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Life and Times of D. M. Stuart, D.D.

Chapter XXVIII. — Heroes of Church and Settlement

page 199

Chapter XXVIII.
Heroes of Church and Settlement.

"I am kept very busy," the Doctor wrote on 4th February, 1891. "For a month I have had our old friend Mr Copeland, of Sydney. He is as straightforward as ever, and as deeply interested in the work of the Lord. He leaves on Friday for the North. The Rev. Thomas Forsaith and his wife—whom I designated 'Conscience' long ago—have been with us for three weeks. He left last Wednesday for Wellington, but returns next week. We have had high talk—theological, philosophical, and literary. I will miss them when they leave us…. I was at Invercargill a fortnight ago preaching for Lindsay. He is much respected. The Southern capital is staid and orderly, and there is an appearance of comfort, judging from the housing and the clothing of the people…."

"I have had deaths," he wrote later on, "which tried my faith and love. Blair's death, James Wilkie's death, and Wilson's (who died in the Church a little after the beginning of the service)."

In April, 1891, Dr Stuart, on hearing of the serious illness of Mr W. N. Blair, Engineer-in-Chief of the Colony, and formerly one of his deacons, had page 200arranged to go to Wellington for eight days, on a visit to his friend. There was much in common between the two men, and they were closely bound together with the cords of love. Mr Blair's death on May 4th, 1891, caused an aching sense of void in the Doctor's heart, which his ceaseless toils dulled, but were powerless to put away. At a short service held at Knox Church on the occasion of his funeral, which took place at Dunedin, the Doctor said—"When spending a few days with him last month, the story of the Church, with its incidents, was rehearsed. He added, 'If God spare me, I mean to be with you to join in your joy at the cancellation of the debt; but with the record of the last seven months behind me, I dare not count on to-morrow. But whether I am with you or not there will be, at the longest some eight months hence, great rejoicing when you announce that our beautiful Church is now a free offering to the preaching of the Gospel. I am sure you will not forget that many have a stone in our cairn who do not statedly worship with you.' It is my prayer that God may give the Churches friends and workers after the type of Mr Blair in head and heart. Allow me to say that our departed friend was a good colonist, a steady friend of education, and in his profession facile princeps. Though a busy man, he showed in his occasional lectures, publications, and reports that he was a master of pure English. With his burning love to the institutions, traditions, and history of his native country, and his passion for science, he only needed leisure to enable him to take rank with Hugh page 201Miller, the distinguished author of the 'Old Red Sandstone' and 'My Schools and Schoolmasters.' While regretting his removal as an irreparable loss to his family and friends, none will grudge him his promotion to the rest and felicity of the Better Land."

At the public ceremony of unveiling the Macandrew Memorial in the Triangle, in Dunedin, on 4th July, 1891, Dr Stuart, in reviewing the great services of the deceased politician to the Colony and to the cause of education in Otago, closed his speech with the following loving tribute to his personal Christian worth: "Mr Macandrew was loved and trusted in his own district, and deservedly so, for he was ever ready to serve it. Before North-East Harbour got a minister of religion, it was his wont to meet his neighbours every Sunday forenoon in the schoolhouse and take the lead in the service. As a rule he began with that noble Presbyterian doxology, the 100th Psalm, with its well-known tune, which under his leading, filled the house with melodious sounds. Then followed the Scriptures, and a choice sermon, which he read so well that those prejudiced against read sermons were reconciled to the innovation. This service he kept up for years, and it was well attended. In his own house family worship was an institution. It was also his custom to read a short sermon in the family on Sunday afternoon, generally one of Chalmers' or Guthrie's. One day, while engaged in the exercise, Mr Ballance (the present Premier) and Mr Montgomery, of Christchurch, were shown into the room. Welcoming them, he said, page 202'Take a seat, gentlemen; we are at our usual Sunday afternoon exercise.' They did so. He had it from Mr Montgomery that the exercise was deeply impressive, and fitted to instruct and strengthen for life's duties. Such, gentlemen, was Mr Macandrew in the family, among his neighbours, and in the Senate— such was. he as parent, neighbour, citizen, and Christian. I do not say that he had no faults and shortcomings, but I say, with all my heart, that he was a workman in various spheres, who had understanding of the times, and served his generation according to the will of God. May He who rules far and near—the Preserver and Benefactor of nations, and who has the residue of the Spirit—send us, for our own and our country's good, a succession of patriots and prophets, fearing His name and hating covetousness."

At the laying of the foundation stone of Dr Burns' Memorial in the Octagon, Dunedin, on 3rd October, 1891, Dr Stuart closed an interesting sketch of the life of the pioneer minister of the Otago Settlement and a noble tribute to his ability and piety, with the following words:—"In 1860, when I first met Dr Burns, though then well over sixty, he was well built from base to crown, with a noble presence. He went about the city with a firm step, but never in a hurry, noticing everything, but especially houses a-building. It was his custom when we foregathered to pull up and direct my attention to the extending city, the opening of new streets, and the increasing population, with the remark that the growth of the city and page 203settlement exceeded his expectations. Occasionally he would say: 'Shall Otago continue on the lines on which it was started?' and answered his question by the remark, 'The Gospel is all-powerful.' He lived to see the seed he sowed in faith spring up and producing many. He saw settlement stretching beyond the Otago block, and the church and the school following the settlers. In due course, he saw secondary schools rising, crowned by the University. He saw the First Church multiply into many churches, directed by Presbyteries and a General Synod. Happily for the Colony, Dr Burns was not a learned man in the technical sense, though a full man, with a large acquaintance with Christian Churches, and the progress of nations in beneficent legislation and liberty. We can say of Dr Burns, the pioneer minister of Otago, to whose memory our townsman, Mr Chapman, and a former member and elder of the First Church, is erecting this monument, that all through his life his sympathies and unremitting efforts were ever on the side of education and religion, and, in short, of the institutions of Christian civilization."

And, on the completion of that graceful and imposing monument in May, 1892, Dr Stuart at the request of Mr Robert Chapman, at whose expense it had been erected, handed over its custodianship to the Mayor and corporation of the city—referring in graceful terms, in the course of his speech, to the motives of the donor in moving to perpetuate Dr page 204Burns' memory in the land. "Mr Chapman has often told me," he said, "that he found in Dr Burns an able minister of the Gospel and a wise friend and counsellor, by whose instructions he was benefitted temporarily and spiritually. Reflecting on Br Burns' service to religion and the settlers in the trying years, which succeeded the practical bankruptcy of the New Zealand Company, he made up his mind to do what he could to hand down his memory to coming generations. This was the genesis and design of the monument. In distant ages, when our children pass through the Octagon it will stimulate them to ask about the beginnings of our city and settlement, and the services of Dr Burns to both, as well as those of his noble fellow labourers who lived and died with 'Otago for ever' on their hearts. Let me hope that others following in the wake of Mr Chapman will give our romantic city memorials of citizens who in their day served their generation according to the will of God."

On 15th July, 1891, he wrote to us mourning the death of one of his old elders—Hugh Kirkpatrick. "The body arrived to-day, and is now lying in the Church against the interment to-morrow. He was a quiet, good man, whose principle was 'Live and let live.' I greatly esteemed him for his gentleness and goodness. He was not without go, though he said little …. He has been living on a small station in Maniototo Plain.

"McNeil (evangelist from Victoria) has attracted page 205very considerable attention here. He shows much power in some of his addresses. He is a man of kindness. I don't think he has touched the lapsed, but many church-goers have been to all appearance aroused from practical indifference…."