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The following extracts from his letters and journal will shew the nature of his labours, and, we hope, justify our encomium. They commence from the date of his arrival at Kingston, and conclude with the termination of his engagement at the church in conneetion with the Scottish Establishment.
"Kingston, 16th Sept. 1847.
My Dear Uncle,-Yours of 14th August, with enclosures, is before me, and in good time, for I was becoming anxious through your long continued silence, and was, at the same time, burdened with manifold anxieties arising from my position. Tonight I commenced a series of lectures (Thursday night) on the life of Christ, and delivered the first on Christ at Bethlehem. Foolishly 1 made but little preparation, expecting only a small audience. To my utter amazement and horror, on going down to the kirk, I found fully a score of carriages at the door, and hundreds flocking into the kirk. I trembled at the thought of my unpreparedness to avail myself as I ought to do of an opportunity of speaking seasonably to some, that might not occur again. Popularity is only valuable, in so far as it can be improved; and sudden as mine seems to have been, it seemed as if not a little after usefulness was at stake. I was overcome, but not with joy, rather with a sad, sorrowing sense of my insufficiency and inexperience. What could I do? The only course was to go to the throne of grace, that I might thence come strengthened to the duty before me; and it was not in vain; and I trust our visit to Bethlehem and its scenes of wonder may prove of advantage to some who heard me.
"Thursday 16th September. Tonight I gave the first of a series.of lectures on the life of Christ to a crowded audience drawn together by curiosity mostly. I considered 'Christ at Bethlehem.' May he himself be honoured, and touch both heart and tongue in me, that I may be able to tell something of the glory of his person and work. On coming home heard of Miss ____ death, and wrote a letter of condolence to her afflicted parents, who are both of them distinguished Christians. The father is Commissariat General in the army here, and a travelled Nathaniel he is. We spent some happy hours together last week, and principally amid Italian scenery; for he had been there and so had I, and we compared notes. His daughter was on the point of being admitted to the communion of the London Missionary Society, when she was thus called to that of the Church on high. She had expected death, and, in the prospect of it, rose one day from her bed, enfeebled as she was, to write to a married brother in Australia, and to another unmarried, bidding them farewell. Seldom have I read more thrilling letters, more delightful evidences of calm waiting for an approaching end.
"Saturday, 18th Sept. I have just returned from the funeral of one of the best known merchants in town; he was in the prime of life; came out here twenty years ago for his health, and some little time ago fell from his window, and gradually sunk under the effects of his fall. As pastor pro tem. of the kirk, I was called on to 'officiate,' as it is called, and broke in upon the usual forms here ; I could not resist the temptation, when I saw the principal merchants and men of the city around the grave, waiting till we engaged in prayer, of availing myself for five minutes of the text and illustration afforded me; and pressed home on all there the question, 'Who is to be next? Who is prepared for it?' The address tended, I trust, to good, and to substitute in the room of usual indifference food for reflection. But, ah! it is anxious, awful work, while so weak and ignorant oneself, to be engaged in guiding others, and in such a matter as that of the soul's interests. It really makes me tremble to think of it, and faith wavers before it. One feels it all the more that he has to deal with many intellectually his superiors, and far beyond him in years and experience. The only consolation in this latter matter is, that my theme is unmatched, and even divine, and in its very simplicity surpasses all other science, and excels all human experience.
... It seems to be the will of the great head of the Church to honour me to labour in this populous city, and I would not, could not, shrink from it without fearing, a Jonah's fate; besides, if the Master have need of me, how could I refuse? Imagine not, however, that I believe that you have much the start of me in our mutual (I trust) Zionward course. Here there is a need of our acting like Paul, and dying daily. My predecessor, to shew you how sudden maybe our call here, preached on the Sabbath from his pulpit and from his coffin and his grave on the Thursday. His tombstone, at the side of the pulpit, loudly speaks to me, as I ascend and descend from the latter, saying, 'be ye also ready and work while it is called today.' I cannot describe fully to you how much I feel as if I had lived years rather than months in this island, and that the terminus would soon be reached by me; and soon enough it will, for 'we all do fade as a leaf,' and 'our years pass as a shadow, or a tale that is told.' The brethren have put me at a post of honour and high importance, and sometimes the anxiety connected with it almost overcomes me.
"Thursday, 23d Sept. Perfectly sick of visiting and introductions. My visitations are anxious seasons; for 1 fe61 that the minister ought to be ever ministerinc; more especially in cases of carelessness and ignorance. Today I had twice the painful duty of telling dying sinners, who were lying on their deathbed with false hopes of eternity, that they were building on a false foundation. I'll not soon forget the shrill shriek of wounded pride, and, I trust, alarmed conscience with which an old woman (eightysix years of age) heard me tell her, that I feared much that, far from her being yet a child of God, she was only a child of the devil. It still rings in my ears. Her granddaughter has since called on me to say that she is still excited and afraid, but, she fears, unhumbled. I have to see her again tonight. The severity and seeming, cruelty of the statement were needed,for, oh, she was slumbering securely in her supposed innocence. After lecture called again on the old woman, and found her still impervious to impressions of her sin, and need of a Saviour. 'Tis sad, sad, indeed; a scene at which one may well weep bitter tears, to see a soul just about to leave the world without a good hope, though with a presumingly cherished one! What an awful discovery for its entrance on eternity! two minutes before it might have been otherwise; while the soul was in that still warm body. But separation has occurred, and the soul that fancied itself safe, aye, that was breathing forth its ignorant glorying in a delusive peace, finds itself lost; aye, even while its presuming aspiration is echoing in the chamber where its tabernacle lies, the awful truth of the fallaciousness of all is revealed to it in fearful brightness; as it permeates the abodes of woe, and finds that the darkness of the dying hour was but the shadow of the pit into which it sinks, farther and farther from those abodes of bliss in which it fancied it had a home and a father. The dispelling of its delusion by the unveiling light of eternity is almost too fearful for thought. Poor self-deluder, I could not but weep for you! Imagining you go home to a kind, a heavenly father, an ever gracious friend, an ever loving brotherhood, an ever happy home! Alas, your face is not thitherward! You but dream; and are proceeding only to the desolate abodes of accursed spirits, where all are fatherless and friendless; all so absorbed in self, and so anguished in their souls that there is no sympathy, no rest. Even in the eleventh hour may the Spirit of all grace call thee into the right path!
"Thursday, 30th Sept. Still proceeding quietly, but with more work before me than I can overtake. Lectured tonight again on Christ at Bethabara, and improved it with special reference to Scotch young men, of whom a goodly number were around; and also to the Jews, many of whom were in the gallery. Came home very wearied. Strange how weak we are!
"Monday, 11th Oct. Had long conversation today with a wealthy merchant in town, who, while disposed to be liberal of his money, and friendly in spirit to any minister of the gospel, is yet unmindful of what is needful for himself....
"Sabbath, 24th October. ...The heat today was excessive. Some of the folks seemed to fear that I was fainting; but the truth was, that perspiration had been going on so freely, and the day was so close, that I was obliged to pause to get a breath of pure, cool air, but I panted for it in vain.
Thursday, 28th. Had usual lecture in the series on Christ's life and ministry, and threw down the gauntlet to the Jewsthere are a host of them here, and no little controversy, owing to some pamphlets that have been published on the subject in debate between them and the Christians. There are a great number who attend my week lectures. The pamphlet of their Rabbi was in my hands, and I told them that it was but my duty to defend the character of my Master from the aspersions that had been cast upon it. Today, too, I had received a long and anxious letter from the Jew _____, urging me still to counsel him. I intend to reply to him in full, and also to write his wife, who still seeks to be instructed of me. One would need to have far more hands, and heads, and hearts, for all the work that stares him in the face.
"Kingston, 7th November 1847.
My dear Aunt,
Never have I been in a worse humour, and a more unfit state for work than the last few days. Letters from home won't finish off on my hand somehow. A friendly member of the kirk drove me home tonight. He has just returned from the Havana, and told me a fearful incident that
occurred with a slave the night before they sailed. None are permitted to sail by the steampacket unless provided with a passport. It was about ten at night, and the steamer was to leave by daybreak. The purser was called out by the steward, and a finelooking, welldressed black, full six feet high, addressed him, wanting a passage. He was asked in Spanish, for he knew no other language, for his passport. He had none, and could not therefore be allowed to proceed. All the night over he was among the sailors, jibbering to them in an unknown tongue, and trying to bribe them to conceal him, by cigars, and even the offer of the bag of 300 dollars which he carried in his hand. None of them understood him. In the morning, ere sailing, he was ordered off, and a boat was lowered to 1and him. He stared wildly at the captain, at the passengers, at the crew, and, bursting into tears, exclaimed in Spanish, 'Go back there! Oh, never!' and he shuddered. He was urged to leave, and he threw down his 300 dollars, beseeching them to take him with them. It could not be done. He then started back from those around him, put his hand into his pocket, and shrieking most piteously, 'Go back yonder, Never, never!' and suddenly taking his hand from his pocket, and shrieking yet once more, he nearly severed his own head from its trunk with a razor which he had evidently prepared for the purpose, and fell with the word 'never' yet trembling on his lip a lifeless corse at the feet of the company. There is slavery in its effiects! A more affecting and fearful case I have seldom heard. It was liberty or death with the poor black! the former denied him, he would rather fill the suicidal grave than feel longer the lash of his brutal master.
Would that there were something of the same feeling among the slaves of sin. Would that there was the same anxiety to escape from the galling bondage of the devil! But this is seldom thought of, seldom felt. Day after day is sermon added to sermon, but one would almost think that all was wasted on the empty air. Naturally hot as Kingston is, there is a spiritual frost binding up every avenue to the heart; and it is often chilling work indeed the breaking of it. We much need the live coal from the celestial altar to be applied to our lips and hearts, to keep us from freezing too.
"Kingston, 1st Nov. 1847. 'Tis a twelvemonth today since the 'Catherine' unfurled her sails and
bore me from home, and since then what changes have occurred. ...
"6th Nov. Since writing the above I have been busy, very busy, and far from strong. The doctor was with me on Thursday, and has given me some palliation of my cough, which has been annoying me sadly. On Thursday night 1 got relieved by perspiring at my lecture; but still I feel weak, and worn, and scarce capacitated for tomorrow's (Sabbath's) work. It is not unlikely but 1 may run up for a day or two to Mr Cowan's to cool myself, and recover a little. We have a meeting for business there on the 18th, and it is likely I'll go up to it and stay a day or two. I scarcely can say that I have seen the Cowans at all since I came to the island. Travelling is so difficult and expensive work here, that except where there is a need be, none of us think of it. Our communications are usually by letters, and these, too, generally confined to business, of which we have quite enough upon our hands.
"17th Dec. I have just returned from my weekly routine of visitation of the sick. What lessons does one learn by every sickbed! . . .
"19th Dec. And now it is not for us to enquire into the things of the future, still it is not my own conviction that I am likely to be fit for prolonged labours. I have had my chest examined carefully within the last few weeks, and my own fears are confirmed, that the disease has settled down into chronic bronchitis. Such is to be my thorn in the flesh for life, in all probability, and I cannot say that I would be better-at least in soul, without it-it tends to keep me humble and diligent.
"Kingston, 3d April 1848.
My dear Uncle,
I was prevented writing you by last packet by absence from town. Having secured supply of my pulpit for two additional Sabbaths, I went round by sea to the north side of the island, and only returned the other day. On my road home I had a most providential escape from danger if not death. At the moment the accident occurred, the thought of poor Mr Paterson flashed across my mind, and how otherwise than grateful could I feel that I had not met a similar end. On descending the St Ann's Mountains, towards midday, the horse which was drawing in the chaise shafts suddenly dropped down while running, and carried the other horse with him. The shock threw both the driver and myself right out, him to the side, and me right over the horses' heads. I happened to have my umbrella up, and also in my hand a map, about eight feet long in its stick; these I carried with me, and on coming down from the somerset, providentially the end of the map met the ground and broke my fall; otherwise I would have landed on my head; as it was, my hat was quite crushed in ; with some slight bruises on the legs and shoulders I escaped unhurt. The driver had landed on his feet and had presence of mind enough to hold the reins fast and thereby prevented the horses going over me. The cause of the accident was the excessive heat of the midday sun; the horse fell sunstruck, and I fear will be useless ; the heat was so great that my knees were scorched so that I could not put my hand on them with comfort. How often even in the midst of life are we nigh unto death; how unceasingly have we reason to speak of his lovingkindness who guardeth us from evil, and maketh goodness and mercy to follow us all our days and all hours of the day ; my scratches and sores though they hampered me a little in the pulpit on Sabbath, seemed, at the same time, just so many prompters to praise, so many calls to faithfulness and earnestness in the work given me to do. My Monday night meeting on my return was a deeply interesting and affecting one ; most of my people had heard of my escape, and that, blended with their evident joy at my recovered strength, gave a tone and tenderness to our communion that you can easier imagine than I describe.
Continued at :
Callender Memoirs, Part 6
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