Life and Times of D. M. Stuart, D.D.
The present work originated in a request which I made to Dr Stuart that he would furnish me with autobiographical notes of his early days, in order that a full and authentic narrative of his life and work might, in permanent form, be put into the hands of those who owed him much and loved him well.
His reply to me was as follows:—
"The materials for such a biography are "not in existence, and I am sure I could never "put at your disposal such a collection of facts, "dreams, and theories as would be necessary. "I must disappear from this scene before a "work such as you propose can be launched. Of "all living men, I would sooner leave my work, "character, and results to your heart and judgment and pen, than to anyone else known to "me. Any little worth I possess, you have "seized and interpreted."
A few months later, he wrote:—
"I feel bound to make time to put at your "disposal notes of former days. I am hoping to page x"have a month's leisure to compose my mind, "and block out a few outlines….. I am "glad to have a chance of a share in your "work."
Upwards of twelve months passed, however, without any further reference being made to the subject on either side, and it had fallen quite out of sight—among the apparently impracticable things, from which we sometimes turn with a sigh of regret.
But towards the end of 1893, it was revived in one of the Doctor's letters, and the keenness of interest which he expressed, gave evidence of his desire that the work should proceed. He applied himself in earnest to do his part. Mail after mail brought packets of notes, written hurriedly, and during his intervals of ease from physical pain, for he felt that time was short, and the pressure of mortal sickness, seriously aggravated by other troubles, tended to relax energy, dissipate thought, and hinder sustained application of the mind in any one defined direction.
The chapters as they were drafted were sent on to him for revision, and correction if needful; and on 6th March, 1894, he wrote:—
"Received and read, and wholly approve "the MSS. I send parcel of notes. I happened page xi"to have had not only a quiet hour the other "morning, but freedom from discomfort, and "threw them off. Deal with them as you deem "best."
Dr Hislop, in his interesting "History of Knox Church," has made us acquainted with the origin and growth of what may be regarded as the premier congregation of Australasia. That great organisation is there presented to us as compact and complete—well equipped with all the associations and agencies which aim at the awakening and deepening of spiritual life, and at the moral and intellectual advancement of the people.
The names of the great "Captains" of the Church (as Dr Stuart sometimes loved to designate his more prominent office-bearers), and the important services which they rendered to the congregation and the cause of Christ, have all been made familiar to us; and, incidentally, attention has been drawn to the potent influences radiated out on the community from that glowing centre of spiritual power and sanctified activities.
But there was a fuller knowledge wanted than Dr Hislop's book supplies to us of the great outstanding figure, who was, under God, a prime factor in the Church's prosperity, and page xiiwhose rare combination of high qualities, and special fitness for the exalted positions which he filled, made him one of the foremost citizens of the State, popular, and beloved of all men who had eyes to discern and breadth of moral nature to acknowledge, his distinguished personal goodness and worth.
I thankfully acknowledge my indebtedness to Mrs Ferguson, of Canterbury, for her kindness in placing at my service a number of interesting letters which she had received from Dr Stuart—some of which appear.
To the Hon. W. Downie Stewart, M.L.C., I am under great obligation for valuable help which he rendered to me in many ways in connection with the work. My thanks are due also to Dr James Copland, of Gore; Mr Thomas Denniston, of the Bluff; and other friends in New Zealand, for information relating to the subject of the work, which they promptly and courteously placed at my service.
The design of the Statue proposed to be erected in Dunedin in memory of Dr Stuart, which appears in this book, is the one which was awarded, in November last, the prize, but it is not improbable that a standing figure will be adopted.
I gladly avail myself of this opportunity to page xiiiexpress my thankfulness to the Deacons' Court of Knox Church for kindly permitting me to use their photogravures of Knox Manse and the new Church, thus enabling me to present to the reader's eye excellent pictures of the ecclesiastical buildings which to the present generation, at least, will be always tenderly and lovingly associated with the life and work of the good and wise and venerated pastor whom God has taken to Himself.
C. Stuart Ross.December, 1894.