|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||John Muir, Pastor: The Story of a Clergyman's Colonial Life|
i CHAPTER VI. . I
(Conclusion.) ?; S
' What with constant complaints reaching him I . regarding his unsoundness in the faith, the hostile ;i : attitude assumed towards him by certain men i| . whom, by courtesy, he called his brethren, and the
; irritating gossip which associated his name with a rjj . lady whom he greatly admired, but had no thought "à } of marrying, he felt that the time had come for him 'i '- to say farewell to a place which had at one time :-j
possessed for him considerable attractions. Besides, ;| his thoughts had often wandered back to the land of ;J his nativity, and he knew that many hearts heat ^ warmly for him there. He had heard from time to J time of his old college friends, «nd with several he m had kept up an almost uninterrupted correspondence, m ; Alice Gray was also still alive, although in feeble . ff
health. He had a certain vague notion that >J& he would like to see her once more, though-he S inwardly, felt that the meeting would haye in it m elements of peculiar sadness. He had virtually , ||| made up his mind to send in his resignation, when .M he was informed that his enemies had made up their ^ s| minds to have him removed, and that a meeting") 9 with that object in view, had been called for a certain rH day. Would he agree to be present ? »-M
' Certainly not,'was his prompt reply. ' ji| This answer was communicated without' any fe^p explanation (although a respectful one was given to §m
bis informant) to thoso who met to take part in the crisis which was impending.
Mr. McQueen, whose ire the minister had incurred because he purchased his groceries from another merchant, on hearing this, to him, disrespectful announcement, said: ' That's just in keeping with the rest ; we pay him, and yet he treats us as if he paid us. He's too independent for this part of the world. We must have a young man that we can
Mr. Kendall was of the same opinion. Mr. Muir, he was willing to allow, had some good points, both in his teaching and bis life, but it was quite clear that he had a mind of his own, and that was not the sort of man they wanted.
Mr. Cousins, on being asked from the chair what he thought of the matter, said he was sorry to say that Mr. Muir had not come up to the expectations formed of him when elected to the charge. He was a learned man no doubt, and an interesting preacher, but he was doing great harm to young people by telling them that the earth was much older than six thousand years, and that there was no harm in taking a walk on Sunday. In some respects he liked him very much ; but for the good of the con- gregation, and especially the young people, it would
he better to have a change.
Mr. Webster, the banker, who occupied the chair, was a much more cultivated man than the others ; he was possessed of gentlemanly instincts, and had always been friendly with his minister. He was asked by those present what he would be inclined to propose in the unhappy circumstances which had arisen. He replied, not without emotion, by saying that he deeply regretted the unfortunate position many of the congregation were placed in. For Mr. Muir personally he had the highest esteem ; he had always looked upon him as a valued friend ; but matters had reached such a state that it would neither he for the ministe r's good nor the congregation's that the pastoral tie should be continued. He had benefited by the eloquent and thoughtful sermons which their minister had preached to them ; their breadth could do him no harm, for he was well grounded in the theology of his forefathers, and no one could shake his faith ; but he trembled for the young, who had not the same advantages as he had enjoyed in early life ; there was an unsettled tendency everywhere noticeable in their colonial life ; and if ministers, of all men, were to encourage it instead of doing all in their power to counteract its evil effects, then what was to become of their religion-the faith once de-
livered to the saints ?
The effect of Mr. Webster's speech was over- powering and convincing. Women wept, and old men shook their heads in sorrow ; but as they all felt that they were acting for the glory of God and the good of the Church, they slept that night the sleep of the righteous. The only restless pillow was the pillow of J ohn Muir. A steadfast friend had communicated to him the substance of what had
transpired at the meeting. A deputation was ap- pointed to wait on the minister to convev its decision to him. He had asked his friends not to attend the meeting, as his mind was made up to leave, and most of them conformed to his wishes. Muir listened patiently to all that the deputation had to say, and then quietly asked :
4 vVell, gentlemen, what do you wish me to do in
the circumstances ?'
' Resign,' replied the chief spokesman.
4 If that is all,' said Muir, 4 you may rest con- tented, for I have already done so to the proper
The report soon spread that the minister had
resigned, and the topic was more than a nine days'
'It's a confounded shame,' said blunt, honest John Turner. ' Those Pharisees worry the life out of every man who happens to see a little further than themselves. It'll be a long time before they get a man like Muir, and they don't deserve to get one. I'm sick of the whole affair. When Muir leaves, I leave too.'
Muir was not allowed to leave the district with- out receiving several substantial tokens of the people's regard, beyond the limits of his own de-
nomination. To his friend Turner he happened to
' I had no idea I was so well liked,' to which his friend replied :
4 That makes it all the worse, for you are sacri- ficed to the prejudices of a few narrow-minded
' Never mind,' said Muir, 4 it will all turn out for the be*t. The world is advancing ; religious truth is advancing too. The McQueen's and Kendall's et hoc genus omne are powerless to stem the tide.'
The subsequent history of John Muir may be summed up briefly. He wrote to his friends in Scotland to say that it was his intention to return to his native land, that he had undergone a great deal of worry lately, and that he believed a long sea voyage would improve his health, which had been far from satisfactory for some time.
The voyage was a pleasant one, and he arrived in his native city in good health and spirits. In the course of his few years' absence, a good manj changes had occurred, but he received a cordial we'come from his old friends. After spending a few days in London and Edinburgh, he reached the old parish of Ainslie, where he had begun his ministerial career. It seemed all very strange, bul he found himself once more in the presence of Alic« Gray. The meeting was in every sense a sad one.
'I'm here still, you see,' she faintly uttered, ' although the doctors gave me up long ago. And t< think it was fated that I should see you ona
' Yes,' said Muir, with a heart nigh to breaking ' but I suppose there is a sort of weird satisfactioi in meeting thus again, after all my wanderings. 1
have often thought of you. and I believe it -will not be long b.efore I shall follow you to that pjace where, sooner or later, we have all to go.'
' Oh, do not speak in that way,' she replied ; 'you have many bright years before you.'
' Once I thought so too ; but I have had a good deal of meutal trouble, and my heart was never very strong at the best.'
Mrs. Gray, who was standing by when this con- versation took place, was so overcome that she forthwith left the room. She was aware of the affectionate regard which her daughter and Muir had for each other, though the subject was never mentioned. For a few minutes longer, therefore, they were left alone. The time was short, but it was long enough for the utterance of touching ex- pressions of mutual regret and farewell. The inter- view proved too much for the enfeebled body of Alice Gray, and ere another morning's sun had shone, her bright spirit had passed away from earth, and her fair form lay stiff and cold. When Muir gazed on it, he wept like a child.
* * * *
He accepted an invitation to stay with his old friend Mitchell, and he remained there till his death. Serious cardiac symptoms began to develop, and it soon became apparent that John Muir's prophecy was about to be fulfilled. Everything was done with a view to prolong his life, but all was of no avail. When near the end, he said to his friend
Mitchell, ' What a strange thing is life ! It never entered into my head until quite lately that I -was to go so soon. There is no use taking my body to Edinburgh ; bury me nea" Alice Gray-the next grave, if the family don't object.'
His old friend, -with faltering accents, promised to carry out his wishes, and faithfully kept his pro-
The active, bright mind of John Muir asserted itself to the last, and led him to say, as his end was approaching : ' What a comfort to know that many of the old cobwebs of superstition are being swept away, and that rational views in religion, notwith- standing all that Buckle has said about our country, are making rapid progress in Scotland. I would give something to take my little share in the On- ward movement ; but that is not to be. I feel no raptures about leaving this world, and mine will not be an ecstatic death-bed, but I am quite willing to bow to the decrees of the Supreme Mind.'
Mitchell thought it better to let him pursue the train of thought without any interruption, but he was deeply moved, as he listened to his friend's last thoughts, so clearly expressed.
Muir had some time before thia made his will in
favour of his two sisters. His insurance premiums had b«en fully paid up, and the sum available for
distribution from this source amounted to £1500.
He left some other interests which he had to his only surviving brother, whom he appointed his executor
along with his friend Mitchell. To Mitchell he left a handsome gold watch-' as a slight token,' as he said when he spoke of it, ' of a much valued friendship, too soon broken, but perhaps hereafter
to be renewed.'
He was buried, according to hia own request, in the old churchyard of Ainslie, in a grave adjoining that of Alice Gray, within a few weeks after she died. A neat tombstone was erected to his memory by a few of his most intimate and valued friends, who realised that the finest spirit of them all had been cut off in the prime of a noble and unsullied manhood. It bore the following inscription :
"Sacred to the memory of the Rev. John Muir, M.A., B.D., formerly Assistant-Minister in this parish, and for the past five years Presbyterian Minis- ter in Australia ; aged 35 years. A man of high culture, refined manners, generous disposition, en- lightened views, unflinching courage, and steadfast devotion to duty. The watchwords of his life and ministry were-Faith, Hope, and Charity. This stone is erected by à few of his friends, to whom his memory is dear, and his loss irreparable. Helictum estjlere et meminisse.'1
It is a picturesque nhurohyard, situated in a sequestered vale in the beautiful county of Dum- friesshire, and for long after his death that lonely grave was visited by those who loved him best in life, and who mourned with more than an ordinary sorrow his premature removal. It was left for them, as the touching Latin inscription on the tomb- stone reminded each passer-by, ' to weep and