"Lord, now lettest thy
servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen
thy salvation."—Simeon, Luke ii. 29.
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
"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
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,
awakening from the dream of life."
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.
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
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."
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
"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
'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."