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George Burns, His Times and Friends
Chapter VIII. Concerning things Social, Domestic and Religion


Although during the years in which Mr. Burns was making a business he was working with unceasing diligence, he did not pursue it as though it were the one end and goal of life. A high sense of duty guided him in the disposition of his time, and he strove to recognise and give a due proportion to the claims of home and friendship as well as to those of church and country.

We need not attempt to follow minutely the history of the earlier years of his married life. They were full of ever-increasing joy, darkened, however, by those clouds which inevitably, in some form or other, overhang family life. Out of seven children that were born to him, three only survived; the others died in early infancy. Many letters full of sympathy he before me from true-hearted relatives and friends who condoled with him in his successive family losses. The following was written by his father, Dr. Burns of the Barony.

Gourock, Sept. 15, 1828.

My dear George,—Upon receiving the letter from James intimating your heavy affliction, both your sister and I fell very deeply with you in this renewed trial of your faith and submission to the Divine will. Mysterious are the dealings of the Lord with us, that the young who we flattered ourselves might be spared long for comfort and usefulness are quickly cut down, whilst the aged who have in a great measure outlived their usefulness, are spared. The supreme Lord of all knows, and arranges all His plans in the best manner, and we are required submissively to bow to His sovereign appointments. I have no doubt that you and your dear partner have long ago taken hold of God as your God and Father, and He has promised to be a God in covenant to believers, and to their seed. You received little Elizabeth from the Lord, and you solemnly dedicated her to His service and disposal. The loan which He made of her to you He has seen fit to recall, and has He not a right to do with His own as seems best to Himself? The Judge of all the earth can do no wrong. You said she was His, and that you gave her up to Him: you will not then unsay what you have professed, however it may he like tearing asunder your hearts. I trust the Holy Spirit will enable both of you not only to hold your peace, but to kiss the rod, and say ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.’ This is the doing of Him who is the Lord, and through grace our Lord. I trust your dear infant is now amongst the little ones, the living in Jerusalem, and celebrating the praises of redeeming mercy of which she was before incapable, perhaps looking down with wonder that you are grieving at her exaltation and glory. With humble prayers, it is my heart’s desire that both of you may experience the all-powerful support of the Holy Spirit the Comforter, and that this dispensation may be sanctified to all of us. Your sister desires me to assure you that she most tenderly sympathises with you both, and would have written you, but thought it unnecessary as I am writing.

I ever am your affectionate father,

John Burns.

Between George Burns and his father there was the most intimate confidence and affection. He was, when the above letter was written, “waxing frail by reason of age,” and although still performing all the duties of his ministerial office, it was thought desirable that an assistant should be appointed who would become his successor. This was brought about in the following year, and George, albeit the youngest of the family, had the principal hand in promoting it. The “sister” referred to in the foregoing letter was Mrs. MacBrayne, in whose family Mr. Black, at that time a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, was a tutor. He it was who was chosen by Dr. Burns to be his assistant and successor. But there were difficulties in the way. The appointment was vested in the Crown, and was usually placed at the disposal of the Member of Parliament for the boroughs. Mr. Campbell, of Blythswood, was the member, and he had a minister in view, Mr. Lawrence Lockhart, of Inchinnan, to whom, as soon as the question arose, he was anxious to give the appointment. But this did not meet the views of Dr. Burns, and for some time the matter was kept in abeyance. Eventually, however, Mr. Campbell handsomely withdrew, and Mr. Black was appointed.

A good man was Mr. Black, and humorous moreover, as many good men are. There are numerous stories told of his quaint sayings. Dr. Burns lived for nearly a dozen years after his assistant was appointed, and people sometimes used to say to Mr. Black, “You’ll be wearying for Dr. Burns’ death?” To which be would reply, “Not at all: I’m only wearying for his living!”

After the Disruption, Dr. Black—the degree of D.D. had been conferred upon him in the meantime —was asked by some of his co-presbyters, amongst whom there was much discussion on the subject, whether he was going out with the “Trees.” His reply was, Na, na! I’ve been far too long in getting in.”

Between George Bums and his brothers and sister there was also the greatest possible affection and confidence. It had its basis in each case in reciprocity of Christian feeling. His brother, Dr. John Bums, the surgeon, was a man of singular piety, and of great beauty of personal character, as well as a man of marked ability. He wrote several religious works, one of which, “The Principles of Christian Philosophy; containing the Doctrines, Duties, Admonitions, and Consolations of the Christian religion,” still retains its place in the literature of the country. The sentiments set forth in this work were heartily approved by George Burns, who was wont to say that if he wished to give expression to his own views on Christian life generally, and of Christian home-life particularly, he could not do better than repeat the words of his brother in this work on “Christian Philosophy.”

We have referred in an earlier chapter to the religious “stock” from which the Burns’s sprang. An episode in the life' of Dr. John Burns will show how it was perpetuated in his branch of the family. In 1810 he lost his wife, and as the years passed on he found in his only surviving daughter Rachel,

“not only a dear and affectionate daughter, but a kind and tried friend, an intimate Christian associate, and a prudent and faithful counsellor.”

She was “a Christian indeed, in whom there was no guile,” and the striking features of her character were, peculiar delicacy of conscience and great diffidence in regard to her spiritual state. It was, in some respects, an unfortunate circumstance that Dr. Caesar Malan, with his dogmatic assertions upon the doctrine of assurance of salvation, scattered broadcast—and in such an unreasoning manner, that he had told George Burns it was analogous to I the assurance that he had seen George IV. in Edinburgh!”—should have crossed her path. She was greatly distressed and bewildered—as many have been before and since who have had a sensitive faith attacked by a dogmatist—and for a time she doubted the reality of her belief, and “her acceptance with God.”

To her earthly father, however, she could open her heart freely, and there ensued a correspondence of surpassing beauty and pathos, and of great peculiarity. The following is an extract from one of the letters of Dr. John Burns when the hope of his daughter was reviving :—

Glasgow, Aug. 29, 1829.

My dearest Rachel,—. . . I feel confident that you are not deceiving yourself, hut are often for a season subjected to ‘manifold temptations.’ No one can have an anxiety to be saved, or a determination to rely on Jesus alone for salvation, and be deceived. The Saviour is not man that He should change, or forsake His people on account of their weakness of faith or coldness of love, or more positive transgression. He is God as well as man, and therefore He is infinite in compassion and firm as a rock. He is well styled the 4 Rock of salvation,’ for it is the strength of the rock, and not of those who are on it, which saves them. On that Rock you are placed, and although my beloved child, you may tremble at what you see around you, and within you, and may not always see the ground on which you stand, yet still you are on the Rock which cannot be shaken. You have come to the beloved of your soul, to Him who is all excellent, and although you are indeed sensible that you love Him not as His excellence deserves, and trust Him not as He deserves, and follow Him not as He deserves, yet you still, -without self-delusion, can say that there is none other that your soul desires as a Saviour; that you do love Him, although coldly indeed compared to His merit, and that although you follow Him not with that closeness which the glorified spirits do in heaven, yet you still desire to keep Him in sight, and would not willingly and deliberately renounce your post for all that time can bestow. Who, my beloved Rachel, can love the Saviour enough; who, without delusion, dare say that he trusts in Him with unshaken, composed and enlightened, and constant obedience? The most sanctified here are those, I doubt not, who have their doubts, fears, and seasons of heaviness. The careless and the self-deluded have no fears, no anxieties, no doubts. The humble Christian is often permitted, as being good for him, to have strong fears and misgivings, in order to try his faith, and to lead him more exclusively to place his confidence in the 'Rock of Ages,’ and not in himself. The question was put three times to Peter, 'Lovest thou Me?’ Jesus knew that he loved Him, and Peter, under the trial, was enabled to reply that He who knew all things knew that he loved Him. Did Peter think that he loved Jesus sufficiently, or even more than his brethren did? Did Peter not remember that he had denied his Lord? And yet he did not, when so asked, say that he did not love the Lord. Neither can you say so, and fears proceed from a source which ought to give you encouragement, namely, from a humble knowledge of your own deficiency and the greatness of Him who requires your love. Whenever you are assailed by these fears, remember the rich mercy which induced Jesus to come down from heaven to atone for sin ; remember that lie has promised that He will not quench the smoking liax, that He will tenderly nurse the young and weak lambs of His flock, and, under the deep sense of your own weakness and imperfection, hear Him addressing to you the assurance, ‘My strength shall be perfect in your weakness.’ It is those that have fewest anxieties, and least fear, that have most need to be anxious, and to them He says, ‘let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’ Oh, my beloved child, who could stand were He to withhold His protection ; who could be safe or comfortable were he to trust to his own goodness? No, no ! it is in Christ alone that we will trust. We humbly come to His cross, and by faith say, ‘We will not make mention of our own righteousness, but in Thee, in Thee alone will we trust. It is of Thy mercy that even apostles have been kept from despair; it is by Thy mercy that such weak and worthless and insensible souls as ours are not allowed to rest in peace in their own imaginations, but are brought to Thee, and amidst storm and tempest, amidst carelessness and ease, in every situation which can be conceived, and whether in fear or in hope, are still permitted and enabled to behold “the Star in the east,” and also, with too many deviations, enabled to be guided by it. ’Pray, my dear child, for me, for too often do I forget that Star and deviate from its straight path. May we both have our way hedged in by the grace of the Redeemer, and at last by Him be brought to the heavenly Zion. Adieu, my dear child, and Believe me ever your affectionate father,

J. Burns.

Will the day ever return when such confidences will be resumed, as this solitary extract from a voluminous correspondence implies? There was never a time when such freedom of manner existed between parents and children as the present, hut it is very questionable whether the free intercourse on matters of vital religion as here unfolded, is not almost a thing of the past! It is to he feared that the spirit of controversy has poisoned the atmosphere in which such confidences can live.

Rachel Burns died in 1S31. She wrote a letter to her father to he read after her decease, so that being-dead she might yet speak to him. It concluded thus :—

And now, O my beloved father, may the best blessings of the Lord Jesus ever rest and abide on you. May the consolations of His Holy Spirit support and comfort you in every situation and every trial. Rejoice, my beloved father, in the hope, the glorious hope, which is set before you. Earthly comforts may be withdrawn, but the fountain of all comfort is still Jesus. He, the blessed Jesus, ever livetli. He is a friend born for adversity. Trust in Him, my dearest father; He will never leave thee nor forsake thee. That your soul may ever be abundantly satisfied with His love, and ever enjoy His peace, and that we may meet to praise Him through eternity, is the earnest prayer of your dear,

Your affectionate child,

Rachel.

During the year 1832, George Burns was very much away from home, spending a considerable part of his time in London attending to Parliamentary business, and other matters connected with the shipping transactions referred to in the preceding chapter.

A few extracts from his daily letters to his wife will point the current of his life and thoughts.

Kendal, Sunday Evening, June 15, 1882.

I was forenoon and afternoon at the parish church to-day. It is a very old-fashioned building, and was well filled. The ministers seemed desirous to do good by their preaching—but their sermons were defective. I had the privilege of partaking of the comfortable sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and this evening I heard an excellent man in an Episcopal chapel.

. . . Oh! my Jane, with all my deep unwortlhness, were it not that the gospel of Christ and His grace afford me support, what would become of me under the fits of depression that at times weigh me down ! My lot in life is now fixed, and doubtless by His unerring wisdom. And He has hitherto helped me and delivered me wonderfully out of difficulties, and enabled me to persevere in the struggle. I have still many strong temptations to contend against, but trust that God will help me through. At present, although it is sorely against my nature, I am engaged in the occupation in which 1 am called in discharging a Christian duty for you, and for our dear children and myself. If I were now to shirk, you all must suffer. God grant that I may have strength given me to carry through my undertakings.

London, June 7, 1882.

Tell Maggie I saw a great number of rabbits in the fields belonging to the Marquis of Stafford in Warwickshire, and a bird’s nest with young ones was offered to me lor sale by some little boys at Larnet, but I would much rather the poor little birds had been enjoying their freedom in the open air like the pretty rabbits in the warren. Tell her also I saw four or five thousand young chickens like herself to-day in St. Paul's, and was quite delighted at hearing them sing in full chorus the Hallelujah. I wish my Jane had been there. . . .

We slept at Lichfield on Tuesday night, and rose early on Wednesday morning, and saw its beautiful Cathedral and the lovely monument of Innocence in it—that is a monument by Chantry of two grand-daughters of the Dean, who died in early life under distressing circumstances. I cannot forget their beauty, and the perfect personification of repose their appearance, locked in each others arms, presents.

London, Sunday, June 10, 1832.

I have been at Mr. Howell’s this morning, along with Messrs. Martin, Mitchell, and Miller. We heard many outrageously odd things, but also many good things from Mr. Howell. Amongst others, talking of idleness and idlers, he said that the human mind was so constituted that it must be incessantly occupied either in good or bad; that there could be no occupation of a neutral sort; that it was a proverb that idlers were the Devil’s pincushions! —‘and so they are,’ added he, so quaintly that Mr. Miller fairly set off in a fit of laughter, and I followed him; Mr. Martin was restless under the effort to repress the same inclination, and James Mitchell looked perfectly dumbfounded. Mr. Howell said it was in idleness that David was caught and fell (his subject was on the Fifty-first Psalm), and that many people took encouragement from David’s case, and were ready to follow his practice, but not so ready to follow his penitence. The verse he was discoursing upon was, ‘Uphold me was preaching for him at Oswestry, and was very much disturbed by a number of people leaving the church before he had concluded his sermon. He spoke of this to Miller, who explained that they were people connected with farms, and had to attend to the milking of the cows. “But why could they not let that stand over till Monday?” the London clergyman asked, innocently, by Thy free Spirit,’ and lie dwelt largely upon the offices of the Spirit and His influences. He made many forcible appeals to the conscience. Amongst other things, in talking of our being so apt in religious matters to follow our passions and not our reason, he dashed in an exclamation of this sort: ‘My friends, if I had listened to my passions, I would have cut my throat long ago—and I believe there are many here besides who would have done the same thing.’ Such a sentence electrified me.

In this month, while George Burns was in London and so tied to business that it was impossible for him to get free, twins were born to him. One of them, George, did not long survive ; the other, James Cleland Burns, remains to this day.

"Writing many years afterwards to condole with her daughter-in-law in a separation consequent upon business, Mrs. Burns said : "I know by experience what separation is. On one occasion, when my husband went to London to oppose a Bill, your husband was born, and his father could not return for many weeks. So much for the trials incident to men in business.” From the daily and anxious correspondence of those “ many weeks,” we extract some of the lighter passages.

London, June 12, 1882.

"We attended divine service on board the Liverpool on Sunday evening, and heard Mr. Miller preach to a crew of thirty in the cabin. It was delightful to hear the voice of praise raised on the bosom of the Thames. I dare say the surrounding crowds of One of G. and J. Burns’s steam vessels with a chaplain on board.. .

London, June 13, 1832.

On Sunday, I heard in the morning the Bishop of Chester (Sumner) and in the afternoon the Bishop of Calcutta (Daniel Wilson) preach, the first in St. John’s (Cecil’s church), and the other at Sloane Street, Chelsea. Both gave excellent evangelical sermons ; the latter possesses great powers of mind, and is eloquent.

. . . Yesterday we visited the Coliseum, and in the evening went to the House of Commons, where we heard O’Connell, Hume, Stanley, Peel, Hunt, Crampton, kc. We were fortunate in falling in with an animated debate on the Reform Bill—you will see it in the papers. The Liverpool arrived here this morning at a quarter before four, after a passage of sixty hours. Freight £50, passage £32 ; total £82. This is poor work, but we must persevere.

June 27, 1832.

... In addition to our ordinary business, we have been involved in a great deal of parliamentary business about the Steam-boat Bill. I have had a good opportunity of conferring with members ; Lord Sandon, in particular (with whom we have had different interviews), has been very attentive and pleasant. He is an amiable man.

Yesterday we saw the King and Queen at the review in the Park, and in the evening got admission to the Palace through Miss Sands (with whom we dined), to see them and the dinner party enter the banqueting-room to dinner. . . .

We saw to-day the members of both Houses of Parliament go to the King in state, to present an address.

July 2, 1832.

. . . I would observe that I am under an engagement to be at the House of Commons on the afternoon of Monday 9th; and I must, if all things go well with you and all the infants, ‘attend my duty in Parliament’ not only on that day, but must watch the Bill subsequently, and after that matter is settled I shall be thinking of coming home, even if I should return here again after a short stay.

I would be in a different occupation if it were practicable, and many a heavy heart 1 have on this account; but I am endeavouring in the strength of Christ to fight hard in this department of the Christian warfare. It is the hardest struggle in which 1 ever was engaged, but in some shape or other we must encounter the enemy whilst passing through the valley of humiliation. . . .

We went yesterday forenoon to the Methodist Chapel, where we heard Mr. Watson, and I received the benefit of the Communion. The service was conducted according to the English Liturgy. In the evening we went to a Burgher Church in the neighbourhood, and heard a very good sermon.

Dundee, Aug. 8, 1832.

We met Lord Camperdown and his friend Captain Duff, whom I saw so often in London. I have had another letter from Lord Sandon about the Steam Bill. He is really very attentive. . . .

To-morrow is a Reform procession day, so we shall have no business done. . . .

It will have been observed in the extracts given from his correspondence, that George Burns, the son of the “Father of the Church of Scotland,” and the intimate friend of Dr. Chalmers, was perfectly untrammelled in his denominational proclivities, although showing a strong tendency towards the Church of England as by law established.

He liked the Liturgy of the Church—a set form of worship—and thought there was not only ample justification for it in Scripture, but encouragement to “take with you words” in approaching the Almighty in prayer. This did not in the least degree interfere with his appreciation of extempore prayer, which he always employed in his own household; but for public worship he considered that the beautiful sendee of the Church of England was incomparable, representing as it does all the feelings, desires, and passions of man, and giving to all a mouthpiece for the expression of their wants and aspirations. It was peculiarly pleasant to him, a lover of good men and one who had so wide a circle of friends, to know that on the same day and at the same hour he would join with them in identical petitions, and hear with them identical portions of the Word of God. And not only with friends, but with Christian men in every part of the globe where there are English communities, for, from our sea-girt isle to the farthest coast, there would be rising from ten thousand times ten thousand hearts the same utterances and the same ardent desires. Again, lie valued the comprehensiveness of the teaching of the Church. No picking up a scrap here and a scrap there, and ringing the changes upon them, but taking the whole of the Scriptures and the whole range of doctrines, and setting them before the people at recurring seasons.

Moreover, he admired bold preaching, and in the Evangelical section of the Church of England he found men who were not afraid to lift up their voices against “spiritual wickedness in high places,’' against prevailing worldliness, and against apostasy, whether in favour of Popery, or Socinianism, or Infidelity. He had no sympathy with that squire’s daughter, for instance, who asked the young curate “if he could not preach about Hell in the afternoon; he preferred to hear the whole counsel of God ” to saint and sinner, to old and young, to rich and poor. He liked to see the Evangelical minister take down the “sword of the Spirit” from behind the ecclesiastical ephod and use it freely, “piercing to the dividing asunder of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He regretted, in common with all Evangelicals of the old style, that there was such “a wonderful dearth of men of the good sound stamp who gave the ring of the true metal, pure gold without alloy;” and he determined, as far as in him lay, that he would seek to remedy the defect in the circle where his influence was felt.

He attached himself therefore to St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Glasgow—to which church, in 1838, the Rev. Robert Montgomery, afterwards of Percy Street Chapel, London, was appointed. The history of that appointment may he told in Mr. Burns’ own words :—

I had much to do in getting up the two Episcopal churches in Glasgow—St. Jude’s and St. Silas’s. Mr. Almond, who was the Incumbent of St. Mary’s Scotch Episcopal Church, said to me that he was going away for six weeks’ holiday. ‘ But I have a young man strongly recommended to me by Hugh McNeile,’ he said, ‘ of the name of Montgomery, and I should be much obliged if you would show him some attention.’ I went to the church on Sunday to hear him preach, and I went into the vestry to introduce myself. The moment I entered he said, ‘Here, help me on with my gown.’ That was Robert Montgomery, called ‘Satan Montgomery’ by Lord Macaulay. When I got home I said, without hesitation. 4 That fellow will do,’ and my prophecy was fulfilled. He was a young man of real genius, and remarkable power in the pulpit. St. Mary’s Church, where he preached, had been very thinly attended, but in a short time it became crowded to excess. This was more than Mr. Almond could stand, and he appealed to the Directors, who decided to keep Montgomery. Crowds flocked to the church when Montgomery preached, but fell away before Mr. Almond. This led to an unhappy disagreement between the .two preachers, and I was asked by the Directors to try and bring about a reconciliation. I went to Mr. Almond and spoke to him. and in reply to something I said, he answered,

"It is of great importance that Christian people should have the pure gospel;’ to which I answered, ‘Yes, but purity with peace.’ I made nothing hi the way of reconciliation, and in the end Montgomery was- cast off. It was then that I got up St. Jude’s for him, and the two churches became quite alien. There was, however, a Major Orr who worshipped in St. Jude’s, and he took in hand a reconciliation. He spoke to Mr. Almond very earnestly.

Robert Montgomery, who was a notability in his day, was born at Bath in 1807. At an early age he appeared before the world as an author, and in 1828 he published a poem entitled “The Omnipresence of the Deity,” which became extraordinarily popular, eight editions being sold in almost as many months. This was soon followed by other works, the best known of which are “The Messiah” and “Satan.” In 1835 he was ordained, and his first curacy was at Whittington, in Shropshire. Afterwards he was curate to Hugh Mc-Neile in St. Jude’s, Liverpool, where he remained until 1838, when he came to Glasgow. Here he ministered until December, 1842, and made for himself a name as a popular preacher. But he was not in universal favour. Perhaps there were few who had warmer friends or more bitter enemies; certainly there had, up to that time, been few whose preaching excited greater controversy. Macaulay ascribed the success of his poem on “The Omnipresence of the Deity” to “unblushing puffery,” but no amount of puffing would have carried a poem through twenty-six editions without some other qualities. It was said by those who did not admire him that his preaching in some measure resembled the style of his poetry—“he ranted, was affected, and vague ; but his ranting was accepted as earnestness, his affectation as refinement, and his vagueness as a happy generalising ”—whereas Mr. Burns, and others who had faith in him, declared that he was distinct, forcible, and clear in stating Evangelical doctrines, and was neither a ranter, nor affected, nor vague. He was greatly liked by those who knew him well, and even the majority of those who differed from him gave him their esteem and regard. Sir Archibald Alison was one of his constant hearers, and always made a point of taking any visitors who might he staying with him to hear “the greatest preacher of modern times.”

There was much intimacy between Montgomery and the Burns’s, who introduced him to their large circle of friends. Here is a recollection of that period by Mr. Burns :—

My wife was intimately acquainted with the family of Professor John Wilson (‘Christopher North’), and used often to meet there Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (who always wore top-boots). Wilson’s sister, Elizabeth, and my wife were educated at the same boarding-school in Edinburgh, under the able tuition of Mrs. Beatson, widow of Colonel Beatson. There a friendship was formed, which lasted through life. Elizabeth Wilson married Sir John MacNeil, who was Plenipotentiary at the Court of Persia (Teheran). When at one time I was in Edinburgh, I had Robert Montgomery staying with me, and, on invitation, I took him to Professor Wilson’s house to a large evening party, at which tableaux rieauts were acted. One of the scenes represented in the double drawing-room, was old

Christopher North with his crutch (the Professor himself), as editor of Blackwood's Magazine. One of his daughters, afterwards Mrs. Ferrier, personated Queen Mary, who was represented as being-reproved, with others around her, by John Knox on the question of Piizzio. John Knox was represented by Allen, the painter of a historical picture of the scene, the proof engraving of which I have in my Glasgow house, Park Gardens.

About this time Mr. Burns occupied Bose Bank as a summer residence, a beautiful place on the Clyde, some miles from Glasgow, formerly in the possession of David Dale, the founder of the New Lanark Cotton Spinning Mills, from whose daughters Mr. Burns took it on lease.

It was indeed a beautiful place (says Mr. Burns), having a fine bowling-green, garden, and orchard, and a very charming beech-walk along the Clyde banks. A contemporary of David Dale’s, Mr. Daclnnont, when visiting him there, said, - Daavid, tak’ care, mon; this is a bonnie place, but tak’ care God dinna set fire to your nest.’ The moral is patent. We were there in 1839, and other years before and after, and Montgomery greatly delighted to visit us there. He conducted family worship on the first evening he was with us, and one of the servants afterwards said to my wife, ‘ It was a beautiful prayer that Mr. Montgomery offered, but we did not like his calling us mastiffs.’ The explanation of this is that Montgomery had prayed for the domestics of the family. He was at my house continually. One evening when he was visiting us he rose to go exactly at prayer-time. My wife urged him to stay, but he answered rather bluntly, ‘No, no,’ and off he went. A few minutes later the door-bell rang. It was Montgomery back again. Conscience had smitten him on the road, and he returned and conducted prayers.

Mrs. Burns—who from her great kindness and philanthropy was known throughout the parish of Cambuslang as “The Lady of the Bank”—had not quite so keen an admiration of Montgomery as her husband had. Writing to him, she says :—

In the afternoon Mr. Montgomery’s poetical imagination ran wild. He took for his text Genesis viii. verse 22. upon the plentiful harvest, which he viewed in three ways, Sentimentally, Philosophically, and Spiritually. Under the first head he pitied the man who had the misfortune not to like poetry, for he could not love God’s word, which was written in poetry. He talked of the greenery of the fields, and many more such strange expressions. The second head was the old story to infidels. Then he had left little time for the third head,’ which was very meagre.

Montgomery bad a great regard for Mrs. Burns, and one of his early acts after settling at St. Jude’s was to make her the almoner of certain monies he collected for the poor. He is out of date now, and few remember him ; but those who do, will recall the style of the man in the following letter to Mrs. Burns : —

Feb. 2(5, 1838.

My dearest Friend,—The first feeling of unmingled pleasure which I have known for a long while, is the one I experience now, in the thought of administering gratification towards yourself by asking you to undertake, on behalf of your poor, the stewardship of the accompanying sum. At the beginning of the week I determined on dispensing it through your hands, because few know how to distinguish better between worthy and unworthy suffering, and none will enjoy more the luxury of doing good. In this, as in all other of your words and works, may the Lord the Spirit be your counsellor and guide.

I cannot close this, my dear friend, without a heartfelt prayer to the Throne of Grace, for you and yours, and an ardent feeling of interest for all that relates to your happiness in time and eternity; may the sisterly tenderness you have ever evinced towards me be repaid a thousandfold into your own bosom. I wish I could say there was sunshine within my own heart; hut it is vain to disguise —there is a slow fever, of which the world knows nothing, withering the life springs of my happiness—I secret worm he gnawing the root of inward comfort; and though my prayer is, that I may have grace to endure as a Christian, I feel I have little stoicism to endure as a num. Pray for me!

My headache yesterday afternoon duriiuj the prayers almost annihilated me ; I did what I never did before since my ordination —read two morning instead of evening prayers. Let me hope that Geordie is well.

Believe me, sister mine,

Ever your affectionate brother in the Gospel,

R. Montgomery.

Some of Montgomery’s letters to Mr. Burns are very amusing; illustrating two opposite sides of his character—his affectation and fastidious tastes, and his robust and manly independence. We have only space for two brief specimens :—

I am going to preach In Dublin, and I beg that a state cabin may be secured for me. My stomach is delicate, and to be pigged up with a lot of cigar-scented animals is more than I can bear.

I hope you are all well in the great Metropolis. May you have your Presbyterian Scotchiness knocked out of you, and a little of genuine, apostolic, and primitive stuff knocked into you.

In 1843, Montgomery’s meteoric course in Glasgow came to an end, and he left for Percy Chapel, London, where Haldane Stewart ministered and McNeile so often preached. There he continued till his death, which occurred at Brighton in 18*55, but incidentally he will come before us again in the course of this narrative.

Two events occurred about this period to which we must refer before passing on to tell the story of the great enterprise that was to make the permanent name and fame of George Burns.

On the 26th of February, 1839, the Rev. Dr. Burns of the Baronv, “after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep” in his ninety-sixth year, and was laid with his fathers.” For many years his life had anticipated the happiness of heaven. “There are some human beings,” says Charlotte Bronte, “so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their journey; and often these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature’s elect, harmonious and benign, men mild with charity, kind agents of God’s kind attributes." And such was the father of George Burns. He lived all his life. At the age of ninety, he remained at a Debate on the Catholic Belief Bill until after midnight to record his vote. He was the “Father of the Church of Scotland,” and had exercised the ministerial functions of the Barony parish—the largest in Scotland—for a period of sixty-nine years. He served a cure for a longer period than l;ad fallen to the lot of any Presbyterian or Episcopalian clergyman in Glasgow since the Reformation in 1860, and there had been no Roman Catholic Bishops or Archbishops since the renovation of the See in 1129, who had held office for such a length of time. His popularity, which increased through a long life, was that which arises from a faithful discharge of duty; and when he was laid to rest full of years and honour, men and women of all ranks in life and of all shades of religious belief gathered round his grave to pay their tribute of affection and respect. Dr. Thomas Brown, the minister of St. John’s Church, preached the funeral sermon from the appropriate words, “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.”

In a lengthy poem in memory of Dr. Burns, entitled “The Minister’s Funeral,” Robert Montgomery wrote : —

“And now, farewell! If age’s hoary charm;
If gentleness with solid worth combin’d;
If faith and truth in patriarchal grace Bedeck’d;
If boundless love, that God-like smiles
Serenely over sects and names enthroned;
If these were thine—with all till enriching spell
Of temper, cloudless as the crystal noon,
And feelings, toned to ev’ry tender call
While round about thee hung the glow
Of youth’s gay morning, by the eve of age
Subdued, like spring and autumn’s blended smile,—
Then, o’er thy grave recording
Truth may bend
And drop, not undeserv’d, the simple wreath
Of memory, the Muse has ventur’d now.”

In the following year, another breach was made in the family circle of George Burns by the removal through death of his father-in-law, Dr. Cleland. Few men of his time were more intimately associated with the history of Glasgow, or better known throughout the West of Scotland, than he, while in the domestic and social circle none were more highly loved and honoured. He was a born statist, and was the first to draw public attention to the value of regular mortuary tables, which before his day were most carelessly compiled. On two occasions he drew up and classified the enumeration of the inhabitants of Glasgow ; for fourteen years the bills of mortality were prepared by him; he wrote a number of important volumes on the annals of the city; he was for many years Superintendent of Public Works, and throughout his long life there was hardly a movement for the improvement of Glasgow in which he did not take a leading part.

On his retirement from public life in 1834, a magnificent gift was presented to him by his fellow-citizens; a handsome sum was raised and invested in a building called to this day “The Cleland Testimonial.” Many honours were showered upon him from time to time. The University of Glasgow conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws; he was President of the Glasgow Statistical Society, and Fellow of various other statistical and antiquarian societies at home and abroad.

One of the Established churches in Glasgow— originally called the Fani’s Horn, and afterwards the Forth-West, hut now designated St. David’s— was rebuilt when Dr. Cleland was Superintendent of Public Works. In compliment to his skill in the arrangement of the church, and more especially of the crypt which he formed, the Lord Provost and Magistrates presented him with a handsome enclosed burial-ground in the crypt, where his body lies. In 1888—the year of the Glasgow International Exhibition—George Burns, at the invitation of the Corporation, adorned the church with a handsome stained-glass window in memory of his father-in-law.

In that burial-ground rest also the mortal remains of the four children of Mr. Burns who died in infancy. Of the survivors, John and James Cleland, and of Margaret, who subsequently died, we shall have more to say hereafter.


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