THE last years of his life
were marked by the manner in which both his character and convictions
ripened. There was no diminution of the wealth of his humour, and his
enjoyment of outward things was keen and fresh, though tinged with a
certain pensive and recurrent sadness. But as his health became more
broken, the sense of approaching age, the brevity of the time given him to
work seemed continually present, and lent an increased earnestness and
thoughtful care to the fulfilment of the most commonplace duty. He spoke
and acted as one who knew "the time was short."
His health was gradually
but decidedly becoming infirm. In the spring of 1871 he had so severe an
attack of his old enemy that he was for some time confined to bed, and his
strength was so much impaired that his brother, Professor Macleod, forbade
his undertaking any engagements which implied fatigue. At the end of
April, on Sir William Jenner's advice, he went to Ems, and for a time
found much benefit from rest and from the waters of the famous Brunnen. In
summer he and his family spent their holiday at Geddes, the early home of
Mrs. Macleod, and doubly precious to him as associated with many memories
of John Mackintosh. It was a happy time, and he regained so much of his
old health and spirits, that on the return of the family to Glasgow he was
able to enter with considerable vigour on his winter's work.
There were some things
which specially coloured his later thoughts. He was deeply moved by the
condition of religious belief in academic and literary circles. As he had
opportunities possessed by few clergymen, of becoming acquainted with
current opinion, not merely from books, but by intercourse with
representative men, his interest in the religious difficulties of many
scholars and thinkers was proportionately keen. His anxieties regarding
such matters frequently found vent in lamentations over the ignorance or
indifference of ecclesiastics in Scotland as to all questions except the
most trivial. "They are squabbling about the United Presbyterian, Free
Church, or Established when the world is asking whether Christ is risen
from the dead!"
India and the condition of
the heathen were subjects which he was never weary of pondering by
himself, or of discussing with his friends.
The impression his Eastern
journey had made on him was profound. and showed itself latterly in an
incessant study of the problems which the spectacle of so many millions of
brothers and sisters living in heathendom suggested. He had not looked on
these millions with the eye of a dogmatist who measures all he sees by the
scale of a hard, scholastic theory. He did not ask how they stood related
to some theological tenet, but rather "What are these men and women to the
living God?" He had tried to understand the flesh and blood affinities,
the prejudices, difficulties, aspirations of the Hindoo mind, and to
comprehend as far as possible a humanity which had grown up under
conditions so different from those which had moulded his own. The effect
of all this was to lead him back to first principles, to oblige him to
deal with the mind of the personal Saviour, as of more account than Church
formularies. His theology had ever been centred in the character of God as
revealed in Christ, and he instinctively now referred every doubtful
question to this ultimate standard. " Ho you think it would be like Christ
so to act ?" or, " From all you know of God, do you think it would be like
Him to do that?"—with such questions, as many of his hearers remember, it
was his habit to clinch many an argument when addressing his congregation
in the Barony. To him therefore it was anything but glad tidings to preach
to the educated natives of Hindostan that all their parents and ancestors
were suffering the pains of hell because they had not believed in One of
whom they had never heard, or to declare to them that their own ultimate
salvation depended on their acceptance of some theory of atonement which
was beset with intellectual and moral difficulties. On behalf of England's
greatest dependency, he longed to see missionaries intent upon bringing
these human hearts into living contact with the love, the holiness, the
character of Jesus Christ, and who would let the New Testament speak its
own language to their spirits, rather than through the medium of a system
of theology. Such reflections on the state of the heathen, inspired, as
they were, by love to man and firm reliance on the righteousness and
goodness of God, opened up to him a new region of thought as to the
character of the future state, and the possibility of a gospel being
preached to those who, in this life, had never an opportunity of accepting
or rejecting the truth as it is in Christ.
The following notes of a
sermon preached in September, 1871, indicate the tendency of his views
respecting the condition of the heathen beyond the grave:—
"What is to become of those
who never have heard of, or have never had opportunities of hearing of
God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—who have never heard of that truth which
to us is inseparable from all our thoughts of salvation? Of these there
are millions upon millions, thousands of millions, who have since creation
lived and died, and passed away into the unseen. There are hundreds of
millions now alive in the same condition in the kingdoms of heathendom:
more numerous than any human mind can conceive. In addition to these,
there are millions in Christendom who, from the circumstances of their
birth and up-bringing, are as practically ignorant, who never had the
means of making any conscious choice between the claims of God on their
affection and obedience, and the demands of sin and of every evil
passion—to whose thoughts it would make no practical difference if all we
know, love, and rejoice in regarding God wag never heard or known : no
more than the extinction of the sun would make any practical difference to
a blind man's eye. Such a question is tremendous, painful, oppressive,
often agonising—even when feebly understood. We are disposed, from our
utter inability to take in its momentous importance, to make a positive
effort to put it away. Such a fact as thousands of millions of human
beings existing now, and existing for eternity, somewhere, makes hardly an
impression upon our minds. We feel, in trying to realise it, as if the
finite tried to comprehend the infinite, and so we dismiss the whole
question. But when the complex idea is resolved into its details; when we
think of one human being, with all our own powers and capacities for
thinking, understanding, remembering, anticipating, hoping, fearing,
rejoicing, suffering, being holy as a saint or wicked as a devil; a being
made after God's image, and therefore so far divine; an object of more
interest and importance to God his Maker than the material universe; and
such a being growing up from infancy with as distinct and individual a
history as ourselves, a being, too, who is for ever responsible, and can
for ever please God and meet His wishes, or the reverse—then do we in some
degree feel that any question affecting him is not a question regarding a
mere thing, however interesting, like the preservation or destruction of a
great picture, a grand column, or stately palace, but regarding a person,
an immortal being, the noblest specimen of the art of God, the greatest
building of His hands, and intended to be a temple of the Holy Ghost. But
much more does our interest increase if we are personally acquainted with
such a being; if we have come into contact with him so as to realise fully
our common humanity, and to sympathize with his bodily sufferings or
mental sorrows. Yet what would our interest be if this person were a
father, or mother, or child, or our individual selves ! We could not then
think of such an one's fate for ever, as we would that of a stone which,
cast into the great deep, sinks and passes at once out of sight and out of
memory. But what this unit is to us, each unit of the whole mass of
humanity, from Adam to the thousands who have been born and died since we
entered church, is inconceivably more to God. Not one is lost to his
sight, not one ever becomes to Him of less importance as an immortal
being; and just as we realise this, the question will press itself with
increasing force on us, what is to become of them 1 We cannot get quit of
it. We may do so in regard to the race, but we cannot in regard to those
units of which the race is composed, and many a perplexed mind, and many a
weary, anxious heart yearns for an answer.
"Many object to bring such questions into the
pulpit at all. Is there not, it is asked, enough that is clear, simple,
and of infinite importance, sufficient to occupy with profit the short
time allotted on the Lord's-day for public instruction, and for the
conviction and conversion of sinners now, without putting difficulties
into people's minds, or raising doubts which it may be impossible to
dispel? I deeply sympathize with this, and my whole teaching testifies to
the sincerity of my sympathy, to the earnestness of my desire that it
should be simple and practical, and to avoid as much as possible all
doubtful disputations, and to aim constantly at one thing—to bring souls
to God. And I know well how superficially any such questions can be dealt
with in a sermon. But in these days men need not avoid going to church to
avoid doubts being suggested. We have entered a period of active thought,
such as has not existed since the Reformation. Theological questions on
every truth of Christianity are, within the last few years, forced upon
men's notice in every periodical down to the daily papers. Men cannot
avoid them, out they may avoid church and no help whatever is given to
them there to solve their doubts, and to guide them to truth, and to deal
kindly and candidly and intelligently with their difficulties. For such
difficulties many true Christians have little sympathy. They have
sympathies with struggles against evil deeds or habits, but not with such
doubts as bewildered the mind of St. Thomas when he refused to believe in
the resurrection. These Christians, by the mercy of God, have been blessed
with such a disposition, or have been placed in such circumstances,
whether of early up-bringing, or of gospel preaching, as have enabled them
to grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But there are others
differently placed, and if a minister can help such inquirers; if he can
show them that he understands their difficulties, if he feels with them as
a brother, if he preaches not merely what is given him to utter, as if he
were a machine, but what he believes and feels as one who has to work his
way through difficulties like others; if he has felt 'the burden of the
mystery;' if he can put them in the way of getting the truth ; if, in
short, he can strengthen their faith in God and in Jesus as their teacher,
he will be of some use, and in spite of many defects and even errors, be a
true aid to his fellow men.
"... To believe that God should create by His
power millions of responsible beings, who are doomed to agonies for ever
for not believing or not being what, from circumstances over which they
had no control, they could not believe or be, seems to many earnest minds
. Is there, then, the possibility of the education of human beings, of
those at least who have never had the means of knowing the truth, and of
choosing between light and darkness, of believing in or neglecting Christ,
being continued after death? Whatever weight is attached to this reply,
whatever deliverance it may afford to distressed souls, whatever light it
may cast on the character and purposes of God as revealed in Christ (and
it is held by increasing numbers of the best men in this and other ages of
the Church), let us understand at least what it means. It does not mean
that there is not to be a day of judgment, after which the fate of every
individual of the human family is to be finally determined. But when is
this period to dawn"? It may be thousands, it may be millions, of years
ere the end comes when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God
the Father. Whatever may be done towards such human spirits as we have
spoken of, it is assumed to be before that. Nor does it mean that any man
can be saved here or afterwards in a way essentially different from that
in which he is saved now, except it may be by severer chastisement and a
more trying discipline. It assumes that there is a connection unchangeable
and eternal as the law or character of God, between sin and spiritual
suffering. This must show itself in the want of peace, joy, hope, and all
that glory of character of which man was created, and in the ravages of
spiritual disease, in deformity of soul, in blindness, deafness, and moral
decrepitude. Consequently, come when it may, in this world or the next; or
how it may, by teaching or by chastisement; or when it may, in three score
and ten years or in hundreds of years, there must be a conviction of sin
as sin, a repent. ance towards God, a seeing His love, and a choice of
Himself as God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, before
salvation is possible.
" . . . But it is asked
what there is in Scripture to forbid the belief which a sense of God's
love of righteousness in them craves for, that, may be, the term of
education with millions of the heathen, and of the ignorant, who have been
neglected by selfish men, may not terminate with three score and ten years
? It is not said that it must be so, but it is alleged that, for aught we
know, it may be so. We are reminded that each person as he dies lives
on—seen and known by God, and is the object of His interest somewhere—that
wherever he is, he is as responsible there as here ; and it is asked
whether that, to us unseen,—but to them most real, state of being, —as
real as if it existed in a material world like this,—is necessarily an
abode of hopeless unmitigated woe for such persons as I have alluded to;
whether God's infinite resources are at an end in regard to them, and
whether truth may not be made known there which was never heard here— a
God revealed who was unknown here, a Saviour proclaimed with a fulness,
tenderness, love, and all sufficiency, who has never once preached to them
here; and whether, as the result of this, the kingdom of God may not yet
come in a way that we never dreamt of—and, alas ! never in our wretched
and degraded feebleness and unbelief ever laboured for!
"Many reject this thought. I remember the time
when ministers could entertain the idea of God condemning an infant to
eternal misery from its connection with Adam—an opinion which is as
horrible as any occurring in Brahminism.
"Who would not wish the hope, whose character
I have sketched, to be true? Who would not feel a great relief if they
only saw that it may be true? . . I have some sympathy with the fanatic
Communist who calmly stands to be shot, shouting, ' Let me perish, if
humanity is saved !' I may not see how, without faith in God the Father,
or in Christ the Brother, he can obtain any true idea of humanity as a
unity, or any real love to it; but still there is something grand in such
an idea rising higher than his personal love of life. But where is there
similar grandeur in him who, professing to have this faith, has not only
lost all hope of humanity as a whole, but rests contented in his
hopelessness; who seems to think that any such hope of the probable
salvation of others through Jesus perils his own, and looks with nervous
fear and jealousy at the thought of any future opening of the door of the
awful prison-house to deliver a penitent soul, who never in life had heard
of Christ, as if this made it possible that a door might be opened for his
own fall; who, in spite of all his defects, all his sins, all his greed,
all his heartlessness, all his selfishness, has hope through the long
suffering, forbearance, and patience of God, and who yet feels indifferent
or indignant at the thought of there being possibly ways and means for
this same God acting in mercy to millions of miserable prodigals who never
had His light—a man who cries out, not like the Communist, ' Perish
myself, but live humanity,' but, 'Perish humanity, if I live myself!'
"But the view I speak of may be dismissed by
the one assertion that it is contrary to Scripture. If so, it is not
worthy of the consideration of those who acknowledge, as I do, the supreme
authority of the word of God. But Christian teachers hold it who would
sooner give up their life than the authority of Scripture. They think that
the passages which seem to forbid the thought have reference to what is to
happen after judgment only.
"The possibility of such an education beyond
the grave is also what the early Church and many since believed to be the
only possible meaning that could be attached to the preaching to the
spirits that are in prison, and which has found a place in the creed of
Christendom in the article, 'He descended into hell,' to the unseen
regions, or the world of spirits. . . ."
To Dr. Macleod Campbell:—
"March 16, 1871. . "It was so kind of you, and
therefore so like yourself, to have taken the trouble to write to me.
There is no one living who can so minister to me as you can. You always
find my spirit, and enter into me, while others only touch me. I therefore
feel towards you as to no one else, both as friend and teacher. If ever
you have seed you wish to sow in a soil that will receive it and keep it,
please cast it this way. Oh, that you sent me now and then a few life
thoughts ! How precious would they be!
"I have had a sharp and very painful attack of
gout with sciatica as an interlude, and other pains for a change. This is
the first day I have been out, for a drive', and the blue sky and budding
earth came streaming in as a life-joy to my heart, which showed that the
veil was lifted up which had been concealing from me things beautiful,
'for I saw nor felt how beautiful they were.' I cannot say that spiritual
realities were vividly present to me during my illness ; but I always felt
God as a living atmosphere around me, and I was filled with peace. The
lesson I think He is teaching me is to take more care in glorifying Him in
the body, and to make my common life of work more religious by my living
more quietly, patiently, and obediently. One result of this education is,
that I have resolved not to go to Lord Lorne's marriage. This a great loss
in very many ways to me, as I have been asked to be a guest at Windsor;
but my brother George says 'No,' and so I say 'Amen!' and feel at rest:
When the Communion is over, I shall probably go to some Spa abroad, and
drown the enemy if possible. I am too easily bothered and upset by even
trifling work. When I was confined to bed, I read and was fascinated by
Hutton's 'Theological Essays.' To me, reading such a book is an era. He
has such a firm intellectual grip with one hand of the true scientific
aspects of questions, and with the other holds fast, with true spiritual
insight, to his position of 'God in Christ.' With his anchor fast within
the veil, he swings round and round with a long cable, but always round
the centre. I think it is a great contribution to the times, but I cannot
understand how he should not welcome your views of the atonement, as they
seem to me to harmonize so beautifully with his principles and his views
of truth. I am glad that he adheres to the fourth Gospel.
"What a mystery is this slow—to us slow—growth
in the education of the world! It would be to me still more mysterious, if
it were not to be continued till Christ delivers up the kingdom. 'Then
cometh the end.' When—what? No doubt to the glory of God in a way and
measure such as to overpower the minds and hearts of the whole family of
God. I wait in the full assurance of faith. How strange, too—how long the
clouds linger in the blue sky, which nevertheless are as surely passing
away as the morning mists before His love. It is sweet to think that such
darkness conceals us not from the Light of Life. But the common notion of
the punishment of hell fire, and for all eternity ; the punishment of all
who have not been elected, and have, for Adam's sin, been justly left dead
without an atonement; the atonement itself as explained by
hyper-Calvinists; the utter impossibility of any teaching or salvation
after death (how we may not see); these, and the whole complicated system
of sacerdotalism and popery, seem to me a thousand times doomed. And yet,
God is so wise, so charitable, so patient, such a Father, that even by
these ideas, or in spite of them, He will educate man for 'the fullnes of
time,' the grand ' end !' I feel more and more the simplicity and grandeur
and truth of Luther's idea of faith— to be an out and out child; to be
nothing, that God may be all, not only for us, but in us; and, perhaps
more than Luther would admit, to choose this—and to choose it not only
once for all (a mighty choice !), but always and in all things—what
strength and peace ! I know the lesson, but it seems to me that I have
never learned it. And heaven would be heaven, were it nothing more than
its being the finishing of our education by the perfect utterance of 'Our
9th.—This is Communion Sunday—Easter Sunday. I conducted the service in
the forenoon. I am at home for the rest of the day.
"The winter's work has been chiefly preaching.
I exchanged with Donald, and preached the Temptation sermons in Park
Church, he preaching for me five Sundays. Had pleasant district meetings,
with a new plan of inviting the members to tea. This has helped to unite
us. I have raised by personal application every farthing for Bluevale
Church, now £2,100, and it will soon be the £2,500. I profoundly feel that
this, like all done by me, is God's doing, certainly not mine. Our organ
has been given by kind, good James Baird, and a memorial window by Mrs.
George Grant. I am deeply thankful that the number of my communicants has
been greater than usual, new ones eighteen, and among them my dear------.
Oh ! what a joy it is to see my beloved children, one after the other,
thus in simplicity of faith publicly accepting of the Saviour. God's
Spirit has surely been with them since birth. I don't think they have been
converted by any sudden change. They seem to me as growing up in the
faith, being educated gradually by the Spirit. They are full of life,
energy, and happiness, and will probably have to pass through trials in
which their true life will be deepened. They little know how happy they
are, and in what domestic sunshine they have lived. God bless them,
darlings, in the bonds of Christ.
"I have published in Good Words my War sermon
and my Temptation sermons. The Peace Society seem to dislike me. We don't
comprehend each other. They think me blind, and I think them silly.
"I have been reading Button's 'Essays' with
great delight. His great defect is ignoring the Holy Spirit, or not
connecting Him, as he does the Eternal Son, with one eternal, abiding-
"I have been
much distressed about our Indian Mission. Within a few weeks we have had
many losses; But God will certainly provide. We are deep in debt. We want
men and money; from whom but One can we get both!
"The war! the Beds and Assembly now fighting.
Of course the Commune must go down, or France as a nation must. What next?
Monarchy before long. But the Character of the people has been ruined and
requires a national restoration of principle, of patriotism, of
unselfishness; the destruction of a sensual, vain, irreverent, and cruel
spirit. The French need to be Puritanised, if that is possible, or even
Teutonised. It will take two generations of peace, education, and a firm,
wise, truthful, and powerful government to do this. Where are the
governors? Where are those who will be governed? Unless a nation is
religiously educated, it is gone. I fear our own may suffer from
secularists and Comtists."
The following letter was written in reply to
some inquiries which were made regarding a young clergyman who was a
candidate for a parish. Among other questions Dr Macleod was asked whether
he had any faults.
. . Mr.----------, when with me, was very earnest in the discharge of his
duties, remarkably successful in impressing the working classes, and in
bringing very many not only to the Church, but I believe to God. . . . I
do not say but that he may have defects which some nice critics might
possibly detect, although they are so small as not to be worth mentioning;
but if he were perfect, he would be more fit for heaven than the parish
Simpson, at Messrs. Blackwood and Sons' :—
"May 8, 1871.
the pleasure of sending you my first portion of MS. of the Indian Mission
Report. A single glance will convince you of one fact, and to be assured
of the truth of even one fact is in my opinion a great gain in these days,
when a man is thought a conservative bigot who believes beyond doubt that
2 + 2 = 4. The fact I allude to is, that my hand has not improved with age
and experience. As Falstaff says, 'thou knowest thine old ward,' that is,
my old hand, and it will be some advantage to the Mission if any of your
devils share your knowledge.
"I know a man who was so disgusted with some
'proofs' which he had received, that he commenced a course of study on
printing by ordering 'MacEwan on the Types.' I never heard what effect it
had on him.
send you more as soon as possible—I mean MS., which might be interpreted,
To his Mother:—
'Ems, May 7, 1871.
"What misery you must be enduring, and no wonder! Here am I gone off for
the first time in my life—poor little boy! and across the wild ocean, and
to savage people, not to return for ten long, long years! Oh it's sad!
"A sky of
perfect blue, warm sunshine, but a chill in the shade, an east wind feel,
telling that summer is not yet begun. But the woods are green, the birds
singing, and the cuckoo tolling through the glens.
"I don't feel better, for to tell the truth I
did not feel ill immediately before leaving. But I feel well, peaceful,
happy, and I believe after a month will return with good spirit for fair,
honest work, not extra.
"I have finished 'Lothair,' which I have read
for the first time. It is nothing as a story, or rather it is miserably
ill put together, but it contains a series of most interesting pictures of
life. I have no interest in the hero, he is a mere bit of fine red wax,
impressed by every now seal. The best thing in the book is the exposure of
the tricky and clever way Rome in making converts.
"Now my dear, are you amazed we had no
hurricane? No accidents? No sore backs or broken heads; but that we eat,
sleep, and thoroughly enjoy ourselves, and have now but one wish, to be
back soon among you all."
To his Mother :—
"Ems, May 17, 1871.
"It is interesting to see the wounded soldiers walking about here with
their iron crosses. The leader of the band has one. He led the band of the
Guards as they marched into battle at Gravelotte. A fine old fellow was
drinking at the spring yesterday. A ball had passed into his breast and
out at his back at Spicheren.
"A very nice fellow was dressed in faded
uniform, sitting behind his counter, with such a blithe face. He had come
back the day before to wife and children. His next neighbour, landlord of
the Golden Vine, who was engaged to our landlady's daughter, lies buried
where he fell.
noble-looking Uhlan officer who walks about was surrounded with his troop.
The Trench officer ran a lance through his coat only. The lance broke, and
he shot the officer, and he returned with the lance hanging in his
"I never saw
more modest, unassuming men."
To Dr. Watson :—
"Ems, May, 1871.
have been fairly settled here for two days only, living in lodgings,
rising at 6.30, drinking, morning and evening, half-boiled soda water from
a Brunnen; taking baths every second day, walking two hours, watching
roulette, and rejoicing in the losses of the fools who stake their money;
reading novels (Lothair for the first time), and all with balmy air and a
quiet conscience. I am as yet much as I was when I left home, well, but
heavy in the legs, and gouty. But I have no doubt I shall be all right and
anxiety is our Mission.
"Holland is in a horrid state, a hundred and
sixty-five parishes vacant, no clergy to fill them. Rationalism reigns.
The national system of education is rearing a godless people. The teaching
of national history even is forbid, as the history of the national
struggles against Rome would offend the Papists. May heaven confound their
did me more good than a hogshead of M's or N's water. A thousand thanks
for it. Of course I am anxious about the India Mission Report. I may have
to resign the Convenership. But I leave my honour in your hands, and give
you full authority to give in my resignation when you give in your own. I
will not carry out a different policy from the present. I could not. My
judgment would not go with it. So far from losing heart, one result of
restored health, should God grant it, will, I firmly and gladly hope, be
to let me loose again for a season through the chief towns in Scotland,
and to address the students, on behalf of the Mission. ' We believe, and
deeply feel with you that unless we get such men as Jardine, Wilson,
Grant, it will be vain to sow seeds in India which will produce the Church
of the future. An American clergyman told me yesterday that Puritan (once)
New England is now becoming the hot-bed for atheism and Popery. I pray God
we may be able to help to save Scotland from a similar re-action, which
the union of the F. and U. P. Churches would develop more rapidly. I don't
fear disestablishment; but so long as there is a clerical order of men,
who may beg, but are not allowed to dig, I fear an uneducated and low-bred
"Ems, May 31, 1871.
"I did not tell you I had crossed to London. I heard, en route, a night
service in Cologne Cathedral.
There were 2,000 people
present, a mere handful in that huge pile. The sermon was quite like a
Gaelic one, preached by a hot old Ross-shire minister, in which the
glories of Rome took the place of the glories of the Kirk and its
principles. All other parties were of course anathematised. The people
were deeply earnest. After the sermon, a glorious simple hymn was sung,
led by the organ, and by female or boys' voices only. The last rays of
evening were lighting up the exquisite old windows high up in the nave,
and casting on the pillars, whose tops were lost in darkness, marvellous
colours of every hue; below was the dark, silent mass of worshippers.
Lights were on the altar, above which was the tawdry image—so like
India!—of Virgin and Child. Under the altar were the famous 'Kings of
Cologne,' who had paid homage to Christ, the ' Magi,' all telling of
mediaeval stories, belonging to a world passing away; but all was lost to
me in those angelic strains that warbled here and there as they seemed to
wander along the fretted roof, coming you knew not from whence. An old
priest before the altar then repeated various prayers, the commandments,
&c, to which Amens were given, that were repeated like the murmurs of the
sea, from the large congregation. The holy sacrament was exhibited, and
all knelt in silent devotion, and then departed. What a strange world is
this ! Not one there ever heard of G------or B------! and yet Scotland, if
true to God, and not to its Church only, will help to blow up Rome,
otherwise Rome will blow it up.
"I am not so very sad now. My spirits rise
sometimes in proportion to real difficulties, and I feel anxious to enter
on India Mission work with renewed vigour."
To Dr. Watson :—
"Ems, June 5, 1871.
"I have been greatly worried day and night by the India Mission. What
speeches have I made about it! And so it is that I have got the old gout
back, and can hardly crawl. Why do I bother myself? Why do I think? It is
in my blood—bone of my bone; it came with my father and mother and all my
forbears, and must die with me; but it is not to every one I can lay bare
my feelings. On thy calm, devoted head I can discharge my lightning, and
roar like thunder, or bray like an ass. So I am thankful I was not in the
Assembly. I would have gone wild, and been sorry for it next morning. The
cause was in belter and wiser hands when in thine."
From his Journal:—
"Geddes, September 14, 1871.
"Early in May we went to Ems by the advice of
Sir William Jenner. The back-bone of that journey is recorded in Good
Words. We were very happy. Dear Nommey went with us. The Van Loons were
very kind to us. The General Assembly, and its ignorant treatment of the
Indian Mission, has given me some trouble, and if God spares me, I shall
in a long and possibly final speech in the next General Assembly, defend
it with all my might from these attacks."
One of the few public meetings which he
attended this year was the Scott Centenary, held in Glasgow in August. The
address recently given to the British Association by its distinguished
president—his esteemed friend Sir William Thomson—respecting the meteoric
origin of the germs from which vegetable and animal life have been
evolved, was then exciting considerable comment, and it provoked him to
indulge on this occasion in some quiet banter, which no one of the
audience enjoyed more than Sir William.
"It is not for me," he said, "to account for
the genesis of that marvellous literature, so prolific as to have
multiplied and replenished the earth. Instructed by science, I dare not
seek its origin in the creative mind of Scott; yet, as it is a literature
so full of life, it must, I suppose, have come from life somewhere. Will
my illustrious friend, the President of the British Association—for whom
my highest admiration and deepest affection are divined—pardon an
ignoramus like me, if I start an hypothesis to account for those
extraordinary phenomena? Is it not possible, I timidly ask, that some
circulating library, or, more correctly speaking, some library circulating
through endless space—some literary meteoric group of 'Mudies' and 'Maclehoses'
was broken up—and that the shreds of the exploded leaves fell on Ben Nevis
or the Braes of Lochaber, accompanied, perhaps, by the shivered fragments,
from a distant Highland world, of bagpipes and claymores and 'spleuchans'
and kilts, and that out of them sprang 'Waverley,' and that this product
'Waverley' selected, very naturally, the west of Scotland in which to
evolve sundry other novels of that ilk?"
[A friend who was an habitué of the "back
study" relates, that shortly before the speech was delivered, the
"meteoric theory" was there discussed, especially with reference to the
reception it had met with from newspaper critics, who seemed to be
unanimous in holding that it only removed the difficulty as to the origin
of life a stage back. Norman's friend, in a note which he sent to a local
journal, and which was read in the "back study," contended that this
criticism was unfair, inasmuch as the difficulty was not only removed
farther back, but removed out of this world altogether, and after having
bothered our savants for ages, would now have to be taken up by the
Association for the Promotion of Science in one of the other planets.
Tickled by this suggestion, and marching up and down the room, Norman
dictated a P. S. to be appended to the note.
"Perhaps the men of science would do well, in
accordance with these latest results, to re-write the first chapter of
Genesis in this way:—
"1. The earth was without form and void.
"2. A meteor fell upon the earth.
"3. The result was fish, flesh, and fowl.
"4. From these proceeded the British Association.
"5. And the British Association pronounced it all tolerably good !"]
From his Journal :—
"Geddes, September 14, 1871.
"Thank God for this peace ! I have had a most
blessed time here—the more blessed because, as I had anticipated, it made
my own dear one so happy. No wonder ! It has been like a resurrection of
old friends of the family, rich and poor. The kindness of all has been
quite overpowering. I thank God that my children, who have been all I
could wish—have had proof of the deep affection and respect in which their
grandfather and grandmother have been held. It is most touching, and
immensely gratifying — a great reward for their goodness — to hear their
praises spoken of by every one with a pathos and touching heartiness which
is most pleasing. I cannot tell what a marvellous gift Geddes has been to
me. It has made our own John literally alive again. I have preached twice
here, and given an Indian address, and raised £40. I have preached with
great delight twice in the School House. I wish daily to reveal the Father
to His children. It is such light, such freedom, such a binding power!
"We have sung, danced, and played croquet. I
have written ' Major Fraser.'
"God reconciles all in Himself.
"Oh, my Father, thanks—thanks be to Thee!
"We leave to-morrow. I lament nothing. I thank
God for everything. His goodness is overpowering. I do know how good He
While at Geddes
the memory of John Mackintosh seemed continually with him as a sweet and
refreshing presence. One of his first walks was to a spot closely
associated with him, and he used to tell the overpowering effect it had,
when, as he was sitting there wrapped in quiet thought, he heard the wild
sad notes of the bag-pipe playing ' Mackintosh's Lament'—one of the most
beautiful, as it was now the most appropriate of pibrochs. The family
usually spent the evening in the hall, off which opened the door of what
had been John Mackintosh's room; and when his children were dancing reels,
he would often sit watching them, lost in quiet thought, the past and
present mingling without discord, and feeling how ' God reconciled all
things in Himself.' The following impromptu lines express the character of
MEMORIAM OF "THE EARNEST STUDENT."
In the hall was dancing and singing,
My children were brimful of joy,
I sat there alone, and in shadow,
Near his room dreaming about him
Who there long had laboured and prayed,
Where angels saw heaven and earth meeting
In the heart of that true child of God,—
The bright, the unselfish, and joyous!
And the chill winds of autumn were moaning
Through the pines, down his favourite walks;
But the stars were out brightly shining,
And one brighter than all was above.
I dreamt of those last days of sickness,
Of his patience, his meekness, and love,
Of the calm of his summer twilight,
Of the midnight before the bright day.
As I gazed at that chamber, long empty,
In this home, his heaven when on earth,
It was strange, it was terribly awing,
To think of him now lying dead!
Dead as the granite that heavily
Covered him with the stones and clay!
That heart of the laughing and loving
In a cold leaden coffin lying still!
That heart to which all that was truest
And pure was a well-spring of joy,
Yonder twenty long years lying buried,
Yet for twenty long years still living
Elsewhere in the home of his Father!
Ah, where was he now, in what mansion,
In what star of the infinite sky?
Whom had he met since we parted,
Since the night when we bade him farewell?
What since had he seen, was he seeing?
What since had he done, was he doing?
"With whom had he spoke, was he speaking?
Did he think of us here, and remember
Those he never forgot when on earth?
Was he here with the ministering angels
In the hall of his early dead home?
Ah, what would he think of our evenings
Our evenings so merrily spent?
Could his heart now feel holy sorrow,
With his faith and love perfect in God?
Could his heavenly sunshine be shadowed,
Beholding these forms of earth's gladness
'Midst the sin and the sufferings of life?
Would he wonder that we could be happy
And his and our Saviour still waiting
To see joy from his anxious soul-travail,
And the true life of God in the world?
Ah ! that dear one would bear our weakness,
Our sleep 'midst the glories around,
Our blindness to all he rejoiced in,
Our slowness to learn from our Lord!
As I gazed at his room, now silent,
The sweet life he then lived recalling,
Him laughing and playing with children,
Telling tales to them, singing them songs;
His true soul in harmony chiming
With all the arrangements of God;
I awoke from my dream, yet saying,
In anguish, "My love, thou art dead!
Thou art dead to us twenty long years!"
Then I said, "No, my love is living;
For is he not part of our being,
And with us wherever we are;
And are not all 'together with God'—
With Himself the life of the living!"
If we saw thee once more among us,
We would fly to thine arms entwining,
And thy smiles as of old would welcome
With the old voice of love only sweeter,
And the bright eyes of love only brighter
All lovely I see thee among us,
And hear thy loved accents again;
In my calmed heart whispering gently,
"These joys are all gifts from our
Father, But our Father Himself is all."
Now all are at rest. It is midnight—
How dead is the hall and how silent!
The night winds still sadly are moaning,
But the stars are still brightly shining,
Still o'er all is the bright light of God!
To Mrs. Macleod:—
"Balmoral, Oct., 1871.
"I preached extempore, on 'Our Father which
art in Heaven,' and on the education of men beyond the grave. I fear I
shocked not a few—I hope I did so for good.
"We have here Helps and Mr. Forster, M.P., and
we have had tremendous theological talks till 2 a.m. I keep my own not
amiss. I have the greatest possible respect for Forster's abilities and
truthfulness. Would to God we could lose our Calvinism, and put all the
teaching of Christ and His apostles in a form according to fact and not
theory. 'Our Father' is the root of all religion and morality, and can be
seen with the spirit, rather than the mere intellect.
"The Queen has asked me to remain till
to-morrow. I hope to have another set-to with the M.P. He seems to expect
the same, as he said ' Hurrah !' when I told him I was to remain."
From his Journal :—
"January.— I have lost much to my memory,
already failing from a multiplicity of objects, in having recorded so
little about '71.
have been very steadily at home since September, and my every day occupied
with those details of public and private life which, although important at
the time and demanding patience and forethought, and bringing usual cares
and worries, soon pass, like the seas which a vessel meets every ten
minutes, that hit her, splash over her, make her shiver, and are
forgotten. My life is strangely broken into small parts, and as this is
God's will, I must submit and make the best of it.
"Events! what are they? None! Addressing
meetings and soirées in my own parish, preaching, finishing Bluevale
Church, directing India Mis-sion, writing letters innumerable, visiting
sick, writing nonsense for Good Words for the Young—doing everything and
doing nothing. Stanley has been with me."
The hymn 'Trust in God and do the Right,'
which had been written in 1858, was not published in Good Words until
January, 1872. On its appearance there a writer in a local paper charged
Dr. Macleod with plagiarism from an American hymn-writer, stating that he
had in his possession a volume, compiled by Philip Philips, of Hymns by
American Authors, in which these words occurred; that this volume was in
circulation a considerable time before this number of Good Words appeared.
A friend having sent this criticism to Dr. Macleod, the following letter
was sent in reply:—
your note with extract from a Paisley newspaper last night on my return
from Liverpool. I think the critic might have done me the justice of
sending me a copy of his remarks. But this has too often been my
experience of writers in newspapers. They seldom take the trouble to let
you know what they have been publishing against you; I have seen letters
and criticisms founded upon the most absurd assumptions weeks after they
were published, and, of course, never contradicted. In regard to the
verses in question it is quite clear that some Yankee in his zeal for
hymnology has neither trusted God nor done the right, but trusted to a lie
and done the wrong. These verses of mine were first published at the end
of a lecture given to the young men at Exeter Hall in 1858. The music was
composed by Sullivan expressly for the words. But it is perfectly possible
that some spiritualist hymn-writer in America may have written the same
words, composing the same music, using Mr. Philip Philips as his medium.
After all, such barefaced stealing is too bad.
"Make any use of this you please."
As he had always practised strict reticence
regarding all matters connected with the Court, and heartily hated that
gossip which the public craves for only too greedily, he was not a little
surprised and annoyed to find a few kindly words he had spoken off-hand at
the laying of a foundation-stone at Lenzie, near Glasgow, made the
occasion for a grossly personal attack on the part of some of the English
newspapers. The insinuation as to his using flattery for selfish objects
was too offensive to be publicly noticed by him, but he was none the less
gratified by the manner in which he was vindicated by other
representatives of the press.
To Mr. Hedderwick, Editor of the Glasgow
have just read your generous defence of me against the most untrue and
malicious attacks of the newspapers. The fact is that during the thirteen
or fourteen years in which I have been in close contact with the Royal
Family, I have carefully avoided ever speaking about them in public, and
in private only to intimate friends. Yet I have often felt my heart
burning in listening to all the wild lies told about them. These, my only
two speeches, were purely accidental, and almost forced upon me.
"At Lenzie I forgot there were reporters in
the room, and was suddenly-called upon by the chairman to confirm the
account he gave of the Queen's health ; and a minute before I spoke I had
as much intention of doing so as of seeking to be knighted. So it was in
the Presbytery—I was not aware the topic was to be introduced. Dr. M. was
speaking about it as I entered. He stopped, and called on me to propose
it, and I did so without one minute's preparation. To flatter majesty is
gross impertinence. As to being knighted, thank God the Queen herself
cannot bestow any honour of the kind on a Scotch clergyman. No possible
favour can she grant me, or honour bestow, beyond what the poor can give
the poor—her friendship.
asked a favour from the Queen or Government since I was born."
The improvement which his
sojourn at Ems and the summer's rest at Geddes had wrought on his health
was unfortunately of short duration. Before mid-winter was reached, and in
spite of his taking the utmost care in avoiding unnecessary engagements,
his work began to tell heavily upon him, and he assumed a wearied and
broken-down aspect. Labour which before sat lightly on him, was now
exhausting toil, and an increasing sense of depression weighed on his
spirits. The most ominous and distressing symptom was the restlessness
which he experienced whenever he retired for the night, and which
prevented him enjoying sleep for more than a quarter of an hour at a time.
Though happily unaccompanied by pain, this usually lasted till morning,
and became so trying, that in order to humour it he generally passed the
night on a sofa in his dressing-room. A volume of Alison's "History of
Europe" and Gurwood's "Sketches" lay on the mantel-piece and the long
hours, broken by brief snatches of sleep, were spent in reading the
accounts of campaigns and battles [This kind of reading had always a
peculiar charm for him, so that not unfrequently after a day of unusual
hard mental work, preaching or otherwise, he would have recourse to
Alison's "History," or "Wellington's Dispatches," and find refreshment in
giving entire change of thought. ] About seven in the morning he would
return to his room, and after an hour or two of refreshing slumber enter
on the hard toil of the day.
He devoted much time during this winter to his
pulpit, writing all his sermons fully out, and preaching not only with
great delight to himself, but in a manner so instructive to his people
that they look back to the teaching of these later months as more precious
than any they ever received from him.
He went to London in February, on the occasion
of the public thanksgiving in St. Paul's, for the recovery of the Prince
of Wales. The gathering of the representatives of the British empire for
such a purpose, the imposing ceremony, the spectacle of the vast cathedral
filled with its ten thousand worshippers, the music, the dignified
service, all combined to impress him deeply. "I thank God," he said, to
his brother who sat beside him, "for a National Church, without which we
could not have such an expression of the national religion. It is all
worthy and right. We could not do this in Scotland- Our Presbyterianism is
too individual in its methods,—healthy enough as bringing the soul to deal
with the personal God, but there should be room in a Church, which
professes to be national and historic, for such a service as this."
One feature in the assembly deeply affected
him. There were near him a number of Orientals, Parsees, Hindoos, and
Mahommedans, whose presence touched a sympathetic chord in his heart. In
his speech to the General Assembly three months afterwards, he alluded to
the impression that scene had made on him. "When these men," he said,
"some of them representatives of sovereigns who once occupied the thrones
of India, beheld the assembly, which, take it all in all, was one of the
most remarkable ever gathered—when they beheld the Queen who now ruled
over them, the legislature of Britain, old warriors covered with medals
won in many a hard-fought battle in their own India, men of philosophy and
science, men who had governed provinces far greater than England,— all
bowing down in worship, and when they heard like a mighty breeze the
prayer whispered from these ten thousand lips, 'Our Father which art in
heaven;' what if one of these Easterns had risen and said, 'You have sent
us laws, men of science, and warriors, but have never told us of that
Father to whom you pray !' Could that be said in truth, then might a
greater assembly still be summoned to ask God's mercy on a nation that had
been so unfaithful."
The Scotchmen settled in Liverpool had always shown him affection, which
was quite reciprocated by him, and as his eldest son was now there
learning business, he determined on his way home from London to visit him,
and beg for funds for his beloved India Mission. His method of approaching
some of the merchants of the town greatly amused them. "If you treat me in
Liverpool as well as I see you treat dogs I will be content," he said to
one of them; and in answer to the puzzled look of inquiry, he added,
"Merely that I noticed how a dog had carried off hundreds of pounds at a
coursing match, and I think I am as good as a dog any day."
To George Campbell, Esq:—
"Broadgreen, Liverpool, February, 1872.
"Thanks for your £50. I will tell you a
story—a rare thing with me. The beadle and gravedigger of Kilwinning
parish, Ayrshire, was dying. One day his minister found him very sad, and
on questioning him as to the cause of this unusual depression, he said, 'I
was just countin' that since the now year I had buried fifty folk,
includin' bairns, and I was hopefu' that I might be spared to mak' oot the
hunner (hundred) afore the neist new year.'
"Do you see? That heart of yours is, I guess,
even bigger than your purse. May both be bigger, if possible!
"I am trembling betwixt hope and fear for my
way to Liverpool he received the tidings of the death of the man whom of
all others he reverenced and loved, Dr. John Macleod Campbell. During the
few previous months he had seen one after another of his friends pass
away. Erskine of Linlathen and Maurice had just entered into their rest,
and now Campbell, to him the greatest and best of all, had followed.
During the same month he visited St. Andrew's
for the purpose of urging the claims of the Mission, and appealing to the
students of the University for volunteers to go to India as missionaries.
"We were all struck," Principal Shairp writes, "by his worn and flaccid
look; he seemed so oppressed and nervous when he was going to address only
a few hundred people in our small university chapel; and I well remember
the close of that address. After describing very clearly and very calmly
the state of the Mission and its weakness for want of both fit men and
sufficient funds, his last words were, "If by the time next General
Assembly arrives neither of those are forthcoming, there is one who wishes
he may find a grave!" That was his last word, and it fell like a knell on
my heart and on many more. So infirm was he that day, that though the
college church is scarcely a hundred yards from our house, he had to 'be
driven both there and back!
From his Journal:—
"March 1.—What events of importance or
interest to myself have been crowded into the months and days which have
passed since these last words have been written! The Thanksgiving for the
dear Queen and Prince this week in London—the grandest thing, morally, I
have ever witnessed or can witness; and the death of my best of friends,
and of the best man I have ever known on earth or can know—my own John
implies worlds to me as affecting my inner life. I might have added to it
the crisis of the Indian Mission; yet I am so wearied in body and soul
this night, that I cannot write about them, yet cannot be silent, but must
mark this point and transition between my past and future, in which I am
involved as a minister, a citizen, and a friend. Oh my dear, dear John! I
left thee to-day in thy grave, and the world can never more be the same to
me. Thy light, shining through an earthly tabernacle, is gone; my staff is
departed; the arm on which I leant is in the grave; and my best and truest
of friends is dead! Oh, how I loved him and adored him on this side of
idolatry! He was my St. Paul. No words of mine can express my love to him.
I took part with Story in the service; I lowered him to his grave; I
cannot preach about him to-morrow; I hope to do so next Sunday. Till then,
all things else depart."
To Principal Shairp:—
"Saturday, March 16, 1872.
"My dearest John,
"More dear than ever, as friend after friend
departs, and as we feel ourselves every year like the remains of an old
Guard, whose comrades have almost all left us—all who could speak, not of
the old wars, but of the old times of joy and hope, of struggle and of
victory. The reason, perhaps, why I have not written to yon, or indeed to
any one who was one with me in devoted love to beloved John Campbell, was
that I knew we had the same feeling, the same sense of loss, the same joy
in his gain, the same everything! I heard of it in England. It was a
sudden and terrible blow. As we praised God in St. Paul's, he, a king and
priest, had entered into the joy of his Lord; and oh, John, what joy ! You
said truly to me that if there be a God, we as men are alienated from Him,
and need reconciliation; and I add, if there be a God—shocking 'if even to
speak of—he is with Him. I returned home on Friday, and was in time for
his funeral on Saturday. I took part in the services along with Story, and
what that was to me you will understand, as I prayed in the church, near
the head of his coffin. It was a wet and cold day, but there was a large
attendance of ministers, and of men and women, who loved him as few were
loved. Tuesday I spent with his wife and family, and hoard all. Five days
before his death, when very cheerie, he wrote his last and a most
beautiful letter to comfort orphans. But he spoke not much of religion
when dying. His silent death was like his life, an 'amen' to God's will.
"I preached a funeral sermon for him, which I
will publish, that his dear Lord may be glorified in him, even through
unworthy me. He has left a large collection of letters; many written to
his father on the Mondays, giving an account of his teaching on the
previous Sundays at Row; many to his brother and sister, both worthy of
him; a series over ten years, to his son, on general subjects of Christian
interest; all immensely valuable. Who will edit these? I know not. In
spite of my dearest wish, it seems impossible that a man so poor in good
as I am should be called upon to give an account of such men as our two
beloved Johns! But the treasure is often committed to earthen vessels,
that the power might be seen to be of God.
"My heart, dear, is very sore. The world and
life look awfully serious to mo. I feel as if the winding-up were coming
soon, and I have a depressing sense, of which no one but God can judge, of
a miserably improved life. But such feelings are for God, more than for
man. They don't come from gout, as they are of late my habit; yet I suffer
still from the enemy. God is my only light, and I seek to cast the burden
of my soul, my life, my fears, my all on Him; and yet my very faith is so
which he preached on Dr. Campbell was afterwards published in another form
in Good Words. The privilege and responsibility of speaking regarding his
lamented friend were so keenly realised by him that, before beginning, he
wrote on the fly-leaf of his manuscript the following touching prayer:—
"May God the Father, whose glory my beloved
friend ever sought, teach me, a miserable sinner, who am unworthy to speak
of the holy ones in His presence, to speak of His saint in glory so as to
give some true impression, of what he was; that Jesus, who was and is his
'all in all,' may be glorified in and by him; and that, though dead, he
may speak through my feeble lips! I begin with fear and trembling; yet, if
I am every Sunday called upon to speak of Jesus, why should I fear to
speak of one of His holy apostles? God help me in His mercy!
"Saturday, March 9, 1872."
Similar prayers are of frequent occurrence on
the first or last pages of his sermons, and there are sometimes brief
notices of the events in his own life, which suggested certain lines of