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The Life of John Wilson
Chapter I. Home—School—University—Voyage to Bombay


Lauder and Lauderdale—The Border and the Men it has sent to India—The Wilsons of Lauder—the Burgh Common and the Big Farms—John Wilson, “ The Priest ”—Memories of Waterloo—Dr. James Fairbairn on Schoolboy days and the Dawn of Evangelicalism—John Wilson, Schoolmaster and Tutor—Early Indian and Bombay Influences—The Arts Course at Edinburgh University—The Theological Professors—Rebellion of the Divinity Students—Founds the University Missionary Society—Earliest Publications— Ordained—The Bayne Sisters — Marriage—First view of Cape Comorin and Western India—Arrives at Bombay.

At a point some twenty-five miles to the south-east of the city of Edinburgh, the three counties of Edinburgh, Berwick, and Roxburgh meet. The spot is the summit of Lauder Hill, which rises between the railway station of Stow and the royal burgh of Lauder, chief of all the district of Lauderdale. As we stand on the ancient road, now grass-grown, we survey perhaps the widest and most quietly beautiful scene that the Scottish Border can present. From the Lammermoor to the Cheviot Hills, with the rounded Eildons sprouting at their base, the breadth of the two border counties, the Merse or march of Berwick and the fells of Roxburgh, are spread out before us. Distant Teviot and near Tweed roll down to the North Sea, watering a land of more historic renown than any other part of the too long disunited Kingdom. Behind we have left Gala Water, with its memories of legend and of song; before us, half hidden by the hill on which we stand, is the Leader which gives its name to Lauderdale. For more than twenty miles the stream flows on from the Lammermoors till it mingles its waters with the Tweed below Melrose

Abbey. Even Scotland presents few valleys so broad, so fertile, as this Lauder dale throughout its long extent. Monk and warrior early chose it for their own, from Dryburgh Abbey where Sir Walter Scott lies, and Erceldoune or Earlston where Thomas the Rhymer sang his prophecies, to Thirlestane Castle where the Maitlands of Lauderdale perpetuate a house well known in Scottish history. Here it was, along the great highway, from the marshalling-ground of the Boroughmuir of Edinburgh to the fords of the Tweed and the field of Flodden, that the Edwards led their invading armies, and the Stewarts their avenging forces; while noble and yeoman on both sides the marches fought for their own hand. Old Thirlestane, near whose ruins the Leader now flows so gently, was long the tower from which “ Maitland, with his auld grey beard,” whom Gawan Douglas thought worthy of a place in his allegory of the “ Palace of Honour,” beat back the English. The ballad of “Auld Maitland,” as taken down from the lips of Jane Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd’s mother, who had learned it from a blind man of ninety, deserves all the enthusiasm Sir Walter Scott expresses for it. But dearer to the son of the Border is the more modern song of “ Leader Haughs and Yarrow,” with its quaint poetic catalogue of names and places more familiar to the natives of Lauderdale and Selkirk than those of Homer or of Milton. The old minstrel sighs at the close for the glory that is departed, for he wrote doubtless in the evil days just after the duke built the present castle in .1674—

“Sing Erlington and Cowdenknowes,
Where Humes had ance commanding;
And Drygrange with the milk-white yowes
’Twixt Tweed and Leader standing :
The bird that flees through Redpath trees
And Gladswood banks ilk morrow,
May chaunt and sing sweet Leader Haughs
And bonnie howms of Yarrow.

“But minstrel Burne cannot assuage
His grief, while life enduretli,
To see the changes of his age
Which fleeting time procureth ;
For mony a place stands in hard case,
Where blythe folk kend nae sorrow,
With Humes that dwelt on Leader-side
And Scotts that dwelt on Yarrow.”

It was at Lauder, too, in the days of the Third James, that Archibald Douglas “ belled the cat,” hanging before his sovereign’s eyes five of the low favourites who misled the royal youth. Nor should it be overlooked that the minister of Lauder, inducted in 1638, was James Guthrie, the Covenanter whom Lauderdale martyred along with the Marquis of Argyll, the Earl of Tweeddale alone pleading for the milder sentence of banishment. But modern times have brought more peaceful associations. Except, perhaps, the Highland Inverness-shire, no part of Scotland has been so fruitful a nursery of heroes for the civilisation, if not the conquest of our Indian Empire. Tweedside and its many dales have, in the last century, sent forth Kers and Elliots, Douglases and Riddells, Scotts and Walkers, Malcolms and Grays, Napiers and Murrays to the noblest work any country has ever done for humanity. To a governor-general like Lord Minto, a statesman like Sir John Malcolm, a scholar and poet like Dr. Leyden, and an economist like James Wilson, we have now to add the Christian missionary John Wilson. He was as great J a scholar and as benevolent a philanthropist as the best of' them, or as all of them together; and he was a more potent force than they, because he gave himself to the people of India for a life of continuous service, covering nearly half a century, and because that service was inspired and fed every hour by the highest of all motives, the purest of all forms of selfsacrifice.

John Wilson was born in the Berwickshire burgh of l Lauder on the 11th day of December 1804. He was the ) eldest of seven children, four brothers and three sisters, most of whom still survive. He came of a long-lived stock of small proprietors and farmers, who for two hundred years inhabited the thatched, but now enlarged, house in the “Row of the town in which he first saw the light. His great-grandfather reached the age of ninety-eight, his grandfather lived to be eighty-eight, his father and mother each died at eighty-two. Physically, he thus inherited a constitution of singular elasticity and power of endurance, under the frequent hardship of toilsome journeys and malarious disease in the jungles of Western India, before British railways, or even roads, had opened them up. His father, Andrew Wilson, was for more than forty years a councillor of the burgh, and was an elder in the parish kirk. His mother, Janet Hunter, the eldest of a family of thirteen, most of whom lived to a good old age, was a woman of great force of character. This, added to the kindly unselfishness which marked her eldest son also, caused her to be in constant request by her neighbours in times of sickness and trouble. Father and mother combined in their rearing the economic conditions of the surrounding district. Lauderdale, to the east of the Leader, is a district of large farms, yielding an average rental of a thousand a year and upwards, even in those days, and worked in the very best style of the grande culture. Of James Hunter, the leaseholder of one of the most extensive of these, John Wilson’s mother was the eldest daughter. To the west of the stream lie the town and its unusually extensive commonage, covering at the present time 1700 acres, but doubtless larger a century ago. The land is owned by the burgesses, and a very considerable share of it had always been possessed by the Wilsons of the “I tow” The old conditions are only now beginning to give place to the same influences which have made the high farming of the Lothians and the Merse famous in the history of agriculture. At last some of the “ portioners ” have combined to work the common land by the steam plough on a large scale. Yet, till this present year, the greater part of the burgh lands has been little more than fine pasture slopes, to which the cattle have been led daily, under a common herdsman. Of such a stock, and out of the very heart of farmer-life, sprang the thoughtful scholar, the unwearied missionary, the distinguished philanthropist of Bombay.

No love had he, though the eldest of four sons, for the doubly ancestral and honourable calling. From the womb he had a higher vocation. Had he become the apostle of a superstitious mysticism, like Gooroo Nanuk, the founder of the Sikh dissent from Hindooism, the same stories might have been told of the great Christian Gooroo. For Nanuk, too, was the son of the chief “ portioner ” of the common of a village near Lahore, and he failed to keep his father’s buffaloes from the cultivated fields. Nanuk never played like other children, so that the Hindoos said, “Some god is in him.” On the second of Andrew Wilson’s sons fell the duty of helping in the farm, and of driving the cattle to the nearest fair of St. Boswell’s. From infancy John revealed himself as meant for’ a very different lot. When a baby he almost alarmed his mother by speaking before he could walk, and with an intelligence unprecedented in the experience of the neighbours. So the Mussulman villagers had said of Nanuk, “A holy man of God has been born!” As he grew up John Wilson was to his schoolfellows “ the priest,” by which name he was always known among them. His early developed tendencies brought him into trouble. On one occasion the I boy was found preaching from a hollow tree behind Thirlestane Castle to the people who were sauntering home on the Sacrament Sunday evening, and was chastised for what seemed 1 to his parents an offence. The secret of his life was not one which mere heredity may explain, though that too will find data in it. It is thus stated by himself in a “ diary of reli- ? gious experience ” which he began to write on his twentieth ’ birthday, but did not continue beyond his departure for India: —“ When about the age of three years, I was put to sleep in the same bed with my aged grandfather by my father’s side. He was the first person, if I remember rightly, who commu- » nicated to me any knowledge about God and my soul. I re- ! member well the effect his instructions, by the blessing of God, . produced upon my mind : the impressions which were then conveyed to me have never been wholly removed from me. I I can never forget the fervour with which he engaged in his j evening private devotions, and the feeling with which at such times he repeated the 23d Psalm, especially the concluding verse—

‘Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall he.’

“I was very early under conviction of sin, and I trust that the Lord at an early period of my life took a saving dealing with my soul. When about the age of four years I was sent to a school in Lauder taught by Mr. George Murray, where I continued about the space of one year. I then went to the parish school taught by Mr. Alexander Paterson, where, under Mr. Paterson’s instructions, I made remarkable progress.” It was an early and it became a fruitful consecration; even as that of the prophet of Naioth and the statesman of Ramah.

John Wilson proved to be as fortunate in his teacher and in his companions as in his early home life. A new spirit in truth was abroad over the land, which had long lain under the spell of what is called “ moderatism ” in Scotland. It was the beginning, too, of that fifty years’ period of peace and reform, in State as well as Church, which the crowning victory of Waterloo seemed to introduce. Dr. AVilson used to tell how, when he was little more than ten years old, the Edinburgh coach came to Lauder adorned with boughs, and one who had gone to the place where it stopped, to hear the news, rushed down the Eow shouting “ We’ve just annihilated them.” In both Lauder and Stow there happened to be evangelical preachers in the parish churches, Mr. Cosens and Dr. Cormack, while the “Burgher” or seceding congregations were everywhere ministered to by earnest men, to whom many of the surrounding families were driven by the old “ moderates.” The coming of Mr. Paterson to the parish school at this time affected at once the spiritual condition of the whole district, and speedily brought within the reach of evangelical teaching all the hopeful youth of the surrounding country. Before his death on the 3d January 1879, the venerable Dr. Fairbairn of Newhaven thus recalled John Wilson in those days :—

“He was a modest, devout, affectionate, and gentle boy, always ready to take part with the weakest, and never in a quarrel or a scrape. He was, I think, the most diligent and persevering student in the school, and I can readily understand how he attained to such acquirements and success. He was also eminently truthful and sincere. There was one of our number (James Bunciman) whom our teacher always characterised as the ‘ boy who never told a lie,’ and he used to associate John Wilson with him in this honourable distinction. I remember in one of the intervals of our school day, a band of us started ‘ up the burn ’ for fishing and other diversions. Seduced by the summer sunlight (oh how bright it was in those days!) we heeded not the lapse of time, till the school hour had passed. Then came a conference to determine what we would say for ourselves, and various proposals, savouring, I fear, of diplomacy, were made. But the discussion was cut short by John Wilson saying, in a tone unusually energetic for him, ‘ I tell you what—we will tell the truth,’ and the truth he told—ay, and continued to tell it till his dying day.

“I well remember also a very bright and calm summer Sabbath day. As the people went along the road to church, there was a question in every mouth—'Will they be feditin' on sic a day as this?' After sermon there was a fellowship-meeting in the session-room of the Burgher meeting-house, into which my friend John and I contrived to get admission. Again the question went round, ‘ Will they be feditin t’ and the inquiry tinged all the services with unusual solemnity. A venerable white-headed elder, Saunders Downie, the tailor— who has passed long since into the fellowship of the four-and-twenty Elders that sit around the Throne—delivered himself to this effect: ‘ Surely,’ he said, in his godly simplicity, surely they’ll let the blessed Sabbath ower afore they fecht.’ Whether they were ‘ fechtin,’ or whether they let the blessed Sabbath over before doing so, you will judge when I say that that Sabbath day was the 18th of June 1815. Then came a week of anxiety; groups of people stood all the day at the head of the town, in the expectation of hearing the booming of the guns of the distant castle of Edinburgh announcing a victory. At last came the full accounts of the great battle, which filled every mouth and heart for many a long day. I recollect we were both much impressed with all this, and had our minds opened for the first time to the fact that there was a wide world beyond the limits of our little valley, and that it was a world in which much evil abounded, and which stood in great need of improvement.

“Then came a movement on behalf of the first of the evangelistic schemes which succeeded in penetrating to that part of the country. This was the Bible Society; and I recollect a sermon being preached on its behalf in the Burgher meetinghouse by the Rev. Dr. Waugh of London, at which my friend and I were present. The matter and manner of the preacher were both deeply impressive ; and I rather think that, if the seeds of the evangelistic spirit were not that night sown for the first time in John Wilson’s mind, they were, to say the least of it, very copiously and effectually watered. After that we went to the University of Edinburgh, and we arrived there just at the time when evangelical religion began to reassert its power in this country. The old Gospel, which had been ‘ by Cameron thundered and by Renwick poured,’ now flowed forth in the sweet stream of Henry Grey’s pathetic eloquence, or was uttered from the pulpit of St. George’s by the mighty voice of Andrew Thomson. Some of us were not very sure about it at first. Coming as we did from the country of Thomas Boston, there was something new to us in the methods of these great preachers. One of our number indeed, and he not the least earnest among us, never quite overcame his scruples. He held it all to be ‘ sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal,’ and declared that he could only find ‘ the root of the matter ’ in the Secession meeting-house in the Potterrow, then ministered to by the Eev. Mr. Simpson. I must say this incident has taught me a great lesson of caution in judging of new religious movements. We soon discovered, however, that a new-born day of light and truth had at last broken out in this country; and this discovery was fully made to us by the coming of Dr. Robert Gordon to Edinburgh. That was an era in our spiritual history never to be forgotten. We were all carried captive by the mighty spell of his eloquence. John Wilson attached himself to the ministry of Dr. Gordon, and you know the great power which it exercised over his mind and history. All my recollections of my beloved schoolfellow are such as to harmonise with his after-life. Truly in his case ‘ the child was father of the man.’ ”

In his fourteenth year John Wilson went to Edinburgh University, to begin that eight years’ course of linguistic, philosophical, and theological studies by which the Scottish Churches still wisely produce a well-trained and often cultured ministry. Two Border youths, from the not very distant Annandale, had, after similar home and school training, matriculated at the University at the same age, and had not long passed out of it when the Lauder boy first entered his name in that fragment of the old building which occupied the quadrangle until the present library was completed. These were Edward Irving and Thomas Carlyle. Very fresh traditions of the former still circulated among his juniors, while the latter had just returned from his mathematical teachership in Kirkcaldy to write for Brewster’s Encyclopaedia. Both had been heroes in Sir John Leslie’s class, where Wilson succeeded them in reputation in due time. We cannot say that the picture, in the autobiography which Carlyle wrote in 1831 as “Sartor Besartus,” of “the University where I was educated,” and the “ eleven hundred Christian striplings ”turned loose into its “ small ill-chosen library,” is altogether a caricature of the facts. At any rate, Carlyle admits that there were 'some eleven of that number who were eager to learn, and Wilson was one of them in his time, as Irving and Carlyle had been in theirs. Like them, too, Wilson took to teaching. At the close of the first session, the lad conducted the school of Horndean on the Tweed, laying thus early the foundation of that educational experience by which, as Vernacular Missionary, Principal of an English College, and Vice-Chancellor of the University, he was afterwards to revolutionise society in Western India. One of his sisters still tells how the boy of fifteen prepared to resist a midnight attempt to rob him of the school fees on the first occasion on which he had gained the hard-earned money. At the close of the second college session, the Rev. Dr. Cormack, of the neighbouring village of Stow, made the successful student j tutor to his son and nephews, a duty which he discharged in ' a manner to endear him to the parents of both almost up to the time of his departure for India. Dr. Cormack, when himself tutor in the family of the Roses of Kilravoch, had married one of the daughters, and her brother, Colonel Rose, had sent home his sons to be educated in the manse at Stow. When Colonel, afterwards Sir John, Rose, himself returned to his family estate in the Highlands, he tr^ed to induce John Wilson to settle in his family there for some time, and to " accompany his boys to Holland, so highly did he appreciate the tutor’s services. The youths were happy who had such a guide, himself still young. Even now it is almost pathetic to read the letters which they wrote to him during his absence at college and in India, and carefully treasured by him among his most precious papers. One of the lads is now Sir John Rose Cormack, a well-known physician in Paris. The other two went to India in their day, where their old friend met them sometimes, and where they won a name for ability in the civil and military services.

A tour which, in the autumn of 1824, the tutor made to the North with his pupils, called forth a series of letters to his home in which we find such entries as these. At Kingussie he visited the periodical fair: “All the people were very merry. They were mostly all dressed in the Highland dress, and, speaking Gaelic, they appeared quite comical. I have laughed this whole fortnight at them.” The letters show the same detailed power of observation and genial humour which marked his Indian tours, and made him the most delightful companion on such occasions. In 1827 he reports, “I have been obliged to buy a pair of silver spectacles for myself thus early did study begin to tell on him.

To this residence for four years, with college intervals, in Dr. Cormack’s family, we must trace the determination, which he early formed, to give his life to the people of India. When afterwards bidding farewell to Dr. Brown, the minister of Langton, he expressed regret that he had to sail before the annual meeting of the Berwickshire Bible Society, for, he said, “ My wish was to have stated publicly that it was the reading of your annual reports that first awakened me to the importance of Missions, and led me to resolve to devote myself to the foreign field.” But it was the Bose and Cormack influence which directed that resolve to the East, at a time when Scotland had not a missionary there. The first surprise of the young tutor of sixteen, when he began his duties in the manse of Stow, was caused by the Hindostanee which alone the Bose boys spoke, like so many Anglo-Indian children fresh from the influence of native servants. That was one of the first languages he was to master when he began work in Bombay, in order by voice and pen to influence the Muhammadans and all who used what is a mere lingua franca. He was more or less in an Indian atmosphere, as each irregular mail in those days brought news of Maratha wars and Pindaree raids, of the triumphs of Lord Hastings, of the political exploits of Malcolm, the yeoman’s son of the not distant Burnfoot, and of Governor Munro, the Glasgow boy. But more living to the youth than all that was the personal friendship of General Walker, who often drove into Stow from Bowland, his seat on the Gala Water. As political officer in charge of the great Native State of Baroda, with Kathiawar and Kutch, he had won for himself a name as a philanthropist and administrator, by carrying on the work of the old Governor, Jonathan Duncan, for the prevention of female infanticide among the Jadeja Bajpoots. When revisiting Kathiawar in 1809, before bidding it a final farewell, General Walker had enjoyed the sweet reward of seeing not a few of the children whom he had preserved, and of hearing one infant voice lisping to him in the Goojaratee tongue— “Walker Saheb saved me.” The entrancing story of humanity became familiar to Wilson in his youth, for in 1819, at the very time of his intercourse with him, the retired officer was engaged in a correspondence with the Court of Directors, in which he urged them to keep up the preventive system that had effected so much, but was being neglected by a new generation of officials. The only result was the General’s appointment as Governor of St. Helena, the small population of which he sought to benefit with the same kindly wisdom that he had shown in north Bombay. That work was not unknown in the country-side, for the minister of Stow had been its historian. But it was reserved for the young tutor himself to complete it, alike by stirring up the Bombay Government, and by writing the “ History of the Suppression of Infanticide in Western India” in 1855, and again in 1875. Thus to the influences of home and of school, of companions and of minister, there was added, at the time when he was most susceptible of such impressions, the subtle power of the society of men like Cormack and Walker, who drew him unconsciously to the work prepared for him in the then far off and shadowy East.

In the second of the four years of his theological studies, or in his twentieth year, Wilson became more closely identified with Edinburgh in both its university life and its literary and ecclesiastical coteries. He had taken full advantage of the Arts course, for among the professors of that faculty were able teachers and accomplished savants. Pillans, unjustly satirised by Byron, had been transferred from the rector’s chair in the High School at Edinburgh, which Dr. Adam had made illustrious, and which his successor had not dimmed at least, to the professorship of Humanity or Latin, taking with him his “ dux,” John Brown Patterson, the most promising student of his day, who became warmly attached to Wilson. Inscriptions on missionary churches and university foundation-stones in the East prove that Wilson retained to the last all the graceful Latinity which he acquired at Lauder and Edinburgh. We may pass over the Greek professor, but the students found ample atonement in the Moral Philosophy class of Professor Wilson, whose whirlwind of rhetoric twenty-one Tory and eleven Whig patrons of the chair had preferred to the massive erudition and the philosophical power of him who became our modern Aristotle — Sir William Hamilton. Had the Lauder student come under the spell of one who did not become professor of Metaphysics for some years afterwards, even he must have gained a more analytic and expository power in those investigations of the hoary philosophies of Vedist and Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Soofee, by which he did much to shake the grim idolatries and subtle pantheism of southern and western Asia. But he enjoyed what was of equal value for such a purpose at that time—the physical researches of Sir John Leslie, Playfair’s successor in the chair of Natural Philosophy. There he stood in the front rank, a significant fact, for it is through the clay of the physical error worked up with the iron of speculative falsehood in the systems of the East, that they are first to be shaken and shattered. What of mathematical principles, physical law, and the natural sciences John Wilson then mastered, he developed, and applied all through his conflicts with the defenders of the Oriental faiths, and in his discourses and writings, as the first scholar of Western India. In geology, in botany, in the more recondite region of archgeology, he kept pace with the most recent researches, to which, in his own province, he largely contributed. Nature came second only to the divine Word, and worked harmoniously along with it in his whole missionary career.

The same cannot be asserted of the Theological Faculty of the University of Edinburgh at that period. It was the dreary time, just before, in 1828—too late for Wilson — Thomas Chalmers was transferred from St. Andrews, where he had brought to the birth of a more spiritual and intellectual life, men like Robert Nesbit, soon to precede Wilson to Bombay; and Alexander Duff, William S. Mackay, and David Ewart; destined to follow him, but to Calcutta. The divinity Professors were also parish ministers, who droned through their lectures as through their sermons, while their hearers slept, or attended to their own private affairs. The pamphlets Of these days, on Sir John Leslie’s case for instance, make strange revelations of academic ineptitude and ecclesiastical incompetence to those who care to rake among them. But for the dawn of the Evangelical party in the pulpits of Gordon in the New North Church, Andrew Thomson in St. George’s, and

Henry Grey, and of Thomas M‘Crie outside of the kirk, the men of the next generation would have been worse than their fathers. John Wilson, unlike him who was afterwards Principal Cunningham, had taken with him to the Divinity Hall the living power which had first moved his childish heart, when, awestruck, he had seen it visibly in his grandfather’s evening prayers. Now, on 11th December 1824, on entering his twenty-first year, he began that “review of the Lord’s gracious dealings with my soul,” already referred to. “This day I have completed my twentieth year, God teach me to improve the fleeting moments of my existence. As bought with a price, even with the precious blood of Christ, may I devote myself wholly—soul, body, and spirit—to declare and show forth thy glory to my sinful brethren of mankind.” About this time he seems to have formally signed a “solemn profession, dedication, and engagement ” of himself to God. The time-stained paper is without date, and is headed, in pencil of a much later year evidently, “Form, I think, taken from Willison.” With it are two similar deeds of holiest consecration, in which, on first January 1759, and again at Elgin on 11th May 1785, an ancestor of his first wife, James Hay, son of the Rev. Dr. James Hay, vowed himself to the Lord. In both cases each page, and in some instances paragraph, is signed by the covenanting person. All through his life of threescore and ten, openly, as in those most private papers which mark his energising in soul, we see how John Wilson kept the covenant thus made in the fervour of a first love, and the comparative innocence of an early freedom from the power of the world. At college as at school, of full age as when a child among his companions, he is still “the priest” in the highest sense—the priest unto God. From his Journal at this time we take these further extracts. He is in the Stow Manse, in that first year of his theological studies, one of which years the loose regulations of these days allowed students to spend out of college if they wrote the necessary exercises. His heart is set on missionary work, it will be observed. He writes to a friend at this time, “The Memoirs of David Brainerd and Henry Martyn give me particular pleasure ” :—

14th December 1824.—“This day was cheered by the hope that I had more success in teaching than usual. Read part of the life of the Rev. David Brainerd. What an example of the power of clivine truth ! How many his trials ! how great his labours ! 0 Lord, fill my soul with a lowly opinion of myself, and sanctify and prepare me for the same work in which he was engaged.”

28th.—“Rejoiced to hear of the great progress of divine truth from the Monthly Extracts of the Correspondence of the British and Foreign Bible Society. What astonishing effects have, by the blessing of the Spirit of God, been produced by the simple reading of the Word of God! Moral miracles are daily attesting the truth of Christianity.” ‘

31st—“This day brings another year to a close. Can I dare to appear before the Lord and ask him to deal with me according to my doings in the year which is past? No ; my conscience itself condemns me. It tells me that in myself I am poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. It reminds me that much of the year which is ready to depart was spent in the service of Satan; in the cherishing of my lusts; in the gratification of my evil nature, and in seeking my own destruction.”

Thursday, 6th January 1825.—“Read part of Cecil's Remains. Felt unhappy in the afternoon from not having had much communion with God during the course of the day. May I always feel unhappy when I do not set the Lord continually before me. May I ever seek to enjoy the light of his countenance, for when he causes this to shine upon me I am rich and comfortable. If I had every earthly comfort at my command, they could do nothing to cheer my mind and support my soul. May I hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be filled with the good things of the kingdom of God.”

1 stand 2d February.—“Delighted with good news from near and far countries. Read with great pleasure the London Missionary Chronicle and Scottish Missionary Register. The Lord is doing great things at home and abroad.”

Saturday, 6th.—“This day visited my dear parents and friends at Lauder. Mentioned to them my intention of soon offering myself as a missionary candidate to the Scottish Missionary Society, and oh! what a burst of affection did I witness from my dear mother. Never will I forget what occurred this evening. She told me that at present she thought the trial of parting with me, if I should leave her, would be more hard to bear than my death. When I saw her in her tears I cried unto God that he would send comfort to her mind, and j that he would make this affair issue in his glory and our good.

I entreated my mother to leave the matter to the Lord’s disposal ; and I told her that I would not think of leaving her if the Lord should not make my way plain for me, but that at present I thought it my duty to offer my services to the Society. She then embraced me and seemed more calm. My father said little to us on the subject, but seemed to be in | deep thought. In the course of the evening the words ‘ he | that saveth his life shall lose it,’ and ‘ he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,’ came home to my mind, and kept me from making any promise of drawing back in my resolutions to preach the gospel, by the grace of God, to the heathen world. 0 Lord, do Thou, Who hast the hearts of all men in Thy hands, and Who turnest them according to Thy pleasure, grant that my parents, with faith in Thy word and promises, may joyfully commit me in all things to Thy disposal, and may I willingly obey Thy will in all things, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

With this record of a scene often repeated since, when the best and bravest of our youth have gone forth to an Indian career, the Journal closes for that year. When Robert Nesbit had determined to do the same, he could not tell his mother, but asked Wilson to break the tidings for him. Wilson lost no time in offering himself to the directors of the Scottish Missionary Society in the twenty-first year of his age. At the beginning of his second divinity session in November he was formally received into the seminary, as it was called, at 18 St. John Street. He became an inmate of the family of the Rev. W. Brown, M.D., the Secretary, and there spent the three succeeding years till his departure for India. At College he went through the regular course of study and examination for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. His Journal records his reading, his intercourse with his fellows, his self-abasement in the sight of God and of his own conscience, and his breathings after a more perfect communion with the Father in the Son. The Professor who influenced him most was Principal Lee at a later date, and also. Dr. Brunton, who taught Hebrew, and with whom, as Convener of the Foreign Mission Committee for many years afterwards, he corresponded by every mail. Dr. Meiklejohn pretended to teach Church History with an efficiency which has been measured by his habit of yawning when praying in public. As to the Professor of Systematic Theology, let this transcript from a yellow scrap of torn paper, marked in red ink more than once by Dr. Wilson with the word “ keep,” tell what he was :—

“Edinburgh College, Monday, 27th November 1826.

“At a general meeting of the theological students attending the University, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted :—ls2, That a deputation should be appointed to wait oh the Rev. Dr. William Ritchie, S.S.T.P., to inform him, with the greatest tenderness and respect, that, on account of the weakness of his voice, his lectures when read by him are quite inaudible by the students, and to request of him to take into consideration the propriety of appointing a substitute. 2d, That Messrs. James Anderson and L. H. Irving should form the deputation, and report the result of their visit to a general meeting, to be held to-morrow at 2 o’clock p.m.

“John Wilson, Chairman.”

“Minutes of a General Meeting of the Theological Students attending the University of Edinburgh, called in order to receive the report of the deputation appointed to wait on the Rev. Dr. Wm. Ritchie :—

“Lady Yester’s Church, Edinburgh, 28th November 1826.

“Mr. William Cunningham having been called to the chair, and the minutes of the former meeting having been read and approved of, the deputation appointed to wait on the Rev. Dr. Ritchie stated that, having transmitted to him the minutes of the former meeting, enclosed in a most respectful letter, the Rev. Dr. intimated to them his decided refusal to listen to any such application. The students having considered and approved of the conduct of the deputation, resolved (duobus contradicentibus) that it was not competent for them to proceed to any ulterior measures at present, except simply to laj' before the Town Council and the Presbytery of Edinburgh the minutes of both meetings, and directed the Secretary accordingly to transmit copies of both to the Right Hon. the Lord Provost and the Reverend the Moderator of the Presbytery. (Signed) Wm. Cunningham, Chairman.”

Thus strangely were associated the future grave, judicious, and academic Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay, and the erudite Principal of the New College, both to be Moderators of the General Assembly in their time. And the work they did, or tried to do, is one which it had been well for more university faculties and colleges than that of theology in the University of Edinburgh, then and since, if there were students wise enough to repeat, in the interests of common honesty and sound scholarship. Scotland and its academic institutions, national and non-national, have always been too poor to pension the old, or quietly get rid of the incompetent teachers, with whom the abuses of patronage or of popular election have saddled successive generations of students.

With all his gentleness, and often all the more effectually 1 because of his almost sensitively chivalrous bearing, John Wilson was the enemy of incompetence and idleness, which injured his Master’s work. In the previous session he had shown his terrible earnestness by founding “The Edinburgh Association of Theological Students in aid of the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge.” In 1825, under the date Thursday, 22d December, this remark occurs in his journal—“This has been one of the happiest days of my life. About three weeks ago I proposed to Mr. John T. Brown that we should make some exertions for the purpose of instituting an association of the theological students for aiding the diffusion of the Gospel. This object, by the blessing of God, to whose name be the praise, we were enabled to accomplish this day.” Divided into two by the Disruption of the Established Church in 1843, that Association has ever since been the fruitful nursery of missionaries, alike in the University and in the New College of Edinburgh. Of the 120 regular students in the Faculty of Theology at that time, more than sixty became . members. Wilson was the secretary, as he had been the founder, and read the first essay. Mr. Thomas Pitcairn, afterwards clerk of the General Assembly, was the first president. The committee were William Cunningham, David Thorburn, Thomas Brydon, James P. Bannerman, William Scott Moncrieff, William Tait, AEneas M‘Rate, and Alexander Patterson, with Lewis H. Irving as treasurer. The name of Robert Nesbit, St. Andrews, appears as a corresponding member. For the first three years Wilson was its life. When he left for India the members sent forth their founder with prayers and benedictions, and a gift of memorial volumes. For years after he continued to correspond with the Association as a means of stimulating young theologians to give themselves to India. When he paid his farewell visit to Scotland in 1870 his delight was to address not only the New College Society, but the old Association in the old room in the University. He organised a library ; he began a correspondence with the great missionary societies then in existence, that the students might be fed with the latest intelligence from foreign lands; and he kept up a series of circular letters with the corresponding students’ societies of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen; Belfast; and Princeton in the United States; the careful drafts of which testify to the zeal with which the youth of twenty-one worked. A fine spirit of catholicity marks all the communications of the secretary, and in some instances he bursts out with a protest against the creation of new agencies to compete unnecessarily with those already at work. Even at this time he seems to have awoke to the absurdity and the waste involved in so many ecclesiastical divisions, as he afterwards did more painfully when in the front of heathenism.

Privately, John Wilson by pen and voice was ever pointing the abler of his student companions to the mission field, for his ideal was high. His communications from Robert Nesbit both strengthened his own determination and enabled him to combat the fears of his fellows, whose mothers held them back. He published, chiefly for such, an essay on the motives and encouragements to active missionary exertions. He prepared, and issued in 1828 anonymously, a little work now rarely met with, but which did good service in its day, The Life of John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians. In that he traced the work of the Puritan Fathers in New England, in their propagation of Christianity among the Red Indians. Very characteristic of his own future policy is his quotation of Eliot’s words : “There is need of learning in ministers who preach to Indians much more than to Englishmen and gracious Christians, for these had sundry philosophical questions, which some knowledge of the arts must help to give answers to, and without which these would not have been satisfied. Worse than Indian ignorance hath blinded their eyes that renounce learning as an enemy to the gospel.” All Eliot’s scholarship and devotion to the mastering of the native dialects are carefully noted, no iess than the humility of the man who protested against the application to himself of the pre-eminent title of “The Indian Evangelist.” The missionary student could not have set before himself a better ideal of the kind than that of the acute Cambridge scholar, whose eighty-six years of self-sacrifice Cotton Mather has chronicled. When, towards the close of his university studies in March 1828, John Wilson received the farewell eulogies of the students, his reply was an address which rang with new appeals to the friends of his youth, based on the words just quoted, and on this prediction of the same writer, in his “Essays To Do Good,” a century before—“ North Britain will be distinguished by irradiations from heaven upon it of such a tendency (to propagate Christianity). There mil be found a set of excellent» men in that reformed and renowed Church of Scotland, with whom the most refined and extensive essays to do good will become so natural that the whole world will fare the better for them.” We who look back on history may see the anticipation partially fulfilled in the movement which gave Wilson, Duff, and their colleagues to India, Morrison to China, and Livingstone and Moffat to Africa. These are the words , which the young Wilson left behind him as his legacy to the students of the University of Edinburgh—how have they met1 them %

“The work of preaching the gospel in foreign lands is attended with trials, dangers, and sacrifices ! ’ Have we forgotten where is now the promise of Christ, * Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world ’ ? How is that hundred-fold to be obtained and enjoyed which is promised to those who ‘ forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, for Christ’s sake ’ 1 Where is faith in the operations of the Spirit of Cod, which can view the difficulties of the Christian warfare as calculated to render the consolations of the gospel precious to the soul in every circumstance? Is it probable that dependence on the grace of God will not be exercised by the Christian when he must feel that vain is the help of man, that success must be the result of the divine application of the word, and that he is in a great measure deprived of those sources of earthly enjoyment which, from the corruption of human nature, are frequently made the occasions of sin ? ‘ The work of missions is difficult.’ But time is short. Soon shall we be freed from all our toils, and anxieties, and griefs, and disappointments ; and if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Him. ‘ The work of missions is attended with difficulties, trials, and dangers! ’ Spirits of Eliot and Brainerd, Martyn, and Fisk, and Hall, do you regret that, for the promotion of its interests, you left the lands of your fathers and your youth, and laboured and died in a foreign clime ? No; you declared that when engaged in it you were happy;—that, when you reviewed your labours in connection with it you were ashamed that you had not devoted yourselves to its interests with more zeal and selfdenial ; and that, when entering the dark valley of the shadow of death you 4 saw no trials, no sacrifices, nothing but sins and mercies/ Since you joined the glorious band of witnesses to the truth you have seen and felt more of its importance, and your testimony respecting it is, that eternity can only sufficiently reveal its character. You feel that is the glory of the song of Moses and the Lamb, that it is sung by people of every kindred and country and tongue and nation; and if you were jDermitted again to visit this world you would fly, like the angel of the Apocalypse, to preach the gospel to all that dwell on the face of the earth. In sincerity and humility of soul let us say, 4 Thy vows are upon us, 0 God ; we will render praises unto Thee.’ ”

The young evangelist had a right to use such language, for had he not given himself ? These were days when India, little known still in the land that rules it, was less known than it had been in the previous generation which had seen Warren Hastings impeached, and burghs bought and sold by Anglo-Indian nawabs. The dawn of knowledge and zeal was not to rise for five years yet, with the Charter which really opened India in 1833.. Then such an incident as the following was only too truly typical: Dr. Wilson had been meanwhile licensed to preach by his native Presbytery of Lauder; and, after some difficulty caused by adherence to a routine which did not contemplate missions to non-Christian lands, he had been ordained on “a request in his own name, and in the name of the directors of the Scottish Missionary Society.” During the first summer after receiving license he paid two visits to the Manse at Langton. On the first occasion he delivered an impressive discourse on Paul’s address at Mars’ Hill. During the evening of that Sabbath the medical attendant came to see some member of the family, and after the visit joined the others in the drawing-room. The subject of missions to India was introduced, and as the doctor had been in the East he took part, expressing strongly the opinion that it was utterly hopeless to attempt to convert the natives of India to Christianity. 44 I remember,” writes Mr. Brown, “ the flush which came on Dr. Wilson’s face when he eagerly took up the question, replying to the objections which had been advanced, and dwelling on the power of the Gospel to enlighten those that were in darkness. The doctor soon changed the subject.”

At a time when medical missions were unknown, and eight years before David Livingstone had turned from cotton-spinning to become a licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians in Glasgow, with the frustrated hope of becoming a missionary in China, John Wilson would not consider his preparation for India complete until he had studied medicine. He had taken a high place in the classes of Physical and Natural Science. In ] 827-8 he passed through classes for Anatomy, Surgery, and the Practice of Physic. Many a time afterwards, in the jungles of Western India, and the ghauts or ravines of its hills, did he find his knowledge of the art of healing a blessing to the wild tribes and simple peasantry. Much of his own endurance is to be ascribed to such knowledge, although in Bombay itself physicians in and out of the Service were ever his most attached friends.

But one qualification seemed still wanting to make the youth of twenty-three, whom, half a century ago, on Midsummer’s Day 1828, by the imposition of hands, the Presbytery did solemnly ordain and set apart to the office of the holy ministry, a fully-equipped missionary. So new was the whole subject of Christianising foreign lands at that time, that every instance of a Protestant evangelist going forth raised the question whether he ought to be married. On this ecclesiastical authorities were much divided. The Scottish Missionary Society had assigned India as the country of his labours, a fact thus recorded in his journal:—“O Lord, Thou hast graciously heard my prayers in this respect. Do Thou prepare me for preaching Christ crucified with love and with power; do Thou provide for me, if agreeable to Thy will, a suitable partner of my lot; one who will well encourage me and labour with me in Thy work. Do Thou, in Thy good time, convey me in safety to the place of my destination; do Thou open up for me a wide and effectual door of utterance; do Thou preserve my life for usefulness; and do Thou make me successful in 'winning souls to Christ.” “ I rejoice when I think,” he wrote to a friend, “ that I shall live, and labour, and die in India.” On the 18th December 1827, he had written to his father and mother: “Dr. Brown intends to prepare the articles which I am to take with me to India. He asked me to-night if I intended to marry; hut I was not able to give him an answer. If I could get a suitable partner now I would have no hesitation in marrying; but it is a matter of extreme difficulty to find a young lady with the ( piety, zeal, talents, and education which the work I have in view requires.” He was soon after introduced to the family of the Bev. Kenneth Bayne of Greenock, who, on their father’s death, had settled in 22 Comely Bank, a northern suburb of Edinburgh. The last entry in his journal records the triumphant joy of one of the daughters in the prospect of death. Two more of the sisters met with a sad death by drowning, several years afterwards, and another survived him a short time. The other three formed a remarkable group of accomplished, cultivated, and zealous women, who gave their \ lives for India, as the pioneers of female education. Margaret, the eldest, had added to the ordinary teaching a course of study in the university city of Aberdeen. She proved equally facile in the exposition of the faiths of the East, in the mastery of the languages of Western India, in the organisation of native female schools, and in the writing of graceful verse, while she was ever the gentle wife and the fond mother, during the too brief six years of her life in Bombay. When she consented to share the then dreaded toils of an Indian I evangelist’s life with John Wilson, she at once doubled his I efficiency.

y In the simple Scottish fashion the newly ordained missionary was married to Margaret Bayne, by her minister Dr. ] Andrew Thomson, of St. George’s, on the 12th August 1828. These were busy months for both, with the prospect of a Cape 1 voyage, and the probability of life-long farewells. Incessant preaching and missionary addresses kept him ever about his Father’s business. To this day the few old folks who remember it tell, with tears in their eyes, of his farewell sermon in the quaint pulpit of the cruciform kirk of Lauder. The bailies and council of the royal burgh conferred on the lad all the honours they had to bestow, by giving him, on formal parchment, “ the haill immunities and privileges of a burgess royal and freeman.” On the 30th August the missionary and his wife sailed from the ancient port of Newliaven, on that heavenly quest on which no knight of poetic creation or fabled purity ever entered with more self-sacrificing ardour. A thick haze hid Edinburgh from their sight.

The “Sesostris ” East Indiaman sailed from Portsmouth,' as was usual then. The long voyage of five months was not made shorter by the fact that the captain was uncongenial/1 and arbitrary, and the majority of the passengers had na sympathy with the missionary and his wife or their object. But even there the consistent and kindly devotion of both bore fruit. Opposition nearly disappeared among the passengers; the sailors, whom he influenced for good, treated Mr. Wilson very tenderly amid the high frolic of these days in crossing the line. The attempt of a piratical vessel to attack the ship, and a storm off Table Bay, further relieved the monotony of a Cape passage. Sufficient time was spent at Cape Town— then, and till the Mutiny of 1857 led to a change in the furlough rules, a favourite sanitarium for Anglo-Indians—to enable Mr. and Mrs. Wilson to see a little of its society, and to visit not only Constantia, of wine-growing fame, but the Moravian settlement of Groenenkloof, forty miles in the interior. After coasting Ceylon, Wilson obtained his first view of India :—

“On the 1st of February Cape Comorin, the most southern point of India, appeared in sight, and my feelings were consequently of a very solemn nature. When I reflected on the present situation of the country, and on nay prospects connected with it, I was constrained to resort to the throne of grace. My dear Margaret and I united in the prayer that God might prepare us for all the trials of life, and support us under them ; that He might ever lift on us the light of His gracious and reconciled countenance ; that He might impart to us the views, feelings, dispositions, and purposes which are suitable to the sacred work which we have in view ; that He might enable us to pay the vows which we have made; that He might grant us much success in the work of converting sinners ; and that He might impart to us those rewards of grace which are promised to those who turn many to righteousness. The character of the day (Sabbath) was suited to our exercises, and we had great reason to thank God for the felicity which we experienced. The sentiments of our hearts were not expressed in the plaintive language of the Psalmist, ‘ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land,’ but in that of the joyful resolution, ‘ From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed.’ We continued for thirteen days sailing along the coasts of Malabar, Canara, and the Konkan. The country is very mountainous, but in its appearance very unlike my native Scotland. The towns have a wretched appearance, but they are very populous. We arrived in Bombay on the evening of the 14th of this month, and next morning the Rev. Mr. Laurie, one of the ministers of the Scotch Church, came with a boat to take us on shore.”

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