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Pioneer Life in Zorra
Chapter XXI. Rev. William Meldrum of Harrington

"I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrines uncorrupt; in language plain;
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste."-COWPER.

REV. WILLIAM MELDRUM'S connection with Zorra dates from the year 1857, when he was inducted into the pastoral charge of Harrington congregation. He belonged to an intensely conservative school of thought, and few of the pioneer ministers exhibited more distinctive characteristics. The present brief sketch can give these only in a brief outline.

He was born in the parish of Abernethy, Morayshire, Scotland, in the year 18o6, and was educated at Aberdeen College. On being licensed as a minister of the gospel, he at once received a call from a church near the home of his childhood; but he felt that America was to be the field of his labors, and so he set his face westward. Arriving in this country in 1839, he was soon after ordained and inducted as pastor of the congregations of Puslinch and Nassagaweya, Ontario.

Here he labored for fifteen years ministering the gospel, not only to his own people, but to many others in the regions round about, especially to the north and west. On these journeys he was frequently accompanied by Dr. Smellie, of Fergus, Dr. Gale, of Hamilton, and Dr. Bayne, of Gait. From Puslinch he went to Vaughan, in the county of York, where he labored for four years. From Vaughan he came, as we have observed, to the large and important congregation of Harrington in Zorra.

Shortly before leaving Vaughan he met with an accident in which his horse fell on him, breaking three ribs, and severely bruising his whole body. He was badly injured, although with the persistance of the typical pioneer, he preached regularly and attended to his pastoral duties. At times the bruised blood would run from his legs to his feet, until he was forced to preach sitting down, and the people placed a high chair in the pulpit, with a rest for his feet. He was often heard to say, with great delight, that during all his ministry he had never missed a Sabbath. Harrington was his last charge, although he preached in vacant congregations and mission fields until 1876, when he retired from the active work of the ministry.

As a preacher, Mr. Meldrum spoke with a strong Doric accent, and in his matter he was deep, rather than broad. He knew nothing of that liberality which makes no difference between truth and error; and although in private life affable and genial, in his pulpit ministrations he was stern and decided. On one occasion, hearing a student preaching loose, incorrect doctrines, he rose at the close of the sermon, and to the consternation of the congregation, unsparingly denounced the utterances of the young orator.

His style was exegetical, without any pretence to being homiletical. On one occasion he consulted some of his prominent members as to their preference for texts chosen in the ordinary way, or for a continuous course from some book of the Bible. Preference was expressed for the latter; and so Mr. Meldrum went to work, and continuously preached from Isaiah for several years, without giving any signs of completing the book. Hearing that some murmured he wondered how any one could take exception to the course they had preferred, and to which he had so faithfully adhered; but when a change was suggested he willingly returned to preaching from texts chosen in the usual way.

His illustrations were in accord with the genius of the Gaelic rather than the English language; and while considered chaste and appropriate in the former, would occasionally be condemned by the more exacting taste of modern society.

He was remarkably specific and powerful in prayer, and had great discernment in the selection of words to suit the occasion and circumstances, entering sympathetically into the interests concerned. There were some rich scripture passages which he seldom failed to repeat in his public prayers. Few of his hearers can ever forget the solemnity with which he slowly pronounced, in the most approved Gaelic fashion, "Thou magnifiest thyself above all that is written. Thou art a terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well." In asking the blessing at the table, often there would be a reference to some remark just made by a member of the family or visitor.

His observance of the Sabbath would have pleased the strictest of the Puritans. It is related of a rural Scotchman that, when he returned home after a visit to Edinburgh, he said, "It was an awful sicht to see the people sae happy on the Lord's day." It may be that Mr. Meldrum would not have objected to his children being happy on the Sabbath; but beyond contradiction, his ideas of happiness were very different from theirs. There was a fine spring of water about one hundred yards from his house at Puslinch, and even in the hottest weather in summer, only one pitcher of water could be brought from it on the Lord's day.

In his family he was kind and tender, and his memory is lovingly cherished by his surviving wife and children. And yet, according to our more modern ideas, the discipline of that home was somewhat severe. On the Sabbath, after public services in both Gaelic and English, the family returned to the manse and partook of dinner. Then the table was cleared, and family worship was observed, - making three times each Sabbath. After this the Shorter Catechism was repeated. The older ones had to go all the way through, and the younger as far as they had learned. Mr. Meldrum would sometimes close his eyes and seem to be asleep; but the mistake of a single preposition or a transposition of words would wake him up with a suddenness that alarmed the erring one. At other times he would walk the floor while the recital was going on, carrying in his hand a red cane with an iron head.; and quite often a rap on the head of the one who made the mistake was a painful reminder that contributed to accuracy. The family knew that the iron head was harder and heavier than he supposed. The children had to repeat all the Psalms in metre, Paraphrases, and Hymns bound with them. Very faithfully he attended to the catechising and pastoral work of the congregation.

Most of his travelling he did on horse-back, dressed in white moleskin overalls, buttoned along the sides from top to bottom, with about twenty-five buttons on each side. These overalls were removed when the formalities of a service were required. He always had a good horse, and was allowed to be a superior judge of horses. Although never guilty of horse- racing, it was almost a passion with him to show the young "Jehus" that a minister could take delight in having a horse as speedy as any on the road.

He was wonderfully methodical in his habits, and kept an accurate account of every cent received and expended. He carried the silver in one pocket, and the coppers in another. He always washed his face before his hands, as he preferred the clean water for his face. At family worship the Old and New Testament were read alternately night and morning. The Psalms were sung from beginning to end, about three verses at a time; no Paraphrase or Hymn was allowed. For private reading Mr. Meldrum had the whole Bible marked so as to include so much for every day of the year, and to read the whole every year. This regularity he observed for many years.

When about forty years of age, he married Miss Anna McLean, who was several years his junior, and the most popular young lady member of his church. Shortly before his marriage a prominent gentleman from a neighboring city, whose heart had been affected in the usual way by meeting Miss McLean a few times, but whose Scotch prudence counselled extreme caution, referred the matter to Mr. Meldrum, lest any mistake should be made in choosing a life partner. Mr. Meldrum in unmistakable language declared from his personal acquaintance he had every confidence that the young lady would make an excellent wife. The gentleman ever believed Mr. Meldrum sincere in the words he then spoke.
Mrs. Meldrum by her characteristic wisdom, prudence, and executive powers was a true helpmeet in congregational, financial, and family cares. Their large family, distinguished for their piety, as well as for intellectual and social qualities, bear evidence to the strong powers they inherited, and the vigorous discipline through which they were nurtured.

He was an advanced temperance man, and as far back as 1852, the church records show how faithfully he and his elders administered the discipline of the Church in the matter of intemperance, as well as in sins against the fourth commandment.

Mr. Meldrum was a man of high social qualities, and nothing could be more delightful than Christian fellowship between him and neighboring ministers. Indeed, it may be observed of all the pioneer preachers of Zorra that they lived in unbroken Christian love and unity. These ministers exhibited great variety of gifts and graces, and differed widely in their manner of presenting truth. Occasions occurred that might have given rise to petty jealousy and unseemly rivalry, but grace prevented any appearance of unbrotherliness. Dr. Kennedy, in his book, "The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire," tells us of two Highland ministers. The name of the one was Fraser, and that of the other Porteous. Fraser preached largely the law, seeking the awakening and conversion of sinners, while Porteous excelled in preaching the consoling doctrines of the gospel, directing his remarks to the comforting of the broken-hearted and the building up of God's people. Each was faithful according to the gifts bestowed upon him; but Mr. Fraser's people complained that their minister preached the law so exclusively, that those who sought the bread of life must starve under his ministry, and they began in considerable numbers to forsake their own church and to attend the ministry of Mr. Porteous. But Mr. Porteous, being a Christian man and knowing Mr. Fraser to be on the whole an excellent minister, spoke to him about it. Meeting Mr. Fraser at a funeral, he said to him, "It gives me, my dear brother, grief of heart, to see some of your people in my church every Sabbath. My elders tell me that those who come to us complain that you preach almost entirely to the unconverted, and that the 'poor in spirit' can get no food for their souls. "Now, my dear brother, if the Lord gives it to you, I pray you not to withhold their portion from the people of the Lord, which you could dispense to them as I never could."

"My dear brother," was Mr. Fraser's striking reply, "when my Master sent me forth to my work, He gave me a quiver full of arrows, and He ordered me to cast these arrows at the hearts of His enemies till the quiver was empty. I have been endeavoring to do so, but the quiver is not empty yet. When the Lord sent you forth, He gave you a cruise of oil, and His orders to you were to pour the oil on the wounds of the brokenhearted sinners till the cruise was empty. Your cruise is no more empty than is my quiver. Let us both then continue to act on our respective orders, and as the blessing from on high shall rest on our labors, I will be sending my hearers with wounded hearts to you, and you will be sending them back to me rejoicing in the Lord."

This spirit of mutual confidence and kindness strikingly characterized the pioneer preachers of Zorra, and it is worthy of being recorded as an example to the ministers and people of to-day.

After leaving Harrington, Mr. Meldrum moved back to his old home in Puslinch. Here he lived till his Master took him on the 19th day of November, 1889, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. The night before, he worshipped with his family around his bed, he leading in prayer, and one of his sons conducting the reading and singing. He is buried at Puslinch, and a prominent monument near the entrance of the cemetery, reminds us of the enduring monument which the Christian life and work of this pioneer minister have reared, not only in Puslinch, but in Zorra and other places throughout Ontario.

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