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Darling Memorial Sketch Book
Family Worship

Particularly the evening family worship was an outstanding feature and a powerful attraction. At ten o'clock the gong was sounded. Nothing like constraint was used to secure the presence of any guest, but all were invited, and it was a rare thing for any one to be absent. Work was for the time suspended, that every servant might be present. The service usually consisted in the singing of psalms and hymns, the reading of the Scriptures, and prayer,—the master of the house presiding, or some one among the visitors who was known to be competent for guiding the family devotions. At times the service was carried beyond its regular limit, for the children of the family, growing up to womanhood, all possessed the gift of song, and helped much in the "grave sweet melody.'' Mr Darling and his family had now found their niche and mission. We have before us some letters of visitors, kindly written after their return home, in which they speak of those nightly gatherings—"wells in the desert" as one calls them— with glowing enthusiasm. We are tempted to quote a few passages :—

From Mr DRUMMOND Grant, Coleraine, Ireland.

"A visitor at the Regent Hotel for many months, the gathering of the guests and of the whole household in the drawing-room for evening worship at ten o'clock was to me a channel of grace and a perpetual joy.

"Often during my residence have I heard other visitors express their thankful appreciation of this 'well in the desert,' and testify to the gladness they felt in joining there in the communion of saints with the other guests, whose path for a few days crossed theirs as they journeyed to the Mount Zion.

"Mr Darling made conscience of being always present. He gave out the hymn himself, and read the portion of Scripture, and usually prayed. His prayers I remember well,—humble, fervent, direct,—always asking for some definite thing,— ever conscious of sin, and confessing it,—conscious also, and confessing it, that through the atonement of Christ, which he held with a firm grasp, this sin was washed away from the soul of every believer. He remembered there any sick or tried member of the company of visitors, and he took in in his wide sympathy the whole family of God, and especially the workers in temperance and evangelistic missions, with all which he had ever an intense and practical sympathy. Frequently he would request some known guest to lead in prayer. This was often an introduction of one Christian to another, and thus many happy and lasting friendships were begun.

"The assembly for worship was seen at its best on Sabbath evenings, when the visitors, perhaps forty in number or more, after their various church services in the city, entered the drawing-room on the sounding of the gong, followed by the troop of male and female domestics. Then Mr Darling, radiant after his active Sabbath work, finishing with some school of else-uncared-for children miles away in the country, would take his seat at the table and give out some well-known Gospel hymn. The singing of this was led by Miss Darling, and heartily joined in by the company. A portion of Scripture was read. Some one then gave unity and voice to the mute prayers of the worshippers. Always on this evening a second hymn was sung, and after it Miss Darling or one of the guests sang another hymn or two ere the company retired.

"This 'worship' threw over the hotel a charm, marking it as a Christian home. No visitor was pressed to attend, while all were invited. It was a free and glad worship.

"During those many years what a testimony it was and a confessing of God and Christ before men! What quickenings of slumbering consciences in godless lives have there not been as they found themselves in that home, face to face with God and His truth, from whom they were fleeing! What seeds of truth have there been dropped in passing, but receptive, hearts! How many 'solitary' and sad ones, set for the time in that family, have by its cheerful worship been cheered! How many workers have there received fresh impulse in their labours for the Lord! God only knows!

"Of this I feel assured. From that home altar waves of blessing have rolled out to the ends of the earth, borne by the ever-changing company of visitors from all parts, who there found that the worship of God was not confined to so-called holy places or times; and that at no time, and nowhere, was it more fittingly offered or more welcome to God than at the evening hour around the hearth in the home."

From Dr MOXEY, Lecturer on Elocution, New College, Edinburgh.

"One of the first to call on me after my conversion, and to welcome me as a brother in Christ, was Mr Darling. Like the practical man I afterwards found him to be, his visit did not end in mere congratulation; but, with a view doubtless to my own good, and to the effect that the testimony of a young convert often exerts, he engaged me to meet a company of friends in the drawing-room of the Regent Hotel. It was there, as far as I remember, that I first, in my own city—the city that saw my body into earthly existence and my soul into life eternal—told out the story of the love surpassing knowledge.

"In the providence of God, my wife and I found a temporary home, often for months at a time, in the Regent Hotel, and our acquaintance with Mr Darling was continuous and intimate. We always found him the same self-unconscious, utterly unselfish man. One seemed to feel that he was carrying on the hotel more to give employment to others, or to afford means to assist others, than for any personal gain. He was a father to the servants and a friend to the guests —a man with a big heart. His ever cheery smile and the warm grip of his hand gained your liking ere he said a word; and when he spoke, it was generally to tell you some good news of the rescue of some poor drunkard, or to enlist your sympathy in a bereaved family. The only thing he said nothing about was the immense sacrifice of time and the substantial help in money that had come from himself. I never met a man in my life who would inconvenience himself to the extent that Mr Darling would to help a fellow-creature. No expenditure of time or effort was denied, and I fear I have trespassed too often on this beautiful trait in his character. The last case I named to him was a poor man in the Grassmarket, up five flights of steps. He started right off to see him, found him bedridden, with a wife and young daughter, and not a penny in the world except what might come from the charity of some Christian friend. He prayed with him, relieved his pressing needs, obtained a regular grant from a public fund, and found his daughter a situation with one of his own family. This loving, unostentatious service to this poor dying Christian lasted till his death, and smoothed his passage to the grave. It may be he has thanked James Darling in the presence of Him who reckoned the good deed done to Himself.

"On one occasion I met him carrying a large basket, evidently for some poor woman, on the North Bridge. It never occurred to him to be put out, or to stammer out an explanation. 'How are ye, doctor? I've gotten a load the day,' was all he said, and he looked as if he enjoyed the burden.

"Only one other circumstance I would mention, and it is in connection with the family worship which he conducted night by night in the drawing-room of the hotel. Frequently he has invited me to read the portion of Scripture or to lead in prayer. I always grudged taking part in either, as I had more enjoyment and, I believe, reaped more benefit in listening to him, and I could not but think that it would be similarly more beneficial to the company present. There was an inimitable naturalness and absence of effort, added to a humility and reverence, in his conduct of the service, and it was always a disappointment to me when he called on anyone else—even of his frequently distinguished guests —to take a part. I do not remember any occasion of his reading the Scripture wherein I did not obtain a new light on some verse or verses; I never had a similar experience with any one else's reading."

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