Obits B

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REV. JOHN BAILLIE, GAIRLOCH

(Died May 30, 1891)
Author: Rev. William Fraser, Lochgilphead
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1891, Obituary, p.308


Mr. Baillie was born of godly parents in the village of Beauly, in 1830. His parents removed to Inverness while he was still young, and he spent his earliest years in that town.
He was “born again” in 1850, and had no sooner become the subject of divine grace than he set his heart on the work of the ministry. To prepare himself for that work he went south, and took the arts classes in Edinburgh University, and the theological course in the Free Church College, Glasgow. He finished his studies in 1861, and was licensed by the Free Presbytery of Glasgow in the Summer ot the same year.

During his arts and theological studies he was employed, in the summer vacations, as a student missionary at Port Ellen, Islay; Free Hope Street, Glasgow; and Kilmartin, Argyllshire, in which places he laboured with great satisfaction.

On being licensed, he got a unanimous call to Kilmartin; but, to the great disappointment of the people, he declined this call. The Free congregation of Moy, Inverness-shire, being vacant, gave him a cordial call, which he accepted. He was ordained to that charge in 1862, and laboured there for about thirteen years, with much pleasure to the Lord’s people, and with success in leading sinners to the Saviour.

In 1875, on the death of Mr. Matheson, late of Gairloch, Mr. Baillie got a harmonious call to Gairloch, where he laboured up to the time of his death, with great acceptance and no little success. He was not long settled in Gairloch when it was found necessary to build a new church, as the old Disruption building was becoming unfit to worship in; and with the contributions of the people and their excellent proprietor, Sir Kenneth McKenzie, Bart, subscriptions from friends in the south, and a bazaar, which he held in Dundee, and which the Christian people of that town liberally patronized, he was able to build one of the finest churches in the Highlands, free of debt, besides having as much over as enabled him to build two meeting-houses in his extensive parish. In this church the proprietor has his family seat, and worships when residing at Gairloch; thus, by worshipping along with his people, under the same roof and in the Scriptural form of Presbyterian worship, maintain-ed the good old bond which connected the laird Bid the people.

Last year Mr. Baillie took influenza, from the affects of which he never thoroughly recovered. Though he so far recovered as to resume work, still it was thought necessary that he should go south to obtain the best medical advice. In April last he went with his wife to Edinburgh, where he consulted an eminent physician, who advised him to take a long rest and a change of air at once. Acting on this advice, he went to visit his nephew, Dr. Baillie, Manchester; but he was not long there when his trouble returned in a malignant form, and cut him off in ten days. He died on the 30th May, in the sixty-second year of his age, and the twenty-seventh year of his ministry. His remains were taken to Scotland and buried at Gairloch, amid the tears of a sorrowing people. During his absence in the south, a sum of money was collected by his affectionate people, to be presented to him on his return; but he is now beyond the need of it, and it is to be used in enclosing his grave, and erecting a suitable monument to his memory.

Mr. Baillie was a man of deep Christian experience and spiritual-mindedness. Truly his conversation was in heaven; and one could not be long in his society without feeling he was in the company of one who lived in a spiritual atmosphere.

As a preacher, his voice was not strong; but his insight into the working of corruption in the heart, and the exercise of grace in the child of God, was clear and scriptural. His preaching was very edifying to gracious souls, for he fed the sheep and lambs of Christ’s fold; and because he knew the terror of the Lord, he would most affectionately beseech men to be reconciled to God. He was both a doctrinal and experimental preacher, and was very familiar with his Bible both in the original and in his native tongue. He was well read in the Puritan divines and in the writings of Calvin. It was his great delight when in company with a brother or sister to speak on some passage of the Bible or some scriptural subject; and one could not be in his society without feeling very much the better of it.

By the death of Mr. Baillie the Free Church has lost an able and godly minister, the parish of Gairloch a faithful and successful pastor, the poor of the flock a tender-hearted and open-handed friend, his family a dutiful husband and an indulgent parent, and his brother and sister an affectionate brother. He left a wife and three young children —boys—to mourn what they feel to be their loss, but what he now experiences to be his great gain. May the Lord of the harvest preserve to our Church a ‘ gracious ministry, and send to the people of Gairloch a worthy successor to godly Duncan Matheson and godly John Baillie!

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MRS. AGNES BAIN

(Died May 6th, 1883)
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June 1, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.181


Mrs. Bain was the fifth daughter of the late Mr. David Carnegy of Craigo, and was the widow of the Rev. John Bain of the Free Church, Logiepert, who died some years ago. For a long period the lamented lady took a deep and active interest in educational matters. Very early she worked heartily for the cause of education in Forfarshire, and, as a member of the School Board there, did much by her great energy, and bringing to account her high qualities of mind, to promote the good of the young in that part of the country. On coming to Edinburgh several years ago Mrs. Bain continued her interest in the education of the young in that city. Connecting herself with Free St. George’s Church, she evinced a lively sympathy with the work of the Fountainbridge Mission, a part of her duty then being the teaching of a class of young lads which she had formed. In 1881, however, wider scope was found for her work in being appointed a member of the School Board. Bringing to bear upon her work the previous School Board experience gained in Forfarshire, Mrs. Bain served in Edinburgh with great assiduity and success, and rapidly gained the esteem and respect of all with whom she came in contact. Mrs. Bain also continued to maintain her interest in Fountainbridge district, which she evinced by giving special prizes for religious knowledge in the Board school in that quarter. On Sunday afternoon, May 6th, the Rev. Dr. Whyte, at the close of a sermon to the young, made reference to the sad event, and spoke in feeling terms of the high character and gifted mind of the late member of the congregation, who had shown so much interest in their work. Possessed of a warm and sympathetic nature and of a most generous disposition, Mrs. Bain was highly esteemed wherever she was known, and her loss will be widely lamented.

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REV. GEORGE BAIN, CHAPEL OF GARIOCH

(Died December 21, 1893)
Author: Rev. H. M. Williamson, D.D., Belfast
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, April, 1894, Obituary, p.91


Among the ministers of Aberdeenshire for the last forty years, there are few names better known than Bain of Chapel of Garioch.

He was a faithful minister of Jesus Christ, greatly owned and honoured in his ministry by his Master, whom he so long and so lovingly served.

The state of religion and vital godliness in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire when he began his ministry was deplorable. By all who knew the country and were capable of judging, it was termed “the Dead Sea of Moderatism.” But the day had begun to dawn and the darkness to disappear from 1839 and the following years, under the preaching of the gospel by ministers sent to Strathbogie in connection with the claims of non-Intrusion. From that date onward to the Disruption every delegate sent to the surrounding parishes was, by the gospel, as the voice of the Son of God, calling men from the grave of spiritual death. The winter was over and past, the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in the land.

Mr. Bain was one of a band of brethren, full of faith and love, settled in different charges shortly after the Disruption. These men not only diligently fed and tended their own flocks, but began at once to go everywhere preaching the gospel. He was one of a number of ministers who statedly met at Huntly Lodge for a day of prayer and conference. Subsequently they were accustomed to meet in course in their manses, to spend the forenoon in prayer and conference, and in the evening one or two of their number were selected to address the people assembled in the church. It should be told, to the honour and glory of the Hearer of prayer, that in every one of these congregations a very striking work of grace began and long continued.

Of this goodly fellowship all have passed within the veil, save Forbes of Drumblade, Ingram of Rothiemay, and the writer of this notice.

At these meetings plans for the spread of the gospel over the whole of the surrounding country were discussed and prayed over—such as continuous meetings, street preachings, attendance at feeing markets, and local conferences. The details of all such meetings were managed by that valiant soldier of the cross, Duncan Mathieson. But of all the servants of Christ none was more earnest and unsparing in labours than Mr. Bain.

He had some remarkable gifts which fitted him to address with power a rural population. He had a certain quaint homeliness in his preaching, which yet held with Aberdeenshire grip the consciences and hearts of the hearers. They smiled at times as they heard him, but they opened the doors of their hearts as they smiled. His mind was stored with gospel truth, his memory was laden with Scripture. He had a clear view of the economy of grace, obtained under the teaching of that remarkable preacher, Stuart of Cromarty. He had also great pictorial powers, which enabled him at times to present the gospel with great vividness, and the Spirit brought it home to the hearts of men with saving efficacy.

From a deficiency of opportunity in early training he had, it is true, little acquaintance with the grammar and exegesis of Scripture, neither had he any great gift in setting it forth in compact and logical order; but with spiritual tact and insight he was able to apprehend the truth taught in the portion of the word under review with wonderful exactness. He had few difficulties, perhaps happy for him, with criticism, higher or lower. He believed the Bible was the word of God. He knew it to be the voice of God to himself, and to multitudes to whom he preached, and he rested there. With the simplicity of a child he let down his pitcher into the well of the water of life, and drew forth living water for himself and his people. Now, if after all the best test of a true minister of Jesus Christ be soul winning, many, of deeper learning and greater parts, might envy him his success in saving souls.

I have been with him at all seasons and in all places—in the pulpit, in the revival meeting, in the crowded feeing market, when at times the very powers of darkness seemed let loose, in watchings and wrestlings for the cause of Jesus, and in social fellowship in the holy and happy home of himself and his saintly wife—and I bear record that, above most men, it was Christ first and Christ last.

I have heard him, when manifestly preaching under the power of the Spirit, venture on what to most men would be forbidden ground. I have heard him in his sermon represent different parties as if in colloquy, touching the salvation of men. This was a mode of address which perhaps he had learned from some of the fathers in the Highlands, a mode of address which some very notable preachers in Wales and the Highlands employed in a past generation. I was present on one occasion when preaching in a large church, full of awakened sinners, he set forth a colloquy between the Holy Law, and its awful authority and sin-condemning power, and Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men. The hearers, broken-hearted because of sin, with open mouths, and fixed eyes, and outstretched necks, bent forward and listened as men listen for life, as the servants of Benhadad listened for a word from the king; and as they listened, in the light of the Holy Ghost, they saw the glory of Christ “redeeming us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” and they assented, and bowed their heads and worshipped, and entered into rest. It was such an address as very few men dare attempt, and none could carry through, save under a gale of the Holy Spirit.

Such work he loved, in such work he lived; engaging in it not now and then spasmodically, but ever at it, for his heart was set upon the glory of Christ in the salvation of men. And here let me throw a wreath on the grave of the holy woman whom God gave him as his wife. A woman of prayer she was, above many, wise and prudent, think he would most heartily have joined with me in affirming that, next to the Spirit of God, he owed all his influence and success in the ministry to her.

Happy Church whose pulpits are filled with such winners of souls! They are its power and its glory. While others, with greater talents, and in the high places of the field, have guided her councils, and built her bulwarks, and defended her from enemies. Her position in the country and the world is mainly due to such ministers as the departed, who for the past fifty years have preached the gospel in purity and power.

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REV. JAMES BAIN, DELTING, SHETLAND

(Died January 10, 1879)
Author: Rev. C.S. Murray, Salton (Haddington)
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May 1, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.119


Mr. Bain was born near Helensburgh, and educated at one of the schools in the neighbourhood, and took his college course at Glasgow. His father was of the Relief Church, and he (Mr. Bain) remained in the same communion until he entered the Hall, and studied under Dr. McGill. He prosecuted his studies, in the literary classes and in the Hall, with great ardour and with success. Linguistics, ancient and modern, had throughout his ministry a great charm for him. In his earlier years, during a time of bodily affliction, he gave himself to the Lord, and resolved on being a minister of Christ’s gospel. During his course at the Hall he became an enthusiastic student of the then infant science of geology and of botany: the former he abandoned; the latter he felt an interest in to the last. He could not accept some of the statements of the Confession as the expression of his faith, and so did not complete his course in the Hall. He retired to Helensburgh, where he remained for a period of nine or ten years. He engaged in teaching, and gave lessons privately to the present Duke of Argyle, by whom he was held in high esteem. He became Provost of Helensburgh also. During the same period the “Row heresy,” as it was called, emerged. He had no difficulty in stating to Mr. Campbell, whom he knew intimately, that, holding the views he did, he ought not to remain in the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He put the petition of the libellers (office-bearers and members of Mr. Campbell’s congregation) in shape, and gave evidence before the Presbytery in the case. All this time Mr. Bain considered himself devoted to the ministry of the Church of Scotland, and when his difficulties (mainly affecting the Confession’s deliverances on creation and the salvability of the heathen) were removed, he returned to college and delivered his Hall discourses. He was soon thereafter licensed by the Presbytery of Dumbarton. He felt strongly that he should take, no steps to procure for himself a presentation, and he put himself, in Providence, at the disposal of the Church, and went to preach wherever he was asked to go. Being generally returned as representative elder, he made conscience of attending meetings of Church courts. He studied carefully some of the older records of Presbyteries, and was also familiar with the literature of the first and second Reformation. His reading was at the same time of a much wider range. He used to read and re-read the history of the above periods, and felt his spirit stirred and his character strengthened by so doing. The men of those times, he considered, formed the history of Scotland; their deeds, whilst witnessing and suffering for the existence, constitution, and rights of Christ’s Church, and so for the honour and authority of the Church’s Head, went down to the very soul of the nation, and made it, in respect of moral heroism, what it is. He had no difficulty, as regards the struggle that issued in the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, in seeing a contest for the same principles, and unhesitatingly cast in his lot as a probationer with the Evangelical party. Soon after the Inverness Assembly, he was urged to go to Shetland. Dr. Candlish, who himself visited these northern regions about the same time in the Breadalbane yacht, remarked to him, after walking a very considerable distance to see the doctor, “You are the very man for this place.” He gave himself with thorough devotion to his work, leading a high-toned Christian life. His preaching was substantial and instructive; a peculiar richness and mellowness characterized his devotional exercises. An attached congregation gathered round him, and all through his ministry he secured the respect of all classes. He was the soul of uprightness himself, and detested whatever savoured of duplicity in others. A marked simplicity and transparency of character, unaffected kindness, and, with those he esteemed, rare confidingness, appeared in his whole bearing. He maintained a studied reticence as to his religious experience, and yet one could not but feel that his was a walk of close communion with his God. At one period of his ministerial labours in Shetland he devoted one of the days of the week to fasting, meditation, and prayer; and yet in quietness he retired to a cave at some distance from the manse, telling his housekeeper that he was not to be at home till the evening. With his own family he had worship three times a day. And for a period of thirty years he pursued the even course of his way with a firm and steadfast purpose, living the gospel, as one of his office-bearers remarked to the writer. Finding his health failing, his eyesight in particular impaired, he applied for, and was allowed, a colleague—the Rev. J. Rodgers (son of a well-known Edinburgh citizen) being appointed with Mr. Bain’s concurrence. He removed from Shetland, and lived for a year or two in Glasgow, near to a large circle of very warm friends.

For a year before his death he suffered from paralysis, tended by his wife and daughter and two sons, who survive him, and passed away quietly to his Master’s presence.

“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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JAMES ALEXANDER BAIN, M.A.

Source: The Free Church Monthly, September, 1889, Obituary, p.267


Up to the day of going to press we had not received the mail letters giving detailed explanation of a sad telegram despatched from Mozambique to the African Lakes Company on the 18th July, just too late for our last issue. The message was that the Rev. J. Alexander Bain had died at Bandawè, Lake Nyasa, of fever and disease of the kidneys. The same telegram reported that the communication by the Shirè and Zambesi was again open, and that peace had been established there. We know by a letter of 12th June, from the junction of the Ruo with the Shirè, written by the evangelist Mr. Charles Stewart, that the Company’s steamer conveying the mission party with the printing-press had been fired on at that spot by a chief previously friendly, and had dropped down the river to await the result of negotiations from the Company’s head-quarters at Mandala. These, notwithstanding Portuguese influence, seem to have been successful.

Not until a repetition of the message from Mozambique had been called for was it thought right to communicate it to Mr. Bain’s widowed mother, his married sister in delicate health, and his brother in Aberdeen. They worshipped in Queen’s Cross Church as usual at morning service on the 21st July, when the sermon happened to be delivered from the only text—Romans 12:1—on which Mrs. Bain had heard her son preach before his departure for Central Africa. After that his mother was told of the loss of the heroic missionary. His room was ready for him, and every sound of the door-bell had been thought to announce the news of his long-expected arrival in London. Truly Africa is in these days as the martyrs’ fire to try the Church of Christ. In the evening the minister, the Rev. George A. Smith, thus closed his lecture on our Lord’s temptations:

“We have had to break the news to the relatives of Rev. Alexander Bain of Livingstonia that he died of fever at Bandawè. His life has been a singularly heroic one—another instance of the truth to which our thoughts have been turned, that it is not only in a few conspicuous careers but in a large number of little known lives that the insensibility exists which our Lord showed to the lower appetites of our nature, the lower comforts of life. On Mr. Bain’s arrival at Nyasa six years ago, he was appointed to the most northerly outpost of the mission, near the new mission road which Mr. James Stewart was making from Lake Nyasa to Lake Tanganyika. For a long time Mr. Bain remained alone, but in 1885 he was joined by Dr. Kerr Cross. He had to do everything which falls to the lot of a missionary in these wild parts. He had to explore tracts never crossed by a white man, learn languages never committed to writing, build a house, a school, a church; preach, teach, and guide the affairs of a warlike tribe to peacefulness; reduce the language to writing, and translate into it parts of the Bible. He thus laboured for five years, often without the company of a white man, mostly with bad food and insufficient shelter and clothing; forced to tramp long distances, often barefoot (as I have heard), and with his clothing in rags; sufferinig, of course, frequent fits of fever. Once he and two of his companions—MacEwan and Mackintosh—were down with fever. Mackintosh died : the other two had to rise in their fever, dig his grave, and bury him. Yet Mr. Bain’s letters were full of cheerfulness, and he always noted the humorous side of things. At the beginning of 1888 the Arabs came down on Lake Nyasa. They attacked Karonga, the African Lakes Company’s station at the north end of the lake, some fifty miles from where Mr. Bain was settled. Karonga was defended by seven Europeans, of whom he was one; and they endured for a week the heavy Arab fire. At a pause in the fighting last year came round the proper time for Mr. Bain’s furlough, and we were expecting him home to tell his story to the General Assembly. He had been much weakened with fever, and ought to have come. Dr. Cross had ordered him home. But when he got the length of Bandawè he felt a little better, and because he thought his poor natives needed him, he hurried back for another year’s work. That meant another year of fever, of pestilence, of war, of ceaseless toil to one who was already weakened by fever. He started a new station at Ukukwe, at the north end of the lake, opening a school there. Advices dated March last state that he was then well and in good spirits, having got over his fever, and looking forward to his furlough. But the atrocities of the Arab war told upon him, and in his letter of March 22nd he confessed himself for the first time badly beaten. ‘I am shattered,’ he said, ‘in mind and body.’ And now the end has come. Mr. Bain was actually on the steamer with his luggage last year on his way home, when the natives among whom he laboured came to the shore and kneeling begged him to return among them and save them from the Arabs. He at once ordered his luggage ashore, and returned to the year’s work which has meant in the end death. He was a real martyr!”

The Rev. Alexander Bain was the son of the Rev. James Bain, Free Church minister of Delting, Shetland. He was the seventh in a line of ministers, his grandfather having been parish minister of Strachan, and his greatgrandfather and his father ministers in succession at Kincardine O’Neil. Mr. Bain was educated at the Gymnasium, Old Aberdeen, and at Glasgow University and Free Church College. He was ordained in 1883, and left the same summer for Lake Nyasa. As in the case of Ion Keith-Falconer, Alexander Bain’s own words, in what was almost his last letter, form at once the lesson of his devoted life and an appeal to his countrymen: “These years spent in Africa I can only look back upon with gratitude to our heavenly Father and a deep sense of my own shortcoming, while esteeming it a great privilege to have had opportunity of doing good work, however small it has been, for the Lord.”

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REV. JOHN BAIN, LOGIEPERT

(Died March 20, 1876)
Author: Rev. A.L.R. Foote, B.D., Brechin
The Free Church Monthly, May 1, 1876, p.120


The Rev. John Bain was born at Fortrose, parish of Rosemarkie, Ross-shire. His father, the Rev. Thomas Bain, was rector of the academy there, at that time an institution famous as a seat of learning, at which Sir James Mackintosh and other men of science were educated. His mother was daughter of the Rev. John Bonniman, minister of Premnay, Aberdeenshire. Several successive rheumatic fevers in early life laid the foundation of a weakly constitution, which manifested itself more or less during all the rest of his life. He was educated at the Fortrose Academy, and afterwards studied at the University of King’s College Aberdeen. At a very early age he gave his heart to the Saviour, and consecrated his life to his service in the ministry of the gospel. While a student of divinity he enjoyed very intimate fellowship with some of the most eminent and godly ministers of Ross-shire, such as Mr. Stuart of Cromarty; Mr. Sage of Resolis; Mr. McRae of Knockbain, afterwards of Carloway, Lewis; and Mr. Dewar, Congregational minister of Avoch; and under their ministry he received those deep and experimental views of the gospel by which his own ministry was afterwards so distinguished.

Having cast in his lot with the Free Church, he was settled in 1845 in the parish of Logiepert, Presbytery of Brechin. Besides an agricultural population, there were in the parish two extensive manufacturing works, which afforded an ample and most interesting field of labour, to which he devoted himself most assiduously, and where, there is the best reason to believe, he was very successful gathering souls to Christ. At various times there were movements among his people of an encouraging character and altogether there are not many ministries which have been more owned by the great Head of the Church. Indeed, there has been a more deep, and extensive, and real work of God under his ministry, than in districts where more has been said about it. In any fair and discriminating notice of Mr. Bain, pre-eminence is due to his deep personal piety. It is likely he would not himself have placed this very high. But those who know him best are aware that he was the subject of a very profound and anxious exercise of mind in regard to his religious state. He searched himself, as he searched others, fearful lest he or they should form hasty and ill-grounded conclusions as to their spiritual state. No one could be more free in his offers and invitations of the gospel than he; but the right exercise of the mind and heart upon these was a point on which he felt strongly. This tinged his own experience, and consequently, to some extent, his preaching. We have all our own type of mind and must therefore have our own type of Christianity. Mr. Bain’s religion was eminently inward — spiritual, prayerful, sincere; and though we would not say it was eminently confident and joyful, yet the elements of peace and assurance were not wanting in it. Altogether, he is entitled to the name of a sincere and deeply exercised Christian.

In the pulpit, he was searching, faithful, simple, tender, not without unction, and much valued and relished by those who looked for spiritual food. Out of the pulpit, he was diligent while health permitted, conscientious, kindly, and deeply sensible of his responsibilities. “The charge of souls” was no mere form of words with him. He aimed at conversion — nothing short of this. He “travailed in birth” for souls, till Christ was formed within them. He “watched for souls” as one who had to give an account. He worked diligently, oft times beyond his strength, and often did duty, both in the pulpit and out of it, when he had to rise from a sick-bed, and return to it when it was over. The young in the Sabbath school, and young men and young women in classes, were very special objects of his care; and in this field of labour great good must have been done. In this, as well as in his labours generally, he was greatly helped by his admirable wife, who, from her position in life, as well as from her energetic character, acquired very justly great influence in the neighbourhood and strengthened her husband’s hands. Indeed it is but right it should be known how much the Free Church owes, not only to her, but to her sisters, to whom the origin of the Logie Church is chiefly due, and who have taken a lively interest in it ever since. The name of Carnegie will long be a beloved and honoured name in that neighbourhood.

It may be added that Mr. Bain was not only a good man, but a man of considerable reading and information. He was not a narrow-minded man, but a man of breadth and catholicity. He had travelled a good deal, and this always enlarges the mind. He was much esteemed by his brethren, and beloved by his more intimate friends.

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REV. THOMAS BAIN, M.A., COUPAR-ANGUS

(Died March 8, 1884)
Author: Rev. John Wilson, M.A., Abernyte
Source: The Free Church Monthly, July 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.212


Mr. Bain was born at Fortrose in 1815, his father, the Rev. Thomas Bain, being rector of the academy in that town. His mother, a daughter of the Rev. J. Bonniman of Premnay, was early left with the charge of her two sons, the elder of whom was the late devoted Free Church minister of Logiepert. The “Black Isle” peninsula, washed on either side by the Cromarty and the Moray Firth, and now so well known to readers of the works of its distinguished native, Hugh Miller, was famous in those days for its eminent evangelical ministers. The names of Stewart of Cromarty, McDonald of Ferintosh, Sage of Resolis, and McRae of Knockbain, are still household words in the north; and to such men Mr. Bain owed the foundation of his deep experimental views of the gospel.

Entering the University of Aberdeen at the early age of twelve, he graduated at sixteen. Soon after, he was engaged as tutor in the family of Sir James Dunbar of Boath; and there, in connection with the ministry of Mr. Barclay of Auldearn, he experienced the great spiritual change. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Chanonry in 1838. Shortly afterwards he became assistant in John Knox’s and Gilcomston churches, Aberdeen. There he came under the stirring influence of the work of William Burns, and from that time his fervent zeal in evangelistic work never slackened nor flagged.

In that memorable period of the Church’s conflict for spiritual freedom, when the battle raged so fiercely in Strathbogie, and many of the leading evangelical preachers braved the hostility of the civil courts in that old stronghold of Moderatism, Mr. Bain was sent to take charge of the parish of Keith, and afterwards that of Mortlach. To the last he retained an interesting relic of that exciting time, in the shape of an interdict served upon him by order of the civil power. In the neighbouring parish of Botriphnie, Islay Burns was similarly employed; and a friendship sprang up between them, which led to Mr. Bain’s introduction to the manse of Kilsyth, and at length to his happy union with a daughter of that household. “The sound of abundance of rain” was then over Scotland. The long-parched region of Strathbogie eagerly drank the shower, and great power accompanied the word in the town of Keith. As many as sixty young communicants were admitted at one time, through Mr. Bain’s instrumentality, to membership of the Church, and not a few gave lasting evidence of conversion.

At the Assembly of 1843, where he heartily cast in his lot with the Free Church, and walked in the memorable procession to Canonmills alongside of Dr. Burns of Kilsyth and his sons, he was asked to go to preach at Coupar-Angus for those who in that town were leaving the Establishment. Tokens of divine blessing, in the decided awakening and conversion of souls, accompanied his preaching there from the first. Having been called by the newly-formed congregation to be their minister, he was ordained at Coupar-Angus in September 1843, and entered upon a pastorate of singular zeal and success. His one passion—”the great aim and object of his life,” as his session in a recent minute truly testified—”was to win souls for his Lord and Master.” To many his ministry was eternally memorable, not only in his own town, but in many other places. ”The first time I saw him,” writes a worthy elder, “was when he was preaching in a field in Glenisla in 1843. It was a fine summer evening, and a great multitude were listening to him as he preached with great fervour and affection on the text, ‘They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.'”

More than once under Mr. Bain’s ministry his congregation was visited by times of refreshing; and notably in 1860, after a visit to Ireland, where, like so many ministers from this country, he received at that time a fresh baptism for his work. On his return home, Mr. Bain, assisted by honoured ministers and evangelists, had the joy of seeing revival in his own congregation and a great ingathering of souls.

With unfailing zeal in his Master’s cause, Mr. Bain was prompt to seize every opportunity and to employ every hopeful agency for the awakening and the furtherance of spiritual life in his congregation, and zealous labourers in the Lord’s vineyard were at all times welcomed to his hospitable home. Attractive in his pulpit ministrations; tenderly sympathetic with the sick and sorrowful, to whom his visits, brightened by the singing of psalms and hymns, were, as his session testify, “as a gleam of happy sunlight to many in their dark hours of trial;” genial and active in his disposition; and gifted “with a singular capability of organizing and carrying on work,” his ministry in the town of Coupar-Angus and the surrounding region was one of eminent usefulness.

Mr. Bain excelled in work among the young; his Bible class was highly popular, and never was he happier than when engaged in this department of his work. His rare spirit of consecrated humour was an unfailing talisman to the hearts of the young; and his tact in managing the children in his crowded mission meetings was the envy of many of his brethren.

For nearly forty years he acted as clerk of Meigle Presbytery, and he ever took a warm interest in the affairs of the Church at large. Yet “he was,” says one who knew him well, “a man of peace, who did not take kindly to the strife of tongues or the contests of Church courts; but his eye would brighten and his speech become animated whenever the conversation turned upon a work of grace or the spread of the gospel at home or abroad.”

In 1881, his health having begun to fail, Mr. Bain, through the generous kindness of his congregation, was enabled to go to Mentone. During the two following winters he held the preaching-station at Mentone, and for a time he also laboured at Montreux. Never was his ministry more acceptable than in those places, or accompanied with truer tokens of divine blessing—deep though calm, as befitted a church which was as the valley of the shadow of death to himself and many others. “I can never forget,” says a clergyman of the English Church, himself an invalid, “the happy, holy winter I spent with him at Mentone. His words were greatly blessed to the deepening of my spiritual life; and the sweet counsel we took together in our Christian conference was a precious foretaste of heavenly fellowship whose fragrance still lingers in my memory.” Mr. Spurgeon, in a characteristically bright, frank note to Mr. Bain, gave spontaneous expression at the time of his appreciation of the ”simple, joyous, heavenly doctrine by which he himself had been fed to the full.”

“The work,” writes an eminent physician of our own Church, “was comparatively easy to him; the genial climate helped to prolong his life; and that chastened saintliness which had been fostered by his weakness made his ministrations valued by the many hearers who were suffering in their own persons or in their friends. I admired the vigour of his thought, the precision and simplicity of his style, his intimate acquaintance with the Word, his loyalty and love to his Master, and his manifest purpose to benefit his hearers. For his sake even that ungainly little church must ever be remembered with interest.”

From the beginning of the present year, Mr. Bain, who had gone to reside in Edinburgh, rapidly failed in health; and with much patient submission and Christian fortitude he bore his increasing pain and weakness, until, on the morning of March 8th, he peacefully fell asleep. He leaves a widow and a family of two sons and five daughters.

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REV. ALEXANDER BALFOUR, FORGLEN

(Died May 13, 1872)
Author: Rev. James Sutherland, M.A., Turriff
The Free Church Monthly Record, September 1, 1872, p.191


Mr. Balfour was born in the town of Dunfermline, on the 29th December 1799. There, also, he received his earliest education. In the course of time, he removed to Glasgow, and partly there and partly in Edinburgh he attended the University classes. His theological education was prosecuted wholly in Edinburgh. While there, he was a fellow-student with our late much respected co-presbyter, Mr. Gordon of Monquhitter. For some years after he left the Divinity Hall, he was engaged in the work of teaching;—first, in the Parochial School of Lasswade, along with the late Professor Tennant of St. Andrews, and subsequently along with the same gentleman in Dollar Academy. It was while he was teaching in Dollar that he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Kinross. About the year 1838, he got an appointment as probationer at West Wemyss, where he laboured until the Disruption. When that great crisis came, Mr. Balfour had no hesitation in casting in his lot with those who felt that the testimony of a good conscience and fidelity to Christ were to be preferred to all worldly advantages. He had to leave his appointment at Wemyss because of his principles; and having received ordination from the Free Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, he put himself for future service into the hands of the Free Church. In 1844, he came to the North, and was employed ministering for a time between the two congregations of Turriff and Forglen. In the spring of 1845, he was cordially called by the Forglen congregation, and duly inducted as pastor of that charge.

He was not only intimately acquainted with the original languages of Scripture, but he had studied and mastered the cognate tongues. It is a fact known to me, that after the death of Dr. Kidd of Aberdeen, he was a candidate for the chair of Oriental Languages in Marischal College, and in all probability he would have received that appointment, had it not been previously promised to another. It was Mr. Balfour’s delight to read the Word of God, not only in the original, but also in many translations into modern tongues. From time to time, I used to find him at his daily portion of Scripture in some one or other of the European or Asiatic languages. Without dwelling, however, further on this, let me refer to the characteristics of his public services. His manner in the pulpit was grave and dignified, his spirit earnest and sincere, and his doctrine thoroughly evangelical. No one ever found him blending law and gospel together as the ground of the sinner’s acceptance: and no one ever found him separating the law from the gospel, as the rule of the believer’s life. In his hand, and from his lips, the trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound. He preached a free and a whole Christ, and a present salvation in the believing reception of Christ; while, at the same time, he often dwelt on the nature and necessity of the Spirit’s work in the regeneration of the soul. His preaching was also singularly fitted to edify and comfort believers, by unfolding to them the fulness of their privileges and the security of their hopes in Jesus Christ. It might be truly said of him that he shunned not to declare all the counsel of God, with such power as the Lord had been pleased to bestow upon him.

I cannot refrain from glancing at his death-bed experience. Although his illness was comparatively short, it was very trying to flesh and blood. He suffered much pain; but his heart was stayed on the Lord, and so he was kept in perfect inward peace. One day, when I was visiting him, I expressed the hope that that Saviour, whom he had so long preached to others, was now precious to himself; and he exclaimed, “He is all my salvation, and all my desire.” At another time he said to me, when I asked if he thought he was dying, “If the Lord has more work for me, he will raise me up again, but it can be only for a little while at the longest; if he is to call me home, I am ready to go.” Yet again, when I was speaking of the comfort to be derived from the absolute freeness of salvation in Christ, he said very earnestly, “Yes, it is all free grace, it is all free grace.” That Word of God, which he had spent so much time in reading, was the joy and rejoicing of his heart on his death-bed. Nothing pleased him so much as the occasional recital to him of a passage of Scripture, and the utterance of a few simple thoughts upon it; he found that “the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” For the last two days of his life his mental powers were evidently impaired by the sufferings and infirmities of his body; but the closing scene was very peaceful, constraining us to say,

“Servant of God, well done!
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle o’er, the victory won,
Enter thy Master’s joy.”

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REV. PETER G. BALFOUR, LARBERT

(Died October 5, 1895)
Author: Rev. J. W. Hamilton, Dunkeld
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1896, Obituary, p.19


Peter G. Balfour, the younger son of the late Rev. William Balfour, D.D., was born at Holyrood Manse, Edinburgh, on January 20, 1863. He received his early education in the city of his birth, at George Watson’s College. In the autumn of 1878 he entered the university of Edinburgh, where, after a career in which he specially distinguished himself in the classes of mental and moral philosophy, he graduated as an M.A. in 1882. Having decided to study for the ministry, he entered the New College the same year, and passed through its classes with credit and distinction, gaining both prizes and bursaries.

At the close of his theological course he proceeded to Malta, to fulfil a year’s engagement as assistant to the Rev. George Wisely, the minister of our church there. On his return to this country he was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in June 1887. Soon thereafter he was appointed assistant at Annan, and later assistant to the Rev. F. MacPherson, Larbert. On the latter’s retirement he received a unanimous call to become his colleague and successor, and was ordained to the charge on September 24, 1891. He flung himself with wholehearted earnestness and vigour into the work of his charge, with the result that a considerable addition was very soon made to the numbers of the congregation.

He had many of the qualities that, with God’s blessing, go very far to make the successful minister —a simple faith, a clear judgment, a well-balanced mind, a keen, penetrating insight into truth, an assured belief, a strong-willed resolution, an indomitable energy, an affectionate nature, a bright and kindly manner, a lucid exposition, couched in chaste and nervous English, a forcible delivery.

He had a deep interest in the highest welfare of the whole congregation, the spiritual wants of both young and old lying heavy upon his heart.

He was a stimulating and incisive preacher and a conscientious pastor. His sermons to children were especially interesting.

A distinguishing feature of his character was his catholicity. He had a wonderful faculty of putting himself in the place of all sorts of men, and viewing the subject from their point of view, and was never slow in recognizing and acknowledging the good in their position. He had a broad sympathy. The oppressed ever found in him a ready and resourceful champion.

He was a ready and polished speaker, and a fearless debater. A stiff argument was the very breath of his nostrils. But he was ever a most generous opponent. He never sought to put a false complexion upon his opponent’s words, or take an unfair advantage of him. Looking back upon an intimate acquaintance with him of twenty-two years’ standing the present writer does not remember him doing a single mean, unkindly, ungenerous action.

He was called away only too soon from the work which he loved so well. In the beginning of September he was stricken down by typhoid fever. After a four weeks’ illness the end came on the fifth of October. His remains were removed to Edinburgh on the following Monday, where next day, in the presence of a large and deeply-sympathetic company of mourners, they were laid in their last resting-place in the Grange Cemetery, to await the glad resurrection morning.

His congregation, as well as the community in which he was permitted to labour for no short a time, testified to the great affection they bore him, and the high esteem they had for his noble character, in that, when his remains were removed to Edinburgh, the large station at Larbert was crowded from end to end by a deeply sympathetic and sorrowing assembly.

A peculiar pathos attaches to his death in that, humanly speaking, it proved the death-blow of his venerable father. They sleep together now in the deep and kindly slumber of death—the valiant veteran, worn out by the travail and the strife of a hundred battles for the truth, and the young soldier, stricken down on almost the very threshold of the fight. As we think of them going from us to take up within the veil the work they began on earth, instinctively the words of the poet rise to our lips as peculiarly appropriate to them both:—

“What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless did I drivel;
Being—who?
One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward;
Never doubted clouds would break;
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph;
Held, we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.”

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REV. WILLIAM BALFOUR, D.D., HOLYROOD, EDINBURGH

(Died November 8, 1895)
Author: Rev. William Winter, D.D., Dyke
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1896, Obituary, p.43


The sorrow of the friends of Dr. Balfour for the removal of his son, the promising young minister of Larbert, was yet fresh when the saddening news went forth that the venerable minister of Holyrood himself was no more. Barely five weeks had passed, and the father had followed the son to the unseen world. Though Dr. Balfour had been for a considerable time in failing health, an August holiday with his family, in the island of Mull, had seemed wonderfully to recruit him. But, on their return, the fatal illness of his son, and the consequent anxiety and fatigue to which he was subjected, overtaxed his strength; so that, under a relapse of his trouble, he speedily sank. By his death Edinburgh lost a valued citizen and his congregation a beloved pastor, his surviving son and daughter have been deprived of a tender and affectionate father, the friends of truth of a skilled and vigorous champion, and his associates of a model of Christian kindness and courtesy.

Edinburgh was the place of Dr. Balfour’s birth, training, life-work, and death. His father was Mr. Andrew Balfour—a man well known and respected in his day in literary and ecclesiastical circles—who, having been a surgeon in the 57th regiment of foot, afterwards settled in Edinburgh, and engaged in business as master printer. William —the fifth son and tenth child of the family—was born October 10, 1821, in the house on St. John’s Hill, with its outlook on Salisbury Crags, where he continued to reside all his life thereafter. His literary and philosophical training he received at Edinburgh High School and University; his training in theology at the Hall in George Street, under Drs. Chalmers, Buchanan, Cunningham, and Duncan. His first efforts at bringing the truth to bear on men for their salvation were in the form of mission work in the closes and wynds of his native city. Licensed by the metropolitan presbytery in 1848, he devoted himself to the establishment of a congregation at Holyrood, where a territorial mission and school had been founded, under the auspices of Free St. Luke’s congregation, and with the material help of one of its members—Her Grace the Duchess of Gordon. The congregation having obtained sanction from the General Assembly of 1849, Dr. Balfour was ordained and admitted its first minister, and continued to devote his best energies to the promotion of its interests until his death severed the connection. How well he loved the place of his life’s labours and his work therein all who knew him can testify. And the respect, on the other hand, which was entertained for his talents and character by all classes of the community was evidenced when, in 1879, he was returned to the School Board by a vast majority above the other candidates, and when, in 1892, he received from his Alma Mater the honorary degree of Doctor in Divinity.

The leading features of a man’s natural and spiritual character are, for the most part, determined by the circumstances in which his life, natural or spiritual, has been received and nurtured. Dr. Balfour’s family connection and early home life accounted largely for his literary tastes and habits, his courtliness of manner, his fund of humour and repartee, his energy and perseverance in work, his independence in forming, and moral courage in expressing, his sentiments. In like manner, the circumstances of his spiritual birth and of his early Christian development helped greatly to impart that conservative tone to his theological and ecclesiastical views which marked his future history.

After leaving school, and before entering the university, he was employed for some time in his father’s printing office. Being occupied in reading for the press, according to his nature he entered with his whole heart into the matter which came under his review. Among other books which engaged his attention was an edition of the works of Hugh Binning which was then in course of being printed. He has been known to refer to those works of Binning as having at that time brought light and life to his soul. Thus began an attachment to the theology of the old Scottish divines which was nurtured by a life-long study of them and their kindred in England and on the Continent, in the light of Holy Scripture, to which these authors constantly refer. Among the Scottish authors, perhaps the commentaries of the exact and liberal-minded Rollock—the first principal of Edinburgh University—were his favourites. But, by means of such tastes and acquirements, Dr. Balfour became an intelligent and strenuous upholder of the old Scottish type of doctrine.

The period of Dr. Balfour’s awakening, also, was one of much interest in Scottish ecclesiastical questions. From the circumstances of the case, these questions led men to a minute and careful study of the historical position of the Scottish church and its scriptural justification. In this way came to be nourished in the heart of Dr. Balfour, and of many besides, an intelligent and firm attachment to the old ways in which the forefathers had trodden in working out their idea of the visible church of Christ. Few, if any, were better acquainted than Dr. Balfour with the controversial literature of the period and the merits of the questions in dispute. Not, indeed, that he ever was or could become a mere slave of tradition; for no one could be freer of prejudice in considering, or more independent in forming an opinion, on all matters submitted to his judgment. Still, he became chary of meddling, in times of instability, even with rules and methods admitting of alteration, which had been settled by the piety and prudence of our ancestors, and which had been proved to be for the advantage of scriptural ordinances and the true religion.

Into the controversies affecting principles or details of ecclesiastical arrangement in which Dr. Balfour was engaged, this is not the place to enter. It is enough to record that in all these, as well as in his public and private action generally, both his allies and opponents will unite in bearing testimony to him as an honest and lovable Christian man.

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REV. J. H. BALLINGALL, KINGHORN

(Died October 1, 1879)
Author: Rev. James Black, M.A., Dunikier
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.278


Born on September 1814, at Ayr, where his father was rector of the academy, he there laid the foundation of his learning, completing his studies at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. As a probationer, he laboured for nearly two years in forming the congregation of Kinghorn Free Church, over which he was ordained pastor in January 1846. His ministrations, conducted under the disadvantage of constitutional weakness, and frequently-acute suffering, were throughout characterized by fidelity, earnestness, and exemplary perseverance. Faithful in exposing error and rebuking sin, fearless of the offence of those whom he confronted in so doing, such was the friendliness of his heart that he made no enemies, obtaining in the end the concurrent testimony of all who knew him that “in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he had his conversation in the world.” The terrible evils of Sabbath profanation and intemperance aroused his zeal. Of the Presbyterial Committees on these prevailing sins he was the energetic convener, and in this capacity lost no opportunity of awakening public attention to their predominance. The education of the young lay near his heart, and his congregational school engrossed many an anxious and busy hour.

On the 15th of June last he began the work of the Communion Sabbath from these words, Zechariah 13:1, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened,” in that strain of solemnity which specially marked his later ministrations, but had not proceeded far when serious illness seized him. The Rev. Dr. Douglas of Glasgow being present took up the services and kindly conducted them to an appropriate close. Mr. Ballingall never again entered the pulpit. During the last week of his life, when sensible that his end was near, he was visited by more than one of his ministerial friends, who found him calm and tranquil, resting on the one foundation, and giving indications of peace within and hope beyond.

His union to the daughter of the late Rev. Mr. Urquhart of the Scottish Coast Mission was a solace to his later years and closing days, and at the house of her widowed mother he expired. His office-bearers and congregation extended to him exemplary sympathy and help.

With every mark of respect his mortal remains were interred in Kinghorn Cemetery, awaiting the resurrection of the just.

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REV. ALEXANDER MACKINLAY BANNATYNE, ABERDEEN

(Died December 4, 1899)
Author: Rev. Robert Williamson, D.D., LL.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, March, 1900, Obituary, p.65


Mr. Bannatyne’s family originally belonged to Rothesay; but on the appointment of his father as fishery officer at Leith, they removed to that town, where on October 16, 1817, Mr. Bannatyne was born. He was thus, at the time of his death, in his eighty-third year. Mr. Bannatyne was brought up under godly influences. Family worship was observed in his home morning and evening; and on Sabbath, after attending regularly the public services of the sanctuary, the family were instructed and catechised in Bible lessons. His father was an elder in St. John’s, Leith, and along with his minister – Mr. afterwards Dr Lewis – and a great part of the congregation, joined the Free Church at the memorable Disruption of 1843. Mr. Bannatyne was himself a deacon in the same congregation. His parents were desirous that he should become a minister of the Free Church and with a view to that, when about fifteen years of age, he joined the arts classes in the University of Edinburgh. Not being satisfied, however, at that time that he had a clear call to the ministry, he discontinued his studies, and engaged in business in St. Andrews where he resided for a number of years. While at St. Andrews the Lord graciously and savingly revealed Himself to him; and believing that he had then a call to the ministry, he resumed his studies at the University, and afterwards entered the Free Church College in Edinburgh. He was duly licensed by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh in July 1847 on the same day on which Mr. Tomory of Constantinople was licensed. For some time he assisted Dr Fairbairn of Newhaven, when he was absent in Malta on account of his health. A call from Norham, he declined, as probationers in the Free Church did not at that time accept of calls until a year after licenece. On March 20, 1850, he was ordained and settled at Warenford, in the pres of Northumberland, where he ministered for eight year. There he had seals to this ministry, and also felt that he had been of use in removing prejudices which prevailed against Presbyterianism.

In may 1858 he removed to Union Free Church, Aberdeen, where he laboured for thirty-two and a half years. His ministry there was not without fruitful spiritual results. Of the imperishable principle involved in the Ten Years’ Conflict which issued in the Disruption in 1843, Mr. Bannatyne had a clear and intelligent apprehension. To these principles he adhered to the end. He belonged to what is generally known as the Constitutional party. In regard to several questions engaging the attention of the church – such as the hymn controversy, and very specially the introduction of instrumental music into the public services of the church under the New Testament dispensation – Mr. Bannatyne differed from many of his brethren. So strongly did he feel in regard to these matters that he resigned his charge at Aberdeen and retired to Rothesay. That he felt such a course to be necessary was matter of regret to not a few. His brethren, however, never doubted the purity of his motives, or his strict conscientiousness; while he, on the other hand, never allowed difference of opinion on public questions to interfere with the courtesies and friendships of private life. In reluctantly accepting Mr. Bannatyne’s resignation, the Presbytery in their minutes, expressed their regret at parting with a brother who had “laboured long within their bounds and been held in honour and affection by all”; and also “preserved all his rights as a minister of the Free Church.”

Mr. Bannatyne is survived by a widow, who is held in respect and esteem by all who know her. Her father the late Provost Jamieson of Rothesay, rendered important service to the Free Church at the Disruption. He was connected with the congregation under the ministry of the late lamented Mr. Peter McBride. The notice to quit the old church at the Disruption was peremptory, leaving little time to make arrangements for the accommodation of a large congregation. In the emergency Mrs. Bannatyne’s father put at their disposal extensive premises, free of charge, in which the congregation worshipped until the new Free West Church was ready for their reception. Mr Jamieson was afterwards presented by the congregation with a piece of silver plate, bearing a suitable inscription in recognition of the signal service rendered to them at a trying period in their history.

For the last two years of his life, Mr. Bannatyne was a confirmed invalid. He spent much of the time in prayer and in praise to God for all his gracious dealing towards him.

The large company which followed his remains to the grave testified to the high respect in which he was held. The chief mourner was his distinguished nephew, Robert Bannatyne Finlay Q.C., M.P., Solicitor General for England.

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REV. ARCHIBALD BANNATYNE

The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, August 1, 1863, p.306


In the Record for April we had occasion to refer to the death of one member of the Presbytery of Glasgow, the Rev. Mr. Walker of Millerston; and now, within a short interval, we are called to notice the removal of two other brethren from the same Presbytery, — the Rev. Archibald Bannatyne of Knox’s Church, and the Rev. Duncan Macnab of Renfield, Glasgow.

Mr. Bannatyne was a native of Rothesay. During his early days, and while pursuing his studies at college, he was distinguished by stayedness of demeanour, and habits of pious and persevering industry. On several occasions, and more especially one evening, when he was appointed in a Theological Society to advocate the cause of Missions, he gave indication of the special talents with which he was endowed. He opened up to his admiring fellow-students a rich vein of deeply interesting thought; and while he poured forth the treasures of a spiritual and highly furnished mind, he did so without the least appearance of pretence or show, — indeed, with a retiring modesty which was a leading characteristic of his life even to its latest day.

Having received license as a preacher he was engaged for some time in supplying the station of Brodick, in the Island of Arran. Here his ministrations were most acceptable and most edifying; and it was only the other day we were furnished with evidence of the abiding benefit which his faithful preaching had conferred on some who were then his hearers.

He was first ordained to the ministry at Oban in the year 1842; and here he laboured with conscientious diligence for about ten years, having cast in his lot with his fathers and brethren who were contending for the crown rights of the Redeemer. In 1853 he was called to occupy the pulpit of Knox’s Church, Glasgow. Our readers will remember the painful circumstances connected with the history of this congregation and its previous minister. In his new sphere Mr. Bannatyne had special difficulties to encounter, but he went on quietly and steadily with his work, encouraged by the sympathy and kind co-operation of many Christian friends who rallied around him. A few years ago his health became so impaired that he was scarcely competent for any ministerial exertion, and the Rev. Ralph C. Smith of Shotts was called and settled as his colleague. Mr. Bannatyne retired with his wife and family to Ayr, where, amid increasing infirmities of body, he testified his attachment to Christ by patient submission to his will, as he had formerly done by active labours in his service. He died on the 18th of May, being the twentieth anniversary of that ever memorable day when the Church of our fathers felt constrained, from regard to the authority of her Head and King, to dissolve her connection with the State.

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REV. NINIAN BANNATYNE, M.A., OLD CUMNOCK

(Died February 20, 1874)
Author: Rev. Alex. M. Bannatyne, Free Union Church, Aberdeen
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1874, p.126


Ninian Bannatyne was born at Rothesay, in October 1802. In the godliness of his parents he had a better portion than anything else he derived from his connection with the Bannatynes of Lubas and Port Bannatyne. His father, Ninian Bannatyne, officer of the fishery in Rothesay, was a shrewd and well-informed Christian; in whose case, and that of his wife, there was a remarkable fulfilment of “salvation come to this house,” and “thou shalt be saved and thy house;” for all their nine children (two of whom survive) became possessors of saving grace.

The subject of this notice, profiting from wholesome home and school and ministerial influences, was for some time, when a lad, in a mercantile office in Greenock; where, under a faithful minister, and associating with judicious Christian friends, the great birth from above seems to have distinctly manifested itself in him. At that time, acting upon their advice, he set his heart upon the ministry of the gospel; and then, with credit and profit, he went through the curriculum of arts and the divinity hall course at Glasgow, all the while maintaining his Christian integrity and diligence. In 1830 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Dunoon, presented by the late Lord Bute to the parish of Cumnock, and ordained by the Presbytery of Ayr. His close attention to his pastoral charge threatened, not long after his entrance on the ministry, to send him to an early grave; but after a little relaxation, and a visit to St. Kilda, his health was restored, and he was able, till the end of his earthly career, to give unremitting attention to the service of the Chief Shepherd. During the Ten Years’ Conflict, at the Disruption itself, and ever afterwards till his death, he unflinchingly testified to the Headship of Christ over the Church, and His Headship over the nations. It is believed that he was the very first to make a public sacrifice for these principles; for, in view of the coming Disruption, he resigned the office he held as chaplain to the late Marquis of Bute, then Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly. With many a pang, but without hesitation, he left, like others, his pleasant manse, and glebe, and stipend, and prospects — a sacrifice which involved very much more than the loss of material wealth. A like sacrifice he was ready to make recently, as he believed for Disruption principles. His Christian worth and pastoral assiduity and tender-hearted friendliness were testified to at his funeral; when the large procession, and the tolling bells of the Parish and Free churches, and the universally shut shops of Cumnock, and the deeply solemnized crowds of onlookers, showed that the forty-three years of his going out and in there had left a deep mark, both on his own congregation and on the general community. Himself a saved man through their blessed operation, his constant delight, in public and private, was in the rich doctrines of sovereign grace. His great storehouse and fountainhead was the Bible itself. All forms of error and all looseness in faith and practice he strenuously opposed. There was almost apostolical fervour and freshness in his prayers, particularly at communion seasons, and at the bedside of the sick and aged and dying. In the welfare of the young he took a deep and practical interest — an interest which was responded to by the respect entertained for him by even the youngest. His preaching was clear, simple, apt, and unostentatiously earnest. His communion addresses were so full of an unction from the Holy One that they can never be forgotten. All classes felt the influence of his modest and office-magnifying Christian life. His last illness continued about three months; and it is very consolatory to know, not only that with humility and firmness and clearness he then again and again expressed his deep sense of the preciousness of his great Redeemer, but that, in the pleasure and peace and comfort he had in divine things, and in his entire submission to the divine will, even during frequent paroxysms of severe pain, there seemed to be afforded in full measure to himself an answer to the many sympathetic and fervent prayers he had offered up for others in affliction. “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” It is affecting to think that, passing hence in the forty-fourth year of his ministry and in the seventy-second year of his age, he left behind him, in the large Presbytery of Ayr, no other minister ordained before 1843. The cloud of Disruption witnesses is fast disappearing from earth: “Whose faith follow; considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

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PROFESSOR JAMES BANNERMAN

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, May 1, 1868


The death of Dr. James Bannerman, Professor of Theology in the New College, Edinburgh, took place on the 27th of March. It can hardly be said to have been unlooked for, inasmuch as he was known to labour under serious ailments, which necessarily awakened apprehension. Yet he continued to teach his classes, and to perform all his ordinary college work, till quite recently; and he was not confined to his room till within two or three days of the last.

Dr. Bannerman was born in 1807. He was the son of the Rev. Mr. Bannerman of Cargill, and was deprived of his father in early life. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he achieved distinction, not only in the branches bearing directly on his future professional eminence, but also in mathematics. Having chosen the ministry as his profession, he was ordained, somewhere about the year 1833, to the charge of Ormiston. He discharged the duties of his parish with great acceptance. Though placed in a sphere so secluded, his characteristic judgment and firmness, as well as his theological qualifications, became known to the Church in consequence of the part he had to take in important proceedings in his Presbytery. The Borthwick heresy case made a great noise in those days. The Rev. Mr. Wright of Borthwick was the author of certain works written with considerable literary ability, but deeply tinged with error. The Presbytery of Dalkeith were obliged to take up the case, and put him under libel. Mr. Bannerman’s part in the management of the case, as it held its way through the Church Courts, was remarkably able. No one who witnessed it will soon forget a scene which took place in the General Assembly on the night when Mr. Wright was deposed. Mr. John Inglis, advocate, now the Lord President of the Court of Session, delivered a long, elaborate, and somewhat pretentious pleading for the accused. After him, Mr. Bannerman rose, and in five minutes’ speaking prostrated him with such an overthrow as has seldom been seen in that House.

At the Disruption, Mr. Bannerman was one of the out-going ministers. In 1849 he was elected to fill the chair in the New College vacant by the resignation of Dr. Candlish, who, after being appointed Professor, saw it to be his duty to return to his charge in St. George’s. Since that time he has occupied a prominent place in the Free Church. He was particularly associated, both in public life and in private friendship, with Principal Cnnningham, and was named by him as one of his literary executors.

As a Professor, Dr. Bannerman was distinguished by clearness and accuracy of his thinking, by thorough knowledge, by the completeness of his preparations, and by the vigorous and independent judgment which he brought to bear surely and constantly alike on the matter and on the manner of his work. He took great delight in his classes, and delighted in bringing out and marking any promise of future eminence or usefulness in his students. Dr. Bannerman’s published works evince the same fulness, clearness, and vigour which marked his prelections. In addition to occasional writings, and to his editorial labours in Dr. Cunningham’s works, Dr. Bannerman published, a few years ago, an elaborate treatise on “Inspiration,” which received the warmest approbation of some of the first theological and philosophical authorities in England and Scotland. But for failing health, other fruits of his studies would in all likelihood have been given to the world. His capacity for affairs was certainly not inferior to his other gifts.

The qualities which are here ascribed to Dr. Bannerman were well known, especially in the Church to which he belonged. His theological acquirements, sound judgment, the fidelity and resoluteness of character which made him a man so fit to lean on in any difficulty, were no secret. It was only those, however, who knew him intimately who were thoroughly aware of the kindness and gentleness of feeling which he combined with the features of character already named. His aversion to everything demonstrative might sometimes lead strangers to think him reserved and self-contained. But the sincerity and delicacy of his sympathy, and the general readiness of his friendship, were as present and powerful as any of the other elements in his character, and a rare truth and constancy marked their exercise.

In a very remarkable degree his mind was characterized by sincerity and honesty. He shrunk from everything false or hollow; he hated it in others, and he renounced it for himself. He was especially averse to everything like insincere talk, or profession not corresponding to the reality. Partly connected with this, and partly with a certain manliness and self-control that were natural to him, was the fact that, on subjects on which he felt deeply, he did not readily or often express his feelings. Hence their strength and earnestness were sometimes revealed unexpectedly, though always in a natural and simple way—perhaps in a sentence of confidential converse.

He was a steadfast man, adhering firmly to whatever he judged right. He was not lightly moved away from any ground he had once taken up. He took it thoughtfully; and having taken it, he abode by it. This contributed greatly to his usefulness, and gave consistency to his life and stability to his influence.

He was a most trustworthy friend. He did not express it much in words, but in case of need he manifested it with generous readiness in deeds; and he did so with an earnestness, and thoughtfulness, and a steady perseverance that are not common among men. He was resolute and exact in the doing of duty, habitually accomplishing it with fidelity and in the best way. He refused to excuse himself, or to lay the burden of it on others. This characterized him throughout his life, and was strikingly manifested in the uncomplaining and unflinching work of the last winter.

Some years ago, Dr. Bannerman experienced the first threatenings of the complaint which ultimately ended his days. On that occasion, it caused no important interruption of his ordinary habits and duties; and as the symptoms ultimately yielded to treatment, the hope was cherished that a long term of usefulness was before him. Early last year, however, the malady returned; during the summer his health was in a state of great uncertainty, and though he struggled through the work of the winter with characteristic determination, he did so latterly with increasing difficulty.

He was, without doubt, settled in the faith of Christ. With him it was a matter of established principle and deep conviction. His life was built upon those things which are most surely believed among us. And as death drew near, not without much that was trying in the symptoms that attended it, no sign of wavering, of being sunken in faith, of being at a loss where to find rest for his feet, ever appeared. It could be gathered from the expressions he used that his sickness only impressed him with a deeper sense of the worth and preciousness of the Everlasting Covenant, on the promises of which he had long learned to rest, and inspired him with a deeper thankfulness that in Christ is provided a complete salvation, which is given to sinners freely, and received by faith. His last words were,—”I have waited for thy salvation, O God.”

Dr. Bannerman married a daughter of Lord Reston, a Lord of Session, who survives him. He has left three sons and six daughters.

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ROBERT BARBOUR OF BONSKEID

(Died 27 May, 1891)
Author: Rev. George Adam Smith, M.A., Aberdeen
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1891, Obituary, p.341


Robert William Barbour was born at Edinburgh, 29th November 1854. His father, who died in 1889, was George Freeland Barbour, Esq., of Bonskeid and Gryffe, loved by his son’s friends as a man of singular culture, piety, humour, and liberality. His mother, who is still with us, is known throughout the Church by “The Way Home,” and other religious writings. Four of the family survived childhood—Robert, two sisters (now married to Professor Simpson and Dr. Whyte), and Hugh, now in medical practice in Edinburgh.

Robert went to school at the Collegiate Institution. The men who most influenced his boyhood were his father, his tutor, James Stalker, and Mr. Wilson of the Barclay Church, the Young Men’s Society of which was also one of his training-grounds. At Edinburgh University he came at once to the front and achieved a very brilliant career. Ten class medals, the prize poem, essay prizes, a double-first degree in classical philosophy; in the debating societies a power of strong and ready speech; an extraordinary-capacity for hard and rapid work, the gift of a great imagination, a touch of genius on much that he thought and did—it was no wonder that to those of us who stood behind him nothing seemed beyond his reach. The usual sequence to such a career in Edinburgh at the time was Oxford, and he was tempted to go there; though, if no other reasons had been present, he believed too much in the sufficiency of the Scottish curriculum to have gone readily. But another claim was upon him. In early boyhood he had given himself to the Christian life, and ever since then the thought of becoming a minister had grown upon him. From his letters this appears to have now become a passion—a passion that neither long study, nor the weariness of the ministry, nor the engagements for a time of another calling in life, nor ill-health ever diminished in him. In 1875 he entered New College. In 1876 he took the summer session at the University of Tubingen, where Beck, Tholuck’s real successor in Germany, was a great moral as well as intellectual influence; and what Barbour got from Beck may be seen in an article he contributed on Beck’s death to the British and Foreign Evangelical Review. His last session at New College was full—perhaps, from what we now know, too full—of hard work. He won the medal of the political economy class at the University, writing all the long fortnightly essays set by Professor Hodgson; he won the Cunningham Fellowship; he was a leader in the Theological Society; he held classes in continuation of Mr. Spires’s meetings for children; he was always helping some of us in our mission work; and in the spring he published a volume, “Jeroveam’s Wife, and other Poems.” With the autumn came his marriage to Charlotte Fowler; their wedding journey through the missions of South Africa occupied the winter and spring of 1880. On this tour he met Dr. Stewart of Lovedale—another of the great influences of his life. In December 1880 he became assistant to Mr. Fraser of Brechin, and rejoiced, like all who have begun their ministry there, in the field of work that is open, in the sympathy that blesses it, and especially in the counsel and example of his “bishop.” In October 1881 he was ordained to the church of Cults, near Aberdeen. For five years, broken by two absences in search of health, he worked in Cults with all his own thoroughness and enthusiasm; and then, in obedience to the doctors, he laid down his charge, and went to reside at Bonskeid There, and afterwards on the neighbouring estate of Fincastle, which he bought, he lived, while health and other work allowed him, not only a good landlord and a most generous host, but the pastor of all the countryside. Urged by his party to enter Parliament, he was true to the vision of his youth, and replied that highly as he honoured a political career, he held still higher the vocation of a Scottish minister. It is certain that deep in his heart lay the hope of return to some stated charge as soon as strength came back. Meantime he shepherded “his Glen;” preached occasionally in the little chapel and for friends; prayed and laboured for China (he was Scottish chairman of both the Presbyterian China Mission and the Anti-Opium League); kept his friends in heart by his strong, faithful letters; and dispensed his wealth with a liberality rare in one who came so young to great riches. He laboriously investigated every one of the numerous appeals which reached him from home and abroad; and it was like him to lay it on his friends to tell him of needy men and causes who might be helped without having asked him themselves. In 1888 he undertook the duties of the Church History Chair in Glasgow during Dr. Lindsay’s absence. What he achieved not only as a lecturer, but in his personal intercourse with the students, as a spiritual force, was told by their warm tributes when he left. In 1890 another call came to him to another Church History Chair, in the United Presbyterian Hall. It was much on his heart to take this work, not only for its own sake, but as his effort towards the union of Scottish Presbyterianism, which was one of the great ideals of his life. God’s will, however, was otherwise. An illness, which had been first apparent in the trouble he gave himself in the spring about a sad piece of pastoral work, reappeared with bad symptoms. The doctors put off his teaching till Christmas, then forbade it altogether. In February he was moved to the south of France, and later to Aix-les-Bains. Tended by his wife and some dear friends, he lingered there till the end of May, when he sank out of great weakness into sleep. He was very happy. “Thy rod and thy staff,” he said—”especially thy rod—they comfort me.”

It is almost impossible to tell how much he was to his friends and to the Church; how much he is, and will be always, to those whom he touched. There have been very few men of whom their friends had the right to hope such high things as we had of Robert Barbour when he entered public life. But that brilliant career at college, on which he rose to the full height of his great powers, is to-day not so bright in our memories as the subsequent years of declining health, quieter preaching, and the pastorate, painful and broken, at Cults and in “the Glen.” If he has failed to build any monument worthy of his intellectual strength, it is largely because he consecrated his powers to pastoral work. And so he has left us an heritage of character we could not have expected even from those earlier years. I shall always feel his purity the most. In college days we knew it as (in the words Milton uses of himself) “a certain reservedness of nature, an honest haughtiness and self-esteem, which kept me above those low descents of mind.” But during his ministry it took an active and forward shape, a yearning to do the right and win others for the right, which is only possible with a heart and imagination that cherish no secret sin. Not that Barbour’s was a nature which found it easy to be good; on the contrary, no man ever felt temptation more strongly, or had a heavier sense of sin and of the awful difficulty of doing the Father’s will. One of his last messages for young men was: “Teach them to pray for forgiveness.” The “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel of Christ,” which throbs through so many of his later letters, flowed from the same source. The Cross was to him in the most experimental way the centre of all religion, and the enthusiasm at least of his later years was born at the foot of it. As to his gift of oratory, he had a rich voice, and a command both of language and information; he had a conscience about form, and his style was always stately; but you felt as he spoke that the power was rather due to his intense spiritual earnestness. When some graceful speakers are done, it is as if they had said, “I have spoken because I can speak”; but with him, most graceful of all, it was always, “I believed, therefore I spake.” As to his poetic gift, I do not think that the poetry of his book ever came near the poetry of his life. He saw the ideal in everything— especially in common Christian work and in our Scottish life, in both of which it is so difficult for ordinary hearts to rise above the commonplace. He saw the blush of the heart’s blood through the meanest face, and had a way all his own of glorifying the humblest means of grace. There was one thing which I have felt, and many other men younger than himself, on our first introduction to him. He not only treated us sympathetically, but spoke of our work, whether accomplished or lying still before us, in its ideal light; made us ashamed of our own low opinions of it, and sent us back to it with new conscience and hope. He was a thorough Scot, with a love for his land, her history, and her songs, that was very beautiful. He knew Scottish life to the bone, Scottish history to the fountain-head; and it was delightful, in conversation about parish politics and everyday matters, to be surprised by his emphasis of the historical meaning and national virtue of some ordinary event or institution.

His company was always stimulating. How can we ever forget his look as he swung down one of “the Glen” roads with his cheery shout of welcome, his happy ways with children, his chivalry in debate, his courtesy with the poor and aged, his humour and occasional sarcasm, his singing of a favourite Jacobite song, “Will ye no come back again?”

But the virtue and honour of his life lay in his faithfulness as a pastor. With the same devotion – which in boyish years overcame most unusual temptations to idleness and pride by toil as hard as if he had his bread to win—he sacrificed in later years even stronger ambitions to be the mere preacher and poet, and gave his strength to personal service and rescue work. He took extraordinary pains with individual cases. Both at Cults and in Aberdeen and by the Tummel, numbers bless God to-day for the truth and love with which his servant dealt with them, for his perseverance and generosity. I always had some poor soul anxiously on his heart before God, fulfilling thus the pastor’s highest office of intercession; and I believe it was the way which he prayed for all who were weak and in error in his flock and in his neighbourhood that kept him so free from gossip or the misuse of those strong gifts of scorn which were natural to his lofty spirit. It was easy to criticise sometimes an enthusiasm utterly regardless of self as his was; but now that is gone from us, it seems to his comrades to be one of their holiest duties to preserve its memory and example—to live more strenuously by that faith in Christ and his Cross which was its secret.

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REV. DR. MATTHEW BARCLAY, OLD KILPATRICK

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, March 1, 1865, p.760


Dr. Barclay was a native of Paisley, where his father was well known as a merchant. In early life he had himself been engaged in business, and for a young man was highly successful. But he came to feel that neither the counting-house nor the factory was his appropriate sphere, and in the full vigour of manhood he separated himself from all secular pursuits, and entered on a course of study with a view to preparation for his ministry. There can he no doubt of the strength and sincerity of the motives by which he was led to take this important step. He was animated solely by the desire of promoting the cause of Christ, and of being engaged in work congenial to his feelings. He applied himself to his college studies with remarkable assiduity, and in the department of divinity especially he was very superior, and, besides gaining academic honours, he stood so high in the estimation of his fellow-students that they elected him president of their Theological Society. After receiving license as a preacher he was engaged for two years as assistant to Professor James Buchanan of Edinburgh, who was then minister of North Leith, and who for a time, in consequence of ill health, was unfit for the full discharge of his ministerial duties. In the year 1833 he was ordained minister of Old Kilpatrick, where he was most diligent and painstaking and recommended himself to the respect and esteem of all his parishioners. In 1843 he resigned his living, and became minister of the Free Church. In October he had a stroke of paralysis, by which he was laid aside from all active duty, and deprived also of the power of speech. For more than four long years he lay on a bed of languishing, a patient and a silent sufferer. He had every comfort which could be afforded by medical skill and domestic care and kindness. He had frequent visits from ministerial brethren, whose presence and prayers he thankfully acknowledged by such signs as they could well interpret. His latter end was peace. Quietly and without a struggle he passed away.

Dr. Barclay was distinguished by solid rather than by shining qualities. He was a man of strong good sense, of sterling integrity, and of great benevolence. He was firm in the maintenance of principle, but gentle and considerate of the feelings of others. As a preacher he manifested a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures. He was clear and full in the statement of doctrine, and earnest and affectionate in the application of it to the heart and conscience of his hearers. He had a warm interest in the progress of the Gospel both at home and abroad, and was a liberal supporter of objects of general philanthropy, as well as the various schemes of the Free Church. We understand that Dr. Barclay in addition to various testamentary bequests to Church objects, has made provision for the permanent maintenance of a school in the village of Old Kilpatrick, with which his name will be associated. He will long be remembered as a faithful minister and a friend of the poor; for while dispensing the bread of life for the benefit of their souls, he was not unmindful of their temporal wants. He had reached the age of seventy-five.

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REV. ISAAC BARRETT, SKIRLING

(Died July 18, 1877)
Author: Rev. James Munro, Rutherglen
The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1877, p.252


It was the great exodus from the Established Church which took place thirty-four years ago which determined Mr. Barrett to make Scotland his home. He had watched at a distance the progress of the Ten Years’ Conflict, and arrived at a clear conception of the questions at issue; he had warmly espoused the principles maintained by the champions of spiritual freedom, and seen with admiration the sacrifices which threw so bright a lustre round the close of the struggle. In this way was he led, before the end of 1843, to leave friends and fatherland, remove to Edinburgh, and begin to prepare for ministerial service in the Free Church. Having just completed the usual literary course at the University of Dublin, his native city, he was in readiness to enter forthwith on the study of theology. This he did in singularly propitious circumstances, since none could teach more ably than Chalmers and his distinguished associates in the New College; while a good proportion of the students of the time were young men who combined ardent piety with eminent endowments and culture.

Directly on being licensed, he was intrusted with a mission station at Cambuslang; whence he was called to aid the wellknown Dr. McFarlane of Greenock. The two fields were many ways dissimilar; but in both the hand of the Lord was with him. In 1849, consequent on the translation of Dr. Hanna to a larger sphere, Mr. Barrett was comfortably settled at Skirling, in the Presbytery of Peebles; and the ties then formed remained firm and strong till touched by the cold hand which spares no earthly union. Of the importance of his sacred calling he had the highest estimate: the Chief Shepherd had sent him forth; and his grand business was to persuade the children of transgression to be reconciled to God, and believers to shine as lights in the world. From the outset to the end he showed exemplary diligence in the visitation of his flock, and not more the residents of the tranquil hamlet, adjoining the sanctuary, than those whose dwellings were situated in sequestered nooks of verdant vales, or high amidst the beautifully rounded hills, on the furthest confines of the parish. He was familiar with the famous saying, “A house-going minister makes a church-going people,” and found ample reason to endorse its truth.

Mr. Barrett’s graceful and genial manners conduced to procure for him a cordial welcome among all classes, and the place of an honoured friend in every family under his charge. That he possessed special qualifications for the Lord’s work was apparent to all; and experience justified the expectations of those who, at an early period, anticipated a rich harvest of precious fruit from his labours. He was robust, buoyant, orderly, and capable therefore, with ease, of more than ordinary exertion. He had gathered much from reading and converse with select society, and was trained to meditation. The Holy Scriptures were his daily delight, and his entire system of doctrine was in conspicuous harmony with our authorized Standards. He bestowed the utmost pains on his pulpit preparations, with very earnest requests for divine assistance and blessing, and always made it manifest that he was equally anxious to unfold the word of life, and apply its lessons to the hearts of those whom he addressed. He was a fearless reprover of sin, and a jealous guardian of purity, in the house of God. His prayers were patterns of choice expression, devout acknowledgment, and thoughtful supplication. There was of course all along much to be desiderated, a wide space to traverse before he could say, “I have attained.” But there was in him the spirit of a true pilgrim; one never so much in his element as when consciously moving in the direction of Zion. He did strenuously exercise himself unto godliness, and drew others into sympathy with his heavenward aspirations. He was a zealous promoter of evangelistic services, district meetings for prayer, and every kindred means of diffusing spiritual fervour, and evoking latent tendencies towards the way of peace. He was mindful from the first of the injunction, “Feed my lambs” yet more, perhaps, after he himself became a father, and beheld fair olive-plants growing up around his table. He pled with parents on behalf of their little ones, and did his best to direct and stimulate both teachers and pupils in the Sabbath school; and those whom he cherished in childhood were still held in affectionate remembrance even if they had found their way to strange cities and far-off shores. Mr. Barrett acted as Clerk of his Presbytery for a number of years, cheerfully performing duties felt at times to be somewhat exacting and onerous. In 1863 he married a daughter of Mr. White of Overtoun, an alliance which added greatly to his domestic felicity, and increased his public usefulness. With six children, his excellent partner survives to mourn an irreparable bereavement. In the end of July 1876, Mr. Barrett was suddenly prostrated by an effusion of blood on the brain; and though he recovered strength in a remarkable manner, a second visitation of the same kind at Braemar, on the 17th of July last, proved fatal on the followdng morning. Thus, ere the shadows of evening fell, deeply and justly lamented, this devoted servant of Christ passed away, to be for ever with his Lord in the realms of perfect rest and joy. But he, being dead, yet speaketh with power to many whom he was the instrument of turning from darkness to light — perhaps to some who lightly dismissed, and long, the most powerful and pathetic appeals of his living voice.

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REV. JOHN BAXTER, D.D., BLAIRGOWRIE

(Died August 12, 1893)
Author: Rev. Archibald Ferguson, Alyth
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1893, Obituary, p.238


The death of Dr. Baxter has removed from us one of the most venerable of our ministers—one who served God in his spirit in the gospel of his Son for upwards of sixty-two years. He began his ministry very early in life, and he laboured in it with indefatigable industry till within five Sabbaths before his death. Scarcely could any consideration keep him from his much-loved pulpit work, and his diligence was as conspicuous in all other parts of his ministerial work. It would have been positively painful to him to have been hindered in his work, in which he was absorbed.

He was born at Blairgowrie on May 9, 1809; and in 1822 he entered the University of St. Andrews. There he had as his fellow-students Duff, Ewart, and Mackay—three men who afterwards made the Free Church Missionary Institution in Calcutta renowned. Dr. Duff, as long as he lived, felt the highest esteem and affection for Dr. Baxter.

In 1831 Dr. Baxter was settled as minister in the chapel of ease in Persie, to the north of Blairgowrie. His immediate predecessor there was Dr. John Duncan, afterwards Professor of Hebrew in the New College, Edinburgh. The people of Persie had been favoured with a succession of godly and able ministers, and no doubt it was Dr. Duncan’s experience of a people so privileged that furnished him with the materials which he afterwards used in speaking so favourably of the rural mind in matters theological in comparison with the urban mind. But though thrown into the midst of a people so specially trained, Dr. Baxter, though only a youth, exercised a commanding influence over them. His ministry, in the quiet and obscure district of Persie, was felt to be peculiarly solemn and awakening.

In 1838 Dr. Baxter removed to Dundee, to be minister of one of Dr. Chalmers’ church extension charges in Hilltown; and from small beginnings, he, by his high character, his vigorous and searching preaching, and his affectionate and unwearied visitation of the families in the district, gathered round him a large congregation. When he was in Dundee he was intimately associated with Mr. William Burns and Mr. McCheyne during the revival in St. Peter’s; and McCheyne records in his journal the solemn services of Dr. Baxter in St. Peter’s. When his health was in danger of being injured, Dr. Baxter left Dundee, where he had laboured for more than twenty years, and he was settled in Blairgowrie, his native place, in 1858. There he continued to labour till the end of his life. As an instance of his popularity, it may be noted that his farewell sermon to the Hilltown congregation, Dundee, had to be preached outside the church in a field near by to an audience considered to number three thousand.

In 1881 his ministerial jubilee was celebrated, and a year after that he received the degree of D.D. from St. Andrews University. In him we find a lovely example also of the psalmist’s words: “The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree; he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” A prophet says, “Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen.” There was much in Dr. Baxter that made him resemble the cedar. His intelligent, experimental, deeply-rooted convictions of gospel truth; his stability in the midst of surging restlessness and changes; the soundness of his judgment; his weight of character; his aversion from whatever was mean or trifling or questionable; his singleness of aim at the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints; his industry, of which there was no cessation and no diminution from the beginning to the end of his unusually long ministry; his refusal to be turned aside from his high aim by any worldly considerations, however popular; his lowly estimate of his own ministry—these and similar characteristics gave him a strength and robustness of character—these made him the opposite of a reed shaken with the wind—these made him “grow as the lily and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.”

One great, and perhaps the chief, excellence in Dr. Baxter’s preaching was its discriminating character. He powerfully appealed to the conscience of his audience, and this gave him great power over them. Sometimes, when he was applying the divine law to the conscience, some thought themselves unassailable—at least, in regard to some species of transgression; but he so employed the spirituality of the law to them as to overthrow their imaginary defences, and to make them say with the apostle, “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” It was his direct application of the truth to the conscience that gave his ministry its power to the close of his life. His own deep, experimental godliness and his uniform consistency with his profession gave weight to his discourses. The solidity of his prayers and his intense earnestness made his hearers think that he prayed and preached as “seeing Him who is invisible.” He stood high in the esteem of “the excellent of the earth.” He was always ready to welcome and befriend the lovers of Christ. Altogether, a great moral glory shone from the character, the life, and the ministry of our deceased venerable friend. Let us thank God for having made him what he was, and for having used hhim so much for the good of the Church. Let us follow his faith, considering the end of his conversation: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, an for ever.”

Dr. Baxter is survived by his two sons—Mr. John S. Baxter, Brechin, and the Rev. George C. Baxter, Cargill Free Church. His wife—a most amiable and Christian woman, and devoted to all good works died about fourteen years ago.

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REV. WILLIAM BEATTIE, M.A., ALEXANDRIA

(Died September 21, 1883)
Author: Rev. John Fiddes, Killearn
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.52


William Beattie was a native of the parish of Canonbie, Dumfriesshire. After receiving the rudiments of his education at the school of his native parish, he, in the face of many difficulties, prosecuted his studies and took his degree of Master of Arts at the University of Edinburgh. Subsequently for some time he was teacher of Longton School in Staffordshire.

Joining the Free Church at the Disruption he completed his divinity course in Edinburgh, and being licensed, he officiated for some time in the far north of Scotland. In 1851 he returned south, and for some months supplied the pulpit of the congregation at Alexandria, in the Presbytery of Dumbarton, with muchacceptance; and the charge having at the time become vacant, he received a unanimous call, and was ordained in the autumn of that year.

The congregation before he came to it had been in a distracted and divided condition. but Mr. Beattie had not been long among them when, by his prudent and genial management, he succeeded in restoring harmony; and never had minister a more warmly attached and loving people. Deeply impressed with a sense of the responsibility of the ministerial office, and with a heart glowing with zeal for the salvation of his flock, he set himself from the outset of his pastorate with all the energy, physical and mental, of a robust nature, to the prosecution of his work. Nor did he ever slacken in his exertions till advancing years made serious inroads upon his strength. He was ably supported by an excellent staff of office-bearers, not a few of whom have now passed away, but not without leaving grateful memories of their faithful and unwearied services. In his preaching Mr. Beattie was thoroughly evangelical, proclaiming with earnestness and affection the free and sovereign grace of God—the open door to every one to enter by the new and living way and enjoy all the blessings of Christ’s redemption. There never was any haziness or halting in his setting forth of the way of salvation; and very earnest and impressive were his exhortations to enter on it at once and pursue it patiently and hopefully, depending on the promises which can never fail. The young ever commanded his most thoughtful concern, and many of those who enjoyed the privileges of his instructions will never forget his painstaking and sympathizing and winning efforts on their behalf. Specially prized were his domestic visits, in which he proved himself a valued counsellor in difficulties, a welcome friend at sick-beds and death-beds, and a true son of consolation with the bereaved and sorrowful. It was not only by the members of his own congregation that Mr. Beattie was esteemed, but ready as he ever was to co-operate in extra congregational work falling to be done in an intelligent and enterprising community, he enjoyed the respect and esteem of the ministers and others of all denominations in the district. The more he was known the more he was loved.

For twenty-two years he continued to labour among his people with undiminished acceptance, when failing health constrained him to think of retiring from a position the full duties of which he felt himself inadequate to discharge. The choice of the congregation fell on the present minister, and on him the whole charge was devolved, while Mr. Beattie, by authority of the General Assembly, continued a member of the Presbytery. Being possessed of some means, he voluntarily relinquished his claims to a retiring allowance. Having acquired the property of Sinclairburn near Ecclefechan, he went to occupy the Woodburn portion of his estate; still, however, to labour in his Master’s vineyard as his strength permitted.

For two successive winters he supplied the station at Montreux on the Continent with much acceptance; and when at home he willingly aided the ministers of the district in their work. Admired by all as a man of singular robustness of mind and frank and genial manners, Mr. Beattie died at his residence, Woodburn, near Ecclefechan, in his seventy-fourth year, leaving a widow, who in every good work was his most willing helpmate.

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REV. JAMES BEGG, D.D., EDINBURGH

(Died September 29, 1883)
Author: Rev. John McEwan, John Knox’s Church, Edinburgh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, Deecember 1 , 1883, Brief Biographies, p.368


By the decease of every true minister of the gospel, a real loss is sustained by the Church militant, and a blank made which, to a more or less extended circle, is painfully felt. But in the death of Dr. Begg, his Church and country have sustained a very tangible loss; and a blank has been made which, by a very extended circle, both in this and other lands, will be felt with peculiar keenness. To his own congregation, to which he was deeply attached, and which was as warmly attached to him, his loss may well seem irreparable. The grief which oppresses them at the present time is alike honourable to them and to him who has been taken from them. But the loss to the congregation over which he so long presided and so faithfully served, however great, is by no means the greatest. By the death of Dr. Begg, Scotland is poorer to-day, as in him she has lost one who not only loved her well, but one who, by his ardent and enlightened patriotism and splendid talents, rendered her many a signal service. He was proud of his country, her history, her traditions, and her Presbyterian Church; and like a belted knight, was ever foremost in her defence when these were assailed, from whatever quarter. If Scotland were to become what he desired and what he believed she was capable of becoming, she would in a good sense be the envy as well as the praise of the nations of the world. His loss to the Free Church of Scotland is simply incalculable.

His lot, in the providence of God, was cast in a time when great questions bearing on Scotland’s Presbyterian Church were agitated with an earnestness and an ability unparalleled in modern times; and when changes took place the ultimate bearing of which on Scotland’s welfare we are not yet in a position to determine. Into all these questions, beginning with those of Church Extension and National Religion, under the leadership of Dr. Chalmers, down to the present time, Dr. Begg took an active and influential part, bringing to bear upon them a powerful and sagacious mind. Naturally eloquent in speech, endowed with strong common sense, and aided by a fine voice and splendid physique, he was from the commencement of his career regarded as no common man, while his whole subsequent life confirmed that opinion. From his first appearance in the General Assembly of 1832 to his last in the Free Church Assembly of 1883, he was and continued to be regarded a distinct force and a special gift from the great Head of the Church. His rare abilities during that long period were devoted to the defence of evangelical truth as opposed to Moderatism, and of genuine freedom as opposed to tyranny, whether in the civil or ecclesiastical sphere.

The distinguishing features of his character may be thus briefly summarized. His was a massive and many-sided character. Several of the distinguished men now gone, but whose names are yet household words in the Free Church of Scotland, excelled him in those departments of labour where their peculiar strength lay. Principal Cunningham excelled him in theological erudition and pure momentum; Dr. Candlish in versatility of genius and critical acumen; and Dr. Guthrie as a graphic and born orator. But none of the three equalled Dr. Begg in that practical sagacity which enabled him to render valuable service in a great variety of’spheres.

He was distinguished from the commencement of his public career as a sound evangelical preacher, and attracted from the first crowded audiences; and was enabled to the last to maintain the affection and respect of a large congregation.

He was distinguished as a patriot who took a deep interest in every question which had a bearing on the best interests of his native land, and who manifested that interest by many noble exertions, both through the press and on the platform. As a platform speaker he had few superiors at any time, and for many years has had no equal. This is admitted as freely by those who differed from him in the views he advocated as by those whose views he expressed.

He was distinguished by his profound reverence for the Word of God, to which, as the only real touchstone of truth, he was wont on all occasions to appeal. To him the deliverance of Scripture on any subject was an end of all controversy. He could not understand far less sympathize with those who seemed to seek to be wise above what is written. His favourite text, repeated on many an occasion, was, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The position which he has occupied for the last twenty years on controversial questions, can only be understood aright when full account is taken of this outstanding trait of his character. This is not the place to pass any judgment on the merits of the several matters which have during these years been the subjects of keen debate and controversy within the Free Church. But it is only simple justice to his memory that it should be known to all concerned, that the views which he defended on the vexed question of Union, the question of Education, the question of Disestablishment, the Bible question in connection with the Robertson Smith case, and that of Purity of Worship, were so defended by him because he was solemnly convinced that they were in accordance with the Word of the living God. It was this feature of his character which enabled him to possess his soul in patience, and with undaunted courage maintain his position in circumstances when many others would have given up the contest in despair. He never lost his faith in God and in the ultimate triumph of his truth and cause. He was not insensible to the pleasure experienced when the view which he took on any subject met with the cordial approval of a majority of his compeers; but when the reverse of this was the case, he was not over-much disheartened, but steadfastly believed that great is truth, and that ultimately it will prevail.

He was remarkable for the keen and lively interest which he manifested during his whole public life in every question which had a bearing on the weal of the community viewed from a Christian standpoint. Hence his powerful and successful exertions in establishing the Reformation Society and Protestant Institute, in connection with the dangerous claims put forth by the Papal authorities in reference to this country some thirty years ago. He was not one of those who believed that the pretentious and zealous labours of Rome to regain lost power in Britain were innocuous, but died in the belief that through the apathy of Protestants this dangerous foe to liberty and true religion is steadily gaining strength in this land. Hence, also, his frequent and powerful advocacy of the Sabbath law, in connection with which his last efforts were put forth, believing, as he did, that its right observance lies not only at the foundation of a healthy Christianity in the land, but forms the strongest bulwark against the encroachments of the spirit of avarice, and is the best security for the hard-working sons of toil retaining the heaven-given birth-right of the Sabbath rest. Hence, also, his powerful advocacy in behalf of national education at an early period, and more latterly in connection with the recent Education Act, in which the right of School Boards to have fixed times for the imparting of religious instruction to the young was secured, to a large extent, through his persevering exertions.

He was distinguished among his contem porariesby his strong common sense. He had a profound knowledge of human nature, especially Scottish human nature. No man knew Scottish character better, and he was himself one of the best specimens of a true, leal-hearted Scottish man. He regarded John Knox as the typical Scotchman, and as the greatest benefactor of his country. There was much in common between the two men – love of truth, love of country, love of Presbytery and a courage that nothing could damp. His shrewd common sense, along with his extensive knowledge of ecclesiastical procedure, made his presence in our General Assemblies a tower of strength to us as a Church, and his absence in future, along, alas! now with Sir Henry Moncreiff’s, will create a blank such as, humanly speaking, cannot be filled. It will be a strange and painful experience to the members of next General Assembly to see the seats of these two honoured fathers, to whom the Free Church owes so much, vacant.

Any sketch of Br. Begg would be incomplete where no notice was taken of the extraordinary fund of racy anecdotes, chiefly Scottish, of which he was possessed. He took unfeigned pleasure in relating these on suitable occasions. It was no uncommon thing to hear shouts of laughter on the part of grave divines in the lobbies of the Offices on a Committee day at the head of the Mound, and just as certainly the cause was found to be Dr. Begg, in the centre of a group, telling, as he only could do, some racy anecdote illustrative of Scottish character. He scarcely ever delivered a speech without interspersing, to the delight of the audience, some story bearing on the point in hand. Even when engaged in a grave debate on the floor of the General Assembly on seme question which he regarded as vital to the well-being of the Church, there was often seen a relaxation of the muscles of the countenances of friends and foes alike, and freer breathing, when they heard Dr. Begg suddenly begin to say, “This reminds me of a story,” etc., and that even when the point of the story told better than a dry argument on the views of his opponents. His thorough knowledge and command of the Scottish dialect pre-eminently qualified him for exercising the, as we judge, not altogether useless talent of being able to relieve the strain incident to serious debate by the interspersion of racy and stingless anecdotes.

Dr. Begg was singular for the power he possessed of securing both the affection and respect of those whose views of public questions were in harmony with his own. They were attracted by his manifest singleness of eye and personal disinterestedness, as well as by his genuine kindness of heart. They loved him as a father, and trusted him as a wise, sagacious counsellor. His loss to them is simply irreparable, and their only consolation in this the hour of their bereavement is that the truth of God endureth for ever, and that the great Head of the Church, the “Counsellor,” the true “Leader and Commander,” ever lives and reigns.

He was born in the manse of New Monkland on the 31st October 1808, and died on the 29th September 1883. He entered the College of Glasgow when twelve years of age; took his degree when sixteen; and was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Hamilton in his twenty-first year. He began his ministry as an assistant to Dr. James Buchanan, then of North Leith; and as an ordained minister he occupied successively the Chapel of Ease at Maxwelltown, Dumfries; Lady Glenorchy’s, Edinburgh; the Middle Church, Paisley; the Parish Church of Liberton; and finally, from the Disruption till his death, the Free Church of Newington, Edinburgh. We purposely refrain from giving any details as to his life and ministry in the various spheres which he occupied, inasmuch as we are in a position to state that the preparation of a fully-detailed life of the deceased has been intrusted into the hands of one highly competent to the task, which will prove, we doubt not, when it reaches the hands of the public, a worthy memorial of one of the greatest of the Disruption “mighties.” May the God of all grace comfort the heart of the sorrowing widow and family of our deceased father and friend; and may we who belong to the Free Church of Scotland feel the responsibility under which we lie in having such men as Dr. Begg so long our special property, and value and guard more jealously than in the past the great heritage with which we have been intrusted as the Free Protesting Church of Scotland.

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DR. ALEXANDER BEITH, STIRLING

(Died May 11, 1891)
Author: Professor Salmond, D.D., Aberdeen
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, September, 1891, Obituary, p.274


At 3 St. Bernard’s Crescent, Edinburgh, on the 11th May last, the Nestor of the Free Church of Scotland was gathered to his fathers. He had been the companion of three generations of men. He had borne the yoke in his youth, and death came to him after years of honoured retirement. It was the peaceful close of a life prolonged far beyond the ordinary length, and active beyond the usual measure.

Alexander Beith was born in Campbeltown in 1799. He belonged to a large family, of which the sole survivor now is Mr. Donald Beith, W.S., Edinburgh. After a preparatory training, such as the Argyleshire schools of those days could offer, he entered the University of Glasgow when he was only about twelve years of age. He toiled through the Arts course as many a young lad has done, and at its close he devoted himself to the study of theology. He did so with zeal, and in due time was licensed to preach in 1821. He made his mark as a preacher almost at once. The consequence was that he soon obtained a settlement, and was called from charge to charge. Oban was his first pastorate. He was translated from that to Hope Street, Glasgow. From that again he was soon transferred to Kilbrandon, then to Glenelg, and finally to Stirling.

He had much to say of the various charges in which it had been his privilege to labour. Each had a deep place in his heart. This was specially the case with Glenelg. He had a fond recollection of the people, and a great liking for the natural beauties of that lovely and secluded district. He had also experiences there, both pastoral and domestic, which it was impossible to forget. His mind went often back to that parish when he was toiling at the pitch of his power in a large town charge. He had many things to tell of his ministerial life there—of his work among the people, of his conflicts with those in power, of the petty annoyances of which he was made the victim by those who were opposed to his gospel, of what it meant there to make a consistent stand for the evangelical faith, the freedom of the Church, and the rights of the Christian people. When he had his friends about him in his later years, and particularly when he was unburdening himself to the young probationers whom he had as assistants in Stirling, it was his delight to recall these earlier experiences, and to point the moral which they taught. There was nothing to which he gave more repeated and emphatic testimony in such conversations than this—that no position could be more irksome or untoward than that of the minister of a parish where the heritors were alien in spirit and disposed to give trouble, and that the new system of ministerial support direct from the hands of the Christian people was vastly better for the pastor than the old system of dependence upon teinds and tax-payers.

It is with Stirling, however, that his name is most associated. He spent the best part of his life there. He had difficulties not a few to cope with there, but he had also great triumphs. Settling in the ancient city when the Ten Years’ Conflict was at its height, he threw himself with all the force of a vigorous nature into the struggle, and gathered round him a noble band of men full of enthusiasm in the cause of liberty and the evangel. He was one of those sent to Strathbogie in the days when the Moderate party fought by interdicts. He had had to build a church for himself in Stirling. When the Disruption came he had to quit it, and to take refuge for a time in the Corn Exchange, a large building which he quickly filled. This great hall, which as the scene of his early ministrations as a Free Churchman, was occupied once again by an immense audience, of which he was the centre. It was the place selected for the great meeting which was convened to commemorate his ministerial jubilee, when friends from all parts of Scotland came together to do him honour, and the presentation of his portrait was made by the late Peter Drummond of the Stirling Tract Depot. After a time he was able to erect the handsome building known as the Free North Church, in which the congregation continues to worship.

In his domestic life he was peculiarly happy. After a few years’ experience of a pastor’s work, he married Miss Julia Robson of Oban, a lady of remarkable character, distinguished by the strength of her intelligence not less than by her tenderness of heart. She was like a right hand to her husband in evil report and good report. It is now about a quarter of a century since she was called home. But there are those who remember how great a loss her death was felt to be. It was felt in Stirling as the death of a single individual is seldom felt in a large community. No one who knew her could forget her, or cease to think gratefully of her. The happiness of their domestic life was clouded by heavy sorrows, over which, however, faith rose triumphant. A large family was growing up in beauty around them in their quiet Highland home when sickness entered and carried off member after member of the tender flock. It was an agonizing time, like that which smote the Deanery of Carlisle when it was occupied by Archibald Campbell Tait, and fever entered to do its worst. The trials of those days were pathetically recorded by Dr. Beith in his “Sorrowing, yet Rejoicing,” a volume which has won a fit place among the cherished books of Christian consolation. The memory of those dark days, days yet brightened by hope, never left him.

In many respects Dr. Beith was one of the remarkable men of the Free Church. It is not only that in his long life he had reached the position of being the oldest ordained minister. He was a man of strongly marked character. Force of will, tenacity of purpose, a scorn of everything ignoble, a keen eye, a courage that was superior to all difficulties and fears—these were among his strongest natural qualities. They were at once chastened and elevated by his piety. His personality was of the kind that could not but impress itself on others. He had a great love for the Church to which he belonged; a constant and admiring loyalty to her founders and leaders; a deep interest in her public business, her Assemblies, her evangelistic efforts, her missionary endeavours. He occupied the Moderator’s chair when the Cardross Case was on, and did so with dignity and wisdom. But he was keenly interested also in the social and political movements of the time, in all that bore upon the welfare of the people, and in the civic life of Stirling in particular.

But it was specially as a preacher that he became widely known. He had a good pen, and used the brief spaces of leisure which were lent him by his busy life to give several volumes to the press,—”Lectures on John’s Gospel,” “Recollections of a Tour with Dr. Candlish,” and others. But it was in the pulpit that the full force of the man came out. His preaching was of a quality that few could resist. It was fervently evangelical, but always strong and sinewy. The backbone of it was the old evangelical theology. Its constant themes were the great doctrines of grace. It was not only his sermons that were doctrinal in their basis; his prayers were the same, and in these he had great power. He had the excellent habit of lecturing through entire books of Scripture, and for this he made the most careful preparation. His pulpit discourses, therefore, were the reverse of mere hortatory appeals. They were weighty, full of matter, lucid, and skilfully planned. He had the gift of free speech. His method, therefore, was to make himself mentally master of his subject, write out a brief outline of the order of ideas, and then trust to the words coming as they were required when he was face to face with his audience. He aimed at none of the charms or niceties of style which some preachers cultivate; but his preaching was always direct, always powerful, often overwhelming. Even those who began by listening with prejudice soon came under its spell. It attracted all classes, the humblest and the most cultured. It drew into the Free North Church people of all Churches and social conditions—soldiers and civilians, Scotch and English, Presbyterians and Episcopalians. The sermon was long. From seventy to eighty minutes was no unusual length. Yet no one wearied. For the first fifteen minutes or so the preacher was simply finding his way. By the end of that time the way was found, the fire burned, and the listeners were under the spell. Then the preacher carried them at his will through tracts of solid argument, and along heights of impassioned expostulation or entreaty; and the words came free, fit, and direct. The present writer has heard preachers with richer gifts of imagination and finer charms of style, but few possessed in the same degree of the note of simple, solid power.

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BENJAMIN BELL, F.R.C.S.E.

(Died June 13, 1883)
Author: Rev. J.H. Wilson, D.D., Barclay Church, Edinburg
Source: The Free Church Monthly, August 1, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.244


The men of the Disruption are rapidly passing away. The ranks of the eldership have more especially been sadly broken during the past year by the removal of such men as Mr. George Martin of Auchendennan, Sheriff Campbell, and Mr. David Maclagan. And now the name of Mr. Benjamin Bell has to be added to the roll of departed worthies. Well known and highly esteemed as he was by many in all parts of the country, and numerous as are the testimonies that have been borne to his character and services by those who knew him best, it is fitting that the Church should know through this channel the worth of the men who were gifted to her so largely in the day of her early labours and struggles, and whom the Lord is now one by one withdrawing.

Mr. Bell was born at Edinburgh on the 13th April 1810. He was the eldest of a family of three sons and two daughters. His grandfather, who bore the same name, was an eminent Edinburgh surgeon; and his father, Mr. Joseph Bell, and his uncle, Mr. George Bell, highly distinguished themselves in the same profession. The subject of this notice entered the High School of Edinburgh in October 1819, and completed his preliminary education there under the well-known Dr. Carson. He had as his schoolfellows Lord President Inglis, Lord Moncrieff, Professor Douglas Maclagan, Dr. Andrew Bonar, and other distinguished men; and at a later period, along with several of these, he was associated, in the “Classical Society,” with such men as the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Professor W.E. Aytoun, and Mr. A. Campbell Swinton of Kimmerghame. At the close of his course, he occupied a high place in his class. Entering the University in 1827, besides attending and working for several of the arts classes, he prosecuted his professional studies under Dr. Knox, Dr. Hope, and Dr. Munro; and it is interesting to know that the busy young medical student, amid all the engrossment of his medical studies, attracted by the fame of Dr. Chalmers, found time and had the inclination to attend his class during the winter of 1830-31. In later years he spoke of his attendance on this class as having “subjected him to a powerful influence for good.”

After completing his course of study in Edinburgh, Mr. Bell, acting on the advice of Mr. Thomas Blizard, the eminent London surgeon, that he should further qualify himself for the work of his after life by taking advantage of the training and experience of one of the great metropolitan hospitals, proceeded to London in September 1831. There he continued till 1834, first as a student of surgery, then as a dresser under one of the surgeons, and finally as house-surgeon, in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. This, along with a lengthened visit which he afterwards paid to Paris, gave him advantages of a very peculiar kind in entering as a young practitioner on the active duties of his profession. He became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1832, and a Fellow in 1835, the first to congratulate him being the venerable Mr. William Brown, who still survives. He was extremely popular as a practitioner, keeping up a large practice for neady half a century. His quiet and kindly manner gained upon his patients, whose friend he was as well as their medical adviser. He was highly esteemed by his professional brethren, one indicat:on of which was his being elected President of the College of Surgeons in 1864.

Mr. Bell seems to have had earnest thoughts about divine things in early life. He had a great admiration for Dr. Andrew Thomson of St. George’s Church, under whose ministry he sat; and Dr. Thomson’s sudden death on February 9, 1831, made a deep impression on him. He spoke of it as “an event which he must always regard as closely connected with his own spiritual history; as a preparation to him for more serious thoughts in future.” It was not, however, till he had gone to London, in the midst of his busy life at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, that the great change of his life occurred. The account which he himself gave of it, far on in life, shows how vivid the impression remained to the last, and how he continued to regard it as the turning-point in his spiritual history. In that quiet lodging (New Ormond Street, London) I experienced a crisis in my history. My father had provided me, in addition to my professional books, with a good many for Sunday reading. One Sunday evening I was on the sofa in my parlour reading, not with much interest or intelligence, William Guthrie of Fenwick on ‘A Saving Knowledge of Christ,’ when suddenly the Christian system was flashed on me with wonderful clearness. I felt that light had been given me ab extra; and my state of feeling and experience seemed to illustrate that text, ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ I felt as if all things had become new—their relative importance changed, and that any going back to my former condition was next to impossible. At the same time prayer became to me a reality, and I felt it a refuge in the midst of unseen enemies and dangers. It is a sad experience that after half a century these fresh and vivid experiences, although still acknowledged as real and trustworthy, are no more invested, except as reminiscences, with the same engrossing power. One can say with the poet of Olney:—

‘Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his word?'”

In London he joined London Wall Church, and enjoyed the ministry of the Rev. W.K. Tweedie (afterwards Dr. Tweedie of Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh); and when he returned to Scotland he at once placed himself under the ministry of Dr. Candlish. From that time he was one of the most appreciative members of Dr. Candlish’s congregation, and continued to be his valued medical adviser and trusted friend to the close of his life. He identified himself with the Evangelical party in the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” attended the meeting of Convocation in November 1842, when Dr. Chalmers preached his memorable sermon on “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness;” and when the 18th May 1843 came, he took his place in the procession from St. Andrew’s Church to Tanfield Hall, walking with Mr. Archibald Gibson, Professor William Henderson, and Dr. Espie of Falkirk. Of that event he wrote, “We all returned to our homes with joyful and buoyant emotions, in which thankfulness mingled very largely.” He continued loyal and attached to the Free Church to the last, giving it his liberal support and his best service, in the Presbytery, the Foreign Missions and other Committees, and the General Assembly. The controversies of recent years, in which he took an active part, neither weakened his attachment to the Church nor produced any estrangement from friends who differed from him.

To the congregation of Free St. George’s his attachment was of the most tender kind. He was ordained an elder in 1841, and continued in office for the long period of forty-two years, being the father of the kirk-session at the time of his death. He was one of a small number of elders who used to be in the vestry on Sabbath mornings to pray with the officiating minister before he went to the pulpit. He was one of those who gathered round Dr. Candlish in the work of reclaiming the waste places of Edinburgh, including very specially Fountainbridge. Under the ministry of Dr. Whyte, whom he greatly esteemed and loved, he continued this as well as other work; and in the midst of a busy professional life, he had his mission district, and week after week conducted his household mission meeting in one of the lowest parts of the district.

His services of a more public kind to the community and to the cause of Christ are well known. He had peculiar sympathy with those suffering from blindness, and took a leading part in establishing and carrying on the Edinburgh Eye Infirmary. He was one of the most active promoters of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society, and discharged the duties of Honorary Secretary with unflagging zeal and devotedness to the last. In that capacity, as in others, he used his pen to good purpose. He wrote the Memoir of Robert Paul, of Lieutenant John Irving of the Franklin Expedition, and of his grandfather, Benjamin Bell. He contributed various papers to the Edinburgh Medical Journal. In the Royal Infirmary and kindred institutions his interest was unabated to the close.

In 1835 Mr. Bell married Miss Cecilia Craigie, daughter of Mr. Laurence Craigie of Glendoick, who was thoroughly in sympathy with him, and while devoted to her family, threw herself with unassuming earnestness into various departments of Christian work. Her lamented death little more than a year ago evidently told upon her husband, and after having so far recovered from an attack of illness in the early part of last winter, he was again overtaken by extreme weakness and never rallied. He is survived by a family of six sons and three daughters. His four eldest sons are well known in their respective professions—Joseph Bell, the distinguished surgeon; Robert Craigie Bell, W.S.; Commander Laurence Bell, R.N.; and the Rev. Benjamin Bell, B.D., of Withington Presbyterian Church, Manchester. His eldest daughter is married to the Rev. W.A. Gray, Free South Church, Elgin.

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REV. THOMAS BLIZZARD BELL, LESWALT

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, February 1, 1867, p.41


The Rev. Thomas Blizzard Bell, lately of Leswalt, died very suddenly at Edinburgh, on the 10th December, in the fifty-second year of his age. Mr. Bell was a distinguished student, the winner of the Pitt Prize, and a favourite pupil of Dr. Chalmers. He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1839; and at the close of that year he went north to Strathbogie in company with Drs. Cunningham and Candlish. It was during the suspension of the seven ministers, and the General Assembly was providing supply for their parishes. Mr. Bell remained in charge of the parish of Mortlach till 1841. In September of that year he was ordained to the parish of Leswalt, in Galloway. In less than two years the Disruption came on. Mr. Bell quitted the Establishment, and his flock, all but a mere fraction, followed him out. He continued to be minister of the Free Church in that parish until within the last few years, when certain alarming symptoms, which seemed to be connected with disease in the head, came on, and forced him to retire. He will be remembered with interest and affection by the people of Galloway, among whom he was well known, not only as an excellent preacher and a distinguished minister, but also as a highly accomplished and amiable man. He was greatly beloved by the people of his congregation and neighbourhood. There was something in his disposition and manner so genial and sunny, so gentle, cheerful, and kind, that it was impossible to know him and not to love him. As a member of the Church Courts he was remarkable for his logical acuteness, and for his facility of expression in debate; but still more for the singular tact which enabled him, as the clerk of his synod and of his presbytery, to gather the important points of a confused discussion into a clear sentence or two expressive of the general mind of the meeting. He was of very great service to the Church in the south of Scotland, both before and after 1843; and any man who remembers what was the state of evangelism in Galloway before his time, can bear testimony to the important service which he rendered to the cause of vital scriptural truth. Mr. Bell was married to a daughter of the late Sir Andrew Agnew, by whom he leaves a large young family.

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REV. WILLIAM BELL, M.A., PORT-GLASGOW

(Died February 14, 1897)
Author: Rev. Wm. Lauder, U.P. Church, Port-Glasgow
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, April, 1897, Obituary, p.96


Mr. Bell was a native of Thornhill, in Dumfriesshire, where he was born on December 25, 1836. In this place he received his early education, and under the fostering care of pious and loving parents was trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. At a very early age he became the subject of deep religious impressions; and having been led by divine grace to make a surrender of his heart to Christ, he ever afterwards burned with an eager desire to proclaim the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

Having resolved to prosecute the work of the ministry, he studied at the University of Edinburgh, where he received the honorary degree of M.A., and subsequently at the New College. Shortly after receiving licence he was appointed to preach at Port-Glasgow for a few months, where his excellent and attractive qualities as a preacher were so highly appreciated that the members of the Hamilton Free Church gave him a harmonious call to become their minister. This call being cordially accepted by him, his ordination took place on February 7, 1863; and some months afterwards he was married to Miss Dickson of Buxton, a lady distinguished for her accomplishments and artistic tastes, and her great usefulness to him. Mrs. Bell died four years ago.

Mr. Bell entered on his ministerial labours with his whole heart, and discharged them with great efficiency and ability. The talents with which he was endowed were of a superior order. His mind was acute and nimble in its movements, and his fluency as a speaker remarkable, so that he possessed great facility both in the composition and delivery of his discourses. These were richly laden with gospel truths, and though by no means limited in their range, yet they generally centred around the cross of Christ. He exhibited considerable ingenuity in the construction of his sermons, and as his illustrations were often original and striking, and delivered with great earnestness, they produced a profound and salutary impression on his audience. This was particularly seen in the addresses he delivered at revival meetings, at which he delighted to be present, and where his devout aspirations and earnest yearning for souls were exhibited in a conspicuous manner.

While Mr. Bell regarded the pulpit as his throne, and made conscientious preparation for its duties, yet his labours were not confined to it, as he acted for several years as a member of the school board, and took a deep interest in promoting all religious and benevolent institutions. He was also much beloved by the members in his congregation on account of his frank, affable, and kind manner, his cheerfulness of disposition, and his deeply sympathetic nature. He possessed in no ordinary degree that magnetic power which attracts and throws a spell over all within its circle. Distinguished as he was for his uprightness and integrity, and his holy, consistent, and beautiful life, he was respected and esteemed by the whole community.

For a considerable number of years before his death, Mr. Bell was much afflicted and reduced in strength by a distressing asthmatic complaint, so that it was necessary to procure for him some assistance in the discharge of his duties. Under this protracted affliction he not only bore up bravely and patiently, but made great progress in the divine life, as was evinced by the finer tone of religious sentiment that pervaded his discourses, and their closer application to the hearts and consciences of his hearers. Mr. Bell’s latter end was sudden. For a week or more before his death he was seized with an attack of bronchial asthma, but no one suspected his complaint would terminate fatally. On Sabbath morning, the fourteenth of February, he was sitting up in bed when the Almighty suddenly sent His messenger to take him home, and his spirit peacefully passed away to join the redeemed around the throne. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

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REV. WILLIAM BENNET, M.A., MARLFIELD, MOFFAT

(Died May 16, 1899)
Author: Rev. Kenneth Moody-Stuart, M.A., Moffat
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, July, 1899, Obituary, p.165


By the death of the Rev. William Bennet, on 16th May, the Free Church has lost one of her oldest probationers, while the town of Moffat and the Free Church congregation have lost one who has long held a very prominent position there. Sprung from a “Levitical” family which had furnished five generations of ministers to the Church of Scotland, William Bennet, the only son of the Rev. John Bennet, minister of Boston’s old Parish of Ettrick, was born in 1822. His maternal grandfather was the Rev. Dr. Singer of Kirkpatrick-juxta. At the time of the Disruption William Bennet was a divinity student, receiving licence soon after that event, but was never ordained in a settled charge, a constitutional nervousness interfering probably with his popularity as a preacher, a calling for which his acknowledged abilities and piety in many respects peculiarly fitted him. His life, both in early manhood and in his later years, when he was invalided and crippled by a severe type of rheumatism, was thus not free from that ordeal of trial which the Lord uses as His refining fire to purify His people, and to mould them into His own image. But such trial never provoked him to murmur against God’s dealings with him, or even overclouded the sunny cheerfulness of his spirit. Often, when perplexed or depressed, I have gone to talk with my departed friend, and always had my burden lightened and my gloom lessened or dispelled by the happy brightness of one whose own appointed cross, one would have said, was a heavy one.

His mind was exceptionally well-furnished by extensive reading, an occupation in which he delighted to the end of his life; and no one ever read with more discriminating judgment, more independent thought, or more retentive memory than William Bennet. The range of his knowledge was marvellously wide, extending over almost every branch of ancient literature or modern research. Not only was he master of all the doctrines, and even minute details of theology, and the facts of church history which formed his professional equipment, but he had an accurate acquaintance with general history, and was conversant with the leading branches of natural science. Indeed, it would be difficult to fix on any branch of literature or knowledge on which he was not able to converge on equal terms with those who had made it their special study. In earlier years he contributed articles to theological reviews.

His own thinking was at once quick and accurate and poetical as well as profound, and he had the gift of clothing his thoughts in the garb of words, often taking the form of verse of much beauty, which formed for them the fittest and fairest set Many of his poetical pieces have a more than local fame, and in their composition he often beguiled hours of weakness and suffering. His love of natural scenery was as strong as the interest which he took in the historical associations of even remote corners of his native country. In following these pursuits in the days of his vigour he took long pedestrian excursions, while he enlivened his later invalided years by revisiting by use of rail, carriage, and chair scenes he had formerly traversed, and by exploring new localities which awakened new interests. For to him to live was to learn.

It need not be said that such a combination of gifts and acquirements is very rare indeed. His faculties and powers were all consecrated in holy anointing oil, and his carefully gathered and garnered stores of knowledge were dispensed in a manner that impressed his auditor with the sense that he was listening to a servant and steward of the Divine Master. He took much interest in the higher educational welfare of the town, and in many Christian agencies. Gentleness, kindness, liberal use of his means, and fair-mindedness in conducting theological argument or ecclesiastical discussion (in which he was an expert) were marked traits of his Christian character. His theological insight and his practical judgment were remarkable, and I derived much benefit from his advice in all public church questions, and could only desire that all the ministers had an equally able mentor in their congregations. The removal of one so deservedly esteemed and beloved is a serious loss to us. He had a great love for the gospel of grace, and for all the appointed means of grace, himself offering the evening prayer with his household gathered round his dying bed till within two days of his departure. In this last illness he delighted in having the closing psalms of the Psalter read to him, which are so full of ascriptions of praise, and formed a fitting prelude to his entering on the praises of the upper sanctuary. He leaves a widow, a lady widely known in Moffat for her active Christian effort among young women, and whose gifts are in many respects the counterpart and complement of those of her husband.

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REV. JOHN BENNIE, SOUTH AFRICA

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, May 1 1869, p.108


It is with exceeding regret that we have to announce the sudden death, on 9th February, of the Rev. John Bennie of Middleburgh, South Africa. Mr. Bennie was one of the oldest missionaries in the field. Ordained in 1821, he proceeded shortly thereafter to Kaffirland as a missionary in connection with the Glasgow Missionary Society.

When this society was dissolved, and its field of labour divided between the Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church, Mr. Bennie preferred connecting himself with the former; and when the Disruption of the Church of Scotland took place in 1843, he and all the rest of the missionary brethren joined the Free Church.

He continued to labour at Lovedale until 1850, when, on an application from himself, he received permission from the Foreign Missions Committee to remove for a time to Middleburgh, in the Cape Colony, with the view of ministering to a number of Kaffirs and others settled there. Two years afterwards, finding that this field afforded ample scope for his energies, the leave of absence thus obtained was still further extended, and there, accordingly, he remained during the rest of his laborious life. Although latterly he had no formal connection with the Committee at home, or with the missionaries in Kaffraria with whom he was formerly associated, our readers hardly need to be informed that, in sympathy, he was with them to the last. The fruit of his self-denying labours, extending over nearly half a century, will not be fully known until it is declared on the Great Day; but we cannot doubt that he will long be gratefully remembered as one of the pioneers of African evangelization. The Cape Argus speaks of him as “a good Kaffir scholar, and a most indefatigable, useful missionary.”

The following particulars of the sad event, communicated by the son of the deceased missionary, Mr. John A. Bennie, who is employed as a teacher in the Lovedale Institution, will be read with mournful interest :—

“The intelligence I have to communicate is of a sad nature, though not unaccompanied with cause of joy and gratitude. Death has laid his hand on some of the female missionaries of our society before this, and on the 9th inst. on one of the male labourers. My dear father was called away from his labours to receive his reward in a very sudden manner, without any warning. He had gone to a neighbouring village where he had a congregation, and on his return, when within six or seven miles from home, he was seized with a violent pain in the chest and a fit of coughing. Having got out of the cart, he began vomiting, moved about a little, and then took his seat again, but was no sooner seated than another fit of coughing came on, and he fell backwards in the cart, and his spirit escaped from its earthly tabernacle, to join my sainted mother, who died last May, after an illness of nine days, accompanied with much suffering, which she bore with Christian fortitude.

“It is supposed, by the medical man in attendance, that the bursting of a blood-vessel was the cause of the death of my father.

“He has laboured long in his Master’s vineyard, and though he had some of his children and grandchildren about him, it is very probable that he often felt the loneliness of the evening of his life.

“We have reason cheerfully to acquiesce in the will of our heavenly Father, for we weep not as those who have no hope, for papa was a devoted soldier of the Cross. A friend lately said of him, that very few seem to live so near to God as he did. His labours were very much blessed at Middleburgh, where he had a large congregation, consisting of different races, Hottentots, Kaffirs, Fingoes, Mantatees, and Bechuanas.

“He was, however, not free from trouble; for within the last few months a division arose in the church, which resulted in most of the Mantatees forming themselves into a separate body, with a Mantatee elder as their leader. This gave my father great grief, especially as that elder had, during all his years of connection with the church, been a very exemplary and useful man.

“My father’s position was a very peculiar and trying one: he had to work amongst those who were strongly prejudiced against mission work, and who at first did all in their power to prevent his carrying his message to their servants; but by his trusting to a higher power than man’s, and by diligently labouring on, showing kindness, and willingness to do good to all, he had gained over as friends some of his former enemies; and I well remember on one occasion, when out with him spending the night at a Dutch farmer’s house, how the farmer, at my father’s request, bade all the servants prepare for evening worship, and even brought them into the common hall, and with his wife and children united in worship.”

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REV. DAVID BERRY, F.S.A.S., AIRDRIE

(Died April 2, 1887.)
Author: Rev. W. H. Goold, D.D.
Source: The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August 1, 1887


Though Mr. Berry had retired from the active exercise of his ministry in 1886, and was living in London when he died, he was possessed of gifts and rendered service to the Church of such a kind as to deserve some notice and memorial.

Born in Edinburgh in 1820, he was educated at its university, carrying off prizes both in the classical and mathematical departments. He was ordained in the Original Secession in 1848 to the pastoral charge of a congregation in Dundee; but having joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, he was, in 1856, settled in Wick, where he ministered to a congregation of that Church for more than seventeen years.

He was a man of studious habits, careful and accurate in his researches, preparing diligently for the duties of the pulpit, and so anxious to be exact and clear in his statements that it somewhat interfered with his freedom and power of utterance. But his lucid exhibition cf evangelical truth and mastery of some of the nicer points of theology secured from intelligent hearers an appreciation of his worth as a preacher of the gospel. In the days of his strength a series of evening lectures by him drew crowds, till the largest church in Wick had to be obtained, and it was filled. His deep but quiet earnestness in the Master’s service was strikingly illustrated by the compassionate interest he took in the case of Danish and Norwegian seamen frequenting Wick during the fishing season. They were as sheep without a shepherd. Mr. Berry acquired their language, and preached to them with such acceptance that he received from them many tokens of their gratitude and esteem. In various other ways he made himself useful; and such was the respect entertained for him by the community that on leaving Wick in 1872 he was presented with a purse of sovereigns, and a testimonial signed by the leading inhabitants recorded their appreciation of his quiet, persevering, and self-denying labours.

During his subsequent residence in Edinburgh he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and occupied himself in the translation of an important historical work by Frederick Schiern, Professor of History in the University of Copenhagen, on “James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell,” so famous in connection with some of the saddest passages in the life of Queen Mary. Two calls were received by him in the course of 1876, and he accepted the one tendered to him by the Graham Street congregation, in preference to another from a congregation in England. The circumstances, however were unfavourable to any great measure of success in spite of the care and diligence with which he prosecuted his work. A severe attack of typhoid fever abated his strength. He resigned his charge in 1886, and went to London to reside for the remainder of his life with his son, a medical gentleman engaged in the practice of medicine in the West End of the metropolis. A work on “The Adoption of Sons” was resumed by him as occupation for his leisure; but before it was completed the end came of all his labours on earth. He was seized on April 2 with angina pectoris, shortly after family worship, in the course of which he had read the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. He was a man of sterling piety, and in meeting “the last enemy” he could sing, we doubt not, in the midst of his sudden agony, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

On the Sabbath following his interment in the burying-ground of Fulham funeral services were held in St. Andrew’s Church by the Rev. Henry Miller, and by the Rev. Hugh Mackenzie of St. George’s Church. Brief as had been his sojourn in London, he had gained the esteem of not a few by his high principle, his earnest piety, and his scholarly habits and attainments. In the private circles of his older friends he was noted for his readiness to oblige, his deep sympathy with every effort for the advancement of the higher interests of the race, and an earnest thoughtfulness of character, in happy combination with a vein of genial and kindly humour, through which conversation with him was at once enlivening and profitable. Altogether, though he was never afforded opportunities to develop the full extent of his resources, he faithfully served his day and generation, and it is a privilege to yield this tribute to his memory.

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REV. WILLIAM BINNIE, D.D.,
Professor of Church History, Aberdeen

(Died September 22, 1886)
Author: Rev. W. Goold, D.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1886, Biographical Notice, p.340


It is not affirming too much when we record that the whole Church—all its members at least who take an intelligent interest in its movements and affairs, were filled with surprise and grief on the announcement of Dr. Binnie’s sudden death. In his gifts, in his attainments, in his personal worth and public services, the event was at once recognized as involving no common loss to the Church with which he was connected. It is thus united in a strange fellowship of sorrow with other Churches, which within a brief season have lost such men as William Robertson and John Ker in Scotland, Fleming Stevenson and Professor Croskery in Ireland.

A native of Glasgow, and son of an elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Dr. Binnie grew up under the sanctifying influences of parental piety. His father, eminent as a builder and latterly as a valuator of property in that city—so eminent, indeed, that his name finds a place among “The Hundred Glasgow Men,” of whom a special volume of biography has appeared, while the unpublished memoir of him by the son who succeeded him in the same profession vindicates his claim to respect on higher grounds than success in business—was exceedingly helpful to the struggling congregations of his Church. Its ministers came to him and found in him a wise and steady friend. His son William, from an early period in his life, was thus led to appreciate the truths of the gospel, and to cherish desires that he might occupy his life in proclaiming them. The resolution was taken in spite of considerations which might have deterred and discouraged him. He had no natural gift of fluent utterance; his acquisitions at school and college, solid and mature as they were, won him no brilliant distinction, though his degree of A.M. was honourably attained; but, above all, a certain weakness in his pulmonary system laid him often aside, and created apprehensions at one time that he never, or at least that he would not long be able for ministerial work. His pastor, nevertheless, Dr. William Symington of Glasgow, singularly shrewd in his discernment of character, recognized from an early period his value, and counted it no small gain to his Church when young Binnie finally decided to offer it his services.

Having studied for four sessions at the Theological Hall in Paisley under the care, at that time, of Dr. Andrew Symington, to whose influence in his fine grasp of theological truth, as well as in the saintliness of his character, he was ever ready to confess his obligations, Mr. Binnie repaired to Germany, and attended for a session the prelections of such men as Neander and Hengstenberg. In his studies at Berlin he not merely acquired the free use of the German language and considerable knowledge of German literature, but laid the foundations of that exact mastery which he subsequently evinced over certain departments of historical theology, as discussed by the divines and critics of that country, and bearing especially on the origin of Hebrew institutions. He professed no great acquaintance with the general literature of Germany. For its mere speculative theology — for theology of any kind that yielded no conclusions fitted directly to nourish the Christian life—he had no aptitude and no inclination. Solid attainments rather than versatility of gifts were his characteristic. Non multa sed multum was the motto of his life; and so confining, or rather consecrating himself to the study of Revelation in its historical development, he possessed a rare knowledge of the questions comprehended in this branch of sacred science. His German education was of use to him in this direction; though his independence of judgment never forsook him, and he could sift with skill the wheat from the chaff. Historical inquiries of this nature gave a special feature even to his ministrations when he became a pastor; and when public discussions arose affecting the historical character of the Pentateuch, he was not taken by surprise. The masterly pamphlet which he felt constrained to issue on the subject—so remarkable for its calmness, its candour, and its generous appreciation of aught that was valuable in writers from whom he differed— was not the hasty result of extemporized research, but embodied deliberate conclusions from inquiries which he had prosecuted for many years,—conclusions which he held with all the firmness of enlightened conviction.

He left the Hall of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1846, was licensed by the Glasgow Presbytery of that Church in 1847, and on May 24th, 1849, was ordained over the congregation in connection with it in Stirling. For fully twenty-five years he continusel to exercise his pastorate with singular conscientiousness — greatly beloved by his people, and almost as greatly respected by the whole community in which he lived. He drew no crowds, he created no sensation by his preaching (for he never laid claim to the gifts of oratory); but the efficiency of his ministry was attested by the influence he swayed silently and indirectly. Thoughtful men relished his fresh and lucid expositions of Scripture, and the faithfulness with which doctrine was brought to bear on the conscience and the life. He was an eminently devout man, and his solemn utterances in devotion have left an abiding echo in the ear and heart of multitudes. The weight and dignity of his character, combined with his unfailing courtesy and warm kindliness, his quiet and unostentatious usefulness, and the impression which deepened and spread of his rare gifts, solid judgment, and extensive acquisitions, the more that he came to be known, led to his election as Professor of Systematic Theology in the Theological Hall of his Church, when the chair became vacant in 1862 by the death of Dr. W. Symington. The Glasgow University, in 1866, honoured him with the degree of D.D. In the town of Stirling itself his value was afterwards recognized when he was chosen as chairman of its School Board. Both from natural temperament and from the state of his health (for he was never robust) he shunned public honours, and yet they came to him under the growing respect with which on all hands he was regarded.

According to the usages of his Church, he was relieved from his pastoral charge only during the two months he officiated as professor. In the latter capacity he was singularly useful, presiding over larger classes than attended his prelections when in 1875, he was transferred to Aberdeen, the number in attendance sometimes rising as high as twenty-two. He was peculiarly devoted to his work, cultivating personal acquaintance with his students as far as possible, and seeking by every legitimate influence to mould their character and elevate their aims, as well as to imbue their minds with sacred learning. When he became professor exclusively, and was relieved from pastoral duties on being transferred to the Free Church College of Aberdeen under the Mutual Eligibility Act, he occupied himself with absorbing devotedness in the interests of his students. All he read and studied was in the lines of inquiry, through which benefit could accrue to them and greater fitness to himself in the fulfilment of his duties. Though elected to a place in the School Board in Aberdeen, he withdrew from it latterly, and felt a satisfaction in the unreserved dedication of his time to the interests of his class. It may be added that he was among the earliest to recognize the duty of such a movement as ended in the union of the Free and Reformed Presbyterian Churches in 1876. He regarded the union as a conclusion from and homage to the essential principles of his old denomination.

His first appearance as an author may be said to have been in the publication of a sermon—”The First Christian Synod.” It was drawn forth by the Cardross case, and as an able statement of the rights and claims of the Church in the matters of government and discipline, was much appreciated, and especially, it may be added, by the late Dr. Candlish. Allusion has been made to the pamphlet on certain critical attempts to reconstruct Old Testament history. The fulness of the information evinced, as well as the fine candour with which he sorrowfully but frankly concedes that even such criticism as Baur’s had “its heroic side,” rendered the pamphlet, apart from the merits of the question even, a model of controversial discussion. His manual on “The Church” has its own place and value in the useful series of Hand-Books for Bible Classes which have emanated recently under the editorial care of Dr. Dodds and Dr. Whyte from the eminent publishing firm of Sir Thomas Clark. Apart from articles in reviews and other fugitive productions, his chief work is on the Psalms, a new edition of which appeared a few months before his death. The work has a peculiar value on a threefold ground. The mind of the author was judicial rather than critical. It is not an attempt critically to expound by sections and sentences; the views given are rather a comprehensive summation of the true scope of each psalm, based on a general review of what leading critics at home and abroad have offered in the way of exegesis. From the bent of his mental faculties, no man was more fitted for such a task than Dr. Binnie. Moreover, his devotional spirit found a congenial element in the Psalms, and he turns them to account for the nourishment of a piety as thoughtful and elevated as it is deep and true. His desire always to rest on abiding conclusions of a useful tendency prompted and enabled him to elicit from the Psalms those doctrinal truths which are in all ages essential to the life of faith and to progress in spirituality.

His family consisted of three sons and four daughters, one of whom is married to the Rev. James Hunter, B.D., of Lauriston. His estimable wife, the sister of the late Rev. John Fairbairn of Allanton, preceded Dr. Binnie by a few months to the grave. The event told on him, and towards the month cf July he felt so unwell as to seek some benefit from rest and change of scene at Aboyne. He recovered seemingly his strength to a great degree, but his friends observed in him a spirit, not depressed, for he had in full measure all the comforts of the gospel, but subdued, as if in the recent bereavement he had been near the eternal world and was nearing it himself. He was the last man to parade his sorrow or appeal for sympathy. He was genial, sometimes cheerful, to the last; but there was the impress of divine chastening on his character, in his whole tone and bearing, as if grace were ripening him for his sudden change, which, after all, cannot be regarded as sudden, since a whole career of useful service in the cause of his divine Master proved his readiness to pass at once from the psalms of the Church on earth to “the new song” of the redeemed in glory.

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DR. ALEXANDER BLACK

The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, March 1, 1864, p.473


Too frequently of late have we been called upon to record the removal of eminent ministers of the Free Church. The ranks of the older race are now, also, greatly thinned. Death during the last twenty years has committed more than the usual amount of havoc in this class, no doubt, partly in consequence of the severe strain put on their exertions in the outset, and that amid no ordinary trials. And this remark applies with at least equal force to the distinguished theological professors, who espoused the same cause, and by consecrating to it their talents and influence, signally contributed to the marvellous results of the great movement. We have now to mourn the departure of Dr. Black, the last of these three illustrious men, who, though less prominently before the world than Dr. Chalmers or Dr. Welsh, most assuredly, by the tenor of his previous teaching, bore a part in preparing the minds of the younger ministers for the coming crisis of the Disruption.

Dr. Black was a native of Aberdeen, where he received his education, first at the Grammar School, and afterwards at Marischal College. As a student he held the highest place of his time. Neither was this the verdict merely of partial friends at home. His scholarship was widely recognised and attested by high authority. A letter in Greek, which he wrote to an English gentleman, once his pupil, was incidentally submitted to a celebrated Oxford professor, who, on returning it, said, “Could not Dr. Black be persuaded to come to Oxford? We have many fellows who could make very good ministers of Tarves, but none who can write such a Greek letter as Dr. Black.” After completing the requisite course of study in the Divinity Hall, he made his first stated appearance in the pulpit as assistant to Dr. Ross of the East Church, Aberdeen, in whose family he lived as tutor to his son, Mr. Alexander Ross, with whom he travelled on the continent. While in this situation, he was persuaded by friends to offer himself as a candidate for the Chair of Divinity in King’s College, vacant in 1816 by the death of Dr. Gerard. His fellow competitors were Dr. Love of Glasgow, and Dr. Mearns, who obtained the appointment. But so much were the judges struck with the remarkable appearances made before them by Mr. Black, that they recommended him, young as he was, to the University authorities for a degree in Divinity. And soon after, the late Earl of Aberdeen, the well-known patron of literary merit, presented him to the Church of Tarves, vacant by the translation of Dr. Mearns.

In his country retreat, while he continued to prosecute his learned studies with unabated ardour, he diligently fulfilled the duties of his ministerial office. His sound and impressive style of preaching was much appreciated, not only in his own parish, but throughout the surrounding district; and a pleasing remembrance of it is still retained and cherished by the older inhabitants. His large and scriptural views of divine truth were everywhere listened to with acceptance and delight. Upon the death of Principal Brown, Dr. Black, in 1831, became his successor in the Professorship of Divinity in Marischal College. He was thus placed in a sphere of usefulness more congenial to his mind and habits than the ordinary work of the ministry. His vast stores of learning were now brought into full and constant requisition, while his strong predilection for the study and teaching of the original languages found ample scope. And all earnest students under him drank in his instructions with avidity. With Hebrew and the cognate tongues he was most intimately acquainted. Such, indeed, was the reputation he had acquired in this branch of sacred philology, that when the General Assembly resolved, in 1839, to send a deputation to Palestine, he was included in the number. His colleagues in the Mission of Inquiry were Dr. Keith, Mr. McCheyne, and Mr. A. Bonar. On Dr. Black’s return from the Holy Land a very painful trial awaited him. He found his most amiable and beloved partner, Mrs. Black, in the last stage of an illness which soon proved fatal. He arrived only in time to see her expire. And this sore bereavement cast an abiding shadow over the whole remainder of his life.

In 1844 Dr. Black removed to Edinburgh to occupy the Chair of Exegetical Theology in the New College. Owing, however, to various causes, he never held the same position, or exercised the same influence for good there as he had done in Aberdeen. The arrangements connected with his class were not to his mind. His advanced years and reserved sensitive disposition hindered him from overcoming the difficulties in which he felt himself placed, as well as from forming new friendships to sustain him under them; and in 1856 he retired from his professorial charge. On all hands it is freely allowed, that Dr. Black in his own chosen sphere was a man of high mark. His erudition was at once varied and profound; but all his learning was consecrated to the service of the great Head of the Church. In the exposition of the Scriptures he was truly a master. In his hands the pregnant and precious meaning of the sacred text came out with luminous effect. As a preacher, in his vigorous days, he shone more especially on communion occasions. At such times, whether he chose a lofty doctrinal theme, or a passage of deep experimental import, his discourses were striking and edifying.

His death was very sudden. On the previous day he seemed to be even better than he had been for some time before. When he retired to his bed-room the last evening of his life no apprehension of the nearness of the change was felt. His son, at a later hour, looked in on his father to see as usual that he was comfortable, and found him quite easy and well in all respects. But early in the morning he rang his bell, and when the servant entered he complained of his difficulty of breathing and a tendency to faint. His son was immediately called, but when he came Dr. Black was unable to speak, and could merely press his hand in token of affection. After death the countenance assumed an expression of great placidity, suggesting the words of the Psalmist,—”Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” The immediate cause of death was heart complaint. Dr. Black has left two sons and two daughters to mourn his loss.

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REV. ARCHIBALD BLACK, DUNDEE

(Died May 3, 1892)
Author: Rev. David S. Hamilton, Symington
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1892, Obituary, p.201


Mr Black was born in Glasgow in 1842, and after receiving a liberal education was intended for a business career. In this he spent several years, and as he early exhibited remarkable business capacity, his prospects for future success were bright and hopeful. Under the influence, however, of the late Dr. Somerville, whose ministry he attended, and for whom he ever after retained a sincere affection and admiration, the desire gradually took possession of him to devote himself to the work of the ministry. The instruction received at the Young Men’s Bible-class especially appears to have greatly impressed him, and to have enkindled within him a love for theological study; and though it was not for two or three years thereafter that he experienced the great saving change, he entered the University of Glasgow in the year 1864.

As a student, Mr. Black was most diligent, faithful, and painstaking, and may be said to have taken a good place in his classes generally rather than to have distinguished himself in any one particular branch. At the close of his first session in the Divinity Hall he availed himself of an opening to visit Naples, where he spent fully two years as tutor in an English family. When there he became greatly interested in that fair land, and not only took every opportunity of visiting its scenes of beauty and its spots of classic and historic fame, but also of becoming acquainted with the social and religious condition of its people. Though opportunities of carrying on active Christian work were necessarily limited, he may be said, along with the present writer, who was there in a similar capacity, to have given a start to what afterwards became the Naples Harbour Mission, as several hours were spent on Sabbath afternoons in visiting the shipping, and in holding religious services with as many of the sailors as could be got together.

After being licensed as a preacher, he very soon received a call to Armadale, in the Presbytery of Linlithgow, and was ordained there in June 1874. Here he continued for six years, and saw his untiring labours crowned with a large measure of success. One evidence of this may here be mentioned in the fact that during his short ministry there six of his young men were, through his influence, led to study for the ministry, and are now settled in Free Church charges. In 1880 he was translated to Ogilvie Church, Dundee, vacant by the removal of Rev. John Ewing to Glasgow. The sphere presented great attractions to a man of such energy and enterprise as Mr. Black, and he threw himself into the work with characteristic vigour. The various agencies were fostered with the greatest care; his visitation of his people was unwearied; mission work in an adjoining district was prosecuted with the utmost zeal; and although he was highly favoured in having the co-operation of a number of earnest and devoted office-bearers, he always felt the burden of responsibility and took personal supervision of the whole. The fact that during his ministry the membership of the congregation rose from 388 to considerably over 800 speaks for itself as to his diligence, faithfulness, and devotion to duty. Apart from the favourable situation of the church, surrounded as it was with a large and growing population, his success may perhaps be traced in the first place to his power of personal attraction. He impressed those he met with, even for the first time, as a man of great force of character, of noble and exalted aims, and of a singularly frank and generous disposition, and his bright and happy manner made one feel a desire to become better acquainted with him. More than this, however, was his great zeal in the work of the ministry. He rejoiced in being a minister of Christ’s gospel and in having the opportunity of dealing with men about their eternal interests, and his great aim in all his labours ever was to be the means of their salvation. And not least must be reckoned his enthusiastic love of preaching. Preaching was with him a passion. He had many of the qualities which go to make a great preacher—deeply pathetic, a vivid imagination, a flowing style, and a powerful voice; and as he had persuaded himself that his power lay in the manuscript, he carefully wrote and read all his discourses, and latterly even his prayer-meeting addresses.
The strain, however, at length began to tell. Though naturally of a robust and vigorous build, his strong frame began to indicate marks of exhaustion. In the spring of 1891 he was forced to take a period of rest and change. A stay of some duration at the Deeside Hydropathic did not result in the benefit he had anticipated, so that, acting on medical advice, he resolved on a sea-voyage, and embarked for Montreal about the beginning of June. It proved a rather unfortunate step, and he suffered much from the great heat there, so that when he returned about three months after he was found to be considerably worse. He subsequently revived, however, and regained something of his former vigour, so that, for several months during the following winter, he was able to take a large share of work, and in order not to be further burdensome if possible to the congregation, dispensed with the services of his assistant. It proved too much, and on Sabbath, April 3, when engaged in ordaining a number of new elders, he fairly broke down. It was his last public appearance. No immediate danger was apprehended, and he fully expected to be able to officiate at the marriage of his only sister to Rev. A. M. Macdonald of Towie, which had been arranged to take place in the church on the 28th of the month; but in this he was disappointed, and on the Tuesday following he suddenly sank, “yielding himself,” as he said in his last moments, “in humble submission to God’s will, and resting for his soul’s salvation on the divine promise, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.'” He died in his -fifty-first year. The announcement was received by the community with the deepest regret, and the overflowing congregation which met on the occasion of his funeral, and the crowd of spectators which lined the streets as the melancholy procession advanced to the cemetery, testified in no unmistakable manner how highly he had been appreciated and how deep an impression his work had left on the district. Mr. Black was unmarried, and has left few relatives to mourn his loss; but he was widely known and universally regarded by a large circle of friends as one of the most genial and lovable of men.

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REV. DAVID BLACK, TILLICOULTRY

(Died June 14, 1878)
Author: Rev. Patrick Muirhead, Kippen
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January 1, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.16


David Black, the youngest son of John Black, farmer, Dykehead, in the parish of New Monkland, was born there in July 1808. Having received his early education in the parish school, he was sent to the University of Glasgow in the thirteenth year of his age. After completing his course as a student of Arts, he entered the Divinity Hall; and in common with not a few of the band of Disruption ministers, he was thoroughly grounded, under the tuition of Dr. Stevenson McGill, in those evangelical principles which were ever precious to him, and to which he bore testimony during a ministry of nearly forty years.

In due course he received license as a probationer of the Church of Scotland, of which he was a warmly attached member. Immediately thereafter he was for a short time engaged in mission work in Greenock; from which he removed to Kilmarnock, where for some time he laboured as assistant to Dr. McKinlay. In 1839 he received a call from the congregation of Gartmore, in Perthshire. During the reign of Moderatism the chapel of Gartmore had been invariably ministered to by men of evangelical views; and the fact of Mr. Black having received a call from that congregation was itself almost a testimony that his preaching gave no uncertain sound. The time was one of much spiritual life and activity; and in full sympathy he gave himself heartily and earnestly to the work.

A time of trial and sifting, however, was at hand. The ten years’ conflict was then at its height. Mr. Black never hesitated or wavered in his steadfast adherence to the principles which had always been maintained by the evangelical men in the Church of Scotland. In a few years the crisis came, and with it the call to make a final decision. At once he cast in his lot with those who contended for the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of his Church; signed the “Deed of Demission;” and became minister now of the Free Church of Gartmore.

For a time in this case there was no outward change. The congregation were left at the time in undisturbed possession of their church: partly, no doubt, because the old chapel, being unendowed, was not a prize to be sought after by the eager crowd of expectants; mainly, however, owing to the fact that the lord of the manor, the late R.C. Cunningham Graham, Esq. of Gartmore, was a member, and took a warm interest in the welfare of the congregation. But while things went on much as formerly in Gartmore, the gatherings to the “tent preaching” in the churchyard — at the communion, on the first Sabbath of August, for instance — continuing undiminished, Mr. Black’s labours in other respects were considerably increased. In the course of the autumn of 1843 Mr. Watt, the minister of Bucklyvie, was translated to the more important charge of the Free Church at Norrieston— which he still occupies—Bucklyvie thus becoming vacant. For several years Mr. Black, after the usual service at home, preached there every Sabbath afternoon, and was practically minister of both congregations.

In 1847 he received a unanimous call to the Free Church at Tillicoultry, in the same Presbytery; and for more than a quarter of a century he laboured assiduously and faithfully in that busy manufacturing village—not without many encouraging tokens of the presence of God in blessing his work and labour of love for the conversion of sinners and the edification of his own children. Shortly after his settlement at Tillicoultry he obtained a helpmeet—having married Miss Thomson, from Kilmarnock— and was blessed with a family of nine children; all of whom survive, the first breach in the family having been his own removal.

In spring 1874 he began to feel no longer so able as formerly for all the duties of his onerous charge; and after much consideration, came to the conclusion that the best arrangement for the congregation was that he should retire altogether, and leave the way open for the appointment, not of a colleague, but simply of a successor. Having come to this resolution, he, in the most unselfish way, resigned everything, only retaining his status as a member of Presbytery; and he had in due course the satisfaction of knowing that the congregation, in whose welfare he was to the last most deeply interested, was flourishing under the ministry of one in every way worthy to be his successor. In the years that followed, and till within a few months of his death, he continued able to preach with much vigour, and was ever ready to give his much-valued assistance to his co-presbyters and other friends.

Mr. Black was not a church court man, and never took much part in the public business of the Church: his name thus, beyond the circle of his own immediate friends, may have been comparatively little known even in his own Church. But in addition to his proper pastoral work, he did excellent service in the district, especially at the Disruption time, and in the early years of the Free Church: indeed, his name continued to be a sort of household word among the adhering population in the western districts of Perthshire and Stirlingshire. He on his part always retained a very warm feeling for the scenes of his early labours; and his frequent visits to Gartmore and neighbourhood were times of much enjoyment to himself and his many friends. To all who knew him intimately his memory will always be fragrant, as that of one of the truest, most constant, and most unselfish of friends.

As a preacher he was, in the fullest sense of the word, evangelical. His sermons were many of them very fine specimens of the true style of Scottish evangelical preaching: happily combining the doctrinal and practical; often containing striking and original views of divine truth; always solid, massive, substantial—in striking contrast to the flimsy style of pulpit oratory now sometimes met with. His constant aim was to set forth in his ministrations Christ, and Christ crucified—Christ, now exalted a Prince and Saviour, to give to Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins; as an ambassador of Christ, to beseech sinners to be reconciled to him: while the Christian love— the charity which thinketh no evil, which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things—which was so eminently characteristic of the man, most powerfully enforced the sermons which he preached.

In May 1877 he removed from Stirling—where he had resided from the time of his leaving his charge in Tillicoultry—to Ardrossan, where he passed the last year of his life. Towards the close of that year he suffered from a severe and lingering illness, from which he partially recovered and was able to occupy the chair as Moderator of Presbytery at a meeting in the beginning of April this year. About the end of May his complaints assumed a more serious aspect, and he gradually sank till his change came. His death-bed experience was a fitting close to his life. Calm and undisturbed, he waited the call to depart; his only sorrow being at the thought of parting from his much-attached family. To Mrs. Black he frequently expressed the great comfort he had in knowing that his flock at Tillicoultry- were not to be left without a pastor. For about a week before his death he was in the way of calling all the members of his family to his bedside several times a day to join in reading passages of scripture and in singing hymns. The day before he died he tried to join in singing these words from his favourite hymn:

“Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.”

On the 14th of June quietly and gently he fell asleep in Jesus.

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REV. JAMES BLACK, M.A., DUNNIKIER

(Died December 10, 1880)
Author: Rev. Edward A. Thomson, Edinburgh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, March 1, 1881, Biographical Notices, p.70


In memory of James Black of Dunnikier, “a good minister of Jesus Christ,” who has entered into rest after upwards of forty years’ service in the gospel of the kingdom.

Born at Aberdeen in 1819, he was reared in an eminently pious household, under the ministry of the Rev. John Aitken of the Original Secession, after whom his own personal character and ministry appear to have been largely modelled. His progress at school was so distinguished that, at the early age of twelve, he was induced to engage in a public competition for a university bursary, which he gained with ease and approbation; so that he was but a boy when he entered college. His university course was no less successful. In four years he graduated with first-class honours, and then entered the Theological Hall of the Original Secession. For a year or two his theological preceptors were Drs. Paxton and McCrie the first; but Dr. McCrie the second was the professor whose prelections he attended longest, and to whom he was most indebted for his progress in this part of his student-course.

He was only twenty years of age when he was ordained to the ministry in the congregation of which he lived and died the pastor; but his gifts and attainments were combined with such maturity and gravity, that the thought of his youth never seemed to occur to any. The impression which his preaching produced, after he was licensed and ordained, was quite extraordinary. He was full of fire and unction. The tones of his voice were singularly rich, and he inflected them with masterful taste and judgment, while his manner of delivery combined animation with solemnity in a very remarkable degree. Crowds attended on his ministry, which in every way promised to be unusually successful. Unfortunately he overwrought himself, and a severe attack of hemorrhage laid him aside for months from active duty. By-and-by he recovered; but by the instruction of his medical advisers his delivery in preaching had to be quieted down, so that it became measured and in part constrained. Still his preaching itself was more than fully sustained with increasing years and experience. He continued to be a most devoted student as well as minister, keeping himself abreast of the attainments of the day, and commending himself to his congregation and the community by his sterling piety and his abundant ministrations in private as well as in public.

In 1852 the Synod of United Original Seceders acceded to the Free Church, and he was one of the representative deputies who were received by the General Assembly in Tanfield Hall, on occasion of the incorporation of the Synod. With the exception of the writer, every one who occupied the platform on that occasion has now passed away,—Dr. Makellar, moderator; Drs. Duff and Paterson, ex-moderators; Alexander Murray Dunlop, Esq., legal adviser; Dr. Clason, and Messrs. Pitcairn and Crawford, clerks; and Dr. Candlish, convener of the business committee; with the deputies, Drs. McCrie and Shaw, Messrs. White and Black, ministers; and Messrs. Shirra Gibb and Bremner, elders. The impulse of the union told very powerfully upon Mr. Black, and he again began to preach with not a little of his old warmth and vigour; but again he overdid himself, and the hemorrhage returned and prostrated him once more. From that period his quiet, measured, solemn style of preaching hardly ever changed. The congregation over whom he had been ordained meantime died out; and, as he would say, he could hardly venture to look round him in church, for the dear faces which used to look out to him from the pews, and by the eagerly attentive affectionateness of which he had been so much and so long stimulated in his ministry, were all gone; and he would often shut his eyes so that he might think of them as near by, though not visible, to hold up his hands like Urs and Aarons. After all, he was still surrounded and appreciated by an excellent and much attached congregation of young and old, to whom he ministered most faithfully and affectionately till the last. The end came suddenly. He died in harness. On his last Sabbath he preached as usual in Dunnikier, and again on the following Wednesday at Dairsie; but that same evening, after returning home, angina pectoris developed itself, and after a few hours’ suffering he quietly fell asleep. It ought to be added that he was a second Reformation Covenanter in his Church principles; a robust Calvinistic Puritan in his theology; a sincere, consistent, all-round Christian in his whole life-history; a man greatly beloved and much lamented. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

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REV. ROBERT BLACK, M.A., KILSYTH

(Died November17, 1888)
Author: Rev. A. M. Brown, B.D., Kirkintilloch
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February, 1889, Obituary, p.56


Born at Old Cumnock, 4th December 1826, Mr. Black’s father, who was an elder in the Free Church there, early hoped that his son Robert, one of a family of twelve, would study for the ministry. His mother, who was a descendant of John Welsh, minister of Ayr, and son-in law of John Knox, was like-minded.

On the completion of his school education, Mr. Black spent two years in the office of a local lawyer; but in answer to the prayers and wishes of his parents he after that (in 1844) went to Glasgow University to study for the ministry. The Disruption had just taken place at this formative period of his life, and its memorable and stirring events and scenes are understood to have had much to do with this decision. During his Arts course he had as companions Lord Shand, one of the judges of the Court of Session, and Mr. Henry Dunckley, one of the proprietors of the Manchester Examiner, and the well-known author and journalist. Taking his degree of M.A. in 1848, he went to the New College, Edinburgh, the same year, where he showed himself an apt scholar, a beloved friend, and one who gave promise of future usefulness. He was licensed as a preacher in 1852 by the Presbytery of Ayr, on which occasion the late Dr. Grant paid him the high compliment of stating that he was one of the most scholarly students that the Presbytery of Ayr had ever licensed.

Mr. Black acted for some time as assistant at St. Helier’s, Jersey; but in 1854, on his return, he received two calls—one from the church at Kilsyth, the other from that at Linlithgow. Refusing the latter, although offering a larger stipend, he accepted the unanimous call of the people at Kilsyth, thereby keeping a promise which he had privately made to some of them, accepting the first sphere of usefulness which the Master offered him, and becoming colleague and successor to the Rev. Dr. Burns. Dr. Burns still continues to be known as the pastor of Kilsyth, a term which he won for himself during the revival there; and Mr. Black, feeling it to be no small honour to be associated with such a man in the work of the ministry, soon showed that he was no unworthy fellow labourer and successor, and by his preaching and pastoral work has not only maintained but increased the efficiency of the congregation, if not its size.

Perhaps the most outstanding incident in his ministry was the work of grace which took place in 1863, when the manse for weeks together became like an inn with people calling to inquire after the way of life, and with speakers who came from various parts to address the meetings, which were continued day after day.

Mr. Black was not an ecclesiastic, and although faithful in attendance at Church courts, those who should judge him by the part he took in them would not form a true estimate of the man. His preaching, which was the special characteristic of his ministry, was invariably faithful to evangelical truth, and was vigorous and earnest both in matter and manner. He had a most marvellous memory; for example, although he kept no diary or note-book, he never forgot one of his numerous engagements, and all his forenoon sermons were written carefully out and committed to memory almost without an effort. No minister in the district was more often to be seen in local pulpits or was more highly appreciated than he. Mr. Black was largely instrumental in the erection of the handsome new church in which the congregation now worships. He was a member of the school board for a considerable time, and there was no good and useful work to which he did not lend his valuable services.

Mr. Black was in failing health, from an affection of the brain, for more than two years, and his death, therefore, did not come upon his family or congregation or friends with the shock of a sudden surprise; but his removal from the sphere which he occupied so long and so worthily is felt none the less as a personal loss by all who had the privilege of his acquaintance.

It is a strange coincidence that the last forenoon sermons he preached from at home (his last sermon was preached at Pitlochry in September 1886) were from these words: “If the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” and, “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” In the beginning of 1887 Mr. Black recovered sufficiently to be able to visit a good many of the sick in the congregation, but was soon laid aside again. He never recovered sufficiently to be of any active service, and passed away peacefully on the Saturday evening previous to the half-yearly communion. The scene at his funeral showed the deep place he held in the affections of his congregation and of the public at large as a pastor and a friend, the attendance being very large (notwithstanding that the day was extremely wet and boisterous), and many being apparently deeply affected. He is survived by his widow and a family of nine, most of whom are now well grown up.

Mrs. Black, whose father was Mr. Walker, for a long time the parish and afterwards the Free Church schoolmaster at Kilsyth, is a grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter of the manse—the Rev. Mr. Aeneas McBean of Inverness, and the Rev. Mr. Buchanan of Nigg, Ross-shire, being respectively her grandfather and great-grandfather. Their names, we believe, are mentioned in the November number of the United Presbyterian Missionary Record, in connection with the celebration of the centenary of the churches, of which they were respectively the first ministers. For Mrs. Black and her family the utmost sympathy has been manifested.

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REV. JOHN BLACKLOCK, FEARN, ROSS-SHIRE

(Died March 14, 1885)
Author: Rev. John Mackay, M.A., Cromarty,
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1885, Biographical Notices, p.306


On the northern shores of the Linnhe Loch, in the bosom of the Kingairloch hills, the subject of this brief sketch was born on the 12th of February 1831. He resolved to devote himself to the gospel ministry at an early age. His Arts course at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh was very complete, and more varied than is the course with which most students are satisfied. His theological studies were prosecuted at the Hall of the Congregational Church in Edinburgh. He had no sooner finished his theological curriculum than he had to choose between three spheres of labour to which calls were addressed to him. Although the least desirable pecuniarily and in other respects, the small charge of Sannox, in the island of Arran, was his choice, and to it he was ordained and inducted in April 1860.

If his resident flock was small, his labours were abundant and varied. He was the pastor, and to a great extent the physician, of his people. His congregation was every summer augmented by people from all parts, of many professions and of many denominations. Among them the seals to his ministry were very many. A little spice of opposition from parties in power, such as being obliged to worship in the open air at one of his preaching stations for thirteen years, only served to give zest to his labours, and to bind him to his island charge, in the face of overtures from more than one congregation, for the space of eighteen years.

His preaching tours through the Highlands and Islands led him to think of the desirableness of sending men into that field who could acceptably deliver the message of salvation after a briefer training than is considered necessary for the stated ministry. He hoped that pious young men of various evangelical denominations might be willing to prepare for such work, to be afterwards employed and supported by their own churches. He began an experiment in this kind of training for home mission work in the Highlands in 1874, and with such success that several of his students at what came to be known as “The Highland College” are now ministers in our own and other Churches.

In 1878, he accepted the charge of the Oban Congregational Church. Having, however, been all his life-time in sympathy with the system of doctrine set forth in the Confession of Faith, and having gradually become convinced of the scripturalness and efficiency of our Presbyterian form of Church government, he felt constrained to apply for admission into the Free Church of Scotland in 1879. Having been cordially received into our Church, he was settled at Iona and Ross the same year as colleague and successor to the late Rev. D. Macvean. There he laboured arduously and successfully; but with two churches to preach in, and these separated by the stormy and dangerous sand of Iona, overwork and exposure began so to tell upon his health that, after a three years’ ministry, he felt it to be his duty to accept a unanimous call to the important congregation of Fearn, in Easter Ross. To that charge he was inducted in February 1881; but his life work was nearly done. The seeds of a pulmonary affection had struck deep root in his constitution, and notwithstanding his unfailing cheerfulness and his determination that his labours should, if possible, be more abundant than ever, his friends observed with pain that his strength was failing. A cold caught in the discharge of ministerial duty in February prostrated him, and congestion of the lungs setting in, it proved to be the Master’s call to enter into the joy of his Lord. Having just completed a brief ministry of three years, leaving the devoted partner of his life and eight children to the care of “the Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widow,” and trusting his congregation to Him who has the stars in his right hand, the weary servant of God fell asleep on Sabbath the 14th March last.

None who knew Mr. Blacklock could fail to be impressed by his entire devotedness to the great work of the Christian ministry. He had an intense love for the young, and especially for young men. He had an active and vigorous mind, and was a diligent and painstaking student. He was a man of cultured tastes and wide reading. His Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament were his constant companions. But withal, soul-winning was his great aim. “He that winneth souls is wise,” seemed to be ever ringing in his ears. Prayer was emphatically his “vital breath.”

On the Sabbath which was to him the beginning of his eternal rest, he saw from his dying pillow the Gaelic portion of his congregation returning sorrowfully from church, and looking up said, ”Lord, bless the dear people.” It was his last uttered prayer. At the close of the English service, which was then commencing, it was intimated that the congregation was without a pastor.

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PROFESSOR WILLIAM GARDEN BLAIKIE, D.D., LL.D.

(Died 11th June, 1899)
Author: Rev. C. G. McCrie, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1899, p.184


On the opening day of last General Assembly two venerable figures seated beside the Moderator attracted general notice. One was that of Dr. Thomas Smith, the junior of our two surviving pre-Disruption missionaries, his senior being Dr. Murray Mitchell. The other was that of Emeritus-Professor Blaikie, who, on that eighteenth of May, was one of nine pre-Disruption ministers still living. That was Dr. Blaikie’s only appearance in the Assembly, and his last on the streets of Edinburgh. On the closing day of the Assembly (30th May) he was fatally stricken in his own house at North Berwick. He lost the power of speech, became unconscious, and on Sabbath the eleventh of June entered into rest.

Heredity, parental influence, and early training all contributed to give William Garden Blaikie a good start in life. His father, James Blaikie of Craigiebuckler, was an advocate, and for a term of years one of the most honoured provosts of Aberdeen. All through schoolboy and student days the provost’s second son took a front-rank place in his classes, passing as one of Melvin’s most brilliant scholars from the Grammar School to Marischal College, where he graduated with distinction at the early age of seventeen. Familiarity with and skill in the use of the classic languages, acquired in early life, continued with him to old age. His post-cards were sometimes written in Latin, while now and again, in the course of a letter to a student or youthful cleric, he would break away from the use of English and indite a paragraph of address or advice in the speech of an old Roman senator. The latest literary service the writer of this paper was asked to render his friend was to read and express a judgment upon a goodly collection of the masterpieces of English hymnody which the retired professor had occupied some wakeful watches of the night and leisure hours of the day in rendering into mediaeval Latin verse.

Drumblade, a parish in the north-west of Aberdeenshire, and within the bounds of the Presbytery of Turriff, was the sphere of the well-equipped probationer’s first charge. In less than eight months after his ordination the Disruption took place, when the young minister of Drumblade, who had been on the Evangelical side from the first, signed the “Protest,” as one of the commissioners from presbyteries to the General Assembly appointed to meet on 18th May 1843, and subsequently the “Act of Separation and Deed of Demission.” That signing away the status, rights, and privileges of the Establishment meant much for the parish minister of Drumblade. On his return from Edinburgh he found his church in possession of the residuary presbytery, who had appointed one of their number to announce it vacant on the very first Sunday after the rising of the Assembly, so that he had to preach what he had intended to be his farewell sermon from his first pulpit standing at the manse door, and thereafter, until difficulties in securing a site for his outgoing congregation had been overcome, to conduct divine service in a harness-room, where, not unfrequently, the rain came dripping in upon his head.

The ability and energy with which Mr. Blaikie faced the situation, and the success which attended his labours in the north, attracted the attention of those who were charged with the work of church planting in the south. In 1844, Edinburgh and Leith were practically separated—the great highway of Leith Walk, which now connects the two, existing largely in the plans of architects aud the projects of builders. But even at that date there was a growing population on the intermediate property of Pilrig, and the Free Church minister of Drumblade was invited, and ultimately consented, to undertake the forming of a charge in the district.

Dr. Blaikie gave twenty-four of the best years of his life to the work of his Pilrig ministry. During these years much needed to be done, involving unremitting toil and careful guidance. It needed that a congregation be gathered, officered, organized, and ministered to; that church, school, and manse structures be built and paid for; and that in the case of the church the small, plain building of Disruption style of architecture be displaced by the stately house of God in which the Pilrig congregation now worships. To have such work on hand would have been enough for most ministers, and would not have left time or inclination to enter upon any field of labour other than the purely ministerial.

And yet it was during Pilrig days that the Free Church minister struck into some of those lines of collateral work which have carried his name far beyond congregational and even denominational limits. As a territorial pastor he was led to interest himself in questions of social economy and to identify himself with movements for the bettering of the artisan and labouring classes. This sympathy for working people led to the founding and managing of the Model Buildings which form a distinctive feature of the district. It also resulted in the publishing of two booklets—Better Days for Working People, and its sequel, Heads and Hands in the World of Labour—works which have sold in tens of thousands, which attracted the favourable regard of the eagle-eyed Lord Brougham, and elicited the encomium of the French historian Guizot, that they were the productions of a man “who knew how to speak to the democracy with sympathy and at the same time with Christian freedom.” It was this same intense interest in all matters of social reform and elevation that led Dr. Blaikie at a later period of life to identify himself with the cause of temperance and total abstinence. He was for many years an honorary director of the Edinburgh Total Abstinence Society, and, at the date of his death, one of the presidents of the Free Church Temperance Society. With voice and with pen he rendered signal service in the gospel temperance crusade of British men and women which has “For God and Home and every Land” as its motto.

Another field of activity cultivated in this busy life was that, of authorship, and the occupying of it also dates as far back as the Pilrig ministry. It fills one with amazement when one attempts to enumerate all that came from that flowing pen and finds the attempt hopeless. Dr. Blaikie was, from the start to the finish of his career, a copious contributor to periodical and pamphlet literature. In addition to writing articles innumerable for weekly, monthly, and quarterly journals, he edited at successive stages of his earlier days The Free Church Magazine, The North British Review, The Sunday Magazine, and The Catholic Presbyterian. In the department of Biblical writings are to be ranked such works as his Bible History; Bible Geography; David, King of Israel; Joshua; First and Second Samuel. In the more distinctively devotional and practical walks of literary production are to be noted Glimpses of the Inner Life of our Lord, The Public Ministry of our Lord, and Household Prayers. Bearing upon his college work as Professor of Pastoral Theology, he produced a manual, For the Work of the Ministry, and a companion volume under the title of Pastoral Methods of our Lord. Then, as a historian and biographer, Dr. Blaikie has done good popular literary work in his Preachers of Scotland, After Fifty Tears, Leaders in Modern Philanthropy, his Lives of Dr. Chalmers and Principal Brown, and in his Personal Life of David Livingstone—the last-named work being that by which he is most widely known, and which it is safe to predict will take rank among the classics of English biographical literature. The foregoing makes no claim to be a complete enumeration of Dr. Blaikie’s writings; it is simply a statement of the more outstanding of them, which may serve to show how wide were the fields of interest traversed and how unremitting was the industry with which he plied his pen.

In 1868 the minister of Drumblade, and thereafter of Pilrig, entered upon the second leading division of his professional life, being appointed Professor of Apologetics and Pastoral Theology in the New College, Edinburgh. For twenty-nine years his energies were devoted to the duties of his chair, all of which he discharged with his accustomed assiduity and with conscientious regard to the highest interests of his students. It is in keeping with the practical rather than the scientific or speculative genius of the man that his abiding service to the New College is to be found in two institutions with which his name will always be gratefully associated. One of these is the dining-table in the common hall—a provision that has been followed in kindred Scottish seminaries, and which has done not a little to promote the physical and social well-being of the students. The other is the New College settlement in the Pleasance of Edinburgh. Of that movement Dr. Blaikie was the first chairman of committee, and he not only laboured enthusiastically in the collecting of funds for the erection of the buildings, but aided also in the regular work of the mission.

The position of Dr. Blaikie in the church generally, both as minister and professor, was in some respects unique. He was not an ecclesiastic—not a leader—in the popular acceptation of these terms. He lacked certain qualifications of physical and mental endowment— certain qualities of taste, disposition, and bearing—that contribute to the equipment of such highly useful functionaries; and he did all his lifework with a full consciousness and recognition of the limitations of his powers. And yet Dr. Blaikie was an active presbyter so long as physical strength permitted, and a loyal Free Churchman to the last day of his life. He served upon not a few of the committees that hold their monthly meetings in the offices of the church; over several of the standing ones—notably the Home Mission, the Continental, and the College—he was called to preside as convener. In his own Presbytery of Edinburgh he was a faithful and regular attender of meetings, and it is to his counsel and energy, while acting as Convener of the Presbyterial Church Extension Scheme, that the Free Church owes the existence of more than one useful and prosperous charge in the suburbs and centre of the metropolis. All this, in addition to ministerial and professional work, was carried on for well-nigh forty years—until, in fact, his increasing defect of hearing led to the resignation of his chair, and rendered attendance upon committees, conferences, and church courts useless.

But all through his long and busy life Dr. Blaikie was kept from ever becoming a wire-pulling ecclesiastic or a church and party leader by one dominant feature of his Christian life and service—the catholicity thereof. No article of the Christian faith was dearer to his heart than Credo in Sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam. It can truly be said of him he lived in catholic charity, he laboured for catholic unity, he loved his church as a branch of the catholic church of his Lord and Master. It was this catholicity of interest and sympathy which led the Presbyterian Scot to take so prominent a part in the formation and organization of the General Presbyterian Alliance. He was one of its two originators, the other being the late President McCosh of Princeton. He acted as secretary of the Council at its meetings in Edinburgh, Philadelphia, Belfast, London, and thereafter occupied the position of honorary secretary. He was president of the Alliance when it met at Toronto in 1892, the year which marked the jubilee of his ministry and in which he was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. As the date approached for nominating delegates to the Council which is to meet at Washington on the twenty-seventh of September, there was a strong and general desire to place Dr. Blaikie’s name on the Free Church list, and it did actually appear upon certain provisional and unofficial programmes. By the time of the Assembly meeting, however, it was seen by all that it was hopeless to expect the venerable octogenarian to face the fatigues of a fifth visit to America, and so his name was reluctantly dropped from the list of delegates submitted to and approved of by the Assembly little more than three weeks before he was called hence.

It is well. For him it is better—very far better—to have crossed the “narrow sea,” to have landed on the “happier shore,” and to have had said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” than once more to make the voyage of the Atlantic and answer the roll-call at Washington.

” Now the labourer’s task is o’er;
Now the battle-day is past;
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.
Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.”

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REV. ADAM BLYTH, GIRVAN

(Died 9th March 1870)
Author: Rev. D.C. A. Agnew, Wigtown
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1870, p.126


Adam Blyth was born in the city of Glasgow, on the 14th December 1818, and passed through the curriculum of arts at its University. He entered a writer’s office in Glasgow during his college course, and was subsequently admitted into the office of a Parliamentary solicitor in Westminster. Although the law was to have been his profession, yet he early devoted himself to the volunteer labours of teaching and exhorting his fellow-sinners, young and old. In 1832 he joined the Bible-class taught by David Stow, Esq., head of the Normal School. About two years afterwards, when it was necessary to divide the large and increasing class, Mr. Stow, whom he regarded as his spiritual father, gave him the charge of the junior division. In London, under the superintendence of the Rev. Dr. James Hamilton, Adam Blyth was remarkable for his zeal, perseverance, and punctuality in similar evangelistic work. The ardour so extensively called forth by the Disruption of the Scottish Church, brought him back to Scotland to dedicate himself to the ministry of the Free Church. He became a pupil of Dr. Chalmers, but was soon ordered to take the preaching appointments of a catechist. While in temporary charge of Dailly, he was licensed as a probationer by the Ayr Presbytery, on the 11th July 1844. The thickly-peopled and much-neglected parish of Girvan had few attractions for a lukewam minister; but it asserted its claims upon Mr. Blyth’s missionary spirit, so that he accepted a call from its tried and struggling Free Church congregation, of which he became the first minister, on the 27th of March 1845. He literally fought his way to true eminence in Girvan, making a self-denying stand against drinking customs and drunken habits, and bringing every healing appliance to bear upoa the heathen portion of the population. The elegant Free church, now standing on perhaps the best site in the town—a site granted out of personal esteem on the advice of a gentleman opposed to the Free Church theoretically—is a monument to Mr. Blyth’s memory.

He consolidated his religious influence in a way worthy cofa Christian and Protestant minister, namely, by his marriage to one who, in heart and life, was a good minister’s wife. Mrs. Blyth (née Jane Allan of Largs) went before him to the heavenly rest in the fifteenth year of their marriage. Although Mr. Blyth could exercise, when required, the gifts of an extempore speaker, he was a careful student, and excelled as an expository preacher. He took great delight in composition, and his addresses to the young, several of which were printed, are models of such discourses. Throughout his ministerial life he had to contend with indifferent health; but a persistent energy, arising both from nature and grace, kept him in harness until May 1867, when, after twenty-two years’ service, he resigned his charge. The rest of his life was spent in the quest of relief from physical suffering, chiefly at Pau, Ventnor, and the Bridge of Allan. At the latter place he died, in his fifty-second year, in the possession of peace, and glorifying God as in his life. In a sermon, preached after the funeral in the Bridge of Allan Free Church, the Rev. Dr. Ross said,—-“Mr. Blyth preached his last sermon at Pau, in France, on the 31st of May 1868, on the occasion of the wreck of the Garonne, which entailed the loss of many whom he knew and loved. His pulpit ministry thus befittingly closed with a sermon on the words, ‘An/ not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ But although he was not permitted to preach again, he never ceased to testify of Christ as all his salvation and all his desire. You will remember, that on the occasion of our last communion an interest in our prayers was specially sought by one who, prevented from drinking at the pool of ordinances, felt the need of drawing all the nearer to the river of life.’ The request was his.”

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REV. ANDREW BOGLE, CALLANDER

(Died January 19, 1900)
Author: Rev. Malcolm Mclean, Gartmore
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December, 1900, Obituary, p.287


Mr. Bogle was born in February 1832, in the neighbourhood of Hamilton, with which town his family had been connected for several generations, his great-grandfather having settled there as a lawyer. He received the greater part of his early education in St. John’s Grammar School, Hamilton.

After taking his arts course in the University of Glasgow, he went to the New College, Edinburgh, where he studied theology under Principal Cunningham, having as his intimate associates such men as Professor James McGregor and Professor A. B. Bruce.

He was for one session President of the New College Theological Society.

He was licensed by the Presbytery of Hamilton in August 1855. He went to Callander in February 1856, in the capacity of assistant to the Rev. Duncan McLean, and as one of the elders expressed it, “at once took the hearts of the congregation by storm.” Up till that date ability to preach in the Gaelic language had been an indispensable requisite for the minister of Callander. Mr. Bogle did not possess that qualification. An application was made to the General Assembly of 1857 to remove that restriction, and this was happily successful. Accordingly, Mr. Bogle was, on November 5, 1857, ordained by the Presbytery of Dunblane as minister of Callander, where he fulfilled the duties of a servant of Christ with rare fidelity and devotion, until his retirement in May 1892.

The motto of Mr. Bogle was, “One thing I do,” as he explained to his congregation at his last interview with them. “It is thirty-six years since I came to Callander. I was then in feeble health, and, indeed, have never been strong. It became, therefore, my duty to consider what sphere of duty ought specially to engage my attention. The pulpit seemed to stand pre-eminent, and I felt I must put forth all my powers in preaching the glorious gospel of Christ.” To this determination Mr. Bogle adhered through life.

The opening of the railway to Callander in 1858 gave additional facilities for summer visitors, and in succeeding years many were attracted to the Highland village, not only by the beauty of its scenery and the salubrity of its climate, but also by the prospect of enjoying Mr. Bogle’s ministrations on the Sabbath. The nature of these was well described by Professor Laidlaw in the funeral sermon which he preached in Callander on the 28th of January. “In the days when the place was so full of summer visitors it was often remarked how unfailingly profitable and delightful was his pulpit work. He was a most diligent student of Scripture, and a most successful exponent of it, and he was most faithful and pointed in his application of it to the consciences of his hearers. Nothing could well be more stimulating and bracing, and it was continued and sustained to the last day of his public life.”

Various efforts were made from time to time to induce Mr. Bogle to remove to a larger sphere of labour. He was approached many times by congregations in Scotland, and was also invited to take up an important charge in Australia. To all these invitations he turned a deaf ear.

Mr. Bogle was not only a powerful preacher, but up to his strength a diligent and unwearied pastor, the friend and counsellor of his people. He gave a wise and enlightened regard to everything connected with the moral and religious welfare of the community, especially to the cause of education and the godly upbringing of the young. His efforts in this connection will be long and gratefully remembered in Callander.

In the Presbytery of Dunblane his brethren looked up to him as a wise counsellor, in whose judgment they could place implicit confidence.

The Rev. D. D. Ormond of Stirling, when the guest of Professor Christie of Alleghany, in 1897, came across a notable tribute to Mr. Bogle’s value as a minister and a man. Dr. Christie received a letter from the Far West anent a vacant pulpit in a city on the Pacific coast. His correspondent, in expressing his desire for a good minister to fill the vacancy of which he had some charge, said, “Oh for a godly minister like Andrew Bogle of Callander! What a blessing would such a man be to that city and district!”

Mr. Bogle spent the last eight years of his life in comparatively feeble health in Edinburgh, and only twice during that period did he enter a pulpit, these occasions being when he preached in his son’s church in Larbert. His end came somewhat suddenly, the immediate cause being heart failure after an attack of influenza, and for him it was to “enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God.”

Mr. Bogle was twice married, first to Miss Catherine Nisbet Blyth, whose father, Mr. David Blyth, was one of the first who was ordained to the eldership in Caledonian Church, London, by the celebrated Edward Irving. His second wife was Miss Sophia Stewart Cree, daughter of Mr. William Cree, shipowner, Glasgow, who now, with three sons, survives to mourn one who was not less esteemed as a husband and father than as a pastor and citizen.

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REV. ANDREW A. BONAR, D.D.

(Died December 30, 1892)
Author: Rev. John Fordyce, Late of Simla
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, March, 1893, p.57


On the 25th of December last Dr. Bonar led his congregation to Bethlehem, where he himself had been more than half a century ago, and preached a Christmas sermon on Luke 2 with more than ordinary vivacity and vigour. Five days after, he was led by ministering angels into the presence of the King whom he had served so long and so well.

To the Church below, the loss of Dr. Bonar’s richly-gifted ministry and singularly saintly character is very great; and tens of thousands feel, with his family and flock, that his translation is a personal bereavement. A rapid review of his eminently useful and beautiful life may be a stimulus to those who remain.

Andrew Alexander Bonar was born in Edinburgh 29th May 1810, the youngest of five brothers. Their father, James Bonar, was Second Solicitor of Excise —”a man of varied and extensive literary knowledge.” Going back two centuries, there has been a remarkable apostolic or evangelical succession of Bonars in the Scottish Church. The story of his godly ancestry has been so often published that it need not be repeated here.

In 1825, the young student, among able competitors, was dux and gold medallist at the High School of Edinburgh; and soon after he carried off similar honours at the University of Edinburgh. 1830 was the most memorable year of his early life; for then, to use his own words, he was born again and fully brought to Christ.

Mr. Bonar studied divinity under Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh, of whom he wrote, “teachers I will never forget.” At this time a band of students formed an Exegetical Society for Biblical Criticism. Several years they met every Saturday morning during the session at 6.30. Most of the members have been in the front rank of evangelical ministers in Scotland or elsewhere; and four of them are known all over Christendom.—Mr. McCheyne, Dr. Somerville, and Drs. Horatius and Andrew Bonar.1

After being licensed by Jedburgh Presbytery, he laboured eighteen months there as a missionary, and then during two years in Dr. Candlish’s parish, St. George’s, Edinburgh.

In 1838 he was ordained to the ministry at Collace; and it was a fruitful ministry, not only at Collace, but elsewhere, during the following eighteen years.

In 1839 Mr. Bonar and his friend Mr. McCheyne went on a mission to the Holy Land. Their senior companions, Dr. Black and Dr. Keith, were detained on the Continent, and did good work there for Israelites. A volume was written, chiefly by Mr. Bonar, illustrated by sketches from the pencil of Mr. McCheyne. Before their return, there was a great revival at Kilsyth, Dundee, and many other parts of Scotland.

Soon after, Mr. Bonar and Mr. McCheyne came to Kelso, where an awakening was going on under the ministry of Mr. Horatius Bonar. It was there that the present writer first saw and heard these gifted men. Mr. McCheyne’s preaching was so characterized by clearness, beauty, love, tenderness, solemnity, and power, that the effect on congregations was simply marvellous. Mr. Bonar’s thoughts were more original and striking, but there was less of heart-melting pathos. His words often fell gently like refreshing dew, interrupted now and then with appeals of startling solemnity. His preaching was most instructive and suggestive. He seemed to see into the heart of a text, and he used the written word to turn every eye to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus.

Soon after, the Ten Years’ Conflict culminated in the Disruption of 1843. The pastor of Collace took no active part in the controversy; but when the day of decision came, he and his brothers joined the Free Church. The three brothers in the ministry were so associated that some reference must be made to them all. They all received the degree of D.D. from Scottish universities. There was a remarkable unity in their principles, and diversity in other respects. Dr. Andrew was less vigorous and intrepid than Dr. John James of Greenock, but equally genial and humorous. He was less grave and logical than Dr. Horatius, but equally poetical, though not in verse.

After declining various calls, Dr. Bonar in 1856 became minister of the Finnieston Free Church, Glasgow. It was a new territorial mission church. He began with ten hearers; but long ago the “little one became a thousand.” It was hard work; but Dr. Bonar set his face like a flint to it, and succeeded in gathering many of those for whom it was intended. Gradually not a few of the influential families of Glasgow were attracted to his ministry, and a few years ago a large and beautiful church was built. Now rich and poor meet together, as they should in every congregation.

Dr. Bonar took a prominent part with Messrs. Moody and Sankey in 1874, and since. Mr. Moody’s esteem and love for him are well known. His visit to Northfield years ago was a blessing to many in the Far West, and his name lingers not only in many hearts in the States, but at Northfield Bonar Glen and Bonar Hall perpetuate the memory of his visit.

In 1878 Dr. Bonar was Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly in Glasgow. Being more a preacher than an ecclesiastic, the controversies of that year made his position a specially difficult one; but he acquitted himself admirably, and the Assembly realized the benefit of having “the meekness of wisdom” in the chair.

The question may occur to some, How was it, with a gentleness almost womanly, and a winsome simplicity often childlike, that Dr. Bonar manifested great decision and unswerving steadfastness? The chief explanation certainly is that he was ”strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man;” but the Spirit of God uses and consecrates personal attainments and characteristics. Dr. Bonar had the self-respect of a scholar, and his mental vision was singularly clear, though he seldom attempted a masterly and sustained discussion of great subjects like some of his peers. Besides, he was endowed, as those who knew him best can testify, with a singularly strong will. It was this, along with his amiable qualities, that gave a fine balance to his beautiful character. Another element should not be omitted. His faith was simple as that of a child, and strong like Abraham’s—”giving glory to God.” He appears never to have spent an hour in Doubting Castle during the sixty-two years of his Christian pilgrimage, giving a bright illustration of the text, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” amid the splendours of which he is now assuredly among those who “have turned many to righteousness.”

Dr. Bonar used the telescopes of promise and prophecy, and aided by an imagination very rich, and sometimes bold, he charmed his hearers with wonderful views of the distant and the future; but he was more at home with his exegetical microscope and the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek, discovering minute meanings and delicate shades of thought that few, if any, of the commentators had ever seen. He was one of the most original of preachers, without any parade of learning or eloquence. No speaker was more welcome at Mildmay, Perth, and other conferences. In public, and still more in private he had a charm which it is difficult to describe; but it certainly included genius and love, transparent sincerity, and genial humour.

As to authorship, Dr. Bonar’s chief work was the “Memoir of McCheyne,” which has had an enormous sale. It is known to have been a blessing to many. He had just finished the preparation of a new edition when called home. His Expositions of Leviticus and the Psalms are still in demand; but “Redemption Drawing Nigh” is at the present out of print. His smaller books, booklets, and tracts are too numerous to name but “Angel Workers” must an exception. Ministers and people may profit by the angelic words to the angel of the church at Finnieston.

Dr. Bonar had entered his ninth decade before he consented to have a colleague. About sixteen months ago, the Rev. David M. McIntyre, who had a short but very successful ministry in London, was unanimously called to Finnieston. The two have been together like Paul and his son Timothy these months and Dr. Bonar’s last words to his colleague were words of thankfulness for their fellowship in the gospel.

On Wednesday evening, 28th December, the two ministers shared the services of their last public meeting. Dr. Bonar seemed well; but next morning he rose early, and feeling cold he returned to bed. He had got a chill, from which he did not recover. During Friday the 30th there were signs of danger. He seemed to realize it, and said to Dr. Reid, “No one knows how his ministry is to end.” A short time before he had written to a friend in the ministry: I am like Barzillai. I know not the day of my death.” That evening, with his family around him, he joined in singing the twenty-third psalm. His sister-in-law read another psalm, and they were all surprised when, as he lay in bed, he began pray in a clear voice, ending with a favourite petition that they might be all “accepted in Christ.” Soon after he said, “I am sleepy.” He slept, and in a short time, without awaking, passed away to be “for ever with the Lord.”

Memorial sermons were preached by his friend, Dr. J. Hood Wilson, and his colleague, Mr McIntyre. They are published, with one by Bonar himself on Jude 24 and 25.2

Dr. Bonar was married when at Collace to Miss Isabella Dickson, sister of two eminently useful Edinburgh elders — the late David and William Dickson. Dr. Bonar’s one great sorrow in Glasgow was when the happy wife and loving mother was called suddenly away. He leaves one son, James Bonar, LL.D., London, and four daughters, the eldest of whom is married to Mr. William M. Oatts of the Christian Institute, Glasgow.

Dr. Bonar kept a diary for sixty-four years— from 1828 to a few days before he died. It is in shorthand, and only one of his daughters can decipher it. She has begun to turn it into readable English, and writes: “It promises to be most interesting — just like talking to father over old days.” Probably the greater part will be of merely personal, local, or temporary interest; but Dr. Bonar was continually dropping from tongue or pen gems of thought. These may be extracted to enrich and gladden thousands who will be ready to welcome them.

It should be added that, on the occasion of his jubilee, Dr. Bonar had presented to him the sum of £4,000, in token of the esteem in which he was held, and of the sense which was entertained of the value of his services to the Church.

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OUR GREAT HYMN WRITER: HORATIUS BONAR

Author: Rev. Thomas Brown, D.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November, 1891, p.329


By the death of Dr. Horatius Bonar the Free Church has lost one of her outstanding men, whose name has long been honoured and his influence widely felt in his own and other denominations. By his special instructions no memoir of his life is to be published; but it is due to his memory that in these pages some account should be given of what he was and of what he did.

The family of Bonar has long held an honourable place in the Scottish Church. James Bonar was minister of Maybole in the times of the Solemn League and Covenant, and stood by the side of Alexander Henderson (1638) in the great work of the second Reformation. The line of succession came down through John Bonar of Torphichen, the associate of Boston in contending for gospel truth in the “Marrow” controversy. His descendants were men of similar spirit — John Bonar of Perth, who took part in revival work at Kilsyth (1742), and the well-known Archibald Bonar of Cramond, the uncle of the subject of this notice.

Dr. Horatius Bonar, born on the 19th December 1808, was the son of James Bonar, Solicitor of Excise, who died in 1821, leaving behind him a high literary reputation, especially in the department of classical scholarship. The family belonged to the congregation of Lady Glenorchy’s Church, where so many devoted Christian families worshipped under the ministry of Dr. Jones. Like many eminent men, Dr. Bonar owed much to his mother, by whom he was carefully trained amidst the hallowed influences of a Christian home.

After passing with distinction through the High School and the undergraduate course of Edinburgh University, he resolved to devote himself to the work of the ministry, as did two of his brothers who still hold distinguished positions in the Church — Dr. John Bonar of Greenock, and Dr. Andrew A. Bonar of Glasgow. Another brother, James Bonar, W.S., was greatly esteemed, and rendered valuable service to the Free Church in various departments of her business.

In the Divinity Hall young Horatius Bonar came under the influence of Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh, then in the very height of their intellectual power and spiritual fervour. He was associated with a band of fellow-students who did much to rouse and stimulate each other. In after days he used to recall especially the meetings of the Exegetical Society, in which the critical study of the Bible in the original languages was carried on. There were Robert McCheyne, Andrew A. Bonar, William Laughton, Sir Henry Moncreiff, William Wilson, Walter Wood, Alexander Somerville, and others like-minded. We met each Saturday morning at half-past six, and hard work was done in bringing together the results of the week’s study, with all the help to be got from the critical research of that day in Germany and elsewhere. In these meetings Horatius Bonar took a prominent place, and his fellow-students soon recognized not only his scholarship and spirituality of mind, but the peculiar earnestness and force with which he urged his views.

On leaving the Divinity Hall he was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and acted for a time as assistant in South Leith under Mr. Lewis, afterwards Dr. Lewis of Rome. In November 1837 he was ordained as pastor of the North Church, Kelso, one of those church extension charges originated by Dr. Chalmers. No sooner had he begun his work than it was felt that a new pqwer had come to stir the religious life of the old Border town. The gospel which he preached was the same that others had been preaching; but from his lips it seemed to come with peculiar freshness and urgency. In his style he aimed at extreme simplicity and directness of appeal. But he was a poet, and there came into his discourses sometimes a play of fancy, more frequently a strain of deeper sentiment and feeling, which touched to the quick the emotions of his hearers, and for many minds had a peculiar fascination. But the outstanding feature was his determined earnestness. Men felt that he had entered the pulpit with a resolute purpose — he was there to win their souls for Christ, and for nothing else.

Such preaching had, of course, a twofold effect: it attracted and it repelled. Some did not relish the peculiar form in which religious truth was presented; some could not bear the pressure of his searching appeals; others felt that this was the kind of preaching which above all things they needed. It is the universal testimony of those who are best acquainted with the facts that the early years of his ministry in Kelso were blessed to a degree not often seen on earth. The church became the spiritual birthplace of souls, and in its services many of God’s people found refreshment and strength. In former days God had given to those southern districts Livingston at Ancrum and Boston at Ettrick, and to many it seemed as if once more he had sent a man of no common spiritual power to make his influence felt in these same Border counties.

Very early in his ministry he began to call in the aid of the press by the publication of a series of tracts — the Kelso Tracts, as they were called. They consisted in some cases of extracts from old writers, sometimes they were contributed by friends, especially by his brother, Dr. Andrew Bonar; but the great majority were from his own pen. Often he would issue one of his own sermons cast into the form of a tract. It was another way of doing his Master’s work, sending the gospel message to those whom his voice could not reach, and giving his hearers the opportunity of reading in private what they had listened to from the pulpit. The success which they met with was great; they went far and wide to other churches and to other lands.

But a far more memorable success was the publication of his hymns. That fascinating power of song, which captivates the human heart, was one of his gifts, and, like all else, it had to be consecrated to Christ. The commencement was made in a very humble way. To interest the children of his Sabbath school he wrote in simple verse, giving generally a new hymn at every special children’s service. But as he mused the fire burned, and hymn after hymn appeared, touched unmistakably with the fire of sanctified poetic genius. At first they were printed on leaflets for the children’s use. Then he collected and published in the form of tracts two series of them — twenty-six in all — under the title of Songs for the Wilderness; the first series in November 1843, the second in January 1844. At once it was felt that a singer had arisen in the midst of us, gifted in a high degree with true poetic genius. The language was simple; but as he sang, men felt he was pouring out the deepest feelings of his own heart, and the strain with its wondrous melody went home to the hearts of others. When he first struck his lyre it was only the poor children of his own Sabbath school he was thinking of; but soon the Christian public of all lands were listening to the sweet music, their hearts thrilled and cheered by these songs of Zion. It seems needless to specify such hymns as “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” “I lay my sins on Jesus,” “A few more years shall roll,” and many others which the whole Christian Church knows by heart. They belong to the very highest religious poetry of modern times, and will be loved and sung long after our present controversies have passed into oblivion. But what gave them all their value in his eyes was the pure gospel, the simple message of salvation, which they embodied and conveyed to the souls of his fellow-men. Through these hymns, though dead, Dr. Bonar yet speaketh, and will continue to speak, to the hearts of multitudes in generations yet unborn.

It was during the early years of his ministry in Kelso that the Disruption of 1843 took place. If there were any who supposed that a man so devout and earnest would shrink from the contendings which rent the Church, there could not be a greater mistake. He was a Presbyterian, and his Presbyterian training had much to do in making him the man he was: the cause of the Free Church was sacred in his eyes. It involved the crown rights of the Redeemer, and was on his part the subject of much prayer and no less of strenuous effort. The Presbyterian Review, of which he was editor, had in its pages a series of articles marking every stage of the conflict, and written with singular ability in defence of Free Church principles. When the crisis approached, he did more than this: he joined with other friends in taking the bold step of starting a newspaper in Kelso — the Border Watch — devoted to the defence of the cause. He and his friend the Rev. Walter Wood, then of Westruther, wrote for a time most of the leading articles; and so ably was the enterprise conducted that the paper not only made itself felt in the district, but it was recognized as taking a high place in the provincial press of Scotland. On the 18th of May 1843, he and the writer of this notice met on the floor of St. Andrew’s Church, when the Church of Scotland was rent asunder, and it was with no faltering step that we walked side by side in the long procession which went forth to meet at Canonmills as the Church of Scotland Free. The sacrifice we felt was what duty to Christ demanded.

Meantime during those years revivals of religion had been going on at Kilsyth, Dundee, and elsewhere in Scotland. Along with many of his friends, Horatius Bonar was zealous in defending the work with his pen, and directly labouring in the cause. When the Disruption came it opened up the parishes of “Moderate” ministers round Kelso, and with heart and soul he threw himself into evangelistic work all over the district. There was much encouragement, and not a few souls, it is believed, were added to the Church of such as shall be saved.

Thus the time of his ministry at Kelso passed away. Referring to those days, one of his elders writes: “We esteemed and loved him more than I can tell.” When he left that scene of his labours, he carried with him the grateful respect and love of the people in no common degree, and long afterwards Lord Polwarth could testify at his jubilee: “In this [Border] district his character is revered, his person beloved, and his words cherished.”

His acceptance of a call to Edinburgh in 1866 was a happy step, placing him in the midst of a large population, where those who felt the special attractions of his ministry naturally gathered round him. From the first his pulpit and pastoral work were markedly successful. The congregation, which at his coming was but a handful, soon became large and influential. A handsome new church — the “Chalmers Memorial Church” — was built, a mission district was selected, and all congregational arrangements were vigorously worked.

But in nothing was he more successful than in his sermons to the young, to which the children in large numbers from many quarters of Edinburgh came month by month. Never was he seen to more advantage than when his church was crowded with these youthful hearers, and he was telling the story of Jesus and his love.

There was another department in which, as a minister of Edinburgh, he stood almost alone — preaching in the open air. Often in the evening, at the Meadows or Parliament Square, he might be seen addressing his audiences; and sometimes on Sabbath, after the other work of the day was over, and when he might well have rested, he was still preaching. He loved his work, and was glad to spend and be spent for Christ.

In the proceedings of Church courts he took little part. There were occasions when principles were at stake which he held to be of vital importance — in the Union controversy, for example, and the Robertson Smith case — on which he felt it his duty to come forward. He spoke boldly and sometimes keenly, but he seems to have felt that the heat of debate was not his element, and he left the management of Church business in other hands. In 1853 he received the degree of D.D. from the University of Aberdeen, and in 1883 he was raised to the Moderator’s chair of the General Assembly, the highest honour the Free Church has to bestow, and very admirably did he sustain the dignity and discharge the duties of the position.

There was one class of meetings which had peculiar attractions for him — those religious conferences in which Christian brethren of different Churches come together for mutual edification. They were held at Barnet, at Perth, and other places; but it was especially at Mildmay that Dr. Bonar attended. There he met in Christian fellowship the evangelical members of the Church of England, who so generally sympathized with the pre-millenarian views of prophecy to which he attached so much importance. From 1871 to 1881 he gave regular attendance, and took a prominent part in the meetings. Mr. Mathieson, the superintendent, tells how warmly he was welcomed and his influence valued as giving weight to the proceedings by his firm stand on the side of orthodox views, as well as by the spiritual tone which, along with others, he gave to the conference.

Along with these demands on his time in the ministry and otherwise, it is wonderful to note the amount of literary work which he did. There were the Kelso Tracts, as we have seen at the outset. Soon they gave way to a series of religious treatises which have made his name a household word in miny homes and in many lands. The following list, kindly furnished by Messrs. J. Nisbet and Co., may be of interest as showing the dates of some of his best-known works, and the degree of acceptance which they met with from the public:—

Title
The Story of Grace
The Night of Weeping
The Morning of Joy
Man: his Religion and his World
The Eternal Day
Hymns of Faith and Hope
God’s Way of Peace
God’s Way of Holiness
Days and Nights in the East
Published
1849
1849
1850
1851
1854
1856
1862
1866
1866
Sold
8,300
59,000
32,000
6,400
8,600
140,000
285,000
42,500
5,689

The issues of the Kelso Tracts, as stated by Messrs. Rutherford the publishers, varied from 10,000 to 40,000. In one case, however, that of No. 5, Believe and Live, the aggregate sale would be nearly 160,000 — a marvellous number at any time, but almost unprecedented at that time (1839), when large circulations were not so common as now, and indeed hardly possible.

There were three magazines of which he was editor — the Presbyterian Review, in Disruption times; the Christian Treasury, from 1857 to 1879; and the Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, from 1848 to 1873. In the last of these, as well as in separate treatises, he wrote powerfully in defence of pre-millenarian views of our Lord’s second coming — views which he embraced early in life, and which gave a colouring to his whole thinking and teaching on religious subjects.

It is impossible to enumerate the minor books which he published, or the works which he edited often with important introductions and notes. Few ministers discharging, as Dr. Bonar did, the duties of a laborious pastorate have ever had such a record of original authorship to show, and fewer still could tell of such a reception on the part of the public. It was the outcome of laborious hours in which he consecrated his high literary gifts to the Master’s service. God had given him the power of speaking to the hearts of men as few could speak, and faithfully he improved the talent.

His doctrinal position was that of uncompromising fidelity to the faith once delivered to the saints. The Bible was for him all through the inspired Word of God. He was a Calvinist, but he gave great prominence to God’s love for a sinful world and to the free offer of the gospel. It was certainly a very free gospel which he preached. One of his tracts made some stir as if it had gone too far in this direction; but he soon showed that this was not so. His hymns set forth his creed — the old gospel of God’s redeeming mercy and saving grace, and to these orthodox evangelical views in all their integrity he adhered with unflinching steadfastness to the end. But his beliefs were no mere matters of opinion; they were living forces, constraining him to ceaseless, long-continued work. At Kelso men saw him in the first fervour of his opening ministry. At Edinburgh he was as fervid still: age had not chilled the ardour of his first love; it only added to the affectionate reverence with which men looked up to him and hung on his lips.

The steadfastness and value of his friendship the present writer has known for the last sixty years, during which no difference on public questions has cast a shadow on the feelings of mutual confidence with which we regarded each other. In private life no one could see him in his home without feeling how happy his presence made it, his tenderness increasing with advancing years, when sorrow came and the wife of his youth was taken from him, and children and grand-children were round him.

It was in the midst of this domestic peace that the last years of life were spent. When laid aside from public work, he was gradually sinking under the infirmities of years, and finding solace and comfort in God’s exceeding great and precious promises. At last, as the end drew near, there was complete prostration, and month after month much weary suffering. How this was borne he has told us as none but himself could have done. Once more there came from the sweet singer his last parting hymn. Not even when prostrate in utter feebleness had his right hand forgot its cunning. Not in all religious literature would it be easy to find anything more deeply touching than these verses with which this imperfect tribute to his memory may fittingly close.

IN ME YE SHALL HAVE PEACE

Long days and nights upon this restless bed
Of daily, nightly weariness and pain;
Yet thou art here, my ever gracious Lord,
Thy well-known voice speaks not to me in vain:
In me ye shall have peace!

The darkness seemeth long, and even the light
No respite brings with it, no soothing rest
For this worn frame; yet in the midst of all
Thy love revives. Father, thy will is best.
In me ye shall have peace!

Sleep cometh not when most I seem to need
Its kindly balm; O Father, be to me
Better than sleep, and let these sleepless hours
Be hours of blessed fellowship with thee.
In me ye thall have peace!

Not always seen the wisdom and the love,
And sometimes hard to be believed, when pain
Wrestles with faith and almost overcomes;
Yet even in conflict thy sure words sustain —
In me ye shall have peace!

Father, the flesh is weak; fain would I rise
Above its weakness into things unseen.
Lift thou me up; give me the open ear
To hear the voice that speaketh from within —
In me ye shall have peace!

Father, the hour is come — the hour when I
Shall with these fading eyes behold thy face,
And drink in all the fulness of thy love;
Till then oh speak to me thy words of grace —
In me ye shall have peace!

Dr. Bonar married in 1843 Jane Catherine, daughter of the Rev. Robert Lundie of Kelso. He is survived by one son, the Rev. Horatius Bonar, a preacher of the Free Church, and by three daughters, one the widow of the Rev. G. Theophilus Dodds of Paris, and two who are unmarried.

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REV. DR. JOHN BONAR

The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, February 1, 1864


It is our melancholy duty to record the death of Dr. John Bonar, Convener of the Colonial and Continental Committee of the Free Church of Scotland. For a considerable period his health had exhibited symptoms of decay, the incessant and unsparing labours of many years appearing to have brought on premature old age. An inflammatory attack prostrated him seriously last spring; and although in summer he rallied for a time, and appeared to be recovering strength and regaining fitness for duty, his friends were never free from uneasiness. Under medical advice he went from home during part of summer, but he returned without any improvement, and ever afterwards he continued in a state of great debility. There was no change in his illness till 18th December, when it was evident that he had become decidedly worse. Death, however, came suddenly at last. On the morning of Sabbath 20th December, when raised up in bed to take some breakfast, his head sunk backwards, there were three long breaths, and his spirit had ascended to his Saviour.

Dr. Bonar was descended of a long line of clerical ancestry, comprising names of renown in their generations, as men of God. His father was minister of Cramond; and in the manse of that parish he was born in 1802. He was ordained to the pastoral charge of the united parishes of Larbert and Dunipace in 1826, and there through many happy and laborious years, he proved himself, in the best sense of the expression, “a good minister of Jesus Christ.” Over a wide district, amongst a large and varied population, containing in it elements of more than ordinary difficulty for ministerial work, he was unwearied in all the activities of daily pastoral oversight; and though settled young and inexperienced in the midst of a parish where there prevailed, not merely spiritual death, but bold and rampant forms of ungodliness, yet by the tenderness and fidelity of his care, he succeeded both in visibly repressing much evil, and in largely awakening religious life amongst all classes. In order to maintain full services in each of the two churches of Larbert and Dunipace, which were fully three miles apart, he felt it needful to engage the services of a probationer, as assistant; and all the young men who successively filled this situation were found on the same side as himself at the Disruption, except the one who had a few weeks before been called home to his reward, and whose name is now familiar throughout Christendom—Robert McCheyne. His preaching, which was, from the beginning, distinctly evangelical, was remarked as increasing in power, fulness, and impressiveness, from year to year; and towards the period of the Disruption and after it, in a season of peculiar religious earnestness, he was one of the most popular preachers throughout the central
portion of the country in which his parish lay; and both by the medium of his pulpit ministrations, and the breadth and consistency of his entire character, his influence throughout his more immediate neighbourhood was becoming pre-eminent, when he was transferred to Aberdeen, and thereafter to Glasgow.

Shortly before his translation to Aberdeen, he had been appointed Convener of the Colonial and Continental Committee of the Free Church, his fitness for this position, and his interest in its object, having been disclosed by a visit which, immediately before, he had, at the Church’s request, made to the Presbyterian Church of Canada. The new duties he discharged with characteristic zeal and devotedness, but in consequence of the increase of labour which the growth of Presbyterianism in the Colonies laid on him as Convener he felt constrained, after being translated to Glasgow, to tender his resignation of the office, as trenching unduly on the the time and energy which he owed to his congregation. The Church resolved rather to relieve him of his pastoral charge, and thenceforward his whole strength and soul were given to the work of this Convenership. There was a division of opinion at the time as to the propriety of this arrangement; but there was no doubt that if the Convenership was to be created into an office thus separate, Dr. Bonar was the man to occupy it. His intensely missionary spirit, his deep sense of the responsibility of the pastoral office, his genuine and ready sympathy with his brethren in all their difficulties, his accurate knowledge of human character, and his skill in devising means whereby to meet the special wants of congregations in all varieties of situation, were constantly called into requisition. His success in administration is manifest in the great progress of the Free Church in all the more important British Colonies, and is to be seen, we might almost say, in all regions where Scotchmen are to be found. The counsels, and encouragements, and cautions, which from time to time he had occasion to address to Colonial ministers and congregations, and the kindly fellowship which he maintained with Christian brethren of various countries and various foreign communions, have been felt by them to be of unspeakable value, and will render their sorrow all the more poignant, when they learn that the busy pen which so often dropt its quiet words of refreshing into their hearts, is now at rest for ever. His Christianity was not ostentatious or obtrusive, but no one could be long in his company without feeling that he was a truly devout man, who lived near God, and wrought as under the Master’s eye. Of singularly genial spirit and wide sympathies, he endeared to himself a great proportion of those with whom, by correspondence or personal intercourse, he came, from year to year, into contact, in the discharge of the duties of his Convenership. By each of that large circle it will be felt that his removal has created a sad blank in the Church on earth. But they and others may well be stimulated by the example which he has left of a self-denying activity, sustained by faith and hope, as well as comforted by the assurance that he has entered into the joy of his Lord, and that his works will follow him.

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REV. JOHN JAMES BONAR, D.D., GREENOCK

(Died July 7, 1891)
Author: Rev. John Fordyce, London, late of Simla
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1891, Obituary, p.309


“A burning and a shining light” has been removed; from the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland by the death of Dr. John James Bonar, in the eighty-ninth year of his age, and in the fifty-sixth of his (ordained) ministry.

He had a godly ancestry, which can be traced for two centuries at least as honourably identified with the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. His great-great-grandfather (son of John Bonar of Wester Kilgraston) was minister of Torphichen; his great-grandfather was minister of Fetlar; his grandfather was minister first of Cockpen, and then of Perth. His father, James Bonar (the second solicitor of excise, Edinburgh), was a highly valued elder in Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel, under the ministry of Dr. Thomas Snell Jones.

Dr. Bonar was born in Edinburgh on the 25th of March 1803, and was educated at the High School and the University of his native city. Among early associates who remained his friends in later years were Principal Cunningham; Dr. Fairbairn, Newhaven; Dr. A. L. B. Foote, Brechin; Mr. Robert Johnstone, W.S.; the Rev. John Brown Patterson, Falkirk; Dr. Thorburn, Leith; and Dr. Wilson, Bombay. Of these the only survivor is the venerable Dr. Thorburn.

In 1827 Mr. Bonar received license from the Presbytery of Edinburgh; in 1829 he became assistant to Dr. Brewster of Scoonie, or Leven; in 1834 he became assistant to Dr. Scott of the Middle Parish, Greenock. Dr. Scott and many of the congregation desired to have Mr. Bonar appointed as colleague. Another, however, was chosen, and Mr. Bonar’s friends proceeded, with the hearty approval of the Presbytery, to organize a new and much-needed parish, of which he was ordained minister in 1835, and of which the church, St. Andrew’s, was opened in 1836.

At the Disruption Mr. Bonar, all of the session except two, and a very large portion of the members, joined the Free Church. By means of a pecuniary claim to the fabric on the part of the trustees of Mr. Watt, one of the original elders, it was secured to the congregation. In 1871 very complete premises were built in the congregational mission district, at a cost of about £2,000. Meanwhile the town had been extending to the south and west, and a proposal to move westward had been made more than once. In 1879 an offer to purchase the church was accepted; and, in May 1881, the present edifice, costing about £11,000, was opened by Mr. Bonar and his brothers—Mr. Bonar’s subject being “Christ as Prophet;” Dr. Horatius’s, “Christ as Priest;” and Dr. Andrew’s, “Christ as King.”

In 1883 his own University conferred on Mr. Bonar the degree of Doctor in Divinity, a degree well-merited by his sound and refined, if unobtrusive, scholarship. In 1885 the jubilee of minister and congregation alike was celebrated with much enthusiasm. Dr. Bonar was presented with his portrait, painted by George Reid, F.R.S.A.; and remarkable testimonies were borne to his eminent usefulness as a minister and as a public-spirited citizen. In 1888 the Rev. E.D. Fingland, M.A., was chosen colleague and successor to the venerable doctor, who had been fifty-three years sole pastor of St. Andrew’s congregation.

On the 12th of February 1888 Dr. Bonar spoke to his own people for the last time, as it proved to be, preaching from the words: “I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness.” For two or three months thereafter he was laid aside by sharp illness; but he rallied wonderfully, regaining health and spirits. During a visit, however, which I paid to him last year it was affecting to observe the infirmities of age telling on his lithe and manly form, and predicting his translation. But his mind was unclouded, and his temper bright and even more kindly than in other years. There was a fine continuity in his faith, hope, and love; but they found expression in gentler tones than in those days when his trumpet, clear and shrill, gave forth its very certain sounds.

So late as the last day of April 1891, Dr. Bonar was able to assist the Rev. John Barclay at a marriage in the West Parish Church, Greenock. This was his last public service. His final illness was short and painless. As consciousness was failing, his family heard him giving expression to his faith in the words,—”Just as I am, without one plea.” And when his appointed time came, on the evening of the 7th July, without the slightest struggle or a single sigh, he fell asleep in Jesus, and his bright spirit passed away from Greenock, which he had loved so well, and in which he had laboured so long and faithfully.

“Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep,
`From which none ever wakes to weep! ”

Dr. Bonar was married in 1838 to the youngest daughter of the late James Watt, Esq. of Ranfurly. His wife died in 1875; three sons survive.

Dr. Bonar was contented to let it be felt that he spoke and acted from a spirit divinely quickened, and he was jealously reticent regarding himself. It is known, however, that his father’s example, his mother’s influence, and the teaching of Dr. Robert Gordon and Dr. Andrew Thomson, were greatly instrumental in awakening and guiding his early spiritual life.

When little more than sixteen years of age he announced to his father his intention of studying for the ministry, and of that ministry he made full proof. He was equally endowed with his better-known brothers, Horatius and Andrew; but his gifts were different, and were almost absorbed by Greenock; and the Churches have suffered by this. Many of his discourses would bear comparison with those of the late Dr. John Ker, or of Dr. McLaren. They were rich in truth. Their style was attractive and forceful; it was always clear, often sparkling, sometimes brilliant. Though his verses were few, he was a real poet, and there were often gleams of thought in his sermons that might have been themes for harmonious numbers. He was an accurate thinker; but his logic was on fire, and a vivid imagination drew attention from the steps of his reasoning. In manner he discarded the dry, the stiff, and the formal; he was rapid, manly, intrepid. All his powers were directed to awaken consciences and win souls to Christ; but it was in addressing believers that he specially excelled, while he gave utterance to the truths that cheer, stimulate, and strengthen the people of Christ. With him a personal Christ had the central place—a personal Christ in his dying love, his living presence, his return in glory.
All through his long ministry Dr. Bonar took a deep interest in the young. His first text was, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom;” and his life was in harmony with this keynote. Many at home and abroad look back to his affectionate and invigorating influence in the Sunday school, and especially in the Bible-class, as the means of their mental and spiritual awakening.

Dr. Bonar delighted, above all things, in his work as a pastor. He was unwearied in visitation. He cheered his friends by his genial wit and playful humour; but always made it evident that he came as a messenger of Christ. His sympathy with those in sorrow was so deep and tender that it required his strong will to control his emotions. His liberality was wide in its range, steady, and generous.

This is not the place to narrate any details of Dr. Bonar’s ministry, but in three things his interest was so great as to demand notice, and they may serve as specimens. He ever regarded the work in the congregational mission district as his own, and toiled for it gladly and unceasingly. Since 1848 he was Secretary of the Greenock Bible Society, and threw himself into its affairs with uncommon zeal, carefully preparing his annual report, and making it an interesting, not seldom a pungent, resumé of Biblical and Christian progress throughout the year. He listened eagerly to every story of the Holy Spirit’s power; he collected a little library of “Records of Revival” in different lands and ages; and visited Ireland (in 1859) and other places, that he might witness for himself the wonders of Divine grace.

Now, interred in the beautiful cemetery which overlooks the town, the aged servant of Christ at last sleeps till the day when ”the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

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REV. PATRICK BORROWMAN, GLENCAIRN

(Died November 22, 1899)
Author: Wm. Barber of Tererran, Moniaive
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January, 1900, Obituary, p.18


Another of the heroes of ’43 has been called home. On Wednesday, November 22, the Rev. Patrick Borrowman died at Aberdour, Fifeshire, in his eighty-seventh year. His strength during the past months had been failing, and his friends realized that the thread of life, now long drawn out, could bear the. strain but little longer, and the end of a long and at times stormy life came in peace and quiet.

Mr. Borrowman, who belonged to a Peeblesshire family, was presented by the Duke of Buccleuch to the parish of Glencairn in 1837, and the presentation was endorsed by a unanimous call from the congregation. At the time of his death he stood third on the roll of Disruption fathers, and only five now remain. As Mr. Borrowman preferred to spend all his working days where he was ordained to the ministry, he did not become so widely known as many of his contemporaries; but there were few who did more good and earnest work in the cause of the Free Church in its early days, and by his death a notable blank has been caused in the sadly diminished ranks of the survivors of ’43.

It is difficult for the present generation to realize the work which had to be done and was done by men of Mr. Borrowman’s stamp in the first days of the Free Church. When he was settled in Glencairn, the Ten Years’ Conflict was being waged, and his sympathies being warmly Evangelical, he threw himself into the battle, with the result that when the time for action came he was followed by almost the entire membership of his congregation. And not only was the organization of church matters in Glencairn left to him, but Virginhall (Penpont), Closeburn, Balmaclellan, and Dalmellington owed much to his energy and untiring activity. He was one of the most assiduous helpers of the late Rev. Thomas Hastings and his congregation at Wanlockhead, who were compelled, by the refusal of a site, to worship for years in the open air. Often he preached to that steadfast people when both he and his hearers were drenched by the rain, and on one winter Sabbath he conducted the service standing on an old stone wall, while the congregation sat or stood around among the snow.

Although repeatedly asked to leave Glencairn for a larger sphere, Mr. Borrowman always refused. He had an attached people, whom he loved, and to whom he devoted all his strength. After the Disruption a large and commodious church was speedily built, and for forty-three years he continued his ministrations in the parish, having the help of an assistant only during a comparatively short time before his retirement from active work. In 1886, in the forty-ninth year of his ministry, Mr. Borrowman applied for and obtained a colleague and successor; and he then removed to Aberdour, where he has since resided, receiving as a parting gift from his congregation a purse with over two hundred sovereigns. Mr. Telfer, who was called to Glasgow, Mr. Fyffe, now of Fairfield, Liverpool, and Mr. R. G. Philip, have in succession carried on the work of the church in Glencairn so well begun by the venerable father now gone to his rest.

In addition to the erection of a church and manse, the Glencairn congregation also built a day school, and maintained it till after the passing of the Education Act in 1872. It is of interest to note that Dhanjibhai Naoroji, one of our early Parsee converts, when he came to this country to prepare himself for the work of a minister among his own people, resided for a considerable time with Mr. Borrowman, and pursued his early English studies under the direction of Mr. Bell, the teacher of the Free Church School.

Although, since his retiral, Mr. Borrowman has taken no active part in church life, he continued to watch with interest, if not always with approval, the course of events in the ecclesiastical world. He let it be known to his old presbytery that he had no sympathy with the proposal to unite the Free and United Presbyterian Churches; and in controversies which have now become matters of history, such as those as to permitting hymns and instrumental music in public worship, he was consistently on the side of the opposition: even paraphrases were not used by him in the service. But although a keen controversialist, who spoke strongly as he felt strongly, Mr. Borrowman never forgot that he was a gentleman, and as such he treated his opponents.

Even after thirteen years’ absence from his parish, his name is held as a household word, and the news of his death brought tears to the eyes of not a few, who felt that by his passing away another link with the past had been snapped. Always conscientious and devoted to duty, he worked faithfully during his long day, and now, at the close of a prolonged evening, he, by the will of God, has fallen asleep.

Mr. Borrowman is survived by a son, Dr. Borrowman of Elie, and four daughters, who watched and tended him in his declining years with the greatest care and affection. Mr. Adam Rolland, J.P., one of our well-known elders, was a son-in-law, and lived with Mr. Borrowman at Aberdour.

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REV. JAMES BOWIE, DUNSCORE

(Died February 28, 1887)
Author: Rev. R. McKenna, Dumfries3
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June, 1887, Biographical Notice, p.180


Mr. Bowie on leaving the university became a probationer of the Free Church, and was for a period engaged in mission work in Glasgow, in connection with Free St. George’s, of which his friend, the Rev. James Freer, whose death occurred so recently, was afterwards pastor. From Glasgow he proceeded to Canada. It was in the colony and by the Presbyterian Church of Canada that he was ordained. His first charge was at Guelph, in the province of Ontario, where he ministered in spiritual things for nearly twenty years; his second charge, and his last, was at Craig of Dunscore. He had early conceived a warm-hearted interest in the Reformed Presbyterian Church; her devotion to the doctrine of Christ’s headship had won his admiration; he was a diligent reader of her magazine; and it was in that periodical that he first learned of the preaching station in the parish of Dunscore and of the vacancy there. He was then in the prospect of retiring from his charge in Canada and returning home; and it is a curious instance of presentiment of future lot, that then and there the thought occurred to him that he should like to live out the rest of his days doing the Lord’s work quietly in that secluded corner of his vineyard as a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

On leaving Canada, Mr. Bowie travelled long and travelled far, visiting New Zealand, Australia, India, and several of the countries of continental Europe. In the month of May, 1874, he attended a meeting of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Edinburgh, and was cordially received. Shortly thereafter, he was inducted to the charge at Craig of Dunscore, the first ordained minister who had been placed there; and his prevision was thus happily verified. Mr Bowie was, of course, a zealous friend of the Union movement; and when the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Free Church became one, he found himself a minister of both—of the Church in which he had begun his evangelical labours as a probationer, no less than of the Church whose historical records had exercised a powerful fascination over his riper judgment

Mr. Bowie’s strength had been lessening with advancing years: an organic affection of the heart, which seems to have been the immediate cause of his death, must also have been secretly sapping the foundations of his life for some time previously; but he continued to discharge the functions of his sacred office with unfailing regularity and constancy, and the final summons, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” might almost be said, with literal exactness, to have reached him on the pulpit steps. It was in the vestry of his church on Sabbath morning, when preparing to conduct the services of the day, that he was seized with the paroxysm that closed his career of unostentatious usefulness. By his decease his congregation have lost a devoted minister, to whom they were sincerely attached; his Presbytery, a member in whom there was no guile, whose simplicity of character and goodness of heart had won for him a cosy corner in the affections of all his brethren.

Mr. Bowie was a true friend, a diligent pastor, a faithful preacher, whose discourses were marked by thoughtfulness and evangelical fervour. He interested himself actively in the temperance reformation, and strove in his own modest but steady way to help forward other movements which have for their aim the moral and material improvement of the people. The knowledge that he is now with the Lord, “which is far better,” must be his wife’s chief solace in the dark season of her widowhood.

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REV. JOHN BRAIDWOOD

(Died April 50, 1875)
Author: Rev. Dr. Murray Mitchell
The Free Church Monthly, June 1, 1875, p.150


Mr. Braidwood studied first at Glasgow and then at Edinburgh. At the latter college he was closely associated with a group of young men who laboured not in vain to spread around them a spirit of deep concern for Foreign Missions. Among this band of brothers we now recall the prominent names of Dr. James Hamilton, Dr. Thomas Smith, Dr. Alexander Leitch, the Rev. R. Muir of Dalmeny, and the Rev. A.J. Campbell of Geelong.

Mr. Braidwood’s heart was fixed on work among the heathen from an early period in his theological studies. He was ordained in August 1840, and speedily thereafter proceeded with Mrs. Braidwood to Madras. He was especially the missionary of the theological students of Edinburgh. The marvellous zeal of Mr. John Anderson, associated with the quiet but deep devotedness of Mr. Robert Johnston, had secured a very high position for the Madras Institution; and in conducting its rapidly growing classes Mr. Braidwood took a full share. Along with Mrs. Braidwood, he also did most valuable service in the work of Female Education.

At the time of the Disruption no one was more decided than Mr. Braidwood in his adherence to the principles on which the Free Church was founded. Deep and strict views of duty, and a fixed abhorrence of all that seemed like compromise, were characteristic of Mr. Braidwood through life; and he tried himself by the same standard as he tried others by.

Mr. Braidwood suffered much in India, and several times seemed at death’s door. He returned home in 1852; and, as far as his slowly recruiting health allowed, he diligently pleaded the cause so dear to his heart in many parts both of Scotland and England. Ever thoroughly in earnest, he generally made a deep impression on his hearers, and rendered the Madras Mission and the missions generally very valuable service. He once more ventured to the trying East at the close of 1855; but hard work and climate together soon laid him prostrate, and he finally took up his abode in this country in 1860. From that time up to his last illness he has been instant in season and out of season.

Mr. Braidwood’s pen was not idle. His style was both easy and pointed. His account of the earlier stages of our Madras Mission in his “True Yoke-Fellows” is a valuable, and will probably be an enduring, record of precious work for Christ. A little book on “The Hindu Female,” though very unpretending, is well and carefully drawn up.
Mr. Braidwood’s chief work during the last fourteen or fifteen years has been in stimulating an interest in the Foreign Missions. Latterly he has thrown all his remaining energies into the effort to raise the Mission Building Fund; and much of its success is due to his indefatigable labours. It would have been an exceeding joy to him if the whole sum required for this important object — £50,000 — had been subscribed before he was called away. For years past Mr. Braidwood was an esteemed elder in the New North congregation. His end was emphatically peace. He died without much suffering, calmly resting on Christ.

Mr. Braidwood has left a widow, two unmarried daughters, and a son, a physician in Birkenhead. He died in his sixty-fifth year. So has passed away one of the few remaining pre-Disruption missionaries, than whom there could hardly be a more single-hearted, devoted, and laborious man. Very fragrant, both in India and at home, will long be the memory of John Braidwood.

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DR. JAMES BREWSTER, CRAIG

The Free Church Magazine, April, 1847, p.143


Death is beginning to be formidably frequent in the high places of the Free Church. The first gush of sorrow has scarcely begun to subside, caused by the death of Dr. Brown, of St. John’s, Glasgow, one who always reminded us more of what Scripture leads us to conceive of the Apostle John, than did any other living man within the range of our acquaintance. Another blow has been struck by the last enemy; and we are called to mourn the departure of the Rev. Dr. Brewster, of Craig. We cannot claim such an intimate and lengthened acquaintance with Dr. Brewster as to entitle or enable us to give any thing like an adequate view of his character; — that, we trust, will ere long be done better and more fully by one well qualified for the duty; but we cannot resist the desire to attempt an outline of that character, so far as our own knowledge and observation warrant the attempt.

Dr. Brewster was one of those modest and retiring men, who seem studiously to shun that public esteem and applause which their pre-eminent merits could not otherwise fail to command. Yet this excess of retiring modesty was in no degree assumed, — it was the unaffected humility of a singularly gentle, lowly, and benevolent nature. His whole air and manner wore the mild and placid aspect of one who dwelt habitually beside the quiet waters of the vale of humility. But he could not wholly avoid the reputation which he never sought; for it was impossible to become acquainted with him, and enjoy his conversation, without feeling that he possessed mental abilities of a high order, ripened by a very ample, continuous, and successful cultivation; while his heart was a clear, deep fountain of pure and holy love. Through all this there shone the mild and gracious light of a soul accustomed to hold sacred fellowship with the Lord, which his innate modesty of character could not entirely veil.

He might easily have earned distinction as an author, had that been his desire; for his acquirements, both in theology and in general literature, were extensive and accurate, pervaded by the maturity and gracefulness of a sound judgment and a refined taste. The extent, indeed, of his literary labours is not generally known, as by far the greater part of them were anonymous contributions to literary and religious periodicals, such as the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia and the Christian Instructor. It was with great difficulty that he was induced to publish anything to which his own name as author must be given; though many of our readers must be well acquainted with his Lectures, on the Sermon on the Mount, and a volume of Sermons published in 1833; in both of which volumes the qualities of the man and the minister may be distinctly traced, by the gentle and serene piety, the refined taste, and the sound judgment which form their characteristics. But he was wholly devoid of literary ambition; and it was only when Dr. Keith was injuriously assailed by the Quarterly Review, that he was induced to put forth, in vindication of his friend, a proof of his learning and intellectual power, which he would not have displayed in defence of himself.

The ministry of Dr. Brewster was distinguished by several exceedingly interesting characteristics. In its earlier period his preaching was pervaded throughout by an unobtrusively beautiful blending of sacred feeling and finely polished taste. As he advanced in life, he laid aside somewhat of the almost fastidious elegance of composition in which he had previously excelled, and adopted greater plainness and simplicity of style. And when he became the pastor of a parish, in which a considerable proportion of the people were of the humbler classes of society, and unable to appreciate, or rather unable to profit by, polished language, he at once set about adapting himself to the wants and capacities of his people. Nor did he lose the reward of what must have been an act of self-denial. It has been thought a peculiarly difficult task to gain access to the hearts and minds of our fishing population. In this task Dr. Brewster most completely succeeded. He gained their confidence, their affection, their veneration, and their deep and sacred love, by his winning kindliness, his gentle yet faithful earnestness, and his unwearied attention to their temporal and spiritual welfare. And ere his ministry among them closed, he had the happiness to see its fruits appearing, in a large and blessed increase of quickened and renewed souls, especially of late years, and among the lambs of his flock. This we had ourselves the opportunity of knowing and observing, and we shall not soon forget it, or lose the impression which it produced. It was, indeed, a most lovely sight, to see with what deep affection the youth of his congregation gathered round their venerable pastor, and fixed upon him their soft earnest eyes, smiling through tears, beaming with strong and sacred emotions. But on that ground we may not further tread. Nor can we venture to attempt a delineation of the husband and father in his family, — the deep and blissful peace of that calm and holy home.

One point only do we think it right further to mention. Misjudging minds and misrepresenting tongues attempted to spread a report that Dr. Brewster regretted having left the Establishment. That calumny will be best answered in his own calm and solemn words. About a year ago, he was brought to the very brink of the grave by an illness which his medical attendants, his family, and himself, all expected to prove fatal. Contrary to all anticipation, he recovered; and soon after his recovery he printed for distribution among his people a little tract containing a singularly interesting account of his thoughts and feelings in the near prospect of death. From it we quote the following sentences, in reference to such rumours respecting himself and other Free Church ministers, as those to which we have alluded:— “We know what has been said as to our repentings; but I am here bound to testify,and am bold to testify, that of such repentings I had no experience. On the contrary, it was one of my chief rejoicings that we had taken such a step — that we had begun such a work — that we had stood forth in such a cause. This I may be said to give as my dying testimony, as my sentiment on a death-bed; for I cannot well be nearer death than I was supposed to be, and at least thought myself to be. In that solemn prospect, it was one of my greatest consolations that I was dying as a poor minister of the Free Church of Scotland.”

It is a sad and solemn thought, that another of our loved and venerated fathers has been called away – away from us, indeed, but only to the home prepared for him by his great God and Saviour. What is loss to us, is gain to him — gain unspeakable and full of glory. Faith and hope, softening our sighs and brightening our submissive tears, encourage and enable us to say, “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. Thy will be done.”

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REV. JAMES BRODIE, A.M., MONIMAIL

(Died February 2, 1878)
Author: Rev. J. W. Taylor, Flisk and Criech
Source: The Free Church Monthly, August 1, 1878, Biographical Notices, p.187


The Rev. James Brodie died at Monimail, in the seventy-eighth year of his age and the fiftieth of his ministry. It pleased God to give to his aged servant a privileged death-bed. Only six weeks before, he had been able to take part in the services of the communion Sabbath. During his illness he was spared suffering. His faith was settled and assured; and his mind was peaceful, thankful, and full of cheerful hope. God’s promise was largely fulfilled to him—”With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”

Mr. Brodie was born at the fine farm of Castleton, near Fettercairn, which his father farmed. He studied in Aberdeen. He was licensed as a preacher by the Presbytery of Ellon in 1821. He acted as tutor in the family of Mrs. Gordon of Esselmont. It was here that he began the study of botany, which was a life-long pursuit and pleasure to him. The spring flowers—such as the beautiful Carpathian snow-flake—were his especial delight; and even on his death-bed the vision of the flowers regaled his spirit.

While a preacher, Mr. Brodie was in a great measure relieved from the anxieties which oppressed the preachers of his day, for he had the promise of a presentation to the parish of Deer as soon as a vacancy occurred. Meanwhile, however, his grandfather, Dr. Samuel Martin of Monimail, required an assistant; and to his help Mr. Brodie repaired. On 16th January 1829 he was ordained colleague and successor; and the double Monimail pastorate of grandfather and grandson extended over the goodly period of one hundred years.

By birth and by marriage Mr. Brodie was connected with a wide clerical circle. Dr. John Martin of Kirkcaldy was his father-in-law; Samuel Martin of Bathgate and Edward Irving were his brothers-in-law; Dr. Samuel Millar and the Rev. Norman Walker were his cousins; and into other extending ministerial ramifications did the relationship spread.

Mr. Brodie’s tastes and studies were very varied. Philology, geology, botany, natural philosophy, and prophecy, in turns engaged his thoughts. Mechanical invention had also a great charm to him. He planned a life-boat; patented one or two contrivances; and received a silver medal from the Scottish Society of Arts for an “Inquiry into the Principles on which the Action of Sails and Rudders Depends.” On these favourite subjects he published several books. One of these was his reply to Sir Charles Lyell on the Antiquity of Man. The reply is calm and able, and even to an unscientific reader commends itself as abundantly conclusive. But probably the most interesting, and likely to be the longest-lived, of all his publications, is the unpretending Memoir of Annie MacDonald Christie, a self-taught cottager—chiefly in her own words.

Mr. Brodie had his own way of looking at things; and this often threw him out of step with his brethren and his Church. He was opposed to union with the United Presbyterian Church; and yet no man enjoyed more heartily than he did brotherly and ministerial intercourse with United Presbyterian brethren. His pertinacity of purpose was something heroic. When he made up his mind to a particular view, he stuck to it most perseveringly; and in General Assembly or in British Association he would hold on expounding it to the end in his own firm, formal way, even amid the confusion of emptying benches.

In practical goodness Mr. Brodie was never deficient; and there are some who can tell how prompt, generous, and persevering he was in the kindness he showed.

But the most gladsome thing to recall was his growing earnestness in the work of the ministry, “as older still he grew with lengthening time.” In the years of revival, about 1860, none was more assiduous than he was in cottage meetings; none was more earnest than he in pleading for spiritual blessings on his congregation and on the district. Any evangelist he thought would benefit his people he secured at the cost both of trouble and expense. His zeal increased so much the more as he saw the day approaching.

Pathetic utterances of experience often fall from the lips of the aged. Mr. Brodie was wont to speak of things in general becoming “wersh ” (tasteless) as life advanced: “desire failed.” Walking in his garden with a friend shortly before he was laid down in his last illness, the friend asked him if he had not had much happiness during his lengthened life. His reply was, that all the happiness he had ever experienced was much diminished by the anxiety which always attended it.

A great and oft-recurring comfort to his mind was to have seen a colleague and successor harmoniously appointed in the Rev. W.D. Beattie; and amid his little legacies, has left two houses as a memorial of his interest in the stability and welfare of his congregation.

And now he disappears—one of the last representatives of the Scottish minister of the olden type. His style of mind and of manner, and the modes of his ministry, reflected this. And it was seen even in the particulars of his dress.

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Rev. JAMES BRODIE, ORMISTON

(Died February 21, 1887)
Source: The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August 1, 1887


To those who have never realized the power with which genius, or, to use a more easily understood phrase, a resolute will, overcomes difficulties that seem insurmountable, it will appear extraordinary how a man, blind almost from birth, could have faced the long preliminary career necessary before license in the Presbyterian Churches. Even when he had made up his mind to the attempt, it will appear equally strange how he could have mastered the literature, philosophy, and science indispensable to the attainment of the end he had in view. A youth who had advanced to the beginning of his college course before losing his sight might have persevered; but Mr. Brodie’s case was, to the common apprehension, hopeless from the first.

He was born in Dunkeld, and lost his sight when three months old by an attack of inflammation. However, loss of sight did not imply loss of resolution or indifference to learning. Others had triumphed over the same difficulties. Didymus, the blind head of the great school of Alexandria, flourished in the days of Jerome, who, great and learned though he was, owned himself inferior to that blind successor of Origen. He taught himself reading, writing, geometry, science, and philosophy; but his methods were lost nearly fifteen hundred years ago. Mr. Brodie had to follow in the footsteps of this theologian, and, like him, resolved not to let want of sight come between him and the pursuit of sacred learning. His education was at first conducted privately. He then attended the Perth Academy; but, as might be expected, private efforts by himself and his friends were of more avail than all he could pick up while a class of sighted pupils were engaged on their lessons. At the same time, an intelligent blind pupil will gather knowledge and wisdom from a thoroughly able teacher, which sighted pupils might let slip unimproved. Like other boys also, he took an interest in the struggles of the day. Among these the Non-intrusion controversy was not the least important. Attracted to a meeting on that subject in Dunkeld, he heard addresses from a deputation which was visiting the town. They touched the heart of the blind boy. He would be a minister, and he would labour on the popular side. But to work out his purpose involved difficulties more serious than the acquisition of literary and scientific knowledge. He did not shrink. When the time came, he cast in his lot with the Free Church, though at much personal disadvantage to himself.

At Edinburgh University the prizes which he gained proved both his ability as a student and the indomitable energy with which he applied himself to study. In the college classes, more perhaps than at school, the work done was his own. With the help of an assistant he set up and printed in embossed type text-books used by the professors —Greek and Latin classics, Euclid with diagrams, etc. A copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel printed in Braille type for the blind occupies as much space as a good- sized family Bible; if Dr. Moon’s type be used, about half as much more space is required. Imagine, then, the love of learning implied in Mr. Brodie’s labours as a printer for his own purposes at college and the Divinity Hall. The auri sacra fama of the poet never prompted the greediest seeker after gold to greater efforts.

Like many other blind people, Mr. Brodie’s power of memory and love of music were unusually strong. After hearing “scores” played over once or twice on the piano, even as a child he could repeat them without mistake. Music, both vocal and instrumental, seemed to be a gift given to him to soothe the activity of a spirit rendered restless by the want of its most enjoyable means of communicating with the outer world. Born and brought up in the country of Neil Gow, he was fond of Highland music, and few amateurs could handle the bow more deftly or bring out sweeter notes. It was the same with memory, on which sighted people place little reliance in these days of printing. But Mr. Brodie knew its value. He could repeat by heart most of the Old and New Testaments, a feat which should be borne in mind in weighing the value of the theory that imagines a book of the Bible to have been palmed off on a credulous priesthood as having been lost in one generation and found in the next. If ministers in our day can repeat nearly a whole Bible, it is probable enough that priests two millenniums ago would get up by heart a book or two relating to their own special duties.

After labouring for some time at Gorgie, near Edinburgh, and at Ormiston, then a mission station, Mr. Brodie was ordained as first minister in the latter place on August 5, 1875. For twelve years he discharged with great zeal and much acceptance his duties as a pastor, following his Master in seeking to open the eyes of the blind, and to give light to them that sit in darkness. For about a month before his death he was laid aside from duty. No danger was apprehended; but the time of his change had come. On the 21st of February he was suddenly seized with an attack of brain disease. Human help was of no avail, and he died at six o’clock that evening.

When preaching in Ormiston Free Church on the Sunday following his death, the Rev. Mr. McAlpine, Anstruther, said of Mr. Brodie that nothing was more apparent in his character than gentleness and meekness. His peaceful and unselfish life was one well fitted to be followed. Great was his devotion to duty; and no man had a higher sense of the importance of his calling. Notwithstanding his blindness, he had overcome all difficulties by indomitable perseverance and industry, and had cultivated his memory so diligently as to put entirely to shame more highly favoured men.

Mr. Brodie had a wide circle of attached friends, who mourn his decease at a comparatively early age. He has left a widow and one daughter.

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REV. NEIL BRODIE, POLLOKSHAWS

(Died March 10, 1892)
Author: Duncan McLaren
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1892, Obituary, p.276


Mr. Brodie was, at the time of his decease, in his eightieth year. He was one of the diminishing band of Disruption heroes still left to us, whose self-sacrifice and heroic devotion we scarcely now realize.

Previous to the Disruption he was minister in Kilmarnock, and in May 1843 founded St. Andrew’s Free Church there.

Shortly thereafter he was translated to Shandon, where he was instrumental in founding the Garelochhead church. In 1862 he was called to Pollokshaws, after entering upon which charge he threw himself with zeal and vigour into the work of upbuilding the congregation and improving the church, and with the assistance of devoted office-bearers— principal of whom, in zeal and experience, being Major Scobie and Mr. John Shearer—he succeeded in getting a gallery, heating apparatus, retaining wall, and various improvements effected on the church, the benefits of which the congregation now freely enjoys. He and the office-bearers just named were most careful that all the expenses should be met at the time, though the congregation was poor and church bazaars then unknown. By contributing liberally from his own pocket, and with the assistance of personal friends, he succeeded in accomplishing this object.

In all the charges which Mr. Brodie occupied ample testimony is borne to his assiduity and zeal. Unsparing of himself, he constantly placed himself at the service of his congregations, and especially those members in the humbler walks of life, to whom he was “guide, counsellor, and friend.” A man of wide culture, he ever strove to make the treasures of his well-stored mind available to his people, and his most earnest effort was to keep abreast of the most recent developments in literature, science, and theology, that he might be enabled to stimulate his people to do their best and noblest, true to their God, their manhood, their destiny. He aimed at thoroughly instructing his congregation in the truths of Holy Writ, that the Bible as a whole might be grasped and its purpose realized. His prayer-meetings were patterns of homiletic teaching, and his illustrations, culled from authentic sources, a most attractive feature; whilst his style, often poetic, was always graphic. His Bible-classes were far in advance of anything thought of in his day. When any of his young men or women left the district for other centres, he was most anxious to have them introduced to suitable people and churches, so that lapsing from ordinances might be prevented. His sympathies were very tender, and many needy and aged people mourn their generous almoner, who, in times of sickness and sorrow, was most assiduous in ministering comfort. The two church-officers— Mr. James Mason and Mr. William Bradford— during his Pollokshaws ministry, both of whom he esteemed highly, and who are now with the “great majority,” bore testimony to the kindliness of his nature—the smallest duties done for him being always recognized and remembered. The last few years of his life were spent in retirement at Craigmore, Bute, where his genial disposition won him many friends, and where, on 10th March, his gentle spirit winged its flight to the realms of day. He was buried at Kilkerran, Campbeltown, the town of his nativity.

He was twice married, and leaves a widow to mourn his loss.

The Rev. William McAlpine succeeds him in the pastorate, and as a young minister of much promise, zeal and enthusiasm, who was most kindly in his intercourse with his aged colleague, we look confidently to the congregation not only maintaining its prestige, but taking a forward place in church work, and social ameliorative effort, so much needed today.

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REV. H. M’BRYDE BROUN, LOCHMABEN

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, December 1, 1866, p.18


This much respected minister died at Annan on the 30th September. A son of the late Sir James Broun, Bart., he selected at an early period the Christian ministry as his profession, and during his preliminary studies he gave promise of usefulness and eminence in the Church of Christ. As soon as he appeared in a pulpit, it was evident that he was destined to hold a distinguished place as a preacher. Wherever he went he found a congregation eagerly listening to his warm and earnest appeals. After labouring for some time as an assistant, he was ordained minister of the quoad sacra church at Brydekirk, in the parish of Annan, and soon proved himself to be a workman that needed not to be ashamed. He speedily gathered round him a numerous and deeply attached congregation, to which he continued to minister till 1843.

At the Disruption he resolutely made his way through many entanglements and obstructions into the ranks of the Free Church of Scotland. Soon afterwards he was called to the wider sphere of Lochmaben, and there both his pulpit and pastoral labours will long be remembered by old and young. He was regarded by all as a model minister, and so long as health was granted, he prosecuted his work with unabated zeal and faithfulness. Indeed, during the religious awakening of the last year of his active ministry, his labours were of a kind and extent which surprised all who witnessed them, and could only be accounted for by the zeal and energy with which he threw himself into the movement, and by the sustaining power of the Master whom he served. During the summer of 1861 he was struck with paralysis when in the pulpit, and though he partially rallied for a season, he never recovered. After lingering for five years in a state of debility and depression, he was at length called to his rest and his reward, leaving behind him a name and memory which will long be fragrant in his native district and wherever he was known.

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REV. ALEXANDER BROWN, RUTHWELL

(Died September 8, 1887)
Author: Rev. David Brunton, Wishaw
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May, 1888, Memorial Sketches, p.147


Mr. Brown was born at Blinkbonny, in the parish of Slamannan, on July 13, 1811. He received his elementary education in his native parish, under the care of the parochial teacher of the day, Mr. Main, father of the late Rev. Dr. Main of Edinburgh.

Having acquired what education his native place could afford him, he began to teach, and at first was minded to devote himself to that profession. But one autumn, while he was spending a few weeks at a farm-house, one day the weather became so wet and stormy that he was shut within doors. An old press stood in the house filled with books of various kinds. He set about making an examination of the books, when one of them arrested his attention,—”The Cottager’s Fireside,” by the Rev. Henry Duncan, D.D., Ruthwell. He read it at a sitting, and when he rose from it, it was with the decision to devote his life to the ministry of the gospel.

As his parents were in humble circumstances, he required to be entirely dependent for his training on his own efforts; but he succeeded so well, that he was able not only to maintain himself at college, but to give help to other members of his family. He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1834, and passed through the usual course of study in Arts and Divinity, his last session being spent in the Free Church Hall. During the whole of his student course, he was engaged in teaching, conducting with much success the McLean School in Thistle Street, Edinburgh, during the greater part of that time.

Licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1844, Mr. Brown became shortly afterwards assistant to Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell. After acting for a short time in that capacity, he was elected to be Dr. Duncan’s colleague and successor, and was ordained on July 1, 1845. Soon he was left in sole charge of the congregation, Dr. Duncan dying in the following year.

Mr. Brown’s theology and preaching were of the good old type. Christ’s death the sacrifice for sins, justification by faith, regeneration by the Spirit, occupied a prominent place in all his preaching. His preaching was very direct; he aimed at sending the message home to the hearts and consciences of his hearers. Those who had the privilege of sitting under his ministrations, can never forget the earnest way in which he sought to warn sinners of the evil of their ways, and besought them to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. At the same time, he was careful to strengthen and build up believers in their most holy faith, and to open up to them in their trials and sorrows the divine sources of comfort. The day alone shall declare the results of any man’s ministry, but Mr. Brown’s ministry was one which had many known and lasting fruits. His congregation shared largely in the revival of 1860-61. This was a matter of great joy to him, being the result of much anxious work and the answer to many prayers.

In 1872 he had an attack of paralysis which laid him aside from his work for six months. From this he recovered wonderfully, though he never again had the same physical strength. This, to his great sorrow, prevented him from visiting among his people to the extent he had been accustomed to do. But his pulpit ministrations were not in the least impaired; rather they improved. Indeed, as the close of his ministry crept on, his sermons, always good, grew better, and it was felt that he preached them with greater earnestness.

At length, in consequence of increasing years and infirmities, it became necessary for him to get help in his work. Accordingly, application was made to the General Assembly of 1885, for a grant from the Aged and Infirm Ministers’ Fund, to aid him in having the services of an unordained assistant, which was granted. But in a year it became necessary to apply for leave to appoint a colleague and successor; and in 1886, the Rev. Andrew Angus was called and settled as colleague and successor. Mr. Brown retired to Edinburgh, where he spent his last days in great physical suffering. He entered into the rest of a faithful servant of the Lord on September 8, 1887, in the 77th year of his age.

He was twice married. His first wife was Margaret Swan of Newport, Fife, by whom he had four children, two sons and two daughters. His second wife was Isabella Duncan, a niece of Dr. Duncan, who also predeceased him.

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REV. ALEXANDER BAIRD BROWN, KILBIRNIE

(Died August 18, 1894)
Author: Rev. H. F. Henderson, M.A., Dundee
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1894, Obituary, p.266


Mr. Brown was born forty-seven years ago in the town of Irvine. He was surrounded with a healthful atmosphere from the first, and from a child knew the Scriptures. At thirteen he entered the old College of Glasgow, where he took his degree of M.A. at the precocious age of seventeen. From Glasgow he went to Edinburgh, and studied theology in the New College. After acting as assistant to the late Dr. Fairbairn of Newhaven, he was called to Lerwick in the year 1875. There he remained five years, and on his departure received an illuminated address from the congregation, in token of his worth. He came to Kilbirnie as colleague and successor to Dr. Spence nearly thirteen years ago.

On the death of Dr. Macleish of Dunlop, Mr. Brown was appointed clerk of the Presbytery of Irvine—a position he filled with much acceptance, even when health and strength were fast ebbing away. In his latter years he had a terrible struggle with declining health; and though he wanted for nothing that human aid could render, it was evident to all who knew him that his days were drawing to a close. He passed away at Nethy Bridge on Saturday morning, 18th August, in presence of his devoted wife and three little daughters. He was buried in Kilbirnie on the following Wednesday. Around his grave all ranks and classes gathered— young and old, rich and poor, high and low, masters and servants, Papist and Protestant. It was evident that a good man had fallen in Israel. The whole representative gathering was moved by a common grief, mourned a common calamity, and felt poorer for the loss of so good a friend; and a good friend he was both to his dear flock and to many an outsider who did not own his pastoral care.

In the death of Mr. Brown, without exaggeration, we may say that a man of no ordinary mark has passed away. Brought up at a harbour of ships, there was the wideness of the sea about all his moral and intellectual nature. It would be difficult to write the life of our friend. Active and busy all his life, it was yet in the inner realms that the ferment did its work. There was little of the parochial about him, and an amazing absence of the small incidents of life. His record is the history of a soul. As a preacher he was an original character. Of no school or sect, he had a style of oratory all his own. Had it not been for his frail health, he would have been among the foremost figures of the Scottish pulpit. The charm of his enkindling words went with you all the week after; but you sighed as you recollected the cough, the flush, and the laboured breathing of the thin frame. As often as I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Brown I sat entranced. His preaching made preaching appear a truly noble calling. I always went back to my desk encouraged and inspired. He seemed to me an artist with the art of concealing art. Step by step, lightly, brightly, lucidly, the discourse moved on and up till it reached a shining climax. Gifted beyond most men with a flow of rich speech, he poured forth his message from a fountain of reverent and elevated feeling, while his fine imagination suffused and illuminated the whole. As to the matter, that has been rightly enough described as evangelical. He was not evangelical as some men are so styled. Impudent familiarity with divine things his soul loathed and abhorred. Again, the vain repetition of threadbare commonplace Mr. Brown’s soul equally abhorred. Nevertheless, his preaching was grandly evangelical in the true and undegenerate sense of that noble word. He never stood up in the pulpit but he had a fresh piece of heaven’s good news to deliver. Usually he spoke as one who had been on the mount and seen a vision of God. He made his hearers taste and see the joy of God’s salvation. They came home thinking well of God, kindly of their fellow-men, and humbly of themselves. Sometimes he drew such vivid pictures of the Saviour’s person and passion, you felt the mysteries of the faith to be quivering with life, never knew a man to whom idle words were so abhorrent. Not that he disliked light pleasantry and humour; on the contrary, he had a brimming fund of genuine humour. But empty words—the words of the flatterer, the hypocrite, and the Pharisee aroused his deepest scorn. To him the wonders of redeeming love were a sure experience, and no mere tradition received from the fathers. The Lord Jesus, whom he served in the gospel, was a living personality who reveals himself to the humble, and enables one to say of things incomprehensible, I know; and of things invisible, I am persuaded. Therefore men received his testimony, for he spoke that which he knew, and testified to that which he had seen. He loved to preach the gospel, for he had a true gospel to preach. To him Christianity’s chief contribution to the world was that it had supplied the children of men with a strong consolation. His sermons were laden with hope and encouragement and sympathy even to the chief of sinners. He had sat a long time himself in the shadow feared of man and as he drank the cup that the Father gave him to drink, he was taught to comfort others with the comfort wherewith he himself had been comforted of God. The poverty of the human heart and the riches of the divine covenant were well known to him, and many a healing tree he cast into life’s Marahs, turning bitterness into sweet. His was radiant nature. He had much to make it so—a sweet home, a cultivated mind, a heart that glowed with love, troops of warm and admiring friends, many seals of his ministry, above all, sweet thoughts of Christ, the Living Bread. Farewell, beloved friend! thou didst bear thy cross willingly, and it has now borne thee beyond the reach of suffering and of woe, where God shall wipe all tears from every eye.

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REV. CHARLES BROWN, D.D., FREE NEW NORTH CHURCH, EDINBURGH

(Died July 3, 1884)
Author: Rev. R. G. Balfour
Source: The Free Church Monthly, September 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.277


Among the great and good men whom the Free Church has had to lose, Dr. Charles Brown occupied a place peculiarly his own. If his removal has not made so great a blank, or called forth so great lamentations, as that of some others whom we have lately lost, this is to be attributed to the fact that for eight or nine years he has been withdrawn from public notice, and incapacitated by ill-health from taking any part in the public movements of the day. But it is not fitting that he should be allowed to pass away without some brief memorial being put on record of the unique position which he held and the admirable way in which he did his work.

Dr. Brown was born in Aberdeen in 1806. His father was for several years provost of the city; his mother, a woman of deep piety and great force of character. Destined originally for the bar, the decisive spiritual change which he experienced under the ministry of the late Dr. Gordon altered the whole course of his after-life. He resolved to give himself to the service of Christ in the ministry of the gospel. Soon after receiving license from the Presbytery of Aberdeen he was ordained minister of Anderston Church, Glasgow, where he laboured for six years with great acceptance and success. In 1837 he succeeded Dr. Bruce as minister of the New North Church, Edinburgh; and carrying his people with him in full and intelligent sympathy at the Disruption, he continued to be their pastor till his death, which took place on the 3rd of July.

Dr. Brown threw himself with characteristic ardour into all the spiritual movements and religious controversies of his time. While a young minister in Glasgow, he both wrote and lectured in favour of a rightly constituted alliance between Church and State. He visited Kilsyth during the revival there in 1839, heartily sympathized with the work, and did much by tongue and pen both to promote the movement and to prevent its running into extravagance and excess. The principles of non-intrusion and spiritual independence found in him an acute and resolute defender; and at the Convocation in the winter of 1842, he delivered a powerful speech, which helped to make the path of duty clear to not a few. His sermon before the Assembly of the Free Church in 1844, on a day set apart for special exercises of religion, was a singularly impressive one; but it cost him dear, being followed by an illness which laid him aside from duty for nearly two years. When the negotiations for union with other Churches began in 1863, Dr. Brown’s speech, in seconding the motion of Dr. Buchanan, was probably the best he ever delivered, and one that can never be forgotten by those who heard it. His ministry was much appreciated by students, and he took a great interest in them, addressing those in attendance at the Divinity Hall from time to time on such subjects as preaching, pastoral work, and public prayer. One public question that interested him deeply in his later days was the importance of maintaining in its integrity the general principle underlying the marriage law of our country, that affinity is as valid a bar to marriage as consanguinity. He wrote a very able pamphlet on this subject, which was extensively circulated, and has never yet been answered, taking for his text the words of the Confession of Faith, “The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own.” In 1872 Dr. Brown was called by the Church to occupy the chair of Moderator of Assembly. His opening and closing addresses on that occasion were very fresh and interesting. During the course of his ministry he published an admirable little work on the “Divine Glory of Christ,” and a selection of some of his most effective sermons.

The secret of Dr. Brown’s power, that which led men to set so high a value on his advocacy of any cause they had at heart, was not so much his keen logic and the precision of his well-considered words, as his deep spirituality of mind. You felt that, if you could not always trust his judgment on questions of expediency and worldly policy, yet his spiritual instincts were almost certain to be right. You felt that on any moral and religious question it was a presumption that you were not far wrong if you had his sympathy and support. And in his exposition and defence of any subject he raised it at once to that lofty region in which, as a man of singular devoutness, he himself habitually dwelt.

For if there was one thing more than another that impressed those who came into close contact with Dr. Brown, it was his eminently prayerful spirit. He lived in the very presence of God. He turned to him instinctively for guidance and support. Everything in which he was interested was made a matter and occasion of prayer. And while there was deep reverence, there was a childlike simplicity and freedom in his approaches to the throne. Yet his public prayers were remarkably brief. Indeed, he was the first to give the death-blow to the bad habit that once prevailed of occupying from twenty minutes to half an hour in the leading prayer in public worship. It required some courage to condemn so strongly as he did a custom sanctioned by the example of many excellent and able men, and the protest might have been less effectual had it come from one who was less devout.

The same high standard of spirituality which breathed in his prayers characterized his preaching too. It had many valuable qualities besides. The text was submitted to a searching analysis, that not a grain of the golden truth which it contained might be lost sight of. Its doctrinal teaching was clearly and convincingly evolved, and its practical lessons driven home with wonderful force and fervour. There was little poetry in his preaching, but much pathos,—a tender sympathy with the sorrowful, a deep compassion for the lost. But after all, the distinguishing feature of his pulpit ministrations, that which gave them a power that was sometimes awful, was the spirituality and intense earnestness of the man that glowed through the whole service from the opening psalm to the concluding benediction. It reminded one of our Lord’s description of the Baptist: “He was a burning and a shining light.”

Not that he was perfect. He had his faults and foibles; and, being transparent and artless as a child, they were manifest to all. Some of them indeed served only to give greater piquancy to an individuality which was quite unique, while others were all along kept under vigilant control, and were at length completely overmastered.

His reverence for the Scriptures was deep, his love for them intense. He had stored much of them in his memory. He could quote their words with unfailing accuracy, and often made one part throw fresh and unexpected light upon another. Second only to his love for his Bible was the love he bore to his people. He longed to hear of them. He wrote letters of consolation to the bereaved among them as long as he was able. And to the last he kept a list of the members of the congregation by him, that he might forget none of them in prayer.

The words that he caused to be engraven on his family tombstone, “In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began,” was a singularly appropriate motto for his life and ministry. They bring out well the happy combination in his preaching of objective doctrine and subjective experience,—the clear views which he had of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, his unbounded confidence in the faithfulness of God, and his scrupulous anxiety not to overstate his confidence in his own faith and feelings. When saying to one of his elders that he would like these words to be inscribed on his tomb, “In hope of eternal life,” he solemnly added, “I never had more than that.” Perhaps not, when he looked inwards, and questioned himself as to the reality of his faith. But when he was in full health and strength, throwing himself enthusiastically into the work of the Lord, there seemed to be no doubt in his mind, as there could be none in the minds of others, that he was a true soldier of Jesus Christ. Yet there were times when he took a desponding view of his own state, and had to try to get a little comfort, as he once told a brother minister, from the “whosoevers” of the Word of God. During his later years impaired bodily health made this tendency to look on the dark side of things more persistent than before. But despondency never deepened into despair. And it was very touching and interesting to be told that little more than a day before his death he requested that the 130th and 131st Psalms, which had always been his favourites, should be read to him, and then engaged in prayer, commending all his family to God. The discipline of affliction had done its work. The last trace of impatience was now gone. His “soul was even as a weaned child.” “Out of the depths” had he often “cried unto the Lord.” He “waited for the Lord mere than they that watch for the morning.” And now he is where the shadows have for ever fled away.

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REV. PRINCIPAL DAVID BROWN, D.D., LL.D.

(Died July 3, 1897)
Author: Rev. W. M. Clow, B.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1897, Obituary, p.248


Principal Brown was born in Aberdeen on August 3, 1803. He belonged to one of the historic families of the city and shire, and he counted among his ancestry the men who witnessed for the Evangelical faith in the days when a chill Moderatism, like an unwholesome mist, lay heavy on the land. His grandfather was the notable minister of the pioneer Secession Church of Craigdam, whose unction in preaching the love of Christ is an outstanding tradition in the religious annals of the north. From his father, twice Lord Provost of the city and one of its typical citizens, a lover of good books and of good men, he inherited his mental grasp and his instinctive passion for accurate scholarship. To his mother, who was a daughter of an old Aberdeen family, Chalmers of Westburn, he owed a still greater debt. She was a woman of saintly beauty of character and devoutness of spirit, and her custom was to retire for private prayer with her children. One of Dr. Brown’s most sacred recollections was his mother’s rising from her knees, looking upon her two boys, Charles (afterwards the spiritually-minded minister of the New North Church, Edinburgh) and David, and thrilling them with her cry, “O my sons, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” The issue of his mother’s solicitude was seen in the unspotted life and unstained soul with which he passed up to manhood, and in his emergence, after some years of doubt and conflict (as he tells in his Life of Rabbi Duncan), into that unfaltering faith in Christ which was the inspiration of his life.

The external framework of a life which almost spanned the century, whose years were filled with strenuous toil, can be only briefly touched upon here. His scholarly gifts were first recognized when he became dux at the Aberdeen Grammar School eighty years ago. He studied with high distinction at the university of his native city, and then passing through the determining crisis in his spiritual experience, he was licensed in 1826. But his youth, and the system of patronage, and his own craving for a time of reading combined to keep him out of active service. In 1830 he became assistant to Edward Irving, in London, and his young ingenuous heart felt the charm of Irving’s personality and genius, and the spell of his high, unworldly, prophetic spirit. But as Irving yielded to the strange voices without him and the still stranger voices within, his keen-eyed scholarly assistant felt compelled to part company with him, bearing a sorrow of heart that lay on him for years. From London, with its frenzied crowds, he passed to the quiet Banffshire parish of Ord, where he was ordained in 1836. This was the beginning of his strength, and his ministry there was one of his own most cherished memories. The farmers and cottars listened eagerly to this new message, and they were glad to be held, not only in the pews but by the roadside, by one who could tell them out of his own experience what Christ could do for the soul. At the Disruption the earnest evangelist naturally found himself under the leadership of Chalmers; and when St. James’s, Glasgow, needed a minister, he was at once singled out as the man to teach its devout men and women, and to lead them in their self-denying labours among the lost and castaway at their doors. Shortly after he came back to Aberdeen in 1857, the great revival movement of 1859-60 broke out, and its joy ran along the streets of the city. The teacher, the guide, the adviser of the throng of quickened young men and women, when most of the religious teachers stood aloof, was the Professor of Apologetics. He conducted for many years large Bible classes, and many still living keep the imperishable memory of those hours when, by his ripe scholarship, his sure-footed exegesis, and his rich Christian experience, he made their hearts burn within them. And when in 1874 Mr. Moody stirred the city, his foremost helper, then at an age when most men seek rest and enthusiasm easily chills, was the revered teacher whose master passion was love for Christ, whose master energy was “zeal for souls.”

Through all these years, and amid the toil of a city pastorate, the student in him lived and throve. Exegetical studies disclosing his accurate Greek scholarship; doctrinal discussions, in which his uncompromising logic was seen; and Scripture portraits, in which his sympathy and his deep experimental knowledge were displayed, poured from his pen. His first book, published in 1843, Christ’s Second Coming: Will it be Pre-Millennial? gave him a foremost place among expositors. It was followed by The Restoration of the Jews—Literal and Territorial. More generally known is his Life of John Duncan—a man of David Brown’s spiritual kith and kin, and his life-long friend; and perhaps as much prized by those who possess this now scarce book is the companion volume, John Duncan in the Pulpit and at the Communion Table. To Collins’s Portable Commentary he contributed the Exposition on the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistle to the Romans, which have been read wherever the English language has been spoken, and have received their meed of translation. In 1883 he wrote in the series of Handbooks for Bible Classes a short commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in which his studies brought forth their perfect flower. In 1891 he published his last book—although his contributions to current theological literature continued—a wise and suggestive treatise On the Structure of the Apocalypse. But those who would understand his inner life and his deep wells of affection, his ardent faith in Christ, and his gift of terse and lucid style, should read his little book Crushed Hopes Crowned in Death—the memoir of his beloved son Alexander, cut off at the beginning of a brilliant career in the Indian Civil Service. His stores of learning, his disciplined critical acumen, and his aptness to teach, the church recognized when she called him to be Professor of Apologetics in Aberdeen College in 1857, and elected him Principal in 1870. As early as 1852, when scholarship and ability in the Free Church ministry were recognized even more tardily than to-day, the degree of D.D. was conferred on him by Princeton, and in 1872 his own university bestowed the same distinction, according in 1895 the further honour of LL.D. The theological world marked its knowledge of his work and worth when he was chosen to sit on the New Testament Revision Committee with the master minds in Greek scholarship. The King of Servia sent him the decoration of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of St. Sava, in recognition of an abridgment he made of his Commentary on the Gospels for translation into the Servian language. His election to the Moderator’s chair in 1885 he always regarded as the highest honour accorded him—the “crowning mercy”of God.

He lived so long that few of the younger men in the church knew him as he really was. Perhaps, also, the controversy on inspiration, where he was moved by his master passion of loyalty to Christ and the saving truths of His gospel, which he feared were being endangered, obscured to some men his lovable nature, his devoutness, his unswerving honour, and his sweet and kindly temper. All who had the privilege of close fellowship with him were struck by three pre-eminent features of character. One of these was his intense vitality, seen not only in an untiring activity of body, and the unwearying brain and hand, but in the eager aspiration of his spirit. Another feature was his richly-veined humanity. Few who knew him only in his later secluded years were aware of his delight and skill in music, or heard his whole-hearted laughter, or saw him play with children, whom he loved and fascinated. The “sense of tears in mortal things” was deep in him, and he had a rare gift of wise consolation. The third feature was the depth and genuineness and delicacy of his sensibility toward God revealed in Christ. This reaching out of the affections and trust towards the unseen and eternal Lord consecrated his life and transfigured his character. In his mellowing days, when God gave him a long sabbatic calm, the Spirit of God so wrought on his soul that ere he passed away there was left upon him only the beautiful. By the members of the Free South Church he was best known and best loved. He was a member of their fellowship and an elder for forty years, and he crept into the study of their imagination until his face, as he sat in the pulpit in his later years, was an illumining message of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It was a glad remembrance to him that he was not once absent from its communion service during forty years, and his last public words were those of the apostolic benediction on the people ere they left the table. Not more fittingly could he have passed to the chamber of his call.

His funeral was a public one, for when he died Aberdeen felt that its first Christian citizen had been taken away. The Lord Provost and Town Council, the Principal and Professors of the University, the Professors of his own college, the members of the Free Synod and Presbytery of Aberdeen, the office-bearers of the Free South Church, followed by a long procession of the chief men of the city and shire, gave him a stately burial; while the streets were filled with men and women who had long known his agile figure and mobile face, and loved his eager and chivalrous spirit, standing in reverential mourning.

He married Catherine Dyce, a sister of William Dyce, the well-known painter, and leaves a family of one son, Dr. David Dyce Brown, now in London, and three daughters. One of his daughters is Lady Stewart, wife of Sir David Stewart of Banchory; another, Meredith, is widely known for her philanthropic work in the Shaftesbury Institute, London; and the third, Hannah, found a gracious service in being his constant companion and amanuensis, and latterly a still more tender ministry, fulfilled with absorbing consecration, in the gentle offices of love and fellowship gratefully received by a patient and beautiful old age.

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REV. DAVID BROWN, ROSLIN

(Died March 3, 1870)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, August 1, 1870, p.169


The Rev. David Brown, of the Free Church, Roslin, was buried under the shade of an aged ivy-clad tree in the churchyard of that place, where, in 1843, he had preached for six months, and once dispensed the communion, while the Free Church was being built.

The Rev. Dr. Macfarlane of Dalkeith, who preached his funeral sermon on 13th March (from 1 Thess. 4:14), desires that an extract from the concluding portion of it may be inserted here, as a more permanent record of the estimate formed of the character of a beloved brother:—

“To the blessed company of the spirits of just men made perfect, there has recently been added one who laboured among you in word and doctrine for upwards of forty vears. During that lengthened period with what earnestness, assiduity, affection, and zeal he ministered in this place, and among this people, you know. No testimony need be borne here to his personal worth, or to the value of his ministrations. You are the living witnesses of the fidelity and devotedness with which he laboured to win and to build up souls, and you are filled with a new sorrow this day – the first in which you have assembled as a congregation since the grave closed on your beloved pastor — that you shall see his face and hear his voice no more. He deeply loved the people of his care to the end, as appeared from the touching parting letter he sent to you, dictated from his dying bed. So sincere was his love, that I believe it would have brought new joy in his last hour to the warm heart that has now ceased to throb, could he have been assured that his departure would be blessed to you, that his death would become the means of quickening you to newness of life.

“There are certain qualities in Christ’s servants by which they stand pre-eminently distinguished, and which it is befitting to mark when they are with us no more. One of these for which Mr. Brown, your late minister, was remarkable, was his peculiar conscientiousness. This appeared in everything and at all times. Nothing seemed to prevent or discourage him in going steadily and perseveringly forward in the path of duty. Whether in attending the meetings of our Church courts, and performing with minute and careful accuracy the official service he undertook; whether in visiting his congregation, which (besides his visitations of the sick) he did annually every successive year of his lengthened ministry in this place; or in his laborious preparation for the pulpit, which is attested by the quantity of manuscript he has left behind him, he resolved and acted upon the resolution, that up to the amount of the talent and opportunity given him, he would fulfil his course according to the will of God. Whatever self-denial or personal inconvenience might be involved in the discharge of incumbent duty, he was ever at his post, ready to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

“He was not less distinguished for the simplicity of his faith. He took the Bible in the meaning which he considered it obviously to bear, and as it is held forth in the Standards of our Church, as the ascertained and assured ground of his faith and the rule of his life. He submitted himself with a childlike acquiescence to its authority. ‘Thus saith the Lord’ was to him enough to settle any point of doubtful disputation. His mind was not at all of a speculative cast; nor, indeed, did he care even to acquaint himself with the views or surmises of what are called ‘thinkers,’ or the abettors of an advanced criticism, in this age of daring speculation. He feared that the very admission into his thoughts of views or representations foreign to the usual state and habit of his mind might disturb him, and weaken the firm hold he had got of the truth and certainty of those things in which he had been instructed. And the advantage of this he experienced in the end, when no shade of perplexity, either as to the grounds of his belief, or of his own personal interest in the blessings of the great salvation, disturbed the calm and tranquil frame of his spirit.

“Another, and scarcely less marked feature in the character of your late pastor, was the closeness of his walk with God. Brought into, and kept in a state of habitual reconciliation with his Father in heaven, through the peace-speaking blood of the Covenant, he seemed to speak to him as a ‘man speaketh to his friend.’ With this blessed and holy familiarity I was peculiarly struck in the last personal interview I had with my friend and brother. It was when the symptoms of his fatal malady began at first decidedly to appear, and before it was at all certain what the issue might be. ‘I have,’ he said, in language of striking simplicity, but which could only be employed by one living in daily intercourse with the Father of his spirit, ‘I have just been telling God that I feel myself wholly in his hands; if he pleases to continue my life for a season, I am willing to labour a little longer among my dear people; but I have been telling him, too, that if he ordains otherwise, I am ready to go at his call, and that I have an assured hope that he will take me to himself.’

“Such was the character of your beloved pastor while he lived, and you know well that he humbly acknowledged that he was indebted for whatever good thing he had or did to the grace of God.

“No one more ready to own his obligation to redeeming love. So, I have said, he lived, and you have all heard how he died. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. And it was manifestly so in the case of him who has passed away. His thankful and prayerful spirit continued to the end. During the few months of his confinement he displayed a patient, resigned, and cheerful spirit, waiting in faith and hope for the salvation of the Lord. He had, as he often said, taken his stand for eternity upon the finished work of Christ, and knew that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. And he was dealt with gently in his closing days by Him who knoweth our frame, and who remembereth we are dust. The earthly house was dissolved with little pain; the powers of his mind were never clouded or impaired, and at last, it might be literally said of him, that he fell asleep; and now ‘he sleeps in Jesus.'”

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REV. MATTHEW BROWN, EAST LONDON, SOUTH AFRICA

(Died October 16, 1878)
Author: Rev. William Milroy, Penpont
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.43


Mr. Brown was born in Glasgow, in January 1838. His parents, both of whom are still alive to mourn his loss, willingly saw him turn aside from what gave promise of being a successful business career, to prepare for the gospel ministry in connection with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Besides undergoing the usual course of training at Glasgow University, he attended several of the medical classes with a view to increased usefulness as a minister. Entering the Divinity Hall under the late distinguished Dr. William Symington, and his no less distinguished son-in-law, Dr. Goold, he added to his theological curriculum a winter spent in Berlin, during which, among others, he attended the class of the celebrated Hengstenberg. As a probationer, Mr. Brown speedily received two calls—one to Whithorn, and another to Hightae. Accepting the call to Hightae, Mr. Brown was ordained in May 1865. His settlement was a happy one, and, so long as health permitted, he made full proof of his ministry. He was an earnest, simple, practical preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He laboured in season and out of season for the temporal and spiritual welfare not only of his own congregation, but also of the whole people of Hightae and surrounding district. Soon after his ordination, he set about remodelling the church, and by dint of patient persevering effort got it transformed into a neat and comfortable place of worship. When this was done, the next thing was to provide a manse, and mainly through his resolute energy the present excellent manse was built. During the course of his ministry at Hightae, Mr. Brown found time to publish several little books for the young, written so as to interest and instruct the rising generation. For a time at least he was accustomed to preach statedly to the young, and by Bible classes, Bands of Hope, &c, sought to promote their welfare. As a co-presbyter, and from having had considerable intimacy with him, the writer of this notice can attest Mr. Brown’s diligence and devotedness to the work of the ministry, despite his feeble health and frequent severe physical suffering. He was punctual in his attendance on Church courts, and gave to the business careful attention. While holding his own opinions firmly, he extended a consideration to the views and feelings of others who differed from him to a degree by no means so common as is desirable. He was eminently frank and straightforward. There was about him no doubling, no deceit, none of those petty meannesses which sometimes so degrade even good men. He had great reverence for the Word of God, and abhorred all jesting with Scripture and punning allusions, by which men seek to display their wit at the expense of devout feeling. Some years after his ordination, Mr. Brown was married to Miss Johnstone of Lochmaben—a lady who predeceased him by a few months. By Mrs. Brown he had four children, three of whom are still alive to mourn his and their mother’s loss. Finding his health becoming worse instead of better, Mr. Brown made a voyage to New Zealand; but the benefit was not so great as was expected. Accordingly when, about eighteen months ago, he received a call to the Free Church, East London, South Africa, he demitted his charge at Hightae, and went out to East London, in the hope that by a warmer climate his strength might be recruited, and himself thus longer spared to proclaim the gospel he loved so well to preach. But he was not long in East London until he was deprived by death of Mrs. Brown, and no doubt this tended to reduce his already shattered health. Nevertheless he struggled bravely on, and his labours in East London were not without result. The congregation gradually increased, and the cordial sympathy and support he received from many cheered him greatly. A movement was made for the erection of a church, into which he threw himself with his usual zeal.

But he was cut off in the midst of his labours. In his last hours he had the best medical skill, and the loving ministrations of a Christian family; and his friends desire to express their deep sense of gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Weir and to the Rev. Mr. Don for all their kindness before and since Mr. Brown’s death. The large numbers that attended the funeral, and the sorrowful countenances to be seen at every door and window as the procession passed through the streets, showed the esteem in which he was held. His three boys will be sent home to Scotland, under the care of some trustworthy person, first spending three months at Lovedale to avoid arriving in the cold of winter. It seems a mysterious providence that the removal to South Africa should have taken place at all. But doubtless good work was done for the great Master there, of which the fruit shall appear after many days.

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REV. DR. R.J. BROWN, ABERDEEN

(Died December 7,1872)
The Free Church Monthly Record, May 1, 1873, p.103
[Extract from Minute of the Free Presbytery of Aberdeen]


On the report of the Committee appointed at last meeting, the Presbytery, deeply mourning the loss that has been sustained by the Church in the death of Dr. Robert J. Brown, agreed to record a testimony of the veneration with which they cherish his memory, and their gratitude to the Almighty for the gifts and graces with which he endowed him and for the long period—up to the age of eighty years—during which he enabled him to employ them in the service of the Lord.

Dr. Brown was born in Holland, his father (who afterwards became Principal of Marischal College and University) being at the time Professor of Moral Philosophy and of the Law of Nature and Nations in the University of Utrecht, and also minister of the English congregation in that city4. Ordained as minister of the parish of Drumblade in the year 1821, and transferred to the Professorship of Greek in Marischal College in 1828, Dr. Brown from the beginning of his career maintained the cause of evangelical religion and ecclesiastical liberty, and bore no unconspicuous part in the discussions and struggles through which both gained a triumphant ascendency in the councils of the Church of Scotland. At the time of the Disruption he not only, at the risk of his academical status and income, adhered to the principles which he had espoused, but lent most active, unwearied, and disinterested services in that work of planting and cherishing new congregations, which then became the Church’s duty, and contributed in no ordinary degree to the extension and stability which the Church then obtained throughout this neighbourhood, over which the influence of Moderatism had spread so densely the shade of spiritual darkness and gross immorality.

In the duties of the academical chair, and in the whole intercourse of private life, he endeared himself and commended the doctrines of the gospel by the amenities and kindness of human character, and by the consistency, purity, and zeal of the Christian walk. The Presbytery in particular record their sense of the blank caused in their members, amongst whom, from half year to half year, Dr. Brown was regularly enrolled,—the Kirk-Session to which he belonged testifying their appreciation of his worth, and doing honour to themselves, by constantly electing him as their representative. And, further, they record their sense of the many important services which he rendered by discharging the onerous duties of Convener of the City Mission Committee, his active participation in the business of this Court, and the fidelity with which he represented them as one of their commissioners to the Assembly every year since the Disruption5.

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REV. ROBERT LUNDIN BROWN

(Died April 9, 1877)
Author: Rev. Walter Wood, Elie
The Free Church Monthly, June 1, 1877, p.15


Another of our Disruption ministers has passed away from us. Mr. Brown was descended from a long line of clerical ancestors, the last of whom was minister of Newbattle, in Mid-Lothian. He was born in 1792, ordained minister of Largo in 1821, cast in his lot with the Free Church of Scotland in 1843, and died in his eighty-fifth year, on the ninth day of April 1877. He took the name of Lundin in 1855, on the succession of his wife to the estate of Auchtermairnie.

The survivors of his family, two sons and two daughters, along with his wife by a second marriage, watched by his sick-bed during the few days through which he survived a stroke of paralysis, and were much cheered by his humble yet confident hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Some memorials of his last hours have been put into our hands, but the space at our disposal will not permit us to insert them. We make room for one saying, which may cheer and strengthen those who know that a similar trial awaits them. “I have not,” he said, “the bright and luminous views I would like to have; but I am trusting on my Saviour, and I sometimes feel even more than that — I sometimes feel overpowered.”

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REV. THOMAS BROWN, D.D., F.R.S.E.

(Died April 4, 1893)
Author: Rev. William Laughton, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, May, 1893, Two Notable Free Churchmen, p.107


The subject of this notice, so well known throughout the Free Church by his “Annals of the Disruption,” was born at the manse of Langton, in Berwickshire, 23rd April 1811. His father, Dr. John Brown, minister of that parish, was well known as the zealous advocate of Evangelical principles in a district long under the blight of a dreary Moderatism.

The author of “The Annals,” the eldest of a large family, was brought up under all the wholesome influences of a Scottish manse. He received his school education at Duns, entered the University of Edinburgh in 1826, and went through the ordinary course of arts and philosophy. Both at school and college he distinguished himself as an apt scholar and diligent student, with that power of application and steady perseverance which marked him throughout life. In 1830 he entered the Divinity Hall, and commenced his studies there under Dr. Chalmers, then in the very zenith of his fame and influence.

Mr. Brown was an active member of several of the students’ societies connected with the Hall, more particularly the theological and the exegetical. In these societies he came into close and frequent intercourse with many whose names have since become well known—John Anderson of Madras, Principal McCosh of Princeton, Sir Henry Moncreiff, Horatius and Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Alexander Somerville.

Having finished his theological course, he was licensed as a probationer in the spring of 1835. After some months of that wandering service which was the usual experience of preachers in those days, he accepted an appointment in Dumfries, in connection with the two congregations of that town, as missionary and Sabbath-evening lecturer. Here he continued till presented, in 1837, to the living of Kinneff in Kincardineshire, and was ordained minister of that parish in the month of September. In this position he made full proof of his ministry as an earnest preacher of the gospel.

It was a county notorious for its Moderatism. There were only two other ministers of the Evangelical school in the Presbytery of Fordoun, to which Mr. Brown belonged. It is scarcely necessary to say what side he took in the non-Intrusion struggle, which had already begun, or to add that, when the Disruption came, he cast in his lot with the Free Church without faltering or delay. In doing so he resigned a valuable living and made a large pecuniary sacrifice. Under the new state of things which followed, Mr. Brown took an active part in the organizing of new congregations. Of the thirteen parishes in the presbytery, there were only three in which the ministers adhered to the Free Church; but in other parishes there were many adherents, for whom ordinances had to be provided and a congregational organization established. This entailed a heavy burden, in the first instance, on the three brethren, of which Mr. Brown, as the youngest and strongest, took the largest share. Undertaking at the same time the clerkship of the new presbytery, which involved a large and laborious correspondence, his strength was taxed to the utmost, and the strain began to tell on his health. But in 1849 he received a call from the congregation of the Dean Free Church, Edinburgh, and was inducted into that charge in the spring of the same year. This placed him in a new position, fitted to develop his special gifts, bringing him more before the eye of the Church, and enabling him gradually to acquire a standing and influence of no ordinary kind.

The Dean Church was originally erected in connection with Dr. Chalmers’s “Church Extension Scheme,” with a view to territorial mission work in the village of Water of Leith. The district had been much neglected, both as regarded religious ordinances and sanitary conditions, and contained a large proportion of those estranged from all Christian observances. The church in which Mr. Brown began his ministry here and continued it for so many subsequent years, both in situation and arrangement, was inconvenient and far from attractive. It was indeed close to the district for which it was intended, but not suited for any other. The work on which he now entered was of a very difficult kind; but he applied himself to it with characteristic energy and perseverance. Not a few, indeed, outside the mission district, and of another class altogether, attached themselves to his ministry; and the interest of his work was further varied by the attendance in the church of the children of the Orphan Hospital.
His preaching was of the school in which he had been brought up—the setting forth of the great gospel verities concerning sin and salvation in their application to the consciences of his hearers. It had a scriptural fulness and richness which to Christian minds was instructive and edifying in a high degree. There was no striving after effect by something new or startling; but, without any of the tricks of popular address, was characterized by warmth and earnestness in tone and manner. In private intercourse with his people there was everything to win their confidence and secure an affectionate regard; and no minister could have a more attached people.

As regarded his ecclesiastical and theological position, Dr. Brown might be said to belong to what is now called the old school: not over fond of novelties, loving the old paths, and distrustful of many new opinions, or forms of opinion, which have come into vogue in the present day. But, on the other hand, he was very far from being narrow or exclusive toward those who differed from him. He had, in the best sense, an open mind with the balance of a sound judgment. Having, during a long life, witnessed such extraordinary changes, both in politics and science, he did not suppose that in the sphere of theological thought and ecclesiastical order everything must stand still. His love of the old was tempered and restrained by the practical wisdom of observation and experience. Perhaps he was guarded against extreme opinions not only by a well-balanced judgment, but also in some degree by the wider culture which distinguished him. He had scientific aptitudes in a marked degree, especially the faculty of exact observation.

In early life he devoted much time to the study of botany, in which he became a proficient. At a subsequent period his attention was directed particularly to geology, the study of which he pursued with his usual thoroughness as a practical field geologist.

The results of his observations were on more than one occasion communicated to the Royal Society, of which he was a member, in papers which have found a place in the Society’s Transactions. Such pursuits, however, were not allowed to interfere with his proper duties, and can only be regarded as the recreations of a city minister when spending his summer holiday in the country. Had he devoted his time to them more largely, he might have taken a distinguished place among the scientists of his day.

But it is Dr. Brown’s literary aptitude which more immediately concerns us here, as having enabled him to do such good service to the Church.

He could use his pen with skill and effect, as his “Annals of the Disruption” abundantly testify. The idea of collecting and publishing such records of the Disruption as might be derived from the reminiscences of ministers and others who had passed through the great crisis was first brought before the Church at the Inverness Assembly in 1845. A committee was then appointed, with Dr. Lorimer of Glasgow as its convener, who succeeded in obtaining a considerable number of such records. But difficulties interposed, and the scheme was dropped for many years. In 1864 Dr. Parker of Glasgow again took it up, and further materials were accumulated; but at the time of his death, in 1867, little progress had been made in the arranging and utilizing of them. It was only after frequent delays that Dr. Brown was appointed convener of the committee and intrusted with the work in 1873. It was a difficult task which he had taken in hand—a work first of selection and then of arrangement. The first required wise discrimination, the other some literary skill, that the work might not be a piece of mere patchwork. It was a laborious work, too, which cost him the leisure of ten years. And, moreover, it was a work of extreme delicacy, if it was not to reopen old sores and stir unhappily the smouldering embers of past strife. But the task was accomplished with admirable skill and discretion.

A true-hearted Free Churchman in every page, in full sympathy with his brethren in their struggles and sacrifices, the author betrays no bitterness and indulges in no invectives against those who inflicted the wrongs which he records. The fair and temperate tone of the work was generally recognized at the time of its publication even by those who had no sympathy with its object. To the Free Church it is a work of enduring value as at once the most accessible, and certainly not the least readable, history of the Disruption; in certain respects, indeed, not to be put in comparison with the “Life of Chalmers” or the “Ten Years’ Conflict” of Dr. Buchanan, but presenting such a vivid picture of what went on in Scotland in 1843 as it was not within the scope of these works to furnish. The first part was published in 1876, the fourth, completing the work, in 1883. Since that time it has had a very large circulation. During the last year no less than 19,000 copies have been disposed of, the price having been, for the time, greatly reduced, principally through the liberality of a much-respected member of the Free Church in Glasgow. And the whole circulation from the beginning now amounts to upwards of 32,000; scarcely to be equalled by any recent publication of a like size, and dealing with any similar subject.

Dr. Brown has done scarcely less important service by his latest work, entitled “Church and State in Scotland, from 1560 to 1843,” being the third series of the Chalmers Lectures. This is a masterly survey of Scottish Church history, from the Reformation to the Disruption; intended to show, and doing so conclusively, that the principle of spiritual independence—that is, the freedom of the Church from State control—has had a leading place in the testimony of the Church of Scotland throughout the whole period of her history; the principle, in fact, for which the best and noblest of her sons have contended and suffered. From a literary point of view, this, the last work of its author, is perhaps the best. The style of the narrative, its easy, well-connected flow, the skilful handling of details, as well as their graphic force, are very observable. The work appeared when its author was already in his eighty-second year. One can only regret that Dr. Brown had not applied himself to historical composition at a much earlier period. The Chalmers Lectures were only published in June last, and they have already reached another and cheaper edition. In this form it is well fitted for circulation in congregations, and may be specially recommended to the younger members of the Church, who may be assured that they will not find it either dull or difficult reading.

Dr. Brown’s merits were slow of securing their due recognition; but honours long delayed came at last. In 1888, his alma mater, the University of Edinburgh, bestowed on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity; and in 1890 the Free Church conferred the highest honour at its disposal, by placing him in the chair of the General Assembly. It need not be said that he discharged his duties as Moderator with a dignity, firmness, and wisdom such as fully justified the confidence of his brethren. He continued single-handed in his ministerial charge till 1886, when the settlement of Mr. Archibald Bell as junior pastor of the congregation afforded him the relief which advancing years so much required. In Mr. Bell he found a colleague with whom he continued to co-operate in constant harmony to the end. Another event which brightened his latter years was the erection of the new church at Belford Bridge. This was an object which he had long contemplated; and he had the satisfaction of leaving the building almost free of debt.

Dr. Brown’s health remained unbroken till about a year ago. He then began to suffer from frequent attacks connected with derangement of the liver, which reduced his strength very much. Again and again, however, he rallied wonderfully, and there was reason to hope that the complaint was abating and might disappear. On Sabbath, the 2nd of April, he was able to attend church; but in the evening had a renewed and very severe attack. The following day he was rather better, and it was hoped that he would rally as before. But early on Tuesday morning he began to sink, and about four in the afternoon he passed away peacefully without a struggle. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”

Dr. Brown leaves two sons—Dr. Graham Brown, a well-known member of the medical profession in Edinburgh, and the Rev. James Wood Brown, minister of the Free Church at Gordon, in Berwickshire.

Some of the leading features in Dr. Brown’s character have already been indicated, and little more can be said on the subject within our present limits. His gifts were not of a kind to strike ordinary observers, but rather such as give a man an ever-growing influence and weight among his fellows. Gradually and almost insensibly his brethren came to trust him, and to lean on him with a confidence which few could inspire. His genuineness had much to do with this. He was true and trustworthy, nothing hollow about him—in short, he was what he seemed, a man to be relied on. The soundness of his judgment contributed largely to the influence he had among his brethren—not warped by prejudice nor carried away by hasty impressions. Even when most decided in his expression of opinion, there was a certain moderation, a fairness and candour, which gave it the greater weight. He was eminently free from that unwholesome craving for notoriety which is the snare of many—never pushing himself forward, but rather erring in the opposite direction. Dr. Brown did not speak very often in the Assembly; but when he did, he was sure to be listened to as having something to say that deserved attention. In the business of its committees he took a very active and important part. For many years he was a leading member of the Jewish and Continental Committees, was seldom absent from their meetings, and was intimately acquainted with the various branches of their work. Whatever he took on hand for the Church, whether in committees or otherwise, was distinguished by thoroughness. He did nothing in a slight or superficial way; what was to be done he would do well, and spared no pains for that purpose.

Perhaps the natural bent of Dr. Brown’s mind might have inclined him to devote his life to scientific pursuits, in which he would probably have distinguished himself; but he chose a more excellent way and a higher field of labour. He had deep and abiding convictions of divine truth. He gave himself to the ministry of the gospel with such a sense of its responsibilities as would not allow him to spend on other pursuits the time that was due to that high calling. He never lost sight of what was becoming his office, and was most scrupulous in avoiding everything that might weaken its influence or detract from its dignity. As regarded his own religious experience, he had the characteristic reserve of his countrymen. In the sanctuary of the heart and conscience he was alone with God; no one else must enter. His friends knew what was in him, not by an outflow of religious feeling and sentiment, but by the consistency of a Christian life. The fruits of the Spirit were manifest in him, especially that charity which suffereth long and is kind; with all that is true, and just, and lovely, and of good report. His teaching left no doubt as to the soundness of his faith; his life was the evidence of its reality.

He will be sorely missed by his family and friends, missed too at the approaching Assembly, where he would have been welcomed and honoured as his great services to the Church deserved.

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REV. THOMAS BROWN, M.A., GREENGAIRS

(Died February 1, 1897)
Author: Rev. William Reid, Broomknoll, Airdrie
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, July, 1897, Obituary, p.171


Thomas Brown was a native of Keith, Banffshire, where he was born in the year 1829. Receiving his early education there, he subsequently passed on to tho University of Aberdeen, where he proved himself to be a capable student, excelling chiefly in the department of mathematics, and where he graduated as Master of Arts. He thereafter commenced his theological training in the Free Church Hall of that city, and completed the same in the Free Church Hall, Edinburgh. Receiving licence in due course, and coming to be engaged for a short time as assistant to the Rev. Dr. McGilvray of Aberdeen and Rev. Mr. Munro of Rutherglen, he was at length, in the year 1862, ordained to the charge of Stoneykirk, in Wigtownshire. Doing good work there for many years, he ultimately resigned that charge, and went to live for some time in the town of Ayr. While there, and being desirous of again engaging in the more active duties of his profession, he had a call addressed to him by the members and adherents of Greengairs congregation, to which charge he was inducted by the Presbytery of Hamilton in 1882.

The field Mr. Brown came to was by no means an attractive one. Situated among cold, bleak moors, and among a scattered population, chiefly of the mining class, many of whom went to no church, there was much to repel and depress. Nevertheless did he enter cheerfully upon the work assigned him, and labour on in hope. For the last year or two he worked at much disadvantage. It was evident to all that his health was gradually breaking down and that his strength was greatly impaired; still did he continue at his post up to the last. Only a few days before his death he attended a meeting of presbytery twelve miles away.

As a preacher Mr. Brown was much above the average. With a clear, judicious, and well-stored mind— his library was of the amplest description, one of the largest we have seen—and with a heart into which there had flowed the love of the Saviour, he preached with intelligence and power. The same might be on the old strictly orthodox lines—on the so-called hackneyed doctrines of ruin through the Fall, redemption through Christ, and regeneration through the Spirit. But it was none the worse of that; rather it was all the better. If men are to be saved and blessed, it must be by having addressed to them such staple truths from Sabbath to Sabbath. Accordingly we cannot doubt that the preaching of the subject of these remarks was blessed to many. Not a few in that humble sphere which he occupied are, through his instrumentality, growing up steadily in the divine life; while, at the same time, he has left behind him furrows ready for the sowing of seed by another’s hand, which shall spring up and bear an abundant harvest too. Nor was the minister of Greengairs less estimable as a pastor. Till infirmity overtook him, he was diligent in his visitations from house to house. Of dignified, gentlemanly bearing, he never degraded his high office by anything approaching idle gossip or frivolous demeanour. Yet had he none the less a heart to feel and enter into the varied circumstances of his flock. He could rejoice with those who rejoiced, and weep with those who wept—and help them also. His was the open and generous hand. The poor had in him the warmest friend. As in the case of Job, the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon him. How lavishly, likewise, did not his kind and liberal hand act toward the church—the Free Church of Scotland—he loved so well! He did much to improve and beautify its buildings in the village; contributed largely from year to year to keep up its stated ordinances; he also sought to extend timely aid to other struggling congregations within the bounds of the presbytery and elsewhere.

The end of the departed was peace. His last illness was of such a nature as to deny him the opportunity of giving forth anything like a deathbed testimony; but this was not needed. His pulpit appearances and quiet, consistent life from day to day told how much his faith and hope were centred in a living, loving Redeemer. His remains were conveyed to Paisley Cemetery, where, amid every token of respect from friends far and near, they were laid to rest “until the day break, and the shadows flee away.”

Mr. Brown is survived by his widow (an excellent Christian lady), five sons, and a daughter, for whom the deepest sympathy is felt.

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PROFESSOR ALEXANDER B. BRUCE, D.D.

Author: Rev. George Rettie, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1899, p.229


Alexander Balmain Bruce was born at Aberdargie, near Perth, in 1831, and received his early education at Auchterarder parish school, under a teacher of some repute in his day. Dr. Bruce’s father held a post connected with the land, which in 1843, owing to his adhesion to the Free Church, he was compelled to resign, and along with his family removed to Edinburgh. Though Dr. Bruce found his way to the university at an early age, he became a distinguished student in various departments. One of his early triumphs, which in later years he delighted to recall, was the defeat of his class-fellow, James Clerk Maxwell, in mathematics—the branch of science in which the latter subsequently achieved brilliant distinction. The ministry had been the aim of the young student, and in due course Dr. Bruce entered our hall, and completed the necessary curriculum. He has told the church, in a speech in the Assembly of 1892, of the effect made upon his mind by the reading of Strauss’s Life of Jesus at some period during these years of theological study. For a time it appeared as if he had lost his bearings; so much so that, in despair of finding light, he had almost accepted the post of teacher in the mission institute of Calcutta that had been offered to him. It was otherwise ordered; the light came. Bruce found he could with a clear conscience enter the ministry, and the post in India was filled by Dr. George Smith. After acting as assistant first at Ancrum and then at Lochwinnoch, Bruce was called to Cardross in 1859 to succeed MacMillan, who had been deposed by the Assembly. From the Cardross pulpit were delivered those fresh and singularly-interesting studies on the Gospels which were afterwards published under the title of The Training of the Twelve. The volume appeared first in 1871, and has since passed into numerous editions. It at once gave the author front rank as a biblical scholar in the estimation of his church, and has made his name known to Christendom. Meanwhile, translated to the East Free Church at Broughty-Ferry in 1868, Bruce occupied for the next seven years a position which afforded a wider scope for the influence which his high personal character and pre-eminent gifts fitted him to exercise. He was appointed Cunningham Lecturer in 1874, choosing for his subject, “The Humiliation of Christ.” Abstruse though the subject was, the lecturer contrived to treat it with an interest which has caused the volume to run through several editions, and the wider popularity and success of his other publications did not yield the author greater pleasure than did this fact.

In 1875, after the death of Principal Patrick Fairbairn, Bruce was appointed to the vacant chair in our Glasgow Hall, which embraced apologetics and New Testament exegesis. It is superfluous to speak of the work of these twenty-four years, and of the commanding influence wielded over the students. Dr. Bruce possessed every qualification for dealing with young minds. Full of ardent enthusiasms, a laborious and incessant student, always on the watch for fresh light, and welcoming it from whatever quarter it might come, sympathetic towards doubt, because personally experienced in its conflicts, conversant with the entire range of the literature of his subject, ever genial and accessible, with a transparency and honesty of character, an abhorrence of all make-believe, and a disinterested regard for truth which amounted to the heroic (to use a favourite expression of his own), he was the very man to inspire ingenuous souls with the love of the noble ideals to which his own life was consecrated. In many a manse of town and country to-day his memory is one of the strongest incentives to the occupant to make full proof of his ministry.

Meanwhile, by the volumes which Professor Bruce in rapid succession issued from the press, he was reaching a wider circle than that addressed from his chair, and earning for himself a high reputation among all the churches as one of the most representative and able of the contemporary apologists and teachers of the Christian faith. We can only mention such books, without attempting to indicate their character or importance, as The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, The Miraculous Element in the Gospels, The Chief End of Revelation, The Galilaean Gospel, Apologetics, The Kingdom of God, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, With Open Face, his commentary on the Synoptics in the new edition of Alford, and The Epistle to the Hebrews. It is out of the question in this page to undertake an estimate of Dr. Bruce’s contribution to either department of theology which engrossed his thought. But there can be no doubt that his ruling conception in both was the ethical character of Christ.

The old method of apologetics began at the outside and worked its way laboriously to the centre. Dr. Bruce discarded this as out of date. He began at the centre. To his mind, Christ’s character was the ultimate proof and apology for Christianity. In the same way his New Testament exegesis uniformly fell into the channel that led back to the historic Jesus and His teaching. The “Christianity of Christ” was a frequent expression with him, and what he meant by it his writings sufficiently make clear. A profound reverence for, indeed, a passionate devotion to Christ, are everywhere manifest; but one has to take account of the fact that the constituency which he addressed by preference was, to quote his own words, neither dogmatic believers nor dogmatic unbelievers, but “men whose sympathies are with Christianity, but whose faith is stifled or weakened by anti-Christian pre-judices of varied nature and origin.” Had this aim of the professor been kept in view, misunderstandings might probably have been obviated. It was a testimony of a pronounced nature to the estimate in which the community outside his own church held Dr. Bruce and his labours when he was appointed Gifford Lecturer in the Glasgow University for 1896-7. His topic was “The Providential Order of the World,” and the lectures were listened to by a large assemblage of students and the cultured laity, and made a deep impression on the audience.

Of high and permanent value as Dr. Bruce’s contributions to biblical theology are, it may be safely said that the obligations under which he placed his own church, as Convener of the Hymnal Committees, which issued first The Free Church Hymn Book, and then the recent Church Hymnary, are scarcely to be deemed of a lower order. He possessed a fine musical taste, and the rendering of a more effective service of praise in our congregations had his energetic and enthusiastic advocacy through the years which were most full of his own professorial toil. When one looks over the array of volumes he published, and feels that any one of them might have conferred on the author a reputation for biblical scholarship, and when there is added to these the self-imposed task to which reference has been made, one begins to understand the debt of gratitude and reverence due to his memory by his church.

As a preacher Dr. Bruce, though not popular in the ordinary sense, was singularly instructive and interesting. Few could get at the sense of the passage as he could, and make it assume modern dress. And for illustration there were always available the stores of a richly-furnished mind, wide and varied reading, and shrewd insight and observation. He was entirely free of pulpit mannerisms, and spoke with a directness and reasonableness which captivated the thoughtful hearer. His services were much sought after by his brethren, and were cordially given.

But we must conclude this imperfect notice of a truly great life. Much more could be said, as, for instance, of the consideration paid to Dr. Bruce by our American friends, and the several visits made to the United States, where his lectures and his preaching were much in request. Enough has been said to show that in the death of Dr. Bruce our church is deprived of one of her foremost theologians and scholars; of one of her most influential teachers, whose mark has gone deep into the present generation; of one who has shed lustre on her name by the reputation which he has earned in the other Christian communions. We are thankful to the Head of the Church for such a gift. We are especially thankful that genuine devotion to Christ lay behind all this heroic toil. One holds in recollection a meeting of working men and women in a mission hall at which Professor Bruce was present. Invited to speak, he began by saying that though most sympathetic he did not feel that he possessed the requisite qualifications for addressing such an audience. But, he continued, he could tell them one thing, which was that, with a great many imperfections, of which he was sorrowfully conscious, he nevertheless had a sincere love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he hoped with all his heart they could all say the same. While he uttered these words, with characteristic intensity, his voice faltered. That was the inspiration of his indefatigable labour and the secret of his true and noble character; and for that, wherever it appears, in the learned or the unlearned, more than for all intellectual and scholarly gifts besides, we are bound to give God thanks. It was his impression and his hope, until not very far from the end, that there was still work for him to do here; but when he realized that the call to a higher service had come, he was ready to obey. He knew in whom he had believed. And at last the full meaning of that Divine word which had often been a solace and support to him in days of earlier conflict was revealed: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

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REV. JOHN BRUCE, D.D.

Author: Rev. William Wilson, D.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.254


There has recently passed from among us one of the most distinguished ministers of the Free Church, who has been spared, indeed, to extreme old age, and the blank created by whose death is less noticeable only because for several years the infirmities incident to declining life necessitated his retirement from the active labours of his vocation.

John Bruce was a son of the manse, his father being minister of Forfar, in the parish manse of which he was born in the last decade of the last century. He was greatly distinguished as a student at the College at Aberdeen; and in due course, being licensed as a probationer, he was ordained minister of Guthrie in 1818, sixty-two years ago. After some experience, his small rural congregation there had just begun to appreciate his extraordinary genius when, to their great sorrow, he was translated to Edinburgh. In that city he found his appropriate sphere, and from the beginning of his ministry in it till its close was justly regarded as one of the most efficient, as, to educated and cultivated hearers, he was one of the most acceptable, ministers. Students of the university resorted to his church in greater numbers than to any other, and in this way he exercised an influence for good which is incalculable. His preaching was singularly powerful. He spoke with great fervour, and in every sermon there were gleams of genius, while the views of divine truth unfolded were the most profound and searching. His public prayers were characterized by a very grave solemnity, and in them he manifested the rare faculty of giving expression to emotions and convictions which he helped to awaken in every soul. This faculty gave a peculiar value to his pastoral labours among the sick and dying, to whom his services were very dear. Such a ministry, extended over so long a period and in such a community, could hardly fail in fruitfulness in various ways; and doubtless through his instrumentality many were added to the Church of such as are saved.

Dr. Bruce contributed very little to the public through the press, and what he did in this direction scarcely gives an adequate impression of the massive grandeur of his genius. He very rarely took part in the business of Church courts, but when he was moved to action in this department, his intervention was always of the most effective kind, and showed what distinction he might have acquired as a Church leader. He was offered, but declined, the honour of being Moderator of the General Assembly.

His position at the Disruption was peculiarly trying, some of the most prominent office-bearers in his kirk-session being strongly opposed to it; but this did not induce him to falter in his views either regarding his own duty or that of the Church. He did not, however, join the procession to Tanfield Hall on the 18th May, having been assured that a satisfactory measure would be announced by the Queen’s commissioner, which would conserve the principles for which he had contended, and he had been induced to pledge himself to remain and hear the announcement. When he had heard it, he forthwith joined his brethren in the Free Church.

Dr. Bruce was one of the most charming companions with whom any one could hold converse. His wit and humour were inexhaustible, and a large volume might be compiled of the pregnant sayings which he uttered on various occasions regarding current events, and the persons and parties who were concerned in them.

He was twice married, and has left one daughter to mourn his loss.

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REV. THOMAS N. BRYDEN

(Died March 29, 1896)
Author: Rev. T. Blackwood, M.A., Stow
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1896, Obituary, p.197


Mr. Bryden was born in the farmhouse of Harcus, in Peebles-shire, in the year 1805. His parents both belonged to the Secession Church; but when he began to think for himself, he elected to cast in his lot with the Establishment, and to study for the ministry. After passing through the usual curriculum in the University of Edinburgh, he was licensed a preacher of the gospel, and began active work as assistant to Dr. Nathaniel Paterson in Galashiels, well known as the author of The Manse Garden. He afterwards laboured under Dr. Somerville in Drumelzier Parish, which I have often heard him say was a model parish in those days, for there was neither a pauper nor a dissenter in it. At the Disruption in 1843 he was one of the large band of probationers who joined the Free Church. In 1846 he received a cordial and unanimous call to become minister of the Free Church in Stow, and was ordained by the Presbytery of Kelso and Lauder on the eighth of April of the same year. Stow was the native place of his forebears, his grandfather and father being successively farmers in Cribbielaw. The minister of Stow had not come out at the Disruption. The new congregation was small, and very widely scattered over an area which included a part of the parish of Heriot. Mr. Bryden was a most vigorous worker, and by diligent attention to pastoral visitation, as well as to his pulpit work, he succeeded in building up the church and making himself beloved by his people. As a preacher, he was a close reasoner and a deep thinker. In the courts of the church his voice was but seldom heard, but his judgment was always sound and his counsel much appreciated. Mr. Bryden was in harness for thirty-five years, and during that period he had to face the difficult work of building a manse and a new church. In the latter duty he found his active wife almost more than “an help meet for him.” During the last fifteen years of his life he lived in retirement in Edinburgh. With his death another of those living links which bind us to the long past has been severed. He lies buried in Stow churchyard, in the midst of the people he loved so well.

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REV. WILLIAM BUCHAN, HAMILTON

(Died June 21, 1869)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, August 2, 1869, p.185


It is our mournful duty to record the death of this highly esteemed minister. He died at Hamilton on Monday the 21st of June, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, and thirty-ninth of his ministry.

He was born at Crieff in 1805. He was fortunate in his school-boy days in having for a teacher Mr. Carmichael, latterly one of the most enthusiastic teachers in the Edinburgh Academy. Under his tuition the no less enthusiastic scholar speedily became a proficient in the Latin language; and when at the age of thirteen he entered the University of St. Andrews, Dr. Hunter, professor of humanity, placed him at once in the senior class. During the closing years of his college course he entered the family of Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre as tutor. There he became acquainted with Robert Haldane, Esq., to whose loving and Christian intercourse he was indebted for his first saving impressions of divine things—and to his dying day he never forgot his obligations to this truly apostolic man. Having received license, he was presented to the Parish Church of Hamilton in 1831. And in that town he laboured with untiring energy throughout the long period of thirty-eight years. At the time of his entrance on the work of the ministry, Hamilton was a collegiate charge, and, as requiring but one single service from either minister on the Sabbath, it was, to a young man possessed of Mr. Buchan’s love of study, a most enviable position. But he was no sooner engaged in the work of his Divine Master than he longed for the privilege of spending and being spent in his service. He began the erection of a second church. And from that time forward his was the enjoyment of proclaiming the glad tidings forenoon and afternoon on every Lord’s day.

Soon after his ordination the Ten Years’ Conflict began, into which he threw himself heart and soul. At the memorable Disruption era he left the Established Church, carrying along with him a large and influential congregation. Nearly another generation has risen up since then, and it is now little known the prodigious efforts he put forth in organizing the Free Church within the bounds of his Presbytery. From all sides requests were made to him, and deputations waited on him, that he should take the charge of the congregation in their new and unwonted circumstances—people, elders, precentor, beadle, having seceded—and the sacramental season being near, that he should come and preside on the occasion, and take the superintendence of their affairs. To such appeals he could not lend a deaf ear. He was ever ready to do all that was within his power— and many of the most flourishing congregations within the bounds regard him as their father.

Whilst these many demands were made upon his time and strength, he began a ragged-school in connection with his church—and many hours of a week evening were spent in it. And should he have met on the street some one or other of his scholars, he would stop and put some question or other, as if revising the last lesson.

The schools in connection with his church, and which were built under his immediate superintendence, are an impressive memorial of his energy and zeal.

His death has taken many of his most intimate friends by surprise; for he seemed so strong and so full of activity and life, that they fancied there was yet a great many years of work for him. But during the last two years it was evident to one or two, who had every means of knowing it, that his natural force was abating. He maintained his place in the pulpit till within six weeks of his death. When compelled to keep the house, he felt at once that the hand of Death was upon him. During the last two weeks he suffered a great deal of pain, but never did a murmur escape his lips. He dictated a message to the brethren of the Presbytery, which was delivered after his death. “Tell them how much and how truly I have loved each one of them—and more now than ever; and how I have valued their affection to myself, and their loyalty; and that it is my dying request to each one of them to be more in earnest for their own souls, and to be more in earnest in commending Christ to their flocks. I die in the faith and hope of the gospel, and I hope to meet them all around the Great White Throne.” Our limits prevent our doing more than recording one or two of his last utterances. On the last day of his illness he was frequently heard repeating, “Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood;” and “Jesus! thy blood and righteousness.” In the extremity of his sufferings, “This is a hard warfare! What a dreadful thing sin is in God’s sight!” “Yes,” was the reply of his dear wife, who was waiting by his side—”yes, the wages of sin is death;” to which he instantly added, ” But the gift of God is eternal life.” Within ten minutes of the end he repeated in a distinct voice, “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn;” immediately adding, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” He had expressed very early in the evening of this the last day of his life a strong desire to have the shutters closed, and the room darkened. There was only a very minute particle of gas burning. He was sitting in bed, partly supported by pillows and partly on the arm of Mrs. Buchan, when he looked wonderingly and very earnestly round the room and said, “O what a bright light is here! What a bright light!” Dr. Naismith, his brother-in-law and devoted friend, looked at him and said, “He is gone!”

Mr. Buchan was possessed of a noble and energetic spirit, and carried through many a difficult undertaking where others would have been sure to fail. He was fitted very specially to take a lead in our Church—but save in the Presbytery of which he was a member, he seldom took any prominent part. His, too, was a large and loving nature. His love was deep, sincere, abiding —and he was never more in his element than when engaged in rendering some valuable service to a friend. But his passion was to preach. He could never refuse what he regarded as the one great privilege of his life, an opportunity of telling his fellow-creatures of a Saviour. And many instances of striking conversions under his ministry have come to our notice now that he is gone.

He was buried in Hamilton; and the tolling of the bell, by order of the magistrates, the closed shops, and the large company of mourners, belonging to all classes and to all sects, showed the universal respect in which he was held while living, and the regrets on the part of so many that they should see his face no more.

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DR. JAMES BUCHANAN

(Died April 19, 1870)
Author: Rev. R.G. Balfour, Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1870, p.127


It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Dr. James Buchanan, Emeritus Professor of Divinity in the New College, Edinburgh. Dr. Buchanan was a native of Paisley—a town which has had the honour of being the birth-place of not a few remarkable men. Of these, the lamented Professor was not the least distinguished. After a brilliant career at the Glasgow College, he was ordained, in the year 1828, minister of the picturesque and retired parish of Roslin. His fame as a preacher, however, was soon spread abroad, and in the same year he received and accepted a call to the large and influential congregation of North Leith. His ministry there was one of extraordinary power and popularity. Crowds of eager listeners hung upon his lips, fascinated by the depth and freshness of his thoughts, conveyed in a style of classic beauty and pellucid clearness, and delivered with the greatest fervour and animation. His doctrine was evangelical—the rich Puritan ore—but stamped with his own superscription; his manner was singularly chaste, and his tones exquisitely modulated. None that enjoyed these North Leith ministrations will ever forget them; and many, we believe, received impressions then and there which changed the whole course of their lives. Few men did more than Dr. James Buchanan to redeem the pulpit from the reproach of dulness, and to promote that revival of evangelical religion which Dr. Andrew Thomson and Dr. Chalmers had begun. It was during his ministry in North Leith that Dr. Buchanan wrote his most popular works on “Comfort in Affliction” and the “Improvement of Affliction,” and on “The Holy Spirit.” In the year 1840 he was translated to the High Church, Edinburgh, where he had for his colleague the late venerated Dr. Gordon. Never were colleagues united in bonds of more cordial affection and esteem. Never was a congregation more highly favoured than that which enjoyed the pastorate of two such men. In 1843 both cast in their lot with the Free Church without a moment’s hesitation. For a time they preached alternately in the Music Hall, as they had been wont to do in the High Church. But the dearth of ministers at that period was great. Hence it was thought desirable that the colleagueship should cease, and that each should undertake a separate charge. Dr. Buchanan, in these circumstances, became first minister of Free St. Stephen’s Church, gathering a flourishing congregation, and ministering to it up to the time of his appointment to the chair in the New College, rendered vacant by the death of Dr. Chalmers in 1847. For a period of twenty-one years—an unusually long period, when we remember the brilliant ministry which had preceded it—Dr. Buchanan faithfully and ably discharged the duties of Professor, first of Apologetics and then of Systematic Divinity. During this period he published several valuable works, and delivered the second course in connection with the Cunningham Lectureship. Failing health, however, and increasing deafness led him to retire in 1868 from all active duty. Since that time he had suffered much, bearing all with true Christian patience. He has now obtained his release, and has gone to be with that Saviour whom he loved and served so well upon earth. Another of the Disruption worthies is gone—another of the Professors in the New College is removed, when the grave has scarce closed over the remains of a beloved fellow-labourer. May the Lord of the harvest raise up men like-minded—men of true genius and profound learning—ready as they were to lay all at the feet of Jesus, and consecrate it to the advancement of his cause and kingdom.

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DR. ROBERT BUCHANAN, GLASGOW

 

The Free Church Monthly, May 1, 1875, p.107


There are men whose removal causes an immense blank in a community, not merely because they occupied a conspicuous position in it, but because in their lifetime they were its servants, and spent their strength in directly promoting its prosperity. Such a man was Dr. Robert Buchanan. For nearly eight and twenty years he acted as Convener of the Committee on the Sustentation Fund — a fund which, humanly speaking, has done more to make the Free Church what it is than anything else; and there seems a propriety that, in his case, we should preserve in this Record of our Church’s doings some fuller memorial than usual of his history and labours.

He was born at St. Ninians, near Stirling, about the beginning of the century. His first charge was Gargunnock, to which he was ordained in 1827. After several years he was translated to Salton, from which he was transferred in 1834 to Glasgow, of which city he became, as we learn from a most impartial source, that of Mr. Whitelaw, “the most eminent citizen.”

The earliest charge which he held there was the Tron, the same church to which Dr. Chalmers was translated from Kilmany. Here he remained till 1843, when he left it with most of his people to form a Free Church congregation. In the new church which was then built he continued to minister, until a proposal was made that he should migrate westward to the College. After some hesitation, he assented to this; and he has died the colleague minister, along with Mr. Reith, of what is called the Free College Church.

His translation to Glasgow took place in the very year which saw the passing of the Veto Law. The Ten Years’ Conflict, therefore, had just begun; and the young minister of the Tron was not long in letting it be understood on which side he was to fight. Nor were his brethren slow to recognize his abilities. Within four years, he was selected to take the lead in the General Assembly on an occasion which has ever since been regarded as marking a turning-point in the Church history of Scotland.

The motion he was called to make was as follows: “That the General Assembly of this Church, while they unqualifiedly acknowledge the exclusive jurisdiction of the civil courts in regard to the civil rights and emoluments secured by the law to the Church and the ministers thereof, and will ever give and inculcate obedience to their decisions thereanent, do resolve that as it is declared in the Confession of Faith of this National Established Church that ‘the Lord Jesus Christ is King and Head of the Church, and hath therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers distinct from the civil magistrate,’ and that in all matters touching the doctrine, government, and discipline of the Church, her judicatories possess an exclusive jurisdiction, founded on the Word of God, which ‘power ecclesiastical (in the words of the second book of discipline) flows from God and the Mediator, Jesus Christ, and is spiritual, not having a temporal head on earth, but only Christ, the spiritual King and Governor of his Kirk.’ And they do further resolve, that this spiritual jurisdiction, and the supremacy and sole headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, on which it depends, they will assert and at all hazards defend, by the help and blessing of that great God who, in the days of old, enabled their fathers, amid manifold persecutions, to maintain a testimony, even to the death, for Christ’s kingdom and crown. And, finally, that they will firmly enforce obedience upon all office-bearers and members of this Church, by the execution of her laws, in the exercise of the ecclesiastical authority wherewith they are invested.”

This motion was carried by a majority of 183 to 142; and the step then taken by the Church was in its way as memorable as that which was taken in 1834, when it adopted the Veto Act; for though the controversy began about non-intrusion, it soon developed into something higher. The civil courts came to claim the right to review spiritual sentences, and to set them aside when they saw fit; and the Church, in consequence, felt constrained to unfurl another fold in its blue banner. Previously it had contended for the rights of the Christian people, now it asserted its title to the retention of the liberty wherewith Christ had made it free; and as Buchanan was the man selected to be the standard-bearer on the occasion of this great historical demonstration, there came to be one principle dearer to him than all others — the principle of spiritual independence.

His appearance in the front at this time involved his intimate connection with the conflict in all its after stages. He became himself the historian of movements in which he took a leading part; and many will again turn, with a fresh but melancholy interest, to a book whose value is likely rather to increase than diminish with the lapse of time, and in which something like an autobiography is to be found of one of the greatest of Scottish churchmen.

Since the Disruption, the name of Dr. Buchanan has been identified with three movements of a memorable kind:

1. It was he who set agoing, and was the mainspring of, that extraordinary Home Mission enterprise, which, originating in the wynds of Glasgow, has spread a network of churches over a wide district of that city. From the mother church, of which Mr. MacColl was the first minister, six others at least have sprung; and into these have been gathered such large congregations, that at a late communion over a thousand new members were added in one day. The cause of Church Extension, indeed, was one in which Dr. Buchanan always took the deepest interest; and but for his powerful influence and incessant watchfulness, Glasgow would be immensely worse off for the preaching of the word than it is this day.

2. Another great enterprise with which the name of Dr. Buchanan will for ever be associated is that of the Sustentation Fund. The idea at the root of that Fund was suggested by Dr. Chalmers, who for some years after the Disruption was himself the Convener of the Committee; but it was left to Buchanan to develop fully its capabilities, and to show what an unendowed Church can do to provide ordinances for the poorest districts of a country. In connection with this scheme Dr. Buchanan earned so high a name that he was invited some years ago to read a paper explanatory of its principles before the Statistical Society of London; and in some quarters he has been best known since as “the financier of the Free Church of Scotland.”

If he had been spared till next Assembly he would have held the office of Convener for eight and twenty years. During that time the Fund has grown in his hands enormously. When he first assumed the oversight of it, the income amounted to £83,000, — yielding to each of the ministers a stipend of £120. Last year the income was £149,000, — yielding to a considerably larger number of ministers a salary of £150 each, with, in addition, considerable sums in the way of supplement. It seems at present not unlikely that this month the income of the Fund will be reported to amount to £159,000, so that it is yielding something like £75,000 a year more than it did when Buchanan entered upon office.

Just before starting for Rome he wrote a letter, which was published, showing his undying interest in the same scheme; and asking his friends and brethren, on his return, to prepare for him — what he called “a gratification which he would regard as unspeakably the greatest reward they could possibly confer upon him” — the gratification of seeing his efforts in regard to the Sustentation Fund crowned with success.

3. The other movement at the head of which Dr. Buchanan placed himself was that which had for its object the healing of some of the divisions in the ancient Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The proposals for union were made and carried in a unanimous Assembly, and for a time everything went smoothly. But after a while a section of the Free Church became opposed to the continuance of the negotiations, and to avert the calamity of a breach in our own ranks, the scheme for incorporation was abandoned.

But his interests were not all absorbed in the three movements to which we have been specially referring. He showed himself indifferent to nothing in which the good of his country was concerned. Although overpowered with ecclesiastical work, he allowed himself to be elected a member of the Glasgow School Board; and the Chairman of that Board, Mr. Whitelaw, whom we have already quoted, has been in haste to say that he was its best adviser.

Then his heart went wholly with the great spiritual movement which has been sweeping over the land. When Moody and Sankey first visited Glasgow, it was he who took the lead among the ministers of that city, preparing for their reception; and how cordially his household sustained the efforts of the evangelists can be guessed, when it is said that Mr. Moody himself told the writer of this notice that no family in Glasgow had done more during his stay there for the conversion of souls than the family of Dr. Buchanan.

His weight of character, especially in the later years of his life, was very remarkable. We have seen time and again the General Assembly in its wildest moods settle into an instant calm when he rose to address it. The moment before, perhaps, things were in an uproar and even the voice of the Moderator from the chair failed to command attention; but the instant that the stately figure of Buchanan presented itself every sound was hushed, and the ears of all strained to catch his words. On account of this dignity of manner it was hastily assumed by some that he was stiff and distant, and cold and unapproachable. But there never was a greater mistake. In reality he was genial and kind and unaffectedly obliging, perfectly open and unreserved in conversation, and always ready to do a service for those who asked it at his hands.

To this feature of personal attractiveness two noticeable testimonies have recently been given; one by Mr. Whitelaw, who frankly told a great audience in Glasgow that he had become warmly attached to Dr. Buchanan; the other by Dr. Monro of Campsie, who speaks with affectionate interest of the cordiality of his intercourse with him in Rome.

Like so many others of our good men, Dr. Buchanan was permitted to die in harness, and in a manner so quiet that his death looked like a sleep. For two months he had been occupying with extraordinary success and acceptance the pulpit of the Free Church in Rome. But age and the labours of a busy life had probably told upon him to an extent of which he was not aware, and he suffered much from the severity of the weather. In any case, his appointed time had come, and on the morning of the 31st of March “he was not, for God had taken him.”

In a few short years now one of the greatest events of this age — the Disruption — will be absolutely a matter of history. There will soon be no survivor of the comparatively little company who were present in St. Andrew’s Church on the 18th of May 1843, to witness the exodus of what Lord Cockburn then called “the whole chivalry of Scotland.” If we now live in a poorer time with scarcely any stars of unusual brilliancy in our firmament, let us be thankful that so many of our great men were preserved to us so long, and let us do them honour by following them as they followed Christ.

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REV. DAVID BURN, THURSO

(Died April 29, 1882)
Author: Rev. E. A. Thomson, Edinburgh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December 1, 1882, Brief Biographies, p.370


Mr. Burn was born at Stitchel, near Kelso, in the year 1804. His parents were connected with the Antiburgher congregation of the United Secession, and in early life he was himself associated with that congregation. Afterwards, on coming to Edinburgh to prosecute his studies at the university, with a view to the ministry, he was attracted by the preaching of Professor Paxton, who was then in the zenith of his popularity as minister of Infirmary Street Church; and, along with a number of other students who were similarly attracted and influenced by the professor, he joined the Original Secession, the Synod of which had just been constituted by the union of the Protesters, as they were called, of whom Dr. Paxton was perhaps the leading member, and the Constitutionalists, of whom Dr. McCrie the historian was certainly the leading member.

Almost immediately after he entered on his probationership, he was called by two congregations, the one at Arbroath, and the other at Thurso; and the Synod, by which, according to the custom of the period, all cases of competing calls were decided, preferred the call to Thurso, where he was accordingly ordained and settled in the autumn of 1831. From that period he devoted himself with heart and soul to the work of the ministry in connection with his own congregation. Once a year he went over to Orkney to assist at the communion in Kirkwall or Birsay, but he very seldom came south, and even when he did come, he hardly ever preached for any of his brethren. His humility and modesty so commanded him that he never ventured to assert himself in any way. Thurso, therefore, had him almost entirely to itself; and it did appreciate the benefit, as evinced by the excellent congregation which all along attended on his ministry.

There were few preachers who equalled him in the warmth and earnestness of his pulpit work. According to a common saying, “he preached with his heart in his mouth,” and his sermons, which were carefully written out, were at once richly instructive and powerfully persuasive. Unfortunately, with his usual self-depreciation, he burnt his manuscripts when toward the evening of life he felt his strength begin to fail, so that there are no remains which can be published by way of memorial. Out of the pulpit he was a pastor of the highest order. Regularly visiting the families of his congregation, he was most faithful in ascertaining that personal and family prayer were attended to by all; the young were also directed and encouraged in the systematic reading of the Scriptures; and the sick were waited on with an affection and a sympathy which always made him the most welcome of visitors. There was an unction, a fervour, a tenderness, heartiness, and fulness of intercession in his prayers which had evidently power with God and with men.

From the beginning of his ministry he laboured to overcome the scrupulous reluctance so much evinced in the North to become communicants till late in life. When the writer first assisted him at the communion in 1845, the number of young persons at the communion-table was very small; the only “young communicant” on the occasion was upwards of sixty years of age. But in private he was most hopeful that a different state of things would ere long prevail; and on the next occasion that the writer was with him, about fifteen or sixteen years after, the proportion of young persons at the communion-table was quite equal to that of southern congregations, much to the delight of the aged elders, by whom the change was cordially welcomed as indicative of evident religious progress. His Bible classes were also singularly successful; and he had great influence with young men, who were greatly attracted to him by his cordiality of manner and devotion to their interests. Some of our active ministers and missionaries, as Messrs Miller of Madras and Swanson of China, are his sons in the gospel.

In the year 1852 he was Moderator of the Synod of United Original Seceders, when the Synod agreed by a majority to approach the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland with the view of acceding to the fellowship of this Church, upon the acceptance of their ”Representation and Appeal;” ane he went with the majority in their “Accession.” On that occasion Sir George Sinclair spoke of him in terms of the highest eulogy to the General Assembly. Lady Camilla, who preceded her honoured husband in his abandonment of the Establishment, had been for some years a member of Mr. Burn’s congregation, the great majority of which accompanied their minister and the Synod. Unhappily a minority stood aloof, and for them in a lengthened and for them ultimately successful litigation contested his possession of the church and manse. The costs of this were saddled upon him and his adhering congregation; but they loyally addressed themselves to the emergency, and in the course of a few years succeeded, with the help of sympathizing friends, in overcoming all their difficulties, paying the costs, erecting a handsome new church, purchasing another and much superior manse, and disburdening their whole ecclesiastical property of debt. Worn out by the labours of this most anxious period, the health of Mr. Burn at length began to fail; and much to his satisfaction Mr. John Cochrane Connell, son of the minister of the Free Church of Perceton in Ayrshire, was ordained about six years ago as his colleague and successor.

During the last three years of his life he was completely laid aside from ministerial duty; and latterly his general powers failed him; but the smile, the gush of tears, and the pressure of the hand continued to indicate his appreciation of the affectionate attentions shown to him by her who is now his widow, by his esteemed colleague, and other friends. The testimony since borne to him by Mr. Connell, both in the Presbytery and in the pulpit, is as honourable to Mr. Connell as it is to Mr. Burn; and it may be expected that the Free West congregation and their young minister may be all the more affectionately united to one another. Mr. Burn died on the 29th of April, and within less than two months considerably upwards of a hundred poinds were contributed to erect a monument over his grave and a tablet in the church. But his best memorial is in the hearts and lives of the people who benefited so long by his faithful ministry and earnest prayers. He was “a man in Christ,”—”a good minister of Jesus Christ.”

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REV. WILLIAM BURNET, HUNTLY

(Died April 15, 1895)
Author: Rev. R. G. Balfour, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1895, Obituary, p.195


Mr. Burnet, whose death resulted from a paralytic stroke which seized him as he was preparing to go to church on the communion Sabbath, the 7th of April, was no ordinary man. Of a stalwart, well-built frame and a vigorous, well-balanced mind, he was a power for good, first for nineteen years in Chryston and the neighbourhood, and then for three-and-twenty years in Huntly and the district of Strathbogie. He was a native of Glasgow, born in 1818.

He was not at first destined for the ministry, but went into an office for a short time to learn business, with a view to following a mercantile career. In the session 1837-8 he attended classes at the Mechanics’ Institute, and gained three gold medals—one for drawings of a marine steam-engine, one for an essay on the working of an engine, and one for an essay on the chemistry of the atmosphere. He had a decidedly mechanical genius, and might have risen to eminence as an engineer, if he had chosen that profession; or he might have distinguished himself as an architect, as the handsome and commodious manse at Chryston, of which he drew the plans and specifications, fully proves. But the Lord had need of him for higher work.

It may have been his being led about this time to decision for Christ, and his remarkable success as a Sabbath-school teacher, that suggested the ministry as his future sphere of labour. At all events, it was Dr. Robert Buchanan, a man of rare sagacity and insight, who first recognized his exceptional gifts, and sent him out to Chryston, a village of weavers and miners seven miles from Glasgow, where earnest evangelistic work was urgently needed.

He was the founder and father of the Free Church congregation there. Beginning in a joiner’s shop, . and adjourning from that to a friendly farmer’s barn, in the course of a few years he had by his unwearied energy built church, school, and manse; and he never rested till all were free of debt. While prosecuting his studies at the New College, Edinburgh, with diligence and distinction, carrying off the first prize in Professor Macdougall’s class, he preached at Chryston once a month during winter, and did full duty during summer, so that when he was ordained to the ministry in 1848, the congregation had risen from 20 or 30 to 140 members. About eleven years after his settlement at Chryston, a remarkable revival took place in the north of Ireland. Intensely anxious for the spiritual welfare of the people among whom he laboured, he went to Ireland to see this wonderful religious movement with his own eyes. Convinced of its reality, he returned home all on fire with a holy zeal, full of the desire of seeing a similar work of grace in Chryston. Nor was he disappointed.

I am thankful here to be enabled to quote from one who was an eye-witness of the work which he was honoured to accomplish. “During the memorable years of 1859 and 1860, a very great blessing was poured out on his congregation and the neighbourhood. By any one living there it could never be forgotten. I remember Mr. Burnet describing his feelings when anxious souls began to throng to the manse. He had not been without seals to his ministry before. Among those attending his Bible-class there had been hopeful conversions, and he found that these had been meeting for some time to pray for such a blessing as had visited Ireland. Still there was something different now, and it brought a great awe and sense of God’s presence. For two years this work of grace went on, and while many brought sorrow to the minister’s heart by going back, many went on leading consistent lives, and not a few have passed into the home above before their much-loved pastor. Some of these, well known to me, had quite triumphant death-beds. The present minister has told me that he found it a privilege to visit them. Since Mr. Burnet’s death I have pictured to myself the joyful meeting up yonder with their spiritual father, if recognition is granted before the resurrection.

“One great feature of Mr. Burnet’s ministry was his Sabbath morning Bible-class. After the awakening this was largely attended, and some of the young men and women who became the most outstanding Christians, and the most useful in winning others to Christ, told me they got more good there than even in church. He took such pains to instruct, and broke down the truth taught in the Catechism, requiring so much reference to the Bible that old as well as young were profited. Many individual cases of conversion I could tell of at that time, and so great was the general effect on the whole place that for two New-Year’s Days the village was like a Sabbath, and the public-houses deserted. I do not think many knew how much work Mr. Burnet went through at that time—very real and blessed work, and yet demanding a constant strain both physically and spiritually.” To these touching reminiscences I would only add that during this period five hundred persons, uninvited by him, visited the manse under concern about their souls, and that for two-and-twenty months he was not one evening at home except on Saturdays, but was conducting meetings in different parts of his district. A thorough wetting which he got in the discharge of duty at the close of this period brought on a very severe attack of rheumatic fever, and along with a similar experience at Nigg, in Ross-shire, at the time of the meeting of the Inverness Assembly, developed that affection of the heart which brought on his last illness. When Mr. Burnet left Chryston, after a ministry of nineteen years, the congregation had risen from 140 to 300 members, and was a self-sustaining charge.

In 1867 he was translated to Huntly, and there, with a much larger congregation, and in a much wider and more difficult sphere of influence, he did admirable work for three-and-twenty years. Without abating one jot of his former diligence in preaching, visiting, teaching the Bible-class, and attending to every congregational duty, he took a leading part in the presbytery, and threw himself with great ardour into every movement for the good of the community of which he was a member. Two public institutions especially—the Brander Institute and Library, and the Cottage Hospital—owed so much to his wise suggestions and his fostering care that they may well be regarded as monuments erected to perpetuate his memory. Yet these were only two outstanding illustrations of his intense desire to promote the physical and intellectual as well as the moral and spiritual welfare of Huntly and its people.

If I were asked to identify my departed friend with any Scripture character, I think I would select Barnabas, that large-hearted and liberal-handed Levite, the son of consolation, of whom it is testified that he was “a good man, and full of the Holy-Ghost and of faith.” He had a singularly even temper, a genial disposition, a broad human sympathy, a warm and tender heart. But perhaps his most remarkable natural characteristic was a singularly sound judgment that was never at fault, a strong common-sense that made you feel instinctively that he was one on whose advice you might safely lean. His sagacity in practical matters was unerring, and he was ever ready to burden himself with the cares and anxieties of others when they applied to him, as they often did, for his wise and friendly counsel. And he was eminently a man of prayer. It was a privilege to join him as he led in family worship. There was a gravity, a solemnity, a reality in his prayers that made one feel that he was consciously in the near presence of God.

Mr. Burnet was very happy in his domestic relations. His first wife was Mrs. Burnet Craigie, sister of the late Captain Shepherd of Kirkville, by whom he had a son, now a distinguished London physician, and a daughter, both of whom survive their father. His second wife was Miss Jane Garioch, Aberdeen, who also survives to mourn his loss. Those who knew him best feel most keenly that the blank is one that can never be filled up—that they shall never see his like, never have such a friend on earth again. Blessed be God for the good hope he has given us that Christian friendships sundered by the hand of Death are only interrupted for a time, to be resumed hereafter in that better country where sin and sorrow and separation are unknown.

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REV. GEORGE BURNS, D.D., CORSTORPHINE

(Died February 5, 1876)
Author: Rev. A.G. MacGillivray, Roseburn
The Free Church Monthly, April 1, 1876, p.93


Dr. George Burns was born at Borrowstounness on the 12th October 1790. He was the youngest son of Mr. John Burns, surveyor of customs, and factor on the ducal estate of Kinneil. Four of Mr. Burns’s sons became ministers of the gospel. They were all distinguished for intellect and godliness, and have left their mark on our Church’s history. James, the eldest, was for nearly forty years minister at Brechin; William was for twenty years minister at Dun, and for thirty-nine years afterwards at Kilsyth; and Robert was for thirty-three years minister at Paisley, and afterwards for twenty-four years one of the leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

George, the youngest, was licensed in 1812 by the Presbytery of Linlithgow, and was ordained in 1816 by the Presbytery of Aberdeen, upon his nomination to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in St. John, New Brunswick.

Having preached in the College Church, St. Andrews, previous to his departure, the Senatus of that university were so favourably impressed by his appearance on that occasion, that with the view of strengthening his hands in the important position he was to occupy in New Brunswick, they took the unusual step of conferring the degree of D.D. upon him whilst yet a young man, twenty-six years of age.

The fourteen years of Dr. Burns’s ministry in New Brunswick were the most active and the most fruitful of his life. His own congregation became a most flourishing one, whilst, by his high character, and by his abundant missionary labours, he elevated the position of Presbyterianism throughout the Provinces.

In 1831 he returned to Scotland, and was admitted minister of Tweedsmuir. There he laboured with much acceptance for thirteen years. His kindness and frank courtesy endeared him to his simple-hearted people, whilst his careful pulpit preparations were thoroughly appreciated by them. At the Disruption, in 1843, he heartily joined the Free Church, and never wavered afterwards in his adherence to its principles. One would have expected this of a man who never alluded either with boasting or with regret to the great sacrifice he had made, and who never spoke with bitterness of those who remained in the Establishment.

In 1844 he became Free Church minister of Corstorphine, where he laboured diligently and successfully for about thirty years. He was esteemed and beloved by all, by those outside his own Church, as well as by those within it. He was a large-hearted, genial man, cheerful and loving in his own home, and full of kindliness to all around him. As a preacher, he was not only able and practical, but often eloquent and impressive; whilst his devotional services were remarkable for their simplicity, unction, and scriptural beauty. He was the author of several religious works. Such of them as I have seen are marked by great good sense, vigorous thinking, and unaffected piety.

I knew him intimately during the last years of his life, when he resided in my neighbourhood. I was much impressed by his humility, by his transparent truthfulness of character, and by his great kindliness of spirit. He loved the Lord Jesus greatly. When most oppressed by infirmity and disease, every allusion made to the progress of Christ’s kingdom, or any case of conversion related to him, roused him up at once, filling the old man’s heart and brightening his face with gladness. I also admired his generosity of mind. Whilst differing from some of the leading men of our Church in a late controversy, he always spoke of them with affectionate respect. More than a year ago, he had a severe attack of illness, and thought himself dying. He spoke of the great change with solemn calmness. He had simple, unclouded faith. I visited him on a Sabbath evening, when he told me that he had had “a sore disappointment.” There had been a magnificent sunset, the whole western sky gorgeous with golden and crimson colourings. Its glory filled the room where the old man lay. He had fallen asleep in utter weakness, and when he wakened up suddenly from deep sleep, and saw the sunset colourings flooding the room, and stretching out far into the west, the good old man fancied for a moment that he had unconsciously crossed the river, and had wakened up in the better country.

During his last illness, he knew that he was dying, and spoke of his death quietly and cheerfully to the loving ones who tenderly ministered to him. When the end approached, he attempted to articulate, once and again, his good hope in death. At last, with an effort, he replied, to the inquiries of his daughters, “Amazingly happy!” There was no second “disappointment.” He in a few minutes passed, without pain or struggle, into the presence of the Master.

He died on the 5th February, in the eighty-sixth year of his life, and in the sixtieth year of his ministry.

Dr. Burns married the daughter of the Rev. J. Struthers, who predeceased him six years ago.

He has left two sons, who are in America, and two daughters, one of whom is the wife of the Rev. Gilbert Johnston, of Shettlestone, and the other the widow of Captain Guthrie.

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REV. JAMES C. BURNS, D.D., KIRKLISTON

(Died November 30, 1892)
Author: Rev. J. A. Kerr Bain, Livingston
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1893, Obituary, p.44


Dr. Burns was born in the manse of Brechin in 1809, when Dr. Guthrie, who afterwards became his brother-in-law, was a boy six years old in the same town. Passing from the parish school at the age of fourteen, he took his arts in Glasgow, but went for his divinity to Edinburgh, where Dr. Chalmers was just entering upon his memorable career as a professor of theology.

He began ministerial work as assistant, in North Leith, to Dr. James Buchanan. In 1837 he was ordained to the pastorate of one of the Scotch churches in London—that of London Wall—where he remained till the year of the Disruption. Being then in Edinburgh to witness the first Free Church Assembly, he was led to become the minister of the new charge at Kirkliston in a way which always deeply impressed him with a sense of providential guidance.

The high qualities which Dr. Burns inherited as a preacher, together with his excellence as a pastor and a Christian friend, drew around him from the first, and kept around him to the last, a congregation comparatively strong in numbers, but especially strong in all the finer relations between pastor and people. His pulpit work never greatly attracted the multitude; but the intellectual robustness and spiritual elevation, which did so little for the many, did a great deal for the few. Within a radius of half-a-dozen miles around Kirkliston there were never wanting influential Christian families who reckoned it one of the advantages of the neighbourhood that they were able to avail themselves of Dr. Burns’s ministry. It would not be easy to find a congregation in which the proportion of worshippers bearing a high Christian character has been so large for almost half a century. During this extended country pastorate, he had more than one direct opportunity of removing to busier centres of work; but his heart was in Kirkliston, and he deemed that his work too was there.

When events were shaping themselves towards the Disruption of the Church in Scotland, Dr. Burns had enthusiastically borne his share in the work of enlisting the sympathy of the English Nonconformists with the cause of the Evangelical party. After he himself had settled in the Free Church, he took an active part in the Church’s business, and for a number of years was Convener of the Colonial Committee. He had proved himself a man whose character and services ought to obtain distinct recognition. Therefore, in 1879, when he had been forty-tw0 years in the ministry, he was chosen to the Moderatorship of the General Assembly. In 1884 he received the degree of D.D. from Queen’s University, Kingston. And when he had completed the fiftieth year of his ministry, his congregation and friends presented him with his portrait by Mr. W. B. Hole; while the Presbytery of Linlithgow, entertaining him to dinner in Edinburgh, put into his hands an illuminated address signed by every minister within the bounds.

His vigour and freshness at this period were remarkable. He seemed almost as capable for his work as ever he had been. But signs of failing strength soon began to appeal to his sense of duty, and in 1890 a colleague was appointed, to whom was committed all the active work of the congregation. Then Dr. Burns left the manse of so many memories and took up his residence in the southern suburbs of Edinburgh, close by the church of his friend Mr. Salmond, whose ministrations he enjoyed. A year ago, though his fine constitution was otherwise wonderfully hale, his powers of mind began rapidly to break down, and he became the unwitting source of much anxious care. At last his constitution itself succumbed to a sharp attack of congestion of the lungs, and in his eighty-fourth year he passed away.

Those who knew Dr. Burns will never cease to remember him as at once an attractive and an impressive personality. In the pulpit it was only one set of his characteristics that came into view. His commanding figure, his handsome physiognomy, his hue of full health, his rich and ample voice, his grave dignity, his devout fervour—these were all visible enough there. But the overflowing geniality, the ringing heartiness, the sallying good-humour, the breadth of interest and outlook, the ready sympathy, and the almost feminine tenderness which was so quick to realize and pity and deplore—these were only within the full knowledge of such as had intercourse with him as a man and a friend. He blended the manly with the womanly as they seldom are blended. Still, his spiritual intensity, his inborn and sanctified religiousness, was the base of all else in him. The swiftness with which he could make the transition from the gayest to the gravest, and make it with perfect naturalness, was but his easy reversion to the dominant note of his character. Every emotion sought prompt utterance with him; and if it was only innocent and human, he let it have free way. He was an intensely human Christian, all the while that he was an intensely Christian man.

Happily, his religious intensity had almost nothing of narrowness in it. His rather extensive travelling, and his good range of reading, no doubt helped him against his temptations to ecclesiastical exclusiveness and theological conservatism. But his natural generosity went to prevent it, and a certain strain of chivalrousness, a stout integrity, a keen sense of fairness, and a cordial appreciation of men. To the end, his youthful exuberance of spirit made the company of younger men delightful to him. His conversation was especially rich in reminiscence and anecdote; and his recollections of the London Presbytery, of the Disruption “crusade” in England, of his visits to America and to the Continent, and of great men long gone, brightened many an hour for his junior brethren.

As a pastor, his work was strong, deep, and enduring. His mingled simplicity and tact, open-heartedness and shrewdness, evangelical warmth and ethical loftiness, made this secure. As a preacher, great though his work was in this capacity, there were things which tended to limit his success. His gravity was apt to pass into ponderousness, and his continuity, which was one of his charms, was liable to beguile him into continuance. If he had laid himself out for his audience as he did for his theme, he would have been more heard of as one of the preachers of his day. It is to be regretted that he has left so little fruit of a literary capability and taste which were very considerable.

As often happens, sorrows and honours came upon him almost together. The death of his only surviving son in 1881, and of his wife in 1884, struck deep wounds in him; but he bore his sorrows bravely, as he wore his honours meekly. We in the Presbytery had much to admire in the deportment of an honoured man who claimed nothing from us, and who was rather the general brother of the Presbytery than the father of it.

Dr. Burns has left four daughters, one of whom is Mrs. James Guthrie of Brechin, and another is Mrs. Charles Guthrie of Edinburgh. The eldest daughter of Mr. James Guthrie sustains the traditions of the Kirkliston manse as the wife of her grandfather’s scholarly successor, Mr. Lendrum.

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REV. JAMES DRUMMOND BURNS, HAMPSTEAD

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, February 1, 1865, p.734


Dear Sir,—The obituary notices which appear fron time to time in the Record are peculiarly interesting and profitable for us who are very much deprived of intercourse with our brother ministers. The experience of this leads me to send you a brief notice of the last hours of one of our number.

The Rev. J. D. Burns, late of Hampstead, was, I believe, a native of Edinburgh. When a boy an accident deprived him of one eye, and somewhat marred the beauty of a very noble countenance; while at the same time it led him very much to forsake boyish sports, and gave to his character a precocious thoughtfulness. Twenty years ago he was a student in the Free Church college: even then in delicate health, often suffering from severe colds, while attending lectures in the close unhealthy atmosphere of the temporary rooms in George Street. Soon afterwards he entered upon the work of the ministry at Dunblane; but alarming symptoms of pulmonary disease obliged him to resign his charge and go to Madeira. There his health greatly improved, for several years he performed the duties of Scotch minister there with pleasure to himself and benefit to his flock. In after days he spoke, with much thankfulness, of that time and said that any work he had been able to do in the vineyard was owing, under God, to his residence in Madeira. After some years it was thought that a change to a more bracing climate might be beneficial; and he accepted a call to Hampstead, where for nine or ten years he has been the beloved and laborious pastor of a small but influential congregation. A sudden decay of strength led him, with his wife and young children, to spend last winter at Menton. The summer he spent on the banks of Lake Leman, in the neighbourhood of Vevey. It was his first visit to that beautiful land; and he,—at once poet and man of God, —gazed on it with a holy rapture. It was a farewell feast of earthly beauty which the Master had reserved for His servant before summoning him to other delights. This winter he returned to Menton, seemingly much as he was when he left; and though his lungs were extensively diseased, no immediate danger was apprehended until a sudden bronchial attack brought him with alarming rapidity to the borders of the grave. It was on the evening of Friday the 25th Nov. that I heard he was supposed to be dying, and I was able to be with him about midnight. He sat supported by pillows, lovingly tended by his sorrowing wife; and by Mrs. Morgan, the kind wife of the English clergyman, a succourer of many, whom, along with Madame Delapierre the wife of the French pastor, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of mentioning as ever ready to show Christian kindness to poor sufferers at Menton.

Quite unable to move in bed, he yet wished to have his position changed from time to time; an indescribable weariness rather than pain being that which oppressed him.
“I am a poor creature,” he said. “I shrink from physical suffering, and I have had little, very little.”

“He knoweth our frame,” I said. “He remembereth that we are dust.”

“He has done so with me,” he rejoined.

I told him that I had just heard that many promising young men in Scotland were entering on theological study: —and said, “That the Lord would supply our places.”
He said, “It will go on. These last few years I have loved my wife, I have loved my children, I have loved my friends, I have loved my work, as much as any man; but I am enabled to leave them all, and have no wish but to be at rest in the arms of my Lord. I am weary, weary. Perhaps the weakness of the body gives me this desire for rest.”

At another time he said,—

“Pray for me, my brother. I should like you to ask for me a gentle dismissal, and a clear mind to enter eternity with, that I may testify to the last to the Lord’s faithfulness. Or if, through weakness of the body this be not possible, that I may never let go hold of Christ.
“And I desire now to testify beforehand to the Lord’s wonderful goodness to me at all times. He has been ever faithful; and especially during the last few days His mercies have been more than I should have imagined beforehand.”

Again he said,—

“When it comes to this, there’s nothing for it but that word, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Men may sit in their studies and write against the Bible, and point their pens against this and that in the Bible: but I feel now what I have often thought in speaking to others as low as I myself am now, that this is the only rock, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.'”

The sky was wild and gray, the sea restless; and with a dull monotonous wash the surf broke upon the shingle just below the windows of the room where the poor sufferer, unable to sleep or to be still, was wearing out the night.

The poetic fire gleamed forth to the last. He drew my attention to the noise of the sea, and said,—

“A weary sound—it cannot rest. There is a point of sympathy between me and it just now.”

I said, “There shall be no more sea. There remaineth a rest.”

Sabbatismos!” he replied, pronouncing the word very slowly and with great feeling.

His bodily distress was very great; and it was in a scarcely audible voice, and with self-denying effort that from time to time he gave utterance to such sentiments as those I have here noted down. Serenity was the characterizing feature of his dying hours. But when, on Saturday afternoon I prayed, and kissed him, and said, “Adieu! To God!” his parting look was radiant with joy.

Traversing that night the twenty miles of mountainous but magnificent road that separate Menton from Nice, I was gazing from the window of the “Diligence” toward the distant Estrelle mountains, when a close carriage with lamps burning drove quickly past, and allowed me to think (rightly as it turned out) that the last earthly wish of the dying saint was fulfilled. He had wished much to see once more his esteemed parishioner and generous friend Mr. Hugh Matheson of London; and a telegram had been dispatched a few days before. Mr. Matheson arrived that Saturday evening, and was with Mr. Burns till eleven o’clock on the night of Sabbath the 27th of November; when, after much weary suffering, but in the enjoyment of full consciousness to the very last, he entered into his rest.

Mr. Burns’s well known volume, “The Heavenly Jerusalem and Other Poems,” affords ample evidence of his fine taste and true poetic power. Some papers upon Mrs. Oliphant’s Life of Edward Irving, which appeared in the Family Treasury, furnish, I am told, a good specimen of his prose writings.—I am, &c,

Alex. H. Burn Murdoch.
12 Rue be Longchamp, Nice

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DR. ROBERT BURNS, TORONTO

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, December 1, 1869, p.267


We regret not having been able to notice sooner the death of this much-loved and truly venerable man, of whose remarkable appearances in the last two General Assemblies many of our readers must have retained a vivid recollection, and with whose name and fame, on both sides of the Atlantic, all of them are familiar. But we regret this the less, both because our lack of service has been already in good measure supplied through other channels, and because, as we happen to know, materials exist for a full biographical record of his life “and times,” which may in due course be expected to appear.

A life like his—so long, so laborious, so useful, extending over considerably more than half a century of incessant public service, and associated, somewhat innately, with “the men” and events of that bygone age—deserves much more than any such hrief memorial as the space at our command permits us now to offer.

Dr. Robert Burns was born at Bo’ness, on the 15th of February 1789, and was consequently in his eighty-first year. He was the ninth in a famfly of ten; their father, Mr. John Burns, surveyor of customs at that port, a man of patriarchal worth and piety, whom his eight sons followed to the grave, “an old man full of years,” in 1816. He was one of four brothers who successively devoted themselves to the Christian ministry —the third in order—having “first given himself to the Lord”—as there is reason to believe he did very early . life—”seeking after the God of his father while he was yet young.” His academical course was prosecuted in Edinburgh, where, in the Divinity Hall, though the Professor, Dr. Andrew Hunter, was evangelical, so few of the students were, that he, juvenile as he was, stood it among them a marked man, one of a sadly small minority, bearing among his class-fellows the distinguishing title of “Young Orthodox.” His first appointment was that of’ tutor in the family of the excellent minister of Cramond, Mr. Archibald Bonar; and it was during his residence there that he received license in 1810. Shortly after, he occupied for several months the pulpit of the East Church, Perth, vacated by Dr. Andrew Thomson’s translation to Edinburgh. And in the year following he became minister of the Low Church, Paisley, carrying his election there really, though not formally, by the voice of the people, over two formidable competitors, Mr. Small (afterwards of Stirling) and Mr. Carlisle (afterwards of Dublin)—albeit that he was the provost’s son. His ministry in Paisley, from the first, was extremely acceptable; so much so, that a new church had soon to be provided of larger dimensions, and of a more modern style of architecture, for his over-crowded congregation, to which, accordingly, under the name of “St. George’s,” he and they, a few-years afterwards, removed. His early popularity, doubtless, was due, in some measure, to his youth and youthful appearance, associated, as these were, with an almost premature ripeness and mellowness of theology—with an “unction” which in those days was rare, and with a fluency which was never known to fail him; but the position which he took as a preacher from the beginning he maintained ever after. There were solid qualities in his discourses which made them always instructive, often telling in a high degree. They were solid, without being heavy; they were copious, and yet clear; they were level to the humblest, yet such as to command the ear of the most cultivated among his hearers; while, as a lecturer and expositor of Scripture, he had the reputation in the west of Scotland of being “unrivalled.” One of his oldest surviving parishioners says of him: “He was a model parish minister, visiting not only his own congregation (1200 strong), but his parish, once a year, most regularly attending on the sick, and taking a special oversight of the godly upbringing of the young. He was a most valuable citizen, and there was not a religious, benevolent, or philanthropic movement in town, but he was to be found at the beginning, middle, or end of it. He was one of the original promoters of the scheme for supplying the town with water; and, by successive visits to London and otherwise, did great service in bringing in large sums of money during the periods of the depression of trade, when weaving was the staple branch of manufacture in town.” His capacity for work of all sorts was indeed something marvellous. A day in his life was like a week to any other man. We have heard of his composing two discourses, visiting a whole list of sick people, and having time for a constitutional walk, over and above, on a Saturday; yet those discourses bearing no marks of haste or slovenliness when delivered, without the assistance of a note, on the Sabbath following. Nor less active was he with the pen than with his tongue, taking part more or less prominently in every question of interest which stirred the public mind, and occupying his “leisure hours” in such divertisements as compiling elaborate dissertations on the “Poor Laws,” and “Pluralities;” editing, with memoir, essay, and notes, Wodrow’s voluminous “Church History;” and for three years successively conducting the “Edinburgh Christian Instructor.”

In addition to his other labours, he was the chief instrument in the formation of the Glasgow Colonial Society, in the year 1825, the first public meeting of which was held that year, under the presidency of the then Earl of Dalhousie, in the Trades’ Hall, where he unfolded the plan of operations, and was formally installed as secretary—an office which, in conjunction, first with Dr. Welsh, and afterwards with Dr. Henderson, he continued to hold, discharging the larger part of the duties, during the whole period of the society’s separate existence, till about the year 1835, when it was merged in the Colonial Scheme of the Church. He was thus educated, so to speak, unconsciously for what was to be his future sphere of labour, and what may perhaps he called his life-work as himself a colonist. His acquaintance with Canada, in particular, from his multifarious correspondence with it, was so intimate, and so deep was the interest he took in its infant Church, that his heart might be said to be there long before he had any idea of being there himself. It was the Disruption, in 1843, which opened the way for his emigration. Having, along with Dr. Cunningham, visited the American Churches, as a deputy from the Free Assembly, and had a good deal to do with the smaller Disruption in Canada, which followed the larger one at home, he was led to entertain an invitation that was given him to become minister of the newly-formed Free Church congregation in Toronto, and thus place himself, as it were, at the centre of operations for rebuilding the walls of the fabric which had been broken down. So, after a ministry of thirty-three years in Paisley, he began life, as it were, a second time, and in 1845 entered on the duties of his new sphere. From 1845 to 1850 he continued to labour in Toronto as pastor of Knox’s Church (a spacious, handsome edifice, which had been built for him) with untiring energy and with encouraging success—not, however, confining his attention to his own congregation, but having the care of all the churches, which, throughout the province, rapidly multiplied around him. He looked upon Canada as his diocese, and many were his episcopal visitations, not only throughout both divisions of that colony, but to the lesser provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia more than once, and once, at least, Newfoundland. During the course of those journeys it was his happiness to break ground in many a district which has since borne abundant fruit, and in others to revive what was weak and ready to die—his exuberant energy and resolute will serving, in not a few cases to rally the friends of Presbyterian order in districts where he found them weak and disheartened. The country was ripe for such a labourer when he came to it, and he saw and seized the opportunity, preaching far and near, undeterred by distances and severities pf weather, which many persons of much younger years would have hesitated to encounter. In this way he contributed, we are safe in saying, more than any other individual, to give to the Presbyterian Church in the province the wide influence for good which it holds today.”6

In 1856 he was called to be Professor of Churh History and Apologetics in Knox’s College; in which position he continued till the growing infirmities of age led him to retire from his onerous and responsible duties—though as Emeritus Professor he continued work almost as hard as ever, and devoted more time than ever to his “sleigh journeys,” and summer excursions as an evangelist, wherever there was a call or an opening for his pulpit services.

The last year of his life he spent at home, revisiting the scenes of his youth and early associations—going nowhere without preaching, on Sabbath-day or week-day and everywhere working for his Master with the intensity of one who knew that his time for working behoved to be near a close. And it proved to be nearer than he himself or any one else thought. His ministry may be said to have ended where it began, fifty-eight years before, in Paisley. In June last he assisted there at the communion, on which occasion he received handsome testimonial at a meeting held in his honour—”the gift, not of the congregation in which he formerly ministered, but of his friends in the Established, Free, U.P., Reformed Presbyterian, and Baptist Churches, who retained, notwithstanding the lapse of quarter of a century, a lively appreciation of his labours as a minister and citizen of Paisley.”

On July 25th he sailed for New York. He arrived in Toronto on August 5th, preached in Gould Street Church (of which he was a member) on August 8th—text, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triump in Christ;” on the 13th, while almost in the act of writing for the Canadian Record a notice of what he had been doing for the church and college during his absence, he was seized with what proved to be mortal illness; and on the 19th he entered into rest.” The illness which cut him off had assumed a form that was quite alarming, and might have been almost immediately fatal, before it took the pen from his hand.

There was great mercy in this, for one so constituted;— but, one Sabbath laid aside from active duty, and left free to hold quiet converse with the Invisible; ere another dawned, the door opened, and he was called to enter. “Blessed is that servant whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing.”

Dr. Burns was twice married; first, to Miss Orr of Paisley; and second, to Miss Bonar of Edinburgh, niece of his early friend, the good minister of Cramond, who survives him. He leaves, as his representative in the Church, his son, Dr. Robert F. Burns, formerly of St Catherine’s, Ontario, now of Chicago.

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REV. DR. THOMAS BURNS, OTAGO

(Died January 23, 1871)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, May 1, 1871, p.103


At Otago, on the 23rd January 1871, died Rev. Dr. Burns, senior pastor of the first church of this city, and the first minister of the first organized Christian congregation in the province. The death of this venerable minister, though sudden, was not unexpected. Dr. Burns was the third son of Gilbert Burns — brother of the Scottish bard, Robert Burns — and was born at Mossgiel, Dumfries-shire, on the 10th April 1796. After the ordinary attendance at the parish school, he was entered as a pupil of the academy in Closeburn, in his native county, being a pupil of the well-known Edward Irving. From the academy of Closeburn he passed to the University of Edinburgh. He was licensed in 1823 to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Haddington, being at the time tutor in the family of Sir Hew Dalrymple. In 1825 he received a presentation to the parish church of Ballantrae, which he accepted, and where he laboured with much success till 1830, in which year he received and accepted the presentation to the parish of Monkton, Ayrshire. At Monkton he continued to discharge, with much acceptance, the duties of parish minister till 1813, when he joined the Free Church at the Disruption, sacrificing for the sake of principle the status and emoluments of a parish minister, the latter amounting on an average to £400 per annum. After the Disruption he continued for two years nominally Free Church minister of Monkton, but in reality establishing Free churches in not a few parishes, not only in Ayrshire, but in several other counties of Scotland where the ministers had continued in the Established Church. In 1845 the Lay Association of the Free Church for the colonization of Otago was formed, from which he received the offer of minister to the first settlement of emigrants to this province. As is well known, difficulties arose which prevented the immediate prosecution of the immigration scheme agreed upon between the New Zealand Company and the Lay Association. Finding that the delay in entering upon the work of colonizing the projected settlement of Otago was continued, and being unable to devote more of his time unremuneratively to advance the interests of the New Zealand Company, he accepted a call to Portobello, near Edinburgh, and was inducted into that charge. There he continued for eighteen months, when the matter of colonizing this portion of New Zealand was revived, and arrangements effected for starting the first batch of emigrants. With these Dr. Burns sailed, and arrived in Otago on April 15th, 1848. For several years Dr. Burns continued unaided to minister to the Presbyterian population, extending his labours to all the settled portions of the province, but giving the larger portion of his time to Dunedin and the immediate neighbourhood. In the beginning of 1854 the Rev. W. Will, of the Taieri, and the Rev. W. Bannerman, of the Clutha, arrived, and with Dr. Burns constituted, in the month of June of the same year, the Presbytery of Otago, which has since expanded into the Synod of Otago and Southland, consisting of three large presbyteries. In 1861, the University of Edinburgh conferred upon Mr. Burns the degree of D.D., as a mark of their estimate of his talents. The following letter from the Rev. George Sutherland will be read with interest:

“Dunedin, February 1, 1871.

“Dear Sir, — Allow me through you to convey to the Church at home the sorrowful intelligence of the removal by death of the venerable Dr. Burns of Otago. Laid aside from the active duties of the ministry more than three years ago, he still was able to go out and in among us till the close of last year. On the first day of the present year he was taken ill when out, and gradually grew worse till the morning of the 23rd January, when he quietly breathed his last. During the greater part of his last illness he was unconscious, the once active and powerful intellect being encumbered with the infirmities of failing mortality. Yet he was often heard engaged in prayer and praise: among the last words heard were, ‘If it be thy will, take me to thyself.’ On the third Sabbath of December he was in church for the last time. On that day he received from me the symbols of the body and blood of our Saviour, the pledges of a full forgiveness and a participation in the tree of life. His remains were followed to their last resting-place — a beautiful spot in the very centre of the cemetery, and in full view of the harbour — by a vast concourse of people. No such funeral was seen before in Otago. All places of business and public offices in the city were closed, and the whole population seemed to throng on the line of procession. He has gone down to the grave in peace, full of days and full of honours, aged seventy-six. Thus another of the Disruption standard-bearers is gone to his rest and reward. Dr. Burns belonged to that colonial band of worthies who have left their mark broad and deep in the lands of their adoption. The Free Church of Scotland has conferred a great blessing on the British Colonial Empire in the able and godly men sent out by her in the early period of her history, to lay broad and firm the foundations of the Church throughout the wide-spread colonies. We have thought that if Mr. Hill’s great picture had one defect it was in not having a colonial group of worthies in some front place. There we might have seen— with the good Dr. John Bonar in the centre — among others, the heroic and indefatigable Dr. Robert Burns of Toronto, a noble champion for Christ; the enthusiastic, enterprising, and noble-hearted Dr. Forrester of Nova Scotia; the able and accomplished theologian, Dr. King of Halifax; the energetic and devoted preacher, Dr. M’Leod of Cape Breton; and the sagacious, self-denying, and godly Dr. Thomas Burns of Otago. God raised up many great and good men for the Free Church, and some of the very best of these were sent to the colonies, east and west. The Free Church cannot do too much for the colonies. They will constitute some of the most powerful nations on our globe in the future, and the Church will do well to prosecute vigorously the work so nobly begun by her heroes in early days.

“To the elder brethren Dr. Burns need not be described; for the younger, I may say that in personal appearance he was tall, stoutly built, and venerable. His hair was long and white; his intellect was calm, sound, and sagacious; his articulation very distinct, and his utterance deliberate without being slow. His prayers were remarkable for their profound reverence, and their admirable choice of language. His sermons were written and read with great care, and were highly appreciated by those who relished truth wisely arranged and well delivered.

“To him Otago, and specially her Church, are under lasting obligations; and the fruits of his labours are destined to continue for many generations.—Yours, &c.

“George Sutherland”

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REV. WILLIAM BURNS, CHINA

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, August 1 1868, p.184


The death of the Rev. William Burns will have touched the hearts of thousands of our readers, of many who loved him for his works’ sake in Scotland and in China, and of not a few still remaining behind him here, after an absence of twenty-one years, of whom he might say, “Ye are our epistle, known and read of all men.” The souls that were the fruits of his ministry in Scotland must have been greatly influential in his work in China, supplying by their intercessions the place of a praying congregation, by which the hands of ministers at home are so upheld, while most missionaries to Jew and Gentile suffer from the lack of such assistance. The two works were singularly diverse in their character, and were such as have rarely, if ever before, been allotted to one man to accomplish. Those who knew William Burns only as the enthusiastic preacher from town to town throughout the land would have looked upon him as the last man in the Church who, after eight years of what seemed the highest religious excitement, with thousands crowding to hear him, would set himself to what was then reckoned the almost hopeless task of thoroughly mastering the Chinese language; would seclude himself from his own countrymen, and live among a people so different, teaching their children that he might learn their language, and then adopt their dress, and their ways, till in strange places the authorities were sometimes slow to believe him when he claimed to be an Englishman. He translated the “Pilgrim’s Progress” into Chinese, and could act as interpreter between Chinamen of different provinces in that vast empire, who could read each other’s writing, but could not understand each other’s speech.

It was grace that gave the impress to all his life, and it was only for God’s glory that he cared to live, and for the profit of many that they might be saved. Yet the hard plodding for a great object, the sagacious intellect, the quick linguistic apprehension, common sense, mother wit, coolness and presence of mind in every variety of circumstance, were more his natural characteristics than the elements which go to constitute the enthusiastic and exciting preacher. In the midst of the revival at Kilsyth, he would sometimes relieve the tension of his mind by reading the Greek classics; and he possessed the bodily strength, the courage, and all the other qualities that would have enabled him to cross the continent of Africa, like Dr. Livingstone, if he had set his heart on such an object. No man was less a fool by nature, yet no man in modern times did more entirely become a fool for Christ’s sake. His preaching was in a most peculiar manner by the power of the Holy Ghost, in demonstration of the Spirit and in power, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. He had no fancy, no pathos, little natural enthusiasm, and not much that could be called natural eloquence. But he had a firm grasp of gospel truth, a capacity for clear and forcible statement, and a voice capable of commanding any audience, however large, in the church, in the street, in the field: and when the power of the Spirit rested upon him, there were the thunders of Sinai in all their terrors, the still small voice of the gospel in much of its tenderness, the fervent fluency of a tongue touched with a live coal from the altar, the irrepressible urgency of one standing between the living and the dead, the earnest pressing of salvation that would accept no refusal; himself standing consciously and evidently in the presence of the great God, with heaven and hell and the souls of men open before him, with Jesus Christ filling his heart with His love and pouring grace into his lips, and with multitudes before him weeping for sorrow over discovered sin, or for joy in a discovered Saviour.

Mr. W.C. Burns was born at the manse of Dun in 1815, and died at Neuchwang on the 4th of April last. He was born a second time in Edinburgh, while sitting under the ministry of Dr. Bruce, in 1832. The change was decided, and its effect was to lead him at once to give up his plan of binding himself as an apprentice to his uncle, who was a writer to the signet, and to give himself to the Lord for the work of the ministry. His conversion, however, bore to others the stamp of simplicity, sincerity and tenderness, rather than of the singular power of grace which was so conspicuous afterwards; but subsequently the Lord’s work in his soul was greatly deepened under the ministry of Dr. John Duncan in Glasgow. After receiving license to preach the gospel, he was called to supply the pulpit of the Rev. Robert McCheyne in Dundee, during his absence in Palestine in the summer of 1839; and it was then that there commenced through his ministry that great work of revival which spread through so many parts of the land. Its beginning, however, was not in Dundee, but while Mr. Burns was on a visit to his father, at the communion in Kilsyth. When preaching there, the awakening power first rested upon him which changed the whole style of his future ministry. He was not ordained at the time, and during eight years after he never would be ordained, till he was leaving Scotland for China; for he said always that “the Lord sent him not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” But at Kilsyth there was fulfilled to him the promise, “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” For weeks before, he was full of prayer: he seemed to care for nothing but to pray. In the day-time, alone or with others, it was his chief delight, and in the night-watches he might be overheard praying aloud. Yet during this time the power that rested upon himself did not affect his preaching; it was sensible, clear, orthodox, unobjectionable: and in that, indeed, he never altered; for in the midst of whatever excitement there was never any eccentricity or extravagance of doctrine, or even the extreme pressing of any one point, but a steadfast keeping within lines of received truth, as not expecting conversion by any special way of stating the gospel, but by the power of the Spirit accompanying it. For a season, however, before the Kilsyth communion, he seemed two different men in private and public, his own spiritual strength so far exceeding what appeared in the pulpit. But then the Lord, who had strengthened David to slay the lion and the bear in the recesses of the mountains, sent him forth to triumph over Goliath before the hosts of Israel. He had been asking, seeking, knocking for the Holy Spirit of promise; that Spirit came upon him with power, and the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved, multitudes both of men and women.

But we enter not into his labours in Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, China; the Church will look for a memorial of them, by which, being dead, he may yet speak to many. His death was amongst the Chinese; with some English friends who visited him, and an attentive physician, but with no fellow-labourer near except his Chinese assistant. About a week before his death a friend was reading to him the Twenty-third Psalm, but his voice faltering at the third verse, the dying soldier of the cross took it up with a firm voice—”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” —and finished the psalm. When the same friend repeated the Lord’s Prayer, he rehearsed with great strength and decision its closing words— “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen:” the last words he is known to have uttered. He had been attacked with fever at the end of the year, having preached his last sermon from Rev. 20:11-15, on “the great white throne, and the dead, small and great, standing before God.” He lingered long afterwards, but without his strength ever rallying. On the 15th of January he wrote, on his sick-bed, these few lines for his beloved mother, the last he ever wrote: a good testimony in death by one of the noblest of all the missionaries of the cross, ancient or modern, and a most fitting end to his singularly holy, self-denied, devoted, and believing walk and life:—”To my mother.—At the end of last year I got a severe chill, which has not yet left the system, producing chilliness and fever every night; and for the last few nights this has been followed by prostration, which rapidly diminishes the strength. Unless it shall please God to rebuke the disease, it is evident what the end must be, and I write these lines beforehand to say that I am happy and ready through the abounding grace of God either to live or to die. May the God of all consolation comfort you when the tidings of my decease shall reach you, and through the redeeming blood of Jesus may we meet with joy before the throne above!—Wm. Burns.”

“Another old friend is gone,
Another familiar face
Another has laid his burden down,
And finished the weary race.
“Patience! time fleets apace,
The present soon grows the past;
Others are swifter upon the race,
But our time will come at last.
“See that the lamp burns bright,
For the way is dark and unknown;
None may aid us to gain the light—
The path must be trodden alone.
“Patience! we stand and wait,
Till in trembling we rejoice;
And we pass the eternal gate
At the sound of the Bridegroom’s voice.”

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DR. WILLIAM HAMILTON BURNS, KILSYTH

The Home and Foreign Record of the Free Church of Scotland, July, 1859, p.288


At the last ordinary meeting of the Free Presbytery of Glasgow, Mr Wilson read the following statement, drawn up at the request of the Presbytery by Dr Forbes:—”In entering upon their record the decease of the Rev. William Burns, D.D., minister of Kilsyth, the presbytery deem it their duty to insert in their minutes a brief tribute to the memory of that much-venerated and deeply-lamented servant of God. Dr Burns was translated from the parish of Dun to that of Kilsyth in the year 1820, and had therefore been a minister within the bounds of this presbytery and a member of this court for the period of 39 years. Throughout the whole of his incumbency, Dr Burns was peculiarly and honourably distinguished for his pastoral fidelity and diligence, and the cordial zeal with which he laboured to promote the spiritual interests of the people, both in Kilsyth and in the surrounding districts. Mainly through his exertions and influence was the church of Banton erected, and the ordinances of religion provided for the residents in that locality, by its formation into a separate pastoral charge. Possessing extensive and accurate theological attainments, in connexion with a deep experimental love of evangelical truth, Dr Burns approved himself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of God. He combined in his ministrations with happy effect the doctrinal and the practical, and succeeded, in no ordinary degree, in making full proof of his ministry, tenderly and affectionately warning the unruly, pleading with the impenitent and unconverted, comforting the afflicted, and edifying believers; and had no greater joy than to be honoured in winning souls to Christ.
During his ministry, his labours were signally blessed to. many, and the revival of religion at Kilsyth has become a part of the religious history of our age and Church. As a member of this court, Dr Burns was remarkably regular in his attendance, even until recently, entered warmly into the consideration and advocacy of every measure for promoting religion and virtue, and suppressing vice, intemperance, Sabbath profanation, and other evils, and gave his zealous countenance and co-operation in carrying into effect the missionary, evangelistic, educational, and other schemes of the Church. His counsels were invariably listened to and received with the deep regard and esteem due to his eminent personal worth, lengthened experience, sound judgment, and zealous interest, in every measure that related to the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause and the best interests of society. At the period of the Disruption, in accordance with what he firmly believed was the path of ministerial duty, and the obligations involved in his ministerial vows, as well as the spiritual rights of the Church and the privileges of the Christian people in regard to the settlement of ministers and the formation of the pastoral relation, Dr Burns abandoned the Establishment with unhesitating decision, a step in which he was countenanced and followed by a large proportion of his congregation. His brethren in the ministry and numerous Christian friends will always cherish an affectionate remembrance of his devout life, godly simplicity and sincerity of manners, edifying and interesting conversational powers, engaging cheerfulness, and warm-hearted benevolence; and cannot but sympathise tenderly and deeply with his bereaved widow and family.”

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REV. THOMAS BURNSIDE, FALKLAND

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, October 1, 1867


This worthy minister died on the 26th August of fever, after about three weeks’ illness. He was born and educated in Glasgow. Though not a Disruption minister, he did good service previous to and at the Disruption. He was labouring about that time at Girvan, where, by his faithful preaching of the gospel and assiduous visiting among the people, he drew around him and attached to the Church many, not a few of whom had been previously very ignorant and careless. It was not there, however, he was to labour as a pastor. In the good providence of God he was brought to Falkland, where he was ordained in 1845. Since that time up to within three weeks of his death he laboured most unweariedly, and not without fruit. He was very careful in his preparations for the pulpit; his sermons showed great extent and variety of reading, that he was a ripe and thorough old school theologian; and he delivered them always with great solemnity and earnestness, often with remarkable power. He had great delight in his work as a minister; no one was more ready than he to assist a brother, at whatever inconvenience or toil to himself; and his labours in visiting the sick and those under spiritual concern, and in holding prayer-meetings in the villages and hamlets around, were unceasing.

Mr. Burnside was an excellent classical scholar, read largely and easily the Latin commentaries of foreign divines of the Reformation period. He was learned especially in Hebrew; and as he often selected his texts from the Old Testament, he would, from his intimate acquaintance with Hebrew literature and phraseology, throw a flood of light on the passage before him and others parallel to it. He had a good knowledge of several modern languages, and his taste for acquiring them remained to the last, so that within a few months of his death he began and made some progress in the study of Spanish. His excellent memory also showed itself in his having a fund of anecdote, which made him a most agreeable companion, and, along with his sterling qualities as an upright man and faithful minister, endeared him not only to his own people but to all classes and all denominations. He was warmly attached to the principles of the Free Church of Scotland, knew them well and loved them much, and he was too honest and fearless an advocate of what he believed to be truth to make any secret of his sentiments, which he openly avowed both in Presbytery and General Assembly. His memory will long be fragrant in Falkland as that of one who lived and laboured to win souls; who grudged no bodily fatigue or personal effort that he might advance the cause of Christ in his neighbourhood, or benefit a congregation which was very dear to him, and by whom he was both respected and beloved. He has left a widow and six children to mourn his loss.

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