Genesis XII, 1-2.-—"Now the Lord said unto Abram
— Get thee out of thy country, and from thy
kindred, and from thy father’s house, into a land that I will shew thee.
And I will bless the... and thou shalt be a blessing."
GET THEE OUT
OF THY COUNTRY
(Preached in St. Andrews, 27th Nov., 1932
— Annual Service of the St. Andrew’s Society
of the River Plate. Lessons Read by Mr. R. P. Easton, President of the
Society. Service attended by H.B.M. Counsellor M. E. Millington-Drake and
Lady Effie M. Drake, H.B.M. Consul General Mr. V. St. J. Huckin, and
officials of the British Community. Service Broadcast by Radio Excelsior.)
What a wealth of incident there is in the first book of
the Bible to touch the heart of any exile, not least the heart of an
exiled Scot. Here — "Thy country
— thy kindred—thy father’s house"
— what surge of memories —
the mountains, the moors, the mists, father and mother and a happy
family circle, the old home — shieling, cottage
or mansion, — the rowan tree, the sunny or the murky city, beautiful
Princes Street, busy Sauchiehall Street, the historic High Street with the
Pillars, or Union Street cold and clean.
It is a thousand pities that the Book of
Genesis is regarded by so many as merely a statistical record — invaluably
full of facts something like "Scottish Settlers in the River Plate" — yet
but a record.
It is really so much more.
For while it does not hesitate to chronicle the sins of men, it does so
with the big purpose of painting in shining letters the highest Hebrew
conceptions of Faith, conduct and character. Two ideals in particular
stand forth. (1) The ideal of divine fellowship as between God and man. In
this old story the Almighty draws very near to man—gives him definite
directions, cheers him with His counsel, promises him His presence,
schools him through suffering. (2) The ideal of human fellowship as
between man and man. The relationships of husband and wife, parent and
child, master and servant, warrior and priest, birth and marriage and
death — all the sunshine and
shadow of life are mirrored in the light of God’s presence and touched to
To Abram then, a married man but
with no family, came the call "Get thee out of thy country and from thy
kindred and from thy father’s house". To any man, of any nationality, at
any time, that is a hard call. More than most, perhaps, Scotland’s sons
have heard it. And the emotions that are stirred, when that call comes,
will depend on the bent of a man’s outlook. Some, like Sir Walter Scott,
draw their inspiration chiefly from the past, and dwell most fondly on the
days that are no more. For such the call "Get thee out" goes deeper than
description. One look at the faces in that picture called "The Emigrants"
will tell you more than I ever could
— the hills on the horizon, the little
Highland pier and clachan just left behind as the boat pulls out — no
display of handkerchief-waving — the emigrants looking wistfully out to
sea because they wouldn’t dare to look back to home. It might mean
a scene of emotion, and that is something alien to the character of the
average Scot. Some of you, but
not all of you, may find it hard to believe that there are Scottish
daughters who will tell you that they cannot remember ever kissing their
mothers. If you were to infer that such homes were loveless, you would
make a big mistake.
Then there are others who, like
Robert Burns, are most deeply stirred not by thought of what is past but
of the times that are to come —
"when man to man the world o’er shall brothers be." For such the call "Get
thee out" is probably not so hard. Much of the land of Scotland is
uncultivatable; the climate, especially in the north and west, is
rigorous, and 4˝ millions of a sturdy population make a problem. And so
many cross the border, and more cross the sea. Of the latter, the
Argentine has continued to claim a representative proportion for well over
a century. It is surprising that our earlier countrymen did not found a
St. Andrew’s Society sooner. But when at last they did, they dug deep and
built bravely. Almost exactly 44 years ago, on 17th December, 1888, the
following founding members met in the old Scots School alongside the old
Scots Church — Piedras 55 (to-day the centre of the Avenida de Mayo) :—
Edward A. M. Adamson,
John W. Wilson
John C. Falconer
Adam A. G. Goodfellow
J. J. Nisbet
M. C. Fortune
Robert H. McNee
The Rev. James W. Fleming
Robert L. Goodfellow
The first two are with us in Buenos
Aires; the third is at home; the Land o’ the Leal has called the others.
Ten days later —27th December,
1888 — a general meeting was held, and the name — "The St. Andrew’s
Society of the River Plate" — was adopted. The first office-bearers were
elected as follows: President: Thomas Drysdale; Vice-Presidents: A. G.
Anderson and James Murray Tulloch; Committee: The Rev. J. W. Fleming,
James Dodds, R. I. Runciman, James I. Ramsay, M. G. Fortune, J. McKill, E.
A. M. Adamson, R. H. McNee; Hon. Secretary, R. L. Goodfellow. The absence
of the mention of any Honorary Treasurer is startling; to-day that
official’s duties are very onerous.
The objects of the Society were gradually evolved and
clarified, and to-day as for many years past, are as follows: "To foster
the Scottish national sentiment, and to promote Benevolence, Education,
National Literature, Customs and Accomplishments amongst persons of
The big plank in this programme has been Benevolence
and Education. Every single activity of the Society has these in view. It
promotes nothing merely for the pleasure of its members. That is the
reason that the Committee’s work has been peculiarly free from
difficulties and dissensions. From small beginnings it has risen to a
present membership of over 1600 — this last year
marking a net increase of over 70.
Under the heading of Benevolence an average sum of
$1600 is spent annually, paid mostly in small monthly grants to approved
and deserving cases, to augment an insufficient income. In almost every
grants make the difference between merely existing and
living. Last year the Society, in addition, assisted the General
Unemployment Relief Fund with $500. With another donation of $1000 it
increased the endowment of the St. Andrew’s Society Cot in the British
Hospital to $6,500, thus making a total of $3000 for Benevolence.
Under the count of Education (expenditure for which is
just a specified form of benevolence) the annual average grants now amount
to the handsome sum of $15,000. Why so much for Education? some have
asked. Because you know what an influence education (or perhaps the
lack of it) has had upon your progress in life, and also because in making
the gift of educational facilities, you are giving the children what none
can ever rob.
For some years to come it is unlikely that emigration
direct from Scotland will continue at its former high level. Twenty and
thirty years hence the effects of this reduced emigration from home will
be seen in the increasing Anglo-Argentine proportion of the membership of
the Society. Can we, —as men and women who are
humbly grateful for what parent, schoolmaster, friend, did for US, Sons
and daughters of a comparatively poor land which has stoutly maintained
that poverty never shall bar the road to a first class education
— can we do less than try to pass on the
priceless gift? If, to-day, we can preserve for
children of Scots extraction born here, the opportunity to learn to speak
and to write in both English and Spanish, we shall be travelling far along
the road of preserving certain high ideals which may be Oh! so easily lost
if these little ones today grow up speaking only Spanish. And from the
business point of view alone, the double language has ceased to be merely
a desideratum, and is to-day a necessity.
In concluding, let me lift all these considerations
into the higher atmosphere of this act of worship —
the Society’s annual and official payment of its vows to the
Creator and Giver of all. Old Abraham suggested our first thought
— let him suggest our last. It was by faith in
God that Abraham became the prince of spiritual pioneers and pathfinders.
And any Briton or descendent of Briton here today —
English, Irish, Welsh or Scot, it matters not —
who boldly faces the future and lays his plans in conformity with
the known will of God as revealed in Christ, and looks thereby to reach a
land of promise, that man is of the creed and of the breed of old Abraham,
the father of the faithful.
Yet many still ask — "Is
faith always sensible?" No, it isn’t! A man has only to advertise
— "How to make $1000 quickly. Send $5," and the
money will probably roll in. There is plenty of faith —
or rather credulity — about! Whether it
is silly or sensible depends on the reliability of the object. True faith
is an assumption, which is also an assurance, that the best and highest
things are real; that God, the soul, immortality are not doubtful dreams
but reliable facts. Faith is not sure of the road but it is sure of the
destination, and asks only light enough for the next step
"Keep Thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
My fellow members of the St. Andrew’s Society of the
River Plate, if we are to count for more than our name or our numbers or
our material possessions in that larger community that we are proud to
have represented here to-day by the British Society and the British
Chamber of Commerce — that larger community
still of this busy city and this fertile country, it will ultimately be by
our Faith in the God of Abraham. Need I remind you of some particularly
favourite Scottish texts :—
"Fear God and keep His Commandments,"
"for this is the whole duty of man."
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He"
"that hath clean hands and a pure heart."
"What doth the Lord require of thee but to"
"do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly"
"with thy God."
God at the beginning — God at
the end. And if, in between, there has been for us the call "Get thee out
of thy country and from thy Father’s house," there is also the promise
— "I will bless thee —
I will make thee a blesing." My fellow members, if we merit the Blessing,
we will be the Blessing. And so I sincerely pray the prayer of the last
hymn we are to sing, familiar and dear to every Scottish heart— "God of
our Fathers be the God Of their succeeding race."