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

Chapter XXXI. — His Passion for Work

page 223

Chapter XXXI.
His Passion for Work.

Though struggling with always increasing weakness, and suffering at times acute pain and much uneasiness, he still stood unflinchingly at the post of duty as one who was ever heedful to the Master's words, "Be thou faithful unto death;" "Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing." But the energy now slowly abated, while the zeal burned on.

"I have been dull and lazy for the last month," he wrote to us on 16th November. "The Synod is over and gone, and I only attended one sederunt. I was not laid aside, but the swelling which accompanies my infirmity causes uneasiness and squeamishness….. I had a day of uneasiness and sickness yesterday, which compelled me to stick to my bed. At 10 o'clock p.m. I was relieved, but the work which was postponed has now to be resumed with this result—that you and other friends will only get a short letter—probably to your joy and gladness.

"The Presbyterian as a monthly ceases with the December number. The younger men criticised it, but declined to help it in any way. Holding that our small and scattered constituency will not support a weekly, I was in favour of an enlarged monthly, but the majority thought otherwise. I have done what I page 224could for the Church for twenty years. I know well with my many engagements that the work was very imperfect. The Synod, when I was in England, appointed a Committee, but, with the exception of Bannerman, few did anything but criticise.

"Since Copland started the Evangelist in 1869, the Church had all the assistance in our power without a penny fee. In 1873, when we enlarged the Evangelist, I took charge of it; and even when the Presbyterian under Salmond started, I took charge of Church and school news—the hodman's work. Who knows but I may now listen to your frequent requests, and jot down such things as you wish me to do? I see clearly that unless I make a beginning the matter will never get beyond the region of good intentions."

In referring to the discussion in the Synod on the subject of the Church paper, he wrote to Dr Copland: "….. The new men are disposed to carry things with a high hand. We did what we could for the Church and the truth. If they can serve them better, we shall rejoice."

"I am working away under more or less difficulty," he wrote to us under date 11th January, 1894. "My strength does not return, and daily I have to take rest once or twice by lying down. I sleep too little, but, I am glad to say, though I experience more or less uneasiness, I do not suffer acute pain. I take my share of the work—funerals, marriages, and visitation of the sick. I always preach once a day in the Church, and occasionally in the outfield, and in the page 225class-room, where a Sabbath evening service is held for the poor, and others who do not find their way to the Church. I find, however, that, like an old horse, I can get on comfortably if the pace is only measured. I find the old brain has to be humoured, and when I forget this I have to bear the fruit in the form of discomfort, weariness, and felt exhaustion. The good folks say that I preach as well as ever. The fact is more faith and tenderness work themselves into my work.

"Our last communion was a season of much feeling and spiritual elevation. I had the table service, and a very serious attack which I had three weeks before, from which the doctors did not look for rallying, led the people, and perhaps myself, to expect that it was our last Communion in the Church Militant. At all events, souls got not only close to Jesus but to one another.

"It is to me a great enjoyment that I am not laid aside helplessly, but permitted to speak a word to old friends fitted to cheer.

"Yesterday the Salvation Army met in Knox Church. Four Hindoos spoke with a warmth rising to ecstasy at times of the glorious Gospel. I was struck with their presentation of it and their way of looking at it. I have always regarded the prominence which they give to testimony as the strong point of their service to the Gospel."

The conviction was now rooting itself in his heart that his time on earth among living men was short—that the night in which no man can work was, for him, rapidly approaching, and not an idle or unoccu-page 226pied hour was now allowed to pass over him. When he could snatch a little time from pulpit or pastoral work, or from the special duties of the various official positions which he held, he allowed his thoughts to wander away back into the distant past, and jotted down for those who loved him such reminiscences of his earlier years as might serve to throw light on his later history, and show us in what varied schools he had been trained and shaped for the important part which he played in our Colonial life. Like Martin Luther, he could say with absolute truthfulness, "I am the busiest of men." Like John Calvin, he, in effect, asked his friends when they urged him to discontinue his labours, or at least to moderate the closeness of his application to them, "Would you have my Lord to find me idle when he cometh?"

"Tell my friends," cried Tholuck, when his earthly toils were nearly over and the goal was coming into view, "that I am working hard for the higher work of heaven," and that was virtually the cry in all men's ears of the tireless activity which Dr Stuart ever displayed, "I am working hard for the higher work of heaven." "I am kept as busy," he wrote, "as my health permits, and yet I seem to do not very much."

Again on the 24th February, 1894, he wrote, "I read your chapters, and admired your presentation of the story… I have had a fortnight of unrest which incapacitated me from any work beyond the daily rounds, increased owing to the absence of Davidson holidaying. But now that he is home I will have some leisure for bye work… I got so page 227much relief last night that I begin to think I will be able to preach to-morrow morning. I am still in bed, but it is for rest, and not on the score of pain. I do not expect restoration, but the doctor thinks that with care I may be able for a fair stroke of work. The Lord has our times in His hand, and I am glad He has."

A week later he wrote again, and said, with reference to two parcels of autobiographical notes which came by the same mail. "I am sorry that a week of illness has compelled me to send them in the rough draft… Hope to have health to improve as I go on. I am glad to say that I feel better, but the trouble remains as operative as ever. Still I am glad that I have days and nights when it is bearable, without straining my strength excessively.

"Trust you and yours are all well. Take care of your health, for it is a precious talent. With love and prayers."