ePub 版

He got

-a class whose name is legion. The only eyes, in which such a project could find favour, were those of the young, the ardent, and the sanguine. But Dr. Robertson was not to be daunted. He heard objections, and he bore with them. No temper, no petulance, no hot eagerness to reply. The answer, he knew, could only be found in success; and to this he bent himself. Let the world jibe and jeer; he and his would act, and for this action he had within a salient spring, of which men did not then know the source. He at once plunged into work. He cast forth a snowdrift of letters on the leading men of Scotland ;-men of all parties; for what had he to do with party ?-of all sects, for the object was national. He stirred up public meetings. He arranged these-herculean labour, as those who have tried know-in all parts of the country ; in cities, and hamlets, and rural parishes; in places where crowds of hard mechanics gathered ; in other parts, where the audience could only be a few stray folk, a chance farmer, a lame hirpling shoemaker, two or three old wives in red cloaks. He travelled everywhere, to the north and to the south; to the cold keen air of eastern Aberdeen or Montrose, to the smoke and murky air of Glasgow and Greenock. men of mark to take the chair—the veteran statesman, Lord Aberdeen, in his own city; in Inverary, the rising statesman, the Duke of Argyll; in Edinburgh, Mr. Inglis, who then filled the post of Dean of Faculty.

He spent himself freely; he attended two or three meetings a day; he exhausted his case, his own strength, at times the meeting. He had not the usual rewards of agitators. No strong theme to round his periods; no party cry; no bright romance; no rewards of imaginative enthusiasm ; dry hard work.

His appeal was to reason and moral sentiment and religious fervour; and how small an auditory do such subjects gather! Nor was he the man to excite a multitude. Logical, weighty, thoughtful, but without fancy or humour; in his statements so full, that many thought him tedious; in his topics grave, so that some styled him dull. His only eloquence was from the weight of his feelings—that calm deep earnestness, which touches the heart, because it comes from the heart. So, unrewarded by applause, he went on his way. As soon as his duties in the University set him free, he returned to this work. Writing, itinerating, speaking, flying again and again to London. For there, in the parliamentary season, Scotchmen were gathered for business or for pleasure ; and there the earnest man followed them. True he had other work in hand; for his Church, appreciating his powers, placed him on almost every deputation which went to statesmen, on bills affecting the KirkEducation schemes, Annuity Tax Bills, Committees of all sorts; for these purposes he went, to explain and to urge. How he spent his time when thus in London, has been told us by two

members of his church, one of whom received him in his house, the other, the writer of the biography, came to assist him. From five in the summer morning till nine, he was busy writing letters; after breakfast, calls to see individuals in the West ; and in the afternoon, calls on men of influence in the City; or in the committee-rooms of the House, then in the lobby catching members; and after dinner, returning to the House to have interviews with members there. Home at midnight, jaded, as well he might be, after twenty hours' incessant strain ; but, wearied, starting afresh to the same round of toil. In all this there was strangely mingled the iron will and the tender feelings; the purpose fixed as the rock, the feelings which are pliant and tolerant. Men thwarted, and evaded, and disappointed him. They would consider—they must take timethey had difficulties—they would hear him again at a more convenient season.

So said M.P.'s. “Is not society out of joint, when I am to work so hard, and these, the leaders, don't take up the cause as their matter, which God and man have a right to expect at their hands.” Nor was his own Church in the North less tardy. He had counted on the clergy of the Kirk. The clergy were lukewarm or hostile. Some tossed his circulars aside. Others answered with uncourteous sneers. He bore them all. Uncivil replies he termed "offering objections.” He overlooked rudeness and laziness. True, he felt the wound. “I feel at times as if I would lose heart." "I long to be relieved of a task, which has increased in difficulty, in much the same ratio in which my resources and energies have suffered decay.” But still he found for every fault an excuse. One way of access had failed, try another; and if there was

no remedy, there was at least hope. “I believe better days are in store.' “ The cause is good, and, when I find it warmly taken up by such men as yourself, my sinking' spirit rises again, and I am enabled to thank God and take courage.'

Now it is, “My days are eaten up by delays”—“the work is a weary one;" but then, “I have great reason to be thankful.” I have much comfort in the thought, that you are all helping me with your prayers.” “I never allow myself to think that the labour will be suffered to fall to the ground.” “I may still,” he

I writes to Dr. N. Macleod, “aid in sending forth into the field some young man according to God's own heart, who, with His blessing, shall achieve all that I ever hoped to achieve; or if not this, something far greater, and more truly glorious.” Or in some of his last words to a lady,-"If I don't live to do it, I know it will be done. I don't want that I should do it. If God be pleased to raise up any one that will work it out, I shall most gladly give it up, but I cannot leave my place till I see another in it.” If any one expressed doubts and fears as to

Vol. 63,-No. 315.

2 C

success, then rose the unbending will. “The scheme must and shall be done.” “We may not take London by storm, but we shall win it some day.”

And the force of will and spring of power was always there ; he stayed himself on God. In all that hurried life of breathless unrest, he found time for pauses of thought and prayer which sustained him. To that divine fountain he went, and there his thirst was quenched.

Now to trace the results. Dr. Robertson began the effort in 1846. In the first year he collected £8000. In 1854, the amount had reached £130,000, and thirty new parishes were endowed. From that time he altered his plans, so as to break Scotland into five parts, and apply to each a stimulating and concentrated impulse. The effect of this invigorating power was decisive. Though Lanarkshire was tardy, other parts of Scotland cordially answered the appeal. One year added £30,000; another year brought its £50,000. The Scottish peers came forward with a worthy zeal. Eminent lawyers, judges, the upper class of Edinburgh, threw themselves into the effort. The Queen and the Prince Consort added their names and their munificent offerings. The Scottish aristocracy in London, and the merchants, were stirred. Before Dr. Robertson's death, in 1860, he could reckon nearly a half million devoted to the scheme. Sixty new parishes had been formed; in 1861 these rose to one hundred and four, all in progress; and it was now plain that a little further effort would complete the great

a object of this unwearied activity, and secure one hundred and fifty new parishes moderately endowed. This was a signal fruit of patient and disinterested labour.

We turn from this, the paramount object of his exertions, to some other public matters on which he made, incidentally, remarks of value.

His educational views were conveyed in speeches to the General Assembly, and in letters to his friends. The attempt to introduce a common school, which should unite all sects by a compromise of specific religion, this he felt was to be opposed at all hazards; local boards under a central secular board would, he felt, involve inevitably this result. It had been exemplified in the United States, and it concerned and would sap the very life of religion. Such a system might make sharp boys and clever men; but it would never impart to the popular mind that love of truth, and that spirit of faith, which are the life of a nation. Let all schools, so that they taught Christianity, be assisted by the State, and each sect, and the Church with its parish schools, would develope each its own system, and leave lasting results on the country. “ Leave the education of the people,” he says, " in the hands of their several

“ Churches, and, in spite alike of bigotry and latitudinarianism, leading living spirits must be raised up to evolve it on the principles of a genuine Christian philosophy. Democratic levelling schools will, at best, give us but a race of Jonathans i vastly clever, no doubt, in their own way, but still extremely little in their veriest greatness. Such an education as the age is panting for will give us, men, patriots, heroes, Christians, and render our country the very centre of light and life to a benighted, bewildered, and half dead world.”

No dislike of other sects influenced these opinions. On the contrary, his favourite scheme was, by new concessions and the repeal of the Act of Patronage, to unite the Church of Scotland, the Free Church, and the United Presbyterians. On this point we commend his letter to Dr. Macleod in 1853, which contains some striking thoughts and startling information. (p. 281, compared with pp. 261, 263.)

But all these multifarious efforts were blended with a punctual and eager discharge of his duties as Professor of Church History. This work, when he entered on it, was new to him ; he had therefore both to study hard, and to learn enough of German to give him access to German authors. During that early time he laboured, as few but German students could do, with an amanuensis, engaged for eighteen months, writing hard to his dictation; eighteen hours out of the twentyfour being spent in stiff work within his study. He mastered, however, his subject; and, in his three years' course, he traversed the history of the Christian ages from the early dawn of Abraham's day, to the meridian light of Luther's reformation. Nor were his lectures didactic and dry, but instinct with feeling; interesting deeply the young men his students, and proclaiming the grand doctrines, now so much contested, with a clear and trumpet tone. His appeal to the students who were about to pass from his class into the ministry, was stirring both in matter and in an emphatic manner. When he pressed upon them the study of the Word of God in the original tongues, he never forgot to add, that they must seek the guidance of the Divine Spirit to light up the Word, and to write it on the student's heart; and when he held out before them the differing spheres of their future labours—the work of the missionary abroad, that of the toiling minister among smoky cities and masses of heathenized men, or the gentler sphere of ministration within country parishes, in the homes of Scotland's peasantry, beneath the smoky rafters of her shepherds' cots-he never forgot to admonish them that there lay an overmastering power in the living Word of God faithfully preached, if only borne out by the devotedness of their own daily service, and by holding ceaseless communion with the unseen presence of an Almighty Saviour.

If the fruits of such a life are unequivocal, the discipline and culture which produced them are no less plain. Just before the memorable event of 1843 had called Dr. Robertson into enlarged usefulness, sorrows fell upon him which wrung his spirit. The two eldest of his stepsons were abroad, the youngest remained at home; and when the boy turned his mind towards preparation for the ministry, the strong man threw himself into the youth's wishes, and in guiding his studies renewed the thoughts of his own youth. The lad opened himself to this teaching with delighted interest, when suddenly there broke out the signs of that fatal disease which closes so many ardent lives in their spring-time. He was removed, in the winter of 1845-6, to Jersey, to which his mother accompanied him. Dr. Robertson's duties absolutely prevented his going there for some time, and his own sanguine temperament, with the assurances of the Scotch physicians, kept up hope. With what trembling anxiety he watched the illness from a distance, may be conceived when we read his own words of affection,—"God knows that I love you beyond all power of expression; that you are dear to me as my own son, dear to me as my own soul.” He hurried to the sick-bed as soon as he was released in the end of March ; and now, as all hope seemed closed, he poured forth the consolations of Christianity on a death-bed which welcomed and was cheered by them. Dr. Robertson was again obliged to leave the afflicted but happy group for further work in Edinburgh, but he returned in time to see his stepson die. His own comforts, whether he was present or absent, were found in the same Bible which was comforting the sufferer; and his letter, announcing the event to his own father, proves at once the depth of his sorrow, and the fulness of his comfort.

The next blow which struck Dr. Robertson, was from the death of another stepson, in that disastrous winter of Indian insurrection. Dr. Robertson had been enjoying, during the autumn, a rural retreat on the banks of the Tweed, delighted again to occupy a manse, and to preach, as of old, to a simple people. There, in the telegraphic news, he read of the death in action of Captain Douglas of the Madras Cavalry. When Havelock fell, he had said that he could not mourn for him, for to such a man the gewgaws of earthly honour would have been utterly disproportioned." To his stepson, who, in earlier life and a humbler walk, held the same principles, he might have applied a like comfort. For he was a Christian soldier, gentle, frank, and fearless; and, when he was struck in action by a blow which he felt to be mortal, he bound a sash firmly over the wound, charged at the head of his men till he drove the enemy from the field, and then calmly, with messages to his friends, laid himself down to die. But, though this was the comfort, the wound struck deep. James,” he says, “is still

' so constantly in our minds, that the remembrance of him is

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »