A Sermon Preached on the Occasion of the Death of the Late Rev. Dr. Small, Of the Ministers of Stirling

Author(s): MacFarlan, Reverend Patrick


ON 16th JANUARY, 1825.
Printed by W. Collins & Co.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made
great lamentation over him.
WHEN the seven deacons were chosen to manage
the common fund of the church at Jerusalem,
it was not intended that men, eminently distinguished
as they were for spiritual gifts and
endowments, should be entirely withdrawn from
the work of the ministry. All that was aimed
at was, that the apostles should be relieved from
the burden of secular business; and it was the
earnest wish of the whole church, that in those
times, when the active service of every well--
qualified individual was required for the diffusion
of the Gospel, and the establishment of the
kingdom of Christ, the seven deacons should,
besides taking charge of the common fund belonging
to the church, devote the remainder of
their time and labour to the diffusion of Christianity.

This they accordingly did ; all of them appealing
to have devoted themselves, so far as
their other avocations permitted, to the work of
the ministry, or rather, to the duty of evangelists,
announcing the glad tidings of salvation to an
unbelieving world.
Stephen seems to have been pre-eminent
among the seven for spiritual endowments, and
for success in promulgating the Gospel. He
was "a man full of faith and of the Holy
Ghost,"* he was "full of faith and power;"†
words which evidently imply, not only that he
was distinguished for the supernatural gifts which
the Holy Ghost communicated to the primitive
believers; but that he was spiritually enlightened;
- that he had a deep and realizing persuasion
of the transcendent importance of divine
things, a firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and an assured hope of the glory to be revealed.
Thus endowed, he "did great wonders and miracles
among the people,"‡ and was one of the
means, in the hand of God, of multiplying the
number of disciples in Jerusalem greatly.
His success excited the hostility of the unbelieving
Jews. " There arose certain of the synagogue,
which is called the synagogue of the
*Acts vi. 5. † Acts vi. 5. ‡ Acts vi. 5.
Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with
Stephen."* But they failed of attaining the
object which they had in view: they were not
"able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by
which he spake." Instead of yielding to their
convictions, however, they were filled with deadly
enmity against him; and, like those who procured
the crucifixion of our Saviour, they "set
up false witnesses"† against Stephen, who accused
him before the council, or Jewish Sanhedrim,
of speaking blasphemous words against
Moses, and against God, against the temple and
the law.
Stephen made his defence with the resistless
wisdom and energy which he had already discovered;
and, after a large induction of facts
from the Old Testament history, for the purpose
of proving the inclination of unbelieving men to
refuse the word of God, and to oppose and persecute
his faithful servants, he concluded with
boldly and explicitly charging his accusers with
these crimes: "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised
in heart and ears, ye do always resist the
Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers
* Acts vi. 9. † Ver 13.
persecuted? and they have slain them which
showed before of the coming of the Just One;
of whom ye have been now the betrayers and
murderers: who have received the law by the
disposition of angels, and have not kept it."*
When the persecutors of Stephen heard these
things, their indignation was still more strongly
excited: "they were cut to the heart, and
gnashed upon him with their teeth." He, on
the other hand, aware of the danger which
threatened him, "full of the Holy Ghost, looked
up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of
God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of
God; and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened,
and the Son of man standing on the right
hand of God." The rage of his enemies was
now at its height: "they cried out with a loud
voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him
with one accord, and cast him out of the city,
and stoned him, calling upon God, and saying,
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, lay not
this sin to their charge. And when he had said
this, he fell asleep." It is added in the words of
our text, "And devout men carried Stephen to
his burial, and made great lamentation over
* Acts vii. 51, 52, 33.
Methinks all who were minutely acquainted
with your much-loved pastor, lately deceased,
must agree with me in opinion, that there is a
striking resemblance between his character and
that of the faithful servant of Christ, whose history
we have briefly recited. Laying out of
view all that was peculiar to the primitive believers
— the inspiration of Stephen — his miraculous
powers — the persecution with which he was
assailed — the manner of his death, and, perhaps,
the vision of celestial glory with which he was
favoured on that occasion, there was a striking
similarity in every particular. Like Stephen,
our dear departed brother was, in the highest
sense of the words, a partaker of the Holy Ghost;
and, as he passed through the painful bodily and
domestic afflictions which marked the last years
of his life, we may say truly, he was "filled
with the Spirit:" he was a man of prayer, and
spiritual desires, and heavenly affections, and
Christian love. Like Stephen, he was full of
the faith which overcometh the world; the faith
which, as the evidence of things not seen, and
the substance of things hoped for, enabled him
to look down, with comparative indifference, on
all the objects of this world's ambition, and
which, uniting him to Jesus, fitted him for the
active discharge of every duty, and the humble,
the patient endurance of every trial. Like him,
he devoted himself with unremitting ardour to
the work of the ministry — speaking, I may say
with truth, with a wisdom and energy which
none could successfully resist — a wisdom and
energy, the fruits not merely of a vigorous and
well-cultivated understanding, but of a mind
deeply impressed with the truth and unspeakable
importance of what he declared, and glowing
with ardent zeal for the glory of his Master, and
the best interests of his fellow-men. Like the
first Christian martyr, he was undaunted in the
discharge of ministerial duty, and eminently
faithful in the application of the truth to the
consciences of his hearers. Like him, he was
arrested in the midst of his career of usefulness;
and though, unlike him in the manner of his
death, he looked without dismay on the king of
terrors, and piercing by the eye of faith into the
glorious realities of an unseen world, he exulted,
like Stephen, in the prospect of heaven, with a
joy. which was unspeakable and full of glory.
Finally — he has been followed to the grave by
the deep-felt lamentations of all who are able to
appreciate his Christian worth and excellence,
and the importance of his services to the church
of Christ.
When a pious and faithful minister is taken
away in the vigour of life, there is a feeling of
regret awakened in the mind of almost every
individual. Some who forget that his best and
highest happiness is beyond the grave, lament
that he has been withdrawn so early from earthly
enjoyments, and from the honours which he
might have acquired in his professional studies
and pursuits. Others, looking chiefly to his family
relations, are grieved for the widow who
has lost her stay, and the children who have been
bereft of the guide of their youth: whilst a third
class, admiring the talents or amiable disposition,
the public spirit, and the active beneficence
by which he was distinguished, mourn his
early death as a severe and irreparable loss to the
community with which he was connected.
In the two last of these reasons of grief, the
Christian cordially sympathizes; and he feels
the more deeply for the loss which friends and
the public have sustained, because he takes a
spiritual view of the importance of a good man's
life to his family and to the world.
But there are causes of grief, on such an occasion
as this, peculiar to a Christian mind. It is
a remarkable fact, which is stated to us in our
text, that "devout men carried Stephen to his
burial, and made great lamentation over him,"
obviously because, in that persecuting period,
none but truly pious men had such respect and
love to Stephen, as to embolden them to pay to
him the last offices of friendship, and publicly to
bewail his death. Their reasons of grief were
peculiar to themselves. As Christian men, men
that feared God, they bewailed the early death
of this Master in Israel, fully aware of the unspeakable
loss which they themselves, and the
church at large, had sustained: and so strong
were their emotions, that at the very time
when persecution was dispersing their brethren
throughout the region of Judea and Samaria,
they could not restrain their grief, but made
great lamentation over their departed brother.
Following the idea suggested by the words of
our text, I shall abstain from attempting the
pathetic description of scenes which shall never
again be realized; and, instead of throwing away
the present opportunity of usefulness in such
vain and unprofitable effusions, I would act as
if the eye of my departed friend were upon me
— as if he looked down on his beloved flock, and
on him who now addresses them, with the elevation
and holy affection of a glorified spirit,
longing for the spiritual improvement of his surviving
brethren, and his much-loved and affectionate
people: or, rather, as if I heard the voice
of his divine Master and ours, warning his ministering
servants by the event which has recently
taken place, to preach the word — to feed the
flock of Christ — to endeavour to convert some
thoughtless sinner, or to edify and comfort the
church of God.
With these views, I propose, in what remains
of this discourse, in the first place, To consider
the reasons which real Christians have
peculiar to themselves, for lamenting the death
of pious and faithful ministers, adverting, as we
proceed, to the consolations by which their
grief ought to be assuaged ; and, in the second
place, To consider some of the important lessons
of a practical nature, which we are taught by
the late mournful, event. We proceed,
I. To consider the reasons which real Christians
have, peculiar to themselves, for lamenting
the death of pious and faithful ministers.
In the first place — By every such event, they
are deprived of the presence, conversation, and
advice of a Christian brother.
Christians are united together in the strongest
and most indissoluble of all bonds, the faith of
the Gospel—the bond of peace. They have
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through all,
and in them all. They have the same sentiments
in religion — the same deep impression of its unspeakable
importance — the same love to the
Redeemer, and the same great ends in view —
the advancement of the kingdom of Christ — the
complete redemption of their own souls.
Thus united in principle and conduct, the
very presence of a Christian brother, the knowledge
that he lives and walks with God in the
world, is encouraging to his fellow-Christians.
Each of them feels himself animated and strengthened
by the consciousness that he is not alone,
by the assurance that others taught by the same
word, and enlightened by the divine Spirit, have
embraced the consolations which he has experienced,
and walk in the good way in which he
humbly trusts he has found rest to his soul.
How much more pleasing and profitable the
conversation of Christian brethren, when, with
their Master present with them, though invisible,
their hearts burn within them while they
talk together of the sufferings of Christ, and the
glory into which he has entered on their behalf,
when they confess their faults one to another,
and entreat an interest in each other's prayers,
and encourage one another to come with new
earnestness, and firmer faith, to the throne of
grace, for mercy to pardon, and grace to help,
in the time of need! And if any such Christian
brother be a minister of Christ, mighty in the
Scriptures, and intimately acquainted with devices
of Satan and the deceitfulness of his own
heart, how instructive, and how profitable is his
conversation, and the advice, and the consolation
which he imparts to his Christian brethren!
It is not to them only, however, that these
are profitable for the advancement of the interests
of religion. All men feel their influence in
a greater or less degree. The piety of many a
private Christian is concealed from the observation
of the world: that of a Christian minister
stands prominently to view: nor is there, perhaps,
a more powerful or efficient instrument
than this, for maintaining the tone of Christian
morals, and preventing the ruin of a people. —
It is this which, in conjunction with the sentiments
which he is known to entertain, pervading
unconsciously the minds of other men, prevents
Christianity from being altogether despised, or
violently opposed in the world, restrains the licentiousness
of the ungodly, and compels men
to respect religion; and though not to love, yet
to profess their attachment to the Gospel of
Jesus. And it is the holy example of a Christian
minister, his separation from the world and
its pursuits, his visible sincerity and deep concern
in the business of his own salvation, and in
the work of the Lord committed to him, which,
through the blessing of Christ, give effect to his
ministrations, and make them the means of saving
the souls of his hearers: so that, whilst the
dry orthodoxy of an ungodly minister falls pointless
to the ground, or only serves to rivet the
infidelity, and increase the profligacy and impiety
of his hearers, the sincere and the godly
servant of Christ, by "manifestation of the
truth," in his example and his ministrations,
commends himself "to every man's conscience
in the sight of God." Christian ministers are
in an eminent sense "the light of the world —
the salt of the earth — a city set on a hill — a candle
set on a candlestick," giving light to all that
are in the house; men who so cause their light to
shine before others, that they seeing their good
works, glorify their Father who is in heaven.
Who that has felt the influence of a pious
minister's presence and conversation, in confirming
his own faith and promoting the salvation of
his own soul; or who that has understanding to
perceive the influence of his godly example, in
preserving the world from utter corruption, and
in giving effect to his ministrations as the means
of saving sinners, can fail to lament the death
of such a minister, as one of the severest and
most painful bereavements which the commupity
with which he was connected can sustain?
A pillar in the house of God has been removed
— a light of the church of Christ and of the
world has been extinguished. Though to some,
may I not say to all his Christian brethren? he
yet speaketh, and will ever speak to their delighted
remembrance; by many his holy conversation
and godliness will gradually be forgotten,
— they will cease to exert even their former
imperfect influence upon their minds; and
ungodly men, continuing impenitent and unbelieving,
will sink into perdition, unawakened and
unsanctified by the remembrance of his faith,
and piety, and holiness,
We are not forbid to mourn, on occasions like
these. If we did not mourn, we should discover
a sinful insensibility to our own best interests,
and to the present and eternal welfare of our
fellow-men. But we ought not to sorrow, "even
as others who have no hope." So far as our
departed brethren are concerned, there is cause
for unmingled joy and triumph. They have
evinced, by the sane tity of their lives, and, perhaps,
(for this is not always the privilege of dying
believers,) by their exultation and hope in
death, that they were united to Jesus, and are
numbered with those whom God "will bring
with him." They have been released from all
their sorrows and imperfections on earth, and
admitted into unmingled joy and unspotted holiness
in heaven. They do not cease to glorify
and serve God: they are only removed from
being pillars in the house of God upon earth, to
be pillars in his temple in heaven; from shining
with a comparatively feeble, and sometimes obscured
lustre on earth, to shine in all the brightness
of celestial glory in heaven. And when
the resurrection-day shall arrive, their once
corruptible bodies shall be raised incorruptible,
and "death shall be swallowed up of life."
"Wherefore let us comfort one another with
these words."
In the second place — By the death of pious
ministers, we are deprived of the benefit of their
The preaching of the word is the chief instrument
which God. has been pleased to employ in
every age for converting sinners, and for edifying
the church of Christ; and it is evidently his
will that an order of men should be set apart,
who should give themselves "wholly to these
things," to reading, to exhortation, to teaching,
that their profiting may appear to all — who
should beseech men to be reconciled to God,
who should feed the flock of Christ, giving to
"every man his portion of food in due season."'
"Who is sufficient for these things?" After.
the utmost study and preparation, how difficult
is it even for truly pious and able men, rightly
to divide the word of truth ! How difficult to discover
the best way of bringing the truth to bear
upon the consciences of their hearers, to awaken
them from their slumbers, to drive them from
their refuges of lies, and to lead them to Christ
for wisdom, and righteousness, and strength!
How difficult to administer consolation to all
the varieties of spiritual distress which may be
presented to our view, and to give suitable direction
and advice to the tempted disciple of
Jesus! How difficult to give instruction and
support to the sick and the dying, without soothing
the unbelieving with false hopes, or agitating
and perplexing the souls of believers by withholding
from them the consolations of the Gospel
of Jesus!
To perform these various duties with any measure
of wisdom and success requires the experience
of years, and, after all, they are far from being
wisely or perfectly performed. But we can
scarcely imagine a more evident token of the
goodness of God to a parish or congregation,
than when he permits a faithful minister to continue
among them to a good old age, growing in
grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and
Saviour, Jesus Christ; in a minute acquaintance
with the truths of the Gospel, and the experience
of their power in his own heart, and in the
ability to explain, illustrate, and enforce them
for the conversion and edification of his hearers;
sanctified and made humble by the afflictions
and temptations which he has endured; a witness
to the faithfulness and mercy of the God of
salvation, speaking to each individual from his
own experience, and spending the vigour of his
life, and the last remnant of his days, in testifying
the Gospel of the grace of God.
On the other hand, what cause has a Christian
people for deep humiliation and sorrow, when a
minister of zeal, and talents, and distinguished
fidelity, is cut off in the commencement of his
career! How much more, when one is taken
away in the flower of his days, matured in spiritual
understanding and knowledge, and eminently
fitted to be useful in the church of Christ;
purified and made spiritual by painful and long--
continued afflictions, and conciliating the respect
even of the enemies of religion, and the cordial
attachment of the people committed to his care!
This is a dark and mysterious dispensation, not
unfrequently realized in the history of providence:
and it is rendered doubly afflictive by
the fearful uncertainty whether, with the purest
intentions on the part of those whose right it is
to fill up the vacancy, it may be worthily supplied.
The death of Stephen must have appeared
an inexplicable mystery to the primitive believers.
A man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,
pre-eminent among his fellow-labourers for ministerial
gifts and endowments, and probably for
success in the work of an evangelist, had been
taken away. What a loss to the church! what
hope could the believers cherish that it would
be speedily repaired? It might be the will of
God to raise up, and supernaturally to endow
another individual, and to make him equal to
Stephen, and perhaps superior to him. But
they had no assurance of this, no gracious premonition
that Saul of Tarsus, the chief persecutor
of Stephen, should soon after be selected to
supply his place, and to surpass him, at least in
the success of his endeavours for the diffusion of
the Gospel. The death of this holy martyr bore
every mark of the divine displeasure, and awakened
the primitive Christians to mourning, and
lamentation, and sorrow.
But the Lord reigneth, and he will accomplish
all his pleasure. Every minister of Christ, whether,
like Stephen, he be taken away in the beginning
of his labours, or come down, like Paul,
"as a shock of corn cometh, in his season,"
has gathered unto the Saviour all whom it is the
will of God to gather by his means. It has
been justly, though perhaps quaintly remarked,
that till he has done this, he is immortal: and
all the might of persecuting foes, or of wasting
and enfeebling disease, shall assail him in vain.
If he die in early life, his death, and the state of
his mind in the prospect of eternity, may, by
the divine blessing, make an impression on
his flock, which his holy life and faithful ministrations
have failed to produce; so that even
in this world the mystery of providence may be
in part unravelled, and we may have cause to
exclaim, "Oh the depth of the riches, both of
the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable
are his judgments, and his ways past
finding out!"
We remark, in the last place, That Christians
have an additional reason for lamenting the death
of pious ministers, if they have been peculiarly
skilful in defending and promoting the cause of
The Gospel has always had to contend with
open or with secret enemies; with men who
have denied its divine authority, or the truth of
its distinguishing doctrines; or with men who,
professing to be the friends of religion, have
maintained opinions, and supported measures,
tending to diminish the influence of Christianity,
and to obstruct its progress. It is therefore
of the last importance, that infidelity should be
opposed by solid and convincing arguments, —
that false doctrine should be ably refuted, and
that the external form and institutions of a
church, founded on the word of God, and well
fitted for maintaining and promoting true religion,
should be vigilantly guarded and preserved.

"Now there are diversities of gifts," though
it is the same spirit who works in the souls of all
true believers: and many a one who preaches
the Gospel of Christ, with no small measure of
talent and success, has not the penetration nor
the skill necessary for exposing the sophistical
reasoning and inconclusive arguments of the ingenious
infidel, or for setting in a clear and convincing
light the evidences for the truth of
Christianity, or for demonstrating the unscriptural
nature, and dangerous tendency of false
doctrine; or the information, the courage, and
the self-possession necessary for withstanding
the secret enemies of the Gospel, and for counteracting
those measures which undermine the
purity of faith and manners, as professed in the
church of Christ.
We have cause for gratitude and rejoicing,
when the great Head of the Church raises up
individuals, who add to their ministerial endowments
the gifts and qualifications to which we
have now referred; and in proportion to the
rare occurrence of these, we have reason to lament
when such zealous defenders of Christianity
are taken away. Under the feeling of our
destitution, we may exclaim with the Psalmist,
"Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth: the
faithful fail from among the children of men."
The soldier of Jesus Christ, who fought the
battles of the Lord against the enemies of the
cross, the watchman who stood on the towers of
Zion, and gave notice of the approach of the
enemy, the champion who defended her bulwarks,
or who, marching from her gates, carried
his victorious arms into the camp of the enemy,
has been cut off in the unsearchable providence
of God, and, whilst we lament the loss which
we have sustained, we ought to be strongly impressed
with the admonition, "Cease ye from
man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein
is he to be accounted of?"
Having stated some of the reasons which real
Christians have for lamenting the death of pious
and faithful ministers, we proceed,
II. To point out and illustrate a few of the
practical lessons which we are taught by the late
mournful event.
It is not enough to grieve, and gradually to
forget our sorrows; nay, it is not enough to
grieve and to be comforted. There is no sorrow
acceptable or allowed in the sight of God, which
passes from our minds without leaving any good
fruit, or, without earnest endeavours on our part,
that it may produce the fruits of righteousness:
and it is when the heart is softened by the death
of friends, or of beloved and faithful pastors,
that we are to seek to have those impressions
made upon our minds which shall enable us afterwards
to say, that it has been good for us
that we have been afflicted.
There is nothing of which we are more powerfully
reminded, by the late mournful event, than
our absolute dependence on God for our Christian
privileges and endowments, and the duty of
cultivating a feeling of dependence on Him for
these things.
When death has deprived us of one, whose
apparent health and bodily vigour, but a few
years ago, afforded what we call the fair prospect
of a long continuance of life, no laboured
argument is required to prove, that the life of
our Christian brethren and pastors is entirely
dependent on the providence of God. We are
no less forcibly reminded, by the late mournful
event, that God is sovereign in all his dispensations,
and that it is his will to take from us our
Christian friends and endeared pastors, when, in
our estimation, it is of the utmost importance
for his glory, and the good of his church, that
they should be permitted to remain. There is
no spiritual privilege or enjoyment, of the continuance
of which, for any definite period, we
can have any assurance. For reasons which we
cannot comprehend, they may be taken away
one after another, and we may be left desolate
and forlorn, without a Christian friend to countenance
and support us, and without an affectionate
faithful pastor to feed our souls with the
bread of life, and to guide us onward to the
kingdom of heaven.
It is far more easy to be convinced of the
truth of these assertions, than to cultivate the
feeling of dependence on God which they ought
to awaken in our minds. We acknowledge that
we are entirely dependent on Him; but the remembrance
of our dependence makes neither a
very deep nor a lasting impression. Yet it is
obviously our duty to confess, that from Him
cometh down every good and perfect gift — that
we enjoy all our religious privileges and means
of improvement, through his mercy and forbearance,
and that when it seems good to Him they
may be taken away — to confess our unspeakable
obligations for divine mercies, for privileges
enjoyed in time past, and to show the gratitude
of our hearts for those which we are permitted
to retain, by using them with unceasing diligence
for his glory, and the eternal welfare of
our souls.
To the people of this parish and congregation,
these admonitions ought to come home with peculiar
force. Notwithstanding the painful bereavement
which you have sustained, your opportunities
of spiritual improvement are greater
and more valuable, than, in the hearing of your
surviving pastor, I am at liberty to express.
Long may he be preserved, and continued among
you, declaring with the earnestness, affection,
and fidelity for which he is so conspicuous, and
from his own deep-Mt experience, the truth as
it is in Jesus. But taught by the late afflictive
dispensation, that the ministers of Christ are
"earthen vessels," see that you improve with
increasing diligence the privileges which you
now enjoy. Wait with constancy on the ministrations
of the Gospel — receive with meekness
and earnest desire the word of salvation — seek
to be Christians indeed, and to make continual
progress in your preparation for the kingdom of
heaven: and let your fervent supplications be
presented to Him who has the hearts of all men
in his hand, and on whose good pleasure you
entirely depend, that He would give you another
pastor after his own heart, "who shall feed
you with knowledge and understanding."
"Remember them who have had the rule over
you, who have spoken unto you the word of
God, whose faith follow, considering the end of
their conversation." The issue of a pious minister's
conversation, so far as it respects himself,
is the salvation of his own soul, the full enjoyment
of eternal life and happiness in heaven: as
it respects others, it is the eternal salvation of
them that hear him. Do we mourn a deceased
brother, a beloved and a faithful pastor, because
we are deprived of the benefit of his holy example
and impressive ministrations? Let us evince
the sincerity, and the sacredness of our grief, by
endeavouring to keep alive in our minds the impressions
which his example and ministrations
have produced — let us pray that his lamented
death may add to the force of these impressions,
and make them permanent in our hearts; and
let us imitate his faith, that we may follow him
also in receiving the end of our faith, even the
salvation of our souls.
In the last place, Awakened by the late mournful
event to new and more active exertions, let
us strive, every one of us, according to his opportunities,
to promote the interests of religion
in the world.
When Stephen was put to death, his friends
and fellow-labourers were not so stunned and
paralyzed by the blow, as to renounce in despair
the diffusion of the Gospel. No: they made
great lamentation over him; but they appear to
have felt his death, not as a discouragement,
but rather as an excitement to continued, vigorous
exertion. The apostles remained at Jerusalem
preaching the word, and the rest of the
disciples dispersed throughout the neighbouring
provinces, went every where also preaching the
word. A labourer, a distinguished labourer in
the vineyard, had been taken away: the more
eminent his endowments, the louder was the call
to them to increase their exertions, that they
might thereby supply his place.
It is thus that we ought to feel and act on the
present occasion. To us who commenced our
course of ministerial labour at the same time
with our departed brother, or a little before him,.
his death speaks a lesson which we ought daily
to remember. It calls us to redeem the time
which we may have lost — to strive to win souls
to Christ — to warn every man, and to exhort
every man, "that we may present every man
perfect in Christ Jesus" — to work the work of
God while it is day, remembering that time is
short, and that "the night cometh when no
man can work," — to do whatsoever our hands
find to do, with all our might, remembering, that
"there is no work, nor device, nor wisdom, in
the grave," whither we go.
To all, the admonition ought to come home
with power. The humblest believer, by his example,
and conversation, and charity, and patience,
and active exertions, has it in his power
to glorify God, by promoting the interests of
religion in the circle in which he moves; and
some have far greater opportunities of usefulness
than others. "Ye are bought with a price:
therefore, glorify God in your bodies and spirits,
which are his." Endeavour to feel your obligations,
and to feel them habitually: and, instead
of being discouraged by the death of faithful,
and zealous, and able ministers, seek to promote
the cause which they had so deeply at heart,
trusting in the grace and blessing of Him, who
can render the exertions of the feeblest of his
servants the means of promoting his glory, and
establishing the kingdom of Christ in the world.
I cannot conclude, without again bearing my
testimony to the Christian worth, and ministerial
fidelity of your departed pastor; not in the spirit
of vain and fulsome eulogy, which no man disapproved
more strongly than lie, nor, I trust,
greatly blinded by the partiality of friendship,
but with all sincerity, grateful to God for what
he was, and magnifying the grace of God in him.
— He was naturally a man of a vigorous and ardent
mind, which was cultivated by a liberal
education, in which he devoted himself, with
much success, to literary and scientific pursuits.
In early life, he was brought under deep impressions
of religion, and, though fitted for rising to
eminence in more lucrative professions, he determined
to give himself to the office of the ministry.
As the intimate friend and companion
of his youthful years, I can bear witness to the
ardour with which he engaged in the study of
the Scriptures, and in the acquisition of the
knowledge connected with the profession which
he had chosen : and the distinguished ability
with which he illustrated the truths of the Gospel,
when he became a preacher and a parish
minister — the comprehensive view which he took
of every subject which he handled, whether
it belonged to Christian doctrine or to Christian
morals — the judicious arrangement of his
thoughts, his ingenious explanation of difficult
passages, and his clear and luminous illustrations
— with the solemnity, the fidelity, and the affection,
with which he applied his instructions to
the consciences of his hearers, constituted him,
if not one of the most brilliant, certainly one
of the most solid, and instructive, and useful
preachers of our age and nation.
Of his private ministrations, many of you are
better able to judge than I can be. Yet I am
confident that I draw no unreal picture, when I
say, that perhaps no minister was ever more distinguished
for condescension to the poor and
the ignorant of his flock; for patience in instructing
the weak, and admonishing and reproving
the ungodly; and for assiduity, when
health permitted him, in the discharge of all the
duties of the pastoral office.
Nor will I shrink from mentioning his conduct
in church courts, though, on this particular,
some now hearing me may differ with me in
opinion. Of his masterly talents in these assemblies,
there is, I believe, but one sentiment; of
his honesty and integrity in the measures which
he advised or supported, all men are equally persuaded.
He held those views of the constitution
and government of our Church, which many
wise and good men deem the only sound and
scriptural opinions on these subjects; he supported
them with manly firmness, and uniform
consistency, with an utter, abhorrence of all
cunning and worldly policy, and with a candour
and sincerity, which his most decided opponents
cannot and will not refuse to acknowledge.
To say of his dispositions and external deportment,
that they were correct, were to give a
very defective view of them. In the qualified
sense in which the words must be used of every
human being, "he walked in all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blameless."
His was a life of faith in the Son of God: he
walked with God, he lived to God, and to Him
who died for him. The ruling passions of his
heart were subdued by the all-powerful influence
of the grace of Christ. He was humble, deeply
convinced of his imperfections, and ever ready
to confess them. Though conscious of his intellectual
superiority, and placing a sober confidence
in his own talents and attainments, there
was nothing in him haughty, or supercilious, or
overbearing. He was wise and provident in his
worldly arrangements: but I never knew a man
more indifferent to the acquisition of wealth,
and of worldly pre-eminence and distinction.
He was almost entirely free from worldly ambition,
and was willing to be engaged in the service
of his Master wherever he might be pleased
to cast his lot. He was a lover of all good men,
and frank and sincere in his professions of attachment
; delighting to converse with those
who feared the Lord, and deriving peculiar refreshment
and pleasure from the conversation of
the youthful disciples of the Saviour. He rejoiced
in the success of the Gospel: he was a
zealous promoter of religious and benevolent institutions,
and was liberal of his money, both in
public and private charity. He was plain, unaffected,
and without ostentation: he was mild
under the strongest provocations, and never harboured
resentment against those who injured
Of his virtues in private life, of his gentleness
and affection, and the warmth and steadiness of
his friendship, I dare not trust .myself to speak.
They are well known to many.
And what shall I say of his patience under
domestic bereavements and long-continued bodily
disease and infirmity — of the fixed, yet fearless
eye with which he looked into an awful eternity,
when he received, years before his death,
the solemn warning of his approaching dissolution
— of the tranquillity with which he often told
us, that the time of his departure was not far
distant — of the unwearied diligence of his preparation
for the change which awaited him, and
the progress which he evidently made in meetness
for heaven — of the faith and joy of his soul,
while contemplating his immediate dissolution,
and of his triumphant entrance into the mansions
of glory?
That my deceased friend and brother was
without imperfection, even in the last and purest
days of his life, I dare not affirm. But how
seldom can a minister of Christ, from the pulpit,
the chair of truth, speak of one adorned with
so many excellent qualities, and having so few
blemishes or defects, confidently appealing to a
numerous congregation for the truth of what he
affirms? What abundant cause of gratitude to
God, and of joy and consolation to ourselves!
How strong the excitement which the remembrance
of the grace of God in him ought to produce,
to awake from slothfulness, and to be
"followers of those who, through faith and patience,
are now inheriting the promises," that we
may "die the death of the righteous, and that
our latter end may be like his!"
THE foregoing Sermon, preached in the East Church of
Stirling, was written without any view to publication. It is
printed as a memorial of a much-loved friend, and as a tribute
of respect to his virtues, as a minister and a private
Christian. The following sketch of his character, inserted
in No. 237 of the Stirling Journal, includes a few particulars
which were omitted in the concluding paragraphs of the
Sermon, and is subjoined for the sake of those who wish to
have a more full and extended view of his talents and acquirements.

"The opinion of all classes in this town and neighbourhood,
respecting the character and talents of this much--
lamented clergyman, has been so strongly and unanimously
expressed in private conversation, that it seems almost superfluous
for us to say one word upon the subject. Yet we
think it due to the memory of that most excellent man, to
bear a public testimony to his virtues and eminent endowments,
and to record in the pages, (we are grieved to say
the fleeting pages) of our Journal, what is the universal
sentiment with regard to him.
"His intellectual endowments were of a very superior
order. He had an uncommonly quick apprehension, and
clear conception of every subject to which he turned his
thoughts, and grasped the ideas which were presented to
him, with a remarkably vigorous and comprehensive mind.
Ile separated all that was extrinsic of the subject, from the
subject itself; and with a mind disciplined by the successful
pursuit of the mathematical sciences, reasoned with the
greatest distinctness and accuracy. His style was manly
and vigorous, entirely free from false ornament, and never
turgid nor declamatory. It conveyed the ideas which he
meant to express, with a clearness and conciseness which
could scarcely be surpassed, and which, even when he failed
to convince, made a powerful impression on every mind.
"He was not less distinguished by the qualities of his heart.
He was naturally affectionate: and the sanctifying influence
of the Gospel of Christ, which he had experienced from his
early years, strengthened and purified his kind affections —
subdued and controlled every feeling and principle inconsistent
with them, and procured for him the fond attachment
of all who had the happiness of his intimate acquaintance.
He was gentle in his manners, ardent and steady in his
friendship, and peculiarly tender in the intimate and endearing
relations of life. He delighted in every opportunity of
doing good; he took a lively interest in the distresses of
others; and, by his consolation, encouragement, advice, and
pecuniary assistance, endeavoured to relieve or alleviate
"He was, in the highest sense of the word, a Christian, and
a minister of the Gospel; and he never forgot the conduct
becoming his profession. He was cheerful, and often playful
in his conversation; but he had no levity: and when occasion
required, checked with firmness and dignity every
approach to profaneness in other men. He was cordially
devoted to the duties of his office; his time and thoughts
were consecrated to them. No secular pursuits — no officious
meddling with political intrigue, tarnished the lustre of
his priestly character — he was altogether a minister of
Christ. And when, in his pulpit ministrations, he spoke
with the solemnity and awful seriousness, which were the
distinguishing characteristics of his manner of preaching, he
was felt by his hearers, not as one acting a part in a public
exhibition, but as carrying to the pulpit, and presenting to
their consciences, the gravity and sincerity which he carried
about with him, in all his intercourse with the members of
his flock.
"No man was more averse than he was to contention and
strife. But the clearness of his conceptions, and the soundness
of his judgment, fitted him in a peculiar manner for
taking an active share in the proceedings of our ecclesiastical
courts. He was conscious of this, and from a sense of
duty, he did not decline the part which Providence seemed
to have assigned to him. When any difference of opinion
arose, he was pre-eminent for the distinctness of his statements
— his knowledge of the constitution and laws of our
church — his perfect self-possession — the readiness with
which he discovered, and the good temper with which he
exposed the false arguments of his opponents. He was
particularly distinguished for his acquaintance with the forms
of procedure in ecclesiastical matters. And, we are well
informed, that in the church courts, of which he was a constituent
member before his translation to Stirling, as well as
in those with which he was connected at the time of his
death, he won the respect, in some examples, the sincere
attachment of those who did not coincide with him in sentiment,
or who were decidedly opposed to him.
"In every view which we can take of this truly respectable
and good man, we heartily unite with our fellow-citizens,
and the country at large, in lamenting his death, as an irreparable
loss to his family, to his parish, and to the church of
Christ; a loss, alleviated only by pleasing reflections on his
holy life, and peaceful and happy, nay, we may say with
perfect truth, triumphant death. And it is our earnest wish
and prayer, that the patrons of the vacant charge, disposed,
as we believe them to be, to make a wise and prudent
choice, may be enabled to supply the vacancy which has
occurred, with one similar in character, if not equal in talents,
to him whose early death we so deeply deplore." —
Stirling Journal.
Printed by W. Co'Rini & Co.


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A Sermon Preached on the Occasion of the Death of the Late Rev. Dr. Small, Of the Ministers of Stirling. 2019. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved January 2019, from

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A Sermon Preached on the Occasion of the Death of the Late Rev. Dr. Small, Of the Ministers of Stirling

Document Information

Document ID 681
Title A Sermon Preached on the Occasion of the Death of the Late Rev. Dr. Small, Of the Ministers of Stirling
Year group 1800-1850
Genre Religious prose
Year of publication 1825
Publisher Chalmers and Collins
Place of publication Glasgow
Wordcount 7656

Author information: MacFarlan, Reverend Patrick

Author ID 467
Title Reverend
Forenames Patrick
Surname MacFarlan
Gender Male
Occupation Minister
Education University