IN 1857 he began to hold
evening services for the poor, to which none were admitted except in their
everyday working clothes. The success of a similar experiment, made many
years before in Loudoun, encouraged him to make this attempt in Glasgow,
in the hope of reaching some of those who, from poverty or other causes,
had fallen away from all church attendance. For the first winter, these
services were held in the Martyrs' church, which was filled every Sabbath
evening by the very people he wished to get; the following year they were
transferred to the Barony, where they were continued till a mission church
was built. It may be safely asserted that this work gave him more interest
than any other he ever undertook; and that he never addressed any audience
with greater effect than that which he gathered from "the streets and
lanes of the city." The pews were filled with men in their fustian jackets
and with poor women, bareheaded, or with an old shawl drawn over the head,
and dressed most of them in short-gown and petticoat. Unkempt heads, faces
begrimed with labour, and mothers with infants in their arms, gave a
strange character to the scene. The police sometimes reported that several
well-known thieves were present. But, however large and various the
audience might be, he seemed to hold the key to every heart and conscience
; and so riveted was the attention he secured, that not unfrequently an
involuntary exclamation of surprise or sympathy would pass from lip to lip
over the crowd. The following description of one of these evenings in the
Barony is taken from an English newspaper:—
"I found I would not be
admitted except I was dressed as a working man. The uniform of a dragoon
was offered and accepted, but on second thoughts I preferred the cast-off
working-dress of a coach-builder—a dirty coat, a dirty white flannel vest,
striped shirt, red cravat, and Glengarry bonnet. Thus attired, I stood
waiting among the crowd of poor men and women that were shivering at the
gate biding the time. Many of these Women were very old and very frail.
The night being excessively cold, the most of them had the skirts of their
gowns tucked over their heads. Not a few of them had a deep asthmatic
wheezel, most distressing to hear. Poor souls! they were earnestly talking
about the Doctor and his sayings. I conversed with several working men who
had attended all the series from the first, three or four years back. I
asked one man if they were all Scotch who attended? He said, 'All nations
go and hear the Doctor.' Another said, 'Highland Scotch and Lowland
Scotch, and English and Irish,—in fact, a' kind o' folks come to the
Doctor on Sabbath nichts.' 'A body-likes the Doctor,' said another. One
man, a labourer, I think, in a foundry, said, 'He kent great lots o' folk
that's been blessed by the Doctor, baith Scotch and Irish. I ken an Irish
Catholic that wrought wi' me, o' the name o' Boyd, and he came ae nicht
out o' curiosity, and he was converted afore he raise from his seat, and
he's a staunch Protestant to this day, every bit o' 'im, though his father
and mother, and a' his folks, are sair against him for 't.'
"On the door being opened, a sudden rush took
place in that direction, I found a posse of elders stationed as a board of
inspection, closely examining old and young, male and female, and turning
back all who had any signs of respectability. All hats and bonnets were
excluded. My courage almost failed me, but as I had from boyhood been in
the habit of doing what I could among the poor, and being so bent on
ascertaining the 'way' of the Doctor with that class, I resolved to make
the effort. My weakness arose from the fear of detection by any of the
elders I spoke to in the forenoon. Pulling my hair down over my brow, and,
in the most slovenly manner possible, wiping my nose with the sleeve of my
coat, I pushed my way up to the board, and ' passed.' I found that none of
the seat cushions, black, red, green, or blue, were removed; no, nor the
pew Bibles or Psalm books, a plain proof that, by the test of several
years, the poor of the closes and wynds could be trusted. The contrast
between the forenoon and evening congregations in point of appearance was
very great and striking; but in regard to order and decorum there was no
difference whatever. When the time was up, a little boy was seen leading a
blind man along the aisle towards the pulpit. On the boy placing the blind
man in the precentor's desk, a poor man sitting next to me nudged me on
the elbow, and asked,' Is that the man that's to preech till 's?' 'Oh,
no!' said I. 'You'll see the Doctor immediately.' 'But surely,' says he,
'that canna be the regular precentor?' 'Oh, no!' said I. 'This man, I
suspect, is the precentor for us poor folks.' Here the Doctor—stout, tall,
and burly—was seen ascending the pulpit stairs. He began by prayer. He
then gave out the 130th Psalm for praise. Before singing, he commented at
great length on the character and spirit of the Psalm, dwelling very fully
on the first line, ' Lord, from the depths to thee I cried!' Nothing could
have been better adapted for his auditory than the Doctor's consolatory
exposition of that Psalm. The precentor by this time had got very uneasy,
and had several times struck his pitchfork, and was ready to start, but
the Doctor, being so full, and having still this, that, and the other
thing to say, he could not commence. At last, the Doctor looking kindly
clown upon him, said, 'You'll rise now, Peter, and begin.' He rose, and
began. He, tracing the lines with his fingers on his ponderous Psalm book
of raised letters, 'gave out the lines,' two at a time. It was a most
gratifying spectacle, and said much for the advance of Christian
civilization. The Doctor next read the first chapter of the first epistle
of Paul to the Thessalonians. The commentary on the chapter was most
strikingly effective in point of consolatory and practical application to
the condition of his auditory. In referring to the mother and grandmother
of Timothy, he made a grand stand for character, which made the poor man
next to me strike the floor several times with his feet by way of
testifying his approbation. Had the Doctor's remarks on the subject been
delivered from a platform, they would have elicited thunders of applause.
He said the most valuable thing Prince Albert left was character. [This
description was written in 1861.] He knew perfectly well that very many
very poor people thought that it was impossible for them to have a
character. It was not true; he would not hear of it. There was not a man
nor a woman before him, however poor they might be, but had it in their
power, by the grace of God, to leave behind them the grandest thing on
earth, character; and their children may rise up after them, and thank God
that their mother was a pious woman, or their father a pious man. The text
selected was 1 Timothy vi. 12—14. The discourse was very plain, explicit,
pointed, and amply illustrated, as by one who knew all the ' outs and
ins,' difficulties and trials of the people before him, and they listened
with breathless attention, and appeared to drink in all he said, as
indeed,' good words ' for them. Some of the children-in-arms sometimes
broke the silence by their prattle or their screams, but the doctor,
though uncommonly sensitive, never appeared the least put about."
The results of these services were remarkable.
Many hundreds were reclaimed from lawless habits, some of the more
ignorant were educated, and a large number became communicants. There was
a nobility of character displayed by several of these working-men which
moved him to tears as he spoke of them, and gave him a deeper love than
ever for the poor. Some of them took ways of showing their gratitude, the
very oddity of which gave touching evidence of the depth of the feeling.
[I remember on a Sunday evening returning with him, after one of these
services, to our father's house. When the cab stopped, a rough hand was
pushed in at the window. Norman understood what was meant, and on taking
what was offered, received a warm grasp from some unknown working-man, who
had come from the Barony church, a mile away, to express by this act more
thankfulness than he could find words to utter.]
His method of instruction was admirably
adapted to the character of his audience. He was never abstract, but threw
his teaching into objective or descriptive form, and not seldom dramatized
the lesson he was enforcing. His counsel was not confined to things
spiritual, but embraced such practical matters as the sanitary condition
of the houses of the poor, healthy food, and the treatment of children,
and was given so forcibly that the meanest intelligence could understand
the rationale of his advice. The unaffected sympathy with the poor and
ignorant in all their wants and difficulties was the secret of his power
over them His frankness and large human-heartedness commanded their
confidence and won their affection.
"March 15, 1857.—I began, four weeks ago, my
sermon to working-men and women in their working clothes, on my old
Loudoun plan, of excluding all who had clothes fit for church by day. And
by God's great mercy I have crammed the Martyrs' Church with such. I never
experienced more joy than in this service. It is grand. I do not envy
Wellington at Waterloo.
"I have just published 'Deborah,' a book for
servants. What is written with a single eye, and seeking God's blessing,
must, I think, do such good as will vindicate the publication. We shall
the Monday after the former journal I was seized with dreadful neuralgia
(as it was called). I spent the night in my study; on the floor, sofa,
chair—anywhere for rest. It left me Tuesday, and, then till Sunday I
suffered several hours each day, the only agony I ever experienced. I
spent another terrible night. Sunday last I was in bed. Since then I have
been confined to the house, but, thank God, feel able to preach this
afternoon and evening, though I have been writing with much sense of
weakness of body. Then scarlet fever attacked my beloved boy on Tuesday.
But oh ! the awful mercy of God to me, he has had it as yet most gently.
Was I sincere when I gave him up, all up to God last week? I hope so. As
far as I know, I desire Jesus to choose for me; and, as far as I know,
there is nothing could make me alter that calm resolution; but, as far as
I know, there is also no man whose flesh winces more under fear of
affliction, or who would more require the mighty power of God to keep him
from open rebellion. Amidst all confusion, darkness, doubts, fears, there
is ever one light, one life, one all—Jesus, the living personal Saviour!"
With the desire of promoting increased life in
the Church, he wrote a series of articles in the Edinburgh Christian
Magazine, in which he proposed the formation of a Church Union for the
purpose of discussing questions connected with practical work, and for
earnest prayer for the outpouring of God's Spirit. He believed that there
were many ministers and laymen who were mourning in secret over faults in
the Church which were a continual burden to his own soul; and that the
best results might be expected if such men were only brought together for
conference and prayer. The state of the Church seemed to call for some
such movement. "What most alarms me is that we are not alarmed. What most
pains me is that we are not pained." "Whether we are the Church of the
past, or the true representatives of the Second Reformation, or any other
reformation, is to us a question of comparatively little importance; but
it is of infinite importance that we be the Church of the present, and
thereby become the Church of the future. Let the dead bury their dead, but
let us follow Christ and be fellow-labourers with him in this world."
After several preliminary meetings, the Union
was formed, but it existed only two years, and the only memorial of it now
remaining is to be found in the missionary breakfast, which is held during
every General Assembly.
From his Journal:—
"The second meeting of the Union is to-morrow.
I have prayed often that out of that weakness God may ordain strength, to
aid my dear but sore wounded and suffering Church; but, best of all, to
help Mis Church, by saving souls and uniting saints.
"April 11, 12 p.m.—Sunday last I finished my
winter's course in the Martyrs' Church, and invited all who wished to
partake of the Lord's Supper to intimate their wishes to me on Tuesday in
the vestry. On Tuesday evening seventy-six came for communion! Of these
forty-seven had never communicated before. Fifty-two were females;
twenty-five males. I never saw such a sight, nor experienced such unmixed
joy, for all had come because blessed through the Word, and a great
majority seemed to me to have been truly converted. Bless the Lord!
To-morrow, please God, I shall give them the Communion in their working
clothes at five in the church.
"I am persuaded that to succeed in doing
permanent good to such it is necessary (1) To preach regularly and
systematically (with heart, soul, and strength, though!;. (2) To exclude
well-dressed people. (3) To keep out of newspapers and off platforms, and
avoid fuss. (4) To develop self-reliance. (5) To give Communion on
creditable profession, as the apostles admitted to the Church, and then to
gather up results, and bring the converts into a society. (6) To follow up
by visitation, stimulating themselves to collect for clothes.
"Tuesday, 13th.—What shall I render unto the
Lord for all His benefits?
"Sabbath was a day of peace and joy, and my
sermon on ' God forbid that I should glory, &c,' preached in great peace
by me—and I believe found most profitable by my dear people. How could I
convey to any other the profound and undying conviction I have of God
being verily a hearer of prayer and a personal God? Whatever arguments
were capable of shaking my faith in this, would shake my faith in God. I
gave the Communion to sixty-seven working people in their working clothes.
Having kept my intention secret, as I was terrified for fuss and a
spectacle, none were present but the elders. I went through the regular
service, occupying about seventy minutes. The whole scene was very solemn,
very touching. I believe all were sincere.
"But now comes the great work of training them
to habits of self-reliance and self-denial. I shall watch and labour, and
before God shall tell the truth of my results. Failure may teach us as
well as success. If I fail, then I will set a buoy on my wreck to warn
others from the rock, but not from the harbour. My new elders were with
me—God bless them!
"Last evening all was ended with a prayer-meeting of the Union, I in the
chair. My good and valued friends, William Robertson and Smith of Lauder,
with me, also dear James Campbell.
"Then prayer and thanksgiving alone with my
beloved wife for the end of these five weeks since the night I sprang up
in agony and spent a night of great pain in this room—my study!
"May.-—I go to London this evening to speak
for Tract Society. I preach twice for Herschell. On Monday, for the London
Missionary Society ; then home, dear home! And now, Father, I go forth
again in Thy name, and desire to be kept true, humble, and unselfish :
seeking Thy glory and Thy favour, which verily is life ! Amen, and Amen.
"May 17.—I have returned, and give thanks to
God! I spoke on Friday evening—very lamely indeed—for I was made so
uncomfortable by a narrow and vulgar attack by------on------; and then by
as narrow and more vulgar attack by------on modern novels. I had to stick
up for Jack the Giant Killer. I think I shall never enter Exeter Hall
again on such occasions. The atmosphere is too muggy for my lungs."
The year 1857 was notable
in his own spiritual history. He was attacked by an illness which for a
time gave his medical advisers considerable anxiety, and was attended with
such pain, that he had frequently to pass the greater part of the night in
his chair; yet, during the day, when the suffering had abated, he was
generally at his port of labour in the parish. For a while he took the
worst view of his own case, but anticipated its issue with calmness. An
autumn tour, however, in Switzerland, in which he was accompanied by his
wife, and by his valued friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Campbell, in a great
measure restored him. But, shortly after his return, Mrs. Macleod was laid
prostrate by typhoid fever, which rendered her delirious for several
weeks, and reduced her to so critical a condition that on several
occasions her life was despaired of. He recognized the solemn teaching
which these days of terrible suspense contained, and his journals record
the mental agony he passed through, as he tried to render willing
obedience to his Father's will. It seemed a period when all the lessons of
his past life—all his own sermons and teaching to others—all he had known
of God and of the nature of Christian life as a life of Sonship —were
gathered into one decisive question for his own soul. He literally
wrestled in prayer, and fought inch by inch against self-will, until he
was able to say, in peaceful submission, "Thy will be done." The effects
of this time were immediate and enduring. He lived henceforth more
entirely for God, and became much more tender, considerate, and patient
towards others than he had ever been. There was no lessening of the old
joyousness and genial humour; but he seemed to care less for the opinions
of men, and looked more than ever to God alone.
It may now appear that the experience of this
epoch in his life was as opportune as it was powerful. It came when he was
about to enter a wider sphere of influence than he had hitherto occupied,
and to encounter greater difficulties than those with which his past
career had made him familiar. It was well, therefore, that his character
should have been fortified, as it was at this period, to withstand the
shock of conflicting opinions; and that, having been thrown so completely
on God, he was able henceforth to be freer than ever of the influence of
parties and their leaders.
"June 4.—For some days I have felt pain, and
feared the return of my complaint. I have seen Dr. Laurie. I know it to be
very serious, and I feel now how this may be the beginning of the end.
"Yet how awing is the thought of the gift of
life being rendered up! The opportunities of receiving and doing good here
gone for ever; pain to be encountered, and then the great secret revealed!
But every question is stilled, every doubt answered, all good secured, in
and through faith in the name of the Father, Son (Brother), and Comforter!
"Oh, God, enable me to be brave, unselfish,
cheerful, patient, because trusting Thee!
"Evening.—I feel a crisis in my illness is
passed. O my God, let not two such days of thought be lost to me, as those
occasioned last month by my mistaken fears about myself."
To J. G. Hamilton Esq.:—
"Craigie Burn, Moffat, July 7th.
"Here I am, like a blackbird reposing in my
nest in a green wood, beside a burn, surrounded by pastoral hills, musical
with bleating sheep and shadowy with clouds. My chicks all about me, some
chirping, some singing, all gaping for food, with my lady blackbird
perched beside me, her glossy plumage glittering in the sun, a perfect
sermon on contentment.
"Blackbirds put me in mind of bills, and bills
of money, and money of those who need it, and then of those who are
willing to give it, and that brings me to you. It is not for schools,
churches or schemes, but for charity, to help a needy gentlewoman.....
"I am sorry to say that my complaint has not
left me. I had a learned consultation in London with the great authority
in such cases. He has put me on a regimen so strict that it would make a
hermit's cell almost comfortable ; and he commands rest. But this I cannot
command for a month yet."
From his Journal:—
"December.—I am alone, with nothing to occupy
me but my own thoughts, and come what may, perhaps it may help on God's
work in my soul if I try to express even in a very inadequate and crude
way the solemn crisis through which I am now passing.
"Wednesday night my beloved one became so
alarmingly ill that I lost all hope. The night was a memorable one to me.
It was one of those awful soul struggles between life in God and the
creature, which seem to compress the history of years into minutes. The
only thing that gave me light was the one thought of doing God's will, and
it did seem to me right, beautiful, good, that it should be done any way.
I was able to look up to my Father and say, 'Thy will, not mine.' But oh!
oh! the struggle now! To be willing in truth, to bury my life out of
sight, how hard! To have my true life in God alone—impossible! I am
supported, I think (dear God, pity me!) I can say, 'Thy will, not mine!'
But to do this truly; to do it always; to do it in all things ; to hang
loose from life to all but Thee! O my Father, help me, teach me, for I
desire faith and patience to have their perfect work. I desire to be made
Thine wholly, and to learn obedience and meekness as a son; but O God, my
Father uphold me under Thy loving, but sore and necessary dealing. If she
is taken away! If she is spared! 'Lord, into Thy hand I commit my spirit,'
as unto a faithful Creator. Glorify Thy name!
"My Father, I lie at Thy feet, and desire to
be led as a child, and to follow Jesus—to die with Him. Yet lead me not
into deeper trial lest I perish. Yet, Amen—Amen—I trust in Thee! In the
depths, in darkness, I trust in Thee. God forgive my fears; Thou
rememberest I am dust."
To his Sister Jane:—
nervous, distracted outward man is one, and the inner rest in God belongs
to another being. They both sadly cross. But my faith is not shaken in
Him. May it be found to His glory at His appearing.
"This a quiet, peaceful day. Without—wind,
rain, mist. Within— peace.
"All that man can do for her is done. She is
watched every hour, and I am told there is hope, and that it is a mere
question of time. Can the vessel weather the long storm?
"The mental history of this time to me is
unparalleled. First the awful nervousness; then the soul battle, then the
peace; the doubts, fears agonies ! and this day peace—perfect peace."
From his Journal:—
"Beloved John Campbell and Dr. Macduff have
been a great strength and stay.
"It is hard to describe my feelings. I now
hope, yet fear least for one moment I should be kept off the one life, the
living God ! I have resigned her into His hands. I know he will prepare
me, for I desire first (as far as I know) that His kingdom shall come in
me and by me. Then, on the other hand, should she be given back! A solemn
battle has then to be fought whether or not I shall attempt to rebuild my
house or die daily. I feel that God's grace will be required just as much
for me if the precious gift is restored as if taken away.
"Lord, undertake for us. Thou seest our
strength is gone. We lean on Thee, mighty and merciful one."
To his Sister Jane:—
"Saturday night and Sunday morning was my
third burial of her. I gave her up again, and the third was more than the
first. God alone knows what such a night is. Yet His grace has been more
than sufficient, and I hope I have been taught what years have failed to
"You see, dear,
what a trying time it is, and you cannot wonder if the tension of the
brain should make mine very hot at times.
"Everything is confusion—night and day
"Thursday.—All going on well.
"I hardly know what I think. The apparent
actual return to health does not at all affect me as its hopes did, for
these quite convulsed me, while the reality only affects me by producing a
sense of deep calm and thanksgiving.
"Certainly this has been without comparison
the most solemn period of my life. Never have I so realised sorrow. I am
anxious to gather up the fragments in any manner, however confused. I
should like, if possible, to meet and sympathize with God in His teaching,
lest it be lost to understand what the will of the Lord is, and what is
His loving kindness.
"God was teaching me (1) where my true life ought to be—in Him, and in Him
only. (2) The sufficiency of His grace, to support and give peace in the
most trying hour. (3) How beautiful His will is—how right it is that His
glory should be the grand end of creation, and the sole ambition of the
spirit of man. (4) How I deserved to be, not chastised, but punish ed for
sin; and how hard it was for one who trusted in 'riches' to enter into the
kingdom, or to sell all and follow Him!
"But my comforting thoughts were—
"(1) God's glory. What was right and beautiful
in His sight was often very consoling. (2) That Jesus was in the house,
and saw all, planned all, and would do all most tenderly, lovingly, and
wisely. (3) That there was no depth to which He had not descended. If I
made my bed in hell, He was there. I was much touched by the 22nd Psalm,
in which, after uttering His own deep sorrow ('My God,' &c.) and
recounting how our fathers had trusted God, he says, 'But I am a worm, and
no man!' Think of that! As if His case was too desperate. (4) That
patience must have her perfect work, and that faith must be tried and
found precious. (5) That God wished me as a child to open my whole heart
and tell Him everything. When David was told by Nathan that his child
should die, he still prayed to God for its recovery. 'I doubt not,' says
Hall so beautifully, 'God His Father took it kindly.' (6) That God was
feeling keenly for me, even when afflicting me. As I heard of a father who
used to suffer agony in dressing the wounds of his child; yet his love
alone enabled him to do it, while putting her to so much pain.
"I have met extraordinary and wondrous
sympathy; it utterly amazes me, and has given me a new and most touching
view of my neighbour. Hundreds called to read the daily bulletin which I
was obliged to put up. But everywhere it was the same. Free-Church people
and people of all Churches called; men I never spoke to stopped me;
cab-drivers, bus-drivers, working-men in the streets asked after her with
such feeling. I have heard of ministers in Edinburgh praying in public for
us. I pray God this may be a lesson for life to make me most tender, meek,
kind, and charitable to all men. O God, keep my heart soft toward my
brethren of mankind. I never could have believed in such unselfishness.
And so I have felt its good, for my heart warms to all good men more than
ever, and more deeply do I hate and loathe sectarianism.
"I have had inexpressibly solemn teaching from
my own sermons. How solemnly have they preached to me! Such as the first,
on 'Raising of Lazarus,' [Afterwards published under the title, "The
Mystery of Sorrow," in "Parish Papers."] and my article written, without
thought of this sorrow, for the December number of the Christian Magazine.
O my Father, I desire to learn to speak with deep awe and modesty, as one
to whom Thou mayest address his own words.
"The difference between preaching and knowing
by experience in affliction, is as great as between being a soldier in
peace and fighting at reviews, and a soldier in war and actual battle.
"How awful the trial is of even the hope of
returning 'prosperity.' It is not—Oh no!—as if my Father grudged to make
me happy, or as if affliction was His rule, and not His strange work; but
I know that in His love He has been designing good for me—life, and life
more abundantly; that to produce this He has sent sorrow; that His purpose
has not been hid from me, but that I have seen it and approved of its
righteousness; and that in answer to prayers, many and fervent, from His
people, who desired first that He should be glorified, He has been pleased
to remove (in hope as yet) this great sorrow. I feel it will be a terrible
loss, an abuse of God's grace, a receiving of it in affliction in vain,
unless my life is rebaptized, our relationship far more inner and
spiritual, and our walk more in the light of heaven. I have been called to
a higher, purer, nobler life. I have had three burials of her, and on each
occasion Jesus seemed to say, 'Lovest thou me more than her V and thrice
he has given her back, but with the awful reservation, 'Follow thou me,'
'Feed my sheep.' And now I feel God's grace is required for each day; for
what should my future life be? not an occasional funeral, but a daily
omnipotent! let Thy strength be perfected in my weakness." "Friday. — I am
still full of anxiety, and feel the rod yet on me. Father, let patience
have her perfect work, and prepare me to meet as a child all the changes
of Thy providence. Remember I am dust, and help me according to the riches
of Thy grace!
same. My hope is in Thee—in Thee only. God sustain. Under take for me, my
* * *
"The Doctor has just left me, and he says, 'Well, I think all is safe.'
This I have been hoping for during the last week. With what feeling do I
receive the news?'
"What means this? I have never shed a tear of joy. I who was wrung with
grief, and could not, in prospect, bear the light of deliverance—who was
crushed by the bare idea, 'maybe she will yet get better!' Yet I have
never felt a throb, or the least of that excitement or tumult or leap of
the heart which would seem so natural. Wherefore 1 I really know not. Is
it the body, and collapse from over excitement! The Lord knoweth! But I
shall not work myself up to an outward form of what might seem to be the
right thing, but seek to be led by God into that state of spirit which is
becoming in His sight. I feel as in a dream.
"Monday, 21st.—This day Sir George Grey
informs me I am made a Chaplain to the Queen."
To Mr. Waddell (a Member of the Session, on
the death of his eldest child):—
"Saturday, 12th Dec, 1857.
"I most deeply feel with you, my afflicted
brother. God will enable you by-and-by, if not in the first darkness of
the affliction, to know that it is a Father who sends the trial; and from
your own tender love to your child you can in some degree realise the deep
mystery of a Father's love to yourselves, and in your own hearts see a dim
reflection of that love which pass-eth all understanding. You will
remember, too, with new feelings, how His own well-beloved Son was a man
of sorrows, how, (see the 22nd Psalm) there was no depth but He Himself
was in a lower; how He is thus able to carry our burdens, understand us,
feel for us and with us as a brother. You will be taught also how God is
seeking our whole hearts, and will put us to pain even at the moment of
our greatest earthly happiness, just because it is then we are most apt to
forsake Him as our eternal life, and to seek life in the creature ! Nay,
He will teach you to see how deep and true that love is which will give
pain to those dearly loved in order that they shall not lose a full
blessing, but see life more abundantly.
"I feel assured that God is dealing towards
you in great love, though it is hard to see it at first, and most trying
to flesh and blood to say Amen to this discipline by the cross. But do not
go away sorrowful from Him ! Hold fast your confidence. His purpose is
mercy, and good. Seek first of all, that His will should be done in you,
His purpose of good be realised by you. Your child is certainly with One
who is more gentle, tender, and loving than a mother—One who was a child,
who knows a child's heart, who was in a mother's arms. Your babe will be
trained up in a glorious school; when you meet she will be a fit companion
for you, and rejoice with you for ever.
"I have myself during these four weeks endured
the greatest sorrow I ever experienced in life. I twice gave up my beloved
wife to the Lord. I can witness to you of the power of God's grace to give
peace in the darkest hour, and of how affliction is indeed sent for our '
profit,' that we might be partakers of His holiness."
From his Journal:—
"March 15, 1858.—It is this day twenty years
ago that I was ordained minister of Loudoun ! I bless God for calling me
to the ministry as He did my father and grandfather before me, and for
giving me a place in my nation's Church. Donald is to be ordained on
Thursday, and I introduce him on Sunday."
To the Rev. W. P. Stevenson (on his recovery
"March 24th, 1858.
do not know from experience what a man's feelings are when coming out of
such a death in life as you have passed through, but from what I
personally know of sorrow, or escapes from danger, there is little of that
joy or excitement of any kind which most people picture to themselves. I
have always felt my nervous system exhausted, my feelings listless, my
intellect dull, and my moral being shut up to a quiet thankfulness, a
simple leaning on Christ, with little more in my mind than that I was
nothing and He was all, and no stronger desire than henceforth to be kept
by Him and in Him. Everything about our Ich-heit is so base, earthy, mean.
He must be all in all. Yet how difficult and perplexing a thing to the
vain, proud, self-willed man is the simplicity which is in Christ!"
From his Journal:—
"April 5.—On Sunday night I finished my second
winter's course of sermons to the working classes. The church was full. I
preached about an hour and a half to them. Yet though I had preached twice
during the day, I felt as if I could have gone on till midnight. There is
something over-poweringly interesting in seeing fourteen hundred people in
their poor clothes drinking in the word! I never preach as I do to them. I
feel what it is to be an evangelist.
"Last night I had a meeting of my old
communicants, and a very delightful one it was.
"I admitted a year ago sixty-nine to the
communion for the first time. These sat down at a separate service, in
their working clothes. At the next communion upwards of twenty had got
clothes, and joined other churches, as I had no sittings for them. A large
number, about twenty, I think, sat down in their working clothes. At my
ordinary communion others had got good clothes. Now I find that, with the
exception of nine, all are attending church, fit to join at the ordinary
communion. These nine are too much in difficulty from want of work to get
good clothes yet. They will sit down in their working clothes. I have
steadfastly kept aloof from giving clothes, lest it should be looked on as
a bribe and injure themselves and others. See the result!
"I am now collecting for my Mission Church at
Kelvinhaugh, and God is greatly blessing me in it."
He was made deeply thankful by receiving from
the working-men themselves, on more than one occasion, such testimonies as
the following to the benefit they had derived from his teaching:—
" . . . . We thank God for having led you in
the midst of your multifarious and onerous duties to think of us, and we
thank you for having been the willing instrument in His hand of first
rousing us from our indifference, and leading us to take a manly and
straightforward view of our condition. Though the novelty which at first
attached to these meetings has passed away, some of us know that their
influence for good has been. most enduring. . . Not content with bringing
us, as it were, to the entrance of the Saviour's Church and leaving us to
go in or return as we pleased, you have led us into the great congregation
of His saints on earth. and have invited us to take our places among our
fellow-believers at the Lord's table, so that we might enjoy similar
privileges with them. Those of us who have accepted this invitation have
nothing of this world's goods to offer you in return, but we shall retain
a life-long gratitude for your kindness—a gratitude which shall be
continued when we shall meet in that eternal world which lies beyond the
grave. . . . "We beg you will accept of these expressions of gratitude in
place of 'the silver and gold' of which ' we have none,' and we subscribe
ourselves, with much regard,
A working-man, who signs his own name "on
behalf of a number of others," writes—
"We are not aware whether you know of any case
in which your labours have been successful in arousing the careless, and
in effecting reformation in character and disposition; if not, we can
assure you that such instances are not rare, as even in our own
neighbourhood many have been brought, through your instrumentality under
God, to bethink themselves and mend their ways."
From his Journal:—
"April 30.—The University of Glasgow has this
day conferred the honour on me of the degree of D.D. How sad it makes me!
I feel as if they had stamped me with old age, and that it was a great
cataract in the stream leading more rapidly to 'the unfathomable gulf
where all is still And it is so. I have at best but a short time for work.
O my God, brace every nerve of my soul by Thy mighty Spirit that I may
glorify Thee on earth, and as a faithful servant redeem the time and
finish the work which Thou hast given me to do '"
To the Rev. J. E. Gumming:—
"2nd June, 1858.
have not myself found travelling congenial to much inner work. The outer
world of persons and things I always relished so intensely that I required
an extra effort to keep to quiet reading and prayer. One possesses such an
'abundance of things,' that they are apt to become ' the life' for the
time. But I doubt not that the sobriety of weak health may act as a
counterpoise, keeping the soul in hourly remembrance of its true and
abiding life. I have no doubt you will find a blessing in going thus to
'rest awhile.' It is good to be made to feel how God's work can go on
without us, and to be able to review from without our past work, and to be
more cast on God Himself, and thus be more emptied of our own vain selves.
"When we are weak, then are we strong. The
least are the greatest. I pray you may every day be drawn nearer Christ,
and return to us stronger in body and soul."
From his Journal:—
"June 3, again!—I am now forty-six, and the
future uncertain ! And so this life of mine, which seems to me about to
begin, is fast ending! I declare it makes the perspiration break out on my
brow. Oh, cursed idleness, desultory study, want of hard reading and
accurate scholarship when young,—this has been a grievous evil, a heavy
burthen to me all my life! I have wanted tools for my mental powers. Had
my resources been trained by art, so that they could have been wisely
directed during my past life, I feel that I could have done something to
have made me look back with more satisfaction on these bygone years.
"Oh, my Father, if I but felt assured that I
should be a little child, then would I never mourn the loss of my first
childhood, nor fear the coming on of my old age!
"Glory to Thee now and for ever that I have
been born twice in Thy kingdom!"
To Mrs. Macleod (during her absence with his
family in the country):—
"The Study, July 26th, 1858. "Why do you leave
me here to be devoured with rats and grief? The house is horrible. I am
afraid of ghosts. The doors creak in a way that indicates a clear
connection with the unseen world. There are noises too. How slow must
Hades be if spirits find Woodlands Terrace at this season more exciting!
How idle they must be if to frighten a parson is their most urgent work!
And yet on my honour I believe there is one going at this moment up the
6.—I have been too busy to be at rest with my family at Elie. I start
to-day with Leitch [The late Principal Leitch.] for a dash into
Switzerland. May God guide me and keep me holy and wise, that I may return
home fit in mind and body for my winter work!"
To Mrs. Macleod:— "Paris.
"Drove to Bois de Boulogne, paid considerably,
and saw nothing but the driver's back. My money goes as usual—like snow.
Mammon was no doubt a devil; he enters into the coin, and it rushes down
steep places for ever into the abyss, and never returns. Best love to my
mother, who, were she here, would go on the stage, or think she was dead,
or if not, that the Champs Elysees were theologically so."
"Zurich, Friday, 10th September, 1858.
"At Basle I called for Auberlen. We spent the
rest of our time in the Institution for training Missionaries, and had all
my principles confirmed and illustrated.
"Had a most exquisite drive by railway to this
place. As we were crossing a valley, the range of Bernese Alps burst
suddenly on our sight, every mountain-side and peak gleaming on their
western sides with the intense furbished gold we saw at Mont Blanc. I gave
a cry of wonder and joy that started the whole carriage—all but a Cockney,
who kept reading all the time a Swiss guide-book. I shall never forget
that second introduction to the Alps. When we arrived at Zurich we drove
to the old hotel; but we did not look fine enough, and only a
double-bedded room was offered, and refused. Angry at this, I would not go
to the Baur, but came out at the first hotel the 'bus stopped at. This
Gasthof, you must know, presents to the Gasse but one enormous gable with
seven stories, covered by a projecting roof. Within, it contains a
combination of short stairs, passages, kitchens, bed-rooms and
eating-rooms, utterly indescribable as to their relative positions.
"There is a daily paper with the names of all
the hotels and their guests. I see in ours '8 Militar.' These are common
soldiers; the town is full of them, and a dozen are billeted in our lobby.
I hear the drummer practising in the Speise Saal. At first I was disposed
to be sulky, but Boss so thoroughly enjoys it, and is so thankful for
having come to this sort of hotel, that he has brought me to his own mind.
My window commands a glorious view of the lake, and the roofs of half the
houses. Well, I find I am nowhere so happy as at home. Very truly I say
that, even here. My own fireside and my home parish work are the circles
within which is my earthly Paradise."
"Ragatz, 12th September. "The baths of
Pfeffers are, I think, in their way, the most wonderful scene I ever
beheld. Conceive a huge fissure about five hundred feet deep; the edges at
the top uniting like two saws—now in contact, and then an open hole
through which you see the blue sky and the intense green trees waving in
light some hundreds of feet above you—fifty feet below, the raging stream.
It is a wondrous gorge that! We ascended by a zig-zag path about a mile
higher, and came up to the pastures. Oh! what a sight of green uplands,
villages, church steeples, ranges of precipices, snowy peaks, mountains
lighted up with the setting sub, and what tinkling of hundreds of
goat-bells! I could have sat down and wept. As it was, I lifted up my
heart in prayer, and blessed God for this one glorious sight, and I felt I
could return home with thankfulness."
"Cannstadt, 20th September, 1858.
"I preached yesterday forenoon in Stuttgart,
and in the afternoon here. The English clergyman read the liturgy in the
morning. The congregation excellent; afternoon crammed. I know not when I
felt a Sabbath more truly peaceful, happy, and profitable to myself, and I
hope and believe also to others. Walked by moonlight along the old street,
stood before the house, went to my old post [The point to which he and
John Mackintosh walked every day. ] beyond Hermann's Hotel; recalled all
the past year we were there with its dark sorrows and great joys, the past
eight years with its constant sunlight; prayed, and looked up to the old
stars which shone on me, and brought me then such true light in the same
"I had great
delight in preaching, and had such a vivid realisation of our dear one's
life in heaven and his hearty realisation of that 'kingdom and glory,'
which I feebly attempted to express."
From his Journal:—
"September 27th, 1858.—I have this day
returned, refreshed and invigorated in mind, spirit, and body.
"My route was London, Paris, Basle, Zurich,
Wallenstadt, Ragatz, Pfeffers, Bellinzona, Isola Bella, back by St.
Gothard, Lucerne, Zurich, Cannstadt, Heidelberg, Mannheim, the Rhine,
Rotterdam, Leith. Time, three weeks. Cost, £23 10s. Gain, undying
memories, health, and happiness."
"November 2.—On my return I found the command
of the Queen awaiting me to preach again at Balmoral. Preached in peace
and without notes. After dinner the Queen sent for me. She always strikes
me as possessed of singular penetration, firmness, and independence, and
very real. She was personally singularly kind, and I never spoke my mind
more frankly to any one who was a stranger and not on an equal footing.
"..... The agitation renewed anent
non-intrusion. No reform requiring an Act of Parliament will interest me
unless it unites Presbyterianism in Scotland. That is the thing to be
16.— -------------'s birthday. God bless my child! Make her simple,
earnest, true, and above all other things in the universe, Father, give
her love to Thee, that in all her difficulties she may consult Thee and
yield to what her conscience tells her to be right, that in all her trials
she may trust Thee and honour Thee by grace, and that she may ever seek to
please her Saviour in soul, spirit, and body, which are His! Hear us, our
God, who daily pray for our beloved children whom Thou hast given us in
Thy great love. Amen!"
The centenary celebration of the birth of
Robert Burns created immense excitement in almost every region of the
earth where Scotchmen could congregate, and in the poet's native land was
the signal for the outbreak of a bitter war between the pulpit and
the press. There were fanatics on both sides. Admirers of the poet would
not brook exception being taken to their hero-worship; this provoked, on
the opposite side, unmeasured abuse of his character and influence. The
sacred name of religion was so constantly invoked in the quarrel, that no
clergyman could take part in the festival without risk to his reputation.
Norman Macleod, however, felt it would be unmanly not to speak what he
believed, and, accordingly, accepted the invitation which had been sent
him to appear at the Glasgow Celebration. As he was the only clergyman on
the platform, his presence was greeted with unusual cheering. Every word
he uttered in praise of the poet was, as might have been expected, loudly
applauded; but as he had come to utter his convictions, he was quite
prepared for the storm of hissing, mingled with cheers, which arose as he
adverted, delicately but firmly, to those features of the poet's
productions which every religious mind must deplore. His speech was a
vindication of his own position as a Scotchman and a clergyman, and before
he concluded the audience showed how heartily they appreciated his
independence and honesty.
"There are two things," he said, "which to me
make Burns sufficiently memorable. One is, his noble protest for the
independence and dignity of humanity, as expressed, for example, in that
heroic song, 'A man's a man for a' that.' Another is, his intense
nationality—a noble sentiment, springing, like a plant deeply rooted for
ages in the soil, and bearing fruit which nourishes the manliest virtues
of a people. Few men have clone for any country in this respect what Burns
has done for Scotland. He has made our Doric for ever poetical. Everything
in our land, touched with the wand of his genius, will for ever retain the
new interest and beauty which he has imparted to it. Never will the '
banks and braes of bonnie Doon' cease to be 'fresh and fair,' nor the 'birks
of Aberfeldy' to hang their tresses in the bright atmosphere of his song.
He has even persuaded Scotchmen ' o' a' the airts the wind can blaw' most
clearly to 'lo'e the west,' though it comes loaded to us, who live in the
west, only with the soft favours of a 'Scotch mist.' So possessed are even
railway directors and rough mechanics by his presence and his power, that
they send 'Tam o' Shanter' and 'Souter Johnnie' as locomotives, roaring
and whistling through the land that is called by his name, and
immortalised by his genius. How marvellously has he welded the hearts of
Scotchmen throughout the world. Without him they would, no doubt, be
united by the ordinary bonds of a common country that cannot anywhere be
forgotten—a common tongue that cannot anywhere be easily mistaken—and by
mercantile pursuits in which they cannot anywhere be wanted. But still
these ties would be like the cold hard cable that connects the Old and New
World beneath the Atlantic. The songs of Burns are the electric sparks
which flash along it and give it life; and 'though seas between us may be
cast,' these unite heart and heart, so that as long as they exist,
Scotchmen can never forget 'auld acquaintance,' nor the 'days o' lang syne
' And yet, how can a clergyman, of all men, forget or fail to express his
deep sorrow on such an occasion as the present for some things that Burns
has written, and which deserve the uncompromising condemnation of those
who love him best? I am not called upon to pass any judgment on him as a
man, but only as a writer; and with reference to some of his poems, from
my heart I say it—for his own sake, for the sake of my country, for the
sake of righteousness more than all—would God they were never written,
never printed, and never read ! And I should rejoice to see, as the result
of these festivals in honour of Burns, a centenary edition of his poems,
from which everything would be excluded which a Christian father could not
read aloud in his family circle, or the Christian cottar on his 'Saturday
night' to his sons and daughters. One thing I feel assured of, is, that
righteously to condemn whatever is inconsistent with purity and piety,
while it cannot lessen one ray of his genius, is at once the best proof we
can give of our regard for his memory. If his spirit is cognizant of •what
is done upon earth, most certainly such a judgment must be in accordance
with its most solemn conviction and most earnest wishes."
[He afterwards received the
following characteristic letter of thanks from the late able and lamented
Dr. Duncan, Professor of Hebrew in the Free Church College, Edinburgh.
"29th January, 1859.
"I have just read with delight the extract
from your speech at the Burns Centenary Meeting. The works of Burns are a
power whose influence is to be felt, and will coutinue to be so, in this
country and beyond it; a very mixed one it is true. In all such things we
are bid to choose the good (thankfully, as all good is of God) and refuse
the evil. 'Abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good.' I
can deeply sympathize with the moral tone of feeling which turns from the
whole with the loathing which the smell of the dead fly causes—the miasma
which it spreads. I cannot, however, think that the zeal of some ' abounds
in all wisdom.' To abolish Burns is not possible, and it is pleasing to
think that the 'non omnis moriar' may be applied to our great lyrical
poet, not only with safety, but to so great advantage.
"I beseech you prosecute the idea of printing
a purified centenary edition. The Pearls must be rescued. Why should our
children not have them clear of the impure dross or sand, and placed in as
fine a casket as the hallowed genius of the nation can produce?"]
Some influential members of the Presbytery of
Glasgow at this time moved an "overture" (as a formal representation is
called) to the General Assembly on the subject of Lay Patronage. At once
perceiving the importance of the question thus raised, he supported the
proposal in a long speech, and it is interesting, in the light of more
recent Scottish ecclesiastical history, to notice the care with which he
had already weighed the difficulties besetting the policy, in which he was
afterwards to take a conspicuous lead.
" .... I dare not conceal my own honest
convictions of the extreme difficulty of getting a hearing in Parliament,
a conviction strengthened when I think that, in 1843, we had far stronger
claims to be heard than now, and when the evils calling for legislative
enactment were far more pressing. I argue from the general temper in which
Parliament legislates; the whole tendency of legislation in Parliament, as
you will see from year to year, being not for sections of the community.
But if Parliament is willing and ready to hear us, I for one would most
assuredly be deeply thankful for a legislative measure that should enable
us to cure the evil.
" There is another way of looking at this case, which seems perhaps to be
the more important, when regarded with reference to Scotland. Many people
say, ' What have we to do with other Churches, and with the opinions of
the Free Church, or of any other Church 1 We have to do with ourselves.' I
say we sink down to be mere sectarians when we say we have only to do with
ourselves and not with the country. I say, as a National Establishment, we
have to do with the nation ; as a National Scotch Establishment, we have
to do with Scotchmen; and I should never like to hear any great question
discussed merely with reference to its relationship to our Church, and not
in its relationship to our country. When we look at this question in
reference to the whole of Scotland, I think it is still more complicated.
I believe that the welfare of Scotland, as a whole, is bound up with
Presbyterianism. Scotland, as a country, will rise or fall with its
Presbyterianism. It is warped into its whole historical past, into the
hearts of our people, as not one other element in our national greatness
or history is. The second point, I think, you will agree upon, is that the
interests of Presbyterianism in Scotland are bound up with the Established
Church. I do not say the Established Church exclusively, but I say the
Established Church inclusively. The Presbyterianism of Scotland might be
the better of a vigorous Presbyterianism always lying outside of the
National Establishment, but I think it would be much worse if there was no
National Establishment at all. Now what is the present state of our Church
in reference to Scotland generally? Episcopacy has unfortunately alienated
a very great number of the upper classes, not from the Church of Scotland
merely, but from the Presbyterianism of Scotland. I would wish to talk
gently and kindly on this subject. I am very unwilling to attribute
motives. There are many Episcopalians whose families have been so from
generation to generation. Many of these have never belonged to the Church
of Scotland, and are yet most hearty friends of the Established Church;
some of them are among her kindest and most generous friends. There are
others, again, who have become Episcopalians from the fact of English
education; and there are others who have become so from— I hardly know how
to express my meaning, but perhaps a little flunkeyism would not be a bad
term. While there is a great mass of educated gentlemen of this
persuasion, many of whom are my personal friends, and for whom I entertain
the greatest possible respect, there are, along with these clergy and
laity, who are antagonistic for conscience sake, not only to the Church of
Scotland, but to Presbyterianism. Looking, again, to Presbyterians, we see
that there is a great number of the middle classes who do not belong to
the Established Church, and who are even antagonistic to it. In these
circumstances, I do not myself see how the Established Church can remain
as she is, and continue to be the National Church. There is no use of
entering on the question whether it will last your day or mine, but it is
perfectly clear that, as a national Church, if she is to represent the
Presbyterianism of the nation, this state of tilings cannot last. Should
we not deplore, for the sake of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and for the
sake of all Churches, that this noble old Presbyterian Establishment
should be permanently weakened, or should fall 1 Presbyterianism is linked
inseparably with the holy memories of the Reformation. Every Reformed
Church in every part of Europe—let me say so to Episcopalians—took the
Presbyterian form, either in fact or in theory; in France, in Spain, in
Italy, in the National Church in Germany, in Switzerland, in Holland, in
Sweden, and Norway, this was the case. Are we now to have no
representative National Presbyterian Church speaking the English
language—and this, too, in the present state of Episcopacy and Romanism?
Well, if we are not to be permanently weakened as a National
Establishment, we must gather the masses of Presbyterians now lying beyond
our pale. In one word, I think it is the duty of our Church, as a National
Church, to entertain not only privately in our hearts, but publicly, the
question of union with the Free Church. I assume that such a union is as
essential for their welfare as for ours. We should cease without it to be
national in the strongest sense of the word, and they would cease to be
national in their principles, and sink down to be Voluntaries, instead of
retaining the convictions and principles on which they left the
Establishment. I do not think we can exist worthily as a great National
Church unless some such union takes place. But before that union is
possible, there must, in the nature of things, be legislative enactment.
It is not possible with the present state of our law with reference to the
induction of ministers, not to speak of our laws affecting spiritual
independence. The Free Church men have justified to the whole world the
seriousness and strength of their convictions on these points; and if we
are to be as one again, these convictions assuredly must be respected by
us—at all events they themselves will respect them."
From his Journal :—
"February 11.—A girl born to us. We give her to the Lord. Bless His name!
"March 12.—'We give her to the Lord,' and this
night it would seem as if the Lord would take her to Himself. She has been
seized with cholera and seems very weak.
"March 15.—The anniversary of my ordination
twenty-one years ago! I have attained my majority as a minister. Praise
the Lord for it!
proportion as I realise how the Lord has made me an instrument of good,
and ever heard my prayer, and blessed my miserable labours; in that
proportion do I feel how deep and real is my sin. Where has been the
habitual yearning for souls, the cherishing them as a nurse her children;
the constant prayer for them; the carrying their burden; the prompt
action; the devotedness; the love to Christ always? I truly feel that the
thief on the cross owes no more to God's grace than I as a minister do. My
sins and defects as a minister would overwhelm me, unless I believed in
that glorious atonement made for the worst: justification by faith alone.
Father, in Christ, forgive thine unworthy servant! Enter not, enter not
into judgment, for he cannot out of Christ be justified ! I plead Thy free
babe now seems fast approaching her end. I baptised her myself on Sabbath
that she knows no one in the universe! Yet how known, how cared for, how
beloved! How different will her education be from ours! Yet I do not envy
it now. The old earth, where Christ himself learned obedience as a child,
is the grandest school.
"20th. — Now, though not out of great danger,
there is hope. It has been a most blessed time! We gave her to the Lord, I
believe sincerely. We give her still, as far as we know our hearts. We
prayed beside her; but, with the yearning implanted in our hearts by our
Father, we cried to Him to spare her; and God knoweth how I feel it is His
doing, and in answer to prayer, if she is spared.
"God bless my sermons to-day on Missions in
St. Andrew's and Barony! Hear me, Lord, for my heart is in it! "
There were few important questions brought
before the Assembly of 1859 on which he did not speak at length; most of
them touched on matters in which he had special interest. The subject of
the revival, which followed on the great American awakening of 1858, was
then rousing attention in Ireland and in many parts of Scotland. He never
doubted the possibility of a great outpouring of the Spirit, and, at the
beginning of the movement, he wrote and preached much in its favour. Later
phases of it compelled him, however, to modify his expectations as to its
results; but the incredulity with which the very idea of a revival was
regarded by many of the clergy, grieved him even more than the
exaggerations of over-zealous supporters. When the question came before
the Assembly of 1859, it did so in a shape which excited in him a feeling
of positive indignation. A minister labouring in a poor parish in
Aberdeen, had permitted several earnest laymen to address his people from
the pulpit; and the Presbytery, avoiding any expression of opinion as to
the character of their teaching or its results, had thought proper to
rebuke their more zealous brother on the technical ground of having
allowed laymen to speak in church. This unsympathetic method of putting
down an earnest, and, at worst, a mistaken attempt to do good, touched
Norman Macleod to the quick.
"A few Christian men," he said, "came to
Aberdeen, and were brought within the sacred walls of one of the churches
there. He did not know whether they preached a sermon or not; he did not
know whether they stood in a pulpit fifteen feet, or on a platform seven
feet high, but he knew that they addressed people upon the unsearchable
riches of Christ, and that as Christian men they spoke from their hearts
only fault found with these men seemed to be that they addressed immortal
souls on the truth of Christianity within the walls of a church, but he
had been brought up in the belief that the Church of Scotland attached no
peculiar sacredness to stone and lime. It had been pleaded at the bar that
these men might go to the street. But there were many laws that were
tolerable only because they had liberty occasionally to break them; and
surely all Church laws must subserve the one grand end for which all
Churches exist. They might have decency, order, regularly appointed
licentiates, and regularly ordained men, and death all the while. This was
not a time, when there was so much necessity for increased spiritual life,
for the General Assembly to occupy a whole night in finding fault because
a minister permits a layman to preach the gospel from a pulpit.''
He also spoke upon Home Missions, and in the
course of his speech took occasion to repudiate some of the accounts that
were commonly given by social and religious Reformers of the condition of
Glasgow, and of the state of the working classes there. No one knew better
than he the characteristic faults of those classes; but he emphatically
denied the exaggerated statements as to their habits, with which
sentimental proposals for their improvement were often supported. It must
also be confessed that he was hurt by the manner in which his views had
been misrepresented by that advanced section of abstainers who were ready
to brand a man as an abettor of drunkenness if he did not inculcate their
special opinions. His tract on Temperance had been more than once most
unjustly handled by these people, and partly provoked by such criticisms,
but still more as vindicating for working-men the liberty which was not
denied to other classes, he spoke with a warmth and frankness which
city of Glasgow has somehow or other got such a very bad name for its
weather and its morality, that one would suppose, from the statements made
in some quarters, we sat soaking in water all the day, and soaking in
whisky all the night; that we were engaged in cheating our neighbours on
week days, and on Sabbath-day sat sulky and gloomy in the house. There has
been a great tendency to exaggeration in describing the condition of the
working classes. If people wish to advance teetotalism, they generally
begin by showing what a dreadful set of blackguards the working classes
are. When the question of the suffrage is brought above board, and if men
do not wish to concede it, they say, 'Oh, you cannot grant it to the
working classes.' These poor fellows are struck right and left, and the
impression is given that in such a place as Glasgow there is nothing in
the East-end but an enormous mass sunk in degradation, while, in the
Terraces, and Streets, and Squares of the West-end there is a population
almost entirely intelligent and pious.
"Do not let us fall into exaggeration. We have
an enormous mass of ignorant people in Glasgow. We have a mass of Irish,
neither under the care of priest or presbyter, and in a wretched, degraded
condition; but I feel there is a vast number of steady, sober, God-fearing
men amongst our working classes who are never heard of, and who, whilst
these drunken fellows may be creating a disturbance in the streets, are
sitting quietly by their firesides. Generally speaking, I must say the
working classes are very like the upper classes. I find vulgar,
dissipated, and indecent people in both classes. I must also state that
the working classes have a respect for the clergy, and will always receive
one with respect, provided he treats them with respect. But if one goes
among the working classes he ought not to do so as if arranging for Popish
controversies, or as a controversialist coming from one class to another.
I am not going to argue the question, though I am ready to do so, but I
hesitate not to say, as the result of my observation of Missions to
Romanists as hitherto conducted in cities, that so far from their making
Roman Catholics and the lower classes more accessible to the clergy, they
have raised up barriers in their way which it is extremely difficult to
overcome. So much do I believe this, that in my preaching to the
working-men at night, I tell them I am not going to attack Romanism or
Popery, because that doing so has driven men from the gospel. I am going
to preach the gospel only. And I know that Roman Catholics do come,
brought by those who attend regularly. I am very glad that it is proposed
to combine the anti-popery agency with the home-mission agency, and I hope
the Missionaries will go earnestly and lovingly amongst the people as
brethren to brethren, not in the attitude of saying, ' You are wrong and
we are right,' or ' We only want you to come from the Popish to the
Protestant Church.' ....
"In regard to the means taken to educate the
working classes we are too apt to forget that man is a compound being, a
social being, and that it is important to help him to better
house-accommodation, and a better know-ledge of natural laws. Above all,
do not assume too high a standard as to the little luxuries enjoyed by
working-men. Some say the working-man, in order to be temperate, must not
taste a single drop of fermented liquor; and people, who have themselves
their wine, may be heard talking wisely about the horror of the
working-man having his glass of beer or porter. I cannot talk in this way.
I should feel it hypocritical. I would rather say to them: 'God has given
it to you, don't take it as from the devil, but use it as from God. Don't
take it in the publichouses. If you wish to use such things, do so
frankly, and as in the presence of God, at your own fireside, or before
family worship, and if the minister comes in offer him some, and don't be
ashamed.' Do not let me be misunderstood as to what I say about
temperance, because, remember, there is a tendency among a certain type of
teetotalers to spread as facts all that can be brought against any
clergyman who dares to lift up his voice against what threatens to be a
terrific tyranny in Scotland. Now mark what I do say. Do not suppose that
when visiting the houses of working men I am in the habit of taking
anything from them; I never do so. Nor would I be understood to say that I
would not seek to make teetotalers among the working classes. When I find
that any of them drink to excess, I try to make them resolve to be
teetotal; but I put it in this form: 'Christ desires temperance, and if
you can't be temperate without being teetotal, then you must be teetotal.'
In the same way some people, in order to save the working-man from
extravagance, say, 'Oh, this is dreadful; you have only from sixteen to
seventeen shillings a week and yet I have more than once found you with a
pipe in your mouth.' Now why should he not smoke his pipe? Do you imagine
we are to have the confidence of the working classes if we speak to them
in that fashion? I would rather say to him, ' I'll give you tobacco to
keep your pipe lighted, I like one myself.' In order also to have
working-men keep the Sabbath, some are in the habit of speaking to them
against walking on the Sabbath, as if they were terrified to give them
that liberty. But why should they wish to be less liberal than God who has
made us and knows our frame? Let us be fair and honest with the
working-man, and you will find him display no tendency to pervert your
teaching if you deal with him in a spirit of liberality and in accordance
with the laws of God properly interpreted. But when you are less liberal
than God and draw the bow too much in one direction, it will rebound all
the more on the other.'
He concluded a long speech by expressing his
conviction that the grand instrument for elevating the working classes,
and all classes, is the gospel. Along with the gospel, many plans of doing
good might succeed; without the gospel they would certainly fail
To Miss Scott MONCRIEFF:—
"I am sorry to say that my old sciatica has
returned, which makes me quite a cripple in mind and body, and neither of
these instruments can be well spared by the minister of the Barony. I had
an American clergyman breakfasting with me yesterday, and he tells me that
the Revival goes on like a great flood, ever deepening and widening
without almost an eddy or a wave; churches full every morning at eight in
all the great cities, and life universally diffused. If this is from man,
he is not so corrupt—not a sinner, but a saint in his disposition. If it
is from the Devil—he is not the Devil we have taken him for. But it is
from God, and therefore to be desired and prayed for. My American friend
will address a prayer meeting in my church on the subject. Surely Scotland
will share the blessing."
To the Rev. W. Fleming Stevenson:—
"September 27th, 1859.
"I have every intention of going to Ireland
when the seed has reached the blade or full ear of corn. I think I shall
then be able to have a truer understanding of the work. In the meantime I
heartily recognise it as a work of God. Praise him for it! The one
unquestioned fact of universal religious earnestness is itself a grand
preparation of the soil for the seed. We must sow with all our might. Who
need a revival more than some of us ministers?"