Here is the fifth & last installment in this series. To begin at part 1, click here. Certainly, we observe that territorial missions is not for the faint of heart!
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In my Mission district, I was the witness of many joyful departures to be with Jesus,—I do not like to name them ” deaths ” at all. Even now, at the distance of nearly forty years, many instances, especially amongst the young men and women who attended my classes, rise up before my mind. They left us, rejoicing in the bright assurance that nothing present or to come “could ever separate them or us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Several of them, by their conversation even on their death-bed, were known to have done much good. Many examples might be given; but I can find room for only one. John Sim, a dear little boy, was carried away by consumption. His childish heart seemed to be filled with joy about seeing Jesus. His simple prattle, mingled with deep questionings, arrested not only his young companions, but pierced the hearts of some careless sinners who heard him, and greatly refreshed the faith of God’s dear people. It was the very pathos of song incarnated to hear the weak quaver of his dying voice sing out,—
“I lay my sins on Jesus, The spotless Lamb of God.”
Shortly before his decease he said to his parents, ” I am going soon to be with Jesus; but I sometimes fear that I may not see you there.”
“Why so, my child?” said his weeping mother.
” Because,” he answered, ” if you were set upon going to heaven and seeing Jesus there, you would pray about it, and sing about it; you would talk about Jesus to others, and tell them of that happy meeting with Him in Glory. All this my dear Sabbath school teacher taught me, and she will meet me there. Now why did not you, my father and mother, tell me all these things about Jesus, if you are going to meet Him too ? ”
Their tears fell fast over their dying child; and he little knew, in his unthinking eighth year, what a message from God had pierced their souls through his innocent words. One day an aunt from the country visited his mother, and their talk had run in channels for which the child no longer felt any interest. On my sitting down beside him, he said,—
” Sit you down and talk with me about Jesus; I am tired hearing so much talk about everything else but Jesus; I am going soon to be with Him. Oh, do tell me everything you know or have ever heard about Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God!”
At last the child literally longed to be away, not for rest, or freedom from pain—for of that he had very little—but, as he himself always put it, ” to see Jesus.” And, after all, that was the wisdom of the heart, however he learned it. Eternal life, here or hereafter, is just the vision of Jesus.
Amongst many of the Roman Catholics in my Mission district, also, I was very kindly received, and allowed even to read the Scriptures and to pray. At length, however, a young woman who professed to be converted by my classes and meetings brought things to a crisis betwixt them and me. She had renounced her former faith, was living in a Protestant family, and looked to me as her pastor and teacher. One night, a closed carriage, with two men and women, was sent from a Nunnery in Clyde Street, to take her and her little sister with them. She refused, and declined all authority on their part, declaring that she was now a Protestant by her own free choice. During this altercation, a message had been sent for me. On arriving, I found the house filled with a noisy crowd. Before them all, she appealed to me for protection from these her enemies. The Romanists, becoming enraged, jostled me into a corner of the room, and there enclosed me. The two women pulled her out of bed by force, for the girl had been sick, and began to dress her, but she fainted among their hands.
I called out,— “Do not murder the poor girl! Get her water, quick, quick!” and leaving my hat on the table, I rushed through amongst them, as if in search of water, and they let me pass. Knowing that the house had only one door, I quickly slipped the key from within, shut and locked the door outside, and with the key in my hand ran to the Police Office. Having secured two constables to protect the girl and take the would-be captors into custody, I returned, opened the door, and found, alas! that these constables were themselves Roman Catholics, and at once set about frustrating me and assisting their own friends. The poor sick girl was supported by the arms into the carriage ; the policemen cleared the way through the crowd; and before I could force my way through the obstructives in the house, the conveyance was already starting. I appealed and shouted to the crowds to protect the girl, and seize and take the whole party to the Police Office. A gentleman in the crowd took my part, and said to a big Highland policeman in the street,—
” Mac, I commit that conveyance and party to you on a criminal charge, before witnesses ; you will suffer, if they escape.”
The driver lashing at his horse to get away, Mac drew his baton and struck, when the driver leapt down to the street on the opposite side, and threw the reins in the policeman’s face. Thereupon our stalwart friend at once mounted the box, and drove straight for the Police Office. On arriving there, we discovered that only the women were inside with the tick girl—the men having escaped in the scuffle and the crush. What proved more disappointing was that the lieutenant on duty happened to be a Papist, who, after hearing our statement and conferring with the parties in the conveyance, returned, and said,—
“Her friends are taking her to a comfortable home; you have no right to interfere, and I have let them go.” He further refused to hear the grounds of our complaint, and ordered the police to clear the Office.
Next morning, a false and foolish account of the whole affair appeared in the Newspapers, condemnatory of the Mission and of myself; a meeting of the directors was summoned, and the Superintendent came to my lodging to take me before them. Having heard all, and questioned and cross-questioned me, they resolved to prosecute the abductors of the girl. The Nunnery authorities confessed that the little sister was with them, but denied that she had been taken in there, or that they knew anything of her case. Though the girl was sought for carefully by the Police, and by all the members of my class, for nearly a fortnight, no trace of her or of the coachman or of any of the parties could be discovered; till one day from a cellar, through a grated window, she called to one of my class girls passing by, and begged her to run and let me know that she was confined there. At once, the directors of the City Mission were informed by me, and Police were sent to rescue her; but on examining that house they found that she had been again removed. The occupiers denied all knowledge of where she had gone, or who had taken her away from their lodging. All other efforts failed to find her, till she was left at the Poor House door, far gone in dropsy, and soon after died in that last refuge of the destitute and forsaken.
Anonymous letters were now sent, threatening my life ; and I was publicly cursed from the altar by the priests in Abercromby Street Chapel. The directors of the Mission, fearing violence, advised me to leave Glasgow for a short holiday, and even offered to arrange for my being taken for work in Edinburgh for a year, that the fanatical passions of the Irish Papists might have time to subside. But I refused to leave my work. I went on conducting it all as in the past. The worst thing that happened was, that on rushing one day past a row of houses occupied exclusively by Papists, a stone thrown from one of them cut me severely above the eye, and I fell stunned and bleeding. When I recovered and scrambled to my feet, no person of course that could be suspected was to be seen! The doctor having dressed the wound, it rapidly healed, and after a short confinement I resumed my work and my studies without any further serious annoyance. Attempts were made more than once, in these Papist closes, and I believe by the Papists themselves, to pour pails of boiling water on my head, over windows and down dark stairs, but in every case I marvellously escaped; and as I would not turn coward, their malice tired itself out, and they ultimately left me entirely at peace. Is not this a feature of the lower Irish, and especially Popish population. Let them see that bullying makes you afraid, and they will brutally and cruelly misuse you; but defy them fearlessly, or take them by the nose, and they will crouch like whelps beneath your feet. Is there anything in their Religion that accounts for this? Is it not a system of alternating tyranny on the one part, and terror, abject terror, on the other?
About this same time there was an election of elders for Dr. Symington’s congregation, and I was by an almost unanimous vote chosen for that office. For years now I had been attached to them as City Missionary for their district, and many friends urged me to accept the eldership, as likely to increase my usefulness, and give me varied experience for my future work. My dear father, also, himself an elder in the congregation at Dumfries, advised me similarly; and though very young, comparatively, for such a post, I did accept the office, and continued to act as an elder and member of Dr. Symington’s kirk session, till by-and-by I was ordained as a Missionary to the New Hebrides, where the great lot of my life had been cast by the Lord, as yet unknown to me.
All through my City Mission period, I was painfully carrying on my studies, first at the University of Glasgow, and thereafter at the Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall; and also medical classes at the Andersonian College. With the exception of one session, when failure of health broke me down, I struggled patiently on through ten years. The work was hard and most exacting ; and if I never attained the scholarship for which I thirsted—being but poorly grounded in my younger days—I yet had much of the blessed Master’s presence in all my efforts, which many better scholars sorely lacked ; and I was sustained by the lofty aim which burned all these years bright within my soul, namely,—to be qualified as a preacher of the Gospel of Christ, to be owned and used by Him for the salvation of perishing men.
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