AS the next twelve years
were the last, so they were the most laborious and most important, of his
life. In addition to his onerous pastoral duties, he now accepted the
editorship of Good Words. The voluminous correspondence which that office
entailed necessarily occupied much of his time; but, besides numerous
minor articles, he contributed to its pages, between 1860 and 1870, "The
Gold Thread," "The Old Lieutenant," "Parish Papers," "The Highland
Parish," "Character Sketches," "The Starling," "Eastward," and "Peeps at
the Far East," For the greater part of the same period he presided over
the India Mission of the Church; and during its course he had more than
once to engage in painful controversies on public questions, which, to a
man of his temperament, were more exhausting than the hardest work.
He had removed during the
previous year from Woodlands Terrace to his future home at 204, Bath
Street; and here, as a refuge from interruption, he fitted up a little
library over an outside laundry, which was, to the last, his favourite
nook for study. His writing table was placed at a small window which he
had opened at a corner of the room, where he could enjoy a glimpse of sky
over the roofs of the surrounding houses. It was at the best only a spot
of heaven that was visible, but such as it was, it afforded him some
refreshment when, in the midst of his work, he caught a passing gleam of
Those who were admitted to
this "back study" will remember the quick look with which he used to turn
from his desk to scan his visitor, and the unfailing heartiness with
which, even in his busiest hours, the pen was cast aside, the small
meerschaum lighted, and throwing himself on a couch covered with his old
travelling buffalo robe, he entered upon the business in hand. But the
continual interruptions to which he was exposed [Every forenoon there was
quite a levee at bis house, consisting chiefly of the poor seeking his aid
on all kinds of business, relevant and irrelevant. On these occasions his
valued beadle, Mr. Lawson, acted as master of the ceremonies. One day when
Norman was overwhelmed with other work, and the door-bell seemed never to
cease ringing, some one said, "I believe that bell is possessed by an evil
spirit." "Certainly," he answered, "Don't you know the Prince of evil
spirits is called Bellzebub—from his thus torturing hard-worked
ministers?"] and the pressure of literary engagements gradually drove him
into the habit of working far into the night, and as he seldom failed to
secure at least an hour for devotional reading before breakfast, his sleep
was curtailed, to the great injury of his health.
Good Words was not
projected by him but by the publishers, Mr. Strahan and his partner Mr.
Isbister. When Mr. Strahan (to whose enterprise and genius as a publisher
the magazine greatly owed its success) asked him to become its editor he
for a time declined to accept a task involving so much labour and anxiety.
But he had long cherished the conviction that a periodical was greatly
required of the type sketched by Dr. Arnold, which should embrace as great
a variety of articles as those which give deserved popularity to
publications professedly secular, but having its spirit and aim
distinctively Christian. The gulf which separated the so-called religious
and the secular press was, in his opinion, caused by the narrowness and
literary weakness of even the best religious magazines. He could see no
good reason for leaving the wholesome power of fiction, the discussion of
questions in physical and social science, together with all the humour and
fun of life, to serials which excluded Christianity from their pages. His
experience while conducting the Edinburgh Christian Magazine served only
to deepen his desire to have an ably written periodical which would take
up a manly range of topics, and while embracing contributions of a
directly religious character, should consist mainly of articles "on common
subjects, written," as Arnold said, "with a decidedly Christian tone."
From his Journal:—
"January 1, half-past
12.—Into Thy hands I commit my life, my spirit, my family, my all!
"I have had more pleasure
in preaching this year than any year of my life. Sabbath after Sabbath I
have had joy in the work, and have been wonderfully helped by God out of
the pulpit and in it. I had my usual evening sermons with the working
classes. But, strange to say, though it was a time of revival, and my
heart longed for one, and a prayer-meeting was established for one, and I
preached two months longer than usual, the results as to attendance and
conversions were far poorer. I cannot yet account for this, except on the
supposition that the good which flowed through this channel has gone
through others into God's treasury. Amen.
[The following anonymous
letter which he received expresses graphically the impression these
services had on the poor.
"I hope you will excuse me,
Sir, a poor woman, to address you, one of the greatest men of the City,
but I feel so grateful for your unwearied kindness in preaching to us
working-people many winters, just out of pure good will for the real good
of our souls; if the prayers of the poor are of any avail, I'm sure you
have them heartily, you have no idea how proud we are to see yourself
coining into the pulpit.
"I remember some of the
lectures very well last winter on the Creation, on the fall of Man, the
Flood, and Abraham offering up his son Isaac, and how delighted we were
that night when you were on Lazarus, and Martha and Mary. I heard you on
the mysteries of providence, and I understood it well, Sir, as I heard you
mention how it was explained to yourself that night when you thought Mrs.
Macleod was dying.]
"The editorship of 'Good
Words' was given me. I did not suggest or ask the publication, and I
refused the editorship for some time. On the principle, however, of trying
to do what seems given me of God, I accepted it. May God use it for His
To Mrs. Macleod:—
"Highfield, May, 1860.
"This is a magnificent
country, and the house stands on a gentle eminence, and there is such a
glorious prospect of massy and majestic forest from it, with low blue
hills far away. Spring is here in its full-flooded glory. The woods are
smothered with songs and nests. The nightingales disturb one's repose. The
roses are out, and a thousand flowering shrubs. But yet I can think of
little but you and the bairns, and would prefer the confusion of the house
with you all, to this grandeur and all the happiness of seeing my dear old
friends again, without you. I walked through a lane of Scotch firs to-day,
with such peeps of woodland and English glories as were awful. Yet somehow
I am sad. It may be indigestion, or anticipated work, or perhaps the
devil, or sin, but so it is.
"We had a grand lunch
yesterday at-----------'s. Noble pictures, a nice fellow, and lots of
people who never knew of my existence, or I of theirs. They came and went
like a dream. They might have been ghosts but for the tremendous luncheon
To J. M. Ludlow, Esq.:—
"June 1, 1860
"I saw in Paris all I
wished to see, and more than I expected to have seen. I visited the
jeweller's and file-makers, and had a great deal of full and free talk
with the men, through a patient interpreter. These men have made a deep
and singularly favourable impression upon me. They seem to me to be the
most hopeful class (and more hopeful than any I supposed to exist among
the people of Paris) out of which to rear a strong, truthful, manly,
living Church of Christ. Would to God that earnest pastors met them face
to face, heart to heart! Honest fellows, I seem still to feel the firm
grasp of their hands! Their muscles are firmly strung to their hearts, and
vibrate from them. I do not think their associations have had much
success, but they prophecy a brighter future in better times.
"I have heard much of
Highland revivals since I saw you. The fanaticism is dreadful, the evils
monstrous, and the fruits small; yet life, life, is the one grand want of
our Protestant churches, come how or when it may. All is dark to me save
"As to my taking offence,
thank Heaven a pretty good schooling has developed, à la Darwin, a rather
thin skinned Celt into a tolerably fair specimen of a pachydermatous
Saxon. I never take offence except when I believe a man tries to insult
me, which I don't remember has happened. And then? Why enter on the
discussion of such a nice bit of casuistry!"
"Oh, Sir, I hope you will
forgive me for using so much freedom as this with yon, but I thought I
might never have an opportunity of expressing my gratitude to you
personally, but I thought a word from even an old woman would help to
encourage you. I have heard you say your own faith was sometimes like to
"I count it a great
privilege to get leave to hear from you, you speak so kindly to us. I
never did this before to any one, but I never felt so much indebted to any
minister before now. Sit, I hope you will forgive me if I have done
wrong—it's for no selfish end, depend on it, or I would have given my name
and address. I am just a widow.
From his Journal:—
"July 20.—Wellbank, Campsie.—We have taken this sweet place for two
months, and just as I was beginning to enjoy the old nest, and to commune
with the old hills, the dear nurses of my youth, I am suddenly called away
"... I have been asked to
aid my Scotch countrymen. I never sought it. I prayed God to direct me—and
I have perfect peace from feeling it to be His will, and so I go. What
more can I do to discover God's will than a call to work—prayer for
guidance, a good conscience, and no argument against the work!
"It is strange that I have
never mentioned in my Journal what has been so near my heart, my call to
minister to dear Lady Bute on her death-bed! In December I was summoned by
telegram to visit her. I found her sister with her. Lady Bute was almost
speechless. I knelt beside her, and spoke into her ear, repeating suitable
texts of Scripture. She evidently understood me, for while I spoke she
suppressed her breathing so as to listen, and then, as I ended, she
breathed rapidly, turning her ear away. May that dear boy know God as his
Father, even as his earthly father and mother knew Him, and this will be,
as eternity is to time, above all earthly riches to him. I had prayers
with him and his aunt. I offered to remain all night, and begged to be
sent for in the morning. So ended a life full of deep interest. She had a
singular and noble sense of duty—a refined sense of what was due to God
and man—with a masculine intellect; a deep, tender heart to her friends, a
marvellous, chivalrous devotion to her relations —father, mother, sisters,
and son especially. I believe she is in glory— saved through Him whom she
knew and loved sincerely. I was afterwards at her funeral. My dear Macnab
was there, his beloved wife, and my own John Campbell. I accompanied Mr.
Macnab afterwards to Carlisle. He died a month afterwards, and a more
perfect Christian gentleman or finer man in all respects I never knew. He
was ausgebildet within and without."
The following extracts are
from letters written to Mrs. Macleod during his visit to Russia. An
account of his tour and its impressions appeared in Good Words for 1861.
"St. Petersburg, August 7,
''Met to-day old General
Wilson, who came from Scotland when eight years old. He saw the Empress
Catharine in 1784.
"Now, I must confess that
St. Petersburg has as yet greatly disappointed me. The Neva is a noble
river: St. Isaac's is, outside, a noble church. The bridge is fine, so are
the granite quays; some of the statues fine—but the town as a whole is as
dust to Paris. There is a mixture of big and mean buildings—a want of
finish which reminds me of an American town.
"The heat is considerable:
the gentry are absent. You see almost no military, no music, no cafes, no
fine hotels; but a hot, white, glaring, dead slowness in the place. It is
sad, not joyous—heavy, not gay. The service of the Greek Church is far
less interesting than the Roman Catholic."
"We have met several
Scotchmen. I saw a Highlander in full dress in church, and, to his
astonishment, addressed him in Gaelic. Curiously enough, I met three men
together at a work—one was from the Barony, the second from Campbeltown,
the third from Dalkeith.
"I preached the night
before last on the top of a gas meter to about forty. Most of the people
were from Glasgow. It was a queer sight. I sung the Psalms—no seats or
books; lots of Russian workmen stood around to hear the Scota 'pope'—as
the priests are called. 'My heart is full,' said a Scotch woman, taking my
hand, 'I canna speak.'
"I spent three hours in St.
Isaac's on Sunday; got my pocket picked. The service was beyond all
measure tiresome. Crowds of priests with the Metropolitan at their
head—most magnificent dresses. Chanting beautiful, voices exquisite, but
vast sameness. It lasted three hours, and was followed by the kissing of
the Cross and the Bible, &c. It would take pages to give you an idea of
what is not worth knowing. It is externally worse than Rome. Russian life
I cannot see. I know no more than you do of the country."
"Sweden, August 31.
"I am here in a station on
the railway, by the margin of a wild Highland Loch, having come out to
visit a few Scotchmen. I left St. Petersburg on Tuesday week, without any
regret, never wishing again to visit that slow, big, ill-paved, drosky-thumped,
"Thank God, there are,
however, signs of life everywhere. Thousands of the Scriptures are being
circulated in Russia. Gospel preaching is heard in Finland, and in Sweden.
The dry bones are everywhere stirring, though the breath has come to a few
"The system of the Church
in Sweden is quite perfect of its kind. No dissent is permitted. Every
child is educated. All must be confirmed, and thoroughly taught, and
examined in the small and larger catechism. Every one before getting a
situation, even a servant, must produce a certificate in which is marked
the number of times and the last, in which he has communicated. There is
probably not a person, the vilest, who has not such. What is the result?
formality, deadness, and an immense amount of corruption. The longer I
live the more I am convinced that the more perfect the government, the
less it should interfere with religion. If men won't do right because it
is right, what is the good of it Give me freedom with all its risks."
On his return from Russia
his attention was directed to a speech made by a distinguished and much
respected professor in a Scotch University, a keen advocate of Total
Abstinence, who had taken Dr. Macleod's tract, "Plea for Temperance," as
his text at a meeting of the League, held in Glasgow.
To Professor ——:—
"... I am not in the habit
of taking notice of all the 'hard speeches' which had been uttered against
me by violent and unscrupulous abstainers. There are, I rejoice to know,
among teetotalers very many persons whom I highly respect for their own
and for their work's sake, and many intimate and dear friends with all of
whom I am glad to co-operate in my own way, according to my given light
and conscientious convictions. But I protest that there is also among
them, a rabble of intemperate men, revelling in the pride of power which
enables them as members of a great league, and under cover of an exclusive
profession of self-sacrifice for the public weal, to bully the timid and
to exercise all the tyranny possible in a free country over every man,
especially a Christian minister, who presumes to dissent from their views
of duty and to resist their demands, or who dares to defy their threats
and despise their insinuations. Such men I never notice.
"But it is otherwise when a
learned and Christian gentleman like you attacks me.
" . . Yes, I think your
remarks were unfair, uncalled for, and calculated, as far as your
influence and words extend, to injure my character, and weaken my hands in
labouring among the working classes whose well-being is dearer to me than
life. I must ask you to prove your assertions, and to justify your remarks
on me and my writings more fully than you have done in your speech, and
upon other principles than those of the League. I do not ask you to
explain or defend the 'principles' of total abstinence, to show their
harmony with Scripture, or their expediency as rules of action in the
present state of society. All this I am willing for argument's sake to
take for granted. But what I demand in justice from your hands is to prove
that the principles, the argument, the spirit, or any one thing else in my
tract is inconsistent with any other things in the Word of God, which I
recognise as 'the only rule of faith and morals.' Nay, you are bound, in
order to justify yourself, to prove my teaching to be so inconsistent as
to have warranted you in exposing it as you have done, and in holding me
up as a foe of temperance, and my tract as calculated to confirm drunkards
in their vicious habits; nay, to ruin souls temporally and eternally. Pray
keep to this simple theme. Put my tract and Scripture side by side, and in
clear language, and with truthful criticism, point out the contradictions
between Bible and tract, in word, principle, or spirit. Wherein do they
differ? Wherein am I not of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Christ? Is it in my
exposition and denunciation of the crime of drunkenness? Is it in my
urgent recommendation to all drunkards to adopt total abstinence as
essential in their case? Is it my toleration of the temperate use of
drinks by Christian men, which in excess would intoxicate? Is it in
admitting that in certain cases total abstinence should be adopted by
sober men? Do point out, I beg of you, anything I have written which Paul
or our great Master would condemn, and which warranted you holding me up
as a foe of temperance, and as a real, though unintentional helper of the
devil in his work of ruining souls temporally and eternally."
To the Same :—
" . . I do not for one
moment imagine that you intended to injure my character or usefulness; but
I believe your speech tended to do both, upon grounds which seemed to me
unfair. I account for this in my own mind by the one-sided influence,
pardon me for saying so, which the frequent and hard riding of a hobby
produces on an eager and earnest rider, more especially when several
thousand persons at an annual meeting like that of the League, are
galloping fast and furious in the same heat. You allude also to what you
are pleased to call my remarkable speech in the General Assembly of '59,
as calculated to increase the danger of my teaching as given in the tract.
I remember the speech well. My remarks made on that occasion with
reference to the reformation of the working classes, proposed by total
abstainers from alcohol and tobacco, were a mere episode in a very long
speech on a great subject, and were not premeditated. They were published
also in newspapers in a separate shape, and unconnected with the speech of
which they formed a very unimportant part. For some time they were a
common and favourite target for the fiery darts of total abstainers. Your
allusion to them affords me an opportunity of stating that after mature
deliberation I see nothing in them to regret or retract. It is still my
belief that we must apply (and in this you will agree with me) the same
principles in seeking to Christianize the habits of rich and poor; for, to
use a vulgar but expressive simile, 'what is sauce for the goose is sauce
for the gander.' Since I do not therefore feel myself justified, in the
General Assembly or out of it, in condemning the rich man for drinking his
glass of wine after dinner, or even for smoking his cigar (to the horror
of the excellent Dean of Carlisle) after breakfast, neither can I, without
hypocrisy or impertinence, condemn the working man, who has fewer sources
of physical gratification, for taking his glass of beer, or smoking his
pipe if so disposed, at his humble fireside. It is not my special province
to recommend either; yet neither am I called upon as a Christian minister
to condemn either. But I am not ashamed to confess that I would
'recommend' the working man who was disposed to take his beer, to do so at
his own fireside, if I thereby helped to keep him from whiskey, above all
from the terrible temptations of the public house. All this I expressed in
the hearing of our friend Dr. Guthrie, upon oath to Her Majesty's
Commissioners when giving evidence with reference to the working of the
Forbes-Mackenzie Act. For I firmly believe that one way of hindering men
from sinfully abusing God's gifts, is to help them to use them according
to His will; and that all reforms which ignore the lawful gratification of
those universal instincts, physical, mental, and moral, which God has
implanted in humanity, are essentially false, and in the long run will
fail to produce even the specific good which their promoters intended, or
will develop other evils equally, if not more, destructive of the
well-being and happiness of man. Hence my conviction is becoming every day
more profound, that the gospel, as revealing God's will through His Son,
is the only true and safe reform, for it does not ignore any item of man's
complex nature, but equally and beautifully develops the whole. Believing
this, I have humbly endeavoured honestly to keep my fellow men in
accordance with what seems to me to be the will of God. Hence I have not
contented myself with always protesting against a positive evil, but have
also declared in favour of its opposite good, that so God's mercies may
the more gladly be accepted and appreciated, and the devil's perversion of
them be the more readily rejected and detested.
"What I have done may He
within Himself make pure!
"One word more before
bringing this correspondence to a close. It is a very painful thing for me
to be ever and anon forced into the position of even appearing to be an
enemy to total abstainers and their work. Because I have written a tract
with heart, will, and strength against drunkenness, and striven earnestly
with a solemn sense of my responsibility before God to accomplish its
cure, on what I believe to be sound Scripture principles—an attempt which
I rejoice to know has in many cases been successful— does it not seem
strange and hard that I, of all men, should be so frequently held up as a
foe, a quasi friend, or in some way or other an enemy, of those who with
equal earnestness, and I hope with greater success, are labouring 'n the
same cause? If I have spoken or written harshly against teetotalers, you
know it is not against them as a body, or against their work, but only
against the injustice and tyranny of the fanatical portion of them, who,
not only in public but in private, are in the habit of attacking, sneering
at, or imputing all sorts of 'sensual and empty' motives to those who may
be quiet, sober, God-fearing, temperate men, guilty of no other fault than
refusing to become total abstainers. Now all I demand is, that I and
others who act on temperate principles—a class comprehending the vast
majority of the Christian laity and clergy of this country—shall be
treated as those who may be presumed, in the eye of charity, to have as
much common sense, sound Christian principle, and self-denying
philanthropy as total abstainers. Do let us have a free-trade in those
Christian virtues of justice, mercy, and kindness, which will make us all
healthier and happier than can even thin French wine. Protest with me
against all monopolies of principle and wisdom by any sect or party. At
the same time I am willing to acknowledge that it is a very serious fault
if I have ever spoken or written, even in ignorance, any sentiment which
could induce a Christian brother conscientiously to suspect or to condemn
me, or to look upon me in any other light than as a sincere friend and
coadjutor of every man who seeks to elevate our working classes, and to
make them more sober and God-fearing."
From his Journal:—
"Lauder, February 22, 1861.
"I have enjoyed here ten
days of extra luxurious rest! No bell, no calls, repose, air, exercise
(when it did not pour)! I have read a ton of MSS.—all Balaam save about
one pound. I have written eighty-five letters, and so I return with a load
of work off me, and a load of gratitude on me.
"I have been reading
McCheyne. How thankful I should be if I had a thousandth part of his
devotedness. How simple, yet how difficult! Who can doubt human corruption
and utter vileness, when we find it difficult to devote ourselves to God!"
This day enter my fiftieth
year—half a century old!
"'Would that my tongue
could utter The thoughts that arise in me.'
"Verily, God's mercies are
more than can be numbered!
"I desire Thee, God, to
help me to live more usefully, more devotedly to Thee; and, above all
other things to have fellowship with Christ in His mind towards all men,
so as to be in everything a fellow-worker with Himself.
"Many good people don't
understand the purpose of Good Words, and so it sometimes shocks or
scratches them—so much so that the Tract Society of Edinburgh have, I
hear, debated how far they can patronize it; and I know the 'Pure
Literature' (pure water, and sometimes pure nonsense) Society of London
won't recommend it. They don't think 'Wee Davie' ["Wee Davie" was written
in his brother Donald's Manse at Lauder, during a snowstorm, and was
finished after two sittings. When Norman tried, on its completion, to read
it aloud, he was more than once so choked with tears that he had to lay it
down.] — my dear wee mannie!—sufficiently up to the mark of piety, because
it omits important truth—just as St. James's Epistle and various other
books of the Bible do! From my heart I regret this, because I believe it
is the fushionless, unreal, untruthful, pious' story-telling, which some
of our tract societies alone patronize, that has produced the
story-telling without piety, but with more truth and more trash, which is
devoured by the working classes. Now, I have a purpose—a serious, solemn
purpose—in Good Words. I wish in this peculiar department of my
ministerial work to which I have been 'called,' and in which I think I
have been blessed, 'to become all things to all men, that I might by all
means gain some.' I cannot, therefore, write stories merely as a literary
man, to give amusement, or as works of art only, but must always keep
before me the one end of loading souls to know and love God. Most popular
stories are based on the natural; the finest characters are assumed to
have been the growth of the old man, at all events, to have been
irrespective of any knowledge or recognition of Christ. Now, I believe, in
my soul, that all which one discovers of out-and-out good among men,
really and truly, is ever found, as a fact, to have arisen from the
recognition of the supernatural,—a power coming to the soul through Jesus
Christ. Therefore, I must make this the open and confessed source of
strength in my characters, because I find it in society as well as in the
Bible. But, again, in writing sketches of character, I must also give that
mixture of clay which all of us have, and express the inner life in print,
just as I see it expressed in actual life; and I am bold enough to assert
that my life-sketches are truer far as tracts than those productions are,
which make working-men, ay, young children, speak like Eastern patriarchs
or old apostles. I may be wrong in my idea as to how Good Words should be
conducted, and I cannot, of course, realize it as I wish to do, but I have
a purpose which I believe to be right, and can therefore pray to Christ to
bless it; and can also humbly, but firmly, go ahead, whatever the
religious world may say. I know that I seek so to conduct it that I would
not be ashamed to have it beside me on my death-bed. If it is not pleasing
to Christ, from my soul I desire that He may bring it to nought."
Miss Margaret Campbell:-
"I am going to finish 'Ned
Fleming.' [In the "Old Lieutenant."] I always have your brother Dugald
before me as my hero—Abi Memoria! How are they gone, 'the old familiar
faces!' Yet they are immortal in memory. Those Campbeltown times and
these old companions have had an immense influence on my life. The code of
honour which emanated from your father's roof I always recognized as one
of the great powers which have helped to build me up to what I am. We
never told a lie! Yes, once, when we broke Bell Fisher's crocks! Innocent
To J. M. Ludlow, Esq.:-
"March 16, 1861.
"The articles upon the
Deaconesses in Good Words seem to prepare the way for what you intended to
write, or proposed to write, upon the useful sisterhoods in the Church of
Koine. I shall be glad to have your views upon that most useful class of
females; but do, my dear fellow, remember that you are writing for John
Smith and his wife, up one 'pair' of stairs, after a tea-dinner at 6
o'clock; John indifferent to the movements of the starry heavens, and Mrs.
Smith absorbed in the toes of John's stockings. Think of these (if you
can) and you will write splendidly."
To Miss Keddie, on the loss
of her Sister:—
"Adelaide Place, March 17,
"It must be very terrible!
The Saviour's words in His sense of loneliness amidst the crowd and even
amidst His own disciples, will be full of meaning to you, 'I am not alone,
for the Father is with me!'—but for that, the universe would have been a
wilderness to His heart. Our human hands are too coarse to meddle with the
fine network of the spirit. We break and confuse oftener than we harmonize
and heal. But He can do it! and with what wisdom, patience, tenderness and
holy love! Oh, what a mockery it would be if our social life in Christ
ended here! It hardly begins here. Very soon you and your sister will
meet, and when you talk over old times, you may be able to praise and
bless God for this time, now so dark and trying. Most certain it is that
God by such trials, when we wait on Him, trust Him and seek His kingdom,
will purify us, and make us instruments more fit to glorify Him."
"June 3, 1861.
"My beloved Parents,—
"Few men are able to begin
a note with such words when entering their fiftieth year! I owe it to God
to acknowledge that one of the greatest mercies in a life which has been
one continued mercy, has been to possess such parents, and that they have
been spared to journey with me through the wilderness for nearly half a
century, and that their presence has always been a constant light of love
which never once flickered. Most deeply do I appreciate the inestimable
blessing thus bestowed on me and on their children's children.
"It is not likely that if I
am spared to see another decade of my life, I shall have both or either of
you to address. But oh ! the mercy of entering old age with one's parents
still alive, and then to pass from old age to eternal youth in the good
hope of meeting them again forever.
"If my birthdays now are
more sobered than they were in early youth they are far more joyful. I
every year bless God with a fuller heart that I exist and have lived in
such an atmosphere of earthly love. Let me have your last, as I have had
your early prayers, that I may fulfil my calling, and that, as a man with
innumerable shortcomings, I may prove in the main true and loyal to the
best of Masters.
"Full of awe and
thanksgivings for my mercies and full of love to you both,
"I am your devoted and
To J. M. Ludlow, Esq.:—
"Comfort me by scolding me.
Your genuine goodness, forbearance, and forgiving-heartedness, give me
positive pain and make me hate myself, which is not comfortable. Out upon
public life, magazines, and all articles! 'I would I were a weaver!'
"But I really had not
another day in London to see you. I was worried to death by Dowagers and
"You know why the town
clerk of Dunfermline called the Provost dogmatic? Because the 'bodie got
so cross in an argument about a Bible doctrine, that he bited my thoomb!'
"A thousand thanks for your
kindness in not 'biting my thoomb,' but giving me your hand.
"As to the new Magazine, I
have nothing whatever to say against any other craft trying to cross the
wide ocean along with my own. There is room for all. I buy two or three
penny papers now instead of one. So is it with cheap magazines, if good.
"My calling is the gospel,
to give myself wholly to it, as I know it and, believe it. For this I
live, and for this I could die. Therefore so long as I have Good Words
there shall be 'preaching' in it, direct or indirect, and no shame, or
sham, about it. This, along with my secularity, will keep it, so far,
distinct from other periodicals.
"The sin of my articles is
in what they do not say. 'Wee Davie,' poor little fellow ! leaves out
several doctrines. They say that the expression, 'Rest her soul in peace!'
is so Popish, being a prayer for the dead, that it is 'most dangerous.'
"I have published, with
many corrections, my sermon (not story) of Wee Davie, and 12,000 sold in a
week. It is intended for the working-men of Scotland chiefly."
To the Rev. W. F.
"Tigh-na-bruach, Kyles or
Bute, August 14, 1861.
"I must try a volume of
addresses to the working classes, or 'Barony Sermons.' [Afterwards
published under the title, "Simple Truths."] The spirit and teaching of
the Magazine form a constant subject of anxiety. I want to intone all its
services more with the direct Christian spirit, and shall do so, or give
"As to Ned, the story is a
serious affair with me. I wish to show the Christian life working in a boy
placed in rather trying circumstances, and becoming stronger through falls
and trials—to illustrate, in short, a life begun, like that of many, in
the secret recesses of early life, and disciplined by Christ through a
long course of years. I don't find the process, as described in most
'evangelical' tracts, by which many men become at last strong in Christ,
to be true to life as I see it, so that good boys in tracts are not like
those I have ever met with—Ned is. Along with this I wish to excite
interest in sailors, and to preach the gospel to those also who may hear
for the sake of the story. I cannot think that I shall utterly fail, or
injure the cause dearer to me than life itself, when I know that I have
only truth in view, and daily pray to Christ to guide me. Oh ! my dear
friend, from my heart I say it, I would sooner die than consciously injure
that cause by anything I write, should it gain me the fame of the greatest
names in literature ! As a literary production Ned is a two-penny affair,
but I am encouraged to write it as a medium of preaching Christ."
To the Same —
"November 6, 1861.
"I sincerely thank you for
your criticisms on Ned. I accept what you say about the humanity of the
story. I wished to draw men towards me on the human ground, that so they
might go up higher with me towards superhuman good. The story points to
that direction. The hands of Esau may lead wild men to listen to the voice
To Colonel Dreghorn (in
answer to a letter reminding him of a promise to preach a sermon for the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals):—
"I beseech you to have
mercy on me as an animal, and get some other brute, equally willing and
more able than I am, to preach your sermon. I have seven sermons to preach
for collections in other churches before January—and I am engaged three
times every Sunday till April—besides tons of other work on my back. I ask
mercy with the donkey, dog, or carter's horse. My burthen is heavier than
I can bear. Let the deputy chairman spare his lash. I have no power to
bite or kick, I can only groan.
"I'll feed the next starved
dog handsomely, shelter for a week the first wandering cat I meet, even
put my shoulder to the next over-loaded cart of coal or iron I see. I'll
listen for two hours to 'David Bell.' I'll do any deed of mercy laid upon
me that I am fit for, if you spare my back while editor of Good Words. In
the name of every hard-used brute, lay or clerical, animal or spiritual, I
crave your mercy.
"Yours in trouble."
In answer to Colonel
Dreghorn's repeated request:—
"Absence in Edinburgh along
with the off-putting of the flesh, has prevented me from replying to your
note. I shall honestly try to be with you if possible before the meeting
is over to say a few good words for my brother donkeys, and all animals
who like myself are too severely handled and cudgelled by the public. In
such suffering you will, I know, sympathise."
To Mrs. Macleod:—
"Monaltrie, September 9,
"Dear kind Mrs. Fuller
Maitland drove me to Crathie on Saturday. The Manse was full, i.e., the
minister, with a son and two grown-up daugh ters, a lady from England with
grown up son and daughter, a gentleman from Edinburgh, and myself. How
were they put up? The walls know. I don't. But as I always say, no Manse
was ever so full, but that (like a bus) one more could be taken in. I
preached—by no means comfortably to myself. I could not remember one
sentence (literally) and had to trust to the moment for expression. Lord
John Russell there. But the Queen was most cordial in her thanks for the
comfort I gave her, and commanded me to return next year. So I must
indulge the hope that it was blessed far more than I could believe,
judging from my own feeling. I preached in the evening for Anderson. I
dined at the Castle, and spent really a charming evening. I had a long
walk with Lady Augusta Bruce during the interval, and learned much from
her about the death of that noble, loving woman, the Duchess of Kent, and
of the Queen's grief. She was a most God-fearing woman. I have been
presented By the Queen with a delightful volume of hymns which her mother
was fond of. The Queen's distress was deep and very bitter, but in every
respect such as a daughter ought to feel. The suddenness—unexpected by
even Sir J. Clarke—of course shocked her. At dinner were present Princess
Alice and her fiance, Prince Louis of Hesse, Princess Hohenlohe, the
Queen's half-sister—an admirable woman. I sat beside Prince Alfred, a
fine, gentlemanly sailor. We had lots of talk. After dinner I had a most
interesting conversation, about half an hour, with the Prince Consort, and
a good long one with the Queen. In short it was a most agreeable evening."
From his Journal:—
"Last night of 1861.—The
happiest time I have had yet at Balmoral was this last with the dear good
Prince, whom I truly mourn.
"The death! What an event
for the nation! I have received a letter from Lady Augusta Bruce, which is
very delightful, although sad."