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Men of the Knotted Heart
A Recollection and Appreciation of Alexander Duncan Grant, and John Paterson Struthers by Thomas Cassels (1915) (pdf)


TWO faces are in my memory, and shall be as long as life lasts. The one is the face of Alexander Duncan Grant, as he lay in death, satisfied. Yes, satisfied—that is the word. As if, after life’s fever, having come to the Great Repose, he had found it more than he had ever dreamed. For it is written, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” The other is the face of John Paterson Struthers, Grant’s choice friend, seen the day Grant died. It is transfigured, shining—the face of one who whole-heartedly, unselfishly, rejoices in his friend’s triumph : it is the face of “the friend of the bridegroom.” The look, the prayers, the words of Struthers in those days were shining indications of how a Christian will face that sorest of earthly sorrows, when death rolls its cold dark waters between his friend and him. For the friendship between those two was of a superlative quality. It was intense and spiritual like a flame. Their love for each other was very wonderful. They were David and Jonathan, and called each other so; for when of a morning Grant would spy from his window Struthers’s massive head appearing above the shrubbery, “Here’s David,” he would say.

Grant died on 27th January 1914, falling dead in his garden, while hastening from one duty to another. He was so remarkable a man, and so beloved, that it was universally felt in the town of his service that some account of how he lived and talked ought to be put in print. “I hope,” wrote Struthers in his little paper, The Morning Watch, “God will put it into some one’s heart to write a worthy book about him, that all may know what manner of man he was.” And to write such a book, and make it worthy, there was no one so fit as this inimitable Scotsman himself. “Struthers on Grant” would have been, not only a joy to all who knew these men, but a singularly sweet and touching book. It could not have been otherwise than a permanent addition to our literature. And so, under compulsion of the desire to commemorate his friend’s life and gifts, he began to collect material—letters, stories, scraps of talk. With others of his circle, I wrote out my reminiscences of Grant, gathering them from my diaries and from the notes I had kept of our talks together. With these, Struthers expressed himself as greatly pleased, saying that they truly conveyed some idea of what Grant was; and he read them to his friends and to his Bible class. Thus he collected material, but he had not himself written a word, when suddenly, like his friend, and within a few days of the first anniversary of Grant’s death, he too passed the Frontier. In the midst of his sermon in his church, while speaking of the love of God, the All-embracing, he fell to the floor, and in a few hours had slipped through the Goodbye Gate. It was as if Grant, satisfied with the swift and easy manner of his own flitting, had desired the Father of our Spirits to bring Struthers home the same way.

In the first number of The Morning Watch, which was issued after the breaking out of war — the September number of 1914 — there had appeared a drawing, here reproduced, with this comment from the editor’s pen on the prayer “Lord, spare the green and take the ripe” which Richard Cameron uttered among the whinnying swords at Ayrsmoss: “Does not the prayer mean that we are willing God should take us away first, that they who are not ready may have time to repent?” So Struthers prayed Richard Cameron’s prayer, and God took him at his word. But when, on the hillside above the town, we laid what was mortal of him that cold January afternoon, the air about us throbbed to the cry of bugles and the unceasing rattle of rifles, as men of the New Armies prepared themselves for their Imperial Task. I thought then how war is a great obliterator. I said to myself, “Pre-war men, and books about pre-war events, are indifferent to-day. Men hear only the sinister voices of the guns; so now that Struthers has gone, no one will tell what kind of man Grant was, and of his beautiful life.” And then I thought how great a pity it was, and, thinking so still, I have determined to essay something with my pen, that his friends, who loved him, might have some record of him, and that effect should, in some sort, be given to the heart’s desire of Struthers.

But I cannot write of the one without writing also of the other. They were so linked together in life, being, in Hebrew phrase, “men of the knotted heart,” and they are so heavened together in our memories, that they must needs walk together through these pages. And I must remember what Struthers said to me, when we were talking of his writing about Grant: “It must be as worthy and as true a book as I can make it, for I have to meet him by and by, and tell him all about it.” Even so! I also, in the Place where there are no graves, shall meet Struthers and Grant, and therefore, as far as in me it be possible, I must make this book Worthy and True.

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