Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Home Life of Sir David Brewster
Chapter XVIII. Religious History


A ta faible raison garde toi de te rendre:
Dieu esfc fait pour aimer et non pour comprendre.

Voltaire.

Thou know’st my longings to be taught of Thee;
All human teaching find I dark and vain;
Teach me, O Lord, and then shall I be taught
To know Thyself,—this is my joy and gain.

Unteach me all the errors I have learnt
In earthly schools; forgive self-will and pride;
I would unlearn all falsehood, learn the truth,
And -with Thy truth alone be satisfied.

O Truth of truth ! to Thee, my Lord, I come;
Teach me, oh teach, as Thou alone canst do;
Spirit of truth, come down and fill my soul,
Fill it with wisdom and with gladness too;—

The gladness of a glorious certainty,
Concerning him who lived and died and rose :
This, this is true, should all else prove a lie,
And in this truth my spirit finds repose.

Bonar.

“It is only women and weak men who believe,” said one day a highly intelligent representative of a foreign nationality. The words seemed to cast a shadow over the sunny mountain slopes of Lake Leman, where they were scornfully uttered. “My father, Sir David Brewster, believes entirely,” was the reply. The surprise, the incredulity, the inquisitiveness which this intimation produced, paved the way for a full declaration of the truths which Brewster’s powerful mind had then fully grasped, and in that and succeeding conversations there was at least no more said about “weak men.” The last that we heard of our intelligent fellow-traveller was that he was carefully and candidly reading that remarkable work, The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation although with what result I know not. Almost exactly the same incident happened a year or two later with another mind of similar tendencies. There came a day when, in the midst of a joy unspeakable, those two almost forgotten incidents rushed into my mind, and I longed to say to those, and many other so-called philosophic intellects, “Come and see how a Christian philosopher can die.” Doctrines turned into practice—faith in the future strong and sufficient for the present—orthodoxy proved to be joy in sorrow and vitality in death, must ever be the most powerful weapons of the truth. Sir David Brewster was not one who could or did speak much with his lips for his Master, but his full personal acceptance of Christ as the Wisdom of God, and as the accepted Righteousness for man, may be of more use than many sermons to minds cast something in his own mould. It is in the belief that he, being dead, yet has a voice and a message to speak in this way, that I venture to give a sketch of what I believe to be his religious history, endeavouring to divest myself of all personal religious prepossessions. Nothing is more remarkable at first sight than the decided “orthodoxy” of Brewster’s religious opinions. What he called on his deathbed “the grand old orthodox truths”—the atonement, the Trinity, election, and the eternity of punishment,—he held intellectually from the old student days, when study of the Bible and of the Standards of the Scottish Church went on uninterrupted by the prosecution of more scientific researches. That this orthodoxy in his case was but a barren set of dogmas, giving neither joy, comfort, nor strength, was abundantly evident. Satisfied with holding them, for years his feet seldom entered the house of God, and his mind was entirely occupied with his absorbing pursuits or carking cares. From time to time his love of God’s works—some literary event or some signal sorrow— turned his closer attention to those things, which he generally thought sufficient to store up in the gamer of his intellect. Thus a friend writes:—

“I recollect with what indignation he referred to some unworthy concessions he had found in the letters of Dr. Blair to Mr. Macpher-son, in which his religious interest appeared to be merely professional. I also recollect the dissatisfaction he expressed with an article in the Edinburgh Review against evangelical preaching, and especially the doctrine of original sin. He read to me his correspondence with Professor Macvey Napier, the editor, who attempted to defend what Brewster so effectually demolished.”

We have seen also that his son’s death awoke much serious thought. When the claims of a busy life again came before him, it would seem that this temporary interest died away, for the remembrances of my childhood and early youth all testify to the absence of anything like vitality animating the bones of orthodoxy.

In 1839, when there was a stirring of religious life at St. Andrews, and a steady light kindled in the “city” that used to be called in the old martyr days, “ the capital of the kingdom of darkness although the movement entered into his family, changing the whole course of life to a young member of it, he gave no sign of interest or participation. He never opposed or ridiculed beyond expressing his dislike to “extremes,” but sympathy he had none to give. At the time of, and subsequent to, the Free Church movement in 1843, of which a sketch has already been given, a deeper interest certainly was manifested in the externals of religion. There was far greater pleasure in “good sermons5’ and religious topics of the day, while his acquaintance with godly men and learned divines was largely increased. Free Churchism, however, or any other church or creed under the sun, are but as the skeletons of the eastern valley, till “ clothed upon” by the Spirit of life. After his wife’s death in 1850, a great change was visible in Brewster to those who knew him best. It seemed as if there was a breaking up of the fountains of the great deep. His mind and conversation at home constantly turned upon religion. The days of satisfaction with a creed were for ever done with, and it seemed as if he were rent by a great internal struggle. It was characteristic of the dual nature of the mind, that while still clinging tenaciously to the “old orthodox doctrines,” so difficult for many minds to receive, he was now beset with cavils upon other points, expressed with the fearlessness of those who have no such restraints of belief, so that he was in that most painful state, a mind and opinions in complete inconsistency, and in a consequent state of civil war and anarchy. Sermons were no longer listened to with interest, weariness, or indifference, but each was fought over in his active mind, till Sunday was indeed anything but a day of rest to him. The principal cavil which beset his mind for a time, was a doubt of the inspiration of God’s Word, expressed with a sophistry and ingenuity which brought dismay to those obliged to listen, but utterly unable to reply,—yet this difficulty he never allowed for a moment to intrude into that demesne of orthodox belief which he still proudly kept entire.

The observance of the Sabbath was a subject on which he differed widely from the majority of his countrymen, and on which he could not agree to differ. “Sabbatarianism” always called forth his warmest indignation, and he believed that he had proved (to his own satisfaction) that it was but a shred of Judaism.

Another doctrine which he denounced as a novelty, and which he held in utter abhorrence, was that of “assurance of faith,” which he always stigmatised as the height of presumption and self-righteousness. But his principal stumbling-block for many years (and this ought to be rigidly pondered and deeply sympathised with), was the inconsistency of professing Christians. He erroneously held that whenever a man called himself converted, he was thenceforward to be perfect. When any fault or inconsistency, therefore, was visible in his professing friends, clerical or lay, his mind was thrown into a ferment of indignation, and the offender was at once denounced as a hypocrite of the deepest dye. Indeed, so far did he carry this, that he is recorded to have once said confidentially, that he only knew two real Christians. Much of this struggle and conflict appeared to be owing to a sense of something possessed by others, to which he was well aware that, in spite of all his intellect and all his orthodoxy, he had not yet attained, but which he was most certainly seeking, not in the silence awaiting^ the still small voice, but in the roar of the tempest and the fire of the earthquake. Night after night the Word of God was brought from its place, and studied with commentaries and notes, even as in the early days. Whatever pressure of writing, whatever charm of experiment, that large volume was never left to accumulate even a temporary dust. If ever there was a seeking of God, with “strong crying and tears,” it was by Brewster at this time. Frequently, in the earliest morning, when the writing and the microscope, and the Bible-reading were over, have I been awakened to listen in awe to the sounds of prayer and weeping below.

A year or two later the following touching incident and conversation took place. Mrs. Macpherson writes :—

“It was in March 1856 that I had a long talk with dear Papa upon the sufferings of Christ, from which we passed on to speaking of the gratitude due to God. He said he never could feel that there was any such strong ground for a claim of gratitude as people spoke of, since he felt that he had received no more good than was absolutely necessary to enable him to do the work that God required of him. Then we spoke of the possibility of feeling any love towards God, and agreed that such a sentiment of love as is possible between man and man, was impossible between man and God. ‘How can we love Him,’ he said, ‘One whom we have not seen? We admire Him in His works, and trust from the wisdom seen in these that He is wise in all His dealings,—but how can we love Him?”’ After this conversation, his daughter-in-law being herself led to understand how alone the love of the unseen Christ can be shed abroad in the heart by the working of the Holy Spirit, felt that she must confess this change in her views and feelings. “He listened most attentively, and when I had finished, took me in his arms, kissed me, and said in such a child-like manner, ‘ Go now, then, and pray that I may know it too.’”

It was during his severe illness of 1858, that, being from home, I was sent for hurriedly, and found him in such a firm belief that death was at hand, that he had requested his pastor, the Bev. Dr. Ainslie, to pray for him as a dying man. I then first became aware of a change having passed upon him, and first felt assured that there had been some answer to the years of asking, and a time of finding after the long search. During his convalescence it was frequently my pleasant office to read aloud to him. One book, I remember, he listened to with intense interest—Dr. Stevenson on the twenty-second Psalm—the description of the sufferings of our Lord touching him deeply; but the book I remember most vividly was a small one entitled Perfect Peace,—the memoir of a clever and scientific medical man, who accepted Christ after a severe struggle. He listened with his peculiar habit of vivid interest, combined at first with unqualified approbation. In the course of reading, however, we came to several of the biographer’s laudatory remarks, as the following:—“Notivithstanding his high talents and great proficiency in professional and scientific knowledge, he talks with me in the most childlike manner on the things that concern his peace; indeed he evinces as humble and teachable a spirit as I have ever met with —“his humble and teachable spirit, notwithstanding his great literary and scientific attainments,” etc. etc.;—“the pride of intellect was cast at the foot of the Cross of Christ.” These passages produced evident dissent, and when I read the last quoted, it caused an unpremeditated burst of disapprobation, more satisfactory than any set expressions could have been, and though vehement, was very different from his former bitter denunciations. “That disgusts me!” was his sudden and lively exclamation, which made me look up in some dismay. “A merit for a man to bow his intellect to the Cross ! Why, what can the highest intellect on earth do but bow to God’s word and God’s mind thankfully?” and, he added, with a touching simplicity, “That’s not my difficulty—what distresses me so much is that I don’t love the Bible enough. I have it at my fingers’ ends, but I get tired of reading the passages I know so well.” The barrier of reserve was partially broken down, and he went on to say that he had had no fear in the thought of dying which had been present with him for several weeks, for that he had entire personal confidence in the work of his Saviour. It is interesting in this connection to note one of his expressions on his deathbed. Speaking of the atonement, he said,—“It gives me ‘perfect peace’ in resting on it now.”

There was evidently much still wanting—much that one could neither define nor understand. But from that time for four years, there was much earnest humility in seeking further knowledge, of which I heard afterwards from her most with him, and with whom he had no reserve. They conversed long and frequently on “the things of the kingdom;”—his anxiety for her full acceptance of what he himself was holding with a real, but not a joyous grasp, was very touching, and was often expressed by his use of the little word “we” in speaking of this mutual search, even after he had sought and found. His own earnest cry and need was to “love” as well as to “know,”—the difficulty of feeling love to the Unseen One, being still his difficult experience, though he now knew it to be attainable.

In 1862 my father made the acquaintance of Mrs. Barbour, author of The Way Home, The Soul Gatherer, etc., whose fine qualities of mind and unreserved dedication of speech and talent to her Lord, had a special charm for him. One day he went to see her, and in his humble childlike way he alluded to some doubts and difficulties, saying, “We are trying to look to the Lord Jesus, but are not succeeding as we would like.” A simple illustration of “ Faith ” and “ Substitution,” used by her, touched him deeply. Some months after, they met again, and Mrs. Barbour writes:—

“Almost the first word was, ‘Are you looking to Jesus?’ ‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘and I see Him plain.’ ‘And are there no doubts remaining?’ ‘None,’ he answered; ‘unless it be sometimes from the entireness of faith. Hitherto it has always seemed as if the truth were a moving sea beneath me, now it is rock ; and no wonder if a doubt sometimes cross me whether what seems so natural and so unbroken can be divine.' We read Hebrews xii. 22 to the end. At another time, speaking of the danger and folly of not using God’s way of redemption fully, he said, ‘The folly is trying to toil up the hill when God has sent a locomotive down for us; and then in our own way who would ever scale it? That day in November he was rejoicing in Christ as the Healer. I said, ‘ Think of any one coming from the antipodes to consult a physician, and then trying for a week to make himself better before sending for the doctor.5 Height of folly !5 was his short answer ; ‘go at once.'"

Some years afterwards, when a poem of this lady’s was read to him, he said, with much emotion, “Dear Mrs. Barbour! how I do love her! She was once very useful to me; I owe her a great deal— referring, there is no doubt, to the preceding circumstances. The thought of the hill Difficulty expressed above was a favourite one of my father’s. Mr. James Balfour remembers that he joined with great animation in a conversation one evening at Mr. Barbour’s house, where a lady stated that she had always thought religion consisted in “doing her best,” and that she had “ always kept rolling the stone up the hill.” “Yes!" said Sir David quickly, “but you would never get it any farther up!"

A few days after my father’s interview with Mrs. Barbour he went to London, whence he wrote to Lady Brewster :—

“London, May 27, 1862.

“My dearest Jeanie,—. ... I have been very thoughtful about the great subject which interests us so much. The Exhibition is suggestive of good. The dazzling display of the wonderful materials within and without the earth He has created for our use and enjoyment, is proof of His love and kindness. To convert those raw materials into the splendid fabrics and structures which fill this building, He has endowed man with all the various powers and capacities which were required. In the exercise of these powers, and in carrying on the great purposes of His kingdom, we have entirely forgotten the Giver of all these materials, and of all those varieties of intelligences, and we have ever made them the ministers of sin, using them in the violation of His laws, and in injuring our fellow-creatures. Thus exposed to punishment, He has sent His Son to ransom us, and yet we cannot truly believe that God has done all these things for us, and find difficulty to accept of the great offer of restoring us to His favour. If these views are kept not only daily but hourly before our minds, and if we anxiously pray for help to realise them, this persistency and anxiety for Divine light must itself yield some peace, which must sooner or later grow into that genuine peace which we are struggling to reach.

“If we are sincere in our search, the very conviction of this sincerity, and the continued anxiety with which we seek it, must surely lead to its ultimate attainment, that is, first to that peace which must be the fruit of striving to obtain it, and then of that higher peace which is the gift of God. I am ashamed to write you so stupidly on this subject, but I am very fatigued, both bodily and mentally, with the excitement and work of the day.”

“Athenasum, May 30, 1862.

“I do not find, what I was afraid of finding, that the gaiety and bustle of London at all interfere with my serious life. They rather favour it than otherwise. It was impossible to see the gay crowd of thousands of immortal beings fluttering like butterflies from flower to flower in the Exhibition yesterday, without feeling that few of them were deriving any spiritual good from the sight.”

“London, June 1, Sunday, 1862.

“Having been asked to breakfast with Babbage to-day, I could not refuse, as he is engaged every other day at the Exhibition. I was afraid it would prevent me from getting to church, having previously resolved to go to Mr. Chalmers’s in Upper George Street, but I tore myself away from Babbage in time to get to the chapel, about three-quarters of a mile distant; you may guess my surprise and delight when I found that Brownlow North was to preach. He gave a powerful and instructive sermon to a crowded congregation. I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Lord Breadalbane, who was there, and who was much pleased with the sermon. Afterwards I returned and lunched with Babbage.

“I dined yesterday at the club here with Sir W. Snow Harris, David Roberts the great painter, Solomon Hart, a Royal Academician, and Mr. Munro of Novar, and was detained a little later than half past seven; but I had a sweet recollection of your and Lydia’s occupation, and I trust was not less importunate in seeking a blessing upon you both.”

From this time the voice of the trumpet was ever louder, and the light of faith clearer and yet more clear. Like the Eastern philosophers, he rejoiced, he worshipped, he offered the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh of his mighty intellect. To those who had watched the long struggle, the mental change was great. His former critical judgments of Christian workers had completely passed away; without stint or question, he was ready to accept all who professed to love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and in truth ; and most touching it was to heaY him use the very arguments which had formerly been pressed upon himself, to modify the hard judgment of others. His interest in work for the good of souls was now warm and unreserved. This feature was thus commented on after his death:—“When first it was my privilege to be brought into personal acquaintance with him, the Churches were all deeply moved and stirred with the pulsations of reviving life from God; and I remember my delight, in noting with what deep interest the illustrious philosopher watched the movement, and rejoiced in the accounts of the revival in the Church, and conversion in the individual soul, which were coming from all parts of the country. It was a subject on which he often spoke, and always with the deepest interest.” Another singularly marked change was his unusually full and free acceptance of the long denounced doctrine of “assurance,” although he was ever careful to discriminate between the use and the abuse of it. One cherished remembrance is of a sweet communion Sabbath in a country church in Aberdeenshire. After the simple service, some delay having occurred with the carriage, we two rested in a little wayside cottage, and there out of the abundance of the childlike heart the mouth of the philosopher spoke. One very -dear to him having been deterred from joining the service by doubts of personal acceptance, he mourned over this, saying with much simplicity, “I see it all so clearly myself. It can’t be presumption to be sure, because it is Christ’s work, not ours; on the contrary, it is presumption to doubt His word and His work.” He then spoke of the finished and complete nature of salvation, and of the “Lord” being “our Righteousness,” a thought which was to the end peculiarly precious 0 him. In 1865, when paying a visit to Mr. Macdowall Grant of Arndilly, at his lovely residence on the banks of the Spey,—sometimes fondly called by friends the “Palace Beautiful,” —which my father enjoyed intensely, Mr. Grant was much struck by his simple views of personal forgiveness, which he expressed on one occasion with force and clearness on hearing a lady argue this subject with their host.

Brewster now understood, and put into practice, true “breadth,” that much-abused word. He had passed through the furnace of doubts and cavils. He knew the difficulties of a consistent walk as well as of a pure doctrine, and there was ever after a tenderness of judgment towards those whom he believed in error on either side. A grave shake of the head was sometimes the only way in which he showed his opinion. He could now be “broad ” even to those whose views he still held to be “narrow”—perhaps one of the most difficult phases of catholicity. He never, so far as I know, gave up his own strong views against Sabbatarianism as a doctrine, but he no longer denounced it. He felt the utmost respect for those whose opinions he still differed from, and he acknowledged the inexpediency, though not the unlawfulness, of the measures which would reduce England to a continental Sabbath level.

The old orthodoxy on other points was unchanged, save for the new life that pervaded it. We are told that his mind was clear and decided on all the questions of the day. “He not unfrequently spoke of the supposed contradictions between science and Scripture. He would never admit that there was any real contradiction ; and he was alike impatient of the dogmatism of theologians denouncing science, and of the dogmatism of scientific men denouncing theology, as being equally and on both sides founded on mistake of each other’s views. As a man of science he was jealous for his order; and I remember with what proud satisfaction he put into my hands a list of scientific men of high standing who had avowed their faith in Scripture. He referred to this as a token that there was no natural tendency in science to shake the faith of men in the Word of God, and no justice in regarding men of real science as more inclined to infidelity than others.”

My father was exceedingly interested in the above-mentioned valuable document ; and nothing but the words justly used by Mr. Cousin, “proud satisfaction,” could fully express the manner in which he frequently spoke of it. It is entitled, The Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences. The key-note of the brief preface is that “We, the undersigned, . . . conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God as written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ; ”and at the end follows a noble list of names, many of them acknowledgedly those “not born to die,” and all those of men of scientific research and intellectual attainment. Of the 716 only 82 are clergymen; the rest are professors, physicians, surgeons, naturalists, authors, etc. etc.; and a goodly collection of alphabetical honours significantly mark the pages.

During the illness of my father in London, General Crawford was admitted to his room, and writes as follows:—

“Nov. 15, 1869.

“Whilst sitting beside the bed of your late father, Sir David Brewster, when speaking of the prevalent scepticism of the day, he observed to the following effect:—That many supposed the spirit of doubt now abroad was due to the advance of scientific discovery and free inquiry. For his own part, he had desired to keep himself well abreast of the knowledge of the times ; and it seemed to him, in place of their being new, as some flattered themselves, that the doubts and cavils at the statements of Scripture were nearly identical with those which obtained towards the end of the last century, and were mainly advocated on the same grounds ; that they might be somewhat redressed, and possibly presented with an appearance of additional warranty from the dogmatic assumptions and assertions of a certain class of geologists and others, who had gained the public ear. Still, he recognised them, in main, as the old objections, resting on the same basis for doubt as when he was young; and that they had been answered and refuted by works so powerful and logically conclusive, that scepticism had been afraid to raise its head for more than a couple of generations. He felt confident that, if the men who were now so busy bringing the Bible into disrepute would only read those works written in a most philosophic spirit, they would, if but to retain their reputation as scientific investigators, renounce the course they were so earnestly pursuing. . . .

“I can never forget the tones of solemn assurance with which he then adopted the truth of the Bible, and the calmness with which he expressed his reliance upon its blessed and soul-sustaining promises in Jesus Christ. There was something most touching and conclusive in his unequivocal acceptance of it as the Word of God.”

A well-known professor of divinity, personally unacquainted with Sir David Brewster, expressed his earnest wish that the latter would write a short pamphlet upon the errors of the day, with a declaration of his own views. On this application being made known to him, he wrote to me as follows:—

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile certain statements in Scripture with what is accepted by many persons as science, and imperfect and unsuccessful attempts to do this are more injurious than beneficial to religion. The only mode of dealing with this matter is to show that the science which is opposed to Scripture is not truth, and this has been done in a little work, On the Age of Man, by Professor Kirk, in reply to Sir C. Lyell’s speculations on that subject; and papers of a similar kind have been published by the Victoria Institute, which is presided over by Lord Shaftesbury. In my sketch of Dr. Greville’s Life, which I enclose, I have stated my views on this subject, and also in a short note to Professor Kirk, which he has published. As a matter of science, the subject is quite out of my sphere ; and even if it were not, I do not think I could do any good by publishing a popular tract upon it.”

The following is the extract which was enclosed:— "Dr. Greville was a man of rare accomplishments, and of no ordinary virtues. His studies were not confined to science, nor his ambition limited to the honours which it merits, and the fame which it brings. His large heart embraced every measure of philanthropy, whether national or local,—whether originating in vicious legislation, in the necessary inequalities of social life, or bearing upon the victims of ignorance, intemperance, and crime. Nor did lie take a less interest in those higher questions which disquiet the inner and nobler life of man, stretching beyond that bourne from which no traveller returns, and affecting interests which time cannot measure nor space define. He had pondered in the lesser world over mysteries which he failed to comprehend,—over marvels of life which startled science and rebuked reason; and he submitted with the same reverence to those deeper mysteries which human instruments had equally revealed. Faith, and science falsely so called, had to him, and has, I hope, to many of us, two opposite horizons—the one where the sun rises, and the other where he sets. In the auroral and meridian light of the one he studied, lived and died ; and in the murky twilight and midnight darkness of the other, he wept over the fallen stars of science, —the Sappers and Miners of our Faith.”

Although not sympathising with Professor Kirk in some of his theological views, my father much admired his forcible little volume and its clever arguments against the “taking for granted” reasonings and theories of the opposite school. He recommended it to my husband as a useful hook to put into the hands of young men who might he wavering in their belief, owing to these discussions. He had a warm regard for Sir Charles Lyell, and admired many of his writings ; hut he used often to say, that the reasonings in behalf of the prehistoric theories seemed to him grounded on assumptions opposed to true scientific investigation, and unwarranted by any geological remains then discovered. Future researches, he said, might bring to light undoubted relics of prehistoric man, which yet would not contradict Scripture,—the gap between the first and second verses of the first chapter of Genesis leaving room for wide possibilities of races passed away ages before the first man of the Scriptural dispensation.

In a short biography of his friend Michael Faraday, given in one of his Presidential addresses to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he thus gives expression to his own sentiments on these subjects:— “With a judgment thus sound and thus patiently exercised, Faraday had no difficulty in answering the question, ‘What is truth?' among the complex laws of the material world, and he had none in answering the question as put by the Roman Governor. Like Newton, the greatest df his predecessors, he was a humble Christian, with the simplicity of apostolic times. Among the grand truths which he had studied and made known, he had found none out of harmony with his faith ; and from the very depths of science he had proclaimed to the Sciolists, that there is a wisdom which is not foolishness with God.’ ”

And he closes another of these addresses in the following words: —“In the study of nature there is no forbidden ground. Into its deepest mysteries we are invited to dive; and if we make Reason our guide, and Imagination our footstool, we may rest assured that truths that are demonstrated will never rush into collision with truths that are revealed.”

With the doctrines of Ritualism he had no sympathymuch attached as he was to many members of the Church of England, and able also to worship occasionally in her congregations with pleasure and profit, he had yet a strong conviction of her perils. In his will he inserted a clause requesting that his little daughter might be “brought up as a Presbyterian, as the best security against her becoming a Roman Catholic.” He had also a marked preference for the simple worship of his earlier days, greatly preferring it for his own use to a Liturgical form. The fact that he never had family worship has often been much commented upon, and at one time it was made the foundation of an unsuccessful and party attempt to deprive him of his eldership in the Free Church. Early nervous difficulties in extempore prayer, which never forsook him, were the cause he assigned, along with his being unable conscientiously to adopt in his family a form of read prayer. This difficulty, which never left him, was much to be regretted, though during the later years of his life he gladly availed himself of the services of those he considered competent for the duty, when staying with him, and always punctually attended.

I feel that I cannot better close this chapter, which I have striven to render as simply truthful as possible, than by the following little record of some of his later words respecting his views of Scripture and its fulness, sent to me by a near neighbour and the daughter of a very old friend of his, with whom he was on most intimate terms during the last eight years of his life :—

“One day dear Sir David, in speaking of the lax views now so prevalent, mourned over them and said, ‘As for me, I have the Bible, and it all seems so clear and simple that I find all I want in it—the pure Word of God,’ or words to that effect. Another time he spoke with deep regret of a conversation he had had with a person holding very Broad Church opinions. Tears filled his eyes while he earnestly said, ‘Oh, is it not sad that all are not contented with the beautiful simple plan of God’s salvation—Jesus Christ only—who has done all for us,’ and expressed his feeling that if the atonement in its entireness were to be touched, all this glorious gospel scheme must fall to the ground. How vividly I remembered all this, when, on that Saturday afternoon preceding his death, I saw him quietly waiting for the call, and in answer to some remark of mine he said, ‘Ah, yes, what should I have done now had I to find a Saviour at this time?”


Return to Book Index Page


 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast