John Jenkins.

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

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and that St. Andrew's congregation continued to prosper under
his ministry; that everything, in short, went with him as quietly
and satisfactorily as he could reasonably wish or expect. Of this,
indeed, we feel assured, for we find this entry in his journal, under
date the 17th of March, 1834: " There is some talk of my being
promoted to Quebec; however, that is very questionable. I have
not made application for the vacant church there, nor will I do so.


Many others have. The salary is a little better, being nearly 500
per annum ; however, I think my own will, ere many years, be
nearly as good, and I have, a kind floclc,"

Further on we read: " Two months ago I asked one year's
leave of absenc3 from my people, and had a quiet refusal, on the
ground that no other individual would suit them so well as myself.
This was flattering enough, but not satisfactory." He had been
unwell, perhaps he again had had a touch of home-sickness ; per-
haps he was " heart-sick." We cannot now enter upon a diagnosis
of his malady, and it matters not. In 1836 he was again hors du
coinbat, and allusion to iiis shaven crown leads us, in this instance,
to infer that weariness of the flesh had been induced by " over-
much study." It does not seem, however, to have impaired his
relish for the humourous a very marked trait in his character, and
one that he may almost be said to have carried with him'to the grave.
It is rare to meet such unexceptional pleasantry, and it is well that it
should be duly appreciated. That other? appreciated this quality ia
him appears in the following-extract from a letter written by an Epis-
copalian gentleman, one who is no mean judge of men and things,
shortly after the Doctor's death : " Though I knew the ' old Doctor '
less intimately than I should like to have done, I was sufficiently
acquainted with him to have acquired a very sincere regard for
him. It was pleasant to meet him, for religion was brightly
reflected in the cheerfulness of his character. Moreover, he
belonged to a type of our race that is becoming uncommon and
bids fair to become extinct. He was natural, genial, and courte-
ous. There was a hearty raciness about him that became conta-
gious, and people found themselves happier for meeting one whe


seemed to be the very embodiment of happiness and contentment,
I often speak of him as an example of Christian cheerfulness thor-
oughly worthy of imitation." But here is the good Doctor's
own reference to what was no doubt a severe illness : " I told you
that I had been unwell. I am once more myself again, though I
had rather a hard time of it for two or three days, a ad I look now
lake a renovated being in a nice new wig, the doctor, cruel fel-
low, having insisted that I should part with my gray birses. I am
not quite up to the management of the concern yet, for last Sab-
bath morning, going into church, off went my cap, and in it the
wig, and forward I marched, all the while unconscious I was
exhibiting my shaven pole to the staring eyes of many beholders,

and was brought to my senses by Captain M whispering my

name to a gentleman near him with a ludicrous expression of
countenance that amazed me. I instantly remembered the wig,
sought for it where it was not to be found ; at last got a glimpse of
it in my bonnet, clapped it on my head awry, and rushed out till
I had got it fairly adjusted." It is in the nature of things that
there should be a great many wig stories; oae we remember
which relates a similar accident, but its denouement was more
embarrassing to the minister than in the Doctor's case. On enter-
ing a church, a certain minister, who prided himself on punctuality,
observed, to his horror, that by the dock face in the church steeple
he was just half an hour later than the usual hour for service. One
of the elders came to his relief, assured him that it yet lacked fif-
teen minutes of the time, and that what had caused his alarm was
but a painted clock. This only added fuel to the flame, and
brought down on the Elder's head a sharp rebuke for allowing "a


lie " to be imprinted on the front of the church. As he entered
the vestry door, some inches too low for his clerical head, hat and
wig came to grief on the floor, when the Elder improved the occa-
sion by remarking how much more sinful it was for a minister to
carry "a lie " on the top of his head than to have one painted on
a church steeple. But no one ever doubted for a moment Dr.
Mathieson's "honesty." This was one of his noblest qualities.
You knew always and exactly where to find him. He was per-
fectly incapable of playing the hypocrite.

The chief obstacle in the way of twelve months leave cf absence
to the minister of St. Andrew's Church was the impossibility at
that time of finding "supply " for his pulpit. In the summer of
1837, however, the Rev. liobert Neil, now of Seymour, arrived in
Canada under the auspices of the Glasgow Colonial Society ; with
him an arrangement was made to supply the church for six mouths,
and in July Dr. Mathieson took his departure for Scotland, bear-
ing with him a general commission to watch over the interests of
the Canadian Synod, and not without an eye to " a little matter of
his own," which he wished and hoped to accomplish at the same
time. But, though he pressed both his " suits " with exemplary
diligence and warmth, it does not appear that in either of them he
was very successful. On the contrary, by his own shewing, baffled
plans and blighted hopes conspired to throw his mind " into a sad
jumble of incongruities." But it was not an unrelieved darkness
that set in upon his soul. There was never absent from his mind
a deep conviction of the wisdom and goodness of the Creator in
all his dealings with his creatures. What phrenologists call the
bump of veneration was in him largely developed, manifesting


itself specially in his love of God, " as God," and then " to the
King, as supreme ; or unto Governors as unto them that are sent
by him."* It has been beautifully said that " the darkest cloud has
its silver lining," and of the truth of which he at this time received
a very pleasing and convincing illustration. Being present at the
University of Glasgow on the day on which the Duke of Montrose
was installed as Chancellor, Mr. Mathieson, without previous intima-
tion, had the honour of hearing his name announced among the
names of others on whom the degree of Doctor in Divinity had
been conferred. " It is well," says a chronicler of the event,
" that no permission had been sought for, for it is more than proba-
ble Dr. Mathieson's innate modesty of character would have
inclined him to shrink from accepting such a well-deserved hon-
our." f

To rid him of the " doldrums " he resolved upon a change of
scene and' planned a short excursion to the continent. On the
18th April, 1838. he writes from Paris: " In one of those fits of
fancy which sometimes seize me I have been transported to the
capital of La Belle France.' The steamboat in which I crossed
was crowded with cockneys availing themselves of the Easter holi-
days. Perhaps at some other time I would have mightily enjoyed
this assemblage, and the truly ludicrous scenes enacted, but I was
too indisposed to relish them. My debut was made in the market
place of Boulogne, and never was I in such an assemblage of the
woman-kind. I am sure there were three or four thousand. A
parcel of uglier women I never beheld. What a chattering and

*1 Peter ii. 13.
f Feniiings Taylor.


grimace ! I was almost convinced of the truth of the argument
that no women get to heaven, since there was silence there for half
an hour,* for I am sure it would have been impossible to have
chained the tongues of the jabbering Boulognese even for that length
of time. On my arrival in Paris, as a good ' Doctor' should, my
first visit was to the Church, alas ! not with the feelings and pur.
poses I ought to have gone thither ; but, truly, among the most
devout was little devotion seen. The mummery of the Romish
Church has a hardening influence on the head and conscience, and
some of its grosser absurdities are seen and unsparingly satirized
by its own adherents. I was much tickled with two paintings in
the gallery of the Louvre : one, a jolly rubicund priest confessing
a beautiful young girl the expression of countenance looking as-
kance through the grated bars of the confessional was admirably hit ',
in the other, he was confessing an old woman, but here the intense
enquiring eye was shut, and the countenance was expressive of utter
inanity. The palaces are noble structures. The galleries of Fine
Arts are splendid. The churches gorgeous ; the music is entranc-
ing ; in short, a thousand things excite the astonishment of the
stranger and give a peculiarity of character to the city which no
one can form an idea of till it is seen." Of course our friend had
his frog story and it was a good one, but we must cut it short. A
Scotchman who was with him at a restaurant had in vain attempted
to make himself understood. He wanted " a mutton chop." Had
he called for a " beef steak," he would have got it and no mistake,
but " mutton chop " was an unsolvable conundrum. High words

* Revelations, viii. 1.


followed, which, happily, neither party understood, when at last the
despairing Scotchman thundered out, " gin ye canna mak a mutton
chope, bring ben onything that '11 fill the kyte o' a hun-
gry man, bit a frog you French craters eat frogs -but a' canna
stammac a frog." This caused such a roar of laughter from the rest
of the party as almost frightened the Frenchman outof his propriety.
The Doctor set out for Strasbourgh a distance of over three hun-
dred and fifty miles travelling by Diligence, railways being then
unknown. He had no intention of stopping by the way, but, feeling
somewhat fatigued, decided to stay over a day in Nancy, said to
be the most beautiful city in France.

He was the rather induced to do this because, otherwise, he
must part with some agreeable travelling companions a Swiss gen-
tleman, and his accomplished and lovely niece, with whom, to tell
the truth, the Doctor had fallen desperately in love. In after years
he seemed to recal this incident of travel with unspeakable pleasure
and many a time, in the honesty of his heart, he recounted it by
his fireside with inimitable pathos and vivacity. It may be told
now in his own words : "I dare say the true reason of my remain-
ing at Nancy was to enjoy the company of a beautiful Swiss girl
a lovelier creature I have seldom looked upon. Such a pair of eyes
I have only seen once before that could match them. Her upper
lip is the only imperfect feature of her face ; it is itself beautiful, but
she pouts it out so as to resemble the huge bristling moustache of
her uncle, for whom she seems to have a perfect veneration. .She is
the daughter of a Protestant clergyman ; has been staying in France
with her uncle, and is now on her way back to her native land.
She can neither understand my language, though in the sweetest


tones imaginable she tells me I haef understand a leetle English
a leetle verry" 1 nor can I make out what she says, though she
repeats in 'German and French what she wishes me to know, but
still we found enough of words to become great friends. I know
not whether the coach inclined more to the side I was upon than
that on which her unole was seated, but when she sunk into sleep
for we travelled the whole night long her head always fell softly on
my shoulder I almost wished the day had never dawned, it bore
so sweet a burden. With sorrow of heart I parted with her, and I
think nothing but the small stock of money in my purse prevented
me from accompanying her to Switzerland. Indeed I felt that I
could have travelled the world over with her." The expression
" leetle verry " occurs in many of his letters, and with some of his
friends it was a standing joke which he always heartily enjoyed.

The Doctor was not much enamoured with French scenery, and
still less so with the natives " a chattering unprincipled set of crea-
tures whose politeness is grimace." One trait of genuine feeling,
however, he observed in the Cemetery of Pere La Chasse. " I was
admiring the beautiful simplicity of an inscription on a tomb-stone
of unaffected neatness ' A Mon Amie ' when a youth came with
a garland, placed it on the grave, shed a few tears I thought they
were sincere plucked a flower heart's-ease and departed."

He arrived at Strasbourgh on the 2nd of May. It was the
Fete of Louis Philip. "After breakfast I visited the Cathedral,
one of the most beautiful specimens of Gothic architecture in
France. Upwards of four thousand troops attended Mass. They
occupied in one dense column the nave. Nothing was seen but
the glittering bayonets. The soft low notes of the great organ


alternating with its swelling thunders pealing along the vaulted
roofs now and then interrupted by the full blasts of the horns
and the rattling drums of a large military b:ind, had a novel and
grand effect, but very inappropriate to that Being who must be
worshipped in spirit and in truth. After service the troops
were reviewed in the great square of the city. Next came an
aquatic spectacle, when gay galleys floated on the river. In the
evening the city was brilliantly illuminated. I speak within
bounds when I say that thousands of rockets were in the air at
the same moment. The blaze of light vied with meridian
sunbeams. The exhibitions of Vauxhall are not for a moment to
be compared with this in respect of grandeur and effect. Torches
Blared amid the trees, under the soft foliage of which thousands of
all classes roamed, and, among them, the" leetle Kerry" her uncle,
and I. Next morning they went off to Basle, not without warmly
inviting me to accompany them. , I saw those Swiss mountains in
the distance amid which my imagination had oftentimes pictured
many a lovely scene. I was sorely tempted to go, and my cara
arnica urged her request by representing the pleasure it would
give to her aged father to meet with a Protestant clergyman from
another country. But it was fated that we should part. It was
the only really pleasing incident met with since I came to
France brief and beautiful it has passed away like one of those
sunbeams that flit o'er the fields in Autumn but, like the fields it
has contributed to ripen, the remembrance of it may give a
melancholy delight to the coming winter of a life which threatens
to be gloomy."

It was now within a short time. of the meeting of the General


Assembly in Edinburgh, and our traveller must retrace his steps.
On his homeward way he arrived by Diligence in an old town
in Nonnvndy abmt fiyj o'clock one morning. The driver
endeavoured to inform him when he wouldstart again ; the hour he
understood to be half-past seven. Desiroiis of seeing as much of
the quaint old town as possiole, he " did " the cathedral and some
other ancient edifices and returned to the hotel at seven, but to
his unutterable mortification learned that the Diligence had left
nearly hulf-an-hour before, carrying off his valise in which was all
his money, some thirty sovereigns ! What to do he knew not.
In a strange land, unable to speak the language of its people, and
without a penny in his pocket, what could he do ? " Without a
morsel to eat," he used to say, " I set out to walk to the next
town, some thirty miles off, with feelings that I cannot express,
fearing that I might have to foot it to Calais, and even beyond,
and beg my bread as I went along. By the way I suffered much
from the great heat and dust, from thirst and hunger. Though
soon foot-sore and weary I pushed along, and by night-fall arrived
at the inn where I was told the Diligence would stop. I quickly
entered, and in the corner of a common room among a heap of
baggage espied my valise, which I instantly took possession of
and transferred the ' treasure trove ' to my depleted pockets."

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met then.
as it does still, on the third Thursday of May. Under any cir
cumstances the Doctor would have strained a point to be in
" Auld Reekie" on that august occasion, but a variety of per-
sonal considerations conspired to render his attendance at this time
particularly desirable if not absolutely necessary. He had takeu


a rather inconsiderate step by resigning his charge in Montreal,
and must now seek the aid of his friends and patrons in his
endeavours to secure another " living." The ordeal through
which he must needs pass was to be severe and humbling, yet it
proved a salutary one,*and in the end, was greatly conducive to
his future happiness. For some months about this time he
acknowledges that he was " the most miserable man upon ea'th,"
and certainly for a time he allowed his feelings to get the better
of his judgment, and gave reins to the gloomy forebodings of a
sensitive mind by entertaining proposals which sober reflection
convinced him were " visionary and absurd." We have already
hinted the existence of a tender attachment for "somebody" in
whom were boun.l up his brightest hopes of do nestic bliss and
happiness. It is time now to speak more plainly and admit the
existence of a long-continued, pure, and ardent affection for one
whom he fondly hoped to become one day his " alter ego." But
those hopes were now dissipated and blasted, and he had to drain
the bitter cup of disappointment to the dregs as best he could.
We need not be more particular, but this explanation seems
necessary in order to account for the then unsettled state of his
mind and purposes, which otherwise were unintelligible. We can
now the better understand the following extract from a letter
dated the 2nd July, 1838 : " You will have heard that I have
resigm-d my situation in Montreal. This you will, no doubt,
censure as a foolish and indiscreet act, but circumstanced as I am,
and feeling as I do, it appears differently to myself. Even as it
respects my congregation it appears to me justifiable. In return-
ing to them unmarried I feel that I neither could be happy nor so



useful to them as otherwise I might be. - But, as I could not offer
such an excuse, I eagerly embraced a momentary feeling of dissatis-
faction which they expressed for my being so long absent as a
reason for doing that which on other grounds I h;id contemplated
to do." The Doctor was right in his long absence
was the cause of tbe disaffection in his congregation, anJ that it
was only momentary, for he never lost the affections of his people
nor did his own heart ever grow cold to them a lifelong and
romantic attachment subsisted between the minister and people of
St. Andrew's congregation ^nor does it appear that the resignation
referred to was accepted or even seriously entertained by them.
But the Doctor had acted in good faith, was ready to accept the
consequences, and immediately " went into the business of can-
vassing for a kirk." But he had calculated without his host.
Never was there a man worse fitted for the business. He had
influential friends in the Duke of Arygle, Lord Strathmore, the
Oswalds, Fox Maule, Dr. John Lee, Principal McFarlan and
others, but, unfortunately for the Doctor's prospects, these were all
on the wrong side of politics. Besides, his own proud and inde-
pendent spirit stood in the way of preferment. Though he waa
on the leet of some of the best parishes in Scotland he would not
stoop to preach, as a candidate, a trial sermon. Not he. Bravo,
Doctor ! After two months of keen application, during which he
suffered " unspeakable misery," he desisted from further attempts
in that direction, and contented himself with making this note of
his failure : " Perhaps Principal Macfarlan had as much
influence in the way of Church preferments as any other, but he
failed in my case. Perhaps he had not a proper presentable


man but in my own opinion, in these days, I could have stood
alongside of any of my neighbours, though this may be a
little of the air of Canada that I have caught. It was, I
believe, the most anxious wish of the old Principal's heart- to
get me home, and on his death-bed he regretted that he had not
been able to accomplish this." He was now fairly launched on
the tempestuous. ocean of life, and abandoned himself to the mercy
of the billows. He had been taught to regard great men's
promises as the most unsubstantial of all unsubstantial things,
and disinterested patronage as one of the rarest things in human
intercourse. Oppressed with the intended good offices of his friends
he was disposed to prefer the petition of another who in similar
circumstances prayed, " God defend me from my friends, I can
defend myself from my enemies." The General Assembly had
decided to extend their Indian Mission to Ceylon. As the drown-
ing man clutches a straw, so the Doctor, in his anxiety to leave
the scene of his disappointments and to escape the interroga-
tions which a return to Montreal would give rise to, made applica-
tion, and was appointed as missionary to that distant field. But
he had yet to be taught in the school of adversity. " I think I
mentioned," he writes to a friend, " that I had been recently
appointed to the East Indies, and would probably take my depar-
ture immediately, but my confounded pride is at work again, and
obstacles are raised up which have already marred my intentions.
I found, that though I had been nominated to the station, I must
receive my appointment through the Presbytery of Quebec. This
proposal I spurned, declaring my willingness to go on my own res-
ponsibility, but I was made to know that I could not go in this way


without running the risk of being excised from the Church
altogether. As I have no desire to bid the ' Auld Lady '
(Mother Church) so unceremoniously good-by, I am now turning
my attention to another quarter of the world Dernerara and the
Mauritius and have come to the resolution of preparing myself
for the latter, on the contingency of my appointment being
certain. If my proposal is acceded to I will proceed immediately
to -Paris and study the French language, or, perhaps go and see
" leetlevcrry " ; she will be a delightful instrnctor."

While these conflicting plans and purposes were perplexing the
Doctor's mind he received an "unexpected deluge" of letters
from Montreal from many of his people, expressing the continued
affection of the whole congregation towards him and urging his
return. This was in September. On the 8th of October he was
aboard the good ship ' : Oxford" bound for Canada, and in due
time, to use his own quotation, " Richard's himself again ! "

On the 30th of July, 1840, Dr. Muthieson was married, by the
Rev. Henry Esson, to Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. John
Mackenzie, of Montreal. It was a happy union, for, in the part-
ner of his maturer years were sweetly blended those Christian
graces and accomplishments which his youthful imagination had
many years before pictured to itself as indispensible to his ide
of holy matrimony.

"At length his heart
Upon a fellow mortal's answering breast
Could shed its tears of joy "

in a sense that he had never known till now he had "a home "
in Canada ; a blythe and peaceful home it was, as all can testify


who were privileged to enter it, and its portals were as cheerfully
opened to the poorest in the parish as to the representatives of
wealth and high degree. He had a family of two sons and four
daughters. On the 21st of March, 1847, death invaded his dwell-
ing and took from him his dear little daughter Nancy Fisher,
aged three years and three months. The good Doctor's love
for children was remarkable in one who had been so long a " Ben-
edict." He coveted no better society than theirs. Tn their com-
pany and listening to their innocent prattle he could sit for hours,
and he himself became young again. To play dominoes with
them, or tell them mirth-provoki'ig stories, to sing for them, or
dressing up his thumbs with handkerchiefs^ to amuse them with
pantomimic illustrations of '-Punch and Judy," was his delight;

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 5 of 18)