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Good Words 1860
Incident at the Deathbed of an Old Scottish Worthy


"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging-bread."—Psalm: xxxvii. 25.

"A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked."—Psalm xxxvii. 16.

John Bow was the first Protestant minister of Perth, and was as distinguished for scholarship as for zeal and ability in the discharge of his spiritual duties. He revived the study of Greek, and is said to have been the first who introduced a knowledge of the Hebrew language into Scotland. During a long residence abroad, he had acquired a knowledge of these, the languages in which the Scriptures were originally written, and on returning to his native country was anxious that they should be more generally known, and that young men training for the ministry should especially consider them a necessary part of their education. Under his auspices, the Grammar School at Perth became one of the most celebrated in the kingdom, and many of the young noblemen and gentlemen sent there for their education boarded with Mr Row. At family worship, the passage of Scripture, if from the Old Testament, was read in Hebrew; and if from the New Testament, in Greek. At his death he left a numerous family poorly provided for. His grandson, the historian, has recorded an anecdote which is interesting as throwing light on the circumstances of the family, and as manifesting the humble yet confident reliance of the dying father on the guardian care of the all-bountiful Provider. It cannot be better given than in his own words:—

"There was," he says, "a remarkable passage in his sickness, a little before his death. The master of the Grammar Scule, commonlie callit Domine Rynd, cam to visit him, and, among other things, he said, 'Sir, ye hae mony sma' bairns, and, alas! ye hae but little or nae gear to leave them. What will become of them? I fear they may beg through the country. Sir, ye have not been careful to gather gear to them, as weil ye micht, both at Rome and since ye cam to Scotland.'

"Mr John Row, turning himself to the wall, lay silent a prettie space, pouring out his soul to God. Thereafter, turning himself again, he says:—

'''Domine, I have been thinking upon that ye were speaking to me. I will not justifie myself, nor say that I have been careful enough to gather gear for my bairns. I think I might and ought to have done mair that way than I have done. But, Domine, I have laid ower my bairns upon God and the weil-ordered covenant, for we must lippen much to the old charter, "The Lord will provide." But, Domine, let me, time about, speak to you. Ye hae but ae son, and ye hae great riches to give him; and ye mak a god o' your gear; and ye think o' but your only son—"My son," say ye, "he will have enough." But, Domine, it fears me, you hae little credit, and far less comfort by him; yea, it may be, that when my bairns, whom I have laid ower upon God's gracious and all-sufficient providence, may have competence in the world, your son may have much mister, and be beholden to some of mine; for it is God's blessing that maketh rich.'"

And the event, says the quaint narrator, did speak the fulfilling of the prophecy of the dying servant of Jesus Christ. Mr How's family were all well provided for. Five out of his six sons became ministers, and were all famous in their day; and of his two daughters, one was married to the minister of Longforgan, and the other to Mr William Big, a rich merchant in Edinburgh, of whom "cam a numerous offspring and posterity of many rich people." "And Domine Rynd his onlie rich son was .... a verie profane and dissolute man, given to drunkenness and many evil vices, so that he became verie poore, and in his own time was forced, for povertie, to sell his bukes to Mr John Bow, schoolmaster in Perth, grandson to him who uttered the prophecy; and, after his death, his wife, for povertie, turned ane gangrel woman, selling some sma' wares, and was often refreshed with meat and drink in the houses of Mr Bow's children."

So says the story. In accordance with the common belief of that period, it calls the saying of the dying minister "a prophecy," but it did not need a prophet to foretell, either that vice and drunkenness bring a family to beggary, or that God will provide for the children of His servants who put their trust in Him. In this view of it, the anecdote is but another fulfilment of the gracious promise, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me."


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