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ALEXANDER DUFF, D.D., LL.D.
BY THE REV. J. MURRAY MITCHELL, LL.D. T° "O describe the career of Dr. Duff with have no enthusiasm ; I can only plod.” We
any fulness would require a volume apprehend that Carey had no small measure rather than the few pages to which we must of what may be called latent enthusiasm, restrict ourselves. We can barely enumerate and that this sustained and fructified his the more prominent points in his long and plodding. Duff, on the contrary, had enthunoble career; we cannot afford to dwell on siasm irrepressible, a soul of fire that reany one of these, when we would fain linger vealed itself in every look and gesture; yet on each.
he could plod as well as Carey, and force a He was born in the parish of Moulin, in way, when he could not find it, with all the Perthshire, on April 25th, 1806. Those that iron will of Livingstone. Then, along with are acquainted with Charles Simeon's bio- a glowing imagination, there co-existed a graphy will recollect the name of this parish singular power of concentration, a faculty of and that of the pious pastor, Alexander close consecutive thought, a sagacity, a conStewart. A visit from Simeon in 1796 was structiveness, and what a writer who watched of great service in quickening into holy joy him closely in India has called " the highest and active usefulness the seeds of true faith kind of diplomacy." Added to all this that were already sown in the young minis- there was an unquenchable thirst for knowter's heart. He began to preach with burn- ledge. No book came wrong to him. He ing zeal, and the inhabitants of his mountain read rapidly, and was able to“ tear the heart parish listened with rapt attention. A great out of the book.” He filled—as a fellowrevival of religion followed, the effects of student of his once informed us—some dozen which were clearly discernible many years manuscript volumes with extracts from his afterwards. When I visited Dr. Duff, in favourite authors; all of which, however, 1838, while he resided in his native parish went to the bottom of the sea on his voyage on his first return from India, he spoke with to India. admiration of the meekness and other The reader will not be surprised to hear Christian graces that adorned the character that a young man of this character rose to of not a few members of Stewart's flock who distinction, both at school and college. In still survived. He grew up in the midst of almost every class Alexander Duff stood, if such influences; his own father being among not actually first, yet amongst the first. the fruits of that remarkable awakening. Classics, mathematics, natural philosophy, We have dwelt on this at the greater and mental philosophy were all in turn suclength because, through Stewart and Simeon, cessfully grappled with; and when he came Alexander Duff becomes linked to Henry to attend the College of St. Mary's, in which Martyn, who owed much to Simeon, and to theology is taught, his ardour as a student whom Simeon owed much.
remained unabated. While he relished every Alexander Duff attended the parish school branch of study, yet theology and mental of Kirk Michael, then the excellent Perth philosophy seem to have been those in which academy, and so qualified himself for enter- he delighted most. His class essays and ing the University of St. Andrews, which he his discourses at the Theological Hall seem did in 1821. He gained by competition, on to have been remarkable productions—very beginning his academical career, one of those carefully elaborated, and marked by that bursaries which have been of signal service breadth of view and “ large utterance” which to deserving students in Scotland.
characterized him through life. At debating By the time he entered college young societies he was, as a matter of course, a Duff already exhibited many of those quali- leading man-ready, rapid, impassioned as a ties which became so marked in his after-life. speaker, and, in demolishing an error or an Characteristics that seemed almost necessarily adversary, altogether overwhelming. to exclude each other were combined in him. When young Duff attended its classes, the He had in the fullest measure all the fire and moral and religious condition of St. Andrew's imagination which we ascribe to the genuine was anything but satisfactory. As Dr. LindCelt; but he had also, as much as Saxon ever say Alexander informs us, the students" had had, an unconquerable energy and dogged long had an unenviable reputation for lawperseverance. One is reminded of the lessness and ungodliness ;” and Duff himself admirable Carey's complaint of himself: “Ilias testified that, “ as a whole, they were a
singularly Godless, Christless class." It is and Ireland do not conduct their evangelistic evident, however, that Alexander Duff was work through“societies.” The whole Church not injured by the contagion that was all is a missionary society, and the work is cararound. The example and teachings of his ried on by a Committee appointed at each pious parents had already impressed his soul annual meeting of the General Assembly. with a profound conviction of the reality and At the time of which we were speaking the power of vital religion. He was also greatly Scottish Church had not, as a Church, emstrengthened by the companionship of a very barked in missionary work; but a large body remarkable young man, John Urquhart, of her ministers and members were hearty whom he had previously known at the Perth supporters of evangelistic enterprise. Dr. John Academy. Urquhart was described in after- Love had a great share in the establishment years by Dr. Duff as having been “one of of the London Missionary Society; and that the saintliest youths that ever trod the stage institution received large support in Scotland. of time.” In physical, and some mental So did the Baptist Missionary Society, when qualities, there was a striking contrast be- men like Andrew Fuller and Marshman of tween the two friends. Duff in his bodily Serampore pleaded its cause in the north. frame was firmly knit, robust, overflowing Then the Scottish Missionary Society, which with manly energy. Urquhart was delicate was formed in 1796, was maintained with in frame, and still more delicate in mind, considerable zeal by men of evangelical belief. although intellectual in a very high degree. But the missionary spirit was rising; and in He had consecrated himself to a missionary 1824, on the proposition of Dr. John Inglis, life ; but his seraphic spirit had early done a man of deservedly great authority, it was its allotted work on earth, and he was called agreed by the General Assembly that the to heaven, instead of going forth, as he had Church should enter, as a Church, on foreign hoped, to China. He died at the age of missionary work, India being named as the eighteen.
special sphere of the proposed operations. Still another influence powerfully affected Some delay occurred, and Mr. Duff, on the the mind of Duff. Soon after he entered conclusion of his theological course, was college Dr. Thomas Chalmers was appointed recommended by Dr. Chalmers and Dr. HalProfessor of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrew's, dane, Professor of Divinity at St. Andrew's, beginning his duties in November, 1823. as in every way qualified for the Indian work. of the wonderful gifts of Chalmers it is The Assembly, in May, 1829, appointed him wholly unnecessary to speak. His lofty its missionary, and in August he was ordained enthusiasm kindled the hearts of all around to the holy ministry, Dr. Chalmers preachhim; and the change was unboundeil which ing and presiding. Soon after, he married he introduced into the dull routine of the Miss Drysdale, a lady of whom we simply academic life as it then was at the venerable remark that there could not have been a university. Alexander Duff was one of the more faithful and devoted wife, or a more affecmany youths who came under the beneficent tionate mother. Mr. and Mrs. Duff sailed sway of “the mighty master.” Almost imme- for India in October of the same year. diately on the arrival of Chalmers a few of His passage to India was not the smooth the theological students formed themselves thing it has latterly become since the openinto a Missionary Association; and early in ing of the Overland route. As Dr. Duft the session of 1824-5 a general society was expresses it, in his ! India and Indian Misestablished, the small society of the theolo- sions"_"Seldom has there been a voyage, gical students was united with it, and thus from first to last, so fraught with disaster and originated the “St. Andrew's University So- discipline; within the floating home' on ciety.” The society early had the distinction the deep, a fiery furnace of evil tongues and of sending forth not a few of its members to wicked hearts; without, unusual vicissitudes the high places of the field. Including Duff of tempest and of danger.” The vessel was and Urquhart
, there were six young men who completely wrecked on the 13th February, soon felt themselves called to go * far hence near Cape Town. With difficulty the lives unto the Gentiles,” Robert Nesbit leading of crew and passengers were saved; but
almost everything on board was lost. Mr. At this time the Church of Scotland had Duff lost eight hundred volumes, including not, in her corporate capacity, sent forth all his journals, note-books, essays, &c. The missionaries to the heathen. Perhaps for the only thing that was recovered in an unsake of readers in England I should explain damaged state was a copy of Bagster's Comthat the Presbyterian Churches of Britain prehensive Bible. The ardent missionary
recognised, in this fact, a call from Heaven, that thenceforward the Book of God should be his treasure and his directory through life. They sailed from the
Cape on 7th March, but disasters were still to come. The vessel nearly foundered in a gale off the Mauritius. Next, at the mouth of the Ganges, they were overtaken by a tremendous hurricane; and all the horrors of a second shipwreck were experienced.” It was not till the 27th May, 1830, that Mr. and Mrs. Duff reached Calcutta,
more dead than alive.” seemed,” continues he, “as if the Prince of the power of the air had marshalled all his elements to oppose and prevent our arrival;” and he very deeply felt that, at all events, the voyage had been a continuous time of sore discipline, preparing him for his future work. In the end of May the atmo
sphere of Calcutta resembles that of a vapour to be taught; but it is important to know bath, and inspires a strong desire for repose how. Certainly not in that utterly astonishboth of mind and body. But the young mis- ing way in which it is often taught to children sionary had at once to face a very difficult whose vernacular is Welsh or Gaelic; the question. What was to be the sphere of his la- result of which is that the pupils often read bours? The Committee had proposed that this English fluently without comprehending a should not be in the city of Calcutta, though, syllable of the meaning. No; every lesson if possible, in the neighbourhood. A com- was translated into the vernacular; and, till bined system of teaching and preaching had the pupil had mastered the rendering, he also been recommended by them as the best received no new lesson in English. mode of carrying on his work. Where should Dr. Duff was not the first missionary he break ground, then? He made personal that taught the natives English. But in inquiries everywhere; saw the noble Seram- those days a little knowledge of our lanpore missionaries, Carey and his colleagues; guage went a long way; and when the pupil consulted missionaries of the Church of had acquired a sufficient measure of it to fit England, and the London Missionary Society; him for some clerkship, he invariably left visited the more enlightened leaders of na- school, and the result had been felt to be very tive society; watched the mental state of discouraging. Little good, it was believed, the pupils attending the Hindu college; and could be effected through English. But after two months of careful inquiry, he “ the schoolmaster is the school:" and here decided, contrary to the views of the Com- had come a wonderful schoolmaster-a hero mittee at home, that Calcutta itself ought to schoolmaster, as some one called Arnold, be the seat of the mission. He saw there and the passion for knowledge quickly was in the capital a thirst for knowledge - passed from him, who was brimful of it, to and European knowledge—that existed no- all his pupils. So they stayed on to learn where else. He saw also that the youth more and still more, and lamented when they attending the Hindu college — in which were obliged to go. English literature was taught, but wholly A great question at that time occupied the without religion-were rushing with fearful minds of all the friends of education in rapidity into scepticism, and in many cases India. Should the higher instruction be into unblushing immorality. These were the communicated to the natives through English minds on which he felt himself specially called or their own classic tongues-Sanskrit in to work. They must be saved, if possible, the case of Hindus, Arabic in the case of from the gulf into which they were falling; Mohammadans ? The battle was at the they would be potent instruments of evil if hottest when Mr. Duff reached India. The they continued sceptics, and potent instru- question “convulsed,” as he expresses it, ments of good if, through the grace of God, " nearly the whole world of Orientalists and they could be brought to a knowledge and Christian philanthropists. Great names belief of the truth. For these then, God help were ranged on both sides; the two most ing him, he would work with all his heart and formidable of those who pleaded for English soul.
being Mr. (now Sir Charles) Trevelyan and But work how? “Sit down and study Duff. A noble minute by Macaulay, then Dengali first," was the advice of all around Legal member of council, which was written him. He by no means undervalued the study in February, 1835, finally won the victory; of the native languages, in later days at least. and the Court of Directors gave orders that But to master Bengali would take fully a year; the system of pampering Sanskrit and Arabic and he longed-almost fretted—to begin his should cease, and that the literature and labours at once. He would try it. Great science of Europe should thenceforth be was the astonishment, and not small the communicated to the natives of India through merriment, occasioned by the strange attempt. the medium of English. Lord William BenWhen he opened his school, many excellent tinck, who was then Governor-General, was men (as he informed us long afterwards) cried a man of progress and enlightened views, out—“There is the missionary who knows and he gave full effect to the dispatch of the no Bengali, teaching boys that know no Court of Directors. We presume the quesEnglish.” The Committee at home had set tion of Sanskrit versus English need not be their hearts on having a college; but he saw argued now. It will suffice to give an extract there were no materials, and he determined from Duff, which is as clear and convincing to begin with a school, however humble. He as the most brilliant paragraph in Macaulay's actually began with five boys. English was famous minute. “There are scarcely any
European works translated into Sanskrit ; S. Mackay, came to Mr. Duff's assistance; and even if there were, every term in the and, ere long, the Governor-General declared sacred tongue is linked inseparably with that it had produced “unparalleled results.” some idea or sentiment, or deduction of The success did not consist merely in the Hinduism, which is a stupendous system of large attendance and the intellectual enerror ; so that a native, in acquiring it, lightenment of the pupils; there were some becomes indoctrinated into a false system, cases of genuine conversion. and after having mastered it is apt to be In addition to steady work in his school, come tenfold more a child of pantheism, idol- Mr. Duff made very earnest efforts to reach atry, and superstition than before. Whereas, the young men who did not attend its classes. in the very act of acquiring English, the Such of them as had made considerable mind, in grasping the import of the new progress in English had sunk in many cases terms, is perpetually brought in contact into atheism. They were very reluctant to with the new ideas, the new truths of which accept instruction from missionaries, whom these terms are the symbols and representa- they regarded as either fanatics or hypocrites. tives; so that, by the time the language has But a considerable number of these young been mastered, the student must be tenfold men consented to attend a course of theoless the child of pantheism, idolatry, and logical lectures. The subjects embraced in superstition than before."
these lectures were four in number: 1. ExSo Anglomania, as the opponents of Eng- ternal and internal evidences of religion ; 2. lish styled the view advocated by Macaulay, The fulfilment of prophecy; 3. The facts of Trevelyan, and Duff, completely carried the the gospel history as exhibiting the character day. Dr. Duff hailed the change in Govern- of Christ and his religion ; 4. The doctrines ment policy with overflowing joy. He pub- of Christianity. The four subjects were lished a series of papers on the subject in a respectively taken up by Mr. Duff; his old Scottish magazine-for he had quitted India St. Andrew's friend, John Adam, of the before either Macaulay's minute or Lord London Missionary Society; Mr. Hill, of W. Bentinck's Order in Council appeared the same society; and Mr. Dealtry, afterand these were afterwards published in a wards Archdeacon of Calcutta. When the pamphlet entitled “New Era of the English lecture was finished, a free discussion was to Language and Literature in India."
be allowed. The first lecture it was agreed Until he left India he was indefatigably should be a general introduction to the whole busy with his school. The system of teach- course. That lecture accordingly was deing was modelled as far as possible on the livered by Mr. Hill in August, 1830. All system pursued by the schools of highest Calcutta was immediately in an uproar. standing in Scotland; and every class was Even sensible natives seemed to become visited and watched over by the enthusiastic impressed with the idea that they were to be superintendent. The religious character of forced into a profession of Christianity. The the school was of course unmistakable managers of the Hindu College-consisting Every morning the school was opened with both of Europeans and natives—listened to the Lord's Prayer as a brief and solemn form complaints lodged by the parents of the of adoration. The “first and freshest” hour young men ; they met in hot haste; conwas devoted to the reading and explanation cocted and issued a decree expressive of of a portion of the Bible. Earnest appeals their“ strong disapprobation" of the conduct were made to mind and heart and conscience. of those who attended the lectures or any So passed a year away—not without storms; lectures for religious discussion, and forbade for the Chundrika, the organ of the most bigoted the students from doing so in future. The Hindus, thundered against the school and conduct of the managers was denounced by for a time almost destroyed it; but though the English newspapers of Calcutta as inanathema followed anathema, the effect be tolerant and tyrannical, and it roused the came less and less, until the bootless thun- spirit of the youth to determined resistance. der was allowed to sleep. An examination | They would hold meetings and discuss of the school was held at the end of the religious questions as much as they liked. first twelvemonth; the boys were questioned New debating societies started up on all and cross-questioned, and their ready and sides. A whole crop of newspapers arose at correct answering showed how thorough had once. There was no love to Christianity ; been their training. Thenceforward the on the contrary, Hume's Essays and Paine's success of the school was assured; it steadily “ Age of Reason” had infected the minds of developed ; an able coadjutor, the Rev. W. most; but there was a strong and strength