Free Church of Scotland Ministers (1843-1900): Obituaries R

Obituaries: R


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(Died December 10, 1885)
Author: Rev. Alexander Wishart, Forgue
Source: The Free Church Monthly, April 1, 1886, Biographical Notice, p.114

Born at Green of Udny, Aberdeenshire, on the 9th September 1836, Mr. Rae had little more than completed his forty-ninth year when he was called to his rest and reward. He was the eldest of a family of five, and it is his own testimony that his first religious impressions were in a great measure to be attributed to his “father’s character, instructions, and example.” His student days were spent entirely in Aberdeen, and it is only repeating a circumstance applicable to students connected with the northern counties more especially, to remark that from the beginning to the close of his curriculum, private teaching was his chief if not his only means of support. At sixteen he was enrolled as an Arts student of Marischal College, having as class-fellows Principal Miller of Madras, and Dr. Ogilvie of the Established Church Training College, Aberdeen. Names like these indicate what was from the first before him, and point to his having had to measure swords with men of no mean calibre. But the numerous prize-volumes to be seen on the shelves of his bookcase are evidence enough that he proved quite equal to the task. Nor did the traits which distinguished him previous to graduation disappear while prosecuting his studies at the Aberdeen Free Church Divinity Hall. It was the testimony of its professors and students alike that in respect of personal character and intellectual attainments he was likely to prove a decided gain to the Christian ministry.

In January 1861 he was licensed by the Free Presbytery of Ellon to preach the gospel; but while his services were in no instance unacceptable to the various congregations in which he exercised his gifts as a probationer, it was not till August 1866 that he found himself in the capacity of an ordained minister. The members and adherents of the Free Church of Gamrie, in the Presbytery of Turriff, were the first to lay on him the duties and responsibilities of that sacred office. Several of the foremost to invite him to undertake these have long since gone over to the majority, yet there still remain not a few who deem it a privilege to testify to the earnestness and ability that all along characterized him. They point with pride to what he did in connection with their church and manse, and they are not slow to acknowledge the debt they owe him in respect of his efforts towards the consolidation of the Free Church cause in the district.

After eight years of faithful and successful work at Gamrie, he was induced, and chiefly at the instigation of the late Principal Lumsden, at whose feet he had sat as a divinity student, and for whose memory he never ceased to cherish anything less than filial affection, to take the superintendence of the Lebanon Schools, and to become at the same time a herald of the Cross to the inhabitants of the interesting region in which they are situated. For a time difficulties of a rather trying and perplexing kind confronted him in the management of these schools; but as they had only called into requisitim those qualities of Christian persuasiveness, firmness, and tact that he had always at his disposal, the result was that the schools were placed on a firmer and surer basis than ever.

In 1879 he returned to his native country, and the following year, in answer to the request of the Free Presbytery of Aberdeen, assumed the pastorate of the newly-formed congregation in the Causewayend district of the city. The interesting and extensive field in which he now laboured bore in a very short time evidences of his devotedness and assiduity. The membership of the congregation steadily increased. Those willing to give themselves to the good work had their definite duties assigned them; while in place of the hall in which public worship had hitherto been conducted, it was found necessary to set about the erection of the elegant and imposing structure which now forms the church of the district.

But just as the prospects of further and increasing usefulness were beginning to make themselves known, the Master asked him to stand aside and allow the work in which he so truly delighted to be carried on by others. Health gave way, and to such an extent that a lengthened period of entire rest became absolutely needful. The remedy required was sought for in the south of France, and in the former scene of his labours in the East.

But it proved unequal to the task it had in hand. And as it had by this time been ascertained that he was labouring under a malady for which the surgeon’s knife was the only possible cure, he in October 1884 submitted to an operation at the hands of a celebrated London specialist. Even this resource, however, proved of but partial avail. It gave a month or two’s longer life, but that was all.

Did space permit, the pencil notes which he drew up some months before his death, and which were read to his congregation when his funeral sermon was preached, might well be transferred to the printed page. The reader, in that case, would have before him what had been written about “the restless days and nights” that were passed when conscience was first awakened—the “books that were read with a desire to be converted”— “the first real comfort got”—and the Scripture texts that were the means of affording it. And he would be told, too, why their author never felt at liberty to speak of the day and date of his conversion, and why he did not “like to adopt the form of testimony, ‘I am converted.'” But there is no need. Conversion was a conscious reality all through his ministry. And though it was never his practice to say much about himself in his public teaching, about his own experience and so forth, yet to those who could “read between the lines,” it was abundantly evident that his messages of mercy and grace, invariably rich in thought and apt illustration, were something more and better than the mere results of exegetical study or extensive reading. Such could hardly fail to observe that while he tried neither “to please nor to offend,” his great desire was to win them and their children to the Lord. And such, doubtless, will rejoice to be assured that the faith he preached and practised in life was the faith that upheld and cheered him in death. Taking his wife by the hand a moment or two before he died, he whispered to her, “Give me a text, give me a text;” and when these texts, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” had been given him, this was his reply: “That’s fine, That’s fine.” And he was right. The imperishable word is truly “fine.” “God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” His wife and children, his companions and people, mourn for him as for one truly beloved. But they mourn not as those who have no hope, for they are well assured that what is their loss is his gain.

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The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, March 2, 1863

The Rev. Alexander Reid of Portsoy, who died at Old Aberdeen on the 7th ult., in the sixty-second year of his age. Mr. Reid was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Forres in 1826, and in 1829 he was settled as minister of the quoad sacra church of Portsoy. There he laboured in the cause of Christ with singular faithfulness, and zeal. A steadily increasing congregation waited on his ministry. In the controversies of the eventful period preceding the Disruption, Mr. Reid took a leading part in the district where his lot was cast. A large proportion of his people accompanied him when he left the Establishment. The new church built to receive his flock was soon filled, and the congregation continued to flourish under his care. On Sabbath, 12th May 1860, aud when near the close of his forenoon sermon, Mr. Reid was suddenly attacked with paralysis. From the effects of this stroke he never recovered sufficiently to be able to enter the pulpit. The deep anxiety with which he regarded his flock, however, led him to address to them pastoral letters, which were from time to time read from the pulpit. His decreasing health lately caused him to desire the appointment of a colleague and successor; and steps were being taken to have his wish carried out at the time of his death. A widow and three sons, the eldest not more than eighteen years of age, are left to mourn the loss of an affectionate husband and father.

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(Died December 25, 1892)
Author: Rev. George Hanson, Springburn
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, March, 1893, Obituary, p.69

Archibald Reid was born at Duntocher, 11th May 1842. Throughout his childhood he received the impress of a Christian home, which never left him, but deepened and developed into personal decision. He received his elementary education in his native village. His distinguished career as a student showed how careful and exact had been this early training.

The wave of spiritual blessing which swept over the land in 1859 and 1860 made a very remarkable impression on life at Duntocher. Young and old were alike influenced by it. It took possession of homes rather than of individuals. Night after night prayer-meetings were held in the village schoolroom and in private houses. Foremost among the young people who threw themselves into the movement was Archibald Reid. How fondly he used to dwell on that season of grace, and the blessing it had brought to him! His character, always so gentle and amiable, required little in the way of outward change. Grace seemed to have been keeping him in hand till it claimed him altogether. Conversion with him was but adding sunlight to daylight.

He took his arts course at St. Andrews, and graduated there in 1866 with first-class honours in classics. He greatly enjoyed academic life, specially his relation to a tutorial class which he conducted for some time. While at college he was a member of a prayer-meeting held by some of the most promising students, among whom was the present Earl of Aberdeen.

He took one year at the Divinity Hall, Edinburgh, and the other three at Glasgow. He was beloved by all his fellow-students, simply because he was so lovable. At the close of his course in Glasgow he was awarded the highest fellowship. As this fellowship was held on the “condition of prosecuting such further theological study as the Senatus Academicus may prescribe,” he proceeded to Germany, where he spent two years. He always spoke gratefully of the stimulus he had received from Professors Delitzsch and Dorner.

Returning to Scotland, he became missionary under the Rev. John McFarlane, Free Middle Church, Greenock. His work there was most fruitful, and highly appreciated by minister and people.

In 1873 he became assistant to Dr. Wilson, Barclay Church, Edinburgh. The Rev. William Alexander of Duntocher, in writing to Dr. Wilson, said: “Mr. Reid is earnest, cultured, scholarly; indeed all his qualities are golden. What he needs is a little more brass.” Dr. Wilson adds: “That was a wonderfully true description of him. He made careful preparation when with us, and was, as he continued always to be, particularly conscientious in regard to every part of his duty. There are still those among us who retain a vivid recollection of him, valuing his friendship at the time, and keeping it up to the last.”

Mr. Reid was ordained at Slamannan in May 1875. And there he laboured faithfully till the end, which came sadly, suddenly, and, as it seems to us, all too soon. His life at Slamannan was quiet and uneventful. He instinctively shrank from that publicity which others covet so much. This was quite in keeping with his modest, retiring disposition.

He brought with him to his work the results of exact scholarship and wide reading. His studies he zealously prosecuted throughout the course of his ministry. All he was and all he had he unreservedly consecrated to his Master’s service. His sermons were thoughtful and cultured, carefully prepared, yet always earnest and evangelical. His interest in his people was very deep. He truly bore them in his heart. Among his papers was found a list of persons over whom he had prayerfully and anxiously watched. The dates of their personal decision, as each occurred, are carefully marked.

His zeal for church extension, to meet those for whom no one else cared, was shown in his work at Longriggend. There he carried on a mission, and prosecuted the work in a most generous and unselfish spirit. The church planted in that place owes its existence mainly to his self-denying and enthusiastic labours. In these days when competition between churches is keenly maintained, it was refreshing to meet one like Mr. Reid, who was “more bent to raise the wretched than to rise.” His personal interests were lost sight of in view of the higher interests of his Master’s cause. And thus prayerfully, laboriously, unobtrusively, he toiled on at Slamannan.

“Remote from towns he ran his godly race;
Ne’er changed had he, nor wished to change, his place.”

The end of his life was quite in keeping with the even tenor of it. A few days before his death he said, “If it is God’s will to call me away now, I feel I have nothing to do. So far as I know myself, I have served the Lord joyfully, and my chief delight has been to do the Master’s work.”

When told the day before his death that the doctor thought if his strength were maintained, he might be spared, he said quietly, “I thought I would be in heaven to-morrow.” He was quite willing to wait, quite ready to go. “Heaven was in him before he was in heaven.”

Mr. Reid married a daughter of the late Rev. John Macdonald, Fearn, and their home life was brightened by two children. It was very touching, as we bore his remains to their resting-place, near his loved church, to hear such deep expression from the people of sorrow for their own loss, and sympathy with the bereaved ones at the manse.

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The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, December 1, 1863, p.391

It is with the deepest sorrow that we have to record the death of the Rev. James Reid, missionary to the aborigines in South Australia. The sad event has been announced to us in the following touching letter from George Young, Esq. of Adelaide: —

“It is my painful task to communicate the fact of the Almighty Disposer of all events having removed from among us our dear friend, Mr. Reid, literally in the midst of his self-denying labours of love. You are probably aware that Mr. Reid had latterly fixed his headquarters at Wellington, being the place where the River Murray opens out into Lake Alexandrina, and which, besides being frequented by a still numerous though rapidly diminishing tribe of aborigines, was eligible as affording him easy means of access to other tribes scattered round the banks of that vast lake, or located higher up the river.

“In the ordinary course of his visits to the natives he had been at Mundoo Island, which is situated about twenty-six miles from Wellington, among the channels by which the waters of the Murray leave the lake, and, again uniting in one stream, flow into the Southern Ocean. He left the island, alone as usual, on the afternoon of the 24th of July, intending to make a straight course for Wellington. The exact circumstances of his death will never be known in this world; but on Monday, the 27th of July, apprehensions of some casualty were excited by a mast and sail, in a damaged state, being found near Point Malcolm, on the south-east shore of the lake.

“The circumstances were communicated to Mr. Gardner as early as possible, who at once applied to the authorities for help, which was most readily given— the police stationed at different points of the lake being immediately instructed to do what was needful. Mr. Reid’s boat was found at an early period of the search, floating bottom upwards, far from shore, thereby confirming the worst fears; but it was not for upwards of a fortnight that his body was found by a party of natives, who conveyed it to Wellington on the 11th of August, where, after the usual inquest, it was interred on the same day, the Rev. C. W. Swan, Congregational minister of Adelaide, the Rev. John Anderson of Strathalbyn, and nearly the whole population of Wellington being present. A native woman has stated that on the Friday afternoon she saw a boat upset in the lake in a sudden squall; and such was doubtless the manner in which our dear friend lost his life, although a peculiar tendency of the natives to say to white people what they think likely to give them satisfaction, renders it doubtful whether she actually did witness the occurrence.

“One peculiarly distressing feature in this sad bereavement is, that Mrs. Reid is shortly expecting her confinement. I need not say that she has had the sympathies and prayers of many here, both in public and in private; nor will these be wanting among the friends whom he and she left in Scotland, when the tidings are received there. I understand that her present inclination is to remain at Wellington, and, as far as she can do so, prosecute among the native children the work which, in conjunction with her husband, she had begun. If she decide upon doing so, I believe the Presbytery will not hesitate to extend to her the pecuniary aid from the Smith fund which they gave to Mr. Reid. Mr. Gardner has gone to Wellington to consult with her, and it is in consequence of his absence that I have thought it right thus to address you at some length, having omitted to ask him before he left whether he had written to you.

“Mr. Reid attended the meeting of Presbytery in Adelaide on the 7th of July, and in person gave in his usual quarterly report. Unable to name any special and striking results of his labours, it was still of a character which elicited warm commendation from every member of the Presbytery, evidencing as it did a large measure of that common sense which looks difficulties and failures steadily in the face, and candidly owns them; but evidencing also a larger measure of faith in the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour as suited to the degraded and perishing aboriginal tribes of Australia— a faith unshaken in the midst of numerous discouragements of no ordinary kind.

“We are told that the natives on the lake are deeply affected by the death of him who had so laboured among them, and that it was most touching to hear some of them seeking to comfort Mrs. Reid, and even to pray for her and with her. It may be that his death may be more blessed to them than his life appeared to be, and that she or others may be privileged to reap where he sowed. May the Lord in his mercy grant it! and may others be raised up as our departed friend was, to carry the glad tidings of salvation to those degraded members of the human family, of whom until lately it might have been said with literal truth, ‘No man careth for their souls!'”

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(Died February 12, 1896)
Author: Rev. John Macphail, Benbecula
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1896, Obituary, p.197

Mr. Reid was born in Strathtay in 1819, so that at the time of his death in February last he had almost reached the ripe age of seventy-seven years. His early education was in the parochial school of Logierait and Perth academy. He was surrounded by Christian influences in his youth, but he delighted to refer to the great revival movement in Perthshire in 1839-40 as the time when he was led to choose “the good part.” Under the preaching of that honoured servant of Christ, William Burns, he became the subject of a spiritual change, the reality of which was manifest during the remainder of his life. That was also the time of the Ten Years’ Conflict, when many of the godly youths of our land were led to devote themselves to the ministry of the gospel. Mr. Reid was one of the number. He passed through the Arts course in the University of Edinburgh, and afterwards attended the Free Church College in that city. Among his teachers in that institution were Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Cunningham, and Dr. Duncan, men of renown, of whom he delighted to speak with admiration and affection. During his college course he taught a school in Holyrood, and, like many of his fellow-students, devoted a portion of time to missionary work in that district. When licensed to preach, in 1853, he was sent to Portree to supply the pulpit which had become vacant through the translation of the Rev. D. S. McEachran to Cromarty. He received a unanimous call from the congregation, and, having accepted the same, he became minister of the charge in 1854. It is difficult at this distance of time to realize what the position of a Free Church minister in the Hebrides was at the time of his settlement in Portree. Within the bounds of the Presbytery of Skye and Uist there were eight congregations still without a settled ministry. This necessarily involved a very large amount of labour and fatigue beyond their own charges on the few brethren who then formed the presbytery. Mr. Reid took up his share of the burden cheerfully, and bore it ungrudgingly, until he saw all the vacancies filled up.

As a pastor he was faithful and devoted in the discharge of his duties. He was attached to his people, and by them he was held in the highest esteem. His kind, genial, and sympathizing disposition made his visits always welcome to young and old. Many can look back with gratitude to him for the benefit they received from his faithful and wise counsel when they felt perplexed as to the path of Christian duty. His preaching was thoroughly evangelical without being sensational, and in listening to him one was made to feel that he spoke what he believed and experienced. When I was a minister in Kilmuir, young people have told me that sermons they had heard from him first led them to think seriously of their need of a Saviour; and I still retain a vivid impression of a remarkable scene on the Monday of a communion in Bracadale, where he and I were assisting our brother minister. As Mr. Reid was preaching at the closing services, a number of persons were so deeply affected that they could not refrain from crying aloud in their distress. This proved to be the commencement of a religious movement that extended over all the congregations of Skye, and that was much owned of God in the ingathering of many souls to the Saviour.

During the whole of his ministry he took a deep and intelligent interest in the secular as well as the religious education of the young. And he was instrumental in securing schoolhouses and teachers for destitute parts of his wide parish. When the new system of education was established, Mr. Reid was elected chairman of Portree School Board, a position which he held for upwards of twelve years with credit to himself and benefit to the community.

For about thirty years Mr. Reid was clerk of his presbytery, and for many years he was also clerk of the Synod of Glenelg. His brethren placed great confidence in his judgment, as well as in his knowledge of the laws and procedure in church courts. In cases of difficulty that came up, he always displayed tact as well as wisdom.

In civil and ecclesiastical politics he was decidedly Liberal, and he never hesitated when occasion required it to state his views with clearness and force. But whilst holding his own views firmly, he was always tolerant of the views of others. In discussions on ecclesiastical questions in his presbytery, it was his lot to be usually in the minority; and though hard things had been often spoken on both sides, of him it might be said that he invariably displayed a gentle Christian spirit, free from all bitterness. He desired to live at peace with all men, and in this he succeeded to a remarkable extent.

Mr. Reid’s health began to fail some years ago, and in 1893, finding himself unable for the full discharge of his duties, he applied to the Assembly for the appointment of a colleague and successor. This being granted, he removed with his family to Edinburgh; and he had the satisfaction of seeing a man placed over his congregation well fitted to carry on the work he was obliged to relinquish on account of increasing infirmities. He visited Portree last autumn, and had much enjoyment in going again among his people. He looked then as if several more years might be added to his life. But it was not to be. Soon after returning to Edinburgh in November, he was seized with an illness that quickly reduced his strength and terminated fatally on February 12. His death was like his life, gentle and peaceful, and throughout his illness that hopefulness and cheerfulness that characterized his life continued with him. He expressed the wish that his remains should be laid among the people to whom he had ministered in the gospel for the long period of forty years. This wish was given effect to, and the funeral took place in Portree in the presence of a large gathering of the community, all classes and all churches uniting in manifesting their sympathy and respect. Mr. Reid is survived by Mrs. Reid and a family of two sons and four daughters.

On the Sabbath after the funeral, Mr. Lamont, Snizort, who was his friend and nearest neighbour for many years, preached in the Portree pulpit from Ps. 73:24-26; a subject, he said, to which he was directed by Mr. Reid’s ending one of the last letters he had from him with the words, “My flesh and my heart faileth,” but I trust I can add, “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

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(Died April 11, 1893)
Author: Rev. A. Henderson Moir, Aboyne
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, September, 1893, Obituary, p.213

The name of Mr. Reid was one well known over a wide area, and his striking and venerable figure one not likely to be forgotten by those who ever came into contact with him. It was only at the close of last year that his jubilee was celebrated; and although then in great physical weakness, his numerous friends had hoped for a prolongation of the peaceful eventide of his life.

Mr. Reid was born in the parish of Rathven, Banffshire, on November 12, 1811. From a very early period he was destined to the ministry, both by his own choice and by what has had so large an influence in shaping the course of so many young men—the desire and prayers of a godly mother. As a student at the University of Aberdeen he took a distinguished place, being first prizeman in Greek, and taking also a high position in mathematics and natural history. At this period his health gave way, and acting upon medical advice he turned aside from his studies for the ministry. He went to Edinburgh, where he got an appointment in an advocate’s office, and commenced the study of law at the University there. His health, however, improved, and he returned to his original purpose; and in due course completed his theological course. After license by the Presbytery of Kincardine O’Neil in 1837, he was for some time assistant in the Parish Church of Banchory. He was also lecturer for a short period in John Knox Church, and also in Gilcomston Church, Aberdeen. And the fact that he was so popular in Gilcomston Church, where the famous Dr. Kidd had so long preached, proves how powerful a preacher Mr. Reid must have been in his early days.

In 1842 Mr. Reid was ordained to the pastorate of Chalmers’ Church, Glasgow, a position which he held for only a short time; for immediately after the Disruption he was unanimously called to Banchory, and, acting largely on the advice of his life-long friend, the Rev. D. S. Ferguson of Strachan, who at a venerable age still survives him, he accepted the call, and was inducted to the charge of Banchory in August 1843. And here, notwithstanding opportunities to go to larger spheres, he continued to labour to an attached people.

Mr. Reid’s was a busy and arduous life. In addition to the heavy work of his own congregation, he undertook, from the outset, the Clerkship of the Presbytery, and took the big share of the labour of organizing the various congregations on upper Dee-side. And when it is remembered that in a Presbytery of thirteen congregations only two ministers came out at the Disruption, and that each cause had to be built up from the very foundation, it could have been no ordinary undertaking. It was here that Mr. Reid’s many high qualities told with such powerful effect. He was a thoughtful, calm, prudent, and sagacious man. He had a wonderful insight into character, and great tact in reconciling divergent interests. He was a man whose judgment could be relied upon at trying junctures, and to whom many readily went for advice in difficulties.

In educational matters Mr. Reid took a prominent part. When settled in Banchory, the cause of education was at a low ebb, and through his efforts efficient schools were planted in various parts. And down to the period when the Education Act came into force, there were few schools in the country more thoroughly equipped or more efficiently taught than was the Free Church school of Banchory. And after that period he continued till recently, as a member of the School Board, to take a leading part in educational matters.

But it is as a preacher of the gospel and as an earnest and humble Christian that Mr. Reid will live in the memories of his friends. He was an evangelical of the old school, yet so in touch with life around him, and so essentially practical in all his lines of thinking, that you never thought of schools, but felt yourself in the grasp of a man who knew the human heart in all its ups and downs. It was probably the afflicted who benefited most largely from his preaching. His own faith was so simple, and so strong and unfaltering, that he made the burdened feel, as if by a kind of inspiration, that it was an easy thing to keep up heart in their difficulties.

The work in which he seemed to have special joy was the religious movements of thirty years ago, in which he took a prominent part. He visited Ireland during the religious awakening of 1859, and when the movement reached this country, Mr. Reid threw himself heartily into it. Banchory became a centre of religious impulse, and there are many in widely different parts who treasure among their most sacred memories the blessings received at the large open-air gatherings held in the parks of Banchory Lodge, kindly granted by his friend and elder Captain Ramsay. These were attended by thousands from Aberdeen and elsewhere. No man knew better wherein lay the weaknesses as well as the strong points of such movements. And if ripe experience, gained during those years, made him cautious, he never wavered in his conviction that the finger of God was in such work.

All his theological positions were cast in the old lines, but he did not share in the gloomy views taken by many as to the present movements in our Church. He didn’t believe that we are leaving all the good behind us. He knew that God was in the future as in the past, and had generous confidence in the loyalty to Christ of those who are honestly facing the questions of the hour. He had ever a kindly word to such as he believed were sincerely attached to the spirit of our great essentials, whatever view they took upon the critical questions of the day.

For some years Mr. Reid had been laid aside from all work, having had as his colleague the Rev. W. Cowan, and prior to him the Rev. D. S. Adam, now of Kelso. But while in great physical weakness, he maintained all his mental clearness to the very last. And until a week before his death he was taken regularly to church in a bath-chair. It was beautiful to see the patience with which he bore his feebleness, and the cheerful and contented hopefulness with which he awaited his Master’s summons. The recollection of his Christ-like life and of his peaceful end are pleasing memories, as they form rich jewels in his crown of rejoicing to-day. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”

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(Died August 5th, 1887)
Author: Rev.W. H. Carslaw, M.A.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February, 1888, Memorial Sketches, p.51

Though Mr. Reid had retired from the active exercise of his ministry for many years, and at his death was known to a comparatively limited circle, he was possessed of gifts, and had rendered service to the Church of such a kind as to merit some notice.

Born in Greenock in 1800, and blessed with a liberal and religious education, he entered the University of Glasgow in 1823, and after completing a five years’ curriculum there he became one of the masters of Loretto School, Musselburgh, where he had as pupils the late Earl of Caithness, Sir W. P. Adam, late governor of Madras, Lord Blantyre, and other distinguished men.

Subsequently he studied theology in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and in 1838 was licensed as a preacher of the gospel by the Presbytery of Dumbarton, which on that occasion met at Helensburgh. Shortly afterwards he was appointed missionary in St. Peter’s (now Grosvenor Square) Presbyterian Church, Manchester, where he was intimately associated with the late Mr. Barbour of Bonskeid, an elder in that congregation.

Four years later, seeing the Disruption at hand, he returned to Scotland, and cast in his lot with the Free Church, joining in the memorable procession to Canonmills, where the first Free Assembly was held.

In 1845 he was ordained as first minister of the Free Church at Muirkirk in Ayrshire; but after labouring there two years he relinquished his pastoral charge, that he might devote himself to evangelistic work. Accordingly for the next few years he acted as an ordained evangelist, making preaching tours through Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, and other districts in Scotland. After spending six months in the Shetland Islands, he went in 1850 to Shettleston, near Glasgow, where he had a church built and freed from debt, and where also he continued to minister to an attached congregation for twenty-four years, until failing health and eyesight compelled him to retire. Since then he resided in Helensburgh, and was a member of my congregation.

Mr. Reid was a man of singular humility and charity. Though attached to the old ways, and unable to approve of some of the new methods of Christian work and worship, he was liberal enough to respect the convictions and inclinations of others, and to rejoice in every indication of Christian earnestness and success. His love for the Sabbath and for the services of the sanctuary seemed even to grow with his years, and notwithstanding his age and infirmity he was seldom absent from his place in the house of God.

On Sabbath, the 15th May, he worshipped for the last time in Park Free Church, the pulpit of which was that day occupied by the Rev. Dr. Inglis, late of the New Hebrides Mission. For several weeks before his death he suffered from a painful internal malady, which was endured with great patience and submission. Not a cloud seemed to obscure his spiritual vision, and the words of Mr. Standfast at once occur to me when I think of his experience:— “The thought of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart. I see myself now at the end of my journey: my toilsome days are ended. I am going to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and that face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight. I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of, and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too.”

Mr. Reid has left a widow and one son to mourn his loss.

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(Died June 25, 1897)
Author: Rev. James Macdonald, Reay
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, September, 1897, Obituary, p.224

George Renny was born at Greenbank, Arbroath, on the tenth of July 1830. He lost his mother when but ten months old, and his father, of whom he always cherished loving childish recollections, at the age of ten. From that time he was brought up by two faithful servants, who clung to the family through all reverses to the end of their lives. These women took the boy to visit his and their friends at intervals, and he thus, though living chiefly among well-to-do people, was brought early into contact with the life and thought of the peasantry, and had the foundation laid of that intense love for the people and popular liberty which was the most marked trait of his character, and which, as a minister, made him equally the friend, counsellor, and guide of rich and poor.

The years immediately preceding the Disruption made a deep and lasting impression upon his mind; and being caught by the wave of spiritual awakening which passed over the land, he entered with all the ardour and enthusiasm of an intense nature into the great movements of that stirring time. He and a number of other young men held a prayer-meeting weekly for mutual benefit, and after a time George resolved that at all hazards he must be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To this objections were raised and difficulties thrown in his way; but in the end these were removed, and he entered the university in 1847. After an honourable career as a student, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Dundee in 1855.

Within a week of his licence he began his work as a minister in the town where he was destined to spend the last twenty-five years of his life as assistant to the Rev. W. Taylor of Pulteneytown, who was laid aside through illness. For a whole year the entire work of the congregation fell to the lot of the young preacher; but hard work only served to rouse his energies and bring out all his best traits.

Mr. Renny preached his first sermon as a student in Aberlemno, which was then only a station; and when it was made a sanctioned charge, he was elected as its first minister, and was ordained in 1857. Here he spent four happy and fruitful years, and left after the congregation had been fully organized and a comfortable manse built. To these first years of the history of the congregation many look back to this day as a time rich in spiritual blessing.

But while the young pastor was diligently building up the congregation at Aberlemno, God in His good providence had appointed him work elsewhere, and on the invitation of the Colonial Committee, he sailed for South Africa in November of 1861. His destination was Port Elizabeth, and his work the formation of a congregation, and the provision of a place for them to worship in. The next six years were perhaps the most fruitful period of his life. The memory of it still lives, and when the present writer landed in Port Elizabeth in 1875, nothing surprised some members of that congregation so much as that any one should come from the north of Scotland without knowing Mr. Renny of Wick. This itself is evidence of the love of that congregation for their pastor while he was with them, and of their fond recollections of him as a spiritual father. To understand and appreciate the work done while abroad, one must know the Cape and the conditions of life there. The church erected still stands as one of the prominent ornaments of the town, and the popularity of its pastor is evidenced by the names of Jews among others appearing in his collecting-book as subscribers to a Christian place of worship. Before leaving the Cape in 1867, he made a tour of the Free Church mission stations, and his interest in the work he saw and the places visited never waned to his last day.

On his return he was appointed for three months to Lausanne, to minister to residents and tourists, which he did with much acceptance to the congregation and great enjoyment to himself. In after years he often spoke of it as a “most enjoyable, hard-working holiday.” After his return from the Continent his wife’s health broke down, and his movements were modified to suit the altered circumstances. The small charge of Strathblane, about that time sanctioned, was his next sphere, and there he laboured till, in 1871, the congregation of Wick called him on the death of Mr. Thompson.

Of Mr. Renny’s work in Caithness it is yet too soon to speak. From the first he entered zealously into the work of the congregation, and during the whole of his ministry at Wick, kept the spiritual aspects of it always prominently in the first place. His preaching was expository rather than hortative, and always warmly evangelical. To rich and poor he was courteous, kindly, and accessible. To the poor he was generous; to the sick, the bereaved, and sorrowful, sympathetic and helpful. But his influence and his work extended far beyond the bounds of his own congregation, and he will be largely remembered as the pioneer and advocate of more liberal thought and toleration in the north. Absolutely fearless and honest in the expression of his views almost to hardihood, it was impossible that he should not have met with opposition and misrepresentation; but he lived to see the principles of church polity he advocated, and the liberty of thought which he claimed, tolerated by almost all and adopted by many. That, and a kindlier spirit in dealing with questions on which men feel strongly, were among the changes wrought out during the last quarter of a century.

Mr. Renny was justly popular. He never cherished a grudge, and after a stormy debate in presbytery or synod he was as friendly with his opponents as if no debate had taken place. Nor did defeat sour his temper or mar social intercourse, and often he helped in their difficulties those who most bitterly opposed him. In Assembly debates he frequently took part, and his advice and help were often sought in connection with the work of the committees of the church. A many-sided and lovable man, his presence will long be missed by his brethren in his own presbytery, and his loss will be mourned by his friends as one of the blanks which remain—the evidence to them of the fading, waning present. His memory they cherish; the stimulus of his life they feel. “They rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

Mr. Renny leaves a widow, and a niece who lived with them, both of whom took a deep interest in all his labours, to mourn his loss.

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(Died September 8,1875)

Author: Rev. J. W. Taylor, Flisk

The Free Church Monthly November 1, 1875, p.279

Long years of illness have secluded Mr. Renton, as a minister, from the observation of the Church. This is, however, no reason, but the reverse, why there should not be a grateful mention of him, and of the work which he did for Christ in his day of usefulness.

He was the Free Church’s earliest licentiate, and was accustomed to speak of himself as the first-born preacher-son of the Free Church. He was Edinburgh born, and as his father was a Writer to the Signet, he had every educational advantage, which he so improved as to stand forth High School dux in the last year of his attendance.

When licensed, he was immediately ordained minister of the Free Church at Auchtermuchty. He had been tutor at Pitlour, where his staidness of character and his willingness to help in every Christian work commended him to the Auchtermuchty congregation. Here, then, the preacher of a few weeks, without one sermon to fall back upon, he was at once ushered into the varied work of the settled ministry. But his devotion was warm, and his diligence was untiring, and his resources were varied. God also supplied him with the sympathy and succour, which in Disruption times was often so providentially given, of the Misses Moncrieff of Southfield, who were his “helpers in Christ Jesus” to an extent which it would be difficult to make the present generation to understand.

As a preacher, Mr. Renton did not affect the intellectualist. He was the herald of the simple but authoritative message. His subject was the gospel, his object the soul, his aim salvation. By a distinct outline, by simple and mostly scriptural illustration, by a lively manner and a short discourse, he succeeded in engaging and instructing the general hearer.

His congregational classes were his delight; and many, from the groom in the stable to the station-master on the railway, are able to reflect with gratitude on the benefit which his class-teaching imparted to them.

He excelled in teaching. To this, when precluded from the pulpit by growing illness, he looked as a source of usefulness; and to this the broken fragments of his life, when free from pain, were devoted. Most conscientiously did he go on, endeavouring to gather some fresh acquisition for his pupils every day, feeling with Arnold “that he would rather give them water from a running stream than from a stagnant pool.” The institution which he set up at Auchtermuchty prospered. It sent forth, year by year, young ladies who passed at the Edinburgh University local examinations, and some of whom took the highest scholarships which are agoing. “I am sure,” writes one of them, “there is not one of the many girls who have been trained by you — numbers of whom have gone out like myself into the world — but must sincerely mourn Mr. Renton’s death. My success is, under God, owing to his labours and unceasing interest in me.”

Mr. Renton died in his fifty-sixth year. Much of the last of these years had been spent in suffering. Suppressed gout lurked in the system, and often broke out in great pain and sickness. Amid all this he was enabled to be resigned, and even cheerful; and the ground of this state of mind was expressed, by himself in this sentence, “I am trying to stand by faith, for it is by unbelief I fall.”

After enjoying for a few weeks the sea-shore drives and the seaward views of Thurso — the evening blink before the night closed in — on his way home he visited his son, Dr. James Renton, St. James Terrace, Glasgow. There his last illness overtook him. “This is death now,” he said, “and I know in whom I have believed.” He fell asleep “at peace and in Christ” on Wednesday, 8th September.


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(Died April 12, 1875)

Author: Rev. John Garson, Birsay

The Free Church Monthly October 1, 1875, p.253

Mr. Rettie was born at Monquhitter, Aberdeenshire. He received his university education at Aberdeen, and was a distinguished student. After passing through the usual literary and theological curriculum, he became a licentiate of she Church of Scotland, which at that time was beginning to shake off the lethargy into which it had fallen under the reign of Moderatism. Mr. Rettie, like many other licentiates of his Church, attracted by the merited celebrity of Dr. Thomas Chalmers, professor of theology in the University of Edinburgh, attended the prelections, and imbibed the spirit, of this great man. Also, while a licentiate, he resided some time in the north, near Wick, where he was brought into contact with godly and earnest ministers, such as the late Messrs. Phin of Wick, and Gunn of Watten, whose sound doctrinal views and devotedness to their Master’s service greatly influenced him. About 1836 he became assistant to the Rev. William Malcolm of Firth and Stennis, whom he assisted for some years, and was instrumental of much good both to the minister and his two parishes. His clear ad earnest exposition of the Word on the Sabbath, combined with his week-day labours and his Christian walk, produced a deep impression, which was manifested by a greatly improved tone of religious feeling, and greater earnestness in attending on religious services. In 1841 Mr. Rettie was settled in Evie and Rendall, as colleague and successor to the Rev. David Pitcairn. From that time down to the Disruption, with ability and success he performed the duties of a parish minister, and was greatly beloved by his people.

When in 1843 the great crisis came, he did not hesitate in regard to the course which he ought to follow. He gave up his connection with the Establishment. The Evie and Rendall kirk-session and congregation, approving of the course taken by their minister, heartily rallied round him. Like many other Disruption ministers, he had much to do in providing suitable places of worship, education for the young, and accommodation for himself; and for a while he was subjected to much inconvenience and great bodily fatigue in the performance of his ministerial work. After a time all this was got through. For many years past, in comfort, and surrounded by a numerous and an attached congregation, he has gone out and in among them, seeking first their spiritual interests, but also always ready to minister to their temporal happiness and comfort.

As a preacher, Mr. Rettie has long been considered among the first of preachers in Orkney, being thoroughly Calvinistic in his doctrine, comprehensive in his grasp, clear in his style, and pointed in his appeal. He regarded the pulpit a sacred place, and was consequently careful in his preparations for it, that what he there said might not only be the truth, but the truth fitly spoken. What he said was said from the heart, and though not always flowing forth in a stream of gentle affection, which captivates as it rolls on, yet the clearness and awful importance of the message which he delivered, and the intense earnestness with which it was urged, could not fail to make an impression on his hearers.

Mr. Rettie was also a man of prayer. His addresses to a throne of grace were characterized by such a variety of expressions of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, all poured forth with such holy reverence and childlike confidence as plainly indicated he held frequent converse with his Father in heaven. The full results of his ministry the great day will with certainty reveal; but the affectionate regards and esteem of a numerous congregation for considerably upwards of thirty years, the peaceful and happy end of not a few of them who have been gathered to their fathers, the eminent piety of some who live to mourn their loss, and the consistent walk and conversation of many others who have been watched over by him, all point to a ministry which the Lord hath blessed.

Towards the end of last year Mr. Rettie’s health began greatly to fail, and since January the probability of his recovery gradually diminished. For a few weeks previous to his death he suffered much, but with Christian patience; and, fully realizing the final result, he calmly looked forward to his change in the hope of a better life to come.

Mr. Rettie was twice married, and leaves a widow to mourn the loss of an affectionate husband and honoured servant of the Lord.

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(Died February 11, 1878)
Author: Rev. D.C.A. Agnew, Wigtown
The Free Church Monthly, June 1, 1878, p.131

This excellent minister has had a place in the sympathies of the Church from his youth, being a son of the great Indian missionary, Charles Theophilus Ewald Rhenius, of whom it was said that he “obtained an influence over the native mind unequalled by any since the days of Schwartz, if indeed equalled by Schwartz himself.”

Josiah Rhenius was born at Madras, 21st April 1818. At the age of sixteen he came to London, and spent three years in completing a literary course at King’s College. He returned to the East, but his sojourn there was brief, for his father died in 1838. On 2nd January 1839, he embarked for Europe, having accepted the offer of Dr. Smyttan to accompany him to Scotland, and to study in Edinburgh for the ministry of the Scottish Church. He had already acquired the habit of fluent and tasteful English composition, and his letters, describing the Overland Route and a Tour in Italy, were printed in the Oriental Christian Spectator of that year. Having spent two winters in the higher classes of the Curriculum of Arts in Edinburgh University, he was in 1841 admitted to study divinity, in consideration of his King’s College and Edinburgh certificates, and also on his promise to read for the degree of M.A. His industry was remarkable; for in the midst of his regular studies, besides producing a memoir of his father, which extended to 600 pages, he took his degree in April 1843, at a time when the amount and variety of reading imposed upon a candidate for graduation was, as is now admitted, quite excessive.

That eventful year reminds us of our Free Church principles. Mr. Rhenius was an enthusiastic, painstaking, and accurate investigator on such subjects. His verdict as to Presbyterianism I extract from his tourist journal of 1839: “The Church of England is, if I may so say, more according to my taste. … To my mind, however, two things present themselves as impassable barriers. The first is, the too intimate connection of the Church with the State, amounting almost to the subjection of the one to the other. The second is, that spirit of proud exclusiveness which is most naturally created by the idea of apostolical succession. The Scotch Kirk in these two points, which appear to me essential ones, must be confessed, I think, to be unfettered. She has the power of asserting her independence and of governing herself, while her ministers are not obliged to think themselves superior to others who preach the gospel in sincerity and truth. Within her pale, together with the strictest internal discipline, there is liberty; while the bond of Christian charity is not necessarily broken through the idea of a superiority obtained hereditarily from the apostles.”

From such a foundation of sound reasoning, with the home society of Dr. Smyttan, and the ministry of Dr. Candlish superadded, his resolution to adhere to the Free Church of Scotland consistently and unhesitatingly rose. He greatly approved of the epithet “Protesting,” which was often inserted in her title. In fact, fearing that the word “Free ” might be interpreted by the ignorant as tolerating latitudinarianism or encouraging turbulence, he for some time spoke of his Church by no other name than the Protesting Church, and desisted only when he found that many people did not know to what Church he was alluding.

Mr. Rhenius was licensed in 1844, and in the same year was ordained to the Free Church of Tongland. Here he lived for all but thirty years, highly respected as a serious, gentlemanly, and elegantly accomplished man and minister, and a kind and thoughtful pastor and friend. In his beautiful rural seclusion his elaborate and instructive discourses seemed to be almost thrown away; but on my last visit to him I found that he had succeeded in gathering around him a fit and appreciative audience. When he preached in any of our cities he was regarded as a preacher of more than average eminence. His sermons were well thought out and often original: a good specimen was a Synod sermon on the text, “And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made ” (Ex. 32:35).

Without entering upon controversy, I may notice the impression concerning him that he was too much of an ecclesiastical theorist. The discussions which he raised were beneficial, as is all freedom of debate. I remember that on the very day when he opposed the conferring of an undefined ecclesiastical status on Mr. Brownlow North by the General Assembly, Dr. Robert Buchanan spoke to me of the good taste as well as the conscientiousness which Mr. Rhenius had displayed. With regard to National Education, although he mingled in the politics of the question, he was a practical man, and founded a school in one of the villages of his charge, for which he enlisted the services of directors of various denominations. The cause of Foreign Missions was, of course, peculiarly dear to him, and he was an efficient member of the Assembly’s Committee. His intelligent views may be gathered from his speech at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1861.

In the winter of 1873 he was prostrated by a paralytic attack, from which he never rallied. He took up his residence in Edinburgh, where he lingered until the beginning of this year, when he passed away in his sixtieth year. A few hours before his death he said to his devoted wife, “Pray, oh pray, that when my time does come, I may be taken quietly, just like Dr. Chalmers, without a struggle!” The prayer was answered.

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(Died July 18, 1884)
Author: Rev. R. Cowan, Elgin
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.341

Alexander Robb was a native of Peterhead. In his early youth he does not appear to have contemplated the ministry, and he was for some time engaged as a clerk in a mercantile connection. Even then, there is good reason to believe that his heart had been won to Christ. In particular, the Bible class conducted by the Rev. Mr. Yuill of Peterhead appears to have been a centre of interest and source of spiritual blessing to him and not a few other young men. An intimate associate of those years writes: “He was intensely interested in Mr. Yuill’s Bible class, as we all were. It was a very enjoyable time. We both owed much to Mr. Yuill.” His younger brother, now minister at Deerness in Orkney, taught a school near Peterhead, and Alexander took his place one winter, to allow of his going to college. Thereafter he did not return to his former occupation, but set his face steadfastly towards the ministry; the brothers working to one another’s hands, and taking turns for some time at teaching and at college. The authorities of the school in the Peterhead district dispensed with the services of both brothers, in consequence of their adherence to the Free Church. For a considerable time Alexander taught the Free Church school of Udny, and he is spoken of by some of his former pupils as having been a somewhat strict but most efficient teacher. He took his literary course as a student, partly at Aberdeen, partly at Edinburgh, and his divinity course at Aberdeen. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Ellon, and thereafter, for some time, acted as missionary in connection with St. Paul’s Free Church, Edinburgh, then under the pastorate of the Rev. George Brown. In 1859 he was settled at Pluscarden, in succession to the Rev. Mr. Dunbar, the Disruption minister in that charge. Pluscarden is in the parish of Elgin, although six miles from the town of Elgin. Its beautiful old abbey, or rather priory, has been long famous, and is now made better known to the student and antiquary by the scholarly and interesting monograph of the Rev. S.R. Macphail, formerly of Elgin, now of Canning Street, Liverpool. In this edifice, which, in pre-Reformation times, had been long familiar with another kind of exercises, Mr. Robb, for twenty-five years, faithfully preached the gospel of Christ. The congregation under Mr. Dunbar had met there before 1843, and, with a liberal-mindedness that was very rare at that time, the noble proprietor, the Earl of Fife, continued the use of their place of worship in connection with the Free Church to the minister and congregation, as successive noblemen of that house have since done.

With a high sense of the responsibilities of his office, and with lively enthusiasm and earnestness, Mr. Robb buckled to the work of his ministry, and his first years at Pluscarden seem to have had a special blessing resting upon them. A former office-bearer in the congregation, now resident elsewhere, but moved on the occasion of Mr. Robb’s death to address a word to his former fellow-worshippers, says: “When he first came among us, how many heart-stirring addresses we received from him. How often the word seemed to be accompanied by the Spirit of the Lord, bringing many under deep convictions of sin, and making them feel a desire to decide for Christ. How my heart warms when the memories of so many happy Sabbaths come before me. May the Lord forbid that any who live in your beautiful vale, surrounded with all the beauties of nature, combined with the solemnities of the place where we so often worshipped together, should be found wanting in that great day.” In other congregations also besides his own, cases have recently come to light of awakening and conversion by his preaching. From first to last of his ministry, what peculiarly struck one about Mr. Robb’s preaching was its earnestness. He preached the old evangelical doctrine, and in applying it sought to separate the precious from the vile, and by warning and appeal, and clear presentation of the one sure refuge, to shut men up to Christ and bring them in to him.

He was a diligent and exemplary pastor to both old and young. His Bible class and Sabbath-school work had always a special interest for him. He took a kindly oversight of the numerous farm-servants belonging to the glen. He visited dutifully among his people, and still took a friendly interest in families after they had left the district, calling upon them elsewhere when he had opportunity. The sick and aged, and all to whom he ministered at any time when in trouble, thought and spoke of him ever after as a true shepherd and Christian friend. It was a touching circumstance that when, in the first severe onset of his last illness, his mind wandered a little for a day or two, it wandered in compassionate speech and prayer for some of the last sick persons he had visited. In church business also he was methodical and accurate; and another touching circumstance is, that his pen seems to have finally given over in the middle of a sentence, in attempting, with feeble hand, to draft a minute of his last session meeting, held near the close of his illness in his bedroom. The locality of his church made it convenient as a stated place of worship for a considerable number who were communicants in other denominations than the Free Church, and with these Mr. Robb’s intercourse, as a Christian friend and minister of Christ, was uniformly of the most cordial description.

Mr. Robb was a lovable man, and a man of warm and fast friendships. Conservative himself on doctrinal and Church questions, his own stand-point never affected his esteem and love for Christian brethren. A very special friendship, enlivened by frequent reciprocal visits, existed between him and his old fellow-student, Professor Davidson, who was always welcomed equally in the manse and the pulpit at Pluscarden.

In January last a heavy affliction befell him, in the loss of his excellent wife, who was the daughter of a leading office-bearer in his congregation, some time ago deceased. Both Mr. and Mrs. Robb had, in the providence of God, at separate times within the last two years, met with accident. Each of them seemed to have got well over it; but no doubt it had diminished the strength to battle with disease. Pleurisy, of which he had one severe attack followed by another, was the immediate cause of Mr. Robb’s death. Till the last week good hope was entertained of his recovery, and the end came at last sooner and more suddenly than was anticipated. Depressed by weakness and suffering, his spiritual comfort was at first somewhat clouded. Mr. Wood, his assistant, was enabled suitably to minister to his help in his closing hours; and, brightening up a little before the end, he repeated the texts, “I know whom I have believed,” and “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” which thus became the expression of his dying faith and hope. He died on the 18th day of July. He had no family. He was sixty-eight years of age.

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(Died March 5, 1898)
Author: Rev. J. Calder MacPhail, D.D., Pilrig
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, May, 1898, Obituary, p.120

Thomas Roberton was born in Edinburgh on the twenty-fourth of November 1821. He received his preparatory education at the High School of his native city, and entered the University there when he was only thirteen years old. As a student at the University he distinguished himself both in classics and in philosophy.

Even as a youth he had so much of the spirit of the Master that no one who knew him then could be surprised to find him entering the Divinity Hall; and the Edinburgh Divinity Hall of those days was no ordinary theological school. It could not boast of many professors, but Chalmers and Welsh were there, and when they lectured their benches were crowded with enthusiastic students, by whom they were not only held in the highest esteem, but also regarded with profound veneration.

While Mr. Roberton was passing through his last session at the hall the Ten Years’ Conflict was drawing to a close, and the Evangelical party were making the necessary arrangements for their separation from the state. It was a testing time for probationers and students of divinity, as well as for the ministers who were settled in charges. If adherence to the Evangelical party cost the latter the loss of their ecclesiastical benefices, it cost the former the abandonment of all the youthful hopes they had cherished in connection with becoming some day ministers in the Established Church of Scotland.

There could be no doubt as to where Thomas Roberton would be found in the day of decision. He unhesitatingly threw in his lot with the men who renounced all for the sake of their principles. Accordingly, when the Free Church Presbytery of Edinburgh met in the New Brick Church in Lothian Road on the seventh of June, immediately after the Assembly, he was one of the first band of divinity students who presented themselves for licence in connection with the Free Church. That band had already passed the Synod of Lothian and Tweed-dale, and in order to expedite the licensing of them the presbytery met both that evening and the following evening to hear their trial discourses; and these having been sustained, they were licensed on the ninth of June. It fell to the venerable Dr. Gordon, as moderator of the presbytery, to address them, after which Dr. Henry Grey led the presbytery in prayer to God on their behalf.

Dr. Gordon’s address on that occasion was so remarkable that the presbytery unanimously requested him to publish it, and this he agreed to do. Among the names of others of the same first band of applicants for licence are found those of Mr. William Welsh, who was transferred for licence to the Presbytery of Biggar and Peebles, and thereafter became minister at Broughton, Mr. William King Hamilton, afterwards minister at Stonehouse, and Mr. James Walker, who was settled at Carnwath.

Within a few weeks from the time he was licensed Mr. Roberton received two calls—one from the congregation of Lowick in Northumberland, and the other from the congregation of Dunipace, where a new church had just been opened by the Rev. Mr. Bonar of Larbert, then minister of the united parishes of Larbert and Dunipace. He accepted the call from Dunipace, and was ordained to that charge on the twenty-eighth of September 1843, when he was only twenty-one years of age. His ordination service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Leitch of Stirling, and on the following Sabbath he was introduced to his congregation by the Rev. Charles J. Brown of Edinburgh, of whose church he had been a member.

Mr. Roberton was always a student, and never entered the pulpit with that which cost him nothing. True to the best traditions of the Scottish Church, he also took a deep and intelligent interest in the cause of education; but his heart was always, and above all, in the proper work of the ministry. For the long period of forty-three years he laboured in Dunipace as the sole minister, feeding his flock from the pulpit on Sabbath with the finest of the wheat, and going out and in among their families through the week with such a tender and gracious spirit that men spoke of him “as one who not only preached, but adorned, the doctrine of Christ.” According to the testimony of a brother minister, “he was a high-toned Christian gentleman, both scholarly and devoted, with a dignity, a weight, and a jealousy for the ministerial calling that were always impressive.” His labours were greatly blessed, and he had the joy of seeing several seasons of special revival among his people.

In 1848, he married Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Christopher Greig of St. Ninian’s, Stirling, one of the noble band of ministers who came out at the Disruption. They had a family of eight children, two of whom—a boy and a girl—died in infancy, while a grown-up daughter died in 1883. Mrs. Roberton and five sons still survive. Three of the sons, like their father, are earnest ministers of the Free Church—one at Logiepert, a second at Wick, and the third at Ratho.

In time a constitution that was never robust felt the pressure of the ministerial burden which he had been called to bear so early in life. Several severe illnesses were the consequence. The first of these was in 1873, and it lasted for about a year. He received at that time a most gratifying proof of the general estimation in which he was held. Three gentlemen—one from each of the three Presbyterian denominations — waited on him, and in name of his friends in the district presented him with a gold watch and more than two hundred sovereigns “in recognition of his ministerial labours.”

In 1886, finding himself no longer able to overtake the duties of his charge, the Rev. D. C. Macnicol, B.D., now of Gorbals, Glasgow, was ordained his colleague. For two years he still continued to take such part as he was able in the work he loved so much, but in 1888 he was obliged to retire altogether from active service.

In 1891, he and Mrs. Roberton went to live with their youngest son at Ratho. There, in 1893, his jubilee was celebrated, when be received not only congratulatory addresses both from his presbytery and his congregation, but many other tokens of respect and affection; and there, on the fifth of March last, he very suddenly and peacefully “fell on sleep.” He was buried beside his children in the old churchyard of Dnnipace. The elders, with heavy hearts, carried the coffin of their spiritual father from the gate to the grave, and in their minutes the session recorded the following tribute to his memory: “For well-nigh fifty years he laboured, in season and out of season, to bring to all the gospel he loved. In the pulpit, in the home, and by the wayside he never failed to point old and young, men and women, to the Lamb of God. His ministrations to the sick and dying were singularly comforting and attractive; and as a pastor he watched faithfully for souls, exhorting, warning, and tenderly rebuking, so that many were led by him out of the ways of sin. His long and loving ministry, exercised with the greatest constancy and with a Christian gentleness which it was difficult to resist, has left fragrant memories which will long survive him.”

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(Died August 14, 1893)
Author: Rev. John Macpherson, Findhorn
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1893, Obituary, p.285

By the death of Mr. Robertson of Forres, the Free Church in the north has lost one of her most widely-known and warmly-loved ministers. For more than forty years he had been pastor of the one congregation, and his true, brotherly kindness had endeared him not only to the members of his own flock, but to the whole community.

Mr. Robertson was born at Foxbar, in the immediate neighbourhood of Paisley, in the year 1828. His family was of old standing, well known, and highly respected in the district. His father’s minister was the revered and distinguished Dr. Robert Burns of St. George’s, afterwards of Toronto; and with his son, Dr. Robert Burns of Montreal, Mr. Robertson maintained a warm friendship throughout life. After receiving his earlier training at home under a private tutor, Adam Robertson entered the Glasgow University, and during his four years’ curriculum he distinguished himself as a bright and thoroughly capable student. He then passed to the New College of Edinburgh, where he took his divinity course of four years under Dr. Cunningham, Dr. Duncan, Dr. James Buchanan, and Dr. Bannerman.

Soon after receiving license as a preacher of the gospel, he went to Forres as assistant to the Rev. Duncan Grant, and on the 12th August 1852 he was ordained as colleague minister. Mr. Robertson continued for fourteen years to occupy this position, until, on Mr. Grant’s death in 1866, Mr. Robertson became sole minister of the Free Church congregation of Forres. During the greater part of his colleague-ship, however, the entire work of the congregation, not only the pulpit services, but also the pastoral work, lay upon the junior colleague, Mr. Grant being unfit for duty of any kind. The relations between the colleagues were always of the most delightful description, and Mr. Robertson was accustomed to speak in the most affectionate terms of the old minister, and of the fatherly interest which he took in him and in his work.

The congregation over which Mr. Robertson, as a very young man, was called to preside was large and influential, and the work done in those early years told heavily upon him. This severe strain seriously impaired his vigour in later years, so that, notwithstanding his fine appearance and the sprightliness of his manner in the company of his friends, it became evident that he was no longer able unaided to discharge the duties of his important charge. In 1882, in the thirtieth year of his ministry, his officebearers resolved to secure for their pastor the help of an unordained assistant. Mr. Warrick, now minister of Old Cumnock, who first held that office, undertook and most efficiently discharged both the pulpit and the pastoral duties during Mr. Robertson’s absence of six months. But though he returned greatly refreshed and improved in health and spirits, it was evident that Mr. Robertson would no longer be able to discharge the duties of his charge unaided. From this time onward he was assisted by a succession of young preachers, now for the most part settled in charges of their own.

During recent years Mr. Robertson suffered from several very trying family bereavements. He was, as all who were acquainted with him very well know, of a most affectionate disposition, and the sufferings and death of members of his beloved home circle told very heavily upon him, and rendered him less able to bear up under the burden of increasing frailties. Eight years ago he was called on to part with his dearly-loved wife, who, though long an invalid, had yet retained a remarkable intellectual freshness, and was her husband’s most congenial and inspiring companion. The death, some two years ago, of his much-loved sister, followed, about eighteen months ago, by the death of his only son, Dr. Ross Robertson, awakened for him the warmest sympathy among his friends. The loss of his son in early manhood, at the opening of a promising career, was a blow from which Mr. Robertson never recovered. Yet throughout the last year he endeavoured bravely, as far as possible, to take his own share of the work. Last Assembly, in response to an application supported by session and presbytery, granted leave to the congregation to call a colleague to Mr. Robertson, so that he might be permanently relieved of the active duties of his charge. Naturally taking a warm interest in the proceedings of the congregation, he attended a meeting of his office-bearers on the evening of Monday, 7th August. He had appeared then to be in his usual health; but on Tuesday morning he suddenly summoned his family, and gave them the startling announcement that he was fully convinced that the illness which he felt approaching would end in death. Once and again he was able to speak in calm confidence of his hope in Christ, and addressed earnest and affectionate words to those around him. On Thursday he became unconscious, and continued in this condition till the end came. He quietly passed away shortly after seven o’clock on Monday evening. The communion service on the Sabbath, at which Professor Candlish presided, was a peculiarly solemn one to all, as they thought of their dear pastor lying at the very gates of death.

Mr. Robertson was highly esteemed by all who knew him. His brother ministers have all the tenderest memories of his unfailing brotherliness, his generous sympathy and most genial companionship. His office-bearers and congregation had abundant experience of his loving heart and tender sympathy in all times of sorrow and anxiety. Mr. Robertson will be long remembered in Forres and the surrounding district as an accomplished preacher, a faithful pastor, and a true, warm-hearted friend.

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(Died August 27, 1889)
Author: Rev. John A. Cooke, Auchtergaven
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January, 1890, Obituary, p.20

Mr. Robertson was a native of Blair-Athole, and was born of pious parents in 1826. He early experienced a saving change of heart and life, and soon after dedicated himself to the cause of God in the Christian ministry. Having received the best school education which the locality afforded, he entered the University of Edinburgh, and applied himself with diligence to his studies there, and afterwards in the Free Church Divinity Hall. He was licensed as a preacher of the gospel by the Presbytery of Dunkeld, and soon after received a unanimous call from the Free Church congregation of Burrelton, and was ordained as its minister in 1853.

From the very first, and all through the period of his active ministry, he steadfastly set himself, in the use of the means of grace, to promote the spiritual well-being of his people, many of whom still survive to testify to his faithful pulpit ministrations, his diligent visitations of the congregation, and his sympathetic visits to the sick, the bereaved, and the dying. Nor were his labours confined to his own flock, as he also took an active interest in evangelistic work in the neighbouring districts, much of the good fruits of which remain to this day. In this department of duty his own soul was greatly stirred up by the wave of blessing which passed through our land in 1859-60, and by his personally visiting the north of Ireland during the remarkable revival with which that part of the kingdom was then favoured.

He was a kind and constant friend, and those with whom he was wont to hold intimate fellowship will long remember his kind and genial disposition manifested during their interchange with him of brotherly sentiments on subjects of public or private interest at the time. Although, owing to feeble health, he was latterly laid aside for about four-and-a-half years from the more public duties of his office, he continued to take an interest in all matters pertaining to the welfare of the Church in general and of the congregations within the bounds of his Presbytery in particular, until completely prostrated by illness. However, he now rests from his labours, and his works do follow him. He has left a devoted widow to mourn her loss.

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(Died at Montreux, February 24, 1809)
Author: Rev. John Riddell, B.A., Glasgow
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1899, Obituary, p.140

Mr. Robertson was born in Rothesay in June 1841. His education was begun there under Mr. Browning at Croft Lodge Academy, and continued in the Glasgow Academy. He entered the Glasgow University in 1858. After taking his degree in 1863, he continued his studies for some time in Berlin. There, and in the course of his subsequent travels on the Continent, in the East, and in America, he increased his acquaintance with other churches, and deepened his affection for loyal servants of the Lord Jesus whose modes of thought and worship were diverse from his own. With many of these he maintained friendly intercourse to the end of his life.

On the completion of his course of theological study he was ordained minister of the Reformed Presbyterian congregation at Whithorn, which greatly prospered under the impulse of his fresh and earnest ministry. In 1873 he was called to the English Presbyterian Church in Dudley. Not a few who are earnest workers for Christ there today are the fruits of his brief ministry there.

He became minister of the united congregations of Bowling and Old Kilpatrick in 1875. When it became necessary to divide the two congregations, Mr. Robertson elected to be pastor at Bowling, taking the charge of the newer and less fully equipped section. There he ministered, with many tokens of the Master’s blessing, until smitten down by the great sorrow of his life in the loss of her who had been the light of his home, and his true yoke-fellow in all his service for the Master. His health gave way under the stroke. He was compelled to resign his charge and retire for a time from public duty.

In January 1887 he became pastor over the small handful who had undertaken the formation of a new English-speaking congregation in Oban. His earnest, cultured preaching, his warm sympathy, his lively interest in all missionary and evangelistic work, soon attracted a vigorous and influential congregation. He bore much of the burden of providing the handsome church and mission buildings which they now occupy. Added to the work of his young and increasing charge, however, the labour and anxieties of this effort proved too much for his strength. He aged rapidly; derangement of the heart followed. The attacks came sudden and alarming, and with increasing frequency. In 1896 it became necessary to resign his pastorate and retire to Bridge of Allan, but he continued to take the warmest interest in the congregation at Oban and in all its concerns. From his sick-bed in Switzerland a welcome letter reached them, and was read to their recent annual congregational meeting. A few days thereafter he was at home with the Lord.

Throughout his life Mr. Robertson was characterized by breadth of outlook and warm generosity of heart. His ministry was especially that of a “Great-heart.” He never lost nor lost sight of a friend. “It was almost,” as was said by the Rev. James Miller of Bridge of Allan, “an irony of fate that he who had so richly the gift of making and keeping friends, and who, wherever he went, endeared himself to all, should have passed away among strangers in a foreign land. His gentleness was like sunshine—never soiled by a hard thought or an ungenerous word. There is a gentleness which is akin to softness, but his was not that. In matters of church business, in which I often sought his counsel, he was keen-sighted and shrewd above most men. To a great extent an invalid, with every excuse for sparing himself had he been so minded, he made himself endeared to many in weary sickness by constant kindly visitation. Many a man with ten times the strength that our brother had, and with more abundant opportunity, has never touched the fringe of such work as he in his most fragile days accomplished. He lived under the shadow of God’s hand. He walked in the realized presence of Jesus Christ. That presence was the light in which he lived, was the atmosphere that he breathed. The memory of what he was is a rich heritage to those who mourn his loss to-day.”

Mr. Robertson has left a widow—daughter of the Rev. Dr. Milligan of America—and a large family, the eldest of whom is now a missionary in Central Africa.

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(Died September 7, 1896)
Author: Rev. H. M. Williamson, D.D., Belfast
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1897, Obituary, p.20

The Rev. James Robertson was born on the first of April 1817 at Blairgowrie. When a young man, he attended the ministry of the late Dr. Robert Macdonald of North Leith, then minister of Blairgowrie. In these days the Church of Scotland began to awake from a long period of spiritual slumber. Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord came to many parts of the land. There was a special season of blessing at Blairgowrie. Many were awakened and led to Christ, and among them Mr. Robertson. He passed through a season of great darkness and deep soul anxiety, but after a time entered into life and peace. It is perhaps difficult to explain, but true it is, that in these years the work of the Spirit of God was of a special type, and producing in the subjects of it views of the majesty, and holiness, and justice of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and of the atoning work of Christ, not common in these later times. Under such a work of the Spirit, Mr. Robertson began his Christian life, and to the end of his course these profound views of the character of God, and of sin, kept him in self-abasement before God, even while his soul rested securely in His love.

Having passed through the usual curriculum of study, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Meigle in 1852. In 1853, he received a unanimous call to succeed the saintly Mr. Brown, the first minister of Cray.

Previous to the Disruption, there was a chapel of ease at Percy, at the southern end of the glen, where the late Professor Duncan for a time ministered. When the Disruption occurred, there was no proprietor in the glen disposed to give a site for a Free church. When the late Major Robertson of Cray, then in India, heard of it, he gladly offered a site for a church and manse within the policies of Cray. In this quiet and beautiful glen Mr. Robertson laboured for well-nigh forty-three years. He was a preacher of marked ability; up to his last days a diligent student, keeping himself abreast of the theological literature of the day. Comparatively few even of his brethren knew his power of clear thought and eloquent utterance, because he seldom preached in other pulpits.

He lived near God, and God greatly honoured His servant. Glenshee, under his ministry, became as a well-watered garden, and as a field which the Lord doth bless. Repeatedly, during his ministry, his congregation was visited with seasons of special blessing, during which many were savingly converted to God.

He was a man of singular modesty. Only in the midst of congenial Christian society did he unbosom himself. Many visitors from all parts of the land, sojourning for a season in Glenshee, with equal surprise and delight waited upon his ministry, wondering also how a man endowed with such rare gifts and graces as a preacher, should remain so long as if hidden away. But the reason lay wholly with himself: he seldom preached in other places, and no inducement and no entreaties of friends could persuade him to leave the people and the glen he so dearly loved.

He was called to succeed the late Dr. Andrew Bonar, when he left Collace; but he steadfastly declined to move. In after years he was called to Hillhead, Glasgow—this call he also refused. His ministry, and such as his, have been the glory and the strength of the Free Church of Scotland, causing the land to be fruitful to God in its remotest glens and quiet villages.

He married Miss Turnbull, a Dutch lady, shortly after his settlement at Cray, by whom he had four children—two sons and two daughters. She died many years ago. Her early removal opened a heart-sore which indeed was never healed, although his quiet gladness in God always remained. The only surviving members of his family are Dr. R. Macdonald Robertson, Edinburgh, and James W. Robertson, of T. T. Weir & Robertson, S.S.C., Edinburgh.

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(Died July 30, 1858)
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October, 1858, quoting the Falmouth Post of 3rd August, 1858

Mr Robertson was sent to Jamaica from Scotland by the Colonial Committee of the Free Church and arrived in Falmouth in the month of December, 1855. He entered at once on the discharge of his pastoral duties, faithfully maintained a watchful and zealous care for his flock, and a deep abiding concern for their spiritual well-being. As a man and a friend, he was beloved and esteemed; as a minister of the gospel, his practice was in perfect keeping with his preaching; his discourses were truly evangelical, and entirely free from sectarianism. He laboured to explain the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, and to enforce the great leading duties which devolve upon professors of Christianity. He was in every respect a worthy labourer in the vineyard of the Lord and his name will be long retained in the affectionate remembrance of his now bereaved people.

Mr. Robertson had gone up on Thursday, the 22nd July, to Spot Valley Estate, the residence of A. Grant, Esq., with the intention of spending a few days, enjoying the fresh air and pleasant scenery, and the quiet of the country. There on the 24th, he was seized with a slow fever which weakened him much but from which his medical adviser and other friends did not anticipate any serous consequences. Early on the morning of the 30th, however, the fever assumed a malignant form causing nervous tremor, delirium and other fatal symptoms. On the evening of the same day he breathed his last. Freed from the bondage of his earthly tabernacle, his ransomed spirit winged its way to better mansions to enter the company and to join in the songs of “just men made perfect,” around the throne of their heavenly Father.

On Saturday evening a large number of persons, consisting partly of the members of the reverend gentleman’s church and partly of others who wished to show the respect and esteem which they entertained for him, met at Half-Moon Bay the conveyance containing his remains, and followed in orderly procession to the kirk. The Rev. Messrs Aird, Lawrence and McLean of the United Presbyterian Church conducted the funeral services which were felt by all to be peculiarly solemn and impressive. The last sad rites were then performed; the body was committed to the earth in the presence of many who sorrowed for the loss of a good man but who rejoiced also in anticipation of the glorious day, when they that “sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him”

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(Died May 29, 1882)
Author: Rev. Alexander Skene, M.A., Glasgow
Source: The Free Church Monthly, August 1, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.243

At the evening sederunt of the General Assembly of May 29, 1882, the members were solemnized by the announcement from the Moderator’s chair that the Rev. John Robertson, minister at Anwoth, had died that afternoon, after a very short illness. Mr. Robertson was one of the commissioners from the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright. On Saturday, the 20th, he left home for Glasgow; and on Sabbath he preached in Union Free Church in that city. His sermon in the afternoon, which was to be the last he should preach, was on the death of Moses; and it is remembered still by many who heard it for its earnestness and solemnity. In the evening he went to one of Mr. Moody’s meetings. The hall was crowded; and it is thought that he caught cold coming from the heat into the chill night air. On Monday he went to Edinburgh, and was present at one of the meetings of the Assembly. On Tuesday it was found he was suffering from pleurisy. He gradually became weaker; and on Monday he died.

Mr. Robertson was born at Invergordon, and had the blessing of being brought up in a living Christian home, under the influence of Christian parents. His minister during boyhood was the Rev. Mr. Carment of Rosskeen, who always took a great interest in him, and intercourse with whom did much in shaping his life and moulding his character. Of this spiritual father he often spoke, and always with affectionate reverence. He always had a wish to be a minister; and the death of a very dear and gentle brother, who was preparing for the ministry, both deepened in a great degree his spiritual life, and strengthened his purpose to become a preacher of the gospel. After graduating in Aberdeen, he attended the theological classes in the New College, Edinburgh. Immediately on getting license, he began work among the navvies at Carstairs, preaching at Crawfordjohn, Abington, Crosshill, etc. After a short period of this work, which he engaged in with such earnestness as seriously to hurt his health, he was unanimously called to be their minister by the congregation of Girthon and Anwoth. There he laboured till his death – a period of thirty-two years.

It would be almost impossible to overrate the influence for good exerted by Mr. Robertson during these years in the district where he laboured. As a preacher, he was earnest, faithful, evangelical; feeling always the burden of his message, and anxious to deliver the whole word of God. His pastoral work always engaged a large share of his attention. He was most diligent and systematic in the visitation of his people. He made himself their friend and won their trust. And at sick-beds and death beds, and in houses of mourning, his sympathy and kindliness and tender faithfulness made him peculiarly welcome. He had come through deep waters of affliction himself, having been laid aside for some time from active work by serious illness, and having lost several of his children; and so he was the more able to comfort those in trouble. And behind all he said and did there was felt to be a character which, in its uprightness and simple goodness, was a rebuke to sin and a praise to well-doing.

In all that concerned the moral well-being of the community Mr. Robertson was keenly interested. Towards the close of his ministry he put his hand heartily to the temperance cause. He always was sincerely anxious about the education of the district. Before the Education Act and the establishment of a national system of education, the school in connection with his congregation always kept a high degree of efficiency; and, chiefly through Mr. Robertson’s exertions, school-buildings were erected about twenty years ago which for commodiousness and all teaching purposes leave nothing to be desired. When these buildings were transferred to the State, Mr. Robertson’s interest in education remained unabated. As a member of the school board, he was always anxious to have the teaching of the district as efficient as possible.

By his co-presbyters Mr. Robertson was held in the highest esteem. And I may conclude this short notice by quoting the words of one of them. “Whether we view him as a preacher,” said the Rev. Mr. Elder of Borgue in a funeral sermon, “proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation; as a pastor, caring for the flock; as a member of the community, fostering education and helping forward every movement having for its object the elevation of his fellow-men; as a member of our Church courts, taking the deepest interest in all the Church’s efforts for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ; as a comforter of the sorrowful, a helper of the poor, a kind neighbour, and a faithful friend, it may be said with perfect truth of Mr. Robertson that in all these things he made full proof of his ministry, and occupied diligently in every talent committed to his trust.”

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The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, August 1, 1866, p.18

Mr. Robertson was born early in the century at Cairney-hill, a village in the parish of Carnock, Fifeshire. He seems to have been, like Obadiah, one who feared the Lord from his youth; and it is believed that at an early period he resolved to devote his life to the work of the ministry. After having studied for several sessions at the University of Edinburgh, he went to Canada, where he resided for a year or two as tutor in a respectable family at Quebec. On his return he prosecuted his theological studies at Edinburgh, and was licensed as a probationer early in 1834. Though not ordained till after the Disruption, he had for a number of years previously a large amount both of pulpit and of pastoral work, having been called to occupy various posts of usefulness and of no small responsibility. He was for some time assistant to the late Rev. Dr. Buchanan of Kinross. Thereafter, in the absence from ill-health of the late Rev. James Monteath, he had charge of the congregation of Dalkeith Parish Church. And he officiated subsequently in the church of New Greyfriars, Edinburgh, during the absence of the much-respected minister, the Rev. Dr. Wood, now of Dumfries. In these various positions he proved himself a faithful and zealous labourer; one who sought not his own glory, but the glory of the Master whom he served; and there is reason to believe that his labours were not fruitless. At the Disruption he cast in his lot, without a moment’s hesitation, with the Free Church of Scotland, and in a short while he received a call to the pastorate of the newly-formed congregation at Saline, a pleasant village in his native district, the west of Fife. Here he lived and laboured with a single eye to the great ends of the gospel ministry; but the state of his health, never very robust, constrained him more than once to withdraw for a time from his field of labour. Twice he was sent to Malta by the Colonial Committee, and there he was enabled to do some good service to the Church. His second visit seems to have been the means of prolonging his life, and he enjoyed after it a larger measure of health than for many years before. During his last illness, of between two and three months’ duration, he submitted meekly to the heavy affliction that was sent him; and when it became manifest that recovery was hopeless, he calmly prepared for his approaching change, and, early in the morning of the 19th ult., he died in the faith and hope of the gospel, leaving behind him the reputation of a good man, and a faithful minister of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Robertson was remarkable for his weight of character. His unostentatious but decided piety, his strict integrity and uniform consistency, gained for him the respect and confidence of all who knew him. Nor was he less remarkable for his geniality and kindliness as a companion and a friend. By those who knew him intimately he was greatly beloved, and by such his memory will long be fondly cherished.

Mr. Robertson was interred, on the 22nd ult., in the New Cemetery at Dunfermline. He has left a widow and five young children. May the God of the families of the faithful be their help and shield!

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(Died December 20, 1882)
Author: Rev. James Dodds, Dunbar
The Free Church Monthly, April, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.117

By the death of the Rev. Samuel Robertson of Pencaitland the Free Church has lost one of her country ministers who, though quiet and unassuming, are inferior to none of their brethren in the faithful discharge of pastoral duty. Mr. Robertson was not a Disruption minister, but he was educated during the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” and was fully imbued with the spirit of Disruption times. He was first a true member of the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland, and afterwards a devoted servant of the Free Church. He belonged to a class of men who, without making any loud or extreme professions, at a critical period of the Church’s history could always be relied upon as steadfast to principle and zealous in defence of the truth.

Samuel Robertson was born on the 16th May, 1815, at Ednam, Roxburghshire. His father, Peter Robertson, was for a time a leading farmer in the parish of Ednam, but towards the close of his life he resided at Neworth, near Kelso. He originally belonged to a family that had long been connected with the Society of Friends; but in early life he was led to join the Established Church of Scotland. He married a Miss Nisbet of Lambden, Berwickshire. Mrs. Robertson, an excellent woman, had great influence in forming the character of her son, Samuel, and along with her husband she early devoted him to the ministry.

After receiving his preliminary education at a good private school in Kelso, Samuel Robertson commenced his studies at the University of Edinburgh. At first he sympathized with the views of the Moderate party, to which most of his relatives and early friends belonged; but having been deeply impressed by a sermon of one who had been a fellow-student, and is now revered in the Church as Professor Dr. George Smeaton, he adopted Evangelical principles, and heartily cast in his lot with the great party which afterwards formed the Free Church of Scotland. Licensed at the early age of twenty-one, Mr. Robertson for two years acted as assistant to the Rev. Abraham Hume, minister of the parish of Greenlaw. Through this kind friend, he was offered a tutorship in the family of a Mr. Gordon, in the island of Madeira. In accepting that offer he was considerably influenced by the fact that a noble patron from whom he expected a living had announced that he could not appoint to any parish one who belonged to the Evangelical party. So early did Mr. Robertson’s tried fidelity illustrate the strength and consistency of his Christian character.

He remained in Madeira four years, during the latter part of which period he was tutor in the family of Lady William Montague. He was also there ordained an elder of the Presbyterian congregation, then under the care of Dr. Julius Wood, who was subsequently minister of the Free Church at Dumfries. As might have been expected, he took a lively interest in the remarkable work carried on by Dr. Kalley among the native Portuguese, and gave it all the encouragement and help in his power. Meanwhile, though distant from Scotland, he watched with great anxiety the progress of that famous Evangelical struggle which ended in the Disruption of 1843. He procured for perusal many of the pamphlets to which the ecclesiastical controversy gave rise, and these he lent to Count Montalambert, who was almost as much interested as himself in the conflict between Church and State in Scotland. He had made the acquaintance of this celebrated Frenchman in Madeira, and learned to admire his brilliant and amiable qualities.

At the Disruption Mr. Robertson, without the least hesitation, joined the Free Church of Scotland; and returning from Madeira in 1844 he took his place among her probationers. In the following year he was called to the Free Church of Pencaitland, which had become vacant by the resignation of the Rev. William Makellar. He was ordained to his charge on the 18th November by the Presbytery of Haddington and Dunbar, the Rev. Patrick Fairbairn, afterwards Principal Fairbairn, preaching and presiding on the occasion.

In Pencaitland the Free congregation had peculiar difficulties to contend with from the beginning, and the church had to be built in a remote corner of the parish, at a distance from the main part of the population. But Mr. Robertson performed his pastoral duties with great earnestness, and soon endeared himself to his own flock and to the parishioners generally. While faithful as a preacher of evangelical doctrine, and always guided by high principle, he conciliated the good-will and respect of all with whom he came into contact by his warmth of heart and the singular amiability of his manners. He was a man who made many friends and could make no enemies. Among his brethren of the Presbytery he was noted for his kindliness and frankness. A modesty and diffidence almost excessive prevented him from taking any prominent part in the business of the Presbytery, or any other of the Church courts; but on all public questions he manfully made up his mind, and he never hesitated to vote according to his principles. Strictly orthodox and evangelical in his doctrinal views, he was yet remarkably free from any kind of bigotry, and belonged to what may be called the liberal and progressive party in the Church. Among his own people he was held in the highest esteem. He was to them all a faithful pastor and a sympathizing friend, genial in his manners and of a cheerful disposition. He paid special attention to the religious instruction of the young. For many years he had a grand gathering or soiree at the Christmas time for their special benefit. The church, though remote and sequestered, like a chapel in a wood, was always filled on such occasions with an animated and delighted auditory. The musical element, of which Mr. Robertson was an excellent judge, was never neglected, and the entertainments were always of a superior description.

Mr. Robertson, like his predecessors Dr. Makellar and his son the Rev. William Makellar, had no official residence, but lived in Fountainhall House, an old manorial mansion belonging to Sir T. Dick Lauder, Bart., and which gave his title to the celebrated lawyer, Lord Fountainhall, who flourished at the period of the Revolution of 1688. This quaint old building, said never to have been finished by its original owner, stands on the edge of a romantic wood that stretches between Pencaitland and Ormiston. There Mr. Robertson spent many happy and useful days as the head of a family and the pastor of an attached congregation.

During the latter period of his life he suffered not a little from serious attacks of illness. Though a tall he was never a robust man, and as his years increased his strength very perceptibly diminished. The state of his heart at last became such that sudden death might at any time be apprehended. At last his call came with unexpected suddenness. Proceeding in a conveyance on the morning of December 20th last, to the railway station, distant a few miles from his house, in order to pay a visit in Glasgow to his son-in-law, the Rev. W. D. Glendinning, he became seriously ill soon after passing through the village of Pencaitland, and before he could be carried into the neighbouring post-office he had breathed his last.

Having been long aware of his precarious condition, he was well prepared for passing thus suddenly into the presence of his divine Master. Expecting to preach for Mr. Glendinning on the coming Sabbath, he had prepared the night before he left home a sermon on the text, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” It would appear that to the last his mind dwelt upon that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

Mr. Robertson was twice married—first, in 1840, to Miss Elizabeth Denniston, daughter of John Denniston, Esq., and a sister of the wife of the late Principal Cunningham; and afterwards, in 1859 to Miss Christina Rait, daughter of George Rait, Esq., an eminent farmer in Pencaitland, and an intelligent supporter of the Free Church. By his first wife he had a son and a daughter, and by his second three daughters. All his children have survived him; and of his younger daughters two are married – Gertrude, to the Rev. Walter D. Glendinning of the Barony Free Church, Glasgow; and Alice, to the Rev. J. Maclaren, who recently went out as a member of the Free Church Mission at Blythswood, South Africa. To Mrs. Maclaren, engaged with her husband on a distant and noble field of Christian labour, he wrote a letter on the evening before his death, one of the last and tenderest duties he was spared to perform in this world.

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(Died October 13, 1870)
Author: Rev. H. Nicoll, Auchindoir
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, December 1, 1870, p.253

Mr. Robertson was born in the parish of Migvie, near Tarland, in the year 1804. His father occupied a small farm there, and had a large family, of whom Mr. Robertson was one of the youngest. Being a clever, promising boy, he was sent early to the neighbouring Parish School of Coldstone. He afterwards attended the Grammar School in Aberdeen for a short period, and gained the second bursary at the public competition in Marischal College. He was but twelve years of age when he entered the University, and continued his attendance there for the usual period of four sessions, when he became a graduate. After completing the usual course of theological study in Aberdeen, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Fordyce as a preacher of the gospel. He had by this time been appointed parochial schoolmaster of Rathven, in Banffshire, and continued to hold this situation till the Disruption in 1843. He had a high reputation as a teacher; his scholarship was superior, his diligence, energy, and efficiency great, and he became widely known and greatly respected over the whole district, and several of his scholars came to occupy public situations of distinction and honour. He often preached in the neighbouring churches, and with much acceptance. During his residence in Aberdeen, he attended the ministry of Dr. Kidd, and often expressed his indebtedness to him for right views of evangelical truth, and of the nature and importance of personal religion. He had a singular veneration for Dr. Chalmers, and after he had been several years a probationer he went to Edinburgh, and attended during a full session the prelections of that eminent theologian, and those of Dr. Welsh. During the Ten Years’ Conflict he was an active and earnest supporter of the Evangelical party in the Church; and mainly through his exertions and influence a quoad sacra church was erected in Buckie, and another in Portknockie, in both which places they were much needed.

When the Disruption took place, all parochial schoolmasters joining the Free Church had either to resign or be ejected. Mr. Robertson accordingly left his school, and was soon after invited to labour as a probationer in the parish of Aboyne, in the near vicinity of his native parish. Through his active and energetic labours, a congregation was formed, of which he was ordained the pastor in 1844. A church and manse were soon after erected. At the time of his settlement, many workmen were employed in cutting down and manufacturing the woods and forests of Aboyne and Glentannar. A large number of these were members of his congregation, which thus became large and prosperous. But, in a few years, these operations ceased, the labourers removed, and the congregation was thus greatly weakened and reduced in numbers.

The church, too, had been erected in a very unfavourable locality in the parish of Birse, about a mile from the village of Aboyne, and on the other side of the Dee. No other site could at the time be obtained. Mr. Robertson made repeated applications, year after year, for a site in the village, but in vain. After labouring under much, discouragement for many years, an excellent site was at length granted by the Marquis of Huntly.

Immediate steps were taken to have the old church removed, and a new one erected. The Memorial stone was laid, in July 1869, by the Earl of Dalhousie, who gave at the time a handsome donation in aid of the building fund, and generously offered to give £100 more when the congregation should have raised as much more as would clear off all debt on the church. This was accomplished in a few months, and the church, a handsome and substantial building, was opened for public worship in November last, Mr. Candlish of Aberdeen officiating.

Minister and people were now greatly encouraged by the favourable change of circumstances, and fondly hoped for better and more prosperous days. But, in the case of Mr. Robertson, these hopes were not to be realized. His health began to fail about the time the church was opened. Yet he continued to discharge his pastoral duties as before, in the hope that his health would improve, and that he would be spared to labour in an increasing and prospering congregation. It was otherwise appointed by Him who doeth all things well. In the beginning of August his illness became very severe, and he was quite laid aside from ministerial duty. He continued sinking gradually till 13th October, when he rested from his labours and sufferings. During all his long and severe illness, he exhibited a spirit of cheerful submission to the Divine will, expressed his entire reliance on Jesus as all his salvation, and a good hope that through the grace of God in Christ he would, when absent from the body, be present with the Lord.

Mr. Robertson was a solid and substantial preacher. His sermons were able, instructive, evangelical, and practical; addressed more to the reason and the conscience than to the feelings or imagination. His natural abilities were of a superior order, and his mind was enriched with ample stores of various knowledge. He read much, made himself well acquainted with all the leading questions of the day, and took a lively interest in them. He was very regular in attending Church courts, and took an active part in all Presbytery business. His views in reference to various questions were very decided, and his feelings strong and earnest. He was thus led occasionally to express himself warmly and strongly on such questions. But all could respect his earnest convictions, while dissenting from his views, or feeling that his manner of advocating them was not the best. He was for some years corresponding member to the Sustentation Fund Committee for the Synod of Aberdeen; and, when some changes were proposed in reference to the distribution of the Fund, he published an able and earnest pamphlet against the changes proposed. Few had more friends than Mr. Robertson; and few had more of the social, genial, kindly disposition that makes friendship pleasant. No place on Deeside was better known for kind hospitality than the Free Church Manse of Aboyne.

We understand that, before his death, Mr. Robertson handed over to the Sustentation Fund Committee the sum of £400, to form a partial endowment for the congregation in which he laboured so long, and in the prosperity of which he took so deep an interest.

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The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, February 1, 1867, p.41

The Rev. Alexander Rodger was ordained in 1861, at Armadale, a populous mining district in the presbytery of Linlithgow. His labours were highly appreciated, and, under God’s blessing, were crowned with great success. A large congregation was gathered. He had many difficulties to contend with, and his labours were abundant and unceasing in all that belonged to the work of the pastor and zealous home missionary. Never robust in health or frame, his unremitting exertions soon began to tell on his strength; and more than once he was laid aside by threatenings of pulmonary disease. But in spring last, a more serious attack led him to seek the south of England to recruit. He came back in autumn, earnestly desirous to resume his labours; but this was not permitted. He was compelled to apply once more for leave of absence from the presbytery, and went to reside with his widowed mother at Tranent. There he was seized with violent bleeding from the lungs; and, after entire prostration, departed this life on the 10th of November last. Possessed of a clear and vigorous mind, of thorough and transparent honesty of purpose, gentle and lowly in his whole deportment, firm in maintaining God’s truth and the discipline of Christ’s Church, loving the Lord, and the Lord’s people and the Lord’s work, and withal most lovable, Mr. Rodger has been taken away, at the early age of thirty-five, revered by all who knew him, and sorely regretted by all in the district where his lot was cast.

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(Died January 8, 1878)
Abridged from a biographical sketch by the Rev. Dr. Reid of Toronto
Source: The Free Church Monthly, August 1, 1878, Biographical Notices, p.186

The father whose removal we now record was for upwards of forty-two years a faithful pastor. For the extent of his Christian labours, for his personal worth, for the success of his ministry, he was extensively known and highly respected, while he was greatly beloved by all who knew him. He was born at the manse of Kincardine O’Neil, Aberdeenshire, in 1807. Of that parish his father was for many years minister, and was greatly esteemed and beloved in the district. Mr. Roger’s ancestors, by the mother’s side, had been for five generations in the ministry.

The subject of this notice attended the Grammar School at Aberdeen, and entered King’s College at an early age. Alike in the classes of arts and in medicine and divinity he took a most respectable position; and through life he manifested a strong liking for many branches of science. Soon after obtaining license to preach, he accepted an appointment as missionary to Canada, and after receiving ordination from his native Presbytery, he sailed for that colony in the summer of 1833.

Two years previously, the Presbyterian ministers connected with the Church of Scotland had met at Kingston and organized a Synod. Its members, in 1833, were still few in number. Shortly after his arrival, Mr. Roger proceeded to Peterborough,—by that time the centre of a number of townships. There was no church, but the Presbyterians flocked to hear the young Scottish minister, who was bold in proclaiming the great truths of the gospel. Soon a call was offered to him, and he was inducted as pastor of the newly-organized congregation. After his settlement, work was vigorously carried on, and the fruits soon appeared. The congregation increased, and a church was erected.

In 1839, Mr. Roger visited his native home. His father was now advanced in years, and the parishioners were extremely desirous that the son, whose earnest and faithful preaching had been blessed to the conversion of some, should be appointed assistant and successor. Their application, however, was not acceded to by the patron. Mr. Roger held Non-intrusion views very decidedly; and after the Disruption, in 1843, those in his father’s parish who joined the Free Church repeatedly invited him to become their pastor. The matter came before the Church Courts. It was ultimately decided that he should remain in his Canadian charge, and in this decision he heartily acquiesced.

He had returned to Canada in 1840, and resumed his work with characteristic energy and devotedness. In 1844 came the Disruption in that country. The step then taken by Mr. Roger, which separated him from some dear friends, was taken sorrowfully, but conscientiously. It resulted in serious pecuniary loss to himself. He lived, however, on friendly terms with the pastors of that Church which he and his people had after some years to vacate; and when the Reunion of 1875 took place, no one witnessed the event with greater thankfulness than himself.

Mr. Roger’s congregation became large and influential; and with commendable spirit they erected the elegant edifice known as St. Paul’s Church. It was finished in 1858.

Mr. Roger’s activity extended all through the district of which Peterborough is the centre. He formed some congregations and fostered others. For arduous labours he was certainly well fitted. He had a strongly-built frame, great powers of endurance, and indomitable energy. A few years ago, however, he was obliged, in consequence of increasing infirmities, to apply for assistance; and soon after, he retired with the title of emeritus pastor, which arrangement was sanctioned by the Assembly.

Subsequently Mr. Roger’s health rapidly declined, and dangerous symptoms began to appear. He realized his condition, saying occasionally to brethren whom he met, “I have received my death-warrant.” But he was, as usual, cheerful and genial. His house was set in order: his soul was safe in the hands of his God and Saviour, and death could not come on him unawares. At last, on the evening of 8th January, while his family were engaged in worship, the Master himself called him to more intimate communion. “He was not, for God took him.” On the 10th January, after services in the church, the mortal remains were carried, through streets whose places of business were closed in token of respect, to their resting-place in the beautiful cemetery at Little Lake, where the remains of a loving partner and of several children already lay.

Mr. Roger was such a man and minister as we do not often meet with. Thorough integrity and candour, strong sense, kindness, and geniality, distinguished him in his intercourse with his fellow-men. In some branches of science, especially geology, his attainments were considerable. The unction and power of his sermons and addresses, especially on communion occasions, will long be remembered. To the sick and sorrowful he was indeed a Barnabas. His personal religion was deep and fervent, yet of a manly, genial type. He had the happy art of introducing religious conversation, and often left impressions which were never effaced. He was conscientious in attending Church Courts, at a time when such journeys were often accompanied with difficulties and perils. In his domestic relations he was distinguished by kindness, affection, and hospitality. He will long live in the memories and hearts of his people, and of brethren who knew and loved him.

His eldest surviving son is the Rev. W.M. Roger, A.M., of Ashburn, who visited Scotland a few years ago, and addressed the Free Assembly on Canadian Missions.

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(Died February 21, 1892)
Author: Dr. Hugh Mitchell, Craig
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, April, 1892, Obituary, p.96

Mr. Rose was born in Aberdeen in 1818. His father was a magistrate of that northern city, and the family were highly esteemed for their work and active benevolence. The eldest brother of the house, William, afterwards proprietor of Hazlehead, occupied for some time public office in his native city; and there was no position in city rule but would have been conferred upon him if his modesty would have allowed it. He was better known as a worker for Christ—as an elder of the Church, and as, in one part of his career, superintendent of a mission school in Drum’s Lane; and in generous giving and persevering labour he continued even to the end.

Donaldson passed through Grammar School, College, and Divinity Hall in Aberdeen; but spent the last year of his theological course in Edinburgh, under Dr. Chalmers. When the Disruption came, he cast in his lot with the Free Church joyfully and enthusiastically. Having been licensed shortly before that event, he was soon called and ordained to his first charge at Kinnethmont in the Presbytery of Alford, Aberdeenshire. There he laboured for seventeen years, doing much in the service of the Master outside his own congregation, in the setting up and sustaining of new ministerial charges over a wide district of country. Those times in the history the Church demanded greater physical effort than now, but he never wearied nor slackened in what to him was congenial toil, and especially when the wave of revival spread over the land he loved. He continued in his first charge till translated to the East Church, Brechin, where he remained till his death, accomplishing almost fifty years in the service of his Lord.

He was distinguished as a student, a pastor, and a philanthropist. As a student, he was well known to his compeers for his piety and scholarship, as we know from a reference made to him by his teacher, Dr. James Melvin, long after he had gone from under his charge. As a pastor, he was distinguished in every duty,—in his careful preparation for the pulpit; in the earnestness and tenderness of his preaching; in his visiting the homes of his flock, and being concerned in all their welfare; in his care for the sick and aged, and in his affectionate dealing with the young. As a philanthropist he abounded in every good work, and towards the end of his life gave a large sum to endow beds in the Brechin Infirmary, in memory of his wife and brother. He was respected, almost revered by his congregation, and his brethren in the Presbytery can only call up his memory as that of “a brother beloved.” He was known and respected by all classes in the community, having been a personal friend of Earl Dalhousie, perhaps better known in the history of the Free Church as Fox Maule.

Although not figuring to any great extent in the more public affairs of the Church to which he belonged, he had gone to India, risking all the dangers of the way and of the climate, to minister to the English at Mussoorie. He also attended as a deputy of the Free Church a meeting of the Waldensian Synod; and still further on, when, exhausted, he courted rest “‘mid Italian bowers,” he still sought to work for the Master, and we believe not without success.

Since 1880 Mr. Ritchie has ministered as his colleague in Brechin, and it can be affirmed that no jar ever came between them during all the years that remained.

Death has come, and prevented his receiving the honours of a jubilee, which would have been gladly paid him by all who have come in contact with him —by his flock, by the general community, and by the Presbytery of which he was an honoured member; but he has gone to higher reward—to be with Jesus, which is very far better.

He is survived by four sons and two daughters— one of the daughters being married to Mr. Ritchie, her father’s colleague, and the other to Mr. Forgan, who has just been translated from Montrose to Rothesay.

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(Died May 7, 1898)
Author: Rev. Duncan Mcnicol, Dunoon
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, July, 1898, Obituary, p.171

Mr. Rose was born in Invergordon, in the parish of Rosskeen, in September 1813, so that he was in his eighty-fifth year when he died. He attended the school at Invergordon till he went to the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated at the close of his arts curriculum in 1836. In early life he taught a school in the parish of Fearn, where he entirely gained the affection and confidence of his young pupils.

He entered the Divinity Hall in Aberdeen in 1838, and was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Tain in April 1844, thus casting in his lot with the Free Church from its very beginning.

After being licensed he went first to Skye, where he remained some time, in order to improve his knowledge of Gaelic. He went afterwards to Plockton, and from thence, in 1846, to Dornoch, to act as assistant to the Rev. Angus Kennedy, with whom he remained for a year.

The Free Church congregation of Inveraray had no minister of their own to guide them at the Disruption. There were two ministers of the parish and district. One was a Non-intrusionist, and for a time acted with his party, and seemed very steadfast. When, however, the day of trial came, his courage failed, and he remained in.

In consequence of this the Free Church congregation was greatly in need of organization, and also required the special care of the presbytery. A succession of settled ministers was sent to Inveraray, to help to build up the new congregation. Among these may be mentioned Dr. McIntosh, then of Tain, but more recently at Dunoon; Mr. McAlister of Brodick; and Dr. Kennedy of Dingwall, then a young but popular ministry. The vacancy in Inveraray was not filled up for four years , although many efforts were made to secure such a minister or probationer as might suit the locality , and consolidate and fully organise the congregation. Dr. Macintosh Mckay, then of Dunoon, having heard Mr. Rose preach, got him sent to Inveraray for a few Sabbaths, in the hope, no doubt, that he might be accepted by the congregation as their pastor. Nor was he disappointed. After hearing Mr. Rose for a few Sabbaths, the congregation unanimously made choice of him to be their minister. He was settled over them in 1847, and continued their sole minister until declining health forced him to apply for a colleague; and application being made to the General Assembly in the regular way, leave to call a colleague was given in 1889, and the following year Mr. Rose retired from taking any active part in the management of the congregation. He was in all for the period of forty-three years minister of the congregation of the Free Church of Inveraray.

Mr. Rose was an earnest student and faithful expounder of Scripture, a painstaking preacher, and a most diligent pastor; but his correct and consistent walk and conversation, so becoming the gospel which he preached, were such as made a deep and durable impression on his own people and the people of the entire district. His amiable character so impressed all who knew him intimately that his memory will not soon pass away. Nor was his ministry unfruitful. In the year 1860 there was a period of genuine revival at Inveraray, which was chiefly confined to his congregation, but not wholly. Many of those who were stirred up to make the soul’s interest the chief thing have since been removed, and were called away even before their beloved pastor. There still remains one notable instance of the reality of that revival, in the person and work of Mr. Chalmers, missionary, New Guinea. Mr. Chalmers was then living a careless life in Inveraray; but being visited by divine mercy, he consecrated himself to the service of the Saviour, now so precious to his own soul. We need not give other evidences, for the day will disclose them. What Mr. Rose was, as the head of his family and the father of his children, can only be understood by those who were intimately acquainted with him. The blank which his removal has made cannot be filled up to them; but it is no small comfort that his end was in keeping with his life, calm and peaceful. He rests from his labours.

Mr. Rose has left a widow and six of a family –two sons and four daughters to mourn his removal. He is the last of the Presbytery of Dunoon, as it stood when he was ordained, except Dr Williamson, who still survives.

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(Died April 23, 1875)
Author: Rev. W. Sinclair, M.A., Plockton
The Free Church Monthly, July 1, 1875, p.175

The sudden death of the Rev. William Rose of Poolewe, struck down with apoplexy at the close of his discourse in Macdonald Church, Glasgow, at the comparatively early age of fifty-three, must have arrested the attention of all who read the daily newspapers. Although sudden and startling, Mr. Rose’s death was not unexpected by himself and a few intimate friends. At the meetings of his Presbytery and Synod, on the 7th and 14th respectively, as well as in the interval, he spoke to several of his brethren of the certainty of the nearness of his dissolution. Unmistakable symptoms, such as sudden moments of extreme prostration, sudden cessation of pulsation, frequent tendency of blood to the head, &c., sufficiently indicated the proximity of the event which took so many by surprise. From our first acquaintance with him, he seemed to have anticipated such a death, and to have considered it desirable. To all who knew him, such a death must have seemed appropriate and glorious. Old age, inertion, and a comatose condition of existence, he himself not only deprecated, but they seemed alien to a disposition and constitution charged and replete with life, vigour, and manly strength.

Born in Glenbanchor, in the parish of Kingussie, Inverness-shire — probably the highest habitable part of Scotland — the air of his native glen communicated to his body physical health and soundness; while the aroma and sanctity of a pious home imparted, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, spiritual health and soundness to his soul. His was indeed in the highest sense sana mens in sano corpore. His father was one of “the men.” Not one of the men falsely depicted by some writers as gloomy, morose, austere, living far apart from all human geniality, as if in the cold dens and caverns of the mountains; but homely, winning, humble, full of kindness and liberality. Destined for the ministry from his youth, when his studies were almost terminated, family arrangements and circumstances interposed, and caused him to seek a sphere of usefulness in teaching. At Ardersier and Lochgilphead he showed that had he continued a teacher, he would soon have been at the head of his profession. While at Lochgilphead, Mr. Rose attracted the notice of that right noble Highlander, the late Dr. Mackintosh Mackay of Dunoon, who urged him to complete his studies for the ministry.

On receiving license, Mr. Rose was settled at Minard, Lochfyneside; and on the death of the Rev. James Noble, at one time minister of the Free Gaelic Church in Edinburgh, Mr. Rose was translated to Poolewe as his successor. Here he had two congregations to minister to, and on either side were two Disruption fathers, aged and infirm, labouring in very extensive spheres of usefulness. In course of time, these beloved fathers being removed, there devolved on Mr. Rose an amount of work truly herculean. During the vacancies in Lochbroom and Gairloch, extending over several years, Mr. Rose was not a whole week on end at home. Joyously, heroically, and in the midst of many dangers, he laboured, sparing neither time nor money nor strength. We have seen him, while becalmed a whole night in the wide opening of Lochbroom, exhaust himself at the oar, and then, throwing himself on the cold hard stones which formed the ballast, enjoy a sleep such as the hard-labouring man only knows. On another occasion, and in the same place, but in the midst of a tempest, he was as undaunted as the bravest officer in Her Majesty’s navy. As a preacher, Mr. Rose stood deservedly in the foremost rank. His favourite theme was the adorable person and humiliation of Immanuel, but, above all, the absolute sovereignty conferred on him as the reward of his finished work. On this subject Mr. Rose was ever ready, ever fresh. As a disputant his logic was inexorable, while his generosity to his opponent was truly admirable. Seldom, if ever, did he make himself an enemy. With all his ability, his humility was truly remarkable. His loss to his congregation, to the Presbytery of Lochcarron, and to the whole Church in the Highlands, is as if one’s right hand had lost its cunning, or as if the foremost standard-bearer had fallen. His wife and family predeceased him, and, by a singular providence, his remains were interred in the same grave in which his wife’s were deposited ten years before, — in the Grange Cemetery, near “the mighty dead.”

He leaves behind him three sorrowing sisters, two of whom are widows. The third was for many years the suitable companion of his widowhood. We commend his bereaved flock, Presbytery, and sisters, to the sympathy and prayers of all interested in the cause of Christ in the Highlands of Scotland.

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(Died May 28, 1892)
Author: Rev. Alex. McDiarmid, Morven
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1892, Obituary, p.253

The subject of this notice was a native of Alness, Ross-shire, and was brought to a knowledge of the truth while very young. He could trace back religious impressions as far as his memory could carry him. He had a pious ancestry—a fact which he often recalled with gratitude to God. Grace does not run in the blood, but there is a law of spiritual heredity by which it often descends from parent to child, and of this law Mr. Ross furnished an illustration. Previous to going to college he was educated partly in Alness and partly in Kiltearn Parish Schools. He took his arts course at Aberdeen University, where he graduated at an early age. He completed his theological course at the New College, Edinburgh. While attending the divinity classes, he was especially impressed by the personality of “Rabbi” Duncan and the lectures of Principal Cunningham.

After obtaining license, Mr. Ross acted for some time as assistant to Dr. Charles C. McKintosh of Tain, of whom he always spoke with the greatest veneration. In 1855 he received a unanimous and hearty call to become pastor of the Bon-Accord Church, Aberdeen, and here he laboured for fourteen years with acceptance and success. In 1869 the Free Church congregation of Tobermory gave Mr. Ross a unanimous call. He was greatly attached to the Bon-Accord congregation, and it was with reluctance he could contemplate severing his connection therewith. But the prolonged vacancy at Tobermory, a natural desire to find a fitting sphere where his knowledge of Gaelic could be utilized, and above all, more or less pressure by Dr. Candlish and others, who were very anxious to see a settlement effected in Mull, made the claims of Tobermory congregation prevail. But Bon-Accord congregation continued to have a deep place in his heart, and to the last he loved to speak of his Aberdeen days.

His name and influence are, however, chiefly associated with Tobermory. Here he exercised a powerful influence far beyond his own congregation. Into his new sphere of work he threw himself with ardour and energy, and often his strength of mind and body must have been taxed to the utmost to meet the demands made upon him. Mr. Ross was a well-equipped theologian. He made a special study of the Puritans, among whom Goodwin and Flavel were his favourites. But his reading was by no means confined to the Puritans; he largely read and appreciated what is most valuable in modern theological writers. He usually preached three times each Sabbath. His preaching was clear, forcible, and fervently evangelical. Its constant themes were the great doctrines of the cross. He loved to speak of the glory of Christ’s person, the efficacy of his atonement, the riches of his grace, and the necessity of the Spirit’s work. The influences amid which his youthful mind was moulded were clearly discernible, especially while preaching in the Gaelic language. A few years ago Mr. Ross published a series of expositions on the closing chapters of John’s Gospel, entitled “The Inner Sanctuary,” where we have a sample of his pulpit ministrations.

It was chiefly through the exertions of Mr. Ross that the Presbytery of Mull was disjoined from that of Lorn, and erected into a presbytery by itself. At the time of separation the Presbytery of Mull consisted of only five congregations, while now it has eleven sanctioned charges. The new charges entailed on the members of Presbytery much pioneer work. In this work Mr. Ross took a leading part. He was always ready to undertake his full share of presbyterial work regardless of labour or expense. He rendered admirable service in organizing and extending the cause of Christ within the bounds of the Presbytery, and nothing cheered him more than the prosperity of the Church, and the springing up of new congregations around him. As a member of Presbytery he will be greatly missed. His acuteness and sagacity, combined with his intimate knowledge of church laws and forms, made his brethren regard his opinion with deference and respect.

Mr. Ross took a lively interest in the public work of the Church, and rendered good service on many of her committees. He was also much interested in the young, especially in students looking forward to the ministry. In his Bible class he trained many young men and young women, who cherish with gratitude the memory of their teacher. When the Education Act came into operation, he was elected member of the local School Board—a position which he continued to occupy till his death. By his efforts, ably assisted by his office-bearers and members, the old church at Tobermory was superseded by the present large and beautiful building. This is not the place to enter on the privacy of his home life, but it may be permitted to one who knew him well to say that in the manse at Tobermory the duty of hospitality was discharged with more than Highland freeness.

Mr. Ross’s last illness was of short duration. In January last an attack of bronchitis confined him to the house for a few weeks. But during February and part of March he was able to preach twice each Sabbath. About the middle of March he began to suffer from heart complaint with complications. This rendered him very weak. It was a sore trial to be laid aside from the work he loved so much, but he meekly received the visitation as the Lord’s will. His attachment to his flock, and his singular devotion to his church, were very conspicuous throughout his illness. He often carried their needs to the throne of grace. In his weakness and sufferings he derived much peace and comfort from the repetition of favourite psalms. McCheyne’s hymn “Jehovah Tsidkenu” was also a special favourite. Exhausted by all his labours and sufferings his strength gave way, and on the 28th of May he entered into the rest that remaineth for the people of God.

Mr. Ross was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of the Rev. Alex. Flyter, Alness; and the second, who survives him, is a daughter of Mr. T. Buchan Sydserff, of Ruchlaw, East Lothian.

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(Died March 23, 1900)
Author: Rev. Hugh Macmillan, D.D., LL.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December, 1900, Obituary, p.287

Our church has need of varied gifts, and it has always been fortunate in possessing ministers who have brought their varied gifts into its storehouse, and done valuable service with them. The subject of this obituary notice deserves a special tribute to his memory, not only on account of the faithful and effective discharge of his ministerial duties in our church, but also for the great service he rendered in the philanthropic field. Hugh Ross won an honoured name for himself, especially during his career in Glasgow, as one of the ablest and most devoted friends of the poor; and the civic authorities of that great city, after his death, put on record their grateful sense of the unwearied assistance he gave them in investigating the circumstances and ministering to the necessities of the destitute classes.

With the exception of these remarkable philanthropic labours, the materials for Mr. Ross’s biography are of the ordinary ministerial kind. He was born in Greenock, in November 1857, of most worthy and respectable parents, who belonged originally to Ross-shire. Educated in one of the public schools of his native town, he early showed the bent of his mind towards the ministry. Inheriting the Celtic temperament, with its deep reverence and imaginativeness, he laid his talents, and they were unusually bright and promising, upon the altar which sanctifies the gift, and diligently pursued his studies at school and college, in preparation for the great work of his life. He had a thoughtful mind, richly furnished by extensive and varied reading, and a fervent love for all that was beautiful and noble in nature and in human art, sanctified by a simple but earnest piety. His genial, frank, spontaneous disposition made him many friends; and he was never so happy as when sharing with others whatever advantages he possessed. I look back with a grateful heart to the many kind services which he rendered to me while attending my church when a student. During the three months that I occupied our station at Nice, he took charge voluntarily of the weekly prayer-meeting and of the visiting of the sick of the congregation in my absence; and in these capacities his services were greatly appreciated. I recall the I happy times when he sat with his father in our church, and the pleasant and profitable intercourse I had with him.

Shortly after he was licensed he was called to be successor to the Rev. Mr. Tulloch, in Free Stephen’s Church, Perth. This church was originally a Gaelic church, but the Gaelic preaching had been discontinued. The minister had been greatly beloved, and the congregation continued to maintain all the fervour and warmth of the Highland character. Among such a people Mr. Ross found a most congenial sphere; and he soon made his influence felt, not only in his own church, but throughout the city. After a stay of four years in Perth, a call came to him from Free St. Stephen’s Church Glasgow, made vacant by the lamented death of the Rev. Mr. Nicol, one of the most gifted minister in our church. It was no easy task to succeed such a man. The congregation was large, and the field around, owing to the building of new streets, coming every year more populous and necessitous. He threw himself with characteristic ardour into the manifold labours of his new charge, and here found abundant scope for his philanthropic energy. Nor did he confine himself to the region around his own church; he interested himself in endeavours to solve practically the great problem of the poor throughout the city. His own presbytery cordially co-operated with him; and the magistrates and police gladly welcomed his aid, and lent him all their resources. To the different charitable organizations he imparted his wide knowledge and experience and they profited much by his sagacious counsel and judicious personal labour. He had a most generous nature, alive to every appeal, and ever ready to lend a helping hand and to give advice. But his sympathy, while exquisitely tender, was also singularly wise and prudent. He spared no trouble to search out the cases that came under his notice; and wherever he found genuine distress, did not rest until he had given substantial relief and raised the pauper from being a burdensome wreck into the condition of a useful member of society. His great animating principle was to help those who had fallen behind in the race of life make up with their fellows, and to keep abreast. He was instant in season and out of season engaging in this blessed work, and the good which he did was incalculable.

There can be no doubt that the great strain put upon mind and body, and especially upon a sensitive, emotional nature, by this harassing and arduous self-imposed labour, in addition to the continuous responsibilities of a large congregation broke down prematurely a constitution once unusually vigorous. An insidious disease began to develop itself. He was advised to seek rest in a milder climate. Proceeding to Egypt, in the month of March this year, he got the length of Cairo, and there in a short time he succumbed to his malady—before his wife, who was telegraphed for, and who undertook the long, terrible journey alone, could reach his side. He may be said to have died a martyr in the noble cause to which he had dedicated himself, for he was only forty-two years of age. All the circumstances of the case were very pathetic. He was laid to rest in the English cemetery, far from the scenes of his birth and the grave of his kindred. Well do I remember that quiet home of the dead in the far foreign city, where many a bright young English life has been quenched in darkness while it was yet noon, waiting there alone for the resurrection morning, when the first rays of the eternal sunrise shall, Memnon-like, strike the marble tomb, and cause those who dwell in the dust to arise and sing! It is an alien sky that bends over the grave of our dear friend, but its cloudless blue and unfailing sunshine remind one of the everlasting day. One thinks in such a place of the last words of the book of Genesis—that book of beginnings, of the first fresh hopes of the human race— “And he was put in a coffin in Egypt;” as literally true of Hugh Ross, telling, as they do, of the one common mournful ending of human life. So many tender associations connected with our vanished friend rush upon the mind that it is difficult to realize that “coffin in Egypt,” and that we shall never more see him in the haunts where he was so well known and so much loved and esteemed. May the God of all consolation comfort her whose heart is ever in the land of her sore captivity! And may the voice that is now for ever hushed in a Bible land preach to each of us, who knew and loved the preacher, more impressively than when here among us, of the end of all hopes, and of the living power of the word of the Lord that endureth for ever!

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(Died January 8, 1892)
Author: Rev. A. Galbraith, Ferintosh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, May, 1892, Obituary, p.122

Mr. Ross was born at Lynstock, in the parish Abernethy, Strathspey, in the year 1828. His early education he received in the school of his native parish, in which his father, John Ross, lived comfortably as a farmer. In his early years he attended the parish church, along with his parents. It was, however, at the stirring times connected with the Disruption that his religious tendency became apparent. Several eminent ministers visited Strathspey and preached the glad tidings of salvation to crowds who assembled from the various parishes. The subject of our sketch, then over fourteen years, eagerly attended these services, which appear tohave made a lasting impression upon his mind. At this early age, his attention was directed to spiritual things; and such was his devotion to the study of the Bible, that at a considerable distance from the dwelling-house, and at the side of a hillock, on the farm, he dug out with his own hands a small chamber, the roof of which was covered with turf, to which he was wont to repair for meditation and prayer. This was a good and promising beginning, and the habit thus early acquired only gained strength in his future life; for he was eminently a man given to meditation and prayer.

Several years had passed, during which his mind was gradually directed to study for the ministry of the Free Church. Having passed through the usual curriculum at the University of Edinburgh and the New College there, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh in September 1866. While passing through college, he taught a ladies’ school in the parish of Bracadale, and thus an acquaintance was formed between him and the people who were to be his future charge.

After receiving license, he acted for several years as assistant at Lawers, Rogart, Dornoch, and other places, gaining the affections of the people, as well as the friendship and esteem of eminent ministers, who were no doubt helpful in training him for his future work. His relation to all these ministers was of a most friendly character, as might be expected from one so humble and self-denying; and he delighted to speak of them, which he always did in terms of respect.

On the death of Mr. Fletcher of Bracadale in May 1876, the eyes of the congregation were at once turned to Mr. Ross, who was well and favourably known to them formerly as one of their teachers. He needed no letters of commendation. They all knew him, and considered him a suitable successor to their late worthy minister. And they were not disappointed. Mr. Ross was called to and settled in Bracadale in 1877. Physically, he was far from robust, and this, together with his modest and retiring disposition, are probably the reasons why he did not go more about in the way of visiting the scattered population of this extensive parish. If not a perfect man, it is rare indeed to meet one whose life was in all respects so blameless.

He was one of the most upright and transparent of men— “an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile.” If Mr. Ross did not excel as a visitor, he did certainly excel as a student. His sermons bore unmistakable marks of extensive reading and careful preparation. He never offered in the pulpit what cost him nothing. He was well versed in Puritan theology, and possessed in no ordinary degree the faculty of presenting the truths of the gospel in a striking and attractive manner to his hearers. There is ample evidence of this in his “Sketch of the Life of Donald McQueen, Catechist in Bracadale,” an interesting little volume which he published about a year before his death. His sermons were orderly, thoughtful, edifying, and concise. Not only among his own people, but wherever he went on communion occasions, he was greatly appreciated by the Lord’s people. In his delivery he was quiet and solemn, and one could not hear him without the conviction that he believed what he spoke.

In his views he was sound and faithful, and greatly deplored the errors in doctrine and the innovations in worship so prevalent in our day. Mr. Ross was a consistent Free Churchman, and one of those who are usually called the Constitutional party in the Church. He had no leanings to Voluntaryism on the one hand, nor to Erastianism on the other. He took his stand on the old Disruption ground of 1843, and to the last he held firmly and intelligently the distinctive principles of the Free Church in their integrity. Though he had no love for controversy, and did not aspire to be a leader in Church courts, he was always reliable and true to his convictions. As a friend he was most unselfish and true, and among friends few could be more genial or entertaining. As a minister he was much beloved by his own congregation and by the Lord’s people especially, not only in Skye, but wherever he was known; and they feel that in his removal by death they have lost one whose lips fed many. For the parish, so long favoured with an unbroken succession of godly ministers, may the Head of the Church provide a suitable successor!

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(Died December 26, 1891)
Author: Rev. J. S. Mackay, Fort-Augustus
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1892, Obituary, p.150

Mr. Ross was born in 1816 at Kirkhill, Inverness-shire. His father was schoolmaster there, and died when he was but eleven years of age. This bereavement of his early life, and the responsibilities it threw upon him as the only son of his widowed mother, were the means under God’s hand of leading him at this early period to give himself to the Lord Jesus. To show how unreservedly he did this, it requires but to mention that after qualifying himself to be a teacher, and on presenting himself to the Assembly’s Committee on Education when he was yet but a youth of twenty, his character and attainments made so deep an impression upon some of the members that they interested themselves in him, and men who were themselves the heroes of Disruption times became and continued his warm friends throughout their lifetime. When twenty-one he was appointed to a school in Perthshire, and continued there for five years. It is both significant and touching to hear the minister of Tenandry— now the aged Dr. Grant, Australia—testify of him: “He is one of the best specimens of what a teacher ought to be that I know of. I have tried and found him a true friend, ever ready to promote my every plan for the spiritual interests of the people. He was the esteemed friend of godly persons, and the tender counsellor of all anxious inquirers after the way of salvation.” This youth of little over twenty was the means also of getting Dr. Macdonald of Ferintosh and Mr. William Burns of Kilsyth to visit the Highlands of Perthshire. He accompanied them through their tours, and the fruits of the awakening and of the revival of true religion that took place throughout a large district, as the result of their labours, the great eternity will alone unfold.

In the summer of 1842 Mr. Ross was removed to Islay. The character of beauty and earnestness that so blossomed in Tenandry had here a wonderful development. It was here, perhaps, that the influence of his character and his activities had their widest exercise, and made the profoundest impression of his lifetime. The members of his family testify to his looking upon the period of his work there as being his happiest years. On leaving Islay Mr. Ross was appointed to be headmaster of Holyrood School. Here he won, and held throughout his life, not only the highest respect, but the esteem and affection of Dr. Balfour, Holyrood. At this time there fell upon him the severest affliction of his life, and from under the influence of its shadow he never altogether emerged. Death took his wife and only son, and he was left with three daughters, who were mere children, to mourn his great loss.

He afterwards became inspector of Gaelic schools, and during the occupancy of this post he was urged by friends to study for the Church. This he did. He at the same time acted as Secretary for the Free Church Highland Committee, and also laboured faithfully as an elder with the late Dr. McLauchlan. This multiplicity of labours was a strain upon his strength, and by the time he finished his studies it very manifestly told upon his health. On being licensed, he was called unanimously by the Free Church congregation of Durness, and there for twenty years he was unwearied in his labours for the advancement of the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ both among his own people and throughout his Presbytery. During the last few years of his pastorate his health was greatly impaired, but his interest in all that pertained to the well-being of the Church was only intensified. He acquainted himself thoroughly with all the questions that affected her, and his calm, judicious mind and charitable spirit made his opinion and counsel of the highest value. His mind, indeed, was pre-eminently judicial in its cast. He was generous in his estimate of the worth of others, and charitable in the construction he put upon their actions and opinions when different from his own. His character was one of unswerving rectitude, and his adherence to the truth knew no compromise. In Church politics he avoided extremes; and his brethren, knowing how thoroughly he informed himself on questions that affected her, and how he looked at them from every side, held his judgment in very high esteem. He was at all times a wise counsellor, and to those who knew him intimately he was a true and sterling friend. But perhaps the most beautiful phases of his character were seen in his compassion for the poor, in the depths of his sympathy for the sick and the sorrowing, in the tenderness with which he dealt with them, and in the wisdom with which he guided them to Him who is the source of all grace, consolation, and strength. As a preacher he, like most Highlanders, was theological; but his preaching was rich in subjective Christian experience. He was clear and simple in his presentation of the gospel, and faithful in urging the responsibility of his hearers to embrace it, and in enforcing the practical duties of Christian life. Altogether Mr. Ross, though not a Disruption minister, may well be said to have been a worthy associate of Disruption heroes.

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(Born June 28, 1799; Died June 7, 1878)
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1878, Biographical Notices, p.238

All honour to those pioneers in the march who—when missionary zeal was low, and the Churches had not begun to awake out of sleep—went forth with the Bible in their hand and the love of Jesus in their heart to plant the standard of the Cross amid heathen wilds, and summon the nations to rally around it. They were the advance guard of a noble army that is destined to conquer the world.

And such was that venerable servant of God who has so recently been called to his rest: for simplicity of character, singleness of aim, steadfastness of purpose, and noble integrity, he stood forth pre-eminent; while the strength of his faith and the fervour of his zeal never knew decline, labouring on unwearied till the Master came.

His birth belongs to the period of the darkness. He was born in that memorable year when the General Assembly derided all missionary enterprise, and voted it down. His ordination belongs to the dawn, when the light was breaking. Would that we could say that his death belongs to the brightness of day when Missions are to obtain a new point of departure, and occupy a position they never did before!

It was in 1822 that he was sent out by the Glasgow Missionary Society to Kaffraria. There, for the long period of fifty-six years, he pursued his course, never once returning to his native land. Called to face dangers and encounter difficulties of a very formidable character— planted among savage tribes—his peaceful vocation was not seldom interrupted by the confused noise of the warrior. Six times was his house burned down to the ground; but as often, when the war was over, he returned and rebuilt it with his own hands. When the recent war broke out, it was with difficulty he was prevailed upon to leave the scene of his labours; and so long as consciousness remained, to quote the words of his son, ”The ruling passion of the evangelistic missionary continued strong. During the time he was in King William’s Town, he often wondered when he was to be allowed to get home to his work,”—a desire that was not to be granted, for his working day was done. He was called to a better home to rest from his labours, while his works do follow him.

No reference to Mr. Ross would be complete without making mention of his energetic and devoted wife, Miss Blair of Kilmarnock. Never was missionary more dependent on his helpmeet; and never were twain united that were better adapted to each other. When, some fourteen years ago, she was taken from him, it shook him to the very foundations. He buried her beside a tree, beneath whose shade she had been accustomed to retire for prayer; and there, in compliance with his own request, himself was buried. He died surrounded by all his family—his children, and his children’s children, his grandson having just returned from Scotland in time to see him ere he died. His body was carried from King William’s Town to Pirie. “He was followed to the grave by all the people of his district whom the circumstances of the country would permit; a good number of them attended armed. All those who officiated at his funeral were either the sons of missionaries, or natives who were the fruits of missions.”

It is not merely for his own personal service that Mr. Ross deserves to be held in remembrance. God gave him two sons, and he devoted them both to God for missionary service. He sent them home to Scotland, to receive their education. At his own expense he maintained them at the University and the New College in Edinburgh. For a quarter of a century Bryce has been labouring in the field, as well as aiding in the translation of the Bible into Kaffir; while Richard, after doing noble work at Lovedale, at the call of his Presbytery crossed the Kei, planted the central station of Cunningham, with out-stations in all directions. The surrender of these two sons, so well equipped and trained, is one of the noblest contributions ever made by sire to the cause of missions. And now a third generation is on the field. After being trained in Glasgow, and receiving his diploma, Dr. John Ross has returned to his native land, to practise the healing art, and do good alike to the bodies and the souls of men.

A minister’s jubilee is a rare event: a missionary’s jubilee is rarer still. Spared to see it, the friends of Mr. Ross, both at home and abroad, united to do him honour. And it may be noted, as very characteristic of the man, that the sum which friends here sent out— nearly £500, which they meant for himself—he devoted entirely to the support of a female school at Pirie!

When Dr. Duff left India for the last time, he visited the various missions in South Africa. Among the rest he came to Pirie. This was to Mr. Ross an occasion of great joy. It was a season of refreshing at the time, and ever afterwards he referred to it with grateful recollection. The parting of those two venerable men has been described as singularly affecting—the one the prince and the other the patriarch of missionaries. They parted; but it was only for a season. They have met where sorrow and separation are alike unknown. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

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(Died October 4, 1881)
Author: Rev. James Cameron, M.A., Glasgow
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1882, p.47

The Rev. Robert Ross, third son of Mr. Peter Ross, farmer, Leitfie, near Alyth, was born at Kingdom, in the parish of Errol, on the 5th May 1840. Having received his elementary education at the Free Church school there and at Alyth, he finished his education at the University of Edinburgh. At the close of his first session, which was devoted to mathematics and chemistry, he returned home, and for seven years took part in the work of his father’s farm.

But God had other work for him to do. Before these years had passed, at the time of the religious awakening of 1859, he was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ through the instrumentality of an elder brother. Till then he was known as an amiable and, to outward seeming, a blameless young man, energetic and intelligent, with a highly practical turn of mind. Ever after, that in him which most of all impressed those who knew him was his zealous devotion to the service of Christ. Very soon he began a prayer-meeting for ploughmen, which was continued until he returned to Edinburgh University, in November 1862, to prepare for the ministry.

He entered the New College in 1865; and about the same time became missionary in connection with Free St. Ninian’s Church, Leith. In 1867 he was chosen by his fellow-students to conduct their mission work in the Canongate. Held in high esteem by all his class-fellows, he was beloved by those who knew him intimately. Some of the most distinguished of them have gratefully acknowledged that his deep piety, his unreserved consecration to Christ, and winsomeness of character, so impressed them as to exert a powerful influence on their lives.

In 1869, having finished his theological studies, Mr. Ross was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Meigle. Very soon thereafter he received a call from the East Free Church, Forfar, and was ordained on the 15th November 1869.

He threw himself at once heartily into the great work of the Christian ministry. Conscientious in his preparations for the pulpit he preached with an earnestness, directness and unction that riveted the attention of his people and deeply impressed them. Zealous in the discharge of his pastoral duties, he carried into every home he entered, within his strong manly build, one of the most tender and sympathetic of hearts.

But his labours were not confined to his own congregation. He did the work of an evangelist in the town. The Forfar Herald said of him: “His love for evangelistic work, and the skill and vigour with which he carried it on, helped much both to gather in those who were without and to animate those who were within the Church; while he was greatly endeared to many by his fidelity and tenderness in his pastoral work. He was eloquent with the eloquence of earnestness; for he not only heartily believed what he preached, but he believed, with an intensity of conviction which few men have, that what he preached was absolutely necessary for the eternal salvation of men.”

Such a ministry could not fail to be successful; and it never seemed so successful as just when about to close. In the end of September he was unusually cheerful. His prospects of a good winter’s work had never before been so bright. His congregation had nearly doubled. Their contributions to the schemes of the Church had more than doubled. The attendance at the prayer-meeting and Bible-class had become so large as to fill him with joy. Everything seemed prosperous.

And yet in the midst of his prosperity the Master came suddenly and called him home. On Saturday, 1st October, he went out to console a widow who had just lost her husband On returning he went to his study, and there, while preparing a sermon on the text, “We love him because he first loved us,” he was struck down by fatal illness. The pen fell from his hand in the middle of a sentence. Nor did he ever rally again, but continued in great agony throughout Sabbath and Monday. The intensity of his sufferings prevented him from holding much communication with those around his death-bed. He was just able to take an affectionate farewell of his dear children and of his beloved wife, whose affectionate tenderness and wisdom had done much to strengthen his heart and uphold his hands in all his pastoral work.

As in life, however, so in death, his ruling passion showed itself strong. Even when his mind was clouded by his sufferings he turned to those who were near him and said, “Help, Help me up; I must get to my work; I have such lots of work to do.” Very willingly would this good servant of Jesus Christ have lived to labour for some time longer among a people he dearly loved; but his work on earth was finished. At 12.15 a.m. on Tuesday, 4th October 1881, he fell asleep in Jesus.

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(Died February 9,1875)
Author: Rev. Angus McIver, Glasgow
The Free Church Monthly, May 1, 1875, p.123

Mr. Ross was a native of the island of Lewis, the eldest son of the late Mr. Kenneth Ross, catechist, Carloway, who was an eminently godly and able layman, and had, for years after the Disruption, the whole charge of the congregation. Few ministers were equal to him in penetration and grasp of divine truth. His eloquent and powerful addresses in Gaelic are still remembered by thousands who delighted to hear him, and who were often refreshed and edified by them. Mr. Ross’s mother was equally distinguished for her piety among all who knew her.

After leaving school, the subject of this notice completed an engagement of four years in a place of business. It was at this time that the word came with power and demonstration to his conscience, — that the truth, with which he had been familiar from his childhood, acquired for him a new and vital interest, — and that he purposed to devote himself to the work of the ministry. The depth and sincerity of his early convictions were marked by all who came in contact with him; and the twenty years of his life since transpired leave no doubt as to the reality of the good work then begun.

The principal part of his Arts curriculum was passed at the Edinburgh University, but his theological studies were prosecuted at the Glasgow Free Church College. In all his classes he took a most respectable position, in some a high one. His modest, amiable, and Christian bearing made him a favourite with his fellow-students and his professors.

On taking license, in 1868, he became assistant to the Rev. John McRae, of Carloway. In the following year he received and accepted a call from the Free Church congregation of S. Uist and Barra. Being the first minister of that charge, he had many peculiar difficulties to contend with. There was no manse; in Barra there was no suitable place of worship; and the whole congregational machinery had to be adjusted and put in motion. Besides, his flock was but a mere handful scattered over the whole of S. Uist, Barra, and the adjacent islands, and intermingled with a large population of Roman Catholics. Such a charge demanded tact and resources of no ordinary degree on the part of its pastor; but he successfully discharged all the duties of his office. He soon secured the esteem and affection of his neighbours of other denominations. While in S. Uist, he laboured incessantly in the duties of the pastorate, consolidating all congregational matters on a firm basis. While in this part of the vineyard, special notice must be taken of his success in collecting funds to build a manse and clear off the debt of the new Barra church; and also of his valued services as superintendent of the schools of the Glasgow Ladies’ Association in the southern half of the Long Island.

He conscientiously endeavoured to preach statedly at seven or eight different stations, separated by long journeys, and by wide and exposed ferries. Fifteen months ago he caught a severe cold, from the effects of which he never properly recovered. It was while in this discouraging state of health that, towards the end of last summer, he reluctantly bade farewell to his attached and sorrowing congregation in S. Uist, and accepted of the unanimous call from the congregation of Carloway. Early in January he contracted a fresh cold while on his way to Stornoway, and notwithstanding the most assiduous attention on the part of his medical advisers and friends, he sank after an illness of about three weeks’ duration.

Thus, in the fortieth year of his age, and at the outset of his career, passed away one who was indeed a true disciple of the Lord. In him were met, in a high degree, those qualities which endear their possessors to others. To the meekness, humility, and purity of the Christian were added an unusual serenity of temper, exceeding patience, prudence, and fortitude, and withal a warmth of heart which attracted all who came within his genial influences. Of him it might be truly said, “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.”

As a preacher he was distinguished by the clearness and grasp with which he expounded the truth. His conceptions of the Divine character were peculiarly clear and impressive, and not less so were his views of the glorious plan of salvation. It was chiefly by bringing the moral beauties and perfections of the sacred volume before his hearers that he sought to win them to the better way. His own nature was in unison with such themes, and he delighted to dwell on them. His preparations for the pulpit were scrupulously attended to, nor was it his wont to substitute empty and sensational declamations for the marrow of the wheat. He took a deep and intelligent hold of his subject, and appreciated truth wherever met with. While zealous and fearless in what he believed to be true, he was eminently free from all jealousy and narrow-mindedness towards those who differed from him in matters of opinion. Many, while in this world, will miss this young, lovable servant of the Lord. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

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(Died November 28, 1895)
Author: Rev. William H. Goold, D.D., Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1896, Obituary, p.43

Beyond the fact that he was born at Thornliebank in October 1822 of godly parents, and received the ordinary education of the times as a boy, little can be said about the early years of Dr. Ross. It may be added, however, that he was wont to claim connection by lineal descent with Donald Roy of Nigg, a remarkable character, whom Hugh Miller takes pleasure in describing in his Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland. Dr. Ross supported himself as a teacher from the age of seventeen, studied for the ministry, and after acting as assistant for a short time at Saline, was ordained to the pastoral charge of the congregation at Aberdour in 1854. He was translated in 1866 to the Bridge of Allan, from which he retired as emeritus minister in 1886. It was a title he might deservedly assume, for between those dates good work had been done in the service of his Divine Master.

The confidence and affection with which he was regarded may be seen in the fact that, when called to the Bridge of Allan, he was urged in a petition, signed unanimously by the members of his congregation at Aberdour, to remain amongst them. A strong representation, however, was made to him from a quarter to which he felt great deference was due, that the interests of the church required an able ministry at the Bridge of Allan. It was a place of resort. The sick and delicate, visiting it in quest of health, made serious demands on his time, apart from the visitation of his own flock, though it was his delight to respond to such applications.

As a preacher, especially in the days of his strength, before the weakness seized him under which ultimately he died, he was much esteemed. His fine presence and sympathetic voice were enough to command attention, but the real attraction lay in the strong infusion of evangelical savour in all his discourses. The careful exegesis, followed up publicly by the clear and effective exposition—the accurate and finished composition, the faithfulness with which the truths of the Gospel were proclaimed, the warmth occasionally of his appeals, the simplicity spurning all meretricious ornament—made him a preacher understood and relished by the humblest, and admired by all who could appreciate sanctified culture. In the summer season he had a well-filled church at Aberdour. A lady, who had resorted to it for summer quarters, when asked if she was satisfied with the preaching she got in the place, replied somewhat naively: “The preaching! I feel as if I had come from the provinces to the city.”

He occupied himself in various labours of a Christian character beyond his congregation. For more than ten years he was a member of the school-board, and rendered good service in it. He gave his help and countenance to many religious movements whose representatives had found their way to the Bridge of Allan. By lectures on the antiquities and history of the neighbourhood, particularly of Aberdour, he instructed his people. The public generally got the benefit of these in a printed form, and in his Burgh Life in Dunfermline in Olden Times, Busby and its Reminiscences, Aberdour and Inchcolm, and Pastoral Work in Covenanting Times, there is a mine of information, industriously collected and carefully sifted, from chartularies, kirk-session records, and other sources, shedding light upon some points in the history of Scotland. The last work is a charming book, and brings out with vivid interest the debt which our country owes to Presbyterianism. He had proceeded some length in the investigation of the history and antiquities of Cambuskenneth Abbey, but he has left unfinished the record of his discoveries. He was an accomplished botanist, but far above his knowledge of science or interest in history he prized the work of his profession, confessing Christ and preaching the doctrines of the gospel. Nor was his ministry unfruitful in the best results. He gloried in the cross of Christ.

Spiritual in his habits of thought, genial in intercourse with his fellow-men, obliging and ready for the duties of his calling, firm in the maintenance of his principles and fearless in the assertion of them, he has lived so as to be missed, and has died lamented by the large circle which knew and recognized his worth.

He was twice married, and his second wife, a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Bryce of Aberdour, was able to minister to him assiduously in his years of weakness and decline, and survives to mourn her loss. He had a brother, Dr. Ross of Busby, who, by his professional skill, generous philanthropy, and high Christian character, was justly known as “the beloved physician.”

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(Died September 4, 1891)
Author: Professor Heron, Assembly’s College, Belfast
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1892, Obituary, p.278

Many friends, both in Ireland and in Scotland, will learn with deep regret of the death of this venerable minister. Till within the last week or two he seemed in his usual health; but after a short illness, which he bore with characteristic Christian meekness and resignation, he passed away at his residence in Ulsterville Avenue, Belfast, on Sabbath evening last, 4th September, in his eightieth year.

Mr. Rossborough was born on the 7th July 1813, near Ballymena, in the north of Ireland. His father was for many years a respected elder in Cullybackey Presbyterian Church, and from early infancy his godly parents dedicated him to the service of the Lord in the Christian ministry. Happily the bent of his own mind lay in the direction of his parents’ wishes. Having acquired the rudiments of a good education at excellent schools near his native place, he went through the usual curriculum in the old Belfast College, where he won a silver medal and several class prizes, and gained the reputation of being a most diligent and exemplary student. By his fellow-students he was greatly respected and beloved, and was regarded by them as a young man of much earnestness and promise.

He was licensed to preach by the Ballymena Presbytery on the 8th November 1836, and his acceptance as a preacher may be judged from the circumstance that during that winter he had two calls from vacant congregations, which, however, he declined. He accepted a call from the congregation of First Rathfriland, where he was ordained on the 24th October 1837. First Rathfriland was one of the largest, as well as one of the oldest, congregations in the north of Ireland, and its pastoral oversight was a heavy responsibility for a young man of twenty-four years of age. But with single-hearted purpose Mr. Rossborough gave himself to the work. Preaching twice on the Sabbath, and meeting the other calls made upon him, he had visited the whole congregation within a year of his ordination. He was a clear, pleasing, and impressive preacher, was a great favourite with Dr. Morgan, whose pulpit he often occupied in Fisherwick Place; and, as we can testify from personal knowledge, a recollection of his ministry is still fresh and fragrant at Rathfriland. During his pastorate there his people on several occasions gave expression to the esteem in which they held him in valuable presentations. The writer of this notice was, at the time referred to, a student belonging to the congregation, and cannot forget Mr. Rossborough’s thoughtful attention in asking him to accompany him on many successive days in his pastoral visitation. It is a way in which ministers could do a great service in the practical training of the students of their congregations who are looking forward to the ministry.

Mr. Rossborough’s ministry at Rathfriland lasted exactly twenty-one years from the date of his call there. On the 18th February 1858 he demitted his charge at Rathfriland, and, partly with a view to the education of his children, accepted a call from East Campbell Street Free Church, Glasgow. A deputation had come from Glasgow to hear him and some other Irish ministers. In Glasgow he laboured with unwearied diligence, both in his pulpit preparations and in his pastoral visitations, and, we have reason to believe, was greatly beloved by his people. During his lengthened ministry, we understand, he was never for a single day withheld from preaching by ill-health. Some years ago—in 1881—however, increasing age led him to resign the active duties of his charge in Glasgow. Since then he has resided in Belfast, where old friends were pleased to note how hale and fresh his appearance still was, how elastic his step, and how clear and sound were his faculties.

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(Died 16th July 1890)
Author: Rev. J. H. Wilson, D.D., Barclay Church, Edinburgh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December, 1890, Obituary, p.372

Mr. Rowand was born at Paisley on 5th December 1822. Like many other youths in our Scottish Christian families, he was early designed for the ministry. Providential hindrances for a time stood in the way of this desire being gratified, and it was not till some years after the death of his parents that, towards the close of 1845, he was able to resume his studies, which had been interrupted. The impulse of the then recent Disruption was being felt in every part of the land, with its accompaniments of personal spiritual awakening and consecration to Christian work, and Mr. Rowand shared this to the full. He received his first clear ideas and impressions of the gospel of Christ under the ministry of the Rev. John Macnaughton, of the Free High Church, Paisley, afterwards of Belfast, and came under influences which gave direction to his future life and work. While pursuing his studies at the New College, he came under the powerful influence of the late Principal Cunningham, and got an impulse from him, as regarded the holding and teaching of evangelical truth, which he never lost.

Mr. Rowand was licensed by the Presbytery of Paisley in August 1853. His first practical work was in the town of Irvine, where he laboured for a year as missionary in connection with the Free Church congregation, of which the Rev. W. Cousin, afterwards of Melrose, was then minister. There he had such experience of aggressive Christian work among the poor and non-church-going, and was so impressed with the urgent need and the exceptional hopefulness of such work, that he welcomed the invitation to the Territorial Mission station at Wallacetown, Ayr; and when it was sanctioned as a charge, he was ordained as minister on 19th October 1854. He was introduced to his flock by the Rev. Dr. James Buchanan, New College, Edinburgh, who preached from Hebrew’s 13:8, and thus referred to Mr. Rowand:— “My esteemed friend and brother, who is now ordained your minister, knows the value of those truths I have been expounding; and I am persuaded that he comes among you thoroughly impressed with the determination of the apostle, not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified. I say this, because I know that he has an experimental acquaintance with the truth as it is in Jesus —that it is dear to his own soul—that it is the ground of his confidence and hope; and living in the knowledge of this truth, I know he will commend it to his hearers. In his presence I will not speak in his praise—that would be unpleasant to me and unacceptable to him; but this I will say, you have true reason for gratitude to God, who is still thrusting faithful labourers into his vineyard, and still walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, that in the course of providence you have been directed to him as your pastor; and I trust that by the blessing of his faithful Master he may be the honoured instrument of turning many to righteousness, and of building up his people through faith unto eternal life.” Mr. Rowand preached from Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” etc.

Dr. Buchanan’s anticipations were largely fulfilled. There are those still living who remember the devotion with which Mr. Rowand threw himself into the preaching and pastoral work of the young charge, and the zeal with which he prosecuted it amid more than ordinary difficulties. Under his earnest teaching and assiduous visiting a large and attached congregation was gathered, and the fruits of his ministry have proved abiding. He gave himself conscientiously to study; he kept abreast of the time in his reading; his plain speaking and faithful expounding of Scripture were a leading characteristic of his ministry. But his great work lay in the homes of his people, in his friendly bearing, and warm sympathy, and transparent simplicity of character as he sought their highest good. His repeated severe illnesses, while they were felt to be a serious and trying interruption to his ministry, were in many ways a helpful discipline, at once softening and sanctifying, giving him a peculiar tenderness of manner, and enabling him to enter into the feelings of others as only those can do who have themselves passed through the furnace. Luther’s three great requisites for a successful ministry—prayer, meditation, and temptation or trial—all found their place in him. He might have made Paul’s words his own: “Ye know after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you, publicly and from house to house, testifying repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One who knew him well writes:— “Mr. Rowand’s pulpit discourses were of the highest order, being characterized by earnestness, clearness, and purity of language, rich with evangelical truth, and delivered with such persuasive eloquence as to produce impressions that can never be effaced. As an expositor he had few equals, and his forenoon lectures were always looked forward to with the greatest eagerness by the members of his flock. Besides his ordinary work, which was sufficient to tax to the utmost the energies of any man, he often, both on Sabbath and week-day evenings, preached in the open air in Whitletts or in Wallacetown. Consequent on his efforts his health broke down three or four years after his settlement, and was never afterwards completely restored. Up to that time he had a clear, ringing voice, and could be distinctly heard in any church or by any outside audience. Even after this first breakdown his voice was so weak, that he never attempted to preach in a large church. He was occasionally under the necessity of applying to the Presbytery for leave of absence, and few men who were so much laid aside could have kept a congregation together at all. His congregation, small at first, continued to grow during his whole ministry notwithstanding these drawbacks, and up to the close no name in the district was held in higher respect and esteem.”

Mr. Rowand had gathered round him a large body of energetic and devoted office-bearers and Christian workers, by whose help, along with that of successive assistants, the work in the congregation and district was carried on, till a permanent colleague was ordained in 1888.

Mr. Rowand’s last days were spent in great physical prostration and suffering. His wife had predeceased him by many years; but he was affectionately ministered to by his only daughter. His son, Dr. Andrew Rowand, a distinguished young physician, had gone to New Zealand on professional duty; but, as a brother in the ministry remarked, “his father never fretted about his absence, nor indeed about anything — it was all peace, perfect peace.” On the 16th July he “fell asleep.”
He had suffered numerous heavy bereavements, in the death of two wives and four children. Four children survive him to mourn the loss of an affectionate father. To them, and to many attached friends, he leaves the happy memory of an unblemished character, an earnest and faithful ministry, and an exemplary Christian life. His remains were interred, on 7th September, in the Glasgow Necropolis, and on the next Sabbath memorial discourses were preached in the church, by the Rev. John Russell, B.A., now sole pastor, from Job 5:26, and the Rev. Robert Gault, from Ephesians 3:8, to large congregations.

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(Died November 2, 1880)
Author: Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January 1, 1881, Biographical Notices, p.16

This eminent minister of the Free Church was born in Glasgow in 1806, his father being a merchant there, who died in early manhood, but whose family all became conspicuous in the western metropolis. Dr. Roxburgh was educated in his native city, was early devoted to the ministry, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1831. He at once gave himself to home-mission work in the Barony parish, and was the means of gathering a new congregation, which in due time became a recognized charge under the name of St. Stephen’s Church. While thus occupied, he was called to be assistant to the late Rev. James Martin, of St. George’s, Edinburgh; but was not long there till he was elected to St. John’s, Dundee, where he was ordained in 1834. Labouring energetically and usefully there during the Disruption controversy, he came, with his large congregation, into the Free Church in 1843, and was much honoured in connection with that memorable event. Having been translated to St. John’s Free Church, Glasgow, in succession to the beloved Dr. Thomas Brown, he ministered there, with great zeal and success, during the rest of his active course.

In both of his charges he devoted himself so enthusiastically to the cause of Church extension, that he was chosen by the Church to be Convener of her Home Mission Committee, and managed its business with singular ability so long as his health permitted him to discharge the duties of that position. In 1849 he received the degree of D.D., as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Glasgow; and in 1867 he had bestowed on him the highest honour the Church can confer, by being called to the Moderator’s chair of the General Assembly, filling it with peculiar dignity and acceptance. Not long after this, failing health necessitated his availing himself of an assistant to share the heavy responsibility of his important congregation; and for several years previous to his death he was obliged unwillingly to retire from all pastoral duty, devolving it wholly on his colleague and successor.

Such is the condensed life-history of one who was esteemed very highly in love for his work’s sake, not only by both his attached flocks, but by the Church at large. Having served his generation by the will of God, he fell on sleep in his son’s house at Weston-super-Mare on the 2nd of November last, verifying the Psalmist’s words as to the death of the upright— “The latter end of that man is peace.” He was married in 1836 to a lifelong help-meet, leaving her and six children—two sons and four daughters, all grown up—to mourn their loss and to rejoice in his gain. Four of his family predeceased him; but he bore these bereavements and much bodily affliction with an increasingly sanctified spirit. Though most beloved by those who knew him best, his removal from amongst us will be felt by all good men to be the loss of one held in universal esteem as an influential citizen and a faithful minister of the gospel of Christ.

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(Died October 15, 1890)
Author: Rev. Robert Fordyce, Hawick
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February, 1891, Obituary, p.54

The Rev. W. C. Russel belonged to a class of our ministers of whose lives and labours the Church hears very little, and of whose work and worth she is apt, we fear, to form a very inadequate estimate. He was a “country minister”—emphatically so. The church and manse in which he lived and laboured stand isolated and lonesome amid the quiet and seclusion of our Border hills; and from these centres he carried on his unobtrusive life-work, peculiarly retired from outside observation and stimulus. Ordained February 1, 1872, he was stricken in the pulpit in April last with the illness of which he died, October 15, being thus in the nineteenth year of his ministry. During this long period, in the same retired and quiet sphere, he so lived and worked and walked as to leave behind him a fragrant memory, and an example from which brethren who labour in like places especially may draw fresh stimulus and encouragement.

Mr. Russel was born at Coupar-Angus, February 18, 1839. His father was then parish schoolmaster there; and a few years after was appointed headmaster of the Northern District School, Edinburgh. The boy, following the paternal bent, became a pupil-teacher, serving five years in the Free Church School, Juniper Green, where the family then resided. But even earlier than this he seems to have been in training in the school of Christ. Naturally very gentle, amiable, and docile, the grace of God appears to have won his heart while yet a child. A sister remembers his early habit of prayer—how he kept his stated times of devotion; and how one day he left her at play, and when she quietly followed she found him kneeling in prayer at his bedside. The chief moulding influence at this time was his pious mother, whose loss the year he entered college was the greatest trial of his young life. This home influence was seconded by the earnest, evangelical ministry of the Rev. Harry Anderson, from whose Bible class he passed to the Lord’s table. In Edinburgh, where the family resided during his student days, this early piety was fostered and matured by various means, so that he passed from the Divinity Hall to the ministry confirmed and experienced in the divine life. Now his life and work here are ended; and when, in the light of twenty-five years’ intimacy as fellow-students and co-presbyters, we try to estimate the good he did and the means by which he did it, the following appear the chief factors and results:—

First, we place his personal piety and consistent Christian life. In much less than nineteen years a congregation reads their minister through and through. Especially in the near and familiar intercourse of the country they soon learn to look behind the preacher and pastor, and to discern and estimate the man. Well is it when, with all their seeing, they never fail to see in him a genuine man of God —a true disciple, follower, and servant of Jesus Christ. When this is the case, as it was with Mr. Russel, the life and walk send forth a gracious influence, which increases with years, and lingers like a fragrance when the man is gone.

Second to this influence of decided and transparent personal piety, we set Mr. Russel’s high spiritual aim in his ministry. He sought the salvation of his people, and sought it so persistently and importunately that they knew it to be his chief end. Not members and attached hearers only, but converts and disciples, were what he longed and laboured for as his joy and crown.

The last element of his influence we notice was his thoroughly evangelical teaching and spirit. He taught the doctrines of grace, and he taught them graciously. His sermons came, not from a cool head, but from a warm, feeling heart. The topic was always some staple element of the truth as it is in Jesus; the treatment was always practical, and the delivery full of fervour and animation. It was also noticed that his pulpit power grew with years, showing of late a marked solemnity, intensity, and tenderness, as if ripening for the end.

As to results, it is no small testimony to his work and worth that in a rural district of no small difficulty he maintained the steady strength and prosperity of the cause to the end. The country minister who does this, while feeding town and city charges with the cream of his young people, does the Church no mean service. The higher results are not so easily estimated, but there are tokens to guide us. One is the expression of veneration and regret which his death called forth outside his own flock. Within the nearer circle, amid signs of uniform esteem and grief, one hears the warmer, tenderer testimonies of one, and another, and another who received blessing by his lips. How many did so during the nineteen years, who shall say? Some, we know, were removed before him, and others remain who speak affectionately of benefits received. Believers tell how they were guided, comforted, and edified. Conversions also were granted him. One case of clear and bright conversion rejoiced his heart very near the close of his ministry.

Let us rejoice that even in outlying and retired spheres, and under ministries of which the Church scarcely hears till they are ended, the work of God is being earnestly carried on, and fruit is being gathered unto eternal life.

Mr. Russel was married. His wife, who was a true helpmeet, survives him with two children.

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