Ford — Chestcrhill - Blackdub
—Reading— Preparation for Communion—Admission to the Church—Sabbath School
The necessity which had kept me from the house of
God during the first portion of my residence at Fala Mains, and the bashfulness
which had kept me from it during the latter period of my stay there, had cost me
many a sad hour, and, according to my resolution, I at once recommenced the
churchgoing habit. Bless the Lord, O my soul, that He put it into my heart to do
so! When I began once more in the end of 1831 and beginning of 1832 to "seek the
Lord" in another way than that attempted at Clayhouses, I found little
difficulty in overcoming the attempts of the Wicked One to lure me into the
whirlpool of atheism; but it required a considerable struggle to regain belief
that he whom men are called on to believe in for salvation is "God over
all—blessed for ever." If I remember rightly, I first fell in with an account of
the Unitarian views in a book which I read from Fala Library, which professed to
give an account of "All Religions." I had also read a tract which I fell in with
in the house of my friend John Symington, which seemed to me, at the time, to
demonstrate the essential inferiority of the Son to the Father.
Shortly after my return to Ford I obtained
employment from Messrs. M'Donald & M'Kenzie, road contractors. My first
occupation in their service was to assist in the levelling down of an old
quarry, called Haughilin, on the old road between Pathhead and Oxenfoord Castle.
I commenced work there on December 6. While toiling at the old quarry, I had the
happiness of being associated with a kind old friend, Mr. George Steven, long an
elder in Ford Church. I was much profited by my intercourse with him. I stated
to him many (if not all) of my religious difficulties, and particularly the
difficulty I felt in believing the Son and the Holy Spirit to be Divine Persons
equal with God the Father. He did what he could to clear up my difficulties,
and, among other things, he recommended as likely to be useful to me a perusal
of Scott's Essays, [Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion and The
Force of Truth, an autobiography in three parts, detailing his state of mind and
conscience before and after conversion, by Rev. Thos. Scott, author of a
Commentary on the Bible.] which are generally bound together with his Force of
Truth. I immediately subscribed to Pathhead Library, and read the book. It
greatly benefited me. I carefully read and studied the whole of the Essays. A
year or two afterwards my good friend bought for me a copy of the book, which I
have now before me. [The book remained a favourite with Mr. Anderson to the end,
and was frequently re-read. Henry Martyn's opinion of the Essays may be worth
quoting: "Began Scott's Essays, and was surprised indeed at the originality and
vigour of the sentiments and language."] Essays VI.
(The Deity of Jesus Christ) and VII. (The Doctrine of
Christ's Deity shown to be essential to Christianity, and some Objections to the
Doctrine briefly answered) set my mind completely at rest in regard to the
Divinity of Jesus; indeed, they led me to wonder that I had ever doubted on the
subject. Essay XIII. (The Personality and Deity of the
Holy Spirit; with some Thoughts on the Doctrine of the Sacred Trinity) was also
of much service to me. While studying theology in Jamaica, I was delighted with
the light thrown on this all-important subject in Dick's Lectures on Theology,
Nos. xxx.-xxxii. (The Divinity of Christ), vol. ii., [Lectures on Theology, by
the late Rev. J. Dick, D.D., Professor of Theology to the United Secession
Church. 4 vols. Edinburgh: W. Oliphant & Son (1st ed.), 1834.] and Hill's
Lectures in Divinity, book iii. vol. i. (4th edition).
A Temperance Society had been formed at Ford on
the 21st of October. I signed the pledge on the 28th of December. I have never
wondered more at anything I have ever seen than I did at the coldness, and even
antipathy, with which the Christian part of the people of Scotland at first
treated the Temperance reformation. I was completely puzzled by it.
My mind was intensely occupied with religious
matters at the commencement and during the early part of 1832. I felt that the
salvation of the soul was the one thing needful, and I laboured hard to work out
a righteousness of my own. At the approach of the spring Communion I had many
anxious thoughts about offering myself as a candidate for Communion with the
Church at Ford, and to qualify myself for examination I committed to memory the
Summary of Principles of the United Secession Church; but I deferred
application, fearing I was not yet good enough.
"Wednesday, Feb. 1.—Was deputed by my
fellow-workmen to go to Edinburgh yesterday, to receive sure information
concerning assistance to be rendered by Government to emigrants for Australia.
Went accordingly, and reported my procedure to-day. My neighbours thanked me for
the information I was able to communicate to them, but none seemed disposed to
start for Australia as yet."—Journal.
On the 20th of March 1832, Messrs. M'Donald &
M'Kenzie took me from the quarry to drive two of their carts at the Cut at
Fordell. By this arrangement I had to leave Ford and take up my residence with
Mr. M'Kenzie at Chesterhill. I did not at first relish the change ; but the
remembrances of the fifteen months I spent in that village are very pleasant.
Here I used to try my hand frequently at rhyme—poetry I cannot call it. [In a
MS. collection of verses I find the following were written al the period
referred to: "Lines on reading Pollok's Course of Time" dated Sabbath, Sept.
25th; "The March of Reform," a stirring ballad of sixteen stanzas, "written,"
says Mr. Anderson, "on the corn-box in the stable beside the horses of my
employer, on Oct. 12, 1832, shortly after the passing of the First Reform Bill
(of my day). The village politicians (Chesterhill) thought this a grand poem ! !
" Other verses are: "The Foet's Night," and "The Day of Doom."]
My removal from Haughilin deprived me of sweet
intercourse with my friend G. Steven, but it brought me into acquaintance with
another excellent man, also an elder in Ford Church, Mr. Wm. Miller. His wife
was one of the excellent of the earth. I had much profitable intercourse with
the worthy pair.
While here I had also some pleasant hours with
Wm. Kinghorn, forester to Sir J. H. Dalrymple (afterwards eighth Earl of Stair).
He had a good deal of poetry in him, and he tried hard to get me to believe that
I also possessed some poetic genius. Mr. K. was keeper of Cranston Parish
Library, from which I read a number of small books, and, in particular, Dr. John
Brown's On Religion and the Means of its Attainment, and a Memoir of Pliny Fisk
(an American missionary). The reading of these volumes has often been of service
to me since.
Under date of Sabbath, June 10th, 1832, I find
the following entry in my Journal:—
"I have been for some time thinking of essaying
to join myself to the Church, and to sit down at the Lord's table on the third
Sabbath of next month. I would therefore examine myself whether I be in the
faith. I remember that the Rev. Mr. Law, when he 'fenced the tables' in the tent
last year, proposed the four questions: '1. What is thy knowledge? 2. What is
thy profession? 3. What are thy principles? 4. What is thy practice? ' Enable me
to answer each of these questions as in Thy sight, O Thou Searcher of hearts!"
About the end of this year I read from Pathhead
Library, Johnson's Lives of the Poets, in 4 vols.; The Remains of H. K. White,
second perusal; and The Course of Time, third perusal. In the beginning of 1833
I read Scott's Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, and M'Gavin's Protestant.
In Jan. 1833 I began to read The United Secession Magazine. I have now in
possession all the volumes of the U.S. and its successor the UP. for twenty-one
years, from 1833 to 1853 inclusive.
At Whitsunday 1833 I removed along with Mr.
M'Kenzie and his family from Chesterhill to a place called Blackdub. As usual, I
disliked the change very much at first, and as usual, too, I soon became
reconciled to my new abode.
Notwithstanding the purpose referred to in my
quotation from my Journal of June 10th, 1832, namely, of offering myself as a
candidate for Church fellowship, the middle of 1833 found me still a
non-professor. I had read much, heard much, thought much, prayed much, striven
hard to conquer sin, laboured hard to become religious, but, alas! I felt I was
becoming worse and worse. Sometimes, too, when I could have wished to converse
with the excellent servant of Christ whose ministry I attended, my excessive
bashfulness always overcame me. I do not think that I had as yet come to the
Saviour. I had laboured with all my might for a year and a half for the
attainment of that peace which comes only by believing. I felt that one duty
remained neglected while I disobeyed—most certainly I never disregarded—the
Saviour's command, "This do in remembrance of Me."
Some of the exercises of my mind at this
important and critical period of my history may be brought into view by a few
quotations from my Journal:—
"Am I a Christian? I cannot tell; but one thing I
can say, I am not what I once was. Once I was an avowed—I do not think I was
ever a real—enemy to religious ordinances; for a considerable period I scarcely
ever entered the house of God, and when I did go I was not ashamed to profess
that I went simply to hear the orator—not the preacher; I was for a time rather
addicted to swearing; my Sabbaths were spent in reading newspapers, studying
politics, idle speculations, indolence, or composing doggerel rhymes on trifles;
for a time prayer was a burden, and sometimes never thought of. ... I believe I
have been considered a quiet, good neighbour, an honest, diligent, and faithful
servant; but probably self-interest and pride have been the foundation of my
relative virtues. But I trust I can say that old things have passed away. For
eighteen months I have not been absent for a single Sabbath from the sanctuary;
and though far from spending the Sabbath's sacred hours as I ought and wish to
spend them, yet I can say in truth that I call the blessed day' a delight; I
long for its return, not that I may have leisure to read and write on politics,
but that I may go with joy to the house of prayer, and that I may withdraw
myself from the world to meditate on things unseen and eternal. I fear an oath,
and desire to keep myself in all things free from sin. I sigh for the spirit of
prayer, and earnestly wish for an outpouring from on high of the spirit of grace
and supplication. But oh ! notwithstanding favourable appearances, I forget not
that there may be reformation of life where there is no renovation of heart,—
another heart, and not a new heart.
"Sabbath, July 7.—'This do in remembrance of Me.'
On this day fortnight the congregation with which I usually worship is, in
obedience to Christ's dying commandment, to observe the ordinance of the Lord's
Supper. I have frequently had serious, yea, most anxious thoughts of essaying to
join myself to the Church. I have sometimes expressed my desires to elders and
others, but when the hour has arrived in which I should have gone to converse
with the worthy servant of Christ who ministers to us in the Lord, my fortitude
has failed me; and from one cause and another I have not yet gone to offer
myself as a candidate for Church fellowship.
"The question has sometimes occurred to me,
Should I join the United Secession Church? After thinking a good deal of
different creeds and forms adopted by the different sects into which the Church
militant is so unhappily divided, I cannot avoid the conclusion that all those
denominations worthy of being styled 'Evangelical' are built on the true—on the
one foundation; that their differences are only about the circumstantials of
rule or rite, that in the great essentials 'they are all one!"
On Sabbath, July 14th—the Sabbath immediately
preceding that of the Communion—the Rev. Mr. Elliot gave the final opportunity
for that occasion for young people wishing to join the Church to converse with
him. My heart was touched when he invited those who wished to honour the Lord
Jesus by showing forth His dying love to embrace the opportunity. He appointed
five o'clock as the hour of waiting upon him. After earnest prayer for guidance
from above, I went at five o'clock, with palpitating heart, to Mr. E.'s
residence. I had, in 1832, got as far as the garden gate on the same errand, but
had turned back. I verily believe I would have slipped off again had not Mrs.
Elliot accidentally, or providentially, come to the door as I was hesitating
about knocking. My retreat was thus cut off. I had a most pleasant and
profitable conversation with my beloved pastor. The only thing I regretted in
regard to the interview was its shortness. But this was compensated for by Mr.
E. intimating to me that he would be glad if I would call on him during the
ensuing week, as he had some books which he thought I would like to read.
I here make another quotation from my Journal:—
"Saturday evening, July 20.—This afternoon I was
solemnly admitted by Rev. Mr. Elliot as a member of the visible Church of
Christ. I have therefore publicly renounced the service of the devil, the world,
and the flesh—avowed the Lord to be my God—and engaged in the strength of divine
grace to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for
the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of my God and Saviour, Jesus
On the Sabbath, July 21st, I sat down for the
first time at the Lord's table. A painful sense of unworthiness depressed me all
the day. I neglected to look to Him in whom alone we are complete. The occasion
was deeply interesting to me. I shall not record the texts which were preached
from on the Saturday, the Sabbath, and the Monday. It would be out of place to
give an outline of the discourses here. Some of them I have in later life, and
in so far as I could make them my own, repeatedly preached to others, both in
Jamaica and in Old Calabar.
I have notes and outlines of many of the sermons
which I heard in Scotland between 1831 and 1839, but of none of them did I ever
remember or write so much as that of Mr. Law on 2 Cor. xii. 2. That discourse
was subsequently published in the United Secession Magazine.
During the year spent at Blackdub I was as busy
with my pen as I had been at Chesterhill. I either did not know that there was
such a book as a Concordance to the Bible, or I feared that it would be long ere
I would be able to purchase one. It must have been one of these considerations—
I rather think the former—that led me to commence a concordance for myself. On
this new work I spent some precious Sabbath hours at Blackdub. I soon
discovered, however, that many years would be requisite to finish it, so I gave
it up, resolved to do all I could to put my Bible into my head.
In compliance with Mr. Elliot's kind invitation,
I called on him during the week after the Communion, and received from him a
loan of Rev. C. S. Stewart's Visit to the South Seas in 1829-30. This was the
commencement of a series of visits on my part, and lending of books on his,
which continued till I left Scotland in 1839.
While at Fala Mains I had often prayed with tears
that God would make me a Christian and a minister. My desire to attain to the
high office of the ministry burned in me with great intensity at Blackdub. I
remember that one Sabbath while there I wrote a very earnest prayer to God on
the subject, accompanied with a solemn dedication of myself to God in the gospel
of His Son. This paper I, with an aching heart, destroyed some years afterwards,
when all hope that I would be what I now am was taken away.
In October of that year (1833), my master, Mr.
M'Kenzie, kindly offered to board me gratuitously during the ensuing winter and
spring, if I would attend any of the neighbouring schools.
["Oct. 19.—Engaged to stay other six months with
Mr. M'Kenzie. He kindly offers to support me at school for a time; but I cannot
think of being his debtor, much as I daily feel my want of education.
"Oct. 21.—Mr. C. Stewart wishes me to go to
America with him in the spring; but I can hardly engage to do so. My aunt and my
sister wish me to remain at home."—Journal.]
He properly suggested that I should consult Mr.
Elliot on the subject. Here seemed to be presented to me the very thing after
which my whole soul had been yearning for years, but several considerations
prevented me from taking advantage of the benevolent offer. There was the old
distressing bashfulness, which I struggled in vain to overcome. I go and tell
Mr. Elliot that I wished to be a preacher! I believe it would have cost me a
less effort to cut off my right hand. Then, had I gone to school I did not see
how I would be able to assist my poor old aunt in a pecuniary manner. Then
further, I had serious doubts respecting the piety of the offerer. Had any
minister or elder in the Church made me such an offer I would have at once
embraced it, provided that the offerer himself would have laid the matter before
my pastor—would have seen that mv aunt was cared for—and that I would be
permitted to repay whatever it might have been necessary to advance on my
account. I abhorred the idea of being a burden— or even a dependent—on Mr.
M'Kenzie or anyone else.
A few extracts from the Journal follow:—
Jan. 27, 1834.—Heard Mr. Elliot preach and
moderate in a call in the U.S. Church, Fala, this afternoon. The call was in
favour of Rev. John Cooper from India.
Tuesday, Jan. 28.— Heard George Thompson, Esq.,
deliver a most eloquent lecture on Slavery in the United States this evening in
Mr. King's Church, Dalkeith.
Saturday, Feb. 1.—Owing to wet weather, we have
been all nearly idle since the 9th ult. Again the first day of spring. If winter
be over, it has been very mild.
On Sabbath, March 30th, Ford Sabbath school was
resumed, after a long vacation. I rejoiced in the prospect of its
recommencement, for I was as willing to become a Sabbath scholar now as ever I
had been. I had some expectation that the pastor would form an advanced class
which I might be able to join without any appearance of singularity. Instead of
being enrolled as a scholar, I was constituted a teacher, and a class of boys
was committed to my care. [In his Journal of that date he wrote: "I feel deeply
my inadequacy to the task of communicating to them the instructions they
require. . . . Lord, enable me to perform the duties incumbent on me as a
Sabbath-school teacher in a proper manner, with a single eye to Thy glory and
the good of souls. Do Thou instruct me, that I may be able to instruct my young
charge, and through eternity may their profiting and mine from our present
connection appear! "]
In reviewing the past, I am decidedly of opinion
that, had I not been enlisted at or about that time as a Sabbath-school teacher,
I would never have been either where or what I am now. It was in the Sabbath
school that I was impelled by a sense of duty to overcome my natural bashfulness
so far as to conduct devotional services in a public manner. This I felt for a
considerable time to be a hard trial. I used for a considerable time to write
and commit to memory every prayer I offered in school ; but, notwithstanding
this, I have felt much greater quaking of both heart and knees in commencing or
concluding the exercises of Ford Sabbath school than I have ever felt in any
public service—save, perhaps, once or twice—since I began to preach the gospel.
I can even now call to mind the boyish
countenances of some who were members of my class—in particular, those of
Messrs. Ralph, John, and Andrew Elliot; my (now) brethren in the mission field,
George Hall, and William Dickson.... I spent many a happy hour with them.
On the 2nd of April this year the Rev. John
Cooper was inducted to the pastoral charge of the congregation at Fala. I used
to feel much interested in his statements about Hindostan, and was both
delighted and benefited by his occasional ministrations at Ford. Several of his
discourses made a deep impression on my mind, especially those on Heb. v. 4-6; 1
Pet. iv. 18; Rom. viii. 33, 34; and Heb. xii. 23—"the spirits of just men made
Having been recommended to Messrs. John Gray &
Sons in Dalkeith by Mrs. Elliot, and having entered into engagement with them in
the month of April, I left Blackdub on "the Auld Term day"—May 26th — and
entered their service on the 27th.