Happy they who in an age like this
can preserve unclouded serenity of mind, and invest at once in fruitful
work all their capital of faith.
Stewart skirted without crossing the
Karoo and great Thirst-Land of unbelief. We may be sure that this was not
due to sloth of mind, and that his orthodoxy was not truth at second-hand.
Few intellects were more alert than his. But he converted doctrine into
action, and action is usually the death-warrant of doubt about the
fundamentals. From the first he wished his conviction to be attached to
the great driving-wheels of modern life.
His belief was that life and
religion are one thing, or neither is anything. He had thus scanty
respect for those who are chiefly interested in the intellectual side of
Christianity. One evening a friend was speaking of this class. Have you
ever seen a pig eating plums? Stewart asked (an African experience, we
suppose). You know, it takes the plum into its mouth, and squeezes it.
The juice squirts out on each side, and the pig crunches the stone.
was simple, direct, and very plain, and in entire
harmony with the man behind the sermons. He was unconventional, never
wearing clerical dress, except in the pulpit and on special occasions.
His reading of Scripture was very striking, and many are of opinion that
he was most powerful and original in the brief remarks he often made on
the passage read. His voice had a fine musical timbre, unlike that of any
other man, and in his best moods he was a master of accent in speech. It
was always the accent of deep conviction. The texts were short and very
practical, and he was free from mannerisms and a pulpit tone. He was not
eloquent in the ordinary sense. He had passion in his thoughts, but not
the passion that creates a gush and flow of exciting words, and thus he
seldom let himself go. Sometimes his speech was disjointed. Now and
again his sentences were like pistol-shots, after which he paused as if to
see whether they had reached the mark. His temperament and style were
those of a teacher rather than of a preacher.
My first meeting with Dr. Stewart,
writes one of his colleagues, was at Port Elizabeth in 1878. He had just
arrived from Central Africa, and was on his way to Lovedale. Though
suffering from the effects of fever, he was able to preach in the
Presbyterian church next day. His presence in the pulpit was always very
striking, and to us on this occasion it was so in a remarkable degree.
With an impressive manner, and in his deep and rich voice, he read the
first chapter of Genesis, with an effect on some of us that was almost
overwhelming. Two, at any rate, of that audience will never forget it. He
took as his text the words from the same chapter," And God created man in
His own image." The sermon was equally impressive, clear, deliberate, and
Spirit.That is revealed in a letter written in his student days when he
began to address meetings. I have learnt this at least, that to preach as
we ought will require a much greater cultivation of acquaintance with
Jesus Christ as a living Person, than I, at least, have been in the habit
From the first the instinct for
souls was strong in him. No matter how busy he was, he had always a
pastoral heart at leisure for the humblest. As God and his own conscience
were theatre and spectators enough, he knew how to value obscure and
unnoticed services. He delighted in that art of arts, the management of
solitary individuals seeking spiritual guidance. The weal of a single soul
seemed to interest him as deeply as the boldest of his enterprises. In
this he imitated his Master, nineteen of whose reported addresses were
delivered to an audience of one. We add a few testimonies from the
Christian Express :
His ministry to the sick and poor
during those years is still spoken of. No matter what work he had on hand,
the moment he heard of distress, or sickness, or death, he was there to
comfort and to help. It was at such times that one seemed to get nearest
to Dr. Stewarts heart. Suffering of all kinds found in him a willing and
During the last twenty years his
ministrations to all who were in needthe sick, the troubled, the
forlornnever failed in regularity or in helpfulness.
Even after he was relieved of the
duties of pastor, he continued to visit the sick and the bereaved. Those
visits were always welcome, and on such occasions the tenderness and
sympathy of the man percolated through.
The kirk-session of the Presbyterian
church at Alice adopted the following resolution after his death. For
almost twenty years, as sole or chief pastor, he gave to it all that a
faithful minister could give of thought, teaching, and sympathy, and for
twenty subsequent years, under the pressure of many and various labours
and anxieties, his care of its people never ceased, so that down to his
last day of strength he never failed to visit or succour the sick, the
dying, or the bereaved. His memory, his wisdom, his loving ministry, are
esteemed in many hearts, and can never be forgotten.
must have been numerous, for often his arrow found its
mark. The power of his sermons was largely in his unique personality. One
who heard him often, wrote: It is to be hoped that some of his sermons
will take to themselves a permanent form. Nay, they have already a
permanent and abiding form in the hearts of many hearers. His were the
words that remained; time seemed to be powerless to deal with them. We
have met men who thus speak of Dr. Stewart: "I first saw him in . He
preached then from the text . I shall never forget, so long as life
lasts, his sermons." These are not single instances. Neither was the
effect of his preaching confined to any particular class of men. He
reached all classes, all conditions, for he preached the pure Gospel of
our Lord. And thus to the unlettered native his message was as acceptable
and as helpful as it was to the most learned of men.
The Rev. John Knox Bokwe, who was
his private secretary for twenty years, writes: One day in the Alice
Presbyterian church, Dr. Stewart preached on the text, "The harvest is
past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." I was the only native
African in the congregation. The words were so simple as to be understood
by an uncouth Kafir lad of twelve, and they pierced through my heart. I
was overcome, and felt that there and then I must seek the way of
salvation. The matter did not end with the service. Conversations with Dr.
Stewart led me to an understanding of the way of life, and I was admitted
to the membership of the church. No Christian worker at Lovedale took more
pains in winning souls to Jesus Christ, or less credit for his help in
such cases. I can testify that many an African youth at Lovedale was
awakened by the power of Dr. Stewarts preaching, encouraged by his
prayers and advices in private, and guided by him into the way of
His legal adviser, in view of these
No wonder that he fitted my highest
conception of what a man and a Christian should be.
A real soul-friend, he knew how to
carry the oil of gladness into the house of mourning. Very touching
testimony is borne to his deep sympathy with, and affectionate devotion
to, the dying. He was gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her
children, and he convoyed them far in their journey through the final