Essay and Memoir on Robert Flockhart
From "Autobiography of Robert Flockhart, the Street Preacher"

IT was before the fall of the leaf in 1857, but when the fields around Edinburgh, along the foot of the Pentland Hills, and on the shores of the Firth of Forth, were flashing with sickles, and white for the harvest, that Robert Flockhart, the author and subject of the following memoir, fell like a shock of corn in its season.
On the morning of the day that proved to be his last upon earth, I received a letter informing me that he was dying, and that he had expressed a wish to see me. I hastened to his house in Richmond Place. Knowing that his wife was dead, and that he had no child to nurse him in his old age, I feared that I should find him but poorly attended to ; but his Master had provided kind friends for the old man's comfort. The small apartment in which he dlwelt, and whose walls, if I may say so, he had sanctified by so many prayers, was clean and tidy, and I found a young man and woman watching over him, and ministering to his wants with filial affection. On entering the apartment, I was much struck by his aspect. Propped up for freer breathing, his head lay quietly on a snow-white pillow; and although the film of death was on his eye, and the features were sharp and pinched, his countenance was, as it were, radiant. I have seen many dying; but none whose face wore an air so heavenly. It looked as if light was streaming on it down from those gates of glory that angel hands were rolling open to admit his departing spirit.
They told him that I had arrived. Making an effort, and stretching out his hand, which was burning hot - for by this time he was posting fast to eternity - he said, in a low whisper, and in his own kind and homely way, "0 man, I'm glad to see you." Perhaps I should have congratulated him, as one who had been a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and had, through grace, fought the battle well, that his fight was so nearly done, and the crown so nearly won. But having a great regard for him, and great admiration of the large and loving heart, of the self-denying devotedness, and of the true Christian heroism, with which he had served our common Master, I and saying that I was sorry to see him laid so could not help thinking more of our loss than of his gain, and saying that I was sorry to see him laid so low. It would be difficult to convey to the reader any adequate idea of the delight expressed in the look and the tone with which he quickly replied, I'm going home, I'm going home." The scene was worth a thousand sermons, and would have given birth in the heart of the coldest worldling to the wish, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
I saw that he was eager to communicate something. But by this time his voice was sunk to a whisper, and his speech was so thick and faltering, that although I bent over his pillow to catch the words, all that I could gather was something One of his attendants explained that he wished to commit to my care a Life of himself, in the hope that I would take charge of it. On my at once assenting to the request, an expression of great satisfaction passed, like a sunbeam, over his dying face, and pressing my hand, he thanked me as best he could. Having joined together in prayer, or rather in praise and thanksgiving, we parted in the hope of meeting in a better world; and in a very few hours afterwards, the Master he had loved so well and served so long, said, "Come up hither.
In the following memoir, the reader will find the best portrait of the heart and soul of this remarkable man. Robert Flockhart had been a great sinner, and He who in other days had changed the bitterest persecutor of the church into its noblest preacher, had changed him into a great saint. He had sinned much, had been forgiven much, and so he loved much. He had often exposed himself to disgrace, danger, and death itself in Satan s service; and, if there had been need for it, I believe there was no man in Edinburgh who would have gone to the stake or scaffold for Jesus Christ with a firmer step or nobler bearing than this brave old soldier of the cross. He united the most ardent piety and untiring zeal to indomitable courage, and had no idea of flinching, whether he was called to fight the French at Port Louis, or for Christ and God's truth, face ribald crowds in the High Street or West Port of Edinburgh.
As to his bodily appearance, his presence, like that of Paul's, might be called "contemptible." He was a man of diminutive stature; he had a shuffling gait; he was ill hung in the limbs; and had a curious cast of the eye. On the other hand, his face, reflecting like a mirror the emotions of the inner man, and every feeling which swept over his soul, was full of expression. He abounded in the gesticulations of a natural oratory; and being endowed with keen sensibility, and easily affected himself, he had therefore the power of moving others.
It must be confessed that he was at times carried beyond the bounds of propriety by the vehemence of his feelings. We have read a defence made by a Highland minister of the sins of his people, which was certainly more ingenious than sound: He said, that their vices sprang out of their virtues - they were a brave people, therefore they were given to fighting and quarrels - they were by nature very polite, therefore, to make themselves agreeable, they did not always stick to the truth - they were very hospitable, therefore they often got drunk. With more justice I may say, that Robert Flockhart s defects were the excess of noble properties. His vehemence in the cause of religion occasionally ran him into intemperance; his graphic powers, although consecrated to God, occasionally passed from the picturesque into the grotesque; and having, like most other men of true genius, a very lively sense of the ludicrous, he sometimes indulged his humour in circumstances where it would have, been better restrained. There are many stories of smart repartees and odd sayings fathered upon Flockhart, as on Rowland Hill and other such men, which I believe are not true; but so far as they are so, it is but justice to his memory to remember the rude and irritating provocations to which, as a street preacher, he was often exposed, and also that he was the foremost to acknowledge his own faults, saying, "I know that I sometimes say what I should not."
The following autobiography was written to dictation, at various times, and by various hands, and the pecuniary profits are to be given to the Indian mission, as Robert Flockhart wished, because it was in India that God called and converted him. It has cost some trouble to put it into shape and order, but in doing so, the editor has been careful to preserve its salt, and give it to the church and world, as given to him, with as few alterations as possible. He leaves Robert to speak for himself; hut while admiring the zeal, and powers, and piety of a man who has in so many things set us an example that we should follow him, even as he followed Christ, the editor is not to be understood as approving of everything that he either said or did. He has only further to add, in justice to the memory of two excellent men, who appear, according to the memoir, to have acted harshly towards Flockhart, that he has no doubt, unaccustomed as the world then was to street preaching, and imperfectly acquainted, as they were, with Robert's peculiar temperament, that Dr Stewart and the Rev. Christopher Anderson looked upon him as insane, and one who had no right to say with Paul, "I am not mad, most noble Festus!"

Thomas Guthrie. EDINBURGH, March 31st 1858.

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