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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Service in the Church

The Service in the Church.

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. Certain seats were reserved for persons who were expected to attend as representing various bodies and organisations. The members of the Ministers' Conference attended in a body, and so did the Mayor of the City and the members of the City Council. Some time before 1 o'clock the church was crowded with adults. Among those on the platform were the Rev. Messrs Sutherland (Kaikorai), Bannerman, Will (Taieri), Gibb, Gibson Smith, Chisholm (Milton), W. P. Brown, Finlayson (Waitati), Greig (Peninsula), J. M. Fraser, D. Borrie, J. M'Kerrow (Mosgiel), Spence (Clinton), Wm. Gillies (Timaru), M'Cosh Smith (Naseby), A. B. Todd (Oamaru), Kirkland (Taieri), Christie (Waikouaiti), R. Waddell, A. H. Stebo, Ferguson (Invercargill), Wright (Ote-popo), Dr Copland (Gore), Dr Watt (Green Island), Dr Dunlop, A. North, R. J. Porter, H. Adamson (Port Chalmers), D. Dutton, A. Don, J. S. Reid (Strath-Taieri), J. M Davidson (Mataura), J. Kilpatrick (Warepa), D Ross, Mr W. H. Ash (Ravensbourne), Ven. Archdeacon Edwards, Hon. W. D. Stuart, Dr Hislop, Messrs Glendining, E B. Cargill, E. Smith, C. M'Kenzie Gordon, and Wm. Stuart. There were also among those present in the body of the church the Revs A. R. Fitchett, J. Ryley, W Ready, E. Walker, W. Saunders, A. H. Wallace, A. Cameron, and W. G. McLaren (Owaka).

Punctually at 1 o'clock the service was commenced, the Rev. R. R. M. Sutherland presiding, and giving out the 396th hymn:—

Take comfort, Christians, when your friends In Jesus fall asleep.

This having been sung, the Rev. Mr Borrie read a number of passages of Scripture such as are usually read at funeral services, and prayer was then offered by the Rev. A. B. Todd.

The Rev. Dr Watt, addressing the congregation, spoke as follows:—My dear friends, I scarcely need to add anything to what has been said, and said so admirably elsewhere, in commendation of the character and work of the great and good man whose mortal remains we are to-day committing dust to dust. The universal wail of regret which the news of his death awakened throughout Otago, and may I not add throughout the length and breadth of our colony, indicates what a strong hold he had of the affections and esteem of the people of this land—the land of his adoption, the land he passionately loved, and in the soil of which he is now finding on honoured grave. It may be my melancholy privilege to say a few words about Dr Stuart in this place on a future occasion. Let me now simply say that he has gone from us; we shall no more see his stalwart form passing our streets, nor hear the ring of that cheerful, manly voice we all know so well. Well, we would not recall him though we could. To use a favourite phrase of his own he had done yeoman's work in his day, and he has well earned his rest. To depart and be with Christ is far better. He is now at home at last—at home with the Lord. We cannot add anything to him by our praise or take anything from him by our blame. He has heard the "Well done" of the Master, and any accent of ours, either in concord with or discord from that Great Voice will not disturb the profound peace of the presence into which he has now entered. Still we owe it to ourselves, and it is a distinct encouragement for these who are still with us in the flesh battling with the trials of this lower arena, to let them know how those who survive them will regard them when they have fought the good fight, and how gladly we would have retained them with us for some time longer if it could be done consistently with their own best interests, and with the holy will page 30 of the Supreme. Let me detain you for a moment when we gather up two or three lessons of the life and death of our departed friend. I would remark that the death of a good man suggests with irresistible force the belief in immortality. The secret of the grave has been well kept. Of the countless millions who have passed to the other side few indeed have given any sign—furnished survivors with any distinct evidence of their continued existence after death. The grave has been well named the bourne whence no traveller returns. And yet as we stand by the bier of a man of distinguished worth, a man who has served God and his generation, according to the will of God, we shrink with one of the strongest repugnances of our moral nature from believing that the great spirit taken from us has lapsed into non-existence the moment it has passed beyond our ken. Science tells us that the smallest atom of what we call matter is never annihilated; it only transmigrates from old into new forms—but remains at the basis of its being, ever the same. Can we believe that those moral qualities which are the very crown and flower of human life, the so-called fruits of the spirit—the love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, which constitute the very image of God in man, are at death dissipated into nothing along with the soul in which they inhere. Such a fact, if it were a fact, would introduce purposelessness into a universe otherwise, as we feel, most wisely ordered. God would have been ashamed to be called the God of His people if he had not prepared for them a city. The Christian hope of immortality is a plant which flourishes best in the congenial soil over a good man's grave. But may we not gather from the great lite that has now been extinguished as another lesson what someone has termed the sum less worth of a man? Useful institutions confer benefit. A good book continues to minister stimulus and inspiration long after the hand that wrote it is cold in death. But of all foci raying forth wholesome spiritual influence commend us to a living man, full of faith, of love, of hope. I never left the presence of the friend whose loss we mourn to-day without feeling myself better, spiritually richer, than when I had entered it. I believe this was the experience of many. He had great faith in man's capability of being redeemed from evil, because he had still greater faith in the love and power of the redeeming God. His faith in the power and wisdom and love with which God rules the universe and orders His dealings with individuals never faltered; and many who sought his counsel in great mental depression he comforted—he sent them away cheered, to begin the battle of life anew, having succeeded in infusing a portion of the indomitable courage and hope with which his own spirit was filled into theirs. He was pre-eminently a man like Stephen, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Let us come for strength and inspiration to the same Great Fountain Head from which he drew his. But should not the removal of so faithful a worker in the service of God and mankind pledge us who survive him to greater diligence in the work from which he has now for ever retired. When David Livingstone died the other year, in the swamps of Lake Benguela, his death [unclear: lent a] mighty impetus to the cause of the [unclear: chiristianisation] of the Dark Continent; many [unclear: voluntee] to help the work in the midst of which [unclear: he] gloriously fell, and we may say that the great missionary explorer accomplished more for the object which he had at heart by his death than he would have accomplished even if life [unclear: had] been continued to him. You know the indefatigable ardour with which our deceased brother flung himself into three great causes—the cause of philanthropy, the cause of education, and, above all, the cause of religion. And would he not look down from the altitude at which he is now standing and rejoice to think that he had not died in vain if he saw that his death had been the means of awakening [unclear: m] profound interest in those great causes in this community in which he considered it a privilege to have lived and laboured so long? Let me not make end, however, without, in a word or two more, attempting to point out to the young people here present this afternoon the moral of the bight they are now privileged to witness. Some 70 odd years ago a boy was born on the banks of the Tay, in a [unclear: home] doubtless humble enough, but a home which had the fear of God in it; and this boy, now full of years and honours, is being laid to his final rest in this far island of the Southern Seas—a whole city, one voice, making lamentation over him. How did the [unclear: boy] of such humble antecedents, when become a man, win such great love? By the use of [unclear: arts] which we make bold to say are within the reach of every boy and girl here to-day. He lived not for himself. He looked not at his own things only, but at the things of others also. He rejoiced with those that rejoiced and [unclear: we] with those that wept. He was indefatigable in doing good, his charity was boundless, his courtesy unfailing, his kindness uniform, his love unfeigned. After the example of the great Master Himself, he delighted to be among his fellows as one who served. Go those and do likewise. And now to bid him a long but, thank God, not an everlasting farewell. Some of us have reason to bless God that we ever knew him, and we shall preserve his memory fresh in our hearts while life endures. We thank God that He bestowed him as His gift in this community, in which he has done noble work and brought forth fruit that shall remain; and we thank God, when His servant's work was done, that He recalled him, saying. "Come up higher. 'The Lord gave; the Lord page 31 hath taken away; blessed be the name of the lord.'"

The Rev. Wm. Kirkland having prayed, the choir and congregation sang hymn 409:

How bright these glorious spirits shine!
Whence all their bright array?
How came they to the blissful seat
Of everlasting day?

The Rev. Mr Sutherland then pronounced the benediction, and the congregation left the church while the "Dead March" in "Saul" was played on the organ.

The men of the congregation formed four deep in the church ground, and thence marched to the place assigned to them in the funeral procession.

The service closed at 1.45 p.m., and 10 minutes later the coffin was raised and carried down the aisle by the principal exit to the hearse. At 2 o'clock the signal was given, when—

Hush, the Dead March wails in the people's ears:
The dark crowd moves, and there are sobs and tears.