TAYLOR, WALTER ROSS
THOMSON, EDWARD ANDERSON
THOMSON, JOHN, Leith
THOMSON, JOHN, Paisley
THOMSON, JOHN, Prestonkirk
THOMSON, JOHN W.
THOMSON, PETER, St Fergus
THOMSON, PETER, Greenock
REV. WILLIAM TASKER
(Died March 20, 1879)
Author: James Sime, M.A., F.R.S.E.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June 2, 1879, Biographical Notices, p.147
By the death of the Rev. William Tasker the Church of Christ has lost the pioneer who, under the guidance and with the encouragement of Dr. Chalmers, led the way in bringing the gospel to bear on the sunken populations in the lowest districts of our large towns. Where other labourers failed he succeeded. What men of standing and piety in the Church counted a pious delusion, or the vain imagination of an enthusiastic man like Chalmers, he turned into the solid reality of a glorious work,— brands plucked from the burning, living stones built up into the temple of Christ, happy homes, industrious and well-to-do families. A result so surprising as the raising again into respectable life of men and women who had fallen from self-respect, and were hiding their sorrow or their shame in the lowest hovels of a great city, would entitle the achiever of it to the thanks of society. But Mr. Tasker did not regard this, great though it was in nobleness and in good, as the end of his labours. Far from doing so, he counted it but a step in the right direction, and not the step his heart was set on. To win these fallen men and women to Christ was the great end he had in view. He felt that success was beyond his unaided power. But believing that to him who sows in tearful faith there will be a harvest time of joy, this pioneer in a noble cause toiled and laboured till he won a great, we may well say an astonishing, reward. He showed the way to win it; he persevered till success was secured. Many labourers have since then entered on the same field, and won similar triumphs to his; but he was the first to persevere where for thirty years his predecessors had fainted and failed, and he was the first to cheer Chalmers and the Church of Christ with the assurance, from facts, that the gospel had not lost its power to renew the most depraved heart in the seething heap of a humanity pent up in degrading closes and cellars.
He once described to the students in the New College —Dr. Chalmers’ students, he always called them, long after that great teacher was dead—the trials of one of his earliest converts in attempting family worship on a Sabbath morning in the house which had once been the home of Hare the murderer, of Burke and Hare notoriety. The man had locked the doors, but the neighbours, attracted by sounds so unusual as singing and solemn reading and prayer, assembled in front, demanded admittance, and at last forced their way in. They found the poor man on his knees. Failing to stop his prayer, they took to kicking the soles of his feet; but he too, like his pastor, persevered, and the persecution, though hot for a time, soon died out. Amid a people thus fallen from grace and almost from hope Mr. Tasker laboured till hope dawned and grace began to work. A day of small things it was indeed at first in the tan-loft which was so often spoken of in the after-time of his ministry. But it was the planting of the mustard tree over again—the least of all seeds giving birth to the most widely-spreading tree. Even the smallest and apparently the most insignificant things were pressed into service for the welfare of the people. Mr. Tasker soon discovered that the sound of Sabbath, bells awoke pleasant memories of departed purity and happiness among most of them. Coming from country districts, as many of them did, and sinking bit by bit in the town till self-respect was nearly or altogether gone, they were compelled by that sound to look back on the better days of their life. It seemed to him then that a bell, summoning the congregation to prayer, would be an intimation to the whole neighbourhood that God’s work was going on among them, and that God’s servant would visit the houses. Like a wise steward of the Master, Mr. Tasker took advantage of this small thing for the furtherance of a great work. It was the same with whatever was calculated to make the work known among the people, or to carry weight with those who had not become wholly dead to the past, or without hope for the future. His experience among children as a teacher at Balthayock, Tealing, Falkland, and elsewhere, was not without influence in his way of dealing with those who, though men and women in years, were little better than children in understanding and self-restraint.
At an early period Dr. Chalmers saw in Mr. Tasker the very man he needed for the work on which he had set his heart. No failure, no disappointment had broken Chalmers’ determination to attempt the raising of sunken men and women in large towns by means of the gospel of Christ. For thirty years and more he had kept it steadily before his mind as a thing that had to be done. Amid all the distractions caused by more absorbing events it was never lost sight of. And in the evening of life he had fallen in with a man like-minded with himself, of whom McCheyne wrote six years before, when he visited the school at Tealing, “The usual branches of ordinary education were taught with much more than ordinary interest and success. I have often hoped it might be a school of eternal life to some.” And, under the inspiring leadership of Chalmers, he was destined not only to teach the gospel with more than ordinary interest, but to make the West Port a school of eternal life to many. The great preacher and the great home missionary were well matched. They loved each other for many reasons, but mainly because they loved their common work in Christ’s cause.
The bond of union between Mr. Tasker and the people he laboured among was at first his intense sympathy with humanity. Nothing that concerned mankind was matter of indifference to him. Nothing that could promote the welfare of any people in the neighbourhood was to be neglected, whatever trouble it might give him. And the same devotion to work was impressed on every one who took part in the mission. Selfishness was frowned down, and selfish workers were quietly got rid of; for it must not be thought that in a work such as Mr. Tasker laboured to accomplish selfishness had no room to assert its power. But the genial sympathy with mankind which he always felt diffused around him a sunshine in which selfishness could not live. The same sympathy gave him a power of reading men which proved of unspeakable value when Chalmers no longer stood by to counsel and to uphold. And, during his long illness, it helped to cheer many a weary hour as he reflected on the dangers to which the faith once delivered to the saints is exposed in these days of scientific doubt.
Mr. Tasker was born at Perth in 1811. Before he was past boyhood he manfully faced the realities of life in undertaking the support of relations who were in providence cast upon his care. After teaching schools in the neighbourhood of Perth for a period of seven or eight years, he became parish schoolmaster, first at Tealing in 1836, and then at Falkland in 1840. Ejected from his office at the Disruption in 1843, he entered the Free Church Divinity Hall in 1844. After spending the summer of that year as a missionary at Port Glasgow, he attended the Hall during the winter, and was chosen for the West Port work in April 1845. Calls came to him at the same time from Kilmacolm, Clackmannan, and Bridge of Weir; but he had chosen a field of labour nobler, though far harder, and with less of worldly prospect about it, than any of these, and he was ordained to the West Port in 1847. For thirty-three years he laboured in a congregation which was recruited from the most unpromising materials as often as its ranks were thinned by death, by removal to distant parts, and by emigration to the colonies. Many of those whom he had won out of the depths considered it their duty to worship in the West Port church at longer or at shorter intervals when business or a desire to forget past failures had forced them to remove from Edinburgh. And Australia can at this moment furnish a good congregation out of rescued West Port people. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
REV. JAMES WILLIAM TAYLOR, D.D., FLISK AND CREICH
(Died October 14, 1894)
Author: Rev. John Laird, D.D., Cupar-Fife
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1894, Obituary, p.289
In the death of Dr. Taylor of Flisk, the church has to mourn over the loss of another of her Disruption ministers. In his case there is no need of a lengthened obituary notice, as his name occurs so often in that intensely interesting volume, the “Annals of the Disruption,” which ought to be everywhere known by our people. Dr. Taylor was born on the 17th of July 1813, and was thus eighty-one at the time of his death. He was a son of the Rev. William Taylor, minister at Perth, in connection with the Old Light body of Seceders, and for some time before his death a professor of theology. Dr. Taylor was brought up in circumstances most favourable for forming correct views of Scottish church history, as his father was a diligent student of the times of the Reformation, and all the struggles of the Covenanters, and was moreover intensely interested in the more recent struggles of the Evangelical party in the Ten Years’ Conflict. With the cordial concurrence of his father, Dr. Taylor made up his mind to study for the ministry of the Established Church. He took his literary course in St. Andrews, and afterwards attended the Divinity Hall in Edinburgh, where he came under the spell of the enthusiasm of Chalmers—a privilege which he never ceased to value highly till the very end of his life. After a very short experience of a probationer’s life, he was ordained to the ministry at Grangemouth in May 1839. He laboured there for four years; but finding the work rather too much for his bodily strength, he accepted a presentation to the parish of Flisk, and was inducted there in 1843, a short time before the Disruption. When offered the presentation, he told the patron frankly what were his views of the great controversy, and that he could not accept of the presentation unless he had a call from the people. The call being unanimous, he was translated in due course. The times were troublous, and especially so at Flisk, as appears from the “Annals.” He bore faithful testimony to the principles of our Free Church, and did much to strengthen the cause in the district where his lot was cast.
Having given himself to the service of the Master in connection with the Free Church. Dr. Taylor continued to labour in his small rural parish for more than forty years. As a preacher he was thoroughly evangelical, knowing nothing among his people but Jesus Christ and him crucified. His pastoral work was also faithfully attended to, although he had often to discharge his duties amid great bodily weakness. It says much for his ministerial character that he kept his congregation together for forty years, in a part of the country where the people were much scattered, and where the population was always changing and tending to diminish. In the year 1884, a colleague was settled at Flisk, and Dr. Taylor shortly afterwards retired, and has lived most of his time since at Bridge of Allan.
While Dr. Taylor attended most faithfully to his congregational duties, he found time for a good deal of literary work. In 1852 he published a memoir of his father, in which there is a very interesting historical sketch of some of the most important eras in the Secession. This was followed up in 1853 by the life of Maitland McGill Crichton of Rankeillour, who advocated the cause of the church so ably in the kingdom of Fife. We are also indebted to him for two very interesting volumes on the “Historical Antiquities of Fife, chiefly Ecclesiastical.” Another volume appeared from his pen in 1890, entitled, “In a Country Manse: Reminiscences of Life and Work.” These works show that Dr. Taylor was a highly cultivated man, and one who could write an elegant style.
Dr. Taylor’s later years since his retirement have been spent amid much weakness and affliction, and it is the consolation of his friends to know that he has now entered on his eternal rest where trials and sorrows are no more. Being a man of devoted piety, and having served his generation according to the will of God, he has now fallen asleep, and has, we doubt not, been received by our blessed Master with this gracious welcome, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
REV. NEIL TAYLOR, DORNOCH
(Died August 19, 1889)
Author: Rev. A. C. MacDonald, Inverness
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December, 1889, Obituary, p.374
Mr. Taylor was born in the parish of Kilmun, Arygleshire, in the year 1830, his father being a farmer in comfortable circumstances.
Previous to his entering the university he was educated at the Grammar School of Greenock, at that time under the presidency of Dr. James Brown. Having completed his arts course in the University of Glasgow with considerable distinction, especially in the Greek and Latin classes, he studied theology in Edinburgh under Dr. Cunningham.
In 1857 Mr. Taylor was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Dunoon and Inveraray. He was appointed immediately afterwards to supply Tarbat, in Ross-shire, a large and important congregation then vacant; and after having filled for two years an important position as an assistant to the Rev. Dougald McColl of the Wynd Church, Glasgow, at the interesting period of the great revival of 1859, he was ordained to the ministry in Dundee in 1860, where for upwards of twenty years he proved himself a diligent and successful pastor, and by his energy and capacity for organizing he raised his congregation, which he found small and unimportant, to a position of influence and power in the community. In Dundee Mr. Taylor gained for himself a position of undoubted influence in connection with the discussion of public questions involving the action of the school board, of which he was a member from the commencement, and more particularly the discussions connected with the controversy on “union” and “education,” in all of which he distinguished himself as an able debater, acting consistently throughout with the constitutional party in the Church.
In 1882, on the retirement of Mr. Kennedy, he accepted a call to Dornoch, where he laboured for seven years, till his death, with the same zeal and fidelity which characterized his ministry in Dundee. Besides the duties of his congregation, to which he assiduously attended, Mr. Taylor took a deep and active interest in all matters affecting the well-being of the people, addressing himself very especially and to good purpose to the bringing about valuable reforms in connection with the parochial and school boards of the parish.
Mr. Taylor published a valuable little volume entitled “The Eternal Life,” which he dedicated to his former flock in Dundee, and which, as he says himself, “serves as a sample of the doctrines which I sought to inculcate, and of my mode of presenting them.”
Mr. Taylor had a mind of a very high order. He was an accomplished scholar, well up in the patristic theology, and had a thorough knowledge of the ancient classics and of not a few of the modern languages. As a preacher, Mr. Taylor was never popular in the strict sense of the term; his pulpit ministrations were not generally of such a character as to attract the masses. He was an original and vigorous thinker, and manly, independent, fearless, and faithful in the presentation of divine truth. His congregation in Dundee, on more than one occasion, testified by tangible expressions of their regard the warm feeling which existed between Mr. Taylor and themselves; while the Dornoch people, shortly before his death, testified in a similar manner their love and attachment to his person and their high appreciation of his faithful and devoted labours among them.
In private Mr. Taylor was a most genial and pleasant companion. He possessed a strong vein of humour, which made him both agreeable and entertaining. His disposition was gentle and amiable, humble, simple, and artless as a child, and withal, and better than all, he was truly a man of God and a man of prayer.
It was “all light” with him at “evening time.” Rev. Mr. Baillie of Gairloch, one of the intimate friends of the deceased, preached his funeral sermon from Acts 13:36: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers,” in course of which he said, “that Mr. Taylor viewed with alarm the religious tendencies of the age, particularly the attitude of the Church towards the inspiration of the Bible and the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. … He was deeply exercised in view of death, feeling that it was a solemn thing to die and enter the unseen world. His mind continued clear and collected to the end. He knew he was dying, and feeling that his work was done, he committed his spirit into the hands of the Saviour. … His death creates another blank, particularly in our party in the Church, so weakened by the removal, in rapid succession, of our best and ablest men. Truly we have occasion to exclaim, ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?'” Mr. Taylor is survived by a widow, one daughter, and three sons.
REV. WALTER ROSS TAYLOR, D.D., THURSO
(Died October 5, 1896)
Author: A. Taylor Innes, Advocate
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1896, Obituary, p.304
Dr. Ross Taylor, Moderator of the General Assembly twelve years ago, had been even then for more than half a century minister of Thurso, and a centre of influence and blessing throughout the north. He was born on November 11, 1805, and was therefore very nearly ninety-one when he died. His father, “a man of weight and character,” was sheriff-clerk at Cromarty. His mother was Flora Ross, sister of Colonel Walter Ross, of Nigg, a property which descended to her on her brother’s death. Their eldest son had been born in Tain, and after growing into boyhood at Cromarty he returned to attend the Royal Academy at Tain with his cousins in that town. At thirteen he went on to King’s College, Aberdeen, and notwithstanding that his health broke down for a year, he took his degree with high distinction, especially in mathematics. But his name is also the first in the university lists as having gained the Hutton Prize, given to the foremost fourth-year student in classics and philosophy.
The year of broken health after that first at college, spent by young Taylor partly at Strathpeffer, is said to have been the decisive time of his life, when his heart turned to God, and was attracted to God’s service. He studied divinity at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow; and in 1829, not long after receiving license, was called to preach and then to settle in London, in the new congregation of Chadwell Street, afterwards River Terrace, now Islington Presbyterian Church. It bad been partly an offshoot from Regent Square, where Edward Irving was by this time rather perplexing his older hearers. When Irving first saw his new co-presbyter, only twenty-three years old, and looking still younger, he broke out, “What can this stripling do?” But he came to the stripling’s ordination service, and gave the address to the people—probably so far identical with that memorable one delivered two years earlier to pastor and people at London Wall: “Thou art this day honoured to be a minister of the most primitive church under heaven—a church which God built up in the whirlwind and strengthened in the midst of the storm.”
The church was then calm, though there were some whirlwinds in London already. But for two years Mr. Taylor laboured peacefully there, till, while on a visit to his family in the, north, he was asked to preach in Thurso, the town which of old narrowly missed being the centre of a Scandinavian empire stretching from Labrador to the Vistula. The Thurso patronage then lay in the hands of Sir George Sinclair, who in 1831 was a young man with gifts and graces which charmed alike the world and the church. In later times, it may be remembered, Sir George attempted at the last moment to avert the Disruption of 1843, and he was afterwards the first to propose the union of the two Scottish churches outside establishment. In 1831 he made this presentation, under some pressure from the people. And so commenced that fruitful and protracted pastorate of sixty-five years.
Dr. Taylor’s Thurso congregation, numbering something like twelve hundred, occupied during that time first the old Reformation or Covenanting church, then a new one built at the very opening of the Ten Years’ Conflict, then one of the large and unbeautiful Disruption buildings, and lastly the present recently-erected and handsome edifice. And from this congregational centre his influence flowed on, always like a placid river— “strong without rage, without o’erflowing full”— till in 1879 his ministerial jubilee attracted the eyes of men, and in 1884 he was elected moderator, and presided with cheerful dignity over the General Assembly. He was well on in his eighties when a stroke of paralysis, as he sat in the chair of the kirk-session, gave warning (and even to this he characteristically refused to succumb, till he found himself unable at the close to stand up and pronounce the benediction). But he had the great happiness to see his congregation at last settled under a colleague and successor, the Rev. G. H. Morrison (who came straight there from being assistant in Free St. George’s, Edinburgh), and to watch with sympathy and approval many new plans and arrangements for the youth and the other interests of the congregation. To the last he himself preached —and sometimes more than once on one Sabbath. And in his ninety-first year he attended daily the late General Assembly, presided over by Principal Miller, whom he had baptized long ago in Thurso. The end came after three weeks of increasing weakness; and on Monday, the fifth of October last, he fell asleep.
Dr. Taylor was twice married, and his second wife —a Thurso lady—survives to mourn him. By his first marriage, with Isabella, daughter of Mr. Murray of Pitcalzean in Easter Ross, he had four daughters, all long since married away from the manse, and one well-known son and namesake. For it is the second Dr. Walter Ross Taylor who is of Kelvinside Church, Glasgow, and who has for many years had such a foremost place in the conduct of the Sustentation Fund and in the counsels of the Free Church.
Dr. Taylor’s placid and retiring disposition disguised from strangers his intellectual and moral strength. But strength of both kinds underlay his life-long influence. He had an extraordinary lucidity of mind. I have heard a co-presbyter of his—a man himself of great power and originality—express nothing less than amazement at the way in which the minister of Thurso solved the hard problems, theoretical or practical, which in old days sometimes came up to them. Others—and able men, too—hammered at the difficulty all day long, and were still confronted by it. Mr. Taylor said a few quiet words, and the barred gate opened to them of its own accord. There was no sense of effort; indeed, the distinction, as soon as he stated it, became so obvious that each man was now inclined to believe it had been in his mind all along. And with this mathematical clearness of head was combined an equal tenacity of will. Until he saw his distinction, or otherwise saw his way, no human being could get him to move. He did not contradict, he did not object, he did not argue; he rather listened with angelic sweetness to all your arguments, and then went and voted the other way. But these piquant qualities, which might so easily have ministered in some men to self-pleasing, were in him forgotten in the self-effacement of one who lived for others. It was so, too, in the preaching which was the cherished work of his life. The committee of the Parish Church of Thurso, in 1831, told their patron, in well-chosen words, that they had found “a young man of first-rate abilities adorned by great simplicity of language and manner.” This adornment—like that other which he also wore, of a meek and quiet spirit—is not of the nature to strike every eye. But all eyes could see that he lived only to deliver and commend his message, and never interposed himself between it and them. It was, indeed, his life-long delight to utter it. Of the many thousand sermons he preached, not one was read; but all of them were fully written out before being delivered. And a critical hearer has testified that while the logic was never obtrusive, and the links might be at the time unseen, there was in every sermon a unity which gave it a life of its own. He was asked once how the same man, preaching so long to the same people, could make his sermons so fresh. He answered quietly, “I try to have something that is fresh to myself in every sermon.” Through all those years, indeed, his discourses were invariably marked, not only by exactness of expression and wealth of scriptural quotation, but by richness of gospel statement and spiritual insight. And, sometimes, as the quiet delivery gradually passed into tones of strong conviction, and occasionally into those of intensely elevated feeling, the result was memorable. Dr. Iverach, to whose admirable sketch of him as a living Disruption father we have been repeatedly indebted, records that this happened especially at communion seasons. “Then his usually measured utterance becomes intense and rapid, his thoughts attain to greater vividness, his voice becomes urgent and penetrating, and his face beams with love, and with a passionate desire to save and help men.”
But it was not in the pulpit only that his countenance shone. Many will be willing to testify that Dr. Taylor’s seemed to them the happiest and most loving face they have ever known—with the possible exception of the face of his own mother, long since laid to rest. It was a great gift to leave to her son; for the meek inherit even this earth, and gently comes the world to such as are cast in gentle mould. But it was not only a happy—it was a loving face, as of one who was all his life a centre of warm affection, and who had been early put in trust with the gospel of peace. It was a loving face in his earliest days, when the youth first passed to and fro between his college and his Highland home. And far on in his ninetieth year, when the ex-moderator sat with his great-grandson upon his knee, that face again looked, as one has said, like “a thanksgiving for his past mercies, and a love-letter to all mankind.”
REV. ALEXANDER THAIN, NEW MACHAR
The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, January 1, 1864, p.425
Of McCheyne’s letters, preserved in his Memoir, one of the tenderest is addressed to “A. T. on the death of his bro ther.” Some of the countless readers of that precious Memoir will recognise in “A. T.” the Rev. Alexander Thain, minister of the Free Church of New Machar, who closed his brief and bright career, at his father’s house in Dundee, on the morning of Wednesday the 21st of October last.
Early brought to the knowledge of the truth under the ministry of McCheyne, Mr. Thain entered college, and was a central figure in that earnest band of students which gathered round Dr. Cunningham in 1844-5. With a physique singularly pleasing, tall, manly presence, cultivated manners, and quiet insight into the ways of the world, there was a radiancy and vitality in his piety, a fervour in his spirit, a joyous alacrity in his movements, which threw a spell over cold and laggard natures. The brightness in his eye was contagious; and as for his smile, it was like a benediction. He had an uxuberance of life, which threw a rare charm around him. He never allowed the most intense application to his studies to dry his spirit, or cool his love to Christ. His lamp always shone bright, secretly fed with oil from the Holy of Holies. And many of the younger ministers of our Church can remember how often their flagging spirits were stirred by the untiring energy of his, and will cherish, in the dearest chamber of their memories, the image of a friend so lovable, so true, so simple-hearted.
He brought to the pulpit a mind enriched by study, by travel, by manifold converse with books and men, and a heart bent on the one sublime achievement — the winning of immortal souls. With such a model before him as his spiritual father McCheyne, it is not wonderful if his own life and ministry were cast in the same mould. Accordingly, none who knew them both could fail to recognise a remarkable resemblance in tone and spirit between them, or help, more or less, associating the one with the other. The same lovingness, the same nearness to God, the same self-sacrifice, the same gentle and winning ways, communicated much of the same rich aroma of grace and truth to the ministry of the younger evangelist which pervades every page of the precious biography of the elder. The two had also a fine touch of poesy in common, which enabled them to present Divine truth with graphic, almost dramatic vividness.
From the date of his ordination at New Machar, in January 1858, till his death, Thain, self-oblivious, bent his whole strength, as in stringing a stiff bow, to do the work of Him that sent him. Was he not like a candle burning in a draught among us! His feelings were so high strung that they soon wore out his frame. A zeal up to and beyond his strength in the different departments of his work, in the prosecution of his studies, in open-air preaching, in household visitation; a tender sympathy in visiting the sick, especially in cases of danger, not easily described; a thoroughness in adjusting every part of his congregational machinery, until it came to move sweetly like clockwork; and withal a heavenliness of mind, as if his pilgrim spirit longed for the rest of the better land: qualities like these explain the deep love that bound him and his flock together, and the desolating sense of bereavement with which a brother in the ministry, on hearing of his early removal, exclaimed, “His death will be a terrible loss to our Presbytery.”
This heavenliness of mind was the most characteristic trait in his Christian life. “His very name,” says one under whose roof he sojourned for a season, “is precious in our household. … And so he has got home, as he used to call it. Often in his prayers he thanked our Heavenly Father for all those who were walking on the ‘golden streets;’ but it is for us now to do so for him. We call the tunes we sing after him.” And this bright heavenliness, this home feeling towards the better land, grew stronger and purer towards the end. The sun seems largest at his setting. And when he descended into the dark valley, the joyful animation which always characterized the worker became mellowed into the calm, sure, radiant hope of the servant “waiting;” and as he lay during the last two days of nature’s feebleness, with closed eyes and face upturned to heaven, it was plain to the sad bystanders that he was walking in glorious company; and there was a grandeur which is not of this world in his last broken utterances: “Christ’s righteousness is all I want.” One having said to him, “you will soon be in heaven,” he exclaimed, “Oh yes — a palace!” “I am going to God — to Jesus.” “I am near heaven.” “Remember, Lord.” “Jesus— Jesus — Jesus.”
REV. A. THOMSON, MILLERSTON
(Died August 31, 1892)
Author: Principal Douglas, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1892, Obituary, p.277
The Rev. Alexander Thomson was born in the neighbourhood of West Linton, where his father had farms; but his early personal recollections were all connected with Edinburgh, to which his parents removed when he was five years old. The tone of the home circle was especially due to his mother, a daughter of Mr. Kells of Lindsaylands, near Biggar, an elder in the vigorous Secession Church there, whose eminent piety is not yet forgotten in the district. She inherited his graces of character; and she exercised a large-hearted hospitality in her new home, Roseburn House, Murrayfield, so as to win for herself from the hearts of many the title of “a mother in Israel.” At that time Roseburn House was thoroughly outside of Edinburgh, and more than a mile from any church. In view of the spiritual wants of the district, she had a meeting set up in her dining-room on Sabbath evenings, which was often conducted, at her request, by the leading evangelical ministers of Edinburgh. About the time of the Disruption this meeting overtaxed the accommodation afforded by her dining-room, and was removed to the school-house at Coltbridge; finally it became necessary to erect a church, now known as Roseburn Free Church.
It may be held as certain that Alexander Thomson was brought up by his mother in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” He never remembered a time in which he did not find pleasure in religious exercises, but he never condescended on any particulars of his conversion. It was the quickening or the increase of spiritual life at the Disruption time, however, which led him to give himself to the ministry. He was present in St. Andrew’s Church, Edinburgh, on the Disruption day, yet standing near the door, so as to be ready for getting out easily, inasmuch as he was one of a band of young stewards appointed to see to the arrangements at Canonmills Hall, if the Protesting General Assembly were to be compelled to retire to another place of meeting. When Dr. Welsh, the Moderator, rose to leave, the stewards ran all the way to Canonmills. He, however, outstripped the others, and was the first person to enter this new Hall, looked round to make sure that all was right, and was at the entrance-door to receive the procession of ministers and elders, and to see to their being suitably placed.
His education was all received in Edinburgh. It began at the school of Mr. Lennie, author of the well-known grammar; it was carried on at the High School, where he took the Greek gold medal; and it was completed at the University, and at the New College.
On being licensed, he became assistant to Dr. Julius Wood at Dumfries. There he formed some ties to young men in business at Bradford, Yorkshire; and he was settled there as Presbyterian minister in August 1852. There is no doubt he learned much from the robust Evangelical Churches of the West Riding—much that proved very useful to a man who spent the rest of his life in one spot near Glasgow. He was settled at Millerston, a village fully three miles east of the Cross of Glasgow, in September 1862, and there he remained till his death, not without many seals to a quiet ministry, of which the world knew little.
As a most loyal son of the Free Church, he held strong views of the value of the Sustentation Fund. In his own comparatively small and poor congregation he exerted himself in every way to save the church funds, and to send in as much as possible along with what the collectors regularly gathered. When he was offered a small supplement, he refused it, not thinking it loyal to the Church at large to accept a supplement as long as his congregation was a burden on the Fund. In this resolution he never wavered, even after unfortunate investments had led to the loss of his own patrimony, and had left him dependent on the equal dividend. The last two times his people heard his voice from the pulpit was when he asked them to exert themselves to increase their contributions, which were in danger of falling, and when he thanked them for their response to his appeal.
By that time he had become too weak to preach. The last time he did so, he took the whole service— on the second Sabbath of April—his text being, ”The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” He had hoped to preach at the communion next Sabbath, but his strength permitted no more than an address on “Him who loved us, and gave himself for us.” The touching way in which he handled his topic suggests the cause of his unwavering trust and peace of mind through all the sufferings and weakness of the last few weeks. He died on the 31st August, aged sixty-eight.
A volume of sermons which he published a few years ago is a fair sample of his preaching. He delighted in the exhibition of the Saviour’s grace, and the love of God, who in Christ is our Father. He made large use of the family relation in his exposition of divine things; yet when necessary he spoke of the terrors of the law, and set forth the action of the Judge.
In a presbytery so large as that of Glasgow is, it is impossible for many to speak, unless the work is to stand still; and his voice was seldom heard. On this very account, however, it commanded attention when he contributed to a debate, as he was well qualified to do. But he held strongly the duty of giving personal attention to the work of the Church; and he was assiduous in his attendance at the presbytery, and was ever ready to take his share in its labours, which had all his sympathies and intelligent interest.
REV. ARTHUR THOMSON, YESTER
(Died March 31, 1881)
Author: Rev. J. Thomson, Prestonkirk
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1882, Brief Biographies, p.47
Mr. Thomson was born on 31st May 1823, at New Broad Meadow, in the parish of Muckart. His parents belonged to the humbler classes of society; and his mother, who died not long ago at an advanced period of life, was a woman of superior talents, strong affections, and ardent though unobtrusive piety. He was educated in the parish school of Muckart, under Mr. Andrew Morgan, who afterwards became principal of the Doveton College in Calcutta. He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1840, where be excelled in the different branches of learning, and especially in mathematics. He was for some time engaged in teaching in various parts of Scotland, and attended the Normal School. Having in early life resolved to devote himself to the work of the ministry, he resumed his studies in 1846 in the Free Church College in Edinburgh, where he took a high position in the classes of logic and moral philosophy, taught by Professors Fraser and Macdougal, then professors in the Free Church College. He laboured for some time as a missionary at Canonmills; and in 1852 he was appointed to a preaching station in Durrisdeer, and subsequently he was for a short time near Manchester, till he was appointed to supply the church at Salton, while the late Dr. Fairbairn was supplying a chair in the Free Church College at Aberdeen; and on Dr. Fairbairn being appointed to the permanent professorship, he was unanimously chosen to be minister of Salton, and was ordained in the autumn of 1853, where he continued to labour with great acceptance till 1874, when he was translated to the neighbouring church of Yester, where he remained till his death.
He was a man of eminent piety. Very few men live so entirely under the influence of the truth, and under the power of the world to come, and so scrupulously conscientious in all their sayings and doings as we believe that he did. His outward lot in the world was far from being unchequered. He had in the course of divine providence his full share in the domestic afflictions and bereavements to which most families are subject. For many years he had very indifferent bodily health, and some very serious and dangerous illnesses; but from time to time God raised him up again and spared him for farther periods of usefulness. It was in those seasons of trial and affliction that, as in the case of all God’s people, his Christian graces more clearly shone forth. More than once he was compelled to remove for a time from among his own people, and seek renewed health in warmer climates. Such seasons are peculiarly trying to one who is devoted to his work at home; but the patience and humility with which he bore those trials were remarkable. With all anxiety for the restoration of his health without the necessity of leaving his people, he never failed, when the necessity was made plain to him, to submit himself to the will of his heavenly Father with filial confidence and humility, recognizing his hand, and recognizing it as the hand of love.
His death was awfully sudden and wholly unexpected at the time. He had been laid aside from duty for about three months, and had gone to Edinburgh to the house of a friend, to be under medical treatment there, and had undergone a slight surgical operation, from which, however, he had entirely recovered, and had fully determined to return home and to preach on the following Sabbath, when in a moment he fell from his chair, and his spirit had quitted this mortal tabernacle, and was with Him whose desire was to have him with him where he is to behold his glory. It is pleasant to know that during that lengthened illness which preceded his death, but which did not seem to be in any way the cause of it, he looked to it with calmness and submission in steadfast faith and hope—”rejoicing in tribulation, patient in hope, instant in prayer.” There are no words which can more fully describe the state of mind in which he was than do these. Death, though it came suddenly, did not find him sleeping, but watching.
It is hardly possible to speak too highly of him as a minister of the gospel. His natural talents and his theological attainments were of a high order, and his preaching was of a character far above what we ordinarily meet with in a country distiict, and but for his feeble health he would undoubtedly have long since been called to occupy a far higher position in the Church. In all other parts of ministerial work he was equally faithful and diligent, oftentimes in much bodily infirmity, always upheld by the promise which upheld the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He took a deep interest in all the affairs of the Church, was a regular attender on Church courts, and well versed in the forms of procedure and laws of the Church, and thoroughly and conscientiously attached to her principles. He acted as Clerk of the Presbytery for eight years before his death, the duties of which office he discharged with great fidelity and skill. About fifteen years ago he published a series of discourses on “The Questions of Jesus,” which met with a ready sale.
It is an affecting incident in connection with his death that, only six months before, he had taken possession of a new church at Gifford, the building of which had been a matter of great anxiety to him. The old structure, reared at little expense and in great haste at the time of the Disruption, was far from comfortable, and in bad repair. The congregation, composed almost entirely of the working classes, were quite unable to meet the expense of a new church; but by indefatigable labour, and with the kind assistance of friends outside the congregation, he succeeded in having it, though it cost about £1200, free of debt on the day on which it was opened. He lived not more than six months after that, and during nearly the half of that time he was unable to occupy the pulpit or to take any part in pastoral work. But “he rests from his labours, and his works do follow him.”
REV. EDWARD ANDERSON THOMSON, EDINBURGH
(Died October 14, 1890)
Author: Rev. C. G. McCrie, Ayr
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January, 1891, Obituary, p.20
Born at Edinburgh, of parents who were stanch Old Light Anti-burghers, the early ecclesiastical surroundings of Edward Anderson Thomson were all of the Secession type. His divinity professors were Dr. Benjamin Laing of Colmonell, a man of marked individuality, and Dr. Thomas McCrie, secundus, of whose congregation in Davie Street he was a member, and for whom he ever cherished a quite filial affection. That young Thomson had from the first largeness of mind and breadth of vision that carried him beyond denominational narrowness, appears in the high place he took in Sir William Hamilton’s prize list, as also in the fact that he gave voluntary attendance at theological classes in the Edinburgh University, attracted thither, doubtless, by the genius of Thomas Chalmers and the learning of David Welsh. Becoming a licentiate in 1843, Mr. Thomson was, in the following year, ordained minister of the Original Secession congregation at Dundee, which ultimately obtained the old Reformed Presbyterian Church in Meadowside as a place of worship. A few years after his settlement, overtures pointing towards incorporation with the historical Church of Scotland began to appear on the table and to give rise to lively debates in the Synod of his Church. Into this movement the young minister of Dundee threw himself with characteristic ardour. Thus in 1850, when an overture in favour of negotiations being opened with the Free Church, subscribed by elders of his parents’ Church was debated in the Supreme Court, it is on record that Mr. Thomson “in an energetic and rapidly delivered speech,” moved on the lines of the overture. Two years later, having in the interval rendered yeoman service with his pen, he again spoke in the interests of a claim for admission to the Church of Scotland, “free, faithful, and reforming”, and when the vote was taken which involved continued isolation or union, he was one of the eighteen ministers who formed the majority for the latter.
Towards the close of that same year (1852), Dudhope Free Church, Dundee, lost, through death, its minister so popular that even the pulpit stairs and window-sills of the building were let to eager applicants; and the proposal was started that the quondam Secession minister be elected to the vacant charge. Unlike too many proposals of that nature, this one was successfully carried out. Taking with him the majority of his office-bearers and a large section of his congregation, Mr. Thomson was inducted the third minister of Dudhope congregation in February 1853. In this important charge he laboured with great acceptance and success for several years. But the onerous nature of the work, and the strain involved in ministering in so large a building, proved to be beyond his strength, and forced Mr. Thomson to tender his resignation. The honourableness and generosity which characterized this step greatly intensified the regret with which his congregation acquiesced in the inevitable, and his Presbytery parted with a brother to whose “singular gifts and intelligence as a church ruler” they paid a warm tribute.
For about a year Mr. Thomson undertook no regular work, but the October of 1860 found him back from travels in Italy and resident in his native city, with vigour so restored as to render it safe for him to resume preaching. Just then repeated attacks of serious illness so interrupted the ministry of the Rev. F. C. Gillies of Free St. Stephen’s, Edinburgh, that his office-bearers resolved to secure the services of an assistant. With the cordial concurrence of minister, office-bearers, and people, the appointment was offered to Mr. Thomson, who, to the great joy of all, accepted what he probably regarded as a temporary engagement. So entirely satisfactory did this arrangement prove, so cordial and loving was the intercourse between minister and helper, that a year had scarce elapsed before a movement was made to have the assistant associated with Mr. Gillies as colleague and successor. The sudden death of the St. Stephen’s minister in January 1862 rendered the contemplated application to Presbytery and Assembly unnecessary, but at the earliest possible date Mr. Thomson was unanimously and cordially elected to the vacant pulpit, and on the 27th March he was inducted pastor in full and sole charge.
For a quarter of a century he thus ministered to a congregation favoured above most with a rich evangelical succession in the successive ministries of Dr. James Buchanan, and of Francis Gillies, the John Bunyan of the Scottish capital, on whose medallion likeness his people placed the words, never more worthily applied, “A man greatly beloved”—”A good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
During his Edinburgh pastorate of well-nigh twenty-nine years, Mr. Thomson’s experience was that of all his brethren. He had his joys arising from the prosperity of the congregation, spiritual and otherwise; he had his anxieties consequent upon the fluctuations incidental to all charges situated in the central district of a large city; and he had his trials, springing partly from the removal of prominent office-bearers, partly from seasons of enforced silence, and occasional absence from his flock.
By the autumn of 1886 it was deemed advisable to strengthen the pastorate through the services of a colleague and successor.
The steps taken resulted in the ordination, upon the 15th December 1887, of the Rev. W. A. Sim, whose career as a St. Andrews and Aberdeen student was one of great distinction, and whose literary accomplishments and pulpit gifts are of a unique nature. The harmonious settlement of a colleague was to the senior minister a matter of the highest satisfaction; and his disappointment was proportionately great when, two years and a half afterwards, the connection was severed by Mr. Sim seeing it to be his duty to accept a call addressed to him by the English Presbyterian congregation at Sale, Manchester.
Before that took place Mr. Thomson was prostrated in what proved his last illness. The chamber of suffering into which his heavenly Father now withdrew him was that of a furnace seven times heated. His ailments were protracted, giving rise at times to excruciating pain. Although for three months toward the end his strength so rallied as to admit of his joining in public worship, in the beginning of October last there was a renewal in aggravated and complicated form of his trouble which proved too much for a weakened frame; and so, after a fortnight spent in the valley of the shadow of death, his bright spirit passed into the unclouded light and the painless joy of his Lord. During the whole of his retirement he prayed earnestly for recovery, if so be he might do something more for the Master, every prayer having for its close, “And Thou shalt get the glory.” He worked as well as prayed with restoration to usefulness full in view, writing fresh sermons, and, when that involved too great a strain, rewriting old ones. Several discourses were thus prepared by him, endorsed “St. Stephen’s,” with a blank space for the date of preaching. During the many weary days and nights of suffering he continued submissive and cheerful, a fresh spasm of pain only drawing from him the remark, “Surely I must be a very rough stone, since I require so much polishing.”
When passing through the waters he had the penitential psalms read to him; the last read, at his own request, was the sixth, to every verse of which he uttered his Amen. Among the last words he was overheard repeating were, “Water from the smitten rock;” “The life that is to come;” “I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all, but Jesus Christ is my all in all.”
Mr. Thomson was twice married. In his family circle his memory will be kept ever fresh and fragrant by his widow, a daughter of the late J. Logan, W.S., an elder of St. Stephen’s for close upon thirty years, and a man greatly beloved by all who knew him; and by his son and daughter, children of the first marriage, his son being E. P. Thomson, W.S., Edinburgh, and his daughter the wife of the Rev. P. R. Barry, Free North Church, Aberdeen.
Considering the onerous nature of his ministerial charges, it is an evidence of the activity and fertility that dominated the man that Mr. Thomson found time and strength to write for the press. In addition to sermons printed after being delivered, he wrote pamphlets of standard value on the subject of Union, he enlivened the pages of the Original Secession Magazine, and he enriched those of the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, the Family Treasury, and the Evangelical Repository of America with articles displaying a wide range of sympathy and the workings of an acute intellect. His separate contribution to theological literature is a work entitled “The Four Evangelists; with the distinctive characteristics of the Gospels,” first published in 1868, republished in America, and in 1887 reached a fifth edition. After its appearance there, the author received from America the degree of D.D.; and, although he never used the title, his American correspondents, of whom he had a goodly number, always styled him “Dr.” Originally delivered in the ordinary course of Sabbath morning ministrations, the contents of this volume, intended for popular use, make no display of scholarship, yet are they fresh and scholarly, suggestive and beautiful.
To those who were not acquainted with him personally it would be difficult to convey a conception of that strongly-marked individuality which so endeared Mr. Thomson to his flock and to his friends. That individuality was evidently present to the mind of Dr. Laidlaw, his kinsman, when, preaching from the vacant pulpit on the Sabbath after death and burial, he made mention of his relative’s “bright, animated, richly-evangelical preaching,” “his deeply devotional prayers and addresses,” his bearing “in the ordinary intercourse of life so genial, genuine, and straightforward,” and when he characterized him as “one who was to us the type of vivacious and cordial brotherhood, of keen participation in our living theological and ecclesiastical questions, of Christian activity and enthusiasm.”
The lovingness and the love-worthiness of the man found recognition in another way. There have been men so genial, so winsome, so brotherly, as to be known and spoken of among their brethren by both Christian name and surname. Such a man was the late Professor Burns of Glasgow, the “Islay Burns ” of his wide circle; and such an one was the subject of this notice. To others he might be Mr. Thomson, or the Rev. E. A. Thomson; but among us who knew and loved him he was always spoken of as “Edward Thomson.” Dear Edward Thomson! What he once said of another I apply to him— “Farewell, my friend. No! Farewell is not the word. We never see a Christian’s face for the last time. Au revoir. We shall meet again.”
REV. JAMES THOMSON, DOLLAR AND MUCKHART
(Died December 23, 1871)
Minute of Presbytery, prepared by the Rev. John Wright, Alloa
The Free Church Monthly Record, May 1, 1872, p.104
The Presbytery resolved to record in their minutes their respectful and affectionate remembrance of their late co-presbyter, the Rev. James Thomson of Dollar and Muckhart.
After an honourable career as probationer, Mr. Thomson was in 1831 ordained minister of the parish of Muckhart. Till the Disruption, in 1843, he discharged with unwearied diligence and fidelity the duties of that charge. Taking a lively interest in educational matters, he paid great attention to the parish school, encouraging teacher and pupils by his frequent visits and wise counsel. As clerk of the Presbytery of Auchterarder during the protracted litigation which eventually led to the Disruption, our late friend conducted the business to the entire satisfaction of the Church.
Mr. Thomson never hesitated about the path of duty, when the supreme power in the State virtually disestablished the Church of Scotland by its refusal to interfere with the civil courts in their hostile interpretation of its ancient laws and constitution. Without any sure prospect of maintenance in a new sphere, he left the beautiful manse without a murmur; and his surviving brethren, who knew him best, can testify that the term sacrifice, in reference to all he relinquished, was never heard from his lips.
Mr. Thomson, after the Disruption, became minister of the combined charge of Dollar and Muckhart, under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Stirling—an arrangement thought the best at that time, though in the issue, perhaps, considering the labour in which it involved him, fatal to his own health. While health continued, his work as preacher and pastor was attended to with all his former assiduity. In his preaching he sought out the old paths, and directed his people to Christ alone for pardon and purification, spiritual life and strength. Long journeys in visitation of the sick were never grudged by him.
Mr. Thomson did not suffer his pastoral and domestic duties to interfere with his scholarly studies. Natural science, as well as Theology in its various departments, ever presenting to him new attractions. His friends cannot fail to have been struck with the humble, modest, pious demeanour of their brother. They could always calculate on his thorough integrity; while the cheerful companion, he constantly appeared the man of God; and at whatever sacrifice to himself of time or strength, he never refused the brotherly service asked of him.
Mr. Thomson, after being struck down by paralysis, finding recovery to be no longer hoped for, resigned his charge on the terms stipulated for by his Presbytery, honourable to himself and the Free Church, retaining till the last the dividend of the Sustentation Fund, and keeping his place, though unable ever to attend, as a member of the Presbytery of Stirling. He died at Edinburgh on the 23rd December of last year, leaving his young family orphans—his wife having died a few years before him. The Presbytery, looking back to his example, have with melancholy satisfaction to say of him—”The memoryof the just is blessed.” “The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.”
REV. JOHN THOMSON, M.A.
(Died November 18, 1881)
Author: Rev. Dr. Laughton, Greenock
Source: The Free Church Monthly, April 1, 1882, Brief Biographies, p.107
Mr. Thomson was born at Edinburgh in 1808, and received his education at the High School and University of that city. At both he took a distinguished position, and could compete with the ablest of his contemporaries. He was Greek medallist of his year at the High School, and at the University distinguished himself also in mathematics. In the Natural Philosophy class, under Sir John Leslie, the first place, at the close of the session, was contested between Mr. Thomson and one afterwards so eminent in the ranks of science, the late Principal Forbes of St. Andrews, the two competitors being so nearly matched that it was only after a prolonged examination of two days that the professor was able to decide in favour of Forbes.
Having taken his degree, he entered the Divinity Hall to prosecute his studies under Chalmers, who was then in his full vigour, giving that extraordinary impulse to his students the effect of which is felt to this day.
As was to be expected from Mr. Thomson’s cast of mind and early attainments, he took special interest in the study of Scripture in the original languages. There were few facilities in those days for acquiring an accurate knowledge of Hebrew, but he applied himself to the study with his usual assiduity and success. My intimate acquaintance with him began at this period, and more especially in connection with a society formed for exegetical studies, which met every Saturday during the session at the somewhat unusual hour of half-past six in the morning. It included among its first and most regular members the lamented Robert Murray McCheyne, and not a few beloved brethren still surviving, among whom are some of the most honoured names in the Free Church. And assuredly we are all at one in our affectionate remembrance of a fellow-student at once so able and so amiable as our recently-departed friend.
Having completed his theological course, Mr. Thomson was licensed to preach in 1835, and not long after entered on missionary work in Leith in connection with the Seamen’s Friend Society.
It was work of an arduous kind, which was attended with many difficulties, and required on his part much patient, self-denying labour. He preached at first in the old Floating Chapel. After a year or two, however, the friends of the Society, in Leith and Edinburgh, succeeded in building a commodious church for the special accommodation of seamen and their families—now known as St. Ninian’s—with school premises adjoining. Here Mr. Thomson was ordained to the ministry in 1840; and here he continued to labour till his death, gathering around him an attached congregation, to whose pastoral oversight he devoted himself with unwearied diligence and fidelity.
His exertions on behalf of the seafaring population, by missionary agency of various kinds, were systematic and persevering. The schools connected with the church, and superintended by him, were carried on with great success, until the establishment of the national system of education rendered them no longer necessary. He always took a lively interest in the cause of education, and did much to promote it in Leith, where he was three times returned as a member of the School Board, and on each occasion at the top of the poll.
Among his attainments as a linguist he had at an early period made himself master of German, which he turned to good account both in his intercourse with German sailors, and also in several visits to the Continent in connection with the work of the Jewish and Continental Committees. He took part with the late Principal Fairbairn in executing the translation, from the German, of Hengstenberg on the Psalms, published in Clark’s Foreign Theological Library. He also translated part of the third volume of Stier’s Words of the Lord Jesus, in the same series. When we add that for some years he took charge of the Assembly’s Blue-Book, and that he edited the Report of the first Presbyterian Council of 1877, we complete the enumeration of his literary labours.
We might think he was specially fitted for such work; but perhaps he was too fastidious to execute much to his own satisfaction without encroaching on the time requisite for ministerial duties.
He did not take much part in public debate; but he did good service in various committees, and for many years was Convener of the Assembly’s Committee on Psalmody. He was also Clerk to the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, an office which he filled with great efficiency for more than thirty years.
Mr. Thomson’s preaching was characterized by clearness of statement in the setting forth of the grand, cardinal truths of the gospel. He was not, indeed, what is reckoned a popular preacher. As is often the case with educated men, early trained to habits of exact thinking, he was wanting in some of the elements of popular address; the intellectual, perhaps, overshadowed the emotional. Besides, he was singularly modest and unassuming to a fault. There was no ambition to attract notice, rather a shrinking from it: his chief concern was to discharge duty with fidelity and thoroughness. In some other walks of life his talents were of a kind to have secured him a position of distinction and emolument. He presents a striking example of rare gifts consecrated to the service of God with a noble simplicity of purpose and singleness of aim.
In private life his amiable disposition and Christian spirit did not fail to attract and attach those who became acquainted with him. It need scarcely be said that in the family circle he was the object of the warmest affection, where his cheerful temper brightened all around him. By those who thus knew him best his removal cannot but be felt as an irreparable loss.
Though advanced in life, Mr. Thomson enjoyed excellent health till within about three months of his death. Failure of digestion was the first symptom of a fatal malady. Without much pain, he suffered greatly from weakness and exhaustion. But he endured as became a Christian man, putting his trust in the Lord, and patiently waiting the Master’s call. His end was peace. He has entered into rest, and his works will follow him.
REV. JOHN THOMSON, D.D., PAISLEY
(Died August 6, 1883)
Author: Rev. James Dodds, Dunbar
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.340
John Thomson was born at Stirling on the 21st of December 1809. His father held a highly respectable position in the town, and was able to give all his children an excellent education. His mother, Isabella Burns, a native of Falkirk, was a woman of a decided Christian character, and exercised a powerful influence on John, her eldest son, and all the other members of her family, three sons and two daughters.
Having received his early education at the Grammar School of Stirling, John Thomson, when only twelve years old, commenced his studies at the University of Glasgow. In various classes he was highly distinguished for his good conduct and scholarship. He carried off not a few high prizes in mathematics, in natural philosophy, and other branches of learning. In the Divinity Hall he was also so distinguished that his friends anticipated for him a high place in the ministry of the Church of Scotland, for which he had studied so diligently. In July 1831, he was taken on trials by the Presbytery of Stirling, but he was finally licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Haddington.
Before he received license, he was for two years tutor in the family of Sir George Mackenzie, Bart, of Coul, Ross-shire. The late Rev. John Mackenzie, son-in-law of Dr. Chalmers, was thus one of his pupils. At a subsequent period he occupied a similar position in the family of the late George, Marquis of Tweeddale, the patron of the parish of Yester. The present Marquis and several of his brothers were his pupils, and to the last regarded him with the highest respect. The parish of Yester becoming vacant in 1834 by the translation of the Rev. R. Horne to Corstorphine, Mr. Thomson was presented to the living by the noble patron, who valued him as the instructor of his sons, and had seen in him all the elements of an excellent parish minister. As soon as he was ordained, Mr. Thomson acquired a position of great importance in the county of East Lothian. He became one of the most popular preachers in the Presbytery, and in his pastoral ministrations he was almost unrivalled for his diligence and earnestness. A man of a sanguine temperament and an ardent disposition, he saw no obstacles in the way of his duty, and allowed nothing to damp his zeal in carrying on his ministerial work. He took an active part in the business of his Presbytery, and rendered signal service in East Lothian to the great Church Extension movement inaugurated by Dr. Chalmers some years before the Disruption. When the Disruption came, Mr. Thomson was found at his post, and along with the great majority of his congregation joined the Free Church of Scotland. After powerfully helping to invigorate the Free Church movement in Yester, and in the Presbytery to which he belonged, he was in 1845 translated to Free St. George’s Church, Paisley, rendered vacant by the removal of the Rev. Dr. Robert Burns to Canada. With an energy and a zeal only heightened by the experience of nine years in the ministry, he flung himself into the work of the minister of a large and intelligent town congregation. He soon took a high position among the ministers of Paisley, and from the first acted the part of a public-spirited citizen of that important town. While a very loyal Free Churchman, and profoundly interested in all that bore on the welfare of his own people, as well as the honour and interests of the great Denomination of which he was a minister, he was always ready, in an evangelical and catholic spirit, to join in any movement connected with the cause of true religion in this country, or the progress of the gospel in foreign lands. It may be truly affirmed, that while no minister in Paisley did more for his own congregation, none at the same time did more for the general interests of religion and for every kind of social improvement. He was a great advocate and promoter of Christian liberality; and not merely for Free Church objects, but for many others in which he had no personal interest, he was the means of calling forth the generous gifts of the liberal inhabitants of Paisley. In many cases he solicited and obtained large subscriptions for religious purposes, when most others would have despaired of success.
Mr. Thomson’s style of preaching marked him as a disciple of that noble Evangelical school which appeared in the age of Chalmers and Andrew Thomson, of Robert Gordon and Henry Grey. His doctrine was purely evangelical, and his language in expounding it was simple, vigorous, and elegant. He was familiar with many forms of modern theological thought, and with the style in which our younger class of preachers set forth the truths of the gospel. But he never materially altered the approved evangelical phraseology he had adopted in his youth, monotonous and half obsolete as it may be pronounced by those who lay great stress on novelty of style in the pulpit. He was, from first to last, an able and powerful minister of the New Testament, deeply versed in Scriptural truth, and boldly proclaiming to his fellow-sinners the whole counsel of God. His language was always plain, his spirit earnest, and his whole manner in the pulpit such as became “a messenger of grace to guilty men.”
Dr. Thomson, in the course of his ministry, published two excellent volumes of a practical character. In the first, “The Domestic Circle,” the Christian duties and relations of every class are described with admirable faithfulness and felicity. It has been a favourite with the public, having some time ago reached a fourth edition. In his other volume, “The Life of Faith,” he illustrates with singular point and power the great practical lessons derived from the character and conduct of the Apostle Paul. It may here be mentioned that he also wrote a very able Essay on Miracles on the occasion of his receiving the degree of Doctor of Divinity from his own university of Glasgow.
Always interested in the welfare of the Free Church, Dr. Thomson took a prominent part in the proceedings of the different Church courts. He attended carefully to the business of his Presbytery, and in the General Assembly his knowledge of forms as well as of principles was occasionally turned to excellent account. He was an active and useful member of many of the Assembly’s Committees. Of these, he chiefly devoted his services to the Colonial, the Jewish, and the Continental. His ardent spirit, generous temper, and wise counsels will long be missed by these important bodies. It must not be forgotten that he was mainly the originator of the Continental summer stations of the Free Church, which have long been so highly prized by English and American tourists. He visited the Continent for the first time, along with the writer of the present sketch, in 1865, and conceived the idea of the Free Church planting stations at several places of importance in Switzerland, France, and other European countries. He propounded, on his return, his views to the Continental Committee, and, after much discussion, he was permitted to collect a separate fund for the institution of a few such stations as he recommended. He made incredible efforts among friends of the cause over the Church to get the necessary subscriptions, and after the labour of at least two years he had the satisfaction of seeing his toil abundantly rewarded in the commencement of a class of operations by which the Free Church has earned the gratitude of thousands who have journeyed on the Continent either for health or pleasure.
Dr. Thomson took special interest in the Free Church station of Montreux, which he visited more than once, and benefited greatly in various ways. The three prominent and most useful members of the congregation, the Misses Harley, must greatly miss his excellent counsels and services. Last winter he was induced to undertake the charge of the vacant Free Church congregation at Nice; and after faithfully filling the pulpit, and visiting the members of the flock during the season, he took a rapid tour through Italy, visiting Naples, Rome, and Florence. At the latter place he preached for his dear friend the Rev. J. Macdougall, whose great services to the Free Church of Italy he peculiarly appreciated. On his return to Scotland, his friends saw that his health had by no means benefited by his sojourn at Nice and his Italian tour. All his life a strong and healthy man, he did not, perhaps, sufficiently take into account the inevitable approach of the infirmities of age. He assisted at the Communion in Dunbar in May last, and preached with his usual vigour, though symptoms of declining bodily strength were visible. He mentioned on that occasion that during a ministry of forty-nine years he had never once been kept out of the pulpit by reason of illness. In the course of July he was laid up in his own house by a severe attack of lumbago, which was found not to yield to treatment; and other forms of disease supervening, he gradually lost strength, and calmly expired on Monday, the 6th of August. Had he lived till April next, his jubilee would have been cordially celebrated by his congregation and his numerous friends in all parts of the Church.
By the death of this good and brave man, the congregation of Free St. George’s, Paisley, has lost a pastor whose name and memory it will always hold in dear and honoured remembrance, while the Free Church has been deprived of one of her most loyal and devoted Disruption ministers. No man ever laboured more earnestly in the work of the ministry. His ardent and energetic nature impelled him to work of every kind, and his personal character well illustrated the truths he preached. His last hours were not marked by any memorable testimonies, but he was well prepared when the hour of his departure came. He lived, he laboured, and he died in the Lord.
About two years ago Dr. Thomson had the great satisfaction of receiving as his colleague the Rev. Gavin Tait, whom he very highly esteemed, and who promises to be in every respect a suitable successor to one whom he loved and reverenced as a father. It must here also be recorded that in 1835 Dr. Thomson was married to Margaret Buchanan, sister of the late Dr. Robert Buchanan of Glasgow. This excellent lady was in every way a valuable coadjutor of her husband in congregational woik. Her calm good sense and Christian feeling never failed her partner in the prosecution of his varied labours. Her influence and services in the congregation were most important. Many works of Christian philanthropy in Paisley owed much to her sound judgment and high principle. She suffered much during most of her life from feeble and uncertain health; but the energy of her spirit overcame the feebleness of her body, and enabled her to devise and carry out many noble works of faith and labours of love. Her death in 1879 was a great blow to her devoted husband, and was deeply lamented by many loving and admiring friends.
Dr. Thomson’s only son, Mr. John Thomson, is a highly respected Glasgow merchant, and a worthy office-bearer of the Free Church.
After a close unbroken friendship of forty-years, I could describe at length the many endearing personal qualities and leading characteristics of the subject of this sketch; but there is here no space for any such detailed description. I shall simply conclude by saying that of the many excellent John Thomsons who have adorned the ministry of the Free Church, none have surpassed in energy of character and loyalty of service Dr. John Thomson of Paisley.
REV. JOHN THOMSON, PRESTONKIRK
(Died July 12, 1889)
Author: Rev. Colin Murray, Salton
Source: The Free Church Monthly, January, 1890, Obituary, p.21
Mr. Thomson was ordained in 1831 assistant and successor to his venerated father, who had been translated from Girvan to Prestonkirk, and who died before the Disruption. Rev. Mr. Thomson, Duddingston, the celebrated painter, was his uncle. He sought no other sphere of labour, consecrating his best energies to the Lord’s work in that important part of his vineyard. At the Disruption a large congregation rallied round him, which maintained its pre-eminence throughout his ministry. Since 1876 he had the assistance of a colleague and successor. His jubilee was celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm; and the estimation in which he was held by his congregation, presbytery, and the community at large was evinced with marked conspicuousness. At the request of his office-bearers, he published at that time a volume of his sermons and addresses.
He was a man of quiet but determined energy, and his indomitable perseverance in the discharge of duty, fearless in the declaration of God’s truth, and of unabating zeal and high toned conscientiousness in promoting the best interests of his congregation, and bearing about with him a Christian character of great elevation and weight. He was withal of rarely fine and deep sympathies, naturally, sharing the sorrows and entering into the joys of his people; gentlemanly and dignified in deportment; of great solidity of judgment and perspicacity of intellect, with a well-balanced mind, and without any angularity of character; and combining force and simplicity in a marked degree, he inevitably secured the warmest affection, fullest confidence, and highest esteem, nay, veneration, of his flock. Unobtrusive, and reticent as to his spiritual experience, he nevertheless constrained all who came in contact with him to believe that his was a walk of close fellowship with his God. Like all complete men, he had a fine vein of humour and a keen sense of the ludicrous. He certainly could unbend: he might be said to be a model gardener, and was very skilful in handicraft and the use of the lathing machine. When the School Board in his parish was constituted, he was elected, and continued to be, chairman.
His preaching was eminently evangelical, and was largely blessed. He had deep views of man’s sin and sinful helplessness, of the divine righteousness and sovereignty, and the inviolableness of the divine law. Of necessity, the incarnate and crucified, now exalted, One was the centre of his system of doctrine. He was also most assiduous and exemplary as a pastor.
At the Disruption he, along with the late Messrs. Baird (Cockburnspath), Forman of Innerwick, afterwards of Leven, and Mr. Sorley (Belhaven), afterwards of Selkirk, formed the Presbytery of Dunbar, of which he was clerk. The Presbytery was soon united to the Presbytery of Haddington; and after Dr. Thomson of Paisley, who was then minister at Yester and clerk of the Presbytery, was removed to Paisley, Mr. Thomson was appointed clerk, and continued to be so for a period of twenty-eight years, and gave the completest satisfaction in discharging the duties of the office.
REV. JOHN W. THOMSON, PITCAIRNGREEN
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, November 1, 1864, p.663
Another of the noble band of pre-Disruption ministers has been removed, and one of the most enlightened, decided, and steadfast,—the Rev. John William Thomson of Pitcairngreen, eldest son of the late venerable Dr. W. A. Thomson of Perth. Mr. Thomson breathed his last on the 1st of October, not only in the possession of perfect peace, but rejoicing “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Between the death of the father and the son there has been the interval of little more than eighteen months,—a striking contrast to the difference between their ages, the one having entered six weeks into his ninety-first year, and the other not having, by three months, reached the end of his sixty-second. The saddest blank of all has thus been made in what was once a large family by the removal of its head. A blank, if not so deeply, yet more widely felt, has been produced in his attached congregation; a mournful blank, too, among the brethren of his Presbytery, and a blank which might be recognized by the Free Church, at large.
After a course of diligent and earnest preparation as a student, Mr. Thomson was, in the commencement of his twenty-fourth year, licensed by the Presbytery of Perth, in which he had been brought up, to preach the gospel; and from his pulpit appearances, it soon became manifest what advantages he had derived, not only from his diligence in study, but also from parental training and converse, and from having had before him during so many sessions at college such a model of clearness, energy, faithfulness, and manly eloquence, as was to be seen in his uncle, the distinguished Dr. Andrew Thomson, of St. George’s, Edinburgh. Even as a probationer, Mr. Thomson discovered such precision, depth, earnestness, and experimental searching in his sermons as are seldom to be met with in the productions of so young a man. These qualities no doubt contributed to obtain for him an early settlement in the Church, and it was his honour and his happiness to be introduced to the people of his charge by that fearless, yet generous and warm-hearted relative to whom reference has just been made.
He entered on his ministerial labours with such ardour, assiduity, and kindliness as speedily won, and firmly retained the affection, esteem, and confidence of his parishioners; and he had the honour and the liberality, when such a thing was little of, to provide on behalf of a rather distant but populous district in the parish the means of regular public ordinances, and of pastoral instruction for its inhabitants by the appointment, time after time, of a probationer as his assistant, —an arrangement attended with the most salutary effects, and which immediately after the Disruption resulted in the formation of a new and very interesting charge. After labouring for thirteen years with exemplary fidelity and growing acceptance among his people, his lot being enriched by the society of a partner in life who was endeared to all that knew her, and by the possession of the sons and daughters whom God had given them, his earthly happiness seemed to be complete. But it was then that his first and heaviest bereavement was experienced. That beloved partner was suddenly taken away. His grief was intense, and all the more so that it was silent. He bowed his head and worshipped. His strongest utterance was in the very words of the Psalmist,—”I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.”
This painful affliction was made the means of great grace to his soul. A spirit of prayer was poured out on him, and a richer unction characterized his public ministrations. In a year or two afterwards came the Disruption, when a fresh impulse was given to his enterprise and exertions in the cause of our divine Master. In the new arrangements and organizations of that stirring period, his prudence, decision, and devotedness were of unspeakable advantage. Unanimously chosen by his brethren to be the clerk both of the Presbytery and the Synod of the bounds, no small amount of additional labour was thrown on him; but such was his regularity and such his indefatigable industry, that, in his new position, and with a greatly increased congregation, he never got into arrears with his work, and never slackened in his conscientious and elaborate preparation for the pulpit. Less fettered at the same time to his manuscript, he became so much the more energetic, telling, and acceptable as a preacher of the blessed gospel in all its fulness. He was a decided and deserved favourite in every congregation where he officiated, commanding the attention, informing the minds, appealing to the consciences, and laying hold on the hearts of his hearers. In the course of time these multiplied labours, and especially the habit which they induced of prolonging his writing and his studies often far beyond the hour of midnight, began to tell on his bodily health. This effect was not a little aggravated, there is reason to think, by the further repeated and painful bereavements with which, alas! he was visited in the death, not only of his revered parents, but of a beloved daughter, and both his beloved sons. These afflictions were deeply felt, but submissively endured.
Within somewhat more than a year ago his health became so much affected that he had not only to resign the important offices which he had held with high approbation for so many years, but soon after to cease from all attempts to discharge any part of ministerial duties. For the dispensation of word and ordinances to his people, whose interests were always very near to his heart, he made the best provision in his power; and, to use his own words, reckoned himself “extremely fortunate” in having secured the services of one who was like-minded in his love to Christ and his concern for souls. After he had for six months been unable to occupy his pulpit, and was doubtful whether he should ever occupy it again, he said in a note to a friend,—”However, I feel no anxiety as to the result. If God has more work for me here he will raise me up again to do it, if not, I desire to be simply resigned to his will.” Three months afterwards he expressed himself to the same effect, but in language still more emphatic, and added,—”I can never cease to praise and magnify his name for all the tokens of his love he has during these months afforded me.”
Just five weeks after this, on the last Sabbath of July, he made an effort to be present at one of the communion services, and before leaving the table, addressed to his people a few solemn and thrilling words,—the last that he was ever to utter in public. The end was drawing near, and at last it came quickly. Fatal symptoms were observed by one who was not less an affectionate and beloved brother than an experienced and attentive physician. Vision failed, and consciousness ceased, but unexpectedly the latter returned, and faith, and peace, and joy were again in blessed fulness the portion of the departing spirit. To the promises which were quoted to him he clung with affectionate confidence.
When reminded of the Saviour’s words,—”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” he said, “My experience has been one of incredible peace.” He felt that he had, “as he expressed it, “just to rest—rest in Christ’s finished work.” “The provisions of the covenant of grace,” he said, gave him great comfort; and that comfort, says one who was much with him, never left him. In his feeble, almost inaudible, but fervent ejaculations, he was, with uplifted hands and eyes, heard to breathe these words,—”Lord Jesus, thou knowest that I love thee with all my heart.”
Mr. Thomson was distinguished at once for great calmness and sagacity, for soundness of judgment, along with great decision and firmness of mind. His honesty of purpose and independence of thinking were such that he sometimes took his own course though at the expense of differing from those whom he revered and loved. Next to his zeal in advocating evangelical truth, in declaring and vindicating the whole counsel of God as embodied in the Scriptures, was his strenuous advocacy of popular rights, and his jealousy on behalf of the constitutional privileges which the great Head of the Church has bestowed, along with the duties which ho has imposed on her. He was also a man of great modesty,— free from all love of display or pre-eminence. Had it not been for this, the talents which he possessed, and the varied and extensive information which he had acquired might have raised him to a more conspicuous and influential position than that which he so honourably and advantageously filled. But among all the qualities which distinguished him, both in private and in professional life, there was none more remarkable than his invariable equanimity. His temper was never ruffled. He never lost the command of his feelings. He could speak strongly and boldly, and with just indignation, when truth was to be vindicated, or when meanness, dishonesty, or defection, needed to be rebuked; but never, by irritation and intemperance of speech, was he chargeable with injuring the cause of truth and righteousness.
REV. PETER THOMSON, CRAWFURDSBURN, GREENOCK
(Died March 25, 1890)
Author: Rev. James F. Thomson, M.A., Stanley
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June, 1890, Obituary, p.181
On Sabbath, 23rd March, the Lord’s Supper was dispensed in Crawfurdsburn Free Church, Greenock. The Rev. Peter Thomson, minister of the congregation, preached and presided. On Monday evening following he again preached vigorously for a brother in town. Some time ago his doctor had told him there was just a suspicion that something was wrong with the heart; but he did not seem to be much alarmed. At half-past one o’clock on Tuesday morning, however, he was called to lay down his work and pass into the Master’s presence.
Mr. Thomson was sixty-six years of age. He was born at Guildtown, near Perth. When about fifteen years old he entered a merchant’s office in Perth, but after a business experience of a few years proceeded to Edinburgh to study for the ministry. During the whole of his literary and theological course he was engaged as missionary in the West Port, under the superintendence of the Rev. W. Tasker. Having obtained license, he was employed for a few months as assistant to Rev. P. L. Miller, Newcastle. In 1858 he was called to Bankhead Church, Berwick-on-Tweed. After a pastorate of five years in Berwick, he received and accepted a call to be minister of Crawfurdsburn Free Church, Greenock; and here he laboured with assiduity and acceptance for twenty-seven years, till he got his last summons on the morning of 25th March.
Mr. Thomson’s work in the east end of Greenock was thus the work of his life. It was the work of a home missionary—labouring among working people; visiting and exhorting them in their homes; furthering, as occasion offered, their prospects in life; and in church and prayer-meeting preaching Christ. To this work Mr. Thomson brought qualifications of no mean order. He came under the power of the truth early in life; and having devoted himself to the ministry, pursued the object he had in view, as he ever did, with steady, persevering, zealous application. As a man and a minister he was distinguished by a valuable combination of gifts. Diligent and successful as a student, he was ever a lover of books, and read with avidity to the last in the field of general literature. He was at the same time a reverent but vigorous and independent thinker; and his nature was strongly tinged with poetic sentiment. His sympathies, too, were broad. Indeed, it might be said that to him nothing that is human was a matter of indifference. On the other hand, practical good sense was one of his most prominent characteristics. He was a man of affairs as well as a student. His business faculty enabled him to do excellent work, whether it was the business of his congregation, the Presbytery, the School Board, or the Church at large, which claimed his attention. And his sound judgment, along with his sense of justice and ready sympathy, made him the trusted and valued adviser of many friends. In early life he had passed through the ordeal of speculative doubt, and he did not attach much importance to the niceties of theological opinion. But his spiritual life was firmly rooted in evangelical truth, and he regarded with deep dislike whatever seemed to him to give it the go-by or to disparage its importance. As a preacher Mr. Thomson was highly appreciated. In the pulpit his varied gifts found expression. There were vigour of thought, logical power, glow of feeling, the human heart and practical aim, the grappling with the conscience, and the personal testimony to the necessity and the power of vital godliness. In his removal there can, we think, be no doubt a light has for the present been quenched, and the voice of a true preacher silenced, in the east end of Greenock. Of his unwearied pastoral labours the large congregation which has grown up under his hand is the living witness. His people, and not they only, will regretfully cherish the memory of one so genial, and human, and bright, so capable and strong, so wise and experienced in the things of God, and so true and loyal a friend.
REV. PETER THOMSON, M.A, ST. FERGUS
(Died May 29, 1880)
Author: Rev. David Morison Ross, M.A., Dundee
Source: The Free Church Monthly, November 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.279
During the sitting of last Assembly, the announcement by the Moderator of the death of Mr. Thomson was heard with profound sorrow and regret by those who knew how true-hearted a Christian and how ripe a scholar had been lost to the Church on earth. His youth—he was only twenty-nine years of age—and his equipment for dealing with the problems of theology and criticism (equipment such as no other minister of his standing in our Church possessed), made it hard for those who had been cherishing high hopes of the services he might render Scottish theology to believe that his work was done. To the few who knew him intimately, the news of his death was a mournful intimation that they had lost one of their most genuine and gifted friends, and the Church one of the brightest examples of a humble, self-forgetting Christian life. “Great as he was in mind, gifts, and attainments,” said one of his fellow-students, at the close of the funeral sermon, “he was still greater in heart. We admired him for his knowledge; but his simplicity and lowliness of heart bound us to him, and now bind us by bands that can never be broken. I often wondered at his patience in teaching those of us who were slower than himself; he heard us so quietly, and reasoned with us so affectionately, waiting and helping and encouraging us as a strong man does a child.”
His outward life was an uneventful one. Born at Portsoy in 1851, he passed from the Free Church School of Huntly, where he had acted as pupil teacher, to the University of Aberdeen in 1868. Distinguished throughout his course for solid attainments, he graduated in 1872 with first-class honours in classics and philosophy. Entering the New College in 1872, he there found what proved to be the decisive intellectual stimulus of his future life. Mixing only in a small degree in the hearty social life which is a distinguishing feature of our Edinburgh Theological Hall, he was at first chiefly known to his fellow-students as a hard reader and a laborious student of Semitic languages. In the last two years of his course he enjoyed the reputation of being the most promising theologian in the college, and his speeches in the Theological Society, so remarkable for grasp of principle and lucidity of statement, were anxiously waited for by those whom discussion had merely bewildered. But only to the comparatively few who were his intimate friends did he reveal those rare qualities of mind, and especially of heart, which were the true index of his intellectual and spiritual greatness. After gaining the Cunningham Fellowship at the close of his theological curriculum, he spent a year and a half abroad, pursuing his studies in Semitic literature and theology, first at Strassburg, then at Leipsic. After acting as assistant to Dr. Dykes in Regent Square for a few months, he was ordained to the pastorate of the quiet country congregation of St. Fergus, about six miles from Peterhead. Here he laboured with an untiring faithfulness, which contributed to the premature closing of his career. Besides overtaking his ordinary congregational work, and making special efforts on behalf of the young, he still continued his studies in theology and Semitic languages. In addition to papers he wrote for the Expositor and Homiletic Quarterly, he made a careful revision of a comprehensive Biblical commentary for Eyre and Spottiswoode. But this continuous strain of work, almost never broken by a holiday, was slowly undermining his health. On his way to assist an old fellow-student at his communion in May last, he was prostrated with an attack of congestion of the brain. He lay for three days in an Aberdeen hotel, no one knowing how urgent was the need for medical advice. When he was on a fair way to recovery he was removed to the house of Professor Robertson Smith. On Friday May 28th, he was sufficiently strong to have read to him the speeches on his friend’s case in the Assembly; but during the night he was suddenly seized with an apoplectic stroke, which proved fatal.
So passed into the fuller and higher life, to which he looked forward with confidence to death as the entrance, one of the most earnest and Christ-like of the young ministers of our Church. The bare facts of his life have been given; but underneath the uneventful outward setting of his Christian course there was a deep inward spiritual life, whose rise, struggles, and fruition will be told at greater length by another pen.
No one came much into contact with Mr. Thomson without being impressed with the quiet persistence of his Christian life. There was no flash of brilliance in his nature; but there was about him such a purity of aim, such an unselfishness of disposition, and unswerving integrity, that his life commended with an eloquence no words could rival that gospel by whose power his own heart had been moulded and mellowed. Deeply versed and interested as he was in Biblical criticism and theology, he threw himself with enthusiasm into the work of preaching the cross of Christ to his congregation. For the last six months of his ministry he spoke to his flock with such earnestness, that (to use the words of one of them), “he seemed to be preaching as if it were his last chance.”
He was cut off when just ready to exercise his influence in wider spheres. Death came to blight the hopes of his friends. Yet such a life as his can never die. From his death there shall come a higher life to others. To the congregation which he loved and served so well, and to his friends who knew him well enough to know what manner of man he was, the memory of his high-toned and unselfish life will long remain one of their best incentives to higher effort in their Christian calling.
MR PETRIE THOMSON, KIRRIEMUIR
Author: Rev. R.S. MacAulay, Irvine
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1882, p.47
Mr. Thomson was born at Kirriemuir, 9th January 1811. He was educated at the parish school, and gave early evidence of possessing superior natural gifts. His eagerness as a scholar and his devotion to his studies encouraged his father to lengthen his schooldays till he was seventeen.
Having obtained by competition a bursary of considerable amount, he attended the Arts course in the University of St. Andrews. By the sudden death of his godly father, heavy responsibilities devolved on him as the elder son in a large family. The affliction was blessed to him. A season of severe soul struggle ensued, but by the grace of God he emerged into the marvellous light. The experience acquired then helped him to deal with tenderest sympathy in after years with awakened and anxious souls.
At the close of his Arts course he became tutor in a family in Forfarshire, but very soon he was appointed to the parish school of Golspie. There he did a great work. In almost all the professions there are men who ascribe their success, under God, to the enthusiasm with which he inspired them. His success as a teacher during his eight years’ labours in Golspie led to his being consulted by the late Dr. Candlish regarding the highest educational position in our Church. In the time of his own first love and early zeal the spiritual welfare of his pupils had no secondary place in his aim and efforts.
In 1844 he was licensed as a preacher of the gospel. In August of the same year he was called to his native town by a small but devoted congregation, which had left the Established Church at the Disruption, and had been constituted into the Free North Church. He was ordained in November, and under his fresh and earnest ministry the membership of the congregation rapidly increased, necessitating the erection of a more commodious edifice.
Notwithstanding the proverbial disadvantages to which a ministry in one’s native town is exposed, Mr. Thomson throughout the long period of thirty-seven years won and retained the growing esteem and respect of his people. He was a man of accurate and extensive scholarship, of kind and genial nature, firm in his grasp of divine truth, and happy and eloquent in its illustration and enforcement. He was in full sympathy with all scriptural evangelistic movements, and gladly welcomed the visits to his flock of those whom the Lord had manifestly blessed.
In December 1878, when about to engage in the services of the sanctuary, he was seized with paralysis, and had to be removed from the pulpit. In consequence of this an application was made to the Assembly of 1879 for liberty to obtain a colleague, which was granted, and, greatly to his relief and comfort, the Rev. Wm. Roy was ordained as his colleague in November following. After prolonged weakness, borne with becoming Christian meekness and even cheerfulness, he fell asleep in Jesus.
Mr. Thomson was twice married. The second Mrs. Thomson and a son died during his last illness. He has left a family of five sons (the eldest of whom is the Rev. Jas. P. Thomson of Inverkip) and four daughters to cherish his memory.
REV. RICHMOND S. THOMSON, ARBIRLOT
(Died June 20, 1878)
Author: Rev. Andrew Inglis, Dundee
Source: The Free Church Monthly, September 2, 1878, Biographical Notices, p.212
On 20th June last this very estimable minister of the Free Church died at the comparatively early age of forty-seven.
Mr. Thomson was a native of Stirling. His father was a merchant there; and his mother was a daughter of the Rev. Robert Jaffray, the Seceder minister of Kilmarnock, a man distinguished in his day for his godliness and preaching power. Mrs. Thomson was well known and esteemed for her warm but unaffected piety. In his boyhood Mr. Thomson enjoyed the ministry of Dr. Beith, and often spoke of his obligations to him. He lost his parents in early life, after which he was educated in Dollar; and when his school-days were over, showing a turn for study, his attention was directed to the Free Church ministry, to which, from that time, he devoted himself. He studied in Edinburgh University, which he left an M.A. with honours, after having taken high places in the classes.
By this period in his history his mind was imbued with gospel truth, in which he was confirmed during his course of study in the Edinburgh Free Church divinity classes. At the time of his taking license to preach the gospel, he was acting as missionary at Cambusbarron, near Stirling. Afterwards for six months he assisted Dr. Julius Wood at Dumfries. Whilst there, on the death of Mr. Kirk, who was Dr. Guthrie’s successor at Arbirlot, he was chosen by that congregation to be their minister, and he was ordained there about twenty years ago.
Mr. Thomson, being genial and glowing, was very attractive as a friend and brother. As a minister he was greatly beloved. His preaching was of a superior order; the lucidity of his style was remarkable. Both voice and matter were clear and distinct, on which account his services were much relished both by his own people and by other congregations. He had a wonderful power of description, and sometimes indulged in a fine play of fancy. For the most part, however, these gifts were sparingly used, and his delight was to set forth the truth of Christ in Scriptural phrase and imagery. Pre-eminently “Christ and him crucified ” was the grand burden of his discourses.
Mr. Thomson had a high-strung nervous constitution, which told on a frame never robust. For many years his health was infirm. But for this, he would have been called to other spheres of labour of larger influence than the quiet country parish of Arbirlot. It was great kindness in the Lord of the vineyard giving him and continuing him in this comparative seclusion, where, among a living and indulgent people, his life and work were doubtless protracted.
A few years ago he, with Mrs. Thomson and his family, spent the winter in Cannes, having been appointed to take charge of the Free Church station there, according to the desire of the late Earl of Dalhousie. It is universally admitted that he occupied this post well. It was partly for the benefit of his elder daughter this change was undertaken. The sympathy and kindness of very many were elicited for the family when, before they left the south of France, this beloved daughter was removed from them.
From that time Mr. Thomson was able for easy work at home, more or less continuously up to the period of his removal. Death came at the last somewhat suddenly, but it found him ready for the change. He has gone to a fairer scene than even his much-loved home here, and to a higher service than the ministry of earth.
REV. SAMUEL THOMSON, PORTMOAK AND FLOCKHOUSE
(Died June 9, 1893)
Author: Rev. James Muir, B.D., Cowdenbeath
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, January, 1894, Obituary, p.17
Mr. Thomson was born at Edinburgh, and was educated first at the University and then at the New College in that city.
During his student days he gave much of his time and energy to home mission work, thus, as it were, striking the key-note of his life. He was a member of Viewforth Free Church, and was well known there, and much valued for his work, especially among the young, and in anxious inquiry meetings, in which his tact and ready sympathy gave him great success in guiding souls into the light.
In his second year he became assistant, as student-missionary, to the Rev. Peter Macainsh of Lochgelly. In that thriving town the Free Church’s mission to evangelize our mining population had already been fully recognized. All the machinery for effective home mission work was in thorough order, and Mr. Thomson at once supplemented with his whole energy all the pastor’s efforts to make it successful in winning souls. As his successor in Lochgelly, I had occasion to know that his labours were greatly blessed. Every one welcomed him to their homes, most of all when sickness or distress had fallen upon them. Between Mr. Macainsh and his student-assistant there existed throughout the most cordial sympathy and mutual respect— feelings which continued up to his death; for on the Sabbath after his funeral, Mr. Macainsh, who had seen him frequently during his illness, preached at Portmoak and Flockhouse, and paid a loving tribute to his memory.
In his last year at the New College, Mr. Thomson was elected to the post of junior missionary in the Pleasance by the suffrages of his fellow-students—a testimony in itself to the high respect in which he held by them. He left college for good in April 1886. At that date the small congregation at Portmoak were without a pastor, aud indeed almost without heart, on account of many reverses that had befallen them. The moderator of the kirk-session had found it difficult to get a man at once suited for the arduous work and willing to undertake it. Mr. Thomson knew the situation—for Lochgelly and Portmoak are almost contiguous—and in spite of all difficulties cheerfully consented to do his best for them. The congregation were delighted, and from that day everything flourished with them. Home mission work was next to impossible in the rapidly-diminishing rural population, but four miles off lies the mining district of Flockhouse, where such work was urgently demanded.
For five years and a half the young pastor spent himself for that people, being ably assisted by some of the Portmoak people. No effort was spared to make the work fruitful. And certainly it was not in vain. Many were brought in from among the lapsed, and by-and-by so considerable was the number of communicants at Flockhouse that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper had to be dispensed there alternately with Portmoak, and the small congregation budded into a double charge, under the name of Portmoak and Flockhouse. Though so far away from the centre, Flockhouse seemed to lack no part of church organization. For the children there were Sabbath school, Band of Hope, and singing classes. A Christian Association was organized for the young men and women. Cottage meetings were arranged, so as to carry the gospel to every hamlet or mining row in the neighbourhood. The life and soul of all this was the pastor himself, although his manse and a considerable part of his pastoral work were four miles distant.
A sudden paralysis fell upon all this activity by the unexpected illness and death of Mr. Thomson. When the news of his illness arrived, the whole population was stirred as one man. The latest intelligence was obtainable by telegram only at a distance of four to six miles, and was unwearyingly sought for by his anxious people. The Sabbath after his death was the communion, and the little church became a Bochim—a house of tears. Next day he was to be buried in Edinburgh, and many of them left everything to follow him to his grave in the city beside his mother. A large circle of ministerial and student friends joined with his family in paying the last respects unto their departed. He died as he had lived—quietly, and without observation. Yet his worth could not be hid, and many felt how true and sincere a friend had been taken from them as he was hid from their sight.
He was as free from ambition as he was full of kindly sympathy. His delight was to take up his Master’s cross. Much suffering had enabled him to enter most thoroughly into the experience of the sick—with whom he was a special favourite—but it had never deprived him of a brave and cheerful heart. All his work was thoroughly done, and he often laboured beyond his strength. Difficulties, instead of daunting him, only seemed to kindle anew the fires of determination in his soul. For many a day the living workers in his spheres of labour must gather the fruit of what the hand that is dead hath planted.
REV. DR. WILLIAM AIRD THOMSON, PERTH
The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, May 1, 1863
The venerable father of the Free Church departed this life on the 17th of March, in the ninety-first year of his age, and the sixty-second of his ministry. For at least twelve years he had laboured under great bodily infirmity, but he remained in the full enjoyment of his acute and vigorous mental faculties to the last. Dr. Thomson was born in 1773, at Sanquhar, of which parish his father, afterwards translated to Markinch, was then minister. He was ordained minister of Dalziel in 1801, and was translated to the Middle Church, Perth, in 1808. His brother, Andrew, was at the same time translated from Sprouston to the East Church of Perth. By a remarkable coincidence the presentations of the two brothers were laid on the table of the Presbytery on the same day. Dr. Andrew’s stay in Perth was short. He was translated to New Greyfriars’, Edinburgh, on the 21st of March 1810, and afterwards to St. George’s. His great career was prematurely cut short; but he left a name which, in Scotland at least, can never be forgotten. Dr. Thomson continued minister of the Middle Church, Perth, till the Disruption in 1813, when he retired with a large proportion of his attached congregation, and established the Free Middle congregation; of which, by reason of advancing years and declining strength, he retained the oversight for only a brief space. In 1845, the present esteemed minister of that congregation was associated with him as colleague and successor, and in a few months Dr. Thomson resigned the charge entirely into the hands of Mr. Dymock, renouncing, at the same time, all emoluments pertaining to the office.
In these days of zealous, faithful, earnest ministers, it may seem small praise to speak of Dr. Thomson as a zealous and earnest minister. But when we consider that what is now the rule was the exception in the early period of his ministry, the value of such qualities is vastly enhanced. The character of the Presbytery of Perth, when Dr. Thomson joined it in 1808, may be estimated from the fact that, only a few years before, it declared the erection of a chapel of ease to be inexpedient, although the churches of the city were proved at the time to be altogether inadequate to the accommodation of the community, although the erection of the chapel had the cordial concurrence of the senior minister of the parish, although the necessary arrangements had been made for its endowment, and although the building had been actually acquired by individuals who were deeply impressed with its necessity. Such was the icy atmosphere into which Dr. Thomson brought his youthful warmth and earnestness. It would have been little wonder had he been chilled down into the prevailing indifference. So much the greater is the honour due to him that, far from becoming cold himself, he did so much to warm and animate all about him.
Dr. Thomson was strongly evangelical in his doctrinal sentiments, and eminently practical in their application. The work of the ministry was not confined with him to the pulpit. He was sedulous in his care of the young and the sick, and was singularly felicitous in communicating instruction to the one and comfort to the other. He took a deep interest in the training of youth. He went earnestly into the establishment of Sabbath schools, and gave much attention to the training of teachers. He freely associated with Evangelical Dissenters for the advancement of religion and education, as well as of every charitable enterprise. He set up a high religious standard, and suffered not a little obloquy for its maintenance and defence. He fearlessly denounced and opposed what he believed to be wrong, or at variance with a consistent Christian walk and conversation. His name was prominently associated with almost every religious, educational, benevolent, and charitable enterprise in the city of Perth, and not a few such movements owed their origin to him. During a long series of years his benevolence and beneficence were proverbial. What he wished to be secret, it is not for others to proclaim; but this may be said, that his charities were not unfrequently conducted upon a scale of which there are but few examples.
In the great public questions of his time, Dr. Thomson always took a lively interest. He was the able, earnest, and energetic coadjutor of his distinguished brother in the famous Apocrypha controversy. He wrote copiously and ably upon that great question. He entered warmly into the Voluntary controversy, and wielded in it, too, a powerful and prolific pen. In the several Catholic discussions and controversies he felt a deep interest, and took an active part. From first to last, Dr. Thomson was an earnest, active, and able member of the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. He was for many years the soul and centre of the cause in Perth. He was the early and earnest advocate and friend of Missions, both Home and Foreign, of Church Extension, and of the enterprises of the Church. In the Non-Intrusion controversy he took a deep interest, and entertained and advocated liberal and enlightened views. His house was the hospitable home of all whose mission to the town was the good of the community and the advancement of Evangelical religion. Standing to a great extent alone, he was the very stay and strength in Perth for many a day of that cause with which he was identified. In 1835 he received the highest honour in the gift of the Church, being chosen moderator of the General Assembly.
Dr. Thomson was too active a man, and too faithful a working minister, to be much of a systematic author. But he did not by any means own an idle or ineffective pen. Most, however, of what he did in this way, he did anonymously. He published a Memoir of the Rev. Mr. Scott. He also published in 1814, in conjunction with Mr. Orme, a “History of the Circulation of the Scriptures.” He drew up the Statistical Account of Perth in the “New Statistical Account of Scotland,” a work in which he took a great interest, and in the execution of which he spared no pains. In connection with his classes he drew up some catechetical works,—one of which, the Sacramental Catechism, has been extensively used all over the country.
AN AFRICAN MISSIONARY VETERAN
REV. WILLIAM R. THOMSON
Author: Robert Young
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, August, 1891, Obituary, p.245
There has lately passed away from the missionary ranks in South Africa one whose life was for two generations somewhat of an inspiration. The minute adopted by the Foreign Missions Committee appeared in the July Monthly, but the unique character and work of the man call for a more extended notice.
William Thomson was born at Tarbolton, in Ayrshire, on 9th September 1794. His father was parish teacher there, but removed to Glasgow shortly after William’s birth. On leaving school, the latter entered Glasgow University; but after a time proceeded to London, with the view of devoting himself to commercial pursuits. Other and higher work, however, was in store for him. While in the that city, in 1811, being then in his seventeenth year, he heard the Rev. Alexander Fletcher, then the prince of preachers to children, preach a sermon on tbe occasion of the death of Dr. Vanderkemp. That sermon was the means of William Thomson’s conversion, and of awakening in him the desire to devote himself to the work of heathen evangelization. He forthwith quitted London, and resumed his studies in Glasgow. On their completion, having decided to go to South Africa, the field of Vanderkemp’s labours, and his services having been accepted by the Glasgow Missionary Society, Mr. Thomson, along with Mr. John Bennie, was, on 23rd January 1821, duly ordained.
It was intended that the two missionaries should accompany a body of Scottish emigrants to South Africa; but failing to be ready in time, they arranged to follow. Sad to tell, the vessel conveying the settlers—the Abeona—took fire, and a large number in consequence perished. When the news of the disaster reached this country, the directors of the Society were called together to consider what should be done. Some were of opinion that the calamity should be viewed as a providential indication that the missionary enterprise to Kafirland ought to be abandoned; but Dr. Love, the Society’s secretary, urged that the fact of the two missionaries having been prevented from accompanying the settlers was rather an intimation of God’s desire that the mission should be carried on. This counsel prevailed; and the two brethren set sail on 29th April, arriving at the Cape on 28th July, and at Gwali, on the banks of the Chumie, on 15th November. Here Mr. Thomson was welcomed by the Rev. John Brownlee, who had settled there as a missionary of the London Missionary Society during the previous year.
While engaged in missionary work at Gwali, Mr. Thomson acted also as Government Agent; and as it was the headquarters of Gaika, the paramount chief of the Kafirs, the relation of the missionary to the natives was to some extent compromised. His position becoming increasingly critical and uncomfortable, he resigned the Government appointment; and after certain other negotiations had fallen through, he was, in July 1830, on the invitation of Sir Andrew Stockenstrom, then Chief Commissioner, settled as minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at the Katberg, the Hottentot element being considerable. There for thirty-eight years he laboured in season and out of season, enduring all the hardships and losses incident to at least three Kafir wars, his house along with most of his property having been, on the last occasion (1850-51), entirely destroyed; and not until compelled by the infirmities of age, and after an unremitting missionary service of forty-seven years (during which lengthened period he never once thought of taking furlough), did he retire on Government pension from stated active work. This was in 1868. But it was only from the official charge of the pastorate that he sought relief. Indeed, he for many years after his retirement continued to minister from time to time to the people, besides doing not a little mission work after his removal to Balfour, a village in the immediate neighbourhood, where Mr. Thomson, along with the Rev. John Ross, had carried on missionary operations for a time previous to 1830, and which had been so named after a Glasgow minister, the first secretary of the Society. Increasing weakness necessitated his foregoing even this partial service.
Though from the time of his appointment to the Katberg Mr. Thomson occupied somewhat of an independent position, having no definite ecclesiastical connection beyond that which his connection with the Dutch Church gave him, it is well known that during the “Ten Years’ Conflict” he was in full sympathy with the party which eventually adhered to the Free Church, and that while entirely free of any taint of sectarianism, he yet from the time of the Disruption to the close of his long life was ever, as by a kind of spiritual instinct, drawn to the Church which, as he himself expressed it, was zealous alike “in its struggle for spiritual freedom and its efforts for the spread of the gospel in heathen lands.” So strongly indeed did he identify himself with that Church that, though never at any time officially connected with it, he felt and wrote as if he had been all along one of the Church’s missionaries. Thus in 1889, when acknowledging a letter and gift of books sent by the Foreign Missions Committee as a token of regard, he wrote: “Please to assure the Committee that I have received this recognition of my connection with them, with the liveliest gratitude,” etc.
The mission-field has never had a more devoted labourer, and few have had more varied experiences than the subject of this brief sketch. Some one playfully remarked to me that cats are said to have nine lives, but that Mr. Thomson seemed to have had nineteen—he had made so many hairbreadth escapes. The last with which I am acquainted occurred, I think, in 1887, when he accidentally fell into the river near to his house. The current carried him down, and the wonder is that he was not drowned. Though at the time in his ninety-third year, he, with somewhat of the energy of his youthful days, managed to scramble up the bank, shook himself dog-like, walked home, and was none the worse of the wetting.
In a letter received in October last, acknowledging a birth-day remembrance, when referring to his health, he stated: “I can only say that I reckon myself in the position of a day-labourer, and scarcely even that, for there is nothing I can put my hands to—only to look on. Long since I was wont to think that if God should spare me to reach the threescore years and ten it would satisfy me. But he has given me more—I sometimes wonder why. My faculties are failing me. Even speaking is becoming burdensome.” He continued gradually to decline, and on 4th May he passed to his rest and reward, when within a few months of the ripe age of ninety-seven, and after seventy years of devoted service in Africa. His death-bed was eminently peaceful, happy, and triumphant. Besides ministers of other denominations, the Rev. J. Durant Philip, Rev. W. J. B. Moir, and Mr. Wm. Bennie from Lovedale, were present at the funeral to give expression to the unfeigned regard in which the deceased was held not only by them, but by all their missionary brethren. Mr. Thomson has left a widow and daughters to mourn his departure.
REV. JAMES THORNTON, MILNATHORT
(Died September 3, 1874)
Author: Rev. James Cullen
The Free Church Monthly, January 1, 1875, p.17
This worthy minister of God was born in Glasgow on the 24th of December 1791, and died at his own residence on the 3rd of September last, in the eighty-third year of his age. His godly parents were “Old Light Seceders;” and as he was their only surviving son, they had a strong desire that he should become a minister of the gospel. With this view he was early sent to the College of Glasgow, and there he prosecuted his studies with diligence and success. At first he had not a decided preference for the ministry; but one Sabbath he was very seriously impressed with the sermon of the eminent minister under whom he sat, the Rev. William Watson, and then and there he devoted himself to the service of God, and began in earnest to prepare for the important work to which his parents had devoted him. Having finished his classical curriculum, he entered the Divinity Hall at Cumbernauld, under the care of the Rev. George Hill, who at that time was the professor of the body to which he belonged. He was licensed to preach the gospel by the Associate Presbytery of Glasgow when he was twenty-three years of age; and on the 27th of August 1816 he was ordained as minister of the congregation at Milnathort, by whom he was much and justly esteemed. He continued to discharge all the duties of his office very faithfully and with considerable success, as long as he had health and strength; but at last, feeling that he was unable to do all that he thought should be done, he engaged a probationer, at his own expense, to assist him in his work. Eventually be obtained a colleague, and then he was entirely relieved of the charge of the congregation; but as he delighted to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation, he still gave his services to the churches in the neighbourhood when he was asked, and they were highly appreciated. Many still speak with delight of his masterly and singularly rich gospel sermons, and the serious impression which his earnest and faithful preaching left upon their minds. A few years ago, however, a stroke of paralysis utterly unfitted him for such work, and then he altogether retired. When hisjubilee was celebrated, several of his friends came from a distance to manifest their respect for him; and on that occasion his high character as a minister of the gospel, and his kindness and hospitality as a friend, were acknowledged by all. He was anxious for the welfare of every one; but he was particularly attentive to all students and probationers, and did everything he could to help and encourage them. It was the custom of the ministers of the body to which he then belonged to accommodate their preachers with lodging when travelling from place to place; and when any of them came to him for that purpose, he always made them welcome, and in every manner of way provided for their comfort. The writer of this notice has frequently seen two and sometimes three probationers in his dwelling at the same time, not only for a day, but for a whole week, enjoying his hospitality, and benefiting by his valuable instructions. Being an “Original Seceder,” he rejoiced in the reformation of the Church of Scotland, and longed for the time when the appeal which his fathers had made to the first free, faithful, and reforming General Assembly would be taken up, when their grievances would be redressed, the purpose of the secession would be served, and a door opened for their return. That happy day came in his time; and accordingly, in 1839, he and the Associate Synod to which he belonged were not only invited back, but cordially received into the bosom of the Established Church; and there he remained till 1843, when, believing that it was then thoroughly Erastianized, he unhesitatingly left it and cast in his lot with those who constituted the Free Church. It is right to state, however, that he still continued to hold the opinion that the civil establishment of religion is a doctrine of the Bible, and, consequently, one which ought to be maintained at all times and in all circumstances. His death was very sudden. After having returned from his usual short walk in the forenoon of the 3rd of September last, without making any complaint, and while conversing with two gentlemen who had come to speak to him on some family business, he fell back upon his chair and expired in a moment. Living near to God, and, as it were, in the atmosphere of heaven, his whole life was remarkably calm and serene, and the closing scene was so short and so entirely free from pain, that it may well be said he did not taste of death at all. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.”
REV. ALEXANDER TODD, HAMPDEN
(Died February 10, 1887)
Author: Rev. R. Howie, M.A., Govan
Source: The Free Church Monthly, July, 1887, Biographical Notice, p.213
Mr. Todd was born 13th October 1845, at Moniaive, Dumfriesshire, of pious parents, and had in him much of the spirit of the Covenanters, from whom he was lineally descended. At the age of twelve years he was brought under serious impressions, which in due time resulted in his resolving to leave the trade of mason (in which, following the example of his father, he had bean engaged), and to devote himself entirely to the service of Christ in the gospel ministry. Having assisted in the erection of the material fabric of the Glasgow University on Gilmorehill, and attended evening classes as he did so, in which he gave proof of great force of character and excellent gifts, he afterwards had a peculiar satisfaction in completing his Arts curriculum in the same buildings. As a student he took a creditable place in his classes, notwithstanding the fact that he was twenty-two years of age before he entered the university.
As missionary, first in the New Wynd in connection with the Bridgegate Free Church, and thereafter in connection with Renfield Free Church and St. Mary’s Free Church, Govan, he was enabled, while prosecuting his studies, first at the university and then at the Glasgow Free Church College, to take part in the work which lay nearest his heart—that, namely, of winning souls to the Saviour. In these several spheres of labour he so approved himself a devoted and successful home missionary, that the General Assembly of 1870 authorized the Presbytery of Glasgow to ordain him as a missionary to Madras although he still required another year of theological study to complete the curriculum prescribed by the Church.
His matured powers, his pre-eminent fitness for such work as that to which he was appointed, the many manifest tokens of the Lord’s blessing which had rested on his varied labours in the home field, as well as the urgent need that existed at that particular juncture for prompt relief being sent to the overburdened missionaries in India, led to the adoption of this unusual course.
Mr. Todd was set apart, not for educational work in the Central Institution, but for preaching and direct evangelistic work among the English and English-speaking educated natives, and especially among those who had passed through our mission schools and colleges, and, having received a large amount of Bible instruction, were more or less moulded by its influence. He entered on his work with great enthusiasm, and in the confident expectation that by following up good impressions thus made on the minds of the young men during their course of study, he would immediately be privileged to reap a great harvest in the form of conversions. He soon discovered, however, that while the young men of India are eager enough to take advantage of the facilities given them by the Church for acquiring a good English education, and thus fitting themselves for government and other lucrative appointments; while, so long as they are in the schools and colleges, they may not be unwilling to listen respectfully to what is said to them by their teachers and professors in regard to the truths of the gospel, especially if they are not thereby unduly hindered from obtaining proficiency in those secular subjects which are alone taken into account in the examination for university degrees; and while in some cases there may be serious and even saving impressions produced through the Bible instructions thus received in missionary educational institutions—it is nevertheless true that a large proportion of those who enter such institutions never do so with the view of receiving Bible instruction, never take kindly to it, and are not prepared to continue to receive it after they have graduated, especially at the hands of one who has not been brought into contact with them during their course of study. And then, to add to his difficulties, he found that of the students who receive Bible instruction in our mission schools and colleges in the Presidency seats the greater number, on completing their curriculum, either return to the country districts from which they originally came, or receive appointments in other parts of India, so that in either case they were beyond the reach of his influence.
He gave that kind of work a fair trial, and as he did so—holding one series of evangelistic meetings after another, visiting from house to house, and, as he puts it in one of his letters, “lifting up Christ in season and out of season”—there were not awanting some tokens that his labours were not in vain in the Lord. “We have spoken,” he says, “to many of the young men individually; and while we cannot speak of decided results, such as conversion, still some are in a hopefully-earnest state. Now and again I have young men calling upon me in the early morning to speak about Christ, and I have besides been visiting some who would not come out to the meetings.”
But while he thus had some encouragement as he continued to carry out his instructions by seeking to do evangelistic work, through the medium of the English language, among educated natives who had left the Institution, he soon became convinced that if he was to be as much used as he desired to be in promoting the evangelization of India, he must adopt other methods. He saw clearly that if he was to be in a position for successfully following up any good impressions made on the young men who studied in the Institution, he must come into closer contact with them during their course of study, and must have evangelistic meetings in the Institution itself, at hours regularly set apart for that purpose, and receiving the sanction and encouragement of the teachers and professors, when, by direct appeal to the heart and conscience, he could seek to urge instant decision for Christ on those who had become otherwise intellectually informed as to his claims. If that could not be done in harmony with the demands made on the time and energies of the students, with a view to their proficiency in secular subjects, and with the arrangements otherwise made for giving Bible instruction, he felt that he had no alternative but to ask that he be transferred to some other sphere of labour, where by acquiring a knowledge of the vernacular, he could deal not merely with the educated portion of the natives, but with the masses of the people, telling them in their mother-tongue the glad tidings of great joy which are for all people. This latter method the more commended itself to him, because he saw that there would be little hope for the millions of India if their conversion was to be dependent on their acquiring the higher education and a knowledge of the English language.
Accordingly, after a brief period of service in Madras, during which he secured the esteem and confidence of all with whom he was brought into contact, he, with the sanction of the Foreign Missions Committee, transferred his labours to Chingleput, a district some distance from Madras. There he laid the foundations of that evangelistic mission which has since prospered so greatly under the supervision of the Rev, A. Andrew.
In a sphere so congenial, we all looked forward to a career of great usefulness for one so singularly devoted, and so eager to win souls to Christ. But God had other service in store for him. He was soon compelled to leave India for the sake of his own and Mrs. Todd’s health. He returned to Scotland after having been only two years and a half in the foreign mission field.
On the few occasions on which he was able to preach after his return, his fervent appeals showed that though the flesh was weak the spirit was very willing. In great physical prostration, he lived, as it were, on the borderland of heaven; and as he spoke fearlessly of death and joyously of the home with God beyond, and was very willing to depart and be with Christ, his only regret was that he had not done more for Christ, and any desire he had for prolonged life arose from his longing to be the means of winning more souls to Christ.
Suffering from lung disease, and failing to gather strength in Scotland, he was urged to go to New Zealand in search of health. The friends who parted with him as he sailed for that country in 1882, although hoping that the ravages of disease might be arrested, had little expectation that he would again be able to engage in his much-loved work of publicly preaching the gospel. But so beneficial was the change that, though still far from strong, he was able in December 1883 to begin work in North-East Valley.
Thereafter he was called to the pastorate of the Hampden congregation. Of the fidelity with which he there discharged his duties as evangelist and pastor, and of the blessing that attended his unwearied labours in this new sphere, there is ample proof. Soon after he was settled in the congregation, a most encouraging work of grace began, the first subjects of a saving change being some young men, avowed freethinkers, who turned up in his Bible class, and sought to disturb it by openly cavilling at what he said, but who, yielding to his gentle persuasion, afterwards met with him in private, and were ultimately led to decide for Christ. That was one illustration of the singular tact and delicacy with which, both at home and abroad, he dealt with individuals about their eternal interests.
Mr. Todd was married to a like-minded wife—Miss Jane Goldie, also a native of Dumfriesshire—by whom he had three children, all of whom were “gathered home” before their father. Much sympathy is felt for Mrs. Todd, who is in poor health, and has been left alone and desolate as a widow in a foreign land.
REV. ALEXANDER TOMORY
(Died 16 July, 1895)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, September, 1895, p.213
The news of the death of the Rev. Alexander Tomory, which took place at Constantinople on the sixteenth of July, was somewhat unexpected. He had been visibly failing for some weeks before the end came, but up to the morning of the day he died there was no expectation of any immediate change. “There was no real illness,” says Dr. Hannington, “but pure physical exhaustion. His end was peace, and he has entered into his well-earned rest.”
Mr. Tomory was born at Weisskirchen in Moravia on May 23, 1818. He left home at the age of fourteen, on account of the incompatibility of his religious views with those of the household, and went to Brunn, where he taught while completing his education at the local gymnasium. Thence he proceeded to Keczkemet, where he took his arts course; and on completing that he became a medical student at Pesth, where during his first or second session he was, through the instrumentality of the Rev. William Wingate, one of our missionaries there, brought to the knowledge of Jesus. Then he was brought to Edinburgh, and studied in the New College. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1847, and arrived at Constantinople about Christmas of the same year. He was ordained in 1858. From the former date till 1863 he was stationed at Hasskeui, three miles up the Golden Horn; and from 1863 till his death, at Galata.
At Hasskeui his work was educational at first. Then he preached on Sundays in Spanish, and later in the day in English to the Scottish engineers employed at the arsenal. His linguistic gifts made it possible for him to speak and preach in seven languages. Though he employed chiefly three—namely, German, English, and Spanish—yet he not infrequently preached in Italian and French. He was highly respected by both the English and the German communities in Constantinople. For the latter he often performed marriages, baptisms, and funerals, and he conducted the services at the German Embassy chapel for more than one period when the chaplain was absent on furlough. The poor and distressed came to him for advice and help. He was earnestly devoted to all the parts of the mission work. His constant and painstaking superintendence of things; his careful book-keeping, which he attended to with almost punctilious zeal; and his concentration of mind on his work till he had hardly time to think of the ordinary interests of life—these are conspicuous in his record. But no part of his work was dearer to his heart or more fully called forth his best powers than that which bore directly on the welfare of Israel and the winning of the ancient people to the obedience of Christ. The young men who were inquirers in earnest, having learned to love the servant, were in many cases induced to give their hearts to the Master. His wonderful appositeness of reasoning with Jewish inquirers, and his use of the Old Testament as a preparation for Christ, his eloquent preaching, his fervent prayers, and his self-consuming zeal will long be remembered by those who came in contact with him or watched his work; and few Jewish missionaries have had the satisfaction of admitting into the fellowship of the Church of Christ so many converts. After a service of nearly fifty years, this good old man died in harness, leaving the fruit of his labours and the example of his devotion as a heritage to those who shall after him carry on the work of the mission.
Mr. Tomory was married in 1859 to Miss Caroline Kay, who had gone from Aberdeen to join the mission in 1856. Mrs. Tomory died in January 1893. They have left three sons, one of whom is on the staff of our mission college at Calcutta. Dr. and Mrs. Hannington were to the Tomorys like son and daughter, and ministered to them in their last hours with skilful and affectionate assiduity.
Obituary: Author: His son
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1895, Obituary, p.295
Alexander Tomory was born at Weisskirchen in Moravia on May 23, 1818. He was the eldest son of a well-to-do family. Early in life he developed independent modes of thinking on religious subjects, and at the age of fourteen left his father’s house in order to earn his own livelihood because he could no longer hold consistently the tenets of his ancestral faith. He met with kindness, got teaching at Brünn while he was himself learning, and then went to the Hungarian College of Keczkemet for his arts course. His certificates show that he was a diligent and successful student while there, as he received high commenndation from his professors, one of whom practically adopted him. After completing his arts course he proceeded to Pesth to study medicine. Here occurred the crisis of his life. Up to this time he had been a religious student without a faith. He had rejected Judaism, which in turn had cast him out, and he had not yet become a Christian. But early in 1843 the Spirit came to him in the preaching of Mr. Wingate at Pesth, and he was baptized in that year. Along with Edersheim and Saphir he came to Scotland, where he studied theology in the New College under Chalmers and the other men who manned the college in its first session. During part at least of his course he lived in the house of “Rabbi” Duncan, and his thoughts were moulded by that genius.
In autumn 1847 he was appointed a missionary to Constantinople, and he landed there on Christmas Day 1847, as probationer licensed by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, but not ordained.
At that time the Free Church had two stations in Constantinople—one at Galata, where the language was German, and the audience German and Polish Jews; and the other at Hasskeui, where the Spanish Jews chiefly reside, and where mission work was carried on in Spanish. It was to Hasskeui that Mr. Tomory went, and here he taught in the school during the week, and on Sabbaths preached in the morning in Spanish to the Jews, in the forenoon in English to the Scotch engineers and their families (who then worked in the Imperial Arsenal and lived at Hasskeui), and often in the afternoon he went in to Galata (two miles away) to preach in German to the mission congregation. In 1858, after eleven years’ work, and after having declined pressing invitations to revisit Scotland, Mr. Tomory returned to Scotland, and was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh. On his return to Hasskeui in 1859, he was married to Miss Caroline Kay, who had gone out from Aberdeen in 1856 to join the mission staff at Hasskeui. In 1803 he was transferred to Galata on the. departure of Rev. Rudolf Koenig for Pesth.
His special work in recent years was dealing with inquirers, preaching twice every Sabbath in German, and once during the week, besides conducting an evening class for young Jews who wanted to learn the elements of education. Besides, there was an almost interminable round of duties in connection with the supervision of the mission and the keeping of its varied accounts. Outside of the consuming details of mission work, he more than once conducted the services in the German Embassy chapel during the furlough of the regular chaplain. For these and other services rendered to the German community, Mr. Tomory received the formal thanks of the Foreign Department of the German Imperial Government. Among his papers is a document signed by a German Imperial cabinet minister, conveying the thanks of his department for services rendered. At an earlier period he was appointed honorary chaplain to the Dutch Embassy at Constantinople, and received the thanks of the Dutch Government for services rendered. But his work was his life in more senses than one. It must have been an effort in concentration for a man of his varied gifts and of distinct literary and linguistic proclivities to devote himself as he did heart and soul to the often monotonous details of mission work. His highest ambition was to be faithful in his duty to his Master, and he was more than content to leave the judgment of his work to the Master whom he felt to be so near him. His rigid modesty prevented him from leaving any sketch of an autobiographic nature, or even a personal account of his religious experiences. To him they were too sacred for utterance. But one could almost wish for the sake of Jewish missions that he had left on record some such account, which might have been used as an appeal to thinking Jews to find their home in Christianity. If one adjective were to be used to describe the work of Alexander Tomory, it is the word faithful; and as events have proved, his wish was gratified, and he continued at his loved work to the end. On the day before he and his beloved colleagues and attendants—Dr. And Mrs. Hannington—were to start for the country for the summer rest, the Lord called His aged servant, worn with labours abundant, into His eternal rest. There is something touching in this coincidence. The season of work was over, the annual rest had come—but not for him: for him there came unexpectedly, yet most gently, the Angel of Death to summon him to the gladness of the Father’s house, to his rest and reward.
Already colleagues and converts have expressed their sense of loss. And when the news reaches distant parts where those converts are now scattered, the chorus of their testimony will doubtless find expression in the words, “Faithful unto death.”
He now lies in the Protestant cemetery at Ferikeui, by the side of his life-long helper and partner, who died only two years before him. And now together they rejoice in the presence of Him whom they served so long together in Constantinople.
REV. ALEXANDER TOPP, D.D., TORONTO
Author: Rev. R. Cowan, Elgin
Source: The Free Church Monthly, April 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.98
Alexander Topp was born at Sheriffmill, near Elgin, in 1814, and received his early education at Elgin Academy. He thereafter studied at Aberdeen, where his place from the first was a distinguished one. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Elgin in 1836; and in 1838, whilst still under twenty-four years of age, was ordained as junior minister of the collegiate charge of Elgin. Soon after his settlement, on the translation of his colleague, he became senior minister. Probably never was minister anywhere more popular than was Mr. Topp at Elgin. He had been so as assistant before his ordination, and he continued to be so throughout the whole fourteen years of his ministry there.
At the Disruption, almost the entire congregation of Elgin joined Mr. Topp in adherence to the Free Church, and thereafter continued so to increase, that although the first Free Church had been built to accommodate twelve hundred, a second to hold eight hundred had in a few years to be erected. For some years, both before and after 1843, Mr. Topp’s labours were immense. He was the natural Free Church leader of Morayshire, and he quite rose to the height of the occasion. Both in fighting the Free Church battle,—which he did with all firmness and fidelity, and with all meekness of wisdom,—and in consolidating and extending the Church, he did at that epoch noble service. As one residing in the borders of the county observed recently in a note to the writer, “To no man was the Free Church more indebted for its prestige and prosperity in these parts than to Mr. Topp of Elgin.”
In 1852 Mr. Topp was translated to Roxburgh Church, Edinburgh, the excessive strain of his work at Elgin rendering change, as he felt, necessary. Although only six years in Edinburgh, yet he made his mark there too. His experience in Church business rendered him a most valuable member of Presbytery; and Roxburgh Church under him flourished and increased, being in particular a rallying centre for the immigrants, always numerous in Edinburgh, from Morayshire and neighbourhood. His lamented death has brought out some remarkable proofs of the esteem and love in which he was held by office-bearers and members of Roxburgh Church, and of the good effected through his ministry there.
But in 1858 Mr. Topp saw it to be his duty to accept a twice-tendered call to Knox Church, Toronto, as successor to the venerable Dr. Burns. No one who has visited Canada can doubt that, however important Mr. Topp’s previous labours, Canada was yet his great field of usefulness. He could not cease to be the preacher of the gospel and the pastor in Toronto, and indeed he soon raised the membership of Knox Church from three hundred to seven hundred; but it was as a Churchman and Christian citizen, as a leader in the important Union and other movements in Canada, and a zealous promoter of the religious welfare of the Dominion generally, that Dr. Topp’s influence was there so beneficially felt. His abilities and experience, his singleness of eye, and the fine combination in him of sense and suavity, tact and truth, made him a God-sent man to Canada for its special necessities during the last twenty years, and corresponding is the lamentation throughout Canada for his removal.
Dr. Topp was twice Moderator of Assembly in Canada, once before the last union there formed, and again after. On several occasions he revisited this country; and it was on one of these occasions, in 1870, that the University of Aberdeen conferred on him, of its own motion, the degree of D.D. His last visit was in the summer of last year, and he then preached, with all his accustomed vigour, what proved to be his last sermon. It was in his old church at Elgin, and was from the text, “His name shall endure for ever,” &c. (Ps. 72:17). Symptoms of heart disease had shown themselves before this, and became aggravated on his return home. He, however, made the address to the Princess Louise at Toronto, on occasion of her laying the memorial stone of a home for incurables, an institution of which he had been a chief promoter. This was his last service of a public kind. On October 6th he went with Mrs. Topp to visit a sick parishioner. On arrival at the house he felt faint, and had to recline on the sofa; and there, before medical assistance could be obtained, and before the return of Mrs. Topp, who had gone out to procure some remedies for him, he “was not, for God took him.” Just before leaving home he had drafted a minute relative to the death of one of his office-bearers, in one sentence of which he says, “How solemn and powerful the lesson to all his fellow office-bearers—’Work while it is day, the night cometh!'” and of which the closing words are, “If we-believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
REV. ROBERT TRAILL, LL.D., BOYNDIE
Author: Rev. W. Ingram, A.M., Rothiemay
Source: The Free Church Monthly, July 1, Biographical Notices, p.174
The subject of this notice was born in the parish of Panbride, of which his father was minister, in February 1805. He could trace his descent to the Traills of Blebo, Fifeshire, two of whom suffered in persecuting times— father and son—the father having been imprisoned in the Castle of Edinburgh, and afterwards banished for life; and the son, a selection from whose practical writings was published by the Free Church, having been condemned to imprisonment in the loathsome dungeon of the Bass. The father had attended Argyle to the scaffold, and the son stood by James Guthrie in his last moments. After the usual preparatory studies, Robert Traill entered the University of St. Andrews, where he took a high place among his fellow-students, among whom were Dr. Duff, the eminent missionary, and the gifted and excellent Dr. Anderson, of the Aberdeen Gymnasium, whom he succeeded in his charge as a minister. After license, he became assistant to his father, and at the Disruption unhesitatingly ranked himself among those who testified for the Headship of Christ. He was ordained, on the unanimous call of the people, to the congregation of Boyndie, where he laboured for twenty-two years. As a preacher, his discourses were richly charged with evangelical truth—doctrinal, practical, and experimental in due proportion—elegant and vigorous in style, earnest in manner, and faithful throughout; in short, fitted to convert sinners and edify saints. Christ was ever the centre subject. As a pastor he was unremitting in his attentions, his intercourse with his people being marked by a kindliness which won their affections, and the whole enforced by an example modelled after that of the Great Master. A man of unbending integrity, he was scrupulously exact in all business transactions. He combined the attributes of the Christian minister with those of the Christian gentleman.
His generous nature and that of his accomplished and Christian wife, alas! now a widow, were conspicuous in their numerous acts of beneficence, some of them well known, others only known to the recipients. Mr. Traill gave considerable attention to natural philosophy, and in connection with certain lectures which he delivered on a branch of it, had the degree of LL.D. conferred on him. Compelled by failing health, he retired from his charge on the appointment of an able and efficient colleague—the Rev. W. Anderson. After travelling on the Continent for some years, where his catholic spirit was much refreshed by intercourse with Christ’s people of other churches, Dr. Traill settled in London, and became an elder in the congregation of Dr. Saphir, where he rendered valuable service. Laid down to die, he never lost his sense of interest in the Saviour whom he preached, and gave expression to it in short and emphatic responses. At last, as one said who knew him best, “his life-day closed like a sweet, calm summer evening.” Entered into rest, his memory is affectionately cherished by many friends—and he himself was a true friend—and by the congregation among whom the Lord gave testimony to his labours.
REV. JAMES TREADWELL, M.A., WANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND
(Died January 11, 1897)
Author: Rev. Robert G. Balfour, D.D.
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, July, 1897, Obituary, p.171
The Rev. James Treadwell, though he died a minister of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, is worthy of some brief notice in The Free Church Monthly. At an early period of life he consecrated himself to the Christian ministry in connection with the Free Church of Scotland. In 1859, he was licensed by the Free Presbytery of Blairgowrie. Being at that time far from robust, he went for the sake of his health to Australia, where he was ordained to the charge of Balmoral. After a ministry of a few years there, he returned to Scotland, where he was settled as pastor of the Free Church congregation at Stevenston in Ayrshire. There he laboured devotedly for nine years. But those who knew him best were persuaded that he had not found among the miners of Stevenston the sphere for which he was precisely fitted by his peculiar gifts and qualifications. For he was a man of culture and refinement, capable of edifying the most intellectual congregation, but hardly adapted to the rough work required in a mining district.
About this time the Rev. J. Elmslie was translated from Wanganui, in the northern part of New Zealand, to Christchurch, on the opposite side of Cook Strait. Our Colonial Committee having been requested to look out for a successor, selected Mr. Treadwell as the most suitable man they could find. Closing with the call thus addressed to him, Mr. Treadwell went out with his wife and family to New Zealand, and was inducted to the charge of Wanganui in November 1876. For twenty years he laboured there faithfully, and with much acceptance. His preaching was of a high order, his pastoral labours were abundant, and he took a deep interest in the educational and social questions of his time. He also took his share in ecclesiastical work, and being a man of exact scholarship, was specially helpful in preparing examination papers for the students.
Leading men in North Island, such as Mr. Paterson of Wellington and Mr. Sidey of Napier, bear testimony to his lovable character and to the value of his services, both to the colony and to the church. In the midst of severe suffering, borne with exemplary patience, he dictated a most solemn and affectionate letter to his people, which was read to them by Mr. Paterson at the close of the funeral sermon, and made a deep impression on all who heard it. His death has made a blank which will not easily be supplied; but “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
REV. WILLIAM TULLO, ROSE STREET, GLASGOW
(Died October 10, 1883)
Author: Rev. R.C. Smith, Glasgow
Source: The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1884, Biographical Notices, p.53
Mr. Tullo was born in Dundee on 14th June 1821, and was educated in that town. After the usual course of study he was licensed to preach the gospel. The first sphere in which he laboured statedly was the parish of Cambuslang. Before his going there as a probationer, several attempts to form a congregation in connection with the Free Church had failed. Under Mr. Tullo’s faithful and earnest labours this was successfully accomplished; a congregation was gathered and a church erected. About the time when the charge was sanctioned he received a call to engage in similar work at Smethwick, near Birmingham, where he was ordained minister of the English Presbyterian congregation formed there in 1856. Not long after, in consequence of circumstances connected with the trade of the district, over which, of course, he had no control, a large proportion of the people had to leave the locality, and it became impossible to continue that charge. He then returned to Scotland, and after being engaged for a time as assistant in High Church, Paisley; West Church, Perth; and St. Matthew’s, Glasgow, he received a harmonious call to the Free Church of Slamannan, and was settled there in 1861. In this sphere, for thirteen years, he laboured much in the Lord. Besides all the usual work of the congregation, he was much engaged in visiting and holding meetings in the mining villages all around, and took a warm interest in every effort for the good of the non -churchgoing population. There can be no doubt that his labours in Slamannan were attended by blessing from on high. The congregation increased in numbers and in earnestness, and there were not a few marked and memorable cases in which, so far as man can judge, persons had their eyes opened and were turned unto God. Of these some have fallen asleep, others remain serving the Lord in various ways.
In November 1874 Mr. Tullo was transferred to Rose Street, Glasgow. The congregation formerly worshipping there having removed to a different locality, the Presbytery resolved to carry on mission work with a view to the gathering of another. Mr. Tullo was invited to undertake this arduous work. After not a little difficulty and sorrow at the thought of leaving the people of Slamannan, who gave full expression of their great attachment and desire that he should remain with them, he saw it his duty to comply with the call. He began in an empty place. A few excellent elders and people belonging to other congregations no doubt gave valuable assistance; but he had literally none of his own when he began. The size and state of the congregation now bear witness to the measure of success in gathering and organizing which has attended his devoted work, and, as elsewhere, there have not been wanting tokens that real spiritual fruit has been gathered to life eternal.
He was most heartily attached to the doctrines and principles of the Free Church, and took a fair share of public duties in church courts, committees, and otherwise. But his great work was in his congregation and district. His preaching was earnest, affectionate, and faithful: while seeking to give due prominence to every part of revealed truth— not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God—he set forth fully our utterly lost state in Adam, the necessity of atonement and regeneration, and delighted to dwell on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Surety and Substitute, and to beseech men to be reconciled to God.
In visiting he was most laborious, often going out at night in all weathers that he might personally deal with young men and others whom he could not find during the day. As a pastor he was peculiarly tender and sympathetic among the afflicted, and in dealing with cases of spiritual concern. In all his spheres of labour the children and young people were special objects of his interest and care.
Nearly a year ago symptoms of his painful trouble began to appear, and since February he had been almost entirely unfit for public duty. He seemed to improve a little in April and May, and was able to preach three or four times. He then cherished some hope that he might recover, and that, as on a former occasion at Slamannan, after recovery from a severe illness, he might see special tokens of power among his people; but the Lord had determined that his work on earth was now nearly ended. He often suffered great pain, but was enabled to show the power of sustaining grace in the exercise of patience and submission to the divine will, with respect both to the amount of suffering and the issue. He felt it a solemn thing to die, and sometimes spoke of great sin and shortcoming, but was enabled to rest on the finished work.
On the last Sabbath of his life—7th October —a message was read to his people, in which he reminded them of the great concerns of their souls, and solemnly and affectionately bade them farewell. After two days more of great weakness and suffering, he passed away in the spirit of the last sentence but one of his farewell message to his people: “The precious blood of Jesus and his righteousness are my only ground of hope in appearing before him.”
REV. CHARLES L.C. TULLOCH, LIVINGSTONE
(Died 31st October 1874)
Author: Rev. J.C. MacPhail, Pilrig
The Free Church Monthly, February 1, 1875, p.45
Mr. Tulloch was the elder son of the Rev. W. Tulloch, minister of the parish of Dallas, in the county of Moray, and he was born there on the 27th of June 1825. In 1839 he entered King’s College, Aberdeen. A gentleman who became acquainted with him then for the first time, and now occupies a foremost place in his own profession in the second city of the empire, gives the following interesting particulars regarding him in those early years. “He was my dearest, my oldest, my most trusted friend. Thirty-five years ago we stood beside each other for the first time in the large hall at King’s College, Aberdeen, as successful competitors for bursaries. He was then only fifteen years of age, tall, slender, handsome, attractive. No one who saw him, and knew the generous, noble, almost chivalrous impulses of his nature, wondered that he had selected the army as his profession for life. He looked to India as a sphere for his talents; and there no doubt he would have added another to the great roll of distinguished officers who have sacrificed selfish interests to the calls of duty and patriotism. He was destined, however, for a higher than even an Indian service, and was early brought to enlist under the great Captain of our salvation. During the summer of 1812, he and I were lodged under the roof of a most godly man in Forres; and one day, while we were engaged in some athletic exercises, Charles stood up before our landlord, who himself had been in the army and asked him in playful tones whether he would not be a handsome soldier. The old man, looking wistfully, and I have no doubt prayerfully, into his face, said, ‘Ay, but are you converted yet, Charles?’ These simple words entered his heart, and often has he told me that they continued to sound in his ears, until, some time afterwards, probably less than a year, he was enabled consciously to accept Christ as his individual Saviour. No special means seem to have been employed for this end. One Sabbath morning, I think, when walking to church, there was presented to him such a view of the love of Christ, that he said to himself, ‘This is so glorious, so full, so free, that it is worth while sacrificing all things for Him who hath so loved me. I shall give up all idea of the army, and prepare to preach the gospel of Christ.’ The decision then formed was faithfully carried into effect. The surrender made that morning was never recalled.”
At the time of the Disruption, Mr. Tulloch adhered to those who left the Established Church. That decision alienated from him some to whom he was naturally most dear, and it deprived him of the patronage of other relations who could very easily have placed him in due time in one of the beautiful parochial manses of his native county. There are perhaps few men now in the ministry of the Free Church who sacrificed, in view of these things, more than Mr. Tulloch for adherence to her principles. He was called to the congregation at Livingstone in 1851. When settled there he found the church a building of the plainest possible description, and there was no manse of any kind. But he was possessed of not a little talent for business; his courteous bearing also gave him influence with many in the higher walks of life, and he was thus enabled after some years to erect a church and a manse, which he has left free from debt, and an ornament to the village in which he lived. From the very first his ministrations were not confined to the members of his own little flock, but were cheerfully extended to all of every name who needed spiritual consolation or temporal relief. He combined the courage of a soldier with the gentleness of a woman; and even when persons not of his own congregation were laid down with malignant fever, and others shrank from approaching them, he has been known to go boldly in to them with the message of salvation, and adjust their bed and smooth their dying pillow with his own hands.
From the character of his mind, he either did not see or he disregarded difficulties which many other men are forced to encounter. This helped to give a cheerfulness to his religion that made him a special favourite among the young, and enabled him to exert a most wholesome influence upon them. One of these has well said that, “Without dealing in lecturing others, his whole deportment was a pleading, powerful advocacy of what was true, and virtuous, and godly.” He visited Ireland during the great revival there several years ago, and his contact with that work of grace made a great change upon his preaching.” There seems to have been another crisis in his spiritual history last winter; for, ever since the week of prayer, he experienced great enlargement of soul, and his labours in Livingstone and Mid Calder, and in all the district round about, were more abundant than ever. In autumn he went to Elgin for his holidays; but instead of taking rest, he was daily engaged in evangelistic work of one kind or other. An aged disciple there writes of him: “I met him often, and wondered at his whole deportment, so fresh, so animated, so solemn, and withal so cheerful and happy. He rushed in to bid me good-bye the day before he left, and our parting words as he held my hand in his on the stair-head were the following:
‘And when in realms of glory
We sing the new, new song,
‘Twill be the old, old story
Which we have loved so long.’
He had been enabled long to rejoice in the full assurance of his own salvation; and it is interesting to think that many a time, when retiring to rest at night, he used to speak of what a glorious change it would be for him were he to awake in heaven. On Saturday, the 24th of October, he left home for Edinburgh to assist at the communion. He was then, to all appearance, in perfect health, and preached in two of the city churches that day. In the evening he felt somewhat unwell, but went down to Leith, and next day assisted the Rev. Mr. Thorburn at the communion, and preached the evening sermon. It was only after the work of the day was done that he made any allusion to his being unwell. Next morning he was worse, and he resolved to go home at once. About the middle of the week it was hoped that his complaint was yielding to the medical treatment, and that his life might be prolonged; but on Friday evening his friends became very anxious about him. On Saturday morning the physician informed him of his critical state. He was quite prepared for the announcement, and received it with the utmost composure; and having arranged a few business matters, he spoke some words of comfort to the loved ones who were standing round his bed, and then set himself to die. The next day was to have been his own communion Sabbath, and once and again during the forenoon his thoughts recurred to the sacred feast. About mid-day his countenance, always so beautiful, shone with a remarkable radiance, and about half-past one o’clock he fell asleep in Jesus. On the following Wednesday a large company, of all ranks and denominations, assembled to pay him their last tribute of respect, and his remains were committed to the dust by as sincere a body of mourners as ever stood around a grave. And no wonder; a truer, trustier, more unselfish friend no man could desire. His was, indeed, one of those characters of which it has been well said that they are so beautified by death that we feel as if we had never known them before as they deserved, and as if till now we never suspected how much we should have to lose in losing them. Mr. Tulloch has left a widow, two sons, and a daughter. May He who is fairer than the children of men be the shield of the widow, and may the Angel who redeemed Israel from all evil bless the lads, and may the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush be the defence and the stay of their sister!
REV. GEORGE TULLOCH, EDDRACHILLIS, SUTHERLANDSHIRE
(Died January 27, 1880)
Author: Rev. John Macqueen, Kirkmichael1
Source: The Free Church Monthly, June 1, 1880, Biographical Notices, p.148
The subject of this notice enjoyed the great privilege of having godly parents. His father, who was descended from a race of independent yeomen in Orkney, died while comparatively young. His mother lived to a great age; and though she was not in such circumstances as to render it an easy thing for her to give her children a liberal education, yet she had the privilege of seeing her eldest son become an honoured and very popular Professor of Mathematics in King’s College and University, Aberdeen, and four others attain the position of ministers of the Church of Scotland, each one of whom, by his consistent Christian character and earnest and able evangelical preaching, spent a really useful life, and left a sweet savour of his name behind him. George was not the youngest of the four, but he was the last removed from this world.
When a young man, he was fired with the desire of becoming a minister of the gospel. His subsequent life made it very manifest that this was the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in his soul. With a view to his obtaining the necessary education, he repaired to Edinburgh; and after going through a full course of study in the university, was licensed as a preacher of the gospel. His first sphere of ministerial labour was in the mission at Melness, where he remained for two years, and where, it is testified, his preaching was “much blessed to souls.” In 1831 he was settled as minister of the parish of Eddrachillis. Here he continued to labour with much acceptance until failing health made it necessary for him to resign his work into the hands of a successor. In 1843 he, with nearly every individual in his congregation, joined the Free Church. This was to the pastor, to his family, and to the congregation likewise, a time of much outward trial. Could the story be told, it would contain many incidents of thrilling interest, which would illustrate very vividly the strong faith, the heroic courage, and the uncompromising firmness of Mr. Tulloch. These days of sorest trial having passed away, this servant of the Lord pursued quietly his earnest labours for the salvation of his flock, and was now and then cheered with tokens of his Master’s favour. He was not left very long, however, without the discipline of trial. It pleased God to subject his servant to severe domestic afflictions. First his eldest son, a rising man in the medical profession, was cut off by cholera, just as he was about to leave India for home. The death of another son and of a daughter followed at no long interval. These bereavements so affected the loving father that his former vigour gave way, and he steadily grew weaker and weaker in body, though his active mind still retained all its vigour. In 1875 he felt quite unfit for his work, and wished to resign his charge. To such a severance of the tie between them the leading people in his congregation would not give their consent, and an arrangement was made for his obtaining a colleague and successor. This arrangement having been completed, he, in the month of October 1876, retired from the parish, and spent the remainder of his days at Fortrose, Ross-shire. From this time till his death he was in a very helpless condition, physically; yet he continued to take a lively interest in all that was passing, and was ever ready to discuss questions that were agitating the Church or State. Above all, however, he delighted in conversing with the people of God on spiritual subjects, and longed to meet with those at Eddrachillis with whom he had formerly taken sweet counsel.
To live for Christ was his great aim during the period of his active life, and when laid on his death-bed what had been to him living-grace became dying-grace. Thus was he enabled to wait patiently until the summons came on the appointed day, and then, that the spirit might obey the call, he fell asleep. He has left a widow and six children to mourn his loss.
In the parish where he had so long laboured his mortal dust was laid, an act which filled the hearts of his old parishioners with the joy of thankfulness.
Thus has passed away, at the ripe age of fourscore and six years, one more of the “Disruption Worthies,”—a Christian minister, the springs of whose devoted life had a deep hidden source: “His life was hid with Christ in God.” God grant many such ministers to his Church!
REV. JOHN TURNBULL, EYEMOUTH
(Died March 3, 1870)
Author: Rev. J. C. Fairbairn, Allanton
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1870, p.125
The Rev. John Turnbull, minister of the Free Church, Eyemouth, died on the 3rd March. He was ordained to the office of the holy ministry in the year 1822, and was privileged to labour in the vineyard of the Lord for almost half a century. His labours were faithful and unremitting. He was very careful in his preparation for the pulpit, making conscience of diligent and prayerful study: as the result, his preaching was clear and discriminating, full of the riches of the gospel of grace. Whilst he set before his flock the ever glorious truths of redemption with the precision of clear thinking and of well chosen speech, he at the same time pressed them on their acceptance with the intense earnestness of a heart full of love to men, and realizing the value of their precious souls. In the discharge of his duties in visiting and counselling the flock, he was equally assiduous. Being full of love to his Master, His work and His people, all his ministerial duties were a source of delight to him.
Throughout the course of his ministry he was diligent, faithful, and holy. In the year 1849 Eyemouth suffered severely from the ravages of cholera. During that distressing visitation Mr. Turnbull’s exertions were beyond all praise, arduous and self-sacrificing, administering the consolations of the gospel by day and by night at the beds of the sick and the dying. The genuine nature and depth of his Christian love and sympathy shone out with peculiar lustre. Nor were his earnestness and zeal less conspicuous during the season of revival in 1859-60. He had long made it a subject of special prayer, that if it pleased the Lord he might be favoured to live to see such a work. When deep convictions amongst the people began unmistakably to manifest themselves and to spread from heart to heart, he was much solemnized and at the same time filled with joy and thanksgiving. All his Christian activities were in full operation.
At the Disruption he well knew his place. His mind was thoroughly made up as to the path of duty before the event came. Church, manse, schools, schoolmaster’s house, all appeared in due time under his wise and energetic directions, whilst he was a bountiful contributor to them all. Being a native of Eyemouth, he thoroughly understood the habits and interests of the people, and was always ready, heart and hand, to devise and promote whatever conduced to their welfare. His life and labours were a blessing from the Lord, and the seals of his ministry, we have reason to believe, were not a few. The day will declare. He was a faithful servant, and he has been taken to his reward. We might enlarge on the peculiar virtues and graces of his character. They were singularly beautiful and attractive. His was a genial, hopeful, and joyous spirit. He made sunshine around him. He was modest, generous, manly in his bearing; most honourable and most transparently truthful; gentle, courteous, at the same time firm and resolved in maintaining the truth. He endeared himself, not only to his congregation, but to the whole community. They feel that in his removal they have lost a dear friend and a wise counsellor. His relations and personal friends feel what loss they have sustained. To know him was to love and to esteem him. During his last illness, which continued over a period of about four months, his spirit was scarcely darkened by any shadow. His frame of spirit was a secure and peaceful resting on the all-sufficiency of his Lord. He departed in great comfort, in the blessed hope and assurance of being immediately in the presence of Jesus Christ. During his illness he from time to time gave many precious counsels, and spoke many cheering words. A few days before his death he summoned the elders of the congregation to take farewell of them. His strength being exhausted, it was a short, but most affecting interview. He also, a day or two before his departure, dictated a letter to his congregation bidding them farewell, filled with affectionate exhortations and wise Christian advice. The following is an extract:—”One great cause of thankfulness to me has been the choice of Mr. Ogilvy by you and his settlement among us as my colleague. It will not be easy to tell the amount of peace and comfort I have derived from that settlement. We are most cordially and affectionately united, preaching the same glorious gospel. I hope and pray for a bright future for Eyemouth under his continued and faithful ministry. Dear friends, let me entreat you to attend it regularly. It will cheer Mr. Ogilvy’s heart to see you constantly in your place in church, and getting blessings to your own souls by so doing. You will then seek to be fellow-workers with him in bringing others to the Saviour.”
REV. DR. WILLIAM KING TWEEDIE, EDINBURGH
The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, May 1, 1863
This most faithful, laborious, and devoted minister sank under a short but excruciating illness on the 24th of March. His intense suffering, which completely prostrated his strength, did not in the least impair the clearness of his mind. His end was perfect peace. “I know in whom I have believed,” was his testimony, and all who approached his dying bed had cause to say, Thanks be to God, who giveth his servant the victory through Jesus Christ. He was in the sixtieth year of his age, and had fulfilled for thirty-one years the ministry he received of the Lord.
Dr. Tweedie was a native of Ayrshire. He studied in the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrews. Before he entered on the duties of the ministry, he made a sojourn in the south of Europe, and spent the winter of 1830 in Rome. There he saw the evils of Popery in their full development, and was led to study the Popish system in all its bearings. Many years afterwards his thorough knowledge of the whole Popish controversy pointed him out to the Church as one eminently qualified for acting as Convener of the Committee appointed on the subject; and this duty he efficiently discharged for several years.
It was in the year 1832 that Dr. Tweedie was first called to the pastoral office, when he was appointed minister of the Scotch Church, London Wall. Four years later, he was translated to the South Church of Aberdeen. There he ministered with much acceptance to one of the largest congregations in the Establishment. During his settlement in Aberdeen, the charge of North Leith, to which was attached the second largest stipend in the Church, fell vacant, and it was offered for his acceptance. He, however, declined it. At a subsequent period, the charge of the Tolbooth congregation in Edinburgh was rendered vacant in consequence of the secession of the Rev. Mr. Marshall to the Episcopal Church. Dr. Tweedie’s ability as a preacher at once marked him out to the congregation as a fitting successor to that gentleman; and in 1842 he was presented to the vacancy by the Town Council, his settlement speedily following.
His removal to Edinburgh took place in trying times. The Non-intrusion controversy was at its height; and Dr. Tweedie, who had all along been a strenuous upholder of the rights of the Christian people, was not slow in taking up his position. Both at Aberdeen and in Edinburgh he entered heartily into the struggle; and perhaps no greater proof could be given of the attachment of the congregation to whom he ministered, than the striking fact that, in leaving the Establishment, he was followed by the whole of his elders, and the great bulk of the Tolbooth congregation, although his connection with them was of comparatively recent date.
After the Disruption, Dr. Tweedie took part in all the deliberations and movements which that important event necessitated. When, in 1845, Dr. Chalmers’ health did not admit of his giving that time and attention to the Sustentation Fund which he formerly did, he had recourse to the services of Dr. Tweedie as his assistant; and the General Assembly of that year, in accordance with the strong recommendations of that distinguished man, appointed him to the office of convener. To the discharge of the duties of this office Dr. Tweedie brought his well-known business habits, and spared no efforts in advancing the interests of this great Fund. In 1847, however, his health was suffering, and he was compelled to resign the convenership.
The following year he was called upon to undertake the convenership of the Foreign Missions’ Committee. He presided over this great department of the Church’s work for the long period of fifteen years. None but those who had personal knowledge of the work can form an adequate idea of the amount of correspondence which this office entailed upon him, the demands which it made upon his time, the ability which he displayed in conducting it, and the wisdom which he brought to bear on the adjustment of matters often requiring the most judicious and delicate handling. The Free Church of Scotland, and the Church of Christ generally, lies under an obligation to Dr. Tweedie, the amount of which will never be fully known, for his services to the cause of missions. His heart was in the work, and the method, tact, energy, aptness, and genial temper which he displayed in conducting the business of the Committee, were remarkable. His courteous and gentlemanly demeanour, and the deferential regard which he paid to the views of others in matters wherein they differed from him, made it a pleasure to sit in his committee.
In the year 1861 he was compelled, in compliance with medical advice, to betake himself to the Continent. The brief sojourn which he made in Germany and Switzerland recruited his failing energies, and on his return he resumed his pastoral labours with all his wonted zeal. The winter of that year somewhat told upon him, however, and in the following Assembly of 1862 he was reluctantly obliged to relinquish the convenership of the Foreign Missions, but still continuing to serve as one of the Committee. To the close of his career he continued to interest himself in the welfare of the great Foreign Mission Scheme, and had announced for publication a volume embodying the results of his experience under the title, Fifteen Years of our Foreign Missions, with Remarks on their Principles and Claims.
Whatever public services he might render, Dr. Tweedie allowed nothing to interfere with the duties devolving upon him as pastor of one of the largest congregations in Edinburgh. Those who had the privilege of waiting upon his ministry know the fidelity with which he discharged all the duties appertaining to his office, the care which he bestowed upon the preparation of his discourses for the pulpit, and his diligence in the regular visitation of his congregation. He was indeed one of the most faithful and laborious of all ministers, and few ministers in any church had a more attached congregation.
Dr. Tweedie found time, amid his abundant labours, frequently to address the public through the channel of the press. Among the works he published are the following:— Calvin and Servetus; The Sacrament of Baptism; The Atonement of Christ, the Hope of his People; Seed Time and Harvest; Daily Devotion; Home; Jerusalem and its Environs; Ruined Cities of the East; Parables of our Lord; The Early Choice; The Lamp to the Path; and, within the last few months, The Life and Work of Earnest Men. These volunies display extensive reading, and the graceful and attractive style in which they are written, and the genial spirit which pervades them, have secured for them a wide circulation.