John Jenkins.

Life of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins online

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foreigners were who had invaded from the north our peacefuj
parish. On getting home to the Manse the mystery was solved,
for we found Mr. Irving, his wife, and Dr. Martin of Kircaldy,
his father-in-law. They had come from Inverary, and had crossed
Loch Long at Caulport, where they attempted to hire a cart to
carry their luggage across the moor. I am sorry to confess the
fact, the good folks of Roseneath proved as avaricious as their
neighbours, and demanded an exhorbitant charge for the service.
Indignant at their dishonesty, Irving and his father-in-law deter-
mined to shoulder their trunks and proceed a-foot. The evening
was spent very pleasantly and they remained over Sabbath, when
Dr. Martin preached for Mr. Story. The second evening, imme-
diately after tea, Irving asked me .to accompany him on a walk.


The moon was on the Loch, the evening still and beautiful, and
we sauntered along the beach and through the castle woods till it
was long past ten o'clock. After a few words of conversation I
had no need further to speak. Irving launched forth in a torrent
of eloquence, instructing me how I should prosecute my studies,
and suit my intercourse with the world. Often afterwards have
I regretted that I could not retain in memory his admirable and
affectionate instructions, which seemed to flow from the double
inspiration of love for his pupil and a deep interest in the cause
which prompted his exhortations. 1 never listened with more
interest or delight to so long a lecture nearly four hours the
sea rolling lazily in upon the beach and the moon in resplendent
beauty shining over us."

In another letter, rather long for insertion, we have a graphic
description of an excursion to the top of Tamnaharra, the highest
point in the parish, in company with Dr. Chalmers, Irving, and
a party of ladies. It narrates how Irving carried the ladies in hia
capacious arms over the sludgy beach to the boat ; how he stripped
off" his coat and vest and rowed the boat alone, a distance of nearly
six miles ; how, after landing, Irving manifested his tailoring powers
under the shadow of a great rock, and how, having been suddenly
interrupted by his mischievous companions, he fled to the heather^
" a souple lad he was and strang" amidst the roars of laughter
which followed him till he was far out of sight ; and how, upon an-
other occasion, one of the party assumed the fiddle and Mr. Edward
Irving danced a Highland reel on the green, while Dr. Chalmers
looked on, rubbing his elbows and clapping his hands in perfect


The Mary and Isabella Campbell above referred to will be read-
ily recognized as chief actors along with Irving and Mr. Campbell,
the Minister of Row, in what subsequently came to be known as
the Eow Heresy. Irving went to London, and no man in the
Metropolis was, for a short time, more popular. " But his head
got dizzy from the topling height to which he had ascended. He
began to put wild meanings on prophecy, to predict the personal
advent of Christ, and to speak in unknown tongues." *

Poor Irving was summoned before the Church courts, and
deposed, came down to Glasgow, and died there. In the crypt of
Glasgow Cathedral was he buried, says Mr. Cunningham, and
when the mourners retired they left still standing at his grave a
number of young women clothed in white, who confidently
expected that he was immediately to rise again. Mr. Campbell
was also deposed, and the Row Heresy dwindled away, though the
followers of Edward Irving continued for some time to be known
as " Irvingites." Subsequently they came to be known as the
Catholic Apostolical Church. If our information is correct there
are two congregations belonging to this sect in Canada, one in
Kingston, and another in Toronto.

We are sorry that the first sheet of the following letter referring to
Dr. Chalmers has been mislaid, and we do not recollect its contents
further than that allusion was made in it to his first disappoint-
ment, no doubt the greatest that he ever experienced. The Parish
of Methven, in the Presbytery of Perth, became vacant in November,
1823, by the death of Mr. John Dowe, formerly of Canonbie, who

* Cunningham's Church History of Scotland.


had for the long space of forty years discharged the pastoral duties
of that parish and taken an active and influential part in the
business of the Church courts. It was situated in a beautiful part
of the country and was in every respect a most desirable charge.
It was one of the old original parishes whose session records went
back as far as the Reformation. In 1574, when Mr. James Herin",

7 O/

or Heron, was minister, the following entry appears in the Register
of Ministers, out of which it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to
construct a hypothesis of the incumbent's stipend : " Mr. James
Hering, minister, and now provydit Provoste and Parsone, per se,
has stipend the twa pairt of his awin Provostrie of Methven,
payand the Reidars at Methven and Auldbar, extending to 6
chald., 2 B., 2 pts bier ; 13 chald., 5 B. 3 pts. iniel ; and 78.8.5
money. Readar atMethven, with a stipend of 16 and Kirklands."
Methven is mentioned in history as early as the year 970, when
Colenus, king of the S ots, is said to have been killed in that
neighbourhood, and it was in the neighbourhood ot Methven castle
that the English Army, under the Earl of Pembroke, defeated
Robert the Bruce in 1306. This was the parish upon which Mr.
Mathieson had set his heart and to aid him in obtaining which he
had solicited letters of recommendation from his former preceptor,
Dr. McGill, from Principal Macfarlan and his friend Dr. Chal-
mers, " then toiling in the parish of St. John's ; charming the
city of the west by his exuberant eloquence ; beautifying every topic
which he touched ; building churches; founding schools; visiting
soup kitchens; and taking the whole pauper population of the
parish under his care." * " When at Glasgow," Dr. Mathieson
Cunningham's Church History, Vol. II., pp. 613.


writes, " I thought it my duty to apprise Dr. McGill and the
Principal what I had done. The Doctor said he was not likely to
be referred to, but if he was, he would be most happy to testify to
my conduct and character while in his class. The Principal
laughingly said, what do you expect me to say in your favour ?
Am I to testify that you are an idle fellow like ' McFarlane's
geese ' more fond of your play than your work ? Well, well,
Col. Smythe is not likely to apply to me ; but if he does, if I say
nothing good of you, I will say nothing ill.' I had written from
Roseneath to Dr. Chalmers, detailing the facts and requesting
him as a favour, if he was applied to, to state what he personally
knew of me, and that I was aware he had not heard me preach, so
that as to ministerial gifts I wished him to say nothing. I had
caught a cold. I was in bed fancying myself sick, at least sicker
than I was. It was a Saturday afternoon my boys were out, when
the servant brought me the Doctor's reply which ran as follows :

"'January 2nd, 1824.

" ' DEAR SIR : I can assure you it is not without pain that I
decline your request. 1 feel every disposition to befriend you, but
I have made it an invariable rule for a long time to grant no
recommendations whatever but on my own independent knowledge.
And I do exceedingly regret that I am really not in possession of
the requisite data for being the object of a reference upon an
occasion in which your interests are so much involved. I fully hope
that upon these considerations I shall have the indulgence both of
yourself and Mr. Campbell, whose kind hospitality I have the
warmest remembrance of. I request ' t my compliments to him,


and to Mrs. aud Misses Campbell, also to my dear friend, Mr.

1 am, Dear Sir,

Yours truly,

"Indignant at the tenor of the letter I immediately penned the
following reply :

GLASGOW, January, 1824.

' REV. SIR : I have received your letter of the 2nd inst.
declining to be made an object of reference, except on your own
independent knowledge, in a matter in which my interests are

' Had you read my letter carefully, you might have perceived that
1 asked nothing, if you were referred to, but what you could state
from your personal knowledge. In making my request I con-
ceived I was demanding a privilege, rather than asking a favour,
though I couched my solicitation in the more obsequious form. The
< young scions " of the Church naturally, and in my opinion,
rightfully, look to their superiors for advice and guidance, and f >r
the many kind counsels I have received from you I sincerely thank
you ; but I think also they have a right to look for such encour-
agement and support from their superiors in office as the extension
of their patronage might bestow, at least in so far as moral character
and literary attainments might warrant.

' But you say you do not know me. It is now some two or three
years since that on a Saturday afternoon you walked across the Moors
fromGlenfinnart to the Manse of Roseneath. Mr. Story was from
h me, but, should any stranger arrive at any time in his absence,


he had requested me to attend to their comfort ; accordingly I
made myself known to you and invited you to the Clachan, where
I assured you, you would meet a kind recept : on. I introduced
you to Mr. Campbell and his family, and you were induced to remain
with them till Monday. During our intercourse these two days,
independently of the testimony of the family, I think you might
have personally known something of me. Next summer, I think it
was, you cam. 4 on a visit to Mr. Smith of Jordan hill. At his
hospitable table I oftener than once met with you ; but, what was more
to the point, you requested that as often as I could, I should call
on you, and guide you to the most interesting and picturesque
points of view in the neighbourhood. This I did. I profited by our
walks. I thank you for the counsels you gave me. Our intercourse,
though I was not gifted with conversational powers, seemed to be
pleasing. During that time, if you did not know me, I think you
should have known something of me.

' The following winter, I went to Glasgow to complete my studies,
when I had the honour of breakfasting with you twice, and dinin^
once, and, at your request taught one of your Sunday schools, and
on the first Monday of every month was with you and your Sabbath- '
school teachers when they assembled to report progress. In these
interviews, if you did not know me, I think you ought to have
known me. Afterwards, when you with your family resided for
three months at Ardincaple Inn, I had frequent opportunities of
meeting with you on occasions both of serious intercourse and
healthful amusement, when both character and acquirements had
"an opportunity of being displayed. If you did not know me then,

I think you ought to have known me.



have not heard me preach. This I mentioned in my letter
and said I did not wish you to say anything about my qualifications
as a preacher, but that you should simply state what from your
own personal knowledge you knew of me, and, I think you ought
to have known something. Since I sent off my letter to you I have
been informed that you have recommended another to Col. Smythe
as a fit person to fill the vacant charge at Methven. Had you stated
this as a reason for declining my request I might have admired
your candour and consistency, but, since you did not, I may men-
tion, and I am persuaded my information is correct, you could not
have recommended him on your personal knowledge; for you had
never seen him until a very short time before you brought him
tinder Col. Smythe's notice. You had heard him preach one
sermon, and at the solicitation of a friend you wrote to Col. Smythe
strongly recommending him of course on " your own independent
knowledge" of his one sermon.

' This I admit you do not know, namely, to which side of Church
politics I belong. This I do not intend to make known to you, or
to any one else, until I see a fit time for making the discovery ;
but, in asking you the favour I did, don't think that I mean to
make your mighty name a stepping stone into office, or to bring
myself into notice by your flattering commendations, even were
they granted. That I would scorn to do, even in a less sacred matter
than that which has called forth thesp remarks.

' But I beg your pardon, though you had many opportunities of
knowing something of me in other respects, t must confess you are
gnorant of the spirit with which T would contemn everything


like sycophancy, or mounting to notoriety on the shoulders

of another.

I am, Rev. Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

" This reply terminated all friendly intercourse with the Doctor,

Who in writing to Mr. Story sometime afterwards seemed tickled "with
some of the phrases employed and desired him to ' allay my dir-
dum.' Some years afterwards, walking down Leith walk with the late
Doctor Boyd of the Edinburgh High School, we again met. Boyd
slopped and conversed with the Doctor, I bowed and- passed on; he
asked Boyd who I was, said he knew me well when brought to his
recollection, and wondered I had not stopped to speak to him ; to
which I replied, ' the Doctor only knows me when it pleases him ;
I only know the Doctor when it pleases me.'

" It was not till 1837 that I again saw him. I was commissioned
by the Synod or a Committee of the Church to put myself in com-
munication with him in relation to our Clergy Reserve's question.
I had gone with Principal McFarlan to London on the matter ; saw
Mr. Morris just before his return to Canada, and learned from him.
the state in which the question stood. There was much still to do.
Doctor Chalmers was then in London, lecturing on his favourite
topic. I called at his lodgings repeatedly but never found him at
home. At length I made myself known to Mr. Collins, his satellite,
and communicated my message, requesting him to lay it before the
Doctor. At last a time and place were fixed for an interview, but
so large a party had assembled to meet with him, some on business,
and others to gratify their curiosity, that I had to wait a long time


Agood many I found had been very unceremoniously greeted, and the
general plea was used that he had come to London for a special pur-
pose which occupied his whole time. When I came forward, the same
excuse of want of time to attend to anything else than the matter
in hand was given. I stated that I had executed my commission
as I best could, and had only to report to those who employed me
what had been done. He requested me to call upon him in Edin-
burgh when he would give full attention to our business, while I
urged the importance of his using his influence in London, where it
would have much more effect. It was in vain ; he was full of the benefits
arising from the parochial scheme and strongly in favour of a friendly
coalition with the English Church. He was not decided as to the advan-
tages to be derived from a union of Presbyterians, so wedded were
seceders to dissent ; to introduce them into the Church would ulti-
mately, he thought, destroy the success of his theory. I got an
audience of nearly an hour, but it was quite fruitless, for the whole
of the time was occupied by an enthusiastic rhapsody on the Paro-
chial scheme. At length taking my hand, he said my face was
familiar to him, he must have seen me somewhere. I replied that
about fifteen years ago I had met him at Roseneath. This seemed
to bring back a flood of recollections, but he again excused himself

for not attending to the Clergy Reserves measures, and so we

. %
parted, and, for ever, in this world.

" You will see from this meagre sketch that a distinguishing pecu-
liarity of the Doctor's mind was a complete surrender to the subject
occupying his attention, and that he seemed to be more of a partizan
than in reality he was ; every thing gave way to the idea that
engrossed his mind at the time and imparted that inconsistency


to his conduct that too frequently marked it. Perhaps, too, you
may descry something of that obstinacy and impatience in the above
correspondence which has oftener than once displayed itself in the
conduct of your correspondent."

The impression made on this writer's mind by the above corres-
pondence tended to lower very much his estimate of the character
of the renowned Scottish preacher. His conduct appeared on this
occasion to be cold and heartless, and in our reply to Dr. Mathieson
we had hinted or said, " a fig for such friendship. " This drew
from him the following apology for Dr. Chalmers, which is. worthy
of preservation as evidencing a fine forgiving spirit and conveying
also good advice to such as are prone to jump at conclusions :

" I would be^very sorry indeed, if my letter to you of May
last t has in any way disturbed the ideal you had formed of the
amiable and child-like Dr. Chalmers. There is a feeling of disap-
pointment when the notions we have formed of the figure, the
manners, or habits of any distinguished man are shaken or driven
to the winds that is absolutely unbearable. A thousand beautiful
visions are dispelled, a thousand irreconcilable facts quite perplex
us, the unity of our hero is lost, and instead of the unique indi-
vidual which our fancy had pictured we have presented a motley
figure of the most contradictory proportions. It is human to be
composed of mixed ingredients. No man is all sinful or all holy
all morally base, or all morally good. When the grand charac-
teristic features impress our minds we will allow nothing to interfere
with our ideal ; the shades which soften and beautify the picture
are kept out; we are dazzled by the brilliancy of the object. The
Doctor was truly a man of unaffected simplicity. His little knowledge


of the business of life, and the absorption of his mind by scientific
or literary pursuits, made him, in the estimation of the vulgar
public, more than eccentric. He was known, as I understand, by
the general soubriquet of ' Daft Tammy Chalmers ', but there was
a genuine simplicity about him which in your idea of him I would
not have you forget. It was when he was forced into public life
that his enthusiasm led him into incongruities of conduct, and he
did not judge of matters as others of more worldly views would

have done.

Yours very truly,

A. M. "



MR. THOMAS Clark, afterwards D.D., was the successful can-
didate for the Parish of Methven, and continued to be the minister
of it, and a leading member of the Presbytery, till 1841, when he
was translated to Edinburgh. He was for many years the zealous
and efficient Convener of the Colonial Committee of the General
Assembly. To Mr. Mathieson the disappointment was such as his
sanguine temperament ill fitted him to bear with equanimity, and
it would even seem that it gave rise to serious intentions of aban-
doning his profession for the practice of medicine, this bent having
probably been given to his mind by a previous attendance upon a
Course of Lectures on Anatomy. That his heart was still in the
ministry, however, is' evident from a memorandum written by him
at Roseneath on the 1st October, 1826: " This day I enter on my
thirtieth year, and I trust on the most useful portion of my life.
If it shall please God to spare me in the land of the living till a
good old age, half that period has already elapsed, and with it have
passed away, unimproved, many opportunities which I enjoyed of


fitting myself more perfectly for the business of this world, and of
preparing myself for the next. Many serious reflections, many bitter
regrets, is the anniversary of my birth calculated to awaken. May
they come with firmer resolutions of being more active for the future.
The prospect of a wider sphere of usefulness opens before me, and
may God prepare me to discharge my duties with dispositions and
energy becoming their great importance. The profession which I
have made choice of from my earliest recollection, while it is the
most honourable in this world, is also the most awfully responsible.
May God ever preserve a just sense of these truths in my mind,
that I may neither bring disgrace on the heavenly religion which
He has called me to proclaim, nor endanger my own soul by trifling

with the souls of other Something like reproach occasionally

steals across my mind that I should leave a family where I have
been so honoured and so tenderly treated at a time when perhaps
my services were most required. But I have the satisfaction to think
that my dear boys are likely to do honour to themselves and to
reflect credit on all concerned with them by their conduct as

scholars and gentlemen A few days more, and I must bid

the heathery hills of bonnie Scotland adieu. I will be far o'er the
Bea, and among a people I know not, casting a wistful remembrance
to the friends and scenes I left behind me. Pleasing recollections
from the long catalogue which shall soothe a sad moment in a dis-
tant land ! "

The sphere of usefulness here referred to was the charge of St.
Andrew's Church and congregation in Montreal, to which he at
this time received the appointment. Although he had considerable
interest with the Argyle family and also with the Earl of Montrose,


besides the patronage of the Principal of Edinburgh College and
Principal McFarlan of Glasgow, who ever proved to him a staunch
and steady friend, Dr. Mathieson records his satisfaction that he
was indebted particularly to no one for this appointment, " The
duties of which I will endeavour to discharge with fidelity and
zeal, and if I ever return to my native land I will be the better
prepared for the service I will be called to. I hope I shall return
for my poor father's sake who feels very much at the prospect of
my departure. At all events in two or three years I hope to revisit
Scotland, and perhaps to get a wife. / will be marriageable by
that time.'" This was a subject that seems to have presented
itself to his mind at sundry times, and in diverse manners. He was
an ardent admirer of the fair sex, though that admiration was
manifested in a general rather than a particular manner, which
proved a barrier to the consummation of his wishes in this regard and
postponed the " happy day" for many years. He had accustomed
himself to regard the matter from a philosophical point of view,-and
as one and another fair friend receded from his view he consoled
himself that there remained as good fish in the sea as ever came
out of it. And besides, he had very exalted ideas of the marriage
state. " If I could bring myself to look on matrimony," he
wrote, " as a matter of mere worldly convenience and comfort, I
would be less scrupulous, but my wife must be my companion, my
friend, one who is truly pious, and. who will lead my soul with her
own, morning and evening, to the throne of our Maker. I by no
means expect to find a perfect being, nor would I wish it, but one
whose imperfections would be so brightened by her virtues and


piety that we would bear one another's burdens and participate ire
one another's joy."

Apprehensive that in the opinion of the 2> rn f'* )l ni i-iilyns he
might soon be branded as a sticket minister, and morbidly brooding
over his recent disappointment, the rejected candidate for Mcthven
was one day walking disconsolately down the side of the Clyde in
the neighbourhood of Govan, when a friend and relative, one of the-
Napiers, met him. Napier saw at a glance that something was wrong,
and enquired what was the matter. Mr. Mathieson disclosed
the thoughts that were then rankling in his breast, and indicated
very plainly that if he thought he could succeed in business he
would abandon the ministry. His friend advised him to cheer up
and not to do any thing rashly, adding, that, should he finally
determine to go into business, he would find a situation for him.

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 3 of 18)