Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

Chapter XXIII. — Nature Clamours for Rest

page 159

Chapter XXIII.
Nature Clamours for Rest.

The death of Mr James Macandrew on the 24th of February, 1887, was a cause of profound grief to Dr Stuart, who honoured him for his Christian worth, and held in high estimation his ability, public spirit, and unselfish devotion to the best interests of his adopted land. They had attended a meeting of the University Council together, and at its close Dr Stuart drove his friend up town in his buggy. Mr Macandrew then set out for home, accompanied by his youngest son, who alighted opposite Waverley on the road to Macandrew Bay to adjust the harness. The horse took fright, and dashed on at a furious pace, and in turning close to Mr Macandrew's house, the vehicle was capsized and its occupant thrown out with violence to the ground. He then sustained the injuries which resulted in his death. "I long regarded him," the Doctor said, "as one of our ablest statesmen, and will ever think of him as a patriot and a Christian. Speaking to him some hours before his death, he said, 'If it be the will of God to call me, I will thankfully bow to His authority. I am His to go or stay.'"

The debt on the new church was an unceasing source of anxiety to him, and his Deacons' Court, in Feby., 1887, held a bazaar as one of the most effective page 160methods of reducing it. "The bazaar," he wrote, "brought us over £1400 net. Still, I don't like bazaars. The enthusiasm was wonderful, and the attendance during the four days it was opened was most satisfactory. The Governor gave us an impetus in the shape of a crowd and an over kindly speech."

His health now began to show signs of breaking down which were too apparent to escape the watchful eyes of his office-bearers. The strain had been too much for him, and an affection of the heart constrained him to intermit at times his arduous labours. In a letter dated 12th February he wrote: "I have been a little off the rails, but am on the way to get back to them. Copland shakes his head, and laments the feebleness and irregularity of my pulse. He guides me wisely. To-morrow I am to have rest. Collie, of Newtown, Sydney, is here on a visit, and has kindly offered to take the forenoon service for me. Rev. H. Scott, of the New Guinea Mission, is to take the evening." Again, under date 11th April, he wrote: "I have not been in such vigorous health as I would like. For six weeks I have not been doing full work. Dr Copland calls often, and assures me that I must drop this, and that comes very near to the point of saying I must take a long rest, or he will not be responsible for the consequences. The heart's action shows signs of feebleness, and he insists on me taking stimulating medicines three times a day. I plod on, taking what care I can, partly from habit and partly because I dislike inaction. I have no pain and feel wonderfully well, but not up to working trim. I am glad to work away, and content to think page 161little about to-morrow. I say all this in your ear, but do not care to commit it to the breezes."

His office-bearers gave him all possible aid in his ministerial duties. To supply the pulpit was practicable, but it was not so easy for them to lighten the burden of his pastoral work. A Pulpit Supply Committee was accordingly appointed to secure some relief for him in that direction, and Drs Copland, Hislop, Dunlop, and others gave valued and ungrudging help in relieving him of at least one of the Sabbath services. His elders were very thankful when they prevailed on him to take three weeks' rest at Wakatipu in May. The mountain and lake scenery revived and charmed him, and had a rejuvenescing effect upon his heart. Under date May 17th he wrote to us—"… I got to this quiet and pleasant spot where I meet with the footprints of your brother, who is greatly missed. On my way from Kingston I had a delightful evening — clear moonlight all the way, with here and there a wreath of mist on the hills. I stuck to the bridge, and found myself shaping a poem, 'Wakatipu by Moonlight'—that might have been a rival to Coleridge's 'Chamouni at Sunrise.' But happily common sense came to my aid, and I allowed the great poem to melt into the circumambient air. We steamed into the harbour at 11 a.m. Mr Donald Ross was waiting me, and conducted me to my quarters.

"The weather in the main has been fine, and on Saturday I wandered to the garden of Murray, a Perthshire Highlander, at whose father's house, Cory Muik, Loch Dhu—near the small Glen—I used to page 162stop and refresh myself on my way to College. Murray treated me to strawberries and cream—two strawberries in a pint of cream—and for dessert gave me two peaches from his tree, a bunch of grapes from his vines, and gathered a handful of walnuts from a litter of leaves—bringing to my mind Wrestling Brewster, and other children of the Mayflower, finding during their first scamper in the primeval forest walnuts among the autumnal leaves, and crying, 'Hurrah, Walnuts!' But these were not so big as our home walnuts. Boss goes this week to Kinloch and Paradise. I visit the Sabbath School and take a class to oblige the lady mayoress."

On his return to town he resumed his work with all his old energy and self-abandonment, the admonitory symptoms of a threatening breakdown still crying in vain for relaxation and pause. "I am kept as busy as ever he wrote on the 21st September. Last week we had special services conducted by ourselves. We had addresses on the following subjects:—'Beligious Decision,' by D. Wright; 'Personal Responsibility,' by Dr Copland; 'Christian Work.' by myself; 'The Christian Race,' by Dr Hislop; and 'Young Communicants,' by Dr Dunlop. Sabbath was a bright day, and the people filled the church from floor to ceiling. The communicants numbered 721; of these 16 were additions by examination, and 10 only by certificate. I had the morning service, with the exception that Mr Rennie read the second lesson, Dr Hislop the 12th of Romans after the Communion, and Mr Wright offered the page 163thanksgiving and closing prayer. Dr Dunlop took the evening service.

"I had an accident, resulting in slight concussion of the brain, but I am getting better. The indirect result is a lowering of the pulse and a faltering, but Copland says I am getting over it.

"For six months, or rather for eight months, I have been working under a caveat. 'Ca' canny,' doctor and elders say, but with work pressing that is not easy."

Referring in the same letter to an effort made in the Presbytery to settle a minister in one of the vacant charges in defiance of special legislation, which required a year's probation before settlement, he said, "I begin to feel that the right course for me is to work away as minister, preacher, pastor, and friend, and not as an ecclesiastic."

Keenly appreciative of his people's sympathy with him, the Doctor poured out his heart to them at the congregational meeting held in November, in grateful acknowledgment of all their kindnesses to him, and of the affectionate interest which they had displayed in the infirmity of his health, which had to some extent fettered his energies during the year. With a rare devotion to the higher duties of his office, and an interest in the well-being of Church and community that never waned, he continued unfalteringly at his post even when the conviction seemed to be rooting itself in his mind that his work on earth was approaching its close. "The summons to go hence," he wrote to Mrs Ferguson," may be put into our hands with little warning. Among the page 164friends that have been called away was the Rev. James Izzett, of the Free Church of Westruther, Berwickshire, whose acquaintance I made in 1837.

..He was a scholarly man, and most generous. He served his congregation for 43 years right loyally and with a cheerfulness most pleasant to contemplate. He was called away after a very brief illness. Every month, and even oftener, I hear a voice from the Throne saying, 'Be ready.' The Lord grant me grace to put my house in order!

"I am glad to say that I feel better. The Session, however, is taking care that I get frequent rest. During the last year many of the office-bearers have taken part in the Sabbath services. Some read the lessons, some pray, several preach, and I assure you they read and pray and preach better than I can. I wonder at their thoughtfulness. They cause me to feel that they love and trust me. The members who moved the adoption of the annual report went out of their way to say kind things of me. I must ask more grace that I may not, like Hezekiah, forget myself. Give me a corner in your prayers."

"What a difference there is between us," he wrote to us on 11th January, 1888; "you in middle life with your powers and faculties of mind and body in full swing, while I am bordering on its close with all my powers and faculties of mind and body waning and hasting to dissolution. I am glad that some are climbing up the steep of life, and others, like yourself, in the joyous possession of all your powers—evidence that God will carry on His purposes of grace and love to their destined completion. He has the page 165resources of Divinity, and His Kingdom is coming. May it soon prevail all round to the good of men and the glory of God!"

A few weeks later he wrote hopefully of an improvement in health which seemed to have set in. "I feel much better. Copland, however, shakes his head, and says my pulse is sui generis. It indicates that I should be weak, whereas I am really strong—in truth, in good working health…. We have Pastor Muller, of Bristol, in Dunedin. He is, among Christian workers, quite phenomenal. Such has been his weight of character that during the last half century the Christian people have committed to his stewardship for one Christian object or another close on £1,500,000! I have been familiar with his work for many years, and I was therefore glad to see his face and hear his voice."

It was our privilege to enjoy in March, 1888, the genial hospitality of Dr Stuart's manse, and to occupy the Knox Church pulpit for some Sabbaths at his request. We had then ample opportunity to see something of the vast burden of duty laid upon him in connection with Church and University and public affairs, and wondered, as we had often done before, at the apparent ease and cheerfulness with which he sustained it. In a wider sense than Terence knew, he could truthfully say, Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. During all the busy world's working hours the tinkle of the house bell seemed to be unceasingly heard. His accessibleness, many sidedness, broad sympathies, boundless benevolence, practical wisdom, and large, patriotic, ardent nature page 166encouraged all sorts and conditions of men to seek his counsel or help, or to importune him for some service which he could effectively render.

One of the most memorable and impressive services which we have ever witnessed was held in Knox Church on 1st April, 1888—the closing Sabbath of our visit to Dunedin—when in presence of a crowded congregation, which occupied every seat on floor and galleries, and from amid a noble body of office-bearers who filled the platform around the pulpit, and embracing among them doctors, lawyers, merchants, bankers, and members of Parliament, as well as men in humble stations—the pick of the piety and sanctified common sense of the congregation—Dr Stuart ordained in solemn and appropriate form six newly-elected elders to their holy office.

Mr Robert Glendining, one of those who were ordained on that occasion, had in view a visit to the Home Country, and he offered, as a mark of his affection for his minister, to defray all his expenses of travel if he would accompany him and Mrs Giendining for six months' furlough. The Doctor fully appreciated the kindness of the generous proposal. "But," he wrote, "I fear the vis inertiæ is too strong to be overcome by so handsome an offer." His office-bearers, however, convinced of his absolute need of rest, constrained him to favourably entertain Mr Glendining's proposal, and at a largely-attended meeting of the congregation held in May, the question of furlough was fully discussed, with the result that a resolution was passed cordially approving of the projected holiday, and expressing the earnest hope that page 167it might be the means, under Divine providence, of the restoration of their minister to perfect health.

For the protracted period of twenty seven years, without any lengthened break or pause, he had exercised among his people the holy office of the Ministry. "He had done," to quote the graceful eulogy of one of the Dunedin papers, "noble work in the congregation, now one of the largest, if not the largest in the Australasian Colonies. While moving with the intelligence of the times, he had maintained some of the tenderest traditions of the past: he had translated commonplace maxims into stirring sermons and thrilling prayers in the pulpit: he had been so much the friend of the poor and friendless, irrespective of sect, that his name was a household word in Dunedin: and amid the strife of tongues he had always cultivated that Pauline charity which thinketh no evil: and in all charitable and educational movements he had ever taken a foremost place."

On Sabbath 27th May, 1888, in spite of the cold, rainy weather, large congregations (including a number of the Highland Rifle Corps, of which the Doctor was chaplain) assembled in Knox Church to hear the Doctor's farewell sermons. The office-bearers occupied seats around the pulpit, and Mr E. B. Cargill assisted at the service by reading the second lesson and offering up an appropriate prayer. The minister having announced the arrangements made for carrying on the work of the Church during his absence, preached from Psalm, 89th chapter, 49th verse:—"Lord, where are thy former loving kind-page 168nesses?"—referring during his discourse to the many blessings which the Church had received in times gone by. At the evening service, at which Dr Dunlop assisted, the Doctor took as his text Deuteronomy, 11th chapter, 21st verse.

"It is now decided," he wrote, that I go Home. The elders got my consent crushed out of me, and induced the congregation to give their consent. I am making the necessary arrangements as best I can." An incident that had a seriously disturbing effect upon the Church of Otago occurred about this time and caused him a good deal of pain. It was the publication of a pamphlet by one of the ministers which openly taught the doctrine of the Larger Hope. "… He thinks," the Doctor wrote, "it will save the world when they know there is a chance for them beyond death and the grave. I think he is furnishing those who are not entitled to much consideration with a pillow for their armpits. As a Christian and a Christian minister I feel that my business is to rescue the perishing, and believe that God's love to them is greater, stronger, and more intense than my love. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"