Pen-Picture of Dr.Candlish

The Rev. Alexander Gregory of Anstruther has noted some reminiscences of Dr. Candlish, embracing the period at which we have now arrived, although extending before and after it. I record them here, at the beginning of 1844, almost entire, as I have received them.
Memorials of Robert Smith Candlish D.D. by Wm. Wilson D.D.

"I first became acquainted with Dr. Candlish in the winter of 1840-41, when I was attending the lectures of Dr. Chalmers during my last session at the Divinity Hall. As I was a stranger in Edinburgh, Dr. Candlish most kindly gave me permission to sit in his family pew any time I wished to worship in his church, and although I usually heard the venerable Dr. Gordon of the High Church, I often availed myself of the privilege, which I valued highly, of hearing the younger and more energetic minister of St. George's.

Dr. Candlish allowed me also to see him not unfrequently in private, when the new views regarding faith, the atonement, the work of the Spirit and election, sometimes formed topics of conversation. On this subject I remember he spoke strongly in favour of the ‘fiducial' element in faith, - making use of that expression, - and regarding the difficulties connected with God's sovereignty, the liberty of man, and the freeness of the gospel, his remark was, "The question is, Where to place the nodus?"

In the summer of 1841, I was one of six students in Divinity who were examined by the Presbytery of Edinburgh with a view to being licensed to preach the gospel. Dr. Gordon and Dr. Candlish were among the examiners; and a very slight circumstance, which attracted my notice even amidst the anxieties of an examination, still dwells in my memory as characteristic of the two men. The room at one side was entered by what are called folding-doors. Dr. Candlish had entered by opening one of the folds, but on trying to shut it, he failed. In his quick nervous way he tried again and again, increasing the energy of his efforts at every attempt, - in vain. At last he gave it up, whereupon Dr. Gordon rose from his seat with his usual modest dignity, and advancing slowly towards the door, raised one of hands and pressed with it the higher part of the refractory fold, while with the other he shut the door at once in the quietest manner, and then slowly and with the utmost gravity returned to his seat.

"The examination was partly in writing, and extended over two days. This was quite new, being intended to make the Presbytery's discharge of this duty more of a reality than it formerly been, and indeed forming the germ which, in the end developed into our Examination-Board system. We were the first set of students examined on the improved method, which Dr. Candlish was understood to have suggested. At all events took a leading part in the examination; and he was a capital examiner; there was none of the haste and impatience of folding-door incident; all was calmness, deliberation, and considerate allowance for us, while he was at the same time both suggestive and appreciative. He and the other examiners seemed take the most lively interest in their work ; and, if I may judge by my own feelings, we on our part enjoyed it thoroughly. One of the six students was my old school-fellow at the Elgin Academy, George Innes, who afterwards became the Free Church Minister of Canobie, and I may say the martyr of Canobie. He and I belonged to the north of Scotland, and had previously studied at Aberdeen; the other four belonged to the south; and it is a curious circumstance that George and I, who were at first regared as Moderates, were the only two out of the six who came out in the Disruption; the other four, who were professed Evangelicals, stayed in.

After I was licensed I had much kindness from Dr. Candlish - kindness which continued for a course of years, and of which I cherish a lively and grateful recollection. The first Sabbath in which I officiated in Edinburgh, I preached by his request in his Church, - Old St. George's. He took a great interest in my settlement in Roxburgh Church: he introduced me to my flock, preaching from 2 Cor. v. 11. His solemn and earnest tones still sound in my ears, and I remember that the last words of his address to the congregation, in kind consideration for me, were these - Let no man despise his youth. He came all the way from his home in the north side of Edinburgh to my session-house in the south side, on a dark night, to be present with me at my first meeting with young communicants, and, to commence the work of examining and instructing them.

I remember two walks which I had with him about that time, one in the country in company with Dr. Gordon, and another down Leith Walk in company with Dr. Cunningham. On both occasions the chief subject of conversation was the impending Disruption; and he showed the greatest interest about the removal of any difficulties which occurred to me in regard to those final steps which the non-intrusion party were taking preparatory to that event. On the day on which it at length took place, I had the privilege of walking up alone with him from the hall at Canonmills, after we had signed the Deed of Demission, to his own house; and he expressed to me in earnest terms the relief and happiness he felt at that termination to the long controversy in which his talents and eloquence had done so noble service, and his joyful anticipation of the great blessing which it would be to Scotland by the free preaching of the gospel in every part of the country.

After the Disruption Dr. Candlish thought that, owing to the great demand which there was for ministers, I ought to accept a call from some congregation which was larger than the one which I had in Edinburgh, and he made great efforts to bring me over to his opinion. But when he saw that I was decided against leaving my congregation in their difficulties, he acted in the most generous manner. ‘I could understand your chivalry,' he said to me one day, ‘if there was a plethora of preachers'; and with no other reflection on me than that, he exerted himself in every way to help me in what he knew to be a great struggle. He preached at the opening of my new church; he more than once preached an evening sermon for some special purpose; and he stirred up in his own congregation such a lively interest in my church and school, that large sums were again and again most kindly contributed by them towards reducing our debt and defraying our school expenses. Dr. Candlish delighted in doing kindnesses. His generous nature led him to yield readily to requests for his services, and it has been said that sometimes, in consequence of this, he made more engagements than he could fufill. He gave me many promises of help in a variety of ways, but never one which he did not keep.

Speaking of the generosity of his nature, I was often struck by the quickness and heartiness with which it responded to any appeal made to it; it awoke and kindled at the slightest touch. At the time of the temporary coldness between him and Dr Cunningham, Dr. Candlish and I happened to address a meeting in St. Andrews, on the subject of education, I think. I had not seen Dr. Candlish for some time; and in the course of my speech: I ventured to remark on the beautiful sight which we had all once enjoyed so much, of our two great champions standing aud fighting side by aide, and the joy which it would give us to see them standing side by side again as of old. I spoke first, Dr. Candlish followed, and in the very first words which he uttered he referred to the sentiments which I had expressed, and declared his cordial concurrence in them. On a different occasion, the same thing appeared in another way. In one of the most eloquent speech of his later years in the General Assembly he was very severe on one or two parties on the other side of the debate. When he sat down, happening to be next him I took the liberty of remarking on the exceeding severity of his speech, which, in other respects, I liked extremely. At once he responded, by saying eagerly, t he would not have been so hard on them had it not been for a certain circumstance which he mentioned.

"Admirable practical logician," Professor Macdougal whispered to me at the close of one of Dr. Candlish's early speeches, to which we had been listening while standing in the crowd. And while Dr. Candlish surpassed most men in unravelling sophistries, conducting a subtle argument in a powerfully convincing manner he was distinguished also by a spirituality of mind, which, at the same time that his genius lighted up every subject which it touched, gave to his eloquence, both in speeches and sermons, a lofty tone and a peculiar power. Associated with him for many years in the Education Committee, of which he was convener, I had opportunities of seeing how this quality appeared in business matters for which I thought he had a peculiar talent. He always offered a short prayer at the commencement of our meetings, as is usual in such cases; and however brief that opening prayer was,the expression ‘the godly upbringing of the young' was almost invariably in it, uttered in tones of impressive earnestness, as indicating the great object of the educational efforts of our Church. A most earnest and devoted spirit was also visible in all his deliberations and plans connected with education; and the patience with which he persevered for years, working that scheme amidst the greatest difficulties and discouragements, never bating heart or hope, was most wonderfnl - a patience which I believe was inspired and sustained by his high aims, and by a conviction that great and sacred interests were involved.

I had the misfortune once to differ from him in that committee. I thought there was some danger of too large a part of our funds going to the higher class of schools, including Normal Schools, in proportion to what was paid to the teachers of common schools over the country. In consequence of this he wrote a letter to me on the subject, which was distinguished by the finest feeling, while vigorously arguing his view of the matter. I need not say that we continued to co-operate in the most cordial manner in the work of the committee. Some years after, when I had less active connection with it, a circular was sent to ministers requesting their special services in aid of the scheme. The copy sent to me came from Dr. Candlish's own hand, with this bit of pleasantry in it - ‘For auld lang syne you must help in this,' written by him on the top of the page.

A pleasing candour sometimes delighted me in Dr. Candlish. Coming to the word ‘solicitous' on one occasion, he said to me, ‘Do you know that's a word I always feel inclined to write with a double l?' I said, ‘So do I; and do you know the reason? ‘No, he said. I replied; ‘I think I can tell you. The edition of Virgil which I used had the corresponding word in Latin spelt with two l s; and I have no doubt it was the same with yours. He was amused with this classical explanation of a faulty orthography.

Though he was not a man of great height or large build, yet Dr. Candlish had a strong physique. When I took hold of the upper part of his arm I found its girth surprisingly great and square and muscular; it felt like a solid bar of iron. A strong nervous system and an iron frame sustained his irrepressible energy. I remember once he met with a slight accident, which injured a foot. On going to see him I found him stretched on a sofa, but partially sitting up. There was nothing like a murmur or complaint - the very opposite of that. But both body and mind seemed to chafe against the irksome restraint imposed by the pained foot, which he could not venture to move from one spot and which consequently tied him to the sofa. I could compare him to nothing but a chained eagle.
On one occasion he astonished me in another way. By invitation I spent a pleasant time with him at North Berwick in the summer of 1851, and, along with part of his family and some friends, we paid a visit to the Bass Rock. Landing on its south side, we ascended the slope, looking into the cells of the persecuted Covenanters on our way, till we came to the summit, across which we walked to the north side of the great crag, where it descended perpendicularly to the sea. I advanced towards the edge. On this Dr. Candlish said, ‘You don' t mean to go there; I couldn't do that;' and drawing back, he looked on with some alarm, while I, with the huge sea-birds whirling and screaming about me, on the brink of the precipice looking down to the weltering deep hundreds of feet below. It was certainly a discovery to me that I could do anything which he shrank from, who seemed to have nerve and self-possession equal to any daring. And he no doubt had a strong head; yet perhaps, after all, it was a piece of fool-hardiness to make such a use of it.

With great capacity for work, Dr. Candlish had also a versatility of mind which turned with lively and sanguine interest the most unlikely subjects of speculation. This appeared not only in connection with such writings as those of Morell and Maurice but also on the first excitement occasioned by biology and mesmerism some years ago. He read everything he could find on subject, and thoroughly informed himself upon it. Happening to dine with him one day at that time, and sitting near him at table, he expressed to me in a very earnest manner his sense the importance of the experiments which had been made, and on the possibility of these yet throwing light on some of the mysteries of mind and spirit. Dr. Cunningham was one of the company, and, on Dr. Candlish trying to draw him into conversation on that subject, I was amused at the way in which the difference between the two men appeared. Dr. Cunningham scarcely responded to Dr. Candlish's remark. It was plain he had not given a thought to the subject. Taken up with what was solid and clearly ascertained, like the accurate and deeply-read theologian which he was, he almost seemed offended at being supposed to know or care anything about such a matter. What was a subject of the keenest interest to the one was an object of something like contempt to the other. So very differently constituted were these two powerful minds.
Dr. Candlish was kind enough to preach at the opening of my new church at Anstruther in 1859. His visit recalled a former one on the eve of the Disruption, when the object of his coming was to deliver an address on the non-intrusion controversy. In consequence of an accident in Largo Bay, which put his life in danger for a short time, he came to Anstruther in a very weak state. His bedroom, to which he was confined, was incurably smoky, so that he was nearly suffocated; as he jocularly said, he was in danger from water at Largo and from fire at Anstruther. In his visit to me in 1859 everything went well. He preached eloquently from Isaiah ii. 5, 8, dwelling chiefly on the Divine righteousness in awful majesty going before God 's salvation; and when a heavy calamity, a few months afterwards, fell upon a part of our community, and prepared the way for a great religious awakening, his solemn and powerful words were recalled to mind, and seemed to us, looking back, like the unfolding of a prophet's roll.

One of the last times I saw him was at the Perth Railway Station, when he told me he was passing from Aberdeen to Crieff on visits to members of his family. I had occasion to inquire about a Bible Class in connection with his congregation for two of my sons who were then in Edinburgh. He took the greatest pains to give the desired information, hurrying after me a great way along the platform to add something which he had forgotten at first. His thoughtful and loving interest in those nearest to himself as a father sometimes appeared in unexpected ways for one so engrossed with work of all kinds. Speaking of the best season for ministers holidays, he told me more than once that he preferred the later months of autumn for going to the country with his family, because, he said - and he seemed to attach great importance to it - the shorter day secured the gathering of the family together for some time each evening.

I have referred to his spirituality of mind. It seemed to me to have increased with his advancing years. I was much struck with the evidence of this in the last public prayer which I heard him offer. Every passage of Scripture bearing on the particular subject of supplication appeared to be present to his thoughts, giving form and expression to his fervent petitions in the most devout, appropriate, and beautiful manner.
He was a fine spirit, unique in many respects, and his genius, wisdom, zeal, and eloquence have left us a large legacy of good, and a large debt of gratitude and responsibility.

(From Wm.Wilson's "Memorials of Robert Candlish")

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