries were as earnestly evangelical as he was; and of them some had far greater gifts of popular oratory than he had, and others had more of naked intellectual strength. Yet, in that golden age of the Edinburgh pulpit, he had a success as preacher which in some respects was unique. A marked characteristic of his pulpit ministration was the extent to which it proved (in the highest sense) winning and commanding to the highest type of men. Among these we include such as, like Robert McCheyne and William Burns, were peculiarly high in respect of spirituality and earnestness. But they, it will be observed, were men of great intellectual power. The students of greatest intellectual power were attracted to his ministrations in a proportion far beyond the proportion attracted elsewhither by the greatest pulpit oratory of the time. And it is a “public secret” that his ministry proved attractive and beneficent to a very unusually large number of highly intellectual men who otherwise stood in no friendly relation to the Christian Church.

What—under God—was the secret of this peculiar power for good? Perhaps there can be no answer to this question. Divine grace, leading him to see clearly and speak strongly in relation to the things of God, was shared by others. And perhaps beyond this the secret is undefinable. It is largely represented by the expression, genius. It becomes more clear to us when we remember that this man of genius had wonderful comprehensiveness of sympathy, so that from his own heart he spoke to the heart of every man, and woman, and child. But still, as we endeavour to grasp the precious secret, the primary condition eludes our grasp:—He so succeeded because he was John Bruce, purified and exalted by grace, but always John Bruce. We despair of defining the primary condition; and will consent to the humbler office of indicating certain secondary aspects.

From the typical Boanerges of the pulpit he was entirely different. His discourses were closely read. His reading, and speaking, at the outset, was notably quiet, with an unaffectedly strong Forfarshire accent; and he had no “gesture” whatever at the outset. But even from the outset, as soon as the minister came into view on his way to the pulpit, there was a certain impressiveness of aspect, as if of one under the power of things spiritual and eternal. His prayers were sensibly in the spirit of prayer, sensibly representing the exercise of a sinful creature at the foot of the throne of a holy God, humbly yet hopefully wrestling for promised blessings. And thereupon came the discourse, in which his peculiar power was felt though not comprehended.

His published series of discourses on Samson and on Gideon might lead a true critic like Hugh Miller to say that they reveal a certain Miltonic majesty, and solemnity, and moral imagination. But one who had heard the discourses might feel impelled to say, when hearing such criticism of mere readers, what Aeschines said after listening to the applause of those who had heard him recite the oration of his rival, Demosthenes, On the Crown,— “Ah! but what if you had heard (the monster) himself.” No printed discourse of Dr. Bruce can ever approach to his sermons; for a sermon consists not only in the discourse, but in the discourse along with the congregation and the preacher.

He never was a professed exegete according to the methods of the schools. Students believed that he was avowedly non-learned, because his only professed “reading” was in the Bible and Pascal’s “Thoughts.” But he deeply meditated on the few things he chose to read, as well as on the many things he saw and felt. Meditation, an almost “lost art” in our time, was a marked characteristic of his preaching. It is not unlikely that one reason why he attracted so many lofty minds is to be found in the amplitude of his elevated meditation on the great things of God. The habit of meditation, of, so to speak, solitary contemplation, in disregard of miscellaneous “book” learning, may have occasioned a certain appearance of strangeness in his views and utterances. Some said that his method of ascertainment was best represented by the Latin word rimare—as if his mind had been one of those birds which, peering into nooks and crannies, find jewels where no other creature would have seen anything. Some said—stupidly—that he characteristically found things where they are not. And in truth, there was in his preaching much that must have been disconcerting to the plain scholastic mind—stupid or clever.

For instance, what can that plain scholastic mind make of this:—Dr. Bruce, with great earnestness, preaches about the nexus. A steam-engine is a good thing, and so is a train of carriages filled with would-be passengers. But there can be no travelling,—it is all “no go”—unless there be the nexus, between steam-engine and carriages. The simply scholastic mind is offended, thinking that this minister is preaching about railway secular business. But Dr. Brace’s ordinary qualified hearers know that, when he so emphatically affirms the vital importance of the nexus, he is really preaching about the necessity of saving faith. Again, the scholastic man hears him prelect on “the four elementary operations of Arithmetic.” Addition is necessary; subtraction must be added; besides, multiplication is very important; but oh! my brethren, be sure that you have division (pronounced deveeshon), along with addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The sheer scholastic mind does not take in the fact, well understood by ordinary hearers, that Dr. Bruce, in a way memorably impressive to them, though in somewhat fantastic form, is emphasising and illustrating great truths of religion.

Strangeness there was, not oddity, in his case. Those things which in isolation, of prosaic reporting, appear grotesque, were in his case only picturesque. And under his master-hand the picturesque continued to be vividly impressive and memorable when it rose to be morally sublime. Thus, preaching about the dead body of Moses, Dr. Bruce impressed our mind and heart powerfully, with the, so to speak, physical circumstantials of the wilderness behind, and Canaan before. A whole tragic history was thus laid before us, and we were deeply impressed with the singular event of the disappearance of the dead body of Moses. The orator, who had no thought of being an orator, thus placed us on the spot where Moses died, and in the perplexed condition of contemporaneous Israel, which did not know what to think of the mysterious disappearance of his body. This, at first sight, was a very grand historical description, of the wilderness, and the wilderness warfare and suffering, and of Moses, simply as the man of God, consciously looking his first and last look on Canaan. But underlying this there was a spiritual principle, which was the real theme of discourse, that those who once have got into Canaan shall never more see the dead body of Moses. For Dr. Bruce it was perhaps impossible to avoid the question,—rimare,—what is meant by the debate (in Jude 9) between the good angel and the bad. In ostensibly perfect good faith, he set forth two theories:—(1.) That the bad angel simply tried to reason or persuade the good angel into telling what was the site of Moses’ grave; and (2.) That what the unclean demon sought to do was, to worry and “chaff” the good spirit from heaven, so that this latter should be provoked into blurting out revelation of the secret. Even this grotesque episode served to deepen the main impression, and the main impression of deep spiritual truth became inseparably blended with a grand historical picture of the death of Moses.

At the opening of Stockbridge Church, a daughter of St. Andrew’s, Dr. Bruce preached on John 3:1, &c. The substratum of his discourse was solid earnest utterance of the evangelical doctrine of the work of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. But the special aspect of it was a new view of the figure of a Wind, as representing the Divine Spirit, not simply in respect of sovereign freeness, but in respect of desolation preparing for rehabilitation. Gradually the doctor’s description placed us in a hurricane, from which we vainly strove to flee away, and which drove away into nothing every refuge. Yes: every refuge; this Wind has for a first work the demolition of all refuges of lies, leaving the sinner houseless and naked, in order that God may house him and clothe him.

On such occasions, with imaginative splendour of conception and diction, and glowing power of utterance through gesture as well as word, Dr. Bruce often wore the aspect of a prophet, or eloquent seer, sometimes almost Berserker of the pulpit. But the more we endeavour to show what he was, and how, the more we consciously fail.

J. M.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

George Buchan of Kelloe

The late George Buchan, Esq. of Kelloe, was born on the 29th of May 1775, in Adam Square, Edinburgh. Excepting one who died in infancy, he was the eldest son in a family of seven sons and seven daughters. Of the sons, only General Sir John Buchan, a distinguished peninsular officer, and the subject of this Memoir, lived to years of maturity. One of the daughters afterwards became Mrs Fordyce of Ayton.

Mr Buchan was of ancient and honourable lineage on both sides. His great-grandfather was a son of Mr Buchan of Auchmacoy, in Aberdeenshire, and was descended from the early Earls of Buchan. His grandfather owned the estates of Letham in East Lothian, and Kelloe and Cumledge in Berwickshire; and his father succeeded to the Berwickshire property. His paternal grandmother was Christian, daughter of Sir Francis Grant, Bart. of Monymusk, in the county of Aberdeen. His own mother was Anne, fourth daughter of the Right Honourable Lord President Dundas of Arniston, sister to Henry Dundas, the first Viscount Melville, and sister-in-law to Admiral Duncan of Camperdown. He was thus connected with many distinguished Scotch families.

When about fifteen years of age, Mr Buchan obtained an appointment in the Madras Civil Service, and sailed for that destination in May 1792, in the Winterton East Indiaman, commanded by Captain George Dundas. The voyage was a most disastrous one. On the 20th August, after the Indian Ocean had been reached, the vessel, with 280 souls on board, was wrecked on a coral reef north from Augustine’s Bay, on the coast of Madagascar. A narrative of the loss of the Winterton, with an account of Madagascar, was published by Mr Buchan in 1820, which contains a vivid and heartrending account of the loss of life involved in the shipwreck, and the sufferings endured by the hapless survivors. Two days after the wreck, on the vessel breaking up, the captain and forty-seven others were drowned. Mr Buchan was thrown into the sea, the darkness of night adding to the horrors of the situation; and after having been twice washed from a plank to which he had clung, was providentially floated alongside part of the dismembered ship, which formed a raft, whereon were about forty of his companions, who drew him up among them. This raft grounded on an inner reef, and for four days they suffered fearfully from hunger, thirst, and cold: the blood and raw flesh of a live pig which had been on the wreck forming their chief sustenance. On the sixth day after the wreck the famished castaways were rescued by some native canoes; only to commence a toilsome week’s journey on foot to Tullear, where the king resided. Mr Buchan had lost his shoes, and, to use his own words, “had all in life depended on it, he could not have gone many miles further.” Though kindly treated, it was seven months ere an opportunity occurred of leaving the island, and during that time nearly a hundred of the survivors died. Those who still remained experienced a further delay of two months at Mozambique; and when near Ceylon they were captured by a French privateer, and detained three months more at the Mauritius, so that they did not reach Madras until January 1794, having been over twenty months on the passage.

In his appointment, Mr Buchan’s talents and faithfulness soon raised him to a high position, and he became chief secretary to the government at Madras in which responsible office he served his country till 1809.

Continued ill health and urgent private reasons then induced him to return to Scotland, when he took up his residence chiefly at Kelloe.

Disastrous as Mr Buchan’s voyage to India had been, it was not the only occasion on which he was exposed to the perils of the deep. At one time the ship in which he was a passenger grounded on a shoal, and was nearly lost; at another, the vessel sprang a leak in rough weather, and, though suffering from the effects of a recent illness, he had to take his turn at the pumps along with others, until the sea was washing over the deck. In this case the ship went down only a few minutes after those on board had left her. They suffered several days of great privation in a small boat, and had relinquished all hope of escape, when they were providentially carried through a raging surf to the rocks. Again, an unseen Hand guided him past a ship in which it seemed likely he would take his passage for Malacca. His luggage was actually sent off, but circumstances prevented his leaving by the same vessel; and shortly after, every European on board of her was murdered by the Malays. At yet another time his passage home had been taken in one of the vessels of a fleet about to leave Madras. To his great disappointment, he was prevented from embarking. The fleet encountered a storm, and the ship in which he had engaged to sail was never again heard of. A month later he was sent home on confidential business by the Madras Government, and arrived in England as soon as the remaining part of the ill-fated fleet.

But notwithstanding all these deliverances, and though possessing high mental endowments, and transparent integrity and truthfulness in all his engagements, yet—as he afterwards lamented and published—Mr Buchan was still under the darkness of unbelief, and it was not until after his return from India that he was called out of this darkness into God’s marvellous light. The influence of near and dear relatives, including the late Mr Robert Cathcart of Drum, W.S., was, we believe, greatly blessed to him in this connection; and one work which he read at this time with absorbing interest, and to which he frequently in after life referred, was Lord Lyttleton’s treatise on the conversion of Paul. As was to be expected in one of his naturally decided and energetic character, Mr Buchan now heartily joined his excellent sisters in carrying out the works of Christian benevolence in which he found them engaged, and in promoting others on a large scale. Amongst these we can only mention the multiplication of Sabbath schools, himself taking active part as a teacher; extension of a valuable circulating library, and the wide dissemination of religious and morally wholesome periodical literature; also, at a somewhat later period, the establishment of a day-school at Kelloe House, and the maintenance of home missionaries in various localities. Kelloe House thus became a sacred centre, and the Sabbath school was long a nursery for heaven.

In 1825 Mr Buchan was ordained an elder in the parish church of Edrom, and, as such, he most worthily exercised the elder’s office, spending great part of his time in visiting throughout a wide district, at the same time dispensing a munificent but discriminating charity. Among many striking instances of the blessed results of these visits, we can only briefly refer to two. One was a veteran soldier and huntsman, who had been in the royal army at Prestonpans, and had reached extreme old age in a state of great spiritual ignorance, but who before his death, which happened in 1831, in his 105th year, gave undoubted evidence of having passed from darkness to light, through Mr Buchan’s agency. The other was the writer’s own brother, who in his last days was brought to a clear view and blessed experience of salvation through the visits and conversation of Mr Buchan; the thought of whose great kindness still calls up deep emotions of admiration and gratitude.

At Kelloe House evangelical clergymen of all denominations were frequent and honoured guests; and full advantage was taken of their presence to have meetings for prayer and preaching of the gospel in a large apartment within the house, and at various points on the estate. Mr Buchan’s society was also sought and prized by not a few of those whose Christian philanthropy has earned for them the lasting gratitude of their country. Among his attached friends and correspondents, we name only Hannah More, Mr Wilberforce, Dr Chalmers, and Dr Gordon.

For many years Mr Buchan was a member of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and, as such, zealously supported the spread of true religion and the maintenance of spiritual independence in the Church. In 1841 he seconded Dr Candlish’s conciliatory motion; also, he was sent with Principal Dewar and Mr Dunlop for the Commissioner, who was absent, when the deposed Strathbogie ministers attempted to serve an interdict on the Assembly. Though strongly conservative, and formerly favourable to patronage, if restricted;—yet in 1842 he seconded the motion for its abolition, decidedly holding that to preserve spiritual independence, both patronage and State connection must, if necessary, be given up. He had, in 1840, published “A Historical Sketch of the Church of Scotland,” an able pamphlet, wherein are the following sentences: “The Church of Scotland possesses an inherent and indefeasible right of internal jurisdiction in all spiritual matters, derived from the supreme Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, a right which has been recognised by various statutes, especially those of 1567, 1592, and 1690.” Again, “The great point in our Church should be to recognise most distinctly, and maintain most firmly, the principle of non-intrusion; for if relinquished, the days of the Church of Scotland are certainly numbered: then would be an end of her character and stability as a national Church.” He held these principles to the last with unwavering decision.

Throughout the “ten years’ conflict” Mr Buchan’s services to the were invaluable. His hospitable mansion at Kelloe became more than even formerly the resort of evangelical clergymen and laymen, especially those directly interested in the non-intrusion controversy. There they were always sure of finding sympathetic intercourse and hearty support. The prominent place which Mr Buchan held in the county, his high intelligence, gentlemanly bearing, and sterling Christian worth, made his name a tower of strength on the side of those who struggled for “the Church of Scotland free.” A severe accident which he sustained in being thrown from his horse prevented him from being present at the Disruption Assembly.6 In the Free Assembly of 1844, and again in 1845, he sat as a representative of the Presbytery of Dunse and Chirnside.

For many years Mr Buchan had been dissatisfied with the ministrations in his parish church; and, in consequence, he, along with others, carried out the erection of Boston Church at Dunse, in which from 1840 he was an office-bearer under Mr Cousin, now of Melrose; and, from 1848 till his death, under Mr Manson.

From 1813, when he entered on the possession of Kelloe, Mr Buchan took a large share in county business, for which he had a special aptitude, and in the discharge of which he exhibited marked ability. In this public activity he continued to the last, interesting himself keenly in the wellbeing of all classes of the population. His liberality was like a flowing river, widening as it proceeds. The extent of his charities was never known; and he was one who carefully shunned all display in such matters. While his own domestic arrangements were a perfect model for a gentleman’s house, supplies of coals, food, clothing, cordials, and money were given to the deserving poor, whether on his own property or not, with a liberality that was princely in character. His minister, Mr Manson, at Dunse, had a commission to give away whatever he saw to be necessary, and send the account to him. Every good cause, indeed, was freely supported. To students in difficulties, and ministers suffering from illness or exhausted by work, he ever most readily gave assistance, as the writer of this sketch can personally testify. Sometime after his return to Scotland, he had invested £1000 for mission work in Madagascar, and the interest on that sum having accumulated over many years, the gift was found a most valuable one when a door of entrance to that island was opened. In addition to the large contributions made by him during his life-time, Mr Buchan, by his will, bequeathed a permanent annual supplement of £25 to the minister of Boston Church, £3000 to the Sustentation Fund, £1500 for Aged and Infirm Ministers, £500 for Bursaries, and £5000 for the Missionary Schemes of the Free Church. Old and valued servants in his family were also handsomely remembered.

From what has been already said, some general idea will, we trust, be obtained of the varied and remarkable life experience of the subject of this sketch, as well as of the high qualities that distinguished his personal character. We have referred to his great capacity for business; and in this relation his ready grasp of principles, his quick decision, and faculty of command, fitted him to take the lead in affairs, while it gave to his judgments something of a statesmanlike breadth. Ever keenly observant, both of general movements and of what affected himself more nearly, we find him at different times issuing three vigorously written pamphlets against the barbarous practice of duelling; and also (in 1829) putting forth his sentiments in the form of a volume, entitled, “Illustrations of a Particular Providence,” wherein his own remarkable experiences were devoutly referred to. And as he grew in years, his sympathies only broadened and deepened. A noteworthy feature in one whose mental character, in harmony with his physical frame, was naturally robust and self-reliant rather than softly emotional, was his great fondness for children, and his singular kindness to the lower animals. But far above all this, was his visible growth in grace. His views of the glorious gospel became clearer and richer, and his humility and love more conspicuous as he approached his latter end. When an attack of bronchitis brought him to the closing days, his chamber was in deed and in truth on the verge of heaven. His peace was wonderful; he was more than a conqueror through Christ, who had loved him; and amidst great physical suffering, he abounded in praise and triumph. His servants were called in one by one, and lovingly exhorted to seek the Lord. Having expressed much love to his niece, who had long resided with him, and to his sister and nephew, he said, “Make a bold stand for Christ!” On the 3d of January 1856, in the eighty-first year of his age, he fell asleep in Jesus.

His last days on earth had been soothed by the presence of his much-loved sister, Miss Margaret Buchan, the youngest and last remaining member of the family, a woman of elevated piety, who only survived her brother six weeks. In the closing sentence of the inscription on a marble tablet to his memory in Edrom church, it is truly said of him that, “Zealous in every good work for the service of God and the benefit of mankind, his active benevolence and munificent bounty endeared him to the poor; while his rare mental endowments, his high-toned principle, and his consistency of character, obtained universal respect and esteem.

A. S.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

James Buchanan, D.D., LL.D.

James Buchanan

Dr James Buchanan was one of those members of the Disruption band who won for himself, in the pulpit and through the press, a more than Scottish reputation, and thus shed lustre on the Church with which he was connected and the cause which he espoused. He was born in Paisley in the year 1804. He studied at the University of Glasgow, and although he had to cope with competitors of no ordinary ability, of whom Dr Candlish was one, he took a most distinguished place among his fellow-students, and one that seemed to warrant the highest expectations of his future career. Nor were these expectations belied by the actual result. After a brief ministry spent in a quiet country parish amid the classic scenes of Roslin and Hawthornden, Mr Buchanan was called to the populous and important parish of North Leith in the year 1828. Here the fame of his preaching soon filled the large church to overflowing with a crowd of admiring and delighted hearers. Many carry with them to this day a vivid remembrance of the way in which their attention was rivetted, their minds instructed, and their hearts moved by the lucid exposition, the eloquent illustration, and the tender appeal, that poured forth from the lips of the preacher in rich mellifluous stream. At times his eye would kindle, and his voice become tremulous with emotion, and a burst of impassioned earnestness would sweep over the congregation like a gust of wind upon the waters of a lake. But more commonly he was the Barnabas rather than the Boanerges of the pulpit. His doctrine dropped as the rain and distilled as the dew. His eloquence was more like the waters of Siloah that flowed slowly, than the impetuous torrent that carries everything before it. In short, while the preaching of Mr Buchanan was not wanting in intellectual force, it was much more conspicuous for its theological completeness, the chaste beauty of its style, the impressiveness and unction of its delivery. A lady who had been long in India used to say that he always reminded her of Henry Martyn.

How many actual conversions took place under that North Leith ministry the “day” alone will declare, though there is reason to believe they were not few. And we cannot doubt that it contributed largely, along with the preaching of Chalmers and Thomson, Gordon and Grey, Candlish and Guthrie, to promote that revival of evangelical religion of which we are now enjoying the fruits. During his ministry in Leith, Mr Buchanan was repeatedly laid aside for a season through ill-health, the result partly of his studious habits, and partly of the labours connected with so heavy a charge. One incidental consequence of this was the publication of those practical and consolatory works— “Comfort in Affliction,” “Improvement of Affliction,” “The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit”—which have obtained so wide a circulation, and with which, probably, more than his later and more strictly theological works, his name will be permanently associated.

These illnesses may have contributed, along with other causes, to induce him to accept, at considerable pecuniary sacrifice, the appointment to the High Church, Edinburgh, made by the Town Council in 1840. In this new position he enjoyed the advantage of having Dr Gordon for his colleague. Never surely were colleagues more suitably or happily conjoined. Never was there a congregation more highly privileged than that which enjoyed the ministry of two such men. But this pleasant fellowship and this position of peculiar privilege were not destined to be of long continuance. The Disruption took place on the 18th of May 1843, and the following Sabbath found Dr Gordon and Mr Buchanan, with almost the entire congregation of the High Church, worshipping in the Music Hall. The colleagueship continued for two years longer, when it was dissolved by mutual consent, that Mr Buchanan might devote himself to the task of raising and organizing the congregation of Free St Stephen’s, of which he was the first pastor.

In 1844 Mr Buchanan received the degree of D.D. from Princeton University, well known and deservedly esteemed in this country from its own high standing, and from its connection with Princeton Theological Seminary, the scene of the labours of the Alexanders and the Hodges, and the principal school for the training of the Presbyterian ministry in the Northern States of the Union. It was greatly to the honour of that University that it had the generosity and the discrimination to confer degrees on such distinguished foreigners as Candlish, Cunningham, and Buchanan, while it reflects lasting discredit on the governing bodies in our own Universities at the time, that they left it to Americans to recognise and reward the merit of their most distinguished sons. At a later period, when more liberal counsels began to prevail, his own Alma Mater made some amends by conferring upon him the degree of LL.D. On the death of Dr Welsh, Dr Cunningham was, as if by acclammation, appointed his successor in the Chair of Church History. With equal unanimity Dr Buchanan was called to the Chair of Apologeties vacated by Dr Cunningham, his ripe scholarship and sound judgment, the completeness of his theological survey, and his power of clear and interesting exposition, pointing him out as the most suitable man whom the Church could find to occupy the post. Another change, consequent upon the death of Dr Chalmers in 1847, placed Dr Buchanan in the Chair of Systematic Theology, which he continued to occupy till his retirement, owing to deafness and increasing infirmity, in 1868.

Of the way in which he discharged the duties of both these chairs, we have a sample in the works which he published during his professorial life, entitled, “Faith in God and Modern Atheism,” “Analogy: a Guide to Truth and an Aid to Faith,” and “The Doctrine of Justification”—this last being the Cunningham Lecture for 1866. It is only necessary to add that, besides the clearness, comprehensiveness, and sound learning of which these works give evidence, Dr Buchanan’s prelections were marked by a calm dignity and impressiveness; that there breathed through them the fragrance of a deep personal piety; and that he was affable and kindly in his private intercourse with the students. There was indeed a marked contrast in some respects between him and his beloved colleague, Principal Cunningham—the one a lion-like Luther, the other a gentle and retiring Melancthon. It is not difficult to see which would be the more popular with a band of ardent and impetuous young men, having their own share of the perfervidum ingenium Scotorum. But let us rather rejoice in the variety of these gifts, as tending to the better edification of the Church, and rejoice in this, also, that they laboured side by side for so many years with the utmost mutual confidence and esteem.

Dr Buchanan, with his fervent personal piety and strong evangelical convictions, could not but feel a deep interest in the conversion of the heathen world. Of this he gave a striking proof when, at the call of the Church, he undertook for a time the arduous and responsible work of the Convener of the Foreign Missions Committee. In this capacity he worthily followed in the footsteps of his revered predecessor Dr Gordon. During the short period in which he held this office, he published one interesting tract upon the Indian Mission; and had he not been obliged to resign, in consequence of his many other duties, he would doubtless have succeeded in extending and deepening the interest felt in this great cause, by the eloquence and impressiveness with which he enforced it. As might have been expected from his sensitive and shrinking disposition, Dr Buchanan did not often come forward on the arena of ecclesiastical debate. He had, however, decided views of the Church questions of the day, defended them fearlessly when he had opportunity, and acted on them faithfully when the time for action came.

In 1843 he published a short treatise on the “Tracts for the Times,” in the form of seven letters to an Englishman. The work is an admirable specimen of the way in which such controversies should be carried on. While the writer is thoroughly in earnest contending for the faith he loves against dangerous and deadly error, he writes as a Christian gentleman, with fairness and candour, never reviling or misrepresenting his opponents. The treatise is at once popular and learned, and it served more than any other at the time to direct the attention of the Christian public to the true bearing and tendency of the Tractarian movement. In the Voluntary Controversy he took an important part, by writing a prefatory discourse to a series of lectures on Church Establishments, in which he ably maintained the thesis, that Church and State, though essentially different and rightly independent of each other, have yet certain ends in common, and may act harmoniously towards the attainment of these ends, without any encroachment being made by either on the peculiar prerogatives of the other, and that if any evil results from such a connection, it is to be ascribed, not to the fact, but to the faulty terms of the alliance. It is easy to see that this line of defence was carefully adjusted with reference to another controversy then emerging as to the spiritual independence of the Church, and that consistency would require the writer to renounce the benefits of State connection if that independence could not be enjoyed in the Established Church. And, accordingly, when this became too evident to admit of doubt, he at once resigned his status and emoluments as a minister of the Establishment, believing that such an encroachment had been made upon its peculiar prerogatives as no church of Christ is at liberty to submit to. In the movement towards union with the United Presbyterian Church, begun in 1863, Dr Buchanan at first took no part either for or against it. When, however, a difference of opinion arose within the Free Church on the subject, some advocating the proposed union as a thing in the circumstances warrantable and expedient, and others opposing it as involving a dereliction of important principles, Dr Buchanan took the latter view; in this differing from his beloved friend and colleague, Dr Bannerman, with whom on most subjects he cordially agreed.

Dr Buchanan was twice married. His widow and family survive him. In his last illness he suffered much, but bore his suffering with exemplary patience and resignation to his Master’s will. He died on the 19th of April 1870, and was buried in the Grange Cemetery, the resting-place of Chalmers, Tweedie, Guthrie, and many more who, like them, having served their own generation by the will of God, have fallen on sleep.

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

R. G. B.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Robert Buchanan, D.D.

Robert Buchanan

Robert Buchanan was born at St Ninians on 15th August 1802. The private history of his mind, and the circumstances which led him to study for the Church as his profession, are topics which cannot be entered on in this brief notice. It may be enough to refer to the fact, that the spiritual revival which was making itself felt in Scotland, as elsewhere, reached and touched various minds by various means. Young Buchanan was brought early into contact with some of the most powerful representatives of evangelical influence. Before his ordination to his first charge, he was already intimately acquainted with Dr Andrew Thomson.

He studied, with distinction, at Glasgow, and afterwards at Edinburgh. For some years he acted as tutor in the family of Mr Home-Drummond, at Blair-Drummond during the summer, and at Edinburgh during the winter months.

His first charge was at Gargunnock, where he was settled on 6th March 1827. The day before that fixed for his settlement a tremendous snow-storm took place, which made the roads all but impassable. The writer has heard him describe how he made his way from Edinburgh to Stirling on horseback, with great fatigue and considerable risk, reaching Stirling the second day. The larger part of the journey was accomplished across country, without reference to the roads, which in many places were perfectly impracticable. From Gargunnock he was translated, in 1830, to Salton in East Lothian, where he exercised his ministry for three years.

The manner in which his pastoral efficiency and his ministerial character had approved themselves in these fields of labour, led to his being recommended for the important vacancy of the Tron Parish, Glasgow. This was the parish made famous as the scene of Dr Chalmers’ ministry, during the first portion of his stay in Glasgow. Mr Buchanan was inducted on 23d August 1833. Long before Mr Buchanan’s time, the congregation had ceased, to a great extent, to be drawn from the parish. They assembled from all parts of the city. But Mr Buchanan had embraced the maxims of Chalmers too cordially to be in danger of overlooking the interests of the parochial population. The growth of the city, and the movements of its inhabitants, had the effect of bringing to the Tron parish a continually increasing proportion of poor and neglected people. Here, for the first time, Mr Buchanan became practically acquainted with the wants and dangers of the city masses, and received impressions which were practically operative in his life, down to the very end of it.

Meanwhile the activities of the evangelical revival within the Church of Scotland were in full progress, under the leadership of Chalmers; and Buchanan’s extraordinary capacities for practical church work, and his sagacity as an adviser, made themselves abundantly manifest. By none were they more appreciated than by Dr Chalmers, with whom he was associated in Church Extension projects and excursions, as well as in other movements of these days. It is still remembered how, in speaking of his younger friend, the doctor would comment on the distinction between his clear insight and efficient work and the high-sounding talk which vexed him in other quarters.

It need hardly be said that Mr Buchanan took a cordial interest in the steps and measures, adopted with a view to reform the administration of the Scottish Established Church; and when the difficulties arose which involved the church in danger and perplexity, he rapidly acquired great influence in the conduct of affairs. The earliest Assembly in which he took a very conspicuous position was that of 1838. The first Auchterarder decision had then been given in the Court of Session, and the principles which it indicated, as likely to be affirmed as law, were occupying men’s minds. It was manifest, that in addition to the question of the rights of the people in the settlement of ministers, the wider question of the independence of the Church in her own province was coming into debate. All that the Church could do, was to make it plain without delay, how serious the issues would prove to be, if the indications given by the civil courts were followed out. To Buchanan, accordingly, was entrusted the duty of moving the “Independence Resolutions,” which struck the keynote of the struggle that followed. The manner in which he performed this duty confirmed him in his position as one of the remarkable cluster of leading minds to whom, under God, the Church looked for guidance during the years that followed.

The position which he thus took up, was achieved wholly in virtue of his admirable strength and balance of mind, his expertness in all practical affairs, and his known and proved devotedness to the public cause. He was a forcible and polished speaker, but he did not attract admiration by rhetorical brilliancy. Neither did he interest men by picturesque manifestations of personal character; for he was disposed to no singularities; and although his sympathies were wide and his affections strong, he was not the man to parade them. But he proved to be one on whom even strong men found it a comfort to lean. Very soon he was recognised as the most influential minister in the west of Scotland, and as the most powerful representative of the Evangelical party in that section of the Church. But few, comparatively, were then aware, or are yet aware, how powerfully he contributed to guide the counsels and the policy of the whole party during the years that preceded the Disruption.

A service on which he was often and long employed was to act as deputy for the Church in the wearisome and anxious, and finally fruitless, negotiations with successive Governments which arose out of the successive phases of the Disruption Controversy. His knowledge of the world, his ease in intercourse with men of all ranks, his presence of mind, and his unfailing coolness and judgment, rendered him invaluable in this department. When things were in his hands, men felt sure that what was possible would be done, and well done. If his letters to private friends written during those visits to London are still preserved, they would prove to be, we believe, even now, full of interest.

During the whole conflict he himself kept, and he was anxious that the Church should keep, carefully within the line of the position originally taken up. He was not more resolute to maintain the ground of principle, than careful to guard against exaggerations, which might expose the Church’s position to misconstruction. The motives of this comparative moderation were not always understood; and those who thought that strength of principle was synonymous with extremeness of principle, might consider him at times not sufficiently loud, or not sufficiently advanced. When the proceedings of the Convocation (November 1842) were drawing to a close, he took an opportunity of referring to this matter. He stated that he was aware that some might have thought him timid and cautious. But he had all along foreseen how the conflict might too probably end. And his anxiety had been that when the end came, the Church might be able to say, that she had all along simply maintained principles, and that no ground might exist for imputing the grave results of the controversy to mere rashness or temper on the Church’s side.

After the Disruption, Dr Buchanan’s share in the work which devolved upon the Free Church was too large and multifarious to admit of its being particularly described here. The remark already made as to his influence in counsel during the period before the Disruption is, if possible, still more emphatically applicable to the period that succeeded. Whatever might be his share in the plans adopted, he was never anxious to be prominent in the public advocacy and execution of them. His cordial admiration of his distinguished fellow-labourers led him rather to desire to impel them to the front. But whatever good guidance the affairs of the Free Church experienced during many busy and anxious years, a very large share of the credit of it must be imputed to the counsels of Buchanan. It may be added, that in the department of silent and resolute subordination of all personal feelings and interests to the peace and the well-being of the Church, few names indeed can claim a rank near to his.

Of specific services, two especially must be briefly noticed. His “History of the Ten Years’ Conflict” is at once a statement of the events which led to the separate position of the Free Church, and a vindication of the principles she professed, and of the steps taken in defence of them. It is singularly clear and comprehensive; the difficult work of selection, so important with a view to unembarrassed narrative, being performed with admirable judgment. As the Free Church grows older, the work will gain in value. Dr Buchanan publicly expressed an intention of writing an account of the first ten years of the Free Church, as the record of its upbuilding. Circumstances prevented him from executing this purpose. An expository volume on Ecclesiastes, and a very useful record of a tour in the Holy Land, were later contributions to professional literature.

It was in 1847 that Dr Buchanan became Convener of the Sustentation Fund Committee, and entered on the long series of important services which he rendered to that great fund. In addition to anxieties with respect to the amount of the yearly income and its adequacy to the purposes for which it is intended, others still more trying had to be encountered. Differences with respect to the administration and distribution of the fund gave rise to controversies, which were not the less serious that, in some instances, men of high character and intellectual force were ranked on different sides. It would be difficult to say how much the fund, and the Church which benefits by it, owed to the circumstance that a man of Buchanan’s weight of character, calmness, and firmness, presided over the fund during these periods. He had the strongest sense of the fatal effects, which the indulgence of a bitter and wrangling temper must produce in a matter like this. No labour, no sacrifice of personal feeling, no efforts of conciliation that seemed consistent with sound principles, were grudged by him, in order to avert such evils. The convener of the Sustentation Fund, indeed, is far from being an autocrat in this matter. He presides over a committee which is very large, representative in its constitution, independent in its temper, and thoroughly awake to the bearings of steps which may be proposed. But the oldest members of the committee will be most forward to testify to the manner in which their remarkable convener infused his own spirit into his associates, and contributed to form the temper and mode of view which prevails in that committee, and, it may be added, in the Church at large.

After the first absorbing years of the upbuilding of the Free Church had passed away, Dr Buchanan’s mind reverted to the case and claims of the lapsed masses in the city where he ministered. He set himself to call attention to the facts and statistics bearing on the subject, so as to awaken and impress the Christian community. But, at the same time, he set himself to practical work, in the way of rendering more efficient the agencies which his congregation maintained among the people of the Tron Church parish. In the Wynds, in that parish, the work of Mr McColl was commenced, the centre of which was the Wynd Church, erected by Dr Buchanan’s efforts. Out of the Wynd Mission have sprung directly four large congregations. These congregations have established seven other sanctioned charges, and five charges more have sprung, more or less directly, from the Wynd Church. This mission has therefore been the means, directly or indirectly, of adding to the Presbytery of Glasgow sixteen sanctioned charges, besides assisting in the formation of others. The work has proved to be the nursery of some of the very best evangelistic labourers whom Glasgow has seen. Dr Buchanan took the lead in it, in the most direct and practical way. The writer well remembers listening to him preaching, in the open air, in a close in the Wynds; his hearers partly crowding a comparatively open space, partly presenting themselves at every window, on both sides, from top to bottom of the houses, for a considerable distance along the close. An interesting incident took place on one of these occasions. A man, who had become desperate, was on his way to the river to drown himself, when his attention was attracted by the gathered people, to whom Dr Buchanan was preaching. The subject happened to be the Philippian jailor. The suitableness to his own case of the statements made in illustration, struck the unfortunate man; he became impressed, communicated after the sermon with some of those present, became apparently a changed man, and lived a consistent as well as an industrious life for years afterwards.

In the year 1857 Dr Buchanan was transferred from the Free Tron to the Free College Church, built in immediate proximity to the Free Church College. The step was the result of a strong conviction, that it was necessary to take vigorous steps to supply churches timeously, not merely to the masses in the centre of the city, but to the new districts on the outskirts, successively occupied by inhabitants of the wealthier classes. It appeared to him, that a proposal by himself to remove, with part of his congregation, was a suitable and impressive way of turning attention to this subject. A large part of the congregation remained in their old place of worship, and soon became again a numerous and powerful congregation under the ministry of Dr Walter Smith.

In the year 1860 Dr Buchanan was appointed moderator of the Free Church Assembly. His predecessor in that office, Dr Cunningham, recommended him to the Assembly as “one whose claims to this honour, and to any honour the Church can confer upon him, are of the highest order.”

Another great and absorbing service remained for Dr Buchanan to discharge, which he was not destined to see rewarded by success. In 1863 he was named convener of the committee, appointed to confer with committees of the United Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian, and English Presbyterian Churches regarding union. The history and result of the negotiations, which lasted for ten years, are known. When Dr Buchanan’s life is adequately written, the importance which he attached to this step in the history of his Church, and the sorrow with which he saw the expected union postponed for a time, may appear. For the present it may be enough to quote the statement which he made, in reference to this subject in the General Assembly of 1873:—

“Its history will be written and read when we are in our graves—written and read in a calmer and clearer atmosphere than that which now surrounds it; and for my part I am not afraid of the verdict posterity will then pronounce on the views which have been advocated on this great question by the majority of this Church. It is true that no such merely human verdict will or can be infallible. It is a light thing to be judged of men or of man’s judgment. He that judgeth us is the Lord. Speaking as in His presence, and in the great Assembly of this Church, all I shall say is this, that in looking back on what it fell to me to do, as Convener of the Union Committee of the Free Church, I am conscious of much imperfection,—conscious of having come miserably short in those high qualities that were needed for the fitting advocacy of so great and sacred a cause. But I also am conscious of having done my best to carry forward what, in my inmost soul, I believe to have been a work of God. And in this day resigning, as I shall do, into the hands of the Assembly the office which I have been so long honoured to hold, I shall do so with the earnest prayer and in the humble hope that from the field in which so much precious seed has been patiently and prayerfully sown,—sown latterly, I might truly say, in tears—some happier husbandman shall ere long come with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

It fell to the lot of Dr Buchanan to survive all the other leaders of the Disruption struggle. He did not allow the successive bereavements to abate his energy or to break his spirit; but they touched his latter years with a visible tenderness, and brought out more evidently his regard to the things unseen and eternal. The death of Dr Candlish in 1873 was a blow, which, though not unforeseen, inflicted a deep wound on Dr Buchanan’s affections. A peculiar love and confidence, equally strong on either side, existed between the two friends; and the previous bereavements which left them alone together, had tended to associate them more absolutely with one another. Whatever his feelings, however, Dr Buchanan, as usual, continued steadfastly to perform every service it was still possible to render to the Church and to the Christian cause.

In the winter of 1874-75 he accepted the proposal that he would supply for a few months the place of worship which the Free Church maintains at Rome. A tendency to bronchitic ailment, which had begun to give him some trouble, made this proposal the more welcome. He proceeded to his destination with his usual cheerfulness; and with the special interest which a residence at Rome could not but awaken, in one who felt the liveliest interest in history, and who had special aptitudes for tracing out and storing up all manner of local relations and associations. Though the winter proved unusually severe, his health did not seem to suffer from it seriously. An apparently slight indisposition had confined him to his room; but he was looking forward to completing some intended excursions before returning home. During the night, on 31st March 1875, he unexpectedly and most peacefully passed away.

Dr Buchanan was married, first, in 1827, to Miss Anne Handyside, sister of the late Hugh Handyside, Edinburgh. This lady died in 1841. He married, secondly, in 1843, Miss Elizabeth Stoddart, daughter of Laurence Stoddart, Esq., who survives him. Children of both marriages survive.

A certain refinement and selectness, combined with strength and decision, were perhaps the qualities suggested by Dr Buchanan’s countenance. Much the same impression might be derived from his whole appearance. Fond of all athletic exercises in his youth, and successful in them, his fine form and carriage were impressive to the last. In private, he was a charming associate; full of knowledge, a strong and ready converser, and in the highest degree companionable. His Christian character partook of the stability and consistency which marked the whole man. It was not obtrusive or demonstrative; but the more and the longer one knew him, the more one felt how the faith of Christ pervaded and determined his life. All men knew how calm and self-possessed his demeanour was, in the most trying circumstances. As usual, in such cases, this was often ascribed to a placid or insensible disposition. Those who knew better, knew how suppressed feelings and undisclosed anxieties signalised themselves occasionally by sharp and sudden fits of illness.

R. R.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Robert Burns, D.D.

Robert Burns

“Dr Burns of Paisley,” by which name he was long and familiarly known, before he went to Canada and became “Dr. Burns of Toronto,” was born at Bo’ness, in the year 1789, the seventh in a family of eight sons, other three of whom were ministers of the Established Church along with himself; two of them surviving the Disruption, and sharing in it, as the third, the eldest of the family (for nearly forty years one of the ministers of Brechin), had he been spared so long, would certainly have done. His father, John Burns (Surveyor of Customs at Bo’ness), was neither a minister nor an elder, but he was an eminently devout man, one who was “upright in his generation, who walked with God, and his seed was blessed.” The celebrated George Whitefield, with whom both he and his father before him were on terms of intimacy, seems to have left a hallowed influence behind him in the paternal home (“Burns’ Court”) at Falkirk, of which he was on several occasions an inmate; and the type of character, as well as of theology, thus formed was transmitted “to the generation following.” Robert, like other members of the family, very early discovered a clerical and theological, if not a spiritual instinct,—a taste for literature of a much more solid kind than boys are wont to care for. When little more than ten years of age, he was wont to read such works as “Flavel’s Sermons” aloud, not only for his father’s regalement, but his own; although it was not till some considerable time afterwards that he came decidedly under the power of the truth, which was thus already familar to him, and that ex animo he embraced it. His appetite for learning of all kinds was voracious. When at the age of twelve and a-half, he passed from the parish school to the University, he was a good classical scholar, quite at home in Livy and Juvenal, and able to read the Greek Testament ad aperturam. During his summer vacations he was wont to write out carefully a resumé of every book which he read; and this practice, no doubt, had much to do both with the storing and the strengthening of his memory,—that rare faculty of his which to the last day of his life was never known to fail him, and which used to be spoken of by his friends as “approaching the Divine.”

In his seventeenth year he entered the Divinity Hall in Edinburgh, and attended its three classes (under Drs. Hunter, Moodie, and Meiklejohn) with exemplary fidelity, but without much profit. He was noted not only as one of a few who really were students, but as one of a still smaller number who either were, or professed to be, “serious.” In a class of 180, not more than a tenth part made any such profession. The other nine-tenths were not only “Moderate” but Arminian in their avowed leanings; and Darwinianism, even Pantheism in embryo, had not a few disciples among them. One of his class-fellows was Thomas Wright, afterwards the deposed minister of Borthwick. Being not only very decided, but very pronounced in his opinions, Robert Burns soon became a marked man among his class-fellows, and was known by the soubriquet of “Young Orthodox.” His two elder brothers had enjoyed a like distinction before him.

Licensed in 1810 to preach the Gospel, he assisted for a short time the excellent minister of Cramond (Mr. Archibald Bonar), in whose family he had for a year and a-half previously acted as tutor,—one of his pupils being John Bonar, afterwards the much-loved minister of Larbert, and Convener of the Colonial Committee of the Free Church. Subsequently, during the vacancy in the East Church, Perth, caused by the translation of Mr. Andrew Thomson to Edinburgh that same year, he supplied the vacant pulpit, and with so much acceptance, that but for his extreme youth and youthfulness of appearance, it was thought not improbable he might have been appointed successor to the celebrated man who had left it. His youth, however, though it hindered his success at Perth, rather helped it at Paisley, for very soon after he was chosen by a large majority over three formidable rivals of mature years, minister of the Low Church there, and was ordained to that important charge on the 19th July, 1811, being twenty-two and a-half years old.

From this time forward, during a good deal more than half-a-century, his life was one of such incessant activity,—an activity so irrepressible and so productive, so full of work, so full of incident, too, and, better than either, so full of fruit—that the merest summary of its principal memorabilia (as recorded at length in his “Life and Times,” edited by his son) is all that can be attempted here. His ministry in Paisley extended over a period of nearly thirty-four years. His popularity as a preacher, great at the outset, was well sustained to the last. As a Lecturer especially he was thought to be “unrivalled in the West of Scotland,” and so laboriously had he given himself to this part of his pulpit work, that before he left Paisley he had been able to overtake the whole of the New Testament, besides the leading historical and prophetical parts of the Old. Fluent, moreover, though he was beyond almost any of his contemporaries, he never trusted to his fluency, without more or less of careful written preparation.

Nor less laborious was he as a pastor. His capacity for work as a visitor was something marvellous. Though his congregation was large, and his parish had in it a population of 7000, he made a point of visiting the families both of the one and of the other annually, besides his visitations of the sick, of which eighteen or twenty, even on a Saturday afternoon, was no uncommon occurrence; and this perhaps (as on one occasion the present writer well remembers) after having written his lecture for next day, in the forenoon, and before writing his sermon in the evening.

As a citizen (with the exception, of course, of the Provost and Magistrates), there was no man in Paisley who did more, if so much, for the benefit of the working-classes, especially during the frequently-recurring seasons of distress with which Paisley was wont to be visited, in devising and carrying out plans of relief for the poor operatives. On four different occasions, within ten or twelve years, he was sent as a Delegate to London, and other leading cities of England, to plead their cause in the high places of the land; and on one of these occasions, he had the honour of presenting to Her Majesty a specimen of Paisley manufacture, in the form of a magnificent shawl.

In most of the controversies of the time he took an active part, both with his tongue and his pen. The Bible Society controversy and the Voluntary controversy were two, out of six or seven, into which he thus keenly entered. And his published writings, on these and other questions of general interest, were not only varied but voluminous. Not fewer than forty such publications, of one kind or another, came from his pen, of which the most important were the following:— “Historical Dissertations on the Law and Practice of Great Britain with regard to the Poor, 1819;” “Treatise on Pluralities,” 1824 (the writing of which, a volume of 300 pages, within little more than a month, nearly cost him his life); “The Gareloch Heresy Tried,” 1830; “Wodrow’s History,” edited, with Life, Notes, and Dissertations, 4 vols., 1830; “Life of Dr. McGill,” 1842; “Edinburgh Christian Instructor,” edited, 1838-40, besides contributing regularly to its pages, from the time of his ordination till the death of its great founder, Dr. Andrew Thomson.

In the midst of all these home avocations he found time to look abroad, and interest himself in the spiritual condition of the North American Colonies. In 1825 he took the principal share of work in the formation of the “Colonial Society,” became its Secretary, and for fifteen years was its mainspring. In this way, having had to do personally with the finding out and the sending out of not fewer than eighty ordained ministers to Canada and Nova Scotia, before the General Assembly moved in the matter at all, he may truly be said to have been the father of the whole Colonial enterprise, and the founder of the Canada Presbyterian Church.

In the Ten Year’s Conflict he had of course his share, having been a strong Anti-patronage man from the beginning, one of the forty-two who first hoisted the flag in the General Assembly, so early as 1833. His evidence on the subject before the House of Commons Committee was very valuable, and with such volubility did he pour forth his stores of information in reply to the questions addressed to him, that the shorthand reporters are said to have been fairly baffled, and to have given up their task in despair. A man who could speak “with a forty-horse power” was too many for them. When the time came for action, unlike not a few who had occupied the same high ground with himself during the Non-intrusion struggle, and who, with strange inconsistency, remained in the Establishment, he proved himself a true man, and if he did not lead the way, at least followed, and fell into the ranks of the outcomers, his whole congregation, with scarcely an exception, going heartily with him.

In 1844, along with Dr. Cunningham, and other deputies from the Free Church, he visited the United States and Canada, to plead the cause of the “Building Fund;” and among other results that followed from his visit, one was a call to return and accept a Colonial charge himself, which, after full consideration and consultation, he at length agreed to do.

In 1845, he became pastor of Knox Church, Toronto, a position of great usefulness and influence, which he continued to occupy for eleven years, till 1856. From that time, till 1868, he held the professorship of Church History and Apologetics in Knox College, and during the whole of these twenty-three years, especially the latter twelve, he acted as a sort of Superintendent, or Missionary Bishop, to the entire Canadian Church. His “Episcopal visitations” were so frequent and so extensive, that there was scarcely a settlement or a congregation within “the Dominion” which he did not know everything about; and there was not a minister or elder with whom on these occasions he made acquaintance whom he did not remember, and whom he could not easily recognise, ever after.

He was Moderator of the Canadian Synod the first year after his arrival, and was asked to accept that dignity a second time, after its union with the “United Presbyterian Synod” in 1861. Two visits he paid to the mother-country, in 1860 and 1868-69, on both which occasions he addressed the General Assembly, receiving quite an ovation, —in the latter case, his snow-white locks and his tardily feeble step (though these were the only marks of feebleness about him) making it all too certain that (as he was then just about to return to the land of his adoption) the “fathers and brethren” whom he addressed “would see his face no more.” And so it was, sooner than any one thought. He had scarcely been a week in Toronto when the summons came. Arriving on the 6th August, and preaching with much of his old fire on Sabbath the 7th, he began to complain on the Thursday after; and that day week, the 19th of August, 1869, he “fell asleep,” at the “good old age” of eighty years and six months.

Dr. Burns was twice married. First, to Janet, daughter of John Orr, Esq., Provost of Paisley, who died on the 14th December, 1841,—having for twenty-eight years been his counsellor and comforter,—a lady of rare worth and usefulness; and second, on the 12th December, 1844, to Elizabeth Bell Bonar, daughter of Thomson Bonar, Esq., Edinburgh, and niece of his early friend and counsellor at Cramond, who—with two sons by his first marriage—survives him.

J. C. B.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Adam Cairns, D.D.

Adam Cairns

Adam Cairns was born at the Manse of Longforgan, on the 30th January, 1802. Of that parish his father, the Rev. Adam Cairns, was minister for many years. Ecclesiastically within the bounds of the Presbytery of Dundee, the parish is in Perthshire, and its eastern extremity is coincident with the bounds of the county in that direction, the Burn of Grey forming the dividing line from the county of Forfar. About midway in the long and straggling village, and a little over five miles from Dundee, the church and manse of Longforgan occupy a most beautiful and commanding position. To the westward lies the rich and lovely Carse of Gowrie, sheltered on the north by the fertile Braes of the Carse, whose southward trend at both extremities embraces in their gentle sweep a district perhaps the fairest and the richest in Scotland. The view to the south takes in a long reach of the Tay, with the opposite coast of Fife, from Newport to Newburgh, a distance of ten or twelve miles, while the eastern border of the parish, being near Dundee, embraces the growing population of Invergowrie and its vicinity. In close proximity to this latter village are to be seen the ruins of Dargie Church, with its burying-ground—a favourite resort of the late Rev. R. Murray McCheyne in his private walks into the country. Its walls, almost entirely covered with ivy, are still in a good state of preservation for its age, if the legend of the place be true, that it was the first Christian church north of the Tay. At this spot the river expands into a bay of shallow water, whose dimensions must have greatly diminished in course of years. Two rocks, known as the Gows of Gowrie, and said to have at one time stood out visible in the water, are now more on land than in the water, almost concealed by a luxuriance of sedge, fulfilling a saying attributed to Thomas the Rhymer:—

“When the Gows of Gowrie come to land
The day of judgment’s near at hand.”

Dr. Cairns’s father appears to have belonged to the parish of Temple. His mother’s father was minister of the parish of Kinnaird, in the Carse of Gowrie. He is descended from a long line of ministers.

Having received the rudimentary part of his education in his native parish, he very soon gave promise of future success in his studies, and entered the University of St. Andrews before he was fourteen years of age—too young, as he himself has often confessed. Yet as a student he did more than hold his own among his class-fellows, many of them by far his senior in years. Throughout his whole course of study, both in the University and in the Theological Hall, he occupied a distinguished place. With more than average natural gifts he combined more than average application. He was a hard student; and the habit formed in early youth has stuck to him throughout a lengthened and successful ministry. Of himself he has been heard to say, “I have no great natural ability; and any measure of success to which I have attained has been won through hard labour and close application to present duty.”

He was licensed as a preacher on the 5th October, 1824. Soon after this, he passed through a severe ordeal, which lasted for several years. Tall and handsome, of commanding appearance, yet never robust, his health at this stage suffered greatly, and threatened for a time entirely to give way. Cast on his own resources, he was obliged to support himself by private teaching. In various ways his strength was overtaxed; he was in a state of physical exhaustion, nervous and irritable. But no one knew the conflict of spirit through which at that time he was passing, save the Great Searcher of hearts. It was this that was telling upon him. Pangs and sorrows within were drying up his strength like a potsherd. It was the crisis in his life, the turning-point in his spiritual and eternal destiny. The struggle was long, the wrestling was great, the darkness terrible, almost bordering on despair. He had none to counsel and direct him. His only resort was the Bible, and secret wrestling with God in prayer. In his own words— “I can never forget the ministers whose words were sweet to my taste, and acted as a healing ointment on my truly stricken spirit. They were the Lord’s messengers to me; but they were neither famous for their pulpit oratory, nor burning and shining lights in popular estimation. Preachers they were of humble standing, and of no intellectual pretensions, but full of the Holy Ghost, rich in the knowledge of the will of God, and in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” God took him from the fearful pit, and from the miry clay. The darkness passed away; the shadow of death was turned into the morning.

After serving for a time as assistant to the late Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff, minister of the parish of St. Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh, Dr. (then Mr.) Cairns was presented to the parish of Manor, in the county of Peebles, where he was ordained on the 21st of August, 1828. He was weak in body and in mind, but at peace with God, and walking in the light of life. The parish is a quiet pastoral valley. The inhabitants were few, but of an excellent spirit, and full of kindness to their young pastor; and for four years and a-half he went in and out among them. He had many tokens for good, and many seals of his ministry.

But now his work in this his first charge was drawing to a close. His health was again seriously affected. His old complaint returned upon him. It was brought on, or at all events accelerated, by the illness of a brother, who had returned from America in quest of health. Having come to reside at the manse at Manor, Mr. Cairns was unremitting in his attention to him, both as regarded his spiritual and his temporal welfare. The complaint in his brother’s case got worse. He died. It was a triumphant death. His departure was with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But the care and anxiety of waiting at that death-bed left serious effects on Mr. Cairns’s own health. And just at the time when a change was desirable, he received a presentation to the parish of Dunbog, in the north-west of Fife. Feeling it to be his duty to accept the offer, he was inducted into that charge, on the 7th of April, 1833. Being strictly a rural parish, the work was easy. While it presented no scope for the powerful but dormant energies of its new pastor, it gave the opportunity, much required, for recruiting his shattered health. It was here, and on the 11th February, 1834, that Mr. Cairns was united in marriage to Miss Jessie Ballingall, a lady of very superior parts, and gifted in no ordinary degree with Christian prudence and kindness. She is still spared to be the companion of his advancing years. Of their six children, three have been taken, an only son of great promise, cut off in the flower of his opening youth, and two married daughters, one of them having been left in early widowhood. Three married daughters still survive.

After a successful ministry in his second charge of about equal duration with that of his first, Mr. Cairns was translated to Cupar-Fife. It was a collegiate charge. He was inducted on the 1st September, 1837. Forgetful of his former ailment, he entered on the work of his new sphere with all his strength. Much required to be done. Religion had suffered from the blight of Moderatism for upwards of half-a-century. He felt that a great work was given him to do; and, fired with zeal in his Master’s cause, he was instant in season and out of season, not sparing himself, that he might fulfil the ministry which he had received, “to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” But in the midst of such exciting labour his strength again gave way. For months his life hung quivering in the balance. He was an invalid for years. But the work which he had begun was not retarded. He was cheered, as he himself has stated, “by abundant evidence that the cause of salvation was actually promoted by my sore affliction.” The Disruption was approaching; and though in shattered health, he threw himself into the very thick of the controversy, at once identifying himself with the Evangelical party. An esteemed minister, then of another denomination, now of the Free Church, says of Mr. Cairns:— “He soon awakened a strong and extensive sympathy in the congregation and neighbourhood. Yet I believe his main attraction lay in the earnest and effective way in which he expounded and applied the truths of the glorious Gospel. His expectations of Cupar (as regards the Disruption) were very low. But he could not but be amazed at the numbers and weight of his following. He left about the largest and most prosperous congregation in Fife, and it continues to be so to the present day.”

But again there is another break, and it seemed at the time that his ministry was at end. In November, 1847, during the afternoon service, with the speed of a lightning flash, he was struck down in the pulpit. He was carried to the vestry, and there laid down as a dying man. Contrary to expectation, he soon recovered. Having gone to Gibraltar, in the hope that the climate there would renovate his shattered system, and feeling greatly benefited by the change, he hired a hall in the principal street, where he preached forenoon and evening, the morning attendance being always crowded. His services on the Rock made a good impression; and there is reason to believe that numbers were won to Christ. The work then begun at Gibraltar has been continued by the Free Church ever since; and as a regular station of the Colonial Mission, it has the services of a stated ministry. It should be noted at this stage that, notwithstanding his hard work and feeble strength, the Free Church minister of Cupar was able to contribute, as he has often done since then, to the current literature of the day. In view of this, and in particular, in recognition of an able and interesting volume produced by him, entitled “The Second Woe,” the Senatus of St. Andrews University conferred on him the degree of D.D. It was a well-earned distinction.

We now come to what may well be regarded as the most interesting, as well as the most important era of Dr. Cairns’s ministry. The gold discovery in Australia was attracting universal interest. Crowds were leaving for the shores of that distant country. They were landing daily there in thousands. The Free Church was impressed with the urgent necessity of providing them with the means of grace. It was therefore determined to strengthen the hands of the ministers already in Australia, by sending immediately other ten or twelve at least. By the active exertions of the late Rev. Dr. John Bonar, ten young men, of whom the writer had the honour to be one, gave their consent to go. They were but newly licensed, and though now to be ordained, they had no experience. It was needful, therefore, to secure along with them one or two ministers of standing and experience. Two such men were fixed upon. They declared their readiness to go. The one was the Rev. Dr. Mackintosh Mackay, of Dunoon, and the other the Rev. Dr. Cairns, of Cupar. It was an occasion of intense anxiety to all concerned. On the 13th of April, 1853, a meeting was held in Free St. Luke’s Church, Edinburgh, to implore the blessing of God on the mission. The church was crowded. All the ministers were present with the exception of Dr. Mackay. The proceedings were conducted by the Rev. Dr. McKellar, Rev. Dr. John Bonar, Rev. Dr. Cunningham, and Rev. Dr. Gordon. The General Assembly was at hand; and before sailing, Dr. Cairns had an opportunity of speaking. In the address which he delivered, the following words occur:— “Painful it is to bid farewell to relations and friends. It is exquisitely painful to break asunder the many ties of affection which bind me to my people; and it is with peculiar pain that I take leave, as I must do, of the Free Church, the Church of my heart, my affections, and my hopes—the Church of my country and my God. I go, sir, trusting in the promise, ‘I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.’ I shall work in the distant vineyard depending on the presence and support of the great Head of the Church, waiting and listening for the cry, sweeter from the lips of redeemed men than when uttered by the highest seraphim around the throne, ‘Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good-will to men.'”

The twelve ministers, sailing some together, and others singly, in different vessels, all arrived safely in Australia. The sphere assigned to Dr. Cairns was Melbourne. It was then in a state of strange transition; passing from a small town into the dimensions of a great and populous city. It arose to greatness as in a day. There were two congregations of the Free Church in Melbourne at the time, but only one church, the second congregation worshipping in a rented hall. The arrival of Dr. Cairns was an event which cheered immensely the hearts of all Presbyterians, especially those who belonged to the Free Church. He at once commenced his labours, preaching in the Temperance Hall in the forenoon, and in Knox’s Church in the evening. A large congregation sprang into existence at once. It was one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. From his first public appearance it was felt by all classes that he was to wield an immense power in the colony. With pulpit qualifications of a high order, a graceful personal appearance, an attractive manner, and a fluent and impressive utterance, he commanded the attention of his audience. On a valuable piece of ground on the Eastern Hill, granted by the Government, a large wooden erection was hastily run up, which served as a church for two or three years, till the present substantial building was erected. An iron cottage was also put up on the same ground, which was ultimately vacated for a comfortable manse. Here Dr. Cairns ministered to a large and attached congregation for more than twenty years. In 1876 he demitted his charge, constrained to do so on account of advancing years and failing strength.

Anything like an adequate view of Dr. Cairns’s work in Australia would swell the publication for which this sketch is intended far beyond the limits assigned by the Publishers. Of necessity, therefore, but with great reluctance, the narration must be cut short. Suffice it to say, that the name of Dr. Cairns is written on the very foundations of the Victorian Church, and of the colony itself. In the Union of the Presbyterian Churches, effected in April, 1859, his services were invaluable. In all great questions affecting the religious and moral welfare of the colony Dr. Cairns was the ready champion, never daunted at the frown of impiety, never moved from his purpose by the abuse of an irreligious press. The unswerving defender of the Sabbath, the advocate of religious education, the generous host of the stranger, the friend of the poor, and the helper of the fallen, his work as an ambassador for Christ and as a large-hearted philanthropist will leave lasting impressions on his adopted country. A fit and becoming tribute was paid to him in the public celebration of his Jubilee in Melbourne in September, 1878, when, at a crowded meeting, a handsome testimonial was presented to him. Though now out of harness as a minister, he continues still to labour in the cause of his Lord and Master. May the day be yet distant when another and fuller account shall be called for of the life and ministry of this honoured servant of God.

G. D.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Alexander Campbell of Monzie

The Monzie branch of the Clan Campbell springs from Sir Duncan of Glenorchy, well known to genealogists as “Black Duncan of Lochow,” the patriarch of the noble house of Breadalbane. Archibald, a younger son of this old knight, inherited from his father various estates in several of the Highland counties, and transmitted them to his lineal descendants, the Campbells of Monzie.7 The original designation was “of Fonab,” a property in Perthshire, near Killiecrankie, where Viscount Dundee was slain; and the tradition is, that Claverhouse fell by a shot fired by Fonab himself, or by one of his dependants who followed his chief to the field. The Fonab of 1702 commanded the British troops sent to protect the interests of the colonists of Darien against the attacks of the Spaniards, and obtained a signal and decisive victory over a vastly more numerous force of the enemy at Toubocante. For this gallant action a gold medal, bearing on one side a plan of the battle, was voted to him by the Directors of the Indian and African Company of Scotland; while the British Crown rewarded him with a grant of a special coat of arms, with supporters, bearing the motto, Quid non pro patria; and as this latter honour was bestowed on him as “Campbell of Monzie,” that designation has been retained ever since.

The subject of this sketch, born on the 30th December 1811, was the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Alexander Campbell of Monzie, M.P., and his wife Christina Menzies. After his education, partly at home and partly at Sandhurst College, he entered the army in 1828 as ensign in the 32d Foot, of which regiment his father had been colonel. Serving some time in Canada with that regiment, he changed into the 15th Hussars under the Earl of Cardigan; but in 1835 he left the army, and betook himself to the management of his landed property, his father having died in 1832. When he thus assumed the position of a country gentleman, the non-intrusion controversy was agitating all Scotland; and Mr Campbell having carefully studied the question, at once cordially adopted the views of the evangelical party in the Church. About this time he was asked by the Conservative electors in Argyllshire to oppose the Liberal candidate; but though he was unsuccessful in the election of 1837, he so effectively advocated the Church’s claims during his canvass, as to draw the attention and win the confidence of the non-intrusion leaders. Having been ordained an elder in 1838, he began still more prominently to plead the Church’s cause; for instance, when in 1840 he proposed Mr Home Drummond on the hustings at Perth, he embodied in his speech a proposal for Parliamentary interference to obviate the dead-lock between the ecclesiastical and civil courts, which Dr Chalmers characterized as “presenting a most felicitous solution of the whole difficulty.” In 1841 he was returned M.P. for the county of Argyll without a contest. He entered Parliament as a Liberal Conservative, and so attracted the notice of Sir Robert Peel as to be offered by him a subordinate place under Government; but Mr Campbell felt it better to be free from party control, and declined the appointment. At this period, in addition to his strong ecclesiastical convictions, he held Free Trade principles, and was a supporter of Vote by Ballot, both of which he insisted would prove truly Conservative measures. His first speech in the House of Commons on Scotch Church matters was delivered in March 1842, in the debate on Sir A. L. Hay’s motion as to the exercise of Crown Patronage in the case of Elgin,—a speech which again drew forth the encomiums of Dr Chalmers, who, at the same time, urged him to push his proposed motion that the House should appoint a committee of its members to inquire into the Church’s claims. This motion he did bring forward soon thereafter, and pled the expediency of such a step with great force of argument; but the motion was lost by 139 to 62. These Parliamentary appearances so commended him to the Church Defence Committee in Scotland, that, after the Duke of Argyll’s Bill was coldly received in the House of Lords, Mr Campbell was requested to introduce a similar bill into the House of Commons. Acceding heartily to this request, he, on the 14th April 1842, brought in a “Bill to regulate the exercise of Church Patronage in Scotland.” Though not granting the anti-patronage claims which the Church regarded as the best settlement, it would have saved both the rights of the people and the Church’s spiritual independence, and thus have prevented the secession of next year. When the order of the day for its second reading was moved in the beginning of May, Sir James Graham, on the part of Government, requested Mr Campbell to postpone the second reading for six weeks, as Government intended to propose a course which would put an end to the collision between the Church and the civil courts. Mr Campbell consented to this, with the distinct proviso, that, should the Government measure prove unsatisfactory, he would that day six weeks proceed with the second reading of his own Bill; but Mr Fox Maule, intimating his hopelessness of any proper measure from Government, moved “That the Bill be now read a second time,” and, after some debate, Mr Maule’s amendment was lost by 131 to 48. Thus ended what was called “Monzie’s Bill.” Sir James Graham’s pledge was never fulfilled, for Government did nothing. Most people now saw—and none more plainly than Mr Campbell—that a Disruption was imminent. In the prospect of this, the memorable Convocation of ministers was held in Edinburgh, followed by active arrangements throughout many congregations in Scotland in preparation for the event. The rejection of Mr Fox Maule’s motion by the House of Commons in the spring of 1843 rendered the Disruption so certain, that Mr Campbell left London for a time, and at once set about the building of a wooden church for his residential parish of Monzie. This was quickly finished at his own expense, while he purchased a church which was for sale in Crieff, and presented it to the Free Church congregation there. After delivering several earnest speeches in Scotland on the impending crisis, he resumed for a time his place in Parliament, and wrote what has been called “a solemn letter to Sir Robert Peel, imploring him even at the eleventh hour to avert the breaking up of the Church, by instantaneous and satisfactory legislative interposition.” All in vain. The General Assembly met. Mr Campbell, as a representative elder, was present; and after Dr Welsh had read the Protest, bowed to the Lord High Commissioner, and stepped down from the chair, Dr Chalmers took Mr Campbell’s arm, saying, “Come away now, Monzie,” and the two walked together down to the Canonmills Hall, where the first Free Church General Assembly was constituted. Before the sessions of that Assembly were concluded, Mr Campbell returned to London, to make final arrangements for retiring from Parliament; but the Assembly, on the 30th of May, passed a cordial vote of thanks to him for his eminent services, which was communicated to him by a much-prized letter under Dr Chalmers’ own hand.

On the very day of the Disruption, Mr Campbell wrote a circular to the Argyllshire constituency, intimating his resolution to resign his position as their representative, having felt constrained in conscience to differ widely from many of those who had originally elected him. Being thus, as it were, set free from other influences, he devoted himself to promote the interests of the Free Church, the object “nearest and dearest: to his heart.” Hence he was much occupied for several years in labours connected with the Sustentation Fund, the General Assembly, the formation of the Evangelical Alliance, the Christian education of the people, the endowment of Popery, the sanctity of the Sabbath in reference to railway traffic, the destitution in the Highlands, and many other Christian and patriotic undertakings. His open hand also contributed liberally to every scheme of usefulness, specially those of his own Church, giving £1000 to the building of the Free Church College in Edinburgh, £300 to the manse fund, £250 towards extinguishing debt on Free Church buildings, along with notable yearly subscriptions to the Sustentation Fund in the various districts where his property was situated. As a public testimony of how much he was esteemed for his many labours of love, the ladies of the West of Scotland presented him with a carpet, sewed by their own hands, and valued at £200. The presentation was made in Glasgow, on the 14th April 1846, by Dr Thomas Brown, in presence of an enthusiastic audience; while, on the 18th of May following, the East of Scotland shewed their appreciation of his services by choosing him to lay the foundation of the John Knox Memorial Church, hard by the house of the Reformer in the city of Edinburgh.

Mr Campbell was a man of great natural ability, captivating address, and geniality of manner, besides possessing in a peculiar degree the gift of ready, racy, pointed, telling speech, carrying his audience with him in his public appearances, and proving the life and soul of private society. His bearing was ever frank and fearless. Constitutionally impulsive, he was often impetuous, and sometimes rash; but none could ever doubt the generosity of his spirit and the warmth of his heart. His uniform benevolence to the poor, and acts of kindness in aiding struggling merit, were very marked; but he ever resiled from ostentation, considering himself as a brother indebted to every man who needed a helping hand. A favourite with all who knew him, his general popularity was undoubtedly increased by the fact that he was a singularly accomplished sportsman. In this character he was selected to initiate the late Prince Consort into the mysteries of deer-stalking in the romantic wilds celebrated in the opening of “The Lady of the Lake;” and when, shortly afterwards, he presented to the prince a Scotch deer-hound, his Royal Highness replied, through his secretary, that “while he returned his best thanks for the hound, it was not necessary for him to see it to remind him of the time spent with him in Glenartney forest.”

During the last ten years of his life, Mr Campbell laboured under insidious disease, which gradually unhinged his whole nervous system, and rendered him increasingly and painfully unlike his former self. This state of things was much aggravated by several accidents, by which his head was severely injured. His robust and active frame partially recovered strength; but after much suffering, he died at Leamington on the 5 th of January 1869, having just completed the fifty-seventh year of his age.

In May 1844 Mr Campbell married Christina, only child of the late Sir Duncan Cameron of Fassfern, Bart., who survives him, with three daughters, the eldest of whom is the wife of Henry Spencer Lucy, Esq., of Charlecote Park, Warwickshire; and the second has been lately married to Colonel J. P. W. Campbell of the Bengal Staff Corps.

Mr Campbell’s remains were buried in the vault within St Mary’s Church, Warwick, where his father and his only son are also interred.

S. M.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

William Campbell

William Campbell was the fifth child of a family of nine, and was born in 1793, near the Port of Monteith, in Perthshire, where his father was tenant of a farm on the Gartmore estate. All the schooling, strictly so called, which he ever got, he received at the parish school. But the most valuable part of his education—the education of principle—was imparted at home, under the careful culture of a godly mother, who was supremely concerned that her children should be taught to fear God, and keep his commandments. She was a woman of capacity as well as piety, and her influence pervaded the whole family. To the pains and prayers of this excellent parent, and to the influence of her character, the subject of this sketch was wont, under God, to ascribe whatever “good thing was found in him toward the Lord God of Israel.”

In the year 1805, when he was yet a boy about eleven or twelve years of age, his father removed with his family to Glasgow, with the view of finding in that centre of industry suitable employments for his children. Being intended for a mercantile life, William began at the beginning. In order to give him a thorough practical knowledge of goods, he was taught weaving; and in due time, after having thus far qualified himself, he entered the employment of Mr John Craig, who at that time carried on a respectable Scotch cloth business in the High Street, near the Cross. Here he remained for some years, in the course of which his attention to business, his mercantile ability, and his upright and amiable character, secured for him the good-will and patronage of several influential friends, and earned for him a good name wherever he was known. Offers of assistance were made him; and thus aided and encouraged, he (having now attained the age of twenty-two) resolved to start in business on his own account. His first place of business was situated in the Saltmarket, and consisted of a flat, one stair up, of an old tenement in that, even then, somewhat unfashionable locality. The building has since been demolished, in order to make way for London Street. Here his success was unprecedented. The warehouse was crowded from morning till night. The tide of prosperity flowing on and increasing, until the business had outgrown the ability of any single individual personally to superintend it, his brother, the present Sir James Campbell of Stracathro, and sometime Lord Provost of the city, brought his talents and business habits to his help. A partnership was formed between the two brothers, and the firm was, and continues to be, conducted under the name of “J. & W. Campbell & Co., General Warehousemen.” Under their joint management the same extraordinary success as before continued to attend them, until every flat and attic of the old tenement being turned to use, they were compelled to contemplate the necessity of leaving the too contracted premises, and seeking more commodious accommodation elsewhere. In this needful step their pace was quickened in consequence of the condemnation by the public authorities of several old houses, among which was “Campbell’s warehouse in the Saltmarket.” They got notice to quit it in fifteen months. This of course subjected them to great inconvenience and anxiety. But, cheered by the wise counsels of their mother, who “was sure an open door would be found somewhere,” they in due time secured a property in Candleriggs, on which they undertook to erect a suitable warehouse. And so concerned were they to lose no time, that the builder, after the first floor was built, gave them a floor a week, and the firm speedily moved into their new and spacious premises. But in process of time even these became too narrow for them, and they were obliged ultimately to take refuge in the palatial warehouse now occupied by them in Ingram Street, which not only continues to be the seat of their original home trade, but has become the centre of an extensive commerce with all parts of the world.

Such is a brief sketch of a prosperous career which has been rarely equalled in the mercantile world. It is worthy of consideration whether there were any special circumstances to account for it. Doubtless it was greatly owing to Mr Campbell’s intense energy, his strict attention to the duties of his calling, with which no temptation to ease or pleasure was suffered to interfere, and to his upright character and popular manners. But besides these qualities, which were common to him with other merchants of his day, his success is, without doubt, to be mainly attributed to the introduction of a system which was a novelty when he began business. Of this system the leading features were—(1) small profits, (2) quick returns, (3) no abatement of the price asked. The last rule was rigorously enforced, and aimed at the overthrow of the corrupt and discreditable practice of “prigging,” then commonly followed. The principles of the Campbells were so sound and reasonable as to command the favour of the public. In point of fact, they revolutionized the system of buying and selling then in vogue; and in founding on them the conduct of his business, Mr Campbell was greatly fortified by the influence of Dr Chalmers, on whose ministry he was a regular attendant, and whose “Commercial Discourses” were of immense service in arousing the public conscience to a sense of evils and dishonesties, to the immorality of which custom had reconciled society at large.

But in seeking to account for Mr Campbell’s great and rapid success, can we warrantably leave out of view the manifest blessing of God on one who sought habitually to realize that he was not a proprietor, but merely an administrator and steward, of God’s manifold mercies? In his case the promise was strictly fulfilled, “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst with new wine.” As his riches increased, his benefactions multiplied; and as these multiplied, God supplied him with the means of still further extending his usefulness. He took an active part in promoting the scheme of Mr William Collins for the building of twenty new churches in Glasgow, and that of Dr Chalmers for the erection of two hundred additional churches in Scotland. These, and similar efforts, seem to have been a preparation, in the providence of God, for the still grander and more comprehensive schemes that were soon after to be demanded by the Disruption of the Church. When that event took place in 1843, he was among the foremost and most munificent of the contributors to the various funds of the Free Church, and to every movement by which her efficiency and usefulness could be advanced. Indeed, it has been affirmed by those who had the best opportunities of knowing the extent of his private and public liberalities, that he laid out a handsome income year by year in charity; and that during his lifetime he expended in this way a fortune of not less than from £80,000 to £90,000. The larger proportion of this wealth being consecrated directly or indirectly to the service of the Free Church, afforded unmistakable evidence of the strength and constancy of his loyal and devoted attachment to her cause and principles. Indeed, her interests were ever as dear to his heart as his own; and with her prosperity and progress he identified the progress of the country in vital spiritual religion and social happiness.

Thus did he honour God with his substance. And how has God honoured him? He has assigned him a distinguished place in the noble company of Disruption Worthies; and this, not because of any eminent services on the field of debate or diplomacy—for these he had personally neither taste nor talent, though ever a generous admirer of them in others—but because of the heartfelt, practical, self-sacrificing interest he ever cherished in the social and religious wellbeing of his fellow-men. And God has further honoured him by making him largely instrumental to the introduction of a new era and standard of Christian liberality in the days in which we live. The narrow, selfish, grudging views which were previously entertained on this subject, were wholly unadapted to the circumstances and wants of a new age. The Disruption was approaching, and an impressive example was needed of that unbounded liberality which should replace the surrendered endowments of the State by the voluntary endowments of the people. Mr Campbell was one of those who supplied this want. And it is pleasing to think that he had the satisfaction of knowing before he died that his large-hearted benevolence had a double value: it not only directly helped many a good cause, but it exercised a wide-spread and permanent influence in enlarging the views of others on the duty of giving, and in stimulating them to “go and do likewise.”

Mr Campbell’s public spirit discovered itself, as occasion offered, with regard to other things than public charities and Free Church objects. He was for some years in the Town Council, having been carried by the Catholics for the Saltmarket and Bridgegate wards. When asked to support him, an Irish voter exclaimed, in a fit of enthusiastic gratitude, “What! not vote for William Campbell, who sends the half of our people to the infirmary!” As a councillor, he took an active interest in a scheme for buying up old house property in the wynds, as it came into the market, with a view to the sanitary good of the city. Also, through his exertions in a large measure, and in the face of much opposition, the market-day was changed from Monday to Thursday, by which means much unnecessary work on the Sabbath was stopped, and the rest of the sacred day better secured. On no subject did he kindle into greater earnestness than the importance of the Sabbath, in every view—physical, social, and religious—especially to the working-classes. His sentiments on this subject entirely accorded with those of his friend, Sir Andrew Agnew, by whom he was much esteemed, and who frequently consulted him on his measures with reference to Sabbath desecration. His generous interest in the working-classes was farther notably evinced by his contribution of £500 to the funds of the Botanic Garden, on the condition that those classes should have free admission to the gardens during the Fair week. His sympathy with the friendless and homeless poor was shewn in the active part which he took in instituting and maintaining the “Glasgow Night Asylum for the Houseless,” to which he bequeathed a legacy of £1500. And many are the “indigent gentlewomen” who, when enjoying the benefits of the fund specially provided for their relief, will remember with gratitude the kindness and consideration of Mr Campbell, who was one of its founders and most zealous promoters. Indeed every enterprise, religious or benevolent, had in him a warm and generous friend. He was a living illustration of the words, “A cheerful giver, rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.”

Mr Campbell’s successive family residences, like the successive warehouses in which his business was carried on, indicated the progressive improvement of his temporal circumstances, until ultimately he became the proprietor of that charming mansion, Tillichewan Castle, with its splendid surroundings. To its attractions he was by no means insensible; for he possessed an intense love of nature, and had a quick eye for the perception of the beautiful and sublime in scenery. Here he spent his days of well-earned rest and relaxation from the cares and toils of business surrounded by fields and woods, yet ever planning or executing some improvement—the opening of some new vista, giving a new direction to some gurgling stream, or clearing his trees and shrubs of their superfluous branches. Nor did he confine his enjoyments to himself and family. His grounds were open to all who desired to visit them, a liberty which was never abused. He was, moreover, fond of society, and delighted to be surrounded by his friends. Tillichewan was accordingly the resort of many who, singly or in company, paid it at least their annual visit, and its hospitable gates were ever open to welcome any who came on an errand of religion or benevolence. Every stranger of distinction who visited the west of Scotland, or whose love of Scottish scenery attracted him to the neighbouring shores of Loch Lomond, was sure of a hospitable reception at the castle, which seemed often to partake more of the character of a hotel than of a private residence. Here the genial nature of the host, and his mental peculiarities, while they made every one feel at home, diffused through the whole company a happy and improving influence. For Mr Campbell thought for himself on every matter of public and private concernment, and was distinguished by an originality of mind, a raciness of expression, and sometimes a touch of drollery, which imparted a singular zest to his conversation. Among those who visited occasionally at Tillichewan, there was no one whose arrival was hailed throughout the family with more joyful anticipation than Dr Chalmers, between whom and Mr Campbell there existed a cordial feeling of mutual esteem and affection. They thoroughly sympathised in their views on the great questions of their time, eminently so on all that concerned the extension and spiritual independence of the Church. And Mr Campbell’s mercantile experience enabled him sometimes to throw out practical suggestions which the other knew how to turn to useful account. Mr Campbell was likewise a warm friend and advocate of the union of the Presbyterian Churches of this country. He was impatient of the delay which has taken place in conducting the measure to a prosperous issue. But he lived and died in the happy assurance that another generation would see it consummated, and all the sound Presbyterianism of Scotland comprehended and united in one Church, founded on a disestablished basis.

The following description from the graphic pen of a lady friend of Mr Campbell will fitly close this part of the narrative:—

“One must not forget Mr Campbell’s Sundays. They were not gloomy days to him, but days of rest and enjoyment in serious things. He liked a sedateness throughout his household, and he never absented himself from church. Good preaching was to him an intellectual and spiritual feast. His sympathetic nature was responsive to everything the minister said, the tear was ever ready to start, and his whispered ‘hear, hear,’ shewed where a sympathetic chord was struck. Do you remember his delight in the Old Testament? and what a picture he was of the old Scottish Presbyterian, with his glengarry bonnet laid reverently aside, whilst he conducted family worship? If the subject was Job, or Joseph, or David, tears invariably choked his utterance, and he became so absorbed in the story as to be wholly insensible to what was passing around.”

But the time came when this good man had to die, and be carried to “the house appointed for all living.” His death was gradual, and its advances were borne with that calmness and serenity which are the fruit of a believing dependence on Christ and His finished work, and with the resignation and preparedness of one whose mind was familiar with the contemplation of his latter end. When told he was dying, he clung with increased earnestness to the great truth of reconciliation through the blood of atonement, a gleam of the coming glory seemed to light up his face, and shaking hands with two friends who stood by his bedside, he said “he was perfectly happy: he had lived his threescore and ten years, but his life looked like yesterday.” After about a month’s serious illness, his spirit quitted its earthly tenement on the forenoon of 2d April 1864, in the seventy-first year of his age. And it may be said with truth, that rarely has any one descended to the grave more beloved and lamented by survivors, and to whom the words more appropriately apply, “The memory of the just is blessed.”

In June 1822, Mr Campbell married Margaret, second daughter of Archibald Roxburgh, merchant. Their married life was eminently happy. Mrs Campbell still survives, surrounded by a numerous circle of children and grandchildren, endowed with not a few of the excellent qualities of their progenitor, and all of them inspired with a profound respect for his memory.

J. R.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

Robert Smith Candlish, D.D.

Robert Smith Candlish

In the list of our Disruption Worthies, the place belonging to Principal Candlish is altogether unique as well as eminently illustrious. Dr Chalmers takes precedence, by the combination of considerable seniority with the extraordinary character of a very original genius. But, after deducting what is due to this remarkable exception, Dr Robert Smith Candlish will appear in the pages of our ecclesiastical history as the chief and wonderfully qualified instrument who was raised up by God’s providence for expounding the principles, directing the spirit, and organising the government and system of the Free Church of Scotland.

His father having died a month after his birth, he had the benefit in his mother of a strong character watching over him in his youth. But he seems to have been largely indebted, under God’s guidance, to the secret workings of his own vigorous, quick and impulsive, but deep and penetrating, mind. He had a full and regular Scotch education in Glasgow. Attending the literary and philosophical classes of the University during five sessions, he afterwards prosecuted studies in the Divinity Hall for three full sessions till the month of December 1823, when he had the advantage of varying the scene of his occupation by going to Eton as a private tutor. Significant fruits of his continuance for three years in this position might be discovered even in the brightest manifestations of his powers at subsequent periods. And long before he shone forth as an accomplished leader of men, he had very happily exhibited his familiarity with the best English writing. No intelligent judge of literary acquirement could fail to perceive, in listening to his preaching, the tokens of a cultivated intellect alive to the beauties of Shakespeare and other English classics.

At what stage of his life he first felt the full power of the gospel, and was stirred by zeal for the cause of Jesus and for the salvation of souls, there may be no evidence to shew. But whether the highest influence laid hold of his powerful nature at an earlier or a later period, indications of conscientious devotion to his Master’s work may be found in his correspondence for some time before his ordination. While still a probationer of the Established Church of Scotland, he had, as assistant, the entire charge of two very different congregations in succession—the one in Glasgow, from 1829 (the twenty-third year of his age) till 1831; and the other in the country, at Bonhill, from 1831 till 1833. Thus, in addition to his protracted course of education and tutorship, he had an extended experience of ministerial work both in town and country before he was called to occupy what was in many respects, in 1834, the most conspicuous pulpit in Scotland. Who can tell what progress of thought or what spiritual growth went on in that lively, clear-sighted and fervent soul, while the great ones of the earth and even the approved guides of the Church had taken no note of him?

Mr Martin, the excellent and much loved person who immediately followed Dr Andrew Thomson in the pastorate of St George’s, Edinburgh, was so quickly removed by death, that the name of Dr Candlish must always stand out in a commanding light as the name of the real successor to that extraordinary man in building effectively and largely on the foundation which his energy and earnestness had laid. The assistant at Bonhill had become in some measure known to the late Dr Welsh, Professor of Church History, who afterwards, as Moderator, laid the Disruption Protest on the table of the Assembly in 1843. That distinguished and consistent man was a member of the congregation of St George’s at the time of Mr Martin’s illness. Through him Lord Moncreiff and others heard of Mr Candlish, and thus came his nomination to occupy a pulpit which he afterwards illustriously adorned. At the very outset of his course in it, he exhibited so much greater minuteness and subtlety of discussion than the hearers of Dr Thomson had been accustomed to, that there was some division of opinion about him. But the present writer remembers well that, in the view of Dr Thomson’s experienced admirers, such as Lord Moncreiff, Mr Donaldson, Mr John Thomson, Mr John Tod, Mr Shank More, and others, members of session, the differences between his style and that of the young preacher whom they now welcomed, were as nothing in comparison with the manifest signs in the latter of uncommon mental power and special capacity for effective speaking, both to the understanding and the heart, along with independence and earnestness of spirit. Their judgment was thoroughly justified by the result. He speedily commanded the attention and regard of all classes in the congregation, and, as a preacher, gradually acquired the reputation which has become so great and well known.

Having been occupied only as an assistant during five years previously to the full appreciation of his ministerial gifts and his ordination for the charge of St George’s, an equal number of years elapsed before his eminence in the pastoral office was accompanied by the discovery and exercise of his unrivalled ability for the management of affairs and the leadership of the General Assembly. He took no prominent part even in the Presbytery of Edinburgh till 1839. In the spring of that year the adverse judgment of the House of Lords in the first Auchterarder Case was pronounced. Great anxiety was felt by the Evangelical party on the question of having adequately qualified persons to take the lead in the ensuing Assembly. Though the name of Mr Candlish was in the order of rotation for the representation of his Presbytery, no such opinion had as yet been formed of him as to relieve that anxiety. The character and superiority of his eloquence appeared for the first time when he spoke in answer to Dr Muir, and supported the motion of Dr Chalmers for maintaining the principle of Non-intrusion in the continued exercise of spiritual independence. But the brilliant displays which elevated him to the undisputed leadership of the Non-intrusion party and of the Church, were made at the meetings of the Assembly’s Commission in the latter portion of 1839 and the beginning of 1840, when that body was called to deal with the rebellion of the majority of the Presbytery of Strathbogie against the authority of the Assembly. The position thus acquired by him was maintained till 1873, the year in which he died. In the Free Church Assembly of that year he was specially blessed as an instrument of peace; and though enfeebled much in bodily strength, shewed a large measure of his former mental power.

From 1840, the enumeration of the services rendered by Dr Candlish, first to the majority of the Established Church before the Disruption, and subsequently to the Disruption Church herself, not only in the prime of his life, but for the advantage of her action in his more advanced age, would be to recount the history of Scottish ecclesiastical events for more than thirty years. From the suspension of the seven ministers in the Presbytery of Strathbogie to the final passing of the Act in 1873, by which, in connection with a fresh Overture then agreed to, the object of Mutual Eligibility between the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church was attained, so as to prevent disruption in the Free Church, this remarkable man made his influence predominantly felt in the prospering, the safety, and the vigorous working of his church. The confidence of an overwhelming majority never ceased to follow him. The high qualities of an eminently Christian and, at the same time, of a singularly master mind, were luminously evident in him along a particularly chequered course of trial and success.

It was said at the commencement of this sketch that he was a chief instrument for expounding the principles, directing the spirit, and organizing the government and system of the Free Church of Scotland. His exposition of her principles was given in its clearest and most impressive manner, at dates previous to the actual escape of himself and his associates from the harassment of the Erastian chains which in 1843 were threatening to encompass them. The principles specially concerned in that memorable escape were at the time represented as two in number—the principle of non-intrusion, and the principle of spiritual independence. His exposition of the principle of non-intrusion began with the striking outburst of eloquence already referred to, by which, replying to Dr Muir in 1839, he proclaimed the necessity of giving to the members of congregations an absolute right to prevent the settlement over them as pastors of persons whom they could not conscientiously receive as such. Throughout the various negotiations, consultations, and discussions which followed during the next four years, Dr Candlish took a leading part in maintaining and guarding the ground thus taken up by him at the outset. The integrity of her adherence to it was an essential element in the liberty which his energy, more than that of any other man, enabled the Church, by God’s blessing, to achieve when she carried away her standard to the hall at Canonmills.

The benefit of his acute, perspicacious, and thoroughly comprehensive intellect, was still more felt and enjoyed in his dealing with the great principle of spiritual independence. Not to speak of his splendid assertion of ecclesiastical liberty, in his treatment of the grave case in which the ministers of the Strathbogie Presbytery were concerned, nor of the instances in which, from time to time after the Disruption, he defended and enforced the Free Church view, it is well that attention should be fixed on the lucid declarations which appear in his speeches between the date of the judgment of the Court of Session in the Stewarton case and the date of the meeting of Assembly thereafter. The masterly manner in which he met the conceptions of the majority of the court as tending to the destruction of all religious liberty, produced a lasting effect upon the convictions of multitudes of earnest people. Adverting to the imputation brought against the Church, of claiming to be the sole judges of what is spiritual and what is civil, he electrified his audience by the three following declarations. He said, first of all, “Whoever may put forth this monstrous claim to be sole judge of what is spiritual and civil, tramples under foot the rights, spiritual and civil, of all mankind, and establishes a despotism altogether intolerable.” He said, secondly, “If this claim be put forth by a Church, it necessarily follows that that Church is dragging under her superintendence, to the exclusion of civil courts, all ecclesiastical persons, and assuming an authority in all causes, civil as well as in those ecclesiastical.” He said, thirdly, “But if this amounts to a violation of civil liberty when the claim is put forth by a court of Christ, is it less a violation when put forth by a Court of Session? If such a claim be admitted on the part of civil authorities, they may crush under their foot every vestige of religious liberty; they may put an end to the free holding of Assemblies; they may put an end to the free preaching of the gospel.” These and other statements of Dr Candlish were welcomed with great applause and sympathy. They had a chief part in carrying to a largely prevailing extent the mind of the Scottish religious population into a clear persuasion, that a principle which lawyers and statesmen rejected as extravagant and dangerous, was nevertheless a sacred principle not to be abandoned, and the only principle on which the scriptural freedom of a Church could safely rest. The idea became fixed among multitudes of carefully considering men, that no adjustment of ecclesiastical relations could satisfy conscience which did not fix “that,” to use the words of Dr Candlish, “the Church should be fully entitled to determine for herself, and for the regulation of her own conduct in spiritual matters, what falls under her spiritual jurisdiction; leaving the Court of Session to determine for itself, and for its own guidance, in deciding civil questions, what falls within its civil jurisdiction.”

Dr Candlish not only expounded Free Church principles in a felicitous manner; he also had much to do with directing the spirit of Free Church action. Besides the force of his inspiriting addresses, imbued as they were with the influence of the gospel in its highest tone, he gave a peculiar impulse at once by example, by exhortation, and by his proposals, to a habit of personal disinterestedness and self-sacrificing zeal in the various ecclesiastical movements of the emancipated Church. The success of the new organization, and its continually growing strength, even in the face of outward assaults and inward conflicts, are due in an incalculable measure to the strength of the spiritual fire which was thus cherished, by God’s grace, in response to the endeavours of Dr Candlish, and those who went along with him or followed him.

Dr Candlish was the chief instrument in organising the government and system of the Free Church of Scotland. He possessed a marvellous combination of high-reaching thought so as to be always applying the most commanding principles, with a capacity for sifting and arranging the most minute details. This combination, accompanied as it was by a most unselfish disposition, produced in him one very rare quality, the absence of which is often manifest in very excellent and intelligent persons. He had so great a habit of putting himself in thought into the place of other men, that he almost always saw things not only from his own point of view, but also from theirs. Whether he were dealing with the minister of a small country congregation, or with the office-bearers of a large one in the Highlands, or with any party in a large town, or with the clerk of a Presbytery, or with the clerk of the General Assembly, or with the convener of a committee, he scarcely ever failed to shew that he appreciated the other person’s difficulties, and made every allowance for the necessities and obligations of his position. Hence arose the great and general confidence placed in him. Thus, whatever faults he had were regarded by those who knew him, and by great numbers of persons who had experience of his consideration and tenderness, as well as of his ability and his painstaking and disinterested labour, as nothing in comparison with his surpassing merits.

It is astonishing how he was enabled, amid his incessant work for the Church during more than thirty years, to maintain the character of a pastor and preacher of a very high order, and to keep gathered round him an overflowing congregation of intelligent and devoted men and women. His success, both in the pulpit and among those to whom he ministered otherwise, went on increasing in place of abating, while he gave so much of his vigour to the general and public cause. At the same time he contributed various publications to theological literature, which of themselves are sufficient to establish a high place for him among the gifted servants of Christ. He was not a mere advocate of Free Church opinions. His mind took a large grasp of Christian interests and objects throughout the world, and he heartily sympathised with all sincere efforts for their promotion by churches and denominations differing from his own.

Great as the loss of him was to his congregation and the Free Church at large, those who had the privilege of his personal friendship are, next to his own family, the greatest mourners in thinking of the bereavement occasioned by his removal. That friendship was indeed a treasure. He was very true and faithful. He was full of loving-kindness and sympathy. He thought, in any contingency, of the interests and prospects of others in the view of their comfort and usefulness, even before they had begun to look at that contingency themselves. He entered readily into their anxieties, and did his best to guide them. He cordially reciprocated all confidence placed in him. He quickly forgot all unpleasant occurrences, and dealt with the persons concerned as if those occurrences had never been. To any one now called upon to take any measure of responsibility with respect to Free Church affairs, the feeling is strongly brought home that a channel of strength and goodness has been withdrawn, to which he formerly had recourse with lively expectation and with continual satisfaction.

H. W. M.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies

1 The baronetcy, dating from 1638, was for some reason allowed to fall into abeyance, but was revived in 1792 by the minister of Drumblade’s grandson, Sir Robert Turing of Banff Castle, who was the son of the Rev. Alexander Turing, minister of Oyne.

2 Dr. Begg died, September 29, 1883

3 For our sketch of the Marquis of Breadalbane we are mainly indebted to “In Memoriam,” a tribute to his Lordship by the Rev. Professor Chalmers, D.D., London.

4 We have not space for the list of his honours. Here are the chief:—M.A., Cambridge, 1807; LL.D., Aberdeen, 1807; F.R.S.E., 1808; Copley Medallist, 1815; French Institute Prize, 1816; Rumford Medallist, 1818; six other royal medals subsequently; F.R.S., 1818; M.I.C.E., 1822; Corresponding Member of French Institute, 1825; Guelphic Order, 1830; Knighthood by William IV., 1832; Principal of the United Colleges of St Salvador and St Leonard’s, St Andrews, 1838; one of the Eight Associates of the French Institute, 1849; Principal of the University of Edinburgh, 1859.

5 See article on “The Vestiges,” referred to above.

6 By a singular fatality, Mr Buchan sustained severe fractures on other two occasions, and as a consequence suffered, in some degree, from permanent lameness.

7 Among the matrons of the Monzie family are found ladies of the noble houses of Lennox, Mar, Athole, Ruthven, Sinclair, &c., and one of the gentlemen became a Lord of Session, taking the name of Lord Monzie.

Go to Index of Disruption Worthies