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REV. JAMES FAIRBAIRN, D.D., NEWHAVEN

(Died January 3, 1879)
Author: Rev. John James Bonar, Greenock
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.16


Dr. Fairbairn was born towards the end of 1804, at the farm of Huntington, not far from Lauder, and received his primary education at the school of that burgh. He matriculated in 1818 as a literary student in the University of Edinburgh, and became a member of the Diagnostic Society in 1819. He entered the Divinity Hall in 1825, and after an unexpected delay, arising from the state of his health, he was in 1834 licensed as a probationer by the Presbytery of Dalkeith, within whose bounds he had come to reside. From 1834 he was employed as assistant to Mr. Monteith, parish minister of Dalkeith, until he was chosen in 1838 minister of Newhaven. He was ordained the same year by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and continued in his first charge to the end of his life. In 1843 he signed the Deed of Demission, and left the Established for the Free Church of Scotland. He was made D.D. by the University of Edinburgh in 1876, and died January 3, 1879.

There seems not much in these incidents, yet the life of Dr. Fairbairn has important lessons to teach.

Viewed as a man, he was at once quaint and noble, with a character and idiosyncrasy quite original. Tall and fragile in early youth, he afterwards became portly and imposing. Born amid scenes of rural beauty and historic fame, he had always an eye for the venerable and picturesque, and good use did he make of this taste when visiting the Continent, as was seen in the vivid descriptions of all noted places which he sent to his people from time to time. Every animal—bird or beast—he loved, even when a child; and as he lay upon his dying pillow, he asked that the robins and starlings he noticed begging at his window, amid the thick snow of December, should be fed ere his own wants were supplied. To all who were familiar with it, Dr. Fairbairn’s voice carried a spell in its every note—so well modulated it was, and richly melodious; yet, to a stranger, it sounded as a rapid clack, and the uninitiated might say that it was grotesque: and so it was. From the cradle the Doric of Berwickshire was Dr. Fairbairn’s vernacular, and he never let it drop. But in his case, as in that of Lord Cockburn, broad Scotch was felt to be classic, and not vulgar, befitting the gentleman and the scholar. Ardent in his feelings, he was loved of all, and loved all. He was the favourite of home, and especially was he attached to his only sister, for whose comfort no sacrifice did he ever think too great, though in his anxiety to lengthen out her days he at last cut short his own. Whilst a mere boy, Dr. Fairbairn showed how generous a spirit he had; for noticing his mother one day in tears, he asked her why she cried, and being told that it was because of a debt, at once he said, “I shall sell my pony,” though this pony he fed out of his own hand, and it was to him as a companion, like Nathan’s ewe-lamb. No one can have read Dr. Fairbairn’s speech at the jubilee of Dr. Purves, a few years ago, without perceiving what a fund of humour he possessed, if it were not almost exuberant, and how he could shine as well in pleasant banter as in grave discussion. Perhaps no one ever practised more literally than Dr. Fairbairn that “charity which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” But even charity should have its limits; and it may be a question if his suavity were not too uniform, his praise too indiscriminate. One could not wish nor find a truer friend than Dr. Fairbairn; his sympathy was as certain as his counsels were wise; and he spared not himself in correspondence. His letters must be innumerable, and there was not one of them which did not evince the taste and genius of the man as much as the kindness of the friend.

[Mr. Bonar then proceeds to speak of Dr. Fairbairn as a scholar, a minister, and a Free Churchman. After which he goes on to say:—]

Viewed, last of all, as a Christian, Dr. Fairbairn possessed not only the light of truth, but the life of peace. Brought up among the Seceders, he was trained in the Scriptures and the Catechism from youth; he was also gentle, and true, and blameless. But he was not born again whilst at school. Conscience set righteousness before him, but grace had not shown him reconciliation. He had no idea of any distance between God and him, and to continue pleasing his Maker was all his aim. In this state—restless, but not uneasy; anxious, but not awakened; with a sense of deficiency, yet without a conviction of sin—Dr. Fairbairn went to Edinburgh in 1818, and there the Shepherd found him. In the college and in the hall Jesus was not even named, but his voice was crying in the city. It was the day of Jones, Colquhoun, Grey, McCrie, Thomson, Gordon; and these true ambassadors, especially the latter, showed Dr. Fairbairn the way of life, until he could at length exclaim, “Once was I darkness, but now am I light in the Lord.” For a time he was perplexed about his marks and evidences, but the mist soon passed away, and he learned from Baxter “that safety and comfort stand not always on the same bottom ;” whilst Sibbs taught him “that when we are once in Christ, we ought not to question our state in him.” It was peace now instead of uncertainty, and in the joy of his emancipation James Fairbairn yielded himself up to God for holiness, even as he abandoned himself to Christ for pardon. His was a long pilgrimage of fifty years subsequent to this change; nevertheless, to the end he turned not aside, but his faith was ever adding to itself all gracious excellence. “For him to live was Christ,” through all the days of his activity and conflict; and as the shadows fell, he only clung to him the closer. Heretofore he had enjoyed uniform if not robust health; but in the spring of 1878 “the earthly house” seemed to shake, and by the autumn it was suspected that a fatal ailment was somewhere in the system. The conjecture proved correct, and neither medical skill, nor affectionate tenderness, nor a powerful constitution, nor manifold intercession, could avert the dreaded issue. The dying believer forthwith set himself to look the last enemy in the face, and he did not shrink. He watched his own pallid features, he counted his own ebbing pulse, but he “feared no evil.” “I am lying,” he said, “on the ninth verse of the first chapter of the First Epistle of John, ‘If I confess my sins, he is just to forgive;’ and what more can I want? I believe what is promised, and how can I doubt in the very act of believing?” Soon after, he pleaded, “Living Saviour, help a dying sinner!” Again he breathed out feebly, “I am lying at the feet of Jesus! I am perfectly saved! ” And so he was. He was saved from doubt as well as from danger; and, in a moment, “he is not.” “By one gentle kiss,” as the Jews represent the decease of Moses, he is released from the body, and translated to sit with Jesus in the heavenly places, until he is summoned to reign with him on earth.

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REV. JOHN FAIRBAIRN, GREENLAW

(Died April 3, 1895)
Author: William Alexander, Esq., Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1895, Obituary, p.143


Another of the rapidly-diminishing band of the pre-Disruption ministers has passed away in the person of Mr. Fairbairn of Greenlaw. Born in 1808, and ordained in 1833, he had reached the advanced age of eighty-seven, and was in the sixty-second year of his ministry. He was for several years previous to his death the father of his presbytery and synod, and only two ministers in the Free Church survive who were ordained before him. As a member of the Disruption Assembly, he signed the deed of demission, and it is an interesting fact that there are only four ministers now living who took part in the same memorable act.

Along with his more distinguished brother, Dr. Patrick Fairbairn, Principal of the Free Church College, Glasgow, he spent his youth at Hallyburton, a farm in the pastoral uplands of Berwickshire, while his two cousins, Dr. James Fairbairn of Newhaven and Dr. John Purves of Jedburgh, had their homes at farms a few miles further west in the same district.

After attending the parochial school at Greenlaw, he entered the University of Edinburgh in his fourteenth year, and on completing his arts course, he studied divinity under Drs. Ritchie, Lee, and Chalmers. During his student days he waited on the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Gordon; and if he did not get his first spiritual impulse under the preaching of that eminently godly divine, he at least learned many of the foundation truths of the Christian life on which he was afterwards to be a builder and teacher of others.

The first nine years of Mr. Fairbairn’s ministry were spent in Canada. The district where he was settled was colonized by operatives from Paisley and Glasgow, who, on account of commercial stagnation at home, had emigrated to the backwoods to earn a livelihood. The district was wide, and there was much difficulty in ministering among such a scattered population. But deep interest in the means of grace began to grow, and in course of time a church and manse were built and elders were ordained. A very warm attachment grew up between minister and people, and much spiritual fruit was gathered while Mr. Fairbairn laboured there. In after-years his heart was often filled with joy on learning that many of the members of his first flock, who claimed him as their spiritual father, “continued to stand fast in the Lord,” and that others of them had entered into “the rest that remaineth for the people of God.”

When he found it necessary, on account of his wife’s health, to contemplate returning to Scotland, a call came to him from the Burgher congregation of Original Seceders at Greenlaw, which had joined the Established Church in 1839. He accepted the call, came home, and was inducted in July 1842. It was a time when ecclesiastical controversy was at its height. On account of his absence during the “ten years’ conflict,” Mr. Fairbairn had much to learn as to the state of parties. But his evangelical sympathies were all on the side of spiritual independence, and he had no difficulty in making his choice. His congregation was quite prepared to follow him. At first small in numbers, it soon increased under his earnest ministry, many being attracted from the neighbouring parishes where there was no Free Church. A dead Moderatism had long held sway throughout the district, and the advent of a zealous and faithful minister like Mr. Fairbairn, coincident with the stirring era of the Disruption, produced an effect somewhat like the dawn of spring after a long and dreary winter. Mr. Fairbairn’s preaching was plain and simple but direct. He did not labour after elegance of style or literary grace of language, but he made a diligent study of the choicest words by which he could reach the consciences of his hearers. It was his highest aim to preach Christ, and his greatest reward was seen in the special seasons of grace that followed, first in 1861, and again in 1869, when many souls were led into the kingdom.

While cver holding his pulpit and pastoral work as most important, he sought to influence the whole district in various other ways. The power of the press for good or evil deeply exercised him, and he put into circulation by colportage and other means the best religious books and tracts of the time, so as to create a taste for good reading. Seeing the inadequacy of the parish school system to meet the wants of the population, Mr. Fairbairn took advantage of the encouragement given to education by the Government in their minute of 1846, got a school built, and had it supplied with teachers for a period of thirty years.

It was given to Mr. Fairbairn to see during his lifetime many of the results of his labours. Being relieved of the full discharge of his ministerial work by the appointment of the Rev. Alexander Cameron as colleague in 1875, and in a few years thereafter retiring altogether from pulpit duty, he enjoyed a long period of rest, during which he had many tokens of God’s goodness, and had cause to rejoice in the witness borne to him of the blessed effects of his ministry. At his jubilee, in 1883, friends assembled from far and near to do honour to him, and warm and glowing tributes were paid to the labours of his long and useful life.

Removing to Edinburgh about four years ago on account of failing sight and the growing infirmities of age, he continued in the possession of all his mental faculties, and took an active interest in the religious movements of the time. He was keenly opposed to the advanced views on Biblical and kindred subjects, but was always ready to give weighty and intelligent reasons for the positions which he held. His love for the simple word was so great that he learned Moon’s system of reading for the blind and in his later years he might be seen patiently spelling out the sacred text. No wonder that he was repugnant to any endroachment on its authority.

His end was in keeping with his life. He took ill of influenza at Dunbar, where he had been spending the winter. On the day he died, when it was said to him, “we are afraid you are going to be taken from us,” he replied, “Ah! But it is to the glory.” Thus, ere his spirit quitted its earthly tabernacle, he was eagerly anticipating the celestial vision that was soon to burst upon his view.

Mr. Fairbairn was twice married, and leaves only one son, who with his family resides in Queensland.

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REV. JOHN CLARKSON FAIRBAIRN, ALLANTON

(Born 1809, died September 27, 1873)
Author: John Wilson, Esq., Edington Mains
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, March 2, 1874, p.60


Although not strictly speaking a Disruption minister, Mr. Fairbairn was virtually so. Born and educated in Edinburgh, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Church of Scotland in 1837. Thereafter he got some useful training for the work of the ministry — first as a missionary in connection with Tolbooth Parish, Edinburgh, and then for a year in Liberton Parish, as substitute for Dr. Begg while he was laid aside by ill health. But those were discouraging times for licentiates of evangelical principles, if they had no interest with patrons, and scorned the arts by which their favour was too often gained.

While preaching as opportunity offered, Mr. Fairbairn had recourse for a time to other employments — first, as editor, for a year, of the Christian Miscellany; which duty he resigned on being appointed travelling secretary to the Edinburgh Bible Society. This useful and honourable office, which yielded him a comfortable income, and brought him into pleasant intercourse with Christians of all denominations in all parts of Scotland, he might have retained, notwithstanding his adherence to the Free Church; but he had dedicated himself to the work of the ministry, and so, when the Disruption was accomplished, he instantly resigned his appointment, and put himself, as a preacher, at the service of the Free Church.

He very soon received a unanimous call from the newly organized congregation of Allanton, which, drawn from four adjoining parishes, was located in the vicinity of a village where there was no church previously. On 5th April 1844 he was ordained over this congregation by the Presbytery of Dunse and Chirnside, and speedily took the position of an able and faithful minister of the word, and a man of mark and influence in the district where his lot had been cast. This position he retained with ever augmenting power to the end of life.

An enthusiastic lover of books, he had early accumulated a large and carefully-selected library, both in theology and general literature, to which constant additions continued to he made. His habit of careful study was never remitted, and he continued, to the close of his ministry, the practice of writing his sermons in full, although it was only occasionally, and under the pressure of failing health, that his manuscript was used in the pulpit. His loving and singularly sympathetic nature fitted him in no ordinary degree for pastoral visitation, and won for him in return the loving confidence of the sick and sorrowful, and of perplexed and anxious souls. So much was this the case, that his counsel and prayers were constantly in request by individuals and families of all denominations. But Mr. Fairbairn had qualities and acquirements which attracted and endeared him to many persons to whom, if he had been no more than the faithful pastor, he would have had no access; for he had not only a genuine taste for and large acquaintance with general literature, and specially with the literature of the fine arts, but was himself no mean proficient as a poet and painter. And hence, from this many-sidedness, his society was prized by persons in all ranks of life, and of the most diverse tastes and pursuits. With all this, he was always and everywhere pre-eminently the Christian minister, so that no one could be long in his company without being reminded of the one thing needful.

As long as health permitted, he took his full share in the business of the Free Church. For many years he spent several weeks of each summer in evangelistic work, by appointment of the Assembly, and was twice sent on foreign service — first to Canada in 1850, and to the Continental station at Montreux in 1871. He took a lively interest in everything that tended to the elevation of the people, and greatly rejoiced that he had lived to see the passing of the Education Act of 1872.

During the last four years of his life he was much enfeebled through failing health. He continued, however, to preach without intermission almost to the end; and when at last compelled to desist, he took part, along with a lay evangelist, a short time before his death, in a fortnight of continuous evening meetings in his own church. And then, with bodily strength utterly exhausted, a sudden accession of painful sickness speedily closed the scene, and another faithful labourer in our Lord’s vineyard, who had borne bravely the burden and heat of the day, was called up to the everlasting rest.

Soon after his settlement at Allanton, Mr. Fairbairn married Margaret Wilson (eldest sister of the writer of this notice), who, with one daughter, survives him.

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PATRICK FAIRBAIRN, D.D., PRINCIPAL OF THE FREE CHURCH COLLEGE, GLASGOW

(Died August , 1874)
Author: Professor Douglas, D.D
The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1874, p.217


Dr. Fairbairn was born in the parish of Greenlaw in January 1805, and was therefore of much the same age as Dr. Cunningham, also a Berwickshire man, and as Dr. Candlish, alongside of both of whom he took his place in making efforts to improve the education of those who offered themselves for the ministry. It is very likely that this sphere of usefulness had presented itself to him while yet a student; for often afterwards he lamented his own experience of the miserably degraded training, both intellectually and spiritually, which Moderatism then provided in the University of Edinburgh, at which he studied. We have not the means of determining how early he had been brought to the knowledge of the truth; but, even amidst his reticence on such subjects, there are indications that it had been pretty early; and, as in the case of so many who have done eminent service in the Church of Christ, probably through the agency of his mother, who was spared to an advanced age, and toward whom he ever manifested devoted attachment.

In or about 1830 he was ordained the first minister of North Ronaldshay, in the remotest part of Orkney; and there he found a field whose cultivation needed all his energy and wisdom; and the blessing of God rested on his labours. At the same time having, comparatively speaking, much leisure, he set himself to careful systematic study of the Word of God, and of its ablest interpreters, ancient and modern, and with this result, that when he was called from his secluded parish, he came away with a mind richly stored, and with habits thoroughly formed, such as already evinced him to be a theologian of high rank, and likely to rise still higher. His next charge was the newly erected quoad sacra parish of Bridgeton, at the east end of Glasgow, where again he was the first minister, and anew showed himself a workman that needed not to be ashamed. His third and longest experience of pastoral work was in the rich agricultural district of East Lothian, in the parish of Salton; and there once more he proved himself able to combine remarkably scholarly habits and attainments with careful superintendence of the souls of the plain people committed to his charge. In Salton he endured the trial of the Disruption, involving the average amount of hardships to which country ministers were exposed, lightened, however, by the adherence of a loving people.

After some preliminary experience of the work demanded from a professor of theology, on May 28th 1853 he was appointed unanimously by the General Assembly to the Professorship at Aberdeen, left vacant by the death of Dr. Maclagan. After three sessions there of successful work, on May 30th 1856 the General Assembly unanimously translated him to the Hall then about to be opened in Glasgow, of which he was appointed Principal. With what learning, zeal, method, and spiritual insight he discharged the duties there devolving on him; with what veneration and affection he was regarded by his colleagues and his students; with what success he built up that institution, is already known, more or less, throughout the Church, and may yet be better known, as his loss comes to be felt from day to day.

He was also an elder in the Free College Church, and his diligent and loving discharge of the duties of this office was a source of comfort and joy to the pastors, as well as to his brethren in the eldership. His truly catholic mind loved the whole Church, and took an interest in all that was done in every branch of it for the glory of God and the good of men; and he gave himself to many forms of practical Christian work in the city where he lived. Though his tastes did not incline him to take a very prominent place in Church courts, yet he was conscientious in attending them, alive to the business transacted, ready to speak when necessary, and much esteemed for his counsel in public and in private. He received the highest honours of the Church, being made Moderator of the General Assembly in 1864; and from first to last he was an active and influential member of the Union Committee, and deeply deplored the very limited success which in the first instance has attended its labours. He was one summer sent as a deputy to the American Churches.

He was blessed with a noble bodily presence and with an admirable constitution, and he took wise measures to preserve the health which he turned to precious account in abundant labours, not only as a professor, but also as an author whose writings have taken a high place in theological literature. Among these may be mentioned his Typology of Scripture, his largest and perhaps his best known work; an Exposition of Ezekiel; a volume on Prophecy; another on the Revelation of Law in Scripture, being the third course of the Cunningham Lectures; and the latest on the Pastoral Epistles. Besides contributing to many serial publications, he edited the Imperial Bible Dictionary, published by Blackie and Son, and many of the important articles were from his own pen. He was also one of the scholars outside the Church of England who were from the first appointed to be members of the Old Testament Company for the revision of the authorized version of the Bible; and he attended diligently the very last meeting of this body, by all whose members he was much valued and esteemed.

He took a deep interest in the revival with which Scotland was visited last winter; and at the “all-day meeting” held at Glasgow in April he delivered an address which was much admired and appreciated on account of its warmth, its wisdom, its terseness, and its spiritual power. But he had suffered somewhat in connection with this, and he went home from the meeting in a state of health which occasioned anxiety to his friends for a week or two; and though he rallied, they observed a great failure in his strength. Nevertheless he made little change in his mode of life and work. The occupations of the latest days of his life have been traced, and it has been found that to the last he was engaged diligently, and much as usual, in the service of his Master. On the night of August 6th he retired to bed apparently in his ordinary health; but he passed from earth to heaven probably without waking. After his threescore and ten years here, he was thus gently though suddenly called to enter into the joy of his Lord. Amongst other relatives, he leaves a widow and four children, one brother and sister in Australia, and another brother, the Free Church minister at Greenlaw, to mourn his loss.

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REV. ALEXANDER FAIRWEATHER, BOTRIPHNIE

(Died June 24, 1869)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, October 1, 1869, p.229


Mr. Fairweather, the youngest but one of a family of twelve, was born on the 22nd of January 1807, at Dundee. At an early age he came to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and the necessity of living not to himself but to God became a strong conviction with him. He was intended for the mercantile profession, and it was an apparently slight incident that led to his quitting business. He heard a gentleman one day, in conversation with his father, express an opinion of the great importance of education for every department in life. The young man determined to receive more of it than he had as yet got, and with that object joined an evening class, at which he made very considerable progress. He now, encouraged by his success, resolved on studying for the ministry; but, like so many of our Scotch students, he had to contend with great difficulties. He could not expect his father to bear the expense of giving him a University education, but, with that indomitable resolution that laughs at impossibilities, he determined to put himself to college.

He entered St. Andrews University in 1825. In the beginning of his second session he was called home, on the death of his father in November 1826, and in less than two months he lost his mother too. He spent the remainder of that session in a lawyer’s office—a part of his education which he acknowledged to have been of great use to him. Returning to St. Andrews in 1827, he finished his Arts curriculum in 1830. He taught a school for three years in Dundee, and finished his Divinity course at Edinburgh in 1836.

Mr. Fairweather preached his first sermon in Botriphnie on 18th June 1843, and was ordained on the 17th August of the same year. For some time after he came to Botriphnie he preached in a barn at Woodend; and such was the feeling against the cause of the Free Church at that time, that the people were necessitated to apply to Lord Fife for a site for a church, when one for a temporary building was granted at the extreme end of the parish, bordering on Keith. The present manse was built near it in 1849-50. Owing to the inconvenience to the congregation, they applied to the late Admiral Duff for permission to erect a more substantial church near the centre of the parish. After considerable delay and disappointment, they got one built, which was opened in 1854 by the Rev. Dr. Rainy, late of Huntly, now of New College, Edinburgh. One great difficulty in the ministrations of the late Mr. Fairweather was the distance—two miles—of the manse from the church. For thirteen years after coming to Botriphnie he had sole charge of the Boharm congregation; and, summer and winter, for that period, he had to go to Boharm and preach once every Sunday. These extra labours, doubtless, impaired the health and shortened the days of Mr. Fairweather’s life. For several years before his death, Mr. F. had been liable to severe attacks of illness. After his recovery from these attacks, his people always found him enriched with much that can be got only through suffering; like true gold, he was always the brighter by passing through the fire.

As a theologian, it will be enough to say that Mr. Fairweather’s co-presbyters looked upon him as one of the soundest and most learned in their number. As a member of the Church courts, though he never took a very prominent part in the debates, he possessed great influence, and his counsel was greatly valued by his brethren. He was always willing to co-operate with members of other denominations in any good work. As a preacher, he was always most careful in the preparation of his sermons, which were characterized by chasteness of style and clearness of argument, and were always delivered with earnestness. The pastoral duty of visiting he most faithfully and zealously performed, always sacrificing his own comfort that he might bring some consolation to the afflicted: his kindly face and words of loving sympathy will be missed in the homes of suffering and sorrow.
By the faithful discharge of the holy work of the ministry, by his patience and devout submission during long and severe illness, he proved himself a true disciple of Him who said, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

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REV. JOHN FALCONER, M.A., ROSEHALL

(Died February 14, 1890)
Author: Rev. Thomas Grant, Tain
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June, 1890, Obituary, p.180


Mr. John Falconer was born at Ririach, in the parish of Cawdor, on the 23rd September 1835, where his forefathers resided for four generations. His parents were excellent, pious people; and, like each member of their large family, John was an object of special prayer.

Mr. Falconer’s father, into the very mould of whose piety his son seemed unconsciously to grow, was a much-respected elder of the Free Church of Cawdor, and was also one of the most respected, popular, and trusted of the speakers on the Friday of communion seasons in the county of Nairn and parts of Inverness.

It is not certain at what period Mr. Falconer became the subject of a saving change, but he was believed by his parents and others to have been brought to know and fear the Lord from his childhood. From his high conception of the greatness and glory of the Christian ministry, and his low estimate of his own fitness for that office, he, for a time, hesitated as to the path of duty; but at length his way was made plain, and he was led to devote himself with unreserved surrender and consecration to his life-work.

He entered the University of Aberdeen in 1862, and after four years of diligent study he obtained the degree of A.M. In 1866 he began his theological studies in the Free Church Hall, Aberdeen, where, at the close of his first session, he obtained by competition, open to all the Gaelic-speaking students of the Free Church, a prize of £25 for an essay in Gaelic “On Original Sin.” He passed through his divinity course with great credit as to scholarship and Christian conduct, having been a special favourite with his excellent professors, only one of whom now survives—namely, the venerable Principal Brown.

In 1870 Mr. Falconer was licensed by the Free Presbytery of Nairn; and having received a unanimous call from the congregation of Rosehall to be colleague and successor to the late Rev. J. D. Kennedy, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Dornoch in May 1872.

Here he continued, amid the uneventful and seemingly monotonous, but to him intensely interesting, routine duties of a quiet Highland parish— duties which he discharged with affectionate conscientiousness and quiet zeal that invested them to him, as they did to his people, with fresh interest as he went in and out among them.

He won the young by his unaffected simplicity and kindness; those in middle life by his courteous manner and manly counsel when required; and the aged by his tender deference towards them.

As a preacher, he was textual, exegetical, and experimental. He probably never preached from a passage till he had carefully analyzed it in the original, and never failed to set the truth forth in its place and in its bearing on the context. He wrote his sermons in full, and placed the Hebrew and Greek text at the head of each. His Gaelic sermons were all written out in full in Gaelic. This course, though from his natural shrinking from anything that savoured of display, might not at first indicate striking originality, yet it gave to his discourses wonderful freshness; and while it kept him well within the lines of our good old theology, none could fail to realize that he was one of those to whom it was given “to bring out of his treasure things new and old.” In this way his ministry was not only greatly prized by his own congregation— especially the more spiritually-minded among them —but also by the strangers from the south who visited the district during the summer and autumn months. And, for the same reason, he became a special favourite with God’s people in the surrounding parishes.

In 1886 he declined a unanimous call from the large and influential congregation of Lybster, for reasons which were creditable alike to his Christianity and enlightened patriotism, one of these being the desire of aiding in a constitutional way his beloved people in obtaining some amelioration of their condition, so much required.

His home was always a model of unpretentious but real hospitality. In February 1887 he was united in marriage to Lillias, eldest daughter of Rev. Colin Sinclair, Invergordon. This union was a happy one, and cheered and brightened the closing years of his life, bringing a new sunshine into a home more than ordinarily happy through the prudence and affection of the kindest of sisters. The duration of this new tenure of domestic happiness, however, was to be of short continuance.

His last illness, in which he endured much suffering, was borne with great patience and meekness. In trouble, as in health, he was enabled to cleave to “Him in whom he had trusted,” and whom he was privileged to preach and commend so lovingly to others. He realized his approaching end with the solemnity due to the great and mysterious event. He submitted with that confidence in the Lord and resignation to his sovereign will which became an ambassador of the King of glory, and peacefully entered into his rest on the 14th February 1890.

The scene on the day of his funeral in the old country church in the early morning was one not soon to be forgotten. The young lad, the stalwart youth, with the hoary-headed patriarch, were all bent in sorrow as they waited the removal of remains of their beloved pastor to their last resting place.

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace.”

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REV. ALLAN FERGUSON

(Died August 1877)
The Free Church Monthly, December 1, 1877, p.301


Mr. Ferguson was the youngest son of the late Alexander Ferguson, Esq. of Auchentiber, near Stewarton, in which district of Ayrshire the family have been long known and respected. He was born on the 29th December 1809. In early life he was brought under serious impressions of divine things, and was led to study for the ministry. Soon after the Disruption he was licensed to preach the gospel, and he will long be held in affectionate remembrance by the godly in the different places he successively occupied — at Abernyte, near Dundee; Logie and Gauldry, in Fife; Lochgelly; and Kilmalcolm. For some time also he laboured in connection with Milton Free Church, Glasgow, where he had been in his student-years a much-respected elder. Latterly Mr. Ferguson took charge of the mission work carried on in Rothesay by the two Free Church congregations; but failing health soon compelled him to retire, and for the last seven or eight years he has been entirely laid aside from active duty. On the 22nd August he entered into his rest. His end was peace. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

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REV. ARCHIBALD FERGUSON, ALYTH

(Died October 27, 1898)
Author: Rev. George C. Baxter, Cargill
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1899, Obituary, p.287


The Rev. Archibald Ferguson was born at Thornhill, Stirlingshire, March 31, 1820. He had finished his studies at college when the Disruption occurred. Shortly thereafter he was chosen minister of the newly-formed Free Church congregation at Alyth, and ordained there in 1843. Here he laboured faithfully for more than fifty years, maintaining a large and influential congregation that testified in many ways the high regard in which they held him. Of a tall and commanding figure, with a keenly intellectual cast of countenance, of more than ordinary mental vigour, Mr. Ferguson was a striking personality. He was a man of deep piety and rare spiritual experience, strong in faith, and eager for the welfare of the church of God. In early life he came under the influence of Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Cunningham, of whom he never ceased to speak with affectionate veneration. Mr. Ferguson was not a popular preacher in the ordinary sense. His discourses were deep and doctrinal; but for those to whom a profound spiritual experience was a part of their personal history, Mr. Ferguson’s preaching provided a rich spiritual feast, and such heard him gladly. The late Dr. Baxter of Blairgowrie was wont to express the highest admiration of Mr. Ferguson as a preacher, and many approved his judgment.

As a member of presbytery, Mr. Ferguson took a leading part. His clear mental vision and marked logical power eminently fitted him for dealing with presbytery business. His brethren acknowledged his ability, and often looked to him for guidance. No man could be more genial as a companion. With an observant eye, a penetrating mind, a keen sense of humour, an inexhaustible fund of racy anecdote, a lively style, he had the art of making time pass quickly by his entertaining and instructive conversation. The overflowing humour concealed beneath an outwardly grave demeanour could never have been suspected by those who did not know Mr. Ferguson intimately. During the course of his ministry he published a number of sermons delivered on various occasions, which are fine examples of Puritanic preaching clear, massive and powerful. He also published in 1870, a brief treatise on Particular Redemption and the Universal Gospel Offer.

A large gathering assembled in Alylh from far and near to celebrate Mr. Ferguson’s jubilee and to do him honour. Owing to advancing years and increasing infirmity, Mr. Ferguson found it necessary to apply to the Assembly of 1894 for a colleague and successor. On the appointment of Mr. Webster, the present minister, Mr. Ferguson retired to Stirling, where he lived along with his eldest daughter till his death on October 27, 1898. The end came suddenly. He was buried in Blairgowrie Cemetery, where his wife had been laid ten years before. She was a daughter of the late Matthew Low, Esq., of Keath Bank, Blairgowrie, a woman of fine character, of sterling piety, greatly beloved and honoured, whose removal in the midst of his years and usefulness brought sorrow to many a heart. Mr. Ferguson’s family consisted of two daughters and a son, all of whom survive.

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REV. DAVID FERGUSON, WESTERDALE

(Died December 25, 1887)
Author: Rev. James D. McCulloch, Latheron
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January, 1889, Obituary, p.22


Mr. Ferguson, the son of godly parents, was born at Achow, in the parish of Latheron, in November 1815, and received his early education in the parish school. After availing himself of the advantages obtainable there, he attended the Old Town Grammar School of Aberdeen for a year or so, and then became a student of King’s College in that city, where he completed the Arts curriculum and took his degree in 1844. After the usual course of study in the New College, Edinburgh, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Free Presbytery of Caithness in the year 1848.

After a very short probation he was ordained minister of the united congregations of Westerdale and Halsary. In this sphere he had for predecessors such men of piety, ministerial gifts, and well-earned popularity as Robertson of Kingussie, Munro of Halkirk, Cook of Reay, Davidson of Brodick, and Mackay of Bruan. That he should have been unanimously chosen to be their minister by a people so highly privileged in the past, and who from proximity to his native place had abundant opportunity to know his “manner of life from his youth,” was a striking testimony to the consistency of his Christian walk, and the doctrinal solidity and thorough evangelicalness of his pulpit ministrations at the outset— a testimony which his after life and ministry amply justified.

The field of labour on which he then entered was one that made no ordinary demands on the labourer’s strength and energies. In the early part of his ministry he had to preach statedly at three different places of worship—namely, Achreny, Westerdale, and Halsary; the last-named being fully six miles distant from the manse, and accessible only by a road which, by its utter shelterlessness, made many a sabbath day’s journey to be no slight test of pastoral fidelity and physical powers of endurance. After a time the services at Achreny were discontinued, the few people left in that district worshipping with the congregation at Westerdale. Together with these ordinary services, Sabbath evening services were conducted during summer and autumn in outlying districts, one station being twelve miles distant. And during winter and spring the whole congregation were catechised, the minister visiting for that purpose every locality where any of his people resided, however inaccessible. The work entailed by so arduous a charge Mr. Ferguson performed during his lengthened ministry with unfailing regularity. He was peculiarly fitted for the field he was called to labour in. He was familiar with the mental habitudes and manner of life of the people. His own mind, trained by preparatory studies, was also well braced by great love to his work and a strong sense of duty; and he was possessed of a physique capable of labour and able to endure fatigue.

Mr. Ferguson always made most careful preparation for the pulpit, his ministrations being characterized by great reverence for the Word of God, and ready submission to its authority. Closely adhering to the “form of sound words,” his exercises were much relished by hearers in his own and neighbouring congregations who “desired the sincere milk of the word.” He also took an active interest in Sabbath schools, and in the educational work of the parish.

In the social circle his presence was ever welcome. His open countenance, goodly presence, and manly bearing, prepared one for the cheerful disposition, downright honesty, and dislike of everything mean or crooked, so much appreciated by those who knew him, and so effectively conducive to cordiality of intercourse between him and his ministerial brethren.

His ministry, always comparatively free from the interruptions of ill-health, was very abruptly brought to a close. On the last Sabbath of December, while with much urgency and warmth pressing on his congregation the solemn lessons of the closing year, he suddenly stopped, said he could proceed no further, sat down in the pulpit, became unconscious immediately, and in a few minutes expired. A call so unexpected could not fail to appal those who witnessed it. To himself we believe it was welcome. Not very long before, a member of his family, when reading aloud the account of the death of a minister who dropped down while preaching, observed that such a sudden death was dreadful. Mr. Ferguson replied, “I don’t think that: if I might have my choice, it is what I would choose.”

His widow and family—two sons and two daughters—survive to mourn the loss of an affectionate and indulgent husband and father.

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REV. JOHN FERGUSON, BARR

(Died October 16, 1891)
Author: Rev. D. S. Hamilton, Symington
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1892, Obituary, p.149


Mr. Ferguson was born at Closeburn, Dumfriesshire, in 1814, and was a member of a somewhat remarkable family. The father was a respectable farmer, and by no means in affluent circumstances; yet he contrived to give five of his six sons a university education, all of whom rose to honourable positions in the teaching and clerical professions, two of them being subsequently settled as Free Church ministers, and one as Professor of Humanity in the University of Aberdeen.

After leaving the parish school, Mr. Ferguson seems to have been engaged for some time at work on the home-farm, and this no doubt accounted for his intense love of a country life, and may be said to have been part of his training for his future labours. He entered the University of Edinburgh about the time of the Disruption, and distinguished himself as a student, especially in mathematics, to the teaching of which he devoted himself for some time after finishing his college course.

He was licensed as a preacher of the gospel in 1852, and laboured for about three years at Kirkoswald, then a mission station, and was thereafter for a short time assistant at Maybole. In 1855 he was ordained at Symington as colleague to the late Mr. Orr, and his ministry here, which lasted for about ten years, was one of much enjoyment and great usefulness. He abounded in labours. His much-appreciated pulpit ministrations were the fruit of prolonged study and careful preparation, and his visitation of the district was unwearied and indefatigable, so that, after a lapse of nearly thirty years, he is still spoken of with much respect and affection.

Somewhat unexpectedly, however, he received a call to Barr in 1865, which he felt it his duty to accept. This is an extensive parish in South Ayrshire, occupied largely by shepherds. The village, which nestles beautifully among surrounding hills, is six miles from the nearest railway station, and, during the winter months especially, is very hard to reach. To many removal to such a sphere would have seemed practical banishment, but to Mr. Ferguson it had a special charm. He was naturally fond of retirement and solitude, and being of a robust constitution and of great physical energy, he delighted in long walks over hill and moorland. Some of his members lived at great distance from the church, and it was no uncommon thing for him, when visiting the more remote parts of his parish, to leave the manse on a winter morning as the clock struck seven.

For long he retained his vigour, but the strong man, slow to yield, at length applied to the Assembly of 1888 for leave to obtain a colleague and successor, and to his great joy the present minister, Rev. John Angus, was soon settled over a hearty and united people. He retired to Ayr, and when strength permitted, gladly availed himself of the opportunity of engaging in his much-loved work of preaching the gospel; but infirmities increased, and his strength gradually declined, till on 16th October 1891 he peacefully passed away in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

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REV. LEWIS FERGUSON, ST. ANDREW’S, EDINBURGH

The Free Church Monthly Record, September 1, 1872, p.190


Sir,—Several members of my congregation have called my attention to the fact that there has been no special notice in the Record of my esteemed predecessor, the late Rev. Lewis Ferguson, of St. Andrew’s, Edinburgh. No doubt this has arisen from the publication in the Daily Review of Professor Douglas’s excellent and judicious remarks at the close of the funeral sermon. It is due, however, to the memory of Mr. Ferguson that those remarks should receive wider publicity, through the medium of our Record; and it has been suggested that I should request their insertion in the next number. They were as follow:— “I am not going to say much of him whose death has called us together to-day in these solemn circumstances, for his gentle and retiring nature abhorred all display, and I believe he would fain have avoided everything which ran the risk of substituting human panegyric for the gospel of God’s grace which he loved to proclaim. Yet, in accordance with usage, I shall mention a few particulars, such as may be specially interesting to the flock over which he was so recently set, to whom I have reason to think he had already greatly approved and endeared himself. He was born in Glasgow on 27th September 1832. After receiving the education usually given in the High School, he proceeded to the University, for four sessions at Glasgow, and for a fifth at Edinburgh. I am not aware that he was one of those who are styled “distinguished students,” on account of their position in prize lists and competitive examinations. However valuable these are, they are not the only tests of excellence: there always will be men who shrink from the front ranks of literary struggles, owing to shyness or timidity, or to a tardier ripening of their powers, or to a certain even balancing of these powers so that they refuse to be constrained into moving along particular lines selected so as to afford convenience for testing comparative progress. I rather think that this last was the explanation of his quiet, undemonstrative college course; for the length to which he protracted it, the advantage which he took of attending the two universities, and the varied acquirements of which in later years he proved himself possessed, indicate that he had a real thirst for knowledge; and this is confirmed by his spending six months in Germany towards the end of his university course, and again six months at Geneva, when his theological training approached completion. That theological training he received entirely at the Edinburgh Hall, when as yet the great mass of the students of the Free Church met there in unbroken numbers. The choice of a profession had been left to himself by a father who saw and appreciated his powers; and, while yet a boy, he took some days for reflection, and then deliberately made choice of the holy ministry. After his long and thorough training had been completed, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in the summer of 1857. And when he had gained some experience by serving in two preaching stations, and by filling the situation of assistant to the late Mr. Duncan in Newcastle, he was asked to supply the vacant pulpit of the Free West Church in his native city; and having done this for some months, he was elected by the congregation to be their minister, and was ordained in January 1861. Little more is to be said than that he filled this charge for fully ten years, and that he laboured quietly yet assiduously; that his sermons were noted as evangelical, clear, fresh, and stirring; and that his personal character gave weight to what he said and did; while one season of bad health gave him the opportunity of silently contemplating what his work had been, and of making a new start, I believe with deepened convictions of the preciousness of souls, the power of the gospel of Christ, the nearness of eternity, and the need for working while it is day. When he accepted the call to this congregation, his old flock and his co-presbyters regretted much that he was to be separated from them; but after his distinct and manly statement of what he felt to be the path of duty, they had no hesitation in letting him go. I must leave it to yourselves to say how far he acquitted himself as a good soldier of Christ and a workman that needed not to be ashamed, during his brief ministry among you —a week less than twelve months. I believe the indications of your answer are numerous, and varied, and unmistakable. I cannot give expression to my own feelings, and those of so many with whom I have conversed, in regard to this dark providence—dark, indeed, to us, but (I am persuaded) with no darkness to him who is now walking in the perfect light of God. To us, his friends, who knew and valued and loved him, some of us longer in the ministry than he had been, it speaks very loudly—may God enable us to learn the lesson. To you it speaks somewhat differently, yet not less impressively. While you recall the accents of his voice, silenced so suddenly, and we are almost tempted to add, so prematurely, and while you remember the words which have been spoken to you by that “man greatly beloved ” who has so long been spared to you, I can but bid you recollect that now is the accepted time, now the day of salvation, and that you have to take heed what you hear and how you hear, for he who watched for your souls has gone thus early to give in his account, and soon you are to follow.”

I am happy to add that Free St. Andrew’s and Free West congregations are about to erect a handsome monumental stone over the grave of our departed friend at Sighthill, and also that a volume of his admirable sermons with a brief memoir will soon be published.—I am, &c,

James Laing, Free West Church, Glasgow

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REV. PETER FERGUSON, INCH, WIGTOWNSHIRE

(Died July 2, 1879)
Author: Rev. John Jamieson, Cairnryan
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.252


The Rev. Peter Ferguson, late minister of the Free Church of Inch, was born in April 1810. His parents cultivated a small farm in the parish of Penninghame, about four miles westward from Newton-Stewart. They belonged to a class which has rendered incalculable service to our country by its moral vigour and worth,—they were godly, industrious, and contented. With a family of fourteen, and dreading the bare possibility of debt, their life was a hard but honourable and effective struggle. Early and steadily their children had to aid in the cultivation of the farm. The school in winter and the field in summer were the alternations of their year. At the age of nineteen he commenced his curriculum at the Glasgow University. Meanwhile, he had been engaged as assistant to his former teacher, and shortly after had been led to open a school of his own in Newton-Stewart. This new employment occupying his summers, he relinquished his labours on the farm. After the second session he was able to defray his own expenses, and soon repayed his father all that he had advanced. The engagement of a substitute in his school during the winter enabled him, with some delays and interruptions, to carry through the sessions of the College and of the Edinburgh Divinity Hall. It was not till the end of the session in 1844 that he was licensed. Throughout he had evinced unflinching perseverance, and, especially in some branches of study, enthusiasm and delight. He won, by the regularity of his attendance and by the qualities of his discourses, the high commendation of his illustrious teachers, Drs. Chalmers, Welsh, and Duncan.

Having been licensed by the Free Presbytery of Wigtown, he immediately began to take part in maintaining supply in the pulpits of the surrounding congregations. Speaking in an easy and fluent manner, with tenderness and impressiveness of tone, he soon became known, and was, over the district, eagerly sought after. Other congregations had desired to hear, with a view to calling him. One had taken steps to secure his services, but he closed with the invitation given by the congregation at Inch, in the Presbytery of Stranraer. He was ordained as their pastor, April 8, 1845.

In the beginning of his ministry his interest in the congregation was lively and engrossing, and it never flagged. His heart was with them all. He gave himself wholly to the care of them, devoting himself equally to the humblest and the highest among them. Never did that significant designation, “Flock,” come home to the pastor’s conscience and heart with greater force. His watchful attention to every member was habitual. His relations with his fellow office-bearers were uniformly pleasant and mutually helpful, his esteem for them and his confidence in them sincere and warm. His feelings towards his people were, it may be truly said, cordially reciprocated. He made scrupulous preparation for the duties of the pulpit, adhering invariably to the task of committing to memory his discourses, so that in a direct and lively manner he might address his audience.

He gave prominent attention to the young, forming and maintaining a large Sabbath school, in which he took great pleasure. He gathered into classes, preparatory to the communion, the youth, and he so secured their attendance from year to year, and so conducted their instruction as to make them virtually Bible classes. His treatment of the subjects brought before them was peculiarly touching and impressive. He sought by private personal dealing to gain every one’s heart to the Lord.

He was unwearied in his remembrance of the sick and the infirm. He divided the wide parish into districts, small enough to admit of a brief call during one day at every door, and sufficiently numerous to secure his overtaking the whole parish in the winter and spring months of every year. On the evening of the day he held a meeting in some convenient place, gladly given for the purpose, at which all in that neighbourhood, irrespective of Church connection, were invited to attend,—an invitation everywhere largely responded to. The children were first catechized, and then the adults addressed, devotional exercises opening and closing the assembly.

In regard to spiritual fruits and saving effects, Mr. Ferguson was guarded and reserved in his allusions; yet he could speak and did speak with devout thankfulness in successive years of spiritual good done and gracious tokens vouchsafed. The sense of responsibility, so vivid and overpowering when he undertook the duties of the pastorate, was never lost, and was throughout present and practical.

Mr. Ferguson was a man of strong common sense, and a shrewd observer of men. In every case he was disposed to take the most hopeful and kindly view; while, at the same time, when really seeing need, he gave, with great firmness and faithfulness, counsel or rebuke.

He did not give his mind much to the profounder inquiries of theology. He occupied himself with the plain and obvious teachings of Scripture. These formed the food of his own soul, and the stated subjects of exposition. These he set forth, a vein of poetry at times running through his discourse, with simple illustrations in a plain and easy style, and with an engaging manner. It cannot, therefore, be wondered at that in all the rural districts throughout and beyond the limits of his Presbytery he was extremely popular, and retained his popularity to the last. “It might be truly said of him,” remarked one closely bound to him by esteem and affection, “that the common people heard him gladly”—a noble encomium indeed.

Favoured with robust and uninterrupted health, he was never, except for a few Sabbaths by a severe accident, laid aside till his first formidable attack of illness nearly two years ago. Having rallied a little, it was touching to see his longing to resume his customary round of duty. After a year’s restriction he was privileged once more, though with loss of former vigour, to attempt Sabbath and daily work. For a while it seemed as if his entrance upon it was to prove the prelude to a renewed course of loved employment. But his heavenly Father had ordered otherwise. He had been wont, even when not a member, annually to visit the Assembly; and in May last, when preparing to go up once more, he was laid prostrate by an illness differing from that by which he had been previously disabled, and on the 2nd July he fell asleep. When he felt that death might now be drawing near, with characteristic feeling he twice, accompanied by his wife, walked slowly round his little field, and then going from room to room, he closed the door and remained for a while alone in each, thus calmly taking farewell of those attractive scenes and of that endeared home. Throughout his sickness, amid acute pain and subsequent excessive weakness, his soul was full of a composed and placid hope, and of childlike resignation to his Father’s hand. He was delighted to see his friends, if only to give them his hand. When any one was at his bedside of whom he might make the request, he entreated him to engage briefly in prayer. He was evidently sustained by a good hope through grace and an everlasting consolation.

Having, towards the end, given directions as to where he wished his body laid, he added, “There will my body rest till the morning of the resurrection, and my soul will rest with the Lord Jesus.”

Thus, after a laborious, useful, and honoured career, to use figurative language, of which he was himself so fond, “he came to his grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season.” He has left a widow and two children, a daughter and son, to feel his loss, softened unspeakably in its painfulness by the remembrance of his faithful life and blessed death.

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REV. DAVID SCOTT FERGUSSON, M.A., STRACHAN

(Died September 4, 1897)
Author: Rev. J. Smith, M.A., Tarland
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1898, Obituary, p.18


Mr. Fergusson was pre-eminently a son of the manse. His great-grandfather was ordained minister at Farnell in 1716, and died there in 1751. A fortnight before his death, his son had been ordained as his assistant and successor. He also died there in 1793, his son Andrew having been ordained as his assistant and successor a month before his death. Two years later he was translated to Maryton, where the subject of this sketch was born in 1808. From the parish school he passed to Marischal Coliege, Aberdeen, thence to the Divinity Hall at Edinburgh. After being licensed as a preacher, he acted as assistant for some time at Farnell and Inverkeillor, and held for one winter the Sabbath evening lectureship at Montrose chapel of ease. He received, in October 1835, a presentation (wholly unsolicited and unexpected) from Sir James Carnegie of South Esk, to the parish of Strachan. Various obstacles prevented his ordination till the following June. The congregation was considerably divided, rival petitions having been sent to the patron in favour of Mr. Leslie (afterwards minister of Coull), and Mr. Henry (afterwards of Marnoch), both of whom had been for some time assistant to Mr. Garioch, the previous minister. Mr. Fergusson made it clearly understood that he would accept the presentation to the benefice only on a clear call by the people to the pastoral office. Both parties agreed to unite in calling him, and no call in the parish was ever so largely signed. He was “introduced” to the congregation by his cousin, Rev. John Bruce of New North Church, Edinburgh.1

Seven years after his settlement, the Disruption came. He had been expecting it and preparing for it. He had selected a site for a new church and manse, transferred many plants and flowers with which he had stocked the manse garden to a piece of ground that he had rented. The decision in the Stewarton case caused a division of the Presbytery of Kincardine O’Neil into two. All the regular parochial ministers were “moderates,” except Mr. Fergusson and Mr. Anderson of Banchory. Mr. McGown of Midmar had been received as a member of presbytery when the Associate Synod returned to the Church of Scotland in 1839. But the majority of the presbytery in March 1843 deleted his name from the roll. Mr. Fergusson and Mr. Anderson of Banchory were prepared for this. They tabled a protest, and, along with Mr. McGown and an elder, constituted the presbytery in another room, and elected representatives to the Disruption Assembly. Mr. Fergusson and Mr. Anderson walked in the historical procession. Mr. Anderson resigned his charge and went abroad.

Mr. Fergusson signed the Deed of Demission2, and immediately set about building a new church and manse. The latter was for many years his own private property, but he ultimately handed it over as a gift to the church. If not absolutely the first Free Church manse, it was, at any rate, the first that Dr. Guthrie was in. When on a visit in the district he called on Mr. Fergusson, and, before anything else, desired to be shown over it.

Being the only parish minister who “came out,” and remained in the district, it can easily be supposed that he got plenty to do. Aided by Mr. Reid (who was immediately settled at Banchory) and one or two others who had been missionaries or assistants, he laboured indefatigably in forming and consolidating congregations which, though small, were numerous on Deeside, and were as sheep having no shepherd. Often, in all weathers, he would preach three times on the Lord’s Day at places far apart, riding thirty or forty miles. Nor were his labours confined to the Lord’s Day. The district was wide and the labourers were few. He was in every sense the father of the presbytery. He delighted in after years to relate at his own fireside to the younger brethren—sometimes into the small hours, though thereby breaking one of his rules—the scenes and experiences of those times.

When a considerable number of congregations had been formed, and more labourers came into the field, his work became less laborious, and he devoted himself mainly to his own congregation, while always willing, so long as health and strength permitted, to counsel, encourage, and assist others when called. He took an active interest in the work of the church, and regularly attended the meetings of presbytery, synod, and Assembly. He was very methodical in all his habits, and went through a large amount of work with apparently little effort. He carefully prepared his sermons, and was diligent, faithful, and sympathetic as a pastor. In this, as in all else, he was methodical in an unusual degree. More than once he had overtures made to him regarding other spheres, but he never entertained them. He dwelt among his own people, and among them he died.

After a ministry of forty-six years he obtained the assistance of a colleague,3 and gradually withdrew from public work. Last spring he caught a chill from which he never recovered, but his strength declined until he passed away on the fourth of September last. Shortly before his death his colleague repeated to him the text, “Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He was unable to speak, but he clapped his hands with considerable vigour. With characteristic modesty he had expressed a desire for a quiet, private funeral, without any “fuss.” And in accordance with his request, he was laid in the grave amid a comparatively small circle of surrounding mourners.

He was twice married, and leaves a widow, and one son by his first marriage—David Scott Fergusson, Esq., Union Bank, Glasgow.

He was predeceased by all the fellow-labourers of his earlier days, though he was from the first the senior minister of the presbytery. At an interval of more than thirty years, the present writer is now the oldest minister in the presbytery.

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REV. DONALD FERGUSSON, LEVEN

(Died July 13, 1897)
Author: Rev. Thomas Smith, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1897, Obituary, p.294


Some years ago students of statistics discovered a somewhat curious fact—that of the pre-Disruption ministers then surviving more than twice as many had been ordained in 1837 as in the two years 1836 and 1838 taken together. This state of things still continues, if only the ministers who demitted home charges be taken into account, the number of ministers of 1837 still alive being three, while there is but one of ’36 and none of ’38. The majority of the men of ’37 was reduced by the death, on the 13th of July last, of the Rev. Donald Fergusson, who was for many years regarded by the church at large as a venerable father, while to his contemporaries he was a brother much beloved.

Mr. Fergusson was born near Pitlochry into one of the “county families” of Perthshire. I heard much of him from Dr. Duff, who was his senior by some years, but who from boyhood to early manhood was on terms of affectionate intimacy with an elder brother. This intimacy with the elder brother led Dr. Duff, on his return from India, to seek acquaintance with the younger, and this acquaintance soon developed into cordial friendship.

Of Mr. Fergusson’s school-boy and student days I know nothing more than little incidents of no special interest which might be alluded to in the course of conversation. But I have understood that his career as a student was a brilliant one. And that I can well believe, for he had fine ability, and a habit of faithful application, which I should not suppose to have been formed in later years, but rather to have been natural to him. Besides, the extent of his knowledge and the trend of his mental habitudes indicated that he had been for a long time a diligent student.

At the close of his curriculum he was licensed as a probationer, and after a few months of probation as assistant to the minister of Dysart, he was almost unanimously chosen by the congregation of Dunnichen, in Forfarshire, as assistant and successor to the minister of that parish. It was the time when the veto modified the sternness of patronage, and the patron of Dunnichen left the choice to the congregation. Since Mr. Fergusson’s death I have seen it stated in a local newspaper that the vote was between him and Horatius Bonar. Neither of these men had any reason to think it discreditable to have the other preferred before him. I hope it may be deemed not an altogether unwarrantable digression if I allude to the great number of eminent men who have begun their ministry in this district. The four presbyteries of Forfar, Brechin, Arbroath, and Fordoun, though embracing in all only about forty charges, have had as members the noble fathers of the Free Church, Dr. Nixon, Dr. Guthrie, Dr. McCosh, Dr. John Bruce, Principal Lumsden, Professors Salmond and Macgregor, Dr. William Wilson, Dr. Thomas Brown, Dr. Keith, and Dr. Hugh Martin. I doubt if there be any other district of equal extent that could show so creditable a record.

Mr. Fergusson was ordained assistant and successor at Dunnichen on the 25th of August 1837, the same day, it may be noticed, on which Mr. Patrick Borrowman was ordained at Glencairn. Some eighteen months after, the death of his colleague made him sole minister of the parish, and it was as minister of Dunnichen that he signed the Deed of Demission in 1843. A considerable body of his parishioners accompanied him in his exodus, and services were immediately begun in Letham, a village in the parish, and there the Free Church of Dunnichen was constituted. Mr. Fergusson did not long continue the pastorate of it, but long enough to give it a good start. He received a call to St. George’s congregation in Liverpool, then the most important Presbyterian church in England outside of London. Here he remained five years, and occupied a most influential position both as the beloved pastor of that large and influential congregation and as a citizen of that great city. Five years’ labour in such a congregation, in such a city, could not but tell on his strength; and although I do not think he ever actually broke down, he let it be known to his friends that a less burdensome charge, though in the world’s eye it might seem a down-come, would not be unacceptable to him, and he received, as a good gift of God, a call to the Free Church congregation of Kilmadock, or Doune, in Perthshire. Here the easier work, the beautiful scenery, and the hearty appreciation of an intelligent, warm-hearted people, soon undid the physical and mental lassitude which Liverpool had induced. But though his work was lighter here than before, he did not do it lightly, but devoted himself to it with all earnestness, both because it was the work given him to do, and because he loved it. But there was yet another “translation” for him. The congregation at Leven, in Fife, had for its minister Mr. Forman, whom I knew as a minister in East Lothian, and who was removed to Leven shortly after the Disruption. He was a man of note, and was a power for good in the “kingdom” of Fife. On his death the people of Leven cast a covetous eye on the minister of Doune, and he, though well aware that his exchange of country–and such a country!—for town, and of his congregation for a much larger one, would necessarily involve the sacrifice of much that was dear to him, was constrained to accept the call. And so it is as Mr. Fergusson of Leven that he is now generally known. His ministry here, as everywhere, was marked by devoted faithfulness. That faithfulness was subjected to a strain under which it must have given way had it not been of the strongest fibre. Leven was visited by an exceptionally severe epidemic of cholera. Although I have been long familiar with cholera, both in the villages and in the capital city of India, and amongst the troops in one of its principal military stations, I have never seen or heard of sadder or more saddening effects of its terrible power than those that were exhibited in Leven. An application was sent to an Edinburgh doctor—I think Sir Henry Littlejohn—to send over a doctor who might be able to grapple with it. Dr. Balfour had just retired from the Indian medical service, and was in Edinburgh trying to make up his mind as to where and how he should spend the remainder of his days. When he heard of the state of things in Leven he volunteered to devote himself to the work—one of the noblest instances I have ever known of self-sacrifice in a profession which, more than any other, is ennobled by such deeds. Here for week after week the physician and the minister wrought hand in hand. By day and far into the night they breathed an atmosphere charged with death, and nobly co-operated in ministering to the bodies and the souls of hundreds of sufferers, I read many years ago one of Charles Kingsley’s novels, in which he gives an account of a similar epidemic and similar efforts to deal with it medically and spiritually. I have a very vague recollection of the story, but I have a strong impression that the visitation was much like that at Leven, and that the labours of the two heroes were an exact counterpart of those of Mr. Fergusson and Dr. Balfour. The Leven heroes had their reward not only in the blessings of those who were ready to perish coming upon them, but in the lifelong friendship between themselves which then began. Dr. Balfour determined to remain in Leven, and became a valued office-bearer in the Free church, and it was difficult to say whether the minister or the elder gained most from their association.

From his mental temperament Mr. Fergusson, more than many, needed Christian friendship, and God gave it him. No one could be long with him without perceiving how great a boon he reckoned the friendship and co-operation in all good work of three generations of Christies of Durie—the fine, patriarchal, Christian squire; the gallant Christian son, who marvellously survived for many years almost unexampled wounds received on the bloodiest of India’s bloody battle-fields; and the highly-cultured Christian grandson, whose early death was mourned alike in the academic halls of Cambridge and in the prayer-meeting hall of Leven Free church. From my mention of these, the aristocratic members of his congregation, let it not for a moment be supposed that Mr. Fergusson was a respecter of persons. His congregation consisted of men and women of all classes, and he was the friend of all.

It must have been somewhere about 1860 that I first became acquainted with Mr. Fergusson. I frequently assisted him at his communion and at anniversary services. It was only on these occasions that I heard him preach, and his preaching was very fine in matter and in manner. He knew the Christian system, and could expound it clearly and instructively. He knew and loved the gospel of God’s grace, and fervently and lovingly urged its acceptance on his hearers. He knew the blessedness of the Holy Spirit’s work as sanctifier, counsellor, comforter, and out of the abundance of a full heart could tell what the Lord can and will do for the soul of every one that trusteth in Him.

One of my visits to Leven was in connection with the heaviest trial of Mr. Fergusson’s life. Mrs. Fergusson had been on a visit to her sister in Edinburgh. At the dinner-table she was seized with sudden illness, and, if I recollect rightly, was dead before she could be laid on her bed. The Leven telegraphic office was closed for the night, and her husband did not get the tidings of his bereavement till after the morning train for Edinburgh had passed. He therefore did not reach Edinburgh till the afternoon. Next morning, which was Saturday, he came to me, and entreated me to go over and preach at Leven, engaging to have my pulpit well supplied. So old a minister as I am has of necessity had many painful duties to discharge, but no service and no day are more impressed on my memory than that service in the Leven church, and that Sabbath day spent with the motherless children. After Mr. Fergusson’s retirement from Leven in 1881, he lived for some time in Edinburgh, and I saw much of him. Afterwards he went to live, in Crieff, and I never saw him again. But we shall yet meet again.

So far as I know, Mr. Fergusson’s only contribution to Christian literature was a book which he published in 1890, entitled, My Counsellor: Holy Scripture arranged as Morning and Evening Meditations for Edification, Guidance, and Comfort. This book is one of a class which is more popular in England and in Germany than in Scotland. I have no doubt that it is fitted to be useful to many. I have compared it with several others of the same class, and it seems to me to be by far the best.

Mrs. Fergusson, whose sudden death I have chronicled, was Miss Balfour, a member of a well-known Orkney family. She left three sons and four daughters. Of the daughters, one died at Leven, two are married, and one is the energetic and highly-respected superintendent of the Convalescent Home at Corstorphine in connection with the Edinburgh Infirmary, One of the sons died in Calcutta a short time ago, one is in medical practice in England, and the youngest is minister of the English Presbyterian church at Woolwich.

She who was made a widow by the same stroke which made these young people fatherless is a German lady. She was the widow of Mr. Fergusson’s co-presbyter, Mr. Lundin Brown of Largo. In her deep sorrow it must be a comfort to know that she was a good and loving helpmeet to a good and a loving man.

Our people, as they read one after another these notices of men who have lived from an earlier generation into this, can scarcely fail to take up the Scottish lament—

“The flowers o’ the forest are a’ wode away.”

The reflection of one of themselves is, “Who shall be next?”

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REV. JOHN FIDDES, KILLEARN

(Died January 11, 1896)
Author: Rev. Theodor Johnson, Strathblane
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, May, 1896, Obituary, p.117

Mr. Fiddes was born seventy-two years ago in the city of Aberdeen. At the age of ten he went to the Grammar School, and. four years later to the university. Both at school and college he distinguished himself. He left college on the eve of Disruption times. His father was a member of Dr. Kidd’s church. Dr. Kidd was famous as the leader and soul of the evangelical movement in Aberdeen, and young Fiddes was thoroughly imbued with the spirit that led to the formation of the Free Church, and determined to cast in his lot with the movement; had it not been for that determination he might have attained a high position in connection with the university, or in the Established Church. The ministry was his ambition, but he held very high views as to the preparation required for its work, and instead of proceeding at once to the Theological Hall, he devoted himself for many years to study and teaching. Dr. Tulloch, who conducted at that time a high-class private school, invited him to teach in his school, and for ten years he continued at this work. Many pupils passed through his hands who afterwards became prominent men, and they all continued to cherish the highest regard and affection for their old teacher. Among the number we may mention the Honourable Principal Millar, who never visited this country without spending some time with Mr. Fiddes.

When he considered that his age and preparatory studies were sufficient to qualify him for the ministry, he entered the New College, Edinburgh, and on completing his theological course, was assistant for some time in Kelso. His cousin, the Rev. Mr. Clerihew, was minister of Gartmore, and Mr. Fiddes came and stayed with him for about a year, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Dunblane.

In July 1857, on the death of Rev. Mr. Lumsdaine, he was ordained as minister of Balfron and Killearn. Owing to the character of the district, his ministry was not, and could not be, an eventful one. He did his work thoroughly and well, and was an influence for good in the neighbourhood. His preaching was of the old school, solid and doctrinal and evangelical. He was a stout upholder of evangelical principles, but he was entirely devoid of any narrowness. He was proud of his church, without being in the slightest degree sectarian. He was deeply interested in all theological movements, and, after careful sifting, was ready to accept what he considered to be truth, however heretical it might appear. He was proud of the work done in theology and general literature by the young men of the church, though keen to see and to point out their weakness. In politics he was an advanced Liberal, and advocated every movement that had for its object the widening of public liberty. He took his fair share in the public life of the parish, and was especially interested in the education of the young. For years he visited the day school and taught classics, etc., to a class of the most promising pupils. More than one man belonging to Killearn, now occupying a high position in professional life, is indebted to Mr. Fiddes’ interest and enthusiasm and labour of love in imparting to him the knowledge necessary to open the door of the professional world.

In life and character he was all that one expected to find in a Christian gentleman. There was with him no affectation of superior sanctity, which with the unthinking may pass as piety, but which is worse than pietism. Yet one only required to be a short time in his company to discover how full and strong his spiritual life was, and how thorough his devotion to the interests which he professed. His speech was honest and sincere; there was with him no trimming or straining after ulterior ends. He took his stand on what he believed to be duty, and expressed his views fearlessly, yet without any harshness or bitterness. He possessed all the shrewdness attributed to his townsmen, and could read character more deeply than most; but his judgment was always tempered with kindness, and with the charity which thinketh no evil, and he was ever ready to help generously, and even beyond his means, where help was needed. He belonged to that old dignified, large-hearted race that is fast passing away. The Rev. John Fiddes served his day and generation faithfully, and his passing away will be widely felt and sincerely mourned by all who knew him.

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REV. WILLIAM FINDLATER, DURNESS

(Died June 29, 1869)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, September 1, 1869, p.206


Mr. Findlater of Durness, the oldest but one among the Pre-Disruption ministers, died at Tain on the 29th of June last, in the eighty-sixth year of his age and the sixty-first of his ministry. His father, Robert Findlater was known in the North Highlands as a man of eminent piety and gifts; and whilst there were at that tine in Easter Ross very many Christians of high attainment, he was universally regarded as being second to none of them. William Findlater was born at Kiltearn, on the 10th of May 1784. Under the training of his godly parents, and under the preaching of Charles Calder of Ferrintosh—on whose ministry the family attended— he was early in life brought to know the truth. With their father’s full consent, he and his brother Robert, whose ministry was so owned on Lochtayside, devoted themselves to the work of the ministry. William Findlater, having studied in Edinburgh, was in November 1800 licensed by the Presbytery of Dingwall. In those days of absolute patronage, the missions of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge were an opening for godly preachers knowing the Gaelic language; and the Society having in appointed Mr Findlater to the mission of Eriboll, in Sutherlandshire. he was in 1808 ordained by the Presbytery of Tongue; and in 1812, on the death of the parish minister, Mr. Thomson, whose daughter he had married, he was settled as minister of the parish of Durness. Though one of the most modest and unassuming of men, he very soon took a high position as a minister of Christ. Deeply godly, thoroughly educated and full of the old Reformation theology, ministers and people soon felt that they had among them a servant of God whom they could not but esteem and love. Partly from natural temperament, but mainly from the circumstance that he instinctively shrank from all that was artificial and put on, he had none of the noisy eloquence for which some other ministers were remarkable; but his clear declaration of the gospel of peace, his deep personal experience of the power of the truth, and the skill and tenderness which he showed in dealing with the conscience, made his preaching very instructive and very savoury to deeply-exercised Christians. Then to educated men his English sermons, from their simple, beautiful style, and the flashes of genius which at times came out, were intensely interesting. He was a retiring man, but those who knew him well had great pleasure in his society. His humble piety, his stores of information, and his cheerfulness, and at times his quiet playfulness and wit, made him a most genial and delightful companion. He continued to be parish minister of Durness till 1843, when he left his living and joined the Free Church. It so happened that during the week of the Disruption the writer of this notice occupied the same lodgings with him in Edinburgh; and he can never forget the impression made on him by what he saw in Mr. Findlater. On the morning of the 18th of May his view of the path of duty was clear and unclouded; and though he was then sixty years old, and had a numerous family, it was not merely that he was submissive, he was cheerful, and even joyful, in laying down his all on the altar of principle. He continued to labour in Durness as minister of the Free Church till 1865; and when no longer able to visit his people, he from time to time prepared Gaelic addresses, and got them printed and circulated in the parish. In 1865 he felt that his work was done; and, a colleague and successor being appointed, he removed to Tain, in Ross-shire. To the last his religion sustained him. Owing to old age, his memory had to a great extent failed as to ordinary matters; but when he prayed at family worship, it was felt that there was no change then—that his prayers were as full and fresh as ever. On Friday, the 2nd of July, he was buried in his father’s grave, in the churchyard of Kiltearn — the church of old Thomas Hogg — there to wait for a blessed resurrection..

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REV. JAMES FINDLAY, M.A., GLASGOW

(Died July 24, 1881)
Author: Rev. Alexander Wilson, Bridgeton
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1881, Biographical Notices, p.253


Mr. Findlay was bom at Kirkintilloch, of God-fearing parents. His early education was received in his native town; and when about eighteen years of age, he entered the University of Glasgow, and having applied himself assiduously to his various studies, at the close of his curriculum he took the degree of M.A.—a rarer attainment in those days than now. From the University Mr. Findlay went to the Divinity Hall of the “Associate Synod,” to which body his parents belonged; and after the usual course of study was completed, he was licensed. He proved himself to be an excellent preacher, and was soon called by the congregation of Broomknoll, Airdrie, and was ordained in the year 1835.

The congregation prospered under his ministry. But the times were stirring—the ten years’ conflict for the spiritual privileges of the Christian people and the spiritual independence of the Church of Jesus Christ had been sustained for two years, and was gathering strength every day throughout the length and breadth of the land, and Mr. Findlay took an active part in helping on the work of the reforming party in the Church of Scotland. About that time a proposal was made for the union of the “Associate Synod” with the Church of Scotland. Of this movement Mr. Findlay was a zealous advocate; and when a satisfactory union was effected in 1839, Mr. Findlay and his congregation cordially went into it. As might have been expected, he stood out an earnest advocate of non-intrusion and spiritual independence; and when the Disruption came, Mr. Findlay and his congregation threw in their lot with the Free Church.

Shortly afterwards he received an unanimous call from the Free Church congregation of Camlachie, and he was inducted into that charge by the Free Presbytery of Glasgow. Here he continued to the time of his death, although the name of the charge, about two years ago, was changed to that of “Whitevale Free Church”.

During the early part of his ministry his congregation increased, and this would have been more and more manifest but for an untoward event which befell, not Mr. Findlay alone and his congregation, but nine or ten other ministers and congregations in the city of Glasgow. This was the decision of the House of Lords in the case of the Glasgow Church Building Society. In the spring of 1849 judgment was given against the claims of the Free Church section of the society to any share of the churches which the society had erected; and almost immediately after that judgment the congregations which had occupied those churches up to that time came out from them, whilst there were no suitable places for some of them to meet in. During the transition time, between leaving their former church and entering into their new one, no one can ever tell the amount of anxiety, care, and toil which Mr. Findlay felt for the welfare of his congregation, both in a temporal and spiritual point of view.

But though the outward affairs of his congregation necessarily demanded a great amount of his attention and strength, their spiritual interests were not in the least forgotten, nor the means of promoting them in any degree relaxed. In revival and evangelistic work, both in his own district and in other parts of the country, he took a special interest, and was thereby stirred up to great zeal and fervour in his ministry.

When years began to tell upon him, about four years ago he applied to the General Assembly for leave to the congregation to call a colleague. The Assembly granted his request, and he retired from the active duties of the ministry, but continued to take a lively interest in the affairs of the congregation, and maintained the best relations with his colleague and successor. Mr. Findlay’s discourses were well arranged—thoughtful, instructive, and evangelical, delivered with fervour and unction, and well fitted to reach the hearts and the consciences of his hearers. As a theologian he stood high in the estimation of all the brethren who knew him; and he possessed the rare gift of bringing difficult things into simplicity. In every relationship of life Mr. Findlay’s whole deportment was becoming the gospel of Jesus Christ—an excellent exhibition of the doctrines which he taught, and an earnest endeavour to follow the example and precepts of the Master whom he loved so well. He leaves a family of three sons and three daughters to bewail his loss.

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REV. T. FINDLAY, WEST KILBRIDE

(Died June 13,1875)
Author: Rev. W. Pinkerton, Kilwinning
The Free Church Monthly October 1, 1875, p.254


For five and forty years your departed pastor has gone in and out among you, a faithful minister and a loving friend, rejoicing with you in your joys, and weeping with you in your sorrows. When he came into the parish, evangelical doctrines were rarely proclaimed from the pulpit. The Sabbath school had ceased to exist as a congregational Sabbath school. Some six or eight scholars met on the first evening, and speedily it became a flourishing institution. To many the preaching of your late pastor was like life from the dead. The grand old doctrines of free grace were received with all the freshness and eagerness of a first promulgation. The United Secession Church had by that time started into fresh life, and their light was shining in the midst of the surrounding darkness. It is not for me to say how great was the result of the long ministerial labours of your esteemed minister; the great day alone will declare it. But this we know from a long experience, that many have owned him, under God, as their spiritual father.

The outstanding feature in the character of your beloved pastor as a man was, I should say, meekness — the grace of meekness possessed and manifested in no ordinary degree. I might also say blamelessness. His was a singularly blameless life. He was very tender in regard to the feelings of others, and very careful to avoid giving offence; and, like Zacharias of old, he walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. Combined, too, with his meekness and blamelessness was his integrity, his unbending integrity when principle was at stake.

As a minister, Mr. Findlay was a model pastor. Wherever he went he never forgot he was a minister. His name was a household word in the parish, and his presence always carried with it a happy and a sacred influence. He was the physician both of the body and of the soul, and made ministering to the former a stepping-stone to his ministering to the latter, that he “might by all means save some.” Even in his ordinary blessing at meals he always made such explicit statements of divine truth that even a passing guest at his always hospitable table might learn the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer.

It was a touching sight, especially in his latter years, to see your pastor, punctually at the hour for family worship and exposition, coming and carrying the big, old, historic family Bible, his face radiant with his usual happy smile. Perhaps it was in his own dear family circle where he shone most brightly.

His preaching was characterized by intense earnestness, great warmth and affection, and winning appeals. In his palmy days his composition was very chaste and accurate. When men heard him they could not but feel he was speaking because he believed what he preached, and that he exemplified his preaching by a most thorough consistency of life.

As he lived, so he died. As dear ones stood around his bed watching his last moments, a quiet calm came suddenly over him. “They thought he was taking rest in sleep.” But he had fallen asleep in Jesus, to behold his face in righteousness, and to be satisfied when he awakes with his likeness. “He was not, for God took him.” He entered in “through the gates into the city.”

Mr. Findlay was born at Westlinbank, Parish of Strathavon, 20th December 1799, where his ancestors had lived for several centuries, and some of whom had highly distinguished themselves in Covenanting times. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1818; was licensed to preach in 1826; became assistant to Rev. William Vessie of West Kilbride, Ayrshire, in May 1830; was ordained colleague, October 1832; and on the death of Mr. Vessie became sole minister, April 1834.

Mr. Findlay was married to Isabella Smith, daughter of John Smith, Esq., of Bellevue, near Glasgow, in November 1832, who, with three sons and two daughters, still survives.

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REV. JOHN FINLAYSON, COIGACH, ROSS-SHIRE

(Died October 10, 1890)
Author: Rev. A. Galbraith, Ferrintosh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May, 1891, Obituary, p.148


The death of this highly-esteemed minister, at a comparatively early age, is deeply regretted by all who enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance.

He was born at Mugary, in the parish of Portree, Skye, on the 15th of April 1848. His father, Alexander Finlayson, was an elder in the Free Church, and is affectionately remembered in the district as a man of marked piety. His mother, who survives him, is a worthy Christian woman. His paternal uncle was the Rev. John Finlayson, for several years the highly-respected minister of the Free Church in Bracadale, who was also brother-in-law of the late celebrated Rev. Roderick McLeod of Snizort. Mr. Finlayson was thus descended from godly parents, whose teaching and example could scarcely fail to make a favourable impression on his youthful mind.

There is reason to believe that he was savingly brought under the power of the truth while yet in his tender years; and being brought up among a community where sound doctrine and true piety flourished at the time, he had such principles of evangelical truth implanted early in his mind as made him ever after a most steadfast conservative of whatever was orthodox in doctrine, worship, or Church government. After receiving his early education in his native parish, he went to the Free Church Training College, Glasgow, where he qualified himself for the office of teacher. For several years he had charge of the Free Church school at Portree, which he left for the University of Glasgow; and having passed through the usual curriculum, he was licensed by his native presbytery to preach the gospel, in June 1880. Before the close of the year he was ordained pastor of the Free Church congregation of Coigach, in the Presbytery of Lochcarron, where he laboured for about six years with much acceptance, where his piety, his gifts, and his faithfulness as a preacher of the gospel, gained him the respect and love of all, especially of the Lord’s people.

Being well equipped by literary culture, and highly favoured by his Master with more than ordinary mental ability, and, above all, richly furnished with divine grace, he was, in the pulpit and out of it, a model minister. Both at home and in the foreign land where his dust now lies he was highly esteemed, not only for his clear, sound views of divine truth, and his ability to set his views in an attractive manner before his audience, but especially for his ripe Christian experience, which was uncommon for preachers of his age, and might naturally suggest the thought that his valuable life was to be short. And what he preached he practised; and when necessary, he was not slow to use his gifts in defence of the truth. Some of his contributions to various periodicals, which we have seen, furnish abundant evidence of his aptitude for meeting and refuting the errors of the day, which he deeply deplored.

His health, which was never robust, at length became so delicate that he was advised to emigrate to a warmer climate, and just after burying his first child, he and his devoted wife left for the colony of New South Wales on the 17th October 1886, to take charge of the Free Church congregation at Brushgrove, where he arrived in January following.

Mr. Finlayson before leaving declined several calls to congregations at home. Among them were Kiltearn, in Ross-shire, and Lochs, in Lewis. Though largely influenced to take this step on the ground of health, he was a young minister of real missionary spirit, and his translation to the colonies was hailed as a great blessing to that part of the vineyard. His services were eagerly sought by his fellow-countrymen in the foreign field, and were probably too abundant for his physical strength.

He preached to the last. The day he died he visited a neighbouring minister, whom he expected to assist in the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper on the week following. He seemed so well and cheerful that no one suspected his end was near. He returned home in the evening, retired as usual for the night, and by half-past ten o’clock he was at his eternal rest. His death was sudden, but he was ready. The loss of so devoted and faithful a minister of Christ has occasioned deep sorrow to many in the colony, where such men are comparatively few, as well as to those in his native land who knew and loved him. But his race was run, his work was finished, and in the forty-second year of his age and the tenth of his ministry he has gone to be with Him whom he loved so well and served so faithfully. For his congregation, his friends, his aged mother, and especially his widow with her infant son, much sympathy is felt in their sore bereavement, and doubtless many will unite in prayer for a blessing on the widow and her child, and her safe return on her long and solitary journey to her native land.

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REV. JOHN FLETCHER, BRACADALE

(Died May 29, 1876)
Author: Rev. A. Galbraith, Raasay
The Free Church Monthly September 1, 1876, p.228


Mr. Fletcher was born at Glenhinisdale, in the parish of Snizort, Skye, where his parents, who were a most respectable and hospitable couple lived comfortably on a small farm. He received his early education at the parish school of Snizort, and thereafter attended one session at the University of Edinburgh. For several years he discontinued his studies for the ministry, and taught schools in different parts of the Highlands. In 1842 he again resumed his studies, taking a creditable position in his classes, and gaining the respect of all his associates. Before turning his attention to the ministry, he was brought under the influence of the truth, and was favoured with the friendship and confidence of the famous Donald Munro, and of the Rev. Roderick McLeod, then of Bracadale, afterwards of Snizort. On completing his curriculum, he received license from the Free Presbytery of Dingwall, was called by the congregation of Bracadale, ordained to the pastorate of that charge in 1849, and there continued to labour faithfully till his death. For some years back he was subject to fainting fits, arising from an affection of the heart, but notwithstanding this infirmity he was enabled to minister to his attached congregation almost to the last.

Urged as usual by his sense of duty, he left home (accompanied by his wife) to attend the meeting of last General Assembly. On reaching Greenock, however, he became so much weaker that he could proceed no further; and before the sittings of the Assembly on earth were brought to a close, he was called to his seat in the general assembly on high. His mortal remains were accompanied to the grave in Snizort by a large assemblage from several parishes of Skye. By the removal of this honoured servant of Christ, Skye has lost a true patriot, a most genial man, a consistent genuine Christian, an able and faithful preacher of the gospel. If not, according to some, an eloquent speaker, his sermons were always clear, logical, and highly edifying. Most steadfast in his adherence to the principles of truth, he was nevertheless kind and respectful to those who might differ from him. He was able, but withal modest. In a word, his many good qualities as a man, and his piety as a Christian, endeared him not only to his own flock but to the community of Skye, amongst whom he laboured as a minister of the gospel for the long period of twenty-seven years. Besides his wife, two sisters who lived with him remain to mourn his loss.

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REV. ALEXANDER FLYTER, ALNESS

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February 1, 1866, p.16


A venerable father of the Church has recently been taken away. The Rev. Alexander Flyter died on the 3rd January last, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. Altogether Mr. Flyter was no ordinary man.

He was born in 1782. His early years were spent at Elgin under the ministry of the distinguished Dr. Ronald Bayne. His academical education he received at King’s College, Aberdeen. His first charge, on which he entered in 1810, was the Gaelic chapel in Rothesay. Gaelic was not Mr. Flyter’s mother tongue, but by hard study he qualified himself to preach in the language with considerable accuracy and power. A large amount of blessing rested on his labours in Rothesay; and there are some yet living there who speak of him with very affectionate remembrance.

During his residence in Rothesay, Mr. Flyter married Dr. Bayne’s eldest daughter. Mrs. Flyter died in 1863, having been for more than fifty years in all respects a helpmeet to her husband. She was distinguished by singular sweetness of disposition, calm good sense, and deep unobtrusive piety.

Mr. Flyter commenced his ministry at Alness in 1820, having received a hearty and unanimous call from the congregation. During a previous residence in Ross-shire he had become well acquainted with most of the evangelical ministers in that district. There was about that time a band of truly remarkable men in Ross-shire, among whom may be mentioned Mackintosh of Tain, Forbes of Tarbet, Macadam of Nigg, Calder of Ferintosh, his successor Dr. Macdonald, and Stewart of Cromarty.

In Alness Mr. Flyter pursued the even tenor of his way for forty-four years, cheered from time to time with tokens of the divine approval of his work. In his ecclesiastical views, he had from the outset been a firm adherent of the evangelical party in the Established Church, and as the contest thickened towards the Disruption, he was seldom absent from the General Assembly. Chalmers frequently welcomed him with the hearty salutation, ” True blue, true blue!” His trials in connection with the Disruption, chiefly from the necessity of living far from the church, were great, and for a time injured his health, but all difficulties were cheerfully endured in the vindication of principles which he felt to be not only true, but sacredly and vitally important.

During the last seven years of his life Mr. Flyter enjoyed the co-operation of a like-minded colleague in Mr. Munro. Seldom, indeed, have a senior and a junior pastor been linked together by stronger ties of mutual esteem and confidence.

Mr. Flyter was in many respects a man singularly attractive. Dignified in personal appearance, gentleman-like in bearing, possessing much of that “refined simplicity” which Wordsworth speaks of as befitting the rural pastor, in practical matters prudent and judicious, courteous and gentle to all, and marked by a sunny cheerfulness of disposition, he was universally respected and beloved. To young converts, and young ministers especially, he was tender, considerate, and fatherly. Most truthful, ruled by the highest sense of honour, he was wholly incapable of anything mean or selfish.
His attachment to the doctrines of grace was firm and unfaltering. They formed the strength and joy of his own heart; and he proclaimed salvation through a crucified Redeemer with an ever-growing earnestness and power. All things considered, we do not wonder at the exclamation of one who knew him well on hearing of his death, “Is he gone, the saintly, beautiful old man?”

Mr. Flyter was able from time to time to conduct a portion of the public services even so late as the communion in July 1865.

His last illness extended over three months. In describing it, we simply quote a sentence which fell from his own lips—uttered, we may remark, for the encouragement of a tried believer—”I know full well the strength and malice of the Adversary; but blessed be God, not one shaft has he been permitted to shoot my way since I have lain on this death-bed.” Most lowly in his estimate of himself before God, and always impatient of commendation, he had yet a most firm and fixed assurance of Christ’s all-sufficiency. Constantly during the lingering months of sickness his exclamation was, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit, O Jehovah, God of truth; for thou hast redeemed Me.”

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REV. ALEXANDER FORBES, M.A., DRUMBLADE

(Died September 20, 1897)
Author: Rev. H. M. Williamson, D.D., Belfast
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1898, Obituary, p.146


Alexander Forbes was born in 1821. He was the youngest son of George Forbes, farmer, Skene. He was educated at the Grammar School, Aberdeen, under Dr. Melvin; he graduated in 1841. In 1843 he, with many other divinity students, cast in his lot with the Free Church, and finished his divinity course under Dr. Chalmers. In 1848 he was ordained minister of the Free Church, Drumblade, where he lived and laboured for nearly fifty years.

Amid the surrounding darkness of Moderatism, the parish of Drumblade had been highly favoured for a number of years with a succession of Evangelical ministers—Dr. Robert Brown, Dr. Davidson (afterwards of Lady Glenorchy’s, Edinburgh), and Professor Blaikie, D.D. Here, for about half a century, Mr. Forbes exercised his ministry with much ability and great earnestness, and to the spiritual benefit of thousands. It is very difficult, after such an interval, to estimate correctly the state of religion in the whole district when he entered upon his ministry. A reign of Moderatism in almost every parish had so blighted the upspringings of spiritual life, so obscured the gospel of free grace, and so saturated the minds of the people with anti-Evangelical opinions, that the doctrines of the atonement, salvation by the blood of Christ, and life by the Spirit, were offensive to them.

From the beginning of his ministry his faithful preaching of the gospel, as he called men to repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, was owned of God. Tokens of spiritual awakening and life began to appear. He went everywhere preaching the word—in farm-kitchens, barns, and on the hillsides. I have hallowed memories of a place constructed by him, with much ingenuity, for the preaching of the gospel, by covering with some yards of cotton the square space between the walls of the farm-steading, and covering the floor with some inches of sawdust. During the rigour of an Aberdeen winter it proved to many the house of God and the gate of heaven. Of it it could be said, “This man and that man were born there.”

From, say, the year 1850 for a quarter of a century the work of God in the salvation of men made notable progress in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. The Lord raised up a noble band of men—laymen in all ranks of society, and ministers full of spiritual life and zeal—who went everywhere preaching the gospel. They formed a goodly company—noblemen, land proprietors, officers of the army, sergeants, private soldiers, blacksmiths, ploughmen, butchers. They preached the gospel in feeing-markets, in tents, in great gatherings of the people; and the Lord was with them, and “much people was added” unto Him. Of that goodly company Mr. Forbes was one, and not the least faithful and prayerful and laborious. These have all been gathered home save Rev. W. Ingram of Rothiemay and the writer of this obituary.

To continue a ministry to the same people for well-nigh fifty years, with sustained freshness and earnestness, requires much divine help, and one may add it is rarely witnessed. But so it was with Mr. Forbes. Increasing years seemed to show no relaxing of efforts to bring forth out of his treasure things new and old, up to the measure of his ability. He had a mind singularly acute, within a certain range, and he had acquired very considerable analytic skill. He was a diligent student of the Word of God, and always sought by careful exegesis to ascertain the mind of the Spirit in the passage under review. He was a close observer of the religious state of his people and of the measure of spiritual life in the district, and with wise forethought he studied and sought to direct his pulpit services accordingly. With many men increase of years and failure of physical vigour seem to chill the fervour of the spiritual life of earlier years. It was not so with him. Up to the very end of his life, not only in his secret walk with God, but in his public services, his earnestness and continued efforts to bring men to Jesus and to edify his saints seemed to increase. I had the privilege of visiting his neighbourhood and working with him some time before his death, and although he had long passed the threescore years and ten, he was as ready to preach the gospel in the open air as in the earlier years of his ministry.

There are what may be called gales of the Spirit, what Rabbi Duncan used to call “a local presence of the Spirit,” in the history of the church. At such times some men seem filled with earnestness and zeal, and they put forth much effort in the work of God; but when the gale has passed, their earnestness passes away with it. It may be said of them that they are in the work rather than that the work is in them! Such labourers then settle down into a formal discharge of duty. It was not so with him. When the heavens seemed without a cloud, when no dew seemed to fall upon the seed sown, he continued all the more to wait upon God and to engage in the work of the ministry.

Mr. Forbes had a very nervous temperament by which he was moved to great promptitude in speech and action; add to this his horror of all mere professions, of all sham and pretence, of all equivocation and of all efforts, whether by laymen or ministers, to make compromises between the church and the world, between God and mammon. This love of sincerity and truth, coupled with a nervous abruptness of manner, brought him not seldom into conflict with Mr. Facing-both-ways, and caused some men to contend with him, to misunderstand him, and even to dislike him. This I shall say of him, after an intimate acquaintance with him and close fellowship in the gospel for well-nigh fifty years: his hatred of sin in himself, and self-humiliation because of indwelling sin, his conflict with it, and struggles after holiness, his personal love to Jesus, and his love in Christ towards all saints, were very remarkable.

If the end of the ministry of the gospel be the glory of Christ in the salvation of sinners, then I think I can say, with some knowledge of what I affirm that his ministry was blessed above that of man, whose names appear much more conspicuous in the rolls of the church. Happy the congregation blessed with such a pastor, and happy beloved Free Church while her rural pulpits in remote districts are filled with such ministers of Christ, for they are her strength and her glory.

Mr. Forbes married Miss Ogg, a devoted worker for the Lord, ready to every good work. She predeceased him many years. He had a family of nine children, of whom five still survive—George, in the Indian Civil Service; Henry, head of the Liverpool Museum; Alexander, a teacher in Edinburgh; Duncan, who is in Johannesburg; Christina, wife of Dr. Philip of Belfast.

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REV. DONALD FORBES, LOCHCARRON

(Died May 2, 1898)
Author: Rev. W. Sinclair, Plockton
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, July, 1898, Obituary, p.171


Mr. Forbes died where he was born, and where he lived for seventy-seven years. It came about on this wise. The late Thos. Mackenzie, Esq., W.S., Edinburgh, was proprietor of the two large parishes of Applecross and Lochcarron—an extent of territory equal to, if not greater than, a German principality. A patriotic proprietor, he spent the autumn months among his tenants, was generally present at the Martinmas rent collections, knew his tenants by their patronymics, and was acquainted with their individual pecuniary circumstances. Unfortunately in 1843, through the influence, it was supposed, of local parties, the Laird of Applecross, as he was wont to be called, refused sites for churches to any of the three large congregations on his extensive estates. The exposure of the site-refusers by the Committee of the House of Commons in 1848 made the proprietor of Applecross and Lochcarron relent. He granted sites on advantageous terms. The party in possession of the most eligible site for a church in Lochcarron refused to part with it. Mr. Forbes’s father came forward, and granted a site on his croft, which was not far away. Here a church was soon erected, the people quarrying and gathering the stones under the superintendence of the late Rev. Alexander MacColl, then labouring as a probationer in the district — a man and a preacher who had extraordinary influence over Highlanders wherever he went. In this church Mr. Forbes, while prosecuting his studies in winter, conducted the Free Church Congregational School. Soon after he was licensed to preach he received a harmonious call, and was settled over the congregation in 1859. He continued to live in his father’s cottage, close to the church, until it was pulled down, and a handsome, commodious manse erected on the very spot where it stood. Here Mr. Forbes spent a quiet, unostentatious life, labouring among his people—a preacher possessed of unction, a perfect example of modesty, retirement, and soundness in the faith. His influence over children was rare and unusual. He soon won their affection and confidence—no small proof of his having been imbued with the spirit of his Master. For the last three years he was not able to preach, his pulpit being supplied by an assistant. He made application to this last Assembly for a colleague, in which all parties concurred. While he was preparing to remove from his manse, which he was to resign in favour of the proposed colleague, the Master saw fit to remove him to a better mansion. He was gathered to his fathers on the fifth May, surrounded by a large concourse of the people of Lochcarron of all denominations. He leaves a widow and six of a family, all grown up, three of whom, a son and two daughters, are married.

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REV. JOHN FORBES, D.D., LL.D.

(Died December 25, 1874)
Author: Rev. R. Williamson, Ascog
The Free Church Monthly, March 1, 1875, p.71
(Abridged from “Notices by the Press.”)


The passing away of the Rev. Dr. Forbes, of Free St. Paul’s, Glasgow, has created a feeling of sorrow which is not confined to the Free Church.

At the time of his death, Dr. Forbes was the oldest ordained minister of any denomination in Glasgow; and although in past years his was a prominent figure in the strife of Church Courts, it may be said with perfect truth that he goes to the grave leaving not one enemy behind him. His end came with startling suddenness. A week previously he presided at the ordination in Free St. Matthew’s Church of the Rev. Mr. McKichan, formerly a member of his congregation, who is now on his way to Bombay as an assistant to Dr. Wilson; on Sabbath the 19th he conducted the services in his own place of worship as usual; and every day thereafter, up till Wednesday, he was out for his customary walk, enjoying, to all appearance, his ordinary health. On Wednesday evening, however, he complained of chill and illness, and took to his bed; an inflammatory affection of the chest supervened, and on Friday, shortly before midnight, he expired.

Dr. Forbes was a native of Perthshire. He early developed a taste for learning, which was encouraged to the utmost extent that the resources of his relatives permitted, but was mainly followed out through his own indomitable resolution. At the Perth Academy he was noted as an apt and forward pupil. In his time the late Dr. Gordon was mathematical teacher there, and from the relations into which they were thus brought, there sprang an intimate, cordial, and lasting friendship. From thence Dr. Forbes passed to St. Andrews University, at which he took both his arts and theological courses of study, acquiring marked distinction in both. While still very young he was licensed as a preacher; but, as the custom was in those days, while waiting for a charge, he betook himself to tuition. He got employment in his old school at Perth. When Dr. Gordon was called to Hope Park Church in this city, he was appointed to succeed him. Soon after, he succeeded him again as minister of that church, to the oversight of the congregation assembling in which he was ordained in 1826. Two years later, upon the translation of Mr. Marshall to Edinburgh from the outer High Church in Glasgow, the congregation of which met for worship in the nave of the Cathedral, he was removed thither. When the inconvenient arrangement of having two congregations worshipping under the same roof was objected to, St. Paul’s Church, John Street, was built for him by the Town Council. There he gathered a numerous and deeply-attached flock, a large number of whom adhered to him at the time of the Disruption, and built the first Free Church that was opened in Glasgow. About the path of duty at that time Dr. Forbes had no misgivings, and he followed it with the unostentatious firmness that characterized all his doings. His mental constitution strongly inclined him to reverence and support whatever was old and settled; but he clearly saw that the innovations, most injurious and unwarrantable as he deemed them, came from the side of State authority, and every means of legitimate resistance having been exhausted, every avenue by which redress could be properly sought having been tried in vain, he retired without a murmur. He continued to minister unassisted to a congregation who cherished for him an unusually warm respect. A few weeks since, however, he intimated that he felt himself becoming unable for the entire duties of his pastorate; and steps were taken by the Presbytery and the congregation for the appointment of a colleague. The Rev. Mr. Jeffrey, of Torphichen, Linlithgowshire, was chosen with great unanimity; and, his translation having been sanctioned, the Presbytery at its last meeting made arrangements for his induction, which has not yet taken place. It deserves to be recorded that previous to these arrangements being made, Dr. Forbes voluntarily renounced all claim upon the Sustentation Fund, the Aged and Infirm Ministers’ Fund, and the funds of the congregation. This was only of a piece with the disinterested conduct that marked his whole career.

In his prime, Dr. Forbes was an admirable preacher; not eloquent in the rhetorical sense, but lucid and convincing; nowise given to dazzling or startling assertions, but able to present a solemn exhibition of God’s truth in its harmony, and to inculcate duty in its principles and various applications. His mathematical attainments gave him a high position among students of the exact sciences; and a copy of his work on the Differential Calculus was presented by Dr. Chalmers to the Institute of France, as showing what a Scottish minister could do. Of that Royal Institution he was one of the few Scotchmen who had the honour to be corresponding members, his compeers being Lord Brougham, Sir David Brewster, and Dr. Chalmers.

He was also an accomplished classical scholar, and kept up his literature by reading Greek and Hebrew regularly, while studying, at the same time, German and French theology in the original. Danish, also, he read with great facility.

On the Sabbath after his funeral the pulpit of Free St. Paul’s was occupied by the Rev. James McNaught, of Glasgow, in the forenoon, and by Dr. Hugh Martin, of Edinburgh, in the afternoon, both of whom referred in suitable terms to the character and labours of the deceased.

We give the following by Dr. Martin: “And now, dear brethren, my object, you will perceive, has been, by these considerations, to soothe rather than to stir your sorrowful emotions; and in the few remarks that still remain I shall keep the same end in view. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how suitably the words of this text may be pronounced over the fragrant memory of him whose voice you have long loved to hear. For it has been a long ministry; and it has had a sweet and gracious close. You cannot but be grateful to the Lord for ordering the events connected with it in such a manner as to exempt your beloved pastor from a long conflict with disease, and weakness, and pain. No doubt Divine grace could have reconciled him to any conflict, and made him victorious over any amount of trial to which Divine wisdom might have seen meet to subject him. But your much-loved friend would seem to have been so sanctified, so true and pure, — he had been so consistent, so genuine, so faithful, so assiduous, so humble, so child-like, so heavenly — that much furnace-purifying was not needed to fit him for his heavenly rest. What few words shall I say concerning him? Ye yourselves know how holily and unblamably he behaved himself among you, and was gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children. For ye were indeed unto him as his own family — all the family that God had given unto him. And as such he truly regarded you, while those of you who have given evidence of regenerating grace he considered, very literally and sincerely, as his ‘hope and joy and crown of rejoicing;’ and but a few Sabbaths ago he told you that he anticipated that as such he would meet you again ‘in the presence of the Lord Jesus, at his coming.’ What a bright, attractive, delightful example of ‘simplicity and godly sincerity’ ye have in him long had before you, ye yourselves know. His very great intellectual powers, so obvious to every competent judge, he wielded with an unconsciousness that was most remarkable. In simple conversation he would drop remarks worthy of Pascal, and evidently never dream that he had uttered anything fitted to distinguish him from those around him. Great fundamental truths and principles had a charm for the intellect of Dr. John Forbes, which, as if in its native sphere, moved among them with an ease and mastery that told how thoroughly he was at home. The severities of mathematical discipline had trained his understanding to detect and to abhor the fallacious, the superficial, the illusory; and grace had given him a love of truth amounting to a passion. To him a sophism amounted almost to a falsehood. A makeshift argument, to serve for the moment, neither the living nor those now dead ever heard him utter. He would as soon have told a lie. The conduct of his intellect was under the guardianship of his conscience, and his intellect was as honest and true as his moral sense was at once delicate and powerful.”

On the day before he died he asked one of his elders to conduct the weekly prayer-meeting for him, requesting him to address the people from these precious words of the Saviour: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The day following was his last on earth. “Loving hands,” said Mr. McNaught, in his sermon, “gladly ministered to his simple wants. When the hour of dissolution came, the messenger of Death walked into the room so softly that his footsteps were not heard, and he fell so gently asleep in Jesus that it was like the closing of a flower at evening; and to the friends around his dying couch death appeared to differ only from sleep by his ceasing to breathe. The prayer of the great Advocate was answered — ‘Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me;’ and the prophecy was fulfilled — ‘Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season.’ ‘Blessed are the dead who 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. JAMES FORDYCE, BISHOPBRIGGS

(Died October 23, 1891)
Author: Rev. Malcolm White, M.A., Blairgowrie
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1892, Obituary, p.21


A leaf in the story of the Wynd movement in Glasgow has been brought to an end by the death of the Rev. James Fordyce, Bishopbriggs. One result of that awakening was the cry for help from districts round Glasgow in which there had been little spiritual life, and Mr. Fordyce, while still a student, was introduced to what has proved his life-work by the Rev. Mr. McColl in January 1862. Characteristically enough, the place of meeting was a gutted-out public-house in the mining village of Auchinairn.

For the hard mission work that filled up the three years of his probationer life he had a remarkable training. Brought up as a lad under the vigorous ministry of old Mr. Ingram at Uya Sound, Shetland, and inspired by a godly mother with the desire to enter the ministry, he connected himself in Glasgow with the lively congregational work carried on by Dr. Roxburgh in St. John’s. Friendships then formed cheered him to the last. The revival amongst the young through the agency of Mr. Hammond had a peculiar attraction for Mr. Fordyce. The gentle winsomeness of his nature drew the children to him, and he was one of a group of students who long had abundant work laid to their hands in the daily meetings in Dr. Somerville’s church and the nightly gatherings in Stockwell and elsewhere.

As was to be anticipated, the labours of Mr. Fordyce from house to house, in the open air, and in the little hall, were crowned with success. The present church was built in Bishopbriggs, a congregation was raised and consolidated, and the pastoral bond was acknowledged, rather than formed, by the Glasgow Presbytery in September 1865. Had it been possible, there would have been two other men ordained the same day to charges in the same Presbytery which had a similar origin and a similar history. As it happened, Busby, under Mr. Andrew, now of the White Memorial, and Cathcart, had the precedency of Bishopbriggs by only a few days. Campsie had a somewhat corresponding career, and thus four separate charges told of one direction in which the enthusiasm of that time of blessing manifested itself.

It was altogether like Mr. Fordyce to root himself and remain to the last among his loved people. In the midst of open-air evangelistic work in his own district, he caught his last illness; but it was as a pastor and worker among the young that he shone. Trials not a few tested his spirit of faithfulness. Mining all but ceased in the neighbourhood, the expectation of a rapid increase, otherwise, of population proved deceptive, and rivalries which had been fostered by that expectation were sources of discouragement; but the devout and tender spirit toiled on and triumphed. The appearance of the congregation a year ago, at the semi-jubilee of the pastor, was very inspiring. Among other things, there was the recognition of his devotion to natural history and other studies by the gift of a valuable telescope. His discourses were brightened by many an apt illustration from the flowers he loved and knew so well. The works of our heavenly Father were his delight, even as the will of his heavenly Father was that of which he unceasingly spoke in his short, last sufferings.

With all his sweet gentleness there was the spirit of which martyrs are made. Unflinching in defence of the truth, his votes were often cast against those who continued to be his special friends, and whom he loved none the less though they differed from him on Union questions and others of Church polity, so long as he found that they were at one with him in devotion to the oracles of God and the acceptance of the revealed Word as at once and throughout divine and human.

As to the beauty of his family life, words are not needed. The widow and four surviving daughters will have the sympathy of many.

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REV. ROBERT FORDYCE, HAWICK

(Died November 22, 1893)
Author: Rev. J. G. Cunningham, Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1894, Obituary, p.18


Robert Fordyce was born in the remotest of the Shetland Isles in February 1836. On leaving school he came to Edinburgh, where he served an apprenticeship, and continued in business until, by hard work and frugal living, he had saved enough to enable him to begin the arts course in Edinburgh University. He entered college in November 1859, handicapped by many disadvantages in competition with younger students; but he toiled in every class with the enthusiasm of a high aim, and with manhood’s maturity of judgment and strength of purpose, and always gained a place among the prizemen of his year. After finishing the arts course in the University, he had the usual four years of theology at the New College, and was licensed in 1868. He served as a probationer for nearly four years at Wick, Aberdeen, Crossford, and Portobello successively, and was eventually ordained pastor of West Port (Territorial) Church, Hawick, on November 5, 1872.

He was thus nearly thirty-seven years of age before he was an ordained minister, but every part of his long training had contributed to make him efficient and successful. More than twenty years of a singularly close walk with God had made him familiar with every variety of spiritual experience; he could sing with those who rejoiced, and he could weep with those who were on the borders of despair. His business life had made him shrewd, prompt, exact, and methodical, he was conversant with men and things, and he knew the value of time. His strenuous application of mind and heart to thorough study had formed the habit of ambitious endeavour; he would not serve God with that which cost him nothing. Above all his other qualifications, however, for the ministry—the one with which his friends and his people were most familiar—was intense concern to see God glorified in the salvation of sinners. It was well remarked by one of his hearers in speaking to a friend as they mourned together beside his grave, “He was aye anxious, ye ken, for folk to be converted.” The ruling passion of his life was to promote the spiritual and intellectual advancement of his fellow-men; and while he sought to promote this end by ungrudging expenditure of energy, he was pre-eminently a man of prayer, having unfeigned and unbounded reliance on the Spirit of God.

For twenty-one years he persevered in the work given him to do; and of him, as of Hezekiah, it might be said that “in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart and prospered.” He began with a very small company of hearers, but he soon gathered scores of young people into the Sabbath schools; and by frequent evangelistic meetings and constant house-to-house visitation, he brought the truth as it is in Jesus home to the population round his church. Not a few were converted, and became in the warmth of first love to Christ wise and willing fellow-labourers. He constantly impressed on all who had come to Christ that they should pray, and work, and give; and the congregational life was of a high tone, vigorous, warm, and pervaded by a missionary spirit. A goodly number of men and women who found Christ in connection with Mr. Fordyce’s ministry are now active and useful in other places. It was one of the keenest pleasures of his busy life to receive and answer letters from Christian people scattered over the wide world—I have heard him mention one faithful witness for Christ in remote Peru—who never forgot that their “altar was at the first” in the West Port Church.

The reality of the spiritual work achieved under Mr. Fordyce’s ministry was attested by the improvement in the external circumstances of the congregation. Instead of the small and unsuitable building in which the congregation met in 1872, there is now a commodious and conspicuous church; and within the last two years a manse in a charming and healthful situation has been built. Through the willing liberality of the people, aided largely by generous friends who knew and appreciated Mr. Fordyce’s worth and work, both church and manse are now the unburdened heritage of the West Port congregation.

In public affairs in Hawick, Mr. Fordyce took an active part whenever he believed that by so doing he could forward the interests of righteousness and truth. In the cause of Sabbath observance and in the advocacy of temperance he always spoke with telling effect and without any fear of man. For twelve years he was a member of the School Board of Hawick. Professor Orr, who knew him very intimately, wrote in regard to the public usefulness of Mr. Fordyce the following testimony, quoted by the Rev. D. Stewart in his funeral sermon:—”I know that on the School Board—both as chairman of it and as private member—his services were great. He was unsparing in his time, labour and attention, and the records and statistics of the Board will show that things were seldom more prosperous than when he was guiding them. I think of Mr. Fordyce as a man of very exceptional business capacity, and this he put ungrudingly at the service of the public. Above all, Mr. Fordyce was a man of unbending Christian principle–straight, true, unflinching—with a scorn of everything shifty, mean, or tricky, which sometimes flamed out into a passion with him, yet sprang from the best part of the man. I sincerely mourn his loss and revere his memory, and feel that Hawick poorer from his departure.”

On the recent anniversary of Mr. Fordyce’s ordination (Nov. 5) the pulpit of the West Port Church was occupied by the Rev. D. Howie Boyd of Carlisle, who made appropriate reference to the twenty-one years of faithful ministry which Mr. Fordyce had that day completed, and to the gratifying fact that the effort made to clear off a burden of £400 on the manse had been crowned with success. On Monday, Nov. 6, the church was again filled notwithstanding very unpropitious weather, by the congregation and other friends who had met to give thanks for all that they and their beloved minister had seen of the good hand of God upon them since 1872. Mr. Fordyce was in the chair, and delivered in his happiest vein an address which gave a tone of hope and gladness to the whole proceedings. A number of his intimate friends and fellow-labourers followed with addresses suitable to the occasion–past was remembered with gratitude to God, and the future anticipated with assured expectation of greater things. As the meeting broke up the song which seemed to come unbidden from every lip was this:—

” The Lord of us hath mindful been,
And he will bless us still.”

Next day the first of a series of evangelistic services which had been arranged for by Mr. Johnman, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Fordyce, was conducted by Dr. Black of Inverness in Free St. Andrew’s Church. Mr. Fordyce was present at that meeting, and at those which followed, until Tuesday, Nov. 14. On that evening he seemed well, and took part in the meeting with his usual earnestness. He went home labouring under the effects of cold, and remained in the house on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday evening he attempted to resume the writing of “Notes on the International Bible Lessons”, published by Messrs. Nelson and Sons, a work in which his gifted pen had for some years quietly taken a most useful share. He found, however, that he was quite unequal to the effort. He wrote the title of the lesson and an introductory sentence in his usual neat and legible handwriting, and then reluctantly desisted from further effort. In a little while he left the study and lay down, little thinking that he was never again to be in the midst of the books which he knew and loved so well. Four days passed in which there was still hope, but on Tuesday afternoon he became rapidly worse, and on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 22, he died. His latest exercise of spirit and speech was the utterance of fervent prayers, commending his much-loved people to the great and good Shepherd, and his dear wife and children (three daughters and a son) to the covenant keeping God, who said of old, ‘Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.”

On Saturday, Nov. 25, a large sorrow-stricken company met in the church and walked in the funeral procession to the cemetery. There most of the friends who listened to his earnest, hopeful words at the thanksgiving meeting in his church less than three weeks before were again gathered together, and looked on one another with feelings too deep for words. Two texts which we have often read on a stone in the Grange Cemetery not far from the last resting-place of John Mackintosh, the “earnest student,” came with great power to remembrance:

“He weakened my strength in the way: he shortened my days.” “Thy loving-kindness is better than life.”

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REV. ADAM FORMAN, LEVEN

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1865, p.834


The Rev. Adam Forman was born in the manse of Carmunnock, and his early life was spent iu the manse and parish of Kirkintilloch. His college life was marked by honours, and was generally distinguished. He was ordained to the ministry, and into the charge of the parish of Innerwick in 1824, and was immediately after the Disruption inducted into the charge of the Free Church Congregation, Leven. His ministry extended over forty years, and he had reached the ripe age of threescore and ten.

The departed was a man of high mark. He was largely gifted, and well equipped for the work of the ministry. His mind broad-reaching and sweeping in its generalizations; his sagacity scarcely ever at fault and too little known to the Church; his heart brimful of kindness, and swelling with generous sympathies; his intense honesty that recoiled from everything like baseness; his unswerving honour; his firmness when, after deliberation, he had taken his stand; and his gentlemanly bearing, as, fearful to offend, he was yet resolute in the execution of his duty—commended him to the love and respect of those who knew him best, and gave him a position where, in the estimation of his friends, he had very few equals.

Mr. Forman was inclined to take a depressed view of his own condition. Sin appeared to him exceedingly horrible. The imagination of John Bunyan gave him vivid pictures of the guilt and evil results of sin. In the mind of the departed, there brooded a horror of great darkness over the smallest possible offence against God, but this sense of the dread nature of sin incited him to seek after fellowship with God and completed assurance in the faith. Amid great longings and searchings of heart, we are persuaded that his foot rested in a sure place, as he knew full well that there was no safety but in the Rock of Ages, and even in the midst of his sadness there were gleams of solid satisfaction.

His eye was God-ward, and his dependence was on the merits of the Redeemer.
Faithfully were his duties as a minister performed. His heart was in his Master’s work. And whether you met him at home amid his usual ministrations, or at the Presbytery, there was depreciation of self united with great mental power. His sermons were a treat; characterized by breadth of thought, a few plain words of Saxon energy succeeded by passages rich in expression, and tinged with fancy, of graphic force and rich in truth, they specially commended themselves to the attention of the thoughtful. The main subjects of his preaching were the importance of regeneration, the magnitude of the sacrificial atonement, and the infinity of the divine love.

Suddenly death came to him. Visiting at the manse of a friend, he retired to his room on the evening of Tuesday, the 28th day of March, at eleven o’clock, and next morning he was found dead in bed, not a ruffle on the bed-clothes and not a muscle changed. Unconsciously and without a struggle, he had passed hence. The call came literally to him at midnight, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him!”

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REV. ROBERT FORREST, M.A., ST. CUTHBERT’S, EDINBURGH

(Died February 16, 1898)
Author: Rev. J. G. Cunningham, D.D., Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, April, 1898, Obituary, p.96


Robert Forrest was born in Edinburgh on June 15, 1844. Early bereft of their father, he and his brother George (now in business in London) were brought up by a pious mother, who lived to see an ample fulfilment of the promise which sustained her widowed heart, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive.” Apt to learn and studious from a sense of duty, he gained the honour of medallist as dux in Moray House School; and the day on which the ribbon bearing that medal was put round his neck, in the presence of a thousand spectators, by Dr. Candlish, then Convener of the Education Committee, was always remembered by him as an inspiration to diligence. After passing through the necessary training as a pupil-teacher, he entered Moray House as a student in 1864; and when he left it, was the foremost student in the three training colleges of the Free Church. He received his certificate as teacher in 1867, and maintained himself throughout his arts curriculum at Edinburgh University with an energy and self-denial such as few, even in Scotland, have surpassed. His first duty every morning was private tuition of an earnest student who, in order to have his aid, received him at 6 a.m. Returning to his lodgings for breakfast, he spent from 9 till 4 or 5 between attendance at the university and teaching at Moray House in the practising school. The evening was divided between other private teaching and preparation for the class-work of the following day; and although the time at his disposal for study was so limited, he won reputation as a student, and passed successfully the necessary examinations for the M.A. degree, graduating in 1871. In the Rhetoric class he received from Professor Masson a first prize for an original and beautiful poem on a prescribed theme, “Shakespeare’s Last Walk in Stratford Woods.” Instead of immediately entering the Theological Hall, he wisely embraced an opportunity for foreign travel as a tutor, and in an extensive journey through the United States and Canada, as well as in Northern Europe, gratified that taste for a wider knowledge of men and affairs which he cultivated with pleasure in many visits to the Continent in after years.

In 1872 he entered the New College, Edinburgh, accepting office at the same time as a junior lecturer at Moray House, where he exercised a great influence for good on the students, among whom his character and his efficiency gained enthusiastic admiration and respect. The rector, Dr. Maurice Paterson, writes concerning his career in connection with Moray House as student, teacher, and lecturer: “All along, he set before himself the same high standard of work, so that whatever duty devolved on him, one could feel perfectly assured that it would be performed not with fidelity only, but with eminent success.” For three years after being licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh he exercised his gifts, and gained experience alongside of some of our best preachers, having been assistant for one year to Mr. Nicholl of Free St. Stephen’s, Glasgow, and for eighteen months to Dr. Stewart of Leghorn. To his poetic mind and appreciative eye Italy’s lovely scenery and treasures of art were sources of great delight; and he gathered profit for others from all he saw, for he had the happy genius which finds “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in everything.”

In 1878, while he was supplying the pulpit of the Rev. Alexander Cusin during a temporary absence, Mr. Forrest received and closed with the call given him by Free St. Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh, to be the colleague and successor of Sir Henry Moncreiff. For five years he was associated with his venerable colleague in a deep mutual affection and confidence, of which there is a pleasing memorial in the Personal Reminiscences given by Mr. Forrest to the congregation at the time of Sir Henry Moncreiff’s decease, in November 1883. In the more public business of the church Mr. Forrest never took any conspicuous part, for he had a high ideal of the way in which such work should be done, and he had an unduly modest estimate of his own gifts for that kind of service. To his people this disposition to shrink from outside duties brought the gain of an undivided devotion to their interests and welfare. In the house of God he gave them the honest product of systematic and earnest preparation. It is touching to see in the careful finish and correct handwriting of his sermons the evidence of a tender conscience and loving interest in work which was to pass under no other eye than that of God; and when he preached, his message was not only enriched by the fruits of scholarship, culture, and experience, but also enforced by the moral fervour of one who believed and therefore spoke. As a pastor he sought his people out very diligently, and was a welcome visitor; for he rejoiced in the liveliness of the children, and he entered keenly into the sorrow and care or joy of the older people. Many will remember thankfully for years to come their beloved pastor’s merry twinkling eye and pleasant smile when moved to mirth, and the quickness with which his face became shadowed and his eyes suffused with tenderness in response to any utterance of an anxious mind or aching heart.

On January 10, 1897, Mr. Forrest occupied his pulpit in the forenoon, but was unable to finish his sermon, being seized with paralysis. With great difficulty he returned to the pulpit after a brief rest in the vestry, and the benediction closed that diet of worship and his public ministry. During thirteen months of extreme bodily weakness which ensued before the end came, he was clear in mind and strong in faith, his favourite text, even in his depressing circumstances, being that which formed the theme of his New-Year sermon on January 3, 1897: “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise him more and more.” He entered with great interest and characteristic generosity into all the arrangements necessary for an application to the next General Assembly for a colleague and successor, and these had all been prepared for the next presbytery meeting, when, on Wednesday evening, February 16, the messenger of death called him with very brief warning to pass hence into the presence of his Lord.

The text chosen by Mr. Forrest for the afternoon of January 10, 1897, was from Joshua 24:9: “After these things … Joshua died.” The sermon was never preached, but it was, as usual, carefully written; and the closing words of the manuscript are well worthy of being kept in memory as his farewell message: “Let me ask, How are you living from day to day? For, remember, it is ‘after these things’ that you must die. May God grant, therefore, that our life may be such, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as to give hope in our death, so that, in the truest sense, it will not be death to us, but just the entrance into the higher and endless life! Joshua fought the good fight even from his youth; Joshua showed himself the servant of the Lord even to his latest day on earth; and ‘after these things’ Joshua lived, lives still, and shall live for evermore.”

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REV. DR. ALEXANDER FORRESTER, NOVA SCOTIA

(Died April 19, 1869)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, August 2, 1869, p.181


Dr. Forrester of Nova Scotia had for a number of years ceased to appear in the arena of the home Church; but his name well merits a place here, as that of one who, like, for example, Dr. R. Burns and Dr. Cairns, carried the Disruption spirit into the furthest corners of the British Empire. He was born in 1805, and in 1843 was minister of the parish of Sorbie, in Galloway. Though standing alone in his Presbytery, as a faithful witness to the constitutional principles of the Church of Scotland, he did not hesitate as to his course of duty. All his brethren adhered to the Establishment, but their want of sympathy failed to shake his steadfastness; and thus it happily fell out that in the day of trial the Wigtown Presbytery was not without at least one true standard-bearer. Shortly after the Disruption he was translated to the Free Middle Church, Paisley, wdiere he laboured with much acceptance until the summer of 1847, when he was sent out as a deputy from the Free Church to Nova Scotia. This ultimately resulted in his permanent removal to Halifax, where he became pastor of Chalmers’ Church, and took part also in the work of the College. In this position he remained till 1855, when he accepted the influential post of Superintendent of Education and Principal of Provincial Normal School. “Here,” says the Presbyterian Witness, “he was in his proper sphere. Every part of the work was congenial. Under his control the Normal School at once became a power in the land, and far more than realized the expectations of its most sanguine founders and friends…..The good fight went on step by step, till the crowning triumph came of Free Schools open to every child in Nova Scotia, and a fair supply of trained teachers for these schools. This was the consummation for which Dr. Forrester laboured with unflagging zeal, self-sacrifice, patience, and indomitable courage for long years. It was in this noble struggle that his head became whitened before the time with the snows of age, that health was undermined, and a sturdy constitution broken.” He died at New York on the 19th of April; and when the history of the Disruption, with its issues, comes to be written, it will have to be told that among those who marched down from St. Andrew’s Church to Canonmills was a quiet country minister, who was to do much to mould the whole future of a distant colony.

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REV. WILLIAM GREY FORRESTER, AULDEARN

(Died December 28, 1886.)
Author: Professor A. B. Davidson, D D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, September, 1887, Biographical Notices, p.275


Mr. Forrester was born at Kirkliston in 1826. An elder brother, afterwards Dr. Forrester of Halifax, Nova Scotia, a distinguished preacher and educationist, was at one time minister at Sorby, in Wigtownshire, and then at Paisley; while a younger brother, also destined for the Church, died comparatively young. Like many Scottish students, Mr. Forrester was early thrown upon his own resources. While pursuing his studies he acted as a tutor for several years, and afterwards engaged in mission work. His labours in the Home Mission at Millerston and Ladyburn were zealous and successful; and the tokens of affection and gratitude which he carried away from these stations were fondly cherished by him all his life as memorials of some good which he had been able to do.

In 1856 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and an incident occurred at his licensing which revealed some of the characteristics of the man. In those days the Presbytery sat in a lower room in one of the city churches. In this room there was a small wooden pulpit from which the candidates for license had to deliver their discourses. This instrument stared the candidate in the face from the beginning of the sederunt, just like the thumb-screws which the inquisitors had laid upon their table to strike terror into their victims. By some mishap Forrester, who was employed in the country, had come away to Edinburgh forgetting to bring his discourse. Nothing disconcerted, he entered the pulpit and delivered his sermon with much eloquence and a profusion of gesture, to the infinite delectation of Dr. Begg and the astonishment of his fellow-students. Most students tried to bring their minds to think of the assembled presbyters as so many wooden dummies before whom certain exercises had to be gone through. Forrester evidently regarded them as men, whose minds might be interested or even touched. This, however, was further than the faith of most of us at that time would go.

Immediately after license, Mr. Forrester became assistant to Dr. McGillivray, Aberdeen; and here in the very large congregation assembling in the old Gilcomston Church his pulpit gifts found ample scope. His attractive appearance and free delivery, his dramatic gestures and wealth of brilliant illustration, made his lectures impressive and memorable, and drew large audiences to hear him. Old people in the congregation still speak of the impression which he made and the influence he exercised. And some of his sermons, notably one on the text, “What profit should we have if we pray unto him?” still, at a distance of thirty years, haunt the memory of a hearer at no time particularly impressible by sermons. Those who were assistants to Dr. McGillivray will always remember with pleasure that period of their life. Though ill-qualified by temperament for public or ecclesiastical business, he was full of a certain Highland chivalry. His consideration for his assistants was extreme. They were almost members of his family. Of men like Forrester his appreciation was in the highest degree generous; while for those whose popular gifts were small he always had some encouragement or kindly counsel which lifted them above their failures. Neither was he a bad model for a young preacher. Few men wrote an English style so chaste and expressive, and fewer still had command of that lofty and sustained declamation to which he rose, and which held his hearers spellbound. When fresh from academical studies men are apt to imagine that the only powerful thing is thought, and to forget that over the masses of mankind effective speech exerts a power almost incalculable. Between Dr. McGillivray and Forrester the warmest friendship always existed; and the city minister, who was too liable to get worried, often found a few days’ quiet retreat in the manse of his old assistant.

In the spring of 1858, Mr. Forrester was called to Auldearn, and for six years he ministered to his congregation in the fulness of his strength, winning them to the truth by the attractiveness with which he presented it, and gaining their affections by the openness and amiability of his own character. The pleasure of doing work in which one’s heart lies is the greatest that can be found. Some have had no other pleasure all their life, and have found it sufficient. It was naturally a sore trial and perplexing riddle for one in the mid-time of his days, and the full career of ministerial activity, to find himself suddenly arrested and, as it were, bound with fetters which no skill availed to strike off. Happily his mind remained clear and his speech unaffected; and for more than twenty years he spoke to his people from a chair in which he was carried into church. To a stranger the sight was impressive, and to the congregation the commentary of the preacher’s life and circumstances, which accompanied his words, could not fail to give them irresistible pathos and force. During this long period. Forrester’s cheerfulness never deserted him. It was no longer rollicking, as in earlier times, but though subdued, like the autumn calm and mellowness after the fiercer summer heats, it was deeply genuine and wholly unmixed with complaint. In the company of his friends his conversation still sparkled with the old quips and puns. Both he and they had come to understand that his malady was not to be cured, and it was not much spoken of. But when touched upon, the tone of his allusions to it suggested that he had amply discussed it in another Presence, and that he had received and acquiesced in the answer given to one long before: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Happily he had married shortly after his settlement at Auldearn, and the thoughtfulness and devotion of his wife made what might have been a trial scarcely to be borne to seem to be only a “light affliction.” In the words spoken from the pulpit by Mr. Lee of Nairn, “one was at a loss which to admire most—the cheery sufferer who was ministered to, or the inventive, considerate thoughtfulness of her who ministered so tenderly to his every necessity.”

For some time Mr. Forrester had been relieved of active duty by the appointment of a colleague, and he had retired to Nairn. And here he died in the end of last year. No one could leave his presence after witnessing how his mind rose superior to his bodily infirmity without feeling elevated and assured that we shall not all die. And the memory of his Christian patience, and how, even when denied the joy of serving his Master as he would wish, he quieted himself like a weaned child, will not speedily fade from the minds of those among whom he lived.

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REV. WILLIAM FORWELL, BLOCHAIRN

(Died April 17, 1889)
Author: Rev. John MacPherson, Dundee
Source: The Free Church Monthly, August, 1889, Biographical Notices, p.246


Mr. Forwell was born at Ayr in 1836. In early youth he learned the trade of baker. In 1859 he came within the sweep of the movement that brought salvation to so many. After his conversion he began to study, and in 1861 entered the University of Glasgow, where he took a prize every session. During his first year in theology he laboured as missionary with Rev. D. MacColl in Bridgegate. His intense application to study, together with his missionary work, proving too much for his health, he deemed it prudent to relax the mental strain by having recourse to his former occupation. Proceeding to Edinburgh, where he was a stranger, he sought out a suitable locality, and there began, carried on, and closed a business between the college sessions. It reveals no little energy, courage, and capacity to have been able in six months to raise a business, provide for his family, and return to college with improved health and a hundred pounds in his pocket.

After license, he laboured for some time at Harthill, where it was his joy to see a work of grace. In 1870 he was ordained at Alva, but in less than a year his health failed. Rather than burden the church he resigned his charge and returned to business. He settled in Dundee, where he soon became known as a man of uncommon force of character, a fearless defender of the truth, and a devoted worker in the cause of Christ. By preaching at ordinary services, by addressing evangelistic meetings, by special lectures and contributions to the press while carrying on his large biscuit factory, he occupied a sphere at once useful and unique. He originated and conducted the Sabbath Morning Free Breakfasts here. In a little volume entitled, “The Gospel in the Bakehouse,” he gave to the public the memoirs of an early friend. One of his published sermons was on “Systematic Giving,” which he practised as well as preached. Suffering from a malady, the effect of overwork in his student days, he betook himself to the sea, and accompanied by his oldest son made a voyage in his little boat to France, the narrative of which he published under the title, ” A Thousand Miles’ Cruise in the Silver Cloud.” In many shorter voyages in his tiny craft he carried with him gospel tracts, by the distribution of which, and by preaching at ports where he spent the Sabbath, he found means of combining Christian work with the pursuit of health.

In 1881 he returned to the full work of the ministry at Blochairn, Glasgow. Here he succeeded in raising from a feeble nucleus a vigorous congregation and in organizing the varied agencies of a fully equipped territorial mission charge. A church was built and opened free of debt. Better still, a goodly number of souls sought and found salvation. Again his health broke down, and in 1885 he retired from Blochairn. His last years were full of weakness and pain; but while he sought relief by travel he continued to work for the Master, whether at home or abroad. On April 17th he died on board a steamer on the voyage between Marseilles and Gibraltar. His latter end was peace. Thus his last hours were spent on the sea, which he loved so much; and he was buried, as was fitting, on the Rock among the brave. Possessing intellectual powers of a high order, a will of indomitable force, and an originality of style that gave piquancy to his utterances, he made it his life-work to bear a clear testimony to “Christ and him crucified,” and to labour for the salvation of sinners. He has left a widow and eight children.

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REV. ALEXANDER FRASER, KIRKHILL

(Died June 21, 1883)
Author: Rev. Donald Fraser, D.D., London
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.307


This departed worthy was a Disruption minister, signed the Deed of Demission and Act of Separation in 1843 without hesitation, and was| as stanch a Free Churchman as all Scotland contained; but he was not one of those whose influence took its date and origin from the Free Church movement. He cast his roots much further back. In the Highlands, where so much is made of “a good stock,” and of ancestral claims to respect, it was a great point in Mr. Fraser’s favour that he was the fourth in succession of a family of able evangelical ministers. The Frasers of Kirkhill have been described in the public prints as a dynasty, and the beneficial influence exerted by them during the past century and a half will be admitted by all who have any accurate knowledge of the history of religion in Inverness-shire and the neighbouring counties.

The Rev. Donald Fraser, of whom only a dim memory remains, is first found labouring as a missionary in Strathglass, and became minister of the Parish of Killearnan, or Redcastle, on the opposite shore of the Beauly Frith from Kirkhill, in the year 1744. He must have been there during the troubled time of Prince Charles-Edward’s rebellion. In 1757 he was translated to Urquhart, or Ferrintosh, and died there in the year 1773. Thus he ministered to two parishes which were afterwards occupied by two of the most honoured Ross-shire worthies, John Kennedy of Redcastle and John Macdonald of Ferrintosh.

In the very year of his death, his son Alexander was ordained minister of the beautiful Parish of Kirkhill in the Presbytery of Inverness. While a careful scholar and much given to study, he proved to be also a sound evangelical preacher, and was one of the first to awaken in the north of Scotland an intelligent zeal for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts. There lies before us a printed sermon preached by him before the Northern Missionary Society “at their first meeting in the Church of Tain, August 27, 1800.” Its argument is based on the “Liberality of the Scheme of Redemption.” It is curiously suggestive of the suspicion and uneasiness with which new associations were regarded at that time, that it was thought necessary to explain in an appendix to the sermon that the members of the Missionary Society were “well affected to the civil and religious establishment of this country.” A great deal of Mr. Alexander Fraser’s time and attention was devoted to the study of prophecy. In 1795 he published a “Key to the Prophecies,” and five years later a Commentary on Isaiah in the form of a paraphrase with notes. The latter work was inscribed to Bishop Hurd, with whom the minister of Kirkhill corresponded on those studies which both of them found so congenial. It is not alleged that these works are now of much expository value, though the Key is repeatedly quoted by Dr. David Brown in his treatise on the Second Advent; but they were rare specimens of sacred erudition as proceeding from a Highland manse of the period, and they brought to the author the university degree of Doctor in Divinity. Dr. Alexander Fraser died somewhat suddenly in the year 1801.

His successor in the parish was his son Donald, whose incumbency lasted from 1802 to 1836. His reputation is still fresh in the Highlands; and he seems to be always remembered as in the fulness of his powers, for he died suddenly in consequence of a fall from a vehicle, and no one ever saw him worn out or aged. He left nothing behind him in print but a slim volume of sermons, thoughtful and well reasoned, but no more. It is from the undoubted fact of his extensive popularity, and from the enthusiastic testimony of those who still remember him, that we may form an estimate of what he really was among his contemporaries. Dr. Kennedy of Dingwall, in his life of the “Apostle of the North,” pays a cordial tribute to “Mr. Donald Fraser of Kirkhill” as a man of rare attractiveness. He ascribes to him “remarkable elegance of manner, great acuteness of intellect, and refinement of taste.” “As a preacher he was always acceptable to all classes of hearers. His manner, always chaste, was sufficiently earnest; his statements of doctrine, invariably exact, were aptly illustrated; and there was always the due proportion of the subjective in his preaching.” Thus eminent as a preacher, Mr. Fraser was also a prominent Evangelical leader in the North, and exerted a most valuable influence in society, where he was the friend and equal of the most cultivated people of his day, while none the less the beloved shepherd and guide of the poor.

His eldest son Alexander, whose death we now deplore, was born in 1804, and educated at the Royal Academy of Inverness and the University of Edinburgh. We have often heard him speak of the profit and pleasure he derived as a student from the ministrations of Dr. Colquhoun of Leith and Dr. Jones of Lady Glenorchy’s Church. His first charge was the Parish of Cawdor, where he was ordained in the year 1828, and soon won the hearts of all by his sweetness of disposition, consistency of character, and fulness of sympathy with all who were in trouble. From these earliest years of his ministry, he showed a special aptitude for dealing with the sick and with mourners.

On the death of his father, the parishioners of Kirkhill unanimously asked the patron, Lord Lovat, to present the young minister of Cawdor. Their request was granted; and from the 29th January 1837, till his death, on the 21st June last, Mr. Alexander Fraser continued the loved and respected minister of Kirkhill. The Disruption deprived him of his ancestral home, and reduced his stipend, but scarcely at all modified his position. He always thought of the parish, and the parish looked up to him. He was commonly styled “Kirkhill” in the fashion which Highlanders love.

In the Non-Intrusion Controversy, Mr. Fraser went with the Evangelical party of the Church of Scotland, and never wavered. He loved peace, and had more to lose by a disruption than most of his brethren had, but he was quite clear in his conviction of duty; and under his measured language and quiet demeanour lay an immense power of resolution. The Free Church leaders, from Dr. Chalmers downwards, knew his value well, and relied on him with absolute confidence. It was almost a matter of course that, when the Free Church had to be organized in the Highlands and Islands, a good deal of the work should be thrown on a man so firm, so wise, and so much regarded both on his own account and for the sake of his ancestry. And in such work he was delighted to have the companionship of his kinsman, Dr. Thomas MacLauchlan, who at that time was clerk of the Free Presbytery of Inverness. With the same companion, he visited Canada, and preached for several months to congregations of Highlanders there. He took the opportunity to travel through the United States. It was characteristic of him to love travel, and to store up what he saw and heard in a most accurate memory.

In the year 1854, he entered on a new and strange experience. Being appointed one of the acting chaplains to the Highland Brigade in the Crimea, he joined the army there, and passed through that terrible winter between Balaklava and the lines before Sebastopol. He was on excellent terms with the Highland commander, Sir Colin Campbell, afterwards Lord Clyde, and was a great favourite with the soldiers. But a severe attack of fever cut short his campaigning service. He was invalided, and returned to his parish so wasted and broken in health that his friends could hardly recognize him. It pleased God to restore him; his fine constitution regained its tone; and he continued his faithful and assiduous ministry at Kirkhill. Only in the last year or two of his life did he require any assistance. He had always been particularly careful of the schools in the parish, and was one of the first friends of Sunday schools in the district. He had his reward in seeing the people of Kirkhill distinguished by their general intelligence. And his own weekly instruction, if less brilliant than that which his father had given in the Parish Church, was admirably clear, and tended both to educate and to satisfy.

“I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine incorrupt; in language plain,
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
And natural in gesture; much impressed
Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
May feel it too; affectionate in look,
And tender in address, as well becomes
A messenger of grace to guilty men.”

Mr. Fraser had indeed a rare combination of calmness and ardour of spirit. He was calm, not by natural temperament merely, but by self-discipline under the grace of God. In times and scenes of ecclesiastical excitement, he never fanned the embers of strife, but reasoned out his conclusions for himself, and set them before others with a sort of temperate lucidity. But, at the same time, he was ardent in the service of his heavenly Master, and with all that tended to the revival of religion he evinced a warm and ready sympathy. At an early period of his ministry, he took an active part in a great awakening of spiritual life in Skye, and some notes of this from his own pen have lately appeared in the fourth part of the “Annals of the Disruption.”

The later years of Mr. Fraser’s career showed him the ripe Christian, the wise counsellor, the faithful friend; a true Church father, without any malice or bitterness, bearing himself meekly and unblamably before all. A few years ago, his jubilee was celebrated amidst many tokens of widespread respect, and he was presented with a sum of £375.

To the last, his love of the garden continued; and he was one of the best botanists and horticulturists in the district. He always reminded us of Cowper’s lines—

“Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry, enjoyed at home,
And Nature in her cultivated trim
Dressed to his taste, inviting him abroad.”

The end came rather suddenly, through an attack of bronchitis, but it was not an untimely death. It was met with the serene faith and hope which had brightened all the life that went before.

Mr. Fraser never married. He has, however, left behind him a brother in the service cf the Free Church—the Rev. Hector Fraser of Halkirk.

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REV. JOHN H. FRASER, A.M., ROSSKEEN

(Died January 19, 1884)
Author: Rev. A. Mackenzie, A.M., Edinburgh
Source: The Free Church Monthly, October 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.309


The Rev. John Hutcheson Fraser was born in Killearnan, Presbytery of Chanonry, on the 13th of October 1825. His father was a highly respectable farmer in that parish, and one of the elders in the Free Church there. His mother was an excellent Christian woman, and a daughter of the well-known Mr. Alexander Hutcheson, who was a small farmer in the parish of Kiltarlity, in the neighbourhood of Inverness, and for many years discharged the duties of catechist in the district. Alexander Hutcheson, or, as he was commonly called, Sandy Hutcheson, was one of the most remarkable Christian men in the north of Scotland. He lived to a good old age, and for the greater part of it walked in the closest fellowship with God. He was early in life brought to a saving knowledge of Christ; and from that day onward, his life, from its gracious beauty and holy consistency, was one of the most striking testimonies to the reality and transforming power of the gospel. If the question were asked, “Who of all men that were then in the locality lived in closest fellowship with God?” the unvarying answer was, “Sandy Hutcheson.” The grandson was an object of great interest to the grandfather, and had a large place in his love and his prayers. His great desire was that he might become a minister of the gospel, if it were the will of his God, and that for that high office he were graciously and intellectually qualified. Such was the earnest wish too of his excellent parents. At that time it was not an uncommon thing for Christian parents to account it the greatest honour which their God could confer on them, were he to give them a son, that he should fit and endow him for serving him in the ministry of the gospel. This was the great desire of these parents. Young Fraser was sent to the parish school of Killearnan, which then occupied a high place among the schools of the north, and from which there went forth not a few pupils who afterwards occupied a prominent position in the Church, as well as other walks of life. The whole of his eduction was obtained at this school, with the exception of a short time which he passed at the parish school of Kilmorack, prosecuting his mathematical studies.

He went from school to King’s College, Aberdeen, which was the university then attended by students from the north of Scotland. During his college career he occupied in his different classes a good position; and on finishing his course, he took his degree of Master of Arts. There being every evidence that the wishes of the parents in regard to their loved son were fulfilled and their prayers answered, on completing his arts course Mr. Fraser entered the Divinity Hall. While a student of divinity, he also taught with much success the Free Church Congregational School of Alness. After being licensed, he acted as assistant to the Rev. David Campbell of Tarbert, Presbytery of Tain. He was, however, employed but a few months in that situation when he was chosen to be the assistant of the well-known and much-honoured Rev. Mr. Carment of Ross-keen; and in that office so commended himself to that large and influential congregation, that after a time he was unanimously elected to be colleague and successor to their venerable minister. Mr. Fraser was ordained on the 9th of October 1853. After a few years of colleagueship, which were distinguished by the most cordial intercourse between Mr. Carment and him, and the greatest acceptance on the part of the people, on the death of Mr. Carment the whole charge of the congregation devolved on him. Such an undertaking was a very weighty and highly responsible one, when it is stated that at that time, and for years afterwards, before a separate charge was erected at Invergordon, Mr. Fraser had to minister to upwards of four thousand persons, including young and old; and even after that new charge had been erected, his congregation numbered nearly three thousand souls.

From the beginning he entirely devoted himself to his work, and became a most laborious and acceptable minister. His qualifications for his work were great and varied. To minister successfully to so large and extensive a parish, in which the Established Church may be said to be a nullity, demanded abilities of no ordinary kind; but Mr. Fraser proved himself adequate to the work which his Lord laid to his hands to do, in the way of preaching, visiting, and catechising. The young of the congregation were the objects of his special care. Before the passing of the Scotch Education Act, he had been successful in covering the parish with schools, and the support and superintendence of these schools made large demands on his time and strength. But while he was thus faithful and active in the discharge of his duties to his congregation, his services were in great request throughout the Highlands at sacramental seasons. There were few of the ministers of the north whose aid was then more frequently sought, and whose labours were more highly prized. In the discharge of this department of his work there was no little enjoyment of the divine blessing.

Mr. Fraser was a most loyal son of the Church. There was no minister who was readier to undertake work for its advancement and prosperity. The sphere of that work was the Highlands of Scotland; and from his ability to preach with equal power both in Gaelic and English, these services, which were so cheerfully rendered, were always acceptable and profitable. He was also a student. His well-furnished library, and the use he made of it, showed that personal culture was highly prized by him. He was no doubt somewhat conservative in the views he entertained on the questions which for some years past agitated the Church. It was not, however, the conservatism of ignorant dogmatism, for his mind was ever open to the reception of light from whatever quarter it came. When that light was received so as to result in a change of view, that change was at once acknowledged and acted on.

His great and unwearied labours both at home and from home were beginning at length to tell upon his robust constitution. From note-books kept by him, it appears that during a ministry of thirty-one years he preached no fewer than 6,532 sermons. Such unceasing services no doubt sowed the seeds of that disease which so unexpectedly cut him off. His death-illness was brief. He was not laid aside for more than ten days, and it was only two days before his death that any danger was apprehended. To human view, many years of strength and profitable work in the Master’s service still lay before him; but his wise and gracious Lord willed otherwise, and, instead of arranging for further work for his servant here below, without much warning he called him to the enjoyment of his reward above. By his death the Free Church in the Highlands has been deprived of a minister of the gospel than whom few laboured more abundantly and successfully. He was a man much beloved, and his death has left a blank in the north which it will not be easy to fill.

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REV. T. McKENZIE FRASER

(Died August 10, 1885)
Author: D. MacDonald, D.D., South Melbourne, Australia
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December 1, 1885, Biographical Notices, p.369


South Melbourne, Australia,
September 9, 1885

My dear Mr. Editor,—I have now before me the July number of your Monthly. It is indeed a great treat. Your periodical is a vast enjoyment to me and others who are hungering and thirsting in the far distance for all the news that can be gathered about the dear old Church, as well as about all her men and movements.

But, alas! there is not one word in this number of the Monthly about either Canada or Australia. I herewith send you a paper, the subject of which will, I am sure, be interesting to many of your older readers, and which I hope may find a place among your biographies in an early number.

The Australian Churches are to meet next week in Melbourne to hold their sixth and, let us hope, their final Conference on Federation. I may possibly send you an account of the Conference in due time. With my blessing on you and your Monthly,—ever yours,

D. Macdonald.

Mr. Fraser was a descendant of a Highland family—the McKenzie Frasers of Inverness-shire, in Scotland—and he always insisted that he was not a Fraser, but a McKenzie Fraser. He was born on the 10th July 1822, so that he passed away in the sixty-fourth year of his age. His father died early in life, leaving a widow and two children—Lydia, who became the famous wife of the more famous Hugh Miller; and Thomas, the subject of this sketch. Mrs. Fraser (the mother, whom I knew well,) was a Highland lady of remarkable parts, and would have been a leading member of society in any circle. She had sufficient influence to get her son admitted in due time into the Blue Coat School, in London; and, unlike most Highland lads, Thomas always had the bearing of one who had an English training and the best educational advantages in his youth. His rare gifts developed early. He entered King’s College, Aberdeen—then the Highland University—in 1838, and he at once became a leading student. At the end of his first session he gained the first Greek prize of his year, and otherwise proved himself a first-class man.

About the time that he was passing through the University, Scotland was in the throes of the Disruption. His brother-in-law was fighting the battle of Non-intrusion with a sledge-hammer; and with his mother deep in Highland theology and Celtic lore, our late friend was drawn into the vortex, and joined the staff of the Witness newspaper. He at the same time attended the theological classes of the Free Church, under Drs. Chalmers and Welsh, and was speedily licensed to preach the gospel. But we should not omit to state that, while yet a student, young Fraser wrote and published more than one pamphlet which brought his name fully before the Christian public of Scotland. At that time the religious condition of the Highlands occupied much of the attention of the Lowland Scotch, and Mr. Fraser, indoctrinated by his mother, was able to reveal in English what the Celts felt and said in Gaelic. One of Mr. Fraser’s pamphlets, containing a true story about a certain “Muckle Kate,” of Loch Carron, was printed in thousands, and everybody expected that the Rev. Mr. Fraser would be a second Hugh Miller in the use of the pen. It was not, however, so to be. He settled at Yester, and did, for a time, the work of a Free Church minister in the Lothians; but he had inherited his father’s delicate constitution, and he was counselled by Edinburgh doctors, while yet young, to try a more genial climate. This, however, was more easily said than done. There were few openings abroad in these days for Presbyterian ministers. At length, however, a few Scotch merchants in Singapore sent home a request for a minister, and Mr. Fraser was induced to remove to that new settlement in the East. I hardly believe that the change was a wise one. It was a move from the frigid to the torrid zone. Singapore was then, as it is yet, made up mainly of Chinese and Malays, with a sprinkling of Indian officials and a handful of European traders. Few of the merchants were married, and they were constantly shifting from one place to another. Singapore offered no field for Mr. Fraser’s special gifts, and he found himself neither comfortable nor useful in the Straits Dependency. Unwilling to return to Scotland, he looked farther afield, and thought of Australia, then in the height of its fame as a golden land. Arriving in Victoria soon after the death of the lamented Rev. John Tait, Mr. Fraser was called to be his successor, and for about twenty years he was the minister of the High Church, Geelong.

It is beyond all contradiction that Mr. Fraser had rare qualities as a preacher. He was a master of English. He carefully prepared all his public addresses. He knew theological literature. He had a clear voice — he was a skilled rhetorician — and thus he often delivered grand discourses; but somehow he was not pliable enough. He never got into the colonial groove, and though a man should speak with the tongue of men and of angels, without this he does not become a complete success; and so, to the surprise of his admirers, Mr. Fraser’s high talents were not appreciated at their proper value. His brethren in the ministry, however, always reckoned Mr. Fraser as one of their ablest men; and when arrangements had to be made in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria for the training of candidates for the ministry, Mr. Fraser was associated with the late Dr. Cairns in originating our Theological Hall. The special department given to Mr. Fraser was Apologetics, and it is still the opinion of a large number of our ministers who passed through his hands that for grasp of argument and power in lecturing he had few superiors. His success, however, as a theological professor in Melbourne did not atone to his congregation in Geelong for his absence from them for a considerable portion of each year, nor perhaps for the professorial and apologetic tone of his preaching, of which it is possible for a plain congregation to get too much. This may partly account for the abrupt termination of his ministry in Geelong. At any rate, the church was taken aback five years ago to learn that Mr. Fraser had resigned his important charge in Geelong, and had gone to New Zealand in quest of another field of labour.

Mr. Fraser was appointed to be Moderator of our General Assembly in the year 1870, and will long be remembered as a very able speaker in our Supreme Court, and as the convener of more than one standing committee. In the early days, when our Church was deliberating about the introduction of a new hymn-book, he was the convener of our Committee on the Service of Praise, and it is only fair to his memory to say that his acquaintance with music and sacred song, as embodied in his reports, opened up a new world to the ordinary office-bearers of the Church. He was also, for many years, the convener of the Committee which had charge of our Infirm Ministers’ Fund, and every one acquainted with a financial Committee knows the anxiety and labour which are entailed on the convener.

On making himself known in New Zealand, Mr. Fraser was at once appointed to form a new charge in Auckland, and it is gratifying to know that, notwithstanding the difficulties of the position, and his own advancing years, his efforts were crowned with success. His labours were abundant; he had fair health; and he had gathered round him the intelligence and the faith of the Presbyterians of his district. I was told but the other day by Mr. Hutchinson, the bookseller, of Melbourne, who lately visited Auckland, that he found Mr. Fraser in good spirits, deep in ministerial work, countenancing and promoting Mr. Booth’s temperance movement, and wearing the blue ribbon in token of his sympathy with the reformation which is so needed everywhere; and yet now, as if in a moment, we learn that all this talent and acquirement has passed away. The silver cord is loosed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is broken at the fountain; the wheel is broken at the cistern; the dust is returned to the earth, and the spirit unto God who gave it. Yes, and here am I, an old man, older than he, past the grand climacteric of life, closing an acquaintanceship of forty-six years, and preaching his funeral sermon! Verily, so far as this world is concerned, I may say, “Vanity of vanities! all is vanity.” Thus has passed away another of my earliest set— the first candidates for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland. The students of the Disruption were young men who, if they did not give up their homes and positions at the call of duty and patriotism, surrendered at any rate their prospects and the allurements of life. Yes, the sweet manses of Scotland were within our reach, with a comfortable settlement for life. We saw them at the time vanishing from our sight, and I do not know a man of us who has ever regretted it. Many of them have made their mark since, and among the most conspicuous of them was Thomas McKenzie Fraser, who now rests in a land far away from the scene of his earlier triumphs. Ah, well! so be it.

“Nor further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),—
The bosom of his Father and his God.”

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A DISRUPTION MINISTER IN THE COLONIES

Rev. William Fraser, Bulla, Victoria
The Free Church Monthly Record, June 2, 1873, p.126


We publish the following extract from the Melbourne Christian Review:—”We have to record the death of another minister of our Church—mature in years, and ready for the momentous change. We allude to the Rev. William Fraser, who, after some months of severe suffering, died at the Manse of Bulla on the 16th of last December. He was born in the island of Gigha, of which his father was the pastor, and from whence he was translated to the parish of Kilchrenan, on Lochaweside, Argyleshire. Mr. Fraser, the subject of this notice, studied at the University of Glasgow, and in 1827 he was ordained assistant and successor to his revered parent in the ministry at Kilchrenan, where he remained until he was called, in 1852, to minister to the Free Church at Kilbrandon. In every movement connected with the Disruption of the Scottish Church, in 1843, he felt the deepest interest, and took a zealous part, making a willing sacrifice of all his worldly goods in a cause which he believed involved the Crown-rights of Him who is Zion’s only King, Lawgiver, and Judge. In 1857, he arrived in this colony as successor to the Rev. Dr. Macintosh Mackay in the pastorate of St. Andrew’s Church, Melbourne, having been selected by the Colonial Committee of the Free Church of Scotland as one well qualified by his experience and attainments to fill this vacancy with credit to himself, and with benefit to the flock committed to his charge. From the congregation of St. Andrew’s he received a cordial welcome, and also from the members of the Synod, who justly regarded him as a valuable addition to their number. He proved himself a faithful and able minister of the New Testament, an earnest preacher of the time-honoured truths of the gospel. His trumpet gave no uncertain sound, but proclaimed, from week to week, with loving fervency, the grand old gospel doctrine of salvation as the precious fruit of the blood and righteousness of Christ. As he preached, so he lived. His daily conversation became the Word he diligently published. He made conscience of his pastoral work; went in and out amongst his people, seeking their spiritual good as his heartfelt desire. His life was blameless; and more, it was a light that shone in the sight of all men—a reflection, imperfect, no doubt, but real, of the grace that glorified the character of Jesus. It pleased God to visit him with bitter vexations. He was called to endure a heavy cross, and he endured it with singular patience and humility. In 1859, he became pastor of the recently-formed congregation of Bulla, near Melbourne; and in this quiet, beautiful district he continued labouring to the utmost of his strength in his vocation as a minister of Christ. When latterly his movements were impeded and circumscribed, still of him it could be said, ‘The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.’ He was no murmurer, but suffered in meekness the chastisement of his heavenly Father’s rod. His last illness was fitted, and doubtless intended, to prove his faith as with fire, preparatory to his ascension to the heavenly Jerusalem. While the hand of the Lord lay heavily upon him, neither complaint, nor regret, nor repining was seen in his countenance nor heard from his lips, but he displayed the patience and resignation of a saint. He in whose service his life had been spent did not leave him comfortless at the end, but came, as he promised, a very present help in time of trouble, kept him in perfect peace, and cheered him with the radiance of an assured hope. As his life was holy, his death was blessed. He has left a widow and children to bewail their loss.”

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REV. W. FRASER, LOCHGILPHEAD

(Died June 17, 1892)
Author: Rev. Duncan McNicol, Dunoon
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, February, 1893, Obituary, p.43


Mr. Fraser was born in Inverness in November 1824. His father died when he was young, leaving a widow and three sons in indigent circumstances. In consequence, Mr. Fraser, while yet young, needed to work for his living. In 1843, under the influence of the Disruption movement, he and some companions of his were stirred up to earnest concern for their souls. The result in his case was that he was enabled to yield himself up to the Lord Jesus Christ. From this period a strong desire possessed him to become a minister of the Free Church, and so he embraced every opportunity of preparing himself for a university career, by diligence in private studies and attending evening classes. In 1851 he went to Edinburgh and attended the university there for one session. Next year he went to Glasgow, and while supporting himself with the labour of his hands, attended the classes in the university of that city. Afterwards he was appointed to the city mission, and was therefore able to pursue his university course without having longer to work at his trade.

He entered the Glasgow Free Church College in 185, was licensed in 1860, and appointed that same year to be assistant to the late Mr. John McKenzie, then minister of the Free Church of Lochgilphead. His services at Lochgilphead were so appreciated that he got a unanimous call to the colleagueship, which he accepted. He was ordained on the 5th December 1861, and laboured with patience and untiring diligence in Lochgilphead until the close of his life in June 1892.

Mr. Fraser’s ministry was a successful one from its commencement till its close. His settlement took place in a most interesting period in the history of the congregation, when the awakening which originated in Ireland some two years previously was felt in its power, and when many in Lochgilphead were anxiously asking, “What must we do?” Into the movement the newly-settled minister heartily entered, and some can still witness to the prudence and wisdom he manifested in guiding and comforting anxious ones. Several movements of a similar kind were experienced during his ministry, by which he was greatly comforted. Still he was accustomed to look back to his mission-field in Glasgow as to the place where the Lord acknowledged him in his work most of all.

Notwithstanding the disadvantages under which Mr. Fraser laboured in youth, he, by patient perseverance, rose to occupy a position of great usefulness as a most eloquent, earnest, faithful, and successful minister of the gospel. His services were greatly valued and much sought after in connection with communion seasons, all over Argyleshire and beyond it. His own congregation, who knew him best, dearly loved him, and it seemed as if this attachment was increasing to the last. This might be seen on his funeral day, when almost all the inhabitants of the village turned out to pay the last tribute of respect to him, in whose removal they all lost a friend, faithful and true.

His removal was sudden. On Sabbath, the 12th of June last, he preached with his usual vigour. On Friday evening, the 17th, he had worship, went to bed, and passed away without a struggle or a sigh.

Mr. Fraser was married to a daughter of the late Mr. John Ferguson, merchant, Greenock. His wife died in 1888. He has left behind him a family of six sons and two daughters. One of his sons is a student of divinity in Free College, Glasgow.

His removal makes a sad blank in the Presbytery of Inveraray and Synod of Argyle, which has lost within the year four of its most prominent members. We have need to cry, “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth.”

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REV. WILLIAM FRASER, LL.D., PAISLEY

(Died September 21, 1879)
Author: Sheriff Cowan, Paisley
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.18


Although not a Disruption minister, the subject of this notice was privileged as one of the teachers in her normal seminary to testify to his attachment to Free Church principles. And in connection with his death, we are reminded of that noble band from among the teachers of Scotland who came out from the parish schools and higher seminaries, at once a living proof of the soundness of the religious instruction they had imparted, and an incentive to the emancipated Church to enter heartily, in her altered circumstances, on the education of the young.

William Fraser was born in 1817 at Cullen, in Banffshire. Receiving the rudiments of his education in the parish school, first at Edinkillie in Morayshire, and afterwards, for a short time, at Daviot, Inverness, he was subsequently, through the removal of his parents to Ireland, a pupil for one year at Belfast College. Returning, however, to Scotland, he entered the Normal Seminary of Glasgow, where he became one of the teachers, and completed his university curriculum at Glasgow University. Having entered the Divinity Hall of the Free Church, he received license in 1849, and in December of that year was ordained minister of the Free Middle Church, Paisley, a charge which he held down to his death in September 1879.

All through his life Dr. Fraser took an enlightened interest in matters educational. As a teacher in the Normal Seminary of Glasgow, it was his privilege to be the able coadjutor of his friend the late David Stow in the establishment and development of his educational system. When nearly the whole staff of teachers came out at the Disruption, and a new Free Church Normal Seminary was founded, his talents found in the new arrangements congenial employment. In 1857, at the request of a large number of the leading citizens of Glasgow, he undertook an educational tour through Great Britain and Ireland, embodying the results in an admirable report on the ”State of Our Educational Enterprises.” The views expressed in that Report he lost no opportunity of advocating, and he had the satisfaction, in subsequent legislation, of seeing the reforms he had at heart carried out. On the passing of the Education Act, he was chosen as a member of the school board of Paisley, and in the following six years he did good work in organizing the new schools and arranging their work. Ill health alone compelled him to cease this work. His labours in the cause he loved may, indeed, by some be sorrowfully felt to have proved too great a strain on his constitution.

As a minister he was privileged to build up his congregation from small numbers to a membership of about eight hundred, attracting to it many who valued a thoughtful ministry, but principally extending it from the mission district. As a pastor he was instant in season and out of season, and was pre-eminently his people’s friend. His ministry was specially attractive to young men, of whom, in his chosen class, afterwards expanded into the Bible Institute of Paisley, he gathered about him a goodly number. In the volume which he published, “Blending Lights; or, The Relations of Natural Science, Archaeology, and History to the Bible,” we have a permanent record of the high-class instructions which from year to year he gave his young men. It was a power in Paisley attracting young men of all denominations, whose attachment to him was unbounded.

As a citizen of Paisley he was ever ready to advocate the cause that was good. He took special interest in what may be called its higher culture. The revival of its Philosophical Institution, with the consequent establishment, through the munificence of Sir Peter Coats, of its noble Free Public Library and Museum, are mainly attributable to his able advocacy. His public services in this matter, and his position and reputation as a man of science and an independent investigator, were acknowledged in 1872, when the University of Glasgow, on the proposal of Sir William Thomson, conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws on their distinguished alumnus.

Thus earnestly and energetically did he fulfil his mission in life, leaving behind him the savour of a good name. His prolonged illness, lasting over eighteen months, was cheered by the affectionate sympathies of his people. His latest public appearance was on 23rd April 1879, when at a large conversazione he was presented by the Bible Institute with his portrait; and the public appreciation of his great services was testified by the subsequent presentation of a cheque for 2000 guineas. At the comparatively early age of sixty-one he has passed away—having in the quiet rest of his long illness a peaceful close to a life of busy work—sustained by the abiding consolations of the gospel, and simply as a little child resting on the arm of the Beloved. The sympathies of a wide circle of friends are with his bereaved widow and family.

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ALEXANDER FÜRST, D.D.

The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1899, Among the Jews, p.181


Born of Jewish parents at Zempelburg, in West Prussia, on the tenth of October 1831, Alexander Fürst was brought up in the strict observances of Judaism. But the prayers and ceremonies were irksome to him. He was not taught to love God, but to fear Him; so that, when he left his parents’ roof, he threw off all the fetters of religion, and lived as an infidel. During the last two years of his school life, he had been under the influence of a pious Protestant teacher, and was led to look on Christians with greater regard, and to lay aside his prejudices against them.

He was trained for the profession of a teacher, and in due course received an appointment in the Jewish school at Schneidenmühl. But how could he give religious instruction to the Jewish children when he was living without religion himself? He consulted the rabbi on this point, but from him he could not get the light or help he required. He met with Mr. Chertzky, to whom he opened his mind; and the Jews soon began to suspect him of leaning towards Christianity. Feeling his position intolerable, he fled to London, where he arrived in November 1855, and was admitted into Ridley Herschell’s Home for Jewish Inquirers. There he was instructed, and was baptized at Trinity Chapel, Edgware Road, on the twentieth of October, 1856.

Mr. Fürst began his work as an assistant missionary in London in connection with the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, under which he had been trained. Having served nine years in that capacity, Mr. Fürst was appointed, by the same society, to go to Stettin in Prussia as a missionary; and before leaving, he was ordained at Coverdale Chapel, Limehouse, on the twenty-fifth of September 1867. In 1872 he was transferred to the service of the Jewish Committee of the Free Church of Scotland, and was first appointed to Prague. In 1872 he received the degree of Doctor in Divinity from the Theological Faculty of Giessen, and in the following year he was appointed, at his own suggestion, to work among the Jews in Strasburg. In 1884 Dr. Fürst was transferred to Amsterdam; but after three years’ service there, Amsterdam having ceased to be a field of active operations on the part of our church, Dr. Fürst retired, with a small annual allowance from the committee. He thereafter lived at Stuttgart, where, as helper and successor to the late Rev. P. E. Gottheil, he did work as he was able among the Jews. He died there on the fourth of May last. Mrs. Fürst died in 1883. In his last illness, Dr. Fürst was lovingly tended by his friend Dr. Mossa of Stuttgart, who says of him that he was “well prepared to go home into the arms of his Saviour.”

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REV. WILLIAM CRICHTON FYFE, CALCUTTA

(Died May 9, 1884)
Author: Professor Thomas Smith, D.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.339


The Free Church does not know, probably will never know, how much she has lost in the death of Mr. Fyfe of Calcutta. Called in the providence of God to occupy a prominent and important position, he occupied it with calm steadfastness, doing his work faithfully and noiselessly, more intent upon the doing of the work than upon letting it be known that he was doing it.

Mr. Fyfe was a native of Alyth in Perthshire, a district whose privilege has been to give a disproportionately large number of recruits to the missionary army, in connection with our own and other Churches. It was not until he was grown up, and was actually engaged in secular employment, that he first thought of aspiring to the ministry. The history of forty years of most important missionary work shows that “the thing proceeded from the Lord.” I have a very vivid remembrance of Mr. Fyfe’s coming to Calcutta. It happened thus. There was a place called Taki, on the outskirts of the Sanderbands, where a family of considerable distinction, though not of high caste, were zemindars. The head of this family, Kali Nath, was intimate with Dr. Duff, who persuaded him that he ought to provide education for the children of his tenants. He consented to found a school, which should be entirely under the control of the missionaries. It was founded accordingly, and was carried on with considerable success, the missionaries occasionally visiting it. But Kali Nath, its founder, died; and his brothers were undecided as to the continuance of the school. The missionaries also felt that it ought either to be abandoned, or else put on a much better footing. The latter alternative was decided on; and in order to carry it out, it was resolved to get a headmaster from Europe. The Foreign Missions Committee of the Established Church cordially acquiesced in the proposal, and took steps towards securing the services of a qualified teacher—one essential element of the qualification being missionary zeal. How they were directed to Mr. Fyfe I do not know; but he was appointed, and reached Calcutta about the middle of 1842. After a few weeks’ stay in Calcutta he proceeded to his station, and began his long and honourable career as a missionary. I had visited Taki repeatedly before his arrival, and my first visit after his settlement there convinced me that he was “the right man” — whether “in the right place ” seemed very doubtful. The place was a very unhealthy one, and the relations with the zemindars were not at all satisfactory. On one occasion I was roused about three o’clock in the morning to be told that Mr. Fyfe was in a boat on the Salt Water Lake, at the point of death. With difficulty I got him brought to my house, where he remained for some weeks “between death and life.” But God had work for him to do, and by His blessing his life was preserved. It was during his convalescence that I learned to estimate, as probably I should never otherwise have been able to do, the strength of his faith and the depth of his piety. The courage of many a not uncourageous man would have given way. He had had experience of the unhealthiness of the station. He knew that he should find that all the hard work which he had done in the way of organizing the school would have to be done over again. He knew also that his knowledge of the language, which he had been laboriously acquiring, had not been sufficient to withstand the effect of so long a cessation of study. Altogether he had to begin afresh at the beginning of everything, with his bodily powers greatly reduced, and his spirits greatly depressed. But not for a moment did he hesitate as to his returning to his station.

I need not say that in 1843 Mr. Fyfe, who was then the only European teacher connected with the Bengal Mission, had no scruple or hesitancy in uniting with his ministerial fellow-missionaries in abandoning the Established Church. In all the forty years of the existence of the Bengal Mission as a Free Church mission, Mr. Fyfe rendered most important service. It was found necessary to abandon the Taki station; and Mr. Fyfe was employed successively at Baranagar — some two miles from Calcutta — at Kalna, and at Chinsurah. The last was a most important position, and for a long time he occupied it, so far as European occupancy was concerned, single-handed. In all those stations he did excellent service, doing the work of an evangelist unweariedly, and developing an altogether peculiar talent of school organization and management. There was nothing brilliant about him; but in patient continuance in well-doing, in the power of quietly meeting difficulties and overcoming them by “pains and prayer,” he had few equals and fewer superiors.

Surely such a man purchased a good degree. It was felt to be not right that one who was so efficient a missionary should occupy a position inferior in some respects to that of his brethren. Every one felt that it was a right thing that he should be ordained to the ministry; and so, by appointment of the General Assembly, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Calcutta in 1860. Dr. Ewart having died in that year, it was found necessary to remove Mr. Fyfe to the central Institution in Calcutta; and when Dr. Duff finally left India in 1863, Mr. Fyfe became principal of that great and important institution—one of the most influential positions, I take leave to say, that a man can occupy. I need not say that to succeed Dr. Duff in the occupancy of that position was no easy matter; and I will not say that in the Institution, or in native or European society, he ever was what his predecessor had been. But he did well, far better than most men could have done. By indefatigable industry and very good abilities he did excellent work in the Institution; while his consistent Christian character and ready sympathy with all human joy and sorrow gradually won for him the respect and affection alike of the native and the European community.

Latterly he was affected by a most painful and depressing malady. He came to this country and rallied somewhat. He was anxious to return to his beloved Calcutta. The Committee had great doubts as to the propriety of consenting to his return. But he felt that there alone could he do the work which he was best able to do, and he would fain, if it had been God’s will, have died in harness. He therefore went back to Calcutta and resumed his work. But the disease soon returned in full severity, and he was reluctantly constrained to bid India a final farewell. It was hoped that he might so far rally, and that he might be able to do much at home for the cause which was so dear to his heart. For a time it seemed as if these hopes were to be realized. But after submitting to a capital operation he sank. On the 9th of May 1884 he fell asleep in Jesus, and on the 14th his body was laid in the Dundee cemetery, to await the day when, the heathen having been given to Christ for his heritage, sowers and reapers shall share the joys of the glorious harvest.

Mr. Fyfe was twice married, in each case to a true helpmeet. He has left a son and a daughter, who unite with their stepmother in fondly cherishing the memory of one who was a most loving father to them, and to her a most loving and beloved husband.

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