REV. MATTHEW GEORGE EASTON, M.A., D.D., DARVEL
(Died February 27, 1894)
Author: Rev. David Scott, D.D., Saltcoats
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1895, Obituary, p.16
By the removal of Dr. Easton a great blank is created not only in the church courts of which he was a highly esteemed member, but also in the burgh in which he resided, and of which he was truly the bishop in caring for and aiding, so far as he was able, the spiritual, educational, and temporal welfare of all with whom he was brought into contact.
Though numerous appropriate and eulogistic references to his active life and varied labours have already appeared in the columns of the press, and have been also embodied in the records of the Irvine Presbytery and the General Assembly, yet it is deemed proper that there should also be given here a brief outline of his useful and honourable career, in the hope that it may stimulate surviving brethren to a closer walk with Christ and greater activity in the Master’s service.
Dr. Easton was of Covenanting lineage, his grandfather and father having been elders in the Reformed Presbyterian congregation of Wishaw, and his mother having hailed from the Original Secession. He was born in the village of Nethanfoot, Lanarkshire, on 3rd June 1823; was educated at Ayr Academy and Glasgow University, of which he was a graduate; and received his theological instruction at the Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall, which was presided over by that master in Israel, Dr. Andrew Symington of Paisley, whose memory for saintliness in character, unction as a preacher, and erudition as a theologian, has long been fragrant. At an early age Dr. Easton gave evidence of regeneration, and throughout his whole subsequent career he walked humbly with God. Having, on 7th April 1847, been licensed to preach, so great was his acceptability that, after declining a call to Wick, he was in 1848 ordained at Girvan. Having laboured there for thirteen years, he was translated to Darvel in 1861, which was the scene of his ever active and laborious ministry for over thirty-three years.
Though as a pastor he was ever watchful, there being but few days that he was not engaged in visitation, yet by economizing his time, and diligence in study, he not only prepared for the requirements of his pulpit and large advanced Bible-class, but in addition to publishing an improved edition of “Barr’s Bible Handbook,” he also translated from the German many of the works of Keil and Dolitzsch, and specially Krummacher’s “David the King of Israel” and Krummacher’s Autobiography.
In recognition of the great ability he had shown in this connection, the University of Glasgow in 1874 conferred on him the degree of D.D.
But Dr. Easton’s magnum opus was the “Illustrated Bible Dictionary,” which was published in 1893, and which proved so popular that the first edition was sold out, and the second edition was being issued when death terminated his labours. This book, which was the fruit of many years’ diligent study, has been favourably reviewed, and exhibits not only the great breadth and depth of its author’s scholarship, but also the soundness of his judgment and his genuine piety, as one who, knowing the truth with the heart as well as with the head, trembled at the word of the Lord. It is a work which has not only already proved highly useful and instructive to many, but by means of it, he being dead will yet speak for the edification of many more in the future.
Whilst taking his full share of church work both in the local presbytery and General Assembly as convener on Sabbath Observance, etc., it was in the pastorate that his strength lay, since not only was he a “house-going minister,” but by means of adult Bible-classes he diffused so much knowledge of Scripture and church history as to render his congregation far above the average in intelligence on such topics.
Regarding Dr. Easton’s conduct in public and private life, the Rev. A. Davidson of Kilbirnie, who was for many years intimately associated with him, truly and beautifully remarks: “In all my intercourse with Dr. Easton the conviction produced on my mind was, that like Enoch he walked with God; like Obadiah, he feared the Lord from his youth; like Daniel, he was a man greatly beloved, an excellent spirit being found in him; like Apollos, he was mighty in the Scriptures; like Sergius Paulus, he was prudent; like Barnabas, he was a son of consolation; like Paul, the love of Christ constrained him; and may we not add, he was a brother whose praise was in all the churches. One prominent feature in his character was his venerated attachment to the Word of the Lord. He trembled at that Word. He felt that reverence was due both to the subject-matter of revelation and its author. Whatever savoured of frivolity or thoughtless levity in the treatment of Holy Scripture was far removed from him. He was a Bible Christian, and so was strong, and escaped that perpetual religious childhood in which too many are content to live and die. His life was a sermon, and his look a benediction.”
Dr. Easton died in harness, his last illness having been of only four days’ duration, and the evening of his life was quite in harmony with the day which had preceded it.
We shall miss him sorely and for many a day; but in view of what his life had been we simply dare not sorrow overmuch. We know he has ascended, and that for him “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
REV. PETER EDGAR, MEMUS, FORFAR
(Died October 29, 1893)
Author: Rev. John D. Fisher, Aberlemno
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1894, Obituary, p.42
Mr. Edgar was licensed, though not ordained, before the Disruption, and shared largely in the revived spiritual life of that time.
He entered the Divinity Hall in 1837, and finished his studies for the ministry in 1841. Dr. Chalmers, under whom he studied, spoke in high terms of his gifts and character; and one of his class-fellows in the Hall writes of him in these terms: “We all knew that Mr. Edgar possessed the confidence and admiration of our noble teacher.”
His preaching was pre-eminently the preaching of the Cross. He felt Christ’s power in his own heart, and he never ceased to commend him to his hearers. He did not fail to warn the careless, to show the self-righteous the groundlessness of their hopes, and to strengthen and encourage in their faith those brought to Christ. But his great theme was the power and presence of Christ to save. He gloried in proclaiming a full, free, present salvation by a crucified Redeemer, through faith in his name.
By gifts, acquirements, and grace, he was well-furnished for the several parts of the work of ministry. At sickbeds and deathbeds he was as tender as he was faithful. In dealing with the young, his one aim was to lead them to the shepherd. At communion seasons he was always a willing and welcome helper to his brethren. But our brother was at his best in revival work. In the presence of men and women under conviction of sin and seeking Christ, he spoke often with great power. He felt deeply the greatness of such a crisis in the history of a soul. The intense fervour of his spirit was manifest in his eager efforts to hold up Christ before the awakened sinner—the very tones of his voice showing the burden of desire on his heart to win souls to Christ.
In the years between 1859 and 1862 he was much engaged in this work, and much owned of God in it. In labours he was abundant, and in journeyings oft. God gave him good health and a vigorous body, and he used them in his service. In the month of November 1859 he preached twenty-eight times, in the following month thirty times, and in the month after that thirty-two times—in all, ninety times in these three months. All of these ninety sermons, except one, were preached at and around Memus. The power of the Lord accompanied the word, and a time of rich blessing came, from which many dated their conversion, some of whom are now with him in glory, and others of them remain until this present time.
In the summer of 1861 he organized and carried through an all-day meeting, on a week day, in his remote country charge. And as showing the state of spiritual life in the congregation at that time, out of a communion roll of 143 members, no fewer than one hundred and twenty of these sat down at the Lord’s table in August of that year.
Mr. Edgar watched for souls. He would go miles out of his way to meet and converse with those he knew to be in spiritual distress. He had a strong sense of the reality of “the things that are not seen.” When a friend spoke to him lately of the death of one who adorned the doctrine of God her Saviour, he said in his own quick way, “Yes, yes, heaven is filling up.” He was a man of much prayer, and as was said of Dr. Baxter the other day, he prayed “as seeing Him who is invisible.”
The Rev. J. M. Craig was appointed his colleague and successor seven years ago. But to the last Mr. Edgar carried his people in his heart, and bore them on it before the Lord—almost his latest breath was:nt in prayer for Memus.
He preached at Memus on the 22nd October, being the communion Sabbath, and died on the 29th of the same month.
REV. JOHN EDMONSTON, ASHKIRK
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February 1, 1866, p.17
The Church has again sustained a great loss in the death of another of her Ante-Disruption ministers, the Rev. John Edmonston of Ashkirk, who has just been called to his great reward; and from his active and useful labours in his congregation and the Church, while he yet had scarcely reached the confines of advanced years.
Mr. Edmonston not only heartily cast in his lot with those who took part in the struggle for the liberty of Christ’s Church in 1843, when evidently it was to be with great personal trial and inconvenience for both himself and his family, but all along he most conscientiously, firmly, and unflinchingly maintained those great principles for which he made such sacrifices. None were more ardently laborious and unremitting in promoting the interests of the Free Church and advancing her prosperity. Besides his devotedness to the warmly attached and affectionate people to whom he ministered, he was ever regular in his attendance at Presbytery, and much valued and esteemed by his brethren. His firm and consistent advocacy of his views on matters that came before the General Assembly is well known.
His attainments in literature and science were of no mean order; and he has given indisputable proofs of the unwearied pains and indefatigable ardour with which he prosecuted more especially sacred or Biblical literature. He kept up his acquaintance with Oriental and classical scholarship. Besides his edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, with judicious notes and explanations, which is the best adapted for the higher English classes in schools, and much used in the best seminaries, Mr. Edmonston bestowed much pains in producing the very correct edition of Dr. John Owen’s works, edited by Dr. Goold, wherein that great divine appears to the best advantage. And it is to Mr. Edmonston’s great industry and laborious painstaking that the public is indebted for the very complete index which is annexed to these valuable works. From his earlier years he devoted much of his time in studying the Holy Scriptures in the languages in which they were originally written; and for some years past he was so convinced of the necessity of a revised translation of the English Bible, that he believed it to be the especial duty of the Christian Churches to move in that matter, that in consequence there might be a distinct and easy understanding of the Divine Word. In carrying in his Synod and Presbytery an overture to the General Assembly for this purpose, he gave several striking instances of what could be effected by such a revision; and, we understand, he had a number of these alterations printed for private circulation among his friends. His opinion was, that no difficulties should interrupt or delay an undertaking so praiseworthy, and so well calculated to have a saving influence on the minds of men.
His gentle manners, Christian deportment, and refined mind endeared him to all with whom he associated; and the impression was at once felt, even by strangers with whom he met, that he was a worthy minister, a Christian, and a gentleman. This short notice does not admit of enlarging on his merits; but we cannot withhold our sympathy from his attached flock deprived of a loving and godly pastor, and our condolence with a bereaved family that laments one of the best, kindest, and most affectionate parents and husbands.
REV. DANIEL EDWARD, M.A.
(Died June 12, 1896)
Author: James Wells, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1896, Among the Jews, p.185
Mr. Edward was born at Edinburgh in 1815, and was educated at its High School and University. He cherished a warm affection for his native city, and counted it no ordinary boon to have spent his youth amid the fresh spiritual life which created a new era in Scotland. Dr. John Bruce was his spiritual father, and his new life began in his nineteenth year. He took his degree of M.A. with the highest honours. One of his professors said of him: ”His accomplishments can scarcely be pitched too high, and in Hebrew he stands unrivalled. He studied divinity under Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh, and McCheyne was one of his college comrades. A missionary volunteer, he was ordained in March 1841 as Scotland’s first ambassador to the Jews. The Church of Scotland was the first church, since the days of the apostles, which, as a church, carried the gospel to the Jews. Mr. Edward is thus one of the great landmarks in the history of missions, and a reminder of Scotland’s and Christendom’s long-accumulated arrears of the sacred debt to Israel.
He began his lonely pioneer work at Jassy, the capital of Moldavia. He soon showed the metal he was made of. We who dwell at home at ease can scarcely realize the gigantic obstacles in his path. These, to quote his own words, “he considered as things which must be grappled with and conquered.”
In ’43, in common with all the other missionaries of his church to Jew and Gentile, he at once gladly sided with the Free Church af Scotland.
In 1845 he married Catherine Grant, a daughter of the manse, and the sister of the Rev. Wm. Grant of Ayr. She proved one of the best of wives and missionaries.
Driven from Jassy in 1848, he settled at Lemberg, the capital of Galicia. In 1852 the Austrian Government ordered all British missionaries to quit Austria at once. Mr. Edward, along with his invalid wife and two little children, was compelled, in the dead of winter, to travel night and day over rough roads and in miserable vehicles. In Breslau, the capital of Silesia, they found shelter and hospitality under the strong wings of the Prussian eagle. Mr. Edward lived in Breslau from 1852 to 1895, when a stroke of palsy constrained him, sorely against his will, to retire from the work to which he had devoted fifty-four years of active service.
Soon after her arrival at Breslau, Mrs. Edward gave birth to her first and only son. But he died within a month. She loved to speak of him as her “martyr boy,” and she consoled herself with the assurance that “the bud which was cropped in martyrdom would bloom in heaven.” She had received her deathblow in that cruel mid-winter flight from Austria. She never rallied from the shock, and, after a long illness, she was taken home in 1861. Her biography (Missionary Life among the Jews: Hamilton, Adams, and Co.) is very beautiful and touching.
Mr. Edward’s character is easily sketched by reason of its transparency, singleness, and thoroughness. He had strong convictions, unwavering faith, and great tenacity of purpose. He was very conservative in his theology; and, as his Assembly speech showed, he feared that mischief would be wrought by the spirit and teachings of much of the higher criticism of our day. He had seen in Germany the finished results of some theories which are known among us, as yet, only as tendencies. He believed that some evangelical teachers were offering hospitality to ideas which could not permanently live together with the evangelical faith. He had a large share of the dauntless heroism of the confessor and martyr, and his energies were roused by opposition. His spirit was indomitable. When defending any great truth, his features wore a leonine look. Disappointment and ingratitude could not quench, or even cool, his zeal for the ingathering of Israel. He used to say that the scorn poured upon the Jews might be expected to overflow upon the Jewish missionary. His share of this scorn he accepted without murmuring as a needful part of his imitation of the first Missionary to the Jews.
His methods, at least among the Jews, did not foster organization and co-operation. He never had the powerful allies of week-day schools, industrial homes, and medical missions. In public, and from house to house, his one work was to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Messias. “I have had but one business for fifty-three years,” he said shortly before he retired.
His writings attracted special attention on the Continent. They revealed a mastery both of the German tongue and of Hebrew lore. When the Evangelical Alliance met in Berlin in 1857 The Times named him and Dr. Cairns as the only two foreigners who entirely entered into the mind of the Germans. Indeed, their German filched the English idiom from both of them. One of Mr. Edward’s books, entitled Job and His Three Friends, the Comforters of Suffering Christendom, was recommended by every religious journal of note in Germany. Some of them declared it to be without doubt the ablest work on the subject It was published anonymously, and in his review of it Ewald wrote that “he could not be far wrong if he said that the author was a Prussian Israelite”—Prussian from his knowledge of German, and Jewish from his grasp of Judaism. Mr. Edward pointed out that Ewald’s guesses about the authorship of the Old Testament could not be very reliable, as, even in the case of one of his own contemporaries, he had mistaken a Scot for a German, and a Scottish Presbyterian for a young Jewish convert. Though a Scot to the backbone, Mr. Edward was, as far as a Gentile could be, an Hebrew of the Hebrews.
The fruits of his life were rich and varied. His activities at Breslau far overflowed the aims of the Jewish committee, and caused them no little perplexity. By the aid of John Henderson of Park he planted a vigorous city mission in Breslau, the first of the kind in Silesia. A work of grace began, and numerous Christian societies were formed at several centres. Some of these developed into congregations with pastors, and then a presbytery of ordained ministers was organized, under the name of “The Free Evangelical German Church.” At last separatism invaded it, divisions arose, and the presbytery dwindled away. Mr. Edward also conducted an English service which was largely attended by the upper classes and by Jews.
Among the Jews he won many remarkable trophies. He had no eagerness to baptize, and not a few of his converts were baptized by others. Yet, during his seven years at Jassy, he baptized twenty-nine Jews. Two of them, Messrs. Weiss and Neumann, became honoured Jewish missionaries; and another, Naphtali Horrowitz, became a successful Christian merchant in India. Dr. Philip of Rome was also connected with our Jassy mission. In Lemberg, Mr. Edward found many Jews of the highest social class who were “not far from the kingdom.” Lawyers, doctors, merchants, and teachers were hopefully under his influence when he was expelled by the government. Israel Pick, a famed rabbi of Bucharest, was one of his converts. His conversion produced a profound sensation in Germany, and his addresses and writings led many to regard him as another Paul or Luther. Many of his kinsfolk followed him into the Church of Christ. Others, like Mr. Veit and Dr. Althausen, have risen to Christian distinction, and Herman Warszawiak is the most widely-known of his recent converts.
Mr. Edward bestowed extraordinary pains upon inquirers. He indeed travailed in birth till Christ was formed in them. Sometimes his body was exhausted through the intensity of his soul. He has been known to give up his holiday for the sake of a single inquirer. He well deserved the title of “a winner of souls.” He expected a sudden and widespread Christward movement among the Jews.
In 1891 I saw all Mr. Edward’s work at Breslau. This is what I found. In a city worm-eaten with rationalism, and where very few darken a church door, I saw a large hall filled with devout worshippers. They did listen, and the preacher spoke with great energy and unction. The service was of the old-fashioned Scottish style. It had none of our modern attractions, such as instrumental music, etc. The hearers were evidently expected to love truth without a dowry. A large congregation came also to the afternoon service. This flock was founded on the basis of the Westminster Catechism, and Mr. Edward had kept it together for nearly forty years.
These people reverence the Lord’s day, though it is almost a lost institution in their land. Jew-hatred, intensified by envy, is rampant in Breslau. Of about 300,000 Breslauers, only some 30,000 are Jews; yet they are believed to have in their hands about two-thirds of the prosperous trade of the city, and also the lion’s share of all the best posts among the doctors, lawyers, and newspaper editors. They had lately also a majority of the seats in the Town Council, and thus appointed the Lutheran city pastors. In spite of all that, Mr. Edward’s people have pledged themselves to the work of Christ among the Jews. The Sabbath School had about 500 scholars, while there were a Y.W.C.A. and a Y.M.C.A. with some 50 members. This great spiritual achievement shows how a fervent Christian life can triumph over all traditions and hindrances.
His speech on “the Jewish Evening” of the last General Assembly fittingly closed and crowned Mr. Edward’s unique career. As he approached the platform the whole Assembly, by a spontaneous impulse, rose to their feet to do him honour. His appearance was very picturesque and quite apostolical. He soon caught fire at the touch of his beloved theme, and his amazing energy recalled the birthday saying of another famous octogenarian, “I am now eighty-one years young.” His speech reminded us of some of Dr. Duff’s perfervid outbursts when appealing for more missionaries. The whole audience was swayed by his impetuous eloquence, and greeted it with deafening applause. It will gratify his friends to know that he was deeply touched by the great heartiness of his reception.
REV. GEORGE OGILVY ELDER, M.A., BORGUE
(Died August 1, 1899)
Author: Rev. George D. Low, M.A., Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1899, Obituary, p.264
George Ogilvy Elder was born on February 9, 1840, at Kirkbuddo, near Forfar, where his father was a farmer. He received his early education at the country school in the neighbourhood, and being a boy of parts, he was sent to the High School of Dundee.
He was naturally undemonstrative and retiring. He never pushed forward or sought to draw attention to himself. Quietly, and yet resolutely, he pursued the even tenor of his way. He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1856, and took an honourable place in the various classes; but he specially distinguished himself in Greek. He caught the enthusiasm of Blackie, and threw himself heart and soul into the study of the Greek authors. He graduated in April 1861, entered the New College in the winter of that year, and went through the stated divinity curriculum in a conscientious and scholarly manner. No one who was present when he read his popular discourse in the hearing of Dr. Candlish and his fellow-students could forget how warmly the venerable principal commended it. He spoke in the highest terms of its clear and terse style, its freshness, its intellectual power, its practical wisdom, its evangelical spirit. The criticism was generous, and it was just, as those who knew Mr. Elder knew right well.
Mr. Elder received license from the Presbytery of Dundee in the summer of 1865. In March 1866 he was appointed to a new mission in Arbroath, now Knox’s Free Church, and remained there for six months. He then became assistant to the Rev. John Sandison, High Street Free Church. He was called to Borgue in the early summer of 1867, was ordained in July, and introduced to his congregation by the Rev. Dr. William Wilson of Dundee, whose ministry he had attended as a boy. In 1868 he was married to a daughter of the late Dr. Crichton of Arbroath. Borgue was his first and only charge. He had just completed the thirty-second year of his ministry when he was called from the earthly scene of his labours.
He took a great interest in educational matters. He was returned at the head of the poll in the Borgue School Board election of 1879, and was appointed chairman. From that time until his death he served almost continuously as a member of the School Board, and for the greater part of these twenty years he acted as chairman. He visited the school frequently, and was looked upon by the children as a personal friend. In regard to educational administration he could speak with authority. On his advice a question of considerable importance to the interests of the district was carried to London. Notwithstanding opposition in high quarters, the local representatives—of whom Mr. Elder was one—so presented their case that they secured a settlement of the matter in dispute, which fully justified the wisdom of his counsel.
His literary tastes prompted him to give a series of popular lectures, delivered not only at Borgue, but throughout Galloway, which were greatly appreciated. Among his subjects were Baroness Nairne and her Songs, Burns, Walter Scott, the Ettrick Shepherd, Tennyson, Browning, Galloway, Borgue, Kirkcudbright. Several of those of local interest were published and widely circulated. They show much research, are marked by a fine literary and poetic feeling, and felicitously express the thoughts of one who had gravely studied the problems of the past and of the present. It should also be noted that he wrote a brief but admirable biography of his father-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Crichton of Inverbrothock Free Church, Arbroath. It was prefixed to a volume of sermons on Elijah by Dr. Crichton, and is a worthy memorial of an admirable man.
Mr. Elder’s preaching was of a high order—the utterance of one who had won for himself the truth he declared, and whose living faith in the living Lord was assured and inspiring. He was a man with a message—simple, so that a child could understand; and suggestive—from which the wisest could learn.
As a pastor, he was tender, sympathetic, wise, and helpful. He had been much in the school of affliction, and the trying experience of protracted physical weakness had touched his spirit to finer issues. Grace, natural disposition, and the discipline of life had made him a Barnabas, a son of consolation.
He was a man genuine to the core, of absolute sincerity, sterling and true. He was much beloved, and most of all by those who knew his worth. He was of a sunny disposition, with the saving salt of humour; he had an eye that caught the lights and shadows of life, and was quick to note the best in those with whom he came into contact. He loved the young, and he had a rare gift of interesting them and attaching them to himself. He was a man of character, strength, and grace, who served his congregation well. The Free Church had no truer son. His name will be fondly cherished by all those who had the privilege of counting him among their friends. He has left a widow to mourn his removal—a true and tender helpmeet for him for more than thirty years.
REV. JOHN ROBSON ELDER, M.A., ARROCHAR
(Died May 23, 1897)
Author: Rev. P. W. Minto, Cannes
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1897, Obituary, p.199
Mr. Elder was born in Edinburgh on the twenty-second of June 1840. His father, the well-known Dr. Elder of Rothesay, was then minister of St. Paul’s Church, Newington. At an early age he attended some classes in the Edinburgh University, and then for four years was engaged in an accountant’s office in Glasgow. About the time of the revivals in Scotland and Ireland his thoughts were turned to the ministry, and in 1861 he went back to the university, at the end of the usual course taking the degree of M.A. His theological studies were pursued at the New College; and after being licensed in the summer of 1867 by the Presbytery of Dunoon, he was assistant for three months to the late Rev. Thomas Gray of Inverurie, and in the following winter to the late Dr. Samuel Miller of St. Matthew’s, Glasgow. In 1809 he was ordained to be minister of the Free Church of Cromarty, and he remained there till 1882, when he accepted a call to Arrochar. His death took place at Pau on the twenty-third of May of the present year.
These outward facts formed the framework of a life of singular purity and devotion. It was a life that passed through the furnace of trial, bringing out more clearly the elements of a fine Christian character. The first years of Mr. Elder’s ministry in Cromarty were filled with abundant work. He laboured to the full measure of his strength, and probably beyond it. He had around him a large and interesting congregation, many of whose members had been trained under the powerful preaching of Mr. Stewart, the friend and pastor of Hugh Miller. They were able to appreciate the best that could be given them, and they cherished the memory of a high standard of ministerial attainment. Mr. Elder felt the inspiring influence of the position, and he had the happiness to gain the esteem and affection of a people that had had such a history. He was equally happy in his home. Married shortly after his ordination to Miss Mary Wilson of Glasgow, he had in her a true helpmeet, one possessing gifts specially fitting her to be a minister’s wife. Their manse was brightened by the presence of their one and only child. The early death of this child was the first great sorrow of Mr. Elder’s life; and about the same time his health began to be seriously impaired. Aided by a succession of assistants, he carried on the work of the congregation for several years, till he saw it to be his duty to accept a call to a smaller sphere. At Arrochar, as at Cromarty, he was the friend of his people, showing his care for their interests, when present with them, by assiduous pastoral duty; and when, from failing health, compelled to leave them during the months of summer visitors, he made arrangements for securing the services of some of the most distinguished ministers and professors of the church. Generosity was a notable trait of his character. He had a genuine desire for the good of his people. When the strain of continual work became too much for him, he gave way without a murmur to others. Through a large part of his life the trial was assigned to him of not being allowed to use the powers which he possessed. He had a keen interest in ecclesiastical affairs, and with his knowledge of business, and his shrewd insight into character, he might have taken a considerable part in church courts, but this was denied him. His mind was intensely active, and whilst not pursuing any special line of research, he read largely in the literature of the day. The fine collection of books in his library was more than an ornament; it indicated his value for the world of thought.
In preaching he aimed at reality and simplicity. Some of his fellow-students can recall talks on the work to which he and they were looking forward. His remarks generally ended with this: “The great thing will be to be real, to be simple.” He had no ambition to make his sermons profound or ingenious or elaborate; what he wanted was to bring the minds of his hearers into direct contact with the truth. There are sermons of his that, after twenty years, have stuck to the memories of some who listened to them, and who are conscious of having derived blessing from them.
A life-long friend, the Rev. James Mellis of Southport, thus writes of him: “Our dear friend was very true-hearted to his friends, to the faith, and to his church. He had a keen appreciation of the religious life and theological study, and was happily endowed with the saving salt of humour, so that in practical intercourse with men he knew how to make allowances. Even when he spoke strongly against men or measures that he disapproved of, there was nothing acrid or injurious in his utterances. He had a pastor’s heart and the best instincts of a true minister of the gospel of Christ. For myself, I always felt much impressed by the earnest persuasiveness of his preaching and the touching devoutness with which he led in prayer. He knew discipline, and accepted it with a bright, brave spirit, concerned chiefly that thereby his personal spiritual life and his ministry might rise to a higher level.”
In the beginning of last year there came to him the bitter sorrow of losing his wife. Her illness was brief; and whilst he bore the bereavement with characteristic submission, the shock to his nervous system was so severe that it may be said to have brought his work to an end. His interest in his people continued unabated, but he was unable to preach to them again. Advised to try a milder climate, he went last November to Pau, and there spent a quiet and in many respects a profitable winter, enjoying the ministry of Mr. Brown, taking part in a weekly Bible-reading, writing journal-letters to his aged and beloved mother, and in giving spiritual help to invalids whom he met in the hotel where he was staying. He quite expected to return home, and had arranged a tour with Principal and Mrs. Douglas. But God willed it otherwise. Early in April such strength as he had began visibly to give way. Mr. Brown kindly invited him to his house, and there he spent the last weeks of his life. Peculiarly reticent about himself, as he was through life, it was not to be expected that he would say much at the close. Speaking to Mr. Brown on the mystery of a life to come, he said with confidence, “Christ is everything here, and He will be everything hereafter.” A few days before his death he said to his attendant, “To be with Christ is far better.” He was buried in the beautiful cemetery of Pau, where many of our countrymen have found their last resting-place. He will long be lovingly remembered as a friend and as a minister. Much that he wished to accomplish had to be laid aside; but those who mourn his loss have the comfort of knowing that he has entered into that higher sphere of service where the limitations caused by bodily weakness are removed, and where every desire prompted by God’s Spirit is fulfilled.
REV. ROBERT ELDER, D.D., ROTHESAY
(Died March 29, 1892)
Author: Rev. Charles A. Salmond, M.A., Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1892, Obituary, p.148
In the post-Disruption period of its history our Church was singularly rich in men who were “pillars” of the evangelical cause in different quarters of the country. Another of these valued veterans—following closely on his kinsman Dr. Beith—has been taken from us in the person of Dr. Robert Elder, who after a long life of devoted service, crowned by an old age of remarkable serenity and beauty, gently passed, on the morning of 20th March, into the immediate presence of the King. Another venerable head is thus missed from our Church courts, and a blank felt besides in many hearts.
Robert Elder was born at Inveraray on 28th July 1808. His father was Comptroller of Customs there, but soon after removed to Campbeltown, where the boy received his early education. Like many another, young Elder owed unspeakably much to the influence of his mother; and by the time he had reached the tender age of eleven, he had already developed such character and aptitude, that he was ready to enter Glasgow College and to give a good account of himself in the various classes alongside of much older competitors.
As “a lad of pregnant pairts,” though yet barely twenty-one, he was licensed to preach the gospel in the spring of 1829. For a time he acted as tutor to a highly creditable pupil—the present Duke of Argyll. And then, in 1831, at the age of twenty-three, he was appointed minister of the parish of Kilbrandon, in Lorne. There he acquired such a name as a preacher that, in 1834, two noblemen made offer to him of a “presentation” in their several localities. One of these, curiously enough, was the Marquis of Bute, who wished to appoint Mr. Elder to the parish of Rothesay; but he had been anticipated by the Marquis of Breadalbane, who a few days before had secured the young minister’s acceptance of the parish of Killin. Four years later, in 1838, Mr. Elder was transferred from Killin to Edinburgh, having been chosen as the first minister of the newly-erected church of St. Paul’s. His work there greatly prospered, and by 1843 he had gathered a large congregation, most of whom “came out” with him on the ever memorable Disruption day.
Throughout the ten years’ conflict, Mr. Elder had been an unwavering supporter of the evangelical party; and the good sense and business capacity which accompanied his zeal, and which the non-intrusion leaders had discovered and utilized even prior to the Disruption, found ample scope in the years immediately succeeding it, not only in building up Free St. Paul’s, but in extending and deepenng the hold of the Free Church cause in different parts of the country. Under the labours and anxieties of the time, however, his health gave way and in 1847 he left Edinburgh, under medical advice, to succeed Mr. Peter Macbride as minister of the West Free Church, Rothesay.
No doubt Mr. Elder then imagined that the best of his work was over; and some of his hearers, as they looked up at the enfeebled preacher, wearing a moist cloth sometimes round his brow, may have been disposed at first to share the opinion. But ere long his energies were marvellously recruited, for thirty-five good years “Elder of Rothesay”, continued to be a tower of strength to the cause of the Free Church alike in Bute and throughout the Synod of Argyll. He was held in much esteem as a sagacious Church lawyer and man of affairs. In matters ecclesiastical he was distinctly though doggedly conservative, while in politics—according to a curious mental law of compensation observable in other cases—he was a pronounced Liberal. But he was especially regarded by a wide circle in the West of Scotland as a preacher of remarkable ability and unction. His sermons, which were lit up with Scripture references, and often enriched by memorable quotations from the Puritans, were of a strong Calvinistic type; but they abounded in fervid gospel appeals, during which, sometimes, the emotion of the preacher, as he dwelt on the love and substitutionary atonement of Christ, threatened wholly to overcome him.
In 1870, the University of Glasgow conferred on Mr. Elder the degree of D.D.; and in 1871 our Church honoured him and herself by calling him to the chair of the Assembly. Ten years later his jubilee was celebrated amid many tokens of widespread interest and affection, among which may be mentioned the substantial gift of £1,300. And then, in the following year (1882), Dr. Elder retired from the active duties of the pastorate to Edinburgh, where he resided, along with his wife and daughter, until his death. His withdrawal seemed to not a few, especially among the older residents in Rothesay, like the uprooting from beside the homestead of an ancestral oak which could never be replaced; and his subsequent visits to his loved flock at communion seasons were marked by ever-growing interest and impressiveness. Meantime, he was never idle, even in his retirement. He preached frequently and with much acceptance in the Edinburgh pulpits; and his pastoral instinct found exercise in many a friendly visit to sick and aged ones, of whose faith and joy it was his delight to be the helper. Nor did he lose touch with the wider interests of the Church. His mental faculties were keen to the last, and the soundness of his judgment continued to command respect in the Committees of the Church. A letter from his pen bearing on the Gaelic Schools appeared in the Monthly a few days after his death; and present doctrinal movements in our own and other Evangelical Churches were observed by him to the very end with a most keen and intelligent interest, not un-mingled with apprehension.
Dr. Elder’s last illness was of brief duration. Beginning with a chill, it assumed a serious aspect only a day or two before he died, when grave internal complications supervened. His latter end was peace. “The last words I could make out,” writes his son, Mr. John Elder of Arrochar Free Church, “as I sat by him about eleven o’clock on the night he died, were ‘assured confidence.’ He was repeating, I think, the verse,—
‘O thou that art the Lord of hosts,
That man is truly blest,
Who by assured confidence
On thee alone dost rest.'”
And thus he died, as he had lived, in the unfaltering confidence of a well-grounded faith in God. He knew whom and what he had believed; and the strength of settled conviction—which was so marked a feature in the whole race of Disruption heroes to which he belonged—brought repose to him in dying, even as it had ministered fortitude during a long, consistent, fruitful life of witnessing for Christ.
It should be said, in closing, that while Dr. Elder was, morally viewed, a strong man — courageous, honourable, indefatigable, tenax propositi—it would be a great mistake to suppose that he was devoid of the finer qualities and sensibilities which should accompany and temper strength. There was in him a wealth of sympathy, which welled forth on occasion to the solace of the suffering or the sad. And, however grave and even severe his face when in repose might seem to the casual observer, there was in him a fund of quiet humour which, utterly suppressed in the pulpit, sparkled betimes on the platform, and made him in private, to those who knew him well, the most entertaining of company at the table or by the hearth. In short, he was a true type of the Christian gentleman, as well as of the earnest minister and energetic churchman—a father in our Scottish Israel, whose memory will be always cherished by many in “the generation following,” who knew, revered, and loved him.
REV. WILLIAM ELMSLIE, A.M.
(Died February 8, 1890)
Author: William Alexander, Esq., LL.D., Editor “Daily Free Press”
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May, 1890, Obituary, p.148
The subject of this brief notice was born at Honey Bank, Aberdeen, on 18th November 1816. His father, Mr. William Elmslie, merchant, a well-known and much-respected citizen, was an office-bearer in John Knox Quoad Sacra Parish, and after the Disruption in the new John Knox congregation, in the organization and success of which he took a very warm interest. After passing through the classes of the Grammar School of his native city, then under the control, as rector, of Dr. James Melvin, one of the most famous Latinists Scotland has produced within the century, young Elmslie studied and graduated in Arts at King’s College, Old Aberdeen; and at the close of his professional course at the same university, he received license from the Presbytery of Aberdeen on 6th September 1842. Prior to entering on his studies with a view to the ministry, he had passed a couple of years in one of the principal steam-shipping offices in Aberdeen, and the knowledge of business acquired during that time proved to be of great use to him in many ways in after life.
As a student, and during his brief experience as a licentiate, he became actively engaged in Sunday-school work, and took the lead in conducting, with marked success, what would now be termed a mission school in a thickly-peopled and rather neglected district of the city; his father, who cordially supported him in this work, bearing the necessary pecuniary charges for rent, etc. His educational efforts at this time extended to day-school work among the same class of society; and in conjunction with another young friend, he prepared and published a series of small primers, which were received with great acceptance, his general high faculty as a teacher of youth being further evidenced by the successful fulfilment of an engagement he had been requested to undertake in connection with the chief private academy in Aberdeen at the time.
On 4th October 1843, Mr. Elmslie was ordained first Free Church minister at Insch in Upper Garioch, Aberdeenshire. The parish lies in a fine agricultural district, and the village of Insch, in which the Established and Free churches are placed, is the seat of a considerable amount of general business, the Great North Railway (opened in 1854) having a station adjacent thereto. In the Presbytery of Garioch, only four out of fifteen ministers “came out,” and the incumbent of Insch was not one of the “Evangelical” minority. When, therefore, the young minister had got formally settled, the task before him, as in all similar cases at the time, was one the precise character and onerousness of which it is difficult at this distance of time adequately to realize. While the style of preaching had to be in marked contrast to the formally-phrased and not seldom perfunctorily-delivered “moral” essay that sufficed for the rigid and impassive old “Moderate”—and the class was by no means without representatives in the Upper Garioch—the whole working organization of the congregation had to be shaped on principles, and carried on in a spirit, of which the past had furnished no experience. Blessed with a bright and cheerful temper, excellent health, and very active habits, physical as well as mental, Mr. Elmslie set about his duty hopefully; and, supported as he was in his kirk-session and deacons’ court by a number of laymen imbued with an excellent Christian spirit, and in some cases possessed of extensive business experience, the Free Church at Insch soon attained a satisfactory and influential position. And for fully thirty-six years the pastorate of Mr. Elmslie continued with unbroken harmony and a large measure of success in all departments of congregational work. As a member of Presbytery he took his full share in the business, though never given to speech-making himself, nor prone to have much patience with prolonged debate in general; and his advice, always readily and cheerfully given, never failed in being of a thoroughly practical character.
In September 1845, Mr. Elmslie was married to Miss May Cruickshank, daughter of Mr. Leslie Cruickshank of Deemount, a leading Aberdeen merchant of the time, who proved in every sense an excellent helpmate. When about forty years of age, he suffered from a nervous breakdown, which compelled him to relinquish duty for about a couple of years; and he resigned his charge, mainly on account of the state of his wife’s health, early in 1880, when he removed to Liverpool, and was succeeded in the full pastorate of Insch Free Church by the Rev. James Henderson (son of ex-Lord Provost Henderson of Aberdeen), now of the Free Church Mission at Constantinople.
As a pastor, Mr. Elmslie was most exemplary. He was not only a systematic visitor of his own congregation, but visited every household in the district, and was everywhere made welcome. While his genial and sympathizing disposition brought brightness and comfort with it where comfort was needed, he was never a fomenter of discord amongst either the people of the parish or his co-presbyters. On the contrary, while he did not hesitate to speak plain truths where he thought such plainness called for, he had the happy knack of being able to speak them without giving the slightest ground of just offence; and the blessing of the peacemaker might, in a special sense, be claimed as his. The tone of his preaching was thoroughly evangelical; and yet he had not an atom of that dread of “advanced” theological opinions which seems to constitute a sort of nightmare to not a few good people. His charity in this respect toward others who might differ from him was great; and he was never afraid to express his interest in, if not also his sympathy with, fresh views of the truth, if earnestly held and reverently expressed. He had at the same time an ingrained dislike to the use of mere pietistic phrases, or an assumed sanctimoniousness, where the reality of true spiritual life was wanting.
Something has been said of Mr. Elmslie’s early interest in education. That interest was strongly kept up throughout his active life. During the earlier part of his ministry he was an attentive and ever-welcome visitor on public occasions at such of the Free Church schools as came within his range; and when the Education Act came into operation he was appointed first Chairman of the Insch School Board, a position which he continued to occupy with much efficiency till the close of his pastorate. An ardent abstainer all his life, Mr. Elmslie missed no opportunity of inculcating temperance principles, especially upon the young. In so far as he concerned himself in matters political, his principles were those of a distinctly advanced Liberalism. It is not the place here to enter on the privacy of his home life, beyond stating that, in the manse at Insch, Mr. and Mrs. Elmslie were known to exercise an abundant and refined hospitality toward all visitors; and that, while his own family circle was an exceptionally interesting and happy one, his constant flow of good spirits and natural love of children formed a very strong attraction to all the young people who came about them.
Mr. Elmslie’s family consisted of three sons and one daughter. One son died in early life in South America; another was the late accomplished and much-lamented Professor William Gray Elmslie, D.D., of the English Presbyterian College, London. The third is Mr. Leslie Cruickshank Elmslie, shipowner, Liverpool. His only daughter is also married to Mr. Whyte, a Liverpool shipowner. Mrs. Elmslie predeceased her husband by several years. A sister of Mr. Elmslie, still alive, was married to the late Mr. George Troup, who, in his then capacity of editor of the Aberdeen Banner, did excellent service on the Evangelical side when the Disruption was impending, as acknowledged by Dr. Buchanan in “The Ten Years’ Conflict.” Their only son is the Rev. G. Elmslie Troup of the Free West Church, Broughty-Ferry.
REV. JAMES EWING, DUNDEE
(Died February 12, 1886)
Author: Rev. J.T. Ferguson, M.A., Cupar
Source: The Free Church Monthly, July 1, 1886, Biographical Notice, p.214
Mr. Ewing was born in 1810 at his father’s farm of Concraig, in the parish of Muthill, Perthshire. He received his early education at the parish school, and passed thence to the University of Glasgow, where he took a distinguished place in both the Arts and Divinity classes, winning his highest honours in the department of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and acquiring habits of diligence and constancy in study which remained with him to the close of his life.
He was licensed as a preacher of the gospel in 1833 by the Presbytery of Perth, and for several years thereafter was engaged in missionary work in that city. In 1837 he was ordained minister of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Dundee, and settled in the town where he was to live and labour for nearly half a century.
Mr. Ewing was one of those ministers who, though they are among the most efficient servants of the Church, write their record rather on the hearts of their fellow-men than in the history of the times. The story of his life and work in Dundee is marked by only one event of more than local interest, but is intertwined with all that is spiritual and Christ-like in the annals of that community throughout the last fifty years. The one great event is, of course, the Disruption of the Church of Scotland. Mr. Ewing’s ministry began in the midst of the Ten Years’ Conflict; and in the development of the great controversy he took an active part. Profoundly interested as he was in the cause of evangelical religion, then making rapid progress in the town where Robert Murray McCheyne was spending the years of his brief ministry, Mr. Ewing did not hesitate to take the side of the Non-intrusionist party, and when the critical moment arrived, he carried with him out of the Establishment by far the larger part of his congregation. The congregation of Free St. Andrew’s thus formed has continued down to the present time to be one of the largest and most influential in Dundee. Prior to the Disruption Mr. Ewing had given much attention to church extension, and subsequently his efforts did not slacken, the Free St. Andrew’s congregation having, under his guidance, become the parent of two others, those of the Wellgate and the Ogilvie Churches.
One of the objects of his earliest ministerial efforts was the founding of the St. Andrew’s Sessional Schools, and after the Disruption he followed this up by creating the Free St. Andrew’s School. His congregational Sabbath school is said to have been the first large Sabbath school started in Dundee. His interest in education was equally deep in his later years, when he acted as a member of the School Board and as one of the governors of University College. The spring of his enthusiasm in the cause of education was his genuine love of young people, and a rare persistence in himself of youthful hopefulness. Probably few men during the last twenty years have done more than he did to encourage the younger ministers of the Church, and to quicken their sympathy with the past.
His catholicity of spirit led him to give his time and strength not only to the promotion of education, but to every other philanthropic and evangelistic work in which his aid was sought. He was universally welcomed as a fellow-worker. He had mastered the secret of co-operation, preferring the public weal to his own praise; and where his influence predominated it was because he had not sought great things for himself. He maintained a noble equability of temper, and was ever readier to heal the wounds that others might inflict than to be himself the cause of one.
To the service of the Church at large he willingly devoted himself. His vast capacity of steady and methodical work revealed itself when he went to remote districts of the country now to expound the principles of spiritual independence, and again to preach the gospel. But it was with his own congregation that his heart lay, and to their service he gave himself with steadfast fidelity. He was a popular preacher, uniting in an uncommon manner solidity of thought with fervour of delivery. He prepared his discourses with scrupulous care, and up to his last hours maintained his habit of conscientious study, the latest books on the subjects that occupied his thoughts being always carefully sought after and read by him. His massive and manly presence of itself gave dignity to his utterances, and his genial manner had a peculiarly winsome effect. There was a striking richness and comprehensiveness in his prayers which ripened as time went on. His diligence in pastoral visitation was extraordinary, exciting the admiration of his people, and the wonder of brethren in the ministry not gifted with such physical strength as he possessed. The labour never seemed perfunctory. His fine tact, genuine kindliness of heart, and simple devoutness made a heavenly sunshine in his presence that gladdened the sick and the sorrowful; and his sound judgment aided his friends in many perplexities. On the morning of the day on which he died he was composing a discourse for the following Sabbath on that great passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which we read of the cloud of witnesses that compasses about the runners of the Christian race. He had asked one of the members of his household to select for him from the hymn-book two hymns suitable to be sung in connection with it. The hymns No. 28, “God hath two families of love,” and No. 72, “Give me the wings of faith to rise,” had been chosen, and with this choice he had expressed himself as more than ordinarily pleased. Closing a passage in his composition with the words, “Glory to God,” he rose and left it to go forth upon his ministry of love among the sick. In the first house to which that ministry called him he received the summons to depart and be with Christ, and in a moment he had passed away. The news of the sudden call startled into grief the whole community among whom he had been so long revered as a father and a friend; and when a few days later his remains were borne to the grave, hundreds of men of all the churches followed in procession, and the multitudes that thronged the streets gave silent testimony to the public sense of how great a loss had been sustained.