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The Life of James Robertson
THE NIGHT COMETH AND ALSO THE MORNING


THE years of the Yukon campaign were, perhaps, the most intensely active years of the Superintendent’s whole life. Into no other five years did he pack so much concentrated effort, and no other years of effort were crowned with such brilliant success. In the light of subsequent events we can now recognize how truly heroic those years were, for during the whole period, silently and without moan, he was fighting and losing his last fight with a deadly disease. It may be that he heard the call that warned him of the coming night, and that he felt the compulsion of the hurrying minutes.

It was to the Synod of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories of November, 1897, that Mr. Gordon made the first public announcement of the Superintendent’s serious illness, and from that hour those who stood nearest to him in work set themselves to lighten his burden and to save him to the Church, but from that hour till his last, he seemed to press more and more eagerly into the field. From that Synod went this telegram to its old and trusted leader:

"REV. DR. ROBERTSON, Superintendent of Missions,

"62 Admiral Road, Toronto.

"The Synod unitedly prays that the God of all comfort may be with you and restore you to us soon."

Afterwards the following resolution of sympathy was likewise sent:

"The Synod of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories learns with deep regret of the serious illness of the Superintendent of Missions, by which he is prevented from attendance at this meeting, expresses its warm sympathy with Dr. Robertson and his family in his affliction, and urges him to take such complete rest from all work as may serve to hasten his recovery.

"The Synod prays, as it has already joined in praying, that Almighty God may comfort and sustain Dr. Robertson in his affliction and bless the means employed for his speedy recovery."

In response there came from him to his brethren the following telegram:

"A grateful heart thanks Synod for message of sympathy. Condition slightly improved. May Synod’s deliberations be abundantly blessed.

"J. ROBERTSON,"

and afterwards many warm and grateful letters to his colabourers in the West. The following letters breathe a spirit of such tender, humble devotion to the Master whom he served and of such grateful affection for his fellow workers, that we may be pardoned for printing them in full. The first is to Mr. Gordon.

"62 Admiral Road, Toronto, Nov. 15, 1897.

"DEAR GORDON :— "Your two letters were duly received and touched me keenly, because I felt how unworthy I was of all that was said and done at the Synod, and is being said now by letter by so many of my brethren. After all the Synod and yourself and others have done, it will be well-nigh impossible for me to go West again. I no longer wonder how demigods and other gods of that ilk were made and worshipped, after all that a grave and Reverend—I was going to write it with a small r but I corrected myself as you, with your young eyes, will see—Synod will do in the case of a very ordinary mortal like myself. We are all a band of brothers working with one Father and Elder Brother to establish truth and righteousness in the West, and should one fall, bury him and let the rest push on the work. But I trust I am not to be taken yet—I want to live a few years longer to see the development that I feel sure, is coming one day, and I think is drawing near—and I would like to do a little more to express my love to Him who is all my salvation and my desire. When you look over the past you are struck with the barren waste. What have you done? Whom have you helped? There has been opportunity, but it has not been embraced, souls to cheer, to guide, to comfort, but, alas! it was not done. But regrets are vain and I am not going to indulge in them now. Thanks for all the news about the Synod. I hear that you acquitted yourself well as usual—thank you. And I am glad Dr. King made a financial speech, and since he can be strong and pointed and knows the situation, I hope he did not put on gloves, but struck with bare knuckles. Some men require to be struck a stinging blow in the ‘solar plexus,’ not he of St. Stephen’s.

"There was a Home Mission deficit of over $4,000 last spring, as put in my report or rather yours. See the Home Mission financial statement in Assembly Report.

"By writing letters when not too tired, I am doing something to stir up an interest. Pastors, I find, are reading letters to congregations, and they find their way into the local papers.

"You do not know how you relieve me by your presence and work in Winnipeg. May God reward you—I never can.

"I am holding my own, I think; I cannot say I am gaining yet. Dr. Gilbert Gordon was here Saturday. He seems to be satisfied. All wish to be remembered to you.

"Yours sincerely,

"J. ROBERTSON."

Another of later date is to Mr. McQueen, in whose fellowship and loyal affection he has ever found great joy:

"DEAR MR. MCQUEEN :— "I hope to be able to be with you at the Presbytery meeting, although I am recovering but slowly. I conducted the anniversary services at Blyth—my late father’s congregation—and gave an address Monday evening on Home Missions in the mining districts of British Columbia, and I found that I had by no means recovered my former staying power. However, I am gaining and hope to be with you.

"I have been unwell for more than a year past, but did not know that a dangerous disease had fastened itself upon me. Weight, strength, energy went down, but by force of will I went on doing work. A collapse came, and then the physician told me my danger. He told me the case was not hopeless, but that rest and regimen were absolutely necessary—I am taking them as best I can. But if I had to do nothing I fear I should die. I think there is a slight change for the better, and I hope it may continue. Brethren have been very kind; in fact, it was almost worth while to get sick to know how much good people thought was in you. I do not think my brethren insincere— far from it—but their praise was very embarrassing because you who know yourself much better than they could, detect little of what they appeared to see. Mental illusion or delusion. But their kindness I shall never forget. But I have no idea of giving up yet, and I hope that God who has been gracious and kind, will spare me to go to Edmonton.

"Give my very kind regards to Mrs. McQueen and the rest. And my wife wishes me to thank for her all who show an interest in my recovery. My dear fellow, do what your hand finds to do now. Lost opportunities are an awful nightmare on a sick-bed. Life looks so barren of good that you bless God for being merciful.

"J. ROBERTSON."

With these letters should go two others. They are from his wife to Mrs. Hart who, with Professor Hart, had been through all the years a warmly sympathetic and unweariedly helpful friend, and they are a window into that holy place of sacrifice where the Robertson family have made offering year by year upon the altar of service to Church and country, of which sacrifice and altar the

wife and mother stands high priestess. The first bears the date November 26, 1897, and is as follows:

"Mv DEAR Mrs. HART :— "Your kind words of love and sympathy were very much appreciated by us, and we thank you for them. It is pleasant to know that you all take so much interest in one so near and dear. I trust your prayers on his behalf are being answered, and that in God’s good time he may be restored to health. We were thankful that he got home before he was taken ill, and we are glad to have him with us even sick. We need him, and he needs us none the less.

"He is improving, though somewhat slowly, and I hope he may be induced to take sufficient rest now, so that there may be no relapse.

"Though unable to go around to give addresses, he is busy the greater part of the day with work for the Church—writing, writing—too much, I think, but it is difficult to restrain him, and he would be thinking of it anyway, which would be nearly as bad.

"You Western people seem to think you own the Doctor. All the cry is, ‘Get better and come back to us.’ What about wife and family? I am rather jealous for my rights. But really the people have all been extremely kind. Thank you once more.

"Give our kindest regards to Professor Hart and the young people. Remember me to Miss Lawson. Love to your dear self.

"Your sincere friend,

"M. A. ROBERTSON."

"Jealous !" alas, poor wife, she has him for a while to herself, and what wonder that she stands almost fiercely on guard.

To Mrs. Hart’s answer there comes this reply which, more than any quoted in these pages, penetrates the heart with its poignant pathos. It is as follows:

"62 Admiral Road, Toronto, Dec. 18, 1897. "Mv DEAR MRS. HART:— "Judging from the number of letters that go to Winnipeg from 62 Admiral Road, I presume you are in possession of all the information I can give you. However, I want to write to let you know how welcome your letter was with its news and with its comfort, and how much I appreciate your interest in us.

"The Doctor still continues to improve. He is stronger, his colour better, his skin softer and more moist, the pains or cramps in his limbs pretty much gone, and he feels better. He can walk for an hour or even two each day, without being very much fatigued, but he still keeps very thin, one might say almost skin and bone. We get the best of everything he is allowed to eat, and I do all the preparing and serving myself. He has a good appetite, too (I am told that is a characteristic of the disease), and relishes four meals each day, except occasionally when confined to bed.

"Maybe you saw from the papers that he attended the Toronto Presbytery and gave an address. This evening he went to Hamilton to address Dr. Lyle’s congregation tomorrow.

"He is very anxious to get better and to work, and I am sure the prayers and expressions of love and sympathy from his many friends have comforted and cheered him. To all of those we owe a debt of gratitude, and especially to those in the West, whose kindness we can never forget.

"Probably you were right when you said I would not like it any better were you to say, ‘Get better and stay in Toronto.’ I do not think he would be any better away from home. He certainly would take work or make it, and he could not have the care and attention he receives here.

"It will be quite a treat to have him with us during the Xmas season. Never once since 1881 has he been at home for the holiday season.

"Love from all of us to you and yours. May your Xmas be a happy and joyous one.

"Your loving, friend,

"M. A. ROBERTSON."

Home "once" only in sixteen years for the Christmas season and that by reason of sickness.

Soon he is better and out again upon the field. Indeed, his eager spirit has never for a moment been absent from its activities, and with such dash and vigour does he lead, that he deceives his friends and perhaps himself as to his true condition.

At its March meeting in 1898, the Home Mission Committee seeks to relieve him of the more laborious features of his work, and appoints him Field Secretary, hoping that he may give to others those long, wearisome journeys through the wide extent of his Western field. But it is quite useless. Field Secretary he may be, but that will not withdraw him from the field. Nay, if he be Field Secretary, surely the field must claim him more and more. So in September of that year we find him more in the thick of the work than ever. The two following letters give us the programme for two of his journeys:

"Gainsboro, Assa., Sept. 1, 1898.

"DEAR MRS. HART :— "The programme has been so far carried out to the letter. The day I left you I got to Napinka and held a meeting in the evening; Thursday I got to Oxbow and went south seventeen miles to a meeting, returning the same night; Friday I spent corresponding, and addressed a meeting in the evening; Saturday drove forty-seven miles with a lame ‘plug’ that made me weary to finish the journey; Sabbath, three services and a drive of forty-three miles—Moose Mountain field; Monday, a drive of forty-three miles, a runaway, a broken pole, but ‘nobody hurt,’ and a successful meeting; Tuesday, meeting at Carievale, well attended, and a drive to Gainsboro afterwards, nine or ten miles; Wednesday, correspondence, drive south to Winland, meeting and return here; to-day going to Estevan. Strength remaining, but diet not quite the right kind. Country people are very kind, but limited as to range in furnishing meals. White bread, canned fruit, and jams are always in evidence, while eggs, etc., have to be asked for. They are tired of them themselves, and think others are too. But I am doing very well.

"Missions I find in a state requiring attention. I am getting them to pull up—in some cases, to nearly double former contributions.

"Mrs. R— and the rest were well, as I learned two days ago.

"With grateful remembrances of all your kindness, and asking to be remembered to Professor Hart, Miss Ethel and Mr. William,

"With great respect,

"Yours sincerely,

"J. ROBERTSON."

"Revelstoke, B. C., Sept. 12, 1898.

"DEAR MRS. HART :— "So far I have got on my journey filling all appointments, and although I am not quite fresh, yet I am holding out fairly well. I attended the meeting of the Presbytery of Calgary at Medicine Hat on Tuesday last, and posted off that night to Calgary, and reached Edmonton on Wednesday evening, and gave an address at a public meeting. Thursday attended Presbytery meeting, and we finished business Friday, visited, and conducted service in the evening, baptizing six children, the minister’s infant daughter being one. Saturday returned to Calgary, and conducted two services Sabbath, and got here this evening. To-morrow morning I am going away to a meeting of the Presbytery of Kamloops at Nelson, and returning to go to Vancouver. The first basket I got safely, and saw the second at Calgary when going to Edmonton, but could not get it this morning—the agent was absent. I am getting it sent here, so that on my return from Nelson I may get it. I am very much obliged to you, but I am ashamed to put you to so much trouble. I received considerable help from the gluten bread.

"I have heard from home, and all are well. Mr. Gordon I hope to meet in the Kootenay on Wednesday.

"Kind regards to Professor Hart, Miss Ethel, Mr. William and your ‘Scorrish’ cousin. With best thanks and warmest esteem,

"Believe me to be, dear Mrs. Hart,

"Yours sincerely,

"J. ROBERTSON."

The anniversary of his wife’s birthday and of their marriage, the 23d of September, finds husband pushing along the dusty mountain trails, and wife waiting at home in anxiety and fear for tidings. He cannot be with her to celebrate; a telegram and letter must do. These anniversary letters are too sacred for any printed page, but from this one we may select some paragraphs:

"Last night I sent you congratulations for to-day, which is the anniversary of your birth and of our marriage. I would have liked very much to have been able to be with you, but it seems always difficult of being realized, owing to my engagements.

"On my arrival here I got your letter, and after reading it I felt doubly sorry to be away. I suppose you did your best with the children. I spent last night without sleep on the train, and to-day in a heated atmosphere till 4 P. M. It was not like the anniversary of our wedding, but it could not be helped.

"I am sorry—sorrier than you, I think, that we have not been more together, and especially sorry for you. If you have had the pleasure of the children’s company you have had all the trouble in connection with them and their upbringing. Of this I would willingly have relieved you in part, but could not. I am thankful to God that you have been able to do it so well. And it will be some satisfaction to you if in the providence of God they turn out well, that you have been able to do so much for them even although the work was hard and the task responsible.

"But as I was thinking of the past, I do not know that you would have been better with any of the other fellows who coveted your hand so much. Poor Adam left life early, Mac has long since gone after him. Matheson and you would not agree, nor would Wilson or Cowing. I cannot really tell how many more you had. It would seem as if S— was your only hope in the matter of permanent companionship, and him you refused. Had you known, however, that you would be so much of the time separated from me, I suppose you would have had nothing to do with me, and then our dear children would be calling some one else father. As for me, I suppose had I known that my life would have been such as it is, I would not have presumed to ask any person to be my partner, and my past and future would have a different hue. Well, things are as they are, nor am I sorry, but the reverse, except in the matter of such frequent and long separations. My wife promised to be loving and faith ful, and she has kept her part of the covenant during these years, and if to-day ended the contract, I would with all my heart ask her to renew it again for life. Were I to say more, you would say I was trying to please you without my heart being in my words, and this has never been the case. My dear wife I loved and love and will while life lasts or reason holds the throne. I know she insists on measuring me by her own bushel, but I think that mine is more just and I must continue to use it. Kiss our dear children. Tell them the story of your courtship, of your beaux and your troubles with them, of your desire to marry two, if not three of them, if not to please yourself, to please them, and the hard luck that gave you their father. You could entertain them for an evening, and I venture to say they would listen."

British Columbia with its mining activity is now the danger zone of the Dominion, hence he must be on the ground, and with his old disregard of personal comfort and of health, he outlines his programme and then proceeds relentlessly to fill it in.

In August, 1899, the Superintendent spent two weeks in the Boundary Country. The story of that campaign is told in a paper by the Rev. H. J. Robertson. So simple, so direct, so vivid is this narrative, and such a picture does it give of heroic endurance on the part of the old chief and of loyal devotion on the part of his young clansman, that it is without apology set down here.

"It was in August, 1899, Dr. Robertson came to Nelson on his way to Rossland, where the new Presbytery of Kootenay was to be organized. He was looking exceedingly well. We went on to Rossland together, and after concluding Presbytery business, Dr. Robertson left for Marcus, Washington State, on Thursday morning, en. route to Grand Forks. From Marcus his travelling was to be by stage forty-five miles to Grand Forks, twenty miles to Greenwood, twelve miles to Midway and return, with Cascade, Columbia, Phoenix and Eholt to visit by the way. The following Thursday morning I met him at the station in Nelson. He was old and haggard and played out, scarcely able to walk. I took his ‘grip’ while he, in his fatherly way, took my arm, and as we went up the hill together told me what he had been doing during the past week. It had been long drives by stage, meetings every night, consultations with ministers and missionaries and managers, letter-writing till after midnight, and up at daybreak to catch the early stages. During the week he had averaged about two hours’ sleep a night. Little wonder, then, that he was played out.

"He rested that day in Nelson in Mr. Frew’s apartments, and while he dictated I wrote many letters for him. Friday morning he was off again by the seven o’clock train for Slocan, where he held a meeting that night. Saturday he visited New Denver, Roseberry, and Three Forks, getting to Sandon that evening. Sunday morning he preached in Sandon, and by the afternoon train went over to Kaslo, where he preached in the evening.

"It was in Sandon, on Friday, that he was taken ill with dysentery, and by Sunday evening was so weak that he was unable to stand during the service, so sat down by the pulpit and addressed the people. Monday evening he was off by the boat for Ainsworth. A meeting had been arranged for at that place and he simply had to keep his engagements, so he said. At Ainsworth he lay down in the missionary’s shack during the day—too ill to move out, and in the evening presided at the meeting for which he had come—and again he was too weak to stand. That night I passed up the lake bound for the Lardeau district, which the Superintendent had asked me to explore, and as we saw the lighted church from the boat I wondered how it was going with the old man, but little thought that he was in such dire straits.

"Tuesday night Dr. Robertson was billed for a meeting at Ymir, a little mining town seventeen miles south of Nelson. This was the last engagement in West Kootenay and he was determined to fulfill it. By steamer he came down the lake from Ainsworth to Five Mile Point where he got the morning train south to Ymir.

He was ill, dangerously ill, but getting medicine from the Ymir druggist, he held his meeting. A week later Mr. Robertson heard that the Superintendent was still in Ymir, detained by sickness. At once Robertson set off from Nelson for Ymir, walking the seventeen miles in four hours, over the most difficult trail he had ever travelled.

"On inquiring for Dr. Robertson, I was directed to the home of a man whose name I have forgotten. Here I found the old hero wonderfully well, as I had been imagining all sorts of things on my way over. Before I had time to make any inquiry about himself, he began to ply me with questions.

"‘Hello! Where have you come from?’

"‘From Nelson.’

"‘When?’

"‘To-day.’

"‘Where have you been since the train came in four hours ago? Where did you get the mud on your boots?’

"‘Oh, I got that walking over from Nelson. I missed the train and walked over.’

"‘Well, what did you walk over here for? I thought you were up in Lardeau.’

"‘I came down last night to Nelson and heard this morning that you were sick, so came over to look after you.’ It had never entered the old man’s head that any one would walk any distance to see him. When he heard why I had come, he said nothing, but I saw his eyes fill with tears, and I had my reward.

"We went back to Nelson that same afternoon, and from the station, where we found Mr. Creasse waiting with a cab, we drove to Dr. Arthur’s, and from there to Mr. James Lawrence, a son of the Rev. James Lawrence, formerly of Stony Mountain. Here Dr. Robertson remained and rested another day, while I was kept busy writing letters, making new engagements for the following weeks.

"A few weeks later, he preached on Sunday morning in St. Stephen’s, Winnipeg. At the close of the service he found out Mrs. Murray and told her that he had seen her nephew, Robertson, in British Columbia, and ‘he walked seventeen miles to see me when I was sick.’ "

God bless the young man! and God give him a great ministry! He served us all that day in serving Him whom we would so gladly serve.

The great expansion in British Columbia and the establishing of the Yukon Mission leave the Committee struggling with a deficit, which deficit sends the Superintendent through Eastern Canada on the hunt for funds till his strength fails. Then the Executive, needing men more sorely than it needs money, hurries the Superintendent off to Scotland to bear greetings to the Union Assembly of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches there, and to win the continued interest of the united Church in Western Canada, and to get men. The Executive is hopeful, too, that with leagues of sea between him and his field, their Field Secretary may, perchance, be manoeuvred into rest.

To their mutual delight, his wife accompanies her husband upon this trip. His work the Superintendent apportions to one and another of his colleagues, for he is not the man to leave it uncared for. Hence the following letter to Mr. Gordon:

"Cunard R. M. S. ‘Lucania,’ October 25, 1900.

"DEAR MR. GORDON :— "When 1 left Winnipeg a few things that I was to attend to were left unsettled. Mr. McLaren of Vancouver wanted a man for Fairview—a part of Vancouver like Mt. Pleasant—I wanted to see G. C. Grant about going there, but did not have a chance." And so through the whole list of men and fields, each having received his personal care and attention.

"D— I was trying to get settled at Leduc. He was ready to go, but his wife was afraid of being, like Lot’s wife, turned, not into a pillar of salt, but a pillar of ice. But D— has been tried in a number of places in British Columbia, and does not fit anywhere, and hence I was anxious to try him on the Alberta plains to see how he would do. Will you follow this out, too?

"I told Tina, before I left Toronto, to send you all letters, after consulting Dr. Warden in reference to cases he should consider, and I told Dr. Warden to send you any men he had and that you would place them. The list of vacancies I sent you; for fear it got lost or miscarried, let me repeat.

"I have asked the other Conveners to write you about men.

"I left on my table, when I left home, the material for a Home Mission report to the Synod; Tessie will likely send it to you. You and Mr. Farquharson can arrange its matter, and add to it as you deem best, and present it with my apologies for my absence. The Augmentation report I sent you ere I left.

"The treasurer’s report you will also present. Get all moneys due—accounts were sent to everybody in time—and enter them in the book. I told Tessie to send you the book, the receipted bills, and the stubs of checks Mr. Farquharson made out to Conveners attending meetings of Home Mission Committee. These will, I trust, be accepted as vouchers. The checks themselves are in the bank. If anything needs explanation I shall give it on return.

"Best regards,

"J. ROBERTSON."

After two months of visiting training-schools, institutes and colleges, his physician sends him off with his wife to the Hydropathie at Crieff, with strict orders to rest. From this somewhat gay watering-place he writes this delightfully bright and breezy letter to Mrs. Hart on New Year’s Day, 1901:

"On this day that ushers in the new year and new century, I feel I must write you, if only a note, to offer you, Professor Hart, Ethel and Willie, the greetings of the season. May heaven’s best blessings be bestowed on you all this year, and may the century be called old before you are forced to admit that you feel as if you were beginning to get old.

"Well, we are here by doctor’s orders, and trying to get back strength lost. Losing, I find, is easier than gaining. In a sense I am gaining, and yet things are not satisfactory. To-day, Mrs. R— and I had a good walk

—four miles—and at the end of our trip she was more tired than I. And yet, sugar is in my blood, in my feet, in my hands-I feel it, the crystals scratching and irritating, and causing local swellings. But enough of this. Mrs. R—. is well and enjoys her rest.

"I have not been addressing congregations or Presbyteries. I did address the people here on two occasions, and was given two contributions of £300 each, or nearly $3,000 in all. I am willing to hire myself out for the rest of my days, well or ill, at that figure. I am writing leaflets, letters, etc., etc., and trying to awaken an interest in that way; but the people here are self-centred, insular, provincial in their ideas—small to a marvel, considering the talk about Empire and Evangelization, Enlightenment, and all the other E’s they are supposed to have and use. And this Union has left little time for one section of the Church to do but ask ‘Where are we at ?' The United Presbyterians seem to be glad, but the Frees look to me as if they thought that they had married just a little below them. But "tis done, the great transaction’s done,’ and they must make the best of it. Meetings have been held in all the centres of population, Glasgow, Paisley, Perth, Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen, etc., to celebrate the event, and all passed off very well. A Free Church fragment—mostly Highlanders—stayed out— a great pity, as they cannot hope to accomplish anything. It will take the congregations all their time to live, and the ministers of some of them will scarcely command milk for their porridge. Time will reveal the failure.

"This Hydro. just now is like a fair. There must be 250 people here. From all parts they come. And such a display of silk and jewellery, of arms and shoulders, I have never seen. But with their style and charms, I think I have seen a girl near Manitoba College somewhere, that I would match against the most captivating and capturing of them all. More than once I wished she was here. To-night we had a splendid spread, haggis brought in with Highland honours, regular big paunches, steaming hot, on four huge trays borne aloft, followed by as many bottles fully displayed. Down one aisle headed by the piper they went, and up the other, guests standing and cheering. Afterwards ‘ Comietta’ in the recreation-room, followed by dancing. We had prayers in the drawing-room at 9 :45. I looked in on the others afterwards, waltzing in full swing. Strange mixture of piety and gayety here. I am in the ‘ writing-room now, all alone—not all alone—couples come in here, and tête-a-têtes are proceeding. I long to tell them I cannot hear well, so that they may have more freedom, but I ‘don’t like to.’ But enough.

"No plans for the future. I am going to address students in Edinburgh next week, and Presbytery of Perth. The following week I may go to Budapest; Mr. Allan is arranging for ticket, passport, etc.

"With kindest regards from both of us to you all. I wish we had a little of your weather. Nothing here but fog, mist, cloud, rain, slop. Fall of soft snow Sunday, but it did not stay."

By the kind thoughtfulness of Mr. B. S. Allan of Glasgow, whose guests they are for a few days, Dr. Robertson and his wife are sent off to Budapest where there is to be a great gathering of students. He has a most cordial reception and secures for Western work two men. His experiences on the continent and his opinions thereupon, are worth recording. We select the following extract from a letter to Dr. Hart

"Learning that there were colleges at Debritszen and Koloszvar, I arranged to go there, and had enthusiastic meetings, although the students had never heard of Canada, and one of the professors, who interpreted for me, stopped me in my address and asked me whether, when I said Canada was nearly as large as Europe, I did not mean Europe without Russia? When I answered that I meant all west of the Ural Mountains and the Ural River, the students made a sort of noise that I never heard except in Hungary, but which I was told was a cheer. At both places the bishops attended, and showed great interest; and when I called on one of them privately he offered, if we sent two Hungarians home, to educate and board and lodge them for the four years’ course in Theology free of cost. This offer he made as Bishop, he said, and the interpreter, Professor Ciszy— pronounced Cheeky—informed me that this was as good as a bond, and binding on his successor.

"Returning to Budapest, we arranged to start for Vienna, where we spent the Sabbath. We attended the Free Church Mission in the forenoon, and I addressed the Reformed Congregation in the evening, and the Y. M. C. A. Monday on mission work in the West. Tuesday we came to Prague, and I instituted inquiries about the Bohemians. I made little of it. There is not much of a Church, and it is morally rotten, not the Church from which to get missionaries. Then we pushed on here, where Mr. Macmillan, brother of Mr. Macmillan of Lindsay, looked up quarters for us. I called on Dr. Mereusky, the head of a Foreign Mission College here, and have the prospect of getting some men through him.

"But I have concluded that it is scarcely safe to get many men from Europe. They have the mercenary, far more than the missionary, spirit developed ; spiritual life is not as requisite for spiritual work, nor does a man need to believe what he teaches any more than a lawyer. Worse, they are not clean in the great majority of cases. From ninety to ninety-five per cent. of the theological students even of the Reformed Church are said by ministers to be unclean. Unbelief is spreading rapidly, and the ranks of the ‘Social Democrats’ being rapidly recruited. Can any good come out of Nazareth? Better try to get or train men amid better surroundings. But enough of this."

From the continent he returns not greatly improved in health, but still hopeful and eager for recruits for Canada. He is home in the spring of 1901 in time for the March meeting of the Committee. By the Committee he is welcomed with grateful affection for his own sake and for the work he has done. He reports that he has secured forty-two men and over $10,000 in cash or in promises, and the Committee, lifted out of the slough of a threatened deficit, faces the General Assembly with the report of such splendid achievement as has never been equalled in the history of the Church. This report is presented by the Superintendent himself with his accustomed freshness and force, and is received by the Assembly with great enthusiasm.

A supplementary report is presented by the Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Warden, Convener of the Home Mission Committee, praying the Assembly to arrange for some adequate assistance to Dr. Robertson in the matter of superintendence. This request, upon motion of the Rev. J. W. Macmillan, seconded by Dr. Bryce, is granted. With simple dignity the Superintendent thanks the Assembly for the kind thoughtfulness in this matter, and the work of superintendence of Western missions enters upon a new phase.

He is often on his feet during this Assembly. Against the advice of many of his friends who know the hopelessness of it, he moves the Home Mission Committee’s recommendation requesting the Women’s Foreign Mission Society to widen the scope of its activity to embrace Home as well as Foreign Mission work. It is the last of a long series of efforts in this direction, and it fails.

Dr. Robertson has sometimes been criticised as being hostile to Foreign Mission work. None who know his attitude would so criticise him. To no one would he yield in loyalty to the cause of Foreign Missions, but to him it was simply a question of procedure. The great world outside was the objective, but the immediate base was the Canadian West. And no amount of devotion to the work in China could atone, in his opinion, for neglect of Canada; and no amount of zeal for work in the Foreign field would recover the ground lost to the Kingdom of Heaven through indifference to the needs of Canada. This was his attitude, and it is an attitude perfectly reasonable and one easily understood.

In this his last Assembly, Dr Robertson is the prime mover in a number of causes. He presses and carries through an overture signed by Drs. Herdman, Herridge, Somerville, Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Gordon, and others in regard to the training of men for Home Mission work, the final issue of which is the establishment of the Minister Evangelist Course now in operation in Manitoba College. He supports the overtures that result in the erection of the new Presbyteries of Dauphin, Qu’Appelle, and Prince Albert.

At the very close of the Assembly he presents the report of the Church and Manse Building Fund. It is the last report to be presented to the Assembly. Members and officials are crowding work through with almost unseemly haste, when the Superintendent rises to make his last address to the house. The moments are precious and he knows it, and not one of them does he waste. With the old fire and with unabated vigour, he recounts the work accomplished by this Fund. The Assembly, forgetting its weariness and its impatience, listens with delighted interest to the hurrying stream of statistics and stories, and to his final passionate appeal on behalf of his beloved West. In moving the resolution adopting the report, Dr. Herridge takes occasion to say that no more fitting climax to the Assembly’s work can be found. Principal Grant, in seconding the resolution, speaks in the same strain, closing with the significant and prophetic quotation finis coronat opus.

His Assembly work is done, but there remain a few weeks into which he can crowd some further service to his Church and to his country. In August he sets off for a tour of the West. Through the Presbyteries of Kamloops, Kootenay, Edmonton, and Calgary, he goes, himself a veritable flying column, optimistic, buoyant as ever; counselling, cheering on his brethren with never a word of complaint in regard to himself, and with only now and then a suggestion of failing strength. Of his Calgary visit his old friend, Dr. Herdman, a man of his own kidney and dear to his heart, thus writes:

"His last visit to Calgary was September 18th to 20th of 1901. I handed him a bundle of letters which had accumulated for him—sixty-six in all! The Home Mission Committee of the Synod of British Columbia was in session, and one of the meetings lasted till two o’clock in the morning. Next day Dr. Lafferty called to give him a well considered warning against overtaxing his small capital of health. He was at once impressed and grateful, and more than once referred to the excellent nature of the advice, on our way to Winnipeg.

"The train should have reached Winnipeg early in the evening, but it was just one o’clock when we got to our destination. At the station he found two students awaiting him, having arrangements about travelling to make, which only he could effect for them. The better part of an hour was consumed in this way, during which time my duty was to keep the hotel bus waiting. For no other man would it have waited, but the name of Dr. Robertson prevailed with passengers and bus drivers, and when he at last appeared, none but kindly greetings awaited him all round, though it was now nearly two in the morning. When we reached the hotel I gasped to see the hotel clerk hand him a bundle of letters; and when I met him next morning at breakfast, I found to my consternation that he had not only read the letters, but ‘Although,’ as he said apologetically, ‘my hope was that I might be able to follow Dr. Lafferty’s friendly advice,’ he had found several of them so urgent, and dealing with matters so long delayed, that he had been compelled by a sense of duty to take most of the few hours that remained of the night, and reply at once. This was how between us all we worked our Superintendent of Missions."

In October he is in Toronto for the meeting of the Executive of the Assembly’s Committee, and immediately upon its close hurries to complete his tour of the West. By November 7th he is on the east-bound train, busy with correspondence. Here is a letter of instructions, terse, crisp, pulsing with life and feeling which he addresses to Mr. Gordon:

"You can scarcely imagine—vivid as your imagination is—how disappointed and flabbergasted I was to-day to find you had gone out of town ; there were sheaves of things I wished to discuss with you. But let me give you first a list of men expected and where it is suggested that they be sent." Then follows a list of names with directions as to fields, his judgment in regard to salaries, instructions as to leaflets and Synod Fund, after which the letter proceeds: "In presenting the Home Mission report, get the Committee to recommend

"1. That the Synod instruct all congregations and missions to contribute to the Fund.

"2. That the Synod direct attention to the need of more missionaries, and men better suited for the work.

"3. Let missions like those I have indicated to you, be frankly told that they must shift for themselves.

"To save Fund, let an Executive of the Home Mission and Augmentation be appointed to meet in the autumn.

"J. R.

"P. S. Apologize to Committee and Synod for my absence; tell them how sincerely I regret not meeting my brethren, but that it was inevitable." He never met with them again.

The rest of November he spends in a Home Mission campaign, in company with the Rev. J. A. Macdonald and Mr. John Penman of Paris. The last month of the year and of his life is packed full, the Sabbaths with public services, the days between with journeys, addresses, and correspondence.

On Sabbath, November 24th, on his way to address the Park dale congregation, he has a fall which almost renders him insensible. He makes his way to a doctor, bruised and bleeding, but after being bandaged, he insists on fulfilling his engagement and that same afternoon addresses Westminster Sabbath-school. Remonstrances are in vain, He never has broken an appointment while able to stand. From his shoulder to his finger-tips, he is black and blue ; his arm is useless, but next Sabbath he is preaching in Brampton, Cheltenham, and Mt. Pleasant. On Tuesday following he addresses the Toronto Presbytery and, as he tells his old friend, Dr. Farquharson, "stated a few plain things to them about the treatment they were meting out to Home Mission and Augmentation, and tried to shame them, etc.," with some effect, evidently, for a number of the brethren ask him for a synopsis of his address to be used with their people. The following Sabbath he is preaching in Paris, Farringdon and Zion Church, Brantford. The Sabbath after, he keeps an appointment, made three weeks before, and addresses Westminster congregation, Toronto, in its morning service.

"I shall never forget his appearance," writes Rev. John Neil, "when he came into the vestry before the service. He had a bandage over one eye, and his appearance indicated that he had been passing through some trying experiences. He said, ‘Dr. Warden insisted upon my not coining this morning, but when I make an engagement I am always determined, if possible, to carry it out. I hope your congregation will not resent my coming in this form.’ I have heard him frequently, both in the pulpit and on the platform, and at the meetings of our General Assembly and other Church courts, but I never heard him speak with more power than that Sabbath morning. It was perhaps the most comprehensive address I ever heard him deliver."

Writing to Dr. Farquharson of his experience in Westminster Church that day, he says:

"Yesterday I addressed Mr. Neil’s congregation in the forenoon, Mr. Frizzell’s in the evening. A man came up to me at the close of the forenoon service and offered me $250, and Mi. Neil’s people are going to work to raise at least $1,250 by way of special help—so Dr. Warden told me to-day. I am going to disable the other shoulder and get my other eye blackened."

He does better in Mr. Neil’s church than he knows, for as a result of that address the Fund is richer by $2,000.

And yet in spite of this terrific pace, such is the extraordinary vitality of the man, that he appears not only to be holding his own, but to be even improving in health. But it is not the vitality of physical strength, it is the flaming fire of his invincible spirit that gives to his emaciated and weakening body the energy and the glow of health.

During the week following his appearance at Westminster, he addresses Central Church, Hamilton. He has two Sabbaths left of the year and of his life. He will make a fair division of them. One he will give to his life’s work, pleading his great cause before the congregations of Appin and Gleucoe, tile other, the 29th of December, he will give—oh, reckless prodigality !—to his wife and family.

The next three days he remains quietly at home, filling up the hours with correspondence as his strength will permit, for he is rapidly failing. It is Saturday, the 4th of January. In the midst of a letter the stupor of his disease now and then overcomes him. He rouses himself to continue, till at length his hitherto uuconquered spirit surrenders. He turns to his wife and, with a word strange upon his lips, "I am done out," he sinks into slumber. The long day is done; the night has come! And also the morning!

The Church authorities come to proffer their loving offices in the last service it is permitted men to render to their honoured dead. A public funeral is proposed, but the wife, heart-stricken and "jealous" of her rights in that dear dust, will not hear of it. He is hers now at last, and only hers, and she will hold him hers to the end. But this only for a moment. Of her life’s long sacrifice but a poor fragment remains to offer. He is hers, yes, but he belongs to his Church as well, and if his Church asks the privilege of rendering this last loving tribute, she will not interpose. She will make perfect her sacrifice.

At the house a small company of close friends gather. The great words of the immortal hope are read. There is a prayer for pity and comfort, a prayer of grateful thanksgiving as well, and he is carried forth from the home which has been his so little.

In and about Bloor Street Church a great concourse of the people have assembled. Dr. Wallace, the minister of the church, presides and reads the Scripture. The Rev. J. A. Macdonald offers the prayers of the people. Songs of hope and triumph lift their hearts to God. The Moderator of the General Assembly, Rev. Dr. Warden, pays the tribute of the Church’s love and gratitude. The Rev. C. W. Gordon speaks the word that tells the grief of the men of the West, their loving pride in their dead chief, their gratitude for his work, their joy in his triumph. The people pass in a long-drawn file to look upon his face upturned and still. Alas! alas! he is dead! No message more from those pallid lips! Then they bear him out to his place in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

But he is of the West. In the West his life is sown; in the West the harvest will wave, and so upon the field of his labour and of his triumph his dust must find its last abode. To Winnipeg—how different from that "clustering variegation of shops and shacks" that greeted him twenty-eight years ago—and thence to old Kildonan, he is borne, and there in that sacred field of the dead those who loved him best and wrought with him longest, laid him down. Beside him Nisbet, Black, and a little further, King, a noble company for whom Western Canada might well thank God. There let them sleep together, their dust possessing this wide land and claiming it for God and things eternal, their spirits living in the unshrinking faith and unconquered love of those who, hearing of their deeds, shall find within their own hearts a fire that will consume until all dross of self is gone and only the love of God and man abides.


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