David Carment M.A.
Mr Carment was born on 28th September 1772, at Keiss, near Wick, where his father, James Carment, kept a school. His ancestors belonged to the south of Scotland, his father being a native of the parish of Irongray. His grandfather, John Carment, was born in 1672, and was baptised in the hills, under cloud of night, by John Welsh, the outed minister of Irongray.
Mr Carment received his early education from his father. When thirteen years of age, he went to the parish school of Canisbay, where he was taught Latin and Greek. He made rapid progress; and when he had just completed his seventeenth year, was appointed parochial schoolmaster of Kincardine, in Ross-shire. He remained there only one year, and being desirous to pursue his studies at college, he entered King’s College, Aberdeen, in November, 1791.
His father was not in circumstances to afford him pecuniary aid, and he had a hard struggle to get through his college course. At the close of the first session, he obtained the situation of tutor in the family of the Rev. George Munro, minister of South Uist. This enabled him to complete his attendance at the arts classes. He passed through the curriculum with much credit; and at the close of the session in the spring of 1795, obtained the degree of Master of Arts. He was then appointed parish schoolmaster of Strath, in the Isle of Skye, where he remained for four years. Having completed during this period his attendance at the Divinity Hall in Aberdeen, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Skye, on 4th April 1799.
After being licensed, he gave up the parish school, and became tutor in the family of Mr Macdonald, tacksman of Scalpa, a small island adjoining Skye. Mr Carment always referred to this as one of the happiest periods of his life, and it is believed that it was while here he underwent a saving change.
In March 1803, he was appointed assistant to the Rev. Hugh Calder, minister of the parish of Croy, near Inverness, where the principal ministerial duties had to be performed in the Gaelic language. Mr Carment, not being a Highlander, knew nothing of Gaelic till he went to Uist in 1792, and the preparation of his Gaelic discourses taxed him severely.
His preaching soon proved attractive, and many from neighbouring parishes came to hear him. He preached with power and energy those truths which, not long before, had become realities in his own experience. Not a few had cause to bless the Lord for sending them such a ministry.
In January 1810, he was chosen minister of the new Gaelic chapel in Duke Street, Glasgow, and having been ordained by the Presbytery of Nairn, he removed to Glasgow in April following. He continued to labour there for twelve years, and these were, perhaps, the busiest years of his life. Besides two Gaelic services, he had an English sermon on the Sabbath evening, which was largely attended by many who were not Highlanders. He took an active part in the management of the various religious and charitable institutions of the city; and formed the friendship of Dr Love, Dr Balfour, Dr Hamilton of Strathblane, and Dr Chalmers. His labours in Glasgow were much countenanced and blessed.
In 1815, he married Margaret Stormonth, daughter of the Rev. James Stormonth, minister of Airlie, in Forfarshire. She was a woman of very superior mind and eminent piety. She survived her husband for many years, and died in her son’s house in Edinburgh, in October, 1874.
In December 1821, Mr Carment was presented to the parish of Rosskeen, in the Presbytery of Tain, as assistant and successor to the Rev. John Ross. He was inducted shortly after, and entered upon his ministerial duties in the spring of 1822. Mr Ross was an old man, disabled from duty, and died soon after Mr Carment’s induction. The charge was an arduous one. There were three villages in the parish, besides a large rural population, the total population being about 2600. The parish was at that time in a very rude state. Its educational requirements were inadequately provided for, and many of the people had no copy of the Word of God. He set himself vigorously to remedy this state of things, and ere long there were four schools in the parish, besides the parochial school in the village of Invergordon. He also made an arrangement with the British and Foreign Bible Society, by which he obtained from them large supplies of Bibles and Testaments, both in Gaelic and English. Hundreds of copies were distributed in this way, the price being regulated according to the means of the parties, and none being given without payment, except to parties in very poor circumstances. Every one in the parish able to read had soon a copy of the Word of God.
Mr Carment’s preaching made a great impression in the parish from the outset, and he soon acquired an influence over the people such as is rarely attained. This may be thought the more remarkable, as he had no Celtic blood in his veins, and his character was thoroughly Saxon. His preaching was eminently practical, and there was a directness and terseness in his style to which Highlanders, at that period at least, were not much accustomed. He was a man of large bodily presence, and of almost herculean strength. His utterance was clear and distinct, and his voice had a compass which enabled him, without straining or apparent effort, to be heard by the largest assemblages in the open air.
In 1822, the system of “The Men” was dominant in Easter Ross. Mr Carment’s straightforwardness and independence of spirit did not suit them, and he and they soon came to an open rupture. Such an event, in ordinary circumstances, was fatal to a minister’s influence. The people left him, and followed “The Men.” In Mr Carment’s case, however, this result was, for the first time, reversed. The people left “The Men,” and followed the minister.
The limits within which this sketch must be confined do not admit of any detailed account of Mr Carment’s unwearied labours in the parish during the remainder of his life. His own impression was, that a considerable portion of his ministry in Rosskeen was less fruitful of spiritual results than his ministry in Glasgow and Croy; but in the year 1840 there was a remarkable revival of religion in Rosskeen, in common with many other places, and he had reason to believe that many were brought to the saving knowledge of the truth.
Mr Carment was seldom absent from his own parish, though he occasionally visited other districts, where his services were much prized. He enjoyed being returned to the General Assembly, where he made not a few highly effective appearances.
He took an active part in the pre-Disruption controversy, and in preparing his people for the result. And when the day of trial came, the people, almost to a man, followed their minister. Out of a population of upwards of 3000, it is believed, not fifty remained behind. Mr Carment did not go out till the middle of June. He preached for the last time in the parish church on 18th June, taking his text from 2 Samuel 15:25, 26. It was a day long to be remembered. At the close of the sermon he read a solemn protest, which he recorded in the minute-book of the kirk-session, where it still remains. It breathes much of the spirit of his covenanting ancestors.
The manse had been built for Mr Carment some years after his induction. It was situated in a lovely spot, with a lawn in front, fringed by a small stream, which in those early days contained wondrous trout. There was a sweet garden, which had all been laid out under his own superintendence. The churchyard was within a few hundred yards of the manse. Six of Mr Carment’s children lay buried there. They were the flower of the flock. Often, as the twilight drew on, the old man stole out to the churchyard to visit the graves of his loved ones. Their very dust was dear to him.
The pecuniary sacrifice which the Disruption involved, though large in itself, was as nothing compared with the disruption of those tender and hallowed ties, which linked father and mother and the surviving children to the manse and garden and glebe and the solemn churchyard.
Mr Carment was one of those who doubted whether the Church, before resorting to disruption, should not have longer continued the fight with the civil courts; but the pecuniary results never for a moment influenced his judgment in the matter. The emoluments told for very little; but to leave to strangers the manse, hallowed by so many deathbeds; the garden, and its quiet walks; the green lawn, with the little babbling brook—places sanctified by communion and fellowship with his God—and the churchyard and its sacred memories; this was a sore trial. It was in the true spirit of martyrdom that Mr Carment and his saintly spouse turned their backs on the commodious manse, and took up their abode in a small house in the village of Invergordon. It was a noble thing for a man with a family to sacrifice an income of between £300 and £400 a-year for conscience’ sake. But to tear asunder all those tender ties and associations, which bound their hearts to the manse and its surroundings, was worse than death. Still, they bore it bravely;— Martyrs, not by mistake—but martyrs for conscience’ sake.
After the Disruption, Mr Carment had two Sabbath services—one in a small chapel in Invergordon, for the east part of the parish; another on a moor, some four miles from Invergordon, where the inhabitants of the upper part of the parish met to worship. There was a good deal of excitement in the district when a new minister came to take possession of the manse and parish church; but, though there was some rioting, nothing serious occurred. Mr Carment’s influence was sufficient to prevent that. Within two years, a commodious church, seated for eleven hundred, was built in a central situation, and was filled to overflowing. He continued to discharge the whole parochial duty till July 1852, when he was within a few months of eighty years of age. His strength at last began to give way, and the Rev. John H. Fraser was appointed assistant and successor. Mr. Carment continued to preach once every Sabbath until March 1855. He died on 26th May 1856.
The following quotation from an article, written at the time of Mr Carment’s decease by the late Rev. Andrew Gray, of Perth, one of his most intimate and valued friends, may fitly conclude this sketch:—
Thomas Chalmers, D.D., LL.D.
In the roll of Disruption Worthies, the first place belongs, by universal consent, to the name of Thomas Chalmers.
He was born of respectable and pious parentage, at Anstruther, Fifeshire, on 17th March 1780. During his early years he was much more remarkable for glee and frolic than for steady application: yet even then he gave proof of his mental vigour, for when he chose to exert himself, he could easily outstrip all his schoolfellows. Before he had passed the stage of boyhood, he was enrolled as a student in the University of St Andrews. During his first two sessions he made little progress in his studies, and his great faculties were not yet roused into activity; but in his third session his aptitude for mathematical science was strikingly developed, and he never afterwards relapsed into anything like mental indolence.1
In July 1799, when considerably below the statutory age, he was licensed as a preacher of the gospel. At this period he was ignorant of the way of salvation, both theoretically and experimentally. He is known to have prayed publicly in such terms as these: “Deliver us from the fanaticism of faith,” and to have quoted in one of his discourses a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and then asked with an air of triumph, “Is there anything about faith here?” In May 1803, after having officiated for some time as assistant in the parish of Cavers, and subsequently as assistant in the Mathematical Classes at St Andrews, he was ordained minister of Kilmany, in the north of Fife. His conceptions of pastoral duty were meagre in the extreme. In a letter publicly addressed to Professor Playfair, when he became a candidate for the Mathematical Chair in the University of Edinburgh, he proclaimed his conviction that, after giving two days in the week to the duties of his parish, a clergyman might warrantably devote the rest of his time to extra-professional pursuits. And his practice was in accordance with his theory; for, after his settlement at Kilmany, he devoted much of his time and energy to the teaching of chemistry at St Andrews. His pulpit ministrations were characterised by intellectual power, but as yet evangelical fervour was entirely wanting. He preached on moral subjects with great energy and earnestness, and, as he afterwards acknowledged, without any practical results. A great change, however, was at hand. Laid aside by illness for some months, during which various good influences were brought to bear upon him, especially that of Wilberforce’s Practical View of Christianity, he came forth from his sick-chamber an altered man— “renewed in the spirit of his mind.” He now preached the pure doctrine of the gospel with amazing fervour, and, from that time till he was taken to his rest, he shone forth over Scotland, and ultimately over a large portion of the civilised world, as a star of the first magnitude.
Translated in 1815 to the Tron Church, Glasgow, and thereafter to St John’s in the same city, Dr Chalmers attracted vast multitudes by the fame of his extraordinary eloquence, and contributed mightily to the triumph of Evangelical truth over the cold and withering Moderatism that had been long in the ascendant. In addition to his ordinary pulpit work, he gave to the world his Astronomical Discourses, which, both from the pulpit and through the press, obtained a larger measure of acceptance than any series of discourses in the English language. In the best sense of the expression, his was a prosperous ministry, many having been won, by means of it, to the faith and obedience of the gospel; and, in another respect, it was eminently fruitful. Endowed beyond most men with the power of influencing the minds of others, Dr Chalmers gathered round him in Glasgow a band of devoted laymen, by whom his plans for the social and spiritual elevation of the common people were zealously worked out. The parochial organisation of St John’s became a powerful instrument for grappling with the ignorance, the vice, and the pauperism of a crowded population; and had this example been duly followed, society would have felt much more lightly at this day the pressure of enormous evils with which it is burdened and distracted.
While he urged the importance of turning the existing parochial machinery to the best account, Dr Chalmers saw clearly, and announced most emphatically, that it was far from being adequate to the necessities of the time. In an appendix to his sermon on the death of Princess Charlotte, published in 1817, he unfolded his plan for providing twenty additional churches for the city of Glasgow; and this may be regarded as the first of a series of efforts which resulted in a vast extension of the means of grace, not in Glasgow only, but over a great part of Scotland.
In 1823 Dr Chalmers was transferred to the Chair of Moral Philosophy in his native University. Here he wielded a commanding and most healthful influence,—rousing young minds into active exercise, inspiring many of his students with something of his own lofty enthusiasm, and kindling in others the flame of missionary zeal, which burned in after years with no common ardour. There still survive a few who can look back, with thankfulness and unabated interest, to the plain old classroom in which, day by day, they listened to such strains of eloquence and wisdom as could nowhere else be heard. Frequently, as the Professor was rising to the height of some great argument, a deep and almost breathless hush prevailed throughout the class; and then followed a burst of enthusiastic applause, which, however unacademic, was absolutely irrepressible.2
Dr Chalmers did not confine his labours within the walls of the University; and though there is little room for details in a sketch like this, it would be wrong to leave unnoticed his monthly missionary meetings in the Town Hall. These were largely attended, and were very helpful to the great cause of missions.
But a wider field was soon opened for his gigantic energies. In 1828 he entered on his labours as Professor of Systematic Theology in the Metropolitan University. In this new and more appropriate sphere, his influence was at once intensified and expanded: it operated more directly than before on the rising ministry of the Church, and was soon felt, and that most advantageously, in many of her pulpits. The Divinity Classroom was crowded from day to day, not only with regular students, but also with amateurs, among whom were men of high intellectual and social eminence. Examinations, introduced for the first time into the theological course, alternated with lectures, and were conducted in the most kindly and instructive manner. The substance of the lectures was ultimately published in the Institutes of Theology and the Notes on Butler’s Analogy,—works which testify to the profound wisdom and the intense earnestness with which the Professor sought to train his students for the work of the holy ministry.
Dr Chalmers took little part in the ordinary procedure of the Church Courts. He reserved his strength for great vital questions, and some of the brightest triumphs of his eloquence were won on the floor of themGeneral Assembly—as, for example, on the question of Pluralities. It was in a debate on this question, and in reply to one who had brought up against him the letter to Professor Playfair previously referred to, that Dr Chalmers gave utterance to the memorable words, “What, sir, is the object of mathematical science? Magnitude and the proportions of magnitude. But then, sir, I had forgotten two magnitudes. I thought not of the littleness of time—I recklessly thought not of the greatness of eternity.” The Church Extension enterprise, which was committed to his hands, brought him more frequently before the Assembly; and the Reports which he submitted from year to year were looked forward to with the deepest interest, and listened to with admiration and delight. In prosecuting that enterprise, he failed in obtaining additional endowments from the State, but succeeded beyond expectation in drawing forth the liberality of the people. Churches were erected in many localities where they were urgently required; parochial districts were attached to them; and, in a very few years, the Church was enlarged to a vastly greater extent than it had been for a whole century before.
From an early period, Dr Chalmers had been a strenuous supporter of Church Establishments, but always with the proviso, that the State should not trench on the Church’s freedom. State support he regarded as a matter of Christian expediency; the freedom of the Church he regarded as a matter of scriptural principle, not to be surrendered on any consideration. He would have retained both, if he could; but when it became evident that both could not be retained, he was clear and decided as to the course that should be taken. The famous Veto Act, though not precisely what he wished, received his acquiescence, because it protected congregations from the intrusion of unacceptable ministers; and when it was disallowed by the Court of Session, and the civil and ecclesiastical authorities were thus brought into collision, he took up his position at once in the very forefront of the battle. It is impossible here to enter into the details of the great controversy that issued in the Disruption. Enough to say, that Dr Chalmers was the Church’s trusted leader—the powerful and unflinching champion of its independence. And when, in consequence of the encroachments of the Court of Session, and the refusal of Parliament to afford protection or redress, it became necessary either to break with the State or to violate the Church’s scriptural constitution, he not only held that the former course was imperative, but formed his plan for the support of the ministry when the Disruption should take place. That plan he unfolded at the Convocation with a noble confidence and ardour. By many it was regarded with great misgivings; but experience soon proved its adaptation to the Church’s altered circumstances, and now, after the lapse of a generation, the Sustentation Fund stands forth before the world as a monument of the genius and wisdom of its founder,—proclaiming, as it does, that he who was foremost in eloquence among the Church’s sons, was also foremost in practical sagacity.
The Convocation alluded to above, adopted resolutions embodying the conditions on which alone the Church could remain in connection with the State; and when these were finally disallowed by Parliament, there was no alternative but to surrender emoluments which could not be innocently or honourably retained. This was the issue involved in the proceedings of 18th May 1843. Dr Chalmers was the first to follow the Moderator, Dr Welsh, in walking out of St Andrew’s Church, where the Assembly had convened; and on him, by universal acclamation, was conferred the honour of being appointed Moderator of the Free General Assembly. The scene in Canonmills Hall on that memorable day was such as Scotland had never witnessed; and assuredly not a little of its grandeur and impressiveness was due to the presence, the counsels, and the prayers, of the illustrious man by whom the chair was occupied.
During the remainder of his life, he watched with unremitting care over the interests of the Free Church, while his chief attention was given to the duties of the Divinity Chair in the New College of which he was appointed Principal. One of his latest labours is entitled to prominence, even in so brief a sketch as this. In the West Port, one of the worst districts of Edinburgh, he founded a Territorial Mission, which, in its infancy, he fostered with loving assiduity, and which, in the able hands of the Rev. W. Tasker, soon attained to remarkable prosperity. The example thus set was followed zealously and successfully in other districts of Edinburgh, in Glasgow, Dundee, and other large towns; and from the seed sown by Dr Chalmers in the West Port, there has sprung a rich and a still increasing harvest.
A careful economist of time, and very systematic in his habits, he accomplished with his pen an amount of work which, taken in connection with his other labours, may be regarded as immense. But it was easier for him to write than to sit in dreamy idleness: his pen kept pace with the operations of his mind.3 Not to speak of his multifarious correspondence, his authorship ranged over wide and varied fields—the Evidences and Doctrines of Christianity, Natural Theology, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Political and Social Economy, Church organisation, and kindred topics—besides many pamphlets on pressing questions of the day. His works are characterised by a majestic eloquence, often vehement and somewhat rugged in its style; they evince a most unusual combination of power, comprehensiveness, and penetration; and they are charged with great principles and lessons of practical wisdom, which the Church and society at large have, to their detriment, been all too slow to learn.
About the end of March 1847, Dr Chalmers was summoned to London to give evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons with reference to the refusal of church sites. His evidence was worthy of his character and fame, not only as exposing the paltriness and injustice of site-refusers and their abettors, but as involving a most noble testimony to the principles and policy of the Church which he so fitly represented. This was his last public service. After spending some time with friends in England, he returned to his home on Friday, the 25th of May. On the evening of the Sabbath thereafter, he retired to rest as usual, intending to be at work early in the morning, as he had the College Report to submit on Monday to the General Assembly. In the morning, when his chamber door was opened, he was found in bed in a half-reclining posture, with a calm and majestic expression on his countenance, but without a trace of life. His spirit had passed away, apparently without a struggle, to its joyful rest.
He was interred in Grange Cemetery. Hugh Miller says of the funeral:— “There was a moral sublimity in the spectacle. It spoke more emphatically than by words of the dignity of intrinsic excellence, and of the height to which a true man may attain. It was the dust of a Presbyterian minister which the coffin contained; and yet they were burying him amid the tears of a nation, and with more than kingly honours.”
Those who wish to have a finished portraiture of the man, of his humility and gentleness, of his child-like simplicity, of his bland and radiant humour, of his “leonine nobleness and potency,” of his geniality in private, and his grandeur in public life, must be referred to the invaluable biography by Dr Hanna. And those who would look still more closely into the inner life of the man, and form a just estimate of the depth of his piety, of his struggles on the field of spiritual conflict, of his aspirations after holiness, of his prayerfulness of spirit, and of his love to God and man, must consult the Horae Biblicae Quotidianae, and the Horae Biblicae Sabbaticae, a series of daily and Sabbath scripture studies which Dr Chalmers indited for his private use during the last years of his life, which he kept secret from his most familiar friends, and which of course did not see the light until after his decease.
On the 18th of May 1843, Dr Clason was appointed Joint-Clerk, with Mr Pitcairn, of the Free Church General Assembly. This office he continued to hold for upwards of twenty-four years, and was thus closely associated with the early history of the Church, and with the events that succeeded the Disruption.
Patrick Clason was born at the Manse of Dalziel—a quiet spot on the banks of the Clyde above Hamilton—on the 13th of October 1789. He was the youngest of a family of three sons and two daughters. His father, the Rev. Robert Clason (afterwards translated to the parish of Logie, near Stirling), was a man of singular gifts and graces. It was under his tuition that Patrick, together with several youths of the same age, received the first elements of learning; and in course of time, having decided for the ministry, he was entered at the College of Glasgow, and there completed his literary course. He was wont to recall the memory of these old times, when he toiled hard at his books in a lodging in a lofty tenement in the High Street. His course in divinity he prosecuted in Edinburgh, and was in due time licensed to preach the gospel in 1811.
We have no record of his probationary experiences, but in 1815 he was ordained minister of Carmunnock, near Glasgow. In that quiet rural parish he continued to labour for about nine years, and throughout life took a warm interest in the people of his first charge.
In 1824 he was translated to St Cuthbert’s Chapel of Ease—now Buccleuch Church, Edinburgh. There he ministered with much acceptance to a considerable congregation. As a pastor, he was faithful and sympathizing; and in his whole bearing there was an exceeding geniality, combined with dignity, which greatly endeared him to his flock. His ministry in the word was greatly relished by the more thoughtful and intelligent. It was not what is commonly called popular, but it was rich in exposition of divine truth, while his language was chaste, and abounding in the old Saxon; and his manner warm and attractive. None could listen to him without the impression that his heart was filled with the divine word, and that he loved to open up its treasures.
In 1830 he was brought forward as a candidate for a divinity chair in St Andrews; and though unsuccessful, yet the occasion brought out from some of the leading men of the day strong testimonies of the estimation in which he was held. Thus one writes of “the purity and consistency of his Christian character, his companionable manners, and the extent and solidity of his professional literature;” and another, “of his clear and sound judgment, his extensive attainments, alike in general and in professional literature, and his kind and conciliatory manners.”
The memorable era of the Disruption came, and Dr Clason, with the greater proportion of his congregation, left the old chapel, and worshipped for several years in a low-roofed building at the east end of Buccleuch Place, until the handsome edifice now occupied by the congregation was built.
One great interest in any notices of Dr Clason’s life proceeds from his close association with the early days of the Free Church. There are many who will remember his stately form at the clerks’ bar, his genial greeting of old friends, his thorough courtesy to all; and perhaps, specially, the peculiar grace and tenderness of his reading of the Bible portion at the opening of the diets of Assembly. His labours in connection with the clerkship were, we believe, congenial to his taste, and he continued to the last to take an intelligent interest in all the great movements of the Church.
In 1846 Dr Clason was deputed to visit some of the Mediterranean stations, and spent a considerable time at Malta, afterwards visiting Italy, and bringing home much interesting information. It was at his instance that steps were taken towards opening a Protestant church at Rome. Soon after his return he was called to the chair, as Moderator of the General Assembly, Dr Wood taking his place as interim-clerk. His stately appearance, arrayed in the old court dress and hat, is still remembered.
In the year 1854 his health was seriously impaired by an affection of the throat, and he was accordingly advised to go for the winter season to Egypt. The visit was not only favourable for the recovery of his health, but was peculiarly attractive to his antiquarian tastes. The account of his interviews with the priests of the old Coptish Church, and of his sojourn within an ancient tomb at the Pyramids, was very graphic. From Egypt he went up to Jerusalem, and formed one of a select party who were permitted, through favour of the Pasha, to visit the Mosque of Omar, accounted the holiest of Mahommedan shrines.
The succeeding winter was spent by Dr Clason in Madeira, where he enjoyed pleasant Christian fellowship, and returned home greatly recruited in health.
The appointment about this time of a colleague in the oversight of the congregation relieved him in some measure from his pastoral labours, but he still continued to retain his wonted chair in the General Assembly, and to take a warm and intelligent interest in all the enterprises of the Church. He had much pleasure in social intercourse with his friends, opening up the rich stores of his mind, and his knowledge of men and of books—abounding in anecdote and in memories of former days.
His last journey was into South Wales, to visit the son of an elder sister, whom for many years he had not seen. He was taken seriously ill on the journey home, and when at length he reached his own house, he felt that his end was near. He said to his faithful servant, as he sat down on the sofa, “B____, this is the end of the journey.” He had great peace in his soul. He had an impression for a long time previous that he was soon to be taken home, and when the hour of his departure came, he was at rest. “Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” He died on the 30th July 1867, and his remains were laid in the Grange Cemetery, beside many dear and honoured friends with whom he had been associated in the Lord’s work. “Thus blessed is the man that feareth the Lord.”
William Collins, the well-known publisher, and for many years the zealous fellow-labourer of Dr Chalmers, was born at Eastwood, Renfrewshire, on the 12th of October 1789. His memoir places us beside the infant springs of the Free Church of Scotland. Of independent, penetrating, and courageous intellect, Mr Collins was ever on the quest for new channels through which to develop his energies, but he was happily guarded from that tendency to theorise, which is the besetting sin of such minds, by the forethought and practical wisdom which he added to all his other qualities. His chief end and aim was the good of others. His philanthropy, early manifested, strengthened with his years, and opened out into a life which unfolded itself in a succession of great labours, wisely conceived and resolutely carried out, for the welfare of his fellow-men. Feeling that all that was really good in himself had its source in the gospel, Mr Collins’ efforts for the welfare of others were put forth along the line of that divinely restorative and elevating force which is found in the Cross, and nowhere else.
At the age of twenty-five Mr Collins was ordained an elder in the congregation of the Tron Church, Glasgow, then under the pastoral care of Dr McGill. In the course of his reading he happened to peruse the article on the Evidences of Christianity in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
The freshness of its intellectual power, and the glow of its moral and evangelical enthusiasm, impressed and delighted him. Accordingly, when Dr McGill died, Mr Collins turned his eyes to the author of the article which had so fascinated him, the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, as a suitable successor to Dr McGill, and greatly aided in the movement which resulted in the appointment by the Town Council of the young minister of Kilmany to the church and parish of the Tron. From no one did Dr Chalmers receive a heartier welcome on his induction in 1815 than from the youngest member of his session, Mr Collins.
The subject of our memoir now took his place by the side of Dr Chalmers, and continued to co-operate with him in his manifold labours all the time the latter remained in Glasgow. The two men resembled each other in spirit and aim, in genuine piety and large benevolence. It was not the minister alone, nor the elder alone, but minister and elder together, that wrought out that marvellous social and moral change that now began to transform the wide district that was the field of their joint labours. When Dr Chalmers originated the idea of local Sabbath Schools, Mr Collins opened the first school, and thus gave the religious community a proof of the practicability and efficiency of the idea of his great leader.
Dr Chalmers was next transferred to the new parish of St John’s. Mr Collins accompanied his minister to his new charge, and still kept his place by his side as his valued adviser and zealous and efficient fellow-labourer. To Dr Chalmers, with his keen political and social insight, it belonged to originate methods of civic and Christian economy, more varied and novel, perhaps, than any age had yet known, and to expound and recommend them by an eloquence of unrivalled brilliance and power. But his elder, quiet and unobtrusive, with keen untiring activity, and soul on fire, came after him, testing the ideas of his chief, and giving them practical realization in the hovels of the poor, in the haunts of the godless, and in the dens of the profligate, thus convincing a somewhat incredulous world that the schemes of Dr Chalmers did not belong merely to the region of philosophy and rhetoric, but were thoroughly practical—indeed, the only agencies that ever would recover the lapsed masses, replacing thriftlessness with frugality, and ignorance and vice with that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. The movement then begun was the first turning in that dangerous tide, whose volume had been growing larger and its waters darker with each succeeding decade, and which, had it been suffered to flow unchecked till our day, would have burst its embankments, in defiance alike of the moral power of the pulpit and the legal authority of the state.
Mr Collins’ philanthropy moved within no narrow circle. Every good object evoked the sympathy of his earnest nature. He advocated with characteristic warmth and courage the abolition of African slavery, at a time when that cause was not so popular as it came to be at a later date. This brought him into contact and co-operation with Wilberforce, Macaulay, and other champions of the emancipation of the slave. The fact that he took openly the side of the negro, and that petitions for emancipation lay in his book shop, alienated some of his business customers, many of whom were largely interested in the West India trade.
Mr Collins, moreover, rendered no small service to the cause of religious literature by his reprints, in a more accessible form than heretofore, of many of the writings of the divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. To these volumes suitable introductions were prefixed, written by the more eminent clergymen and laymen of the day, of all denominations. This was a wide sowing of the seeds of evangelical truth throughout the land. Besides impregnating the general soil, it planted, doubtless, in many a home and heart the knowledge and the love of genuine piety, where before the gospel had neither been known nor prized. In this scheme, moreover, Mr Collins furnished an example which soon began to be imitated in the numerous societies that by and by arose, and which had as their object the reprinting of the historical, literary, and religious works of former days. Since that time, popular knowledge has been advancing with rapid strides.
When the temperance cause found its way to this country from the United States in 1829, Mr Collins hailed it, as “throwing a ray of light,” to use his own words, upon a dark problem. He was the earliest member of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Temperance Society, and he laboured in season and out of season to promote its object. He visited, on this errand, many of the towns of Scotland, and even extended his tours to Manchester, Liverpool, and London, in all which places he delivered addresses to large audiences. He visited the metropolis three times, and succeeded, on his third visit, in forming the British and Foreign Temperance Society. At one of its early meetings in Exeter Hall he delivered his famous lecture on the “Harmony of the Gospel and Temperance Societies,”—a lecture which contains the germs of the ablest arguments employed in behalf of the movement, even under its later phases. From 1829 to 1834 a large portion of his time and means were devoted to the maintenance of a cause which he regarded as one of the handmaids of the gospel, and which commanded his sympathy and support to his dying day.
Dr Chalmers, some time before, had left Glasgow to fill the Chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of St Andrews. The departure of the master, however, did not cause the disciple to relax in the prosecution of those labours of Christian benevolence in which the two had been so enthusiastic and so successful fellow-workers. It was now, 1834, that Mr Collins projected the greatest of all his enterprises. This scheme, with which his name came afterwards to be mainly associated, had birth in an incident of a domestic kind. He had an only daughter, who was confined to her chamber by a lingering illness. To beguile the hours and mitigate the sufferings of the invalid, Mr Collins would sit down by her bedside, and relate the sad history of individuals and families whom it had been his lot, as an elder of a very poor district, to visit in the course of the day. As she listened, she could not help contrasting her own happy condition, refreshed by the Divine promises and upheld by the lasting arms, with the utter misery of those who were living without God and dying without hope. Can nothing be done, she one day asked her father, as he sat beside her recounting the tale of the day’s experiences, can nothing be done to bring the glorious truths on which I am reposing within the reach of these God-forsaking and God-forsaken ones? The question struck him. “Can nothing be done?” he seemed to hear his daughter say again and again, as he continued to ponder over the matter. Yes, surely, he made answer to himself, something can be done. These men are not far off—they are living in a Christian city —and surely there is wealth enough in Glasgow to bring the cheapest of all commodities, but the greatest of all blessings, to their door. As he pondered, a gracious impulse led him to devise and propound his grand enterprise of aiming to provide twenty additional parish churches for Glasgow. Many pronounced his scheme a “devout imagination;” but the very greatness of the enterprise contributed largely to its success Christian philanthropy in those days found vent in contributions of one guinea, five guineas, and, on very extraordinary occasions, ten guineas. Here was an appeal to Christian men to unite in achieving a great object of an evangelical kind by contributions of £200 each, payable in five instalments! This was a novelty; but a novelty that first astounded and next attracted men. The originator, they saw, was in earnest. He had given proof of this by subscribing at once his own quota, from, as was known, very slender means. His example stimulated the liberality of those whose incomes were five, ten, twenty fold that of the propounder of the scheme, and the result was that in a few months Mr Collins had obtained, mainly by his own exertions, the sum of £22,000; and only eight years after he had first mooted his proposal before an incredulous public, he had the happiness of consummating his noble enterprise by laying the foundation stone of the twentieth church erected under the auspices of the Glasgow Church Building Society. Of these churches, not fewer than thirteen or fourteen had most appropriately the name of William Collins graven on their foundation stone.
The key-note thus struck, the work was taken up by Dr Chalmers, who resolved on doing for Scotland what Collins had so nobly done for Glasgow. When this illustrious divine put his giant shoulder to the wheel, and went through the length and breadth of the land, arousing the country to the need of additional church accommodation, his former elder, far from restricting his sympathies and efforts to Glasgow, once more took his place by his side, and accompanied his chief in prosecution of this enterprise of Christian philanthropy, along with other distinguished men who were raised up at this crisis of Scottish history to aid in the movement.
A Government Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter. Elaborate statistics of the spiritual destitution of Glasgow were given in by Mr Collins to that Commission. These were not without important results. Copies were sent to all the dignitaries of the Church of England, and the result of their circulation among the English bishops and clergy, was the formation of church building societies in at least two of the dioceses of the sister kingdom. The metropolis of England did not deem it beneath it to follow in the wake of Presbyterian Glasgow, nor its metropolitan pastor to copy the example of the humble elder of the Tron.
But it concerns us more to trace the effect of this church extension movement upon the future fortunes of the Scottish Church. In the first place, it established a much higher scale of Christian liberality than had been in use aforetime. This, in the providence of God, was a preparation for a time of greater necessities and still more urgent claims, then near at hand, though as yet altogether unforeseen. In the second place, the number of churches and zealous and faithful pastors were, within a few years, greatly multiplied. While in 1833 there were only twenty-four churches in Glasgow in connection with the Church of Scotland, in ten years the number had increased to forty-four, and within the same decade over the whole country not less than one hundred and eighty-seven new churches had been erected.
But these were the least important of the results flowing from the Church extension movement in which Mr Collins had taken the initiative. Its fully ripened fruits were not gathered till the Disruption, which, as every one knows, was followed by years of church building on a scale never before witnessed. It is true that the material fabrics erected by the efforts of Chalmers and Collins were in almost every case lost to the Free Church. But let us reflect how little was lost, when the stones and timber were adjudged to belong to those who remained in the Establishment, and how much was gained, when the numerous and zealous congregations which had been nursed in these fabrics, with the faithful pastors who ministered to them, cast in their lot in almost every instance with the disestablished Church of Scotland. Let us reflect also how important an item these ministers and members formed in the noble army that gathered round the standard uplifted on the 18th of May 1843 for the crown rights of Christ, and the liberties of the Christian people.
In all these labours we see Mr Collins working for an issue he did not foresee, at least till it was close at hand. The experiments he had made were afterwards to be repeated on a much larger scale, and the success that attended them in the first instance emboldened himself and others when similar operations had to be undertaken in every city and parish of Scotland. Without the enlarged scale of contribution established by Mr Collins, it would have been all but impossible to have reared the five hundred new churches imperatively demanded by the Disruption; and without the living congregations, which his Church extension scheme had called into being, how very much smaller would have been that host of ministers, elders, and adherents that, marching out of the Establishment in 1843, constituted themselves into the Free Protesting Church of Scotland.
His interest in all that appertained to the highest good of his native land continued unabated after the Disruption. In the labours of the subsequent busy years to provide churches, manses, and schools for the congregations of the Free Church, he took part, according to the measure of his strength. He laid the foundation stone of the new and elegant Church erected for the congregation of Free St John’s, then under the pastoral care of Dr Thomas Brown. He also laid the foundation stone of the Free Tron, of which Dr Robert Buchanan was minister; and now he connected himself once more with the session of that congregation. He had left it twenty-one years before; he now returned and acted as an elder in it till called to the General Assembly and Church of the firstborn on high.
In 1848, failing health compelled him to seek the more genial air of Rothesay. Even there the noble passion of his soul could not help displaying itself. Despite his bodily weakness, he took an active part in the establishing of a missionary station in the most destitute part of that town. The accomplished biographer of Dr Chalmers, writing of Mr Collins as one of Chalmers’ chosen and beloved friends, speaks of him as one who, after a life of honourable service in the cause of Christ—as few busy men among us have ever lived—in that retirement into which feeble health has forced him, still cherishes with unabated zeal those interests which in bygone years he loved so much to promote. The writer of this short memoir had the privilege of spending part of a day with him in his retreat only a little while before his decease, and he never can forget the sweet serenity of spirit which breathed forth in every word and look; the glow into which his conversation kindled when it turned on the progress of Christ’s kingdom throughout the earth, and the deep repose and joy of his heart resting, as it evidently did, on his Saviour. On Sabbath, the 2d of January 1853, as the church bells were summoning the worshippers to the sanctuary, Mr Collins ceasing to breathe, entered into rest.
James Crawford was born in North Berwick, in December 1808. Part of his education he received in that town, and part in Edinburgh. In his native town he always took the deepest interest to the last, and was connected with the burgh by legal ties throughout his life, as well as by relationships and old friendships. With the whole surrounding region he was intimately acquainted; each spot was an old friend to him. He delighted to shew his friends the beauties of North Berwick Law, Tantallon Castle, and Dirleton, and to point out the small islands that lie out in the bay; but especially did his eye turn to the Bass Rock, the prison-house of the martyrs, which he visited and re-visited, and of which he at last secured a permanent memorial in a handsome volume, embodying all that can be told historically and geologically of that well-known and picturesque island.
In Edinburgh he betook himself to the law, and entered the office of Walter Dickson, Esq., W.S. There he was known for his diligence and conscientiousness, and especially for his benevolence and good nature; so that to try to “provoke Crawford” was one of the feats which his fellow apprentices sometimes attempted but had to give up as hopeless.
In 1831 he was one of a small band who planned the Presbyterian Review—a periodical, literary, ecclesiastical, and theological in its character, which in after years exercised no small influence upon the affairs of the Church of Scotland. Though not, in the strict sense of the word, a “literary man,” he shewed by his unwearied energetic support of that Quarterly, how thoroughly he appreciated literary work, and how intelligently he sympathized with the literary labours of others.
In the religious poetry of the olden time Mr Crawford was much interested, and had a large and accurate acquaintanceship with the names and works of the old poets, from the Reformation downwards. More than one of his favourite hymns he printed in neat leaflets for letters, and for general distribution.
Perhaps we might say that his favourite book was “Rutherford’s Letters,” with which he was thoroughly versant, and from which he delighted to quote to friends when sitting by the fireside or walking by the way. It is in great measure to him that the public are indebted for that splendid edition of the “Letters,” in two handsome octavo volumes, which was published in Edinburgh in the year 1863. It was one of the last things to which he set his hands, and he was greatly gladdened at being helpful in raising this monument to the memory of his beloved divine before he himself was taken away.
Having all along taken an interest in ecclesiastical affairs, and being well versed in Church law, he assisted in editing the “Book of Styles,” published under the superintendence of the Church Law Society, of which he was a lay member. He was one of a small committee of that society to whom were entrusted in 1842 the editing of the Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The volume was published in the following year, with a brief preface by the Rev. Thomas Pitcairn, dated just three days before the Disruption, 15th May 1843.
At the Disruption he was appointed Depute Clerk of the Free Church General Assembly, which office he continued to discharge till he was taken from us with singular exactness, urbanity, and painstaking toil. He grudged no labour in the discharge of his duties, and no one ever saw him ruffled in temper by the pressure of business, or the inconsiderateness of those who had to deal with him as clerk.
He was firm and decided, not only in principle, but in his actings. With all his gentleness, he would not allow himself to be moved away from what he believed to be the path of duty. He was not only the Christian friend in private, but he was the Christian man of business in public. He did not obtrude his religion upon others, but he made them feel at all times “whose he was, and whom he served.”
A thorough Presbyterian, and an intelligent Free Churchman, he was yet a Christian all over, and knew how to recognise Christ in his members everywhere. Not confounding distinctive testimony with sectarianism, he was not ashamed of his creed or his church; yet he always held his own without censorious depreciation of others. Full of the charity which thinketh no evil, he yet possessed a far greater amount of shrewdness and accurate discernment of character than he was credited with. Without artifice or subterfuge, without affectation or show, he went about his daily duties, whether sacred or secular, shewing how to resist as well as how to yield. With a punctuality and attendance to business rarely equalled, he found time in the midst of common duties for reading, for prayer, for visiting the poor, for assisting the many religious institutions of the city. Business did not blunt the edge of his spirit, nor unfit him for the study of the Word, which was to him not a book of theology, or poetry, or sentiment, but a book of life, a well of living water for his thirsty soul. While studying the whole Scriptures, he dwelt specially on those passages which revealed the person of his Lord, either in the grace of his first coming, or the glory of his second. The prophetic Word he pondered much, and delighted to meditate on the predictions of the coming glory of the Church and of Israel. He “loved the appearing” of Christ; he “watched” for it; he longed to see the King in his beauty.
He not only read, but studied his Bible. It was his companion wherever he went He treasured up and noted down every illustration of it that he could lay hold of, from friends, from books, from sermons. One could not be with him five minutes without having the attention called to some passage on which he had been meditating, or on which he had obtained fresh light. The Bible that he was in the habit of using daily is all written over with references and remarks, sometimes original and sometimes borrowed. The interlinings and the marginal annotations frequently cover the page, and almost hide the print. It may be worth while to gather up a few of these, not so much for the importance or originality of the remarks, as for the exhibition of the writer’s mind. On Rev. 3:14, he remarks, “Laodicea is sunk in lukewarm apathy, dreaming of peace when on the edge of an undone eternity; but not conclusively abandoned.” On the margin of 1st John 5:11, there is written: “Boston says, Sweet and comfortable prop of my soul.” On the words, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:15), we have, “Perhaps ‘finished’ has allusion to the sin of our first parents not being finished till the forbidden fruit was eaten, although both Eve and Adam had sinned before—the former by believing the devil, and the latter in also believing a lie.” On Heb. 13:15, we read, “Nothing shews the degeneracy of the heart more than the not praising God. David did it continually.” At the title of the Epistle to the Hebrews is written, “The royal and eternal priesthood of the Messiah.” On Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me,” his brief remark is, “Every one should be able to say this.” Above 2d Cor. 3:6 is written in red ink, “Quoted by Dr Cunningham on his deathbed, as a message to the students, December 1861”; and over 1st Cor. 15 is written, “This chapter was read to John Knox by his desire on the afternoon of the day of his death.” On 1st Cor. 2:14, he writes, “A man who is in the Spirit discerns things; does not judge, but has perception or discernment of which the world is totally ignorant.” At the top of the eighth of Romans is written, “The secret of living in the faith of an ever-present Saviour; loving, tender, watchful, faithful.” At Prov. 11:24, “He that watereth shall be watered also himself,” he has written these four words, as if expressive of his own experience as a teacher and elder: “What encouragement to teachers.” On the Song of Solomon 4:6, “Until the day break,” &c., there is this note, “This verse was wished to be put upon a tombstone in Rome by a Protestant father for a daughter. It was forbidden, as the Bible; for, if permitted, it would admit the possibility of Protestants being saved.” At the close of the fifty-third of Isaiah he writes, “The Church (believers) is in Christ, complete in Him, holy in Him, powerful in Him, hopeful in Him, glorious in Him.” At Isaiah 57:1, this note is made: “Dr Duncan, St Luke’s, Edin., 25th October 1853, after Dr Gordon’s death:” “Salt” (Matt. 5:12), “light” (Matt. 5:14). Psa. 119:20, “My soul breaketh,” &c., he marks by a quotation from Dr Chalmers, which was evidently meant to be a declaration of his own feeling as in coincidence with that of Dr Chalmers, “Most descriptive of my own state and experience of any in the Bible.” And on the same Psalm, ver. 130, he quotes the saying of another, “You cannot handle any saying of God in a true frame of spirit without finding yourself, in so doing, at a door which may lead you far in into the palace,—to the innermost thoughts of God’s heart toward us.” On Amos 5:18, he writes briefly, “Woe to those who are not prepared, as wise virgins, for the coming of the Lord.” On Obadiah and the brevity of his prophecy, he makes or quotes the remark, “If angels were to write books, we should have few folios.” On the side of the first verse of the 13th of Zechariah, about the fountain opened, there is this entry, “Tent at Ballachulish, September 1846.” On Matt. 11:28, “I will give you rest,” he writes, “Unrest is the great characteristic of the world.” On Matt, 28: 10, he writes, ‘”My brethren.’ No change in Christ’s feelings after His resurrection—’ My Father and your Father, my God and your God.’ How lovely!” On Mark 14:8, “She hath done what she could,” he says, “Sweet foretaste of things yet to come! Jesus will plead our cause, as he pleads this woman’s.”
It is interesting to notice the different places and ministers recorded in the margin of this well-used Bible. We have Dr Cunningham, Dr Chalmers, Dr Duncan, Dr Candlish, Dr Bruce, Dr Hamilton, Mr Hewitson, with others. We have many of the Edinburgh churches, such as St Andrew’s, St Luke’s, Lady Glenorchy’s, as well as North Berwick, Dirleton, and Regent Square, London. He delighted to go where he might hear the words of grace, Sabbath or week-day; and he was above many “a lover of good men.” The image of Christ in any one had an irresistible attraction for him. Loving the Master, he loved the disciple. The prayer meeting, the Bible reading, or the gathering of the “two or three” he delighted in. No one who observed him at these gatherings will forget his attitude of earnest looking and listening, as if drinking in every word. He was sensitive as to the soundness of the doctrine taught, and turned away from novelties that please the ear, but do not feed the soul.
One of the last conversations which the writer of this memoir had with him was when he lay upon his death-bed. The subject was “Christ our life,” on which his mind had evidently been dwelling. Once and again did he repeat the words, “The promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1: 2). Having in his days of early manhood found his way to the Cross, and learned there the forgiving love of God, he had walked this life as one who had tasted that the Lord was gracious, and who sought to lay everything that he possessed at the foot of the Cross. Surrounded with friends, burdened oftentimes with business, called to do much secular work, he yet maintained his conversation in heaven. “Blessed are the meek,” might be his epitaph; for with an uncommon meekness, gentleness, and tranquillity, did he pass through earth, leaving most blessed fragrance behind him.
He died in November 1863; and he lies buried in the Grange Cemetery, not far from Chalmers and Cunningham and the other worthies of his generation, to whom he was so fondly attached.
William Howieson Craufurd of Craufurdland
A finer specimen of a country gentleman could not anywhere be found than William Howieson Craufurd. He was the representative of one of the oldest families in Scotland. His mother was the only surviving child of John Howieson of Braehead, in the county of Midlothian, and Elizabeth Craufurd of Craufurdland, in the county of Ayr. By this marriage the two families of Howieson and Craufurd were united, and eventually the two properties passed into the possession of Mr Craufurd. Each of these has a history of its own—a romantic interest attaches to the one, a legal interest attaches to the other. The possession of Braehead dates as far back as the time of James V. The king had sallied forth unattended on one of his adventurous expeditions, and, according to the tradition, he was attacked by four or five gipsies, who were proving more than a match for him, when John Howieson, a bondsman on Braehead farm, came to his rescue, and delivered him out of their hands. The king invited him to call next day at Holyrood, and inquire for the goodman of Ballengiech, and he would at least shew him the king’s apartments. On doing so, he found to his surprise that it was the king he had befriended. In token of his gratitude he conferred upon him the lands of Braehead; and from that to this they have continued in the family in an unbroken line. This gift was coupled with the condition, that whenever the king came to Holyrood or passed over Cramond Bridge, the Laird should bring forth a basin to him in which to wash his hands. When George IV. visited Scotland in 1822, Mr Craufurd had the honour of performing that service to his majesty at the banquet given to him by the city of Edinburgh on the 24th of August. The ceremony is thus described by authority:— “As soon as the king had dined, a silver basin containing rose water was brought to his majesty by William Howieson Craufurd, younger of Braehead, who, in the right of his mother as proprietrix of Braehead, in the county of Midlothian, claims this privilege, the service performed being the ancient tenure by which the estate of Braehead is held.”
The succession to Craufurdland was the subject of protracted litigation. In the year 1793 Colonel Craufurd of Craufurdland died in Edinburgh unmarried. By a deed made on his deathbed he settled his estate on Thomas Coutts, Esq., banker, London. The validity of this deed was disputed by his aunt and heir, who had married the Laird of Braehead, and an action of reduction was instituted. Dying before it was finished, it was carried on by her daughter who succeeded her, and after many long delays, it was eventually reduced by a decree of the House of Lords. This decision is frequently appealed to as determining the question of law in all such cases.
Born on the 29th of November 1781, Mr Craufurd was educated at the High School of Edinburgh, from which he passed to the University, where he prosecuted those studies that enlarged his mind and fitted him for filling worthily and well the position he was afterwards to occupy. At a comparatively early period he was brought under the power of divine grace. This was in answer to the prayers of an invalid sister, to whom he was greatly attached. Before she passed away, she had the unspeakable joy of finding that he had passed from death to life. The change was decided, and its genuineness was attested by a long life of sustained consistent Christianity. While nature gifted him with all the amiabilities of a gentle and loving disposition, grace clothed him with those higher attributes that assimilate the soul to the Saviour. His religion, like himself, was lovely; it knew no gloom, and put on no austerity. He adorned the doctrine he professed, and commended it to other men.
In 1808 he was married to Janet Esther, only daughter of James Whyte, Esq. of Newmains, a lady of great intelligence, who took a deep interest in all that concerned the welfare of the people, and in the neighbouring town of Kilmarnock lent her influence in promoting every good work. Domestic in their habits, they dwelt among their own people. The situation of the castle is very beautiful. “It stands on the summit ʻof a steep bank overlooking Craufurdland water, which bounds the estate upon one side, while Fenwick water limits it on the other. The castle is surrounded with wood, and there are shady avenues in the vicinity, as well as a beautiful lake.” In all public matters Mr Craufurd took a great and active interest. As a Deputy-Lieutenant of the County of Ayr, Justice of the Peace, and Commissioner of Supply, he filled many important positions. All through life he was a keen politician, thoroughly Conservative; no one canvassed with greater eagerness or greater success than he: while the progress of events somewhat modified his views, he retained his political opinions to the end. But while these things received a share of his attention, it was the cause of Christ that awakened his deepest interest, and his sympathies were all on the right side. At a time when the friends of evangelical religion were few, and those who espoused it were exposed to reproach, Mr Craufurd stood forward, and made an open and fearless avowal of his convictions; occupying the chair at Bible Society and missionary meetings in Edinburgh, and joining with Dr Andrew Thomson in the defence of pure Bible circulation, he enrolled himself in the ranks of Anti-patronage, a cause which in those days was treated with ridicule and scorn, and made any one who maintained it become a marked man. As an elder of the church, he sat for nearly sixty years in the General Assembly, and if his voice was seldom heard in the discussions, his influence and vote were always given for the removal of abuses, and in defence of the liberties of the people, and the purity of the Church. One example may be given. Once and again what was known as the “Bracadale Case” came up before the General Assembly. It involved the question whether a minister could be compelled to administer sealing ordinances to persons whom he considered, from their ignorance and character, unsuitable—a rampant Moderatism having issued orders which, pressing upon the conscience of the minister, involved him in jeopardy of deposition for contumacy. The case became complicated, but the friends of evangelical religion rallied round him; and from the moderator’s chair, after the lapse of well-nigh half a century, the minister in question, Mr Roderick McLeod of Skye, made graceful reference to Mr Craufurd as one of the few survivors who had stood by him in an evil day.
It was but in keeping with his whole character and antecedents, that when “the ten years’ conflict” arose, he should be found on the evangelical side, and that when the day of decision came, he should march forth under the leadership of those noble men who surrendered position for principle, worldly interest and honour for Christ’s cause and crown. During those eventful years, when we were denounced as rebels and revolutionists, disloyal to the throne, and turning the world upside down, it was a matter of no small moment to have a man of the social position and high character of Mr Craufurd lending to our cause the weight of his honoured name. In politics a warm supporter of Sir Robert Peel’s government, and in himself the very impersonation of law and loyalty— a man who would have died for his queen and country—the idea of Mr Craufurd being revolutionary was felt to be an impossibility: the accusation died away upon the tongue. But while his political connections must have made it a greater trial and sacrifice to him, it only served to bring out into brighter exhibition the strength of his Christian principle. The well-known incident of the falling of the picture of King William in the ancient Palace of Holyrood, when the crowds attended the levee of the Lord High Commissioner on the Disruption morning, is associated with his name: it was he that exclaimed from a distant part of the throng, “There goes the Revolution Settlement!”
At the Disruption, along with several other valued elders and a considerable following of the people, he left the Low Church of Kilmarnock, and attached himself to the Free High Church, in which for twenty-eight years, till the day of his death, he continued to bear office. In everything connected with the congregation he took the deepest interest, and by his character and influence he contributed largely to its strength. The Sustentation Fund especially shared his liberality, and he made the Deacons’ Courts of the various congregations in which his properties were situated the channel of communication. It was no half-hearted adhesion which he gave to the cause; he was a most enthusiastic and thorough-going Free Churchman. But while he was firm and unbending in his adherence to principle, he passed through those exciting scenes, when sharp words were spoken and ungracious deeds were done, with perfect calmness and serenity, preserving his friendships unbroken.
Few men ever gathered around them so large a share of general estimation as Mr Craufurd. As an expression of their admiration of his high character, he was requested by his numerous friends to sit for his portrait, which now hangs in the fine old castle. The Presbytery of Irvine, whose representative in the General Assembly he had been for fifty years, invited him to a public entertainment to celebrate his official jubilee. Spared beyond the ordinary term of human life, he moved among his fellows like a venerable patriarch, and wherever he went the eyes of a new generation were turned towards him with respectful regard. Time laid her hand very gently upon him, and till very near the close he had few of the infirmities of old age. He had a long twilight, and his sun went down without a cloud. His place in the sanctuary which he loved so well began to be frequently empty. At several communion seasons he was able to be present only at the table service. On the last occasion he took the minister and his fellow-elders by the hand with an affectionate grasp, and on retiring, he looked round and said, “The Lord be with you all; my heart is with you, but I am not able to remain.” For a period of nine months he was confined to his room. He suffered no pain, but there was great feebleness. The last time I saw him he received me with the same pleasant smile; his countenance was lighted up with the old genuine geniality; time had written no wrinkles on his brow, and age had brought along with it no gloom,—even his memory, sadly failed though it was, seemed singularly fresh. Pointing to a portrait on the wall, he asked if I remembered that lady. It was that of his deceased wife—the old affection unabated—but above all there was the calm repose in his Saviour, and the bright hope of a speedy entrance. During all those months no repining word escaped him. He enjoyed being read to, but by-and-bye all other books were laid aside; he could listen to nothing but the Bible and a few hymns, his chief favourites being, “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” and “Just as I am,” adding at the close of it, “These were my father’s last words.” As the end drew near, the happier he grew. His confinement to his bed was short, but his exhaustion was extreme. His consciousness continued almost to the close. On the morning of the 17th of September 1871, he passed away without a struggle, in the ninetieth year of his age, leaving behind him a memory which will long survive as that of a man of stainless honour, of winning gentleness, and of genuine, but unobtrusive piety. His wife and two daughters predeceased him, and he is succeeded in his estates by his only son.
David Maitland Makgill Crichton
David Maitland Makgill Crichton took rank in the Disruption days as one of “the Lords of the Congregation.” His birth, his bearing, his shrewdness in discerning what ought to be done, at once assigned to him this honoured place. In addition to this, he was one of the foremost and lealest in the promulgation and defence of the Church’s principles and rights, when church court and platform were distinguished by the noblest band of eloquent men that Scotland had ever listened to. And all was heightened by the generous self-devotion with which all was done. Time, labour, health, horses, hospitality, means, were all unstintedly surrendered by him in the great struggle. The spirit of Christian chivalry was in the man.
Makgill Crichton was born at Rankeilour in 1801. His ancestry connected him with the Maitlands of Lauderdale; with James Makgill, the friend of John Knox, and the founder of the Rankeilour family; with Viscount Frendraught, Lord Crichton, to whose title he served himself as heir; and with the Johnstons of Lathrisk. Being the second son, he studied law, and passed as advocate in 1822. By the death of his brother he succeeded to the heritage of Rankeilour.
But his highest distinction, and as Baron Bunsen said of himself on his death-bed, “his richest experience, was the having known Jesus Christ.” To this he was “won” by the Christian conversation of his first wife, a daughter of Mr Hog of Newliston. He saw in her during a lengthened illness the sustaining power of the gospel of Christ. And what he saw in her he sought and got for himself—a saving interest in the same Redeemer. From the very first to the very last of his religious life, the inner character of his religion never altered. It was that of an individual soul dealing with a personal God. It was a transacting with God on the provisions and promises of the gospel for all that, as a fallen creature, he felt that he needed.
If then, as Carlyle says, “belief is the whole basis, essence, and practical outcome of human souls,” it is to the faith of Makgill Crichton that we are to look for the purpose and the energy which he put forth in the struggles of the Church, and “by this he obtained a good report.” This only can adequately explain the man’s entire consecration to the work. It was faith that worked, it was love that laboured.
In 1834 it was that Makgill Crichton enlisted as a willing worker, under the leadership of Dr Chalmers, in the cause of Church Extension. The commencement of his labours consisted in hard, patient, obscure local efforts to call forth thought and interest and liberality to the subject. Chalmers acknowledged, “with the deepest feelings of gratitude, his exertions,” and was accustomed to express it as his wish that there was a “Makgill Crichton in every parish.” By-and-bye he was moved forward to the front as a platform speaker. There he culminated at once as the most efficient of orators. Everything was in his favour. He was in his thirty-fourth year. An air of distinction sat upon the man. His figure was tall. An expression of firmness gave character to his sharp-cut features. His voice rung clear and trumpet-toned through the largest meeting. The cause which he advocated was of the noblest. The motive which inspired him was of the very highest. “If under the Church,” he said, “we have ourselves tasted of the word of life, we have in ourselves the true and only spring of pure philanthropy, and of love to God.” The high-souled look which lighted him up when he pled his cause, convinced every observer of his sincerity and earnestness.
His success was very great, but sometimes he was trysted with disappointments and downcasting. After a church extension tour, in which he met with discouragement, he returned to Rankeilour. His mind was weighted with its own depressions. It chanced to be the night of the prayer-meeting, which was held in the house of old Saunders Honeyman in Springfield, and being one of the members, David Makgill Crichton went to it. Before the service commenced, he unburdened his heart by telling his humble friends how much discouraged he was. All they of the meeting gave him their attention and sympathy. It was old Saunders’ turn to conduct the services. Saunders selected the 132d Psalm, and with solemn Scotch accent read out—
Lord, do Thou think upon.”
After singing the usual four verses, they knelt on the earthen floor. Saunders led in the prayer, asking for the kneeling company all promised and purchased blessings, and not forgetting “David and his afflictions.” The laird returned home, and his countenance was no longer sad. Those clay-floor cottage prayers were the presage of success.
With the view of aiding the cause of Church Reform and Church Extension, Mr Makgill Crichton complied with a call which was given him, to offer himself for the representation of the St Andrews district of Burghs in Parliament. He entered the field as a moderate Conservative. He left the field, “declaring his mistrust both of Whig and Tory, and assuming the independent position of a Bible politician,” words which Merle D’Aubigne adopted as a motto to one of his own pamphlets. Mr Ellice was his opponent in the contest; and out of 551 votes given, it was only by the narrow majority of 29 votes that Mr Ellice was returned.
It was because the Christian men and women of Scotland believed that the Church of Scotland, “like Jerusalem which is above,” was free, and protected in her freedom by the constitutional law of the country, that they wished to promote the extension of that Church. But as the Church went forward, reforming her practice according to the word of God and her own standards, the law courts, by a strange fatuity, obstructed her path at every stage by a series of decisions which have deprived her of every shred of jurisdiction. “He that is spiritual discerneth all things.” As these law court decisions succeeded each other, the Evangelical leaders felt, that such a church as the law courts leave to us, is a church not worth extending. It would be a moral and spiritual nullity in the land. And the men and women in Scotland who knew their Bibles and the Church history of Scotland, responded, the true Church of Scotland, which is the mother of us all, is and has been a free church, and, God helping us, she shall be free. And so the great question of spiritual independence came up and stirred the country.
No one was more impressed than was Makgill Crichton, of the far-reaching importance of this subject. As a Christian who read his Bible, he saw that this spiritual independence was “a thing touching the King,” and the spiritual life of the Church. As a Scotchman, he knew Scottish Church history, and that in the words of Froude, “the political freedom of the country had been hitherto wrapped up in the kirk,” or in the words of Professor Blackie, “the centre of Scottish nationality lay in the Scotch Presbyterian religion.” As a lawyer, he was well convinced that the constitution of the country and special statutes had secured, as far as it was possible for legislation to do it, protection to the Church in all spiritual matters. He was quite equipped for the conflict, and most heroically did he enter on its self-denying labours. In church, in school-house, in hall, in barn, all throughout Scotland, and in many parts of England and of Ireland, did he advocate that Scottish doctrine of the co-ordinate jurisdiction of church and state, which Minghetti has in this year of 1875 been commending to his constituents at Boulogne, and to the Italian Parliament, as that which can alone secure a free church in a free state. If it is in the masses that the feelings of a community reside, no man, either clerical or lay, did more to implant these great church principles in the mind of the masses, than did Makgill Crichton.
It is not easy to convey to the reader an idea of the multitudinous subjects which were constantly pressing upon the attention of Makgill Crichton, and of the stern working to which he subjected himself, during these eventful years. Here is a bundle of his letters, about the year 1843. By opening them, we may see the multiplicity of questions which distracted his thoughts and time.
These letters shew the range of his sympathies. His activities were represented by his being week after week away from his home, in all parts of the country, and night after night addressing meetings, yet taking care to be at Rankeilour every Saturday, that he might spend the Sabbath with his family, and be in his own pew in Collessie church. It was in the face of the most vituperative opposition, both public and private, that all this was done. The editor of The Witness newspaper tells us, that for a few days he had clipped out of the newspapers all that he had seen written against Mr Crichton, and by fastening it together, he found that it had extended to eleven feet six inches and three-eighth parts of undiluted abuse, in one brief fortnight.
In 1844, under the strain of this excessive work and excitement, health gave way. Paralysis shewed itself unmistakeably, shattering for a time both body and mind. As Mr Percival Bunting of Manchester, wrote— “Many, very many, friends, both known and unknown, sympathised with him in his afflictions, and prayed, not coldly or unfrequently, for his recovery.” Among such, it is deeply affecting to see the venerable Chalmers bending over his fellow-labourer and fellow-soldier when he was stricken down, relating to him his own somewhat similar experience, and comforting him with the comfort wherewith he himself had been comforted of God.
“A very remarkable experience of mine during that summer was, that I often in speaking stuck in the middle of a sentence, and it seemed as much due to a failure in thought as a failure in articulation. I mention this because I have been recently visited by the same symptoms. …
“It is a great comfort, amid the uncertainties of this ever-shifting pilgrimage, to think that we are in good hands, and under the vigilant eye of Him who likes to be trusted, and bids us cast all our care upon Himself. May you, my dear sir, have great peace and joy in believing, and may you realise in your own person that most beautiful of Scripture verses, ‘in quietness and confidence ye shall have strength.’ I ever am, my dear sir, yours most cordially and with great affection, Thos. Chalmers.”
Another evidence of the wide-spread sympathy with which he was regarded, was the presentation of a silver centre piece, combining the properties of an epergne and candelabrium, bearing this inscription— “To David Maitland Makgill Crichton, Esq. of Rankeilour, from ten thousand members of the Free Church.” Dr Candlish, in making the presentation, said, “The principles in support of which you have submitted to so much labour and to so many sacrifices, are worthy of an apostle’s zeal and a martyr’s faith, connected as they are with the kingly crown of our blessed Saviour, and the freedom of his people.”
We have not space to particularize further. The years of life which yet remained were actively spent in the midst of the practical questions which were always turning up, and the course which he followed was the same “slapdash, straightforward, earnest course” it had ever been. But it was marked by more irritability, and impatience of contradiction, and severity of censure. And what were these but the symptoms of what the post-mortem inspection afterwards revealed, that structural disease had so pervaded the system as to make life a continual struggle and disturbance!
His last efforts were called forth on behalf of Dr Thomson of Coldstream, who had spent many years of his life, and “all he had left in the world,” in contending for a cheap Bible against Bible monopoly. Again did Mr Crichton traverse Scotland, raising the needed funds, and relieving a good man’s heart “from a heavy load of anxiety.”
Of all who still remain and knew Makgill Crichton intimately, there is not one but will regard his memory with fond affection. His likeness hangs in the “ben room” of their heart. One who was much with him, and knew him well, penned this statement the other day, and many will endorse it: “The general impression of the grandness and nobility of his character has been only deepened in my mind with the lapse of years, and with my increased knowledge of the littleness and selfishness of the mass of mankind.” Who that knew him will forget his zeal and generosity; his ready humour, and the twist of the mouth and the twinkle of the eye that accompanied it; the hospitality of his home, lighted up by the presence and the varied converse of Brewster and Hugh Miller, of Guthrie, Candlish, Patrick Clason, Begg, and James Mackenzie, whose fifteenpence History reflects more truthfully the spirit of Scottish history than all the volumes which have been written? Who will not remember his readiness humbly to acknowledge wherein he had erred, when dealt with in the spirit of meekness,—his gentleness in the midst of his family,— and the feeling of lowly reverence with which at family worship he prostrated himself before God? It is his religion, and the nature of it, which after all is the great fact to him now, and ever was, for it gave complexion to his character and life. His religion was strong in its scriptural simplicity. It was to him a matter of certainty, not so much logical or inferential as experimental, for he felt that it righted his relation with God through Christ, and maintained daily fellowship with God through Christ. His religion was definite and doctrinal, for he knew it as a system of divine truth wherein one doctrine harmoniously combined with and sustained another. His religion was a simple, childlike devoutness, healthily fed by the varied elements which the Spirit of God has infused into Bible narrative and Bible statement, and gathered by him daily, as the manna was gathered by the Israelites, with the dew of heaven fresh upon it. On this religion he lived the life he led, and by it he died in the quietness of faith.
There was a soldier-like simplicity in the manner of his death. He had sat up to evening family worship. He had requested to be allowed to ascend the stair to his bed-room unattended. He had his portion of Scripture read to him after he had gone to bed. In the early morning a fit of breathlessness aroused him. His son was immediately at his side. “Thank God,” he said, “my boy, I am better.” Scarcely were the words uttered, when the spirit fled.
And for the good fight foughten well, and closed right peacefully.”
Makgill Crichton was one of the row of hard-wood trees which stood on the outskirts of the forest, and sheltered it from the tempest These have now been mostly removed one by one. The stormy blasts now get entrance into the depths of the wood, and many a green spruce is seen lying on its side, with its surface-spread roots high up in the air.
William Cunningham, D.D.
Principal Cunningham was born on the 2d of October 1805, at Hamilton, where he also spent the earlier years of his youth, and was taught to read. His father, a merchant in the town, having died suddenly, the widow, with three orphan sons, removed to the grandfather’s farmhouse of Drafane, near Crossford, in the parish of Lesmahagow; and amid the happiest advantages of rural seclusion and domestic comfort, the education of the boys went on as hitherto. But the aged tenant of Drafane was taken away by death not long after, and the family whom he had so generously sheltered, exchanged Lanarkshire for Berwickshire, to be comfortably settled at Cheeklaw, a farm-steading not far from Dunse.
There were kind relatives at Dunse, and a superior school, where the lad who had excelled in all the branches of Elementary tuition, kept still the highest place in Classical competition. No boy is more eager than William Cunningham on the playground, but even at this stage he was not less bent on reading. It is not improbable that the blood of Peden was in the mother’s veins; and at all events, in mental sinew, as well as in outward frame, the matron was worthy of the hero. But if slightly austere, as a covenanter might well be, tenderly did the mother love her son, and as affectionately did the son love his mother; and though then he knew not God at all, yet, anxious to ease her of any burden, and win her smile, William took his mother’s place in conducting family worship, whilst he was no more than fourteen years of age.
In 1820, William Cunningham proceeded from the provincial school of Dunse to the University of Edinburgh, and there he lost no time in shewing that he was a match, both in Latin and Greek, for even the duxes of the Metropolitan High School. Only a week after the Session had commenced, Professor Pillans asked the meaning of a hard passage in a difficult Roman author, and William Cunningham was the first out of the large Humanity class who stood up ready to give the translation. All the classes embraced in the Literary curriculum of the college William Cunningham attended, in their usual order, with marked distinction. But he did not graduate. And for this reason, that in his day, the degree of M.A. was no badge of merit, and even Professors discouraged students from making it an object of ambition.
It was in 1816 that the Edinburgh University Diagnostic Society was set on foot, and in 1821 William Cunningham became a member. We record this fact with especial interest, for now had he taken a step, or entered on a path, which was eventually to change the entire direction and object of his life. From the first he was punctual in his attendance at all the meetings of the society, and evinced the same readiness in debate, the same fearless candour, and the same lucid, though bald expression, which were the characteristics of his eloquence ever afterwards. But it was here he was brought into contact with those who now became the constant companions of his day and the chosen friends of his bosom —young men like himself in tastes and aims, but who, perhaps, in Christ before him, were the means of waking him up to spiritual thoughtfulness and concern. Born and bred a Moderate, William Cunningham had up to this hour no inward wants which required more than what the negative theology and hollow ethics of Moderatism were sufficient to meet. Drawn, however, by his new associates within the sphere of evangelical influence, he now often attended the ministry of Gordon; and in 1825, a sermon from that wonderful preacher on Regeneration was the means, in the hand of the Holy Ghost, of subduing the enmity of his carnal heart, and making him a new creature by faith in Jesus Christ.
Old things are passed away with William Cunningham, but not less are all things made new; and whilst ardent as ever in the accumulation of learning, he took part, with all his intense enthusiasm, in every scheme or society within the university which had the progress of the gospel and the glory of Christ for their object. Previous to this date, the Spirit had been poured out on the students of the Edinburgh Divinity Hall, and during the decade, extending from 1823 to 1833, in the much prayer and holy joy and zealous activity which were conspicuous, it seemed as if the days of Rollock and Leighton were come back. The Theological students formed their Association for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge towards the end of 1825; the Church Law Society was instituted in 1827; a committee was organised that same year to place the Library of the Hall upon a more liberal basis, after an age of resolute and inexplicable mismanagement: and in each of these efforts William Cunningham always bore a leading part.
He finished his curriculum as a student of divinity in the spring of 1828, and being licensed, a few months later, as a probationer by the Presbytery of Dunse, he preached his first sermon on the 14th of December at Larbert, in the pulpit of the late Dr John Bonar.
Dr Cunningham was desirous of visiting the Continent, and his wish seemed to be on the point of being realised at this time, when the arrangement he was counting on unexpectedly failed:—
Dr Cunningham was now on terms of most affectionate intimacy both with Dr Thomson and Dr Chalmers, and it is difficult to say which of these great men had the highest place in his esteem.
What has long gone by the name of “the Row Heresy,” broke out first in 1828, and as one who was very suspicious of its tendencies, Dr Cunningham thus expresses himself in a letter of 1829:—
In 1830 Dr Cunningham became assistant and colleague to Dr Scott, of the Middle Church, Greenock, and greatly was he blessed here, both in the pulpit and in the parish. At the same time he keenly watched the evolutions of Rowism, and not only warned his flock against that insidious heresy, but deposed one of his elders who was bold enough to avow it at a meeting of Session.
Dr Cunningham visited London for the first time in 1833, and preached in Regent Square Church, from which Irving had been recently ejected. During the week he heard some of the ministers best known for their talents and usefulness, and greatly admired them.
So far back as 1826, Dr Cunningham, while only at the Hall, used to declare that were he a member of Presbytery, and a presentation against which the people reclaimed laid on the table, he would move that it be rejected. This early announcement of non-intrusion principles was mentioned by a fellow-student to Dr George Cook, and the quick remark of the astute politician of Laurencekirk, even at that date, was, “Let the attempt be made, and there is an immediate conflict between the civil and ecclesiastical courts.”
The view which Dr Cunningham had formed in 1826, he expounded with matchless clearness and force in the Assembly of 1833, when supporting Dr Chalmers’ proposal of the Veto; and the impression then left by his speech was, that though defeated on that occasion, defeat was only the prelude of a coming and conclusive victory.
A battle, however, must be fought ere this issue is achieved; and that he might be at the centre of Scottish influence when the crisis was advancing, Dr Cunningham was translated to Edinburgh in 1834, and became minister of Trinity College Church. In this sphere, though the disadvantages were manifold, he wrought with energy, and acceptance, and encouragement. But possessed of an aptitude for ecclesiastical business, and a capacity for ecclesiastical discussion, such as rendered George Gillespie so famous, Dr Cunningham soon exchanged pastoral duty for political conflict; and from this point his life was bound up in the history of that Church which he strove so manfully to reform, if haply it might be preserved, and not overthrown.
There were public questions lying outside the Church of Scotland, such as Popery, Voluntaryism, Education, Tests; and each of these Dr Cunningham took up and set in their true light. But it was rather Domestic measures and controversies he reserved himself for, and it was seldom that his wise and temperate judgment on such matters was disputed, or even modified.
In 1838 Dr Cunningham was brought to the verge of life by fever; but graciously spared, he girt himself for more strenuous labour than ever from that time, and in 1839 prepared his “Reply to the Dean of Faculty” on the Auchterarder case; following up this masterly exposure with his “Defence of the Rights of the People,” in answer to Robertson of Ellon, in 1840. It was in 1841 that Dr Chalmers moved the deposition of the Strathbogie ministers who refused to obey the authority of the General Assembly, and the speech of Dr Cunningham in seconding the motion was eminently distinguished as much for a lofty tone as by luminous argument.
The Convocation met in 1842, and the Disruption took place in 1843. Without loss of time “the New College” was constituted, and Dr Cunningham appointed Junior Professor of Theology, with Apologetics as his department.
Though this was a department of theological literature in which he never felt peculiar interest, yet he at once addressed himself to it with thorough earnestness, as the following extract from a letter, dated 8th August 1844, will shew:—
“All these subjects may be handled in such a way as to bring the students a good deal into contact with the Bible itself; and when taken together, they should, I think, lay a good foundation for their theological studies.”
At the request of the Church, and just at the time when he was in much sorrow for the loss of a beloved child, Dr Cunningham crossed the Atlantic in mid-winter of 1844, to inquire into the constitution and working of the Presbyterian theological seminaries in the States; as also to explain the principles of the Free Church. Soon after he had arrived (in 1845) from America, owing to the lamented death of Dr Welsh, Dr Cunningham was placed in the Chair of Church History; and two years afterwards (in 1847) he became Principal of the New College, as successor to Dr Chalmers, of whom the Church had been suddenly bereaved.
Earnestly alive to his responsibility, as Principal, for the development of theological education, and the advancement of theological science, Dr Cunningham now directed all his energies to the equipment of the New College as a Model institute for training students of divinity; and his hope was, that he might be allowed to carry out his ideas in all their extent before other Halls were contemplated. But what he pleaded for was not granted. Aberdeen and Glasgow insisted on being dealt with, from the outset, as Edinburgh, and their claims were looked upon with favour by those who guided the affairs of the Church. The College controversy then broke out, and after an arduous struggle, Dr Cunningham, to his chagrin and sorrow, was foiled.
A wide chasm after this severed Dr Cunningham from those with whom he had hitherto acted in the Free Church, and the alienation, as obvious as it was unhappy, continued from 1852 to 1858, when the wound was closed, whether it were healed or not. Old friends were induced to come together once more, and in 1859 Dr Cunningham was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly, amid the acclamation of the whole Church.
Perhaps it would have been well had this honour been postponed; for there can be no doubt that his official duty in the chair told against the failing health of Dr Cunningham, and ripened the seeds of lurking disease.
During the summer, however, Dr Cunningham seemed to rally; and in 1860 he opened the Assembly, as retiring Moderator, with a masterly discourse upon the Atonement. This was the last sermon he ever preached, and it was his greatest. The greatest speech he ever delivered was on the Australian Union, in 1861, and it was his last.
Throughout the summer and autumn of 1861, Dr Cunningham had apparently gained strength, and he was cheerful as of old. But all at once the tall cedar shook: and now it was the root, not the branch, that was smitten. On the 15 th of December he died, and on the 18th he was buried—his sorrows ended, and his labours crowned, in the saints’ everlasting rest.
The Earl of Dalhousie, K.T.
This nobleman, for more than forty years, from 1831 to 1874, lived in the public eye, taking an active and influential part in all the stirring and important questions— civil and ecclesiastical—which agitated the country during that eventful period.
As one of the Disruption Worthies, this memoir has principally to record the services which he rendered to the Church. Yet the nature and importance of these services cannot be fully understood without adverting to his position in society, and to his political career.
He was lineally descended from two of the oldest families of Scotland —the Ramsays of Dalhousie and the Maules of Panmure, both famous in Scottish story. The Ramsays of Dalhousie trace their descent to the days of David I. Nearly two hundred years ago Allan Ramsay the poet wrote of the Earl of that day—
My pride, my stoup, my ornament.”
And throughout their history, down to the subject of this memoir and his cousin and immediate predecessor, the Governor General of India, the Ramsays have been represented by many famous names, not unworthy of the poet’s praise.
The Maules of Panmure are of an equal antiquity, tracing their descent to the days of William the Conqueror. In 1224, one of the Maules married Christian,4 the heiress of the Panmure estates. As a race the Maules seem to have been distinguished by great strength of will, determination of purpose, and unwavering fidelity to every cause they espoused. On the death of one of the heads of the House of Maule without issue, the estates of Panmure passed to his nephew, the seventh Earl of Dalhousie. At his death the estates of Panmure were inherited by his second son, the Hon. William Ramsay, who then assumed the name of Maule. In token of his admiration of the great Whig statesman, Charles James Fox, he named his firstborn son, the subject of this memoir, Fox. This early dedication to political principles was fully accepted by his son in after life.
Fox Maule was born in Brechin Castle, 22d April 1801. He was educated at the Charter House, London. In 1819 he received his commission as ensign in the 79th Regiment of Cameron Highlanders. It is not a little characteristic of the man that, when he joined his regiment in Edinburgh Castle, he used after drill to doff his uniform and attend the Humanity Class in the University, and at the close of the session carried off the prize for Latin declamation.
For some years he served in Canada on the staff of his uncle, the Earl of Dalhousie. The practical knowledge which he then acquired of military duties and of a soldier’s life was eminently useful to him as a member of Parliament, and especially as Secretary at War during the latter part of the Crimean war.
In 1831, having attained to the rank of captain, he retired from the army, and having married the Hon. Montagu, daughter of the second Lord Abercrombie, he took up his residence at Dalguise House, on the banks of the Tay, near Dunkeld. This was his home for twenty years. Being then thirty years of age, in the freshness of manly strength, fond of society, and devoted to field sports, his life might long have been one of mere pleasure. But those were the stirring days of the Reform Bill when Scotland was excited to an unusual degree. Fox Maule caught the enthusiasm of the times, and issuing from his Highland home, plunged with his whole heart into the midst of the first election for Perthshire, canvassing in favour of his friend, the Marquis of Breadalbane, then Lord Ormelie. It was greatly owing to his indefatigable and persuasive efforts that the contest was won. The die was then cast. His aptitude for a political life was manifest at once. As he afterwards said, “I was politically born then.” At the next election, in 1834, he was returned as member for Perthshire. Having lost his seat at the next election, he was returned for the Elgin Burghs. Having resigned his seat for the Elgin Burghs, he was elected by the city of Perth, which he continued to represent for ten years, until he was called to the House of Lords after his father’s death.
But Fox Maule was more than an ordinary member of Parliament. During his Parliamentary career he filled several important offices of State. He was successively Under-Secretary for the Home Department, Vice-President of the Board of Trade, President of the Board of Control, and twice Secretary at War. He was also a Privy Councillor. On the overthrow of the Aberdeen Ministry in 1855, on account of the alleged mismanagement of the Crimean war, Viscount Palmerston was called to the helm of affairs, and Lord Dalhousie, then Lord Panmure, was selected by him to extricate the War Department from the difficulties in which it had become involved. His Lordship fully justified the confidence reposed in him, and by his good management and persevering labours, the British army was at the close of the war in a more effective state than at its commencement. His administration at the War Office was eminently successful. One of his first achievements was so to minimise and regulate the use of the lash as speedily to lead to its entire abolition. He introduced the system of competitive examination for commissions, which has tended so much to raise the standard of military education. He also reduced the period of enlistment; and in many ways promoted the comfort of soldiers.
The position which he had earned for himself as a public man was manifested when in 1842 he was elected as Lord Rector of Glasgow University, though his opponents were the Marquis of Bute and the Duke of Wellington. In token of his sovereign’s favour, he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Forfarshire, and made Knight of the Thistle and Knight Commander of the Bath. Midway in his political career, when after twenty years’ service in the House of Commons he took his place in the House of Lords, a farewell banquet was given to him by his constituents at Perth. Lord John Russell said of him: “During the whole time I was at the Home Office, and since which I had to conduct in a higher sphere the affairs of the nation, I have derived the greatest advantage from the sentiments, the intelligence, the perseverance, and the ability of my noble friend. But all this would not have so recommended him had I not been satisfied that he is thoroughly impressed with the great maxim of the great statesman (Mr Fox), from whom he has derived his name, that what is morally wrong cannot be politically right.”
Educated in England, for ten years actively occupied in military duties chiefly in Canada, surrounded by social enjoyments, and then plunging into political life, it seemed unlikely that Fox Maule would interest himself in the ecclesiastical questions that then agitated the Church of Scotland. Perhaps till he entered public life they had never engaged his attention. And probably at that time he might have thought it most unlikely that he would ever take any prominent part in religious questions. Various influences, however, prepared his mind and led him on. Among the earliest and most powerful of these was the teaching and example of a pious and much-loved mother. As the excitement of the first election after the Reform Bill led him into the arena of political life, so there were external circumstances which forcibly drew his attention to ecclesiastical affairs. Dr Chalmers was urging his scheme for church extension on the notice of the legislature when Fox Maule entered public life. As Under Secretary for the Home Department, Scottish affairs were largely submitted to his consideration. Being thus brought into contact with such men as Drs Chalmers and Guthrie, he could not but feel their influence. Again, at the election for Perthshire, in 1834, when he secured his seat in the House of Commons for the first time, the question of non-intrusion occupied so prominent a place, that both parties found themselves constrained to profess themselves to be friendly to the popular side of that question. This may have been his first introduction to the subject. But from the professions then made he never swerved nor drew back. In addition to this, the disputed settlements of Lethendy and Auchterarder, both in Perthshire, must have led him more thoroughly to consider the principles which were involved. But however this may have been, from that date Fox Maule was the zealous friend of all philanthropic and missionary enterprises, and the staunch supporter of the rights and principles for which the Church was then contending, the refusal of which led to the Disruption.
When the conflict thickened, and the Church refused to obey the orders of the civil courts in regard to spiritual things, Sir Robert Peel, in 1842, in his place in the House of Commons, accused the Church of Scotland as “defying and opposing the law.” “This attack,” writes the author of the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” “was not unanswered. It called up one whose enlightened and unflinching advocacy of the great scriptural principles, and constitutional privileges for which the Church was contending, had earned for him the gratitude and esteem of all who venerate the work of the Scottish Reformers, and who know how to appreciate that integrity and manly firmness of character, which fears not to avow honest convictions, and to defend them wherever they may be assailed. It is told in Scripture, to the honour of Onesiphorus, that even at Rome he was not ashamed of Paul’s chain. It will be told, in the ecclesiastical history of his country, to the honour of Mr Fox Maule, that he was not ashamed to identify himself, even in the House of Commons, with the calumniated Church of Scotland.” “If,” said he, in replying to Sir Robert Peel, “that Church had set itself up against the law of the land in matters of civil right, he would be the last man to stand up in its defence. But the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had over and over again declared, that as far as civil rights were concerned, it would bow implicity to the decisions of the land. All that the Church and the General Assembly had done was to say that, while on the one hand they obeyed the law as to benefices—still, they owed a duty to a higher authority than man when they inducted to any portion of their Church an individual who had a cure of souls.”
No better estimate can be formed of the position which Fox Maule had earned for himself in Parliament, and of the confidence which the Church reposed in him, than is manifested in the fact, that when, after ten years’ conflict, the Church resolved to make a last appeal to the Legislature to inquire into and to redress its grievances, by special appointment of the Commission he was requested to bring the matter before the House of Commons. On 7th March 1843, little more than two months before the Disruption, he did so in a speech of singular power and lucidity. “No Free Churchman can read without unfeigned gratitude the clear, intelligent defence of her position and privileges made by Mr Fox Maule in the House of Commons. His statement of the independent spiritual jurisdiction of the Church on the occasion referred to may be read at the present day with interest and instruction, and shew what a just and true grasp his mind had taken of the controversy which terminated in the Disruption.” 5
His motion for inquiry in the House of Commons was rejected by a majority of 135. “It is not undeserving of notice,” writes the author of the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” “that of the thirty-seven Scottish members who were present, twenty-five voted with Mr Maule. It was not therefore simply the voice of Scotland’s Church, but the voice also of her national representatives that was that night overborne in the British Parliament. The fact is one which an impartial posterity will mark and remember.” It is not a little remarkable that on the 6th of July 1874, the very day of Lord Dalhousie’s death thirty-one years later, the debate on the Patronage Bill took place in the House of Commons. On which occasion it was fully acknowledged by all parties that the statesmen of 1843 had grievously erred in refusing to make such concessions as might then have satisfied the just demands of the Church.
The same evening on which Fox Maule brought this subject before the House of Commons, a great public meeting was held in the City Hall, Glasgow. Dr Thomas Guthrie then said:—
“And so,” wrote Dr Guthrie at a later period, “we went forth under the old banner to enjoy that freedom without the Establishment which we were denied within its pale.”
Fox Maule was not awanting in the day of trial. He entered at once into all the preparations for the new state of the Church, and with an unflagging interest and most loyal enthusiasm continued his services to the last. No doubt his rank and public position lent value to his adherence and services; “but, apart from this, the warmth, the intelligence, the sagacity, the inherent weight of his counsels, the effective character of his advocacy, and the munificent liberality he displayed, gave him a prominent place among the leading and most trusted advisers of the Free Church.” For thirty years he was returned by the Free Presbytery of Dunkeld as their representative elder to the General Assembly, and took an active part in its proceedings. After the Disruption, when so many proprietors refused sites for the building of churches and manses, it was mainly through his firm, but calm, speeches in Parliament that the difficulty was surmounted.
At the time of his lamented death it was well said, “It is no secret— the fact was made so public in many ways that there need be no delicacy in recalling it—that during the latter years of his father’s lifetime, the relations of Mr Fox Maule towards him were exceedingly constrained and uncomfortable. It is proper to mention, however, that the cause of disagreement was well known to be highly honourable to the son. Its existence was the cause of bringing out, in a variety of ways, the firmness, the chivalry, and the good sense that were embodied in his character. In one way, this disagreement was connected with family and private arrangements. In another, it was of a more public nature. His property was left in a condition that, in the case of a person endowed with less of manliness, generosity, and clear-headedness, would have led to much embarassment and unpleasantness. He avoided this by taking his tenantry into his confidence at once, and laying down rules as to the re-letting of his farms, which they cordially acquiesced in. His rental was enormously increased during the period of his administration, and yet there was, by common consent, no better, fairer, or more liberal landlord. The social qualities of his lordship were of the rarest order. He was the life of every circle in which he appeared. There was about him an irresistible charm of manner; high and low alike owned the spell.” By Her Majesty he was esteemed as a friend. In London society he was always welcome; in his own county everybody was proud of him, and he knew almost everybody, and could make himself at home with them, whatever their rank or station. This picture, however, is not complete unless it be added that none could be more stern or repellant in his manner to mere tuft-hunters, or to those of whose character or conduct he disapproved. Firm in his opinions, and determined in action, he had many opponents. Yet transparently honest in his convictions, and genial in his manner of expressing them, he had few, if any, lasting enemies.
During the last seven years of his life, Lord Dalhousie spent the winter at his charming villa at Cannes, on the shores of the Mediterranean. There he made arrangements, without expense to the Church, for the maintenance of Presbyterian worship, which he loved so well. During the last two winters of his life the writer of this memoir officiated there, and bears most loving and willing testimony that, on Sabbaths and week days, he had no hearer more regular or appreciative, nor any who took a more lively interest, not only in the temporal prosperity of the congregation, but also in the spiritual welfare of its members. Though with characteristic modesty he sensitively shrunk from a loud profession of high personal religion, the depth, the earnestness, and the solemnity of his piety were manifest to all those to whom, in confidence of private conversation, he felt himself at liberty to open his heart.
After the death of his wife, in 1854, the honours of his house were done by his sister the Lady Christian Maule. Brother and sister never loved each other more truly or tenderly. His latest energies were spent in the service of the Free Church. Hastening home from Cannes, at that season in its richest beauty, he attended, and took his wonted part in the meetings of the General Assembly at the end of May. In June he was in his place in the House of Lords, and took part in the debate on the Patronage Bill. Towards the close of the same month he laid the foundation stone of the new Free Church at Dunkeld. Full of vigour and of cheerful, though chastened hope, apparently in better health than for many years, it seemed unlikely that the end of his earthly career was so close at hand. On 24th June, accompanied by the Lady Christian Maule, he went to pay his respects to his sovereign at the Bridge of Dun station as she passed on her way south from Balmoral. The same evening he was taken ill, and on the 6th of July, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, he died in Brechin Castle in the same room in which he had been born.
Though hopes were entertained of his recovery by his medical attendants, he anticipated the issue from the first, and trusting to the merits of Christ, he calmly waited to know the will of God. At the commencement of his illness, to one of whose love he was well assured, he sent the message, “Pray for me—but whatever the issue may be, all is well.” Among his last words, in reply to a question as to the grounds of his hope, he said to his pastor.
Let me hide myself in thee.”
Many touching incidents might be given illustrative of the warmth and tenderness and humility of his heart, did not delicacy towards the living and the dead, in the meantime, forbid it. “It will be many a day ere the Free Church find a man to serve her with such devotion and capacity.”
Dying without issue, he has been succeeded in his Scottish titles by his cousin, Vice-Admiral George Ramsay, second son of the late Hon. Lieut.-Gen. John Ramsay, fourth son of George Eighth Earl of Dalhousie.
Alexander Dyce Davidson, D.D.
The Memorial Tablet which stands in the Free West Church, Aberdeen, bears the following inscription, which sets forth in few words the leading outlines of a devoted but uneventful life:—