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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)


C H A P T E R   X X V I I.

Admirable essay on Christian Union--Encomiums bestowed upon it--Visits Bethany--Death of
      Samuel Church--Letters.

W HEN the sad bereavement just noticed took place, Mr. Scott was something over fifty years of age, and in this, the autumn time of his life, the fruitfulness of which its spring time and summer time gave such rich promise was not wanting. His powers at this time were in their full maturity, and his sorrow gave a mellowness and tenderness to his thoughts which they had not possessed before. The thought that the shadows of evening were drawing near doubtless led him to think of the night not far distant, and of the necessity for working while it was "called to-day," and the result was a girding himself for the best labors of an active and useful life. His plea for a return to the example of the apostles in presenting the message of life and salvation to dying men, had been eminently successful; thousands of converts were made every year, giving ample demonstration that "the gospel was indeed the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," and that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;" and the faith grew strong in his heart that the truth of God, which had wrought so mightily in the conversion of sinners, would be the instrumentality through [417] which would be accomplished that union of his people for which the Savior when on earth had prayed.

      In order to promote a work so desirable, it became needful to show the origin of the evil of division as the first step toward a remedy. This he set forth by saying "that people handle the Christian religion as unscrupulously as if it were left to them by God to perfect its structure. The ancients tell the story of a painter who wished to please every body, and, having put his picture in a public part of the city, with a brush at hand, he left directions for every one to make such alterations in the painting as pleased himself. When the artist returned, he found the picture in such a state by touching and retouching, that he did not know it! Men think that the chief work of God, the great portrait of Christianity, is left in our streets to be improved and to be made what they would have it to be." The diversity of the different religious parties, and the contradictions of the various creeds, fully justified the striking figure which he employed; the existence of various creeds and parties was a practical denial of the right of the One Lawgiver to legislate for his own church, or, what was equally injurious, to assume that he had failed to make the needed laws and left that work to his erring creatures. Mr. Scott clearly perceived that human legislation, in matters pertaining to the church of Christ was a fatal mistake; that for union and harmony to be secured and preserved, the King himself must make the laws and the church administer them and be governed by them. To found the church and give no law for its guidance, to him seemed as great a defect as it would have been for the Creator to [418] have left our world without a sun. To correct, as far as lay in his power, the evils of division, and present a firm basis for the union of all the people of God, became now an all-engrossing thought, and resulted in a tract of over one hundred pages, in which the subject was handled with a force and felicity which have seldom been equalled.

      He sets out with the proposition that "Christianity stands on a basis of reality, an organic truth, a creed, a something to believed in order to salvation," and supports it by saying: "On a contrary supposition, our religion would be without a constitutional truth, not deserving to be ranked among systems. Without an essential element, it would be like a watch without a spring, or a clock without the weights, or like the law of Moses divested of the central or pervading thought of the divine unity; it would be an assemblage of inoperative elements. Every system of true religion, as much as every system of physics and morals, must stand on some basis of reality. Christianity is a system of true religion, therefore Christianity must stand upon some basis of reality. It must have a creed, a master truth, an article of faith, to be offered to men for their salvation," and then adds: "This truth of the Christian system is enunciated in the form of a proposition--namely, that Jesus Christ is the Messiah; the Son of the living God." He shows that by an hearty acceptance of this truth men are united to Christ, and that if carried out in the life, it will not only bind them to their common Lord, but also to each other; that they will confess with their mouth the same Lord, follow his example of obedience, trust in his death, wear his name, be [419] guided by his word, cheered by his promises, and hope to be made partakers of his joy.

      With regard to this great truth, the Divinity of Christ, which is the alpha and omega of his argument, he says: "If, without contemning the other crown jewels of the kingdom, I have placed my hand upon the diadem; if I have fully comprehended the force of its revolutionary and deeply reformatory powers; if I have held it on high till all its practical bearings have been determined, and it has become the creed and crown of glory of a great and pious people, I have done but my duty. O Lord, the majesty divine be thine, forever thine!" But it were a vain attempt to give a proper idea of the work by short extracts; one might as well strive to portray the ocean in its various moods upon a few inches of canvas. Some conception of its merits, however, may be gathered from the impression it made on some well qualified to judge, both with regard to its religious worth and literary excellence. An able writer among the Baptists said of it that it was from "the practiced pen of Walter Scott, to whom the voice of righteous celebrity has long since assigned a high place in the first rank of gospel ministers," and adds: "considered merely as a composition, it deserves to be classed among the best specimens of English prose from living writers; its style is vigorous, chaste, and nervous, occasionally rising into eloquence of the most polished and delicate type." Dr. Richardson, himself a polished and graceful writer, says: "I regard the performance as the most extraordinary work of the age in the religious department, not only for the logical force with which it evolves [420] the great master truth, the Divinity of Christ, but for the clearness and energetic beauty of its style and the wonderful power of analysis which it displays." And A. Campbell, one of the foremost scholars and thinkers of this century, said: "It is one of the best tracts of the age, and the best on the Divinity of Christ that has in forty years' reading come under my eye." Higher praise could not have been given to it, nothing has since been written to equal it, and to surpass it would scarcely be possible.

      This was followed in a short time by another brief treatise on the "Death of Christ" scarcely inferior to the former one; full of tenderness and sweetness which such a theme could not fail to draw forth from a mind and heart like his.

      In the meantime, he married Miss Annie B. Allen, of Mayslick, Ky., in 1850, and for some time was at the head of a flourishing female academy in Covington, Ky. Here his wife, whom he characterizes as "a most blessed woman, but inclined to consumption," died in 1854 of that insidious disease, leaving one daughter, Carrie Allen Scott. The union, though short, was a happy one, as his young wife was extremely amiable, truly pious, and deeply devoted to her husband. Her death caused him to give up the academy and to devote himself to evangelical labors, which were quite successful, and to the composition of the most elaborate work that ever employed his pen.

      In the last week of 1855, he paid a visit to Bethany, and his spirit was greatly refreshed. He says he was received with the greatest cordiality and hospitality, and that it would have been impossible for any [421] one to have showed him greater kindness than was manifested by Mr. Campbell and family. He remained there several days, and delivered several addresses to the students at the college. Mr. Campbell and himself had been engaged in an earnest effort to restore primitive Christianity since their early manhood, but now Mr. Scott was about three-score, and his fellow-laborer verging upon three-score and ten; together they had borne the heat and burden of the day; they both felt that the evening was at hand and their work nearly done; but when they looked at the mighty results which had grown out of their united and untiring labors, they could not but be grateful to him who had made their lives and labors such a blessing to their race.

      Previous to this time, Mr. Scott married his third wife, Mrs. Eliza Sandige, of Mason County, Ky., where he resided until his death. His faculties at this period of his life seemed to have suffered no decay; his form still erect, his hair but slightly changed, and the luster of his keen, dark eyes undimmed; and, though he felt none of the infirmities of age, he could not resist the conviction that when the lengthening shadows had grown a little longer he would be called to depart. This feeling was deepened by the death of many of his old and cherished friends, but more than all by the unexpected death of his life-long friend and dearly esteemed brother in Christ, Eld. Samuel Church, which took place in the city of New York on the 7th of December, 1857. Converted by Scott more than thirty years before, and their early friendship cemented in after years by the marriage of their children, the loss was one that was deeply and [422] keenly felt--how deeply, we can best learn from the following letter of condolence to his son-in-law and daughter soon after the sorrowful event:

"MAYSLICK, Dec. 16, 1857.      


      "My Very Dear Children: The Lord bless you, the Lord comfort you and support you under the news of your great loss, of which you will no doubt have been informed before this letter reaches you. A communication from Bro. Challen, dated the 10th of Dec., informed me of the sad fact of the death of your father in New York. He was on a visit there, and was in good health and fine spirits, but was taken suddenly with inflammation of the stomach and bowels. He had an appointment to preach to the Disciples, but he was unable to fill it. Dr. Parmley was informed of his indisposition, and called upon him at the Astor House and offered his services, which; however, were not needed, there being a physician in attendance. Next day (Monday) Dr. Parmley called again, and found your dear father rapidly sinking. He asked the doctor to pray with him, and to read the 14th and 17th chapters of John. He was greatly refreshed by these exercises, but too weak to talk much. He directed Dr. Parmley to place the Bible under his pillow; then, looking upward to heaven with a steady gaze and a countenance radiant with light and glory, he fell asleep in Christ.

      "My children, my dear children, this news has reached my inmost soul. How unexpected to all of us! To your mother and you how severe! But we have a God into whose gracious ear we can pour, with the assurance of being heard, all our deep sorrows, all our crushing afflictions; and we know, that, although the outward and commercial life of your father was agitated with great vicissitudes, yet his inward and spiritual life was very different; that it was calm, unvarying, meditative, devoted to God, beautiful [423] and holy. Though his death is but one of the millions of deaths by which a merciful God is unceasingly speaking to mankind, and reminding all of their mortality; yet this death speaks to me, and will, I doubt not, to you, in a peculiar tone. Oh, it seems to bring my last end near to me indeed! for he was as my own flesh and blood, as indeed the whole family are--but he particularly! He was among my first acquaintances in Pittsburg. I immersed him with my own hands upward of thirty years ago, and he was ever dear, ever lovely to me. During these latter years, my children, death has been more familiar to my meditations than formerly, for, as we have in us no natural instinct of death, and all our impulses are vital and immortal, I have during much of my life-time imagined I should live forever, and have weakly thought 'all men are mortal but myself.' I am convinced it is not so. I also must die, and the death of Father Church has doubled the rational conviction. May the Lord enable us so to live and spend this brief life as to be at last deemed worthy to meet our great and good brother and father in the better land whither he has gone!

      "My dear children, be consoled; commit your sorrows to the bosom of your Father in heaven. His ways are above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts; but he is slow to anger and full of compassion, and so would manage us that our souls might not be lost. I sympathize with you in all your trials, afflictions, and privations. I ever bear you on my hands and bosom before a merciful God, who will not ultimately let pass unanswered the cries and tears of an afflicted and heart-broken parent. I live in hope to see you in spring or early summer.

      "Accept a father's blessing, dearest children. May Almighty God have you all, at all times, in his holy keeping; and to his name be all praise.

  "Devotedly and affectionately, your father,
"WALTER SCOTT." [424]      

      Soon after this, he completed his work, "The Messiahship, or the Great Demonstration," his most elaborate effort, and a most fitting close to his literary labors. Other books have been written of which Christ was professedly the theme, but in this he was really so; every ray of light from type and symbol, prophecy and history, from seer and evangelist, is made to converge on the Son of God as the central figure; his nature, offices, and work are brought fully to view, until the reader, in rapt adoration, is ready to join with martyrs, apostles, and the heavenly host in their ascriptions of praise, and cry, "Crown him Lord of all." Elder A. Campbell characterized it as a very interesting, edifying, cheering, and fascinating volume. Elder Errett said: "Immense labor has been bestowed upon it by one of the best minds that God has given us. It sparkles and shines all over with the peculiar genius of the author." And Prof. Richardson adds: "I have read enough of it to see that it abounds in most valuable and profound thought, striking analyses, and rich development of truth. I am better pleased with it the more I examine it. It embraces charming passages, revealing deep lessons of human experience and divine truth. I thank God that you have been enabled to present such a work to the world. In view of its sublime and far-reaching revelations, its cogent logic, and still more striking analytical divisions, and just distinctions, the rest of the literature of the Reformation seems to me to grow very pale and dim."

      His letters at this period show how much his mind was occupied with the things of that world [425] which he was rapidly nearing; one of them, to his eldest son, is as follows:


      "The Lord bless you and your family; the Lord make you all a blessing. Your last came to hand last evening. What could more rejoice a parent than the practical proof which it gives of my children's love for each other? In the 133d Psalm, David compares brotherly affection to the inimitable ointment poured on the head of Aaron at his inauguration into the priestly office, and to the dews of Zion and Hermon. It is where this abounds that God commands the blessing of eternal life! Let it, then, abound among my loved ones, my children and my children's children, to a thousand generations. I trust I may never want a man to stand before God and praise him or Christ while the world endures. My dearest son, it is becoming strikingly evident that the present life is valuable only as seen related to the life to come. It is, indeed, burdened with mortal endurance, but suffering, like all things else, has a grand moral--perfection; and perfection has its reward--glory. God has opened my eyes to see him in every thing; as the poet says: 'The rolling year is full of thee.' In what thing is not God to be seen? As a child said, 'Where is he not?' Oh, it is a blessed gift from God--the gift of seeing him in every thing. The blessing of being associated forever with a single saint, say brother Church, is worth a life-time endurance of all the ills of life; but what is the fellowship of one to all--your mother, your dear blessed mother, and myriads like her, full of the love of God and glory all around; but what are all saints and all angels to our God, our sweet, our dear, our ever precious Redeemer, the Son of the great Eternal? Oh, my son, what love I have for them who love you! What love, then, must the great God have for them that love his Son! He will lavish on [426] them all the riches of eternal life. Let us, then, from generation to generation love our Lord Jesus with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Let our family be great in piety, open, declared piety, seen and read of all men. Let us successively give examples to those whom God raises up by us, and grow greater and greater in piety toward God, till we shall stand and our descendants shall occupy the chief position in the front rank of those who have been heroes for God and the cause of our Lord Jesus on the earth. Eternal life is worth living for and worth dying for; let us labor, then, to enter into eternal life.

  "Affectionately, your father,
"W. SCOTT."      

      A collection of his letters would be interesting, and would open his heart to the reader, but space forbids more than the following to an old and useful servant of God, who had removed from Mason Co., Ky., to Missouri, which shows the current of his thoughts:

"MAYSLICK, April 2, 1860.      


      "Very Dear Sir: The Lord bless you and make you a blessing! The Lord have you and all yours in his holy keeping!

      "About one hour ago, it was intimated to me by Wm. Burgess, who is just arrived here from his visit to Missouri, that you desired to have from under my hand a letter on that blessed and great redemption which has so long been the life of both our hearts. If it is admitted that you are one of my most ancient acquaintances in Kentucky; that I have ever entertained the most solemn respect for your godliness, and that excellent and active intellect which the [427] Most High has bestowed upon you; that I know the depth of your affection for the brethren by the vast hospitality which you exercised toward them; and that you held for years the government of the church of God in this place, with comfort to the Disciples and honor to yourself, you will readily divine why it is that I hasten to meet your wishes.

      "1st. To a meditative person like yourself, it must ever appear surprising, and indeed mysterious, that man should be both condemned and justified, lost and saved, made mortal and immortal, by the interposition 'of two powers exterior to his own system--two incarnations, Satan and the Messiah. It is evident that the sin of overthrowing the paradisaical order did not originate with the mother of mankind, but with an evil spirit not belonging to our sphere; and it is equally evident that for our great redemption we are indebted to an illustrious personage, styled 'the Lord from heaven,' so that sin and righteousness, justification and condemnation, have their origin in the spiritual spheres, heaven and hell. The center of the Adamic system having ceased to have life in himself, it is now granted us to renew our life and unity on an eternal and new basis, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has life in himself, even as the Father has life in himself.

      "2d. Since the beginning of the world there have been five distinct apostasies from the living and true God When men usurp our rights, we protest; God's rights have been invaded by these apostasies; he formally protested against this invasion. The apostasies are as follows:

      "1. The Paradisaical--God himself protesting.

      "2. The Antediluvian--Noah protesting. "3. The Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman apostasy--Moses and Israel protesting.

      "4. The Jewish--Christ and the apostles protesting.

      "5. The Christian apostasy--Luther protesting. [428]

      "In the first or paradisaical apostasy, man would not be governed by God. And being made for government, the antediluvian apostasy shows that he can not exist in peace without it. The imperial or third apostasy shows that he can not be governed by emperors and maintain his social rights; the Jews show that he will not be ruled by a deputy king, as Saul, David, or Solomon and others; the fifth and last, the Christian apostasy, proves he will not be governed by a deputy priest, as the pope, etc. He is, therefore, to be brought back to God by his Son and his saints. He would not be governed by God, and he can not govern himself; he is, therefore, to be ruled by one who is both himself and God--Christ--'God manifest in the flesh.'

      "The universe is ruled by a compromise. Such are the great problems wrought out in history. The Christian faith will, therefore, work out in practice its own truth, and all impostures and apostasies will work out in history their own refutation.

      "3d. The great design of God by the gospel is to bring many sons to glory; but for this grand and glorious design Christ never would have appeared, nor God been manifested in the flesh. The different powers of our nature are our animal propensities, our intellectual faculties, and our moral sentiments. The involuntary and by far the most dangerous of these are our animal propensities. In our war, then, with this brute nature, what have we to oppose to these propensities? Fist, against its blind assaults we can array the forces and lights of reason and the intellectual system. Secondly, against its instincts and impulses we can array the practical faculty of the will, with all moral forces--self-control, self-respect, duty, honor, and all virtue. Thirdly, we have a living and wakeful conscience standing sentinel over the whole man, to strike with the dagger of remorse all who basely flee or weakly yield to the enemy. [429]

      "Animated, then, by the love of virtue and victory--by the desire of pleasing God, and good men, and good angels, yea, and our own pure conscience--shall we yield to the foe or die at our post? We will die at our post. The Lord being our helper, we will die at our post.

  Your brother in Christ,
  "WALTER SCOTT." [430]      


[LEWS 417-430]

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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)