"I would express him simple,
In doctrines uncorrupt; in language plain;
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste."-COWPER.
REV. WILLIAM MELDRUM'S
connection with Zorra dates from the year 1857, when he was inducted into
the pastoral charge of Harrington congregation. He belonged to an intensely
conservative school of thought, and few of the pioneer ministers exhibited
more distinctive characteristics. The present brief sketch can give these
only in a brief outline.
He was born in the parish of
Abernethy, Morayshire, Scotland, in the year 18o6, and was educated at
Aberdeen College. On being licensed as a minister of the gospel, he at once
received a call from a church near the home of his childhood; but he felt
that America was to be the field of his labors, and so he set his face
westward. Arriving in this country in 1839, he was soon after ordained and
inducted as pastor of the congregations of Puslinch and Nassagaweya,
Here he labored for fifteen
years ministering the gospel, not only to his own people, but to many others
in the regions round about, especially to the north and west. On these
journeys he was frequently accompanied by Dr. Smellie, of Fergus, Dr. Gale,
of Hamilton, and Dr. Bayne, of Gait. From Puslinch he went to Vaughan, in
the county of York, where he labored for four years. From Vaughan he came,
as we have observed, to the large and important congregation of Harrington
Shortly before leaving
Vaughan he met with an accident in which his horse fell on him, breaking
three ribs, and severely bruising his whole body. He was badly injured,
although with the persistance of the typical pioneer, he preached regularly
and attended to his pastoral duties. At times the bruised blood would run
from his legs to his feet, until he was forced to preach sitting down, and
the people placed a high chair in the pulpit, with a rest for his feet. He
was often heard to say, with great delight, that during all his ministry he
had never missed a Sabbath. Harrington was his last charge, although he
preached in vacant congregations and mission fields until 1876, when he
retired from the active work of the ministry.
As a preacher, Mr. Meldrum
spoke with a strong Doric accent, and in his matter he was deep, rather than
broad. He knew nothing of that liberality which makes no difference between
truth and error; and although in private life affable and genial, in his
pulpit ministrations he was stern and decided. On one occasion, hearing a
student preaching loose, incorrect doctrines, he rose at the close of the
sermon, and to the consternation of the congregation, unsparingly denounced
the utterances of the young orator.
His style was exegetical,
without any pretence to being homiletical. On one occasion he consulted some
of his prominent members as to their preference for texts chosen in the
ordinary way, or for a continuous course from some book of the Bible.
Preference was expressed for the latter; and so Mr. Meldrum went to work,
and continuously preached from Isaiah for several years, without giving any
signs of completing the book. Hearing that some murmured he wondered how any
one could take exception to the course they had preferred, and to which he
had so faithfully adhered; but when a change was suggested he willingly
returned to preaching from texts chosen in the usual way.
His illustrations were in
accord with the genius of the Gaelic rather than the English language; and
while considered chaste and appropriate in the former, would occasionally be
condemned by the more exacting taste of modern society.
He was remarkably specific
and powerful in prayer, and had great discernment in the selection of words
to suit the occasion and circumstances, entering sympathetically into the
interests concerned. There were some rich scripture passages which he seldom
failed to repeat in his public prayers. Few of his hearers can ever forget
the solemnity with which he slowly pronounced, in the most approved Gaelic
fashion, "Thou magnifiest thyself above all that is written. Thou art a
terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well." In asking the
blessing at the table, often there would be a reference to some remark just
made by a member of the family or visitor.
His observance of the Sabbath
would have pleased the strictest of the Puritans. It is related of a rural
Scotchman that, when he returned home after a visit to Edinburgh, he said,
"It was an awful sicht to see the people sae happy on the Lord's day." It
may be that Mr. Meldrum would not have objected to his children being happy
on the Sabbath; but beyond contradiction, his ideas of happiness were very
different from theirs. There was a fine spring of water about one hundred
yards from his house at Puslinch, and even in the hottest weather in summer,
only one pitcher of water could be brought from it on the Lord's day.
In his family he was kind and
tender, and his memory is lovingly cherished by his surviving wife and
children. And yet, according to our more modern ideas, the discipline of
that home was somewhat severe. On the Sabbath, after public services in both
Gaelic and English, the family returned to the manse and partook of dinner.
Then the table was cleared, and family worship was observed, - making three
times each Sabbath. After this the Shorter Catechism was repeated. The older
ones had to go all the way through, and the younger as far as they had
learned. Mr. Meldrum would sometimes close his eyes and seem to be asleep;
but the mistake of a single preposition or a transposition of words would
wake him up with a suddenness that alarmed the erring one. At other times he
would walk the floor while the recital was going on, carrying in his hand a
red cane with an iron head.; and quite often a rap on the head of the one
who made the mistake was a painful reminder that contributed to accuracy.
The family knew that the iron head was harder and heavier than he supposed.
The children had to repeat all the Psalms in metre, Paraphrases, and Hymns
bound with them. Very faithfully he attended to the catechising and pastoral
work of the congregation.
Most of his travelling he did
on horse-back, dressed in white moleskin overalls, buttoned along the sides
from top to bottom, with about twenty-five buttons on each side. These
overalls were removed when the formalities of a service were required. He
always had a good horse, and was allowed to be a superior judge of horses.
Although never guilty of horse- racing, it was almost a passion with him to
show the young "Jehus" that a minister could take delight in having a horse
as speedy as any on the road.
He was wonderfully methodical
in his habits, and kept an accurate account of every cent received and
expended. He carried the silver in one pocket, and the coppers in another.
He always washed his face before his hands, as he preferred the clean water
for his face. At family worship the Old and New Testament were read
alternately night and morning. The Psalms were sung from beginning to end,
about three verses at a time; no Paraphrase or Hymn was allowed. For private
reading Mr. Meldrum had the whole Bible marked so as to include so much for
every day of the year, and to read the whole every year. This regularity he
observed for many years.
When about forty years of
age, he married Miss Anna McLean, who was several years his junior, and the
most popular young lady member of his church. Shortly before his marriage a
prominent gentleman from a neighboring city, whose heart had been affected
in the usual way by meeting Miss McLean a few times, but whose Scotch
prudence counselled extreme caution, referred the matter to Mr. Meldrum,
lest any mistake should be made in choosing a life partner. Mr. Meldrum in
unmistakable language declared from his personal acquaintance he had every
confidence that the young lady would make an excellent wife. The gentleman
ever believed Mr. Meldrum sincere in the words he then spoke.
Mrs. Meldrum by her characteristic wisdom, prudence, and executive powers
was a true helpmeet in congregational, financial, and family cares. Their
large family, distinguished for their piety, as well as for intellectual and
social qualities, bear evidence to the strong powers they inherited, and the
vigorous discipline through which they were nurtured.
He was an advanced temperance
man, and as far back as 1852, the church records show how faithfully he and
his elders administered the discipline of the Church in the matter of
intemperance, as well as in sins against the fourth commandment.
Mr. Meldrum was a man of high
social qualities, and nothing could be more delightful than Christian
fellowship between him and neighboring ministers. Indeed, it may be observed
of all the pioneer preachers of Zorra that they lived in unbroken Christian
love and unity. These ministers exhibited great variety of gifts and graces,
and differed widely in their manner of presenting truth. Occasions occurred
that might have given rise to petty jealousy and unseemly rivalry, but grace
prevented any appearance of unbrotherliness. Dr. Kennedy, in his book, "The
Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire," tells us of two Highland ministers. The
name of the one was Fraser, and that of the other Porteous. Fraser preached
largely the law, seeking the awakening and conversion of sinners, while
Porteous excelled in preaching the consoling doctrines of the gospel,
directing his remarks to the comforting of the broken-hearted and the
building up of God's people. Each was faithful according to the gifts
bestowed upon him; but Mr. Fraser's people complained that their minister
preached the law so exclusively, that those who sought the bread of life
must starve under his ministry, and they began in considerable numbers to
forsake their own church and to attend the ministry of Mr. Porteous. But Mr.
Porteous, being a Christian man and knowing Mr. Fraser to be on the whole an
excellent minister, spoke to him about it. Meeting Mr. Fraser at a funeral,
he said to him, "It gives me, my dear brother, grief of heart, to see some
of your people in my church every Sabbath. My elders tell me that those who
come to us complain that you preach almost entirely to the unconverted, and
that the 'poor in spirit' can get no food for their souls. "Now, my dear
brother, if the Lord gives it to you, I pray you not to withhold their
portion from the people of the Lord, which you could dispense to them as I
"My dear brother," was Mr.
Fraser's striking reply, "when my Master sent me forth to my work, He gave
me a quiver full of arrows, and He ordered me to cast these arrows at the
hearts of His enemies till the quiver was empty. I have been endeavoring to
do so, but the quiver is not empty yet. When the Lord sent you forth, He
gave you a cruise of oil, and His orders to you were to pour the oil on the
wounds of the brokenhearted sinners till the cruise was empty. Your cruise
is no more empty than is my quiver. Let us both then continue to act on our
respective orders, and as the blessing from on high shall rest on our labors,
I will be sending my hearers with wounded hearts to you, and you will be
sending them back to me rejoicing in the Lord."
This spirit of mutual
confidence and kindness strikingly characterized the pioneer preachers of
Zorra, and it is worthy of being recorded as an example to the ministers and
people of to-day.
After leaving Harrington, Mr.
Meldrum moved back to his old home in Puslinch. Here he lived till his
Master took him on the 19th day of November, 1889, in the eighty-fourth year
of his age. The night before, he worshipped with his family around his bed,
he leading in prayer, and one of his sons conducting the reading and
singing. He is buried at Puslinch, and a prominent monument near the
entrance of the cemetery, reminds us of the enduring monument which the
Christian life and work of this pioneer minister have reared, not only in
Puslinch, but in Zorra and other places throughout Ontario.