The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
The Reverend Dr Stuart is dead. It seems almost trivial to say that it is with the deepest possible regret we make this announcement, charged as it is with the power to send a thrill of grief through a multitude of hearts, and to convey an abiding sense of loss into hundreds of Otago homes. Since the death of James Macandrew, seven years ago, Otago—the Otago which Both these adopted sons of hers loved with a passion so leal and ardent—has not been called upon to mourn a loss comparable with this, and it is no disparagement to the men who survive to say that many a year is likely to pass without the repetition of such heartfelt regret. For Dr Stuart's personality has been bound up in a uniquely intimate fashion with the life of this city and province during the past generation. As pastor and as friend, in joy and in sorrow, at baptism, bridal, and burial, he has been a familiar agent of social benevolence and spiritual consolation—an agent of whom much was expected, and not expected in vain. Of the Presbyterian Church he was regarded as the embodiment rather than as a mere representative, and that big heart of his had a warm place for all other churches and organisations that make for righteousness and Christianity. The stalwart figure, the cheery face, the hearty manner, will be missed long and sorely by the men and the women, the boys and the girls, who either reckoned themselves among the host of his friends or had learned to look up to him as a wise and loving elder within whose man's heart the heart of a child still moved.
His memory long will live alone
In all our hearts, as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun,
And dwells in heaven half the night.
Let us not forget, however—he would certainly not have wished us to forget—that he had completed his seventy-fifth year, that he had served his generation from boyhood to old age with unflinching fidelity, and that, to use a common but impressive phrase, his time had come. Voices, he used to say, were to be heard calling him from the further shore, and though the desire to retain his presence here might be invincible, it is no evil thing that infirmity was not allowed to lay an oppressive hand upon him through long years of lingering decline. Until quite recently it might be said of him, as of that greater servant of God who died on Pisgah—"his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." Moreover, he would have bid us remember, with the great Anglican bishop: "Men may come, and men may go, . . . but the broad, mighty, rolling stream of the Church itself—the cleansing, purifying, fertilising tide of the river of page 4 God—flows on forever and ever." Grief their needs must be, but it may well be grief with a note of exultation.
"You are one of those people," said Roger Wendover to Robert Elsmere, "who imagine we owe civilisation to the heart. I, on the other hand, believe that the world, so far as it has lived to any purpose, has lived by the head" Dr Stuart believed in the mission of both heart and head. The proverbial kindliness of his heart has perhaps been wont somewhat to obscure the notable qualities of his mind. If he was not a man of great intellectual power, we make bold to say that he was a man with a touch of something higher—a touch of something akin to genius; while as for the worth of his practical sagacity we may borrow a word from Wren's epitaph and say Circumspice. He has left his mark upon the institutions of Otago, and his lifelong activity in the cause of education would alone make his name honourable. From the Fifeshire days, when, at his "adventure school," he taught one scholar for six weeks at a fee of threepence a week, to the very end, when for years he had been the honoured Chancellor of the University of Otago and Chairman of the High Schools Board of Governors, his zealous interest in public education never flagged. As the handmaid of religion, as the complement of social life, as the crown of citizenship, education may be said to have been to him a holy thing, and though there will be need of no memorial to keep his memory green and fragrant, still, should there be a wish to identify his name with some lasting monument in this, his "own romantic town," the project will most fittingly take an educational form. Of his strictly ministerial work it is not for us to speak, but no one requires to be told that the Presbyterians of Dunedin found what they were seeking 36 years ago—" a pious, energetic, and godly man—one who would take a particular interest in securing the hearting young men for public good, and who would visit and allure the people to church-going habits, . . . "a ms "large-minded, prudent, affable, gentle yet firm, and ready for every good work Such were the requisitions forwarded to the Commission of Selection in m and the words might aptly be scribed on the selected minister's grave Imaginative sympathy can realise the void which the beloved pastor's removal must leave at Knox Church, as it is ours rather to bear testimony albeit superfluous, to the warmth and sagacity of his patriotism, to the oftiness of his ideal of civic duty, to the whole-hearted qualities of his manliness It was well said the other day that he only valued strength for the sated expending it in the public service, than he only valued money for the satei giving it away. Robust in body and soul—without an atom of mawkish sentiment, but with a world of charity wearing to the last the blitheness of his native mountain air: "servant of God man's friend,"—such was the man whom we deplore. Amid the multitudinous cares of his special avocation he found time—made time—to discharge general duties of citizenship with a thoroughness that would hai done credit to a man of leisure; and in these days, when civic duty seed hardly to be reckoned among necessary virtues—when men of light are far too seldom men of leading—the force of such an example may been emphasising. Doubtless not to every man is given the special gift—that which "in him was the peculiar grace"—the gift of an all-useful versatility, stirred by an active sense of public responsibility; but there are page 5 few who will not be the better for studying the motives of Dr Stuart's life.
What more can be said? What more needs saying? "Let us all to meditation," said King Henry at the death bed of Cardinal Beaufort, and the counsel is at least as applicable to the close of a good man's life. The name of the good Doctor Stuart will be heard by the ears of children for many years to come, and it will never be associated with a belittling thought or an unkindly memory.
Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace:
Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
While the stars burn, the moons increase,
And the great ages onward roll.
Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.
Nothing comes to thee new or strange,
Sleep full of rest from head to feet;
Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.
—Otago Daily Times.