Concluding Memorials

IT is perhaps right to preserve here a specimen of the many tributes to his memory which appeared at the time of his decease. One of these, written in his own town by the Rev. J. Roxburgh, after a brief review of his life, concluded thus:

"Whether viewed as a son, a brother, a friend, or a pastor, often has the remark been made by those who knew him most intimately, that he was the most faultless and attractive exhibition of the true Christian which they had ever seen embodied in a living form. His great study was to be Christ-like. He was a man of remarkable singleness of heart. He lived but for one object —the glory of the Redeemer in connection with the salvation of immortal souls. Hence, he carried with him a kind of hallowing influence into every company into which he entered, and his brethren were accustomed to feel as if all were well when their measures met with the sanction and approval of Mr. M'Cheyne. He was, indeed, the object of an esteem and reverence altogether singular toward so young a man, and which had their foundation in the deep and universal conviction of his perfect integrity of purpose, his unbending sincerity and truthfulness, his Christian generosity of spirit, and in the persuasion that he was a man who lived near to God, as was evident from his holy walk, his spiritual and heavenly-minded frame, and his singularly amiable and affectionate temper and disposition. In his zeal to the cause in which the Church is engaged he was most exemplary. His spiritual mind had a quick and strong perception of the connection of the great principles for which she is contending, with the interests of vital godliness in the land. His views concerning the issues of the controversy as regards the fate of the Establishment, and the guilt and consequent danger of the country, were remarkably dark; but, as respects the imperishable interests of the gospel, he rejoiced in the assurance, 'We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.' The example of his zeal and growing devotion in this cause has been bequeathed by him as a precious legacy to his attached and weeping flock. His death has spread a general gloom among the friends of religion throughout this town, and bitter are the tears that have been wrung from many eyes all unused to weep. Everyone feels as, if bereaved of a personal friend, and is at a loss for language to convey his sense of the loss which himself and the cause of truth have sustained—' sorrowing most of all that they shall see his face no more.' 'There is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel: May the Lord increase the measures of His grace and strength to His surviving servants, who are called to occupy the breach thus left in the walls of our Zion 'Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.'

"It is impossible to describe the grief which pervades his flock. The lane in which his residence was situated was constantly crowded with anxious inquirers, and numerous prayer-meetings were held during the progress of his illness. On Thursday there was the usual meeting in the church, and it was then agreed, by many present, to meet for prayer the next evening in the schoolhouse. This they accordingly did, but it proved all too small to contain the crowds who flocked to it, and an adjournment to the church was necessary. Towards the close, it became known that increasing fears for their pastor's life were entertained, and the mourning people were with difficulty persuaded against remaining in the church throughout the night; and when, the next morning, the news spread amongst them, the voice of weeping might have been heard in almost every household. On Sabbath, Mr. Bonar of Collage, the dear friend of the deceased, and his companion in Palestine, preached in the forenoon and afternoon, and Mr. Miller of Wallacetown in the evening. [21] On each occasion the church (including the passages) was crowded in every part; and it was remarked by those who were present that they never before saw so many men in tears. It was truly a weeping congregation."

The funeral took place on the Thursday following. "Business was almost totally suspended throughout the bounds of his parish, and, hours before the time appointed for the funeral arrived, crowds began to draw towards the scene of the mournful obsequies from all parts of the town, anxious to pay the last sad token of respect to the remains of one whom living they had esteemed so highly. Long before the hour arrived, the whole line of road intervening between the dwelling-house and the churchyard was crowded with men, women, and children, principally of the working classes. Every window overlooking the procession, and the church itself, were likewise densely filled with females, almost all attired in deep mourning, and the very walls and housetops were surmounted with anxious onlookers. Altogether, not fewer than six or seven thousand people must have assembled. The funeral procession itself was followed by nearly every man in the parish and congregation who could command becoming attire; by the brethren of the Presbytery, and many ministers from the surrounding districts, as well as from a distance; by the great body of the elders; by most of the Dissenting ministers in town; and by multitudes of all ranks and persuasions besides, who thus united in testifying their sense of the loss which their common Christianity had sustained in the untimely death of him in whom all recognised one of its brightest ornaments. The grave was dug in the pathway, near the southwest corner of the church, and within a few yards of the pulpit from which he has so often and so faithfully proclaimed the word of life; and in this his lowly resting-place all that is mortal of him was deposited, amid the tears and sobs of the crowd. There his flesh rests in that assured hope of a blessed resurrection, of the elevating and purifying influences of which his life and his ministry were so beauteous an example. His memory will never perish.

"The Church was opened for public worship every evening during the week, and was on each occasion filled to overflowing. On Sabbath, according to the appointment of the Presbytery, funeral sermons were preached by the Rev. Messrs. Roxburgh, Somerville, and Burns. Mr. Roxburgh preached from Philippians 3:17, 20-21; Mr. Somerville from Hebrews 4:14; and Mr. Burns from Romans 8:30. So early as nine o'clock on Sabbath morning, a crowd, many of them from distant country parishes, had assembled outside the church, and when the doors were opened at ten o'clock, the church was instantly densely filled in every part, lobbies included. Unfortunately, they were chiefly strangers, very few of the congregation having succeeded in obtaining admission; and by the time the ordinary hour for commencing divine service had arrived, another large congregation had assembled outside. To these Mr. Somerville volunteered to preach; and there was service, therefore, both within and without the church, and the same in the afternoon. In the afternoon, arrangements were made to secure the admission within the church of the proper congregation, being all, male and female, habited in deep mourning,—the poorest amongst them having contrived, by a black ribbon or some other inexpensive mode within their reach, to give outward token of their inward grief of heart."

Another tribute, from the pen of Mr. Hamilton, Regent Square, London, is too precious to be forgotten, though only a small part is inserted here:

"A striking characteristic of his piety was absorbing love to the Lord Jesus. This was his ruling passion. It lightened all his labours, and made the reproaches which for Christ's sake sometimes fell on him, by identifying him more and more with his suffering Lord, unspeakably precious. He cared for no question unless his Master cared for it; and his main anxiety was to know the mind of Christ. He once told a friend, ' I bless God every morning I awake that I live in witnessing times.' And, in a letter six months ago, he says: ' I fear lest the enemy shall so contrive his measures in Scotland as to divide the godly. May God make our way plain! It is comparatively easy to suffer when we see clearly that we are suffering members of Jesus.' It were wrong not to mention the fact that his public actings were a direct emanation from the most heavenly ingredient in his character—his love and gratitude to the Divine Redeemer. In this he much resembled one whose Letters were almost his daily delight—Samuel Rutherford; and, like Rutherford, his adoring contemplations naturally gathered round them the imagery and language of the Song of Solomon. Indeed, he had preached so often on that beautiful book, that at last he had scarcely left himself a single text of its 'good matter' which had not been discoursed on already. It was very observable that though his deepest and finest feelings clothed themselves in fitting words with scarcely any effort, when he was descanting on the glory or grace of Immanuel, he despaired of transferring to other minds the emotions which were overfilling his own; and after describing those excellences which often made the careless wistful, and made disciples marvel, he left the theme with evident regret, that where he saw so much, he could say so little. And so rapidly did he advance in scriptural and experimental acquaintance with Christ, that it was like one friend learning more of the mind of another. And we doubt not that, when his hidden life is revealed, it will be found that his progressive holiness and usefulness coincided with those new aspects of endearment or majesty which from time to time he beheld in the face of Immanuel, just as the ' authority' of his 'gracious words,' and the impressive sanctity of his demeanour, were so far a transference from Him who spoke as no man ever spoke, and lived as no man ever lived. In his case the words had palpable meaning: 'Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.'

"More than any one whom we have ever known, had he learned to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amidst all his humility,—and it was very deep,—he had a prevailing consciousness that he was one of those who belong to Jesus; and it was from Him, his living Head, that he sought strength for the discharge of duty, and through Him, his Righteousness, that he sought the acceptance of his performances. The effect was to impart habitual tranquillity and composure to his spirit. He committed his, ways to the Lord, and was sure that they would be brought to pass; and though his engagements were often numerous and pressing, he was enabled to go through them without hurry or perturbation. We can discern traces of thin uniform self-possession in a matter so minute as his handwriting. His most rapid notes show no symptoms of haste or bustle, but end in the same neat and regular style in which they began; and this quietness of spirit accompanied him into the most arduous labours and critical emergencies. His effort was to do all in the Surety; and he proved that promise: 'Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.'

"To speak with the plainness which such a solemn occasion justifies, or rather to make the confession which this heavy visitation calls for, it must be owned that, whilst the possession of such a bright and shining light was the Church of Scotland's privilege, the rarity of such is the Church of Scotland's sin. When we consider the ability and orthodoxy of the pious portion of our ministry, it is mournful how little progress the work of God has made. It certainly has not stood still; but, taking the labours and success of the seven short and feeble years allotted to this faithful evangelist for our standard, we almost feel as if the work had been going back. If few congregations have witnessed the scenes with which St. Peter's had become happily familiar, one reason is that few ministers preach with the fervour, the Christ exalting simplicity, and the prayerful expectancy of Robert M'Cheyne; and few follow out their preaching with the yet more impressive urgency of his gracious intercourse and consistent example. The voice of this loud providence shall not have been uttered in vain, if it impart new instancy to the ministers, and new eagerness and solemnity to hearers—if it break up that conventional carnality which would restrain matters of eternal import to pulpits and Sabbath days, and make it henceforth the business of the gospel ministry to win souls and tend them. Hireling shepherds will not regret the brother who is gone. His life and labours were a reproof to them. But if the many devout men who, now that Stephen has been carried to his burial, are making lamentation over him, would arise and follow him, even as he followed Christ, the present judgement would end in unprecedented blessing. Coming at this conjuncture, the death of this faithful witness is a striking call to ministerial disinterestedness and devotedness.

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' And while some are crying mournfully, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' we pray that many may find the answer in a double portion of Elijah's spirit descending on themselves.

"Even so, Lord! Amen.

"London, April 3, 1843."

_____________________[21] The texts were these:–After reading 2 Kings 2:115, the subject in the forenoon was Rom. 7:38-39; in the afternoon, Romans 8:2830; in the evening, Revelation 8:13-17.