« ZurückWeiter »
from our beloved mother to the youngest child, he was the object of our solicitude. He was always in best spirits when he had done the whole work himself: if any one had shared it with him, he never seemed quite satisfied, and always more fatigued. His topics were generally, eliciting from us what we remembered of the sermons, accounts of the poor or sick, expressions of his gratitude to his congregation for their surprising exertions and constantly anticipating love for all his concerns, anecdotes of good men, and of matters connected with the lovely scenery of his youth. The latter subject was one to which his mind always turned for refreshment when exhausted either by labour or sickness. On these occasions he spoke of it as his highest ambition to retire, 'when his folk grew tired of the auld man, to Auld Meuross [Melrose],' where on fine sunny days (so he indulged his day-dream,) he would sit with my mother on one side, and a daughter reading to him on the other, and `just slip frae this world's heaven to a better.' His heart on these occasions was so overflowing with gratitude, that he would frequently burst out with such expressions as these ; —- What a good and gracious Father we serve ! Oh, my dears, love God, if you would be really happy!' His family prayer was just a tissue of grateful fervour for the blessings of the sanctuary. The exertion, which his ardent spirit would not allow him to feel, told upon him, however, and he generally rested ill on that night; but this was no hinderance to his rising early the next morning to join the Committee of the Missionary Society, some miles distant, from which nothing but serious illness ever detained him. The refreshing fountain of the Sabbath only braced, his soul anew to run in the service of his Master.
“ So far as I can judge, my beloved father's taste was of the most correct and delicate kind. He was most intimately acquainted with the classical literature of our own country, and was its enthusiastic admirer. He took great pains in making his children commit to memory his favourite passages. It was delightful to be in the country with him. He truly looked on nature with a poet's eye; and more than that, he looked through nature up to nature's God. The beauty of the landscape hushed him to repose, as it were, on the bosom of his God, and drew tears of wondering humility and admiration ; while its more sublime features roused him on the side of his Maker, elevated his faith, and, causing him to feel his alliance with a present Deity, threw over his whole countenance and form the lustre of that truth· Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. His time for reading was past before I can trace him ; for, prior to that, he had devoted himself to public duty : but that he must have at one time read largely, was evident from the stores of his memory. For several years before my brothers left us, and for the purpose of making home more alluring to them, he devoted two evenings in the week to family reading, during which we got through much standard history, and some works of taste. I have heard him say that he could repeat all Young's Night Thoughts before he was thirty, and that he committed them to memory in walking from place to place in the way of his duties.
“His personal economy was great. He never allowed himself more than one suit of clothes in the year; and once, when the calls of the poor were unusually pressing, he gave away beyond his means, and made his suit serve him two years. With all this, his appearance was not, as you well know, either shabby or slovenly. We used to say that he got the children of Israel's blessing on his garments. His being so constantly out, and often taking long journeys, makes this economy appear the more wonderful. He encouraged us to be careful, but abhorred, every thing approaching to parsimony or selfishness. By the way, I ought to tell you, that in the year he returned
from his Irish journey for the Missionary Society, the Committee thought it but just to offer to each of the ministers of the deputation a suit of clothes, very properly considering that they had no right to involve them in such expenses as these ; but this considerate present, my father, gratefully, but positively declined, -as an innocent transaction, capable of being wrested against the integrity of their purpose, — so jealous was he of the honour of the principles he professed. It appears from his memorandum books, that from his earliest years he had been remarkably exact in keeping an account of his expenditure, balancing his money to a halfpenny. This he did every year of his life. He was, to a degree almost amusing, particular in little money matters. If on giving to any of his children a paid letter for the twopenny post, he had not the necessary few halfpence in his pocket, he could seldom be induced to allow us to advance the sum out of our own resources. He would send us or the servant out for change, and employ the interval in impressing upon our minds, in the most grave and earnest manner, the great necessity of being careful in such things :
Never borrow even a bawbee, my good lad, when a little exertion can save you from doing so. There now, there's the money; mind, I owe you nothing.' He never would pay away or receive money, even where his own family was concerned, without a regular receipt; and when good men called on him to receive the relief which his influence among the benevolent and wealthy had procured for them, he would, in his kindest manner, cause them, if unprovided with such a discharge, to go away to some neighbouring shop and procure it. These habits were at first excellent, but rendered absolutely necessary as he came to have societies’ funds, and often those of private individuals, to manage. On his death-bed he was enabled to say to my mother,—You will find every thing right in the study.' In truth, he had nothing to do but to die. His house was set in order.
: " Although all this exactitude necessarily occupied much time, yet so orderly and systematic was he, that he never seemed hurried or confused. Each duty was done so exactly in time, that it was always ended before its successor's moment came. Moment, indeed, I may say, for he was punctual to a moment. His general conveyance into the city was by the stage, and he was always ready and waiting its approach. To this order might greatly be attributed his accomplishing so much and such varied business. But his sense of the value of time was so high, that it suggested all possible means of redeeming it. No counsel was more frequently heard from his lips than - Oh! work, work, while it is day; age is cold and unlovely.' We used to reply,— Father, that's just a poetical flourish of yours, for you are all freshness and enjoyment.' — “Whisht, whisht, dinna Aatter an auld man; but I do bless God that his service is the last duty I am likely to tire of.' And how true was this! for the old man began to shew itself, though rarely, at our family meetings. Amidst the expression of our innocent mirth, he would sometimes say,— There now, I am tired of your nonsense ; can ye no sit down and sing me a psalm, or repeat (such and such) a piece of sacred poetry. I just long that you should all join me in blessing God for his goodness to me and mine. On these occasions the house was always over full, and we would be joking him about its smalness, to which he never failed to answer, by telling the familiar anecdote of Lord Burleigh and Queen Elizabeth ; saying, “God hath made me too large for my house.' Thus his heart seemed always yearning to acknowledge God. He sweetened every enjoyment, and made all his bed for him in his sickness.'
“ His cheerfulness was almost invariable, and his store of anecdotes ever flowing, suited to all occasions, and giving to the daily conversation of our fire-side a zest and point I have not often witnessed elsewhere. He possessed in
a very eminent degree the charın of instructing without appearing to do so; so that our young friends used to say
– We never meet your dear father at home without finding that we have learned something, and yet he seems the most of all intent upon amusing us. There was a playfulness that never would allow him to let any one he loved pass unnoticed ; but then the attack was made with such propriety as to increase the good humour of the party, by evincing his deep interest in them.
“I never saw him so thoroughly happy as when he had succeeded in relieving the distressed : ' Blessed is he that considereth the poor;' and surely he used to appear as having a foretaste of glory. The poor man himself, though the joy of a wife and hungry children might be added to his cup, was not, I am confident, so happy as my father. I have seen him call us all to kneel around the Throne, and praise God for his goodness to some poor family. But the loveliest feature in these scenes was, that he never saw himself in them. So complete was this abstraction, that we saw only the goodness of God, and the joy of the poor man. It was not till the first glow had gone by, that we recollected, with honest pride and sacred emulation, the agent employed. His modesty was genuine, and could never be misunderstood. • I applied to that excellent man, to whom I never applied in vain,' was given at these times with an emphasis that left the impression of our admiration just where he meant it.
“ Such was his devotedness to the poor, that no personal interest could make him swerve from their service; in illustration of which I may tell you the following circumstance :- One of my brothers was applying for a public situation, which would have been of very great importance to him, and which it was thought the interest of Mr. Wilberforce could have secured ; and, of course, as my father had been long honoured with the friendship of that excellent man, we urged exceedingly that he