The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
Incidents and Anecdotes of Dr Stuart
Incidents and Anecdotes of Dr Stuart.
The anecdotes told of Dr Stuart are [unclear: numeroes] a few of them have been already published, and most of them are to be found recorded in "The History of Knox Church" by Dr Hislop, and "The Story of the Church and Settlement of Otago," by the Rev. C. S. Ross. A few of those stories are here reproduced:—
It was the custom with Dr Stuart to expound the chapters of Holy Writ which in the course of the service would he read to the congregation, and the worshippers in Knox Church always expressed and experienced a great delight in his Editions. The copy of the Bible which he [unclear: variably] used was much dog-eared and [unclear: rably] adorned by marginal notes in his own handwriting. He used frequently to quote the observations of eminent divines respecting different passages, and he was earnest in impressing the notabilia upon his congregation. On one occasion he was reading and expounding a chapter from one of the Pauline epistles, and, after reaching a certain verse, it is recorded of him he raised his eyes upwards and exclaimed, "Aye, Paul, was that your [unclear: nion]?" And, after a pause, he added, "Well, may be, you were right!"
The charitable disposition of Dr Stuart was that it is to be feared that he did not always discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving claims which were made upon his generosity. On one occasion he met [unclear: with] unpleasant adventure while he was on his way to fulfil a preaching appointment. He was making the ascent of Mount Stuart when he overtook a wayfarer who protested that he was "quite knocked up," whereupon Dr Stuart, with characteristic benevolence, gave him his horse to ride, telling him to keep the track while he himself would proceed by a short cut to the other side of the hill. On reaching the trysting place Dr Stuart found his horse tied securely enough to a tussock, but on opening his valise he found that there had been abstracted from it a dressing case, which also formed a writing desk—the valued gift of a friend. The desk contained, among other things, the discourses which the minister intended to preach, and the flush of very natural resentment which was provoked by the discovery of the theft yielded to the benevolent wish that his sermons might at least arrest the attention of the ungrateful wayfarer.
Extraordinary though it may seem, the late Dr Stuart attributed his rise in life to no less potent an agency than a bottle of whisky. In the days when he conducted his "adventure school" at Leven he attracted the attention of two maiden ladies, who, seeing the raw-boned young Scotchman, as he then was, walking daily along the street with his only pupil, were led to make inquiries about him, and having ascertained that he was a schoolmaster they called upon him. In those days Highland hospitality dictated that whisky should be offered to visitors, and as it occurred to the young teacher that he should in such a manner entertain his visitors he sent out for a bottle of whisky. The ladies, Dr Stuart used to say, were much struck with his hospitality, and through their good offices he obtained an introduction to a family in which he obtained the position of tutor. The gaining of this tutor's situation he regarded as the foundation of that measure of success he was enabled to achieve in life.
The stories are numberless which could be told of Dr Stuart's homeliness of manner in the pulpit. One, which found its way into print about the time, had relation to a baptism that took place in the church. The mother and child duly appeared on the dais, but for some reason the father was not so prompt as he should have been in coming forward. After waiting for a few moments, the doctor inquired: "Is Mr W——here?" The father then advanced from the far end of the church. When he was halt-way up the aisle the doctor remarked: "Toots, man! you ought to know better than keep the congregation waiting so long. Why, this is your fifth!"
No one in Otago ever occupied a place in the minds of the young as that occupied by Dr Stuart, and this fact led to the worthy doctor having ascribed to him by children the accomplishment of much greater work than he—ever foremost in good works as he was—was ever able to perform. The story is probably an authentic one which is told of the lesson that page 26 was being given in a secular school when the children were asked by the teacher to name the writer of the book of Psalms. The teacher failed at first to get any response, and becoming impatient he encouraged the class to answer. The boys were appealed to in vain, and then the girls were tried. "Come, now, some of you girls, who wrote the Psalms in the Bible?" After some hesitation the answer came, "Please, sir, Dr Stuart."
Many of Dr Stuart's sayings in the pulpit were extremely quaint and forcible. He was always homely and never strove for oratorical effects, but many things that he has said will live longer than would merely fine phrases and neatly balanced sentences. On one occasion when politics were looming largely and with a rather threatening aspect, the doctor in his prayer at the morning service prayed for deliverance from the sins of the world, the flesh, and politics"; thus amending the ordinary phrase in a manner which at once struck home.
On one occasion Dr Stuart paid one of his periodical visits to a poor old widow who had been long ill and confined to bed, and then went into the house of the next door neighbour, a woman who paid great attention to the poor widow. "Well," said the doctor, "I find your neighbour a little better to-day, and that you have been attentive to her wants." "O, aye," she replied, "Mr——cam' in till see her last nicht, an' gae'd a prayer, but it was sae skimpie that I gae'd one mysel'."
The story of the woman whose husband was ill, and who accompanied Dr Stuart to the door after praying with the sick man has been often told, and is now about to be realised. When she had opened the door and was bidding him good-bye, she said, "Eh! my, Doctor, but ye'll hae a gran' funeral!"
In connection with the illness and death of Dr Stuart it will be of interest to friends to know how the reading of the Psalms was to him a never-failing source of consolation. When he was unable himself to read, his housekeeper would take a seat by his bedside and read to him, and even when he was too weak for speech he would smile and nod his head approvingly, in the characteristic manner his friends know so well, as one or other of his favourite Psalms was read. His mind did not fail even when power of speech was gone, and when in a very low condition he frequently by signs made known the fact that he was conscious of what was going on around him. The last of these Bible-reading scenes was full of pathos. It can but be inadequately described, and yet some account of it ought to be given. On Saturday morning last, as has been stated, his medical adviser had been hastily called, and on arriving saw that in all human probability the end was nigh.
All proper means were taken to restore the patient and failed. Just before leaving [unclear: f] home in order to change for other clothes the dressing gown which he had hurriedly [unclear: put on] when called, Dr Coughtrey made the remark that nothing more could be done. The house keeper then asked if she could not read a Psalm to Dr Stuart, saying: "You know he always liked me to read to him." "Yes," said the doctor, "you can do that." The big Bible was opened on the bed, and as his life slowly and imperceptibly ebbed away the words of D Stuart's favourite Psalm were read to him by his faithful servant and friend.