Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Memoirs of John Urquhart
Chapter 5 Part A


Letter to his Mother in reference to his becoming a Tutor in a family of high respectability — Letter to Herbert Smith, Esq. — Extracts from his Journal—Letter to Mr. Craik—Letter—Extracts from his Journal — Letter to Mr. Trail —Letter to his Sister — Letters —Extracts from various letters to Mr. Scott Moncrieff— Letter to his friend C. — Letter to Mr. Herbert Smith — Letter to the Rev. John Burnett — Letter to Mr. Adam — Letter to Mr. Orme — Letter —Letters to his Sister — Letter to Mr. Trail — Letter to Mr. Adam— Letter to his afflicted friend — Letter to Mr. Trail.

Previously to John’s leaving St. Andrew’s, a negotiation had been carried on, through Dr. Chalmers, with a family of the highest respectability, in which a tutor was required for an only son. It was finally agreed that he should occupy this situation soon after the close of his College course. This arrangement arose, not out of any change in his mind respecting the work of the gospel, but was acceded to, with a view to satisfy his friends, and finally to gain their consent to his becoming a missionary; and also, in the expectation of being able to promote his own improvement by retirement and study. The following extract from a letter to his mother, will explain his motives, the state of his mind, and a few other particulars:

"ST. ANDREW’S, April 15, 1826.

"MY DEAR MOTHER — I am afraid I have kept you in suspense regarding my plans. I have been waiting in daily expectation of hearing something more definite respecting the situation I wrote about.

"Before I heard of this situation at all, I wrote to Mr. Orme, asking his advice how I ought to proceed after this session, telling him my views regarding missions, and particularly wishing to know the state of the Missionary Society’s arrangements. I received his answer, and my father’s last letter by the same post. His advice was to write to Mr. Arundel, making application to the Society. You know this was the plan I had purposed to myself, and you may guess that I was in no small perplexity how to act. The prospect of benefitting by classes at Glasgow, my extreme youth and inexperience, and, above all, the wish to show my dear parents that I am willing to acquiesce in their wishes as far as conscience will permit, have induced me to accept of this situation. I hope the Lord has been my guide in this matter.

"Accordingly I communicated my willingness to avail myself of his kindness, to Dr. Chalmers, who wrote to Lord Rosslyn immediately. A letter has come from Lord Rosslyn to Dr. Chalmers, this morning, enclosing a letter from Colonel M-----to his lordship, giving some more information respecting the place. Nothing is said about the salary. I do not expect it will be great, as my charge will be very small, and I am to have the liberty of attending classes.

"I told Dr. Chalmers distinctly to state to Lord Rosslyn that I am a Dissenter, and that if I am near Glasgow, I should like to attend Dr. Wardlaw, or Mr. Ewing. Perhaps this may be an objection to my settling in the family; if so, it is better that it be stated now, than afterwards."

Previously to his joining the family, then on a visit at Lord Rosslyn’s, at Dysart House, he proposed a short missionary tour in the Highlands, along with his friend Mr. Adam; but he was taken ill in his father’s house, and rendered incapable of any exertion for some weeks. While convalescent he wrote a long letter to an old fellow-student, between whom and himself there appears to have subsisted a very endeared friendship. I mean Herbert Smith, Esq., of Egham, Surrey. The testimony of that gentleman, to the amiable, and Christian character of my beloved friend, and to his high intellectual attainments, corresponds with that of all his other associates. To him John gives an account of some of the plans which had been prosecuted at St. Andrew’s, during the preceding winter. In this respect it is particularly interesting, and also for the reference to the simultaneous movements in the Universities.

"PERTH, May 11, 1826.

"MY VERY DEAR FRIEND — I was just going to proceed with an account of the St. Andrew’s University Missionary Society, (in which you have always taken so deep an interest,) when I was compelled to leave off, through weakness. To resume the subject then — at our first meeting we had not a very large attendance: we presented the different presents of books which had been received from yourself, Dr. Morrison, Mr. Townley, and other friends of the missionary cause. I then read to the Society that part of your very interesting letter, which directly referred to our association; and, I trust, we have profited by the hints it contained. Votes of thanks were ordered to be transferred to those liberal donors who had made such valuable additions to its library. I took the responsibility of communicating to you this expression of the Society’s gratitude. I am ashamed to think that it has not been communicated long, long ere now. I cannot go minutely into details. Suffice it to say, that the Society has prospered even more than in the former session. We were kindly permitted to meet in the old Episcopalian chapel. Dr. Haldane at once accepted the patronage of the Society, and offered any room in St. Mary’s we might think convenient, as a place of meeting. One thing I think exceedingly interesting, is, that similar societies have now been formed in all the Universities of Scotland, and a kind of simultaneous movement was made this last session, towards a system of general correspondence. Might we hope that this could be extended to institutions of a similar nature, in the Universities of England? In a letter from the Society in the Glasgow University, they mentioned that they had had some correspondence with a Missionary Association in one of the Colleges of America. It were very desirable (and I think it is not impracticable) to see all the pious young men in our great seminaries of learning, united to each other by this great bond of Christian philanthropy. Perhaps you could do something by opening a channel of correspondence between some of the Colleges in Cambridge, and the Scottish Universities. I expect to spend next winter in Glasgow. I could communicate anything from you on this subject, to the Association there, and it would immediately be circulated among the sister Universities.

"15th. There is a new system of religious instruction which has been attempted in St. Andrew’s this last session, and which I think is a most efficient system for evangelizing large towns. The plan is very simple. We just inquired after some persons residing in different quarters of the town, who were religiously disposed. We called on these, and requested the favour of a room in their house, for a few of the neighbours to assemble in for religious purposes. We expected a little group of eight or ten persons to assemble, but were astonished to find the attendance increase in some of the stations to fifty or sixty. Many of these never went to church. We generally read and explained a passage of Scripture, and read some extracts from such books as we thought were most striking and useful. I have some doubt whether a layman in the Church of England could attempt this; but if the laws of the church and the state allow, I think many a Christian would find ample scope for such employment, in the dark places of your towns and villages. You understand, we never called it preaching; and accordingly Dr. Haldane gave his consent that the young men in the Established Church should engage in the work. Churchmen and Dissenters all went hand in hand, and we forgot that there was any distinction. And this must be the case more universally, ere the cause of our great Redeemer can go triumphantly forward. Tait has already begun similar meetings in Edinburgh, and some have been commenced here. I do think this a most plausible method for getting at that class of the community who do not attend the public services of the gospel. You know Dr. Chalmers’s plan is a little different. He wishes the Christian philanthropist to visit every family. The great objection to this plank in my estimation, is the difficulty of finding a sufficient number of agents. The Doctor’s objection to pulpit instructions, when they stand alone, is, that you are setting up a centre of attraction; this will only draw some of the people, some are not under the influence of the attracting power, and they must be dealt with in another way. You must make an aggressive movement towards them. Before setting the plan I speak of in operation, I asked Dr. Chalmers’s opinion of it. He gave his decided approbation to it, although he thought the system of individual visitation a better one, if it could be accomplished. This new plan, however, he thought had a much greater efficacy than common preaching, when alone. Instead of setting up one great centre of attraction; it was like carrying about the magnet, and bringing it near to the iron filings.

"P. S. I am not sure where I may be this summer, but a letter addressed to my father’s care, will always find me. I could have written a great deal more, but my writing is so bad that I fear when written across, it is quite unintelligible. I wish I had taken a larger sheet."

From this time I shall do little more than make John his own biographer; a journal which he began to keep more regularly and fully than formerly, and a large mass of letters, will enable me to maintain a tolerably connected narrative, without interposing many remarks of my own. To enable the reader to form some idea of his journal, I shall give the first part of it almost entire, afterwards I shall intersperse a few extracts from it, with his correspondence. As he lived for the most part very retired, no extraordinary incidents can be expected; but his steady and rapid advancement towards the heavenly glory is strongly marked.

"DYSART HOUSE, June 3, 1826.

"My journal has now been at a stand for nearly a month, and I think I have experienced the bad effects of neglecting it. Hitherto it has been exclusively, or nearly exclusively, literary; and, even in that point of view, extremely meagre, a mere catalogue of the number of pages read and written. May I not, with advantage, extend my plan? I think I have profited in my studies, from taking daily account of my progress. Might not this hold equally in regard to other engagements? I have strong objections to the writing down of religious experiences. Perhaps I am wrong in this. My strongest objection is the fear that these papers may meet the eye of another, and that this consideration might influence me in writing. This might prove a great source of delusion to my own soul. But still, perhaps, I am wrong. The conduct of the most eminent servants of Christ is a strong plea in favour of such journals. I am much pleased with the plan of my dear Henry Craik on this matter. I shall attempt something on his system. If I fail, it matters not. I must just relapse into my old brief summary. But to begin. What have I done last month? Left St. Andrew’s in the end of April. Spent a fortnight at home with my relations, and my dear John Adam. Unwell nearly all the time, and prevented by illness from an intended missionary expedition to the Highlands. Came here about the middle of May. Felt the dreariness of having no Christian society. Favoured with an introduction to some of the ‘excellent of the earth,’ Captain Barclay, Mr. Thompson, &c. I have studied very little since I came here, have felt unsettled. This is quite wrong. We should ever be ready for duty, and it is our own fault, if, in all circumstances, we do not find abundance to occupy our time.

"4th. Sunday eveninq.—Read one chapter of the Greek Testament. Found my pupil rather backward in his attendance on my religious instructions. Anything connected with the service of the English Church is most relished by the family. Even the Scriptures seem most acceptable when I propose reading the lessons for the day. It is right to humour these prejudices, in imitation of him who became ‘all things to all men.’ I have heard two very excellent discourses from Mr. Thomas and Mr. Aikenhead, respectively. Visited a Sabbath-school, and addressed the children. I have some fear, that these institutions are not, in all cases, productive of the good that might be expected, for want of more efficient modes of teaching. Committing to memory what they do not understand, can profit the children very little. My second proposal, for holding family worship with the servants, has been received with coolness, but not absolutely negatived. The Lord will open up ways of usefulness for me. Read ninety pages of the Rev. Thomas Scott’s Life, exceedingly interesting.

"5th. A very idle day. I find I cannot study to advantage without a plan. I shall lay it down as a maxim, however short time I may stay in any place, to have my hours allotted specifically to different engagements as far as such an arrangement may be practicable. For want of this, I have lost much of the time I have spent at Dysart. Attended a missionary prayer meeting this evening, but was in a very cold and careless frame of mind. I have felt for some days, as if a veil were drawn over the things of another world. I fear I am indulging habits of sloth and luxury. In what am I denying myself? Read twenty pages of Scott’s Life. Was rather astonished at his idea, (expressed in the narrative after his conversion,) that even when a Socinian, his prayers were ‘spiritual enough’ to find acceptance with God. Can a prayer be listened to by God, which is presumptuously offered up without any regard to the Mediator whom he has appointed? When searching after the truth, Scott read none but religious books for three years. Afterwards he returned to general reading, and even felt a pleasure in perusing the classics, and other works of taste. I have read since I came, four hundred pages of Godwin’s History of the Commonwealth. He advocates the cause of the Puritans in their political conduct. He dislikes the pompous and persecuting spirit of the prelacy. He seems to like Presbyterianism worse, (as it then existed,) as having all the intolerance of Episcopacy, without its splendor. And he gives unqualified praise to the Independents of these times, as the great champions of unrestrained liberty, civil and religious.

"6th. With my pupil three hours in the forenoon. One hour walking, and one hour bathing. This runs away with a great part of the day. I am much pleased with my pupil at present. His disposition is amiable, and his faculties acute. His desire for knowledge is very great. He has been amusing himself to-night in making a universe with little balls of wax stuck upon pins. I feel very thankful for a situation, in many respects, so agreeable as the one I occupy. But I feel I am doing little actual service to the cause of my Lord. Read thirty pages of Scott’s Life. His prayers for his relations were eminently answered. I have felt this an encouragement to greater fervency in prayer for those who are so dear to me according to the flesh. And yet, the fact that I derive encouragement from this instance of an answer to prayer, is a proof of the weakness of my faith on the promises of God. If I sufficiently believed them, I should not need particular instances of their fulfilment, to encourage me. Can anything be surer than the promise of God? Finished the first volume of Godwin’s Commonwealth. Very little conversation, and that exceedingly trifling and general. What can I do, in my present circumstances, for the good of this family? The Lord direct me! Read two chapters of the Greek Testament. Bed at eleven o’clock.

"8th. Yesterday I was so fatigued, that I wrote none in my journal; and to-night I have a much better excuse for putting it off, in a very painful headache; but I must cultivate habits of regularity, and write something, however short. Yesterday, I completed my eighteenth year. Hitherto hath the Lord brought me; and, in spite of much wickedness and ingratitude, he continues to bless me. How little have I done! Hitherto I have made my youth an excuse for much inactivity! Will this be an excuse at the bar of God? I have been much troubled these some days, with abominably sinful thoughts. Lord, cleanse thou me from secret faults; and O keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins. Read part of Scott’s Life.— Much struck with his remarks on practical preaching, and the unpopularity to which his own system exposed him."

"TENNOCH SIDE, NEAR GLASGOW.

"14th. Arrived here night before last. — My journal was neglected yesterday, in consequence of my papers being mislaid. — Left Dysart on Saturday morning, and arrived in Leith a few hours after, where I stayed till Monday afternoon. — A very unprofitable visit. — Some conversations with my kind and respected friends, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, I remember with pleasure, but scarcely anything else of my friends, whom I had an opportunity of seeing. I feel very comfortable here, and have much to make me thankful to the great Father of our mercies. Although I am disappointed in one great object, (attendance on classes in Glasgow), which I had in view on coming here, yet I trust the Lord has directed me. May I be enabled, faithfully, to fulfil the important duties of my station, and to devote every moment of my time to the service of my God! —Read Shakspeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. — Never read a whole play of this great poet before. Some exquisitely fine passages; and, throughout, the whole admirably true to nature. But how much that is revolting, even to a mind so partially sanctified as mine! Can it be right in a Christian to travel over pages filled with vain imaginations, swearing, and often gross obscenity, in order to arrive at some beautiful passage, which, after all, can only gratify or improve his taste? The pearls are indeed fine, and present a great temptation; but, after all, they are not worth the diving for, or at least, the ocean that covers them is too perilous to be needlessly encountered by so feeble an adventurer as I. Read two chapters in the Greek Testament. What a blessing that we have sublimer and purer joys than those that are afforded by the bright, but transient flashes of unsanctified wit, or the glare of a powerful, yet polluted imagination!

"Thursday. — Rose at six — read one chapter of the Greek Testament. I am engaged with my pupil four hours a day, viz. from seven to eight, and from ten to eleven, A. M.; and from one to two, and from five to six, P. M. My books are yet in Glasgow, and this has been an excuse for idleness. Read another play of Shakspeare’s. More to disgusts and less to gratify in this, than in the last. I cannot read these plays without being injured by them. Wrote a letter to my dear Nesbit. Received one from my dear father. Have sat a considerable time this evening trying to make verses. Succeeded in manufacturing one stanza. I may say with the Rev. Thomas Scott, ‘God has not made me a poet.’ And I hope I shall profit from his observation, that he was thankful for never having attempted to make himself one.

"I almost despair of being able to introduce profitable conversation. How difficult to fix that precise line of duty, which timorous indecision dares not approach, and which rash, unthinking zeal is sure to overstep!"

"TENNOCH SIDE, June 30, 1826.

"MY VERY DEAR CRAIK — This is a solitary place. I am all alone. The sweets of friendship, and the joys of Christian fellowship, are to me now associated with the remembrance of the days that are gone. But yet, I am not alone; God is here. And should duty ‘command me to the furthest verge of the green earth, to distant, barbarous shores,’ He is there too. The ‘communion of the saints,’ is, indeed, a delightful privilege; but what is it, when compared with that far higher privilege, which change of circumstances cannot affect; even that ‘fellowship which is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.’ Every shifting scene of life that passes before me, convinces me more and more, that happiness has a very slight dependence on our external circumstances. They may add to it, or diminish it; but they can neither give it, nor take it away. Mere animal gratification is enjoyed nearly equally by all classes; all are equally subject to disease, and if the rich seem to enjoy more of the good things of this life than others, they only seem to do so. Luxury has deprived them of the comforts of life, and has converted its superfluities into comfortless necessaries. Even intellectual happiness, I believe to be more generally and equally diffused, than is commonly imagined. But the truth is, there is no true happiness without the enjoyment of God’s favour. How true is it, that ‘his favour is life;’ for without it, life deserves not the name; it is but a living death. ‘Immo vero, ii vivunt, qui ex corporum vinculis tanquam e carcere, evolaverunt; nostra vero quae dicitur vita, mors est.’ We are more highly favoured than the ancient philosopher who wrote these words. Even here we may have glimpses of the celestial happiness. Eterna1 life is begun on earth. It is true, we may not walk in the freedom of spiritual enlargement, till we have put off these vile bodies; but even within their prison-house there may be many an alleviation of our sufferings; we may be freed from those fetters that galled us sore, and deprived us even of the little freedom which the bounds of a prison-house might permit. We may be gaining new victories over the devil, the world, and the flesh, even while here. Let it be our earnest endeavour to maintain this holy warfare within our breasts; and while we drink freely of the fountain of life, let us not forget to present its vivifying waters to that world, which is ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’

"I have been looking over what I have written, and find it is not like a letter at all. But I need make no apologies to you. I am here, nearly eight miles from Glasgow, and have been there only twice. My pupil went there yesterday with the family; and, as there was room for me in the carriage, I went in the morning, and returned in the evening, Of course, I had not much time to see the town. I looked into the area of the college; a fine old, substantial building. Their library, which was the only room I went into, does not seem to be as fine as ours. Ours! did I say? But you know what I mean. The cathedral is a venerable building, though somewhat disfigured by modern additions. The statue of our revered Knox stands on a neighbouring hill. Glasgow is blessed with evangelical ministers in all denominations. There is an institution I visited last night, with the plan of which I was very much pleased. It is a sort of religious coffee-room. There is a large hall, where about twenty different religious institutions hold their meetings; and a reading room below, where the Reports and other periodical publications, connected with all the religious societics of the day, are to be found. A book lay on the table, for the insertion of hints, or inquiries on any subject connected with the great interests of Christianity. In this I found some remarks in the hand-writing of ‘our excellent Chalmers.’ I have had an introduction to the nearest parish minister; but have seen very little of him yet. He told me that his church was much too small for the parish,— and that he believed the greater number of his parishioners were growing up like heathens."

"TENNOCH SIDE, July 5, 1826.

"MY VERY DEAR FRIEND — I begin to feel anxious to hear from some of you, although I believe the agreement was, that I should write first. I am here as much shut out from the world, at least, from what was the world to me, as I could be in the deserts of Africa, or the islands of Japan. I write, chiefly to beg you to send me a long letter, — it is all of friendship I can now enjoy. You will not expect much from this wilderness. I have little to write about that can interest you. But why should I say so, when there is a theme, which is ever delightful to the mind of a Christian, and needs not novelty to give it interest. Yes, we have a joy which the world knows not, and which no changes in our earthly circumstances can at all impair. The dearest earthly friends may be removed from us, but there is a ‘friend that sticketh closer than a brother.’ Here I have no Christian friend; and sometimes my spirits sink very low, when I think on other days. But these are sinful thoughts. ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Perhaps some path of usefulness may be pointed out to me; but at present, I see little probability of doing anything, except with my pupil. I have been in Glasgow twice. I met Mr. Erskine there, as well as Mr. Ewing, &c. All are against my being a missionary, but I have heard no arguments against it that seem to me at all conclusive. What is doing in Edinburgh? Have you any intercourse with the few St. Andrian friends that are in the great city? Alas! for our little circle. It is now sadly broken up, and we never shall form a little circle again. One of our number is in the south of England, another in the north of Scotland, and all scattered abroad. The fragments of the little community are in Edinburgh. The ‘tria’ are there; but, alas! they are no longer ‘juncta in uno.’ [He alludes to the St. Andrew’s University Magazine, which had this motto.] But, I hope my lamentations are groundless. Have you no combinations for plans of usefulness either among yourselves, or of a more extensive nature? Something was talked of when I was in Edinburgh. Has it been accomplished? When do you go to Kirkliston? Let me hear particularly of your operations there. There will be full scope for your most strenuos exertions. Can you suggest to me any practicable scheme of usefulness? Do favour me with a long letter."

Determined not to remain idle, notwithstanding the obscurity and difficulty of his situation, after very considerable exertion, he succeeded in collecting a number of young men together, and for their benefit, prepared a very excellent address. As it fully explains the nature of the meeting which he proposed, it may suggest to some others the importance of making similar attempts, by which great good might be effected. [See Appendix L.]

About this time he appears to have laboured under severe mental depression. Of the cause of this no doubt can now be entertained. It was, doubtless, symptomatic of the insidious disease which was appointed by God to be the messenger of his dismission. That it was cherished by the intense working of his mind, by his seclusion from that kind of society which was congenial to his feelings, and by anxiety respecting the accomplishment of his much desired object, I feel equally assured. I think it right to give the following extract from his journal, which will explain some of the allusions in his letters.

"July 18th. Rose at seven. Have suffered excessively to-day from mental depression, and could assign no specific cause for it. I am half-inclined to ascribe it to the immediate agency of Satan, or some of his emissaries. The Lord has been graciously pleased to restore me to tranquillity; and I remember the former part of the day as I would a terrific dream. I had the opportunity of going in the carriage to Hamilton, and was in hopes that the fresh breeze, and the laughing face of nature, would dispel the gloomy darkness within my breast. But it was all in vain; the malady raged with greater violence, so as almost to make me dread real madness, and to recall to my mind a fearful night of distraction last winter. I have besought the Lord earnestly that this might depart from me; and I believe that I owe my present tranquillity to his gracious condescension in listening to my prayers. I feel, what my pride likes ill to admit, that I am a very feeble creature; weak, not only in body, but still weaker in mind! Is this a fit character for a missionary? In this work I shall soon fail, except the Lord strengthen me. But even I may say, ‘I can do all things through Christ strengthening me.’ After all, I have forced myself to go through nearly all my regular studies to-day.

"Friday. — Have discovered much to-night of the cursed pride, fickleness, and vanity of my heart. Did those who esteem me most, know me as I do myself, they would abhor me. I do abhor myself. Spent half an hour in prayer, in severe mental conflict. But even for this conviction of sin, I will be thankful. It is well to know the worst, although I fear I do not know the worst yet. ‘Who can understand his errors?’

"I know the remedy; and, blessed be God, despair has not yet barred the way to it, although I fear, from the little effect my supposed application to the gospel has yet produced, that I know not how to use the remedy. The Lord can teach me. The workings of my mind have been severely painful for some days, although in very different ways. Perhaps the Lord has given me over, like his ancient servant, of whom I have been reading, to be tempted of Satan. Has the Mediator ‘prayed for me, that my faith fail not?’ I will believe that all this is for good. May it lead me to know my own utter weakness, that so I may make the Lord my strength! Then I may say with Paul, ‘when I am weak, then am I strong.’"

"TENNOCH SIDE, July 17, 1826.

"My DEAR TRAIL — I believe, in regard to Christian society, your circumstances very nearly resemble my own: and if in these circumstances, you feel as keenly as I sometimes do, I know that a letter from an old companion will not be unacceptable, even though it contain ‘nothing new.’ Accept of my sincere thanks for the notes of introduction you left for my friend and me. I was sorry that my short stay in Edinburgh permitted me to pay but a very short visit to Wellwood Lodge. A Polish missionary was staying there when I called, with whom I conversed a little. I was prevented from accompanying our friend, John Adam, on his missionary tour, in consequence of illness. I believe he enjoyed it very much. I am now fairly settled, within eight miles of Glasgow, removed from every Christian friend who might excite and encourage me; and sometimes I acknowledge I feel very much depressed: but the Lord is ever near. If I feel so faint-hearted here, I know not how I shall endure the living solitude of a city of idolaters, or the extreme dreariness of a savage desert. But, ‘through Christ strengthening me I can do all things.’ What plane of usefulness have you set on foot, since I saw you? Can you suggest anything to me, that I can accomplish here? Have you any particular plans in instructing your pupils, which you can communicate, for I feel myself quite a novice in the art of teaching; and I am aware that there is no small responsibility connected with duties, that have such an immense influence in forming a mind which is to exist for ever; and which, in the remotest ages of its eternity, perhaps, is to bear, in some respects, the form of that mould which was impressed on it in the earliest years of its existence. Have you been thinking more of missions? I find everybody dissuades and discourages me, urging the great wants of our own country. I think I feel the claim of our own land as strongly as some who urge them against my plans. But still this does not prevent me from feeling the immense argumentative force of the simple fact, that nothing has yet been done for heathen nations, proportional to their vast extent; and nothing to fulfil the wide command of our Lord. I have had two letters from Captain Felix, pressing on my attention the state of Ireland. By this time, our dear friend Nesbit has applied to the Scottish Missionary Society. I trust that more of our little circle will follow his example. How unfortunate are the debates about the apocryphal question! But why should I say unfortunate, as if they could happen without the knowledge of the great Head of the Church.

"18th. I have been reading the former part of my sheet which was written last night, and find it is a very dull and careless scrawl. I wish I could send you something better; but the fact is, I have been labouring under very uncommon mental depression, which renders me unfit for doing anything as I could wish. I have had a drive in the carriage to Hamilton to-day, and feel rather better. I know you are never troubled with this sort of affliction, and may be disposed to laugh at it; but I can assure you, it is ten-fold more distressing than bodily disease. The latter often adds to spiritual comfort; the former generally destroys it. But I am ashamed of having said so much about my weaknesses; and assuredly I should not have adverted to the subject, were it not as a plea for an early communication from you. Send me something to cheer and console me. Direct me to the great objects of eternity, and stir me up to do something in the cause of the Lord. Although I am sometimes thus depressed, it is not always so. The Lord has been very kind to me since I came here. I have been forced to seek all my enjoyments in communion with God. It is well, when we hasten after other lovers, that He, who will have our whole heart, should hedge up our way. And when he leads us into the wilderness, and dries up many a source of what seemed holy enjoyment, it is often not to punish, but to bless us, to ‘speak comfortably’ to us. We do well, my friend, to examine whether the Lord alone be the object of our affections. When surrounded by pious friends, who are ready to praise, or, at least, to esteem us for our zeal in furthering the interests of religion, it is difficult to determine the nature of our motives. Those who went before our Saviour in triumph to Jerusalem, crying Hosanna, &c., were probably afterwards found consenting to his death; and even the boldest and most devoted of his chosen few, ‘forsook him and fled.’ Are we ready to follow the Lord through bad as well as through good report? Have we ever yet been put to the trial? Have you read Samuel Rutherford’s letters? I have been delighted and humbled by the perusal. How much of heaven may be enjoyed on earth, if we will but care to seek for it. I feel that I know nothing yet of Christ, or of fellowship with him. Write very soon to your affectionate brother."

"TENNOCH SIDE, July 22, 1826.

"MY DEAR ANNE —Your verses pleased me much; and with what else I have seen of your first attempts at composition, lead me fondly to hope, that talents have been bestowed on you, which, with due culture, and persevering application, may render you, I will not say accomplished, for that is a vain thing, as the term is generally used; but to use an apparently humbler, yet, in reality, far more honourable term, talents that may render you useful. I say not this to make you proud, but to humble you, and to encourage you to persevere. You know very little yet, you have much to learn. I may just hint, that in your letter, I can observe a deficiency in one of the MOST REQUISITE of all literary acquisitions. You know what I mean. But in the present case, the hurry in which your letter has evidently been written, is a sufficient excuse. I like your verses. The idea in the fourth verse, I think, is truly poetical. But I would not have you aim at being a poetess, my sister. Make it an amusement if you will, or a means of acquiring correctness and facility of expression, but do not make it your AIM. The most brilliant acquirements are not the most useful. Let me remind you, my dear Anne, that you and I are born to fill humble stations in this world, (and God be thanked, it is so; the humblest are the happiest.) Do not aim, then, at anything above your station. Do not court the society of the rich and the gay; for, comparatively, I may apply these terms even to the little sphere in which you move; but choose your companions from those who have the true riches of knowledge, and (if I may add a qualification you may not easily find) sterling piety. The manners of your companions should not be overlooked; and, by this expression, I do not so much mean the knowledge, or ready repetition of a few kind-looking phrases, which even the most unkind can learn, as that amiable and obliging disposition, which is the politeness of the heart. In the present state of society, however, a person who wishes to be truly agreeable, will see the necessity of attending to a few of those forms of kindness which pass current in the world. I did not mean to write so many advices; but now that I have begun, I will plead the authority, I will rather say, the affection of a brother, as an excuse for adding some more. Let me entreat you to cultivate domestic virtues. The Bible bids us not only love and obey, but also honour our parents. Be particularly careful to remember this, especially in regard to our dear mother, to whom your little services may now render considerable assistance. Above all, my very dear sister, let me entreat you to remember that we were not made merely to figure for a little on the stage of this passing world. This life is but the infancy of an eternal existence; and yet, here the choice must be made, that shall render all that is worth calling the life of an immortal creature, perfectly happy, or perfectly wretched. You think you know the truths of the gospel, my sister. Do you feel its influence? Do not be even too sure that you understand the message of glad tidings in the Bible. Many who now think they understand, will find hereafter that they have mistaken its meaning. But, O do remember! it is not enough to understand. Examine whether Christ, and his atonement alone, be all your salvation. It is easy to mistake. We are never more apt to sleep the sleep of a security, from which eternal death alone will awake us, than when guarded from gross temptations by protecting friends, accustomed from infancy to correct, or at least, seemingly correct views of the gospel. My dear sister, as you value your happiness, beware of a misplaced hope of heaven. I do not cease to pray that the Lord would make you his own. I should think my prayers in part answered, did I know that you had been constrained to pray with earnestness for yourself."

"August 2, 1826.

"MY VERY DEAR BROTHER — They say there is more pleasure in hope, than in actual enjoyment; and, perhaps, this is the reason why I have not written to you sooner. You know I used to have a great aversion to letter writing; but now that it is almost the only kind of Christian intercourse that is left me, you may guess that I regard it with very different feelings. For a week past I have been cheering my solitary hours with the thought, that I was just about to unbosom freely all my feelings to my dear John Adam, (a luxury, which is not the least precious privilege of true friendship), and day after day, some little trifle has seemed a sufficient reason for putting off; while I believed the true cause of the delay has been, the desire to indulge this pleasing expectation a little longer. And now that I have sat down to write, I frankly acknowledge that I have little or nothing to say, — at least, in the shape of news. I left Dysart too late to see you again in Edinburgh, whence I proceeded to this place of exile, where I have now counted five or six tardy weeks of unvaried sameness, excepting one or two visits to Glasgow and an occasional walk to Old Monkland Manse. You know me too well to require me to tell you how I feel, without a single Christian friend near. The harp has been often out of tune; and sometimes, I have feared that its strings were about to break, when the Lord has again tuned it to his own praise. Yes, my dear friend, I have seen much of the deceitfulness of my own heart since I came here. I thought I could leave all, and live happy in a solitary desert, for the sake of Christ. But I find that much of my happiness was drawn from cisterns, and not from the life-giving fountain. And now that the Lord has, in mercy, broken these, to lead me to himself, I have been ready to weep as if my all were lost. I fear I have mistaken love to Christians for love to Christ. I feel more reconciled to this banishment, when I think that it may be intended to wean me from earth, and to fit me more for the missionary life. I have hopes that I may be honoured to be useful to my dear pupil. He is a most interesting boy; in our daily reading of the Scriptures, he makes inquiries which delight me, and sometimes astonish me. All things are possible with God.

" Monday evening — The above was written on Saturday night, and your welcome epistle was put into my hand yesterday morning. Your serious charges of carelessness might require to be more seriously met, than in the above nondescript rhapsody, which you see had anticipated them; but too much of my sheet is now filled, to leave any space for apologies. I leave you to make them for me. I am rejoiced at your intention of sending a paper on missions to the Evangelical Magazine. It has a most extensive circulation. My conscience has been sorely reproaching me for my negligence on this subject. I have been partly terrified out of the idea of attempting publication, from the decided opposition our sentiments on this subject have met with, when I have laid them before those, whom I have, from infancy, looked up to as men mighty in the Scriptures. Do not mistake me; my own convictions are by no means weakened. Every prayer deepens their impression. And at times of closer communion with God, a brighter light seems to be shed on the path before me. My own conscience must be my guide; but I have discovered so much of my own fickleness, and weakness of mind, that I do fear to propose my sentiments as rules of conduct to others. ‘Instead of being a teacher, I have need that one teach me what are the first principles of the oracles of Christ.’ I have only begun to discover my real character; and I honestly believe, that did any of my friends know me as I know myself, they would be utterly disgusted with me, and scarcely believe me a Christian. But what has this to do with the subject? — Much. When I think of myself, a poor weak-minded boy, the creature of emotion, and almost the slave of circumstances, entertaining opinions different from all my friends in Christ, however strongly they are impressed on my own mind, I have great misgivings when I think of presenting them to others. I am glad to have one, at least, who agrees with me. Our comparison of the present generation in our land, to the Jews in the days of the apostles, is very much disliked. The supposition, that we are called to imitate the apostles in going to the Gentiles, Mr. E; thinks quite enthusiastic. I like your plan much. It is very comprehensive. I hope it will be admitted, but I hardly expect it. I have no Christian friends here; but it is all well. I am forced to seek closer communion with God. Yes, forced. How just is your idea of the refuge. I have been, at times, apt to murmur at being sent here; but I am sure it is for good. I have seen practically illustrated, that man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity. I have seen more of the wickedness of my own heart; but more too of the preciousness and sufficiency of the Saviour. My studies have all a bearing on the Bible; and, I think, I study as much here as ever I have done any where."


Return to the John Urquhart Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast