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THE LATE JOHN THOMSON FINLAY.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX PRESBYTERIAN.
SIR,-Will you permit to a friend and fellow-student of the late John Thomson Finlay, the melancholy privilege of paying a merited, though inadequate tribute to his memory, in the accompanying lines. Without meaning to call in question the accuracy of a sketch of his life and character, which was given in a late number of your valuable periodical, I may be allowed to say, that none but those who were let, so to speak, into the privacy of his character, could speak worthily of the rare qualities with which he was endowed. It is to the advantage of most men's virtues that they are contemplated at a distance, if his were not sufficiently appreciated, it must have been because they were not narrowly scrutinized. Indeed when I now reflect, that I had the best opportunity of marking closely his dispositions and demeanour, at a period of life when the passions, even of the most quiet spirits, are dominant and headstrong, I am amazed that I cannot recall a single instance of his conduct unbecoming the meek and humble follower of the Lamb. I hate fulsome panegyric; but I think it due to the memory of him who is gone, due to a mother's tenderness and a father's care,-and I had almost said, to the character of our common humanity, to note, at least, one specimen, whose virtues are calculated, in some measure, to redeem our race from the sweeping sentence that has been too justly pronounced against it. But, no! I should rather say, that it is due to the honour of Christ, and the power of his transforming grace, to record the excellencies of one who was a living witness to the reality of its operation on the heart. Humility I ke to be the most striking characteristic of the Christian, and it was emphatically his. But his character was a practical proof, that the possession of a vigorous and cultivated understanding is quite compatible with the exercise of Christian graces in their loveliest humility. Indeed what I chiefly admire in the picture I have now before the eye of my mind, is the delicate shading and blending of its colours. He was peculiarly distinguished among those who knew him for his constant equanimity, and the untiring vigour with which his faith was sustained. Some Christians may shine brilliantly for a time,-his lamp preserved a steady lustre. The holiness of some may be chiefly manifested in particular spheres,-his was of such a pervading character, that the grace of its loveliness was betrayed in every step of his progress. Too often have we to weep over the inconsistencies even of real Christians,-none ever wept for his. Unlike some who resemble the ocean, now presenting an unruffled aspect, and anon vexed and maddened by the tempest;
his spirit was rather like some lake, on whose translucent wave the moonbeams repose in their calmness, and which ceases not to reflect the bright image of that heaven from which it receives its glory.
But it was only in affliction that the strength and purity of his graces were fully developed. Some might be rashly disposed to regret that a mind such as his was, well stored with useful knowledge, adorned with every grace that becomes the believer, well disciplined in the school of Christ, and burning with zeal for his glory, should not have been given to the work for which he was so eminently qualified. But his Master had other work for him to do. He chose him to "glorify his name in the fires" of affliction, rather than in the field of active service. But should there still lurk in the breast of any friend or relative, a doubt as to the wisdom of this dispensation, let it be resolved by those cheering words of the Saviour, which he himself used to apply for the same purpose,-"What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." But even now we know that his "faith and patience" form instructive lessons to all who were privileged to witness their exercise under the severest trials. And I doubt not, but that many Christians would draw comfort and encouragement from his experiences, were some hand, sufficient for the task, to reveal this fountain in its purity to the Church.
In short, when I look along the whole line of his history, and trace him to that period when the best of men often see cause to tremble,-when I mark the calm serenity with which he went on to meet the king of terrors, and the assured confidence with which he anticipated the period when he should look upon the countenance of Jesus, who redeemed bim with his blood, I cannot help exclaiming,-Never was there a brighter or more beautiful illustration of that sublime announcement,-"Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." Angels have now welcomed another toil-worn traveller to his rest, another conqueror to his crown :
HE's gone, he is gone to the land of the blest,
Though rugged and steep was the pathway he trod,
So passive he lay in the hands of his God,
Like gold in the furnace refining.
We thought his loved voice in God's temple to hear,
Like a seraph of light from some holier sphere,
The lost sinner and rebel reclaiming.
But hushed is that voice,-to its accents no more
The blossom was lovely, and brilliant its bloom,
By the chill blast of death o'er it blowing.
But why should we mourn for its early decay?
Though the heart may in bitterness bleed for the fall
Thus nature may ask for a tear o'er the stem,
Whence the rosebud hath rudely been riven;
"God speaketh once, yea twice." JOB Xxxiii. 14,
THESE words of Elihu have lately received a very distressing fulfilment in the death of Mr. Malcolm Ritchie, and Mr. Hugh Houston, who were shining ornaments of the Christian religion. They were both ordained, in the month of April last, to the sacred office of the Eldership, in the Presbyterian Church of Townsend-street; and the former was called from a world of trial on the 15th December, 1836, and the latter on the 5th of January, 1837. Thus in the course of twenty-one days have two families been deprived of tender and religious guardians,—and the Church of God has lost two enlightened, and anxious, and effective office-bearers. Though not connected by natural relationship, it was remarked by many of their fellow-christians, that there was a striking similarity between them. This is not to be wondered at,-they were regenerated by the same Spirit,-adopted into the same redeemed family, and adorned, very peculiarly, by the same heavenly graces. They seemed, during their short connection in the Church on earth, to be running closely together on the same course of holiness, and they entered nearly at the same time into the Church triumphant, to receive, from the hands of the Saviour whom they loved, the crown of glory that fadeth not away. They were both distinguished by blandness of disposition, calmness of manner, and deep humility of heart. This last trait of character was strikingly visible, when they were about to be set apart to the
Eldership. Though all who knew them in the Church knew their mental and moral, and religious fitness for the office, it was to themselves a matter of astonishment that they should be proposed for such an arduous situation, and it required considerable urgency to make them accept of it. They discharged its duties as men of God. They were not contented with handing round the poor-box on the Lord's day, as if this were the whole amount, or even a part of an Elder's duty; but they spent as much of their time as they could possibly spare, in visiting the sick,-counselling the careless,-establishing and conducting meetings for social prayer, and conversation on the Word of God,-in the formation and management of the congregational library, and in superintending and fostering the Sabbath-school of the Church. It should be remarked, that they were both gifted by the Spirit with a peculiar power and sweetness of expression in prayer. Their supplications were truly like the ardent breathings of children in the ears of a loving and reconciled Father. And, blessed be God, the language of the Psalmist was strikingly verified in them both, in the hour of their departure," Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." Their dying testimony reminds us much of the old times, when our forefathers lived and died like patriarchs, in their generation.
On the morning of Mr. Ritchie's decease, he said to his sorrowing partner, this is death, I have been dying daily, but I knew not death until now, but I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him till the great day." To a Christian friend who attended him he said,"this is the beginning of death;" and when asked, are you resigned to die, he replied, perfectly so,-I have no desire to live,-I am tired of the ways of the world,-of the follies and vanities of the world,-all is vanity and folly ;" and then he said with emphasis,—“ there is no substance in it." When asked by his pastor if he had a well-grounded hope of heavenly happiness, he said, "Oh, I am a poor sinful worm,I have been an unfaithful servant, and can hope for nothing from myself; but in Jesus and his finished work I have full confidence, he is all my salvation and all my desire,-Christ is all in all." Shortly before his departure, the words of Stephen were fervently breathed," Lord Jesus receive my spirit,"-and his hands that had been clasped in the exercise of earnest prayer, after he had breathed his last could with difficulty be separated.
It seemed good to God to visit Mr. Houston with fever, which in the course of a few days deprived him of his intellect; but before his mind became affected, he gave delightful evidence of his covenant relation to the Lord Jesus. When visited on one occasion by his minister, though greatly weakened by his disorder, he was found with his little children around his bed, he and they having each a Bible, and, as he said himself, "they had struggled hard through their psalm and chapter." Thus during the rapid progress of his fever, this holy man was acting on the resolution of Joshua, "Let others do what they may, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." When two of his brethren in the eldership visited him on the night of his last Sabbath, he turned round to them with a joyful countenance, and said, "Beloved brethren in Christ Jesus, this is one of the sweetest Sabbaths I have ever spent on the earth. I have often had doubts and fears about my being a Christrian at all, but I bless God, all these doubts are now gone, the Lord has wrought a perfect work in me,”—and then, with great feeling he re
peated the first and second verses of the 40th Psalm, as peculiarly descriptive of the change effected in him by the Holy Spirit :—
"I waited for the Lord my God,
He took me from a fearful pit,
Thus lived and thus died these servants of Christ,-in their lives they were spiritually assimilated, and in their deaths they were not long divided. Elders of the Presbyterian Churches, can you trace a likeness between yourselves and them. What are you doing for God in your own families, and in the families of others? What are you doing in the Sabbath-school,-in the lending library,-the prayer meeting, or in the cause of missions? Elders that are not actively engaged in some such holy enterprise, instead of being ornaments, are lumber in a Church, instead of being helps to the minister, are drags to retard his progress in the work of God. You sustain a most important and responsible office. See that your own souls are prospering in the divine life. Judge of this by your love for the study of the Scriptures,-your communion with God in the closet,--your increasing tenderness of conscience with regard to sin and duty, and your growing likeness to the character of Christ in all things. And, along with this, judge of your fitness for a death-bed, by your zeal, and devotedness in the Saviour's blessed cause,-by your prudent and holy contrivances for doing good,your tenderness and faithfulness in dealing with the people in your district, and notwithstanding opposition, your perseverance to the end. Be faithful unto death, and Christ will give you also a crown of life."
DEATH OF THE REV. THOMAS BERKLEY.
SELDOM has a more painful or deeply-felt deprivation occurred by death, than in the removal, from his earthly labours, of the highly esteemed, much beloved, and sincerely lamented Pastor of the Presbyterian Congregation of Enniskillen. He died of fever, brought on by neglected cold, on the 9th of December, aged 23 years.
He was a young man of great piety and zeal,-labouring hard, during his short sojourn here, to win souls to Christ. A consistent and sincere Christian, a faithful and devoted minister. His manners were mild, gentle, and affectionate; indeed, no person could know him without be ing attached to him. He bestowed considerable labour in his preparations for the pulpit, and the correctness of his sermons, with his agreeable and persuasive delivery, deeply engaged the attention of his hearers, whilst he proclaimed the message of the Gospel with faithfulness and boldness. And it has been told of him, that he never left his house, to preach a sermon, without first approaching a throne of grace, in com, pany with his beloved wife, to implore the blessing of Almighty God on him that was to speak, and on those who were to hear.