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

Chapter XXIX. — Zenana Mission

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Chapter XXIX.
Zenana Mission.

Repeated demands were now made upon his time and strength, which, in so far as they opened up to him opportunities of preaching the glorious Gospel to the people, he endeavoured to meet.

"They have built," he wrote under date 3rd February, 1892, "at Anderson's Bay a School Hall after the American fashion. I am to open it on the third Sabbath of February. On the first Sabbath I go to Gore to re-open the enlarged church, and on the following Sabbath to open Lumsden Church."

Again he wrote later on, in May. "…. A newspaper shows that I am alive, but it does not tell what I am devising and what I am doing. A month ago I went to Canterbury to open a new church in Christchurch—Fraser's old church modernised and enlarged, but the bones of the old church retained. It is now a convenient and presentable building, and admirably suits the fine site which it occupies. It is an acre in size and triangular in form, with broad streets sweeping round it. Webster, the minister, is a grand man, of considerable reading and a good preacher. I met many old Knox Church people now resident in the Cathedral city, and received a hearty welcome from them.

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"Last Monday I went to Oamaru to advocate Zenana Missions. Miss MacGregor, the Doctor's eldest daughter, has received through Mrs Longhurst (of Madras) an appointment, on condition that we support her after the first year. My mission was to stir up the good folks of Oamaru to bear their share of the burden. I got a welcome, some praise, and some promises, but I am not sure that I received the hearts of the people."

Later on he wrote in reference to the subject:—"We are trying to send Miss MacGregor to India (Madras), to help in Zenana work. I find the women of Dunedin are hard to stir up to undertake work out of the parish. I think we shall manage to send her to help the noble women who are doing their utmost to Christianise the 144,000,000 women of India."

The Doctor's hope was realised. Miss Mac-Gregor was sent to Madras to labour there in connection with the Mission of the Church of Scotland, the Woman's Missionary Society of Otago, of which Dr Stuart was elected President, having pledged themselves to provide for her support.

Mrs Longhurst wrote to the friends of the Mission in Dunedin, expressing her high appreciation of the abilities and character and work of the Society's missionary, and conveying her thanks for so valuable a fellow-labourer in the Zenana Mission at Madras.

"I am kept as busy as ever," the Doctor wrote, "and though not so lithe and living as I used to be, yet I take my share of the daily task.

"The 'History of Knox Church' is now in print, page 208but we have to wait for the illustrations—the two ministers and the two kirks, and Dr Hislop. In vain did I insist that the engraving of me which you secured for "Education and Educationists in Otago" was not only good but satisfactory. They decided to have them done in New York."

"I have given ten minutes," he wrote on 23rd June, "to the consideration of the point on which side of the ledger I stand. I have a sort of recollection that I have a credit balance. But as it is only a probability—though Butler says that probability is the guide of life—I will send you a few lines, as I have a little leisure.

"Last Sabbath was our communion. We had a bright day and a large attendance. The service all round was compact, lively, and edifying. The guests numbered 772, of whom 32 were admitted by examination, and 10 by certificate. The collection was for Ministers' Passage Fund, and amounted to £44 10s.

"We had a meeting re Bible in Schools, which was fairly sympathetic. I am as busy as ever, but for a month have been working under the disadvantage of a fierce cold, not yet expelled. We are having local irritation in the First Church…. I fear I am getting to dislike the idle wrangling of Church Courts, and am making up my mind to give them elbow-room."

Later on, he wrote, "I have been adopting the cheap and easy mode of correspondence—sending a newspaper. This feeling has brought a blush half down my brow, and yet I have delayed the writing of page 209the intended letter so long that I will have no time to write a decent letter as regards news and fulness.

"But the porridge is on the table, and I must stop to restore and strengthen the outer man, and resume after breakfast and worship, and seeing a party who is interested in planting the right sort of trees on the south-west side of the church. Interested! and he should be, for he moved others to allow him to cut down shrubs and trees which I planted and nursed for sixteen years—two of which were half the height of the church; but because the one was a humble poplar, and the other a dark foliaged fir tree, down they had to come…."

He watched with loving eye the growth and spreading boughs of the trees which his own hands had planted or tended, year after year. At the close of our first interview with him, in August, 1867, he led us out into the garden, and as we stood together under the dropping branches of a weeping willow, he said in a low, tender voice and with a pathetic softness in his eye as he looked towards it, "That's a tree my wife planted when it was quite a slip."

Twenty-five years later on the deacons discovered, to the Doctor's great sorrow, that it was sending its roots into the drains of the church, and, concluding that danger to the sacred building would ensue, they decided to cut it down. One of his most pathetic letters to us announced the destruction of that and other trees, whose associations had endeared them to his heart.

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A demonstration was held at the Triangle, in Dunedin, on August 4, 1892, in celebration of Arbour Day. Dr Stuart then said, in the course of a quite characteristic speech: "Some two or three or four years ago I made an offer to the students of one of the Technical Classes, of three prizes for the best list of the trees and shrubs on the Town Belt, with their common names, but none has claimed them. I now offer the pupils of our Dunedin common schools six prizes for the best lists of the Town Belt trees and shrubs…. As a boy, I loved trees, and so I did when I became a man. I could not tell you the pleasure I have had in planting them, and in superintending them."

"My ivy is the glory of Dunedin, I think. Archdeacon Edwards used to come to me and ask, 'What is the secret of your growing ivy?' He said, 'We have been trying to grow it at St. Paul's, but have not been able to succeed.' 'Oh, Archdeacon,' I replied, 'I love it.' The secret of growing trees—of growing them successfully—is to love them. I bless God that I was led to love trees in childhood, and that I still love them. I thank Him that I have eyes to discern their beauty and a heart to care for them.

"Children, you have planted many trees to-day which by and by will add to the beauty of our romantic city. I call on you to take a kindly care of them and allow no one to ill treat them. And may you live to rest under their far-spreading branches, and thank God for the institution of Arbour Day."

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"Last night," he wrote, "Dr Brown, the missionary from New Guinea, gave us, in the new church a first-rate lecture. He spoke of Sir William MacGregor as not only very able, but as a most excellent man. I remember you brought us a good report of him from Fiji. Kirk work with us is going on slowly. Nothing very striking and certainly not much enthusiasm."

"I dispensed the communion," he wrote on 12th October, "at the Port, on Sabbath last. I enjoyed the drive down in the morning, and as Mr Lawes, of New Guinea, was to address the children of Dunedin in the New Church, I hurried home to preside. I greatly enjoyed his talk. He and his wife had tea with us; and I concluded the day by preaching in the evening. I have to confess that I felt unusually tired at 8 o'clock—too tired to sleep well."

The following week he wrote: "By this mail I send you a copy of the "History of Knox Church." I wish it were a token expressive of my affection and admiration of your work of all sorts, and its thoroughness. But such as it is I know you will give it a place on your shelves. The engravings are not very satisfactory. I wished them to use your plate for me, but they thought they would get something better. They sent a photograph, which nobody likes, and which I never liked. This is a small matter, and I don't mean to say anything about it.

"I am specially busy at present in view of the meeting of Synod Committees, examinations, the page 212Presbyterian, and the thousand and one jobs of a pastor and minister…. The Synod meets this year in Old Knox Church, and already the men who were ever complaining of the air of the hall of the First Church, are now complaining of the distance to Old Knox Church, and thus the clerical habit of faulting everything and every arrangement that does not originate with themselves gets abroad."

The Doctor was gratified to find that, in consequence of information which he gave regarding the system of instructing blind scholars pursued in the common schools of the Home Land, an experiment had been made with two blind children in the Wakari School, with most satisfactory results.

He had laid the matter before his congregation soon after his return from Scotland, in a "catechetical" on "Eyes to the Blind." At a public meeting, which was called by the Mayor of Dunedin, and attended by several Members of the House of Representatives, prominent educationists, and others, the subject was discussed, and a committee appointed to prepare a report to be submitted to a subsequent meeting.

In due course the report was presented and adopted, and a deputation appointed to wait on the Minister for Education. The Minister, who took a personal interest in the subject, instructed Mr Habens to further it in every practicable way.

The Education Board of Otago, through the advocacy of Dr Hislop, authorised their secretary to page 213procure at once helps in the form of books and Braille tablets, with the result that the two blind children who had been admitted to the Wakari School kept well abreast of their fellows in the work of the classes through which they passed.