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

George Burns, His Times and Friends
Chapter XVIII. The Care of the Churches

One of the principal labours of Mr. Burns in his retired life was the “care of the churches.” At Wemyss Bay and St. Silas’s in Glasgow, with its mission church and schools at Partick, he was labouring to present the Church of England to the Scottish people as a thoroughly Protestant, Evangelical, and Scriptural Church, and to show that its services and ordinances of Divine worship, and its ministrations among the people, could, without any breach of Christian charity, be carried on in the absence of Episcopal rule. But in the vacancies that from time to time occurred in the churches of which he was patron, it required a vast amount of care to guard against appointing any one who would not make a right use of his freedom from the control of Episcopal authority, or who would not faithfully preach the doctrines and, so far as circumstances would admit, observe the rites and ceremonies of the Church.

In order to complete the history of Mr. Burns’ connection with English Episcopalians in Scotland, we must go back to the period at which we left off in a previous chapter.

'When, in 1849, it was found that certain English bishops were supporting the assumptions of the Scottish bishops, it was resolved to meet the threatened danger in the House of Peers. A petition was drawn up, and influentially signed, and a deputation (consisting of Lord Elibank, Sir James Baird, Brodie of Brodie, Evan Baillie of Dochfour, George Burns, Arthur Kinnaird, Burnley, Gribble, Drummond, and Miles, among others) was appointed to visit London. The deputation had interviews with prelates and peers, and especially with Lord Brougham, who undertook to present the petition.

On the 22nd of May this was done, and the debate lasted for four and a half hours. The two archbishops, and many of the bishops at once expressed their entire concurrence in the prayer of the petition, and stated that they would not object to license in their dioceses clergymen “duly qualified in soundness of doctrine and character, who, having officiated in English chapels in Scotland separate from the Scottish Episcopal Church, do not possess a testimonial from a Scottish bishop.” The animated discussion in the House of Lords led to no decisive result, but it gave publicity to the subject, and so iar did good to the cause that Mr. Bums had so much at heart.

For some years matters went on quietly and progressively, with little to call for remark, until the year 1856, when Bishop Gobat, of Jerusalem, paid a visit to Scotland, and without stint or reserve gave his aid to the English Episcopalians there. This brought upon him the most violent abuse, alike from quarters where he expected it, and where he did not. In a letter to Mr. John Burns, referring to the bitterness of the attack made upon him, he says :—

If I had previously had any hesitation about preaching the gospel in the towns where the Scottish bishops happen to reside, their subsequent conduct would not have failed to convince me of the absolute necessity of faithful servants of God going to carry light where the shades of such men are eclipsing the brightness of the gospel. And I hope and pray that Evangelical bishops and other ministers of the Church of England may have grace to go and continue with power the work which has been begun in weakness, until the Scottish Episcopal Church either ceases to exist or returns to the truth of God’s Holy Word.

In the autumn, of 1866, the Archbishop of Canterbury with much pomp and circumstance laid the foundation-stone in Inverness of a Cathedral for the “diocese”—so called—“of Moray and Boss in the Episcopal Church of Scotland.”

In doing so he appeared in the capacity of a Dissenter—inasmuch as the Episcopal Church of Scotland is a dissenting community, just as much as the Wesleyans or the Independents or the Roman Catholics are in England, the Established Church in Scotland being Presbyterian.

Not content with placing himself in this extraordinary and anomalous position, his Grace made a speech in which he said, “I rejoice to he able to give testimony to my anxious desire to seal the union and communion between the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Church of England. That Episcopal Church is the only true representative of the Church of England in Scotland.”

Here was an opportunity that Mr. Drummond was not likely to let pass. Having ascertained from the Archbishop that his speech was correctly reported, Mr. Drummond, in a series of powerful letters, brought forward the whole question of Scottish Episcopacy and of the position of English Episcopalians.

We cannot enter into the controversy here further than to quote some of the arguments used hy Mr. Drummond to test the conclusion at which the Archbishop had arrived, that the Scotch Episcopal Church was “ the only true representative of the Church of England in Scotland.”

1. The Scotch Episcopal Church is purely a voluntary and dissenting communion.

2. She has laws of her own, differing from and independent of those which govern our Church.

3. She may alter these laws whenever she pleases, without regard to any civil or ecclesiastical judicature in the kingdom. She has done so three times during this century.

4. These laws enforce a discipline altogether foreign to that which prevails in our Church, giving to the seven Scotch bishops, as a court from which their clergy bind themselves not to appeal, the power of—‘ 1. Admonition; 2. Suspension; 3. Deprivation of a pastoral charge; 4. Degradation.’

5. These laws sanction, in congregations already using it, and permit its introduction into any new congregation, a communion office which Dr. Blalceney, in his work on the ‘ Book of Common Prayer’ (already a standard work), characterises as ‘an instance of decided retrogression towards Rome.’

6. The Scotch Episcopal Church formally adopted the Thirty-nine Articles in 1804. But how? The Bishop Skinner of that day wrote privately to an eminent layman of his Church that they were to be ‘subscribed by Scotch Episcopalians only as Articles of Union, whereby we express our approbation of what the Church of England has intended by them.’ To this end he prepared a preamble, modifying Articles 17, 25, 35, 30, and 37. His correspondent, however, induced him to abandon this, and to accept his own proposal instead—viz., to subscribe the Articles as they are, ‘every subscriber explaining them to himself! ’ Bishop Jolly, nevertheless, when he signed them frankly declared, ‘We must be candidly understood as taking them in unison with that book (“A Layman’s Account,” &c.), and not think any expressions with regard to the Lord’s Supper inimical to our practice at the altar in the use of the Scotch Communion Office.’

7. Lord Romilly, in his recent judgment in the case of the Bishop of Natal v. Mr. Gladstone and others, refers to churches ‘ rejecting, as the Episcopal Church in Scotland is compelled to do, the Thirty-seventh Article of the Church of England.’

8. So recently as 1850, the Scotch bishops, in Synod assembled, took into consideration the case of Gorham r. Bishop of Exeter, and solemnly declared—‘ We do not consider the sentence in the case referred to as having any authority to bind us.’ Thus ignoring a decision by which your Grace and all the members of our Church are bound, regarding a vital question in one of the most important of the sendees of the Church of England.

9. The above handling of the English Liturgy and Articles has never been repudiated by the Scotch Episcopal Church; and cannot be, so long as her canons sanction tlie use of a communion office involving a priestly miracle which has been deliberately excluded from our office, and as long as the Thirty-seventh Article is by the same canons a dead letter.

These were nuts which the Archbishop did not crack. In his concluding letter, however, he said: “There can he little use in diverging further into collateral topics. My original position was, that a Church governed by bishops, and using the Liturgy of the Church of England as well as accepting her Articles as its confession, was a more true representative of the Church of England in Scotland than certain congregations which were under no bishop, and which also used the Liturgy and accepted the Articles of the Church of England.”

This, of course, was not the original position of the Primate; between “the only true representative” and “the more true representative” there is an enormous difference.

The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Record, and other influential papers, took up the question warmly, and the English Episcopalians gained by the controversy.

Incidentally we may introduce here a letter from Mr. Burns’s old friend the well-known Bev. Dr. Guthrie, in which a curious illustration of the “uncertainty of evidence ”—wide of the mark at present—is given, and also the strong opinion of the good Doctor on the matter at issue.

1, Salisbury Road, Edinburgh, Nov. 13, 1800.

My dear Mr. Burns,—We were delighted to have a letter from you—it was almost as good as a crack amid the loveliness of Wemyss Bay. Thank Mr. John for his kindness in sending us such a full-charged box of luscious figs. I have been reading Whately’s ‘ Life,’ and one of his best bonmots turns on a fig. He was dining at the Vice-regal Lodge. He knew he was no favourite there, and let them know that, calling out as he sought to be helped to some of that fruit—‘A fin for the Archbishop!’

As to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he has done foolishly and unkindly, both. I have no sympathy with the writers of the Times, who find fault with him as if he had been unlawfully poaching on the preserves of a Presbyterian Establishment—that is all stuff. But he was made to speak very foolishly when he spoke of the hinds and ploughmen and cottars of the Carse of Gowrie thirsting for Episcopacy ; and I think he spoke wickedly when he represented the Scotch Episcopalians in Scotland as the true representatives of the Church of England—that was a most unkind and unfair kick at those who, from their very attachment to the sound and Catholic doctrines of the Church of England, had refused to connect themselves with Scotch Episcopacy. Whatever there may be in that, I am pretty sure the Archbishop now wishes that he had not crossed the border.

I have, to my own and my wife’s great entertainment, discovered that that good story of the Archbishop I read in your letter, and not in the Life ! I am engaged reading the Life, and thought it was there I read it. Is not that funny ? It shows the uncertainty of evidence.

Yours, with affectionate esteem,

Thomas Guthrie.

In 1870, a question, which had long been under consideration, arose as to the propriety of obtaining the services, permanently or occasionally, of a Colonial bishop to perform the functions of his office for the English Episcopalians in Scotland, instead of sending candidates for Confirmation to Carlisle and other English dioceses. The name of a certain bishop having been brought forward, the opinion of Dr. A. J. Stephens, Q.C., the famous ecclesiastical lawyer, was asked. He gave it in these words: “The Bishop of can, after his resignation of that See, accept, without any disqualification, the office of Bishop over congregations in Scotland, members of the Church of England.”

Public opinion was much divided upon the project. Hany of the English Episcopalians in Scotland considered that “their strength was to sit still.” Hitherto they had been on the defensive, contending for the enjoyment of a liberty guaranteed by law and the Act of Union. To move in the direction contemplated would be to place themselves as an assaulting party on the Scotch Episcopalians, to awaken fresh and more bitter enmity and opposition, and to enter on a conflict destructive of much of the peaceful and, as they thought, righteous position they held.

The times, too, were out of joint. The ecclesiastical atmosphere was showing unmistakable signs of a gathering storm : the Church of Ireland would in tlit' following year be a free Church ; the Ritual Commission was soon to publish its report; important cases before the Privy Council were pending. It might benefit the cause of the Ritualists if the English Episcopalians in Scotland were to throw down the gauntlet and openly ignore the Church in Scotland, which the ^Ritualistic party were looking to as their flying point.

There were, in addition, many weak points in the case of the Scotch Evangelicals, the chief of wdrich were—(1) the position of hishops consecrated by, and hound in allegiance to, the see of Canterbury, when the late Primate, and the one then in office, had declared the Scotch Episcopal to he the only Episcopal Church in Scotland acknowledged by the Church of England; (2) although there was a bishop ready to come forward and accept the position, there might he insuperable difficulty in finding a successor; and (3) to have a bishop presiding while under reproof and remonstrance from Canterbury, would tend to place the congregations in the light of separatists from the Church of England, and shut out all English clergymen from assisting them.

In view of these points, the feeling of Mr. Burns on the question is given in the following letter to Mr. Burnley:—

Wemyss House, July 19, 1870.

My dear Burnley,—I have been giving tlie proposal to establish a Bishopric a great deal of thought, and I think it right to say that, irrespective altogether of the fitness of any particular man to fill the office, my mind is by no means made up as to the advantage of the step itself, and therefore I feel bound to say that those who propose carrying the measure into effect must not count on our rendering assistance. Your view may be far more sound and correct under the circumstances than mine, but according to the light I have, and the aspect of things present and future, I should do wrong if I withheld my opinion, more especially now that yon intend going to London, on the subject. Were I to do so, you and others might possibly think that you had been misled. I wish particularly to avoid that as respects John and myself. He is not here, hut I think I am expressing his sentiments as well as my own.

Yours most sincerely,

George Burns.

Mr. John Burns’ concurrence in his father’s views is expressed in the following letter :—

Castle Wemyss, July, 1870.

My dear Father,— . . . There are two sides to this question of a Bishop, and I am not inclined to admit that we cannot thrive without one. ... I have not the slightest dread of our chapels being closed by want of men willing to fill them, there being no legal enactment against clergymen of the Church of England doing so, and it would he showing poor faith were we to think otherwise. No doubt to get a good bishop might be a good thing as far as Confirmation and the rites of the Church are concerned, but how are we to be sure of a successor, because we would always have to look to getting a bishop who had been consecrated for a purpose other than coming to Scotland.

I do not wish in any way to influence the opinion of others, but 1 think that the matter should be carefully considered apart from the natural wish of some to be under episcopal authority, which personally I do not particularly covet.

Yours affectionately,

John Burns.

The mere discussion of the appointment of a bishop gave rise to much bitter feeling, and the opponents of the scheme not only sought to wreck it, but to wreck at the same time the whole position of the English Episcopalians in Scotland.

In course of time, however, Mr. Burns, although still failing to see the necessity of any such appointment, felt that it was undesirable for him to stand aloof, and eventually he and his colleagues fought on in the face of the most hitter opposition, and in the thick atmosphere of controversy. For themselves they did not care; they felt that . their position was unassailable, backed as it was by Acts of Parliament and the Act of Union. At the same time they considered it would be highly desirable for the sake of the clergymen who assisted them, and who were subject to the interference and the private remonstrance of their bishops, against whose wishes they were in opposition, to have a case prepared, and the opinion of the best ecclesiastical lawyers obtained.

The good offices of Lord Shaftesbury, and his friend Mr. Alexander Haldane, Barrister of the Inner Temple, were secured; a case was submitted to Dr. A. J. Stephens, directing his attention to all the Acts of the Legislature of Scotland before the Union, bearing upon the subject, and to a number of Acts of the United Kingdom, and he was requested to advise—

“1. Whether a bishop who has held a see in England, Ireland, India, or the Colonies, will, in accepting the office of bishop over the congregations of members of the Church of England, protected and allowed in Scotland, commit any act of secession or disqualification in reference to the Church of England?

“2. Would the congregations cease to he congregations of the Church of England, and their members to be members of the Church of England?

“3. Would such action destroy the legal status of these congregations?”

Dr. Stephens went fully into the law of the case, and concluded his opinion in these words :—

“I am therefore of opinion that all the questions which have now been submitted to me must be answered in the negative.”

This opinion was published far and wide, and it removed many false impressions, some of which were due to ignorance and some to prejudice. Mr. Haldane, in a letter to Mr. Burns, said:—

The opinion of my friend Archibald John Stephens, Q.C., has produced a great effect, and has cleared away the cobwebs of many bewildered prelates and sacerdotalists, as to the Scotch Episcopal Church. I had long felt confident that the law only wanted to be clearly set forth in order to settle the question.

A case had been laid by a certain Colonial bishop before Sir Bounded Palmer, whose ultra-Church prejudices were well known, and referring to this, Mr. Haldane continues :—

Sir Roundell Palmer was approached, and his opinion was finally one that concurred with Stephens’s on the Statute Law, although he raised a conundrum about Canon Law, with which we have nothing to do. It was then that I drew the case which brought out the Statute Law of the old Scotch Parliament, confirmed by the British Parliament, and especially by the recital in the Duke of Buccleuch’s Act, which blows to atoms all the nonsense that has been talked, of the change in favour of the Scotch Episcopalians effected by the Duke.

A review of all the statutes from 1689 to 1864 had resulted in the proof that “ there was no Episcopal Church in Scotland recognised as a corporate body, and that Scotch dioceses and territorial ecclesiastical jurisdiction existed only in the imagination of sacerdotal churchmen.”

Dr. Guthrie, who watched the progress of the controversy with unflagging interest, wrote to Mr. Burns : —

Glasgow, April 21, 1871.

My dear Mr. Burns,— ... I read the opinion of Stephens with much interest. You should have a bishop. If you won’t take the bull by the horns, and do what the Canon Law of the Catholic Church acknowledges valid in difficult circumstances, namely, set aside, by a solemn act of the Church, one or more for that office, Mcllvaine of Ohio might float you over the bar. ... I was taken, and my lorded, for a bishop at the royal wedding, and did not repudiate; it was not worth while—besides, we Presbyterians hold every pastor to be a bishop. If we can make out a run to Wemyss Bay, it will be a great pleasure to Mrs. Guthrie and me.

As we shall not henceforth dwell further on this ecclesiastical controversy, it may be well to state in this place the events following.

1877, after fortifying themselves with the best legal advice that could be obtained—advice which coincided with the opinion given by Dr. A. J. Stephens in 1871, and reiterated by him in other 11 cases submitted to him—the English Episcopalians in Scotland determined to have a bishop of their own, and upon Mr. Burns and his son, Mr. John Burns, the burden of the negotiations fell.

The position of affairs had become intolerable ; the members of the Church had to take their children for confirmation to Carlisle and the diocese of Durham, but the system was cumbersome and inconvenient. That, however, could have been borne, but after Waldegrave, Villiers, Baring, and others of the same type passed away from those dioceses, bishops of other views occupied the sees, and determined to exclude the candidates from the privileges they had hitherto enjoyed. Meetings were therefore held, here, there, and everywhere in Scotland, and eventually Bishop Beckles, formerly Bishop of Sierra Leone, was invited to take the spiritual oversight of the English Episcopalians, an invitation he accepted without hesitation, as he held an “appointment” as vicar in London, from which he could free himself during the months of May and June, to “visit the different congregations, and perform the rites of his office in such places and at such times as might be required."

For a time there was great rejoicing among the Schismatics, as they were called, although not a few rejoiced with trembling. Among these was the Rev. T. M. Macdonald, of Kersal Rectory, Manchester, an old friend of Mr. Burns, and a frequent preacher in the Wemyss Bay Church, who wrote to him as follows :—

March 2, 1877.

My dear Friend,—I was intending to write a letter of condolence, that the mitre had fallen from your head on to that of Bishop Becldes, but as I see the indignant query of the Guardian, ‘who appointed Bishop Beetles?’ has received an answer in the Record that three Lay Archbishops have done the deed; and as I regard J. B. as your representative in the case, I beg to offer my congratulations on your promotion to Archiepiscopal dignity, with the addition of a suffragan under your direction, who, I trust, will be as dutiful in his Episcopal place at your feet, as it lias always been my privilege to be as a humble presbyter.

The appointment of Bishop Beckles will relieve the position of English Episcopalians in Scotland of an anomaly which was of growing inconvenience, as the generation of young people who were of an age for Confirmation was passing on into another. In this point of view, and as completing the Episcopal Establishment of English Episcopalians in Scotland, I am very glad of the arrangement. One drawback is in the probable future, when it is doubtful if a successor can be found ; but, as you say, I thought it doubtful that any bishop could be found so free from Bench atmosphere to entertain the thought of coming—and sc my doubts may be groundless respecting the future, as it proves to be respecting the present. And in any case, the future may well be left to care for itself; or rather, it may be left to Him whose cause, as I believe, is identified with the faithful refusal of English Episcopalians in Scotland to compromise their loyalty to His truth by accepting the superintendence of the Scotch bishops.

The arrangement with Bishop Beckles terminated under the agreement made with him for a certain period, and from that time to the present, the English Episcopalians in Scotland have dispensed with a bishop of their own. In recent years, Dr. J. C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool, has rendered to the candidates for confirmation the good services formerly performed by Bishops Waldegrave, Villiers, and Baring.

We must now go back in the narrative in order to connect the personal history of Mr. Burns, and some of his friends, with these Church proceedings.

In 1858, the Rev. C. P. Miles, who, hacked by Mr. Burns, had in his time “fought a whole regiment of Scotch bishops,” resigned the living of St. Jude’s. It was a great sorrow to Mr. Burns, and he wrote :—

Punoon, July 6, 1858.

My dear Miles,— . . . Your letter saddened, but I cannot say surprised, me. Change upon change is constantly occurring here, and so it will continue until we arrive at that rest that remaineth for the people of God. Throughout the fifteen years we have been associated, I have never entertained anything but hind feelings towards you, and between us nothing has ever occurred to ruffle our intercourse. . . .

Since you are to leave us, I am truly happy to think that the proposed appointment in Malta seems one well adapted for your habits of mind, and you for it; and if it be ordered that you are to go there, I pray God that He may make you eminently useful. . . . I shall reserve anything more I have to say, and I have much to say, until we meet.

Yours very truly,

G. Burns.

So long as life lasted, the friendship between Canon Miles and Mr. Burns remained firm and steadfast, and it was a mutual gratification, as well as a help to them, to open out freely to one another in correspondence between the intervals of their meeting. Let us take a glance into the minds of these two men, hy selecting a passage or two from that mass of correspondence. Mr. Miles, solicitous for the spiritual welfare of some mutual friends, writes :—

Their very doubts and fears are the evidence, not of a sceptical rejection of the blessed hope of the gospel, but rather of the sincerity with which they desire to realise all the peace and consolation promised to the children of God.

Again, Mr. Miles, when mourning the loss of his aged mother, to whom he was tenderly attached, acknowledges a letter from his friend Mr. Burns, and says: —

It was not so much the religious truth you conveyed that gave me comfort, for, as you may understand, my memory is almost over-loaded with Scripture, and my constant habit for many years past of quoting texts for the guidance and consolation of others, has made the Divine promises as familiar to me as they are applicable and precious to us all. But it was your sympathy that touched me. It penetrated into my soul, for whilst springing out of Christian love, and pointing to the only source of strength and joy and peace, it was in harmony with nature—that is, your expressions of kindness did not jar upon my natural feelings of distress. Some imagine that advanced age lessens the bond that binds a son to an affectionate mother; my experience is to the contrary. She had been the object of my solicitude for many years : for more than sixty years I had been lovingly associated with her. How. could it be otherwise than a wrench when, in the dispensation of Divine providence, she was withdrawn from my embrace! I have felt her death deeply; the promises of the gospel do not assuage my grief—my grief is natural, and I mourn, and I must continue to mourn, the loss of a mother.

The old Glasgow days never grew old in the memory of Canon Miles. In one of his letters, written many years afterwards, he says :—

My memory is so deeply impressed, fissured, if I may use the term, by recollections of Glasgow and its neighbourhood, that even sleep is not powerful enough to efface the pictures; for my very dreams are often of people and of scenes that belong to the Clyde.

To the cordial affection of Canon Miles, the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Burns responded warmly. The following extract from a long letter written by Mr. Burns on the 1st of January, 1875, may he taken as an illustration :—

I write this first effusion of the year in response to your kind letter received at our breakfast table this morning. You never uttered a truer word than when you say our friendship has been unbroken since the first day we met. I may add what I have often said and felt, that the sympathies and structure of our minds in many respects are analogous. It needs not words to find it out. And now for my wife. I think you and she must have sprung from the same character of molecules: you are ‘Treasurer, Organiser, Secretary, and Clerk, nay, also errand boy’; she all her life has been everything—Collector, Treasurer, President, Secretary, and, in fact, totality of Committee for all manner of institutions. So you two are identical, as you and I are.

The filling up of occasional vacancies in the two churches of which he was the joint patron was always an anxiety to Mr. Burns. He felt the responsibility of appointing men who were to minister in holy things, and of placing them in the peculiar position they were to occupy. To one who was invited to accept the charge, he wrote :—

I wish to put in my entreaty with as much earnestness as I can express, that you will give this most important matter your favourable consideration. That you will be very earnest in prayer for guidance I have no doubt, and with our blessed God and Father, who knows we need instruction, I leave it. Our case is one of urgency, and our position one of great importance, and with the blessing of the Holy Spirit resting on the faithful ministration of the servant of Christ, I think would be one of much usefulness and comfort. The people are tractable English Episcopalians, ready to be guided, I hope, into the way of all truth, if faithfully and also wisely dealt with. I am deeply impressed with the importance of doing everything that can be done to lay before you the whole oi our case, and then leaving it, where it is already, in God’s ordering.

In October, 1869, Mr. Burns withdrew from the Vestry of St. Silas’s, on the grounds that the debt on the Church was entirely discharged ; that he was rarely in Glasgow, except for a very brief period in winter; and that he had arrived at a time of life which pointed to the propriety of the step he was taking.

The supply of the pulpit in his Wemyss Bay Church throughout the summer months of each year was Mr. Burns’s special care. Each minister who came had a nicely furnished parsonage, every attention, and a ready welcome to Wemyss House and the Castle.*

To record Mr. Burns’ anecdotal reminiscences of these clergymen, the large majority of whom were personal friends, would till a hulky volume; we can therefore only cull a few specimens, and that almost at random.

The first who officiated was the Rev. Thomas Tate, grandson of the Tate who ran in harness with Brady in hymnology. Mr. Tate’s father was appointed Rector of Edmonton, but soon after the living came into his possession he died. The gift was in the hands of the Bean and Chapter of St. Paul’s, and every canon in rotation had the privilege of giving a nomination. After the death of Tate, the nomination fell to Sydney Smith.

Mr. Tate told me (says Mr. Burns), that very soon after his father’s death Sydney Smith went to the rectory at Edmonton, and to the surprise of every one at once announced his intention to remain to lunch. He then expressed his wish to see the widow of Mr. Tate, but she, so recently bereaved, begged to be excused. But Smith would not hear of a refusal, and after some delay Mrs. Tate, from her led, put in an appearance. After lunch Smith called for wine, remarking that he had a toast which he was anxious to propose. After a curious preamble he said, ‘ I have risen to propose a toast, and I am anxious to propose it in this place, and under these circumstances. I give you the health of the new Rector of Edmonton.’ No one saw the point of his toast, and Mrs. Tate thought his conduct was most unfeeling, until lie added, ‘ The health of the new Rector of Edmonton, the Rev. Thomas Tate,’ and then mother and son almost fainted with surprise and joy.

Another of the Wemyss Bay clergymen was the Rev. Dr. Daniel Foley, a very able and genial man, Professor of the Celtic Language in Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Burns has many stories to tell of him. He says :—

Dr. Foley was very much with us. Amongst his many accomplishments was this, that he was a good swimmer, and a remarkable diver. He taught my son James to swim, and sometimes he would catch hold of him and take him down to the bottom ot the sea.

On one occasion when a clergyman was staying with us, Foley took him out swimming, and after cautioning him as to what to do when under water, dived with him unexpectedly to the bottom. When he came up he said, ‘Oh, Dan, you’ve nearly killed me! You forget that I’ve only got one lung.’

Foley had a remarkably powerful voice, and could make himself heard by thousands of people in the open air. When Mr. Gladstone’s intention of disestablishing the Irish Church was looming over Parliament, Dan Foley and some others were appointed as a deputation to visit Scotland for the purpose of opposing his proposed scheme. A large meeting was called for Glasgow, in the hope that the matter would be taken up warmly. I said to Foley, ‘ They’ll do nothing of the kind.’ He replied, ‘ Surely Protestant Scotland will stand up for the defence of the Protestant Church in Ireland!’ I answered, ‘Protestant Scotland will do nothing of the kind. You will get a large meeting in the City Hall, and you and the rest of the deputation will be cheered to the echo when you deliver your addresses, and there the matter will end.’ The result was exactly as I had predicted.

With respect to Dan Foley’s (living, when he was visiting the mission stations in the islands off Cape Clear, an accident happened to the boat, and he was thrown into the water. He had on a heavy great-coat and cumbrous boots, and after being long in the water, and his powers of swimming taxed to the utmost, he began to sink, and, when sinking into the deep, all the transactions of his life seemed to come vividly and leisurely to his memory, as though they were being actually repeated. I have often thought of this story of Foley’s in connection with the last judgment. Every man must give an account, and it would seem that it is possible in a moment of time for all the cells of memory to be unlocked.

It always gave a charm to the summer months of the year to have the society of the Wemyss Bay clergy at Wemyss House.

Mr. Burns greatly relished the high spirits and sparkling humour of John Bardsley, the present Bishop of Sodor and Man, which came out in writing as well as in speech, as the following letter, forwarding as a present a handsome walking-stick with a crook, will testify :—

George Burns, Episcopo Wemyensi.

My dear. Bishop,—Let me respectfully welcome thy return to a diocese which, needing thy presence, has long mourned its absent lord. To me it hath, I confess, often been matter of surprise that thy faithful clergy have not, as in other things, made thee equal to thy mitred brethren by the possession of a pastoral staff; that marked omission I hasten to supply, and in the future, whether it be thy wish with outstretched hand to hook back thy straying sheep, or, crook in hand, with uplifted palm and triple digits to bless the woolly Hock, at such times, standing by thee, I loyally promise never to wink with mine eye, but in all ways to attend tliee as becometh faithful allegiance.

Presbeter Johannes oculus episcopi Weiiyensis.

For Dean Close, of Carlisle, Mr. Burns had a very great regard. Referring to their intercourse, he says :—

In the later years of our married life, when going to London, we divided the journey into three stages—leaving Glasgow at 2, and arriving in Carlisle about 5.30, in time for dinner at the Railway Station Hotel, where we always went; we remained in Carlisle until one o’clock the following day, when we left for Crewe or Stafford, and on the third day we arrived in London. It was always my habit, when remaining at Carlisle till one o’clock, to go to the Deanery to see Dean Close. He was full of pleasantry and lively anecdote ; he would greet me, when walking towards the Deanery, with ‘ Here’s my inspector come back to look after me.’

One of his latest letters to Mr. Burns, written in February, 1873, was as follows :—

My dear Friend,— . . . Don’t ask an old man of seventy-six to go a preaching; I get sensibly older and less able to go about. I must, if alive, preach in London in April at Whitehall, a duty which, while I have a leg to stand on, with God’s help I will attempt.

Awful times ! no rest for a weary soul. The hot fires of controversy dry up Christian love and spiritual progress.

Yours most truly,

F. Close.

The well-known Hugh MacNeile, Dean of Ripon, was one of the preachers in Wemyss Bay Church

towards the close of his career. In 1869, in response to an invitation from Mr. Burns, he wrote :—

I am neither younger nor stronger since I saw you. so that if there be but one clergyman at a time, and if he has to read the whole of our service twice and preach twice every Sunday, I dare not undertake it. I would gladly preach twice if I had not to read, but I would not venture to make myself responsible for both. Twenty years ago it would have made no difference.

Of course an extra clergyman was found to undertake the routine duties. Referring to this visit, Mr. Burns says :—

One evening my son was going out for a sail, and I, Hugh MacNeile, and others joined him. On board, MacNeile was laughing in an amusing fashion to himself; I asked the cause of his merriment. ‘ I am laughing to think that I, a wretched sailor, should have found myself voluntarily on board a yacht.’ ‘You cannot be a worse sailor than I am,’ I said. ‘ Very well, then, let us make a compact—you will not go yachting again unless I accompany you, and I will not unless you accompany me,’ and the bargain was kept.

When Hugh MacNeile held a Thursday-evening lectureship in Liverpool, I and my wife went on one occasion to hear him. He was discoursing upon the history of Jonah, and in the course of his remarks he said: ‘One of those serpents in the grass who call themselves Freethinkers, once said to a woman who was attempting to vindicate the inspiration of Scripture, “Are you such a fool as to believe that the whale swallowed Jonah?” “Yes, I do believe it,” she answered, “and if the Scriptures had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, I should have believed that.” ’It is not necessary to say that MacNeile did not give this illustration of the woman’s credulity as an example of faith.'

Time would fail to tell of the Rev. Fielding Quid, Kector of Tattenhall, in Cheshire, who was contemporary at Fojde College with the Lawrences, the Indian heroes—a man with all the fervour of Irish eloquence and a most attractive preacher. He often took the services at Wemyss Bay, and Mr. Burns says :—

I remember one of Quid’s sermons on Jonah and liis mission to Nineveh ; a kind of refrain ran through the discourse in these simple words, ‘Who can tell!’ I hardly ever hear the expression without hearing again that sermon.

Or of Canon Savage, of Nuneaton, a very intimate friend, of whom Mr. Burns narrates :—

Before he went to Nuneaton, he was Rector of Tamworth, Sir Robert Peel’s place, with whom he was intimate. He told me a number of things about Peel’s habits, amongst them that he had an utter abhorrence of cockroaches, and once, when a cockroach appeared creeping upon the floor, Savage saw Sir Robert jump up upon a chair to avoid it, and would not come down until the cockroach had ceased to be.

One of Canon Savage’s curates was the Rev. Sholto Douglas, the present Incumbent of St. Silas’.

Another of the Wemyss Bay clergymen was the Rev. G. Pakenham Despard.

He was (says Mr. Burns), if not the originator, one of the earliest connected with the Mission to Tierra del Fuego. He interested himself in it shortly after the death of Allen Gardiner. Despard came to Glasgow concerning the matter, and stayed in our house for a considerable time. My wife took a keen interest in the Mission, and was the means of greatly promoting its prosperity. "When Despard left us, he went to Dublin to organise a society there. Archbishop Whately was very kind to him, and before taking leave, Despard called to pay his respects and say farewell. Incidentally he said to the Archbishop, ‘How would you recommend me to commence this Mission?’ Whately, in his abrupt way, answered, ‘Tell the people to wash their faces.’

A singularly disinterested man was Despard; he gave up a large income to devote himself to the Mission work.

After serving the Mission in Tierra del Fuego for a long time, he went to Australia, and was appointed to a church there, where he kept up a correspondence with us.

In one of his letters, mitten from Australia in 1863, Mr. Despard foreshadowed the present volume. “Your last letter was very encouraging and worthy of your Christian principles, and the style of it and of the conversations I have had with you makes me wish and propose that, as a tribute of adoring gratitude to God, you should employ the otium of your retired life in composing an autobiography— being God’s dealings with a Christian man of business during fifty years. You will communicate to your fellow-saints in glory this record when they no longer need the support of it in their struggle of faith against sight; why not give it to fellow-saints when they do need this and every other help in their much tempted, much burdened life?”

Mr. Burns did not accede to the request, and never wrote a page of autobiography. More than twenty years elapsed before the question of a biography came before him again.

The proceedings in Wemyss Bay Church were not always looked upon with favour by the neighbouring Presbyterians, as the following incident related by Mr. Burns will show :—

My son John brought home with him a bottle of water from the river Jordan, and in 1801 his first-born was baptised in the name of George Arbuthnot. Bishop Gobat of Jerusalem, who was staying with John at the time, performed the ceremony, using the Jordan water. It was late in the season, and very cold, and consequently all the gas was lighted in the church (at that time a wooden structure) in order to heat it. A friend, who was then minister of the Free Church in the neighbourhood, told me that one of his elders was passing the church, and afterwards said to him, ‘Did I not tell you that they were Papists? I saw all the candles lighted up.’ The minister was always on friendly terms with us in Church matters.

Mr. Burns warmly sympathised with the establishment of a bishopric at Jerusalem, and during Bishop Gobat’s visit to Wemyss Bay, he took the opportunity of asking him many questions concerning the movement and the actors in it.

I asked him particularly (says Mr. Burns) about the habits of the late King of Prussia, who had been very much caricatured in Punch and elsewhere as being too fond of Madame Cliqnol’s champagne. Gobat said, ‘I’ll tell you what happened to myself. At that time the king had a weekly dinner on Thursday which consisted almost entirely of the family, but he kindly invited me as a guest. The King of Saxony was also present. I paid particular attention to the King of Prussia’s habits, which were neither more nor less than were consistent with those of an Englishman of rank at a dinner party. I noticed particularly that he partook moderately of whatever wine was served, champagne included. After dinner we all went on the balcony (it was at Potsdam), and he became quite hilarious, and began cuffing the King of Saxony to and fro, and pretending to try and throw him over the railing. If I had not particularly noticed what occurred at the dinner-table, I should have been apt to conclude that there was some truth in Punch's strictures.

In all matters connected with his care of the churches, Mr. Burns found a true and constant friend in the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, of whom he was wont to tell many pleasant stories. Here is one :—

When we were at Dunoon, we were very intimate with the Rev. Mr. Baine, the Vicar of Ware, who used to preach sometimes in Mr. Burnley’s church. Baine told me that once he went to the Lock Hospital on a Sunday to hear Capel Molyneux preach. Arthur Kinnaird was the head and front of that institution, and was always most active in putting strangers into pews. Mr. Baine was standing with others in the passages, when Kinnaird took hold of him and led him to a comfortable seat; upon which Mr. Baine slipped a shilling into his hand. Kinnaird turned round promptly and pleasantly, and returning the shilling, said, ‘We’re not allowed to take any money here! ’

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