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Northern Lights
Norman MacLeod, D.D.


NORMAN MACLEOD was of Highland descent, and was not without genealogical glories, but rejoiced more in a father and grandfather who were worthy ministers of the Scotch Church, than in being able to trace connection with the ancient lords of the tartan and the claymore.

There is in Argyleshire a wide romantic parish, named Morven, which has a loch on each side, and the Sound of Mull in front. The general outline of the parish is bold and rugged, but it is not without features of beauty. With dark precipices and sombre moorlands, there are bright melodious bums, lovely glens and rounded hills to which the oak, the ash and the birch, lend the grace of their foliage. On one of the hills, there was a number of years since an unpretending building known as the Manse, or the House of Finuary. The glebe on which it stood, consisting of about sixty acres, was broken into green terraces, and terminated in a grassy flat in a line with the beach, distinguished as “the Duke of Argyle’s Walk.** The House of Finuary was occupied by Norman Macleod’s grandfather, who was minister of the parish. A family of sixteen sons and daughters enlivened the manse, and sported about the glebe. The sons were taught by a tutor, who had gained honours in one of the Universities, and the daughters by a kind-hearted governess, who stumped from room to room on a wooden leg. But the minister and his wife attended to the religious education of their children, and in a loving manner strove to imbue their minds with thoughts of Christ the Mediator, in Whose name they were to seek the pardon of their sins, and as the King to whom they were always to hold themselves in submission. Truthfulness, integrity, generosity, sympathy with the suffering were affectionately urged upon and exemplified before them, in character and action.

About two thousand souls, spread over an area of one hundred and thirty square miles, constituted the pastor’s flock. For their accommodation there were two churches, but with the exception of one or two pews intended for the principal people of the parish, there was not a seat in them. So primitive was the diet of the parishioners that a man had to be sent over moors and stormy lochs, for a distance of sixty miles, to obtain wheaten bread for the Sacrament. When the minister had nearly attained his fourscore years he became blind. His youngest son had been appointed his assistant and successor, but to the last his heart was in the work in which he had been so long employed. The closing scene of his ministry was very affecting. The Lord’s Supper was about to be dispensed, and he went to the church to give his people a farewell address. He was guided to the pulpit by his old servant Rory, but mistook the side for the front. Seeing this, Rory stepped back and taking his trembling hand, placed it on the book-board, so as to put him in the right position for speaking to the people. He stood before them majestic even in decay, high in stature, with face beautiful in its saintly venerableness, and with long white locks which streamed down to his shoulders. His words were few but pathetic, and the stout hearts of the Highlanders were melted, and low sobs broke from them, when he told them that they would “see his face no more.”

His death, which took place a little while after, was calm as Loch Sunart when reflecting the lovely hues of a sunset in July. His wife, and sons, and daughters, and the faithful old Rory, were grouped about his bed. Rory, who had legs of unequal length and only one eye, but was a skilful boatman, and useful in many ways on the land, and who had been “minister’s man” for fifty years, did not long survive his master. He had been laid aside for some weeks, when one evening he said to his wife, “Dress me in my best; get a cart ready; I must go to the manse and bless them all, and then die.” His wife thought he was delirious, and hesitated, but he insisted on being obeyed. He was taken to the manse, and with his Sabbath tartan wrapped about him, tottered into the parlour, and as the family gathered round him, announced his errand: “I bless you all, my dear ones, before I die.” Raising his withered hands, he offered a short prayer for their welfare, then shaking hands with each of them, and kissing the hand of his beloved mistress, he bade them farewell. He died the following day.

The holy influences of the old manse life were felt in succeeding generations. One of the sons born on the glebe was settled as minister of Campbeltown in Argyleshire. He was the father of Norman Macleod, who was born June 3rd, 1812. As a child he was bright and vivacious, and the great talker of the nursery. His education was commenced in the Burgh School, but he was quite as fond of play as of books. The town stands at the head of a loch, which, forming a convenient harbour, was usually lively with the sails and pennants of merchant-ships, yachts, and Revenue-cruisers. Norman frequently visited the vessels that were moored to the pier, and became expert in climbing shrouds, and familiar with nautical phraseology. The stories of the sailors opened to him a world of romance, and voyages to Archipelagoes set in golden seas, or to the clime of the walrus and the white bear, frequently filled his imagination. Much of the knowledge of maritime life he obtained while sporting about the harbour was afterwards utilised by him in that pleasant book, “The Old Lieutenant and his Son.” When he was twelve years old his father sent him to Morven to learn the Gaelic language. He boarded during the week at the house of the schoolmaster, but was always at the manse on the Sabbath. Living at Morven was a great advantage to him, not so much on account of the Gaelic, as of the educational influences of his out-door life. His mind was impressed by a sense of the grand and beautiful in the works of God as he saw peak rising beyond peak in silent majesty, torrents leaping down the precipices, streams rippling over polished pebbles, and woodlands glimmering with the light of primroses and hyacinths. Emotions he could not then define kindled in his heart, when, from the top of a favourite hill, he looked on lakes and leafy slopes, and away over the shining sea to the blue cliffs of the Hebrides.

In 1825, Mr. Macleod removed to Campsie; and Norman having completed his Highland training, went for a year to the parish school. At the end of the year he became a student in the University of Glasgow. His mind was too discursive to attempt accurate scholarship; and English literature and natural science had greater charms for him than the Greek of Euripides, or the Latin of Cicero. In after years he reproached himself with not having been more diligent in the classes, and lamented his lack of skill in the ancient tongues. He was frequently at Campsie on the Sabbath; and though always affectionate and deferential to his parents, displeased them by the boisterousness of his humour and mimicry. His vacations were spent either at Campsie or in the Highlands. Wordsworth’s poems took up many of his leisure hours, and he delighted in reading them in the sunshine that flickered through the foliage in Campsie Glen, or where the leaves were ruffled by the breeze from northern lochs.

In 1831 lie began to study theology under Dr. Chalmers in Edinburgh. The eloquent prelections of the great evangelical rabbi were to him awful in their impassioned earnestness. He venerated his teacher as rising above other men like Ben Lomond above its neighbouring peaks, and opened his heart to the force of the immense yet benignant individuality by which Chalmers was distinguished. Chalmers also was favourably impressed by the open countenance, generous spirit and bright intelligence of the student, and recommended him as being qualified to act as tutor to the son of a gentleman, then High Sheriff of Yorkshire.

Though intended for the ministry, he had not given much attention to personal religion, but the sickness and death of his brother James softened his heart, and induced in him a conviction of the necessity of living union with Christ. One night after he and his sick brother had opened their hearts to each other, he prayed aloud; it was the first time he had done so, and with great earnestness he asked for blessing on himself and his dying brother. When he had risen and gone away, James called his mother to his bedside, put his arms round her, and said, “I am so thankful, mother: Norman will be a good man." This was the beginning of a good work in his heart. After his brother’s death he wrote:—

“It is all past. My dear brother is now with his own Saviour. I do heartily thank God for His kindness to him; for his patience, his manliness, his love to his Redeemer. May I follow his footsteps! May I join with James in the universal song! I know not, my own brother, whether you now see me or not. If you know my heart, you will know my love for you; and that in passing through this pilgrimage I shall never forget you who accompanied me so far.”

There is not any one point in his history to which the fact of conversion can be definitely attached; for, in his case, there was rather a succession of advances than a sudden spring from darkness to light. But there was a change: he did seek the righteousness which is by faith; and no experience in a Methodist Love-feast could be more decisive as to simple trust in Christ for salvation, or as to the joy in God which accompanies spiritual life than a number of entries in his journal. When he left Edinburgh he went to Moreby Hall, the residence of his pupil’s father, and thence to Weimar. The little capital had been renowned as the abode of the great German writers—Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Wieland; and though they had passed away, the splendour of their genius still lingered about the city. But whatever intellectual advantages Norman gained while there, his religious sensibilities were deadened by intercourse with the citizens, whose mental activities took the form of Rationalistic attacks on God’s Word, and to whom the Sabbath was but a secular festival. Though he kept aloof from vice and scepticism, he indulged too freely in the abounding gaieties, but learnt for life the lesson of the utter vanity and hollowness of worldly society.

In October, 1835, he began attendance on a course of Divinity lectures in Glasgow. His father having accepted the charge of St. Columba in Glasgow, he lived with him. Other students, also, were boarders in the house, among whom were John Mackintosh, of Geddes, who became Norman’s dearest friend, and John C. Shairp, now the accomplished Principal of the United College in St. Andrews.

In recording his reminiscences of those joyful days, the latter gives the following portraiture of Norman:

“His appearance as he then was is somewhat difficult to recall, as the image of it mingles with what he was when we last saw his face, worn and lined with care, labour and sickness. He was stout for a man so young, or rather I should say only robust, yet vigorous and active in figure. His face as full of meaning as any face I ever looked on, with a fine health in his cheeks, as of the heather bloom; his broad, not high, brow, smooth without a wrinkle; and his mouth firm and expressive, without those lines and wreaths it afterwards had; his dark brown glossy hair in masses over his brow. Altogether he was, though not so handsome a man as his father at his age must have been, yet a face and figure as expressive of genius, strength and buoyancy as I ever looked upon. Boundless healthfulness and hopefulness looked out from every feature.”

The boarders were under Norman’s care, and he was in a better sense than Bolingbroke was to Pope their “guide, philosopher and friend.” Each had a separate bed-room, but all met in a common sitting-room, and formed a bright little group, of which Norman was the centre. When the work in preparation for college-classes was done, and sometimes before, he used to come from his own study in his grey-blue dressing-gown and broidered cap, and entertain them with a swift succession of sunny thoughts, romantic stories and recitations from the poets; or he would sing a wild lay he, had heard on the hills of Morven; or he would bring a book with him and give a reading from Sir Thomas Brown’s “Religio Medici,” or from a discourse in which Jeremy Taylor had woven his golden fancies and lavished his varied lore.

It was in Glasgow that he won his first honours as a public speaker. A banquet was given to Sir Robert Peel in celebration of his election to the Rectorship of the University. There was a large and brilliant assembly, and Norman had to speak on behalf of the students. Though inwardly trembling, he betrayed no sign of nervousness, and so manly were his sentiments, and so distinct was the enunciation of his choice, yet simple words, that every one present felt the power of a true orator; and Sir Robert Peel was reported to have expressed admiration of the speech to his father. It has been said that he was never on any public occasion more thoroughly successful than in that appearance at the Peel banquet.

In due time he was licensed as a preacher, and in 1838 was ordained to the parish of Loudoun.

Some months after his settlement there, J. C. Shairp and a few other college friends spent three days with him. They were the greater part of the time in the open air, wandering by Irvine water and through the woods, or reclining on a grassy bank with the shadow of spring leaves on their faces, intermingled the melodies of Wordsworth and Coleridge with arguments on high and sacred themes. When the time drew near for them to part, they were saddened by the thought that they might never all meet again, and the young minister got each of them to take a root of primroses from the woods to plant in the manse garden, in memory of their visit. This they did; the roots were planted side by side, and were so cherished by Mr. Macleod that when he left for Dalkeith he had some of them removed to his new abode.

That he entered on his duties in a becoming spirit is evident from the following extract:

“I have got the parish of Loudoun. Eternal God, I thank Thee through Jesus Christ; and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I devote myself to Thy service for the advancement of Thy glory and kingdom. These words I write this day the moment I hear of my appointment. I again solemnly say, Amen. I have got a parish!—the guidance of souls to heaven ! I shall at the last day have to tell how I performed my duties. Part of my flock will go to the left; part, I trust, to the right. I, their pastor, shall see this ! I am set to gather lambs to Christ. What a responsibility! I do not feel it half enough; but I pray with all my soul, heart, and strength that the great Shepherd may never forsake me. Without Him I can do nothing; with Him I can do all things.”

He found the widest extremes of character and opinion in his parish. His people were for the greater part farmers or weavers. Several of the former were descendants of the covenanters, and retained not a little of the stern Presbyterianism of their ancestors. The weavers were most of them chartists, and some of them infidels of the Thomas Paine type. Mr. Macleod at once set himself to grapple with the difficulties of his position, and his energy was soon felt as a beneficial power in the parish. He visited from house to house, organised a Sabbath-school, and held special services on the Sabbath evening for those who had not suitable clothes in which to appear at the ordinary place of worship. When on his round of visitation in Darvel, a part of his parish, he called on a poor and aged woman, who held strictly to covenanting principles. She was in the midst of a group of neighbours and friends who had been invited to meet him. Not being disposed to receive him as a minister of Christ until he had given satisfaction as to his theology, she put her tin trumpet to her ear, for she was very deaf, and with a tone of authority that a moderator of a General Assembly could not have exceeded, said, “Gang ower the fundamentals.” Sitting by her side, and putting his mouth to her trumpet, he went through the leading doctrines of the Confession of Faith, and as there was no heresy she accepted him as a true servant of Christ. But a rehearsal of his creed was not sufficient for chartists and sceptics. For a time they resisted him, but he succeeded in his endeavours to disarm them of their prejudices, and having won their confidence, was able to press the truths of the Gospel upon them with good effect.

His heart was pained not only by what he witnessed of the demoralising effects of infidelity, but also by the apathy of those who made a show of religious belief and profession, yet were as to religious sensibility inanimate as the imagery on the tombstones in the churchyard. There were times when he was depressed by the fear that, notwithstanding the crowd that filled the pews, aisles and stairs of his church, he was accomplishing little in the way of moral and spiritual reformation; but when he knew of any one receiving benefit from his ministry his heart was full of thankfulness to God. He writes:

“I have had to-day much joy and much humility. A woman told me that I had been blessed for the good of her soul, and given her joy and peace; and I think she gave evidence from what I saw of her that she is a true believer. She gave me likewise five shillings for any religious purpose. She will and does pray for me. I wept much at this proof of God’s love!—that I should be made such an instrument! But, blessed be God, He can make a fly do His errands. He is good and gracious—and O! I hope I may save some; I pray I may bring some to Christ, for His sake. May I be humble for all God is doing for me! His blessings crush me! May they not destroy me! May Christ be magnified in me!”

While Mr. Macleod was at Loudoun his mind was agitated by the great conflict which led to the Disruption, but his sympathies were not altogether with either party. In religious sentiment and ministerial activities he coincided with the Evangelicals, and had an almost unbounded reverence for some of their leaders, but could not act with them in what seemed to him extreme and revolutionary measures. His glowing nature, with its intense desire for the salvation of souls, had no affinity with the iciness and the subdued Christianity of the Moderates, but he was with them in upholding what he considered the constitutional principles of the Church. He did his utmost to avert secession by uniting with Dr. Leishman and the “Forty” in advocating a policy of conciliation and compromise, but the Evangelicals had gone too far to recede, the Moderates acted as if they did not care how soon they were rid of men who practically asserted their conviction that a parish minister had something more to do than to draw the stipend and make himself agreeable to the heritors; and the fatal moment came when one part of the Assembly and the Church was severed from the other. Had Mr. Macleod thought only of his own ease and popularity, he would have gone out with the seceding ministers, but he felt himself bound to remain in, and help to rebuild the shattered Church. As a Free Church minister he would have found an ample sphere for his energies and gifts, and a position of high honour and large influence would have been assigned him. But it was well for the Establishment that he and others like-minded with himself adhered to it, and instead of allowing it to become the sepulchral monument of a vanished life, strove to keep it up as a temple, which, with the light of holy memories on its walls, and the glow of a Divine flame on its altars, should still be venerable in the eyes, and dear to the hearts of the Scottish people.

The Disruption occasioned many vacancies in parishes, and seven applications were made to Mr. Macleod. He had no wish to leave Loudoun, but felt it his duty to accept Dalkeith. He settled there in December, 1843, and began his ministry in that town, in a quaint old church, in which gallery rose above gallery, each bearing an emblazoned device showing the guild to which it belonged. Preaching evangelical truth in simple and beautiful words, and in a manner that betokened earnest desire for the salvation of souls, he could not fail to be popular; but he was far from contenting himself with a large and appreciative congregation. Dalkeith, though a small town, was not without its lapsed classes, to whom ho extended his cares and labours. In order to interest his own people in evangelical work, he instituted weekly meetings, at which he gave reports of Missionary enterprise at home and abroad; members of the Church who had the necessary qualifications were employed in visiting the poor and neglected, and three mission stations were opened amidst haunts of vice and squalor. So beneficial were these operations that street brawls became far less common and the police had to report a remarkable decrease in the number of arrests for drunkenness.

In 1845, Mr. Macleod was sent by the General Assembly as one of a deputation to the congregations connected with the Church of Scotland in British North America. The old romance of Morven life came back to him when shooting rapids, gliding over silvery lakes, or passing through seemingly interminable forests with the majestic boughs of great trees bending in wide arches over his head. But much as he enjoyed the scenery and the adventurous travelling, he had still more pleasure in meeting with Highlanders who remembered his grandfather, and were eagerly affectionate in their inquiries about his father and his uncles and aunts. A communion service at Pictou, in which the members of the deputation officiated, powerfully affected him. Four thousand people were assembled on a grassy hill near the town, and he thought he had never looked on a sight so touching and so grand. As he watched the expression of solemn joy on the long rows of Highland faces bending towards the communion table, and considered the remoteness of the communicants from scenes that were still dear to them, and how in their homesteads in the woods, which swept to the horizon, they were as sheep without a shepherd, he lifted up his voice and wept. He was thankful to have witnessed such a sight, and his feeling was, “O that my father had been with, us! What a welcome he would have received!” The great outcry of the people was for ministers; and an old Doctor amused Mr. Macleod by saying to him, “Wo don’t expect a very clever man, but would be quite pleased to have one who could give us a plain every-day sermon, like what you gave us yourself to-day.

Some months after his return from America Mr. Macleod attended meetings in connection with the Evangelical Alliance. His soul was refreshed and gladdened by communion with brethren, who, though known by different names were one in Christian purpose. Writing to his sister from one of the meetings, he said: “Bickersteth, dear man, is in the chair, and Bunting, noble man, is now speaking. Angell James is about to follow, and Dr. Raffles has finished. It is mere chat, like a nice family circle, and I hope that our Elder Brother is in the midst of it.”

Ronge and Czersky, who had headed a revolt from Popery in Prussian Poland and Silesia, having been at one of the meetings of the Alliance, some of its members were anxious to obtain fuller information as to the character of their work, and Mr. Macleod was requested to accompany Dr. Herschell on a mission of inquiry to their principal congregations. They found that the movement under Ronge had assumed a Rationalistic form, and was little more than “a mixture of Socialism and Deism, gilded with the morality of the Bible, and having a strong political tendency towards communism*. They were better pleased with Czersky and his people, who appeared to be simple, devout Christians. The interest of their visit was heightened by interviews with Neander and other German theologians, and they brought back some valuable facts in relation to religious life on the Continent.

The same year Mr. Macleod gave practical proof of his brotherly feeling for other denominations by preaching an anniversary sermon in the Wesleyan chapel in Edinburgh. He was the first minister of the Established Church to occupy that pulpit, and had the pleasure of preaching to a congregation that crowded the aisles and pulpit stairs. The death of his old teacher, Dr. Chalmers, in 1847, brought from him a fine eulogium of the man “whose noble character, lofty enthusiasm, and patriotic views will rear themselves before the eyes of posterity like Alpine peaks, long after the narrow valleys which have for a brief period divided us are lost in the far distance of past history!"

In 1848 he felt so severely the effect of overwork that he was compelled to retire for a time from all public engagements. For change of air he went to Shandon, a lovely spot slanting down to the placid waters of the Gareloch, and was conscious of reviving health, as he wandered over the heather, along the track of musical brooks, and by rocks having crevices filled with ferns and primroses. His meditations were in harmony with the scenes amid which he wandered, and the following passage only needs “the accomplishment of verse” to be a true Wordsworthian poem:

“How many things are in the world yet not of it! The material world itself, with all its scenes of grandeur and beauty, with all its gay adornments of tree and flower and light and shade, with all its accompanying glory of blue sky and fleecy cloud, or midnight splendour of moon and stars—all are of the Father. And so too is all that inner world, when, like the outer, it moves according to His will; of loyal friendships, loving brotherhood; and the heavenly and blessed charities of home, and all the real light and joy that dwell, as a very symbol of His own presence, in the Holy of Holies of a renewed spirit. In one word, all that is true and lovely and of good report— all that is one with His will—is of the Father and not of the world. Let the world, then, pass away with the lust thereof ! It is the passing away of death and darkness— of all that is at enmity to God and man. All that is of the Father shall remain for ever.”

In the beginning of 1851, Mr. Macleod experienced a great but not unsanctified sorrow in the death of his beloved and saintly friend John Mackintosh, who, after long and laborious preparation for the ministry of the Free Church, became the victim of consumption. He died abroad, but his body was brought to Scotland, and we have this record: “We buried him on Wednesday last. The day was calm and beautiful. The sky was blue with a few fleecy clouds. The birds were singing. Everything seemed so holy and peaceful His coffin was accompanied by those who loved him. As I paced beside him to his last resting-place, I felt a holy joy as if marching beside a noble warrior receiving his final honours. O, how harmonious seemed his life and death! I felt as if he was still alive, as if he still whispered in my ear, and all he said—for he seemed only to repeat his favourite sayings— was in beautiful keeping with this last stage of his journey: ‘It is His own sweet will;’ ‘Dearie, we must be as little children;’ ‘We must follow Christ., And so he seemed to resign himself meekly to be borne to his grave, to smile upon us all in love as he was lowered down; and as the earth covered him from our sight it was as if he said, ‘ Father, thou hast appointed all jn once to die. Thy sweet will be done ! I yield to thine appointment! My Saviour has gone before me; as a little child I follow.’ ”Mr. Macleod published a memoir of him entitled, “The Earnest Student.” The writing of it was to him a labour of love, and as Mackintosh had been studying for the ministry in the Free Church, he devoted the proceeds of the book, £200, to the Foreign Missions of that Church. He was too effective a preacher, and too successful in parish, work to he allowed to remain long in the comparative obscurity of Dalkeith. In 1851 he became minister of the Barony Church, Glasgow. In the same year he was married to the sister of his beloved friend John Mackintosh, of Geddes. The first house he occupied in Glasgow was so situated that from the front he could look on the crowded masts that rose above the bridges and the piers of the Clyde, and on the green declivities of the Cathkin Hills; while from the back windows there was a glorious view of the familiar steeps of Campsie Fell. The glow of sunrise or of sunset on these steeps was such a delight to him that often when he had guests he made them follow him up stairs to share his own enjoyment of the scene.” It was his custom to rise early in the morning, so as to ensure some hours for reading and writing before engaging in the more active duties of his pastorate. With curtains drawn, gas lighted, and apparatus for making coffee close at hand, he enjoyed the cosiness and quiet of his study, and thought the sounds from the wakening city and the clash of a thousand hammers on the boilers of steamers destined for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans more inspiring music than the songs of larks or the bleating of sheep. In the employments of those early hours he often found an impulse to greater earnestness in his ministerial calling: “How my morning readings in Jonathan Edwards make me long for a revival! It would be worth a hundred dead General Assemblies if we had any meeting of believing ministers or people to cry to God for a revival. This, and this alone, is what we want. Death reigns! God has His witnesses everywhere, no doubt; but as a whole we are skin and bone. When I picture to myself a living people, with love in their looks and words,—calm, zealous, self - sacrificing, — seeking God’s glory and having in Glasgow their citizenship in heaven; it might make me labour and die for such a consummation!

The Barony Church stands near the cathedral, and is one of the unsightliest ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland. But the man in the pulpit gave to it a charm that was felt throughout Glasgow, and the interest never abated. Since Chalmers thundered in the Tron church, no preacher gained such influence over the citizens. His manner was deliberate, and was rather conversational than oratorical; his thoughts were not so much like masses of ore quarried out of difficult rocks, as like flowers springing spontaneously from a genial soil; and his sentences were usually short, simple, and incisive. He could not speak for any length of time without throwing out an image or introducing a few bright, poetic words; but there was no long sweep of rhetorical splendour, and no premeditated climax. The impression he gave his hearers was that he was a man of large human interests, and that he was desirous above everything else that Christ should be magnified in their lives, and that they should be able to rejoice in hope of immortality and eternal glory. But he was far from thinking that when he left the pulpit his work was done. His parish was wide and populous, and he devised a number of schemes for its neglected districts. Systematic visitation was carried on by himself and his people, schools were multiplied and Mission churches were built.

In October, 1854, Mr. Macleod preached for the first time before the Royal Family in Crathie Church. He “preached with intense comfort, and by God’s help felt how sublime a thing it was to be His ambassador.” In the evening, after wandering through a green field, he sat in quiet meditation on a block of granite, in the midst of beautiful scenery, and under a calm, half golden sky. His reverie was disturbed by some one asking him if he was the clergyman who had preached that day, and he was noon in the presence of the Queen and the Prince Consort. Her Majesty came forward, and in a kindly graceful manner, said, “We wish to thank yon for your sermon;” and then inquired about his father, and his own parish. Her Majesty has given a pleasing record of the service in her “Journal,” speaking of the sermon as quite admirable: so simple, and yet so eloquent, and so beautifully argued and put and of the prayer as being very touching in its reference to the Royal children, and “the dying, the wounded, the widow, and the orphans.” After that visit Mr. Macleod was frequently at Balmoral, and was specially summoned to meet Her Majesty there at the time when the shadow of her great sorrow was so dark. Writing from Balmoral to Mrs. Macleod, he says, “You will return thanks with me to our Father in heaven for His mercy and goodness in having hitherto most surely guided me during this time, which I felt to be a most solemn and important era in my life. All has passed well—that is to say, God enabled me to speak in private and in public to the Queen in such a way as seemed to me to be truth—the truth in God’s sight: that which I believed she needed, though I felt it would be very trying to her spirit to receive it. And what fills me with deepest thanksgiving is that she has received it, and written to me such a kind, tender letter of thanks for it, which shall be treasured in my heart whilst I live.”

He received the diploma of D.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1858, but was rather saddened than elated by this honour, for he felt that it stamped him with old age, and was a sign that he had but a short time to work; and his prayer to God was that he might be able to brace every nerve of his soul in endeavouring to glorify Him while on earth. Notwithstanding his various activities, and the conspicuous place he held before the public, he was always mindful of personal piety. It is true his humour, his freedom in some doubtful matters, his occasional departures from the strict lines of Scottish orthodoxy, were not altogether favourable to his reputation for godliness; but those parts of his journal in which his inner life is unfolded show that he was not without experimental knowledge of the spiritual vitalities of Christianity. Perfect holiness was one of the things he aimed at and prayed for: “Is it possible that I shall habitually possess myself, and exercise holy watchfulness over my words and temper, so that in private and public I shall live as a man who truly realises God’s constant presence—who is one with Christ, and therefore lives among men and acts towards them with His mind and spirit? I, meek, humble, loving, ever by my life drawing men to Christ?—self behind, Christ before! I believe this to be as impossible by my own resolving, as that I could become a Shakespeare, a Newton, a Milton; yet if God calls me to this, God can so enable me to realise it that He shall be pleased with me. But will I really strive after it? O, my Father! see, hear and help Thy weak and perishing child! For Christ’s sake, put strength in me; fulfil in me the good pleasure of Thy will. Lord, pity me and have mercy on me, that I may famish and thirst for Thee and perfect holiness.”

The holy feelings Dr. Macleod cultivated in the retirement of the study, urged him to more strenuous efforts for the evangelisation of the lapsed classes in his parish; and in thinking how he could benefit them, he decided, among other things, on holding services on Sunday evenings, to which none were to be admitted but such as were in their working clothes. Crowds gathered to the Barony Church, and men and women with begrimed faces and uncombed heads were allowed free access to the cushioned pews. As they sat there in their stained and ragged coats and shawls, they suggested a striking contrast to the morning and afternoon congregation, but their behaviour was as decorous as could be wished, and though Bibles and Psalm-books were left out for their use, they were never known to take any of them away.

The precentor at the services was a blind man; and bending over the pulpit Dr. Macleod used to say, “You’ll rise now, Peter, and begin,” and then Peter with the Psalms in raised type before him, traced the lines with his fingers, giving out only two at a time, so that those who were without books might be able to join in the singing. When a church was built for working men a carter officiated as beadle. Dr. Macleod wished him to stand at the door in his working clothes, but thought he might not like to do so and said, “If you don’t like to do it, Tom, if you are ashamed—” “Ashamed!” was the quick reply, “I’m mair ashamed o’ yoursel’, Sir. Div’ ye think that I believe, as ye ken I do, that Jesus Christ, Who died for me, was stripped o’ His raiment on the cross, and thatI—Na, na, I’m proud tae stan’ at the door.” When Tom was dying of an infectious disease his friends asked him if they should inform Dr. Macleod, but he said, “There’s nae man leevin’ I like as I do him. I know he wad come. But he shouldna come on account of his wife and bairns, and so ye mann na’ tell him.”

The special services were productive of great good; hundreds were reclaimed from vice, and many were converted and became members of the church. Dr. Macleod’s joy was almost unbounded when he saw a number of them seated at the Lord’s table. He might well be thankful to God, for no higher honour could have come upon him than to have been instrumental in hewing the rugged forms of humanity gathered from the foulest wynds and closes of the city into the comeliness of Christian discipleship. Nor were they unmindful of their indebtedness to his labours, for in an address they presented to him they said: “Not content with bringing us, as it were to the entrance of the Saviour’s Church, and leaving us to go in or return as we pleased, you have led us into the great congregation of His saints on earth, and have invited us to take our places among our fellow-believers at the Lord’s table, so that we might enjoy similar privileges with them. Those of us who have accepted this invitation, have nothing of this world’s goods to offer you in return, but we shall retain a life-long gratitude for your kindness—a gratitude which shall be continued when we shall meet in that eternal world which lies beyond the grave.”

In 1864, Dr. Macleod visited the Holy Land. He has given a graphic description of the scenes and circumstances of his visit in the book entitled “Eastward;” but in his private letters we have a fuller account of his feelings of reverence and delight as he passed through the valleys and over the hills on which “the glory and the consecration” of the Saviour’s presence had fallen. One night when the stars were shining with variegated splendour, and the large bright moon was pouring silvery lustre on the foliage of the sycamores and palms, he left his companions in their tents, and went to a ridge of hills from which he saw a village on the opposite side of the valley. Writing to his sister, he said:

“You can understand my feelings better than I can describe them, when I tell you that the village was Nazareth. And you can sympathise with me when I say to you, that, after gazing awhile in almost breathless silence, and thinking of Him Who had there lived, and laboured, and preached; and seeing in the moonlight near me the well of the city to which He and Mary had often come, and, farther of, the white precipice over which they had threatened to cast Him; and then tracing in my mind the histories connected with other marvellous scenes in His life, until ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews’ died at Jerusalem, and all the inexpressibly glorious results since that day which has made the name of this place identical with the glory of the world; and when I thought of all that I and others dear to me have received from Him, and from all He was and did, yon will not wonder that I knelt down and poured out my soul to God in praise and prayer. And in that prayer there mingled the events of my past life, and all my friends whom I loved to mention by name, and my dear father, and the old Highlands, the state of the Church, and of the world, until I felt Christ so real, that had He appeared and spoken it would not have seemed strange.”

Soon after his return from Palestine Dr. Macleod was appointed to the Convenership of the India Mission of the Scotch Church. Referring to the appointment he says: “I have accepted of this without doubt, though not without solemn and prayerful consideration—for I have tried, at least for the last twenty-five years, to accept of whatever work is offered to me in God’s providence. I have, rightly or wrongly, always believed that a man’s work is given to him—that it need not so much be sought as accepted—that it is floated to one’s feet like the infant Moses to Pharaoh’s daughter. Mission work has been a possession of my spirit ever since I became a minister; I feel that God has long been educating me for it. I go forth tolerably well informed as to facts, and loving the work itself, with heart, soul and strength; I accept it from God, and have perfect confidence in the power and grace of God to give us the men and the money. Thank God for calling me in my advanced years to so glorious and blessed a work.”

India had long been to him a land of great and varied interest. His conversations with the widow of the Marquis of Hastings, in Loudoun, had deepened his impression of the grand features of its scenery, and the stirring incidents of its history; and he had a thorough acquaintance with those achievements of war and statesmanship by which it had been brought into subjection to British authority. Its scenes of shame and glory were accurately pourtrayed on his mind: and while he mourned over the error and wretchedness of its people, he had confidence in the Gospel of Christ, as being able to draw them from their gorgeous yet debasing idolatries, and to raise them to the dignity and magnificence of “a royal priesthood,” rejoicing in the service of the Lord. There was scarcely any sacrifice he was not prepared to make in the evangelisation of India, and though his health seemed scarcely equal to the fatigue of long travel and the debilitating influence of the hot climate, he set sail for Bombay in 1867, accompanied by Dr. Watson of Dundee, to promote the objects of the Mission.

While in India Dr. Macleod was almost incessantly engaged either in public services or private investigations and interviews, but before he had worked out his plan of operations, he was prostrated by sickness, and after a hasty visit to Benares, Agra, Delhi and other noted cities, embarked for home. He was met at Alexandria by Mrs. Macleod, and returned to Scotland by Malta, Naples, Borne and Paris.

The General Assembly of 1869 unanimously elected Dr. Macleod to the Moderatorship. This was the highest ecclesiastical honour that could be awarded him, and was a fitting recognition of his great services in the pulpit, and in the Home and Foreign Missions of the Church. Whatever influence the office gave was used by him in the advocacy of schemes for the enlargement of the Church, and especially of its Indian Mission. The claims and necessities of the latter work were frequently urged by him with all his power of argument and eloquence. India had taken hold of his heart, and he went on pleading for funds and Missionaries, even when in bodily suffering which he might justly have assigned as a reason for perfect rest.

His health was so shattered that in 1872 he was compelled to give up his Convenership. He made his final appeal for the Mission in a long and memorable speech before the Assembly.

This was nearly the last scene of his public life. He preached once in the Barony Church on the following Sabbath, taking for his text, “We have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” All that he had written of the sermon was on a sheet of note paper; but from a full heart he exhorted his hearers to accept the guidance of Christ, assuring them that if they did so, they would at the last be able cheerfully to give up life and all into His keeping. With that sermon his work ended. The Monday was his sixtieth birthday, and he thus wrote to his friend, Principal Shairp: “I am threescore years to-day! John, dear, I cannot speak about myself. I am dumb with thoughts that cannot be uttered.....As I feel time so rapidly passing, I take your hand, dear old friend, with a firmer grip. I have many friends; few old ones ! O that I loved my oldest and truest, my Father and Saviour, better! But should I enter heaven as a forlorn ship, dismasted, and a mere log—it is enough—for I will be repaired. But I have been a poor concern, and have no peace but in God’s mercy to a miserable sinner.” He suffered severely through the week, but was often engaged in audible or silent prayer. Having heard of the birth of a nephew, he said, “I have been praying for this little boy of Donald’s; that he may live to be a good man, and by God’s grace be a minister in the Church of Christ—the grandest of all callings.”

On Sunday morning, June 16th, he asked his wife to sit beside him, and spoke to her freely of his joy and confidence in God, telling her to write down what he said that his words might be a comfort to her in her day of sorrow. Two of his daughters went to him to kiss him before going to church. Taking the hand of one of them he said, "If I had strength, I could tell you things would do you good through all your life. I am an old man and have passed through many experiences, but now all is perfect peace and perfect calm. I have glimpses of heaven that no tongue, or pen, or words can describe. About an hour after, with a gentle sigh, his soul escaped to heaven.

He was buried beside his father in the Campsie graveyard. Civic and University dignitaries, ministers and members of numerous churches, preceded or followed the hearse to the outskirts of the city; while crowds of working people watched the procession as it passed along the streets, and testified by their sorrowful faces how they loved and lamented him who had been to them so true a friend, and whose labours had tended so much to their social and religious improvement. At Campsie the shops were closed, and the whole population united in paying respect to the son of their former minister. As the coffin was about to be lowered into the grave, three wreaths were placed upon it bearing inscriptions showing that they were from Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family.

“The spot where he sleeps is a suggestive emblem of his life. On the one side are the hum of business and the houses of toiling humanity; on the other, green pastoral hills, and the silence of Highland solitudes. More than one eye rested that day on the sunny slope where he had so lately dreamt of building a home for his old age—more than one heart thanked God for the more glorious mansion into which he had entered/1

Unqualified approval cannot be given to all Dr. Macleod’s opinions and public movements, but he was a good and great man, intent on the honour of Christ and the moral improvement of his fellow men. He presented a fine combination of manly power with philanthropic Christian zeal. He was, to quote the inscription on one of the two painted windows placed by Her Majesty in Crathie Church as memorials of his ministry, “a man eminent in the Church, honoured in the State, and in many lands greatly beloved.”


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