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James Maitland Hog of Newliston
Mr Hog was one of the comparatively small number of “lairds,” or landed proprietors, in Scotland who, having been attached to the Evangelical party in the Establishment previous to 1843, “came out” at the Disruption. In his own county of Linlithgow he stood alone.
From the year 1828 (the date of his ordination to the eldership by Dr Gordon), he had taken an active interest in Church affairs, as well as in Christian work generally. He resided at that time in Edinburgh, having been called to the bar a few years previously,—a contemporary and confrére of such men as Graham Speirs, Alexander Earle Monteith, and Mungo P. Brown, who were ordained to the eldership along with him.
In 1834, when, at the call of the General Assembly, Dr Chalmers placed himself at the head of the “Church Extension Movement,” Mr Hog was his chosen ally; and, having his time largely at his own command, he did more, perhaps, than any other man in the way of personal service to promote its success. He accompanied the great doctor on most of his tours throughout Scotland, and took charge of the general subscription, which (having his own name next to the doctor’s at the top of it) welled up to what was then thought the munificent amount of £200,000, in the course of the ensuing twelve months.
During the ten years of the “conflict,” until within a year and a half or so of its close, Mr Hog was a trusty and much esteemed member of the “Non-intrusion Committee.” About that time, however, being constitutionally “conservative” and cautious, and having taken alarm at what appeared to him to be rash, or prematurely exacting, in the demands of the Committee, he was one of a small minority who retired, and thus kept themselves uncommitted by any of the subsequent negotiations. For so doing, he lost his seat in the Assembly of 1842; the Presbytery of Linlithgow, which for several years he had represented, withdrawing from him for the time their confidence, and returning a more decided non-intrusionist in his stead. It is amusing as well as instructive now to remember, that when the day of trial came, it was not he that proved faithless, but they, so little did they know either him or themselves. Of the sixteen members of Presbytery who should have come out, only five came.
Mr Hog was among the very last to be convinced that the case of the Church was hopeless. He clung to the persuasion that Lord Aberdeen meant bona fide to acknowledge the Church’s jurisdiction, and that Sir George Sinclair’s clause might have done. He could not bring himself to believe that the Conservative Government was capable of so destructive a deed as the breaking up of the Establishment. He refused to admit that a Disruption was inevitable, until it had actually taken place. And even then he tried to persuade himself that it was premature, or that the breach was not irreparable. It was not till a week or more had elapsed, till the two General Assemblies had got through the greater part of their business, till the Deed of Demission had been signed, and the separation was complete, that he finally made up his mind.
And it was not, after all, what the State had done, or rather refused to do; it was not even the Queen’s letter that decided him; but what the Church herself (the “remanent” part of it) did, in formally homologating and adopting as her own the policy of the civil courts. The point on which he had all along felt most strongly, which alone touched his conscience as a Christian man, which he regarded as absolutely vital (vital no less to “the body,” than it is to each member in particular), was Christ’s headship of the Church,—its absolute dependence upon Him, its inherent independence and freedom under Him: and so it was, when he came to see that not only had that independence been trampled on by the civil courts, and repudiated by the State, but surrendered and sacrificed at the State’s bidding by the Church herself,—and not till then, that he saw the path of duty made plain before him. He did not hesitate a moment after that. The reponing of the seven deposed ministers of Strathbogie, or rather the finding that they had never been deposed, because the Court of Session said so, was what at length convinced him, that though the Establishment still remained, the dear old “Church of his fathers” was no longer to be found within its walls.
It was on Friday, the 26th May, that the “Seven” were thus rehabilitated; a minority of thirty-three protesting against the deed, on the same ground substantially as that on which Mr Hog condemned it,— and one of the number (Mr Story of Roseneath) denouncing it as being equivalent to a declaration that “what had been had not been, and that a sentence pronounced by the Assembly was not a sentence.” These thirty-three protested, and remained. Next day Mr Hog wrote the following letter to Dr Gordon:—
“My Dear Dr Gordon,—Having been confined to the house since the 16th by an attack of influenza, I have been unable personally to witness the events of the last ten days; but this solitude has been favourable to that calm review of all the circumstances affecting the Church, which I had always resolved to take before committing myself to any particular step. I can no longer hesitate to which communion I shall attach myself.
“Believing that the constitution of the Church has been violated by the decisions of the civil courts exceeding their province in suspending ecclesiastical sentences, declaring them null and void, and interdicting the preaching of the gospel; seeing no disposition on the part of the Government to admit any grievance, or to secure what is essential to the existence of a Christian community; and, finally, having observed the ‘remaining’ Assembly bowing in the dust, and echoing the very words of the civil courts, declaring the solemn sentences of the Church to be ‘null and void,’ I feel that I have no choice but to turn from her with the most melancholy aversion.
“If I have been tardy in declaring myself, it is because I felt it my duty to watch the last struggles of the Church as I would the death-bed of an expiring parent, not feeling at liberty to depart till the spirit was fled, and the work of corruption begun. My duty to myself, to my children, and, I believe, to my country, requires me, therefore, to join the communion of those who have sacrificed their all to maintain their principles.
“I make this communication through you, because it was from you that I received my ordination as an elder; and it was my difference of opinion with yourself in the Non-intrusion Committee that gave me the greatest pain.—Believe me to be, my dear Dr Gordon, with the greatest respect and regard, yours faithfully-.
“J. M. Hog
” To the Rev. Dr Gordon.”
Such was the enthusiasm awakened by the reading of this letter, when the Assembly met on Monday, the 29th, in the Brick Church, Lothian Road, that a demand was made for its being read a second time, and that Dr Gordon should re-read it, in Tanfield Hall (which, as always, was crowded to the roof), in the evening. The rev. doctor in coming forward “was received with loud and long continued cheering from the immense assemblage.” When the applause had subsided, he said, “I appear before you this night as a proxy, and therefore I thank you for the way in which you have received me. I take your approbation as offered to my dear and much esteemed friend Mr Hog, who is worthy of it all.” Dr Guthrie used to say, “that letter of Mr Hog’s was a stroke of genius.”
One of Mr Hog’s oldest and most intimate friends (his brother-in-law) was Mr Patrick Fraser Tytler, the historian, and it is interesting to know what he thought of this “weighty and powerful” letter. Writing from London a few days after, he says:—
From that day forward Mr Hog threw himself, heart and soul, into the movement—indeed he devoted to it the rest of his life, feeling himself called (as he said) to do double service, to work “double tides,” as “one born out of due time.”
His first care was to “shew piety at home,” by looking after the supply of ordinances for “those of his own house,” and by associating himself with those of his fellow-elders and fellow-parishioners of Kirkliston who had already been moving, or who might afterwards adhere to the Free Church; and, having learned that steps had been taken, in view of the event, both for the erection of a church and the providing of a house for its future minister, he at once offered to relieve his brethren of all further anxiety about either by providing both himself, on the single condition that the whole sum which had been or might be contributed for local purposes should be transmitted to the Central Church Building Fund. How fully and handsomely he implemented this engagement need not here be told. Dr Chalmers laid the foundation-stone of the new church in August, and Dr Guthrie opened it (introducing at the same time its first minister) in December following.
Of his public services to the Church, its records supply ample information—and, indeed, they speak for themselves. Of the three great movements with which he specially identified himself, it may be truly said that he completed them all, leaving little or nothing for any one else to do.
The Bursary Scheme for the New College was his scheme alone,—he, in accordance with the advice of Dr Chalmers and his colleagues, having taken it up in the first instance, rather than another which he had contemplated, for the endowment of the Professors’ Chairs. He went about quietly among his friends, informing and interesting them in the subject, getting one and another to do as he had done—to found a bursary, and name it; and only ceased from his assiduities when he had secured what he thought enough—an annual income of somewhere about £600.
In 1848, after the lamented death of Sheriff Speirs, Mr Hog was selected as, next to him, the fittest man in the Church to preside over the Committee on “Refusal of Sites,’ and manage the difficult business entrusted to it. How well he acquitted himself in this position is proved by the fact that the battle was successfully fought, and sites ultimately obtained,— “owing mainly,” said Dr Candlish, “to the tact, judgment, patience, and perseverance of Mr Hog.”
The Debt Extinction Scheme was mainly his scheme also, having associated with him in it a “true yoke-fellow,” Mr William Campbell of Tillichewan. The multitude of letters he wrote, of meetings, public and private, he attended, and of journeys he undertook in this cause, would seem almost incredible, were it named; but he grudged neither time nor labour, any more than he grudged money, for any good cause which he embarked in; and it is interesting to remember, that at the last meeting of his Committee which he was able to attend, when he had to be carried into the room in his chair, he had the satisfaction of intimating that the whole contemplated sum of £50,000 had been subscribed, with several hundreds over,—that his work in connection with it was done.
The “Sabbath Question” was one in which, it may be added, he took a lively interest, especially in connection with the running of passenger trains on the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway; and it was to him, in conjunction with his much esteemed co-director, Mr Henderson of Park, more than to any one else—to his combined firmness of purpose and suavity of bearing—that the satisfactory settlement of the controversy then arrived at was due.
The “Elders’ Association” of the Free Church was formed in 1858; and had he been able, he would have been its first president. As it was, he could only write (and with great difficulty), within a month or two of his death—in the form of a letter to Mr Robert Paul—some of his thoughts on the subject of the eldership, which formed, I believe, the basis of Mr Paul’s own address at the next general meeting, and which are as judicious and wise as in the circumstances they were felt to be impressive—like a message to his brethren from the other world.
During the last two years of his life Mr Hog was an invalid, confined, not to his bed nor his room, but to his chair or his pony-carriage, by a stealthy paralytic affection, which deprived him of all power of locomotion. Beginning at his lower extremities, the disease “crept” up gradually over his body, reducing him to great physical prostration; and in the end—some months before his death—producing a painfully depressing effect on his mind. From being the sunniest, the most cheerful, he became one of the saddest of men. His countenance lost the smile, which no one had ever missed before. But never did his character shine out more impressively, or the genuineness of his piety make itself more evident (to all but himself), than under that severely trying discipline. Even when cheerfulness was no longer possible, his patience never gave way. No murmur ever crossed his lips, nor, sad though his countenance looked, did it ever betray a symptom of peevishness or of unwillingness to bear. He seemed to grow, even in the absence of sensible comfort from his religion. His graces ripened in the shade. I may have read or heard of, but certainly I never witnessed, either a humility, a sense of sin so deep, or a faith so simple, so exclusive, as his. He could see nothing in himself from which to derive comfort, even in the way of evidence. “Assurance” he had none. But all the more did he cling, did he adhere, to Christ, who was truly “all in all” to him. And at the very worst, he could not help admitting, with as sweet a smile as of old, that Christ was “precious” to him, though refusing to admit the inference that he was one of “them that believe.”
In his recently published Autobiography (written within a month or two of his own death), Dr Guthrie makes the following reference to Mr Hog, and to these his last days:—
It was not the last day of his life when the above incident occurred, but it was the last day he was able to be dressed, or to leave his room. There were other two days remaining, which, though they were days of severe suffering (from fever, oppression in breathing, and otherwise), were yet days of perfect calmness, and apparently undisturbed peace. The cloud was being dispersed; the sun was gleaming, shining, through. It was “evening time,” and it was “light.”
An hour or two before the close, calling once more for the little tube, he spelled out his dying testimony thus: “I am looking to the Saviour: my only hope is in Jesus.” Then he asked that a psalm might be read to him, the 143d; after that, Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Jesus, lover of my soul”; also that other sweet hymn (long a favourite with him), “Just as I am, without one plea.” Then, declining to hear anything further, and knowing that he had nothing more to do but to die, he expressed a wish to be removed to his bed from the chair, where he had been sitting all night (taking his farewell look, from the window, of the sweet landscape which he knew so well); and this had scarcely been done, when the loud breathing ceased, the oppressed bosom gave its last heave, and all was over.
“It was somewhat singular,” a dear friend of his and mine, Mr Robert Paul, afterwards remarked, “he died at twelve o’clock on the night of Saturday, the 31st day of July; and the glorified spirit opened his eyes then, on a new day, a new week, a new month, a new Sabbath, a new life, a new heaven—an eternity, at once!” Had Mr Hog been spared till that day week he would have entered on a new year also—the fifty-ninth year of his age—having been born on the 7th August 1799.
J. C. B.
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The Rev. Dr James Ingram of Unst, the north-most island of Shetland, and the most northerly point of Her Majesty’s dominions, was for many years the father of the Free Church. The inhabitants of Shetland have some compensation for the bleakness of their place of abode, its wild seas, and its stormy shores, and its boggy soil. They enjoy an equable temperature, pure air, and a mode of existence, which, with all its hardships is free from the exciting turmoil of the busy haunts of trade and commerce. It is probably to these advantages, more than to its inheritance of a robust Scandinavian ancestry, that Shetland owes its freputation for the longevity of its people. Dr Ingram, the oldest minister of the Gospel in the British Isles at his death, was not a native Shetlander. He was born in Logie Coldston, Aberdeenshire, 3rd April 1776, and lived till within a few weeks of completing his 103rd year. He came of a long-lived family. His father lived to the age of 100, and his grandfather to the patriarchal age of 105. Both of them spent their long years on the same farm, in the Daugh, parish of Logie Coldston.
James Ingram, the subject of this sketch, received his early education in the parish school of Tarland, and afterwards in the Grammar School of Old Aberdeen. He entered upon his Arts curriculum in King’s College there, when fifteen years of age, and was a distinguished student, carrying off the highest competition bursary of his entrance session. He commended himself by his diligence and talent to the whole professorial body, and particularly to Dr Jack, then the Principal of the College, and during life the warm friend of his promising pupil. He began his Divinity course at Aberdeen in 1795, and the following year he was appointed tutor to the family of Mrs Barclay, widow of the parish minister of Unst, obtaining in this way his first introduction to the island where he laboured as a minister for more than half-a-century. Supporting himself for the most part by his emoluments as a teacher, he continued his attendance at the Divinity Hall, from time to time, till the year 1800, when he was licensed as a probationer by the Presbytery of Shetland.
His first appointment as a minister of the Gospel, was to be assistant to the Rev. James Gordon, minister of Fetlar and North Yell, on whose death he was presented to the vacancy by the patron, Lord Dundas.
After his ordination, he was married to Mary, daughter of Mrs Barclay, and the happy union was blessed with a family of four daughters and three sons. The manse was in Fetlar, but having charge of the congregation of Yell also, Mr Ingram had to cross and re-cross almost weekly, the channel, six miles broad, which separates the two islands. Only those who have sailed among the fierce and rapid tides of the Shetland Isles, can form any conception of what it must have been to navigate such seas in an open boat, summer and winter, for eighteen years. Not many constitutions could have endured the hardships which fell to the lot of the parish minister of Fetlar at this time. He braced himself to his work cheerfully and joyously, preaching and visiting and catechising from house to house, with all the more diligence because it was impossible to tell how long it might be before the warring elements might permit of his next visit.
In 1821, he obtained some relief from this incessant toil and exposure. The church of Unst became vacant, and the godly of the people cast their eyes upon the devoted minister of Fetlar, as the man best known to them as a faithful steward in things pertaining to the kingdom. Lord Dundas was pleased to have the opportunity of again doing a kindness to Mr Ingram; and to the great joy of the people of Unst, the object of their choice was settled amongst them in 1821, to remain, as Providence had ordained, till almost every individual of his new charge had preceded him to the grave or left the island.
The new pastor did not enter upon another man’s line of things made ready to his hand. Previous to the time of the Haldanes and others, who in the beginning of this century, preached the Gospel in these far-off islands of the North Sea, this Ultima Thule of the Romans was as dreary in its spiritual as in its physical condition. The island of Unst in particular, so far as the ministry was concerned, had known nothing of religion except in the form of Moderatism, and the virtuous life which was the theme of the pulpit ministrations was rarely exemplified in the habits of the people. Mr Ingram may almost be said to have re-christianised Unst. He found the people grossly ignorant, and he established schools. He found them addicted to intemperance, through the facilities offered for smuggling by foreign vessels, as well as through the entire want of intellectual resources, and he founded a temperance society which entirely changed the habits of the greater part of the people. There is probably no part of the British Isles where intoxicating liquors are now less used than in Shetland. The hardy Zetlanders who prosecute the haaf-fishing make tea their beverage when engaged in their arduous calling, and the visitor to the Shetland Isles cannot fail to be struck with the appearance of the tea-kettle, not only at every fireside, but in every peat-field and scene of out-door labour. Much of this reformation is owing to the early and long-continued inculcation of temperance principles by Dr Ingram among his parishioners in the northmost island of the group. As an illustration of the character of the people, and the good effects of temperate habits, we may note that we found in 1870, two constables responsible for the peace of the whole group of islands; and we were amused to find the one who had charge of Lerwick (with a population of over 4000) enjoying a day’s fishing on the opposite side of the mainland, because he had nothing else to do.
But the Gospel was after all the great lever power employed by the minister of Unst for raising the moral standard of the people. He was an instructive, earnest, and faithful preacher of the Word, and from his first entrance among his flock, he instituted the practice of regular visitation and catechising. The ordinance of Church discipline was also revived, and became a subordinate but real means of grace. His labours were not in vain in the Lord. The outward reformation of manners was not the only outcome of his fidelity as a preacher and a pastor. There are still those in Unst who can speak of him as their spiritual father, and many more who could give the same testimony, have gone before him to heaven.
In 1838, Mr Ingram’s son was associated with his father in the pastorate by his steady friend, Lord Zetland, moved, as in the case of the senior minister, by the free voice of the people as well as by his own inclination.
In number of years, Mr Ingram, senior, was an old man at the date of the Disruption. He was then sixty-seven. But his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. He was as forward and decided as his son in taking his side in the conflict which came to a climax in 1843. And this, although he held strong views in favour of church establishments founded on a Scriptural basis, and, although the difficulties of erecting new church buildings and organising a new congregation were peculiarly formidable in a place where poverty is extreme, most of the people being in a chronic state of debt to the landowners and merchants, seldom fingering money, but bartering their labour for articles of necessity, and sometimes — against their will — for articles of superfluity. A large majority of the natives of Unst, however, encouraged their ministers by their adherence, and by their material support as far as their slender resources permitted. The peculiarity of their position, so remote from the stimulus and fellowship of brethren like-minded, came at last under the notice of the great leader of the Disruption. For several months the ministers, father and son, had to conduct Divine worship in the open air, and, afterwards, the congregation and Sabbath school had to content themselves with the precarious shelter of a tent. Dr Chalmers, on hearing of the circumstances, used his influence with the Countess of Effingham to such good purpose that her ladyship provided funds for the erection of two churches, one on the east and the other at the south end of the island.
In 1864 the University of Glasgow conferred upon Mr Ingram the Degree of D.D., while he was still in the exercise of his ministry. The last time he ascended the pulpit was in 1875. It was the failure of memory and of sight that prevented him preaching afterwards. His voice was as strong as ever, and he was as much at home as ever in prayer; it was only in his pulpit address that he was not his former self.
There were others besides the Senatus Academicus of Glasgow who felt it an honour to themselves to honour the face of the old man. Dr Guthrie and his son, the minister of Liberton Free Church, paid a visit to Dr Ingram in 1871, and greatly cheered the heart of their venerable friend by their genial company and conversation. On his return to Edinburgh, Dr Guthrie set about the raising of a subscription for a portrait of Dr Ingram, and Mr Otto Leyde went to the Free Church Manse of Unst to execute the commission assigned to him. He succeeded in producing a characteristic likeness, life size, and the portrait having been presented to the Free Church, now adorns the walls of the Common Hall of the New College, Edinburgh. A replica of this canvas was taken by the artist, and, along with a silver tea service, was presented to Dr Ingram, to be preserved as an heir-loom in the family.
Extreme old age, as a rule, is not desirable. It is pitiful when the grasshopper becomes a burden, and the once strong active man falls into second childhood. With Dr Ingram there was less to suggest this painful feeling than in the case of many others who had not nearly attained his years. When wisdom was shut out at both ear-gate and eye-gate, he had still the resource of a memory retentive of early lessons. With all his active labours as a pastor, he had found time to keep up his early studies in theology and classics, and to store his mind with general information. To his hundredth year he could repeat long passages from favourite Latin authors, and regale himself with texts from the Hebrew as well as the Greek Scriptures. As Hebrew, strange to say, was no part of the curriculum of the Aberdeen College when he was a student, he became a self-taught Hebrew scholar, after the age of sixty, and acquired even a critical acquaintance with the language. He mastered German also, later in life.
The mens sana was lodged in corpore sano, and it is worthy of note that his green old age was not indebted to the stimulus of wine or strong drink, for he maintained his total abstinence principles to the last. Two years before his death, he remarked to a friend, in the vernacular of his early days, “It’s a very guid warld to leeve in, efter a’, for though I’m a hundred noo, an’ gey stupid tae, yet I’m neither sick nor sair.”
His sunset of life was without a cloud. During the winter of 1878-79, the cold compelled him to keep his room, but not till within twelve hours of his last breath was there any symptom of serious illness. Like a shock of corn fully ripe he was gathered into the heavenly garner on the 3rd of March 1879.
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Dr Alexander Keith was born in the year 1791. His father, Dr George Skene Keith—minister of the; parish of Keithhall, Aberdeenshire, and latterly of the parish of Tulliallan, Perthshire—was a man of superior intelligence, wide information, and great energy. Though not slack in his clerical duties, he made agriculture a special study, and published an able work, entitled, “An Agricultural Survey of Aberdeenshire.” At the beginning of this century, Aberdeen occupied a distinguished position in the literature of Scotland. The Principal and Professor of Divinity in the University and Marischal College was the celebrated Dr Campbell, author of the best work on Miracles, in reply to Hume; in the neighbouring University and King’s College, Old Aberdeen, the Professor of Divinity was Dr Gerard, author of the first work ever published in Scotland on Biblical Criticism; while the well known Dr Beattie, author of “The Minstrel,” was Professor of Moral Philosophy in Marischal College. Along with these there were others in the Presbytery and Synod of Aberdeen whose literary and theological tastes found vent in an association for the reading and discussion of papers, such as Dr Campbell’s valuable “Dissertations on the Gospels,” originally prepared for and discussed at these reunions. With such men Dr Skene Keith was thoroughly at home, while his broad intelligence, gentlemanly bearing, and commanding presence made him a general favourite alike with the gentry and with society in general. The manse of Keithhall was the home of all that was genial, and the subject of this sketch enjoyed in it every advantage for early development. As a youth, his tall figure, and powerful physique attracted general notice, while his feats of walking and running—such as seemed to defy fatigue—were the wonder of every one. To what occupation would such a youth be likely to devote his days? Probably to the military or naval service, or perhaps to colonial enterprise, but least of all to the quiet and study of a clerical life, one should say. But just this was the choice of Alexander Keith. Having taken his degree at Marischal College, he entered the Divinity Hall, was in the year 1813 licensed to preach the Gospel, and thereafter ordained minister of the parish of St. Cyrus, Kincardineshire. In the year 1816 he married Miss Jane Blaikie, sister of the late James Blaikie and Sir Thomas Blaikie, both Provosts of Aberdeen, and aunt of Professor Blaikie of the New College, Edinburgh. By this lady Dr Keith had seven sons and one daughter. The eldest son became assistant and successor to his father in the parish of St. Cyrus, and was the author of a Commentary on Isaiah. Four of his sons made choice of the medical profession, two of whom have risen to eminence in Edinburgh—Dr George Skene Keith and Dr Thomas Keith.
For the first ten years of his ministry Dr Keith devoted himself exclusively to the duties of his parish—authorship never being dreamt of. But meeting one day with a professional gentleman, who had imbibed the views of Hume on the subject of Miracles, and failing to satisfy him with the usual arguments, he appealed to facts, such as those recorded by Volney in his “Ruins of Empires,” as undeniable evidence of the fulfilment of prophecy, in other words, as evidence of miracles in the form of knowledge, demanding immediate Divine interposition no less than miracles of power. Overawed by this new style of argument, his friend was candid enough to say, “I cannot answer you.” Encouraged by this result Dr Keith thought that a book specially devoted to that line of argument might be eminently useful. Newton’s “Dissertations on the Prophecies,” though coming nearest to his idea, had two defects—it mixed up literal and symbolical prophecies, clear predictions and obscure; and it wanted the testimony of recent travellers. And having tried in vain to induce one or two clerical friends to prepare such a work, he determined, rather than abandon the idea, to try it himself; and thus originated the work by which Dr Keith has been and will be known as long as works of this nature in our language retain their interest. It was in 1823 that it first appeared in modest form, with the following title as afterwards enlarged:— “Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion derived from the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy, particularly as illustrated by the History of the Jews, and by the discoveries of recent travellers.” In the second and following editions, the new matter regarding Palestine and the surrounding countries—drawn from the newest works of travel, with a number of engravings representing the ruins of Babylon and Petra—made the book virtually a new work, and one peculiarly suited to the time. Such was the popularity which it attracted that edition after edition was called for; it was translated into most of the European languages; and the Tract Society’s abridged and stereotyped edition of it has had a steady sale to this day. “One chief feature of the book,” as is well observed by the Society’s edition, “was to make unbelievers the leading witnesses, their testimony being unexceptionable and conclusive. Volney did not visit Palestine as a devout pilgrim, nor was he even a believer in inspiration or the fulfilment of prophecy. Neither was Burckhardt, who never alludes to the prophecies, and was himself a sceptic. The testimony of such men has more force than that of many who visit and describe the scenes of sacred history expressly for the purpose of finding confirmation of Scripture.” Perhaps the most remarkable example of the effect produced by this book was that of Dr Meshakah of Damascus, a man of some authority in the Greek Catholic Church. An Arabic translation of Dr Keith’s work having fallen into his hands, he read and studied it with intense interest. The issue was his conversion from nominal religion, or no real faith at all, to the faith of Evangelical Christianity. The change became immediately known, and made a great stir in the Church to which he had belonged. For many years after this he held the office of Consul at Damascus to the United States of America, and since 1848 his writings have done more perhaps for Protestant Evangelical Christianity in Syria and other Arabic-speaking countries than any others. The excellent man is still alive, and in the controversy between the Oriental and Evangelical Churches his books are regarded as standard works. In the introduction to one of the best of them his obligations to Dr Keith for all that is most precious to him in the faith and hope of the Gospel are particularly recorded, and Dr Keith had the gratification of hearing this from his own lips and in his own house at Damascus.
On the 28th August, 1833, on the motion of the Rev. Dr Black, Professor of Oriental Languages, the Senatus of his Alma Mater unanimously conferred “the honorary degree of D.D. on the Rev. Alexander Keith, minister of St. Cyrus, and author of the well-known work on the ‘Fulfilment of Prophecy;’ in testimony of their high estimation of his character as a clergyman, and respect for his attainments in Theology and General Literature.”
In the year 1839, the General Assembly, having resolved to seek the conversion of the children of Israel, appointed a deputation to visit the Continent of Europe and the sacred lands, for the purpose of collecting information respecting them; and Dr Keith was naturally selected as one of four for the discharge of that interesting duty. On their way home, having arrived at Pesth, Dr Keith was prostrated with fever, and brought to the gates of death. To the astonishment of the medical professor who attended him, he survived, and on his strength slowly returning, he found at his bedside that noble Christian lady, Maria Dorothea, wife of the Prince Palatine and Viceroy of Hungary. The effect of her frequent visits, first on herself, in the enlargement of her views of Divine truth and the strengthening of her Christian character— and next, on the great object of Dr Keith’s visit, in the establishment of a mission to the Jews in Pesth, and its singular success from its outset to the present day-—this was a subject to which, in after years, Dr Keith was wont to recur with unceasing wonder and devout acknowledgment of the Hand that had so marvellously led the blind in a way that they knew not. The details of it, however, must be read elsewhere.1
In the year 1840, his health being then indifferent, and his eldest son, as already stated, being associated with him in the duties of his parish, he retired from pastoral work and henceforth devoted himself to his peculiar studies. When the memorable “Disruption” took place, Dr Keith, as might have been expected, was found among those who at the cost of their all in life, refused to surrender to the Civil power the spiritual independence of the Church of Christ, and became one of the members of the Free Church of Scotland. Having been Convener of the Committee for the Conversion of the Jews since its first formation, he for many years continued in that office in connection with the Free Church. But though in this capacity, he had to read to the General Assembly his annual report, he took no active part in ecclesiastical affairs. In fact, once only does the present writer remember him coming openly forward. At one of the early post-Disruption Assemblies, an effort was made, in a somewhat veiled form, to pledge the Church to what was called “The Descending Obligation of the Covenants” (meaning the National Covenant of the 16th and the Solemn League and Covenant of the 17th centuries). When the true nature of this proposal came to be seen, and some strong speeches by eminent members had been made against it, Dr Keith rose, and in a speech of but a sentence or two, put an end to the whole thing. It was about midnight, and his tall figure wrapt in a long cloak, and his dark visage reminded the present writer of the prophet Elijah; while the rarity with which he opened his mouth, and the solemnity with which he spoke spread a stillness over the crowded house, as he uttered words to the following effect:— “Moderator, God never made, and never will make, a National Covenant with any people but one—the children of Abraham; and the day that sees this Church recognising any other National Covenant than that, will see me for the last time a member of it.”
In the year 1844, Dr Keith revisited the East, examining all the sacred spots, and this time he was accompanied by his son, Dr George Skene Keith, who then first applied the daguerreotype process to the illustration of the scenery they witnessed. These illustrations, being transferred to Dr Keith’s pages in subsequent editions, greatly enhanced their interest and value. In fact Dr Keith kept ever availing himself of the most recent works of travel in those parts for the illustration of his subject. Of none did he make more use than that of M. Leon de Laborde on Idumaea, a region then almost unknown; transferring to his book, at considerable expense, his magnificent engravings of the rock-tombs and temples of Edom, and the ruins of Petra.
The popularity of his first work on Prophecy, and the length of time during which it was his chief study, naturally led Dr Keith to think that the same subject might be turned to account in the direction of symbolical prophecy. By some, indeed, even his first work was thought to go too far, in pressing literal fulfilment where the evidence seemed more fanciful than real. But when he undertook to interpret symbolical prophecy he was on more precarious ground; and his next work, “The Signs of the Times, illustrated by the Fulfilment of Historical Predictions, from the Days of Nebuchadnezzar to the Present Time,” encountered opposition from other expositors of the same predictions, who viewed them differently. Another work, “Demonstration of the Truth of the Christian Religion from existing Facts and collateral Proof,” was more in the line of his first work; and not a few found the same fault with it as with the former—of building too much on slender data. It had, nevertheless, a considerable sale; Dr Keith’s glowing style and forcible way of putting things kindling general interest. A subsequent work, “The Land of Israel according to the Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,”—the object of which was to show that the land originally granted extended much further northward and eastward than was usually supposed—made a considerable sensation. The only other works we are aware that he issued were in the same line as his second one— “The Harmony of Prophecy concerning the Time of the Restitution of All Things, in a Comparison of the Book of Revelation with other Prophecies of Scripture,” and “History and Destiny of the World and the Church according to Scripture.”
“The great service rendered by Dr Keith to the Christian Church,” says his nephew, the Rev. Dr Blaikie, “we believe to have been threefold—First, Establishing on the clearest footing the reality of specific predictions uttered before they came to pass; Second, Directing earnest attention to the Jews and their place in the purposes of God; and Third, Bringing out clearly and minutely the character of the Papal Church, as delineated in prophecy and fulfilled in history, and making Rome a witness against herself—a witness to the fulfilment of the prophecies in regard to her.”
Latterly, Dr Keith resided chiefly at Buxton—so well known as a place of resort for invalids. From this time to the day of his death, having little or no communication with Scotland, his name gradually passed out of notice; indeed owing to the great age which he reached, it was the impression of not a few of his Scottish friends that he had ceased to live, and the announcement of his death alone disabused them of that impression. But his Buxton days, prolonged as they were, were far from dull. Until shortly before his death, he retained much of that lively and genial manner which made his society so valued by those who enjoyed it; with congenial visitors, delighting to recall his first literary efforts, the progress of his studies and researches, and, above all, the marvels of his illness and recovery at Pesth. “A distinguished minister,” said the present Free Church minister of St. Cyrus, in the funeral sermon which he preached after Dr Keith’s death, “was surprised when I told him I had never seen him. He remarked, with some emotion, ‘You should go and see the old man before he dies, and get his blessing. I should count it a rich possession.’ He was confined to his bed during his last months, and the writings which gave him most pleasure were Spurgeon’s Sermons. He was very gentle, very contented, and very happy.” He died at the ripe age of eighty-nine, and was buried in a country churchyard near Buxton.
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Robert Lorimer, LL.D
Robert Lorimer, LL.D., was born at Kirkconnel, in Dumfriesshire, on 11th May 1765. He received his university education at Glasgow, and after passing through the usual literary and theological curriculum, he was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Abernethy in September 1792. On 1st March, in the following year, he was appointed to the Chaplaincy of the Southern Regiment of Fencibles, commanded at that time by James, Earl of Hopetoun, and a few months later he was ordained by the Presbytery of Penpont. In 1795 he had his degree from the University of Glasgow, and, in February 1796, he received simultaneously the presentation to the First Charge of the parish of Haddington from the Earl of Hopetoun, and to the parish of Smailholm, in the Presbytery of Lauder, from George Baillie, Esq. of Jerviswoode. After due consideration he decided to accept the former, and, on the 16th June, he was inducted as successor to Dr George Barclay. During forty-seven years he faithfully discharged all the duties pertaining to the oversight of so important a parish, and when at the Disruption he was required to choose whether to remain in the benefice he had held so long, or to go out into the wilderness, he did not hesitate to remain true to his convictions, and chose the latter course. He then became colleague in the pastorate of St John’s Church, Haddington, the duties of which he fulfilled to the day of his death.
When Dr Lorimer went to Haddington, there were only two ministers within the bounds of that large Presbytery who were decidedly Evangelical, but he lived to see the cause to which he was attached predominate as much in East Lothian as in other parts of the country, and to both local and national changes he contributed his own part by his able, evangelical, and acceptable ministry. When the contest between the Church and the State reached its critical point, and the Convocation of ministers adhering to the Evangelical cause in the Church of Scotland, met in November 1842, Dr Lorimer was chosen to preside over the deliberations. The Convocation continued its sittings for nearly a week. Two series of Resolutions were adopted. In the second series, after stating
On completing the fiftieth year of his ministry in Haddington, all classes of men united in shewing their high esteem for him by inviting him to a public dinner, which was presided over by his valued friend and co-presbyter, Dr Makellar.
After a very short illness, Dr Lorimer died on 9th November 1848, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. He had preached on the preceding Lord’s day from the text, “Enoch walked with God;” and was engaged in preparing for the following Lord’s day a discourse on that passage in Job, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come,” shewing that his mind was fully occupied with the contemplation of that heavenly rest for which he longed. He was buried in the Parish Churchyard, in the presence of a large concourse of persons, who had assembled out of respect to his memory.
His valuable library, on the collection of which he bestowed much time and thought he bequeathed to the Free Church College, Edinburgh. As his old friend Archibald Constable said, there was “less trash” in it than in any library he had ever examined.
In his home life, Dr Lorimer was singularly happy, the influence of the manse for good being felt throughout the parish. In 1801 he was married to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John Gordon, Esq. of Balmoor, Writer to the Signet, by whom he had two daughters and four sons. The second son was the Rev. John Gordon Lorimer, D.D, who, first in Torryburn, and then in the parish of St David’s, Glasgow, contended for the same Evangelical principles upheld by his father. At the Disruption he became minister of Free St David’s Church, and, along with Dr Robert Buchanan and Dr James Gibson, did no mean service by his writings and by his preaching in upholding and strengthening the cause of the Free Church in the West. By his constant correspondence with the Churches abroad, he did what lay in his power to awaken their sympathy with the Free Church movement. He died suddenly on 9th October 1868.
In estimating the services of Dr Lorimer to the cause of religion, it must be borne in mind that the greater portion of his ministry preceded the Disruption, and it would be an error to measure the labours of him, and others like him, by the same standard that is applied to the great leaders of the movement. The Church cannot but admire and honour the able band of men whom God raised up during the “Ten Years’ Conflict”; at the same time, she must not forget what is due to their predecessors, the Evangelical minority of the Church of Scotland. They were the pioneers of the Free Church, the harbingers of a better state of things. In many great movements it has seemed as if the heroic element was first developed, to be followed by a time of comparative calmness and tranquillity; but at the Disruption the evangelistic element had first leavened the whole lump, and the heroism was manifested at a later stage. From 1784 there was half-a-century of Evangelical preaching, which silently and gradually prepared the materials out of which the Free Church was to arise. Whilst, therefore, all due praise is to be given to the leaders who achieved the triumph, it is for the honour of the Church to remember that the whole movement sprang from the pious and fruitful ministry of the Evangelical minority. Among the honourable band who formed it,—such as Innes, Balfour, Davidson, Campbell, Colquhoun, Moncreiff, and Thomson,—Dr Lorimer held a high place fifty years before the Disruption.
A. P. L.
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James McCosh, D.D., LL.D.
James McCosh was born on the banks of the Doon, Ayrshire, 1st April 1811, and received his early education at a parochial school. He studied five years at the University of Glasgow, and then went to Edinburgh, where he studied other five years under Dr Chalmers; while in the University of Edinburgh, he paid considerable attention to Natural Science, and received from the Senatus the Honorary Degree of A.M., for an essay on the “Stoic Philosophy,” which showed his proclivities towards philosophic reading and investigation.
In 1835 he was called to the Abbey Church in Arbroath, and continued there for three years, visiting from house to house in the parish allotted to him. When in the Divinity Hall of Edinburgh, he had defended the cause of Non-Intrusion, or rather of Direct Election by the people, in the Theological Society; and now in the Presbytery of Arbroath, and all along the east coast of Forfarshire, he and several other young men lately settled there, joined the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, who was their leader, in resolutely maintaining and promulgating the grand principles of the rights of the members of the Church. In 1838 he was appointed by the Crown, on the recommendation of his former teacher, Dr Welsh, to the first charge of the church in Brechin, one of the most enviable livings of the Church of Scotland. There he worked laboriously in preaching not only in the large cathedral church, but in barns and kitchens, in visiting from house to house, and in teaching in a large class, often numbering 150, the young men and women of the parish. The Gospel had been preached in Brechin by a succession of faithful ministers from the days of Willison at the beginning of last century; there was a large amount of Bible knowledge among the people; with scarcely an exception, the whole population went to some place of worship. He and his colleague, the Rev. A. L. R. Foote, had a communion-roll of upwards of 1400.
During the four years of his ministry in the Established Church, he kept steadily before his people and throughout the district the great principles for which the Church was contending. In “Recollections of the Disruption in Brechin,” printed for private circulation, we have extracts from addresses delivered in the years 1842 and 1843, which show how fully he perceived the character and measured the difficulties of the situation. He believed that by the decision of the House ol Lords, spiritual jurisdiction was taken away from the Church. In an address, dated 13th November, 1842, he says:— “The principles which I have endeavoured to state have long been entertained by me; I had lately, when on a bed of distress, an opportunity of reviewing them. My regret, with eternity in view, was, not that I had done too much, but that I had done so little. Deliberation has only tended to show me that the principles I hold are connected with all that is noble in the Church of Christ, of which I am honoured to be a minister.” This was his language to his people immediately before going up to the Convocation in Edinburgh. As the Disruption, now evidently coming, drew on, he was actively employed in helping to organise his own congregation and several other congregations in neighbouring parishes where the ministers adhered to the Established Church. At the Disruption, 825 of his congregation adhered to the Free Church.
On the first Sabbath after the Disruption he preached on Haggai 2:9, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,” and referred to the sorrow they felt in leaving the Established Church, and the confidence they felt that God would bless the Free Church. At the opening of their new church in November following, he gave his reflections on the crisis through which he and others had passed. He said that if they had given up their principles, the wicked would have triumphed on seeing the cause of God betrayed by the so-called Church of God. “In this contest,” continued he, “we have lost much. Some of us have lost that means of support of which at one time we never expected to be deprived but by death; we have lost, it may be, some of our status in the society of this world; we have been exposed, as our Master was, to reproaches and scorn; we have all of us lost those churches in which we worshipped, and the very stones of which were dear unto us; some of you may have lost friends and favours.” Yet he added that they had not been defeated, nor had they cause to be ashamed; they would bless God that they had been permitted and enabled to give a testimony for Christ’s kingdom and crown.
The year following the Disruption was one of hard and trying work to Mr McCosh, in which he displayed the energy, tact, and courage which are characteristic of him. He was appointed by the General Assembly “Convener of Supply” for the district of the county of Mearns, and the North-East of Forfarshire; and he now set himself to organise congregations, to provide them with ordinances, to advise and aid in getting sites, in raising funds, and having churches erected. The ministers who remained in the Established Church did their utmost to obstruct the members of their churches who desired to join the Free Church. Lords, lairds, and their factors scowled on the movement, and threatened their tenants and dependants. Mr McCosh had many adventures in confronting their hostility and in gathering the people into churches. In a number of places no sites could be obtained for churches from the proprietors of the soil. In Fettercairn the people could get no place to worship in till a widow offered a field which she rented, and there on the green grass Mr McCosh dispensed the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper a few Sabbaths after the Disruption, to 213 communicants, and this under the immediate view of Sir John Gladstone who in the first instance did all he could to crush the movement. In Menmuir Mr McCosh after officiating twice to his own congregation preached on the Sabbath evening on the roadside, and gathered a congregation who after keen persecution got a site for a church. In Lochlee the Free Church members met with determined opposition from a very powerful man, Lord Panmure, who possessed the whole district; and for a long time they had to worship in a shepherd’s house provided for them by a courageous farmer, David Inglis. Mr McCosh also aided in forming congregations and building churches in Fordoun, Laurencekirk, Stonehaven, and Bervie. In carrying on this work he rode around the country on horse-back, preaching in barns and ballrooms, sometimes riding thirty miles, and preaching thrice on a Sabbath. It is believed that now for the first time was the Gospel of the grace of God preached in parishes from which it had in all previous ages been excluded by Moderatism and Prelacy.
In the winter of 1843-44 he went as a member of a deputation to the parts of England in and around the city of York, in Northamptonshire, and about Olney, addressing meetings on the cause of the Free Church, and soliciting the sympathy and help of the English Nonconformists. In the year 1844 he removed from the West to the East Free Church of Brechin, where he ministered until the end of 1851.
Disruption struggles began to subside in 1846, and Mr McCosh was thus able to apply himself to the preparation of his first great work, “The Method of the Divine Government.” The appearance of this work in 1850 at once placed its author amongst the foremost thinkers and apologists of the age, and led soon afterwards to his being offered the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics in Queen’s College, Belfast. He entered on the duties of this chair in 1852, where he soon proved himself as able a teacher as he had been a successful writer. During the sixteen years of his Belfast Professorship, he created a taste for the study of Philosophy in the North of Ireland, and sent out a number of students who have already made their mark in this department. At this time he was usually an Examiner in the Queen’s University, he was one of the distinguished Board of Examiners who organised the first Competitive Examination for the Civil Service of India, and he was twice Examiner for the Ferguson Scholarships open to graduates of the Scottish Universities. He also published whilst in Belfast “An Examination of John Stuart Mill’s Philosophy,” and “The Intuitions of the Mind Inductively Investigated,” and several other philosophical works. He advocated the cause of Intermediate Education in Ireland, and did much to promote the circulation of Sound Literature through the Bible and Colportage Society, of which he was one of the secretaries. He took a leading part in organising the Ministerial Support Fund of the Presbyterian Church, and was for some years Joint Convener of that scheme. His last publication before leaving Ireland was a vigorous protest against a project for endowing Popery, which was then seriously proposed by the leaders of both political parties.
In 1868 Dr McCosh was called to the Presidency of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton in the United States, a post formerly occupied by Aaron Burr, and Jonathan Edwards, and (another Scotchman) John Witherspoon. Under his supervision the College has had remarkable success, having doubled the numbers of its buildings, professors, and students, within the eleven years of his administration, and having been enriched by large benefactions, and having greatly improved its methods of teaching.
Notwithstanding the multifarious work incident to the office of President of a large American College, and the duties of the Chair of Psychology which he ably fills, Dr McCosh has found leisure for a good deal of outside work. He favoured from the first the Union of the Old and New School Branches of the American Presbyterians, and he is entitled to the credit of having planned and in some measure carried out the Catholic Alliance of all Presbyterian Churches in the Pan-Presbyterian Council. He has also issued in America, his books on “The Discursive Laws of Thought,” on “Christianity and Positivism,” and on “The Scottish Philosophy from Hutcheson to Hamilton;” besides a large number of smaller works, public addresses, sermons, and contributions on Philosophical and Apologetic subjects to The Princeton Review, The North American Review, and other Reviews, and to The Popular Science Monthly.
All his writings are characterised by penetration and boldness of thought, by giving full force to every newly discovered truth, and by uniform allegiance to the supreme authority of the Word of God.
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Thomas McCrie, D.D., LL.D.
The family of the biographer of Knox consisted of four sons and one daughter. Of these, Thomas, the subject of this brief memoir, was the eldest. He was born in Edinburgh, November 1797, and received his classical education at the High School of that city. One of his teachers there was James Pillans, who afterwards became Professor of Humanity in the Edinburgh University, to which his High School pupil in due time passed. The intercourse between the two was ever after of a friendly nature, the Professor retaining a pleasing remembrance of the elegant Latin Composition of Thomas, while often expressing his high estimate of the fine scholarship and brilliant parts of his youngest brother George, whom Pillans regarded as lost when he became his brother’s successor at Clola, and who died at Edinburgh in 1878. Destined from an early age for the ministry of the Original Secession Church—the branch of the Secession to which the family belonged,—Thomas McCrie next attended the Theological Hall, having Archibald Bruce of Whitburn for his professor, with John Duncan, the “Rabbi,” professor of the New College, Edinburgh, and Robert Shaw, expositor of the Confession of Faith, for fellow students. The early years of his ministry were spent first in Crieff, where he was ordained in 1822 and laboured for eight years, and thereafter at Clola, Aberdeenshire, where he remained other seven years. It was while enjoying and endeavouring to profit by the ease of a rural charge, and in compliance with the suggestion of his father, that he undertook, as his first literary work, the translation of Pascal’s “Provincial Letters.” Although completed at Clola, the volume was not published till several years later; so soon as given to the public it received a cordial welcome, passed through several editions, and has lately been added to their “Golden Library” series by Chatto & Windus.
In 1835 the great Scottish Historian died; and shortly afterwards the son, responding to a call from the vacant congregation, became the father’s successor. For twenty years he was minister of what, in his time, was known as “Davie Street Church,” situated in the south side of the town, in a street bearing that name, that runs off the main thoroughfare of Nicolson Street: since then the place of worship has been called “McCrie Church.” The position of McCrie the younger as a preacher fell short of the highest. Academical in his style, fastidious in his composition, and not possessing any great amount of ease, freedom or readiness in delivery, he ought, if justice were to be done to his carefully prepared and fully written out lectures and discourses, to have had ample liberty to read in the pulpit what he had elaborated in the study. That, however, was a thing not to be thought of in the Secession Church of his day, “the paper” being sternly reprobated by professors in the hearing of trial discourses, and held in utter abhorrence by all vacant congregations sitting in judgment upon candidates.
In after years, when, as a Free Church and English Presbyterian minister, Dr McCrie felt himself at liberty to make use of his manuscript in the pulpit, he became a more effective and much more popular preacher, his services being eagerly sought and highly appreciated in the preaching of anniversary and other special services. But although the son did not attain to the pulpit popularity of the father, and his Edinburgh congregation was never a large one, lacking elements of growth and expansion, the name of Thomas McCrie the younger soon became known in the literary circles of Edinburgh, and thereafter familiar to the reading public of Scotland. It speedily became evident that he had in no ordinary degree the pen of a ready, graceful, and popular writer, and several works with which his name has ever since been associated, belong to the period of his life with which we are now dealing. Thus, in 1840 he wrote the “Life of Thomas McCrie, D.D.,” which is replete with valuable information bearing upon the church controversies and conflicts of that ecclesiastic’s times: from a very early period of its history he was connected with the Wodrow Society, rendering valued services in the selection of its publications, and personally editing three volumes; and in 1850 he wrote the “Memoirs of Sir Andrew Agnew,” which reached a second edition in the following year. By the time this work was published, the author of it had received two University honours—the Degree of D.D. from the University of Aberdeen, and that of LL.D. from the University of Glasgow. There was one department of literary work in which Dr McCrie’s help was often sought, and much thought of when rendered, that, namely, of periodical and journal literature. He had great skill and ease in the composition of leading articles, reviews, and magazine papers. Hugh Miller, in the height of his career as editor of The Witness, discovered the ability of the Davie Street minister, gladly secured his services as an occasional contributor to the columns of his paper, and continued to be ever after a warm friend of his collaborateur. The Witness editor is known to have said that among all the literary men and famous ecclesiastics in Edinburgh at that time, there was not one who could throw off a leader or a literary criticism so effectively and gracefully as the Secession minister; and it was no uncommon thing for some brilliant leading article or dashing review to be attributed to the author of “The Testimony of the Rocks,” which in reality came from the pen of his contributor and friend. This was the case as regards an article upon a “New Edition of the Holy Bible, edited by the Rev. Dr Robert Lee,” in which the writer professed, like Cowper’s cottager, to “just know, and know no more, our Bible true,” but in which he severely handled the Moderatism in Theology and Bible interpretation of the Greyfriars’ Professor of Biblical Criticism; and it was notably so as regards several articles upon Lord Macaulay’s “History of England,” which attracted great notice at the time they appeared, were widely regarded and spoken of in this country and America as Hugh Miller’s, and were afterward published in a pamphlet form.
The second leading period in Dr McCrie’s life may be dated from 1852, in which year a union was effected between a majority of the Secession body to which he belonged and the Free Church of Scotland. In the negotiations that preceded he took his own share, although not figuring in the deliberations and debates of Church Courts, for which, indeed, he had no aptitude; and when the union was consummated, Dr McCrie appeared at Tanfield Hall along with Dr Shaw of Whitburn, Dr Laing of Colmonell, and Mr White of Haddington, these having been selected by their brethren as representatives of the smaller uniting Church. Four years later, the Free Church conferred upon him her highest honour, by placing him in the Moderator’s Chair of her General Assembly. His predecessor in the office was the Rev. Dr James Henderson of Glasgow, whose loving spirit, fine taste, and ripe scholarship found congenial employment in introducing not only his own personal friend, but also the son of one whom he, when a student, had known and revered as the friend of Andrew Thomson who had been the guide of his youth. The meetings of Assembly over which Dr McCrie presided were held in the Music Hall, Edinburgh, the Free Church having by that time left Canonmills with its memories of post-Disruption Assemblies, and the present Assembly Hall at the head of the Mound not being then built; and the likeness which accompanies this sketch is associated with his Moderatorship, the photograph of which it is an engraving having been taken by Tunny of Edinburgh after the May meetings, and so representing the subject of it as he was in the fifty-ninth year of his age. Before Assembly met Dr McCrie had ceased to be a minister of the Free Church and a citizen of Edinburgh, having accepted an invitation addressed to him by the English Presbyterian Church to fill the Chair of Church History and Systematic Theology in her College, and having accordingly removed to London in October of 1856. In addition to hereditary and acquired qualifications for such work as now lay before him, the Professor-elect possessed the great advantage of having previously discharged the duties of a Divinity Professor. At the death of Dr Paxton he had been appointed Theological Professor by the Synod of United Original Seceders, and acted as such till the union above referred to; in the Free Church also he had, at the request of the College Committee, acted for a session as Professor in Aberdeen, after the death of Dr Maclagan, and before the Hall in that city was finally placed among the theological institutions of the Free Church. With Dr Lorimer as colleague professor, and Dr James Hamilton as lecturer—men to whom he felt strongly drawn, not only because of kindred pursuits, but also through perfect congeniality of temperament—Dr McCrie gave ten years of arduous labour to the enlarging and upbuilding of the Presbyterian Church in England in what may be regarded as the period of that Church’s renaissance. The high esteem and warm affection in which he was held by the successive bands of ministers who studied under him, and also by the ministers and members of the Church at large, were strikingly evinced in 1866, when the Professor found it needful, owing to increasing infirmities, and more especially to cataract, which rendered writing and reading painful and unsafe, to place the resignation of his professorship in the hands of the Synod. On that occasion a handsome presentation was made to him by all who were or had been his students, and the Synod marked its sense of the services he had rendered the Church at large by according to him a retiring allowance and the rank of emeritus Professor. On his part, the disabled Professor testified his unabated interest in the revived Presbyterian Church of England, and his undiminished attachment to those with whom he had been associated, by publishing, as soon as partial restoration of sight enabled him, a volume entitled “Annals of English Presbytery,” inscribed, “To the Reverend the Moderator and Ministers, with the Elders, Deacons, and Members of the Presbyterian Church in England, with sincere gratitude and respect.”
The closing years of Dr McCrie’s life were spent partly at Gullane, in East Lothian, on the Links of which he had, in younger days, spent many a happy hour in the bracing recreation of golf, and partly in his native city, living during the winter months in a Newington house, distant only about a stone’s cast from that in which his illustrious father died. The most important work accomplished in his retirement was in connection with his “Sketches.” Originally a course of week night lectures on the History of the Church of Scotland, delivered to overflowing audiences, first in the Old, and then in the New Town, a still wider popularity had been given to them by their publication in a cheap form by the Free Church Publication Committee, when they circulated widely in Great Britain and America, and were translated on the Continent. As now extended and brought “down to a time which is within the memory of men still living,” the two thin volumes have given place to one thick octavo, and the “Sketches” bear the name of “The Story of the Scottish Church from the Reformation to the Disruption,” published by Messrs Blackie of Glasgow. This book was published in December 1874—it being the privilege of his nephew, the writer of this notice, to correct the proofs and construct the index: and, when that took place, the author remarked, “My work in this world is now done.” So it proved to be; for, shortly after, he was prostrated with the infirmities under which he finally sunk, and, in the evening of the 9th May 1875, the evening of a peaceful Sabbath on earth, he entered without a struggle into “the Sabbaths of eternity, one Sabbath deep and wide.” Of his beloved wife, who predeceased him by an interval only of weeks; of his brother, John, who, after graduating with marked honour at the Edinburgh University, and further qualifying himself for the scholastic profession by Continental travel and study, was appointed first Rector of the Normal Seminary of Glasgow, but was cut off in the twenty-ninth year of his age, when opening powers gave fine promise of distinction; of his father, whom Christopher North described in the Chaldee Manuscript as “a Griffin with a roll of the names of those whose blood had been shed between his teeth, and who stood over the body of one that had been buried long in the grave, defending it from all men, and behold ! there were none who durst come near him “—of these and other relatives the remains rested in the family burying-ground of Old Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh; and, towards the end of the week in which he died, we laid his body within the same hallowed enclosure—fit resting-place for a leal-hearted son of the Reformation and the Covenants.
In addition to the works of Dr McCrie already specified, it fell to his lot to edit a volume of his father’s Sermons in 1836; a volume of the Miscellaneous Writings of the same in 1841; and a uniform edition of the principal works of the historian, in four volumes, published by Messrs Blackwood, Edinburgh, in 1856.
When it is added that during his Edinburgh ministry he delivered and published a course of “Lectures on Baptism,” that he was a frequent contributor to and for several years editor of the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, and that he edited for Messrs Johnstone & Hunter an edition of Barrow on the “Supremacy,” notice has been taken of the outstanding literary labours of one whose pen was that of a ready writer, and to whom it was a necessity of nature to be always engaged upon some work, historical, theological, or literary. From what was said at an early stage regarding his preaching, it may be inferred that in general bearing and manner Dr McCrie was somewhat formal and stiff. And, doubtless, he was so to some extent. On coming into his company, a stranger might feel that a considerable amount of constraint pervaded the intercourse, and that there were a formality and a frigidity which would be sad hindrances in the way of free and pleasant conversation; but the impression would probably soon give way to the persuasion that all this was on the surface, and that he was in the company of a kindly, simple, and genial nature, of one who loved sport and humour, as he enjoyed and cultivated the music of the voice and the violin. What he was to those who lived alongside of him in the privacy of the domestic circle we may not venture to express, except by stating that, with no children of his own to brighten his dwelling, he has left a pleasant and tender memory in the affections of brothers’ and sisters’ children, and that he was never for any length of time without some young relative who found under his roof a home. What he was to those who knew him as a college chum, or brother minister, or colleague professor, or literary confrère, may be gathered from the testimony of Dr Wylie, one of his oldest and most valued friends, who, preaching, in the church that now bears his name, on the Sabbath after the funeral, concluded with these touching words, which may fitly close this sketch:— “My friendship with the deceased was the longest, the sweetest, and the most profitable of my life. I watched by the bedside of the elder McCrie, the historian of Knox, during the twenty hours he lay dying. It was also my privilege to be present during the last hours of the younger McCrie. I recited to him at intervals promises from the Word of God. The eye which had already closed opened once more, and filled with a tender intelligence, a serene peace. The words of Holy Writ evidently were to him draughts of the water of life. He expired so peacefully that his hand, which he had placed in mine an hour before, was never withdrawn. Thus he slept.”
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John Macdonald, D.D.
Among the great names that adorned the Disruption Church, none was held in higher esteem in the Northern Counties of Scotland, and among many in the South, than that of Dr Macdonald of Ferintosh. In the Highlands he was known as “Ministear mòr na Tòisidheachd.” It is not consistent with fact to say, that in matters of religion the Highlanders are the mere followers of their popular ministers. There were popular ministers in the Highlands whom the people forsook, because of their deserting what they held to be the cause of truth at the period of the Disruption. Yet in no part of the country are ministers of power and grace more esteemed than in the Highlands, and it cannot be questioned that the teaching and example of such ministers exercised a vast influence over the popular mind in 1843, and of none more than the subject of our sketch.
We learn from Dr Kennedy’s biography of Dr Macdonald, that he was born in the parish of Reay, in Caithness, on the 12th November 1779. His father, James Macdonald, or McAdie, as he was called, in accordance with Celtic usage, which distinguishes the septs in the same tribe, was a man of note among the religious community. He was early brought to the saving knowledge of divine truth; and at a later period he was, with universal consent, appointed catechist of his native parish. For this post he was admirably qualified by both his gifts and his graces, and he retained the affection and esteem of the godly over a wide district unchanged to the end of a long life of ninety-seven years. The part of the country where he resided was at the time much torn by religious differences. The people in a body adhered to the Church of Scotland, but within the Church they were much divided. James held firmly by the Church and its ordinances, while he maintained Christian fellowship with the truly good who had separated themselves. He was a man of a bold, and yet a loving spirit. His aim was to win souls to Christ. On one occasion he met the leader of the separatist party in the parish, who began to reprove him as being too soft, and told him he should be more faithful in denouncing sinners. It was the habit of the people of the Highlands at the time to send their horses away to the hills in summer, where they were set loose; and there was often some difficulty afterwards in taking them when required. James’s reply to his neighbour’s reproof was, “Well, let you and me go to the hill, John, to catch the horses; take you a whip, and I’ll take a sheaf of corn, and see which of us will be most successful.”
John Macdonald was the worthy son of such a father. At school he soon took the highest place, and at college, which he attended in King’s College, Aberdeen, he was one of the most distinguished students. He especially excelled in Mathematics—a science which he cultivated to the last days of his life. It was during his school and college days that he was brought to the knowledge of saving truth. Dr Kennedy specifies the three means which the Spirit of God appears to have employed in bringing about this great end. They were the early teaching and example of his father, the writings of Jonathan Edwards, and the preaching of the Rev. J. Robertson of Achrenny Mission, afterwards of Kingussie.
In 1805, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Caithness to preach the Gospel. Previous to his ordination he officiated as missionary in Achrenny and Halladale for some months, and in 1806 he was ordained to the mission charge at Berriedale—all in the Presbytery of Caithness.
His incumbency here was a very short one, and in January 1807 he was translated to what was then the Gaelic Chapel of Edinburgh, as successor to the Rev. James Maclauchlan, afterwards of Moy. When he came first to Edinburgh, he had little of the power in preaching to which he afterwards attained. He was sound, clear, and accurate; but somewhat stiff in his manner and delivery. This might have arisen from various causes, but mainly, no doubt, was the result of youth and inexperience. Gradually this sense of constraint wore away, and he came to speak in public with wonderful eloquence and power. It was once said to the writer by an old Edinburgh hearer of his, “It was here that he got his wings.” During his Edinburgh ministry an attempt was made to introduce English preaching in the afternoon into the Gaelic congregation, to meet the wishes of hundreds who wished to benefit by Mr Macdonald’s ministry; but the more ardent Celts among the people resisted the change strenuously and successfully. To meet the desire, however, Mr Macdonald resolved to preach English at night,—thus undertaking three regular services each Lord’s day. With week-day meetings and visitations, this made his life a busy one. It was also a useful one, for during his Edinburgh ministry he had many souls for his hire. His ministry in Edinburgh extended over a period of six years; and in 1813 he was presented to the Parish of Ferintosh in Ross-shire, vacant by the death of the excellent and much-esteemed Mr. Charles Calder. The scene when he parted with his Edinburgh flock was a somewhat remarkable one. He had preached in Gaelic as usual during the day, taking farewell of the people; and at night the English congregation met in the usual place of worship in North College Street. Ere the service began, the crowd collecting was such that there was no prospect of their finding accommodation in the church, although it could accommodate eleven hundred worshippers. Mr Macdonald was just going to the pulpit, when it was proposed that a request should be made for the use of the West Church for the occasion. A messenger was sent for the keys, which were readily given. The West Church was opened, and Mr Macdonald putting himself at the head of his congregation, they marched westward through the Grassmarket, and soon filled the church to the roof. Here amidst the tears and sobs of many, he took farewell of his English-speaking hearers, who had for years enjoyed and profited by his earnest ministry.
In due time he was settled in Ferintosh, where he continued to minister with great success till the year 1849, a period of forty-two years. Much of his time was spent in assisting brother ministers at their communions. In such services he was acceptable to both ministers and people, many of the ministers who differed widely from him on ecclesiastical questions making him heartily welcome. This he owed much to his kind, genial, and brotherly disposition, which displayed itself so pleasantly in the family circle, his interesting conversation, and especially his fund of anecdote, all making him a favourite with old and young. Many ministers’ sons and daughters, who were young at the time, remember well how welcome he was at their fathers’ fireside. By the people his appearance was hailed with enthusiasm, thousands collected to hear the Word at his mouth, and many of these gatherings were followed by rich and abounding spiritual blessings.
He took a deep interest in the distant island of St. Kilda. At the instance of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, he visited the island four times in as many different years, and preached to the people, at the time without a minister, the gospel of salvation. Besides these visits, so much valued by the people, he made strenuous efforts to secure the erection of a church and manse in the island, and on his last visit, in 1827, accompanied by the minister appointed by the Society which he represented, he found the buildings completed, and provision made for the regular maintenance of gospel ordinances. For many years the Free Church has maintained a minister on the island.
In 1827, he paid a visit to Ireland, at the request of Mr Daly, afterwards Bishop of Cashel, with a view to preaching the Gospel to the Irish in their native tongue. He studied the Irish dialect of the Gaelic language, and preached frequently in that dialect to the people along the south-west coast.
Dr Macdonald’s zeal for preaching the Gospel led him sometimes into difficulties. In the year 1817, he preached in a Dissenting chapel in Strathbogie, without the consent of the parish minister. For this he was brought before the General Assembly, where, although no special censure was passed upon him, such proceedings were severely censured.
His ministry was richly blessed of God. Perhaps no minister of modern times was more owned as the means of converting souls. While in Edinburgh, he took a deep and active interest in the great revival at Muthil, under the ministry of the Rev. Mr Russell. Soon after his removal to Ferintosh, a deeply interesting movement took place among his own people. After that the Word was much blessed on both sides of Loch Tay, and in Glenlyon; and he frequently visited the district and preached with great power and success. The fruits of the revival of religion there are visible to this day. There were great spiritual movements in Ross-shire, the revivals in Kilsyth and Dundee took place, and in all these Dr Macdonald took his share of the work with warm interest. Wherever he heard of the Lord’s cause prospering, he made a point of being present to help it forward.
Though not disposed to take much part in ecclesiastical controversy, he found no difficulty in taking his side when the great questions of Non-Intrusion and Spiritual Independence arose for discussion in the Church. He became a firm supporter of the policy of the Evangelical party; and his weight of character and influence over the popular mind aided much the cause which they maintained in the north. At the Disruption he took a foremost place, and was selected to preach the first sermon in Tanfield Hall. His text was John 15:16. He showed the power of the principle which actuated him by the extent of the sacrifice which he made, for the living of the parish of Ferintosh was one of the largest in that part of the country. He was not in the habit of referring often to ecclesiastical subjects in the pulpit; but, preaching at Edinburgh, in the Gaelic Church, soon after the Disruption, he said of the Established Church as it then existed, that it was “a Christ-denying, God-dishonouring, and soul-destroying Church.” These were strong words—too strong, perhaps, for courtesy or for charity, but he spoke under a deep sense of wrong done to the cause of Christ. He was much censured for using them, but it does not appear that he ever withdrew, or even modified them afterwards.
At the Inverness Assembly he was associated, as Gaelic Moderator, with Dr McFarlan of Greenock, the Moderator for the year. In this capacity he preached a Gaelic sermon at the opening of the Assembly and many who were then present still remember the mingled feeling of amusement and admiration which pervaded the house as he announced his text, and proceeded to expound it. The words were, “These, who have turned the world upside down, are come hither also.” The sermon was one in every way worthy of his fame, and a complete vindication of the Disruption.
On the 18th of April 1849, he was called to his rest, leaving behind him a name fragrant and precious among thousands, and which shall not be forgotten, especially in the Highlands, so long as Gospel truth is prized by the people.
Dr Buchanan, in his Ten Years’ Conflict, says:—-
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Robert Macdonald was born at Perth on the 18th day of May 1813. His father was Alexander Macdonald, wine merchant, Perth, — a much respected gentleman in the community. His mother, Charlotte Macfarlane, was a native of Moulin, where her mother (who was the eldest daughter of Mr Dick, of Tullymet) had been brought to the Lord in the revival of 1798. Charlotte herself, also, although very young, received at that time abiding spiritual impressions, the good effect of which was felt by her whole family afterwards, so that Dr Macdonald, like Dr Duff, may be said to have been gained to the Church of Christ as one of the remoter fruits of that revival.
After receiving a good preliminary education at Perth Academy, Robert entered, at the age of fifteen, St Andrews University. His mind, however, had not yet been awakened to any serious interest, either literary or religious, and the first session at College yielded little result. Meanwhile, his eldest brother lay at home dying from the effects of an accident. He was a godly youth, of fine mental powers and rare promise. He died 22nd January 1830, in the full comfort of the Gospel; the last two verses of the eighth chapter of Romans being his firm anchor amid the great sea-billows. His father, who was then also ill, died nine months after. To Robert his brother’s death proved, as in the case of his friend McCheyne, the beginning of a new life. Returning to St Andrews, he now applied himself with much diligence and success to his literary studies, and completed the usual course there. He had at first had some thoughts of medicine as a profession, but, apart from other considerations tending to divert his mind from this, the one desire now was to serve God in the Gospel of His Son. He studied divinity at Edinburgh University under Chalmers and Welsh, attracting the special notice of Dr Chalmers, who, shortly after, in answer to a correspondent, wrote regarding him, “He was one of the ablest of my students.”
Mr Macdonald’s first sphere of ministerial service was at Logiealmond, in Perthshire. It was a field in which he had previously sown some good seed, having, while a student, usually spent the long summer vacation at his uncle’s house, Drummond Park, and having, during that period, commenced a Sabbath school, and held Sabbath evening meetings for the district. But in 1834 an old chapel at Chapelhill was restored. Mr Omond, now of Monzie Free Church, was its first incumbent, labouring there devotedly for two years. Mr Macdonald, who was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Perth on 8th June 1836, succeeded him, and ministered at Logiealmond for nearly a year, not without a first-fruits of that harvest which was afterwards to crown his labours in the Gospel-field.
His first charge as an ordained minister, and that with which his name was long so happily associated, was Blairgowrie, in the Presbytery of Meigle, where his settlement took place on the 15th of June 1837. The patron, Mr Oliphant, of Gask, with a liberality not common in those days, had given the people a choice, and, till his lamented death in 1847, although not himself connected with the Free Church, he followed Mr Macdonald’s course with a gratified and sympathetic interest His first text after ordination was Acts 18:10, “I have much people in this city;” it was a fitting keynote for the ministry that day begun. Blairgowrie was even then a populous as well as an extensive parish. Stretching for eleven miles up the right bank of the Ericht, the town containing 2000 inhabitants, the country 1500 more, the population comprising both the manufacturing and the agricultural class, it was, even with the aid of a chapel, procured after Mr Macdonald came, and fostered by him, a laborious field for a spiritual husbandman to cultivate. But both as a pastor and as a preacher Mr Macdonald was soon seen to be making full proof of his ministry. From time immemorial the parish had had a seed of the righteous; but a special blessing came to it with the advent of the young pastor, so that the church of Blairgowrie began to be known as a centre of spiritual life and evangelistic work. Those times of refreshing also in which William Burns was a chosen instrument quickly followed, and Blairgowrie shared largely in the blessing. Robert McCheyne was a frequent visitor, and his Memoir indicates how close the bond of brotherhood between the two like-minded ministers was drawn. Indeed, McCheyne, Andrew Bonar (then of Collace), John Milne, of Perth, Robert Macdonald, and a few others of kindred spirit, were at that time in the heart of Scotland, in their evangelistic work and evangelical influence, “like a torch of fire in a sheaf.”
As a preacher, Mr Macdonald’s power as well as popularity was from the first very great. His natural gifts contributed much to this; the tall and graceful form, the animated and speaking countenance, and the singularly just and expressive elocution and action. Speaking of delivery alone, we have never thought it going beyond the mark to regard him as an almost faultless model of the pulpit orator; the combination of grace and energy, without languor and without vehemence, and the power to make everything spoken tell upon the hearers, being so well adjusted and complete. It is a token of the truth of this, that one discovers these things only on reflection; when listening to the Word as preached by him, the very efficiency of the candle-stick drew the eye to the light alone that shone from it. And the secret of the power lay much deeper. Besides that which is known only between a minister and God, few men have laboured so ungrudgingly, and few so judiciously, in the preparation of the message, as throughout life Dr Macdonald has done. His pulpit speech has always been the outcome of earnest study; his doctrine, pure gold of Gospel ore, rich and various as the mine from which it was drawn; all clearly stated and aptly illustrated, and all coming forth embathed in that unction and urged with that fervour which come from above and move men thither. One thing, moreover, which has strikingly characterised his preaching is, that, with abundance of impressiveness and awakening power, a certain brightness and cheerfulness always pervaded it, as if the preacher never forgot that the message with which he was charged was a message of “glad tidings.”
Apart from his preaching, his more private pastoral work at Blairgowrie was very fruitful, and has precious memories in many hearts. In addition to having much of the grace of Christian love, he was rarely gifted with an attractive natural courtesy of manner and bearing. No one who has known him will be surprised that he has been described, by one well entitled to speak on such a point, and not biassed by sympathy with his evangelical spirit, as a man of “most fascinating manners.” But the characteristic so referred to has often won him access where few could have found it; and, not only in his spheres of pastoral labour, but wherever he has sojourned, there have been delightful fruits of his private dealing and intercourse, some signal instances of which are already known.
Of all his Blairgowrie work, perhaps the most remarkable was that connected with his Sabbath school. It is almost hopeless to attempt to give a picture, such as would enable one who was not for a season in the midst of it, to realise the scene and the spirit that animated it. But his plan was this. He prepared his own lessons, which, besides taking up in order the Gospels and the Acts (the latter, as it happened, very seasonably, about Disruption time), included, as we remember, a course on the Shorter Catechism, and on the places mentioned in Scripture with their associations. The teachers met at half-past five each Sabbath evening, when he dictated to them the notes for the following Sabbath. The school met in the church at six, and, after opening it, he taught his young men’s class in the session-house till seven. Then he entered the church, by this time filled, and often crowded, with a congregation of six or seven hundred adults, besides the five hundred scholars. After a hymn sung, he catechised the classes from the pulpit for forty minutes on the lesson taught, interspersing anecdote, illustration, and appeal, concluding all with praise and prayer. This went uniformly on for the whole nineteen years of his Blairgowrie ministry. The labour implied, after the two stated services, was enormous; but the interest was extraordinary, and the blessing great and continuous. Many can trace their first ideas of a happy heaven to the teaching and hymn-singing, and the atmosphere altogether of that Sabbath school; and there are hundreds at this moment in all parts of the world, besides those that have fallen asleep, whose first impressions of religion, and first thoughts of wisdom’s ways as “ways of pleasantness,” date from Blairgowrie Sabbath School. The pastor had a rare aptitude for the work and rare ardour in it, and his spirit seemed to infect both teachers and scholars. His own words when leaving Blairgowrie shed light both on the process and the result:— “The happiest hours I have ever spent have been in my Sabbath school, and no part of my labours has been more abundantly blessed.”
Mr Macdonald took his full share in the work and witness-bearing of the latter half of the Ten Years’ Conflict. Besides work at home, he was one of the evangelists sent to Aberdeenshire in the years preceding the Disruption. In one of these expeditions he followed McCheyne in his last preaching tour, with many tokens of blessing on his labours. One interesting case was that of a husband and wife, the one of whom was converted through Mr McCheyne’s preaching, the other through Mr Macdonald’s. He had much to do in his own presbytery, in which Mr White of Airlie and he were the only ministers who came out; and it was chiefly owing to his influence that the Free Church mustered so strong throughout the bounds of that Presbytery. In his own parish the great body of the people accompanied him into the Free Church. The parish church had been seated for less than 800; the Free Church was built to accommodate 1100, and even with that accommodation the sitters were soon cramped for room.
It is unnecessary to enter here into the details of his great School-Building Scheme, that having been effectively done in the “Annals of the Disruption” (Annals, 2, 108). The conception of the scheme revealed a financial genius which took most people by surprise, 2and its execution illustrated one of his own favourite quotations, “Prayer and pains, with faith in God, can accomplish anything.” One thing was highly characteristic, namely, the manner in which the spirit of the evangelist dominated in him that of the financier. Wherever, throughout the land, he advocated his scheme, he first preached the Gospel to the people; and those preachings are still remembered and referred to with lively zest and gratitude. Perhaps, because overshadowed by the greatness of this enterprise, his service in connection with the building of the New College, Edinburgh, has been partly lost sight of. All the circumstances cannot be made known during the life-time of some of the contributors. It is, however, simply matter of fact, that it is chiefly to Dr Macdonald the Church is indebted for the prosperous inauguration of that work, and the procuring of the necessary funds for carrying it out (Annals, 2, 123).
Owing to these excessive labours his health in some degree suffered for several years, and, in 1852, he went abroad for a year, visiting the Mediterranean, and making a prolonged tour in the Holy Land,—the fruit of which, although not formally given to the world, was yet exceedingly enriching to his own mind, and added an enriching element to his ministrations in subsequent years. Dr Macdonald was translated to North Leith in 1857. It was not without reluctance that he could contemplate leaving a sphere where, as he said, “the Lord Himself had from the beginning graciously smiled on his labours, and given him seals of his ministry, many dear spiritual children, some of whom were now in heaven, and others still living adorning their Christian profession.” And it was a sore wrench to his people, numbering at this time 1100 communicants, and who, as one of their commissioners expressed it, “could not think of a Blairgowrie without a Macdonald.” But considerations of health constrained him to accept the measure of relief which change of sphere was fitted to afford. He accepted the call on 14th January, 1857, and on 15th March, began his ministry at North Leith, preaching from the text, Romans 15:29-32: “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I will come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ,” &c. The manner in which the Lord has verified that confidence of His servant, in the experience of the congregation of North Leith, is matter not only of past but of still current history. Some of his first sermons at Leith are known to have been blessed to the conversion of souls. The Lord’s own people have been built up and comforted; and more than one season of special refreshing has been enjoyed. The outward prosperity has also been great. During the first years of his ministry, a beautiful and commodious new church was built, at a cost (including halls and offices) of £9000; the communion roll speedily rose from 450 to its present point of 1100; whilst the Christian liberality has increased proportionally.
His degree of D.D. was conferred on him, in the most spontaneous and complimentary manner, by his own University of St. Andrews, in 1870.
In 1879, Mr T. Crerar, M.A., minister at Cardross, was settled as colleague to Dr Macdonald in the pastorate of North Leith, an arrangement which has added greatly to his comfort, and is full of promise for the congregation.
Dr Macdonald has lately become very favourably known as an author. Some of his former writings—and in particular his “Lessons for the Present from the Records of the Past,” a practical and experimental treatise on Genesis, published in 1850—have been much prized by many. But the work by which—of all as yet given by him to the Church—he will be best known, is the volume of daily readings, entitled “From Day to Day,” published in 1879. This volume has, in little more than a year, reached its fifth thousand, and will long hold its place as probably the best book of the kind yet written. In clearness, point, and grace of style, in evangelical savour, in abundance and aptness of illustration, and in home-coming persuasiveness and force, it would be difficult to find a rival to it. In these respects also, it is a good example of what the author’s preaching, in its more practical parts, has always been.
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Patrick McFarlan, D.D.
The subject of this notice was born in the Canongate of Edinburgh, of which parish his father was minister, in the year 1781. Whilst yet a child he lost his father; but he was brought up under the care of a godly mother, from whom he received those early impressions which prove most deep and lasting. Almost from boyhood, his thoughts were turned to the ministry. Having frequent intercourse, as he grew up, with such eminent ministers of the day as Dr John Erslrine, Sir Henry Moncreiff, and Dr Buchanan, his father’s successor, he did not fail to profit by their example and advice. He entered the Hall as a student of divinity in 1798, and was licensed to preach the gospel, by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, in 1803. It was about this time he received further and clearer impressions of divine truth, by the perusal of Wilberforce’s “Practical View of Christianity,” the book which some years after exerted such a powerful influence on Dr Chalmers. In 1806, Mr McFarlan was ordained minister of the parish of Kippen, in the Presbytery of Dunblane; here he remained till 1810, when he was translated to the parish of Polmont, near Linlithgow. He continued there for fourteen years, during which he devoted himself to pastoral duties with great earnestness and fidelity, and with no common measure of success; proving himself a good minister of Jesus Christ, both in the pulpit and in private visitation. It was at this time, too, that he acquired that experience in ecclesiastical affairs, and that knowledge of the forms of Church Courts, which afterwards proved of so much service. The high position he now occupied in the estimation of the Church, was shewn by his appointment in 1824 as successor to Dr Chalmers in St John’s parish, Glasgow. It was an arduous undertaking indeed, to carry on the work of his illustrious predecessor both in the congregation and the parish; but he applied himself to it with his usual earnestness and energy. After two years, however, finding it too heavy a burden, he removed to St Enoch’s parish, where he ministered for several years to a large and influential congregation. In 1832, he was translated to the west parish of Greenock, and in that town he continued his ministerial labours for seventeen years, till his death.
Dr McFarlan had always taken an active part in Church affairs, and in such questions as interested the Christian community. For public debate and controversial discussion, he had special qualifications. In the Assembly of 1825 he distinguished himself, in connection with the debate on Pluralities; and in the Apocrypha controversy, his pen was employed with characteristic clearness and decision. The influence he had attained and the confidence reposed in him by his brethren, were evidenced in the most unequivocal manner, when he was made Moderator of the General Assembly of 1834. At that Assembly the Veto Act was passed, and the conflict was begun, which ended in the Disruption. In that great struggle no man took a more decided and honourable part than Dr McFarlan. He was indeed, in the strictest sense, a non-intrusionist; always refusing to take up anti-patronage ground; believing that the operation of the Veto Law, would effectually protect the Church, from those abuses which had done it such injury in time past. But he was quick to perceive the vital nature of the question, raised by the judgment of the civil courts in the Auchterarder case; as regarded the Church’s spiritual independence he would admit of no compromise; he took up a decided position from the outset, and maintained it with unwavering consistency to the end.
At a public meeting in Greenock, in December 1839, having set forth with great clearness the position in which the Church was placed, he concluded as follows:—
“It has pleased God in His providence to fill me, as far as stipend is concerned, a fuller cup than has fallen to many of my brethren; but this I say, and say it advisedly, so help me God—holding the views I entertain of this subject, and regarding it as impossible, without a sacrifice of conscience, to submit to and acquiesce in that decree to which I have referred, I would rather cast that cup to the ground than I would taste it again, embittered, as it would be if I were to yield, by the consciousness of having deserted what I believe to be my duty to God, and my duty to the Church.”
In the Assemblies of 1840 and 1841 Dr McFarlan took a leading part, especially in the discussion on Lord Aberdeen’s Bill, and in the various proceedings connected with the case of the Strathbogie ministers. At the August Commission of 1841, when the leaders of the Moderate party had openly taken part with the deposed ministers, and were manifestly bent on bringing matters to a crisis, he made a most impressive speech, at the close of which he called on his brethren to stand fast to their principles, in the following terms:—
That he should have exerted much influence in the counsels of the Church at such a crisis, was not surprising, considering his great experience in ecclesiastical affairs, his soundness of judgment, and skill in debate. But besides this, when the issue of the struggle began to be foreseen, and the sacrifices it would entail on those who adhered to their principles, Dr McFarlan’s position and the attitude he maintained attracted special attention, on the part both of friends and opponents, for the simple reason, that the west parish of Greenock was, at that time, the richest living in the Church of Scotland. Would a minister deliberateiy give up such emoluments for the sake of principle? Amongst worldly men there were few that believed it. Dr McFarlan indeed had declared, in the most explicit manner, that he was prepared to do so. But by too many this was regarded as no better than an empty threat; and the expectation that he would draw back found frequent expression. Those who thought so little knew the man—the integrity of his character, the depth of his convictions, and the steadfastness of his purpose. It is scarcely necessary to add, that when the time came he nobly redeemed his pledge. Nothing became him better—the strength and dignity of his Christian character—than the way in which he accepted the change of circumstances which the Disruption involved. In his case the change was a very material one, such as a man of his tastes and habits, of his liberal disposition and large hospitality, could not possibly be insensible to. But no one ever heard a complaint from him; he had the same cheerful, happy demeanour as before: his was the unbroken serenity of a good conscience.
After the Disruption, Dr McFarlan continued for more than six years to minister to a numerous and attached congregation. In the Free Church at large, he held a prominent place, and exerted very great influence. His noble testimony, his long experience and mature wisdom, secured for him no ordinary measure of respect and attention. He was called to the Moderator’s chair in the Assembly of 1845, presiding both at its ordinary meeting in May, and its special meeting at Inverness in August. His sympathies were by no means confined to the limits of his own communion: he was one of the original promoters of the Evangelical Alliance, and he took a special interest in the Continental Churches, and the revival amongst them of evangelical religion. His death took place at Greenock, after a short but severe illness, in November 1849, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. He retained his mental faculties to the last, giving frequent expression to his faith and hope as a Christian, with singular distinctness and solemnity. It deserves to be noticed that he was the fourth in a succession of ministers, continued from father to son, since the time of the Revolution. In the ministry of the Free Church, he has been worthily succeeded by his son, the Rev. John McFarlan of the Free Middle Church, Greenock, and his grandson, the Rev. Andrew Melville of Free St Enoch’s, Glasgow.
Dr McFarlan’s personal appearance was very prepossessing. His head and face would have attracted observation in any assembly— suggesting the idea of culture and refinement, of mental acuteness and moral elevation. His voice was clear and ringing, rather than strong. His speaking, both from the pulpit and in debate, was characterised above everything by clearness and precision. He was wanting in the power of illustration; but there was an admirable distinctness which went far to make up for the defect; he always knew what he meant to say and made it perfectly plain to his hearers. He was distinguished, too, in a remarkable degree, by business talents; in this respect his acquaintance with forms, his tact, his readiness of word and pen, were of invaluable service to his brethren. Indeed, one of his most characteristic features was facility of execution: what he had to do, he could do at once, without hesitation or delay, an important quality for one so much engaged in public affairs. In the pulpit, that defect in the illustrative faculty just referred to, was, no doubt, a serious drawback. The want of imagination necessarily interfered with any widespread popularity beyond the sphere of his own congregation. But, on the other hand, his clear exhibition of gospel truth, set forth with simplicity and earnestness, made his preaching most weighty and acceptable among the people of his charge. It was the old gospel, known and realised in his own experience, which he preached to others with fulness and fidelity. In the more private duties of the pastoral office he was unwearied; having a strong hold on the affections of his people by his sympathy with them in times of difficulty and trial; while the cheerful affability of his manner was attractive alike to young and old. Indeed, in him the Christian minister and the Christian gentleman were most happily blended: he was a gentleman of the old school, always courteous, with that ease and self-possession, which tended to relieve others from any feeling of restraint or embarassment. He shone in company by his conversational powers; but however lively and entertaining, he never forgot what was due to his office, nor allowed others to forget it. There was an unfailing dignity and propriety in his demeanour, which added greatly to his weight and influence. He was a man with much warmth of heart and feeling: in his family, overflowing with affection, and the object of affection in a corresponding degree; while to others on intimate terms with him, he was the most steadfast of friends and the most delightful of companions. Those who remember how, in early life, they were admitted to his society and enjoyed his confidence, and the encouragement thereby afforded them at the outset of their ministry, can never cease to cherish his memory, as of one of their best and dearest friends. By the Free Church at large, the name of Dr Patrick McFarlan is to be remembered, as occupying a prominent place in the list of Disruption Worthies, on account of the noble part he acted at that memorable crisis. As one of the fathers and founders of the Free Church of Scotland, his name will ever be associated with her history.
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Patrick Boyle Mure MacReadie
It was not possible for one to know Patrick Boyle Mure Macredie without receiving a very deep impression of the soundness of his judgment, the extent of his information, the warmth of his heart, and the depth of his piety; and though from constitutional diffidence he was not fitted for debate, and never entered the arena in the “ten years’ conflict,” yet from his great moral worth, and his high tone of Christian consistency, he was of great service to the Disruption cause, and his name must ever rank high among Disruption Worthies.
He was born at Warriston, near Edinburgh, on the 28th of September 1800. His father was Thomas Mure, Esq. of Warriston. His mother was the eldest daughter of the Honourable Patrick Boyle of Shewalton. He had the misfortune to lose both his parents in very early life; but he came under the care of his maternal grandmother and uncle at Shewalton, as well as of his mother’s sister, Mrs Smollet of Bonhill, at Cameron House; and it was one of the enjoyments of his later life to recall the happy days he spent there. He was one of a large family. George, his elder brother, was in the Grenadier Guards, and carried the colours at Waterloo. Thomas, his younger brother, entered the navy, and died of fever in the fatal Irrawady.
Patrick, destined for the Bar, entered the University of Edinburgh in 1812, and passed with credit and approbation through the usual curriculum of the Arts Classes, as well as those of the Law. In 1822 he was one of nineteen who passed Advocate—seven of them on the same day, among whom were Sir Charles Ferguson of Kilkerran, Mr Hog of Newliston, and Lord Neaves, who alone survives.
Eager in the pursuit of knowledge, and honourable in his whole bearing and deportment, Mr Mure was still a stranger to the saving grace of the gospel. In those days Moderatism prevailed in the pulpit. In many parts of the country the proclamation of a free salvation, through the atoning blood of the Lamb, was the exception and not the rule. Towards the close of 1822 he begins to take note in his diary of the sermons he heard. The preaching of Dr Andrew Thomson produced a powerful impression on his mind; but it was chiefly through the ministry of Dr Henry Grey that he was brought to a knowledge of the truth. Under date 21st December of that year, he writes: “Heard two sermons from Mr Grey; like his preaching very much; first time.” March 2. 1823— “Heard an excellent sermon from Mr Grey, from Exodus 12:42. It is a night much to be remembered,” &c. To this he has appended, at a later date, “This sermon, if I remember right, caused me to consider if ever I could speak of such a day.” March 21— “Fell in with a tract on the work of the Holy Spirit, which taught me some things of which I was ignorant.” May 18— “Received at church deeper alarm—driven almost to despair. How much I have been changed this last week!—despair, little sleep. I am wretched; everything appears a dream.” May 21— “I called to-day on Mr Grey; received by him very kindly. I go home with much joy and peace, but my joy like the crackling of thorns—the joy of nature at seeing a hope.” Pages might be filled with most interesting extracts, which reveal the struggle that was going on within—his eager thirst for the word, and the delight he had in the ministry of Mr Grey. His eldest sister was of great service to him at this eventful period of his life; and though for a season he was distressed with doubts and fears, yet these eventually passed away, and he settled down into that child-like repose in the Saviour that continued unbroken to the end. From this time forward he became a daily and systematic student of the Bible, availing himself of all the helps he could obtain. He soon afterwards became a Sabbath-school teacher, and his diaries reveal how deep was the interest he took in his class, and how diligently he prepared himself for it. When Dr Chalmers was appointed to the Divinity Chair, like many others who were non-theological, he attended his lectures, and caught the enthusiasm for theological inquiry. Church history became a favourite study; and he set himself to acquire a knowledge of Hebrew, that he might be able to read the Old Testament Scriptures in the original tongue.
For ten years of his Edinburgh life, he and his life-long friend, Alexander Dunlop, occupied the same apartments, and there can be no doubt that his intimacy with one so versed in ecclesiastical law could not fail to awaken his interest in ecclesiastical affairs, and this must have been deepened by the part he took in connection with the two settlements at Dreghorn. Twice over within the space of two short years that unfortunate parish was subjected to protracted litigation before the ecclesiastical courts, and in both Mr Mure was employed as counsel on behalf of the heritors and people. In the spring of 1830 a licentiate was presented, who was suspected of holding unsound views in regard to the sinless humanity of Christ. A libel was prepared, and evidence led. The General Assembly of 1831 found the libel proven, and the presentation was set aside. An acceptable appointment followed; but as the health of their new minister was extremely delicate, the people of Dreghorn trembled lest he should pass away before some other vacancy had occurred in the patron’s gift, for it was known what name stood next on the patron’s list. Their fears were realised—in the spring of 1834 their pastor died, the obnoxious presentation was issued, and the parish was plunged anew into conflict. This was the memorable year of the Veto Act, and the peculiarity in the case of Dreghorn was that the Act was passed betwixt the time of the issuing of the presentation and the moderation of the call. On all hands it was admitted that the special provisions of that Act could not apply; but forasmuch as that Act declared “that it is a fundamental law of this church that no minister should be intruded on a congregation against the will of the people,” the parishioners very naturally held that respect should be had to this fundamental principle in the settlement of the minister of Dreghorn. On the day of the moderation, the call was signed by very few, while the great majority objected to his settlement. The Presbytery decided in favour of the people, and the case was brought up by appeal to the next General Assembly; after a keen discussion, by a majority of one, the presentee was rejected. The people went home rejoicing in the victory they had won, but it was short-lived. It turned out that, in answer to the name of a gentleman who was not present, some one had voted in their favour. How it occurred, and by whom it was done, was never discovered. It was believed to have been accidental. It was most unfortunate for the people; but for this, the votes being equal, they would have obtained the benefit of the casting vote of the Moderator, but from this, in the peculiar circumstances, they were precluded, and it was held that no decision had been given. This involved the delay of another year. The whole question was re-argued in the General Assembly of 1836, when it carried by a majority of thirty-one in favour of the presentee, who was intruded on the parish with the usual results.
Having married the heiress of Perceton in 1835, he assumed the name of Macredie, and gave himself heartily to the discharge of the duties that now devolved upon him. In all the affairs of the county he took an active interest. An adept in figures, he was made Chairman of Finance, and from the intelligence and impartiality he brought to bear upon every question, his opinion was felt to be of value. A Conservative in politics, he threw himself with characteristic energy into every electioneering contest, and in the winter of 1854-5 he nominated Sir James Ferguson for the county of Ayr, who carried the election. Nor were his scientific studies laid aside. He became a member of the Royal Society, and other kindred institutions. He joined the British Association at its commencement, and was seldom absent from any of its annual gatherings. But while he kept himself abreast of the progress of science, he took the deepest interest in all the religious questions of the day. Having been ordained an elder in 1832, he sat in the General Assembly during nearly the whole of the ten years preceding the Disruption, and, as might have been expected, alike from his religious convictions and his Dreghorn experience, he was always found on the side of loyalty to Christ, and liberty to the people. When, in his own immediate neighbourhood, the Stewarton case arose, involving the right of the quoad sacra ministers to a seat in the church courts, he stood nobly forward in the defence, and rendered essential service to the Presbytery in the conduct of the case. True to his convictions, never wavering for a moment—neither before nor after—he left St Andrew’s Church on the memorable Disruption day; and though it brought along with it an experience which, from his sensitive nature, he keenly felt—he bore it, he outlived it, quieter times came, and it passed away.
In addition to his other duties, Mr Macredie devoted a large share ot time and attention to the mines and the fire-clay works which he carried on. This involved him in much hard work, but success attended his efforts, and supplied him with the means of giving to the cause of Christ on a scale of liberality that is very rare: his private account-book is before me, from which I find that sometimes a fourth and sometimes a fifth of his income was consecrated to the Lord.
The welfare of those immediately under his charge lay very near his heart. At a time when the question of improved accommodation for the labouring classes had not come to the front, he built fifteen miners’ cottages, of three apartments each, for which he received a medal from the Highland Society. He taught a class of grown-up lads on the Sabbath evenings, and besides employing a missionary to labour among them, he held prayer-meetings in the cottages. When the revival of 1859-60 visited the West of Scotland, he threw himself into it with the greatest zeal, aided in building a mission hall, and, at his own expense, provided additional labourers to cultivate the field—a work which his family still continue. But his interest was not confined to his own locality. The cause of Christ in every land shared his liberality. He sowed beside all waters. One example may be given. From his frequent intercourse with the South, he found that the Westminster Catechism was scarcely known to the clergy of the Church of England. He printed a special edition of the Catechism, and sent a copy to every Episcopal clergyman.
In the summer of 1863 he was visited with a very serious illness, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. The few remaining years of his life passed quietly away. He was suffering from disease of the heart. Though it weakened, it did not confine him. He was able to conduct family worship till within two days of his death; and when no longer able to read the portion of Scripture, he continued to lead their devotions. His mind was unclouded, and his peace unbroken. On the morning of 15th April 1868 he breathed his last, leaving behind him a widow, two sons and two daughters, to revere his memory and follow in his steps.
[This Sketch should here have closed, but the appalling railway accident at Abbots Ripton, on the evening of the 21st January 1876, which plunged so many families into such deep and crushing sorrow, sent the thrill of anguish to this happy home. Among the sufferers was Thomas Mure, the eldest of the two sons. Partially injured in the first collision, he was crushed beneath the engine in the second. There for three hours he lay amid the drifting snow of that awful night. Never a murmur escaped his lips. His Christianity shone out as with a blaze of brilliancy, and his unselfishness did not fail him in death.— “Tell my mother that I die in Jesus.” “Try and help the man that is near me,” were his words to those who were kindly helping him. For two days he lingered. He sent touching and weighty messages to his friends and fellow-officers in the militia. On Sabbath the 23d he died, in the presence of his mother and sisters, who had hastened to be with him. And so there passed away, at the early age of thirty-four, one of the purest, gentlest, and most generous of the children of men. ]
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Among the great and good men of Disruption days a prominent place may well be claimed for Roderick McLeod; and the Church acknowledged the claim by unanimously calling him to preside over her General Assembly of 1863, thus conferring upon him the highest honour she had to bestow. Mr McLeod was born in Glen-Haltin, Isle of Skye, in the year 1794. His father, the parish minister of Snizort, was a younger son of McLeod of Raasay. His family connection thus gave him a position in society, and may also have contributed to the formation of that chivalrous bearing which characterised him through life. He possessed great natural force of character, superior intellectnal power, and a fearlessness of disposition that even in early youth made him a hero among his associates at school and college. Having completed his college course at Aberdeen, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Skye as a preacher of the Gospel, and was soon thereafter appointed to the mission of Lynedale, in his father’s parish. At this period of his life, and for a year or two thereafter, Mr McLeod was still a man of the world—gay and light-hearted—and from his gentlemanly bearing was a universal favourite in the society of Skye. He felt little interest in the souls of others, for he was a stranger to the requirements of his own soul and to the love of the Saviour. But, by the perusal of Bellamy’s “Christian Religion Delineated,” he was awakened to a sense of his spiritual state, and when he was thus exercised it happened in providence that Dr Chalmers’ “Lectures on the Romans” fell into his hands. He studied these lectures prayerfully; and to the light and comfort he obtained by means of them he made a touching allusion in his address at the close of the General Assembly in 1863.
At the time of this crisis in Mr McLeod’s history, there lived in his neighbourhood a remarkable man in humble circumstances whose enlightened views and ripe Christian experience were the means of keeping and strengthening him in the way of the Lord. This man was blind Donald Munro, a name revered in Skye only second to that of Mr McLeod himself. When the history of living religion in Skye shall be written, one of its most interesting chapters will be the life and labours of this man of God. He was converted through hearing a sermon preached by Mr Farquharson, an itinerant preacher sent to Skye by the Messrs Haldane; and soon it became evident that God had raised him up to be a faithful and much-acknowledged labourer in His vineyard. He had rare mental gifts, and was mighty in the Scriptures. His meetings for prayer and exhortation were abundant, and the power of the Lord was present in those humble gatherings at the river side in Snizort.
Along with the great spiritual change in the minister, there was seen a very striking change in the Mission House of Lynedale. The preaching was new. The services were multiplied. Meetings were held on week days as well as Sabbaths. Soon these meetings became crowded, for the people flocked to them from the surrounding districts, and many who afterwards became eminent Christians dated their first deep impressions from the earnest services of that time.
When the parish of Bracadale became vacant by the death of Mr Shaw, a minister of eminent piety, Mr McLeod was presented to the living, and inducted into that charge in 1823. He used to remark that it was with his sword and his bow that he gained this preferment, referring to the manner in which he formerly commended himself to his patron, by excelling in the use of the gun and in other amusements.
His ministry in Bracadale extended over fifteen years. Here he had trials, but he had also great encouragement in his work. His church was crowded from Sabbath to Sabbath with eager hearers. Not only his own parishioners, but many from the surrounding parishes resorted to his ministry. Bracadale became famous as the birthplace of souls, and the memories still floating in the island of the success that attended Mr McLeod’s labours there would fill a volume.
His views of the sacraments caused him to delay in some cases the administration of baptism, and this unusual strictness gave rise to complaints and appeals to the Presbytery of Skye. His Presbytery had no sympathy with him or his views, and endeavoured to force him into compliance with their own laxer notions. But standing, as he believed he did, on the firm foundation of God’s truth, Mr McLeod was not the man to be moved from his strong convictions. And so his refusing baptism to a parishioner came up before the General Assembly of 1824 by reference from the Presbytery.
At three different Assemblies Mr McLeod’s case was under discussion in one form or another. His Presbytery treated him with the utmost harshness, and gave him no rest. They harassed him, at first with threats, then by suspending him from the functions of the ministry for a year, and finally they proceeded against him by libel with the view of deposing him from the ministry. It was to this treatment that Mr (afterwards Lord) Cockburn, who was Mr McLeod’s counsel, referred, when, in an eloquent speech before the Assembly, he lashed the Presbytery of Skye with his powers of ridicule, describing them as a troop of foxhunters, who had not much to occupy them, and who agreed to keep a bagged fox, at which they might have a run when they wanted a hunt. The case was ultimately disposed of in 1827, when the Assembly appointed a committee of its most respected members to make full investigation, and to report to the House. This committee vindicated Mr McLeod, and recommended that the suspension be removed, and the libel be rejected. The Assembly unanimously adopted their committee’s report, and Mr McLeod was set free, and returned to his home and his flock a happy man.
Mr McLeod continued his ministry in Bracadale till the year 1838, when, on a vacancy occurring in the parish of Snizort, the people petitioned the Home Office, praying that Mr McLeod should be presented to the charge. The application was successful, and he was accordingly translated to Snizort. It was now the period of the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” and into that movement Mr McLeod threw himself with all the ardour of his heart. His sympathies were entirely on the side of the spiritual independence of the Church, and the spiritual rights and privileges of the Christian people. The circumstances of the time called for a large amount of extra-parochial duties, and perhaps no man passed through more bodily toil and privation in the service of the Church than Mr McLeod did on to 1843. But however excessive his labours may have been before, it was the Disruption in that year that laid on him a burden which demanded all the mental vigour and elasticity, and all the physical strength, with which the Lord had endowed him. The Island of Skye, containing eight ministerial charges, with a population of 20,000 souls, was the field he was called to occupy, and he held it for years single-handed. Of his brethren in the island, none stood by him when the day of trial came, except one who was called to another charge a few months after the Disruption. But it was not only Skye which he had to hold for the Free Church. That portion of the Long Island which extends from Harris to Barra Head, with its population of 16,000 or more, and with only one minister who joined the Free Church, was added to the Presbytery of Skye, and demanded a large share of Mr McLeod’s thoughts and labours. He did not, however, shrink from the work, but courageously and cheerfully set his face to the duties before him. His labours for some years after the Disruption were not exceeded by those of any minister in the Free Church. It was no uncommon thing with him in those years to preach to congregations on the hillside in the midst of a snow-storm; and although he felt no injurious effects at the time, privations and continuous exertions, which were far beyond what any ordinary human strength could bear, left their mark upon him. But in the midst of it all no one ever found him desponding. He was always cheerful, and often even playful. By degrees relief came to him, and his labours were lightened. One after another of the island charges was filled up; and before his removal he saw the whole island supplied with ministers, from Rhu Hunish to the Point of Sleat.
Mr McLeod was married to Miss Anne McDonald, of Skeabost, in whom he found a partner who sympathised with him in all his labours, and who strengthened him in his various trials. They had a family of thirteen children; and before it pleased the Lord to visit them with bereavements, the well-ordered and happy household greatly impressed many a visitor to the manse. But one after another they were taken away, until at the time of his own removal, only four remained. His bearing in connection with those family sorrows was very remarkable. He meekly and quietly took all from a Father’s hand.
Mr McLeod continued in robust health till he neared the threescore years and ten. But at length the iron frame began to yield. In the year 1864 he had an illness which confined him to the house for several weeks; but he rallied again, and continued to labour with unabated zeal for some years longer. It may be said of him that he fell in the field; for it was on returning from South Uist, after several days of preaching, that his last illness came on. He performed this long journey in an open boat, where there was neither shelter nor comfort. Exposure to storm and wet, for a night and a day, left evil effects behind, and his strength rapidly forsook him. The end was like a summer sunset, calm and tranquil. There was no ecstacy, and there was no fear; and without a struggle he passed away.
It is difficult now to credit the “gross darkness” that covered the population of Skye at the commencement of this century. But a reformation period arrived. A tide of religious feeling set in through the island, and the trusted leader of the movement was Roderick McLeod. No one acquainted with the religious history of Skye can doubt that he was an instrument specially raised up by God to guide and mould the revived spiritual life of the people at that time. But Mr McLeod was no mere revivalist. He was a man of wide sympathies, who took a deep and intelligent interest in all matters civil and ecclesiastical. In ecclesiastical questions he was always in harmony with the great leaders of the Church. This was true, not only previous to the Disruption, but since that event. When there was an agitation on the subject of Church Unions in the colonies, he strongly advocated the side of union. And when the question of union among the unestablished churches of our own country came on, he entered into it most cordially. It was characteristic of him that, when once he took up a position, he was not to be moved from it. And so, on the subject of union, having made up his mind, he never wavered to his dying day in giving it his earnest support.
Those who had the privilege of intimate acquaintance with him found him a man of very warm affections, a most congenial companion, and a confiding and steadfast friend, who could be relied on in any emergency. Among his younger brethren, instead of seeking to lord it over them, he often made them feel ashamed by refusing to take the place that they thought belonged to him of right. In their manses none was a greater favourite with the little children. Such a man could not fail to be beloved by the people of his native island, and his sufferings for righteousness’ sake gave him a place in their hearts that no other man has ever had. It will be indeed a degenerate race of Skyemen that will cease to cherish with reverence and love the memory,of Mr Roderick McLeod.
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It is difficult to convey to a younger generation an adequate idea of the remarkable manner in which Scottish minds, hearts, and consciences were possessed and moved during the Disruption period. Most of those who, at the time, were old enough to understand what was going on, and had already given themselves to the Lord, felt, as by a religious instinct, that the question at issue was a vital one—was in reality and essentially the same question which has been contested on divers fields in all ages of the Church: “Shall the Lord Jesus Christ, or shall He not, rule in and over His own house?” or, in other words, “Shall any earthly or temporal authority be suffered to interpose between Him and His true church, His body, His bride, His believing people?”
If the religious instincts of one party were clear and unhesitating there was a corresponding unanimity on the side of their opponents, who, not appreciating the religious aspects of the question, allowed themselves to be swayed by political sentiments, by a constitutional dread of change, and perhaps, too, by an overweening estimate of the importance of State support.
In trying to recall that momentous period, we must remember that it had been preceded by, and was in fact the natural outcome of, a remarkable season of religious awakening and revival. Many young persons, just entering on the serious responsibilities of life, had shortly before received a baptism from above; a constellation of men, so to speak, all born about the same time in the early years of the century, had risen, specially prepared and fitted to take up and carry forward the ancestral testimony handed down by Knox, Melville, and Henderson, and latterly maintained by Sir Henry Moncreiff, by the elder McCrie, by Thomson and Chalmers; and it seemed as if a glorious work was in store for the Church of Scotland, under the fostering care of a recently reformed, a liberal and paternal government. The cause of Establishments had virtually triumphed, in spite of a formidable assault, conducted with great ability and earnestness for several years by the nonconformists of both England and Scotland, while a scheme of church extension, conceived on the most enlightened principles by Dr Chalmers, was pressed upon the mind of his countrymen with that burning eloquence and enthusiasm which already made him the acknowledged leader of a third Reformation. But this splendid prospect was not to be realised in the manner which man ignorantly anticipated. It was to be learned once more, as events thickened during the “ten years’ conflict,” that the great Head of the Church had higher and more comprehensive lessons to teach than His servants had imagined. He shewed them that the politicians and legislators of this world will not tolerate that spiritual independence which He claims for His bride, and that State support can be obtained only by her submitting to unwarrantable limitations of that blood-bought inheritance. The controversy which commenced, as is well known, with the comparatively small question of how the scriptural choice and call of ministers might be reconciled with the law of Patronage, unjustly restored to the statute book by the Act of Queen Anne, raised, in rapid succession, a series of questions still more vital to a church of Christ, until it became too obvious to be doubted, that unless a legislative enactment could be obtained, recognising the claims of the Church in a full and satisfactory manner, no alternative was left to her but to abandon her connection with the State, and trust to the providence of her divine Head, who, having the hearts of men in His hand, can incline them to give what is needed of their worldly substance for the maintenance and extension of His own cause and kingdom.
The sacrifice was made on the 18th of May 1843, and the greatness of it we can hardly realise. A few considerations may help us to do so in some degree. Chalmers himself, backed by many of those whom he had inspired with his enthusiasm for State endowments and an Established Church, felt the sacrifice in giving up the splendid purpose so long and ardently cherished, when it could no longer be carried out, without a still greater sacrifice of principle, and without disloyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ; hundreds of ministers resigned for the same reason their charges, and with their families abandoned, at the call of duty, the pleasant homes in which they had reasonably hoped to spend their lives; professors had to leave their posts of time-honoured influence in the universities, and to undertake, amid new surroundings, the theological training of students, who in great numbers flocked to them with youthful ardour and confidence; all the missionaries of the Church cast in their lot with the faithful minority, and, of course, they and their work in foreign parts had to be maintained by contributions from a willing people, already burthened with many anxieties at home; while parish schoolmasters—and these the best—whose sympathies were on the same side, justly claimed similar support. In short, the whole machinery of the Church of Scotland needed to be set up afresh, so great was the Disruption in its results, so real and deep-seated were the religious convictions which called for the sacrifice. History can now tell that the demands which all these changes made on the liberality of the faithful people of Scotland, were responded to in a manner so remarkable as to prove emphatically that they too considered the question at issue to be one of vital and religious moment. So indeed it was; and no lower considerations could have sustained the nascent Free Church in the crisis through which she had to pass. The hand of God was visible in the Disruption; and on looking back, after thirty-three years, the worthies of that eventful period are now seen, when most of them are gone to their reward, to have been specially chosen, endowed, and equipped for the work which each had to accomplish. Who that witnessed these men and their arduous labours with a sympathetic interest in the struggling church of his fathers, can ever forget the glad sense of relief, the hopeful enlargement of heart, the gratitude to God which prevailed on every hand, recalling vividly those early pentecostal days which we read of in the second chapter of the Acts.
In making these preliminary remarks, we have not lost sight of John Maitland, but have been trying to explain those deep convictions which underlay his quiet energy and zeal, rendering him in great measure the useful man he was in his generation.
The fourth son of the late Sir Alexander Gibson Maitland, Baronet of Clifton Hall, county of Edinburgh, he was born on the 17th of January-1803. We do not possess many particulars of his boyhood and youth, but old surviving friends speak of him as being then the same sensible, well-conducted, and reliable person that he continued to be during his subsequent career. At what period he came under serious and saving impressions is not known; but he shewed in early manhood what side he had taken, by devoting himself to Sabbath-school teaching and other occupations and duties of like significance.
When the time came for choosing a profession, following his own natural bias, he became an accountant in Edinburgh, a calling which he followed on his own account for many years with reputation and success. Latterly he was associated in business with his future brother-in-law, Mr William Wood, C.A., a gentleman of like mind and kindred tastes. Mr Maitland’s professional aptitude and benevolence led him at an early period to take a deep interest and a very influential part in the organization and development of the National Security Savings Bank. We are informed on good authority, that by devising a method whereby all the numerous small accounts of such useful institutions could be brought annually to an exact balance, he solved a difficulty which had previously stood in the way of their success, and made the Edinburgh Savings Bank a model for others throughout the country. The institution has now grown to such large dimensions, and its admirable management has been so prolific of good elsewhere, that it would be difficult to overestimate these early services of Mr Maitland.
During the years of public earnestness and anxiety of which we have already spoken, our friend was no idle onlooker; but like his contemporary and brother-in-law, the late Mr James Hog of Newliston, stood by the Church of Scotland with unwavering firmness in the time of her trials, and when the Disruption came, like him, “turned from the remaining Establishment with the most melancholy aversion.” Is it conceivable that either of these earnest calm-thinking men, had they lived to the present day, could possibly have entertained a thought of retracing their steps—even with Patronage abolished—until the General Assembly of the Established Church, which then “bowed in the dust, and echoed the very words of the Civil Courts, declaring the solemn sentences of the Church to be ‘null and void,'” had, as a preliminary, acknowledged its unfaithfulness, and endorsed the Claim of Rights presented by the Free Church of Scotland?
From the very first Mr Maitland threw himself with heart and soul into that round of active labour which an event so momentous demanded from all who would help the Free Church in her emergency; and his business capacity, his soundness of judgment, his social position, made him a most valuable and a trusted coadjutor. He became a deacon in 1843, and in 1846 an elder, in Free St George’s, Edinburgh, and being thus in the centre of affairs, was enabled to render much effective service. His professional talents were at all times available; and no man probably bestowed more earnest and successful thought than he did upon the general Sustentation Fund and other financial departments of the Church. Several able pamphlets, remarkable for clearness, terseness, and pith, did a great deal towards enlightening the minds of those who were mainly responsible, and inaugurating those principles of distribution which have rendered the Sustentation Scheme so eminently successful, and made it a model, probably, to other self-supporting churches in the future. 3These exertions of Mr Maitland were very disinterested in the eyes of those who could duly appreciate them, inasmuch as they partially estranged towards him not a few friends in the upper classes of society, with whom he had been associated by family relationship.
In the year 1850, when the public office of accountant to the Court of Session was created, he was nominated by the Crown to fill it; and the appointment was all the more honourable and gratifying, that it was conferred without solicitation made or influence exerted on his behalf. He filled the position for fifteen years, until the day of his death, and the admirable manner in which the duties were discharged fully justified the confidence reposed in him. His public responsibilities did not preclude the performance, and that very efficiently, of those duties which devolved upon him as a private Christian and an office-bearer in the Church. Although frequently a member of the General Assembly, he was not in the habit of addressing the house, because his inclination, perhaps his talent, did not lead him in that direction; but a more intelligent, a more shrewd and trustworthy adviser, was not to be easily found, and there was something too in his appearance, in his handsome countenance and aristocratic bearing, which made him a conspicuous member of the court.
He was a director of the Commercial Bank and of the North British Insurance Company, both positions indicating unmistakeably the value attached, by competent judges, to his good sense, his knowledge of affairs, and his business habits. It would be no easy task to enumerate the many other fields of usefulness in which any spare time at his disposal found occupation. One or two may be specially noted — the Home Mission operations of the Free Church, and everything connected with the reparation of those breaches which the shock of the Disruption had occasioned. In the building of churches, of manses, of schools, he took a very warm interest; and the extent of his contributions in such cases was remarkable, considering his means, and only to be accounted for by the strength of religious principle which animated him, and by the good scriptural habit, early formed, of setting apart a fixed portion of his income for philanthropic and Christian objects. In this matter he was, so to speak, a reformer before the reformation,—his sagacity shewing him how greatly the pecuniary means needed for the promotion of these great causes would be multiplied, were systematic giving the rule, and not the exception.
A few years before his death, Mr Maitland eclipsed all his previous benefactions, by building on a most eligible site, which he had secured in close proximity to the New College, very commodious and handsome premises for the various offices of the Church, including a spacious hall of elegant proportions, worthy of the metropolitan Presbytery. Although the Church handed over to him the former less suitable offices in Frederick Street in part exchange, this munificent gift, erected primarily at his own expense, must have cost him betwixt five and six thousand pounds. The whole Church was thus placed under great obligations to him, and will always associate his memory with that substantial and noble structure. An excellent portrait of the donor, by Mr Norman Macbeth, graces the Presbytery Hall; and we may here mention that another portrait, in full length, by Sir John Watson Gordon, has been placed in the principal room of the adjoining National Security Savings Bank, as an expression of the value attached to his long services there by the directors of that institution.
Mr Maitland’s last illness was a rapid one, and, as he usually enjoyed good health, and seemed to possess a robust constitution, his death came with sudden and stunning surprise on his numerous friends and the public at large. On Tuesday, 29th August 1865, he attended to his official duties in apparent health. Returning in the afternoon to his residence— that summer at Swinton Bank, near Peebles—he complained of what, for the three following days, appeared to be an influenza cold. On Saturday, however, this illness assumed a more serious aspect; and, with occasional interruptions of his consciousness, he sank beneath the attack, and on Wednesday, 6th September, breathed his last. He was buried in the Grange Cemetery, near the grave of Chalmers, by the north wall, where Graham Speirs, Andrew Agnew, Hugh Miller, James Miller, and other good and true men have also found a resting-place.
Instead of attempting any summary of our own, it seems fitting to incorporate with this short notice the following tribute to his memory which Principal Candlish, who knew him well, delivered from the pulpit of St George’s on the forenoon of 1st October 1865:—
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Angus Makellar, D.D.
The Rev. Dr Angus Makellar of Pencaitland was a native of the county of Argyll. As to his parentage and the place of his birth, as well as his early history, his university studies, and the exact date of his receiving licence to preach the gospel, we have been unable to obtain accurate information. But there can be no doubt that he was “brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and gave decided indications of early piety, and of his desire to dedicate himself to the Lord’s service in the work of the holy ministry. He was born in the year 1780, and died at Edinburgh in 1859, in the seventy-ninth year of his age, and the forty-eighth of his ministry. As he received in 1835 his degree of D.D. from the University of Glasgow, it is probable that his literary and theological studies had been prosecuted there.
His first pastoral charge was the parish of Carmunnock, in the immediate neighbourhood of Glasgow. There he was ordained in the year 1812; and at a time when evangelical preaching in the Established Church was comparatively rare, he soon attracted notice, and won esteem and regard, by his full and faithful proclamation of the gospel, and by his earnest and devoted efforts to win souls to Christ, and to advance His cause and kingdom. It was there that he formed the acquaintance and gained the affections of her who was afterwards to be his life companion, and whose decided piety, amiable character, singular sweetness of temper, and readiness to every good work, rendered her a most suitable helpmate to her like-minded husband, and made religion so attractive to all who came within the sphere of her influence. She was the eldest daughter of William Stirling, Esq. of Keir, near Stirling.
In 1814, after a ministry of between two and three years at Carmunnock (where he was succeeded by the Rev. Dr Patrick Clason), he was translated to Pencaitland, in Haddingtonshire; and in about two months thereafter, he was united in marriage to Miss Helen Stirling. At that time, and for some years after, East Lothian was under the reign of a cold Moderatism, and in most of its pulpits the gospel of the grace of God was supplanted by a frozen and dead morality. The chief exceptions were the pulpits of the patriarchal Mr Innes of Yester, who for sixty-one years held forth faithfully, in that parish, the word of life; and of the able and venerable Dr Lorimer of Haddington, who was long a bright light “shining in a dark place,” and who verified the truth of the old appellation given to his parish church— “Lucerna Laudoniae.” With these exceptions, the faithful ministers of the gospel in the Establishment had been “few and far between.” From the time, however, of Dr Makellar’s accession to their ranks, a happy change was gradually brought about. There was a shaking of the dry bones, and a new life was breathed into them from above. The deserted churches began to be filled with eager worshippers and anxious inquirers; and a blessed influence, commencing in a revival of the Lord’s work at Pencaitland, spread over the district, till at length, at the Disruption of 1843, eleven, out of the eighteen members of the Presbytery of Haddington, cast in their lot with the Free Church, and were followed by very large numbers of their flocks. In two parishes, for instance, containing a population of 1050 and 800, the number of Free Church adherents was 830 in the one, and 600 in the other. It was made abundantly manifest that, beneath the mere ecclesiastical conflict, the real source, as well as the strength, of the movement was a revival of the life and power of vital godliness among the people. To this revival Dr Makellar’s able and effective preaching, as well as his holy life and his high-toned spirituality of mind, contributed in no ordinary degree. Previous to the passing of the Veto Act in 1834, patrons had come to see that it was their interest, as well as their duty, to give presentations to those who would preach the gospel faithfully, and would care more for the spiritual welfare of the flock than for the fleece; and the people, having begun to taste of the old wine of Reformation theology, refused to receive any longer the new wine of Moderatism. Hence arose, in a great measure, the moral and spiritual change to which we have referred, and which was mainly promoted by the ministers already named, as well as by Dr Makellar, and his much-esteemed friend the Rev. Daniel Wilkie of Yester, whose earnest and happy Christianity told with great power upon all who knew and heard him.
It was in the year 1831 that the writer first became acquainted with Dr Makellar; and he looks back, with much interest, to the friendship with him which he had ever after the privilege of enjoying, and the many happy days he spent under his hospitable roof. Of him it might be truly said, that he “walked within his house with a perfect heart;” and that what he was, as seen by the outside world, that he was also in his own house at home. When any new phase of the “ten years’ conflict” appeared, his like-minded brethren were summoned to Pencaitland; and most readily did they obey the call, and consult and pray together as to the measures to be adopted for maintaining the Church’s independence against the encroachments of the civil courts. To him they all looked up as their leader and counsellor, and they often had cause to admire his remarkable wisdom, his steadfast adherence to principle, and his entire freedom from everything like bitterness, or evil-speaking against those of opposite views. His influence with all classes, and especially with the higher classes, was as great as it was well deserved; and it was no small trial to him to be compelled to adopt a course which they disapproved. But none of these things could move him from his path of duty, or cause him to hesitate or falter in his attachment to the vital principle of Christ’s sole Headship over the Church, and her spiritual independence under Him alone, and her right to be free from the coercion and control of civil courts, in conducting her own spiritual affairs. While he and his brethren were resolutely opposed to the abuses of patronage in the Church, yet it was not the mere existence of patronage, but the Church’s right to her blood-bought freedom, that, in their opinion, formed the real essence and ground of the controversy.
In 1840, the universal esteem and confidence with which Dr Makellar was regarded led to his appointment as moderator of the General Assembly. It was a critical period of the Church’s conflict with the civil courts, but he was fully equal to the occasion, and gained the respect of all by his Christian courtesy and gentlemanly deportment, as well as by his indomitable firmness and his steadfast adherence to his cherished principles. As to his conduct on that occasion, and his eminent qualifications for such an important office, we may quote the following passage from a speech of Dr Duff, on proposing him a second time for the moderatorship of the General Assembly. He said:—
To those who enjoyed Dr Makellar’s intimate friendship, and partook of his hospitality, this last-mentioned circumstance will seem very characteristic of him, and in full harmony with his own invariable custom in the Manse. It was his practice, after dinner, to have the Bible produced at his own table, and to read a portion of it in the hearing of his guests. Nothing could be better fitted to give a right tone to the subsequent conversation, and to maintain the character of a Christian household, which should ever be “sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer.”
As the day of the Disruption drew near, the writer (who then acted as Clerk of the Presbytery of Haddington) was necessarily much in the society of Dr Makellar, in making arrangements rendered necessary by the immediate prospect of that memorable event; and in all these it was impossible not to admire his clear and calm judgment, the practical wisdom of his suggestions, and the intelligent and intense interest he manifested in the work of up-building the Free Church in East Lothian. The sacrifice of pecuniary emoluments was the smallest part of the trial to the out-going ministers; but the quitting of the manse, with its tender associations and memories, the renunciation of worldly position and status, the alienation of some, and the bitter opposition of others, few though they were in most cases—these were extremely painful to a sensitive and honourable mind. But no hesitation was felt by Dr Makellar in making the sacrifice; and when the day of trial came, he was not found wanting, and he cheerfully obeyed the dictates of his conscience and the demands of Christian principle.
At the first meeting of the Free Presbytery of Haddington, held on the 4th June 1843, Dr Makellar was chosen moderator, and “constituted the Presbytery in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of His Church.” He stated, as the minute bears, that “he had procured a large granary, and also a site for a new church at Fountainhall to the mansion-house of which he, in due time, removed his family. He presided also at seven subsequent meetings of Presbytery in July, August, September, October, and November, when his counsels were invaluable in rebuilding the ruined walls of our Jerusalem, and in providing for the due celebration of Christian ordinances throughout the county, while he himself “preached in various places by appointment of Presbytery.” Although those, who resigned their office in large towns and wealthy congregations, rendered most signal services to the Church at this eventful period, yet their labours, and difficulties, and privations, supported as they were by numerous flocks and influential laymen, can scarcely be compared with those of their brethren in country districts, where the chief labour often devolved upon the minister himself, and where the difficulty of obtaining suitable dwellings was often very great.
At the meeting of the General Assembly at Glasgow, in October 1843. Dr Makellar was unanimously appointed chairman of the Board of Missions, in room of Mr Alexander Dunlop, who resigned the office, after having for some time ably discharged its important duties. As these duties were “sufficient to occupy his whole time,” and rendered it necessary that Dr Makellar should reside in Edinburgh, he was released from his pastoral charge; and his son, the Rev. William Makellar, was elected and ordained as his successor.
Soon afterwards Dr Makellar removed to Edinburgh, and devoted his whole heart and energies to the cause of Missions. At such a time, when all the foreign missionaries of the Establishment declared their adherence to the Free Church, and when so many as between 200 and 300 congregations at home were unsupplied with ministers, it was most important that one possessed of his sagacity, and zeal, and aptitude for business, should be placed at the head of the Mission Board; and it is well known that his services were of the greatest value in supplying the means of grace at home and abroad, in promoting and fostering a spirit of large-hearted liberality among the people, and in consolidating the extensive operations of the Free Church in so wide a mission field. As to this Dr Duff truly said:—
In the year 1852, the General Assembly unanimously called Dr Makellar a second time to preside over their deliberations as Moderator. All who were present at that Assembly cannot but remember the remarkable ability and tact, as well as the urbanity and self-command, which he displayed in difficult circumstances. Painful cases were brought before the Assembly, and there were keen discussions, and considerable differences of opinion, on various subjects, such as the right ordering of the Sustentation Fund; and great fears were entertained of unpleasant collisions. But, owing in no small degree to the Moderator’s wisdom, impartiality, and unfailing courtesy, these fears were happily disappointed. There was, however, one memorable event which occurred at that Assembly, and which greatly rejoiced the heart of the Moderator, viz., the consummation of the Union between the Synod of United Original Seceders and the Free Church of Scotland, warranting as it did the hope that ere long all the dispersed of our Israel would be gathered into one. In reference to this, the words of Dr Makellar, in welcoming Dr McCrie and his much-esteemed brethren, will be read with interest. He said:—
During the few remaining years of his life, Dr Makellar did not often appear in public; but he continued to give his earnest attention to all that pertained to the welfare of Zion, and to manifest a growing interest in the extension of pure and undefiled religion, while his example of faith and love and hope, rendered him still more a living epistle of Christ, known and read of all. By his wise counsels, by his meekness and gentleness, by his humility and charity, by his heavenly temper and conversation, by his large-hearted generosity and numerous benefactions to the worthiest objects, he continued still to nourish like the palm tree, and “brought forth fruit in old age.”
His latter end was peace and good hope. The Rev. James Dodds, of Dunbar, who frequently visited him on his death-bed, and who was among the last of his brethren that saw him and prayed with him, informs us, that he died as he had lived, in the firm faith of the gospel which he had so earnestly preached, and in the sure hope of the eternal reward. He says, that Dr Makellar was “a really good and kind man; and as long as I live I can never forget the kindness he shewed to me when I was at Humbie.” His kindness to young ministers, as many can testify, was very characteristic of him, and the benefits which he thus conferred cannot be told. But the day will declare it. Dr Makellar died at Edinburgh on the 10th of May 1859, having reached the seventy-ninth year of his age; thus passing away, as a shock of corn fully ripe, to the heavenly garner— “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” His devoted partner, who was spared so long to him, died about a month after her husband. “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives; and in their death they were not divided.”
It is a cause of regret that no permanent record has been left of his pulpit addresses. Those who heard his able expositions of Scripture, and his full and earnest proclamation of the gospel, cannot but desire that one or more volumes had been published from his manuscripts.
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Hugh Miller was born at Cromarty in 1802. After a school time which gave his friends a foretaste of the manly independence he shewed throughout life, he became a thoughtful youth, fond of reading whatever fell into his hands, and of discussing, as young men will discuss, every point in the politics or theology of the country. His early years he has described as those of “a thoughtless, careless, school boy, who proved his spirit by playing truant three weeks in the four, and his genius by writing rhymes which pleased nobody but himself,” till “in 1823 that same school boy finds himself a journeyman mason, not quite so free from care, but as much addicted to rhyming as ever.” A few years later, the gospel of Christ became the acknowledged centre, round which all his thoughts were ranged, and to which all his purposes in life paid homage. Among these purposes perhaps the most deep-seated was his resolution to become a poet. But he had the wisdom to see, that though the paths of all great writers are usually the same for the first part of the way, there is a point at which poet and prose writer branch off into different roads seldom again to meet. Before that point is reached, songs and tragedies of even more than average merit may be, and often have been, composed by a prose writer, but they are only the practice needed to fit him for his own field of literary work. In seeing this, Hugh Miller at last saw where his strength lay.
In the columns of the Inverness Courier, in 1829, he first shewed his power as a writer of prose, by five letters on the Herring Fishery. Two years later he stepped forward as the champion of the people of Cromarty in their defence of the minister, Mr Stewart, against the attempted intrusion of a neighbouring minister, whom they had not called to be his colleague, while few of them were disposed to receive him as a pastor. But the friends he had gained in his native town were anxious to lift Miller into a sphere of life more congenial to his literary tastes than that of a stone-mason. Opportunities seem to have been wanting, till, about the end of 1834, Mr Ross, then agent for the Commercial Bank, offered him a situation in the office. With the modesty of true genius, Hugh Miller hesitated before accepting the offer. A salary of sixty pounds a-year from this source was the staff he had to lean on in the battle for fame; he was married, too, in 1837. Certainly the outlook was far from cheering. But he found James Watt’s theory of the progress of genius true to the letter—when Want looks in at the door, Genius devises ways and means to keep him out. It was this apparition that roused the inborn science of Watt to a successful wrestling with the difficulties that then beset the use of steam-engines in mining; it was the same unwelcome ghost that haunted Hugh Miller, till he armed himself with literature and geology to drive Want away. But another subject quickened the power within him even more fiercely than these great themes; it was the rights of the Christian people of Scotland. In May 1839 the House of Lords delivered judgment in the Auchterarder case; in June, Hugh Miller’s letter to Lord Brougham attracted the attention of the Church, and towards the end of December he arrived in Edinburgh to become editor of the newly started Witness, an office that he continued to hold till his death on the 24th of December 1856.4
No one who reads the “Letter to Lord Brougham,” can fail to understand that, as soon as it saw the light, the battle between the Church and the State had entered on a new phase. A demand for four editions in as many weeks proved that an ally had joined the Church, which statesmen have often reckoned of small worth for fighting power, till they have discovered by experience the grievousness of their mistake —the public opinion of the most earnest, and not the least enlightened, among the Commons. So long as ministers and lawyers carried on the war, the fight was little more than a distant cannonade from one hill-top to another; the people in the plains below were not greatly stirred by the noise. But the “Letter to Lord Brougham” was followed by an awakening among the slumbering host; there was a putting of themselves in array—there was a growing belief that their most cherished rights were at stake. For the letter touched on matters that lay very near to the hearts of all true lovers of Scotland. Never, since the days of John Knox, had there sprung from the ranks of the people a man whose words struck home so thoroughly and so well, with a power of wit and raillery more chastened, but not less biting, than the great Reformer’s; with the same command of strong Saxon speech as his; and with a knowledge of the historical development of his country, creditable to any one, but most honourable in this self-taught stone-mason. The manliness with which he makes his bow to the great lawyer in the first few lines of the “Letter,” displays a writer thoroughly acquainted with his subject, and feeling himself on the same level as Lord Brougham in the commonwealth of letters. Then, acknowledging that the statesman’s high estimate of the political wisdom of Scotchmen is well deserved, he passes at one bound to the unavoidable conclusion that, since their politics are known to have been but an offset from their faith, much greater must be their wisdom in the latter than in the former. Why should they be reckoned unfit to choose their own ministers, if they are entitled to the highest praise for their choice of members of Parliament? “I am a plain, untaught man,” he says, “but the opinions which I hold regarding the law of patronage are those entertained by the great bulk of my countrymen, and entitled, on that account, to some little respect.” But plain and untaught though Hugh Miller was, he knew better than a Lord Chancellor that the ground on which had been fought the battles of civil liberty, not in Scotland only, but through it in all Britain, was the right of the Scottish people to choose their own ministers. Tyrants and their slaves had reft that right from them in their times of weakness; but as soon as they regained lost strength, it was always demanded back. “Liberty of rejection without statement of reasons,” in choosing ministers of the gospel, was the small fraction of the greater right put in peril by Lord Brougham’s utterances. But the lawyer had gone farther. He “ungenerously insinuated” that the object might be “to reject men too strict in morals, and too diligent in duty, to please our vitiated tastes.” Again had the great law Lord laid himself open to a thrust from his antagonist’s weapon; for all history testifies to the fact that this right of the people required of ministers “that they should be no longer immoral or illiterate;” while “the law, which re-established patronage in Scotland, formed, in its first enactment, no unessential portion of a deep and dangerous conspiracy against the liberties of our country.” And with an insight into the future, fully justified by the past, he seems to foresee what was sure to happen. “In all her after conflicts, it was not the Church that yielded to the law, but the law that yielded to the Church;” while, with the manly freedom of a man whom promises could not bribe, nor threats silence, he winds up the argument with: “We do not think the worse of our Church, my Lord, for her many contests with the law—not a whit the better of her opposers for their having had the law on their side.”
Hugh Miller has himself described the growth of his mind, from the glimmering dawn of boyhood to the full light of maturity. Here and there he has wrought into the history as much as is worth knowing of the surroundings, which helped to mould his thoughts at each step of their progress, while he climbed the steep path that led him upward from the mason’s shed to the editor’s room, from the chisel to the pen. More there should scarcely be a wish to know, unless it were given to any one to record the gradual oncoming of that terrible darkness which, for years before his untimely end, haunted his great heart with ever-gathering gloom, till at last, overwhelmed by the blackness, reason in an unhappy moment forgot her right to command. No one can read what he has written of the progress of his mind in strength and knowledge, without feeling that during these sorrowful years, and especially during his last few sorrowful days, he was as busy watching the ebb and flow of thought within him as in earlier times. But it was not ordered that he should narrate, as others have done, his wanderings to the brink of the precipice, and a gracious escape from hurling himself over—trials common to him, with many of the best and brightest of our race. Where others fought and lived, he yielded and died, under the crushing weight of years of sorrow.
But though Hugh Miller’s own pen has recorded his mental history from boyhood to manhood, it is left to others to assign him his place and to estimate his services in the greatest strife between the spiritual and temporal powers, that has raged within the bounds of the British Empire for almost two hundred years. It was not as a man of science that he figured in the fight; nor is it as a man of science that he fills a prince’s niche in the Free Church temple of fame. Unquestionably the fact, that he was a geologist of the first rank, endeared him the more to his countrymen, and made his contendings known in quarters to which the din of the strife might never have reached; while it also revealed to the world that the combatants were not impracticable church leaders, or, as it pleased even a peer to assert, a vulgar throng, but men disciplined by science and the business of life. Still, Hugh Miller’s place and work in the great battle were unusual. He was not a minister; he was not even an elder in the Church. “I never signed the Confession of Faith,” he wrote in 1839, “but I do more, I believe it.” He was the outstanding representative of a vast host, who felt that their liberties were invaded and their rights refused by the ruling classes of the day. By common consent, by an unwritten agreement, Hugh Miller stood before the world as the champion of the people’s rights. What he wrote, they read with more eagerness than any speeches delivered in the great battle. What he maintained, they backed him out in, as a fair expression of their wishes. When the oratory of the pulpit or the church court would have failed to awaken an echo in their hearts, his words of fire stirred them to joyous action. He asked what his countrymen felt they needed, and in a way that commended itself for outspoken manliness, people,” he wrote, “full of the popular sympathies—it may be of the popular prejudices.” What Chalmers was among the ministers of the Church, Hugh Miller was among the laymen, at once an expounder of their rights and a standard-bearer to rally round. That he was neither bigot nor fool, but a man of sterling common sense, was proved in 1874, when the least intelligent on the opposite side of church politics were glad to accept, as their only plank of safety from destruction, what he claimed as the heritage of the whole people, in his “Letter to Lord Brougham,” in 1839.
Of the fearlessness with which he wrote when truth and right were at stake, both friends and foes were thoroughly aware. What the Regent Morton said of John Knox may with all truth be said of Hugh Miller, “He never feared the face of man.” Compared with his country’s welfare, everything else was in his eyes lighter than vanity. Whether fighting the great battle of the Church against the State, or demanding for the people, a few years afterwards, the heritage of a truly national system of education, as it was bequeathed to them from their fathers, or with indignant scorn branding the depopulators of a great county, in his papers on “Sutherland as it Was and Is,” love to his native land breathed from every word he wrote. But it was sometimes expressed in fiercer language than men of a different way of thinking relished. Witness the manly freedom with which he handles a Lord Chancellor in his famous “Letter to Lord Brougham,” not to mention later outbursts of this inner fire. High-souled men respected the striker, even while they sought to moderate his language or to appease his wrath, for they felt that the battles of such a life as the present are not fought with blunted foils. All that was loving and kindly in his heart was stirred to its deepest depths by these good and generous friends. All the soldier-fire of his warrior nature was blown into a fiercer glow by opposition from hirelings, like “the creatures of the proprietor,” in “Sutherland as it Was and Is;” so true it is, and so sad withal, that a host of little men have often more power to vex great hearts by petty slights, than noble minds have to soothe them by respectful sympathy.
Of the freedom and power with which he hit his adversaries, not a few of them carried through life scars that nothing could efface or heal. His was neither gloved hand nor honeyed tongue. Regret for rashness, into which he was unfairly hurried by wrong reports received from smaller men, it was natural a man of his warmth of heart would not fail to feel and express. But for men who betrayed their trust, or found it convenient to call truth one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow, he had neither regard nor pity. Adherence to principle in his opponents Hugh Miller could and did respect; but “the two Mr Clarks” offered an irresistible chance to a naturalist like him of pinning to his album a specimen of transformation such as even the insect world could barely equal. Even when the dust of battle has long been laid, and slayer with slain are together sleeping in the narrow house, it is difficult for an impartial historian to deny the justice of Hugh Miller’s onslaughts and the fairness of his fighting. Others could not wield the weapons he carried, or put on the armour he wore. He struck with a might that seldom needed a second blow to complete the work; the fallen were crushed beneath a giant’s stroke, not half-slain by repeated thrusts from a pigmy’s arm. A strong love of truth, combined with an equally strong power of expression, makes a man as dangerous a foe to all dalliers with falsehood as Hector found Achilles:
Whose outward speech his secret thought belies.
Hugh Miller was not a public speaker. However quick thought may have been with him, language was slow, well weighed, and accurate. The fire, that fiercely blazed in his writings, would have been a feeble flame at the best, or an extinguished spark, on the platform. Even in private his words were few, but they were well ordered. One day he was at dinner with several friends, some of them leading men in the Free Church. Most of the conversation was absorbed for a time by a guest, whose fancy had been excited by a small hand-book on popular science, then recently published. His descriptions were entertaining enough, but they were so full that it was difficult to do more than listen. Hugh Miller had nothing to say. At last the conversation swung into a different channel. Some one told of a yachting voyage in which a young lady and a young gentleman found themselves the only two of nearly the same age in the cabin. What could be expected to result, was asked, but marriage? “As well think of Adam refusing Eve,” was Hugh Miller’s comment in reply. When Dr Whewell and Sir David Brewster were waging war with each other on the subject of “More Worlds than One,” a friend happened to express to Hugh Miller his feeling of the absurdity of supposing that, because several fixed stars may be immeasurably bigger than our earth, or even than our sun, their bulk should lead us to regard them as the seats of nobler races of beings. “Ay,” he said, “it may be comparing Newton with a whale.”
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Alexander Earle Monteith
Mr Alexander Earle Monteith became a member of the Faculty of Advocates at the period when Moncreiff, Jeffrey, Cockburn, Rutherfurd, and others, shed more than usual lustre on the Scottish Bar. While intimate with these eminent men, he was more closely allied with Shaw-Stewart, Cowan, Speirs, Dunlop, Hamilton, and Mungo Brown. The friendship of this little band manifested the power of Christian companionship for good,— it greatly strengthened the influence they exercised on the Church of which they were members, as well as on general public questions;— and they maintained to the end of life mutual affection for, and mutual confidence in, one another.
Mr Monteith was born in 1793. His father was Mr Robert Monteith of Rochsoles, and his mother a daughter of Captain Earle, an officer in the army. His uncle, Mr Monteith, of Carstairs, was for some time Member of Parliament for Glasgow. He was thirteen years old when his father died, and his mother and family, not long after, came to reside in Edinburgh. In 1814 he was called to the Bar, and pursued his profession with early success. He was a fluent speaker, a man of much information and good judgment, fond of reading and of general literature; and having naturally an amiable disposition and engaging manners, he soon made his way, and his society was very generally cultivated. In 1838 he was appointed Sheriff of Fife. He had abilities and attainments to qualify him for any position to which, as a member of the Bar, he might have aspired; but, from whatever cause, he never took the position and practice of a successful leading senior counsel. This would have necessarily led to higher promotion; and even without it, the Liberal party to which he belonged might, as far as his merits were concerned, have most justly elevated him to a seat on the judicial bench. Mr Monteith faithfully and zealously discharged the duties he owed to the county over which he had been appointed Sheriff. He presided regularly in all his courts, and especially at jury trials, with marked success. He attended the county meetings, where his legal experience was of great value, and where his ability and invariable courtesy secured for his views on public and on local questions the deference to which they were so justly entitled. His courage and firmness in times of excitement and difficulty were conspicuous—they were often referred to by his friends on one special occasion of riot at Dunfermline; and the instinct with which he took and pursued the right course preserved the peace of his county in times of disturbance and disquiet, from which, during his sheriffship, it as well as other parts of Scotland was not exempt.
In several questions of general interest, Mr Monteith gave to the community gratuitously the benefit of his ability and attention. He was a member of the Royal Commission on the Scottish Universities; and it is understood he wrote the reports on those of Aberdeen and Glasgow. He served also on two other Royal Commissions, the results of whose inquiries were of great value—one on the Forbes Mackenzie Act, for restraining the evils of intemperance, and the need of a remedy, with which he was much impressed; the other, on Lunacy, and the harsh treatment then too often prevailing in private asylums. He was a member also of the General Prison Board, and took an active share in the management of the General Prison at Perth. The state of this establishment must have presented to his mind a very gratifying contrast to the condition of matters in 1836, when he and others instituted a society for remedying the evils existing in our county prisons, which were then too truly described as in many respects nurseries for crime. There was a lamentable lack of cleanliness, employment, and moral and religious instruction among the inmates; and the baneful influences of the older on the less hardened prisoners, between whom there was not much separation, is referred to in one of Miss Graham’s “Mystifications” at Tulliallan, when she says of her pretended son, “He was a gude weel-living lad afore ye sent him to bridewell.” Mr Monteith’s able and eloquent speech at the first annual meeting of the Prison Discipline Society in Edinburgh, greatly helped to draw public attention to this subject, and the society did not cease its efforts until these resulted in the present improved condition of all our prisons. Most justly in reference to all these matters did the Fife Commissioners of Supply, at their first meeting after his death, unanimously adopt a minute in very suitable terms expressive of the loss which the county had sustained.
The interest which Mr Monteith felt in the Church of Scotland, and his share in its struggles against Moderatism and Erastianism, originated with him, as with many others, in the interest which he was led to take in vital personal religion. In his younger days, with other members of his family, he was an Episcopalian. He attended Dr Alison’s church, and afterwards Bishop Sandford’s. The first of his family who adopted evangelical views was his sister, Mrs Stothert of Cargen, who was next to him in age, and he often argued with her about her new opinions. He considered himself abler than she was, yet he felt she had often the best of the argument, for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him,” and “through His precepts they get understanding.” At this time he went to hear Dr Chalmers. In the sermon now well known, a character was described of great moral excellence, and as he listened, he wished his sister could be present to hear how differently Dr Chalmers judged of human nature from the way in which she did. Presently the preacher proceeded to shew, that as rebels might be just and fair in their dealings one with another, while they were traitors to their lawful sovereign, so all he had described might consist with entire alienation of the heart from God, and entire disregard of His authority. This Mr Monteith used to refer to as his first lesson in the doctrine of the depravity of human nature. But Dr Chalmers’ sermon seems to have had a wider and a deeper influence —at least it was after it that he began the regular reading of his Bible, writing down as he read what each book or passage seemed to teach, and summing up its doctrines and lessons. In this way he went through the whole of the Scriptures, and came substantially to the views which he ever afterwards held. His practice of studying the word of God is worthy of notice and of imitation. Whenever he was in doubt about anything in doctrine or practice—and the metaphysical character of his mind exposed him not a little to such doubts on religious questions—his habit was to mark down every passage of Scripture which he thought could bear in any way on the subject, and when he had the whole collected together, he read it all over, and saw to what conclusion it appeared to lead.
In his religious life, of which this proved the beginning, he used to say he as well as others was greatly helped by Mr Mungo Brown, who married his favourite sister. He left the English Church, attaching himself to the ministry of the Rev. Dr Gordon; and in process of time he became an elder in the High Church. He visited his district, and discharged the other spiritual duties of his eldership, and was year by year returned to the General Assembly, and so came to take an active interest in all the affairs of the Church.
On the important questions which then agitated the public mind and occupied the attention of the Church, Mr Monteith formed and maintained a very clear opinion. He objected to Patronage, not as anti-scriptural, but as opposed to the principles of the Presbyterian Church; and among these he very clearly stated, in his speech during a debate in 1842, “Spiritual independence and non-intrusion.” With these views, he entertained no doubt as to the right of Chapel ministers to be admitted to the courts of the Church, and as to the right of the Church to independent jurisdiction in the purely spiritual province. When these rights were assailed by the decisions of the Civil Courts, he disregarded these decisions; and when, on the other hand, the somewhat insidious compromise was proposed of giving to Presbyteries the power of judging of the objections of congregations, he foresaw the danger arising in this direction, and denounced it as inconsistent with the rights and liberties of the Christian people.
He accordingly, without any hesitation, joined the Free Church in its course in 1843; and he took an active and constant interest in all its proceedings. In consultation and in debate, both before and after the Disruption, his legal knowledge, his judgment, and his eloquence, proved of the greatest service. In some of the subjects which occupied the attention of the Church he naturally took a more active part than in others. He supported the proposal of modifying the distribution of the Sustentation Fund, so as to rescue it from the too evident perils of the simple Equal Dividend. He joined in the endeavour which, after a vain but prolonged resistance, was at last successful, for the abolition of tests in the non-theological university professorships, maintaining that the mere subscription of a formula gave no adequate security for religious character, and that a Christian legislature ought not to extend its aim beyond the provision, that nothing contrary to certain truths should be taught from the professorial chairs. On the question of a plurality of colleges, he sided with the late Principal Cunningham and others in favour of one central institution in Edinburgh. The New College, with all its arrangements—first, in the erection of the building so much admired, and then, in the selection of its professors—was a very special object of his interest and care. It was he who, on his own responsibility, and with many an anxious thought, acquired the admirable site on which it and the Free High Church now stand, and for which he knew a sum of £ 10,000 must be provided. The marble bust placed in the New College Library is a suitable memorial of his deeply cherished regard for this important Free Church institution. He annually sat in the General Assembly as one of the representatives of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, his last appearance being in 1859, when he opposed the continuance of the Chair of Natural Science. The Assembly in 1861 passed a minute embodying a sincere and universally felt tribute of respect for his memory.
In his later years Mr Monteith’s health began to give way under the result of disease of the heart, with which he knew he was afiected. In a journal which he kept he more than once referred to this, and those who were nearest to him and most intimate with him, observed the maturing and ripening for the Master’s presence, which is so often noticed in the people of God as they draw towards their end. In his case the end came sooner than his friends expected. He died on 12th January 1861. In a sermon which he preached with reference to the event, the Rev. Dr Rainy, Dr Gordon’s successor, alluded to his last visit to him but a few days before. He spoke of Mr Monteith’s calmness and humility, and the simplicity of his faith—the secret of which is probably to be found in an extract from his diary, with which this record of his worth may be suitably closed. “O God, give me grace to follow fearlessly wheresoever Thy Spirit leads me, and to listen to the softest whisper of the still small voice, and to carry about with me continually as the oil to feed the divine lamp of my soul, the self-sacrificing love of my dying and risen Saviour.”
Mr Monteith was twice married, first in 1829 to Miss Emma Clay, and afterwards in 1838 to Frances, daughter of the late General Dunlop of Dunlop, who for many years represented the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the House of Commons. He had two daughters, of whom only one now survives.
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Sir Henry Wellwoood Moncreiff, Bart., D.D.
The name Moncreiff is a familiar one on the ministerial roll of the Scottish Church. The subject of this sketch is the eighth link in a Levitical chain that has been broken only once since the days of Archibald Moncreiff, the minister of Abernethy in the early part of the seventeenth century. The great-grandson of the minister of Abernethy was Archibald, the first minister of Blackford, after the Revolution. In this parish he spent his whole ministerial life, and in his later years his son William, who afterwards became Sir William, was associated with him as his assistant and successor. Sir William Moncreiff, like his father, adhered steadfastly to the parish of Blackford, and the attachment was mutual, for, on his death, the Presbytery, the patron, and the people made very peculiar and successful efforts to have his son Sir Henry ordained as his successor. After a brief incumbency of four years, Sir Henry accepted a call to St. Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh, and his ministry there was of great service to the cause of evangelical religion. He ultimately fell heir to the position of the learned and saintly Dr Erskine of Greyfriars, as the leader of the evangelical minority in the Church of Scotland.
Sir James Moncreiff, the son of the minister of St. Cuthbert’s, chose the bar instead of the pulpit—a profession in which he achieved distinguished success, rose to the head of the Faculty of Advocates, and, under his title of Lord Moncreiff, has left a reputation which ranks with that of our greatest judges. But this involved no real departure from ancestral traditions and sympathies. Amid the engrossing occupations of a busy and successful career he found time to take an active part in the work of the Church, and in the history of the incidents and issues of the Ten Years’ Conflict his name will always occupy a prominent place. The great attachment which he and his lady formed for Dr Andrew Thomson induced him, even before his father’s death, to become an elder of St George’s Church, though he continued to attend in St Cuthbert’s when his father was to occupy the pulpit. The members of Lord Moncreiff’s family were brought, early in life, under the influence of a man who was preeminently successful in arousing in the minds of those who sat under his ministry an enthusiasm for the pure Gospel of Christ, and we believe that his eldest son,—the Sir Henry Moncreiff of whose life these pages present a brief sketch,—derived an impulse from Dr Thomson, which had much to do with the shaping of his future career. Other causes, doubtless, co-operated to form his spiritual character, and to turn his thoughts to the Christian ministry, but it is not the function of the writer to intrude into the sacred region of private religious experience. His task is to relate outward facts, and to allow these to speak for themselves, and suggest the spiritual facts which underlie them.
Mr Henry Moncreiff was born in Edinburgh in 1809. When he was of suitable age he was sent to the High School of his native city. There are those who still remember that he was distinguished from his fellow-pupils by the size of his bundle of books. Not content with the ordinary number of volumes, he had added an imposing Latin dictionary, which he carried daily to school. His attachment to the dictionary must have been great, for a story has floated down on the stream of tradition, that when the junior members of the Moncreiff family were asked what they would severally carry away in the event of the house taking fire, Henry declared that he would carry off the big “Ainsworth” as his special treasure.
After leaving the High School, he matriculated as a student of the University of Edinburgh, in 1823. A college friend who was intimately associated with him says that he was distinguished by his close application to study, and by a steadfast friendliness of character which never gave pain or caused disappointment, and that he was even then conspicuous for his clear intellectual perceptions and his acute reasoning powers.
In the year 1826 he left the University and went to Martley Rectory, Worcestershire, where he was associated with several other pupils under the care of the Rev. Henry James Hastings, for about two years.
Mr Hastings was a sterling evangelical clergyman of the school of Venn and Simeon; and a distinguished scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge. Private tuition was at that time preferred by many to the teaching of the public schools, and the tide of general opinion did not turn into the opposite direction till Dr Arnold had achieved eminence as Head-master of Rugby. Lord Moncreiff accordingly followed the example of other members of the upper classes, and sent his son to Martley Rectory at the critical period of his education.
In April, 1827, Mr Moncreiff was matriculated in Oxford as a Gentleman Commoner of New College, and kept the usual residence until 1831, in which year, in Easter term, he took his degree. One of his fellow-students, who has since risen to eminence in Oxford, recalling these old days, says that he was “a quiet, regular student of unblameable life, at a time and under circumstances not over-favourable to study, and that he won the regard and respect of his contemporaries in the University as well as within the College.” Many of these contemporaries have passed away, but the chief among those who survive is Mr Gladstone, the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, whose friendship with his former fellow-student still continues. Writing to a friend, Mr Gladstone says of Sir Henry:— “When I was an undergraduate at Oxford, I had the privilege of his friendship, and we had also many common friends. I therefore knew in what estimation he was held, and I do not think that any young man of his day enjoyed either a warmer or a more unmixed regard. There was not a drawback of any kind to the sentiment. Nor, indeed, could there be. He was more liberal in his political ideas than most of us at that date, but this circumstance certainly offered no impediment to the free course of friendship, warmed by all the qualities of his heart and mind.” It was in connection with the Union Debating Society at Oxford, of which Mr Moncreiff was at one time president, and in which he gained a high reputation as a debater, that Mr Gladstone delivered the famous speech against the Grey Government, which brought him under the notice of the Duke of Newcastle, through whose influence he entered Parliament. Mr Moncreiff was one of those who spoke in opposition, and upheld the traditional politics of his family—politics which Mr Gladstone was afterwards to maintain and to develop with all the force of his genius.
Before Mr Moncreiff left Scotland for Martley, a deep love for the Scottish Church was already rooted in his mind; and, although his future career was not finally decided on, he was disposed to follow in the footsteps of his clerical ancestors. The opinions of contemporaries, however, pointed in the direction of the Bar, and for a time this was regarded by them and by himself as his probable destination. But before he left Oxford, circumstances made his path clear in the line of his original inclination, and he decided to qualify himself for the ministry in the Church of his fathers. His after-attachment to its traditions, doctrine, and polity was not weakened by his long residence in a community where the dominant ecclesiastical ideas were different, and though living at Oxford at a time when those forces which developed the Tractarian Movement were already at work, he resisted their seductive influence and continued loyal to the Presbyterianism and Calvinism of the Church of Scotland. Possibilities of advancement, such as he could not find elsewhere, were within his reach in the Church of England through his own talents, and the influence of his maternal relative, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the fact that he turned aside from them for the sake of the modest prospects of a Scotch minister, was a strong testimony to the depth and intensity of his convictions.
After leaving Oxford in 1831, he returned to Edinburgh, and re-entered the University. At the close of the usual course of theological study, he was duly licensed to preach the Gospel, and in 1835 he received and accepted a call to the parish of Baldernock, where he was ordained in January of the following year. His ministry there lasted less than two years, as he was translated to East Kilbride in November 1837. The Church soon afterwards came into the midst of the controversies which led to the Disruption, and though the minister of Kilbride abstained from taking a prominent part in them, he watched their progress with keen interest. His sympathies, however, were expressed on many occasions, and in particular in a letter to Lord Melbourne, published in 1841, in which he defended his grandfather from a charge of having been unfriendly, or at least indifferent, to some of the great principles involved in the controversy between the two parties in the Church, and conclusively proved that the imputation was founded on a misunderstanding of Sir Henry’s real position, and a misinterpretation of what he had written in the Appendix to his Life of Dr Erskine.
In 1843 men’s sympathies were tested by acts, and Mr Moncreiff at the call of duty abandoned the Establishment and allied himself with the fortunes of Evangelicalism. A congregation rallied round him, and was organised; and in due time a suitable place of worship and a manse were erected in connection with the Free Church.
A co-presbyter, who was well acquainted with the events of that period, gives an interesting account of the Kilbride ministry, which he characterises as “earnest, laborious, and successful.” “After Sir Henry had left the Establishment,” says the same authority, “he continued to retain the respect of all classes in the parish.” Sir William Maxwell, of Calderwood Castle, was his near neighbour, and Sir Henry and his lady often visited him. On one occasion he dined at the Castle, along with the Established Presbytery, after the examination of Sir William’s school. The co-presbyter above referred to tells the following amusing anecdote:— “The examination having been protracted beyond the time fixed for its termination, the Presbytery were late in arriving at the castle, where Lady Maxwell and two friends—a military officer and an English rector—were awaiting them. Very soon after they had entered the drawing-room, and before the strangers could be introduced to the ministers, the bell summoned the party to dinner. At the table Sir Henry was seated beside the clergyman. He, genial and affable, in the course of conversation, remarked, ‘I find from my letters this morning that Bishop Stanley is dead,’ adding, ‘But likely you do not feel interested in our bishops.’ ‘ Oh,’ replied his neighbour, ‘I am concerned to hear of Bishop Stanley’s death. He was at Alderly when I was in that quarter, just before going to Oxford.’ The Englishman rejoined, ‘Did you study at Oxford? Then you will feel an interest in the affairs of our Church.’ ‘ Oh yes,’ was the reply; ‘and I learn what is going on with you from my brother, who is rector at Tattenhall in Cheshire.’
“By-and-by, the conversation somehow turned to Bishop Turner, of Calcutta; and the two friends differed in their opinion about the matter under discussion. The rector, appealing to the Presbyterian, said, ‘You will allow, I am sure, that I, as a clergyman of the Church of England, am likely to be better informed than yourself on this subject.’ ‘I can hardly allow that,’ was the answer; ‘for Bishop Turner was my uncle.’ ‘Bishop Turner your uncle !’ exclaimed the rector; ‘then the Archbishop of Canterbury is your uncle!’ ‘Yes, he is,’ was the Free Church minister’s reply.
“When the gentlemen returned to the drawing-room, the evening was far advanced, and very soon afterwards Sir Henry said to his stranger friend, ‘I shall bid you Good night, as I have to go home.’ The rector replied, ‘I am sorry you have to go; I suppose you live in the neighbourhood?’ ‘ Oh yes; my house is at hand,’ was the reply. ‘Well,’ said the clergyman, ‘I am sorry you must go, as I was wishing to have had some conversation with you about the Free Church. I suppose you are not much bothered with it here.’ Sir Henry, somewhat taken aback, slowly replied, ‘Oh—well—I am the Free Church minister.’ But the Episcopalian, proving equal to the occasion, rejoined, ‘Oh, you are not troubled about the income; you have a Sustentation Fund which answers its purpose well.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, smiling; ‘but I was going to observe that I was formerly the parish minister here, and that gentleman over there was my missionary, or, as you would say, curate; and when I gave up the living he was appointed to it. Good evening.'”
Lord Moncreiff having died in 1851, his son succeeded to the baronetcy. In the following year he accepted a call to St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh, and thus became, in a Free Church sense, the successor of his grandfather, the minister of St Cuthbert’s parish. While throwing himself heartily into all the work of his new charge, he manifested a special interest in its mission operations and in the intellectual welfare of its young men. The Literary Association connected with the church being composed of the older as well as the younger members of the congregation, happily combined the vivacity of the one with the gravity of the other. In the period with which the writer is acquainted, Sir Henry was the most active member of the Society, and his presence at its meetings gave them a peculiar charm. One did not know whether to admire more, his kind but discriminating criticisms of youthful essayists, or the amiability with which he accepted juvenile criticism of his own wise and thoughtful papers.
After labouring in St Cuthbert’s for about twenty years, Sir Henry obtained the help of a colleague in 1872. The necessity for this assistance, however, did not arise from failing health or strength, but from the fact that his public ecclesiastical work demanded a large amount of his time. It was impossible that one who felt so deep an interest in his Church, and who was so richly endowed with spiritual and intellectual gifts, could escape the responsibilities and burdens of ecclesiastical leadership. This office gradually devolved on Sir Henry, not as an honour which he coveted, but rather as a duty which he could not decline. His hereditary and acquired talents marked him out as the Jurist of the Church, and when one of the principal Clerkships became vacant by the death of Mr Pitcairn, he was chosen as his successor. All who have been in the habit of attending the meetings of the Supreme Court know how much he has contributed to their dignity and order. His unfailing courtesy, his avoidance of dogmatism, his remarkable fairness, his skill in extricating a question and showing its real state, account for the fact that his decisions are received with the utmost deference, and are rarely disputed.
Sir Henry excels as a debater. Scrupulously just to opponents, he treats their arguments with respect, neither dismissing them scornfully nor criticising them with undue severity. He calmly reasons out his own views without appealing to passion or prejudice, and as he never employs sophism, it is difficult to evade his conclusions if his premisses be admitted. If his reasonings should fail to convince opponents, they do not irritate them, and if he has sometimes lost a cause, it is almost certain that his conduct of an argument has never been the occasion of his losing a friend or creating an enemy.
Although so skilful as a controversialist, Sir Henry is not eager to rush into debate. Being by nature more of a judge than an advocate, he is slow to range himself on one side of a disputed question, and keeps his mind long in an inquiring attitude. On this account his utterances in the earlier stages of a controversy are sometimes of a tentative character, but the process of crystallisation soon sets in, and the opinions which were held in solution in his mind become definite in their form.
The position which he has taken up in the ecclesiastical debates of recent years has allied him now with the more Liberal, and now with the more Conservative side of Church politics. He was a warm advocate of the proposed Union between the Free and United Presbyterian Churches, and took a leading part in the negotiations which resulted in the union of the Free Church with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1876. Being Convener of the Assembly’s Committee at the time the union was effected, it devolved on him to make all the necessary arrangements for carrying it out, and it was largely owing to his tact and skill that the ceremonies were conducted in a manner so orderly, dignified, and impressive, that they can never be forgotten by those who witnessed them.
Sir Henry’s attitude in late doctrinal discussions in the Church has been conservative, and on the Disestablishment question he occupies a middle position.
For many years Sir Henry has made a diligent use of his pen. Most of his writings have been designed to serve an immediate end by enlightening public opinion in regard to the Church, or by directing and moulding opinion within the Church itself. Some of them, however, have permanent value, as his “Vindication of the Free Church Claim of Right;” the “Manual of Procedure,” which is usually quoted as his, though nominally drawn up by a Committee under his superintendence; and his masterly letter to the Duke of Argyll on “The Identity of the Free Church Claim from 1838 till 1875,” in which he proved with consummate ability that the Free Church had not departed from the position of the leaders of 1842, and that the Patronage Act of 1874 had not conceded to the Establishment all that was asked for in 1843. It is expected that Sir Henry’s forthcoming “Chalmers Lectures on Free Church Principles” will form a standard work on the subject.
Many years have passed since the University of Edinburgh testified its appreciation of his theological learning by conferring on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. The Free Church has few honours to give, else it would gladly bestow them. The one dignity it has in its gift it conferred on Sir Henry in 1871 by appointing him Moderator of the General Assembly.
There are no bishops in a Presbyterian Church, but there are men whose experience and wisdom, as well as their known interest in all that concerns the welfare of their Church, place them in an almost Episcopal position. Individual ministers from all parts of the country consult them on matters affecting their congregations and presbyteries; the Church expects them to take the lead in her Superior Courts, and to stand by the helm in times of crisis, and when they speak on public questions they are regarded as representatives. Episcopal functions of this character Sir Henry has long discharged. He has been a “great part” of the history of the Free Church of Scotland for many years. Intimately associated with the great ecclesiastical leaders of the past, and inheriting their responsibilities and influence, one cannot but pray that he may be long spared to his Church, to guide her in times of difficulty, and to be the Nestor of her Council Chamber.
Sir Henry W. Moncreiff died, November 4, 1883.
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Robert Paul was born at Edinburgh on 15th May 1788. His father, the Rev. William Paul, was Colleague of Sir Henry Moncreiff in the pastorate of the West Kirk, and in 1780 married Miss Susan Moncreiff, Sir Henry’s sister. His ministry was brief, but in a marked degree useful; his views of Divine truth being evangelical, and his preaching, in these dark times, attractive to a very large and earnest congregation. At the time of his father’s death, Robert was only fourteen years of age; and although he dated the commencement of his religious life somewhat later than this, he was even then singularly thoughtful and mature, taking his part in the direction of household affairs, guiding the studies of the younger children, conducting family worship, and engaging at his spare moments in works of benevolence.
Having completed his High School and University curriculum, he commenced business life, and entered the Commercial Bank in one of its subordinate appointments, from which, by rapid strides, he rose to be its Manager, which office he held until 1853, when he retired from the arduous position, but became one of the Bank Directors. He married, in 1814, Miss Charlotte Erskine of Aberdona—a union which endured, and was characterised by a very tender affection, until 1847, when he was left a widower.
In a letter addressed to a friend in 1862, Mr Paul said: “It is the very busy men who find time for everything, not your leisurely men who sit with their feet on the fender and read newspapers.” This remark found a striking illustration in himself. Placed at the head of a great public Company whose interests required constant thought and watchfulness, and whose demands upon his time were incessant, he found, or made, leisure for added work of the most multifarious kinds.
His experience, sagacity, and readiness to help, led to his being appealed to for counsel and for aid in connection with matters political, benevolent, and religious.
Never a keen party man in State politics, he threw himself into such movements as those connected with Slavery and the Test and Corporation Acts, his sympathies with everything that advanced the cause of freedom leading him to associate himself in these and other questions with the Liberal party. But his available leisure and strength were reserved for Church matters. Hereditarily attached to evangelical opinion as regarded both doctrine and discipline, he had carefully formed his own judgments regarding these matters; and then with characteristic energy he threw himself into the current of affairs which deepened in interest and importance until the Church threw off its State connection in 1843. Along with the wonderful roll of men who clung to her in her day of trouble, he became one of the Disruption Worthies.
He had a striking and memorable way of expressing himself in connection with matters in which his affections were deeply engaged. It was in the view of the Disruption that, in speaking at a congregational meeting of the necessary breaking up of a Missionary Association which had done good service, he said, “I consent to its dissolution very much as I consent to my own—in the hope of a better resurrection.”
His mental and physical activities were at their best in these memorable times. He had no misgivings as to the course pursued by the Church, or as to her future. He was emphatically a man of faith and prayer, and, as those who knew him best will remember, used to accept the promises of Scripture with a singularly natural and childlike trust. On 3d June 1843, writing to a distance of the great events of the past weeks, he says, “God will overrule all for His own glory in the advancement of His spiritual church and kingdom.”
Mr Paul was ordained an Elder of the West Kirk by Sir Henry Moncreiff in 1816; and it was not until after the Disruption that he became an Elder of St George’s. His admiration of the unrivalled preaching of Dr Candlish, between whom and himself a very true and tender friendship existed, was great. To a friend he wrote in 1864, when Dr Candlish preached the last of his sermons on the First Epistle of John, “A magnificent sermon as he closed his long series of discourses on First John, the text being, ‘ This is the true God, and (the) eternal life.’ I wish I could give you a notion of its aim and scope, and some of its noble passages.” His discharge of all his congregational duties in the midst of his burdened life throughout the week, are examples and encouragements to the hardest worked men of business to give some of their time and strength to the service of the Lord.
While interesting himself in all the needful administrative arrangements consequent on the Church’s new condition, he specially identified himself with matters affecting the Theological College and Library and the Educational Schemes of the Free Church generally, associated in these great questions with his much-loved friend Dr David Welsh.
The General Assembly of each year brought round a time which he much enjoyed. His wide acquaintance with Ministers and Elders in all parts of Scotland led him to open his house, with even more than its wonted hospitality, to the members who came up to this great annual gathering.
In Assembly business he was constantly consulted, his judgment being felt to be of the highest value in delicate and difficult questions. His bright cheerfulness of spirit, his ready sympathy with those in doubt, and his pleasant jest as things seemed to be taking a warm or excited turn, were of the utmost service in the Church’s Business Committee. And in the Assembly itself, although—owing to a somewhat feeble voice —not a powerful speaker, his presence on the platform elicited an immediate call for silence; and his words, always delivered with clearness of expression and earnestness of purpose, were listened to with marked respect.
In his latest days the work in which he was most deeply interested was the formation of a Society for aiding the education and business training of the sons and daughters of Ministers and Missionaries of the Free Church; in the originating of which the writer of this notice had the happiness of being associated with him. It was a movement much after his own heart, and he worked at it with marvellous energy.
Among the many benevolent institutions in whose welfare he was interested, and in the management of which he took part, was the Orphan Hospital. From a very early period of life he was one of its Managers, and contributed by his wise and practical help to lay the foundations of the admirable system under which it has become a model institution.
Mr Paul was a man of quite unique character. Having received a liberal education, he followed it up by varied reading and careful reflection. His constant use of his Bible made him one of the most completely furnished of Scripture students. It was an exercise at once intellectually and spiritually refreshing to hear him expound the Word, and illustrate it by comparisons of passages and texts. He was singularly thoughtful, with perhaps an over-fastidious taste, and with a tendency —sometimes too pronounced—to dwell upon fine distinctions. These features of mind revealed themselves not only in conversation, but in his writings, which were the product of an original and cultivated mind, and were marked by great elegance and grace of diction. His Memoir of the Rev. James Martin, who succeeded Dr Andrew Thomson as Minister of St George’s, and his many contributions to the periodical publications of the day, abundantly illustrate his literary power. As a letter writer he was quite remarkable, having a singular gift of selecting topics congenial to his correspondent, and communicating them with the most graphic description and with exquisite touches of humour or pathos, as the subject demanded.
In social intercourse he was a charming companion. Full of anecdote of the best kind, told in the best way, he at once instructed and amused. From the seniors of the party with whom he was holding grave discussions of Church questions and principles, he turned with perfect naturalness to the more youthful, and with some kindly jest drew them into conversation; they in their turn easily attracting him to join in their games, or to tell them once again some familiar story associated in their minds with former visits from their old friend.
His villa of Kirkland Lodge, near Edinburgh, was the rendezvous of the choicest men, clerical and lay, of his acquaintance; and there on the bowling-green, with its grand view of the Pentlands and the intervening valley, he presided over hard-contested games; and with alternating conversation on high themes, or ready quotation applicable to some passing incident, or boy-like rush after the ball that threatened to dispute his own or his partner’s claim to be victor, he kept the scene full of the purest and most joyous life. The happy party around his table afterwards, and the closing “worship” ere the guests dispersed, are memories that refuse to leave us.
But the outward man began to perish. Early in 1865 he wrote to a friend: “The springs of life are gradually weakening, I am very conscious; … yet the remembering and thinking powers are in great, I had almost said in terrible, force, concentrated on fewer subjects, but on these intensely.” In April 1866 the process of physical decline was accelerated, but the mind and heart were as fresh as ever. ‘”Though grave and more silent than formerly, I am not downhearted, and very far from joyless. Indeed I have sometimes wonderful gleams. Conflicts, no doubt often betwixt flesh and spirit, yet I do feel that the blessed hope is burning brighter every day.”
And yet again on 22d May, within two months of his death: “This day the General Assembly meets, and it does seem a strange thing, that instead of being there in the thick of it, I should be here reposing in quiet and comparative solitude.”
Still he carried on his reading and writing, received his friends, and continued to hold his Sabbath evening meetings in the carpenter’s shop at the gate, or under his own roof, at Kirkland, and with rare taste and spiritual fervour “opened the Scriptures” to the gathered cottars and servants.
To his greatly loved friend Lord Cowan, who saw him a few days before his death as he sat on the lawn in the bright sunshine, and who asked him as to his feelings in view of his approaching departure, he replied, looking up into the blue sky, “I feel, my dear friend, as if my true life were just about to begin.”
On the night before he passed away—a calm and quiet Sabbath evening—he was carried in his chair to be present at the meeting, which was that night held under Kirkland roof, and the services of which were conducted by his friend the Rev. J. H. Wilson of the Barclay Church. When Mr Wilson reminded him of the Saviour’s legacy, he replied, “Yes! I have no terror, but a solid, substantial, abiding peace.” The service was closed by singing the twenty-third Psalm.
And cheering smiles of peace,
He hasted through the shadow dark
Unto the bright release!”
Within a few hours—in the early morning of 16th July 1866—he had “departed out of this world unto the Father,”—which he was wont to call “the grandest definition of the death of a believer.”
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In reading the proceedings of the famous Westminster Assembly, there is one of the scribes (or clerks as we would call them), Adoniram Byfield, to whom our eye turns from time to time, amid all the discussions. His services are much in request, and he has evidently great sagacity and skill in his department of work. Such another clerk was Thomas Pitcairn, in the Convocation and in the early days of our Free Church General Assembly.
He, was born at Edinburgh, 6th February 1800. His father, Mr Alexander Pitcairn, was a merchant in Leith and Edinburgh, and was well-known as an elder in Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel, where the venerable Dr Jones ministered as pastor for more than fifty years. It was while under the ministrations of Dr Jones that Mr Pitcairn was led to the truth; and often in after days did he relate incidents connected with the preaching and labours of that man of God, who so long and so faithfully witnessed for evangelical truth in Edinburgh, in the Moderate era that preceded the times of Dr Andrew Thomson.
After finishing the usual literary curriculum at College, he gave himself for a time to business, with considerable prospects of success in that department opening up to him. But as the work of grace in his soul deepened, his thoughts turned to the ministry, and he abandoned without regret all hopes of worldly advancement. Having passed through the Edinburgh Divinity Hall he was licensed by the Presbytery to preach in 1828. While still a probationer, he assisted successively Dr Stewart of Erskine, and Dr William Thomson of Perth; and thereafter was ordained assistant and successsor to Dr Grierson of Cockpen.
Cockpen is in the Presbytery of Dalkeith—its name chiefly known by the old ballad song. Here Mr Pitcairn found work to do for his Master, among a population partly rural and partly connected with the collieries of the neighbourhood. His preaching was solid and scriptural; he handled the truths of the Atonement and divine grace with deep earnestness and power from the pulpit, and in his visitings enforced what he preached. His consistent life and godly sincerity gave weight to all he taught; while his pleasant, kindly manner, ensured him access to the people, and won their affection as well as respect. Nor was his labour in vain. The writer of this notice was one day, in Glasgow, visiting at the house of an intelligent ship-carpenter, whose wife manifested much interest in the conversation. He at length asked her if she had long known the Saviour as her Saviour. She replied, “Many years ago—more than thirty —I was brought to Christ on a Communion Sabbath, when I was in the parish of Cockpen. Mr Pitcairn preached on ‘The Rock that is higher than I,’ and that day my heart was opened to receive Christ.” And to this hour often does she speak with grateful delight of that sermon, and of Mr Pitcairn.
An incident like this gives a glimpse of the blessing that attends on the work of a true pastor. And Mr Pitcairn was such, during the twenty-two years he laboured there, animated by zeal for his Master’s glory, and by the desire to win souls. But his former years of business-life were not without use to him. A man little knows what he may be preparing for by what he passes through in early days. Divine wisdom has a special view to the future in the secular training of one who is to be a vessel to carry the name of Christ. Mr Pitcairn’s experience in business fitted him to be specially useful in after years, and was soon recognised by his brethren. In 1837, he was chosen to be Clerk to the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Then came on the days of trial to the Church of Scotland, when the Government refused to acknowledge her right to spiritual independence. When matters had come to a point, the memorable Convocation was held at Edinburgh, 17th November 1842, at which were present, from all quarters of Scotland, those ministers who saw that now they must look forward to a Disruption, since their liberties were invaded. Above four hundred and fifty were present; they met in Roxburgh Church. Dr Chalmers was called to preside, and after the proceedings had been opened by prayer, the first step was to choose a clerk. Unanimously, Mr Pitcairn was fixed upon. When, next year, the Disruption did take place, with the same unanimity Mr Pitcairn was chosen, along with Dr Clason of Edinburgh, to the Clerkship of the Free Church General Assembly. And all the brethren who remember him will testify to the fidelity, sagacity, and skill, which characterised his discharge of duty. Unobtrusive, yet ready to act, with a remarkable command of temper, always courteous and obliging, he evidently had special qualities for that office. Methodical and correct, possessed of firmness, with great equanimity of spirit, he was able to go through perplexing business unruffled; and often did his brethren remark to each other the masterly manner in which he was able to minute the proceedings of the Assembly. He was thus able to render invaluable service to the Church at that important juncture.
In the year of the Disruption, those of the people of Cockpen who left the Established Church with him built for him a church at Bonnyrig, in the same parish. There he ministered to the day of his death. He was conscientiously regular in his visits to his flock; took much interest in the young; and was ever ready to attend a call of sickness or distress. At the same time, he gave his labours cheerfully to several stations in the neighbourhood, then in their infancy, and held most brotherly intercourse with his co-presbyters. They used to speak of his coming in among them at a meeting as bringing sunshine, there was so much of radiant benevolence in his broad countenance.
In 1854, near the beginning of the year, he was suddenly seized with what proved a fatal illness. It lasted many months. He had been a man of robust health, accustomed to the activities of life; yet when laid on his sickbed, and called to endure a long and painful illness, upheld in patience and cheerfulness. Even then he undertook a public duty; for the General Assembly having agreed to send a Pastoral Letter to their people in regard to the calamities of pestilence and war, at that time visiting the nations of Europe, he drew up the letter on his sickbed.
“From week to week,” says his brother, “I found him enjoying that true rest that can come only from the Blood of the Cross.” One day his friend, Mr James Crawford, had come to see him. Mr Crawford in conversing with him had said that there was a grace of the Spirit which he would be enabled to manifest now in a new manner, viz., that of being “patient in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12.) Mr Pitcairn very pleasantly replied, “But see, Crawford, what is on each side of the ‘patience.’ On the one side is, ‘rejoicing in hope,’ and on the other, ‘continuing instant in prayer.’ I must have these also, for ‘patience’ is between them.”
He fell asleep on 21st December 1854. When the Commission of the Free Church Assembly met in March following, in referring to the great loss they had sustained by his death, they record “the affectionate respect entertained for their departed brother;” and they add their conviction, “that, in no small measure, the Free Church has been indebted to him for much of what is good in the tone and character of the proceedings of her supreme court, and in the general conduct of her ecclesiastical affairs.”
In 1836, he was married to Miss Trotter of Broomhouse, Berwickshire. She died in 1862. He left an only son, Alexander Young Pitcairn, W.S., Edinburgh. He is buried in the Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh, in hope of the Resurrection of the Just and the Crown of Life.
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Robert Rainy, D.D., Principal and Professor of Church History in the New College, Edinburgh, was born in Glasgow, on 1st January 1826. His father, Dr Harry Rainy, for many years Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the Glasgow University, was the son of Mr Rainy, minister of the parish of Creich, in Sutherlandshire; while Principal Rainy is also connected with the North Highlands through his mother, a daughter of Captain Gordon, Invercarron. He had, of course, no active part in the Disruption, being then only seventeen years old, and was, indeed, at the time studying in preparation for his father’s profession of medicine. But in that year (1843), Dr Harry Rainy was surprised by an intimation from his eldest son that he wished to change the destination of his studies, and to cast in his lot with the outed ministers of the Free Church. The father’s whole heart was with the same cause, but he promptly replied that it should never be said that a son of his had changed his profession in a fit of enthusiasm. “Go back to your studies,” he added, “and if you have anything to say to me a year after this, I shall be willing to hear it.” His son quietly went back to his medical studies, and a year after returned to his father with an unchanged resolve, now gladly sanctioned. After a distinguished course at the Glasgow University and at the Edinburgh New College, Mr Robert Rainy became minister of the Free Church at Huntly in 1851, of the Free High Church, Edinburgh, in 1854, Professor of Church History in the New College in 1862, and Principal of the same institution in 1874. He was appointed to this last office in succession to Dr Candlish, and that at a time when men like Dr Duff and Dr Robert Buchanan, the veterans of a former generation, yet survived. But Dr. Duff, in a letter so honourable to himself that it should not be forgotten, wrote immediately as to the vacancy, “I never had but one thought as to who ought to be appointed, and that is Dr Rainy—as in every respect, from age, experience, services, &c. &c, the best fitted for the office.” And on receipt of this letter, Dr Buchanan himself proposed in his Presbytery what afterwards became, on the motion of Henry Moncreiff, the finding of the General Assembly.
During the later years of his course, Principal Rainy has become, more perhaps than any single man in the Free Church, the trusted counsellor of his brethren in the General Assemblies, and the accepted representative of the body with those outside. Such a position, even under the free Presbyterian constitution, is seldom so early conceded to mere eminence in personal gifts. In the present case it has been also a visible inheritance from not a few of the great men who founded and built up the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr Harry Rainy was an elder of Dr Chalmers in St John’s, and his son shared in early years the friendship which Dr Chalmers cherished for the father and a large family connection. The power over him of the highest and most attractive things in the character of Dr Chalmers is testified to in a remarkably beautiful passage of the third lecture on the Church of Scotland, delivered in answer to Dean Stanley. But these and other early external influences were no doubt merged in that exercised upon the subject of our notice by his own father—a man of great originality of mind, fervour of heart, and nobility of character. Dr Chalmers, too, died so early as 1847; but another leader of the Free Church who was a friend both of Principal Rainy and of his father—viz., Dr Robert Buchanan—survived almost all his contemporaries, and saw the boy whose career he had long affectionately watched established in a succession of the highest usefulness. During the interval between Dr Candlish’s death in 1873, and his own, Dr Buchanan, one of the wisest administrators that Scotland has ever seen, was also the most trusted guide whom the Free Church possessed. But those who watched him narrowly knew that his physical strength was failing, and it was touching to see how now, even more than in previous years, he took every opportunity of devolving upon the Edinburgh Professor of Church History the harder questions with regard to which the General Assembly looked to himself for counsel.
The man, however, whose influence has been most visibly traceable in Dr Rainy’s work hitherto is Dr William Cunningham. Rainy is said to have been declared by him his favourite pupil; and on the death of Dr Robert Gordon, while the three New College professors who sat in that session, Dr Cunningham, Dr James Buchanan, and Dr Bannerman, united in ardently recommending the minister of Huntly as the best successor, Dr Cunningham took the leading part in the transaction. Hence a renewal of the old connection between them, confirmed by association in public matters, for it was in support of Mr Rainy’s motion on the Victoria Union that Dr Cunningham made his last, and as Dr Candlish used always to declare, his greatest speech. The relation lasted until the young minister was called to warn the out-wearied master of theology that he had but a few hours to live, and to receive and record his latest expressions of personal trust in Christ. Nor was even this the close of the connection between them. Dr Rainy was at once elected Dr Cunningham’s successor in the Chair of Church History, and in the year 1871 he completed and published the life of his illustrious predecessor. This work, from the eighteenth chapter on “The Church and Public Questions” onwards, is an analysis and record of the new problems into which the Disestablished Church necessarily drifted, and a powerful vindication of Dr Cunningham’s application of the old principles to the new facts. It will be invaluable in future as a piece of philosophical history, written almost contemporaneously, and although the exposition of the line taken by the Free Church under Dr Cunningham’s guidance is strictly confined to the questions which emerged before his death, it is evident that, in the view of his biographer, its history, since that date, amid still newer facts, has been a prolongation of the same course under the same principles. But Dr Cunningham’s principles are not the only things which Dr Rainy is alleged to have inherited. A good deal in his mental habit and manner, especially as these come out in debate, are plainly derived from the same source. There are in his speaking a curtness and dryness, a love of abstract statement, and an abstinence from popular illustration, all of which seem to be the fruit of admiring imitation. And there are some results more advantageous. An English Quarterly traces, in part at least, to the same source, “the somewhat scornful candour with which Dr Rainy declines to snatch a cheap or premature victory, and among a nation of ‘dogmatical word-warriors,’ tosses aside even legitimate advantages in debate. You are pretty sure to hear him state the case for the men on the opposite side more powerfully and persuasively than they themselves will do it; and if he chooses to attempt an answer he is quite certain to give one, not barely conclusive, but with a broad margin of reason over what is technically necessary.” This is Dr Cunningham all over; but the same paper goes on to state a contrast in one point between the mental tendencies of the two men. “Cunningham’s mind was logical and doctrinal, and loved to deal simply with the status quaestionis. Rainy’s is historical and formative, and moves in the region of dynamics. The latter is of course the proper temperament for a statesman. Hence, however, a mental circumspection and roundaboutness, as of one instinctively providing for future developments and possibilities, which spread a haze and film over his speeches. But hence, also, a most instructive originality, partly impressing you in the uncommon use of common words, which so used become loaded with meaning, and partly in the careless rough-hewing of the whole idea as the speech goes on. And beneath both there is a certain moral thoughtfulness and conscientiousness even of the intellect, which makes each exposition rich and strengthening, even to those who care nothing for the subject. All this, under a youthful appearance and a statuesque coolness and self-repression, against which the Celtic fire within heaves in vain.”5
But the Disruption Father whose connection with Principal Rainy became most intimate and affectionate was unquestionably Dr Candlish. On two most important occasions in the later history of the Church, Dr Candlish, after giving notice to the Assembly of the motion he was to propose, devolved it at the shortest notice upon his young brother. The first of these was the Glasgow Students’ case in 1859, when a maiden Assembly speech of extraordinary power from Mr Rainy practically settled that grave and difficult question. The second was in 1867, when, after the Union question had gone on for five years, Dr Rainy, “speaking for the first time in any Church Court on this subject,” accepted and enforced the view which Dr Candlish had from 1863 expounded and urged. Henceforth the two men, the older and younger, were associated on this subject as on others till its close. It was Dr Robert Buchanan and Dr Robert Rainy (as the former of the two told the writer), who, on the afternoon of 28th May, 1873, went down from the Assembly to Dr Robert Candlish’s house, and finding that the latter had gone to bed, after having that forenoon tabled what he intended as an ultimatum on the Mutual Eligibility question, wakened him, and suggested to him yet another modification. Dr. Candlish, not without difficulty, consented to propose this in the evening, and the instantaneous acceptance of it is understood to have prevented a secession which would otherwise that night have taken place. Next day Dr Candlish took leave of this great question by placing on the records of the Assembly his view of the duty of the Free Church to it; and henceforth he took no more to do with general Church matters. But from this till his death, the relation of Dr Rainy to him and his congregation, as “a son with him in the Gospel,” was closer than before— a relation only closed by his receiving from Dr Candlish on his death-bed a last legacy of counsel and confidence.
But Principal Rainy has already had great tasks laid upon him other than those which he wrought out in the General Assembly and in conjunction with older men. We cannot pass over his pulpit work. He never was a popular preacher, so as to attract Edinburgh men generally to his High Church congregation; yet some who were members of it, looking back, hold that all his subsequent public and Assembly work has not as yet fulfilled the promise of a preaching in which great masses of truth were made one by being viewed from the centre of things. For them at least his future holds more than his past, while even of his past public work, that part appears to them highest which appeals most directly to conscience and faith, dealing with great principles of Church life rather than with its details. Three important publications may be mentioned as falling under this description. The first and most massive was the Cunningham Lectures for 1873, which, under the indistinct title of the “Delivery and Development of Doctrine,” treat, with extraordinary power, of the two great subjects of Divine Revelation (the “delivery” of doctrine to men in Scripture), and human Theology or creed (the “development” of doctrine by men from Scripture). The volume has been described as a magazine of important principles to which churchmen in Scotland will have occasion to recur every six months for a generation. This gift of opportune wisdom shown by Principal Rainy in laying down in the present the general principles which have to be applied to the most difficult questions in the immediate future, even while he postpones applying them as long as possible, came out still more clearly in another publication. In the spring of 1878, he was engaged to deliver four lectures in London, on a subject not yet fixed, while at the same time his individual course at the approaching General Assembly, on the case of Professor Robertson Smith, was looked forward to with great interest and doubt. He at once chose as his subject what is expressed in the title, “The Bible and Criticism,” and before the meeting of Assembly he had published a small volume, in which he faced the whole general question of the necessity and legitimacy of criticism in reference to Scripture and the books of Scripture. But perhaps his most public and conspicuous service hitherto was his answer to Dean Stanley. In January, 1872, the Dean of Westminster came down to Scotland, and in four charming lectures, ostensibly devoted to the history and defence of our Established Church, attacked most skilfully the deeper doctrinal and historical principles of Presbyterianism. Scarcely had his challenging voice died away when the trumpet of an opponent sounded in the lists. In three lectures in the same Music Hall, Dr Rainy passed over the same ground, and by the time the last was delivered, the immediate influence of Dean Stanley’s bold move was far more than neutralised. But Principal Rainy’s three lectures will be often re-read and republished in Scotland; occasional as they were, they are already recognised as the best defence of the Presbyterian and Scottish system which this century has produced. “Yes,” he exclaims, “Presbyterianism is a system for a free people that love a regulated, a self-regulating freedom; a people independent, yet patient, considerate, trusting much to the processes of discussion and consultation, and more to the promised aid of a much-forgiving and a watchful Lord. It is a system for strong Churches—Churches that are not afraid to let their matters see the light of day—to let their weakest parts and their worst defects be canvassed before all men that they may be mended. It is a system for believing Churches, that are not ashamed or afraid to cherish a high ideal, and to speak of lofty aims, and to work for long and far results, amid all the discouragements arising from sin and folly in their own ranks and around them. It is a system for catholic Christians, who wish not merely to cherish private idiosyncrasies, but to feel themselves identified with the common cause, while they cleave directly to Him whose cause it is.” And in a concluding and very characteristic passage he indicates that the same principles which strove and conquered in the past must work among us still. “We have to deal with the present, not according to past convictions, but according to present convictions; not according to the beliefs of our fathers, but according to our own; we have to convey, in so far as we represent the Church, the message and the influence which Christ’s Church ought to convey to the men of our time, who inherit the past and are looking forward to the future. For that we would be free of every bond except the regard we owe to Christ’s word, and the regard which He has appointed us to have to one another’s convictions in shaping our message and our action. That has never been an easy task at any time. It is not likely to be an easy task in our time.”
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The subject of this memoir died in December 1847. Few are now left who enjoyed his friendship, and knew his many admirable qualities and lofty character, or were personally cognisant of the great services which he rendered to the Free Church. A fitting opportunity is presented, by this publication, to preserve a record of those services, and to recall the memory of one who pre-eminently deserves to be kept in grateful remembrance.
Graham Speirs was born in June 1797, and was thus cut off in the prime of his manhood. He was the second son of Mr Peter Speirs of Culcreuch, brother to Mr Speirs of Elderslie; and his mother was of the family of Gartmore. His early education was conducted partly at the High School of Edinburgh, and partly at a school in Warwickshire, where he remained till December 1811. He then entered the Royal Navy, and continued in the Naval Service for five years, when, directing his attention to the study of law, he was called to the Bar of Scotland in 1820. His professional career was distinguished by steady but not rapid progress; no one, however, brought into contact with him in professional matters, even at an early period, could doubt that he must ultimately attain the highest eminence. He was throughout of liberal politics, and on the occasion of the party attaining to power in 1830, Lord Advocate Jeffrey—who fully estimated his talents and character—appointed him one of his Advocates-Depute, and soon afterwards he was appointed Sheriff of Elgin and Nairn. Subsequently, in 1840, on a vacancy occurring in the Metropolitan Sheriffdom, he was offered and accepted the office of Sheriff of Edinburgh, which he held until his death. He was thus, for a time at least, removed from practice at the bar, to the regret of his more intimate friends, who looked to him as, in certain probabilities, sure to be called to fill a still more distinguished position of public usefulness.
At the time of his decease, there appeared in the Witness newspaper, from the pen of its distinguished editor, Hugh Miller, a notice, from which we cannot do better than make one or two quotations:—
To this truthful portrait of the man, there is little to add, but we cannot refrain from adverting to similar testimony to be found in the recently published (1874) Journal of Lord Cockburn. Amid the graphic and racy descriptions of events and delineations of character with which these volumes, like their predecessor (“Memorials of his Times”), abound, there is none so life-like as the following, written in 1843:—
Afterwards, at the time of his death, Lord Cockburn says:—
Just as this observation is, we would rather say that the Rev. Dr Gordon, of whose kirk-session, when translated to the High Church, Speirs was for many years a member, had fully more influence in moulding his character and views, as he certainly had with others of the same class and standing. Between them, indeed, there was a remarkable similarity—the same gravity of manner; the same wisdom and sagacity in counsel; and the same reticent demeanour,—but not the less prompt and decided in action in matters of conscience and of duty. No one who knew that truly excellent and admirable divine, can wonder at the power and influence which he exercised for good in this city, from the time when he first came, comparatively a young man, but in the full vigour of his powerful intellect and impressive eloquence, to fill the pulpit of Buccleuch Chapel.
But however this might be in Speirs’ case, it is certain that the divine and the layman acted in entire concert in the eventful struggles for the independence of the Church and the rights of the people in the election of their ministers, which occurred in the ten years which preceded 1843. And that Speirs did so from deep religious conviction of the truth of the principles contended for, is undeniable. His was not a character to be swayed by any other motives in such a matter. To be convinced of the rectitude of any particular course of conduct, was for him to be followed as its sure sequence by active co-operation.
Sheriff Speirs was no mere Churchman; he interested himself in whatever tended to the wellbeing of society. In connection, for instance, with Prison reformation and discipline, he was an active member of the society formed in 1835 on that subject, which by its efforts so materially contributed to the enactment of 1839, by which the jails of Scotland, once described as “nurseries of vice and crime,” have been placed in their present satisfactory condition. In this work his associates were men of all classes and denominations—the accomplished Dr Kaye Greville, the benevolent John Wigham junior, Dr David Maclagan, Mr George Forbes, and other like-minded citizens. Afterwards under the Statute as chairman of the Edinburgh Prison Board, and as member of the General Board of Prisons in Scotland, Speirs was in a position to give his valuable aid in carrying through this national reform. In defence of the observance of the Sabbath, the establishment of Ragged Schools, and in the cause generally of education, he was no less zealous and useful.
Our purpose, however, is to record his connection with the struggles which preceded and followed the formation of the Free Church. His support, based as it was on conscientious principle, was felt to be all-important, and his advice of the greatest moment in the organisation of the Church. Nevertheless it is true, but quite consistent with what we have said of him, that his name does not occur as taking a leading part in the discussions, whether in or out of the Assembly, until about the time of the Disruption. We shall refer, however, to two occasions, as illustrative of the leading position which he then assumed, and energetically maintained.
The one was at the time of the Convocation of ministers which preceded the Assembly of 1843, when it was thought right that the laymen attached to the principles then upheld by the majority of the Assembly, and especially the eldership, should come forward and at once strengthen the hands of the ministers, and provide means for their sustentation on the Disruption taking place. The meeting of the eldership occurred on the 1st February 1843. It was mentioned at the time in the Witness newspaper. Speirs proposed the first resolution, and in doing so he is reported to have represented the Church of Scotland “as she has existed since the Reformation, as by far, he would venture to say, without any comparison whatever, the cheapest institution for good government that ever any nation had to boast of;” and to have been affected even to tears when he uttered the words, “I cannot look forward without dismay to the prospect of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland,” which he so characterised and loved. The Committee formed at this meeting was united to another appointed by the Convocation, under the auspices of Dr Chalmers. This most effective body, organised under the title of the “Provisional Committee,” held its first meeting the following day; and to its labours the Free Church mainly owes that state of orderly preparation, and absence of all division and confusion, by which the days of the Disruption were so signally characterised. This is fully explained in Dr Chalmers’ Life and Correspondence by Dr Hanna.
The other occasion when Speirs was of the utmost service to the Church, was in relation to sites for Churches and Manses, in those districts where hostile proprietors had refused the applications made to them in that matter. It is known that, for some years after the Disruption, great inconvenience and much discomfort and suffering was experienced by ministers and their congregations who adhered to the Free Church in those districts. For a time the Assembly were unwilling to take any steps, in the expectation that the first feelings excited by the Disruption might pass away. But this expectation not being realised, a special Committee was appointed in May 1845 by the General Assembly; and that Committee having reported to the Assembly, which met at Inverness in August thereafter, the appointment of the Committee was renewed, with special instructions; and of this Committee Mr Speirs was appointed Convener.
It was in a verbal Report to the Commission, held in Edinburgh 19th November 1845, that, as Convener, Speirs made one of the most effective and practical speeches ever delivered in the General Assembly. In this he developed the principles on which the Committee had acted, and detailed the proceedings in such a way as to command the “profound admiration,” and “the warmest and most unqualified approbation,” of all who listened to his stirring statement. Can anything, indeed, be better expressed than the following reference to the abortiveness of the first application to Parliament by the Assembly of 1845:—
For, as he justly reasoned—
A renewed application to Parliament was made in the spring of 1847, and a select Committee was then appointed to inquire in what parts of Scotland, and under what circumstances, sites had been refused. A great deal of evidence was laid before the Committee, and, amongst others, Dr Chalmers, and Mr Speirs, as Convener of the Sites Committee, were especially under examination. The evidence of the former, as regards the cross-examination by Sir James Graham and others, is very happily explained by himself in letters written by him at the time, minutely referred to by Dr Hanna. The evidence of the Convener of the Sites Committee cannot be read without exciting the utmost admiration, for the calm, full, and satisfactory way in which he explains the course taken by the Committee, and meets the objections with which their proceedings were met. It is impossible here to go into the details of that evidence. One great object of the hostile examiners was to make out that there was so little difference between the two Churches, as to justify the site-refusing proprietors in their refusal. We shall confine ourselves to his answers on this point, as illustrating the principles on which he had throughout acted, and the fearless avowal of them he was ever prepared to make:—
In the same pamphlet which contains his speech before the General Assembly in 1845, to which we have referred, is given the correspondence which, as Convener of the Sites Committee, he maintained with the proprietors and their agents. The calm and dispassionate, but decided terms in which, throughout that correspondence, he contended for the constitutional principle of toleration, and stated the hardships to which its refusal had subjected the people, had much practical effect in obviating the objections in some quarters, even before the result of the Parliamentary inquiry and publication of the evidence. That result, as reported to the House of Commons, was that the Committee held it to be proved that there were a number of Christian congregations in Scotland who have no place of worship within a reasonable distance of their home, where they can unite in the public service of Almighty God, according to their conscientious convictions of religious duty, under convenient shelter from the severity of a northern climate. And the Committee farther reported to the House that they had heard with pleasure, in course of the evidence, that concessions had been made and sites granted; and they expressed an earnest hope that those which have hitherto been refused may no longer be withheld. Such has happily been the case, and no farther proceedings were taken. We cannot doubt that for this the Church was mainly indebted to Graham Speirs.
Our space will not permit of the insertion of some interesting details connected with his death, which occurred so soon afterwards. During his illness, and when he was suffering much, on the name of Dr Candlish being mentioned by his medical attendant, Professor Miller, he said with animation, “Give him my love, and tell him that I am quite happy. I know in whom I have believed, and if He has more work for me to do, He can raise me up for a year or two.” On seeing his brother-in-law, Mr Grant (of Kilgraston), who came up to him from the country on hearing of his danger, he said with deep emotion, “I have suffered much—very much —but all is right.” In his anticipation of death he was singularly resigned and peaceful. Surely of such a man it may be truly said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
On the 30th December his remains were laid in the Grange cemetery, near the grave of Dr Chalmers, in accordance, it is understood, with his own request.
At the meeting of the General Assembly held in May 1848, a resolution was engrossed in the minutes, expressing in very strong terms their sense of the loss which the Church had sustained in Mr Speirs’ death, and the high and affectionate regard which they entertained for his memory.
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Alexander Stewart was born in the Manse of Moulin, Perthshire, of which parish his father, the late Dr Alexander Stewart, was then minister, as he afterwards was of the parish of Dingwall, Ross-shire, and ultimately of the parish of Canongate, Edinburgh. His family were from Argyleshire—of the Stewarts of Appin—one of the oldest houses of that county. Dr Stewart was eminent in his day as a minister whom God greatly honoured, after he had himself become a living witness to the power of divine truth, by making him the instrument of an extensive awakening in the district of country in which his lot was then cast. He was distinguished, also, in the world of literature—his grammar of the Gaelic language giving evidence of his scholarly attainments, and indicating the eminence to which he might have risen had he given himself to literary pursuits.
The subject of our memoir was, in the first instance, educated in the Moulin Parish School, and thereafter at the Tain Academy. Subsequently he became a student of King’s College, Old Aberdeen, where he continued for two sessions. Then, being considered sufficiently educated for entering on the business of life in the line chosen for him, he first became a clerk in a house at Perth, and thereafter in a house in London. Whilst resident in the metropolis, he attended the ministry of Mr George Clayton, the word preached by whom God was pleased to make effectual for his spiritual illumination and saving conversion. When it pleased God thus to call him by His grace—the way for the change in his prospects for life which he desired having been wondrously opened to him—he resolved, with the consent of his father and other relations, to resume his university studies, now with a view to the ministry. His paternal aunt being resident in Glasgow, he came there, and was enrolled a student of the college of that city. During his course there, he sought no distinction, but shrank instinctively, with provoking sensitiveness from any notice of a public kind which at any time was taken of him. Yet he did not escape observation, as the suffrages of his fellow-students on more than one occasion, in awarding him prizes, gave evidence. In the Divinity Hall, as a student with Dr McGill, he was more especially noticed, where he raised expectations in the minds of those who knew him well, which were more than realized in after life.
From the date of his first appearance in the pulpit, he became eminent as a preacher. The attention of the first ministers of his time was attracted to him. It is well known by his contemporaries that Dr Chalmers, after hearing him, was so impressed with his pulpit powers, that he used every influence with him to gain his consent to be nominated as his successor in the great church and parish of St John’s, Glasgow, from which he was about, himself, to be removed to the Moral Philosophy Chair, St Andrews. In this Dr Chalmers was unquestionably right, though it may seem to be a bold thing to say so, considering only Mr Stewart’s high talents and attainments, whilst not taking into account his bodily constitution and mental temperament. These made the proposal one not to be entertained. That the proposal should have been made was, perhaps, the most marked testimony, in evidence of the appreciation of Mr Stewart’s qualifications as a young minister of the gospel, which he could have received. His natural diffidence and self-distrust made him shrink from contemplating the proposal, or allowing it to become with him a matter of serious consideration at all; the friends who knew him best, whilst they regretted the occasion, approved of the course which he adopted in so acting.
Mr Stewart was licensed to preach the gospel early in 1823 by the Presbytery of Lorn, Argyleshire. His preliminary trials, with a view to license, were taken by the Presbytery of Glasgow. He passed the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, in accordance with the law of the Church in such cases, and thereafter obtained a transference of the remaining portion of his trials to the Presbytery of Lorn. He was a Gaelic-speaking student, and desired to devote himself to the Highlands, as well became the son of a father eminent alike for piety and for critical knowledge of the mountain tongue. Buried in the seclusion of a remote Highland glen, selected by him as a district where the sound of no English word was ever heard, he devoted himself, with his usual ardent student habits, to acquire a knowledge of the idioms of the Gaelic, and the power of familiar, ready expression therein. His success was what might be expected; and at the end of his year of hermit life, he came forth from his seclusion thoroughly versed in all that he had sought to acquire.
He was soon summoned to stated occupation in his holy calling. In November 1823 he was chosen to be the minister of the Chapel of Ease, Rothesay, where the Sabbath services were half in Gaelic and half in English. His period here was, however, short, as was also the use of his acquired tongue. A presentation to the parish of Cromarty, in course of the year in which he was ordained at Rothesay, which he saw it his duty to accept, changed, after a short but highly valued ministry in the West Highlands, the sphere of his labours. At Cromarty he was not required to preach in Gaelic, but as the town is situated in a Highland district, and as he was there in charge of a large Highland population, his knowledge of the language was of much value. From Cromarty he never removed. The seclusion which he enjoyed, or which he fancied he enjoyed, in that ancient burgh, was to his mind very congenial. He used to hug himself in the thought that he had got hid from the great world.
It was a vain fancy. “I have got into the toe of the hose,” he used to say with much glee, referring to the Black Isle, from its shape, as the hose,—and to Cromarty, lying at the extreme point of that bleak wilderness track of cheerless moorland, as the toe. Abundant testimony has been borne, though the half may not have been told, to his course there; to his “work of faith and labour of love;” his most painstaking study of the word of God; his success, numbering such men as Hugh Miller among his converts; his attractiveness in drawing many warm hearts to him, and in making himself to be beloved by all to whom he ministered, all the days of his life, till the end came. Of him Miller has written:—
Of this magnificent preacher’s manner in his public appearances, another friend, for quoting at large from whom we make no apology, writes;—
“Well, he enters the pulpit, and after a moment’s pause rises to read the psalm. It is not a female voice, and yet it is not the rough voice of a man of his size and form. It is deep, clear, solemn, sweet, flexible, and of great compass. Every word is uttered as if the speaker felt himself standing in the presence of God, and in sight of the throne, and as if he desired all should feel the same. The emphasis is so laid in reading the psalm, as to bring out a meaning I had never discovered. His prayer is simplicity itself; a child can comprehend every word, yet his thoughts are of the richest; whilst Scripture phraseology, employed and applied as I never heard it in another, clothes them all. By the time the prayer is ended, I have been instructed and edified. I have received views of truth I had not possessed before, and have had awakened feelings which have set me on edge for the sermon, and which I desire to cherish for ever. The sermon comes. It seems to be a most deeply interesting and animated conversation on a common topic. ‘We ought to think like great men, and speak like the common people,’ appears to be the maxim which regulates the style. The manner is that of one who converses with a friend, and who has chosen a subject by the discussion of which he desires, from his inmost soul, to do him good. Illustration follows illustration in rapid succession, shedding light on his doctrine, and confirming it. Sometimes the illustrations seem puerile, scarcely dignified enough for the pulpit, but that impression lasts only for a moment. Some Scripture allusion, or Scripture quotation, reveals the source from which they have been drawn; and I am filled with admiration of the genius which has discovered what I never discovered, and has made a use of the discovery, which I think I and every man should have made, but which I never did. Scarcely any gesture is employed. One hand rests usually on the open Bible. The other is sometimes quietly raised, and its impressive, short motion gives emphasis to the earnest words which are being spoken. The earnestness seems under severe control. It looks as if the speaker desired to conceal the emotion of his heart in speaking for Christ to sinners—as if he thought noise and gesticulation unbecoming. The eyelids grow red, the tears apparently struggle to escape, but no tear comes. A pink spot, almost a hectic flush—but it is not so—appears like the reflection of an evening sunbeam on the cheek. Some burning words clothe some fine thought, which seems to come fresh from heaven; and the speaker, as I think, half ashamed of the emotion which he has manifested, and which he has sensibly communicated to his hearers, returns to the calm manner from which he had for an instant departed, only, however, to be enticed from it again and again, yielding as if by compulsion to the inspiration which ever revisits him. So he proceeds, until, to my deep regret, he closes his wonderful discourse, which has extended long beyond the hour.”
Mr Stewart continued minister of Cromarty till his death. At the Disruption he, of course, joined his brethren and abandoned his connection with the State, abjuring the new ecclesiastical Establishment. He never made himself prominent in the discussions which, in his time filled the land. His local influence was great. Speeches by him in his Presbytery and Synod were described by those who heard them as something unlike any that other men had ever spoken. But on no occasion during his ministry did he open his mouth in the General Assembly of the Church. He did not feel it to be required. He did not think it would have been useful. All that he could say he heard spoken by others, and, as he thought, better spoken than it could have been by him, and therefore he did not speak. This is not to be justified. Could he have overcome, as he might have done, his native timidity and want of self-possession; could he have roused himself to the effort, or had conscience impelled him to put himself forward as a public speaker, he would not have stood second to any in the ranks of those wonderful men whom God raised up for His work in Scotland in his time. He believed that he could be useful in the provinces; he believed that he was required to take part in the discussions there—that the great cause might suffer if he declined to do so; and, therefore, on wisely selected occasions, he delivered speeches that were admitted to be of the very highest order of oratory, for wisdom, beauty, and power.
It would have been in vain, every one knew, to propose to Mr Stewart a change in his field of labour, at any time during his life at Cromarty, in anything like ordinary circumstances. But when, in 1847, the lamented death of Dr Chalmers, and the advancement, consequent on that event, of Dr Candlish to a chair in the New College, created a vacancy in St George’s, the minds of all friends of the Church turned to the distinguished subject of this memoir, as the man who should succeed the great preacher of the day in that pulpit. It need hardly be narrated that this proposal was not welcome to Mr Stewart. It created an excitement calculated to affect injuriously a mind sensitive and shrinking to a fault, inhabiting a body which took its character but too much from his natural temperament. Earnest representations and urgent solicitations at length appeared to prevail with him. The late Dr Robert Buchanan, of Glasgow, was one ot the Commissioners sent to the north to prosecute the call by the congregation of St George’s. When the business in the Presbytery of Chanonry in this matter was ended, as the two friends walked along the street, perceiving the downcast appearance of his companion, and expressing regret, Dr Buchanan said, “You look as if you were carrying a millstone on your back.” “No, Dr Buchanan,” was the reply, “I am not carrying a millstone, but I am carrying my gravestone on my back.” His words proved but too true. An attack of fever came, and ran its course. His time had come, and he knew it. To his physician inquiring as to his feelings, he said, “I am going to die. It is a solemn thing, doctor, to die, and to meet God in judgment!” To Christian friends he declared his abiding confidence in the everlasting God, his Saviour; and in this state he quietly fell asleep in Jesus, on the 5th November 1847, in the fifty-third year of his age. “He got faith,” said a friend who was with him at the close, referring to the case of the St George’s call, “to lay his Isaac bound upon the altar; his hand, in humble submission, took the knife; he was prepared to do his Lord’s will; he did it; and the Lord then relieved him for ever from all his cares, all his anxieties, and all his pains.”
Mr Stewart was never married. A maternal aunt, the widow of a minister, became, after the death of her husband, an inmate, put in charge of the domestic affairs of the manse of Cromarty. She formed a precious gift from his heavenly Father, for a great part of the closing portion of her nephew’s ministry—the cause of much solicitude, too, in anticipation of the effect which her removal might have upon him and his usefulness— a solicitude quite as great on her side. He was spared the trial, to meet which he ever sought to fortify himself. His aunt survived him for a little; but his death was never revealed to her, the infirm condition of her body and mind both making it at once advisable and kind that the departure ot her “dear boy” should be concealed. So they were exempted from sorrow to which they had each, respectively, looked forward with solemn thought,—sorrow which came not. “So He giveth His beloved sleep.”
Mr Stewart never indulged in authorship. Nothing from his pen passed through the press at any time. The volume of posthumous lectures on Leviticus, entitled, “The Tree of Promise,” compiled from the skeleton outlines from which he had discoursed, give but a faint impression of what he was as a preacher. The work, nevertheless, is of great value, especially to the student—original, suggestive, and unique. No minister, who deals with Scripture typology can want it without loss or employ it without profit .
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A. Moody Stuart, D.D.
As Dr Moody Stuart is happily still spared to the Church—serus in coelum redeat—it does not lie within our province to record any estimate of his gifts and character; our endeavour shall be merely to present a brief outline of the distinguished career of public usefulness which entitles him to honourable recognition in this volume.
Alexander Moody was born in Paisley 15th June 1809, the sixth son of the late Mr Andrew Moody, who was for some years chief magistrate of the burgh. The esteem in which his father was held by all classes was memorably illustrated on one occasion by the fact that, when an excited political mob was proceeding with a universal demolition of windows, the rioters paused abruptly in their work of destruction and permitted his dwelling to remain uninjured, obeying at once the command of their leaders, “Let Mr Moody’s house alone —he is a good man.” Having availed himself of the best educational advantages of his native town, and having subsequently attended the Rector’s class in the Glasgow Grammar School, Alexander early laid the foundations of exact and varied attainments in scholarship, and in his fourteenth year he passed to the University of Glasgow, in which, after the usual curriculum in the arts classes, he took the degree of M.A. in 1826. The holidays of his boyhood were almost all spent in the parish of Lochwinnoch, on his father’s property of Muirsheil, an estate embracing the upper part of Calder Glen and a wide expanse of solitary moorland from the heather-clad heights of which magnificent views are commanded on every side. When we had the pleasure of accompanying Dr Moody Stuart a short time ago on a visit to this home of his early days, and of observing how many associations with it still linger vividly in memory after an absence of fifty years, we could not help feeling that the romantic scenery of the Renfrewshire hills was no unimportant factor in the education of one whose character and writings have ever been conspicuous for an intensely appreciative love of nature.
In his eighteenth year (1826), Mr Moody entered the Theological Hall, and attended the classes in Divinity for two sessions in Glasgow. The two last sessions were spent in Edinburgh, where he attended the lectures of Dr Chalmers and shared with many who afterwards became much beloved fellow-labourers, the mighty impulse which that master in Israel communicated to the cause of evangelical religion.
After receiving license as a probationer from the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1831, Mr Moody was, towards the end of the following year, requested by Mr Buchan of Kelloe (of whom a notice has been given in an earlier sketch), to go as a missionary to Holy Island,6 off the coast of Northumberland. The whole extent of the island is about 3000 acres, and the population, mostly dependent on fishing, was then about 500. Mr Moody’s labours were continued for more than two years, and were graciously owned of God. This was more especially the case in the autumn of 1834, when, although the mainland was exempted at that time from the calamity, the island was afflicted with a terrible visitation of cholera. Many of the inhabitants died, and lest the plague should spread, all communication with the shore, except of an occasional character, ceased for six or seven weeks. Mr Moody at once accepted it as his duty to remain where he was, that he might minister to the plague-stricken and the bereaved, and in the incessant and trying labours of that time, he was not only sustained in health, but also mercifully exempted from even a passing shadow of solicitude as to the preservation of his own life in the midst of danger. It may well be believed that “the Word of the Lord was precious in those days;” many listened anxiously to the demands of the Divine law and the consolations of the Gospel, when these were daily proclaimed, both publicly and from house to house, under the solemnising shadow of the wing of the angel of death. A few of the more remarkable incidents of these eventful weeks were afterwards communicated to the Scottish Christian Herald, and appeared under the title of “Death-bed Scenes” in the first volume of that magazine.
Within a short time after the induction of Dr Candlish into the pastoral charge of St George’s, Edinburgh, an invitation was given to Mr Moody to become his territorial assistant, and in compliance with this call he came from Holy Island to Edinburgh early in 1835. The text of his first sermon in Edinburgh was Luke 20:17, 18; and in the words of one who was present on the occasion—the late devout and accomplished Rev. John Mackenzie of Ratho—the discourse was remarkable for “the unction and evangelical fervour and high mental culture which have ever since so eminently characterised Dr Moody Stuart’s ministrations.” After officiating for a few months on the Sabbath evenings in St. George’s Church for Dr Candlish, Mr Moody was appointed by the Session of St George’s to labour in the district which was afterwards, under the name of St. Luke’s, disjoined quoad sacra from St George’s parish. In a short time the power of an earnest and faithful ministry was felt throughout the district, and the congregation became almost immediately too numerous to be accommodated in the original chapel (purchased from the Unitarian body), in Young Street. Upon the site of this chapel the large church now in Young Street was built, and was opened for public worship in May 1837.7
In the following month, Mr Moody was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, as the minister of St Luke’s quoad sacra parish. In 1839 he married Miss Stuart, daughter of Kenneth Bruce Stuart, Esq. of Annat, Perthshire, and thenceforward added to his own the name of the family with which he had become allied.8
After seven years of abundant and successful labour in St Luke’s parish, Mr Moody’s health broke down, and at a time when his counsel and service were apparently most required, both by his congregation and by the Church at large, he was called by the Lord to “come apart and rest awhile.” In the autumn of 1841, he complied with the urgent recommendation of his medical advisers and left this country for Madeira. After spending two winters in that island, he took a voyage to Brazil, and sailing thence in early summer, arrived in this country in the end of July, and was enabled to begin his work again with restored health and hope.
During the months of his absence from St Luke’s, Mr William C. Burns, the apostolic evangelist and missionary, and afterwards his brother Mr Islay Burns, had occupied his pulpit, and the Lord had given to them many seals of their ministry. The Session also had maintained their practice, as the minute-book testifies, of meeting every week for prayer and for the transaction of all business relating to the spiritual interests of the flock, “over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers.” It was accordingly, in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, that Mr Moody Stuart was brought back to those from whom he had been separated unwillingly for a season. We have been told by one of those who worshipped in St Luke’s on the first Sabbath after his return, of the profound impression made on the congregation which crowded the church, and of the emotion, never forgotten, which thrilled the whole assemblage when the preacher opened the services with the appropriate lines:—
The works of God discover.
The Lord hath me chastised sore,
But not to death given over.”—Ps. 118:17, 18.
Meanwhile the Disruption of the Church of Scotland had taken place. There had never been any uncertainty in Mr Moody Stuart’s own mind as to the necessity of maintaining at all hazards the principles of Non-intrusion and Spiritual Independence, and the Church at large had received full proof of the thoroughness of his sympathy with the party by which these principles were maintained, for St Luke’s was conspicuously honoured in some of the most momentous events of these stirring times.9 As to the congregation, there was, so far as we have been able to learn, little difference of opinion amongst the members regarding the duty of the church; as to the Session, all the twelve elders10 signed the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission at a meeting of which the Minute-book preserves a touching record, on 19th June 1843, and Mr Moody Stuart took an early opportunity of adhibiting his signature to the same testimony after he returned.11
That the congregation which so unanimously left the Establishment was morally bound at the same time to quit the building in which they had hitherto worshipped, no one ever presumed to affirm. The Established Church for which the quoad sacra chapel in Young Street was built, was the Church by which, on 31st May 1834, the “Declaratory Enactment as to Chapels of ease” was passed, and by which the promises encouraging the erection of such chapels had been faithfully implemented. Those who built St Luke’s, including all the trustees, were for the most part still living, and had given, by their adherence to the Free Church, the clearest proof that they never intended it to be connected with an Establishment which repudiated the Chapel Enactment, or else confessed that the fulfilment of its provisions lay beyond the constitutional functions of the Church: for of the Kirk-Session of St George’s, who bought the original site for £655, the smaller proportion had remained in the Established Church; and of the sum of £4445 spent in the erection of the Church, less than £70 was contributed by parties who remained in the Establishment after the Disruption. For nearly six years no attempt was made to disturb the congregation’s possession and use of the building,—but at length after the decision of other cases had established precedents enough to show that the question of ownership would be decided by an appeal to the terms of the trust-deed, without equitable and honourable consideration of the intention of the parties who prepared it, the Kirk-Session of St. George’s (Established Church), sent notice to the Session of Free St. Luke’s on 1st March 1849, requiring the congregation to quit the church in order that “the chapel might be applied strictly to the purposes of the trust” (!), but offering respite until Martinmas, so that time might be given for necessary arrangements as to another place for worship. The Session of Free St Luke’s declined “to accept a small kindness in palliation of a great wrong,” and the congregation held the last meetings for public worship within the walls of the church in Young Street on the following Sabbath, 4th March 1849. For more than three years they met in the Hall, 5 Queen Street, until 27th June 1852, when their large new church in 43 Queen Street was ready for occupation. For a season, doubtless, many looked back with lingering regret to the place in which their altar had been at the first, but the blessing of God was given very abundantly in the new church. Mr Moody Stuart’s own ministry continued to be honoured as before with the success which attends clear, full, and experimental preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and this, together with the labours of Brownlow North and others, whose help was heartily welcomed, made St Luke’s, for many years, widely known as a centre of evangelistic life and effort. In 1874, Mr Moody Stuart, with the concurrence of the office-bearers and congregation of St Luke’s, requested the General Assembly to sanction the appointment of a colleague ard successor, as the burden of the undivided pastorate had been for some time felt by him to be beyond his strength. The request was granted, and the congregation having addressed a unanimous call to the writer of this notice, he left Lochwinnoch, after a ministry of sixteen and a-half years in that place, and was inducted in Free St Luke’s on 22nd June 1876.
In 1875, Mr Moody Stuart had received from the University of Glasgow the degree of D.D., and had been invited by the Free Church to be Moderator of the General Assembly held at Edinburgh in that year. His claim to both of these honours was universally and cordially conceded. In acknowledging the merit of the contributions by which he had added to the literary wealth of the country, his Alma Mater endorsed what had been already certified by a large measure of popular acceptance. These writings claimed esteem, not only by their intrinsic value, but also by the charm of a unique and attractive style.12 And in promoting him to the Moderator’s Chair, the Free Church willingly acknowledged, not merely forty years of faithful effective service in one of her most conspicuous congregations, but also the prompt and influential counsel with which he had always aided the discussion of subjects engrossing public attention, and above all, his unwearied fidelity in the office of convener of her Mission to the Jews, a cause which has for a whole generation owed a great measure of its success to the unshaken confidence in the promises of God, and the burning enthusiasm for Israel’s welfare, which have given eloquence and power to the appeals made from year to year by Dr Moody Stuart on its behalf.
Dr Moody Stuart continues to preach, as an ordinary rule, alternately with his colleague. His voice was never strong, and by reason of years the limits within which he can be distinctly heard by his audience are now more circumscribed, but he has retained in a rare degree freshness of style and warmth of interest in proclaiming the glorious Gospel. With a brief sketch of our impressions of his ordinary pulpit work we shall close this notice.
In his public prayers, the confession of sin is not a mere repetition of formal phrases of self-humiliation, but a reverent and careful acknowledgment of felt transgression; the mercies of redemption are spoken of with unfeigned thanksgiving, according to the measure of recent personal experience; the various ranks, conditions, and circumstances of men are remembered with considerable variety of detail; any outstanding public calamity or deliverance is made the subject of allusion maturely considered and felicitously expressed; the salvation of the heathen, the gathering in of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the interests of the kingdom of Christ at home, and the peace of all nations are remembered in definite and urgent intercession, while, perhaps above everything else, the hearts of the worshippers are drawn out in fervent supplication for the present gracious working of the Holy Spirit, without whom prayer obtains no blessing, and preaching has no power.
The sermon is not read, but spoken from notes on the pages of an interleaved Bible. The gestures, including occasional transitions from one side of the pulpit to the other, suggest rather the unconscious action of a thinker absorbed in the excogitation of his theme, than of an orator bespeaking the attention of his hearers. The text (or texts, for the discourse is often based upon several cognate or contrasted passages), having been announced, a brief introduction presents, in short, almost epigrammatic sentences, some striking thought, after which the leading divisions of the sermon are intimated, so as to indicate at a glance the region to be traversed. The discussion of these topics in succession seldom occupies less than three-quarters of an hour. The preacher has not proceeded far before the interest of the devout listener is enchained by the luminous fulness with which some verse hitherto almost unnoticed flashes out from its neglected place in Scripture; or two texts, both familiar but seldom considered before as bearing upon each other, are suddenly brought together, so as to yield a spark which kindles thought and feeling with strange power. Often the imagination is quickened to vigorous and delighted exercise by some bold stroke of fancy or unexpected poetical conception. Presently there is an appeal to the conscience; sin is not spared, while a vivid presentation of the actions and feelings of yesterday in the searching light of God’s law, or a description of some phase of religious experience lays bare the heart’s inmost thoughts. In every discourse a place is found for the Cross of Christ and for a loving declaration of the glorious largeness of that Divine mercy, which is high as heaven and greater far than the cloud of sin which hangs portentous between any sinner and God; and the word of reconciliation is pressed home by the direct question and personal entreaty, well fitted to win the ear and subdue the heart. That this kind of preaching has been highly appreciated by earnest Christians is not strange, and we have reason to know that it has been largely honoured with the blessing of God—how largely shall be known in the day when “they that have turned many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.”
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Alexander Thomson of Banchory
A note appended to Dr McCrie’s “Life of John Knox ” contains the following pedigree of Mr Thomson:—
By the death of his father, Mr Thomson was left at the early age of eight under the care of his mother, a superior and pious woman. Young Thomson studied at the Grammar School and at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and early shewed that fondness for study, and those habits of application, which remained with him through life. As a youth he was cheerful, playful, and kind; and, at the same time, methodical and conscientious in the disposal of his time. Having completed the arts curriculum, he graduated in 1816. Besides acquiring an intimate acquaintance with the Latin and Greek classics, and attaining considerable proficiency in mathematics, he obtained an introduction to several of those branches of Natural Science, the prosecution of which in after life afforded him much pleasure. His intercourse with his learned grandfather and his friends fostered those academic tastes and that love of general culture which afterwards marked out Alexander Thomson as the most accomplished country gentleman in the north of Scotland. In order to study law he went to Edinburgh at the beginning of session 1816-17. He joined the Speculative Society, and took a share in the debates. He passed Advocate in 1820, but never practised at the bar. Besides assiduously prosecuting his legal and cognate studies, Mr Thomson, whilst in Edinburgh, began the study of Italian. To the close of his life he retained a fondness for that language and for Italian literature. He also formed friendships which were lasting, with, among others of note, Alexander Dunlop, Sir William Hamilton, and John Hamilton. On attaining majority, Mr Thomson was appointed a Deputy-Lieutenant for Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire; he was elected Dean of Marischal College; and he began to devote attention to the improvement of his estates, and to county business. His private life was exemplary.
In 1825 Mr Thomson was married to Jessy, daughter of Alexander Fraser, Esq., an ex-Lord Provost of Aberdeen. The following year Mr and Mrs Thomson visited Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. During the journey, Mr Thomson made copious notes of his observations on the state of education in these countries, and their social and moral condition. They spent about three years in Florence, Rome, and Naples. Antiquities, the geology and vegetation of the country, and more particularly its social and religious state, engaged his attention; and he carefully studied the doctrines and practices of popery at its headquarters. He had much pleasant intercourse with Christian men then resident in Italy; among others, General Macaulay, Chevalier Bunsen, Professor Tholuck, and the Rev. Mr Burgess; and that visit to Italy gave Mr Thomson an abiding interest in the fate and fortunes of that classic land.
Mr and Mrs Thomson returned to Banchory in 1829. Besides models of ancient temples, Mr Thomson brought six copies of the medal struck to commemorate the massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day. Papists sometimes deny that such a medal was struck, and Mr Thomson was careful to distribute his specimens. One of these, and the models, are now in the museum of the Free Church College at Aberdeen. Resuming his public duties and literary and scientific pursuits, Mr Thomson shewed a deepened seriousness and increased interest in religious objects. He withdrew from attendance on the ministrations of the parish clergyman, a Moderate, and availed himself of the Evangelical preaching of ministers in Aberdeen. In 1833 Mr Thomson spent a few months in Edinburgh, and having heard the discussions about patronage, as a Conservative, his fears were aroused “lest anything rash should be done.” He came within the influence of the Church Extension movement, became an enthusiastic supporter, and on his return home, got an auxiliary society formed in Aberdeen, and secured the erection of a church in a destitute part of his own district. In 1834 he published “Facts from Rome;” and contributed a sketch of Dr Hamilton to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1835 he visited Belgium; and brought before the Highland Society the plan followed in that country for reclaiming waste land, and for cultivating flax and chicory. He originated schemes for organising a county police force, and for improving prison discipline; and his labours for these two objects were crowned with success. During the first half of the ten years’ conflict Mr Thomson took no share in the discussions and deliberations which engrossed some of the leading minds of the Church of Scotland. In December 1839 his friend, John Hamilton, advocate, sent to him his pamphlet, “Our Present Position;” and from the time he perused that pamphlet Mr Thomson became deeply interested in the question. The great spiritual issues involved had awakened that interest; for with many of his friend’s views he did not concur, nor was the course of action to be taken at all clear to him. It was after much earnest thought and many discussions that he became thoroughly satisfied that the Church had taken up a right position. As a leading Aberdeenshire Conservative, and an intimate friend of Lord Aberdeen, Mr Thomson was the medium of conveying to his lordship a copy of that publication, and of others issued by the Evangelical party in the Church. He also corresponded frankly with his lordship on the vexed question. The most valuable part of Professor Smeaton’s admirable memoir of Mr Thomson is probably the ninety pages of correspondence between Mr Thomson and John Hamilton, Lord Aberdeen, Sir Robert Peel, and other statesmen and persons of influence. There is no better confutation of the insidious attempts now made in certain quarters to falsify the history of the struggle which preceded the Disruption, than what is contained in those pages. They are also interesting as exhibiting the progress of a candid mind alive to spiritual things, grappling with the great question at issue between the Church and the State, and arriving at a settled conviction that the Church was right. In his earliest letter to Mr Hamilton (6th January 1840) Mr Thomson writes:—
In striking contrast is his letter to Sir Robert Peel, of 27th May 1842:—
At county meetings and on the public platform, Mr Thomson maintained and vindicated the views of the Church; and in December 1842 he suggested that a meeting of Scottish Lairds should be held, “as the Barones Minores of Scotland had much to do with the former Reformation.” He issued a circular calling a meeting, to hold at Edinburgh on 24th January 1843,
Forty-nine lairds attended, and nearly as many sent apologies for being unavoidably absent. The resolutions of the meeting were transmitted to Sir Robert Peel. The third was—
Thursday the 18th May 1843 arrived, and Mr Thomson was relieved of negotiations with politicians and prelates. His diary and letters vividly bring before readers the Disruption day. He was present at the levee in the morning, and saw the portrait of William III fall, and heard the remark made by a spectator, “There goes the Revolution Settlement!” He joined the solemn procession to Canonmills Hall. He was incessantly occupied during the next ten days with General Assembly and Committee duties; and reached home, “after a most delightful, and exciting, and I hope profitable fortnight.” On the 1st of June, Mr Thomson laid the foundation of a Free Church at New Machar, on his estate of Rainineshill. In his own parish he assisted in forming a congregation and procuring a minister (the Rev. D. F. Arthur, highly esteemed by Mr Thomson); he gave sites for church and manse, and largely contributed to the erection of both. In September 1843 Dr Chalmers spent a week at Banchory House, and Mr Thomson often referred to that visit, and always looked back to it with pleasure. On Sabbath the 10th, Dr Chalmers preached to an immense congregation assembled on the lawn.
The refusal of sites by certain landowners occasioned much suffering to members of the Church. Mr Thomson took an active share in the endeavour to have this cowardly form of persecution removed. In concert with the Marquis of Breadalbane, Mr Thomson arranged that a meeting of landowners should hold at Glasgow at the close of the General Assembly in October 1843 to consider the subject. The meeting agreed to address the noblemen and gentlemen who had refused sites; and an able, respectful, and earnest address was agreed on.
Mr Thomson proposed to the General Assembly in 1844 a plan for providing manses, and when, in a subsequent year, the manse scheme was sanctioned, it met with Mr Thomson’s warmest support. Nor was he unmindful of the wants of the Church in foreign lands. Having learned that “Dr Duff mourned the loss of his fine library and apparatus, locked up in the unused buildings now belonging to the Established Church,” he assisted in procuring subscriptions to provide library and apparatus; and in a short time the required sum was raised and remitted to Calcutta, and the great missionary’s heart was glad.
Mr Thomson regarded the institution of a theological hall in Aberdeen as of great importance to the Church. It was opposed, and a controversy arose, painful at the time, now uninteresting, and hardly intelligible to those who were not engaged in it. In conjunction with Mr F. Edmond of Kingswells, Mr Thomson persevered in urging his views upon the Church; and the Aberdeen Theological Hall was established. In its extension and permanence Mr Thomson took a lasting interest.
Concurrently with his efforts, general and local, on behalf of the Free Church of Scotland, Mr Thomson laboured to promote Sabbath observance by Railways. He had co-operated with Sheriff Watson in planting in Aberdeen the first “Ragged School” attempted in Scotland; and he continued to aid the learned Sheriff in extending the experiment. It was not till 1854 that he had the satisfaction of finding his views embodied in statute.
In consequence of impaired health, he spent half of 1847 and the following year in England. He occupied himself with antiquarian and geological investigations, and still more with inquiry into the social condition of the people. Stimulated by his observations during this visit, he published in 1852, “Social Evils: their Cause and their Cure.” In 1857 appeared “Punishment and Prevention;”13 and in papers read before the Social Science Association or published, he advocated stopping juvenile offenders on the road to crime; treated the game laws as fertile sources of crime and misery; sought to have vagrancy repressed; opposed the bothy system and feeing markets; and urged the abolition of tolls.
In 1857 Mr Thomson was chosen Convener of the County of Aberdeen. In the following year he saw carried out, though in a mutilated form, a scheme which he had tried to promote during thirty years, viz., the amalgamation of King’s and Marischal Colleges.
In 1859 the British Association met in Aberdeen. H. R. H. Prince Albert, the President of the year, did Mr Thomson the honour to be his guest; and Mr Thomson took an active part in all arrangements for the promotion of the objects of the association as well as in the discussions.
In consequence of attempts by the Scottish Episcopal Church to obtain some recognition by Parliament, such as would identify it with the Church of England, Mr Thomson engaged in a vigorous correspondence on the subject; and published an able pamphlet— “Scottish Episcopacy: Past and Present”—in order to disseminate correct views as to the aggressive practices and dangerous tenets of that sect.
Symptoms of failing health appeared in 1859, and weakness of the eyes compelled Mr Thomson to discontinue these investigations by the microscope in which he delighted. Succeeding years found Mr Thomson with diminished vigour, pursuing literary and scientific studies, publishing on various subjects, and interested in all that concerned the social, moral, and religious wellbeing of those around him. He had for two or three years contemplated the great change as approaching, and early in 1868 increasing weakness warned the relatives that it was near. On 18th May 1868 Mr Thomson sent a message to Dr Candlish, expressing a hope that God would be with the General Assembly. His dying utterances were, “Bought with a price,” “Swallowed up in victory;” on Wednesday night, the 20th May 1868, his spirit departed.
Mr Thomson bequeathed his valuable museum and extensive library, and about £16,000 in money to the Free Church College in Aberdeen. The money was apportioned for bursaries, maintenance of museum and library, a lecturer on natural science and theology, and “to increase the too small salaries of the Professors.”
The large collection of journals, letters, and other MSS. was placed in the hands of the Rev. Professor Smeaton, who had kindly agreed to prepare a memoir of his departed friend. The work was faithfully performed; and a most interesting volume was published in 1869. Of the Professor’s labours the writer of this notice has freely availed himself.
At the close of the “Funeral Sermon,” the late Principal Lumsden said:—
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William King Tweedie, D.D.
William King Tweedie, son of John Tweedie and Janet King, was born at Ayr, 8th May 1803. The family removed very early to South America, where the father became intendant of the public gardens at Buenos Ayres. William was left under the care of a kind relative at Maybole, where he spent his boyhood, and received his early education. His parents did not return to this country, and he never saw them again. His friend and guardian made him his heir, and hence he was enabled to enter upon his studies with great advantage.
He spent his first and second sessions at the University, Glasgow. He afterwards passed one or two sessions in Edinburgh. His University education was completed at St Andrews,14 to which his chief attraction was Dr Chalmers, then Professor of Moral Philosophy, and whose rare and commanding genius entranced the minds of many other aspiring young men. Here also he obtained the friendship of Professor Ferrie, minister of Kilconquhar,—a friendship which continued even after they were separated ecclesiastically. While there, he became tutor to the son of Mr Mudie of Pitmuis, and in this character travelled about fifteen months on the Continent. The young tutor and young pupil visited France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Both had their minds enlarged by this lengthened sojourn, and the former obtained those stores of knowledge which he turned to such important uses in his subsequent life. Pitmuis is in the parish of Guthrie, of which the gifted Dr John Bruce15 was then the minister. He was thus brought into close contact with a man who was the means of conveying to him those clear views and deep impressions of divine truth which he ever after retained. Some of his first earnings as a young man were expended in the purchase of a copy of Calvin’s voluminous writings; and although he called no man his master on earth, he considered that the great French Reformer expressed the mind of God more correctly than most of the divines of that period.
His veneration for Calvin himself was affectionately profound, and he wished much that there should be a more adequate memoir of his life and doctrines than was then to be found. He diligently sought for information on this subject, and had collected documents which he hoped to bring before the public. It illustrates his own noble character, that while thus employed, he learned that the biographer of Knox was engaged on a biography of Calvin, and he did not hesitate to relinquish his own purpose, and transferred to Dr McCrie the information he had obtained. At a later period, in 1846, he published a translation from the French of M. Rilliet, entitled, “Calvin and Servetus: The Reformer’s Share in the Trial of Michael Servetus, historically ascertained.”
He received licence to preach the gospel from the Presbytery of Arbroath on 2d December 1828, and on 26th July 1832 he was ordained as minister of the Scots Church, London Wall. Here he had a small congregation, but the connection was a happy one: there was mutual regard between pastor and people, and good was done in the highest sense.
When in London, he married Miss Margaret Bell, and thus secured the blessings of a happy domestic life. In London, also, he acquired the friendship of Mr John Macdonald, who was minister of the Presbyterian Church at River Terrace. This friendship did not terminate after both had left London, but continued unbroken till the death of the missionary minister of Calcutta. In 1849 he published an interesting memoir of his beloved friend.
The reputation for intellectual power and ministerial faithfulness which he had now acquired, led to his appointment as minister of the South Parish of Aberdeen. His induction took place on 1st September 1837, and on the following Sabbath Dr Duff introduced the young minister to the congregation. Dr Duff had been the first choice of the congregation, but he refused the call, because he considered India as still his mission field. The sermon was printed, and in it Dr Duff refers to Mr Tweedie’s “gifts and graces, whether in the pulpit or in the closet, at the family altar or at the weary pilgrim’s death-bed, his walk and conversation, his outgoings and incomings.” In this charge he occupied a position of great influence; his labours were very abundant, and his high powers were appreciated by all who knew him.
In September 1841 the congregation of the Tolbooth Parish, Edinburgh, sustained a heavy affliction by the secession, into the Episcopal communion, of their beloved minister. They desired to have as his successor one who should combine pulpit talent with vigorous intellect and parochial activity. When Mr Tweedie’s name was suggested to them, scarcely any of them had heard him preach; but there was so unvarying a report of his character from all quarters, that they applied in his favour to the Town Council, then patrons of the city churches. Their application was successful; he accepted the call, and was inducted on 10th March 1842, leaving in Aberdeen a much attached congregation.
From this date till his death in 1863, he was the loved and honoured minister of the Tolbooth Church. On 18th May 1843 he ceased to be minister of the parish, as he, with the entire kirk-session, and nearly all the congregation, withdrew from the Establishment, and joined the Free Church; but they retained the name, and with it the religious and ecclesiastical principles which had characterised the Tolbooth Church for a long series of years. They continued their schools and their other parochial labours. During the brief period that Mr Tweedie occupied the place of a parochial minister in Edinburgh, he pursued with much zeal his parochial duties. Among other things, he printed a tract addressed to the parishioners, which was intended to be the first of a series.
Mr Tweedie took an active part in the proceedings which led to the Disruption, and for many years subsequent to this, his high business talents enabled him to promote the success of the Church in every one of its departments.
For a short time he was convener of the Sustentation Committee. He was also Convener of the Committee on Popery, and for fifteen years he was Convener of the Committee on Foreign Missions. This last office he would not have resigned, had he not felt that, with his impaired health, he could not fulfil, to his own satisfaction, the duties of it and of his pastoral office at the same time. His close relations with Duff, Anderson, Wilson, Mackay, Ewart, Johnston, Maccallum, Smith, Mitchell, besides Macdonald and other honoured names, gave him a weight and influence which no one else could have. His letters to the missionaries during the long period of his convenership were greatly valued. Indeed, wherever there was need for work in the service of the Master, there he was a willing, untiring, disinterested worker.
To his own congregation, and the varied interests connected with it, he gave his heart and all his powers. There was much difficulty in obtaining a suitable place of worship. On the first Sabbaths after the Disruption he conducted public worship in Freemasons’ Hall, Niddry Street, but the accommodation was quite inadequate for the hearers. An ineffectual attempt was made to induce an existing congregation to alter somewhat their hours of worship; and at length the church in Infirmary Street, where Mr Paxton had been minister, was purchased, and there the congregation assembled till 1853, when the Music Hall in George Street was obtained. This was in many respects a comfortable place of meeting; but it was not suitable as a “Sabbath Home,” and efforts were made to obtain a site for a permanent structure. Of course, nearness to the former parish was felt to be the first requisite; but at least five or six situations on the High Street, or on the northern slope of the Old Town, were successively selected, examined by an architect, and abandoned. With great reluctance, one in St Andrew Square was finally adopted, and it was occupied by the congregation on 16th May 1858. Considering the difficulties of the site, Mr Bryce, the architect, might be said to be successful; but many ol the congregation were much inconvenienced.
The style of Dr Tweedie’s discourses could not be called flowing oratory, but he stated the truths which he himself believed with clearness and force. Every hearer knew that the preacher was in earnest, and that it behoved him to be in earnest as well. He rarely addressed the congregation without having written what he said. He never preached a sermon to his people a second time; although the sermon may have been the same, he invariably re-wrote it, assigning as his reason for this, that his people ought to have his freshest thoughts, and that in writing again he thus gave any new views, or even new expressions, which had occurred to him. His sermons were clear expositions of Scripture, searching delineations of character, and telling addresses to the consciences of his hearers. The illustrations drawn from natural objects and from books gave force to his doctrinal statements.
He had classes for the instruction of the young, and his conversations with intending communicants, while tender and skilful, were unusually faithful and searching, and were specially owned of God in preparing for the solemn step in life which they contemplated. For several years he held a meeting in his house for students every Saturday evening, which was largely attended, and was greatly valued by many who now occupy important positions in the ministry, both at home and abroad. In the Kirk-session and Deacons’ Court, his clear and large views of the business transacted at the meetings promoted the success of every undertaking and the solution of every difficulty. His frank address and his friendly consideration of those with whom he came into contact, tempered the differences of opinion which are so ready to occur in the intercourse of life.
Dr Tweedie’s writings form an important part of his life-work. He had the love of writing, and the power of writing. His works were numerous, and, if not profound or exhaustive, led on the reader from one step to another in the path of truth and righteousness. Many were especially written for the young, and not a few young men and young women were guided upward in the Christian life by the perusal of these varied volumes. His aim in all his writings was to promote the cause of Christ and the good of souls, and in doing so, he never shrunk from declaring the truth, even although it might be unpalatable.
His correspondence was very extensive. Indeed he delighted to address his friends in this way, and the letters were of a valuable character. They were representative of himself as a Christian friend and instructor, and they supplied the counsel, or comfort, or expostulation that might be respectively suitable. Some people resented this, but many more relished it, and felt grateful. One replied to him, “Write a common-sense letter. When I wish a sermon, I can get one on the other side of the street.” But the same individual, at a later period said, “He was right, and I was wrong.”
Dr Tweedie used conversation for the same purpose for which he made such large and effective use of correspondence. He often spoke a word in the ordinary intercourse of life which arrested the attention of the careless, or gave a spark of light to the downcast His pastoral visitation was systematic and faithful. He addressed himself at once to the important business about which he had come. Even in casually meeting with his people on the street, it was his habit to leave a good word as he passed on. He illustrated well the remark, “A word spoken in season, how good is it!”
He was never a robust man. He often suffered from cough, and this sometimes interfered with his pulpit duties. Other ailments were superadded, and he became infirm. In the summer of 1861 he went with his family to the Continent, and passed several months in Switzerland and Germany, enjoying very much the salubrious climate, and delighting in the varied scenery spread around him. His health was considerably benefited by this sojourn, and he returned home strengthened for his important duties. But he became more easily influenced by atmospheric changes, and his loved work was performed with greater difficulty. He at length became convinced that the services of an assistant or colleague were necessary. He was less sanguine than others as to the issue. He thought the disease had now taken a deeper hold of his body, and that his active working life would probably not be very long; yet he spoke calmly and cheerfully, and in his graceful, dignified manner, acquiesced in the arrangements made and intended for his comfort.
It pleased God to withhold His blessing from the means used for his recovery. His death-bed was a bed of suffering—of very great suffering, with few interruptions. In the early part of it, there were intervals when he was comparatively free from pain, and then his conversation was cheerful as was his wont; but latterly pain and exhaustion gave a sombre hue to all that he said. More than once he declared that he knew whom he had believed, and felt thankful that he had not left till that hour of weakness the grand work of life. He addressed striking admonitions to some of those who were beside him, which they are not likely ever to forget; he gave utterance to his affectionate feelings; he expressed his thankfulness for services rendered to him. To one friend he said, “Be sure that you have Christ.” On one occasion he exclaimed, without reference to anything that had been said either by himself or others, “There is light before the throne.” We cannot tell certainly, but we may imagine what he meant by these words. He was in a dark valley: all was dark except one spot, and that spot was the throne of God and the Lamb. There was light there, and when the valley had been passed through, all was light.
It can be truly said that he bore a life-testimony to the Saviour whom he loved and served. Having dedicated himself to the ministry-—first perhaps, merely as a profession, but afterwards as a heart-work—he gave all his energies of mind and heart to its prosecution. He derived his views of doctrine and of duty from the holy Scriptures; and the written word, as he often said, “led to the Incarnate Word.” He preached the freeness of the gospel invitation to all sinners without exception; but he never lost sight of the grand cardinal truth, that God is supreme, all in all; that man’s salvation originated in the mind of God, and that in the case of each individual soul, it is the grace of God which draws the sinner to Himself. He was not only a bold, uncompromising herald of the heavenly message, but a skilful, painstaking, loving pastor; and in both capacities his ministry was blessed with peculiar success, alike in the awakening and conversion of sinners and in the edification of believers. He never belied his character as a Christian minister, or as a Christian gentleman.
Need it be added that he was emphatically a lover of good men? He cherished such wherever he found them, and co-operated with them in works of faith and labours of love. He was Secretary of the Society for Relief of the Destitute Sick from 1843 t0 his death, and did what he could to promote the success of that admirable association.
Dr Tweedie died on the 24th March 1863 (being survived by Mrs Tweedie, two sons, and three daughters), and on the Saturday following his remains were laid in the Grange Cemetery, not far from the resting-place of his revered and beloved friend Dr Chalmers.
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David, the youngest of twelve children of the family, was born on the 11th December 1793, at Braefoot, in the parish of Moffat. The farm-house in which this event took place stands at the head of a deep dell, near the source of the Annan. It is in the midst of a purely pastoral country, and his parents, who were both eminently pious, belonged to the class of intelligent gentlemen-farmers. Their youngest son was named after the sweet singer of Israel, and from this circumstance, as well as from their devoted religious character, we may believe that he was specially consecrated from his infancy to the service of God. At a comparatively early period of his life, his father surrendered all charge of his worldly affairs into the hands of his sons, and retired to spend the evening of his days in Moffat, where he died in 1825, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
In his early years David attended the parish school of Moffat, to which he rode daily a distance of three miles, and enjoyed besides, the services of a competent tutor at home, the Rev. Mr McWhir, who became afterwards minister at Urr in Galloway, and was distinguished for his zeal and manifold labours. In his thirteenth year he was sent to the High School of Edinburgh, which he attended for one year as a pupil of Dr Carson. In the year following he entered the University of Edinburgh, in which he regularly passed through the Arts classes. In the third year of his course he became the pupil, as afterwards the intimate friend, and ultimately the biographer, of Dr Brown, then the Professor of Moral Philosophy. He early shewed a decided predilection for the science of logic and psychology. It was this which brought him into such intimate relationship with Dr Brown, and distinguished him as a student, although in the prosecution of his studies in mental science he departed very widely from the method of his instructors, and became an ardent advocate of phrenology, of which he continued to be a disciple to the end of his life.
In November 1811, when he was in his seventeenth year, he entered the Divinity Hall, and devoted himself with peculiar ardour to those studies by which he was to prepare himself for the work of the ministry, and which were so congenial to the taste and habits of mind of a youth of ardent piety. While prosecuting these studies, he also acted as the private tutor of Alexander Dunlop, who afterwards earned such merited distinction as one of the Disruption Worthies; and this connection resulted in a life-long friendship, which was mutually pleasant and profitable. During his theological course he attended the ministry of Dr Andrew Thomson, which could hardly fail to have a stimulating effect upon him, and to aid in moulding those ecclesiastical views, of which he became such an earnest promoter.
In 1816 he was licensed as a preacher of the gospel by the Presbytery of Lochmaben. He was not ordained as a minister till 1821. His father had been advised to purchase a presentation for him, but declined, saying— “I gave him up to God twenty years ago, and in His hands I will leave him.” Mr Welsh’s ecclesiastical and political views were alike hostile to his obtaining the favour of patrons of parishes; but, in 1820, Sir Alexander Gordon, for the good of the parish, so far overcame his political predilections, as to present him to the parish of Crossmichael, of which he became the minister in March 1821.
He at once set himself with great zeal and vigour, and with eminent success, to the work of the ministry. In prosecuting that work, he laboured under very considerable disadvantages. He had a weak chest, and preaching was always to him an oppressive labour. He had little facility of utterance, and his bodily frame was but ill fitted to endure the laborious fatigue of his pastoral duties. Notwithstanding, he soon came to be beloved by his congregation, and to be known over all the district as a preacher of singular power. The publication by him in 1825, moreover, of a life of Dr Brown, made him known in all literary and scientific circles as a man of extensive reading, of cultivated taste, of sound and acute judgment, and of searching and discriminating analytical power. At this period of his history, the following quotation from his diary will let us see in what frame of mind his work was carried on, and wherein lay the secret of his power:—
It was not to be expected that a minister of Mr Welsh’s accomplishments and power, especially at such a time in the history of the Church of Scotland, should be permitted to remain in the seclusion of Crossmichael; and accordingly, in 1827, the congregation of St David’s, Glasgow, which was then vacant, recommended him to the Town Council of the city for presentation to that parish. This they were induced to do mainly on the recommendation of Dr Brown, of St John’s Parish, who, as former minister at Tongland, had been a co-presbyter of Mr Welsh. The Town Council acted on the recommendation, and Mr Welsh, having accepted the presentation, was translated to Glasgow, to the deep regret of all his congregation, and with a sore wrench to his own tender nature. “The tie that connected us together,” he said, “was of the closest and most endearing nature, though I never knew with what strength it mutually bound us till it came to be broken.”
Mr Welsh engaged in the work of his city charge with all the faithful diligence and ardour which had characterised his previous ministry, although now the field of his operations was greatly enlarged. Besides the duties of his parish and congregation, he could not fail to encourage every philanthropic scheme for the good of his fellow-citizens. His interest in the cause of education was peculiarly active and intelligent, and, in conjunction with David Stow, and others like-minded, he contributed greatly to extend the means of education in the city, particularly in setting up infant schools for the training of the young. He was in labours most abundant, too much so, indeed, for his weak bodily frame; and although he was daily growing in the affectionate esteem of his congregation, and in his influence for good in the community at large, it became evident that he could not long endure the strain upon his physical strength.
This formed at least one powerful inducement to him to accept the offer made to him by the Government of the day, to accept the Chair of Church History in the University of Edinburgh, to which he was appointed in October 1831, and he entered upon his work as professor in November following. The year before leaving Glasgow, he was united in marriage to the sister of Mr William Hamilton, Provost of Glasgow at the time of his translation from Crossmichael, and on the occasion of his removal to Edinburgh he received the degree of D.D. from the Glasgow University.
By the students of the Theological Hall in the University of Edinburgh his appointment was hailed with universal delight, and short as was his time for preparation, he got through the labour of his first session with great credit and acceptance. His work as professor was very congenial to his tastes, and he grew more and more in successive years in the esteem of his students and of all who knew him. His tenderly affectionate nature, notwithstanding his peculiar shyness and reserve, drew their hearts towards him, and the high tone and ability of his prelections commanded their respect. The spirit that animated him in the duties of his class, will appear from the following record of his aims: “To set apart one hour every Saturday for prayer for my students. To make a study, as opportunity presents, of the passages of Scripture that relate to my duties as a teacher, and to the duties of the young. To add to my resolutions, from time to time, as new light shines. In looking at a student, ask, How can I do him good? or, Have I ever done him good?”
So long as he could resist the pressure of higher obligations, Dr Welsh devoted himself exclusively to the business of his class, refusing all solicitations to engage in other work, and refusing even to preach except on rare occasions. The time, however, was hastening on which constrained him to depart from this rigid rule. He had never been an ecclesiastic; but ecclesiastical questions of high moment were pressing to the front, and his sense of duty was such that he could not avoid taking part in them. From the time when he became a professor till his death, he was a member of the General Assembly. He was one of the comparatively few at that time who regarded the total abolition of Patronage as necessary for the wellbeing of the Church, and in the Assembly 1833 made his first speech on that subject. Notwithstanding some slight hesitation in manner, he spoke with admirable effect, although at the close of the debate only thirty-two voted along with him.
Dr Welsh was not present at the Assembly 1834, which passed the Veto Act, having gone with his family to reside at Bonn, but he heartily approved of what was done. In that year also he published a volume of sermons on practical subjects, which amply sustained the reputation he had acquired as a preacher of the gospel. From this time forward he felt himself under obligation to take a larger share than hitherto in the general business of the Church. He never, indeed, became a prominent leader in public discussions, whether in the General Assembly or in public meetings. His physical infirmities were a barrier to his efforts in that direction. “But he joined,” Mr Dunlop tells us, “in the consultations and exertions of the time, contributing much, by his judgment and prudence, to the wisdom of the counsels adopted, and cheering all by his confident spirit of reliance on the righteousness of the cause, whatever the immediate issue might be.”
The Ten Years’ Conflict had begun. It is not our part here to speak of its successive stages, but during its progress, Dr Welsh, in several departments of Christian work, was busily and profitably engaged. In 1838 he was appointed Vice-Convener of the Colonial Committee, and in 1841 became Convener. From the time of his appointment, he infused a new and vigorous spirit into the work of the Committee, and not a few of our expatriated countrymen owe to him the blessing of a faithful ministry among them. His eye was upon every emigrant seaport, and he made it his business to infuse students, probationers, and ministers, with a desire to devote themselves to the service of God in the colonies.
About the same time, on the abolition of the monopoly for printing the Bible, Dr Welsh was made Secretary of the Bible Board in Scotland, and upon him chiefly devolved the responsibility of securing that the editions of the Bible issued by several publishers were in conformity with the authorized version. His aptitude, intelligence, and zeal were also conspicuously manifested in the duties of this office, of which the Government of 1843 had the discredit of depriving him, because of his having cast in his lot with the Free Church.
In 1842 he was Moderator of the General Assembly, perhaps the most momentous Assembly ever held by the Church of Scotland in connection with the State, and on him it devolved to preside at the opening of the Assembly 1843. Never, perhaps, was a man of such humility and modesty as Dr Welsh placed in a position of such conspicuous eminence. But he proved himself fit for the occasion. The crisis seemed to inspire him with new life and vigour, and nerved him to powerful and eloquent speech. His sermon in the High Church—from the text, Rom. 14:5, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind”—thrilled through every heart, and when he took the chair in St Andrew’s Church, in which the Assembly met, the crowded audience gazed upon him in breathless silence. Mr Dunlop says;—
The Protest being read, Dr Welsh left the Chair, followed by a procession of ministers and elders who constituted a majority of the Assembly, to the amazement of many incredulous statesmen and others, and in conformity with the glad expectation of the great body of the religious people of Scotland. Dr Welsh constituted the Free Church Assembly in Tanfield Hall, after which Dr Chalmers was called to the Chair, and presided over its deliberations. Dr Welsh, however, was enabled to take part in its proceedings, and amazed those who knew him best, by the freedom and fluency with which he spoke, and by the gladsome spirit with which he was animated.
The branch of the Church’s business, which was specially committed to him, was Education in all its departments. As Convener of the Committee appointed on this subject, the Free Church owes to him, in great measure, the noble library of the New College, as well as the stately building which contains it; and to him also the Church is to a considerable extent indebted for the normal and elementary schools which have been conducted with so much success.
But his manifold and distinguished labours were now drawing to a close. He was able at the Assembly 1844 to attend only a few of the sederunts, and in the November following, when he had commenced the labours of his class, he was able to continue in them only for a few weeks. He retired to Drumfork House, near Helensburgh, on the estate of his brother-in-law, so soon as the weather permitted, but his health did not improve. He was subject to violent spasms of pain, which he bore with great fortitude and resignation. On the last day of his life, the 24th April 1845, he was able to take a drive, and was more cheerful than usual. “After dinner he slept for a little, leaning his head on the table. On his waking up, Mrs Welsh began, as usual, to read occasionally a verse or two from the Bible. She read Isaiah 61:10, ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.’ He turned the passage, as was his wont, into a fervent prayer; and, in a few moments afterwards, stretching out his arms, he passed into the presence of his God and Saviour.”
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John Wilson, D.D., F.R.S.
John Wilson was born at Lauder, in Berwickshire, on the 11th December 1804. He received his early education at his native town; from which he proceeded to Edinburgh University, passing through the usual curriculum in the Arts classes to the Theological Hall. Mr Wilson threw himself with ardour into the various subjects of study which the College and Hall successively presented. Probably the special bent of his mind was towards the Natural History sciences. In these, especially Zoology and Geology, he took through life a deep interest. But his mind was wonderfully comprehensive; he rapidly accumulated knowledge of all kinds, and seldom lost what he once acquired.
His interest in missionary work, which began early, deepened in his progress through the Hall. Towards the end of his theological course he published a life of John Eliot, the great North-American missionary. He was one of the founders—if not indeed the founder—of the Missionary Society in the Edinburgh Hall; and an earnest address, which he delivered to the members on the subject so dear to his heart, was given to the public.
He had by this time been accepted as a candidate by the Scottish Missionary Society, a catholic institution, founded in 1796, which received support from the Evangelical party in the Established Church, as well as from other bodies in Scotland.
He was ordained by the Presbytery of Lauder in June 1828. Soon after, he was married to Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Kenneth Bayne of Greenock—a woman remarkable in many respects, highly gifted, highly cultivated, and entirely devoted to the great Master’s service. The marriage ceremony was performed by Dr Andrew Thomson on the 12th August, and on the 30th of the same month Mr and Mrs Wilson sailed from Newhaven to London, on their way to Western India.
The American Mission, after much opposition on the part of Government, had commenced operations at Bombay in the end of 1814. The Scottish Missionary Society turned its attention to the great continent of India in 1822. The Society was by no means wanting in comprehensiveness of plan; and among other reasons for selecting the Presidency of Bombay, they mentioned its contiguity to Persia—to which they hoped to send missionaries. The Rev. Donald Mitchell, the first agent of the Society, reached Bombay in 1823—Messrs John Cooper, James Mitchell, Alexander Crawford, and John Stevenson following speedily after. Of this band of honoured men, Mr Cooper yet survives, “still bringing forth fruit in old age.” Mr Robert Nesbit joined them in September 1827. Mr and Mrs Wilson reached Bombay in February 1829. They speedily proceeded to a village in the Southern Konkan, that they might learn the Marathi language without distraction; and, having made rapid progress, they began their missionary labours at Bombay in the November following.
Even then Bombay was a large city—about as large as Edinburgh and Leith put together are now; and it contained a truly remarkable assemblage of races and creeds. Mr Wilson, with his usual quickness of eye, surveyed the entire field. The American Mission, and one or two agents of the Church Missionary Society, were labouring with all fidelity among the Hindus. Not neglecting them—nay, with his zealous wife’s assistance, planting schools for males and females wherever he could find an entrance—he was deeply moved by the spiritual destitution of the Mohammadans and Parsis. Mr and Mrs Wilson were heartily aided, in their efforts to arouse the people, by a band of Christian friends, among whom, without disparaging other excellent men, we may single out the late Dr Smyttan, and Messrs R. C. Money, J. Farish, and R. T. Webb, of the Bombay Civil Service, as specially remarkable. Mr Wilson was incessantly engaged in lecturing, preaching, writing, publishing. In 1830, along with two other friends, he established a monthly periodical called the Oriental Christian Spectator; a valuable repository of information on Indian literature and missions. He also took extensive missionary tours. Having acquired the Marathi language, he next learned Gujarati and Hindustani; and, following the example of his learned colleague, Stevenson—who early studied Sanskrit, and published a portion of the Rig Veda with a translation, before Rosen’s celebrated “Specimen” had come out-—he made progress in the far-famed holy tongue of the Brahmans. He then attacked the enigmatical Zend, which the distinguished savant Burnouf had just begun to elucidate; and he was able to discuss, at least on equal terms, with the Parsi priests, the meaning of the Zendavesta.
Mrs Wilson died in 1835—a most grievous blow to her husband and the whole mission. Her Memoir, compiled by her husband, is one of the best of missionary biographies. About Mrs Wilson’s letters, which make up a great part of the book, there is an indescribable charm. Two of Mrs Wilson’s sisters—Anna and Hay Bayne—soon after her death proceeded to Bombay at Dr Wilson’s earnest request, and were a great comfort to him in his solitude. Both of them were highly gifted and devoted women. The younger sister became the wife of the saintly Robert Nesbit.
The same year, in the month of August, the three Scottish missionaries then labouring in West India—Messrs James Mitchell, Nesbit, and Wilson —were received as agents of the Established Church of Scotland. Mr Wilson had been the moving spirit in making the application, which was most heartily agreed to.
In the year 1836 Mr Wilson received the degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh.
Mr Alexander Duff, the General Assembly’s first missionary, had reached Calcutta in May 1830; and the marvellous success of his educational efforts had stimulated the desire that a seminary on the model of his should be set up in Western India. Mr Wilson did all that he could attempt single-handed to conduct such a school; and by the end of 1838, when the Mission was reinforced by Mr Nesbit’s return from the Cape, and Mr Murray Mitchell’s arrival from Scotland, the General Assembly’s Institution was fully organized. It was numerously attended by Parsis; but the baptism of two Parsi pupils (now the Rev. Messrs Hormazdji Pestonji and Dhanjibhai Nauroji) speedily shook the school to its foundations. The attendance, from being nearly three hundred, fell at once to forty-five; and these were nearly all Portuguese. Of the very few Hindus who remained, one was Narayan Sheshadri; who said he could safely do so, as he was determined the missionaries should never catch him in their net!
Dr Wilson now commenced a series of lectures, which, in the end of 1842, he published in a volume of fully six hundred pages, entitled, “The Parsi Religion.” This was the most elaborate work on the Zoroastrian system that had appeared since Hyde had given to the world his celebrated treatise, De Veteri Religione Persarum.
Dr Wilson sailed for Europe early in January 1843, accompanied by Mr Dhanjibhai Nauroji; travelled through the Holy Land; and reached Scotland soon after the great Disruption. No one had watched with deeper anxiety the sore struggle which the Church had been called to pass through. No one more firmly held the great principle of spiritual independence. He lost no time in signifying his hearty adherence to the Church of the Disruption; he rejoiced and gave thanks to God that, on this deeply important question, all the missionaries of the Church, whether to Gentiles or Jews, were of the same mind; and he took part at home in explaining and vindicating the position assumed by the Free Church. He accompanied Dr Candlish into England; and at Oxford, in particular, in presence of a somewhat critical audience, he preached on the spiritual glory of the Church of Christ and its inalienable freedom. Dr Wilson often mentioned with great gusto his delight at the answer given by one of the boatmen when he landed at Dover. He had asked the man, “Any news about the Church of Scotland?” “They’re all out, sir,” was the reply; and to Dr Wilson they were thrilling words. “My mind,” he used to say, “was made up; I would have gone out although I had only had half a dozen associates.” It is right to add that, while strongly attached to the Presbyterian form of Church government, and to the Free Church, Dr Wilson was a man of truly catholic sympathies, and ever ready to co-operate in all good works with men of evangelical sentiments. He heartily favoured the Evangelical Alliance, and he took his share in preparing the way for a great confederation or alliance—the doctor himself called it a consociation—of Presbyterian Churches in India. On the question of the union of the Free Church with the Reformed Presbyterian and United Presbyterian bodies, Dr Wilson sided with the majority of his own Church.
Passing rapidly over the time he remained in Scotland, during which he was mainly occupied with the composition of an elaborate work on the “Lands of the Bible,” we find Dr Wilson back at his post in Bombay by November 1847. In 1846, he had married as his second wife Miss Isabella Dennistoun—an admirable woman, simply and earnestly devoted to the work of God. He had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society during his residence at home, as he had been made President of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society during the latter part of his residence in India.
The next ten years of Dr Wilson’s life passed over without anything very remarkable taking place. He was as active in mind and body as before, assisting in the revision of the translations of Scripture, gathering acquaintance with the aboriginal tribes, and promoting every religious and philanthropic effort in the western capital. The great Mutiny occurred in 1857; and since then the main literary occupation of Dr Wilson has been the preparation of a very full, elaborate work on Caste, which he was led to take up by his conviction that caste-prejudices were closely connected with the outbreak. But his pen was never idle. He published a careful résumé of the efforts of the Bombay Government to suppress infanticide, and several Memoirs on the remarkable cave-temples of Western India. In the new and exceedingly important step taken for the advancement of education, in the establishment of three great Universities in India, Dr Wilson took a deep interest; and by-and-by he received the honour of being appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay.
Years passed on, and Dr Wilson had attained quite a patriarchal position in Bombay. He connected a present and past that were in many respects strangely contrasted. No man had more acquaintance with India as it was; and no man had so much with India as it is. His knowledge of Western India, in particular, with its endless complexity of tribes and dialects and customs, was perfectly marvellous. He became an authority superior to all others on any question connected with the native races. In his judgment as well as in his knowledge, both Government and the public could repose the most entire confidence. He was by no means a mere scholar; he was a man of great practical sagacity. In the dark and trying times of the Mutiny—darker and more trying than any one who was not then in India can possibly understand—Dr Wilson was an invaluable counsellor to Government. Lord Elphinstone, who proved, under God, a ruler equal to the terrible emergency, often sought his sympathy and advice; and never did so in vain.
The applications made to him for information, for advice, were endless, and would have worn out any ordinary man’s patience; but he hardly seemed to look upon the tax as unreasonable. To every one who came to him, whether European or Asiatic, he was uniformly kind, accessible obliging. The feeling of regard entertained for him was beautifully witnessed in 1868, when a sum of 21,000 rupees was contributed by the Bombay community to form the Wilson Memorial, the interest being drawn by Dr Wilson during his life, and the capital being devoted, according to his own suggestion, to the endowment of a chair of Comparative Philology in the Bombay University.
The death of his excellent wife in 1867 had been a very sore affliction, though his niece, Miss Taylor, did all she could to minister to his comfort.
In 1870 he was called home by the Church to fill the Moderator’s chair. We do not require to tell our readers how well he did his part. Courteous, conciliatory, dignified, with a ready tact that seldom failed in doing and saying the right thing, he was one of the best of Moderators. During the months that followed the Assembly, he did much to advance the cause of missions. If not an eloquent, he was a winning advocate. His powers of persuasion were great; and he seemed to draw to himself the hearts of all.
Since his return to India, with the infirmities of age becoming too serious to be any longer doubted even by himself, his error was that he continued to attempt too much. Doubtless by so doing he wore himself out too soon. We often thought of a remark which Dr Candlish once made regarding the venerable Dr Gordon: “It is far more important that he should live ten years than that he should do any work.” But the veteran would work on in spite of entreaties, till he has fallen at his post.
One of his letters, dated 18th April 1875, thus refers to the death of his sister-in-law, Miss Bayne: “How few of my early friends now remain on earth! and how many of them have gone to heaven before me! May ‘ upwards and onwards’ be more and more my watchword !”
On June 18th he wrote:—
The last letter we received from him is dated November 1, 1875:—
After this, “he fell by leaps,” as Mr Beaumont expresses it. The day before his death he said to a friend, “I have perfect peace, and am content that the Lord should do what may seem good to Hun.” He died without much suffering on 1st December. He has passed away: but neither the Church nor India ever can forget him.
Dr Wilson has left two sons. The elder is the accomplished author ot “The Abode of Snow,” and other works. The younger, who studied medicine, has long been in shattered health.
The following resolution of the Senate will shew the estimate in which Dr Wilson’s services are held by the University of Bombay:—
Go to Index of Disruption Worthies
William Wilson, D.D.
Dr Wilson was born in the parish of Westruther, Berwickshire, in the year 1808. As in the case of most of our eminent men, the foundations of his education were laid in the parish school.
The winter of 1825-26 saw him enter the Edinburgh University, where he prosecuted his studies with the energy and success that never fail to command the respect alike of fellow-student and teacher. With intellectual powers of the higher order and a rare capacity for work, the Westruther student could occupy no mean place. One can easily imagine with what infinite zest, tempered with method and the self-restraint of a well-ordered mind, he would pursue his curriculum. In the Divinity Hall, four years later, he sat at the feet of Chalmers, Welsh, and Brunton. How far he profited by the rare lights of sanctified genius he then enjoyed, and how far he succeeded in grasping the grand, clear, profound Christian philosophy, which can only be superseded when something nobler, or truer, or anywise better appears, of which the present somewhat murky theological horizon affords not even a prophetic ray, let his own subsequent career as a preacher and a master in Israel testify.
The sympathies of the student were wholly with the Evangelical party in the Church. He was one of a band of young men who, fearing the Lord, met often for fellowship in the truth. Meeting at half-past six on Saturday mornings in what was called the Exegetical Society, such young men as Robert M. McCheyne, Horatius Bonar and his brother Andrew, Alexander Somerville, George Smeaton, Henry Moncreiff, Walter Wood, William Wilson, and others of a kindred spirit, gave themselves to the study of the Word of God and prayer, little dreaming they were then sharpening swords soon to be employed in one of the noblest battles for the independence of the Church and the crown-rights of her Divine Head, this age, or for that matter, any age has witnessed.
Licensed by the Presbytery of Earlston in 1833, the young preacher boldly launched forth as an evangelical divine, a teacher of the ancient Gospel in its purity; and to venture out on the troubled sea of that period, in the primitive craft in which the apostolic fishermen of Galilee prosecuted the first Christian voyage, demanded no little courage. To raise the simple banner of the doctrines of grace at that time was to provoke, in many quarters, opposition, and odium, and scorn. But it was the fearless bearing of this cross that made the Disruption men the heroes they were, that made the Disruption the great fact it was, and gave the young Free Church that apostolic fervour, purity, and spiritual power, which was her truest glory.
From 1835 to 1837, Mr Wilson held the important position of bearing aloft the evangelical banner of that period, the well-known Scottish Guardian, of which he was editor. It was with no trembling hand the standard bearer carried the flag. A non-intrusionist of his calibre, and standing so well to the front as he did, could not expect favours from quarters where the proud but mean spirit of patronage reigned. So, when he became minister of Carmylie, it was not by the grace of the Crown, which then held the patronage of that parish. For the man with the non-intrusion banner in his hand to become the favoured child of patronage would have been a kind of miracle. Mr Wilson entered Carmylie as its minister in a more excellent way. Under the jus devolutum, the Presbytery of Arbroath, in compliance with a petition from the parishioners presented him, and he was ordained in 1837.
The movement that preceded and prepared the way for the Disruption was, beyond dispute, a great spiritual awakening. The grace that settled in a man’s soul the question of his entire subordination in heart and conscience to his Lord and Saviour, of necessity also settled in the mind of the same intelligent inquirer the question of the Church’s independence, and Christ’s sovereignty, absolute and undivided, in His Church and over her. The minister of Carmylie threw himself with energy and ardour into the twofold work of seeking the emancipation of the souls of men from sin and of the Church from the fetters that were being riveted upon her.
The Disruption came and Mr Wilson found himself without church or manse. Refused a site, denied the liberty of public worship on a single square yard of ground in the parish, the only place of meeting left the minister and his people was the highway. The time had come when, in many a parish, the people, loyal to their Divine Head, were content to worship with the heavens for a canopy, and surrounding nature for a cloud of witnesses. In Carmylie, the conflict was peculiarly severe. The minister was compelled to seek a lodging in East Haven, some seven miles distant from the sphere of his labours. Week after week, in sunshine and in storm, in the pelting rain, in the piercing east “haar,” in season and out of season, he trudged those weary miles, prosecuting his ministry with indomitable courage and undoubted success. Nor were the faithful adherents of the Free Church cause found wanting. The farmer of Mains of Carmylie, boldly defying the powers that were, heroically risked his lease by permitting the congregation to erect its tent on one of his fields. In the same spirit of fearless independence, this noble-hearted elder gave up his dwelling-house to the homeless minister, contented himself with his own household to lodge in the barn. For a period the minister and his people were driven from post to pillar, now worshipping in a tent here, anon in a barn yonder, and again in a wooden shed, often on one Sabbath not knowing where they should assemble the next. At length, to Christian endurance fell the victory. Sites were granted; a church and a manse were built, and the heroic struggle reached a happy close.
Those who remember Mr Wilson’s preaching at that period, speak of it with enthusiasm. Such as have only seen him in the cool discharge of official routine, or heard him calmly reading one of his clear, terse, weighty discourses, could not easily imagine the outbursting energy, the vehemence, the fire, with which he preached in those days. In regard to his church warfare, it will be sufficient to quote the words of a parishioner. “Oor minister,” said he, “can haud the gully o’er the dyke tae ony o’ them.” This witness was true.
Translated to Dundee in 1848, he became minister of the Mariners’ church, afterwards named St Paul’s. Under his ministry the congregation flourished remarkably, its membership increasing well-nigh threefold. A handsome new church was erected, and a congregation embracing not a little of the intelligence and influence of the town gathered and consolidated.
Of the many services rendered by the minister of St Paul’s to the Free Church and the cause of the Gospel in Scotland, not the least important were his labours as Convener of the Home Mission Committee. To this office he was appointed in 1863, and for ten years discharged its onerous duties, with admirable tact, untiring energy, and much success.
In 1870, the Church conferred upon him her highest honour by raising him to the Moderator’s Chair; and in 1870, he received the degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh. It is hardly necessary to remark in passing, that Dr Wilson discharged the duties of Moderator with perfect dignity and efficiency. Those who attended the opening services of the Assembly in 1867, will readily recall an incident, too impressive to be ever forgotten. The retiring Moderator, Dr Wilson, was in the midst of a sermon characterised by wonted lucidity and weight of statement, and a more than ordinary freshness and point, when suddenly a shrill cry was heard, and Dr Clason, the venerable Clerk of Assembly, was seen to throw up his hand and fall backwards on his seat, as if dead. A thrill of deepest solemnity passed through the audience, while the preacher paused, and several members of the court hastened to raise the prostrated form of the aged minister upon their shoulders and carry him out. It was the beginning of the end, the work of a faithful servant of the Church had reached its close. The Master found him at his post, and called him up higher, from the assembly on earth, to the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven. In the intense excitement produced by this incident the man who seemed most calm and self-possessed was the preacher. Resuming his discourse, he proceeded to fulfil the solemn duties of the office and the hour in a manner befitting the occasion and the scene.
In 1868, Dr Wilson was elected by the General Assembly to the office of Junior Clerk, and in 1877, he was with entire unanimity and cordiality appointed Secretary to the Sustentation Fund Committee, of which he is also Joint-Convener. This rendered necessary his retiring from the pastorate of St Paul’s, Dundee; but he is still minister emeritus of that congregation. His removal to Edinburgh was the occasion of deep regret to his numerous friends in Dundee, and indeed to the entire community, by whom he was held in high respect. As natural and appropriate tokens of grateful appreciation of his many invaluable services, two presentations were made to him at this time, one in Edinburgh by friends of the Church generally, the other by his friends in Dundee, where he had exercised his ministry and served the Church and cause of Christ with so much ability and success for well-nigh a whole generation.
Among his literary efforts, his last and most important work is the Memoir of Dr Candlish, his long and close intimacy with that great and good man giving him a peculiar title and fitness to discharge the office of biographer.
Possessing gifts of an order solid rather than brilliant, an intellect strong and clear, robust common sense, far-seeing sagacity, a judicial faculty of rare soundness, immense capacity for work, uncommon firmness of purpose and power of endurance, Dr Wilson, as a loyal servant of the Church, a judicious counsellor in her times of trouble, a man of affairs proficient in the silence that is golden, as well as the speech that is silvern, an indefatigable worker in the vineyard, a valiant soldier of the truth, and a hearty lover of his country, has spent a long and laborious life in the service of the Gospel.
Go to Index of Disruption Worthies
George Mackay, D.D.
If varied and severe trials and heavy losses after the time of the Disruption, if self-denying and eminent services in defending and extending the principles of the Disruption, if long and laborious and highly successful work as a minister of the Gospel, and great influence ever employed on the side of truth and righteousness, entitle one to a place in our Disruption Worthies, that place is justly due to the subject of this sketch.
Dr George Mackay was born in the Parish of Reay, in the County of Caithness, in the year 1796. His parents occupied a highly respectable position in the district, and were distinguished for a quiet and consistent Christian life. At that period, it was far more an object of desire with Christian parents than it seems to be now, that, if it were the will of God to give them a son, with the spirit of a Samuel, or a Timothy, they would account it their highest privilege, to devote him to the Lord in the service of the Gospel. The privilege of such a son, consecrated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and by the fervent prayers of a pious parentage, was regarded by them as far more evidential of the favour of their God to them, than were they to have many sons and daughters born and reared to elevated worldly positions. There can be no doubt that it was in this light of a gift from God, to be reared for Him and devoted to His service, that this boy, born in that home in the Parish of Reay, was regarded by his parents. He enjoyed the best educational advantages which the place could furnish. The parish schools at that time were generally taught by the alumni of our Universities, so that, a boy of excellent natural abilities, as this boy was, had the opportunity of learning all those branches of knowledge which fitted him for entering college. When the time came, Dr Mackay entered the University of King’s College, Aberdeen, which was then the university generally attended by students from the north of Scotland. When there, he occupied a high position in his classes, and was much respected by his fellow-students. During his university career he was appointed to the parish school of Loth, in the county of Sutherland, and this appointment he held till he was licensed to preach the Gospel, in the year 1827. It was while parochial teacher, that he attended the Divinity Hall at Aberdeen, being enabled to do this, in accordance with the then existing practice, by appointing a suitable substitute during the three months of the college session. The experience of parish-school work, was a training of great value to those who were looking forward to the ministry of the Gospel. It familiarised them with parochial work. It brought them into profitable acquaintanceship with families, and furnished them with many opportunities of learning how to deal wisely with young and old. When the student of Divinity was regarded as one influenced by a true spirit in looking forward to the ministry, he was an object of special interest to the well-known Christian people of the district; he was admitted into their fellowship, had a warm place in their prayers, and was greatly benefited by their counsel and experience. From his position in the parish, he had admission, too, into the best society there; and often, in a judicious intercourse with the members of that society at so important a period of life, had corners and points of manner rubbed off; and all this was fitted, by the Divine blessing, not only to make him a well-equipped Christian minister, but, what should not be overlooked by those who occupy that position, to make him an attractive Christian gentleman.
During Dr Mackay’s attendance at the university, he had Principal Pirie, of the University of Aberdeen, and Principal Brown, of the Free Church College there, as his fellow-students. The acquaintanceship then formed between him and these distinguished individuals, has since been maintained. The writer of this notice has once and again heard both Dr Mackay and Principal Brown going over, with no little enjoyment, their varied reminiscences of college days.
After completing his course at the Divinity Hall, Dr Mackay was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Dornoch, and preached his first sermon at Kildonan, and second at Clyne. Shortly after being licensed, he was appointed assistant to the well-known and much esteemed Dr Angus Mackintosh of Tain. This assistantship, from its many advantages, was a source of signal blessing to him at the beginning of his ministerial life. Short as it was, he learned, under the superintendence of so profound a divine, and so eminent a preacher as Dr Mackintosh, and from the fellowship of the many remarkable Christians for whom the congregation of Tain was then distinguished, lessons which were of great benefit to him during his future ministry. He had been scarcely a year assistant in Tain, when he received, in the year 1828, a presentation to the parish of Clyne, in the Presbytery of Dornoch. This was not the first presentation which was in his offer; but these, for reasons which manifested Dr Mackay’s disinterestedness, he respectfully declined. This presentation to Clyne was followed by a unanimous call, so that after the usual preliminary steps were taken, he was duly settled minister of that important parish, with every prospect of great usefulness and success.
The religious and ecclesiastical condition which existed in many sections of the Highlands previous to the Disruption, was somewhat singular. While some of the pulpits of a Presbytery were filled by evangelical ministers, others were occupied by ministers who belonged to what was then called the Moderate party in the Church of Scotland; whose ministrations and practice were not always such as to commend them to their flocks. It was a striking fact, that at that time the power of the Gospel was more influential among the people generally, than among the ministers; and the truth of this was made patent at the Disruption, in the fact that, while so many ministers remained in the Established Church, almost all the people left it; even in those parishes in which they were not headed by the pastor. Owing to this mixed character of the ministry of a Presbytery, the settlement of a Gospel minister over a congregation, was a matter of great importance not only to the parish more immediately concerned, but to the neighbouring parishes, which may not have been so favourably situated. The church of that parish became then a centre of life and blessing not only to its own people, but to the people of the surrounding districts, who were hungering for the bread of life for their souls; and, not being supplied with it from the pulpits of their respective parishes, were wont every Sabbath to travel longer or shorter distances, as the case required, to wait on that ministry in which they found that spiritual nutriment they needed, and sought, but could not find at home. This was the condition of the Presbytery of Dornoch, of which Dr Mackay now became a member, and continued to be its condition on to the period of the Disruption.
The state of this Presbytery at the Disruption, as furnished by the late Mr. McCosh, of the Dundee Warder, in his “Wheat and the Chaff,” was as follows:—Six of its ministers joined the Free Church—viz., Rev. Duncan MacGillivray, Lairg; Angus Kennedy, Dornoch; Charles Gordon, Assynt: George Mackay, Clyne; Patrick Davidson, Stoer; and George Kennedy, assistant and successor, Dornoch. Five continued to adhere to the Establishment—viz., Rev. Murdo Cameron, Creich; Donald Ross, Loth; Alexander Macpherson, Golspie; John McKenzie, Rogart; and James Campbell, Kildonan. Of Mr. Campell, Mr. McCosh says, “that he maintained the privileges of non-intrusion and spiritual independence, and generally supported the evangelical cause. He was a member of convocation, and adhered to the first series of resolutions.” It is evident from this representation of the ecclesiastical condition of the Presbytery of Dornoch that, the Parish of Clyne was a centre of Gospel light to the parishes about it, which were not so favourably settled; so that one needs not wonder that its Sabbath ministrations were attended, not only by the inhabitants of Clyne, but by many from the surrounding parishes. The work of the Lord continued to be carried on with vigour and no little success by the minister. His services as a preacher were highly valued over the North of Scotland, and he was therefore constantly and widely engaged at sacramental seasons.
After a time, however, the important ecclesiastical questions which were agitating the Church of Scotland became the concern of every parish and congregation. The truths involved in these questions bore so manifestly on the glory of the Great Head of the Church, and the rights of the Christian people, as well as on the Scriptural regulation of the affairs of Christ’s Church, that ministers and congregations had to decide what their position was to be in relation to them. That result, without any hesitation, was arrived at by Dr Mackay and his flock. They cast in their lot with what is known as the Non-Intrusion party in the Church of Scotland. Dr Mackay was present at the Convocation which was held in Edinburgh, in November 1842, and appended his name to the Resolutions which were then drawn up. A serious accident having befallen him, by which he received a compound fracture of his left arm, he was prevented from attending the memorable Assembly of 1843. Laid up in his comfortable manse, his Lord had in an unlooked-for way furnished him with a time of leisure, for a fuller and more careful consideration of that step to which his signature to the Convocation Resolutions bound him, the surrender which it demanded of him, and the almost overwhelming trials and difficulties of that new state which he himself and his people must face, should his severance from the Established Church be consummated. This renewed consideration of the principles at stake, in the controversy which was then agitating the Church in its conflict with the State, amidst circumstances so painful and harassing, only brought out into clearer manifestation to him the Scriptural character of these principles, and made him more resolved to adhere through grace to them, however costly that adherence might prove. He could say, as another in somewhat different circumstances said, “Jesus, I do this for Thee.”
The following letter furnishes the best evidence of Dr Mackay’s determination, and trying position. It is addressed to the late Mr. Patrick Tennent of Edinburgh, that it might be communicated to the Committee in Edinburgh then charged with the procuring of sites and the erection of places of worship, where these were required.
“Manse of Clyne, 27th May, 1843.
“My Dear Sir,—I beg leave to request of you, as a member of Assembly, to intimate my adherence to the protest given in by my brethren, and my readiness, by the grace of God, to share in the consequences. My serious accident, and the present state of my health, rendered it utterly impossible for me to be in Edinburgh on the present momentous occasion.
“I enclose a copy of a deed which I have in my hands, of a lot of land in the village of Brora, which I earnestly request you to lay before the Provisional Committee. It is of the very utmost importance that the matter be attended to without one moment’s delay; otherwise the chance will be that the property will be bought up, and that the only site which can be got on any terms, so far as I can learn, will be taken from us.
“This station is surrounded by three parishes, where there are three Moderate ministers—and I am not aware that a single piece of ground can be got in any of them for erecting a place of worship, unless in the village of Helmsdale. From Brora there is access to any of them, even on a Sabbath morning, and the people adhering to the Free Church could attend in this parish as they often do—even should they not have the ordinances of religion administered regularly among themselves. …
“Let me urge upon you the absolute necessity of attending punctually with this document. Everything here depends upon whether or not we can procure the site; for I can scarcely move the people on till they see before them the prospect of a place of worship; and you have no conception of the efforts that are being made to keep them back from joining us, and the extraordinary influence those in authority have over them. …
“I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely, George Mackay.”
“Patrick Tennent, Esq.,
9 Lynedoch Place, Edinburgh.”
This communication affords a glimpse of the opposition and difficulties, which many ministers and congregations had to contend with, in their maintenance of Disruption principles. In the case of Clyne the influence of the noble house of Sutherland, wielded by some of those who were intrusted with the management of the estates, was opposed to the Free Church movement of 1843. One of the forms which this opposition assumed was the refusal of sites for places of worship; and this refusal, in some cases, extended over a period of years, as if worldly power would, by such a course of action, so weary out the patience of those, who, for conscientious convictions, were compelled to leave the Establishment, as to induce them to return to it. Intelligent conviction in this case, however, proved stronger than arbitrary power, so that after a time sites were granted, for the days were gone for ever, when a tenantry were ready to make the will of the proprietor the rule of their action within the domain of conscience.
At this time the minister of Clyne had to deal with all the difficulties attendant on site refusal, and had therefore to look about, and accept of any spot on which to erect a place of worship, though it might be clogged with somewhat unfavourable conditions. The site referred to in the letter of 27th May was obtained; but the difficulties of Dr Mackay, so far as the erection of a church was concerned, did not end there, for all the quarries of the district were interdicted to the people of the Free Church. In the circumstances, application was again made to Edinburgh, when the Committee charged with the erection of churches sent down workmen who were familiar with the erection of buildings of concrete, to set up a place of worship of that description for the congregation, the material of which had to be obtained from the sea-shore, and within flood mark. Even then the inconveniences and hardships of the people were not terminated, for the worshippers were now and again exposed to the drippings of tar from the felt with which the building had to be roofed. Still, with all these discomforts, the people were thankful to have this humble place of meeting, while the preaching of the Gospel by their beloved pastor was never more precious and successful.
Shortly after its erection, the Church had to be utilised for another purpose. The parish teacher, having joined the Free Church, had to quit the School-house. There was as complete an exodus of the children from the Established School, as of the people from the Established Church. The School had therefore to be carried on. Having been driven from the temporary premises, which it was thought the children could lawfully occupy, they were under the necessity of going to the Church. The first winter, during which the work of the School was carried on in the Church, was one of unusual severity. It was no easy matter to prevent the children from suffering from the cold, as the building was not constructed with arrangements for heating. The usual heating apparatus at that time in many of the Churches of the Highlands, was a church well filled, and in this case crowded, with a congregation whose hearts were warmed with the vigorous preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Means, however, had to be adopted to heat the building for the children, and this was done by the introduction of a number of kitchen pots filled with burning coals, so that the smoke, for which no mode of egress had been provided, had to be endured by the pupils if they were to enjoy the benefit of warmth. One can easily understand that, from such an arrangement as this, the comforts of the building as a place of worship on Sabbath, were by no means increased. Still, there was no grumbling on the part of the worshippers, for these were times in the history of the Free Church, when the people were willing and prepared to endure not a little discomfort.
Now, that the congregation of Clyne was supplied with this humble place of meeting for the worship of God, the next concern of the minister was to procure some home, in which he himself and wife and family could be sheltered. Great eagerness was manifested by the members of the Presbytery of Dornoch who remained in connection with the Establishment, to compel those who, for conscience’ sake, had felt it to be their duty to resign all connection with it, to quit their manses as well as churches with the least possible delay. Some days after the close of the Assembly of 1843, the following circulars were addressed to Dr Mackay:—
“Golspie, 7 th June, 1843.
“Rev. Sir,—By authority of an Act of the General Assembly, dated at Edinburgh, the 29th day of May last, I hereby enjoin you to attend a meeting of the Presbytery of Dornoch, at Golspie, on Monday first, being the 12th current.
“You must be aware that in the present state of the Church, your compliance with this injunction is absolutely necessary, involving as it does, civil and ecclesiastical consequences.—I am, rev. sir, your obedt. humble servt.,
A. MACPHERSON, Moderator.
“The Rev. George Mackay,
Minister of the Parish of Clyne.”
“Golspie, 12th June, 1843.
“Rev. Sir,—By authority of an Act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, dated at Edinburgh, the 29th day of May last, I, as Moderator of the Presbytery of Dornoch, understanding that you have given in your adherence to the Protest laid on the table of the Assembly by the seceding ministers, on Thursday, the 18th day last, do hereby require your compearance at a meeting of the Presbytery of Dornoch, to be held here, on Tuesday, the 27th day of June current, for the purpose of ascertaining whether you have done so or not. And I further, under authority of said Act, now intimate that, in the event of your non-compearance, the Presbytery are authorised to find and declare that you are no longer a minister of the Church.—I am, rev. sir, your most obedt. Servant,
A. MACPHERSON, Moderator.
“The Rev. George Mackay,
It is unnecessary to add, that these summonses were unheeded. It was considered the most dignified course to follow, to allow the Established Church Presbytery of Dornoch to do all that, in the circumstances, they were legally entitled to do.
Having had to quit the manse, there was no possibility of procuring a comfortable dwelling. The only house that could be got was a small cottage in the village of Brora, upon which many alterations had to be made, in order to make it at all habitable; and even then the accommodation was very limited and uncomfortable. There is no doubt that the hardships to which Mrs. Mackay was exposed, considering her past position and comforts, brought on her the troubles which eventually issued in her death, about two years afterwards.
There were severe trials, too, to which Dr Mackay was exposed, from the coldness and opposition which he and his family experienced at the hands of relatives, who occupied high and influential positions in the county of Sutherland; and though these trials were subsequently, in the good providence of God, removed, at the time they were painful to bear. The favour of near and dear friends had to be surrendered then, and was surrendered by the minister and his partner without a murmur, in the maintenance of their faithful allegiance to the Crown rights of our Redeemer. This was part of the cross which they had then to bear for Jesus, and they bore it most willingly and patiently.
When the minister of Clyne was thus busily occupied in providing for the shelter of his own flock and family, he was also zealously engaged in looking after the interests of the different congregations within the bounds of the Presbytery, whose ministers adhered to the Establishment. This was no easy matter, considering the wide extent of the Presbytery—some of its parishes being seventy miles distant from Clyne. It was, however, a time when, if much work had to be done for Christ, His servants had a mind to work, and their Master largely helped them with strength for it, and success in it. The very enemies of the Free Church could not but acknowledge that her Living Head was with her; and His presence imparted both confidence and zeal to ministers and people, in prosecuting the work which was laid to their hands to accomplish. The language of Nehemiah may with truth be applied to the success of the work in which the Free Church was then engaged. “And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof (that the building of Jerusalem’s wall was finished), and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes, for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God” (Nehemiah vi. 16). In the vigorous prosecution of the work here indicated, Dr. Mackay was occupied during the remainder of his stay in Clyne.
Towards the end of 1844, a vacancy was created in the Free North Church of Inverness, by the translation of the late Reverend Archibald Cook to the congregation of Daviot, within the bounds of the Presbytery of Inverness. The attention of the North Church Congregation was at once directed to Dr. Mackay, as the person to succeed their former excellent minister. They were well assured of his suitableness for such a place, not only from the testimony universally borne by others to his pulpit abilities, but from their own experience of his ministrations, he having some time before assisted Mr. Cook at a communion season. The usual steps were at once adopted to give a call to Dr Mackay. That call, unanimous in its nature, and signed by 1235 persons, was laid before the Presbytery of Dornoch; but some delay was occasioned by the refusal of the Presbytery to sanction the translation, though Dr Mackay himself had expressed his willingness to accept it. It was therefore necessary for the Presbytery of Inverness and the North Church congregation to appeal to the Free Synod of Sutherland and Caithness against their decision, and that Reverend Court having sustained the appeal, and agreed to the translation, Dr Mackay was inducted to his charge in the month of June, 1845. A few weeks after his settlement there, his much-esteemed partner, who cheerfully shared with him the trials of the Disruption, and greatly sustained him under them, died. The great loss which this bereavement was to the minister of the North Church, and the pain and sorrow of heart which it produced, left as he was with a young family of four children, it is not for us to describe; we will leave over this great affliction, so soon after his translation, the cover of secrecy.
Some time after, he married again, Catherine, daughter of the well-known Rev. Thomas Fraser, one of the ministers of Inverness, who has proved to him a most valuable and devoted helpmeet.
In the year 1853, a call was addressed to Dr Mackay from Duke Street Gaelic Church, Glasgow, signed by 611 members and adherents. A counter memorial was presented to the Presbytery of Inverness, from the Free North congregation, signed by 1396 members and adherents, praying the Presbytery to refuse to loose their minister from his present charge. Dr Mackay having expressed a preference to remain with his congregation, the Presbytery refused to translate him. Against this finding, the commissioners from Glasgow appealed to the General Assembly, but the decision of the Presbytery was confirmed by that venerable Court.
In Inverness, the sphere of Dr Mackay’s labours was of a more public nature, than when he resided in Clyne; and he soon made his mark on the town and district. Though the congregation of the North Church was in the days of Mr Cook a large one, under the ministrations of Dr Mackay it continued to grow, till now it is the largest in the north of Scotland—numbering between Gaelic and English, upwards of two thousand hearers. Dr Mackay, on his translation to Inverness, became better known, and at once took a first place among the ministers of the Highlands; and that place he has not only maintained during a long ministry, but has so extended and established, that now there is no name so familiar to all the people, or person whose character is more respected, or whose influence is more powerful; he is equally esteemed by young and old, and by rich and poor.
It is only what might be expected from his character and pulpit power, that his services should be held in great esteem at communion seasons in all parts of the country. This work adds greatly to the labours of a popular minister, but it largely widens the field of his usefulness.
In the year 1878, his Alma Mater at Aberdeen conferred on him, unsolicited, the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
This is not the time to describe the characteristics of Dr Mackay’s ministry. It is enough to say that, did it not possess striking excellences, he would not have the place he occupies as a minister—a place rising with growing age and experience.
As a citizen, he makes his influence felt in everything which conduces to the best interests of that community, in the midst of which he has lived for now nearly forty years; while he is a fearless denouncer and opponent of what he considers prejudicial to its welfare.
As a churchman, he takes the place which he has a right to take from character, abilities, and age. His views on church questions have great weight with those who generally associate with him in ecclesiastical matters. His opponents too greatly respect his convictions, knowing that they are convictions which are not hastily arrived at, but the beliefs of a mind which is willing and ready to receive any additional light which may be furnished from whatever quarter. In the questions which have of late years agitated the Church, Dr Mackay has taken what may be called the Conservative side. He does not believe that all which now-a-days is called progress, is for the real advancement of the cause of Christ. Neither does he adhere to what has been the practice of the Church, merely because it is long established, as if what is true and right was to be judged by mere age. The side he takes on these questions, he does with the thorough conviction, that he is pursuing the constitutional course, and doing what he considers to be the best for the maintenance of the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church.
Dr Mackay is now in the eighty-seventh year of his age. He passed the jubilee of his ministry about five years ago, when he was presented with a splendid money testimonial contributed by friends from all quarters and of different denominations. On that occasion, special services were conducted on the last Sabbath of September, in the North Church, by his old and much esteemed friend, Dr Kennedy of Dingwall. In the afternoon service of that day, Dr. Kennedy said: “Surely he is called to lift up his Ebenezer, looking back to fifty years of a ministry, throughout which the Lord kept his strength from failing, his feet from falling, his name from reproach, and his services from a slight. And if he is called on such an occasion to acknowledge that the Lord hath helped him, you also are called to acknowledge what you owe for the gift of such a pastor. You have had him for thirty-three years preaching the Word of Life and going in and out among you. Had you had one who cared not for your souls, or one who, though seeking your spiritual good, was unskilful in the word of righteousness, how different your lot as a congregation would have been! But in him whom the Lord gave you, you had one different from both these. I believe there is not a conscience in this house destitute of the conviction that he is a man of God, and that he has a commission to preach the everlasting Gospel. There is not one in this house without the persuasion that in all his ministry he has been earnestly seeking the spiritual welfare of his people; and there is not one of you who will not be called to testify how faithfully he set death and life, the blessing and the curse, before you in all his preaching since he came to this place, I may also add that after an acquaintance, extending in the case of some of you to more than thirty-three years, you are all tempted rather to be proud than to be weary of him to-day.” The following is the minute then drawn up by the Free Church Presbytery of Inverness and presented to Dr Mackay:—
“The Presbytery, understanding that their venerable father, Dr George Mackay, completed on the third of September the fiftieth year of his ministry, deem this a fitting occasion for taking notice of the Christian life and pulpit power, which have won for him the position which he has held in the community and in the Presbytery, of which he has been a member for upwards of thirty-three years, and the honourable degree of Doctor of Divinity, which was conferred on him by his Alma Mater, on whose classical roll he held a distinguished place—a circumstance which must be gratifying to himself and to his numerous friends.
“They desire also to recognise the kindness of the Great Head of the Church, in having vouchsafed to their father that strength of body and mind, which enable him to minister without any assistance to one of the largest congregations in the Church, and respond to the numerous calls made upon him from various parts of the country; and they desire to assure him of their sincere prayer to God, that he may be long spared to declare to his attached flock the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
At his time of life, there are very few who possess that vigour of mind, and strength of body which enable him to go through the amount of Sabbath and week-day work which he undertakes. It is only about two years ago, that, for the first time, he had an assistant to help him in the varied and arduous labours of his charge; his ordinary Sabbath work being three services to crowded congregations. As an evidence of the vigour which he still possesses, at the last communion season, on the first Sabbath of July, he preached in Gaelic to a congregation of fully five thousand people, with all his accustomed power; and made himself heard by that great multitude. May my beloved friend be spared to us for years to come! May he find that “as is his day, so is his strength.” “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Ps. 92:12-14).
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John Kennedy, D.D.
The great men in the Church of God are not simply the men of great learning, or even the men who accomplish great things. The men whom the Church of God reckons great, are those who, in addition to all they do, are in possession of holy nobility. They are men who see the King’s face, who have access to His presence, and whose known standing in the heavenly court, gives a solemn authority to all they do. It is not great deeds, but deeds done by faith, that are commended in the kingdom of God. The Church above celebrates as mighty conquerors those who “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony”; and the Church on earth places on its roll those “who have obtained a good report by faith.” In admitting any to the rank of worthies, the Church of God asks not only what the deeds were that those men performed, but inquires further, Were they done in faith? Was the warrior on his knees, and his eyes lifted upward, when he gained the victory? We know well that, victories gained by argument and intellect are not peculiar to the family of God. The successes that refresh the Church must be such as are marked by faith and prayer. And hence, in all the struggles of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, there ever was a noble band who maintained her conflict, not on the platform, or on the floor of her courts, but by this believing and praying spirit. In their closets and pulpits, setting themselves free from human policy, and despairing of success by the mere influence of human talent and strong argument, they cast themselves on the support of their blessed Head and Lord. Such was the pastor of Killearnan, the father of the subject of this sketch.
The parish of Killearnan is pleasantly situated along the northern shore of the Beauly Frith. The church and manse occupy a much admired spot on a sunny eminence on its margin. The Rev. David Dunoon, one of its ministers, died in 1806; but, in consequence of a tedious law-suit which took place regarding the patronage, the people were saved from a Moderate ministry, and in 1813 the Rev. John Kennedy, father of Dr Kennedy, was inducted. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Lochcarron in 1798 as assistant to the Rev. Alexander Stronach, Lochbroom. He subsequently laboured as missionary at Erribol, and assistant to the parish minister of Assynt. In these localities his labours were eminently blessed, and many seals of his ministry were left behind him to mourn his removal. In Killearnan his labours were blessed, and in the whole Northern Highlands his name at one time was a household word. He was indeed “a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” He died on the 10th of January, 1841, aged about seventy years. Instead of delineating his character, let us quote from the inscription on a tablet erected beside his tomb, by his sorrowing parishioners: “A man of God, sent forth into the vineyard with the fulness of Gospel blessing, and the peculiarly honoured ambassador of Christ, through whom shone forth the excellency of the power in the conversion of many a soul to God. … Richly replenished in spirit by close communion with God. … With holy unction, fervour, wisdom, and love, he watched, warned, and nourished the heritage. Sinners in Zion were afraid. Full of faith, and of the fruits of the spirit, abounding in labours, and ripened for glory, he fell asleep. This parish mourns.”
The subject of this sketch, his fourth son, was born on the 26th August, 1819, the birthday of the late Prince Consort. He received his early education at the parish school, well known at the time for the eminence of its teachers. In those days, when the parish had a number of comfortable tenant-farmers, it was not uncommon to find two or three classes of boys at different stages of their classical education, and seldom a year passed without one or more of its advanced scholars passing to the university.
In 1836, Mr. John Kennedy entered the University and King’s College of Aberdeen. As might be expected from his early promise, he stood high in all his classes, but especially in Moral Philosophy, and at the close of his curriculum took his degree of A.M.
In December, 1840, he entered the Divinity Hall, Aberdeen. Scarcely had he begun his studies there, when he was overwhelmed by receiving tidings of his father’s death. This seems to have been the time when he passed through the great spiritual crisis. That process, in the hand of the Spirit, was deep, thorough, and searching, and has left its impress on the character of his experience and preaching. Nothing is more certain than that some of the most remarkable of our preachers have come forth prepared for their work, from the seven-times heated furnace of mental suffering. He thus refers to that period of his history in the preface to his sketch of his father: “In the only sense in which he was my father, while he lived, I lost him when he died. But the memory of that loss I can bear to recall, as I cherish the hope that his death was the means of uniting us in bonds that shall never be broken.”
During the Non-Intrusion Controversy, Mr. Kennedy was known in the Aberdeen Hall as one of the most active students on the Evangelical side, and as one that incurred the strong dislike of a certain cold Aberdeen Professor of Divinity, for his warm Evangelical views. He had just finished his third session at the Hall, and delivered his prescribed discourses before license in April, 1843. He came home to the manse of Killearnan, still occupied by the family as of old; his eldest brother, the late much-beloved Rev. Donald Kennedy of Killearnan, having succeeded his father. When the Disruption came, this family, consisting of the mother, three sons, and two daughters, had to leave a manse associated with many happy memories, and remove to the parish teacher’s house. The accommodation there consisted but of three apartments. But soon the teacher, who had joined the Free Church, was ejected; and the family had then to remove to an old, half-dilapidated mansion-house in a distant part of the parish. The present generation may talk glibly of the Disruption and its struggles, seeing they know little of the great privations endured by ministers and their families in those days. Still, we have heard some of those who had passed through the depths of these trials say, that they would willingly, if called upon for conscience’ sake to do so, pass again through the same privations, if they had the same measure of the Lord’s presence in the work, and the same love and unity in the Church.
Mr. Kennedy was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Free Presbytery of Chanonry in August, 1843, and preached his first sermon in a sweet spot, sloping to the shore, and within a hundred yards of the old manse and church where he was born and baptised, and where the Free Church congregation worshipped till such time as the first Free church was erected. In few, if in any parish in the Highlands, did the parishioners, as in Killearnan, almost in a body cast in their lot with the Free Church.
From the first he became one of the most popular and attractive preachers in the Highlands; and many were the vacant congregations which aspired to call him. The adherents of the Free Church in Dingwall, the capital of the county, being formed into a congregation under the care and superintendence of the Apostle of the North, had set their hearts upon him, gave him a unanimous call, and he was ordained and inducted early in 1844 as its first Free Church minister. Here he has prosecuted his ministry with untiring zeal, with growing ability and spirituality for well-nigh forty years. His labours in preaching the Gospel to his own congregation, and throughout all parts of the Highlands, were incessant and almost superhuman. When at home he preached three sermons on the Sabbath habitually, and these carefully prepared sermons. With his mental resources, his large experience, and his extemporaneous gifts, he could preach well without the trouble of much writing and severe study; but he would not serve God with that which cost him nothing; the oil he carried into the sanctuary was beaten oil.
No characteristic of his mind is more marked than his reliance on his own resources in all his mental efforts. He seems to place little reliance on books, or on the thoughts and labours of others. He is not a learned man in the broad sense of that term; at least, with his many pulpit duties, he had no time to become an extensively read man, and, we believe, he lays no claim to this distinction. He works out his numerous discourses with little beside his Bible and Concordance to aid him. They all bear the impress of his own mind and characteristics, and hence their freshness, depth of experience, and eminently Scriptural character.
The theme of his preaching is “Christ and Him crucified.” The doctrines he dwells upon most, are the peculiar doctrines of the Christian system. These he loves, and aims steadily to exalt. He impressively sets forth the sovereignty of Divine grace, with the freeness and all-sufficing nature of Gospel salvation, and under a deep and convincing sense of their reality, he holds forth man’s depravity, moral inability, and utter ruin; and, at the same time, Christ’s divine authority, infinite readiness, and ability, to save sinners. As an ambassador for Christ, in a deeply affecting manner, he pleads with guilty, perishing sinners, with great earnestness, sincerity, and importunity, to accept at once of the salvation provided for them; enforcing the freeness and urgency of the offer, the sufficiency of Christ’s blood, and the utter groundlessness of the excuses and reasons pleaded for delaying or rejecting salvation.
His preaching, also, partakes largely of the experimental. No discriminating person could hear him preach for any length of time and fail to discover that his own soul was often in deep travail—in a peculiar manner alive to the profound mysteries of Providence and redemption —grappling with these, and longing to clear them up. This gives additional interest and power to his ministry. It imparts a chastened and subdued feeling that is sometimes indescribably touching. It leads him to explore the recesses of the heart, to watch its varied workings, and study its manifold deceitful forms, and search into the foundation and evidence of Christian hope.
Dr Kennedy is distinguished among Highland ministers as the most eloquent and impressive preacher in both languages. He is equally at home in English and Gaelic; and equally free from the peculiar tones and accents of the latter in preaching the former, possessing an easy and a full command of most suitable and expressive words.
He is emphatically a self-sacrificing man. Every enjoyment, and personal interest seem to be always subordinate to the claims of his Master, and the welfare of souls. From the first day of his ministry, he entirely gave himself to his work. He has been ready to respond to every call, seldom seeking relaxation, never complaining, except of his own shortcomings, but taxing his mental and bodily strength to the utmost of human endurance.
He is a man of keen feeling, and of very decided opinions. Many are too ready to pronounce these opinions to be narrow; and so some of them may be; but he is never afraid to speak his convictions, and very emphatically too, when he thinks the times require it. His manner of doing this may at times be somewhat peculiar, and so his sentiments and feelings suffer unjustly, from the way in which they seem unfavourably to impress strangers, and at times even to wound the feelings of friends. He has no toleration for that weakness which has no opinion of its own, and readily adapts itself to the shifting popular mind. This decision of character has made him a faithful preacher, a bold defender of the faith, and a reprover of sin. We know that some charge him with being a man of excessive dogmatic tendencies, strong aversion to the “light and culture” of the men of progress, and of narrow prejudices; but those who know him best can discern, as underlying what may be thus apparent, a hearty sympathy in every effort which Scripture and experience warrant, for advancing real godliness. He has, no doubt, the misfortune, mainly owing to the peculiarities of his mental constitution and his keen convictions of what seems to him to be the better way, to be misunderstood by many in his own Church.
Many and flattering were the calls he has received from other congregations, but, believing that his Divine Master had put him into his present sphere of work, and that duty required him to continue in it, no solicitation could draw him away from it. He seldom or never speaks of them, or trumpets them in paragraphs through the press; and it is no feature of his character, to sacrifice the interests of others for self-exaltation.
In addition to a number of pamphlets called forth by the public questions which have agitated and divided the Free Church for the last score of years, he has published “The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire,” “The Apostle of the North,” and “Man’s relation to God.” At present he is issuing a weekly sermon, which, we suppose, when the year ends, will appear in a collective form.
In 1873, his “Alma Mater” conferred upon him the honourable degree of D.D. As might be expected, although blessed with a robust constitution, such severe labours as his, with little time for rest or relaxation, his mind continuing on the stretch, and his sensibilities excited; preparing and preaching so many sermons; travelling in snow and rain, fair weather and foul, in all parts of the Highlands; and agreeing to relieve others when he needed rest, were too much for mortal endurance, so that his health gave way more than once, and lately it has been so seriously impaired, as to lay him aside for a season, from what he so loves, “preaching the glorious Gospel.”
What he said of the “Apostle of the North” is also true of himself — “to him preaching was no task. He was so devoted to it, and became so dependent for his happiness on his work as an evangelist, that the day of which he wearied most, was the day on which he did not preach. He shrank from acknowledging on any occasion that he felt fatigued, in case it might be suspected that he was wearied of his work, because sometimes he wearied in it.”
It is not our intention to enter upon the position which Dr Kennedy felt it his duty to take up in reference to the public questions which of late years have agitated the Free Church. These questions are so comparatively recent and memorable, that there are few persons who have not a sufficient general acquaintance with them, and who know, too, that he stood side by side with those who shrank not from defending their views, on the floor of the General Assembly, though “by decreasing minorities.” Alas! the ranks of these have now become thin. The places of some of those who were Dr Kennedy’s most valued friends arc now vacant, and their voices shall be heard no more amidst the conflict of opinions, and the din of crowded Assemblies. “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
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Walter Ross Taylor, D.D.
Dr Walter Ross Taylor was born at Tain on the 11th November 1805. The home of the family was Cromarty. His father was Sheriff-Clerk of Cromarty, and, in addition to his official duties as Sheriff-Clerk, had a good deal of local business in his hands. He was a man of weight and character, and did the work of his generation in a highly efficient manner. The maiden name of Dr Taylor’s mother was Flora Ross, sister of Colonel Walter Ross, of Nigg. At the death of Colonel Ross, Mrs Taylor became head of the family, and the estate of Nigg passed into her hands, and would, in course of time, have descended to Dr Taylor, but it was sold during the lifetime of his mother. From his mother Dr Taylor seems to have inherited the benign and gentle expression of face, which must attract the notice of all who come into contact with him. Her grandson, the Rev. Walter Ross Taylor, of Kelvinside Free Church, Glasgow, thus describes her, “a singularly estimable lady, notably placid in disposition and expression of face.”
Into the particulars of his early training we need not enter; for at the early age of thirteen he was sent to Aberdeen College. It was no unusual occurrence in those days. We find, indeed, in reading the biographies of distinguished Scotchmen who began their student life about half-a-century ago, that a good number of them began their university curriculum at quite as early an age. Having entered College, Dr Taylor studied with zeal, energy, and success. So earnest was he in his study, that his health failed, and after his first session was completed, he had to intermit attendance for a year. Resuming attendance and pursuing his course without further break, he took the degree of M.A. He had given special attention to mathematical studies, and had attained to high eminence in them. He carried off a number of prizes. In his last session he won the Huttonian Prize, which marked him out as one of the most distinguished graduates of his year.
The year during which he was laid aside from work was not lost. It may be looked on as the decisive time of his life. As he wandered alone over the lovely slopes of Strathpeffer,—whither he had gone for health,—his heart turned to God, and he was able to rejoice in Christ and His salvation. It was to him a time of high spiritual enjoyment, and of baptism from on high; and probably from that season may be dated his call and consecration to the work of the ministry. He made up his mind to study for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He set himself to prepare, with all his strength, for this great work. He studied in the Divinity Halls of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. We are continually reminded of the lapse of time, and of the many changes which have taken place since the days when Dr Taylor was a Student of Divinity. We are reminded that the West End of Glasgow did not reach beyond George’s Square. In the house of an uncle in George’s Square, Dr Taylor resided for two years, attending classes and diligently reading with a view to his future work. Thus trained in literature and theology, having used all the means and appliances within his reach, he was duly licensed to preach the Gospel. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Chanonry.
Nor had he to wait long for an opportunity of exercising his gifts. Many of his contemporaries had experience of the hope deferred which maketh the heart sick. To Dr Taylor there came an early call to work. He had won the friendship and esteem of Professor Tulloch, of Aberdeen. The congregation of Chadwell Street, London, on the recommendation of Professor Tulloch, invited the young probationer to preach before them. He accepted the invitation, and, after a few months’ work among them, was called to be their pastor, and was ordained in October 1829, now fifty-five years ago.
The congregation of Chadwell Street, now that of Islington, was a new one. Many of the members of it had been connected with Regent Square Church, and had been somewhat startled and surprised at the new departure in doctrine and practice instituted by Edward Irving, the pastor of the congregation. Partly on that account, and partly for the sake of Church extension, they had set up the new charge over which Dr Taylor was ordained in 1829. Edward Irving was present on the occasion, and took part in the ordination services, delivering one of the charges. When Edward Irving was introduced to the young man about to be ordained, then only twenty-three years of age, and even more youthful in appearance, he asked, “What can this stripling do?” The stripling had begun his work in the Master’s strength; he bore himself wisely, prudently, and courageously, and was successful and blessed in his work. He preached the Gospel with simplicity and with power, and calmly, amid the growing excitement of the time, delivered the eternal message of the Gospel of Christ. Then, as always, Dr Taylor made it his first business to do his own proper work; and during the two years of his London ministry he had the gladness of seeing the grace of God amid his people.
But his life-work lay elsewhere than in London. From the extreme south to the extreme north of our island he must go, and he went to a sphere and a work for which he was singularly fitted. The North of Scotland needed him at the time, and Caithness in particular had need of him. A fresh new voice was required in order to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. There had been faithful ministers in Caithness, men of prayer, and of strength, who had kept the torch of truth aflame through a darkened time; there were also ministers who were not faithful, men who had no Gospel for sinners, and no word of consolation for the wretched. The wave of reaction which in Scotland has been known as Moderatism, in Ireland as Arianism, in England as Deism or Unitarianism, and in Germany as Rationalism, had reached Caithness also. In many parts there were coldness and indifference, but in some parishes religious life was warm and intense. The light shone brightly from some pulpits; and many godly people travelled from afar to attend such a ministry as that exercised by the late Mr Gunn of Watten. By the time when Dr Taylor was settled in Thurso, the Evangelical revival was extensive throughout the country. Even in parishes where the ministry was not effective or evangelical, there was a number of men who both by life and speech bore witness to the truth as it is in Jesus. Things were becoming ripe for the appearance of a ministry of the type exercised by Dr Taylor.
In 1831, Dr Taylor received and accepted a presentation to Thurso. Having preached with great acceptance, he received a unanimous call from the people, and was settled among them as their pastor, and has continued to labour among them until the present hour. Though minister of the same people he has occupied no less than four separate churches: three of these were built for himself as the minister of the congregation of Thurso. The old picturesque church, which had served the town and parish for many generations, had become too small, and also ruinous. Situated in the oldest and most densely populated part of the town, near the river, and on the triangle formed by the river and the sea, the dismantled walls still stand, surrounded by the graves of many generations. For two years Dr Taylor preached in the old building, and then removed to the spacious church erected by the heritors in the west end of the town. One of the few sermons which Dr Taylor has published during his busy life, was preached when for the last time the people worshipped in the old church.
The Ten Years’ Conflict had now fairly begun, and in Caithness, as elsewhere in Scotland, the attention of the people was aroused. And as the conflict deepened, the heart of the people took fire. It is a remarkable fact, that a religious revival kept pace with the keenness of the conflict; for the controversy concerned the interests of vital religion and the people of Scotland felt it to be so. Quietly and effectively Dr Taylor took his share in the great work. If to his mind and heart the conflict took the deeper form of a controversy with sin and evil in all their forms, and if in his ministry the freedom he most frequently commended was freedom from sin, freedom to serve Christ, yet the public controversy in which his Church was engaged, was to him one form of the great war with the bondage which sin brings on man. So he lived and preached, in his own and neighbouring pulpits, with such power, that when the Disruption came, he and his people came forth together, a united flock, with hardly a hoof left behind. Like so many of his brethren, Dr Taylor left behind him manse and glebe and church building, and went forth trusting in the Head of the Church, and to the love of Christ’s people.
A new church was speedily built, one of those which seems to have been modelled after the pattern of Tanficld Hall. But few of them now remain in the land. Low in the wall, and with the roof in three separate compartments, a depression in the centre, and the side seats rising in tiers on every side, and capable of containing some twelve hundred people; such was the building in which Dr Taylor ministered for some thirty years after the Disruption. Steps were then taken to build a new church, and in due time the present handsome and commodious church was built, the fourth which Dr Taylor has occupied during his lengthened ministry in Thurso.
In May 1833, Dr Taylor was married to Miss Isabella Murray, a daughter of William Murray, Esq. of Pitculzean and Geanies. He was singularly happy in his marriage relationship; his wife was a help-meet for him in every way. Calm, wise, and hopeful, she was able to relieve his hands from many cares, and enabled him to give his undivided attention to the work of the ministry. They had a family of one son and five daughters, and the family circle continued unbroken until the death of Mrs Taylor, on the 11th March 1884.
For a long time Dr Taylor did his work in his own quiet effective way, without any marked recognition of his merit from his country, or from the Church at large. He was content to do the work which was laid to his hand; finding that true earnest work was its own reward. At length his Alma Mater recognised his worth, and conferred on him the degree of D.D., an honour too long deferred. The jubilee services in 1879, when he was presented with his portrait painted by Norman Macbeth, R.S.A., called public attention to the lengthened and effective service Dr Taylor had given to the Church. Many began to speak and to think of him as a man who deserved well of his country, and of his Church. The sense of his claims grew as time passed on, and it was felt that the recognition of them ought to be no longer deferred. He was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of 1884, and over the deliberations of that Assembly, he presided with grace and dignity, and to the great satisfaction of all the members of Assembly. His friends from the North rejoiced at the honour done to him and to them; and the Church at large became acquainted with the benign countenance and pleasant manner of one of her veteran workers, who had manfully and well borne the burden and heat of the day.
Dr Taylor is averse to controversy. He has seldom taken a prominent part in public questions. He has, however, definite convictions on most questions, and has never hesitated to speak his mind, and take his part when duty calls. He has not shrunk from decided action in all the controversies which have agitated our Church in our time. He has so borne himself as never to give needless offence, and those who were constrained to take the opposite side, could not help admiring the firmness and courtesy of his demeanour in controversy.
The great work of Dr Taylor has been in the pulpit, and in the pastorate. It says much for the strength and resources of a man that, unaided, he should have sustained the burden of ministry to a congregation of twelve hundred people for more than half-a-century. His is a ministry which still maintains its freshness. He has always been assiduous in pastoral work. For many years he catechised his people, as is still the custom in many parishes in Caithness, and when he saw that that mode was no longer expedient, he devised other ways of having intercourse with his people. He has given great attention to education, both under the old denominational system, and also under the new Act. He has been Chairman of the School Board. In his hale old age he continues to maintain an interest in all that affects the good of the community, and the work of the Church. Every sermon he preaches is fully written out and committed to memory. He has been so long in the habit of writing his sermons that it is now second nature with him. His greatest delight is in the study of the Scriptures, and pen in hand, to write down his thoughts on the passage he is studying. The sustained freshness of his prolonged ministry has arisen from his persistent study of the Scriptures, and his lively interest in them. The present writer can testify to the power of Dr Taylor’s ministrations. He was often struck with the delicacy and ability of the spiritual analysis conducted by Dr Taylor. But what was most striking, was the organic movement of Dr Taylor’s mind. The logical connection between the thoughts was often not obvious, and the points of transition often not plain, but on reflection when the whole service came up before the memory, it was found that a great and living unity pervaded it. One central theme was in it all through. The time of Dr Taylor’s greatest strength seemed to us to be at some communion service in his own or in a neighbouring congregation. To these services the people were wont to gather in their thousands, and most of them came with ardent expectations thirsting for the Word of life. Both ministers and people were in an exalted frame of mind. On such times we have often heard Dr Taylor. Then his usually measured utterance becomes intense and rapid, his thoughts attain to greater vividness, his voice becomes urgent and penetrating, and his face beams with love, and with a passionate desire to save and bless men. His spirit seems to have gleams of piercing insight into the immeasurable love of God; he is able to give expression to the visions of the majesty and loveliness of Christ which his eyes have seen in quieter hours; and he evidently feels himself at such moments filled with the spirit of his office. Such times we have seen; and we are told his ordinary ministry is one of sustained excellence. He has for these fifty years and more filled a high place in the Church; he has seen many changes; he has trained many in the way of life; and now in a good old age he is still in the midst of us, trusted and beloved and revered.
Go to Index of Disruption Worthies
1 See Life of the late John Duncan, LL.D., by David Brown, D.D., Chap. 12, Second Edition, 1872.
2 He had always, however, a genius for organisation. An old school-fellow mentions, that when they used to play soldiers at Perth Academy, it was an object of ambition to “get into Bob Macdonald’s regiment!”
3 Mr Maitland wrote an admirable tractate, entitled, “A help to Adherents of the Free Church, to decide on principle and for themselves the question, What contribution is equitably due by me to the Sustentation Fund?” It was very useful at the time, and is well worthy of republication. “The Political Economy of the Sabbath” also engaged his pen; and a very able anonymous pamphlet, with a clear statement of principles, true for all time, on “Spiritual Independence in its lower or Civil and Ecclesiastical Bearings.”
4 For fuller details, the reader is referred to Life and Letters of Hugh Miller, by Peter Bayne M.A.
5 The British Quarterly Review. July, 1872, p.134. On the “Ecclesiastical Tournament” between Dean Stanley and Dr Rainy.
6 Noted for the Abbey of Lindisfarne (Scott’s Marmion, Canto 2)
7 The original trustees of St Luke’s in Young Street, were:—Mr Archibald Bonar, banker, Mr Archibald Gibson, W.S., Dr James Russell, F.R.C.S.E., Mr Adam McCheyne, W.S. (the father of the Rev. R. M. McCheyne), Dr John Home Peebles, Mr Thomas Gardner, and the Rev. Robert Cunningham (who had five years before founded the Edinburgh Institution). Of these seven, the last (the father of the writer of this notice) alone survives.
8 Of Dr Moody Stuart’s children, numbering seven sons and three daughters, the second son, Andrew, died in 1866, after completing his theological studies, in the course of which he had given evidence that he was by grace as well as by superior gifts, peculiarly fitted for the work of the ministry; and the eldest daughter Margaret died in “the peace of believing” in March 1880. Of those who survive, the eldest, Kenneth, is a Free Church minister (at Moffat), and the author of a Memoir of the public life of the late Brownlow North.
9 On 11th August 1840, the Solemn Engagement by which many members of the Church of Scotland pledged themselves to be faithful to the liberties of the Church and the crown-rights of the Redeemer was signed in St Luke’s. On 18th November 1840, the Commission of the General Assembly met in St Luke’s when no other Established church in the city was opened to receive it. On 25th August 1841, an extraordinary meeting of the Commission of the General Assembly was held in St Luke’s, at which the same resolution as had been declared in the Solemn Engagement a year before was adopted by the Commission. On 24th May 1842, the overture which was on 30th May adopted by the General Assembly of that year as the Claim of Right, was subscribed in St Luke’s by members of the Assembly.
10 Messrs Stothert, Russell, Macdonald (the General Treasurer of the Free Church), Gardner, Howden, Hogg, Smith, McCheyne, Pringle, Boyack, Henderson, and Robertson.
11 The first intimation which Mr Moody Stuart received of the actual consummation of the Disruption was somewhat singular. Arriving in Plymouth after the two months’ voyage from Brazil, he searched earnestly the columns of the English newspapers for information as to what had taken place, but found nothing beyond occasional allusions to the troubles of the Church in Scotland, until his eye fell upon a short paragraph mentioning the induction of the Rev._____ _____ as minister of the parish of Kilsyth. It was in reading of the transference of the emoluments and the manse of the pastor of Kilsyth to another, that he first learned that the ministers who esteemed the principles of the Church of Scotland more highly than the privileges of connection with the State, had made the sacrifice which conscience required of them.
12 Besides numerous occasional discourses and pamphlets on topics of public interest, Dr Moody Stuart had then published “The Life of Elizabeth the last Duchess of Gordon,” “Recollections of John Duncan, D.D.,” “The Land of Huss,” “Commentary on the Song of Solomon,” “Capernaum,” and “The Three Marys.” To these he has added within the last few years several brief treatises on subjects connected with the tendencies of modern Biblical Criticism, which are the fruits of mature thinking and scholarly research, “Moses on the Plains of Moab,” “The Prophecy of Isaiah,” “The Fifty-First Psalm,” “The Fall of Babylon: Its Prediction not Anonymous.”
13 London: Nisbet & Co. 1857.
14 In 1851 he received from this University the degree of Doctor in Divinity.
15 Afterwards of Free St Andrew’s, Edinburgh