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John MacKintosh
Chapter XVIII - Closing Scenes


 "Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."—Simeon, Luke ii. 29.

Though Mr. Mackintosh knew from various symptoms that at any time the end might come, and all his work had to be done with the consciousness of this; like the sword of Damocles hanging suspended by a single hair over his head; yet he went cheerfully about his daily tasks, and attended to his great business and to his public duties. "There are things," he was wont to say, "that must be done even if a man expected to die to-morrow."

John Wesley was once asked by a lady, "Suppose that you knew that you were to die at 12 o'clock to-morrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?"

"How, madam?" he replied; "why just as I intend to spend it now. I should preach this night at Gloucester, and again at five to-morrow morning. After that I should ride to Tewkesbury,. preach in the afternoon and meet the societies in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin's house, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at ten o'clock, commend myself to my Heavenly Father, lie down to rest and wake up in glory."

If a man is living worthily no change is needed to prepare for the end. Had Mr. Mackintosh known that on the morrow he would pass into the presence of his Lord, he could not have spent his last day on earth more fittingly than he did. Mrs. Mackintosh was slowly recovering from a severe illness. The day was Monday, January 26th, 1920. As was customary with him during his wife's illness, his first half hour after rising in the morning, was spent in her room, conversing cheerfully and raising her spirits with hopes of a speedy recovery. On this particular morning he elaborated a plan which he had formed in his own mind, to take her for a pleasant holiday to the South of England. Her mind was thus filled with bright anticipations and she had something to think of, and to look forward to, during the tedious hours in the sick room.

Leaving 'Greystones' immediately after breakfast, he drove to the court and took his place on the bench with his brother magistrates, dealing sympathetically with the cases on which he was called to adjudicate, his gracious disposition ever manifest even when obliged to make the way of transgressors hard. When the business of the court was over he went to his office, where he spent the remainder of the day. It is significant that the chief business on which he was engaged, was that of negotiating for a site on which to erect more commodious premises for the better accommodation of some part of the staff, for refreshment and recreation. His very last act in connection with his business, was to secure the comfort and increase the well-being of those who were associated with him in his great enterprises.

On returning to 'Greystones' he spent another hour with Mrs. Mackintosh and again spoke of the promised holiday, and also gave her an interesting and amusing account of the day's work. In the evening he went to 'Queen's Road' to attend the Annual Trustees Meeting, in which he accepted office as treasurer for the twenty-eighth year in succession. Entering with zest into the proceedings, he devoted his great business ability to the successful working of the church as earnestly as he did the conduct of his own business. When the meeting was over, he took the minister and anyone else going his way, into his car. It was his usual custom, a kindly act and typical of the man. Sometimes it happened that one of his workmen, who had attended a church meeting at a distance, was thus carried within a few yards of home. In the mind of John Mackintosh there was no distinction in the church between master and man, and if there were room in the car, the stoker of the boilers at the works was as welcome as the manager.

On arriving again at 'Greystones' his day's work was not yet completed, for he wrote two letters; one enclosing a cheque for a sick minister to enable him to take a much needed holiday, and the other to a minister in Porthleven, West Cornwall, offering to assist the fishermen to obtain a heating apparatus for their church. This last interesting letter, as we have already seen, was left unfinished. Something compelled him to break off suddenly in the middle of a sentence and retire to rest. It may have been some sudden sense of illness, or access of utter weariness. Whatever the cause it marked the end of his life's work. The two letters and the cheque were found in his pocket after his death.

On Tuesday morning, January 27th, 1920, Mr. Mackintosh rose at his usual hour and went to pay his morning visit to his sick wife. Sitting quietly down by the bed-side he passed immediately into the light of the divine presence. A beautiful ending to a beautiful life, but tragic for those who were left behind, especially so for the faithful and loving wife, helpless with her affliction. For him, in Shelley's beautiful phrase, it was,

"The awakening from the dream of life."

What John Mackintosh was to his friends and to all who came into close relationship to him, it would be difficult to set down in cold print. In the book of Job we read, When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness unto me; because I delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless also, that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the needy and the cause of him I knew not I searched out." In Job's defence of himself against unjust criticism, there is expressed beautifully and truthfully, what the poor and needy felt towards John Mackintosh. The description is true even to the 'searching out' of the cause of him he knew not.

But if one thing more than another could be offensive to him, it would be for his friends to represent him as being better than his fellows. He hated phylacteries and the blowing of trumpets to advertise personal virtues or peculiar sanctity. For him the gold of life must be coined and put, without ostentation, into the currency of golden deeds. He possessed the saving grace of humour, and he could enjoy a laugh at himself, and the little foibles and weaknesses which he shared with the rest of his fellows. Any attempt to place him on a pedestal to be worshipped at a distance would be a disservice, and totally out of keeping with his character. He was of the race of Abou Ben Adhem, and he would have asked the angel recorder to " Write me down as one that loves his fellow-men." Less cannot in truth be said of him, more he never desired. The evidence of his love for his kind is found in his whole life, and was proved by the sorrow that desolated many a humble home when he died. His name, known all over the world, was most beloved in "The place where he was brought up."

The lines written by John Greenleaf Whittier, in tribute to his friend, Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham, might have been written expressly for John Mackintosh :-

The funeral was an imposing and impressive pageant, the expression of the deep respect and sincere affection of Halifax for one who had served her unselfishly and devotedly. The following description was given by the "Halifax Weekly Guardian, January 31st, 1920.

"No finer tribute to the memory of one of her sons can ever have been paid, than that which was rendered by Halifax yesterday, when the mortal remains of the late Councillor Mackintosh were laid to rest. The townspeople turned out in their thousands on the route of the great procession of mourners, who accompanied the body of their respected fellow-townsman to its last resting-place. The scene in Queen's Road United Methodist Church was one which those who participated in it, will never forget. Strong men bowed their heads and bit their lips, while women wept unrestrainedly. It was not that the service was more highly emotional in itself than any other funeral service. The tears that flowed came from the fount of a real and deep sorrow, that one who was so well loved and so highly esteemed, had been taken. In his private, public, and commercial life, the late Councillor John Mackintosh had endeared himself to all those with whom he came into contact. Of him it could be truly said that 'He walked with God,' and the deep-seated sincerity of 'his religion as evidenced in everyday life, was responsible for the remarkable display of grief manifested yesterday. His was a life of practice which marched abreast of his precept, and the people recognised it, and loved him for it. Stricken with grief, as they must be, by the suddenness of the blow, the family of the late Councillor Mackintosh must to-day feel a mournful pride, that the one who has gone from them held so high a place in the esteem of the people. For a long time to come, it will be the case with regard to Councillor John Mackintosh, that, He being dead yet speaketh,' and many will yet 'rise up to call him blessed.'"

The procession, which when in motion, extended nearly half a mile, was preceded by the Constabulary; his workpeople, numbering nearly a thousand, coming next; then the Mayor with other representatives of the Town Council, and the Borough Magistrates; all sections of the public life of Halifax were represented, and the numerous institutions with which Mr. Mackintosh had been associated.

There was an immense profusion of floral wreaths. A solemn funeral service conducted by Dr. Clemens, was held in Queen's Road Church, the audience, which included all the most prominent public men and Christian ministers of Halifax and district, filled the entire building. When the procession was reformed after the service, it appeared greater and more imposing than before. The interment took place at 'All Saints,' in the adjoining hamlet of Salterhebble.

He was so widely known and filled so large a space in the public view, not only of Halifax but also of his native land, that appreciative notices of his life and work appeared in all the leading newspapers of the United Kingdom. To give simply the titles of the papers, would be to print a catalogue of the leading organs of the British Press.

On the Sunday following the funeral sympathetic references were made concerning him in the pulpits of all denominations in Halifax and district.

The veteran United Methodist minister, the Rev. W. F. Newsam; for many years associated in church work with Mr. Mackintosh, said "That he was beloved by his fellow-townsmen his funeral gave full proof. Who that saw it can forget those lavish marks of love. Children and old people, rich and poor were there. In his beautiful home, in his well-known church, in the street, at the cemetery, the marks of sorrow at his passing were manifold. Halifax was proud of her son."

The Memorial Service was conducted by the Rev. J. S. Clemens, B.A., B.D., in Queen's Road Church, which was again filled to its utmost capacity. Dr. Clemens, as the pastor of the church, could speak of Mr. Mackintosh from intimate personal acquaintance.

The text was taken from the Gospel of St. John, chap. xi. ii :-" Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep."

"I wish to speak to you this evening," said Doctor Clemens, most particularly and with an absence of all formality, concerning 'our friend' whose sudden passing a few days since dominates all our thoughts. We meet to-day under a cloud of heaviness and natural grief. A devout and earnest Christian, an affectionate husband and father, a loyal kinsman, a successful man of business, a devoted citizen and a public benefactor has been most suddenly taken from our midst and at a time when we still needed, as we think, his presence and service amongst us. But Just now I desire especially to exclude from thought the active and useful public life he was enabled to live as a citizen, and confine myself to some affectionate appreciation of what he was as one of ourselves, as a leader and office-bearer in this church and in this circuit.

"Is there not something very beautiful and arresting in this expression that Jesus let fall on hearing of the death of Lazarus? 'Lazarus our friend.' The story lends itself as a symbol and an exemplar. It is not the story of Lazarus alone. It stands for all time; it covers myriads of cases. Believers in every age have drawn comfort from it and applied its deep and sacred meaning to themselves and their own case, when called upon to part with those they dearly loved. Of the 'great multitude which no man can number ' in the unseen heavenly presence, of those dying in the Lord and passing every day through the ever open door to join that sacred throng, the same story can be told in its essential truth. Loved ones pass away one after another, Mary and Martha still weep, a crowd of sympathising friends still gathers at the grave, and He who is 'the Resurrection and the Life' still speaks the immortal words of hope, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.' Drop out the name of Lazarus, leave the space blank, and you may venture to insert the name of someone dear to you who also fell asleep in Jesus.

`And now this evening, with one thought and one remembrance uppermost in our minds we may say, 'Our friend John Mackintosh has fallen asleep.' Last Sunday evening at the close of the service our organist was playing, as a concluding voluntary, the well-known chorus from Mendelssohn's 'Elijah,' 'Be not afraid!'

When he had finished the church seemed empty, but to his surprise there came a voice from the back saying, 'Thank you very much Mr. Webster, I have stayed to listen to every note of what I think is the finest chorus I know for inspiration and encouragement.' It was 'our friend John Mackintosh,' and then he passed out from the church for the last time, and left his old familiar seat to return no more for ever. How pleasant it is to think of his going out with such strains lingering in his ears, and strengthened afresh to face the battle of life. He had his burdens in spite of all the worldly success which came to him .........Now I am sure he would like most of all to be remembered as 'our friend John Mackintosh.' And what a friend he was! In church work, in neighbourly service, in lending a helping hand, our friend was never wanting.

"And now 'our friend John Mackintosh has fallen asleep.' We owe it to our Lord and Master that this beautiful conception of death is firmly enshrined in our Christian faith......... The notion of waking is bound up with the notion of sleeping. The one is essential to the other: they are complementary. No waking, no sleeping. It is supremely a matter of faith. But what a faith, and what an object of faith! It rests upon the sure word of our Saviour Jesus Christ ' Because I live, ye shall live also,' and it was He who said, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.'

"Who that looked upon the pale, calm face of the dead on Friday morning last could have any difficulty in feeling deeply, and in spite of all considerations -to the contrary, that such a mode of expression was profoundly true? It was the face of a good man, now free from the grime and care of this life, a face that had taken on something of the lineaments of a little child sunk in infant slumber.........And Jesus further said, 'I go to awaken him out of sleep.' Ah, the awaking! Around that point questions most thickly gather. When do they awake? Is it at once and in a moment, or is it after a period? How do they awake, and what do they awake to?

"But these things are hidden from our eyes. What may and must suffice us is the assurance that those who fall asleep do awake. The majestic figure that was beheld by the seer of Revelation, He who said, 'I was dead and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of Hades,' is one and the same with Him who said, 'Lazarus our friend is fallen asleep, and I go to awake him out of sleep.' What activities and services await our friend John Mackintosh in the new order of things into which he has entered! We thankfully admit that he has served a good apprenticeship here, and by God's grace was prepared in good measure for the higher ministries of heaven. For here he was busy in the ministry of doing good, of helping and encouraging others to the very end. I myself have a letter from him, which I received after I had news of his death, a characteristic letter which I shall always treasure. And still later, I have seen an unfinished letter of his, written with all his mingling of geniality, shrewd wisdom and charity, in which he extends his help to a little chapel in far-off Cornwall. Yes, busy to the end in all manner of works for the sake of the Master he loved and served............How proud and thankful I am to think that he has left worthy Sons who will honour his memory, as it is the province of sons in particular to do, who will in their own way follow in his footsteps, and will be to their widowed mother a strength and a stay! This is as it should be in the service of God, ' Instead of the fathers shall be the children.'"

'Staggering as our friend's departure was to us, it was not without elements of mercy. He was spared what he must often have feared, death overtaking him in some public place of resort. No, in the quiet of his own home he met the swift end, and like a stricken deer which seeks shelter in the calm sanctuary of some familiar covert, so he, when his mortal pang overtook him, found a sure asylum in the chamber of his well beloved wife, and, by her bedside dying escaped mortality for ever."


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