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Pioneer Life in Zorra
Chapter XIX. Rev. Daniel Allan of North Easthope


"Daniel—a man greatly beloved."
—DAN. X. ii.

IN the early forties, and for many years after, no man was more welcome to the Zorra pulpit, and to the Zorra homes, than Rev. Daniel Allan of North Easthope, the intimate friend and neighbor of Rev. D. Mackenzie, the Zorra pastor. Especially on Communion occasions were his services greatly enjoyed by all classes of the people.

Daniel Allan was born 25th Sept., 1805, in Fortrose, Scotland. He completed his education in King's College, Aberdeen. While a very young man he experienced a sudden and remarkable change of heart under the ministry of the Rev. Dr. MacDonald, the famous "Apostle of the North." Before his conversion, he was for some time under deep conviction of sin. The power, the justice, the holiness of God he viewed with alarm. The terrors of the Lord were upon him, but he was not allowed to despair. Every Sabbath he travelled fifteen miles over the hills to hear the great evangelical preacher of the north; and one day listening with all the intensity of his awakened nature, suddenly the light dawned upon him. In a moment he saw that his salvation was through the free grace of God, as manifested in the atonement of Christ. There and then, sitting in the church, he took Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and entered into the full assurance of his acceptance with God. His fears were all gone, and a sweet peace filled his soul. It was like a calm after the storm. The clouds parted and the sun shone out gloriously. Great was his alarm when awakened to a sense of his lost condition as a sinner; correspondingly great was now his joy in the assurance that God was his friend, and Jesus his brother. Speaking of this experience to a friend many years afterwards, he said: "Such was the overflow of my soul's joy on that wonderful Sabbath day, that on my way home from the church, I could scarcely refrain from speaking of it to the stones and the trees on the roadside."

He left Aberdeen, 16th August, 1836, and arrived at Quebec on the 7th of October, following. Coming west he received a joint call from the united congregations of Woodstock and Stratford, which he accepted, and was ordained at Stratford on Thursday, 21st of November, 1838. He was therefore the first Presbyterian minister settled in Woodstock, although Rev. Mr. Mackenzie, of Zorra, and Rev. Mr. Murray, of Blenheim, held occasional services before '38. Mr. Allan's labors were equally divided between Woodstock and Stratford, two weeks being devoted to each field alternately, an arrangement rendered necessary by the distance, and the very bad state of the roads. Owing to his impaired state of health, the resignation of a portion of his charge soon became necessary; and on the 15th of Aug., 1840, he was released from his connection with the Woodstock congregation, and he became the minister of Stratford and vicinity alone. In 1846, North East- hope became a separate charge with Mr. Allan as their pastor; and in spite of many difficulties and discouragements, erected what is supposed to have been the first Presbyterian brick church in Upper Canada, west of Toronto. Here for thirty-eight years, more than a third of a century, among a people devotedly attached to him, he labored faithfully and with great success.

In stature he was perhaps a little below the medium size, with a slight frame, but compactly put together and capable of great endurance. His eyes clear and penetrating, very expressive of the tender emotions of his heart, often filled with tears as he pleaded with sinners. Like many famous preachers, such as Dr. Arnot, Dr. Guthrie, C. H. Spurgeon, and others, nature had endowed him with a rich fund of humor. This, mellowed and sanctified, gave tone and charm to his discourses. In private life and among Christian friends he was exuberantly happy, jovial, and free, and his conversation full of mother-wit and quaint humor.

A minister thus writes of him: "Daniel Allan was a living delight to childhood, youth, and age. His dignity as a gentleman was elevating, his remarkable adaptation enabled him to inspire those of every age with high ideals. His incisive, humorous utterances kept the atmosphere of the home of his host surcharged with pleasant wit from the time of his arrival until his departure.

"Mr. Allan's own home was a little world of cultured minds and tender hearts, of Christian charity and domestic love, of ideal tact and exquisite refinement. The centre round which mother, sons, and daughters moved was the high-minded, pure-spirited, happy-hearted father. Few men attained to such perfection in the domestic virtues. He never lost sight of his high and holy office with its weighty obligations, yet his family circle was his chief care and delight. The sparkling humor that pervaded his conversation never allowed the home to become a dull or dreary place."

The following will illustrate his original and quaint mode of expression. Hearing of a faithful minister of the gospel who was being persecuted by some of his people, Mr. Allan said: "That is nothing strange. The world never permits a man to rebuke her follies without replying with a volley 'of mud. If she cannot stop the man's mouth, she tries to blacken his character."

One or two instances of his ready wit may here be given. He was fond of his pipe, and on one occasion, when enjoying a smoke in one of the horse sheds standing by the church, a young minister not noted for spirituality, reproached him, "There you are again at your idol."

"Yes," quickly responded the witty Mr. Allan, "I am burning it; have you done so with yours?"

"What," I think I hear some one saying, "Mr. Allan smoking?" Oh, yes, and he snuffed, too. It was a fad of the time; and there are fads still. There are not many perfect men,—or women either. It is related of a noted revivalist, well-known in this country, that he is an inveterate smoker, On one occasion a good Christian lady remonstrated with him as follows:

"Mr. J----, I'm so sorry you are a smoker. If you did not smoke you would be a perfect man."

"I don't want to be a perfect man," was the ready reply.

"Oh, dear, why not?"

"Because," said the witty preacher, "I'd be so lonesome."

Mr. Allan had in his congregation a man whose employment was to gather ashes for the Stratford market. Unfortunately this man was addicted to strong drink. His minister, had repeatedly remonstrated with him, but apparently to little purpose. One day Mr. Allan, in company with a brother minister, was walking from North Easthope to Stratford to attend a meeting of presbytery. Sitting on his load of ashes the ash pedlar overtook the two ministers, and the day being wet, the ashman had thrown a sack or bag round his shoulders to protect him from the rain.

Mr. Allan looked at him, bade him the time of day, and then said:

"I am glad to see you in this condition. You have at last listened to my advice." "How is that?" said the ashman.

"I see," was the quick response, "that you are now sitting in sackcloth and ashes."

On another occasion in his presence, one minister accused another of having used undue influence to induce a family to change its church relationship. The matter was referred to Mr. Allan, who gave his judgment in these words, They used to hang sheep-stealers."

Mr. Allan and Mr. Mackenzie were as David and Jonathan; but on one occasion at least, Mr. Allan displayed his wit and readiness at the expense of his good brother, who seemed to enjoy it no less than Mr. Allan himself. On one of the "Preparatory days," a hot summer day, Mr. Mackenzie entered the vestry shortly before service, poured water into a basin and washed himself. Just as he was in the act of doing so, Mr. Allan entered, and Mr. Mackenzie turning to him said:

Mr. Allan, would it not refresh you to have a wash this hot morning, before commencing service?

"No thank you," responded his friend, "it was the Pharisees who were in the habit of doing that sort of thing."

Mr. Mackenzie simply smiled and silently ruminated over the joke, but, doubtless, waited till his turn would come.

Let no one undervalue the importance of this trait of character. Next to the sunlight of heaven is a buoyant spirit and a bright, cheerful face.

"Smile once in a while,
'Twill make your heart seem lighter,
Smile once in a while,
'Twill make your pathway brighter.
Life's a mirror; if we smile,
Smiles come back to greet us—
If we're frowning all the while,
Frowns forever meet us."

But this was only one aspect, and by no means the most important aspect of Mr. Allan's character. There was no frivolity or levity about him. "It is only with God's children," said he, "that I make merry. How could I jest with the world, or sport with men on the brink of a precipice?" He was profoundly reverent. The search-light in which he first saw his sin and his Saviour never left him, but kept him humble and adoring all his life.

Here is how a minister's wife writes of him: It was decidedly toward the sunset of his life. He was with us during a Communion. He was too frail in body to attend all the services, and during the evening meetings he stayed at home, lying for the most part on his back on the sofa, his eyes closed. He was evidently thinking very actively and intensely, a stage beyond meditating. He was in the dining-room where household duties called me back and forth, but he seemed to be oblivious of my presence or absence, pursuing his own thoughts, sometimes audibly. At last I heard him going over it somewhat in this way: "What an undertaking to remove from me every stain of sin; to restore the image of God in me that had become the image of Satan; to work out in me the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that I shall yet be known by the resemblance as a young brother of the Lord of Glory! What an undertaking! But God has laid the task upon one who is mighty, and He will do it,—yes, He will do it gloriously before He is done with me."

Another sweet and characteristic word of his may here be given. He was from home assisting at Communion. It was the month of May. There was on the dinner-table a magnificent bouquet of lilacs. After all had sat down at the table, Mr. Allan reached out his hand, and almost reverently touched one of the outmost clusters, saying with real reverence in his tone: "Verily He (the Creator) hath taste." As Hugh Millar said once, there was worship in both words and manner. There was so much more in it than simply the apprehending of the beauty—it was "the holy and reverent use of God's works."

He was a diligent student, and a classical scholar beyond the ordinary. The writer has seen his diary wholly written in Latin; and he could write letters to his ministerial brethren in Latin, Greek, French, or Hebrew. He studied Gaelic after coming to Canada, and he could preach in it with fluency. In those pioneer days grammar schools were few, and not many parents could afford to send their children to them. The work of preparing young men for the colleges had to be done by the minister; and next to the late Rev. Mr. Robertson, of Chesterfield, no minister in Oxford ever did so much of this good work as the Rev. Daniel Allan. But for all this work he never would accept fee or reward.

Those who knew him most intimately speak to this day with enthusiasm of the vigor of his intellect, the force of his will, the brightness of his wit, the honesty of his purpose, the warmth of his friendship, the generosity of his heart, and integrity and purity of his private life.

His preaching was clear and scriptural, fervent, heart-searching, and instinct with life. It exhibited characteristics that are not often found in combination—it was both doctrinal and practical, courageous and tender. The writer has seen him overcome with emotion, and bursting into tears even in his introduction; and then before the sermon was over he was roused to highest pitch, and thundered forth in fiery sentences the most scathing denunciation against the sins and shams of the day. Sometimes he plead like a mother tenderly pleading with her children; at other times his sentences fell like the blows of a warrior; never did Highlander wield broadsword with greater force than did this clansman of Christ wield "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."

No doubt his remarkable conversion at an early age both moulded his character and gave clearness and force to his pulpit ministrations. It is hard, perhaps impossible, to communicate through the printed page the electric effect upon a large congregation, when Mr. Allan related from Bunyan's "Holy War," the capture of Mansoul by Prince Immanuel. "Diabolus from within the city," said he, "strove hard to keep him out, and it was a hard time for Mansoul. But at last the place was taken, and the Prince rode down the city streets in triumph, and the liberated citizens welcomed him with all their hearts, and the silver trumpets were sounding, and the flags were flying, and the bells of the church towers rang out merry peals, for the King of Glory had come. Up to the castle he rode in triumph, and sat upon his throne, to be henceforth the sole Lord and King of the city."

"That," said Mr. Allan, "is Christ entering the soul of man; Christ in your heart, swaying His sceptre from the very centre of your being, over every power and faculty, desire and resolve, and bringing every thought into captivity to Himself." It was, at any rate, a true type of the preacher's own conversion and after-life.

"Many a night you kept me awake," said Rev. Mr. Ross, the subject of our last sketch to Mr. Allan years afterward. The arrows from your bow went right home, and they were so barbed that it was impossible to draw them out again. Once after service, as I was watching you coming down from the pulpit, and one after another speaking and shaking hands with you, my own internal comment was, 'I would as soon shake hands with the lightning.'"

But, perhaps, the most striking part of his pulpit ministrations was his prayers. "I have heard," says one who sat under him for many years, "others who could preach as well or better, but I never heard one like Mr. Allan in prayer. He spoke to God as a man speaks to his friend. Such holy familiarity! such simplicity! such fervor! From the beginning to the close you felt you were in the divine presence."

Being accused of using too great familiarity in prayer, he made reply, "May not a child be familiar with his father?" Just then the little child of his reprover had clambered on her father's knee, thrown her arms around his neck; and was raining kisses on his cheek.

"Do you call that presumption?" said Mr. Allan. "And does not the Spirit teach the Lord's children to say, Abba Father?'"

He was an active worker in the temperance cause, and did perhaps more than any one else in bringing about in that district, the new and better era when liquor ceased to be used at raisings and "bees," and in the homes of the people.

Mackenzie, McPherson, Ross, Allan—we have now briefly looked at each. How different! Yet how like one another! Different in personal appearance, in temperament, in talent, in habit, and in manner of address; but all agreed in rendering supreme, absolute authority to the scriptures, and in rejecting every doctrine and practice for which there could not in their judgment be pointed out a "Thus saith the Lord." They were all manly men who kept back nothing that was profitable but each regarded himself

"A messenger of grace to guilty man."

Accuse them not, gentle reader, of bigotry or intolerance, because they courageously opposed some things that are now practised in the church. They feared God rather than man; and though in judgment, they were like ourselves, human, yet their heart was always right, and their purpose true. According to their light and ability they endeavored "to keep pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God bath appointed in his Word."

Daniel Allan died at Goderich, December 10th, 1884. For some time he longed for the hour of his departure, and when the Master came, he found his servant not merely resigned but triumphant.

"Do you not hear the heavenly music?" said he to his wife at his bedside.

"Do you not see the Lord Jesus coming with his chariot to take me home?" These were his last words. His remains, accompanied by a number of friends, including his life-long friend, John Ross, were taken to Guelph, where they were interred to await the resurrection of the just. His spirit is with God.

His name is as ointment poured forth. May the consideration of his life inspire each reader to a greater hatred of sin, a stronger faith in God, a wider sympathy with our fellow-men, and a more earnest desire to advance the Redeemer's Kingdom.


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