Life and Times of D. M. Stuart, D.D.
Chapter XXXV. — Public Speaker
Dr Stuart held a high place as a public speaker. Always earnest and enthusiastic, he was often persuasive and convincing—swaying men's judgments by force of argument, and thrilling their hearts by the sweetness of his poetry. On great occasions, at some of the more important public functions, and in his more elaborated academic speeches, he rose at times to a high order of impassioned oratory; and he was, without question, one of the most popular public speakers in Otago—if we may not say in New Zealand. Extracts from his speeches at University ceremonies have been given above. We now present one from an address which he delivered at the opening of a Church bazaar, at Waimate:—"…. Few but find pleasure in searching the works of God spread out on earth and sea and sky. Great the joy of child and youth and man in finding the modest violet in its sheltered nook—half concealed and half revealed—the blushing rose—the blackbird in the glade, awakening echoes of the overhanging crags by its full and rounded song—or watching in the evening the rising of the Southern Cross, or following the full moon in its stately march in the cloudless sky. But as possessors of a spiritual nature, we desire communion with God, and likeness page 248to Him. His children and servants from the moment that grace has touched our hearts, we desire, with a controlling passion, to be eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, hands to the weak, feet to the maimed, wisdom to the foolish, and a conscience to the bad.
"We take pleasure in the communion of saints, and in helping them to get the advantage of social worship and religious instruction. Some four thousand years ago, a nation, through the help of God, obtained the blessing and privilege of freedom. The wilderness stretched between them and the promised land, and habits acquired in bondage had to be sloughed before they could enjoy liberty. Their prophet one Sabbath told them that it was the will of God that they should build a tabernacle to His honour and their own spiritual advantage. They returned to their tents to discuss the grave matter in the family parliament, with the intention of presenting themselves before the Lord on a convenient day with their freewill offerings.
"In due course the family parliament met. Said the matron of the tent, 'Good man, what is to be your gift for the Tabernacle of the Lord?'
"He replied, 'I have been turning the matter over in my mind, and have decided to give the piece of gold which I thought would help us in the erection of our home in the promised land. But God having given us deliverance from bondage, and having promised us an inheritance in Canaan, in token of my gratitude I shall give my gold piece for this great work. But, good wife, what are you to give?'
"'I have a pickle wool dyed purple; I will spin page 249it; and Jacob, our weaver boy, will work it into cloth for the adornment of the Holy Place.'
"'And Miriam, what are you to give?'
"'Why, father, I have resolved to give the bracelet you gifted to me on my fourteenth birthday.'
"'And you, Ruth, what are you to present for an offering?'
"'I have decided to give my ring.'
"No mean gifts for daughters of Israel all will admit who know their passion for jewels and their knowledge of the measure in which they light up their dark skins, and add a softness and attractiveness to their persons as charming as our fairest maidens possess. On the appointed clay the Church in the wilderness met, and presented gifts so varied and so abundant that the prophet proclaimed in the camp, 'Halt! make no more gifts, for the people have brought more than enough.' This incident has not been often parallelled in our world: but it has been recorded for our instruction….."
Again, at the opening of the Fine Art Gallery in Dunedin, in November, 1890, Dr Stuart said: "I congratulate you on adding another wing to the temple of Education in this land, whose foundations our fathers laid forty years ago. As most fitting, the primary school was its nave: but, as means and education increased, wing after wing was added. While thankful for the proportions it has attained, I am confident that our leaders and people will not rest till the copestone is brought forth amid universal rejoicing.
"As regards the fine arts, I fear, my own page 250education has been sadly defective. The galleries to which I had access in my youth were those of Dame Nature, in which, however, were hung up such pictures as the glorious summer sun setting behind Schiehallion: a reach of the Tay—now half hidden by its wooded banks, and now gleaming like silver as it flowed on through fields of springing corn, and meadows all alive with flocks and herds; or a clump of Scottish firs, resting and rejoicing in the light and shadow of the nearer hills: or an old castle in the distance, with its sheltering woods and far-extending meadows: or the clachan, with its kirk and steeple, which gives it visibility for miles around—the admiration alike of the children and cottage patriarchs of the strath. This was the only picture gallery of my far-off, youthful days, but precious were the lessons which it taught me. I am glad that the children and youth of our romantic City, in addition to Nature's gallery, with her pictures of rare beauty, will have access to this Institution, where are presented for their instruction and delectation the works of souls gifted and trained to delineate and interpret the scenes of Nature. May this Gallery become, as the years roll on, a renowned School of Art for the instruction of our people…."