John Jenkins.

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

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nor was it forgotten to dismiss them with a kind word a little
seed-thought suitable to the occasion and the capacity of his lit-
tle audience. Proportionate to the love he bore them were the
tenderest emotions of his heart touched when his Heavenly Father
saw fit to create the first blank in his own family circle. " < >n a
Saturday night at 10 o'clock the physician called and left no room
for hope. She was sinking rapidly. With a Inavy heart next
morning I went to church, afraid of allowing personal feelings to
intermingle with the duties of God's house. I prayed for sustain-
ing grace and preached an old but an appropriate sermon ' Not
my will but thine be done.' The sermon was solemn and the
congregation attentive. I hardly expected to find my sweet loved
Nancy in the land of the living on my return. She was much
worse, but still perfectly sensible. I lay down on the bed beside
her, and, trying to hide my tears, spoke to her of God, and heaven,



and of the love of Jesus. She became weaker as the night wore '
on, and ere the day dawned my beloved child drew her last breath.
Mortal life was gone, the endless life in Jesus Christ begun. The
body of corruption, still dear to us, shall be raised up a glorified
body, incorruptible by the mighty power by which Christ subdues
all things to himself. Precious are the consolations of the gospel
in such an hour as this. May the Holy Spirit descend upon us
and effectually apply them 1"

Under date the 1st of January, 1848, occurs this further allusion
to his bereavement and evidence of his desire to profit by it : "God
has been pleased to spare me to see the beginning of another year.
Often during the course of the last have I thought that this was
what I could not expect. that I were sufficiently thankful, and
that He would enable me to be more faithful in His service than
in times past, if it be His will to spare me to my family and for
the accomplishment of whatsoever He may be pleased to honour me
as an instrument of carrying out. My family, and friends are in
the enjoyment of good health and happiness. Our beloved child
has been taken from us she is not forgotten, but remembered
with deep sorrow. The whole of life is but a dream. that
God would enable us to realize this, and prepare for joining those
whom in His love He has removed from us. Many, innumerable
blessings have I to be thankful for my kind, affectionate flock,
tneir indulgence and benevolence not the least."



IT was in 1849, while comparatively a young man yet, at the
age of forty-six, that Dr. Mathieson had the first premonitions of
disease in his own frame. He began to feel unequal to the
unaided work of the pastoral superintendence of so large a congrega-
tion as St. Andrew's had become. There were now nearly five
hundred on the roll of communicants. His people were widely
scattered, many of them living far outside the city limits, which
rendered his visits to them irksome and tedious. The labour, too,
of preparing his discourses became more onerous, for while he never
neglected his habit of careful preparation, nor ever appeared in the
pulpit without a clean copy of his sermon inexttnso and hiscaligra-
phy was beautiful his ideas began to flow less rapidly, and there
was less of the currente calamo in the hand that once could dash off
a discourse at a sitting ; and its delivery came to be followed by a
depression, and sometimes .a faintness that distressed him. Here
is the brief record of a week's work at this time: " Monday till
Friday, not much done, though always busy ; a number of sick


visits ; several funerals ; very little fatigues me now. Saturday
study; wrought hard and constant till one in the morning ; sermon
not finished. Sabbath at work in the morning; discourse long
enough but not finished ; must make a practical application on the
value of the soul, the great motive of missionary and ministerial
labour. In better spirits to-day; very warm; my voice failed me ;
violent palpitation at the heart and quick breathing from the
slightest exertion. My work, I fear, is drawing to a close. The
summer ended ! Alas, how little done ! I begin to feel a deeper
responsibility, but, if I can judge my heart, my desire is to present
my dear people to Christ. Lord, increase my faith, make me more
earnest, let me offend none, conciliate all. It pains me much that
some have left the church whose countenance and friendship would
have been encouraging ; but thanks be to God that a numerous
and attached people remains under my ministry, bless it, bless
it unto them! The feeblest instrumentality is strong when Thou,
Lord, art with us. Stir up Thy might, and save and bless."

Dr. Mathieson was too honest a man to appropriate to himself,
or try to pawn off upon his hearers, the thoughts of another with-
out due acknowledgment. With one single exception, which in
after years he used to recount with inimitable humour, and, when
told in the hearing of a brother cleric, always coupled with the
admonition " be sura your sin will find you out," he was blameless
of the charge of plagiarism. He admitted that upon a certain
occasion, from sheer want of time to prepare a discourse, he had
" taken in " a pretty large portion of a sermon that he had heard
preached in Scotland ere he came to Canada, and which, unfor-
tunately for him, had found its way, in print, into the hands ot a


lady belonging to his congregation with whom he was on intimate
terms of friendship. She only, of all that heard the Doctor preach
that day, detected the theft, but she was too true a friend to m ke
mention of it to others. She was too polite, moreover, to make
direct allusion to it in after conversation with her minister,
but, from a casual remark or two that escaped her, the Doctor was
convinced in his own mind that she was perfectly cognizant of his
" crime," and he there and then resolved that it was the last time
he should ever be found in a similar predicament.

Little do most of us know, of the arduous process undergone in
that laboratory of thought, the parson's study, in the " getting up'
of two discourses such as a man of scholarly attainments would
wish to utter in the hearing of an intelligent, educated, and, per-
haps, a critical congregation. It is so usual to speak of a sermon
as a thing that a minister can shake out of his coat sleeve at any
time, on the shortest notice, that one requires to get a peep behind
the scenes to realize the amount of hard work involved. One of
our best sermon writers, who has had upwards of thirty years'
experience, assures us that it costs him "as many hours of hard
labour to make a sermon, worth the name, as it costs any carpen-
ter to make a door, or any cabinet-maker a chair. And, if I sit
down to the more pretentious work of writing a book, who will say
that I am not undertaking labour which would cost me as many
days of toil, and occasion me as much fatigue, in the long run, as
would be incurred by the ten or dozen mechanics who should
undertake the construction of a steam engine, always supposing
my book would be worth reading."*

* Dr. Jenkins on " ihe dignity of labour," in Presbytei inn, January, 1869.


A celebrated painter, on being asked how he mixed his colours
to secure such marvellous effect, is said to have replied, " I mix
them, sir, with my brains." We need not pursue the analogy
further than to remark that a sermon without brains is a very
meagre affair, not in the least degree likely to reach the hearts of
those who listen to it. Dr. Mathieson's sermons were not of this
discription. Viewed as mere literary compositions they were
elaborate essays; carefully thought out and beautifully expressed.
Some of them, indeed, were so in an exceptional degree. We
might instance three discourses, preached in the ordinary course
of his ministry, and which were afterwards printed in " the fall of
the leaf," which fully bear us out in what we say of his composi-
tion, and yet there are others which, perhaps, in- this regard, were
even more worthy of preservation. While no one could be more
deeply impressed with the duty of careful preparation, we cannot
but admire the playful allusion to his efforts in that direction :
" Knowing that I must be absent for three days of the week pre-
vious to communion, I set down to my preparations the preceding
week, but necessity not applying vigorously her lash, procrastina-
tion whispered enticingly, ' there is time enough yet:' so very

little was done. I started for -, made and his spouse happy,

got a jolly fee, the largest I ever got, and returned to Montreal on
Wednesday with a fearful cold in my head. But the next day,
when I had resolved to begin work in right earnest, was wholly

taken up with other duties. Poor had died, and was to be

buried on that day. His mother was in dreadful affliction, and
his father utterly cast down, so I resolved to visit them before the
funeral. The day was very wet, and going to the cemetery I got


more cold, with considerable fever. On Friday I had to set to,
besides the work for Sunday, having to select and dress a calf for
this evening's repast, as A. K. H. B.* would designate the im-
mature production of an earlier day. and havirg the same veal as
an offering to present to my people on the following days. In
desperation I telegraphed to Quebec and had a favourable reply
from Dr. Cook, and so set to work with all fury and had my ser-
mon finished by midnight. The Doctor arrived early on Sabbath
morning, and I laid on him, table service, concluding address,
evening service, and Monday's. From the excitement 1 felt well,
but with sad revulsion on Tuesday, and I have scarcely been out
of the house since."

This may be the proper place to refer to Dr. Mathieson's printed
sermons. They are twelve in number, and were delivered in the
following order :

1. 1827, April 8th. On the occasion of Mr. Wat-on's death,
from JEREMIAH ix. 21 : " For death hath come up into our

2. 1836, November 30th. Preached before the tt. Andrews
Society, Montreal, from PSALM cxxxvii. 1-6 : " By the rivers
of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remember-
ed Zion " &c.

3. 1843, October 22nd. Delivered on board the transport
ship "Java, " off Quebec, to the 1st Battalion 71st Highland
Light Infantry, en route to the West Indies, from 2nd COR. xm.

* The reference here is to acuiious article " concerning veal " in " The
Recreations of a Country Parson," by the Rev. Andrew K. H. Boyd, then
minister of St. Bernard, Edinburgh, and now of St. Andrews.


2 : " Finally, brethren, farewell, " &c. : also, ACTS XX. 32 : " And
now, brethren. I commend you to God and the word of his grace,"

4. 1848, May 21st. The Christian's death no cause for
sorrow. On the occasion of Miss Spier's death, from JEREMIAH
XXII. 10 : " Weep ye not for the dead," &c., also Revelations XIV.
13 :" Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," &c.

5. f!849. The moral and religious influences of autumn. A
J sermon in three parts, preached on three several Sabbaths "in

' | the fall of the leaf,' ' from ISAIAH LXIV. 6 : " We all do fade
I as a leaf."

8. 1852. A tribute of respect to the memory of a good man ;
preached on the occasion of the death of Mr. Hugh Brodie, the
" faithful Elder" who accompanied Dr. Mathieson in many of his
missionary excursions to the valley of the Chateauguay. ACTS XI.
24 : " For he was a good man."

9. 1861. Preached, 29th May, in St. Andrew's Church, Quebec,
at the opening of the Synod, from ACTS IV. 19, 20 : " Whether it
be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto
God, judge ye : for we cannot but speak the things which we have
seen and heard."

10. 1863. Preached, 30th November, before the St. Andrew's
Society, from PSALM. XLVII. 12 13 : " Walk about Zion, and go
round about her, tell the towers thereof," &c.

11. 1864. The vanity of earthly objects of attachment ; preached
on the occasion of the death of Mr. James Hervey, and printed
for private distribution, from PSALM LXXXVIII. 18: "Lover


and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into

12. 1868. Preached on St. Andrew's Day, in the St. Andrew's
Church, before the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal, from PSALM
XLVII. 12, 13, 14 : "Walk about Zion," &c.

In addition to his written sermons, Dr. Mathieson has left behind
him an amount of manuscript large enough to fill many volumes,
exhibiting an ease and grace of diction, a knowledge of men and
things in general, an acquaintance with literature, and a grasp of
mind and thought, that would have gained him eminence as a man
of letters had he aspired to authorship. His writings are chiefly
in the form of letters, some of an official character, others of a
private nature; many of them are at once interesting and amusing,
from the graphic manner in which contemporaneous events are
noticed, not a few of them contain information of value to the
future historian of the Church. In his youthful days he was addict-
ed to poetry, and he could also wield the pencil of the caricaturist
with considerable effect ; but to these accomplishments his own
graver thoughts attached small importance. " The verses you
thought so pretty," he says, " were destroyed many years ago
when I thought I was going to ' the Land o' the Leal.' I do not
know that you will be able to find a single couplet from my pen
anywhere except some extemporaneous effusions occasionally in
letters to my friends. I wrote for my own amusement. There
were many little pieces that I have often deeply regretted having
destroyed, but I had no ambition they should survive me. I was
proud of the fire-side praise, but desired no more, and co.nmitted
my papers wholesale to the flames, being too weak to undergo the


fatigue of making a selection, and would not for the world have
any knave laugh at my follies after I had taken wing."

From what has been said it may be inferred that the matter of
Dr. Mathieson s sermons was generally good and oft times rose to
brilliancy and genuine eloquence. His manner of delivery was
pleasing, though at times marred by a hesitancy of utterance,
chiefly caused by a peculiarity of vision a near-sightedness, which
defied the skill of the most scientific optician to remedy, and
which prevented him from deciphering his own legible manuscript,
without which, except on baptismal and communion occasions, he
never attempted to speak from the pulpit. He had early prepared
his congregation for the reception of " read discourses " and
defended himself against the possible assailants of " paper min-
isters," as may be seen on reference to the first sermon which
he preached in Montreal, and which is hereto appended, where
allusion is made to his constitutional inability to " mandate "
his discourses. " The time taken in ma:id.iting a discourse I
would consider more profitably employed, both for myself and the
people I instruct, in acquiring a more extensive knowledge of
Scripture truths, and in composing clear, well connected, and in-
teresting discourses." This deficiency, for such he acknowledged
it to be, was less regretted by himself than by his friends, and
was a subject on which he allowed himself to be twitted very
often without in the least discomposing him. Upon occasions
when conversation took that direction, and he thought it advisable
to change the subject, he usually brought down the company with a
hearty laugh over the story of two old wives in Scotland who had
a holy horror of "readers." They had gone together to hear a ser-



mon preached by a blind minister, and both agreed that it was " a
gran' discoorse." The fact of the preacher's blindness, however,
had remained undiscovered to the one, who, on their homeward
way asked her companion did she think " that yon sermon wa s
read ?" " Na, na, replied the other, that couldna be, for the man's
blinn,'' "Blinn said ye,";retorted her interrogator, " than a wuss
they were a' llinn."

The brief extract from his journal which now follows may suf-
fice to indicate the kind of work to which the city minister is
sometimes called, and the scenes he sometimes witnesses. (1849)
"Sent for to visit a sick person horrid scene ! Usheredinto a garret,
on the bare floor of which, covered with rags, lay a dying creature
who had had a religious education but seemed to have lived long in
neglect of God, as I learned from others, for she was insensible and
within two hours of being called to judgment. Her husband was
a ragged, squallid wretch, on whom want and drunkenness had
entailed disease. Around her there were half a dozen women, dirty
and ragged, and reeling with drink. A rough block of wood cov-
ered with a rag was her pillow. It was heart-sickening. I prayed
with the poor creature utterly ins i sible I fear to a -y religious
consolation addressed those a ound in terras of Christian pity and
warning, mingled with reproach, but seemingly to no purpose.
There is room for reflection here room for censure somewhere.
Why such brutish conduct, such induration of heart, such drunken-
ness, filth, forgetfulness of God ? Why should these be left to pur-
sue such courses without determined efforts to reclaim them ? What
is to be done ? Already staggering under the load of duty and
anxiety I feel that I must break down, unless I find relief. Yet,


work I must. The Lord make me faithful. Let me not shrink,
however toilsome the labour, or disgusting the scenes. Strengthen
me with Thy strength ; guide me with Thy wisdom ; pour into my
soul a portion of the Saviour's zeal for perishing souls. We have

the engine that will yet move the world, let us apply it Arich,

friendless, man may find flatterers, a poor man, no sympathy from
his associates. This man could find no one to aid him in carrying
his wife to the grave human sympathy is gone because he is in
rag*. He is a useless wretch to be sure, but surelyjnot so bad as
to deprive him of pity in affliction. Gave him five shillings to buy
a coffin and one shilling and three-pence for a cart hire " The rich-
man died: and was buried /"

To obtain a temporary respite from work, and in the hope of
re-establishing his health, the Doctor bethought him once more of
the only remedy in which he had much faith, and the very anticipa-
tion of which was as " the balm of Gilead" to his downcast soul
a trip to Scotland. Having made the necessary arrangements for
the supply of his pulpit, he accordingly " went home " in the year
1852, and, after spending a pleasant summer, during which he visit-
ed the three Kingdoms, and had the honour of addressing the
General Assembly, he returned to Canada with greatly invigorated
health. It was during this visit that he secured the services of his
first assistant, the Rev. Robert Dobie, then assistant to Principal
Haldane of St. Andrew's, and now the minister of Lindsay,
Ontario. This arrangement proved satisfactory while it lasted, but
was of short duration, for Mr. Dobie, having received a call to
Osnabruck, resigned connection with St. Andrew's congregation,

and for six long years Dr. Mathieson strove raaafully to aecom



plish, nlone, that which experience had convinced him was work
enough for two ministers.

In the meantime our friend was subjected to the saddest and
most severe trial which it was possible for him to suffer. As
11 friend after friend departs," the minister of a large congregation
must needs revisit oft the city of the dead. The way to the ceme-
tery that sleeping place,

" where servants, masters, small and great,

partake the same repose "

becomes a familiar road, lined as it were with the memories of
those who have been borne to the tomb. Along this road Dr. Mathie.
son had now to follow the remains of his dear wife to the silent
grave. She died on the 2^th of February, 1?56, aged thirty-three
after a long illness, borne with Christian fortitude and resignation
to the divine wilL The brief epitaph inscribed on a monumental
tablet that was erected by her friends on the wall of St. Andrew's^
Church, near the pulpit, records that she was " endeared to all
who knew har by a kind disposition and the lively interest which
he manifested in the prosperity of this Church." She was a most
devoted, affectionate wife, and the very embodiment of matemal
Jove gentle, guileless, and sincerely pious, but who never
made any parade of religious feeling. In a letter written- to a
friend in Scotland shortly after her death, the Doctor thus alludes
to his bereavement " you will deeply sympathize with me when I
inform you that she who was nearest and dearest to me has been
removed from the troubles of this life to the enjoyment we have
no doubt ol a better. Her last end was peaceful and calm, indeed
I have seldom witnessed a more sublime spectacle of faith and hope


and resignation. Her confidence in her Saviour's love, and longing
to be with Him, has infused great consolation into the cup of sor-
row given us to drink. There was a heroism in her whole conduct
and an undoubting trust in her Redeemer that seemed to me to be
a special vouchsafement from our Heavenly Father as a testi*
mony to herself, and to us, that she was accepted by Him through
Christ. Her unceasing prayer during the last night of her illness
was, " come, Lord Jesus, come quickly 1" I cannot yet realize the
terrible desolation in our affections occasioned by the absence of
her who was the spirit and life of all our household joys. God's will
be done."

The Rev. Robert Herbert Story, the son of his old valued friend,
became Dr. Mathieson's assistant in May, 1859 ; but on the death
of his father, hiving received a presentation to the parish of
Roseneath, his engagement with St. Andrew's Church necessarily
terminated. In the following spring, the Rev. James Kerr arrived
as assistant, and remained about a year, when he returned to
Scotland. Some years afterwards he and his young wife t >ok
passage on board the steamship "London," which foundered in
the Bay of Biscay, on her voyage to Australia, and they shared the
melancholy fate of many others, who sank into a watery grave.

The Rev. \V. M. Inglis. now minister of St. Andrew's Church,
Kingston, was Dr. Mathieson's next assistant and remained in
Montreal, till August, 1863. The Rev. Andrew Paton succeeded
him in November, 1864, and, after the lapse of a year, was
requested to accept a permanent appointment as " assistant
and successor." Having received ordination thereto from the
Presbytery of Kinross, he was inducted on the 14th of February,


1 860. The circumstances connected with his demission of the
charge are so exceptional, and withal so honourable to Mr. Paton,
as justify us in giving them a place here in connection with the
history of the congregation.

Mr. Paton had been on a visit to Scotland during the summer
(1869) ; was present at the General Assembly, where he delivered
an address in relation to the position of the Canadian Church, and
had returned to his duties in the month of October. On the 18th
of November, he had given notice to the Presbytery of Montreal,
of his intention to ask leave to be released from his present charge,
although he had then no immeditte prospect of obtaining another.
On the evening of the very same day he received a telegraph
message by the Atlantic Cable, offering him a presentation to the
parish of Penpont, in Dumfrieshire. On the 23rd, the day before
the burning of the Church, he received another message intimating
that he had been appointed to the charge. It is important that
Dr. Mathieson's estim ite of his last assistant should be preserved,
and here are his first impressions of him as communicated to a
friend, under date the 13th October, 1864: "My assistant
arrived last week and preiched an excellent plain discourse last
Sabbath. I was highly pleased with him. I was not well enough
to go out in the evening, but am told his discourse was superior t
that of the morning. He is a gentlemanly, unpretend ng man,

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 6 of 18)