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

Chapter XXXIX. — A Mourning City

page 271

Chapter XXXIX.
A Mourning City.

One of the clearest of the few recollections that come to us from the dim past of our early boyhood, is that of the deep impression made on our heart and in our home, and, so far as we could judge, on the wide realm of Presbyterian Scotland, by the announcement of the death of Dr Chalmers. His removal from the high field on which his marvellous powers had been so illustriously displayed was accounted a personal and public loss; and the first words that arrested attention on the black-edged Missionary Record that was put into our hands were these: A Prince in Israel is Fallen.

And so when the intelligence sped its way through the community—when it passed from lip to lip, from city to suburb, and flashed along the electric lines to every social centre in the Colony that Dr Stuart was dead, men's faces fell, and darkened with sorrow, the clamour of tongues was hushed, the chaffering of trade for a moment ceased, a sense of great personal and public loss filled men's hearts, children looked grave and turned for awhile from sport, and the whole city seemed to be bowed with grief.

To him, too, who bulked so largely in the public eyes of the Colony—especially of his own Province of Otago, who had stood among the foremost of its page 272citizens, distinguished alike for his great ability and benevolence, who has left the stamp of his strong personality, generous breadth, and Christian charity on all the institutions of philanthropy, education, and religion with which he was associated, the quotation has been aptly applied by the press, religious and secular, "Know ye not that a Prince in Israel is fallen to-day?"

It was on Saturday morning, 12th May, 1894, that the Doctor died. On the following day at the morning service in Knox Church, Mr E. B. Cargill, son of the "Moses of the Otago Settlement," as Dr Stuart was accustomed to designate Capt. Cargill, and one of the oldest office-bearers of the Church, was deputed to address the congregation on the subject of their bereavement.

"Our dear pastor, Dr Stuart," said Mr Cargill, "has gone from us. Yesterday morning about 7 o'clock, the spirit departed from the frail and worn body—very quietly, peacefully, and happily; so much so that the nurse and attendants scarce knew when the spirit had fled.

"He has gone. After his long, and loving, and abundant labours he has gone to his reward; he has entered the Kingdom of the Blessed…. We shall no more see that stalwart form which was the dwelling-place of his great spirit; in former days strong and active, but of late much reduced by weakness and sickness. We shall no more see that form in the pulpit before us; it only remains to us with due respect and honour to commit it to the dust.

"We shall no more witness the play of that page 273honest, manly, great countenance, which reflected so honestly and straightly every emotion that came from his heart; and we shall no more hear that loving, sympathetic voice—not, indeed, gifted with great oratorical powers, but having the greater gift of speaking from heart to heart, impressing us with the belief that what came to us came from his own heart, and was directed honestly to ours—the kind of address which, as has been often said, always gave us something to take away of advantage to us.

"I am sure that his departure will leave a blank not only with us but in this whole community, which it will be very difficult to fill up. No man, I take it, has departed from the midst of us in our time that has been so widely honoured, so widely loved, or so widely respected—not only as a preacher of righteousness, as the minister of this great congregation, but as a man ever forward in everything for the good of his fellow-men. He was a noted and great philanthropist, giving his ready and effective aid in everything which made for the good of his fellows, and particularly for the aid of those who were in want or suffering, or in need of temporal aid."

"A great educationist, the Chancellor of our University; the ardent advocate of everything that made up for the strengthening and building up of our educational system, bringing to bear his great knowledge and experience, and giving his advice and earnest help to the utmost of his strength.

"On all occasions a great citizen and patriot, filled with the highest aspirations for the county of which he had become a denizen: always bright and page 274hopeful, looking with confidence to the future of the Colony, and always ready to lend a helping hand in everything that would make for the good of the people at large.

"He was felt to be the friend not only of every man and woman within the range of his voice here, but was looked upon as a universal friend without regard to creed or state in riches or poverty. At all times there was he, ever ready with help and with words to make it acceptable. It is no wonder he was looked upon with reverence, and respect, and love.

"But to come back to ourselves. What has he been to us for these long years he has been in the Colony since he laid the foundation of this great congregation—the greatest congregation, let me say, in some respects that now exists in the Australasian Colonies? For these thirty-four long years he has laboured honestly, and to the utmost of his strength, heartily, zealously, and lovingly, showing all consideration for those with whom he was associated, ever ready to give the utmost credit for the smallest services to those who helped him. We all know that in the main this congregation was created, built up, and maintained in its strength chiefly by his own great personality, by his largeness of heart, and the liberality of his views,

"Thirty-four years he has been with us. That forms a large portion of the life of any one of us. There are many of you who now hear me who have lived the whole of your lives under his ministry. You have been baptized by him. You have been received into the Church by him, and you have grown page 275up under his ministry into the strength of manhood and womanhood. There are others of you who, during that time, from youth have passed into middle life, and have advanced towards age. There are others again who met him as middle-aged men and women, who are now far advanced into old age. But whatever the stage of life, the influence of Dr Stuart throughout that long period has been a great and good influence, for which we may all bless God, I am very sure, this day.

"For my part, I cannot but feel thankful that so large a portion of my life has been spent in contact and in fellowship with a man who has been so great a factor in all that is good, and who has so greatly encouraged all that one would wish to be. I think we may all join in that feeling, and my hope and prayer is that the memory of Dr Stuart in the few days or years that it may yet please God to grant unto me may be ever kept fresh and green, and that although he has gone from us I may retain the sense that he has not gone altogether, that his influence may fill what remains to me of life, so that I may be able to look back to remember his wise counsel not only with satisfaction, but with benefit of every kind.

"He has been a friend throughout all those years, throughout all the vicissitudes of our life. In prosperity and adversity, in sunshine and sorrow—always our sympathetic friend, ready to join with us in our rejoicing in days of brightness and prosperity; ready to bring his kindly sympathy and advice in days of trouble, sorrow, and bereavement; under all page 276circumstances coming into our house as a gleam of sunshine.

"I can say no more, friends. He has now gone to his rest. I praise God that his sufferings have ended. They have not been light; they have indeed been very considerable, but he has borne up, strengthened by his strong faith and assurance of the love and goodness of God, which has never forsaken him."

No wonder that the pathos of these words, spoken under pressure of strong emotion, powerfully affected the assembled people, many of whom were moved to tears.

In every Church in Dunedin and most of the other Presbyterian Churches in the Colony sorrowful reference was made to the Doctor's death, and testimony was borne to his distinguished worth and usefulness in the sphere of life in which God had put him—the Anglican and Roman Bishops and Jewish Rabbi adding their tributes, and those clergymen who were nearer to him in Church forms and evangelical sympathy. Outside the Churches, public signs of sorrow were visible in the flags flying at half-mast on the shipping and in the city.

On Monday and Tuesday the body "lay in state" in Knox Church, which was visited by a very large number of all sorts and conditions of men, women, and young people. Wednesday afternoon was proclaimed by the Mayor a half-holiday on the occasion of the funeral. "There was lamentation and great mourning in the city," the Otago Daily Times reports, "and demonstrations of grief such as page 277had never been witnessed before in the Colony. The scene in the Church was most impressive. From the hour at which the doors were opened until the commencement of the service crowds of citizens quietly entered and left the building, passing along under the pulpit, and looking for the last time at the composed and peaceful countenance of the departed pastor. The coffin, with the exception of the crystal face-plate, was loaded with wreaths of white flowers. The heavy drapery was everywhere almost concealed with flowers, the pulpit and platform being a dense mass of floral offerings."

Shortly after 12 o'clock the members of the congregation began to assemble in the Church. Nearly everyone was in black, and many of the ladies were in deep mourning. At 1 o'clock a short solemn service was held, at which the Moderator of Presbytery presided; and at its conclusion the funeral procession formed and faced in the direction of the Southern Cemetery.

"It was a remarkable demonstration of grief," says the paper from which we have already quoted, "which the afternoon witnessed—a demonstration in which all ranks and classes of the citizens, with one accord, took part. The weather was favourable to the assembling of a large crowd, and full advantage was taken of it—the main streets of Dunedin being thronged as they never have been before on such an occasion. Upstairs windows, balconies, the roofs of houses and verandahs, along the entire route, were occupied by great numbers of people, but there was no hilariousness in the crowd, the prevailing tone page 278being one of sadness at the falling of a great man and a prince in Israel. The bells of Knox Church, and the First Church were tolled, and the visible signs of mourning were numerous."

Business was entirely suspended in the city. Twenty thousand people, it was estimated, thronged the streets and the hillsides overlooking the last resting-place of the dead. From five thousand to six thousand mourners followed in the procession, which included representatives of every Church and corporation. Chinese and Assyrians were also there. The buggy, which had been presented to the Doctor by the ladies of his congregation many years before, followed in line—a touching memorial—laden with wreaths, the gifts of the people's love.

They gave him a military funeral. Two pipers, we saw, had "shortened the road" to the Manse on the occasion of his baptism, and now, at his burial, six pipers and three drummers filled the air with a wailing lament, which deepened the impressive solemnity of the whole scene. Six men of the Highland Rifles bore his body to the grave, and with the simple service of the Church which he loved, his mortal remains were laid alongside those of the wife of his youth, who had pre-deceased him upwards of thirty years, and of his son Alexander.

We give an extract from a letter addressed to us by Dr David Bruce, of Sydney, formerly of Auckland, who knew the Doctor well, and was on terms of intimate friendship with him for many years:—"…. With you and all who knew his sterling worth, I have felt the death of our dear old page 279friend, Dr Stuart, as a severe personal bereavement, as well as a public calamity. The grand Christian personality which characterised him in every relation of life, will make it difficult to fill the place his departure has rendered vacant. One cannot think of his unflagging zeal, his inspiriting enthusiasm, his captivating geniality, and his marvellous unselfishness, without devoutly wishing that God would raise up men of that unique stamp in greater numbers than the world is commonly favoured with."

After the Doctor's death, numerous poems setting forth his character and virtues were published. Among these we may select those written by Mr Thomas Bracken, whose reputation as a poet is well established, and of Mr E. S. Mantz, whose poem summarises some of the leading features of the Doctor's life and character:—

Rev. Donald M'Naughton Stuart, D.D.
Another good old pioneer has gone
 To endless bliss or everlasting sleep;
We know not which, but Hope keeps whisp'ring on
 That they who sow the seed shall surely reap;
And he was 'mongst the foremost in the field
 To sow God's grain upon a virgin soil.
It gave the tiller a prolific yield,
 He gloried in the products of his toil.
And yet he had his crosses and his woes—
 But who is there amongst us free from care?
His friends were legion, and he had no foes,
 And 'gainst his stainless name no one could dare
To breath a sentence; faithful to his flock,
 Yet full of charity to those outside.
My friend, though I cling to the Ancient Rock,

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And fain would stillitake Old Rome for my guide,
Yet did I honour his big mind's broad span,
And reverence with my soul his kind warm heart,
For Stuart was a Christian and a man,
And in the world he nobly filled his part.
His memory shall not die in that dear town,
To me the dearest place on all the Earth.
His deeds and words shall long be handed down,
And every year receive a greener birth,
Just like the lovely ivy which he trained
To wrap the temple where he worshipped God;
A man who wins the deathless Crown he gained
Can not become a cold forgotten clod.

Thomas Bracken.

Wellington, 14th May, 1894.

Lines on the Late Dr Stuart.

Dedicated to Robert Glendining, Esq., one of his warmest personal friends,
Still'd is that voice, which, prompt at duty's call,
Invok'd a blessing on the heads of all;
Cold is that pallid brow, which once could wear
The cheery smile to chase away the tear.
His eyes are closed in Death's eternal sleep,
While mourning friends around in anguish weep.
In him, no angry passions played a part,
But charity and love inspired his heart.
He had no wish to war with others' creeds,
But judged them by his standard—-by their deeds.
If men were weak, by error led astray,
He served as guide to show the better way.
Firm as the rocks on rugged Scotia's hills,
His faith would triumph over human ills;
An ardent worker in each noble cause—
He never slackened pace nor made a pause.
If others grew faint-hearted, looked dismayed,

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His words would cheer—"Kind friends, be not afraid;
The Christian's goal, though distant, is in sight:
Put forth your strength—advance in all your might.
Be our's the task to elevate our brother,
To do what good we can for one another;
Exhaust not precious hours in wordy strife,
But win the crown of everlasting life."
Revered and loved, he was a welcomed guest
In every home where Virtue raised her crest.
If he at times would tread the rich man's floor,
He ne'er ignored the suffering of the poor:
He knew no class—disdained all outward show,
But nursed within a sympathy for woe;
Though plain of speech, his words were soft and mild,
His manners gentle as the meekest child.
True to the hardy clime that gave him birth,
No meretricious polish graced his worth;
Majestic, grand, in feeling, thought and love,
A stout, brave Scotchman to the very bone;
As Burns was Nature's poet, rich and wild,
So Stuart lived her preacher, undefiled;
Yet deem not he was blind to Beauty's wiles,
For few could woo her with more winning smiles;
The woods, the glens, the heather bloom and flowers
Drew forth his praise, and fed his mental powers;
And none with sweeter accents could impart
The balm of comfort to the aching heart.
The widow, mourning for her husband lost;
The helpless orphan, on Life's ocean tossed;
The wasting form, on couch of sickness laid;
The wandering outcast, and the ruined maid,
Were each in turn the objects of his cares,
That claimed his succour, solace, and his prayers.
No man approached but found in him a friend;
No woman pleaded but she gained her end.
While e'er intent to bring men to their God,
He ne'er despised the earth on which they trod.
He strove to give them pleasure in this life,

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To purify their tastes, and banish strife.
Has he succeeded? Mark the tearful eye,
The heaving bosom, and the stifled sigh,
The grief that stamps on every face its seal,
Which tells how bitter are the pangs they feel
But why thus mourn? His soul has winged its flight
To realms all radiant with celestial light;
The noble heart that throbbed at every pore
Hath ceased pulsation, and shall throb no more.

E. S. Mantz.